28 February 2014

Friday is the (Inspirational) Movie Night: Gone with the Wind (1939)


"Why does a girl have to be so silly to catch a husband?"

OK, this one is a challenge, because you can interpret it both ways. You could argue that - as in the case of Dirty Dancing, for example - there's not much empowerment or feminism to be found in Gone with the Wind (1939). It's racist. It's androcentric. It's about a privileged girlie facing the world and looking for a man to shelter her from the reality.

But here comes the trick: she ends up having to do stuff for herself. On her own. And that is revolutionary. Well, especially for a Hollywood studio superproduction of 1939 and a novel (written by a woman, take note) describing realities of a Southern-belle suddenly thrown into a turmoil.

Our impulse for including Gone with the Wind among our suggestions come from this article in Spanish critical feminist magazine (google translate should be able to help you!). They ask the following question: how come that even people aware of all those shortcomings (when it comes to aspiring towards empowering feminist fiction) do find it inspirational and somehow - backwardly - groundbreaking?

Their answer goes along the lines of recognizing the qualities of the heroine. Because beyond the superficial persona that Scarlett puts up in order to - very strategically! - try to attract a good match for marriage there is strong person able to grow and overcome the loss of privilege and vanity. An additional credit has to be given for the courage to admit - although through pain and not by choice - that there is life beyond romance and coupledom. And to the conviction that "tomorrow is another day". Resilience, therefore.

By the way, reading the book is always a good idea, too.

21 February 2014

Friday is the (Inspirational) Movie Night: El laberinto del fauno (2006)


"A fairytale for grownups," some commentary said... well, fair enough! The plot El laberinto del fauno (2006, Guillermo del Toro) can be described as "a young girl is informed that she's a long lost elf princess, and that she has to complete three tasks in order to return to the kingdom of her origin". Sounds quite inoffensive, right? Sounds like a fun fairy-tale, suitable for all ages?

No. El laberinto del fauno is rated R for "graphic violence and some language", and is not suitable for small children. At all. Unless you really want to traumatize. The fantasy world del Toro depicts is dark, eerie and very visceral.
But the movie is good, it has a brave, self-emancipating girl protagonist, and we could stop here.

But El laberinto del fauno has a second layer of relevance. The movie is set in right after the Spanish Civil War, depicting guerrilla warfare and some of the choice women could make in this context: (a) trying to survive and not get involved in any political action; (b) enjoying the privilege (and avoiding hunger and danger) if their husbands happened to be part of the new regime; (c) assuming the imminent risk and take part into guerrilla movement, either in the woods or helping from outside; or (d) trying to protect themselves and their children by actively seeking protection of the fascists. While none of these are clear-cut or independent choices, you get to witness the whole spectrum of from adaptation to resistance. That's the special, feminist added value of this movie.

An additional reading on a (slightly) different war that was won by other people and women's destiny after the victory: An Ugly Carnival by Antony Beevor on the social and physical punishments that women accused of collaboration horizontale during the WWII were submitted to.

14 February 2014

Friday is the (Inspirational) Movie Night: Alice in Wonderland (1951; 2010)



A double treat. Now, obviously, there are some significant differences between Disney's Alice in Wonderland (1951) and Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010).

Disney's Alice is a family-friendly musical basically and only suffering depicted is Alice's existential anguish (+ cards/guards being carried away to be executed + the tension around the naive oysters + some cartoon-like violence). And you get singing/gossiping flowers, the adorable Dormouse, Dinah and the gullible oysters, the rather bipolar Caterpillar, etc...while the basic narrative could be "a girl wonders off and explores a bit". It's not as deep nor dense as the original books, but gives you a somewhat glamoured-up and coloured version of Alice-logic and Wonderland-logic.

Burton's version sequel of the classical story is much darker, much more violent and decisive... in the sense of bringing political power play, oppression, real insanity, death into the picture. The characters that were slightly off the hinge when Alice was young (read: in the books and the Disney movie) have gone quite awry and scary. And - as in most of the bring in the savior stories - Alice's duty (while nobody asked her if she wanted to have such) is to save their world/put the correct monarch in place.

The final verdict is as follows: Disney's Alice is a fun classic, an older and very white version of Dora the Explorer, about a girl enjoying her fantasy world; Burton's Alice is the over-and-over retold story of an unexpected child savior (see The Chronicles of Narnia, The Neverending Story, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, among many others). The only perk is the fact that he has interwoven that with the Alice narrative and explored Carroll's fantasy world and its creatures. Therefore, you pretty much have to be familiar with the books or the 1951 movies (as the golden standard among all the Alice-films) to understand where Burton comes from.
The old one is much better and you should know it by heart (the whole thing on giving yourself useful advices while challenging the rules of those around you, speaking truth to power, trying to balance being polite and not putting up with BS). Burton's Alice is interesting mostly just for his fans. And, well, yes, due to the fantasy world being offered as an escape from dreadful existence as female in Victorian England.  


On a lighter note, here you have the tune & video that Pogo has made from Disney's Alice. The singing flowers and such.