Movies: Megan Fox Starting to Gain Some Traction in Hollywood.

 

I was glad to hear that whilst filming the upcoming Judd Apatow sequel to Knocked Up, This is Forty, Chris O’Dowd (Kristen Wiig’s cop love interest in Bridesmaids) had this to say about Megan Fox:

“She was a sweetheart on set. I don’t get the whole Michael Bay thing. I hate his fucking films. They are bad. I don’t think she got enough respect.”

No do I, Chris, nor do I.

Related: Megan Fox May Be Trying to Step Away from Marilyn Monroe, But They Might Be More Similar Than She Knows.

Is Robert Pattinson the Male Version of Megan Fox?

Megan Fox Transforms from “Android Ice Queen” to Relatable Person.

Megan Fox Too “Spicy” for Transformers?

“She Just Wants Attention.”

The Beautiful, Bigmouthed Backlash Against Katherine Heigl & Megan Fox.

Image via FilmOFilia.

12 Posts of Christmas: In Defence of Rachel Berry as Feminist.

In the spirit Christmas, I’ve decided to revisit some of my favourite posts of the year in the twelve days leading up to December 25th.

I’m taking this final 12-Posts-of-Christmas opportunity to squeeze two Rachel Berry-related posts into the one. Think of it as one last Scarlett Woman gift to you.

The first post was written “In Defence of Rachel Berry”, while the second explores the character as a feminist one. You can access the original posts here and here, respectively.

In the first season of Glee, Rachel Berry was introduced as an attention- and approval-seeking know-it-all diva, who sticks a gold star next to her name on the New Directions’ sign-up sheet because that’s what she sees herself as. Season two showed the glee clubber soften her resolve a bit, realising that she’s still only in high school, and has her post-high school years to carve out a Broadway career and have the world see her as the star she knows she is. The season final saw her choose a relationship with Finn Hudson in her senior year at McKinley High, despite having to leave him to head to New York when she graduates.

Not all young girls have to wrangle their feelings for the school jock whilst contemplating a move to the big city to make their dreams come true, but many of Rachel’s problems are shared by the show’s audience.

In the most recent Lady Gaga-themed episode, Rachel struggles to accept her “Jewish nose” and considers rhinoplasty. She also strives for the acceptance of her New Directions band mates, and to be seen as fashionable and popular.

It’s in the character’s nature to be highly-strung, goal-oriented and ambitious, so it’s not likely she’ll change any time soon. And why should she? While there are certainly other young women out there who identify more with the saccharine Quinn Fabray, the sassy soul sisters Santana Lopez and Mercedes Jones, or badass Lauren Zizes, there are plenty who see Rachel as their Glee counterpart, myself included.

A recent New York Times article by Carina Chocano praised the “relatable” and “realistically weak female character”, like Kristen Wigg’s Annie in Bridesmaids—“a jumble of flaws and contradictions”—over the “strong” one. “We don’t relate to [the weak character] despite the fact that she is weak, we relate to her because she is weak,” Chocano writes.

But what exactly does she mean by “weak”?

Pop culture commentator Dr. Karen Brooks notes that talented, beautiful, popular and successful female characters need to be broken down before they can be seen as relatable. “The more talented and beautiful you are, the greater the threat you pose and so ‘things’ are introduced to reduce that threat,” she says. Just look at the “women falling down” video on YouTube.

While Rachel’s had her fair share of setbacks, it seems Glee’s audience is finally beginning to understand her. “We’ve been given time to understand Rachel’s initially painful personality and to identify both her strengths and weaknesses. Her ambitions and drive haven’t shifted, but the context for understanding them has,” Brooks says.

“Rarely are unpleasant characters redeemed, they are simply ‘punished’, while the ‘good’ characters soar to impossible heights, not on the back of hard-work and self-belief, but usually [because of] a love interest and wishing hard. Rachel is a healthy and welcome exception to that,” Brooks continues.

So she’s an unlikely heroine we can all get behind, you might say? “A girl who reminds you of you,” as Chocano opines. An everywoman, if you will?

If Rachel Berry encourages more young women to see themselves as gold stars striving to have their accomplishments recognised, then so be it!

*

Last week I wrote in defence of Rachel Berry.

This week, I wanted to explore the character as a feminist one.

While Glee isn’t exactly known for its positive portrayals of women,people of colourthe disabled, or the gays, Rachel has managed to grow in spite of all this, and become somewhat of a feminist icon.

wrote that audiences have come to know and love Rachel not because her obnoxious know-it-all persona has changed, but because “We’ve been given time to understand Rachel’s initially painful personality and to identify both her strengths and weaknesses. Her ambitions and drive haven’t shifted, but the context for understanding them has,” as Dr. Karen Brooks reiterates.

Other bloggers have come to similar conclusions.

Leah Berkenwald at Jewesses With Attitude writes:

“I… have trouble with the vilification of Rachel Berry on a feminist level. How often do we dismiss women as ‘bossy,’ ‘know-it-all[s],’ or ‘control-freaks’ when their behavior would be interpreted as leadership, assertiveness, or courage if they were men?

“… In the right context, Rachel Berry’s personality would not seem ‘intolerable’ or ‘annoying’ so much as bad-ass, renegade, and hardcore.”

And Lady T, who used Rachel as her “Female Character of the Week” on The Funny Feministsaid:

“… The show wanted us to root for a girl who was ambitious, daring, and driven.”

It might be because I have been known to be seen as bossy, a know-it-all, a control-freak (just ask my new housemate!) and ambitious that I’m standing up for her, but just think of another feminist heroine in modern pop culture who could also be described using these words: Hermione Granger. The only difference is, she isn’t vilified for these attributes.

I have also been called ugly and a slut, not because I am ugly and a slut, but because these qualities are removed from the “‘good’ [female] character… [who] soars to impossible heights, not on the back of hard-work and self-belief, but usually [because of] a love interest and wishing hard.”

If you look back to the beginning of Glee, especially, Rachel was often deemed ugly. Now, anyone who’s seen Lea Michele knows she’s not exactly unconventionally attractive, but Rachel is characterised as this because she’s annoying. And she’s annoying because she stands up for herself, knows what she wants and how to get it. (From a racial point of view, she could also be seen as being “ugly” because of her Jewishness.)

Despite these inherently “unattractive” qualities, Rachel manages to snag her man, Finn, in what can be seen as typical Glee sexism and discrimination:

“‘I love her even though she’s shorter than Quinn and has small boobs and won’t put out and is loud and annoying.’ 

“The show wanted to make me believe that Finn was doing Rachel some grand favor by simply being with her at all.”

On the other hand, it can be seen as a poignant take on teenage life that the underdog is always being compared to the most popular girl in school: Quinn Fabray.

If Rachel is Glee’s feminist heroine, Quinn is her polar opposite. She has had next to no character development, which leads to her motivations changing week to week.

In “Original Song” she tore Rachel down, telling her to get over her “schoolgirl fantasy happy ending” with Finn, who would never leave Lima, taking over Burt Hummel’s mechanics business, with Quinn, a real estate agent.

But in “Born This Way”, she was “broken down” by her fat past coming back to haunt her, to come across as more “relatable”.

Sure, Rachel’s had her fair share of being “broken down” (being dumped and subsequently egged by Jesse St. James, being publicly broken up with by Finn, getting slushied… I sense a food theme here.), but in the grand Glee scheme of things, she’s actually doing pretty well for a female character.

Now, if only we can get Mercedes a boyfriend

Related: In Defence of Rachel Berry.

Rachel Berry as Feminist.

The Underlying Message inGlee’s “Born This Way” Episode.

Do “Strong Female Characters” Remind You of You?

The Problem with Glee.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Original Song” Episode.

Brown Eyed Girl.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “The Rocky Horror Glee Show” Episode.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Duets” Episode.

Sookie as Feminist? Hear Her Roar.

Do “Strong Female Characters” Remind You of You?

SlutWalk.

Slut-Shaming as Defence Mechanism.

Elsewhere: [The New York Times] A Plague of Strong Female Characters.

[Bitch] The Transcontinental Disability Choir: Glee-ful Appropriation.

[Jewesses with Attitude] Why Rachel Berry Deserves Our Compassion.

[Huffington Post] Hermione Granger: The Heroine Women Have Been Waiting For.

[Feministing] Pretty Ugly: Can We Please Stop Pretending That Beautiful Women Aren’t Beautiful?

[The Funny Feminist] Female Character of the Week: Rachel Berry.

[Jezebel] Why Won’t Glee Give Mercedes a Boyfriend?

Image via Wet Paint.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Julia Gillard is anti-marriage, period:

“After reading all of Gillard’s statements on this issue and after speaking to those who have talked to her about it, I am convinced she doesn’t believe in marriage at all, for anyone.” [ABC Unleashed]

The “Born This Way” versus choice debate continues:

“But I think the most serious problem with this argument is that it reinforces the idea that we need an excuse to be queer. As a result, using this line subtly supports the idea that being queer requires excusing in some way. Don’t use it. Don’t allow straight people to generate an understanding of queer sexuality that sounds like: ‘Well, of course Bob wouldn’t wish to be queer, but he was born this way. I guess we better give him equal rights—poor Bob, he just can’t help it. We shouldn’t punish him for something he didn’t choose!’

“Meanwhile the real reason that you shouldn’t punish Bob for queerness is because there’s nothing wrong with it!” [Social Justice League]

If you’re unfamiliar with the personhood debate, or just unclear on what it all means, this article by Jill Filipovic is a must-read. [Guardian]

Here’s another great article on Personhood and what it means for abortion laws:

“… As the Personhood message penetrates, then society will understand why women need to be punished just as surely as they understand why there can be no exceptions for rape/incest [bolded text mine].” [Salon]

Why Kyle Sandilands is a dickhead. [The Punch]

“Rethinking the Strong Female Character.” [Canonball]

Kelly Osbourne repents for her past “tranny” wrongs. [HuffPo]

And Warren Beatty and Annette Benning’s transgender son thinks Chaz Bono is a misogynist. [Super-Mattachine]

“27 & Unmarried? In China, You’re One of the ‘Leftover Women’.” Gah, only three years left for me! [Jezebel, Ms. Magazine]

What White Ribbon Day means for men. [MamaMia]

The double standards of talking about what goes on down there. [Owning Pink]

Knowing all the evils facing women in our society, would you want to bring a baby girl into the world? [Jezebel]

My, what lovely lady lumps Kristen Wiig has. All the better to be named GQ’s “Bro of the Year” with, my dear. [Jezebel]

“Eve as Literary Hero”. [Imagine Today]

Ms. Piggy as feminist and Kermit as douchefrog. [Jezebel]

Meshel Laurie on the Matthew Newton saga. [MamaMia]

On being single. [Girls Are Made from Pepsi]

Gah! “Pro-Life Feminism is the Future”. [Washington Post]

Images via Jezebel, Lara Croft Tomb Raider Costume Resource.

TV: In Defence of Rachel Berry.

 

In the first season of Glee, Rachel Berry was introduced as an attention- and approval-seeking know-it-all diva, who sticks a gold star next to her name on the New Directions’ sign-up sheet because that’s what she sees herself as. Season two showed the glee clubber soften her resolve a bit, realising that she’s still only in high school, and has her post-high school years to carve out a Broadway career and have the world see her as the star she knows she is. The season final saw her choose a relationship with Finn Hudson in her senior year at McKinley High, despite having to leave him to head to New York when she graduates.

Not all young girls have to wrangle their feelings for the school jock whilst contemplating a move to the big city to make their dreams come true, but many of Rachel’s problems are shared by the show’s audience.

In the most recent Lady Gaga-themed episode, Rachel struggles to accept her “Jewish nose” and considers rhinoplasty. She also strives for the acceptance of her New Directions band mates, and to be seen as fashionable and popular.

It’s in the character’s nature to be highly-strung, goal-oriented and ambitious, so it’s not likely she’ll change any time soon. And why should she? While there are certainly other young women out there who identify more with the saccharine Quinn Fabray, the sassy soul sisters Santana Lopez and Mercedes Jones, or badass Lauren Zizes, there are plenty who see Rachel as their Glee counterpart, myself included.

A recent New York Times article by Carina Chocano praised the “relatable” and “realistically weak female character”, like Kristen Wigg’s Annie in Bridesmaids—“a jumble of flaws and contradictions”—over the “strong” one. “We don’t relate to [the weak character] despite the fact that she is weak, we relate to her because she is weak,” Chocano writes.

But what exactly does she mean by “weak”?

Pop culture commentator Dr. Karen Brooks notes that talented, beautiful, popular and successful female characters need to be broken down before they can be seen as relatable. “The more talented and beautiful you are, the greater the threat you pose and so ‘things’ are introduced to reduce that threat,” she says. Just look at the “women falling down” video on YouTube.

While Rachel’s had her fair share of setbacks, it seems Glee’s audience is finally beginning to understand her. “We’ve been given time to understand Rachel’s initially painful personality and to identify both her strengths and weaknesses. Her ambitions and drive haven’t shifted, but the context for understanding them has,” Brooks says.

“Rarely are unpleasant characters redeemed, they are simply ‘punished’, while the ‘good’ characters soar to impossible heights, not on the back of hard-work and self-belief, but usually [because of] a love interest and wishing hard. Rachel is a healthy and welcome exception to that,” Brooks continues.

So she’s an unlikely heroine we can all get behind, you might say? “A girl who reminds you of you,” as Chocano opines. An everywoman, if you will?

If Rachel Berry encourages more young women to see themselves as gold stars striving to have their accomplishments recognised, then so be it!

Related: The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Born This Way” Episode.

Do “Strong Female Characters” Remind You of You?

Elsewhere: [The New York Times] A Plague of Strong Female Characters.

Image via Noelle’s Means of Escape.

Movie Review: Bad Teacher*.

 

Bad Teacher was released at an inopportune time, having to follow in the footsteps of Bridesmaids, a movie that has been deemed revolutionary for the simple “fact that two women hav[e] a realistic conversation about sex in a café,” as Caitlin Moran told Rachel Hills in her Sunday Life profile last weekend.

In comparison to Kristen Wiig’s “realistically weak female character” in the Judd Apatow hit, who acts exactly how a real down-on-her-luck woman would act, Cameron Diaz’s Elizabeth Halsey has been called “a lazy, lying, scheming, slutty, and obstinately materialistic [character], whose sole redeeming virtue is her hard body… who is so delusional that she thinks her ostentatious assholery is rock-star sexy, and whose delusions are essentially validated by narrative resolution,” by Karina Longworth in Los Angeles Weekly.

And while this was true (she gets away with stealing the results to the state test in order to win money to get a boob job, and gets the sweet and goofy guy she’d been treating like shit the whole movie), it was no way near as bad as I envisioned it to be in terms of it being anti-women, or at least anti-Bridesmaids-esque-feminism.

It was horrifically racist and downright disturbing in some parts, though. Unhinged goody two-shoes Amy Squirrel is forced to transfer to one of the most dangerous and underprivileged schools in the state, Malcolm X High School. Her boyfriend, Justin Timberlake’s pathetic character, Scott Delacorte, praises Elizabeth for teaching her kids that they should never stop working on themselves by getting a boob job. He also has a thing for “oriental” food. And don’t even get me started on the dry hump scene. It was as pointless as Timberlake’s appearance in The Love Guru. Or his whole acting career in general.

It was hilariously funny in some parts, but if you’re looking for a strong narrative with diverse and realistic female characters, maybe seek out Bridesmaids again. If you’re looking for some mind-numbing 90-minute escapism (as opposed to all these two-and-a-half-hour wastes of time), Bad Teacher’s your movie.

*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: Bridesmaids Review.

Elsewhere: [Musings of an Inappropriate Woman] Caitlin Moran Cover Story Sunday Life.

[LA Weekly] You Want a Raunchy Comedy Starring Women? Be Careful What You Wish For.

Do “Strong Female Characters” Remind You of You?

From “A Plague of Strong Female Characters” by Carina Chocano in The New York Times Magazine:

“… Few cultural tropes get under my skin like ‘strong female character,’ and it still surprises me when like-minded people use it. Maybe the problem is semantic. Maybe what people mean when they say ‘strong female characters’ is female characters who are ‘strong,’ i.e., interesting or complex or well written—‘strong’ in the sense that they figure predominantly in the story, rather than recede decoratively into the background. But I get the feeling that what most people mean or hear when they say or hear ‘strong female character’ is female characters who are tough, cold, terse, taciturn and prone to scowling and not saying goodbye when they hang up the phone.

“… Characters like these… do serve as a kind of gateway drug to slightly more realistic—or at least representational—representations of women. On the other hand, they also reinforce the unspoken idea that in order for a female character to be worth identifying with, she should really try to rein in the gross girly stuff. This implies that unless a female character is ‘strong,’ she is not interesting or worth identifying with.”

Chocano then goes on to talk about Kristen Wiig’s seemingly “weak” character in Bridesmaids, and how she is actually an empowering character for women:

“We don’t relate to her despite the fact that she is weak, we relate to her because she is weak.

“… This makes me think that the problem is not that there aren’t enough ‘strong’ female characters in the movies—it’s that there aren’t enough realistically weak ones. You know what’s better than a prostitute with a machine gun for a leg or a propulsion engineer with a sideline in avionics whose maternal instincts and belief in herself allow her to take apart an airborne plane and discover a terrorist plot despite being gaslighted by the flight crew? A girl who reminds you of you.”

This article is well worth the read.

Related: Bridesmaids Review.

“With a Gun Between Her Legs,” Take 3.

“With a Gun Between Her Legs,” Take 2.

“With a Gun Between Her Legs”: Why “Strong (AKA “Sexy” Whilst Being “Strong”) Female Characters Are Bad For Women.

Strong Female Characters in the Land of Oz.

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

Elsewhere: [The New York Times] A Plague of Strong Female Characters.

Image via Movies Bizz.

On the (Rest of the) Net: Jumbo Edition.

I didn’t realise I did so much reading this week, but the links below have proved me wrong. But it’s not even a drop in the ocean of the reading I still have left… Alas.

“… At what point along the line did we all decide that… what you weigh is the sum total of who you are?” [MamaMia]

11 ways to avoid being sexually assaulted. Remember, ladies: the onus is on you:

“Your default consent is ‘Yes’ until you say ‘No’. Not being able to say ‘No’, or not being able to remember if you said ‘No’, count as ‘Yes’. Saying ‘No’ also means ‘Yes’.” [Jezebel]

“Do Movie Characters Exist in a World Without Movie Stars?” [Sam Downing]

“Carbon Sunday”, as it has come to be known, “was a good day for Julia Gillard. It was the first good day she has had for a long time. She was strong, decisive and she was doing something really important. She looked like her old self. She was sure of what she was doing…. [That day] she really look[ed] like the Prime Minister because she ha[d] actually done something.” [MamaMia]

In other Prime Minister-related news, if you missed the profile on Gillard in The Weekend Australian a few weeks ago, here’s Sam Dusevic’s take on “Ju-Liar” “Gill-Hard Left’s” first year:

“I think she’s done nothing in her first year to foreclose on her ability in the next year to show authority which she inherently has the capability of showing,” Greens senator Bob Brown has said.

That was, until Sunday!

In praise of sleep. [Girl with a Satchel]

The shock jock. [Sydney Morning Herald]

Rachel Rabbit White on SlutWalk:

“Quiet Riot Girl (feminist blogger)… says ‘So some feminists believe all and any unsolicited /unwanted attention of women by men is “harassment”. Men have to wait to be asked/told to pay a woman any attention at all? Basically the Slutwalks are slutshaming hetero men.’

“How are men supposed to hit on women in public, talk to them or even ogle them? Because surely, ladies, we aren’t saying when we go out in a hot outfit we don’t want to be seen, or talked to by anyone.”

Confessions of a Cosmopolitan sex fact-checker. [Slate]

On the News of the World closure:

“It appears modern man fears media more than God.” [Girl with a Satchel]

To shave your pubes for cervical cancer, or not to shave your pubes for cervical cancer? That is the question that MamaMia and Jezebel are asking.

In defence of friendships with girls. [Persephone Magazine]

Do tradies get the short end of the street when it comes to cat-calling women on the street? [Bitch Magazine]

There’s more to Katie Price aka Jordan than meets the eye. [MamaMia]

“Period etiquette.” [Jezebel]

“The Myth of the Perfect Smile.” [Jezebel]

Is Blake Lively America’s frenemy? Is she the Rose Byrne in Bridesmaids to our national Kristen Wiig? … If she wants to broaden her appeal, she should try holding a kitten next time,” instead of more nude pics. [Grantland]

What is feminism? [The Ch!cktionary]

You know how some people get really depressed in winter? My mum is one of them. Well, it has been revealed that some people get really depressed in summer. I’m one of them. [Jezebel]

The “War of Words” we face when we put ourselves out there. [The Australian]

What do Lady Gaga and late night comedienne Chelsea Handler have in common? [Jezebel]

“Rolling in the Deep” dates. How listening to Adele could get you more dates. [Jezebel]

The “undermining of feminist sensibilities” in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. [Bitch Magazine]

“The Mental Burden of a Lower-Class Background.” [Jezebel]

What fascinates us so much about “The Murderous Side of Motherhood”?:

“But in some way, doesn’t the fact that a child is a mother’s ‘own flesh and blood’ mean that a primal part of us, as humans, understands the act of killing a child? Because if a child is made of your own flesh, then it is a part of you. An extension of yourself. Under your control. Operating under your agency, existing because you created it, and therefore yours to govern, manipulate, command, discipline, punish—and destroy.” [Jezebel]

“Celebrity Culture Makes Young Women Dumb.” [Jezebel]

Do plus-sized models encourage obesity? Velvet d’Amour, a plus-sized model herself, sets the record straight. [Frockwriter]

In the same vein, why are plus-sized models fetishised? [Jezebel]

Images via Jezebel, Kiss Me on the Lips, Frockwriter.