Looking for more hits to your blog?

Just write posts about kids’ movies that include the words “androgynous” and “queer.”

My Wall-E post has been read more than 12,000 times, which for my blog is about 11,998 times more than the average post.

Seriously though, where did you people come from?

No BIG vacation this year? Cry me a river

SmartLikeMe at the Feministing community blog has a great post about the classism of all the articles being written about the affect of gas prices on summer vacations. No, they aren’t making families so poor they can’t afford time off work. No, they aren’t making families so poor they have no entertainment budget. Apparently the big tragedy is that this summer families can’t drive or fly thousands of miles away, and they have to find entertainment closer to home, something cutely called, a “staycation.”

Why are middle and upper-middle class families and their precious Disney vacations the face of the rising cost of gasoline and not the working class families who lived month to month as it was before the exponential price increases…who maybe have to skimp on food or medical services, and for whom a Myrtle Beach trip isn’t even on their radar? Instead of moping about being stuck at home, maybe some of these families should spend part of their summer volunteering for charities who help those who will only ever hear about DisneyWorld in the stories told by other more fortunate kids.

Really, though, how did it get like this? No wonder right wing assholes certain people think Americans are babies about the economy — because they don’t stop to think about how these rising prices affect people already barely getting by, and few people in the mainstream media seem to care to show them.

Honestly, if I ever hear about the tragedy of the “staycation” again…no, no, make that, if I ever even hear the word “staycation” again, I may have to take a permanent vacation from reading travel and leisure newspaper sections.

Matt Zeitlin on class in our marriage debate

I threw my hat into the blogosphere’s recent marriage debate (see Martin, Singal, Matthews, and Marcotte, phew) last week with a post on how much gender plays a role in a person’s acceptance of critiques of marriage as weak or strong.

Matt Zeitlin at Pushback adds a critical component to the debate, when he zooms out and reminds us just how bourgeois our debate is:

We all know that when families far apart, children generally suffer. And with the college wage premium and financial returns to education both at all-time highs, any disruption to a working-class child’s life makes advancement much more difficult. Unstable family structures aren’t great for adults either, especially women. When parents split, it is usually the woman who is left to raise the child, meaning that she has to provide a loving, supportive home, all the while trying to make ends meet as the head of a single-paycheck family.

For those with high amounts of social capital and good jobs, this is a much simpler task, but for everyone else, it is incredibly difficult. This all gets worse when children are born out of wedlock; when parents don’t want to sanctify their bond and commitments to each other, it becomes all the easier for one parent to skip out.

I agree with Matt to a certain extent. It’s important to note what the context of considering marriage is for middle class bloggers. However, I’m always skeptical of arguments that suggest the crumbling of the traditional, two-parent family is contributing to economic deprivation for kids. Blaming “the family” for the larger economic and social factors hurting poor kids, especially kids of color, is often a right-wing talking point, in my opinion, and a cop-out for the failures of our government and society.

I have to disagree with Matt’s assessment that parents who don’t “sanctify their bonds,” are less likely to stick around and hold up their end of the parenting bargain. A dead-beat parent is a dead-beat parent in or out of a marriage. While abandoning one’s financial responsibility to his/her children may be more difficult to a certain legal extent within marriage, I’m highly skeptical that one who wants to abandon their children would only stick around because of the inconvenience of divorce. After all, I know a few dead-beat dads myself who just took off at some point but remain married to the mother of their children. If babies are being born to couples in which one or both partners are less than committed to emotionally or financially supporting the child, the obvious problem seems to be that parents who are going to bail are having kids. After all, poor parents, married or single, are poor parents.

I guess this is all a way of saying, I think the marriage disparity between high and low-income people is more a symptom of economic and social turmoil than a cause of it.

The much better explanation for the class-marriage disparity to me, is that wealthy people who are more often married long-term and having children in those relationships, have more of a financial interest in being married and staying married. They’ve got a lot to lose in a divorce. But when a woman gets pregnant with a guy who makes no money and is a dead-beat, why would she want to marry him? If anything, she wants to make sure the courts will be enforcing his child-support payments and to see little of him afterward. Even when completely committed working-class couples get married and have kids, their marriages face much higher levels of stress than the more successful marriages of the privileges, because of their financial struggles. This undoubtedly contributes to the higher rates of divorce.

Now I can see quite clearly that having two parents who are involved in your life, both financially and emotionally, is going to contribute to a more secure life, but then, the argument should be for planned, well prepared parenthood, rather than for marriage.

The myth that marriage is morally sound is part of a larger dialogue to convince people they shouldn’t expect to be able to support themselves and their kin with one, full-time income. I think they should be able to do so. Ideally, the fact that by the time I’m ready to have children, I likely will be able to do so, would be the usual situation for a woman, rather than the exception.

Now I recognize the reality is that in our current society, most people cannot expect to be able to support a family with one income and one committed parent, and this undoubtedly makes marriage or at least reliable, long-term parenting a desirable outcome for many working-class people, but I don’t think the statistics about marriage and class and race mean marriage itself is the answer to working-class problems.

If working-class people do manage to find a partner who will be committed to sharing the responsibilities of parenting, they too will have the opportunity to determine whether this commitment will be in or outside a marriage.

Poor people are poor because they have bad attitudes. Huh?

Kayla Walker at Campus Progress has a great review of the book Scratch Beginnings, in which some privileged dude seeks to prove the American dream really is possible if people would just work hard enough. Well, yeah, no kidding it’s possible — for an educated white male who already lives a life of status and comfort.

Adam Shepard was sick of hearing the impoverished in America whine and complain. He was “frustrated with the materialistic individualism that seems to be shaping every thirteen-year-old to be the next teen diva,” Shepard wrote in the introduction to Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream. In a move that is reminiscent of Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild, Shepard boarded a train to Charleston, S.C., with nothing more than $25 in his pocket, the clothes on his back, a sleeping bag, and a tarp.

Shepard set out to disprove books like Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch. He wanted to achieve the so-called American Dream—without using his college degree, friends, or exemplary credit history—proving that it is still possible in America to break one’s way out of poverty. Shepard gave himself just one year to break from poverty and homelessness. Completion of his project would be considered successful if Shepard was able to own a functioning automobile, be living in a furnished apartment, have $2,500, and have the prospects to go to school or start his own business.

Shepard later concludes that poor people could live the American dream if they’d just stop being so damn pessimistic. Hey, um, maybe they’re pessimistic because they and their families have been trying for generations to get ahead and they haven’t been able to make their hope turn into reality? Hey, maybe if society gave poor people a reason to be optimistic about the future that didn’t self-righteously blame them for their own predicaments, they’d see the future a little more brightly?

Hey, maybe you should admit that being an educated person who is able to dig your way out of a hole after a year of an arrogance soaked experiment which you went into with the least sympathetic presumptions I’ve ever heard does not qualify you to diagnose the causes of poverty in the U.S., when the people who are actually poor have done a pretty good job of diagnosing the roots of it themselves?

Kayla makes a great point as she acknowledges the obvious point that inequality is related to immobility, and it’s poverty itself that reinforces the conditions of poverty. Of course temporary, self-inflicted deprivation for a highly privileged person won’t render him socioeconomically immobile. Why are the reproductive, cyclical conditions of poverty so difficult for otherwise logical people to understand?

Ok, ok, I’m being hard on this Shepard guy, considering I haven’t even read his book. But God, even the very basic facts of his little experiment are dripping with so much privilege I really struggle to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Mamma Mia!

I saw Mamma Mia last night at midnight! (and no, not just because Dark Knight’s midnight showing was sold out days ago.) While I’ve never seen the musical before, I was psyched to see this movie because I rarely dislike a movie musical and because of the awesome memories I have of Hairspray last summer and the hopes that the joy of Hairspray could be reproduced.

While Mamma Mia isn’t quite as edgy or fabulously campy as Hairspray was, I had a great time watching it, and I imagine I’ll be buying it when it comes out on DVD.

I can’t be quite as impressed with a musical, in which the music isn’t even original, but was written long ago and not as a coherent story, and then cut and pasted into a plot. And yeah, it really did feel at times like someone picked their favorite Abba songs and then asked how they could reasonably stitch them all together into one loose story (this is probably how it happened. I’m just saying, it shows). But who can resist tapping their toes to Abba and laughing at some silly dialogue and hijinks for a couple hours?

As far as social value, eh, not much to speak of, though it is refreshing to see a happy romantic ending that doesn’t have to end with marriage (at least not for everyone). Call me a generational snob, but doesn’t the married-and-live-happily-ever-after trope seem so out of place these days?

Some acting side notes: Pierce Brosnan is hilarious in the movie. The fact that he can’t pull off being a musical man makes it look like all he’s trying to pull off is being hilariously bad and out of place, and then he succeeds, rather than fails. It works. Meryl Streep continues to be amazing. Amanda Seyfried is very cute in the role and very talented, but it’s weird to see her doing this after I’ve gotten to know her on Big Love.

More from the “wealthy people have more virtue” file

Now, it’s not like I find it shocking that David Brooks would write something completely ridiculous and stupid and out of touch, but this column plugging a book which says conservatives can win working-class Americans back by addressing their needs with a bias toward the traditional two-parent family is just completely ridiculous:

Liberals write about economic inequality and conservatives about social disruption, but Douthat and Salam write about the interplay between values and economics and the way virtue and economic security can reinforce each other.

In the 1950s, divorce rates were low and jobs were plentiful, but over the next few decades that broke down. The social revolutions of the 1960s and the economic revolution of the information age have emancipated the well-educated but left the Sam’s Club voters feeling insecure.

Gaps are opening between the educated and less educated. Working-class divorce rates remain high, while the mostly upper-middle-class parents of Ivy Leaguers have divorce rates of only 10 percent.

Um, tell me again how an approach which implies working-class Americans can’t pay their bills because they don’t value their families enough will get their votes?

Wall-E, Economics, Nationality, and Androgynous Love

https://i1.wp.com/images.rottentomatoes.com/images/features/wall_e/wall-e_3.jpgI wrote a pretty glowing review of Wall-E over at Pushback, but I had a few more thoughts to add about the film. And that’s really all these are, completely incoherent thoughts, so I apologize for the stream of conscious style babble.

I was a little bothered by a few complete absences or blind spots in the film, like any seemingly non-Americans carrying on the human race on the space station, and the impossible economics of the movie. Right, right, it’s a kids’ movie. I know. But like, didn’t those people lounging around for 800 years in space have to pay for their ride? So, where were the poor people? Did they all die amid that garbage dump? Was that just too harsh a reality to show us alongside the rusted up Wall-E’s scattering the trash filled landscape? If that wasn’t it, how was that space endeavor being funded?

Now back to the nationality weirdness. Everyone on the space station was apparently American. Where was everyone else? Did they die out like the poor people?

So like, were we supposed to notice these gaps and then think the portrayed dystopia was even more disastrous because survival was so selective, or were the writers just completely blind to class issues — make that, money — and massively ethnocentric? Perplexing.

And so as not to go bizarrely from praise worthy post to condemnatory post, I’ll add one more thing I loved about it: how fabulously ungendered Eve and Wall-E were! I know, they had vaguely feminine and vaguely masculine names, but the animators so easily could’ve given them masculine and feminine secondary sex characteristics. Eve could’ve been a pink robot or worn a bow. As it was, she didn’t do anything particularly feminine. She did hardcore work and even carried a weapon. Wall-E was the twitter pated character and a dreamer, even though he was also a traditional blue-collar worker. I can’t even remember if they referred to each other as him or her or she and he at all during the film. They were like this close to being completely unsexed characters, and therefore, so close to being potentially interpreted as a queer couple. For a kids’ movie, this couple felt kinda radical…