Tag Archives: movie

A Scientist’s Take on Big Hero 6

24 Nov

So, I finally saw Big Hero 6 last night with my roommates. It was a pretty cool movie! I laughed. I almost got somewhat teary. I laughed some more, because thanks Disney for the innuendo that you slip in for the adult section of the theatre. All in all, pretty enjoyable! Would watch again. But aside from the aesthetic experience of the movie… well… Guys, I went to one of the Nerd Schools. We were even listed in the credits under the “consultation thank you’s.” And having gone to a Nerd School, I’ve seen a whole lot of science (yeah, science!). I’ve seen whole lot of science labs. I’ve worked in them. And, well, because of that, I had some other thoughts on the movie, too. Let me share.

My reactions while watching movie:

1. Aw, that’s cool, you’ve got such a good lab group atmosphere, how cu- HOLY FUCK HONEY WHY ARE YOU WEARING NO PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT DURING AN EXPLOSION YOU ARE COVERED IN RESIDUE YOU COULD HAVE CAUSTIC BURNS WHY ARE YOU NOT IMMEDIATELY A BIOHAZARD?!?!?! O.O

2. Oh no! Your PI died! That’s so sad! Well, I guess it’s cathartic that you all are just going back to WAIT SHIT YOU HAVE NO PI HOW IS YOUR LAB GOING TO GET FUNDING WHO’S GOING TO TAKE OVER ARE YOU GOING TO GET A NEW PI ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE TO CHANGE LABS WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN TO YOUR THESIS HOLY SHIT WHY ARE YOU NOT FREAKING OUT?!?!

3. Oh man! Your PI is alive! Except now he’s an evil man using science for destruction… Yeeeeaaaah, your lab is going to get so many “surprise inspections” now. Have fun having to be ridiiiculously transparent in every single little thing you do. Because you’re going to be under constant scrutiny now. That’s gonna make for a fun scientific career. Enjoy the bureaucratic down-the-neck-breathing!

4. Wait. Shit. Your PI is an EVIL FUCKING VILLAINYOU ARE NEVER GOING TO GET LAB FUNDING EVER AGAIN. WHICH MEANS YOU STILL CAN’T TAKE ON THAT NEW UNDERGRAD GENIUS. WHICH MEANS HIS TUTION WON’T PAY THREE OF YOUR STIPENDS FOR A YEAR. WHY ARE YOU NOT FREAKING OUT? FUUUUUCK.

*and that concludes the Miceala and Her Brain Show for today*

Yeah. I’ve maybe been applying to grad schools. Ahem.

Warning: Contains Swear Words

17 May

Alrighty, folks. In case you didn’t read the title, I’m going to warn you right now that this post will contain swear words. If they offend you, you should probably stop reading. Right. Now.

Or keep reading. Whatever. It’s your choice. I’m not forcing you to read this blog. You did so of your own happy accord. Which is why it confuses me, a bit, when readers call me out on language. Which happens, funnily enough, in just one place on my blog: in the comments on the post about how I don’t think Frozen *quite* managed to be an all-out progressive movie.

Since posting, it’s been one of the pieces that’s driven the most traffic on this blog. However, it is on this blog. It’s not in a letter to you, or your hypothetical children. It’s not plastered all over windows, or on billboards. It’s here, in my own little writing space on the internet, on my personal blog that I’ve designated as “PG-13” in the WordPress rating section. I’m nowhere near as prolific as Chuck Wendig when it comes to beautiful bomb-dropping of words beginning with f and c and s and damn near every letter of the alphabet. But I do curse occasionally. A fuck here, a damn or shit or a fuckshitdamn there. I use the curses for emphasis. For color. For tone. For a multitude of reasons. Keeps me honest. Which, interestingly enough, is actually something that science has found a correlation between. Swearing and honesty/trustworthiness, that is. The more someone swears, the more likely it was they were being honest about what they said. Probably because swearing usually means you’re not fucking putting a filter on what you say to goddamn please some other person’s stunted sensibilities. If you’re swearing, odds are you’re not being too cautious about what you’re letting out. You’re not dodging around, beating bushes, sweeping under rugs in an attempt to conceal or deceive or mask. You’re just saying what you’ve got to say.

And here, on my blog, I’m going to goddamn say what I’ve got to goddamn say.

I, too, used to be someone who flinched any time a swear word surfaced. Whether in conversation, or on TV, in a movie, even in a book. But I didn’t sling some shit of a criticism at the speaker/author about having dirtied what they trying to say by using a swear word. Their words had no less effect, no less relevance or truth or fucking simple fact to it just because it happened to have some other random word that society has arbitrarily designated as a bad word in front of it. Unlike, apparently, some of the readers of that Frozen post I mentioned.

I’ve gotten comments that my use of swear words “distracted” the reader from the substance of what I was saying. Honestly, I’m not going to apologize. At all. In a post containing 1,849 words, if my use of three shit’s and one fucking distracts you, I’m pretty goddamn sure that’s a problem with your reading comprehension, not with my writing. Especially since those four swear words make up less than one fucking percent of the pure word content. Those four words, in fact, make up 0.2% of the post.

If fat made up 0.2% of a cookie, the FDA wouldn’t even require it being noted. If smog made up 0.2% of your city’s atmosphere, the climate scientists would be weeping in joy. If swear words made up 0.2% of a (not to toot my own horn too loudly) very intelligently written critical piece on the issue of continuing misogyny and sexism and body image slaughter in movies we show our goddamn children, if it is a set of letters that represent less than 1% of the blog post that offend you, then really, I think something is wrong about your priorities.

To the readers who have commented on the Frozen post in an actual attempt to have a real discussion, I applaud you. I appreciate you. I love that you’ve commented. Even – especially – the ones who brought up counterpoints disagreeing with what I said. The whole point of the post was to think critically. And you did. You’re wonderful. Thank you.

To those of you who might be reading this who instead felt the need to deliver a below-the-waist jab at four little words instead of spending that energy being disgusted by unrealistic standards or promotion of repression or the perpetuation of a system in which women are told they can only fail at making choices, then please, I have a request: Go. the fuck. away.

Good riddance.

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Also, I might love you forever if you buy me this shirt. I’m a size small. Please and thank you. 😉

More Than 7 Reasons ‘Frozen’ is Not a Progressive Movie

24 Jan

So, I love Frozen. Like, fairly legitimately love. I’ve already seen it twice and plan on throwing money at Disney a third time once the sing-along version hits theaters. And Olaf the snowman and Sven the reindeer? Definitely on my “most favorite fictional characters” list. They possibly have the most common sense out of all the characters in the movie. Seriously. I love the look on Sven’s face near the end of the movie before he and Kristoff go hurtling back into Arendelle that clearly says, “Why do I have to fix everybody’s shit? I always fix everybody’s shit…”

Thanks Disney! Source: http://www.disney.co.za/movies/frozen/gallery

This face.

But, given all that, I would not label Frozen as “progessive.” Sure, on some points it does marginally better than some of Disney’s previous movies have done, but I think the points made in Gina Luttrell’s PolicyMic article, “7 Moments That Made ‘Frozen’ the Most Progressive Disney Movie Ever” are fairly shortsighted in their praise. I’m rather horrified at the thought that hype around surface impressions of the movie will set Frozen as the new standard for Disney progressivism. Disney still needs to do way better before I grant it the label of “progressive.”

Here’s why.

1. “Elsa and Anna’s abusive parents”

Since when is having abusive parents in a fairy tale progressive? It’s not even new. Cinderella’s stepmother forces her to be a domestic slave. In the original fairy tale, it even happens while Cinderella’s father is still alive. He lets his new wife subjugate his biological daughter. Then there’s Snow White’s stepmother who tries to have her killed. Hansel and Gretel’s father tries to send his children off into the woods to die (but hey, they weren’t his problem anymore, right?) once he remarries. In Aladdin, Jasmine’s father treats her in the usual fashion of female objectification as property. In Mulan, the namesake protagonist’s father orders her about and expects her to be a docile, obedient daughter willing to take her father’s words and decisions without a peep. And while not a Disney film, but in Shrek, Fiona’s parents lock her away because they think it’s the best way to handle her curse. Sound familiar?

Yes, parental misunderstanding of the best way to help a kid with idiosyncrasies of some sort or other is rampant these days. Just like it’s been rampant since always. But while Elsa and Anna’s parents are obviously ignorant when it comes to what they should actually do (like embrace Elsa’s gift and help her learn about it openly, instead of telling her to basically pretend like it doesn’t exist), they clearly always act out of love. And while abuse can often come under the “title” of “love,” I really don’t see anything malicious in what Elsa’s parents do. They were told that if people became afraid of their daughter, they would hurt her. So they in their shortsighted way do what they thought was the best way to make sure nobody would ever be afraid of their daughter. And at no point does Elsa ever indicate that she thinks there’s a better way to handle it or ask for something different. She turns Anna away voluntarily, because she also thought her isolation was for the best.

But then there’s also the fact that even if the actions of Elsa’s parents were abusive, the movie never ventures on to explicitly point out why their response was wrong or suggest how it should have been different.

2. “Elsa’s self-empowerment”

So, I love the song “Let It Go.” I play it on loop. But let’s examine the song in a larger context. Yes, Elsa feels she is finally free to be herself…

…now that she’s been chased out of her community, cut ties with everyone she loves, explicitly told her brand of individuality isn’t appreciated, and decided to continue her life of self-imposed isolation. What’s the message here? “You can be yourself, but only if you’re completely isolated away from the rest of society where you’ll have to deal with disapproval if you do show that you’re different.”

Besides, Elsa still doesn’t completely understand herself or her powers. Sure, she can do some cool shit with it, but she still can’t control it, as we see when she later accidentally nearly kills her sister again. It’s clear that all of the creation that happens during “Let It Go” is coming from emotions like rage, vengeance, and smugness. She’s not calm when she creates. She’s still in emotional throes.

What’s more, it’s not like Elsa’s newfound semi-embrace of her powers came from within. She didn’t just walk outside into Arandelle all, “Look here, people, I’m a BAMF! Watch what I can do!” No. She lost control and was forced to out herself while trying to escape an uncomfortable social situation. The set-up of “go take your strangeness and have it by yourself on some mountain!” is the equivalent of “she was crazy, so we locked her in an asylum.”

Also, what the hell is she going to eat in an ice castle??

3. “Anna’s clumsiness, awkwardness, and honesty.”

Yeah, four words: Manic Pixie Dream Girl

Seriously. All Disney’s done is trade one limiting trope for another.

Also, “until Brave, the idea of an outspoken princess is unheard of.” Really??? How about Belle from Beauty and the Beast, who managed to be outspoken and didn’t sound like an idiot half the time while doing it?

4. “Kristoff’s ability to lead next to a strong woman”

Ah yes, how progressive, we definitely needed another male figure whose authority still trumps that of the strong female lead. Also, “Kristoff is a wonderful example of what a masculine, 21st century man looks like.” Blond, muscular, self-confident and self-made? Ah yes, that totally defies stereotypes and expands the bounds of what we’ve come to understand a man can be in these progressive times…

Really. Kristoff doesn’t seem like the Disney Princes of old because Frozen adjusted its tone to match that of modern teens and twenty-somethings. The characters don’t use the formal language or etiquette portrayed in more period-true movies like Cinderella. For years, Disney’s basically taken modern day people and stuck them in old clothing. But that doesn’t mean they’ve inherently changed at all. When Kristoff first interacts with Anna, it’s to gruffly tell her to move. Dang women, always getting in the way of what men want! Seriously, he can’t even say “please.” Because apparently Anna, obviously a stranger to those parts, is supposed to magically read his mind to know what he wants (because every woman should intuitively know how to please a man, right?). Later, Kristoff escorts Anna to the mountain first because he feels he owes her for the supplies she bought him, and then because he wants Anna to give him a new sleigh. Throughout the entire movie, it’s clear to the audience that Kristoff is condescending towards Anna and doubtful of her judgment. “He’s not afraid to call Anna out on her poor decisions?” Yeah, telling a woman she’s wrong and that a man knows better is really progressive.

Yes, in the end Kristoff falls in love with Anna and tolerates her “quirkiness.” But hey, she is a manic pixie dream girl after all.

5. “Oaken’s gay family”

How progressive is it really if most of the audience isn’t even going to catch what’s going on in this scene? “Oh hey, we’ll make a statement, but nobody will hear it!”

Besides, the man in the sauna isn’t “clearly” Oaken’s husband – he’s much younger and in fact looks like he’s more in the age cohort of the woman next to him. All in all, it’s inconclusive. If he is the gay partner, then great, props. But again, Disney could have done much better.

6. “Arendelle’s unquestioning acceptance of a queen”

“Unquestioning acceptance?” Sure, as long as she’s exactly what they want and expect her to be. But as soon as she exhibits unexpected power, the immediate response is to distrust her and chase her out of the kingdom. Besides, who else does the kingdom even have to rule them??? The previous two monarchs died and the runner-up has been locked in a castle (just like in Sleeping Beauty…) until she came of age. There’s no potential male competitor ever mentioned. And what’s more, all we see is the coronation. Who knows what pressure there could have been on Elsa to marry after that?

Besides, female queens? How about Tangled? Flynn rider wasn’t a prince. He only became royalty because he married into it. Then there’s Brave, which focuses on explicitly proving why Merida’s totally capable of being a ruler all on her own.

And Luttrell’s comment about how at least Anna and Elsa aren’t sitting by twirling around in their ball gowns while a male rules? Yeah, still looks like they’re wearing ball gowns to me. Ball gowns that show off their stereotypical unachievable female figure, no less. And are we supposed to forget the scene immediately before that? The “For the First Time in Forever” sequence where Anna sings about how she’ll get to twirl around in her ballgown and flirt with boys now?

7. “Everyone’s reaction to Anna’s foolish engagement”

Alrighty. The “da fuq?” response to the snap engagement is pretty cool. But yet again, what about Merida, whose story kinda centered around her not wanting to get married at all? I’d say it addresses the trope expecting women to want marriage much more successfully than Frozen, in which, uh, Anna wants to get married. And how about the fact that it’s only Anna who gets chastised for the decision? Everyone focuses on telling her that she’s wrong, but not one single person ever rebukes Hans! Of course, when a bad situation crops up, it’s always the woman’s fault, yet again.

And anyway, what about Disney movies that don’t focus on marriage at all? Alice in Wonderland? Lilo and Stitch? Women have adventures without marriage or relationships even having to be remotely a causative factor.

8. ALL THE REST

There are still so many remaining issues to bar Frozen from being counted as progressive. Like Disney’s continued insistence on perpetuating an factually infeasible female body image. In fact, there was a fair amount of heat before the movie was even released over the comment from Disney’s head animator that no matter what they’re experiencing, no matter what emotion they’re going through, when animating females, “you have to keep them pretty.” Seriously. The very construction of the female’s bodies is ridiculous. BOTH female protagonists, and most of the other women, are still portrayed as stick-thin with eyes that have bigger circumferences than their wrists, heads that have bigger circumferences than their waists, and hands that are actually impossibly too small. The male protagonists fare no better. Both male leads are portrayed as big and burly.

You can’t be “progressive” if you haven’t actually changed anything.

All in all, Frozen takes no drastic steps towards being any different from the rest of Disney’s canon. It’s amusing, it’s got a great soundtrack, and it does mildly better on some points. But better enough to be deemed “progressive?” I don’t think so.

 

Participating

29 Dec

“I don’t know if I will have the time to write any more letters because I might be too busy trying to participate” – Charlie, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I saw this movie for the first time tonight. Most of it, anyway. Enough to understand the important parts.

And of course, I cried at the end. Not just because the end of the movie is meant to take your heart and jerk it in several different directions at once. But because the end, especially the end, that wasn’t just a movie for me. I tried to make light of it, throwing out comments like “that’s a damn nice psych ward room.”

But that’s because internally, I wasn’t seeing Charlie’s cozy room. Internally, I was seeing my psych ward rooms. The ones that I spent too many days in last year. Over a year ago now, actually. It’s strange, that those days, the most bruised ones I’ve garnered in life, are so far away now. It’s been a year. It’s over. I’m free.

But I remember the days when I wasn’t. I have notebooks, drawers of them, filled with pages and pages of those days when I was not participating but was just trying to survive – or, slowly letting go of the idea that I would. My life is there, on those wrinkled and worn and smudged notebook sheets. I couldn’t bear physicality, so I existed, put myself into letters.

Because I needed a way for my narrative to be important.

And so it’s there, years of myself, scribbled down in journal entries and poems and short stories. Years where I left marks of myself in metaphor and analogy. Years where I could only be a silent girl, inked into existence.

In the end, they were all letters. Some of them were addressed as letters to God. But in the end, they were all really letters to me.

I forgot to pack those notebooks with me for my trips this holiday. Well, not quite “forgot”… I didn’t even think about doing it in the first place.

Because I don’t live my life in those notebooks anymore.

Now, I am participating.