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'Snowpiercer' is an allegory on track

'Snowpiercer' is an allegory on track | writing, pop culture and gender | Scoop.it
After a human-engineered planetary catastrophe (trying to arrest the planet's warming, we accidentally froze it solid), the remaining people are stuck on a train that never stops moving. Bong, whose previous films include the brilliant psychological thriller "Mother" and "The Host," a sublimely moving monster flick, is a playful and rigorous visual thinker. The violence inside swerves from slapstick to bloodshed and back, producing a volatile blend of humor and horror that pays tribute to the source material while coloring its themes with the director's distinctively perverse and humane sensibility. The reluctant leader of the rebels, a back-of-the-train troublemaker named Curtis, is played by Chris Evans, his clean-cut Captain America charisma obscured by scruffy facial hair and a black wool watch cap. There are soldiers in riot gear, armed with clubs and guns, but for Bong evil is never anonymous.
natalie w's insight:

I watched this recently, and I must say it is genuinely my favourite film on this earth. While this article writes Snowpiercer as a "dystopian science fiction" dealing with the struggle to survive in a "postapocalyptic world". However, this article analyses this film only on a superficial basis, and so I substantiate this piece with my own interpretation of the film.

 

What makes Snowpiercer genius is its intersection of analogy and visual language: far from dealing with obscure and unspecified "issues" in a post-apocalyptic world, this film presents a classic Marxist-capitalist struggle. It is genius because the allegory of the train and segmented train compartments as being the "whole world" after life on earth has ended is really an allegory about the rising capitalist structures that eclipsed the post-industrial world. I disagree with the article in saying the engineer of this world is "enigmatic" and not "anonymous": in the film, what this character does is shroud himself in invisibility and a deity-like mystery, creating an air of power not unlike that of Big Brother in the novel 1948. Similarly, the heroes are more than "insurgents" retaliating after "cruel provocation": while I applaud the efforts of the article to address the issues and concepts raised in the film, it misses its mark here by simplifying the events of the film. The heroes of this film are not just rebels; they are Marxist revolutionaries in the truest form, tearing down the structures of the old world in which they have been enslaved and rebuilding a new one in which they can live. The premise of this film is not revolution, or a dystopian glimpse into our futures. This film speaks to the lower-class, the oppressed, the marginalised and depicts the lengths to which its characters are willing to go to preserve their autonomy, and allows us to ask ourselves how far we are willing to go to do the same.

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‘I am a lot more than my gender’

‘I am a lot more than my gender’ | writing, pop culture and gender | Scoop.it
Globetrotting writer Gaby Doman reflects on the everyday ups and downs of being a modern woman
natalie w's insight:

While this article does a good job of illustrating the everyday sexism women face-- be it name-calling, casually explaining that "not being like other girls" is a compliment or asserting that our selfhoods are dependent on the men we belong to-- the writer does not analyse the issue on a deeper level. The real problem isn't that girls are "a lot more than [our] gender"; this phrase, within itself, connotes diminutiveness and apology.  The real problem is that the female gender is treated as the weaker sex. Men do not have to assert they are "more than [their] gender" because epitomes of stereotypically male qualities are lauded as commendable and in most cases the ideal in society. The fact that women like the writer of this article, who illustrate the trials they face and yet relate to their gender as something to rise above, points to a pressing societal problem where men are taught casual misogyny is acceptable while women internalise these poisonous concepts.

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Sorry, Women Against Feminism I Still Need

Sorry, Women Against Feminism I Still Need | writing, pop culture and gender | Scoop.it
Do you need feminism? I do. But I'm one person, with one view point, which not everyone agrees with. For instance, on a recent morning, I came across the online community Women Against Feminism, and I have to say, I was pretty baffled at what I found. When I look at their pictures, all I see I see is a bunch of misinformed ladies who seem to have little understanding of what feminism actually is.
natalie w's insight:

This article is brilliant. It addresses the patriarchal concepts that women have internalised into believing are their own. One of the most frightening images I've seen contains the text, "I don't need feminism because I own up to the mistakes I've made in my life and do not have to blame them on the completely fictional patriarchy". The article points out how this mentality completely disowns any examination of the prominent societal forces that create a structure where women earn less, own less, speak less, and have less political power than their male counterparts. I'm very pleased that the article picked up on the inherent slut-shaming in this: most of the "mistakes" women have made are beyond their control because they are victimised by their male counterparts. Another picture with a girl holding up a sheet that says, "I don't need feminism because society does not objectify me, feminists are the ones that tell me that" point to the appalling fact that women's bodies are so objectified they have learned to accept it as the norm. Women's bodies cut off to reveal only breasts and legs, "blonde bombshells" and faceless models are everywhere, and if you don't realise that, you're most likely trying not to. Perhaps most terrifying of all: in image three, a young girl poses with the words, "I don't need feminism because if I'm wearing a top like this, I WANT you to look!" demonstrates exactly the type of internalised slut-shaming young women have been socialised into accepting. The article points out the problem behind this mindset-- that your body is not your own, that others have the power to punish you for imaginary transgressions based on how you look-- and finishes off nicely by pointing out that many women around the world see feminism as something shameful. I offer my own humble opinion: there is no bigger proof that we live in a sexist, misogynistic world than the fact that identifying as someone who supports female equality is a "bad thing".

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Why Can’t Monsters Get Along With Other Monsters: Thoughts on Pacific Rim, Lovecraft, and the Endless Abyss | HTMLGIANT

Why Can’t Monsters Get Along With Other Monsters: Thoughts on Pacific Rim, Lovecraft, and the Endless Abyss | HTMLGIANT | writing, pop culture and gender | Scoop.it
natalie w's insight:

This article does a truly commendable job of comparing modern science fiction film Pacific Rim and classic horror-fantasy such as the likes of Lovecraft. Drawing links between modern-day monsters and "primeval dread" illicit by unnamed demons, the author draws parallels between the forms of "pleasure and terror" in both forms of narratives. In Pacific Rim, facing down monsters is terrifying, much like Lovecraftian confrontations of one's own helplessness; in modern-day science fictions, the pleasure is in destroying the very object that creates your fears, while traditional horror suggests there is something bleak but wonderful about surrendering in the face of your own mortality. The author draws links from mythology to Pacific Rim's hero Jaeger pilots-- a reincarnation of "David and Goliath", she says, pulls us in, calls to us by reformulating the fights and battles we already know. While I cannot entirely agree that we are engaged in film-watching experiences to confirm the outcomes we know will happen, I believe that there is something intrinsic about the narratives we have heard repeatedly growing up, and we react in a certain way to having our myths and fictions restored or debunked. This article is wonderful and truly fascinating food for thought.

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Brain Candy

Brain Candy | writing, pop culture and gender | Scoop.it
Online version of the weekly magazine, with current articles, cartoons, blogs, audio, video, slide shows, an archive of articles and abstracts back to 1925
natalie w's insight:

Writer Steven Johnson addresses the hot-button question of whether pop culture makes us smarter or dumber and proposes that pop culture functions as a mental workout. While I knew popular culture is a source of catharsis and emotional learning, it fascinates me that he refers to popular culture as an exercise in "social dexterity". He points to the analytical and strategic thinking involved in video games and likens it to "constructing the proper hierarchy" of real-time mental processing, and even goes one step further to say that while reading is a "submissive" and passive process, engaging in video games is not. I beg to differ. Reading is a passive process unless you do something about it-- that is, unless you take the lessons you have learnt and apply it to real life, be it analysis of social institutions or re-imagining a world with better possibilities. Passivity when reading is only temporary. Games are an interactive way to present stories, but books involve equally powerful narratives, if not as accessible. 

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Welcome to Night Vale: A Traveling, Creepy Radio Show

Welcome to Night Vale: A Traveling, Creepy Radio Show | writing, pop culture and gender | Scoop.it
Welcome to Night Vale, Rebecca Frost, Cecil Baldwin, Joseph Fink
natalie w's insight:

I am truly fascinated by Welcome to Night Vale: it is a narrative that breaks down all expectations of linearity and form. There is a story to be told, yes, but it is not told in a static medium. It is part radio show, part dark fairytale, part theatre, and how it has come together to create what this article terms a "bottomless plot" is truly extraordinary. The article attributes its popularity to whacky "weirdness" and the creators' rejection of the idea that their podcast show "needed" a demographic. To me what defines Night Vale is the true success of a group of people with heart and a very, very creatively creepy vision. According to Baldwin (primary voice of Night Vale), "it [is] fascinating to see art that inspires people to create art". Indeed it is. There's something about Night Vale that stretches the limits of the imagination and leaves listeners filling in the gaps on their own-- they are partly the creators of this fictional world they hear about, and I believe that's what makes this series a huge success.

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Rape of Thrones

Rape of Thrones | writing, pop culture and gender | Scoop.it
Sunday night’s episode of Game Of Thrones took an even darker turn than usual: Jaime Lannister, who has transitioned from one of the story’s villains to one of its heroes, takes the opportunity of his son’s death to rape his sister and lover, Cersei—in the Westerosi equivalent of a church, while Jof
natalie w's insight:

Having been an avid audience of the series for the past three seasons, this article is painfully relevant to me upon the airing of The Episode That Shall Not Be Named. Its analysis of the repeated rape scenes in Game of Thrones-- first, fourteen-year-old Danys by a man she was sold to, and later on, Jaime of his own sister-- it points to how the television show uses exploitation of women for pure "shock value". I agree with many points the article raises, but what I violently contest is the assertion that "Rape is a complicated plot device, but it’s not inherently problematic." 

 

Rape /is/ an inherently problematic plot device, because presenting rape as a plot device presents the violation of women's bodies as a means to an end. What this does is it creates a world within the television show where female characters are so much more at risk than their male counterparts. This article has gained a spate of revolting comments, but what incensed me most is this comment: "What alot of you seem to be missing is that of course we all know that rape and not following a womans wish is very wrong, but this is in a fantasy world, where women are raped often and most women have no say in anything." -- how women are treated in any given fictional universe is subject to the creators of that universe, because fiction is not Darwinian. It astounds me that there are dragons in Game of Thrones, and that is acceptable, but men primarily believe that rape in this sort of fantasy show is unavoidable. When fictional universes so flagrantly exercise sexual violence and has women accept these indignities, it gives the audience a very dangerous message. It desensitises audiences to the act of violence against women, and that is truly insidious: fictional rapes and fictional exploitation of women provide rationalisations for real-life examples of these events.

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The Cult of Orphan Black

The Cult of Orphan Black | writing, pop culture and gender | Scoop.it
The science-fiction thriller returned to BBC America this weekend to much fan excitement — but what is it about Orphan Black that won fans over so quickly?
natalie w's insight:

This article puts Orphan Black's success down to being a "female-centered show", but I beg to differ. This is too simplistic a view. Orphan Black's true success is in presenting a female protagonist dealing with real-life issues that women everywhere-- especially women in America-- face. 

 

The premise of the show: the scientific cloning of women, evangelical groups attempting to capture and use them, the growing curiosity over why all of the women are infertile except one-- these themes are themes central to women all over the world. It deals with male ownership of the female body, particularly by institutions of science, and it questions how religion can claim ownership of women's bodies. In the show, the religious fundamentalists are incessantly trying to get the clones to procreate, whether or not they wish to-- in my opinion, this ties back to the religious debates about abortion laws in America. The cloning of women in this show and their treatment b the institutions that believe they hold ownership of them allows us to ask ourselves what institutions such as the government and media are really doing with their representation of women. What the article puts down to the "believability" of Tatiana Maslany's acting is far more than that: I believe the film's cult following is due to the believability of the very real issues her character deals with in an all too fictional universe.

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Lust Action Hero: Movie Heroines and Why I Wish 'Hanna' Had Been Asian American

Lust Action Hero: Movie Heroines and Why I Wish 'Hanna' Had Been Asian American | writing, pop culture and gender | Scoop.it
Joe Wright's Hanna presented a female action hero who is pre-sexual, therefore avoiding the pitfalls of objectifying its leading lady. How awesome would it have been if Hanna were Asian American?
natalie w's insight:

The analysis of contemporary female heroines and the portrayal (or lack thereof) of female Asian-American heroines hits home for me. I have been thinking about this lately, ever since Rinko Kikuchi took on the mantle of Mako Mori in the action blockbuster Pacific Rim. Most Asian American females are "marked by hypersexuality, passivity, or deviousness" in popular culture, and as an outsider to Asian American culture who still shares origins with Asian Americans, it was at first shocking to me that this is the way predominantly white audiences have learned to think of Asian American women. In fact, most Asian American women in popular culture are involved with medicine, martial arts, and mythology. This points to the "laundry list of female archetypes" that creators of popular culture refer to: they are still unable to think of Asian American women as people who have grown up in a different culture and are not defined by that culture.


"Why are you so insistent on heroines looking like you?" you may ask. "Can't you relate to anyone? Why does representation matter?"

 

To this I would answer: it matters because it tells me who I am to you. Asian American women are primarily invisible in America, associated with docility and submissiveness, or sexualised beings for male consumption. As this article puts it, "Had Hanna been Asian American, [this film] could have been revolutionary." Yes, it would have. Navigating the lines of racial and sexual objectification intersect in popular culture is difficult only if one refuses to view their subjects as more than a sum of their parts.

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Superhero switch-ups: A history of race and gender switches in comics

Superhero switch-ups: A history of race and gender switches in comics | writing, pop culture and gender | Scoop.it
Thor and Captain America aren't the first comic book characters to change up their gender and race
natalie w's insight:

I meet the news of changing gender and racial lines in comics with immense enthusiasm. What annoys me in this article is encapsulated in this line: "Captain America and Thor aren’t the only white, male flagship characters to be temporary replaced"-- grow up, comic book geeks. White male characters are not the default: this, in my opinion, is the most unbelievable idea that comic books have ever created. Yes, as the article mentions, "it’s nice to see publicity stunts that also feel like progress while pissing off jerks", but representation is more than a publicity stunt. If geek culture can handle alien races, absurd superpowers, frozen-for-seventy-years-heroes (re: Captain America), dead-and-revived heroes (too many to name) and a shapeshifting bisexual young alien (Teddy Altman, aka Hulkling), it stands to reason that gender and racial switch-ups are the most reasonable events to have taken place in the comics since Captain America married a female Iron Woman in Earth-3490.

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