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Twilight: Contrived romance, obedience, and bad acting

June 25, 2010

I’ve moved! Please click here to view this post.

My treacherous, yet noble Summer endeavor.

June 19, 2010

Earlier today, I hesitantly entered my local corporate bookstore. Head down, I marched steadfastly to my destination, knocking over book displays and peasants alike. Eyes alight with fear, I carefully looked over the plethora of various editions of my destination. I picked up the least fearful publication, not to burn it, but to purchase it. With book in hand, I dropped to my knees, raised my fists to the heavens, and screamed in protest, why… why… knowing all the while that I must fulfill my destiny. Tears in my eyes and burden in my heart, I wandered to the cashier and purchased my shame for $7.46, leaving the store feeling empty and hopeless.

The book I purchased was, in fact, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.

I sincerely apologize if, upon learning this, you immediately Googled how to tie a noose. I beg you not to kill yourself, for my intentions on reading this drivel are not pure. I will dive in this book highlighter in hand so that I may do what others have been too afraid to do: I will rip this series apart, page by page, in order to support my previous claims that this series is damaging the mind of its young, impressionable fangirls, and thus, the whole of our precarious society.

I plan to embark on my journey tonight and I will place a bucket at my side for the vomiting that will likely occur. I urge you to stay tuned for my inevitable hatred-filled first impressions.

Racial Intersectionality in The Karate Kid

June 16, 2010

What did I tell you? Second post in a week. Awesome. Well, this week is also my vacation and the only thing I can think to do with myself is clean or watch tv, neither of which sound appealing to me at the moment. Later today if I have time, I plan to make a page clarifying some of the feminist theories I’m using, so check that out once it exists.

It all started when my mother and I were discussing what to do on said vacation. She told me that whatever we did on Tuesday would probably just be us because everyone else was busy. After we thought of a few options, I said, “Well why don’t we go see the new Karate Kid movie?” There was a short pause, and she said, “You would go see that with me??” knowing that I generally don’t spend money on films that aren’t going to be nominated for several Oscars because I’m just a snob like that.

My mother’s love for Jackie Chan falls properly into the context of my family’s known trait for completely random obsessions and addictions. It all started with the film Shanghai Noon followed shortly by Rush Hour 2. During the time that my mother read Jackie Chan’s biography, I am Jackie Chan (which rested on our fireplace mantle like a shrine for many months), and rented all of his movies from the library, my sister, who worked at the library, was renting all of Johnny Depp’s films, an addiction which began with Pirates of the Caribbean (which I saw in theaters seven times). I, at the time, was busy cutting John Mayer’s face out of every magazine I could find in order to tape them all over everything I owned while simultaneously making it my goal in life to listen to all three of his albums every single day. And I did, every day, for over two years. Today, my mom makes dog treats, I have fallen into the unfortunate vice-like grip of World of Warcraft, and I have no idea what my sister does. This probably means that her current obsession is so horrid and grotesque that she cannot share it with us. I speculate that she may have begun writing Twilight fanfic.

With that context in mind, I hope you now understand how I ended up seeing The Karate Kid. Being a fan of the original film and not understanding the desire to remake it, I had incredibly low expectations for the film. Coupled with the fact that it’s a big fancy summer release and it’s two and a half hours long, I was dreading seeing it just a little. Lucky for me, I found it to be a very entertaining film, albeit a little too tear-jerking, with an interesting commentary on race. To simplify it, I’ll make a list of the things I liked and didn’t like about the film.

Dislikes:

  • Women were underrepresented. There were two female leads: one was the mom, and one was the love interest. For a film that I feel does a lot for helping the misrepresentations of race in media, it certainly did nothing for gender. It furthers the unfortunate idea in media that women are identified solely by their relationships to men. Sigh.
  • Dre (Jaden Smith) and Meiying (Wenwen Han), his love interest, were 12 and there was a bit too much sexual tension between them for my comfort. In one scene, Meiying danced to “Poker Face” by Lady Gaga for Dre. It was awkward.
  • Jackie Chan didn’t fight enough. I left the film wanting to watch Drunken Master (see clip below for awesomeness). I know he’s over 50 now, has broken every bone in his body, and Mr. Miyagi didn’t fight much in the original either, but as a “Jackie Chan movie,” I expected a little more from him.

Likes:

  • I know the setting is China, but this is the first film I’ve seen with no white lead characters. One white kid had a few lines in a few scenes and that was it. I know the Tyler Perry movies are like this, but they are also marketed to African Americans. This film, however, I didn’t feel was marketed to anyone but kids in general.
  • Dre cries when he gets hurt like little boys should. I see too many movies and too many real life situations where boys are told not to cry. This idea of crying being somehow related to femininity and thus opposing masculinity is ridiculous and mentally damaging to children.
  • Jaden Smith is so gosh darn adorable. Any time he did anything, I was all, “AWH SO CUTE.”

So back to that stuff on race I was talking about. The advancement of equality in gender and race is often split between the ideas of assimilation and differentiation. Assimilation means we strive to become a raceless, genderless culture. We should ignore both race and gender in order to see everyone as individuals and thus equals. Differentiation implies that we should embrace the differences while still striving for equality. Both ideas have goods and bads about them, but I find it’s most helpful to choose whichever one benefits your argument most because it’s impossible to tell which one will really advance the cause of equality more.

In terms of assimilation and blindness of race, I felt the Karate Kid was a success. Although race was involved in the movie, it wasn’t what the movie was overtly about. This is a pretty big thing because Dre and his mother being black was really a powerful stride away from the common stereotypes of African Americans in film. We commonly see young African American men in plots involving the aspiration of good, succeeding in a white-dominated culture, while he encounters the pull of evil, involving the crime-ridden “streets.” Additionally, the interracial relationship between Dre and Meiying was a pretty empowering image of the future of racial intersectionality. Overall, I feel that Dre is an adequate symbol for the next generation of film involving the demise of damaging African American stereotypes.

With that in mind, stealing my friend Brandon’s movie rating scale, I give The Karate Kid an A-.

On a final note, I didn’t know that Tuesdays were cheap days, so I may start seeing more movies so I can rate more pop-culture-relevant things.

You have a penny.

June 14, 2010

Note: I know I haven’t posted in 8 million years, but it’s finally summer, and I’m not working 55 hours a week and going to school full time, so I’ll have more time to write. I plan to make a weekly top 5 or something of the sort and start organizing all of my blogrific ideas. Now for the post…

I don’t talk about religion very often because I find people’s reactions to my viewpoints to be less than accepting. Even agnostics find my views dismal. Many people don’t want to hear about my views, and some find them offensive. I am often told I’m going to Hell, or that whoever I’m speaking with feels sorry for my lack of ability to possess any kind of spirituality. I agree, it is probably sad to those who thrive so much on their religion, but they fail to recognize that religion simply plays no role in my life whatsoever, and I am fulfilled without it.  So I offer here my commentary on my lack of religion and lack of understanding religion and, using a clever analogy, why this is so.

First, I must declare that I am an atheist, however, I go beyond the simple tenets of atheism to adopting a philosophy called absurdism, which is often confused with nihilism. Nihilism states that there is no meaning or value in life and that everything is chaos. Absurdism states that making any kind of statement as to the meaning of life is absurd for one reason or another. In short, a nihilist would say, “There is nothing,” and an absurdist would respond, “I don’t care that there is nothing.”

Here is a notated analogy of my understanding of religion…

You have a penny (1).

In having a penny, you inherently hold an opinion as to the value of that penny. You either believe that a penny, being the smallest unit of currency in the U.S., is so close to nothing that it is worthless and will not benefit you or anybody else in any way (2), or you believe that a penny, being the smallest unit of currency in the U.S., must in some way hold value because without it, the $100 bill cannot exist. In addition to this, you may also believe that your penny holds some kind of value and may benefit you, possibly if you want to pay for your large Diet Coke at McDonald’s with exact change, avoiding breaking a second dollar for the $1.07 charge (3). Statistically speaking, more people believe the latter than the former (in terms of the analogy).

So, having established this value of your penny, you probably also have an opinion of how that penny came to be in your possession. You may believe that you earned it (4), or that it was given to you (5), or you simply have no concept of the acquisition of your penny (6), among other beliefs.

Unfortunately, there must come a time where you will lose your penny. At the loss of your penny, you may believe one of several things.

You may believe that your penny’s location in its eternity away from you is determined by whether it landed heads or tails side up (7). If it landed heads side up, you believe your penny is picked up by a coin collector and stashed safely in his book of pennies, atop some shelf in his den. If it landed tails side up, you believe that it may have accidentally been thrown away, and is now in a landfill, accompanied by other worthless, discarded materials, never to be of value again (8).

You may believe that it doesn’t matter where your penny is now, but that it served its utmost capacity to benefit you while you had it, and that its time with you was important (9). Possibly in addition to this belief, you believe that your penny was at a bank for a short time with many other pennies, but is now in the possession of someone else (10).

You may believe that your penny still exists somewhere, but that you acknowledge that it can be in one of many, many other places. You strive to learn about these possibilities and accept some, but not all, of these possibilities as your own personal beliefs (11).

You may believe that, through inaction, your penny is on its path and, being away from you, is one step closer to its destiny of becoming a $100 bill (12). Similarly, you may believe that action, such as obedience to the state by claiming it in your taxes, guides your penny to its destiny (13).

You may believe that your penny is closer to being in that guy’s coin collection if it is used in the exchange of marijuana (14).

Here is the notation:

1) Life; 2) Non-believers; 3) Believers; 4) Eastern belief; 5) Western belief; 6) No belief; 7) Life of good vs. life of evil; 8 ) Christianity; 9) Buddhism; 10) Hinduism (or any other religion with the belief of reincarnation); 11) Unitarian Universalism; 12) Daoism; 13) Confucianism; 14) Rastafarianism.

I would like to conclude this entry by letting you know that the only way I can understand religion is by relating it to something I know a lot about, in this case money. I took a class on religion and failed it miserably. If you too have this problem of being unable to comprehend religion, I hope this analogy helps you. If you perfectly understand religion and possibly participate in an organized religion of your own, then you’re probably pretty mad at me right now, and that’s okay with me.

Is Kick Ass’s Hit Girl empowering or immoral?

April 29, 2010

I loved Kick Ass and I dare say it is the best film I’ve seen all year, and I can say for certain I have never seen anything like this film before. I went into the theater expecting a cross between Spiderman and Napoleon Dynamite, but I left with my head spinning about what I had just seen.

Here’s a preview to refresh your memory because I know the film wasn’t well advertised:

A short synopsis if you didn’t get the trailer: Kick-Ass is a comic-book based film about a teen from a corrupt, down-trodden New York wanting to fight crime because no one else will. After effectively getting his ass kicked, his bones get reinforced so that he is able to take more of a beating than usual. He realizes he has become a spectacle and a commodity and he doesn’t really fight crime so much as stand for a symbol of what he feels his generation should be: a general failure, but with good intentions. The real heroes in the film however, were Big Daddy and Hit Girl, a crime-fighting father and daughter betrayed by their society and going beyond good intentions to Tarantino-style murder every criminal in town. The film is gory, graphic, violent, and, most of all, refreshing.

My overall impression of Kick Ass is that I was delighted that a movie not necessarily glorified violence in our culture, but elaborated that my generation isn’t as crappy as everyone says it is. I felt it accurately represented the attitudes and capabilities of teens today. Kick Ass/Dave (Aaron Johnson) as a character better exemplified the postmodern idea that intention can create awareness and inspire action even though he couldn’t really do much physically.  My critique of the film isn’t the topic, though.

When I came home and looked up reviews, I found that Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz), the real star of the film, was to my surprise, not well received. So I’ll present the sides of the argument to me based on my initial opinions of her character versus what I learned critics thought.

I would also like to add that this is the first good film Nicholas Cage has done since Adaptation.

Empowering:

Hit Girl is the most badass eleven year old girl ever portrayed in a film. She murders the scum of the city in cold blood with the accuracy and efficiency of a trained assassin. I found her character to be empowering and unique: finally a voice that was not a damsel in distress, a pretty little princess looking for love and affection. She wasn’t even a so-called ‘tom-boy,’ because even little boys wouldn’t do what she could do.  I was happy to see such a figure portrayed on screen because it validated the nerdy 14 year-old girl I used to be, hungry for anything involving violence or Lord of the Rings. I then realized, however, that 14 year-old me wouldn’t have been able to see this film because it is rated R, and my mother strictly prohibited seeing such things. So I started to think… Who does Hit Girl empower? What’s her target audience? She may be an alternative to Snow White, but she is an alternative the demographic of which won’t be able to see for another half decade. Then I considered that maybe she does exist to vindicate those of us who wished we  had stronger peers in our media when we were younger, so that we feel better about the capabilities and expectations of the next generation. What it comes down to is the fact that I was glad such a unique character was in this film and that she was so… awesome, but then I consider that she’s a little kid perpetrating the violence we like to keep the children away from, which brings me the other side of the argument.

Immoral:

Was it really responsible or moral of the creators of this film to show a child stripped of her innocence fighting a battle she should have no involvement with? The thought of child abuse makes us uncomfortable, but the concept of a child fighting back is just unheard of. Putting the concepts of innocence and violence into one very small character is threatening to what we conceive as a culture of the boundaries of media. A character Marcus (Omari Hardwick) even states when speaking to Damon Macready/Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage) that he is stealing her innocence and her childhood and that is not his right as a father.  In addition to this, although it is subtle, Big Daddy manipulates his daughter into this life by convincing her it is a necessity to kill. Mindy/Hit Girl responds to it the way any child would: she wants to make her father proud of her. Her father puts her life in danger for a personal vendetta he has with the corrupt forces of the city, personified in the character Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong).

The debate in a nutshell is the idea that Hit Girl and her corresponding societal counterparts are either a unique, capable voice often unheard in our society which Kick-Ass manages to proclaim, or that adulterizing a little girl so that she becomes excessively violent is simply the most immoral thing a film can do.

I’m still undecided. What do you think? Even if you haven’t seen the film or read the comic book, what are your impressions? I have yet to read the comic books (because I can’t find a version of the TPB that doesn’t say “NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE,” which I hate), but maybe when I do, I’ll understand the intentions of the creators a bit more and have a more satisfying conclusion about this.

Why Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” is a long advertisement for violence against women.

April 9, 2010

I am aware Lady Gaga is batshit insane. I know that she is purposefully controversial. But unlike those before her who tried to shake the status quo (Madonna and Marilyn Manson come to mind), Lady Gaga comes off looking like a corporate stooge for industries who are giving her appealing demographic exactly what they want. Her video, “Telephone,” a supposed homage to Quentin Tarantino films, miraculously manages to ruin my mood every time I see it for its grotesque amount of advertising and female objectification. It is one long commercial that denounces women and convinces me there is no hope for pop culture. The following entry is everything I find horribly wrong with “Telephone,” an inspired reaction brought about by bjulman.

From a feminist perspective, “Telephone” makes me want to vomit, so I’ll go ahead and describe the events of the video from my perspective. In the first scene, Gaga strolls through her new domain and passes by women staring into the audience with lustful eyes and doing naughty things to their jail bars, because that’s the only barrier stopping them from having their wild, passionate way with you, the easily fooled audience member. Then, the similarly exposed female prison guards shove Gaga into the jail cell, and rape-style rip her clothes off of her while she fights them, then immediately gets up to expose her entirely naked body to the camera minus her head being in the shot. In the next scene, Gaga is in chains. A girl kisses her, then the set changes and two women are fighting. She gets a call from Beyonce, there’s a dance scene with split-second crotch- and boob-shots, and the video changes direction. Beyonce makes Gaga sexually eat a phallic-shaped sandwich. Despite the ensuing plot being boring and stupid, both Gaga and Beyonce appear to have makeup that implies they are dolls. Gaga is seen in the kitchen with a see-through apron and fully-clothed men dance around her. She poisons a bunch of people and they die and so does a dog for no apparent reason. There’s another dance scene and some bad acting takes place and then something miraculous happens: the video ends, and none of us ever have to watch it again.

So, let’s analyze. I’ll start by presenting some theories to you about the objectification of women. To put it simply, you cannot empathize with an object. If you break a pencil, you won’t be too upset. If you break your little brother’s leg, you would probably be upset. This is because you have empathy for your brother and not your pencil. Your brother is a person, your pencil is an object. Rape and violence against women is perpetuated by the constant objectification of women within the media. When a shot of a woman’s breasts or crotch is shown and not her face, it is objectifying her because her mind is no longer connected with her body. Without mind, we become objects. For those of you with a skepticism for feminism and say that you are not so easily convinced of this, I propose that you observe this in the media from now on: how often women’s body parts are shown in pictures without their faces trying to advertise a product. Open a magazine, watch a few commercials, it’s all riddled with this stuff. When a person’s mind is constantly berated with subliminal messages (trust me, they work) that sexy bodies have no minds, those who are capable of rape and violence perform it. “Telephone” is filled with split-second shots of various sexualized body parts of nameless, faceless, mindless women meant for your enjoyment. These women, acting as objects, expose their bodies for the sake of a sexuality meant to advertise the massive sponsorship within the video.

Before I get to my rant on advertising, let me compare “Telephone” to another recent music video, “Window Seat” by Erykah Badu, also presented to me by bjulman. Both videos incorporate nudity, but the message of the nudity in each video differs. Gaga acts like a thing, Badu acts like a person. Gaga is acting like a zoo creature, appeasing the masses by being “unique” because that’s what’s in right now. Badu strips naked publicly to point out that women’s bodies, especially African American women’s bodies, is a downright offense to be exposed in public. No one, of course, has problems with watching naked white girls in a fake jail hump their jail bars and dance around in metal-studded bikinis. Badu owns her body and controls the action of the video. She is not an object, but an artist strongly proclaiming her position on an issue of the oppression of African American women in today’s society.

After watching “Telephone,” I think I want to go buy a Virgin Mobile phone while drinking a Diet Coke, then take pictures of it with a Polaroid and scan them to put them on my PlentyofFish profile. I understand artists need corporate sponsorship to make money, but this wasn’t cleverly or artistically disguised. It was blatant, and it told me as an audience member that I am watching a really horrible 9 and a half minute commercial. To me, this video was no different than those offensive Axe commercials which stated that if you buy Axe, sexy women will not be able to resist how wonderful you smell, because women are weak-willed and sexually impulsive like that. “Telephone” is telling you, while you’re convinced it’s a unique and stylish video the music of which makes you want to dance, that if you buy a Virgin Mobile phone, “bad, bad girls” will come out of their cages to maul you.

I enjoy club music. I have no problems with it. It is a genre that has its good and bad, popular and underground. Lady Gaga has a huge club following, and I understand that. Her music is poptastic and catchy, and definitely worthy of being played at every drunken college party in America. I could not help but find, however, that the events in the video follow the events that happen at your average, massive drunken college party. First, there’s the image of Gaga having her clothes forcefully ripped off of her. As horrible as this is, this kind of thing happens at parties all the time, and I’d say a majority of it goes unreported. Rape or sexual assault usually ensues. I don’t think I have to explain that displaying this in the media as entertainment perpetuates the actions themselves, especially when alcohol is involved. Next, Gaga makes out with another woman. As is popular nowadays, girls get drunk and make out with each other to please and, for some reason, impress the boys. There’s a girlfight in the video, and one calls the other a bitch while attacking. If that’s not your average party catfight, I don’t know what is. What “Telephone” essentially seems like is an instructional video on how to throw a good party (“good” in the perspective of those attending it). When it comes down to it, all Lady Gaga does is advertise alcohol: she is the spokesperson for partying and underage drinking. She glorifies alcohol as a social lubricant and introduces “regret” into the vocabulary of young men and women who make the wrong decisions at the perfectly drunken, (in)opportune moments.

Quentin Tarantino is one of the few feminist directors out there today, making films like Kill Bill, Jackie Brown, Death Proof, and his most recent, Inglourious Basterds, wherein the lead women are active and have strong personalities, perpetually defying common stereotypes presented in the media. I won’t go into all of it now, but believe me when I tell you I have written my fair share of commentary on Tarantino films and the feminism therein. This is why it upsets me so much that “Telephone” dared try to mimic the style and tone of his films when the meaning of the video is offensive to women. “Telephone” is purposefully marketed to men, or women who will see the video through men’s eyes and attempt to emulate the styles and action in the video in order to gain men’s affections. Tarantino films are marketed to either everyone or no one, but his films do not involve what is called the “male gaze” (implied in the previous sentence, but I’m not going to full-out explain this theory in third-wave feminism right now, so just Google it). I’ll go through the references to Tarantino films and why they are a horrible match for this video.

  • The font in the beginning is similar to the font used in Jackie Brown. Jackie Brown is a film about a black woman who carries the action throughout the film with poise and confidence and arrives at the end victorious, having outsmarted all the men. Beyonce and Gaga killed a bunch of people with poison while they danced and showed off their bodies.
  • The Pussy Wagon from Kill Bill is driven by Beyonce and Gaga. This was probably the most offensive to me because the image of a truck called the Pussy Wagon was supposed to be controversial and horribly sexist, but The Bride stole it because she beat the everloving crap out of the guy who drove it with a hospital door. It was ironic, humorous, and appropriate. Beyonce and Gaga defied no stereotypes, and used no outward violence, which is very un-Tarantino. They had a vengeful goal to kill the boyfriend of Honey Bee, but they failed in that they killed everyone else too. Then they danced around the corpses.
  • The female banter in the car was reminiscent of that in Death Proof. Their banter was not well written or acted, and while they spoke, Beyonce stuck a phallic-shaped sandwich seductively into Gaga’s mouth. The point of Death Proof was that women could be women without being sex objects and could still have the capacity for violence, which is so commonly a masculine characteristic.

And, to hammer the final nail in the coffin, the video ends with the symbol of Venus. If you have read this entire entry, I shouldn’t have to explain everything wrong with this.

I request that if you have an idea of something for me to blog about, you tell me in the comments because I’m running out of ideas quickly. Thanks for reading, and if you have any opinions you’d like to express, I would be happy to hear them.

Here are my goals.

April 2, 2010

I tend to make a gross amount of to-do lists when I’m stressed out. I’ll write a list of things I need to do, and then if I accomplish something on it, I have to rewrite the list or append to it or put it on different paper or categorize the items differently. What is ironic about my compulsive list-making is that I don’t feel I’m very organized in many aspects of my life. I’d like to say I am, but if I let my eyes stray from this monitor momentarily to the absolute mess that is a cheap folding table which serves for a desk, I would realize I’d be lying, and I don’t want to do that.

So I devote this entry to my goals: not life goals, but things I’ll attempt in the span of very soon to within the next year or so.

1. Lose 40 pounds. If I accomplish this, I will be losing the better part of a quarter of my body. I could save time and just chop off my limbs, but that would involve buying a tarp for all the blood and I’d rather not spend that. At the moment, I’m working on eating less crap and more salads, and exercising for an hour twice a week. I’d like to exercise more, but there’s just no extra time in my schedule.

2. Get into grad school. I should add to this that I hope to get into grad school and be able to fund myself and also be able to take the significant other with me. BUT!

alt2. Do something else… but important. I realize my resume is not conducive to advancing my academic career. I’m a busy person, sure, but the things I’m busy with are not at all relevant to psychology or research. So if I don’t get into grad school, I’d like to do something important for a year and try again. ‘Something important’ means volunteer work, or advancing the feminist agenda, or doing something active for any subject I’m passionate about. It’ll be an adventure.

3. Be more social. This involves going to meetings of clubs I’ve been in for almost three years, or just being more outgoing in general. I used to be a very social person, but within the past six months, I’ve become a very isolated person and I’m not sure why. It could be because I live way far away from any friends I could potentially have, or because the thought of hanging out with people and having to be someone other than Anonymous Student #57 or That Bank Teller I See on Fridays kind of makes me freak out. So hey, if you’re reading this and know me IRL and live within an hour of me, we should hang out sometime. I can buy you a $5 footlong over lunch or something.

4. Save up enough so that I can go on vacation. The significant other and I want to go to California where the (potentially) in-laws are. I would like to do this without worrying that we won’t have money for food when we get home. That’s it.

5. Build a vegetable garden! I’ll probably be writing about this a lot. My father and I have started building a small (not that small: 20’x30′) vegetable garden in his backyard for the spring and summer. We hope to give the produce to our family or can it or donate it if there’s some left over. Hopefully I’ll have pictures soon so I can show the progress we’re making. I’m really excited about it.

I guess that’s all. I may post some entries later from my last blog that would be relevant to this one. Have a happy day.