Wednesday, February 24, 2010

OK, so now we're "The Incredibles"

Remember how I was saying that the film What's Up, Doc? reminded me of my romance with my husband? Well, now that we're married and settled down, I've found a film that describes us even better!!

The scene where the parents were trying to drive/navigate/park in the city especially reminded me of our recent stay in the US.

Everyone OK back there?

The Incredibles is my new favorite Pixar movie, beating my former favorite, Wall-E. I just wrote a new post about The Incredibles for The Hathor Legacy explaining why.

Interestingly -- even though my post was more about the feminist content of the film -- the comments focused more on the moral of the tale. I'd thought (in terms of moral) The Incredibles was like Cars (on the surface the film appears to be making a point, but in reality, it isn’t).

I thought that the "moral" of The Incredibles was "It's OK to excel, and it's OK to fight back against those *cough* non-existant *cough* social forces that are forcing you to be mediocre." But, who knows? Maybe it's more complicated than that.

And my kids liked the villain "Bomb Voyage" for his super-ability to speak French:

How come the French cartoon character always has to dress up as Marcel Marceau?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Yay!! I won a Brodie!

So now I can display this impressive graphic on my blog:

I know it's a bit of a dubious honor considering that I gathered and sorted the nominations and ran the polls. And in spite of that, none of my posts managed to win... (I got an award for community building.)

Oh, well. You can go congratulate the other winners. :D

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hanukkah Sparkles!

Remember the Hanukkah party we went to last December?

Well, I'm still sorting boxes from our move, and I found this cute drawing that Leo did right after attending that party:

Hanukkah Sparkles!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Me and my inner "manic pixie dream girl"

Like the Magical Negro, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl archetype is largely defined by secondary status and lack of an inner life. She's on hand to lift a gloomy male protagonist out of the doldrums, not to pursue her own happiness. [...] But what does [the MPDG] ultimately want? As is usual with Manic Pixie Dream Girls, the filmmakers don't seem to have given the matter much thought.

-- from Wild Things

This is one of the biggest challenges when writing fiction: you need to include characters who are unlike yourself. The simplest thing is to write what others look like to you -- without giving a second thought to what they look like to themselves. It's not just a problem for men writing female characters (though they're frequent offenders), but for all sorts of writers writing all sorts of "other" characters: white people writing black characters, gay people writing straight characters, religious people writing atheist characters (and vice-versa), etc.

Practically every time I watch a movie, I analyze the portrayal of female characters. Which is why I was surprised that I'd never noticed the "Manic Pixie Dream Girl" archetype -- even though there's one at the center of one of my childhood-favorite movies: What's Up Doc?. And, although people can expect to be forgiven for their childhood tastes, in this case I still like the movie -- and I see it as a (jokingly-exaggerated) version of my romance with my husband.

Of course I don't mean the comparison seriously, and if I did, it would be less complementary to my husband than it is to me. The film definitely fits squarely into the genre that my friend Holly describes as: "the wild-yet-innocent cutie-pie who uses her childlike delight to entice some young male sad sack into a candyland of cutting work and skinny-dipping."

My husband is partial to the earlier version of the same movie, Bringing up Baby -- essentially because Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant did a better job of acting than Barbra Streisand and Ryan O'Neal. (He specifically complained that O'Neal was only cast for his tan). Despite that point, I like "What's up, Doc?" better because I think the script is better, and the underlying screwball situation in "What's Up, Doc?" (with the four identical suitcases) is funnier than the thing with the leopard. I think "What's Up, Doc?" suffers from many of the flaws of the "manic pixie dream girl" formula, but redeems itself in a few ways.

The Barbra Streisand character actually does have some motivation, as is explained in the film. She's been expelled from a string of universities -- she's bright and does well, but "something always seems to go wrong." After blowing up a classroom while studying chemistry, she had set off to go back to her parents' house, but was hesitant to face them. So she was wandering around, essentially homeless (looking for opportunities to steal food), and trying to decide what to do next.

And how did she get from there to spicing up the life of an absent-minded professor...? That's a question she answers directly:

"Because you look cute in your pajamas."

Her situation is absurd, but you have to keep in mind that every character in the film is absurd. There's the professor (doing very serious research that involves tapping rocks with a tuning fork), the eccentric rich guy who has set up a foundation in his own name to fund this sort of silly research, there are jewel thieves working for the hotel, and a couple of spy-vs-spy guys battling over secret government documents, not to mention a guy driving a convertible who smilingly says "Oh, all right" and joins into a crazy car chase just because some guy jumped into his car and said "Follow that cab -- I'm with the government!"

Then, there's the professor's fiancee (played by Madeline Khan), who is the funniest character in the film:

Despite the fact that she represents the terrible fate the professor must escape from, she find her own new-and-better boyfriend by the end of the film.

So, from a feminist perspective, the film could be better, and it could be worse. Streisand's character sets out for adventure and finds it (even if it is just the usual adventure female characters get: romantic comedy).

Personally, as a Mormon girl, I was brought up immersed in the mindset that Holly describes in the article Forever Your Girl: I was encouraged to embrace the pursuit of a man as being "the only passion, the only pursuit, the only goal" that really matters for a girl. I didn't have it quite as bad as that -- I was encouraged in other goals and talents -- but I'd internalized the pervasive message that a woman's own accomplishments are consolation prizes compared to a woman's one true success: snagging a successful man. (I've portrayed this mindset in the novellas Youth Conference and Saturday's Warrior.)

Another old favorite that doesn't hold up quite as well is Harold and Maude. This film makes an appearance in my novel in a way that I (still) think is reasonable:

However, I clearly see Holly's point about the film:

Maude even claims the youthful role of life’s cheerleader, standing up and shouting, “Go, team, go! Give me an ‘L.’ Give me an ‘I.’ Give me a ‘V.’ Give me an ‘E.’ L-I-V-E. LIVE!”

But her cheering is in service of someone else’s life: Despite the fact that she’s healthy, passionate, and vibrant, Maude takes her own life on her 80th birthday. She justifies the act by asserting that 80 is an ideal age to die: “Seventy-five is too early,” Maude tells Harold, “but at 85, well, you’re just marking time and you may as well look over the horizon.”

But the real reason for Maude’s suicide is that it leaves Harold not just richer and wiser, but unencumbered. Maude’s willingness to disappear ultimately serves male development and autonomy. Her embrace of Harold and discarding of her own life are just what is needed to transform the formerly morbid, macabre boy — and that, of course, is also the ultimate goal of Fascinating Womanhood.

If you're going to be a character in someone else's dream, it's fun to be the exciting, adventurous character. But it's also fun to dream your own dreams. :D

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Vote in the 2009 Brodies!!

If you're following Main Street Plaza, you probably already know that author Walter Kirn won 2009 William Law X-Mormon of the year, and that he has publicly accepted the award.

Now we're following up with another series of awards -- the Brodies -- for X-Mormon online excellence!! You can vote for excellent posts, sites, and people in twenty-two different categories.

And, on a totally unrelated note, look at this drawing my 6-year-old Leo made in Tux Paint:

"Origami", by Leo

Friday, February 05, 2010

How come I can only get things done when there's something more important I'm supposed to be doing?

I was a whirlwind of getting things unpacked and sorted while I was supposed to be going over my big list o' companies to apply at. Now that I've found a cool new job (congratulate me -- I start next week!) the remaining pile of boxes-to-sort in the living room, well, it just isn't calling to me like it used to... ;^)

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

"Nothing will make me stop believing in String Theory!"

That's what I heard my eight-year-old Nico say to his little brother this morning.

Nico is totally hooked on these theoretical physics videos. If you're not sure what String Theory is, or how it works, or why it's controversial -- just ask Nico. He'll be very happy to explain it to you. At length.

Meanwhile, of course, getting him to do his homework is like pulling teeth...

In other news, I had some of my posts featured in two of my favorite carnivals: The Humanist Symposium and The Carnival of the Godless!

The latter linked to one of the awards we're doing at Main Street Plaza. We're still collecting nominations for the "Brodies". If you don't know what Brodies are, they're a little like "Niblets", only (hopefully) without the 200 comment battle.

As usual, I failed to win a Niblet. However, in this year's drama, I was one of a handful of people singled out by name (as being one of those naughty atheists whom good Mormons should be excluding from Niblet-land), which I guess is some sort of honor. It puts me in the same class as other bloggers who have been at the center of the Niblets' traditional yearly brawl in the past, such as fMh ("Big blog or not???") and the various Mormon mommy blogs (I forget what the dispute was around them)...