April 26, 2012
Please note that this post contains spoilers for Mad Men through Season 5, Episode 6, Girls Season 1, Episode 2, and Game of Thrones Season 2, Episode 4.
As someone who realizes that he has absolutely no place in writing about the topics of Feminism (I’m a male), Diversity (I’m white), or Privilege (I’m firmly middle class, despite what my bank account over the last 4 years might indicate), I know I shouldn’t weigh in on these topics, especially when there is a plethora of great (along with terrible) writing on these subjects by people who write for a living and have studied the issues for a very long time. Regardless, I’m shouting down my better angels because these topics have, in some way or another, reached a fever pitch over the last few weeks due largely to the premiere of HBO’s Girls, which has seemed to – in one way or another – brought up some long-percolating discussions about Game of Thrones and AMC’s Mad Men. I am not going to name the authors or commenters, as I have no interest in turning this into the opening salvo of a flame-war lob (like anybody will read it anyway, right?), nor do I think it’s particularly nice to call people out for annoying me, especially when their hearts tend to be in the right place. Instead, I’d like to write a little more broadly about the approach certain people take to these programs, because I think there’s a disconnect between “what I think they should do” and “what the creators want to do”. Now, I don’t mean to be hard on anyone because I want to defend shows I like, though certainly the enjoyment and intellectual engagement with the material creates some degree of bias. Really, I find it irksome because I think that writers who look at popular media through the lens of feminism, race, and/or socio-economic circumstances are perhaps the most practically important set of cultural critics around. It is absolutely no secret that Hollywood and American Television are overwhelmingly the domains of white, privileged males, and though I hasten to point out that those circumstances do not mean they cannot produce great, relevant art, but it also doesn’t encourage balance, especially when the output of most of them is so anemic and pandering. There’s a half-truth about target markets and what sells – for instance, films starring black actors turns off white viewers who think it isn’t geared towards them, or that films that appeal to women won’t appeal to men as well – which have gone a long way in financially justifying and, thus, perpetuating the sexist, classist, and racist practices in the studios. All of this is why I think it’s even more crucial for these cultural critics to get it right, especially when becoming too po-faced or vehemently anti-everything is a huge turn off to average readers and viewers, who are already half-wanting to write off this segment as crackpot “feminazi, anti-white, socialists” (a little extreme, but you get the idea). Because of the relatively niche markets of the shows I’m discussing here, and the different financial models in which their respective networks operate, I should really spend time factoring those considerations in, but as this is an impromptu rant brought about by too much time on the internet as opposed to a long-gestating, extensively researched essay, I’m not going to give that element the time it deserves.
April 18, 2012
Advisory: The Cabin in the Woods is best seen with as little foreknowledge as possible. Not to say that there’s a huge twist, as quite a bit is revealed fairly early on, but a lot of its pleasure comes in watching where it goes. Suffice it to say that I enjoyed it quite a lot, and you should see it if horror films are anywhere near your wheelhouse, and quite frankly, even if they’re not.
April 13, 2012
Whit Stillman has talked quite a bit about ‘utopia’ in his interviews regarding his new film, Damsels in Distress, as well as the other three years in his sadly sparse body of work. There’s a sort of utopian ideal to the worlds he creates, though in his first three films (Metropolitan, Barcelona, and The Last Days of Disco), they all took place in closed-off societies. There were outcasts who didn’t fit in – notably Tom in Metropolitan – but on a whole they were closed off from the outside world. Damsels takes place at a fictional university that is a member of a fictional Ivy League equivalent. It’s a bizarre society, and its outlandish (though not quite cartoonish) characters hovering around the edges can be quite jarring. Stillman, it seems, decided to go broad, even incorporating some slapstick suicide attempts. It felt, for a while, and only in places, to be something of a disappointment. Read the rest of this entry »