Hello internets! Goodness, have I had a busy week! Christmas is coming up, and since I celebrate it, have lots of friends and relations to whom I would like to give presents, and yet do not make much money, I have been doing a lot of knitting and embroidering lately. Oh man, have I ever. (btw, for those of you in similar straits, check out Sublime Stitching next time you’re looking for embroidery patterns that even your hip young friends would like to have on their tea towels. Pirates! Robots! Unicorns!) While so engaged in my various crafty pursuits, I often like to have a DVD playing in the background to keep me company.
The criteria for a good background-to-crafting movie are very stringent. It’s got to be something that I’ve seen before, or I’ll be distracted. It has to be something where the charm of the film is not entirely or mostly in the visual effects, because I won’t be looking at it that much. And it has to have a fairly straightforward and predictable plot, because I’ll probably miss large chunks of dialogue while I’m screaming curses at my dropped stitches.
I’ve found, over the years, that particularly shallow “chick flicks” and Christmas films are both really good candidates for this kind of thing. Perhaps that’s because, as sbg pointed out earlier this week, they’re often pretty much the same movies. Which, y’know, is cool and all – except that the kinds of messages these films send about romance are kinda not cool:
Women in Christmas movies ultimately find romance and love by the end, and they usually realize that’s all they’ve ever really wanted anyway and, like, whoa, how cool that it came at such a magical time of year? I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been luckier in love around the holidays than I have during the rest of the year”¦magic, schmagic.
Ladyred of Postcards from Guyville explores some similar ideas, this week, in a post about the film version of Bridget Jones’s Diary (which, I admit it, I have watched twice this week – once without commentary, and once with. Also, the sequel. Colin Firth, people!):
Here’s what pissed me straight off about it this time around: it pretends to be about Bridget finding herself. That’s one of the things that sold me on the film — the moment after Colin Firth and Hugh Grant fight over her, and she essentially turns them both down. She basically decides it’s better to be single than to compromise what she knows she wants in a partner.
I made that exact decision earlier this year and it was the single hardest thing I’ve ever done. Strangely enough, 15 minutes later I didn’t find myself on a snowy street in my underwear kissing Mark Darcy as though my life depended on it. But in Bridget Jones’ world, that’s exactly the promise: commit to yourself, refuse to compromise your values, and you will be rewarded straightaway with the very handsome prince you let go of in favor of choosing you.
Empower your way to true love, ladies!
Ouch. This is one of the tricky things about being a feminist consumer of culture (pop or otherwise), isn’t it? How do you reconcile your enjoyment of something with the fact that you kinda know it’s as good as poison for your brain? Once you’ve thought about the oppressive cultural messages encoded in a movie you’ve enjoyed, can you still watch it with pleasure?
My personal experience is that it’s possible – you just have to hold two somewhat contradictory things in your mind at the same time. Good thing we’ve got such nice, complex brains, eh?
Alternatively, we could try harder to bring attention to movies (and books, and comics, etc.) that carry more diverse messages. Ladyred picks up on that idea in a follow-up post to her Bridget Jones piece, titled “The I’m Fine Fest for Single Gals.” Check it out, and make some recommendations, if you can.
I think it’s important, too, to remember that romantic plots are not in themselves always a bad thing. Kalinara, at Pretty, Fizzy Paradise, wants to see more romance – in superhero comics. Reading her post right after those about romantic holiday films has me thinking about the dangers of creative works of all types being too closely bound by genre conventions. We get sick of romance in “feel good” movies and “chick flicks” because it’s so overplayed – it’s become conventional. But there are plenty of genres in which romantic plots are not conventional, and in which a little romance might be fresh and interesting.
Moving away from the topic of romance, but still focusing on Christmas films (it’s possible!), C.L. Hanson posts about learning that classic Christmas special The Year Without a Santa Claus (“the show that proves that colorful characters and memorable scenes are far more important than trivialities such as internal consistency or a plot that makes sense”)had (basically) three writers:
I was thrilled by this new insight, and immediately wanted to use textual analysis to divide the special into the components written by the different authors the way the Biblical scholars isolated the “book of J” from the sections written by the other anonymous authors of the first part of the Old Testament. (Yes, I know, I should be telling this to a psychiatrist and not to a blog, but blogging is cheaper…)
If you enjoy The Year Without a Santa Claus, or textual analysis, or both, be sure to read the whole post. It’s a hoot.
Taking an academic approach to movies even farther (and completely unrelated to Christmas, so far as I am aware), brownfemipower has posted a really interesting essay on her blog titled “Transpositional Appropriation in Othello: Black Male Sexuality Centered.” I’m gonna suggest that if that title reads like Greek to you, you probably want to skip it. But if you’re into lit crit, give it a read – brownfemipower has pointed out some really interesting ways in which the 1995 film version of Othello differs from Shakespeare’s play.
Changing topic rapidly, there’s an interesting post over at She’s Such a Geek about “The Women of Doctor Who.” Via another post over there – a link roundup – I came across an article titled (wait for it”¦) “Best Buy gets in touch with its feminine side.”
Wow. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the piece, totally out of order because they’re much funnier (but, sadly, only slightly less depressing) that way (all emphasis mine):
“Women are drawn to flat-panel TVs,” Gilbert says. “They want that big, clunky TV out of the living room.”
“It’s no longer the days of eight-track tapes and big speakers with the big foam that smells,” Gilbert says. “The products we sell and the services we sell are about trends and fashion.”
Despite the changes underway, the company is “not going to alienate the guys,” she says. It will still have the newest, fastest, biggest, shiniest stuff. And the changes will be good for all customers, she says.
“We’re not going to paint the stores pink.”
“Women couldn’t get anyone to help them,” Gilbert says. “They weren’t treated with respect.”
Oh, Ms. Gilbert – judging by this article, that “weren’t” should still be “aren’t.” I mean – what? We only like tech when it’s fashionable, trendy tech? Painting the stores pink is even remotely equivalent to training your sales force not to be condescending asshats to half of the population?
Yep. I won’t be buying my new, fast, big, shiny tech at Best Buy, that’s for sure.
If the language in the Best Buy story didn’t piss you off enough, check out this atrociously-titled New York Times article, “Chick Lit, the Sequel: Yummy Mummy,” which provides an interesting discussion about genre, and a vehicle for a fabulous quote from Jennifer Weiner:
Jennifer Weiner, the best-selling author of “In Her Shoes,” resents that women writing domestic dramas are categorized in ways that male writers aren’t. “My feeling about my own work is, I could be writing “˜The Aeneid’ and they would still have to call it chick lit or mommy lit or menopausal old hag lit.” She paused. “Crone lit “” is that what’s coming next?”
Tamora Pierce also had some things to say about women in literature, this week (in a widely-linked post that probably won’t be new to anyone reading this edition of IRtI, but just in case!) – specifically, about the importance of heroines:
More and more these days I am being asked why I choose to write female heroes, and/or when will I write male heroes. I’m polite in my answers, because people honestly seem puzzled by my choices, but I’m starting to boil a little, and I’m definitely building up a head of frustration. Why does no one ask male writers why they write male heroes?
Read the whole thing, if you haven’t already. Really.
And to end this edition of I Read the Internets on a somewhat lighter note, Violet has come up with a list of “Book Seven Titles the Fandom Would Have Preferred“ for Harry Potter fen.
See you all next weekend. I’ve got to go and finish embroidering some napkins.