You guys, I’m finally doing it. The kickstarter funded Veronica Mars movie was the extra little push I needed to finally, ten years later, take up with that girl-detective everyone loves so much. I’m about a week behind the Vulture training schedule (and yes, this is 2014 and yes, I am a millennial content-addict, so yes, there is a training schedule to watch a now-defunct show in anticipation for its crowd-sourced feature debut). I just finished season 1 and I’m crashing hard towards the finish line, loving every minute of it.
Category Archives: Hollywood
Until recently, the short film portion of the Oscars was the section during which I usually went to get snacks because honestly, who cares about these unbeautiful people and their “movies” that no one has heard of. NOT THIS YEAR, FRIENDS! This year, I have actually seen the live action short films that are up for golden statuettes, and boy, do I have feelings about them.
Rather than waste time on the ones that registered only briefly, here are the first three:
1. The Voorman Problem (aka A Few British Actors You Sort of Recognize Explore God Delusions and Make Belgium Disappear)
2. Helium (aka A Kind of Roald Dahl-esqe Story About a Dying Child and the Power of Imagination, James and the Giant Peach Meets Up)
3. Pitaako Mun Kaikki Hoitaa (Do I Have to Do Everything?) (aka 7 Minute Video Interpretation of the Ongoing Conversation ‘Can Women Have it All’?)
So, this is where it gets juicy:
4. Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me) - My initial feelings of distaste for this Spanish short about a generic bloody conflict in a generic Africa starring generic generals and generic child soldiers has blossomed into full-fledged fury that I was subjected to it for 25 full minutes. The more I think about it, the more wrong it feels and the angrier I am that rather than condemning it for it’s “single story of Africa” we are lauding it with nominations.
The film depicts two Spanish doctors trying to get past a road barrier in the African bush somewhere (seriously, they give us no clues as to where this is supposed to be or when), when [SPOILER ALERTS: I'm going to spoil everything and I don't even care] shit hits the fan and they are kidnapped, beaten, and forced to kneel in the dirt while the local homicidal maniac of a general instructs the local child soldiers on how to be real men and murder interlopers. When the male doctor is killed, his girlfriend/wife is raped by one of the leaders before escaping during a bullet-laden blitz that kills basically everyone in the camp except her and young boy. She handcuffs herself to the kid, drags him into a truck, and drives him off to the city. Cut to that boy, a decade later, reading to a large audience of presumably-Spanish students about his experience as a conscripted soldier. His white savior stares back at him with tears in her eyes as she witnesses her good works in action. Fade to black.
I’m being kind of harsh. Maybe too harsh, but it really was that bad. Torture porn plus an uncomplicated, unexamined white savior narrative = lazy and dangerous storytelling.
5. Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Everything is Lost) On the other end of the spectrum from Aquel No Era Yo, I absolutely loved this French drama [SPOILER] about a mother in the last, desperate hours of planning and preparation before she leaves her abusive husband. While this could have skewed towards a general, reductionist overview of the Horror of Domestic Violence (kind of like how Aquel decided to address Horrifying Violence in Africa and How We Can Save the Children), Avant instead fleshed out the micro-universe of this particular woman, her children, and her friends. Under this super tight magnifying glass, her trauma is local and concentrated, amplifying the impact of the story far beyond the 20 minutes it was allowed.
Aquel felt like someone sat down and said, “I want to make a really dramatic, really suspensful, really terrifying, really emotional short film….hm…you know what would be uber terrifying? Watching a white doctor get raped by scary black men! And then she’ll overcome it, and oh man, the tears will be intense! Yes!”
Avant felt like the filmmakers did the reverse. They wanted to tell a very specific story of a suburban mom of two who, by all outward appearances, is living a perfectly ordinary life but secretly negotiates fear and pain every day. Turns out everyday violence can be every bit as suspensful as African warlords with big guns.
I told my friend the other day that I was obsessed with Robin Wright’s hair on House of Cards and she replied, “Yes, because you’re obsessed with your hair.” Right. Nothing like a little self-adoration disguised as celebrity worship! The truth is, I wrote a whole essay on it this week for Role/Reboot.
I was inspired by the mostly-excellent Laurie Penney New Statesman explanation about why men’s rights activists* are so revolted by women with short hair, but I also wanted to talk about how transformative my short hair has been for me and my presentation of self. That’s not to say that short hair functions like that for all women, nor should it, only that it was a big step in reconciling the way I look on the outside with the way I feel on the inside. For me.
And this isn’t a tirade against beauty products or beauty culture, only against the expectations and assumptions of beauty products and beauty culture. On the flip side of the equation, I have found a deep and unshakeable love for getting my nails professionally manicured. After 25 years of literally never painting my stubby excuses, I have found that the ritual of a weekly manicure is something I enjoy on an aesthetic and emotional level. I would deeply resent anyone telling me that polished finger nails are a requirement of female professionalism, but as a form of self-care and an hour of quiet alone-time, I find it incredibly rewarding.
Anyway, after those digressions, enjoy a few more thoughts on hair:
*If you’re not familiar with the term, “men’s rights activists” are not as benign as they sound. While there are certainly worthy rights of men for which to advocate (say, the presumption of equal parental custody), MRAs, as they are known online, are trolls who believe feminism has deprived them of their right to fuck any women they like. Read more about them here, but I will not be linking to any of their content.
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Last week I wrote about my confusion and discomfort with the “Anna Mae” reference in Beyonce’s terrifically catchy and hot-as-hell song “Drunk in Love.” A few commenters wrote some insightful things and I read a few more essays and collectively we have assembled a few other theories. Two, in particular, we should add to the list:
The duh-this-is-about-oral-sex argument: In my last post, I was too overwhelmed by the violence of the reference (it’s taken from the Tina Turner biopic about Ike’s abuse) to observe the super obvious oral sex reference. Although some have pointed out that he’s the one telling her to “eat the cake” if you watch the video, you’ll catch Bey in the background mouthing the direction herself. Though this still raises some problematic conflations of sexual violence and sexual pleasure… well, that shit is nothing if not complicated.
The not-all-hip-hop-is-biographical,-you-idiot reminder: I’m just going to start with a great comment:
“I would say with Rap/Hip-Hop, we tend to assume that artists are depicting themselves, or who they would like to be (exaggerations of themselves). But I would argue this is not always the case, even with Rap/Hip-Hop, and it could maybe not be the case with Drunk in Love.
She’s totally right. I think I mistakenly assumed some degree of biographical integrity, which is a ridiculous place to begin when you’re parsing lyrics. There was a great interview on NPR the other day about prosecutors using lyrics to try to sway juries into guilty verdicts when rappers are accused of crimes. See? He rapped about murder, so he obviously committed one…
The interviewed expert on the show pointed out that the credit we give other artists to be able to sing non-biographical lyrics and emote non-biographical emotions we don’t extend to hip-hop and rap artists. As he pointed out, we don’t assume that Johnny Cash shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.
If we then do extend the same courtesy to rap artists, it’s possible to read “Drunk in Love” as a depiction (not an endorsement) of a certain kind of relationship. The commenter above continued:
Is Beyonce singing about herself here, or as a character who is experiencing a brand new, passionate kind of love? If Beyonce is playing the woman who is drunk in love, Jay Z, likewise, could be playing the man who equally drunk in love, not necessarily playing himself. And unfortunately, there are men out there for whom passion and violence are intertwined, like Ike Turner.
In case you missed it, here’s Bey and Jay’s Grammy performance of it:
Got any more theories to add to the list?
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Inspired partially by an encounter with a cologne-model looking dude at a train station and the most recent episode of Shameless (in which Lip hooks up with a very sexy woman much larger than him), I wrote this week for Role/Reboot about what happens when “guys like that” like “girls like me.”
I’ve written about this before (as did everybody else) after the infamous Girls episode with Patrick Wilson.
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As you’ve probably heard, Saturday Night Live hired a black female comedian this week, Sasheer Zamata, 6 years after their last black female performer (Maya Rudoph) left the show. You may not have heard that, in addition to Zamata, SNL announced that they had hired two new black female writers, LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones.
After the Zamata announcement, I went and watched a trillion of her youtube clips of her stand-up and sketch work. This is my favorite:
Why do I think it’s important for cultural touchstones (which, whether you like it or not, SNL is) have diverse writers and casts? Because a straight white dude would never do a bit like that. Ever. And it is brilliant, and insightful, and kind of uncomfortable, and funny as hell. We need this kind of comedy to be part of the mainstream. That’s not to say that straight white dudes can’t contribute (Louie CK’s rape joke remains one of my favorites), only that a diversity of experience (like for example, having different colored skin, growing up in a different neighborhood, having immigrant parents, etc) creates a diversity of content, and that diversity of content is what eventually leads to empathy with people who are, on the surface, not like us.
This week for Role/Reboot I wrote more about Sasheer Zamata’s casting, with a nod to Cindy Gallop and Mitt Romney’s “Binders full of women”:
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I promise this is not an post about blackface, although for the first paragraph or so it might seem that way. Blackface is inevitably in the news this time of year as people nationwide make terrible costume decisions. See Julianne Hough. This is a post about the calling out of privilege, the ease with which one can unintentionally offend, and the fact that ultimately, unintentionality is entirely beside the point. So here’s what happened:
The backstory: In light of Julianne Hough, my brother and I were discussing why blackface is offensive. Neither of us was suggesting that it is not racist or in any way advocating for its acceptability, but we were testing the boundaries of it in a purely academic sense (and yes, I know that sounds uber douchy, but as you will soon see, the douche-factor is sufficiently addressed by what happens next). We were talking about the difference between blackface and other forms of racial imitation (white people with dreadlocks or cornrows, for example). Why are some considered more harmful than others, etc (one obvious answer is the history of minstrel shows which hinged on blackface). We ultimately agreed that, regardless of whether we could articulate in any specific way why blackface was so offensive, it didn’t matter because we know that it causes harm, so duh… don’t do it.
Chapter 1: I am overeager with social media: After our conversation, I went a-reading on the interwebz, as I am apt to do, to see what good writing was out there on the subject of blackface. I found a bunch of interesting things, but nothing that I thought was accessible for my brother (and I wanted to continue our conversation). So, I posted this in FB:
A bunch of helpful people sent articles and commented, and I wrote a follow-up email to my brother using some of the new stuff people sent and sent it off without a thought.
Chapter 2: In which I found out that tone is important: I got a Facebook message from an old friend named Laura. Though she (correctly) assumed that my intentions were good, she had a “wtf reaction” to my post and solicited opinions from some of her friends who are all, like her, women of color. And man, their responses were brutal. A few highlights:
"I find Emily's comment offputting because I feel that she is digging for something deeper than racism which kinda makes me feel like she does not get race relations. I say kinda because I obviously don't know her. She wants a reasoning for black face being unacceptable to please her audience. (Wtf to please her audience?) Anyway, how is racism not enough of a reason?" asdf "my advice to her would be if you don't know the answer, maybe you don't need to be the one trying to go around and educate other white folks who "don't get it." and relying on "comprehensive" "articulate" "pieces" (of what?) seems to me like she's looking for a good journal article to circulate, which brings up its own issues of what is a legitimate source of information. also does she really not know the history of blackface in particular? google that shit." adf "Agreed! also, to add to D's point, why does she have to use "hyper-academic jargon"? Can't she just say that blackface is a remnant of one of the most overtly racist facets of pop culture in American history? The end? " asdf " Her comment irritates me specifically because it seems like her intentions are good, but if she doesn't understand why blackface is so much more than "cultural appropriation," I question her motives on why she's bothering taking part in the conversation at all. It's problematic to espouse a viewpoint that you don't actually hold or that you don't understand why you hold because it muddles the narrative and potentially does more harm than good. Listen first, then talk. "Also, she needs to google that shit. Don't put it on facebook so that you can draw attention to the fact that you think blackface is bad. It's 2013, put your "I'm not a racist!" flag away and just don't be racist." - Elizabeth
Ouch. Not gonna lie, it stung a lot. Some of their responses were just reactions to the language in my post (for example, I didn’t want to implicate my brother on Facebook, so I used the term “audience,” which makes my motives seem much more authoritative than I meant them.) But some of the criticism was on point, and I was pretty embarrassed. None of these people know me (except Laura, who hasn’t known me personally in eight years) and yet they were judging so hard! I immediately went defensive.
Chapter 3: In which I try to defend myself, sort of: I chatted Laura about her feedback. Big picture, I’m glad she sent it. As we’ve discussed White Privilege Syndrome’s sneakiest strain is the assumption that the way you want to be interpreted is the way you will be interpreted. Julianne Hough ran into this fact with her Orange is the New Black costume, and clearly I was right there with her. While Laura and her friends’ interpretations of my post were not what I had intended, it doesn’t matter. Through their lens as women of color, which I do not share, my attitude towards the problem of blackface was read as appropriating, condescending, elitist, and ultimately offensive. I chatted Laura, and we discussed it further:
Me: i was hoping that someone (likely someone not white) had written an article or blog post explaining in their own words their experience with blackface, and i was hoping that by asking around, people would send me stuff precisely outside of the scope of what i read on a regular basi
Me: yep, that’s one of the ones that people sent me
Laura: i didn’t really like it though, because while i love rembert browne. i think it doesn’t really explain that that shit is straight up racist because racism exists and we live in a white supremacist society. white people have the privilege to put on faces and cultures for a minute and then go back to their whiteness that carries real advantages
Me: yes i agree
Laura: people of color have to dress up white and live in a white world everyday and we don’t get any of those advantages
Me: i’m pretty surprised by the reaction y’all had, but I’m really glad you brought it up
Laura: well it’s personal. it smacked of academia, it smacked of coming from a place of asking PoCs to explain racism
Me: right? because isn’t rule of privilege #1 recognizing that the way you intend your words to be heard isn’t the only the thing that matters context matters, history matters, the way you are interpreted matters too. so maybe a good lesson for me
Laura: also i think in the context of a lot of news and comments and things i’ve seen this halloween. people make a big deal about us moving towards a place and time when it’s not offensive because we’re all equal
Me: lol, not in our lifetime
Laura: and i think thats bullshit because this history is live and well and it’s not in the past its my living present
Me: yours and a lot of people’s
So that’s what happened. I still feel a little embarrassed by how little I thought about my original post, or the impact it might have on people who confront this issue in a non-academic way in their lives every single day. Feels a bit like getting caught with my pants down. I’m grateful to Laura for bringing it up, rather than just letting her friends rant about it without me ever knowing about the conversation that my post had started. We all need reminders from time to time.
Happy Halloween, y’all. Stay safe out there.
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More dramatic than the bomb in the guy’s chest? Than the house made of candles on the hillside? Than the plane crash that killed Lexi and Mark? Than the shooter who roamed the halls of Seattle Grace? More dramatic than the time that Meredith died? I know, right? That show is craaaaay.
Yes, what happened on Grey’s Anatomy two weeks ago was true drama (skip to 34:00). For those of you who quit this bad boy when it jumped the shark half a decade ago, Meredith and Christina are still best friends, but much else has changed [SPOILER ALERT. Ha, as if anyone waits with bated breath for Grey's spoilers]. Meredith married Derek and they have two adorable children, Zola and baby Bailey. Christina got married and then divorced when her husband Owen couldn’t abide by her consistent refusal to have children (I mean, come on…. she told him that when they got together, but that’s not the point…) They are both still surgeons at Seattle Grace (renamed Sloane Grey Memorial).
What drama could this mundane divergence of paths produce? There were no bones protruding from skin, no organs spilling on to slick linoleum floors. Nope, no guts and gore here, just good old fashioned human drama. Christina and Meredith had planned an elaborate surgery. Meredith’s day took a turn with kiddie emergencies left and right. Christina boxed her out of the surgery and replaced her with a more prepared doctor, Dr. Bailey. And then this:
Meredith: You stole that surgery from me.
Christina: I am sorry. I really wish you could have been in there with me.
Meredith: I worked my ass off to do that surgery with you and you stole it from me. That was low.
Christina: Meredith, you were unprepared, you were unfocused, and you were late. I didn’t steal that surgery from you. I rescued that surgery from you, because you couldn’t do it.
Meredith: I understand that you believe you are god’s gift to medicine, but I am every bit as talented and competent a surgeon as you are.
Christina: No, you’re not. I’m sorry, but you’re not. And that’s, that’s okay. You have different priorities now. You’ve cut back on your clinical hours. You log less time in the OR, I mean, you don’t do research. And I get it, I mean, you have Zola, and baby Bailey, and you want to be a good mom.
Meredith: I don’t believe you! You are saying that I can’t be a good surgeon and a mom.
Christina: Of course not! Dr. Bailey’s a mom, and she was fantastic in there!
Meredith: Then what are you saying?
Christina: I’m saying, I’m saying… Bailey never let up. She lives here. Callie? Never let up. Ellis Grey [Meredith's mother] never let up. And I know you don’t want to be your mother. I’m saying, you and I started running down the same road at the same time, and at a certain point, you let up. You slowed down. And don’t say that I don’t support that, because I do. You made your choices, and they are valid choices, but don’t pretend they don’t affect your skills. You are a very good surgeon, but we’re in different places now. And that’s okay.
Ahhhhh, oh Grey’s, I love you so. For all the deserved flack it gets for melodrama and oversimplified dialogue (whenever Shonda wants you to get an emotional point all she knows how to do is repeat it three times with different inflection. I need you. I need you. I need you. Check it, she does it on Scandal too), she does tap into the political side of female friendship with some serious know-how.
I would rather have conversations like this than landslides and biker brawl mayhem in the emergency room any day. These conversations are hard, way harder than corralling sexting interns or sobbing family members, and they feel real. Your friends will make different decisions than you would make for yourself, or than you would make for them. It’s hard, because you love them, and you trust them, but you’re scared for them, and you’re scared for yourself. You don’t know what’s right or what will happen and when someone who has been running the same race as you for a long time suddenly veers left or slows down or speeds up, it’s hard not to wonder if you should be following suit. Trying to read your own motives and values in the shadows cast by people you love and trust… that shit is complicated and lovely and challenging.
Take notes, Shonda, and keep it up.
Related Post: How Grey’s got gay marriage right.
Today is National Love Your Body Day, which is fitting because I was going to write about wrinkles anyway! Hoorah for convergence! Use the hashtag #lybd on Twitter to participate in the conversation.
Last week, Sociological Images pulled an awesome example of “wrinkle washing” of female celebrities:
Smooth vs. wrinkly, right? I think it’s particularly stark when you annotate like this:
SocImages pairs this image with an excellent Susan Sontag quote:
The great advantage men have is that our culture allows two standards of male beauty: the boy and the man. The beauty of a boy resembles the beauty of a girl. In both sexes it is a fragile kind of beauty and flourishes naturally only in the early part of the life-cycle. Happily, men are able to accept themselves under another standard of good looks — heavier, rougher, more thickly built…
There is no equivalent of this second standard for women. The single standard of beauty for women dictates that they must go on having clear skin. Every wrinkle, every line, every gray hair, is a defeat.
A few other examples:
That is not to say you shouldn’t attempt to take care of your skin. For the love of God please wear sun block. Moisturize. Drink a lot of water. But, you know, but don’t let a laugh line or crow’s foot be a defeat. The men certainly don’t. On the other hand, it’s not just a question of internally changing perceptions of self, is it? Here’s something by Gloria Steinem re miley Cyrus that seems relevant:
“I wish we didn’t have to be nude to be noticed … But given the game as it exists, women make decisions. For instance, the Miss America contest is in all of its states … the single greatest source of scholarship money for women in the United States. If a contest based only on appearance was the single greatest source of scholarship money for men, we would be saying, “This is why China wins.” You know? It’s ridiculous. But that’s the way the culture is. I think that we need to change the culture, not blame the people that are playing the only game that exists.”
This stuff is damaging for so many reasons. The pursuit of youth (and beauty, if you’re already young) is distracting us, literally, from all the other things we could be doing with our minds and hearts. It’s part of the reason that we’re behind, because “they” (and by “they,” I mean the “industry,” the advertisers, the media, our friends and family too, sometimes) have convinced us that how we look is related to what we can do. And to Ms. Steinem’s point, playing along isn’t weakness or vanity; in its own way, it’s smart. The appearance game is the only game in town so what the fuck else are we supposed to do?
So… yeah… sorry for the bummer, but it’s a bummer kind of day. Go do something nice for yourself. Buy a book. Take a walk. Eat something delicious. Call someone you love. Write a nice note. Make plans to look forward to. Listen to good music. Look at yourself in the mirror and be like, Yeah, it’s pretty cool that I get to have this body, because this body enables me to do all this other stuff that makes being human pretty fucking cool.
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