While You Were Out: The Oscars, Porn’s Unexpected Critics, Kelly Clarkson’s Self-Worth, and More

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“While You Were Out,” is a Friday feature with short notes and commentary on the week that just passed. Whether it’s something you’d discuss at the water cooler or at happy hour, you’ll find it on our grid—together with our opinions as to whether it's praiseworthy or cringeworthy. We’re pleased to bring you the Verily editors’ quick takes on this week's happenings.

Favorite Oscar Moments 

This year's Oscars may be getting the obligatory dissection from critics, but I must say that they were filled with wonderful moments. Host Neil Patrick Harris opened the evening with the best musical introduction I've seen in years, brilliantly tapping Anna Kendrick and Jack Black to accompany him for hilarious effect. (Now I can't get "screens in our jeans!" out of my head.) Shortly after, J.K. Simmons won the award for best supporting actor in Whiplash and in his remarks urged all listeners to "Call your mom." No joke. "Call your mom and talk until they are done."

Then there was that moment when Alejandro González Iñárritu, director of Best Picture Award-winning Birdman, warned against "that little prick called ego that loves competition," and the other when Best Actress-winning Patricia Arquette calling for "every woman who gave birth to [...] every citizen" to take a stand for wage equality for women (Meryl Streep sure was standing). And who can forget how Pawel Pawlikowski, accepting the award for best foreign language film Ida, unselfconsciously continued talking long after the music stopped. "I made a film...about the need for silence and withdrawal from the world and contemplation," the Polish director began his remarks. "And here we are, at this epicenter of noise and world attention. Fantastic. You know, life is full of surprises." I have to say, it's always nice when watching the Oscars makes you want to go watch another movie.

Mary Rose Somarriba

Lady Gaga Nails The Sound of Music

At the Oscars, the hills were alive with the sound of Lady Gaga, and what a beautiful sound it was. The pop star, who is perhaps more famous for her flamboyant eccentricity than her voice, sang a medley from The Sound of Music in honor of the movie's 50th anniversary. I have to admit that, as an ardent fan of the film, I was all riled up to be mad and disappointed at Gaga's performance the moment she walked out on stage, but my goodness did she sound amazing. It is easy to forget that under all her makeup and crazy costumes Lady Gaga has an incredible voice and a commendable work ethic (she apparently worked for six months with a special voice coach to do The Sound of Music justice). Things only got better when the impeccable and gracious Julie Andrews herself came out on stage after the performance to give Gaga a congratulatory hug. It was an Oscar-worthy moment unto itself, and perhaps a career-changing one for Lady Gaga.

Monica Weigel

#AskHerMore

You know those awkward moments at parties when, try as you might, you just can’t seem to break the ice and get an interesting conversation going—finding yourself stuck in a seemingly never-ending spiral of “I love your dress! Where’s it from?” exchanges? That’s kind of how interviews with women on the red carpet often feel. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying the beautiful dresses that make an appearance every year, it’s sad that the norm is for male actors to be asked about their careers and craft, while women are repeatedly asked about nothing more than their appearance, trivializing their skills and experience.

There have been various great moments over the past few years when female stars have called out reporters for their reductive interview techniques, including when Scarlett Johansson complained that she was asked about her diet while her co-star Robert Downey Jr. got “really interesting, existential” questions. And then there was that time that Cate Blanchett interrupted a camera mid-pan of her body to ask “Do you do that to the guys?” (The unspoken answer: no, of course not.)

Taking things a little further last year, the Representation Project coined the hashtag #AskHerMore to encourage the media to give women a chance to shine by asking more appropriate questions. The campaign gained momentum at last Sunday’s Oscars, with Reese Witherspoon posting a picture of support to her Instagram account before the ceremony began. “This is a movement to say we’re more than just our dresses,” Witherspoon later said. “There are 44 nominees this year that are women and we are so happy to be here and talk about the work that we’ve done. It’s hard being a woman in Hollywood, or any industry.”

Reporters seemed to take note; discussing her Oscar-winning role in Still Alice, Julianne Moore proved that you can start truly interesting conversations with women on the red carpet if you just dig a little deeper: “There’s this misnomer that dementia or Alzheimer’s is a normal condition of aging, and it’s not,” she said. “It's a disease—and a disease without any treatment or cure. It’s the sixth leading cause of death.” Ask and you shall receive, indeed.

Sophie Caldecott

Joan Rivers is Missed

Speaking of red carpet conversations, it's hard not to remember the less sophisticated, yet lovable and often hilarious small talk that Joan Rivers would deliver during the lead-up to the Oscars. The former Fashion Police host was predictable in one way—she always surprised you. So it was a major disappointment for many when Rivers was missing from the Academy's memorial montage of stars and movie-biz folks who passed away in the past year. Rivers wrote and directed the 1978 movie Rabbit Test, starring Billy Crystal, and acted in fun films like The Muppets Take Manhattan and Spaceballs. The Academy has since responded to say that they had limited space during the show montage and that they've included her in the list on Oscars.com. I have the feeling that if Rivers were here, she would have a crack to deliver about their thoughtfulness.

Mary Rose Somarriba

Fashion Police Faux Pas

If that passing-over weren't enough reason for Joan Rivers to be missed, Fashion Police's host Giuliana Rancic committed a major faux pas this week when commenting on singer Zendaya Coleman's red-carpet look. Rancic decided to zero in on Zendaya's locs, a uniquely black hairstyle. Rancic dissed the look, remarking that she singer looked like she smelled of "patchouli oil and weed."  Zendaya responded quickly and publicly with a statement calling out Rancic's comment as "not only a large stereotype but outrageously offensive," adding that "my wearing my hair in locs on an Oscar red carpet was to showcase them in a positive light, to remind people of color that our hair is good enough." Lastly, Coleman reclaimed the look, describing it as "a symbol of strength and beauty, almost like a lion's mane," before suggesting that those who disagree should listen to India.Arie's song "I Am Not My Hair."

Preach, lady! For an 18-year-old in Hollywood, Coleman has certainly shown herself to be a remarkably grounded and confident young woman—and one who doesn't shy from coloring outside the lines of the media's narrow beauty standards. Now that's something I'd love to see more of.

Mary Rose Somarriba

Dakota Johnson vs. Mom

When Melanie Griffith was asked on the red carpet if she watched or planned to watch her daughter Dakota Johnson's performance in 50 Shades of Grey, the answer was not too surprising: Uh, nope! In a mother-daughter moment of awkwardness gold, Griffith said "I don't think I can....I think it would be strange." Not to say that she isn't proud of her daughter for her accomplishments, Griffith stated, "I am so proud,"and later added "she's a really good actress [but] I don't need to see that to know how good she is." Johnson, with the ultimate "Mooommmm" eye-roll, looked like she could die.

Still, Johnson shouldn't have been too surprised. When earlier asked on Live with Kelly and Michael how she'd feel if her parents saw the film, she had replied, “I’d love for them to see what I’ve been working on the past year and a half, but I really don’t think it’s appropriate at all." I personally feel for Johnson. It's not easy making it in Hollywood, and being offered a pathway to immediate stardom is hard to pass up. But given her admissions that filming was "painful" on both physical and emotional levels, and given the palpable discomfort she displays whenever the topic comes up (never more noticeable than in this video with her mom), I hope she knows she can say no to the sequel.

Mary Rose Somarriba

Speaking of Porn and All...

Comedian Russell Brand surprised fans and countless web viewers this week by speaking out against pornography, soft-core porn, and 50 Shades of Grey specifically . Brand admitted to being "obsessed" with porn as an adolescent but as an adult coming to realize its harmful effects. Quoting social and psychological experts, he expressed concern that his porn watching had affected his view of women and hurt his chances of a happy, lasting marriage. He hit the nail on the head on many points, ranging from the true purpose of sex ("an expression of love and procreation"), to concern for women working in the porn industry, to a caution for youth who are bombarded with hypersexual images daily. Talk about pleasant and uplifting surprise, and one that I hope will inspire many more to face the truth about authentic sexuality. Watch Brand's full speech here.

—Emily Mae Schmid

Google to Ban Porn on Blogger Sites

Bravo to Google for taking a bold step to curb porn on its platforms. This week the Internet giant announced its plans to remove from public view any web pages on its Blogger platform containing pornographic content. The pages will not be removed, but will be marked private. While there is the expected backlash claiming that this move curbs free speech, the change is likely a strategic one considering the constant blurring of lines between legally and illegally-obtained adult content. When you have an industry where it's often impossible to delineate child and adolescent porn from everything else (which, by the way is technically sex-trafficking, and happens more than you think), it's not only a wise move on Google's part: it's the right thing to do.

Mary Rose Somarriba

Dancing with the Stars Picks Chosen

Dancing with the Stars announced its cast for season 20 (!!) this week, and fans and critics alike are already weighing in on the choices. The producers seem to have followed their typical casting formula. You have your older female entertainer (Suzanne Somers), your Olympic athlete (Nastia Lukin—she's got my vote!), your American football star (Michael Sam), your iconic singer (Patti LaBelle), your C-list celebrity (Rumer Willis), a slew of "who are they" contestants (Noah Galloway, Robert Herjavec, Charlotte McKinney, Riker Lynch), a potential clown (RedFoo), and a controversial pick (Willow Shields).

Most of the buzz has been about the 14-year-old Shields, who rose to global fame as Primrose Everdeen in the Hunger Games movies, as many feel that she is too young to be paired with the 28-year-old Mark Ballas, especially in more sensual dances like the rumba and the tango. To those critics I say yes, you have a point, but she's no show-business newbie. And if you want to start calling her professional choices inappropriate, perhaps start with the decision to star in a franchise based on child-on-child murder. As she is already "in the biz," so to speak, be happy that she is partnered with Mark, who has already shown his willingness to adapt his choreography based on his partner's needs—as exhibited by his leading the famously conservative teenager Sadie Robertsen through last season's competition. It's a dance competition, everyone, and about as family-friendly as you can get on prime-time television these days, so let's all take a deep breath and start getting excited about the upcoming round of injuries, meltdowns, triumphs, and judging soundbites. The mirrorball is back.

Monica Weigel

Christina Aguilera Nails Impressions on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon

Jimmy Fallon seems to have a knack for bringing out the hidden talents of the guests on his show, and everyone is talking about his latest episode, featuring Christina Aguilera. On the Tonight Show this week, Aguilera was featured to promote her TV show The Voice, not as a musical guest. Nevertheless, Fallon used the opportunity to play a game of "Wheel of Musical Impressions."

Aguilera's impressions included Cher and Shakira, but the showstopper was her impression of fellow former Mouseketeer Britney Spears. Her impression was so spot on that it was shocking, proving that not only are her vocal chops as impressive as ever, but her range extends to places we didn't know were possible.

—Hannah Allen White

Kelly Clarkson on Self-Worth

American Idol winner and vocal powerhouse Kelly Clarkson was interviewed for People Magazine this week, and she said that her life as done a 180.

In late 2013 Clarkson married Brandon Blackstock, a 38-year-old talent manager and the son of country icon Reba McIntyre, taking on two step-children before giving birth to biological daughter, River Rose, eight months ago. Clarkson told People that her life has new meaning. "I love what I do, but I feel like I relied on my career a lot for my self-worth. And now I'm more than that," Clarkson said. "I'm a mother and a wife and have this whole other thing going on." Now, she says, she'd rather be remembered as a good mother than a successful songstress.

It's beautiful to see someone we admire seem so happy, and we wish her all the love we can muster. Her latest album, her first non-holiday release since 2011, is scheduled to drop on March 3.

—Hannah Allen White

You Don’t Have to Marry a Prince to Be Awesome

British actress and UN ambassador Emma Watson gave the world a much-needed reminder not to get caught up in gossip when on Sunday she responded to the rumor that she was secretly dating Prince Harry. “World. Remember that little talk we had about not believing everything written in the media?!” she tweeted, going on to add that “marrying a Prince [is] not a prerequisite for being a princess.” She then linked to a YouTube clip from the 1995 film adaptation of Frances Hodsgon Burnett’s novel, A Little Princess, which declares that “All little girls are princesses.” As exciting as the prospect of another Grace Kelly-type royal romance would be, the actress has an important point: our success as women doesn’t depend on whether or not we get married, even if the man in question is a prince.

Sophie Caldecott

Chris Brown Says He Was Denied Entry to Canada

Singer Chris Brown, possibly better known for his abuse of former girlfriend Rihanna than for his actual music, was apparently denied entry to Canada this week. It reminded me of how earlier this month, boxer Floyd Mayweather was denied entry to Australia due to his charges of domestic violence. Needless to say, Mayweather was mad. But after watching CNN's Rachel Nichols reveal the boxer's denial in an interview, I can't help but completely understand why certain countries take it very seriously when it comes to protecting their citizens.

Mary Rose Somarriba

Lesson: Don’t Follow Bad Orders

Two Tennessee high school girl's basketball teams tried to pull a fast one this week in a strategic attempt to gain better placement in their state playoffs. Both teams, it turns out, tried to lose a game against each other under the idea of "bracketology" or, "this will be if we win, and this (cue jazz-hands) will be IF we lose." Turns out the other team had the same idea—much to the chagrin of the referee, who caught on after noticing strange behavior on the court. Both teams were fined and subsequently disqualified from years' playoffs, and put on probation for the 2015-16 school year as well. Principals of both high schools pleaded with the organizing body (TSSAA) to suspend the coaches and let the girls play, but seems that the decision is final.

—Hannah Allen White

Verdict on American Sniper Trial

The dramatic conclusion of the so-called American Sniper trial came this week after just two hours of jury deliberation following a nine-day trial. Eddie Ray Routh was found guilty of capital murder in the shooting death of Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield, and was sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole.

Though Routh is said to have been suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder after his time as a Marine in the Iraq war, there didn't seem to be enough evidence to have this condition count as a factor in his trial. Many observers questioned the likelihood of a fair trial, based on differing understandings of Kyle's reputation prior to his story being made into a major motion picture. Although Routh could appeal his sentence, there has been no word yet as to whether he will. One thing's for sure: the entire story is an American tragedy.

—Hannah Allen White

Latest Equinox Ad is Decently Tolerable, Actually Funny

You probably know already that I'm not a fan of hypersexualized media and objectification, so for a long time I've rolled my eyes when passing ads for the gym chain Equinox, which often resorts to blatant sex appeal as an incentive to work out (as if to say "Objectify us in this ad, then go objectify yourself in our gyms!"). But now, one its latest ads in circulation has caused me to do the good kind of double-take. Showing a male and female model in swank attire (yes, clothed, thank you Equinox) and carrying adorably fussy twins, the ad features text over the image, "Equinox made me do it." Congratulations, Equinox! You finally made me smile while thinking about your brand, even if for half a second.

Mary Rose Somarriba

And to End on a High Note...

It seems like every time you turn around Jimmy Page is re-releasing some newly remastered, re-tweaked, re-whatever something, from deep cuts to iconic tracks that many music fans believe can't be improved upon. Artistic interpretations of the legendary Led Zeppelin's arrangements never seem to get old, so when the Louisville Leopard Percussionist group (made up of musicians aged 7-12) released a short video performance of "Kashmir" and "The Immigrant Song" it was no surprise that Mr. Page himself approved and shared the video on his social media accounts. Thanks to him, it's now ours to watch and enjoy!

—Hannah Allen White