Romy Shiller

Archive for September, 2011|Monthly archive page

Burlesque

In 3rd Wave Feminism, Film, review on September 29, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere. – Helen Gurley Brown

Director: Steve Antin
Writer: Steve Antin
Stars: Cher, Christina Aguilera and Alan Cumming

Okay. Weak story but fabulous representation of women. This film is not about story or acting so I’m not going to discuss it. It is about singing and dancing and fabulous costumes.
The burlesque tradition has made a huge comeback. “Burlesque is a humorous theatrical entertainment involving parody and sometimes grotesque exaggeration.”

As an example of resurgence, there is a contemporary Canadian act called The Cheesecake Burlesque Revue. Promotional material says, “The Cheesecake Burlesque Revue keeps audiences coming back for more! More laughs, more tease and more body confidence. With influences from cult classics to Broadway favourites they create imaginative show-stoppers! The performers are as individual as the stars on the walk of fame – cute and geeky, rock ‘n’ roll, classic and elegant – audiences can’t help but have a favourite or two or three! They’re known for high energy acts, lavish costumes, stand out performers, comedic timing, seductiveness and girl-next door accessibility.”

Burlesque suggests sexuality but it is not stripping. It is very sexy, campy and over-the-top. Look, females can be sexy and powerful. I detested the film Nine (2009) essentially because the women’s power revolved around getting the director.

Plot: Small-town girl ventures to Los Angeles and finds her place in a neo-burlesque club run by a former dancer.

This film is a show-case for 5-time Grammy winning pop diva Christina Aguilera. Like her or not she can sing and dance. Her hottness factor makes her ideal for this role. Cher is good but sidelined. The Kristen Bell subplot is a throw-away.

In an interview Christina Aguilera said, “There have been a lot of roles and scripts that have come my way but nothing that really inspired me or intrigued me like when “Burlesque” showed up at my door. Just the whole concept of burlesque, I’ve always been fascinated with it. I’ve always collected so many books about burlesque. I’ve been intrigued by the time that it’s set in, in the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and so I knew it was a no brainer for me to be a part of once I met with the team.

I want to be very clear; this film is set in the present. While burlesque has a history, the film is like homage to the style.

Alan Cumming is usually known for his roles in, Spice World, Spy Kids and X2: X-Men United. He had great roles in smaller films like Investigating Sex, Suffering Man’s and Urbania. He played the Emcee in the Broadway revival of Cabaret (1988), for which he won a Tony and NY Drama Critics award. His association with Cabaret cannot be underestimated in this film: “they seem to have brought him in essentially to reprise his Emcee role from Cabaret, which won him a Tony in 1998. Variety describes the role as “the club’s gender-bending host and master of ceremonies…”

I believe that this film appeals to a gay and straight audience. Alan Cumming’s appearance enables a gay reading. I just want to say that I do not believe that all gay men like musicals; he is a sign, a representation. Cher is a standard gay icon. Christina Aguilera’s song ‘Beautiful’ (um, in her album called Stripped, 2002) is a gay anthem – you get the point.

“While Cher said she was fully aware that “Burlesque” is, in many ways, tailor made for a gay audience, she drew the line at the claim that this is solely for gay audiences. “I don’t think of it as a gay film but, of course, the gay guys love musicals and it’s fun. It’s just really fun and so I think that’s what appeals.” However, Cher did express much gratitude for her gay following and offered up the observation that “gay men either love you or they don’t even notice that you’re on the planet. If they do love you, they stick with you through thick and through thin and even when you’re not popular. I think they recognize kindred spirits that don’t really fit into society either. And, of course,” she added with a laugh, “there are sequins.”

Cher plays a woman who owns and runs the club. She performs as the star. Her business is spectacle. What a seamless role for her. “For the big screen musical “Burlesque”, Academy Award-winning megastar Cher ended a seven-year hiatus to take on the role of Tess, the glamorous proprietor of the dazzling Burlesque Lounge. When Ali (Christina Aguilera), a small-town girl pursuing her dreams to be a star, stumbles across the inspired musical revue, she becomes determined to prove she’s meant to be on that stage. As Ali comes into her own as a performer, Tess sees an opportunity to make use of her spectacular voice and showmanship in a way that will benefit not only both women, but the club itself.”Collider

Most critics do not like this film but honestly, I think the focus is misguided. If the emphasis was on story or plot I’d have to pan it. The way in which the film represents women and music is good though, and that is often overlooked. Even though I find most award shows contentious, “Burlesque” scored a handful of nominations from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (Golden Globes), including a nod for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical. Should you see this film? Well that depends. If you are interested in camp, gender, hot women and representation – yes. If you want story or plot – no. Simple.

Romy Shiller is a pop culture critic and holds a PhD in Drama from the University of Toronto. Her academic areas of concentration include film, gender performance, camp and critical thought. She lives in Montreal where she continues her writing. All books are available onlin

Horrible Bosses: Or, “Do what I say”

In Film, review on September 28, 2011 at 4:25 pm

“The key to success is taking sh*t.”

Nick (Horrible Bosses)

Director: Seth Gordon

Writers: Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley

Stars: Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston

I’ve had horrible bosses and heavenly ones. I could relate to the inherent disgruntledness [is that a word? If not, I will invent it now] of some employees. You know, this film is well done and it had the potential to be extremely schlocky. The script is very good and so is the acting. Rather than star-power detracting from the roles, you can see why these actors are stars. Colin Farrel and Jennifer Aniston are drowning in juicy gossip, yet here they are actors. Kevin Spacey is brilliant – as usual.Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis, are superb.

Plot: Three friends conspire to murder their awful bosses when they realize they are standing in the way of their happiness.

Colin Farrel (Bobby Pellitt), Jennifer Aniston (Dr. Julia Harris) and Kevin Spacey (Dave Harken) are absolutely the worst bosses ever. “The bosses get the best roles: Kevin Spacey as a heartless tyrant, Jennifer Aniston deeply nasty as a foul-mouthed, sexually predatory dentist, and Colin Farrell, unrecognisable as a weaselly, boorish martial arts fan with a jaw-dropping comb-over.”

Farrel puts on an American accent, is apathetic about his dad’s company (which he inherits) and is drugged out. Aniston is determined to fulfill her own needs by sexually harassing her engaged employee (Charlie Day as Dale Arbus). This is nicely balanced by a character (Jason Sudeikis, as Kurt Buckman) who suggests that this is a straight-male dream. Spacey is sociopathic, manipulative and delusional. Jason Bateman (playing Nick Hendricks) is Spacey’s employee and is is way nicer than I’d be.

Jamie Foxx (as Dean ‘MF’ Jones) coaches them on how to kill their bosses. “Jamie Foxx has a terrific cameo as their inept “murder consultant”, whose name is…” His character goes by the first name ‘Motherf*cker.’ Calling him by this name is hysterical.

The theatre I was in was packed and this is not a new movie. Word-of-Mouth must be very, very good. Reviews are positive, for example, “A guilty pleasure for anyone who hates their boss, this is original, superbly performed and wickedly funny.”

I saw the comedy The Change-Up (A comedy in which a married father accidentally switches bodies with his best friend, leading to a series of wildly complex difficulties. ). To compare the two films would be like comparing apples and oranges or different species. The two films might share a genre but that’s all. The Change-Up is not a bad film but again – not comparable. Ed Gibbs of the Sydney Morning Herald says, “We may have seen this stuff before but it could have been so much worse.”

Horrible Bosses is unique in a genre full of clichés. I like that it sends up Crime/Heist/Gangster films, Thrillers, and Porno films just to mention a few.

I had enjoyed Jason Bateman in the TV series Arrested Development.  (Cool popular culture side-bar:  he’s the younger brother of Justine Bateman who played the role of Mallory Keaton on the television sitcom Family Ties from 1982 to 1989) He seems to be making a move to Film.  I also saw him in The Change-Up. He’s a good actor and I’m always pleased to see him. He usually plays a conservative, responsible type and he is typically ‘the voice of reason’ as he is in this film. He is definitely pigeon-holed. So, his character in this film is a variation on a familiar theme. I honestly feel that he has the chops to play against ‘type’ and I hope that he is given the chance. I’d like to see him as really evil, a super-villain or something.

I think that a lot is expected of Kevin Spacey and he rarely, if ever, disappoints. I expect him to get lost in his characters. They are like an envelope which he fills with pure talent. He is probably one of the best actors alive today. I love his acting choices. Anyhow, the fact that he chose to be in this movie said much to me.

Ok, Jennifer Aniston might be sexy here but she is also evil. In many films which comment on the objectification of women, the commentary does not link up with the action – here it does.

Colin Farrell is superb and unrecognizable. This sex-symbol is so ugly in many ways that his priority is character over looks. Bravo!

A review by James Gorman of Northside newspaper said, “This movie had me struggling to catch my breath between laughing. Even with the fear of reprisal from die-hard fans, I can honestly say it puts “The Hangover” franchise to shame.”  Yup.

Hereafter

In Film, review on September 24, 2011 at 11:18 am

Death is nothing more than a doorway, something you walk through – Dr. George Ritchie

Director: Clint Eastwood
Writer: Peter Morgan
Starring: Matt Damon, Cécile De France, Frankie and George McLaren, Bryce Dallas Howard.

This is going to be a complex review (she says to herself). Either I’m preaching to the converted or the opposite – people who think psychic phenomena is bull. I liked this film and I strongly believe in psychic phenomena. What I appreciated was the balance. Some psychics were fake and some were genuine in this film. I saw the Woody Allen film ‘You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger’ (2010) and the ‘rational’ folk think the psychic is a charlatan. The point there seemed to be that if one was rational they would disbelieve psychic phenomena. I tried not to be offended.

An article I found says, “Damon is good at playing conflicted characters, which is why Eastwood wanted him for this film. One of the ironies of Hereafter is that Damon’s psychic abilities seem legitimate in a profession crawling with phonies and charlatans. Yet, as Damon explained in an interview during filming, the guy’s honesty is no protection from the misery his gift causes him.”

We all have ideas about psychic hotlines, I’m sure. It would be easy to lump all psychics into one category. Subtlety is good. Another article says, “[T]here are plenty of nonbelievers who find psychic ability and communication with deceased loved ones hard to swallow. And there are charlatans and scammers who prey on the grief-stricken.”

A suspension of disbelief appears to be absent for most viewers. People are more than willing to view inanimate objects that turn into killing machines but psychics and near-death experiences are a problem. Go figure.

Plot: A drama centered on three people — a blue-collar American, a French journalist and a London school boy — who are touched by death in different ways. A drama centered on three people — a blue-collar American, a French journalist and a London school boy — who are touched by death in different ways.

Basically this film was a quest-film. The school boy wants to find the psychic, the French journalist wants acceptance and the psychic wants a normal life. People seem to be distracted by the subject matter – death – but it is pretty basic, you know. Some believers in psychic phenomena wanted more warmth, heart or soul. I guess that I was just glad that psychic phenomena were represented at all. Once it becomes usual then we can talk about certain qualities.

In a February 2010 interview with the UK’s Daily Telegraph, Clint Eastwood described “Hereafter” as “…three different stories with people who have gone through some sort of stressful time and it’s about how they sort of converge together. Much like a lot of French movies have been in the past, where the stories kind of converge together, and destiny drives each person towards the other.”

He moves beyond the subject-matter.

The CGI (Computer-generated imagery) is great. Editing, cinematography and acting – very good…

I remember reviewing ‘Avatar’ (2009) and there was a similar reaction to the representation of disability. There seems to be an impulse towards a certain kind of representation in both cases. I understand this but I rarely expect accuracy in film. Balance is reward enough for me.
The journalist (Cécile De France as Marie) is caught in a tsunami. She drowns and is brought back to life. She has a near-death experience. “de France has a most complex role as a successful French journalist swept to the brink of death by an Indonesian tsunami before returning to life a changed woman.” Source

Eventually, she is commissioned to write a political book but she writes about her experience with death. Initially, there is prejudice levied against her by the publishing company, and then they realize that this book could do well. She calls her book ‘Hereafter’ like this film.

The psychic (Damon as George) takes a job as a construction worker. His brother wants him to return to his old life including website and renown so that he could profit off of him. We find out that contacting the dead, with messages for loved ones, puts him in a compromised spot. He has made an informed decision to leave that behind him.

The boy (Frankie and George McLaren as Marcus/Jason) has a twin brother who has died. The boy desperately wants to contact his brother and his various attempts to find a channel lead to charlatans. Here we have a good example that fakes exist. While it might be forced that Damon is for real at least there is a viable option presented.

Harry Kloman says, “If one idea emerges here that’s even slightly startling — at least for a mainstream film — it’s that religion has the afterlife wrong and God has nothing to do with it. Tell us something we don’t know. Every 15 minutes or so, Eastwood presents a scene that’s especially chilling or moving, but only because death and its concomitant sadness always seize our emotions and focus our attention. It may seem odd that Eastwood has made a supernatural film after half a century of being so down to earth. In fact, he’s always traded in fantasy fulfillment and allegory, unless you believe that Dirty Harry is somehow even remotely “realistic.”

I was entertained here. Eastwood is a very capable director. Damon is a good actor. No, it’s not the best film ever made but it’s hardly the worst.

Romy Shiller is a pop culture critic and holds a PhD in Drama from the University of Toronto. Her academic areas of concentration include film, gender performance, camp and critical thought. She lives in Montreal where she continues her writing. All books are available online.

This was sent to me and I thought I’d share:

I thought this HEREAFTER Visual Effects Shot Breakdown reel might interest you.  It highlights how Scanline VFX/Los Angeles, together with overall VFX Supervisor Michael Owens, created some of the visual effects for the film.  It has been cleared for Immediate Use.

In addition to receiving an Academy Award® nomination for Best Visual Effects, HEREAFTER won the Visual Effects Society (VES) Award for Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Feature Motion Picture.  This marks the first time in the 9-year history of the VES Awards that the winner for Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects also received an Academy Award® nomination.

To access the reel:

Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/19959832

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EoAHO4_jPzQ

Fair Game

In Film, review on September 9, 2011 at 8:51 am

Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead. -Benjamin Franklin

Director: Doug Liman
Writers: Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth
Stars: Naomi Watts, Sean Penn and Sonya Davison

I wasn’t going to review this film because I was in a coma when the actual story broke and I’d have to rely on hearsay and Google. However, this is foremost a film, I reminded myself, and one that I really liked. “The Plame Affair is a story that’s brimming with drama. It features international intrigue, marital tension, espionage, and betrayal by our own government.”Collider. Frack the reasons not to and just do.

Plot: Plame’s status as a CIA agent was revealed by White House officials allegedly out to discredit her husband after he wrote a 2003 New York Times op-ed piece saying that the Bush administration had manipulated intelligence about weapons of mass destruction to justify the invasion of Iraq. Plame’s status as a CIA agent was revealed by White House officials allegedly out to discredit her husband after he wrote a 2003 New York Times op-ed piece saying that the Bush administration had manipulated intelligence about weapons of mass destruction to justify the invasion of Iraq.

I adore Sean Penn. His acting in this film was impeccable. Penn spoke out about his distaste for much of today’s cinema. He told Total Film magazine: “I have dubbed myself the Minister of Complaint about Hollywood movies and I do find it very difficult to not (sic) get uncontrollably in a rage most of the time when I go to movies.”

Liman previously directed the fictional spy films The Bourne Identity (2002) and Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005). Doing a real story like this excited him.

He says, “[The CIA] were helping me on Fair Game without realizing it, because they thought they were helping me on Covert Affairs, which is a TV show that I produce,” Liman explains. “I travelled to Washington, D.C., and was brought into the CIA by the people in the CIA who thought they were working on Covert Affairs, which has the support of the CIA. And I was only there to do research for Fair Game! I had the unique experience of spying on the CIA.” Ha! What a coup.

Naomi Watts as Plame rocks. No easy job to play someone real and she is credible. She and Valerie Plame Wilson were interviewed together: Valerie was asked about how her double life affected her marriage.

VPW: Maybe because I had lived that life for some time, I didn’t find that odd. And fortunately, because Joe had served in government and had interaction with the CIA, he understood that and he never … But overnight, when all that shifted, it just became much more difficult to sustain. The fact that I couldn’t tell him things all of a sudden, that became an issue. There is that scene in the park where Joe says, “Well, if you were lying, could I tell?” It hadn’t bothered him before, because he understood what the job entailed. Then all of a sudden it became, “Huh, what am I doing with her?” As deeply as I loved him, it looked desperate at times. We were both just trying to deal with it.

NW: I think we all know that the construct of a marriage is a difficult thing. You lost everything in a day—your career, Joe’s reputation. You almost lost each other in the process of trying to understand it all. What I loved about this story is that they got through it.

We see major conflict in Plame’s life, in the film. Certain informers become casualties of her reveal and her marriage is compromised. She is unreasonably branded a liar and a traitor. She is worried about her family’s life. She wonders about her ‘breaking point.’ Very exciting and dramatic, I must say.

The cinematography had a certain grittiness to it that made the film feel real, not slick. The aesthetic and the film in general felt very anti-Hollywood. Penn must have been glad.

The story was remarkably balanced between family, action and work. When we see her in the field, she is capable determined and honest. Her marriage is very interesting. While her husband is aware of her line of work, he is not aware of her impeding location. They are both extremely bright and ethical. When they get caught in an evil web of bureaucracy, we sympathize.

Reviewer Christy Lemire says, “Fair Game” moves well and keeps us riveted, even as it encompasses a great deal of complex material — no surprise again, coming from the director of “The Bourne Identity.” I agree.

This film was very good. I recommend it.

Romy Shiller is a pop culture critic and holds a PhD in Drama from the University of Toronto. Her academic areas of concentration include film, gender performance, camp and critical thought. She lives in Montreal where she continues her writing. All books are available online.

‘The Help’: Or, ‘O Mother, Where Art Thou?’

In Film, review on September 6, 2011 at 10:13 am


 

A bill that requires every white home to have a separate bathroom for the colored help. I’ve even notified the surgeon general of Mississippi to see if he’ll endorse the idea.”

Hilly Holbrook (Pg 9, The Help)

Director:  Tate Taylor.

Writers: Tate Taylor (screenplay), Kathryn Stockett (novel).

Stars:  Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Bryce Dallas Howard.

I really hope you see this film. I know that it isn’t released in the UK until October 28th but it is worth it. Race-relations films are extremely necessary and important. They break my heart. To debase someone because of their skin colour (or sexual preference or class or gender…) is abhorrent to me. While artificial and imposed inequality makes me very sad, I will usually find the strength to oppose what I feel is prejudice. We can watch metaphorical films like X-Men but seeing a slice of life can be overwhelming. I re-watched Brokeback Mountain (2005) soon after seeing The Help – well that was a mistake. Sadness on top of sadness.

This film does gloss over some issues but it also highlights certain problems which used to exist and certain attitudes which continue to this day. (The African-American  Civil Rights Movement refers to the movements in the United States aimed at outlawing racial discrimination against African Americans…)

Plot: A look at what happens when a southern town’s unspoken code of rules and behavior is shattered by three courageous women who strike up an unlikely friendship. 

Director, Tate Taylor says, “You just see evil white person, downtrodden abused black person, over and over and over. And African Americans are more sick of that portrayal than the whites are in our country. That’s what’s been really cool, people are saying this film is balanced: There’s bad white characters and there’s good white characters, and the same with the African-American characters.”

This film explores the lives of some women. It is not a chick-flick, it is a human-flick. It is very likely that Viola Davis will win an Oscar for her portrayal of Aibileen Clark. She says, “The Civil Rights Movement is almost a backdrop, but a strong one because it informs the relationships of these women, and yet they were able to overcome it because they had a common goal, which was this book. Through this task, what it created was a bond of commonality.”

Rob Goald, senior editor of Film Festival Today says, “The actors are pitch perfect!  Beginning with the emotion infused performance of Viola Davis (“Doubt”) who portrays the house keeper known as Aibileen Clark.  Aibileen is credited with raising 17 children from various white families while suffering the loss of her own child in an accidental death.  Her best friend is Minny Jackson (portrayed by the wonderful Octavia Spencer) who works for a tyrannical racist, Hilly Holbrook, given extra zest by Bryce Dallas Howard.  Minny is fired for defecating in a pie she served Holbrook which was lovingly labeled by the maids as the “Terrible Awful”.  Terminated and ostracized by the white upper crust, Minny must work for the inept and ditzy Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain) who brings the “Dumb Blond” jokes into this thoroughly entertaining tale with an unerring sense of humanity.”

Emma Stone plays Skeeter. “Her ability to convey vulnerability, intelligence and naivete is what landed actress Emma Stone the coveted role of Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan in the big screen adaptation of the best-selling novel, The Help.”

Skeeter has ties to the white women who debase their maids (who usually raised them) but is determined to write from the perspective of the maids. She is a strong, courageous and unconventional person. She is by far the most awesome white person in the film. She gives a voice to the hidden women whose experience is made invisible. She loses a lot because of her commitment to justice but I imagine that her integrity is much greater to her than any loss.

Bryce Dallas Howard plays the racist Hilly Holbrook and says that, “it’s fun to play a bitch. There’s a lot of freedom when you’re playing a character like that. You don’t need to worry about being likeable or appealing or anything like that. I really, really, really enjoyed playing this character, and there were some tough things about her as well. It’s not like you’re playing some fantasy bad girl. She’s a genuinely evil person. It was like nothing that I had ever had the chance to do before. I’ve played a vampire (in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse), but that’s more of a mythological character.”

Taylor does a good job with racial issues that have been tackled before but many people are unaware of certain details that led up to the American Civil Rights Movement and there is a compelling dynamic and intriguing story here: “In the novel, Skeeter’s anonymously published expose is simply called “Help” — a clever play on words that suggests a cry for change from segregated second-class citizens desperate for their voices to be heard. The film [is] adapted with the sure hand of a seasoned pro by Stockett’s longtime friend Tate Taylor…”

I understand the quest to validate difference very well. In my book Again I write;

Personally, I truly believe that standing up for oneself has great value. Putting oneself in harm’s way because of a decision to manifest integrity can, and often is, a real possibility. I believe the alternative is worse. Challenging dominant ideas is fraught with danger. It might just be easier to surrender, to be defeated, but where is the fun in that? The decision to own power is, well, powerful. I keep thinking of Rosa Parks: “…an unknown seamstress in Montgomery, Alabama refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. This brave woman, Rosa Parks, was arrested and fined for violating a city ordinance, but her lonely act of defiance began a movement that ended legal segregation in America, and made her an inspiration to freedom-loving people everywhere.” Power, inspiration and possibility: Incredible. (pp. 13-14)

The Help is a very good film – acting, directing, editing…wonderful! The historical elements are icing on the cake but the cake itself is delicious. It would be a shame, though, to untangle the story from the filmic elements. It all blends together well.

A review I read says, “A stirring black-empowerment tale aimed squarely at white audiences, The Help personalizes the Civil Rights Movement through the testimony of domestic servants working in Jackson, Mississippi , circa 1963. But more than that, it serves as an enlightening and deeply affecting exercise in empathy for those who’ve never considered what life must have been like for African-Americans living with inequality a full century after the Emancipation Proclamation called an end to slavery.”

I hope the film translates overseas.

Marriage, Divorce and Being Single or The ‘M’ Word

In 3rd Wave Feminism, General on September 1, 2011 at 11:00 am

(originally published May 5, 2010)

My article is‘Marriage, Divorce and Being Single or The ‘M’ Word.’ I examine some of the roles we are forced into and the damaging effects of ideology. I am not against marriage at all – I am for free-will.

If divorce has increased by one thousand percent, don’t blame the women’s movement. Blame the obsolete sex roles on which our marriages were based.Betty Friedan:
speech, New York City, January 20, 1974Marriage, Divorce and Being Single or The ‘M’ Word

You know, to be a single woman over a certain age really enacts a double standard. Men are labeled ‘bachelors’ – lots of doubtful questions arise for women that do not exist for men. Is she gay? Does she have trouble committing or holding down a man?

In my non-fiction book Who Knew?A continuation of You Never Know: A Memoir I say, “Wow. To be an unmarried woman is so suspect. I certainly could have gotten married and will – one day. I remember having a teacher in high-school who was unmarried and I definitely pre-judged her. I was not outside of ideology or expectation. It is kind of bizarre to be in a similar situation now. I was doing a Masters Degree and a PhD. I studied singing at The Royal Conservatory of Music. I had a band. There were relationships and jobs. I acted on film, a TV series and theatre, wrote articles, studied French and took seminars on photography and voice-work. Sorry if marriage was not a priority. I feel like it does not matter what I did – marriage would have been a measure of success.”It is so bizarre to me. I do so much yet validation from most others would be based through my relationship with a man. Sorry – but like it’s so hard to get married? Look, I do want to be with someone forever and marriage would concretize that idea but there are no guarantees, eh? Amy, a third-wave feminist like me says, “society has valued marriage to the extent that some people stay in marriages that aren’t healthy — and do so, because “not being married” or being “divorced” in this society punishes people — especially women — even those for whom divorce is a ‘life saver.’” (feminist.com) A stable partner would be great, but if marriage is not an option, so be it.Like many children, fairy-tales were read to me. Instead of idealizing a prince-charming, I may have regarded the situation as make-believe. I never immersed myself in an ideology most take for granted. I still don’t. Good cake at weddings though. Usually, free drinks too. An excuse for a party? I’m honestly not a hurtful person; I just get a kick out of making fun of things.A New York Times article says, “The most recent crop of reality television shows taps the fantasies we first learned from fairy tales: castles and fortunes, true love and romantic destiny, and above all that most perfect storybook union, the ”fairy tale wedding.” On the rose-strewn finale of ”The Bachelorette,” Trista chose the shy fireman Ryan, who promptly got down on one knee and held out a diamond. ”I don’t think that I could have imagined a better ending to this fairy tale story,” she sighed. Meanwhile, on ”Joe Millionaire,” 20 would-be Cinderellas competed for the hand of a modern-day Prince Charming.” Ich but firemen… (“Fairy Tales and a Dose of Reality.”)Gay marriage – well, if it’s legal for straights, I say why not? “Brad Pitt gave one hundred thousand to fight the passage of Proposition 8, an amendment that would outlaw gay marriage in California. Brad’s donation is the biggest that any A-list celebrity has donated to this date. But it comes as a shock that Ellen DeGeneres or Portia haven’t given a penny to the cause. Rumors have it that eleven million dollars has been raised to fight Prop 8.” (Associated Content)

“Brad Pitt, ever the social activist, says he won’t be marrying Angelina Jolie until the restrictions on who can marry whom are dropped.” (Advocate.com) Way to go Brangelina!

I know some absolutely fabulous women, pioneers, who feel judged because of their non-marital status. If as much energy around them would be focused on their incredible accomplishments instead of analyzing why they’re single there would be such a positive shift for everyone concerned. This gets me mad on so many levels.

I was looking at the website, Single-Woman.TV. It celebrates singleness. This truly opposes dominant belief structures. Instead of judging and being negative there is pragmatic positivity and a very welcome breathing space. You are not suffocated into fitting-in. The very opposite of a Stepford wife is enabled: “The term “Stepford wife”, which is often used in popular culture, stemmed from the novel [The Stepford Wives is a 1972 satirical horror novel by Ira Levin], and is usually a reference to a submissive and docile housewife.” (Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia)

In my non-fiction book You Never Know: A Memoir  I say; “I guess the way my mind works is pretty revolutionary. I do not think like most people I know, that’s for sure. By many standards, I am pretty unconventional. My actions speak for themselves. Two things I can think of right off the bat are that I am unmarried and I do not have kids. Not that I do not want either, but they obviously have not been a priority for me. I was never the kind of girl who dreamt of her wedding day. Having a stable partner is very nice, but I never thought I would need to get married to have that. I remember when I was eight years old, a little boy asked me to marry him. I know we were too young to get married, but I cannot shrug this feeling that I was hard-wired for resistance early on.” (pp. 117-118.)

It is revolutionary to go against the grain, to resist a standard, a dominant ideology. It takes a lot of courage and strength to do things differently and I admire, no esteem, those that do. I know very well that I opt out of the so-called ‘normal’ (I can’t stand that word) but for me it’s like breathing air – a habit which takes little effort on my part. I do validate the effort and challenge most face though.

There is a ton of pressure to fit in and conform. Mark Twain said; “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” In You Never Know: A Memoir I say; “Difference is something that most people avoid. Fitting in becomes a goal. Personally, I think difference is valuable. It’s the “same” that irks me. Variation is not the same as inconsistency. One can be incredibly multi-tonal and consistent.” (p. 23)

Pat Donnelly’s article “How not to find love” (The Montreal Gazette) describes how playwright-actor-dancer-singer Fenulla Jiwani in her play, 30 Dates, draws upon her own dating experiences and feelings about arranged marriages. The pressure to get married is fierce. Donnelly adds, “Looking for Mr. or Ms. Right? Now that online dating and speed dating have entered into the equation, the comedic possibilities have multiplied.” I know that “arranged marriages” are cultural but the inference…

Even celebrity Carmen Electra feels pressure to marry: “The former ‘Baywatch’ star – who got engaged to the KoRn guitarist in April after a whirlwind romance – insists the couple are in no hurry to tie the knot but are constantly being asked if they have set a wedding date.”

She said: “It’s funny; everyone else puts so much pressure, asking, ‘When are you getting married?”
“If it was up to everybody else, we would be married and divorced already.” (“Carmen Electra Feeling Under Pressure To Get Married.”)

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia says; “Divorce or dissolution of marriage is the final termination of a marriage, canceling the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage and dissolving the bonds of matrimony between married persons. In most countries, divorce requires the sanction of a judge or other authority in a legal process.”

I’ve had excruciating break-ups and the torment of divorce must be horrific. There is a great temptation, I’m sure, to be pain-free, to avoid conflict. There might be a fire one has to walk through to get to the other side. This side may ultimately hold mega-relief. Probably, stepping outside the ideology of marriage to some, feels very risky. I know so many people that are in bad marriages. Obviously, I think it’s worth it to get out. Breaking up is never easy, but why suffers permanently? All of the rationalizations in the world don’t seem to cut it. “Recovering from a breakup or divorce is difficult. However, it’s important to know (and to keep reminding yourself) that you can and will move on. But healing takes time, so be patient with yourself.” (Helpguide.com)

The power of ideology cannot be underestimated.

Bibliography

feminist.com
Accessed September 16, 2009.

Helpguide.com
Accessed November 30, 2009.

iCelebZ.com. “Carmen Electra Feeling Under Pressure To Get Married.” June 9, 2008.
Accessed October 4, 2009.

Levin, Ira. The Stepford Wives: a Novel. Fawcett Publications. 1972.
Marriage Quotes
Accessed September 16, 2009.

Shiller, Romy. Who Knew? Victoria, BC: Trafford. 2010.
—————. You Never Know: A Memoir. Victoria, BC: Trafford. 2008.

Single-Woman.TV
Accessed September 21, 2009.

The New York Times. “Fairy Tales and a Dose of Reality.” March 3, 2003.
Accessed October 4, 2009.

The Quote Garden
Accessed October 3, 2009.

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.
Accessed November 30, 2009.

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.
Accessed September 21, 2009.

Romy Shiller is a pop culture critic and holds a PhD in Drama from the University of Toronto. Her academic areas of concentration include film, gender performance, camp and critical thought.

Romy Shiller is a 3rd Wave Feminist according to the book Third Wave Feminism and Television: Jane Puts it in a Box by the head of women’s studies at South-Carolina U.

Books are available online. She lives in Montreal where she continues her writing.