Women Archives

April 8, 2013

Spring Breakers

Spring Breakers poster

(Warning: spoilers)

I saw Spring Breakers weeks ago and have been struggling to come up with something to say about this movie and what it all means: the partying, the beach, the kids, the boobs, the drugs, the guns, the booze, the murder. I can't quite get my head around it, but here's what I've got.

The four girls at the center of the movie are so desperate to go to the beach for spring break that they rob a chicken restaurant using squirt guns and intimidation techniques we've all seen a thousand times in every heist movie ever (yelling, swearing, threatening to bust everyone's skulls, etc.) They are completely successful, and go to St. Petersburg to party.

The interesting thing is that everything the girls do is something they (and we) have learned through endless examples in TV and movies. They dance on the beach to techno, douse themselves in beer, scream "Woooo Spring Break!", shake themselves all over the place, loll around in their bathing suits stroking each other's hair, and occasionally make out with each other. They wear neon string bikinis because any other kind of bathing suit would never be considered for even one second. They sing "...Baby One More Time" by Britney Spears and talk about how Florida is the greatest paradise they have ever known. Any person who has experienced MTV or a movie about off-the-hook teen parties in the last 20 years knows exactly how to be a girl going wild on spring break, because we've all seen it hundreds of times.

And we all know exactly how to commit armed robbery and be a badass gangster because we've seen it hundreds of times, too. The girls move from robbery with squirt guns to partying on the beach to doing drugs in a cheap motel room to getting into serious crime with real guns and real gangsters, but it all feels like a logical progression along a continuum of familiar, predictable pop cultural references. They're always performing.

There's a flattening of "bad girl" behavior at work here: taking your top off at a beach party is more or less on the same level as stealing in order to have a good time, and neither is really all that different from hitting up a local drug dealer and taking his cash. We've seen it on TV and in movies. By the time the girls hook up with James Franco, put on their My Little Pony face masks, and start doing some real damage with assault rifles, it bizarrely feels like just more of the same. As Manohla Dargis writes, it's "more of a horror film than a comedy."

So is Spring Breakers a criticism of our hyper-sexualized, hyper-violent pop culture? I think it is. It's also really dark and really hilarious. The culture that teaches teenage girls to think people will like them more if they take their tops off and tongue-kiss each other for the boys is the same culture that thinks organized crime and murder are cool. We live in a world where teenage debauchery and gangs are a little naughty, but so exciting! And when the girls start killing bad guys, does that make them good? Maybe?

This is a controversial viewpoint, but that's how it goes with Harmony Korine. I like the cultural criticism in the movie, but even better is the dream-like impressionistic way a lot of scenes unfold. There are many sequences with recurring loops of dialogue and non-linear, abstract camera shots of sky, ocean, body shots, and making out in a hot tub that all sort of blend into each other in a nightmarish haze. It's indistinct and gorgeous, which is more than I would typically say about a scene shot in a Florida motel pool.

January 11, 2013

The Oscars and tokenism

Kathryn Bigelow after winning two Oscars

When Kathryn Bigelow won her Best Director Oscar for The Hurt Locker, I felt pretty sure that she won because she did the best directing job of the year, and not because the Academy decided to check "women" off the diversity to-do list and congratulate itself on being so broad-minded and progressive.

Fast forward to yesterday's Oscars nominations. Zero Dark Thirty is, in my opinion, even better than The Hurt Locker, and certainly represents a more ambitious and dazzling feat of directing in terms of actors and story and all the technical stuff. So I was disappointed that she didn't get a nomination (though ZDT got a Best Picture nomination,) but more than that, I was sad to realize that her nomination and win back in 2010 was probably more about the Academy deciding it was time to let a girl win than I had hoped. She deserves the Oscars she has, even if they turned out to be tokens.

On the other hand, it was nice to see some surprise inclusions: Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild and Michael Haneke for Amour were both wildly unlikely long shots. I guess this proves that the Academy loves heartwarming fantasies about adorable children, and also old people. Amour was one of my favorite movies of the year, but the directorial style pretty much defines "minimal": hire two of the world's greatest living actors, turn the camera on, and then don't do anything else. It's a great movie, but it's super small. For an Academy that typically equates "best" with "most", this is a really weird category of Best Director nominees.

I'm not going to discuss all the nominations Silver Linings Playbook got because I'm too bewildered and upset, but my main consolation is knowing that it has basically no chance of actually winning any of the big awards. The one exception might be Robert DeNiro, which I can live with. Let's just remember that David O. Russell last made a really good movie in 1999 with Three Kings and try to get on with our lives.

December 30, 2012

Directors and their egos

Kathryn Bigelow on the set of Zero Dark Thirty Quentin Tarantino

The Times has an interview with Kathryn Bigelow that seems to want to be a character study of who she is, what her creative process is like, and what her body of work says about her as a person. But it almost completely fails: the interviewer concludes that she's incredibly self-effacing, generous in praising her crew, modest about her own formidable chops, and would rather let her work speak for itself than do much reflecting on her craft.

Case in point, after she goes on about her amazing production designer, editor, sound editor, and finally her cinematographer for Zero Dark Thirty:

Greig Fraser, her "tremendous" cinematographer, who pulled off shooting the raid sequence with night-vision technology after Ms. Bigelow decided that filming in the dark was the only way to capture that moment realistically.

At this point Mark Boal [the screenwriter], who had joined the lunch, interrupted.

"Kathryn, can you give yourself a little credit?" he said. "It was really risky — there was no precedent for that kind of technique — and you and Greig embarked on that risk together."

Ms. Bigelow said quietly, "That's true."

Contrast this with an interview the Times did about a week ago with Quentin Tarantino, which makes him sound so self-aggrandizing and egomaniacal that he would be repellent if we didn't already know, hey, that's QT.

In this bit, he's asked about how his actors seem to give wonderful performances in his movies. He responds:

I think it's a three-way thing. I write good characters for actors to play. I cast actors with integrity, as opposed to trying to just match whoever's hot with something going on ... And then I do know how to direct actors, how to modulate them, get the best out of them. And I understand my material. I know how to help them navigate it, and when they deliver something magnificent, I know enough to realize it's good and stay out of their way.

So the great performances actors deliver in Tarantino movies are attributable to: 1) Tarantino's writing, 2) Tarantino's casting, 3) Tarantino's direction, and 4) Tarantino's understanding of Tarantino's material.

I wonder if the movie industry and everybody would feel so positively about Kathryn Bigelow if she gave interviews like that. I don't necessarily think she's so highly regarded because she's modest and deflects praise so graciously, but these are traits that tend to be admired in women more than traits like, for instance, hogging all the credit.

Bigelow's got a good chance of winning another Best Director Oscar in 2013--Tarantino was also nominated when she won in 2010. I guess he'll probably get nominated again for Django Unchained, which is good, but not as good as Inglorious Basterds, or a bunch of his other movies. (It would be great if he won for writing, though.)

Basterds had great style, a few incredible scenes, and a phenomenal and glorious revenge sequence with the movie theater going up in celluloid flames and Shoshanna's laughing ghostly face. It was awesome. Plus the movie had Christoph Waltz, who is absolutely mesmerizing in everything he says and does.

Django is similar: stylish, a great revenge story, some really good scenes, Christoph Waltz. I hope all Tarantino's movies from now on will feature an exceptionally well-mannered German-Austrian professional killer for Christoph Waltz to play.

But the final showdown scenes (both of them) weren't as satisfying as any of Tarantino's other recent revenge scenes. Think about that burning movie theater in Basterds, or the girls making Kurt Russell cry in Death Proof, or every time The Bride killed one of her old partners in Kill Bill. Those sequences were a lot more creative and exciting than what we got in Django--we've all seen big final shootouts a million times in other movies, and this one didn't add much.

The best things about Django are the long scenes with Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio going through the charade of their evil business transaction, dripping with sinister charm. And the very end, where Django essentially blows up Tara. Slavery isn't something American movies have tackled well at all--before this, we pretty much had Gone With the Wind and Amistad. And in neither of those movies does a former slave get to mow down an entire plantation full of white people who uphold and profit from slavery in an extended sequence of righteous, bloody justice. So that counts for a lot.

I also like the beautiful montage sequence of our two heroes riding around in snow-covered western mountains, hunting bad guys and forming an unlikely partnership, with Jim Croce's "I Got a Name" on the soundtrack. It's always Super Sounds of the Seventies, even in a slavery revenge western.

August 21, 2012

GOP quietly thanks Todd Akin, gets back to business

Men and Women in Congress

While the world gets enraged about insufficiently horrific characterizations of rape and made-up biological claims, do you see what the GOP is doing over there? Party leaders get to join the firestorm and sternly condemn Todd "legitimate rape" Akin, even though he's just repeating the same argument against access to abortion for rape victims that other members of his party have been using for decades. And then they go right ahead and add a plank to the party platform which exactly represents what Akin was talking about all along: a call for a constitutional ban on abortion that makes no allowance for rape.

That's what this is about: making abortion illegal in all circumstances. Something that no one with a credible understanding of our legislative process actually thinks will ever happen -- but it sure is effective at getting the base fired up! God help the Republican party if abortion ever really does become illegal in this country and they lose one of their most sure-fire hot buttons to push every four years.

Here's an interesting theory about how voters might respond to the Republican shift to the right on this issue, which was written even before Akin articulated the GOP platform on abortion and the GOP pretended to reject it. Democrats will likely attract a lot more moderate voters, who are learning with surprise how non-moderate the GOP's attitude toward women has gotten.

May 16, 2012

NY Times hits new height of NY Times-iness

Mother and daughter, freezing eggs together

The closest thing we've got to a national, general interest newspaper is probably The New York Times*, but the paper itself seems to possess an exasperatingly adorable fixation on its imagined core audience: super-privileged white people. Non-rich Times readers roll their eyes, but we've grown accustomed to their fussy little non-news human interest stories on the lives of the very fancy, such as the difficulty of finding repair service for high-end kitchen appliances in vacation homes, yoga for dogs, and the article guaranteed to turn me into a sputtering indignant crazy person, the one about wealthy Ivy League-educated young mothers who decide they don't want to work anymore and wonder whether or not that makes them feminists, when what it really makes them is rich.

This week, the Times has almost out-Timesed itself with an article called "So Eager for Grandchildren, They're Paying the Egg-Freezing Clinic". It's got everything for the elite: the compromised fertility of aging single women, over-involved parents, and super-expensive, questionably-effective technology that only the rich and desperate can afford.

Here's the story: in a new trend among rich white people, parents who have grown weary of waiting around for their single daughters in their 30's to produce grandchildren decide to pay $8,000-18,000 for their daughters' saggy old eggs to be harvested and frozen.

Says mother Gloria Hayes of Darien, CT (who appears in the photo above, which is so perfect it's like a cliché of a cliché):

"I just didn't feel right approaching her about it, because it's almost a criticism in a way -- 'You're getting old,' " Mrs. Hayes said. When Jennifer finally floated the idea, "I was thrilled. I thought this could just take a lot of the stress off her."


When Brigitte Adams, a San Francisco marketing consultant, brought up the idea of freezing her eggs to her parents, her father quickly approved. So quickly that, for a moment, Ms. Adams felt stung. "It was a little degree of shock," she said. "This is actually real if they're pushing me towards this," she recalled thinking at the time.

The really wonderful/horrible thing about this article is that these parents have found a way to both emphasize their children's advancing age and waning fertility, and infantilize them at the same time!

One more thing: in a coincidence that seems strange at first, but upon reflection is almost too perfectly on-the-nose, two of the young women featured in the article now write for blogs about their personal egg-freezing experiences. and I know.

* There's also USA Today, but I don't think anyone reads it unless it's dropped in front of their hotel room door.

April 2, 2012

Cindy Sherman at MoMA

Cindy Sherman photo

I went to see the huge Cindy Sherman exhibit at MoMA, which I think includes pretty much everything she ever did in the style she's famous for: Cindy Sherman dressed up as a character of her own invention, photographed by Cindy Sherman. People often write things about her photographs that include phrases like "the construction of identity", "nature of representation", and "artifice of photography" (those are all in the first sentence of the MoMA wall text at the exhibit. I might have even dropped something about "gender performance" or something obnoxious ripped off from Judith Butler in the conversation I had after leaving the museum.

But the truth is, no one can express that thing about humanity and the peculiar, funny, sad, insane ways we present ourselves to the world as well as Cindy Sherman can. That's why we're all are so crazy about her and her photos.

Cindy Sherman photo

Also. Note to self after seeing this exhibit: Do everything in your power to prevent people from looking at you and thinking, "That lady looks like a Cindy Sherman photograph." If I can pull that off, everything else in life should be OK.

Cindy Sherman photo

January 25, 2012

Haywire! (Which deserves an exclamation point)

Gina Carano and Ewan McGregor in Haywire

Haywire is not a complicated movie, and it would be silly for me to try to fabricate a complex analysis of a movie whose primary pleasure is watching Gina Carano beat the daylights out of her co-stars. Hopefully others will share their reactions to the movie and thoughts about how it fits into Soderbergh's large and ever-growing assembly of genre movies.

First: it's a genre movie. There are aspects of the plot that don't 100% hang together (like, what exactly is the business of Mr. Studer, the evil French-Irish businessman who will kill people to protect his industry? Does it matter? Of course not!) and the part of the plot that does matter can easily be described in one sentence. Some critics saw this as a sign of the movie's flimsiness; I see it as a sign that we should look elsewhere for the thing that makes the movie good.

Which is this: watching Gina Carano and her incredible athleticism and physical confidence on screen. The fight scenes are great, of course (especially the brutal hotel room sequence with Michael Fassbender that's in the trailer--they really look like they're laying into each other) but my favorite scene might have been Gina Carano evading the people chasing her around Dublin. She nimbly hauls herself up drain pipes and ledges and leaps across rooftops with amazing muscular grace. Watching Gina Carano solve physical problems within a Steven Soderbergh movie means that there's just enough narrative and stylistic substance to make Haywire a fun movie, but it might not be categorically better than watching her destroy her opponent in an MMA cage.

One of my favorite lines in the movie involves two men plotting to kill Gina Carano. The intended assassin expresses some hesitation, saying "I've never done a woman before." "You shouldn't think of her as a woman," replies the other man. "That would be a mistake." Maybe it doesn't say very good things about the variety of roles for women that it's still such a pleasurable novelty to see a physically powerful woman utterly dominate her male co-stars in an action movie. But, hey, it is. I'll take it.

As for the formal stuff, I liked the out of order scenes and some of the non-linear stuff that Soderbergh is so good at. I wish some of the fight scenes had been just a little better lit (especially the scene at Gina Carano's dad's house) and I could have done with even longer shots and fewer cuts, to really let the audience watch the fights. But I was grateful to see as much as we did in the action sequences, without all that Greengrass-style shaky cam and edits that are so fast they seem intentionally disorienting.

David Holmes' soundtrack was super cool in a very Out of Sight/The Limey kind of way.

Other reactions?

January 5, 2012

Myanmar gets its own manufactured girl group

Me N Ma Girls and The Runaways

If one requirement of a country's membership in modern, industrial society is its construction of a pop group whose youthful members were recruited and assembled by a group of producers and financiers, then welcome to the club, Myanmar! Cherie Currie and Baby Spice will show you around.

The Times has a feature on synthetic pop girl-group Me N Ma Girls (get it?), made up of five young women who were identified through a series of ads looking for girls with "energy and magnetic attraction," according to their manager Nicole May, an Australian dancer and graphic designer.

They seem to be the country's very first girl group, and though they haven't had real financial success yet, they have big dreams:

"I want this band to be famous and globally recognized. I want this band to hit Hollywood!" said Su Pyae Mhu Eain, a band member who studied zoology, specifically fish and shrimp, for her bachelor's degree. Her stage name is Cha Cha.

Cha Cha isn't the only member of Me N Ma Girls with an education to fall back on in case Hollywood doesn't work out. All five members have gone to college, with degrees in chemistry, math, Russian, and computer science. They might have easier post-pop careers than The Runaways (above), who were recruited by manager Kim Fowley before they'd had a chance to graduate from high school (and were, incidentally, huge in Asia.)

You can listen to their songs on Soundcloud, which are blandly produced, but offer the chance to hear young women rapping in Burmese, something you don't hear everyday. Like a lot of pop groups from non-Anglophone countries, they also sing in English, including lines from one of their catchiest songs, "Festival": "Hey you! Are you happy? You want some?" Here's the video, featuring the girls ecstatically partying down at an outdoor festival and lounging around a swimming pool while wearing the kind of long, demure sundresses that I think you'd only see in a girl-group video produced within an oppressive military regime.

October 20, 2011

Women in Cults! double feature

Elizabeth Olsen and Vera Farmiga

I've seen two movies lately that would make a great double feature if you're interested in creepy patriarchal societies and how they squash independent-minded young women: Higher Ground, starring (and directed by) Vera Farmiga, and Martha Marcy May Marlene, starring non-twin Olsen sister Elizabeth Olsen.

I really like both of these movies. Each of the protagonists first conform to the rigid and oppressive rules that other members of their group have accepted as the only way to live, then start to rebel against them, and ultimately look outside their groups for something else.

And it's pretty amazing how much they have in common. Both are about insular communities led by charismatic, charming, authoritarian male leaders. These communities appear to be about cooperation and togetherness and love, but as soon as our quietly rebellious female leads step out of line, all that goes out the window, and suddenly the purpose of the group seems to be the men controlling the women and not a whole lot else.

The two leads even look a lot alike: they both have those luminous, translucent, moon-like faces and big bright eyes. It's easy to be interested in the inner struggles of these women to figure out who they are when they're as expressive and beautiful as Vera Farmiga and Elizabeth Olsen.

Martha Marcy May Marlene (which I keep wanting to call Maggie and Milly and Molly and May) is a lot more extreme. People are talking about it as the Girl Escapes a Cult movie, which is accurate, though no one in the movie ever says the word "cult". Martha doesn't know she's part of a cult, which makes watching her decide to leave it and struggle to get her head together afterwards kind of maddening, because neither she nor anyone else around her realizes how completely fucked in the head she is. I kept wanting to grab her oblivious older sister, whose house she goes to after escaping the cult, and shake her shouting "Your sister was seduced by an evil brainwashing cult and is now extremely obviously displaying every PTSD symptom that exists! Call a shrink NOW!" It's a little frustrating sometimes, but it's still good.

Higher Ground is a lot less culty (and less violent and rapey.) The community Vera Farmiga lives in is like a Christian fundamentalist version of a '70's hippie commune or the Dharma Initiative from "Lost". It's a more subtle movie than MMMM, but it also didn't make me feel like hiding under my bed after watching it. I'm still a little shaken by MMMM.

That's mostly because of the one actor who's in both movies: John Hawkes. This is the year that everybody starts knowing who John Hawkes is. This guy is phenomenal. He plays Vera Farmiga's dad in Higher Ground, who loves his family but blows it as a husband and father, and the suave, manipulative cult leader in MMMM. He said in an interview that he didn't research cult leaders in preparing for the role, but he nails every quality that famous cult leaders possess. He's totally terrifying and great. (coincidence: he also played Lennon, member of the Dharma Initiative!)

Potential Future Oscar Nominee Elizabeth Olsen
is getting a lot of attention, and she's good, but it's hard to see what kind of character is underneath all that clinically diagnosable crazy-girl stuff. I wonder if people would be exclaiming about her so much if she were less beautiful or less naked in front of a very unhurried, lingering camera, but she does OK.

But Vera Farmiga--wow. I could watch her in anything. She's one of the best things about every movie I've seen her in, probably one of the better actresses around now. And a pretty great director, too! Hope she keeps getting good parts in movies without having to direct all of them.

October 4, 2011

"Prohibiton" and the Carrie Nations

The Carrie Nations

Are you watching the new Ken Burns documentary "Prohibition"? So far I've seen the first episode, and it's really great. As with all his stuff, the images and film clips he's collected are truly amazing: he's gathered loads of video of ecstatic partiers in the 1920's cavorting in jazz clubs and guzzling bottles of gin and looking like they're having more fun than you've ever experienced in your life, which he intercuts with shots of stern crusaders hacking apart barrels of liquor with axes and gloating as all that devil's brew gushes into the streets. You can watch the full episodes online.

Even though it's titled "Prohibition", he looks at a broad history of alcohol in early America, when we were a nation of immigrants unified by our love of drinking. The Temperance movement was pretty much synonymous with feminism in the 19th century, and there are some great photos of hordes of women kneeling in prayer in their voluminous skirts outside of saloons and marching through city streets to protest the sale of liquor at a time when marching wasn't something women generally did.

But the best story of all was about the violent firebrand anti-alcohol hellraiser, Carrie Nation. She was such a compelling figure at the center of a bizarre episode in our country's history that Roger Ebert and Russ Meyer were inspired to name their busty, gutsy, all-girl rock band in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, the Carrie Nations, after her. You can see some truly wonderful stills from the movie and revel in a moment in American cinema when a lurid piece of surrealist sexploitation trash would reference early feminist crusaders. Ah, the 70's.

Ken Burns, sadly, makes no mention of the Russ Meyer film in his documentary. The real-life Ms. Nation had a rough life plagued by alcoholic men, and lived in Kansas, where liquor sales were illegal but bars still flourished. In her 50's, she decided to take justice into her own hands, and with God's alleged support, started going from town to town, attacking saloons with rocks.

From her Wikipedia entry:

Announcing "Men, I have come to save you from a drunkard's fate," she began to destroy the saloon's stock with her cache of rocks. After she similarly destroyed two other saloons in Kiowa, a tornado hit eastern Kansas, which she took as divine approval of her actions.

After she led a raid in Wichita her husband joked that she should use a hatchet next time for maximum damage. Nation replied, "That is the most sensible thing you have said since I married you." Alone or accompanied by hymn-singing women she would march into a bar, and sing and pray while smashing bar fixtures and stock with a hatchet.

My favorite Carrie Nation quote from the doc: "I tell you ladies, you don't know how good it feels till you begin to smash, smash, smash!"

Sure, she was probably mentally ill, and claiming you're doing God's work by throwing rocks at bartenders is never OK, but I can't help but love her and her take-no-prisoners style.

Maybe the Occupy Wall Streeters could take some inspiration from Ms. Nation and start carrying hatchets and Bibles and using her slogan, "Good morning, destroyer of men's souls," to greet bankers heading to work.

July 18, 2011

New Yorkers love women's soccer

US women's soccer fans in Germany

Despite the enthusiasm of its adoring fans (above), the US Women's Soccer team lost to Japan in yesterday's final in a really well-played but terribly unlucky match. But even if they didn't win, the ladies of US soccer got a lot of love from the sports fans. I watched the game in a crowded New Jersey beach bar, and there was as much table-pounding, high-fiving, and screaming at the TV screen as when professional men's sports are on. I defy anyone who thinks soccer is boring to watch the second half of that game and just try to refrain from pumping their fists in the air.

Also: I walked through Times Square this evening and tried to pass the W Hotel on 47th Street, but was blocked by about 15 cops who were trying (unsuccessfully) to check reporters' credentials, block rush hour traffic, and hold back swarms of people who were pushing up against inadequate barricades, all holding their phones in the air and trying to take pictures of what had to be some very important people standing outside the hotel.

Wait, that's Abby Wambach! There they were! The US Women's Soccer team in their warm-up suits, standing on the sidewalk, giving interviews, hugging teenage girls, and generally causing complete mayhem by their presence.

After being hustled across the street by some cops, who looked like they were in over their heads, I came upon two less mobbed non-Hope Solo players standing outside Starbucks, signing autographs for somewhat calmer fans. Stephanie Cox and another player who I've so far been unable to identify (possibly Lauren Cheney?) graciously posed for a picture and thanked me for watching.

US Soccer team in Times Square

Wooo! USA! Canada 2015!

June 30, 2011

Pixar remembers girls like movies, too

Merida in Pixar's Brave

A new short trailer is out for Pixar's 2012 feature, Brave, which I'm pretty sure will be the first Pixar movie with a female lead character, the fiesty, curly-headed Merida. And it's definitely the first Pixar movie written and co-directed by a woman (Brenda Chapman).

Here's the trailer:

We don't know a whole lot about the story yet, except that it's sort of vaguely pagan and mystical and Scottish, but the Pixar Wiki says it involves Princess Merida, an aspiring archer who has no truck with ancient Scottish tradition, which she defies at every opportunity. This leads to problems: her attempt at being a contrary little feminist unleashes "chaos and fury" into the kingdom, then when she's granted a wish from a witch to try to fix all that chaos and fury, she blows that too. Somehow, I'm going to guess, it all works out.

But it sounds cool! Not only a female protagonist (about time) from the most consistently great mainstream animated producers out there, but a protagonist that screws up a lot! And then has to shoot a lot of fierce beasts with her bow and arrow and generally save the kingdom! Disney is certainly no stranger to female protagonists in its long history, but rarely have its heroines been what you could call tough or gutsy or even especially flawed (though I didn't see Tangled, which sounds kinda weird.)

Kelly Macdonald is the voice of Merida, which sounds more like a Mexican city than a Scottish princess, but, OK. I totally love her accent in Trainspotting and Gosford Park, so listening to her sass some druids for 90 minutes sounds great to me.

Just cuz, let's look at Kelly Macdonald's funny, sarcastic speech to a flustered Mark Renton outside the club in Trainspotting, when she describes to him his unsophisticated approach to meeting women:

You don't normally approach girls - am I right? The truth is that you're a quiet sensitive type but, if I'm prepared to take a chance, I might just get to know the inner you: witty, adventurous, passionate, loving, loyal. (Taxi!) A little bit crazy, a little bit bad. But hey - don't us girls just love that?

(I can only find the video of that scene dubbed into Spanish, though it actually works pretty well.)

The movie also stars Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson as the King and Queen, and it comes out next June.

May 15, 2011

Bridesmaids: #2!


Did you see Bridesmaids? Because it's really funny. A lot of people saw it, sure, though not enough to achieve my desired goal of it becoming the #1 movie in America. That's because Thor is the #1 movie in America, for the second week.

According to the head of distribution for the the studio that released Bridesmaids, Nikki Rocco, coming in second on opening weekend is "pretty good considering this is a picture titled Bridesmaids." Maybe a little defeatist there, Rocco, about a movie that it's your job to promote? What about a picture titled Thor? I'll tell you right now, I'm not interested in a picture titled Thor, particularly if it's directed by Kenneth Branagh. I'll see Shakespeare by Kenneth Branagh, but a Norse god comic book adaptation? I'll stick with Bridesmaids.

Also, am I just being paranoid, or is the (female) head of distribution for Universal implying that a movie primarily by and about women is inherently less watchable than a movie by and about men? She's just flat out saying that, right?

Bridesmaids is a very funny movie, and Kristen Wiig (who co-wrote, co-produced, and stars) is wildly talented, but it's most notable for two things. First, Melissa McCarthy, aka Sookie from "Gilmore Girls", as the sister of the groom. She is a comic genius, and her character is, in Manohla Dargis's words, almost radical: a fat lady whose sexual confidence and outrageously brash physical comedy aren't signs of any pathology or deeper insecurity, but are accepted as simple, hilarious fact. Sort of like a female Jack Black. Everything she says and does is funny.

Also, Bridesmaids might be the best example of the then-nonexistent movies about believable, cool women that Cynthia Heimel described in her wonderful short essay from 1992, "I'd Like to Lose it At the Movies", which you can read on Google Books:

I want to see women who are rowdy and difficult, who are not victims, who control their own destinies, who are prey to lust and confusion and unbelievable fuck-ups, who are complex, who are real, who are adventuresome, whose entire existence does not rely on the way in which their men treat them.

She then goes on to imagine her own movie studio, where she would remake every movie that stars Jack Nicholson with a woman playing his role: "Picture Five Easy Pieces with Goldie Hawn as a lapsed concert pianist who is so tortured by the ironies of life that she has to pick up Matt Dillon at a bowling alley and fuck his brains out." Yeah, it's from 1992. Still.

It's not perfect, it's heavy on the poop jokes, and it's 100% formulaic, but I think Cynthia Heimel finally got the movie she was looking for. And it's a lot funnier than Baby Mama.

March 29, 2011

John Roberts: women's rights crusader?

John Roberts wearing his NOW pin

The Supreme Court heard arguments today for the Wal-Mart class-action gender discrimination suit. Some of the justices were questioning whether the women in the suit, Wal-Mart employees who say they've been underpaid and passed over for promotions in favor of their male co-workers, have enough in common with each other to all be part of the same suit. It's a reasonable question: there are many thousands of women in the suit, a few hundred of whom are the store managers who would have made the decision to underpay their female employees.

Whatever the Supreme Court decides, the case shines a light on the recalcitrant issue of equal pay for equal work, a central issue in women's organizations and labor groups for many decades.

But at today's hearing, a surprise supporter of pay equality may have stepped into the spotlight: Chief Justice John Roberts.

In looking at statistics about men's and women's pay at Wal-Mart, and men's and women's pay nationwide, Roberts asked, "Is it true that the Wal-Mart pay disparity across the company is less than in the nation?"

The lawyer for the plaintiffs replied that comparing Wal-Mart pay statistics to national statistics wasn't relevant, which I think is code for "Wal-Mart's pay gap is actually smallerthan the rest of the country's."

But did you see what Justice Roberts did there? By asking that question, he might have made the case for the Wal-Mart employees just a little bit harder, but he's really saying this: "Hey, look, people, the real question here isn't why is Wal-Mart, the world's largest employer, underpaying its female workers. It's this: why are women EVERYWHERE making 77 cents on the male dollar? Why do men get paid more than women even within female-dominated occupations? Equality now, my sisters! Bring the justice!"

Senator Hillary Clinton re-introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act in 2007; it's been brought up year after year with no success. Going after Wal-Mart and other discriminatory employers is important, but it's going to be a lot easier to do that when the laws are better.

February 16, 2011

Actresses and food

Mila Kunis eats a hotdog

There's an article in today's Times about actresses who gush in interviews about how much they love eating high-calorie, fatty, cellulite-generating foods. It isn't all that original an observation, but I love it anyway. Skinny celebrities--women--whose bodies bear little resemblance to those of basically everyone else on the planet, often make a point that they love to eat bacon. Or spaghetti bolognese with cheese. Fries with ranch sauce. Macaroni and cheese. Or if they're being interviewed by Lynn Hirschberg, truffle fries.

Like the author, I think this is part of a calculated effort to make actresses seem more approachable and easy to relate to, and less like manufactured entertainment products with starved bodies and gigantic heads. As ex-publicist Bumble Ward says, "Don't you feel awfully sorry for actresses? They're so sure that people assume they have an eating disorder that they're forced to wolf down caveman-like portions of 'comfort food' in order to appear normal."

Then the article speculates on male fascination with beautiful women eating greasy food as being a combination of two primal drives. Remember George Costanza shoving a pastrami sandwich into his face and also watching a portable TV while in bed with his girlfriend? Pretty reasonable, I guess.

I think actresses say they love food that makes you fat, which they so obviously do not eat when not doing magazine interviews, in order to allow us non-famous folk (especially women?) to cling to our fantasy that we can eat whatever we want and still look good. If Cameron Diaz can eat ribs and mac and cheese and look the way she does, why can't we? A quick glance at the butts of America tells you why not, but we still want to believe. It's comforting to see that the lithe, willowy Taylor Swift loves hotdogs.

The vegan feminist cultural theorist perspective, provided by Carol Adams in the Times article, is that seeing beautiful women eating crappy food (especially meat) encourages men to consume both women and meat. "These images of women, whether they're ads or they're in magazines, they're all saying the same thing: traditional consumption of women's bodies and animals' bodies is O.K." I see her point, but maybe another idea is that men want to believe that hot girls can eat burgers all the time and still look great. Who wants to think about a sexy girl starving herself and sadly eating a dish of steamed broccoli for dinner?

Remember when Sarah Palin revolted against Michelle Obama's suggestion that we cut back on desserts, defiantly gathering her s'mores ingredients? We want to keep eating our fries and brownies, and we want Keira Knightley to keep eating them, too. But unless bulimia is waaay more prevalent than I realize, I think if actresses really ate the way the rest of us do, they'd look like the rest of us, too.

February 14, 2011

Good Hair

Like everyone else, I grew up watching the Vidal Sassoon ads of the 80's, like the one above, dreaming of swishing around my long, lustrous, shiny hair. Unfortunately, I had curly hair that never did anything like swishing or swinging, and would just explode into a frizzed-out disaster if I brushed it too much. Products like mousse and volumizing shampoo, which were really desirable in the ads, were clearly made for those who weren't embroiled in a never-ending battle against volume.

So when I went to a Vidal Sassoon salon while living in London as a student in 1994, I was ready to see if the famous "If you don't look good, we don't look good" slogan held up. I volunteered to have one of the stylists cut my hair as part of a demonstration for Japanese hairdressing students. They could do whatever they wanted to my hair, and I got a free Vidal Sassoon cut.

That 1994 haircut was transformative. My stylist was a man named Henrich. He had a shaved head and wore a skirt. He cut my hair dry, which was immediately obviously the best way to cut curly hair, yet no one had ever done it before. He gave me a really cool haircut that made my curls look fantastic -- like they were meant to be there, instead of a genetic accident that I had failed to correct. The Japanese hairdressing students all took pictures of my head.

So when a new documentary about Vidal Sassoon, the man, came out this weekend, with the title Vidal Sassoon: How One Man Changed the World With a Pair of Scissors, that subtitle struck me as a perfectly reasonable assessment of his impact on hair, and the world. In the NY Times review, Stephen Holden writes that statements like "It’s impossible to overestimate the importance of Vidal Sassoon" are "all too much". I totally disagree.

Though I didn't realize it in 1994, Vidal Sassoon essentially liberated women from the weekly beauty parlor visits that were the norm in the mid-20th century. By focusing on the cut as the primary means of styling hair, he made the weekly ritual of curling/straightening, setting, processing, and ironing your hair or sleeping in curlers unnecessary. As described in a Time Out interview with Sassoon, his goal was to "create looks that were tailor-made to a person's features, beautiful shapes that were as eye-catching as they were unique--and, most of all, easy to maintain."

Sassoon's own transformation from a poor Jewish boy raised in a London orphanage to the world's most famous hairdresser is pretty compelling, too. He's still alive, and in his 80's. Here's the trailer.

There's one giant asterisk, here: the Vidal Sassoon architectural method mostly applied to white women, or women with non-kinky hair. Almost all the women swinging their glossy hair around in those 80's ads (or hair products ads today) have swishy white-lady hair.

Which brings us to Chris Rock's 2009 documentary, Good Hair, which is without a doubt the most eye-opening documentary I have ever seen. Post-Sassoon, many black women follow the same kind of weekly hair regimen that white women abandoned in the 60's. Chris Rock made this movie out of concern for the future of processing, straightening, and weaving that probably awaits his own daughters. He interviews dozens of black women who have straightened hair, weaves, and a few with natural hair, and the men who love them (and Al Sharpton!) There's lots of interesting stuff about cultural expectations, economics, racism, and the realities of what women go through when natural hair doesn't fit within the social mainstream.

Once Vidal Sassoon is out on video, that movie and Good Hair would make a great double feature.

February 8, 2011

Status update on The Social Network

Armie Hammer as the Winklevoss Twins

I went to see The Social Network for a second time last night. I saw it on opening weekend at the beginning of October, and loved it, but I tend to forget an awful lot of stuff about movies if I only see them once.

A few observations from the second time around:

  • As an origin story about Facebook, it's not especially compelling or, apparently, even very accurate. But that doesn't matter. It's not really a movie about Facebook any more than Citizen Kane is about newspapers. I've seen some comments on Facebook from people saying they're not interested in seeing it because they don't care about Facebook--those people have nothing to worry about. Aaron Sorkin doesn't care about Facebook, either.
  • Jesse Eisenberg is 100% on the money. He manages to convey feeling totally superior to everyone in the room while needing their acceptance and also hating his own guts, all at the same time. He's incredibly good.
  • Also great is Armie Hammer as the Winklevoss twins. He's hilarious. Every time he comes on the screen I'm glad to see him. Or them. I don't think it's necessary to be rich, handsome, and privileged in real life in order to play rich, handsome and privileged, but in this case, it doesn't hurt.
  • Justin Timberlake is pretty good at balancing the magnetic rockstar charisma with a streak of calculating slimeball. You see the selfish jerk side come out here and there before the end when he really emerges as the bad guy. Watch this movie and Black Snake Moan and you can see he's got some chops.
  • One part that's less good: Eduardo. The script was largely drawn from the book The Accidental Billionaires that used Eduardo as its main source. The basic story is sympathetic to Eduardo and presents him as the loyal friend that Zuckerberg betrayed. But it's hard to feel that way, even though I guess we're supposed to, because of the long stretch we spend with Mark, et al in Palo Alto when things start heating up for the company, while Eduardo is off in New York riding the subway for 14 hours a day or whatever. When he shows up and eventually gets the shaft, we're meant to sympathize with him, but by then the story has moved in another direction and isn't really about him anymore. It's a structural/emotional flaw. Also, Andrew Garfield seems like he's faking--his acting is opaque and awkward compared with everyone else.
  • About women in the movie: a lot of people have complained that women are presented as peripheral objects for the male characters to play with or insult as they wish. I understand this is probably an accurate representation of how these characters, 20 year-old guys with something to prove, might behave. Sorkin says this is what these guys are really like. Sometimes the movie itself seems to support this viewpoint, though, and women are made to look trivial through camera work and editing, not because of anything a character says. A movie can make female characters human even as male characters dehumanize them (like in "Mad Men") but that doesn't happen very often here. Rooney Mara standing up for herself and telling Zuckerberg off, twice, helps.
  • The Trent Reznor soundtrack is awesome. Especially the music during the Facemash creation, it really makes what could have been a tedious scene about anti-social drunk programmers into an exciting action sequence.
  • My least favorite moment is the song in the final scene: "Baby You're a Rich Man" by the Beatles. It's gaggingly on the nose, and after such great soundtrack choices that are so time-and-place specific, we get The Beatles? David Fincher usually screws something up at the end of his otherwise great movies, so I guess in the scheme of things this isn't that bad.

Best movie of the year? It's up there.

January 31, 2011

Women and Wikipedia

Women pay gap

Wikipedia has determined that only 13% of its contributors are women. The site's usefulness depends on all kinds of people sharing knowledge about subjects they're interested in. Everybody benefits when the knowledge of a vast number of individual people is centralized in one place, and Wikipedia has done a fantastic job at collecting individual knowledge -- of guys in their mid-20's.

The Times article about the low contribution rates of women includes surprised speculation from people in media and computer studies about why this might be. I don't want to be cynical, but do these people live in the same world I live in?

Let's look at some major areas of public life:

Sensing a trend?

Of course there's a big difference between becoming a Senator or a CEO of a big company and contributing to a Wikipedia article. ANYONE can write something on Wikipedia. You still don't have to register with the site to add some verifiable facts to an existing article, and there's a help page for new contributors.

Since women's knowledge is so radically underrepresented in Wikipedia, we're all losing out. I don't know about you, but I probably look something up on Wikipedia every day. I don't want to only find what dudes are interested in up there.

Two examples in the Times article: "Is a category with five Mexican feminist writers impressive, or embarrassing when compared with the 45 articles on characters in The Simpsons?" "The entry on Sex and the City includes only a brief summary of every episode, sometimes two or three sentences; the one on The Sopranos includes lengthy, detailed articles on each episode."

Sure, it's just pop culture, but this is part of what happens when women are in so few visible leadership positions. As Catherine Orenstein, founder of The OpEd Project says in the Times piece, "When you are a minority voice, you begin to doubt your own competencies." Fewer women in media, business, and government seems to also mean fewer women and girls sharing a bit of knowledge in an online article about TV shows, authors, historical figures, cities, bands, or artists they like and know something about.

Contributing to Wikipedia doesn't require leadership or ambition, but it does require women and girls to think, "I have something to say", and with few exceptions, that's not happening. Boys and men obviously think they have plenty to say, and they're already saying it awfully loudly and in painstaking detail. Ladies: please speak up, I can't hear you.

In thinking about the small numbers of women in leadership positions in business, I realized that at every single job I've had since college, the person at the top has been a woman. This now seems incredibly statistically improbable, and I feel really lucky.

[Note: a reader points out that Wikipedia is intended to be a repository of known facts, not personal analysis or research, as described in the No Original Research entry. My point remains that contributors reflect their own personal interests by adding facts to an entry, making the whole of Wikipedia a sum total of the interests of its contributors, so if those contributors are 87% dudes, well, you get a lot of stuff about Matchbox cars and Civil War Reenactments.]

December 13, 2010

Black Swan, ballet horror

Natalie finds a black feather in Black Swan

I saw Black Swan and liked it very much, though it took me about 24 hours afterwards to calm down enough to figure out why it freaked me out so much. It shouldn't have been surprising: Aronofsky's earlier movies Pi and Requiem for a Dream weren't exactly light entertainment, and though I liked both of those a lot, I never want to see them again.

But other than a shared fixation on icky bodily wounds, which seems to make an appearance in all Aronofsky movies, the one that Black Swan has the most in common with is The Wrestler from last year. The story and themes are really similar (performing artist gives up everything for the pursuit of their art, with catastrophic and glorious results) and there are a few shots and scenes that are almost identical. There's the same total dedication to performance in spite of everything, the same willingness to endure physical and psychic pain, and practically the same tights.

But Black Swan is a horror movie as far as I'm concerned: Natalie Portman goes off the deep end amidst terrifying hallucinations, self-mutilation, and all kinds of scary face-stabbing shit. The whole movie is a "delirious, phantasmagoric freakout", as Manohla Dargis says in her review. And it really made me want to go clubbing with Mila Kunis.

It's got some flaws, though: the dialogue is sometimes weak and occasionally ridiculous, and I really wish the writers had thought of more than one thing for Vincent Cassel, the ballet company's artistic director, to repeat over and over again about the whole white swan/black swan dynamic. Also, when every single time Natalie backs out of a room away from something scary, then turns around and runs smack into something that's also scary, it stops being scary.

But it still got under my skin. I came out of this movie in some kind of unspecified indignant, freaked-out agitation about what happened to poor Natalie. More than anything else, this movie reminded me of Rosemary's Baby, which I group together with The Stepford Wives (also based on a novel by Ira Levin) as nightmare fantasies about What The World Does To Women. I don't know why Ira Levin was so pissed off about our culture's repressive and cruel expectations of women, especially in terms of how women relate to men as wives and mothers, but he sure loved to write really disturbing books about it.

You can take Black Swan as a story about striving for artistic perfection at all costs. But if you take it at face value, it's also about a woman who tries to embody the ideal that women should be good, nice, modest girls, and the ideal that women should be horny sluts, and as a result, goes crazy. Our culture demands both opposing ideals, and tends to punish women who fail to achieve either one. What happens to Natalie when she tries to be both white and black swans is like a bloody, hallucinatory horror vision of how mental all this is.

I'm not the hugest Aronofsky fan, but his movies sure do get me in the guts. Speaking of which, it's probably not a good idea to see this movie if you have an eating disorder.

September 13, 2010

Grow a pair, Joanie

Joan and Peggy in the elevator, Mad Men

Has "Mad Men" felt a little bit like a Joan take-down lately? Things haven't always gone so great for Joan, but this season she's been back on top of her game, running the office and holding a position of authority that she clearly loves.

But then a few episodes ago, Lane busted her for trying to manipulate him into getting some vacation time: "I understand that all men are dizzy and powerless to refuse you, but consider me the incorruptible exception!"

Then this week, Joey the snotty-nosed creative guy really let her have it, with a whole posse of young upstarts openly ridiculing her. The things Joey said about her lording over the office and telling everyone what to do, wearing tight dresses that make her look like, what was it? A madam at a Shanghai brothel? It was all rude and mean and totally disrespectful, but it wasn't too far off base. The part about "looking like you're trying to get raped" was awful, but it's true that Joan basically invites men to take advantage of her or use her in lots of non-rapey ways, and sometimes depends on it to get what she wants.

The real story here is that Joan doesn't know how to use her power in any way other than to manipulate. She wheedles and cajoles and backstabs and manipulates. To confront the assholes in the office who treat her disrespectfully, she tells them all she hopes they go to Vietnam and get killed. What they did to her was inappropriate and awful, but then she stoops to their level.

Peggy, burgeoning feminist prototype, has legitimate power, and uses it legitimately. As Don advises her, "You want some respect? Go out there and get it for yourself." So she fires Joey, which is exactly what the audience would expect to happen in such a blatant case of sexual harassment.

Joan has legitimate power, for sure, but when it comes down to it, she can't use it to stand up for herself. She lets herself get passed over for the job she wants, she marries the jerk that raped her, she backstabs the guys who harass her at the office instead of sending them packing, then she calls Peggy a "humorless bitch" because she used her authority and did the right thing. In the Times recap of the episode, Ginia Bellafante says, "Joan is unmoored now in a world where a woman's currency in corporate life is no longer exclusively sexual."

It seems like the show is encouraging us to be a little more like Lane in how we feel about Joanie. I still love her, but I don't think we're going to see the feminist awakening in her that I've been hoping for.

September 1, 2010

Heart! (on Fox News)

Nancy Wilson of Heart on Fox News

All summer, midtown has had two competing live music series on the morning shows: NBC's Today Show series, which has featured Lady Gaga, Carole King and James Taylor, and Maxwell, and Fox News' All American Summer series, which has included American Idol losers, Uncle Kracker, and Toby Keith. Rockefeller Center has been attracting massive crowds with fans often camping out on the street the night before, while the shows in front of the Fox building on 6th Ave have largely been made up of people who happened to be getting off the F train on their way to work.

But this morning, Fox scored a huge victory with Heart! Performing live! I turned onto 6th Ave and heard Nancy Wilson pounding out the riff from "Magic Man" and ran to the corner of 48th St. By far the best start to my day of the summer.

Here's the video, which includes an interview with the Wilson sisters about growing up in a Marines household (this is Fox News, after all) and the sexism they faced in the 70's and still see in music today. And they do "Magic Man" starting at 3:30. It rocks.

This performance reminds me that this is not really a family-friendly song. Those lyrics are hot! I'm a little surprised they got away with the magic man and his magic hands on "Fox & Friends", but I guess rock transcends the Culture Wars.

Also: the Wilsons like Lady Gaga and Taio Cruz's "Dynamite".

June 8, 2010

French feminist encourages us all to be bad moms

Elisabeth Badinter

Feminist cultural theorists tend to be a radical, provocative bunch--they have to be. But it's the French feminists that have a special place in my heart. Maybe it's their legacy of existentialism, sexual freedom, and Joan of Arc, but the French feminists have always been way more incendiary and out there than their American counterparts. While Betty Freidan was hypothesizing that maybe women want to do something with their lives other than vacuuming, Monique Wittig was claiming that she didn't have a vagina because the naming of body parts imposed an artificial order and a masculine bias on the natural body.

Anyway, a contemporary feminist writer, Elisabeth Badinter, has gotten a lot of attention for her new book, "Le Conflit: la femme et la mère" ("Conflict: The Woman and the Mother") which isn't even out in an English language version yet. I first heard about the book on the Bust blog, which reported that it's causing a major ruckus in France over her argument that women should be women first and mothers second. Women are pressured to be perfect moms, which increasingly means staying at home, breastfeeding, making your own baby food, and using washable diapers--things that many women aren't interested in and others don't have the luxury to even consider.

In a great article in the London Times, Badinter says, "It may seem derisory but powdered milk, jars of baby food, and disposable diapers were all stages in the liberation of women." As for moralizing about women who eat unpasteurized cheese and drink the occasional glass of wine while pregnant, she says, "You don't enter a religious order when you have children."

Over the weekend, the NY Times did a piece on Badinter. It's in the Style section, where the Times continues to publish all its journalism about women's professional lives. Oh my God that pisses me off. Anyway, in the article, she advocates for a more open-minded approach to motherhood, letting women raise their children they way they want without passing judgment. A mother of three, she says, "I'm a mediocre mother like the vast majority of women, because I'm human, I'm not a she-cat."

Environmentalists and some feminists don't like her argument, but I think I love her. I also agree that many women don't seem to want other women to make their own decisions about how to raise their kids. When I hear women my age (always women, never men) vehemently insisting that all mothers must breastfeed their babies and women who don't are bad and selfish, I can't help but think of social conservatives spouting off about gay people being sinful or America being a Christian nation. For some reason, many progressive thinkers have no problem telling women what they can and can't do with their kids or during pregnancy, but would never consider telling other people what kind of sexuality or religious beliefs to have.

Hopefully when Badinter's book comes out in translation, it will inspire more women to embrace a feminist approach to motherhood, i.e. do what you want, and let other people do what they want. Have kids, don't have kids. Breastfeed, bottle feed. It's up to you. Do you see fathers passionately condemning each other over disposable diapers?

Also, I love that Jezebel used a photo of Lucille Bluth, bad mom role model, in their post about Badinter.

May 30, 2010

Please Give

Please Give

As an antidote to the opening of Sex and the City 2 on Thursday night, I went to see Nicole Holofcener's latest movie Please Give. The two movies have a lot in common: both are about women in New York City trying to make a living, find love, and get a pair of jeans that makes their butt look good (at least, you know, in concept.) But while all the lightness and sass of the first few seasons of "Sex and the City" have been sucked out of the movies, leaving what A.O. Scott describes as "the ugly smell of unexamined privilege", Please Give is a totally different story.

Catherine Keener is the star of every Nicole Holofcener movie, and she's always phenomenally great. Here she plays a woman uneasily living with the ugly smell of examined privilege. She and her husband Oliver Platt are waiting for the elderly woman next door to die so they can expand into her apartment, and they run a vintage furniture shop that relies on the willingness of children of dead people to part with their parents' beautiful old stuff so they can resell it with a huge markup.

Neither of these things are necessarily morally wrong, but she's so consumed with guilt that she tries to compensate in increasingly awkward ways: she gives twenties to people on the street, tries to gives leftovers to an older black man she incorrectly assumes is homeless, and offers to volunteer at a center for disabled kids, but is asked to leave when she starts crying while watching them play basketball. She's a really deeply flawed character and the source of most of her own misery. But the way Keener plays her, I felt like I could relate to her--after all, what thinking person doesn't feel some guilt about the poverty you see everyday in this city and want to do the right thing in response? The characters in this movie do the wrong thing a lot of the time, but they're so well written and acted that I still feel for them.

Oh, also, it's funny. The rest of the cast includes my girlfriend Rebecca Hall as a sweet, lonely mammogram technician who puts up with her nasty grandmother with a lot more patience than her sister, Amanda Peet. She plays a selfish bitchy pretty girl like she has in many movies, but this character is a lot more credible and sympathetic than her characters in Igby Goes Down or Saving Silverman. Representing the older and younger generations, there's the delightfully abrasive Ann Guilbert who plays the insufferable grandmother with genius comic timing, and Sarah Steele as Catherine Keener's teenage daughter who spends the whole movie mortified by her looks, until the last scene when she walks out of a dressing room wearing the coveted pair of flattering jeans absolutely glowing, and you realize she's a really good actress.

This movie could have easily been a repellently vapid story about neurotic upper middle class people and how hard it is to live a privileged life, but instead it's subtle, funny, and sometimes uncomfortably relatable. And it's so good to see a movie about women who are fully imagined people rather than plot devices. Roger Ebert's review is great: "Nicole Holofcener pays close attention to women. She doesn't define them by their relationships with men. In a Holofcener movie, women actually have their own reasons for doing things — and these are even allowed to be bad reasons, and funny ones. The movie is about imperfect characters in a difficult world, who mostly do the best they can under the circumstances, but not always. Do you realize what a revolutionary approach that is for a movie these days?"

May 20, 2010

Who's Fatter?™

The Hooters waitress who was put on probation at work for being too fat has been getting a lot of attention today. The women's rights crusaders at Fox News did an indignant piece in which they use national height/weight tables to show that poor 20 year-old Cassie Smith, at 5' 8" and 132 pounds, is well within healthy guidelines. Cassie claims that two women from company headquarters told her that unless she used a free gym membership to lose some weight, she's out.

But we'd like to use this opportunity to ensure that American women maintain an appropriately pathological mindset about their weight with another fun round of Who's Fatter?™

To play Who's Fatter?™, consider the two women below, and decide which one you think is fattest.

Who's Fatter?

Hooters girl vs. Beyonce

The Hooters Girl or Beyoncé?

This is a tricky one, because public reports of Beyoncé's weight vary depending on which movie she was most recently in: Dreamgirls (when she lost some weight) or Cadillac Records (when she gained weight to play Etta James.) She's the same height as Hooters girl. But all evidence point to this.

Answer: Beyoncé is fatter!

Beyoncé allegedly weighs 143 on an average day. She got down to the high 120's for Dreamgirls, and back when she was in Destiny's Child, she self-reported 135. Cha Cha has provided answers ranging from 135-150, and puts her height at either 5' 7" or 5' 8".

So forget about that gym membership, Cassie! All that's going to get you is more crappy tips for slinging wings and Bud Light in sneakers and orange shorts. Hire a stylist and start wearing leotards and heels.

Previously: Who's Fatter™?: Nicole Richie or Dakota Fanning?

March 8, 2010

Oscars night, with special Who'dat?™: Oscars flashback edition

Kathryn Bigelow winning Best Director Oscar

What I can't figure out about the Oscars is how a show that moves along from award to award so briskly and cuts off speeches at 45 seconds still feels like an interminable bore, punctuated by some funny Baldwin/Martin banter. There were a mere 3 montages, no performances of Best Song nominees, and there wasn't even an Irving G. Thalberg award this year!

Still, when we got to the last two awards and the show was already a half-hour overtime, suddenly it went from slow-motion to high gear and it was all over in about 3 minutes. Hurt Locker's in, Avatar's out, and Kathryn Bigelow gave two sincere but sort of bland speeches, thanking the military twice (and also Hazmat teams! Weird.) I'd like to think that she won Best Director on the basis of her movie and not because of some feel-good self-congratulatory tokenism on the part of the Academy, but either way, she accepted it like a cool, collected pro (and thankfully avoided all "this award is so much bigger than me" claims, and crying.) Here's the clip.

Anyway, the other interesting moment was the teen star reunion in honor of John Hughes. Look at the round-spectacled guy who looks sort of like one third of John Goodman with a goatee. Even after the announcer read all their names as they came out on stage, I had no idea who this guy was.


You can make your guess and click on the photo to see if you're right. Or you can just read Wonkette's first headline this morning.

Though I certainly didn't know it, Judd Nelson has kept working steadily since the 80's, mostly small roles in movies I've never heard of. And New Jack City. Later this year, he'll star in a movie called Mayor Cupcake, in which he plays the husband of a small-town baker played by fellow Hughes teen star Lea Thompson.

The weirdest part of the night was the dance montage of the Best Score nominees, with guys in cardigans breakdancing to The Hurt Locker.

My favorite moments: The Hurt Locker actors picking each other up and screaming when they won Best Picture, T Bone Burnett's sunglasses and suit, the horror montage, and the AmEx Members Project ad with Geoffrey Canada talking about Harlem Children's Zone, which was more inspiring than just about any of the award-winning movie clips.

You can watch all the acceptance speeches at the Oscars site.

February 24, 2010

Women in subs

There's a brief little news item today announcing that the Pentagon has decided to allow women to work on Navy submarines, which I hadn't realized was something they couldn't do already. With all the attention Don't Ask Don't Tell has gotten lately, I sometimes forget about the tons of military jobs that women still aren't allowed to do (though as the Times reported last summer, they're increasingly doing those jobs anyway.)

So now that men and women can serve together on submarines (party sub!) and considering that Don't Ask Don't Tell's days are numbered, I can imagine one glorious day when there are gay and straight men and women all crammed in together on a submarine.

I'm pitching the sitcom! It will be like "How I Met Your Mother" meets "Glee". On a sub.

How I Met Your Mother and Glee on a Submarine

December 7, 2009

Holiday gifts for kids

Mr. Squiggles and Chunk

Like a lot of people out there, I have a growing number of small children in my life, and all those children need presents. When you don't spend a whole lot of time around kids, it can be hard to keep up with their interests and obsessions. For example, I only recently found out about Bakugan and its vast universe of Battle Brawler merchandise that any self-respecting 6 year-old is required to possess. You could randomly select a few toys from this product line, but how do you know if you're choosing the coolest action figure, video game, or, God help you, activity book?

And now that this year's insanely popular Zhu Zhu hamsters have turned out to have too much of the toxic fire-resisting agent antimony in them (surprise!), you've got to find some alternatives.

If you're playing the role of the cool but untrustworthy aunt/uncle/family friend, you could just give all the kids on your list a carton of Kool cigarettes and a handle of whiskey. Or if you really want to ensure that you'll never be invited to a Christmas celebration again, give them a new book for families that I received an email about today, just in time for the holidays. It's called Why He Hates You!, and it's a book that invites mothers and sons to explore all the ways they hate each other.

The targeted audience of the book is black women who raised their children alone and black boys raised by single moms, but why not share the hate? Author Janks Morton uses his own experiences as the basis for uncovering "angst-creating parental techniques such as negotiation, manipulation, and castigation"--techniques that, let's be honest, span all races and backgrounds, and lead to deep-rooted parent-hating. Actually, mother-hating.

(Not surprisingly, Janks is a big conservative who is very unhappy about Obama's stimulus efforts and thinks making a case for reparations is "a waste of energy." His hero is his dad, Janks Morton, Sr., and in case you were unclear on this, he hates his mom.)

Give out a few copies of Why He Hates You! to the boys and mothers in your life, and watch the magic of the Christmas season unfold.

October 7, 2009

All-girl Voltron. You know you want to see it.


Since the launch of the Transformers juggernaut, with hugely successful movies, merchandise, toys, Optimus Prime lounge chairs, and a 7-Eleven marketing campaign (though the Transformer's Bumblebee Blast Slurpee wasn't anywhere near as cool as the Apocalyptic Ice Terminator tie-in Slurpee) more 80's anime-warrior TV show adaptations are inevitable.

We're going to be getting a lot of Voltron before long, including an animated series for TV, video game, toys, and a movie. The show ran in the US from 1984-85, and the main story structure of five people who pilot robot lions that join together to form one giant robot warrior, is probably easier to adapt into a narrative screenplay about humans than something like Transformers.

I only really watched Voltron when my friends' little brothers were watching it after school, but I agree that it could be a good live-action movie. How about this: it could be the first all-girl machine-warrior movie, with a group of five tough girls fighting the forces of evil in their lion flying robots. Sort of like Charlie's Angels meets Angelina Jolie's posse of spy-assassins from Mr. and Mrs. Smith in a future world of tech-fighter robots.

Then get some combination of the best cast members of The Runaways and Sucker Punch, and a soundtrack including The Plastiscines, The Gossip and The Donnas.

I would see this movie!

Another Japanese anime adaption is in the works: Tobey Maguire is producing a Robotech movie, but it's been in the works for two years already with lots of writers departing the project, so we'll see what happens.

September 21, 2009

Hey, Jennifer's Body is actually good!

Jennifer's Body

Maybe this is some kind of delayed backlash to the Diablo Cody backlash, but I'm going to say it: Jennifer's Body is a better movie than Juno. It's also an unapologetic teen horror movie, so I probably like it in part because I love teen horror movies, and I'm ambivalent about twee little indie movies about meaningful teen issues with a hideously grating soundtrack.

There's a robust tradition of horror movies with gutsy heroines kicking ass (The Final Girl, etc) but this is the first one I've seen that is of, by, for, and about girls. With every boy she devours, Jennifer is really trying to provoke her best friend Needy's attention, jealousy, love, and loyalty--she's the twisted friend who shows her devotion to you by randomly making out with you, then hitting on your boyfriend.

You could read the movie as: a metaphor for combustible female teenage sexuality and sexual power; a revenge fantasy about killing men who exploit teenage girls and turn them into literal and figurative monsters; a story about how best friends navigate their friendships when they start getting into boys; a thoughtful analysis of our cultural obsession with Megan Fox; and a big middle finger to our cultural obsession with Megan Fox.

And while all these layers are going on, it's still a really fun horror movie about an occult ritual gone wrong, and the resulting demon-babe with an insatiable appetite for boy guts. With a decent soundtrack!

While I was watching the movie and thinking about how it's all about the Megan Fox media saturation we live in, I was reminded of Steven Soderbergh casting Sasha Grey to play an expensive prostitute in The Girlfriend Experience, which was about buying and selling the fantasies that we create about people. By casting Sasha Grey, he made an interesting statement about audiences wanting to believe in the characters we watch in movies, even though we know they're really actors playing roles. It was a great idea, but the downside was that Sasha Grey played her character with such flat affectlessness than it was impossible to care very much about her or anything she did. You could argue that Soderbergh isn't interested in audiences caring about his characters and just wants to make experimental movies about the roles people play in society or something like that, but a lead actor that failed to bring any life at all to her character made for an empty-feeling movie. That I still liked. I can't help myself, Soderbergh!

Megan Fox can act rings around Sasha Grey. Megan Fox knows how to play a man-eating sexpot, because she does it in every one of her movies, magazine interviews, TV appearances, and in the thousands of red carpet and publicity shots we've all seen of her. Casting Megan Fox as a sexy demon in a Diablo Cody horror movie is stunt-casting in the same way that casting Sasha Grey to play an expensive hooker is stunt-casting, but this time it worked. Our friend Emily once said that Megan Fox is the most unmediated celebrity in the world--she's famous for appearing sexy, dangerous, and unhinged in interviews. She's unpredictable, and maybe a little nuts. Her recent Rolling Stone interview about cutting herself and her own insecurity sounds like it was created specifically for Jennifer's Body marketing.

In the press, there's Megan Fox, the a gorgeous sexual dynamo who exists to fuel boys' fantasies about her so people will go see her movies. In the movie, there's Megan Fox, the gorgeous sexual devil who exists to fuel boys' fantasies about her so she can feed on their flesh. It's beautiful.

Vulture claims that critics are anti-Jennifer's Body, but I disagree. A.O. Scott wrote a glowing review, and especially likes the movie's treacherous world of female friendship, and Dana Stevens from Slate says whatever you expect of this movie based on what you think about Diablo Cody, you're wrong.

Also, she won't get enough attention for this movie, but I loved Amanda Seyfried as Needy, the best friend heroine. Jennifer's the hot one that all the boys want, but Needy has the world's sweetest boyfriend, a supportive mom (Amy Sedaris!), and a healthy dose of self-respect. I loved the image of Needy tearing across a field in her gigantic poofy hot pink princess prom dress and fluffy blonde hairdo to save her boyfriend and kill the demon. I was glad that director Karyn Kusama (who also did Girlfight) could make a formidable heroine who doesn't need boxing gloves to be tough.

August 24, 2009

Bye Bye Birdie

Peggy on Mad Men

Having seen Viva Las Vegas many times, and watched in awe/horror as Ann-Margret yowled and flailed around in her orange sweater during that one sort of kooky dance number, I could relate to Peggy on last night's "Mad Men" watching Ann-Margret in awe/horror as she camped it up on screen like a crazy 8 year-old in a clip from Bye Bye Birdie [here's the clip]. Ann-Margret's mid-60's performance style seemed to be: mental sexy.

I liked the scenes of Peggy dismissing Ann-Margret's phony little-girl-but-sexy act as being irrelevant to women, and kind of insulting. Even better was the scene of Don reassuring her that, yes, the Bye Bye Birdie clip is ridiculous, but people are morons, powerless to resist Ann-Margret's tits and you have to market to them that way. I'm paraphrasing here; what he actually said was much more subtle, but that was the idea.

[Aside: In a perfect little indicator of the disturbing undercurrent of Bye Bye Birdie, the Daily News had an article today about a revival production that's coming to Broadway. The producers have decided to change a dance sequence in which the heroine cavorts friskily with a bunch of Shriners at their banquet because as Gina Gershon (who will play the character) said, "it seemed a little too gang rape-y."]

Even better was the scene of Peggy practicing her sex kitten routine in front of the mirror, then going out for some hot casual non-intercourse action with a guy she bags not by being a pretend-helpless little kitten, but by being a gutsy smart girl who's not afraid to take a big bite out of a fella's hamburger. It was pretty great.

Other highlights from last night: Don telling his wife's elderly dad to "drop your socks and grab... something", though I wish he'd just finished with "your cocks", as an ex-Army man making a joke with the phrase. This is cable, can't they say that?

Also: Roger Sterling's daughter is going to have one bummer of a wedding the day after JFK's assassination. I wonder if the reference to her wedding date (November 23, 1963) means that this season is going to include the assassination, or if we're just meant to recognize that poor Margaret Sterling's wedding is going to suck big time.

July 15, 2009

Pomo Sotomayor

Sotomayor hearings

I sure wish I could listen to my college Postmodern Lit professor talk about these Sotomayor hearings.

Please excuse this diversion into shoddy undergrad English-major analysis, but has anyone else noticed the weird refusal to acknowledge that a justice's gender or ethnicity could play a role on the Supreme Court, unless that justice is not male or not white? The kerfuffle over Sotomayor's "wise Latina" comment has gone further than subtly racist partisan pouncing on whatever makes her nomination questionable, and has moved into a strange realm where we all pretend that subjectivity doesn't exist.

When you're a judge, your job is to interpret the law with impartiality and not let your personal viewpoints color your judgment. The law is the law and we as individuals are supposed to fade into an undifferentiated mass of equality and non-discriminatory humanoids before it.

But come on. Even if we all agree that the law should strive for perfect objectivity based on a higher, absolute justice, we all know that's not ever going to be possible. Don't members of Congress know any basic postmodern critical theory?

I'm only half kidding, here. The pomo critics taught us that all the basic tenets that our society is built on--science, religion, the nuclear family, political parties, gender roles, law--are all human constructions that we made up. They don't possess any kind of innate righteousness. The only reason we have the law is that we made it up, if by "we" you mean "white men".

(The postmodernists also say that just like there's no real objective truth, there's also no subjective truth either because the idea of "selfhood" is just another construction, but then you're getting into sophomore-level cultural studies, and I didn't take that class. Here's a pretty good summary of all this stuff.)

I don't expect that we would find much Derrida on Jeff Session's nightstand, but it would be so great if someone in these hearings spoke up and pointed out that if Sotomayor has personal beliefs based on her life experiences that could have some kind of influence on her work as an interpreter of the law, then John Roberts and Clarence Thomas and Scalia and Ginsberg all do too. As justices their job is to strive to see beyond their personal beliefs, though they are still there. Sotomayor spoke about her life experiences as being positive contributions to her legal career, but every judge's experiences somehow influence the way they do their work. How could they not?

We only seem to notice or be suspicious of this when a person other than a white man talks about it, because we have a legal system that was created by white men, and has therefore historically directed more benefits to them than to anyone else. During his congressional hearing, Justice Roberts didn't have to talk about how a wise white guy might add value to a court of law because our courts are already pretty much of, by, and for white guys. Those biases are already there.

At least Sotomayor has admitted this, though now she seems to be backpedaling, playing the objectivity game with Congress. Still, I love that she said this: "Life experiences have to influence you. We’re not robots who listen to evidence and don't have feelings. We have to recognize those feelings, and put them aside. That’s what my speech was saying."

Today, John Cornyn went back to the wise Latina thing again, "asking whether she would regret if her audience of students understood her to be saying that the quality of a judge depended on race, gender or ethnicity." "I would regret that," she said.

I would love to hear John Roberts laboriously explain over and over again how he has explored his own feelings and biases as a white man, then put them aside for the fair application of the law.

June 29, 2009

Extreme cellulite cures

Babies and cellulite

Last week, the Times had an article explaining the physical differences between men and women in how they get cellulite, and why even fit and slender women can end up with oatmeal-like thighs, while men can have expansive acres of fat rolling out in all directions and still have smooth, non-dimpled skin. It's due to differences in connective tissue that holds fat in place under your skin, and the explanation is pretty simple and interesting.

And, of course, there's nothing you can do about it. If you have cellulite, it's probably not going anywhere, despite many creams and treatments that basically just irritate your skin a little bit so that your lumpy butt is temporarily masked by uniform swelling. Ow.

But that didn't stop readers from writing in with their tales of diet and exercise curing them of their cellulite. Or, in one woman's case, breastfeeding for a long, long, long time:

Breast feeding for a very long time permanently cured me of cellulite. When the body is forced to supply the calories that a growing child demands, it uses up all of the fat stores and --- at least in my experience --- the fat cells never come back and they'll also never nag you for food again. OK, so it took 5 straight years of breast-feeding (2 kids), but it was good for them and it was excellent for me. No cellulite, no hunger pains, and most important ... VERY HEALTHY KIDS.

It's an unexpected benefit of kids: they suck all the fat out of your body like hungry little ticks! In five years, your legs will be taut and your children will be fat and happy, nourished by your cellulite.

This advice sort of makes biological sense, but I bet most ladies out there are going to be fine with buying their useless cream at the Rite Aid and spending their lives doing some occasional squats and other non-lactation activities.

[tx esskay!]

February 6, 2009

She's just not that into this movie

He's just not that into you

This new movie He's Just Not That Into You, based on a book, based on a line of dialogue from a sitcom, looks just awful. I've been trying to figure out what is so loathsome about this movie, and Manohla Dargis's review spells it out: what kind of woman would be at all interested in watching a movie like this? It's ostensibly about the realities of women's dating lives, but the movie sounds like a unreconstructed male dating fantasy: dickheady guys are surrounded with gorgeous, available, and interested women who are also highly insecure and probably crazy. When they want to see these women, they do, and when they don't, the ladies have to go off by themselves and read self-help books to try to cope with the agony of rejection.

The problem here is that the movie is marketed all wrong. The target audience should be single men, not single women. If the writers had thrown in better jokes, some decent male actors, a lot more sex, and replaced all scenes in which women shop or get manicures together with scenes of guys playing video games and doing shots, you'd have a movie that would actually make sense.

Actually, I think the movie I'm envisioning is the last 6 movies produced by Judd Apatow.

Anyway, Manohla's review is great. She envisions what the movie would look like if it were successfully targeted to a female audience, by asking, "What Would Thelma and Louise Do?" after a character goes on a bad date with a drippy guy named Conor:

What would Thelma have done? Well, she might have bedded Conor with gusto (and no marriage plans), as she does a hitchhiker with miles of muscle played by the young Brad Pitt. (Her greatest lament: he rips her off.) And Louise? Given that her lover is played by the gruff and grown-up Michael Madsen, I like to think she wouldn't even have bothered with Conor. (That, or shot him.)

Adult women like Louise might pull a Mrs. Robinson on special occasions, though not if there’s a man like Mr. Madsen steaming up the room. But adults have become something of an endangered species in big studio movies, particularly in romantic comedies, where female desire now largely seems reserved for shoes, wedding bells and babies.

A good anti-HJNTIY is last year's Happy-Go-Lucky, in which a female character actually gets what she wants sometimes without being desperate, pathetic, or insane.

October 30, 2008

Times tries for piece on ugly people, ends up with piece on "ugly" people

Charlize Theron in Monster

Ugly people--ew!

The Times has an article in today's Style section that makes a half-hearted attempt to document a trend in average-looking or ugly people getting more attention in movies and TV. Here's the thesis statement:

Ugliness has recently emerged as a serious subject of study and academic interest unto itself, in some small part because of the success of television’s Ugly Betty, which ABC promoted with a "Be Ugly" campaign stressing self-esteem for girls and young women. Sociologists, writers, lawyers and economists have begun to examine ugliness, suggesting that the subject has been marginalized in history and that discrimination against the unattractive, while difficult to document or prevent, is a quiet but widespread injustice.

So maybe social scientists momentarily care that ugly people don't get the attention, admiration, or money that beautiful people get, but, as it turns out, no one else does. Cosmetic surgery is a $13 billion industry, beauty and makeover shows are all over the TV, and the gajillions of magazines, ads, and movies out there confirm that we're only interested in looking at beautiful people.

The article even notes that America Ferrera, who plays Ugly Betty, is actually really gorgeous.

Which brings us to an aspect of this ugliness non-phenomenon that's more interesting: the article only addresses beauty vs. ugliness in women. The only reference to a male creature in the whole article is Shrek who, as an ogre, is by definition ugly.

The highest paid actors are good-looking guys like Johnny Depp, Will Smith, and Leonardo DiCaprio, but we've also got Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler, and James Gandolfini to play the regular shlubby dudes whose characters are supposed to be average-looking.

On the other hand, when a female character is supposed to be regular-looking or kind of ugly, we tend to get beautiful women disfigured by ugly makeup and clothes: Nicole Kidman in a fake nose, Renee Zellweger plus 30 pounds, or Charlize up there in ugly-person makeup and fake crooked teeth. Or America Ferrera in her Ugly Betty red glasses and braces.

So here's the legitimate trend: prosthetic makeup is likely to be a solid career field forever.

October 27, 2008

Mad Men gets feminist

Betty at the hairdresser on Mad Men

The last two episodes of Mad Men were great. The second to last one was some of the best TV I've ever seen-- there are some scenes I never want to watch again, but it was still good television. Even though the season finale last night wasn't quite as ambitious or as creatively structured, it was still pretty amazing.

The show's creator Matthew Weiner, has been clear about his feminist aspirations for the show, but in these last two episodes he shows us what he means: the show seems to have become a kind of morality play where the female characters who stand up for themselves are rewarded, and the ones who don't get raped on the floor of their boss's office.

Let's look at the main characters:

Peggy. The show is as much about her as it is about Don Draper, and it's been structured around her experience from the very first episode. She's now the new superstar of the ad agency, and when she asks for her own office, she gets it (and graciously accepts Roger Sterling's comment about how aggressive women are "cute".) In the finale, she tells Pete Campbell the painful truth about giving away his baby, and in doing so appears to get some kind of spiritual absolution, while Pete is left bewildered and destroyed.

Joan. The scene in the second to last episode where Peggy and Joan talk about Peggy's new office and Joan's upcoming marriage was just awesome. For a moment, the all-powerful Joan looks small and weak as she realizes that she has to rely on the accomplishments of her doctor fiance/rapist to give her status, while Peggy has her own accomplishments to be proud of. For once, Joan is respectful of Peggy and not snotty and dismissive.

But the overall feel of the scene was sad. It was as heartbreaking as watching Joan get passed over for the script reading job without putting up a fight. The show seems to have established an especially unforgiving moral structure for women, just like in teen slasher movies, except in Mad Men it's not the slutty girl who gets punished. It's women like Joan who miss opportunities to stand up for themselves.

Betty. Last night's episode belonged to her. It's been frustrating watching her spiral into the depressive funk she's been in for the last few weeks, but finally last night, her refusal to let her philandering husband come home paid off. Don initially goes off to California to screw around, but instead he ends up spiritually cleansed, and remembers how to be respectful to women through his old friend Anna. He comes home to apologize for being such a dick and does some groveling. Betty lets him back in.

Betty's end of the deal with Don isn't exactly a feminist utopia, but she does get to have a night of freedom, be assured by everybody that she can get an abortion if she needs one, fuck a hot stranger in a men's room, and still get her repentant and now fabulously rich husband back. A lot better than moping around and crying on the shoulder of the 8 year-old boy next door.

The Men. Meanwhile, life is not so great for the menfolk. The last few episodes show them grasping desperately, sometimes pathetically, at their slowly dwindling power over the women in their lives. Don is the only one who seems able to readjust himself and come out, maybe, a sort of decent person. The owners of the agency, meanwhile, had to literally sell themselves out in order to accommodate women's demands--Mona, Jane, and Cooper's hilariously bitchy sister.

Next season: Peggy gets a personal assistant/boy toy, and the secretary pool starts a series of consciousness-raising brown-bag lunches about overly restrictive undergarments.

October 23, 2008

Post leads the fight to save America's breasts

Cowgirls Espresso barristas

Today's NY Post reveals an alarming new study that finds drinking coffee can make your breasts smaller. In "Women Face Shrink and Drink Dilemma: Coffee Poses A Booby Trap", women are urged to consider the very real risk of caffeine shrinkage, the future of their breasts, and the happiness of our nation when reaching for their morning coffee.

"Drinking coffee can have a major effect on breast size," says one of the Swedish (of course) researchers who conducted the study. Especially, because there is no justice in this world, women with large breasts. "They will get smaller, but the breasts aren't just going to disappear," she added. Well that's a relief.

The Post goes on to conduct their own photographic study of "small-chested celebrities", including Catherine Keener, the Olsen twins, Natalie Portman, and Cameron Diaz, which I suppose is meant to lend some sort of credence to the scientists' findings. Or maybe console readers who love coffee-- sure, you'll lose your tits, but guess who's sort of flat too? The cute cheerleader on Heroes!

As an aside, at the very end of the article, the Post notes that the purpose of the study was actually to determine any link between caffeine and breast cancer. Caffeine makes you more resistant to tumors. If you don't mind being flat as a pancake, that is.

Added bonus for coffee-drinking men: caffeine actually makes your man-boobs bigger!

About Women

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Amy's Robot in the Women category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Who's Older? is the previous category.

Work is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Powered by
Movable Type 3.35