Reel Cultures vs. Real Cultures: Continuing the Conversation on Under-representation in Film

While we’re celebrating Women in Horror Month, The Whorer would also like to address the subject of under-representation in the film industry more generally.

With the racial controversy around Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained (you can find a tasting of it here, here, and here) and February also being African-American / Black History Month, I want to highlight a book written by my favorite author, bell hooks, titled Reel to Real: Race Class and Sex at the Movies. One of the issues hooks explores is the social impact of white filmmakers creating content about black culture, discussing films like Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction as well as others like Jennie Livingston’s documentary Paris is Burning. She also writes about black filmmakers like Spike Lee (who has also contributed to the Django conversation), Charles Burnett, and Julie Dash, and meditates on the future of black cinema. (And for all you locals, there’s a piece on Larry Clark’s and Nashville native Harmony Korine’s Kids.) The book is a mix of essays and transcribed conversations. It’s not horror focused, but it’s an important topic nonetheless. And if you’re worried about it being too academic or dense, don’t be! Her writing style is very accessible and straightforward. Continue reading

GMX Follow Up: Nerdy Sexists vs. Sexy Nerdists

For the most part, Fem and I’s experience at Geek Media Expo (GMX) was positive. We were impressed with the vibe of inclusiveness and did not witness any overt sexual harassment. Our attending GMX was in many ways an experiment. We were testing the waters, attempting to see for ourselves if the environment at pop culture and technology conventions was as hostile as it is sometimes portrayed. This problem got a lot of press recently when some trolls pinged the wrong woman at NY Comic Con, but this is an old issue. Mags the Axe, gaming podcaster extraordinaire, does an annual panel about sexual harrasment at cons. Not to mention the sad need for CREEPER penalty cards at DefCon , and public push back over emergence of “brogrammer” culture.

Though we had a relatively pleasant time, there was an explosion of sexist incidents within geek culture on or around Halloween weekend when we were pre- and post-gaming our episode about GMX. I wanted to give a quick run down and relate some of the incidents back to thoughts that came up during our GMX episode. Fem tweeted this story about an online BDSM community’s reactionary hostility to one member’s account of public harassment.  ‘Geek’ and ‘kink’ are kissing cousins. The same weekend at GMX there was a vampire themed fetish ball here in Nashville. We met the promoter at GMX. Linked in the above story, is SkepChick’s parallel experience within the (thoroughly geeky) skeptics community; i.e., dare say anything about male misbehavior and start receiving death threats. As we mentioned in our episode, also taking place in Nashville during GMX was the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry Conference from which this tweet emerged: Continue reading

Roseanne: Halloween Edition

I LOVE Roseanne. One of the best television sitcoms ever and here’s why:

The Conners are a working class family and in addition to confronting classism the writers weren’t afraid to address issues around the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and mental illness. And beyond that, they weren’t afraid to expose flaws in their characters. Even though they have good intentions, the Conners are often shown as naïve and ignorant and the strength of the show really is its character development and ability to document the consciousness-raising of said characters in ways that the audience can relate to. Although the show is a comedy, it’s also real life. All of the characters are dynamic – there aren’t some that are good and some that are bad. They all have strengths and they all have weaknesses and their ability to maintain who they are and still manage to grow as individuals through way of the show’s “teachable moments” is truly genius.

Another (and somewhat superficial) reason I love Roseanne is the value it places on Halloween. Halloween is my absolute most favorite holiday and much like it is with the Conners, I have very fond childhood memories of celebrations past. In the commentary, Roseanne Barr talks about how the Halloween episodes always had the biggest budgets and were the main holiday special as opposed to other shows that chose to highlight holidays like Christmas. Thus, in 2006, Anchor Bay decided to release a best-of Roseanne Halloweens DVD. For this reason, coupled with the one above, there is not a more appropriate time than October for The Whorer to share with you its love of Roseanne! Continue reading

Express Yourself this Halloween!

Happy September! Now that autumn is upon us and it’s socially acceptable to start decorating / planning for Halloween, I’m going to share some PAR-TAYYY ideas!

As of late, two reality TV shows have been rocking my world – RuPaul’s Drag Race and Project Runway. With Halloween around the corner, I can’t think of two more appropriately themed shows to inspire some monstrous creations. The Whorer emphasizes feminist and queer issues in the horror genre and so naturally, fashion and gender expression are a regular part of our discussions, but most people don’t really give a shit about socially deconstructing gender. However, with a holiday like Halloween, when people often choose to put on costumes and transform into people or things they’re not, it’s the perfect opportunity to create dialogue AND have lots of fun. Continue reading

Episode 13 continued…more on Donnie Darko

As Meredith and I discussed in Episode 13 of The Whorer podcast, Donnie Darko (2001)* is very similar to Jacob’s Ladder and arguably better. It’s fair to say that Donnie Darko is more articulate than its predecessor, but does it really succeed in challenging Reaganite values (particularly, if we think about Jacob’s Ladder as reinforcing them)? And because I believe there’s a connection, what’s it ultimately saying about the scientific method and atheism?

Challenging Patriarchy

True, as Meredith asserts in our discussion of Jacob’s Ladder, the ideology is not hidden in Donnie Darko. ’80s values are challenged straight on and Donnie believes that life is not as black and white as some people in his community make it out to be. This is why he becomes frustrated with the lifeline card exercise and why he speaks out at the assembly, but doesn’t he ultimately choose between the very two foundations he criticizes – fear and love? He argues that there’s an entire range of human emotions that need to be taken into consideration when making decisions and that they can’t be boiled down into two categories, but in the end it’s the love for his dead girlfriend and his family that drive him to go back in time and overcome his own fear – death (a fear of death explains why he sleepwalks – to avoid it and the impending airplane engine crash). Jacob, too must choose between fear and love. He is afraid to die and this is what’s preventing him from crossing over. Similarly, it is his acceptance of his pending death and his love for his dead son, Gabe, which help him complete his journey. Continue reading

Killer Whales: On the Big Screen and in Reality

Considering my heavy academic interest in humanities, most people are surprised when I tell them about my childhood dream to become a marine biologist. From about ages 9 to 14, my primary interest was in whales, and specifically orcinus orcas, or killer whales, and so while reading David Kirby’s hot off the press Death at SeaWorld (2012) I just knew I had to write about it. In fact, a couple months ago I strongly considered writing about the 1977 film Orca and I’m glad I held off as it’s the perfect horror movie to pair with Kirby’s book. Death at SeaWorld tackles the controversial issue of killer whales in captivity in light of the February 2010 killing of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau, while although fictional, Orca explores many of the same issues, particularly the debate about killer whale intelligence.

Much like the debate in The Snow Creature (1954), both of these pieces challenge the way we think about killer whales; particularly in relation to other animals, but also in relation to ourselves. Both discuss what scientists know about brain size, communication, and social customs for example, and both also suggest that as humans it’s difficult to completely comprehend these creatures’ intelligence. Orca even goes one step further and asserts that perhaps their intelligence rivals that of the human species. But what are some of the incidents which cause us to question the consciousness of killer whales? It seems captivity, for better or worse, has greatly fueled the debate. Continue reading

“You’re right, Mulder.” X-Files, Part 2

Back in May I posted some thoughts about Agents Scully and Mulder’s relationship throughout the first two seasons of X-Files and now I’m back to talk about it some more! And even though I’m well into season 6, I want to discuss some key things that happened in season 4.

1. Scully starts calling Mulder on his shit.

In the opening scene of episode 13, Scully does the unthinkable! While staring at Mulder’s name plate she inquires into why she doesn’t have a desk in their office. This is a question I’ve been asking ever since Scully refused to spy on Agent Mulder for the FBI, so it’s about damn time! Of course, in typical self-absorbed Mulder babble, Mulder responds, “I always assumed that was your area,” pointing to a corner. Scully replies, “Back there…” And smart-ass Mulder, a bit irritated and defensive, responds, “Okay, so we’ll have them send down another desk and there won’t be any room to move around here, but we can put them really close together. Face to face. Maybe we can play some Battleship.” Continue reading

UFOs and Independence

What better way to be patriotic and celebrate World UFO Day this past week than by watching Independence Day (1996)?! Genius concept, blahhhhhh movie. Perhaps I should have chosen to talk about Mars Attacks, a similar film in theme and one that I actually enjoy, but too late! Maybe Meredith and I will whip out a compare / contrast podcast episode at some point, but for now it’s back to Independence Day.

In addition to childhood sentiment, I instantly thought of the 3 women leads in the film (if we can call them leads): Jasmine Dubrow played by Vivica A. Fox, Constance Spano played by Margaret Colin, and the first lady Marilyn Whitmore played by Mary McDonnell. All have good / positive qualities, but when you examine their characters and the plot a little closer, you start to notice some disturbing shit, namely the adherence to patriarchy.

First I’d like to point out that all 3 women are defined by their relationships with each of the respective male leads. Jasmine wouldn’t be in the story if she did not have a relationship with Captain Steve Hiller and neither would Marilyn if she wasn’t married to the president. Even Connie has chosen her career and the president over her marriage and without that, she’d be insignificant to the plot. The truth is that none of these women are really relevant to the development of the story, except maybe Connie who makes it possible for her ex-husband David to warn the president of the alien attack, but other than that, she’s not needed. The men are the ones who are solving the problems, making the big / important decisions, and saving the world from annihilation. It’s like an old boys club – everything is taking place in traditional masculine space (the government, the military) and this movie offers no real challenge or resistance to this line of thinking. Yes, women are allowed to be in this space, but what are their roles? Continue reading

Xena and the Vamp Tramps

Who doesn’t love Xena: Warrior Princess? Strong more-than-capable independent queer women! Okay, it’s a little more complicated and flawed than that statement lets on, but not too shabby for the horrible television cheesefest it is. Anyway…

In season 2, episode 5 (interestingly titled “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”), Xena and Gabrielle find themselves facing off against Bacchus, the wine god (who bears a strong resemblance to Legend’s Darkness), and his brothel of vampire werewolf hybrids, also known as bacchi, who can only be killed by being staked through the heart with the bones of their enemies, the dryads (undead tree nymphs?). Since my knowledge of Western mythology is unreliable, I hesitate to remark on the character accuracy of this episode, but I find it interesting that the writers use Greek names for most of the gods, except Dionysus, for whom they use the Roman name, Bacchus. Perhaps the Roman Bacchus goes with the whole horror storyline better? We should also consider Xena’s history with Caesar, who seduced her and then attempted to murder her. If the Romans are evil, then Bacchus is undoubtedly evil, whereas Greek gods like Ares are more developed and complex characters in the series.

But let’s talk more about the legend of the bachhi (as presented in Xena) because it implies a lot about women and is relevant to the progression of the plot. Gabrielle tells us, Continue reading

And the zombie apocalypse train has pulled into the station…

Apparently, the zombie apocalypse is upon us, with Florida at its core. All in good fun I guess (remember my Signs blog and the discussion of humor in real-life horror situations?), but absurd considering none of the so-called zombies are undead! And so to appropriately mock the situation (although the individual incidences are terribly serious and should not themselves be mocked), I’m discussing Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s zombie comedy, Shaun of the Dead (2004).

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First thing’s first. From reading the intro above, you probably think this discussion will be fun and light-hearted, but I must confess that it will not. Yes, it gets some laughs, but this film is totally gay…seriously.

The story is like an awkward coming of age tale where the main protagonist, Shaun, must choose between what we might term his bachelor’s life and his married life, or in other words, his best friend, Ed, or his girlfriend, Liz. Ed’s character is definitely more juvenile than adult (in fact, it’s like he’s experiencing a super-extended adolescence) – he plays video games, eats junk food, doesn’t seek a steady job or source of income, deals drugs from time to time, and is just plain lazy and unmotivated – and it’s obvious Shaun is supposed to be stuck between these two worlds, but there seems to be an agenda, or a particular ideology which Shaun must learn to subscribe to, if he is to become a 100% real adult: heteronormativity. Continue reading