Most Hated Film Tropes

All movies have tropes, sometimes the use, misuse, and overturning of those tropes is what makes a movie worth watching, but they all have them, because that’s what usually determines the film’s genre, for example. Certain things have to occur for something to qualify as Horror, Fantasy, or a Western. I don’t have problem with tropes in general, but some things I am really, really, tired of seeing, or is a sign of lazy film writing.

 

The Magical Negro

A magical negro is usually a Black man or woman with some type of inexplicable superpower, (but sometimes not), who shows up to help the White protagonist deal with some problem they’re having in their life, often without reciprocation from the white protagonist. These magical people are never selfish, deciding  to help any nearby White people maximize their love lives, for example, rather than using their considerable powers to make their own lives better, or save themselves from harm.

Part of the reason this idea is so offensive to me, is not necessarily because the Black person has superpowers, but that they use those powers in service to White people, rather than relieving their own oppression (if they’re shown to have any backstory at all).  They don’t have families, they’re never seen around other Black people, they never discuss their own problems, they have no lives of their own.  Most of the time their origins are mysterious.

A classic example of this trope is John Coffey from The Green Mile, a giant Black man, with no past, and no future either, as he is sentenced to be executed for a crime he didn’t commit, yet nevertheless, spends much of the movie solving the problems of the white prison guards in his orbit, rather than trying to solve his own. I get that he is a Christ metaphor, but watching this movie is very distasteful for me.

Some other classic examples include Oda Mae from the movie Ghost (a Black character with no life or backstory of her own,  beyond helping the ghost of the white protagonist reunite with his wife) There are  movies where the trope is done so well, that I’ll give it a pass, like Red from Shawshank Redemption. A character that just manages to skirt by, with this trope, are Will Smith’s Hitch, as his being a love talker for hire is the entire point of the film and he gets an entire storyline devoted to his own love life.

But my least favorite character, in all of filmdom, is the character of Jezelle, from the movie Jeepers Creepers, a psychic nobody, who takes time out of her busy schedule of doing, we don’t know what,  to provide exposition and aid, to two White, twenty-something, strangers, who are being chased by the movie’s monster. Her only purpose in the movie,is to show up and psychically help these strangers, rather than use her abilities to keep herself safe from the monster. In fact, using her abilities brings her into direct interaction with the monster, in a way that would never have happened if she’d just stayed home, because her pronouncements don’t change their futures, and puts her life in danger.

 

 

 

The Black Guy Dies First

Its not so much that they die first, so much as they never make it to the end of any horror movie.

Black or any other characters from minorities are often said to be the first ones to die within horror films.[1] While it is not necessarily true that these characters die first, a larger percentage die at some point in the movie.[7] Complex did a survey of 50 horror films that starred black characters, finding that only 10% had black characters that died first in the film; however, a great deal of those characters still died at some point in the movies.[1] On top of their imminent death, these characters are also notably given a lack of character development, especially in comparison to white counterparts.[1] According to Valerie, in her breakdown of the development of black characters in horror, black characters stand a greater chance of survival if they are teamed with a white woman by the end, if the entire cast is black, or if the villain is a black person. However, Complex also reveals that black characters who survive the film almost certainly die if there is a sequel.

—– https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racism_in_horror_films

A great example overturning this trope is Tales From The Crypt: Demon Night, which stars two, totally bad ass, Black women, one of whom does not make it to the end to the film, (although she does go out like a BOSS), and Jada Pinkett, who  not only becomes the Final Girl, she also gets to be the hero, who defeats the monster. Examples of the first sort are far too numerous to mention. You can pretty much count every slasher movie made in the 80’s and 90’s.

Keep in mind, however, that Night of the Living Dead showed us that even if the Black person is the star of the movie, that is still no guarantee they will survive it.

My most hated version of this trope though, is the movie Logan, where an entire Black family gets introduced, only so they can be killed, a few minutes later. Now, I get that the point of their deaths is to illustrate that Wolverine is, very probably, one of the most toxic characters in Marvel history. Death follows him around like a lapdog, so much so, that anyone who interacts with him, on even the most superficial level, will meet with a quick, and pointless death. If not by him, then through someone associated with his sordid past. In fact, everybody in this movie dies, from the Mexican gangbangers at the beginning of the film, to Charles Xavier, to Laura’s surrogate mother, and Logan himself.

In fact,  Logan is full of dead  PoC, solely because they had some kind of interaction with Wolverine, whether benign or negative.

*Sigh*

Movin’ on…

 

CPR Only Works When You Shout At the Recipient

Gob, I hate this one!

I absolutely hate this trope. I have always hated this trope. Its a stupid trope, meant to create a false feeling of suspense, when a major character dies onscreen. Its often used wrong anyway. CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation) is not even meant to bring someone back to life. You don’t just give a person CPR and they wake up and start breathing, as if they just had a nightmare. It’s also meant to last longer than the couple of minutes they show you onscreen. You are not simply restarting a person’s heart. You are doing the job of the heart by keeping their blood circulating, so that the brain continues to receive oxygen, thereby lessening brain damage, until the heart can be restarted.

In Movieland, if CPR isn’t working but dammit-you’re-not-gonna-lose-them you can always just start hammering your fist into their chest. Preferably whilst shouting. This is called a precordial thump and should only be performed once by a highly trained medical professional in front of witnesses when there are no other alternatives – any other time and you’re just giving a corpse a beating.

          ———  https://whatculture.com/offbeat/11-common-movie-tropes-that-would-actually-ruin-your-life?page=4

And screaming epithets has never worked on an unconscious person. That’s just ass-stupid.

I really hate this trope!

 

 

The White Savior

https://shadowandmovies.com/what-is-the-white-savior-trope-green-book/

This is probably the most irksome trope for PoC, because it’s literally everywhere, but now so much has been written about this, in the past five years, that it has actually become a part of everyday film criticism, whereas before it was something only recognized by a handful of people.

 

My most hated version of this trope, and the first time I truly noticed it, was when Mississippi Burning was released, in the 90s. The movie starred Willem Defoe and Gene Hackman, and I hated, hated, hated that movie. It is a classic White Savior film. I hated it because its such a blatant piece of utter bullshit, because it is very well documented what the FBI got up to during the Civil Rights Era, demonizing and interrogating the intentions of MLK, and the protesters (COINTELPRO). MB centers two White FBI agents in the middle of a story about Black people fighting for their rights. Everything about the movie is just wrong. its the Green Book of the 80s.

For a full list of resources see:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COINTELPRO#U.S._government_reports

Now the definition has evolved to include any heroic white character in movies dealing with Black oppression, or during slavery, which slotted a whole new group of movies into the White savior category.

 

Image result for white savior gifs

List of Associated films:

12 Years a Slave Hidden Figures, Avatar, Blind Side, Gran Torino, The Matrix

 

 

The Sissy Villain

Yes, the image below takes place in a children’s cartoon, and depicts not only the Sissy Villain, but sexual assault by an animal like, predatory, gay coded (creature?). The Sissy Villain isn’t always this bad, but GOOD LORD! This was in a children’s cartoon! There are, on occasion, good depictions of this trope, like Ursula the Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid, who was based on the transgender actress Divine, and the cross dressing Dr. Frank N’ Furter, from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, who is beloved by audiences.

Where this trope is especially insidious though, is in children’s cartoons, like Scar, in the lion King, and Him, (the above character), from the Powerpuff Girls. But this type of villain is also spotted in movies with British villains, where the villain not only has a British accent, but is succinctly spoken, sometimes with effete mannerisms, as in the movies, The Patriot, Die Hard, and  Skyfall. The Sissy Villain has a  strong homophobic element involved in their depiction, as they are often contrasted against the manly, masculine heroes.

They can be found in far too many historical, and action films, basically, wherever the manly hero is found. Sometimes the Sissy Villain is shown as predatory, and  a way to make the villain seem even more evil, such as Jame Gumb in Silence of the Lambs, and Jack Randall from Outlander, who is not only the villain, but  a rapist. Actually,  whenever it seems Hollywood needs a villain, who is predatory, deceptive, and shady, they  just code them as gay, (and often British).

 

 

 

 Cop’s Nagging Wife/ Wet Blanket Wife

Actually there are several different versions of the Wet Blanket Wife, but I want to focus on a very specific version of her. The Wet Blanket Wife, is always ready to sacrifice other people’s lives, so her husband/boyfriend/significant other, can stay home with the kids, or go to one of their children’ s musical recitals, or have a dinner party.

A perfect example of this is the scene in The Incredibles, where Frozone’s wife insists that he is going to ruin their evening, if he goes out to engage in superheroics. Don’t take this the wrong way, the scene is still very funny, but hiding inside it is the insidious trope of the Wet Blanket Wife, who  seems more concerned with their dinner party, than the lives of the citizens being endangered by the movie’s villain.

Or take the movie Red Dragon, where the Wet Blanket Wife’s complaints are ostensibly legitimate. After all, Will Graham nearly lost his life while doing his job, as a criminal profiler. She wants him to stay home, and not endanger his life by going back to his job profiling the latest serial killer, that’s destroying whole families. On the surface I get it, but the way its framed in the movie, makes her whiny and unlikable, and  completely uncaring of the deaths of the victims.

The Wet Blanket Wife lives in cop films, however. She can be found wherever a police officer, or detective has been accused of neglecting his family because he loves his job too much, or not coming up with the alimony for that month, or just never being there for her. and the kids. This trope was famously lampooned in the movie Hot Fuzz, but takes place in far too many other action movies involving detectives.

 

 

White Women are Virgins/Women of Color are Whores

At the same time, our American culture has a long history of sexualizing women of color and holding up white women as paragons of sexual purity. Women of color are lower than pure-minded white women: spicy, sexually imaginative, animalistic. Although it’s natural to desire the superior white woman sexually, only white men are good enough for her, and they must spend their manhood proving their worth. This mindset lingers in our collective unconscious and is expressed in myriad ways. It gets a lot more nuanced than that, so I’d encourage those of you who haven’t to read up on this.

          ——– https://thenerdsofcolor.org/2016/04/08/white-virginwhore-of-color-daredevilproblems/

The above definition says everything I wanted to say about this trope. This trope can very easily be found in the TV series Daredevil, on Netflix, where the oversexualized, and violent Elektra, whom Matt is very attracted to, is contrasted against the blonde, and innocent looking, Karen Page, who is so pure that he feels unworthy to be with her, and who must be protected from harm. Note, that Elektra receives no such masculine protection.

This trope can also be found in the first season of HBO’s Westworld, but to a purpose. Maeve, a Black woman who owns a brothel, is portrayed as sexy and sassy, while her compatriot Dolores, is at first set up as pure and virginal. She is the kind of female character who is protected by white men, while Maeve is the type that is exploited.

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2016/11/07/westworld-analysis-dolores-and-maeve/

 

The Faux – Medieval World Settings

Yeah, this one is especially tired.

No matter where in the world these stories are set, or how much worldbuilding a creator may work really hard to put into their work, the end result always appears to be set during Medieval times, with that level of technology. There’s always taverns, beer, wenches, and sword fighting. In some cases, sometimes the wheel has not even been invented! Its not that it matches any particular country or even government system, so much as it looks vaguely like Feudalism, with its associated social hierarchy. I call these, Lord of the Rings ripoffs.

As I mentioned  in an earlier post, I didn’t find my way into Fantasy through the usual channels. I started out reading Horror, than switched to Scifi , and eventually made my way to Urban Fantasy, so I don’t have the same level of reverence for LOTR, that other people do, and frankly, I found all the hype for these types of stories to be deeply tiresome. I don’t hate the genre, (I enjoy the films), but I have no patience for High Fantasy dramas most of the time, and even when I do come across something I like, there’s not as much emotional engagement in it for me. High Fantasy set in other countries (Japan, the Phillipines, Africa) don’t bother me though.

Summer Playlist: Talkin ‘bout a Revolution

I was initially going to call this “The New Shit”, but changed my mind, after I encountered a lot of new music that was protest related.

What’s happening today, is indeed a revolution, and every revolution has a soundtrack. In the sixties, the songs revolved around the war in Vietnam, and racial civil unrest. In hindsight, I should have expected this, as there can be no revolution, without Art!

There’s a lot of songs out there, that were written by white folksingers, during the Vietnam War, but plenty of Black musicians wrote stuff, too. I tried not to choose songs that readily come to mind when considering protest songs. I tried to choose the  kind of songs that people might know, but probably don’t think of as revolutionary. 

Here’s a list of revolution songs by Black artists, both past, and present, and maybe even the future. Some of y’all might not have come across these yet, as most of these will not see radio play, and and some of them won’t be offered on conventional streaming apps, either. On the other hand, many of them are available on YouTube, but you can’t research what you don’t now, right?

 

(Say it Loud) I’m Black and I’m Proud – James Brown

This song was groundbreaking for its time. I’ve found that there’s two different types of revolution songs, songs of grief, and songs of defiance. This is definitely the template for the latter type of song. It is defiantly and unabashedly Black.

Songs like these are important, because they are declarations of worth. They remind people of why they’re fighting, and what they’re fighting for, and  if its one thing a bully hates, it’s when their victim gets back on their feet, and declares their worth!

I’m Black and I’m proud is not any different from saying Black Power, or Black Lives Matter.

 

 

F*ck the Police – NWA

This song was incredibly shocking for its time. Not only did it get banned, but it sparked a wave of censorship against Rap music, which did nothing to actually stop Rappers from speaking truth to power, but it did spur music companies to begin focusing solely on Rap music that had no consciousness to it, and only talked about Black crime and partying.

If you’re wondering why conscious Rap music fell out of favor, then the censorship wars of the mid-eighties certainly played a role. White suburban parents did not want their children listening to songs about questioning and disrespecting authority, and so they did what White parents have always done,when it came to art they didn’t want their children exposed to, like Jazz, and  Rock.

Declare it immoral, and use that as an excuse to ban it!

 

 

Redemption Song- Stevie Wonder 

Here, Stevie does a cover of the song originally written by Bob Marley. Its not that I don’t like the Marley version, but I’m a huge Stevie Wonder fan, this version has always been my favorite, and I’ve always loved when Stevie got political.

Or you could try:

You Haven’t Done Nothing

Its Wrong

Misrepresented People

Blowin’ in the Wind

Heaven Help Us All

Village Ghettoland

 

Fight The Power – Public Enemy

I thought about featuring the official song video for this selection, but decided to go with the opening credits for Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, which is what launched this song into everyone’s consciousness. This was a lot of mainstream white people’s first introduction to political rap, like Public Enemy.

I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to Rap music when I was growing up. I didn’t have favorites, or closely follow certain groups, although I certainly knew who PE was. I knew about who and what was hot, because it was the music that everyone around me listened to, so it was always in the background, while I explored other musical tastes.

I’m not going to say this type of music didn’t influence my thinking, because it most certainly did, but I didn’t realize how much so until I was older.

 

 

 

Talking About a Revolution- Tracy Chapman

I talked in my last post about my regard for tracy Chapman’s music. This is another of her many political songs, which still gives me chills many years after I first heard it. This song, along with the last song I listed, is from her first, self titled, album, which was released in 1988.

You can try:

Across the Line

If Not Now, When

Freedom Now

Subcity

 

Hell You Talm ‘Bout – Janelle Monae

This song was released a few years ago, to minor acclaim. Not many people paid a whole lot of attention to it, outside of the Black community, but this song gives me chills every single time I hear it. It is, in the end, a raucous litany of the dead.

 

 

 

This Is America – Childish Gambino

This song became a nine days wonder when it was released a few summers ago, and has not lost its effectiveness. People are still puzzling about the video’s many images and their meanings.

 

https://time.com/5267890/childish-gambino-this-is-america-meaning/

“The central message is about guns and violence in America and the fact that we deal with them and consume them as part of entertainment on one hand, and on the other hand, is a part of our national conversation,” Ramsey tells TIME. “You’re not supposed to feel as if this is the standard fare opulence of the music industry. It’s about a counter-narrative and it really leaves you with chills.”

 

 

Black Excellence – Buddy

I have no idea who Buddy is, but this is one of my new favorite videos, for its celebration of Black history, and I just love to watch good dancing!

 

 

Glory – Common/John Legend

This is one of my Mom’s favorites, but mostly because she’s a big John Legend fan. This song is from the movie, Selma, by the Black female director, Ava Duvernay. I have not been able to bring myself to watch the film. I probably never will. I’ve had my complete fill of movies of Black people overcoming trauma, whose stories I already know, anyway.

The other day, my mom said something very intersting to me. She said, about the current protesters,  “At least they’re not singing We Shall Overcome. I’m sick of that song.” Remember, my mother grew up doing the civil unrest of the  fifties and sixties, and was a member of the local chapter of the Black Panthers, just before I was born. 

I get the distinct impression that  the white people who are talking about today’s issues the loudest, are 1). the kind of people who have never protested for anytihng in their lives, and have 2). not lived with this nearly their entire life. 

My mother is seventy years old. She’s been actively fighting to uplift Black people since she was a teenager! She is not unhappy to see young people picking up where she left off, after her unofficial retirement.

The other day we were talking about her mom, and how she passed just before Obama became the first Black president, and how she would have loved to have seen that. My mom said she was glad to have lived long enough to see that, and to see what’s happening today. 

So yeah, all those white people bitching and whining about the current uprising, can sit down and shut the whole hell up. They’re nattering ignorantly at a people for whom fighting for their rights is a generational lifetime profession!

 

I Just Wanna Live – Keedron Bryant

This is one of my favorite current protest songs. Its also one of the saddest because Keedron is only twelve years old.

There is almost no discussion about the levels of trauma our children are  going through, and not just police brutality, but the presidents behavior, and their constant exposure to the ignorance of online agitators, who are always quick to insist how little their lives matter.

Our kids need to see this. They need to know this. Sadly, they’re the warriors of our future. They’re  going to need to know how to fight this battle, and unfortunately, teach their kids because the battle to be treated as human beings is never going to be over.

 

 

Black Parade – Beyonce 

I want to end on a high note though. On Juneteenth of this year, Beyonce dropped one of the Blackest songs of the year. This is a song of joy, and celebration, and well, there’s definitely some bragging involved.

And then, at the end of this song, she also dropped a list of Black owned businesses. 

I love this song! I’m not the fighter/confrontational type. That doesn’t mean I won’t beat your ass, though. It just means I won’t enjoy doing it, and will be embarrassed at my loss of composure, afterwards! I don’t do things the way my mother did them, but I contribute in the way that I can, in a way that works for me,which seems to be Beyonce’s manner of approach too,  and that’s by celebrating, and uplifting, every opportunity Black people get to shine.

I’m no badass. But I can happily cheer on a badass.

Summer Nostalgia Playlist: Black Women’s Edition

 I thought for quite awhile what header to put her and this intro. I thought maybe I should put some facts and figures about the women in these little song blurbs, but I finally decided, to hell with it, Im just gonna say why I love these songs, and why the music of these Black women have been an integral part of my life.

I hope you learn some new things, and most of all, ENJOY!

Oh, and:

Happy Juneteenth!

 

Big Mama Thornton

I did not hear this song until I was an adult and I heard it, in, of all places, a Tom Cruise movie. I wondered who the singer was, because I was diggin’ it,  and I’d always liked the Elvis Presley version of the song. It turns out that Big Mama is the original singer of Hound Dog. Well, now she tore it up, and as far as I’m concerned, this is the only version worth listening to.

It turns out that Elvis appropriated a lot of Black music, so now I make a point of finding out if there was an original singer, if I like one of his songs..

 

 

Sarah Vaughn

I only sort of like this kind of soft jazzy music, when I’m in a very particular mood. Kinda sweet, and melancholy, and tired, but just a tiny bit happy, too, like I just spent a whole lot of money doing something I love all day, and I’m exhausted, happy I had the experience, but sad I’m now out of money. I heard this song in some movie as a child.

What movie, I don’t know.

 

 

 

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

I came across this video on YouTube a few years ago. I’d known about Rosetta through my Mom, who is also a huge Blues fan. I find  the incongruity of someone dressed like my grandma, in a church coat, riffing on an electric guitar, deeply funny.

Also, the song is hitt!

 

 

 

 

Koko Taylor

Koko is another one of my Mom’s favorite artists. I only like some of her music, but this song is one that stays on my playlist, and gets regular play. Most of the time I find her music to be like watching a soap opera. There’s a lot of romantic drama in it, that I don’t much care for, but this song is very cool.

 

 

Jessye Norman

When i was a little girl, I caught one of Jessye’s performances on TV, in what I have no idea, and decided I was going to become an opera singer. I loved to sing, I sang in school, at home, around the house, in the yard, and I wasn’t bad, but I found another madlove (drawing and painting), and eventually gave up on the idea of becoming an opera singer, when my voice changed, after I hit puberty.

 

 

Roberta Flack

I don’t know when i first heard this song. I was a child, so it must have been on the radio. A lot of people probably don’t get that, back in the day, kids just listened to whatever their parents listened to, (because the Walkman, Spotify, or MP3 players, and such didn’t exist), and then, as they got older, they branched off into their own musical tastes. So I ended up with a thorough grounding in Classic R&B, and Blues,before moving on to Rock and Techno!

Also, I’m a sucker for blatantly romantic songs like this.

 

 

The Staple Singers

The Staple Singers, headed by the great Mavis Staples, is one of my all-time favorite singing groups. I’ve loved this song sine I was a kid, but my favorite movie moment, for this particular song, was from the movie, Children of a Lesser God.

 

 

Minnie Riperton

Before Mariah Carey, there was Minnie Riperton. I feel like there’s not a lot of people who know about her, but this is probably one of her most famous songs, because of those incredible high notes she keeps hitting out ofhte park throughout the whole song. Trust me, everyone tried to hit those notes when we were young girls. It is absolutely impossible for me to hit them now.

 

 

Deniece Williams

Deniece Williams was really hot in the 80s. She had a bunch of songs, but like I said, I’m a sucker for a treacly romantic song, especially when its sung with such a beautiful voice. This song is one of my big favorites, and great for singing in the shower. Still ain’t hitting them high notes though!

 

 

 

Tracy Chapman

Here’s another deeply romantic song, from someone I discovered in the early nineties. The first song I ever heard by her was called Fast Car, which is arguably one of her most famous. After I heard it, though, I bought every one of Tracy’s albums, which were a heady mix of romantic, and socially conscious songs, that appealed to my twenty-something self.

If you have never heard of her, you need to get in on this. She sang all of her songs with this same amount of passion, and yes, she’s singing to a woman!

 

 

 

Queen Latifah

Okay, I have a confession to make. I chose this song for this list, because when I was a teenager, and this song came out, I sang it really, really loud, in the house, everyday, and just replaced her name with my own name, because our names are almost exactly alike!I have two younger brothers,and I’m not sure if they remember this phase of me telling them I’ve had it up to here, and that I was their queen! Hopefully not!

This is for those of you who, for some strange reason, do not know that Latifah was a rapper first, and an actress later, and she made the transition so effortlessly, that people barely noticed she did it. We just accepted her as a actress, without asking a single question!

 

 

 

Monica

The first song I heard from Monica was not The Boy is Mine, it was, Just One of Them Days. Yeah, I liked her right away, child that she was, but she grew into a phenomenal singer, who covered one of my favorite treacly romantic songs, Misty Blue, which was originally sung by Dorothy Moore.

 

 

Next up: This is the New Shit: Summer Playlist!

 

The How and Why: Kimberly Jones

Kimberly Jones lays it out of my thoughts on these issues! Tying together economics, Black history, protests, riots, looters, and racism, in just six minutes.

 

What she’s talking about:

Black Codes

 

Black Wall Street

The opening scene of the first episode of HBO’s Watchmen is taken from this history.

 

Rosewood

(This is also a 1997 movie starring Ving Rhames, and directed by the  Black director, John Singelton)

 

 

The Red Summer of 1919

 

Note: As a librarian, I understand the need for research, but I also understand that some information won’t be found, unless you know certain key words. In other words, you have to know what you’re looking for, to be able to find it. This playlist is a 101 of early Black History, just after the Civil War, and following this information will take you into some interesting territories.

A lot of Black History in America is well documented, but not taught in schools. In order to find it, you need to either  stumble across it by accident, or someone who already knows, needs to tell you, otherwise how would you know what to look for. So its not so much that things are undocumented, but that things are hidden.

So I encourage you to use the key words in the headers for these videos to find out more.

 

 

Halloween (1978): The Horror of Framing, and Identification

A Frame is a single image of film or video. So framing consists of the composition of a series of shots, or images from the camera’s point of view. Based on where the camera has been placed, we know where we are as the audience, and that can make all the difference in a person’s attitude towards a film.

I have friends who dislike Horror movies. I know! Sacrilege, right? But I get it. I don’t pressure them to watch them, as they aren’t for everyone, but I often wonder what it is about such movies that they dislike. I know, for some of them, its the feelings of anxiety that such films can produce. But I think at least part of that anxiety has to do with the nature of the visual media that is film. The camera is often a stand-in for the audience. We see what the camera sees, and visual media is carefully composed to manipulate our emotions about what we see onscreen. Some people will find it very off putting, not just watching a scene, and being helpless to stop it, but based on how the images are framed, feel as if they are actually participating in the violence. How are a movie’s images and themes presented to the audience, and what effect does that have on them?

I was watching the original 1978  Halloween a few weeks ago, and comparing it to the new sequel that came out last year. I was thinking about why the new sequel is so effective, at being scary, whereas none of the other sequels, outside of Halloween II, were scary for me, at all.

At least part of the reason the new sequel works is it successfully replicates much of the framing of that first film. This framing (of both films) has the effect of making the audience a participant in the action. If you remember the opening scene from the original film, we see the suburban setting as if we were operating the camera, as Michael stabs his sister to death. Afterwards, the camera switches the viewpoint to that of his parents, we pull back when his parents pull off his mask, as he stands on the front lawn. This is an example of the audience as not just onlookers, which is the viewpoint from which most films are told, but as participants in the actions onscreen. We are not meant to simply watch, but see through Michael’s eyes, as we participate in the killing. That we see the murder from Michael’s point of view can make some members of the audience feel complicit in the act.

After this opening, the camera neatly switches between Laurie Strode’s, and Michael’s, point of view. It is Laurie’s decisions that control the plot, but she and her friends are the ones being acted upon by Michael. The movie is framed in a classic Protagonist/antagonist plot, of two evenly matched adversaries, who play cat and mouse throughout the movie. Part of the movie’s tension is who is going to win this fight, and the camera shows this by switching between both their points of view. Switching between different points of view is a way to keep the audience off balance.

First, let’s have a discussion of camera techniques and film vocabulary, since I am operating under the assumption that a lot of my readers have never really given a whole lot of thought to the idea that what a camera is doing, doesn’t just tell the audience how to feel, or think, but often focuses the movie’s primary theme, and sometimes the story itself.

Telling the audience who is of primary importance in the story, and how the audience should feel about what is happening, is done by framing. The director decides where the camera is going to stand, what it’s going to be doing, and what that image looks like through the viewfinder. One of the things that makes horror movies so unsettling is that the viewpoint can switch at any moment. The camera can be anyone at any time. One of the side effects is that the viewer is not given time to become complacent, or to feel comfortable.

Sometimes we see the world through Michael’s eyes, experiencing the emotionlessness of this character. The way the images are framed, through Michael’s eyes, give us a sense of the character’s height and power, as the camera is often placed slightly above, or at head height during a scene. From Michael’s point of view, the camera is always a semi-distant, and unemotional, observer, that moves slowly, and steadily, giving him a sense of relentless implacability. He is framed as the one in power, as a machine which cannot be stopped.

In other scenes, we see what Laurie sees, experiencing her terror, vulnerability, and bravery. The camera, from Laurie’s point of view, trembles in an uncertain manner, peering around corners, and hedges, through doorways, and closets. In many of her scenes, the camera is closer to the ground, or floor, as it points upwards towards a sound or image. We are meant to feel what she feels, as she is framed as small and helpless.

In the newest Halloween, this is masterfully done by James Carpenter, the director of the original film. In the Michael scenes, the camera moves slowly and steadily through busy, or frenetic settings, at head height. Laurie, whose mindset is now very different after the trauma of the first movie, doesn’t get a lot of viewpoint scenes, and when she does she is shown to be equally matched to him, as the camera is at head height for her, too, until the end of the film, when Michael, now in a vulnerable position, is placed below head height, looking upward, towards Laurie and her daughter. The two of them, having turned the tables on him, look down on him from their position of greater power.

No discussion of framing would be complete without mention of the film in which it was made especially famous, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 Psycho, where we watch the death of the primary character, Marion Crane, from the point of view of her killer, in the infamous “shower scene”. Hitchcock is rightfully lauded for this particular camera technique, as it had never been done in that way before, and it rightfully shocked audiences. I think at least part of that shock is that Hitchcock makes the audience feel complicit in Marion Crane’s murder, as we see it from the point of view of her killer, Norman Bates, but that’s not what makes Psycho groundbreaking. It is the switch from Marion’s point of view, to the killer’s, that sets it apart. Marion goes from Subject, to Object, from the person who commits the acts that determine the plot, at the beginning of the film, and the person with whom we identify, to the person who is acted upon. At the beginning of the film Marion is the Subject, from whose viewpoint we see the world, but when she is killed, she becomes the Object, and we become her killer. For some people, this was simply too much.

What Hitchcock did in this scene is switch Framing. Based on the framing, the audience is meant to think, or feel, a certain way about, or towards, a character. You’re meant to be uncomfortable during the shower scene, and Michael’s murder of his sister, as your eyes are forced to see your victim, and you cannot look elsewhere. In Hitchcock’s scene the camera is initially placed inside the shower with Marion, as she looks outward and sees a shadow. We do not see Marion, in those instances, (she is “out of frame”), because we are seeing things from her point of view. Then the camera is turned, and placed outside the shower, facing Marion. We don’t see her killer now, because we are now in the killers viewpoint. This makes this scene much more intimate than if it was “framed” another way. For example, if the camera had been placed to see both subjects, at the same time, “framing” both of them within the image, in such an enclosed space, it would have to be further away from them, placing us, the audience, at an emotional remove, and the scene would feel less immediate.

By placing the camera as the point of view of either character, and switching back and forth between them, we become a part of the scene. We become the characters, rather than an omnipotent third party, who are just watching a murder, as would happen if the camera were placed at a distance. The moment becomes not just more intimate, but more visceral, than if the camera was placed elsewhere.

Most movies are framed in such a way as to make the audience a third but invisible onlooker, which is sometimes called the “god perspective”, or the “omnipresent watcher”, Or sometimes, in the feminist perspective, The Male Gaze, where we can see everything that’s occurring within the scene, as if we were standing right there. If the camera is close to the scene, such as when two people are having a conversation and both are seen within the frame, we feel like a third invisible observer, in the scene with them. If the camera is even further away than we may feel like we are not part of the scene at all. We might feel like we are spying on the two subjects from afar. If the camera is placed within the scene, switching from the view of one character to another, than we become those characters. Framing indicates the level of intimacy, and the best directors tell us how to feel about the characters, based not just on what they say, but how they are seen within the frame.

For example, an extreme closeup of a woman, with the camera panning, (when a camera moves up and down, or from side to side), along her body, places us in the scene with her, as we look at her body. Sometimes the scene is meant to be sexually evocative, as the character is often aware that we are there, and appears to respond to our presence in the scene with her. But if the camera is across the room, while focusing on her body and legs, we are no longer in the scene with her, but spying on her from a distance. The character doesn’t know we are there, isn’t posing provocatively for our gaze, and acts as if she is alone, which makes us voyeurs, to what appears to be a private moment, such as the scene when Marion Crane first gets into the shower. We have not asked permission, she is unaware of the camera, and has not given us her consent to look in on her. She is as unaware of our presence, as she is the killer’s.

For another example, in the movie, The Seven Year Itch, there’s the iconic scene of Marilyn Monroe standing over a sewer grate, with her skirts floating in the air. There are two people in the scene, and the camera is far enough away to frame both of them within the image, except when her skirts fly up. Notice how the camera is just close enough for her to “know” that we are standing right there, but the camera only focuses on her face, when she is speaking to her date, and only shows her carefully posed legs, when she isn’t speaking, as if we were being distracted from their conversation.

That we are not seeing this moment from either of their points of view, but at a distance, is what makes the scene funny. We are both present, and not present, standing on the street, in plain view of both these characters, who do not react to our presence, but they know we are right there, because we are standing directly in front of them, just a few feet away, witnessing an event, that they are performing for us. The camera is just far enough away, that we don’t feel like participants, but like someone who was just passing by, who has decided to stop and stare at their flirtatious show. We are voyeurs, and the scene is meant to be both sexually enticing, and humorous.

Contrast that scene, with the opening scene, from the 1976 version of Carrie. The camera is in the shower with Carrie, in extreme closeup. As close as the Marion Crane scene in Psycho. This is a very intimate moment, that we are intruding on, but not participating in. Carrie is supposed to be alone, as she does not react to the camera, and is unaware of its presence. But the scene isn’t without emotion, as shots of her legs, torso, and body, are interspersed with shots of her face, and her tranquil expression. What we are doing is intruding into Carries private moment. She is one of the last girls still in the shower, because it is the only place she can find respite from her constantly bullying classmates. She is enjoying this quiet solitude, before she must re-enter the world. Here, we are voyeurs of a different sort, as we are meant to identify with Carrie in this scene. If we were not meant to identify with her, she would be objectified, by not having close up shots of her face.

Framing can mean the difference between objectification, and identification. We are not meant to identify with Marilyn’s character. We are interested as an onlooker, to a show she is giving. We don’t really care about her facial expressions, which is why those are shot at more of a distance. In Carrie, we are meant to identify with her, and not her classmates, who are shot from a distance, and framed as a faceless mob of nubile, seductive water nymphs, in slow motion, and half dressed. In a sense, this is how Carries sees them, as happy, frolicking, young women, whose faces all blend together, and that’s something that will be shown explicitly, minutes later, during the tampon throwing scene, and during the Prom scene, when Carrie thinks they are all laughing at her. Focusing the camera on Carrie’s solemn facial expression, is a contrast to her classmates. We are shown her feelings, and her personhood. We are meant to be sympathetic to her, not her classmates. Some people might find it very difficult to watch a film where one is made to identify with the victim of bullying.

 Let’s use another movie, to contrast against Halloween, as an example of framing. We’ll use the 2011, It Follows. Both films basically have the same plot, two women are being relentlessly pursued by silent creatures that want to kill them. Both movies frame the characters in such a way that denotes they are the protagonists, both films revolve around killing that involves sexual activity, and both involve the survival, at the end of the movie, of a Final Girl.

In It Follows, Jay is being pursued by a monster that can take the form of someone she knows, after she is infected by a virus that allows her to see it. In Halloween, we go where Michael goes, and see what he sees. We are the monster. In It Follows, we never see the world from the monsters viewpoint, except at the opening of the film. For the rest of the movie, we are almost always looking towards the monster, and seeing the world through either Jay’s eyes, or as third observer. We don’t get to walk in the monsters footsteps. We are not the monster, and hence, the monster is the less important part of this film. Unlike Halloween, in It Follows, we are voyeurs, who watch Jay during some of her most private moments, or we see the monster from Jay’s viewpoint. Jay is the movie’s focus, and everything revolves around her. This is not like Halloween, where you have two separate, but evenly matched, adversaries. The monster has no identity of its own, and can have no point of view. Any identity we see, is given to it by Jay, and everything we see of it, is from Jay’s mind.

Michael (who is often the audience stand-in) often watches Laurie and her friends from a distance. The camera’s distance from Michael’s victims creates a feeling of emotional detachment in the audience. We don’t get closeups of their faces because Michael isn’t interested in them as people, only as objects he can act upon. We are not meant to identify with Laurie’s friends. However, as a third observer, we do get lots of closeups of Laurie’s face. We are meant to feel what she feels, because the closer the camera is to the character, the more intimate the moment.

Since these movies are framed from the point of view of the killers, or as if the viewers were ineffectual observers, or participants in the scenes, you are meant to feel the tension of either the victim, or excitement of the killer. I’ve never felt the latter, but apparently there are those who watch horror movies who get a thrill from just that. I’ve also heard people who don’t like horror movies, accuse those who do, of getting just such a thrill, and I came to the conclusion that at least some of them were deeply uncomfortable with how horror movies are framed.

Perhaps for those who perceive themselves as “good” people, who would never harm anyone, horror movies might be especially stressful, in this regard. Seeing horror scenes from the killer’s relentless point of view is distressing, just as much as being a stand in for the helpless and vulnerable victim, or being an invisible voyeur to violent acts.

The Strong Black Woman

At The Take, they’re examining the movie trope of the Strong Black woman. This stereotype is a conflation of The Mammy and Sapphire stereotypes, always angry, telling it’s like it is, emasculating, and strong beyond reason, in her ability to overcome suffering. The Strong Black Woman is a stereotype created by black women as a way to counteract the nastier stereotypes, but it has backfired, because it is often the only recognized narrative of us.

What the stereotype ignores is that our ability to be strong is often based on our ability to endure suffering, whereas for white women, it’s often an ability to act like white men do in movies, kicking ass, shooting guns, and not needing a man. Often, when Black women protest this stereotype, it’s because so much of it consists of not needing a man, which is often used as an excuse to not write romances for Black women. The SBW isn’t a bad thing, but when it’s the only image that’s presented onscreen, it becomes an issue.

One of the side effects of this superwoman stereotype is that so many people have bought into it, that it affects our lived experiences, and our vulnerabilities are ignored. Suicide rates among black woman are never discussed, we receive less medical care because it is actually assumed that we don’t feel pain, our strength is often exploited as a benefit to others, our mental health, and inner emotional life is never explored.

This is slowly starting to change, with more nuanced portrayals, especially in TV. We’re finally getting the message out to all women, that it’s okay to be vulnerable, to be soft, to cry, how hard it is to live up to this impossible stereotype, and that taking care of our emotional health isn’t a selfish act.

This is why diversity in storytelling is so important, because with more Black female representation, the lone black woman, who don’t need no man, doesn’t have to stand in for all Black women, in the way that Scarlett Johansson had to be a stand-in for every white woman, in the MCU.

Accents in Movies: Depicting Class

In the 1991 Jonathan Demme film, Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter, in one of the film’s most cringeworthy scenes,  properly deduces that Clarice Starling is “poor white trash”. Working from his own collection of  stereotypes, the observation of her good bag, cheap shoes, and Appalachian mountains accent, he correctly guesses that she’s not more than one generation out of the coal mines. Clarice’s accent, as much as her womanhood, marks her as “other”.

Everything about her, from the opening running scene, in which she is ogled by a pair of classmates, to the elevator scene where the height differential between herself and her classmates makes her stand out, to the soft Southern accent, with which she replies to her supervisor, it is shown that Clarice does not belong there. Although later, Clarice uses her accent to gain the trust and compliance of a roomful of rural professionals, who are suspicious of her presence, as a woman in an all male environment, and as a member of the Federal government. She uses her accent to show that she is actually one of them, from the culture in which the idea of the Wise (or Conjure) Woman is important, and respected.

When you watch that scene again, take note of the strength of the accent, and her use of words. She says to the men, “We’ll take care of her. Just go on now. We’ll take care of her.” And they unquestioningly obey her request, much as they would, if their mothers, or grandmothers had said it. She has successfully conveyed to the men, that she is one of them, a member of their social class, who knows how these things are done.

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Clarice is a pretender to social class, which is a nice parallel to the film’s antagonist, Jame Gumb, who pretends at being a transgender woman. The only person who is not fooled by Clarice’s  pretense at urban sophistication, is  Lecter, who has a distinct, upper class, European accent, reminiscent of the Lithuanian nobility, from which he came. To  less discerning characters, like Chilton, or the room full of cops that she orders around, Clarice can pass as a member of the middle class. The moment she speaks, people assume she isn’t, but to someone like Lecter, her lack of breeding is clearly evident. Both her, and Gumb’s, (his is Southern Californian), accents mark them as outside the mainstream. Except for the three primary characters, Lecter, Gumb, and Starling, all of the other characters in the film, including Clarice’s Black roommate, played by Kasi Lemmons, all have the  Standard American accent.

The American Standard is the king of American accents, it is the default, so common it goes unnoticed, and the most well favored. It’s also called the Central Midwestern accent, used in places like Northeastern Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan to the far north, Iowa, New York, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, and is the accent most often heard from news anchors, public announcers, and even AI programs like Siri, and Alexa. There are other accents in those regions, that coexist along side it, but the American Standard is the one which is preferred.

 

https://www.stagemilk.com/american-accent-guide/

It is also somewhat of a constructed concept. What I mean by that is that nobody grew up in Standard America. The sound we’re talking about is what is called a prestige dialect. Most countries (and most languages) have a prestige dialect which is exactly what it sounds like: the speech sounds most commonly identified with status within a given society. Linguistically it’s not simply status but also clarity, intelligence, socioeconomic influence and general power. 

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Unlike Clarice, I have this privilege. I call this Accent Privilege, in the sense that my regular speaking voice doesn’t have an accent that is noticeably different from that of the mainstream, Midwestern accent. This happened by sheer luck. I just happened to be born into one of the regions where this is the most prevalent accent. People often judge others on how they speak, and if you have no noticeable accent,  that judgment is favorable most of the time. My accent marks me to others as being intelligent, educated, and/or middle class. My words are treated with either trust or suspicion, based on who I’m talking to. White people consider me “safe”, and are reassured by my ability to be clear and articulate, but I was often asked by my Black classmates, why I spoke like a white person, as the Midwestern accent is heavily associated with Whiteness. I did not grow up as a member of the middle class. Like Clarice Starling, I’m pretending to a social class I was not born into, but which people assumed I did, and my accent helped to sell it, because, like her, I’m barely one generation away from the cotton fields.

But I do also engage in what is known as “Code Switching”, where people from other cultures, or just different regions of the country, speak differently, in different spaces, often “switching” back and forth, between their normal speaking voice, and American Standard.  Why? Because many people are often uncomfortable with, and disrespectful, and suspicious of other languages, and vernacular English, like AAVE (African American Vernacular English). When I’m in my home, I speak the way my family speaks, and since the majority of them are from rural Mississippi, we speak AAVE, but I don’t speak at work that way. For one thing, my job involves answering phones, and a certain mode of professional speaking is required for that type of job. It would be considered “unprofessional”, and in the minds of some people, low class, for me to answer the business phone, as if I were at home. I don’t talk to my supervisors, the way I talk to my mother, for example, (and neither do most people, regardless of whether or not they have accents.

Now, when I’m talking about accents, for the purposes of this post, I mean the entirety of a person’s manner of speaking, including word usage, because only certain types of accents are associated with the use of certain types of words, for example, the use of the word, “y’all”.

 The mainstream Midwestern accent is the default accent used in almost all of American television, and movies. Having a Midwestern accent means a person gets treated as trustworthy, their words are given more weight,  given the benefit of the doubt,  assumed to be educated,  to have a good job,  and to be non-violent. In America, sounding like an American, means having  “no accent”, but that wasn’t always the case.

In the early part of the 20th century, the Mid-Atlantic accent was what was used, until it fell out of favor, in the fifties, for a more “natural” sounding speech pattern.

 

Of course this is an accent, too, in the same way that “White” is a race, but this “lack” of accent (just like whiteness) is so ubiquitous, that most people don’t  notice it.

The way someone pronounces their words, is used in movies and shows, not just to reinforce stereotypes, but as a  form of shorthand, to show a person’s character, and social class. Filmmakers use accents to show audiences that a character is good,  evil,  smart, gullible, suspicious, or trustworthy.  Turn on any American TV show, watch any movie, and chances are, those with Midwestern accents will be the majority of the characters, and probably  will be  the protagonists, heroes, or in positions of authority. They will also almost always be White.

You will not find  a lot of characters in mainstream media with deep Southern accents, Western twangs,  Texas Drawls, Valley Girl speech, Arabic, Southeast Indian, or Caribbean  accents, unless they are also shown as poor, incompetent, corrupt, or played for comic relief. In other words, characters never just have accents. There is always a reason for the accent, and some  point about that person is being made.

For example, the accent, in mainstream media, is used to indicate if someone is considered an American citizen. For the past twenty plus years, the Simpsons,  has had the running gag of an immigrant named Apu, a stereotypical character from India, who has  a strong accent,  is the father of a small multitude of babies, and runs a convenience store. This character is meant to be funny because of how he speaks, not necessarily because of anything he does, as his very existence in Springfield, (the setting of The Simpsons), is meant to be comedic. His accent also paints him as a perpetual foreigner. Asian Americans are especially susceptible to this stereotype, as no matter how many generations they’ve lived in America, they are often still assumed to be from somewhere else. And if they have an accent then doubly so.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perpetual_foreigner

The perpetual foreigner stereotype is a racialized form of nativist xenophobia in which naturalized and even native-born citizens (including families which have lived in the country for generations) are perceived as foreign because they belong to minority groups.

I spoke, in an earlier post, about the use of accents in the movies of the Coen Brothers, where everyone’s speech patterns and accents are used as indicators of people’s socio-economic status, the status they aspire to be, or simply framed as comedic.  In The Ladykillers, Tom Hanks broad Southern  accent is associated with television conmen, corrupt religious authority, and the Antebellum era of Georgia.  His accent gives the audience ideas about the  type of man he is. The audience doesn’t know he is a grifter and conman by his deeds. We know this by the long association, that has been made in mainstream media, between his accent, and untrustworthiness. All we  need is to hear is his caricature of a Southern accent, to understand that he is unreliable, and also that  the movie is meant to be a comedy.

 

In Raising Arizona, Hi, a criminal recidivist,  his two  best  friends, both prison escapees, and a murderous biker, all talk in what I call “downspeak”, where they talk as if they were  college educated, but with the Southern twang that is meant to indicate their social class, and criminal status. This is what I meant by the association of word use and accent. The humor comes from the incongruity of Hi, and his companions, using words not normally associated with their accents. Not only that, but Hi’s word use can also be seen as aspirational. He talks the way he wishes to be seen by others, which is smart, educated, middle-class, and therefore a reliable narrator, but we  laugh at the way Hi speaks, because his accent marks him as a member of the trailer park class, no matter what words he uses.

Accents are especially interesting  when it comes to Black characters. Blackness, throughout most of film history, has been  almost always associated with buffoonery, poverty, criminality, and a lack of education.  So  it is interesting that even though the largest population of Black people in the US, live in the South, Black people in Popular media, rarely have Southern, Californian, or even Texan accents, and those times when they have  a Southern accent, it represents childlike helplessness, that they have wisdom above their station, or in the case of Black women, that they are deeply religious.

In the 1986 movie, Crossroads, starring Ralph Macchio, and Joe Seneca, we can contrast Willie Brown’s poor, Mississippi Delta accent, with Eugene Martone’s middle-class, New York accent, something which Willie never lets Eugene forget throughout the film. They’re both musicians who specialize in playing the guitar, but one of them was born into poverty and plays the Blues, a style of music that is dismissed as “primitive” by Eugene’s music teachers, and the other was born in one of world’s most cosmopolitan cities, and plays Western European Classical music, which is sneered at by Willie, as not being “real music, that comes from the heart”. In this movie, it is Eugene who is out of place, as his accent is commented on by the other characters in the film, and marks him as being from a different socio-economic class.

The Northern Blaccent, where a person speaks AAVE, but speaks it with a Midwestern accent, is often representative of  the “thug”, or gang banger stereotype, and appears to be a universal Black accent,  not closely associated  with any particular region of the US, which means that no matter where the movie or show is set, the accents of Black characters in Popular media, tend to remain consistently Midwestern. Once again, this is not a hard and fast rule, as exceptions can be found, but it is a pattern, and the idea that Blackness alone, is so associated with criminality, violence, and unreliability, to such a degree, that none of those qualities need be further indicated by a strong accent, is disturbing.

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When a Black character speaks SAE (Standard American English) onscreen, without an accent, then it connotes all the same qualities that it does in the real world, respectability, and safety. A decade after the demise of the Mid-Atlantic accent, used by White actors, Black characters were still using it. The use of AAVE in movies and shows, did not reach full use by Black characters until the mid seventies, after which it became associated with Black youth culture, and the Blacksploitation movies of that era. The use of AAVE, in mainstream media, came about as a result of the resurgence in Black Pride, when young Black people dismissed respectability politics, in favor of more natural manners of speaking.

Actors like Sidney Poitier, and other actors during, and after, the Civil rights Era, had a distinct, clipped, educated,  Mid-Atlantic accent, which was meant to show that he was a fine, upstanding Black man, to be respected. The purpose of this manner of speaking was meant to counteract the “Coon” manner of speaking that had been heard in most mainstream films, featuring Black characters. His tone, and speech, are meant to convey authority. This was a man who could be liked and trusted, and  this was illustrated in the 1967 movie, In the Heat of the Night, in which a Black Philadelphia cop, Virgil Tibbs, is sent to a small town in Mississippi,  and works with the town sheriff to solve a murder.

Poitier’s voice is deep, firm, and commanding, because sometimes, the tone and timbre of a person’s voice are important, as well. In this scene, notice the difference in his voice, compared to that of the white sheriff, whose voice is of a higher register, and a more casual tone. The Sheriff’s accent is a soft Southern drawl, his tone holds just a touch of ambiguity, because while he is assured of his own authority, he is uncertain of Tibbs, but like the plot of every cop film of the 80s,  the two men begin  to respect each other, as they are forced to work together.

 

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In Hollywood films, the accent that receives the most negative depictions, outside of the Northern Blaccent, is the  Southern Twang. White people with Southern twangs from places  like Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and the Appalachians, are often depicted in films as toothless, criminal, incestuous,  “rednecks”, “trailer trash”, and “hillbillies”. They are often shown as uneducated, overly religious, violent, poor, and gullible members of the lower classes, (they often populate Horror movies set in rural America, like The Texas Chainsaw massacre, and Deliverance, which is something I’ll be speaking about in a later post.) We are meant to laugh at them, disdain them, be afraid of them, or disgusted by them. The audience is almost never meant to think of such individuals as their equals. Contrast this attitude with that of earlier in the twentieth century, before television, when such people were often held up as admirable examples of Americans, who were the “salt of the Earth”. They weren’t respected, but at least were not blatantly denigrated in most media depictions of them. They were shown as ignorant, but level headed, uneducated, but sensible. Over time, with the advent of television, which was aimed at a middle class audience, the depiction of white poverty became almost entirely negative.

Also on The Simpsons, there is another recurring character named Cletus, The Slack Jawed Yokel, and his theme song and  vignettes are every stereotype of rural poverty, which pretty much sums up how this character is meant to be seen, but because this is a white character, no one thinks of it as being especially mean-spirited, despite the fact that the people writing the show, don’t share the socio-economic background of the character. We are meant to laugh at him, and his antics, not sympathize with him. (TBH, many of The Simpson’s recurring characters are  collections of various tropes.)

We can more clearly see this stereotyping at work, in the 1993 movie, Kalifornia, between  two couples who share almost nothing in common, beyond having white skin. The don’t share income levels, background, or education. Early and his girlfriend, Adele, both speak with a Twang which, outside of their dress and demeanor, indicates their low social and economic status, compared to Brian and Carrie, who speak with the “accentless” accents of the Midwest. Brian and Carrie are both urbane, educated, middle class, and look down on, and mock Adele and Early as “poor white trash”. When the two couples meet,  Carrie expresses reservations about Early and Adele, and finds them funny. Throughout the movie, she regularly expresses disgust, and embarrassment, for the couple’s mannerisms, speech, and lack of boundaries.

Early is a murderer, with a long criminal background, and  on parole, while he and Adele inhabit a trailer, they cannot afford. Adele, while sweet, and good-natured, is also  dimwitted,  gullible, and easily manipulated by Early, who is physically abusive towards her. Adele is  more open with her sexuality. She isn’t slut-shamed in the film, but her manner and dress is distinctly different from the cool, modestly dressed, and sexually aloof Carrie, who Early covets as being beyond his ability to acquire. Carrie’s hair, makeup, and clothing, all indicate that she is a member of the middle class, while Adele’s childlike hairstyles, and lack of makeup, indicate her lack of sophistication. This is actually pretty typical of Hollywood versions of White people with strong Southern accents, but there are at least two exceptions to this, as well.

 

The Texas Drawl, for example, which is commonly given to hyper-masculine, and  heroic White men, like John Wayne, and the Southern Belle, a white woman of at least middle class status, who is  depicted as either  a simpering, or  fiery, damsel in distress, like Scarlett O’Hara.

In genre movies that take place in Fantasy and Science Fiction settings, the Midwestern accent is still dominant, even if there is no reason why a story set in Medieval England, or Outer Space is filled with Midwestern American speaking people, outside of being the actors hired for those roles. Most of the lead characters in Game of Thrones have either staunch Midwestern, or upper class British accents, when there is no reason for such a class station to be alluded to at all, in such a setting. If the characters in a world based on Medieval European history, can have modern British and Midwestern accents, and not be argued as historically inaccurate, than why not any of the many twangs, drawls, Indigenous, Asian, or even Eastern European accents? Why are posh British accents always used to denote the upper classes and nobility even in fantasy settings?

In the Lord of the Rings movie franchise, Viggo Mortensen is a multilingual actor, of Danish heritage, who speaks with a pronounced American accent in the movie. Of all the accents he could have chosen to use, why use that one? The Hobbits all use a variety of English, and Midwestern accents, that are meant to sound casual, but are still “low class” English, or Midwestern standard (and sometimes both in the same character). Although the movies are shot in New Zealand, none of the primary actors have Kiwi accents, which for the Hobbits would be just as valid as the English and Midwestern accents they’re using.

All of the members of the nobility, for example, including the fantasy creatures, regardless of the region of Middle-Earth, or the culture they’re from, like the elves, and dwarves, have English accents. Now I do understand that many of these accents are the natural voices of the actors hired for the roles, but what is never taken into account by audiences is that, that too, is a choice the creators made. The creators of the movies took the time to have the actors speak invented languages, and they could have easily taken the time to make up accents, but chose not to, which probably means, just like the audience, they didn’t hear it either. They could have taken the time to use different accents, for different cultures, or regions of Middle Earth, but didn’t.

Contrast that decision with the accents used in the movie Black Panther. Yes, the accents are all over the place, but according to some of the countries referenced by dress and custom in the movie, the actors accents are not the real accents of any particular region, or tribe, and as a result, many Africans found the accents funny. The Wakandans do speak something like the real language called Xhosa. The bottom line is someone thought about how the characters should sound, and made a deliberate choice that all the members of the fictional nation of Wakanda, would have a certain accent, while it seems no particular thought was given to the accents of the characters from Lord of the Rings. The actors just all used their natural voices there.

When The TV series The Witcher was announced, there was a great deal of argument about adding people of color to the cast, saying that they didn’t belong in a story based in  Polish folklore, because that would not be “Historically Accurate”. This is an argument I’m getting especially tired of hearing,for stories set in Fantasy settings, that involve elves, dragons, and magic, especially since none of those same  people complained about any of the characters lack of Medieval Polish accents, or the lack of any of the languages of Poland. It’s not accurate for any of the characters to have either American or British accents, but no one complained about them. No one complained, because they are not meant to notice that the  “accentless” accent, of Midwestern America, is actually a very specific, and just as contrived,  accent, aimed at a specific audience the films.

Would we take any of these films as seriously as we do, if all the characters spoke like Cletus, from The Simpsons?

In Star Wars, most of the characters (even robots) have either British or Midwestern accents, as well, and there is no particular reason why no one has a Blaccent, or speaks like they’re from Georgia, Pakistan, or Indonesia, although in Science Fiction, this is changing, as in some of the films, most notably in Rogue One, the actors of color all kept their original accents, from places like Mexico (Diego Luna), and China (Donnie Yen).  At least part of the reason we don’t often hear other types of accents in genre films is those types of actors are rarely chosen for those roles,  the disrespect and mockery of accents outside of the Midwestern standard, and  the fact that British accents are the only accents that generally don’t receive mockery in American culture, (although men with such accents are sometimes coded as villainous gays.)

Asian accents on television and in movies are often subject to ridicule and satire. Starting with Mr. Yunioshi, in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, to Long Duk Dong, in Sixteen Candles, Hollywood has a long, and sordid, history of mocking Asian accents, often using White actors. Asian characters may be stereotyped as  smart, or  “model minorities” in comparison to Black characters, but they are still shown as being less American, through depictions of broken English, ignorance of American culture, and mock languages, like the sing-song noises directed at Asian Americans, even if they were born in America.

Any non-American accents will receive mockery though, no matter what the the race or culture. I’ve caught myself mocking the Australian accent of Steve Irwin, Michael Caine’s Cockney accent, or laughing at fake Irish and Scottish accents. All accents that are considered by mainstream media to be comedic, or just of the “lower classes”.

All this means is that all accents are unworthy, and that the only one that should be respected (or just never noticed at all) is the accentless accent of the Midwest. And let’s be absolutely honest, not even all Midwestern accents are considered equal. The Northern Midwest has its own distinct sound, and is often used in movies as a form of comedy relief.

Here, Amy Walker talks about some of the more common American regional accents.

 

Essentially, the Midwestern accent  is as  ubiquitous, and invisible as whiteness. It is an accent without an accent, it is everywhere, and because its so pervasive, no one can hear it.

Hi Everyone!

I am currently, like a lot of people, in a lockdown city, here in the US, due to the C- 19 pandemic, and I’m not working. Unfortunately, now is also the wrong fucking time to have either the flu, or allergies, both of which are currently kicking my ass, but I am otherwise okay. I live in a predominantly Black neighborhood and although we rarely panic about anything, yes, people are buying lots of toilet paper.

My Mom and I went shopping this weekend, and while there was a very mild air of excitement, kinda like what’s felt before a National holiday, most people were quite calm, and polite. I saw only one woman wearing a face mask, and one guy with rubber gloves. The handful of white People I saw had amassed lots of toilet paper, while the Black customers seemed like they were just buying food for their unexpectedly early, out of school children. Schools will be closed here to the end of the school year, but the kids are still going to be fed, because otherwise the school lunches, that were bought in advance would go to waste, so that’s good. Voting has been postponed til Summer, movie theaters are closed, and I have no idea when I’ll be back to work, although thankfully, I’m one of those people with fully paid leave.

I’m thinking of donating to people without paid leave, so if anyone knows any organizations that will do that, then please hit me up on Tumblr with the details.

I have no intention of talking about the pandemic on this blog, mostly because reliable information can be found everywhere else, and I really don’t have strong feelings about what’s happening. It is what it is, I’m gonna roll with whatever happens, and my white noise about it isn’t going to be helpful. I’m going to continue to post what’s in my queue, talk about movies and shows, and try to be entertaining, with an occasional deep thought.

Newest Post on Medium.com

My latest post on Medium.com is up and running. Its a little different from what I usually post here, as its something a bit more personal. The post was prompted by a writer on Medium by the name of Elle Beau, and her question was what did the world teach you about how to be a woman. Her question was prompted by an article titled How to Be a Lady, calling  out conflicting narratives of how the world wants women to behave.

Head on over to :

What the World Taught Me About Womanhood

I Ain’t Never Gonna Be A Lady

If you have a Medium membership, just click on my name, and it should be the first article that pops up. Head on over, read it, and be sure to give it a few claps, if you like it! You can give applause by clicking on the tiny hands at the bottom of the post. You can also follow specific themes and writers, so that their latest articles will always show up on your dash ,and you can save articles to read later. (It is possible to join Medium for free. You can read all you want but the number of articles available offline is limited. A paid membership costs about 5.0 a month, for a lot of extra perks, including the ability to write your own posts.)
While you’re there,  check out some of my other original posts, and let me know what you think!

Recognizing Anti-Semitism

*Warning for symbols and Imagery of Anti-Semitism*

So You Want to Fight Against Antisemitism

This post is for everyone. 

So, you know that antisemitism is a major problem in today’s world. You know it is a system of oppression unlike any other. And you know you have to do something. But what? 

 

Image result for anti semitism symbols"
Anti-Semitism Symbol

Learn what Antisemitism is. 

  • You can’t really fight antisemitism if you don’t understand it
  • This, of course, applies to every system of power in our society, but it especially applies to antisemitism for a few reasons:
    • Antisemitism is probably one of the oldest forms of institutionalized hatred in our society (along with, like, misogyny). It is so old that its tropes are written into the foundation of our world. More than any other system of oppression, you are just as likely to accidentally say something antisemitic as you are to reference a common aphorism
    • Antisemitism is a weird form of oppression that doesn’t function like other systems of oppression. In most systems of oppression, the oppressed are portrayed as weak, deserving their lower station, and lesser than the oppressors. Jewish people are portrayed as powerful and dangerous because of that power – and so, in a sense, Jewish people are portrayed as the oppressors of everyone else, and thus antisemitism is “justified” because the Jewish people have it coming, are privileged, etc. This is poppycock, but it’s built into the framework of antisemitism and thus our society. And it’s hard to remember if it’s not in your face every. damn. day.
    • Antisemitism doesn’t really fall under any oppression umbrella well – it’s not really about gender and sexuality, you could say it’s about race/ethnicity but that doesn’t work completely either, and you could say it’s about religion but that doesn’t work either. It’s a whole other complicated beast, coming from a time before we tried to neatly partition our world into these boxes
    • Western Society got really fucking guilty after the Holocaust and, in an effort to assuage that guilt rather than… I don’t know, improve? Apparently actually trying to be better is too hard for this mofos… most of Western Society, especially the United States began to spread this Mythos that:
      • A) Judaism and Xtianity (Christianity) share an Intimate and Tightly Knit history; that Xtianity has always respected its parent religion, and that the two can be united as “Judeo-Xtian” to the exclusion of all else;
      • B) that antisemitism was destroyed in WWII when the camps were liberated, and everything for Jewish People is Fine now;
      • C) antisemitism wasn’t really a problem in “good” western countries before then anyway (see: more anglo-saxon-y/western-europe-y than Germany) and so the united states never had to improve to begin with, we were always completely against the nazis, go team!
      • This all means that it is so ingrained in the mindset of Americans that there Isn’t a Problem Anymore and that feeds back into the whole “Jews are actually privileged!” mythos I mentioned earlier
    • And then, on top of it, people have this weird kick in the Information Era of deciding that words should mean what their etymology suggests? Like, the whole “bisexual people are ONLY attracted to two genders” thing when bisexual people have said “two or more” for decades but that doesn’t matter; or “dinosaurs are lizards because saur means lizard” when that’s utter nonsense, etc. And so people think “semite = speaker of a semitic language group = people of middle eastern descent = antisemitism is prejudice against all middle eastern groups, not just jews” when, no, the word has an actual history, it was just a term designed to make jew-hatred seem “reasonable” instead of calling it, literally, jew-hatred, which is what it had been called before. it only has to do with jews.
    • Also just… people… don’t understand Jewish history. At all. Which is weird, because they keep saying we have an “intimate shared past” with the whole judeo-xtian crap
  • So you can’t just treat Antisemitism like you do Racism, Sexism, Homophobia, etc. You can’t. It’s a whole other Thing, because of the attitude people have towards the oppressed group
    • Disclaimer: this does not mean it’s “worse” than any other system of oppression. I don’t play the fucking oppression olympics. We all have equally important problems and we all have to help each other, end of discussion.
    • That being said, the unique mindset of antisemitism does present unique challenges that have to be uniquely overcome (just like every system of oppression has their own unique challenges.)
  • So, what is antisemitism? 
    • Antisemitism is a form of oppression in almost every modern society that targets Jewish people for being Jewish
    • Being Jewish has been defined in a lot of different ways over the years, but it is primarily an ethnoreligion 
      • This means that Judaism is the religious & cultural system for the Jewish People
      • And the Jewish People are defined by their common ancestry from a small family of sheep-hearders from the ancient middle east
      • So, being Jewish = someone who belongs to that group of people, either through being born into it or getting adopted into it (for the purposes of… everything, conversion to Judaism is literally just voluntary adult adoption.)
      • And, usually, Jewish people follow the religious traditions of Judaism, but this is not an absolute rule
      • In the past, the prejudice against Jewish people was based on them believing in Judaism. In the “modern” era (since the 1800s), it began to transition to be about their heritage – so even if a Jewish person converted to Xtianity, they were subjected to this new form of the hatred 
      • Still, in the modern day, it can literally be about either, both, or somehow none, because people are the worst 
    • This weird definition of what it means to be Jewish is why it’s hard to put antisemitism into a neat box, oppression-category-wise
    • Like, it takes some stuff from racist power structures, but also those structures designed to keep xtianity in power, etc.
      • Disclaimer: I am from the United States. As such, I can only speak about my experiences in a majority-Xtian country. While antisemitism is present in countries where the majority religion is something other than Xtianity, it is not my place to discuss it here. That is something that you have to research on your own. 
      • Also, just, so many of our antisemitic tropes evolved in Christendom or whatever you want to call it, and much antisemitism found in non-xtian countries is just… the fault of xtian countries to begin with, so. yeah. Oof.
    • Antisemitism is, thus, built on a wide variety of tropes, prejudices, and assumptions about the Jewish people that stem all the way back to the split of Xtianity and Judaism 2000 years ago
      • I can’t list every single antisemitic stereotype because A) there’s too many of them and B) that would be depressing as hell and I don’t feel like being more depressed than I have to be
      • But here are some common ones (we = Jewish people):
        • We killed Jesus
        • Blood Libel (we are bloodthirsty in general, use the blood/flesh of Xtian children fro our food, etc.)
        • We Have Horns/Are Manifestations of the Devil
        • We are here to “test” xtians
        • We are Greedy
        • We are Rich
        • We secretly control the government/the media/the economy/the world/…anything
        • And that we have a secret club where we discuss controlling things
        • We aren’t trustworthy/we break our oaths/ we’ll stab you in the back
        • We are lizard people who, again, control the government
        • We tax and suck the money from everyone who isn’t Jewish
        • We are evil, greedy capitalists
        • We are scary, violent communists
        • We smell and are unclean
        • We hate all goyim (non-Jewish people)
        • We destroy Xtian objects
        • We cause wars, revolutions, and catastrophes
        • We caused the slave trade
        • We are lying about the holocaust/any other antisemitic event
        • We use our oppression and past to “get things” (influence in the government, in the media, Israel as a country, etc.)
        • Usury stuff
        • We are disloyal to our home countries
        • We are immoral
        • We are homeless/wandering/etc.
      • yeah ok I’m done with listing shit
      • If you see some contradictory ones in there yes, yes you do, isn’t it fun
      • But, you can see how this feeds back to the unique nature of antisemitism: almost all of these tropes are about painting Jewish people as the source of all suffering or problems for non-Jews and, thus, worth hating and rising up against. Jewish people are portrayed as powerful and, non-Jews, as the people without power who must defeat them. 
      • So you can see how denying the problem of antisemitism is actually FEEDING INTO ANTISEMITISM what a world we live in 
  • How did antisemitism get started? 
    • No one likes an “other” or an “outgroup”
    • And Jews are the Ultimate Outgroup
    • I’m serious
    • Judaism was a Different Sort of Religion in the ancient world. Rather than being paganistic, it was monotheistic (at least, after a point, it was monotheistic; let’s not debate the history of the view of Gd in jewish thought today) and, as such, the gods of other cultures couldn’t just be adopted into Jewish thought
    • This was a common method of cultural exchange and how many empires imposed their power
    • So, Jewish people, by refusing to take on other gds (by and large), marked themselves out as other
    • Also, it didn’t help that our people originated in the Levant, which is literally the bridge between Eurasia and Africa and the crossroads of the Mediterranean world
    • Everyone wants control of the bridge 
    • So, we kept being conquered and then exiled or oppressed in our homeland, because we wouldn’t do the Normal Thing of taking on other gds and we were on land that people really needed for Warring reasons (and trade reasons)
    • Even before Xtianity was a thing, we were an Other
    • And then Xtianity happened
      • Xtianity, at its roots, is built on the Fundamental Idea that Jesus of Nazareth was the Mosiach
      • The Messiah, or Mosiach, is a prophecy in Jewish thought of a man, descended through his father from King Solomon, would come and initate a time of complete peace on earth, when all Jewish people would be returned to the Levant and actually control our country again
      • Jewish people rejected Jesus as the messiah almost immediately in most groups except for Jesus’ disciples
        • Jesus wasn’t descended from Solomon through his dad (if you agree his dad is gd, then he really isn’t; if his dad is Joseph, then Joseph is from a different son of David, not Solomon, etc.)
        • Jesus didn’t do jack diddly squat to start an era of peace and liberate the Jewish people from the Romans
        • also, Jewish people are really strict about the Gd is One thing and even thinking that Gd could have an equally Gd Son is ridiculous in Jewish thought and also not part of the messianic tradition 
        • Oof
        • Moving on
      • But, for Xtianity to be “valid” in the eyes of the early church, Jesus had to be the messiah
      • And if Jews weren’t accepting Jesus as the messiah, xtians had one of two choices: either they were wrong, or jews were wrong
      • Honestly, i can’t even blame early xtians for going with the second one, it’s just basic self-preservation
      • And as xtians gained more power in roman society, they began to oppress Jewish people more and more, because they were literally visible reminder that Xtianity might not be Right, which threatened the entire system of power xtianity was building for itself along the scaffold provided by the roman empire
    • So, from the time of the end of the roman empire through the 1800s, almost all anti-Jewish thought was based around religious tropes and the idea that Jewish people, by rejecting the Messiah, were now agents of the devil
      • Very little of it was ethnicity based
      • Similar things did happen in the Islamic world to a lesser extent – Muslims see Muhammad as the Final Prophet and the successor to the Jewish prophetic tradition, Jewish people see prophets as not being a thing since a little after the babylonian exile, so by rejecting Muhammad jews kind of delegitimize Islam, etc.
      • But it wasn’t as devastating for the foundation of Islam as rejecting Jesus was for Xtianity, so this sort of anti-Jewish prejudice in the Islamic world at the time wasn’t neaaaarly as bad – Jewish people had a lot more rights, on average, in the Islamic world than in the Xtian world during the middle ages
    • This all laid the foundation for antisemitism to “evolve” (devolve) during the 1800s
      • People trying to rationalize hatred against various groups needed a reason to hate Jewish people that wasn’t about religion because, something something Enlightenment Means We Reject Supernatural Explanations Aka Religion something something
      • I dunno about you guys but illogical hatred seems Unenlightened to me but whatever
      • And, so, the hatred of the Jews already present and built into Xtian society was turned into hatred of them because of their ethnicity/family ties/race
        • this was around the same time women were considered lesser because it was just their biological condition that they were lesser, not because of eve or whatever
        • also the same time racism against black people started to get a lot of pseudo-science crap to “back it up”
        • it was a fun time. a fun, fun, super fun time of people wanting to continue to be crappy and trying to bullshit reasons to do so.
      • This lead to the atrocities of the progroms and the holocaust to evolve out of enlightenment thinking
    • But, do not get it twistedAntisemitism is, at its core, because Jewish people refuse to assimilate into the main culture/religion of their larger society that they live in; and people just do not like the other. Everything else that has been used to justify and/or explain antisemitism in an attempt to have it “make sense” is just that: justification. Pulling shit out of their asses. Trying to make their hatred seem OK. 
  • Every trope of antisemitism has its own sordid history and I’m not going to continue to get into it
  • It’s up to you to educate yourself about all of them so you can “spot them in the wild”
    • ie, if your cousin Renee says “lizard people control new york city!’ just go up to her and slap her across the face because you know Lizard People = Jews now
    • And if your mutual tumblr user IMissThePorn89 says “gal gadot killed children!” you can be like “this is blood libel she was a fitness instructor” because now you know what blood libel is
  • Educate yourself slowly, carefully, and check your own assumptions and prejudices every step along the way. 

Image result for anti semitism symbols"
Anti-Semitic Flyer

Evaluate your own Risk. 

  • Before you start actively fighting antisemitism on the ground, ask yourself a couple of important questions:
    • Am I Jewish?
    • Am I Planning to Become Jewish?
    • Do I belong to any other Oppressed Class, especially those that could put me at risk with certain groups such as the alt-right and nazis?
    • Do I have friends and family members who could be at risk from my activism?
  • Fighting against antisemitism is dangerous 
    • Nazis don’t really care about your humanity my friend 
    • You can get hurt. You can get punched, doxxed, SWAT’ed, attacked, or even killed, depending on how dire the situation is
    • Neverput yourself in more danger than is needed based on a situation
    • Use your head: if picking a fight won’t endanger anyone other than you and could get a nazi to shut the fuck up, then pick the fight. If picking the fight will just put jewish people (or other oppressed people) in the crosshairs, don’t pick the fight
  • Only you know your own level of risk
    • You know if you can afford to put yourself on the front lines against alt-righters, etc.
    • There are a lot of ways to fight antisemitism that don’t involve making bonehead moves
    • But, still, someone has to do the bonehead stuff. Punching nazis works. Just see Richard Spencer. Or, you know, Nazi Germany
  • And, plus, you know what you’re best at
    • Are you best at confrontation? Punch away!
    • Are you best at talking? Try to explain to the ignorant how antisemitism works
    • Are you somewhere in between? Handle lower-scale conflicts s
  • Are you a lover and not a fighter? 
    • There are a lot of more peaceful ways to fight antisemitism that doesn’t involve arguing and physical fights
    • Provide an ear for listening and a shoulder for crying for victims and survivors to seek support
    • Break the law to weaken their power in a variety of ways
    • Speak out in public, and preserve knowledge and truth in the face of “fake news”
    • Every little bit of resistance can help against encroaching antisemitic fascist power

https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/anti-semitic-stereotypes-of-the-jewish-body/

Recognize the signs. 

  • There are dog-whistles for antisemitism as there are with any system of oppression
  • Recognizing these key phrases and ideas can help to identify someone with antisemitic opinions (or just straight-up an antisemite) before a situation escalates
  • These dog-whistles tie into common antisemitic tropes
  • Words such as:
    • Globalist
    • Cabal
    • Triple Parentheses
    • Worldwide
    • Zionist [note: this word is often used to refer to any jewish person as a way to legitimize hatred against them. please, please, please don’t get into Israel-related stuff on this post. Talk about derailment and feeding back into my main point]
    • Jew/Jewess used as a noun
    • Someone’s Jewishness being pointed out when not actually relevant
    • Coastal Elite / Elite
    • Hollywood Liberals / Liberals
    • Mentioning individuals such as Soros and other powerful Jewish individuals when, again, they don’t actually matter for the situation
    • Conspiracy Theories
    • Lizard people
  • Tropes such as:
    • Hooked noses
    • Wringing hands
    • Piles of money
    • Six-pointed stars
  • These and other symbols are used to indicate “I know that the Jews are the problem, do you?” and, upon assessing that in the individual they’re interacting with, can increase blatant antisemtism or not
  • This is what a dog-whistle does: it helps to identify members of your hate group and then group up together to create real damage
    • And then, these dog-whistles are ways to gently trick people into being bigots with you
    • It’s like a fast track to overt hatred
  • So, if you recognize a dog whistle, call it the fuck out, even if that person is just ignorant
    • Because it’s a short distance from ignorant to antisemitic
    • You can very easily go from thinking globalists are the problem, to realize globalist = jew, to thinking jewish people are the problem
    • So you call it out. every time. 

Utilize your privilege. 

  • Gentiles have a unique positions. They’re not affected by antisemitism, but they can fight against it if they put their mind to it
  • Jewish people, no matter their other privileges, do not escape antisemitism
    • Of course, white-passing Jewish people can help to fight against race/colorism related situations and prejudices more than non-white-passing Jews, etc.
    • And those kinds of prejudice often tie into antisemitism
    • But really this section is mostly about what gentiles can do
  • It is always more dangerous for a Jewish person to fight against an antisemite than it is for a gentile
    • So, in terms of fighting on the front lines, the best way for a gentile to help Jewish people is to put themselves in positions of danger over a Jewish individual doing so
    • Like, if there’s a choice between a group of Jews acting as security at an event that is at risk and a group of gentiles, the gentiles should step up
    • If a Jewish person is arguing against an antisemite, a gentile should
      • Uplift that Jew’s voice
      • Repeat what they say
      • Support them
      • Fight against the antisemite themselves
    • Don’t drag Jewish people into fights they’re not in
      • If you see a nazi or other antisemite on the internet or in the meatspace, fight against them yourself 
      • Don’t drag a Jewish person into a fight
      • This is why you have to educate yourself. So that Jewish people don’t have to put themselves in danger (or emotional distress) needlessly
  • If you want to be a true ally for Jewish people, you need to use your privilege to do things that would be more unsafe for Jewish people to do. End of story.

Image result for anti semitism symbols"

Educate as much as possible. 

  • You’re always learning, obviously, but you need to help others learn too
  • Education is exhausting, especially when talking about something that personally, negatively affects you
  • Leaving the burden of education on Jewish people alone is problematic, even though we’re the experts on our own oppression
    • So like, Jewish people should educate because we’re the experts
    • And gentiles should educate because they’re not personally affected (to the same extent)
    • But Jewish people shouldn’t educate beyond what they’re emotionally/physically able to do (exhaustion/spoon-wise)
    • And gentiles shouldn’t educate beyond what they’re able to in terms fo knowledge
    • It’s a balancing act and we all have to contribute
  • Education is the main barrier against hatred 
    • The more people are educated about oppression, history, and society, the less likely they are to be bigoted
    • That doesn’t mean it’s impossible – I know some really fucking well educated bigots – but education is by far the biggest tool we have (the second biggest tool is fighting)
    • Spend your time making posts explaining antisemitism, helping others learn, and discussing how antisemitism works with leaders of social justice groups (or just members thereof)
    • Antisemitism is a unique oppression. It requires unique attention and education. And you can help fight against it by bringing that education to others

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Get your hands dirty. 

  • I touched on this in the privilege section, but you gotta get out there and do things 
  • Even if it’s internet-based things, you have to act
  • Sitting and not saying anything is not doing anything
  • You don’t have to argue. You don’t have to physically fight. But you do have to do something
  • And, honestly, there are other ways to really get at the root of antisemitism
    • Because antisemitism is literally built into the DNA of western society, it is everywhere 
    • This means it is a part of our government, our institutions, our history, even if it might not be as blatantly obvious as, say, racism and transphobia
  • You can utilize graffiti and other forms of subversive art to spread anti-antisemitism messages
  • You can prep portions of your home in case Jewish people need to hide there
    • I cannot stress this enough
    • It is literally a game among Jewish children
    • “Will you hide me?”
    • It’s how we measure trust
  • Prepare yourself to lie to figures of authority – especially police – if things get really dire
    • Again, the police are less likely to attack a gentile than a Jew in these scenarios
    • You can use your privilege to lie to help a Jewish person stay safe
  • Antisemitism is dirty, and it doesn’t play by the rules. Neither should you

Step outside of your comfort zone. 

  • None of these things are easy, so all of this might be out of your comfort zone
  • But to grow as a person and as an ally/fighter, you have to do things you’re not completely comfortable with
  • This is why it’s hard 
  • You’ve got to push yourself to make meaningful change
  • It’s hard to step into it – especially if you’re a baby Jew (ie, conversion student or convert) and are new to all of this – but the more you step into it, the more you’ll be able to do
  • Remember, not fighting against antisemitism is comfortable. It’s supposed to be, because society wants you to be antisemitic
    • Any fighting against this (or other forms of bigotry) is, by definition, uncomfortable, because society says you should be comfortable with the hatred
    • But you’re not. That’s why you want to fight. So what’s a little more discomfort? 

Practice radical self-care. 

  • ALL OF THIS IS REALLY HARD
  • ESPECIALLY IF YOU’RE JEWISH OR AN ALMOST-JEW
  • TAKE. CARE. OF. YOURSELF.
  • I can’t stress this enough
    • You are no good to the resistance if you’re hurting yourself fighting in it 
    • Take breaks
    • Step back from arguments
    • Learn to say no
  • This isn’t all on you.
  • If you take care of yourself, then you can get back to the fight
  • Learn to find your own limits and your own boundaries
  • And, learn to ask for help
    • So that, if you have to step back form an active situation, someone else can step in
    • You have to know your own limits
  • Of course, you also have to know your own comforts and ways of care
    • For me, it’s playing dumb video games and cuddling birds
    • For you, it might be going on hikes and taking bubble baths
    • It varies and you should learn what helps you regain your energy and get back out there
  • It is not a negative reflection of you if you cannot fight 
    • Either at all or in specific ways
    • Anxiety, depression, etc. all make actively fighting against bigotry very hard 
    • Same with other mental and physical disabilities and conditions
    • Because then you have other societal systems of oppression weighing you down (as well as your own body in most cases)
    • And of course there are other factors (money, education, race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, etc.)
    • Do what you can, but don’t destroy yourself in the process. No one wants you to sacrifice yourself. 

You are not alone. 

  • We’re all fighting this together
  • Lean on other people for support and for help
  • Never take on a problem alone
  • If you’re Jewish, never put yourself into a dangerous situation alone
  • Heck that applies if you’re not too
  • We’re all. in. this. together. And we are stronger together than we are apart
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help, advice, and ideas to move forward

Don’t just listen to me. 

  • I’m a tired potato crying under a pile of moving boxes
  • Everyone has different ideas and different emphases in how they fight against this horrible, horrible things
  • You want to fight against antisemitism? Listen to a wide variety of Jewish voices, not just me
  • Diversity is what we’re fighting for. Seek it out in your own education

Past PostsJewish Conversion / Rosh Chodesh / Rosh Hashanah / Days of Awe / Religious Fasting / Yom Kippur / Sukkot / Sh’mini Atzeret & Simchat Torah / Chanukah / Tu B’Shevat / Branches of Judaism / Second Temple Judaism

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Hannibal Season Three: Dolce

I know its been a while since I posted a Hannibal review. I promise I’m not neglecting what I’d said I’d do with this show, which was do in depth reviews of all three seasons, which are currently available to stream on Amazon Prime. Here’s my review of Dolce, which is episode six of season three.

In the sixth episode of this season, we see the long awaited reunion between Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham, and naturally, by the end of the episode, the two of them try to kill each other, because that’s just  how  they are.

Jack Crawford and Will Graham meet at Pazzi’s gruesome murder scene for the first time since last season. It turns out that this was always the plan between the two of them. We had been led to believe that Will had simply run off to be with Hannibal, but it turns out, that Will went to Europe to find him, while Jack could follow later, and by a different route, so that the two of them would not appear to be in tandem. At their meeting, Will asks Jack why he didn’t kill Hannibal, and Jack says he was saving him for Will.

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Throughout this entire series, Will has been a hound caught between two masters. Earlier in season one, Hannibal referred to Will as Jack Crawford’s  hound, and this is an apt description, because Will has the instincts of one, Lecter and Jack sent him out to do their bidding, and often fought over their possession of him. At one point Jack just comes right out and asks if Will is his man, or is he Hannibal’s, and Will had to think about that for a minute, as he neatly sidestepped that question.

When viewed from one angle, Will’s actions make no sense, but if you take into account that Jack Crawford and Hannibal represent opposing sides of who he is, and what he wants: stability, justice, and order, or mayhem, lawlessness, and the freedom to do what he will, then it is understandable why Will is torn. If Lecter is coded as a satanic figure, then Jack is God, or at least Will’s better angel, (in fact, Jack says as much to Lecter, in a later episode), and naturally, Lecter exists in opposition to all that Jack represents. Does Will want to serve, or be served? Hannibal’s power, and ability to flout authority, is intoxicating to a part of Will’s personality, and he seems to constantly be at war, not just with Hannibal, but that part of himself.

Hannibal is severely injured after his fight with Jack Crawford, and limps his way back to his quarters, where Bedelia has already crafted an excuse for her dalliance with him in Rome. She tells him she is preparing for his eventual capture, and wonders if he is drawing his enemies to him. If he, in fact, wants to be caught. One of the biggest movie tropes about serial killers is that they secretly want to be caught, because if they don’t, how can they have their egos fed by becoming famous? How can they be known if no one knows who they are?

 

In the movie Seven, the killer turns himself in to the police at the end of the movie, for this exact reason. How are people to know his grand plan and admire it, if he doesn’t get caught. There is a real life basis for this common movie trope. For example,  mass killers often leave manifestos for why they kill, because they want to be known and admired, and on occasion a serial killer has tried to insinuate themselves  into their own investigation, by contacting the detectives involved, as in the Son of Sam investigation. But largely, the idea that serial killers want to be caught, is a myth.

Gillian Anderson is excellent this episode as Bedelia. Her performance is just one of the highlights. Up to now, she has appeared to be Hannibal’s prisoner, she is with him because of the constant underlying threat that he will kill her. In a sense she is keeping her enemy close to her, because its better for her to know exactly where he is than to be free, and not know where he is, or what he’s doing, which is an issue that will come into play later in the season, between Will and Hannibal.

But Bedelia is going to need to explain to the authorities why she stayed with him, She comes up with the excuse that she was out of her mind, with the same drug cocktail Hannibal used to subdue Miriam Lass, (in season 2), so she genuinely believed herself to be Lydia Fell, the wife of the man Hannibal is impersonating, Norman Fell. Hannibal admires her cleverness, and the two of them agree to support each other’s stories.

When Hannibal leaves, Bedelia shoots up her special cocktail, and is found first by Chiyo. Bedelia seems to be one of those people who develops a semi-adversarial relationship, with everyone she meets, and Chiyoh is no exception. Probably because Bedelia is one of those characters that seemingly every TV show must have, that person who speaks uncomfortable truths to the other characters.

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Then Will and Jack encounter Bedelia, in Hannibal’s apartments, and she already has her answers ready. Jack and Will are not buying any of her story, but I can’t tell if the police inspector does. There’s definitely some kind of “frission”, or attraction, going on between the two of them. One of the more amusing scenes is watching Bedelia’s interaction with  Jack and Will. Gillian Anderson, always brings her A game to every project, she looks like she’s having a helluva lot of fun, and that entire scene is hilarious to watch, as Bedelia drunkenly slurs her way through the initial interview, and its one of the few scenes of genuine humor, in the series.

Hannibal doesn’t leave Rome. Instead he makes his way to the Uffizzi Gallery, to view Boticelli’s Primavera, which I talked about in my review of the second episode of the season, titled Primavera. For some reason he is obsessed with this panting. He had a arranged one of his murders to resemble the painting, many years ago, before he left Italy. Here we see him drawing another representation of the painting but replacing the faces of the angel, Zephpyrus, and the nymph Chloris, with the faces of Will Graham, and Bedelia, his two closest “associates”.

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Will’s unexpected presence is a source of unmitigated happiness to Hannibal, and he almost loses his chill, telling Will, in a somewhat poetic manner, how much he missed him, and how overjoyed he is to see him again, (for Hannibal, this is practically gushing), even though he had the chance to see him when the two of them were running around in the catacombs, in an earlier episode, but admittedly that was before Will, supposedly,  forgave him. The two of them leave the Gallery together, and Will, feeling some type of way again, pulls out a knife and tries to stab Hannibal. I’m unsure if he was trying to incapacitate him, to capture him, or if the stabbing was revenge for Hannibal stabbing him last season, or just general assholery on Will’s part. Chiyo, sitting on a nearby roof, shoots Will through the shoulder. Since she only kills under the most dire of circumstances, as she did in Lithuania, she would not have killed Will, but she would not allow him to harm Hannibal, either.

Hannibal is, naturally, completely unperturbed by Will trying to kill him, because what’s a little homicide among friends?. He takes Will back to some rented rooms, and minsters to his woulds, before deciding (and I don’t know if this is revenge for Will trying to kill him, or general asssholery on his part), to eat Will’s brain. Notice how he takes the opportunity ,while dressing Will’s wounds, to give him a warm hug, since Will is in far too much pain to fight back, or try to stab him again.

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Now, let’s be clear here, Hannibal does love Will, but he still wants to eat him.  He wants to be with Will, but Will is still dangerous to him. One of the many philosophies behind human cannibalism (outside of desperation) is the idea that eating someone is a way of keeping that person close, so that they can never leave. This was the motivation behind the serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer. Either that, or he believes he will gain Will’s power and energy through consumption. Normally Hannibal’s reasons for eating others is because he has nothing but contempt for them, so treats them like food.

In the meantime, the police have allowed Jack Crawford to leave, urging him to go back to America, which, of course, Jack doesn’t do. How he manages to find Will and Hannibal is carefully not mentioned, but in a funny moment he encounters Chiyo in the elevator of Hannibal’s building. She either knows who he is, or senses he is a cop, or is just generally cagey, but she manages to avoid his, too close,  attention, although they each sneak suspicious glances at the other.

This entire time we keep switching back and forth between Italy and America where Mason, Alana, and Margot, have been plotting to capture Hannibal, so that Mason can cook and eat him. Alana’s and Margot’s relationship is revealed in this episode, along with Mason’s plans to have a Verger baby with his sister, to be carried by Alana.

We’ll talk more about that particular trio in the next post.

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Jack makes his way to Hannibal’s rented apartments, (I’m unclear how he found them, but he was following Will, at the time). Jack gets there, not just in time to watch Hannibal begin his meal of Will Graham, but to be ambushed by Hannibal,  taken prisoner, and made to watch the ordeal, which he vehemently protests, to no avail. Will’s face gets attacked a to this season, for some reason. I think somewhere in there is a statement about the actors prettiness. He is  more attractive than previous actors who played Will Graham, who looked a little more  like Will’s  working class roots.

Hannibal’s feast is interrupted by the Florentine police, who found the apartment by following Jack, in the hope that Jack (and Will) would lead them to Hannibal, having been suspicious of Jack’s motivations, for visiting their city, right from the beginning. They are still in the employ of Mason Verger actually, and they kidnap Will and Hannibal, and send them to the Verger’s Muskrat Farm, for the reward money. They attempt to kill Jack, but Chiyoh, hiding out on a nearby rooftop, assassinates them. Jack is freed by Chiyoh, after arguing that he just wants to go home, and in exchange for telling her where Will and Lecter were taken.Can I just add that Chiyoh is a total bad ass who is not to be trifled with, and that she really should have just had her own show?

Will and Lecter are taken to Muskrat Farm, and trussed like prized birds, while Mason gloats over his victory.

One of the things we haven’t talked about much in the series is the subject of Classism. Particularly the class differences between Will and Hannibal, and Hannibal and everyone else. Its especially important considering Hannibal’s philosophy about  the people he kills, and his attitude towards Will. One of Hannibal’s guiding philosophies is to “Eat the Rude.” so we get lots of instances where Hannibal kills and consumes people he believes were disrespectful to him. And not just to him, he kills and eats one of Abigail Hobbes friends, after seeing her be rude to her own mother.

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I am a firm believer that at least part of Hannibal’s motivations for killing and consuming his victims is because of class prejudice. Hannibal’s family was once Lithuanian nobility, and while it may not be a major factor, I certainly think it  informs his feeling of entitlement to respect. he doesn’t feel he needs to earn respect. He thinks he should be given respect by dint of having been born, and all beings should recognize his inherent superiority. When looked at from this standpoint, it is unsurprising that Hannibal would kill (and even eat) those he considered less than, because that is entirely in keeping, with the proletariat philosophy, that the wealthy are parasites, who prey on society.

Next episode however, the tables have been turned, as Hannibal is the one about to be eaten. Mason Verger has Hannibal exactly where he wants him, to exact his revenge for what Hannibal did to him, over a year ago. Unfortunately he has captured Will as well, and we’ll find out just how far Hannibal is willing to go to save them both from an ironic fate.

 

The Irishman (Netflix)

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*****Here Be Spoilers****

 

Let’s  get something out of the way first.

Yes, I’m aware of what Scorsese has said about the current crop of superhero movies, and yes, I was offended, until he clarified his statements in a recent Vanity Fair article. I’m glad he did, because I was prepared to stay mad at one of my all-time, favorite directors. Well, I’m not as angry, but he is not wrong. He’s not right though, mostly because I don’t think its fair to compare the two types of movies. They serve very different purposes for their audiences in that one type of film consists of exciting power fantasies (like the first half of the movie Goodfellas), and righting wrongs, and Scorsese’s films seem to be about the consequences of that amount of unchecked power,  and what it actually gets you. Superhero movies make no claims of depth.  They are not dramas, although movies like The Dark Knight, The Winter Soldier, and Logan come very close.

The Irishman had a brief theatrical run, of about a week or two, before it settled on Netflix, which is where I viewed it, with a great deal of anticipation. There’s a lot of backstory about why the movie is airing on Netflix, but I’m not covering that here. Like a lot of people, I went into this expecting something similar to Goodfellas, and Casino, since Scorsese seems to have some sort of lock on the depiction of  White men in the mafia life. The movie is definitely about gangsters, and appears to be having some kind of dialogue with the other two films. It would be interesting to watch all three of these movies back to back, to see what they are saying to, and about, each other.

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I loved this movie, and I wasn’t expecting that. Everyone involved is at the top of their game. I didn’t think Scorsese had a lot more to say about the mafia life, that he hadn’t already said, but he does.

Like the other two films in this trilogy, it’s a meditation on crime and regret. I think a lot of people have had a  very wrong takeaway from Scorsese’s movies. Although he seems both fascinated with , and terrified of, this lifestyle, he definitely does not approve. These are the kinds of people he knew growing up, and he seemed to have kept, in the forefront of his mind, that they were not good people, no matter what their claims of nobility, or  how fascinating their lives were.

These films are not a glorification of their lifestyle.  Henry Hill, in the last third of Goodfellas, just flat out states this. Scorsese has never sugarcoated who and what these people are. The violence in these films is always  sudden, and brutal.  Hill spoke on the topic in Goodfellas, but here its just shown. Scorsese always  has  his characters realize, by the end, the horror of the decisions they’ve made. Every participant ends up  dead, or regretful, and there is a an onscreen commentary, on the fate of each one of the character’s introduced, in the film. The bottom line is, if you choose the mobster life, because you have romanticized notions about it, it will end badly.

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I knew a young Italian man, in college, who told me that his father met some people in the life, but he also told me that one of the key things is never to invite them into your life. Don’t ask them for favors, don’t hang out with them in their places, don’t befriend them. They’re like vampires. You have to let them in.

A classic example, is the restaurant owner from Goodfellas, who allows Tommy, and his friends, to frequent his restaurant. Just like Henry did as a child, he thinks its exciting to be associated with these men. He admires the life, and believes he is friends with them, until the time comes for Tommy to pay the massive bill he’s run up on his tab. These guys are just taking advantage of him, but he is still too enamored of their life to see that. In an effort to get Tommy to pay his bill, the restaurant owner goes to Paulie, (Tommy’s boss), and makes Paulie a partner, in exchange for taking care of Tommy’s bill. Paulie takes advantage of him too, until he  goes out of business, as they steal  him blind, eventually the restaurant gets burned down for the insurance. The owner romanticized their lifestyle. He failed to see them as the unprincipled thieves they were. He invited them in, and he lost everything. The same thing goes for the character of Spider, a mirror of the young Henry, who romanticizes their lifestyle, and gets killed by Tommy, for standing up for himself, with not a single tear shed by any of the witnesses.

The Irishman  follows another low grade member of a mafia crew, a hitman named Frank Sheeran, (Robert DeNiro), as he befriends various mobsters, and paints houses (carries out mob hits). Most of the movie is about his friendship with Jimmy Hoffa, (Al Pacino), and his confession that he killed him, after being assigned to do so by his then bosses, one of which is also a close friend, Russell Bufalino, played by Joe Pesci. The movie is based on a book by Charles Brandt titled “I Heard You Paint Houses?”, which is the line in the movie said by Pacino, when he and Frank first meet over the phone. So once again, you have someone who invites these people into his life. Hoffa knows who, and what, these people are, but he romanticizes the life, and has an outsized sense of his worth to them.

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Right away, the mood and setting are very different than the other two movies, (Goodfellas and Casino), which open with exciting scenes of violence, (and interestingly, with men in cars). This movie is reflective and melancholy. The opening scene is a quiet shot of Frank, in a senior citizen’s home, reminiscing about his past, to his lawyers. The movie is a flashback, but unlike Henry Hill”s story, Frank has no misty-eyed remembrances for the things he’s done. He joined the mob because he was a soldier who needed to do something with his life, after he came back from the war. He didn’t join because he loved the life, or glorified its denizens, and this is probably why he survived, although that’s no consolation, either. He is an old man filled with regret, and we come to have some amount of sympathy for him, although Scorsese never lets us think, for a moment, that he is a good guy. Nor does he show Frank as vicious or evil, for its own sake, although the things he does, are indeed,  vicious, and evil. Scorsese presents him as just a guy, who made the best choices he could, in the circumstances presented to him.

Deniro definitely deserves some form of recognition for his role here, but the two major highlights of the movie, for me, was Al Pacino’s Jimmy Hoffa, and Joe Pesci’s much quieter turn, as Russell Bufalino. You want to be reminded of his role as Tommy in Goodfellas, but this character is wholly unlike him. Bufalino is smarter, and more calculating, with a cool menace that the hotheaded, showboating, Tommy lacked. He and Frank become friends, and get to be quite close, but Frank, (and hence the audience), never forgets the power dynamic between them. Russell is his boss, and should Frank prove to be a threat, or an inconvenience, Russell could have him killed, and it would be just business.

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This was the most interesting part of the movie for me. Y’all know me. I love to watch different types of  characters interact. It’s interesting because movie audiences don’t often get to watch the  process of two grown men, who have been steeped in pride and machismo, their entire lives, put themselves in the vulnerable position of trusting a stranger, while navigating the power and violence of their positions,  to  become friends. You can see them feeling the other out, trying to reach a place of comfort. I found myself totally caught up in the moment. The faint distrust, and the questions they ask of each other, without actually asking them: What do you want from me? Are you a stand up guy? Will you give me straight answers? Can you be trusted?

Frank’s relationship with Hoffa is covered just as deeply. The most  fascinating part, is comparing how trust is shown between Frank and Hoffa, and Frank and Russell. Scorsese doesn’t fall into the trap of having the characters make grand declarations of how much they love and trust each other. There are scenes with Frank and Russell hanging out with each other’s families, or having dinner together. Some scenes with Frank and Hoffa are just them talking in Hoffa’s bedroom, before he goes to sleep. At one point, Hoffa nods off while talking to Frank, he trusts Frank so completely, and Frank just quietly sits there for a while, watching him sleep, and glancing out the window, and that scene is unexpectedly moving. It’s hard to know what Frank is thinking during that scene. The specter of violence hangs over everything he does, and that scene is even more tragic, when you know what happens between them later.

There are not a lot of women in this movie, and none of the men have any moral standing. The moral center of this film is Frank’s daughter, Peggy, (Anna Paquin) who sees her father beat a man on her behalf, when she is a child, and this impacts her relationship with him, for the rest of their lives. She gets probably three lines in the entire movie, but Scorsese sets her up, by giving us long closeups of her face, and her disapproval, and fear, of her father, (and by association, Russell), is apparent. We don’t need a loud, dramatic shouting match between them, to know that she has seen what kind of man he is, and  will never love him. Frank tries to reconcile with her before his death, but she will have none of him.

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Frank doesn’t just regret the things he did when he was younger, but all the familial relationships he let fall by the wayside, while prioritizing his relationships with the men he worked for, all of whom are now dead. He has to pay for his own funeral, buying his own tombstone. There’s no one alive, who would come to his funeral, anyway. The movie ends with Frank, alone in his room. He is the last one left of that old life, and he has nothing to show for it. Once again, Scorsese presents the mobster lifestyle as empty and meaningless. If you don’t die horribly, at the hands of someone you trusted, then you die alone, with no one to care.

There’s a lot of the movie I didn’t talk about, like the cinematography, and music, which are pretty standard for a Scorsese film, with some upbeat sixties songs, the most prominent song being, In the Still of the Night, by The Five Satins, which bookends the movie. There are two opening scenes, one with Frank beginning his story in the nursing home, and the other, the beginning of the story, which features him and Russell, taking a road trip, with their wives. The movie starts out really cute, with the wives fussing with their husbands in the car. Everyone is very comfortable with each other, at first, but as the trip continues, the tension begins to mount, as we overhear increasingly nervous phone calls between Russell, Frank, and Hoffa, finally culminating, in the last third of the movie, in Russell’s order to Frank.

The cinematography is superb ,as usual, but there are a few uncanny valley moments in the film as Deniro, Pesci, and Pacino had to be de-aged in a few of the scenes. The de-aged faces aren’t as emotive as their actual faces, so I kept getting jarred out of the story, by wondering every now and then, how the actors got de-aged for their roles, but this doesn’t happen a lot, and is easily ignored. If you’re not a fan of Scorsese’s mobster films, this still may be worth a look for you, because its very different in tone, but I do have to warn you,  that just like in the other movies, the violence is flat, graphic, and unforgiving. When it comes to acts of violence, Scorsese does not fuck around, or wince. People get beaten and shot, and there’s a harrowing scene where Frank shoots up a restaurant full of people. I have become a lot more squeamish, as I’ve gotten older, and these scenes were hard for even me to watch.

Despite its three hour run time, the movie didn’t make me feel restless at all. I sat through the entire three hours, and never missed them, or a moment of dialogue. The movie simply pulled me right in. It was moving, with moments of sheer horror, and is a testament to Scorsese’s skill as a director, as nothing is explicitly stated by any of the characters, yet its message is loud, and clear. I don’t know if this movie will be nominated for an Oscar. It, and everyone involved, should.

The Irishman is the best movie I’ve seen this year.

Native American (And Alaskan Native) Heritage Month

This month is National American Indian Heritage Month in the US.

I know next to nothing about the various Indigenous cultures, beyond the basic stuff, like names,  places, some of the tragic history, what I’ve read in books by people like Sherman Alexie, or watched  fictional movies like Windtalkers, and documentaries like Reel Injun, so I’m going to be learning  a bunch of stuff right alongside you guys, okay.

The first thing I looked up was the word Powwow, because I didn’t really understand what that meant, which  lead me to videos on Youtube. Uhm, guys! this stuff is deeply hypnotic so watch out. I must have spent at least a couple of hours falling down the rabbit hole of watching all these dancers. (From what I gathered, its something like the Olympics for the various Indigenous Peoples, only held every year, in multiple places, and with a lot more dancing.)

 

What is Powwow?

First of all, what exactly is a Powwow, what is it’s purpose, and  why do Native Americans do it? Do Indigenous people do this all over the world? Why is this a thing?

Students from the Kathryn M. Buder Center for American Indian Studies at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis and community members discuss the elements of an American Indian Pow Wow, its etiquette and its importance. Pow Wows are an annual spring event at Washington University in St. Louis.

https://www.powwows.com/what-is-a-pow-wow/

 

Why is Powwow?

The reasons why Native Americans have Powwows, plus a little backstory.

 

Visit: http://www.stjo.org for more information

https://www.britannica.com/topic/powwow

Today powwows take place over a period of one to four days and often draw dancers, singers, artists, and traders from hundreds of miles away. Spectators (including non-Indians) are welcome to attend, as participants seek to share the positive aspects of their culture with outsiders. Modern powwows can be grouped into two broad divisions: “competition” (or “contest”) events and those referred to as “traditional.” 

 

How to Powwow:

Some Powwows are open to the public, while others are private, only open to members of the tribe and  family. Here are some basic do’s and don’ts for Non-Natives attending a Powwow.

 

https://www.powwows.com/pow-wow-etiquette/

Pow Wows are one of the best ways to experience Native American culture in person.  

Keep in mind that while they are open to the public, Pow Wows are culturally significant events. 

Be respectful!

 

 Dancing

There are a lot of different types of dancing at a Powwow,  many of them based on locations, and tribes. Dancing isn’t just random moves, most of it has meaning, along with the manner of dress for each style, although there is such a thing as Freestyle dancing, the manner of dress (Regalia) is still deeply personal to the participant. Here’s what to look for when watching:

 

Dance Styles and Regalia:

Rooted in tradition and ceremony, dancing is an important part of Native American culture. Hundreds of dances exist, performed by tribes across the United States. Here are a few of the most popular and well known.

Men’s Traditional

 

Men’s Grass Dance

This is the dance seen in regalia:

 

Because the regalia can sometimes be distracting for some of us, (hello!), here is a grass dancer without his regalia. There are very distinct moves and footwork involved. There are rules , so its not just random movement, which is what it can look like to someone who has never watched this before, or who is easily distracted by  bright colors.

 

Men’s Fancy Dance

 

Women’s Jingle Dress

Here’s the Women’s Jingle Dress Dance, and in the second video, done without regalia:

 

Women’s Traditional

Notice the manner of dress, and style of dance, for Traditional Women’s is much more reserved, more conservative, than for the Fancy Shawl Dance.

 

Women’s Fancy Shawl

 

 

This is one of my personal favorites, Hoop Dancing. I greatly admire this syle, because I couldn’t get anywhere near a hoop, without potentially embarrassing me, and all my ancestors,  by tripping and falling:

 

There is even a Tiny Tots version :

 

Regalia

Many of the designs and colors seen in regalia are personal to the dancer. They make their own outfits, according to their tribe’s traditional manner of dress. They also inherit some pieces, and buy a few pieces here and there, so that every form of regalia is distinct. No two are alike.

General Topic

 

 

Northern Paiute Women’s

 

Women’s Fancy Shawl – Getting Dressed

 

 

This is the United Tribes Powwow of 2019, the Grand Entrance of all the tribes participating in the event:

 

This is a Fusion of Hip Hop and Powwow dancing.  I was surprised to find that Hip Hop is such a huge deal huge on the reservations:

 

Here’s an Intertribal Powwow of some of the Canadian/Alaskan Tribes:

 

For any of my Native readers, (Hi!), any mistakes in this post are strictly my own, and if you have a correction of any kind, (or want me to add something) let me know in the comments over the next two weeks, or leave me a message on my Tumblr page.

Next time: Native Music

Horror Movie Themes: Women Directors And Monster Women

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Women who direct horror movies are few and far between. They are simply not telling stories in significant numbers in the genre for critics to say there’s an overwhelming theme being tackled, but there are enough of them that a pattern is beginning to emerge.

 

Ostensibly, the stories women tell cover the same subjects as male directors,  but there are sometimes subtle differences, and most of that has to do with women’s perspective on the same topics. There is plenty of vengeance, serial killers, and  ultra violence, but where movies with male directors often focus on the spectacle of violence  against women, without questioning it, female directors often make women the total focus of the plot, as both victims and perpetrators. There are also  fewer otherworldly monsters in female directed movies. Often, in such films, the monsters are very  human, and sometimes those monsters are, in fact, the women.

There are exceptionally few horror movies directed by women of color, and the bare handful of movies that were, like Beloved, fall into the category of personal hauntings, that tackle issues that resonate with other women of color. The majority of women horror filmmakers, are White women, and they tend to focus on issues that are of importance to them, and one starts to notice a pattern in the themes of the movies they make.

If White men work out their personal anxieties through the types of horror they create, then so do White women. It is not that women of color cannot relate to these themes, it’s just that for them, such themes may not be a priority, and tend to carry less resonance for them.

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In movies like Carrie by Kimberly Pierce, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, by Ana Lily Amirpour,  and Jennifer’s Body by Karyn Kusama, the theme is not just the Monstrous Feminine, but femaleness itself as monster. There is no coding of femininity as  horrific in these movies. It is a  woman who is a horrible monster, who feeds on men, or  destroys the human body, with a thought, and she is like this, because she is female, as that is an integral part of the horror in the film.

Carrie and Jennifer’s Body  also tackle issues that are of specific relevance to women, like puberty, menstruation,  friendship, and sexual trauma. In female directed films, there is less emphasis on the disruption and restoration of order, or the status quo. Often, their films don’t actually have any resolution, or the emphasis is on the disruption, and restoration, of relationships, or cathartic punishments, instead.

Themes about monstrosity, in such movies, often revolve around body horror, and consumption, as dieting, and the non/consumption of food, and women’s relationships to food, make up the bulk of the personal anxieties in the privileged classes of women who sometimes make these films. In Julia Decournau’s Raw (2016),  a vegetarian girl develops a craving for meat after she undergoes a hazing ritual involving the eating of raw animals. In the 1999 Ravenous,  by the late Antonia Bird, Guy Pierce develops a taste for raw meat after he is nearly killed during the Mexican – American War, and in Jennifer’s Body, a young woman has to save her high school friend, after she realizes her friend has become a flesh eating demon. (There is a lot to unpack, in the movie Jennifer’s Body, which we will discuss later.) Many middle-class, White, Western women have a love/hate , and a fear/disgust, relationship with food, dieting, and  consumption, and we see that play out in these films, as eating, (usually blood and meat), becomes the primary focus of the horror.

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Female directed movies often tend to be more intimate, focusing on the horror of relationships, or the topic of motherhood. What mothers are willing to do for, or sometimes to, their families is the subject of the 2014 movie, The Babadook, where a mother fears she may kill her son, when she is haunted,  and then possessed, after reading about the titular character.

In the anthology XX, many of the stories revolve around the horrific circumstances that can occur when a mother loves her family. Motherhood, already a source of real world anxiety, is a frequent topic in films made by women. In The Box, the themes are also loss, helplessness, and non/consumption, as a woman loses her entire family, when they starve themselves, after her son views the contents of a mysterious box. It is a secret that kills them, and which they refuse to share with her, so that when they are gone, she spends the rest of her life riding the subway, hoping to encounter the man with the box again. The story, Her only Living Son, directly tackles sacrificial motherhood, as a woman sacrifices her life to save her son from his Satanic destiny.

Sex is a huge component of female directed horror movies, but unlike films directed by men, that mostly just feature the spectacle of  women having sex,  or being raped, the focus from women directors is on the danger, and vulnerability of intimacy, and often based on a young woman’s fear of sexual activity, and fear of the loss of innocence, that may be the result. In the film, A Girl Walks Home Alone, a nameless female, Iraqi  vampire hunts men. This movie is groundbreaking, not just because of its setting, and plot, but character. The sexual forwardness of Iraqi women isn’t often featured in film, let alone as a night-stalking blood drinker. The director, Amirpour, is not White, but the themes of consumption, and blood as a euphemism for sex, still find a way into the story.

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Blood plays a huge part in a lot of the stories told by women, from Carrie, to Raw, to Jennifer’s Body, with the theme being  linked to  femininity, fertility, and/or sex. The movie, Carrie, begins and ends with blood. Based on the novel by Stephen King, it chronicles a young woman’s perilous navigation through high school. At the beginning of the story, the onset of her menses signals her introduction to adulthood, and heightens her telekinetic abilities. The story ends with the killing of her entire graduating class, after a bucket of pig’s blood is dumped over her during the school prom, an act which was informed by the opening events of the story, when she has her first period in front of her bullying classmates.

Blood and flesh are especially popular topics of these films, in that many of them contain cannibalism and/or vampirism. In the movie Raw, relationships, and adulthood rites take center stage, as a young woman, who has a contentious relationship with her sister, gets turned into a cannibal after an initial hazing at her sister’s college, that turns out to be an initiation, not just into a sorority, but also adulthood. In Blood and Donuts (1995), a vampire who has just awakened from a long sleep, is introduced to the modern world, via the night shift worker at a local bakery. Over the course of the evening, the young lady figures out who and what he is, and the two of them engage in a push and pull attraction, as he decides whether or not he should prey on her.

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In the 1987 movie, Near dark, a young man is inducted into a nightmare lifestyle, where he has to kill to live, when he meets a pretty blonde girl, at a bar one night. Vampires, since they, like blood, are often a euphemism for sex and adulthood, are the focus of women’s stories, such as Fran Rubel Kazui’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Buffy went on to answer deeper questions about girlhood and monsters, in the TV series, which lasted from 1997 to 2003. In fact, these themes are so prevalent, that they often seem to be having a dialogue with each other, or with movies of the same genre, made by men.

There is a lot of narrative overlap, for example, between Near Dark, Ravenous, and the movie, Afflicted, which cover not just the same themes, but sometimes the same talking points, of the male protagonist’s empathy making them unfit to live the kind of lifestyle that requires killing others. There is also a great deal of narrative overlap in the movies Carrie, Raw, and Ginger Snaps, more films in which menstruation, and flesh eating, are the signals that a young woman has reached full adulthood.

Now let’s talk about Jennifer’s Body.

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Jennifer’s body is a great encapsulation of some of the themes and topics that women address through horror. The themes of friendship, female ally-ship and support, revenge, sexuality,  and patriarchy are part of this narrative.

Jennifer’s Body was released in 2009, written by Diablo Cody, and directed by Karen Kusama. Jennifer Check, as played by Megan Fox, is the high school hot girl. She is the sassy, beautiful, popular, cheerleader, that all the  high school boys lust after. Amanda Seyfried plays Amanda “Needy” Lesnicki,  her quiet, bookish,  best friend, since elementary school. Jennifer gets possessed by a demon, after she is sacrificed to Satan by a local rock band, in exchange for fame.

Already there are themes of the sexuality of women being exploited for male gain. The band, called Low Shoulder, thinks she is a virgin, and their sacrifice was successful, but since she was not actually a virgin, she became possessed instead. After she has killed two young men, Amanda figures out that she is a succubus that is impervious to harm after feeding on her victims. Jennifer attacks Amanda’s boyfriend, who then attacks and eventually kills her. However, bitten by Jennifer, Amanda has now developed some of the Demon Jennifer’s abilities. At the end of the movie, she hunts down  the band Low Shoulder, and kills them.

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Throughout the movie, we are  privy to some of the more interesting conversations that women have when men are not present, and this is something that will only happen in a movie that is written and controlled by women. Not only will there often be more than one woman in a movie, but their relationships and conversations often have more depth. The film is informed by two women in front of the camera as well as the two women behind it. It is the relationship between Amanda and Jennifer that is integral to the plot of the film. If we don’t buy their friendship, we cannot become emotionally invested in their plight, most especially in Amanda’s dilemma at having to kill her best friend.

https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2018/08/206237/jennifers-body-review-defense-female-revenge-movie

Amanda isn’t just killing Jennifer to save the lives of the young men she might feed on, but to save Jennifer. too. I talked in an earlier post about how Horror is basically the disruption of the status quo by the unknown, often the paranormal, and yes, Jennifer as a demon is a disruption of the status quo,  but the status quo, does not necessarily mean “good”. The status quo is Jennifer’s humanity being disregarded  by  men who were willing to  sacrifice her life for their own gain. That Jennifer, and then Amanda, become demons is a necessary disruption, especially as part of the revenge narratives that are also prominent in women’s horror. Not only are revenge narratives common for women directors, they are often very cathartic for the creators and audiences.

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https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/nov/03/carrie-stephen-king-brian-de-palma-horror-films-feminism

Kimberly Pierce’s Carrie, from 2011, is another movie that appears to be having a dialogue with Jennifer’s Body, as it covers many of the same themes, of women’s relationships, both supportive and toxic, and the revenge narrative. Although the story was originally written by Stephen King, and the original movie was directed Brian De Palma, I talked at length about how the mood and emphasis of the film is changed, as Pierce  focuses more on the women’s tangled relationships with each other, rather than on spectacle.

So for female horror directors, there seems to be less emphasis on spectacle (although that’s definitively present becasue these are horror movies), and more focus on symbolism, and the relationships between the characters. For me, this supports my supposition that the type of moves that get made are a reflection of the types of people who make them. If this is true of the Japanese, or British, then its equally true for the White men who run Hollywood, and are the primary creators in the horror genre. So, yes, I think that the types of films being made by White women (as these directors are primarily White) are a reflection of the things that are important to them.

There have not been enough Black and Asian-American filmmakers, in the horror genre, for certain patterns to emerge, but I’m going to give it a try in a follow-up post.

They’re Not Funny, They’re Just Bullies

I just published my first monied story on Medium. com. I can’t link to it from here but its under the name Lakitha Tolbert,, under the above title.

Even if you’re not a member of Medium, you can access at least three to four free stories a month. There are also different tiers of membership from free, to 5.00 per month.

An excerpt:

Yes, there are transgender comedians, and because they are members of that group, they are free to make jokes about their community, just as any member of a community can make jokes about it. But if it was wrong for White people (the ones who invented the racism and stereotypes that were responsible for so much Black death) to make jokes that demean the Black community, then it is equally wrong for straight, cis-gender men to stand on a stage, and make jokes about the kinds of people who get murdered by people who look like them.

This isn’t about being offended, thin skinned, or a snowflake. This is about actively harming a group of people who have told you, over and over, that your words are harming them, as those words are reinforcing, and contributing to, an environment of hatred of them.

So, slide on over to Medium.com and check it out. It costs nothing to do so, and please applaud the story!