Luhrmann doesn’t have enough depth to make Fitzgerald’s characters truly shallow
He watches the winking green light. He is blissfully unaware that it is a bilious green, the green of envy, an old money Cyclops that never sleeps. This light will never be extinguished, never be defeated, invulnerable to challenge and change. Behind the light, curled in their shallow magnificence lurk those, “careless people who smash up thing and creatures” ready to be unleashed once again upon exam text youth.
Which shows could have the potential to take a storyline in a new and fascinating direction, rather than letting it slide into Tropeville?
Every now and then, I like to indulge myself with fantasies of storylines that could be, if only I could trust television to do them right. Those dreams loom especially large in the wake of finale season, when I think ahead to what we’ll be seeing on network television in the fall, and wonder if this is perhaps the year when television breaks out of itself to do something amazing. Which shows could have the potential to take a storyline in a new and fascinating direction, rather than letting it slide into Tropeville? And what could they do with said storyline?
HBO isn’t all bloody dramas and sex. It’s also witty, sharp comedies.
Christopher Guest is finally (and delightfully) back behind the camera with Family Tree, a new half-hour single-camera comedy on HBO co-created with Jim Piddock. The production is a bit of a departure for Guest, who’s made his name in film (A Mighty Wind, This is Spinal Tap, Best In Show) rather than in television, but if the first episode, ‘The Box,’ was any indicator, this will indeed be Guest at his best, showcasing his ability to move seamlessly across a variety of media and to work well with a variety of actors, even those who aren’t part of his usual ensemble. (more…)
“I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that a lot of very bad things happen when people have good intentions”
“Fiercely intelligent” is the phrase used by a recent acquaintance, whose husband worked on “Shadow Dancer,” to describe the film’s director James Marsh. It’s a spot-on assessment that I couldn’t agree with more. The Oscar-winning filmmaker behind “Man On Wire” – who I last interviewed for Global Comment in 2011 about his follow-up doc “Project Nim” – is an artist drawn to exploring the complexities and puzzles in life, rather than to providing grand conclusions or even any solutions. Such is the case with Marsh’s latest narrative feature, a nail-biting, Belfast-set thriller (starring the dynamite duo of Andrea Riseborough and Clive Owen) about a single mom forced to choose between going to jail for her involvement in an IRA bomb plot, or turning government informant and spying on her hardliner family. I spoke with the British-born, Denmark-based director prior to the flick’s NYC theatrical release on May 31st. (“Shadow Dancer” will also be available on iTunes and On Demand everywhere else.)
This new plot line feels like an utter betrayal of everything she’s been over many, many seasons, and of her role as a childfree icon.
Christina Yang. Fierce, independent, strong, and long one of my favourite characters on Shonda Rhimes’ ongoing hit Grey’s Anatomy. Played by the fantastic Sandra Oh, Yang is the epitome of the gifted, talented surgeon who’s set her heart on a goal and is working towards achieving it. She works in cardiothoracics, traditionally one of the most demanding surgical specialties, and one heavily dominated by men; a study in 2009 noted that 97% of surgeons working in this field were men. This was actually a worse statistic than in 1996, when 5% of cardiothoracic surgeons were women.
These guys grow up, go into entertainment, and then react to the presence of an audience as if it’s a form of armed robbery. But female comedy fans exist. We go to shows. In the age of social media, our microphones can be as big as any comic’s, or bigger.
I tried not to embarrass Sam Morril.
To understand how hard this was, for me, I should start at the beginning. Which was: On April 15, I went to a comedy show. The opener was one Sam Morril. And his opener, as per my notes, went as follows: “My ex-girlfriend never made me wear a condom. That’s huge. She was on the pill.” Pause. “Ambien.”
When Sam Morrill tells a rape joke, he pauses for a moment, then says some variation on the phrase “that was a rape joke.” He invariably sounds both proud and delighted. I should know. I heard him do it several times.
And it went on. He saw a woman fighting with her boyfriend, and something bad happened to her, and she said it wasn’t funny, but it was. He bothered a girl at a bar, and her friend said that the girl wasn’t interested in him, so he eventually paid someone to punch the woman who had stopped him from hitting on her friend. (Sam Morrill is apparently a big fan of stories about women getting physically hurt when they object to the concept of having sex with Sam Morrill.) It wasn’t just the occasional rape joke, or the occasional self-congratulation for telling the rape joke, that made the set so exhausting. It was just the steady, relentless, predictable drone of a man whose only punchline was some variation on “I do not like women.” At one point, I flipped him off. Then I flipped him off again. Then my face started developing a nervous twitch. And then we hit the night’s highlight:
“Hey, I’m attracted to black women. Yeah, I had sex with one once.” (Once!) “It was kind of awkward, because the whole time I was fucking her, she kept using the N-word. Yeah, the whole time, she just kept yelling out, no!”
At that point, much like any of Sam Morrill’s conscious ex-girlfriends, I just fastened my eyes to the ceiling and waited for him to finish amusing himself.
So I told my editor I was going to confront him. Something big, and rude, and embarrassing. I’d send him an e-mail – maybe I’d just quote a bunch of rape statistics, and ask him to rate how funny they were on a scale of 1 to 10 – and I’d wait to see if he responded.
I had a reason for being invested in his response. Last summer, the entire Internet had been set aflame by comedian Daniel Tosh essentially threatening a female audience member with rape for objecting to his rape jokes. She had a blog; she used the blog to relate what he’d said; Daniel Tosh, who had an entire show about the goddamn Internet, was apparently shocked and mortally wounded that someone in his audience had a blog.
Which would have been obnoxious enough on its own, without the stand-up comedians of the world rallying around Tosh. And yet, rally they did: Patton Oswalt referred to the woman as “some idiotic blogger,” and lamented that Tosh had been made to apologize to the woman he’d wished would be “raped by like two guys.” Dane Cook helpfully informed those who were offended by Tosh that “it’s best for everyone if you just kill yourself.” (After you get raped by the two guys, I guess. It’s a remarkably rough night Cook and Tosh had planned for that woman.) Even the normally reasonable and intelligent Louis C.K. got sucked into defending Tosh’s comments – although, thankfully, he didn’t go the route of Doug Stanhope, who hashtagged his Tweet about the controversy, simply, #FuckThatPig.
He was, yes, referring to the woman that Tosh had threatened. Because this is how it goes, between female comedy fans – especially feminists – and male stand-up comics. Let’s be entirely clear here: These are grown men who get paid money to stand in front of an audience and say, quite literally, whatever they want, as long as they think it’s funny. And yet when women talk back, especially if it’s not flattering, we’re “idiots,” pigs, better off raped, or better off dead. These guys grow up, go into entertainment, and then react to the presence of an audience as if it’s a form of armed robbery. But female comedy fans exist. We go to shows. In the age of social media, our microphones can be as big as any comic’s, or bigger. Why shouldn’t they hear what we have to say? More to the point: Why do they still act as if it’s avoidable?
Because they do. One year and approximately seventy thousand blog posts later, people were still hiring Sam Morrill. Because, you know. What could possibly go wrong?
So, I wrote to my editor, I was going to do it differently. I was going to give him no possible chance to claim that he’d been ambushed, or stabbed in the back. I was going to find him. I was going to tell him exactly who I was – “My name’s Sady Doyle. I’m a feminist journalist and pop culture critic, and I attended your show on April 13,” is how I opened my first e-mail — and I was going to tell him that I planned to write about his show. I was going to do this whole thing as fairly as possible. While still, you know, planning to write an entire piece specifically for the fun of humiliating the guy in public.
He wrote back.
Lets do it, Sady! Shoot me the questions. Thanks for thinking of me.
It was at this point that the story changed. He’d responded. In fact, he’d responded almost right away. There was a chance I could actually talk to the guy. And so I started to have doubts about my initial premise. A list of rape stats and an invitation to rate them on the scale of humor: I could do that. I could send that. I could print that. It would have been splashy, and it would have made my point, and – moreover – I was absolutely certain that he would be unable to respond to it. He would look like a coward. I would look like a hero.
But it would have been a lie. It would have been worse than that: It would have been shitty journalism. I could game the system, pre-determine the outcome, give Sam Morrill something he absolutely couldn’t respond to without looking like an asshole, and absolutely couldn’t ignore without looking weak, and then reveal to my readers – as if it were a surprise – that I’d managed to make the guy look bad. I would have looked brave to the outside world, while knowing deep down that I’d risked absolutely nothing. In point of fact, I would have been no better than a stand-up comic bullying an audience member for not laughing at his jokes. To do this thing right – to do it fair – I had to come to the table with the presumption of good faith. I didn’t have to pitch the guy softballs. But I had to give Sam Morrill an honest chance to write back.
So I sat down. And I wrote the nicest e-mail I could manage.
Hi Sam –
Thanks for responding so quickly! And I’m sorry that I didn’t do the same. The fact is, I have one main question, and it is: What’s with all the rape jokes?
I know the relationship between feminists and stand-up comics can be notably contentious on the rape joke issue. (Think Tosh.) And to be blunt, I sent you the e-mail because your set made me really mad. That’s probably what you were going for. But instead of firing shots at each other from the safety and comfort of our personal Twitters, maybe it’s worthwhile to talk about it. This conversation tends to get stuck in one repeating pattern: Feminists say rape jokes are offensive, comics say they have the right to offend people, and we just keep repeating the same lines from that point forward. So, even though I would expect you won’t like some of these questions, maybe this is an opportunity to open a dialogue.
One in five women reports being sexually assaulted. For women of color, that number is much higher; one study says that over 50% of young black women are sexually assaulted. (One of your jokes: “I’m attracted to black women. I had sex with one once. The whole time I was fucking her, she kept using the n-word. Yeah, the whole time, she was yelling NO!”) On your Twitter, you warned people that they shouldn’t attend one particular set of yours if they’d recently had a miscarriage or been raped. So, like: Are you comfortable excluding that big a chunk of the population from your set? I always wonder this, about comedians who tell a lot of rape jokes. You presumably know that it happens. Do you know that it happens this often? Is it a realistic possibility, in your mind, that not just one but several of the women in your audience have experienced it?
It’s not just that. An even higher percentage of the female population, 1 in 4, reports having been assaulted by a partner. 30% of all murdered women are murdered by their partners. To be blunt: You make jokes about hitting women. You also make quite a few jokes about killing them. One extended bit was about getting someone to hit a girl who didn’t want you bothering her friend, because you “couldn’t” yourself. On your Twitter (paraphrasing here): “I would never hit a woman. Or push one. Out of the way of a moving bus.” The basic punchline in your set was, the girl got hit, and you caused it. The punchline in your Tweet is that a woman gets killed. The punchline in your extended series of Tweets about Pistorius: Girl gets killed.
But in your Tweet about the Boston Marathon, you write that “this violence is infuriating.” What’s the difference between the violence perpetrated at the Boston Marathon and the violence that will affect about one-quarter of all women during their lifetimes, and account for no small number of deaths? That’s not a set-up for a joke. I just want to know. Why is only one of those infuriating?
Finally, Sam: The two rape jokes I counted in your set weren’t just about the concept of rape. They were jokes in which the punchline was that you raped a woman. (That didn’t happen with any of the other comics on stage, even though I remember at least one other joke about domestic violence, and the host did a long riff about rape.) And then a story in which the punchline was that you indirectly assaulted a woman. Given these numbers, what’s the benefit of presenting yourself to an audience — which is likely to contain some women, and some assault victims — as someone with an interest in raping and hitting women? Even as a joke? Where’s your pay-off there?
And I want to stress: I actually do want to hear what you have to say here. People keep having the same fight, and nothing changes on either side. Maybe this is a chance to actually have a conversation. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
To date, we have received no response from Sam Morril.
Photo by visual.dichotomy , licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Generic 2.0 license.
This is a man whose time has come.
Slavoj Zizek, The Year of Dreaming Dangerously, Verso, 2012.
The work of Slavoj Zizek is by now a genre of critical theory in itself, complete with its own distinctive characteristics. These include: discussions of Hegel, Marx and Lacan; analysis of recent political events interspersed with sections on recent popular culture; David Lynch and Hitchcock; counter-intuitive reversals of liberal, leftist and feminist prevailing wisdom; and large segments copy and pasted from previous books. All of these, with the exception of Lynch and Hitchcock, feature in the slightly uncharacteristic new book from Zizek.
The subject, as the title suggests, is the recent post-recession social movements across North America and Europe – Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring, and the right-wing fascist movements that have also emerged in Europe. Topic is always a little blurry with Zizek – one cannot always say a book is “about” any one thing in particularly – but The Year of Dreaming Dangerously sees Zizek strangely energised and focussed.
Some of the chapter on Occupy was initially delivered at Liberty Plaza/Zuccotti Park using the “human microphone,” repeated one phrase at a time. The systemic crisis in capitalism world-wide, from the North American stock market crisis to the Eurodebt debacle, gives new urgency to the Marxist Zizek’s political writing: this is a man whose time has come. “The true dreamers are those who think things can go on indefinitely the way they are,” he points out.
In an excellent chapter, Zizek argues that the television series The Wire shows the systemic failure of the Baltimore micro-economy – a failure at every level from police to courts to schools to politics. In The Wire’s Baltimore, politics proper cannot take place. Zizek quotes Wire creator David Simon, who says that “I accept that [capitalism] is the only viable way to generate wealth on a wide scale.” Zizek rejects this pessimistic diagnosis, in contrast arguing that the dreams of the Occupy movements et al chart a different way out of the current predicament.
Yet these are not altogether safe times. Zizek has longed noted the increasing authoritarian nature of liberal democracies – what he sees as the becoming-Chinese of capitalism in squishing dissent, “capitalism with Asian values.” In another chapter, he delves into the emergence of right-wing movements in Europe. The Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivek proves a useful barometer for nationalist sentiment – a xenophobic murderer who aimed not at the racial Others he abhorred, but his liberal mutlticulturalist political opponents. Zizek points out that Breivek’s politics are embedded in state violence against Others, as well as the odd combination of Zionist anti-Semitism of the extreme right-wing that comes in the support of Israel’s apartheid policies against the feared Muslim Others (Breivek, of course, thought that there are too many Jews in the United States). The danger, Zizek points out, is that Europe could fall into fascism again – a not unwarranted warning given the situation in Greece with the neo-nazi party Golden Dawn, for example.
The Year of Dreaming Dangerously is not Zizek’s most theoretically audacious work – for that you must turn elsewhere, particularly to his work on MIT Press. However, it is the most focussed popular writing that Zizek has written for years. Highly recommended.
What is it about Veronica Mars that compels so many to adore this show so fiercely that they become rabid evangelists? Here’s your chance to catch up
Like Veronica Mars fans the world over, I waited with bated breath when creator Rob Thomas launched a Kickstarter campaign challenging fans to pay for the movie he’d been promising since the show went off the air in 2007. His fund raising goals seemed ambitious, but we couldn’t help but nurse high hopes—especially since the numbers on the Kickstarter started turning over faster than our eyes could follow once it went live.
Simultaneously we condemn and condone the frailty of youth, the barbaric poolside hedonism that spits in the face of all that’s proper and decent.
Hieronymus Bosch is alive and well and living in Florida, bitches! He’s melding slobbering hunks of flesh into micro bikinis Brian Yuzna style. Two finger smiles, porn star tongues-this could be an X-rated Coke advert. Sun kissed skin sizzles in montage, booze cascades in slow motion, Sodom meets Gomorrah by the sea. Welcome to Heaven and Hell. Welcome to Spring Break. Say hello to the “Spring Breakers.”
“Only human beings can know what it means to strip a human being of being human”
Jeanette Winterson, The Daylight Gate. London: Arrow, 2012.
Acclaimed English novelist Jeanette Winterson’s latest book is something of a curiousity.
The book has been published by Arrow in partnership with famed British horror film studio Hammer, who have commissioned a series of horror novellas which according to the back cover spiel “will span the literary and the market, the esoteric and the commercial, by some of today’s most celebrated authors.”
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