Smart Girls Who Do Stupid Things

Sometimes…

The Bachelor Unexpectedly Prompts Stirrings Of Thought

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I caught The Bachelor Monday night at the gym, and though I hadn’t watched any of this season I was hooked after about 5 minutes (sigh). Most notably, when funeral director contestant Shawntel Newton was being interviewed, I saw that her hometown was none other than Chico, CA: my hometown. She works at a funeral home owned by her family and another Chico family. I went to middle school with the son of the other family (I remember him because I had a big crush on one of his friends. I had the makings of a FB stalker pre-Facebook, apparently). What’s more: internet spoilers say she’s getting a hometown date. Woo. Chico hasn’t been featured so prominently since the original Robin Hood (and that Playboy 1987 party school ranking)! Oh yeah wait, and the Green Bay QB who’s also from Chico. Anyway…

The fact that Shawntel is from Chico was just a (greatly) fun fact for me, but I started thinking more about it because of a few other things on my mind the past week. Namely: Emily’s blog post about the toys marketed to girls, an interaction between a teacher I observe for work and her female students, and David McCandless analysis of Facebook statuses to see which time of the year is prone to breakups, which was published a while ago but came back into memory because we’re nearing Valentine’s Day.

Shawntel Newton and I grew up in the same place, about one year apart in age. Chico is fairly homogenous amid the middle class population and small (about 100,000 people), so we were likely to have been brought up under similar cultural experiences and expectations (outside of family). There were only a handful of elementary schools and two middle schools in town at the time. What’s more, our families knew some of the same people. Obviously there are still many contributing factors to make us different people – particularly family, which I can’t use as a comparing factor at all (and I do have to mention that I left Chico at 14 for Tennessee, so at high school the surrounding similarities go out the window) – but nevertheless, having this much in common in childhood, especially things that are so essential to social understanding (schooling, friends, the kind of people you see around you every day, the cultural markers, town haunts, one of a kind places that make a town unique and that shape those who grow up within it) makes me suddenly think very seriously about The Bachelor. No, not about competing, but about why people compete. Normally when I considered this question, my answer was easy: these are crazy fame seekers, or, even easier…these are DBs (Dumb Bitches, for those of you not in the know). But now, someone whose background I partly share in is a serious contender on The Bachelor. Suddenly, instead of assuming that the people who compete are of course not like anyone I would ever know, it’s quite the opposite.

The Bachelor can be compelling because it mixes the possibility for fame with the childhood fantasy of romance and a “prince charming.”  These are powerful motivators. They’re powerful motivators that have an inception in the Disney movies on which our generation of girls was brought up. Even Mulan, different because she succeeded in a traditionally male role, still earned herself fame…and a prince. (It’s true. He’s not a prince; he’s the son of a general. But you know what? Until I re-watched the movie a few months ago, I had remembered him as a prince. That’s what we remember.) But could these childhood princess fantasies really still be at play in the minds of (some of) these women, now in their 20s and 30s? That’s where I thought of Emily’s post from earlier this week: what kind of cultural messages or expectations are set up for girls via their toys? Luckily we didn’t have to deal with Bratz dolls back in the day, but it was before Barbie got her boobs-to-scale makeover, and when classic Disney princess movies were still being churned out regularly (not to say that I don’t love them).

This brought to mind another scene that I watched recently, one that made me think about the implicit messages we pick up as children, in social interactions and the culture we intake, be it through toys, movies, or the people we see every day. Part of my job is to observe public school teachers implementing an online math program. One of the teachers I see works in a computer lab, so she has multiple classes coming in throughout the day. When any class enters, she instructs the boys to pull out the girls’ chairs. The girls sit down, and then the boys push their chairs in for them. The girls say thank you, and then the boys can be seated. This is repeated in reverse at the end of class. On my most recent visit, the situation was too paradoxical not to find concerning. “Boys, pull out the ladies’ chairs for them. Ladies, you should never have to touch your chair.” Later, when the boys were pulling the chairs back out at the end of class, with the girls still seated in them: “Ladies, don’t make the boys do all the work themselves. Some of us are heavier than others.” Wait. What I had first thought was pretty adorable (they were second graders, after all) had just become problematic. Is this thrice-weekly mantra seeping into their subconscious little by little, throughout the 5 schooling years they spend in that computer lab, and affecting how they interact with the opposite gender? Did our childhood years spent obsessing over Disney movies and Barbie and Ken actually help form our idea of love in our own futures? Or is Shawntel Newton just another fame-seeking lady who happens to be from the same town as I am, another anomaly?

It’s probably the latter (especially since we can blame high school, college and after for the heartache that might serve to make someone motivated enough to be on The Bachelor) but that doesn’t mean that those childhood hours spent playing house with Barbie and Ken or singing along to “Part of Your World” at sleepovers — or that the odd “role model” in your childhood who told you you were fat while simultaneously telling you to let men do everything for you — aren’t greatly affecting our individual manifestations of gender roles, and expectations of the part each sex should have in a romantic relationship. And by signing up for The Bachelor, a woman is actually signing up for dating someone and the possibility of having a romantic relationship with him. A romantic relationship with someone she’s not met. How could anyone sign up for that unless a part of her still believed that “Disney” love was possible?  (Thanks for the irony, world:  The Bachelor is an ABC show so it’s actually produced by Disney.)

But let’s talk about the part of one’s love history that comes after childhood, the part of life where I can no longer compare my cultural upbringing to that of Shawntel Newton. Here’s where I was reminded of David McCandless Facebook status analysis, which finds that break-up season comes twice a year: the holidays and spring break. The numbers start to rise again right around now. How does that relate to The Bachelor? Well, personally I have no Facebook friends who update their status about breakups.  Who are the 10,000 people producing the break-up statuses that McCandless analyzed? Relationships are playing out in the public domain, via Facebook, The Bachelor, etc, and clearly there are thousands of people not only watching but participating by publicizing their own relationships, or participating in relationships that are almost entirely public. So what happens to today’s girls who have The Bachelor instead of Disney princess movies; how much more public can they make their future relationships? (American media, this is not a challenge.) Whether it’s the childhood toys and movies that still flit through the subconscious or the quarter-life breakups at work, a girl with whom I shared a fairly small childhood landscape is a Bachelor contestant, and the publicizing of our most personal moments has taken another step to becoming normal.

Burlesque V. Tangled

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There comes a time in every woman’s life when she must switch from watching poorly executed animated films about princesses to poorly everything films about, well, grown-up princesses. Or you can be like me and never grow up and get the best of both worlds. What does that consist of, you might ask? Watching both Tangled and Burlesque in the same week, and thoroughly enjoying both of them!

Well, truth be told, I actually enjoyed tangled more. Behold, a comparison of what it means to have female genitalia in this day and age:

BURLESQUE
Though these two posts have funnier and probably more comprehensive notes about the more hilarious aspects of Burlesque (respectively, its similarity to Showgirls, a cinematic classic that is now available on Netflix Instant, and the prominent role of gay men in the movie), there is still much to be said about Cher’s triumphant return to screen. Though I’m a huge fan of Cher’s based solely upon “Believe“, I do sort of agree with my father and think she’s a better actress than musician. If you disagree, watch either Moonstruck or Mask and call me up laughing/crying afterward. A large portion of the Lower East Side of Manhattan must be on my side, because when Megan and I went to see it, there were a number of high maintenance male couples attending. Why high maintenance? Apparently, it’s not appropriate to talk when “The 20” is airing 10 minutes before the previews have even started. Go figure.

It should be noted that these days I would watch Cher perform merely because she’s more interesting to look at than pretty. Her face is really something to behold. She stares at you, unblinkingly, and looks like some sort of bird of prey, or an alien life form, or maybe a really weird baby. But she’s least interesting when alone; her one number that she tiredly belts from an empty stage was incredibly boring. The only interesting part of it was that I could not for the life of me figure out who the DJ was, and upon googling it, I realize that he is Terrence Jenkins, Khloe’s co-host of “Khloe After Dark”, her radio show in Miami, who constantly has to cover for her when she’s late.

Other important males: Stanley Tucci, the gay costumer, who, while referencing one drunk night he had with Cher’s character, made me dream of a night in Vegas that was magical with him as well; Alan Cumming, in a brief cameo that was very much appreciated and made me realize what a ridiculously versatile actor he is; Cam Gigandet, who I always want to call Cam Gidget, and who looks better with eyeliner; and Eric Dane, who I will always remember most fondly from Valentine’s Day as a closeted gay football player. Generally though, it was the females who were more stronger and more interesting the males; Christina Aguilera takes up practically every single scene.

The movie was directed by Steven Antin, who is the brother of Robin Antin. This is the Robin who started a nouveau dance troop called the Pussycat Dolls, which combined some semblance of burlesque with stripping. She spun that off into the pop sensation PCD and finally started the illustrious career of Nicole Scherzinger. Once you have that in mind, this version of burlesque doesn’t seem that far-fetched at all from what the original conceit really is. By the end of the film, you’re only a little bit sick of seeing this clean, crisp, albiet somewhat boring dance style that they have created. The cinematography was excellent; the edits horrible. And the script — not the reason to see this movie. There were several times where Megan and I wondered where on earth the plot was going to go, despite having a feeling we knew exactly where it was headed. When Cher’s character discoveres Christina Aguilera’s Ali talent, she gets her big break in literally three minutes. “Oh, you’re nobody? Oh, I’m making a show about you.” Speaking of Ali, the hair was miserable. The hair was a tragedy. It was the most distracting thing about the movie, and I pray to god it was a wig.

Burlesque finishes with the song “Show Me How You Burlesque”, which was supposedly written by Ali’s cute jazz piano playing roomie-turned-boyfriend Jack (Cam Gidget). To say that it was the most unrealistic thing about this movie that Jack, who was a jazz piano player, would have been inspired to write this R&B tinged pop number, is probably a stretch. What’s worse is the title of this song, which makes no sense.

TANGLED
Tangled was definitely a far better film. The two main characters were voiced by Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi (of Chuck!), so I was obviously biased towards it before the film even began, but it really was very pleasant to watch. The trailer’s humor had me doubting, and Disney’s marketing of the movie was not my favorite, but really, animation alone, this one blew it out of the park. There was a scene with floating lanterns on the water that literally made me tear up.

These pictures don’t really do it justice at all, because watching them move is half the fun, but check it out.


Images via Disney

I have actually not seen a movie in 3D since I was a kid, and so that was weird. The biggest improvement there would be just making lenses you could put over your glasses if you wear them, because the double frames was pretty uncomfortable, though apparently hilarious (it was too dark in the theater for KB’s picture to come out, fortunately for me). KB also pointed out that it was frustrating that basically our only choice was to see it in 3D. It didn’t really make things much cooler, though at some points I did reach out and try to touch the air like an idiot. And Rapunzel’s hair really did have a life of it’s own. Along this line, I was pleasantly surprised with the attention to detail, not just animation-wise. I was consistently pleasantly surprised by plot developments or features that I would not have predicted.

There’s not much else to say, other than see it. As I implied before with my blatant other-post-linkage, it’s the last of the Disney Princess movies, but I totally dug it, and left feeling warm inside, which is what we all really want from them anyway.

A bonus: Flynn Rider in 10 sexy pictures. He’s the hottest “prince” in a long while, which is saying a lot, considering the weird crushes I had as a child on both Simba and Robin Hood, the animated.

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