Baby, It’s a Wild World: Navigating Popular Culture as a Feminist.

Recently, a friend questioned why I listen to Stone Cold Steve Austin’s podcast when he’s a known intimate partner abuser. He makes a fair point, as I have shunned Sean Penn and Michael Fassbender movies and R. Kelly and Chris Brown’s music (not that I really had an interest in them to begin with) because of their woman-hating ways. But by the same token, I listen to 2Pac, John Lennon and Prince despite knowing their histories of similar assaults.

I replied that you can’t watch, listen to or read anything these days where the creator and/or their characters haven’t committed a crime or moral transgression. There’s Woody Allen, Game of Thrones, Michael Jackson and, to varying degrees, Bryan Singer, Fassbender and Halle Berry of the current X-Men film.

A lot of the pop cultural morsels I’ve mentioned above I first consumed before I knew about their creators’ wicked ways. I got into professional wrestling and all its problems, rap and hip hop and their misogynist lyrics, and the Beatles and MJ as a teen whose feminist ideals were in their infant stages, but by no means as staunchly militant as they are today. It’s easy to make the conscious effort not to consume products made by artists whose questionable morals you’re already aware of, not so much when you’ve already got a passion for them. (I’ve had conversations with people in recent weeks who did not know about Singer’s rape allegations nor Fassbender’s violent streak; their inner torment about liking something made by someone reprehensible [or at least someone who’s committed reprehensible acts] was evident in their pained, conflicted responses.) When I pointed this out to my abovementioned podcast friend, he asked whether that meant I thought I was exempt from examining the issues with famous men being rewarded for their transgressions just because I happen to like the stuff they produce.

“Absolutely not,” I replied. But by the same token, if we were to avoid problematic pop culture, we’d never leave the house!

I think the most important thing is not to make excuses about the problematic pop culture we choose to consume. I can’t say if I’ll continue to listen to Austin’s podcast but if I do I’ll be sure not to be hypocritical about it. No excuses here.

Related: Why Are Famous Men Forgiven for Their Wrongdoings, While Women Are Vilified for Much Less?

Elsewhere: [The Smoking Gun] Stone Cole Steve Austin Roughs Up Girlfriend.

[Lipstick Alley] Flashback: Sean Penn Beat Madonna for 9 Hours in 1987; Charged with Felony Domestic Assault.

[TMZ] Girlfriend Fears Inglorious Basterds Star.

[Village Voice] Read the “Stomach-Churning” Sexual Assault Allegations Against R. Kelly in Full.

[MTV] Chris Brown Police Report Provides Details of Altercation.

[Lipstick Alley] Why Isn’t Tupac Remembered as a Rapist?

[Listverse] Top 10 Unpleasant Facts About John Lennon.

[Daily Mail] Sinead O’Connor Talks About Punch Up With Prince.

[Vanity Fair] Mia’s Story.

[Jezebel] Game of Thrones, Sex & HBO: Where Did TV’s Sexual Pioneer Go Wrong?

[Wikipedia] 1993 Child Sexual Abuse Accusations Against Michael Jackson.

[Slate] What We Know So Far About the Hollywood Sex Ring Allegations.

[People] Collision Course.

[TheVine] Can a Feminist Love Professional Wrestling?

[TheVine] Wonder Why They Call U Bitch.

[Social Justice League] How to Be a Fan of Problematic Things.

Movie Review: Green Lantern*.

 

When I met my brand new roommate Eddie about a year ago, we bonded over Green Lantern, amongst other things.

I’m not a huge fan of the comic book series, other than the fact that Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively are in the big screen adaptation, released last Thursday in Australia to the similar lacklustre reviews it received in the States. My only exposure to the superhero before I met Eddie was that he was professional wrestler Gregory “The Hurricane” Helms’ favourite superhero, revealed by his Green Lantern symbol tattoo and the t-shirt he gave Stone Cold Steve Austin during his “appreciation night” storyline back in 2001.

Even though I wasn’t super keen on the latest version, especially after seeing the previews (why must every movie be about aliens?! Super 8, Thor, Green Lantern, Cowboys and Aliens… Perhaps some fodder for a potential blog post…?), we’d bonded over it.

Going into films with low expectations usually winds up with me enjoying it much more than I thought I would, and this was true with Green Lantern.

As the comic book nerd to rule all comic book nerds, Eddie pointed out some holes in the plotline and amalgamations made especially for the movie that don’t exist in the comics, like Reynolds’ Hal Jordan’s nemesis Hector Hammond being able to read minds by physical contact after contracting the powers of Paralax.

As a non-comic book nerd, I thought some parts of the movie weren’t resolved, like Jordan getting beat up in a parking lot behind a bar he was having drinks with Lively’s Carol Ferris at, but nothing coming of it (Carol coming to his rescue, the cops arriving, any arrests being made) apart from being the catalyst for Hal to use his willpower, the energy that the Green Lantern Corps use to fight space crime and whatnot.

I was initially excited about Lively’s role in the film, but she’s as boringly saccharine in this as she is in Gossip Girl. The only part of the movie where I see a glimmer of potential in her acting abilities is when she is approached by Hal, in his Green Lantern costume, and exclaims, “You think I wouldn’t recognise you because I can’t see your cheekbones?!” It was both funny (perhaps the funniest part of the movie, which isn’t saying much) and the closest Lively’s ever going to get to an Oscar nomination any time soon.

Considering Green Lantern was one of the most anticipated premieres of the year, it failed to live up to the hype. Not only was its release date almost two months behind the U.S., which is unheard of these days, Reynolds was supposed to attend the Melbourne and Sydney premieres, but pulled out at the last minute. (We were going to stalk him at Jam Factory!)

A sequel has been greenlit (get it?), which is promising, as the Green Lantern saga has a lot more to offer. Three more human Lanterns, a black Superhero, a heel turn (sorry, wrestling speak; good guy turns into a bad guy) from one of the main characters, the scene that sparked the Women in Refrigerators feminist movement. Let’s hope the second instalment brings some of this to the table.

*It has come to my attention that I give away too much in my movie reviews, so the asterisk will now serve as a blanket *spoiler alert* from now on.

Related: Super 8 Review.

Thor Review.

The Problem with Serena van der Woodsen.

Elsewhere: [Women in Refrigerators] Homepage.

Image via IMDb.

Movie Review: The Expendables.

 

When I first expressed interest in seeing The Expendables, those who don’t know me well wondered why. But those who do know me well, know that I’m not as traditionally feminine as I appear to be.

My dirty little secret is… I love wrestling. I haven’t watched it in about six months, because my body corporate doesn’t allow cable in my apartment building. But I’ve been devoted to World Wrestling Entertainment for almost ten years now, and anyone who is remotely familiar with the product will know the name “Stone Cold Steve Austin”. And anyone remotely familiar with the action-hero line-up for The Expendables, will know that “Austin” is one of the names that appears alongside “Stallone”, “Lundgren” and “Schwarzenegger” on its poster.

While there is a storyline per se (The Expendables, a group of elite mercenaries, are commissioned to overthrow a Latin American dictator, General Garza, on the island Vilena in the Gulf of Mexico. Whilst there, writer and director Sylvester Stallone’s character, Barney Ross, meets their contact Sandra, who turns out to be Garza’s daughter, and makes it his own personal mission to rescue her from the tyranny of her father and her country, and in turn, open his mind and heart. Gag me.), it’s so badly written that I didn’t even know that Jason Statham’s (my new action hero crush, BTW) character’s name was Christmas until a friend mentioned it to me days later!

But the reason movie-goers flock to a film like this (as opposed to Eat, Pray, Love, which opened the same weekend as The Expendables) isn’t for its storyline. My fellow patrons at the cinema were a primarily male audience, obviously into action films, weaponry, fight scenes and professional wrestling. Jet Li, UFC fighter Randy Couture, former NFL player Terry Crews (who is one of my favourite comedy/action actors, and was relegated to cheap one liners and blowing stuff up in favour of more screen time for surgery-damaged, pillow-faced and drawn-on-facial-haired Stallone) and Austin got the best pops from the audience, especially when those actors were utilised for their talents, with Li taking on Dolph Lundgren’s character Gunnar Jensen in an entertaining fight scene, Crews throwing an explosive as if it were a football, and Couture and Austin pulling out their street fighting skills/wrestling mat moves (Figure Four leglock, anyone?) in the final scenes.

I definitely know my wrestling trivia, but as far as action films go, The Longest Yard (another Austin/Crews collaborationgo figure), The Fast & the Furious and The Scorpion King are about as far as my knowledge extends. So I asked my friend and fellow Expendables-watcher, Eddie, to point out his top five throwbacks to the great action films of the ’80s and ’90s, which this film is meant to emulate.

1) At the start of The Expendables, they are taking down The Pirates. Pirates of the Caribbean is one of the past decade’s most successful action film franchises, in which the leads are played by pretty boys Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom; a far cry from the rough and tumble action heroes of Stallone and Schwarzenegger’s era.

2) “The Stormtrooper Effect”: Garza’s henchmen have their faces painted as they go into battle with The Expendables. This is known as the Stormtrooper effect, where the enemy’s face is obscured so as to help the audience deal with them being killed off by our incomparable heroes.

3) The Expendables all wear different hats (Li’s character Yin Yang in a baseball cap, Couture’s Toll Road in a bucket hat, Ross and Christmas in black military-style berets) so that the members of the audience with a lower IQ can tell them apart during the fight scenes. And let’s face it; with a movie like this, the majority of its audience tend to lean that way.

4) As the team is descending on Vilena for the final showdown, Ross switches their plane’s controls to autopilot, and from there on in, the rest of the film travels on autopilot also. That’s funny; I thought the whole film was travelling on autopilot.

5) In the closest scene to character development, Mickey Rourke’s character Tool divulges to Ross his inner torment about not saving a woman when he had the chance to, and encourages Ross to go back for Sandra. Similarly, when Christmas discovers his ex-girlfriend has been beaten by her new boyfriend, Christmas ambushes said new boyfriend and his friends on the basketball court, bringing the beaten ex along for the ride. The whole movie, disguised by boys club banter and blowing stuff up, is about a man’s desire to save a woman. It’s most guys’ dream to be the knight in shining armour, as Stallone and Statham are here, and come to the rescue. Sure, this is a dated and highly sexist ideal posits that it’s a biological truth ingrained in most men.

Certainly in the man who wrote and directed The Expendables, wouldn’t you think?