Dr. Strange – a review

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Anyone who follows my twitter knows how much my kid loves comics and superhero films. We have watched them all (and she’s read many of them). We skipped this one at theatre due to the whole whitewashing of history and the comics in order to flog the film to a Chinese audience. This week we watched a version that will result in no financial compensation for anyone involved in the production of the film. Below is my thoughtful and considered review.

There is only one scene in the film worth watching, And, it is in the credits. About a completely different film.

Shadowhunters: Erasing the Brave Women to make Soft Porn

UnknownApparently, I’m one of the only few people who enjoyed the film Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. Based on the YA fiction books written by Cassandra Clare, the film is about Clary who, on her 16th birthday, discovers she isn’t a normal girl but a shadow hunter – born to fight demons. Being YA fiction, there is the usual love story between Clary and the boy who saves her life, Jace. But, at it’s heart, City of Bones is a book about a group of teenagers fighting to save the world whilst dealing with friendships and love. All are brave, intelligent and loyal. And the two female characters, Clary and Isabelle, are both kick-ass fighters. Granted, its all a bit silly and escapism but, as the new Ghostbusters film has shown, girls want to see more films with brave girls. Not less.

This is why the new television series being shown in the UK on Netflix is such a disappointment. Much was made by the producers of having more space in which to be creative with the source material – something that definitely required better writers than they’ve hired (teenage boy in lust with teenage girl: “you’re so interesting” said no boy ever.) Instead of having two brave girls, they’ve gone with a much more whiny Clary and, most appallingly, Isabelle is no longer a brave shadow hunter equal to the boys. She’s a sex kitten who spends most of her time naked or having sex. Shadowhunters is aimed at an older audience so sex isn’t a problem. It’s the fact that the only person, out of all the main characters, who is having sex is the girl. And, not just having sex but her form of fighting demons involves being sexual.

This is Isabelle Lightwood in the film

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 10.54.26isabelle-lightwood-with-swordThis is Isabelle Lightwood in the Netflix series – going into battle against vampires who outnumber them 10 to 1.

 

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Everyone else is dressed for battle in black leather.

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Isabelle is in kitten heels and a tight red dress – one she’s just put back on covered in fairy dust having had sex with said fae to find out how to enter the vampire’s lair. Because, despite having access to a IT department that would make Apple jealous and, therefore, access to city planning information, the only way to discover how to enter the vampire’s clearly marked out lair through abandoned subway tunnels is for Isabelle to writhe around a bed half-naked with a random fae dude – something none of the boys are expected to do.

I know Netflix wants to be edgy, you just have to look at how much time Jessica Jones spends having sex rather than being a superhero to see that, but erasing yet another brave girl and turning her into nothing more than a sex-obsessed plaything for the boys isn’t edgy or exciting. It’s just the same old porn culture insisting that girls can’t be brave fighters. Their only role is victim or sex toy.

The Heat: Good Female Buddy Film; Shame about the Disablism

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I really, really wanted to love The Heat: a female cop buddy film starring two great actresses. And, it was really funny in places. The relationship between the two women was lovely but it was too dependent on stereotyped constructions of “good” and “bad” women. It was also full of fat jokes, comments about frigid dry cunts and liberal use of the fucktard.

Because it’s apparently completely impossible to make a film with a woman who does not meet Hollywood’s standards of acceptable without constant references to her weight and oh-so-hilarious clips of her getting stuck in cars.

And, really, fucktard? Do we really have to have disablist words to mark out a character as “low class”. Because that’s what Melissa McCarthy’s character represents: a fat, lazy, stupid, low class women. And, Bullock: a frigid bitch with a dried up cunt.

This is Hollywood’s version of a feel good buddy film: cliched stereotypes, misogyny and disablism.

Jack Reacher: Obviously Misogynistic and I Should Have Known Better

Normally, I avoid Tom Cruise. His films usually put me on the wrong side of cranky. They are inevitably misogynistic with a side order of homophobia, racism and disablism thrown in. Despite knowing all of this, I chose to watch Jack Reacher. 

I didn’t think Tom Cruise films could get any worse but I was wrong. Jack Reacher delved into a whole new level of misogyny.

We have:

  • “the town whore”
  • the “town whore” being used and abused
  • “town whore” being publicly humiliated
  • “town whore” being murdered for being “town whore”
This idea that women who have sex deserve to be murdered is old school victim-blaming. It’s offensive, misogynist and vile. 

The film also includes this charming piece of dialogue:
Sandy: I don’t mind the sight of blood.
Jack: Not when it means you’re not pregnant.

You see, she’s a whore so she can’t possibly every want to get pregnant. And, we all know whores make bad mothers. It’s in the Bible and everything. Course,  men who have numerous sexual relationships and cheat on their partners are still good fathers. After all, being in possession of a penis makes one a good father by default.

Jack Reacher is the last Tom Cruise movie I will watch. I’m boycotting his shit from now on. 

Barbie and the 3 Musketeers: Not actually anti-feminist sludge

I know, Barbie is really an odd choice for a feminist blog to be writing about in anything but negative tones but Barbie and the 3 Musketeers is a really interesting film. It many ways it is actually quite a feminist film; if you ignore all the references to crushes on princes, fashion, the dancing kitten and the fact that they use fans and ribbons as weapons. Yes, it’s a lot to ignore but there is a really odd pro-feminist sisterhood message running through the film and not just in the reference to the original Buffy film. 

The film is about 4 women whose dream is to be Musketeers, which, obviously, women aren’t actually allowed to be. But, they do become Musketeers without the help of any men and in spite of the malicious interference of an old woman [because they couldn’t quite escape the evil witch motif so enamoured by fairy tales]. They become Musketeers and don’t date the prince. They ride off into the sunset together. To defend their kingdom.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a whole lot wrong with this film but the emphasis on the power of sisterhood, the direct challenge to Patriarchal constructions of femininity and a film aimed a little girls which does not end with a marriage to the incredibly dim prince is a whole lot better than the insipid Disney princesses. It’s actually pretty radical, despite being wrapped in pink ribbons. 

On the other hand, these lyrics are just sludge:

What are the chances, that we’d be here today?
Different girls from different worlds
Tryin’ to find our own way
Now we’re the perfect team, sharin’ the same dream…

All for one who knew,
Together we’d know what to do?
Strong hearts, strong minds
Fighting for what’s right every time
United… decided, we’ll never be divided
All for one… one for all

Don’t try to stop us, or keep us down and out
The power of four forevermore
And now there is no doubt
Answering the call, breaking down the wall

All for one it’s true,
Together we know what to do
Strong hearts, strong minds
Fighting for what’s right every time
United… decided, we’ll never be divided
All for one, one for all

We may look beautiful
We may be dutiful
But don’t be fooled of our finesse
We’re here to save the day
Come on, on grade, touche
We’re no damsels in distress
Don’t mess with the dress

All for one you too,
Together we know what to do
Strong hearts, strong minds
Fighting for what’s right every time
United… decided, we’ll never be divided
All for one, one for all

All for one it’s true,
Together we know what to do
Strong hearts, strong minds
Fighting for what’s right every time
United… decided, we’ll never be divided
All for one, one for all

All for one and one for all
All for one, one for all x2

Circus Freak Shows: Bullying Culture, Mass Media and Personal Responsibility

This past Halloween, I watched the film Monster House with my children. It is one of the unnecessary DVDs that we own but one that I had not actively watched before. It is a childrens film about a haunted house. I expected puerile jokes and unnecessary references to films that no one cares about anymore. I was wrong.

The basic plot of Monster House is that a house is possessed by the spirit of a dead woman, Constance, who steals children’s toys, which land on the grass around it. Before being rescued by the man she marries, Constance had spent her life as an unwilling freak show act in a circus where children paid money to laugh, belittle and humiliate her. Constance dies falling into the foundations of the house she was building with her rescuer-husband, after, once again, being belittled by a group of small children, and the house thus becomes both Constances grave and her avenger.

Possessed by the spirit of the abused Constance, the house is portrayed as insane, evil and violent. There is no discussion of whether or not she was justified in her paranoia following years of intense bullying. The house is angry and frightened because Constance was angry and frightened. But, no one listened when Constance was alive and no one listened when she died. Instead, the climax of the film is the complete destruction of Constance.

It is easy to dismiss Monster House as just another poorly executed childrens movie but this film is simply a reflection of our culture. We may no longer have circus freak shows designed to bully and humiliate those who do not fit our gendered dichotomy of human bodies, but our bullying culture still exists in the form of reality television, shock-jock radio programs, the ubiquity of  lifestyle and celebrity magazines, and mass media coverage of news. Much of our entertainmentnow rests on the same constructions as the circus freak show, we are simply unwilling to acknowledge our own personal responsibility in consuming these forms of entertainment and the harm that they cause.

Just as we now blame Mel Greig and Michael Christian for the death of Jacintha Saldanha, we blame Constance for her actions without looking at the context. I do not want to minimize what Greig and Christian did, since anyone who is no longer 15 should know the potential consequences of pranks, but they are not the only ones who are guilty in the death of Saldanha. Focusing our blame on Greig and Christian is a convenient way to minimize our collective guilt as a society that actively encourages the same bullying experienced by Constance.

Greig and Christian would not have made the prank call if there was not an audience for it. We cannot simply blame the two, although their culpability is without doubt, we also need to examine our own behaviour. We need to take personal responsibility for perpetuating and perpetrating bullying culture. Without an audience of consumers buying magazines like Heat and Grazia or newspapers like the Sun and the Daily Mail or watching/listening to shock jocks like Howard Stern and Matthew Wright, there would be no financial incentive for these people to behave in a crass and offensive manner. Before we start blaming others, we need to check our own behaviour, examine our own privilege, and stop financially supporting an industry based on the abject humiliation of others. The harm caused to vulnerable people who participate in reality television is obvious, yet millions of people watch shows like Big Brother and X-Factor and laugh at the judges’ vile comments. Millions of people take to Twitter to insult the physical appearance of contestants.
We shouldn’t need the Leveson Inquiry to regulate the media. We should be holding the media accountable through our financial power. We can change print media simply by refusing to consume misogynistic, racist, disablist and homophobic stories. We can change talk radio by switching off Greig, Christian and Stern. We can change the culture of bullying traumatised families by refusing to purchase newspapers or watch television newscasts that show images of traumatised parents mourning the loss of their children. We can stop buying newspapers that doorstop grieving parents. We can stop consuming media that suggest that women and children are somehow responsible for their own deaths at the hands of violent men for just exisiting.

Monster House is a film, which uses the emotional and physical abuse experienced by a vulnerable woman and then blames the woman for her behavior, whilst excusing the children, and their parents, who bullied her during her life. In fact, the film never makes the direct correlation between the long-term abuse experienced by Constance and her quite justified paranoia. The blame is entirely Constances despite the fact that society had conspired against her for cheap entertainment.

Contemporary mass media from reality television to celebrity culture, from talk shows to shock jocks, together form a 21st century freak show, only now the phenomenon is 24/7 and shows no respect for private boundaries or personal space. We are invited to laugh and jeer at vulnerable people, like Constance, and we pay to financially support their exploitation. We continue to exploit the most vulnerable members of our communities for our entertainment: in reality television, in traditional and online media, in the music industry and in pornography.

Life isn’t a circus freak show. Lets just stop acting like it is.

Monster house: Reinforcing VAW in a Children’s Film

My kids have watched this film a few times while I’ve pottered about around them listening but not really listening. It is incredibly dire with the over-protective mother and emotionally distant father routine. Honestly, it’s like Feminine Mystique: The Animation. This Halloween, though, I actually sat down and watched it. And, whimpered. Followed, swiftly by rage. Lots and lots of rage. I haven’t actually binned the film as I don’t want other children to watch it so it’s joined Scooby-Doo meets the Harlem Globetrotters in my box of Evil Films.

The film starts with a young boy spying on his neighbours with binoculars. Now, technically, the boy is spying on his evil toy-stealing male neighbour but his father seems to be under the impression that the boy is looking at women with his binoculars. Apparently, it is totally normal for young boys to spy on women and then wank. It’s not at all creepy or, you know, sexual violence. I may have shrieked in rage at this point. After I said, WTF is that doing in a children’s movie. They don’t actually say wank but the implication is there.

Mom and Dad then piss off leaving the boy in the charge of a baby-sitter who hates him. Baby-sitters boyfriend, who is a pillock, rocks up and sexually assaults the baby-sitter. Yep, it’s a kids movie where the boyfriend pins his girlfriend on the couch to force her into having sex with him. Now, she does kick his ass out of the house telling the boyfriend that he lacks respect for women which would be good if the next morning the she doesn’t go looking for the abusive boyfriend because she loves him. We couldn’t possibly have a film where a sexually abusive boyfriend gets the boot. Permanently.

Then, along comes a new girl who is the same age as the young boy: about 12. There’s a lovely line where she responds to the boys confusion by asking if they are mentally challenged because if they are, she’s certified to teach them baseball. I may have been whimpering at this point in sheer rage.

Oh, and the basic plot of the film: house is possessed by the spirit of a dead woman who steals children’s toys which land on the grass around it. The old man is her husband and he is only “evil” because he’s trying to protect the neighbourhood children from his dead, morbidly obese circus freakshow of a wife. Because, you see, that is why is she is angry and frightened. This woman spent her life in as a freakshow act in a circus where people paid money to come and laugh and humiliate her. She dies by falling into the foundations of the house as its being built because she is paranoid about being humiliated; a fairly justified paranoia. 

FFS, the entire point of the movie is that the evil house is possessed by the frightened and angry spirit of an emotionally abused and tortured woman. The children destroy the house and the old man thanks them from saving him from his evil dead wife. 

I actually can’t believe that anyone could think this was a good film. But, then, I don’t understand why people watch reality TV. To me, that is nothing more than the 21st century version of a 19th century freakshow. We are invited to laugh and jeer at vulnerable people and we pay to financially support their exploitation. It doesn’t feel like much has really changed in 200 years; just how we exploit the most vulnerable members of our communities for our entertainment: in reality television, the music industry and pornography.

And, I can not stress how guilty i feel having allowed my kids to watch this without knowing just how awful it really is.

Knight and Day: It was Shite. And Sexist. But mostly shite.

I usually don’t bother with Tom Cruise films. They inevitably make me feel all stabby and that’s without getting into the historical fallacious twaddle which is Valkyrie but Knight and Day was on TV and we watched it because we were bored. I wasn’t expecting anything exciting since it is an action movie and they are hardly examples of gender equality but Knight and Day took it to a whole new level. He’s a hitman. She’s a dippy girl who is also a mechanic. She wanders on to a plane full of people trying to kill him. He responds by saving her life and then drugging her in order to kidnap her. Because a hero can’t save a woman without drugging her first.

He repeatedly drugs her in order to kidnap her. Once, he even removes all her clothes and puts her in a bikini whilst she’s drugged. But, that wasn’t creepy because he’s a professional and they were on a Caribbean island. It was romantic.

Did I mention the bit about him kidnapping her? Repeatedly? 

Then drugging her?

Plus, there was this bit where he returns her home, having kidnapped her, and he covers her body and her flat with post-it notes with instructions. Just in case she was too stupid to eat breakfast.

Obviously, the movie ends up with them driving off into the sun together. Generally speaking, relationships involving violent men who repeatedly drug a woman and kidnap her are considered abusive. What with the whole multiple felonies involved but somehow we are supposed to believe it was romantic.

Personally, I don’t find Stockholm syndrome romantic. Could just be me though. 

James Bond’s Skyfall

I feel the same way about James Bond movies as I do Superhero movies: I like my misogyny straight-up. That way you don’t get sucked into watching something arty like Sideways and then discover half-way through that its just another giant wankfest for men. James Bond is usually predictable in its misogyny: every woman who fucks Bond dies a horrible, vile death as punishment for being a slut. After all, the only reason any woman would want to have sex with a man they aren’t married to is because they are a slut. Consequently, they deserve to die. But, Casino Royale changed this. It was different. Bond was different and his relationship to women was different.  He wasn’t just a violent, misogynistic sociopath. He was an arsehole and recognised as such. Even with the whole “falling in love with a woman made him a better man” trite sub-plot, Craig’s first outing as Bond changed the franchise.  Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd was a different woman to previous “Bond girls”.  She was smart, resourceful, loyal and brave. 

Olga Kurylenko’s Camille Montes in Quantum of Solace took it one step further. The film ends with Montes being left to lead the Bolivian resistance movement in taking back their land and their water rights. She is every bit Bond’s equal. Unfortunately, in order to have Montes as an equal, the film reasserted the “women who fuck Bond deserve to die” motif which is unbearably tedious. It’s like the producers were frightened by a Bond who wasn’t just a sociopath and so had to drag the series back to its original construction of Bond the Misogynist. 

Skyfall is just a pile of pooh. It’s basically old school Bond resurrected and it wasn’t anywhere near as good as either Casino Royale or Quantum of Solace. The plot had holes big enough to drive a subway train through, which it did. Literally. There were 3 women: the whore who dies, the ‘wife’ who becomes the secretary and the mother who is M. Each gets the punishment they deserve for trying to transgress her assigned gender role. Heck, they even throw a female MP who is clearly supposed to be the ‘bitch’. Quantum of Solace ended with a strong woman walking away from Bond to lead her people to freedom. In Skyfall, the women fucked up, got punished and then disappeared into ignominy.

Now, I like James Bond movies. I like movies with explosions and general silliness but Skyfall couldn’t decide if it wanted to like Casino Royale or cheesy like Tomorrow Never Dies. The  funny places were few and far between and mostly figured around Q; by far the best character in the film. But, it was the erasure of the strong women from the previous two films which disappointed me the most. It’s a good movie for car chases and explosions but they lost their nerve. Skyfall is just like a 100 other movies in the spy franchise which is unfortunate because it had the chance to do something really different. And, even almost feministy .

UPDATE: I have been getting crosser and crosser about Skyfall. I have been in such a rage that I haven’t quite worked out what pissed me off the most. Last night, a friend posted on FB and pointed out that the woman who is punished with death for fucking Bond isn’t just a ‘woman’. Severin’s back story involves being sold to a brothel at the age of 12. She is raped and tortured repeatedly. Her escape route is the official ‘bad guy’ of the film who is still raping her. As she says, he frightens her more than anyone she’s ever come across before. It is a deeply abusive relationship. Bond’s response to this story of child rape is to push Severin into helping him. He does so by climbing aboard her boat and getting into the shower with her. Without asking permission. Bond has sex with a terrified and abused survivor of child rape. She dies because of this. This is why Skyfall is more than a return to old school Bond misogyny. It glamourises and eroticising child sexual abuse by keeping the adult woman as nothing more than Bond’s sex toy.



Here is a great blog by Giles Coren on Skyfall: [[http://reciperifle.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/bond-villain.html]]

And a brilliant response by Exiled Stardust: [[http://exiledstardust.wordpress.com/2012/11/02/women-the-makers-of-skyfall-hate-you/]]

Ice Age 4: Another Kids Film, More Asinine Gender Stereotypes


I’m not sure why I even bother taking the kids to the pictures anymore. They inevitably serve to make unbearably cantankerous with the constant gendered stereotyping and, frequently, the erasure of female characters. However, it was pissing with rain and my house already looks like  a Turner prize installation art project what with the layer of paper mache, painted shoe boxes and toilet paper tube mobiles and that’s without mentioning the cat who bears more than a passing resemblance to a disco ball with the amount of glitter stuck to her. So, off to the pictures we went. And, yeah, I’m cheap so it was the kids club movie which is why I’m reviewing a film that’s been out for several months already.

Ice Age 4 has, at least, a few female characters. You know, the ubiquitous ones: the crazy old bat, self-sacrificing mother, and the “evil” temptress who falls in love with a cock and then learns to be good. Plus, there’s the whole rebellious teenage daughter who learns that doing exactly what Daddy tells you to do is the only way to be “good”. And, yeah, a character actually does refer to the grandmother as a “crazy old bat” because there is nothing funnier that disablist comments about dementia. She’s also spiteful because  it wouldn’t be funny if a character with dementia wasn’t spiteful too.

Ice Age 4 had some funny moments but the female characters were just awful. Some of the worst written characters I’ve seen in a while. The evil, stubborn temptress who just needs to be rescued and fall in love with her rescuer to become a “real” woman is just so tedious and repetitive. As is the story of a teenage girl dumping her best friend to go off with the “cool dude”, slags off her friend and then everyone, miraculously, becomes best mates. That’s bullying. It isn’t something we should be showing young children. 

Yeah, there are places where the female characters “rescue” someone but it is never as important as being rescued by Daddy/ Lover. Because Daddy/ Lover knows best. Daddy/ Lover always knows best and where would we be without the Anxious Patriarch trope? I mean, kids might actually learn to engage critically with the Patriarchy. And, then kick the ever living shit out of it. And, we couldn’t have that. Nope. Not at all.

Oh, and from a completely non-feminist perspective, what is it with kids movies and lame song interludes? Sure, if the movie is supposed to be a musical but one random and seriously fucking stupid song in the middle? Just, why? Are there no competent musicians in LA who could be brought in to write non-stupid songs for children? Or, better yet, just skip the musical interlude all together.