Tag Archives: feminism

Rita Moreno & Mental Health: A Revelation That Needs to be Heard

Rita Moreno is more than an icon. She is a trailblazer who opened the door for non-POC performers to not only have a career, but to play roles than were more than the servant or the background character. She also dealt with mental illness and lived to tell the tale.

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It premiered a couple of weeks ago on the PBS series American Masters. The documentary follows her life and career from her early days playing “ethnic” characters to her current status as one of the most respected performers in Hollywood. Best known for her role as Anita in 1961 film adaptation of West Side Story, it was one of the first (if not the first) fully fleshed out Latino characters on the big screen. Up until that point, Latinx performers either had to hide who they were (a la Rita Hayworth) or play a stereotypical characters ( e.g. Carmen Miranda).

While I was not surprised that she was sexually assaulted. Then, as now, women are still seen as sex objects to be used and thrown away when our usefulness outside of the bedroom has vanished. What I was surprised is that she has lived with mental health problems for decades and survived a suicide attempt. I found her honesty to be refreshing and comforting. It was as if she was saying “I did it, you can too”.

If I could, I would send an invite to watch this film to anyone whose life is complicated by mental illness. If it provides one person at least a brief respite from the mess in our heads and the push to ask for help, I would be satisfied.

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It is available for streaming on the PBS website.

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Much Ado About Nothing Character Review: Beatrice

*The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday the latest from now on).

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the William Shakespeare play Much Ado About Nothing. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. When the one we love walks away, the emotional wound that is created by that loss does not always close quickly or easily. It sometimes festers, creating a wall to prevent future heartbreaks.

In Much Ado About Nothing, Beatrice comes off as a confident, smart mouthed, and distrustful of romance. When she meets up with her ex, Benedick, her response is to call him on what she sees as his bullshit. While everyone around them is enjoying their banter, they do not see that she is afraid of being vulnerable, especially in front of the man who she is not quite over. When she hears that he is in love with her, Beatrice loses her armor and becomes hopeful that their relationship will begin again.

Unlike her cousin, Hero, Beatrice is not willing to submit to marry whomever her father approves of. She will only walk down aisle if she can respect herself and be in an equal partnership. In her world, a married woman is legally the property of her husband. She has no right to property, to any income, or even to her own children. The only way to remain in control of her fate and maintain control of financial and/or material assets is to remain single.

The turning point for her narrative is after the aborted wedding of Hero and Claudio. Angered that her beloved cousin’s name and reputation has been blackened, Beatrice rages that the sexist and misogynistic ideas that have ruined her cousin. Though she is unable to challenge Claudio, she and Benedick walk into the sunset. She is no longer afraid of love and more importantly, in love with a man who will not force her to submit the traditional idea of what is it is to be a woman.

To sum it up: Being vulnerable is never easy. It is harder when the person we want to be vulnerable with is the person we love most. The fear of rejection is so prevalent that the immediate reaction is to put up emotional walls and pretend that the we are fine. Beatrice’s initial reaction to Benedick is hide her heart to protect herself. But she eventually learns that putting your heart on your sleeve is not a bad thing. We just need to trust our gut and hope for the best.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

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Filed under Character Review, Feminism, William Shakespeare

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Review

Movies and/or television shows that are based on comic books have been part of our modern entertainment era for decades. What is important is the balance between the source material and the enjoyment of the audience.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was released into theaters a few weeks ago. Based on the comic book of the same name, we are initially introduced to twenty something Shaun (Simu Liu). Living in San Francisco, he and his best friend Katy (Awkwafina) earn their living parking cars. Reality intervenes when Shaun’s ancient warlord father Xu Wenwu (Tony Chiu-Wai Leung) send his goons to bring his son back to China. On the plane, Shaun tells Katy that his real name is Shang-Chi and the truth about his family. Meeting up with his sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), they have to come together to defeat their father and prevent an even greater disaster from occurring.

I loved this movie. Though I have no knowledge of the narrative or the character arcs within the books themselves, I can say with certainty that the film adaption is superb. I loved the balance of the comedy and the action. The female characters who surround Shang are not sitting in the background, waiting to be rescued. They are as important to the action as the male characters. The one role that stood out to me was Xu Wenwu. He is akin to Anakin Skywalker in that his intentions are good, but his actions are not exactly on the up and up.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is currently in theaters.

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Filed under Feminism, Movie Review, Movies, Star Wars

Impeachment: American Crime Story Review

Back in the late 1990’s, the impeachment trial of then President Bill Clinton was everywhere. His affair with Monica Lewinsky and the scandal that followed could not be ignored. One would have to be either living under a rock or under a certain age to at least not catch a whiff of what was coming from Washington DC.

The third season of the FX series, American Crime Story, focuses on the whirlwind that surrounded the Clinton administration following the rumor that he had an extramarital affair with Lewinsky, who was then an intern in her early 20’s. Clive Owen plays the former President. The four main female players are Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein), Hillary Clinton (Edie Falco), Linda Tripp (Sarah Paulson), and Paula Jones (Annaleigh Ashford).

What I like about this series is that it takes the sexism that was part and parcel of this this entire affair and turns it on its head. Nowadays, Clinton has been politically lionized in some circles for what he did while in office. But it is easy to forget that his reputation was that of a hound dog who was not above forgetting his marriage vows. The focus is not on him, but the women around them. Depending on the sources, Lewinsky (who is one of the producers of this season), Clinton, Tripp, and Jones are either mocked, ignored, or vilified for their behavior during this period. Instead of being portrayed as 2D stereotypes, these women are fully rounded characters and finally allowed to tell this story from their perspective.

The cast is fantastic. Owens disappears under a prosthetic nose and a southern accent. Feldstein gives her character the breadth and depth that she finally deserves after being a punchline for twenty plus years. Paulson’s Tripp is sort of an anti-hero. The viewer may not agree with the decisions she made, but we learn more of her than the headlines portrayed back then. For their parts, Falco and Ashford are equally good, trying to hold their own in a world that does not do them justice.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Impeachment: American Crime Story airs on FX on Tuesday night at 10PM.

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Filed under Feminism, FX, History, Politics, Television, TV Review

This Changes Everything Review

Change, whether on a personal level or societal level, is hard. It requires work, the ability to open our eyes, and most importantly, the want to change.

The 2019 Netflix documentary, This Changes Everything, examines sexism in Hollywood and its impact on the careers of female creators, filmmakers, and performers. Speaking to noted names such as Geena Davis, Meryl Streep, Shonda Rhimes, and Reese Witherspoon, the film looks at the ways in which women are inhibited from reaching the peak of their careers. Female filmmakers are not given the same opportunities as their male counterparts. If they have one successful film, it is a fluke. If a male filmmaker receives positive notices from critics and audiences, the door opens more work and a bigger budget. In the same vein, female actresses are often boxed into certain roles and are limited in screen time compared to their male co-stars. Very often, they are over-sexualized or forced into playing traditional female parts.

I got angry watching this film. Women are 50% of the population, yet on screen, we are at best minimized and at worst, forced into the background. What is worse is that we learn early that we need to fit a certain physical and sexual mold to not only be happy but also thrive. The one moment that really pissed me off was a conversation with actress Chloë Grace Moretz (Carrie, 2013). At the young age of 16, a directive came down from the studios that she needed to amphliphy her bosom. What kind of adult tells a young girl that this is necessary to keep her job?

It is the kick in the but we need. Women are just as creative and capable as men. But we have not been given the opportunities to show what we can do. Those opportunities can only come when we break down the doors and demand our rights.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

This Changes Everything is avaliable for streaming on Netflix.

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Don’t They Have More to Deal With in Texas Than Policing Women’s Bodies?

Abortion is more than the control of women’s bodies. It is the control of our destinies. Throughout most of human history, we have been beholden to the men around us. Now that we have been speaking up and taking control of our lives, the reaction by some (both men and women) is to pull us back via the figurative leash.

In Texas today, one of the most restrictive abortion bans became law today. One of the features of this law is that the average person on the street can sue abortion providers and anyone who helped the women (or a pregnant person) obtain the abortion. It does not matter if the person who is behind the lawsuit is any relation or knows either party that is being sued. This is on top of another heartbeat bill, which bans the procedure after six weeks. To add insult to injury, not even cases of rape or incest are given leeway.

This is a diversionary tactic. There is way too much shit going on in this country (Covid-19 being a good chunk of it) to focus on whether or not the decision to abort a pregnancy is made. This is a deeply personal and complicated decision between the woman who is pregnant, their spouse/partner (if there is one), and their doctor(s). I am all for freedom of religion, but that does not give one group the right to impose their beliefs on anyone else.

What is scary is that this bill has the potential truly damage, if not take down completely Roe V. Wade.

We need to focus of taking this nation forward and dealing with our issues. Telling a woman what to do with her body should not be on priority list to begin with.

P.S. We made a big deal about getting out as many women and young girls from Afghanistan over the past few weeks. But when it comes to the women in this country, some people still think that we live in the dark ages.

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Filed under Feminism, International News, National News, Politics, World News

Why is the World Silent about Afghani Women When They Made so Much Noise about Israel?

I would love to say that in 2021, women across the world have broken the glass ceiling. The archaic rules of what is “acceptable” for the female gender is nothing but a memory. But the truth is that for every achievement and every right that is ours to claim, there are many who still believe that a woman’s place is in the home.

Since the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan last week, the fear of Afghani women is that they will be forced back into the extreme restrictions they were forced to live under in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. Though the country’s new leadership has promised to not re-instate the old rules, it is a promise that seems to be more talk than action.

Their promises are akin the Women of the Wall “allowed” to pray in peace at the Western Wall by the Ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Speaking of Israel, the world’s reaction to what is happening on the ground in Afghanistan is nothing compared to crap the Jewish state received in the spring. Where is the anger, the outrage, the articles in the press and the posts via celebrities on social media? It is crickets compared to collective noise directed at Israel in May.

The fact is that the country gets shit on no matter what it does. But when there is a life and death issue the affects another nation is facing, the racket from the rest of the world is a pittance. Meanwhile in Israel, women have been free to live their own lives for decades.

Silence speaks more than any word can.

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What If…? Review

The question of what if is a powerful one. We make choices and live with the consequences, for better or for worse. But what would happen if we had said or done something differently? Or if things did not go as they had?

This is the premise of the new DisneyPlus animated Marvel series. Premiering last Wednesday, it takes the narratives we know and flips them on their head. The first episode focuses on Captain America. When Steve Rogers (voiced by Josh Keaton) goes into the machine to become the super soldier that will end World War II, the end result is not as expected. A glitch causes it to temporarily break down. Jumping into action, Peggy Carter (voiced by Hayley Atwell, reprising her role from the live action films) becomes Captain Carter and leads the fight against tyranny and destruction.

The first episode is incredibly good. It was everything I expected it to be and more. I loved the twist that it was Peggy Carter who became the super soldier and not Steve Rogers.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

What If…? is available for streaming on DisneyPlus. New episodes premiere every Wednesday.

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Filed under DisneyPlus, Feminism, History, Television, TV Review

Controlling Women: What We Must Do Now to Save Reproductive Freedom Book Review

I’ve been a feminist for nearly two decades. One of the things that has become apparent is that feminism is about women gaining control of our lives and our choices. Though who oppose this idea would rather that we remain the silent and dutiful helpmeets who do not dare to even consider speaking up for ourselves.

Controlling Women: What We Must Do Now to Save Reproductive Freedom, by Julie F. Kay and Kathryn Kolbert, was published last month. In the book, they talk about why Roe V. Wade is important and how after nearly fifty years, it is in serious danger of being gutted or destroyed completely. Speaking specifically about the Irish Abortion Referendum and the little ways the states are undermining it (i.e. the numerous fetal heartbeat bills), they talk about how important it is to save reproductive freedom.

I was reminded of two things while I read this book. The first is that if the anti-abortion activists get their way, the ones that will be most affected will be poor women and women of color. Historically, they have had the least amount of access to healthcare and specifically, women’s healthcare. Which leads to unsafe and deadly methods (i.e. coat hanger abortions) of ending pregnancies instead of doing so in a medically safe and healthy manner. The second is the call to action. We can talk all the talk we want, but until we walk the walk, a woman’s right to choose will always be on the verge of disappearing.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism

Throwback Thursday: The Iron Lady (2011)

Depending on who you speak to, the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is either a glass ceiling ball breaker who made history or a politician whose policies still were deeply controversial during her time in office.

The 2011 movie, The Iron Lady, explores her life and legacy. Starring Meryl Streep in the titular role, the audience relives the details of her life as she imagines conversations with her recently passed husband, Denis (Jim Broadbent). Still coping with his loss, we follow her story from her early years to her present circumstances.

I sat through about 3/4 of the film on Netflix a while back before turning it off. As a political history nerd, a feminist, and Anglophile, I should have been thoroughly engaged. But it lagged on to the point where I just couldn’t take it anymore.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

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Filed under Feminism, History, Movie Review, Movies