Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I still wear my Weezer Muppet tee because I never bought that Planet Terror shirt

TRIGGER WARNING: Discussion of pervasiveness of misogyny and sexual assault in film, and self-blame that comes from viewing these films.

"Pinkerton" is the Weezer album that dudes like; or, in our current discourse, “the best Weezer album.”

-- Sady Doyle, Rivers Cuomo Messes You Up Forever

This is going to be long, since I got excited about Why I am interested in watching certain films, as well as wanting to discuss aspects of the films themselves. Here we go, after the jump.

I began to seriously consider myself Badass in 10th grade. Being badass meant wearing clever t-shirts with my tight jeans (which looked awesome primarily due to throwing up and doing pilates constantly), dark eyeliner, and having wavy hair I never had to brush. It also meant reading, listening to, and watching things I considered Good. This was a time of Family Guy, South Park, and Kevin Smith movies, of trying to pay attention to Godard, and being so fucking proud that I knew Pinkerton was The Good Album, and yeah, Falling for You was the best song, so when boys commented on my Weezer Tee I knew just what to say to show I was in the right club.

When I was spending most my time with boys who weren’t obsessed with Weezer, I’d play the album and tell them about Pinkerton, play Falling for You to let them know that I know how they feel, having a crush on me, because I know all the boys’ secrets already. And if I know this song is good before they do? There was a little smugness, a little, “Just so you know, I am performing masculinity way better than you right now.”

I enjoy that.

This Badass time, which I bounced in and out of for a few years, was also a time of lists. There were many movies I recognized as Good, that I Should be watching. Most of what I considered Taste came from morose and misanthropic music snobs, which should have been a red flag, and I have not pursued most of this world.

I am in a home with Netflix and Cable now, you see, so all these movies from My List are much more accessible than they ever were before. When something from the List is on TV, I notice that I get a little mansplainy to my Romantic Fellow (his experience of culture is more about nerdiness than what is generally renowned as Good), telling him about how I’ve been wanting to watch this for years, and I really should read the book—letting my audience know that I know what I should like, that I know this is Important.

This happened a couple of months ago when I saw American Psycho was on. When I got to the show, it was Batman in a room with two sex workers, treating them like shit. I was braced for mutilation the whole time, and simultaneously, felt so undermined. I really wanted to watch this movie! I had basically just given it a ringing endorsement, and now that I see it, it’s scene after scene (I did turn it off after about 2 scenes, so: limited experience) about how terrible women are, for having sexy parts and making dudes conform to the American Dream, and how hilarious it is to detest and want to hurt them. Apparently he attacks other sex workers in the film, too. This is what these dudes have been talking about all this time?


Last weekend Thelma and Louise arrived from Netflix. I knew Bad Shit happened, forgot the Bad Shit was rape, assumed it would be rape but hoped it wouldn’t be too explicit. This movie was seen as Good and applied to my Feminist Wiles! It’s a motherfucking unicorn! And then, oh, what? Ridley Scott directed this?

I was wary. Apparently women wrote and directed the film adaptation of American Psycho, so I should worry all the time, but really, why is that motherfucker directing a story about my kind of motherfuckers? (Because woman can't direct, apparently. Thanks for being so relevant today, Bret Easton Ellis!)

I’ve talked this movie up to the Romantic Fellow (RF). He saw it when he was a wee tyke, due to the older siblings.

Thelma and Louise are at a bar. There’s a man holding his beer bottle tight, as if he believes the bottle would cheat on him if he held it any other way. I say to the RF, “Is there sexual assault in this movie? … I’m pretty sure there is.”

This is my attempt to point out that, yes, by now I am aware that everything has rape in it, but I’m not okay with it. I need a warning. And please let me like the movie without letting it prove that I actually don’t mind rape, in certain contexts, and that all this feminism is just a phase.

And then Harlan and Louise are out of the bar, in the parking lot, and there it is. I look to the RF, sad. I look back, and it’s still happening. He’s still saying hateful shit, he’s still hurting her, she’s still not safe. I was hoping that this would be a movie that would imply rape, not show it. I am disappointed, and hiding behind the blanket, and feeling stupid. The victim-blaming expands, so that I am blaming myself for wanting to watch this fucking movie, and American Psycho, and Grindhouse, and Repo!, and god, I’m just going to stay away from Clockwork Orange at this point, because who knows what I’ll have to deal with there. Because if I’m seeking out a movie that has rape, misogyny, racism, homophobia, and ableism, then I feel like a fucking idiot for expecting anything else, and for not doing my research. I knew what was Good, and I was genuinely interested, and oh. Rape as a plot device. Misogyny as a way to connect with your audience. Trans folks as a punchline. I have to back up, get a little less hopeful and engaged, and remember that I guess this isn’t for me, either. But I still feel like an accomplice, and worry that my feminist foundation is more fragile than I’m willing to admit, and that someone’s going to notice.

[Also of note: I name a bunch of different things, in this post. Kevin Smith is not Godard is not Cuomo, if we're looking at what is Quality, but each one is the epitome of quality to different people I have known.

All of them dudes.]

I am picking bits and pieces out of my old Badass and Tastes to be someone I really like, and allow myself media that I sincerely enjoy, while building the tools I need to make it through pieces of culture I’m curious about.

Better yet, as Sleater-Kinney says, Culture is what you make it, yes it is! Now is the time to invent.

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