Saturday, October 24, 2009

Stupid Sexist Swiffer

We've all seen those annoying Swiffer commercials in which a mop or broom or duster just can't get over being replaced by a Swiffer product...

So here's a mini-guest blog from my 9-year-old daughter. (The title was her idea.) She really doesn't like those commercials...
Dear Swiffer,

I think your commercials are totally sexist. There is no good reason why in all your commercials there is a girl cleaning the house with Swiffer. Why are there only women doing the cleaning? It makes just as much sense that a man would be doing the cleaning of the house. Yes, some women do housecleaning, but some women don't. And it's not the only thing that women can do.

In your next commercial I think you should have a man doing the cleaning. The mop or broom can sing the song "Come Back To Me" by Vanessa Hudgens. (I'm not saying that you should actually do that song, because they might not be able to get permission to use it.) It would just be nice to see the genders reversed and have a girl mop singing to a guy using a Swiffer.

It's also pretty creepy that the joke of the commercials is that your mop or broom are following you around. They're kind of stalking you. Why would anybody want that? Imagine if it was your ex-boyfriend or girlfriend doing that? Would you want that to happen? I dont think so. It's not funny, it's scary. It happens to real people and it's not good to make a joke about something serious that happens to real people, just so you can sell a stupid Swiffer.
Her very first guest blog about sexism in the media... I'm so proud!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fame Lite

Recently I was dragged by two 9-year-olds to see the new Fame movie.

I feel a little funny calling it "Fame" because it's really just a watered down "reinvention" that is merely trying to capitalize off of the popularity of the 1980 original. It's more like "Fame Lite". They would have been better off calling it "Musical High School" or something like that (although, that probably would have been criticized as trying to capitalize off of the popularity of the High School Musical franchise, which yeah they sort of are doing too). If they had just promoted it as "High School Musical: New York Style" it might have actually worked but as Fame it just falls flat.

Director Kevin Tancharoen explained why he didn't try to do a straight remake:
"Coco, Leroy, Bruno, Ralph, you cannot cast them again. [...] If you recast them, you will already have people who hate it, and I know there will be haters no matter what. You can, however, take the original idea and core message and integrity and play it to 2009."
The problem was that he didn't maintain the original message or integrity either. It's not that they didn't try to take inspiration from the original, because it seems that they did... The problem is that that inspiration didn't turn into anything really worth watching. For example, instead of the famous scene where Coco (Irene Cara) cries as she takes off her top for a sleazy fake casting director with a camera, the PG version gives us Jenny (Kay Panabaker) "running lines" with an actor who it turns out just wants to make out with her. After all of the juicy R-rated movie content (abortion, drug use, homosexuality) was stripped away, all that's really left is some PG singing and dancing.

Apparently I'm not the only person who feels this way. Sir Alan Parker, the director of the original 1980 Fame, described the remake as "dreadful". In fact, he compared the whole project to being mugged:
"It's a bit like being mugged. Such are the realities of Hollywood manners and American copyright law. [...] I feel very much that Fame is mine. I spent months with the kids at the school then spent a year making the movie. You do the work and make it as good as it can be, and you try to protect it. Then, because the copyright is owned by the studio, as with almost all American feature films, they can do a remake like this. It's extremely galling. There is no other area of the arts where you can do that."
Kevin Tancharoen, the remake's director, claimed in a recent interview that he had Parker's blessings and seal of approval, but Parker says this is untrue. "I have never had a single phone call from anyone - the studio, the producers - about this remake. No-one spoke to me about it. To say so is absolute nonsense." Parker is considering legal action over the use of the original Fame logo (the studio doesn't own the rights to that).

The critics have also been... well, critical. Here are some excerpts from a few of our favorite disses.

Lee Black, MSNBC:

Kevin Tancharoen knows what dancers do but keeps the movie as bright and scrubbed as a recent Disney Channel TV movie about some kids in an all-singing, all-dancing high school. [...]F-words: R-rated 1980 version = 39, PG-rated 2009 remake = 0. Whether you think that’s an improvement or not depends on your need to hear the way teenagers actually speak vs. your desires for an illusory “We’re All In This Together” cuddle-fest.
David Foucher, EDGE United States:
Alas, there’s nothing subversive or remotely steamy about "Fame" in 2009. The precursor had the audacity to tackle shocking issues in 1980: abortion, drug abuse, religion, and nudity. Here, an apparent attempt to latch onto the "High School Musical" demographic has crippled the film’s traction, leaving it largely without a significant thematic purpose in favor of a general admonishment that desire without hard work won’t get you fame. Duh. [...]

Either way, the movie is a soulless, inconsequential, vapid, hideously boring waste of time. That’s a shame, given the courageous nature of its predecessor and the culture of instant fame-making we live with thanks to reality television today. This should have been a creatively fulfilling remake; instead, "Fame" just leaves you creatively famished.

Fame gives us all four years of lessons learned, careers begun and hopes dashed, and that's just too much to cover with too many characters for this to gel. Quick sketches of characters, quicker sketches of their homelife, don't add to a complete portrait.

And if you're going to censor this material in imitation of The Disney Channel's greatest hit, you'd better fill in the holes with fun. Fame forgets that.

I could totally see this cast of teachers starring in a new TV version of Fame. But if you're just trying to reprise High School Musical, I don't think I'd bother watching it.

Jeffrey M. Anderson, Cinematical:
The new remake of Fame will appeal to pre-teens who hope to go to performing arts schools, but who -- implausibly -- have never seen any other movies, or plays, or dance performances or music recitals. Moreover, they must not yet possess the ability to tell good performance from bad, nor truly inspired plot twists from hackneyed ones. Parents, on the other hand, will find that the movie sucks their will to live. [...]

Tancharoen also tries to capture a "gritty" New York City feel, and his attempt is a failure; one shot of Times Square only reminds us that it has become a "walking mall," and a million miles away from the world of the original Fame. Despite all the collective experience of the teachers, not one of the students ever shows a moment of truth or real personality; it's all pre-programmed, test-marketed product for teens to consume, even if they don't know why. As for myself, as a lifelong lover of film and an admirer or artistic personality, I found this one of the year's most abysmally awful, depressing movie experiences.
Stephen Farber, Hollywood Reporter:
Let's be clear. The original movie, despite its iconic stature, was no classic. The script was riddled with cliches and overheated melodramatic confrontations. Nevertheless, the energy of the young performers propelled it. While this new version retains the basic structure of following several kids over four years at New York's High School of Performing Arts, it's been diluted in almost every imaginable way. [...]

Tancharoen doesn't weave the stories together gracefully, and the musical sequences are edited in the chop-chop MTV style that does no favors to the performers. Marguerite Derricks' choreography is lively, though very few dance routines are played out at any length. The new "Fame" is like a series of snippets and teasers for a movie still waiting to be made.
Peter Paras, E Online (UK):

Review in a Hurry: The '80s sensation is reborn for the High School Musical generation. But sadly, this one's all fame, no journey. [...]

At 90 minutes, cramming in four years of hopes and dreams at the fabled New York City High School of Performing Arts feels like one long music video, rather than a movie.

Kherington Payne of So You Think You Can Dance

If you loved the original Fame, don't go see this movie. You will be sorely disappointed. If you're into watching teenagers sing and dance and be overly emotive (or you happen to be between the ages of 8 and 16), then you might enjoy "Fame Lite". It's actually not a terrible movie - some of those kids are pretty damn talented - but it pales in comparison to the real Fame.

So my advice is: if you do go see this movie, pretend that it's not a remake and just try to enjoy it for what it is... instead of what it isn't.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Jennifer's Body

We were very excited to go see the much hyped movie Jennifer's Body because we think Diablo Cody is pretty damn cool and believe it or not, we dig Megan Fox. We weren't sure what to expect from Jennifer's Body because we had heard a lot of mixed commentary on the film before it came out.

There was, of course, the required Diablo Cody hype over the film. Will it live up to Juno? Will it be funny or sexy or stupid or... feminist? Bitch magazine wrote an interesting feminist or anti-feminist pro/con list. They raise some interesting points: the film is written and directed by women (Cody and Karyn Kusama, respectively) and features two strong female lead characters, played by Fox and Amanda Seyfried. And some have argued that perhaps the story of a sexy woman using supernatural powers to destroy young men may have some overtones of female empowerment. Maybe.
On the other hand, it portrays the two leads as stereotypes - Needy, the nerdy blonde and Jennifer, the sexy brunette - as best friends turned rivals (ala Betty and Veronica) - and has a (gasp!) faux-lesbian kiss, so clearly some people were against Jennifer's Body from the start. We were certainly interested in finding out what this movie was really all about.

Oh and before we start the actual review, we just wanted to share the fact that we were actually carded to get into this movie. Yes. Someone questioned whether we were over 18. Really. This has nothing to do with the film itself, but it definitely helped make our movie-going experience even better. Even if they were just humoring us, it still felt good. Our movie-going experience was further enhanced by the fact that instead of the typical popcorn, we were munching on leftover bacon from our drunken brunch. Because bacon is delicious.

Okay, back to the movie... It was gory and funny and sexy at the same time; always a great combination. It wasn't exactly the next great feminist horror movie that some people were hoping for, but you know what, neither Cody nor Kusama ever suggested that they were trying to create the next great feminist horror movie. I think they were just trying to make a funny, fun, clever, kick ass movie and in that respect, they have succeeded.

Yes, Cody has been quoted as saying that she and Kusama, "wanted to subvert the classic horror model of women being terrorized" but that doesn't mean that the film has to meet some impossible feminist standard. From a recent interview with The Frisky:’s a problem that is holding back feminism and you see it on the blogs. We all hold each other up to an incredibly high standard in a way that men do not. Let’s say a woman directs a movie that’s not very good—everybody piles up on her. It’s, like, “No! You’re representing us! It has to be perfect!” And that’s not how it works! Women should be allowed to make bad movies. Good movies. Porno movies. Terrible made-for-TV movies. Women just need to be out there directing as many movies as men do. We don’t all have to be the model woman—what we need is to be more visible. We really, really are tough on each other."
Of course, that's not to say that there aren't some intentional feminist elements added to the film...
So, I’m curious, when you’re writing roles for women, do you purposely try to write a feminist message?
My feminist hat is permanently welded to my head—I definitely can’t take it off! It’s so important for me to write things from the female perspective and in service of women and in the right roles for women. That’s usually what I’m thinking going into it. Obviously, the story goes first. But then my next priority is how am I going to sneak my subversive feminist message into this?
Do you always think the female perspective is the feminist perspective, though?
No, not always. But I think representation is obviously the first step to equality, so if women aren’t being represented in a diverse way in movies, they’re going to remain marginalized.
Some have criticized the movie for being anti-feminist, claiming that Fox's character is objectified and damned basically for being a slut. While I definitely don't think this was Cody's intended message, the fact that Fox's character is referred to as an "impure sacrifice" and cursed to demonhood simply because she wasn't a virgin could feel a little bit slut-shamey on the surface. Although, in reality, she would have died had she actually been a virgin (instead of being able to live on, albeit as a demon). So if anything, the film can be looked at as slut-empowering! Jennifer isn't just sexy, she's sexy... with super powers!

And without stepping further into "objectification" mode, we do have to admit that Megan Fox really is super sexy. Even while eating some dead guy, covered in blood, she still looks kinda hot. You gotta respect that. It's really the true test... if you can still look hot while drinking someone's blood, then you are super hot. (Another good example of this phenomenon is Alexander Skarsgaard as Eric from True Blood.)

One main part of the film that we didn't like was the really annoying fact that the dumbasses from Low Shoulder had a book on witchcraft mixed in with the books about Satanism and the occult in their van. Witches don't worship Satan! They don't even believe in Satan, let alone worship or make sacrifices to him. Witches/Wiccans and Satanists aren't remotely the same thing. I know that this movie isn't exactly supposed to be 100% factual, but can we please get past this offensive misconception already!?

One thing they did get right was the sometimes awesome, sometimes totally messed up dynamic of being a high school girl. "Hell is a teenaged girl." Amidst all the blood and gore and folklore, it's the real life stuff that is spot on. Needy and Jennifer, despite seeming so different, are BFFs since childhood. However it soon becomes clear that Jennifer walks all over Needy, while Needy turns a blind eye to Jennifer's actions for way too long before finally standing up to her. It takes actual bloody violence for Needy to recognize that maybe Jennifer's sort of a bitch.
Needy: You're a terrible best friend. You stole my toys when we were little. You poured lemonade on my bed.
Jennifer: And now I'm eating your boyfriend. At least I'm consistent.
So many critics have referred to this movie as a revenge story and it is, but they're wrong on who the revenge is on. This is not a story of a girl punishing the jerky guys who treated her bad. The guys she goes after are not bad guys. (She'd be better off going after the devil-worshiping indie band that tried to kill her in the first place.) No, this is Mean Girls with a demonic twist. In the same way that people were thrilled to see Queen Bee Regina George get taken down a notch or two, there is a sick satisfaction in seeing Needy take on the evil Jennifer. And that's "actually evil. Not high school evil." We're not really into those stereotypes about female jealousy or rivalry, but the fact is that many of us did know - and were quite possibly terrorized by - a girl like Jennifer.

Since it seems like everyone on Earth has weighed in on the film at this point, we thought we'd round up a few of our favorite quotes from reviews and blog posts:
The fact of the matter is, this film is so radically and refreshingly both funny and scary from a female perspective, the boys simply don’t know what to do with it. Exploring the bloody aftermath of a demonic possession that befalls a small town cheerleader, this film delivers the kind of snarky, brutal, bored, awesome teen banter that made Heathers a cult classic. And while the violence is adequately gorey, the real terror in the plot lies in its metaphorical exploration of obsessive friendship between girls, and how volatile, aggressive, and explosive these bonds can become when children mature into women with more adult urges. In Megan Fox’s Jennifer, women of all ages get the cathartic experience of seeing our own high school’s queen bee challenged by a brainy everygirl who (poignantly portrayed by Amanda Seyfried) actually has a fighting chance of stopping her reign of terror. And topped off with fearless, visually audacious directing by Girlfight’s Karyn Kusama, this singular story, written, directed, starring, and clearly made for women every step of the way, not only is destined to have a class dedicated to it one day at Smith College, but is also downright entertaining enough to be the main attraction at many sleepovers to come. []

It’s a campy, women centric look at the atrocities of being a teenage girl...on the whole the film is not particularly scary. But as a fan of Cody’s work I love how she takes expectations and messes with them. I also love the pop culture laden language and while Cody has talked about the feminism as being subversive, I found it to be very present and overt. [Women and Hollywood]

The press on Diablo Cody, Karyn Kusama and especially Megan Fox has been pretty negative even from some feminists. I’m not saying feminists all need to march to the same drummer, and I know Fox flaunts her looks and has created a persona that can be a big turn off to feminists, but they need to be appreciated by feminists because they are all outspoken women in Hollywood and that rankles feathers. [Women and Hollywood]

In sum, this movie has some refreshing, feministy elements to it…and some annoying parts, too, like the implication that Jennifer needs to literally “feed” off guys in order to stay beautiful, glowing, and healthy. But fuck if I’m going to let feminists tear Diablo Cody to shreds over something like this movie. I find this to be a particularly irritating case of unproductive feminist navelgazing. Horror films are supposed to be built on fantasy–sexual fantasy, murderous fantasy, and everything in between. They’re often silly and usually throwaway* when evaluated in the context of a serious screenwriter’s career. I have to agree with Cody when she says that “we don’t all have to be the model woman–what we need is to be more visible.” And I’m not implying that women should get off easy–just that they shouldn’t be written off after 31 years on earth and a meager two screenplays. Maybe Cody just wanted to have some campy, squeal-inducing fun. I’d argue that she succeeded, without exploiting young women or killing them off in rapid succession. Considering the sizeable chick carnage of other recent teen girl horror movies, that’s actually pretty radical. [Feministe]

And why don’t [some reviewers] understand the film? Because it’s one of the very few honest-to-goodness feminist films out there — and more so then being feminist, it’s one of the few films that views things from a female lens. Boys are there, and make up the majority of the victims in this body horror film, but they’re not a concern. For once we have a story with female main characters who aren’t obsessing about, fighting over, or bitching about boys every five minutes. Jennifer’s Body is about women and how they relate to each other, the horror moments are there for style and allegory, but at its heart the movie is about two girls whose own toxic friendship is eating them both alive. [I Went There]

As a horror movie, Jennifer's Body doesn't fully deliver. But as a comic allegory of what it's like to be an adolescent girl who comes into sexual and social power that she doesn't know what the heck to do with, it is a minor classic...As the movie progresses, Jennifer emerges as the Jessica Rabbit of horror - she's not bad, she's just drawn that way. []
I could not recommend this film for anyone from a Biblical perspective and am struggling to find any true value emerging from any sound critical analyses. Had I not been writing a review on the film, I would have walked after about the first couple of scenes. From its tightly framed graphic scenes to its porn-bred innuendo throughout, the mind reels trying to comprehend how this film can be justified as entertainment which is not subversive to the Christian ethic. Even getting into the movie is an uncomfortable situation. “I’d like to see Jennifer’s Body.” Or how about, “Two for Jennifer’s Body, please.” It’s awkward, at best. [] [Okay, just kidding about this one.] [But you should totally read the whole "review", it's a laugh riot.] [For someone who claims to be so offended and disgusted by the sexual elements of the film, she sure does take a lot of time to describe all of them in great detail.] [I'll stop with the bracket thing now.]
Overall, we enjoyed Jennifer's Body. It was funny, gory, sexy, clever, and thoroughly entertaining. It might not be as Oscar-worthy as Juno, but not every film has to be. This movie was fun and we would definitely recommend it (not as feminists, not as women, but just as people who like movies). Don't decide not to see it because you've heard that it's not feminist enough, or too feminist, or whatever. If you want to see what all of the fuss is about, or you want to show your support for a "mainstream" movie written and directed by women, or you just think it looks cool, go see it. At the end of the day, it's just a horror movie.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Do the One Million Moms Think Saturday Night Live is for Kids?

The One Million Moms are inexplicably scraping the bottom of the barrel with their action alert this week. With all of the new TV shows coming on the air in the last week, somehow all the Moms could come up with to get outraged over was the fact that new Saturday Night Live cast member Jenny Slate accidentally said "fuck" during one of her sketches.

Here's the action alert:

'Saturday Night Live' slips up again

"Saturday Night Live" newbie, Jenny Slate, dropped the F-bomb on air during a sketch which slipped by censors and was heard by East Coast viewers of the show.

Slate was playing a foulmouthed motorcycle-driving woman when she dropped the curse word.

Slate's infamous line, "You frickin' just threw an ashtray full of butts at my head. You know what, you stood up for yourself and I f***in' love you for that" will either gain her fame, get her fired or both.

The actress did puff out her checks after she add libbed the swear word to express she realized she had messed up.

This is not the first time censors have not caught and bleeped out the F-word on "SNL." Norm MacDonald, received a verbal warning for saying the f-word on-air, and Charles Rocket was fired after saying the same four letter word in 1981.

NBC has declined to make any comments at this time so it is unknown if any disciplinary action was taken against Slate or not. Will Slate's first show on "SNL" be her last?


Send NBC an email letter insisting that NBC, "SNL," their censors, and Jenny Slate issue an apology immediately to viewers. Her slip-up was corrected by censors and changed to "freakin" before the West Coast viewers were exposed to this vulgar language, but the damage was already done on the East Coast.

Also, request that disciplinary action be taken against Slate and that censors be on their toes in the future.

Really, Moms? This is the best you can do? You're traumatized because someone on a late-night comedy show accidentally said the word fuck once?

First of all, Saturday Night Live is a show for adults that is on after midnight. It's not remotely in any way even slightly for kids, or marketed to kids. So why are the Moms even complaining about this in the first place? The OMM website says that their "goal is to stop the exploitation of our children, especially by the entertainment media", but this incident had nothing to do with children at all, so why the action alert?

Also, I have to wonder what kind of disciplinary action the Moms think would be appropriate for a grown woman who accidentally said an "adult" word on a show for adults. A fine? Ten Hail Marys? A time out in the corner? Unfortunately for the Moms, they're not going to get their wish on this one - SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels has said that he understands that this was just an unintentional slip on Jenny Slate's part, she's not going to be fired, and it's possible that NBC won't even be fined by the FCC since the slip happened after prime time. In other words, this is being treated like the non-issue that it is, despite the best efforts of people like the OMM who have too much time on their hands.

I think the One Million Moms really need to step up their game next time, because this was just a weak effort. If they're not back to freaking out over homosexuality or teen sex on TV by next week, I'm going to be seriously disappointed.