Petition to make Lily James BABY (and other feminist rants)

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One of the greatest photos ever taken, probably

Amongst the Marvel Superhero epics and the Hollywood remakes, a marvelous, original, gem of a movie has risen from development hell to become hit. Edgar Wright’s BABY DRIVER may not be number one at the box office, but it’s critical acclaim and unique point of view (as well as a killer soundtrack) has cemented BABY DRIVER as the success it was meant to be. Sara and I thoroughly enjoyed our screening and I have no complaints at all.

Okay I have one complaint; let’s see if you can guess (it rhymes with schwomen).

The thing about BABY DRIVER is that, from start to finish it’s a fantastic movie. It’s a fairly original concept with a sharp point of view – in my opinion, this is what audiences are starving for. But despite this, all the women featured in the movie served mainly as motivations for the men and in many ways are two dimensional characters. Baby (Ansel Elgort) lost his mother when he was a young child (this is how he got great at driving and living a life of crime) and his love interest Debora (Lily James) seemingly has no motivations or hopes or dreams outside of escaping with Baby into the sunset. And the only other female character, a criminal named Darling (played by the amazing Eliza Gonzalaz), ends up playing second fiddle to her husband Buddy (John Hamm), in a way I can’t fully describe without giving away spoilers. Overall, the women in the movie were created and served to make all the Dude Plots stronger.

Now we’ve talked about this issue on the blog before, and it’s a fairly consistent criticism of Hollywood – we all know this. And I don’t want this to deter people from seeing the movie. In fact, BABY DRIVER does a better job than most movie in portraying women; these characters are fairly diverse and go against the mainstream ideas of what women should be.

But what’s honestly so tiring about seeing this over and over, is that the problem is just so easy to fix. We just need to start swapping all the genders in movie scripts. If we just switched Lily James’ and Ansel Elgort’s roles in the movie, (save a few minor changes to the script), I truly believe the end result would be the same. Instead of watching Baby as a young man, as he tries to find his way after getting in with the wrong crowd, making music in his bedroom and driving really fast, we could have watched Lily James do basically the exact same thing. I know this seems like a small change, but I think it’s revolutionary. When is the last time you saw a female character, that isn’t a superhero, occupy a space on screen that never once drew attention to the fact that she was a girl? And when has an action movie ever showcased such a morally complex character like Baby, who also happens to have a vagina?

Perhaps for many in Hollywood, it’s hard to imagine a girl occupying the same space they believe boys to occupy. But how many women out in the world have grown up watching their mother be abused, loving music, taking care of their foster parents, and learning everything they can about cars, inside and out? It’s not hard to believe that those women exist. And we do ourselves a disservice to not try and portray them.

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Can’t you just imagine Lily drifting through NYC in her cute Subaru??

Of course, there are great and important films out there that star women and make women look like real human beings – I’m not talking about those. And this isn’t a jab at movies like Wonder Women either, which opened the doors for all the future female-lead super hero movies I hope to see in the future (such as ATOMIC BLONDE, which looks GREAT). But not every movie has to be a revolutionary new look at women’s experiences in the world or a movie about how women can still kick your ass despite having boobs. Sometimes you just want to watch a bunch of people drive cars really fast, and it would be nice if more of those characters were women.

I am reminded of a scene in the recent Netflix original series GLOW. Allison Brie’s character, Ruth Wilder, is auditioning for a acting job – it’s an intense scene and she delivers it well but as she finishes, the casting woman points out that Ruth has read the wrong part, the part for the male character not the female character. Ruth apologizes, saying she was mistaken, but later after the audition, confides in her friends that she knew she was reading the part for the male character, not the female character. “It was the better part.” Ruth says.

This is, I believe, the crux of this issue. Men in Hollywood are consistently given better parts – roles that showcase a wide range of human emotion – that are wise and strong, or weak-willed and vulnerable. These roles are created without a second thought and, save any bad story telling, audiences usually accept these characters at face value and don’t really question whether their motivations are realistic. But audiences aren’t stupid; they know what’s believable and what’s not. We shouldn’t assume that because we’ve never shown a women in a particular space before, that means she can’t occupy it. If we believe only certain kinds of people in the world are worth showing on screen, we erase real people from these narratives.

People of color have been battling this a long time as well. When Donald Glover made a bid for Spider-Man (back before Andrew Garfield got the role), he received a lot of racial backlash. He says the most frustrating note he got was from someone who said that Peter Parker can’t be black because there are no black people who have grown up and act like Peter. Which is incredulous – “you think there aren’t any black kids in queens who like science and do photography?” Donald fired back.

I think what it comes down to is imagining people complexly. I don’t think we need to create entirely new spaces for women or for people of color that only they can occupy. Instead, I want us and them to occupy the spaces we always have; without the burden of being products or objects for men or for the plot. And more than that, I want stories that let women be women and let black people be black people without talking about whether or not these characters represent society’s idea of what a they should be.

And I would like more movies like Baby Driver on screen. I want a lot of things okay?

In the coming days, I will be finding scripts on the internet and swapping the genders to give actual examples of how easy my proposal would be. I also encourage you to follow this twitter, which showcases the various sexist ways women are introduced in scripts, to learn more.

 

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I’m Starting To Think It’s Me…

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I recently took a solo trip to LA. This was born out of a desire to live there, my dad joking that I was going home to spawn, having been born in Huntinging Hospital. I won’t lie, living in California has intrigued me for quite some time. I’ve read the books, seen the movies, listen to the music, was hook, line, and sinker.

Subconsciously I figured this romantic view of California was the key to solving all my problems.  Yes I know; there’s the idea of LA and then there’s the actual pounding of the pavement. That’s why I went on this trip, I finally wanted to physically see all the rough and neat parts stitched together, making a unique pattern. I wanted to find what was sold to me.

The whole trip felt a little bit like a dream. The city itself is shiny and bright but muted, so much so it’s sometimes hard to believe it’s captured the hearts of so many people. But there’s an ebb and flow, a rhythm to the city that makes my heart ache in a way I’ve never felt before. I feel like New York sings a different tune for everyone that wanders its streets. LA doesn’t give a shit what you want to hear, but if you like the sound, you’re welcome to stay and chill bit.

As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in a bar in DTLA, and I wonder if my life would actually change If I leave NY and live somewhere else. Would being 3000 miles away from where I am now mean I will finally get my shit together? Will I actually finish something for once? Will I be disciplined and not get so distracted?

I don’t know. I’ve said those words more times than I can count in the last couple days. I don’t know. Sure it would be nice to have some sort of idea. But I’m starting to think my problems began and end with me.

Is there a way to make myself different that doesn’t include reinventing the wheel? If so, I don’t know the formula. I feel so vague sometimes about what I want and what my goals are that parts of this weekend fell short. How can something  or someplace be everything that I need if I don’t know what I want or need in the first place?

At this point I’m reminded of a quote from Khaled Hosseini. It goes, “I tell myself I am searching for something. But more and more, it feels like I am wandering, waiting for something to happen to me, something that will change everything, something that my whole life has been leading up to.” I’ve been feeling this way a lot lately. Sure I’m moving forward but to what end? What’s the purpose? What’s the point?

I of course don’t mean that in a “nothing matters” kind of way. I’m just having an issue deciphering what matters most to me. I sometimes wonder what I would do if I knew the date of my death. Would that give my arc more sense, more structure? Would a solid timeline make this seem less like an amorphous blob and more a structural unit of time? Is that even what I want or need?

What I want is to be sure. To be so sure of something that any questions or contrary statements become moot before they even reach my ears. But I don’t think that ever really happens to anyone. There are too many choices, too many different paths to take. I have a wealth of options. And I know, it’s a good problem to have.

As I am sitting in this bar alone I look around at everyone who has made this place their home. Perhaps the difference between them and me is not that they are sure, but that they are committed. Maybe they didn’t know what they wanted, but they found something and they stuck with it. I don’t know if that’s the solution. But it would make the day to day a little easier.

I think I’ll have another beer though. That’s pretty much the only thing I’m sure about. That and it smells like weed in this bar. Oh California. Stay cool and never change.

TrumpCare is a MENACE

19222709_274603609675702_8059141608461991491_oThe thing that keeps me up right now is Trumpcare, and you all know that because you follow me on Facebook and I haven’t posted about anything else in days. Weeks. Months. YEARS. WHO KNOWS. It’s gotten to the point where people at work are asking me to send them things because I’ve become that girl with the list of links about healthcare. Since most of you don’t actually work with me, I’ve put them for you here instead:

https://www.ouramendments.org/ – the budget reconciliation process that the Republicans are using to pass the healthcare bill allows for unlimited amendments. If Democrats propose like 4,000 amendments, we could theoretically delay the bill until midterms. You can basically use that link to submit your own amendment and it gets sent to the healthcare aids of your senators and it goes to Minority Leader Chuck Schumer because he’s the one who decides strategy. It’s a creative way to advocate without having to actually talk to people on the phone, which, let’s face it, is the worst.

https://www.indivisibleguide.com/resource/withholding-consent-filibuster-amendment-call-script/ – call scripts for Democratic Senators. They also have links to ones for Republicans and Republicans in the ten vulnerable states where people might flip.

Honestly, these scripts have good info, but they are kind of involved. If you want to have a conversation with the person who answers the phone, that’s AWESOME. And I full support that and there’s a lot of good info for that here. I rarely want to have an actual conversation so I usually just go with something like

“Hi, my name is [NAME]  and I’m a constituent from [ZIPCODE] and I’d like to leave a comment for the Senator”

“Sure, go ahead”

“I’d like to ask that the Senator do whatever he/she can to block passage of the TrumpCare bill. Whether it’s by filibustering, filibustering by amendment or objecting to unanimous consent, I hope that he/she will do whatever they can to make sure that this bill doesn’t pass. We need to see leadership from our Democratic Senators, and we need to see them fighting for us and our loved ones.”

“Great, I’ll pass that along!”

“Thanks, and have a great day!”

“You too.”

END.

You can also call the HELP committee to yell at them for abdicating their responsibility to hold hearings on this bill if you’re feeling ambitious, by calling: 202-224-5375. If you want a script for that, let me know, and I’ll write one.

https://www.trumpcareten.org/ – if you know anyone who lives in Alaska, West Virginia, Maine, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Louisiana or Arkansas, they have particularly vulnerable Senators or Senators who might be persuaded not to vote for Trumpcare, and you can pass those resources along if they are inclined to do something about it.

https://swingleft.org/district-funds – if you’d rather just donate money, feel free! Swing Left is fundraising for the future opponents of Republicans so that after a Democrat/progressive candidate wins their primary they have a pot of money they can access. People usually spend most of what they’ve fundraised during the primary so this is a good way to give progressive candidates a running start. Pick some Republicans who voted yes on AHCA so that the Senators in those states know that there is national pressure.

https://www.vox.com/health-care – finally, Vox has been doing some EXCELLENT healthcare coverage, from what’s wrong with the way they are passing the bill now, to facts about what’s probably in it that you can use to argue with friends, coworkers, family, people on the street or the MAGA assholes on Twitter.

If you have any questions, let me know because I honestly can’t help myself.

Ten Years Ago

466944AE-4F7E-4125-9277-63F3DE9DA65ETen years ago yesterday, I graduated from high school. Ten years ago yesterday, I began a long journey backwards. Suddenly I didn’t know myself, was afraid to know myself. I wasn’t the person I thought I was and the pond was a lot bigger and I was a lot smaller. Ten years ago I wandered off and there are many things I’d like to change about that path I took. But ten years after that I’m glad I’m learning to know myself.

Ten years ago today, in the earliest hours of the morning, I was ready to let you do anything. I didn’t know myself but I thought maybe you could help me figure it out. Maybe you’d see something in me, something you found interesting, something you loved, and I could love that thing too. It took me a long time to figure out that when you looked at me you saw a mirror and you didn’t care at all about the girl trapped inside it.

It’s hard to believe that I don’t care that much about you anymore, since every now and again I have to write this story down. But ten years after that, I’ve found many things to love and many questions left to answer. And I am learning that I don’t need anyone else’s hands or help. The pond hasn’t gotten any smaller, but I like to think I’m growing. I know more now, at least a little bit more, about all the things I don’t know, about all the things I want to know and all the things I don’t.

You do not become a person when seen, I remind myself. You were a person the whole time. You are not a mirror, not a slate, not unmolded. You are raised and raising, known and unknown. You have a heart that beats for no one else, lungs that breathe and feet that walk and hands that write for no one else. It’s hard to remember, with all this noise, with all the things you can give and all the people that can take. But I am a person, myself.

Ten years ago yesterday, I graduated from high school and ten years ago yesterday I wandered off. But don’t worry. Ten years after that and I found that girl and we are wandering back.

Instagram is a Lie

IMG_0653 (1)Sometime last year, I wrote about a time when I screwed up majorly at work, and how we don’t talk about that enough. And in that same vein, I am here today to tell you that Instagram is a lie.

Many of you, or approximately 20 of you at last count anyway, saw the picture I posted earlier today of my farmers market haul and the beginnings of my vegetable stock. With cocktail in hand, I must confess to you all that mere hours after that photo was taken I tasted said vegetable stock and found that it was extremely bitter. Like, un-usably bitter.

The internet said to try carrots to sweeten it up, but that didn’t work particularly well, and so it was with a heavy heart that I disposed of a full pot of stock and the vegetable scraps I’d been building up for months. Trying to food better one Sunday at a time, I say? Psh.

IMG_0652 (1)I’ll admit I reacted to this failure pretty well. I spent the next half an hour googling all of the things that could have made the stock so bitter, reassured myself that I still had some chicken stock left and a whole chicken carcass that I could use to make more in the very near future, and stared at the photogenic farmers market haul half of the photo. And least now I know that you really shouldn’t put any cruciferous vegetables in stock (no broccoli, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage etc.), and frankly I had quite a few.

Of course this wouldn’t have been worth a blog post if I had reacted completely rationally. What did this do to my “trying to food better” claims, what about all those scraps I had to throw out? What about the farmers market haul which was primarily things like kale and mushrooms and therefore unlikely to contribute to future stock projects? What does “trying to food better” even mean if you can’t get stock right?

Calm your shit, Sara. This is what happens when former straight A students try new projects.

By some estimates, up to 40% of the food in this country goes uneaten. Additionally, our corporate farm culture has greatly diminished our biodiversity, takes unbelievable amounts of energy to produce and transport subpar stuff, and has in countless ways distorted our diet. And while some of us feast on out of season vegetables that crossed oceans to get to us, much of our most vulnerable populations live in food deserts created by grocery stores that flee for “greener” pastures.

I love food – I love eating it, I love cooking it, I love reading about it and watching things about it (Hey Netflix, GET SOME ACTUAL COOKING SHOWS) and traveling places to get it and trying new and increasingly stranger variations of it. And even I have those days where I’m like being a human is so hard you have to just keep buying food and cooking it and then eating it and you have to come up with all these variations and it takes so much time and then you STILL have to do the dishes. Food is the foundation for a lot of our culture. There is, as Anthony Bourdain says, nothing more political than food. Who makes it, who has access to it, where it comes from – these are questions that drive not only our own individual experiences, but geography and politics and violence around the world.

I’ve been trying to be better. I’m going back to my local farmer’s market every week, and soon I’m going to try buying meat and cheese there as well as produce. (I’m aiming for vegetarian this week because last week was a gluttonous, carnivorous fest in honor of my Dad and Kelly and I all being in the same hemisphere). We can all be a little better about our food, for our own sake’s as well as the planet, but I know can do that a lot easier than others because of health and wealth and a million other kinds of privilege, and I have a responsibility to keep making that choice. So I saved the empty bags and I’ll just keep filling them up.

And try to remember to keep the kale stems out this time, will you Sara?

This rant brought to you by Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which while occasionally a little tone deaf is a pretty lovely introduction to the pleasures and politics of food.

My Queens Extravaganza

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The station where it happened

As I stated last week, things have been going pretty well for me at work. I don’t leave past 8pm these days because, for various reasons that have added up, I’ve become integral to the department. But overall, everything right now is good! But, as I have also stated on this blog, things have not always been this great — this was particularly true right before I left for Christmas vacation last year, when I had royally screwed up on something. It was a one off mistake, but it was a very large one, and I was feeling awful about it.

This is an important detail, because when I am feeling insecure at work, I feel insecure in pretty much everything else I do. Which brings us to a Saturday in December, the weekend before Sara and I left for Australia, where our story starts.

My friend Jackson Bird was hosting his annual holiday party at his place in Queens. This is probably the only time when I ever get to Queens throughout the year because it is quite far from Hoboken. The journey on this cold christmasy weekend was made even longer because the only trains that could take us to Manhattan from Hoboken were downtown near the World Train Center, making our journey approximately an hour and a half long. Yay for public transit! So Sara, and our friends Taekia and Megan got our shit together and trekked out to Astoria.

The party itself was awesome. Jackson is a great host and there was wine and good food and company. We also had a fantastic conversation with the other party guests about how awesome the Fast and the Furious franchise is. Everything was going so well!

Did this last? Of course not! By the time we decided to leave, it was around 1am and I was pretty drunk. White wine will do that to you. While at Jackson’s I remember grabbing my purse and jacket and getting to the train station. But at this point, everything starts blur. I remember arriving at the 30th Ave station and waiting for the train, but after that, nothing. It wasn’t until we got to the World Train Center that I started to get my shit together — and realized that my purse was no where to be found.

I immediately started to panic. I had lost all my possesstions because I was drunk and dumb! I was a terrible human being that no one should trust!  I was drunk yelling this all to Sara (who was appropriately alarmed) as I walked through the train trying to see if I had left my purse there (instead of finding it, a homeless man yelled at me, apologizing for his vomit – welcome to New York). It soon became clear that I had not left my purse on the train, and that it was either back at Jackson’s, at the 30 Ave station subway stop, or in the ether. And I got really mad at myself. I thought about all the shit I would have to go through if my purse was really stolen or gone. I felt like shit. I luckily still had my phone, but all my cards and keys and everything would be lost forever. I sobbed about how I couldn’t do anything right, not my job or in my personal life. Being drunk will do that to you.

Megan, who was traveling with Sara and I, offered me her metro card and then promptly left (as she should have!) while Sara tried to calm me down. As it was 2:30 in the morning, she was very much in the camp of me going home and trying to figure out what happened to my purse the next day. But I was adamant. I needed to at least try to find my purse and damn it! no one was going to stop me. I was gonna fix this. So Sara let me go, making me promise I would keep her in the loop.

So I got an uber (It was truly a #blessing that I hadn’t lost my phone) and went all the way back to Queens. Though I was still kinda drunk, I was focused and was able to find my way back to the 30th Ave station. I went down and had a look, but no luck — my purse was no where to be found. So I went to the station manager’s window, just to see if someone had picked it up (knowing my luck was minimal). She offered to make a few calls, so I waited.

The next moment is when everything started turning around for me. The station manager called me over — my purse had been found! It was in a police station in Briarwood, Queens and I could pick it up that night. Halle-fucking-lujah. Briarwood was another 7 stops away on the F train, so I hauled my ass to the boonies of Queens in search of salvation. I arrived at the police station and explained my situation. They went into the back and pulled out purse! I almost cried I was so happy! This never happens! Surely this means God loves me!

At this point my phone was at 6% battery but I called Sara (who was playing along at home) to tell her of my success (I also put her on speaker phone so the entire station could hear our conversation — I think I was the the cutest drunk girl the police had encountered that night). At this point, it was about 4 in the morning. I established that nothing had been taken from my purse, signed a piece of paper saying I had picked it up, and then asked when the next F train to Manhattan (seeing as an uber from Queens to Hoboken would’ve cost me like a thousand dollars). The policeman who was helping me, looked at the schedule and said, “actually there’s one arriving now.” I grabbed my purse and ran and caught the train. I got out around 50th street in Manhattan and immediately got an uber. $50 dollars later, at approximately 5 in the morning, I walked into my room in Hoboken and collapsed on my bed.

Long story short, I paid about $75 worth in ubers and a whole night of my time to get my purse back so I wouldn’t have to be inconvenienced by canceling cards and getting new keys. I felt something had finally gone my way and that the universe was willing to be nice to me, as long as I was willing to cough up the goods. Was it worth it? Sure, why not.

Love Your Disruptions

IMG_1449On my birthday this year, Kelly pointed out in her birthday message that I am “always down for an adventure provided at some point sleep and food are in the equation,” and while I’ve always wanted to be a spontaneous, adventurous person, I have to admit that’s not entirely the case.

I’ve said this before, I’m sure, but I’m a creature of habit. My mom always used to point this out at the end of the summer, when I had started getting irritable and lazy. I needed the routine of school back. Every time I’ve moved to a new place, I feel loose and unsettled and anxious until I can make my bed and my lunch and my own coffee, and I know what the next few days are going to look like. I like adventures, sure, but I need something to come back to that makes sense, and I always pack granola bars and water.

Sleep and I have always had a contentious relationship (hence this blog) so its less that I need sleep in my adventures and more that I need to come back to my routine afterwards so I have a chance of making up for all of that sleep I lost while I was romping around…wherever I was.

I say this all as a preface for pointing out that this spring has been, well, weirdly not like that. Whether I’ve been house sitting or traveling or making plans for the rest of the year, my routine has been, shall we say, disrupted. And I find myself in the midst of all of that insanity thinking to myself, “just get through this week, and then things will get back to normal,” or more recently “you’ll be done after May – just get through May and things will get back to normal.”

Nothing lasts forever, and time is always passing no matter what, and I’ve used this technique to get me through many, many things – presentations or meetings I’m nervous about, conversations I’m not looking forward to, excessively long plane rides, periods of uncertainty. In 24 hours it’ll be over. This time tomorrow I’ll know. Only 93 hours until I’m past this and back in my bed.

Lately though, in perhaps a kind of new year new me style, an unintended resolution and an accidental mantra, I’ve been making myself stop doing that. The point of life is not to get to the next period of calm, the next set of days where you don’t have to think too hard because you’re going to know exactly what each day is going to look like. I’ve never wanted things to be that easy, and it only occurred to me recently that it wasn’t just the comfort of my routine I was looking for, but the safety of it.

I’ve been out of my apartment almost every other weekend since the beginning of March. I’m going to Seattle this week to reunite with two of my best friends from college. My dad’s coming to town next week and I’m house sitting in TriBeCa again. I’m planning a trip to Nashville. I’m going to Vietnam in September and I’m going back to poke around Australia again over Christmas. I’ve just about used up all of my vacation days and Summer Fridays are coming up soon. It’s going to be warm and there are so many things to see and I’m going to relish these disruptions. I’m going to remember that the point is not to get past things, but to enjoy them.