Who’s laughing now
Back in 2012, I wrote about Elizabeth Banks’s website praising it for its design and content, and also for what it isn’t: a way to brand her family or sell perfume.
Since then her website has grown and added more features (like pinned content), but all of the original reasons I liked it still stand. Still no photos of her kids, still lots of nerdy nuggets, and still very approachable and smart. I didn’t think she was building an e-commerce-driven lifestyle venture, and indeed she wasn’t. Instead, she was establishing a digital presence, something so many actors in her age group are afraid to do. Elizabeth doesn’t seem to fret about mean tweets or worry much about “revealing” too much and losing her mystery – she seems to realize that the Internet is not a poisonous jungle and not a fad (sorry Jennifer Aniston and Kate Winslet). For an actor, it can be an incredibly useful tool to manage their image, even for someone like Elizabeth, who has never needed damage control.
Elizabeth Banks is, of course, a boss. And I don’t meant that colloquially – Elizabeth is actually a boss. She directed Pitch Perfect 2 (and was a undisputed success for a first-time director), she is attached to Pitch Perfect 3, as well as a YA film Red Queen and a Charlie’s Angels reboot. In that same THR interview, she also said she wants more lead roles, and she’s a passionate advocate for getting other female directors behind the camera. A lot of people preach this, and she practices it.
Beyond her trailblazing career, her online presence is noteworthy because her understanding of digital content and the evolution of media consumption is far ahead of her what her peers are talking about. She’s not burying her head in the sand and hoping we go back to typewriters, but she also hasn’t given up acting for Snapchat (which I’m convinced Kate Hudson has done). She falls right in the meaty middle – blogger, and now digital producer (+director, movie star, producer).
Her latest venture is a female-centric comedy site, Whohaha. Incidentally, this is not lifestyle. Lifestyle is about coveting things and enticing the audience to want more stuff – a pair of jeans, a face wash, a getaway to Montana (seriously, when did Montana get so hip?). Success hinges on creating a perfect storm of aspiration and influence, which is where celebrities come in – they are supposed to represent both.
Whohaha is not in this realm. It’s about entertainment, achievement and potential, not consumerism.
Having debuted just yesterday, it has a very robust amount of content, using both clips and original sketches. In speaking with Ad Age about the launch, Elizabeth said that all of the content creators will be female, although there will men will appear on the site. You can see the blueprint of Funny or Die, mixed with a little of Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls and a smidge of Hello Giggles. Sketches take on everything from catcalling to single-shaming to rape culture in the biting Dr. Luke Fur Nails Tutorial.
The site also promotes and features the funny ladies: Amy Schumer, Kate McKinnon, Mindy Kaling, Lena Dunham, Tina Fey, Kristen Bell, Broad City’s Ilana and Abbi, and even Jennifer Garner, but Elizabeth promises that the site will also work to cultivate talent (and not just rely on the heavy hitters) with a portal for viewers to recommend undiscovered new voices for consideration. The focus is on funny, not necessarily famous.
Not all of the featured content is created just for the web (there are plenty of talk show clips) so it does seem that her choices are based on the quality, not on the medium. She’s an incredibly successful director, so obviously she knows how to pique an audience’s interest, and I think she relies largely on her instincts and tastes.
Oh, and she’s funny as f-ck, so that comes in handy. I fell into the “Ask A Badass” videos with Julianne Moore, Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Morgan Freeman, and Lenny Kravitz. Or you can navigate based on your preferred performer; clicking on Elizabeth Banks led me to this look by Jane Fonda. Lily Tomlin’s shocked “You’ve been?” killed me.
You can go off in several directions, but the paths are all lined with the same ideas: humour and feminism. If this is what it looks like after a day, can you imagine what it will look like after a month, or a year?