Friday, December 12, 2008

The slow clap

Things aren't objectively better around here. My dad is in the hospital after turning a toxic shade of yellow -- they're looking at his liver, which was possibly affected by the Tylenol 3 he was taking for the ribs he broke when he fell over a step in South Africa. (Phew!) He likes to pretend he was chased by an elephant, so if you talk to him please claim to admire his bravery.

Meanwhile, the economy remains precarious, which means I am holding onto my job with both hands. That time that I got let go right before Christmas during the Transit Strike -- and while I was taking out the trash! -- is, as they say, burned in my brain. As I walked home to Brooklyn in the twenty-five-degree cold, I knew I would never take employment through December for granted again.

Despite all this, though, my anxiety levels have actually decreased. Instead of feeling like I'm wobbling on the edge of a black hole all the time, I feel like I'm a safe yard or so away from the black hole. It's right there, sure, but I'm not in immediate danger of falling in.

In honor of that improvement, here are two things that made me laugh so hard I made a spectacle of myself. First, Carolyn Hax's annual Holiday Hootenanny, where readers compete to submit their funniest true Christmas horror story. One contender for my favorite:
On Grandmother gifts...: Several years ago, my grandmother gave my husband a welcome statue with frogs on it. The word "welcome" is written on this very elongated mushroom held sideways by the two frogs. The elongated mushroom looks very much like you would think an elongated mushroom would look like, which is to say, like a certain part of the male anatomy. There are even two smaller mushrooms sprouting out of the base. We all laughed about it, and my husband decided we would keep it, since it was so amusing. So the next year he gets... two more of the exact same statue. And last year, another one of the same statue. We have them all sitting out on our patio. And a few years ago, she gave my 6'5 brother a floral muumuu we're desperately hoping was really intended for someone else. However, it has now become a family tradition to wrap the muumuu up and give it to another male member of the family on Christmas. Makes for some great Christmas pictures.
And, the runner up:
X-mas entertainment: We always saved my uncle's gifts for last. Over the years they have included:

1) a duck decoy missing its head 2) an ink drawing of a head of lettuce and some celery, with "salad" written in large font underneath 3) a Christmas ornament made out of a lightbulb painted lavender and with sparkles glued on 4) a stuffed plant -- as in, made of fabric, stuffed with whatever goes in stuffed animals.

For a while we assumed these gifts were expressions of hostility (in particular, the headless duck) but in fact, I think his taste just runs to the extremely odd. Turns out bathroom is tiled with the image of the Statue of Liberty, and the walkway to his house is lined with bowling pins.
I never had a holiday (or relatives) that crazy. Perhaps Hannukah doesn't inspire people to go to reach such dizzying heights? Regardless, if that's not enough giggling, check out this montage of 40 Inspirational Movie Speeches. Witness every heavy-handed cinema cliche knit together into a master quilt!:



Amazingly, it even gets better as it goes along, hitting a peak at "They'll take our lives but they'll never take our Independence Day!" It's also amusing to think of how most of these moments can be traced back to / blamed on Shakespeare, who popularized, if not created, the St. Crispin's Day speech intended to get soliders' adrenaline pumping so hard they can't hear themselves think rational things like "But we don't *want* to die."

2 comments:

Rebecca said...

That video was both great and horrifying. Great, because it was well made and funny and kind of moving.

Awful and horrifying: Counting only speaking characters, there were 39 men who got an inspirational line and 3 women. 3!! Or put another way, 93 percent of the actors with speaking lines were male (including the muppet). And that's not even counting the crowds they were rallying - juries, football players, baseball teams, men in locker rooms, other men in little ties (scientists?), muppets, students in an all male school, politicians, and lots and lots of armies. All of those were exclusively male crowds. The only mixed crowds seemed to be students in coed schools (and possibly there was one female character in the group of muppets). And the triumphant cheering characters shown in solo shots at the end, also all men. If they were counted as main characters, then there would be roughly 52 featured male characters (roughly 97 percent) with still only the 3 female characters. There are so few women depicted that it's actually jarring when they do get to speak. I didn't notice there were no women until one suddenly appeared.

I don't even think this is especially the fault of the video's author (though it is certainly somewhat his fault). It's more revealing about who we think can be inspirational in movies, and who is worth inspiring. I think it's interesting that part of what facilitated the possibility of speaking only to huge crowds of men was that so many of these speeches are set in gendered spaces. You can't get much more gendered than locker rooms, football fields, battlefields, and white collar pre-second wave work spaces. To me it seems to be saying, it's not that there aren't activities that women do and gendered women's spaces, or mixed spaces, it's that in those spaces nothing important really happens so no one needs to be inspired. And so many of these movies get away with being in exclusively male spaces because they are telling a story set in the imagined past. Though the characters in the sci-fi future are all men too, so maybe that argument doesn't really hold up.

Also, I know you could say the same thing about lots of other characteristics: race, age, bodies. I was just most angered by the overwhelming number of heroic men.

(Ok, looking at this comment now I realize it's exceedingly long, but you are always telling me to comment instead of just reading your blog. And I am not pithy.)

nathan said...

It certainly builds up a head of steam, but for me it peaks somewhere at the "you're like a big bear" line from Swingers.