Common Sexism in Charisma on Command’s video about Brie Larson

Charisma on Command, an organisation of two young men dedicated to cultivating one’s charisma, extrovertedness, and relationships recently released a video listicle entitled ‘5 Common Habits That Make People Instantly Dislike You‘. Centring on Brie Larson and her recent interviews in the Avengers Endgame junket, the video offers potential insight into the ways these determinations are gendered, not to mention raced and always subject to contextualisation (such as considering Larson’s recent arrival into this established club of mostly men).

According to the self-professed body-language experts, Larson fails in these five ways:

– Reading negative intent in an ambiguous situation.

– Failing to offer a clear “tell” when being sarcastic.

– Jumping on opportunities to praise or call attention to herself.

– Trying to “win” each moment of banter.

– “Handling a compliment improperly”

Unofficial chart notes that white men named “Chris” have played more Marvel heroes than all women put together.

Although each point isn’t without its merits, it is telling that each positive example offered up save for one is demonstrated by white men, most of whom inhabit their rung of stardom comfortably. (That most are illustrated by a “Chris”, a category that has notably outnumbered all women in the Marvel Comics Universe [MCU] — and likely people of colour until Black Panther (Ryan Coogler, 2018).

Questions of when a woman is ‘trying too hard to win’ banter or praise or recognition for work done can ignore the degree to which the baseline for achievement isn’t even. Forget that Larson is up against people who’ve been in multiple MCU films, she is also a young woman up against those whose excellence and worthiness as all powerful gods and men has not been questioned, save for in ‘banter’ or ‘jokes’. It reminds me of Hannah Gadsby’s powerful refusal of humility, which for people on the margins is more often than not a performance of humiliation. What does it mean to lower oneself, playfully or not, when the floor is further down for some than others? Or to put it in Gadsby’s superior words, ‘Because you do understand what self -deprecation means from somebody who already exists in the margins? It’s not humility. It’s humiliation.’

Although in one occasion Larson is given a female counterpoint, the choice is telling. In an example of failing to give a sufficient ‘tell’ for her sarcasm, an appropriate example is offered through Aubrey Plaza, a comic actor known entirely for her flat affect and sarcastic delivery. That is, there is little reflection on what it means to be Larson performing Larson and a superhero/star on the rise, but rather an example of an already established character whose pretence to being better must be constantly sealed within clear performance. The men can play with being ‘less than’ because we all know they’re not. A young woman must play with being ‘less than’ to ensure that the audience does not assume she thinks more of herself than she is supposed to. To play ‘more than’ is to ensure that those claims are securely limited by inverted commas.

To be fair, this is a balance of stardom, which is to be both special and ordinary simultaneously: to be special yet close enough to be loved.At the same time, star performances are often balanced with character performances, and in the case of Larson, her ostensible superiority or distraction jibes with the performance of Captain Marvel in Endgame where her superior abilities were required in other parts of the universe.

Overall, the apparent anger Larson has incurred in the occasions named in the video and the methods through which lessons are offered show us that something more could be going on. Indeed, the entire junket narrative (which includes stories of both romance and battles with co-star Chris Hemsworth) could be worth a closer reading.

Star gossips, true or false, is always ripe for decoding.

More food for thought:

Kate Gardner. Don Cheadle Defends Brie Larson from “Body Language Experts” on Twitter. The Mary Sue. 1 May 2019

Rachel Leishman. Stop Telling Brie Larson How to Act; It’s Exhausting. The Mary Sue. 7 May 2019

The Everyday Sexism Project (Laura Bates)




Coming Soon: DocSalon 3 “Is Empathy Enough?”

The third annual DocSalon is coming to Edinburgh International Film Festival on Saturday 29th June at 1.30pm at the Traverse Theatre.

The DocSalon is a public discussion with filmmakers, programmers, and the audience on subjects pressing to documentary today. This time, our topic is EMPATHY.

The capacity to place ourselves in another person’s shoes is a valued trait, so it’s hardly surprising that reports of waning empathy are so disconcerting. Fiction has been praised for its capacity to develop empathy but what happens when real life is the subject? With the same capacity for bringing us stories, characters, and perspectives beyond our own, how can documentary be a tool for empathy? And when the subject is the real world, what are the problems with making empathy the goal? How useful is empathy as a political emotion?

The Vegan Society uses VR to introduce the public to the horrors of battery farming.

Further details on ticketing to come. But for now, we invite your thoughts and questions to get the conversation started. Leave them in the comments.





What if you could Instagram the Holocaust? A question stirs controversy

Israeli high-tech entrepreneur Mati Kochavi has set up an Instagram account for the real life figure of Eva Heymann, a 13-year-old Hungarian girl. The account interprets the diary she started in 1944, using selfies, pictures and videos, from her that chronicle the more mundane events of her life and her family’s persecution by the Nazis.

This has apparently (and expectedly) stirred up controversy, but perhaps this requires more thought as to why, and whether this is the problem the naysayers think it is.

After all, we use social media to chronicle and capture multiple human rights abuses in order to inspire and mobilise outrage as well as to organise action. With this in mind, what makes social media an inappropriate or insufficiently sober tool for bearing witness to the past or for remembrance?


One of the benefits for social media– or rather, select platforms like Instagram given that others, like Facebook, aren’t as used by younger generations)– it that it moves the Holocaust from a long ago past to now, possibly not only in the platform but in resonance with other things being shared through these platforms. Moreover, these uses allow us to reflect on the ways media were deployed in the past as tools of mobilisation and of witnessing.

I’ve written about Anne Frank fan videos. These refer not only to the slideshows of documentary materials set to music, but Anne/Peter shipping crafted from recuts of docudramas and diary adaptations. I have questioned the shuddering responses to these videos. After all, most young people introduced to the diary through a lesson of personal creativity, They learn about Anne in an English class where they are encouraged not only to learn about the Holocaust but also to keep a journal– to learn about the value of their testimonies, thoughts, and experiences.

And fannishness, including fan-fictions (and non-fictions) were hardly foreign to Anne herself, who adorned her wall with photographs of movie stars and whose diary was structured as letters to characters from her favourite novels. Indeed, fan videos suggest a form of creativity in line with what we know and how we often learn about Anne.

As such, it seems worth thinking about this Instagramming project more thoroughly,  taking into account platform  (Is there an inherent quality to social media that makes it inappropriate or suitable for this activity?) and execution (What does it look like? What is being done and how? AND what does it mean?). And of course, we need to look back to all the forms of media people have used to share and to remember: What can we learn from those practices?

News source:

“The First Historical Post will Be Published 1.5.19”

Other reading:

Anne Frank Unbound: Media, Imagination, Memory ed. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett and Jeffrey Shandler (Indiana University Press, 2012).

True Beliebers” by Leshu Torchin, Souciant (April 2013).

Eva.Stories on Instagram: