Tuesday, May 01, 2012
Sunday, April 22, 2012
The Voice: The Gif that Gifs Back
Oh hello, I didn't see you there IN MY MIME HOUSE FULL OF MIMES. DO COME IN.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Here, I've Written About "Girls," Can I Stay on the Internet?
First off, I loved Lena Dunham's Tiny Furniture. Loved it! Which is why I was so excited about Girls, seeing as the subject matter, setting, characters, and cast are so similar. I'm a sucker for a story about people flopping into adulthood and Tiny Furniture, for all of its slick Manhattan arty rich kid privilege, told a story I related to through characters I didn't.
There's a world of difference between Lena Dunham, director and writer, and Hannah/Aura, the character she's essentially played twice to varying effect. Conflating Dunham with her characters does a disservice to women that borders on misogynistic. No one thinks Seth Rogen should be pilloried for crimes against his generation for playing several identical doughy stoner man-babies and putting his buddies in his movies; people don't believe that he somehow lucked into his writing gigs despite being an idiot because he plays idiots. Dunham is the daughter of well-off artists who plays the daughter of well-off artists/professors. Why is it easier to write off her successes? She's an acclaimed director, an exceptionally believable actress, the creator of an HBO series, single-handedly doing more to normalize women's bodies on television than anyone in recent memory, and a 25-year-old woman. Yeah, totally, it was probably because she grew up rich.
Girls is television beautifully done. The characters are painfully believable, the apartments are depressingly realistic. And I hated watching every second of it.
Precisely because the show is so well done, Hannah Horvath and her shitty concerns and her garbage friends and her bullshit life enrage me to the point where I wanted to put my foot through my TV, but I can't do that because I can't afford another one, because I am a 29-year-old woman who lives in Brooklyn and pays her own rent on a real life publishing salary. I believe these characters. And if I ever had to hang out with them for 10 seconds of their, "Ew, what if I had to get a job at McDonald'sssssss!" conversation, I would leave. Straight-up walk out of that kitchen (possibly into traffic). Conveniently, because they're fake and I have a remote control, I can end this toxic friendship before it starts.
If there's someone to blame for that fact that you and I spent our Sunday night watching awful monster people be nauseating, it's not Lena Dunham. She's doing an unbelievably good job of creating on small facet of reality, however grating (or not) you find it. You also can't blame some nebulous nepotism, which people keep sort of bringing up because all of the main actresses have a famous parent. (That does, however, say something about the power of wealth in general--famous, successful people are the ones who can afford to have their kids be actresses and filmmakers, but not every rich kid is talented. These girls are.)
You can, however, blame HBO. The executives who choose what beams into your house are the people who privilege one voice over another; they decided that show was where they'd put their cable bucks and I hate to think what voices didn't get a spot on the air because HBO thought it was important we all hear rich white people discuss how awful it is to have responsibilities. (Without so much as a glimmer of hope that Hannah will change! Why couldn't the hotel maid have caught her pocketing the tip?! A modicum of justice was all I would've needed to maybe give the show a second chance.)
Three weeks ago I decided that Sam and I were going to get HBO. I literally stood in the middle of my living room, justifying my stance by repeating "I AM AN ADULT AND I CAN HAVE NICE THINGS, GODDAMMIT!" in what was definitely an Outdoor Voice. For the first time in my whole life, I make enough money to pay for HBO. I wish I were exaggerating when I say that I felt like I'd taken an express elevator to the penthouse of Kid Kathy's Concept of Luxury when my cable box rebooted and bam, there was the entire season of Eastbound and Down. Getting access to the show Girls is a big, big deal for me. I refuse to hang out with anyone (televised or animate) who would not understand that big, big, deal. Hannah and her friends don't get it.
But I that's sort of the point, I suppose. I'm not a 25-year-old ex-intern who's never paid for anything. I'm a 29-year-old publishing editor who's worked for my money, and worked to have a really good handle on what kind of people I want in my life. These Girls don't get to be my friends.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Though I don’t generally like to compare the rotten apples of one tragic situation to the putrefying oranges of another, this use of the word “legacy” in response to the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State University child sexual abuse scandal tied the two situations together in my head. In 2005, the NCAA weighed the legacy of Chief Illiniwek against its overt racism and, despite an 80 year history at the University of Illinois at Champagne-Urbana, condemned its use by U of I teams. The University retired the symbol after the 2006-2007 basketball season. A legacy can be outweighed.
Imagine now that Chief Illiniwek was a real person and a University of Illinois graduate assistant walked in on him raping a child, who he came to know through a foundation for underprivileged youth. Imagine that assistant told the head coach—a really good head coach, who’d been there for a long time and known Chief Illiniwek for years—who told the athletic director, who told University of Illinois officials. None of them called the police. They dealt with the situation by asking Chief Illiniwek not to bring kids to the locker room any more.
And, when the story broke that Chief Illiniwek had raped not just this child but others, students screamed as loud as they could that their head coach should be allowed to keep his job because of his winning legacy.
Here, legacy is code for preservation despite degradation.
That is the argument the rioting students of State College made last night, violently. Joe Paterno won 409 games for Penn State so his unbelievable refusal to contact the police when told Jerry Sandusky had been witnessed raping a child should be forgiven. These students, some of them freshman who have been connected to the Penn State legacy for less than three months, have given Joe Paterno’s 409 winning games a weight greater than his complicity in the sexual abuse of at least one 10-year-old boy and systematic, pervasive, stomach-turning silence on the part of University officials at all ranks.
I can’t believe any of this even bears saying, but I’ve gotten a response from a Penn State girl supporting Joe Paterno on Twitter and, astoundingly, heartbreakingly, unbelievably, it seems the thought that we are all duty-bound by our humanity to protect children from harm is not universal. That something as trivial as college football can outweigh a child’s welfare is so sad I don’t have an adjective for it.
“Asked how she felt about Paterno being fired, Nicole Atlak, a freshman from Toms River, New Jersey, said: "Absolutely disgusted. From a student's perspective, it's like where do we go from here? We no longer have a president. We no longer have a 45-year legacy."
-The Christian Science Monitor
So, let’s just talk about legacy then. A legacy is anything passed down through time and motherfuckers, these kids who were abused are the legacy of years of oppression piled on rape culture piled on the privilege of a few to put their shit, however negligibly important, ahead of everything else. These kids were victimized by every fucking system designed to keep them safe. They were born difficult circumstances, found their way to a charitable organization for the underprivileged and, when they were preyed upon even there, found out that Penn State football fans are more important than the fact that they were raped. That’s the legacy you should be talking about, Nicole, and I hope every potential boss Googles you and you spend years justifying that quote. Poor kids get preyed on at Penn State and then ignored by University officials and, when caught, the student body is “absolutely disgusted.”
You’re right. “It’s like where do we go from here?”
Thursday, August 18, 2011
30 Day Song Challenge: A Song That Makes You Happy
If music is a thing that makes you happy, it is a thing you often wish you could share. Living here you just can’t. So, my pick for a song that makes me happy is the one that gets me the closest to Mr. California Girl. It’s the one that makes me dance on curbs while I’m waiting for the light to change and the one I’ll stand up for on the subway just so I can do a subtle hustle. It’s Earth Wind and Fire’s “September.”
Tell me this doesn't make you ecstatic (and ever so seasick).
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
30 Day Song Challenge: A Song You Hate
Moreover, familiarity alone can temper the hate I feel for a terrible song simply because I can sing along with it. Take Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now,” for example. I was going use that as the song that I hate. If given the chance, I would gladly stomp a copy of that CD into smithereens. But I just listened to it all the way through and accidentally hummed some and ignored the rest because it’s boring to the point of invisibility. Plus, the members of Lady Antebellum themselves are so nondescript that I basically just picture Amish dolls when I try to visualize their faces.
It takes an attack of terribleness on all fronts in order for a song to be so singularly detestable that it’s the only one I can pick today. And that song is “Your Body is a Wonderland” by John Mayer. How do I hate it? Let me count the ways:
1. The music itself is bland and irritating and, were it not accompanied by stupid lyrics, sounds like something that would play during a toilet paper commercial.
2. The lyrics are a fist to the solar plexus. When Mayer sings “your bubblegum tongue,” I want to swallow mine.
3. His delivery is that of a sweaty, touchy stranger at a bar you are trying to get away from.
4. He was a racist jerk to Kumail Nanjiani, who I just love.
5. Guitar face.
Most importantly, I despise the idea that my body could be considered a wonderland. When Alice went to Wonderland, she was confounded by a world turned upside down, where smug talking cats hung around being inscrutable and also there was that nightmare pig baby. I don’t want my body to be a universe of things a guy is seeing for the first time, because that means my body is a mutant, or that guy is, like, 12.
(You can find this song on Spotify, but why would you do that?)
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
30 Day Song Challenge: Your Favorite Song
That said, there are certain criteria that will guarantee a song a spot on the soundtrack during a pivotal scene of Kathy: The Motion Picture:
1. It is short. If it takes you more than three minutes to say what you have to say, I think someone should confiscate your Moog, or your Pynchon, or your psychotropics, or whatever has gotten into your bloodstream.
2. It sounds good sung in a car at a volume that will cause you to be hoarse.
3. It is somehow sad, despite sounding mostly happy. See: Robyn, Dancing On My Own.
There is one song that continually spackles these holes for me. It’s kind of a weird choice because, as far as I can tell, it first appeared on the Friends soundtrack. After the Replacements called it quits, Paul Westerberg shit popped up on a bunch of soundtracks (Dyslexic Heart, for example) and the song “Stain Yer Blood” is my favorite. Ever. Of everything.
Paul Westerberg is basically the world’s best rock star. I’ll pick his brand of sloppy, dopey genius every time over something more self-serious and grand. You married a guitarist? Great. You still live in Minnesota? Better. You’ve decided to make questionably bold eyewear choices in your middle age? Fantastic.
My friend Kai and I had a mixtape blog for a few months a while ago and I put this on the “Songs for Those Dreamy Girls (…We Wish We Were)” playlist. At the time, I wrote that it was:
My favorite song about a girl because Paul Westerberg is kind of my favorite guy. This one hits close to home because of how real it is: she’s hanging around, he knows she wants him, he’s all let’s do this thing tonight, whatever, no big deal, people are gonna talk about it, fuck them. But then! Transcendent musical magic that differentiates the pop muse from my average self: “Is it love?”
I still sort of agree with that description, but I’ve come to think that the great thing about this song, and about all concise guitar pop songs that so accurately hit home the singular feeling of romantic possibility, is the way that it lets you write your own starring scene. I'm not the girl who inspires songs to be written, nor is virtually anyone that girl, but "Stain Yer Blood" lets you be her three minutes at a time. When I hear “Stain Yer Blood,” I’m wearing the fictional vintage dress of my dreams, leaning against a wall at a party that never happened, feeling some sort of cinematic sadness that is neither annoying nor selfish.
Whatever romance I picture thereafter is less important than the romance of the song itself, that double knot it ties in my stomach and the possibility of feeling an adolescent intensity about everything forever. Paul Westerberg, in his song "It's A Wonderful Lie," kind of cops to the charade of songs like this:
So don't pin your hopes
Or pin your dreams
To misanthropes or guys like me
The truth is overrated
It a wonderful lie
and I still get by on those
But that's why I love "Stain Yer Blood" so much more.
(You can find Paul Westerberg's "Stain Yer Blood" on the album The Resterberg on Spotify.)