Like the rest of America, I watched Gone Girl over the weekend. I’ve been in post-mortem mode ever since, reading all the think pieces about the book vs the movie, what It All Means, and whether or not that shadow in the shower scene towards the end of the film was Ben Affleck’s uncircumcised penis.
By far the most popular topic in the thriving subgenres of essays that are Gone Girl reactions is what known man’s man director David Fincher did to the cunning antiheroine Amy Dunne. According to both Amanda Dobbins and Nico Lang, Fincher made her the ‘psycho bitch,’ robbing Dunne of the interiority she had in the book and turning her into the demented, batshit crazy psychopath who does ridiculous shit because bitches be crazy. Lang argues,”One of the refreshing things about Gone Girl is that despite its Fatal Attraction veneer, it refuses to cast Amy as a villain—or worse, another “crazy bitch.” If she’s driven to unspeakable acts in her quest for marital revenge, it’s because Nick drove her to the edge.”
Uh, did we read the same book? Because from the get-go, Amy’s motivation for framing Nick as her murderer was always unclear and frankly weak and unbelievable. He cheated on her with a well-endowed co-ed, he moped around, he made her feel like a shrew—none of that, from a purely objective point of view, makes faking her own murder understandable. Not even close. Dobbins and Lang are right in one sense, Book Amy is simply more interesting than Movie Amy because her rants about society’s double standards regarding men and women are funny and trenchant and scorching. And also kind of irrelevant to the plot of the movie.
If you want to critique Fincher’s portrayal of women in his movies, go right ahead. My first blog post was about how misogynistic The Social Network was. But the difference between that movie and this one is that there are several women in Gone Girl who act as overt rebuttals to Amy’s unique brand of crazy. (Also there are simply more women with speaking roles in this movie than there have been in any other Fincher film). Think aboutt Margo played so wonderfully by Carrie Coon. She’s the most principled character in the film, the voice of reason, loyal but critical, loving but firm. Or Detective Boney, who throughout the movie, even when she is putatively ‘against Nick’ comes off as smart and observant. She’s committed to the objective truth.
Gone Girl the movie is many things. Darkly comic, twisted, scary, chockfull of great acting, crisp editing, performances that simultaneously go with and against type (I’m looking at you Tyler Perry who allegedly didn’t know who David Fincher was, and you Missi Pyle with your cartoon villain face and you Casey Wilson bringing some of Penny’s indefatigability to her role as ‘pregnant idiot’ Noelle Hawthorne). But it is not misogynistic.
In 2012, former Washington Post Celebritology blogger Jen Chaney coined the phrase ‘reali-scapism*’ to describe NBC’s Parenthood:
But what really, truly, above all else, makes me love “Parenthood” is that it’s a perfect piece of what I’ll call reali-scapism: A television show that tackles subjects many of us confront in our own lives — hectic working-parent schedules, playdate politics, the strain of an unemployed spouse, the frustration of not being able to communicate with an autistic child — and dips all of it in just enough escapism to make it enjoyable to watch.
I’m thinking of her post now in light of this frustrating season of Parenthood, where the writers have tended a lot more to the ‘escapism’ part of the phrase, with mostly negative results.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room, the flummoxing irritant that is Sarah Braverman. Her chronic dilettantism has really taken her to new heights this season. Remember that time she was a playwright (with no experience) who managed to get her play produced by a Broadway suit, nabbing the endearingly awkward English teacher Mark Cyr in the process, before dumping his ass for a grizzled, frog-throated Ray Romano (who, yes, has been doing great work this season). Now she has inexplicably become the landlord of an apartment complex, bewitching the likes of a charming doctor who apparently can only afford to live in said shoddy apartment. Her on-a-whim apprenticeship with photographer Hank Rizzoli has suddenly yielded her a plum gig as an ad photographer. I mean, really? She’s like your arch-nemesis in high school, smiling her way into things you worked hard for. Who knew it was all so easy?
Then there is the overwhelming power duo that is Kristina and Adam Braverman. After a serious, deeply touching cancer scare last season, Kristina runs for mayor, nearly winning (meaning we reach the heights of implausibility before tumbling back down to Mother Earth). Now the duo is starting a charter school. Doesn’t that take a lot of work and years of planning, fundraising and the like? Nope! Turns out it’s really easy to get approved. All you need is Julia Braverman, some quick fade in shots of Braverman speaking rapid fire legalese, Zachary Knighton looking really impressed and voila–there you have it, charter school!
Yes I understand that to a certain extent, “Parenthood” has always been slightly unrealistic. But one of the key components of the show, the reason why it is so habitually tear-inducing, is because of its fidelity to some sort of world order we, the viewer, recognize. We watched Kristina almost die last season and we’ve tracked the near dissolution of Zeke and Camille’s marriage. The latter couple’s happiness now is sweet (too sweet, warns AV Club’s Todd VanDerWerff forebodingly) because we have witnessed their journey.
A lot of the accomplishments this season simply don’t feel earned. I’d like Sarah Braverman to encounter a significant setback—one that doesn’t involve men. I’d like Kristina and Peter to deal with the very real consequences of having a kid with Aspergers, in a way that doesn’t involve them taking up a hopelessly intense and expensive campaign and implausibly succeeding. There are limits to what one white, photogenic couple can do.
Otherwise, the show is just going to increasingly draw my indifference and derision. Which I don’t want. Bravermans forever!
*Not sure how many legs that phrase ever had
This is a story about two men. Two black men. They are both tall. They are both straight. One lives in TV LA, the other lives in TV Chicago.
This is Brad.
This is Winston.
Brad, played by Damon Wayans Jr on ABC’s Happy Endings, an improv-heavy ensemble comedy about six friends in Chicago with lots of that quick, pop culture riffing that has become the tone de jour since 30 Rock and Community, is a metrosexual with a pair of great, pearly white teeth and a hot, ultra type-A white wife Jane (Eliza Coupe).
Winston, played by Larmone Morris on Fox’s New Girl, an improv-lite ensemble comedy about three men and one girl living in a loft in LA with the will they/won’t they non-tension of imminent copulation always, perpetually on the horizon, is a black man who played basketball in Latvia for some time. He likes the musical Wicked. That’s about it for Winston. Read the rest of this entry »
Thanks to the Internet and the diminished attention span it has given me, I don’t read books with as much urgency and frequency as I used to. I read, but it’s mostly ephemeral articles about ephemeral things or memorable articles about memorable things, but either way they are not Books and part of me feels guilty about abandoning one of our most ancient forms of entertainment. Invisible Man is forever linked to hot summer mornings in our stuffy North Kingstown townhouse, my feet planted on some spot on the bedroom wall as I lay upside down reading the ‘Battle Royal’ scene and feeling my entire worldview shifting irreparably.
So this summer has been interesting.
I’ve bought more books than I ever have before in my entire life*, partly on the principle that I should start owning books that I profess to love and mostly because it’s too late to get a library card here. So I bought Invisible Man and A Visit from the Goon Squad at Busboys and Poets and I bought Freedom this past spring and I bought The Marriage Plot. And I bought Sag Harbor and I bought House of Mirth and I bought Uwem Akpa’s book of short stories when I walked into a used bookstore one Saturday.
As you can see, my literary tastes skew towards ‘The Big Literary Books of Two or Three Years ago.” That’s how I like it though. You read the book and then you read the fuss surrounding them all in one sitting and you can take it in coolly, rationally and see how it all turned out. Each of the books I bought I had wanted to read and I expected them to be good. I managed to get exactly 12/13 through each book before something else, namely the Internet, made me put the books down prematurely. Read the rest of this entry »
When I’m trying to exit the Metro station and there’s a barricade of wide-eyed tourists, stepping tentatively on the escalators, bright white sneakers gleaming, metro maps clenched tightly in right fists, bra straps straining under faded tank tops– they are annoying.
But then you go to the Mall on a weekday evening in late August, when it’s just rained and the weather’s actually cool for once and there’s a nice breeze and you see an Indian family slowly climbing the steps up the Lincoln Memorial and you hear some beefy, red-faced guys speaking in German. You watch the Chinese tourists grasp the black bars of the gate in front of the White House, you notice the Eritrean woman jockeying for space so she can take photos of her four bored-looking boys who do not yet understand the significance of this moment, but will much later, when their mother is gone and they’re selling the house she worked so hard to own and they’re holding the photograph that she stubbornly insisted on printing even though it was on a phone, frozen for posterity. Read the rest of this entry »
For reasons fully understandable to me, though deeply, deeply shameful, I stayed up until 3 in the morning watching old episodes of Boy Meets World.
Actually, I should be more specific.
Some kind soul decided to upload and string together in an old-fashioned, homemade kind of way every significant clip of Shawn Hunter (Rider Strong), Cory Matthew’s troubled best friend, and Angela Moore (Trina McGee-Davis), Shawn’s first major girlfriend. The YouTube clips run 12-14 minutes each, and they are eight parts in total. Official Kxren, the dutiful uploader, explains why there is, as of now, no part 9:
LIFE IS HECTIC AT THE MOMENT, WILL FINISH IT ONCE I GET SOME SPARE TIME. THANKS FOR ALL YOUR COMMENTS AND PATIENCE.
That didn’t do me any good though, so I ended up using Wikipedia as my ad-hoc TV guide and watched the pertinent season 6 and season 7 episodes until I saw the end of their relationship to its forced, unnatural conclusion.
I know exactly why I spent three hours watching Shawn and Angela. It’s the same reason I have occasional, overwhelming longings to watch Something New. But I’ve already done that blog post. Read the rest of this entry »
After watching Foxy Brown, I have so many questions, all about the hair. Forgive me for being an ignorant Negro, but were the Afros really that naturally glorious in 1974? I mean, I know there were a few wig moments, but my word, those ‘fros are so meticulously groomed, I watched in wonder.
Also Pam Grier.
Her body like whoa. Everyone that has watched this film knows this, because from the opening credits, pervy director Jack Hill had his camera all over her. Blaxploitation sure lives up to its name in this bad boy. So much gratutitous nudity. Am I hating because Jack Hill is essentially the proto-Tarantino? Not at all. Foxy Brown is a campy classic for a reason, so I can’t hate. Pam Grier plays the titular role, all hips and boobs in the opening credits, doing her little jiggy disco dance. Read the rest of this entry »