Tag Archive for film

Neither closet nor fridge: Or how Marvel’s Deadpool needs to take care of female and LGBTQ characters

With the rising popularity of comic book storylines turned movies, Marvel has been dominating the box office and the public’s interest for a few years now.

Most Marvel fans (myself included) have a favorite movie, a favorite avenger, and a favorite future project they’re looking forward to. (For me, they are Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America, and Captain America: Civil War—anyone see a pattern yet?) Even if you find a die-hard fan of DC Comics, you can be sure that they’re familiar with the Marvel universe as well since it’s an almost unavoidable phenomenon.

One of the most recent installments in the Marvel universe was Deadpool, an irreverent, witty, and incredibly self-aware origin story that paints the main character (played by Ryan Reynolds) as anything but a hero. He’s a “bad guy who kills other bad guys.” Deadpool starts out as a mercenary and ends the movie as a man who’s gotten his revenge. Sure, he has a future as a reluctant superhero, but it’s more than likely he’ll be a thorn in the sides of the other superheroes.

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The film version of Deadpool has gained some serious critical attention and made Marvel history by featuring an openly and explicitly pansexual character, which means that any potential romantic interest he has isn’t limited by gender. His partner in the current film is indeed a woman, but Deadpool’s attraction to folks of other genders isn’t invalidated by this fact. Ryan Reynolds has even spoken in favor of Deadpool getting a boyfriend in a future film, and fans (myself included) would love to see that.

The only hesitation that I have with this idea is his current partner, Vanessa (played by Morena Baccarin).

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Most of the film focuses on this relationship, even [SPOILER ALERT!] placing Vanessa in a vulnerable position that Deadpool rescues her from, allowing for a reconciliation at the end of the film.

This means that if Vanessa’s still with him in the sequel, then we’re most likely going to see one of two things happen:

1: Deadpool doesn’t get a boyfriend (which is such a drag, honestly, it’s about time).

or

2: Vanessa will be suddenly unavailable to Deadpool, allowing him to find a boyfriend.

But this presents a problem: I adore Vanessa. She’s sweet and smart and funny and retains agency even though her role at this point is mainly that of a love interest. She and Deadpool have a great relationship, and as of right now, I don’t see any reason for them to break up and I certainly don’t want them to.

You might be wondering why I wouldn’t want Deadpool and Vanessa to break up. If it means a well-known male superhero gets a boyfriend, and their relationship serves as open and obvious representation for LGBTQ+ folks in a way that’s handled with the proper respect, there shouldn’t be an issue, right?

To be clear, my issue isn’t with a potential male love interest, but rather with what would have to happen to take Vanessa out of the equation.

So often, superhero storylines rely on tired tropes when it comes to their female characters, whether they’re love interests or protagonists. These tropes include the Disposable Love Interest, who is left out with little to no explanation in the sequel, or the Disposable Woman, whose main role is most often to get kidnapped or killed in order to move the protagonist’s plot forward.

The worst trope originated in a Green Lantern comic storyline and is referred to as Stuffed into the Fridge or “fridging,” and it’s as bad as it sounds. An often female character close to the hero is killed and left behind for the protagonist to find, sometimes as the start of a revenge plotline, but always for the main male character’s development even though the female character will get little to no attention or development as a result of her brutal murder. In the Green Lantern comic, for instance, the hero’s girlfriend was shoved into the refrigerator for him to discover later.

My point is I don’t want Vanessa to go through any of this.

There was beautiful and careful attention given to fleshing out Vanessa’s character and her relationship with Deadpool in the first film, and she and the other female characters have so much potential moving forward.

It would be easier for the writers to kill off Vanessa in the next film than it would be for them to have to fully utilize her character (It would also be the lazier thing to do on their part.) Is this a bit pessimistic? Sure. But check out the list of women who’ve been fridged in comics before (warning: the descriptions in this link are brief but potentially triggering since they often refer to varying levels of abuse and violence), and you might also start worrying that yet another writing team will fall back on lazy writing rather than spending the time it takes to be innovative.

If the writers really need any ideas about Vanessa’s future role in Deadpool’s life, here are some suggestions about what they could do with her:

—The two of them could mutually decide to breakup in order to avoid any more damsel-in-distress moments.

—Vanessa could have a new job opportunity.

—Or she could have some cool powers that elevate her from girlfriend to partner-in-crime.

—They could break up but still be on good terms as friends (allowing her to poke fun at him in front of his new boyfriend).

—They could literally do anything besides killing her.

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My point is this: it’s fantastic that big blockbuster movies—especially ones rooted in comics—are making an effort to become more inclusive of LGBTQ+ characters, but let’s not have that move forward happen at the expense of women.

—Molly C.

Tackling the teen movie: the role that body image and bulimia plays in Heathers

We’ve all had that movie we completely underestimated when we first approached it. That movie we thought was going to be okay but wasn’t a priority. That movie that ended up changing your life, the one that made you wonder why you waited so long to see it: The Surprise.

One of my dear friends had never seen the Lord of the Rings movies before, assuming they were silly and probably not her thing, but she sat through the first one with me anyway (partially because she’s a saint and partially because I badgered her until she did).

The Lord of the Rings was The Surprise for her. She was never much of a fantasy fan, but there was something really special about the the storyline and the visuals that she hadn’t expected to find there.

I’ve always been willing to give most fantasy movies and cult classics a try, but for some reason I had never gotten around to watching Heathers.

As a fan huge fan of Mean Girls, I was told that Heathers acted almost as a precursor to the film, that there were the same kind of social dynamics addressed, and that, like Mean GirlsHeathers validated the struggles of teenage girls. I was also excited to see that someone had turned it into a musical as well.

Spoilers ahead, so if you haven't seen it, what are you waiting for?

Spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t seen it, what are you waiting for?

What I didn’t expect was for Heathers to draw me in with ’80s movie charm mixed with an irreverent and all-too-honest humor. The focus on murder and suicide was also a little bit jarring.

Heathers is an incredibly important film, putting some serious social weight behind its jokes. It addresses eating disorders and the way that we see food as well as body size as well as the way that our bodies affect how people see us.

 

Grow up, Heather. Bulimia is so ’87.

The film features a trio of beautiful, rich, popular girls that seem to run their high school. All of them are named Heather. Shannen Doherty plays Heather Duke, the bookish opportunist who’s most often seen wearing green and most often victimized by Heather Chandler (played by Kim Walker), the group’s fearless leader.

One of the first scenes in the movie shows Duke calling for help from inside a bathroom stall, after which Veronica (played by Winona Ryder) quips, “A true friend’s work is never done” while wiggling her index finger. Although it’s not shown on camera—thank god—it’s clear that Duke is plagued by an eating disorder, one that makes the other Heathers tell her offhandedly to “Grow up, Heather. Bulimia is so ’87.”

The other Heathers don’t take Duke’s plight seriously, and even Veronica’s suggestion that “maybe you should see a doctor” is quiet and only uttered while she files a nail. Duke reacts by looking uncomfortable, shrugging it off with a “yeah, maybe.”

It’s clear that Heather Duke will not be going to a doctor.

I know I was appalled when I saw that Duke’s friends were barely reacting to her eating disorder, but for them it was a non-issue. In the context of the film, it seems as though Heather is expected to continue to purge if she wants to keep her already shaky spot in the Heathers’ clique, and the dialogue suggests that she’s not the only one dealing with this kind of issue. If bulimia is “so ’87,” then there must be other eating disorders in vogue at the time, maybe not even disguised as crash diets or cleanses.

The exaggerated nonchalance in these characters’ attitudes toward eating disorders isn’t just a product of the movie. Young women in our society are constantly inundated with images of skinnier and skinnier bodies that they have to aspire to, and they often resort to extremes to achieve that kind of body.

And while I’m willing to admit that movies have gotten a little better about including actors of all sizes, the majority of them are still incredibly skinny and, at the same time, actors with bigger bodies are still used as punch lines.

While Hollywood might still have trouble with body image, Heather Duke takes a turn after Heather Chandler’s shocking death. Once the news gets around school, Duke starts stuffing her face with chicken. Her friends notice; Veronica jokes that she needs to “watch it” since she “might be digesting food there,” and Heather McNamarra (played by Lisanne Falk) asks, “where’s your ‘urge to purge’?”

Duke’s response?

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She says “fuck it,” throwing away the chicken bone like she throws away her attachment to her eating disorder. Duke doesn’t seem to care anymore about how food is going to affect her anymore. Heather Chandler isn’t there to put that kind of pressure on her.

Duke was consistently scrutinized and picked, particularly by Heather Chandler, and with that girl’s death, Duke feels able to eat freely. While it’s not quite that easy to come back from an eating disorder, the sentiment is clear. Sometimes you just need to eat, whatever the consequences.

 

You can live the dream or you can die alone!

If Heather Duke struggled to stay afloat in high school, her classmate Martha Dunstock (played by Carrie Lynn) was virtually drowning. Stuck with the nickname Martha “Dumptruck,” she’s living proof that social hierarchies, especially those in high schools, rest uncomfortably and uncontrollably on the body. Martha doesn’t interact with any of her classmates, sits alone at lunch, and is laughed out of the cafeteria when she tries to speak to one of the football players.

It’s clear that while Veronica and some of the other students have the opportunity to get on the Heathers’ good sides and move up in social status, Martha never has that chance. The Heathers even test Veronica by writing a fake love note from a football player and pressuring her to put it on Martha’s tray. Veronica keeps saying that she doesn’t have an issue with Martha, but since her friends think it’s funny, she makes herself complicit in Martha’s humiliation.

It’s a minor moment, but the prank that the Heathers and Veronica pull on Martha illustrates how difficult it is to be fat in high school. Even Veronica, who has no issue with Martha, is willing to help make her life a living hell because she doesn’t want to say no to the Heathers. The message is that it doesn’t matter how you feel if you don’t act accordingly; Veronica could have easily been Martha’s ally, but it was easier for her to let her othering continue.

Veronica manages to get it right by the end of the film though. After watching her classmates die at her the hands of her boyfriend (played by Christian Slater) and desperately fighting to stop him from blowing up the school, it’s a lot easier for her to put her values in perspective. She gives up on the school’s social hierarchy, snatching the red scrunchie from Heather Duke and proclaiming herself the new sheriff in town before inviting Martha over for a movie.

By renouncing the Heathers’ high school pettiness, Veronica is able to begin making amends for the harm she helped cause. She’s not absolved of responsibility, but the movie ends on a hopeful note as Martha and Veronica walk away together, metaphorically into the sunset.

—Molly C.

Dear White People thankfully tells it like it really is

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Dear White People

Director Justin Simien debuted his first feature film, Dear White People, at Sundance Sunday yesterday.

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Dear White People takes us into an all-black dorm at a fictional Ivy League school during a time when the campus is struggling with race relations.

The film ultimately tells the story of young people of color having to live in a racist society that calls itself post-racial. Very real conversations about everything from Tyler Perry movies and black hair to interracial relationships and black politicians/presidents make this a hilarious comedy that attacks very real issues.

In the beginning, there is an election for “Head of House” or leader of the dorm, and controversial black power feminist Samantha “Sam” White runs against Troy, the clean-cut incumbent who is also her ex-boyfriend. In one scene Sam slyly says that she doesn’t think she will win because Big Mama 3 exists.

Throughout the film, Sam speaks openly about the farce of female sexuality in the media and in society. In that way, this film is one of the most important I’ve seen at Sundance so far and probably the most quotable too since it contains lines like this gem: “Dear White People, the amount of black friends required not to seem racist has just been raised to two.”

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Teyonah Parris (who plays Coco in DEAR WHITE PEOPLE) with Leah at the Sundance Film Festival.

LEAH RAILEY is a senior at Western Kentucky University majoring in creative writing and minoring in gender and women’s studies. Born and raised in Georgia, Leah considers Kentucky her second home. In her free time, Leah watches Netflix and Hulu (her favorite show right now is Scandal) and claims she reads too many fashion magazines. She has written articles for zines and the WKU Herald, focusing on issues relating to race, class, and gender.

Female friendship and nostalgia in Forever Not Alone

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Forever Not Alone

Forever Not Alone premiered at Slamdance, a local film festival that occurs around the same time as Sundance.

forever not alone

This documentary, directed by Monja Art and Caroline Bobek, follows a group of 13- to 14-year-old girls as they explore the intimacy of friendship at such a young age, specifically how young girls perceive sex, music, and life.

The film causes the viewer to feel a good deal of yearning. I certainly felt nostalgia for my youth as I was reminded of what it’s like to be young: trading makeup and secrets, losing friends as they move away, and talking about sex (but only in reference to what I read in Seventeen magazine).

The girls compliment each other appropriately and lift each other up in the way good family should. This is because, in their world, they are family, and it only becomes evident that time is fleeting when the summer’s end brings about the news of moving vans and new schools.

Forever Not Alone is a beautiful documentary that is simultaneously funny, sad, and sweet.

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Western Kentucky University students Ryan Duvall, Leah, and Maggie Woodward waiting to see a film at the Sundance Film Festival.

LEAH RAILEY is a senior at Western Kentucky University majoring in creative writing and minoring in gender and women’s studies. Born and raised in Georgia, Leah considers Kentucky her second home. In her free time, Leah watches Netflix and Hulu (her favorite show right now is Scandal) and claims she reads too many fashion magazines. She has written articles for zines and the WKU Herald, focusing on issues relating to race, class, and gender.

Laggies gives us something we really need: a story about two female friends figuring out who they are

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Laggies

Laggies, directed by Lynn Shelton, is a witty and sweet movie that focuses on the unlikely friendship of a 28-year-old woman and a teenage girl.

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Megan (Kiera Knightly) and Annika (Chloe Grace Moretz) are characters who mirror each other in that Megan’s behavior is much like that of an adolescent. She has crushes, partakes in casual sex, and stays out late at night, reminding the viewer of the similarities adults often forget they have with young people.

The movie also conveys how often women feel they must put on a facade to live up to expectations in their lives. In Megan’s case, her facade consists of going to seminars and getting married and losing a sense of individuality through her boyfriend. For Annika, it is the fear of being vulnerable that holds her back from letting someone get close to her.

Laggies is a wonderful coming of age film about two young women—a teenager and a twenty-something—figuring out who they are.

*

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Leah with Western Kentucky Professor Dawn Hall
at the Sundance Film Festival

LEAH RAILEY is a senior at Western Kentucky University majoring in creative writing and minoring in gender and women’s studies. Born and raised in Georgia, Leah considers Kentucky her second home. In her free time, Leah watches Netflix and Hulu (her favorite show right now is Scandal) and claims she reads too many fashion magazines. She has written articles for zines and the WKU Herald, focusing on issues relating to race, class, and gender.

HitRECord delivers with real, diverse people

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HitRECord on TV

The screening of the first three episodes of HitRECord on TV also showed on Friday at Sundance.

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In this new series, director and producer Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s production company has created a wonderful variety show that views like a motion picture version of a zine.

What I like about HitRECord is that all of the people are just normal everyday people. They don’t live in Hollywood, they don’t look Hollywood, but they are still wonderfully interesting.

Another thing I appreciate about the show is, because it features non-Hollywood people, the representation of minority groups is far better than anything else I’ve seen at Sundance so far. People of different ethnicities, races, disabilities, and talents were all featured. In that way, the representation of diverse groups is phenomenal.

The biggest problem I have is that Gordon-Levitt and other Hollywood actors star in a lot of the short films even though I’m sure there are other HitRECord contributors that can act as well. It would have been much cooler to see everyday people actually acting.

The first three episodes take on various themes and topics. Beauty and sexuality are both talked about in various ways based on each person’s experience, and it will be interesting to see where the show goes with these issues.

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Overall this was a wonderful experience, and it didn’t hurt that the very talented Gordon-Levitt was there in the flesh, right in front of me.

 

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Western Kentucky University faculty and students at the Sundance Film Festival. Left to right: Professor Ted Hovet, Maggie Woodward, Leah, and Professor Dawn Hall.

LEAH RAILEY is a senior at Western Kentucky University majoring in creative writing and minoring in gender and women’s studies. Born and raised in Georgia, Leah considers Kentucky her second home. In her free time, Leah watches Netflix and Hulu (her favorite show right now is Scandal) and claims she reads too many fashion magazines. She has written articles for zines and the WKU Herald, focusing on issues relating to race, class, and gender.

Kicking off the Sundance Film Festival with the bad mother trope in The Babadook

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When I first arrived in Park City, the town was as sleepy as it normally is throughout the year, but as soon as the Festival started on Thursday, I was surrounded by tall, skinny—or, for the men, fit—people who all looked like models, actors, and snazzy business people.

Now that I have somewhat acclimated to the climate, the busy buzzing industry people, and the area around me, I can begin to let my first movies sink in.

 

The Babadook

the-babadook-4-600x381First off, my favorite film on Friday was probably The Babadook. Directed by Jennifer Kent, the film stars Essie Davis as Amelia and Noah Wiseman as her son Samuel. The film debuted in the “Park City at Midnight” category, which fits the festival’s thrilling insomniac theme.

The Babadook is a film about a woman who loses her husband on the way to the hospital to deliver her son. This accident overshadows the rest of their lives, especially when the son becomes obsessed with “The Babadook,” a character in a children’s book.

The film wasn’t too frightening, but it takes on a topic that is scary because of its ubiquity. The movie, I quickly realized, was a psychological thriller about a woman battling her inner demons. What makes this film less Black Swan and more Mama is the terrific lethal boogey monster that can possess people like a demon.

Besides providing us with another “bad mother” story, Kent shows us a vulnerable woman who finds strength in herself with the help of her son, and therein lies the strength of this film.

Amelia is no Katniss Everdeen or Sidney Prescott. Instead this woman is tired, unstable, and in mourning for most of the film. The only time we see her strength is at the very end after she’s grown as a result of what’s happened to her.

Amelia isn’t sexualized either, but instead sexually frustrated and finding refuge in a vibrator; she isn’t a Hollywood belle either, but a woman who looks exhausted as she should. And the film portrays a struggling single mother in a way that is very sad and in no way glamourous or romanticized.

I mostly enjoyed this film, even if it did play like an overdramatized Abilify commercial. I could have done without Amelia’s obnoxious and sexist co-worker who makes immature remarks like when he tells her to go “in the kitchen, just where I like my women.”

Overall this is a movie that I would suggest one should rent on a cold night—you won’t be too afraid to watch it, but you might hesitate closing your eyes.

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Leah (in red on the right) with her Western Kentucky University classmates at the Sundance Film Festival

LEAH RAILEY is a senior at Western Kentucky University majoring in creative writing and minoring in gender and women’s studies. Born and raised in Georgia, Leah considers Kentucky her second home. In her free time, Leah watches Netflix and Hulu (her favorite show right now is Scandal) and claims she reads too many fashion magazines. She has written articles for zines and the WKU Herald, focusing on issues relating to race, class, and gender.

Before Midnight Part I: Why we need more actresses who look like Julie Delpy

My piece on Before Midnight appears at Bitch Flicks today, and I hope you’ll read it.

In that piece, I talk about what’s wrong with the writing in Before Midnight, the third film in the Richard Linklater Before Sunrise/Before Sunset trilogy.

But I want to talk here about what’s right. And what’s right in that film is how real Julie Delpy looks.

In Before Midnight, Delpy has a few wrinkles…

fleshy arms…

big hips and thick thighs,

a real butt and real hips…

and a bit of a stomach…

Simply put, Delpy looks like a real person—flaws and all.

Despite this, she also looks stunningly beautiful, sending the important message that we can look real and have flaws and still be beautiful. 

If we had more women on our screens who looked this real and this good at the same time, we would probably all feel a lot better about ourselves and have more attainable role models.

In the Nicole Holofcener film, Lovely and Amazing, Emily Mortimer plays a struggling actress obsessed with her appearance.

In one scene, she stands stark naked in front of another actor (played by Dermot Mulroney) and asks him to describe her flaws. But when she tells her mother what’s wrong with her appearance, her mother balks and insists she is “lovely and amazing.”

That about sums about how I feel about Mortimer’s supposed flaws.

And Delpy’s too.

And all of the rest of ours for that matter.

It’s Women’s History Month! Celebrate by seeing The Hunger Games and vote with your dollars this weekend!

Recently I did a short interview for the English majors blog here at Western Kentucky University about what I’m doing to celebrate Women’s History Month.

According to the Library of Congress, Women’s History Month “had its origins as a national celebration in 1981 when Congress asked the President to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982 as ‘Women’s History Week.’ . . .  Since 1995, Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama have issued a series of annual proclamations designating the month of March as ‘Women’s History Month.'”

I had to think for a little bit about what I’m doing in honor of this month-long celebration of women when first asked the question, and here’s what I came up with:

“I’m a firm believer in the idea of ‘voting’ with our dollars, meaning we should spend our money on the groups we want to support. One of the groups I most want to support is female artists, so this month I’m going to try to spend my free time reading books and seeing films by women.

Women are grossly underrepresented in Hollywood, so I’m really excited about Friends with Kids by first-time director Jennifer Westfeldt. I also plan to see The Hunger Games, which is adapted from Suzanne Collin’s wonderful dystopian novel.

Though women are better represented in publishing than they are in film, they are still not getting the same ‘air time’ as male writers. For that reason, I hope to read several books by women this month. I’m currently reading Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club and will start Mishna Wolff’s I’m Down as soon as I’m done with that. Also, Bobbie Ann Mason will be at the Southern Kentucky Bookfest in April, so I hope to read one of her books this month too.

Finally, I have asked all of the readers of my blog to look in the mirror and find something they like about themselves in my ‘Five easy steps for celebrating women everywhere’ post.'”

If for some odd reason, you haven’t taken these five steps yet, please do so now! I promise it will take you leass than five minutes, and you’ll be happy you did it.

Also, be sure to see The Hunger Games this weekend (the preview is above), an amazing story about a strong young woman who refuses to give up her life or her identity. Miss it, and you’ll be left out of what will ceratintly be some heated discussion about it over the next few days and week.

As it says in the book, “The world will be watching,” so you should too.

I’ll be posting my review of The Hunger Games next week so you’ll want to check back here for that too.

 

I need your help this week!

I’ve written before about the Hollywood obsession with pairing gorgeous actresses with schlubby actors in my posts about The Dilemma . . .

and Couples Retreat . . .

And now I’m working on a longer piece about the subject.

To help me out, will you all please tell me about any movies or television shows which you think include a beautiful woman paired with a less attractive guy?

Your help is much appreciated!

—Molly

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