May 27 2013

Help Me Understand Why Cannes Winner “Blue is the Warmest Color” is a Triumph for Lesbians

I was a late bloomer. I was a tree-climbing, pet-menagerie-loving, book-devouring tomboy my entire childhood. At 14 years old I still had not reached puberty, and I had begun to wonder if something might be physically wrong with me, since most of my girl-friends had been bona fide sanitary-pad-carrying “women” for many years.

When “womanhood” did finally strike me at 15, it hit with a vengeance. I went from stick-thin to hourglass in a matter of weeks, and I had stretchmarks on my new C-cup breasts to show for it.

I struggled a bit with the transition. The sudden attention. And, as I became increasingly attracted to boys, and they to me, I began to discover that my new womanly parts were some sort of an asset.

Still a virgin and halfway to 16, I met a 21-year-old man who shared a house with his brother in my cousin’s neighborhood. He was gorgeous. He was intelligent. He was chivalrous. He was single.

We got to know each other over neighborhood spades and domino games and we traded flirtations, though we both knew he was too old for me.

It was a sweet fall for me. Uninitiated virgin meets worldly, independent, philosophical  man-friend. After a first  kiss, we decided to be “a couple,” though I made it clear to him that I did not intend to “lose my virginity” until my wedding night. It was the stuff of Disney movies.

We “went steady” for a few months. He picked me up on his motorcycle and took me on mountain hikes and picnics. He wrote me romantic letters and professed his love for me.

He may have really loved me. Or, he may have been grooming me for sex. Arousal is a powerful force, and a body will want what it wants.

But, I was still a child. And, he knew it.

The brief love affair ended in his car one night in my driveway. We were kissing (and suffering from the arousal of it all) and he suddenly stopped and said. “I really care about you, but I can’t do this. I respect you. I respect that you’re not ready to have sex, but I’m a man, and I do want to have sex. I don’t want to hurt you in any way, but I can’t do this.”

And, that was the end of that. I cried for a couple of weeks then moved on to a relationship with a boy my age.

Now, let’s imagine for a moment an alternate universe in which that conversation ended instead with the passionate sexual consummation of our “young love.” Let’s pretend that our subsequent increasingly explicit and adventurous sexual cavorting was captured on camera and displayed to the public as the artistic exploration of an adult man initiating a 15-year-old girl into the physical expression of their “forbidden” love. That, legally, would not be considered art. That would be considered child pornography and my man-friend would have likely been arrested and would now be a registered sex offender.

I suspect a major motion picture about said grown man seducing a child that contains lengthy and pornographic sex scenes would never make it to pre-production, let alone be lauded as artistic.

Which brings me to my admittedly sight-unseen judgments about “Blue is the Warmest Color.”

Here is the description of the film: 15-year-old, Adèle has no doubt : a girl must date boys. Her life is turned upside down when she meets Emma, a blue haired young woman who allows her to discover desire and to assert herself as a woman and an adult. (They left out the part about how Emma is a sexually experienced graduate student in her twenties.)

In the many reviews of this film I have seen online, no one is discussing the age gap between these characters.

Brokeback Mountain was a monumental film about two consenting adults that won accolades for its courage and sensitivity, but had one of those characters been a 15-year-old boy, would that film have been made?

When it comes to sexual exploitation, should it matter that the one doing the exploiting doesn’t have a penis? Does Adele need to be 14 for us to view Emma as a molester? Thirteen?  When adult men do this to young boys, a cry for their prosecution is loud and immediate.

Being a woman and a mother of women, and having been a 15-year-old myself, it’s impossible for me to appreciate or applaud a film in which an adult seduces a child–and that seduction is offered up in graphic detail for voyeuristic mass consumption.

Being a woman it is difficult for me to trust the motives of a male film maker whose 3-hour movie contains long segments of what has been described by reviewers as “extremely graphic” and “absolutely not simulated” lesbian sex. (His red carpet walk with the teen women who starred in the film gave me the creeps.)

Not being a lesbian, I ‘m wondering why this film is being discussed all over the Internet (mostly by men) as a “triumph” for lesbians of which to be “proud.”

Please know that I am not being facetious or sarcastic when I ask for help understanding why those applauding this film do not feel compelled to protect the world’s Adeles from the sexual advances of “loving” adults, regardless of whether the adults are male or female, straight or LGBTQ.

BLOGGER’S NOTE: I have not seen Blue is the Warmest Color and do not want to after reading the reviews. I did not read 50 Shades of Grey for the same reason–because, though it is likely to be titillating, my personal preference is to not be “entertained” by the sexual exploitation of innocents  (and I don’t want those images in my head forever). This has admittedly influenced my opinions about this movie. I welcome other points of view.


Jul 8 2012

According to ‘Abraham Lincoln’ Harriet Tubman Shouldn’t Be So Black

There are two things the American masses can’t seem to get enough of, revisionist history and vampires, so, hey, why not mash up the two and make a quick box office buck?

Enter film maker Tim Burton (yes, thee Tim Burton) and his just released bright idea, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” a re-imagined version of our 16th President as a hatchet-wielding, freedom fighting abolitionist on a quest for vengeance against the blood-sucking, slave-eating Confederate vampires who murdered his mother.

I’m guessing the film is as over the top as it sounds, which is probably why critics have mostly panned it; but, I can’t actually speak on whether this flick has any redeeming qualities, because, out of respect for Harriet Tubman, I will never see it.

(Yes, thee Harriet Tubman)

If you know even a little bit about Araminta Harriet Ross Tubman, you know that she stands as one of the greatest human beings who has ever inhaled oxygen on this blue marble we all call home.

No, that is not an exaggeration.

Harriet Tubman is a super hero’s super hero.

If you don’t know much about her, we’ll just place the blame for that squarely on the educators who cheated you. If you don’t learn more about her after today, there will be no one to blame but you. Google is, after all, the great equalizer. Or, you could read “Harriet Tubman: The Moses of Her People,” which is (at the time of this posting) absolutely free on Amazon.com

It is really difficult for me talk or write about Harriet Tubman without being overcome with emotion, because, even though I know many, many details of her life story (a story that is beyond amazing), I am painfully aware that the details I DO know are but a tiny fraction of all that this woman was, all that she saw, and all that she suffered so that others might live in freedom. Gazing at her picture both inspires and shames me; I am reminded of how much I have not done in comparison to this woman’s breathtaking life of service.

Born into slavery c. 1820, Araminta “Minty” Ross was forced to perform hard field labor from the time she was a small child. She witnessed several of her siblings being sold off to other owners (never to be seen again) and she once heard her mother, Harriet Greene Ross, threaten to split open the head of anyone who tried to sell her remaining children. That threat (which worked) was Minty’s first exposure to the idea of “resistance,” but it would not be her last.

Minty was permanently disabled at age 13 when she refused to help an overseer catch an escaping slave. The overseer threw a heavy metal weight at the fleeing slave and it missed and struck Minty in the head. Her owner allowed her two days to recover from the trauma, after which she was forced to work the fields with blood from the wound dripping down her face. She suffered with epileptic and narcoleptic spells for the rest of her life as a result of the injury.

Minty eventually married a free black man named John Tubman and adopted her mother’s name, Harriet, as her own. Never contented to be a slave, Harriet Tubman soon began plotting her solo journey North to freedom. Though her husband threatened to turn her in if she tried to run, Harriet escaped to Philadelphia where she established a base of operations and dared to return to the South twenty times to lead hundreds of souls to freedom via the Underground Railroad. Tubman famously never lost a passenger–a feat she attributed to a pistol at her side and direct communication from God.

Never captured, Tubman eventually served as a spy and nurse during the Civil War, became a suffragette after slavery was abolished, established a home for the aged, lived to be 93 years old, was buried with full military honors and has this inscription on her headstone:

“Servant of God, Well Done.”

So, when filmmakers start messing around with this woman’s legacy, those who love and revere her are definitely going to sit up and take notice.

What we notice about this Burton film is that somebody (Casting agent? Executive Producer? Director?) decided it wasn’t important to portray Harriet Tubman as the dark-skinned daughter of Africa that she most definitely was.

Harriet Tubman (left) & the actress cast to play her 

Tubman’s direct ancestors are believed to have been of the Ashanti tribe from what is now Ghana, West Africa. She was not “mulatto” and she received none of the advantages during her life (literacy, freedom, income, protection) that might have come from being mixed with the slave master’s blood.

Harriet Tubman’s dark skin is central to her story as a black American woman, and anyone who knows and respects the history of Africans in America would know that.

Which raises the question…

Why was Jaqueline Fleming even in the running for this part? (I get why she took the role, but it is lost on me how she could be cast here.)

Casting a movie is never haphazard. Casting agents are like character chemists who are responsible for connecting the audience to the actors and the actors to one another. Their expertise is generously compensated, and their track records are what get them gigs. A quite prolific casting agent, Mindy Marin, cast this movie, though she may not have had the final say in how Harriet should be portrayed.

But someone did. And someone decided she shouldn’t be so black. Someone decided Harriet Tubman should look less like herself and more like Jaqueline Fleming, and that someone had a reason which is left open to speculation.

So, let’s speculate:

Perhaps the closer a woman of African descent is to looking like a white woman, the more palatable she becomes to the audience.

And when a woman of African descent is darker-skinned it seems we are more comfortable if she stays in her place.

Removing Harriet Tubman’s pigment for the purpose of making her more “palatable” to an audience is called E R A S U R E. Distorting Harriet’s image so that it can no longer serve as an example of heroism to the successive generations of brown girls who resemble her is called E R A S U R E.

Erasure must be socially sanctioned if it is to be effective.

So, don’t sanction it. In honor of a great black American woman who devoted her life to freeing slaves and being of service to her fellow humankind, please do not support this film.

“I freed a thousand slaves; I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” -Harriet Tubman

And, if it’s not too much trouble…

:-/

…contact the film’s producers to let them know why:

@20thcenturyfox @bekmambetov @SimplyBurton

Bekmambetov Projects, Ltd.
11600 Dona Alicia Place
Studio City, CA 91604
Ph:(818)755-0640
Email: kathy@bazelevs.com

20th Century Fox Film Corporation
Attn: Scott Rudin
10201 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90035
Ph: (310)369-1000


Dec 23 2011

Happy Feet Two Delivers a Message Every Kid (Even the Grown Ones) Should Hear

“If you want it, you must will it. If you will it, it will be yours.”

Though I loved the overall message of Happy Feet Two, I found a couple of serious glitches in this energetic and well-meaning sequel to an Academy Award-winning predecessor.

Let’s just go ahead and get the criticism out of the way so we can get to the good stuff.

What I didn’t like about this film is that, plot-wise, there was just way too much going on. The original movie was about a cute little fuzzball who didn’t fit in. Prest-O, change-O and by Happy Feet’s end, horrifically tone-deaf Mumble turns out to be an amazing dancer whose uniqueness has become an asset. Easy to follow. Great message for the kids.

This version of the penguin-out-of-water saga is not so simple. Mumble is grown now and his son Erik is on a quest to…do something important I’ve forgotten because the competing subplots about melting polar ice caps, an entire generation of emperor penguins facing extinction, two bickering krill (Brad Pitt and Matt Damon) on a mission…oh, and that one penguin guy who actually can fly…distracted me from whatever it was little Erik needed to accomplish.

I also am a little unsettled by listening to a white guy (a brilliantly funny guy, by the way) voice a character with uber-zesty Mexican flavor (R-r-ramon) that could have more authentically been voiced by, well, an actual Mexican actor.  Lovelace’s “soulful” Barry Whitish demeanor gives me the same heebee-geebees. But that’s just me.

Having said that, I can testify that this movie is a friggin’ visual feast. The 3D animation is absolutely spell-binding and something you really do have to see to believe. There is never a dull moment in this fun and funny flick, and between the eclectic soundtrack, the Savion Glover choreography and the witty one-liners delivered by an all-star cast, Happy Feet Two is wildly entertaining.

I’ll admit that as a Common fan, I was excited to witness his foray into voice-over acting, and he didn’t disappoint. His character brought authentic hip hop flavor to a screenplay that intentionally paid homage to several music genres along the way, including hip hop, rock, and the surprising use of a musical genre I won’t mention here because it would spoil a great little plot twist.

Though very young children may be frightened by some of the more ferocious scenes, this is a great “take and talk” film. That’s where you take a group of youngsters to see the film, then go out for pizza and talk about some of the important themes the characters came to terms with along the way.

The overarching message in this movie is a powerful one more kids really need to learn as early as they are able to comprehend it:

If you want it, you must will it…

Happy Feet Two delivers this message in a way that might metaphorically wrench the X-box controller out of our kids’ hands and encourage them to get busy actively pursuing their talents and their dreams. For the price of a movie ticket and a box of popcorn, that’s a pretty good deal.

by Kathleen Cross for rollingout.com