Of Bondage and Billionaires: Why this Oscar Nomination makes me Furious

There’s been a lot of uproar over some of the overt snubs by this year’s Academy.  If you’ve been on social media in the past two weeks at all, I’m sure you’ve seen at least one #OscarsSoWhite article, if not dozens (Or perhaps I’m just seeing more of them because, as an Oscar fanatic, the Facebook Algorithm Gargoyles like to feed my addictions).  While we’re on the subject, I will say that last year I thought the Selma snubs were pretty messed up and this year…yeah.  I have not much to say on the subject that hasn’t already been said, but if this is something that angers you as it does me and you haven’t seen it yet, you should totally watch the SNL sketch that takes the issue on in a way only good satire can.

But this post is not to express my anger over one of the snubs.  This post directs my fury right at one of the nominations itself.  Usually, when I’m mad about something that’s happening in pop culture, a lot of other people are, too.  And so I feel vindicated when it pops up in my feed (or on late night talk shows) over and over again.  Like Palin endorsing Trump.  Or Sean Penn talking about farts in his El Chapo interview.  Or the overuse of the term “Bye, Felicia.”  God, I hate that shit.  But on this issue, the airwaves seem expressly mute.  And so, the gauntlet is laid at my feet and I can no longer remain silent.

You guys.  Fifty Shades of Grey was nominated for an Oscar.

Fifty shades lego

Granted, it’s just for Best Original Song.  But it’s the WORST song from the soundtrack!  The nomination is for The Weeknd’s Earned It.  If you haven’t heard it yet (or didn’t really pay attention), I invite you to have a gander.  With lyrics.  I’ll wait.

When I say this is the worst song from the soundtrack, I’m not even really saying I dislike the song.  I kind of enjoy The Weeknd.  His backbeats are dramatically bombastic and, in The Hills, he worked the words “gated residential” into the lyrics.  I’m a fan.  But I hate.  I hate.  I hate that this song is attached to Fifty Shades of Grey.  And to explain that hatred, I don’t really even need to delve too deeply into the lyrics (though I could).  All I have to say is: Earned WHAT, exactly?

Weeknd

There’s been plenty of sturm and drung voiced against Fifty and I’ll try not to get redundant.  Yes, it depicts an abusive relationship.  Yes, it gives a skewed expectation on the nature of modern BDSM.  Yes, the prose is its own special breed of pathetic.  (It’s been well documented that Fifty started out as Twilight fan fiction, which makes it literary bottom feeding).  As a somewhat enthusiastic erotica reader (or, as one friend calls it, “smut”), I think that there’s something more insidious at play.  I think that, because it plays on one of the most guilty pleasures in the undercurrent of the feminine psyche, Fifty Shades of Grey is Lolita for chicks.

Let me explain.  We all know that there a lot of men out there with a thing for young girls. It’s one of the reasons Lolita is the classic that it is (though, I must say, its structure and language is vastly superior to E.L. James’ sloppy shipping).  In fact, if you read Diablo Cody’s Candy Girl , her memoir of the year she spent in the sex industry, she discusses her brief stint as a phone sex operator. When her employer provided her with various “scripts” for identities to play out on the phone (i.e. “The Mommy,” or “The Cougar”) the only one men ever really requested was “The Barely Legal.”  So, ok…this is a thing.

And women have their own version of it.  I call it the Elizabeth Bennett Syndrome, but most dudes refer to it as the Golddigger. Or, if you prefer Bill Burr, an “epidemic of golddigging whores.”  If the prevalent, underlying male fantasy is the barely legal young blonde girl, then I can say with great certainty that, especially since Fifty hit the scene, the big trend in erotica has been the Handsome Billionaire.  If you do a search on Amazon Kindle Ebooks for “Billionaire Erotica” about twenty thousand listings come up.  TWENTY THOUSAND.  This trend is reversing feminism and I can’t not say something anymore.  

I know what you’re thinking.  Did she just call Pride & Prejudice the story of a golddigger?  In fact, you probably didn’t read the rest of that paragraph, so I should address this.  It’s my theory that Pride & Prejudice has remained such a classic (passionately so), because of the character of rich, handsome Mr. Darcy. (Kindle store search for “Darcy” returns over 2,000 options).  You see, yes, Elizabeth rejects Mr. Darcy’s advances early on…until she comes to visit his big, fancy house.  Then, somehow, her opinion of him shifts.

Darcy

Do I think Austen wrote Elizabeth as a golddigger?  Absolutely not. (I ain’t sayin’ she a golddigger.  Couldn’t resist).  But she has become the archetype for the kind of dance that the fantasy golddigger now plays.  The woman whose ultimate motives may be for the man’s pockets knows that, if she plays it like Elizabeth Bennett, she’ll not get labeled a golddigger.  Not sure what I mean?  I give you Fifty.  Anastasia patently refuses Mr. Grey’s lavish gifts in the early chapters of the books, so that you, the reader, can see she’s clearly not interested in him for the money.  But then the rest of the book goes into great detail about the car he gives her, the house he lives in, the plane he takes  her around in, her room, with a fully stocked closet full of expensive clothes, just for her.  It’s golddigger porn; and the same formula is present in, I would venture to say, every single one of those 20,000 Billionaire romance knock-offs (Yes, I’ve read a few).  They all go on and on about the lap of their true love’s luxuries, only they have to pretend it’s not about the money because that makes them horrible people, right?  

Yes.  Yes, it does.

Mr Grey

“Girl, you’re perfect, you’re always worth it and you deserve it, the way you work it.”

Gag me.

Ladies, we’re better than this.  Our mothers did not burn their bras so that we could make seventy-some-odd cents on every dollar our male counterparts make.  But if we want that to change, we have to be part of the change.  We must stop sending the message to our young girls that a man is a paycheck.

It’s a long hard road to hoe, though, hoes.  Submission is deeply ingrained into our feminine DNA.  In the Human Sexuality class I took in undergrad, I learned that one of the most prevalent female fantasies is to be raped.  ?!?  Couple that with the 20,000 Billionaire fantasies on Amazon, and how could E.L. James NOT have had a recipe for success?  Far be it from me to tell anyone what they should be fantasizing about; some people really get off on latex, others on feet…the heart wants what the heart wants.  But is it possible to just take money out of the bedroom?  It really has no place there.

Good smut

So, if bondage is what you’re into, may I offer Secretary?  Or Venus in Fur?  Throw out your copies of Fifty Shades, and trust me, there’s no need in looking at any of those knock-offs. Wouldn’t it be thrilling if the next hot, sexy trend was about a Female Billionaire?  Why not fantasize about being the one that has it all, not the one that has to get it all from her man.

Cause, girl…you earned that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2016 – The Year of Lowered Expectations!

Everyone’s making New Year’s resolutions and…well, I just kind of want to get back to my Growing Personally project.

2015 was a game changer: I finished the first draft of my novel, I bought a house and, hey, I made bread from scratch!  Unfortunately, because the end of the year became so eventful for me, my Personal Growth project turned into actual growth.

There were so many things I didn’t get to.  Books by Krakauer.  Euginedes.  Atwood.  I never did zumba.  I didn’t cook any kind of red meat really, at all.  I wasted time, sure.  But I grew. And I hope you did, too, out there in 2015.

So, I’ve compiled a list of favorite things I did this year:

BOOKS

Favorite: Blindness

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Honorable Mention: Poisonwood Bible, Lolita.

I don’t know why Blindness won out for me.  Maybe it’s because, like my sister Jen says, I really just like miserable things.  But I like to think it’s because of the character of the Doctor’s Wife.

There were a lot of really badass women in Poisonwood, as well, of course. Their arcs are what ultimately led me to give them an honorable mention.  Lolita?  Well, I just enjoyed taking a trip inside the mind of a deviant.  But overall, the horrific circumstances playing out in Blindness, led by a heroine of such distinct caliber…it was my faves, you guys.

RECIPES:

Favorite: Jelly Bean Bread

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Honorable Mention: Banana Bread, Croque Monsieur

Ok, so full disclosure: the banana bread became a staple in our house.  It was so easy to make and a nice little grab and go breakfast…I thought about listing it as my favorite.  The croque was DELICIOUS and made me feel like a Fancy Pants Superstar after I was able to pull off that sauce.  I’ll definitely be making it again, though it’s kind of spendy.

But when reflecting on which recipe drew the most pride from me, which one was the most memorable experience…I gotta go with the Rainbow Bread!

It started off as a dare from my sister and took an entire day to muster, but once it was done…Holy Shit, y’all.  I made bread.  In different colors.  From scratch.

WORKOUTS:

Favorite: Swimming laps at the pool

Honorable Mention: Belly dancing, Rowing with Pedro

For those of you who know me well, it should come as no surprise that swimming beat out pretty much everything else.  I bought a new speedo right after Christmas and Jason got me an underwater ipod for my birthday…I plan on kicking this habit up a notch in the New Year.  I just have to find the most convenient LA Fitness pool to use corresponding with:

MY NEW HOUSE!

Okay, so after about the end of September, I was out of commission for this project because Jason and I decided to buy a house.  And we got a pimping one.  Just look:

My dogs have a yard,  my food has a pantry, my clothes have their own washer/dryer!  I feel like a G.D. grownup.  I can’t wait to have you all over for tea and trumpets: Because fuck crumpets, we can make all the noise we want!

A NOTE ON GERTRUDE MACCABEE:

As I’ve referenced earlier in this post (and extensively on Facebook, TYVM), I finished the first draft of my novel.  I have an editor working on it now (LOVE YOU, CHRISTINA!) and another dear friend who is giving it a pass.  I say this to you now and with love: I would like more readers.  If any of you out there in the ether feel like reading my novel (either this first draft or the next one) and giving me your constructive feedback, I would sincerely appreciate it.  I’m looking for about two or three of you.  Hit a girl up.

Here’s the closest thing I have to a synopsis for your consideration:

A mind-reader from London.  A speed-reading supergenius from Beijing. A giant from Siberia and a healer from Alaska.  Meet the seven teens who, very soon, could be the last remaining people on the planet.

When Gertrude Maccabee, the chubby, only-single-girl at EvenStar Academy, helps her popular classmate deliver a baby in a broken down train and the infant survives against insurmountable odds, it makes national news. The new celebrity enjoys an uncomfortable notoriety, until she’s abducted by a mysterious order of monks and taken to their secluded chateau, where she is told that she and six other extraordinary teenagers are prophesied to be the Onliest: the last people God has chosen to survive after a cataclysmic extinction event.  

LOWERING EXPECTATIONS:

So, what’s next in 2016?  Well, for starters, I’ve learned not to try and keep myself on a schedule.  Halfway through 2015, things were going so well that I planned on this year being an exploration of all Holy Texts (Bible, Quran, Baghavad Gita…) of the major world religions (along with visits to their corresponding worship services, where I could find them).  I’m, uh…not sure that’s going to pan out.

To be clear: I am going to do that project.  I’m just not sure when I’ll have time for it.

I’m also developing no less than FOUR playscripts.  Needless to say, I got super backlogged these past three years, working on Gertrude.  I’ve been submitting the same play to competitions for years and not getting any bites.  I need some fresh blood.  So, that’s where my focus has to be for the time being.  Once I get a draft of the most recent script I’m working on, I’ll need about six actresses to pull together for a reading, so any of my Cincy thespians reading this (Tara? Tess?  Lauren?): I’m hoping to be done by Easter.  (I’ve put it in writing, so now I’ve got to do it!)  Hit me up.

But, in the interest of maintaining well-rounded habits, here’s some goals for the year:

SHIT I WANT TO READ:

  1.  The Girl on the Train
  2. Leaving Time, by Jodi Piccoult (Mom, I told you I would!)
  3. The Outlander series (Susannah and Amelia, I told you I would!)
  4. Moby Dick (because I’m an insane person)
  5. Into the Wild
  6. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
  7. Odd Thomas (Mom and Dad, I told you I would!)
  8. Middlesex
  9. LOTS OF PLAYS…

Seriously.  I’ve discovered this New Play Exchange where playwrights can upload their work in the interest of getting it published, produced, or generally talked about in some fashion.  I’ve already compiled a giant reading list of works by…well, some of them are people I’ve never even heard of!  But this year, I want to start reading plays.  By everybody.

And maybe some of them will read MY plays.  Because God knows no one else is.

SHIT I WANT TO DO:

  1.  Attend more theater.  Last fall I got so busy with everything, I missed all the Playhouse shows except Sex with Strangers.  I vow to not let that happen this spring.  I have friends with shows coming up that I’m super excited about at other venues (Ave Q and Beauty Queen of Leenane for starters!)  I must make my passion a priority.
  2. Go out.  Trivia night?  Karaoke?  Escape the Room? I need to feel like I’m in my twenties again.  Before menopause starts, please.
  3. Expand my cosmetology experience.  I’ve never dyed my hair or had anything waxed.  I’m thinking that may change this year.
  4. Go to church.  I’m a Unitarian.  I just have never lived close to a Unitarian church or been able to be awake on Sunday mornings to attend services.  I hope to change that this year.
  5. VOTE.  Oh, yeah!  It’s a big Election Year!  So I’m sure I’ll be weighing in on that as the months wear on.
  6. Host parties.  I have a big swinging pad now.  So, you’re all welcome to come over.  There’s a modest, but exciting above-ground pool.  The Oscars are coming up.  I’m told you can grill things on the machine that’s on our patio.  Literally, you guys.  Come on over.
  7. Join a book club?  Or something of that nature.  Something with booze and opinions.
  8. Zumba.  Seriously, let’s make this happen.
  9. Take a trip.  Vegas?  NYC?  Tampa-sanctuary again?  Who knows, but I’m sure I’ll need to GTFO sooner or later.
  10. Do a Cousins Craft Show.  I make purses out of old jeans, if you didn’t know.  I’ve kind of back-burnered the habit this past year, but I hope to resurrect it and take the stock I’ve made (old and new) to a craft show to sell my wares with my cousins who make blankets and candles.  I’ll let you know how that goes.

Overall, I have every hope that 2016 could be as good as 2015.  But no expectations.  As I write this, my brother is recovering from surgery in Dearborn County Hospital.  My sister’s kid is preparing for another surgery.  I have loved ones in jail, others reeling from difficult breakups, crushing personal grief and loss or having a crisis of purpose.  Even I myself, at least once a day, get a small feeling that I’m just barely keeping the wolf of Midlife Crisis at bay.

But I lay me down to sleep in the evenings (on my new, memory foam mattress!) and tell myself that the wolf didn’t get me or my loved ones today.  That I love and am loved, abundantly.  That my cup runneth over.  

And that I have a feeling it will continue to do so through December and beyond.

Happy New Year to All!