On the (Rest of the) Net.

the hills teen vogue

Gender politics and the cautionary tale of not leaning in on The Hills. [Vulture]

The fault in sick-lit. [Kill Your Darlings]

Lupita Nyong’o and the fetishisation of black women’s bodies. [Black Feminists]

Too much Kim, not enough Kendall. [The Style Con]

In praise of Lisa Simpson, Harriet M. Welsch and Scout Finch. [The New Yorker]

ICYMI: Gossip Girl—Hell Hath No Fury Like a Lonely Boy Scorned.

Image via Cosmopolitan.

Fictional Friends.

Last week, Alissa Warren on MamaMia listed her top five fictional friends. You know, people you’d be friends with… “if they were real.”

Let me know in the comments who you’d be fictional friends with but, until then, here are my top picks:

Elphaba Thropp, Wicked.

It’s no secret Elphaba is my favourite fictional female: someone you can look up to, who rises above hatred and discrimination, and who will stand up for her beliefs no matter what. Plus, she’s a witch! Galinda wouldn’t be too bad either…

Elle Woods from Legally Blonde.

She’s fun, she’s quirky, she’s got a cute little dog and an awesome wardrobe. And underneath it all, she’s not as ditzy as she seems. Awesome friend material.

Cher Horowitz, Clueless.

Again, someone who seems carefree and Clueless on the outside, but whose heart is in the right place. Maybe she’ll let you come over and program your wardrobe into her computer. Just think of the outfit-planning time you’ll save.

Gus Bailey.

The fictional version of the late Vanity Fair columnist and man about town Dominick Dunne, Gus Bailey, would always give you the inside scoop, and probably feature you in his gossip columns! Anonymously, of course. You’ve got to keep up appearances.

Blair Waldorf/Dan Humphrey, Gossip Girl.

I’m not sure which one I’d like better as, personality-wise, they’re pretty much the same person. They exchange emails and phone calls whilst ploughing through their identical Netflix queues. They enjoy art, foreign films, being “in” with the “in crowd” and bygone eras. You could borrow Blair’s clothes, but Dan’s nice to look at… I can’t choose!

Kat Stratford, 10 Things I Hate About You.

She’s everything I’m not. She’ll shun the prom (but actually ends up going!) due to its patriarchal confines. She’s musical. She loves the riot grrl scene. She ploughs through feminist literature whilst listening to Spiderbait. And she don’t give a rats what anyone thinks of her. Total. Feminist. Icon.

Heather Mooney, Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion.

Anyone who openly tells people they don’t like to “fuck off” is someone I want to get to know! Plus she’s hilarious despite her best efforts to come across as cold and callous.

Scout Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Sure, she’s a little young to be best buds with, but maybe I could be her babysitter?!

Related: Women in Fiction: My Favourite Fictional Females.

Women in Fiction: Are Our Favourite Fictional Females Actually Strong, or Stereotypes?

It’s All About Popular… Lar, Lar, Lar, Lar.

Strong Female Characters in the Land of Oz.

Pop Culture Power Women.

So Misunderstood.

Pop Culture Role Models.

In Defence of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Another City, Not My Own by Dominick Dunne Review.

Images via Freewebs, IG Style, Abhishek Tiwari, USA Today, TV.com, Inspired Ground, Flickr, The Hero Construction Company.

Women in Fiction: Are Our Favourite Fictional Females Actually Strong, or Stereotypes?

I’ve been wanting to write a post on Overthinking It’s “Female Character Flowchart” since I saw it on both Jezebel and Musings of an Inappropriate Woman about two weeks ago, and the time has finally come I’ve finally gotten around to compiling a list of my favourite fictional female characters and whether they qualify as “strong” ones.

Without compromising the quality of the image, I wasn’t able to enlarge the chart, nor add my own annotations as per the below characters of my choosing. Instead, I’ve reproduced their equations below, as well as Mean Girls’ Regina George, who appears on the chart, and Blair Waldorf, whom Rachel Hills believes is a “girl Hitler”, but who I find to be much more of a genuine strong female character.

Regina George (Mean Girls): Can she carry her own story? YES. Is she three dimensional? NO. Villain? YES. Sexualised? NO. (I would argue yes. Hello? Have you seen her Halloween getup?) Over 35? NO. Is the protagonist male or female? FEMALE. Is this a rom/com? NO=Mean Girl.

Blair Waldorf (Gossip Girl): Can she carry her own story? YES. Is she three dimensional? YES. Does she represent an idea? NO. Does she have any flaws? YES. Is she killed before the third act? NO=Strong female character.

Belle (Beauty & the Beast): Can she carry her own story? YES. Is she three dimensional? NO. Villain? NO. Is she mainly a love interest? YES. Do they get together? YES. Is she only interested in her man? NO. Is she in a committed relationship with a protagonist? NO. Changes her man or is changed? CHANGES. Are they from different cultures? YES=Nobel Squan, whatever the hell that is! (Looks like something out of Avatar, though.)

Scout Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird): Can she carry her own story? YES. Is she three dimensional? YES. Does she represent an idea? YES. Villain? NO. Is she mainly a love interest? NO. Is she part of a team/family? YES. What is her main role? LEADER. How does she feel about babies? NOT RIGHT NOW. Does she get pregnant? NO. Is she in a horror story? NO. Is she violent? NO. Is she nearly perfect? NO. What is her flaw?=sassmouth, which I guess is true, but Scout is so much more.

Elphaba (Wicked): Can she carry her own story? YES. Is she three dimensional? YES. Does she represent an idea? YES, many. Villain? NO. Is she mainly a love interest? NO. Is she part of a team/family? YES. What is her main role? ROGUE=wildcard.

Elle Woods (Legally Blonde): Can she carry her own story? YES. Is she three dimensional? YES. Does she represent an idea? YES. Villain? NO. Is she mainly a love interest? NO. Is she part of a team/family? YES. What is her main role? LEADER. How does she feel about babies? NOT RIGHT NOW. Does she get pregnant? NO. Is she in a horror story? NO. Is she violent? NO. Is she nearly perfect? YES. Is she older? NO. Should the audience like her? YES. Who likes her more? WOMEN=Mary Sue.

Related:  Women in Fiction: My Favourite Fictional Females.

Elsewhere: [Overthinking It] The Female Character Flowchart.

[Overthinking It] Why Strong Female Characters Are Bad for Women.

[Jezebel] Flowchart: Know Your Female Character Stereotypes.

[Musings of an Inappropriate Woman] Flowchart: Know Your Female Character Stereotypes.

Men in Fiction: My Most Loved Made-Up Males.

Last week I featured my favourite fictional females, and this week I thought I’d give the guys a go.

In the vein of Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird, her father Atticus is way up there. He represents “the father figure I never had”, guiding Scout, her brother Jem, and their friend Dil through the last summer of their naïve childhood and how judging a book by it’s cover (or skin colour) is not the way to go. Plus, he has a kick ass name!

Similar to my obsession with To Kill a Mockingbird is my love of Dominick Dunne and any of his books, specifically Another City, Not My Own, in which Dunne’s alter-ego Gus Bailey acts as the fictional narrator of Dunne’s real-life O.J. Simpson trial experiences. It is hard to separate the two men, which is what I love about Dunne’s stories; a reader familiar with Dunne’s experiences doesn’t know where real-life ends and fiction begins.

Every fan of Friends has a favourite character, and mine has always been Chandler Bing. He gets the funniest storylines, and Matthew Perry has great comedic timing. There are many episodes I could ramble on about, but my two favourite Chandler moments are when Phoebe attempts to seduce him into admitting his relationship with Monica, and when Chandler kicks up a stink about Joey stealing his chair before Ross’s benefit, and in a check-mate move, Joey puts on every item of clothing in Chandler’s possession, quipping in true Chandler fashion, “Could I be wearing any more clothes?”

It’s been a Disney-centric year, what with Beauty & the Beast about to be re-released in 3D, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra performing Disney songs in December (which I’m so going to, FYI), the first African American Disney Princess in the lacklustre The Princess & the Frog, and the much anticipated release of Toy Story 3, with one of my all-time favourite characters, Woody. The pull-string sheriff is inspirational in that he’ll never “leave a man behind”, he exists primarily for the pleasure of his owner, Andy, but discovers that there’s more to life, like making friends and other people happy, than what he thought his true purpose was; to be with Andy. I loved the third instalment of the saga, but it can never top the first one. So quotable, so timeless, so child-at-heart. ♥

Other inspirational men of fiction include Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon; Shia LaBeouf’s character in Disturbia, and the character who inspired him, L.B. Jeffries from Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window; Fiver, Bigwig and Hazel from Watership Down; Woody’s space ranger counterpart, Buzz Lightyear; the Beast in Beauty & the Beast; and Holden Caulfield in A Catcher in the Rye.

Women in Fiction: My Favourite Fictional Females.

A recent post on Girl with a Satchel (which was reblogged here) inspired me to assess my favourite fictional female characters.

One of my favourite books is To Kill a Mockingbird, and protagonist Scout Finch is one of my favourite characters of the written word. Her innocence and naivety are super-endearing, and her past-tense narrating allows the reader to put themselves in her shoes easily.

Wicked is a niche book and musical that theatre buffs can’t get enough of, but the general public are a bit oblivious to because it hasn’t derived from/been made into a movie, like Melbourne’s current season of musicals, West Side Story, Mary Poppins and Hairspray, all of which are on my theatre-going agenda in the coming months.

I’ve seen the production three times in Melbourne, and many a friend has seen it in its various international incarnations on Broadway and the West End… oh, and Sydney! I was so touched by the story and its messages of friendship, good versus evil and judging a book by its cover, and even more so by Elphaba, better known as The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz. Unlike in the original story, Wicked’s Elphaba is fiercely loyal to her disabled sister Nessarose, and those who become close to her like Glinda, Doctor Dillamond and Fiyero, misunderstood because of the colour of her skin and the slander spread about her when she discovers the Wizard of Oz is a fraud and seeks revenge.

In the vein of fairytale musicals, Beauty & the Beast (which is being re-released in selected theatres in 3D from 2 September) is by far my favourite, and I love its heroine Belle so much, I have been known to fight with my friends and children alike over the fact that I AM BELLE! Hello, I have brown hair, like burly men, read a lot and have a penchant for yellow gowns! While there have been arguments circulating that the Disney princesses are beacons of anti-feminism, I maintain my stance that Belle doesn’t need a man to rescue her (in fact, she does the rescuing, helping the Beast when he is attacked by wolves, attempting to make the townspeople see the error of their ways in going after him, and ultimately, setting his heart free) and sees the Beast for who he truly is, not for what he looks like or what he can do for her. She’s a kick-ass beauty in the vein of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer and Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.

I’ve blogged (or reblogged) a little bit lately about Elle Woods. She’s an everywoman. Rachel Hills identifies with her, as does Satchel Girl Erica Bartle. A law-studying friend of mine recently compared herself to Miss Woods, also. And I won’t lie; I’ve fantasised about wearing a Playboy bunny suit whilst purchasing an Apple Mac! Elle Woods proves that you can take pride in your appearance and have fun whilst pursuing your dreams and making a name for yourself separate from the name of the man in your life.

There are plenty of other made-up women who I have an affinity for, including the aforementioned Buffy Summers, and Daria Morgendorffer for their kick-ass feminist mentalities; ditto for the Charmed sisters; Gossip Girl’s Blair Waldorf, who can be a psycho bitch at times, but she’s THE psycho bitch; for similar reasons as Elle Woods, Cher Horowitz; and Barbie.

Related: Guest Post—Pop Culture Power Women.

In Defence of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Event: The Way We Wear Vintage Market.

Elsewhere: [Girl with a Satchel] Women of Pop Culture & the Unashamed Use of Cutesy Clichés.

[Musings of an Inappropriate Woman] Have You Ever Seen Yourself Through Someone Else’s Eyes?

In Defence of To Kill A Mockingbird.

 

By now loyal Early Bird readers will know my affection for To Kill A Mockingbird, so I couldn’t resist, after seeing a recap on Jezebel, responding to Allen Barra’s assertion in The Wall Street Journal that Harper Lee “doesn’t really measure up to the others in literary talent, but we like to pretend she does” and her Pulitzer-winning work is “virtuously dull”.

Well, I never!

Out of everyone I’ve ever spoken to about To Kill A Mockingbird, only one person said they didn’t like it, but she also didn’t finish the book, so she missed the part of the book I think is most poignant: the final paragraphs where Scout recounts the events of the summer from Boo Radley’s front porch, citing her father Atticus’ wise words that “you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes.” For Scout, “Just standing on the Radley porch was enough,” and I think that is one of the most beautiful pieces of imagery that brings the story full circle.

Atticus is the quintessential beloved father figure, and beacon of “all the best lines”, who, funnily enough, Lee crafted to oppose the attitudes of her own father, who allegedly “once remonstrated a preacher in the family’s hometown… for sermonising on racial justice”. Barra mocks Atticus’ juvenile explanation of the Ku Klux Klan (he is speaking to a CHILD, where a certain amount of sensitivity is required) and his dialogue, as seeming to have been written “to be quoted in high-school English papers”. God knows I had a field day with quotes from the book in my Year 11 English Literature essays, and perhaps the reason I feel so affectionately towards Atticus is that he reminds me of my grandfather, who passed away several days before I started Year 11. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that Atticus could be representative of the father figure I never had.

For Mockingbird’s haters, there is the defence that it is a novel for children (Barra quotes “fellow Southerner” and author Flannery O’Connor on her observation of To Kill A Mockingbird: “It’s interesting that all the folks that are buying it don’t know they are reading a children’s book.”) something that I was not aware of until reading the Jezebel article, which should say something about Lee’s writing skills (or my reading skills?).

Nonetheless, I stand by my belief that Mockingbird is one of the best books ever written. Barra might say that, “In all good novels there is some quality of moral ambiguity… There is no ambiguity… at the end of the book , we know exactly what we knew at the beginning: that Atticus Finch is a good man, that Tom Robinson was an innocent victim of racism, and that lynching is bad.” But I think there is some moral ambiguity: was it right of Atticus to “collaborate with the local sheriff to ‘obstruct justice in the name of saving their beloved neighbour…’”? And, as Jezebel asks, “Is Atticus’ evisceration of Mayella Ewell permissible because she is making a false rape claim in the knowledge that it will likely cost an innocent man his life? Is Mrs. Dubose a cranky old racist or ‘the bravest woman I have ever known,’ as Atticus says? Did Boo Radley truly kill Bob Ewell in self-defense? Are Atticus and the sheriff, in their willingness to protect the social status quo, contributing to the system of white male privilege that subjugates women and blacks—and the secrecy on which it depends?

And what did happen to Boo Radley, whom Scout “never saw again”?

Related: Taking a Leaf Out of Amazon’s Book: Bad Customer Reviews.

[Jezebel] Re-Evaluating To Kill a Mockingbird.

[Wall Street Journal] What To Kill a Mockingbird Isn’t.