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A WOMAN’S RIGHT TO CHOOSE

I’m certainly in agreement with John Powers’ critique of the pernicious, completely degrading images of women in today’s film and television [On, “Bad Girls,” June 25–July 1]. However, he doesn’t go far enough in pushing his accurate assessment into a strong argument, one that would aggressively get to the heart of the issue as to why women’s images in contemporary film and television have escalated in their demeaning quality.

In the first place (and I realize this is an old, though still accurate, argument), nobody held a gun to those women’s heads to make them exploit themselves by taking those degrading roles. Instead, the powers-that-be did something more seductive, an act to which we’re all vulnerable: They offered those women money — lots of it in many cases — and an open doorway to fame. I can guarantee that Tina Fey loved the big, fat check she got for Mean Girls, even if she did have to show her breasts. Quite frankly, that was her choice to make — and who are we to judge her, or anyone else (male or female), for it?

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We all know much of the movie and television business is toxic. But if women really want to change it, they have to change it themselves. Each woman who gets propositioned to humiliate herself on film can refuse, can make the serious, personal sacrifice of saying no. These women are all adults. We have to stop treating them like helpless victims.

Mr. Powers, it’s time to start putting the onus of responsibility back where it belongs — on the individual. Because only with a collective of right-thinking individuals (male and female) can the system be taken on with the great force that is necessary to, if not reform it, at least get it back in balance.

—Brian Estwick West Hollywood

HAMMING IT UP

Congratulations to Steven Leigh Morris on his jaw-dropping article about Francesco Vitali’s Hamlet [“Or Not To Be,” June 25–July 1]. It was absolutely marvelous and fun, too.

—Diane Grant Los Angeles

THE PLOT THICKENS

As a regular and generally satisfied reader of L.A. Weekly, I am really surprised with how narrowly Robert Greene portrays city planning director Con Howe [“Plotting Upheaval,” June 25–July 1].

To base an article on the plotting of a handful of disgruntled employees who want Howe out (and not comment on views of the majority) constitutes a real disservice to Weekly readers, who likely know little else of the director. Why was the Howe quote “Ultimately it is the council and the mayor that set policy” not commented on? That the Planning Department was, as Greene reports, already “foundering under low morale,” that “Howe’s task was already monumental when he walked in the door,” and that he faced an “unprecedented series of disasters” when he began his tenure certainly need to be addressed more fully.

Greatly lacking in the article is the important issue of historic preservation. Contrary to Howe’s alleged “unfair treatment . . . of neighborhoods around the city” in historic preservation, he has literally thousands of fans. On Howe’s watch, the number of historic-preservation zones has tripled and, a few years ago, the city of Los Angeles was chosen — for the first time ever — as the location of the National Trust for Historical Preservation’s annual convention. As a result of preservation successes, Howe has been responsible for growing numbers of tourist dollars to L.A.

Many of us want a report that is fair and balanced regarding the progress that the Planning Department has made on Con Howe’s watch. If L.A. Weekly conducts this type of investigation, a very different article will appear in a future edition.

—Murray Burns Chair, Los Angeles Historic Preservation Over-Lay Zone Alliance

PALER SHADE OF PORN

I am a bit confused by the Larry Sultan spread [“Just Another Day in the Valley,” June 25–July 1]. Initially I was excited, thinking the Weekly did a story on Jeff Burton! Then I realized they weren’t Burton’s photos. I feel duped. Burton has been living in L.A. and working as a photographer in and around the porn industry for more than 15 years. He has developed a beautiful and intense body of work that arises from his intimate relationship with the industry. He has shown these photographs in museums and galleries worldwide. He has two books published of his work.

Sultan, on the other hand, has made the industry his current project, in which he is merely a voyeur. Sharing the terrain is not what bothers me though; it’s the fact that his pictures look a little too much like Burton’s. The cropping, the interiors and the light all reference Burton’s work but ultimately pale in comparison. It also seems suspicious to put Sultan’s (not very interesting nor beautiful) picture of two blonde chicks kneeling on the floor on the cover of the Weekly when, for example, a heart-rippingly beautiful photo of a guy eating another guy’s ass, by Burton, has yet to appear there.

—Amy Adler Los Angeles

Editor’s note: Larry Sultan grew up in the Valley, and that, rather than porn, has been his subject for several years. An earlier series showed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and was published in 1992 as Pictures From Home. The series excerpted by the Weekly is owned in part by the Whitney and is currently on view at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. It is published in book form by Scalo.

DADDY LONGLEGS

Ella Taylor repeats the oft-repeated error of crediting Stan Lee as Spider-Man’s sole creator [“Eight-Legged Freaks,” July 2-8]. While it is true that Lee co-created Spider-Man, Steve Ditko was the artist who designed the costume and co-created the entire mythos of the character. Since Lee still is involved with Marvel, he is often credited as the sole creator, but it is only fair to give mention to Ditko, without whom Spider-Man (if he existed today) would be completely different in his look and attitude.

—David Schwartz Agoura Hills

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