Better a Witty Fool than a Foolish Wit

Inner Workings of My Twisted Mind.

Fearsome Foursome

I just got back from watching The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 with one of my best girlfriends (yes, she and I and two others have matching tattoos of lips on our left butt cheeks; we’re classy ladies, I know), and I got to thinking about girls and groups of four.  What is it about female groups of four friends?  Is it that we form foursomes because we so often see them in the media or is it that the media is simply saw these fabulous four-groups of women and saw huge potential?

In any case, it is an interesting kind of phenomenon.  Sure, groups of four lend themselves to drama.  Sex and the CityLittle Women, even The View, have four women talking and not talking, agreeing and disagreeing, fighting and loving each other.  In every case the four women are significantly different, and yet they all turn out to be such good friends.  Sex and the City we all know and love, the pessimist (Miranda), the optimist (Charlotte), the writer (Carrie), and the slutty one (Samantha), who, throughout the course of the show realize that they each have a little bit of the other ones inside of each other.  
In fact, all the four girls movies carry this theme be it in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,Grease (before Sandy joins the Pink Ladies), Now and Then (if you’re my age you know it well),Designing Women or even Golden Girls, all the ladies couldn’t be more different, yet couldn’t love each other more.
It’s the same with my three best girlfriends.  We all come from different backgrounds, different places.  We all behave differently in different situations.  Sometimes we bug the crap out of each other, but we always love each other.  We call each other on our bullshit, we let each other believe the bullshit when we need to, and sometimes we know each other better than we know ourselves.  What is always fun to me is when we try to discover ourselves within our onscreen counterparts.
I was lucky enough to have lived with my three girls in college and in that time we made what can only be referred to as an urban family.  We were shoulders to cry on when boys broke our hearts, we poked fun when certain bodily fluids from certain gentlemen callers ended up on articles of clothing and whatnot, and we were there when we just needed to be crazy.  In fact, we’re still there for all of that.  We’ll still go see the Sisterhood, sneak in and drink a bottle of champagne on a Thursday afternoon, and come out talking about how much we all miss each other, how much we want to all be together when these kind of movies come out.  And it doesn’t feel like a socialized construct for the four of us to be friends, but is it?  Are we just a product of reading Louisa May Alcott or seeing Golden Girls, are we a product of watching Now and Then ad naseum as kids, are we products of numerous nights of Sex and the City and cosmopolitans?  Or is something older, something more primitive and primal at work?  Are we like the women of yore who hunted and gathered in groups of four (did they even hunt and gather in groups of four?  did they hunt and gather?)?
What’s the deal with the foursomes?  
Peace, Love, and Sisterhoods,
Julia
P.S. Perhaps I’ll have to write about threesomes (and not the naughty kind) someday where we will discuss Charlie’s Angels, Crossroads (starring Britney Spears), Clueless and Mean Girls, among others.  
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August 8, 2008 Posted by | Books, Culture, Hollywood, Literature, Movies, Sex and the City, Television | Leave a comment

Cult of Buffy

I’m a little obsessed with the Buffy musical at the moment.  I was avidly opposed to the T.V. show Buffy the Vampire Slayer for years.  I loved the cheese-tastic movie which debuted in the early 90s (and starred the boy of my pre-teen dreams, Luke Perry).  Then the T.V. show debuted and was nothing like the move and I hated it.  In all honesty, I didn’t get it.  I didn’t get that it was supposed to be campy.  I also didn’t get that there was philosophy behind it.

Basically, two years ago I read a book called Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy, where real Doctors of Philosophy talked about Kantian Morality in Buffy, talked about the allegory of High School as Horror, talked about the weird diegetic world of Buffy and how aware the characters are of their status as characters on a show.

Now, in season six of Buffy, there was an amazing episode entitled Once More, With Feeling.  It’s this total broadway nerd’s dream come true, a demon comes to town and people start breaking into choreographed song and dance numbers.  It’s like Enchanted, but not so fairy tale-esque.  Basically, Joss Whedon (god of nerd world) wrote this amazing hour long musical that drove the story arc of season six forward while being a great musical, and working like a good musical does (i.e. the songs move the story forward).  It’s self-aware of it’s ridiculousness and the characters are more than a little disturbed by the fact that they keep randomly breaking into song (wouldn’t you be?)

They played the Buffy Musical at comic-con; it was the closing ceremony, so-to-speak.  And it was like watching the Rocky Horror Picture Show at a midnight movie.  People sang along, waved parking tickets, copied the Grrr Arrrgh at the end of the episode, they jeered at Dawn, and cat called when Buffy and Spike finally make out at the end.  Basically, it’s every dork’s wet dream: vampires, musicals, hot girls, lesbians, and a tap dancing demon.

I have admitted this to the two people I sneered at when I was first introduced to the musical four years ago and now I’m admitting it publicly…it rocks.  I concede, the Buffy Musical is one of the greatest things to happen to television.

Peace, Love and Dancing Vampires,
Julia

August 6, 2008 Posted by | Comedy, Comics, Gay/Lesbian, Hollywood, Television | Leave a comment

Who Watches the Watchmen?

I’m back from the best weekend of my life. That may be an exaggeration, but it was freaking awesome. Yes, that’s right, this weekend for the first time I went to Comic-Con International in sunny San Diego California (shout out to my cousin and cousin-in-law who let me crash in their house with the, literally, tons of free crap that I accumulated.

Comic-Con is not for the faint of heart. It is four and a half days of fanboys and fangirls dressed as anything from Storm Troopers to Cling-ons, Sailor Moon characters (I apologize but that is the only anime I know) to The Spirit. It’s a veritable free-for-all of nerds. In other words, it’s my mecca. As Phoebe said in one episode of Friends, ‘It’s like the mother ship is calling you home.’ Of course, she was speaking of Bloomingdales, but I did get a big frakkin bag to take home with me.

Yes, it was a fantastic weekend. But Comic-Con 2008 just happened to be the Comic-Con where the most anticipated comic book movie ever was being promoted. It’s a little movie I like to call Watchmen.

Yes, Watchmen is a movie based on a Comic book. But it’s based on THE comic book. Basically, if any of you came to me and said, Julia, I want to start reading graphic novels because I’ve heard that they aren’t just men in tights battling weird creatures. I would say to you, okay, start with Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns, both of which were written in 1986 and basically changed the face of comics as we know them. Before these two books comics weren’t taken seriously, but these books went to a darker, more adult place with superheroes. Basically, they went somewhat realistic because really, if superheroes were real things they would be fucked up in the head. I mean, we’re talking about men and women who put themselves above the law and the workings of the law. They dress in costume and fight criminals, sometimes killing them in the process. Batman may never kill the Joker, but there are other bad guys that die along the way at his hands.

Yes, comic-con was a Watchmen-fest. But one other big comic book movie is coming out at the end of this year, and its presence didn’t go unnoticed in the face of the Watchmen-mania. This movie would be The Spirit. Will Eisner, the king of comics (the awards for comics are called the Eisners for a reason), created The Spirit in the 1940s. He’s a grittier and sexier superhero along the lines of The Shadow and the movie is directed by a comic book writer you may have heard of: Frank Miller (he wrote Sin City and The Dark Knight Returns among others).

Yes, it’s a good day for comics and for film. What I realized at Comic-Con while walking through the 135,000 people in attendance: These are the people that dictate popular culture. These are the people that make The Dark Knight the fastest grossing movie of all time (it’s been out for just over a week and has made over $400 Million worldwide), they are the people that make or break t.v. shows, they are the people who dictate what’s cool and what’s not, yet they are the people who get/got picked on in high school, who’d rather spend time in front of their computer than at a bar. It’s quite a spot to be in, both loved and mocked, but no one ever said that being a geek was easy, and would we like our geekiness so much if it were mainstream?

Peace, Love, and Rorschach,
Julia

July 29, 2008 Posted by | Culture, Hollywood, Los Angeles, Movies, Television | Leave a comment

Seventh Heaven

The world as we know it is coming to an end.  I just thought you all should get the heads up seeing as you seem like the kind of people that like to be informed about things like this.  It’s the apocalypse.  How, you might ask, do I know this?  ABC Family has aired a show that may be the beginning of the end of Civilization as we know it (that is if said position has already been filled by George W. Bush).  I’m not going to lie to you, I was attracted to the show for two reasons, 1) it’s about teenagers and I’m a sucker for teen drama, and 2) it co-stars Molly Ringwald.  Yes folks, the lady that 80s danced into our hearts, the lady that made herself the ugliest prom dress of all time, the lady that made us girls fall in love with Jake Ryan.  That’s right, Molly Ringwald, the mistress of the Brat Pack is back and lord do I wish she’d stayed in the 80s.  To be fair, she’s not the problem.  It’s the show she’s on.  

So ABC Family started airing a new show called The Secret Life of the American Teen which was created by the same person that created Seventh Heaven, the long running show on The WB that showcased an overpopulated Christian family.  As horrifically offensive as Seventh Heaven was (and man did it browbeat Jesus into it’s viewers), this new show is even worse.  It’s as though the 1950s ideal of what was proper behavior by teenagers crashed into American teenagers in 2008.  Basically, it’s horrendously unrealistic.  It is taking the ideas of abstinence only education and over the top Christian morality and ramming them down the throats of its 2.8 Million viewers.  
And on top of the fact that it’s trying to cram a pro-fundamentalist agenda into an hour of television, the acting is undeniably awful, the writing is trite and unrealistic, and the plot lines are just appalling.  It’s about a Christian teenager who gets pregnant (she states at one point that she’s not sure she even had sex, score one for abstinence only education) and has to deal with the consequences.  Hm, Juno but crappy much?  The sub plots revolve around a christian couple who have decided to wait until marriage, but the guy in the relationship is an unrealistic horny teenager who thinks about nothing but sex 24 hours a day.  Now, I know what it is to be a horny teenager, but realistically, I can see something like 18 hours a day, maybe 12 hours a day, and even less if you want to make an interesting t.v. show, but come on.  And really, what kind of a shitty character thinks about only sex and nothing else?  Of course, he’s sixteen years old and asking his girlfriend to marry him as soon as they get out of high school presumably so they can have sex.  I personally don’t have a problem with sending the message that sex should wait until one is ready (they even waited on Gossip Girl, which looks like a Las Vegas burlesque compared to American Teen), but what kind of society do we live in where it’s completely acceptable to get married to someone simply because you want to fuck them.  And we wonder why kids are so screwed up when it comes to this kind of stuff.  I’d also like to point out that this is, for the most part, the same demographic that opposes gay marriage because they would ruin the sanctity of it.  
Oh yes folks, the end of the world is near.  And the American Teen is reigning it in.
Peace, Love, and Sex Before Marriage (because it’s the smart thing to do),
Julia

July 10, 2008 Posted by | Culture, Gay/Lesbian, Hollywood, Politics, Sex, Television | 1 Comment

Culture War and the City

No matter what you thought of Sex and the City, the T.V. Show or the Movie, there is no question that it was groundbreaking.  Finally a show that showed women, real, flawed women.  Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte aren’t cliches, though they may be somewhat caricature-like at times.  

Since the release, and amazing success, of the movie, dozens and dozens of articles have been written about this ‘phenomenon.’  The articles have mostly been about how shocking it is that this movie did well; the ones I like are about how ridiculous it it to find this shocking.  But one article in particular caught my interest.  Not only does it bring up a somewhat horrifying look at a, I guess you can’t call it a culture war, gender war, but it brings up a particularly terrifying point about how far women have come really, the consensus, it is considerably less far than we thought.  
Consider this, Sex and the City was the first time on television (and it was on a channel that most people don’t get) women got to be flawed and imperfect and sexual and deep and shallow and tough and weak and fashionable all at once.  And the show came on the air in 1998.  
According to the Newsweek article, many men can’t stand Sex and the City, and not in the way many women can’t stand Football season or the Final Four or Sylvester Stallone Movies where we don’t want to watch it, but have no problem going out and doing our own thing while the men in our lives enjoy them.  No, men seem to actively hate Sex and the City to the point where they will bombard imdb.com to make the movie’s rating one the lowest of the year.  This is a movie, that, on the whole, got relatively positive reviews, and, I’ll put in my two cents, I absolutely loved.  More importantly, it was a movie that my mom, a self-proclaimed SATC hater, loved.  So why this backlash?  I can’t bring myself to bear the thought that a great many men would actively take this source of so much joy as a threat, but is there another explanation?  Are men threatened by the thought that our female friends are exceedingly important to us, perhaps, at times more important than men themselves?  In this new age where we are getting married and settling down later and later, your friends are the ones that have been there.  I’m not much of a relationship-y kind of person, but the vast majority of my friendships have outlasted multiple romantic relationships.  I’ve been there through numerous of my friends breakups and they’ve been there through my heartaches as well.  It stands to reason that these relationships become important, and more important than many of our romantic involvements.  Now, this is not to say that I don’t love men.  I do, sometimes to my own detriment.  This is not to say that I don’t want men.  Again, I do, sometimes to my own detriment.  This is just to say that my romantic relationships with men are not necessarily the most important relationships that I have.  Perhaps this fact scares men, but when the tables are turned, I completely expect that men will have close bonds with their friends that might be more important, and, for the most part, much different, than a relationship they have with me.  Do I feel threatened by this? No.  
On an almost completely unrelated subject, but still a Sex and the City subject, someone, as we were having a discussion about the men in the movie, asked me to name one ‘good’ man in the movie.  This struck me as somewhat of an odd question seeing as, I, as do many other women, love all the men that our ladies ended up with.  Personally, and I can’t speak for my friend, I think that all of the men in Sex and the City are ‘Good’ Men.  They’re not perfect men, that’s for sure.  They’re real.  Like our ladies, they have flaws, they make mistakes, they say the wrong things, sometimes they do things that hurt their significant others, but they are good men.  I won’t give anything away in case you haven’t seen the movie yet, but I will say that all the men make mistakes, as do the women.  Much like in the show, the people in the movie are not, as I said, cliched-stereotypes.  Mr. Big is not some asshole out to break Carrie’s heart.  Steve isn’t some poor bartender who has to, over and over again, convince Miranda to not be so cynical when it comes to men.  Smith isn’t constantly trying to get Samantha to open up.  And Harry, is well, he’s Harry.  And sure, as in any good movie, there is conflict and people hurt for a time.  But really, in the movie the girls and the guys hurt on equal scales.  It’s just that the story is about the girls, not the guys.  And really, that’s the point.
Peace, Love, and Culture Wars,
Julia

June 21, 2008 Posted by | Culture, Hollywood, Movie Reviews, Movies, Sex and the City, Television | Leave a comment

Reflections on (Re)Watching 90210

Like I said a few days ago, I’ve been on a 90210 binge for the past week or so.  This is the show that made me love television, the show that everyone my age was completely addicted to, the show that shaped certain desires of mine that have yet to go away.  90210 went on the air in 1990, when I was approximately 7 years old.  Prompted by my best friend at the time, one Sarah Jones, I started watching the show mid way through season 1 and never looked back.  Of course, the cheesy dialogue and moral messaging was lost on my younger self.  I do, however, remember vividly the exact plot lines of all the major characters through the first 7 or 8 seasons.  What a strange and mysterious creature memory is?

What strikes me now is not merely the moral stronghandedness that permeates every episode, but the political awareness that is so prevalent among our favorite group of students at West Beverly.  It seems like every other week Andrea Zuckerman was leading protests determined to implement a condom distribution at West Beverly High, or the gang was leading a picket proclaiming the innocence of their best friend when she got drunk at prom and was forbidden to graduate (who can forget the ubiquitous chant ‘Donna Martin Graduates’?).  The political activism that ran like a carotid artery through the series would never ever make it on t.v. today.  Which begs the question, have teenagers become less political or does television just not portray it anymore?  It’s a chicken or egg question, but one that begs consideration.  
As much as the politicization of the West Bev gang is somewhat jarring when they are viewed with modern eyes, the most depressing? interesting? thought-provoking? themes and issues 90210 touched on are ones that would be completely relevant in any modern television show.  They talk about fighting against abstinence-only education in school and the potential harm that could cause.  They mention recycling and not using aerosol spray cans, so as to not cause harm to the already fragile environment.  They talk about taking care of veterans from a different Iraq War, but an Iraq War all the same.  If you lost the early 90s clothing that we all wish we could forget, the show would play today, and I’m pretty sure it would be just as popular as it was then.  The CW is banking on it.
Peace, Love and Random Thoughts,
Julia

June 9, 2008 Posted by | Culture, Hollywood, Politics, Television | | Leave a comment

Television Moral Code

I’m sitting here, in my convalescence from surgery on my deviated septum (no really, I didn’t get a nose job or anything), making my way through season 2 of Beverly Hills 90210 and I got to thinking about the morality on television.  It seems like back when I was a bit shorter (and in exponentially less pain and discomfort) shows always had these blatant morals.  I mean, Saved by the Bell, Full House, Boy Meets World and even 90210, which was so often condemned for being this total corruption of America’s youth, had these very very distinct moral messages.  Sure, when we look back now, they seem, well, antiquated to say the least.  I mean, really, who can forget Jessie’s addiction to caffeine pills on Saved by the Bell, or the fact that Full House always ended with what was painfully similar to a moral of the story from Aesop’s Fables.  But what really got the historian in me going is this notion that youth television programming had to have a moral message.  That is definitely not the case any more (one need look no further than an episode of Gossip Girl to figure that out).  There is no neatly little wrapped up television show telling us why cheating is wrong in some blatantly flat out way.  

Now, back when season 2 of 90210 was airing, and I remember watching religiously, it was 1991 and I was approximately 8 years old.  So I can’t really remember the political and social climate of the time.  What I do know, from reading history books, is that Reagan had recently left office, Bush the first was in, and Clinton had just won the presidency.  To me it sounds like the political and social climate was somewhat conservative and moralistic, not unlike the one four or eight years ago.  I also, however, know my television history well enough to know that FOX (the channel we associate with conservatism actually totally pushed the envelope back then) was brand new, and 90210 actually changed the face of T.V. drastically.  I know that shows like Dallas and Dynasty had been on and shown some pretty racy stuff, thank you Joan Collins.  But why was television so saturated with in your face depictions of morality?  Was it simply that the Reagan/Bush administrations had turned away from the perceived hedonism of the sixties and seventies and wanted to inject some sort of order into society?  But government doesn’t run t.v.  So is that what viewers really want, and was the backswing of the pendulum so strong that by the mid to late-90s these moral driven shows were pretty much completely off the air?  
My question is what happened?  Not that I’m complaining because I think television is in a golden age, but seriously, what the hell happened and why was it just in young people’s programming?
Peace, Love, and Questionable Morals,
Julia

June 5, 2008 Posted by | Culture, Hollywood, Television | Leave a comment

Failure?

I don’t know if anyone caught it, but last week on VH1 there was a great 4 part documentary called Sex: The Revolution.  It was a four hour series about the sexual revolution from the repressive 50s to AIDS and Reagan’s denial of it in the 80s.  It is a fantastic series.  If you have a TiVo see if you can catch it, otherwise you’ll just have to come visit me and watch it on my TiVo.  

There are about one million things that I want to talk about from this series, but one, in particular, sticks out.  In the first part, which is the part that brings us from the repressive 50s where Doris Day and Rock Hudson were the peak of sexuality (and a little figure named Kinsey changed everything) to the rumblings at Berkeley and Reagan’s witch hunt against university students who fought for free speech.  
Over the course of the hour one of the sentiments expressed is that of communication.  The documentary talks about how the early 60s were a time when freedom and honesty were really coming to the forefront as what people wanted.  Writers like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg spoke and wrote openly about their sexuality and sexual encounters.  Dean Moriarty in 1958 was a character that had sex with men and women, few of whom he was actually married to.  The piece goes on to say that the dishonesty and hypocracy that went along with sex, which was a dishonesty and hypocracy that permeated all socio-cultual strata, was really what the sexual revolution was fighting.  
So I want to know if this means that the sexual revolution was, at its core, a failure?  Our culture is still ripe with hypocracy and dishonesty about sex and sexuality (hello, abstinence only sexual education anyone?  And seriously, who is thinking that high school students are abstaining from sex voluntarily?).  But our culture is also still ripe with dishonesty and hypocracy at all levels.  In fact, we seem to be in a very similar situation.  Unpopular war, backlash against liberalism (Bill O’Reilly and Ann Coulter, among others), bitter culture war, and little by little we are drawn out of the cave and into the light.  Maybe the legalization of gay marriage in California (and the hopefully ensuing domino effect) is the first of many wins in the culture war.  Then again, if we go that route can we expect a backlash like we got in the 80s?  And can America survive another Reagan?
I’d rather not see.  The bitter cold of England is looking mighty appetizing right now.
Peace, Love, and Unhappy Thoughts,
Julia  

May 22, 2008 Posted by | Brits, Culture, Education, Politics, Sex, Television | 1 Comment

Women’s Lib: Redux

With the weekend we’re all waiting for bearing down on us (that would be next weekend with the release of Sex and the City), Entertainment Weekly gleefully returned to a favorite topic: the fab four New York ladies we all would love to be (and be friends with).  In an interview with Sarah Jessica Parker, talking about getting the movie made, she cites the success of The Devil Wears Prada as a major catalyst in Sex and the City finally being greenlit.  She also hopes that the probable success of Sex and The City will open up the market for more films where women actually move beyond the girlfriend, the housewife, the assistant, or the teacher.  

It is a cliched statement to make that there are no good roles for women.  The other day I was told about an article criticizing movies like Iron Man because of Gwenyth Paltrow’s marginalized role in it.  Of course, the roles for women aren’t as deep as male roles.  This has and is still changing, but it’s true that many times female roles are relatively shallow.  Gwenyth Paltrow, on the other hand, took a role that could have been shallow and made it fantastic, so there you have it (also, it’s a superhero movie so the rules are a little different).  
Even still, there is a significant void when it comes to movies for women.  With the death of the romantic comedy sometime in the mid to late 90s (though there have been one or two notable death rattles), movies that are made to appeal to women are, for the most part, totally condescending and just plain bad (27 Dresses, Maid of Honor, anyone?).  
So here I am hoping Sarah Jessica Parker has hit the cultural zeitgeist on the head again, and some smart studio exec will actually hire a female writer to write about females (or like SATC a gay male writer to write about females) in an intelligent and realistic manner.  The Devil Wears Prada and Sex and the City work because we, as women, relate to the women.  They are smart, talented, determined, they like what they like, be it great journalism or Manolo Blahniks, and they are flawed.  They fall for the wrong guys, they fall on the runway, and they have to deal with evil bosses.  So I raise my cosmo for many more great fearless female movies to come.  Helen Gurley Brown will be proud.
Peace, Love, and Dolce & Gabbana,
Julia

May 21, 2008 Posted by | Culture, Hollywood, Movies, Sex and the City, Television | Leave a comment

Like an Old Friend, Come and See Me Again

The CW is finally capitalizing on the thing that made the WB and Fox successful networks, teens.  If you haven’t heard the good news, The CW is working on a companion for Gossip Girl and they made the original idea of a spin-off.  Okay, okay, spin-offs aren’t original, but a spinoff of a show that ended eight years ago, and was at its peak about five years before that, is somewhat unheard of.

So what exactly is The CW spinning off?  Only one of my all time favorite shows, Beverly Hills 90210.  Cue the theme song and the beautiful people.  Oh, and did I mention the clincher.  It’s being written by none other than the man who wrote Veronica Mars (another fav of mine), Rob Thomas.  Basically, this is my dream show.  
Teen Drama.  Check.
Possible cameos by 90210 alum.  Check.
Good Writing.  Check.
I must say, as much as I love the realistic high school shows, it sends my little heart atwitter when I get some good soapy unrealistic drama.  And, to top it all off, this version of 90210 isn’t all upper class white kids.  Apparently, there will be other races mixed in as well.  That means we don’t have to have a one off episode where a competing school newspaper editor, who happens to be black, teaches the Peach Pit crowd about race.  Oh no, we get week after week of racial tension, as well as the inevitable alcoholic/drug addict plotline, the pregnancy scares, the running to Mexico with your boyfriend, and the conspicuously absent parents.  
Yes, T.V. is hurting for viewers after the strike (apparently people discovered that there is life beyond T.V.), but with any luck, they’ll be reeled back in with gems like this.  I know I will.
Peace, Love, and Peach Pit After Dark,
Julia

May 20, 2008 Posted by | High School, Hollywood, Literature, Los Angeles, Television | Leave a comment