thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

Posts Tagged ‘mental health’

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”: There Are Quite a Few

In Film on November 14, 2012 at 8:15 am

Sarah T.

My love for The Perks of Being a Wallflower was inevitable as mason jars at a hipster wedding. Blend adolescent longing with puppy love, transformations, wild nights, and the passionate loyalty particular to friendships forged on the battlegrounds of high school, and you bet I will drink that milkshake. I’LL DRINK IT UP. Ten years out of my own teenage wasteland, I remain a sucker for coming-of-age stories because at bottom they’re about change–which means they tend to resonate with anyone who’s still in the (apparently endless?) process of Figuring Stuff Out.

But even given my predisposition to adore any film that features SATs and Sadie Hawkins dances, Perks is a winner, at times a little corny but brimming with heart. The movie tracks the freshman year of Charlie (Logan Lerman), a shy, eager-to-please innocent with a troubled past. After a few lonely weeks at school, Charlie befriends a pair of senior step-siblings, each radiating life-force. Patrick (Ezra Miller) is a warm, charismatic joker who’s forced to hide his relationship with a popular football player from their closed-minded community. Sam (Emma Watson) is an equally compassionate former party girl who’s gotten her act together–but she’s worried that college admissions boards won’t be able to see past her sub-par GPA. They take young Charlie under their wing, and before he knows it the three of them are flying through a tunnel in Patrick’s pickup truck, Sam clambering out the cab to ride in the open air while David Bowie’s “Heroes” flares. They  don’t know who’s singing; they’re still young enough to be discovering classics for the first time. “I feel infinite,” Charlie tells Patrick, quietly, like a confession. It’s a hopelessly cheesy line, but it’s also exactly the right way to describe the way you feel when, for the first time, you stumble upon people who crack your life open.

[spoilers after the jump] Read the rest of this entry »

True Confessions; Dangerous Minds

In Uncategorized on April 2, 2012 at 10:11 am

Sarah T.

Ex-boyfriends and ugly feelings, family skeletons and panic attacks, choking self-doubt mingled with soaring grandiosity: this is the bread and wine of confessional blogging.

At xoJane, Cat Marnell describes her pettiness toward her co-workers at the website and details her struggle to kick her addiction to Adderall in real time. In a personal blog that eventually became an e-book, Dodie Bellamy draws on art and theory to explore the emotional aftermath of a romantic affair with a Buddhist teacher. And on Tumblr, writer and PhD student Kara Jesella archives the detritus of her relationship and breakup, including a miscarriage and a stay in a psychiatric ward—and analyzes the feminist underpinnings of the entire endeavor.

For me, this is a gift. All I have ever wanted is for interesting people to tell me their stories – the messy, honest ones that normally come along only after a few drinks. That’s why I love memoirs and Sylvia Plath and Audre Lorde and PostSecret and Joni Mitchell. The confessional voice, done with attention to craft, is one of the best antidotes I know to isolation. Not coincidentally, as far as I can tell the majority of the bloggers currently practicing it are women. Also not coincidentally, the confessional voice—both historically and in the present—has haters without end.

I believe that women writers are drawn to the confessional voice because they are not supposed to speak their pain. The same goes for people who are nonwhite or GLBTQ or disabled or otherwise on societal margins.

Confession is only necessary where there is repression, where it serves the interests of those in power to persuade those who aren’t to maintain their silence. And so confessional blogging, like confessional poetry and confessional novels before it, is a political act. Lorde expounds on the necessity of personal disclosure, writing, “Your silences will not protect you [. . .] What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? We have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language.” Lorde’s criticism applies to the personal just as much as the political, because the two are inseparable in her life and in everyone’s.

Enter the ex-boyfriends.

Bellamy’s blog and book The Buddhist is rife with the embarrassment of personal disclosure. It is embarrassing for her to admit how often she thinks of her former lover, a Buddhist teacher. She tries to stop writing about him over and over again: “So, I’m saying goodbye to the buddhist vein here,” she says, with half her book still to go. “I already said that, but I mean it this time.” (She doesn’t.) It’s embarrassing for her to continue mourning the relationship long past its expiration date, and even more embarrassing to blog about it. Whereas the mantle of what she calls Real Writing might lend her heartbreak cultural credibility and make writing about it more acceptable, blogging won’t protect her from judgment. In fact, it exposes her further. Yet she grows committed to documenting the relationship and breakup when she considers who and what culturally-imposed silence on personal drama serves. Bellamy writes, Read the rest of this entry »

GLG Weekly Round-up: Women’s Health

In body politics, reproductive health, Uncategorized, Weekly Round-Up, Women's health on March 3, 2012 at 6:37 am

With all the legislative madness afoot in the U.S. in regards to women’s health, we decided to devote this week’s weekly round-up to Women’s Health. Please share more links in the comments if you have them!

On the Academy Award-winning film, Saving Face:
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/mmw/2012/02/%E2%80%9Csaving-face%E2%80%9D-may-be-a-saving-grace-for-women-victims-of-acid-attacks/

On Virginia’s new proposed anti-abortion legislation:

From Slate: http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2012/02/virginia_ultrasound_law_women_who_want_an_abortion_will_be_forcibly_penetrated_for_no_medical_reason.html

From xoJane:
http://www.xojane.com/issues/virginias-proposed-abortion-ultrasound-requirement-turning-your-uterus-public-forum

From Colorlines:
http://colorlines.com/archives/2011/12/gender_2012_more_battles_for_reproductive_healthcare.html

And in response,

From The Huffington Post:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/22/georgia-vasectomy-ban_n_1293369.html

And AJC:
http://blogs.ajc.com/political-insider-jim-galloway/2012/02/21/democratic-women-seek-a-state-ban-on-vasectomies-for-men/

Jonathan Franzen, Edith Wharton, and the Problem of Personality

In gender on February 11, 2012 at 7:53 am

Sarah Todd

The basic gist of Jonathan Franzen’s New Yorker article on Edith Wharton is, “Whar-dawg, I do not dig you as a human being because you had too much cash flow and too few socially liberal political beliefs, but I do dig the hot fudge sundae that is your novels’ complex protagonists. Radical?” (Franzen talks like a surfer-dude undergrad from the 1960s with hip-hop influences. No, he doesn’t really. I wish.)

When Franzen discusses Wharton’s books, he’s insightful and curious. I particularly like his exploration of why he wants Wharton’s characters–and literary characters in general–to get what they want, even if they want things about which he has ethical and moral qualms: more money, social status, a loveless but secure marriage. The vehemence of their desires is contagious. Eventually, they become the sympathetic reader’s own. This also explains, he says, why he wants Thackeray’s selfish, superficial Becky Sharp to climb right up that social ladder. But Franzen’s own likability and popularity, or lack thereof, is the subtext of half his personal essays as well as the blatant text (top-text?) of about a zillion pieces of Franzen-related criticism, so I think he’s more invested in the subject of ascending and descending social ladders than he’s willing to admit. Read the rest of this entry »

GLG Weekly Round-up

In race, Weekly Round-Up on January 27, 2012 at 2:12 pm

A gathering of great links from around the interwebs this week. Enjoy & have a great weekend!

Ten black style icons before Michelle Obama: http://thinkprogress.org/alyssa/2012/01/26/412022/michelle-obama-style/

Interesting article on the difficulties faced by black women in Hollywood and the privilege that can blind others to the problem: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/01/24/what-charlize-theron-doesn-t-get-about-black-hollywood.html

White female rage & Jan Brewer: http://crunkfeministcollective.wordpress.com/2012/01/27/white-womens-rage-5-thoughts-on-why-jan-brewer-should-keep-her-fingers-to-herself/#comments

Mapping autism onto Mattie Ross in True Grit: http://bitchmagazine.org/post/double-rainbow-mattie-ross-autism-feminist-film-review

How fashion, feminism, and academics fit together: http://iheartthreadbared.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/fraught-intimacies/

Let’s all cry. Absolutely beautiful: http://therumpus.net/2012/01/transformation-and-transcendence-the-power-of-female-friendship/

“Melancholia”: Depression and Going Big

In Uncategorized on November 15, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Sarah Todd

Birds drifting down from the sky. Small bolts of lightning emerging from a woman’s fingertips. A mother carrying her child across a darkened golf course, sinking further into the green with each step. Wagner, of course.

In Lars von Trier’s stunning new movie “Melancholia,” this is one strangely beautiful way the world could end.

I never would have guessed that I would call any von Trier movie stunning, except in the bludgeoned sense. I hate the way his movies victimize women, the way the camera and director seem to revel in their suffering and assume that audiences will do the same. I hate that his movies suggest everyone is either weak or evil at the core. I hate his films’ violence and coldness. It’s more than disagreeing with his worldview: in the past, his world has not been a place that I recognized. Read the rest of this entry »

Fighting Clean: xoJane and Its Discontents

In reproductive health on October 30, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Sarah Todd

Fighting can be great. To me, a thoughtful debate between well-matched opponents is far more productive and engaging than a lecture by even the most knowledgeable of speakers. I’d rather hear Hamilton and Jefferson go head-to-head, and sort out what I think for myself in the process, than hear either one of them give a monologue. In this example, I guess I’m assuming that either I live in colonial America or time travel has been invented. I’ve been singing 1776 to myself a lot lately.

In a good fight, people have to reason their way through their positions, reflect on their assumptions, respond to the arguments of their opponents, and perhaps adjust their views to incorporate new information. It’s argumentative writing 101, as all the comp instructors out there can attest (holler!). Unfortunately, the internet hasn’t figured out how to fight too well just yet. Read the rest of this entry »

Psych 101: Doppelgangers and Depictions of Disorders in “The Roommate”

In gender on October 7, 2011 at 8:47 pm

Sarah Todd

This past weekend, my friend Christine and I watched The Roommate, a deeply baffling movie about a pretty young stalker who stalks other pretty people who look just like her, for no reason the film cares to clarify.

Like 99% of people who saw the movie (rough estimate), we were watching mostly because Leighton Meester—aka our Lady of Headbands and Bon Mots, Blair Waldorf—plays the lovely stalker Rebecca. Hilariously, early on the movie hints that Rebecca is evil in the following ways:

•    She does not like going out to clubs
•    She would like to be called Rebecca, not Becky
•    She ENJOYS CONTEMPORARY ART

Truly chilling stuff. Why Sarah (Minka Kelly) doesn’t realize that her college roommate is bad news from the get-go is a mystery.

Lurkers Love Abstract Paintings

But The Roommate has plenty of other mysteries as well, most of them unintentional. For one thing, according to The Roommate, mental and emotional disorders are nefarious and unknowable, not unlike Mordor. When Rebecca’s mother asks Sarah if her daughter has been “taking her medication,” alarm bells immediately go off for Sarah. Pills are scary, like modern art and full names. Sarah googles the name of the medication and it turns out that Rebecca has… something. (Schizophrenia? Manic-depression? Lisztomania? It could be anything.)  This vague approach is patently ridiculous, but it’s also part of a long tradition of demonizing and mystifying such disorders in film. (Check out Bitch Media’s excellent “We’re All Mad Here” series for much more on this subject.) Read the rest of this entry »

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