The Abby Singer

Every line of work has its own language. If you’ve ever been trapped at a party by a group of physicists, software developers, or political strategists, you know what I’m talking about: there is a whole world of proprietary lingo that people in a profession develop by and for themselves. This frequently happens out of necessity. Those physicists could have continued to say, “I found a new one of those thingies in space that sucks in every other thingy around it,” or developers could still be writing, “This e-mail contains something underlined that you can click on but you probably don’t want to because then I will have sucked every more time from your day,” but one can see where there was a need to be filled here. 

On the other hand, did anyone really need to come up with the word “memo”? Wasn’t “group note” good enough? Was it only with the advent of the modern hospital that people needed things not just fast but “stat”? I think not. I think that there is another reason that people develop lingo and that is to show that they have their own little thing going on. It’s their way of saying, if you can follow our conversation then you are one of us, and if not, then there’s something we know and you don’t, ha.

Nowhere is this more true than in the film business, which has its own litany of terms that don’t even make sense to those of us who use them. Part of this is explained by the fact that, in the early years of this century, the process of filmmaking evolved sort of ad-hoc, absorbing equipment or people from other jobs. With certain terms, like “dolly,” which is the large, wheeled piece of equipment on which the camera is pushed around in the grip of the “dolly grip,” the derivation is obvious. 

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200 Steps Back

My mother was always going to marches and meetings when I was a kid. As one of the founders of the Essex County, NJ chapter of the National Organization for Women, she fought for a lot of aspects of women’s lives that it would seem unthinkable for us to be without today: credit cards in our own names instead of our husbands’ (made law in the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974); protections from getting fired for getting pregnant (the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978); being able to choose whether to have sex with our husbands (spousal rape was not criminalized in all 50 states until 1993); the ability to serve on juries (all states: 1975), to fight on the front lines in the military (rule restricting women from combat units rescinded by the Pentagon in 2013); access to birth control (the Supreme Court legalized birth control for unmarried people in 1972, and held that states could not place any restrictions on the advertisement, sale, and distribution of contraceptives to individuals of any age in 1978). And in 1973, the right established by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, for all women to have access to abortion during the first trimester, and with only limited restrictions during the second.

As a teen in the 1980s, when my mom would complain about how women were portrayed in TV shows like Charlie’s Angels (objectification) and The Brady Bunch (subservient homemaker), I remember thinking how annoying it was for her to go on about this stuff. For one thing, The Brady Bunch was all reruns, so Carol Brady was completely a relic of the past, duh! And in general, women had come so far since my mother’s adolescence; she and my father were teaching me that I could do anything I wanted. Did such minor points as the Brady boys being encouraged to be doctors and astronauts while the Brady girls were encouraged to be nurses and models, or the fact that Angel Jaclyn Smith’s boobs had a starring role in every episode, really matter, when all of the important stuff was already settled?

Guess what? It wasn’t.

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