Sunday, July 24, 2011

Will Two Snow White Remakes To Be Released in 2012 Promote Feminist Messages?

Two remakes of Snow White are set to be released in 2012. The first, Snow White and the Huntsman, has been advertised as an action film, comparable to films such as Deep Impact and Lord of the Rings. The image above is intriguing to me. Click the link to view the other pictures of cast members as their characters. In the image, Kristen Stewart is dressed as a knight, suggesting power and strength, yet she is starring away from the viewer. Why is that, since the other images of the queen, huntsman, and prince directly face the viewer? While I have my reservations, it is refreshing to see Snow White minus the dress, perfect look, songs, and birds.

My main question is: Will this be a feminist film? A brief synopsis of the film shares that the evil queen played by Charlize Theron sends a hunstman to kill her stepdaughter. Instead of despairing, Snow White played by Kristen Stewart trains in martial arts to fight the queen. At first glance, this film seems promising, but I'm concerned it will fall into the usual Hollywood traps. While Snow White can protect herself, the films also includes the handsome prince "enchanted by Snow White's beauty."

The second film being released in 2012 is The Brothers Grimm: Snow White, starring Julia Roberts as the queen and Lily Collins as Snow White. An interview with Entertainment Weekly offers some interesting comments from the filmmaker. This version is supposed to be "humorous" as opposed to the other that is "action-oriented." In response to questions about why he chose Julia Roberts, the filmmaker shares that he wanted a "likable queen."

He also comments "She’s the stepmother, but other films are all about narcissism. Who’s more beautiful than the other? This one is more of a power struggle. She wants power, and beauty is just a part of that." I find that comment interesting because power and beauty are so interconnected, and in our culture, a woman's power stems from her beauty. While it is sad to admit, beauty can gain a woman respect and prestige. I also think labeling previous Snow White films as all about "narcissism" offers an incomplete picture. Yes, the queen only cares about herself and being the "fairest of them all", but what strikes me the most about this story is the way the queen must be "fairer" than her stepdaughter. I think it shows the complexities of the relationships between stepmothers and stepdaughters as well as the intricacies of relationships between women and the ways they must hurt each other to achieve beauty and success. I'll give my final verdict when the films are released.

Can you imagine Julia Roberts as the evil, likable queen?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

44% of Women Surveyed Have Romance Regrets in Northwestern Study


A study at Northwestern University questioned what decisions Americans regret the most. Researchers found that "About 44 percent of women reported romance regrets versus 19 percent of men. Women also had more family regrets than men. About 34 percent of men reported having work-oriented regrets versus 27 percent of women reporting similar regrets." While the study focuses on the "psychology of regrets," I think it's important to analyze the results from a gender perspective. Why is it that women have more romance regrets than men? Is it that more women have romantic regrets or are more women willing to admit their regrets? We live in a culture that punishes men for having emotions, so that may be one piece to the puzzle.

I think this study demonstrates the gender divisions that still exist in relationships and in the workplace. Women are defined by their romantic relationships while men are defined by their careers. This is a problematic association that is apparently still thriving based on the results of this study.

This weekend I went on a hiking trip with a friend (Yay!), and we spoke for a long time about the pressures we feel when speaking with family members and friends about being "single." While the little feminist voice inside my head tells me not to, I have been asked with such a frequency over the last few years that I do feel ashamed for not having a boyfriend. It as if people assume that I'm not a complete person if I don't have a significant other, and while I do think relationships enrich your life, I don't need one to be a "complete, fulfilled" person. I like myself, and I'm waiting for someone who likes me just as much as I like myself.

Another intriguing aspect of this study is that the "typical American" ranked "self" as the least source of regret. Regrets are mostly attributed to romance, family, and education decisions. I think this finding says something about the way people always look to external factors to explain their behaviors instead of looking into themselves. It's always difficult to take responsibility for our actions.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Details Magazine Reinforces Sexism in Shia LaBeouf Interview

Shia Lebouf trying his best James Dean.

While I was filtering through the latest celebrity news on Friday, I was overwhelmed with articles about Shia LaBeouf revealing his "hook up" with Megan Fox on the Transformers set. He revealed this information to Details magazine stating, "Look, you're on the set for six months, with someone who's rooting to be attracted to you, and you're rooting to be attracted to them. I never understood the separation of work and life in that situation. But the time I spent with Megan was our own thing, and I think you can see the chemistry onscreen." The article than speculated that Fox cheated on her husband with Shia. 

Here's my message to Shia: Shia, if it was your "own thing" why are you revealing it to the whole world? She's not even in the current Transformers movie, so why discuss her and her business? Also, why is it that Shia reveals his "hook up" with Megan Fox and bashes his directors and is then rewarded with the label of "honest, complex bad boy"?! What a double standard! 

Details magazine sets him up in clothes and scenes comparable to James Dean, and in the introduction to the article, Aaron Gell, writes, "The 25-year-old Transformers star has thrown as many punches as he has parties, he has a rap sheet as long as his filmography, and when he's not pissing off studio heads, he's messing around with another guy's girlfriend. But Shia LaBeouf may also be the most honest—and complex—actor alive. More than meets the eye? Damn right." Shia isn't complex. He's just another entitled man that can get away with speaking his mind and trashing the women he's been with under the guise that he's gifted and deeply sensitive inside.

I'm reminded of Katherine Heigl's love hate relationship with the press. When she speaks her mind, she's labeled an "angry bitch." In an interview with Vanity Fair, Heigl says that Knocked Up is "a little sexist" because "It paints women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as goofy, fun-loving guys. It was hard for me to love the movie." I agree. Knocked Up is sexist, but the real problem here is that Heigl is labeled an "ungrateful, bitch" for sharing her voice. My point is not to silence Shia LaBeouf but to reveal and break down a terrible double standard that is clearly thriving in Details magazine. Details Magazine reinforces a culture where men can speak their minds while women can't.

Oxygen's "The Glee Project" Walks a Fine Line Between Celebrating and "Othering" Contestants

I have been catching up on "The Glee Project" over the last few days. It's a show on Oxygen where 12 contestants compete for a 7-week guest spot on the hit show, Glee. These contestants have been chosen because they are each unique and as Glee creators and collaborators frequently declare, each contestant is "different in their own special way." This is necessary on Glee because the show is about "people that aren't what you expect and don't fit into stereotypes" (More on that later.)

In an episode I was watching yesterday, the theme of the week is vulnerability where the contestants must choose a word associated with one of their insecurities. They will wear this word on a sign in a public space while shooting a music video to Tears for Fears, "Mad World." The real point is to have the contestants face their inner demons because what makes them vulnerable is relatable to an audience and an essential quality all Glee actors possess. One contestant, Cameron, was chosen in the bottom three because he just was not "insecure" enough. While filming the video, the choreographer shared that, "This challenge was difficult for Cameron because he had already overcome many of his problems and was very confident in who he is." I was starring at the television in shock thinking, "Why wouldn't you want someone on your show that's confident and a good role model for young people?! But welcome to the world of contradictions, a.k.a. Hollywood."

Let's also note here that in the previous week's elimination challenge, Glee creator, Ryan Murphy, told a contestant that he wished he would just "walk on stage with more confidence and own who he is." Apparently on Glee, you should like yourself and give the illusion that you are confident while hiding an inner world of terrible insecurities that can be written into a story line. Are you sensing my frustration? It is ridiculous to me that Cameron would be put down for liking himself and being confident.

It was a painful episode to watch, especially since so many contestants revealed some deep personal issues. I kept thinking, why should they be forced to talk about these things on national television? Yes, they chose to be on the show, but there were so many tears on that episode that it felt as if the producers were "hazing" the contestants. I'm sure the actual cast members didn't even have to go through this to be on the show.

A few questions I have for the minds behind "The Glee Project" are: What is the point in having contestants reveal their insecurities? Is it to celebrate individuality? From where I'm observing, the contestants are just being further labeled as "others." Are you helping them or causing further emotional scarring? Also, let's face it. The cast of Glee is young and attractive. Their flaws are flaws based on "Hollywood" standards. Since I like the show, I'll keep watching but as an active observer.