feminism

Poetry Nights and how they put everything back in perspective

Sometimes I love cancelled plans, ironically they come to me with a great feeling of adrenaline rush and countless opportunities. I am an introvert by default – it is evident from my need to catch a break for a day or two after spending a lot of time closely interacting with other people for a while. It doesn’t mean they are not dear to me, I just need a small escape gap to give me a chance to recharge my batteries, and then I’m ready to socialize again and be a happy, functional human woman.

Like most of us, I enjoy being around people I like and who I’m comfortable with, talking is of course the main part of the deal so a healthy cocktail of chit-chattery, gossip, simple topics mixed with something new or more challenging is always the unintentional goal. One of the parts of being a social being in general is no matter how long you know someone, if your relationship is solid, you’ll always manage to discover new subjects, learn something and finally, get excited about things you didn’t even know they excite you.

So, cancelled plans. This week is the best time to be alive for all of us chronic cancellation and postponing loving assholes. It is the middle of a summer, the time when I usually turn into someone who is not a very good person, someone who doesn’t have the greatest conversation starters or any creative ideas whatsoever, someone who will talk about mosquito bites and suicide 90 per cent of the time. I would most likely team up with your grandma and present everyone with the data about the horrible effects of sun exposure and how you should, if possible, avoid it throughout the day. Going to the beach happens only from 6 to 7 AM or after 7 PM, there’s no in between. Literally. I will even casually throw in the word ‘cancer’ just to keep the party going, totally unaware how I’m being a bit of a hypocrite since I used to smoke a pack  a cigarettes a day and no one could say a word about it.

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Back to cancelled plans. The past couple of days the heatwave made everyone act like me. They are postponing work, public events – no open movie projections, even some theater plays got cancelled! Since nothing is going on, all we hear in the ‘news’ is: extreme temperatures, the worst summer ever, hell on earth… I read a title that went like this: Our readers experiences: ‘I went to the store today and died’. The whole article consists of random statements delivered by anonymous Croatian citizens (a.k.a. invented by the author) worrying about how to survive the heatwave. My absolute favourite comes from a brave female reader from Zagreb:

I drink water and pee all day, I can’t eat and I usually love to eat. If I put my clothes on, I’m hot. If I take it off, I get sticky. And the worst part of it all – the coffee doesn’t taste good.

What do I do when plans get cancelled and I’m lying naked in a pool of blood sweat next to the ventilator, but don’t want my brain to go into a complete shutdown? I read poetry – no matter if it’s going back to old gems or accidentally discovering new authors, it’s the best cure. Tonight I’m once again hanging out with my queen, Sylvia Plath.

One of her poems that leaves the greatest impression is called Mushrooms and although I didn’t pay much attention to it because of the title that seemed bleak (seriously?), became important to me right after I read it for the first time.

Mushrooms

Overnight, very
Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.

Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.

Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,

Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,

Perfectly voiceless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We

Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland-mannered, asking

Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot’s in the door.

Sylvia Plath, The Colossus and Other Poems (1960)

 

When I read it now, I could swear that this poem is precisely what first inspired Margaret Atwood to write The Handmaid’s Tale, just look at the last verse. Sylvia Plath is an icon of feminism, a real one, not just a ‘one line pony’ as I like to call them nowadays. She lived in the 50’s and was, in a way, forced into accepting a role of a simple housewife, go after society’s rules, although her mind was way beyond that ever since she was a young girl.

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If I Could Just See You From Up Here by Norman Duenas

This is a poem about oppression and how it will not last forever. I don’t think it’s necessary to limit to the equal female rights problem only when oppression is not just gender based problem (what an understatement in lack of a better word), it is everywhere, it is evident, hidden, sometimes comes in layers, sometimes directly in your face. Oppression is the word I would use to describe what Plath was fearing the most during her young and later adult years, the fear of not being able to express herself and live freely without having to answer to anyone’s expectations deteriorated the state of her mental health leading her towards the tragic ending.

Mushrooms speaks to everyone who has ever felt isolated, misunderstood, underestimated or ignored and although it comes in a depressive tone, it is actually a positive, hopeful poem.  It provokes the thoughts of a revolution that will help restore the balance between the greedy oppressor and the underdog. It is in deed a revolution, but not the roaring, powerful kind, it is subtle and quiet, it comes on its tiptoes while you think everyone on the planet is asleep. Nothing is sure except that in the morning the sun will rise and deliver a surprise on its rays.

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We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.

 

 

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The Exploitation of Frida

One day in the late 1940’s you find yourself wandering around Coyoacán, Mexico and stop by at La Casa Azul where the rebellious painter lived and ask her: Frida, my dear,  what do you want to be remembered by after you are no longer living on Earth? What do you think the answer would be? I have a couple of versions on my mind, they are all connected with freedom and free love, determination, passion and obsession with life with all of its epic, exciting, moments, but also the inevitable downfalls, pain, sickness and sleepless nights. 

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I am happy that the legendary artist is getting more popular than ever, social media created an important passage for new generations towards her art, words and thoughts about honest love and intimate suffering. The aftermath is amazing, even though Frida passed away 63 years ago, her image and spirit are present while she’s considered as a role model and inspiration to girls and women (and some boys and men, because why not?) of all profiles, especially the underprivileged, misunderstood ones.

Commodification as a norm

Every medal comes with two sides, and the thing that is happening with Frida’s persona, just  like with many other important figures who represent resistance to the system of exploitation, is that they are all being turned into something completely opposite, they’re becoming objects of advertising propaganda. Just think of the irony of Che Guevara, the best example of modern era’s distortion of values – his face selling T-shirts, travel agency deals, coffee mugs, key chains, door mats, towels… There’s even a ‘Che chic’ expression for a fashion inspired by the great revolutionary’s image! The real person and the idea behind is lost, irrelevant, to a great number of people his face is merely a caricature, a pop art commodity.

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To answer the question from the  beginning of the post, I’m positive that Frida Kahlo would never accept the role of a commercialized poster girl, a capitalist icon connected to various products in most ridiculous ways. The last example I saw today, the one that ‘triggered’ me to write this down was a billboard presenting a young model wearing Frida inspired traditional Tehuana like dress with a flower crown and a parrot sitting on her hand, all very rich, colourful, with a big white 10 % SALE banner screaming from the top right corner. Naturally, there is no manifest mention of Frida, but the resemblance is uncanny. Oh, and when I zoomed in towards the bottom right corner of the image, I could finally see it is a commercial for a newly opened furniture store. What is the connection? What do Frida’s face, style and that poor parrot have to do with the new sofa or a lamp they would like you to buy? I have no idea, I’m pretty sure that the ad creators are equally clueless.  That’s the idea, to keep everything floating on the surface, as soon as you dig deeper, try to find any meaning, there’s a dead-end.

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Fake feminism

In Frida’s case the story is even more complicated because it all has a lot to do with commercialization of feminism and empower yourself ads. Empower yourself by buying our shoes, empower yourself by getting that perfume in a drugstore near you, empower yourself by choosing hair extensions from our salon, empower yourself… Ok, just stop for a second there and let me unnecessary analyse it. What does it mean exactly –  if I buy a T-shirt from a brand that currently doesn’t have the ’empower’ or ’embrace your beauty’ campaign going on, am I degrading my self – worth? And what about next month, when the brand I bought the shirt from turns to a different, for example ‘YOLO!’ campaign style while the others begin to embrace the ‘love yourself, be unique, but look just like everyone else while wearing our clothes’ mantra? Damn, it’ s like you can never win and reach 100 % on the empoweredness scale. Should I worry about it, probably not, but I do sometimes. I feel like I have to. Would Frida care? I think not, she would just continue marching on using her talent as a weapon of mass destruction in fighting every stereotype there is on her way to immortality.

Wearing Frida or Che’s face on your shirt is not really a problem, the question is: Do you know who those people are, how they lived and what they stand for? Or are you just wearing it because you like the colors and it looks kind of cool and edgy while their polished images are somewhat familiar and also you saw someone wearing it on a Instagram photo just the other day? If the answer to the second question is yes, take the shirt off and do some research.

Now I need to chill, hand me that Pepsi, Kendall! Cheers!

Quentin Tarantino’s Badass Female Characters

Gender pay gap, hyper sexual objectification, dumbing down of female characters, lack of quality screenplays for women, these are just some of the issues film industry is still dealing with. Lately it seems things are moving forward as more actresses are candidly speaking up about the problems they are facing and bringing them to international spotlight.

Although Quentin Tarantino holds an image of the ‘enfant terrible’ of American cinema, his movies are often labeled as too violent, brutal and unnecessary bloody, he is also one of the most important modern directors and screenwriters. In opposition to all the violence and hundreds of gallons of blood , there is an interesting fact I appreciate very much – when you ask someone to name five iconic characters from Tarantino’s films, more than half would most certainly be female. Intelligent, cool, independent, strong, sometimes very dangerous, sometimes caring and sensual, we admired them all. Who would have thought after Reservoir Dogs came out that Tarantino would become a sort of a feminist hero.

To honour the Hollywood’s favorite ‘basterd’ on his 54th birthday I am bringing you some of his most remembered heroines that continue to inspire.

Jackie Brown

Aw, the milk went bad while I was in jail.
This is his third film, but the first in which Tarantino decided to place a woman in the lead, and oh, what a wonderful decision he made. During the ’90s period actress Pam Grier was used to appearing in smaller roles, but came back in style with a captivating performance in crime thriller Jackie Brown where she managed to outshine acting legends like Robert DeNiro and Samuel L. Jackson. Jackie is a middle-aged flight attendant who is actually working for a gun dealer Ordell Robbie by smuggling money across the border. After she gets caught, Jackie agrees to cooperate with the police in order to catch Ordell and avoid jail time. At the same time, she realizes her crazy boss wants to kill her, so that’s when she comes up with a not so simple plan… Smart, daring and charming woman who doesn’t want to depend on anyone, that’s why Jackie Brown will always deserve an important place on a groundbreaking female roles lists.
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 Shosanna Dreyfus

My name is Shosanna Dreyfus and THIS is the face… of Jewish vengeance!

Tarantino made Inglorious Basterds so that he could play with the darkest part of the 20th century and deliver his version of WWII events in his distinctive, attractive way. The key character is Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent), a young Jewish woman who happens to be the only surviving member of her family that was murdered by Nazi’s. Years after the soldiers found them in their hiding place and committed a bloodbath, she meets a German war hero and gets an idea for a revenge plot with a goal to kill the Nazi top commanders like Hitler and Goebbels. Her will power and fearlessness is astounding, along with her ability to keep focus on the way of reaching her final objective.

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Mia Wallace

Three tomatoes are walking down the street-a poppa tomato, a momma tomato, and a little baby tomato. Baby tomato starts lagging behind. Poppa tomato gets angry, goes over to the baby tomato, and smooshes him… and says, Catch up.
This small tribute can’t be completed without HER, the ultimate style icon and every girl’s dream Halloween costume choice. Uma Thurman and Tarantino surely had a special chemistry between them on the set, and we can all be grateful for that. She is not a main protagonist, but is the most recognizable one, her face is the visual and spiritual representation of Pulp Fiction. Mia is a mobster Marsellus Wallace’s wife who wanted to be an actress, is totally in love with Amsterdam, smokes a lot and also likes to snort cocaine. Her style is simple, but seductive, she is smart, has a great sense of humour and she’s definitely got a way with words. And as you already know, she can dance like no other.
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Zoë Bell

You guys look like shit. Who died?

One of the leads in Death Proof, maybe not Tarantino’s most acclaimed work, but certainly the most ‘girl power’ statement movie . Also, Zoë is the only one starring under her real name because she is actually playing herself – an energetic, talented stunt double who made me want to get out more and get involved in a sports activity for a change. Tarantino was amazed by the skills she presented while doubling for Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, and how could he not be – just remember those crazy adrenaline-filled Death Proof scenes where she’s strapped on the hood of a speeding car. Zoë also appeared in other Tarantino’s works: Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight, showing a range of talent, breaking stereotypes and just staying true to her cool, bold presence.

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The Bride

Those of you lucky enough to have your lives, take them with you. However, leave the limbs you’ve lost. They belong to me now.

Beatrix Kiddo (Uma Thurman), code name Black Mamba is one of the greatest action movie characters of all times which means a lot because that kind of roles are usually reserved for male actors only. She is a former member of an elite team of extremely well-trained assassins who finally wakens from four years spent in a coma after she was shot in the head by her former boss and lover called Bill. Kiddo creates a list of former colleagues who have betrayed her and begins her ruthless mission of killing every one of them showing impressive fighting skills along the way. Her dynamic, blood soaked quest for vengeance is divided into two volumes, culminating in an epic ending. That kind of firm determination in a character is rarely seen and has to be appreciated, Kiddo is passionate and dangerous, scary, but makes you sympathize with her after all the trauma she’s been through. Finally, the list of awesome women who are not afraid to attack first is what gives this movie a big credit in establishing a different kind of a female presence on the big screen, showing everyone that women can kick ass, as well.

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Originally posted on MoviePilot