Tag Archive for musing

SSDD

I have been redirecting my mental efforts toward what has become an actual, viable career path for me. That has proven far, far less fruitful than I hoped. I need to turn back to writing, and frankly I don’t know how well that will go since I’m no good at the SEO, clickbait-headlines, algorithmic nonsense.

I turn 30 years old on Wednesday. I will have been in Virginia for five years on Thursday. I’ve been really trying, mostly successfully, not to lose it, to remember to reset benchmarks, to give myself credit for the progress I’ve made. But there was some bad news yesterday and some more today, and I’m teetering on the edge. I need to thoroughly examine where I am vs. where I want to be – and walk the fine line between self-preservation and selfishness.

A friend once told me I “don’t fuck around with excellence.” I guess that’s true, but I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of messing around recently. I call this “flailing.” “Shadowboxing,” perhaps, if I want to give myself more credit.

Things are going to change, one way or another. Part of that change may be taking a break from social media. Part of it may be kicking a job search into high gear and actually trying to leave, the way I’ve been saying I would for…five years.

Anyway, thirty is going to be a year I don’t fuck around with excellence.

More to come, perhaps, in the coming months.

Blog: In Defense of The Social Network: Movie demonizes sexism, doesn’t glamorize it. (10/13/10)

Note: this article was also posted on the official website for The Social Network

Fiction vs. reality: Eisenberg and Zuckerberg.

First things first: I’m in the business of paying close attention to roles of women in film and TV, both behind and in front of the camera. I also really enjoyed The Social Network, David Fincher’s biopic of Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg.

Critics in the blogosphere claim the movie is everything from racist and sexist to homophobic (Indiewire states that Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes is gay, and that isn’t represented in the film). TechCrunch’s Sarah Lacy vocally protests Sorkin’s depiction of tech geeks, saying even though she’s worked in Silicon Valley for ten years, she’s never encountered this level of sexism. Jezebel.com’s Irin Carmon bemoans its lack of dynamic female characters, while others hate the way it glosses over gay characters and its fetishism of Asian women.

In The Social Network, there are only a few memorable roles for women—and this is what most of the feminist blogs take issue with. Certainly, Fincher is notorious for making what I refer to as “dude movies.” Se7en and Fight Club both feature women (Helena Bonham Carter’s Marla and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Tracy, respectively) as prizes–something either bizarrely attractive or wholesomely pretty to come home to–while men are the dynamic characters. The Social Network certainly doesn’t pass the Bechdel test, which requires 1) two female characters, 2) who talk to each other, 3) about something other than a man. And yes, that’s certainly a problem. However, Sorkin maintains (and I understood from watching the movie) that he wrote the film in such a way to demonize misogyny–not to glamorize it.

Rooney Mara as Erica, one of the movie’s only strong women.

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Blog: Mad (wo)Men: The Complexity of Womanhood in “Mad Men” (9/17/10)

The cast of AMC’s “Mad Men:” Vincent Kartheiser, Elisabeth Moss, John Slattery, Jon Hamm, January Jones, and Christina Hendricks.

EDITED TO INCLUDE COMMENTARY at bottom of article on Season 4, Episode 9, “THE BEAUTIFUL GIRLS,” air date 9/19/10.

AMC’s “Mad Men” is currently in its 4th (and probably best) season. It’s June, 1965, and “the times, they are a-changin’.” Both men and women on the show are experiencing massive upheavals along with the rest of the country, which was approaching a nearly unprecedented point of social unrest. The civil rights movement had begun in earnest; John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated; the Cassius Clay (whom the characters refuse to call his then-given name, Mohammad Ali)/Sonny Liston fight prompts horrible jokes about how “if I wanted to see two Negroes fight I’d drop a dollar bill out my door.” Second-wave feminism is about to knock everyone for a loop and the Vietnam War is going to alter lives forever. Male and female characters alike are choosing: dive in and go with the flow or fight against the rising tide? Note: here there be spoilers.

The ladies of “Mad Men:” Betty (Jones), Joan (Hendricks), and Peggy (Moss).

Despite the show’s title, the women of “Mad Men” are making the most leaps by far. Our three leading ladies are Betty (formerly Draper) Francis (January Jones), the picture of bourgeois suburbia; Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss), the pioneering professional; and Joan (née Holloway) Harris (Christina Hendricks), who disguises her strength beneath demure dresses and Hermes scarves. The ladies of “Mad Men” are some of the most complex, fascinating, unpredictable, and infinitely watchable characters on TV. Creator Matthew Weiner offers a varied and sympathetic examination of the pressures under which women toiled in the tumultuous late ‘50s and early ‘60s, and the show draws frightening analogies between the quandaries of the characters in the ‘60s and ours today. It gracefully, subtly reveals just how much (or little) progress we’ve made. A friend told me that until recently, she couldn’t watch “Mad Men” because her inner feminist found it totally offensive. My (not-so) inner feminist is positively thrilled with the show’s offerings.

Betty Draper in her most frequent haunt: the kitchen.

First of the Mad Women is Betty Draper Francis, main character Don Draper’s ex-wife and the picture of ladylike frostiness. Betty is, perhaps, the show’s representation of the worst of the suburban 1950s: weak, white-gloved, and wealthy, Betty’s upper-class disdain radiates from her every (invisible) pore. She is a child, a selfish brat who smokes too much and never eats (over four seasons, I don’t think she’s eaten on camera more than once or twice). She’s a status-obsessed, wasp-waisted debutante with an ice queen demeanor. Betty’s the character who, in the first episode, caught her daughter Sally (the fantastic Kiernan Shipka) wearing a plastic dry-cleaning bag around her head and threatened to spank her if the dress was wrinkled. To be fair, Betty went through hell with her overbearing, duly status-obsessed family and in her farce of a marriage to Don. She has a breaking point: in the first season, in the midst of a mini-breakdown, she whipped out a shotgun and blasted the neighbor’s doves out of the sky; she also had restaurant bathroom sex with a stranger to get back at Don for his indiscretions. But this season has really made her the (little) bad wolf. Weiner has set her up for a fall, I think, because she’s far and away the most old-fashioned of the show’s women.

Ah, the heartwarming family dinner, complete with mother who smokes instead of eats and father who’s always running out the door.

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Blog: Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, the Horror and Beauty of Ballet (9/9/10)

Portman has never looked quite so spooky: the Black Swan poster.

Once upon a time, I was a little girl who, as my oldest friend likes to put it, loved to wear cute little dresses, then swing on the monkey bars and play with the boys. (I like to think this is still a fair representation of my personality.) I also squeezed myself into a leotard, tights, and legwarmers, then shoved my tiny feet into pastel pink ballet shoes and clung to the bar for dear life as I strove for a plié in fifth position. I was no ballerina, but ballet occupied a part of my growing brain that nothing else could. I ached for the exquisite beauty, strength, and poise of the ballerinas striding and leaping beneath the hot white lights in The Nutcracker. I never danced en pointe, eventually grew out of the legwarmers, and started playing softball, but ballet continues to fascinate me. Though I’m drawn most often to drama, satire, and horror, I can hardly resist a ballet movie…and it’s interesting how ballet fits so well in those genres.

Black Swan‘s theatrical trailer.

The trailer for Darren Aronofsky’s highly anticipated thriller Black Swan released recently, and it made me think: why does a movie that focuses on ballet dancers appear so utterly bizarre and frightening? Black Swan tells the story of prima ballerina Nina (Natalie Portman) who is cast by artistic director Thomas (Vincent Cassel) in the role of the swan in Swan Lake. Rival dancer Lily (Mila Kunis) provides an eerie doppelganger for Nina as the two battle it out for the lead role and the love of the artistic director. Aronofsky’s films are often bizarre, surreal, and spooky; Black Swan looks no different—but if there’s one director who can do beautiful and horrific at once, it’s Aronofsky.

Ballet is an art form, a style and grace of movement that captivates so many because it is so extraordinary. So why is it, then, that so many movies about ballet are horror-influenced?

Moira Shearer dances like there’s no tomorrow in The Red Shoes.

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