intertribal: (tongue)
I saw two horror movies back to back recently - Contracted and Alyce Kills (both on Netflix).  They're both like Girls episodes gone bloody, which is always interesting to me since we know how much I like the whole women-in-horror thing.  I told a friend who doesn't like horror movies the plot line of The Descent this evening and she came away saying, "I will never watch that because I can't handle gore, but it sounds intriguing."  Which of course it is!  I have come up with a new crazy theory about how watching and writing horror has made me a stronger person, but I think it needs to be fleshed out before I show it to the world.

Contracted is about sexually transmitted diseases. Alyce Kills is about being obsessed with your best friend, I guess.  The main characters of both movies are lesbians in their 20s living in some L.A.-like city, working as a waitress (Samantha from Contracted) or a menial office worker of some kind (Alyce from Alyce Kills).  Both are surrounded by an infuriating cast of realistically - sometimes absurdly - obnoxious characters.

Neither of the two are especially sympathetic, but both are - at least at first - at the mercy of larger forces, both supernatural and societal.  Samantha is a nail-biting bundle of nerves who's recently broken up with too-cool-for-school Nikki and living with her ridiculous mother, whose inability to accept that Samantha is a lesbian is perfectly mirrored by her inability to see that Samantha has contracted some terrible, terrible illness.  Samantha is not over Nikki and wants desperately to get back with her, but meanwhile she's being harassed by dweeb-leech Riley.  She's sleepwalking (nightmaring, really) through life.  Then she goes to a party and has her drink spiked by a dude no one seems to know named B.J., who we previously saw engaging in necrophilia.  B.J. rapes her.  Samantha thinks she's got a bad cold... then a bad stomach bug... then a bad STD.  But come on, people: her eyes are bleeding, her hair and nails are falling out... Samantha's turning dead, and no one seems to be all that alarmed.  The movie is an allegory about a lot of things, but I came away thinking mostly about invisibility, intense helplessness, and apathy.  Samantha definitely has an external locus of control, and unfortunately the world just doesn't give a shit about her - until, of course, she's become a full-on zombie.

Alyce is different, and in some ways a relief after the excruciating passive weakness of Samantha - except that Alyce has murderous, apocalyptic tendencies.  But Alyce, to her credit, gets shit done.  When she pushes her best friend off a roof - accidentally?  again, Alyce, like Samantha, has been drinking when the great Calamity happens and the horror rabbit-hole opens up - she quickly figures out that she's going to lie to the police about having been on the roof too.  She decides she'll have sex with a drug dealer for the drugs she needs to get the ghostly visage of her best friend out of her head.  She decides she needs to kill her paralyzed best friend (who she loves, and hates, and everything in between) before the best friend can point the finger at her.  She decides to cause a terrible scene at the best friend's funeral.  She decides to start killing people who hurt the best friend.  Etc.  Alyce, if nothing else, is a very active agent in her life.  She also makes terrible - evil, really - decisions with very little regard for others.  Both Samantha and Alyce kill people, but Samantha does so out of a combination of her slow-burning frustration with existence and more importantly, the zombie disease inside her.  Alyce, like her best friend before the fall, is hovering over the precipice and cracking up, probably because she's one of those people who doesn't really consider other people to be "real."

Neither of these are much fun to watch, and neither are beautiful in any way.  My favorite scene in Alyce Kills is one where Alyce takes home a douchey stud-muffin who's been hitting on her and can't resist inflicting minor pains on him - he'll punch her off the bed, and she gets right back up, laughing.  It's perfectly uncomfortable and hysterical in a Hole-ish way.  The equivalent scene in Contracted is horrific, grotesque, and involves maggots ("my body the hand grenade," indeed).  I'm not sure I had a favorite scene in Contracted because the whole experience is so uniformly unpleasant and sad and there's not an ounce of mirth or glory in it.  But Contracted stayed with me for longer.  These are both flawed movies that certainly won't speak to everyone, but they're certainly interesting additions to women-in-horror-the-saga-continues.

On that note, one of my favorite horror-Hole songs:

intertribal: (punk pop)


Katy Perry's Grammy's performance of "Dark Horse" was visually fucking great, but the song didn't come across so well.  Which is not to say I think Katy Perry is any great vocal talent... but I really love this song, it deserves something steadier.  I've been listening to it on repeat today.  So here you go, enjoy this super kitschy lyrics video.  Aside from the central question, "So you wanna play with magic?" the best lines belong to Juicy J: "She's a beast / She'll eat your heart out like Jeffrey Dahmer / be careful, try not to lead her on / shorty's heart is on steroids cuz her love is so strong / she's sweet as pie but if you break her heart, she turn cold as a freezer."  Which of course, goes back to my favorite nursery rhyme: "And when she was good, she was very, very good / and when she was bad, she was horrid."

There's a lot of hate for Katy Perry -- do you ever feel like a plastic bag? -- but she's one of my favorite Top-40 pop stars.  I think I just really enjoy her imagery.  I really like "Roar." The video is quite great.  Any video that has a tiger eating an asshole earns points from me.  I love "E.T." for being as creepy as a Top-40 can be without being, you know, (too) rapey.  Then there's the songs I don't like that much, like "The One That Got Away" and "Part Of Me," but I'm still like, okay, that's an acceptable pop song that's a little different, has a little bit of an attitude.  Still have fun videos.  I like the girl, what can I say.  And I was not expecting to, considering she started off as a Christian artist.  It's okay, she's evil now (title is from a disappointed Christian, but I mean it sincerely!).  She's with the Illuminati.

And then there's "Hot N Cold."  Oh, how I love "Hot N Cold."  The veil, the raccoon eyes, the hair in her hip-hop scene.  In my alternate reality I wear pink matte lipstick, see.  I feel like Katy Perry would wear my fictional make-up line, Frantic.  And then the lyrics, of course. Yeah, you PMS like a bitch.  I would know.



On a related note:

Are you ready for a perfect storm?

Well, are ya, punk?  
intertribal: (black)
One of the most common conversations I get into with friends who discover that I really like horror movies is this: "Why are the ghosts/demons always women?"  It's an age-old question, one that I've probably talked about already, but once you point it out to someone you can't stop noticing it.  I've even noticed it in my own writing: I'm way more likely to write a female ghost than a male one, even though when you watch those shitty ghost re-enactment shows, the ratio seems to be about 50-50.  If these little testimonials are any indication, you're just as likely to be haunted by Great-Uncle Bob as Great-Aunt Millie.*

I have a few theories that I offer when asked the aforementioned question:

  • Women are more likely to be disenfranchised with limited options in real life, so their only recourse for the plethora of wrongs done to them is supernatural vengeance (c.f. the rape-and-revenge ghost movies like Shutter and Rose Red, or even that old samurai ghost story retold in Kwaidan, as well as the occasional slow-burner like Lake Mungo or Ghost Story)

  • Women are considered closer to wilderness, savagery, evil, insanity, magic, so they are either explicitly more susceptible to the supernatural or just the quicker, lazier, easier option for the creator (c.f. a whole bunch of stuff, from Evil Dead and Infection to The Ring and Noroi and The Haunting of Hill House)

  • Women are more likely to die a violent death - this goes with #1 (c.f. Ju-On, Silent Hill, What Lies Beneath, Retribution, all them Korean Whispering Corridors movies)

Demon possession movies are an extreme version of Theory #2, because demon possession in real life tends to be colored by the perception that young women are: 1) walking potential demon vessels, because they are the weaker/fairer sex, or further from God, or natural followers, or something - I really don't know, but something about Eve?; 2) really tasty demon food, sometimes because they can potentially bear the anti-Christ; 3) more likely to give in to temptation?; 4) so sweet and innocent and virginal and protected that it's more tragic and horrifying all-around (the same reason some Christians say believers are more likely to be attacked by demons: they're a more impressive conquest); 5) NO ONE EXPECTS THE LITTLE GIRL.

If you look at movies like Emily Rose, The Exorcist, and The Last Exorcism, wherein you've got a pretty teenaged girl writhing around in her nightgown and talking dirty to stiff, straight-backed male priests - and of course, the implication that the Devil has literally invaded this girl's body - you've got to conclude that there's some psycho-sexual shit going on, like the Devil is mocking and showing off our society's sexualization of young women who are, nonetheless, still absolutely required to be good girls (a lady in the street but a freak in the bed, and all that).  Like we are so used to ogling and objectifying young women, well look at her now.  Like the most grotesque and disturbing thing we can think of, as a culture, is a wicked, furious, enraged sixteen-year-old girl - precisely because they are supposed to be pliant, happy, vulnerable, something for Liam Neeson to rescue.  The irony is that she's still all those things, of course, because as the Paranormal Activity trilogy sadly reminds us, it's the demonic spirit acting through her body.

The Conjuring is all about all this stuff, but also highlights a couple less common, but still pervasive themes:

  • Ghosts and demons and poltergeists alike attack families when the father is out of town.  Strangely, this actually does correspond to those ghost re-enactment shows.  I always assume it's because the malevolent entity thinks the father is the alpha.**  The father also tends to be the disbeliever/skeptic, compared to the histrionic mother.

  • The truly most horrifying thing we can think of is an evil mother: a mother who kills her own children.  I'm torn on whether this is seen as worse than or equally as bad as an evil father, because there are fathers-gone-rotten: Amityville, The Shining, Insidious.  I think if you look at the news media, you get the sense that child-killing mothers are worse, because maternal instinct is assumed to be stronger, and men are assumed to be violent anyway.  "Mother is God in the eyes of a child," as they say in Silent Hill, so naturally the topsy-turvy version of that Good Mother is going to be pure evil.

Put in this perspective, The Conjuring isn't really especially right-wing.  It falls right into place in a very old-fashioned, very Christian rendering of the supernatural genre.  "God brought us together for a reason," Lorraine Warren says to her husband, who admonishes the besieged family for not baptizing their daughters.  Note that it's also a very American Christianity here: the Catholic Church is no help because it's tied up in red tape, so if you want an exorcism done right you gotta do it yourself, Signs & Wonders style.  It occurred to me last night that it's really quite incredible how much American demon possession movies align with the world view of a very fringe faction of Protestantism along with other people who take exorcism and "spiritual warfare" into their own hands and are thus most likely to accidentally kill somebody in an exorcism.  The most disturbing part of the movie for me comes near the end, when the demon is breaking the possessee's bones and Lorraine says, "We are now fighting for her soul!"  This is in other exorcism movies too and I gotta say, few sentiments in horror movies seem as likely to lead to the deaths of actual people.

But I guess I've grown weary of movies like this - The Conjuring even comes complete with a creepy haunted (girl) doll that needs to be kept in a glass case, how much more retrograde can you get? - especially when even Hollywood seemed for a while to be churning out new, different types of supernatural horror movies, like Insidious, Sinister, Cabin in the Woods, Mama - not to mention the indies, like the extremely creepy and highly-recommended Lovely Molly, problematic V/H/S, Absentia, The Moth Diaries, Hollow.  I like to think that we can be more interesting.

* Speaking of Bob, David Lynch deserves credit for making one of the most frightening supernatural men ever, and one that clearly hates women, at that.
** Yeah, "malevolent entity thinks"... I know.  Can never be too careful!
intertribal: (meow)
"Miles and miles of perfect skin, I swear I do, I fit right in.  Miles and miles of perfect sin, I swear, I said, I fit right in, I fit right in your perfect skin."
- Hole, "Reasons to Be Beautiful"

This is an issue near and dear to my heart, so I'm actually going to respond to it: Can Male Writers Successfully Write Female Characters? Rod Rees defends his female characters in a way that makes you really appreciate Cormac McCarthy's refusal to write female characters, because he just knows he can't pull it off.  Because if there's one thing worse than a man who claims all women are incomprehensible, it's the man who claims to understand all women!

The old adage is write what you know and living in a house with two hi-achieving, confident and very ambitious teenage girls and having an intelligent and thoughtful wife (who happens to be beautiful to boot!) gave me, I thought, something of an insight into the female mindset.

Beautiful to boot!  I'm sure that makes her easier to try to understand.  Based on his descriptions of them, his female protagonists tend to be young, feisty, and ready and able to market themselves to men.  They admire their breasts in the mirror, use their sexual wiles to get themselves out of a tight corner (the backseat of a Volkswagen?), and call themselves "a lush thrush with a tight tush."  Rees protests that women do, indeed, objectify themselves.  And yes, many women do - many women are constantly preoccupied with their bodies, but about 80-90% of the time, such preoccupation comes from a very scary place of self-hatred and envy.  Even my most confident friends say things like, "bad news, I got fat :(" and when they tell their mirror selves, out loud, "I look hot," it's to combat the years and years of negative internal dialogue, their relatives' nitpicking, their boyfriends' secret stash of porn featuring women that look nothing like them, and of course, that ol' bugaboo, the media.

Rees also protests that women - grown-up women, that is, in the "visceral world of adult fiction" - use their sexual wiles.  Yeah, also true; some women do.  But again, it's accompanied by a whole host of other issues: flashbacks to uncomfortable/negative/non-consensual sexual experiences, fear of "something going wrong," and of course, the above body shame.  There's also the issue of personality shame: "I'm too awkward," "I scare people away," "no one likes me," "I'm not popular."  I'm not saying guys don't have this too - they do - but that this is a real insecurity experienced by many, many women (pretty much every woman I know) who are under pressure to be the kind of socially-adept coquettes that Rees apparently thinks is standard adult female behavior.  And as I argued in my essay on Shirley Jackson, women who fail to play the social roles assigned to them rarely if ever appear in fiction, and almost never as heroines.  This doesn't mean there's not a hunger for them, among both men and women, which is why fucked-up, maladroit women like Kara "Starbuck" Thrace and Lisbeth Salander have proved so popular, and why I've got high hopes for Sonya Cross on "The Bridge."  The issue, for me, isn't that Rees writes about women who don't exist.  I'm sure they do, somewhere - there's a lot of women in the world - and they're probably fucked-up in ways that Rees can't imagine.  The issue is that female characters like his are so obviously a male fantasy, and all they really do is contribute to the huge pile of excrement that is The Portrayal of Women in Media.

What it comes down to is this: spending your life looking at women does not give you insight into what it's like to be a woman, to think like one, to act like one.  All it does is enable you to create avatars who fetishize themselves.  When temporarily transformed into a woman for a movie, Dustin Hoffman came to the astonishing conclusion that the world was full of interesting women that he had not deigned to talk to, because they didn't meet "his" standard of beauty - because he had been brainwashed.  This is a really important discovery that more men need to make.  To some extent, it goes both ways, but men have more social tools at their disposal: wealth, power, seniority, wit, or even just being "not creepy."  By in large, women are still defined and judged by their physical characteristics.

Once female writers venture into the more visceral world of adult fiction they find this stereotype doesn’t work and hence struggle. Just a thought.

The stereotype, by the way, is the "ideal" heroine who doesn't "see herself as an object of male sexual interest" and doesn't "use her sexual charisma as a means of achieving an objective."  This is probably the most woeful, enraging assertion of all, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Rees hasn't read a lot of books, or stories, or songs written by women.  I mean, if he's really suggesting female writers write female characters who have no idea they're objects of male sexual interest, he really needs to listen to Courtney Love's entire ouevre, for one, and Catherine Breillat's, and Sylvia Plath's.  Believe me: we know.  And actually, there are female writers who write his type of self-fetishizing female characters: teenage girls writing bad fanfiction, copying what they've seen in some romance novels, some erotica, and male-gaze sex scenes.  He's got plenty of company. 
intertribal: (hey i heard you like the wild ones)
I've been all about the doomed marriage/suburban collapse stories lately.  I don't really have an explanation other than some sad attempt at self-education.  I read Revolutionary Road this summer, and just finished Run, River by Joan Didion - and need more like them.  The titles do not have to start with Rs.  An older-set, psychedelic variant that has stayed with me: The Sheltering Sky.  I also read The Slap this summer, which is a little different compared to the first two, and in a way the most depressing because the characters were drawn much less sympathetically with the least self-awareness (or so it seemed to me) compared to the first two.  But seriously, I am not one to care about sympathetic characters.

Also, Run, River is so good!  I almost gave up on it while reading the first part but once the story goes back into the past it improves by leaps and bounds.  I think it's really about women operating in society than doomed relationships, although there's plenty of those - Lily is the inept, broken one, whereas Martha is the emotional, normal one.  I think some of the most interesting segments take place when Everett, the repressed and order-obsessed man (Lily's husband/Martha's brother), is out ignoring problems at home and Lily and Martha, who start off disliking each other, are flailing at each other.  At one point Martha tells a guy she meets at a wedding that he is disgusting and she is just as bad as Lily for sleeping with him, and when he asks who Lily is, she replies that Lily is her sister and he isn't fit to say her name.  Lily marries Everett basically because he is the first to ask and she thinks it's what she's supposed to do, and so ends up with a guy she can't actually "talk out loud" to; Martha falls so recklessly in love with Ryder Channing that she's essentially crippled from being able to accomplish anything else.  Then I guess there's Francie.  Francie gets druuuunk.

intertribal: (girl you talk too much / shut up)
Here is a thing that needs to stop:
  1. Girl violates some group norm (usually liking/going after/not repudiating a guy who is "off limits," but this varies).
  2. Group organizes revenge/punitive attack on girl that almost always involves rape.
  3. Girl commits suicide for multiple reasons (shame, hurt, desire for revenge).
  4. Girl becomes horrible, terrifying, evil ghost that picks off group members one by one.*
For one, it perpetuates and universalizes a single narrative/understanding of rape and its consequences - namely, that it is the most horrible thing that can ever be done to a woman, so much so that it actually drives her to kill herself and become a vengeful spirit in order to kill everyone involved in wronging her, like a Lifetime movie on paranormal crack basically - and for two, it is really lazy writing.  I immediately lose interest in any new plot that involves this storyline, although I do retain a reluctant soft spot for Shutter, probably just because it was the first I saw of this type. 

I understand that most Asian horror stories make revenge the driving force, and I understand that most Asian horror stories involve female evil spirits, and that this leads, "obviously," to rape-and-revenge.  It's not unlike the recurring theme in American gaming/comics/fantasy/sci-fi where the strong action heroine has only become strong because she was once raped.  But really: if you must have revenge, and you must have a female evil spirit, there are other paths to take.  Look at the entire Whispering Corridors series, which at least has girls committing suicide and becoming wraiths for other reasons, because of different wrongs.  I would say don't look at all the performance-oriented movies where the big wrong is "you scarred my face!" or "you took my spot as the lead in our girl band!" but at this point, I would rather sit through that kind of a movie than another rape-and-revenge.

* Similar, but distinct: the group kills the girl during or in the immediate aftermath of the attack (c.f. The Maid).  Similar because rape-and-revenge is still an overtone, but distinct because she doesn't actually get any chance to respond to the rape particularly, and she doesn't commit suicide.
intertribal: (like a thought touching up against a sig)
One of the little joys in my life is staying at other people's houses and reading their books.  For some reason it comes much more easily than reading books I bought for myself - it's like they're just there, free, weightless, "read me or don't read me, I don't care."  It's how I read The Quiet American and The Bell-Jar, and now it's how I've read Revolutionary Road (in the span of three nights) by Richard Yates.

It's the kind of book that I can imagine readers (especially today's readers) picking up, saying, "I hate all the characters, they're all so annoying and unsympathetic," and putting down.*  That's their loss, though.  And yes, everyone is portrayed almost in the worst light possible, which makes the recurring line from The Petrified Forest spoken by the female lead, April, "Wouldn't you like to be loved by me?" all the more ironic.  But they are human beings, and when I described the plot to my mother - "it's about this couple that considers themselves sort of 'above' the 50s, and they're always going on about the 'hopeless emptiness' of suburbia so they have these dreams of moving to Paris but when the wife tries to actually make these dreams reality, so that the husband will have time to 'find himself,' he gets cold feet and starts to be happy about his mundane job because he gets offered a promotion" - she said, "sounds like life."  And those are my favorite kinds of books.  Nobody here is extraordinarily anything, but they are so life-like in their concealed fucked-up-ness that I read compulsively. 

A lot of books try to do similar types of stories with life in suburbia today, but I have found that they usually descend into sentimentality and/or feature "darling" characters who the writer identifies with or, worse, admires, who get elevated treatment of a sort.  The only person in Revolutionary Road who sort of gets spared the quiet handsawing of Richard Yates is Howard Givings, the old husband of the real estate agent who just stays "steady down now" and turns off his hearing aid to drown out the world around him.  A strong sense of fatigue runs through these people, despite (or because of, more likely) their dreams and masks and plays and vestiges - one of the habits we witness from our main character Frank is the constant rehearsal in his head of what he's going to say to April about events still taking place at work in order to make himself sound like the most interesting man she's ever met, or what he's going to say to her to repair damage from a fight, so that you have to read very carefully to figure out if this is a projected future event or current reality - and it's like Howard is just tired of all this.

For me, two things stuck out: how much the 1950s reminded me of Lincoln, Nebraska (and 1950s New York is apparently what girls who go to Barnard still seek), and how great Richard Yates is at structuring plot and character development, and how extremely readable he is without sacrificing depth.  Everything just flowed with the sense of inevitability (and dread), from tense but mundane beginning to horrific end (see Stewart O'Nan's assessment).  I hate to sound so hallmarky, but it is pretty inspirational from a writing standpoint.

I think if I were to pick a song for this book, it would be one that has no sense of the 1950s at all:



* A couple chapters in the main character accuses his wife of acting out something from Madame Bovary, another book that was condemned by many of my AP Lit classmates as having no sympathetic character (as I recall they were happy when Emma finally died, in a "good, bitch is dead" sort of way).
intertribal: (i like it rough)
Katie is my favorite character of the Paranormal Activity franchise.  For a while I had a default icon that was called "because she looks like Katie."  She was the reasonable one (compared to her boyfriend Micah) in PA1, with a delicious darkward turn as she becomes possessed and kills Micah, as if telling him in the most ferocious terms, "see, this is what happens when you don't listen to me, dumbass."  PA2 reveals that she became possessed because her brother-in-law Dan "sicced" the demon on her - it was to save his wife and son, but still - and Dan gets his comeuppance and "Katie" gets "her" revenge when she comes to their big fancy house, demon-possessed, to kill Dan and Kristi (his wife/her sister) and take Hunter (the infant son).  In PA3, Katie is a child who gets dragged (literally) into Kristi's bad-idea-of-the-year "friendship" with the demon - she and Kristi both end up at least somewhat possessed and in the care of their evil witch grandmother Lois*.


I really love PA1, enjoy PA2 mostly for the big "Fuck U" it allows Katie to give, and am not such a fan of PA3.  I think this is because I didn't like the story that the creators (who changed from movie to movie) eventually laid out to explain what happened in PA1.  Witchcraft - especially of the matriarchal "coven" variety - in horror always sets off an alarm in my head: "this is a women-are-evil story."  That's accentuated in the Paranormal Activity franchise by the special importance given to the firstborn son, who everyone will go to extreme lengths to protect and who is apparently Blue Moon rare (girls in this family are basically throw-aways, especially if they can't be broodmares).  By contrast, Katie is sacrificed by her brother-in-law because she's nothing to him - she is an expendable, mother to no one.  Dan's teenaged daughter from a previous relationship, Ali, is the only one who says "hey, this isn't fair to Katie," and Ali is also safely tucked away on a field trip during Katie's rampage.  And while I liked the potential that Paranormal Activity had to be Katie's Good Girl Gone Bad (kind of Laura Palmer in reverse) story - even if witchcraft and a special son had to be involved - PA2 and especially PA3 show that there's nothing unique about Katie.  The same thing happens to her sister.  They get possessed and go bad because they're women (and I will note that the possession scenes always read very "rape-y" to me), the end. 

There's a perspective shift too.  In PA1, Katie and Micah are both leads, and you're in each of their headspaces; because the "paranormal activity" revolves around Katie and she's an adult, she might be more the main character than Micah.  PA2 is very decentralized - it's also very shallow in the sense that it's in no one's head in particular, and all the characters are ciphers.  In PA3, the boyfriend of Katie and Kristi's mother, Dennis, is the lead.  Katie and Kristi are children and not especially emotive ones, and their mother Julie is a non-entity.  The next closest thing to a character in PA3 is Dennis's male videography buddy.  It's interesting that in PA3 Katie and Kristi are basically there to be "creepy little girls" with incomprehensibly creepy behavior - "little girls are creepy," as my roommate says - whereas there's nothing creepy about Hunter, the baby boy in PA2, and the audience is simply meant to feel protective of him ("that poor baby boy," etc.).  PA1 sets itself apart from its sequels because we actually get to be in the headspace of the eventual-possessee, to see her as a three-dimensional human being instead of just a "creepy little girl" or a blank mother-type placeholder (in Kristi's case - who is Kristi?  God knows!). 

Men are do-ers in the Paranormal Activity franchise.  Micah is dense and foolish, but he is the macho take-charge investigator - and this trait of his is sort of mocked in PA1 as Micah bombastically insists that "no one comes into my house and fucks with my girlfriend" and Katie's just like, "you don't have power here" (his defensive reply is something along the lines of "don't tell me I have no power").  In PA2, Ali is the investigator, but she's not an actor, and she apparently wields zero influence over any other character, making her relevant only as an info-dumper.  Dan, the brother-in-law, is the only actor, and shows piss-poor decision-making - firing the maid for saging the house, ignoring video footage that he himself arranged, and ultimately transferring the demon to Katie.  Dan is actually absent during most of the movie (when the women of the house are being afflicted with paranormal activity), and it falls on him to make up for his failure to be the responsible man of the house by saving Kristi and Hunter and sacrificing Katie to the darkness.  Dennis, Katie and Kristi's would-be-dad, is neither a dolt nor an asshole, and is more of a protector for Katie and Kristi than their own mother.  He's heroic and self-sacrificing, a sensible investigator, and the good-guy foil to the human villain, the evil grandmother (there are no human villains in PA1 or PA2, and I think this does change the dynamic of a horror story - just ask Stephen King).  And of course then there's the biggest do-er of them all: the demon.  With all the marriage talk in PA3, the demon is definitely male.  But whereas the human men of Paranormal Activity all (arguably) mean well as they try to fix this situation that their women thrust them into, the human women are either corruptible to the extreme or just irrelevant, and in all cases unable to even try to protect themselves or their loved ones.  Their bodies are the battlefield for the war/pissing contest between the human men and the male demon. 


The demon always wins, and it's through the demon that the human men are killed by the women in their lives.  The visual effect is different, though: on screen, it's psycho bitches on the loose (with the only really affecting death, at least for me, being Micah's at the hands of "Katie").  It's too bad that Katie's actions at the end of PA2 probably aren't Katie's at all.  I would have preferred her to be taking revenge on Dan and Kristi - if only subconsciously, if only with the last smidgen of Katie that still existed within the bloody Katie-shell - but it was probably just the demon being demonic en route to obtaining that precious little boy. 

"Jennifer's Body" - Hole
"Arsenal" - Kidneythieves
"Climbing Up The Walls (Radiohead cover)" - Sarah Slean
"Behind Blue Eyes (The Who cover)" - Sheryl Crow

*: Fun fact - Lois is my maternal grandmother's name!  This is why one of my middle names is Louise.  Because my mother didn't like the sound of "Nadia Lois."  WITCH! 
intertribal: (can we forget about the things i said)
My experiment with Mad Men is now over - it just got too depressing for me.  I have started devoting my couple hours of free time between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. (seriously) to Nip/Tuck, which so far I'm enjoying a lot more.  It's interesting, because they're ostensibly very similar shows - main characters are male professionals, there's a lot of emphasis on objectifying the female form and shallow facades (advertising, plastic surgery) - but whereas my reaction to Mad Men was "oh my God, I hate you all," my reaction to Nip/Tuck is "yeah, that's pretty much the way it is," and even though neither Troy and McNamara are anyone I want to know, I give them more leeway than I do anybody in Sterling Cooper.  I think it's a generational thing, though.  Like, which set of men and women are we taught to consider normal, or something like that.  Once again, I don't really like anyone (but ugh to McNamara's teenage son in particular), although I do have a strange fondness for Kimber and Julia.

I must say that I also enjoy the insanity and grotesqueness of Nip/Tuck.  And the music.  This is the full-length version of the opening theme - unsurprisingly, there's a ton of thinspo videos set to this song, but there's also a bunch of thinspo shit set to Radiohead's "Creep" and Fiona Apple's "Paper Bag," so whatever.  It makes me think of... well, grad school, but life in general if you're living in Go Getter World.  And I realize now that I am back in that world, and deeper in than I was as an undergrad because the emphasis now really is on becoming a full-grown yuppie, not just getting hot drunken pictures of yourself on Facebook (which is, I think, what it was in undergrad).  I kind of consider myself lucky that I fell into this job, even though I hate it and am fairly bad at it, because it hooks me up to the two professors who can connect me to anything/anyone in the very narrow field that I want to enter.  Hilariously I apparently decided to wed myself to this field in a matter of, oh, a month.  But I've sworn off government work as an option, so there you go.  I am left with think tanks.  I think I'm just kind of like, "okay, fuck it, Southeast Asia politics it is, fuckin' good enough."  My point is I don't necessarily feel like I have to struggle as hard as other people I know who are just starting to feel out a direction.  Of course, there is more to life in Go Getter World than having a well-connected job, as we all know, and I still feel pressure - "perfect soul, perfect mind, perfect face" - like whoa. 

Added: I think this pressure is also there for men in the grad program - obviously.  But it is different for women.  It's like we have to impress fucking everyone, all the time.

Also: It reminds me of whenever I'm asked "where else did you apply?" and I say that I chose AU over George Washington.  Even AU people don't get why I would, sometimes - why wouldn't you go for the better name, regardless of anything else?  And when I explain that GW didn't click with me, and AU did, I tend to get blank stares.  I usually have to add "well, AU is giving me way more money than GW would have..." before I get the "oh" of understanding.

intertribal: (black wave/bad vibration)
First, a study finding that "almost twice as many Americans would prefer to have a son rather than a daughter."  If you actually look at Gallup's report, though, this has been pretty typical since 1941.  Basically, it's because of men - 49% of men prefer a boy while 22% prefer a girl, and 31% of women prefer a boy while 33% prefer a girl.  For some people (not all) I think there's a little bit of "I want someone like me" involved in this kind of thing, both for psychological reasons and because you "know" how to raise someone of your own gender.  Like when my mother was pregnant, she wanted a girl and my dad wanted a boy - or rather, he "expected" a boy because he "could not believe" that he would not have a boy.  But women seem to have less of this than men.

This, however, is interesting - "both male and female Republicans are more likely to want a boy than are their gender counterparts who identify as Democrats."  Education level is also interesting - among respondents with a high school diploma or less, 44% prefer boys and 25% prefer girls; among postgraduate respondents, it's 32% for boys and 33% for girls. 

Anyway, the Atlantic suggests that while Americans may - like other cultures/societies - prefer boys to girls, they don't actually do anything to try to get more boys.

Second, Texas is trying to decide whether or not to allow the Sons of Confederate Veterans to have a confederate flag license plate.  The vote is delayed because the ninth member of the DMV board died and they have to pick a replacement.  Nine other states already have allowed the group such a license plate, and they sued Florida when Florida said no, leading a federal judge to decide that Florida was engaging in "viewpoint discrimination."  (My mother said "In that case I'm going to get a license plate that says the Tea Party are fuckers and if they say I can't have it then I'll sue Nebraska for viewpoint discrimination)  Jerry Patterson, a son of a confederate veteran, spoke in favor of the license plate by arguing that confederate veterans served honorably in the Civil War, just as he did in Vietnam:
"Not all things in Vietnam were done in a manner that I'm proud of. I served in Vietnam but I'm not proud of what happened. This is history and any time you commemorate history and those who served honorably, be they... the Sons of Confederate Veterans, I think they should be honored.”
Beyond the license plate thing: this is why I hate the word "honor."  Proud of what happened and yet still have served honorably.  Actions you can't be proud of, but done in an honorable way.  I think "honorable" and all its variants should be replaced in that sentence with "obedient," or some word that signifies "did what I was told to do by people with more power than I."  Then again, pretty much every military group in the world seems to call themselves honorable no matter what they're doing, so I'm not sure ethics has anything to do with "honor" now anyway.

Scream 4

Apr. 30th, 2011 06:46 pm
intertribal: (baby got eight more lives)
I saw this earlier in the week.  I enjoyed it.

I haven't seen Scream 2 or 3 (and don't feel any great need to), but Scream is known for being an intelligent, meta-ish slasher horror.  I appreciate Scream's place in horror history, even though it's not on my list of favorite horror movies.  Scream 4 isn't going on that list either, but for slasher fans, it's definitely worth seeing.  It's all kinds of meta, and I loved the final identity of the killer.  Loved it.  It reminded me of one of my stories, but I won't say which one.  Neve Campbell's Sidney and Courteney Cox's Gale are the best part of the franchise - Sidney is older and wiser here (she's about 32) and Gale is jaded and bitchy; Gale's cop husband Dewey is trying to be a responsible adult but really, it's all up to Sidney and Gale.  Dewey is in the land of alpha women, a sea of final girls.  They're the focal point from start to finish, and it's kind of fun to watch these girls/women negotiate - sometimes violently, sometimes collaboratively - where they stand in the women-and-chainsaws pyramid.  Also, Hayden Panettiere's Kirby was surprisingly cool.  The teenagers actually somewhat reminded me of my high school collective.

Recommended.
intertribal: (baby got eight more lives)
Salon writer Laura Miller is all about Greg Mortenson.  Lying about being kidnapped by Taliban is "a bit irrelevant" and besides, he provides "a feeling of comradely motivation and a symbol of plucky American virtue."  Oh, vomitorium, like that girl in Hanna says.  I'm getting a little "not intended to be a factual statement" vibe from this whole thing.  Readers don't react so positively: "He accused real people of being Taliban kidnappers. That's not inspirational."  And "Confusing the Taliban with the people the Taliban are trying to take over and wipe out.  Bad. Bad. Bad. Bad. Bad."  And my favorite, "Sorry, but fabrication for the sake of a moral crusade is how we got stuck in Iraq." 

Hilariously Miller then backpedals out of her essay, so I guess her essay wasn't intended to be a factual statement either.  What are we even doing here?

Also, LOL@Jennifer Weiner: "I don't think writers get to choose the kind of books they write. It's a function of upbringing, education, inclination."  Always nice to see writers blame their choices on things beyond their power.  It's like "I don't control my character!  My character controls me!"

She's angry because Jennifer Egan, who just won the Pulitzer for The Goon Squad, apparently called chick lit "very derivative, banal stuff" - full context: "There was that scandal with the Harvard student who was found to have plagiarized. But she had plagiarized very derivative, banal stuff. This is your big first move? These are your models?... My advice for young female writers would be to shoot high and not cower."  And J. Weiner's all "And there goes my chance to be happy that a lady won the big prize. Thanks, Jenny Egan. You're a model of graciousness."  So on Twitter we now have anger that female writers bring each other down and consolations that commercial fiction and literary fiction are equally good and just write good books, readers will come and of course there's plenty of room to like everything!  Don't worry!  We all have a seat at the table!

On Bookslut, Michael Schaub points out that Weiner's written on her FAQ page, "Somebody actually asked me this at a reading once, at the Powell’s in Portland, which was not the main Powell’s in Portland, because Jennifer Egan was reading the night I was in town and not only is she a critical big deal, she also used to be a model, so which one of us do you think was going to get shunted off to the satellite store?"  Ah, passive aggressive self-deprecation.

And I'm like, well, at least sf/f isn't the only "genre" that has this drama with "literary" fiction.  Good Lord.
intertribal: (baby got eight more lives)
From a Ferretbrain review of Patrick Rothfuss's The Wise Man's Fear (review by Dan Hemmens):
What annoys me about Kvothe is not so much that he's a gratuitous Mary-Sue, but that despite this fact he is taken incredibly seriously by critics. People bitch about how unrealistic it is that everybody fancies Bella Swan [A/N: From the much-maligned Twilight series], about how stupid it is for teenage girls to indulge in a fantasy where powerful supernatural beings are sexually attracted to them. People laugh at characters like Sonea and Auraya [A/N: Heroines written by fantasy writer Trudi Canavan] because they're just magic sparkly princesses with super-speshul magic sparkle powers. But take all of those qualities – hidden magic power, ludicrously expanding skillset, effortless ability to attract the opposite sex despite specifically self-describing as being bad at dealing with them, and slap it on a male character, and suddenly we get the protagonist of one of the most serious, most critically acclaimed fantasy novels of the last decade.

Of course you can't ever really say, for certain, how a book would have been received if you reversed the genders of its author and protagonist, but something tells me that a book about a red-haired girl who plays the lute and becomes the most powerful sorceress who ever lived by the time she's seventeen, and who has a series of exciting sexy encounters with supernatural creatures, would not have been quite so readily inducted into the canon of a genre still very uncertain about its mainstream reputation.
This, by the way, is why I love Ferretbrain.  And have a very low tolerance for reflexive bashing of Twilight.  Some of it, I'm convinced, is straight up fear/disdain of catching girl cooties.  Some of it is under the guise of a "concerned citizen," in this case people who say it's "bad for girls" - it's bad for young girls to idolize unhealthy relationships, but apparently it's totally fine for young boys to idolize unhealthy relationships.  Female wish fulfillment must be guarded very tightly so that it doesn't go down bad paths and stays on a realistic straight-and-narrow, but male wish fulfillment?  Boys will be boys.  Or even better, that's just entertainment!  Or I guess in this case, that's the standard-bearer. 

Boy, when I become famous some day and someone asks me in some well-meaning interview which genre (out of science fiction/fantasy/horror) is the least hospitable to female writers and readers, it's going to be so hard to decide!
intertribal: (when I get what I want)
This article, on film schools teaching screen writers not to write female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man, inspired me to make a list of movies that do pass the Bechdel Test.  Then a theme developed among the movies that I came up with.

Candyman
: Helen and Bernadette. 

Topics of conversation: Their research.  Poverty and housing developments and the way the city is divided up to maintain class segregation.  

Mulholland Drive
: Betty and Rita.

Topics of conversation: Rita's identity.  Betty's auditions.  A car crash, a murder mystery.

Picnic at Hanging Rock: Everyone (there are very few male characters).

Topics of conversation: Each other, the scenery, existentialism, class, disappearing into fucking rocks.

Silent Hill: Rose, Cybil, Dahlia, Christabella.  Arguably Sharon, arguably Alyssa, arguably the Demon.

Topics of conversation: A missing child.  A haunted town.  Keeping the community safe.  Religion.  Demons.  Motherhood.

28 Days Later: Selena and Hannah.

Topics of conversation: Taking drugs to not care about being raped.  The infected.  Survival. 

Suspiria: Suzy and Sarah.

Topics of conversation: Strange developments at the dance school.  The weird teachers.  Dead students.  Their investigation of the mystery.

Yes, in horror movies, to quote one Bechdel Test reviewer, "they have more important things to talk about."  Another point is how frequently women are featured in horror movies, often alongside other women.  I suspect the ratio of women to men ends up being a lot higher in horror movies compared to movies in other genres, even in unlikelier scenarios like Drag Me To Hell (female antagonist, female protagonist, male bystander - a formula that's very common in J- and K-horror), although here I focused on female friendship/partnership. 

To some extent this is as B.S.-y final girl stuff, but as these movies indicate, not always.  Maybe horror filmmakers just like seeing women on the screen.  But seriously, in a world of all-male casts, where are they in horror?  Few and far between.  I think of, like, The Sixth Sense, and The Thing.  And The Sixth Sense just has two male protagonists, but an array of female characters.  2001: A Space OdysseyPredator?  But get ghosts and dark magic involved (as opposed to vicious killer aliens), and it's a woman's game.  Interesting that even for the "masculine" subgenres of horror (aliens, serial killers), the most authoritative movies have female leads: Alien, Silence of the Lambs.

Anyway, I'm sure plenty of people have written about this, but I really haven't read enough "scholarly review" of horror movies.
intertribal: (when I get what I want)
Disclaimer: I'm not suggesting everyone needs to pass the Bechdel Test.  Some of my favorite writers don't - there are no female characters in Flannery O'Connor's The Violent Bear It Away, and I totally loved it.  But, not all books are The Violent Bear It Away or Blood Meridian, and I think the problem I describe below (incorporating only a few token women) is relatively common.

I noticed about a year back that my ensemble-cast novel was really devoid of female voices.  It was so bad that a reader could fairly assume that the handful of female characters I did have (in a sea of men) represented my entire conception of women - mainly because there are women in this world (it is not set on a battlefield in WWII, for example), I just wasn't giving them any roles or responsibilities, as far as the story was concerned.  And yes, a really juvenile part of me was indeed writing Heroine, Bitch, Villainess (I kid you not).  While that sort of characterization can satisfy the Mean Girls/Revenge of the Nerds urge, it's also shallow and devoid of reality, and pretty useless given that I want to discuss gender issues. 

Besides 3D-ing my existing female characters, I needed to add a wider scope of women.  When it comes down to it, they do have ways to exert themselves on the goings-on of the plot, even though they exist in a patriarchal society.  After all, I'm all about depicting the ways people endure/negotiate within a power structure.  So I started the below process of rethinking my cast.  The ratio of male to female characters in the novel is still about 2:1, but it's a lot better than it was - more to the point, my cast is richer and my social system more complete.  Plus I actually made quite a few characters that I enjoy writing.  So, I offer my input/advice/tips. 
  1. Obviously, what you're "supposed" to do is write, simply, about people, and not worry about how it all shakes out, because the characters will sprout organically from the story.  I find, however, that this advice is often used to justify terrible, terrible things, and I don't think it's actually all that helpful if you're working with a novel and trying to fix the problem of token women.  It usually just makes you want to go "well, that's what I'm doing, this is how I roll, lalalala I can't hear you" and give up on the problem, period.  So, while this is always a fine place to start when shaping a cast of characters, it's not enough.  Also, writers make casting mistakes.  I know I do.
  2. If possible, pull a genderswitch.  This didn't work for me in the patriarchal human village.  But it did work outside this village.  For example: originally, I had a main character meet a long-lost father.  But I was stalling out on this idea - it just wasn't provoking anything interesting - so I turned the long-lost father into a long-lost mother.  Hey, presto.  There was nothing essential about this parent being male, and the genderswitch opened up an opportunity to explore new dynamics and show that this other society doesn't function like my patriarchal human village.  I also genderswitched the leader of yet another society, male to female.  And that decision really infused that character with personality and life and distinction.  Almost like she was meant to be female all along.
  3. Existing male characters: do they have women in their lives?  Mothers, sisters, wives, daughters?  Example 1: I got great characters out of developing the wives of my patriarchal village's male leaders - pointing out the various ways they influenced (or did not influence!) their husbands, and the female network of power and communication that they built with each other.  Winter's Bone is a great example of what I mean - the female characters in that movie are all some man's wife/daughter, but they've got this parallel system of power that is absolutely critical to getting things done in their clan (i.e., they're the only ones that can beat up a woman, because that would break the men's honor code.  That's what I mean.  Develop that stuff.).  Example 2: One of my antagonists loses his father as an older teenager, and is an only child.  So I built up his relationship with his mother, the only surviving relative he cares for. That in turn forced me to develop his mother's character - what kind of mother would encourage that type of behavior from her son? - which, in turn, fleshed out my antagonist even more.  Win win.
  4. Existing female characters: do they have women in their lives?  This is what lets you pass the last step of the Bechdel Test.  Often times, the main female character is the only girl in a boy's club, like Beverly in It.  There's nothing wrong with writing a Beverly, but this type of character often precludes other female characters from becoming three-dimensional (c.f. Audra) or existing at all, and also leads to the question: are women only worth talking about when they can be "one of the guys"?  Is there only room for one woman in a story with ten men?  I mean, it leads to questions.  Or the female heroine's mother is dead, so she is surrounded by men and becomes the only female voice in the story.  Clarice from Silence of the Lambs and Ellie from Contact are both female characters raised by their now-dead fathers, working in very male environments.  But Clarice has her female roommate and clearly displays empathy toward Buffalo Bill's female victims.  Contact, however, essentially has Ellie as the only woman in a male universe.  Or, the female heroine has a clique of female friends/followers who are all tokens of some kind and are usually there only to show that the heroine has a social life and is superior to other women.  It's not that any of these scenarios are inherently bad.  But switching then up does let more women into a story.  Example: I gave some of my important female characters female best friends.  It's only appropriate, really, because I've had important female friendships for many years, and the Whispering Corridors series made me realize how important it is to me that I depict strong female relationships in my fiction.  
  5. Develop the extras.  This doesn't mean elevating the female secretary who appears once every six chapters to a major character - it just means make her more than just "the female secretary."  I like to make this harder by making these extras carry some kind of societal implication - ex., my "female secretary" character and her husband are an ideal-type of the young upwardly mobile couple in my human village.  So when they break off from the old church and join the new one, it says something about the changing social dynamics in the village. 
intertribal: (sit down shut up)
This will be longer than my assessment of True Grit, because this one had a way greater emotional impact on me.  Whereas True Grit was like a friendly slap on the back, Black Swan was like a punch in the face.

I thought this wasn't really about ballet at all - I read it as pretty clearly about "the young woman in society."  All the contrary messages that Natalie Portman's character Nina receives - be strong, except your weakness is perfect; be sexual, but then you're a whore; live a little but keep up your obligations; you're sick but how good that you lost weight; if you're the chosen one it means you're great and special but everyone will hate you; be perfect, but lose control; be the White Swan and the Black Swan (and there are only two options!) - are not reserved for ballerinas, let me put it that way.  I thought Portman did a great job exemplifying the uncertainty and awkwardness that often results from living in this pressure cooker.  I really felt for and empathized with her character, which meant I had a strong emotional connection to the movie as a whole.  I don't know if director Darren Aronofsky sort of fell into doing more than he thought he was doing (it sounds like he thought he was making a movie about how women are jealous of each other and back-stabbingly competitive), but I liked the result.  I really enjoyed the ballet scenes, especially the final surreal performance of Swan Lake at the end, but I did ultimately think that ballet was just a medium.  Just like each movie in the South Korean Whispering Corridors series (which fixates on similar topics) uses a different medium to explore the same subjects - ballet, art, choir, pick your poison - and by the way, Whispering Corridors: Wishing Stairs is the ballet movie, and it's pretty good and creepy.

Speaking of creepy, I liked the way they handled the "creepy scenes."  I loved that they didn't pause to explain or dwell on them - lets you sit there in the moment, with Portman's character and the only information she has - but I'm a fan of that kind of thing: weaving the "supernatural" so much into the fabric of the text that you can't differentiate it as supernatural at all, and you're just living in a world where reflections and paintings move on their own.  My favorite effect was definitely the whites of Portman's eyes turning red.

I think any child psychologist and anyone who's read Reviving Ophelia or Ophelia Speaks and such will be able to see each development in the movie coming - for one, all the language of "control" and "perfection" has got to be straight out of some How To Deal With Adolescent Girls handbook, special emphasis on the Eating Disorders and Self-Harm chapters.  Hell, "Perfect" is even an Alanis Morissette song: "Be a good girl/ You gotta try a little harder/ That simply wasn't good enough/ To make us proud."  It's old stuff to me - I was a teenaged girl not too long ago, and I went to a girls' college where I roomed with perfectionist ballerinas, one of whom had a textbook perfect-and-skinny mother as well as an eating disorder - although I grant that I was an over-analytical teenager, but also possessing of perfectionist impulses, especially when it came to grades and pleasing teachers (but not being a teacher's pet! it's a delicate balance), keenly aware of judgment and competition, and highly critical/hateful of my appearance and body.  Another of my roommates (not the ballerina) and I used to rock out to Courtney Love (she was the one who first recommended this movie to me).  This movie didn't "teach me" anything, although having it all bundled together and thrown in my face was a fairly exhausting experience.  I don't know how much of it is "old stuff" to people who are not so close to the issue, though, so for that reason I'm glad it's getting good reviews and the theater was packed with confused people laughing nervously during the masturbation scenes.  Or maybe people are aware, but think "well, not my daughter"?  Yeah, I've got news for you, folks.

intertribal: (strum strum)
I just watched this on Netflix Watch Instantly, and holy shit: how have I not seen this movie before?


Basic plot: People are getting evicted from their apartments in the ghetto so that the buildings can be torn down and turned into offices.  Fool, age 13, is coaxed to help his older sister's boyfriend and another burglar break into the house owned by the apartments' shitty landlords, since apparently they have a stash of gold in there.  Well, plan doesn't go so well because it turns out the people inside the house - Mr. and Mrs. Robeson - are batshit psycho murderers.  The two adult burglars end up dead quickly and Fool is trapped in the best-secured house in the neighborhood with the Robesons, their daughter Alice (who has survived because she sees no evil, hears no evil, speaks no evil), a whole bunch of mutilated, enslaved, and cannibalized People Under The Stairs, and a vicious but beloved Rottweiler. 

It's a sort of uniquely childish nightmare, the "puzzle house" that you can't get out of, and the action/chase sequences are very much that kind of hysterical, booby-trap-laden adventure that amusement parks try and fail to replicate.  And yet adventure is the wrong word, because even though it's a lot of fun to watch, the danger posed to the kids always seems real and shocking.  They actually do kill one child (not one of the main two).  Fool tells Alice, "Your father is one sick mutha.  And your mother is one sick mutha too."  And vice versa: these are not the kids from Jumanji.  By the end both Fool and Alice are ready to bash some brains in.  Are there plot holes and inconsistencies?  Quite frankly, this is a movie in which I neither noticed nor gave a fuck.

So just in that basic respect, the movie is already a success.  But what really makes this movie awesome is everything going on conceptually.  The big one, the most powerful and obvious one, is race and class.  First off, the movie sets you very firmly in the POV of the black, urban, and poor.  Period.  And that in and of itself is worth noting.  Visually, most of the movie is essentially two upper-middle class white adults screaming at and trying to kill a black child.  But of course, not any adults and not any child - the adults are already effectively destroying the child's neighborhood, with the excuse that it isn't a real (white, well-behaved) neighborhood anyway.  When the (entirely white) police are called to the Robesons' mansion to investigate child abuse claims, they're going in assuming that it's a bogus charge and barely investigate anything, while Mrs. Robeson plies them with pithy politeness and coffee.  At one point Mrs. Robeson says something about, "It's almost as if the criminals have the run of the neighborhood, and we're trapped inside."  Of course not only hugely ironic but a typical ridiculous white-flight sentiment.  And all this just escalates and escalates and escalates.  

But then on top of that you have the religious zealotry of the Robesons - "may he burn in hell" is their favorite phrase, it seems - and their abuse of Alice, who's expected to be a pure and perfect girl-child.  You first see her in a turn-of-the-century girly, ribboned dress, terrified because she's lost her dinner fork.  Mrs. Robeson shoves her in boiling water to keep her clean and Mr. Robeson - who has this psycho leather dominatrix war armor thing - is in charge of corporal punishment, and it's strongly implied that he will eventually (if he doesn't already) start sexually abusing Alice.  When the Robesons figure out that Alice has been helping Fool they call her a whore, while Mr. Robeson says "they did it, I know it!"  Because of course he owns Alice's sexuality.  This too, escalates and escalates and escalates.

I would never expect to see all of this in ANY horror movie, let alone a 1991 Wes Craven movie that seems targeted to kids.  Not only is this one hell of an action-horror, but it's one hell of a piece of social-horror too.  Thought went into this.  And I'll just come right out and say it: more horror movies need to be made like The People Under the Stairs.
intertribal: (can't look)
This is a 2007 video that [livejournal.com profile] sockkpuppett (Luminosity) and [livejournal.com profile] sisabet made for Vividcon - the theme is the depiction of women in Supernatural, and the song they used is "Violet" by Hole (which should tell you in what direction the video's going).  It's extremely graphic - but of course this was all on the CW - and potentially triggery.  It's called "Women's Work."


As I don't watch Supernatural, I defer to [livejournal.com profile] cofax7 for some extra words: "I've been aware for the entire time I've watched the show that there were problems with the presentation of women, but this vid really provides the ammunition for that argument. Because even if the male deaths total the same number (which I don't know), the fact is that they are filmed entirely differently: they are clothed, the camera doesn't linger on them, they're not swimming, in bed, in bedclothes, bathing. Women in peril are sexy, and in a different way than the Winchesters in peril. Dean on his knees is sexy not because he is in peril, but because we know he's going to get up and kick ass in just a moment, because the show has identified him as the Hero. Whereas none of the women have that protection in the text."  More commentary on [livejournal.com profile] sisabet's LJ here.
intertribal: (can't look)
I know, I only randomly do Friday links.  That doesn't mean they are not still links on a Friday.  Also, I changed my layout!
  • The wonderful Abigail Nussbaum writes about the TV show Justified.  I don't watch it, although it seems like my kind of thing.  I don't know, you can only have so many FX gritty crime shows in your life.  And by "so many" I mean one.  Nevertheless, the review itself is, like all of her commentary, delicious:
    Justified pokes and prods at its characters' concept of masculinity, but it leaves Raylan's alone.  This has the unfortunate consequence of suggesting that Raylan's is the true masculinity, the one to which all other men can merely aspire--unfortunate because Raylan's version of manhood is so very tenuous, based on a fictional construct probably garnered from TV shows, rooted in a culture a hundred years gone to which he has no personal connection... and quite obviously arrived at due to his burning desire to leave Kentucky and Arlo Givens in his rearview mirror. As I've said, Raylan often acts as the silent witness to other men's struggles with their manhood, only coming out of his shell when the season's overarching plot, involving the Crowders and his father, heats up.  It's only in these scenes that we see Raylan's polite exterior crack, and only in his interactions with Arlo that he comes close to earning Winona's characterization of his as the angriest man she's known.  But it's also in these scenes that the cowboy persona is most tamped down, so that the question of Raylan's anger and his relationship to violence is never really addressed.
  • Elizabeth Tamny makes a remarkable discovery about the way Hollywood portrays female writers: "It seems like there is this trope of the female author just transferring (painful events from) her life to paper. Bing bang boom. Writing!"  Mark Athitakis comments: "It may be that male writers on screen tend to be presented as Important Authors while female writers are presented as "Sad People Who Can Only Manage Their Heartache by Getting It Down on Paper.""
  • My friend Yue wants to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter like so bad, dude (article is not G-chat convo with Yue).  Although NGL, that Forbidden Journey rollercoaster sounds cool.
K, that's all I got.  Sorry, and have a good weekend.
intertribal: (stu and tatum; scream)
I don't know who this commentator is (other than the guy that takes over for espn3 in the evening in Paris), but this is what happens when you're commentating on a match you don't care about and you're all alone in the booth.

First we have some off-topic comments in an attempt to keep amused [he also talked about the plight of pigeons wanting to eat on the court and being denied, but I missed that one]:

"... she should go to drama school after she quits tennis.  She's certainly pretty enough.  [Long silence]  Anyway, first game of the third set..."

"And Wozniak can't get her hairdo where she wants it. [...] All her hair's come completely out of her bun now, so she'll have to put up with it flapping around her back. [...] Must be a distraction if you're worried about what to do with your hair, but maybe she can put it out of her mind. [...] Very good service game from Wozniak, whether her hair is doing what she wants or not."

Add some nice dry disdain:

"Well, that was a pretty horrendous backhand."

"Oh, she's gonna try a practice shot.  'Oh, that's how you do it.'  Just a reminder.  She's only hit about 5 million in her life."

And finally we reach straight-up pessimism:

"Poor mum.  Oh dear.  She must have been through this so many times.  Her daughter is 28 years old and has been on the tour forever and played so many matches like this.  It's all too much for the Russian.  I don't know if it's all too much for Mrs. Dementieva in the stands, but her daughter is suffering."

"A sudden rush of double faults in her last service games, but what can she do now."

In the end, disturbing croaking sounds begin:

"Excuse me, my voice is going."

At least he doesn't say "that's a fault" after every serve that doesn't go in, as if we can neither see the match nor hear the linesperson squawk.

ETA: His name's Richard Evans!  And he thinks it's time for a little bit of dinner and a glass of wine, so forgive him if he says goodnight!  Yeah, goodnight, Richard Evans.  You take care.
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