Michelle Obama at the DNC

Sure, I got a little teary eyed at the speech and I thought it was wonderfully delivered.

But afterward, I responded to this open Feministing thread on the speech with this summary of my feelings:

She’s a great speaker. I thought it was a fantastic speech.

I could do without the political theater with the kids and such, but then again, I could do without another Republican presidency…If that nonsense is going to help, I guess I’ll swallow the pill.

Tomorrow’s Fox News Headline:
“Obama Campaign Pimps Out Daughters”

Then I realized what the pageantry of the evening at the DNC was bringing to mind:

I’m sorry, I’m sorry. It was a good speech, and to be fair, I LOOOOVE Chicago and that scene. It’s just…hahaha…it’s cheap.

Still, weighing a political speech like that against tonight’s cable news press corp that worked like this, the razzle dazzle of the Obamas bothers me least.

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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.

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…

An American Girl and the Great Depression

This weekend Kitt Kittredge: An American Girl opens in theaters. The movie is based on a series of books about American Girl character/doll, Kitt Kittredge. While I was totally into American Girl dolls and their books as a kid, I think Kitt was introduced to the group a few years after my American Girl prime. But my little sister had the doll and loved the books.

I’ve always loved that the American girls were girl characters with a lot of spunk, a lot of ambition, and a lot of strength, which is rare for girl characters written just for girl readers. Kitt is especially interesting to me because her story is set during the Great Depression. I can’t think of another movie I’ve seen that has depicted this era of extreme American poverty, let alone from a child’s perspective, so I’m excited to see how they depict it here in a kids’ movie. I plan to see it when it opens this weekend (with the little sister and perhaps a gaggle of her friends). Review to come.

Here’s the trailer:

Cheney, inbreeding, and poverty

Slate has an article (inspired by Dick Cheney’s recent linking of West Virginia to inbreeding) on the origins of the myth that inbreeding is a common or even accepted practice in WV.

They quote a historian who researched the topic specifically:

“In 1980, anthropologist Robert Tincher published a study titled “Night Comes to the Chromosomes: Inbreeding and Population Genetics in Southern Appalachia,” based on 140 years’ worth of marriage records. He concluded that “inbreeding levels in Appalachia … [are neither] unique [n]or particularly common to the region, when compared with those reported for populations elsewhere or at earlier periods in American history.”

So why the myth then? Slate attributes it mostly to the visibility of poverty in West Virginia, and a public desire to blame their poverty on some action, in this case, inbreeding.

Stereotypes about West Virginian breeding practices have long been linked to the state’s poverty. When Eleanor Roosevelt visited West Virginia mining towns in the 1930s, national newspapers ran pictures of rundown shacks and barefoot kids in rags, which left a lasting impression of the state as a backwater. West Virginians became the prototypical “hillbillies,” and incest served as a crude “scientific” explanation for their downtrodden social condition.

In more recent memory, the 2003 film Wrong Turn helped perpetuate the inbreeding stereotype. Set in West Virginia, it features cannibalistic mountain men, horribly disfigured from generations of incest. Then, in 2004, Abercrombie & Fitch released a T-shirt emblazoned with a map of the Appalachian state and the words “It’s all relative in West Virginia.” In February, a casting director for the upcoming thriller Shelter put out a call for extras with “unusual body shapes, [and] even physical abnormalities” to depict West Virginia mountain people.

Charming. The inbreeding hillbilly stereotype serves a purpose outside simply explaining poverty, as it simultaneously reduces sympathy people might otherwise feel for those in poverty. When we all accept some cultural myth that poverty is the result of something other than structural economic and political problems, in this case, a perverse activity the poor participate in, what point is there to reforms or even to charity?

Thrillers and horror movies love to exploit images of people with disabilities or working-class people to freak out the more “normal” protagonists who happen to stumble upon the lair of horror. These film narratives match the cultural narrative that led up to the offensive jokes of A&F and Dick Cheney: Low class status and abnormal physical appearance and ability are a reflection of low moral character.

SATC: Of men and money and self…

Spoiler alert:

Last night I saw Sex and the City: The Movie, because after the longest job interview of my life, and because I’ve been anticipating this movie for a year or more, I couldn’t bear to wait any longer, even with those qualms I hinted at here. All in all, it was pretty much what I expected from a 2 1/2 hour big screen rendition of that predictable but charming little series — everything I liked and hated about the series but with the hated stuff magnified and more drawn out.

With this mixture of emotions, I found myself wondering: “Is all –” hahaha no, no, I kid. I won’t write this post like a Carrie Bradshaw column…

Dana Stevens at Slate wrote a review I agree with almost entirely. Here’s a highlight:

No real-life relationship, Carrie and her cohorts reluctantly concede, can live up to the impossible expectations our culture places on romantic love. But luxury commodities? Those are more than capable of fulfilling every fantasy. The right Louis Vuitton bag—hell, any Louis Vuitton bag—can change your life.

Now, there is a plot thread in the movie naysayers will point to as an exception to this part of Stevens’ argument. Carrie’s desire for a big and fabulous wedding at least contributes to ruining her first attempt at marrying Big. This could be read as a tsk tsk against pomp and circumstance and materialism. But it’s a little ironic if big spending Big is the character who is put off by money. It’s more like he can’t handle cliched romantic settings and commitment, rather than anything he has against a little glam.

And when a romantic partner fails them (like Big fails Carrie in epic fashion), the girls can take solace in the one constant in their lives: No, that’s not in their own selves or even necessarily in each other (Samantha, for example, is going it alone in California for a large portion of the movie). It’s in things. Fancy things. Really, really fancy things.

Getting Samantha a $60,000 ring is the only kind thing Smith does for Samantha in the entire movie. One of two romantic gestures Big makes during the movie is agreeing to buy Carrie an apartment she thought was outside their price range. Fashion Week makes Carrie feel like herself again. (What is this “self” she speaks of then? A gaggle of labels and lights?) Buying a Louis Vuitton bag for Louise is her final grand gesture to her servant/savior. Why is all the stuff about stuff so problematic?

While the ensemble is praised (and rightfully so) for normalizing discussion of female sexuality and highlighting the beauty that can be female camaraderie, and these are feminist aspects of the series, I maintain that these characters are some of the weakest women on television. They rise and fall with men, and while Carrie had the chance to prove she could be strong and happy with or without Big in this movie, but that she simply prefers having such a companion, all she proved is that she can fill the void left by a man by spending money and surrounding herself in some glamor, i.e. decorating her apartment, hiring a Personal Assistant/Rent-a-Friend, going to Fashion Week.

I won’t deny that her close group of girlfriends is a huge part of her life and helps to determine her happiness, but where, in all this mash-up of men, money, and mates, is Carrie’s independence or self-reliance? Where’s the actual person beneath the designer clothes and apart from all these friends and lovers?

And I shudder to ask: In this fictional world where money is the vehicle for the vast majority of women’s happiness outside of upper-class marital bliss, how do less privileged women keep themselves from slitting their wrists? — I guess they just have to keep their spirits up with rental designer bags and hope they get lucky enough to be a P.A. to someone like Carrie Bradshaw some day…

A round-up of good SATC reviews and reflections:

Dana Stevens at Slate

http://www.slate.com/id/2192379/

Stephanie Zacharek at Salon

http://www.salon.com/ent/movies/review/2008/05/30/sex_and_the_city/

Sex writers reflect on the impact of SATC

http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2008/05/30/sex_writers_on_sex/

Manohla Dargis at NYTimes

http://movies.nytimes.com/2008/05/30/movies/30sex.html

Karina Longworth at Spout, gives the top 5 reasons to explain why you might “semi-rationally” hate the movie:

http://blog.spout.com/2008/05/30/5-ways-to-dismiss-the-sex-and-the-city-movie/

And Ed Gonzales at Slant Magazine on the racism of the relationship between Jennifer Hudson’s character and Sarah Jessica Parker’s, and the materialism of the film:

http://www.slantmagazine.com/film/film_review.asp?ID=3695

The Sex and the City movie

Friday’s U.S. debut of the Sex and the City movie brings a mixed bag of emotions for me:

1. Fear: First and foremost, I’m nervous the movie will ruin the sense of peace and promise the series finale left me with in 2004.

2. Excitement: To be honest, I’ve been pretty psyched about what the big screen version of one of my most beloved shows will be like and contribute to my warm and fuzzy memories of the ladies while the series was running. I’ll admit the prospect of a Carrie-Big wedding makes me giddy.

3. Ambivalence: Yeah, I already mentioned I love the show, but I also hate it for many reasons (reasons to be discussed in detail after I see the film, which, yes, at least in part, have something to do with socioeconomics).

4. Indecision: The aforementioned ambivalence makes it a little difficult for me to decide how to approach the premiere date. Do I embrace my love for the characters and their relationships and their shocking dialogue and get tickets now so I can be among the first to see it? Or do I wait for the hype to die down a little and see the film casually, when it’s convenient and not crowded, just to avoid being counted in the opening weekend stats for a film I have some definite qualms with?