Starring Sheppard as a vaguely recognizable, ditzy girl, the videos are a barrage of silly and stereotypical girl-isms such as "get these chips away from me,” "do you know anything about computers?” and "can you pass me that blanket?” They’re pretty hilarious, mainly because (whether we’d like to admit it or not) most of us girls have uttered at least a few of these phrases on more than one occasion. They’re coloured with a truth and savvy that I haven’t seen since Chris Lilley’s ‘Summer Heights High’ and its spinoffs. The videos also feature Oscar nominated actress Juliette Lewis.
Of course, not everyone finds the videos so funny. Sheppard and Humphrey have been accused of sexism and misogyny with critics arguing that the videos are offensive and propagate gender-essentializing. One such critic, Lynn Crosbie, wrote in the Globe and Mail "Is the video uncanny? Yes. It is like being lightly slapped, over and over again. That starts to sting, then infuriate.”
The A.V. Club Toronto had a chance to sit down with Sheppard to discuss the videos and the corresponding Twitter Feed. Here is a snippet from the interview. To read in full, visit the A.V. Club Toronto website: tinyurl.com/6u3zgp2
The A.V. Club: Whose idea was it to start the Twitter account?
Graydon Sheppard: Kyle and I started the Twitter back in April. We were sitting around one day watching TV, and one of us said, "Can you pass me that blanket?” It immediately struck us as a "girl” thing to say. I know that sounds terrible. But we immediately started thinking about what that means, to have a saying attributed to a sex, and then we started going back and forth. Kyle has a Twitter account. I tweet as well. So we thought it would be a perfect format. Within a couple days, we had a couple hundred tweets.
AVC: Where did these ideas come from? Women you’ve known in the past? You seem to have an infinite reservoir.
GS: At first we weren’t sure how long it would be able to go. First it was just us gleaning what we had heard in the past, and not necessarily any specific women or people. I grew up with my mom and sisters in the house, and then, growing up, had a lot of mostly girl friends. It kind of comes from being around women but not being a woman.
AVC: And from there, why did you decide to film the shorts?
GS: I’m a director, so a couple of months after starting the feed, I thought it’d be a fun project to do. I also wanted to perform. So that’s basically it. It started off as a little side project to supplement the feed, but now it’s kind of taken off more than the feed.
AVC: How did you get Juliette Lewis to appear in the first video?
GS: She was one of our first followers. I remember getting the e-mail from Twitter that she was following us, and it was so exciting. I forwarded it to Kyle. It felt like we were really catching on. One day in the summer, we tweeted something and she replied to us, and asked who we were. She wanted to know who we were and if we were girls. And she had just come to Toronto to start filming The Firm for NBC, and we met up and had a drink. After that, we kept in touch. After the day where we filmed everything, we showed her the cut, and she wanted to do a cameo.
AVC: Some of the criticism your project has received seems to miss this "certain kind of woman” concept that you mention. Something that refers to "girls” as an idea is essentializing, but it doesn’t seem like the concept would work if it were called S••t A Certain Kind Of Woman Who Has Been Socialized To Behave A Certain Way Says. How are you responding to criticism suggesting that the project is sexist or misogynist?
GS: You can’t really respond to it, other than positively. We respect women; we love women; we grew up around women; the people who helped us on the project were women. Obviously we can’t critique anyone for critiquing us in this way. Everyone has the right to critique it. It’s a really interesting dialogue that has come up because of the people criticizing it. It’s tricky territory. It’s sensitive territory. But people have the right to be offended. It’s par for the course, especially if something goes this big, which we never thought it would.
But I’m gay, and Kyle’s gay, and people put things out there about gay people. There are television shows about gay people, and I think we try to not let that define us. We know they don’t necessarily speak for us. I think it’s a really interesting topic. We’ve been learning a lot.
AVC: The first one got, what, 4 million hits in a week?
GS: Yeah, it’s almost at 6 million now. And the other one, I think, is around 2 million. It’s been really, unbelievably popular.
AVC: Did you expect this sort of reception?
GS: We hoped it would do well. We thought it would be kind of popular. But we never thought it’d take off in such a way. This past week has just been crazy, with all the feedback coming in. It’s been amazing.