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.

 

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.

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.

Wanted: A Millennial who knows what the f*ck she’s doing

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I talk (write?) a lot about my job on this blog and how hard it was to get where I am today (currently on my bed, watching bob’s burgers, in a blanket burrito). But it’s not like I spent my childhood dreaming of being an agent’s assistant, or even working in publishing. My quote-unquote dream job changed fairly often as I was growing up and they all spanned a multitude of subjects.

When I was very little I wanted to be an illustrator. I always loved drawing, requesting sketch pads and crayons every Christmas. I remember one weekend, where my sister and I sat at my grandmother’s dining room table using water colors to paint, thinking that my sister was going to write books, and I was going to draw things for them. But I soon realized that my talents were never going to get any better than my third grade hand.

Once I realized this, I shifted focus. Dolphins had recently become my favorite animal and getting to spend days splashing around with them sounded like absolute bliss (reminder this was a pre blackfish world we were living in). This desire to train sea animals lasted throughout most of middle school until one day my mom took me to the Baltimore Aquarium to see an actual dolphin show (to help support my interests – thanks mom!). During the performance, one of the trainers talked about how one becomes a trainer, and listed the many books and courses one would have to read and take – and though I’m not proud of this, the  thought of all that work just to play with dolphins soured the whole process. So naturally I switched to a much more manageable career.

Not. Around the end of middle school/early high school I was reading a lot of non-fiction and was also getting into my family history. Not to mention, my immediate family and I were always into shows like The West Wing and NCIS. All of this contributed to my desire to be a spy for the CIA. My maternal grandfather had worked for the CIA and I was intrigued by international travel and the excitement of a high stakes environment. So, to once again foster support for my budding interests, my mom took me to the International Spy Museum in DC and bought me a memoir written by a former agent. But after this and my own extensive research it became apparent that a life of a spy was much harder and a lot more boring than I originally had thought. And I was slowly becoming much more interested in talking to “interesting people” than actually being an “interesting person” myself.

This was the beginning of a hope for a career in journalism. In high school I got super into music and subscribed to Rolling Stone magazine. I loved how the editors covered any topic under the sun and weren’t afraid to tout controversial ideas (this was about ten years ago when legalized weed was still a pretty controversial issue). I learned all about the history of music and politics and Hunter S. Thompson. I found new and interesting people to follow on budding social media websites. And this interest eventually led me to other quirky outlets such as McSweeny’s Quarterly Concern. All of this showed me that anything can be a story if you tell it interestingly enough. And it seemed like all the writers in these magazines got to sit down with the “most interesting people in the world” and ask them questions about why they do what they do. Nothing sounded more fascinating to me.

To this day I am still fascinated by it. Though my focus in college shifted from journalism to history, I still wanted to write and talk about interesting people and social trends. But what changed is the kinds of stories that I wanted to tell. In college I realized that I didn’t just want to be a mouth piece for something or someone else. I wanted to create something new – by myself, for myself. Once I realized I wasn’t going to pursue a journalism career, I started looking at avenues that would allow me to think about and work on stories every day. Thus when I graduated, I started to look for jobs in publishing.

Today I still don’t necessarily know what my passion is or “what I want to be when I grow up.” I know that I have always wanted to perform and draw and act and express my self visually. And I know that I have the skills and connections to navigate an industry that can be unrelenting. But I wish I wasn’t so timid about expressing my passions no matter what they are. Sometimes I am afraid that my lack commitment to any career or idea, will result in me never finding something that truly fills my soul.

But perhaps, I won’t ever need to figure that out. Barring some lack of inherent talent, I knew that if I worked hard enough, I would be capable of pursuing every career listed above – and maybe that’s all that matters.

How I got my dentist to pay me for cavities

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First look at this adorable baby

Hi everyone! We’re back! Kind of…we’re certainly trying. We had to take a break because we got busy and the world got super depressing. The orange man was elected and is fucking shit up, Flint Michigan still doesn’t have clean water, and society is constantly on edge, making sure we don’t take one step too far over the ledge. I don’t have to tell you how exhausting all that is. So instead, please read this story about how I managed to get paid to have cavities.

Our story begins about a year ago. I had finally gotten my shit together and made a dentist appointment after a year or so of avoiding it. I couldn’t bear my father’s disappointment (again) so one Tuesday afternoon I found myself in my least favorite place. I got a cleaning done and was told I had four cavities, which sucked but isn’t the worst thing to ever happen at a dentist office to a Danver (ask Sara about how she once had 12 cavities…).

After the cleaning, I didn’t want to waste anymore of my afternoon so I told the dentist I would reschedule to have the cavities filled another time and asked for a quote on what the fillings would cost. I had recently found out my insurance didn’t cover fillings, (which is a whole other problem) so I was a bit wary of what the cost might be. According to the office, the four fillings would come to roughly $1,100.

My jaw dropped. I DON’T HAVE THAT KIND OF MONEY! I HAVE LOANS AND I OCCASIONALLY LIKE TO EAT.

Once I stopped laughing I left the dentist’s office and went back to work and cried like a baby to my parents. They agreed to help me financially in whatever way I needed but suggested I start looking elsewhere for dental hygiene. They suggested I look at NYU dental school because students are adorable and cheap. I thought why the hell not, so I called and made an introductory appointment.

The thing about dental students is that they have to work very slowly, as every stage of their work has to be checked by an actual professor. I was okay with this, as long as no mistakes we made, plus it meant more time out of the office – so far this situation was a win win. As my student dentist, Robert, was checking my x-rays at this first visit, he focused on two specific cavities.

“Those are textbook cavities,” he said.

“What does that mean?” I replied.

“It means they’re beautiful. These cavities deserve the greatest treatment possible – to be put on a pedestal.” As he said this, he placed a single hand on the monitor, a tear rolling down his cheek.

ANYWAYS, to make long story short he asked me if we could wait to fill those cavities for his dental boards, the equivalent of the dental school final exam. And in exchange for this, he said he would pay me. As a broke, pretend adult, my immediate reaction was of course, where do I sign. So over the last few months, my student dentist Robert has filled my other two cavities and at one point even threw in a free cleaning. He also prescribed me some prescription toothpaste so that these two cavities wouldn’t turn into root canals.

So after a year of slowly filling in cavities and making random appointments, tomorrow at 8am I will be walking into the NYU dental center to spend 4-5 hours getting two cavities filled while multiple dental professors and students stare into my mouth my long periods of time. I will walk away with some spare change, clean teeth, and the knowledge that I helped a dental student achieve his dreams.

There are worse ways to spend a Saturday.

An Education

Sara and I recently started a collaborative playlist on Spotify called EDUCATION. It’s where we put music that we are super into for whatever reason. This is another why for us to get in each other’s brains while finding awesome new music.

In that vain, here are ten songs that are currently rocking my world and should probably also rock yours.

Nicola La / Ruby and the RabbitFoot / Divorce Party

 

Underdressed / VÉRITÉ / Underdressed

 

Dark Days / Local Natives / Sunlit Youth

 

Friends (feat. Bon Iver / Francis and the Lights / Single

 

Girls Your Age / Transviolet / Girls Your Age

 

We Don’t Talk Anymore (feat. Selena Gomez) / Charlie Puth / Nine Track Mind

 

Killing Me / Ofelia K / Killing Me

 

Blue Boss / Sampa the Great / Blue Boss

 

Get Low / James Vincent McMorrow / Get Low

 

Tropicana / Topaz Jones / Tropicana

Maybe you’re an idiot, but I am also an idiot

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Yesterday I got into an argument on Facebook. Which is never a promising way to start any sentence. This particular argument was related to the current election and I wasn’t the only one engaging with our adversary, but I was the only one to call this person an idiot.

This is something that I am neither proud of nor ashamed of. This person was in fact, being an idiot – they disregarded facts, did not listen to or acknowledge any points based on facts, and effectively said that EL James’ 50 Shades of Grey did not represent an abusive relationship because it was a best seller. There are many people I know who would say I was perfectly within my right to call this person an idiot. And I must say, it felt good.

But as good as it felt, if there’s one thing I think we call all agree on as a species, it’s that getting called stupid or an idiot or whatever really sucks. Instead of making us look at our life and look at our choices, being called an idiot usually makes us retreat further into our schools of thought, making us stew in self-righteous anger, being all moody and misunderstood.

No matter my feelings in the moment, I should probably have spent more time imagining this person complexly. Who knows exactly how they came to their way of thinking, but that doesn’t really matter. They are perfectly entitled to their opinion. And if I truly believe that they are fundamentally wrong, there are better ways to change people’s minds.

One of the most interesting pieces I read in 2015 was an article in The New Yorker about a women, Megan Phelps-Roper, who was raised in the Westboro Baptist Church and ran social media for the church, and how that lead to her questioning her beliefs and everything Westboro stands. While she spent her time tweeting things that made people cringe, she eventually came in contact with a Jewish web-developer named David Abitbol, who goes by the twitter handle @jewlicious. Though they would spend hours debating online, they enjoyed their back and forth, Roper-Phelps even admitting she liked that he was friendly.

Abitbol says in the article that he learned that relating to hateful people on a human level was the best way to deal with them. As Roper-Phelps continued to tweet her views, Abitbol politely countered her them, making himself as approachable as possible in order to humanize himself to her. His plan worked and he eventually changed her mind on some of Westboro’s most important doctrines. Her interactions with him led to her meeting others online who challenged her ways of thinking and eventually she left the church.

Now this of course took years. Roper-Phelps wasn’t convinced her previous way of thinking was wrong after just one interaction online. She had to chip away at it and she had to be open enough to believe there were other people out there that were good and held different opinions than hers. But without the compassion that some of her adversaries had for her, she may never have changed her mind.

I’m not saying that there was ever a way I could’ve reasoned with this person, especially on Facebook. And not everyone can change their minds. But it was a good reminder that change starts at the bottom, and it starts with us treating each other as people. Maybe not good people…but people nonetheless. It’s what this election is all about; the complexity of our systems and the complexity of ourselves.

So on November 8th, no matter what you think or believe, you should vote. Because people died to give you the right to vote and that goes for all of us idiots too.

If you’re interested in reading the article I mentioned, you can find it here: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/11/23/conversion-via-twitter-westboro-baptist-church-megan-phelps-roper

Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/6262122778