Maleficent Leading Ladies

Whilst the Brothers’ Grimm are undoubtedly among history’s greatest storytellers, their stories proffer traditional gender roles. Sleeping Beauty is one such story that promotes a pretty archaic view of women by today’s standards. Maleficent, the remake of Sleeping Beauty is thus a strange place to seek a feminist manifesto, but that is exactly what I found whilst watching it. The movie is far from good, but it does take the original story and inject some much needed feminist-revisionst flavour. My male movie buddy, whilst agreeing that the movie was terrible, failed to understand why I was so excited to see the fairytale flipped and a strong, multifaceted female character as the lead in a movie. This led to a ‘heated debate’, some dangerous ideas and me pondering the archetypal woman in the wee hours of the morning.

Sleeping BeautyMy aforementioned movie buddy kept insisting that many movies have strong female leads (citing Frozen, Salt and numerous rom-coms as his evidence) and generally arguing that people prefer to watch men in save-the-world-superman-type roles as males are physically the stronger sex and it’s therefore more realistic (particularly for comic-book heroes). I huffed and puffed and…went home to do some research.

Did you know there’s a thing called the Bechdel test? I didn’t. It basically tests to see if a movie has two named female characters who talk to each other at some point about anything other than a man. I initially thought this is setting the bar ridiculously low, however to my surprise (and disappointment) the majority of top-grossing films do not pass. Yes, you read that correctly, the majority do not pass. The entire Star Wars series, the Lord of the Rings trilogy (including the Hobbit), and all but one film in the Harry Potter series fail. In The Empire Strikes Back, Princess Leia is the only named women in the galaxy and is the love interest of both male protagonists, Han and Luke. For all of Leia’s strengths and progressive leadership dialogue, she spends an awful lot of time getting saved or kissed. Make of that what you will.

More recently, despite being nominated for best picture this year both The Wolf of Wall Street and Her fail and the only reason American Hustle passed is due to a 10 second conversation between Jennifer Lawrence and Elisabeth Röhms characters about nail polish. You might be surprised that other hit movies such as Avatar, The AvengersThe Social Network, The Lone Ranger and Run Lola Run (despite Lola being considered one of the more well rounded female characters ever put to film) also fail. Yet, when you reverse the criteria and perform the Bechdel test on male characters, it is almost impossible to find a movie that doesn’t pass.

Possibly even more worrying however, is that in movies where females have a role (leading or not), they play to an archetype being either the innocent virgin maiden, the temptress or the evil witch. Most often, it is a male hero who drives the storyline while his female opposite has already been branded as a sinner or saint, Madonna or whore – according to her moral sins or virtues. The hero however is free to be complex and flawed whilst he navigates these archetypal women.

WonderWoman

Briefly going back to comic book movies, which my movie buddy was staunch in defending, it is interesting to note that whilst the likes of Batman, Spiderman and Superman have been rebooted numerous times, Wonderwoman and Catwoman have not. Again, the majority of these stories utilise the saving of the ‘damsel in distress’ to show the heroes worth. In many cases, a single man saves the known universe whilst all that is good and pure is symbolically embodied by the rescue of the single virgin/Princess Leia character who cannot fend for herself. Basically, a woman who is anything other than a love interest, who needs rescuing (or a sexual conquest in the case of Bond) is considered progressive, much like the ‘feline fatale’ Catwoman was when she first appeared in 1940 (she only had to wait 64 years to get her own movie). It’s interesting to note that Bob Kane, the creator of Catwoman said this:

I felt that women were feline creatures and men were more like dogs. While dogs are faithful and friendly, cats are cool, detached and unreliable…cats are hard to understand as women are…You always need to keep a women at arms length. We don’t want anyone taking over our souls, and women have a habit of doing that.

I’m not calling for existing super heroes to change genders, but is it so impossible to imagine they become involved in differing and more creative story lines? Why not have Mary Jane help Spiderman save the world rather than be the one in need of saving, or invent a new female superhero to join the Avengers? Is it really such a radical idea?

According to an analysis of 2013’s fifty most successful blockbusters, films with a better balance of women made more money overall, so there is a strong audience for such changes in film to occur.
Whilst I’d agree with my movie buddy that women’s roles in film have gradually changed, what is important here is not the exception to the rule, but the dominant rule itself. Old ideas are given weight through repetition, until over time they come to form popular notions about the essential human struggle. Yes, Maleficent was more well-intentioned than accomplished but it was at least original and went against tradition; a rare feat it should be applauded for.

So I may have a crush on Daniel Craig (I’m so sorry Ry!)

Those of you who frequently read my posts may have noticed that I have a mild crush on Ryan Gosling. And by ‘mild crush’ I actually mean a colossal crush that leaves me frazzled, occasionally unable to function in the real world and often losing whole afternoons in a delusional state planning our wedding and writing him love letters. I even posted a love letter as a blog entry, which you probably didn’t read…and despite the link I just provided, you probably still won’t read. But it’s a blog rule that I have to at least provide you with the link, both to prove how tech-savvy I am and to pretend like you actually care.
Hey, I didn’t make the rules, I just follow them.
Anyway now I’ve forgotten what this post was actually about…ahhh this is what happens when I think about the future father of my children.

Right, this post is to admit that last night I may have cheated on Ry (we’re on a nickname basis.) Now normally cheating is not something I would ever condone, but Ry and I have been rocky for the past few months. His relationship with Eva Mendes has been bothering me, not to mention my preoccupation with Scandinavian men whilst away has gotten in the way of me obsessively thinking about him. Like I said, things have been rocky. So last night, whilst watching Skyfall, I may have accidently fallen in love with Daniel Craig.

Now I know what you’re thinking; I’m only 22 and he is 44 so literally double my age and probably far too old for me. But age is just a number and next year onwards he will cease being double mine so really it’s fine.

Before I go on and say anything about Daniel Craig, I think you should take a moment and look into his eyes.

They actually defy science.
They’re the color of pure ice cold water dripping of a glacier. When his gives off a cold stare, you feel warmth looking at him. His stare just gives off a torrent of passion and emotion.
And then you look at his whole face and its perfect. It’s symmetrical, strong, beautiful and masculine. Friendly, but dangerous.

But enough about his perfect face, lets talk about his perfect body. You can tell he is in perfect shape because he can film those long chase sequences in James Bond films and not even look winded or too red in the face after them. It’s also obvious he has a perfect body every time he wears a tailored suit. Or when he walks out of the ocean in tiny swim trunks. He actually is the sexist person to ever emerge from a body of water wearing next to nothing.

Yeah, that happened.

But most of all I think my attraction to the sex God Daniel Craig comes from his portrayal of Bond. He’s not a boy that’s cute and adorable but doesn’t know anything. He’s not a guy whose cool, carries a guitar and has commitment issues – again just playing by the blog rules.
He is a fully grown man who can grown a proper beard and has thrown a few punches in his life . Daniel Craig may be the reason I’m going to go to the movies to see Skyfall again. He may also be the reason why men who wear suits, swill hard liqueur and live dangerously turn me on.
And as for Ry, he’s floating between the guy and man stage. But hopefully after this temporary break and me watching the last 3 James Bond movies a few times over, we can reconcile our differences and be back together soon.

Reality sucks; I wanna go back to Hogwarts.

So after a few glorious months away in Europe, I’m back in Melbourne. Upon hugging my mother hello, I had completed everything I wanted to do in Melbourne and am now ready to leave again. This is not a reflection of my life here, but rather a reflection of just how good the past few months have been.

My initial intentions of posting about my travels whilst away died within approximately 30 minutes of me arriving on European soil (coincidentally, the same amount of time it took for me to have a cider in my hand). So now my head is bursting with destinations and stories I want to share with anyone I’ve pestered enough to click on my page.

It seems logical (to me at least) to tell you about the last place I went to, first. And that just happens to be Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry! I don’t know about you but whenever I read ‘Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry‘ in my head I hear it said in a deep, booming, dramatic Dumbledore sounding voice. No, just me?

Now just to clarify, I didn’t go to the actual school (my acceptance letter got lost in the mail a few years back) but I did go to the Warner Brothers London Studio where all the magic was made. And it was only the greatest day ever!

The tour starts with the Great Hall and proceeds to go through all the authentic sets, costumes and props showcasing the British artistry, technology and talent that went into making all 8 movies. Surprisingly, more adults than children visit the studios and as a general rule, the children that do come are considerably better behaved than the adults.

At the studios you’re give the chance to fly a broomstick, drive the Weasley’s blue car and walk down Diagon Alley. There are also snitches to be found, emblems to be collected and the unwritten competition between friends where the first to state what movie and when any prop, picture or costume was used gets a point. It gets very competitive and mildly violent very fast.

Seeing Gringotts, Ollivanders and drinking Butter Beer outside Privet Drive is a truly magical experience and the energy and excitement of all the other visitors and staff is incredibly contagious and uplifting. Basically, if you’re not a delusional crying mess during and after the tour; you’re doing it wrong.

If you manage to get through the whole tour without fainting from excitement (it’s actually harder than it sounds) you get to the mystical and spell-binding (albeit expensive) gift-shop. A place where small children and grown men alike were crying over £30 marauder’s maps. Thanks to the gift-shop and after being sorted by the trusty sorting hat (twice for good measure) I can now rock my new authentic Ravenclaw scarf when I go out (I know I’m really showing off my geek cards/cred here).

Overall it was just an incredible day and place to visit. It was obvious that a lot of care was taken to ensure that the studios felt authentic and still held surprises for the tragic’s among us who have read and seen the movies more times then they care to count. The studios had so much positive energy and happiness that they felt like a tangible anti-depressant, and thus the true magic of Harry Potter was shown.

The last time I re-read all 7 books was the summer of 2010/11. Visiting the studios has inspired me to do it all again…so let my re-re-re-re-re-read (I’m just estimating here) begin.

The following are a few happy snaps from the day:

The don’t occupy Gotham movement. Or maybe do. I’m not sure.

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the final Batman in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy has been released. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard about it. Marketing for the movie has only been prolific, having posters plastered everywhere and a viral social media campaign. No biggie.

Now staying true to the pop culture fan I pretend to be, I went to see the movie on it’s opening day. And given my new found inability to do things without telling the world about them, you get to find out all about it. Lucky you!

Now right from the get go and before the haters start sending me death threats, I want to say that the movie was enjoyable. Or, I at least didn’t hate it. I didn’t really love it either. To be honest after sitting through what felt like the longest movie in history my mind went to jelly and I couldn’t remember my name, let alone form an opinion on the movie. Maybe that was Nolan’s strategy?

Unlike ‘The Dark Knight’ where the antecedent was 9/11, the antecedent in ‘Dark Knight Rises’ was the financial crisis. A much more confusing and less dramatic event, which lead to a much more confusing and less dramatic movie. So much was going on at once that if you understood half of it (specifically, not generally) then you’re doing quite well.

Hovering in a mediocre middle ground, the movie never rises, but it doesn’t falter either. The plot mainly centers around a nuclear device that Bane (the bad guy) and his army steal and then threaten to blow up New York Gotham with. There are also other obscure plot lines, various character stories and lengthy explanations about everything in there too. But it’ll probably be easier if you see the movie, rather than have me try to explain it. Besides, I didn’t understand half of it anyway.
Ow and in the midst of all this chaos an odd sort of Occupy movement kind of took place. Except it was portrayed in such a way that overall it was against an anarchy and the 99 percent. All whilst disguising itself and pretending it was for the 99 percent. This was all happening at the 2 hour point in the movie and I was getting hungry so didn’t really pay enough attention to understand. Basically I think the movie was trying to be political. But what political message it was sending is open to interpretation.

For long stretches of the movie, there’s little going on that’s relevant to the main story line other than keeping the audience concerned for the fate of Gotham city. And after two hours, that concern drastically fades. But the biggest downfall of the movie was the one dimensional bad guy in Bane. He looked the part with his face and nose covered by a leather mask. But unfortunately the mask impeded the way he spoke so he sounded an awful lot like Darth Vadar and Scooby-Doo’s love child. Which in tune made him sound incredibly idiotic and unintentionally funny. Not to mention, the audience could barely understand anything he was saying. Speaking with Shakespearean overtures when Bane says “I have come to liberate you” it sounds like “have bear hibernate.” If Bane ever took charge no one would know what the hell was going on. Alas, Batman must come out of retirement to save Gotham and the English language. Batman (possibly) coming out of retirement is also a pretty big plot point (only an hour and a half of the movie is dedicated to it). I feel like I should have mentioned that earlier.

But the movie also has many positives. It it cinematographically beautiful, nothing short of what you would expect from Nolan. The story line, whilst incredibly convoluted, is dark and adds depth to the characters. The cast is incredible, and quite a few people make unexpected cameos. The plot twists are genuinely surprising and breathe a bit of life into otherwise dull moments. Additionally, the elaborated scenes of mass peril are perfectly calibrated for maximum tension. No one could have pulled off such a grand finale for the artful trilogy as well as Nolan. But at times there was just too much going on and it meant the movie had self importance without having actual importance. If you’ve got a spare few hours and want to lose yourself in a land of fantasy, then I’d recommend it. Just bring snacks and settle on being content, not blown away.

Prince Charming, wherefore art thou Prince Charming?

Once upon a time in a far away land a baby boy was born in a shining castle. His parents, the King and Queen took a risk and named him Prince Charming. As the baby boy grew up, his parents breathed a sign of relief as the boy lived up to his name and grew into a intelligent, brave, handsome and witty young man. He also had amazing teeth and a good fashion sense. It’s incredibly lucky he turned out the way he did, as it would have been very awkward to have an ugly, mentally unstable and socially retarded son named Prince Charming.

After Charming finished high school he got a bachelors degree in ‘rescuing damsels in distress’ and a masters degree in ‘dragon slaying’. Rumor has is, he even started his PhD in ‘understanding women’ but the rumor can neither be confirmed or denied. Prince Charming however, will be most remembered for his many high profile relationships. He started dating his first girlfriend Snow White after he kissed her and she woke out of her enchanted sleep. Talk about being at the right place at the right time! Given all the magazines and TV shows were obsessed with publicizing ever detail of their relationship, women of all ages soon began to fall in love with Price Charming and started singing “someday my prince will come…” in his honor.

After Snow, Prince Charming moved onto Cinderella. We don’t know why he left Snow for Cindy but one can assume it’s because he developed an infatuation with blondes. Remarkably, despite 13 years passing between him dating the two princesses he had not aged at all. Many women began to regret not asking Charming which face cream he used. After his relationship with Cindy became public knowledge, Prince Charming became a household name and the source of many women’s fantasies. Female peasants mobbed him every time he left the castle, and he got more princess ass than he even knew what to do with.

Nine years later, Charming left Cindy to be with Sleeping Beauty Aurora (yet another blonde). But this relationship was complicated and Aurora had baggage to say the least. Prince Charming had to rescue Aurora from the highest tower of the castle. Luckily, he completed his masters degree so was qualified to slay the dragon that stood in his way. Once again Charming kissed Aurora, she awoke from her slumber (these princesses really like to sleep) and they started dating.

But unfortunately, this is where the story starts to get a little blurry. Woman began to realize they didn’t need Prince Charming and he was therefore made redundant. They started burning their bras and singing along to Aretha Franklin demanding RESPECT. Prince Charming’s status died and he became a D-grade celebrity. His legacy (somewhat) lived on with Prince Eric and Prince Naveen but they served to be just secondary characters in the princesses lives. Ariel was badass, made her own rules and saved herself. Besides, she was a redhead so it’s doubtful Charming would have even been interested. Prince Naveen on the other hand turned his princess into a frog. Counterproductive and rude if you ask me. But Tiana figured it out and saved both their arses. It’s clear the standards required to be a prince have slipped over time, and now the princesses are the ones saving the day (hallelujah!)

But despite the women’s liberation, and progress being made, Prince Charming’s lineage has been explored and today women have found his descendants. Two of his more famous cousins (twice removed) include Edward Cullen and Christian Grey. It is believed they’re from his fathers side.

Both of these descendants seem more sulky than sparkly (unless of course Edward goes into the sun – then he’s sparkly, but not in the good way). Nonetheless women around the world have fallen in love with them both. However, somewhere along the genetic line, some bad DNA got mixed in (the family tree is very complicated) and the cousins turned out quite different to Prince Charming. Unlike Charming, they’re overly protective, controlling, dangerous and downright weird. Edward is prudish, old fashioned and about as cuddly as a rock. But he’s got the saving the damsel in distress thing down pact. It’s possible he got the same university degree as Charming. And so long as you ignore his temper, his stalker tendencies and maddening urge to drink your blood he’s quite chivalrous and dependable.

What I assume Christian Grey looks like. He’s managed to elude the paparazzi so far.

Christian (who was much harder to track down, due to his adoption papers being sealed by the courts) is anything but prudish, but is still hideously old fashioned when it comes to anything outside the bedroom. And we can’t really comment on his cuddling ability, given we doubt he even knows how to cuddle. Whilst Christian has inherited his good looks, his fortune and his charm from his genetic links to Prince Charming, he’s not without his faults. Firstly, he is a stalker. As in ‘I should get a restraining order against you’ stalker. He also doesn’t like being touched. If you touch his chest he’ll have you aggressively pinned down before you can even say ‘control freak’. He’s incredibly overbearing; to the point that he controls what you wear, drive and do with your time. And he has major food issues. Think a Jewish mother and Italian grandmother rolled into one. Ow and you have to sign a contract to be in a relationship with him. Yup, these are just some of his ‘fifty shades’. And yet countless women fantasize about being his princess.

The cousins appeal to women because of their looks, strength and large bankrolls (no, that’s not a euphemism for large appendages, they’re just both ridiculously rich). But I still don’t get it. Why do even the most intelligent, independent and liberated women go weak at the knees for these control freaks? Shouldn’t we be celebrating that we can now make our own decisions and not fall for the idea of someone that controls everything we do?
Prince Charming (in the old fairy tales) gave us someone to dream about. Someone that will slay dragons, climb castle walls and stop at nothing to fulfill true-loves kiss. The more recent fairy tales had more realistic, independent and inspirational princesses. But we still dreamt about the fun loving princes who we’re their partners in crime, treated them well and celebrated true love. Yet, today women worldwide fantasize about violent, strange control freaks. Is it just me or does this not make sense? Call me old fashioned, but I’ll take Prince Naveen over Mr. Grey anytime.

As for Prince Charming, the last reports suggest he was rejected by a girl called Fiona. Evidently she chose an ogre over him. Maybe this story doesn’t end with a happily ever after, after all?

Girl with the dragon tattoo posters: you’re kidding, right?

I know I’m a bit late to the party, but I just watched the Swedish version of ‘The girl with the dragon tattoo’. The film both scared and disturbed me. But overall I liked it. It stayed true to the book, which I thoroughly enjoyed; mainly because of the refreshing writing and strong female character in Lisbeth Salander. But I’m not here to write a book review. I’m here because I’m pissed off. Upon googling the American version of the movie to see whether it’s worth watching I stumbled upon some of the movie posters and anger quickly consumed me. To better explain, here is a comparison of the Swedish and American movie posters:

Swedish:

And these are the American posters:

  

If you didn’t know better, you would think they were two different movies with completely different story lines. Mikael isn’t even present in the two official Swedish posters. Lisbeth is staring directly at the camera in both, she’s aggressive, powerful and in control. Not a hint of sexuality.

Now lets jump to the American posters. I didn’t pick and choose them, they are the official movie posters. And Lisbeth has magically lost her clothes and attitude in all of them. It’s pretty clear the people responsible for marketing the American movie didn’t get the memo: Lisbeth Salander doesn’t like to be touched, she doesn’t walk round naked and isn’t one to be submissive or needs to be protected.

The whole reason these books became the phenomenon they are is because of the strength of Lisbeth’s character. She’s damaged, weird and anti-social. But most of all she’s an intelligent and determined surviver. So why do the American posters have her in submissive, sexualized poses? Why is Daniel Craig in the foreground with her in the background? Why does he have a protective arm placed over her? Why is he looking down at her whilst blowing smoke into her mouth? And why the hell is she naked?

Women don’t aspire to be Salander. But they respect her. Despite her history of physical abuse and sexual violence she’s physically strong, mentally sharp and in control of her sexuality. Are we really so afraid of women like that?
I get that sex sells. But so does violence, genuine adaptations of beloved books and powerful characters. Why do we always resort to making women a commodity? If you want to add a sexualized message, why not have Daniel Craig naked? Oh that’s right, he’s not a young sexy women with a nipple piercing that will feed raunch culture it’s daily dose of sexualizing everything. The American movie posters are nothing more than an exploitation of Larsson’s iconic female character in an aim to increase profits.

There is a strong contrast in the message the Swedish and American posters are sending. And I know which one appeals to me. Give me the Lisbeth Salander holding a knife, a gun or riding a motor cycle any day. Because I’m sure as hell not identifying with the one being submissive or posing naked.

At the end of the day, we should ask ourselves: What would Larsson think?

Love Letters: Dear Ryan Gosling

Disclaimer: This post is entirely a joke. Unless Ryan Gosling is actually reading this. Then it’s not.

My dearest darling Ryan,

You complete me.

Thinking about you sends me in such a tail spin that I quote corny 90’s movies. That I don’t even like. Do you remember when Tom Cruise tells Renee Zellweger that she completes him? And then Renee tells Tom to ‘shut up, shut up because he had her at hello?’ Well that’s how I feel about you Ryan. And in my head, it’s us having that conversation. And then we kiss. And then we kiss a little more. And then we live happily ever after. It’s such a beautiful moment Ryan. I re-live it in my mind on a daily basis.
To be fair though, I sometimes change some of the details in our scene. I mean, sometimes you get on one knee and propose straight away. Other times we go outside and kiss in the rain. And then you propose. Sometimes you don’t wear a shirt. Actually, you very rarely wear a shirt. So you just propose shirtless. I’m okay with that. We run away into the sunset. Me, blissfully happy. You, shirtless and blissfully happy. It brings a tear to my eye.

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed Ryan, but we’ve been in a relationship for a while now. It’s been glorious. Admittedly, we’ve been keeping this a secret from our respective partners. And it may also seem like I’ve been keeping it a secret from you. This is not something I would normally ever condone, but a love like ours Ryan, it just can’t be stopped. It knows no limits. It’s centrifugal motion. It’s perpetual bliss. I may have stolen some of those lines from corny 90’s songs, but my dearest Ryan, you know I speak them from the heart.

You’re just everything a woman could ever want in life. You’re incredibly attractive. But I don’t feel like you know it. You just own it.  You’re confident, charming and sexy. Basically, ‘man candy’ personified. Perfection wrapped in candy, wrapped in perfection. You make me lose my mind just thinking about you. In all your shirtless glory. Also, you have an impeccable dress sense. And you always wear nice shoes. Don’t think I haven’t noticed. But most of all Ryan, you’re ‘ab-y’. It’s a word I’ve created in your honor. It just means your abs have abs. And they’re beautiful.

Also, you’re intelligent. You get it. And you get women. You only ever have nice things to say about them. And you’re close to your mother. I’m melting here Ryan.
No doubt, the smart and sensitive soul you are, you know all about Greek Mythology. So I don’t need to tell you that humans were originally created with 4 arms, 4 legs and a head with two faces. Then fearing their power, Zeus split them into 2, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves. Well I’ve found my other half Ryan. And it’s you. When you propose to me (whilst being shirtless, and just before we ride off into the sunset) you tell me that I’m your other half too. I feel like I forgot to mention that earlier. But I so appreciate you saying it. It’s just so lovely.

On top of everything else, you’re also an amazing actor. I go to see movies purely because you’re in them, but you’re so brilliant that I even enjoy them. Lars and the real girl? Only you can make such a creepy character so lovable and make me reflect on the deeper issues society has in regards to how we treat people with disabilities. The Notebook? Just a beautiful portrayal of a beautiful character. And you proved you can grow a fabulously irresistible beard.  Drive? The art-house cinematography mixed with the intelligent script and characters was divine. And my God, you’re even attractive whilst bashing people’s heads in. How is that even possible!?  Ides of March? You’re idealistic and smart. And you’re not scared to make a political movie and stand up and make a statement. Crazy Stupid Love? Don’t even get me stated. I may faint.

My idea of you and the love we share will follow me for the rest of my life and make everyone else seem inadequate. You’ve set the bar too high Ryan. So seeing as no one else will do, it’ll have to be you. I’ll be waiting.

We’re meant to be Ry. Zeus set it all up for us.

Sincerely,
Your future wife

*Sigh*

I can’t breathe.