Whip It–more than a “Lesbian Fantasy, Disguised.”

Reasons “Whip It” is a fantastic movie:Whip-It-Poster

  1. It shows a believable coming of age story of a girl who goes from being lost to having a backbone
  2. It features a strong cast of women and is very women-centric in production–for goodness sakes, it was directed by Drew Barrymore!
  3. It features one of the best underground sports–ROLLER DERBY–which is defined by its strong women.
  4. It shows one of the healthiest relationships I’ve seen in a movie, ever. “Healthy” defined as “Not Obsessive.

Imagine my disappointment when I find one of my favorite pop-culture websites–After Ellen–happily embracing it as nothing more than what Jeremy Clymen of Psychology Today calls a “Lesbian Fantasy, Disguised.”

Where do I even begin with such an inherently flawed idea? Let’s start at the beginning. Clymen writes:

“This film purports to be the story of a small town adolescent who rebels and finds her genuine identity as roller derby star athlete. But I think this film is also a secret communication to closeted lesbians living in hostile places in which the closet is the only safe place to be. Let’s back up before we get into conspiracy theories. “Whip It” is directed by a female (Barrymore), its protagonist is female (Page), and the story is about a girl who becomes a woman in a female dominated world. There isn’t a serious male character to be seen.”

Really? The reason you’re seeing a lesbian undercurrent is because OMG! the film is directed by a female? The protaganist is female? The setting is dominated by women? All of these equate “Lesbian” for you? Really?

He almost has a point with the lack of serious male character–almost. A quick look at the film and you’ll see most of the guy characters as lacking a lot of those “masculine” qualities. But a further look at “Whip It” as a film type, and you’ll see a lot of women characters who are on equal footing. Have you seen Drew Barrymore’s character? Don’t tell me you take her seriously. And also, it’s funny how easily he puts off the male characters. Razor (played by Andrew Wilson), the coach of the Hurl Scouts, starts off as your average surf dude who doesn’t seem all that impressive, but he ended up as one of my favorite characters. He was smart. He knew how to design plays so the Hurl Scouts could go from the bottom of the barrel to a top notch roller derby team. Way to go Clymen, way to pass superficial judgement. Let’s not forget the hot indie rocker Oliver (played by Landon Pigg). If you’re looking for a serious male character, he is one of the few. His role was honest and not just played for comic relief.

Next point of interest that Clymen makes:

” A couple points here:  A. “Whip It” is about roller blading, which this movie defines as a group of half-drunk women, in tight athletic gear and rollerblades muscling each other for inside positioning, as a few key teammates weave in and out of the pack. Those that have finesse are chased by those that have strength, somewhat akin to the cat and mouse pursuit of a top and bottom sexual power dynamic (there’s a reason the standard sexual position is missionary). In short, this game is a metaphor for sex.

B. The protagonist, Bliss (Page), behaves in the way that a lesbian might behave before she knows she’s a lesbian. We meet her just as she’s playfully dying her hair blue for a beauty pageant. Her inexplicably love for roller derby is incited by the image of three women pushing each other on rollerblades. She dumps her boyfriend with suspicious ease and celerity. She’s an adolescent who likes to be different, is experimental and puts a boyfriend second to roller derby.”

Point A of Clymen’s theory has absolutely no basis. Clearly he’s unfamiliar with Roller Derby except as a fictional sport portrayed by the film.

So, let’s start with point B. Since when does a girl “playfully dying her hair blue” equal “lesbian”? Answer: It doesn’t. A girl’s hair color is simply that: hair color. It is not a signifier of sexual orientation.

Clymen says that Bliss’s love for roller derby is incited by three women pushing each other on roller blades. What Bliss (as played by Ellen Page) saw was women who didn’t fit into the social standard as she knew it–the social standard being pretty women who were pageant winners and socially acceptable in the school highways. What she saw were women who were like herself–who didn’t fit into that social standard–but were happy and didn’t CARE that they didn’t fit into society’s standards. What she saw was nothing more than women being themselves with no fear of repercussion.

When Bliss goes to her first roller derby, she tells one of the Derby women that they were her new heroes. The response: Be your own hero.Page Victorious

This line is the most important line of the film, and as cliche as it might be, it means the world to a girl who is shy, stuck in a place she doesn’t feel she belongs, and is trying to figure out who she really is. This line may seem simple, but it’s not. As a woman who has been softspoken most of my life and am only now learning to really speak up and make my opinion heard, I’m still trying to apply this mantra of “be your own hero” to my own life. The reason this movie is so wonderful and so necessary is that it’s about a girl learning to take her own strength into her own hands. It’s about a girl learning to live by her own means. And it’s about giving that girl the opportunity to.

And god forbid, in Clymen’s world, that a girl find what she wants to do to the point that her passion for that thing exceeds the point of her relationship status. God Forbid a woman fall so in love with something like the roller derby that she can’t hold onto a relationship. GOD FORBID that she should be able to break up with her boyfriend and NOT be traumatized. Clymen says that Bliss’s break-up is done with “suspicious ease”. Did he miss the parts where Bliss fell apart because she was so upset that he would cheat on her and let some other girl wear her favorite T-Shirt? Is he so dense that he doesn’t understand how important the roller derby became to her? Did he miss the fact that being part of the Hurl Scouts provided Bliss with a sense of belonging, a sense of family and a sense of identity? Clearly he did. Or maybe he’s right. Maybe the only reason she was able to break up with Oliver and move on was that she’s actually a lesbian.

COME ON, people. Grow up. And appreciate this film for what it is: an ode to female empowerment. A much needed film giving voices to girls who’ve been silenced by the hierarchy of high school and family expectations. A film that celebrates that women have passions outside of relationships and outside of shopping.

Thank you, Drew Barrymore, for directing this movie. Thank you, Shauna Cross, for originally penning this story. Thank you for showing that women can be strong and vocal individuals. Thank you for thinking outside the box, even though some people are still missing the point.

Snow White: A Little More Feminist, Still Homophobic

Like most new movies, I was not expecting much from Sydney White (alternative title: Sydney White and the Seven Dorks), but my sister made me watch it.

And it was, let’s face it, amusing. Maybe a little more than amusing.

For one thing, a girl who can install a water filtration system in less than an hour and expects her going away to college present to be a hammer she’s been wanting–being raised by a single dad who happens to be a plumber can lead to such interests–is pretty much awesome. In addition to her interests in fixing what needs to be fixed, she can also throw a football to make an actual football player jealous. What’s not to love about Sydney White?

On the surface-it’s a brilliant movie. The references to the classic fairy tale are priceless. Rachel Witchburn, the sorority president for Kappa Phi Nu (the infamous all blonde Kappas) takes the place of the evil stepmother in her quest to be the hottest (an online rating for the attractiveness of SAU students–the Hot or Not list), the seven dorks living in the non greek house The Vortex takes the place of the seven dwarves (and yes, all dwarves are represented, but some are more easily spotted than others. Lenny, due to his unfortunate alergies, is obviously Sneezy. Embele, the Nigerian transfer student who is still jet lagged despite having been in the US for about three years, is obviously Sleepy. And if you couldn’t tell that George was supposed to be Dopey…well, I don’t know what to tell you. Samm Levine’s character, Spanky, wasn’t an obvious Happy. but maybe that’s just me. Oh–and Yes, that IS SAMM LEVINE from FREAKS AND GEEKS…and he plays the same type of character!) There is a poisoned apple (watch and see) and yes it does result in putting Sydney White to sleep and yes her boy wakes her up with a kiss, but it’s refreshing to see him not just wake her up to take her away, but to exhault in her and say that people are waiting for HER to save the day.

So where’s the problem?

It’s a tiny one.

Oh so tiny. Like everything else produced in Hollywood, Sydney White is an example of a “this is close but not quite” what I want to see.

The biggest issue I had with Sydney White was when Sydney was running for student president and she was making major efforts to reach out to the various campus groups-the football team, the ROTC members, the Jewish kids and the GLBTIQ campus group. Yay, right?

Not so much. All the groups except for the queer campus group was in full representation. The ROTC members doing their militant routines, the Jewish kids socializing and having fun, and the queer group? Well, it was a pathetic showing. It was like, “Hey, look we have a group of gay kids but it’s small. they really ARE the minority.” Not to mention the main student the group focused in on was a student who looked like he was in very bad drag and read poetry that in the two seconds that he read-asks to be mocked. (And in the credits on imdb he’s Danny the Tranny. Might add a tiny bit more depth to the character, but the name itself is almost annoying….) And he was reading his poetry to a group that included mostly Sydney and her group of friends and a tiny amount of other students.

first of all, if you’re on a campus and there’s a group for gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender/intersex/questioning there’s going to be a need for it. Which means there’s gonna be a lot more than, say, 5 students in the group. I’ve been a campus leader so I know there are off years for plenty of groups, but if the campus group in the movie was willing to reserve a big room for their poetry night, they would have marketed to their audience (and beyond) and would have done A LOT better in filling that room than that movie represented.

It’s almost as if the movie execs behind Sydney White were saying, hey, ROTC is cool, Jews are cool, athletes are cool, but really, the gay people don’t really exist except in a tiny number. Hmm. If that idea’s true…where are these funny ideas about same sex marriage coming from? And these funny ideas on protecting you from being bullied based on sexual orientation? Are those really coming from one or two people.

I. Don’t. Think. So.

May I recommend you watch Before Stonewall and After Stonewall if you think the GLBTIQ population is that small.

And another  thing that bugged me about Sydney White…Well, it was definitely a WHITE movie. The only non-white (and non-blonde, for that matter) is one of the seven dorks, Embele. And let me get this out: He’s my favorite of the seven dorks. Seriously. He was snoozing in a Poli-Sci class and the professor asks him a question thinking he wouldn’t answer it, and he answered it straight up. and then went back to sleep. He’s gotta be the smartest of the 7. But again, he spends a good amount of the movie asleep…he gets nowhere near the amount of screentime that Gurkin, Spanky, George or Terrence gets. He’s just there. Token black guy? More than likely. Wouldn’t it be nice if movie execs realized that we’re in 2008 and there’s a lot more diversity?

Oh. and as to the elusive black woman…? She definitely didn’t exist in Sydney White. Apparently Sydney White and her cohorts didn’t have to reach out to a group like UNC’s Black Student Movement.

So yay for Snow White finding white feminism! Now she just needs to go further and find that feminism isn’t (or shouldn’t be) just about white women.

 

Random 10 & Bitch arrives at BYU

I found this lovely image at BYU (Brigham Young University in Provo, UT…a college made up of many, many Mormon students).

bITch @ BYU

Needless to say, it made me happy…

And now, onto the random 10.

1. Carmen-Paula Cole
2. Bitch-Meredith Brooks
3. Ode to the Prostitute- The Bastard Fairies
4. Sleeping With Ghosts-Placebo
5. Nag-Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
6. Like O, Like H-Tegan and Sara
7. Contents Hot-Redhot Secret
8. Interlude-Mosadi Music
9. Solomon-Me’Sell Ndegeocello
10. Atonement-Opeth

This week’s video:

’tis the beginning of the end…

And good riddance. 2007 was a good year as far as years go, but I’m looking forward to a new year with JD GLASS ROXXnew opportunities. and here are a few of the reasons:

AMERICAN GOTH by JD GLASS will finally be released. I loved Punk Like Me and I have a feeling American Goth will rule just as much.

MY RUIN is coming out with a new album which promises to be good. Really good.

The Breeders are back! You might know them from their single Cannon Ball. Their newest album: Mountain Battles
Welcome back Kim Deal. we ❤ you.

The Women, Action, & the Media conference is coming up late March. I wanna go. *sticks money in pocket to save money*

SPIDERWICK will be the bestselling movie in February. Ok, I exaggerate. maybe a lot. but I for one cannot wait to see the Spiderwick Chronicles in movie form. This has extreme potential since movie graphics have come so far. the faeries will look way awesome and btw, have I mentioned I can’t wait to see it?

I <3 faeries

Well for the moment…that’s all I got. Any new releases you know about? share ’em with me. I wanna know what you know. 2008…will be a good year. *crosses fingers*