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Pretty Little Liars Roundtable: “My Name Is Trouble” Season 2, Episode 3

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps on June 30, 2011 at 6:30 am

Pretty Little Liars: “My Name Is Trouble” Season 2, Episode 3

This week, engagement rings got lost, found and pawned; scholarship offers got forged; Red Delicious apples got rightly insulted; and suspicious characters gained new dimensions.

Best Moments from “My Name is Trouble”

 Sarah: So, just to get the ball rolling: How cool was the shot where the PLLs all burst simultaneously out of the bathroom stalls?

 Phoebe:  Wonderful. That may or may not have been my favorite part of the episode! A little campy and sleuthy at the same time.

 Sarah:  YES totally. And that scene also gave us the gift of Hannah’s pronouncement that shoplifting moisturizer from the mall is “not a life, it’s a hobby”

 Phoebe:  Also, a great moment courtesy of Hanna.

 Sarah: And two things from my notes as I watched the episode:

     Me:  It bugs me so much how people on TV have Red Delicious apples, nobody buys those. Ali, on the TV: “Your family has the worst apples.”

    Me: YAAAAY.

    And also: Emily: “Sometimes when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Spencer: “Why are you talking to me like Ben Franklin?”

    Me: Hahahaha

Phoebe:  That was an awesome moment. The latter that is.  And I totally agree about the apples. Red delicious =gross!

 Aria  <3s Pottery Class & Sympathizing with the Enemy

 Phoebe: What is going on with the Jenna, Aria, pottery class (like in Ghost) story line?

 Sarah  Yeah let’s talk about that! The reason I loved this episode so much is that we saw humanization of some of the toughest-to-love characters including Jenna (and also Melissa and Ali who we can get to later).

 Phoebe:  Interesting … :  I agree about Jenna, but totally didn’t feel that way about Melissa

 Sarah:  But I thought the scene where Jenna is talking to Aria about the light was so moving.

 Phoebe: I thought that scene was moving too, but then also was suspicious of Jenna. And I feel like something was supposed to happen when the lights went off, but then nothing did. But she totally figured it out. (And I would venture to say that she knew as she is quite clever and has her ways, but also likely better at voice recognition than Aria gave her credit for.)

 Sarah:  I don’t think Jenna knew it was Aria. I think it’s more the second in this particular scene, which is what I liked so much. To me, the Jenna Is Creepy storyline is played out. I’m much more interested in the Jenna Is a Person storyline. Ooh and what I loved about the blowing out the light moment is that I felt like something scary was going to happen too, because that’s how PLL trains us—but I think the real reason Jenna wanted Aria to blow it out…

Phoebe:  Was it so she could understand Jenna’s world?

 Sarah: …Was because she didn’t want Aria sharing in this beautiful thing she’d made and infringing upon her in this place that’s supposed to be safe. Like, for Aria to get to see this beautiful light that’s all about how Jenna remembers sight  is a really gross encroachment.

 Sarah: Ooh I like your reading of how it’s about Aria understanding what it’s like to be Jenna too, because I feel like that’s a major problem with the way the PLLs see her, is they can’t put themselves in her place.

 Phoebe:  Yeah I sort of felt that it was about Jenna forcing Aria into a vulnerable position. But I was also certain (despite that it didn’t happen) that something bad was going to happen. Oh and I just got to the candle part as I am re-watching and I think too that there is something about Jenna sharing herself and her sadness, and that you are definitely on to something. Read the rest of this entry »

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Like Legally Blonde

In gender, girl culture on June 28, 2011 at 8:52 am

Sarah Todd

The other night I was searching for some background television and ended up settling on that old chestnut Legally Blonde. Legally Blonde is one of those movies I’ve kind of absorbed into my system naturally, the way the Swamp Thing absorbs flood waters and human memories. Nonetheless, I’d never developed much affection for it; actually enjoying the movie seemed like too much of a cliche.

But this time around, the Legally Blonde bend and snap scene really got to me. And here’s why: I started thinking about how rare it is to see a big group of women genuinely having fun together in the movies. Films tend to represent female friendship–and women in groups–as fundamentally competitive and/or stupid. Either women are stabbing each other in the back as they jockey for men or jobs or queen bee titles, or else they’re having vapid conversations about bubbles.

But in the bend and snap scene, the women in the salon are being so goofy together, improvising their own flourishes to the routine, and Reese Witherspoon’s character Elle is being so supportive and encouraging and sweetly peppy. There’s no back-stabbing in sight. And while the idea of bending-and-snapping itself could be characterized as somewhat vapid, the whole point of Legally Blonde is that just because people are interested in flirting or shoes or celebrity gossip doesn’t mean they’re not smart.

Some people look down their noses at movies like Legally Blonde–and the interests of  people like Elle–because they think they’re just about dumb girly stuff. But the truth is that our culture positions girly stuff as dumb. In reality, liking the color pink doesn’t make you an airhead, owning a chihuahua doesn’t make you high-maintenance, and belonging to a sorority doesn’t make you mean. Conversely, being interested in subjects like federal interest rates and medieval poetry doesn’t make you a superior human.

People can be airheaded or high-maintenance or mean whether they’re men or women, dressed in powersuits or skinny jeans or nerd glasses or prom dresses. What’s more, Legally Blonde dares to suggest that there may even be value in possessing a knowledge of perming techniques and fashion designers. Like Elle, you might spot a lie or catch a contradiction. You might crack a case wide open.

It’s fine to like Legally Blonde, just like it’s fine to like Pretty Little Liars and 90210. It’s equally fine to prefer Downtown Abbey or The Hangover or The Daily Show or Die Hard or some combination of the above--whatever floats our particular boats. The important thing is recognizing that what we like doesn’t have a one-to-one correspondence with who we are.  For showing that, Legally Blonde deserves some snaps.

The Big Bad Bentley & The Bachelorette 

In Uncategorized on June 27, 2011 at 9:40 pm

Phoebe Bronstein

So tonight on The Bachelorette Ashley finally had the long overdue confrontation with Bentley. This is my first season of The Bachelorette and I am not a yell at the screen television viewer, and Bentley brought out my worst television behavior and I was sad to see his face again. Okay sometimes I yell at the screen when I watch Gossip Girl or Pretty Little Liars, but it is because I am so excited. However, Bentley. He is just so awful, perhaps even the most villainous of all villains (thanks for this way of putting it Sarah Todd). Granted the interwebs are now full of other Bentley haters, but I wanted to throw my hat (it’s cute and is newsboy style) in the blogging ring.

There are many problems with Bentley. Firstly he is manipulative and a jerk. Secondly, I am pretty sure that me and everyone I know (girls who like boys at least) have all dated him, or rather his type. He is the guy that won’t give you a straight answer, that really just wants to have sex with you, that makes you chase him, and that leaves you with the “dot dot dot.” He does this because he isn’t man enough to tell you he is just not that into you. Clearly, this stuff makes me angry. It is because of men like Bentley that all my girlfriends in college felt compelled to read He’s Just Not That Into You and why, I imagine, that very book became a Hollywood film (it was a bad film I might add and I never read the book).

Bentley ... he is not even that hot. Ugh.

I’m really glad Ashley finally gave him the boot and even mentioned that he should have called rather than flown all the way around the world to tell her that their relationship had come to a “period.” Yet another punctuation mark. One among the many obnoxious things about Bentley is his need to use punctuation marks to describe what he is saying about Ashley. But the point is, that Ashley’s pursuit of him and her feelings for him, which we saw he did no reciprocate, have made great drama and great television. This final fact upsets me and is why I yelled at the television and cringed every time Bentley was on the screen or each time Ashley talked about him.

Bentley is the bad boy you like in middle school, the one that pushes you into the locker, and the one many romantic comedies tell women that as adults we can reform, refine, bring out his true nature, and make him the man we wish him to be. But also, those same tropes tell us that he wants to be this person, but can only learn how with the help of a good woman. Because ladies, that is our job. Ridiculous.

I can’t say how glad I am that Bentley is off The Bachelorette and now no more screaming at the television (at least this season). As the season heads towards its conclusion and an inevitable proposal, I’m just rooting for the cute and sweet J.P.

P.S. I am going to be pissed if Bentley comes back next week. Seriously.

Who’s Laughing? Race and Gender in Hall Pass

In race on June 27, 2011 at 8:34 pm

Promotions for the 2001 Farrelly brothers film Shallow Hal probably only appealed to like five people on the planet. I was one of those five people. Somehow I was like, “Offensive-seeming premise check, George Costanza with a tail check, boring Gwyneth Paltrow starring in a comedy check, I’m all in, ten tickets please.” Partly this had to do with my abiding love for Jack Black, which also led me to make one of the biggest film-going mistakes of my life: seeing Year One in theaters. (In my defense, I saw it at the discount theater. In my prosecution, I still put dollars into a person’s hand in order to see Year One, which is just an unfathomable decision any way you look at it. But Jack Black also gave me School of Rock, aka one of my top ten movies of all time. You win some, you lose some.) As it turned out, Shallow Hal was warm and silly and big-hearted, and possibly I still cry at the ending even after having seen the movie at least six times over. I’ve liked the Farrelly brothers ever since; generally, I think, they only make fun of people if they’re going to embrace them.

However, I question what the Farrelly brothers are up to in their most recent venture, Hall Pass. Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis (who I cannot for the life of me tell apart from Ed Helms) star as two hot-to-trot husbands married to Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate, respectively. Fischer and Applegate are lovely and funny as usual, and the film treats them with respect by acknowledging that they, too, experience both sexual desire and sexual frustration. Rather, it’s Hall Pass‘s representation of men that seems unfair to all the good husbands out there in the world. Here, Wilson and Sudeikis play crass oglers who are lackeys to their own worst instincts. Their ideas of female beauty are largely limited to thin, white women under 30, and they regularly deride the looks of women who don’t meet those standards. This is exactly the kind of thinking that Shallow Hal challenges, but Hall Pass plays the husbands’ derogatory view of women for laughs.

A related problem is the film’s treatment of race. Sudeikis’s character visits a Korean massage parlor in the hopes of a happy ending and greets a table of women who might or might not be Latina with “Hola,” striking a stereotypical Latin dance pose. Meanwhile, a scene in which Wilson’s character must be saved from a jacuzzi by two naked gym-goers relies on stereotypes of African-American masculinty in full-frontal compare-and-contrast shots. One could argue that the scenes with Sudeikis’s character, at least, are intended to satirize his character’s racial stereotyping rather than to suggest the stereotypes are themselves funny–the kind of technique The Office regularly employs with Michael Scott. However, Hall Pass doesn’t provide its characters of color with the opportunity to reveal the falsehood of those stereotypes, or even to respond to them in any way. They merely play bit, exoticized parts in the husbands’ sexual misadventures.

As a whole, Hall Pass feels far less eccentrically human than other Farrelly films; it’s as flat as Wilson’s pressed khakis. Where did their usual gross-yet-lovable heart go? Potentially, like the husbands, it fell asleep at a Chili’s. Here’s hoping it wakes up soon.

Hey Ladies! The women of NBC’s The Voice

In Uncategorized on June 24, 2011 at 12:43 am

Phoebe Bronstein

The Voice is one of the many reality television shows I have just recently started watching. It started with Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and Millionaire Matchmaker. Then I moved on to Real Housewives of Atlanta, The Sing Off, and currently The Voice, The Glee Project, and my favorite, The Bachelorette. Until about three months ago, I had never watched a full episode of any reality TV program, and now I can’t stop! And aside from The Bachelorette, most of the shows I am into now revolve around singing (though I cannot handle American Idol mostly because of the mean spirited judging/hazing). I loved The Sing Off, plus the University of Oregon men’s acapella group On the Rocks was on it for a while, and I do love my Ducks. And The Glee Project is pretty fun so far. I really only watch these shows for the singing.

For some reason, even though I don’t really like The Voice, I keep watching it—maybe because I am still waiting for summer premiers or more likely because I love Cee Lo Green. But since I can’t stop watching, what I’ve noticed recently is that The Voice has some of the most interesting racial and sexual politics on television. And perhaps the most liberal. Unlike American Idol, where the last four winners have been white men from the Midwest or South, on The Voice the final eight contestants were one of the most diverse casts I’ve seen on television: people of all shapes, sizes, styles, sexual preferences, and races.

Nakia and Frenchie Davis before leaving The Voice

The final four—Javier Colon, Beverley McClellan, Vicci Martinez, and my favorite Dia Frampton—are most certainly the best singers from the show, but they also reflect the diversity of the show. Three out of the final four are women, two of them are openly gay, and only one of them is white. And the best part is (for me at least) that “America” voted for all of them, and I think that is cool and exciting. For example, “America” voted for Bev the badass, beautiful, and bald rocker, and Bev is not a type we normally get to see on network television. In my last post, I wrote that it feels like there is only one option in the way of female role models on TV, but on The Voice there are so many different kinds of interesting, successful, and bad ass women.

Beverly McClellan does her thing on The Voice

So maybe I watch for Cee Lo (I do adore him), or maybe I watch for lack of something better, or perhaps I watch because The Voice presents options not available on regular network programming. At the end of the day, I would like to think it is the latter.

PS After writing this post I found out that both Cee Lo and Blake Shelton have gotten into trouble recently for homophobic tweets (both apologized profusely). However, I just think this adds a strange (and upsetting) twist some of the cool stuff I see happening on the show.

Pretty Little Liars Roundtable: “The Goodbye Look,” Season 2 Episode 2

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps on June 23, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Each week, we’ll be sitting down to chat (or Gchat) about the latest episode of Pretty Little Liars. This week: Aria’s divisive fashion sense, no-good fathers, and why we don’t want A coming near any more puppies.

Friend Breakups and Make-ups

Sarah:  What are your thoughts on the enforced friend breakup on the recommendation of the therapist in this episode?

Phoebe:  Good question! I feel weird about it … I feel like don’t completely trust the therapist, although we have no clear reason not to yet. Although there was that one shot last week when she left her office as she was getting in her car that made her feel creepy. AND I feel like the parents are too on board or something.

Sarah:  Right! Also suspicious was the way Hanna kept saying you could tell a lot about a person by their shoes, and then seemed to imply that the therapist’s shoes were fake.

Phoebe:  I am guessing that the shoes are fake, therefore the therapist is fake.

Sarah: Totally—I trust Hanna’s instincts. Also, the recommendation that the girls not see each other doesn’t really make sense to me in any case even if the therapist was a legit human being. If the girls are suffering a terrible post-traumatic loss from the death of their friend, why would you rip away their support base?

Phoebe:  Exactly. I understand perhaps not all going to therapy together or even the same therapist. But splitting them up seems unwise.

Sarah:  I do think it will be interesting to see the fallout of the friend breakup. Of course, it’s not really working because they’re still meeting in secret (and I love how Hanna is the one who’s like, “You guys we don’t have to actually do what our parents/the therapist say, they are not dictators”).

Phoebe:  Me too. Especially now that they have decided to go against their parents. I feel like Hanna going back to Mona is weird. I do not trust that Mona character at all. Also, speaking of make-ups, that Aria and Fitz kiss was ridiculous!

Sarah:  You were not moved to tears by the sunlight streaming through the window and the swelling orchestra??

Mona Is Terrifying

Sarah: But yes, also Mona: how much do you think she knows?

Phoebe:  Too much I think. Her deal with Noel is still creeping me out.

Sarah: Yeah, and I definitely thought Mona asking Aria to pick out the Fitz goodbye present was sketchy. But the trick with Mona is that since her personality is naturally fake, you can’t tell when she’s being fake! Which is smart.

Phoebe:  She is too wily for my tastes.

Sarah:  Mona might be a genius. If she has a baby with Noel, that baby will take over the world with its dimples and tricks.

Phoebe:  Perhaps. But an evil genius.

Why So Vague, Melissa?

Sarah: Also speaking of babies, what do you think about Melissa and motherhood? I was thinking about it a lot in this episode, how her whole identity is Ian and the baby.

Phoebe:  I think bad things. I found myself wondering last night if the baby is even real, or if it is a fake pregnancy?! Like Terri on Glee. I realize it is super conspiracy theorist. But Melissa is super sketchy.

Sarah: But at the hospital did the nurses and doctors say something about the baby?

Phoebe:  Yes true. Okay so perhaps it is not a fake baby. But she is so shady.

Sarah:  I feel like she seems like she’s on anti-anxiety drugs constantly since Ian came back. Do you think Ian is drugging her? Or does motherhood make you kind of vague. Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t Call It A Comeback: Britney Spears and “I Wanna Go”

In girl culture on June 23, 2011 at 2:44 am

Don’t Call It A Comeback: Britney Spears and “I Wanna Go”

Sarah Todd

On the record, did Britney end up making a comeback or not? I can’t tell from the way people talk about her. At the moment, she seems somewhat in the middle: nowhere near her early-2000s popularity heights, but not getting ridiculed in the tabloids on a daily basis either. Anyway, the truth is that Britney’s never coming back. At least, she’ll never be what she once was, and why should anyone expect her to be? She can’t be a sixteen-year-old schoolgirl somehow made responsible for working out the entire country’s virgin/whore complex again. Although she’s still young, she’s a different person now. It would be worrisome and far more disturbing if she wasn’t. If she wasn’t getting older, she’d be a vampire, and I’d be frightened.

Her new video “I Wanna Go” is pretty fun and self-aware. Britney jokes about tabloid rumors and fights off paparazzi-robots and makes excellent Half-Baked references. Her boots look like they’re good for making people bleed. I imagine that’s what she’s going for: the woman has plenty to be mad about. I would definitely see Crossroads 2: Cross Harder. I mean that one hundred percent un-ironically.

Although Britney is awesome throughout the video, smashing cameras left and right, the best parts are her reactions to Guillermo Diaz as he pours milk all over his face. At first she’s bewildered but trying to convince herself it’s kind of sexy…

Then she’s like, “Really, Guillermo? More milk? Okay, I guess. You do your thing.”

Finally, she just starts laughing: she’s in a car with a lunatic, but he’s a fun lunatic. No big deal.

Of course, eventually it turns out he’s a robot, just like basically everyone else in this video except Britney. Which is interesting, because Britney herself seemed like a robot before her breakdown. She had precise dance moves, superhuman abdominal muscles, and a vacant gaze. To all appearances, she was the kind of girl Warren from Buffy would have built.

However: just because we can’t readily see the evidence of a person’s interior life doesn’t mean they don’t have one. When Britney shaved her head and walked barefoot in gas stations, people ganged up on her. A big part of the reason they were so quick to do so was because her breakdown showed that she was a human being, not a robot, after all. The moment she was vulnerable, the public went right for her jugular–almost as if we’d been programmed that way. Maybe the real robots were us all along.

My other favorite part of the video is when Britney walks away from cop, spinning his handcuffs in one hand. She’s got hot-pink streaks in her hair and shoes that double as attack dogs. She’s wearing the smile of a woman who’s beaten a system that’s determined to pull her over. For the moment, she steps away free.

Shooting Britney (The Atlantic)

Hollaback: Rye Rye’s “Hardcore Girls”

In girl culture on June 18, 2011 at 6:55 pm

Hollaback: Rye Rye’s “Hardcore Girls”

Sarah Todd

Have you met young Baltimore rapper Rye Rye? She is amazing, as her single “Hardcore Girls” clearly demonstrates. While the song’s club-ready electronica sample isn’t my favorite, Rye Rye’s supertight rhythm and lyrics like “Can’t you see I’m the baddest chick / Even Superwoman couldn’t put her hands on this” put me squarely in the “Hardcore Girls” corner. But the best part about this particular song is the music video.

In “Hardcore Girls,” Rye Rye manages to be both exuberant and totally cool, breaking into brilliant smiles and casually twirling a baseball bat. The lady has star power, and the ability to persuade susceptible audiences that perhaps they too should invest in a handprint jumpsuit.

But Rye Rye isn’t the only hardcore girl in the music video; she shares the screen with ladies of a variety of ages, ethnicities, and personal styles. The lineup includes a female bodybuilder doing pull-ups on a fire escape, an older woman with some serious dance moves, a strikingly beautiful woman with a shaved head chilling by a pay phone, and an adorable yet tough little girl who crosses her arms with defiance. A big part of what makes the music video so exciting is that it shows such a multitude of diverse ladies being awesome in different ways. They’re all strong and beautiful and quite evidently hardcore. When the music video flashes through all of their faces at 2:15–and I know this sound may sound like I’m a giant cheeseball and/or overly invested in music videos, both of which are true–my heart lifted just to see them.

There are men in “Hardcore Girls” too; mostly, they’re looking at the women, with varying degrees of awe and lasciviousness. The guy half-smiling at 1:35 looks like he’s both attracted to and impressed by Rye Rye, a perfectly understandable response. Also, he is cute. On the other hand, the lecherous eyebrow-wiggle of the older man at 1:37 looks kind of creepy. While the men are looking at the women, the women don’t seem to be looking back, nor do they give any signs that they’re performing for the men’s benefit.

Since most of the video takes place on city streets (I think it’s Baltimore, but never having been there I can’t swear it), “Hardcore Girls” shows what navigating public spaces can be like for women who are the objects of unwanted attention.  At 1:16, when two women pass by two men with a pitbull, they keep their heads down and their long hair swept in curtains over their faces; the blonde woman holds her hands protectively at her collarbone. It’s clear that they’re trying to ward off any interaction. While we don’t hear cat calls, that may well be because all the women here could beat the men up.

In fact, most of the women in the music video show that they can defend themselves. There’s a reason Rye Rye carries a baseball bat. A woman pushes away a guy who’s getting in her face, while he falls to his knees in mock-worship.  The two women at 1:09 have a very protective dog who lunges, barking, at the screen. The female bodybuilder can certainly take care of herself, and even the little girl knows how to kick box.

“Hardcore Girls” isn’t saying that it’s always bad to look: after all, Rye Rye boasts of her killer moves, “All the honeys in the club keep watchin.” But the video does show that women have the right to move through the streets freely, without having anyone bother them or make them uncomfortable. Hardcore girls don’t just know how to dance; they also know how to fight.

TV’s Mistresses of Crime: Bones, Body of Proof, etc.

In Uncategorized on June 18, 2011 at 4:32 pm

TV’s Mistresses of Crime
Phoebe Bronstein

I am a murder mystery and crime television junkie, and lucky for me every other show on television fits this bill. And in a new turn of events, a lot of the recent crime shows feature an extra smart female detective type. To name just a few: Brennan (Emily Deschanel) on Bones (2005-present), Deputy Chief Brenda Lee Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick) on The Closer (2005-present), Detective Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) on The Killing (2011-present), the badass female duo of Jane Rizzoli and Sasha Isles (Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander) on Rizzoli and Isles (2010-present), and Dana Delaney as a brilliant former neurosurgeon turned medical examiner on Body of Proof (2011-present). At once, the presence of strong female characters over the age of 25 on television is exciting and perhaps promising. However, before we get too excited a few crucial observations …

First, all these women are white. Although there are quite a few African American women on these shows, they are often side characters; for example, Cam, the head of the forensic team at the Jeffersonian on Bones (Tamara Taylor) is African American; Sonja Sohn from The Wire (2002-2008) is now a detective on Body of Proof; and Lieutenant Daniels (Gina Ravera) used to be the only other woman, and the only African American woman, in the Priority Homicide unit on The Closer. It seems worth mentioning here, that Ravera is also part Puerto Rican but as Daniels she plays and is coded as African American.

a glamorous looking Rizzoli and Isles from the TNT website.

Second, all the leads on these shows are educated and upper middle class. Put another way, they are privileged, perhaps save for Angie Harmon’s character on Rizzoli and Isles and Sarah Linden on The Killing. However, if you’re like me you can’t help remembering Harmon as a young lawyer on Law & Order which when combined with TNT’s marketing of her, trumps her working class image on the show. But for the other women (who are for the most part styled rather alike), class and classiness are connoted with expensive clothes, big jewelry, being in great shape, and giant (not to mention snazzy) heels. In fact, I’ve noticed a recent fascination (or should I say fetishization) of women’s shoes on television; the higher the heel the more intimidating she will be. It seems that television believes you can learn a lot about a women from her shoes. Ugh.

on of the many shots of Dr. Hunt's shoes (and legs) in Body of Proof


Dr. Hunt arrives at a crime scene with Peter

Third, almost all these white women are straight and absolutely incapable of being in relationships. But they still need male partners to protect them and regulate their independence. For example, Bones and Booth (David Boreanaz. So hot.) on Bones or Megan Hunt (Dana Delaney) and Peter (Nicholas Bishop) on Body of Proof. It seems these shows are reminding us that as women we can only still have it one way or the other (ie love or career), however, if we choose a career at least we’ll be able to buy ourselves great shoes.

So I guess my point is that I’m sad about these realizations. I love Bones and its quirky humor and at least Brennan (aka Bones) knows self-defense and carries a gun I suppose. However, the racial stuff is still there and she is after all paired with a very manly man (and now they’re going to have a baby?!). Where are the dramas centered around African American or Latina or Asian or even Jewish women? And why can’t these women have relationships with men and/or women? What if a woman smashed through that TV glass ceiling while wearing sneakers? I mean seriously do they think their viewers would all just stop watching? I’m just curious.

SUPER 8: Where the girls at?

In Uncategorized on June 17, 2011 at 1:34 am

SUPER 8: Where the girls at?

Phoebe Bronstein

This afternoon I went and saw Super 8, the new J.J. Abrams summer blockbuster, in the theaters and I must say I rather enjoyed it. The film is about a group of middle school boys, sort of Goonies style, who are trying to make a zombie movie when quite suddenly a train crash unleashes an alien upon the unsuspecting town. Great parts included, but were not limited to, hilarious 1970s middle school style banter, a murderous yet sympathetic alien that was mistreated by the government, an unexplicable section where all the dogs flee from the town of Lilian, and an odd reference to Three Mile Island.

However, upon leaving the theater I wondered why are there not any movies about girlfriends kicking butt and saving the world? And I do not think Sucker Punch counts. Seriously, why can’t a group of five hilarious young women protect a town from a mean and misunderstood alien? As it stands in Super 8, the only young lady, Alice, that we other young ladies might sympathize with winds up in need of saving and the romantic interest of the main young lad, Joe Lamb (delightfully played by newcomer Joel Courtney). Further, the town itself is absent of women: Joe’s mother dies before the film starts, Alice’s mother left her father long ago, and some of the other boys don’t even appear to have parents. The only grown up woman we encounter is Joe’s friend Charlie’s mom and she is the picture of 1950s housewife perfection, although her children seem a little lacking in the discipline category.

This is all to say that I am rather looking forward to Katniss kicking some butt in The Hunger Games. And I think that it just might be rather refreshing to see some bad ass young ladies minus the sex kitten leather saving the world up on the silver screen.

Midnight in Paris: Living In the Past Tense

In time travel, Woody Allen on June 17, 2011 at 1:32 am

Midnight in Paris: Living In the Past Tense

Sarah Todd

The past was better, wasn’t it? Women wore jewelry that jangled when they walked down the hall, and had a way of leaning against a doorframe that suggested unimaginably wonderful creations were just in the next room. Men were Don Draper or Butch Cassidy or any idol with a secret and a hard jaw. People laughed harder; paintings glowed brighter; typewriters clattered with enough noise to make reporters and novelists feel as if their words were durable and solid. The work you put into things didn’t just disappear.

Romanticizing the past is a pastime for the ages in Woody Allen’s latest film, Midnight in Paris. Gil (Owen Wilson), an American screenwriter-turned-aspiring-novelist, vacations in Paris with his fiancé Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her family. Whereas Inez and her parents consume Parisian culture as dutifully and dispassionately as if they were taking their vitamins, Gil falls in love with the city and its history. He loves Paris now, but even more than that he loves Paris as he imagines it was in the 1920s, when Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and other luminaries rubbed elbows in cafes and dance halls. Eventually, Gil manages to wish himself straight into the 1920s. At first perplexed, then delighted by his luck, he befriends his heroes and falls in love with a dewy French flapper named Adriana (Marion Cotillard, who specializes in faraway gazes and precisely the kind of doorframe-leaning that could lead a man to switch eras).

Unfortunately for Gil, Adriana doesn’t share his infatuation with the 1920s. Instead, she feels she really belonged in the Belle Epoque. Naturally, she wishes herself there, bringing Gil along with her, where they discover that Degas and Gaugin would prefer to have been alive in the Renaissance. Gil realizes that no one is satisfied with his or her own present, and it’s time for him to return to his home century (though not to his fiancé, who’s been cheating on him with Wesley Snipes from 30 Rock).

There’s no mistaking Midnight‘s moral about the fallacies of rearview-mirror thinking: Gil explains it in detail to Adriana, who promptly shrugs it off and opts to remain in the Belle Epoque to design ballet costumes. However, the more interesting aspect of the movie’s travels through time is how friendly everybody in the past is. Gil can barely string two words together when he meets the Fitzgeralds at a party, but they take him under their wing anyway; Ernest Hemingway has a conversation with Gil for five minutes before offering to pass his manuscript along to Gertrude Stein; Degas and Gaugin offer Adriana a job before they’ve even caught her name. Who knew the past could be so welcoming?

Of course, part of this generosity of spirit is a plot device: nobody wants to see a movie where Gil travels to Paris in the 1920s only to stand on the outskirts of every party, trying to fish an olive out of his martini glass. But Midnight In Paris is also making an argument about community and isolation. All of the characters who long to live in the past necessarily feel a bit out-of-place in the present; they imagine that if they lived in the past, they would be among people who would understand them. A sparkling community of artists and thinkers, where people take up one another’s causes (and lovers) without a second thought, lies just out of reach.

Gil is lonely in the present. When asked what he and Inez have in common, he struggles before landing on their mutual love of naan. For the most part, in the present, he’s either writing alone in his room, wandering the streets by himself, or daydreaming over dinner. His modern isolation seems fairly typical in the age of bowling alone, which is why his few moments of connection in the present—particularly with Gabrielle, a Frenchwoman working at a flea market—stand out onscreen. When he visits Versailles with Inez and her friends, nobody wants to hear what he has to say. At Gertrude Stein’s revolving-door apartment in the 1920s, everybody does.

Midnight in Paris ends with Gil and Gabrielle walking home together across a bridge. (Time travel movies always end with the protagonist returning to the present, though their friends—Adriana, or Doc in Back to the Future—sometimes stay behind.) Gabrielle’s occupation at the flea market suggests she shares Gil’s appreciation for the past, as well as an affinity for Cole Porter and walking in the rain. We’re meant to think the two are about to start a romance, and maybe they will. But at the very least, Gil’s not alone in the present anymore. Once he stops idealizing the past, he finds a friend in his own time.

Welcome back Pretty Little Liars

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps on June 15, 2011 at 4:23 am

To inaugurate our blog we thought we would begin with a getting to know you situation and an excuse to talk about one of our favorite shows. Please feel free to share your thoughts on these questions, our answers, or general PLL fun.

1) Who is your favorite pretty little liar? And which pll do think you are the most like?

Sarah:

Hanna won me over early on in PLL with her ever-handy flask, loyalty, deadpan delivery, and beleaguered yet spunky world view. I also like that she’s the kind of girl who doesn’t forget her past, or her old friends, once she’s made it to the top of the high school hierarchy. More than that, I appreciate that she honestly liked Lucas—she wasn’t just being kind to him. She thought he was funny, and she let herself enjoy his company.

I’m probably a combination of Hanna and Emily. I can be spacey like Hanna, and I definitely get her sense of humor. In my more fiery moments, I also have a good dose of her attitude. But I also relate to Emily’s empathy and proclivity for outcasts, and I understand Emily’s frustration when people think that her general sweetness means that she’s timid or unable to stand up for herself. Emily’s got backbone! Just because she’s not the person who’s talking the loudest doesn’t mean she doesn’t have opinions, or that she’s not going to fight for what she thinks is right.

Phoebe: 

I have two favorites: Hannah and Spencer. Spencer is just so driven and smart, although definitely a liar. Plus she used to be on NCIS occasionally which adds even more points. And Hannah is witty, a bit of a bad girl or risk taker, can tell a person’s character by their shoes, and mostly is just great. But I think in part I like them the most as I also identify with both of them. I definitely have a hard time getting behind Aria because of her relationship with Ezra the teacher, but that is jumping ahead a few questions.

2) What did you think of the newest episode?

Sarah:

First of all, I’m so excited that PLL is back on the air that I would have enjoyed the show if it were one extended hair commercial. (Speaking of which, the TRESemmé ad with Hanna and Mona threw our television-viewing party into tumults of confusion.) I’m glad that the new episode is dealing with the fallout of the season finale—not just Ian’s attempted murder of Spencer, apparent death, and subsequent disappearance, but also the conclusion of Caleb and Lucas’s road trip, more on Aria freaking out over the fact that Ezra has a romantic past and loved another person one time, and the parents’ collective recognition that their daughters were maaaybe a little traumatized when their best friend was murdered and should probably get some professional help. Although I also think the representation of therapy in this episode was very strange.

Phoebe:

I rather liked it. And thought Emily and Aria’s shout out to old school horror films within the first minute was pretty hilarious.  But I am rather confused about the situation with Garrett the cop and Jenna. Whose side is he on? Also, what is up with Mona and Noel Caan? And where is Ian? As it seems he is clearly not dead and also recognized A at the end of last season. At this point, I just have so many questions. And what was up with A in Emily’s house at the end, I totally would think it was creepy to see someone in all black in black gloves in what seems to be the middle of the summer.

3) How much do you want to know who killed Ali? And who do you think it is?

Sarah:

I want to know who killed Ali so much! Although I might want to know who A is even more. If I had to point a finger at Ali’s killer, I’d probably pick Melissa. She had motive (if she discovered that Ian and Ali were having an affair), it makes sense that Ian would think he had to kill Spencer to protect Melissa if he believed Spencer’s accusations were hitting a little too close to home, and sometimes Melissa stares vaguely into space in a way that seems to scream prospective murderess.

Phoebe:

So much! I am seriously drawn to mysteries (in fact, somewhat of a mystery junkie) and this show has me wrapped around its little finger. I wanted to know so badly that over the PLL break I went and looked up how the books end, however, I am not wholly satisfied as I think that things in the series are working out differently.

4) Why are all the men in Rosewood so creepy?

Sarah:

Why indeed? This show is all about matching older men with inappropriately younger women: Ian/Ali, All of Melissa’s boyfriends/Spencer, Ezra/Aria, Aria’s dad/the blonde grad student aka Jody from Center Stage, Darren/Jenna. These pairings definitely seem to be largely about power dynamics: I’d also group the affair between the policeman investigating Ali’s death and Hanna’s mom under this category as well, even though the age difference wasn’t a factor in that case. I think part of the reason why all the men on the show are seemingly so predatory is because there’s a sense that you can’t trust anyone. A could be anyone. Furthermore, betrayal—or the possibility of betrayal—threatens romantic love at all times(see Hanna’s parents, Aria’s parents, and Hanna and Caleb). Combine that lack of trust with the sense that other people are trying to control you—as A attempts to manipulate with all our favorite PLLs—and the older man/younger women relationships emerge as perfect metaphors for the atmosphere in Rosewood. Emily, Hanna, Aria, and Spencer are teenage girls, and that means that their word means nothing; they’re constantly struggling to right wrongs no one else will admit will exist. They feel powerless, and the whole town is trying to force them to be things they aren’t, and that’s perfectly expressed in the older man/younger woman dynamic.

Phoebe:

Such a good question and it is rather confusing. All the men in Rosewood are lecherous: Aria’s dad has an affair with a student; Ezra has an affair with Aria, his student (ugh); Ian is a major creeper and also goes after younger women. I feel like the list goes on too and I cannot yet figure out how or why the men are all figured in this predatory way. Perhaps only Toby and Lucas are nice guys. After all Lucas did go get Caleb and drive him back to Rosewood so that Hannah could be happy (too bad that didn’t work out so well). But even Lucas went a little crazy post-Hannah rejection and kissed her in her sleep after her accident. Ugh. So maybe just Toby isn’t creepy. I like him rather a lot.

5) What’s your take on the Ezra-Aria love connection?

Sarah:

The thing that really bothers me about their relationship is that the show positions their relationship as romantic, while it disapproves of other older man/younger woman pairings. I don’t understand how the show distinguishes this relationship from the others. I do love how they only ever hold hands, and I like imagining them exchanging their creative writing with each other and how terrible their poetry must be.

Phoebe:

Bad news bears. Seriously. I do not like the E and A love connection and think the show treats it pretty problematically in that it romanticizes that relationship. The relationship never seems to be in question and Aria’s parents or the other adults are figured as unreasonable obstacles to their ever-lasting love. Ridiculous.

6) Who are the best and worst parents on the show, in your opinion, and why?

Sarah:

The parents on this show are all so flawed, and they love their daughters so much, which is one of PLL’s most realistic aspects. My vote for best parent is probably Ella (Aria’s mom). Ella is just so saucy and funny; I love how much she embarrasses Aria when she’s trying to guess who her boyfriend is, pointing obviously at random cute guys and mouthing questions at her. I also like the way she dealt with the revelation that Aria had known her husband was cheating on her a full year before she (Ella) found out herself. She wasn’t angry with Aria, and she forgave her and let her know that it was never a fair burden for her father to ask her to bear. At the same time, Ella was clear that she wished she had known the truth sooner. It was a good parenting moment, I thought.

For worst parent, I would probably have to go with Spencer’s dad, who asks her to lose a tennis match to win over a client and fails to listen to her when she talks at dinner. He’s a classic distracted parent who’s absentee even when he’s sitting right across the table from her. I also don’t understand any parents who would consent to have Ian in the house when their daughter is so clearly afraid of him, but at least Spencer’s mother is clearly concerned about her daughter. The dad seems like he is maybe just thinking about new golf clubs.

Phoebe:

Good question. My favorite parent is Hannah’s mom, though I do not think she is the best parent. And I think the most interesting parent is perhaps Emily’s mom. Also, I’m curious about Ali’s parents and would like to meet them or have them somehow integrated into the show.

7) What is PLL ABOUT?

Sarah:

Hair products.

Also: suspicion, observation, female friendship, adolescence, manipulation, reading text messages in unison, covering, exposure, and feeling compelled to choose between betraying yourself and lying about who you really are. And, perhaps most importantly, dropping everything when your friend texts you saying S.O.S. What I love most about this show is that when the girls hear that a friend needs help, they come running.

Phoebe: 

I am really not so sure.  But, I must admit I like it anyways.

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