The Eat, Pray, Love Trailer: An exercise in first-world problems

July 26, 2010 § 6 Comments

by ELENA

I keep seeing the trailer for Eat, Pray, Love on television. I also keep on seeing promotions for an upcoming Vanguard documentary on how overpopulation is causing a lack of sanitation in countries such as India. The Eat, Pray, Love trailer is giddy: Look at this businesswoman! She is burnt out at work! She can’t remember what she ate for lunch! She goes to Italy! India! and Bali! She eats carbs! She talks with her hands! She stops wearing pants! Ohh look– elephants! And cute naked guys! Come see this movie!

The teaser for the documentary is grim. The host throws up, and says that crossing a polluted river is “unbearable.”

As hard to watch as the Vanguard documentary looks, I’d rather watch that than Eat, Pray, Love. I haven’t read the book that the movie is based on, but the trailer turns me off in so many ways. It should be called First World Problems. As unhappy as Julia Roberts’ character seems, she’s pretty damn lucky to be working somewhere where she can just jet off for a year of soul searching in “exotic” locations. And of all of the problems that women face in the workplace (harassment, healthcare benefits, the glass ceiling), not remembering what lunch was is very far down on that list. I’m not saying that feeling burned out, overwhelmed, and not enjoying things like a good meal, or learning to meditate are petty things. But the whole “women goes on a journey to find herself” trope isn’t new. And is rather irritating, in my opinion.

As controversial as Slumdog Millionaire was (especially when it came to provisions made for the young Indian actors featured in the film), it unflinchingly showed the many Indians that live in poverty. According to the trailer, Roberts’ character finds meditation to be so hard, and gets to pet an elephant. Even Italy, a first-world country, has plenty of problems (many of which stem from Silvio Berlusconi being a complete douche canoe), and isn’t all pretty architecture, cute men, wine and OMFG CARBS.

I would find this story much more compelling if this woman’s quest for enlightenment didn’t use “exotic” third-world countries as a quaint backdrop. After all, for the millions who can’t take a year-long trip to find enlightenment, learning to enjoy food, find peace, and fall in love take place in wherever they live. And unfortunately, things like being able to make and enjoy a satisfying meal, or take time to meditate are not possible because they can’t afford/don’t have access to fresh foods and have to work around the clock to pay for basic bills.

Now, if I got to travel to Italy, India, and Bali, I would go, because travel can be an enjoyable experience. But I would also spend time trying to understand what living in those locations was really like, as much as I could. I had to watch the documentary Life and Debt during my freshman year of college, and it changed the way that I looked at tourism to “exotic” locations, because frequently, tourism is the only industry in countries that have been negatively affected by colonization, and crippling loan agreements made with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

People don’t like to think about millions of people unable to have access to toilets. This is why the Vanguard documentary is airing on a small cable channel, and Eat, Pray, Love is a big-budget movie. But I would be more willing to spend money on a movie that did feature travel to countries like India, if there was a greater reason to film there rather than a search for an “exotic” location, with “exotic” (aka not white) people wearing “exotic” clothing.

Rape Culture Rears its Ugly Head (Again)

July 14, 2010 § 1 Comment

Trigger Warning.

Do you know what ruined my morning? What filled me with a blinding, seething rage? What made me really really sad?

This movie poster right here. The one for the I Spit On Your Grave remake.

Now I was almost tempted not to link to it or write this post so as not to give this piece of shit more publicity, but I couldn’t. Not only is this poster heinous, exploitative bullshit, but it also perfectly personifies the serious problem of rape culture in America.

I did some research and the film is about the brutal gang rape of a young woman, who manages to survive. She then goes on to exact revenge on all of her torturers. It was first released in 1978 to much controversy. It was originally entitled Day of the Woman and released under the guise of a female empowerment film, though apparently the way in which she “empowered” herself after the half-hour long, brutal, leaving-nothing-to-the-imagination rape scene, was to track down her rapists, seduce them (excuses for the actress to be naked again), and then torture and kill them in gruesome ways.

The most empowering thing I’ve ever heard.

Let’s get this straight. Let’s lay it out one more time. Rape is not a sexual act. Rape is not sex. Rape is not about sexuality or attraction. Rape is rape. Rape is about humiliating, degrading, and removing all power from the victim. I don’t care how you want to spin it, Cinetel Films in association with Anchor Bay Films or anyone else involved in the creation of and marketing of this film. This poster is about sex. This poster is about her ass and her bare back. So what if there’s encrusted blood and bruises covering her upper thighs and back from her TRAUMATIC RAPE? Look at that body!

This is reprehensible. This is sick. This goes beyond blurring the line between rape and sex–it smashes them together into one thing for your (the general public’s) enjoyment.

And the worst part of this whole thing? Countless people will see this poster and not blink an eye. Because these types of images are normal in our culture. Hell, they’re expected.

Update: Pajiba already has a brilliant takedown up. For more rage, click here.

Films to Watch: 8

May 16, 2010 § 6 Comments

I just caught the trailer for the new film entitled 8: The Mormon Proposition and I was blown away. If a two minute and forty second trailer can bring out such a visceral reaction in me, imagine what the entire film can do! I remember when Prop 8 first passed, I was one of those people that was just in sort of a daze for a while, wondering how such blatant injustice and discrimination could have been allowed to occur… Watch the trailer below!

I looked into it, and there doesn’t seem to be a release date currently set. I think it played in a few film festivals, but when it will be available to the general public remains unclear. If anyone knows anything, please comment or feel free to contact me because I really really really want to see this.

The Top 10 Feminist-Friendly Children’s Movies

April 7, 2010 § 18 Comments

Oh no, wait. I could only think of 5 — and 2 of them are debatable. How depressing? I’m positive there are more out there and it’s quite likely I’m nowhere near as informed on the subject of children’s movies as I think I am or that more openly feminist-friendly children’s movies aren’t what we would exactly call mainstream. I could however think of a whole bunch of feminist un-friendly children’s movies (future list?). Sooo here goes. The top 10 top 5 feminist-friendly children’s movies:

« Read the rest of this entry »

Where Are All the Poster Children?

September 9, 2009 § Leave a comment

Yesterday I went to the annual poster sale so I could make my side of the room a little bit crazier. I was delighted to find posters of R2D2, E.T., and (woot!) Rosie the Riveter. However…

While flipping through the posters, I noticed some pretty interesting trends. Did you know that every female college student is crazy for either Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn, the occasional ironic Britney Spears, or Marilyn Monroe? You do now. I have nothing against these ladies. They are all wildly talented, beautiful, influential women. But come on people, give us some more credit than that!! I would love for the poster sale to offer a few more diverse (in terms of color, personality, age and occupation) options than the double threat white chicks. How about some Michelle Obamas, some Ella Fitzgeralds, some Joni Mitchells (she is a white lady double threat as well, I’m just a little bitter that I couldn’t secure a Joni poster), some Jhumpa Lahiris, some J.K. Rowlings (please please please!!!), or Gloria Steinems… anyone!?! Because women have influence beyond the silver screen (and I mean silver… I’m not sure exactly why girls are supposed to be obsessed with black and whites, but not even Dorothy was in technicolor!).

You might have noticed I mentioned Rosie The Riveter in my purchases… yep. That’s true. There was ONE Rosie poster. Maybe this means that all the feminists snagged the rest of the supply before I got there, but I still think it points to a lack of diversity. Of course, I am entirely ignoring the fact that college women can break the trends of their demographic and go for the aqua teen hunger force or the Bob Marley, but I say with some confidence that we are not the target audience for these posters.

So please, college poster sale, keep us feminists in mind next time you stock up? I like to show my true colors all over the wall, and it’s hard when I have only black and white movie stars to choose from.

Human Perfection: What Could Go Wrong?

August 11, 2009 § 14 Comments

Ads for the movie Surrogates, starring Bruce Willis and set to hit theatres in September, have been dominating the NYC subways recently. I don’t like them very much.

surrogates1

surrogates2

surrogates3

Notice what poses the advertisers consider the “perfect” man, as opposed to woman, to lounge in? Notice where they’re clothed, where they’re nude? Notice that all three models are thin yet chiseled? Notice that they’re all white?

It’s embarassing that this movie is being portrayed as “futuristic” when the ideals it glorifies are decidedly tired. Hello? We see these ideas of perfection in the mainstream media every fucking day. Nothing about this is edgy.

Another movie I won’t be seeing

July 24, 2009 § 4 Comments

Get it? Because men don't have brains, and women don't like sex! It's all becoming clear.

Get it? Because men don't have brains, and women don't like sex! It's all becoming clear.

It’s summer, and though I’m busy working my tail patience off as a camp counselor, I also have quite a bit of downtime. I’ve seen a bunch of movies lately: some silly ones with my family (The Proposal and Year One) as well as films that I actually wanted to see (Away We Go and, last night, 500 Days of Summer — both excellent, the latter mostly because of my enormous crush on Zooey Deschanel). But one movie that I’m certain I won’t spend $12.50 on is The Ugly Truth, starring part-time feminist Katherine Heigl as a “romantically challenged morning show producer” and Gerard Butler as a professional douche. I’ve seen some previews that warned me of its knee-slappin’ “humor,” and then this morning I read the excellently scathing New York Times review by Manohla Dargis, fabulously titled Girl Meets Ape, and Complications Ensue.

When it comes to the old straight-boy-meets-straight-girl configuration with big-studio production values…the romantic comedy is nearly as dead as Meg Ryan’s career. In the best of these films, the women aren’t romantic foils, much less equals: they’re either (nice) sluts or (nicer) wives, and essentially as mysterious and unknowable as the dark side of the moon.

Which leads to “The Ugly Truth,” a cynical, clumsy, aptly titled attempt to cross the female-oriented romantic comedy with the male-oriented gross-out comedy that is interesting on several levels, none having to do with cinema. Katherine Heigl plays Abby, a producer for a ratings-challenged Sacramento morning television show, the kind that specializes in empty smiles, cooking tips and weather updates. She’s single and therefore, in the moral economy of modern Hollywood, unhappy. Her life goes into a tailspin when her boss hires a professional ape, Mike (Gerard Butler), who delivers loutish maxims on camera about the sexes that basically all boil down to this: Men have penises, and women should accommodate them any which way they can, preferably in push-up bras and remote-controlled vibrating panties.

…Ms. Heigl doesn’t do perky all that persuasively, but she does keep her smile and relative dignity even in scenes in which Abby is forced to play the fool, which is often, as when she’s hanging upside down from a tree in her skivvies. She even survives the scene that finds Abby writhing spasmodically during a dinner with her corporate masters, because, well, she’s wearing those pulsating panties, the boy at the next table has the remote, and there’s nothing funnier (or, really, scarier) than the spectacle of female pleasure.

I am SO. TIRED. of media that portrays women’s minds as murky, our bodies as property, and our desires as hilarious. A woman’s sexuality is not so damn difficult to understand — if you talk to and listen to her, which society is apparently loath to do.

And another thing: no one seems to get that these movies are as offensive to men as they are to women. Commenters on IMDB rave that it’s a “comedy for both sexes,” one you can “bring your boyfriend” to. Men should not be like Butler’s skeevy character; and what’s more, they aren’t. But movies like this convince the public that guys are practically children, and we shouldn’t expect to hold them accountable for atrocious sexist behavior.

“The Ugly Truth” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian).
The language is consistently crude and includes the apparently now requisite antigay slurs.

Yeah. Because straight = manly, manly = asshole, and asshole = sexy.

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