Diablo Cody, overexposed

Have we seen enough of the world's most famous ex-stripper?

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published September 11, 2009 6:13PM (EDT)

“Jennifer’s Body” hasn’t even opened yet, but the chick filmmaker fatigue has already set in. And no one bears the brunt of our collective fascination and disdain more than Diablo Cody.

Cody, the “Candy Girl” memoirist, EW columnist, Oscar-winning “Juno” screenwriter, “United States of Tara” co-creator, and most famous ex-stripper in America, is inescapable lately – especially if you read "The New York Times."

Perhaps you read about her in last week’s story on women and horror movies. Or how she and her fellow lady writers roll – and just as significantly, what they wear – in last spring’s Styles section.  Or maybe you saw her mentioned in today’s story on the prominence of women at this year’s Toronto Film Festival. To illustrate how far the fair sex has progressed, “Times” writer Michael Cieply started the story noting Cody’s bikini girl tattoo.

Yet with fame and fortune and all the inherent symbolism of being the semi bad girl made good comes a big steaming heap of scorn. Cody’s been mocked on “Saturday Night Live” as an Oscar-clutching attention magnet whose vocabulary consists mainly of the word “blog.” DailyFill recently responded to Cody’s praise of Megan Fox by harrumphing that “having Diablo Cody call you genuine is like having Dane Cook call you funny.”  And when Washington City Paper’s Amanda Hess took note of the backlash recently, she called her and her “Jennifer’s Body” star Megan Fox “Hollywood’s most hated women.”  

Cody’s acclaim – and the inevitable parallel loathing – could fill a year’s worth of Maxim articles and women’s studies coursework. On the one hand: She’s hot! She’s edgy! She wrote a horror movie! Basically, she’s a nerd’s Christmas morning!

But everything that’s opened doors for her – the blogger/stripper past, the indie hipster riot grrl ‘tude, – are precisely what compel others to hate on her “quirky bullshit”  image as “grittier-than-thou, authentic-er-than-thou, and certainly sexually liberated-er-than-thou.” 

Behind all of it – the loathing, the breathless championing – is one basic question. How much of the hype is about her work and how much is just about herself? Could a regular-looking person who hadn’t named herself after the devil and spent time on the pole ever have attained Cody’s level of success?

Based on the number of ex-strippers who don’t have Oscars, I’d say the odds are pretty good that it’s not her lap dancing technique alone that got her where she is today. It just happens to be the thing people want to talk about. Because whatever else she does in life, the woman born Brook Busey will always have the phrase “ex-stripper” in front of her name, right next to “Academy Award winner.” She might as well be comfortable with it, especially when so many of her critics aren’t.

Besides, if Cody were to tone down her unapologetic, va va voom image or go all shy and Salinger, what would it prove anyway? Pretty people have advantages. Sexy people get attention. And then other people complain that they’re only getting advantages and attention because they’re pretty and sexy. (This just in: life’s not fair.) Someday we may live in a world where "The Times" can do a story on women filmmakers that doesn’t reference, in its first sentence, what they’re wearing. But to do so would mean that how a woman looks or dresses or strips isn’t important – and that doesn’t feel like much of a victory for anybody. Who says a screenwriter has to look like Paul Haggis to have credibility? Cody’s brazen femininity and knack for the spotlight are undeniable, genuine parts of who she is. She told The Frisky recently “We don’t all have to be the model woman—what we need is to be more visible.”  Whether or not she’s a great writer is up for debate, but Cody understands the thing about being visible is this: it only works if you know how to make people look.


By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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