Monday, June 18, 2012

The Descendants

It was pretty obvious when watching it why The Descendants was nominated for Best Picture. It's a slow movie that is largely about complicated family issues and had a lot of gorgeous cinematography.

That is not to say that it wasn't a good movie, I actually did like it. But it isn't one that I would recommend to just anyone. I think it would take a particular kind of mood to enjoy this movie, and a particular kind of person.

Part of the thing with this film is that nobody in it is really all that likable. George Clooney's character comes close, and his youngest daughter doesn't seem too off kilter. But his comatose wife comes across as a terrible person, his eldest daughter is a recovering drug addict (apparently, we only hear the aftermath of this). His cousins are all chomping at the bit to cut down a beautiful piece of untouched land in order to make a swanky resort for the uber-rich just so they can get rich from it.

One thing that bugs me about movies is that I can't remember the last time a film had a developer or the possibility of a development that was actually a good thing that would solve problems and help people. Development is always evil. Which is problematic when you're household is like mind and relies on development and new housing construction to pay the bills. Not to get rich, to survive. Development in and of itself isn't a terrible thing, and The Descendants walks this line relatively well. Mostly because they're clear about what will happen to the land: it won't be made into a public park, or low income housing. It will become a swanky resort that most people couldn't afford to look at, let alone enjoy.

But in the end, the struggle about the land is only a metaphor anyway, though a strong one. The story is about a dad struggling to figure out how to be a dad as his wife lies dying in a coma after a boating accident. Then, of course, he also has to figure out how to cope with discovering his dying wife was having an affair. How do you reconcile with a person who can't even respond to your anger?

For people who have lived through situations like these, there are parts of the film that are really hard to watch. And I think that became my problem, the movie was so realistic about some things that it was reminding me how much it hurt me when people I cared about lashed out and became defensive in order to cope with tragedy. It just hit too close to home I guess.

While the characters aren't completely likable, they are very real. There aren't really a lot of stereotypes to be found, and even the doofus of a boyfriend that joins the family on their outings isn't what he seems on the surface. Everybody is complicated, just like real people.

It is a good film, it deserved it's nomination for Best Picture. Just don't watch it if you're not ready to be a little upset at life in general.

Because sexism is sexism is sexism

I'm going to be the one millionth blogger to write about this, but I have opinions and that's the point of this blog.

Anyway, there's a meme graphic making the rounds:

I'm not going to pull any punches here: I find this graphic disgusting.

Why? Because for one thing, we're once again pitting women against women. Don't we have enough problems? Don't we have plenty of issues in our lives as women that we don't need to sit here and tear each other down? Talk about playing into other people's hands, we're dividing and conquering all on our own.

Listen, I wholeheartedly understand and support the sentiment behind this. I think that science-fiction provides more positive female role models than most other genres and especially more than pop culture does. Because characters in sci-fi tend to be more fleshed out and more three dimensional than we allow our celebrities to be. All the women on the bottom row are ones that I find inspiring and awesome, there is no doubt in my mind there. Yes, you should buy your daughter a ray gun if she wants a ray gun and introduce her to all these great shows, they're all shows that made my world better.

But let's talk about something else: Geek culture is as steeped in sexism as pop culture is, and often in a much more disgusting way because it pretends that it's not sexist.

This meme still shows how even in sci-fi we're creating a box that women have to fit in in order to be deemed acceptable. Look at the choices being represented.

From Farscape, you have Aeryn Sun, the soldier with a very big gun. She's the fighter. And that's great, but why did they choose her instead of Zhaan or Chiana? Because Zhaan was more spiritual? Because Chiana walked around in low cut outfits and slept with multiple people?

Firefly had three main women, Zoe (pictured in the meme) is again, the soldier. What's so wrong with Inara? Could it be that she's feminine and a prostitute? What about Kaylee, who is amazing with machinery and engines, but also more than comfortable with her own sexuality? Yes, Zoe is comfortable with her sexuality, but she's shown as a devoted wife. Her sexuality is contained within a marriage, Inara and Kaylee are happy to sleep with men they aren't emotionally attached to and that's a big difference.

Babylon 5 is probably the show on this list that has the best female characters, but they again pick Ivanova, the soldier. Delenn frequently stands up to entire armies of starships and tried to sacrifice her own life to stop a civil war on her planet. But she's also of the religious caste and spends more time meditating and being spiritual than fighting (though she'll fight when she has to).

Jadzie Dax represents Star Trek, because we can't admit that Troi is more than a tight suit and talking about our feelings. Uhura has a short skirt and that's not okay. And it's worth noting that Dax actually isn't exactly female either. The host to her symbiote is female, but the host has been male in the past. I didn't watch Deep Space 9 so somebody more versed in it than me can pull it apart.

Then we have Samantha Carter, another soldier. The bonus to Carter is that she's also a scientist, so she can fight but she's also a genius and a leader. But is there something wrong with Dr. Frasier? Or Vala? Or even Dr. Weir?

Listen, I get why these women were chosen, for the most part they're the most visible and accepted female character of their particular franchise. But think about that: WHY are they the most accepted and celebrated? Could it be because they're still in traditionally masculine roles and have masculine characteristics? More than likely that's your answer right there.

We're still saying women are their most valuable when they're acting like men. When they're fighting, when they're running around with big guns.

I'm not planning on having kids, but I would only buy my theoretical daughter a ray gun if she wanted a ray gun. If she wanted to become a fashion designer, then I'd let her do that. If she was quieter and more spiritual, I'd encourage that. If she wanted to wear pants or dresses, either is okay. Pink or purple or blue or green are all fine choices for favorite colors.

Stop telling women their personal choices aren't okay. End of story.

Edited to add: Just came across this image which sums up half of what I have to say on the topic. Thanks to Kazuls: