thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

How to be Awesome like Lane Kim (from “Gilmore Girls”)

In Uncategorized on January 22, 2015 at 11:13 am

Phoebe B.

Unknown

Since Gilmore Girls’ revival on Netflix a few months ago, I’ve been spending a lot of time in Stars Hollow, the virtually all-white small New England town in which the show is set. There are many things about Gilmore Girls that I find refreshing and delightful, quick and witty dialogue and the focus on friendships between women being among my top two favorite things. Gilmore Girls undoubtedly passes the Bechdel Test, as women talk with one another about everything from love to work to friendships and well beyond. But it is also a show about whiteness and class conflict, despite the fact that it frequently seems to attempt to skirt these issues.

Lane Kim stands out as one of two recurring character of color (the other being Michele at the inn), replete with a stereotypical Asian Tiger mom. Her mother’s strict rules contrast with Lorelai Gilmore’s free-spirited parenting style, seemingly evoking a sensibility along raced lines.

But while Lane rebels against her restrictive Korean, Christian mother, she is also a fully-fledged, fully badass character in her own right. In a sea of whiteness—both on Gilmore Girls and on television more generally—Lane’s greatness ought to be appreciated.

So, here is how to be awesome like Lane Kim:

  • Be a major music buff, but, not just in one genre. You’ve got to love all kinds of music, from Coltrane to Broadway show tunes, Belle and Sebastian and Metallica. In order to do this, you need to hide all your CDs under secret floorboards in your bedroom. After immersing yourself in music for years, you’ll be able to identify any song or artist based on the faintest sound streaming through the phone line.
  • Once you know all there is to know about music, convince the local music instrument store owner to let you practice super softly on a borrowed drum kit. Then, once you’ve mastered the drums, place a hilarious ad in the newspaper wherein you list ALL of your major influences. Given the breadth of your music knowledge and that you’ll likely have to pay per word, prepare for this ad to be costly.

Grief, Trauma, and Terror: The Babadook

In Film, parenthood, spoilers on January 12, 2015 at 6:00 am

  the-babadook

Sarah S.

The Babadook is one of those excellent little horror films that reminds how much scaring can be done with good acting and a competent director. It’s delightfully spooky and eerie, with interesting sound choices and great cinematography and scene setting.

Plus, it’s a film about a woman, written and directed by a woman—Jennifer Kent. In the first half, The Babadook offers up a moving portrait of a profoundly ordinary woman parenting a troubled child. In the second half, well, things take a turn for the terrifying. Essie Davis’s performance as the mother, Amelia, blows the roof off, proving once again that the bias against genre films by those who give out awards and accolades is entirely misplaced.

In this Australian horror-thriller, Amelia is a single mother who struggles to manage her emotionally-disturbed, monster-obsessed son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), only to find that one of his monstrosities might be real. The Babadook, a sinister figure with a black trenchcoat and talon-like fingers, first shows up in a strange pop-up book that appears in Amelia and Samuel’s gloomy house. As Amelia’s isolation grows so does the power of the Babadook to terrorize her and Samuel.

The Babadook is essentially a haunted house story, albeit one where the “ghost” seems to be deliberately tormenting these people (rather than being attached to the house itself). Haunted house narratives are often about the dark side of family life (think The Conjuring or the first season of American Horror Story). These stories may be interested in infidelity or children’s maturation or even  the common challenges of marriage and parenting. The message is that something sinister (mental illness, homosexuality, pick your symbolic menace) is always lying just under the floorboards, wanting to tear the nuclear family apart.

The Babadook toys with this genre. It’s a haunted family story, but in The Babadook the nuclear family has already been destroyed. Amelia is a single mother because her husband died in a car crash on the way to the hospital to deliver Samuel. It’s been seven years and even if Amelia no longer talks about her husband, her grief lingers. Amelia and Samuel live in his house, a house that should be idyllic and instead feels oppressive. Amelia has relegated his belongs to the basement, ostensibly an attempt to put her grief away that is belied by how she blocks these items and her husband’s memory from Samuel.

Hit the Books: The Best Feminist Reads of 2014

In books on January 6, 2015 at 9:04 am

Like a great white shark, you swim through the depths of a great book-ocean, hunting for prey. Already you have ambushed part one of Girls Like Giants’ best feminist reads of 2014. But your ravenous quest for cool things to download on your Kindle or check out from the library surges on unabated. You hunger for more.

We bow to your wishes, oh dinosaur of the sea! Here are five more books our contributors read and loved last year.

The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit

“What if we only wanted openings,” asks Rebecca Solnit, “the immortality of the unfinished, the uncut thread, the incomplete, the open door, and the open sea?” This push to embrace the possibility of openings wrestles with the drive to closure in her newest book, The Faraway Nearby. It’s not an idle question, as the book shows Solnit reconstructing her difficult relationship with her mother as her mother descends into dementia and then death, and as Solnit herself battles cancer. Yet these obvious themes of ending and death do not sum up the book, which ranges widely and includes musings on Iceland, Frankenstein, writing, and an excess of apricots, as well as a bonus essay running throughout the book like a newsfeed on the bottom of each page. In assessing what is, for the individual, the ultimate conclusion, Solnit also considers the counter-ambiguity of a lack of closure—the meaning of the messy middle, the potential of beginnings. The Faraway Nearby is a beautiful book, best suited to contemplative periods, meditative moods, and a willingness to sail along with Solnit on her self-consciously jumbled journey. — Sarah S.

Long Division by Kiese Laymon

Long Division is a novel about growing up black and male in America. Its plot connects past and present, reminding us time and again that the violence of the Jim Crow era is much closer than some white Americans choose to believe. I worry that any description of Long Division’s beautiful and complex plotting will be off-putting and clunky outside of Laymon’s deft prose, but bear with me for a moment as the book is well worth a read. Part coming of age, part fantasy novel, and part indictment of fantasies of a post-racial America, the novel follows two young men named City—one, a real live character in the novel’s plot, and the other, the hero of the eponymous novel-within-the-novel, Long Division. As City furiously reads the novel, the plot weaves in and out of both City’s lives, sometimes seamlessly—names stay the same, plots twist and turn out of past and present and fact and fiction. We watch one City follow love through time travel, while the other City grapples with his sexuality.

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