April 18, 2012 § Leave a comment
Lena Dunham’s new series Girls has been hotly anticipated, to put it mildly. It’s produced by Judd Apatow. It is directed, written by, and starring Lena Dunham. It has been Tweeted. A lot. Girls will supposedly be the new show that will be scarily relevant for young women who still hadn’t gone through puberty when Sex and the City premiered. I wanted to like Girls, because the current entertainment landscape is deviod of television and shows that include women in above-the-line positions, or barely pass the Bechdel Test.
However, my lovely roomate Rachel could have written a much funnier, relevant, and heartbreaking show about young women in their twenties sturggling to make it in a world where a college degree no longer guarantees a decent job.
Hannah (played by Dunham) is distraught when her parents announce that they will no longer be “bankrolling her groovy lifestyle”. Subsequently, Hannah is fired from her internship when she informs her boss that she can no longer work for free. Both of these situations are not uncommon for young twentysomething women. Unpaid internships in the world of theatre, media, and publishing seem to be the new way that many employers get around pesky fair-pay laws and devalue the earning power of women. So while I share Hannah’s frustrations about being mistreated as an intern, her opiomtastic plea for more money from her parents was bizarre and unrealistic. When I asked my parents to send me money for rent after I lost my low-paying, soul-crushing food service job, I broke down and cried. Money is a very sensitive subject, and whenever my friends confess that they have no way to pay for rent, food, bills, and loans without outside help from relatives, they do so with shame.
While Hannah is spoiled and shameless, she is the only character so far that has at least some dimension and vulnerabity. Jessa is the stereotypical bohemian Brit, and Shoshanna, in her one major scene in the pilot rambles on about nothing but Sex and the City. And while I have met women who talked about nothing but SATC they were slightly more interesting to be around than Shoshanna.
Being a young woman with a degree and far too much student loan debt is hard. And occaisonally, frightening. But most of the people I know wound up moving back in with their parents after graduation due to the lackluster job market, or worked multiple jobs in order to stay afloat with bills. They didn’t get the privilege of a financial crisis after 2 free years of rent. The girl-Women of Girls seem to be living in an alternate universe where moving back home is worse than death and Brooklyn is an exclusively white borough, with soft, photo-ready lighting. If Girls is the new Sex and the City, the show is following in its predecessor’s footsteps of featuireing a New York City exclusively populated by white people, save for that one black catcaller, since apparently all black men ever do is yell at white women.
The one thing Dunham did get right in the pilot was Hannah’s (deeply dysfunctional) relationship with Adam. Some writers have criticized the sex xcene between Hannah and Adam as being unglamorous and degrading. And that is the point. While I don’t have parents willing to pay for two years worth of my rent and bills while I try to “find myself” in New York, I know far too many men who believed that condom use was optional, and thought that a women willing to have sex was also willing to have anal sex. And I can understand why Hannah went out of her way to contact this slimy, somewhat abusive, habitual non-texter. Even smart, college-educated young women have a hard time turning off the voice that says everyewhere, in books, tv, movies, and magazines that bad (or even not especially consensual) sex is better than being alone, especially after your boss has fired you from your unpaid internship because you don’t know PhotoShop.
Girls should not be a unique show because it is written and directed by a woman. There should be so many shows directed, written, and produced by women that viewers should not have to feel like they should settle for a mediocre one in order to support female writers and directors. If the girls of Girls don’t grow up soon and move beyond their Gen Y versions of SATC charictatures, I won’t have a reason to keep tuning in. Especially because HBO gives the show a late evening time slot, and I’ve got work the next morning.
March 21, 2011 § 3 Comments
I. What are the precise mechanics of a YouTube video “going viral”?
Black’s video was originally posted on February 10, but started garnering a significant number of hits about a month later on Friday March 11. A friend showed it to me in person on Tuesday March 15; over the next few days it spread quickly among my classmates, and many of Friday March 18’s Facebook status updates were devoted to parodies and references to the song. As I write this the official YouTube video has more than 30 million views.
II. Who is Rebecca Black?
She seems earnest and sweet; she apparently plans to donate much of her iTunes sales profits to “school arts programs and relief efforts in Japan.” How did she get involved with Ark Music Factory
III. Who wrote the song? (It wasn’t Black.) And who auto-tuned the shit out of it? Because: HA. Kudos on your career. To be honest, I completely agree with Rolling Stone’s assessment that the song is “an unintentional parody of modern pop.” And I’d love to hear more from the true creator of said unintentional parody.
IV. What’s up with Ark Music Factory?
I couldn’t find much definitive information about the label’s business model or how one becomes associated with it; all I know for sure right now is that their website’s child-porn aesthetic gives me the creeps.
V. Why are we so culturally infatuated with improbable images of young teen girls partying?
It seems that society is only interested in girls when we’re appearing carefree and having capital-F Fun. Alarmingly few people are interested in struggle or unsureness or complex emotion. Which is unfortunate, because to my knowledge that’s exactly the register in which women operate from the ages of ten to twenty (or ten to forever?).
VI. What’s behind the onslaught of hatred towards Rebecca Black?
It is now a well-established fact that “Friday” is not good. You are not contributing something new to the discourse by saying the song sucks. Offering criticism of Black’s creative work is fine; anyone who puts a piece of writing or song or video or whatever out into the world should expect as much in response. What’s disturbing is the criticism that’s been leveled at Rebecca Black as a person. Her situation is emblematic of a phenomenon faced by many female pop stars, in which consumers use “critique” of an artist’s work to not-so-subtly critique her. (For guys, quite the opposite. Even Chris Brown’s undisputed real-life actions didn’t yield substantial public criticism of his personality or moral code.)
Asked by ABC’s Andrea Canning about the meanest response to her video that she’s read, Black says: “I hope you cut yourself and I hope you get an eating disorder so you’ll look pretty, and I hope you go cut and die.” These words have nothing to do with “Friday” — and actually, they probably have nothing to do with Rebecca Black. These words are about the vitriolic hostility that women are routinely and reflexively shown whenever they step foot into the media’s public arena. I’ve seen the video over and over, and I’m left wondering: Why is our culture simultaneously so obsessed with this video and so seemingly angered by it? I guess the real question is, why are we so hungry for media from women we can hate?
March 8, 2011 § 5 Comments
What happens when Daniel Craig and Judi Dench collaborate to make a public service announcement about gender inequality, which includes Craig dressing in hosiery, heels, a dress, wig, and earrings?
Chilling awesomeness happens.
Then again, Craig was the butt of a shitstorm of jokes when he was announced as the New Bond, because he wasn’t “manly” enough for the role. Evidently, being short/having sensitive skin*/not driving a stick/not caring for guns meant that he was a “wuss”. It’s great to see an actor known for playing a traditionally hyper-masculine role spend his time and energy making a great point about sexism.
And Judi Dench needs to narrate everything. All the time.
February 19, 2011 § 3 Comments
No matter what anyone says, no matter the valid criticisms of the problematic aspects of her persona and her music, at the end of the day, this is why I love Lady Gaga. This, right here:
Indeed: Just love yourself and you’re set.
December 17, 2010 § Leave a comment
More than 20 years after his film Roger and Me, about Flint’s connections to General Motors, and how the city is affected by outsourcing, Michael Moore still has strong geological and emotional ties to the eastern side of the state of Michigan. He mentioned Flint in Bowling for Columbine and Farenheit 9/11, and was clearly passionate about shedding light on the disparity of wealth within Flint. Hell, his Twitter handle is @MMFlint. In his films and interviews, he frequently is seen wearing apparel with the logos of several Michigan colleges, including Michigan State University, and Eastern Michigan University. I wonder if Moore has visited Eastern Michigan University, or spoken at the school recently. If he did, he may have heard about what happened in 2006 to Eastern student Laura Dickinson.
Laura Dickinson, a student at EMU was raped and murdered in her dorm room in December 2006. EMU originally told her family that she died of natural causes, and it was only after a suspect was arrested that the school informed Dickinson’s family that her death was a homocide. EMU was fined for violating the Beverly Clery Act (which requires colleges and universities to report felonies that happen on campus), settled with the Dickinson family out of court, and the President, Vice President, and Public Safety Director were fired. Dickinson’s death, EMU’s cover-up, and the murder trial were on the news constantly, and brought the kind of publicity that a small town in West Michigan does not want. At the same time, the Dickinson family held several benefits, with proceeds going to causes that Laura supported. Friends and neighbors stepped in to help run the family coffee shop during the months after her death.
It was hard to hear TV and radio reports about Laura’s death, because I knew her family, spent numerous hours in their coffeeshop, and it was sad that instead of being in the news because State Grounds supported the community by letting musicians perform in the space, or raised money for important causes. They were on the news because their daughter had died, and the institution that should have been looking out for her safety failed to protect her, and decided to lie to her family.
When I hear the phrase “travesty of justice”, I think about how EMU treated the grieving Dickinson family. I don’t think about Assange turning himself in, being jailed for a short period of time, being released on bail, and spending his holiday in an English mansion. It isn’t so much Moore posting bail for Assange (it’s his money, he can waste it however he wants to) that pisses me off, it’s Moore’s going on “Countdown With Keith Shouts-A-Lot”, and claiming that his donation stems from a belief that Assange was “set up” and that his complainants are merely upset groupies/”honeypots”/CIA informants/otherwise hell bent on destroying WikiLeaks. This is a criminal case, and instead of trying Assange and his accusers in the Court of the Internet (which is highly susceptible to severe cases of trolling), we should let the courts do their job. And we should reserve judgement about the veracity of the accusations until all parties must testify under oath.
Moore and Olbermann have been silent about their fantastically insensitive comments. I understand that having to explain their justification behind saying that Assange’s work was more important than having to do something as pesky as answer for a crime he has been accused of (and spreading misinformation about Assange’s accusers) must be hard. How about they meet with the Dickinson family, and ask them what it was like to not only have a daughter die after being assaulted, but to have a university lie to them about her death? If Moore doesn’t particularly care about the whole “sexual assault is bad” thing, it would at least provide another example of why cover-ups, and the spreading of lies, by any person or organization, can be devastating and hurtful.
And then maybe, just maybe, Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann will realize why dismissing rape accusations comes off as hurtful, insensitive, pompous, and a slew of other unpleasant adjectives. And then oh, I don’t know, donate at least a little bit of their fortunes to RAINN?
December 16, 2010 § 9 Comments
So. Let’s review.
1. Julian Assange, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, has been accused of raping two Swedish women on different occasions. These two women have an apparently awesome lawyer, Claes Borgström, who says things like: “[my clients] are victims of a crime, but they are looked upon as the perpetrators and that is very unfortunate.” Assange has a lawyer, Mark Stephens, who says things like: “The honeytrap has been sprung. Dark forces are at work. After what we’ve seen so far you can reasonably conclude this is part of a greater plan.” Because of these accusations, Assange has been arrested and held in a London jail. But he has been released on bail and appears dedicated to avoiding fair and rigorous prosecution for these alleged rapes.
2. Keith Olbermann talks about Assange’s legal troubles on his show. Olbermann invites Michael Moore to comment on Assange’s legal troubles on his show, specifically why Moore chose to donate $20,000 to Assange’s bail. Moore tells us that he donated such a sum because he believes WikiLeaks’ works is essential for a “free and open society,” because supporting WikiLeaks is “an act of patriotism.” Oh, and because the rape allegations are “a lie and a smear,” “all a bunch of hooey.” Oh, and also: because the allegations of rape are actually allegations that “his condom broke during consensual sex, which is not a crime.” Not a crime, true. Also not the accusation. (But here’s the thing: respecting WikiLeaks as a mechanism for ensuring “a free and open society” does not prevent us from getting to the bottom of the accusations against Assange. We can admire the principles of an organization while still questioning the ethics of their frontman. Really. We are old enough to walk and chew gum, here.)
3. Sady Doyle calls this shit out. And by “this shit” I mean the utter audacity of a progressive leader like Michael Moore to dismiss so casually and callously the very legitimate claims of two women who may have been raped. She calls out “the unwillingness of men in positions of power to consider rape a crucial issue that must be taken seriously.” And she launches a powerful protest: #Mooreandme. For the last 24 hours, real progressives have been tweeting @MMFlint and @KeithOlbermann, calling out their rape apologist bullshit; demanding dialogue, an apology, and $20,000 to an anti-rape organization; saying:
We are the progressive community. We are the left wing. We are women and men, we are from every sector of this community, and we believe that every rape accusation must be taken seriously, regardless of the accused rapist’s connections, power, influence, status, fame, or politics. We believe that rape is a crucial and central issue which affects us all, women disproportionately, and we are sick of being told that you should “never, ever believe” us. We believe that accuser-shaming, accuser-harassment, victim-blaming, and the suppression of rape cases all serve one distinct purpose, which is: TO MAKE IT EASIER FOR PEOPLE TO RAPE US AND GET AWAY WITH IT.
And for the last 24 hours? Olbermann has blocked a bunch of people, and Moore hasn’t responded at all. That’s some courageous journalism right there.
So there you have my humble, incomplete recap. But what I really want to emphasize is this: Olbermann and Moore have a really incredible opportunity right in front of them, an opportunity begging to be taken. They have the opportunity to apologize. Because being a good progressive? Is all about fucking up.
If we’re ever to break the myth of the flawless progressive hero — a myth that is unproductive, a myth that breaks hearts — we need to start learning how to recover from mistakes. Because they happen; casual racism, sexism, rape apologism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, fatphobia, ageism, classism… Those things happen because we were taught to make them happen. Now we need to teach ourselves to stop them. Sure, we need to expect more. But expecting more doesn’t mean expecting perfection, the first time, every time. Expecting more is about making mistakes, being called out, engaging and learning from them. We learned that shit in pre-school.
Keith Olbermann, Michael Moore, we’re waiting, we’re literally begging you to apologize and to right your egregious wrongs. You can find me @mirandamammen, waiting with the rest of my crew. We’re waiting. But we can’t wait forever.