The Show Tell Project

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Tag: entertainment

Repost: Sex and Dystopia

by fyarlgiles

An excellent article on self-objectification in the post-modern world

through the lens of Sex and the City.

taken from one of my favorite online magazines: The Hairpin

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Television critic Emily Nussbaum has an outstanding piece on Sex and the City—and how it lost its “good name”—in this week’s New Yorker. When people tell the story of quality television, Nussbaum argues, they talk about The Sopranos and the raft of other HBO shows that followed. They might acknowledge Sex and the City, but their scorn is palpable: “It might as well have been a tourism campaign for a post-Rudolph Giuliani, de-ethnicized Gotham awash in money,” writes Brett Martin, author of Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘The Wire’ to ‘Mad Men’ and ‘Breaking Bad.’  

But Sex and the City was doing many of the same things, and sometimes doing them even better, than The Sopranos. As Nussbaum points out,

“Sex and the City,” too, was once one of HBO’s flagship shows. It was the peer of “The Sopranos,” albeit in a different tone and in a different milieu, deconstructing a different genre. Mob shows, cop shows, cowboy shows—those are formulas with gravitas. “Sex and the City,” in contrast, was pigeonholed as a sitcom. In fact, it was a bold riff on the romantic comedy: the show wrestled with the limits of that pink-tinted genre for almost its entire run. In the end, it gave in. Yet until that last-minute stumble it was sharp, iconoclastic television. High-feminine instead of fetishistically masculine, glittery rather than gritty, and daring in its conception of character, “Sex and the City” was a brilliant and, in certain ways, radical show. It also originated the unacknowledged first female anti-hero on television: ladies and gentlemen, Carrie Bradshaw.

The reasons for reading (and liking) this piece are manifold: I like that Nussbaum explicitly calls out the revisionist history that elides the presence of shows geared towards women and other “feminized” objects. I like that she reminds us of how nuanced the characters and their plotlines actually were. I like how she emphasizes how much friendship mattered to these women, and I reallylike that she told me on Twitter that she wanted to call the sex interludes “Chauceurian fabliaux, down to the farting.”

But I also have some problems with a secondary claim of the article, namely, that these characters were feminists:

Most unusually, the characters themselves were symbolic. As I’ve written elsewhere—and argued, often drunkenly, at cocktail parties—the four friends operated as near-allegorical figures, pegged to contemporary debates about women’s lives, mapped along three overlapping continuums. The first was emotional: Carrie and Charlotte were romantics; Miranda and Samantha were cynics. The second was ideological: Miranda and Carrie were second-wave feminists, who believed in egalitarianism; Charlotte and Samantha were third-wave feminists, focussed on exploiting the power of femininity, from opposing angles.

These claims are ostensibly correct: Miranda and Carrie were very much invested in egalitarianism. They were bread-winners; they didn’t expect others, and men in particular, to provide for them. I’ve often heard guy friends refer to Miranda as a “ball-buster,” which is another way of saying that she acts like a man. Charlotte and Samantha were also focused on exploiting femininity, whether in the form of traditional demureness or sex-positive self-objectification.

But I don’t really know if any of these women—with the pointed exception of Miranda—were actually feminists at all. I don’t think that they were pre-feminists (even though Charlotte could, at times, have exchanged places with an obedient Henry James character). They reaped the benefits of second-wave feminism (reproductive rights, sexual freedoms, access to workplace), but, given their sexual and financial freedoms, who needs the actual politics and rhetoric and discomfort of feminism? They weren’t emblematic of second or third wave feminism, but of postfeminism—the belief that feminism, as a movement and a real politik, is no longer necessary.

Under postfeminism, freedom to choose becomes freedom to consume: which shoe (Jimmy Choo), which drink (Cosmopolitan), and which meal (brunch) defines me as a person? It also marked the return of many of the things for which first and second wave feminism fought so ardently to leave behind: staying at home and funneling your energy into “putting a ring on it.”

But it’s not like postfeminism was an identity marker—no one goes around saying “I’m a postfeminist,” and Carrie certainly didn’t, either. It’s a cultural mode, like “post-9/11” or even, to some extent, postmodernism. When I teach postfeminism, I point to Pretty Woman and the students kinda get it; then I point to Sex and the City and they really get it.

Which is part of why Sex and the City has curdled in my memory. Like many of you, I’m guessing, I had a period of obsession when it initially aired; I remember renting the DVDs (you could get the entire season at once) and ordering Cosmopolitans and consuming the series wholly uncritically. Today, Sex and the City stands in for the time in my past when, for better and for worse, I played with behaviors and tastes that grad student me would call “problematic.” I don’t regret them, per se, but I do think it’s important to be able to look back and see what they suggested in terms of norm, whether in terms of dealing with vaguely and not-so-vaguely misogynist men or the need to buy lots of shit.

But as I read the article again, and discussed it with Nussbaum, I realized I was being unfair. When milk curdles, you don’t take a deep drink and really taste it; you spit it out. And that’s what I’ve done with Sex and the City, neglecting the ways in which the narrative never straightforwardly endorses Carrie’s consumption (at least in the beginning, she’s always haplessly broke) or romance (the Big storyline up until the final season, wow), and uses the supporting characters to explore all manner of crucial, generally ignored women’s issues with genuine grace and humor.

So I was being unfair, but it wasn’t entirely my fault. As Nussbaum points out, the fairytale ending of the series goes a long way towards unraveling the otherwise progressive storylines. But you know what else makes me think bad thoughts? The movies. The first one, sure, but the second one is an abomination. I realize it’s unjust to blame the original for the sins of the offspring—Star Wars, I’m so sorry for your loss—but with the movies, we had the same characters, the same actors, and the same plotlines, only now they were hackneyed, reductive, and completely evacuated of nuance. The postfeminism of the series was complicated; in the movies, there’s nothing complicated about it. SATC2, especially, is racist and xenophobic and, ironically, somewhat woman-hating. You don’t look at these women and see someone you want to emulate; you look at them and understand why patriarchy endures.

Sex in the City the series is arguably less white than Girls, but it treats race much in the way that it treats gender politics: as something we’ve moved beyond. When the series aired, no one (that I read) was making arguments about how the show’s title, coupled with the casting, suggests that sex in the city is the unique provenance of white upper class women. It wasn’t because the show was somehow more sophisticated or meaningful in its handling of race—it’s that those weren’t the conversations critics were having, at least not broadly, at the time. When critics talked about Sex and the City, they talked about sex, the new HBO and fashion. (Also remember: this was pre-blogosphere, where the critiques of Girls and other shows largely originated). But maybe we can restart that conversation now, and think about the ways in which SATC— and its often unspoken racial politics—shares DNA not only with Girls, but also Grey’s AnatomyVampire DiariesTrue Blood, and countless other shows.

Here’s what I want to do: revisit Sex and the City and think about the ways that it might actually function not as an endorsement of postfeminism, but as an early artifact of postfeminist (and “postracial”) dystopia. I’ve used this term to describe GirlsBachelorette, and Revenge: these are all texts that represent the “fruits,” for lack of a better word, of postfeminist culture. It’s a world filled with really bad sex, catty infighting, and generalized dissatisfaction with what you thought you wanted.

Girls never celebrates this life; it makes it seem murky, scary, and sad. Sex and the City did celebrate this life, but it was never as straightforward as I like to remember. Carrie was, indeed, an anti-hero, and a large part of that might have been due to the difficulty of reconciling feminist tendencies (she, too, could be a ball-buster) with the societal imperatives of postfeminism. Sex and the City may not be dystopic in the manner of Girls, but it’s also not exactly utopian. Pretty Woman it most definitively is not.

So maybe I’m ready to rethink. Are you?

Anne Helen Petersen is a Doctor of Celebrity Gossip. No, really. You can find evidence (and other writings) here. Her book, Scandals of Classic Hollywood, is forthcoming from Plume/Penguin in 2014.

Girls on Film: Orange is the new black

by fyarlgiles

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Before Piper leaves to spend her first day and night in prison,  she crawls on top of her boyfriend: “we have to make this the stuff of fantasies,” she whispers.  And then they struggle through their tears to force one, last meaningful fuck.

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This, says tv, is what women are. They can be smart and interesting, but above all, they must be nymphos. The entire scene is very beautiful and quite real, but it made me think about how instrumental women are in their own objectification. Television shows get this wrong a lot for me; men are wrongfully vilified as  the source of objectifying remarks that reduce women to hot, horny things.

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“That’s not the way you treat someone who makes you cum the way I do”

But  the dialogue in Orange is the New Black, a show with an almost entirely female cast, seems to get closer to the truth. Sexual confinement cannot survive unless women adopt shovenistic ideas as their own and then push them into the world: “ I am a catch because I am beautiful, and smart, and I want to fuck ALL the time. What an exceptional woman I am !”  

We have come a long way, baby,  but there is no arguing that women internalize and perpetuate their own sexual oppression.  Of course it is empowering for a woman to own her sexuality! For a woman to know what she likes and let it be known, but  there is a problem when we believe that intellect is secondary to sex-drive. In a time where identity is intensely contrived, this sort of idea can force the element of performance into areas that should be reserved for intimacy or at least sincere pleasure.

 Self-objectifying comments come from women. We make them about ourselves and  we make them about other women, sometimes without even realizing it. In Orange is the New Black, an ultimately empowering show, we can still find traces of self-subversion and self-objectification.

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“I know she is hard to leave. I mean we both know how she is in bed”

I would like to pretend that there is some external force bashing me into submission, telling me that sex- how much I want it, how much I have it, and who I have it with is the foundation of who I am.. but I think that maybe I am perpetuating this.

Angie

Cinema Surreal: The Cat with Hands

by fyarlgiles

A few nights ago, I was lucky (or unlucky) enough to view this horror short. It is about a cat who lives in a well and steals human body parts so that he can become a man. The film is loosely based on Mit Romney’s Life Story

Happy Halloween!!

I am a Professional Zombie VOL. II

by fyarlgiles

Alright, so, why do I do it? Am I stalling answering the question for dramatic effect? Or because of the much more likely reason. That I don’t really have any idea.

There is a show called “URBAN DEATH”. Taking place late at night in the terrifying city of North Hollywood, for the past ten years, this theatrical shows spends one hour staring into the human psyche. And that’s how I got into this mess.

What began simply as an actor’s risk transformed into so much more. Not only the most physically challenging show I’ve ever done, but with the biggest following (you don’t stay in the theater biz in L.A. for ten years without being onto something). I did my first run of it a about three years ago. And it lasted nine and a half grueling months. In more time than it takes to conceive and deliver a baby, I had devoted my body and being to the stage in the most horrific of circumstances.

First, it was the fear that went.

The fear of death. The fear of looking ugly or silly. All of these were torn from me in the rehearsals and performances. It got to the point where I could be absolutely naked, in front of an audience of strangers, wearing nothing but stage make-up and fake blood, and feel nothing by alive and liberated.

When the nine and a half months were over, I was glad to finally stop though. It was time, I said. I’m so tired, I said.

What I didn’t realize was the instant withdrawal I would go through. What I didn’t realize at the time was that Urban Death had become my weekly catharsis.

Here’s how it works : Saturday night — I get to the theater, and in a rushed, cramped backstage, I slather myself, full body, with blood and make up. My perfectly shaped eyebrows are drawn over. My mouth is scarred. My hair is sprayed down with water and caked with dirt. I dig blood under my fingernails. Bloody my knees. Put dark circles around my eyes. Disfigure myself to the point of repulsion. On bad nights, I’ll even add a few more cuts and cashes, at the neck or the wrist most usually, or scratch or bite marks on my face and chest – a hint as to how I may have died.

Lights up : A pile of rotting corpses lays dead, almost at the feet of the live audience. The actors hold their breath. With my eyes closed, I can still hear the audience in their inevitable gasp, the shuffle of their feet as they stand to get a better look. Right away, the audience is amazed.

Eternities pass. I am dead. My actor’s mind works in my subconscious. It knows how to lay, the timing of the piece, the awareness of how I look. But for me, I am dead.

And finally, the spark. A spark so small, even zombie-me is not aware of it at first. A twitch in the finger. Then another. The body convulses slightly. And suddenly, something happens. I shake, and my eyes burst open, but I can’t see like how I did when I was alive. I can move. I can see. I can feel – but only hunger and pain. I am dead.

Slowly we rise. And the audience, I imagine, shrinks back into their seats, holds their partners’ hands, and wonders how far we will go.

After being a zombie, I run backstage, and in less than a minute I take off all of my carefully applied make up. In an instant it is gone, and that is my catharsis. Like real life and death, I made myself perfect, I died on the stage, and then I move on, with nothing to hold onto.

I suppose that’s the life of theater in general. But something about being a zombie : there is a glorious, natural ugliness, a hunger and an ache that matches my own, and a commitment to being the most base of human characteristics.

I don’t know why all of you like zombies so much. Without the fun of being covered in make-up and walking around with strong, twitching limbs, I’m not sure the appeal, but I have an idea.

I think the greatest villains and monsters are those that we can relate to. The surge in popularity with vampires is different. They have become relatable, the anti-heros that we can lust after with ease. Zombies are different.

There is nothing human about them any longer. And yet, we can all see something of ourselves in them. That, I believe is their enduring power. In a way, we all feel like zombies already. Our decreasing connectivity to each other, to nature. Our impending apocalypse, coming at us from all directions, whether it be a loss of our humanity as we submerge into a cyber era, or the slow destruction of the earth to the point in the not-so-distant-future where it may be uninhabitable, to the cancer that we have surely experienced in somebody in our lives, to our own self images, and everything in between.

The joy of zombie narrative is the hope that we can defeat it, and the strange, terrible comfort that we never will.

by Vanessa Cate

I am a Professional Zombie VOL I.

by fyarlgiles

I am a professional zombie

Being a zombie has been a huge part of my life for the past three years.

It’s strange. I never watched zombie movies growing up. Even now, I don’t care for them too much. I mean, sure, after my first stint as the undead on stage, I tried to watch ‘Night of the Living Dead’ and a much more palatable ‘Zombieland’. And I’ll admit to being addicted to whatever Netflix will serve me up of the ‘Walking Dead’. But zombies don’t interest me much more than the average person. In fact, on ‘Deadliest Warrior’, when they pitted zombies against vampires, I was rooting for the vampires.

So why do I do it?

This is me getting my zombie make up done by famed artist Gary Tunnicliffe. He’s also done make up like this :

Not that I’m attempting to name drop or anything (yes I am). But this is what I turned out like :

That day I got to rip out Scott Ian’s neck with my teeth, and learn valuable tools for adding to my already extensive zombie-makeup knowledge. (The tragedy is I had just gotten my teeth whitened the day before. Poor planning on my part.)

Some helpful hints for good zombie make-up :

* Start with pale skin. Something off-color, like a sickly white, a gray, or a stale light green will be ideal. You don’t have to cover your skin, but key points, such as the cheeks, forehead, and lips will work fine.

* You don’t need contacts, but they help.

* Favorite make-up palate : Ben Nuy’s bruise palate. A mix of those four colors will make you look like the undead in no time!

* Find a way to make your facial characteristics look inhuman. Pale out the mouth, use black and dark shades to make your nose look deformed, or the symmetry of your face to be disturbed.

* A little blood and dirt never hurt nobody. Slather some on in key places for the finishing touches.

* Ultimately, zombie make up is about your own creativity. Feel free to take risks, use different colors, use veins, gashes, cuts, and dirt to your own creative fulfilment. I’ve never met two zombies that look exactly alike. So remember, when it comes to being a zombie, you can be whatever you want to be.

by Vanessa Cate

Art Heap: Sunday Funnies

by fyarlgiles

more art after jump for those viewing in reader

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Jurassic Park by Gian Floris

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The Mask by David Delruelle

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E-V-O-L by Cosmic Nuggets

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Betty by Marco Puccini

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Man & Woman by Terra

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Bears on a Skull by Retrowhale

Half full of holes

by meaghanmerrifield

Half from Alex Bohs on Vimeo.

Poetic short film Half by Alex Bohs utilizes a split screen mirroring effect as well as color filtering to accentuate how inherently different each of us processes the same place. How the lenses, constructed by our experiences,  through which we experience the world around us shape our existence.

Cinema Surreal: I’ll Show You Mine

by fyarlgiles

A short animated film that explores the boundlessness of human imagination  & the exchange of feelings and ideas.

Our imagination flies — we are its shadow on the earth.

– Vladimir Nabokov

Film by Sean Donelly

Conversations with The Nerd Guru: Dealing with Anxiety and Anger

by fyarlgiles

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ANGIE: Can you pinpoint where your social anxiety comes from.. if there is such a place?

MITCH: my social anxiety comes from me feeling like a freak.

ANGIE: That sounds simple enough. but it isn’t. at all.

MITCH: I see other people. normal people. couples in the mall, people walking along smiling. I see the disconnect between them and myself. I realize how impossibly hard it is for me to simply feel happy and I spiral.

ANGIE: hmm.. I just assume that everyone is secretly anxious and depressed and in denial about it. Is that worse?

MITCH: everyone has issues… doesn’t mean that people need to walk around looking blissful… fucking assholes

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ANGIE: how do you feel about  taking medication ?

MITCH: i have no issues with my medication when I am on it. When I am on the pills I can function… I’m not always happy but happiness is an option.

ANGIE: Do you go to therapy too?

MITCH: Therapy… is like a D&D group. It works great if you get a connection with the people involved… if there is no chemistry then it’s awkward and forced.

ANGIE:  I have only ever had old jewish therapists who ask me about my mother incessantly.  then  I stop going to them.

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ANGIE: I try so hard to understand everyone that I can’t even feel when I’m angry anymore.

MITCH: anger is addictive! chemically in your brain. even though it’s a negative emotion it feels good to act on it although you generally feel bad afterwards because you are coming down from a high… so hurting people due to anger…. there is a reason and people… hate groups, bigots… they are junkies. i know it seems weird but… it relieves me… these people have become addicted to hate and they keep returning to it because it makes them feel good and not because they necessarily believe it… it makes the world a little less bleak and a bit more rational in my eyes 5335698_15749848_b 

ANGIE:  That makes me feel more like a person.

MITCH: it is something that helps me… when I am getting angry constantly at a group… or when I see others(especially politcal) constantly digging at each other… I can understand it more  because i understand them better… it’s not about hate it’s about lack of self control and an attempt to make yourself feel better…. and I think we all understand that.

Art Heap: Images of Longing by Jesse Treece

by fyarlgiles

 

 

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There’s Treasure Everywhere

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Scraps

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Phases

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Everything Beautiful is Far Away

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Untitled 

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Pathways

Artwork by Jesse Treece