Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pink: She Will Help You Help Yourself

I love P!nk.

Alecia Beth Moore.  Born some year on some date.  Has since become pop icon of the Millennium.

You might have heard of her.  As a child of the 1990's I have grown up with her music since her classic "Most Girls" and "You Make Me Sick," which both used those fantastic electric drum loops with synthesizer guitar-meets-harpsichord-licks.  But, I love her for more than just childhood nostalgia. Yes, she is attractive.  Yes, she's got the bad-ass vibe going for her.  Yes, she's got an amazing voice.  And yes, she's a great performer who is entertaining and works very hard to present a good show onstage.


The real reason I love P!nk?

She's my favorite Pop Therapist.

Pop Therapy

Is it just me, or has Pink made a career out of reassuring the American public?  It was an evolving process but she's gone from raging sexy badass, to goofball spazz, to alcoholic verging on breakdown, to fierce icon of human fallibility.  The momentum behind her fame has dramatically increased over the years due to this evolution it seems.  Not to mention, her music is quite catchy and she puts on a hell of a show.

For some reason it's more impressive that she's still wearing heels while doing this.
Her music videos provide enough visuals alone that P!nk is all about self-reflection and wrestling with her issues.

She has literally wrestled with herself (Sober),  not to mention a boyfriend or two (You Make Me Sick) her almost-ex husband (So What?), and a Sumo-Wrestler corporate America (Raise Your Glass).

P!nk is also ready and willing to be the fall-girl for a gag about pretty pop divas (Get This Party Started, Stupid Girls).  She has the body to pretend to be Britney Spears and actively uses that to her marketability by making fun of it.  It's brilliant.  This is why she's famous--she has her P!nk cake and smashes it into your face, too.

Self-Help Music

Aside from the image of her videos and her persona, let's just take a sample of the lyrics in her latest hits.

With the song "Raise Your Glass" P!nk gives her audience a rally-cry for the downtrodden:
So raise your glass 
If you are wrong 
In all the right ways
All my underdogs
We will never be, never be 
Anything but loud 
And nitty-gritty
Dirty little freaks.

In "F**kin' Perfect" P!nk manages to endear herself to her audience, brokering a deal that everyone feels worthless sometimes but at least she likes you:
Pretty, pretty please
Don't you ever, ever feel
Like your less than 
Fuckin' perfect
Pretty, pretty please 
If you ever ever feel
Like you're nothing 
You are perfect to me.

P!nk also provides songs that when one sings them aloud, they are literally giving themselves a pep talk against any of their ex-lovers that ever done them wrong:
So, so what?
I'm still a rockstar.
I got my rock moves
And I don't need you
And guess what?
I'm having more fun
And now that we're done
I'm gonna show you
That tonight
I'm alright
I'm just fine
American Woman 

I tend to take late-night walks and every time I come back to the car to drive myself home, nine times out of ten it's a powerhouse woman singing a self-help song that pops up on the local radio stations.  When I am out on a walk, particularly when walking on my own, I tend to get into a very pensive mood.  I think about things that have happened during the day.  I think about the worries I have.  I think about how I shouldn't worry so much.  I then think not worrying is what will lead me to be vulnerable to the Crazy-crazy in the bushes who will leap out at me, brandishing a knife.

It doesn't feel like a coincidence if every night I get back to the car, safe from Crazy-crazy attacking me once more, P!nk is right there, waiting to tell me that I'm worth it, or that Katy Perry is wailing how I'm actually a firework waiting to explode with potentiality, or that Beyoncé believes I own the entire planet because I am female.

It seems quite American, actually.  That's why it sells so well.  But, this got me thinking about an old subject of mine:  American pop culture really is infiltrated with the need for reassurance. Pop music has always had a pretty "co-dependent" feel to their lyrics, if not outright unhealthy attitude towards love and infatuation.  But, I think we've merged into a new realm:  musical therapy.  As in, our pop divas are there to tell us what's wrong in the world and how to be right.

Aside from Ms. P!nk's epic career as singer/songwriter/shrink, take Katy Perry's epic "Fireworks" for example, or Beyoncé's... well, anything from Beyoncé in the last decade really is kind of a battle cry for women around the globe.

These power-house divas have created a new role for women in American pop music.  To me, it seems, they're like the mom we never had, telling us it's going to be okay whilst simultaneously telling us in so few words they will cut you at a second's notice.  In a weird way, they're bridging the gaps between the Epic Strong Woman stereotype I've been harping on about, in that they're larger than life but they are famous for their faults blasted through their hits.

I'd love to continue analyzing this, but I've been having a long, hard week.  So, instead I'm just going to go right back to listening to my music therapy and watch episodes of Sugar Rush.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Life and Potter

I went to the midnight showing and before you ask me if I wore a robe or grabbed some potter glasses to wear, let me just express that I have never had the urge to wear the school-girl outfits and furthermore after last week's midnight showing experience I am fearful of what the cos-play would bring out in me.

Yes, if I still had my greasy shoulder-length hair and high school attitude of "everyone hates me and I hate them" I think I could pull off a short, plump Snape, standing in the corner, glaring up at everyone.

But, my Alan Rickman impression is terrible.

Actually, do you want to watch someone who can actually do a good Alan Rickman impression?  Go here.

And in the meantime...


While waiting in line to collect my $12.58 bag of popcorn and "medium" sized soda my friend Jonathan and I were standing, a bit perplexed amongst the fully-uniformed Hogwarts students that had all decided to play hooky to a muggle movie theater on the same night.

There was a gal in front of us in a full Ravenclaw outfit--quite spot on, with the purple tie, robe, sweater and skirt to boot.

But, that wasn't the best part.  The best part was the man who ACTUALLY embodied Snape.

He was wandering around, fully clothed in Snape-Gear, complete with greasy black wig and devilish sneer.

Now at the time we were one person closer to getting to our drinks and candy when all of a sudden the Ravenclaw girl in front of us broke out into what resulted in a quasi-dramatic-scene with Mr. Snape, who happened to take an interest in the Jujubees.

The two of them proceeded to have a real-time interaction, in character, one as a Ravenclaw Hogwarts student (who was FAR too happy to be talking to Snape if you asked me) and the other as the agonizingly disdainful Professor.

Meanwhile, we wanted our drinks and popcorn and the line behind us was still just as large as it was when we got in.

The guy manning the cash register was stuck, waiting for the interaction to end.  Just as much as Jonathan and I were stuck, wondering exactly how not to laugh.  Because it's not funny--they truly wanted to play and wanted to have an audience to play with and the moment you start laughing it's as if you're saying "You're stupid for believing in fantasy."

When it's like I'm here, too, I've read the books, too, I want to believe just as much as you do.  I just... don't show it like that.  I just own two copies of each book (UK and US versions) and then dress up as an awkward school boy the other 364 days of the year.  True Story:

Fantasy TV

When Mr. Snape and Ravenclaw Girl had disbanded (I believe he threatened her convincingly with detention or something for blowing his cover) we were able to make our purchases and move on.

But, that moment stuck with me because I really wanted to laugh and then I felt like a total hypocrite.  Whenever I feel like a hypocrite I know I've hit on something important to me.

The fact is I really like dressing up.  I can't help that.  And if I had had a proper Hogwarts costume I would have totally worn it, only I would have gone as a dykey Hogwarts student*.  But, I don't have it in me to bleed my reality with my fantasy that closely and with strangers, in front of strangers.  For some reason it really bothers me, possibly perhaps because when I was a kid that was the exact kind of thing *I would* get lost in.  Also, for a while I was training as an actor.  From that I learned how difficult it actually is to pull on another person's skin, let alone a costume.  Also, I learned how easy it is to fall in love with fantasy and grow to dislike reality.  That can be... a dangerous way to live.

So, conclusion:  there is nothing wrong with fantasy.  I'll say it again, there is nothing wrong with fantasy.  I'm just wary of loosing myself to something in my mind...again.

But, Cosplay,

It happens.


*Is Dumbledore the only gay character in all of Hogwarts?  I wonder if Hogwarts has a GSA?  Would they call it the GSWA (Gay Straight Wizard Alliance)?  Would it include the LGBT house elves?  So many questions!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Talking To The Man

Recently, a friend posted this article on Facebook.  Thanks, Cari!

No, I won't quiz you on it.  But, I highly recommend it.  Mostly because it's tackling a subject near and dear to my heart:  "What's up with women/equality between the sexes today?" I thought the author had a fantastic way of describing a conundrum no one openly discusses when it comes to equality:  if we're really all equal, that means for better AND for worse.

That means not all old people are wizened, confident and wanting to help guide the younger generations.  That means not all women are automatically sensitive, caring, self-sacrificing or love so strong they push you away.  That means not all gay people have stellar artistic skills and are entertaining.

That last one is always hard to swallow.

I'm More Equal Than You Are

I am writing this not to instill a sense of distrust or lacking community with the groups of those who are not in power--no, no.  Unity, community and strength in numbers is the way to go--the only way to go if you're trying to get something done in this country.

But, this is the reality of my world I'm living in, and it's also the reality of the world the socially liberal groups are technically working towards:  it doesn't matter you're female, or gay or purple.  You can be purple and you can be an asshole but you won't be discriminated against because of being purple.  You will be discriminated against for being an asshole.  And I won't feel so bad for you if that happens.

It Made Money Therefore It Shall Never Die

It's a two-way street--people like watching things that are familiar, and writers are also inclined to use "what works" over and over again until it's beaten to a pulp.

I think writers are somewhat scared of writing anything outside of what's familiar.  I know at one point it was new and boundary-breaking to have a black woman being sassy towards white people.  But, I think it can be agreed that black women probably would like to be known as something beyond the friend who snap-snaps her fingers at you when you're being dumb or privileged or white.

I Did A Little Research

I liked the NY Times article because it talked about what is lacking today.  The writer, Carina Chocano, an LA Times veteran and renowned television/movie critic, points out a key element to any good character is that they are human, rather than their non-human traits.  But, in the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alias, The Fifth Element (sorry guys--I'll back off the Fantasy genre), and Kill Bill, it's true they have faults, but they are faults that are not your average insecurities.  These are super-human women, who lack any empathy or they are over-consumed by empathy and give up everything.

I can understand why the entertainment industry latched onto this--just like with the Sassy Black Female, here was a new character that could be plumbed for several years worth of money-making television and sequels.  Plus, bonus!  They got to make money and also rode the growing wave of Vagina  Monologists I Am Woman Here Me Roar feminists.

I admit, if I had been able to type and the internet had existed in the early-mid 1990s, I would have been writing a completely different blog post, probably entitled "Strong Woman Is Good" in which I would proceed to compliment Xena and her awesome circular weapon-thing that she threw at evil men.

But now, as we are well out of the 1990s (how frightening) and looking towards the second decade of the new millennium, these caricatures seem haggard, tired and they will soon loose their monetary value for entertainment moguls.   I wish I could just inform them of this and get this next step to equality over with.

Come to think of it...

Enter Loser  

[Enter The Man and Beryl]

[The Man and Beryl sit down at a standard interrogation room setup]

[Beryl opens note pad]

Beryl:  So, Mr. Man.  What's with all the sex-bomb, ass-kicking women?

The Man:  People like ass-kickers.

Beryl:  People....?

The Man:  Males age 18-35.

Beryl:  What about females?

The Man:  They like it too.  We just don't count them.  So, we don't know how many.  We do know it's less than the males.  So, we don't count them.

Beryl:  How about bringing in more female characters who have weak tendencies?

The Man:  Wait--what?  Are you serious?  We can go back to the damsel in distress days?

Beryl:  No, no.  Not damsel in distress.  I mean overweight, insecure socially awkward--

The Man:  Oh, we have those.  We have plenty of those.

Beryl:  Not comic-side-characters.  Main characters.

The Man: ...does Gabrielle from Xena count?

Beryl:  No.  She was still an ass-kicker.  And she was a side-kick to an ass-kicker.

The Man:  You're just trying to cover up the female body!  Not allow women's sexuality to play through for the raw power, supernatural strength that IS THE LIFE-GIVER WOMAN.

Beryl:  What about sterile women?

The Man:  Shut up!  People don't like losers.  People like winners.

Beryl:  Not according to our research.

The Man:  Oh really?  Give me ten films/shows--and I mean block busters, not some dumb indie-flick that got an award at Sundance, where the main character is a loser.  I dare you.

Beryl:  Ok.

[Beryl flips notepad open and reads]

Beryl:  American Pie Series (1-6), Austin Powers 1-3, Anchorman, There’s Something About Mary, Porky’s (1-3), Eurotrip, National Lampoon Series (continued since the 1978 version through 2007), 40 Days and 40 Nights, Scary Movie Series (1-6), Superhero Movie, Not Another Teen Movie, Meet the Spartans, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, The Sure Thing (in fact, anything from Rob Reiner), Clerks I & II, Tropic Thunder (or anything from Ben Stiller), Superbad, Knocked Up, 40-Year-Old Virgin (or anything with Steve Carrell in it), Old School, SNL, Family Guy, The Simpsons (in its 20th season), The Office (UK/US version)...

[The Man sits silently]

Beryl:  Would you like me to go on?

The Man:  No.

Beryl:  Because I can tell you that for a fact American audiences are into loser main characters.  Let me put it into terms you'd like:  if you get some funny, awkward women in these main character roles, this could mean a whole lot of money.  A lot of money for you.

The Man:  Psh.  Like anyone would want to go see women be 'funny' and not sexy-funny.

Beryl:  Bridesmaids?  30-Rock's Liz Lemon?

The Man:  ....Kristin Wiig and Tina Fey are lesbians.

Beryl:  But, money-making lesbians.

The Man:  Deal.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Peach Theory

I've had a bit of a hectic week.  I didn't mention in my last post but during the Pride celebrations of last-last Sunday, my grandmother, Patricia Lawless Baker, passed away.  I figured I'd rather separate the incredibly joyful experience of being open and happy with my community of friends from the heavy reality of my grandma dying.  It was kind of a shocker, particularly as I had found out on my way back from Pride via phone call from my mom.  I remember I was standing in the Montgomery Bart Station and after I had gotten off the phone I began to panic over what I should do with the news.

Do I tell the people I'm with this just happened or...or pretend like it didn't...because they look happy and they're laughing and this would definitely not be something they could laugh about or be happy about.  Maybe I should wait until I get home...?

Luckily, my friends did all the work for me and just asked me about my family.  That made it way easier.  Although the conversation was definitely not your average one.

"What are you up to tonight?"

"Oh...I'm uh...going to hang out with my family.  Touch bases with them."

"That's cool.  Did you have anything specific in mind?"

"No, well uh... yea, see um... my grandma just passed away."

"Oh!  I'm so sorry.  When did she pass away?"

 "Oh uh...about uh...2 hours ago."

"Oh my god!"

The Missing Links

In a frantic attempt to recover some sort of control over my life in the wake of this, I decided to do a bit of investigation into what it means to miss someone.  I decided to check into the psychological background of the word and also the linguistic history of the words we use to describe it.  I like feeling productive in times of stress.

I started off with my trusty OED.

I don't handle books well.  I blame being forced to read The Narnia Chronicles as a child by an over-zealous C.S Lewis fan for a mother. 

I started off with the basics.  I looked up "to miss" and the standard definitions popped up: absence, loss, lacking, etc.  But, I realized that more than once the idea of making a hit or miss--a sort of sporty, competitive edge to the word--was the general root definition each meaning kept coming back to.  I find it ironic that this word is also a homonym for the honorific "Miss" for women.  Take THAT sport-chauvinists! 

This then spun me into a sort of confused path of trying to associate sport/competition with emotions.  Do we compete with ourselves--how we view ourselves--over our memories of a person we've lost?  What about the people we miss who are still alive?  Are we competing with the fantasy of that person versus the reality of their existence?

This is getting trippy.

So that's when I decided to look up the psychological effects of the emotion that is involved with missing someone.

I Was Feeling Lucky

I turned to Google--think, a more annoying OED with a grey, green and blue Arial 10 font.  I started to type "the psychological effects of missing someone" into google and this is what happened as I typed:

I stopped feeling lucky.  Apparently, the biggest love-song inspiration to have ever hit the human psyche is also the least-googled psychological study, which leads me to believe there just isn't a big conversation about it happening today.  

No, But Really.  What's Happening In My Brain When This Is Happening?

Maybe it's just me, but I think this means that emotions such as loss or lacking are always written about in the context of being an effect, and not a whole emotion in of themselves.

There are then consequential emotional disorders that come of missing or lacking--self-esteem disorders, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, insecurity, etc. 

But, the emptiness--the hole inside that is created, the emotional cavity is not exactly examinable.  Most articles I read on the brain effects, or chemical releases that occur when the human brain experiences emotional longing say there isn't much to go off of.  Once an experience becomes wholly emotional it is very difficult to track physically in the human body.

The Peach Theory

If I could, I'd like to come up with my own physical analogy, since science seems to be leaving me in the dust this week.

Bear with me, but emotional longing or missing feels to me sort of like a heavily bruised peach.  I said bear with me.  I've got this.

If you think of it this way, it's really tender--and oh so ripe for artistic expression--and we can live off of it for only so long.  Once you get down to the core of it--the root for why you were missing someone in the first place, it looks raw, almost brutal in nature.  But, it is also the nexus, the root and idea of a new beginning.  To miss someone can become the inspiration for so many new beginnings.

My grandma wanted and encouraged me to be a writer.  She encouraged me to remember and discover our family history.  To learn and be encouraged to learn were the many things she revitalized in my life these last few months.  It was one of the many things I got to share with her before her passing.  And that, to me, is a wonderful beginning.