Tag Archives: feminism

Stating the Obvious

Jenny Slate in Obvious Child

Jenny Slate in Obvious Child

In the wake of Bridesmaids’ box office success three years ago, I remember a host of think pieces whose titles all asked variations on the same question: “Does this mean women will get to headline comedies now?” Well, the cinema landscape may still be overwhelmingly patriarchal, but I’ve been noticing more and more vehicles for comediennes cropping up recently. Some (Pitch PerfectThe Heat) may feature break-out Bridesmaids cast members. Others may just bear strands of its narrative DNA. Most of them, I grant you, are pretty lousy. But my observations suggest that a new-ish type of movie is emerging—or more likely, an old-ish subgenre’s becoming more commonplace—that I’ll describe with the unwieldy label of “millennial [or ‘post-Recession’?] feminist comedy.”

It’s true that values have been shifting since forever; that countless comedies from earlier decades have moved the goalposts from “Can she find a man?” to “Can she have it all?” or “Can she make it on her own?” But at least from this moviegoer’s perspective, pushback against the (once?) dominant romcom model is evolving into a loose formula of its own, with the question becoming “Can she make it as an adult?” I’m reminded here of my favorite movie from last year, Frances Ha, as well as Lake Bell’s In a World… and, of course, the movie at hand, Obvious Child.

Each of these films is, like Bridesmaids, shaped by real-world social and economic climates, wherein young women may have one-night stands and zero job security. Their lives may tarry around romantic subplots, but vocations (dancing, voice acting, comedy) or close friendships will always take precedence. Comedy of the cringe and gross-out varieties are prominent in these films, uninhibited by stereotypes about “ladylike” behavior. And in addition to starring them, the projects I’ve listed also involve women in other creative capacities: writers, directors, producers. (Not shockingly, these films are also overwhelmingly about white women who live in major metropolitan areas.) Again, none of these traits are really brand new, but they are coalescing in consistent and intriguing ways.

I’m impressed, for example, by what Obvious Child takes for granted—i.e., that women are entitled to control their own bodies and lives—as well as what it doesn’t do when Jenny Slate’s Donna discovers she’s pregnant. It doesn’t dwell on whether she’ll have the abortion or the feelings of the guy who impregnated her, nor does it devolve into a morass of twists and contrivances. Instead it stays with her, in her head, in Slate’s crumpled smile-that-wants-to-be-a-frown. All the supporting characters in Donna’s life (friends, parents, beau) are rather thinly written, serving mostly as foils and sounding boards. But that’s not disastrous, because the film’s framed by her solipsism, and its best scenes play like excerpts from a one-woman show.

These include her stand-up sets (very funny, if a little rough); a montage of a drunken night spent leaving voice mails for a hated ex; and an interview with her own brain, conducted in the three minutes before a pregnancy test yields its results. Here as elsewhere, Slate and writer-director Gillian Robespierre demonstrate a knack for words tripping over dirty words and an awareness of what an extraordinary comic tool an actress’s body and voice can be. They revel in this grotesque femininity and in visual tokens of Donna’s immaturity: a muppet designed by her dad, a cardboard box where she can hide, a pair of Crocs. The question “Can she make it as an adult?” is never answered, but it is nimbly navigated with joke after crude coping mechanism joke, until this particular set of crises has been weathered.

[Originally published on Letterboxd.]

Leave a comment

Filed under Cinema

Candid Camera

Wanda, the first and only film by Barbara Loden, is—as Bérénice Reynaud put it in her essential essay “For Wanda”—a “small, forgotten masterpiece.” I wrote about it over at Movie Mezzanine. (You can also read more about it by critics like Richard Brody and Tony Paley.) In Wanda, Loden pins down a certain type of woman, as well as the desolate real-world spaces she lives in, and the very real kinds of sadness she experiences. The film’s so obviously drawn straight from life that you could nearly mistake it for someone’s especially depressing home movies, with the fuzziness of its 16mm images and soundtrack (the latter totally devoid of non-diegetic music) doing nothing to dispel this impression. As too with life, so much of Wanda is connective tissue. Our “heroine” walks, bedhops, idles around Scranton, and eventually has her heart broken for the umpteenth time. I’d hesitate to call any of it beautiful, but it is powerful: a movie you can’t shake, and whose like may never really come again.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cinema

Link Dump: #86

Upper-crust telephone KITTY!

Our first fluffy kitty of 2013 is from Busby Berkeley’s The Gang’s All Here, which I wrote about yesterday. Aww, it looks like it’s waiting for a phone call! Aren’t cats just the cutest? And now, links:

Two pornographic search terms this week, and I don’t want to know what either sentence means: “making love videos of loving blacks and white cuckold” and “real hidden camera in a restaurant bathrooms and pussy the advent of the menstrual cycle.” Yikes.

7 Comments

Filed under Cinema, Feminism

Link Dump: #35

This pretty white kitty comes courtesy of Lee Grant, playing the wealthy matriarch in Hal Ashby’s debut The Landlord. It’s a very underrated satire of class warfare and racial tension in the early ’70s. It’s also includes a kitty. Now here are some links!

We had a pretty fantastic assortment of gross/bizarre search terms this week, like the vaginally themed “cunt eat mouse” and “bloddin on pussy.” We had the aggressive “bash your fucking skull,” and the gentler “pornfor a nice man.” My absolute favorite, though, was definitely “tutu fecal.” Seriously. What in the world does that mean? I’ll let you ponder that one.

1 Comment

Filed under Cinema, Feminism

Feminist Film Smackdown: Zombieland

By Ashley

[Note: this article is written under the assumption that those who read it have already seen it. Spoilers.]

On a whim, Andreas and I decided to watch Ruben Fleischer’s Zombieland; we love zombies, we love parody, so it seems logical. After coming to the sobering conclusion that zombies have been so parodied and so ingrained into our pop culture that there’s no way they can be scary again (barring some intense, 28 Days Later-esque film coming out and completely rejuvenating the genre) we hunkered down for what we thought would be a relatively good, funny zombie parody. Overall it delivered on the funny (and the blaahhhh when it wasn’t funny) but it also delivered on a few other things: plot holes, sexism, and gender stereotypes.

Hit the jump to see me unload the snark…

Continue reading

17 Comments

Filed under Cinema, Feminism

Link Dump: #24

In light of Lady Gaga’s recent high-profile cover of it, along with the music video’s director David Fincher being Oscar-nominated, we figured it was time to revisit Madonna’s “Express Yourself,” which features—you guessed it!—lots of kitties. And half-naked men. The best of all worlds, really. So! Sit back, listen to Madonna expressing herself, and read over some vintage links…

  • If you’re like me, you love reading about retro sex ed videos. Now’s your chance, thanks to a long, dense conversation about them recently conducted by Farran Smith Nehme and Vadim Rizov, two ultra-perceptive film folks!
  • The Australian has a fascinating interview with filmmaker and special effects expert Douglas Trumbull (of 2001 and Close Encounters of the Third Kind fame) that goes over his career and influence. I especially liked this part:

Projection in 3-D, he believes, should be reserved for “alternate reality”. “It’s great for a movie like Alice in Wonderland, but maybe not for a love story, or even The Great Gatsby.”

As far as search terms go, we had a few wacky, outlandish, and gross ones like “bread in a vagina” (speaking of yeast infections…) and “syringe douche anal mistress.” The search “fucking happily movies” could, I think, have a few different meanings: movies with happy fucking in them? Good movies to watch while fucking happily? Did they mistype “fucking happy movies”? Lastly, we had another search term in Arab, “سكس كرتون كايوتك,” which Google Translate renders as “Sex Cartoon Cayotk.” I still don’t know what that means.

Leave a comment

Filed under Body, Cinema, Feminism, Politics

Sometimes my heart pounds like thunder and I don’t know why I don’t explode

Trigger Warning: for mentions of rape and extreme misogyny

This. Just this. I can’t even. There are no fucking words. Last night I cried, I fucking sobbed because my body is not my own. My body is not my right. My body is a fucking political war ground. It terrifies me that I could wake up someday and need a fucking abortion and I would have to jump through countless painful hoops just to obtain one. And then, after all that, people would sit and fucking judge me for taking responsibility for MY life and MY body and MY fucking well-being.

It gets hard, realizing every fucking day that they don’t care about you. They don’t care if you die. They don’t care if you can’t feed your kids. They don’t care if the mental ramifications of pregnancy and child-rearing are so emotionally traumatizing that you’re never the same again. They don’t give a shit about you. You shouldn’t have opened your legs, you fucking slut. Oh, what’s that? You were raped? Oh, you were using contraception carefully but it failed you? Well, maybe the rape victim is okay but the person who willingly had sex, she doesn’t deserve an abortion. She doesn’t fucking deserve it because she’s a slut who needs to be punished with a baby. Responsibility is what we need to teach these silly ladies and the best fucking way to do that is by FORCING pregnancy that they don’t want onto them. We have a hierarchy of worth: you, woman with two children who’s birth control failed her, or you, woman who accidentally forgot a pill or had a condom rip, are not at the top of that hierarchy. Sorry for your fucking luck.

This is what a misogynistic culture looks like. This is what sexism looks like. Do you really fucking think this is about ‘saving babies’ or ‘cherishing life’? If the anti-choicers gave two fucking shits about saving fetuses then they would fucking acknowledge the 70,000 fucking women (and their fetuses) that die every. Fucking. Year. From illegal, unsafe abortions. And do you think this is the only thing? Really? Oh, no. There’s ANOTHER proposed bill that would allow doctors to refuse treatment to women if it would endanger their fetus. It’s called “The Protect Life” act. The irony would be funny if it weren’t so fucking terrifying. And the plans to cut funding for Planned Parenthood (which is terrifying on so many levels; thousands of women depend on Planned Parenthood for routine checkups and access to birth control). Don’t you fucking see it?

They want us to fucking die. They don’t fucking care.

Fetuses are more important than women. You should be punished for having sex. You should be punished for wanting to have bodily autonomy. You should be punished for accidentally losing a pregnancy. Like the woman who was imprisoned for having a miscarriage. The laws that enabled this woman to be imprisoned for a miscarriage are the same kind of fucking “Personhood Laws” that the GOP is pushing for in America. You think it can’t happen here? You’re fucking wrong. And yes, surprise sur-fucking-prise, that bill was passed in fucking Utah, the same fucking state that requires women to look at an ultrasound before an abortion. Because, you know, women are fucking stupid and there’s no way a woman could have sat and thought long and fucking hard about whether or not this was the right decision for her. No, after all that, she has to be forced to look at a fucking ultrasound in the ridiculous hopes that she’ll have some epiphany that it’s A BABY SHE’S KILLING! YOU’RE MURDERING A BABY, SLUT!

And you know what my absolute favorite part of all this is? The overwhelming majority of the people who are making these decisions about women’s bodies, health and lives are cis men. You know, the people who won’t ever fucking have to deal with an unwanted pregnancy. They won’t ever have to deal with being forced or shamed into carrying their rapist’s fetus to term (all the while undergoing potentially triggering invasive check ups and procedures). They won’t have to fucking make the choice between being able to feed your already living breathing children or terminating a fetus that isn’t even a fucking person and being called a fucking murderer for it. They don’t have to worry about dying during childbirth (which BTW, death during childbirth happens way more than death during safe, legal abortions) or being denied lifesaving medical treatment because your doctor thinks that the moral decision is to let you fucking die. They don’t have to worry about hemorrhaging and bleeding the fuck out after a botched back-alley procedure that you underwent because you couldn’t afford or didn’t have access to clean, sterile, safe, legal procedures.  These are definitely the people who should be making these decisions about women’s lives, right?

I’m angry (obviously). I’m scared and I feel vulnerable and helpless. I’m so angry that it’s 2011 and we STILL have to carry on this fight. Roe v. Wade was in 19-fucking-73. We’ve been fighting ever fucking since. Our rights to our bodies and health aren’t important enough to be set in stone in our laws. So yeah, I am angry. Really fucking angry. And I refuse to fucking apologize for my anger. I refuse to be nice. Too fucking often we’re told, oh, well you can’t BE angry; you have to nice and calm and willing to explain everything over and over and over and over because if you don’t-if you’re not compliant and willing and sweet about EVERYTHING ALWAYS-well, people just won’t listen to you! Well, you know what? Fuck you. I am fucking unapologetically angry right now. This pro-choice screed isn’t an invitation for open debate; I don’t fucking want to hear your anti-choice rationalization. Women are dying. Women’s health is being threatened and disregarded. So I don’t really give two squirts of piss about your fucking reasons why you think abortion is so morally wrong and should be illegal. If that alienates some of the readers who come by this blog: too fucking bad. To quote Kathleen Hanna:

I’m so sorry that I’m alienating some of you/your whole fucking culture alienates me.

War has been waged on our bodies, our autonomy, our health and our very fucking lives. I’m not here to fucking play nicey-nice about that.

5 Comments

Filed under Body, Feminism, Health, Personal, Politics