Babysitters acquired, my husband and I went on a double date with his brother and our sister-in-law last weekend. We all wanted to see The Monuments Men. With a promising ensemble cast and a great story to tell—the Allied soldiers who rescued masterwork art from the Nazis at the end of World War II—it was our unanimous choice. In hindsight, we should have gone to the The Lego Movie.
I didn’t find The Monuments Men quite as disappointing as The Times of London review, but I agree with the specific complaints: the cast wasn’t challenged by the script and the story was off for tone and accuracy.
For me, the problem became clear when George Clooney’s character wrestled for the second, or perhaps third, time with the question of whether art was worth a life when they lost their first member in defense of Michelangelo’s Madonna of Bruges.
Clooney is not a talented enough actor to cause me to forget I’m watching George Clooney. Listening to him give a fundamentally conservative speech about preserving the knowledge of the past jarred me out of the story. It is also why I instantly picked out a detail. The dialogue referred to the artists, that if we didn’t preserve their works it would be as if the artist never existed.
But great artworks aren’t about the artist. Masterpieces grant to us knowledge or an example of master craftsmanship that inspires us to greater achievement ourselves. The masterworks are worth defending not because they tell us the master existed but because, as a whole, they represent history and knowledge that we could not replicate.
Given most of the stuff Hollywood churns out, it didn’t surprise me that they couldn’t see the distinction.
No. She feels like she did but isn’t certain she could. From her weekly column, “Did I Move?,” again on immigration:
We’re living in a different country now, and I can’t recall moving! Had I wanted to live in Japan, I could have moved there. Had I had wanted to live in Mexico, Pakistan or Chechnya — I could have moved to those places, too.
(Although maybe not. They all have stricter immigration policies than we do.)
Yes, most places have immigration laws that would shock American open-borders supporters. My “favorites” are the report and deport laws for immigrants who fall pregnant. Expats trade immigration stories often and quickly learn what Milton Friedman thought obvious: welfare states need to restrict immigration. Racism and other forms of discrimination affect how the immigrants are treated after entry, but the welfare state closes borders and deports workers.
Europe is giving us a view of our possible future. From “Europe is falling out of love with open borders” in The Guardian, about upcoming elections expected to further restrict Europe’s open borders [emphasis mine]:
The usual use of obvious statistics showing that fit, young, ambitious immigrants pay more taxes and use fewer public services holds less sway than more tangible local examples of the pressure new eastern European families are putting upon already overstretched maternity wards and infant schools. Immigration, though usually good for the migrants concerned, is a bosses’ charter. Those with the upper hand range from owners of big food processing, care or hospitality companies to those in the middle classes cooing about how polite, hardworking and reasonably priced the eastern European workers are.
Of course, achieving such a huge U-turn on our continent will take time. The expected triumph of the extreme right and extreme free traders in six months’ time must finally wake us up to the need to put border controls and economic security at the heart of the debates about future alternatives.
Open immigration or generous welfare laws: eventually only one survives.
This week Ann Coulter “defended” Chris Christie. The governor is not a bully, as the papers suggest; he is only a weak-willed politician:
The gravamen of the media’s case against Christie on Bridgegate seems to be that he is a “bully” — which I painstakingly gleaned from the fact that the governor is called a “bully” 1 million times a night on MSNBC and in hundreds of blog postings and New York Times reports.
Christie is not a bully. If anything, he’s a pansy, a man terrified of the liberal media, of Wall Street, of Silicon Valley, of Obama, of Bruce Springsteen, of Mark Zuckerberg, of Chuck Schumer. It’s a good bet he’s afraid of his own shadow.
I cannot disagree. Other than preferring she left out the fat jokes, I only wonder why she would write about Christie at all at this point. Christie hasn’t been a serious interest since that lukewarm GOP convention speech, which Coulter skewers well. Why is anyone outside of New Jersey talking about him anymore?
I don’t think this is Coulter’s fault. She is following the news. Last week that led her to immigration and this week Christie—these are topics the legacy media and the GOP smart set want to debate, not topics right-leaning voters are actually concerned about right now. We expect, and the research Jonathan Haidt gave us some supporting data, that the left doesn’t understand our concerns. But the larger problem is that the GOP smart set doesn’t understand us, either.
Chris Christie fell into the untrustworthy-pol pothole months ago. Move along already.
Preparing for the Houston Ice Storm 2014, Part Deux, I hit the grocery store. I was in that ready-alert state of mind that allows a person to see details usually missed. The promotional-items section at the front of the store caught my eye, as Kroger has designed it to do. They featured a new brand, Simple Truth. I think the product was potato chips, but I don’t recall because the name grabbed my attention.
A bunch of ideas came to my mind. One, the name reminded me of the Innocent and Honest juices that annoy me so. These juice brands show up at parties, and when kids are running amok, tattling and the like, the names make me wonder if the branding is some sort of wishful thinking. Innocent even has a little halo in the logo. Honest goes for word play with Honest Tea, Honest Aid, and Honest Kids. The kid juices come in an annoying punch pouch that supposedly catches spills but actually makes the pouches almost impossible to puncture with the plastic straw. I avoid Innocent and Honest brands as a rule.
Two, I got an ear worm from Jonah Goldberg. I have a few of his old articles about consumer morality memorized. (I started reading him back in the days when one still had to print, rather than bookmark, favorite articles. I read them more than once.) The Simple Truth triggered this quote to playback:
Perhaps it was when Nietzsche pronounced God dead that so many decided to do His job themselves. Today, we are our own priests. Our truths are own “inner truths.” Our morality is bought retail.
I’ve seen this morality bought retail everywhere from furniture to fashion to food. A few years ago, I blogged about a WSJ article on triple-figure designer jeans. I wrote, “For the hefty price tag you get a pair of jeans and a public statement that you have enough money to afford such jeans and that you care about workers and the environment. … Fab jeans and good works for a couple hundred bucks–no actual action required.” I got comments about how cool this was. My sarcasm went largely unnoticed.
Ann Coulter got a copy of Phyllis Schlafly’s yet-to-be-released report on a meta-study of immigration statistics. The overall conclusions aren’t surprising to anyone with basic knowledge of U.S. history:
Immigrants — all immigrants — have always been the bulwark of the Democratic Party. For one thing, recent arrivals tend to be poor and in need of government assistance. Also, they’re coming from societies that are far more left-wing than our own. History shows that, rather than fleeing those policies, they bring their cultures with them. (Look at what New Yorkers did to Vermont.)
This is not a secret. For at least a century, there’s never been a period when a majority of immigrants weren’t Democrats.
From her article I gather that the Schlafly report merely updates the numbers.
But, as Coulter notes, this non-secret doesn’t deter the GOP elite, who are poised to capitulate to Obama’s State of the Union rhetoric about making 2014 a “year of action with or without Congress.” The GOP masterminds think that Democrats and Republicans can work together on immigration reform. Obviously, and per usual, they have failed to consider either the views of the GOP base or their own long-term political interests.
Leaving aside the political folly of changing the subject from the epic and continuing failures of Obamacare, the kind of immigration reform on which the Democrats will “work with us,” it will expand and harden a welfare class in the United States serving none but the Democratic power elite.
Immigrant assimilation isn’t an option. When immigrants assimilate, they don’t vote reliably democratic anymore, but current education policy stalls the assimilation and our culture of non-judgmentalism, the refusal of the successful to preach what they practice, locks the new immigrants into the servant classes.
With a permanent and growing welfare class, Democrats can recreate a patronage system and consolidate power the Boss Tweed way. Lest anyone think that a overly dramatic historical allusion to political corruption, two weeks ago, the New York Times published an article (“The Forgotten Virtues of Tammany Hall“) written by Terry Goldway, the author of the forthcoming revisionist history book “Machine Made: Tammany Hall and the Creation of Modern American Politics.” It is nostalgia for the days Democrats used immigrants as pawns.
We are seeing the start of a Tammany Revival. And somehow the GOP elite thinks it a good idea to assist in this scheme. They won’t even get votes for this assist, only temporary patronage, very temporary patronage.
The Hillary Clinton 2016 speculation began a while ago. Time is on topic this week with Clinton’s leg and black pump on the cover.
Over at Slate, Amanda Hess finds this cause for concern.
Clinton’s presumptive bid to become the first female president does position her as a powerhouse poised to stomp through the patriarchal status quo. But when publications like Time frame that feminist pursuit with images of women in pointy heels that leave feminized male “victims” in their wake, they undermine the female politician’s power even as they attempt to acknowledge it.
I surmise that these female domination images are acceptable when talking about flailing men—The Munk Debates used a similar image for “The End of Men”—but counterproductive stereotyping when talking about actual powerful women. Why?
Hess doesn’t state the mechanics of how such images undermine female power. I will. Women who found their power on breaking the glass ceiling cannot allow dominance imagery because they assume that they cannot withstand an attack, open or stealth, that they are against men. They assume they must engage in passive aggressive argument to win votes, which is ill-served by heel-grinding imagery. It’s also a tacit admission that women cannot dominate men without their consent.
The Wendy Davis coverage grows tired already. She is just another example of the feminist myth, a woman other women want to follow but who is becoming politically radioactive for not conforming to the narrative — in this instance, that women can do it all on their own. As usual, marriage and an extra income prove their worth to ambition.
The American electorate forgives many things, but not lies. Declaring your back story off limits works a bit like taking the Fifth in court. Everyone assumes you have something to hide. Add on her campaign’s secondary offense of insensitivity to disabled persons—Greg Abbot cannot walk a mile in her shoes as he is a paraplegic—and while Wendy Davis runs might continue for years depending on how hard her defenders and the press try to camouflage her back story manipulations, she is not a reasonably viable political candidate for elected high office anymore. (Think John Edwards or John Kerry.)
But something about the Wendy Davis coverage has caught my interest. The Austin-American Statesman published a how-I-got-scooped-by-the-Dallas-Morning-News article. I noticed a few commenters asked about Jeff Davis, her second and ex-husband.
Perhaps I’m spending too much time reading blogs and articles about child-men who refuse to partner with their wives or girlfriends or take on the duties of fatherhood, but Jeff Davis sounds like the kind of man modern women want. He prioritized her career needs, first by putting her through law school and then by taking custody of their daughter after the divorce so that she could realize her professional ambitions. He seems like a step-up-and-take-responsibility kind of guy. Women lament a dearth of these kinds of guys, either as partners for women or role models for boys.
It seems I’m not the only one wondering about Jeff Davis. From Ann Coulter’s column yesterday, The Heroism of Wendy Davis:
Hey — maybe Jeff Davis should run for governor! He’s the one who raised two kids, including a stepdaughter, while holding down a job and paying for his wife’s law school. There’s a hard-luck story!
As one of my girlfriends asked, “Is he still single?”
We need to hear Jeff Davis’s story.
image courtesy shutterstock / Tomas Urbelionis
Part I, by Leslie Loftis on November 14: Can We Rebrand Feminism?
Part II, by Susan L.M. Goldberg on November 20: Feminism Doesn’t Need Re-Branding, It Needs a Revolution
Part III, by Leslie Loftis on November 27: How to Overcome the Looming Feminist Collapse
Part IV, by Susan L.M. Goldberg on December 3: Brains Not Boobs: Re-Formulating for Feminist Success
Continuing the “What To Do About Feminism” series, I’m with Susan that we should aim to secure equal education for women, to be followed by equal opportunities. To that end, the video embedded above should be what modern feminism does.
Frankly, my root point in this whole series is that women still need to fight and women of the Right will have to be the ones to do it, feminist label not withstanding. This isn’t new. Susan linked to an insightful Camille Paglia article from 2008 about how feminist history has insufficiently acknowledged how much it owes to capitalism, the industrial revolution, and religion. Until the 1970s, it was a diverse movement. Any call to embrace feminism’s powerful history, must recognize that it was effective when it was diverse, and furthermore — how it was diverse — with women on the Right.
Feminism is all but dead now because when Gloria Steinem and her acolytes took over the movement in the 70s and expelled the Right, they ironically turned modern feminists from pro-woman to pro-man. Regardless of what they say against men or for women, they implicitly accept that the man’s ways are the better ways. We can see this in the “lean in” professional pressure to keep a man’s career timeline and our preference for beat-’em-up heroines. We ape men and then claim that we do it better.
That’s what reproductive control absolutism is about, negating biology so we can live like men. Even if one doesn’t think it foolish, it can’t be done. And I worry that the alliterative “brains, not boobs” buys into a little of this biology denial. We can and should stress education and opportunity, but we will always be at the mercy of our biology. The Mary Wollstonecraft who Susan quoted for the proposition that women only seek control over themselves? She died in childbirth. Control over ourselves will only come with knowledge and acceptance of our biology. As Camille Paglia put it in a passage I can’t currently place, any higher education women’s study program should require at least a course in female endocrinology. So in Susan’s “brains, not boobs” terms, I submit a more inclusive and realistic, brains and boobs.
I also think Susan makes a common and fundamental error about the culture wars:
The moronic War on Women has nothing to do with genitalia and everything to do with quashing the threat of female intellect. Instead of driving this point home, the right’s bullhorn is monopolized with shouts about the evils of abortion.
After my post on whether we could successfully rebrand feminism, Susan L.M. Goldberg took issue with my pessimistic answer of “probably not.” Noting, correctly I think, that feminism needs to focus more on female oppression in the world and less on western women’s “penny-ante” problems, she asked for a plan to overcome the problem of women who disavow feminism because of how it is marketed. And we decided to make a back and forth series out of these feminist dilemmas.
So first a clarification from my first post: women don’t disavow feminism because of how it is marketed but because of how it acts. I claim that marketing can’t overcome what feminism actually does these days: focus on sexual hedonism and career success for western women. (It only manages the career success. The sexual hedonism is still elusive.)
A simple marketing trick won’t do, we have to actually capture the term. The plan that I’ve been testing for a few years was to have the new disillusioned feminists join with women of the right, who are experienced at disillusion with feminism. Frankly, we’ve been waiting for domestic and minority feminists to get fed up enough to rebel. I thought that a rebel alliance could change what feminism does and thereby revive the movement.
My pessimism is about that alliance forming. But alliance or no, Goldberg is right, there is much to be done.
A friend of ours, a Canadian serial expat, speaks at legal conferences. In the grand tradition of opening with a joke, he sometimes starts by telling a story about U.S. vs. Canada Olympic hockey. The last time the Canadians beat the U.S., he asked some Americans about it. The American answered, “It sucks to lose. But at least we lost to Canada. I’m happy to see Canada win.” “No, no, no!” our friend protested. “You are supposed to be spitting mad that you got beat by your mortal rival! We want a rivalry!”
In sports, this unrequited rivalry is funny. He gets laughs when he tells it. But like many funny things, the humor comes from just touching the truth. The actual truth has a bit of sting to it.
Last week I was in Toronto. I arrived just after the Toronto City Council stripped Mayor Rob Ford of his authority. In the non-stop news coverage, the local news was a little giddy that U.S. big media was covering the story. They even excerpted part of CNN’s coverage.
The reporter’s excitement at the big U.S. coverage reminded me of my friend’s hockey story, and that bothered me. This wasn’t about rivalry, but about us noticing them. Doesn’t the northern U.S. cover Canada? Down in Texas, I’m not shocked that we don’t cover Canada. We cover Mexico. (I don’t buy the internationally ignorant American conventional wisdom. We are quite big. I can hop in a car and drive west for 15+ hours and still be in Texas. The American Resident covered this point well a while back.) Regardless, it isn’t remotely cool, for CNN or Canada, that this story was getting play outside of Toronto.
I sighed, made a mental note to discuss this with my Canadian friends later, and picked up Kay Hymowitz’s Manning Up which I was using for debate prep. (I was there to attend a debate on “The End of Men.” ) I forgot about Mayor Ford and the exceptional case of Canadian coverage for a few hours.
But at the debate, America’s treatment of Canada came up again, courtesy of Maureen Dowd.
Feminism needs a makeover, or so many feminists think. Unnerved every time some starlet, superstar, or rising professional star shuns the term, feminists wonder why all women don’t automatically claim the description.
They assume women must not know the meaning of the term. So they launch various education and rebranding campaigns. Recently, Christina Hoff Sommers tried to get “freedom feminism” to take in the pages of The Atlantic, and UK Elle launched a straight rebranding PR campaign. Hanna Rosin wondered if it was worth rebranding since it has proven so divisive. She has gotten closest to the actual problem.
If someone as smart and successful as Mayer, someone who tours the country speaking to young women, can’t comfortably call herself a feminist, then maybe we need to take her objection seriously. Maybe there is a reason why that PBS documentary was so much better on the history than it was on the modern era. Maybe feminism is a term too freighted with history and it’s time to move on.
To gain new feminists, the movement will need to do more than rebrand. The term “feminism” has bowed, as words do, to the dominate cultural practice, which despite what the rebranders think, has little to do with the hairy leg stereotypes of old. Right now feminism is defined by the old line political feminists, who have no intention of releasing their grip on the term. Any attempt to make feminism more popular will have to confront and break this hold.
Currently women who claim feminism fall into two major factions (and a host of minor factions too numerous to go into here). I call them the equal opportunity feminists and the political feminists.
The first holds that women should be free to make their own choices without external limitations. This feminism focuses upon equal opportunity and individual autonomy and enjoys broad support across the political spectrum. In almost every casual feminist discussion, someone will claim this is The One True Feminism. Some claim it with grace and passion in blog comment threads, while more popular proclamations declare we are all stupid if we don’t get it, like this helpful visual from HuffPo that I found in my Facebook feed:
It is a simple sentiment and the one that the rebranding efforts reach for, but it is not the dominate feminism today.
For the past four decades, high profile feminists have co-opted the term for specific policy positions. These are the feminists who mistook the means for the ends.
Summer blockbuster season is over, thankfully. It was rather disappointing for fans. Man of Steel gave us two hours of CGI fighting smothering 15 minutes of an attempt at a story. Star Trek: Into Darkness was so full of naive and contradictory notions of human goodness that my husband almost made us leave the theater for my eye rolling and snorting. (I’ve never been a Trekkie, but that was ridiculous.) And those were the movies that were monetarily successful. The rest of the intended blockbusters failed decisively.
But as the summer movie season ended, it produced a little gem of a movie. Relatively few watched it. More should.
As movie buffs have noted time and time again, Hollywood tries to push themes too hard. They make morals of the story overt. Then the movie comes off as preachy. Conservatives making movies tend to make this mistake with vigor, figuring among other things that they have only one shot to get the idea across so they better feature it.
The World’s End avoids that mistake (probably because it didn’t come out of Hollywood). It hits themes of friendship, loneliness, despair, aging, the necessity of free will–all and more in a story about a pub crawl. Well, not just a pub crawl. It’s a Dusk ’till Dawn like pub crawl, only set in small town England with blue-blooded robots sent by interventionist aliens. Throw in some 80’s rock and Shakespearian speeches about beer, and I grant it isn’t for everyone.
But for those of you I had at Dusk ’till Dawn set in English pubs, see the movie tonight. If it has already stooped showing, watch for it on Netflix. I’m going to catch it again then because some of those speeches are worthy of memorization and inclusion into the pop culture canon.
“Good food. Fine Ales. Total annihilation.”
A friend started a “where were you on 9/11″ thread. Of course, I remember. Everyone does. But I hadn’t looked closely at my memories in a while. I wasn’t in any position of consequence. My account didn’t seem worth examining. But today I remembered something, something I’d gotten so accustomed to I’d forgotten it was once new.
I had started volunteering for Orlando Sanchez for mayor as his scheduler a few weeks earlier. My husband and I were just shy of a year married and had gotten fed up with double law firm life. We hardly saw each other. He traveled and I had a pager for weekend duty. (I was a maritime attorney. Ships collide on the same schedule that babies arrive — whenever.) I had resumes out for in-house positions but didn’t want to be unemployed while looking, hence the political campaign, which suited me well.
That day Orlando’s schedule was easy in the morning and loaded in the afternoon. So I had a leisurely walk and arrived at HQ after nine. It was quiet. Political headquarters are never that quiet.
After going though messages, I found everyone in the meeting room around a TV. The second plane had just hit.
When some left vs right American cultural battle made the news, friends abroad would either ask for an explanation from my husband and me, both known conservatives, or offer advice for our cultural wars. Almost always, the conversation was cordial but premised on an assumption that the American right held the extreme position.
Europeans made reasonable assumptions based on the tenor and headlines but rarely did the news or dinner party discussion cover the details. So few knew that American conservatives rarely held the extreme position. And American expats often endured some unexpected culture shock, especially concerning matters of race, sex, and immigration.
Abortion provides an excellent illustration of the problem. When the subject came up in the 2008 election, when Europe loved Obama (how times do change) and couldn’t stomach pro-life Palin, one friend advised that we could avoid all of our abortion drama if we allowed for reasonable rules making abortion legal during the first trimester with a committee of doctors to determine case-by-case availability of abortions in the second trimester, like they did in Denmark. Trying not to scoff at just how unreasonable those rules would sound to the American pro-choice movement, I asked for her opinion on later abortions. She was taken aback. She couldn’t understand why anyone would want to do that. Another time, Italians looked at me as if I was crazy when I asked about parental consent for minors. Of course a minor needed parental consent! Was I mad? And wasn’t I the American conservative?
Stories aside, we can easily compare the regulations.
During the Boston manhunt, while Paula Bolyard listened to the police scanner and “evolved on guns”, a few others tweeted verses of ‘this would never happen in Texas.’ Before all non-Texans dismiss this as idle boasting, there is a hidden truth worth noting, which Bolyard helpfully illustrates. In the second piece of her “evolving” series, she writes:
While I understand that many who grew up around guns accept them as a normal part of life, for me, it’s a decision that requires serious introspection and moral evaluation. Though I passionately support the Second Amendment, I confess that I had never taken the time to earnestly contemplate its practical applications.
Bolyard starts by analyzing what she is prepared to do to defend herself. But she’s not the exception, she’s the rule. Taking the time to “earnestly contemplate” self defense is the essence of the gun culture. So much so that we hardly notice it.
I didn’t until the London Riots of 2011. While friends described locking their doors and hoping for the police, Zoe Williams wrote that she had never contemplated defending her home. This shocked me. But then I thought back to the 2001 massacre in Norway, when the shooter rampaged for about an hour, taking 77 lives. They waited for the police.
Most people outside the gun culture have been conditioned to wait for the police. Unarmed, without good options for self defense, they’ve never considered it. They assume we haven’t either, hence their worry that every charged situation would collapse into a shootout at the OK Corral. But in a gun culture, we plan self defense. In a gun culture, we accept that ultimately it is our responsibility to defend ourselves. Follow Bolyard’s series. She’s asking, learning, and practicing while guided by those who have already done so. This is commonplace.
Editor’s Note: For President’s Day today we’re republishing this post from Leslie Loftis from last September, which asked a question worth pondering on a regular basis.
My children are back in school, and I am able to return to my school day routine of reading The Transom after my older set get on the bus and my twins get dressed and make their beds. Admittedly, I don’t always make it to the end of the newsletter in one sitting, but the end is the best part. After the wonky political and economic news summaries, The Transom has an interesting links section, a slightly more serious version of Debby Witt’s Odd Links at The Corner.
This gem recently greeted me: “In a Mass Knife Fight to the Death Between Every President, Who Would Win and Why?” Perhaps because I have an eight-year-old son who took to the discussion like a moth to a flame when I discussed it with his uncle and father over dinner, this struck me as a very promising history lesson plan… one that the PC/we-need-feminized-men guardians would never allow.
This is an excellent example of the type of discussion that would engage young boys (and old ones based on the comment threads) but send experts and some moms into frets of whether it promotes aggression. Boys can’t even talk about theoretical fighting. When the boys get bored, rather than face that boredom is one of aggression’s main fuel sources, we drug them and congratulate ourselves that the little girls are doing so well.
I will grant that a knife fight is a bit harsh for a school lesson, but the game is easily modified to a survival island scenario, like Christ White posted. Both posts and comments are chock full of intriguing — and highly memorable — assertions. Think of the research possibilities!
Befitting Camille Paglia’s firebrand reputation, the publication of her latest book, Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars, has pressed cultural debates. Peruse any of the many interviews and reviews and find topics as diverse as the poor state of public education, feminism, and Democratic ideals to the hidden “gems” of pop culture. Excellent topics and needed discussions all, but the brilliance of Glittering Images is often missed. It is simply a short, and welcome, book on how to study art.
In her concise chapters, Paglia models what all of us can do to study any art we encounter: learn about the time, the artist, and the method. She intended for children to happen upon her book on a rainy afternoon, thumb through it, and be inspired to learn more.
If that simple how-to sounds obvious to you, then you are not likely part of the art world. According to the guardians of art conventional wisdom, it is supposed to be difficult. They do not countenance Paglia’s assertion that it isn’t.
With pitch perfect smugness, the New York Times review illustrates:
Written with the proverbial common reader in mind, “Glittering Images” comprises a historical sequence from the ancient Egyptian funerary images of Queen Nefertari to George Lucas’s “Revenge of the Sith” episode of “Star Wars.” Each work is located in its historical and stylistic context and then subjected to Paglia’s “reading.” …
The book’s premise is to chart the history of Western art in “an attempt to reach a general audience for whom art is not a daily presence.” There is humility and sincerity in such a goal, and one is reminded of the work of Carl Sagan, or Bertrand Russell’s layman’s introduction to relativity, or Aaron Copland’s “What to Listen for in Music,” books intended to demystify important subjects in science and art for those who might otherwise be too intimidated to engage with them. But Paglia’s choice of examples, coupled with her frequent broadsides on everything from New York gallery pricing to feminist politics to “the in-group of hip cognoscenti” and those wickedly subversive post-structuralists, damages her argument and leaves one wondering exactly to whom she is talking.
This is classic hip cognoscenti condescension.
I still lived in Austin, Texas in 1999. That summer, against all odds, Lance Armstrong, cancer survivor, new husband, father-to-be, won his first Tour de France in an impressive display of athleticism.
He was a hero, an inspiration. When he returned to Austin, the city held a victory rally, in which park I can’t recall as Austin is loaded with large and picturesque gathering spots. A couple of friends and I went to the rally early to grab a patch of ground close enough to see Armstrong and his miracle-pregnant wife. It wasn’t all about Lance. Austinites need only the flimsiest of reasons to gather outside for a couple of beers. But we did love him. We were so proud of him. Even now, when the whole truth has outed, I can still remember the energy and joy at that rally. And the yellow. Everyone wore yellow.
A few months later, his wife gave birth to their son. The following summer he repeated his Tour victory. Soon, he welcomed twin daughters and claimed another Tour de France victory. Our pride in Armstrong overflowed. He could have done anything.
But then Lance Armstrong took off his hero mask. Sometime after his twins arrived, he left his family. I can’t remember if he already had Sheryl Crow waiting for him. It doesn’t matter really. His marriage didn’t have high conflict, at least not on her part. He might have been cheating or she might have left him due to his doping habit. But in hindsight-enhanced scenarios, he was the culpable party.
My shock at the truth about Lance Armstrong came with the split. I have a few girlfriends who spilled tears over the news. The kind of guy who can abruptly walk away from his wife and his children is capable of almost anything in service of self. So current shock at the truth surprises me. We learned that Lance Armstrong lacked honor back in 2003. The doping simply provides more details and removes any pretense for keeping that scar in the heart of Austin.
Recently, I argued that we like heroines who act like men and so writers construct stories enabling women to physically compete. So what about the female characters that don’t act like men?
If writers don’t have a female character fight for herself and by herself, then we typically ignore them. Sometimes we ridicule them. If given the opportunity, we rewrite them. Then, we complain that there aren’t enough of them. There are many, and the comment thread on the last article mentioned a few. These are my favorite five.
5. Princess Buttercup, The Ignored Heroine
In The Princess Bride, Buttercup lives on a farm and falls in love with a quiet and dedicated farm boy. The boy, Wesley, goes off to seek his fortune so he may marry Buttercup, but his ship is attacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts. Buttercup despairs for Wesley’s death. Years later, the prince of the land choses her as his bride. Powerless to refuse him, she agrees. Soon, Wesley returns and rescues her and the land.
Targeted by an evil prince for her beauty, but with no physical way to resist him — no superpowers — Buttercup relies on her courage and wits to keep the prince and his henchmen at bay until help arrives. With Wesley’s help she escapes and together they save the kingdom from a needless war. But she got rescued and does not physically fight. She engages in elegant verbal sparring, of which I’d provide a video clip, but I can’t find any of those scenes online. They aren’t popular enough that anyone thought to upload them. I’ve rarely seen Buttercup mentioned as a feminist favorite even though The Princess Bride‘s cult following rivals Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s. Strong-willed and spirited she might be, but she’s just not manly enough to merit much attention.
Even while women devour the Twilight books and flock to the recent release of Breaking Dawn 2 most revile the series’ heroine Bella Swan. The savvy modern woman prefers the vampire-slaying Buffy Summers. As a fan of both the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Twilight franchises, I think that we have this partially backward and that the Buffy v. Bella arguments common on the web underscore dangerous assumptions about women. Feminists have co-opted Buffy and the female superheroes for the gender wars in order to perpetuate their illusion of no differences between men and women.
Conventional wisdom tells us that women can do anything men can. With rare exception owing to strength or stature, this is true. But we don’t always want to do what men do, and even if and when we do we have to account for our biology. Sometimes it is the strength and stature deficit, sometimes it is our heavier role in reproduction. The feminist intelligentsia thinks this unfair, so, couching their advice in terms of equality, they tell us to ignore biology. Accordingly, the female heroes who we admire today are the ones who work around reality.
It is great that we have heroes who happen to be women, but we mistake them as role models for womanhood. Five pop culture heroines to illustrate my point:
5. Hermione Granger, The Maligned Hero
Hermione helps Harry Potter figure out how to defeat the evil wizard Voldemort and, at great personal sacrifice, she accompanies Harry on his final quest.
As a role model for womanhood she is the best of this list. She shouldn’t even appear but for what we like about her. The oft-cited favorite Hermione part in the movies: when she punches Draco Malfoy.
Over eight films loaded with powerful women defying evil—Luna Lovegood, Molly Weasley, Lily Potter, Narcissa Malfoy—that inconsequential punch makes number six of the 50 greatest moments. What was a slap in the book was rewritten as the crowd-pleasing punch because we like it when a woman acts like a man, which is ironic considering the next most overrated heroine, Wonder Woman.
Bridget Jones will write a third diary for a movie. This diary will start 13 years after Bridget Jones, The Edge of Reason. The Telegraph speculates about what this fortysomething diary might involve:
In the first diary, Bridget was in her thirties, so the new material should make her in at least her late forties. We can only speculate then how Bridget’s new diary – or more likely blog – would start: Inappropriate tweets 10, followers 95 (down five following yesterday’s said inappropriateness), hours wasted on match.com 7. 2012′s Bridget would surely be an avid Internet dater, going after the younger men. She’d be sniping about ex-boyfriends – perhaps ex-husbands – not over cocktails, but on Facebook, and debating the trials of parenthood on a Mumsnet forum. Yep, Fielding can have a lot of fun with 4G-enabled Bridget, but you can bet the bits that will stay the same.
Sally Newell has good instincts. While the naive antics and mishaps of this ditzy single woman in her thirties entertained in part because she was only a little bit pathetic, if fortysomething Bridget still hasn’t gotten her act together, then there will be no entertainment, just pity. But Newell’s conclusion caught my eye. Bridget Jones first appeared in a running column in The Independent in 1995. From one of those first columns:
Bridget’s friend Jude said: “We women are only vulnerable because we are a pioneer generation. In 20 years’ time, men won’t even dare start with F***wittage because we will just laugh in their faces.”
Well, here we are, almost 20 years on, and according to the dispatches from the hook up culture, men regularly dare to start not with just sex wittage but straight up propositions. Women don’t laugh at them but sleep with them. Women are still vulnerable, but you are a patronizing jerk if you say so. And according to the feminist orthodoxy, this is progress.
On the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month of 1918, the guns of Europe fell silent. We in the US know of November 11th as Veterans’ Day, a holiday to honor those who have served in our military forces.
Sadly, the day isn’t thought of much outside the military. The President lays a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery. As it is not usually a day off of work, most department stores don’t even bother with announcing a sale. A news story about Obama’s plans for Veterans’ Day 2011 sums up the lack of gravitas our culture gives to the day. After quoting the news release that Obama would attend the ceremonies at Arlington and then fly to San Diego to watch a football game with the crew of the USS Carl Vinson, the report concluded:
Will you be tuning in to watch the historic event? If nothing else it will be cool to watch a game on a war machine that can literally wipe out an entire city.
I didn’t know much about Veterans’ Day until we moved to London. From the beginning of November to the 11th or the second Sunday, Remberance Sunday, people wear commemorative poppies on their lapels. The British Legion sells the pins as a fund raiser for wounded veterans. (The American Legion does as well, but on a small scale.) On both days, people observe a moment of silence at 11 am. Why two days? During WWII, the moment of silence was moved to the closest Sunday so as not to interfere with wartime production. After WWII ended, the double observance remained, perhaps as a reminder as to why the ceremony had to move.
PJ Lifestyle is quiet today. We have a grim, nauseous writers block, at least for light pieces. Today we reassess, adjust. I took a walk to clear my head. I’ve been writing about The Killers, so had most of their album in my ‘recently played’ playlist. I had planned a short post at my place about the patriotic anthem, “Battle Born,” but after yesterday I find the song holds more fire than I thought. Whether you like the sound of indie rock or not, read the lyrics:
You lost faith in the human spirit
You walk around like a ghost
Your star-spangled heart
Took a train for the coast
When you shine you’re a hilltop mansion
So how’d you lose the light?
Was it blown by the wind
In the still of the night?
I always saw you as a kind of keeper
A mother to a child
But your boys have grown soft
And your girls have gone wild
From the Blue Ridge to the Black Hills
To the Redwood sky
The season may pass
But the dream doesn’t die
Now don’t you drop the ball
Up against the wall
There’s something dying on the street
When they knock you down
You’re gonna get back on your feet
Cause you can’t stop now
When they break your heart
When they cause your soul to mourn
Remember what I said
Boy, you was battle born
When the night falls on the land
Are you haunted by the sound?
It’s gonna take more than a hand
To turn this thing around
Won’t you lean it on me?
Rescue, set me free
Up against the wall
There’s something dying on the street
When they knock you down
You’re gonna get back on your feet
Cause you can’t stop now
Did they break your heart?
And did they cause your soul to mourn?
Remember what I said
Boy, you was battle born
Cause you can’t stop now
Come on show your face
Come on give us one more spark
Sing a song of fire
Lest we fall into the dark
Cause you can’t stop now
In a recent interview in Sweden, Brandon Flowers, frontman for the band The Killers was ambushed about his faith. Flowers has been dragged into religious or political discussions in the past because he is a Mormon. Now, with fellow Mormon Mitt Romney running for President, interviews with The Killers often focus on religion and politics and occasionally discuss the music.
This time, Flowers was on Skavlan to promote The Killer’s recent album Battle Born. After a few cursory questions about the album, the lead interviewer (it looks like a panel discussion show) started asking Flowers about religion and politics. As one of the panelists put it, people don’t expect to find a religious person fronting a popular rock band and “wearing a leather jacket.” That this might be the result of narrow-minded stereotyping of Christians on her part does not seem to occur to the woman. Flowers dealt with the questions well, explaining that he understands the interest. This is all rather typical for a Brandon Flowers or The Killers interview, but this time, it was just the setup.