this is the story of a girl … frustrated with this guy

In 2014, I was in my second-to-last quarter at Evergreen State College, and I took this class on the history of the American Marriage and Family. I took it mostly because it offered me the opportunity to meet Stephanie Coontz, who was the professor, and whose work I’d previously read.

She’s amazing, by the way.

In that class, I also (obviously) met several students. Most were forgettable, as classmates often are. A handful were awesome and memorable.

And one … one was intriguing and frustrating and fascinating. He was argumentative and stubborn, but intelligent. He would say things that made me think he was a libertarian — small government/ Ayn Rand/ conservative type, but then he’d bust out with these pro-feminist, gender-egalitarian, equal-rights, progressive talking points that would make me do a double take.

Then he’d go back and defend conservative talking points and small government and the myth of meritocracy — these childish ideas that a hero can save us from ourselves; that all the unwashed masses need to cure poverty and inequality and misery is a supermensch willing to take on the job and stop doing bad selfish things like buying fast food or mass produced goods.

He honestly seems to believe that each singular individual is responsible for structural systems of inequality, and that actions of one person can actually effect social massive change on a societal scale — that if we all rose up and stopped buying McDonalds hamburgers tomorrow, that would end inequality, rather than putting hundreds of thousands of workers on every level of the supply chain out of business.

His solution isn’t, “Hey, maybe we should enact legislation that requires better oversight and safety procedures at each state in the supply line, and requires us to pay a living wage at each level in the production process — sure, it means the hamburger costs more, but it’s worth it, if it stops child slavery and oppression at the point where the grain is grown to make the bun and it stops animal torture where the cow is raised, and it means the McDonalds worker gets a living wage and goes home to an actual home.”

His solution is — “Fuck the system, stop buying hamburgers, screw everyone. Make that loser get a real job that’s something other than selling hamburgers. I don’t know what. Something valuable. Fuck hamburgers. Why are you buying hamburgers, what are you, an asshole?”

So he’d be sitting there, caught up in a self-righteous tirade about how we just need to stop shopping, or buying, or doing XYZ action in order to “cure” this or that inequality, and I’d be whiplashed back into the realization that he held a very Randian, libertarian view of the world.

He honestly doesn’t grasp the nuanced structures of inequality that our world is balanced on, and why eradicating trade systems is not a viable answer, but introducing income equality and fair trade systems is a viable answer.

But he also has progressive ideals and a desire for democratic equality that is held in tension with that weird individualism and blind clinging to the myth of meritocracy were so … intriguing that I struck up a fascinated sort of dialogue with him during the class session. I mean, I was in the process of quitting smoking and I needed a distraction, and I kind of wanted to understand how he held that sort of doublethink in his head.

Admittedly, he was kind of a project, too: I wanted to see if he could be coaxed away from toxic individualism of Randian philosophies and into understanding how the structural systems of inequality permeated society on every level; how inequality was woven into the very fabric of our society and could not be dismantled by opting out of the system or the myth of meritocracy, but that history has shown we can affect large-scale change by joining our voices together in large-scale protest and brotherhood to demand living wages and social equality.

So after the class ended, we were FB friends. Unfortunately, he seemed to have gotten the idea that I like arguing. See, in college, arguing during seminar is one thing — we’ve all read the same text, we’re coming from the same basic background of information, and we’re all respectful of one another.

But out of college, on FB or in person … that’s a different thing. People come from different backgrounds of information. We’ve read different texts and have vastly different experiences and educational backgrounds. Some people are receptive, some are closed off, and numerous psychological studies show that it’s far more common for people to double down when challenged than to open up receptively to new ideas.

In addition, my preferred conversational mode is that of … well, conversation. I don’t like an aggressive, argumentative tone. But this particular guy, for some reason, would come onto my feed and start every conversation from a very aggressive stance, often intentionally (and, he claimed, jokingly) taking the devil’s advocate stance just to “yank my chain.”

It was so pronounced, I was getting private messages from other FB friends asking me what his deal was.

Initially, my other FB friends would try to help me in my debates against him, but they gave up on him long time passing. He’s difficult to debate with. Not in the, “Oh, this guy has his shit together and is very reasoned in his arguments,” type of way. More in the Gish Gallop way. He fires off comment after comment, so quickly that it’s impossible to respond point by point. They’re incoherent and lack both research and a basic understanding of the topic he’s arguing in, and are often internally contradictory. He’s also aggressive and relies overmuch on logical fallacies. On top of that, during the course of the argument, he’ll go back and edit his own comments for clarity without noting that he’s edited them, which often render any responses to his comments as incoherent as his own arguments.

I tried to talk to him about this behavior, both in person and online, and he was basically unapologetic and accused me of trying to silence him. I discussed my frustration with my friends (who, for what it’s worth, are people of color, women, and LGBT individuals, all of whom were trying — along with me — to unsuccessfully present our perspectives in conversation with him, a white heterosexual male who self-identifies as progressive and would continually explain to us about how we didn’t understand liberal politics and were complaining too much).

For all these reasons, we gave up on trying to talk to him.

He approaches each argument with the apparent assumption that the other party is an adversary, rather than one half of a dialogue. He does not see the need to suss out the context of the situation first, and I often got the sense (when it comes to discussions on pop culture or music or clothing) that he looks down on the entire discussion and, indeed, that there is a different discussion happening underneath that I am unaware of — one about values and morals, and the inherent worth of time or money “wasted” (as he deems it) on such things.

After a few months of that, I restricted his “friendship” on FB so that he couldn’t see or interact with my profile anymore.

It was so embarrassing, you know? I mean, I have four siblings, and when two of them started acting like that on my feed, I didn’t even hesitate. I just axed ’em, not even a flinch. I don’t know why I put up with it so long from this guy. I was getting private messages from my friends asking me why I was letting this racist sexist asshole spew hate all over my feed, and I’m just struggling to explain …

When I used to hang out with him in person, he’d be normal and fun and charming, and he got along great with my husband and son. But his FB personality is so gratingly abrasive and aggressive and rude. I was just baffled at the difference between real-life him and online-him. I didn’t know how to explain it to my other far-flung friends.

The people who attended class with us knew his personality. They just stayed out of it. They never commented, never messaged, nothing. But my other friends, the ones who never met him in real life … well every time he spewed his venom all over my feed I’d get another spurt of questions in my inbox:

Who is this guy?

What’s his problem?

Why are you even friends with him?

I kept trying to explain that I didn’t really think he was a racist or sexist MRAer or whatever, I thought he was just really bad at expressing himself through the written word. He seemed nice in person — but his online persona was so awful and I so rarely interacted with him in real life that I was starting to doubt myself. I felt embarrassed at my own hypocrisy. Why was I letting this guy, who clearly despised the queer, female, POC point of view stay on my feed and dictate the politics of oppression to me? Why was I so reluctant to just delete? Then he moved, and that’s I restricted his friendship so I didn’t interact with him.

After a few months (maybe a year) he was un-restricted. I don’t know if I did that, or if a FB update caused it (that’s happened in the past). Whatever the case, he commented on something and I did realize he was back on my feed, but I thought maybe I’d overreacted and I should give him another chance. Deciding to keep an eye on the situation, I didn’t renew the restricted access to my feed.

All seemed quiet for a few months, and then it started again.

For example, I might post a Trevor Noah video, and we would end up in an argument about the racial politics of late night satire wherein he would admit during the course of the discussion that he was unaware of and unconcerned with the social dynamics and recent history of late night satire and didn’t even watch it. So why, why is he starting an argument on my feed about something that he looks down on, thinks is useless, and doesn’t even understand the context of?

That would be like me striding into the forest where some guys are hunting deer and being like, “All right, y’all. I don’t know why you like to kill bambi, but you’re doing it wrong. Climb down outta that tree and throw the salt lick away. Everyone knows deers eat grass and stay on the ground, c’mon!”

Like, no.

It was so frustrating. So frustrating. Today I posted what I thought was a funny SNL skit about the Oscars Boycott, and this guy comes in again and says (basically) that anyone who goes to the movies is a white supremacist, because apparently dumbass doesn’t understand that ticket sales have literally zero impact on Oscar nominations. It’s all internal Hollywood politics.

this guy

But of course, this guy is too busy blaming the rest of us individuals for the structural systems of inequality to bother to do things like, uh, I dunno, educate himself on how these structural systems of inequality work.

No way, its super easier to blame the proletariat and claim that if we all practice a little more good ‘ole protestant self-flagellation and wear our hair shirts a little tighter and suffer a little more, the myth of meritocracy will prove itself true and we will prevail! A supermensch will arise from our ranks and free us from these chains of inequality, if we just fucking suffer enough and stop fucking complaining. Just keep holding out for a hero — admit this is all our fault, that it’s the individual. We brought our suffering on ourselves by not being worthy enough. We don’t deserve better.

It’s not a structural, institutionalized system of inequality encoded in policies and legislation and enacted often mindlessly and thoughtlessly by people who have been taught not to examine their own unconscious biases — it’s our own individual choices, see. It’s our own fault.

In case you didn’t realize, you were supposed to read those previous two paragraph with heavy sarcasm. Go back and read it in a heavily sarcastic voice, if you didn’t already. Think Daria. Channel your inner Daria.

Also, side note, a country that is 80% white? Ha. According to the census.gov quickfacts table, there are two ways to slice that. One percentage is 77.4% that says, “White alone,” which is defined as, “White. A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. It includes people who indicate their race as “White” or report entries such as Irish, German, Italian, Lebanese, Arab, Moroccan, or Caucasian,” and is currently a category that is (once again) under debate and potential redefinition, as persons of Middle Eastern, Arab, Lebanese, and actual Caucas origin are facing unprecedented amounts of discrimation right now. Colorblind policies don’t really work, and in fact are one of those structural silencing systems of oppression (shut up and stop complaining) but what has been shown to work is naming and quantifying a problem so we can put numbers and faces to the name and groups can organize and work together for change (ie, NAACP, KIWA, #blacklivesmatter — that sort of thing.). One voice becomes a thousand, and a thousand becomes a million. The other percentage is that 62.1% of the country self-identifies as, “White alone, not Hispanic or Latino.” … but I digress.

It’s funny. I unfriended my siblings faster than I unfriended this guy, and I can’t really figure out why when he was offending not only me, but people I cared about. My actual friends, my husband were urging me to unfriend him, and I was hesitating because … why? Because I didn’t want him to “win”? Because I thought he could be taught? Because I wanted to understand him?

Why would you rant about late night comics or the Oscars if you don’t know about them, and don’t care to know about them? If you don’t understand the social dynamics or the racial and gender politics, and you think they’re frivolous, why would you come in and assume you understand how these systems work and believe you can explain it to me?

I mean, I just have a surface understanding of how the Hollywood system works, and that’s only because I’m an Audrey Hepburn fan and in 1964, she was snubbed for an Academy Award Nomination for Best Actress in My Fair Lady. Why? Politics. Hollywood Politics. These Hollywood Award ceremonies aren’t determined by ticket sales or movie popularity, and anyone who thinks they are is fucking retarded. Have you ever watched even a second of the Oscars? Have you ever seen a little “call in” number on the screen to cast your vote for best movie or best actress or whatever? No? Because it’s not fucking live voting! This isn’t some democratic American viewer-determined live reality tv vote, nor is it even determined by ticket sales and our purchasing power. This is absolutely determined by the who’s who of Hollywood, the directors and movers and shakers determining what movies get made and who gets hired.

So in the case of image-conscious Hollywood, does talking about it help? Does shining a spotlight on the structual racism and sexism help?

Oh, absofuckinglutely it does.

It already has been helping. You think it hasn’t? Look at The Force Awakens, and Mad Max: Fury Road, and tell me that shining a spotlight on the gender and racial inequality in Hollywood hasn’t helped. Tell me this conversation hasn’t helped.

For SIX Star Wars films, we had a white male heterosexual protagonist with a romance storyline. Six. And then there was Rey, and Finn.

For THREE Mad Max films, the women were little more than objects, to be acted upon or as tragic figures to impel the plots of the men forward. And then, in Fury Road, the women took front and center, as the protagonists, with fully developed personalities and agencies and stories of their own. They were not objects, to be lusted over. They were not tragedies, to die and be forgotten and impel the men into further action. They were individuals, with their own motivations and fears and desires and backgrounds. And they were magnificent.

I think it is insanely important to have this conversation, and to keep having it. To call out directors and actors that whitewash and retrench back into their privilege, and to thank the actors and directors and producers who make a concerted effort to wrestle with their privilege and address it and bring a diversity of gender/ race/ age onto the screen. Representation matters.

As for my former classmate … I finally realized I don’t need to engage with him anymore. I’ve heard his worldview. I can find a thousand just like him anywhere on reddit, or dissected on posts on We Hunted the Mammoth. I don’t have to actually interact with that toxicity to learn about it.

So I finally did it.

this guy 2

 

Advertisements

Unbook Club & Book Reviews

There’s this local book club I found recently that’s kinda cool. It’s predicated on a neat little idea: Instead of assigning a monthly book that everyone has to read like boring ‘ole homework, everyone who attends just talks really quickly about an interesting book they’ve read that month.

For the most part, it’s cool. There is one attendee who reels off a dizzying list of titles without actually pausing to recommend or review any of them, so it sounds rather more like a checking off an impressive bucket list than talking about an interesting book that caught the eye, but the rest of the attendees confine themselves to one title and a brief overview of the plot in order to entice the rest of us into maybe possibly reading?

In two months time, I’ve already learned about a few new intriguing books and put them on my list:

Other books reviewed by readers have been bumped up on my list, like Between the World and Me, by Ta Nehisi Coates — it’s been on my to-read list, but knowing what a heavy read it will be, I’ve been putting it off. Now I feel the pressure a little more intensely.

Another book recently reviewed was Inside the Kingdom, by Robert Lacey, a book that apparently covers (in depth) the political intricacies of the Saudi royal family and how they influence international politics. The overall conversation/ review concerning that book got a little ethnocentric/ disturbing to me, especially considering that the reviewer said it only covered the last 30 years or so. It inspired me to look up some longer-term history, as I firmly believe you cannot tell the content of a nations’ character from the last 30 years.

I’m not too familiar with the history of the region, other than knowing that Western governments have felt it their right and duty to meddle in the region since the days of the Crusades, and that we have continued to insert ourselves officiously into their politics throughout the centuries, even when advised against doing so by those who are actuallyon the ground working in the region.

I sometimes wonder if our governments continued interference with politics of the area are now a sort of … guilty conscious, a desire to fix what has been damaged, and a fear of the repercussions if we can’t point to some sort of positive results for all our meddling.

In any case, I found two books I think might be more useful to me than the short-term perspective of Lacey’s work: A History of Saudi Arabiaby Madawi al-Rasheed, and A History of the Middle Eastby Peter Mansfield and Nicolas Pelham. Apparently these two books cover a much broader historical perspective, ranging back almost two centuries between them before coming up to the present-day perspective. So that’s good. It’s important to have a broader historical perspective with these types of things instead of knee-jerk decamping into the hissing hatred of, “Those people are nothing like us; it’s a completely different world!”

Poverty and hunger and religious oppression makes humans do strange things, I think. I think that the type of people who hiss hatred from the comfort of their homes with running water and electricity and plumbed toilets, that poverty stricken illiterate starving families in a war torn region who are swayed by the words of dynamic leaders who promise to stabilize the region and feed their families are nothing like us have, perhaps, forgotten (or never known) the true deprivations of the human spirit. There are some things that are universal … like believing anything, if it will put food in your child’s belly. Like being angry, or too tired to think, if you can’t sleep for your town being bombed and your country’s food supply destabilized.

They’re just like us, deep down. They’re like what we would be if all our comforts and the stability of our society was stripped away, and a foreign government and army came in and started “helping” to stabilize but just made it worse, and our leaders were despotic and took everything away.

Anyway, I digress. Obviously, that kind of upset me, haha. This month, in the Unbook Club e-mail, the organizer mentioned that she personally is trying to do this fun little reading challenge this year, and she included this list. Basically boils down to 12 books for 12 months (which is SO MUCH of an improvement over my massive fail of a reading challenge last year — reading 50 books by authors of color. I think I got to 10. Maybe 15. Holy crap. My problem is that I get stuck on an author and want to read all their books, so I read a whole ton by Octavia Butler, but she did not write 50 books, and then I was in a total sci-fi mood, so I was like, oh, a little Atwood wouldn’t hurt … next thing you know, I’m nose-deep in Atwood and mainlining Max Brooks like he’s cocaine. It’s insane.)

Anywho, this is the challenge:

  1. A book published this year
  2. A book you can finish in a day (done — Married with Zombies)
  3. A book you’ve been meaning to read (done — Outlander)
  4. A book recommended by your local librarian/ book seller
  5. A book you should have read in school (thinking Illegal People for this one)
  6. A book chosen for you by a spouse/ sibling/ child/ parent. (better let John or my sil choose — if I let one of my family of origin choose I’ll end up reading the BoM again, lol)
  7. A book published before you were born.
  8. A book that was banned at some point. (I’m thinking The Satanic Versesby Salman Rushdie
  9. A book you previously abandoned. (Working on it — Same Sex Marriages in Pre-Modern Europe by John Boswell. Its a slog because of those damned footnotes.)
  10. A book you own but have never read. 
  11. A book that intimidates you.
  12. A book you’ve already read at least once.

Obviously, I have some ideas for a few of the books, and I’ll figure out others as I go. I’m excited, I think this could be fun.

 

 

let’s all go to the movies

I’ve gone to I think 3 films in the last month or so — The Force Awakens, The Martian, and The Mockingjay: Part 2. 

I loved the first two and enjoyed all three, but I wouldn’t recommend The Mockingjay: II unless you literally just finished watching Part I and/ or have actually read the books and have a good grasp of the overall plot.

In other words, if the films are what are introducing you to the world of Panem and the overarching plot, the final Mockingjay film suuuucks. It introduces the viewer jarringly to the final act, picking up the thread of the story quite awkwardly from where the last movie left off. It just doesn’t really work as a standalone movie. It bears out what I said all along, from the minute I heard they were splitting the final book into two films: “Well, that’s an unnecessary money grab.”

I thought maybe they might make it work. They’re professionals, after all. They know what they’re doing. Maybe they final two movies would flow smoothly and evenly and beautifully, and be a wonderful two-part adaptation of the book. Maybe.

Nope. They’re choppy and awful. There’s simply not enough material to drag into two separate films, and it for a viewer (like my husband) who hasn’t read the books at all and is just being introduced to the world/ fandom through the films, the final two films were jarring, disjointed and made it difficult to remain immersed in the storyline.

Seriously disappointed.

The Martian and the The Force Awakens were cool. I loved The Force Awakens, actually — from the first scenes of that horrified storm trooper emoting so strongly his battle-terror WTF response through the blankness of his helmet; and the blood-spatter red handprint marking him out from the others. I loved that touch, of the facelessness of the enemy given face. Then the diversity of the casting! Holy shit, it was amazing! The world opened up with such depth and reality, to see so faces reflecting the reality of our daily lives — young and old, male and female, people of all races, and then on top of that, the usual plethora of alien species. It was so cool to watch a sci-fi film where the only diversity wasn’t made-up diversity (ie: imagined alien species). I had to restrain myself from cheering in delight every time Rey came on the screen — I love her, love love love her.

I love that Finn rushes to save her, but she saves herself. I love that she’s competent from taking care of herself, but vulnerable from being abandoned. I love that she’s lost and alone, and prickly and proud. I love that her backstory leaves you wondering — Who abandoned her? Why? Is she Han’s daughter? Luke’s? Ren’s long-lost half sister? A cousin? Is this another sibling situation? What’s going on there?

I loved seeing General Leia, too. One of the things I like about having Netflix is that I have access to a lot of foreign films and BBC, which is nice because non-USA movies use a greater range of ages and body sizes in their actors. I like watching, say, Doctor Who and seeing 30 and 40 year old women, or actors with crooked teeth or spots on their faces, or puddle-tummies.

I like seeing my own humanity reflected on the screen, instead of the channel after channel of straight-teethed blinding youthful flat-tummied botoxed perfection that’s the norm on USA television. Its gotten to the point where I mostly just watch USA tv programs for maybe 1 or 2 seasons (unless they’re animated, haha), and then I’m out because its just … my gods, they all look like mannequins, and I start feeling super miserable about myself. Its like — well, christ on a cracker, of course they’re able to escape into those fantasy lives, they’re practically gods already. Look at them.

I just really prefer the comfortableness of BBC shows and foreign films, which seem to show a broader range of ages, races, body standards, and living standards (they don’t all live in super nice well-decorated houses or fancy unbelievable apartments — sometimes they live in utter crap housing that’s small and overfurnished). You look at them, and its easier to get swept into the story because they actually are ordinary. Donna Noble is heavier-set single woman in her 30s with a little mole thingy on her chin; she’s ordinary. Rose Tyler was living in poverty housing and had buck teeth — she was ordinary. The companions (and supporting cast) of Doctor Who and other BBC programs are relatable in a way that USA television programs just aren’t.

And that was another thing I liked about The Force Awakens. For all that its a sci-fi fantasy taking place in a galaxy far far away, it was real in the representation of who was on the screen. There were people of all ages, genders, races, and economic strata. It was great. I almost cried. It was so wonderful to see people on screen who were actually reflected my reality, and brought the fantasy to life in a realistic and inhabitable way.

Which brings me to The Martian. Which … I liked. Loved, even. The story was moving, and Matt Damon was great, as usual. He’s a talented actor. As always, when there is a film where the script calls for people coming together to save Matt Damon from extreme duress, Damon performed impeccably well. For the space of the film, he became Mark Watney, and took the audience along on that journey.

When I walked out of the film, my only ghosting, mild disappointment — and I felt kind of kvetchy even saying it — was just that I was so tired of seeing this kind of film. Like, not the plot (great!) or anything like that. Just, specifically, the white straight male protagonist type of film.

It’s funny, I didn’t even realize how prevalent this type of film was until the past few years, when we started getting a few more options. Just one or two more a year. The Hunger Games. The Heat. Mad Max. The Force Awakens. Things like that, and I started to realize how much I love seeing diversity in movies.

It’s like … 5 years ago, my husband and I hardly ever went to the theater anymore. We’d hear about these movies (Sherlock, The Prestige, Inception) through friends or advertisements, and say to each other, “Oh, man we should check that out …” but we’d never get around to it. We might end up seeing it at a party, and usually end up underwhelmed by it.

Hollywood seemed boring and repetitive, recycling the same old stuff time and again. It was like, “Oh, lookie there. Hollywood is doing another version of Spiderman. With a different young white actor. How ground breaking.”or, “Ooooh. Exciting. I see that someone in Hollywood is doing yet another military drama with grim white soldiers and lots of explosions. I’m sure it will be full of new and interesting drama that has not yet been explored in any previous military drama.”

 

In a weird way, even though they’re actually literally just recycling the same plots (Ghostbusters, The Heat was just a buddy cop, The Force Awakens is your typical heroes journey), the fact that they’re doing it with someone other than the same old same old straight white male lead we’ve seen a bajillion times before it … interesting. Like, whoa. I wanna see where they take this. Are they going to explore this story? And now we’re going to the theater way more regularly than we ever were before, just to see these other, new films, the ones with the interesting perspectives.

Now, that’s not to say I didn’t like The Martian, or Matt Damon. Or that I’m automatically saying all films with straight white male leads suck (Riddick and The Fast & the Furious remain high on my guilty pleasures list)… I guess I’m just saying, after a while they get sort of … predictable/ repetitive/ boring, especially when they keep using “box office draw” names like Matt Damon or Ben Affleck or Tom Cruise — because then, after awhile, its like you’re not watching the character or story, you’re watching the actor perform their craft. Like, I didn’t go see The Martian starring  Matt Damon and Sean Bean so much as I saw a movie where Matt Damon was stranded again and had to be rescued, and Sean Bean didn’t die.

It was good, but going into the movie, the joke I made was, “Oh, another movie about Matt Damon getting left behind and rescued? That guy needs a map,” and my friend laughed, because that’s like most of his movies. And leaving, my friend and I were joking, “Sean Bean didn’t die!” — and later, when I was talking about the film with another friend who’d seen it, that was her comment, too — “Didja notice, Sean Bean lived?!”

I mean, when it gets to the point where we’re seeing these same white straight male faces in the same roles, over and over and over again to the point where we’re cracking jokes about the similarity of their characters … I’m just saying. I feel like it would be fun to mix it up some more.

This isn’t actually a ding on the storytelling, btw. The Martian really was a great story and plot, and well acted. Its just … there’s a finite amount of stories and story arches, I guess. We retell them in an infinite amount of restructurings, with new names and locations, but ultimately when you strip them down to their bare bones, the stories we tell all have very similar basic structures. Storytelling is an ancient human ritual, something that’s been with us since hominid first hunkered by a fire in a cave. It is both how we recount our histories and look to the future; it is how we learn and grow both as individuals and as a culture. I believe it is how we teach empathy.

Acted out onscreen by actors limited by race, gender, and age, the stories are doubly restricted — not only by the basic underlying structures of them, but by the lack of imagination in representation. I suspect that’s why we were bored of going to the movies, before the sudden burbling arrival of mainstream films with more racially and gender diverse leads (after the paucity of the aughts).  Even now, such films are comparatively rare — when I look at the lineup for films at my local theater, there just isn’t a lot of diversity in the cast in terms of age, race, or gender. It’s boring.

I guess … that’s one of the things I like about Alien. Ripley was written to be played by a male or female, and I wonder how many more roles could be done that way. I think casting (and movies) would be so much cooler and more interesting if looks could somehow be removed from the process, and it was just based on talent/ resume ratings of the actor in question — and if they cast actors who were actually the ages of the characters in question.

No more 20-somethings cast as both teen heroines and as 30/40 year old widows and single moms (Jennifer Lawrence was 21 when she played the 16 year old Katniss, 22 when she played the widowed Tiffany Maxwell in Silver Linings Notebook, and 25 when she played the 34 year old single mother-cum-mop inventor Joy Mangano in Joy.). Jennifer Lawrence is talented and all and I love watching her onscreen. I thought she was great as Katniss, really … but c’mon. You’re telling me there’s no other actresses in the 30 or 40 year old range that could have played Tiffany Maxwell or Joy Mangano? I can see choosing a 20-something for a teen role, because child labor laws. But what is the point of choosing a 20-something for a more mature role, other than straight-up ageism?