In Defense of Rory Gilmore

gilmore-girls-netflix-revival-rory

Alexis Bledel as ‘Rory Gilmore’ in “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life”; photo taken from Hypable 

I wrote the following after seeing multiple posts on blogs, Tumblr, and legitimate news sites basically slut shaming Rory Gilmore in “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” for decisions she makes regarding men.  Some of it isn’t actually slut shaming, some of it is simply die-hard fans who, like me, have probably watched the original series many times and have a romanticized idea of what Rory is like and how she should behave; they are disappointed, these fans, that thirty year old Rory isn’t making the same decisions as twenty year old Rory.

I think there are many factors to consider before judging Rory too harshly.

First of all: it’s been ten years.  No one dates exactly the same way they did ten years ago.  She’s in her thirties now, she’s less inhibited, less shy, more open to experiences.  As humans grow, we change, see things differently.  Rory is going to have a different mindset at 32 than she did when she was nineteen.

Secondly: We don’t know what her dating experience has been since leaving college.  Previous relationships have a great affect on how a person treats future romantic partners.  It’s possible she’s had one too many terrible boyfriends since Logan.  Also: Rory’s a bit of a nomad, it’s difficult to maintain exclusive relationships when you’re constantly moving.  Believe me, I know.

Thirdly: As a person ages, she becomes less idealistic.  Young people often have a rigid sense of morality, Rory certainly did.  This is why kids will often (foolishly) write off friends for not meeting a certain moral standard (see Veronica Mars).  But as we age and mature, we realize there’s a lot of gray in the world, and we are not the ultimate voice of right and wrong in the universe.  So we sleep with that guy we met at that party, and we drink the tequila, and drive to NYC to watch an SNL rehearsal and get a hot dog just to turn around and drive home again the same day.

Fourth: People also become less optimistic.  Which seems strange considering people become less cynical (unless you’re Louis C.K., or a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker) as they get older, but when it comes to relationships and dating, single, straight, American women seem to become more pessimistic about relationships.  Consider this Garfunkel and Oates song.

Fifth: We don’t know what sort of relationship Logan has with this French woman.  Maybe it’s an open relationship?  Maybe he has the same deal with her as he has with Rory?  The French are way less puritanical about sex than Americans.

We, especially those of us who grew up alongside Rory, want her to be a sort of moral beacon since she’s just like us only better, but really she’s not.  Rory is just as flaky as we are, she’s just as confused, just as meandering, just as flawed.  She is searching for her place in the world the same way we are.

And, as with all things, the viewer brings his or her own experience to the story.  All my girlfriends who are married, engaged, or in long term relationships had the same reaction: “Rory has had ample time to find someone new, loving, and stable, why is she back with old boyfriends and making these decisions?”  While all my fellow single girlfriends in their early thirties looked at Rory and said: “Yeah, nope, that’s exactly right!”

This post is edited slightly from the original post on Tumblr.

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Fifty Shades of What the Fracking Bull?

What with the upcoming release, I’ve been seeing a lot of commercials lately for  Fifty Shades of Grey.  My question is simple: What the fracking bull?

I have not read Fifty Shades of Grey, or Fifty Shades Darker, or Fifty Shades of Pissed Off Writers Everywhere, or whatever the sequels are called.  “Mommy Porn” that originated as fan fiction of an already terrible series does not interest me.  Learning the notoriously naughty BDSM the story boasts is vanilla at best, and, at worst, secondhand, drove my interest even lower.  I have no issue with YA fiction, romance novels, or erotica, but something about E.L. James’s skyrocket into the “literary world” bothers the shit out of me.  How these books were published is beyond my understanding.

Even worse: they’ve made a movie out of it…

What the fish….

And here’s where American Capitalistic Opportunism wins out over Moral and Creative Integrity.  Not only has a publishing house republished a terrible story with a slight twist, now Hollywood has produced a movie they’ve already made.  Because we should, none of us, forget the fact that Fifty Shades of Grey is Twilight fan fiction.

When Hollywood made the Twilight movies they cast actors who actually, sort of, mostly resembled the images of the characters I had in my head while reading the insipid novels.  Cedric Diggory made a great Sparkly Vampire, and Never-Learned-to-Smile made for an exquisitely boring heroine.  A pretty English boy and a symmetrical American girl made us believe in vampires, if only for the one hundred twenty minutes each movie runs.

Now with Fifty Shades, a story that appears to be primarily porn about kinky sex, the casting director, who had her fucking job cut out for her, failed to deliver.  Or, if it wasn’t that person who dropped the ball, it was the makeup/costuming department that failed.

They took a pretty girl:

Dakota Johnson

and made her incredibly homely:

Anastasia Steele

Which, perhaps, is more true to the character (again: I have not read the books).  But if you’re going to put a book reported to be one big sexy, handcuffed romp on the big screen why not make her attractive?  (Especially when you’ve cast an already attractive woman?)

And the dude (because straight men are not this movie’s target audience):

Jamie Dornan

They cast one of Calvin Klein’s interchangeable parts (who looks way sexy with facial hair), shaved him down to his baby-face and made him look like he’s trying on daddy’s suit for the first time:

Christian Grey

Not attractive.  Not alluring.  Mostly creepy.  If a real, live dude looked and dressed and behaved how they portray Christian Grey in the clips and trailers any curious, sane, crazy, intelligent, or insecure woman would, hopefully, have a voice in her head telling her to run… run fast.  Dude is creepily aggressive half the time, and eerily emotionless the rest.  If he were a vampire his behavior might be acceptable.  As it stands, he’s got “sociopath” written all over him.  No one is going to let their friend date a person like this without either saying something, or at least watching them very, very carefully.

But, as far as I know, no one stops Anastasia from letting this jackwad bind her and assume control over her person in the name of Love.  And the audience is supposed to believe he cares for her more than he wants to control her.  We are supposed to buy into this illusion of romance so much that the fact it’s being released on Valentine’s Day (not February 14th, Valentine’s Day) shouldn’t creep out the American public.

It’s fucking twisted.  The trailer features an amazingly creepy clip of him feeling her up under the table at a dinner party with his voice over telling us that he “doesn’t do romance” leading this American, heterosexual woman to believe the Fifty Shades of Grey movie is not intended to be Romantic in any regard despite the movie’s release date.

I believe there are romantic, loving couples who enjoy a healthy, consensual bondage-based sex life.  And that they should celebrate!  To each, his own, I say!  I’m not about to get in your way or pass judgement.  None of my qualms about this work come from my puritanical beliefs about sex and love, but from my standpoint as a woman and a writer.  The story is about an insecure young woman being entirely enveloped by an aggressive alpha male.  She subsequently disappears entirely into his way of life, rather than growing and developing as her own person.  As a woman that makes me sad.  So many real life women are lost to other, stronger willed people as it is; sometimes it’s a partner, sometimes it’s family or friends.  No matter the situation, it’s unfortunate that women so easily disappear into someone else’s idea of who they should be.

As a writer, I’m pissed Twilight fan fiction is being hailed as anything other than what it is: poorly written porn.  These books, and subsequent movie, are a travesty of American literature.

It has, however, inspired some great sarcastic Internet memes*:

This query from Claire Standish:

As well as this brilliant advice from Ellen:

Ellen Ellen1 Ellen2

And a comic of what the actual story should have been:

*I got most of these from typing “Fifty Shades of Bullshit” into a Google Image search.  Which, it turns out, is a pretty funny anti-Fifty Shades Tumblr: FiftyShadesofBullshit.

Feminism & Marvel Movies

I watched Thor recently for the first time.  Rented it on iTunes, of all fool things.  But the movie got me thinking.  First of all, it explained a bunch of random things from The Avengers (like how Thor knew Erik Selvig, why we give a shit about Natalie Portman, and Coulson’s prototype gun).  Second, it, and a Tumblr post, have me thinking about the Bechdel test and feminism in films.

In order to pass the Bechdel test the work must have at least two women in it who talk to each other about something other than a man.  Two chicks.  Actually speaking to one another.  About something not related to a man.  Sounds easy, yes?  You’d think.  Sometimes it’s more than Hollywood can handle.

Thor passes the Bechdel test.  Thor passes because Jane Foster’s grad student assistant is a woman.  In the first scene she asks if she can turn on the radio and Jane says “No.”  It’s simple, but it passes.  Otherwise Thor isn’t about the women at all.  Sure Jane rocks Thor’s world, or whatever, but it’s not a feminist flick.  It’s a story/movie about boys who don’t play well together and both want to rule the world(s).  But it passes.

You know what movie doesn’t pass the Bechdel test?  The Avengers.

There are three main female characters in The Avengers:

women of the avengers

Pepper Potts, played by Gwyneth Paltrow; Agent Maria Hill, played by Cobie Smulders; and Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson.  These women play key roles in the film: Potts gets Stark to accept the info from Coulson, Hill is a dedicated S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and well trusted by Nick Fury, and Romanoff is a key player in The Avengers team, as well as the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who convinces Dr. Banner to join up.  There are other women in the movie, other agents, Ashley Johnson as the diner waitress who feels she owes her life to Captain America, etc.  And not a single one of these women have a conversation about their own romantic relationship (Potts asks Coulson about his love life).  Not one.  (Unless there really is something between Black Widow and Hawkeye that I’m unaware of.)

Each of these women are badasses in their own way, and they are great feminist icons.  I love everything about these characters.  I want more of all of them in future Marvel movies.  I want them to be who my nieces look to when they need a female role model in their entertainment.  But the reason The Avengers doesn’t pass the Bechdel test despite having such amazing women characters in it is because the women never speak to one another.  Not once.  Even though Hill and Black Widow work for the same agency and are often in the same room.  They never speak to each other.

Despite this odd failing (seriously Joss Whedon?), from a feminist standpoint, I would still take The Avengers over Thor any day.  The women characters in Thor are absolute stereotypes.

women of thor

Jane Foster, the beautiful scientist who changes Thor’s entire mindset by being passionate and capricious and dedicated to her work, as well as kind, and caring, and compassionate; Frigga, Thor and Loki’s mother who has approximately twelve lines of dialogue; Darcy, who serves as Jane’s sidekick the Best Friend character there to make jokes and raunchy comments; and finallly Sif, Thor’s female friend, a raging badass there to fill the role of female-raging-badass.  None of the women have any character development and are only present to push male character development/comic relief.

But remember the story of Thor isn’t about the chicks.  It’s about two brothers.  Despite that, practically every male character has some sort of development no matter how small the role (Erik Selvig has a change of heart, even the Gatekeeper is a dynamic character), but not single woman undergoes any sort of change.

The movie is also directed by Kenneth Branagh, who has historically never given much to his female characters.

Joss Whedon, the poster boy of Male Feminism, co-wrote and directed The Avengers.  It might not pass the Bechdel test, but I’d still rank it higher on the feminist scale than pretty much every other comic book flick out there.

I Am Malala

I Am Malala

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

Finished 7.2.14

At fifteen years old, Malala Yousafzai was known for speaking up for the rights of girls to get an education in a hostile region that was torn by war, unkept political promises, and contradicting religious lessons. She became known internationally when the Taliban put a bullet in her head. But what the Taliban really did that day was widen Malala’s audience. Because Malala does not want to be remembered as “the “girl who was shot by the Taliban”, but the “girl who fought for education.” This is the cause to which [she] want[s] to devote [her] life.”

Here’s all I really have to say about this book: it was written by a teenage girl, keep that in mind, when you read it. It’s written by a teenage girl who has lived through dictators, unimpressive policy makers, poor leadership, severe earthquakes, massive flooding, extreme sexism, very real violence and fear, intimidation, political upheaval, terrorist attacks, and the seventh grade. Her information, events she lived through, were very much news to me and I was constantly amazed that these things happened also in my lifetime and I’ve heard nary a word about many of them.

Her cause is very real. Both in her country and in many others around the globe. Even in first world countries, like the United States, children fall through the educational cracks. The students who come through the Outdoor School Program where I work are mainly middle schoolers, we are amazed week after week how many students can barely spell, and the ones who don’t have a solid grasp on reading. Our program does not require our students to do much reading or writing at all and most of our students flourish in experiential education, but we know they will be greatly hurt because their reading skills are poor-to-non-existent.

I echo Malala’s call that education be a right granted to all children, not just those who can afford it, and not just to boys. Helene Gayle, CEO of CARE, a US based organization dedicated to fighting poverty and empowering women world wide, is cited saying “If you educate a girl, as the saying goes, you educate a nation.” Because, as global action campaign, Girl Rising’s slogan reminds us “One girl with courage is a revolution.” If we educate our girls, our quality of life will go up; if our quality of life goes up, we will have less poverty, more peace, and a better world.

It is up to all of us to make this happen.
Help us educate our children. 

I am not your Manic Pixie Bookworm | Kaite Welsh | Huffington Post.

I am not your Manic Pixie Bookworm | Kaite Welsh | Huffington Post.

I wrote this earlier today on Literary Bex (the Tumblr), and decided it is also appropriate here as Literary Bex (the WordPress) is meant to be about writing, and to be a place to write things I feel strongly about that aren’t strictly books.

Being a reader is super weird when it comes to dating, she is not wrong. I have had men either really want to delve into my reading life and become a part of it, or they are overwhelmingly terrified of me because I have a larger vocabulary than they. Either way, both find it sexy that I am “a reader” but, like Welsh says, either way they are objectifying my intellect rather than just appreciating my intelligence. Welsh writes, “I don’t need a prize to congratulate me for doing something I learned when I was four.” That prize certainly isn’t going to be a man who desires only for a girl who can carry a conversation, not a woman with whom to share his life.

The fact that we read isn’t cute; it isn’t sweet; and it certainly isn’t adorable. There are girls across the WORLD who are never given the opportunity to even learn how to read. Their only function in life is to clean, cook, and bear their husband’s babies (preferably boys). They are not even considered people. The irony being, those who get the hots for a girl solely because she reads are also not seeing those women as people. Objectifying “reading” takes away it’s power. Being able to read is the difference between autonomy and disenfranchisement (i.e., American slavery). A woman with the ability to read is potential powerful. If she can read, she has the opportunity to know what is going on in the world; she has the opportunity to better understand her world. A girl who can read has the potential to affect change in her community. She can read policy. She can read laws. She can discuss with others what she has learned from her reading. She can understand injustices. Because she can read, she has the opportunity to do something about it.

Reading might be sexy; because reading means a person is curious and therefore thinks. But reading is so much more than that. Reading is power. Reading is powerful. Reading is empowering. Because I was taught my letters and subsequently encouraged to read, I know that I am more than a symbol. I know that I am more than a stereotype. I know that I am important because I am a Person. I will continue to read, a skill I was taught at age four, so my mind stays sharp, so I can continue to learn about my world, so I can best understand what I can do to change the injustices I see.

I do not read to get your attention. I do not read to get fucked. If I did I would just get fucked over. Because I read, I know what I want from my partner, I know what I want from my life.  And I do not want someone who will fuck me over.

I read for me. I write for me. I do not do these things for you.

Blogs: When we need them, and when we don’t.

“For, what, two years I wrote an essay about nearly every book I read and I posted it on my Tumblr: Literary Bex. I loved everything about writing those essays. They ranged from pure reader/response pieces to analytical. I ranted about books I read, and I raved; I poured my heart out, and I remained incredibly reserved. Sometimes I had a bone to pick with the writer over nit-picky things like character development or more basic writing skills like grammar. In 2013 I’ve written two essays. I’ve read more than two books this year, but I only felt like I needed to write two essays, and they were back in February when life was amazingly, and stupidly, and unnecessarily rough. But the rest of the year I haven’t needed this blog the way I have in the past.”

This is how I started my first essay for Literary Bex, the Tumblr, in nine months (it’ll be posted Friday 11/22 at 12 pm Eastern).  I wrote a grand total of two essays back in February and then I stopped.  On the one hand it may have been because I started working in March and didn’t stop until August.  Even then I was only taking a three week break between jobs, during which I traveled and slept on a beach.  I started working in September and only last week stopped again.  Because I lead the life of a seasonal worker.

This is the cold truth, is it not?  I only seem to blog with any seriousness when I am not employed.  As if these blogs are filling the time I, the rest of the year, spend running around with my students and campers teaching them stuff.  I work amazingly long days when I’m employed and have minimal time and energy to spend reading.  Even less energy to write anything about them.  On my days off this summer (weekends) I spent most of my time reading, watching Netflix, and making bracelets.  I wasn’t interested in writing about what I had read: I was reading to keep my mind from turning to mush as I spent most of my time trekking about the Connecticut woods with eight to twelve year-olds (the rest of my time was spent dispensing words of wisdom – gleaned from all my years of living – to my 18 to 22 year old coworkers).  Reading something not about sex-lives or bugs was a mental necessity.

I didn’t need the blogs.  I didn’t need to sit down and write about the things I was thinking.  I needed to relish in the delight of reading this year.  I didn’t need to analyze what I was reading.  I didn’t need others to read about what I think about what I’ve read.  I didn’t need the internet.

And, it was nice.  It was nice to read without feeling like I needed to think about it.

I started Literary Bex, the Tumblr, because I needed it at the time.  I needed occupation.  I was unemployed, living with my sister’s family outside Boston, and I was reading… a lot.  I read so many books that winter it was ridiculous.  I had so many thoughts and I missed writing essays about what I was reading.  So I started writing essays about what I was reading.  I wrote essays about books, plays, novellas, graphic novels, short stories, comic strips, TV shows… I wrote essays about so many forms of storytelling; every kind of story I was absorbing, I was writing about it.  I needed it.

This year I didn’t.

I might, and I probably will, again need to write these essays with the same regularity, but for now I am all set.  I’m still happy to discuss, answer questions, engage in discourse about books I have read; but the need to analyze is minimal at the moment.  Please, if you want to discuss books, I am here.  Otherwise, happy reading.

Xxx Bex

Cover Art: A Discussion

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Cover Art: A Discussion

Time, I think, to discuss cover art.

Romance novels, especially Harlequin Romances, Silhouette Romances, and Zebra Books, tend to feature a shirtless, well-muscled man towering over a busty gal whose top is about to fall off her bosoms while she clings to the man, or he is attempting to mount her. People are not embarrassed to be caught reading Romance Novels because it’s a Romance Novel, I think they’re embarrassed by the covers. (Perhaps this is why there are so many of these smutty, embarrassingly jacketed novels for free on Amazon Kindle?) The couple is inevitably sitting in a field surrounded by unicorns and rainbows; or on a the deck of a ship, her back pressed into the hard, wooden stairs up to the helm; or in the woods with birds flocking around them.  Not comfortable places to be making the sexy times.

Now, while these covers are awkward and embarrassing, they are so because they are a ridiculous extreme of Sexual Fantasy.  No one is ever going to actually sit in a dew covered meadow at dawn with her blouse falling down around her breasts while she clings to the very muscular leg of a shirtless man who is holding a spear in one hand to show that he is a Protector, and has a bird alighting in the other to show that he is Gentle.  But someone might very well get thrown against a wall and have mind blowing sex.

The cover art chosen for Wallbanger is as shocking as it’s title with it’s suggestion of actual intercourse rather than the overt expression of heightened arousal that the campy covers portray.  It might even be more embarrassing than the others.  The others are ridiculous enough that even though they are embarrassing they’re also funny.  But Wallbanger is just realistic enough that I almost feel like I’ve walked into a couple’s bedroom by accident, catching them in the act.

That being said, the cover art is appropriate.  Everyone who has ever woken up in the nighttime to hear a couple going at it in the next room knows exactly this sort of awkwardness.  Especially when it’s too late to text a friend or you cannot wake up the person sleeping next to you so they can experience it with you (because it is either just too funny, or, sometimes, too much pressure to be the only person in the know).  Therefore the shocking nature of the cover art precisely mimics the shocking way Caroline discovers that her neighbor is a passionate lover.

This was originally posted on Literary Bex (the Tumblr) as a part of the Wallbanger by Alice Clayton run.  To see the original post (and the poster my friend C made once while I wasn’t home) click on the above picture.

A “Lost Portrait” of Jane Austen?

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This post is originally posted on Literary Bex (the Tumblr) as a part of my run on Jane Austen and her novel Sense and Sensibility.  Feel free to follow the links to my Tumblr and my essay on Austen’s debut novel and the paths available to women in Regency England.

This drawing is believed to be a “lost” portrait of Jane Austen, author of Sense and Sensibility, that was purchased at an auction by Austen scholar Dr. Paula Byrne’s husband, Shakespearean scholar Jonathan Bate, as a gift for his wife.

The drawing was believed to be an “imaginary portrait” — one drawn from the artist’s memory, or how he or she thought Austen might look — but Dr. Byrne believes Austen actually sat for the drawing while the artist sketched her.  She approached the BBC and together they researched the drawing culminating in a documentary called ‘Jane Austen: The Unseen Portrait?‘.  Before this picture the only likeness anyone had to go on are sketches done by Austen’s sister Cassandra.

Dr. Byrne’s new Austen biography, The Real Jane Austen, is said to show a tougher, grittier, socially aware Austen than previous biographies that paint Austen as a genteel, demure, kind-spinster-aunt sort of person.  But really, does anyone truly believe the sweet, naive, idealist as portrayed in that Anne Hathaway movie?  Based on her novels it is much more likely that Austen was not the demure “dear Aunt Jane”, as people like to say, but more of the feisty, opinionated, possibly mouthy Aunt Jane that, if they had existed, would be riding motorcycles and jumping out of airplanes.