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April 05, 2012

Katniss Everdeen, post-gender badass

Manohla Dargis and AO Scott discuss the power of The Hunger Games in a pretty interesting way. Truthfully, the books aren't spectacular. They're effective, sure. But the pacing is lumpy. The POV is often too limited by Katniss' lack of experience. Some plot elements are forced or rushed. But the character of Katniss is great. Just magnificent. For all the reasons Dargis gets into here. Katniss Everdeen, a New Type of Woman Warrior - NYTimes.com
DARGIS By suggesting that Katniss occupied feminine and masculine positions (and is therefore not locked into either), I was inching toward the idea that gender absolutes are less confusing than inapt. I mean, is killing masculine? Is nurturing feminine? Katniss nurtures and she kills, and she does both extremely well. Katniss is a fantasy figure, but partly what makes her powerful — and, I suspect, what makes her so important to a lot of girls and women — is that she’s one of the truest feeling, most complex female characters to hit American movies in a while. She isn’t passive, she isn’t weak, and she isn’t some random girl. She’s active, she’s strong and she’s the girl who motivates the story. Katniss does evoke the American Adam, and she charts her own course. She’s a rugged individualist who picked herself up by her fashionable bootstraps, but at the same time she’s rooted to her home and to her friend Gale, who gives her companionship, and to her sister, Prim, who gives her love and a reason to live. And while the Hunger Games register as the ultimate social Darwinian nightmare, Katniss triumphs by changing the rules and by forming bonds with other tributes, specifically Rue and Peeta. Last, Rue (who’s played by a biracial actress in the film and is described in the book as having “satiny brown skin”) may narratively function somewhat like Leatherstocking’s Indian companions, yet she is far from the clich�d “noble savage” type. Some racist moviegoers, who may be reading white-supremacist fantasies into the survivalist aspect of the story, have complained that Rue looks black (whatever that means). In truth Rue, Katniss and Peeta exist in a new kind of frontier that is a dystopian nightmare but one that has its utopian moment — which may largely account for the film’s popularity — in that race and gender stereotypes have become seemingly irrelevant.

April 04, 2012

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Fifty Shades of Grey

50 Shades of Grey dropped in bookstores all over America today. Specifically, more than half a million copies dropped. It is supposed to be a hot erotic novel of a young woman's entrance into S&M and so on. But a lot of people who took their marketing vaccinations this year have recognized it as being pretty much awful. But it began it's like as Twilight erotic fanfic, so it's possible that the awful prose is just an attempt to mimic the awful prose of Twilight. In any event, this review is savage and lovely. The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Fifty Shades of Grey -- Vulture
On websites like FF.net, the original home of Fifty Shades of Grey, anybody who can successfully operate a mouse has long had the option to masturbate to a story where Worf has rough sex with DJ from Roseanne. For Fifty Shades to have such crossover success, I figured it was probably better written than most fan fiction, and that the characters had been successfully disguised enough not to merit outrage or lawsuits. I have very limited familiarity with the Twilight franchise, but Bella, Edward, and Jacob are culturally omnipresent enough that I could probably pick them out of a lineup. Christian Grey, the Edward of our story, is a 27-year-old ginger who likes white wine and using emoticons in e-mails. He refuses to use contractions when he speaks, so in my head, I sort of pictured him sounding like Andy Dick at the medieval restaurant in The Cable Guy. Our Bella, Anastasia Steele, sounded like Speedracer, mostly because she's always shouting her catchphrase, "Holy crap!" At 21, she's never given a blow job, but when she does, instinctively knows to use lots of teeth. That dry, skittering sound you heard is your fallopian tubes curling like party ribbon. Fifty Shades dispenses with the supernatural plotline but also the main erotic draw of the Twilight books: the fact that the characters can't or won't have sex. Unencumbered by Mormon sexual ethics, pacing, or a YA classification, E.L. James is free to go straight to the fucking. Here is why the fucking is not very sexy: The Prose: I'm sorry. I know, it's soft porn, and it's not there to better us. But the advantage of erotic fiction over a DVD of I Can't Believe I Ate the Whole Team is that books will always at least FEEL more high-minded than movies. Besides, there are ways to write sex well. This is not that. This is like Tom Wolfe–bad sex scenes but punctuated by non-sex scenes that are gut-wrenchingly awful. A passage where we find out what Anastasia Steele looks like via girl-frowning-at-her-appearance-in-a-mirror exposition should be punishment for vehicular manslaughter in some states. . . .