Zombies And Disasters

photo of the floor is lava game pictures
I think that it is fair to say that most children play the “don’t touch the floor; it’s lava” game as children. I know that I did. No one taught me this game. I had never heard of a friend playing this game. I had no older siblings who played this game. It was a fun exercise and, in its own small way, helps to build survival skills. While the “lava” part is due to the expanse of human knowledge and scenarios seen on television, that kind of game is almost instinctual.

One of the purposes of play, particularly as children, is to build survival skills (and to practice social interaction, of course).

There is a lot of speculation about why people find zombie apocalypse stories so fascinating and appealing. Some say that it is because, symbolically, it has to do with anything from 9/11 to living in a world that has nuclear and biological weapons. Some say that it’s a secular way of telling a Rapture story, while others say that it is because we all have the potential to become the enemies of our neighbors and family members.

I am sure that bits and pieces of those are factors in a lot of zombie apocalypse stories. In some cases they might influence writers. In other cases, they might subconsciously influence readers and viewers and gamers to enjoy the subject matter.

Personally? I think that it partially goes back to the basics: practicing survival skills through learning and play. Most of the people who enjoy zombie apocalypse fiction make plans for what they would do in such a situation. Would they fortify their homes or a friend’s home? Whom would they bring? What would they bring? How would they protect themselves along the way?

These questions are applicable in a lot of situations that are, while unlikely, more probable than hordes of slow-moving undead that are ..

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‘Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding’: A Film Review

photo of peace love and misunderstanding poster pictures It’s been a while since there’s been a good, strong, well-done feminist film and I’m excited to say that ‘Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding’ is one of them. It stars Elizabeth Olsen, Catherine Kenner, and Jane Fonda, which is a winning combo, ladies.  This movie chronicles three generations of women who are trying to find a way to understand each other after years of familial disintegration. Written by Joseph Muszynski and Christina Mengert and directed by Bruce Beresford, ‘Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding’ is a film about understanding, multi-generational empathy, and learning from both your mistakes and your success.

I really liked this film because I’m a young feminist who has recently become very close with my grandmother, who is not a feminist in any way. I think Zoe’s (Olsen) struggle in being a young feminist is interesting to watch as she navigates through both her grandmother and mother’s relationship (the two haven’t spoken in 20 years).  Zoe’s mother (Keener) is the complete opposite of her mother (Fonda) and has never allowed her children to meet their grandmother. But when marital problems hit, she packs up the kids and heads back home to her mother (‘Hope Floats’, anyone?). Over the course of a few summers, they get to know each other and begin to repair a very fractured relationship, all the while learning about each other and life itself along the way.

Feminism is present in many forms in this film. Grandma Grace is a second-wave feminist flower child who loved the 60’s and free love and feels women should do whatever they want and feel is right. Diane (Keener) was born at Woodstock—and has rebelled against it ever since. She is an uptight New York lawyer, highly educated and financially self-sufficient. She sees her mother as a flippant selfish woman. Then there is young Zoe (Olsen) who’s somewhere in between both of them. Her feminism is not fully formed yet, and watching it mature is the fun of this film.

I really liked the idea of this film because feminism itself is so fragmented and dysfunctional. You have people like us that think you can be feminine and feminist then you have people that think you have to be very masculine to be feminist. You have slut-shaming and slut walks. People who think that being a stay-at-home mom is feminist and some that think only if you are self-sufficient and making your own way are you a feminist. It’s a very confused path and this movie illustrates that with its multiple generations and nuances of relationships. Anyone who enjoys feminism and chick flicks should probably check out this movie.

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Feminist Protests At Cannes

photo of cannes 12 pics
Hollywood has always been a bit of a boys club. If you name the first five directors that come to your mind, odds are they won’t be female, and naturally, this male domination has upset some feminist groups and all of it came to a head this year at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.

There are 22 films competing for the Palme D’Or prize (which is the Cannes equivalent of the Oscar), and not one of these films was directed by a woman. This fact was protested in the States where a petition was circulated and signed by almost 2,000 people, including feminist icon Gloria Steinem.

However, leave it to the French to stage a protest like never before. La Barbe, a feminist group in France which translates to The Beard, took to the Cannes red carpet in multi-color beards to show their dislike for the lack of female recognition. They stood in the rain at the premiere of Michael Haneke’s “Amour”, carrying signs that said, “Marveilleux,” `’Merci!!!” `’Splendide,” `’Incredible!” and “Le Barbe.” I’m guessing that this stance was their way of saying that the only way to get heard or get a good review was to be a male …hence the beards. La Barbe started this protest long before the red carpet, however—they previously circulated a letter complaining about the mostly male festival line-up, which was published in Le Monde and The Guardian newspapers.

The artistic director of Cannes, Thierry Fremaux, defended the woman-free line-up, saying he does not choose movies based on who has made them. The festival then issued a statement in support of Fremaux, saying films were chosen “without regard to race, color, sex, language, religion, political opinion” or any other external factor. And Fremaux isn’t the only one saying it’s “no big deal”—filmmakers like Britain’s Andrea Arnold, a member of this year’s Cannes jury, have defended the festival, saying the bigger issue is the lack of female directors making feature films, not Cannes not selecting them.

Does Arnold make a good point? Thoughts?

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Why So Serious?: The Iron Lady Faces Feminist Criticism

photos of margaret thatcher pictures photos pics movie meryl streep pic
Former Reason Editor, Virginia Postrel’s Bloomberg column was not happy with the new Margaret Thatcher biopic “Iron Lady”:

Hollywood has no trouble with public women as long as they are hereditary monarchs, who have no choice about their role. It can deal with the power of Elizabeth I, who had to rule to survive. But the more democratic, liberal power that arises from the combination of ambition, competence and popular appeal — the power of a Margaret Thatcher … is more problematic. A grocer’s daughter who becomes prime minister could be anyone (even if she is in fact an extraordinarily gifted person). Her ambition thus casts doubt on the audience’s own choices, or at the very least poses an alternative to them. Some people do in fact die regretting their unfulfilled ambitions and uncompleted work….”

So, OK. Thatcher herself, at least in my mind, is a feminist icon. She took on a career in which women were not allowed to enter. A female Prime Minister was not even a consideration and she turned that notice on its head. Screenwriter Abi Morgan described “The Iron Lady” as a “very feminist film,” noting that it had a female writer, director and star. She also acknowledged Thatcher’s “extraordinary” ability to combine homemaking and child-rearing first with her legal studies and later with her political career. “What’s interesting about her,” Morgan said, “is that I don’t think she felt the guilt that I think we feel. I think there’s an inherent guilt that most people feel. The thing I think most women struggle with mostly is feeling guilty.”

Protrel said “these supposedly feminist filmmakers could have portrayed Thatcher as an ambitious woman who had nothing to feel guilty about. Instead they chose to inject guilt where it did not belong. They obscured Thatcher’s public accomplishments in a fog of private angst. The portrait of dementia isn’t the problem. The way the film uses old age to punish a lifetime of accomplishment is.”

Which is a fair argument, but Postrel, to my knowledge and Google research, has never spent any time with Thatcher. So one could argue that everyone has guilt and regret and that Hollywood biopics are not, in fact, documentaries. I do believe the disclaimer “based on” tells people that this is not the entire, completely accurate story, and possibly not even a true story, it just happens to be based on this woman. Anyone who is using a Hollywood film starring Meryl Streep (who is phenomenal as always) as their basis for history isn’t someone you should be listening to anyway.

In my humble opinion, this is why feminists get a bad name. Many take everything too literally. It’s a film, not a historical text. That’s a problem with American culture: we celebrate Hollywood as if it actually mattered. It doesn’t. Can’t we just enjoy the popcorn and flashing lights of Hollywood and stop making everything so serious?

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