Five Classic Spooky Women to (Re)Watch This Halloween, at Her Story Arc

Cross-posted from: Her Story Arc
Originally published: 15.10.17

Halloween is upon us! Now that my apartment is all decorated, it’s time to devote some posts to the spookiest holiday. Luckily, we have plenty of scary ladies to discuss! In this post, we’ll take a look at five classic female characters and their eerie stories.
Read more Five Classic Spooky Women to (Re)Watch This Halloween, at Her Story Arc

The Goddess “Wonder Woman”: A Feminist Review at Her Story Arc

Cross-posted from: Her Story Arc
Originally published: 06.05.17

It’s hard to know where to start. When it was announced that Wonder Woman would be getting her own movie years ago, I was excited that the debut would coincide with the year I anticipated graduating from my MBA program. A year and a half ago I was excited that the movie debut would coincide with having the first female President of the United States. What a year 2017 would be, I thought.

My MBA graduation has ended up being delayed a year, and that’s fine. But we all know how the presidential election turned out. We march. We protest. We persist. We aren’t sorry.

And we needed Wonder Woman. I needed Wonder Woman. 


Read more The Goddess “Wonder Woman”: A Feminist Review at Her Story Arc

Is Wonder Woman privileged? by @MogPlus

Cross-posted from: MOG Plus
Originally published: 31.05.17

It might seem strange to apply a real world principle, like privilege, to a fictional character. But I think it can be quite interesting to consider it in this manner, as it has the potential benefit of allowing a degree of distance and objectivity.

The reason I’ve chosen to do this is partly because I’m a little bit excited about the Wonder Woman film, but also because she is a character who is raised in a radically different environment to the one she ends up in.

For those who don’t already know, Wonder Woman AKA Diana Prince is born and raised on the island Themyscira, previously titled Paradise Island. This is an island populated solely by women who have no experience of life with men, and therefore exist entirely outside of the patriachy. (If you wanted to read a book that Paradise Island was likely based on I can highly recommend Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman)

On Themyscira no woman has been socialised to believe that there are women’s roles and men’s roles, as women are required to do all roles through necessity. As such they are unlikely to have been taught that women have to fit into a narrow personality type, or only be interested in selected hobbies, or any of the other demands that are placed on women in our society.

 


Read more Is Wonder Woman privileged? by @MogPlus

It’s in the trees…it’s coming…

Cross-posted from: Abigail Rieley
Originally published: 27.09.15

Nightofthedemonposter

I thought it was time for another look at real cases that have their echoes in classic films. Last time I wrote about lost Lon Chaney film London After Midnight  and it’s connection to the rather tragic case of Julia Mangan, killed by the obviously disturbed Robert Williams. This time we’re sticking with a horror film but the story has more than a whiff of the supernatural – the link might be quite rather tenuous but I’m going with it. It’s a great film and the cases that echo through the story are fascinating ones.
Read more It’s in the trees…it’s coming…

Beauty and the Beast: Now You Can Get Your Disney Misogyny In 3D *Spoiler Heavy* by @FrothyDragon

(Cross-posted from Frothy Dragon)

So yesterday, after being let down by the babysitter and Mini Dragon missing nursery as a result, I ended up being dragged along to see Beauty and the Beast 3D. That’s right, you can now get your annual dose of misogyny in 3 fucking D. How awesome is that, eh?

Now, the very few of my readers that know me in real life know that, deep down, I love my fairy tales. Be it the Disney remakes, the Giambattista Basile collections, the Hans Anderson… yeah… You get the point. But what I love most about them is tearing them apart and analysing everything about them. References to the Devil in Rumplestiltskin? Check. References to rape in early versions of Sleeping Beauty? Check. A possible historical reference to Snow White…. yeah, you’re right. We need another blog post for these.

Anyway. Beauty and the Beast. I first got dragged along to the cinema aged 7, as part of a family outing to see the cinema. I’ll admit, being a naive seven year old, I loved the film; I still do to an extent. I’m just not too keen on the predicament the writers put Belle in… “Do I choose abusive arsewipe number one? Or abusive arsewipe number two?”

That’s right. Belle pretty much turns down one abuser, Gaston. And ends up with another. But, you know, we can excuse The Beast’s abusive behaviour because for the majority of the film, he’s not actually human. This…. isn’t really selling the story too well, is it?

Anyway. We’ll start at the beginning of this sorry story. Act 1, scene 1. Or the prologue. Whatever you want to call it. Soon-To-Be Beast is acting a misogynistic arsewipe, refusing to provide an old woman shelter from a storm. But of course, once he finds out she’s a “beautiful enchantress”, he changes his tune. And probably not because she’s an enchantress, either… Pay attention to the other verb. Anyway, seeing as women are eternally evil, and what not, she decides to turn the prince into a beastly beast, and all of his servants, seeing as women are evil, are also punished for the Beast’s areswipery. Cos women are evil like that.

Fast forward a couple of years (I assume), and we wind up in a province in France. It’s a little town. Or a quiet village. It seems Belle hasn’t made up her mind which, yet. And it’s full of “little people”. Well, aside from Gaston, who’s roughly the size of a barge. Anyway, Belle, it seems, is supposed to be a free thinker.  Emphasized by the fact that, aside from the book keeper, she seems to be the only person in the village who reads. Anyway. Gaston Le Barge has taken to pursuing Belle, who because she’s an intellect looks at him like a piece of dirt on her shoe. But, being good looking, abusive and dim, Gaston appears oblivious to this, pursuing her all over the town. “I’ll fooking well marry Belle, whether she wants it or not!”, he quotes at one point in the film. I may have got the wording slightly wrong. To say Gaston becomes obsessed with the idea of fucking… sorry, I mean… marrying Belle would be an understatement. I mean, what’s not to love about the guy who tries to blackmail you into marrying him? “You’ll marry me, or your father, who, just because he’s intelligent, is obviously insane will be sectioned.” What a catch, eh?

Luckily, Belle ends up with a lovely monstrosity of a man, who doesn’t imprison her father… Oh, wait… At least the relationship’s a bit more promising after that. I mean, rather than leaving her locked in a tower, he decides to leave her locked in a bedroom instead, and pretty much tells her she can never see her father again. We then see Beast dictate when Belle can and can’t eat, where she can and can’t go, and eventually, an explosive display of temper which sees Belle flee the castle. But, you know, after she nearly gets eaten by wolves, she tames the beast, and all is well, right?

Well, not quite… With Gaston Le Barge, as he shall be known in this household for the rest of eternity, Belle knew she’d be getting a consistent level of abuse to some degree… With the Beastly Beast, Belle would be entering what is known as the Cycle of Abuse.

Through imprisoning Belle’s father, it could be possible to describe this action as coercion; by doing this, the Beast eventually manages to lure Belle to the castle (although the film doesn’t show this as outwardly intended), thus, from the offset, Belle and Beast’s relationship is firmly in the “Tension Building” phase. However, the Beast’s progression into the “Explosion” phase is not linear. Leading up to the confrontation which sees Belle flee the castle in terror, we see the Beast toe the line between the two, with the explosion being the near assault, the smashing of objects in the forbidden part of the castle. After the Beast rescues Belle, we see the reconciliation of the two characters, in what’s known as the “Honeymoon period”; characterised by the “blame game” that takes place between Belle and the Beast whilst she tends his wounds, his decision to present her with the library, the overt romance, and the Beast’s final decision to allow Belle to return to rescue her father. Whereas the praise of the Beast, for allowing Belle to return to her father, is not uncommon, it is the only logical action for him to take, should he wish to “keep her”. The finale of the film is not actually a conclusion to the abuse, but instead a continuation of the abuse cycle; for the abuser to deploy “Prince Charming” tactics as a reward for desirable behaviour from his victim is not uncommon; it leaves the victim believing the abuse is over, and that her former abuser is now a changed man. This is rarely the case.

Whereas the Beast, whilst being “The Bad Guy” version of himself is supposed to be grotesquely ugly, Belle’s virtuous manner is, as per normal for Disney, is portrayed through “beauty” stereotypes. We’re sold a slender, petite heroine, with dainty movements and a beautiful singing voice. Admission to the Disney Princess academy relies on the female protagonist meeting these criteria. Belle, we’re told, doesn’t need to change herself. She just needs to change him, so he too can become beautiful like herself, and join the ranks of the Disney Princes. We’re sold the heroines who are apparently perfect, albeit oppressed, and their perfection is rewarded with  two things; beauty, and becoming a Princess. As a side note, I’m now wondering why Kida, the female protagonist of Atlantis, despite being a princess in the tale, never qualified as a “Disney Princess”.  Rumours have circulated that this is down to the fact she lacks a signature song. So, the defining characteristic of being  virtuous enough to be a Disney Princess is the ability to sing? Crikey.

We’re fed the idea that Belle gets her happy ending, and all is well in the land of evil women and misunderstood abusers. But in the real world, this doesn’t happen. The abuse doesn’t end with the honeymoon period, it continues, gradually circling back round to the explosion. But the real danger with this tale is that Disney, in selling this tale to a young market, are idolising abuse with the message to young girls, the predominant audience for the Disney Princess market, being “If you’re really good, you can change an abuser; after all, he only does it because he loves you.” Surely it’s time Disney stopped marketing abuse as love, and started telling our children what healthy relationships look like?

Frothy Dragon and the Patriarchal Stone I Got 99 Problems, And The Fact You’re Still Calling Me A Bitch Is One [@FrothyDragon]

Mavericks and Miracle Workers: Musings about Teacher Movies at Americas Studies

(Cross-posted from Americas Studies)

Over the Christmas break I binge-watched several “teacher movies,” one of my regular holiday hobbies along with re-reading the Little Women series and the Harry Potter collection. I never had a Mr Keating (Dead Poets Society) or a Ms Gruwell (Freedom Writers). I certainly had several good, even excellent, teachers throughout my education, but never one who made the classroom a site of potential for major personal and social transformation.

Scene from Freedom Writers (Source is linked to image)

In many ways films like Dead Poets Society (1989), Dangerous Minds (1995),Mona Lisa Smile (2003), Freedom Writers (2007), Precious (2009) and The English Teacher (2013), while at times a little far-fetched, often represent the ideal that many young teachers dream of embodying when first faced with the daunting task of education. These films depict teachers, sometimes very naïve ones, attempting to engage with students who are completely close-minded or cut off from education due to society and/or personal circumstances. Entire classes filled with 20+ students await every opportunity to blatantly ignore or undermine their ever hopeful educator, and ultimately the teacher gently breaks down the barriers and forms incredible bonds with her/his former aggressors. Many “teacher movies” present us with protagonists who go against the grain of the institution or the advice of their loved ones to educate their unruly students, often to the detriment of their careers and/or relationships.

These mavericks and miracle workers were the bread and butter of my younger self as I dreamed of a humble spot at the top of a classroom to call my own. I wouldn’t be so daring as Mr Keating to invite my students to climb upon my desk for fear of injury; my delicate stomach would keep me from riding the biggest roller-coaster with my students à la Ms Johnson; although, I have always dreamed of delivering a hearty rendition of the “[t]here are no victims in this classroom” scene fromDangerous Minds! However, I think the fighting spirit of these teachers against all manner of obstacles reflects at least some of the whats and whys of teaching.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBQf9noA7xY

Taking money from our own pockets to fund materials and reward students is a reality. Caring enough about a student to visit their family is a regular occurrence. Managing to get through to the most unruly students does happen. Unfortunately, as is portrayed in Dead Poets Society and Dangerous Minds,  losing a student to the insurmountable stresses of their particular situation is a real possibility.

For all their melodrama these movies pinpoint many of the hopes and fears we teachers feel:

Hopes:

  • To inspire our students, even one, to make positive changes in their lives
  • To educate them about important issues in the world
  • To give them tools to navigate the ups and downs of life
  • To instill moral values and independent thinking.

Fears:

  • That our guidance may ultimately fail them
  • That the ABCs and 123s of a curriculum will not be enough to prepare them for the outside world.

A life-altering educational achievement like the one we see unfold in Freedom Writers is certainly rare. However, re-watching these films time and again always reminds me of the many reasons why my own education has always been of such value to me, and the many things I wanted to bring to the classroom. One of the best moments I have had as a teacher was a student telling me that I was one of the key reasons she chose to pursue a degree in English. This, and the many assignments that reveal that a student has really got what you were trying to teach them are the many everyday satisfactions that we can take from our role in the classroom.

 

Americas Studies: This blog, Américas Studies is the product of an Irish feminist researcher in transatlantic dialogue with the Américas. It is grounded in my current experience as a doctoral candidate with posts about literature, film, feminism, and issues related to academia.

 

Robocop & the Politics of Emancipation by @elizabethethird

Robocop & the Politics of Emancipation

Posted on 

The 2014 Robocop remake has arrived! Revamping, updating and down-camping the 1987 original for the viewing pleasure of the global mass market! Boo corporations, post-90s technology, human emotion and/or error… Yay Robocop!

While the new story has been adapted accordingly for our newer, shinier and digital-er time, the influence of the original Verhoeven film is evident throughout, with direct references to OCP (now “the parent company of Omnicorp”) and lines such as “I wouldn’tbuy that for a dollar…” Eyyy! See what they did?! They WOULDN’T buy it for a dollar, AND there were zero gratuitous boobs. You’d be forgiven for thinking that Robocop 2.0 (Robocop 2 already happened) marks the point at which Hollywood has officially surpassed adolescence. Robocop 2.0 is subverting 1987’s surprisingly Reaganite narrative, which, according to Steven Best “neatly coalesces with rightwing fantasies of social subversion” and becomes “a front for increased surveillance and the rollback of constitutional rights”. Ha! Reagan.

I can accept that Paul Verhoeven was an unwitting accomplice to the cultural landscape that produced an acceptance of Ronald Reagan, and later Arnold Schwartzenegger, as the actual political leaders of genuine geographical places, but it is slightly harder to accept of director José Padilha. It interests me to understand the dynamics and effects of, and between, these two films that both appear to satirize and criticize corporate corruption, right-wing media bias and the military industrial complex. Robocop 2.0 certainly tries to break with the pantomimic sci-fi camp of the original, to situate itself within a contemporary political landscape where melding man with machine is not only possible, but something you can pay to have done for a laugh. So what are the issues and limits remaining in 2.0?

Robo2.0 is destined to be filed, as with the majority of films I see at multiplexes, under ‘Films I Sort of Enjoyed at a Surface Level and Made Me Well Up at Times, Containing the Obvious, Ubiquitous Tropes I’m Tired Of’, cross referenced with ‘Completely Lacking Subtlety and Self-Awareness’. The problem with Robocop 2.0 is painfully obvious. It’s a film produced by MGM & Columbia, distributed by Columbia, Sony, Universal, Disney and 20th Century Fox, that attempts to critique corporate culture. What more can it do than have a slapdash chew on the hand that feeds it? The original touched on Evil Corporatism only to the extent that it needed to to drive the plot (it is unable “to locate the real sources of alienation and reification. At no moment does Robocop suggest that the numerous serious social issues it raises — from nuclear disaster to monopoly control — are inherent in or fundamentally related to the corporate system it critiques.” – Best)

2.0 critiques the use of unmanned drone warfare and the corporate media industry, while avoiding any critique of the nature of human-perpetrated, emotionally-assessed violence i.e. ‘normal’ warfare, or its own lacking of diverse female characters or people of colour who weren’t always in possession of a gun, for example.

José Padilha is a filmmaker who genuinely wants to discuss the ethical issues raised in 2.0. Also a documentary filmmaker, he made the fantastic Bus 174, a documentary about Sandro do Nascimento, a young homeless man who took a bus full of commuters hostage in Rio. Bus 174 has genuine layers of complexity and consideration, examining not only the incompetence of the police officers who caused far more harm than Sandro, but also the conditions of poverty which led Sandro to crime, the media’s involvement, and the context behind the police’s inability to function optimally. While Padilha clearly, far too clearly, wants to discuss the sensationalism and breakdown of journalistic practices, the disingenuousness of the PR and marketing industries, and the ethical questions and contemporary dynamics of nature and technology in a runaway corporate environment, all of these are necessarily packaged and glossed to inhabit the well-worn structure designed to shut down the need for any questioning and action above that which RoBroCop can give us with his slick, gunny badassery and unavoidable murder of All The Bad People.

I still appreciated 2.0 for its employment and update of the original premise. I enjoyed Gary Oldman’s Dr. Dennet Norton, the film’s protagonist, who contains the ethical storyline within the film. I have my suspicions that the part of Norton was actually written not so well, but that Gary Oldman Gary Oldman’d it to the extent where it’s impossible to focus on anything except his pure, sweet unraveling of Gary Oldmanity. The Omnicorp team were very well played, but undeveloped past the point of multi-antagonist, evil-Richard-Bransons. The tension between humanity, emotion and the industrial rejection of them was the theme most successfully communicated, and was given at least thirty seconds of subtlety (before the guitar player informs us “…without emotion, I can’t play”, after being unable to play because of his emotions.)

The reflection on what creates extreme emotion in humans, and the subsequent effects of the refusal and suppression of those emotions by ourselves and numerous branches of society, was the only topic that wasn’t distractingly and messily spoon-fed. Murphy’s manipulation and co-option by corporations for profit, his alienation from his humanity, personality, purpose and family, and his seemingly doomed resistance to all these things can be read as a legitimate reflection of contemporary capitalist power dynamics at work, and certainly reminded me of the near-fatal series of events which led to my own transformation into a dead-eyed, soul-crushed automaton.

Ultimately, the film takes itself just a bit too seriously whilst treading just a bit too lightly to function as a decisive political comment. To go back to Best’s examination of Robocop1.0: “While Robocop is an action spectacle, a romance, a comedy, and a revenge fantasy” and “a complex, subversive, and even utopian text which addresses the problem of human alienation within a techno-capitalist society […] it teaches the lesson that good always wins. It tells us that social order is possible only through the imposition and acceptance of external authority and that, most importantly, a moribund capitalism is more desirable than any alternative world which might emerge from its destruction.” He continues that some “will be mesmerized by the sheer spectacle of the film and come away only with a remembrance of its surface pleasures. For still others, the film will sharpen — or awaken — their skepticism toward media, capitalism, and technology.” But due to the industry-standard structure of narrative film (which works, and I have followed myself when writing), and the form(ula) by which films will be accepted into the mainstream market, “we see the usual contradiction between progressive textual encodings and traditional narrative form. […] It climactically completes the metaphysics of closure, resolution, and redemption that structures the film.” For all the improvements 2.0 makes on Verhoeven’s Robocop, it still fails in making the radical challenges it purports to be. The character of Murphy/Robocop himself is an ambiguous, and dangerous, figure of justice.

At radical or political film screenings, the question ‘so what next?’ is almost always raised, and a frequent criticism of political films is that they highlight problems but pose no solutions. This is the wrong approach to political films – films are a communication, a discussion. They are a point from which to discuss, act and reflect; a call to several different types of arms rather than a hermetically sealed doctrine. Films that tell you exactly what is, rather than helping us to understand processes, should be handled carefully and with even more discussion and reflection than those which leave the audience with questions and ambiguous endings. Films are very good at transmitting feelings and ideas. In that way, they function best as non-dogmatic, temporary guidebooks. Every film, and every type of cultural act, is a political one. Romantic comedies and animated children’s films are political films; they all tell us something about how to govern ourselves and our lives, and what they choose not to include are often the most politically charged areas. Best to consistently examine what you consume and how you consume it, because the corporate media industry, like any other, is pretty warped; full of contradictory information and power hungry assholes. Robocop told me so, twice. Seems legit.

 

Elizabeth The Third Articles by elizabeththethird about the politics of the media. Often feminist readings of culture and communication, but also general reflections and critiques on the workings of our cultural landscape. Follow @elizabethethird