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.
Menstruation is a normal and natural part of human existence. But in many parts of the world and many cultures, it is considered to be a taboo subject that is both misunderstood and vilified.
Period. End of Sentence.: A New Chapter in the Fight for Menstrual Justice, by Anita Diamant (author of The Red Tent), was published earlier this year. Inspired by the 2018 Netflix film Period. End of Sentence., Diamant explores how one’s monthly visitor is perceived. Throughout most of human history and even into our present day, it is considered to be dirty. There are traditions that state that when someone is menstruating, they must be separated from their families and every day lives. Due to this false and misleading mythology, many women and girls are denied the same educational and professional opportunities that their brothers, fathers, and husbands don’t think twice about. She also talks about how individual companies and governments are slowly starting to undo the menstrual injustice that have plagued humanity for millennia.
I really enjoyed this book. It delves into a topic that it is intrinsic to the experience of half of the human population, but it is not given the respect that it is due. One thing I was surprised about was that some men don’t even know what a period is. Others believe it to be related to sex and sexual activity, forcing young women into a life that does not exist beyond the borders of home and family.
The good thing about adapting a Shakespeare play is the room to find a new narrative angle. The bad thing about adapting a Shakespeare play is how quickly it can go wrong.
The 2018 movie, Opheliais a feminist re-write of Hamlet. The title character is not the mad prince, but his love interest, Ophelia (Daisy Ridley). Raised as an unofficial daughter of Queen Gertrude (Naomi Watts), she is one of the Queen’s ladies in waiting. As with the play, Ophelia and Hamlet (George McKay) fall in love while his uncle Claudius (Clive Owen) usurps his dead brother’s throne and marries his widow. As the political turmoil and and the danger grows tenfold, she must choose between the man she loves and finding a way to survive.
Ridley is fantastic in the role, proving she can play other characters besides Rey. As is Watts, who also expands her role beyond the confines of the source material. The problem is that the promise of the drama is just that. While I would give it an A for effort, I am glad that I saw it on Netflix rather than pay money to see it in the theaters.
Our names are more than just a random scrambling of letters. They are our identity, both internally and externally. They also have a say in our fate and the way we live our lives.
Noted writer and technology psychoanalyst Sherry Turkle published her memoir earlier this year. It is entitled The Empathy Diaries: A Memoir. For a good part of her life, Turkle lived with a secret that only those within her immediate family knew. Born in the late 1940’s in Brooklyn to a Jewish family, the man the world knew as her father was not her father. The man who contributed to half of her DNA was out of his daughter’s life. Knowing that she could never speak the truth, she learned to be empathetic to others. As she grew up, attended college, and became a full fledged adult, she learned to deal with her past, the growing addition of computers to our lives, and find her own way in the world.
I am going to be blunt. I was not impressed with this book. While I was very much hooked into the drama regarding her family, I was bored by her career path and various steps she took to get to where she is today professionally. Normally, this would be an enticing topic, given that she came of age during 2nd feminist wave in the 1960’s and 1970’s. But not even that or recognizing certain locations in borough we both grew up in was enough to make me like this memoir.
Love triangles have for the most part, been a staple of the romantic comedy or romantic drama. For this narrative to succeed, the screenwriter(s) have to make this very basic and predictable story their own.
The 1999 movie Three to Tango stars three 1990’s television stars in the lead roles. Charles Newman (Dylan McDermott) is a businessman who asks Oscar Novak (Matthew Perry) to be a companion of sorts for his mistress, Amy Post (Neve Campbell). Charles thinks that Oscar is gay. But Oscar is straight. As Oscar spends more time with Amy, he begins to fall in love with her.
As rom-coms go, there is almost nothing revolutionary about this film. Charles is a dick, Oscar is a nice guy, and Amy is the woman in between them. I certainly appreciate that it is a small step in the direction of a realistic portrayal of LGBTQ characters. But in 2021 terms, its not exactly the ground breaking moment it could have been. My major issue is that Amy has no agency or life other than being a figure of romantic and sexual attraction. Granted, this movie is twenty two years old, but it has not aged well in my opinion.
This book adds a new layer to the information we have about the Holocaust. I loved that each woman is given her time to shine. We are told that women are weak and emotional. We are incapable of being bold, brave, and courageous. The subjects of this book are the opposite. They know that death is waiting for them at every turn. But they cannot sit back and do nothing. Instead these young women used every tool at their disposal to save as many lives as they can.
I appreciated the epilogue in which the author sketches the lives of the survivors after the war is over. While some settled down into of normal life, others are haunted by those years and what they experienced. They lived with what we now know to be PTSD, creating a shadow that stayed with them years after peace was declared.
Though it is not the heart pounding thriller I thought it would be, it is still a good and a very important read.
*Warning: the post contains spoilers about the end of the third season. Read at your own risk if you are still catching up.
The anticipated release of a new season of a favorite television series is both exciting and nerve wracking. It has to build on the narrative of the previous seasons while opening the door to wherever the new season may go.
The first episode starts off right where the 3rd season ended. The plane full of women and children has safely landed in Canada. In Gilead, the repercussions of June/Offred’s (Elisabeth Moss) rebellion have created a ripple effect. She has become a Moses like figure to the fugitive handmaids who are desperate for freedom. The authorities in Gilead have a different take on her actions and have deemed her to be enemy #1.
In Canada, Commander and Serena Joy Waterford (Joseph Fiennes and Yvonne Strahovski) are in the custody of the government and bickering. Meanwhile, June/Offred’s husband, Luke Bankhole (O-T Fagbenle) and her friends who are refugees, are dealing with the consequences of her actions from another angle.
So far, the first three episodes are fantastic. It is dark, gripping, and completely intoxicating. Next Wednesday and episode 4 cannot come soon enough.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely.
The Handmaid’s Tale is available for streaming on Hulu. New episodes are released every Wednesday.
There are two equally important keys to success: talent and hard work.
The 4th season of National Geographic Channel’s Genius series follows the life and career of the late Aretha Franklin. The first three episodes cuts back and forth from the early fifties, when the future superstar is a preteen to the sixties when the adult Aretha (Cynthia Erivo) is on the brink of superstardom. As a young girl, Franklin was a singing wunderkind. Raised by her enigmatic preacher father C.L. Franklin (Courtney B. Vance), she witnesses both his devotion to the church and his less than moral extracurricular activities. In the present, she is not only dealing with work and motherhood, but her sometimes shaky marriage to her husband/manager, Ted White (Malcolm Barrett).
Watching the first three episodes, I feel like I know who Aretha Franklin was, as a whole person. Not just the image presented in the press. Looking back, she represents badly needed change in this country for both women and people of color.
If I were to recommend a book on modern feminism to someone, this book would be it. Simply and intelligently written, it is a down to earth presentation of everything that the movement represents without being too political or getting in the reader’s face.
Myths from the ancient world are not just stories of the past. There is a universality and a humanity that still speaks to us today.
Antigone Rising: The Subversive Power of the Ancient Myths, by Helen Morales, was published last year. Using the myth of Antigone, (told to us by the play of the same name by Sophocles), she outlines how the myths from ancient Greece and Rome reflect feminist issues that were are prevalent then as they are now. Though they may seem innocent on the surface, a deeper dive reveals how these characters were to take a stand against injustice.
I loved this book. Ms. Morales is able to break down the specific elements of these tales to show us that things haven’t changed. The sexist bull shit that girls and women deal with today existed thousands of years ago. If there was one section that caught my eye, it was the chapter on the LGBTQ experience in that time period. It can be broken down by one sentence “same shit, different century”.