Thursday, May 27, 2010

A note on Sex & the City 2. And feminism.

I have only watched a few episodes of this legendary series, but I've now seen both the movies mainly due to Kathy's prodding, and I find I suddenly have a lot to say about it. When it comes to how guys roll their eyes over this show, let me just say: Eh, whatever. When I worked my short stint at Blockbuster, the first movie came out on DVD, and I cannot tell you how many guys pooped their pants just seeing it on the shelves. As soon as they walked in the store, they would practically yell, "I'M NOT HERE TO RENT THAT GAY SEX AND THE CITY MOVIE, OKAY" and I would be like, um, okay. If by chance they WERE renting it, or were with their wife/girlfriend who was renting it, they would also trip all over themselves in their passionate desire to let me know that they wanted to have nothing to do with it. Like, uh. Okay. Whatever. But what I've come to have a problem with is all the ladies out there who roll their eyes at the four little words. And I used to be one of them.

I was never a fan of the show previously because, as a person who's never even worn makeup for crying out loud except during proms in high school when my mom made me, after watching just a few minutes of all the extravagant shopping, all the fancy parties and all that shoe fanfare, I would--guess what--roll my eyes and say, yeah, okay, enough of that crap. Also, can they really never take the subway? Who can afford these apartments in New York City and take a freaking cab every five minutes and buy these $10 drinks every night? And while we're at it, yeah, I really feel sorry for you Carrie Bradshaw, that you get to spend your life in your pajamas writing crappy whiney columns for a living and then going to glamorous parties at night.

But here's the thing: I've grown up a little. And I watched the movies. And there are the obvious truths: that the show is not about all that, it's really about the friendships, and it's really even more just a love letter to New York City. But...yeah, you know, it is a lot about that other stuff, too. The froofy dresses and big hats and crazy get-ups, the shopping, the extravagance. The sex. And I think I've realized that I'm enough of a real feminist now to say: hell yeah, that's feminism. Fashion is feminism. It is saying, I am sexy and strong and creative and proud, just as much as wearing tuxes and screwing gender norms and the patriarchal hierarchy is. It may not be what I'm into, but for many women, it is, and it is empowering and beautiful. Oh, and it's also fun. This was really spelled out for me when I watched an interview with the director, Michael Patrick King, on the Daily Show the other night. When Jon Stewart was asking why the Middle East for the setting of this film, he said something roughly like this, "We thought, what is the most extravagant place we can think of to take all the women in America right now who are struggling and can't go there themselves? Let's go to Abu Dhabi!" I realized, okay, it doesn't matter if Carrie Bradshaw's life is completely unrealistic. What matters is all the ladies in America who watch her, the old women who giggle at every sex reference, who ooh and ahh over the fashion and for an hour or two feel just as luxurious and female as those ladies on the screen. All those ladies in America are, in a small but still meaningful way, being liberated. If you think for some reason that the image of women Sex & the City portrays is demeaning to women, you are just playing into stereotypes and limiting women yourself. Feminists can be lawyers and businesswomen, they can be dykes and they can be straight, they can be happy homemakers and stay at home moms, and they can also spend a truly ridiculous amount of money on one pair of designer strappy sandles, if they want to, and that doesn't make them any less of a feminist than any other women. It just took me awhile to realize that.

Listen, I won't give away any plot points or anything for those people who do like it, but there is one scene near the end of the film where Samantha, distraught and tired after being harassed in the Middle East for her outwardly sexy ways, is struggling to pick up the contents of her bag which have fallen on the street, while being surrounded by a gaggle of angry and offended Middle Eastern men. Eventually she starts shoving her condoms in their faces, yelling, "Yes, okay, yes! I like sex! I LIKE SEX! I LIKE SEX!" Regardless of the fine line of respecting cultural norms or not, it was pretty much one of the best things I've ever seen. Throughout the whole Abu Dahbi part there were strong themes of international female empathy and solidarity, and feeling strong and sexy no matter what's covering your face. Then let's talk about how Carrie and Big don't want to have kids. And it's like, okay, and good. I don't know if I can think of another couple in movies or TV that have that stance, not because they can't have babies and are all emotionally distraught over it, and not because they are angry about the nuclear family prototype, it's just "not for them." And it's fine. And let's just briefly mention another obvious: they are old, okay. They are old, and sexy, and it's awesome.

The relationship storylines can be dramatic, other than Miranda's character which is clearly the best one they can all get kind of annoying at times, but from the little I've seen, there is empowerment all over the place here. If you're a guy and don't get it, whatever, it's not for you anyway. If you're a girl and you don't get it, see the movies. If you're an eye-rolling girl who watches the movies and still don't get it, well, we're all welcome to our opinions. But it's my opinion that you're probably trying too hard to prove yourself right.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Matchbox 20, Yourself or Someone Like You

This album is a solid gold nugget of my nostalgia. Meaning, when it is late at night and I am messing around online and looking at old pictures and feeling some sort of manic-hyper-creative-nostalgic emotions already and absolutely any song from this album happens to play on my iTunes shuffle I think to myself, "Hot damn! This is it, man," and I feel so happy, like I am sixteen and it is late at night and I am messing around online and looking at pictures, which is what I did every night, and feeling some sort of manic-hyper-creative emotions, which is what I felt all the time when I was sixteen. Most nights nowadays I force myself to stay up until 11 or so even though I could probably gladly fall asleep much earlier and then I read the paper in bed for awhile and it's lights out. This routine makes me happy most of the time but still, thank God I still have some manic late nights where I forget everything else except for music and pictures and contemplating my life and enjoying being alone with my nostalgia. Anyway, the truth is, whether or not Matchbox 20 may be the epitome of mediocrity to some folks, this album is a solid gold nugget to me with or without the nostalgia, and that even today when I hear those first few chords of Push I get chills, no joke. I freaking love that song and always will. I don't know why Rob Thomas wants to push someone around so desperately, or what half of the angry lyrics even mean, but I love every second of it and how he says "chya" in Like I'm a little untrusting when I think that the truth is gonna hurt chya and when I sing along when I'm driving alone in my car to one of the goshdarn wonderful radio stations around here which may very well regularly play random tunes like Push and I sing I want to take you for grantedddd, well, hot damn but it feels pretty good. And let's talk about what a good song The Real World is. Real good, that's what. Also, back in middle school I took a vacation to Florida with my dad, because you were always taking vacations to Florida when you lived on the East Coast, and I listened to this CD a lot and every now and then when I hear something off of this album I immediately feel like I am walking down some dusty dirt road surrounded by towering reeds and orange trees listening to Yourself or Someone Like You on my discman, and I am probably making this said dirt road up in my memory, but I always picture it very vividly, which is a very random and personal association but, now you all know.

Also, I really love me a good sad-sounding last track, and Hang on this record is just that track. It reminds me very much of Walkaways, the last track on Counting Crows' Recovering the Satellites (another record which, man, don't get me started). The line I've been to Boston before from Walkaways and We always said it would be good to go away someday from Hang, those speak the same feeling to me, and I don't exactly know what that feeling is, but I felt it a lot when I was sixteen.

Really, to be honest, I still pretty much like most Matchbox 20/Rob Thomas songs I hear nowadays. I don't go out and buy the albums or anything, but then again, I don't really go out and buy the albums of pretty much anything. I hear a song I like, I download it. Every now and then I'll buy a record, but they rarely really get stuck in my conscience, as an overall album, like they used to. Case in point, I did, in fact, awhile ago download How Far We've Come, because that is another rollicking fun pop song. Really, I feel somewhat amazed that Rob Thomas is still making enjoyable pop tunes. They may not change the world a whole bunch or anything, but here's the thing I've figured out: art doesn't always have to change the world. And maybe that just makes me a bad artist, but listen, if it did, you would just be exhausted all the time. And sometimes, you just wanna sing really loudly to Push while you're sitting alone in your car, and if it makes your day just 2% better, well, that is a job well done, my friend.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Four Movies I've Liked Recently.

1. More Than a Game
Kathy and I watched this awhile ago in order to get over college basketball season being over and UNC sucking a whole lot of doody this year, and what a good decision it was, although I shouldn't be surprised that I liked it so much because pretty much any sports documentary will make me cry. This is obvious being that 10 minute pieces on ESPN make me cry. Give me a story about a tough life story and how picking up a basketball (or hockey puck, or baseball bat, or soccer ball) made it better, and set some dramatic music to it, and I am done for. And when these documentaries are done well, they are just really, really good, a la Hoop Dreams, which I saw too long ago to adequately describe but which I remember being pretty much floored by, and which deserves its own entry, someday. This movie follows Lebron James and his high school teammates, and the highlight of the tearfest of this one for us was when, during Lebron James's high school senior night, after everyone else has walked out with their mom and/or dad, he walks out arm in arm with his teammates. BECAUSE THEY ARE HIS FAMILY! Gah!

2. The Blind Side.
Guess what's even better than sports documentaries? Sports movies! Based on true events! They are amazing! I am such a sucker for all of them! I knew I would like this movie a lot, and I did. The end. Also, I love Sandra Bullock and nobody best be givin' her any crap 'round me, aight. Also, I dismiss the white-hero-saving-the-downtrodden-black-man criticism for this one. Because 1) the issue is addressed in the movie; 2) it's a true story, and a good one, so it's not just like some guilt-ridden white person decided to write a touching screenplay, at least, not completely; 3) this is a very legitimate criticism about art/stories/the media overall that I do take seriously. But if you cry foul every time, it makes it seem offensive for any person of a different race to do good things for any person of another race ever, which is just too cynical for me, and everything becomes increasingly separate and the opposite of what we should all be striving for.

3. It's Complicated.
Kathy and I consumed a lot of wine during the viewing of this, which we don't do that much anymore, and which accordingly made us downright silly throughout. Although let's be honest, wine or no wine, I will watch absolutely anything with Meryl Streep in it, and I will like it. However, the wine probably did contribute to our perhaps overly-zealous amusement during the scene in which Alec Baldwin exhales pot smoke directly into John Krasinski's mouth, during which we truly almost both peed our pants, and which should probably be marked as one of the finest scenes in cinematic history.

4. How to Train Your Dragon.
So Kathy had heard good things about this and convinced me to go, and admittedly since I always like going to the movies no matter what the film I didn't need much convincing, but I was pretty much expecting an okay-but-entertaining Shrek-ish type two hours, especially when we were the only ones without children in the theater. But OH MAN. OH. MAN. As the credits started to roll I turned to Kathy and said, "That was FANTASTIC," and rarely do I feel the need to use the word "fantastic" and so emphatically. In addition to the characters being well developed and the writing being real good in my opinion, this was plain and simple one of the best and most fun action movies I have seen in a long time. For the entire second half I was pretty much glued to the edge of my seat, and there is one scene where the boy and his dragon are falling straight into this huge ball of fire where I actually might have gasped out loud in awe of its, well, awesomeness. Go see this movie! It was fantastic!

In summary: I really like sports movies, kids' cartoons, and romantic comedies about old people. This makes me a combination of a 13 year old boy and a 50 year old woman. Which sounds about right.