Category Archives: Rant

Wonder Woman: The Most Baffling Movie of the Year

Wonder Woman…is the definition of “okay.” Not good, not great, not “the worst thing I have ever seen in my life.” Just “okay.”

Actually, no. It’s also a sad testament to the low bar that is modern female empowerment. It is too aware of itself, feels the need to make you constantly aware of it, and thus lacks any kind of subtlety in its execution.

 

To tell you that DC is trying to be Marvel is the equivalent of telling an Olympic swimmer that water is wet, so let’s not even dwell on that. But no, they still haven’t figured out the formula, let alone how to make it their own. 

As a main character, Diana of Themyscira…doesn’t really have one. She’s a classic fish out of water, much like Chris Hemsworth’s Thor in his first movie (or Crocodile Dundee, He-Man, Tarzan, etc. for that matter), but the only dimension they added to her is that she’s extremely naïve about mankind and the world he inhabits. She thinks that humans are only corrupted by presence of Aries, the Greek God of War, so it comes as quite a shock when she explores London for the first time and realizes that good and evil are not so black and white after all.

We’ll have to come back to that plot element later. Other than that, Diana’s job is to be a “strong, confident woman” who shakes up 1910’s society with her outspokenness, strength, and passion. Oh, and to fall in love with a guy, of course, because we can’t have prominent female characters who don’t hook up or are heavily motivated by a man in some capacity.

 

Oh wait…

Gal Gadot is pretty and plays the role well…such as it is. But she deserves a better character with better writing, and a cast that actually compliments her personality-wise, in addition to needlessly covering her in fights.

Speaking of men and other characters, nobody else in this movie has much of a character either. They’re just kind of walking stereotypes with barely-mentioned backstories, mostly there to gawk at Diana for being hot, powerful, and generally unorthodox. The fat, comic-relief secretary is introduced and then quickly disappears for the rest of the movie, and you wonder why the writers even came up with her at all. Chris Pine cares a lot about marriage and propriety in some scenes, and then in others, he’s awkwardly joking about his penis for agonizingly long moments with Diana. 

The cool Amazonian women feature heavily in the beginning, but only get mentioned once in the second half of the film, basically so that one of the male characters can creepily wish that he could go to “an island full of women like Diana and not a single man among them.”

 

Umm….Ewww and good luck with that, Buddy.

Some of the fight scenes are hilariously nonsensical, and the forced slow-mo moments don’t highlight how badass Diana is to me. They’re just annoying and gratuitous and, as you might imagine, slow things down. Keep the scene moving, Zack Snyder! I know it’s hard, but you can do this!

Along those same lines, at one point, Diana remarks that her new man friend Chris Pine (who can’t hold a German accent if his life depended on it. Just throwing that out there…) should take her straight to the war so she can kill Aries. It’s not a great sign when my boyfriend and I are both sitting there thinking, “Yeah, can we get to the action now? Please?”

The plot is extremely predictable. The writing and dialogue within it can be absolutely cringe-worthy, especially when it comes to Chris Pine and Gal Gadot being alone in a room together. I have so many unanswered Greek Mythology questions, and yet I never even studied the subject that hard in school. Character motivations make no sense when presented the way they are, particularly for Diana’s mother; she is implied to be extremely world-weary, but we never figure out how it happened, and her approach to “protecting” her daughter from Aries is illogical and flip-flops within about ten minutes anyway.

 

Speaking of Aries (MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS INCOMING), wouldn’t it have been much more interesting if he was proven to be a myth after all? Diana builds him up as this scapegoat for why human beings do bad things to themselves and to each other, and then there’s a fake-out where she thinks she killed Aries, but nothing stops or changes after the fact. Instead of focusing on that, which would have strengthened the movie’s message so much more, Aries turns out to be some other guy who was barely in the movie at all, who we didn’t have a fair shake at figuring out in the first place. The writers threw in a red herring and third-act twist, but couldn’t be assed to set it up in a way that would make it feel poignant or clever.

And, more importantly, it weakens the idea that a man has agency and responsibility for his own destructive behavior. They try to hand-wave this away during the epic final battle, with Aries spouting off a bunch of bullcrap about how “he didn’t make men this way! They did it themselves!” But come on! You still could have made a cool final battle scene without this silly, monologuing supervillain, and instead exploring a different direction. One in which Diana doesn’t have a five-minute existential crisis, but instead has to wrestle with it for the rest of the movie and come to terms with the loss of her childhood innocence.

That would be really relatable and interesting, but I guess we can’t ask for too much depth in beat-em-up summer blockbusters.

 

At the very least, if I can’t have smart or competent writing, I would settle for less shallow, meaningless feminist pandering. Reminding me constantly that Wonder Woman is – gasp! – a woman, and yet look at how awesome she is…it’s like listening to a guy explain a joke over and over again and demand that his listeners laugh at it, rather than just telling it and letting it speak for itself. It loses its impact and just comes across as forced, and the fact that I still felt empowered by it is…kind of sad, really.

Fair representation is a tricky thing. A person’s womanhood (or race, sexuality, etc.) tends to look good when it’s incidental to her greater character, because it implies that this is – or should be – the norm. A woman kicking ass shouldn’t be all that surprising or noteworthy, at least not to the point where it requires constant acknowledgement.

But at the same time, making a bigger deal about such a character can also be truly groundbreaking, pointing a purposeful finger at our current societal flaws and status quo, as if to say, “@$%& that! We’re running the show now!”

So there’s no easy or concrete approach to female characters and their framing (personally speaking, I tend to prefer the former option), but I hope we can at least agree that how this movie approached the subject was clumsy, awkward, and unintentionally insulting. It’s damn-near insecure.

 

There is so much more to say about Wonder Woman, but while it was similar to Beauty and the Beast with its hollow simplicity, I didn’t take it nearly as personally because I didn’t care about Wonder Woman at all prior to seeing this film. I did really enjoy moments of it, unlike with Beauty and the Beast, but I can’t point to any deep or compelling reason why for any of them. I relate to being told “you can’t do (insert activity here).” I like watching a girl kick ass and prove nay-sayers wrong. That’s about it. I can get pretty much the exact same feeling out of watching A League of Their Own.

One thing that I like that is fairly unique to Wonder Woman is that Diana isn’t embarrassed by the attention of guys, and has a blasé, almost amusedly detached attitude towards sex when it’s first brought up. Sadly, a lot of female characters in media have one of two settings when it comes to sex and romance: “ultra-virgin” or “ultra-slut,” so it’s nice to see some middle ground in that regard, outside of something like I Spit on Your Grave. But the rest of the romance subplot is predictable and cliché, and it’s too bad the majority of the scene I mentioned is awkward as hell and drags on for forever.

One last thing before we go: at one point, Pine and his secretary are trying to get Diana to wear normal, human clothes so that she will blend in more. Makes sense, right? But besides being confident and forward, she is also (admittedly) gorgeous, so much so that men everywhere become brain-dead protoplasm at the very sight of her.

Pine’s solution? He puts glasses on her to minimize and dim down her distracting beauty.

 

THERE IS NO MIDDLE FINGER BIG ENOUGH, ZACK SNYDER.

 

*5/10

*None of the images used in this post belong to me.

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Love Potions: The Worst Concept Ever Created By Humans

As I said in my Pepé Le Pew post, times are constantly changing, and so too are our perceptions of their subjects. Pointing to derision, mocking, and stalking as evidence that a guy likes a girl is more readily scorned than in previous decades, and, more relevant to today’s discussion, the concept of the love potion becomes less charming and more…creepy, shall we say? Possibly even…the dreaded “R” word?

 

Some might say that the whole idea of love potions was never that great to begin with. After all, romance as a whole is hard to write well, and portraying two people hopeless infatuated with one another often becomes sickening, simplistic, saccharine drivel. It puts one, both, or even multiple characters into a kind of trance, which looks closer to lust than our modern concept of what love is supposed to be, and they digress into illogical, stupid beings with no sense of boundaries.

I would agree there. If a love potion “plot” could be written well, I have yet to see it for myself. But worse still is the still newly-emerging revelation that a character who would willing overlook the thoughts and feelings of another person and simply force them into being with them (explicitly in a sexual way or not) is, quite frankly, a terrible scumbag of a human being.

Think about it: it’s rape in a meta-ethical sense, if not a literal one. A person thinks to himself (or herself), “Gee, I really like this person, but they don’t like me for whatever reason. Let me see if I can override that, whether they like it or not.”

It’s never phrased that way, of course, but that’s the basic subtext.

To keep things even, let’s look at a few notable female examples of this thing being romanticized:

 

Look at something like The Craft. Robin Tunney’s character, Sarah, casts a spell on a guy she likes named Chris, in order to get him to fall in love with her. At one point, Chris becomes so obsessed that he tries to rape her, only for Sarah to escape and her fellow witch and then friend Nancy (played by Fairuza Balk) to come to exact revenge. But despite the despicable nature of this act he tried to commit, no one ever pauses to think that he had limited agency in the overall situation. And I don’t say that to be apologetic; he was literally forced into ‘loving’ Sarah, and the magic just escalated it too far. Chris is punished and killed for something he probably had no control over, but we probably instinctively root for the former (if not the latter) because of our visceral loathing for the act of rape.

 

Let me just say here that I don’t think that having an attraction (physically, emotionally, etc.) to someone is inherently bad or wrong. It’s what you do about it and how you treat that person as a result of it that can cause problems, and the fact that enough people fantasize about forcing someone to fall in love with them that it’s a popular trope in the media makes me very glad that love potions don’t actually exist. Our society would fall into chaos and debauchery, probably just like the golden calf scene in The Ten Commandments.

 

Let’s take another magic movie: Practical Magic. Sandra Bullock’s Sally has a curse that all men who truly love the women of her family will die before their time, and so, as a young girl, she casts a spell that seals her feelings entirely on a man that “doesn’t exist.” She gives him what she thinks are impossible and ridiculous qualities, just so they will never meet and fall in love. But, lo and behold, such a man does meet her over the course of the movie.

 

The idea that Gary is under the influence of a spell and may or may not actually love Sally is never really satisfyingly resolved; at one point, she reveals the truth about her curse and spell to him, and, despite everything he has seen, replies that curses are only real if people believe in them. Sally is still supposed to be likeable, if flawed, but she just decides to take their love on faith, and embraces the man whose agency she took away. He embraces her as well, and they all live happily ever after. The curse did get broken, no doubt allowing Gary to live to a ripe old age, but the spell that binds him to Sally is never really mentioned again. And it’s constantly implied to be romantic because of how sweet and tragic it is!

 

I have some issues with Practical Magic’s overall execution, but that is a review for another time.

In Ancient Athens, stories about infatuation and Aphrodite were regarded as a kind of madness, and the love was basically an object to be acted upon by the “lover.” Gods and other mythical beings mostly got involved with “love” to be dicks and mess with people

 

or because they were arrogant enough to think that they knew better than the people themselves (see A Midsummer Night’s Dream). And yet today, we still see a lot of love potion stories in which we are meant to sympathize with the instigator, for kids no less! (see Breadwinners “Love Loaf” episode and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince for just three random but recent examples)

The “safest” method of execution is to have one or more characters try to bring two other characters together, because he/she/they think they should be.

 

Personally, I prefer Garnet’s approach to love in Steven Universe:

 

The gist:

“Love at first sight doesn’t exist. Love takes time and love takes work. At the very least you have to know the other person…”           

I think that’s a much healthier attitude to teach kids, and I wish it would catch on more in the adult world as well. The idea that love always has to be dramatic or turbulent, but “don’t worry because it’s all worth it in the end” frustrates me, but still more is the idea that wanting to control someone else to such a ludicrous extent isn’t abusive, sociopathic, or just straight up objectification. You don’t have to know the person; you just have to want them badly enough, and thus they deserve to be yours, especially if you’re the protagonist. And if you have a way to make it happen, you’ll do so with no second thoughts.

At least having those would be better than just thoughtlessly making it happen in two seconds.

 

Even the most mindless entertainment can actually change the way we view the world, if its messages are constantly reinforced and we don’t get any variation. Somebody has to challenge the current notions if they are ever going to change, and I know it’s difficult. It’s hard to be different, and it’s hard to discern between what you may be overthinking and what’s actually a problem.

Believe me, I know, but ultimately, thinking about it and demanding more from your entertainment can make things better.

Is Pepé Le Pew a Rapist?

Pepé Le Pew was always my least favorite Looney Tunes character, followed closely by Speedy Gonzalez. Introduced in the mid 1940’s, he’s a skunk obsessed with love, and he always looks for it in all of the wrong places, particularly with the ever-unfortunate Penelope Pussycat.

 

It’s interesting to see how cultural and social attitudes change over the years. While as a kid, I never thought of Pepé as a rapist or sexual harasser, I never found his shtick all that funny. He chases around a poor cat who somehow gets a stripe of white paint down her back in every cartoon, and she gags and squirms violently every time he pulls her close enough to smooch. It’s all the fun of a “will-they-won’t-they” story with none of the suspense or appeal, but three times the annoyance.

I asked a few people from previous generations to explain the “joke,” so to speak, and all of them seemed to give me some variation of, “He’s funny because he’s outrageous and clueless.” …Okay, so he’s a sort of proto-Max Bialystock from The Producers? 

…Yeah, I’m still not buying it.

As I mentioned in my review/comparison of The Producers, the reason we should be laughing (as opposed to horrifyingly shaking our heads in dismay) at Max’s machinations is because they highlight what a pathetic scumbag of a human being he is. There is no question about the wrongness of his actions, and no one person that he hurts or uses (other than the comically neurotic Leo Bloom) is too dragged out or overemphasized. They mostly come and go, or at least provide him with some obstacle or frustration in exchange.

 

What is also very important to remember is that while he has clearly not given up his conman ways by the end of the movie, he failed. He got nothing! He lost! Good day, sir!

However likable he may be, he’s still a louse and a jerk and he gets exactly what he deserves. It’s cathartic, funny, and even contains the slightest bit of commentary.

For a closer comparison, look at Daffy Duck, a fellow Merrie Melody/Looney Tune. He’s a self-proclaimed louse and is often greedy, jealous, and arrogant, but he’s funny because he never succeeds. Bugs Bunny and the other characters always outsmart him, which is good, because he’s usually trying to use or harm them to save himself (see Chuck Jones’s classic hunting trilogy of shorts: Rabbit Fire, Rabbit Seasoning, and Duck! Rabbit, Duck!).

Meanwhile, Pepé Le Pew is meant to be a lovable dolt, and with the exception of a few cartoons, he wins or gets away unscathed in the end. Say what you want about Johnny Bravo; he may never have learned his lesson, but at least he got pummeled repeatedly and painfully by every woman within a 15 yard radius!

Newsflash: a guy who won’t take no for an answer is NOT charming. Harassment (whether it be a singular incident or repeated pattern) is an issue that is very real, terrifying, and traumatizing for a lot of women. In some form or another, it all boils down to one basic point; either explicitly or implicitly, a man tells you that you are an object for him to use and act upon. Your personal comfort and feelings are secondary to his whims, if he even acknowledges them at all.

 

Not that I would wish this upon anyone, but men as a group don’t get consistently told the same thing by women. And I’m not meaning to imply that men can’t go through something similar, that all men do this, or that comments about looks are always meant to be hurtful or derogatory. By no means! But it’s the thoughtless nature of a lot of comments and actions that belie these attitudes; this idea that a man is entitled to treat a woman he fancies any way he wants, or lay a claim on her when romantic feelings are not mutually held. And these kinds of attitudes are reinforced over time, typically by peers, family, and media that normalize them…

 

One cartoon in which the tables get turned on our loathsome little skunk friend is the 1949 short Scent-imental Reasons, which is admittedly satisfying, but has, in my opinion, one of the most horrifying sequences in his entire history as a character:

Finding that Penelope has locked herself in an air-tight box, Pepé silently begs her to open it and come back to him. First of all, if this purposeful action of hers isn’t a big enough sign that she doesn’t return his feelings, I don’t know what would be. There is such a thing as too stupid, you know?

Second of all, he clearly throws a tantrum at one point and keeps demanding that she open the box with stern, down-pointing gestures.

Third, when these “charming” and “hilarious” tactics don’t work, he proceeds to pull out a gun and threaten to kill himself, even going so far as to walk off-screen and pull the trigger!

 

Good Lord, what is wrong with you?! I don’t know why suicide was ever considered funny in the first place, 1940’s and 50’s, but what the hell?!!!!

Penelope, like a reasonable person, would clearly want to stop someone from trying to commit suicide in front of her. She unlocks the box and races out to see Pepé, only to be caught in his arms and told, “I missed. Fortunately for you.”

I know it’s a silly cartoon and not an actual situation between two actual people, but I can only forget reality to a certain extent, no matter what I’m watching. It’s suspension of disbelief, or willingness to forgive a character’s flaws because he or she is funny or likable in other ways.

There is nothing funny or likable about this moment. Maybe there used to be something to it, but frankly, I’m happy to not be living in that world anymore. This is a despicably low, manipulative move on Pepé’s part; it’s way more screwed up than people realize. If a character like Pepé were created in the modern day, there would be a justifiably loud outcry of protest.

But to swing back around to my question above, no, Pepé Le Pew is not a rapist. Like, at all. Seriously, people on the Internet throw this word around without knowing its meaning, which is “one who commits the act of rape”.

But he certainly is a harasser and a skillful, downright sinister manipulator. I don’t even care that Penelope technically “wins” in the end (and she does so in a few other shorts as well); simply getting a taste of his own medicine doesn’t give this stinker the punishment he truly deserves.

 

Gee, dude, it’s almost like unwelcome advances are unwelcome!

Adults who know better might still get a kick out of Pepé, but kids definitely shouldn’t be watching and laughing at his antics. He’s a flimsy, unlikable character who has been framed poorly since his conception. Penelope doesn’t invite his advances – and in fact she very obviously tries to get away from him – but still he persists, all because he thinks she’s a hot piece of skunk ass. And maybe his smell is her only objection, and maybe it isn’t; these days, someone can refuse a romantic relationship for any number of reasons, and that’s cool. Penelope shouldn’t pursue him if he doesn’t want her to, although through sheer karma and catharsis, I find myself applauding when she gets all pushy back.

Even if new, tamer versions of him come and go (and why not? Speedy Gonzalez is a lot less of a racist caricature these days), I’m glad to see he’s mostly being retired. Arrogance, pushiness, and stupidity are not attractive separately and they are potentially dangerous when put together and labelled “charming” and “funny.” Much like D.W. Read and post-movie Patrick Star, I think Pepé Le Pew is a bad character that should just go away.

 

*None of the images and clips in this post belong to me. Pepé Le Pew is owned by Warner Bros. 

 

 

 

In Defense of Beauty and the Beast

This is my final rant on the matter. Cross my heart. After this, no matter how much the remake and its fans stalk me, I’ll just let it go. 

I just can’t stand being barraged with post after post about how much better Beauty and the Beast (2017) is compared to its predecessor, without offering at least some defense of the reverse.

And yes, I am definitely biased, but I wanted to like this new movie. You have no idea how hard I tried to give it a chance, only to be bored, irritated, and let down at almost every turn. It’s not the worst movie ever made, but it doesn’t deserve half of the critical praise it is receiving, or the credit for “fixing” the original film.

Doesn’t anyone else remember that Beauty and the Beast (1991) was the first animated feature film to be nominated for an Academy Award, because it was just that moving and beautiful and well-structured?
1) The Animation Supplements Where the Action Falls Short

Not enough lines of dialogue for you? Or maybe you’re just not crazy about their delivery? Just add animation!

Personally, I think most of the lines were decently acted, but the nice thing about having an animated story is that it can help carry a lot through fluid movement and even over-exaggeration of expressions.

Communication is about 95% non-vocal, and you would be surprised how much you can learn about a character by looking at things like posture, proximity, touch, and gesture, as well as facial expressions. While the remake adds a few good things such as Belle’s laundry innovation, which shows her as an inventor and innovator in her own right, Emma Watson’s flat delivery of lines and particularly her default to annoyance over fear in stressful, emotional situations makes her feel less human, whereas Paige O’Hara’s Belle and the other animated characters can be silly, but get across much more about who they are in simple gestures. The live-action cast (most of whom I have adored in other films) had a lot to convey, and probably not a lot of good direction, so when they fall flat, they really fall flat.

 

2) The Original Movie Featured Talented Singers

Emma Watson is not a singer, but that is fine if you can fake it or at least bring some character to the table. The filmmakers clearly had no confidence in her abilities, however, because they polished and autotuned all of the humanity out of her performance. She and the other actors constantly sound as though they are in a studio, not the world of the film itself, and that can be heard distinctly in the lack and diminishing of other sound effects going on in any given scene. They clearly wanted the main showcase to be the singers, so things you might hear like chickens, cart wheels creaking, and other normal town sounds are pushed to the very bottom of the master tracks, if they are even there at all.

Audra McDonald is an actual singer, and a very talented one at that, but she is relegated to “comical” narcolepsy half of the time, and her “song(s)” either get cut short or dial up the silliness that most modern listeners associate with traditional operatic singing.

While the animated singers are less polished to robotic perfection, their flaws provide character and relatability, and their voices are fitting and pleasant to listen to. Paige O’Hara is truly scandalized and outraged by Gaston’s marriage proposal at the start of her reprise, whereas Emma Watson sounds mildly frustrated, but also somewhat uncaring about the situation.

 

3) Subtlety and Symbolism (Yes, Believe it or Not, in a Cartoon)

Did you ever notice how Belle and the Beast are the only characters in the entire movie to wear the color blue? Particularly during the “Belle” musical number, when said protagonist walks through a town filled with reds and earthy hues? That was done on purpose to set the character apart visually from everyone else, which nicely compliments the song about how weird and different she is without being too overt. It also connects her to the Beast, a fellow outcast.

The new movie doesn’t seem to get that, because half of the townsfolk wear blue. It’s missing all of the nice, subtle little touches of symbolism like that, presumably because its creators either didn’t understand them themselves or assumed that the audience was too dumb to pick up on that.

Instead, it chooses to answer largely irrelevant questions, like how Belle got the Beast onto her horse after the wolf attack. Nevermind that in both versions, Beast probably should have broken Phillipe’s back.

Another example is the introduction of Gaston. He is shown killing a defenseless, harmless animal, for seemingly no reason other than that he could. Its body is then picked up by a slobbering lackey, and immediately after that, the scene cuts to Gaston standing confidently in the shadows, before he then swaggers out into the light. Film language is screaming at you that this guy is a jerk before you even hear him speak a full line of dialogue. He is subtle even in his utter lack of subtlety, and it foreshadows his latter cruelty.

Come to think of it…

 

4) The Old Movie was Dark and Scary

The Beast’s first speaking scene shows him as a towering, jagged, feral…well, beast. His early behavior and demeanor contrasts with who he becomes later on, as demonstrated when he starts walking upright, wearing nicer clothes, and attempting to eat in a polite, civilized way.

The other dark, scary visuals and tone convey a mean-spirited world that not only drives home the message and warnings to children, but also makes it more satisfying when the main characters emerge victorious and happy at the end. The bigger and more difficult a trial is, the better it feels when finally surmounted.

The new movie’s wolves are kind of scary….but that’s about it. The new Beast looks computer-generated, but not particularly intimidating. I almost don’t blame new Belle for not being even remotely afraid of him.

 

5) LeFou is Unambiguously a Bad Guy

So LeFou doesn’t live up to his name anymore…I’m not sure why we didn’t just rename him, that being the case.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: how is this new version considered a positive LGBT portrayal? LeFou clearly knows right from wrong here; he’s not as ignorant and stupid as his animated counterpart. And yet his unrequited crush on Gaston makes it okay when he looks the other way, actively choosing to leave an old man to be murdered by wolves in the woods? And then again later, when he has a chance to defy Gaston and stop Maurice from being falsely imprisoned in the explicitly (directly stated in the movie) terrible and corrupt mental institution?

Maurice being rescued in the former case and Belle arriving just in time to stop the latter doesn’t excuse LeFou for his cowardice. Sure, Gaston is clearly unstable, but there is no explicit threat against LeFou and no given reason why he can’t put a stop to the proceedings. He just doesn’t because he’s in love, and therefore that makes it okay.

Nevermind that he backs out of the castle assault at the absolute last minute and thus gets rewarded with arm candy in the end, as if he were one of the good guys all along.

 

6) The Pace Doesn’t Drag Like a Constipated Elephant

Boy howdy, does the new movie drag on at times! The original was much shorter, but still utilized effective build-up and foreshadowing.

In storytelling, particularly in film, there is a set-up and a payoff for just about every major element. The remake introduces a magical book, as yet another item that the ridiculously cruel Enchantress gave to the Beast, but it is brought up and used once, only to disappear when it could have been useful. Instead of riding off on Phillipe in her medieval prom dress, Belle could have used the book to get back to town instantaneously. She and the Beast don’t even use it to find “adventure in the great, wide somewhere,” so what was really the point of introducing it at all?

There are some decent payoff moments in the new film, don’t get me wrong, but they tried to add too much to make the story fit the longer running time, and it just makes it feel flabby. The added scenes go by too quickly, and the scenes reminiscent of the animated feature constantly remind me that I could be watching the other movie. You know, the one I already own? The one that was perfectly fine by itself, but which people were apparently complaining that it didn’t cater to modern sensibilities enough?

…Sorry. There probably wasn’t a serious demand for this, but Disney manufactured one in their attempt to restock bank accounts and (hopefully) fund more ambitious, creative projects from the studio.

 

 

7) Dehumanizing the Villagers Actually Had a Good Point

The animated Beauty and the Beast has a sad but wonderfully poignant message about the importance of love and understanding in a world so full of cruelty and superficiality. To paraphrase Lindsay Ellis (the former Nostalgia Chick of Channel Awesome), Beauty and the Beast can be read as a story of great thinkers and innovators being othered by society, which instead chooses to idolize bullies, braggarts, and looks above all else. Seems a bit familiar, doesn’t it?
It’s not just a tale about seeing the beauty within; it’s also about how we as a society ostracize those who are differen from us, all because of fear and groupthink tendencies. It’s the basic tribal inclinations of “us vs. them” that all humans are guilty of to a certain extent. 

Gaston is attractive, so his behavior is not only excusable, but glorified, whereas Belle is barely tolerated because she is pretty. Her father Maurice is held in complete contempt by pretty much everyone in town, and throughout the movie, he repeatedly gets the short end of the stick. Gaston treats him as an irritating but necessary tool.

The remake has one scene where it attempts this point, when a younger girl is curious about Belle’s donkey-laundry contraption and Belle tries teaching her how to read, only to be yelled at by the child’s father. But a major conceit of the original story is that Belle is the only person to offer the Beast a serious, genuine redemption, in a world that completely shuns and reviles him. The new film goes out of its way to humanize the villagers, including Gaston and LeFou.

Now, that’s not necessarily a bad idea – I think that seeing a film where Gaston is actually the hero might be very interesting – but in the context of the original Disney story, it weakens the clear, unambiguous warning that bullies should be discouraged and intelligence and uniqueness should be accepted and celebrated. Because the curse is now specifically said to have caused people to forget the castle’s existence, the story hand waves away the villagers’ responsibility for their fear mongering and attempts to harm others, whereas in the original, they are driven away and never seen again.

It fixes one problem while creating and effectively ignoring another. I don’t think Belle was automatically dismissive of the villagers; no, clearly they dismissed and belittled her first, and she realized that she cannot change their attitudes. She can only persevere and be herself, and she wishes for a world where such a task is easier, but more exciting and challenging as well.

Who among us hasn’t felt misunderstood and left out at one point, left only with the option to try your best to blend in?

 

You see, when it comes right down to it, Beauty and the Beast (1991) is not without its flaws and problematic elements. But it was a quaint little story with well-paced and well-chosen scenes, which did exactly what was required of them and sometimes no more than that. Fairytales are meant to teach one or two basic lessons in creative settings and situations, but the animators and other filmmakers somehow managed to imbue their adaptation with so much more depth and meaning, far more than anyone would think possible.

The remake, meanwhile, is padded with logical indulgences, and “character development” that is brought up briefly and then never expanded upon, making it seem like superfluous details. The Beast’s tragic backstory and makings of his monstrous new attitude? Barely touched upon, and then forgotten. The significance of Belle’s mother? Not really relevant, and certainly not used to add some connection between her and the Beast, who also had a strained relationship with his parents.

When you watch a film enough times, you start to notice plotholes and logical issues that you once could have glanced over. A good movie is not one that has no issues at all, but simply one that can distract you from them effectively until a few more viewings. Was the original Beauty and the Beast really that distracting and terrible, or is it just that that we’ve all seen it so many times and done all of the jokes and criticism of it to death?

All of the questions that it tries to answer were being supplied by my imagination back in the day. Why was the castle staff cursed along with the Beast, when they technically didn’t do anything wrong? Probably because they kowtowed to his every whim and lead him to becoming extra spoiled and contemptuous of basic human worth when no title or status was attached to it. Why would the Enchantress curse a little boy for one mistake? Probably because people aged faster in the past and children were basically regarded as mini adults once they reached a certain age.

How did Belle get the Beast on her horse if he was unconscious? …Who cares. That’s not what the focus of the story is. It’s fun to crack jokes about, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s unimportant. What is important is that Belle saves Beast’s life, just as he saved hers, and they begin to act more conscious and considerate towards one another as a result. Belle is probably the one person in Beast’s life who has repeatedly said no to him and meant no, and he slowly grows to appreciate and respect that about her.

More than any of the previous remakes, Beauty and the Beast is trying to be the original film, when it clearly doesn’t understand half of what made it work. It’s also trying to update some elements, but not trying too hard, or else we might have had something different and new.

I have tolerated and even genuinely enjoyed some of the other live-action remakes thus far, but at the end of the day, this latest movie drives home what hollow cash-grabs they really are. In the case of the Disney Princess films in particular, they are just new vehicles for selling sparkly dresses and merchandise to little girls under the guise of strong, female empowerment.

Clearly nothing like their original iterations, right?

A Few Thoughts on Fans and Fandoms

It’s a damn shame and a sad fact of life: sometimes a fandom is enough to ruin your enjoyment of the thing itself.

You would think that meeting fellow fans of something is a great way to make friends with like-minded people, but just as often, if not more so, it just angers or disheartens you. It’s not just about alternate interpretations and theories; with a series like Steven Universe, for example, it’s the idea that people would take a show with a message of love, kindness, and acceptance and use it as a justification to bully someone that they don’t agree with. However wrong you think that person might be, it does not excuse you and your despicable actions.

 

 

Another issue, though generally less reprehensible, is when you feel that avowing your fan identity lumps you in with the less savory parts of the community. For example, while there are many “bronies” who are reasonable, well-adjusted grown men or women who just happen to genuinely, un-ironically like a cartoon made for children, the world at large will always focus on the numerous fans who post creepy fetish stories and pictures for My Little Pony. The fans who, while maybe not actual pedophiles, still clutter up yours and your children’s Google searches with unwanted content that can’t be unseen, if you ever accidentally left the NSFW filters off.

 

The less you have to see those sides of the fan community, the better.

Or how about the jerks who suddenly swarm out of the woodwork to complain every time a character doesn’t fit with their worldview?

 

 

Personally, I also dislike people who insist that what they love is perfect, because in my opinion, a true fan of something can enjoy it without blindly worshiping the ground upon which it and its creators tread. I love The Lord of the Rings (both the book and movie iterations), but I’m not afraid to look at them critically and admit where aspects could be improved. I’m definitely not afraid to criticize Peter Jackson for his choices in making The Hobbit movies, even though they are parts of an established world and mythos that I love.

I realize this argument smacks of No True Scotsman, but that is just how I look at things. As always, you are welcome to disagree with me, but have you ever heard the phrase “media digestion”? To me, there are those who wolf down food and those who actually eat it. It’s the difference between gorging on autopilot, caring more about the good taste than if it might be bad for you, and taking the time to chew, swallow, and actually enjoy the food, and maybe making a few notes to better the recipes for the next time around.

My personal fan pet peeves are weeaboos, a.k.a. hard core anime fans who behave like cutesy cartoon characters come to life, and who usually assert that they “speak Japanese” when they only know 5 words tops (and all of which they learned from watching T.V.). But they are by no means the worst kind of fans ever. They tend to be bullied more than they bully others, at least.

 

But generally speaking, it’s irritating that the ‘extreme examples” of anything (fans, politicians, etc.) become the immediate, quintessential image of that entire group in the public consciousness.

 

I’ve said before that some escapism can and should be mindless, and sometimes all it needs to do is make you feel a cathartic emotion. Movies like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, or video games like Mario Kart and Mario Party, don’t have a lot of application outside of their original, intended purposes, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still have value. But I also believe that skepticism and criticism are important to have, whether you are a kid, an adult, or somewhere in between, and sometimes the flaws of something can just make you love it all the more. Just look at cult classics like The Rocky Horror Picture Show; it makes no sense and amounts to basically nothing by the end, but its unorthodox storytelling and utter shamelessness, among other things, making it an enjoyable watch, especially at special group showings.

In a similar vein, I get tired of being told that I expect too much out of my media diet. That may be true from time to time, but what is so wrong with asking for better quality stuff? I’m not just bickering for the sake of being contrary.

It seems to be coming from the same people who always argue that kids are stupid, and therefore it’s okay when the things we make for them are stupid too. Or those who complain when a movie or T.V. show is too “high brow” or “artsy” to be good .Most of these folks clearly mean well, but the bones of that message seem awfully familiar somehow…

 

Hmmm…I’ll figure it out one of these days…

Anyway, when fans and content makers can embrace the flaws of their favorite works and take them in stride, and argue their points respectfully with other people in the community, that makes a fandom great. More importantly, it doesn’t drive new and casual fans away by getting all up in their face right off the bat, then refusing to leave them alone. Sometimes, that actually just inspires an equal and opposite reaction.

Why does it seem like moderation is the key to everything?

If you do have a serious axe to grind, however, try not to be a belligerent ass about it, and always make sure you sincerely follow this advice. I try to.

 

*The images in this post do not belong to me.

Beauty and the Beast (2017): Monstrously Arrogant and Terribly Overrated

“Tale that’s dulled with time…Lame as it can be…Barely just begun, it made me want to run, and its praise baffles me!”

Go see the stage musical and pretend that Hermione is in place of whoever is Belle. It’s more worth your time and money to do that than to go see this live-action remake.

This is the only one so far that I would not consider buying. And spoilers below, so be warned. I respect every other Disney remake way more than this movie, and I might even go so far as to say that even the cringe-inducing Disney sequels tried harder than this did.

This remake is Diet Animated Beauty and the Beast. I’m honestly appalled that it’s getting as much critical praise as it is (not even audience praise; honest-to-goodness cristcs calling it a masterpiece), because it tries so hard to not just live up to its namesake, but be it as well, and it can’t possibly do so. It just doesn’t understand what made that movie work, even on the most basic, fundamental level.

The music is noticeably over-polished and poorly mixed. It’s the opposite problem of Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables; it’s not raw and emotional enough. It sounds like it was just made to sell the soundtrack as close to the “pop” section as it could get.

We (meaning my boyfriend and I) checked to see if it was just our cheap movie theatre that was behind the bad mixing, but no, there are plenty of problems still present in the music itself. Emma Watson and Dan Stevens sound as great as they possibly can, but only the latter has any raw emotion in his voice, and both definitely sound like they’re singing in a studio, rather than in the actual movie. And the in-song dialogue is stripped of all emotion, as the producers were clearly more interested in making everyone sound “pretty” than giving them any semblance of character.

 

Notice how Belle gets really pissed off at the beginning, almost yelling? Imagine in this scene that she has a British accent, and then picture she’s in a chair at the salon casually complaining to her girl friends. That’s essentially how powerful and compelling it is; mild annoyance vs actual shocked outrage.

Yeah, the animators actually put effort into that so-called kids’ film.

Also, Gaston doesn’t get humiliated with a wedding fiasco. Belle shuts a door in his face, and then the next time we see him, he’s mildly disappointed at the tavern. How does this fuel the fire of his depraved ego, making him into the true monster of the movie? What leads him to make the drastic jump of deciding to throw Belle’s father into a mental institution? I have no clue. It was in the original, so let’s put it in here too, I guess!

Incidentally, Gaston becoming a truly crappy human being is paced weirdly, and the seemingly simple catalysts of “I want to marry the hot girl” and “if I can’t have her, no one can” have no backing behind them. It really feels like it only happens here because something similar happened in the original version. Character and morivation are only very loosely connected.

The actors (all good people clearly trying to do their best with crap direction) almost never seem like real people, except Belle’s dad. Belle herself seems less terrified and more put-out most of the time, and otherwise, she’s smiling blandly. I think Watson was trying to be more confident in an effort to seem stronger, willful, and more independent than the original Belle, but it just comes across like she’s not a real human being dealing with a terrifying and stressful situation. She’s not quite at Anakin Skywalker levels of bland, but still not very compelling, which is a damn shame.

 

The original Belle, voiced by Paige O’Hara, was a likeable character who also managed to be human, if a bit more forgiving and kind than most of us would be in her situation. But hey, it’s a fairytale, not an in-depth procedural manual for how to live your actual, real-world life.

Emma Watson has very little charm or character, provided you can take off the rose-colored, lightning scar-shaped glasses. The film keeps telling me she’s odd and different and awesome, like the previous Belle, but she doesn’t show it unless she’s directly speaking, and even then, there’s no genuine emotion or commitment behind the dialogue. There’s a lot of tell, don’t show that happens here, and it’s not just because it’s a musical. The original was a musical as well, practically virtually identical to this one, but even during moments where the characters were silent, a lot of personality comes through in their designs and the “cartoon-ish” animation.

For example, when Gaston comes a-calling with a whole impromptu wedding party, Belle’s eye roll upon seeing him through her peephole is incredibly pronounced, even maybe overexaggerated. But it shows what she’s feeling perfectly and its relatable, which is incredibly important.

That said, Watson does look the part. She is gorgeous and I will always love her, even when her performance is sadly kind of bland and lackluster.

The story is too much retreading of old material (word-for-word dialogue and essentially shot-for-shot scenes), to the point where you can’t help but compare it to the original animated feature. Some things are changed completely, while others are changed not nearly enough, and there is far more of the latter than the former, too much more for my liking.

This isn’t “recapturing the spirit of the original, with some new twists to make it fresh.” This is riding the original’s coat tails and throwing in a few scraps of difference to try to throw us off their scent. This does to the first movie what The Hobbit movies did for The Lord of the Rings: nothing but cheap lip service and inadvertently making you appreciate the early movie even more.

 

The visuals are over-gilded and painful to my eyes; I had to look away for most of the Be Our Guest number, it was so hideous, overcrowded, and just overdone. I don’t care if it’s period-accurate; it’s a Disney movie. Historical accuracy has always been regarded as optional.

The castle never feels lonely, ominous, or terrifying in any way, demonstrated best by the fact that Belle shows up at it during the day, in brilliant sunshine. Sooo dramatic!

But don’t worry. God will still send that out-of-nowhere thunderstorm to the climax for dramatic effect. Some Disney tropes never die, after all.

The wardrobe is hideous and makes no sense. Most of the other objects I can tolerate, but she was too much, with her haphazardly flailing curtains and utter lack of a face. Her actress/singer was totally wasted in this role.

The pacing is whack. I was checking my watch all through the first half, and then, to my surprise, numerous scenes in the second half went speeding by like the Road Runner.

For example, the moment when Beast gets angry about Belle trying to touch his enchanted rose isn’t literally a minute, but it feels like it might as well have been. There’s virtually no drama behind it; Belle barely touches the case, Beast appears and says “Don’t do that,” and then she leaves, looking like the Beast just told her to go to the kitchen and make him a sandwich. I have no idea why she’s running or why she just up and decides to leave after this; the look on her face is minor frustration, and nothing more.

She doesn’t even look all that scared staring down a pack of angry wolves that are about to eat her face off.

That said….the added songs were nice. And some of the jokes were pretty damn funny. And Maurice’s actor is great. Gaston and LeFou were passable. Some of the added scenes were interesting, if superfluous or largely irrelevant.

Why did Belle’s mother getting the Plague matter? I could have sworn they were leading up to some Sweeney Todd-style rape ambush; you know, maybe something related to the fact that she was apparently a weirdo like Belle and her father, and people ganged up on her…?

 

As far as I can tell, nothing was added to Belle and the Beast’s relationship other than her telling him about her family a little bit…Cool? Belle didn’t even know her mother, and was a baby when she died, so I’m not sure why she remembers much or why this is so important to her.

Yeah, I was pretty much right in my pre-movie fears. But even before that, I should have started having misgivings once it was mentioned that they were going to be using the original songs and score. There is taking inspiration and changing context, and then there is copy-pasting in someone else’s work instead of doing your own.

But hey, that’s how the film basically pays for itself. Who needs creative marketing when you have simple brand name recognition?

I tried so very hard to go into this and be fair and objective, but the movie begs so much to be compared to its predecessor, and in that light, it fails miserably. I’d rank it below Maleficent, and it didn’t even have the gall to do the “here is the true version of this story, lost to time and retellings” bullcrap. At least Maleficent was working from an already fairly flawed movie, and tried to switch the sympathy to the villain.

It just feels so lazy. I was of half a mind to go back to the cashier and ask for my money back before we had even reached the halfway point, and not because I was all that angry.
I was bored. I’d seen this all before. It was like going to the stage musical without the novelty of it being live, and after a short time, I stopped wondering how they were going to handle the scenes from the original movie differently. The CG was just so fake and hideous…I almost stopped caring until the “Days in the Sun” scene.

The stage musical, at the very least, had some intrigue. What props will they use? How will they set up and work with the stage? The “movie magic” on the screen isn’t true movie magic anymore. It’s all done with computers. That’s the answer.

The Beast isn’t scary or even all that intimidating. The household objects are confirmed to be frozen in their forms once the last petal falls (left ambiguous in the original movie, but a major plot point in the Broadway musical), and it is needlessly sad, even for Disney. Someone told me to bring tissues, but I wasn’t even crying. And guys, I cry at everything! I cried when Ash got turned to stone in Pokemon: The First Movie, for Pete’s sake!

Honestly, that was the darkest thing about the entire movie, and doesn’t it make the Beast so much more likable that he screwed them over, just for a hot girl?

 

I’m sorry, petrification is one of the most universally scary things ever. Being frozen alive, but aware for the rest of your life sounds absolutely horrible and torturous. Waaaaay worse than being a Beast who can travel anywhere in the world on a whim (the Enchantress gave him a magic book for some reason), and yet this guy just lets Belle go knowing this is going to happen to his servants?!!!! 

If I were one of them, I’d probably beat him with the hardest, sharpest part of myself right up until the very end. Yeesh…and people call the original Beast a jerk.

 

Let me be clear: I don’t have a problem with the scene in theory. I have a problem with how unearned and out-of-place it feels in this virtually charmless, wooden movie.

Oh, also, Disney took a page from the original story, in that Belle’s father takes a rose from the garden and that’s what pisses the Beast off initially…lame. It’s not like Maurice went after the enchanted rose or anything. Hell, he took food from the Beast’s table, but no, Maurice. You picked a flower, you heartless thief! How dare you?!

If there anything that the original movie did right, it was picking and choosing what to adapt out of the source material. Maurice trespassing pisses off the Beast, and the Beast only cares about the rose (not a random rose from his garden) because its wilting is tied to his curse. His despair leads him to act more like the animal he had become, and guess what? Animals are territorial. It makes sense on a simple, but also brilliant, level, when you think about it.

What was the point of her father’s taking one leading him to be locked in a dungeon? Also, why is it randomly snowing in Beast land?

 

New Beast still seems too human, but ironically he also doesn’t emote very well, and his voice is princely but not remotely beastly. It’s a wonder that anyone can take him seriously.

There is so much to complain about in this movie that I can hardly keep focused. LeFou is officially gay now, and I’m surprised more people are pleased by that portrayal. I mean, he knows Gaston is doing bad things the whole time, and he seems genuinely regretful,  but LeFou stands by and lets things happen (a near brutal mauling and false imprionsment in a horrible, explicit snake pit insane asylum, need I remind you?) just because he’s got a crush on Gaston.

Once again, I must say, “Wow! How likeable!

 

In the end, Gaston snubs him pretty casually and pointlessly, and that’s all it takes to get him to be a full-on good guy. Not that it amounts to anything. LeFou talks to Mrs. Potts, and then a few scenes later, he appears again with dancing with a new guy….Cool? I guess it pays to be an obvious walking-stereotype that compromises his morals for a hot person and then gives up being a bad guy immediately.

No sir, nothing questionable or poorly-thought-out there…

But hey, I can’t tell people what they should or shouldn’t find insulting. Visibility is still visibility, after all, and the “women scorned” trope can probably work just as well on a man…who didn’t seem all that committed in the first place. Last minute redemption, anyone?

I just think it’s weird to praise it simply because it’s Disney. There is a much better LGBT victory AND first from Disney that we should be talking more about, in my opinion…

 

Gaston is okay, but like LeFou, he’s not nearly as despicable as his animated counterpart. His scene at the tavern is probably the best thing in the whole movie, but again, I’d personally rather be watching it live, on a stage. The script tries to make him cartoonishly, unambiguously evil, but it’s more funny than damning.

I’d still rank his acting higher than just about anyone else in the film.

The Enchantress appears very obviously throughout, especially at the end, but we never get her thought process on the terms and conditions of this curse she’s evidentially so proud of. Never once does anyone think to question her about her actions, even when she’s standing right next to them. Mrs. Potts handwaves a short explanation that she and her fellow servants let the king brainwash his son, turning him into a fellow scumbag, but that’s the only indication we ever get of what the Beast’s father was like.

Oh, and if we’re going for realism here, the servants were probably a step up from property, so what choice would they have really had, movie? You want to elaborate on that one a little bit more?

See, the animated movie had its unfortunate or questionable implications, but it didn’t draw attention to them nearly as much as this one does. The remake tries to explain a few things (such as why no one in the surrounding area remembers the cursed ruler of the land and his castle in the nearby woods), but utterly ignores several crucial others.

It DOES answer one very important question right at the end, however…that yes, Belle was very much into the bestiality of the situation.

 

No, seriously. Belle teasingly asks if the Prince-Beast can grow a beard, and he roars at her, making her laugh.

Um….ewwwwww……Thanks for that, Disney. That is one part of the story that I never wanted to seriously ponder.

To cut this disjointed rant short, the new movie is not the worst thing ever. It’s okay. But it is pretty bad and pretty shamelessly just coasting off the love and prestige (duels deserved) of a much better movie. You can argue that all of the Disney remakes, retreads, and sequels do that to some extent, but this film is the live-action iteration that tries the  absolute least, and it’s arguably the one that should least be allowed to get away with that.

Despite their flaws, Cinderella, Maleficent, and The Jungle Book gave me enough that was new and likeable for me to acknowledge their existence. Beauty and the Beast, on the other hand, truly feels like a hollow, whore-ish cash-grab, and given what it’s trying to be, that’s depressing.

But hey, Hermione’s in it, so that automatically makes it good, right?

Not for me, thanks. I think I’ll stick with the original, despite how much it traumatized me as a child. At  least it was well-paced and creatively put together by clearly passionate people.

At least that beast had some bite to it.


*3/10

*Please note: none of the images, songs, or video clips in this article belong to me. They are owned by Disney (except the Medusa one). 

 

 

“Stop Touching My Hair!” A Short Rant From a Curlicue Woman

Happy International Women’s Day, everyone!

So, taking a break from movies and whatnot…here’s an issue facing some women I know. A lesser one when compared to many, mind you, but still obnoxious:

“I wish I had hair like yours.”

Trust me, ladies. No you don’t.

The first Disney Princess with realistic-looking hair, let alone curly.

Having other women tell you how much they’re lusting after your “luscious curls” is well-meaning, but about as annoying as hearing, “When are you going to have children?” Or hearing an attached person groan about minor relationship problems when you  yourself are unhappily single.

The first two phrases are often used as “small talk”, but I try to give the former a little bit more credit. After all, it comes with genuine admiration, and tends to evoke less of a “none of your business” reaction on the part of the receiver.

That is, until people start touching your hair without so much as a “by your leave”.

 

This is probably why I’ve started to dislike the comment “I want your hair”: the handsy-ness that accompanies it. Having curls means adjusting to friends and sometimes even total strangers playing with your hair when it suits them, much like how some people seem to think they are entitled to touch a pregnant woman’s belly, just by virtue of it existing.

A few weeks ago, while chatting with a friend who was getting her hair done (I wasn’t), I was only partially surprised by one of the other stylists appearing suddenly behind me, hands buried firmly in my ‘do’.

Scrunch scrunch. “I’m sorry,” she said happily once I had noticed her, not retreating in the slightest. “I just love the way you did your hair. These are natural, aren’t they?” Scrunch scrunch.

At one point in my youth, I might have asked back, “I’m sorry, are we talking about hair or breasts?” It would have seemed equally as impertinent of a question, if only because of the hands.

Instead, I smiled. “Yep, it’s natural. Sorry if it feels a little sticky. I gel the crap out of it just to keep its shape.”

Not that I felt that bad if she got stuff on her hands. If you choose to stick your foot on a mousetrap, it shouldn’t surprise you when it snaps down on your toes. 

Hell, why was I even apologizing to her? “Sorry if you touched my hair without permission and didn’t like what you felt”?! How cowed am I?
She shook her head, not visibly put-off at all.

“Are you one with the curls?” she then murmured in a distinctly cult-y way, along with several other things like that. She made my hair sound like a state of being, rather than something that was on my head.

“Of course!” I tried to laugh jokingly, taking it in stride as I have for my whole life. As I said, that’s what it means to have curls for me.

In school, friends would bat at my ponytail, because it was “so soft and fluffy!” I was often pet on the head like a dog, as if my hair was actually some cute little animal. But hey, at least I knew who they were, and most of them asked first. 

 

Having curls, for me, means being told I look “unprofessional,” or, at best, “cute”. The other day, one person actually used the word “precious”.

Women who aren’t white might hear the former or worse, just because they want to work with what they were born with. I don’t know who decided that straight hair obviously translates to having one’s life together, but I can tell you this: at the shortest (about shoulder-length), my hair takes nearly two hours to straighten. Unless I want that look on a given day, why spend all that time burning myself and my hair?

Having curls has often meant hating my hair on most days, because after a shower, my curls are good for precisely one, and then they become a tangled rats’ nest if I don’t sleep on them exactly the right way. And even then, as I mentioned, it takes a lot of product to hold them in the hellishly-oppressive humidity that naturally occurs where I live.

After one good brushing, my hair becomes a frizzy, wavy pyramid. Huzzah

Source here.

Having curls meant being bullied occasionally, because in addition to wearing glasses, I had weird, loopy, frizzy hair while most other girls had straight or wavy locks. Having curls also means being told by some of those same little girls how much they want my hair as grown women.

Oh, to hear what they’d do if they had it…

Having curls means tangles and snags, often painful to remove. I end up pulling it back after I inevitably exhaust all known tactics to try and tame it, and after people see it down for the first time, they remark what a shame it is that I don’t wear it that way more often.

If only I could.   

Having curls means wanting to have your hair instead, because even if you say“Oh, no!  It’s too flat”, “oily”, or “thin”, at least it’s under control. Trust me; I could make it work.  Nice hair costs time and money, as I learn every time I go for a haircut.

If you’re shy, good luck not being noticed with curly hair. Corkscrews make a statement whether you’re trying to or not, so marvels and coos are sure to follow. And yet no one really exclaims at straight hair that looks like it’s straight out of a shampoo commercial, all sleek and shiny and gorgeous.

Imagine if curly girls started doing the same thing to straight-haired girls. Would this seem weird to you?

Source here.

Having curls means reading magazines and watching movies and TV shows where straight hair is dominant or the only style shown, subtly reinforcing the idea that there must be wrong with my hair.

And before you start rolling your eyes, yes, I’ll admit that this is a mentality carried over from childhood. Which makes it hard to shake off, even as an adult. In 2015, a report by Common Sense Media found that “more than half of girls and one-third of boys as young as 6 to 8” have already developed issues with self-image, particularly that of body weight.

Even the more neutral excuse, “Curly hair is just not as marketable,” is an implicit dis that leaves many girls feeling like they have to change their hair, in order to be beautiful and fit in. The times are getting way better thankfully, but still. 

It’s not like head hair is linked to obesity or anything. It doesn’t change much about you for the better if you burn it or perm it or shave it all off.

…Look, I’m not trying to be bitter, or bash other women with naturally straight hair. I know this is just yet another poorly thought out nicety that people pepper into conversations to be complimentary, polite, or just generally social. It’s not wrong to long for some simple human contact, even from people you don’t know, and sometimes we’re all just scrambling for ideas about how to start.

Or maybe you feel compelled to say something, anything, just to acknowledge that someone is, in fact, there.

 

What I’m trying to say is the same basic thing people mean when they beg you not to pry into their number of children, marital status, health conditions, etc.: don’t just assume, and try to think before you speak. Or in this case, touch.

It took me a long time to accept my hair, let alone love it.
*These images do not belong to me.