Monday, 29 June 2020

Musical Monday #257

I saw this scene before I watched the movie. This is probably the best bit. I have completely forgotten the movie itself. I think I could barely remember it while I was watching it.
You Don’t Own Me from The First Wives Club 
Performed by Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton
Written by John Madara and David White

Who doesn't love a song about emancipation anyway.

Monday, 22 June 2020

Musical Monday #256

We’ll Never Have Problems Again from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, episode 'Will Scarsdale Like Josh's Shayna Punim?'
Performed by Rachel Bloom and Vincent Rodriguez III 
Written by Rachel Bloom and Adam Schlesinger

Monday, 15 June 2020

Musical Monday #255

Take Back Your Mink from Guys And Dolls
Performed by Vivian Blaine  (and others)
Written by Frank Loesser

Monday, 8 June 2020

Musical Monday #254

Rock And Roll Is Here To Stay from Grease 
Performed by Sha Na Na
Written by David White

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Testing The Scarlet Pimpernel

A while ago, I saw a list of ‘tests’ you can apply to films to see how sexist they are. I thought it would be interesting to give this a go. I decided to use some films I really like, because it is kind of less mean to pick something apart if you actually appreciate it and also I figured that I wouldn’t like overtly sexist stuff, so it would be interesting to see how it can sneak in without you noticing.

I also wanted to see whether things have got better over the years, so I decided to use my list of my favourite film per decade. Unfortunately since some of these movies came out in the very first year of the decade, they aren’t really representative of their respective decades at all and were probably made in the previous one. But oh well. Close enough.

The tests I decided to apply were:

First of all, are there any female main characters in the film?

Then…

To pass this test, you mustn’t be able to replace a female character with a sexy lamp without destroying the story. This also includes a sexy lamp with a post-it on it, to cover info-dump characters who otherwise have no agency of their own.

To pass this test, the film must have at least one female character who has her own plot arc and the character or her arc doesn’t just exist to support a male character’s plot.

To pass this test, the film must feature at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. A bonus requirement is that both women are named characters. (There is a database of movies to see if they pass this test.)

The Fridging Test (this was called the Anti-Freeze test on the original meme, but I can’t find it called this anywhere else, mostly because if you search ‘anti-freeze test’ you just get a lot of articles about cars)
To pass this test, no woman should be injured, raped, killed or depowered just to move a male character’s plot forward. (Originally this idea was specifically about comic books.)

I also decided to apply my own test:
The Creepy Age Gap Test.
In movies, especially in older ones, there was often this sexist idea that men could be a lead regardless of age but women had to be young, so therefore you would often get romantic pairings that were not remotely age-appropriate (I don’t mean to be ageist here, I’m only looking at it from a sexism perspective). This test is simply to note the age gap between the romantic leads. I am going to arbitrarily say that once the gap enters double digits then it is getting creepy.

Beyond this, I also wanted to see if there was any representation of people of colour.

And if there were, to ask similar questions to the above, such as:
Are there at least two named non-white characters? Bonus requirement is if there are, that they aren’t related to each other.
Do any POC have any dialogue that isn’t forwarding the plot of a white character?
Do any POC talk to each other (about something other than race)?

I also wanted to see if there was any queer representation.

So, is there a character who is identifiably non-straight? Bonus requirement is that they are not solely defined by their sexuality.
Is this character relevant to the plot so that if they were removed it wouldn’t make sense?

Is there a character who is identifiably non-cis? Bonus requirement is that they are not solely defined by their gender.
Is this character relevant to the plot so that if they were removed it wouldn’t make sense?

And finally, a bonus question of whether there is anything in the film that wouldn’t be appropriate if it had been made now.





So, to start, representing the 1930s, we have 


The Scarlet Pimpernel [1934]

This isn’t really one of my absolute favourite movies, it’s just a film I quite like, because apparently I don’t love any 30s movies.

Plot: The Scarlet Pimpernel saves aristocrats from the French Revolution. They send a a spy, Chauvelin, to England to find him. Chauvelin blackmails Lady Blakeney into helping him. She has no idea that her estranged and idiotic husband is secretly the hero she seeks.

Female characters: Lead, Lady Blakeney (Merle Oberon). Minor supporting roles, Suzanne de Tournay (Joan Gardner) and Countess de Tournay (Mabel Terry-Lewis).

Sexy Lamp: Pass. 


A lamp can’t use cunning to steal and read a note or travel to France to warn its husband of danger. However, this is only a soft pass, because honestly stealing information is not too far removed from the post-it idea, and she actually fails to warn her husband of anything, though presumably by warning Ffoulkes (I think it was) that does turn the tide in Percy's favour at the end, but we can't be sure since that is off-screen.

Mako Mori: Unsure. 


Marguerite does have her own plot. She is blackmailed by Chauvelin into helping him uncover the Scarlet Pimpernel in order to save her brother’s life. These plots are entwined with the male characters, but I think that she is briefly a driving force in the plot. However, in the novel she is the main character and here she has definitely been usurped by her husband and she does very little in the finale, so it could have been a lot better. Ultimately, the only character growth she experiences is to realise that she loves her husband, so I guess that doesn’t count as an arc that doesn’t support a man.

Bechdel: FAIL. 


There is only one main female character and she very rarely even interacts with other women. Briefly the Countess and Suzanne do talk about her, but they were having this conversation with men, so I don’t think it counts.

Fridging: Fail, I think. 


Right at the end, Marguerite gets captured by Chauvelin which he uses directly to catch Percy, who did have the upper hand but then instantly surrenders, and she then just faints. This is particularly annoying because the entire final act of the novel is about Marguerite but in the movie she is just caught, then unconscious and then carried out by a man.

Creepy Age Gap: FAIL. 


Leslie Howard was nearly 18 years older than Merle Oberon. I mean, this might be historically accurate because older men did used to marry younger women, but it is still a significant gap between the leads.

POC Representation: FAIL. 


I glimpsed three POC in a parade at the start and that was it. I don’t even know if they were genuine POC.

Queer Representation: FAIL. 


None. I mean, briefly the Scarlet Pimpernel disguises himself as a woman but this isn’t how he lives his life.

Couldn’t Get Away With It Now: Pass. Seems all right.


So, now that I have examined The Scarlet Pimpernel, what do I think of it? 

Honestly, this hasn't changed my opinion of it. The lack of representation is unsurprising given its age and the fact that it is a 'historical', regardless of whether that is inaccurate representation or not. Meanwhile, I have always felt that Marguerite gets a raw deal at the end. She is such an interesting character up until this point and then she a) completely fails her mission and b) faints like a total loser. Worst of all is that because the final face-off between Percy and Chauvelin is so AWESOME, part of me doesn't even care. Having now read the book, I am more annoyed at how pathetically useless Marguerite is written out since the entire finale of the novel is about her struggle (although again it is about her love for her husband), but I would not give up that really cool finale of the movie in exchange for a less sexist approach to the only female lead. I guess this shows how ingrained sexism is in movies. Handling a woman's plot badly can't detract from how cool a man's plot is. It should have been better though. Did she really have to faint? She doesn't faint at any other point. I think the writer just couldn't figure out a way to get her out of the room otherwise.


Tune in soon for the 1940s!

Monday, 1 June 2020

Musical Monday #253

Shake A Tail Feather from The Blues Brothers
Performed by Ray Charles with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd
Written by Otha Hayes, Andre Williams and Verlie Rice

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Trigger

So I guess it's possible for anyone to have a trigger about anything really, since trauma comes in all shapes and sizes.

Personally I know that crowds, and strangers in general, and also using the phone all give me anxiety and impair my ability to function properly, along with the smell of alcohol and the sound of belching, which I guess stems from unpleasant experiences around drunk people.

But what really surprised me was when I had to walk across a field in the summer months on a weekend to get to work and there'd be multiple groups out playing football, and the SOUND of a FOOTBALL being kicked triggered me. So I would get to work feeling absolutely awful. I would pretty much instantly become painfully tense and get a headache. When I stopped working on weekends, this anxiety vanished and I no longer arrived at work a complete mess.

So what I want to know is just how many times did someone kick a football into my face when I was a kid in order for the sound to freak me out this much?!

Saturday, 30 May 2020

Face Blindness

I had just about finished writing this post when my computer restarted for no reason and turns out autosave hadn’t kicked in since the day before so I lost all of it. This was frustrating and so I have left the rewrite for a little while. But now I will attempt to remember all the points again.

The first time I heard of ‘face-blindness’ was in the disappointing fourth season of Arrested Development. I assumed it was just a joke and applied it to myself since I often struggle to recognise an actor if he has a beard or suchlike. But then something happened that made me think about it a little harder and I found that I really do seem to have face-blindness.

The technical term is ‘prosopagnosia’ and it means that you can’t recognise or remember people’s faces. Now, obviously I haven’t actually been diagnosed with this disorder, because in what circumstance would you be? And so I am being one of those people who says they have a thing with no proof of actually having it, but I really think that I do have some form of face-blindness, although maybe in a mild form. According to Wikipedia, the source of all knowledge, ‘it can also be difficult for people with this condition to keep track of information about people, and socialize normally with others’ which is certainly true of me.

So here is my anecdotal evidence:

I tend to recognise people by their hair. To be honest, I think I have become quite lazy. Since I know that faces don’t mean much to me, I tend not to even bother looking at them, which probably makes me seem more socially awkward than I really am and also means I miss features that I might have been able to use to identify a person. If a person changes their hair, particularly how long it is or how straight it is, this really confuses me. This also includes wearing  a hat. I find recognising bald people extremely difficult.  I also get confused if glasses or facial hair changes. Even makeup makes it difficult for me to recognise someone. All bald men look alike to me and all women with makeup look alike. Filters on photos (and airbrushing) are a freaking nightmare. I also can't recognise people if their face is in a different position. As in sideways or upside down. This really only applies to TV and movies, but the number of times I have watched something and known who a character was from the context of the scene or the sound of their voice, but because they were in bed or the camera was below their face I just could not see that it was them, no matter how many times I have watched it.

So, like I said, I mostly use hair to identify people, sometimes age enters into it too, and occasionally sex but not always. Obviously clothes play a part too. This is difficult at work, because we have a kind of uniform, so some people will be wearing the exact same outfit, and I can get quite close to them and about to start a conversation before I realise that they are not who I thought they were. It’s really startling.

The way I think my brain works is that it has a select number of faces or facial types saved and then it simply fits everyone I meet into one of these categories. Did you know that 5% of the population all look like my oldest brother? And another 5% all look like The Slayer? My brain thinks so anyway.  Because of this, sometimes I will be drawn to a person illogically because they share some physical trait with someone I already like. I can think of numerous occasions when I have thought that someone at college/university/work looks exactly like a famous actor, when in fact they almost certainly looked nothing like them. I can sort of see it if I concentrate on individual features or compare pictures directly, but it kind of hurts. If I haven’t seen someone for a while, my memory basically completely erases what they look like and replaces it with one of the default settings, so when I do see them next, it’s really jarring and confusing. When I worked two jobs at once, and so was meeting a lot of new people, my brain basically just allocated one set of faces to both groups. This made it difficult for me to keep up with what was going on in their lives because I couldn’t remember if this was tall woman in 30s with short black hair from Job A or tall woman in 30s with short black hair from Job B. They became identical to me. And the absolute dumbest version of this categorising or face-merging is that my brain even does this for people who share a name. If they are already in the same basic group of age and body-size, then if they also have the same name, they just become one blob to me and if I happen to know them in the same environment, then I’m kind of screwed because I cannot separate them again (possibly I could if I saw them all the time).

Now for some specific examples:

It used to really baffle and frustrate The Housemate that I couldn’t tell that Captain Hook and Mr Darling were both Jason Isaacs in Peter Pan. 
*
I mean, logically I knew they were, but one of them has long hair and facial hair and the other doesn’t. So, you know, they look like completely different people. 

Working in retail for quite a few years now has been a struggle whenever I’ve had to deal with customers who want something from the stockroom.  Because the second I turn away, my brain wipes what they looked like from my memory. I have to memorise what their shoes look like or their bag or something in order to find them again. If I forget to do this, and they aren’t standing in the same place when I come back (and they never are) I just have to go around asking every customer in the shop who is a similar age group if they are the person I was talking to. When I worked at Waitrose this was an absolute nightmare, because I’d remember ‘the old lady with the grey hair’ and then come back to discover this description matched every customer in the shop.

The worst case of face-blindness I’ve ever had was at work. One day I was talking to one of my colleagues, a young woman with long blond hair, and then she left the room. She came back in a few minutes later in a different outfit. I thought it was weird that she had got changed, but we carried on talking. Then she left again and when she came back, she was in the original outfit. This is when I realised that she was in fact two totally separate people. After this, whenever I saw one of them, I got quite anxious because I just could not tell which was which at all. Once, I was even in the staffroom sharing the same break as both of them and I looked from one face to the other, trying to force my brain to accept that they looked different and remember how, but I just couldn’t do it. Eventually the only way I could tell them apart was because I worked out that one wore bright lipstick and the other didn’t. I dreaded that one day the other one might start wearing a similar lipstick!

Last year when we visited the Upside Down House in Brighton, we paid at the ticket office where there was a young woman and then we went inside where another young woman showed us what to do. She then discreetly left us alone so we wouldn’t feel self-conscious. However, later we needed her to take a photo of the two of us together, so The Housemate went and got her. Only later did I find out that this ‘third’ woman was in fact the first woman. I had just assumed she was the second woman from the context of where I had seen her. The Housemate couldn’t understand this at all. Apparently one of them was wearing glasses. So is this me being lazy and not even trying to recognise people? All I know is that they were both of a similar age, similar hair, similar voice, so identical.

Very recently a facebook friend put up a before and after photo of his beard being shaved off. So I knew that these were both photos of him and he had deliberately taken them so he was in the same position with same expression. The two pictures were side by side. I could not recognise that he was the same person. I really tried. I focused on each bit of his face and compared and logically I could see that it was the same eyes and the same nose etc, but my brain just would not accept that they were pictures of the same person. It was like sitting in the staffroom opposite those two young women. It doesn’t matter if I can compare the differences or similarities in the moment, my brain just rejects the information. It’s like fighting against two repelling magnets or trying to get a grip on a slippery piece of glass and it starts to give me a headache if I try too hard. I just can’t record the information.

And finally, the case that kind of validated it for me that I really did have face-blindness and this was actually a real thing. I decided to watch Broadchurch. I had never seen anything by Chris Chibnall that I liked, and people spoke highly of this series so I wanted to give it a go (turns out it was just as bad as I would have expected but never mind). VAGUE SPOILER AHEAD. We were a couple of episodes in and I had pretty much constantly been telling The Housemate my theories of whodunit when he had to stop me because what I was saying didn’t make any sense. And confused and cautious and unbelieving, he had to ask me if I knew that there were two bald characters in the show. I didn’t know what he was talking about. There was one bald character. But he was adamant that there were two. And he showed me the cast list and the cast photos and… oh my God, he was right. There were two bald characters. 
*
I had watched several episodes and thought they were the same person. This ruined my theories… or did it? Because these two men looked bloody identical. And why would a casting director cast two such similar types? And when someone sees a bald bloke up to no good and blames one of the bald characters… I knew that I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t tell them apart! And thus I cracked the case. Because I recognise people by their hair and if they don’t have hair then they are all the same person as far as I can tell.

So that’s the story of how I realised I had face blindness and the kind of trouble it can get me into. So if I ever get confused about your personal information, or start talking about something as if we were in the middle of a conversation, or just stare at a random part of you that isn’t you face, rest assured, it’s because I have no idea who you are.






* I found the images at the following sites: 
http://smoldering-rose.blogspot.com/2011/03/monday-at-movies-peter-pan-2003.html
https://www.bbcamerica.com/shows/broadchurch/cast-crew/joe-miller
http://www.david-tennant.co.uk/2013/04/broadchurch-suspect-profile-nige-carter.html

Friday, 29 May 2020

Rat Tales #4

A couple of people reacted with surprise when I said my rats all had very different personalities, a surprise that surprised me because have they never met an animal before? Of course individual animals have their own personalities. 

So I thought I'd highlight a random behaviour in which they differ.... kissing.

Vizzini will often reach up towards my face. I don't know what she wants. Maybe I smell like food. I like to think she wants a kiss. So I kiss her. And she always acts with surprise, like she doesn't know what just happened. Even though this happens daily.






Fezzik, if near your face, will bite the nose out of curiosity. Not a dangerous bite, just a how-they-explore-the-world nibble. But... every time. She doesn't know what the human nose is and she is dedicated to continuing her important research.




Inigo also often reaches up towards my face, except that she will do it five or six times in a row, receiving a kiss each time, until she reaches her real aim, of licking. Licking my face, which is kind of cute, but especially licking inside my nose, which is disgusting. Also, if you pull away, she will hold you still with her razor-sharp claws. So basically, kiss and run, or you will be assaulted.




These are pretty good examples of their individual personalities. Inigo likes us and wants our attention, Vizzini wants attention but doesn't know what for, and Fezzik can take or leave you unless you happen to be made of nesting materials.

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Brighton

Last year we went to Brighton. I meant to write a post about it but I never got around to it. I still haven’t written a post about Oxford and that was multiple years ago now. I barely took any photos anyway.

We arrived on a Wednesday. Our first impression of Brighton was positive, because it was such an inclusive place that a homeless man was playing the piano in the train station. This image was shattered minutes later when the homeless man was evicted from the station and started screaming abuse at them.

I also couldn’t figure out how to get to the correct road from where we were because there was a surprise wall in the way. But eventually we managed to loop back around. We explored the shops in the North Laine area, where I bought some shoes from Vegetarian Shoes, despite the fact that they didn’t have my size, so now I have a very nice pair of shoes that are far too big and only fit if I am standing still. We also purchased some random bits (mostly out of sympathy) from The Captain Pig, which is a very small vegan shop, unfortunately placed not very far from a huge vegetarian shop. We also visited some bookshops and stuff.

So easy to browse.

I seem to recall we ate lunch at Wai Kika Moo Kau and neither of us liked our food and it was quite overpriced.

We walked down to our hotel, via CEX, because this is our holiday tradition. If we stay somewhere with a DVD player, then we buy some random thing to watch while we are there. We chose the classic movie… Journey To The Center Of The Earth starring Brendan Fraser.

We stayed at the Oriental, which was nice enough, although twin rooms always feel like an afterthought. Our view was directly on to someone else's balcony covered in cigarettes and what I hope was a container of alcohol but might have been urine. Needless to say, we kept the blind drawn as much as possible.

We went to have dinner at Beelzebab at The Hope and Ruin, but it turns out this is an absolutely dinky pub and half the tables were reserved for the live music. I’m not sure whether we were allowed to sit there or not, but the rest of the place was packed. I didn’t have a backup plan and we just miserably hovered about. In the end, we decided to buy the food and eat it while we walked to our concert. However, it took ages for the food to be ready and by this time, a table had become free, so even though we had ordered ‘to go’ we ate in. We rushed the food and it wasn’t very nice anyway, so that whole experience wasn’t great.

Then we went on to the Brighton Dome Concert Hall where one of the security guards harassed The Housemate. However, the show was really good, because we love The Divine Comedy.

Office Politics Tour


Then we went back to the hotel.

On the Thursday, we had a vegan breakfast at the hotel and then went down to Brighton Beach to admire it in the late autumn weather.


British Airways i360
West Pier



We visited the Upside Down House, which was actually super fun.
















The housemate got a drink at The Flour Pot Bakery, which took forever, and possibly we bought some kind of pasties, I can't recall now, and we bought ice creams from V360, although I was really confused because they were actually closed for the winter and their vegan ice cream machine had been moved into someone else’s bit, which was advertising fish and chips.

We went for a walk on Brighton Palace Pier

It was windy.





and briefly looked around the Lanes but by this point, we were getting kind of bored and I didn’t have any specific shops in mind so then we just went on to the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery.

This is the only photo we took in the entire museum.


This was pretty disappointing and we were so worn out by this point that I don’t think either of us appreciated it.

So we headed back to the station, via Glazed for some vegan doughnuts. The Housemate got a nice vegan sausage roll at the station. And that is my brief tale of Brighton. We got home to our babies, who we had left alone over night for the first time.



I think that I was so stressed during the first part of the trip (The Housemate had no ID and I was afraid they would need it at the hotel) and then when dinner went wrong, and that bouncer got aggy for no reason, that I wasn’t really able to appreciate Brighton very much. Then we were so worn out on the second day and the museum was disappointing, and it’s all bloody uphill, and I missed my babies, that, aside from the show which was great, I didn’t really enjoy Brighton.

Which is a real shame, since it is so open and inclusive towards veganism and the LGBTQIA+ community and just people in general.

The Housemate liked it though.