Sunday, December 23, 2018

Christmas Movies, A Ranking

5. Gremlins. As a kid, it was good to learn the importance of following arbitrary, nonsensical* bullshit rules that prevented something terrible from happening. (*Can we talk about "Don't feed them after midninght?" What always bothered me was, exactly how long after midnight do you have to wait to feed them? Technically, even breakfast is "after midnight" and yet that seemed to be an acceptable feeding time.

4. The Holiday, except minus Jack Black and Jude Law, and Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz's characters fall in love.

3. The first half of Home Alone, up until the bell tolls and the torture porn begins.

2. Scrooged, starring Bill Murray and Karen Allen. I think about A Christmas Carol a lot throughout my life and, particularly, the moments that are, or seem to be, turning points in a person's life.

1. Carol, starring Cate Blanchett  and Rooney Mara. Need I say more?

Although I watch them almost every holiday season, I wouldn't place A Christmas Story, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, or Love Actually in my top five list.

A Christmas Story is cute in some ways, for what it is, but also annoying in that it widely seems to be viewed as a universal Christmas story when it hardly is. Regarding Christmas Vacation, Clark Griswold is an unlikeable man with an anger management problem who forces his concept of the "ideal" family experiences, such as vacations and holidays, onto his family instead of consulting them about what they actually want. He'd also cheat on his wife in a hot second if he could get away with it.

I used to like Love Actually a lot until I realized it was primarily about men's boners and straight people. And, it's super shitty to "romantically" tell your best friend's spouse that you're in love with them.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Rest In Peace, Penny

Actor and director Penny Marshall has died, at age 75.

In addition to starring in Laverne & Shirley, she directed a number of classic films, including one of my all-time faves, A League of Their Own.  As I tweeted yesterday, I first saw the movie at a slumber party circa 1993. We liked it so much, we immediately rewound the VHS tape and rewatched it.

For me, and I suspect the other girls at the party, it was the first time I remember a film entirely about girls and women. While baseball flick The Sandlot was released around the same time as League, and is probably also considered a classic by many, the ultimate insult that the boys in Sandlot hurled at each other was to play ball "like a girl." At the time, I laughed along with the movie theater audience at that crack, most likely internalizing the misogyny in the "joke" even though I was a girl athlete myself. I was better than most of the boys in my neighborhood ballgames and thought, somehow, that made me an Exceptional Girl, even as I learned over the years, repeatedly, that it didn't mean that at all and, in some cases, only made boys and men hate me more.

A League of Their Own, on the other hand, centered the women ballplayers, portraying their detractors ("girls can't play ball") and scolds ("A lady reveals nothing!") as ridiculous, inviting us to empathize with the athletes. The film takes them seriously as athletes, at least as seriously as they take themselves as athletes, and over the course of that first season shows people across the country doing so, as well.

I have always wished Marshall could have portrayed queer relationships in the movie, as these most certainly existed in reality among some of the women, but I understand why she didn't or felt that she couldn't, even in the early 1990s. (Although, it's obvious that Mae and Doris were together).

I will be forever grateful to Penny Marshall for her gifts to the TV/film industry, most especially for A League of Their Own.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

A Journey of Artistic Comrades

Over at Shakesville, I wrote about #MeToo and the shitty responses men so often offer when they're accused:
"It's always a strange thing when men use rape culture tropes within their shitty #MeToo responses, but the notion that an abuser and a target are equally-witting conspirators in the target's debasement has long been one of rape culture's most enduring deceptions. When a response uses a trope, nonetheless, it at least demonstrates which crowd the accused is playing to - those who don't question the trope.

But here's a fun fact you won't see in any famous man's sorry-not-sorry-if-anyone-was-hurt letter:

Rape culture exists, in part, to grant ugly, powerful old dudes sexual access to young attractive people under the lie that such men are hot, sexually-desirable studs, rather than just possessive of some financial, physical, emotional, professional, and/or cultural power over their targets. And, a target's accommodation to this reality the man perceives as willingness (unless they're of the type that gets off on the unwillingness, which many are), when it's really just a need to exist within the parameters of whatever rape culture shithole the man has power."
Read the whole thing!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Biden, Bernie, and Russia

In the purported feminist revival we're in, I continue to contemplate what it means that Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders lead polls among Democrats of possible 2020 presidential candidates, with newcomer (to the national stage) Beto O'Rourke now coming in right behind them in third place.

Biden has done very poorly in previous presidential campaigns (1998 and 2008), but I think his recent popularity is due largely to name recognition, the effect of riding President Obama's coattails as Democrats continue to mourn the end of that presidency, and the fact that the Overton Window of what an acceptable candidate is has shifted quite far in the age of Trump.  White men who merely quietly rape people and then half-ass apologize, as opposed to brag about it, are practically thrown ticker tape parades these days.

Bernie and Beto, like Biden, have a lot of name recognition right now, with Bernie losing to Hillary in 2016 and Beto losing a high-profile Senate race in Texas to the magnificently-unlikeable Ted Cruz.

What winners!

Plus, even those on the left side of the political spectrum can be racist and sexist. For many people who are not, they will support a white man simply because they are resigned to thinking that a woman/person of color cannot ever win because "everyone else" is still too racist and sexist to vote for anyone but a white man.

But, aside from these factors, I'm troubled by Biden because, as Melissa notes in an article about Biden's cocky comments about his qualification to be president, he "was vice-president while a foreign adversary stole our fucking election."  For that reason alone, his national security credibility is, or should be, severely lacking.

With respect to Bernie, we know that Russia gave his campaign an assist against Hillary Clinton. Are they going to do so again,this time against other Democrat candidates, while getting further assists from his most hard-core, rabid online supporters?

The mainstream media should make it extremely awkward, to say the least, if Bernie and Biden in particular fail to address the integrity of our elections during their campaigns (assuming they both run).

And, given both men's relatively popularity, it seems that more Democrats need to fully understand that the Mueller investigation is less about removing Trump because he's a terrible person (which he is) and more because he and/or his campaign agents likely conspired with a foreign government to undermine our political system.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Just When I Think I Can't Get More Gay

The Guardian has to go and highlight the Literary Review's bad erotic writing shortlist. Funnily enough, the shortlist is entirely comprised of male writers and wow.

[content note: sexual assault]

I know writers are, usually, in theory writing from fictional characters' perspective but it's also hard not to think these snippets are at least somewhat of a glimpse into the writers' headspace about male-female sexual relations, particularly the dude who wrote about the dude who was doing what sounds like raping a woman in her sleep while he simultaneously feared being "completely emptied out" by her "sex" and the dude who wrote about the woman who became, from her perspective (which is the best part), "an empty vessel for what feels like disembodied consciousness" while having sex with a man.

That's .... a lot to unpack.

Anyway, if you read the article, "I cannot caution you strongly enough" that you might come across phrases like "pleasure cave."

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Social Justice Writing and the Decline of Blogging

I'm not going to link to the article I'm referencing today, but I miss the heyday of blogging.

Twitter is much more popular now than blogging and I sometimes wonder how that platform has changed people's conception of what social justice writing is or should be. I think many people do Twitter threads well, in terms of fleshing out thoughts in ways more similar to longform.

Twitter has increased the character count and has made it easier for users to thread their Tweets into a continuous "longform" piece if they wish. Although, I find using that feature to be much clunkier with my usual writing process where I move words and sentences around, compared to the Blogger interface that is essentially a giant text field. For instance, I wrote about this topic on Twitter this morning as well (ironically?) - the piece for Blogger was going to be exactly the same, but even as I copy-pasted the Twitter thread to Blogger, I realized right away that it read choppily and I had additional thoughts to insert.

Anyway, on Twitter, I also see a lot of social justice "dunking" where the aim is to humiliate someone for being so "self-evidently" wrong that it doesn't warrant explanation. I've had run-ins with some serious assholes, as I've sometimes written about here where it's been clear folks were using me as a prop to score cool points to their followings.

Not that this kind of thing didn't happen during the blogging years of the aughts. I remember a lot of blog wars and much of the bully behavior and profile is similar. But, engaging with people on Twitter, particularly in a "dunk" context, gets not worth it fast. Unlike with comment moderation at a website, any fucken rando can chime in to the convo. And, even if you block assholes, you know their comment is still "there" on Twitter, for other people to engage with and view.

Or, you see a bunch of people vehemently agreeing with the dunk, but no one really explains.... why.  This phenomenon probably happens more on Twitter than on blogging platforms, because it more coincides with what Twitter was for. It was designed for the hot, short opinion.

Dunking has its role, I suppose, perhaps mostly if/when users are building solidarity around someone else being wrong/stupid/bad.

But, its purpose and impact on audiences compared to analysis is quite different. With respect to the article in question that I read yesterday, it was a longform piece that read like the author thought social justice writing should be a series of "dunks" and social justice lingo with almost zero analysis.

Part of this, too, might be attributable to a lot of gender studies/social justice writing in academia being inaccessible to many lay audiences - physically, financially, and/or linguistically. For instance, I read a recent journal article, and had to do so 5 times before *I think* I understood it.

It read as though it was written *for* other academics within the same bubble and sphere who already know the zillion other articles already written about the topic at hand, as well as the obscure terminology, rather than for the masses.

Nonetheless, the concepts within academic articles often flow onto Twitter and, like a modern version of the game "telephone," are often warped beyond what the author meant or intended.

So, people think they know what something means, but their understanding comes from a "dunk" or from someone else's (or their own) misreading. And concurrent with these dynamics are bots, deliberate ratfucking, and bad actors.

Despite the decline of blogging, I've also kept up my blog for more than a decade, for these (and other) reasons, including that I just get different things out of each platform.

UPDATE: Okay, the editor-in-chief of the article that inspired this post has publicly addressed the, um, problematic article. So, it's this.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Deep Thought on Aliens

The entire unit in the movie Aliens is queer. I don't make the rules, I just call it like I see it.

Ripley and the gang
Where do I start?

First, there's Ripley the badass and her sensible haircut,tiny jacket, and gray jumpsuit, obviously. Then, there's the buff woman in the red bandana and huge gun who is so butch she can only be described as homoerotically leaning into that dude wearing matching camo. On the other side of her, is the awkward dude in vest and flannel with his hands over his groin, for whatever reason.

All in all, these folks look like they could kick some alien ass and/or break into song and dance about it at any moment.

That's my deep thought today about a movie that's approximately three decades old.

I've now watched Prometheus, Alien: Covenant, Alien, and Aliens and, in addition to having some very disturbing dreams as of late, each movie thus far is a slight variation of someone in charge making a really bad decision to go to that fucken planet. Also, Cylons.