Movie Review: The Hunger Games*.

 

Now, The Hunger Games is a lesson in how to do young adult with a female in the lead, Stephenie Meyer.

***

I was a bit apprehensive about buying into The Hunger Games hype but, as a blogger, I thought it imperative that I read the book and the see the movie to understand what all the hype was about and, at the very least, to get a blog post out of it. (That’s my reasoning for going to see American Pie: The Reunion next week, anyway!)

I’d read all the blog posts and cultural analyses of the film and book before I went to see it last Monday and finished it over this past weekend, respectively, so I had a pretty good idea of the storyline and the social commentary I’d be looking for. I don’t normally like to see the film version before I finish the original one (although my track record, with Twilight and, most recently, Water for Elephants and My Week with Marilyn, doesn’t bode well), but I actually found myself more immersed in The Hunger Games, as opposed to analysing each and every moment, when the film continued after where I’d reached in the book. (The pre-Hunger Games interviews, FYI.)

While the book is allegedly a commentary on the hell high school can be (like a post apocalyptic Buffy), I interpreted it more to be not only about capitalist life (the riches of the Capitol juxtaposed against the poverty and poor quality of life for the rest of Panem), but about advertising culture and the media.

The argument that seems to surround media today is that we should ban this, and censor that. Then we wouldn’t have eating disorders, negative stereotypes of women and minorities, obesity, gambling, domestic violence, blatant consumerism and pretty much anything else you can think of. Common sense would have us stop consuming the things we don’t feel align with our personal ethics. Don’t like the way animals are slaughtered in factory farms for our precious meat? Don’t eat it. Don’t like racism? Don’t be a racist. Don’t like leggings as pants? Don’t wear them. Don’t like children being chosen at random to fight to the death for the pleasure of the elite and the opportunity to make life a little more bearable for the underclass? Don’t watch it. If everyone adopted this attitude and no one watched, there wouldn’t be a product. As author Suzanne Collins notes her inspiration for the series as flicking television stations between war and reality TV, it’s not hard to come to this conclusion.

Despite the fact that no one really seems to be talking about the senseless mass murder of children by children (won’t somebody think of them?!), there is a point to “career tributes” like Cato and Glimmer, who are trained for the Hunger Games since birth.  As Laura Miller wrote in The New Yorker, “[W]hy isn’t it the poorer, hungrier districts that pool their resources to train Career Tributes, instead of the wealthier ones?”

I wasn’t as huge a fan as some others who’ve devoured the series in several sittings (I prefer to wait until the next filmic instalment is on the horizon to delve into the second book, as with Tomorrow, When the War Began, for example), but I did like it and look forward to seeing what the next two chapters bring; both book and film versions.

*Blanket spoiler alert.

Related: My Week with Marilyn Review.

Event: Should Meat Be Off the Menu?

Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden Book/Movie Review.

Elsewhere: [The New Yorker] Fresh Hell.

Image via IMDb.

Movies: Breaking Dawn—Sex is Bad, Okay? And You Will Be Punished for Having It With a Life-Sucking Vampire Foetus. Sorry, Life-Sucking Vampire BABY!*

 

Much has been made of Stephenie Meye’s Mormon ways in the Twilight saga.

Breaking Dawn was the first installment in the franchise I’d seen since I started this blog and steering it in a more feminist, gender studies-related direction, so I was thoroughly looking forward to all the anti-feminist sentiment the film would be imbued with.

Sure, there was the inspiration for the title of this post—that sex is bad—along with pro-life and abusive partner-sympathising messages, but all in all, the movie bombed. Big time.

The first half was meant to fulfill diehard fans’ fantasies of Bella and Edward’s wedding, which was filled with angsty Bella’s fear as her father walked her down the aisle, which dissipated when she saw Edward because, you know, she’s nothing without him who keeps her grounded and ready to face her life-altering circumstances, and their first bed-breaking love making session, which I will return to momentarily.

The second half consisted of talking CGI werewolves, a life-sapping foetus—sorry, “baby!” as Rosalie so adamantly reminds us—turning Bella into a shell of her former self (who was fairly shell-like to begin with) and her transformation into a vampire.

I have many problems with Bella and Edward’s relationship, but I’ll try to confine them to the bounds of Breaking Dawn’s storyline.

On their honeymoon, Edward and Bella have sex for the first time. Even though Stephenie Meyer did her darndest to save the consummation of the relationship til the confines of marriage, she makes clear, by Bella getting pregnant, that any kind of sex that’s not solely for reproductive purposes is bad. And if a wife tries to seduce her husband, who is so selfless that he forgoes his own pleasure so as not to hurt his new bride, she will be punished with a fast-growing, nutrient-depleting, monster foetus—sorry, baby! On her very first try at lovemaking! Talk about anti-sex sentiments!

(I will say that the role reversal here was interesting; when do you see the female essentially begging for sex from a withholding husband?)

The bruises and the broken bed that occurs from Bella and Edward’s first night together seem a little too close to what might eventuate from a domestic violence incidence. Bella has been brainwashed by her emotionally abusive partner so that she rationalises that his violent behaviour was somehow her fault that he couldn’t control himself. Classic Stockholm syndrome if ever I saw it.

And, of course, there’s the pro-life proselystisation that comes with Renesmee’s accelerated conception and birth. Fitting, considering the hullabaloo in the States, particularly, over abortion and “personhood”. (Does “personhood” apply when the foetus—sorry, BABY!—is only half human?) Under the failed personhood amendment, abortion would be outlawed, even in the case of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is threatened. Stupidity reigns supreme. I would like to think anyone in their right mind would terminate a life-threatening pregnancy, especially when the baby could potentially be a monster. At the very least, I’m sure a rich doctor who has an operating room (albeit one with floor to ceiling windows. Privacy much?) could have delivered the baby prematurely and placed it in an incubator.

Finally, what is up with Jacob imprinting on a newborn? And does Renesmee even have a say in Jacob’s undying love for her? Does Jacob’s imprinting mean that Renesmee essentially imprints on him, too? Or does she have to go about her life with Jacob waiting in the wings, whether she wants him there or not? If you though Edwards stalker tendencies were bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet!

Thank God there’s only one more movie left!

*Blanket spoiler alert.

Related: The Catholic Church is Not a Force for Good in the World.

Elsewhere: [Nightmares & Boners] Feminism, Sex, Abortion & Twilight’s Breaking Dawn.

[The Vine] Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1 Review.

Image via IMDb.

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.

Book Review: The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer.

 

I got over all the Twilight hoopla early on, becoming obsessed with the first movie when it came out in late 2008, then devouring the four tomes in quick succession.

While I stand by my contention that the first film was greatindie-esque and unselfconscious, before all the money started rolling in and they tried to top themselves. Bring back Catherine Hardwicke, I say!the books are so bad they could’ve been written by a grade sixer.

And that goes for The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, too.

But at less than $15 and 178 pages, I flew through it in a few public transport sittings, and it is a must-have for fans, if only to add a hardback edition to the bookshelf’s collection of black and red spines.

The novella follows the “short second life” (duh) of 16-year-old Bree Tanner, who was a newborn vampire introduced in Eclipse, created by Riley and Victoria in their quest to overthrow the Cullens and get to Bella Swan.

In a nutshell, she falls in love with fellow newborn Diego, and they discover together that Riley has been lying to them about what Victoria created them for, amongst other things. One night when they’re hunting, they get sidetracked and stay out too late. Diego shows Bree that the sunlight won’t turn them to ashes, contrary to what Riley asserts. Enter fellow coven member, Fred, who has the ability to repel others with his mind, but chooses to befriend, or rather protect, Bree.

Then comes the action which Twilight fans will be familiar with, when Victoria and Riley lead their coven into battle against the Cullens and the werewolves, who definitely possess the element of surprise, and are devoured by them. Diego dies early on, and Fred diverts his focus to escaping the Volturi, who were liaising with Victoria in her attempt to capture Bella and who arrive after the slaughter to claim Bree’s life, as we all know from Eclipse.

A kind Carlisle Cullen offers to let Bree, the sole survivor, go if she promises not to fight. However, when Jane arrives, Bree realises she has nothing to live for anymore, with Diego dead and Fred gone, and succumbs to the Volturi quietly.

There are no chapters, and the action takes place mostly via dialogue between Bree, Riley, Diego, Fred, and later, Carlisle and his family.

All in all, a pretty tiresome effort by Meyer, but could we reallyexpect much else?

Lady Most Likely: Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People

Every time I turn on the readio, it seems like there’s a Will.I.Am collaboration (“3 Words” with Cheryl Cole; Usher’s “OMG”; “Imma Be” with Black Eyed Peas) or Will.I.Am sounding collaboration (“Nothin’ on You” by B.o.B.; “If We Ever Meet Again” by former über-producer Timbaland and Katy Perry) getting airtime. The BEP front man may indeed be the new Timabland, so I was surprised he didn’t make it onto the list. There’s always next year, I suppose…

Someone who did make it on, though, is Lady Gaga.

Cyndi Lauper, Gaga’s partner-in-crime for the MAC AIDS Fund, profiles her for possibly the most talked about ranking this year. I have no doubt Gaga is the most influential person in entertainment today, as she’s collaborating with and inspiring the fashion, beauty, art, advertising, music and film worlds with her own performance artas Lauper writes, “she is inspiring other artists to go further in their own work”and striking up water cooler conversation with her boundary pushing antics, both onstage and off.

Time is spot on in naming Marc Jacobs the only influential fashion figure. Jacobs, who is profiled by fellow fashionista and friend, Victoria Beckham, glamorised grunge, began the bag lady chic movement, and is now championing voluptuousness in his new season looks for Louis Vuitton and his titular line. Perhaps Karl Lagerfeld and Anna Wintour would have made welcome additions, but Jacobs certainly has the respect of all facets of the fashion world his peers, his models, his muses and his loyal subjects.

I am utterly dumbfounded to not see George Clooney on the list. Not only did he single-handedly organise the Hope for Haiti Now telethon but, like a fine wine, he only gets better with age.

In other “Artists” notes, shoe in Oprah is profiled by Phil Donahue, while her partner, “Mr Oprah” Stedman Graham makes the Least Influential list (more on that below); Robert Pattinson is bafflingly included (for influencing legions of teens and, worryingly, tweens ready and willing to let Pattinson bite them? Perhaps Brad and Angelina would have been better choices, as they actually contribute something to societyas well as being really, really ridiculously good looking. Or even Stephenie Meyer, without whom Pattinson wouldn’t have an Edward Cullen to broodingly portray); and “new media mogul” Ashton Kutcher, whom I was pleasantly surprised to see on the list.

Of course, President Obama makes an appearance as one of, if not the most influential leaders. While he certainly is the most well-known leader on the list, whether he’s been as influential as he could have during his first year in the presidency is a point of contention for a lot of politicos and American citizens.

My second favourite President (after Obama, George W. Bush is the only other President whose reign I was [un]lucky enough to grow up during, so Clinton wins via default), I find Bill Clinton funny, charming and smartalthough, hey may not have been utilising the latter during Lewinskygate. Nonetheless, he’s making positive change, and that’s all that matters here.

On the other hand, former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin makes the list. She is certainly fascinating and controversial, but I wouldn’t call her influential. Perhaps she would be more at home on Barbara Walters’ annual most fascinating people list?

Speaking of other lists, on page 96 you will find Joel Stein’s “The Time Bum Hundred”, relaying how he chronicled the 100 least influential people of 2010, split into “four categories… Losers, Flameouts, Morons and Slimy Bastards”. The complete list is not available in the mag, but it is on Time’s website.

Here is a sneak peak of “the Least Influential People Who Used to or Ought to Have Influence”, not including babies (who really are the least influential people in the world!), “the tattooed chick who messed up Sandra Bullocks’ marriage” (negative influence), and Tiger Woods, who just had a “bad year”, but is “still immensely influential, only now his influence lies in preventing men from texting their mistresses”: the Tom Tom GPS navigation system; “We Are the World 25 for Haiti”; Paula Adbul; Michael Jackson’s doctor, Dr. Conrad Murray who, unfortunately, was influential enough last year to play a key role in the death of Michael Jackson; Joaquin Phoenix; gay-disapprover, sex tape “without any sex” star and Former Miss California Carrie Prejean; “first dog” Bo Obama; George Clooney’s ex, Sarah Larson; former MTV TRL host Carson Daly; questionably, The Doors, who “actually sucked and just had a handsome lead singer”; Grover; Carrot Top; news anchor Katie Couric; John Edwards; the quintessential douche bag reality show dropout, Jon Gosselin; keeping it in the familyLindsay and Michael Lohan; Jersey Shore outcast Angelina Pivarnick; Bernie Madoff; Levi Johnston; Tila Tequila; Nicollette Sheridan; witches (“Charmed was like, ten years ago. It’s all about vampires, werewolves and zombies now”); anddrum roll pleaseSpencer Pratt and Heidi Montag, collectively known as Speidi. Let’s hope Heidi truly is uninfluential, especially for The Hills‘ primarily teen audience’ssake, or we could have an army of over-inflated, frozen-foreheaded Barbie clones on our hands.