Back Fat

Because my fat is my armor, you know
Heaven forbid I break free from these heavy folds
And become the physical embodiment of my finer attributes

My sense of humor
My lust
My quick tongue
Muffled by my layers and dismissed with a shrug and a whisper of if only…

If only she weren’t so fat
If only she were pretty
My thoughts roar with the whispers I imagine in the minds of others

Because if there were any armor to choose from, let it be fat
Let my rolls be the hills and valleys you must quest through
To get the ultimate reward

Because no one will love you
Will fuck you
Will adore you
Like a fat girl thankful for your attention

Or so you think.

12. The Fifth Element

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/12-the-fifth-element

How do Nikki and Sher feel about bleaching their southern hemispheres? What happens when Nikki learns about merkins? Is racism in Hollywood an issue? What about Leeloo makes feminists itchy under the scalp? Join us to find out!

*contains some Game of Thrones spoilers*

Articles/sites referenced in the show:

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000108/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm

https://www.homesciencetools.com/a/four-elements 

http://www.chm.bris.ac.uk/webprojects2002/tubb/elements.htm

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/jan/18/hollywoods-race-problem-film-industry-actors-of-colour

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/la-et-oscars-so-white-reaction-htmlstory.html

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/jan/18/hollywoods-race-problem-film-industry-actors-of-colour

https://sarahhansel.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/gender-norms-in-the-fifth-element/

Favorite quote: “Bzzzzzzzz. Bzz bzz bzzz.” – Ruby Rhod

What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!

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2. Mad Max: Fury Road

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/mad-max-fury-road

Nikki and Sher summon the apocalypse and talk about feminism! Drinking game: take a shot every time Sher messes up “post-apocalyptic.” Does Max even belong in this movie? What’s up with all that milk? Is Furiosa the feminist hero that will herald a new era in Hollywood?

Articles/sites referenced in the show:

 

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/may/27/sexists-are-scared-of-mad-max-because-it-is-a-call-to-dismantle-patriarchies

http://nypost.com/2015/05/14/why-mad-max-fury-road-is-the-feminist-picture-of-the-year/

http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2015/05/no-mad-max-fury-road-not-feminist-masterpiece-s-ok

https://www.quora.com/Why-is-Mad-Max-Fury-Road-being-called-a-feminist-movie

Favorite Quote: “Ahhh, mediocre.” – Immortan Joe

What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!

Please rate and review us! Become a Patreon patron to unlock exclusive content.
Like us on facebook for news and events.
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1. The Princess Bride

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/the-princess-bride

Join Nikki and Sher for an exploration of the political climate surrounding The Princess Bride, a questioning of the trope of twue love, and a discussion of the presence or absence of feminism.

Articles/sites referenced in the show:

 

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/08/28/american-dreams-1973-the-princess-bride-by-william-goldman.html

Favorite Quote: “You’re trying to kidnap what I’ve rightfully stolen.”  – Vizzini (perspective of purpose)

What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!

Please rate and review us! Become a Patreon patron to unlock exclusive content.
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20/21. Wonder Woman

Listen to Wonder Woman Part 1 here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/20-wonder-woman-part-1
Listen to Wonder Woman Part 2 here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/21-wonder-woman-part-2

Nikki and Sher host a podparty and invite some illustrious guests to this episode: Dr. Angela Bratton (professor of anthropology), Aspasia Luster, and Meloni Wall. We discuss feminism, role reversals, sexuality, and historical gender politics.

What we’ve posted here is not so much notes as it is a list of potential discussion questions for our panel of guests, but we thought it might be useful for some, so enjoy!

Some Historical Context on Wonder Woman

Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman, was created in 1941. At the outset, she comes onto the scene as a New Woman type, a warrior for truth and an enemy of the Patriarchy. But the feminist icon breaks down upon closer inspection, and not even terribly scrutinous closer inspection. She joins the team as a secretary (a normative and unremarkable job for a woman at the time) which is an utter waste of Wonder Woman’s talents, unless I’m completely misunderstanding the role of a secretary. And she still has lots of feminine sex appeal. The creator himself described her as having “all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.” Good AND beautiful, y’all. What a catch.

1941 is two years into WWII, and there was a lot of anxiety about the girls taking all the jobs (and performing adequately (shocking!)) while the boys were off at war. Wonder Woman, early Wonder Woman anyway, feels like a compromise. She’s an intelligent, strong, capable woman, but she still knows her place and defers power to the men. This version of her tries to do triple-duty – calming the men re-entering the workforce as well as acknowledging the women for stepping up, and then kindly reminding them to step back down.

Wonder Woman has since been co-opted by feminists and evolved into a symbol of female strength and independence. She’s not perfect, but neither are we.

Discussion Questions

  • How were each of us first introduced to Wonder Woman, or how did we become aware of her?
  • In the opening monologue, Diana references mankind instead of humankind. In such a feminism-aware movie, is it possible that this is an oversight, or is this subtext, as the early 20th century was still very much male-centric? Similarly, Hippolyta uses the same phrasing when telling young Diana the story about the Amazons’ origins, and Ares as well when explaining to Diana how he doesn’t need to take control of men to turn them to violence.
  • Who got teary-eyed during the battle scenes? An article from The Mercury News states that this is because the movie took these warriors seriously – this army of trained, effective, career soldiers was given as much respect as any male-driven battle scene instead of being treated as getting this one part out of the way to set up the backstory. Does this ring true for your own emotional reaction?
  • A lot has been said about the use of real lady athletes for the Amazon army. What does it say that this casting decision, which makes so much practical sense, is being hailed as such a feminist act?
  • What do you feel about the presence of the love story between Diana and Steve? Did it get in the way of the story, or was it important to Diana’s exploration of the world of men?
    • In a scene that we assume leads to sex, did you like that we didn’t see Diana sexualized, or are you disappointed we didn’t see her claiming her sexuality? Were there any other issues with this scene?
  • My favorite part of the movie is that Diana is fierce, strong, passionate, righteous, and determined – she’s a warrior and a protector, but she’s STILL A WOMAN. And well respected by her male associates, to boot. So many female superheroes or action stars are just male personalities transplanted into female bodies. Do you think this can be a symbol of uniting feminism and shedding the habits of woman-on-woman criticism and judgement?
  • Wonder Woman was directed by a lady-person, the inimitable Patty Jenkins. Do you feel the same movie would have had the same impact if directed by a man?
  • If you have seen Justice League, how do you feel the dynamic played out, with WW the sole lady amongst three male colleagues?
    • How are we feeling about the changes to the Amazons outfits in Justice League?
  • There is a veritable coterie of villains in this movie (Dr. Maru, General Ludendorf, The War, Ares). Each one works in concert with the others to create opportunities for mayhem and wrongness. Diana works against evil not by playing by the rules of war, but by seeking and the root cause (she believes) and destroying it. Can this be seen as a metaphor for the smashing of the patriarchy?
  • Can we talk about men being necessary for procreation but not pleasure? Thoughts?

Favorite Quote: “I will fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.” – Diana Prince

What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!

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Like us on facebook for news and events.
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How to Travel While Angry, Or Why Eminem is Your Ideal Traveling Companion

There are times in your life when you plan as much as can. Yes, I know, never count on a plan coming together. But I’m not talking about getting rained out of a picnic or having a packet of red dye find its way into the washer and explode all over your bright white yachting clothes mere hours before before you’re supposed to meet Chad for an afternoon of cutting insults masked as flirtation and judging the peasants who have to rent their yachts instead of using Daddy’s (the horror of middle class!). For those situations, you will have to find your advice elsewhere. I’m talking about travel plans hijacked by fate and circumstance. It should never be a surprise; it’s always a possibility. But nevertheless, when it happens, it creates a tornado of black rage in one’s heart.

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Consider: You arrive early at your gate and smugly drink your expensive jarred Starbucks frappuccino that you’re only pretending to like while watching the wretched, frantic souls run through the airport as though the hounds of hell are after their firstborns. This is a fun past-time, especially if you’re already bitter (no need to go into details). The heart is a great container for ire and contempt, but it tends to leak out in ugly ways.

Assured in your competence as a professional traveler, you board your plane and congratulate yourself on having an entire row to yourself and settle in to read in peace. After an uneventful flight, you mosey to a departure/arrival information board to locate the gate for your next flight, anticipating a leisurely meal and adult beverage, only to find that your connection has been canceled. Not delayed, but canceled. This can’t be, you think to yourself. I planned.

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The ire that has been bubbling industriously away in your heart begins to darken even more. You find customer service and sigh inwardly at the huge line, realizing that your prospects for being rebooked are dwindling with each person in front of you. But you  remember – you are a professional traveler. You know how this works. You call the customer service number while in you’re standing in line. The friendly ticket agent apologizes profusely (you care not) and rebooks you on a flight. In twelve hours. The heart of ire turns to solid ice, unable to maintain the heat that has so far been rising. Twelve hours, you say. Very good. Thank you very much. You manage to leave the line without a primal scream and promptly find the nearest alcohol vendor. Thus installed, you mope and contact your sibling, apologizing for now making him pick you up in the middle of night, well after you should already have begun shenanigans befitting two perpetual adolescents.

Now you’re caught up with the proper state of mind. We can commence with the coping mechanisms.

Coping Strategy #1: Find the Angriest Music on the Planet

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There are many, many ways to execute this. It doesn’t have to be a typically angry genre. You can listen to Carrie Underwood smashing up cars with a baseball bat. You can listen to Twisted Sister assert that they will no longer be taking it (the “it” is usefully vague – you can fill in the specifics with your own situation).

There are your angry standards – heavy metal is always a good choice. Slayer is adequate. You have to be careful with anything from the 90’s however; you may just end up angsty instead of angry (Nine Inch Nails is especially to be treated with caution). Punk can be a great option, though they veer toward contempt of institutionalized culture and politics. There’s the hard-to-pin-down rock/rap/funk, like Rage Against the Machine and Beastie Boys. Hard to go wrong there.

My go-to angry artist is Eminem. He may be the angriest man on the planet. While problematic (more on that later), he may be the only artist able to scare the fury in my heart into retreat. Because rest assured, no matter angry you are, Mr. Mathers is most definitely angrier. Just look at that mean mug! It’s so impressive!

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You know what the sin-eater is, right? No? Allow me to explain. In western Europe, a sin-eater was a person employed in the old-timey days to come to funerals or wakes and assure the deceased could ascend into heaven with a clean slate. This was executed by laying bread and salt around the body. The sin-eater would come and eat the bread and salt, thereby absorbing the sins of the dead person through some kind of metaphysical alchemy so common in religious ceremonies (no word on the prevalence of high blood pressure in sin-eaters).

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Sin-eaters’ reward for guaranteeing the eternal salvation of loved ones was that they were not paid well, and they generally skeeved everyone out, so you can imagine that theirs was a lonely, spartan life. You can read all about them in this great article.

Eminem, Slim Shady, Marshall Mathers, whatever you want to call him, is my anger-eater. Instead of coming to my funeral (although that would be badass) and eating stale bread, he comes to my darkest of hearts through the magical alchemy of internet and earbuds (it is nothing less than magic – fight me) and gnaws on the chunks of hatred thrown up from the rage volcano under my beating breast. After a few hours, my boiling heart has submitted in deference to a true master. I’m still plenty angry, mind you, but I’ve essentially just forced myself to confront the fact that whatever I’m pissed about could be exponentially worse, and that I don’t make such bad life decisions after all. Note – if you actually do make terrible life choices, don’t feel better about it. Get your shit together.

More on Em in Coping Strategy #3.

Coping Strategy #2: Amuse Thyself

On your incredibly long layover, you must find ways to amuse yourself, while at the same time avoiding the notice of TSA agents. Here you should use your judgement. Some options:

  • Create elaborate and sordid backstories for fellow airport residents. That man over there, sleeping on his suitcase? He’s been ousted by his wife who discovered he had a fetish for bloodthirsty clowns and has been frequenting the Dark Circus. That lady with a squalling baby? Her husband is an astronaut who left for space long before she became pregnant. Now he’s coming home, and she’s taken the coward’s way out and left the house with just a note on the kitchen counter saying “need milk, be home soon”. The family of four with harried parents? The kids are actually x-men recruits headed to Hogwarts. Yes, you will eventually become so tired that you’ll cross your universes.
  • Relive that Tom Hanks classic, “The Terminal”, to the best of your ability (remember – you are avoiding the TSA). Use funny accents at all times, changing them frequently. Strike up conversations with strangers that begin, “In my homeland of Segborkia…” Fall madly in love with an airport employee. The sky’s the limit (pun intended).

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  • Engage all of your social media friends by chronicling your airport adventures. This lets them know you’re miserable, which is a nice feeling. Just make sure they’re all thinking about you the whole time. It will keep you going. I have provided an example of my own effort at this strategy here. You can see my mental faculties (and hair) deteriorate hourly. Yes, I know I’m bad at Instagram. The captions are the important bit.

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  • Drink. This is to be taken with a few qualifiers. Public inebriation looks good on no one, and also may attract TSA attention so you have to make sure to pace yourself. Also, if you get righteously drunk, you may fall asleep somewhere and miss your flight. In which case you have to start this whole process over. This is not a desirable outcome. Take caution.
  • Locate and lure the animals. There are a surprising number of dogs in any given airport. You should stay away from the working dogs, as they are usually attached to TSA agents by a not-so-long leash. However, you may find a lot of passengers toting dogs or service animals. If their human seems approachable, take the opportunity to ask for some doggy petting. It can do wonders for your spirits. Be warned, however: travelers in general are crankier than the general population. You may be soundly rejected. If this happens, it’s important to remain calm. Dogs can smell embarrassment and will not react favorably. Just ask One-Eyed Dan, one of my “The Terminal” alter-egos.
  • Go shopping. I don’t mean buy some fancy chocolate or local football team gear. I mean try your best to skeeve out the airport cashiers with your selections. These people see everything, so this one is not for beginners. You might try placing hair bands, hemorrhoid cream, and dental floss on the counter, all while squirming and grimacing during the checkout process. Keep them guessing. Are you going to try to tie off a hemorrhoid in the bathroom? Who knows! It would be impolite to ask. This takes a special level of concentration, so you want to do this late enough into your layover that you’re slap-happy, but not so late that you’ve lost the will to live.

Coping Strategy #3: Lose Yourself in Needlessly Deep Thought

This one is a natural consequence of being left alone for too long. You will likely not have to put much effort in here. What follows is a 1,000% exact transcript of my stream of consciousness thoughts as a conversation with myself around the midway point of my twelve hour layover.

Now – as I said earlier, Eminem is problematic. This is true. You will hear a lot about faggots and hoes. If you are of the female persuasion, as I am, this may be a confusing experience. (I can’t speak to the homosexual reaction since I am not one, but I feel what I have to say may apply adjacently to you as well.) You will feel as though you’re not supposed to be enjoying this as much as you are. You will soothe yourself by knowing that you are not the type of woman that Em wants to take a machine gun to. You have an idea that what you’re hearing is a one-sided conversation with Mr. Shady’s unresolved feelings after a particularly bad romantic experience. Maybe, you think, he’s just brave enough to say out loud what we all think after being wronged by a lover. Who among us has not wished a slow, painful death on someone for whom we once cared? Not I, you say? LIAR. LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAR.

But I’m a FEMINIST, you cry, horrified at yourself when you nod along to a lyric like “I’m back on my fuck ho’s / But a whole new hatred for blondes, but bias? / I hate all bitches the same, baby come on.” The mental calculus required at this point to be okay with what you’re hearing is challenging to say the least.

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Feminist you may be, but understand that here you have a heterosexual male artist infamous for giving zero fucks, and for him the most hurt he’s going to receive will be from women. Thus they will receive the most shade.

Which brings me to my Philosophy on Rap Guys’ Girlfriends. No props for the solid Sir Mix-A-Lot reference? Rude, Becky. Moving on, slightly miffed. The thing about fame is that the more famous you become, the fewer regular people you interact with. Those you do interact with tend to be screaming at you or shoving a phone in your face to take a picture you did not consent to. Doesn’t sound pleasant, although the pay is good. Therein lies the paradox of fame. Can you blame the famous for tending to stick together, or with “pre-vetted” humans that have somehow managed to infiltrate their circles? If you go to a party thrown by another famous person (I can only assume here…) the people there are probably safe to be around as regards their lack of propensity to charge you like a defensive lineman protecting their quarterback (which in this metaphor is their long-held fantasy of becoming your paramour – “if <famous person> could just meet me, they would see that we are soulmates”). This is not an apology for celebrities who complain about being mobbed by fans; see above, they are paid well for it. I’m just asking you to put yourself in their shoes to understand the rest of this philosophy. Although it’s probably a hypothesis. I’m leaning towards philosophy simply because I have no way of ever testing this. The point here is that famous people will stick to meeting and knowing people that go to other famous people’s parties.

On to personalities. Have you ever seen a rap guy’s music video? You would have had to search one out since MTV became a misnomer. They are filled with buxom women – curvy in the right places and skinny in the rest of the places. They have large, beautiful eyes rimmed by eyelashes stolen from giraffes. Their hair is either entirely fake, or augmented with color, textures, streaks which can be either highlights or lowlights (wtf is the difference), and is generally engineered for maximum attractiveness with ingredients harvested from asteroids. The face has been sculpted, either with a scalpel or a makeup brush, so that any pores, pimples, defect in bone structure, or stray beard hair would not hold up in a court of law under the closest scrutiny. Their clothes are revealing and flattering, though uniformly uncomfortable looking (those shoes cause bunions, ladies; enjoy it now until your feet become a Minecraft task). Any skin on display has been attended to so that is the right color and texture. No stretch marks or unsightly lumps anywhere.

This is the Cult of Desirable Objects the rap guy lives in – he seeks to have that which is coveted. The above described, we are led to believe, is the woman-person that is desirable. This woman-person however, does not exist in nature very often, if at all. Any woman-person wanting to be like this is probably going to spend more time on her appearance than on building her personality and life experiences. Again – this is a generalization. Many beautiful women are probably also really great people. But I would bet that number gets lower the harder they have to work at it.

This is a great time to point out that you can pretty much swap out genres and genders and sexual orientations here as much as you’d like. We all want to be surrounded by beautiful robot wo/men. Proof? Here’s a still from a Nicki Minaj video. Look at all the glorious flesh, and Nicki herself at the helm! (Yes, another Sir Mix-A-Lot reference. You’re welcome.)

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Now, I have no idea where these women come from or where they go when they’re not at parties or in music videos. I assume they are created on an assembly line and stored in a warehouse, to which they return periodically to charge their battery pods. It’s the only logical conclusion – I have never seen someone who looks like that out walking around in the world.

So, if you’re a rap guy and you want to have a party, what type of women would you stock it with? Janet from Poughkeepsie who works at a Rite-Aid stocking toothbrushes overnight to keep her family in Hamburger Helper, or Purrdita; an exotic blend of all the right ethnicities and master of all the female maintenance techniques mentioned above and who has stepped off the Acceptable Woman assembly line (no shade to Purrdita – you may be a perfectly nice human). Janet’s busy anyway. Feeding her kids is very important to her, and she doesn’t have anything prostitute-casual to wear regardless.

We have so far established that Purrdita is a very nice lady with no ulterior motives. BUT – imagine the hordes of other women who have been conditioned by these music videos and culture in general, those in which the rap guys are throwing cash around (and I mean that literally; who does that?? Does anyone actually do that??) and treating their entourages to only the finest life has to offer. These women look in the mirror and see that they are beautiful and shapely and skinny (try pulling that off) and think “yes, I have this earned shinily ever after” so all that’s missing is the rap guy from whom the cash shall pour forth. Sexy pursuit to follow.

Love and sex are hardly the same, and yet they remain inextricably intertwined. Gender stereotypes would have you believe that females are slave to the former, and men to the latter. I think not. I have found that men are capable of being hurt on a level much deeper than we as a society acknowledge. And some women are just as well versed in the brutality of the heart as some men are in the brutality of the body. Neither of these things is right, and each one is it’s own wicked problem that keeps getting perpetuated generation after generation. That is not a thing I feel like tackling at this point. Until the singularity exists and materialism becomes an artifact of the analog past, just accept that it exists and we’ll move on.

So – these prospective rap guys’ girlfriends use the weapons of their sex and the means of their minds to bag a rich guy. Maybe there is some mutual attraction and affection, maybe not. But for the lifestyle, it doesn’t matter (this applies generally to all famous people of all genders and sexual orientations; I just really like my Sir Mix-A-Lot reference and I’m committed to it). Heartbreak ensues. Not the usual “we couldn’t work it out” heartbreak, but heartbreak on a “you deceived me and betrayed me for nothing more than my fame and my money; is this all there is? Am I even lovable?” level. This cycle keeps perpetuating because normal people are unapproachable and to be avoided at all costs. This means that the pool of people a rap guy will meet is inordinately concentrated with assholes and gold-diggers. Thus, opinions form. Songs are written. Records are released. Feminists and homosexuals are alarmed.

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I’m not going on a rant and saying there needs to be a #notallwomen movement, I’m really just selfishly coming up with a justification so I can listen to music that is not intended to be enjoyed by someone like me; a heterosexual thirty-something white woman.

More on Slim later. What are we here for again? Oh right. Angry travelling. See how much time #3 can take up? Use it to your advantage!

Coping Strategy #4: Don’t Lose the Will to Live

This is difficult. If the three prior strategies fail you, you have to find a way to rally. Usually you’ll want to find the nearest alcohol vendor, unless that’s where you lost your will to live. These are the doldrums of layovers, where the airport ceases to be a finite, temporary structure and instead subsumes your humanity and becomes your own personal hell. Imagine – a place where you are never alone, but never with anyone, either. Where the bathrooms are plentiful, but always occupied. Where you can buy any kind of food you want, but each meal is a gamble with botulism. If you’re lucky, you’re at a larger airport where they’ve got outlets everywhere so you can charge your electronic devices. Take advantage of these. If you’re extremely lucky, you’re on a layover in Japan where they have sleep pods. No matter the cost – rent a sleep pod. Your will to live and to persevere is all you have at this point, airport resident. Do whatever it takes.

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At some point, you will either disappear into the void of Airport, or you will be placed on an airplane. Once you are ass-in-seat on that plane, you may be overcome with the most infinite joy you’ve experienced, far surpassing the birth of any children, or that time you ran out of cheese and tortilla chips at the exact same time. Be warned – this feeling is fleeting. Very, very fleeting. You’ve just been plucked from relative psychic desolation and dropped down into a cesspool of humanity. Remember when you were stretched out on the floor at an empty gate, or sitting comfortably in a bar with your stein of beer? You now are on a plane, with no leg room, no fresh air, and an unmitigated and irrational hatred of those assholes up in first class. You’ve been sat next to a frantic looking mother holding a baby under six months old, who has decided to place her five-year-old between you and her. Five-year-olds are notorious for their lack of regard for the personal bubble, or awareness of where their elbows are at any given moment.

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And then the drink trolley comes.

Coping Strategy #5: This Too Shall Pass; Be Elsewhere Until it Does

This five-year-old will spill her drink on you. This has been predetermined by the fates back when the first threads of the tapestry of the universe were woven. It’s just a matter of time. All you can do now is make sure your pockets on the that side are empty and that you have made no eye contact whatsoever with the creature’s mother so that when the inevitable comes to pass, you and the child can both ignore what has just happened and avoid talking about the matter. The benefit here is that kids are generally limited to juice and clear sodas, so while you may be sticky, you probably won’t smell too bad when you reach your final destination. If you are seated beside a belligerent drunk, I can’t promise the same.

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Now is the time you want to imagine you’re in a Nicholas Sparks movie. One where the protagonist (usually a middle-aged, middle-class woman, but just go with me here) must endure seemingly endless personal disappointment before being swept off her humdrum feet by Richard Gere. If you’re like me, you’d rather swap Richard out with someone like Dean Winchester (you heard me; I didn’t say Jensen Ackles, I said Dean Winchester), but to each her own. This is your escape fantasy, so go for broke. You want Jason Momoa’s Aquaman? All the better for when you’re flying over the ocean and there’s turbulence. The important thing here is that you keep making lemonade. Speaking of which, if you want to pretend you’re Beyonce taking a bat to every single human person who has ever contributed to the marvel of commercial flight, be my guest. Whatever gets you through.

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If you’re on a window seat, it’s pretty easy to cry at this point. Just turn and face the window. The terrifying rocking and shimmying of rough air should mask your shoulders shaking. If not, you may have to retreat to the bathroom, but that’s going to be a negotiation between asking someone to move (if you’re in the middle) or waiting in line after the portly gentleman you saw eating a meatball sub right before boarding. The individual situation should inform your decision.

Eventually you will land, and your designated mode of transportation, or friend/family member will be waiting for you. At this point, you will feel like crying again. Big, fat, ugly tears of relief. There are two ways to go about this. If you’re averse to emotional displays like I am, you will want to stifle this urge so as not to appear a weak ass bitch. You may need to pump yourself back up with a little more angry music; as much as it can calm you when you’re angry, it can also replace feelings of sadness and desperation with a little anger when needed. If you’re in tune with the full gamut of emotions (which is a healthier way to live, I fully admit) then take this opportunity to wrap your arms around your loved one (or the steering wheel of your rental car) and shove your teary, snot-leaking face right into the sensitive flesh of their neck so that they may absorb your heartache and relieve you of the burden.

You have made it, my friend. May your next journey be uneventful. In the meantime, enjoy this Aquaman:

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Oh wait…

I promised more on Eminem, didn’t I?

I didn’t set out to spend so much time on him. But he’s a fascinating figure. A true underdog story of undeniable success, but one in which the hero can’t shake the shackles of his attendant torture. Would he have seen such success if he didn’t have such a tragic backstory? Is that his muse? If he found true happiness, would he cease to be productive; cease to be his current self? Is this a standing argument for nature over nurture, or proof that the two work in concert? Who can tell. The undeniable truth is that the man has obscene talent (pun intended). He was crowned artist of the decade for the 2000’s. Let me reiterate that: Artist of the DECADE. Not year. So for as problematic as he was and is (the picture below sums it up nicely), there were a hell of a lot of people with whom his music resonated truth. We can ask all kinds of questions about why that is, but we won’t be able to answer any of them. The Slim Shady LP came out in 1999, a time when angsty, moody artists were everywhere. Rabbit was certainly not the only one with a chip on his shoulder. He may have just been more honest and relatable. He told you exactly where he came from and why he was here. He was pissed off at his parents and had a profound hatred for his time in school. What teenager wouldn’t relate, even if they didn’t have quite as bad a time as him?

entertainment_weekly_2000_eminem

Which leads me to be believe that we’re punishing the oracle instead of the prophecy. Yes, his lyrics are not politically correct. Sure, he talks quite a bit about violence against women and homosexuals. But like all artistic mediums, there is a divide between the art and reality. Parents and censors were up in arms (who’s to say they’re not the vocal minority, though) about Eminem encouraging rage and violence in our children, but I question whether listening to a song will make you into an angry person if you had nothing to be angry about to begin with. What he did was give a voice to rage and let people know that the darks seeds that sprout in our minds don’t make us freaks – we all feel that way. I don’t believe that he intended for anyone to take to the streets and harass or harm women and gays. That may have happened as a consequence in some isolated instances, but again, the offenders had to have felt that way before Eminem found his way into a recording booth. If I listen to a bunch of country, I’m not going to have relations with my truck and force my wife into a patriarchal existence. If I listen to reggae I’m not going to grow dreads and take up weed as a recreation. If I listen to heavy metal I’m not going to start wearing leather and the blood of my enemies (I already do that, so there). I know this as truth because I listen to almost every type of music and have remained at my core the same person I always was; a genre stereotype did not sprout forth from my body when I hit the play button.

Also – if you listen to his albums (plural – this is important) as a critical analysis, you can hear the conflict and you realize that a lot of his songs are in some ways conversations he’s having with himself. He doesn’t like himself any more than you do. He’s not any happier than you are. This is the exorcism of the soul of a kid who was never wanted anywhere he went, who had to learn to use the contempt of others to fuel his own confidence, and that’s a hard place to break out of. He is the second part of Newton’s third law. He’s the opposite and equal reaction to those who push against him. As a fellow contrary, stubborn ass, I can relate to the execution, if not the sentiment. He’s not doing what he does for you or me. He’s doing it for that little kid frozen in time who’s cold, alone, and afraid.

So in conclusion, I can’t justify Mr. Mathers’ use of language of hate against women and homosexuals and pretty much everyone, but goddammit I can understand it because I feel the same way about elements and fixtures in my life. So what does that mean for me? That I’m just an asshole and shouldn’t pretend to be nice? Or that the whole world is a mess. (Another solid reference – come on, people!). Regardless, he gets me through the hard times in my life when I just want to break anything in front of my face, so for that, I thank him.

The Fifth Element

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/12-the-fifth-element

The Fifth Element (PG-13) – 1997
72% Rotten tomatoes

Directed by Luc Besson, a Frenchman. He also directed Leon: The Professional and wrote on the Transporter and Taken movies. Plus a ton of others. This fella is prolific. And perhaps a prodigy. He wrote an early draft of The Fifth Element as a teenager. By all accounts he was an extremely creative child, and found film as a way to express all aspects of his creativity. This skill may have come from his early years travelling the world with his parents, avid scuba divers. All that aquatic exploration may have shaped his imagination from an early age. His latest venture is the space opera, Valerian, which I’m frankly not too excited about, but I’ll guess we’ll see.

The elements (https://www.homesciencetools.com/a/four-elements; http://www.chm.bris.ac.uk/webprojects2002/tubb/elements.htm)

The fifth element referred to in the title is life. It’s a combination of the four classic elementals: earth, water, fire, and air. These elements were designated by, like so many other things, the ancient Greeks. They decided that these elements made up everything in the universe, and these four things were all essential for life. Aristotle, always a rebel, argued for a fifth element, one he called aether, that supposedly composed stars. The elements led scientific thinking for millenias. All four elements were present in everything, but in different proportions. A good example of this is taken from a bunch of ancient Greeks arguing this theory, courtesy of http://www.chm.bris.ac.uk/webprojects2002/tubb/elements.htm:

You take a stick and burn it.

  • Since the stick burns, it obviously contains fire.
  • A dirty residue is left behind once the stick has burnt, so the stick also contains earth.
  • The residue is damp, so water must be present.
  • The burning stick gives off smoke, and thus air is in there too.

When the Middle Ages rolled around and people couldn’t box everything into these four properties, alchemical science was founded, which added three more elements to the original Aristotelian four: quicksilver, brimstone, and salt. Alchemy is a real shit show, and never did anyone ever good, but it makes for entertaining reading and script writing.

Back to Aristotle and his dusty cave. The elements were also used to describe the different temperaments of people. This is where Hippocrates got the principle of the humors, the forces of the human body responsible for health and well-being. Balanced humors meant a healthy person; an imbalance resulted in illness or disease.

This all sounds like malarkey, but the Greeks turned out to be kinda sorta right. The modern states of matter are solid, liquid, gas, and plasma, which if you stretch you can say equate to earth, water, air, and fire, respectively. They also thought the nature of change was due to compelling and repelling forces, which is kinda sorta what happens at the atomic level, buutttttt it’s another stretchy one.

Enough about bad yet historically important science. Let’s fast forward to the future science fiction! There’s a lot of futuristic stuff going on in The Fifth Element. We have flying cars, gnarly weapons, a boat load of aliens, suspicious architecture, flashy clothes and weird half masks, and lots of space travel. I have a favorite on that list. Yep. The weapons.

Racism

I don’t know if you remember, but when we did Big Trouble in Little China, we discussed some racist characters that often show up in movies. One was the cowardly/incompetent black sidekick, and the example given was Chris Tucker’s character in The Fifth Element.

It’s a pretty pervasive problem in Hollywood. This is no surprise. Straight white men have been dominating the screen since the beginning. As a matter of fact, one of the first films ever, D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915) is extremely racist. The movie depicts black people as animalistic: violent and hyper-sexual, and it’s overtly sympathetic to the Klan and seems pretty pro slavery. It depicts anti-miscegenation, which also came up in Big Trouble in Little China, not surprisingly, because it’s a predictable result of a racist system. The point is, racism in entertainment is not a new problem. But you would think that 100 years later we would have come to our senses, right? OF COURSE NOT. The #oscarssowhite was in reaction to predominantly black movies not being given consideration for Oscar nominations, as well as men and women of color not receiving acting nominations at nearly the same proportional rate as white actors, especially for the biggest categories. In 2015 and 2016, there were NO people of color nominated in the four biggest Oscars categories. Hopefully this Twitter campaign will have helped to bring awareness to diversity in Hollywood, and the 2017 award for Moonlight, Mahershala Ali, and Viola Davis (who won in the supporting categories) won’t be just an empty placation gesture. According to The Guardian, Halle Berry is still the only non-white woman to have won for Best Actress, and only 7% of the Best Actor winners are men of color.

So what does this have to do with Chris Tucker? Well, he’s an example of how people of color are pigeon-holed into particular roles. The same Guardian article lists the stereotypical roles typically available to people of color. Some of these overlap with the cracked.com list we used in Big Trouble, but there are some new ones here.

  1. The magical Negro – again, John Coffee in the Green Mile, Whoopi’s character in Ghost, etc.
  2. Thug – these are either aggressive characters (Boys in the Hood), or they’re the kids with potential that live in a bad environment (Dangerous Minds)
  3. Superhuman Athlete – Typically found and nurtured by a white guys: Cool Runnings, Jerry Maguire, Creed
  4. Super rich evil Arab sheikh – always out to nab white women. Or kill them.
  5. Awkward de-sexualized Asian – Kal Penn in Van Wilder, any movie with nerds
  6. Mammy – This is a woman who is a servant in a white family’s home, who appears to have to life or ambition of her own except to counsel and nurture these white idiots and their drama: Gone with the Wind, The Help, It’s a Wonderful Life
  7. Jaded older police office – Like… any movie where Morgan Freeman is a cop. Or Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon.
  8. Eternal sidekick – “limited usefulness” and whose help is often accidental, this character’s only purpose in the movie is to entertain the audience, often at their own expense, while they move the white lead forward.
  9. Sassy confidant – basically the black friend in any romantic comedy.
  10. Terrorist – We all know what this is.

The thing I find most interesting when I’m watching a movie that has a mostly white cast is WHY. Nothing about Leeloo’s character makes it necessary for her to be white. Same with Korbin. Same with many, many, many characters in many movies and TV shows. Why is there such a preference to cast white actors? I think it has something to do with the idea that white movies are for everybody, but if you have a “black” movie, then only black people are going to go pay for a ticket to see it.

Feminism?

So, you would think that in the 2200’s things would change a bit. Well, they have. Cross dressing seems to be totally acceptable, but it’s combined with stereotypically flaming behavior, and this gets Ruby Rhod alllll the … ladies? So it seems that acceptable gender norms for men have expanded. What about the ladies??? Oh. They’re still reduced to sex objects. Cool. Speaking of stereotypes, we have a few here. There are the sexy secretaries, the nagging mother, the diva. Leeloo is the female that breaks the mold, and she is supposedly the perfect woman. But what does that mean? Thigh gap. Gorgeous. Preternaturally intelligent and athletically gifted. Empathetic. Speed reader. Polyglot. Looks good in orange. But…. also treated and depicted as a child, as Sarah Hensel points out. She’s infantilized at every turn. Granted this is complicated, since technically she is kind of a newborn. But she’s also sexualized. It’s a little gross.

Favorite quote: “Bzzzzzzzz. Bzz bzz bzzz.” – Ruby Rhod

What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!

 

Mad Max: Fury Road

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/mad-max-fury-road

Mad Max: Fury Road (R)
Released: 2015
Directed by George Miller
Big stars: Charlize Theron, Tom Hardy
Box Office $379 mill
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Critical Reception: Overall excellent… but reviewed by dudes (one said gets boring).
Awards: 6 Academy Awards (for peripherals), 8 Critics’ Choice awards, 4 BAFTAs

Series background:

Mad Max (1979)

Dir. George Miller, starring Mel Gibson, Hugh Keays-Byrne (Toecutter)

A highway policeman harasses mean people without resources doing what they can to survive. A biker gang is involved – one of them is killed by Max’s friend, and they seek revenge. Max now quits the police force, but his wife and son get murdered (of course – don’t forget manly men, women make you weak and vulnerable) and he becomes a justified revenge seeker himself (mixed messages here) and I guess we’re supposed to root for him? No one wins here. True to apocalyptic form. (Why the hell is there so much driving when the fuel is so scarce?)

The Road Warrior (1981)

Dir. George Miller, starring Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence (meh)

Now Max is a hero – ironic since he’s lost everything and is now ultra-violent and preys on his targets (even though they’re bad people). He’s helping a small village of people hoard valuable resources from people to have nothing. Also, he has a dog now.

Beyond Thunderdome (1985)

Dir. George Miller/George Ogilvie, starring Tina Turner, Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence

The future is truly bleak. Pig farts are a major commodity in the imaginatively named “Bartertown” and a murder dome is the main entertainment. The title suggests we’ll either see or reach beyond this murder dome, but the loudness of TWO MEN ENTER, ONE MAN LEAVES makes me suspicious that there’s a deeper metaphor for Max, who’s been hiding inside a shell. This fight may represent the struggle within himself to move beyond the pain of his past and reclaim who he once was, but also being unable to unsee the world as it has since presented itself to him. This may be giving the movie too much credit. I think that Max will probably just vanquish his enemies, destroy the town, and move on, without really finding a viable solution to the environment that birthed the murder dome in the first place. Not before being banished to the desert, killing his horse, reclaiming his monkey, and meeting a woman representing an oasis of sorts.

Fury Road (2015)

Another post-apocalyptic or dystopian movie.

What is apocalypse: a great disaster, or in religious context the end of the world, but the ancient Greek translation of “apokalypsis” is “an uncovering” or a disclosure of knowledge.

What is dystopian: a scenario where everything is bad, unpleasant, corrupt, or totalitarian.

Apocalyptic Dread

Source: Apocalyptic Dread: American Film at the Turn of the Millennium by Kirsten Moana Thompson (2007)

The 1990’s (a farewell to the 20th century) saw a lot of natural disaster movies, monster movies, and alien invasions. Religious theories, mistrust of technology, growing understanding of our ignorance of the universe, all contribute to what Thompson calls “apocalyptic dread.” She notes that there was a plethora of science fiction films during the cold war era (arguably this was also the space era), demonic films abounded in the seventies (an era of loosening morals). This trend increased with social conservatism during the Reagan era, and rose to a frenzy pitch leading up the new millennium, and then again after 9/11.

How our fears play out: Apocalypse movies are a way to play out our fears about limited resources due to real life threats of climate change, over-population, or a pestilence or natural disaster that we can’t forestall wiping out crops or supply chains.

The threat of the collapse of society (for whatever reason) brings additional danger – aside from the reliability of resources obviously being disrupted, societal collapse means that we can no longer rely on other people to behave in a predictable way. We assume that under those circumstances people will do whatever is necessary for themselves to survive, even if it’s at the expense of others.

These two prospects are interchangeable as catalysts for the apocalypse – scarcity of resources could bring about societal collapse as easily as societal collapse can bring about scarcity of resources.

We can also play out our fears about:

-evil governance, whether by an actual government or just a powerful corporate state – The Hunger Games, The Matrix, Blade Runner, Divergent

-the convergence of science and biology, as in Resident Evil, The Island, Blade Runner, Surrogates

-anarchy/radical crime or justice changes: The Purge, Judge Dredd, Minority Report, Rollerball, Tank Girl

Does this fixation on post-apocalyptic society distract us from the actual apocalypse – which is our middle-aged sun blowing up in a couple billion years? Or the ever-increasing likelihood of the plot of Idiocracy?

THE ANTIDOTE?

Juxtaposed against, or sprinkled amongst, the apocalyptic landscape are the antithesis – superhero movies. Relentless optimist and refusing to give in to cynicism, superheroes prop up our struggling faith in humanity (ironic in cases in which the heroes are themselves not or no longer strictly human) and give us a swift kick to the seat of our gumption and get-to-it-iveness. They face down unspeakably bleak odds with a disgusting self-assuredness that “this is the right thing to do” even if it means making a heart-breaking sacrifice – it’s all for the greater. This theme is opposite to what we see in the PA/D movies, but they could be essentially the same. The dystopian movies always have a hero forged in the fire of necessity, and superhero movies always present a villain or situation bent on destroying the world or life as we know it. The difference seems to be that in the superhero movies it’s just a threat, but the post-apocalyptic/dystopian movies, the superhero never showed up – all the bad stuff already happened, and we’re just looking for someone to mitigate it or put everything back the way it should be.

Also different – in superhero movies the average citizen tends to give up his or her accountability and agency. We just maintain as best we can under the guy in tights and a mask shows up. The opposite is generally true in PA/D. Some plucky little nobody ends up finding the “no longer give a fuck” button on their self-preservation module and decide they ain’t gonna take it any longer.

I think the unifying meta theme here, the real anxiety, is that one of these days, the hero we blindly rely on will fail us, and we’ll have to find out if we’re made of the stuff of mere survivors, exploiters, or architects, building a new future. I think we’re really afraid of what our complacency has done to us.

SURPRISINGLY FEMINIST

The Mad Max franchise represents a touchstone example of the “macho” movie genre – lots of violence, vehicles chases/crashes, explosions, guns everywhere – falling from the sky, behind every bush, under all the rocks. So it’s the last place you’d expect some strong feminist moments, and they’re probably all the stronger for their unexpected arrival.

Jessica Valenti breaks down the finer moments in a 2015 Guardian article (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/may/27/sexists-are-scared-of-mad-max-because-it-is-a-call-to-dismantle-patriarchies).

-Max hands the rifle off to Furiosa because *gasp* he recognizes that she’s a better shot, and his ego is not worth risking everyone’s lives over *double gasp*

-The women cut their OWN chastity belts off (I’m going to ignore the fact that they were wearing them to begin with – the fact that they weren’t killed as martyrs or depicted as semi-willing participants is enough for me right now) rather than having a man liberate them

-There’s a matriarchal motorcycle gang whose mantra involves shooting men specifically.

Valenti states that the root of the film’s feminism is not that “Theron’s character gets to engage in as much violence as any other action lead, but because the world director and writer George Miller has created shows the horror of sexism and the necessity of freedom from patriarchy.” She herself quotes Laurie Penny that typical thinking dictates that in the event of the apocalypse, eventually “the so-called natural order will reassert itself … and hot babes will go crawling back to the kitchen.” “What’s threatening about Fury Road is the idea that when the earth burns, women might not actually want men to protect them. Men might, in fact, be precisely the thing they are trying to survive.

There was even a article on feminism in Fury Road written by a dude! Kyle Smith (http://nypost.com/2015/05/14/why-mad-max-fury-road-is-the-feminist-picture-of-the-year/) writing for the New York Post notes (correctly) that Mad Max is actually the supporting role to Theron’s leading. He states that feminist criticism that women are not in enough super hero or leading roles in action movies than men is reductive. I have to agree – not because I don’t think women should be more represented in action roles, but because I think it’s far more important to have quality versus quantity (at least as a step in the right direction). What’s most important is the interaction between the leading females and the leading males. Max treats Furiosa as a valued and respected peer. He’s not constantly shoving her out of danger or telling her wait in the car. She’s an active participant in making her own destiny. She’s not told her choices and desires are secondary to the males motivations (oh wait, yes she is. I was daydreaming). She’s not as strong as Max and she’s not as a good a fighter – but she has OTHER – NOT TRADITIONALLY MALE DOMINANT TRAITS THAT MAKE HER JUST AS SUITED TO SURVIVE. Smith notes that in a weak attempt at quantity feminism, the lady superheros are depicted to have fighting skills on par with the men. I would add that many leading action females still are depicted as using their bodies to distract, betray, or otherwise get the better of men. This limits women to a just a different shade of men. There are going to be really strong women out there that can duke it out men, but not every action heroine is going to be just a man with boobs; nor should they be. It’s not perfect, but Fury Road at least shows women a heroine who we can believably see ourselves as. Smith states that “… Fury Road is the rare action blockbluster that fully acknowledges the importance of women.” I would add it acknowledges the importance of women as women.

Now, the movie is not perfect, by any means. Tracy King (http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2015/05/no-mad-max-fury-road-not-feminist-masterpiece-s-ok) points out that “Because most Hollywood films are so bad at dealing with female characters, Mad Max: Fury Road stands out for trying.” She draws parallels of the most basic aspects of the relationship between Max and Furiosa with Pretty Woman. But Pretty Woman, being a chick flick, received no feminist war medals. Also, exacting revenge on a horrific rapist using your hard earned position could also describe Showgirls, a movie utterly reviled by most.

However – the enslaved women’s mantra, King asserts, of “who killed the world” indicates that men engineered the instruments of our demise. We have to assume the inverse is true – that women were not present in those engineering and military industries. Is that plausible? Clearly women aren’t pacifists in this universe – they’re riding around on motorcycles and shooting at men.

King also warns against giving too much praise to the movie, for fear of making it the acceptable standard. She lists the following fatal flaw that we do not want to see replicated ad naseum:

-The movie is still named after a dude – yes it’s a franchise based on that dude, but still.

-The brides are played by models – so even enslaved women have to have a thigh gap, apparently.

-The pregnant women are just models wearing bellies. There is no other discernable change in their bodies. Anyone who’s been pregnant or been intimately acquainted with a pregnant woman’s body knows that there are a myriad of changes involved. It’s not just a swollen belly. We already have unattainable body standards for women, we don’t need to heap more on pregnant women.

-A patriarchy that into chastity (to the point of belting the women) would have them covered burka-style.

-She shouldn’t have had her plan tabled by Max’s plan. (I don’t think this is what actually happened – he suggested an alternative to her, and she accepted after consideration).

-Furiosa should have been the one to give closure to the plot.

-The seeds… this is a tricky one. King sees this as reinforcing that the highest value of a woman can only be her reproductive ability. Smith saw this as an additional differentiation of the men and the women as groups – the women know the value of the seeds in establishing an new and sustainable society.

-The movie was written and directed by men.

-Most troubling – Furiosa’s role was still framed by the greater picture of Max’s story. It’s still about him – his feelings, his future, his direction. What we’re watching is the effect Furiosa is having on Max. What her journey means to and for him.

So yeah. Not perfect. But it ain’t nothing.

Andy Lee Chaisiri (https://www.quora.com/Why-is-Mad-Max-Fury-Road-being-called-a-feminist-movie) also brings up the point that boys are conditioned to believe that dying for the cause is a great purpose to fulfill, and brings up the violent nature of the motorcycle gang. These arguments I find weaker. A) we’ve spent thousands of years solving men’s problems. Not into it any more. B) boys have been brought up into war for thousands of years. This is nothing new. In many, many cultures over many, many years, boys have grown up with swords in their little fists. C) The Many Mothers are protecting themselves from the threat the men pose – they’re older and have presumably been successful at keeping themselves out of Immortan Joe’s harem, so… keep on keeping on, ladies. The point that Chaisiri makes that I do agree with is that men and women working together is what’s going to bring about a workable new society. Certainly, this dynamic imperfectly balanced in the movie, floundering on its fledgling legs, but the beginning of a system which views everyone as equals is not going to spring into being perfectly made.

Favorite Quote: “Ahhh, mediocre.” – Immortan Joe

What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!

The Princess Bride

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/the-princess-bride

Framework: Story within a story – parody. The boy is sick and the tale of heroics and selflessness in the face of adversity and overwhelming odds cures what ails him (also, he’s a sexist little prick).

Parody:

Parody is an exaggeration or intensification of a style, mannerism, etc. for comedic purpose. It’s a non-abrasive form of gentle criticism that points out the ridiculous or inane, but is more engaging and accessible than dry, academic criticism. This is the critical difference between parody and satire – a parody wants to make us all laugh, whereas a satire wants to bring about social or political or religious (etc.) change.

Other examples of parodies –

  • basically everything Mel Brooks ever did (Men in Tights – parodies Robin Hood; Spaceballs – parodies Star Wars; Young Frankenstein – duh)
  • ditto Monty Python (Quest for the Holy Grail – parodies King Arthur)
  • Austin Powers (parodies James Bond)
  • Galaxy Quest (parodies Star Trek)
  • Shaun of the Dead (parodies zombie movies)
  • This is Spinal Tap

There are two types of parodies in my opinion – good ones (like those listed above), and shitty ones, like Not Another Teen Movie, I Kissed a Vampire, Epic Movie, Disaster Movie – clearly you see the effort put into the titles alone.

Parody has been elevated to an art form rather than a mere genre in skilled hands like those of Mel Brooks, John Cleese and Eric Idle. Some people may underestimate the effort it takes to pull off a great parody because it looks so easy from the outside: it’s not an original concept, so the bones of the story are already scaffolded, the assumptions is just to exaggerate the story/characters and insert a lot of jokes. When masterfully done, these movies bring great joy and allow us to laugh at ourselves. When done poorly, they’re just unfunny, mean, or bullying. Rob Reiner, director, hit the bulls-eye with film interpretation of The Princess Bride. It’s not a terribly great movie, but as a parody, it’s a thing of beauty.

So what is The Princess Bride parodying?

Background:

The film is adapted from a book of the same name, written by William Goldman in 1973. 1973 was a politically charged year. Americans were still reeling from Watergate and the climate was strife with disillusionment. 1973 is only 10 years from the “Camelot” era of JFK. Nixon’s predecessor, LBJ, boasted a thriving economy with a low unemployment rate. Things were good, at least up until the Vietnam War, which for many began the disillusionment continued by Watergate.

In an article by Nathaniel Rich (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/08/28/american-dreams-1973-the-princess-bride-by-william-goldman.html), he posits that the point of the book is that life isn’t fair. This is a sentiment that people in the 80’s were beginning to relate to in increasing numbers. It was the beginning of the end of the middle class – people were already finding it harder to maintain a household with one earner, and the government that promises to protect our best interests showed itself to be corrupt and self-interested.

But rather than treat the situation ascerbically and write a satire, Goldman treats with parody. Humperdinck, a scheming politician who wants to kill Buttercup in order to manufacture a justicification to go to war with a neighboring town, isn’t a terribly effective villain. He’s intelligent and personable enough to be an accepted ruler, but he is easily outwitted and outmanned by Westley and and company. This is true of most of the villains in the movie.

Meanwhile, Miracle Max, who has power to BRING PEOPLE BACK FROM THE DEAD, is an indifferent and insensitive character who has commodified his healing abilities instead of helping people for their own sakes (HELLOOOO, BIG PHARMA).

On to the lady problem. Buttercup is clearly a pawn. She is repeatedly kidnapped and has her future dictated to her by evil men.

Perhaps most interesting is the Dread Pirate Roberts, who seems to be the ultimate evil in the universe. But he doesn’t even exist anymore, if he ever did at all. Enterprising men have been capitalizing on his reputation for years, with no one the wiser. The fear that people have for the pirate is what enables this bogey man to continue his reign of terror. Had the people not been afraid, his reputation would have held no power over them. This may be the parody of our political system – being a democracy, we the people have imbued the government with power, and they wield that power over us like a threat.

But regardless, Westley perseveres and comes out victorious. Perhaps the moral is that with the right combination of cunning, physical prowess, and most importantly, friends, the common guy can beat the establishment, get the girl, and gain lifelong lackeys.

Relationship characteristics:

  • Playground rules
  • Female more powerful than male
    • Later subverted by her being dominated and he rescues her, reasserting his role as the stronger character
  • TRUE LOVE!!! ZOMG!!!

Themes/motifs:

  • Commoners v. royalty
  • True Love conquers all
  • We must rape those we capture
  • Warring countries/war creates opportunities for villainy/innocents caught up power struggles
  • Speaking in rhymes is charming
  • Magical landscape – non-time-specific setting
  • Word play – indication of intelligence more valuable than brawn
  • Honor and vindication – good triumphing over despicable and socially sanctioned evil
  • Good guys – identify and pursue their intended enemy without hurting others; bad guys – further their own ends at any cost of human loss/suffering
  • Everyone has an enemy is this movie – we can tell the good guys from the bad by how willing they are to shed blood senselessly. They prefer honorable battle/fighting with fair odds over manipulations and deceit. However, outwitting the enemy is not considered a breach of honor and is not in the same class of fiendishness as trickery and deceit:
  • The pirate ship, the literal vehicle for Westley, is called “Revenge”
  • Dread Pirate Roberts – men capitalize on his name to “inspire necessary fear”. People accept facts as they are presented to them without questioning their validity.
  • The ridiculousness of the excessive ceremonials of the religious traditions, evidenced by the impressive clergyman’s speech impediment.

Feminism Stuff

  • Boy shows extreme distaste at being forced to listen to a romantic story; becomes enthralled in spite of himself
  • Buttercup does not play the damsel in distress, but tries to save her own ass; fails repeatedly – lack of agency even in the face of perseverance.
  • She in fact watches helplessly as her savior is attacked and humped by a rodent of unusual size. When she does try to help, she half-asses it and puts herself in jeopardy.
  • Her idea of saving him is relinquishing herself to Humperdinck. We are expected to take this as a heroic act – all that she is capable of within her limited agency.
  • Westley feels compelled to go and seek his manhood by earning it through adventure and experience. Buttercup is elevated from a commoner to a princess by the agency of a man who desires her.
  • Westley is worldly and competent (iocane duel), whilst Buttercup is naive and trusting. He even outwits the marriage procedure.
  • Men are driving the action, Buttercup is a pawn; essentially an object to be obtain. The MacGuffin.
  • She sends him away to save him… then expects him to come back and save her… gives up responsibility for her own future.
  • As with all classic tragic heroines, decides to kill herself rather than the horrible man that forced marriage on her.
  • The movie is called THE PRINCESS BRIDE, but it’s not really about her. It’s kind of like The Maltese Falcon. The princess bride is the object of the movie, not the subject.

Thoughts and nit-pickings:

Why did Westley feel compelled to leave Buttercup behind (beginning of movie)? Could the unpleasantness have been avoided had true love not been separated? If that’s true, what does that say about Inigo’s misfortune? Do we deserve the circumstances in which we find ourselves? Are those in misfortunate situations guilty of bad decisions?

… how the hell does a mask covering only the eyes adequately disguise a man from his so-called true love? Does it indicate that the uncovered mouth – the words we speak – are not our true selves and can deceive others, while our eyes, the windows to our souls, leave us vulnerable to being “known”? Why does he feel compelled to hide himself from her? Why does he need to test her if they’ve already established their love is true? Why does he hold a marriage against her when she thought that he was DEAD? Was she supposed to live a celibate life mourning? WOULD HE? Does this mean that their love was not true, since true love is unselfish and wishes only happiness for the other?

She ought to be pissed at him for tricking her.

The book the grandpa is holding look mouldering and nineteenth century, but the novel was written in 1973. This may indicate the timelessness of the story. Or that a common paperback would have broken the mood. OR – more likely, this is a nod to S. Morgenstern – the fictional original author that Goldman invented. Goldman claimed to have pulled the best parts from Morgenstern’s classic tale, which is similar to what occurs with the back and forth between the boy and the grandfather. So perhaps the book is the original S. Morgenstern, and the man is acting as Goldman himself, pulling out the best parts for his grandson.

For further thinking:

  • Inigo is the real hero, following a hero’s quest.
  • Revenge v. vengeance.
  • Casual treatment of resurrection

Favorite Quote: “You’re trying to kidnap what I’ve rightfully stolen.”  – Vizzini (perspective of purpose)

What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!

Some Thoughts on Gender Equality

Okay, so I originally wrote what follows in response to a comment made on a friend’s Facebook post. I got some positive feedback and decided to share it here. It’s mostly about Feminism. I know what you’re thinking.

oh boy

That’s a common reaction. It’s always difficult to talk about gender issues because they are so complex and intersect with so many other, equally sensitive issues. People (no matter the stance) come to the table with preconceptions and assumptions about what “the other side” is thinking. I hate having these discussions. I absolutely loathe it. They tend to get nasty pretty quickly, especially in an anonymous setting like web-land.

But, nevertheless, I wanted to share this as a non-inflammatory explanation of my point of view.

Here’s what sparked the comment. A friend posted this:

perverts

At which time the following comments were made:

Person 1: Scared of me? Thanks, I needed a good laugh. I like being thrown into the same boat as perverts and rapists… Yay equality.

Original Poster: Better safe than sorry. A lot of us have learned that from experience.

Person 2: Statistics or it didn’t happen.

Original Poster: Statistics that historically women could never be alone because if they were they were raped, or statistics that —- is clumped in with perverts and rapists?

Person 2: I need to see empirical evidence.

Person 1: I don’t think there is a shortage of evidence that shows men rape women… no need for evidence. I think he means, pics or it didn’t happen, bad form on this subject. But while your side learned that we rape we learned you guys cry wolf and get us locked up. With the exception of 2 other females, I have yet to give rides to anywhere anyone from the opposite sex. I dated one, the other was basically my sister.

Person 2: I understand the logic behind the pic, but it’s a flawed view by a Feminist. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from criticism. So this person claims that ALL men are bad, but that is not the case. So when I read bullshit like this, it worries me that other people will follow suit.

Person 1: This escalated unnecessarily.

Person 2: Naw man, not all men are scary. The person that tweeted this has her views mixed up.

This is a snippet, but the rest isn’t really of significance here. So, there are a couple of things here that bothered me right off the bat. 1) The stronger reaction to this post was not about the trans women at jeopardy, but that men are being stereotyped as being violent. 2) Person 2 read this as a feminist saying all men are bad and lost sight of the bigger message.

I wanted to address these issues for Person 2’s sake, but also as a way to organize my own thoughts about feminism and gender inequality, so I wrote the following in response. I hope you enjoy the read!


First of all, let me acknowledge that tone is very easy to project in written communications, so I’ll start by saying that my tone is friendly and conversational. I’m not here to be condescending or hateful. OKAY. NOW.

I feel like part of your reaction comes from perceiving this as a feminist attack against men. I hear you when you say not all men are to be feared, and I agree with you (more on that later). If we’re going to say #notallmen, then I must insist that we also say #notallfeminists. People tend to have a negative of view of anything perceived as the “feminist agenda” regardless of the actual message. This is partly because of long-lasting misconceptions about what a feminist is. To be sure, there are man-hating, dick-chopping feminazis out there that would love nothing more than to eradicate men from the face of the earth. I personally haven’t met any, but I know they exist. These are radicals. Think Westboro Baptist Church versus your average run-of-the-mill Christian. They do not represent the majority of us. I think this reputation is a hold-over from the 70’s when the movement was more radical, necessarily so, but I’m not getting into THAT at the moment. The point is, feminists as individuals are as different as individual men, individual Christians, individual homosexuals, etc. are from their respective group stereotypes. This is why labels suck. They are convenient, as humans like to categorize things, but we end up squishing a complex human being into an itty bitty framework that really doesn’t fit. Here is a wonderful video about all the different types of feminism: http://www.stuffmomnevertoldyou.com/video/clips/smnty-barbie-explains-feminist-theories-video/, and also this one about stereotypes feminists face: http://www.stuffmomnevertoldyou.com/video/clips/smnty-call-me-feminazi-video/. Here’s an article, too: http://www.pennlive.com/editorials/index.ssf/2012/03/feminists_strive_to_remove_bar.html

SO- Here is what the majority of modern feminists are after: the same rights and access that men have. This applies to the workplace, educational settings, social spaces, etc. Now most people looking at this from the outside believe that women DO have access to the wider world, and more besides because they get free drinks at bars, amirite? Women can go to school for whatever they want. They can get jobs in construction for Christ’s sake! Women hold public office, and some are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Quityerbitchin. Well, let’s go back to the beginning and really think about this.

‘Merica was founded, settled, and governed by a bunch of protestant white dudes (most often men of means). Some were escaping religious oppression in England, and some were looking for land and riches and all that jazz. This, shall we say “Establishment” or patriarchy (so called because of the maleness) of our society and culture was pale and, well, male, I think we can all agree on that. They constituted the governing body, the upper class professions such as lawyers and physicians and bankers, and they alone attended universities. These dudes set a precedent that all non-white, non-Christian, non-hetero non-men people were inherently excluded from. This was just The Way Things Worked. Pretty much everywhere in the Euro-centric sphere.

This continued to be “the way of things” for a couple hundred years. Now, I think we can also all agree that people don’t like changes to the established social norm; see: Civil War, Civil Rights Movements, Women’s Liberation, Free Love, etc and so on. Yes – eventually those early, radical pioneers of feminism gained access for women to education, voting rights, working outside the home, birth control… However, just as the civil rights movement did NOT create racial equality (and still hasn’t), the various women’s lib movements over the years have not created gender equality. There are many factors to this: kids toys (Girls – bake cookies! Boys- take a rocket to the moon!), media (men doing important things, women being available for sex and childcare (obvs I’m generalizing and this is starting to change, but it’s still SO pervasive, see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/13/women-in-the-media-female_n_2121979.html)), and there are those who won’t hire women because they feel that women are going to leave the workforce to have kids, or take lots of time off for childcare responsibilities, or won’t be able to put in long hours because they have family duties to attend to: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/20/opinion/sunday/a-toxic-work-world.html, and the list can go on and on.

Are other groups of people similarly stereotyped? Perhaps even men-people, like those with beards or tattoos? Yes. Absolutely. The establishment that I’ve described as creating barriers for women create the same barriers for minorities, for LGBT people, for Muslims, for immigrants, for people who like to wear green mohawks or biker vests. Anyone who is not part of the socially “normal” middle and upper class male classification starts out in life ten steps behind. Add more steps behind for every category you can add that further distances you from the patriarchy. I know that as a straight, white female I have a lot more privilege and mobility than a Muslim immigrant. Does that mean I should be satisfied with my lot? NO. One person struggling more does negate another person’s experience. It’s not an oppression contest, or at least it shouldn’t be if you’re dealing with rational, humane adults. Here’s the gist of being a feminist: Your success in this life should be not be based on meaningless characteristics, such as what’s in your pants, where you worship, or whether or not your parents raised you in abject poverty (another HUGE barrier to access to resources – for another time).

Now, let me conclude by saying that I don’t think that all rich, straight, white men are actively holding back anyone different from them, nor are they all automatically drafted into the You’ve Got It Made Club. The establishment is not so much a matter of individual people doing intentional things (though some do), it’s a machine that turns of its own accord based on the way things have always been done – it’s a Newton’s Cradle of inequality.

MOVING ON to the issue at hand. Now, what I get from this comment is that the author is directing this statement (we are afraid of you) to the type of men that are saying they’re going to go into bathrooms and kick the shit out of any trans women that go inside them, purportedly because they believe these people want to molest their daughters. Her statement is a reasonable thing to say to someone who has just declared their intent to be violent toward someone based solely on an assumption of what their intentions are. But, I get the point you’re making.

The average man is bigger and stronger than the average woman. We are aware of this. It’s pretty obvious. We don’t walk around thinking that every strange male person is considering violently raping and murdering us, BUT the thought does cross our minds when we find ourselves alone, in the dark, in a strange place, with a strange man approaching. I imagine a man might think the same thing in such a situation. I say that because men are convicted of violent crimes SO MUCH MORE than woman are. Here is an excellent article on the subject, with citations for your further study: http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/men-more-violent.htm.

Evolution has gifted men with a body better designed for fighting off bears and marauding strangers than women (http://www.livestrong.com/article/355987-female-male-muscles/). Women bear and nurse children, so we’re kind of designed to be nutritious, which leaves us at the mercy of the village men for protection. This all makes sense. This is also continually pounded into our brains via, again, The Media. Watch a couple hours of Cops, or Law & Order. Dudes be bustin’ caps. We can argue, though, that it’s situational. Drug deals gone bad, bad blood between brothers or partners, shitty men who beat their wives, with the occasional rapist sprinkled in. Does this mean I should be afraid of men? Mmmm. Maybe. Most likely I should avoid drug dealers and wife beaters. Except what if I can’t? What if I live in the ghetto and am closer to violence in general? What if I have no family, no transportation, no resources to get away from a man who beats me (who didn’t start the relationship by punching me in the face and saying “wanna go out?” by the way)? I get it, I’m going off topic. It’s just another perspective to consider. A woman who has been in this situation is more likely to be afraid of Men in general. Here is some information on violence specifically against women: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs239/en/.

Here’s what’s most interesting about your reaction (to me). I have heard, and I’m sure lots of women out there have also heard their significant other saying, “Babe. It’s not you I’m worried about. I trust you. It’s THEM I’m worried about.” The THEM in question are Strange Men lurking in the night, ready to pounce on your helpless woman. This is often the reason guys give for not wanting their wives/girlfriends to go out at night with the girls to places like bars and clubs. They paint this picture of predators everywhere, waiting to spike our drinks or just club us over the head and throw us over their shoulders. I’m exaggerating a little, but I hope you see the point. If you have never said this to your lady, or even thought it, then I think that’s great and kudos to your enlightened point of view. But look – I don’t even think the point of the post was saying that women feel like all men are dangerous. All men are potentially dangerous, though, to a woman. This is evident from walking down the street and hearing catcalls, then getting called a bitch when you don’t respond. This is evident in men threatening women on the internet, usually with threats of rape: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/12/women-trolled-internet_n_6077234.html.

It’s not that we look at every man and think he’s going to commit violence against us, it’s just that We Don’t Know, and yes, you are capable of it.

Oh, one last thing. Women who lie about sexual assault are appalling human beings. No one should be sent to prison under false accusations, for any reason. It’s pretty uncommon, though. It does get a lot of attention on the news when it DOES happen (likely because we live in a culture of victim blaming and these stories let us point a big finger and say “See, there isn’t really a problem! It was all a Lie! Terrible Lie!”). This idea that most rape allegations are false is really detrimental to women who DO suffer sexual abuse, so the women that actually commit this heinous perjury are hurting everyone when they do it. I wanted to make sure I linked some facts about the struggle: http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/11/barriers-report-sexual-assault/. Here is one by a coalition of men against violence against women: http://web.stanford.edu/group/maan/cgi-bin/?page_id=297. They’re light on citations, but they have a ‘Resources’ page with a lot of helpful links.