Variety: Maddow, Mad Men Influencing EntertainmentS

We scoured Variety's 12th annual Women's Impact Report, which recognizes the 50 female "movers and shakers" in entertainment, and learned Tina Fey may have been too honored this year, January Jones loves sharks, and Rachel Maddow is passionate about alcohol.

Here are some highlights from this year's report:

  • The lead article, "Females Make Inroads Into Conducting," is actually rather depressing. Few women have ever conducted orchestras in the U.S. or abroad. Though a handful of female conductors have been making headway since the '70s, no female conductor has ever been named artistic director of one of the top-tier American orchestras, and less than 12% of orchestras of any size are headed by women in the U.S. In March, Chinese-born conductor Xian Zhang was named musical director of Milan's Giuseppe Verdi Orchestra, becoming Italy's first high-profile female conductor, and in the U.S. women have recently been named artistic director at three smaller regional ensembles: the Reno Philarmonic, the Berkeley Symphony, and the Flagstaff Symphony. "There's still a lot of sexism in this field, though it seems to be changing, albeit slowly," says Atlanta Symphony Orchestra music director Robert Spano. "Apparently, we can have female prime ministers abroad and female secretaries of State, but not female music directors. It's been quite discouraging."

  • It seems Mad Men's January Jones has taken Tracy Jordan's advice to "live every week like it's Shark Week" to heart. She was honored for her work as Oceana's celebrity spokesperson for decimated shark populations. She grew up in landlocked South Dakota and was fascinated by the ocean. "I had shark book and every documentary I could get my hands on. I think they're incredibly beautiful and prehistoric," she says, "Without sharks, there is no ocean life." Jones is filming PSAs for the group and later this month she'll head to D.C. to fight for a bill that would stop finning, the process of removing a shark's fin for food then letting it die a slow death in the ocean. "You already can't bring sharks without fins intact into the Atlantic coast. This (law) would expand to the Pacific, effectively stopping finning in American waters," she says.

  • Maria Bello, who has starred in A History of Violence and ER was honored for her work with the Save Darful Coalition. "In 2003, when the genocide started happening, I thought it was my duty and my right and my privilege as a human being, as a woman living in a democracy, and as a public figure to speak out and use my voice to talk about the injustice," she says, "I found out through being a part of Save Darfur that it is the women and mothers who are transforming and changing the face of the peace process in Darfur and in other countries. We're working on creating a council of women from D.C. and the media and business — real women leaders who can work to promote issues of social justice and be involved from the ground level up."

  • Sigourney Weaver was recognized for her work with The Flea Theater in New York City, an Off Off Broadway theater that produces noncommercial work in a professional atmosphere, and gives young thespians the opportunity to work with established artists in various workshops and productions. "I went to arguably one of the better drama schools in the country (Yale) in the 1970s, and I came out of that school not really knowing very much," Weaver says. "I found that working in Off Off Broadway shows was a real artistic home. I learned on my feet working with new plays and writers; that's where my true training really began."

  • It seemed a little odd that Tina Fey was left off last year's list, but now it seems it was for the best. Did Variety predict that Fey hadn't reached her peak yet, even before the world became aware of a certain Alaska governor? Since Fey's responses to the standard set of questions Variety asks all the women in the report are culled from previous interviews, we'll assume she's been so bombarded with accolades this year that she didn't even bother to respond. The same goes for Kate Winslet, who is recognized for finally winning an Oscar this year. Variety reports that her "career mantra" is "There's more to life than cheeckbones," which is actually just something she told Rolling Stone... in 1998.

  • Alice Ripley won a Tony this year for her performance as Diana, a bipolar wife and mother who undergoes drug and shock therapy in Next to Normal. She says, "The role takes a woman onstage in a musical to a place she has never been, and takes the audience as well." Variety asks about her "philanthropic passion" and she makes a rare admission for an actress: "I don't honestly have the time or energy to support anybody else's cause but my own, which is self-expression. So I guess if I had a cause it would be education."

  • Southland executive producer Ann Biderman says, "I'm just writing about people that I care about... I don't believe in those restrictions that say men are interested in copshows and women are interested in romantic comedies. In [Southland] there's this huge struggle between chaos and control. Those life-and-death stakes will always be intriguing."

  • Many people were shocked that The Hurt Locker, a film about the war in Iraq, was directed by Kathryn Bigelow... a woman. "Of course I find gender typecasting more than a little old-fashioned and dated, but it doesn't bother me," she says. "Honestly, more than anything, I'm happy if people like the film. I've been around long enough to know it doesn't always go that way."

  • Jane Campion, whose latest film Bright Star is about the romance of Fanny Brawne and John Keats says, "I was familiar with Keats, as many people are, as someone from long ago, dusty history, school... You don't really understand it, you don't know much about it. And I was really shocked reading Andrew Motion's Keats biography a few years ago when it came to the love story, because I found it completely compelling — mostly because of the letters from Keats to Fanny. I felt terribly touched with the tragedy and the beauty of that first love; there was something so tender about it for me. That's something I like in this world, tenderness. Something I wanted to share."

  • Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke says she refused to do the sequel New Moon even after the film had the biggest opening weekend for a film by a female director ever. She explains that she's always turned down sequels but, "when Twilight made all this money my agent said, 'Maybe they'll really let you do what you want and give you more time.' I knew Chris Nolan had three years between 'Batman' movies, Jon Favreau had two years between 'Iron Man' movies." However, "Since the kids are not supposed to age they wanted to release the new movie a year to the date of the first. So I would have had less prep time than I had on the first one."

  • Nora Ephron says despite her many successful films including this summer's Julie and Julia she still doubts herself sometimes. "I'd always wanted to have the career of someone like Woody Allen," she says, "but I don't know how he does it. I could never produce multiple films a year every year. Even if they paid me huge amounts of money and let me use all the unfinished scraps I have in my closet."

  • CNN's chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour will begin hosting her own Sunday news show on the network this month called, Amanpour. "We'll tackle the big issues of our time in terms that are relevant and understandable," she says, adding, "I'm apprehensive, of course... It's completely different for me."

  • When asked about her "leisure pursuits" Rachel Maddow says: "I drink. I'm a hobbyist bartender. I make pre-Prohibition, classic American cocktails."

  • "I think 'nice' is a very effective way to do business and always pays off in the long run," says Andrea Wong, Lifetime's president and CEO. Apparently Wong wasn't following this rule when she poached Project Runway from Bravo, but she explains she wanted the show because it's "the perfect fit for where I wanted to take this network." JoAnn Alfano, the network's executive VP of entertainment says, "Everyone knew the Lifetime name, but we had become so synonymous with victim movies that if a woman was experiencing a bad situation, people would say, 'You sound like a Lifetime movie.' Look, it's a marathon, not a sprint. Changing that perception will take time."

  • In addition to making Joan Holloway and Betty Draper look fabulous on TV, Mad Men costume designer Janie Bryant's work is so popular that "Mad Men style" has crossed over into real life. We've noticed the show's huge influence on women's clothing, but didn't realize it's having an even bigger effect on men's fashion, which usually changes very slowly. Arthur Wayne, director of communications for Brooks Brothers, says menswear is "more evolutionary than revolutionary, but for the last two years we have seen a real shift in men wearing slimmer suits. I think what Janie has done for the show plays right into that." Brooks Brothers made some of the suits worn on screen in season three and Bryant designed a "Mad Men edition" suit for the store. It comes out later this fall and is expected to be a big hit with both men, and women forcing their significant other to dress like Don Draper.

Women's Impact Report '09 [Variety]

Earlier: Variety Honors, Offends Women In Entertainment