Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Boondock Saints

Yesterday evening I watched The Boondock Saints with some girlfriends. It was the first time I'd seen the movie. The violence was not usually what I'm eager to watch, but it had some beautiful moments and a properly suspenseful plot. The kind of film that I can understand why it becomes iconic.

I couldn't help being bored, however, by the lame roles of the few female characters in the film. Now, you can come right back and say there are plenty of "women's" films that have cardboard male characters, and you're absolutely right. You can make your blog post about those. Right now I'm blogging about these.

There were a small handful of women throughout the entire film, in scenes lasting around 1 minute 30 seconds. They pretty much had no lines, and when they did talk, the dialogue was always vaguely unnecessary, something extraneous to the plot of the film. Some of them, I presume, were forensic scientists, since they wore white lab coats and had their hair pulled back in important, no-nonsense ponytails. But they never seemed to contribute any actual scientific findings to the crime scenes which they were investigating.

At one point in the film, towards the end, the main detective, who is a riot, is going nuts at the scene of one of the final crimes, a suburban home where massive shootings have taken place both in and outside the home. He can't figure out who these guys are, even though the Boondock Saints are amateurs and doing stuff that he says you "can't do in movies" (cue comic drum and cymbals!).

Meanwhile, the female forensic scientist is taking blood samples from a splattering on one of the new jersey-blue-blood-suburban-home pillars, and making over-exaggerated gestures of exasperation, making me think that she was not classically trained in Method acting. She expresses her distress at not being able to get a good blood sample, and hyped-up detective man comes over to help her out of what should be her job.

He leans over and sniffs the blood, has a conniption about it, draws out the drama of telling everyone what he's discovered, and waves a smear of the blood in the scientist's face, causing her to flail her head away and make a face. Eww! He put something icky near her!

It's ammonia, he announces. The Saints have sprayed it on their blood so that you can't get a decent blood sample. Those Irish scamps! Everyone gasps at the detective's brilliance, and the female scientist makes a figure of wonder and chagrin (she doesn't talk anymore; her dialogue moment is over). Ah, ammonia. Well, now we know.

But why didn't she know? Ammonia is a pretty common smell; it's in your urine, in bad fish, etc. And she's a scientist. I know one of the comic subplots of this film was to present the detective as brilliant and everyone else he works with as a hopeless rube, but even so. Would it have killed the director to let the scientist be the one to say "oh, it's ammonia," and then let detective have his monologue rant? I mean, this is a bloody scientist, but she can't figure out why that blood sample won't take! What a waste of a lab coat.

I bring this up mostly because when I watch films like these, the women in them are so one-dimensional and dumb, and I feel forced to identify with them. Maybe that's just how I watch movies.

Still, let me reiterate that The Boondock Saints is an artistic and powerful film, with a complex look at social justice. I get why it is iconic. But I get annoyed that portrayals like these are generally disregarded because something is iconic. It's like how slavery is kind of okay in Gone with the Wind because awww, look at those pretty dresses! There was a moment in Saints where the Don wants Rocco to tell a joke with the word "n*****", but I feel pretty sure (or I hope?) that the audience is supposed to feel suitably appalled by it.

Well, I've probably offended a great many people with this. If it helps, just pretend I was wearing a white lab coat when I wrote it and disregard the whole thing.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

introducing consumption and debt: a divine comedy

so here begins some postings from one of the academic questions i posed this year in my Cultural Studies program. we had an assignment in our "Class on Class" to go through the steps of researching a topic, but not to actually write the final paper. the idea was to gain mastery of the research process itself, which is indeed extensive and nothing to thumb your nose at.

so now i'm going to write that final paper! or at least, blog it for now. i have a start based on a mini-synopsis we had to write up for our final presentations, and i'm going to use that to launch into a larger quest to explore the potential answers to my question: why is consumption still gendered as feminine, and why do women tend to be blamed for consumption in popular narratives?

for my base narrative, i'm focusing on the film adaptation of Sophie Kinsella's Confessions of a Shopaholic, but my project may delve into other texts and films as my research continues. i think she is a brilliant writer and it is interesting to see how she defines problems of consumption, and how they are rewritten by Hollywood in the 2009 film.

so, here goes!

Monday, May 23, 2011

the 18th century: does it even matter?

so some of my friends have been wondering why this blog ended up being called "the 18th century guide to modern living" when i don't often write about the eighteenth century. well, the answer is that sometimes i do write about it, but that the eighteenth century isn't literally the focus. it's more of the inspiration. it's not all about substituting "s"s with "f"s, or about wearing tight knee breeches.*

in college i truly indulged my lifelong love of jane austen, and around her i built my knowledge of the eighteenth century in literature and history courses. from them i developed concepts of social justice, community activism, education between the sexes and between social and economic classes, and the modern application of those values. i also credit my dear alma mater, gettysburg college, for giving me a profound sense of my ability and responsibility to critically engage with the world.

but the eighteenth century’s sense of interconnectedness has incredible relevance to the modern world. it emphasizes that we are all part of a larger whole; that our self worth is reflected in the worth of the community to which we belong. modern crises in economy, education, environment, and human rights, require actions that are guided by moral character; we have the power and the responsibility to positively apply the insight gained through understanding our connectivity.

exploring these concepts in a historic and modern context is imperative in order to prepare ourselves to think critically about how we will conduct ourselves in our professional and personal interactions. austen was one of those people who cared about such things, and taught me to care.

these are lofty words, but i think you'd better start off high, or your standards will be too low to get anywhere worthwhile. so now i like to write about a dozen different topics–gender, marketing and consumerism, education, really anything that looks interesting. i never forget, however, that in the back of my mind i'm always shaping how i interpret social justice from my mental 18th century guide to modern living.

*although i am a firm endorser of tight knee breeches.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

after a night out with friends, i come home, sleepy and tipsy, and all i can think of is one of my favorite lines from king lear–
"kind and dear princess!"

ah, kent.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

hmm i graduated. it feels weird. now, how do i find a job?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

we must sell more shoes!

hmm. here's what i've basically been concluding from my research for my consumer debt v. consumer fantasy project, of which confessions of a shopaholic forms a base text: capitalism doesn't make sense. or, republicans who say we are in debt only (and please note the qualifiers 'who say' and 'only') from overspending, don't make sense. because here's basically how the picture is looking:

1. consumption = bad
2. consumption = gendered (aka feminine, because everyone knows women love shopping!)
3. consumption and especially women's consumption = downfall of economy
4. women, stop buying shoes!
5. CEO of D.S.W. Shoe Warehouse = "we must sell more shoes!"
6. capitalism = whose bright idea was this anyway?

ok i actually don't have such a major problem with capitalism–only with people who pretend it's perfect but blame, in popular media, the undeserving poor wanting houses and frivolous women having credit card debt for every national evil. paul krugman has an interesting blog discussing the problems with this limited assessment of national debt, which my professor just turned me on to, which i'm hoping to incorporate in my presentation somehow...except i only have 15 minutes to talk, so we'll see.

p.s., i realize that if you are outside of my culture studies class, or of the texts i've been reading, this may be a bit nonsensical to you. but i have to vent, so thanks for reading.

it's not just for the classroom!