In Defense of Hit Girl

So, I saw Kick-Ass yesterday, and I thought I might want to blog about it, but I wasn’t sure if A) I could articulate just what I liked about it — because I did like it — and B) I wanted to open that can of worms. Now, I’ve committed to B in my own mind, so we’ll see if A comes together as I go along.

I went to see it mostly for the same reason a whole lot of people — including Roger Ebert, with whom I agree about 95% of the time — hated it: One of the main characters, Hit Girl, is a stone cold killer who calls victims cunts and motherfuckers, traits that would be soporifically old hat if not for their belonging, in this case, to an 11-year-old girl. (Also, a lot of people — though Ebert’s not one of them — seem a hell of a lot more upset by her language than by watching her eviscerate other human beings or be brutalized herself, which got my “Wow, this culture is fucked up” antennae wiggling.)

I was not disappointed. I loved that character, far more than I expected to, even. But I loved her while also recognizing that her approach to life was essentially sociopathic — and worse, that she was not that way naturally, but had been trained/brainwashed by her father (portrayed here as a basically sympathetic figure, further complicating matters) to kill without a hint of remorse or disgust — so if I thought about it too hard, I’d be torn between crying and vomiting.

Now, regular readers know I am not one to shy away from overthinking things, and I am a big supporter of Moff’s Law. (Short version: “If you really think people should just enjoy the movie without thinking about it, then why the fuck did you 1. click on the post in the first place, and 2. bother to leave a comment? If it bugs you so much, GO WATCH A GODDAMN FUNNY CAT VIDEO.”) So I am by no means suggesting that one should avoid any deeper analysis of Hit Girl. In fact, I’m about to do just that. But it’s a lot more complicated, for me, than simply saying the whole concept of her is beyond fucked-up and therefore represents a failure of art and/or entertainment. Because the fact that she made me feel squirmy and confused and inarticulate is one of the things I liked about the movie.

Before I proceed, I want to make a few things clear.

1) There will be spoilers. Big ones. I’ll put the bulk of this post behind a cut, but for dog’s sake, if you don’t want to be spoiled, go away now.

Continue reading “In Defense of Hit Girl”

In Which I Am a Victim-Blaming Bitch

Dear Internet,

Pursuant to yesterday’s post at Jezebel, I feel I should clarify a few things.

1) If you are not an Oscar-winning actress or similarly well-known personage, I was not talking about you. I understand that if you don’t routinely get media inquiries about your personal life, you probably do not have people in your employ whose job is to keep the public from thinking poorly of you. This means that no one, least of all me, will ever expect you to issue a public statement regarding the actions of your douchebag partner.

2) If you are concerned that I would judge you by the actions of your douchebag partner, or that I do not understand how easy it is to be fooled by someone you love, please see the passage beginning with the fourth sentence of the goddamned post, which reads:

Don’t get me wrong: I am in no way suggesting that a wife is responsible for her husband’s behavior. I’m not even saying Bullock must have known; just as it’s possible for women not to realize their husbands are cheating or married to other people or, say, responsible for multiple murders, it’s surely possible to miss the signs that your partner is, if not an active neo-Nazi, the kind of twisted asswipe who finds humor in taking photos that suggest he is.

3) If you are concerned that I am unfairly judging Sandra Bullock herself, please revisit the post, paying special attention to the following lines:

  • “all anyone can do is speculate”
  • “all of the information we have comes from questionable sources”
  • “I have absolutely no idea what she knew and when she knew it, and no way of finding out”
  • “I like Sandra Bullock”
  • “I’m not saying we should be accusing Bullock, or assuming anything just yet”
  • “all I know for sure is that I don’t know the woman at all”

Perhaps that sort of close reading will make it easier to understand that I have not, in fact, decided that Sandra Bullock is a Bad Person. I have not, in fact, decided anything about Sandra Bullock as a person. What I have done is call attention to the following points:

  • When you are married to someone who, at the very least, thinks posing for a picture like that is funny, it may be unreasonable for people to presume you share his views, but it is perfectly reasonable for those who are interested in your life to ask you things like, “Um, do you think it’s funny too? And were you aware that he did? Hypothetically speaking, if your husband were shown to be an aficionado of Nazi culture, would you consider that a dealbreaker, y/n?”
  • When you are a very famous actor, fucking everyone is interested in your life. (This is why you have people to deal with your public image while you deal with your private life. See point 1 above.)
  • It is customary for very famous people who are at risk of being tarred with someone else’s douchebag brush to issue statements denouncing the douchebag in question. Ergo, it is curious that there was no immediate move from Bullock’s camp to distance her from a man who, at the very least, thinks posing for a picture like that is funny.
  • It is also customary for the media to talk all sorts of shit about celebrities who might plausibly be tarred with someone else’s douchebag brush. Ergo, it is also curious that so few people seem to even be idly wondering whether Bullock was aware of the breadth and depth of her husband’s douchebaggery.

4) At the end of the day, I am really not all that interested in what kind of person Sandra Bullock is, and I certainly do not feel she owes me or the public a damned thing. But I am very interested in how the cultural conversation about a photo like this goes:

All too predictably, loads of people (in Jez comments and elsewhere) are saying shit like, “It’s just one picture” and “We don’t know the context” and “It was obviously just a joke.” To which I would respond:

  • How many pictures like that would you need to see to be appalled?
  • What context would make it okay?
  • What on earth makes it funny?

If all you mean is that it would be unfair and premature to conclude from this photo that Jesse James personally wants to commit genocide, I’ll grant you that. But I am entirely comfortable concluding from this one photo — let alone other recent revelations — that Jesse James is an epic fucking douche, and that racism is a noteworthy element of his douchiness.

That, of course, is what some people get so upset about. Heaven forbid we jump to the conclusion that someone captured on film doing a “humorous” Hitler impression perhaps has some problematic views about race. We’d better wait until we have the whole story before we go off half-cocked and say things we might regret! I mean, for all we know, he might have just been…

What? What would make that picture okay?

Hint: Nothing.

For fuck’s sake, what does a white person have to do around here before a critical mass of other white people are willing to say, “Yep, that’s some racist bullshit”? More than use Nazi imagery for laffs, apparently. And that, more than anything, is why it troubles me that Bullock didn’t immediately issue a statement, and so few people even seem willing to question whether she was aware that her husband held the sort of views that, at the very least, made him think that photo was funny — let alone whether she holds similar views. Because giving her the pure and unfettered benefit of the doubt at this point is only a milder version of making excuses for him. It’s all based on the same premise: that being called “racist” — or even questioned about your association with someone who, say, uses Nazi imagery for laffs — is such an unbelievably painful thing to endure, we must never, ever imply such a thing without hard evidence that the person in question deserves it.

Hard evidence like… well, something more than one photo taken out of context that was only meant to be a joke, surely. And if that’s not admissible, then merely being married to someone who would take that one photo is, without a doubt, utterly meaningless — so it would be tasteless and cruel even to ask the spouse, “Dude, what the fuck? Did you know about this?” In fact, the consequences of accusing a nice white person of racism, falsely or not, are so unspeakably terrible — why, some people might think poorly of her! — it would probably be better if we never used the word “racist” at all, except with regard to people who do, in fact, personally want to commit genocide. Just to be on the safe side.

And if that means we can never really confront racism when we see it, well… that’s unfortunate. But come on. We don’t want to make people uncomfortable. White people, I mean. I understand that racism itself tends to have damaging effects on everyone else, but since I’ve never personally experienced it, I can only speak as a white woman — and let me tell you, being told that something you’ve done as a well-intentioned, liberal white person was, in fact, racist? AWKWARD! So before you go trying to end oppression, you should probably take that into consideration, okay?

Look, I truly don’t have an opinion on what’s in Sandra Bullock’s heart. But I have an opinion on that photo: Appalling and inexcusable. And an opinion on Jesse James: Racist fuckwit. And an opinion on attempts to somehow justify that photo and steer the conversation away from words like “racism” and “anti-Semitism” and “white supremacy” at all costs: Bullshit. And all of that brought me to the opinion that if Bullock wants to keep the stink off her, she’d best issue a statement denouncing her husband’s racist behavior in no uncertain terms. As fast as possible. Which means, basically, yesterday.

That’s what I was talking about. Not judging her or blaming her or making presumptions about her, but expecting her, as a public figure, to take this seriously. Because that picture, despite what James’ defenders say, is fucking serious. And while it’s very possible for people to remain ignorant of a lot of things within a long-term relationship, it is also, exactly as I said yesterday, reasonable to wonder, and to ask, whether someone shares or condones or willfully ignores her partner’s odious views.

But we’re not supposed to wonder about Bullock. Because she seems like such a nice person, and she’s publicly said non-racist things, and she’s going through so much, sure. But also because it is considered rude and vaguely scandalous to not give an apparently nice white person the extreme benefit of the doubt where any suggestion of racism is concerned. And that’s bullshit. I don’t know one way or another what she thinks of that photo, but for those of us who have never met the woman, in the absence of a public comment there is no more reason to assume she deplores it than there is to assume she thinks it’s hilarious. So it’s really disturbing — albeit not unexpected — that so many people seem to think even posing the question is a vicious assault on her character. Jesse James does a Nazi salute with one hand and a Hitler mustache with the other, and people scramble to explain why we shouldn’t assume it means anything, you know, negative. But ask what his wife thinks about that, and why — for the sake of her own public image, if nothing else — she hasn’t commented (via a publicist, so it’s not like she has to be articulate in the midst of heartbreak and humiliation)? Tasteless! Insulting! Victim-blaming! Why, I never!

That’s pretty fucked up, folks. It really is.



Fluff: Strange Days

My Oscar picks.

The Hurt Locker

Best Picture

The Hurt Locker

In addition to expanding the field from five films to ten, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has instituted an Instant Runoff Voting system. Leaving aside the merits or flaws of this system, it’s a provocative decision that could result in a big night for The Hurt Locker. Like its director James Cameron, Avatar is a very polarizing film, which means when offered the option to rank films by preference – which is what you do with IRV – instead of voting for a single film, Avatar might not be everybody’s all American, thus allowing The Hurt Locker, which is likely to be everyone’s favorite first runner up, to snag the top prize.

Best Director

Kathryn Bigelow

Having swept many of the directing awards, including the BAFTA, it seems likely she’ll snag this one too. The film is well received, she hasn’t pissed off too many academy voters and she makes movies that straight dudes like. I am a huge fan of her work, with Strange Days and the two parter “Fallen Heroes” from season six of Homicide: Life on the Street being my favorites. That said, I am not under any illusion her win will usher in powder pink Perestroika for women filmmakers or signal the collapse of the male dominated movie industry. Bigelow makes action movies, favors hand held cameras and jump cuts. So I do feel conflicted over her nomination because it reinforces the whole idea of there being women’s stories and then real stories and only those real stories – ones about men, war or power – are worth telling. But, hey, you gotta dance with the one who brung ya!

Best Actor

Jeff Bridges

This is The Dude’s year! After seeing the reaction Bridges received during his Golden Globe acceptance speech, I became pretty convinced he was going to be nominated and win the Best Actor Oscar. The only person who could jostle The Dude’s White Russian is Colin Firth, but unless some new shit comes to light, I really can’t conceive of that happening. This is a beloved actor from an acting family who has given stellar performances throughout his lengthy career. Am I wrong?

Best Actress

Sandra Bullock

For some reason I thought Bullock was on that same island where they’re keeping Meg Ryan and where Rachel McAdams is going when she turns forty. Apparently not! The movie – The Blind Side – is riddled with all kinds of -ism fail, but it’s the kind of showy role the academy loves to see its leading ladies do. With all the subtlety of a trumpet fart in church, Bullock has taken a page from the Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich), Shirley MacLaine (Terms of Endearment) and Cher (Moonstruck) How-to-win-an-Oscar play book.

Best Supporting Actor

Christoph Waltz

Like Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive and Lou Gossett Jr. in An Officer and a Gentlemen before him, Christoph Waltz leveraged his charismatic megalomania for a shot at Oscar gold. He’ll get it too. The academy loves them some over the top supporting performances and oddly enough, it is this award and not the Lead Actor award that generally catapults its winner onto the A-list. Before The Fugitive, me and like Mama Lee Jones were like the only people interested in TLJ’s career.

Best Supporting Actress


While I hesitate to curse the incomparable Mo’Nique with this dubious award, I’m pretty certain she’ll get it. Like the “Best New Artist” Grammy, this award is a career killer. Mary Steen-who? If it doesn’t render you unemployed, it at least renders you irrelevant as an actress. There are a few notable exceptions, but for the most part, it’s probably better NOT to win this. Fat, Black women have done well in this category, both as noms (Whoopi and Queen L) and J-Hud won it. Of course, what are they doing now acting wise? It certainly does not do for women, what the equivalent award does for men. Still, the academy loves seeing minorities give poverty pr0n or shuck and jive performances, particularly if it seems (to the academy anyway) to be drawn on some personal experience.

Please note: these are the folks I think will win and in many cases aren’t necessarily the folks I think should win

Guest Blogger Mean Asian Girl: Oh? No! Or, Why I didn’t participate in the Facebook doppelganger meme

You may remember friend of SP Mean Asian Girl from her previous guest post, The Fantasy of Being White. We loved that post so much that we asked her to weigh in on that most vexing of seemingly innocuous little internet games: the Facebook celebrity twin meme. Thanks, MAG! — Sweet Machine

Oh? No!

Or, Why I didn’t participate in the Facebook doppelganger meme

By Mean Asian Girl

(with a little help from the SP crew)

When I first heard about the Facebook celebrity doppelganger meme, my first thought was, “Where do I find a picture of [Asian woman most recently and/or frequently seen by whomever I’m speaking to]?”

See, because I’ve been told I look like several different people, the most recent being Sandra Oh. Most of you don’t know what I look like, but suffice it to say, not like Sandra Oh. My friend Charles, who is black*, and happens to think Sandra Oh is hot, doesn’t see any resemblance at all. Then again, Charles’ opinion of Oh may be in the minority.

OK, let me digress for a moment. I googled Sandra Oh, expecting the first thing to pop up would be her IMDB profile. Before I finished typing, the first suggestion that popped up was “Sandra Oh ugly.” Which was where I found that Asian Bite website. So maybe the whole idea of anyone trying to pay me a compliment is not the case. I am tempted to start a discussion of whether people think Oh’s very Korean-ness is what makes her ugly. Maybe some other time. I’m a bit too stunned at the moment.

But anyway, years and years ago, someone told me I looked just like the girl in “Karate Kid II,” who, if you notice, does not look very much like Sandra Oh. In fairness, I probably look more like Sandra Oh than like Tamlyn Tomita.

As it turned out, the very cool women here at Shapely Prose were having their own discussion of the racial/ethnic-fail aspects of the doppelganger meme and were kind enough to invite me to join in.

Eventually, we touched on how Janet Jackson and Kristy McNichol have the same face, Elvin from the Cosby Show, the appropriate celebrity doppelganger for Kate’s husband Al, and a staged reading of The Big Lebowski, but prior to that, we made some more serious observations about white privilege and doppelgangers.

And first, we agreed that I look nothing like Sandra Oh.

“This seems like one of those Facebook exercises that’s mostly about a certain kind of girl getting to wank about how hot she is without looking conceited,” Kate said. But fair enough, I guess. If someone told you you looked like Anne Hathaway, or Blake Lively, or, for that matter, Penelope Cruz or Halle Berry, wouldn’t you want to tell people?

Problem is, if we’re talking about Hollywood stars, or even prominent women known by most U.S. residents in general, the pool gets awfully shallow if you’re not white. Kate told me, “I can think of like four Asian-American actresses off the top of my head, and none of them, except possibly Keiko Agena**, have characteristics I could see as part of a recipe for you.”

Part of a recipe. Sure. But we can’t do collage profile pictures. Or at least I can’t. So I have to settle for what other people think. Because, really, what most people see when they look at me is that I’m Asian, I have epicanthic folds over my eyelids, flattish face, black hair, etc. And what do you know? Sandra Oh also has epicanthic eyelids, a flattish face and black hair! So does Tamlyn Tomita! Though, actually, based on the Tamlyn Tomita comparison, they’re not even paying particularly close attention to my hair.

At some level, it’s a version of the “All you [insert racial/ethnic group here] look alike.” I once worked at a news service with two African-American women, Robin and Debbie. Robin was probably 5-2, close-cropped hair, round face and very loud and outgoing. Debbie was 5-6, longer hair, thin face and quiet. They did not start working there anywhere near the same time, nor did they cover the same beat. Yet, they constantly got called each other’s names. I guess they did have similar skin tones. Any of you who do not have similar stories have either never worked with more than one minority or have worked in remarkably enlightened workplaces.

Of course, it’s not just about skin color and ethnicity. Kate knows a couple of dark-haired fat women who wanted to go as Pat Benatar for Halloween, but didn’t because everyone would assume they were Beth Ditto. I mean, you’re fat, you’re a rock chick … duh. Fillyjonk mentioned how people told her she looked like Kate Winslet when Winslet was in her relatively fat*** state

I am in no way saying there was malicious intent behind the doppelganger meme, and clearly, as oppression goes, it ain’t exactly Jim Crow. I’m just saying, well, maybe I should point you all to Sepia Mutiny for a little more perspective. If I may digress a bit, the line “If only you weren’t so dark, you’d be so pretty,” is horrifying. But maybe I’m still hung up on the “Ugly Sandra Oh” issue.

If you don’t feel like reading through that whole post, try Fillyjonk, who puts the matter pretty succinctly for a privileged white girl:

“Getting told you look like someone who has nothing in common with you besides skin color and body type is bad enough,” she said. “But getting told you look like someone who has nothing in common with you besides skin color, period, elides your actual features even more.”

To take that a step further, when someone – inevitably white — says, “I don’t see race,” if much of society sees you only as race, then they don’t see you.

*I mention this for no reason other than to wonder if perhaps this is a white thing. I’m not sure any person of color has told me I look like Sandra Oh, including, obviously, anyone Asian.

**Though I had seen “Gilmore Girls” once or twice, I had no idea who Keiko Agena was until Kate mentioned her. I am old compared to the SP crew, esp. when you consider that I saw “Karate Kid II” when it came out in theaters.

***i.e., Hollywood fat

Kevin Smith Kicked off Southwest Flight for Being Fat

So, a famous person has finally been fucked by an airline’s fat policy. Director Kevin Smith got booted off a Southwest plane tonight, after he was already settled in “WITH ARM RESTS DOWN,” as he put it on Twitter, where he’s been documenting the experience. The captain apparently deemed him a “safety risk.” I’ll let Smith take that one:

@SouthwestAir, go fuck yourself. I broke no regulation, offered no “safety risk” (what, was I gonna roll on a fellow passenger?). I was wrongly ejected from the flight (even [attendant] Suzanne eventually agreed). And fuck your apologetic $100 voucher, @SouthwestAir. Thank God I don’t embarrass easily (bless you, JERSEY GIRL training). But I don’t sulk off either: so everyday, some new fuck-you Tweets for @SouthwestAir.

(That’s 3 tweets cobbled together.)

I am so sorry that Kevin Smith, human being, had to go through that. But quite frankly, a part of me is really happy that Kevin Smith, Famous Person With 1.6 Million Twitter Followers, is holding an airline’s feet to the fire over this bullshit. While watching him tweet furiously @SouthwestAir (and sending a few of my own), I could only think, “Oh, please, let this be Southwest’s Maytag moment.” And let the other airlines learn something from it. I’m the kind of person who thinks it was awesome that Heather Armstrong used her platform to shame Maytag into offering decent customer service, and I’d like to see more corporations realize that word of mouth is a whole new fucking ballgame in the age of social media. And the only way to make sure you don’t get burned is to offer decent service to everyone. Famous or not famous, fat or thin.

To Southwest’s meager credit, they’ve got somebody working their Twitter account who’s at least savvy enough to have apologized to Smith already and promised to make things right. For him. Smith is already on another flight, and has offered the airline his fattest look from there. But there are still probably millions of fat people who dread getting on flights — and not just on Southwest — because they don’t know if they’ll actually be allowed to use the tickets they paid for, or if they’ll be removed from the plane like criminals, forced to fly standby and in some cases, forced to fly standby and pay twice as much for it.  (That’s part of United’s policy, which I bitched about on CNN last April. Fillyjonk also wrote about airline douchebaggery here.) For instance, friend of SP Tari, who cheered Smith on, but then tweeted, “The @SouthwestAir / @ThatKevinSmith thing makes me acutely aware, though, that I’m flying to Atlanta this week. Delta: please don’t suck.”

I am really happy that Kevin Smith, human being, is on his way home, but I also hope Kevin Smith, Famous Person With 1.6 Million Twitter Followers keeps up the righteous indignation on behalf of all the fat people who aren’t in a position to say, “WELCOME TO YOUR PR NIGHTMARE, ASSHOLES.” And even though he is, and he did, and he doesn’t embarrass easily, and a whole lot of us thank him for all of that, his last tweet tonight says it all:

The @SouthwestAir Diet. How it works: you’re publicly shamed into a slimmer figure. Crying the weight right off has never been easier!

Update: Moving this up from comments — Smith’s back on the ground, and one of the first things he tweeted was, “Hey @SouthwestAir? Fuck making it right for me just ’cause I have a platform. I sat next to a big girl who was chastised for not buying an extra ticket because ‘all passengers deserve their space.’ Fucking flight wasn’t even full! Fuck your size-ist policy. Rude…”

Thanks, dude.

Photoshop’s greatest hits

It’s nothing most of our readers haven’t seen before, but Newsweek has a refresher course on the “biggest airbrushing scandals” of the 2000s. Consider it a visual illustration of the impossibly narrow standards of beauty that we’ve been talking about this week (and note especially how the women of color involved have had their skin lightened to fit that epically narrow ideal).

ETA: For shame, Newsweek! Looks like you got the “inspiration” for this piece — along with many of the examples — from our friends at Jezebel. Thank heavens for the mainstream media, doing all that original reporting, am I right?

Links: Golden Globes backlash, or This one goes out to the ladies

Those of you who hopped on our Golden Globe live-blogging adventure on Sunday (which was way, way more fun than I expected — GIVE YOURSELVES A HAND) might be interested in the following posts on Jezebel about (sadly predictable) sexist reactions to various women at the show:

James Cameron & Kathryn Bigelow Used To Be Married — Get Over It

‘You Don’t Put A Big Girl In A Big Dress’: Dissing Christina Hendricks

And, my personal favorite: Paper Devotes 363 Word Article To Mo’Nique’s Leg Hair

Basically these are all iterations of a theme: woman dares to look “different” (i.e., boobs, leg hair) and/or succeed artistically, must be put in her place. Well played, media journalists. What daring provocateurs you are.