opinion

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!

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Bubble Trouble

There are people who ‘get it’, also there are people who just don’t,  no matter how much you try to explain something.  I’m the one that likes all the best stuff – the best films, TV shows, books… If I stumble upon a classic movie that is praised by everyone, finally watch it and get disappointed because it didn’t live up to all the hype, I’ll tell you it’s overrated and worthless because my opinion truly matters, and if you don’t agree with me…

Well, you are entitled to your opinion and I respect that, but I will secretly judge you because I KNOW STUFF, I GET STUFF better than you do.

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This is an exaggeration of course, I’m not really a delusional narcissist, at least not a serious one.  I’m sure everyone has similar thoughts occasionally, even when we’re unaware of it.  We are born with a self-defence mechanism that keeps us in a bubble which helps us maintain confidence in our intellectual capacity and skills. Some bubbles are thicker, some are very fragile, they vary from being stable or changing from time to time. For instance, you know those days when you feel like things are perfectly falling into their place and with a little effort and focus, you can do whatever you set your mind to… and then there are the dog days when the gut keeps telling you it’s just not worth it, you’re going to die anyway, etc.

A piece of art about nothing

Nothing is everything. Experiences and routines we go through every day, people we meet and talk to, casual coffee breaks, business lunches, awkward first dates, sleepy late TV nights, not so casual sex encounters… Whatever you go through on a daily basis can be turned into a story for a broad audience.

In modern TV era no one had done it better than Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David. Seinfeld will stay forever relevant because it deals with those little daily ‘nothingness’ moments that can be so familiar. Even if you’re not a comedian who lives in NYC and hangs out with three equally crazy friends who are all, just like you, incapable of forming meaningful relationships while getting into absurd situations, and… oh well, you get it, even then, those Seinfeld stories seem ridiculously close and personal.  When the series came to an end after nine amusing seasons, Larry David placed himself in front of the camera, but this time in a much more aggressive and politically incorrect version starring in Curb Your Enthusiasm. Some even consider the show better than Seinfeld, but I can’t fully agree even though I enjoy every minute of it. I’ll never stop rewatching Seinfeld whether I’m going through each episode starting from the beginning, or just clicking on a random one, but sometimes you need to move on. I think Curb Your Enthusiasm is the answer as it represents a natural follow-up for every Seinfeld fan which comes in a more direct, more absurd, hard-boiled form.

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I have seen some of the Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Jerry Seinfeld’s way of creating a talk show with famous guests by literally driving them in a car, talking, then stopping at a coffee shop where they continue to, you guessed it, talk. I mentioned this to a friend who watched a Larry David as a guest episode and asked me ‘what the fuck was this all about, they’re just having a random conversation about basically nothing. And then it ends. And that’s it.’

Why is nothing bad? Why can’t nothing be enough? Of course it can, Seinfeld is a big pile of nothing in particular, but it didn’t stop it from rewriting the history of TV sitcoms. Obviously, there are people who ‘get it’ and those who don’t, no matter what.

This brings me to a completely different genre of films that are very important to me.  I hear people complaining a bunch of times about Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise – Before Sunset – Before Midnight trilogy being overrated because, as it’s written in the plot description:

‘The plot is considered minimalistic, as not much happens aside from walking and talking.’

And then it ends. And that’s it. What some people don’t like or don’t want to realise is that walking and talking can be more than enough. Whenever I watch any part of it, I am left with a big smile on my face overshadowed by melancholic yearning towards something or someone I have not necessarily met. Sometimes it’s clear to me that what I’m feeling is a complex set of mixed emotions towards a fictional construction, like living in a parallel universe for a while. I guess it’s because I strongly  identify myself with Céline, a character played by Julie Delpy, an actress who deserves a separate post so I won’t start going on about her right now. She is a careful romantic, kind of awkward because she thinks and (sometimes annoyingly) overthinks stuff and desperately looks for a conclusion even if the question is not easy or even impossible to answer. Completely rational and irrational and dreamy at the same time, that’s what draws me in every time, I guess.

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My conclusion would be, after years of trying to explain things I like to people I like in a way that doesn’t suit them doesn’t really make sense. If a couple just walking and going through all kinds of banal and complicated topics while contemplating the meaning of life and relationships isn’t someone’s cup of tea, what can you do? Tell them they are missing something very important? Tell them there’s more to movies than adrenaline packed action thrillers or dumb romantic comedies? No. We find what we like or it finds us eventually, it’s not that the other’s ‘don’t get it’, they just ‘get’ things differently and there’s nothing wrong with that as much as I would like to scream otherwise. 

Chin up, make sure your bubble stays strong, but peak out every once in a while to see more clearly what’s really going on.

 

Hey, what’s up? How about no.

In the street, at Uni, work, supermarket…

Random acquaintance or a colleague, definitely not a friend: Hey, what’s up, how’s going? Tell me what’s new? How are things?

Those are the basics, choose additional follow-up by specific preferences: How’s your boyfriend, when are you getting married? * the person laughs hysterically because of their impeccable sense of spontaneous humour* What about your sister/brother? And your parents, what did you say they do for a living? (I never mentioned that.)

At that very moment I am grabbing a gun from a special emergency compartment in my bag, clutching the weapon with my sweaty, but determined hand and BAM!, the person hits the ground. I’ve just killed them. It all went smoothly because I have been rehearsing this in my mind for about 15 years. Scenarios may vary in details, sometimes it’s a hand grenade, or I simply set myself on fire to avoid the stupid conversation, the common goal is always the same: I want to get away, please gods save me from this annoying hell of words exchange.

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Of course, I understand those are just formal expressions, ice breakers, conversation starters (or enders in my case). We use them because we are stuck up, unimaginative, overly attentive and are used to forming superficial relations with each other. I’ve been through many awkward silences and weather discussions in order to keep a dead conversation going, but I am proud to say that I have never directed that kind of interest aggressively into my ‘opponent’s’ face. The only acceptable version is the informal greeting that goes like this:

Random person: Hello, how are you?

Me: Hey, oh greeeat! (dying inside but smiling)

         And you?

Random person: Pretty good.

And that is it, the end, fin, it will not be continued.

A while ago I never remembered to add the additional ‘and you?’ into my answer, I would simply answer about how I’m feeling, I didn’t know that is an unwritten rule until I heard my younger sister using it many years ago in a grocery store, so I added it into my conversational repertoire.

Many years later, I turned out to be a pretty good talker, I can turn awkward silences into witty, but yet not too funny jokes, just enough to keep a drained conversation breathing.The best thing in life is that close friends, family or lovers don’t use the What’s up, how’s life? type of questions that often, when they do, it has a funny or sarcastic undertone. On the other hand, the classic How are you? gets a new, honest dimension as soon as you start talking to someone you like and feel totally comfortable with.

I wish I were braver in cases like, for example, when a nosy neighbour parks her ass right next to mine in public transport and starts questioning me about every living member of my family. At the same time, she will expect a great amount of interest from my part towards her affairs and family, so as soon she realizes I am not going to ask her anything remotely connected to her exciting daily life events, she’ll start talking about it nonetheless.

Look, I really don’t care!

That simple 5 word sentence could get me out of any conversation and label me forever as a quirky lunatic at best, or  a hearthless bitch in a worse case scenario, but oh what a small price that would be in exchange for a lifetime of peace and cozyness.

 

Lust for Life

I slept over at a friend’s place and forgot to take my contact lenses off last night. And my mascara as well.  A thousand dry, itchy blinks later, I’m home drinking lemon balm tea which is known for its calming effects. At the same time there’s another cup in front of me, I’m also having morning coffee leftovers. Last sip of tea, I’m still very thirsty and in desperate need for more tea or a tall glass of water, but no, my mind goes blank: Hey, have some salty pretzels! Naturally, these pretzels are making me (even more) thirsty. While devouring the last drops of coffee with a bitter taste in my mouth, I’m thinking how in three hours time I’ll be able to celebrate the impressive 24 hours of not washing my teeth. During that period, I drank tea, ate pizza and french fries, smoked a pack of Lucky Strikes, a couple of beers and two (I think) gin tonics. Usually, I’m really conscientious about personal hygiene and eat lots of vegetables so don’t judge.

Yesterday evening before going out I’ve seen Trainspottingnot the sequel but the 1996 original. I keep postponing the sequel watching due to a cool mix of nostalgia and unexplainable fear of the future. What does it have to do with a random movie sequel? I don’t really know, it’s just as close as I am able to describe how I feel.  Location – my favourite old cinema in  town which has been turning the best idea ever into reality with adding old(er) classics to their programme (I’ve already seen Taxi Driver and The Wizard of Oz).

So, back to Renton, Begbie, Sick Boy, Spud and Tommy, the characters we hate to love and love to hate. From the intro to the end, every scene, every conversation, every character’s quirk, vice and gruesome activity is epic. The ‘heroes of my youth’ grinning, swearing, shitting and injecting heroin on the big screen, all accompanied with hands down one the best movie soundtracks ever, music growling from the speakers in perfectly arranged intervals.  No matter how many times I’ve already seen Trainspotting, it just doesn’t get any less exciting, touching or funny.

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After leaving the cinema, I stood on the street among people for a bit, lit the cigarette and kept thinking about the holy trinity: David Bowie – Lou Reed –  Iggy Pop, and how any movie containing their music couldn’t be bad even if it actually was.

During my rebellious, curious teenage years, I was prone to thinking of Trainspotting as a film that glorifies drug use and junkie lifestyle, it was a form of a forbidden fruit, cool in a weird way and that’s what I was drawn to. Now I’m experiencing things much differently, I laugh and cringe at particular scenes… It is a sad story at the times, tragic but hilarious, imbued with tons of cynicism. Also, this sounds like a definition of a black comedy, but that categorization doesn’t do the justice to this movie, not even close.

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I was relieved to realize that this cult work was and will always remain important to me; even though we all change through the years and outgrow things every day, the core, the quality pieces we collect through our lives remain the same. The same as in we appreciate them equally, but from a very different angle. The variety of perspectives is why it’s fun to be an art loving human in the first place while listening to music, reading, watching movies, admiring paintings or sculptures… the content comes to us in different shapes and each mind reshapes the artist’s view in their own way.

Ok,  I’m about to make a sugar-free lemonade, no more coffee today!  This means I’m thinking of improving myself on so many levels right now. Today I’m going to eat  fruit instead of junk food, brush my teeth a couple of times to compensate, wash out the smoke from my hair, sweat and beer from the clothes and nonsense from my mind.

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Things and opinions can change, but my crush on Sick Boy is forever.

Meryl Streep and Obama ‘Tribute’

Let’s talk about being overrated. What qualifies someone as overrated, can we all see the obvious signs and agree on proclaiming someone or something as overly acknowledged in comparison to its true value. How does one become overrated? It was perfectly logical to me that you have to actually accomplish something profound on certain level to even earn the chance of reaching the overrated status in the future.

I was wrong. After some additional thinking, many  public personalities came to my mind along with people from my  every day surroundings who seem to get credit for doing or representing something admirable while it’s really hard to pin down where does the appreciation come from. Take some university professors for example, we all catch ourselves looking at one of them holding a presumably important lesson, and thinking: how does this person even manage to tie their shoes or not leave the stove on and burn the whole building before leaving the house for work? Surprisingly, not only do they manage to master those basic functions (just to be clear, I am not mocking the basic functions here, I am admittedly very bad at those), but through (too much) ambition along with good connections they make up for the lack of intelligence and thrive in their academic careers and turn into respected, honored society  figures. It seems that they’ve skipped the ‘achievement’ phase and skipped right to the slimy bag of glorified valueless pieces and once you’re in there, it’s hard to get out. The lack of talent, skills or no of ability of critical thinking is easily recognisable, so why can’t we simply agree on forming the simple yes/no answer to a question: Is he/she/it overrated?

Once you spot one, there’s nothing left to do but to yell ‘You’re so overrated’ at them, right? As soon as you start yelling, in a split second they will shrink and go back to their cave of mediocrity, the one they shouldn’t come out of in the first place. Everything is in order, balance is reintroduced, the air seems fresher and cleaner.

Let’s move on, I am warning  you I’m about to get political in the following lines. The last few days have confirmed with a complete certainty that both Meryl Streep and the Obama family are overrated as hell (I can’t believe I actually agree with Trump on something, I hope it doesn’t become a habit). Watching the Hollywood crème de la crème putting on their best ‘this is so touching and I’m about to cry, life is so hard boo hoo’ faces during Streep’s Golden Globe speech made me laugh, feel second-hand embarrassment and worry at the same time. The thing I am concerned about is the fact that most of the people I know – smart, educated, progressive individuals recognized a heroic, revolutionary figure in a privileged, self obsessed Hollywood product.

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‘Cry Me a River’ performed by Meryl Streep

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate good movies no matter where they come from, Hollywood and its actors (Meryl Streep included) can’t and shouldn’t be ignored, there are so many I love and like to write/talk about… the thing I can’t stand is a public lecture from any of them taking a role of a moral vertical while giving just one of many ‘thank you for the award’ speeches. The part when she self righteously labeled a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist Serge Kovaleski as poor, powerless man who can’t defend himself from Trump’s insults was the lowest point, just made me think: – How dare you? She probably meant well while making the statement, but the overall impression gives out the textbook example of the high horse attitude she adopted, it’s not even entirely her fault anymore.

Just when I thought the western media are done with endless ass kissing and eulogies for the actress mentioning her name in terms of a higher, heavenly being who is here to save us, the culmination of the Obama show hit me in the face. So, just to make it clear, here we are whining over a man who we watched for 8 years holding great speeches, never-failing at a role of a perfect family man, being incredibly eloquent and charming but at the same time continuously bombing the hell out of half of the planet, even more than publicly despised Bush Jr. did. This is not a conspiracy theory, these are cold hard facts and it’s no surprise that the weapon making industry has flourished under the Obama administration, although too many people are not aware of it.

Since 2009, the United States has approved arms deals worth some $200 billion—more than under any other presidency. The deals include sending Apache helicopters to Qatar, “bunker buster” bombs and cluster munitions to Saudi Arabia, and Hellfire missiles all over the place. Predicting an increase in weapons sales fueled by the war against ISIS, an unnamed American weapons manufacturing executive told Reuterslast year: “Everyone in the region is talking about building up supplies for 5 to 10 years. This is going to be a long fight. It’s a huge growth area for us.”

The love of war seems to be a constant between all American presidents but as long as you have the most influential media working in your favour, you go on talk shows singing, dancing and joking around, just pretending to be a regular dude, everything is forgiven.  I get it, a worldwide mourning is exemplified because of an orange simpleton who is about to replace him, but c’mon –  putting two trash cans next to each other doesn’t make the one on the left any less of a trash can just because the one on the right smells much worse.

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