|The 15th Century take on Shrek|
A friend of mine linked to a fabulous post by Lindy West at the Guardian “The Five Most Pathetic Female Film Characters of All Time”. Okay, not the most inspiring International Women’s Day post. But if I’m honest with you, I think she’s spot on with her list (although I haven’t seen Twilight so I can’t really judge that… but it seems to confirm everything I’ve heard about Bella.)
There is nothing worse than a horrible female companion/character/lead in a film. I find it like being on a long car ride with a whiney companion. And that’s the very least damage they do. At worst, they confirm stereotypes and just simply send the wrong message to young girls or women about what they need to do to be saved by some moronic hero.
At the end of her post West invites readers to list the characters that are letting down the female gender. So I thought that I would make a quick list (in no particular order) in between marking essays. Since I think today needs to be about empowerment, I’ve also listed those women at the end that I think are relatively kick-ass and do their thing for the cause.
It’s an interesting thought experiment (or at least a fun distraction) to think about what makes a good female character. I’m not sure I have a definitive list, but I would certainly want a certain degree of self-reliance, an ability to think under pressure (and not, say, faint), an ability to work well and communicate with others and not be overly whiney. I don’t think women have to be violent in order to be awesome, just have some witty talk and a normal freaking brain.
Also – I’m sure I could come up with more on both sides, but here are a few that pop into my mind (from the world of film at least – I’m well aware that several Duck contributors would find the lack of Buffy on this list to be disturbing.) I would be interested in hearing other people’s lists. Or perhaps other ideas of what makes a good female role-model.
Dale Arden – Flash (AH-AAA!!!) Gordon
The fact that this woman could walk and breathe at the same time, let alone with that gigantic 80s hair astounds me. Pathetic dialogue and ‘cheerleading ‘ while your paramour is trying to football fight his way through Ming’s army of doom IS NOT HELPING.
Having seen only clips of the series, I’m not sure if any of the other Dales were any good, but I have my doubts. If I was Flash I probably just would have stuck with Ming’s daughter.
|Okay, this poster is rad.|
Okay – I’m certain that this is going to be the most controversial one up here, but seriously, she is a total let-down. It’s like the adventures of naked, sexy Pearl Heart in space. Maybe it’s because I watched it for the first time n the 1990s, but I was expecting a lot more from “The Queen of the Galaxy”. Sure, I get that the was about free love and seeing Jane Fonda naked in the 1960s, but really.
Mareen O’Hara as Lady Margaret in the Black Swan.
|O’Hara did work the beach curls.|
Maybe it’s because I can’t stand a film of Sabatini novel without, as a minimum, Errol Flynn or Olivia De Havilland in a starring role, but I just thought this film was pretty bad. Captain Blood is all kinds of awesome – and De Havilland manages to put some kick into an otherwise kind of flat character (although movie enhances her character’s role). But this film is just kind of creepy and rapey. And despite O’Hara’s attempts to be feisty, she comes off as lame. Her character is helpless and annoying. Or maybe I just can’t the fact that no one even bothered trying to put on a British accent.
|Clever, but not clever enough to avoid silver lamé! .|
Olivia De Havilland as Maid Marian – Robin Hood
The 1936 film takes a character that has plenty of potential to be useless and turns it into someone who was pretty kick-ass for the Great Depression. She bests Robin at conversation and masterminds his escape when his ‘Merry Men’ can’t get it together. She doesn’t swoon, faint or cry. She changes her mind through reason and debate. When she spends a little while in the dungeon, she remains stoic and determined. Sure she’s not fighting her way out with a broadsword, but I’m going to give her my pre-1945 award for being pretty kick-ass.
Eowyn – Lord of the Rings
Sure she’s kind of winey and moany and in love with a guy who is going for the hot elf princess. (Isn’t that always the way?) But she WANTS to kick ass. They literally have to forbid her from going out to fight. And she STILL manages to go out and kill the King of the Nazgul. Basically this woman is all kinds of awesome – and she gets Faramir in the end. Niiiice.
Princess Leia – Star Wars
I feel that I almost have to put this up out of obligation – although I thought she kind of got wussified by Return of the Jedi. However, she is an amazing character in the first film. She’s a career woman (diplomat), rebellion leader and pretty gung-ho. She withstands torture and only gives up information when the lives of others are threatened. And she can pull off that hair-bun look while shooting-up some baddies.
EDIT: Looking at this list, I think most of my heroines could safely be described as liberal feminists (well, 12th Century liberal feminists for Marian). Could film ever produce a critical/stand-point feminist? Maybe I just haven’t seen enough ‘good’ movies. Anyone have any ideas on this?
Adam Weinsten has written a delicious appraisal of my friend Dan’s newest book, Theory of International Politics and Zombies. I think he’s mostly spot-on, particularly his genealogy of Dan’s position in the discipline and his implication that TIPZ represents Dan having the last laugh on the Chicago Department of Political Science and its stale, antiquated notions of what matters in statecraft:
This is the university that gave us supply-side economics, Straussian neconservativism, and David Brooks. It is, in short, a haven for very smart people who live to confound undergraduates, worship Thucydides, and subvert the global order. Small wonder that Chicago hardly knew what to do with Dan Drezner, a (relatively) young right-of-center political economist with a penchant for pro sports and stream-of-consciousness intellectualism. In 2002, he started blogging about “foreign policy, economic policy, public intellectuals, pop culture.” In 2005, Chicago passed him over for tenure.
Fortunately for us (and, I suppose, for all those Chicago-trained libertarian economists), Drezner’s done very well in the marketplace of ideas beyond Hyde Park. He scored an appointment at Tufts’ Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy; gained admission to the Council on Foreign Relations; and went pro in the blogging business, taking his daily insights to the website of Foreign Policy magazine. Along the way, something amazing’s happened: Open debates about global affairs have flourished… Whatever the reasons, academics and think-tankers are joining ever more laypeople in frank, smart, and often levity-laced discussions of world events… A light, breezy volume, TIPZ is a valuable primer in international relations theory for laypeople, and thank God for that—it’s been a long time coming.
Indeed! However, based on my reading of TIPZ, I must take issue with this statement:
But Drezner’s real genius is that he’s written a stinging postmodern critique of IR theorists themselves… It’s both a pedagogical text and a lampoon of pedagogy.
A stinging critique I’ll grant: the book can and must be read as parody. But a postmodern critique? This is an extraordinary claim given that the book actually scarcely mentions critical theory, post-modernism, feminist theory or pretty much any scholarship falling on the “reflectivist” side of the discipline, much less utilizes their tools. (Though to be fair, Dan doesn’t claim to do so, either.)
But if I have one critique of this otherwise brilliant little book, it’s that as
a description of “the field” of IR, TIPZ’ relentless focus on rationalist theory to the near-exclusion of identities, language or embodiment frankly bites. (Hey, critical theorists deserve to be made fun of too!)Even Weinstein (who apparently desperately needs a Drezner-esque treatment of postmodernism to even know what it is) notes that Dan gives “short shrift” to theories he doesn’t like, and is “pretty unfair to social constructivism.”
Feminist IR? Forget it. Despite the fact that zombie metaphors are providing inroads to regendering entire literary genres and the martial myths that support them, feminist theory only gets one footnote… oh wait, no, Dan earnestly informs me by instant message there are actually two whole feminist IR footnotes! One (p. 17) reads:
“Space constraints prevent a fuller discussion of how some theories – such as Marxism and feminism – would cope with flesh-eating ghouls… to be blunt, this project is explicitly pro-human, whereas Marxists and feminists would likely sympathize more with the zombies…”
Here’s the other (p. 105):
“It is possible that a feminist perspective might provide some leverage at this juncture: in Zack Snyder’s remake of Dawn of the Dead (2004), for example, the contrast between the governance structure of the mall when the security guards are in charge and when the female lead (a nurse) and her compatriots are in charge is quite stark.”
Because we know security guards are always men. Nice try, my friend! For another take on gender and zombies see here.
Post-modernism? Post-colonialism? Not to be found in TPIZ’
easy-to-read pages. (Though “post-apocalypse” and “post-human” get a few index references.) Come on Dan, how am I supposed to even teach postmodernism now without the zombie chapter to go along with my Derrida and Sylvester?
Maybe this is what Weinstein means when he writes:
Drezner’s given you a paint-by-numbers template for your term papers or theses. If you attend U Chicago, anyway.
So what would an actual post-modern critique of IR look like? I’m not sure I’m braaaaiiinny enough to offer one here, but perhaps Weinstein is on the right track in his reinterpretation of neoconservatism:
Sure, sure: Neocon hawks will launch a preventive strike against latent zombie threats, and they’ll probably use it as an excuse to reinvade Iraq. But did it never occur to Drezner that the Manichean, all-or-nothing, bomb-it-yesterday neocons are themselves the zombies? Isn’t it possible that they—and the Islamophobic, messianic, war-happy Palinocrats that have kept neoconservatism on the pantry shelf long past its spoilage date—are the real undead automatons who march forth with no understanding of their actions?
[cross-posted at Lawyers, Guns and Money]
As an IR blogger with an interest in econ, you might be interested in this animated take on Ireland’s current state of financial distress. I can’t vouch that a leprechaun really charged into Biffo’s office as he was taking in a Guiness, but we tried our hardest to condense the situation in less than two minutes.
Please watch it if only for the signs the protesters are holding at the end.
Despite the email, I don’t pride myself on a knowledge of economic issues. (My bank account can attest to this. Pension-shmention, I want shoes!) However, as this is the internet, I will add my uninformed £0.02.
While I can’t resist the Riverdancing corporate investors, I think the video may end up too pessimistically. Ireland is in a lot of trouble to be sure, but one has the sense now that at least all of the dirt is on the table. This is unlike Greece, for example, where nobody seems to actually know what’s going on or where the problems actually end. (Michael Lewis’ take on this in Vanity Fair is amazing.) One can believe (or hope) that there won’t be many more nasty surprises.
So while I’m not trying to downplay the setback that this bailout represents, I remain slightly optimistic in that I believe that there is now at least a foundation from where Ireland can make a comeback (albeit at a tough price.) It has a well educated and entrepreneurial population. It seems willing to do whatever it takes. And it has certainly seen worse than this.
As for me, I’m just going to keep compiling these videos until I have enough to use them to replace my first year lectures.
After hearing that former Fugee and musical star Wyclef Jean is running to be the President of Haiti (despite not having lived there for decades and apparently not actually speaking French very well), I got to thinking – what other musical super stars could run as leaders to help fix the nations of the world? In what way could Lady Gaga help with nation-building projects? Could Paul McCartney advise the World Bank in any way (other than being able to possibly fund a small third world nation by himself for a year)?
“What?!” You must be exclaiming. “Miss Piggy is a Palin Predecessor?”
No. It’s not so simple. Jim Henson was no fool and I’m sure Kermit does not believe that Obama is a secret communist socialist muslim agent. Or at least I really hope so.
According to the article (which is chronicling a debate on the issue as a break from the never-ending nightmare of the healthcare “debate”):
… the Muppets are temperamentally conservative. While they value education, for example, their interest in the subject is implicitly linked to their desire for children to adopt the norms of bourgeois society, and thereby to take their place as productive citizens. Mr Henson wanted everyone to count by numbers, in the order in which those numbers traditionally appear. Although Muppets occasionally dabble in the arts, notably Rowlf at his piano, Mr Henson had little appreciation for free-form intellectual endeavour. Among his earliest Muppet sketches two curious characters appear. One, “the philosopher”, is described as scatter-brained and often quoting things inappropriately or inaccurately. Another, depicted variously as an octopus and a sea-monster, is described as big, happy, and “normal-thinking”.
But I think it goes far beyond this. Exhibit A: Sam Eagle.
Sam Eagle, the protector of “American” values, who hammers on and on and on about culture. Who uses the show to deliver address against “namby-pamby” liberals who want to put a halt to industry to protect endangered species… like American bald eagles.
Sure, Jim Henson may have supported liberally-oriented civil rights in public(remember Roosevelt Franklin?) He arguably introduced tv’s first gay (albeit closeted) couple. But let’s face it – Sam was the dark heart of the Muppet Show. The Col. Nathan R. Jessep (“protecting these walls”) so that the show may go on. The true side of felt-based American television entertainment.
And who else could we add to this list?
I leave it for blog readers to suggest their own candidates for a “vast rightwing sing-along variety hour conspiracy”.
Then, in the following segment on Node 3 of the International Space Station, he (and his screenwriters) seemingly demonstrated a surprising lack of cultural literacy. How else to explain their disbelief at the fact that “Serenity” beat out “Colbert” as one of the most-recommended names for Node 3? Watch the clip and tell me if I’m misinterpreting this.
Oh, and you can go here to vote.