thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

Where The Mindy Project’s “Slipped” Went Wrong

In feminism, rape culture, sexism on October 21, 2014 at 9:42 am

Phoebe B.

The Mindy Project’s recent episode “Slipped” had potential—potential to tackle rape culture and issues of consent, even with humor thrown into the mix. It seemed perfectly timed with California’s recent “Yes Means Yes” legislation and the ongoing federal investigation into rape on college campuses. Sadly, the episode failed to treat a difficult topic with the warmth and empathy exemplified by films like Obvious Child, which was able to find humor in the sensitive issue of abortion without sacrificing compassion. Instead, “Slipped” just felt lazy: the episode engaged rape culture in a cursory way that ultimately disregarded and did a disservice to the very real violence of rape.

“Slipped” begins as Danny and Mindy are having sex. Danny—without asking—attempts to slip his penis into Mindy’s butt. The problem is not that Danny wants to try anal sex so much as the fact that he doesn’t ask. While he immediately pulls out and apologizes, he then lies repeatedly about his rationale: his aim was off, his eyes are bad, etc. Most damningly of all, Danny eventually reveals that he did it because he thought Mindy had had anal sex before, because she watches porn. His assumption, then, is that because Mindy has dated a lot and watches porn, that she is already and always sexually willing and able.

Consent matters both in relationships and outside of them. It’s always better to ask, and neither party should assume that various sex positions will be okay. What’s more, just because a person has done something once—had anal sex, watched porn, the list goes on—does not mean that their partner now has unfettered access or that they have a willingness or desire to do it again, a topic Sarah Todd tackled beautifully in her essay on teen sex, consent, and Switched at Birth.

Ultimately, Mindy decides—after a botched sex-ed session with her fellow doctor Peter—that she will give anal sex with Danny a shot. That’s all well and good, but her reasons are upsetting and also misguided. She believes Danny has ample sexual experience and so worries that she will bore him with her limited bedroom knowledge. Danny ultimately corrects this misconception, but the episode allows this sensibility to sit for far too long. So Mindy then procures the help of a sedative because she “has to do something she can’t be awake for, but legally can’t be a asleep for.”

This is a rape joke and it’s not funny at all. Instead of doing what she’s comfortable with in bed, Mindy’s decision is to cater to Danny’s desires and roofie herself in the process. When Mindy passes out, it’s played for laughs as she attempts to maintain some cool while her world literally spins. Here, the show makes a joke of the serious issue of non-consensual sex, eliding the very real danger and trauma that comes with being roofied.

Where Has the Girl Gone?: Post-Recession Marriage in Gone Girl

In Uncategorized on October 10, 2014 at 7:42 am

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Sarah S.

This post discusses plot points from both the book and the movie versions of Gone Girl. The filmmakers made a very close adaptation of the novel so the primary difference comes from the lack of nuance and character development that tends to be inevitable in book-to-film adaptations.

It also contains SPOILERS, so if you have managed to not learn THE TWIST, and you care to remain in the dark, do not read further. You have been forewarned.

I read Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl in a binge between 4 pm Saturday and 8pm Sunday last weekend. I saw the film adaptation—directed by David Fincher and starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike—on a sunny autumn afternoon last Wednesday. I suddenly felt caught up in one those micro-tornadoes of chitter-chatter swirling through the zeitgeist.

But what makes this book and, more so, its film version such a teapot tempest right now? It enjoys a decent but not overwhelming 87% fresh score on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes. Two friends on Facebook logged complaints about female representation while declaring themselves Fincher-fans. But another declared it the “worst movie [he's] seen since The Social Network,” leading me to wonder if reactions were breaking on the Fincher love-hate axis. (And here I expected to be debating the merits of everybody’s least-favorite Batman.) But it’s obviously more than that.

I think that at least some of the reactions to Gone Girl have to do with its allegorical nature. It’s a tale of the Great Recession and its effects on America’s iconographic “best and brightest”: the Midwestern bootstrap-boy and the complicated, mesmerizing girl. Moreover, it does not just focus on these characters but attempts to say something about what they mean individually and as a metaphorical representation of middle class, American marriage. The book even stages this conceit with section breaks subverting romantic comedy plot points—”Boy Loses Girl,” “Boy Meets Girl,” and “Boy Gets Girl Back (or Vice Versa).”

Hit the Books: Five Feminist Novels to Read Posthaste

In books, class, feminism, race, social justice, violence on October 3, 2014 at 6:32 am

Girls Like Giants contributors put our heads together to recommend a few of the best books we’ve read in recent times. What’s on your reading list?

Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Half of a Yellow Sun, Adichie’s searing portrait of life before, during, and after the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970), follows the narratives of three radically different characters—the beautiful and upper class Olanna, the houseboy turned child soldier Ugwu, and the white British expat and journalist Richard. There is neither a singular narrator nor narrative but rather a switching back and forth between these characters’ various perspectives, a literary move which heeds her call for the necessity of multiple narratives. As a result, we witness the war and its attendant violence from the perspective of each character. For instance, we see rape as a tool of war twice: once in a threat made against Olanna by a soldier and then in Ugwu’s own horrific participation—after he is conscripted into the army—in a gang rape of a young bartender. In Adichie’s novel there is neither safety nor cover from the casual and everyday violence of warf. And there is no simple resolution to its lasting its scars as it reaches into the depths of our lives. Before the war, there was happiness, fun, and radical politics—the latter embraced and touted by Olanna’s husband, a university professor. Yet, as Adichie makes clear, embracing revolutionary politics is far afield from the masculinized violence and terror of war. Her powerful critique reinforces the fact that there are no winners amidst this violence and that the independence sought is sadly never gained, even as lives are lost and irreversibly changed. I can’t recommend this book enough. From Adichie’s eloquent writing to her formal innovation and political critique, Half of a Yellow Sun is by far the most beautiful, difficult, and empathetic novel I’ve read in a long time. - Phoebe B.

Life After Life, Kate Atkinson

In the last couple years I have read several excellent books. Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane delighted me and creeped me out in equal measure. Booker Prize winner The Luminaries, by wunderkind Eleanor Catton, brought magical realism to a sweeping historical western set among whores, charlatans, and opium peddlers in a New Zealand mining town. But without hesitation, the best book I’ve read recently is Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life. This mysterious novel reminds me of the modernist works I love, with a dash of postmodern instability and feminist exploration thrown in for ballast. It focuses on the many lives of Ursula Todd, a person with the gift (or curse) of constantly rebooting back to birth whenever she dies. We follow Ursula through several noteworthy historical happenings, from the Great War and the contemporaneous influenza pandemic to the Blitz in London during World War II. We also see different iterations of Ursula, a person changed ever so evocatively by the various things that happen to her and then alter the trajectory of her life. I won’t give away any more twists or turns but just urge you to snatch up a copy of Life After Life as soon as possible. It’s smart and entertaining and absolutely ideal for delving into during blustery autumn weather. - Sarah S.

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