[film]the craft or how i learned to stop worrying and love being a feminist


Teenage me was one of those girls who used to think feminism was a bad word. I didn’t like other girls, because I bought into the idea that they were all catty, mean and probably talking shit behind your back. It didn’t help that I had dealt with some intense bullying and slut shaming by girls I considered close friends after being raped. In my head, if women were getting the short end of the stick in society, it wasn’t society. It was the fact that women were petty and spiteful.

Junior year of high school two things happened to make me step back and reevaluate my life. One of these was an amazing history teacher named Mr. Berry who forced us to critically think and not just take what we were told by books and adults at face value. In introducing me to the extensive history of the Women’s Rights Movement, he made me realize that women are, yes, sometimes spiteful and mean. They are also bad ass and amazing. I was still convinced that I was a girl who wasn’t like other girls though.

The second thing that happened that year was the release of the Craft.


The Craft, for those that are somehow unaware, is a movie about four girls who come together to create a powerful coven of witches. There are lessons about forcing what you want and ultimate power ultimately corrupts. It was the rare horror movie that put women front and center, with men serving little more purpose than a supporting cast.

More than anything, for me, it’s a movie about sisterhood and how much stronger we are when we work together. It’s also a movie about owning your personal feminine power unapologetically. As someone who had been distancing myself from all I saw as feminine in myself it was a revelation. When they do end up fighting, it’s not over anything as paltry as a boy. It’s over the power to control the world around them.


As I’ve gotten older, I realize that in some ways it’s a flawed example of feminism in pop culture. What starts as a sisterhood degenerates into a mindset of uniformity of thought being necessary (to the point of attempting to kill the one that doesn’t go along). I now see that Nancy was always only interested in personal gain with Rochelle and Bonnie sycophantically following along. I can excuse this even now though. If their coven had survived the growing pains of being granted ultimate power, I can’t help but feel like they would have grown up to be their own Witches of Eastwick (probably without the babies though).

For all its flaws, the Craft made me open my eyes and start looking for the supportiveness in other girls. It made me start to build other women up instead of tearing them down by assuming they were catty at first meeting. It made me examine the idea of Girl Power and what it means. Pop culture has always been a lens of self discovery for me and the Craft is perhaps one of the biggest cornerstones of that.


Thanks, girls, for all the inspiration.

(February is Women in Horror Month. I wanted to write this piece as the perfect example of where women and horror intersect and create awesome moments. Please check out #WiHM8 for more amazing women in the horror community.)

[film]bad kids go to hell

Bad Kids Go to Hell (2012)
Genre: Horror Comedy


Have you ever found yourself wondering what would happen if Bret Easton Ellis had written the Breakfast Club? Probably not, but if you had Bad Kids Go to Hell is there to assuage your curiosity.

Six kids that attend prestigious Crestview Academy show up for Saturday detention where they learn something about themselves and that they’re not so different after all. Things like they all could die before the day is out. Will Mommy or Daddy even care if what may or may not be a Native American curse kills them? Can you fit in having meaningless sex while being scared for your life? What is that awful, terrible thing they did last summer? And will Judd  Nelson ever actually show up in this movie since he has main billing?

There’s the Princess (daughter of a sociopathic politician), the Athlete (token black dude), the Brains (hot redhead with big boobs and immigrant from some unspecified country), the Criminal (scholarship student) and the Basket Case (Pagan who claims to talk to her dead parents through seances). Judd Nelson plays the headmaster. There’s a big statue in the middle of the library where they’re to serve their detention. There’s a kind of creepy janitor that always seems to be around.

If all this sounds familiar, it should. Bad Kids Goes to Hell owes a lot of its good moments to these homages to the Breakfast Club. It’s the Breakfast Club through the lens of a Bret Easton Ellis novel though. Murder, mayhem and a lot of stylistic sex and violence instead of a heartwarming tale about disaffection with authority and temporarily putting aside differences. There’s still plenty of disaffection, but no one has time to put aside differences once bodies start hitting the floor.

After watching, I found out that Bad Kids Go to Hell is based off a graphic novel. One can’t help being left with the feeling that perhaps some scenes worked far better in that medium. Fast paced cut scenes and flashbacks with out of this world physics especially.

Bad Kids Go to Hell is a fun enough film and horror comedy is notoriously difficult to pull of well. It suffers from style over substance as it strings together cliches in an attempt to be more clever than it really is. (Again, much like the majority of Bret Easton Ellis’ work is.) There’s a half way decent unexpected ending, but it also feels a little hollow motivation wise. By then though it’s clear no one really has any motivation for anything they do so it doesn’t even really matter.

Rating: 6/10

(Fun extra fact: Upon investigating IMDb, it turns out there’s a sequel called Bad Kids of Crestview Academy that recently came out. The headmaster is played by Sean Astin.)

[television]you’ve been gilmored~a year in the life

(Here there be spoilers for Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Lots and lots of spoilers.)

I first discovered Gilmore Girls probably about halfway through it’s run. I had no initial interest, because as a rule CW/Freeform style teen dramas aren’t my jam. From the outside looking in, it appeared to be your typical mother/daughter overwrought emotion fest. On a whim I had Netflix send me a disc though to see what all the hype was about. I was a single mom with a two year old son. Within two episodes I was completely hooked. I over identify with the shows I love, so I saw myself as Lorelai. I was a Lorelai with Rory’s reading habits, a better relationship with my mother and eventually an ability to cook, but I was Lorelai. I love coffee. I talk too much. I’m terrified of emotional commitment while one hundred percent craving one. I wanted to live in a kooky little town like Star’s Hollow and have my own Luke’s Diner to go to. I wanted to know people like Kirk, Babette and even Taylor Doose.

Suffice it to say that was amongst the people who were very excited when Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life was announced. We’d get to go back and see what everyone was up to and relive a little bit of that Gilmore magic. And for the most part it was delivered. There were some awfully awkward moments. There were some tear jerking moments. What follows is my feelings on some of them.


First off, the biggest presence was felt by the man who tragically was not there. Edward Hermann played Richard Gilmore with a quiet balance of humor and panache that made him one of the few standout male characters on what is a very female centric show. Since his passing, the world waited to see how it would be handled. It was probably the best done thing about the revival. Richard has died of a heart attack shortly before the start of “Winter”. Emily is coming to terms with being on her own. Lorelai is coming to terms with herself and her relationship with her father and the man he was. Every single scene centered around anything to do with the man I teared up. It was an incredible tribute to the man and the actor.


Emily, oh Emily. Here’s the thing with Emily: If I knew her in real life I’d think she was terrible. She’s manipulative and derisive and actually pretty terrible. As a show character though she is fantastic and acerbic and witty (in addition to the rest). Emily spends a good chunk of the revival trying to find her footing after losing her husband of 50 years (minus that brief separation). You see her in jeans. She is fragile. She is angry. She finds how to live for herself instead of the opinions of everyone around her and ends up in the most unlikely of places talking about whaling for a job.

She also has the second best scene in the entire movie when she tells the DAR in no uncertain terms how much bullshit she is tired of, from them and everyone else.)


Lorelai was always the star of the show for me (in case you didn’t pick up on that on your own from my intro there). She shines here. She spent the whole series trying to find her happy and outside of a few individual moments, it never really felt like she found it. Now it’s been 9 years and she’s been with Luke the whole time, not married and with no more kids. Her whole arc can come down to she finds her happy. I was always Team Christopher, but I love the way she and Luke came together in the end. He is her forever person and it was handled perfectly.

Best Lorelai moment: The whole going to do Wild (the book, not the movie) to figure things out. It goes as predicted for her in that the hike never happens, but she finds her clarity. And another one of those sob worthy Richard moments.


And then there’s the final Gilmore Girl. Last we saw Rory she was jumping on a bus to go campaign for Senator Barack Obama (maybe you’ve heard of him). Now, sadly, this gif sums up who Rory Gilmore has become. She’s whiny. She’s indecisive. She has no passion. She’s………..kind of fucking awful. From still sleeping with Logan even though she had a boyfriend and he has a fiancĂ© to selfishly pursuing writing a book about someone who doesn’t want her to write about them, she not only has stunted maturity wise, but seems to have fallen backward. There’s pretty much not a thing that I enjoyed about her storyline. So there’s that.


Then there’s Paris. Paris is still lovable, overbearing Paris. Time has softened a few of her edges, but not many. Thoroughly enjoyed every moment she was on screen. I do still find it not entirely believable that she would have had kids though. Especially more than one. Unfortunately Rory’s other best friend (and more consistently supportive one at that), Lane, pretty much got shafted. She had a lot of screen time relatively, but it doesn’t add up to much more than her being exactly where we left her at the end of the series. It says something when the thing that stands out the most is the fact that we finally got to see her father after all this time.


All I’m going to even say about the boys in Rory’s life is that if you weren’t somehow already Team Jess, there is no conceivable way you aren’t now. I mean, just look at him. And he grew up and got his shit together unlike Logan and didn’t have eight million kids like Dean.


Final Thoughts

So here’s the thing with revivals. They rarely live up to the hype. You have moments like Lorelai and Sookie meeting up in the kitchen and having no chemistry. It happens. These are people who once worked together constantly and now probably haven’t even really talked to each other in years. I can forgive that and overlook it. As a whole, a Year in a Life was as successful as we can expect a revival to be. There are moments that just feel like filler and don’t feel organic in any way. (Examples are my two least favorite moments of the endless musical and the Life and Death Brigade scene. It’s extra unfortunate on the second, because all and all the only thing I liked about Logan for the most part was his crew.)

Now, I guess we can’t finish up without discussing the last four words. A lot of people felt like it was left on a cliffhanger, but in so many ways it wasn’t. We don’t need to see Rory’s story, because in so many ways we already have. Logan is her Christopher. Jess is her Luke. Outside of small details, it’s easy to see how this plays out. My only real issue with it is that it would have made a lot more sense nine years ago when Amy Sherman-Palladino had intended it to be said.

In closing, the only thing I’d really want anyone to take away is this:


Kirk is the MVP of a Year in the Life.

C’mon, he has a pig. He makes that second movie. He even gets something right finally. This is an indisputable fact.

[poetry]we the people

we the people
we the children of the revolution
we betrayed ourselves
no evolution/revolution
when we refuse to recognize
some things don’t revolve around us
we hide our faces/names
fight with memes/intolerance
not our hearts/souls/minds
if we are quiet
we’re only waiting to speak
not to listen/communicate
we the people
keyboard warriors all
screaming into the void
not caring if anyone hears
discommunication in miscommunication
masked as mass communication
a cacophony of voices
drowning each other out
even our own
we the children of the universe
afraid of silence
afraid of words not parroting our own
afraid of everything

children
step back
step up
face the fear
embrace freedom
from what we’ve let ourself become
we the people

[poetry]trigger

(Photography credit unknown)

step back
look around
find the grip
don’t let it go
…..if i said this is all of me
…..would you accept me for all i’m not
…..would you drown in my insecurities
…..burn in the fire of my self doubt
step back
think it through

…..do you pull the trigger
…..do you walk away forever

[poetry]breathe


…breathe
……one
………two
…………three
in and out out and in
eyes shut tight
just make it through
don’t let them see you cry

…breathe
……one
………two
…………three
slam into me
who do you think you are
sad pathetic little boys
with sad pathetic little toys
i am everything
you are nothing

…breathe
……one
………two
…………three
find the place the pain ends
find the moment you begin

…breathe
……one
………two
…………three
now repeat forever

[film]shadow of the vampire

Vampires are not necessarily my thing. Don’t get me wrong, I like them well enough. I even went through a phase where I was pretty obsessed with the history and lore of them. Said phase also corresponded with my so goth I wished I could shit bats and be a character in a Poppy Z. Brite story so take that for what you will. At the end of the day though, I don’t love vampires or vampire stories. I will always choose Frankenstein’s Creature over Dracula. Werewolves are inherently more interesting to me with the beast inside all of us metaphor. Vampires are, by and large, a pretty boring lot who all took the script of Stoker and Rice and ran with it.

That being said there are some great and fantastic tales featuring the bloodsuckers. Let the Right One In, Dracula’s various film incarnations and What We Do in the Shadows are a few examples. By and large my favorite though is Shadow of the Vampire. It’s not strictly a horror movie. It belongs more to the class of highly fictionalized dramas based on actual cinematic history. It frequently gets grouped together with the also amazing Gods and Monsters. Where Gods and Monsters sticks fairly close to James Whale’s real life though, Shadow of the Vampire goes for the completely fantastical. It imagines what would have happened if Max Schreck of Nosferatu was in fact perhaps an actual vampire.


The first way Shadow of the Vampire goes completely right is casting. Willem Dafoe is barely recognizable as himself and plays Schreck with equal parts horror, pathos and humor. John Malkovich as obsessed film maker Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau gives us some of his best vintage of disturbing Malkovich. Eddie Izzard and Cary Elwes both play small parts to excellent effect for both their wheelhouses.

Shadow of the Vampire relies heavily on the man or monster trope. First in leaving the audience questioning for most of the movie whether Schreck is an actual vampire or just a really really dedicated method actor. Secondly in the monster created by being consumed by obsession Malkovich presents. By the end the question is presented of who is the bigger monster and who has caused the most damage.


All around, it’s as close as you get to a perfect vampire film as you can get. There are a few plot holes granted. (Like if Schreck doesn’t cast a reflection how does he show up on film exactly?) It’s not enough to take anything away from the movie though and that’s why it’s my favorite vampire film.

[sexuality]bi awareness and me part 1: personal


Fun fact: This week is Bisexual Awareness Week. To which there are always those who feel the need to ask does such a thing needs to exist and doesn’t the gay community get enough attention as it is? (Yes, it was phrased that exact way to me.) The short answer is that yes it does need to exist. It needs to exist, because bi erasure is a real thing in both the real world and the media.

I am bisexual. I “came out” as bisexual when I was 18. (By coming out, I mean I started acting on my desire to go on dates and kiss girls as well as boys without feeling like I needed to make a big speech. My mom is an amazing person who has always made me feel accepted so I never felt like it was a big deal. I am so very lucky in that respect and I wish every bi/gay/queer human bean had the same automatic love and acceptance.) For those that really want to keep count, they makes for over fifteen years as an openly bi woman. It’s a pretty mixed bag of experiences, not going to lie. Here’s some of what I’ve gone through in no particular order.

During the late 90s/early 00s most of what I heard from both the gay and straight communities at large was that eventually I would “make up my mind” or that it was only a matter of time before I figured out I was really a lesbian. (Spoiler: To date, I am not a lesbian. Nor am I straight.) In all fairness, a big part of some people’s journeys to coming out as gay is to first come out as bi. I get it. The world is not always an accepting place and it’s scary. However, that is not everyone’s story. That was not my story. That was not the stories of many, many people. Our stories are simply that we like both men and women. That simple.

Then came the dating. Women I dated or slept with, by and large, did not give a fuck. Men on the other hand tended to fall into two camps. The first was morally repulsed and threatened by the idea that a woman could be satisfied by anything other than a dick. Basically this whole speech in Chasing Amy:

https://youtu.be/iNTV8A3i8TE
Then there were the men who figured that dating a bi woman automatically meant they were getting a threesome. For what it’s worth, I am fiercely monogamous. I experimented some with non monogamy, but turns out that if I’m in a relationship I don’t want to share my person with anybody. I don’t want them to share me with anybody. It’s just the way I work. Nothing against people who non monogamy works for, but I am not actually that unusual for a bi in that I can still value monogamy.

Fast forward to now: I am happily married to a man so I have the privilege of straight seeming. I also have to constantly explain that having made the marriage commitment to a man does not in fact make me straight. Since I also don’t walk around wearing a shirt that says “Hi, I’m bisexual. Ask me how!”, I also have the fun experience of dealing with straight people feeling comfortable telling me their opinions about “those gays”. One such actual sentence: “There weren’t this many girls dating girls when I was younger. It’s just a phase for them I’m sure. They’ll get some dick and realize what they’ve been missing.” It’s really, really intensely uncomfortable. When someone talks about how things like gays on tv are ruining our country, they don’t realize that they’re talking about me. They are basically saying if I had ended up loving a woman enough to marry her, I would deserve less than I have with my husband. It makes me incredibly sad and angry, because at the end of the day love really is love. Whether I had chosen a man or a woman to spend my life with, it would not affect anyone else’s daily existence for them to say I deserve less for one of those choices.

On the other hand, I have never felt entirely welcome in the queer and gay communities. Part of this is that the course my life has taken has given me the privilege of not worrying about my rights being taken away and I understand this. But it also takes all those years where I was affected by the same prejudices when I walked with a girlfriend down the street and somehow says that they didn’t matter as much. The b in lgbtq stands for bisexual, so please remember we are a part of your community and not to write off our sexuality for any reason. We are all in this together and we are all love.

(Part 2 on bisexuality in the media will be posted later this week.)

[PopCulture]Roland, Mary Jane, RiRi, Ghostbusting & the Evolution of Nerd Culture

RiRi Williams, Iron Heart

 

My name is Jade and I am a lover of myth and fairy tale. (This is related to the topic, I promise.) I have grown up in a generation where the way fairy tales are brought to life in cinema has been constantly criticized on one hand and praised on the other. The original stories were seen as something pure that shouldn’t be adjusted for mass appeal. I actually used to be very much in this camp until the day I realized that my issue was much less with the Disneyification of fairy tales and much more with a fascination with dark and gory story lines.

Here’s the thing: Stories are not a static and staid thing. They grow and change with generations. Even the Brothers Grimm themselves cleaned up the stories they heard so they would be more palatable to children. Fairy tales grew as folk tales grow, changing from teller to listener to teller. A story that is frozen as only one thing is not a story that will survive and retain relevance through time.

Can anyone even picture anyone else as Nick Fury?

 

There is a huge lesson here that I think certain pockets of nerd culture could learn from. Personally, every time new casting or a comic that is bending gender or race is announced, I get a little excited. It’s not a guarantee that the finished product will be good, but more representation of women and PoC is not a guarantee of something being awful. At the same time I’m excited, part of me is just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Let’s for the sake of argument call this shoe the “old vanguard”. They are people who fondly remember a time when nerd culture was a bastion of white male dominance. It was the equivalent of the tree house with a “no girls allowed” on it.

Times have changed though. In the fifteen plus years I’ve gone to conventions I have watched more women and PoCs attend them. I’m well aware that it’s never been the fact they didn’t like comics and sci fi and fantasy, but there is a growing acceptance and welcoming atmosphere. That’s important. It changes the demographic.

In changing the demographic, the stories also change. We get female Ghostbusters. We get Idris Elba as Roland from the Dark Tower. We get 15 year old RiRi Williams as Iron Heart. We get Zendaya as Mary Jane. We get Miles Morales as Spiderman. We get Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. These are a few examples. What they all mean is: We get to see ourselves on screen and in media. We get to see the stories evolve to reflect that more women are in STEM now than ever before and things are looking even better for the next generation. We get to see stories where a black man is the hero and the villain and is fully humanized. We get to see the stories grow up and show that we are all heroes. We are all villains. Not just straight white males.

Idris Elba as the Gunslinger

And maybe that’s the real root of their anger. The stories are evolving, because society is evolving and old modes of guaranteed power and position are shifting. The status, as Doctor Horrible would say, is not quo. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though and here’s to continued changes and improvements in nerd culture and at large.

[sound]Belly at Union Transfer, Philadelphia, PA

Rolling Stone cover, 1995

I first heard Belly’s “Feed the Tree” back in the summer of 1993. I was an extremely awkward 13 year old who had just had a fairly awful year. My mom had spent a large chunk of it in an abusive relationship. By the time I graduated from junior high, we were skirting homelessness by living in a friend of mine’s garage. My mother was pregnant and my sister had gone off a violent and angry deep end. It was extremely difficult living circumstances so when my father offered for my sister and I to come out and stay with him in Ohio with his (admittedly awful) partner, I jumped at the chance. All of which is a very long way of saying I was an extremely miserable teenage girl who felt like she had no place she belonged in the world.
“Feed the Tree” was one of those songs that got played something close to four times or more an hour along with Spin Doctors “Two Princes” and three other songs I don’t remember now. The thing was there was no point that I got tired of it. Tanya Donelly was a demented little pixie to me that was telling me the best story in the entire world about a girl, a squirrel and a tree.

I bought “Star” at first opportunity and it, along with “King” two years later, went on constant repeat for the next four years of my life. I found out everything about the band in the way only an obsessive teenager can. There was definitely a letter written about how, while my best friend was perfectly wonderful, I wanted Tanya to be my real best friend. After all, her music was one of the only things that actually brought me joy in my fucked up life. I, however, never got the chance to see them in concert.

Fast forward to present day and the fact that when I saw they were touring, I pretty much instantly reverted twenty years and squealed like a, well, teenage girl. My husband (being the amazing husband he is) bought tickets for the show and I spent four months eagerly waiting.

Let me tell you, every single moment of that wait was worth it. It was a rough week leading up, with years long friendships ending and heat induced constant irritation and stress with the kids and life in general.

First off, let’s talk about the venue. I rarely get out to go to shows these days so this was my first one at the Union Transfer. It’s, quite honestly, beautiful. The building dates back to 1889 when it opened as the Spring Garden Farmer’s Market and had gone through various iterations through the year before becoming Union Transfer in 2011.

Belly at Union Transfer, August 14, 2016

As for the band, the second they took the stage and Donelly started singing, everything in the world was not only okay, but even beautiful.

Not all of the bands I loved as a teenager have aged well. Singers from some have died. Singers from others have apparently lost it and now appear on InfoWars and run wrestling franchises. Others have just fallen off the map completely. Belly was lightning in a bottle. They aged, but the music (to which I apparently still know every word) was just as perfect in it’s storytelling and pitch. The new songs were just as good as the old. They had a ton of fun up on stage and pulled the audience into the same spell.

I walked away, knowing that I was headed home to three kids and adult life with all the stresses it brings, but for just one second I was that teenage girl with everything still ahead of her and nothing but possibilities. And if that’s not what the live experience is all about these days, I don’t know what is.