Yesterday around noon, something happened that happens every single day. A woman said something disparaging about other women* in order to ingratiate herself to men*. Or perhaps to convince herself that she is not as worthless as her lesser female* counterparts. Either way she saw fit to explain to us, her fellow penis enviers, how to talk about Joss Whedon’s The Avengers. The original title of the article was “Girls’ Guide to ’The Avengers’.” It’s now been changed to “One Girl’s Guide To ‘The Avengers’: What You Need to Know If You Know Nothing,” but it’s still really, really marginalizing and offensive.
Hey Lemoners, time to introduce you to a new feature I’m going to call “The Outsider’s Guide to Action Movies.” This is to fill a genuine need that I didn’t realize was actually an issue for a long time. We all knew that comedy and action films are a pretty conventionally male arena. Most action stars are men, and when women take the lead they are often fetishized for their “Super Girl” status. (Think Buffy, Ripley, etc.) The truth is, it’s hard to get into action movies when you’re not a member of their target demographic, but if you don’t watch them, you’re missing out on a whole chunk of pop culture. Not knowing that chunk of culture makes you an outsider, like a person who doesn’t know sports feels left out in an environment where success is indicated by being told you’re a “slam dunk” or that you landed that “Hail Mary Pass.” But guess what? Unlike sports, which can be an acquired taste, there are so many different action movies, and I promise there’s one out there for you. So let go, and get ready to find out why everyone keeps saying “Yippee-ki-yay mother–” That’s right. It’s Die Hard. Continue reading
We interrupt our regularly scheduled moving and television coverage because a dear friend was kind enough to invite me to a pre-screening of Cowboys & Aliens at the nonprofit, ultra-classy American Cinematheque in Santa Monica, followed by a Q & A with director Jon Favreau. What a great way to start playing in LA!
Per Favreau’s request, I’m going to avoid talking about the film’s many twists, turns, and alien designs, but he also requested a spreading of the word, a contributing to the cloud, as it were.
I’m sure they’ll be a lot of comments about the gorgeous sound design and score, the myriad invocations of classic Westerns. (In many ways it’s The Searchers with aliens and a Man With No Name for good measure. This is not at all a bad thing. In fact, if you haven’t seen the films Favreau and his team are referencing, you may have your brain broken by the distinctly different pacing and composition of the filmmaking and storytelling, especially in comparison with more standard tentpole features like the pre-Avengers movies or Avatar.
Something I do want to point out is that in many ways Cowboys & Aliens is a story about who is allowed to have catharsis, who’s allowed to kill the monster. I don’t want to give anything away, but if you’re a regular reader of the blog, go to the cineplex and bring your dialectic mind. Keep asking yourself “Who’s the monster here?” I feel a paper coming on, don’t you? Also, ummmm EXPLOSIONS + ANTHROPOMORPHIC LENS + = WINNING. (Lowbrow fangirl enough?)
Ready to have your life changed? James Bond just became a feminist.
Today is International Women’s Day. In fact, it’s the 100th International Women’s Day. 100 years ago, women’s rights leaders joined together in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and Denmark to campaign for their rights in a concentrated effort, demanding the right to work, to vote, to be educated and trained, to hold public (and private) office, and to end discrimination and victimization in the public and private spheres. (You can learn more about International Women’s Day and historical feminist activism here.) What does this have to do with Daniel Craig in drag?
Well, director Sam Taylor-Wood and writer Jane Goldman have given us a short film where the bravest, most daring, most dashing person in the world has found one mission he doesn’t want to take on: being a woman. I could pontificate on the power of seeing one of the manliest British actors in relatively convincing drag or the subversive nature of Dame Judi Dench’s authoritative narration, so different from the voiceovers that we usually hear from female actors. I could rant about the frustrating fact that despite a woman’s first Oscar win for Best Director was for an action film, this two-minute short is the first Bond film directed by a woman, despite the success of Bond producer Barbara Broccoli.
Maybe that’s an unfair complaint. Kathryn Bigelow only won the Oscar a year ago, and the successes of the short’s writer Jane Goldman (Stardust, Kick-Ass, and Kick-Ass 2) are heartening for women who want to make action movies or other “masculine” genres. The success of Tina Fey’s 30 Rock and Diablo Cody’s Juno are helping women carve a place in the world of comedy. (Although I’m sure Fey’s new book is going to point out how far we need to go on that front too.)
Women aren’t making Bond films, but Bond films have changed to reflect this new world M references in the PSA. There are lots of interesting feminist moments in Casino Royale, but the littlest one, and possibly my favorite, is around 7:30 in this clip. Bond is kissing Vesper and then she starts saying “No. Stop. Stop it.” In a Sean Connery Bond film this moment would be when he kisses her harder, and then she reveals that she likes it, that no means yes. In Casino Royale, Bond stops. Immediately. And he doesn’t get resentful or scary, or share a sad look with the camera. He’s always looking at her, and he doesn’t resist her paying her share. This Bond is a different kind of Neanderthal, not a perfect feminist partner, but certainly not the paragon of male chauvinism we see in the Ian Fleming novels and 60s and 70s films.
Contrast the dynamic between Vesper and Craig’s Bond and Honey (Ursula Andress) and Sean Connery’s Bond:
“Are you looking for shells?”
“No. Just looking.”
And see the tables turn in Vesper and Bond’s first meeting, where she calls him on his character’s chauvinist legacy:
It is Craig’s portrayal of Bond that makes the PSA so powerful. Continue reading
So my lovely friend Elize’s blog seems to have infected me lately. Over at Female Gazing she celebrates our need to objectify and subverts Laura Mulvey’s observation of the “male gaze” in media with a gaze of her own.
Here’s an excerpt from a lovely post in which she explicates the concept:
Objectification of women will never end. Women are beautiful and sexy. We have soft curvy bodies which attract attention. I don’t want to ask men to stop looking at me and my sisters. I want to ask them to do it respectfully, remembering that I have as many opinions and feelings as they do.
I consider it my job, nay! my duty to gaze at men. To make them ever so slightly uncomfortable, to turn my head when they jog past. To hug one whenever I feel like it. To have friends who are male and tell them what I think and feel without fear of being considered too girly, vain, or sensitive.
So please don’t feel threatened (for as a woman I’m taught that the last thing a man wants is a woman who is threatening) and join me. Enjoy bodies (consensually!) Gaze respectfully. Gaze with love and responsibility. Honor people’s feelings, his, hers, your own.
(If you like that also check out my favorite post so far, about one of my favorite guilty pleasures, the remake of Universal Pictures’ The Mummy starring Brendan Fraser.)
The blog is filled with pictures of gorgeous men (and women) who know they’re sexy and don’t apologize, and Elize helps you feel that way too. It’s a great mission but when I’m in one of my over sharing hormonal places it can be a little dangerous.
How you ask? Well, directing requires a certain level a maturity and sensitivity because you’re in a position of power. The clichés about the casting couch exist because they are based in fact. (Contemporary fact, if Megan Fox is to be believed.) That is a really depressing thing. And it goes both ways. As women become more powerful in Hollywood they develop the same power that was exploited by the cigar chewing male producers we see in the movies. Exploitation goes all kinds of ways: straight, queer, male, female, everything in between and outside. It is the person in power’s responsibility to not exploit, not the potential victim’s responsibility to speak up, which is why people in positions of power have to be very careful.
I go to the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama. It is filled with gorgeous, gorgeous, talented people. Like the way TV is filled with really, really ridiculously good-looking people who never have to go to work or take a bathroom break. And you know how when you’re watching TV you find yourself saying things that you wouldn’t say if the person was in the room?
So we’re all heard the term “humorless feminist” right? Or panties in a twist? It’s when feminists get outraged over something that is obviously a joke. Right. Like when feminists hate on Liz Lemon or 500 Days of Summer. (Sorry to beat up on Tiger Beatdown. They are one of my favorite blogs to lurk on, but sometimes they make demands on characters that seem a bit unreasonable, or assume that Tom in 500 Days of Summer is the moral compass of the film, which he isn’t. His little sister is.)
So here’s my humorless feminist moment for the month. I really don’t like this song:
I understand the sentiment, and I understand why people find it so satisfying to sing. Cursing is fun, and getting back at exes is more fun. But listen to the lyrics: Continue reading
When I was little, my favorite movie was Aladdin. I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe because it had more action than most Disney films and had more of an ensemble feel to it. (The Genie had his own separate storyline and the carpet was sort of like the Mad Murdock of the group. I dunno. I liked it.) And every Halloween, when I was choosing a costume, my first thought went to Jasmine.
I don’t know exactly what it was about her that made me want to be her. Maybe her temper. (“I am not a prize to be won! *stomps off*) Maybe her pet tiger. Either way, little elementary school me knew that she was everything I wasn’t. Her skin was this beautiful cappuccino color. Mine was so pale you could see the veins. Her hair was this mysterious jet black. Mine was this mousey sometimes vaguely red but not really brown. Her hands were dainty and delicate. Mine were peasant’s hands: thick, short fingers, dirty nails. Oh, and her waist. Oh, Jasmine’s impossibly tiny waist. My waist was…well, not tiny. Ever. Continue reading
[Note: So many Mad Men spoilers.]
Last month, a friend sent me this open letter to men from Christina Hendricks. I’ve written about Ms. Hendricks before but I have to admit I’m endlessly fascinated by her and our cultures reactions to her and the show she now stars in, AMC’s retroporn Emmy winner Mad Men.
The first thing Hendricks offers us in this open letter is this little gem:
We love your body. If we’re in love with you, we love your body. Your potbelly, everything. Even if you’re insecure about something, we love your body. You feel like you’re not this or that? We love your body. We embrace everything. Because it’s you.
If that’s not real love, I don’t know what is. And let me be clear: I’m not discounting Dan Savage’s “you have the right to demand body maintenance.” mantra. But I do believe that when you’re with the right person, it’s their mind and personality that also turns you on, so that helps you love everything about them. Even what they don’t love about themselves. It’s also refreshing to hear a sex icon address male body issues so directly.
It’s funny, but there’s begun to be a backlash against Mad Men in papers like The New York Times and sites like Salon. The Times article justified the show’s success by the new Puritan and yuppie-ism of the upper class which distances the über rich from the messiness glamorized on Mad Men, a place they’d like to get back to. Salon explained that Mad Men was bad for women because “the women not only suffer but also do so with the clear message that the fault lies not in society, but in themselves.”
The argument of whether the men in Mad Men are acting as a result of societal pressures or personal flaws is a complex one, and you could really argue it both ways. But I must make the point that Mad Men‘s complicated feminism is actually a great guide for third and neo-second wavers because it illustrates a few complex but important maxims.
Maxim #1: Very few of us get to “have it all.” But you have the right to try. Continue reading
Long ago in a galaxy far, far away, I wrote the first half of a summer movie preview. Now I am going to complete it. (Because sometimes, only sometimes, I am a woman of my word.)
In case you don’t remember the system, it goes a little something like this:
I rate a film’s likely problematic nature based on a 1 through 6 scale, with 1 being the least offensive in terms of the lenses of gender, race, sexuality, class, etc and 6 being I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. I will also rate the films based on (my own) fangirl excitement, with 10 being the highest and 1 being the lowest. Snark and trailers abound, so let’s play.
The Last Airbender (July 1)
This is the big screen adaptation of the popular American anime Nickelodeon series Avatar: The Last Airbender, known for its depth of imagination, humor, and surprising artistic competence despite it being American anime. Also, it has protagonists that are people of color and female characters who do useful things rather than screaming and falling in love. The adaptation made the (Native American and Asian) protagonists white. This is just the beginning of the terribleness, as this review from io9 demonstrates:
This is the part where I would insert a quick plot synopsis of the film, but it’s really unnecessary – Shyamalan has boiled every epic heroic story of the past 20 years down to its most basic, primal soup-y essence, so he can spray it all over the audience, in a kind of Hero’s-Journey bukkake. You will be finding chunks of Joseph Campbell’s calcified spooge behind your ears for three days after watching this film, no matter how many times you bathe.
Shyamalan’s true achievement in this film is that he takes a thrilling cult TV series, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and he systematically leaches all the personality and soul out of it — in order to create something generic enough to serve as a universal spoof of every epic, ever. All the story beats from the show’s first season are still present, but Shyamalan manages to make them appear totally arbitrary. Stuff happens, and then more stuff happens, and what does it mean? We never know, because it’s time for more stuff to happen. You start out laughing at how random and mindless everything in this movie is, but about an hour into it, you realize that the movie is actually laughing at you, for watching it in the first place. And it’s laughing louder than you are, because it’s got Dolby surround-sound and you’re choking on your suspension of disbelief. Continue reading
[Warning, this post contains spoilers for the Doctor Who episode "The Lodger."]
I am going to say right now that “The Lodger” was one of the most enjoyable episodes of Doctor Who in a long time, especially for Matt Smith lovers. We got to see the Eleventh Doctor play football (soccer for those of us who are two weeks behind on episodes), come out of the shower, talk to a cat, and generally do good for fan service everywhere.
So in general I loved it, but there’s something that’s been bothering me for a long time. Why does this dude,
end up with this chick?
Don’t misunderstand me. There’s something really sweet and charming about Craig. He’s funny, he’s kind. I might even date him. But they’re not exactly the same level of conventional hotness.