Monday, May 31, 2010

A Feminist Reading of 'The Little Mermaid'

Because my favorite radio station was having a 'Revenge of the 80s Weekend', and because they do that about twice a month (rendering my absolutely sick of the 80s), I was listening to my iPod in the car the other day. It was a mix of random songs I had chosen for their ability to be welcome to my ears almost 100% of the time. And so of course, there are more than a few Disney songs on there.

'Poor Unfortunate Souls' is the one which happened to come on, and in the middle of my emotional rendition of Ursula's soul-selling pitch, the Sarah Lawrence in my started thinking. Here are a few lyrics that particularly caught my ear, where Ursula tries to convince Ariel that selling her voice for a pair of legs is 'a trifle':

The men up there don't like a lot of blabber
They think a girl who gossips is a bore!
Yet on land it's much prefered for ladies not to say a word
And after all dear, what is idle babble for?
Come on, they're not all that impressed with conversation
True gentlemen avoid it when they can
But they dote and swoon and fawn
On a lady who's withdrawn
It's she who holds her tongue who get's a man

It almost sounds like a Dorothy Parker poem. And then when Ursula shouts through Ariel's staring at Eric, 'It won't cost much, just your voice!' I can't help thinking how that could have easily been applied to a housewife in 'Mad Men'. Get married and become just like everyone else. It won't cost much, just your voice.

I can't decide if this is meant to be ironic or not. Was Howard Ashman trying to make a statement, or is Ursula's argument ultimately proven right without a trace of irony? Disney isn't known for the most positive messages for young girls, and considering that Ursula also helped a young mer-woman who was 'longing to be thinner', it's hard to know whether the song perpetuates standards or pokes fun at them. After all, Ariel does end up marrying Eric and, despite having supposedly regained her voice, doesn't do a lot of talking, other than thanking Daddy for her new legs.

I'm starting to think I'm more on Ursula's side than I should be. I'm beginning to imagine a history between herself and Triton which involves him using her badly and her scorn turning her to witchcraft. This is what happens when you listen to or watch Disney without turning off your pesky 21st-century brain. I still love it, though. Actually, this makes me love it more!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

[Insert 'Lost' Pun Here.]

So tonight is going to be different. Unlike most Tuesday evenings for several months, I will not be watching 'Lost'. And unlike every previous year when this fact was temporary, it's not coming back. It's over. The End. Literally (that was the finale title).

I don't want to hash out the actual content of the show, I'll leave that to critics and message boards. I just want to take a moment to consider the journey I took as an audience member. From 2004 to three days ago, the show has encompassed a relatively large percentage of my life, and has provided several great milestones with which to measure it.

I distinctly remember watching the first episode of 'Lost' on September 22, 2004. It was a Wednesday, so I was at my dad's for the evening. He was in the garage working on something, and I was flipping through channels just to pass the time when I settled on the much-hyped pilot. I say all this to show that I was only mildly interested when I began watching, but after making it through that first night, I was hooked. I sat on that sofa completely gripped and hoping that Dad wouldn't finish whatever he was doing before it was over.

I taped the show after that, because it came on at 7 pm and that was often a time still being taken by dinner. So I watched episodes after the fact. Somehow, around the second season, I fell behind in watching the recordings, and I just let it fall away completely from my viewing. To this day, I'm not sure I've seen the entire second season, and the 'tailies' never completely captured my interest because of that.

When I went to college I re-discovered the show. Communal viewing necessitated arriving early to secure the television, and I watched 'Lost' again at first just to facilitate getting a good seat for 'Project Runway', which packed the Red Room. But there's no such thing as casual viewing, and the drama and mystery roped me back in in no time. I was either watching the night of with other fans or watching the next day online, again with others. Call it peer pressure, but I was back in the fold. This time, it stuck. I watched the freighter arrive and explode, the Losties travel back and forth in time and reality, and I loved every minute of it.

And finally, it all came to an end on Sunday. Being the only person at home who really watches the show, I decided to watch the finale at a local movie theater to enjoy, just one more time, the feeling of community as a roomful of people gasp, laugh and cry together. So I made the harrowing journey downtown and found a parking space that didn't require testing my parallel parking skills. I arrived four hours early. Yes, I know, a mark of insane obsession, but I wanted to make sure I got a good seat, and I came prepared with knitting, snacks and reading. Plus, the fact that I was joined in line just ten minutes later proves that if I am crazy, at least I am not alone.

Hours later, we were sitting, waiting for the recap and finale. I was a little concerned that the guy sitting next to me would ruin the experience, because before it started they were showing epic scenes and he kept pointing to plot holes that aren't plot holes (you can't swim out of a porthole until the room fills with water because of the enormous amounts of pressure, and Jin choosing his wife over his daughter isn't a plot hole, it's disagreeing with the character's decision). Plus, he laughed a little more loudly than necessary. Thankfully, though, he was relatively silent during the actual show. Didn't inhibit my suspense or sobbing.

There was one more surprise at our screening than in others: special guest Frank Lapidus! That's right, everyone's favorite chesty pilot was filming in town and stopped on by to watch with us. When it turned out his character wasn't dead, there was even more applause all around.

About three hours later, it was all over. Some people were angry, but I was just in shock with red eyes and a snotty nose. I was almost in a daze as I walked outside, past the bright lights and thumping music of the clubs towards my car, diligently waiting for me on the street. As I drove home, I nearly started crying all over again. Because you can't just turn off the emotions when the lights go up. It didn't feel over, but it was.

I'm going to move on to other shows and other mysteries which may or may not be answered. But this wasn't just a show, it was something that started in high school, cropped up again in college, and ended in the 'real' world. Just another thing to look back on fondly and remember. Growing up. I guess it means all your favorite shows are over. But thankfully I'm not all grown up yet...

Saturday, May 22, 2010

(Un?)Happy Anniversary

Today is my official one-year anniversary as a former student and graduate from Sarah Lawrence College. 365 days have passed since I crossed the stage of Westlands stone deck. They have passed so quickly, and yet, when I look back, a lot has happened. I've taken on jobs, I've left jobs, and had them leave me. True, I have yet to find the holy grail of full-time employment, but there has been a fair amount work of various kind. Even today, I went to work at the mall, but only for a three hour shift, giving me time to enjoy the summer weather which has made it warm enough to actually swim in the pool.

Yesterday was the 2010 commencement, and I don't know what it says about me that I watched it live online. I watched Julianna Margulies' speech and listened as Dean Green read out the names of each undergraduate, as he does so well, making each one sound like the main event. I even recognized a few people, though I have to admit most were strangers to me. You'd think that on a campus of 1400 or so everyone would be recognizable, but a cap and gown might as well be a mustache and glasses as far as my memory goes.

How should one celebrate this kind of anniversary? Balloons and streamers seems wrong, and there's no one to exchange gifts with. I'm thinking just a little nostalgic thinking before bed, and perhaps some tea out of my Sarah Lawrence mug which is in fact the size of a bowl. That sounds about right. Of course, a viewing of '10 Things I Hate About You' wouldn't go amiss either.

I suppose it's the kind of thing that gets forgotten as you get older, unlike birthdays and weddings, it's really only the first few that stick out. Eventually the exact date will give way to 'late May', which will become 'sometime in May', and then perhaps I'll just know it's around the time everyone else graduated, after spring and before summer. But I think I've got enough obsessive fact-grabbing tendencies that it will be several decades before I reach this point.

As it is, I still miss the campus, but as more and more friends leave it, I have come to terms with the fact that as a place it can never truly be what it once was. And I guess that's okay. But that doesn't mean I can't miss it, at least once every 52 weeks or so.

So raise your glasses and toast to one full year in the so-called real world. Woo.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Oh, oh! Pick Me!

I've written before about the hindrances of cover letters. The script of what one has to say leaves little room for sincerity, or at least a recognizable way of communicating it. Because each one must include promises of how much we would love to work here or there, it's hard to tell one potential employer that they are your first choice.

There's something about forced politeness that makes everything sound less enthusiastic than you actually are. Let's face it, when you are scripted to say, "I would be great for this position, I look forward to hearing from you," it's hard to make sure that they truly understand that I would be awesome for this position and I'm crossing my fingers that I hear back soon. Because you can't write that. You have to be eager but not desperate. Available but not at such a loose end you appear undesirable. Seriously, the fine points of the art of flirting are more easily understandable than the rules and regulations of cover letter enthusiasm.

I find that the hardest thing is to try and follow all the rules without just washing myself out, or, conversely, trying to make myself stand out without turning a potential employer off. Because you never know who is on the other end of that cover letter, especially when sent through an e-mail. You don't know their opinions on exclamation points and a little humor.

So crossing my fingers, toes and eyes that I can type with sincerity, and that whoever reads my cover letters can read with a little as well.

Friday, May 14, 2010

La la la la la...this is my stop.

I know I've just had a love-rant for Emma Thompson, but I've got another one for a cartoon. 'Daria' came out on DVD today, and I have to say, I owe a lot to those darn MTV people who made this show. A sarcastic bookworm with a tinge of misanthropy? Hello, my teenage idol!

I mean, let's look at most teen shows, and let's look at the girls in those shows. How many of them read Machiavelli? How many wear combat boots and glasses with pride? How many trade in boy-crazy for a biting wit, while still blushing in front of their crush? There was only ever one such girl. Daria Morgendorffer, take a bow.
I waited about 8 years for the show to come out on DVD. When it finally arrived on the doorstep, and I held it in my hands, I actually teared up a little. I mean, I'm building up quite a library of childhood memories, and this is one of the big ones. I remember waking up on a Saturday morning, tuning into MTV with my fingers crossed that there would be a marathon on. I remember watching the final mini-movie and not believing that this was the end.

So I just had to give a little shout-out to the most awesome girl in Lawndale, while also continuing to reveal my unending geekdom.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Emma Thompson: I Love You, I Thank You

Last weekend I watched 'An Education', and was again reminded of something I never really forget: I love Emma Thompson. There were other things I took from the film, but because I then followed it up by falling asleep watching 'Sense & Sensibility' with commentary, the moral was fairly deeply engrained for the night.

There are a few pop culture places I can turn to explain parts of my personality, movies and shows that I identified with and reinforced who I wanted to be. Belle in 'Beauty and the Beast' (that library!), Vada Sultenfuss in 'My Girl' (1 and 2), Daria in, well, 'Daria'. And then there was Emma Thompson, as herself and as both Elinor Dashwood and, perhaps even more importantly, Beatrice in 'Much Ado About Nothing'. All of these women read. Some of them were literary characters of their own. They had spunk, and were just generally awesome. I wanted to be them.

Daria, Vada and Belle aren't real. Heck, two out of the three are cartoons. But Emma Thompson is, and if I ever saw her randomly out somewhere, I wouldn't hesitate to go up to her and thank her for being her. I once saw Woody Allen in New York, but I just kept walking because I haven't seen enough of his work to feel like it's worth bothering him. Maybe this is weird, but I feel like I'm enough of a fan to bug Thompson.

But the chances of bumping into her in the mall seem pretty slim. So I'll just put it all here, and hope that the wonders of the internet might bring it to her in some form. Emma, you are awesome. Not just in the roles you play, but just in being who you are, and you made me a better person because of both. Thank you.

And, hey, can I get an autograph?