July 28, 2014

Movie Review || Walk Of Shame

In Elizabeth Banks' new film, 'Walk of Shame', I spent most of my time wringing my hands and pulling my hair (metaphorically). The film follows the humorous experiences of Banks' character after she has a one-night-stand and tries to find her way home to prepare for a news cast that might mean a promotion for her. The only problem is that her car was towed, and once she left her lover's apartment, she couldn't remember which number it was. Hilarity (supposedly) ensues as she finds herself deeper and deeper in trouble.

The focal point of the film is the 'slutty' yellow dress that she wore to the club to celebrate her new-found singledom, which is her only covering throughout the entire film (except for her high heel shoes and, at one stage, a white coat, which she strangely discards even though it could have disguised her for a while).

The shortness of the dress is the cause of all her problems. As she walks through downtown Los Angeles without cellphone and warmth, she is continually mistaken for a prostitute. She approaches several men for help - a taxi driver who takes her to a strip club and then tries to bribe a lap dance out of her, a few other men in cars, one of whom wants some 'help' down on his lap, a jogger who runs away from her, a member of a Jewish community, a young boy who just wants to see her boobs, and even the police, all of whom don't bother to listen to her pleas for help.

Indeed even the women in the film will not even listen to her because of her appearance, including a bus driver who kicks her out of the bus yelling 'crack whore', an old lady on the bus calling her disgusting because of her assumed 'work', and even a woman she approaches on the road.

The only people who bother to listen to her story and help her are three black men, who are the stereotypical drug dealers living in the 'hood'. They appear to be the only decent people in the film: although they do at first judge her by her appearance, they listen to her story and help her make a phone call. They even help her run away from the police.

Eventually, the whole of LA is on the lookout for a 'hooker hoodlum' in a yellow dress who has been linked to several crimes, including streetwalking, theft, a hate crime, drug dealing, and avoiding arrest. I think the dress is a symbol of her 'walk of shame', that moment in time when a college student leaves the room of the man she slept with that night and walks through the dorm of careening, shaming men, a la 'Sorority Boys'. You know, because men can't have walks of shame.

What had me wriggling uncomfortably was not only the comedic value of the film - she really walks into the worst situations and just makes it all worse - but also the fact that no one would listen to her asking for help. It brought to mind this video:

And on top of it all the indirect 'slut-shaming' made me uncomfortable, too. It was almost as though the film was misogynistically asking the audience to say, 'Yeah, she asked for it, wearing a dress like that' and 'It's a miracle she wasn't raped!'

Although Banks' character was blameless, it felt as though the film was showing women who wear so-called 'slutty' dresses what society thinks of them and why they shouldn't dress that way (contrary to all advertising, for example) and that if you're dressed that way you only get what you deserve - shame, insults, victim-blaming.

The dress is, thus, for me, not only an indictment of our quick-to-judge society, but also for its bias in encouraging women to be sexy while simultaneously punishing them for doing so. Our patriarchal society wants women to be sexual objects, but only when it so desires - not in the public forum of our own choice, but in the private forum of its own.

The film only slightly managed to redeem itself at the end, however, where Banks' character publicly - in a forum where she is usually the object at which the gaze of newswatchers is directed - accepts and asserts herself as subject, calling out the people who judged her and refused to help her because of her appearance, taking ownership of the yellow dress and of her self that is not the object of someone's desires but the subject of her own.

Of course, this was all undermined by the happy ending she was certain to have with James Marsden's character, for whom she is the object of desire. But, oh, well, she tried!
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July 22, 2014

Book Review || The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath was slow reading to start. Its lyrical prose and realism, however, took hold of me at around the middle as the Joad family's struggles became those of the starving people of the world today. By the end, the novel became one of those that you read about - one of those that made me genuinely sigh and think about the world, that made me feel disturbed.

The Joads are searching for the American dream - a dream that all too many people don't reach because of the rise of capitalism, industrialism, the glorified slavery of the minimum wage. Steinbeck has painstakingly revealed the truth of the struggling poor, and though 'The Grapes of Wrath' was written seven decades ago, the story still resounds today because of inequality, poverty, lack of food security...

Although the novel was met with critical acclaim, earning Steinbeck the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, farmers in California were displeased with the way they were represented in the novel, with perspectives such as the following being their fictional beliefs:
"Them goddamn Okies got no sense and no feeling. They ain't human. A human being wouldn't live like they do. A human being couldn't stand it to be so dirty and miserable. They ain't a hell of a lot better than gorillas."
This description of the capitalisation of the land is apt:
"Once California belonged to Mexico and its land to Mexicans; and a horde of tattered feverish Americans poured in. And such was their hunger for land that they took the land ... and they guarded with guns the land they had stolen ... The Mexicans were weak and fed. They could not resist, because they wanted nothing as frantically as the Americans wanted land. Then, with time, the squatters were no longer squatters, but owners; and their children grew up and had children on the land. And the hunger was gone from them, the feral hunger, the gnawing, tearing hunger for land, for water and earth and the good sky over it ... They had these things so completely that they did not know about them any more ... They arose in the dark no more to hear the sleepy birds' first chittering, and the morning wind around the house while they waited for the first light to out to the dear acres. These things were lost, and crops were reckoned in dollars, and land was value by principal plus interest, and crops were bought and sold before they were planted ... And all their love was thinned with money, and all their fierceness dribbled away in interest until they were no longer farmers at all ... Then those farmers who were not good shopkeepers lost their land to good shopkeepers ... And as time went on, the business men had the farms ... Now, farming became industry... They imported slaves, although they did not call them slaves... They live on rice and beans, the business men said. They don't need much. They wouldn't know what to do with good wages. Why, look how they live ... And if they get funny - deport them ... And it came about that owners no longer worked on their farms. They farmed on paper; and they forgot the land, the smell, the feel of it, and remembered only that they owned it, remembered only what they gained and lost by it ... Okies - the owners hated them because the owners knew they were soft and the Okies were strong, that they were fed and the Okies hungry; and perhaps the owners had heard from their grandfathers how easy it is to steal land from a soft man if you are fierce and hungry and armed".
And this:
"Men of property were terrified for their property. Men who had never wanted anything very much saw the flare of want in the eyes of the migrants. And the men of the towns and of the soft suburban country gathered to defend themselves; and they reassured themselves that they were good and the invaders bad... The local people whipped themselves into a mould of cruelty..."
We can see the same thing today; farms of acres of land are owned by a single man, a man who usually doesn't do the ploughing, who doesn't know the sunlight, who doesn't know the drought. There are few farm hands, because machines are the new slaves, and the farm hands that do work are paid just enough for life. In suburbia, the farm hands are McDonald's workers, waiters and waitresses, the slaves paid to put up with the foibles of the middle class.

But this scene is one that will remain with me all of my days - it is a scene that Steinbeck has carved in my mind, and I will never look at a beggar the same way:
...outside they could hear the children digging into the pot with their sticks and their spoons and their pieces of rusty tin. A mound of children smothered the pot from sight. They did not talk, did not fight or argue; but there was a quiet intentness in all of them, a wooden fierceness.
Have you read 'The Grapes of Wrath'?
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July 17, 2014

No More Blurred Lines For Me!

My relationship with Robin Thicke's song 'Blurred Lines' has been strained, but Weird Al Yankovich has saved me!

I'll admit that the song is exceedingly catchy, and it really makes me feel like dancing.

BUT the feminist inside me has *hated* the song because of its unsavoury lyrics, lyrics which almost no one who plays the song over and over again seems to think are a big deal or a reflection on our society at large with regards to rape culture.

Lines from the song that make my skin crawl include the inimitable "OK now he was close, tried to domesticate you; But you're an animal, baby, it's in your nature" and "You the hottest bitch in this place", but I won't get ahead of myself.

I won't turn this into a diatribe on why those lyrics are wrong for so many reasons, but I've always felt guilty for enjoying the music.

No more! Weird Al Yankovic has saved me, and probably countless others, with his parody, which is not only a far cry from the 'rapiness' of Robin Thicke's version, but it's all about language!

It's like an anthem for editors and proofreaders everywhere! *I'm in heaven*!


Via GeeksAreSexy
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July 16, 2014

Video: Epic Rap Battle - TMNT vs Artists

This is one of the funniest things I've seen in ages. :) You would especially appreciate it if you're a child of the 80s. Cowabunga, Dude!

Via GeeksAreSexy
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July 11, 2014

Why Do You Like A Man In Uniform?

I was travelling to work on Tuesday - for the first time in months - and found myself watching a Joburg Metro Police Department officer waving his white-gloved arms through the air as he directed traffic. I began to wonder why on Earth a man in uniform is so appealing to a woman.

In my opinion, uniforms not only look, but are, uncomfortable. Remember how much you disliked your school uniform? Exactly. The fabric is inevitably scratchy because it is either starched to retain its shape - otherwise everyone will look different after the first time they wash - or naturally stiff.

But what exactly is the allure? We even feel a certain attraction to men dressed up in the trademark uniform of business - the suit - and weddings - the tuxedo.

It has a lot to do with the psychological impression that one can get from what someone is wearing. Have a soft spot for check shirts? You may believe it's a sign of compassion and being down-to-earth. Prefer a man with skinny jeans? It may be that you like to see a man who's confident with his body. Get the giggles for a man with a uniform? Uniforms are usually worn by people considered diligent and  hardworking. Particularly if you throw in a bunch of men wearing military uniforms, other associations come up as well, including heroic and brave.


This may appeal to our patriarchally-defined natures of needing protection, and who better to do so that a man trained in the art of heroism and war?

I also think it also has a lot to do with social conventions that have been passed down through our parents and through literature over the last century or so, and, sadly, it has to do with money. If a man was not rich by birth, he could be relatively well-off by making his way up the ranks in the military and receiving steady pay from the government for his service. This happened often in Jane Austen's books, and though it wouldn't really apply today, us little women have been trained to see men in uniform as being a sure thing when it came to money - unless, of course, the men in question gambled it all away...

What superficial creatures we are! Do you enjoy seeing a man in uniform? If you do, why do you think so?

{Image credit: Wikimedia Commons\Alexander Cohen\Google Art Project}
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July 4, 2014

John Steinbeck's Manself

John Steinbeck's 'The Grapes of Wrath' is one of the books I am currently reading, and I am sad to admit that it feels a bit of a trudge for me. I don't think it's because there's anything wrong with the book - far be it for me to slam an iconic classic of American fiction - but I just don't feel as though I'm in the right mind to read a book so much about change, progress, and loss as this one.

Still, I am, as I say, trudging, and came across this passage which struck a chord with me last night:
The last clear definite function of man - muscles aching to work, minds aching to create beyond the single need - this is man. To build a wall, to build a house, a dam, and in the wall and house and dam to put something of Manself, and to Manself take back something of the wall, the house, the dam; to take hard muscles from the lifting, to take the clear lines and form from conceiving. For man, unlike anything organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges ahead of his accomplishments. This you may say of man - when theories change and crash, when schools, philosophies, when narrow dark alleys of thought, national, religious, economic, grow and disintegrate, man reaches, stumbles forward, painfully, mistakenly sometimes. Having stepped forward, he may slip back, but only half a step, never the full step back. This you may say and know it and know it. This you may know when the bombs plummet out of the black planes on the market-place, when prisoners are stuck like pigs, when the crushed bodies drain filthily in the dust. You may know it in this way. If the step were not being taken, if the stumbling-forward ache were not alive, the bombs would not fall, the throats would not be cut. Fear the time when the bombs stop falling while the bombers live - for every bomb is proof that the spirit has not died. And fear the time when the strikes stop while the great owners live - for every little beaten strike is proof that the step is being taken. And this you can know - fear the time when Manself will not suffer and die for a concept, for this one quality is the foundation of Manself, and this one quality is man, distinctive in the universe

If you haven't read the novel, I'm certain you possibly don't have a clue what Steinbeck is trying to say here, so I'll help you along a little. The novel, so far, appears to be a diatribe on how corporate America ruined man. Farmers were thrown off the land they couldn't afford to buy, land that they had worked and sweated into, and tried to make better lives for themselves elsewhere.

On the surface, the quotation seems to be glorifying man's aspirational nature - that he lives for progress, that we should fear a lack of progress because it would mean man's spirit has died.

But I think it is more pessimistic about that progress - that though mankind is evolving and making the world a better place - it is only a few Manselves who are progressing, while the others form part of the beaten strike, are the ones having their throats cut.

Do you believe my interpretation is incorrect?

{Image source: Wikimedia Commons\defenseimagery.mil}
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