Feminist Food Porn

Recently I’ve been trying to eat better. A big part of this is hanging out in online communities where other people are also trying to improve their lives and overall health — which has been so unbelievably helpful to me, encouraging me along as well as inspiring me.

One of the things I’ve noticed, though, is that while there’s a lot of great information out there about portions and general health tips, there’s not a lot of specific recipes. I love the experience of enjoying food, and the experience of cooking it.

So, with that in mind, I decided I would post some of my recipes from time to time.

Why ‘Feminist’ Food Porn?

The phrase ‘food porn’ is pretty common. In feminist circles we talk about ‘feminist porn’ — ie, pornography that shows a healthy image of human sexuality. So I combined the two as a joke.

I never said my sense of humor was particularly witty.

The Basics

A lot of people tell me about how they hate cooking, or how their recipes never turn out right, so I thought I’d open with some cooking basics to help people get ready to get active in their kitchens.

A huge part of this is having a well stocked and prepared kitchen.

Most people I know who hate cooking also have woefully understocked kitchens. This is a rough place to start from. Trying to do something with the incorrect tools just makes a tough job even more frustrating and makes the person even more likely to give up. Trying to use a spatula when you need tongs, trying to use a spoon when you need a ladle, trying to chop when you need a crusher or a food processor… These kinds of things are what turn people off of cooking. It makes it seem like an impossible task.

Here are some things I have in my kitchen that I highly recommend:

First is a good saucepan. I use my saucepan in almost all of my recipes. It’s easy to cook with, easy to clean, and has nice, high sides to keep things from splashing. It’s shaped such that it doesn’t have those annoying curved sides that make the pan hard to scrape. It’s also non-stick.

Word to the wise: Never use any metal impliments on a non-stick surface. No knifes, no forks, no metal spatulas. You will scrape the non-stick surface off, and into your food, making the pot or pan less usable and your food more toxic. Only ever use plastic implements when using a non-stick pot or pan.

A good collection of sharpened knifes. You can see I have a bunch — not really a matched set, but :) Make sure you get a knife sharpener and keep these babies with a good edge. Trying to cut with a dull knife makes things needlessly irritating.

A scale. This is a must if you’re trying to lose weight or count your calories. Mine has a stainless steel bowl at the top that can be easily picked up, so I can put things in the bowl to weigh, then quickly dump them into whatever I’m cooking. The stainless steel means that all I need to do is give it a quick rinse and a scrub every once in awhile and it’s good to go. It weighs in ounces and in grams.

A well stocked spice cabinet. Spices don’t add much in the way of calories, and they can make a meal taste divine. Don’t try just going out and buying spices willy nilly — as you increase your collection of recipes, the spice collection will grow all its own. That said, you can never go wrong with salt, pepper(get the full corn kind that you grind up — and get a good pepper mill to grind with! The pre-ground stuff doesn’t taste as good), white pepper, lemon juice, vanilla extract, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon.

For things like basil, sage, rosemary, thyme, etc, I prefer to buy the herbs fresh and cut them up. They taste so much better than the dried stuff — which will often feel like you just poured dead leaves in your food.

Now we’re getting into the nitty gritty. This is the drawer I have next to my stove. It has all my spatulas(a mix of metal and plastic), some wooden stirring spoons, potato peelers, garlic crushers(so very useful, and I see them in so few American kitchens), ladles and large spoons, and a pizza cutter.

Measuring cups(and plenty of them, you’ll go through these like crazy) and table/teaspoons(ditto). Also, some kitchen scissors. And, randomly, you’ll see my pumpkin carving gear, for when October comes around :)

This is my miscellaneous stuff. A rolling pin, kitchen brush(for brushing oils and seasonings onto things), a couple of can openers, a potato masher, two sets of kitchen tongs(far more useful than you’d ever imagine; a must), a plain whisker and a turn operated one, a funnel, some of those…plastic bake things(no, seriously, I don’t know the name for them — the things you use to scrape cake batter off the sides of a bowl!), and my canning supplies. I can my own jams in the spring, and have jar tongs(for pulling the jars out of boiling water), lid wand, and a jar funnel. Also, you’ll see the all important knife sharpener that I mentioned above(it’s the black thing in the lower right corner).

These are some big ticket items — I don’t expect people to run out and get them or anything. But here are some other things that make cooking easier and much more fun. If you don’t have them, though, don’t stress

I know what you’re thinking: Everyone has a sink! Yes, but a good sink is something entirely different. Large and deep, with a good, tall faucet. The end of my faucet can be pulled out as a snake, to help me clean and also to fill items too large to fit in my sink.
Very important: You’re probably looking at my sink thinking “Ah, you just cleaned it up all pretty for the picture.” Nope. This is how I keep it every day. I’m not a clean freak(ha ha, you should see my room), but having a clean sink and a clean kitchen can be the difference between wanting to cook and just saying ‘fuck it.’ More on this later.

A mixer. Another thing that isn’t included here is a food processor — which they actually sell at Target and whatnot for pretty cheap. Food processors are the best.

This mixer is used to make fresh bread, among other things. Super delicious!

The big one. Obviously I don’t expect people to replace their stoves. But if you have to do so anyways, my big recommendation is for a gas stove. Electric ranges are hard to control, and you often end up with undercooked or overcooked food. Gas allows you very careful control over temperature, and quicker heating — you’ll boil water on a gas stove long before you would on an electric.

Bonus! They’re easier to clean.

Cleaning as you go

Working in a messy kitchen is a chore. Working in a clean and well stocked kitchen can be a joy.

Most people were taught to clean up after they were done, but the truth is, this doesn’t often happen, and for good reason. You just finished cooking! You want to eat your delicious creation! But by the time you’re done, you don’t really want to go back to the kitchen and clean.

My mother taught me to ‘clean as you go.’ When you’re cooking, you’ll find periods of time where you’re waiting for water to boil or mushrooms to cook. These are useful periods of time! Put away all the ingredients you’re done with. Throw away any trash. Wipe off any surfaces that are messy. You can cook and clean at the same time.

When you’re done cooking, you should only have one or two messy pots or pans(unless you’re cooking a huge meal), if you’ve been cleaning while you cook. Take two minutes and either put these pots and pans in the dishwasher, or scrub them off and leave them to dry. Trust me, scrubbing them now will only take you a minute or two, while coming back and scrubbing them when all the food has dried will take longer, and be more of a pain in the ass.

Then you can take your food and enjoy it, knowing you’ve left your kitchen ready for the next meal.

I know this seems like a chore now, but it’ll become second nature over time, and you won’t even notice it.

And that’s it! That’s my basics guide. If you have any questions, just ask them in the comments. I’ll answer them, and may even add more to this guide as things are pointed out to me. Enjoy!

August 12, 2011 · Beau · One Comment
Posted in: Feminist Food Porn

[Rant] My issues with the Men’s Rights Movement

I look at the name, “Men’s Rights,” and I don’t instinctively feel anything bad.

I mean, let’s not mince words, in our society, women get the short end of the stick, but it’s not like our sexist society is kind on men either. On the flip side of treating women like caretakers and whores, perma-mothers and the responsibility police, we expect men to be irresponsible and immature, full of themselves and incapable or, at least, not allowed to cry. Men are fixed into boxes that are defined as “masculine”, and anything that dares to wander outside of that box, or twists the box to fit their own definition, are punished. Men are viewed as being less capable of being caretakers and family raisers, and are often depicted as being clueless with children, or lacking a nurturing instinct.

These are all inconsiderate assumptions at best, downright oppressive at worst.

No, I do not believe that men are more oppressed than women. I give a big “QQ more” to people who start whining about that, but I absolutely believe that the system by which we live in modern America, classifying genders into only two possible categories, and then rigidly defining those categories is detrimental to all genders, including cisgendered men.

And then there’s the fact that the genital mutilation of young boys is considered matter-of-fact, which is pretty appalling.

So yeah. I see “Men’s Rights” and I think: “Hey! It’s a group devoted to giving men and boys a freer range of expression. To raising boys to see masculinity as a shifting definition, and that they are valued as they are, as opposed to how society wants to force them to be. Raising boys to see girls and women as equals, and treating them with dignity and respect.”

At least, that’s what I thought when I was in my first year at college and first heard of the movement.

Unfortunately, as many of you know, the Men’s Rights Movement(MRM) stand for basically none of these things. They really might as well call themselves the Patriarchy Enforcers or the Fuck Feminism Brigade. They spew some of the most hateful, derogatory bullshit you’ve heard since people decided that it would be cute if women could vote.

For starters, MRM is openly anti-feminist. And I don’t mean that I think they’re anti-feminist. No. They literally proclaim to hate feminists and proudly declare themselves opposed to feminism. They literally believe that the genders should not be equal, and those who strive for equality are bitches, whores and lesbos.

If you have a strong stomach, or at least a stronger one than mine, you’re free to visit The Spearhead(and good lord could they be more attached to their genitals?), an MRM website that’s chock full of misogyny and general delusions, from believing that women make the same money for the same work as men, to the idea that women are actually somehow, magically, more in power than men are.

Reading through the articles, I just kept hearing Stan Smith from the show ‘American Dad’: “Don’t you miss the days when white men had all the power instead of just most of it?”

It’s painfully difficult to not roll your eyes at some of the whiny individuals there, who, in almost every word, scream ‘straight white man here!’, yet think that they’re somehow the underprivileged. That they don’t have the majority of representation in government. That they don’t have the majority representation in film and television. That they aren’t the most well paid class in America with the most freedom for personal and professional live choices.

For International Women’s Day this year, Daniel Craig and Dame Judi Dench make a completely spectacular ad that highlights inequality between the sexes, and when you watch it, if it doesn’t give you chills, you are broken:

Of course, on ‘My Cock is a Piercing Weapon’(dot com), the Men’s Rights Activists are in a tizzy.

The deliberate desecration of a cock-swinging MAN icon like Bond is a calculated, deliberate move – like putting lipstick on Javier Bardem in that stupid Haitina AIDS Liberal commercial.

ANY male that subjects himself to this feminizing humiliation by his enemies deserves feminizing.

Craig’s Bond is faggy anyway.
Sean Connery not only would’ve NEVER posed for these drag pics, he would’ve told the gay publicist to “sod off and suck my knob, mate.”
Then punched him.

one of them shrieks, desperate to keep his male icon safe from those terrible dresses. Apparently, it’s okay for one to engage in gay sex, just so long as one punches one’s partner afterwards — good to know!

Isn’t this jut a whine over female ineptitude?
All of these problems could be rectified if women tried harder. At their Job, at politics, at their sexual behaviour, at reading a book and creating knowledge.

Wow, women are so dumb and useless.
Year in and year out, they cant do anything but whine about their uselessness and ineptitude.

So sad.

complains another. I’m fairly used to sexism, veiled or not, but the line “Wow, women are so dumb and useless” is so over the top, so completely soaked in misogyny and delusion, that it almost seems to be a parody. For a moment, I thought I was being Poe’d.

However, of all the hate soaked hallucinations, this one, to me, was the most visceral and vivid picture of how the MRM supports and fosters a community of misogyny:

Our Home Secretary (the tart with the fuck-me boots) has today been to a Rape Crisis Centre (i.e. a lesbian enclave) as it is International Whores Day. Pure Misandry and I tweeted to that effect.


I’m assuming that “Our Home Secretary” is some kind of idiot speak of “Secretary of State”, and they’re referring to Hilary Clinton. I can’t be sure, though.

But what stands out to me is equating a Rape Crisis Center — a place that takes calls or rides in ambulances with rape victims, male or female, and supplies advocates to help the victim through the usually traumatic procedures following a rape — with a “lesbian enclave”(which, as a queer woman, I wasn’t really sure what it was, or where it was. If anyone knows of any great lesbian enclaves, sign me up). Rape Crisis Centers are staffed usually by volunteers, who surrender their time and handle a lot of emotions and trauma to try and help people suffering the wake of a terrible violation. They are not only important institutions, but they are staffed by amazing and selfless people, and to make it out like they exist purely for women to meet other women is just downright offensive.

Of course, this commentator doesn’t really have a problem with offensive, as he goes on to call all women “Whores”, and then cry misandry(curiously capitalized).

No, at the end of the day, the Men’s Rights Movement is merely a codified version of patriarchy and oppression. Unlike most sexists in the world, their evils aren’t acted out of ignorance or mis-education, but pure spite and unadulterated hatred.

I would love, LOVE to see a men’s organization with the purpose of actually helping men and boys through the problems of sexism, on both sides. I would love to see a men’s organization that seeks to have men raise their heads with pride that they respect women and themselves. That they look to break down inequality and make the world a better place for everyone, and address the issues that afflict young men today.

Oh wait.

That organization exists.

It’s called Men Can Stop Rape and they are fucking fabulous.

March 11, 2011 · Beau · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Feminism, Rant, Sexism

[Review] Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Movie Review

Something I’m particularly sensitive to, in films, is when things feel rushed. I don’t like when there’s no time to breath, no time to have a character moment, or let the story expand and pull the audience in. Even small occurances can really reduce a film in my eyes.

Edgar Wright takes this filmmaking misstep and instead makes it into a style, a purposefully used tool to create a film that isn’t like other movies. And I loved it.

I think it highlights the difference between a mistake and a purposeful breaking of the rules. When an artist knows the rules, knows how to execure them perfectly, and still choses to break them, it can be something amazing to see. Think Picasso. But if you picked up a teenager’s doodle, unaware of the rules of perspective and not having the skill and talent to execute things with proper proportions, it looks a mess.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is like this. The frantic, hyper pace and quick, unusual cuts aren’t mistakes or the filmmaker being too lazy to let his story grow organically — they are a style, and part of the movie. For all the quick cuts and faster quips, nothing in this movie feels rushed. The frenetic pace is its natural pace, and I had no trouble keeping up for the ride.

The film centers on Scott Pilgrim(Michael Cera), a 22 year old Canadian who is in a rock band and recovering from a nasty break up. As part of his ‘mourning period’, he begins to date a high school girl, Knives Chau(Ellen Wong), who is a nice person but Scott doesn’t have any real affection for. In the midst of this, he meets Ramona Flowers(Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the literal girl of his dreams — as she uses subspace portals to deliver packages, ones that happen to run through his brain –and decides to persue her. However, he finds out that in order to date Ramona, he must first defeat her Seven Evil Exes.

The set up is simple but original. The film keeps its momentum up by having a multitude of interesting characters, any of whom could easily be the center of their own movie. Scott’s roommate, Wallace Wells(Kiernan Culkin) is a great character delivered with a hilarious and spot on performance. I’m also happy to see a character who is gay and in a film, but the film isn’t about him being gay. Scott’s bandmates, his sister, and other amusing characters populate the film. In lesser hands it would be a confusing mess, but as it is it’s upbeat and energetic, with so many stellar gags that I couldn’t even tell you what my favorite one was — only that I was laughing raucously every five seconds.

The only downside to this is sometimes you miss some of the jokes, as they come so quick, one after the other.

I have to admit, Cera surprised me. When he was first cast as Scott, I was less than impressed. Having read some of the comics, I felt that Cera was too dorky and awkward to be Scott, who was a vivacious, outgoing, and confident bass player, sometimes even too confident for his own good. I didn’t think Cera would be able to capture this. I felt that, even physically, he didn’t resemble the role.

However, from the beginning he comes off as older, and I think the scenes with Knives are what really cement this. Showing him interacting with a teenager demonstrates the difference between someone in high school and someone who is post-college, and from that Cera, for the most part, delivers a character that stands out from his previous ones. Aside from a couple of scenes of that ‘awkward, bumbling Cera-dialogue’, he speaks quickly, clearly, and confidently, doing more justice to the character than I had originally thought he could. My hat off to you, Michael Cera. My hat off to you.

My one real critique is that they changed the end of the movie after test audiences didn’t like it. The new ending is less interesting and less challenging, and I look forward to a director’s cut with the original ending. If they’d kept the original ending, this one would have been 5 for 5.

Four and a Half Stars

Feminist Review

I’m torn on giving this one a pass on the Bechdel Test. There are a few lines between named women that don’t relate to men/relationships, but not a full conversation. However, almost all the conversations between men in this movie are about women/relationships. It’s just a movie that’s about relationships.

And, also, there are six, count ‘em, six named female characters with speaking parts. That’s just fabulous.

I think this is a wonderful example to writers out there: when you have more than one character of a given ethnicity or gender, you don’t make accidental statements ABOUT that ethnicity or gender as much. For instance, if Ramona were the only woman in this movie, I’d be very uncomfortable with the plot being about men fighting for her. I’d be uncomfortable with Gideon being able to control her. But because there are five other women, all with different personalities, feelings, and situations in life, Ramona’s issues are Ramona’s, not a comment on women in general. For every scene where Ramona was powerless, there were two in which other women were empowered.

I think the original ending would have also made this film more feminist, as well as a better film all around, but as it is, when it comes to romantic comedies, this is one of the good ones.

Four Stars

August 13, 2010 · Beau · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Movie, Review

[Review] Spy Game

Movie Review

People joke about there being so many vampire franchises these days, but spies will always have vampires outnumbered. James Bond, Jason Bourne, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Evelyn Salt and not one but two USA network series. Spy Game is an example of the spy genre from the early 00s.

I don’t know much about the CIA or espionage, so it’s hard for me to say what is or isn’t realistic, but just from a general knowledge of physics, I can tell that Spy Games is more towards the ‘real’ end of the scale than, say, James Bond. This isn’t about seeing people do crazy flips or martial arts. Spy Game concentrates more on the intellectual, showing how a single piece of paper can change everything.

Nathan Muir(Robert Redford) is a CIA agent that is coming in for his last day of work when he is contacted about the arrest and detainment of an agent he trained, Tom Bishop(Brad Pitt), in China. Instead of spending the day celebrating his retirement, Muir ends up pulling all the strings he has access to in an attempt to save Bishop, all while lying to his superiors, who just want the whole matter swept under the rug.

Most of the film takes place in flashbacks, and I think Salt could have taken a cue from it in how to do flashbacks correctly. Spy Game uses the flashbacks to give you a sense of the characters and to drive the story forward, all while having a device for why the flashback is occurring — because Muir is giving reports to his superiors about how he trained Bishop. The scenes make you understand the relationship between the two men, and bring them alive as people.

The movie also delivers on its title. In between the flashbacks, Muir does everything he can to manipulate events in the present. This careful manipulation and back and forth is why the spy genre has been so popular for so long. It’s enjoyable to watch the character you’re supposed to identify with completely flounce the opposition, too smart and too slick to be caught. And even if he does get caught, it’s usually on purpose. The film balances the tension of ‘Is this all going to go wrong?’ well with the release and giddy joy of ‘Oh, that was awesome.’ Too much of one would make the movie a chore, while too much of the other would make it boring.

Spy Game is a well balanced movie, easily capable of pulling the audience into its subtle drama.

Three and a Half Stars

Feminist Review

Okay, there’s like…one woman in this movie, and she’s a MacGuffin.

There’s a couple of women that come in and say one or two lines, but they’re not really characters. Elizabeth Hadley(Catherine McCormack) is aid worker/terrorist that Pitt’s character falls in love with. This only happens so that she can be arrested by the Chinese government, causing Bishop to go after her, thus creating the plot of the movie. Hadley isn’t really a person in her own right.

There’s honestly not a lot to say about the film on this front. It’s not aggressively sexist in how it treats women because there aren’t any woman around to be treated any which way. It is a story of men, their relationships to other men, working with other men, in a manly men world of spying. I enjoyed watching the film, but it’s not something you’d go to if you want something other than male-dominated cinema.

One and a Half Stars

August 13, 2010 · Beau · No Comments
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[Review] Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Movie Review

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was not a film I expected to like, and it wasn’t one that I went to see in cinemas for that very reason. It looked like a lot of the generic 3D animated fare of the time, so I skipped over it.

I was encouraged to see it by a friend, and I’m glad I did.

Cloudy is centered on a young man named Flint Lockwood(Bill Hader) who is in love with science, and, of course, ridiculed for it. If the film concentrated on the age old “I’m a nerd and sad about it” trope, it wouldn’t be nearly as charming. Instead, it just breezes over this concept and moves on. Flint is determined to bring something special to his hometown, something that he believes that only he can bring — an amazing invention. Plagued with unappealing food(sardines), Flint decides to make a machine that will make food — any kind of food — out of nothing but water. When an accident sends this device up into the sky, it begins using the water in clouds to rain food down on the appreciative town.

Thrown into the mix is Sam Sparks(Anna Faris), an intern for a local weather news station. Sam also has a love of science, but has repressed it for years because of being ridiculed. Sam appreciates Flint’s inventions, but Flint finds himself still searching for his father’s approval.

The film has a lot of emotional beats to hit, as you can tell. It does a good job of covering all these topics respectfully, while still keeping the emphasis on the upbeat and wild nature of the movie. There are a lot of great sight gags and hilarious jokes, a movie that’s going to be just as amusing for adults as for kids. The characters are all charming, and, if they weren’t enough, there’s a talking monkey named Steve(Neil Patrick Harris). The jokes all come fast enough that even if there are some that aren’t to your taste, it’ll have passed and moved on to the next joke before you even have time to contemplate it.

Cloudy isn’t going to make you cry like a Pixar movie might, but it’s fun, enjoyable, and rewatchable. The animation style itself is amusing and cute, and if all that isn’t enough for you, keep an eye out for Officer Earl Devereaux, played by Mr. T, who is just great.

Four Stars

Feminist Review

First, the bad.

Flint’s mom is revealed to be dead near the beginning of the film, after a flashback opening with him as a kid having a heartfelt conversation with her. The only reason for this is to add poignancy to the rocky relationship between Flint and his dad. This is the very definition of fridging — a woman dying in order to further the emotional journey of men. It’s also not even a very good reason. After all, Flint and his dad can have a rocky relationship while still having a positive relationship with his mom.

It’s such a small thing in the movie, only mentioned a couple of times, but I’m just so tired of dead mothers and wives. They’re so common in modern cinema that now I just roll my eyes whenever it happens. If it were less common, it wouldn’t stick out to me so much.

On to the good!

Sam Sparks. A nerdy science girl who is actively encouraged in her love of science! Yay! And the ponytail/glasses trope is not only mocked, it’s reversed. And the male lead finds her more attractive when she’s smart. I think this is great for little girls to see. I’m also enthused to see such an actively pro-woman story in a kids’ movie.

Three and a Half Stars

August 13, 2010 · Beau · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Movie, Review

[Rant] We are allowed to be angry

I’ve been reading about Americans for Truth About Homosexuality(“a group that spreads lies about homosexuality” to quote Hemant Mehta) and their “Truth Seminar” in which they preach blatant lies and falsehoods to people who already agree with them.

The previously mentioned Hemant Mehta, or the Friendly Athiest, put up a post about how he’d pay the registration fee for folks to attend the seminar and write about what was spoken of there. Two people attended and wrote up what happened, covered in the reports here:

Day One
Day Two
Day Three

While AFTAH was holding their seminar inside, there was a protest being staged outside by several gay activist groups. The report from their perspective can be read here.

Now that I’ve covered all my link bases…

So, the actual reports of what happened inside are pretty much what you’d expect. God hates fags, so we should hate fags. Well, God LOVES fags, but hates them too, and we should…love…to hate them. Into being straight. Yeah. And gay relationships are all abusive! And they all have HIV. And…and…children! Won’t someone think of the children? Gays want to take over our country, you know. It’s unclear what their objective is once they take over the country, but they still want to. Marxism. No, shut up, it’s totally related. Transgenderism = hilarious! And Christians who support gay people aren’t Christian enough. Hardcore!

It’s all nothing new.

So I will pass on talking about AFTAH itself, and rather, talk about our supposed supporters.

First off, let me say that I appreciate what the two covert atheists did by going in to take notes. They sat through a lot more bullshit than I would have been able to. And I’m thankful that they gave their reports of what went on.

But there was a lot of stuff written into those reports that I had problems with, and wanted to bring up and discuss. I don’t blame the writers for feeling the way they did, but there were a few things that I see come up all too often in discussions about social issues — primarily issues in which one social group or another(or an intersection of social groups) is being oppressed. By allowing these things to pass unmarked, we allow these misconceptions to grow and multiply.

The issue of which I speak is often referred to on the internet as “concern trolling”. It is when an individual or a group tells someone that “their argument would be more convincing if they weren’t so angry about it all the time”. The idea is that people are more receptive to hearing about viewpoints that conflict with their own if the speaker is moderate and calm.

And…this is true.

When I’m trying to convince someone that what I’m saying is correct, I try to stay calm and collected and state my facts in a coherent manner.

The fallacy comes in when the concern-troll makes the assumption that all people want to be convincing at all times. I don’t always want to argue calmly and collectedly with people. Especially not when they’re people like Peter LaBarbera, who’s never going to be convinced with petty facts that he’s incorrect. He’s convinced himself that gays are wrong and bad and immoral, and he looks for biased studies done by Christian Universities or Conservative Groups to back his belief up. No amount of calm is going to change his mind.

And, to be honest, I don’t particularly think he deserves calm. There’s this idea that bigots deserve our time and attention, and that they’ll all come around eventually. Not only is it not true that they’ll all eventually come around(some folks will, in fact, take their hate with them to the grave), but I think it’s particularly galling to tell an oppressed group that they’re no allowed to be mad.

When someone says that gay people were all molested as kids, I’m not allowed to be mad.

When someone says that we’re all infected with HIV and maliciously want to spread it because we’re devoid of “God’s love”, I’m not allowed to be mad.

When someone holds a seminar, a god damned seminar, in order to teach bigotry and hatred of gay men and women, and even gay kids, I’m not allowed to be mad.

Oh, well, I’m allowed to be mad, I’m just not allowed to express it. The onus is on me and mine to suppress our anger and speak to these people as if they’re deserving of our time and patience. I don’t think concern trolls understand that they are further oppressing an already oppressed group. Not only are they not helping, they are actively telling people that they’re not allowed to speak, or, if they’re allowed to speak, they’re not allowed to express how they feel. Newsflash: That is oppression.

Now, I respect people that do manage to keep their cool and talk rationally. I applaud them and their attempts to speak to people who hold such blatantly oppressive views, but just because some people are capable of that, and want to do that, doesn’t mean that all gay people have to shut up and sit down.

And make no mistake — that is what is being asked of us when we’re told that we’re “not being helpful” and that we’re “too angry”. People are telling us we aren’t allowed to raise our own children! We have a right to be angry! Responding to someone like that with “Well, that’s how you feel” legitimizes their views. Instead of firmly and rightfully calling that hate speech, it says “Oh, well, it’s just a difference of opinion.”

Speaking of, this is a quote from someone who was at the protest against the AFTAH. To reiterate, this someone who is on our side:

When I asked him what he’d say to the kids, he said he’d tell them to study all sides and come to their own conclusion. “I would not insist that they see my own way of thinking or believing, I don’t think that’s right, but I think the important thing is that they do their own research.”

On the outside, it’s hard not to agree with him. I mean, after all, asking people to do their own research and come to their own conclusions is a good thing, right? But this neither-here-nor-there statement does something else: it says that the opposition is of a fair and reasonably minded perspective. These are just differing opinions, right? It’s not like this is a situation where one group is being openly oppressed by the other, all while our friends and allies tell people to “make up their own mind” about what is or isn’t oppression.

To be absolutely clear here: I do not believe that people should be forced into thinking anything. AFTAH has the right to have their ignorant views and even preach those ignorant views. But they are ignorant views, and telling me that I can’t call them on that is pretty ballsy. To make an analogy, America allows for the existence of hate groups like the KKK, and, indeed, supports their right to free speech, so long as it doesn’t encourage active violence. I believe that America is right for allowing that free speech. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop calling the KKK a horrendous hate group that spreads fear and lies and it doesn’t mean that I think I should stand back and “let people do the research and make up their own minds” on the KKK if someone asks me what my opinion of them is. If my nephews ask me what the KKK is, I will not mince words about what horrible people they are.

This wishy-washy mindset allows hate groups to maintain their power, because the people who oppose them think that they’re being “mean” if they criticize those groups. People need to stop dancing around the issue. Call a hate group a hate group. Firmly denounce them as unacceptable(please note that unacceptable and illegal are two different things). The more that people do this, the more it becomes clear that the majority of Americans do not accept hate as a value, and they don’t have room for it in their daily lives or culture.

But most of all, if you can’t do this, if you’re unable to take a firm stand on this issue, please do not tell an oppressed group that they’re not allowed to be angry, or that their anger isn’t “helpful”.

I’m not angry to help you.

I’m angry because because I’m being denied my fundamental rights.

Crossposted to Chick Flicks.

August 12, 2010 · Beau · No Comments
Posted in: Queer Issues, Rant

[Review] The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Movie Review

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford opens with a beautiful and poetic monologue, describing the American outlaw Jesse James and all the eccentricities of his character. From the opening shot, the movie is beautiful. The camera loves the scenery, and translates it to the screen with such incredible atmosphere and life. From beginning to end, this is a gorgeous movie.

It tells the story of the last year or so of Jesse James’s(Brad Pitt) life, starting with a train robbery in Blue Cut, Missouri. There, a young man named Robert Ford(Casey Affleck), a brother to one of the men in the James Gang, approaches first Frank then Jesse James about joining them. Jesse allows Robert to join in, and from there the film follows the development of their tenuous friendship, and the paranoid descent of James as he begins to believe all his former allies are out to turn him in. The film also covers the period after James’s assassination. (spoilers? It’s in the title, for Heaven’s sake)

The movie doesn’t have much in the way of plot, as it seeks to concentrate on characters and atmosphere. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have much in the way of characters, either, though it’s full to bursting with atmosphere. While all the actors are well into their roles, there isn’t much to do with them. The film wants to talk about these mostly silent men, who rarely tell the truth or speak of their feelings, but it does an incredibly poor job of giving the audience a peek inside. There is an art to shooting closed off characters. The filmmaker cannot have the character betray their own nature by just spilling their emotional guts everywhere, but at the same time, the audience has to know what’s happening in these people’s heads. A good example of this kind of storytelling is another western, actually: Brokeback Mountain. Jack Twist and Ennis del Mar are both men of few words, especially del Mar, but the audience still gets an intense look into who these people are.

Assassination tries to show the hero worship Ford has towards James, but it is a pale, shallow portrayal, mostly communicated by prop cues rather than genuine character moments. It tries to show James’s paranoia, but we just see the outside of it — his erratic behavior, mostly unexplained, as opposed to giving us any glimpses into the character’s head. The film often mistakes empty scenes for character moments, having two people talking about some chore around the house. But this doesn’t actually develop characters. The conversation needs to give than a mere look at their daily lives. It needs to give us some understanding of them as people.

The film is further hindered by its unending devotion to meaningless, empty shots. Remember when I said this movie was gorgeous and atmospheric? This is what brings both of those things. The problem is, a film should be a balance of elements. Atmosphere is good, but a slavish devotion to it at the sacrifice of plot or character development makes for a poorer film, and two thirds of the way through this one, I found even the beautiful shots to be passing me by unmarked, because I was simply tired of watching them.

There are so many shots of Brad Pitt staring blankly at the camera in this movie that I was tempted to make a drinking game. Take a shot whenever Brad Pitt looks at you with dead eyes. Speaking of, one of the opening lines of the film points out the fact that Jesse James blinked frequently due to a disorder of the eye. Then, after specifically pointing that out, the film goes on to show Pitt staring into the distance for minutes at a time. Did no one notice this? Couldn’t an editor have spoken up and pointed out that if they just removed that line, the movie would make more sense?

The dialogue is a perfect example of how phatic dialogue is inferior to emphatic dialogue in entertainment. Yes, phatic dialogue is truer to life. Yes, the way that people talk normally is short, boring and plain. But even historical films often sacrifice some realism in order to give the audience that wonderful, stirring dialogue that brings us into the movie. Phatic is not interesting to listen to. If it were, we would find those mundane conversations we have with strangers to be fascinating. Any interesting dialogue has been stripped from this movie, leaving conversations at the ‘how are you feeling?’ ‘I am feeling fine’ level.

Unfortunately, despite beautiful cinematography and amazing(potential) acting talent, this film is a long, boring exercise in patience. If you manage to suffer through it’s eighteen endings, my congratulations to you.

One and a Half Stars

Feminist Review

Assassination barely has one female speaking part. The experiences of women aren’t valued in this film. Obviously, it’s a film about Jesse James and Robert Ford, both men, and the rest of the gang, which was all men. However, there are women in the film, and given the endless shots of nothing, you’d think the filmmaker would have latched on to some other characters.

My other problem is this: Yes, you can make movies about Jesse James and say ‘well, it’s about an all male crime gang, of course it’s going to be all about men’. But why not make a movie about something else? Lord knows Jesse James has more than enough movies about him. Instead of making the umpteenth Jesse James film, why not do something more rare? Why not make a movie about women in the west? Maybe it’s a straight up historical drama, with all the details right and showing what life was really like for women. Or maybe it’s a crazy, over the top, classic western, straight out of the 50s, but with some badass chick cowboy rolling into town and taking down some evil chick sheriff. There are good stories out there. Stories that have legitimately not been covered, but instead, people want to make THEIR Jesse James film.

I suppose I would have had more pity for them if the film itself had been any good. As it is, I feel like the time and money could have been better put to something different.

One Star

August 10, 2010 · Beau · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Movie, Review

[Review] Salt

Movie Review

There is a somewhat overused piece of advise given to writers: Show, don’t tell. The idea is that having someone simply report to the screen what is happening/happened is not as interesting as actually seeing these things occur. The Last Airbender is a good example of just how awful “telling” can be. Sometimes people overdo it on the ‘showing’, and could do with giving the audience or reader a break, but in general, it’s a useful piece of advise. Salt is a study in how too much telling can cripple even a good movie.

It focuses on the titular Evelyn Salt(Angelina Jolie), a CIA operative who was held captive in North Korea two years prior to the film. It was only the persistence of her then-boyfriend Mike(August Diehl), a German arachnologist that she had been using as an asset, that caused the CIA to get her freed. Mike’s loyalty inspires what appears to be genuine affection in Salt, and by the beginning of the film, are now married. Everything changes for Salt when a Russian man named Orlov shows up claiming that there are undercover Russian spies across the US, all of whom trained since infancy by a master spy. Orlov claims that Salt is one such undercover spy, causing her to have to go on the lam to clear her name.

Her friend at the agency, Ted Winter(Liev Schreiber) is forced to pursue her, along with Agent Peabody(Chiwetel Ejiofor), who is less convinced of her innocence. As she tries to avoid capture and find her missing husband, she performs acts which cause the audience to question whether or not she is the hero or the villain of the story.

One of the best parts of Salt is that there is no character painted in a black or white fashion. Everyone has multiple motivations, moral codes and is capable of thinking and re-evaluating data. In other words, they behave a lot like real people do. It’s a refreshing take when compared to many storytellers who are only able to conceive of Good Guys, capital G, and Bad Guys, capital B. The story of the film is fast paced and engaging. The action is well done, ranging from vicious to inventive to humorous, keeping the audience involved. I am also a fan of practical effects, so I was very pleased to see few special effects used throughout the movie.

You’d think, from that description, that it’s a great flick. Unfortunately, Salt is cut out at the knees by some poor directing/editing in between set pieces. While the action is great and the character moments and tension building are well done, the film is peppered with poorly implemented, mostly unnecessary flashbacks. The first instance involves Orlov telling his tale. It is awkward, but I accepted it, as it was the first flashback in the story, and it was giving necessary information. I think it could have been related better, but I could live with it. However, the film continued to incert flashbacks at random moments, often breaking up the momentum of the film and usually only to tell us things that we already knew. This was especially tacky when the film was trying to show how Salt felt about her husband. Jolie’s acting communicates everything the audience needs to know, making the flashbacks cringeworthy and unnecessary.

The flashbacks are numberous enough that they actually cut down what could have been a solid spy movie to something cheaper and unprofessional. I deeply wish that someone would have told the director to get rid of them, because I enjoyed the bits of the movie in between them, but every time the film began to pick up momentum, to go from one good scene to the next, it is forced back to square one, having to bring the audience back into a story they’ve just been shoved out of.

What saves the film from being mediocre is Jolie. Her performance as Salt is incredibly nuanced. She manages to communicate a complex set of emotions to the audience, from a character who doesn’t express much emotion, and when she does, it is usually fake. It’s an impressive performance, and that plus the interesting set up makes me hope for sequels, with a different director. I think this property could have shone in the hands of someone like Peter Berg. As it stands though, the film’s missteps too often cancel out its successes.

Three Stars

Feminist Review

Salt only has one major female character, but she is the main character. Also, as was pointed out to me by a friend, the film is rife with women in the background. The world of Salt is not some strange Otherworld where only men appear, as in most action films. There are female CIA agents, desk clerks, police officers, Secret Service Agents, SWAT team members and even a female bishop. There might not be another major female speaking part, but this is definitely a film in which women are treated as part of the world as a matter of course.

It always bothers and confuses me when people talk about “filling quotas”, as if we need to employ artificial measures in order to have more than just straight white men in film and television. This is ridiculous, as making a world of straight white men is the one that is filling quotas. That is the world in which artificial measures are used to order to select a fictional world’s inhabitants. The natural, normal world is full of people of all genders, shapes, sizes and colors, and to take not only one gender, but one color, one orientation, and one bodily status(able), is incredibly artificial.

Salt is definitely a world of multitudes, where crowds are made up of a more believeable distribution and one in which a female action hero is established as capable, not sexy. I’m also happy to report that the character of Salt never uses her sexuality as a weapon.

While it doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test, it’s still miles ahead of many other films of its ilk.

Three and a Half Stars

Completely Irrelevant, Big Ol’ Lesbian Review

Now I intend to ruin everything I’ve said by saying oh my lord, Angelina Jolie. It was like an ascending scale of hotness. I’m sorry, but I can’t help it. The black hair is amazing on her, but even later in the film, prepare yourself for Angelina Jolie in drag, which is gorgeously androgynous beyond all belief, and then a half-in-drag, half-not, melt me into a pile of goo, scene.

I’m completely defeating my own point about female action heroes here, but I can’t stop myself. Angelina Jolie will defeat my weak human logic every time.

Five Stars

August 9, 2010 · Beau · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Movie, Review

[Review] Inception

Movie Review

Memento is one of my favorite movies of all time. It isn’t a movie that loses its value after you’ve learned all its secrets. It’s still an amazing watch years after its debut. Afterwards, I really looked forward to seeing what else would come of the director, Christopher Nolan, who’d really hit it out of the park. Unfortunately, Insomnia was a dull affair, and The Prestige was interesting enough, but no where near in the same realm as Memento. I finally had to give up on my hopes of Nolan returning to the quality of Memento after his take on Batman. The films were a mess. The filmmaker was ashamed of the fact that he was making a comic book movie and went for the (current trend) of “gritty” filmmaking, sacrificing the characters in an attempt to make the film more appealing to non-comic book fans.

I wanted to like all of these films. I genuinely had high hopes for Nolan, and was even excited when I heard he was going to be directing Batman Begins. I say all this to make it clear how much things change when a director cares about his film.

Because Inception is a wonderful and involving movie.

Before I continue, I want to say that I write my reviews with people who haven’t seen the film in mind. There are some exceptions(when I review older films, for example), but for the most part, I want to give potential viewers an idea of what they’re getting into. With Inception, if you haven’t seen it, I recommend not reading this review. It’s better to experience unspoiled.

Inception centers around dream extractor Dominic Cobb(Leonardo DiCaprio), who is employed by various individuals and companies to illegally enter the dreams of others and extract information, usually for things like corporate espionage. He is hired by Saito(Ken Watanabe) to do what many believe to be impossible: to implant an idea in the mind of the dreamer, an inception, rather than the traditional extraction. To do this, Cobb needs a team of highly skilled individuals, which includes his usual partner, Arthur(Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Eames(Tom Hardy), a man who can impersonate other people within dreams, Ariadne(Ellen Page), a young dream “architect”(someone who constructs and designs the dream), and Yusuf(Dileep Rao), a chemist that will give them a sedative strong enough for them to create the multi-layered dream required.

Their target is Robert Fischer(Cillian Murphy), the son of the founder of a rival corporation, which Saito wants to be dissolved. The plot of the film centers on the planning and implementing of this dangerous and difficult task. Unfortunately, though, Cobb has some personal secrets that threaten everyone involved.

I think what really surprised me about this film was that it was, at its heart, a heist movie. I didn’t expect that at all. It’s just a heist flick with a sci-fi twist, and I think that’s a really neat thing to do.

The film is a great interplay of plot, characters, effects and action scenes. The variety of scenes, and the care with which Nolan shoots them, makes for a visually beautiful film. Each of the characters, while getting relatively little screen time to talk about their past or likes and dislikes, is a distinct and easily identifiable individual. This movie does everything that Predators failed to do with their characters. Nolan only has a very short time to introduce you to each one, but you get the impression that they all have pasts, personalities and feelings about things that are happening.

The story is definitely complex, and you can’t really afford to miss a line. The film needs to explain a lot to you, and it has to do it mostly in the first third of the film, so that you’re set up to understand everything that happens later. In the hands of a lesser writer, this information would have come out as clumsy exposition, crammed together into artificial conversations between characters so that the audience knows what it needs to know. Instead, it all comes through organically.

Probably what sews the whole film together, though, is the completely incredible soundtrack. It is honestly one of the best I’ve ever heard. Soundtracks are tricky things. They can’t just be beautiful or amazing — they need to also fit the film they’re in, and Inception‘s soundtrack does just that. The music underlines all the emotional beats in the film. It is intense, and driving, complementing the style of the filmmaking.

However, it’s not a perfect film.

That annoying 10% brain myth pops up. Snopes article too, if you fancy it. This one has been debunked so many times, you guys. It’s time to stop using it in movies. It’s like that “We don’t know how bees fly” myth. Yes. Yes, we do. And we’ve known for like eighty years. Stop.

I also found the dreams to be a little bit more “real” than I anticipated. I thought they’d take more advantage of the fact that they’re in a dream and could do things like fly if they wanted to. Instead, most of the sequences are very much like any one that would take place in the real world.

There are also a few plotholes. Be warned: Much more significant spoilers ahead.

The big one is that Mal(Marion Cotillard), Cobb’s dead wife shows up in the beginning of the film, right in front of Arthur. Later, though, Ariadne and Cobb have multiple conversations about how no one else on the team knows about what’s happening to Cobb.

I also have some issues with the very end of the film, which I won’t discuss because that’s more than just a “significant spoiler”.

One of the more unfortunate problems that happened for me was that people compared the film to The Matrix before I went to see it. This made me expect to see effects and sequences that I’d never even imagined before. I kept waiting for that breathless, disbelieving awe that I felt in 1999, but it never came. This is unfair, though, because Inception doesn’t need those effects. Its effects are great, and fit the film perfectly. I wouldn’t change anything about them, and especially love that they tried to do as many practical effects as possible. It was only because I was set up to think it was going to be like The Matrix that I felt a sense of disappointment.

Over all, it makes me so happy to see that Nolan isn’t a one-hit-wonder(in terms of good filmmaking; I’m aware that most of his films have been financial hits). I can’t wait to see him do more of his own, original material, as that is where he shines.

Four Stars

Feminist Review

I’d love to tell you that Inception breaks the tradition of male-run action movies. Alas, it does not. There only two speaking female parts, but, at least, they’re both well written.

Ariadne is a wonderfully precocious, fresh-out-of-college type character, who is bold, assertive, and rewarded for being so. The film doesn’t shy away from empowered women. Ellen Page stood out to me as the best performance amongst a series of wonderful performances.

At first, I was grimacing my way through the Mal plot. Oh look, it’s another Perfect Dead Wife. The male lead can reminisce and mourn over his wonderfully Perfect Wife who is immortalized in her perfection by being Dead. I was pleasantly surprised to see them overturn this tired and sexist trope, as Mal is anything but perfect. In fact, she’s kind of terrifying.

I’d still rather see more living women grace the screen, but if someone has to do a dead-wife storyline(can’t we just retire it for like…ten years?), I suppose this would be the way to do it.

In terms of feminism, the film could do better, but, conversely, it could also do worse.

Three Stars

August 7, 2010 · Beau · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Movie, Review

[Rant] Consent no longer necessary

Imagine you are at a bar. You’re dancing with your friends. Someone comes up with a camera and asks you to pull down your top for them. You say, quite clearly, ‘no’. From behind, someone grabs your top and yanks it down.

Then imagine that that footage is sold all across the nation for men to jerk off to.

Now imagine that a court of law tells you that you consented by being in the bar and dancing, despite the fact that you said no. Imagine that that court finds in favor of the pornographers, allowing them to continue to distribute that footage for however long as they like.

You’d probably feel pretty violated.

This is what happened to a married mother of two from Missouri.

This is one of those instances in which I don’t even know what to say, really. I’m so angry, so infuriated, and feel so threatened by the ruling that it’s hard to even make a logical appeal.

After all, what does this mean for other women? Does it mean we can’t go out to bars anymore? Are we not allowed to dance? Must we first do a sweep of the room to make sure that there are no men with cameras about?

The jurors seem pretty happy with their decision, and confident that her being in the bar and dancing implied consent. I don’t see how that can be the case when she verbally denied consent. There’s nothing implied there — it has been explicitly stated. She did not want her breasts to be exposed.

I’m horrified that, as we speak, there is a company in America that is legally distributing a video of a woman having her boundaries violated. This woman will have to live with her breasts being viewed by men all across the country for the rest of her life, with no say in the matter.

The court told her that she didn’t have rights to her own body.

There is, of course, a lot of ridiculous things happening on the internet. People saying she deserved it, people saying she was “asking for it”. This stupid comment has been deconstructed so many times that I’m not even going to bother being a rational adult. I’m just going to say that those people are cockfaces and move on.

The one that’s kind of new(although really is just a variation on the theme), is that she was “asking for too much money”. Like if she’d asked for less, she would have won.

What does that mean? Is the right to control your body only worth $1 million? $500,000? What’s the price tag on consent? If a woman is raped, what is that worth? If a woman is assaulted, how much is that worth?

How much money do you think Girls Gone Wild has made off of that footage? How many copies of it do you think were sold? Yes, I am aware that they come in collections, and that hers was not the only footage on there, but think about it.

If GGW has to pay so much that they lose their profit on that video, it will reinforce the idea that they have to get explicit consent for every shot. Every girl must sign and date a form. Every girl has to be sober and capable of consent. Otherwise, they have to shell out so much money that they don’t profit.

After all, if they can still profit while taking advantage of women, they will continue to do so. If someone striped you(pants included, if you’re a guy, as there isn’t the same stigma about a guy’s chest) without your consent, filmed it and sold it, how would you feel? How much do you think that is worth?

What is the price tag on your dignity?

[Also, men, if you're confused or uncertain on how to be a good feminist ally? Read this. That's a goddamned ally.]

July 31, 2010 · Beau · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Feminism, Rant, Sexism