Cool Girls don’t have the hang-ups of normal girls: They don’t get bogged down by the patriarchy, or worrying about their weight. They’re basically dudes masquerading in beautiful women’s bodies, reaping the privileges of both. But let’s be clear: It’s a performance. It might not be a conscious one, but it’s the way our society implicitly instructs young women on how to be awesome: Be chill and don’t be a downer, act like a dude but look like a supermodel.
You probably know someone playing a Cool Girl in real life, and you probably resent her — unless you’re a straight dude, in which case you probably think she’s great. But Lawrence performs Cool Girlness with such skill, such seamlessness, that it doesn’t seem like a performance at all. I’m not suggesting that Lawrence is intentionally inauthentic, scheming, or manipulative: Rather, like all the Cool Girls you know, she’s subconsciously figured out what makes people like her, and she’s using it. But is this persona truly “cool,” or is it a reflection of society’s unreasonable and contradictory expectations of women?
Culmone: Barbie’s body was never designed to be realistic. She was designed for girls to easily dress and undress. And she’s had many bodies over the years, ones that are poseable, ones that are cut for princess cuts, ones that are more realistic.
…Girls view the world completely differently than grown-ups do. They don’t come at it with the same angles and baggage and all that stuff that we do. Clearly, the influences for girls on those types of issues, whether it’s body image or anything else, it’s proven*, it’s peers, moms, parents, it’s their social circles.
When they’re playing, they’re playing. It’s a princess-fairy-fashionista-doctor-astronaut, and that’s all one girl. She’s taking her Corvette to the moon, and her spaceship to the grocery store. That is literally how girls play.
The functional requirements of a dressable doll is a completely unsatisfactory response to the question of Barbie’s harmful appearance. It shows that the design of Barbie was solving a different set of problems, while demonstrably not even considering others. That’s what sexism is.
Barbie is a part of many children’s lives. By Culmone’s own admission, children develop their senses of self from a panoply of sources in their environment- of which Barbie is undoubtedly a piece. You don’t get to compartmentalize it in this fictitious influence free zone just because your doll has 50 years of legacy clothing lines.
By Larisa Yugorski
New York Magazine printed something ridiculous last month, very likely for neither the first nor the last time:
Still, is Taylor Swift really a “feminist’s nightmare”? You could argue the opposite. Her straight-laced fashion sense and dance moves—the fact that she’s never writhed across a concert stage wearing a negligee, or less—may make her more square than some other singers. But she’s also less beholden to that old feminist bugbear, the Male Gaze.
"Feminist" has become quite the fetch term this season. So much so that Beyoncé had to be anointed by Ms. who’s editors apparently don’t read AHP. Their loss really. But who exactly does New York magazine think they’re kidding?
The Taylor Swift brand is the Belgium of pop celebrity culture. The girl doesn’t say a word about politics, race, or gender unless it can be tied up in a neat little home made bow, scented with gingerbread and sugar plums. Or unless it directly hurts her pride.
But even here she was strategic. The Taylor Swift brand doesn’t need Amy Poehler or Tina Fey to maintain her squeaky clean with a twangy twist image. But it does need to keep the peace with Nashville and the CMAs- which may explain why she did not publicly call out Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood for their equally stinging remarks at the CMA 2012 Award show.
So The Taylor Swift brand lets New York magazine call her a feminist, giving her the caché of the term without any of the negative backlash1. Brilliant. Very smart. Then this happened:
The Taylor Swift brand at the VSG fashion show, the Stanley Cup of Male Gaze events. And there’s Taylor Swift, all feathered hair petulance, smiling into the camera while Daddy Joe Sixpack gets his rocks off.
Because The Taylor Swift brand is not about taking a stand. It’s about working with (not against) the cultural tropes that have historically represented women: princess castles, the virgin romance heroine done wrong by the hapless rack2, and apple cheeked domesticity. Taylor Swift the person’s active leadership role in her The Taylor Swift Brand does have feminist themes running through it (and certainly feminist activism to thank for its existence). But so does Sheryl Sandburg, and her soft-serve privileged ideology with a dash of boot strapping doesn’t bare much of a resemblance to 21st century intersectional feminism either.
The Taylor Swift brand masterfully works with those patriarchal tropes. Just look at her at the VSG show, uniting the virgin and whore dichotomy without offending one solitary minivan momma while still jerking off every Daddy Joe Sixpack that tuned in.
The Taylor Swift brand is not feminist. But it is brilliant.
…“this goes to the heart of the efficacy of radical movements.” After all, this is hardly the first time that feminism—to say nothing of other left-wing movements—has been racked by furious contentions over ideological purity. Many second-wave feminist groups tore themselves apart by denouncing and ostracizing members who demonstrated too much ambition or presumed to act as leaders. As the radical second-waver Ti-Grace Atkinson famously put it: “Sisterhood is powerful. It kills. Mostly sisters.”
The Last of Us is on this list because it says those things we need to hear and it speaks to those friends who would rather shoot zombies. It’s an art game masquerading as a AAA shooter. It’s a statement game masquerading as an action adventure. It’s a game about a girl who becomes a woman, masquerading as a game about a man who becomes her savior.
Beautifully put, and I couldn’t agree more. I wrote about The Last of Us last summer, and I still find myself thinking about it often.
On the ex-Vikings punter and his “problematic” advocacy for universal human rights:
Kluwe is a problem because there isn’t a paint-by-numbers NFL resolution to his complaint, that is, employing bigots who marginalize human beings on one of the biggest hot-button issues of our time. And he’s a bummer, because he makes people at home have bad-feels, when they’re supposed to spend money and have no-feels. Maybe you love Rick Santorum and think that gay marriage will lead to man on dog. Maybe you have a gay family member or friend and hate being reminded that they have fewer rights than you. Either way, you are not supposed to be thinking about this — not when the color on your Coors Light™ could have just changed.
By Larisa Yugorski
The Ponds were dead to begin with.
This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come from the critique I am about to relate.
Partie I: The Ponds
This post references the ideas within a previous entry on this site extensively.
Amy, Rory and Melody Pond, otherwise known as River Song, functioned not just as dynamic and nuanced characters1 but the Pond family itself critiqued the entire companions-in-awe2 of the Doctor architecture that Russell T. Davies created during his four series run.
It is not my intent to disparage Mr. Davies. He gave us all a great gift; he returned to us the Doctor.
And while I clearly fall into the viewer who wishes to know the Doctor camp, I fully admit that Davies’ writing team did extraordinary work. Did it all speak to me? Well, no. It couldn’t because, while Davies enjoyed playing for both teams, he decidedly did err on the side of awe for the Doctor. For proof, we need look no further than his most cherished avatar:
And just as Rose is the patron saint of all those viewers in love and in awe of the Doctor, the Ponds are the patron saints of those who wish to love and know him. And when you know a thing, this requires seeing both the ugly and the beautiful parts.
In the Pond era, we saw the doctor’s:
|his lust for control,|
He and Amy had one of the most even power dynamics since series four’s Doctor Who and Doctor Donna: they were both children when they met.
And while Amy’s infatuation with the demigod3 who abandoned her turned flirtatious for a while,4 it was a flirtation that passed despite the Doctor’s meddling, returning to a brother-sister squabbling, then morphing into something sweeter: the love between a parent and a child.
Matt Smith was the youngest actor cast as Doctor Who, and just as Capaldi’s casting appears narrative-specific, so was Smith’s: his Doctor was very much a raging narcissist, trapped in childhood so that he could refuse to face the atrocities of Gallifrey. Mike Bithell was wrong in his interpretation of “The Day of the Doctor” :
Matt Smith is an interesting one. The wiping of his memory, honestly, kinda didn’t work for me as a device before. It was too easy a reboot, he didn’t suffer for it.
The Matt Smith Doctor has not lost the memory of how many children he killed on Gallifrey. He just chooses a different form of denial than the David Tennant Doctor. Tennant’s Doctor was the playboy, quick with a joke and a flirt.
He hid from the murderous carnage he perpetrated by assuming a personality that was altogether too silly and lovable to commit murder.
Smith’s Doctor chose the guise of a petulant child, allowing him to easily win “forgiveness” for past mistakes. Only a child can be well meaning and sweetly selfish.
Partie II: The First Might-Have-Been
All of which brings us to the end of the Ponds and the Moffat team’s first major misstep. As Ronald D. Moore reminded us in TNG: “All Good Things…” must come to an end. But how best to end Amy, Rory and Melody Pond, the family that the Doctor loved best and warped the most of all his companions since Doctor Donna? The key, unsurprisingly, is to be found in River Song, a shadow of the Melody Pond that might have been5:
A great ending for the Ponds would have shown them aging and, eventually dying. Not on a fantastical world. Not because some stonehenge alien race threw them from the Doctor’s grasp. These are all foes the Doctor can beat6. But time – real human time – is the Doctor’s kryptonite. No child wants their parents to age, especially not a narcissistic one. They’ll deny until the end and then, when it can’t be denied anymore, they’ll disappear.
Isn’t that really the story of Amy’s life? And isn’t that really how each companion since the reboot has ended: with the doctor disappointing and then abandoning them7? The Doctor, such a sweet narcissist.
And so the Ponds, with the exception of River Song whose fate Moffat had already decided, should have aged – the ending of their lives creeping across their skin and faces as the Doctor’s visits to aging Rory and Amy became more and more infrequent. A nice twist might have been that the The Doctor would use his Tardis to go back and visit young Amy and Rory more often, changing their timelines so that each time aging Amy saw the Doctor, her memories would be different until she would ask him to stop. She would ask him to visit them – Rory and Amy – as they are now, aging parents.
Of course the Doctor would have left – as River feared, as Rory had long ago expected, as Amy denied. The final scene should have been Amy’s human death as an old woman. River Song née Melody Pond would have stood beside, Rory having died a few years prior.
And the Doctor?
Surely it would have been Amy’s dying wish to see him one last time and River, long since disillusioned of her once-and-future husband, would have carried this message to him. Would the Doctor have come?
I imagine the writing room would have had a jolly time battling this one out. I think it’s most likely that they would have agreed to wait until the last possible moment and then had the Doctor try to visit a dying Amy, one last time… but he would have been too late. And then the question for viewers to debate ad nauseum would have been: Did dying Amy see the flickering Tardis or did she die finally knowing that the Doctor’s was always a selfish love?
This would have been a great tragic end befitting the Ponds.
The actual Pond finale episode is a strained string of deus ex machinas, reminiscent of those second rate Star Trek TNG episodes when:
MR. LAFORGE REROUTES THE WARP CORE INTO MR. DATA’S POSITRONIC NET, CREATING A REVERSE NEURON TRACTOR BEAM THAT DISABLES THE SHIP FROM THE ROMULAN DOCKING BAY IN LESS THAN THE PREVIOUSLY ESTABLISHED 6 HOUR TIME FRAME.
Yes, shoddy plot narrative at it’s finest. We allow this from Doctor Who time and again because of the emotional truths we usually get in return. Not so with series 7’s episode 5.
Partie IV: A series of dreadful errors, or Clara
It is this misstep with the Ponds that begins a series of dreadful errors. Clara is a shadow of Amy, her backstory so thinly sketched that there isn’t any mention of either a Stepmother or a grandmother8 until they’re thrown in to provide a flimsy B (or is it C) storyline in the Christmas special. Any episode where Clara shows gumption or agency, like in the Neil Gaiman written “Nightmare in Silver,” she’s just aping Amy Pond.
What happened to the Moffat writing room? Did they throw so much of their energy into Clara as a plot trick that they couldn’t come up with any emotional heft for her character, separate from an Amy inspired storyline9?
And what was going on with the River ghost? They turned a once strong female character into a wailing wall shadow.
Perhaps the answer lies in that old struggle between the awe-ful doctor and the knowable doctor. The second half of series seven tried to turn the Smith Doctor into an awe-inspiring doctor, an emotional twist that this incarnation could never support with even a shred of verisimilitude.
Lovable, awe-inspiring Doctors were Davies’ gig. The Moffat team should have left this iteration to them. By attempting to create a lighter, sunnier second half of series seven, they gave the world a tired sci-fi rom com which could only delight the most awe-inspired of Doctor Who viewers10.
Partie V: A Very Merry Christmas
So we come to the end.
The final scene of the Christmas special is, in fact, quite beautiful. In contrast to Tennant’s disheartened regeneration:
Smith’s Doctor accepts change. He accepts growing old. Heuristic Method has already written a blistering critique of the Christmas special’s flaws. I won’t parrot them here. What I do offer are suggestions for a re-write, even if it is unrequested and a little late, on the technicality that the episode has already been completed and aired. The trouble with this last half series wasn’t so much that it didn’t have strong emotions or interesting narrative elements. The trouble was that these emotions and narratives were buried amongst half-baked plotting11 and entirely uncooked character sketches12. Of what does this bespeak?
A rough draft. This final Smith series was really just a series of rough drafts that never should have made it out of the writing room because the writing room wasn’t ready. Now perhaps they were busy (they did have a rather large and stupendous 50th anniversary episode to craft) and perhaps they were suffering from companion block. Whatever the reason, this series and this Christmas special needed a solid rewrite – not to make drastic changes but to sift the weaker elements out and retain the bright spots so that they could be woven into a stronger narrative.
The trouble with Clara is that as it currently stands she wasn’t so much a character as a previous companion amalgam.
|She loves the Doctor like Rose.|
|She’s got a strong will and a might-have-been parental back story like Amy.|
|And she ends up with Donna’s family.|
Clara’s grandmother is Donna’s grandfather with just a gender swap and, of course, without any narrative heft because the series did not build in either the grandmother or her pigeon’s importance until the last 30 minutes.
Her only distinguishing characteristics – separate from all the previous companions – are her childcare skills. What does a childlike Doctor who just lost his parents need?
Keep Clara’s plot trick (it was interesting) but send her to the doctor as an intersteller nannie, arriving at the Tardis door like a younger Mary Poppins. Sound foolish? The show could sell it. And it would have made the hunt for her origins even more interesting. Nannie Clara would have been just another shard of real Clara’s personality. Instead of giving us real Clara right away, the audience would have been left to discover both her and the new Twelvth doctor as they discovered themselves together13.
River Song should have been left out of the last half series. Her addition weakened her character history as a whole and left her fans wanting. After the Pond finale re-write, her absence would have made thematic sense and the mystery concerning her final origins may have proved tantalizing to faithful viewers.
Who is the Mother Superious in the Christmas special really? Think of her banter with the doctor. Notice their sexiness. This is River Song. Whether the show couldn’t get Alex Kingston to reprise her role or weren’t quite sure how to narratively explain her appearance is immaterial. The Mother Superious is River Song and her return could have been a welcome and fitting final bow.
All that nonsense about the crack calling to all previous baddies in the Doctor Who galaxy? Unnecessary villain window dressing. Keep it small. Let River Song appear as the Mother Superious of the Silence. Let the Doctor be shocked by her presence and uncertain about what time version of River he encountered. All that business about holograms? It would find emotional resonance when at the end River Song revealed herself to be a hologram, escaped from the AI reality where Tennant’s Doctor had trapped her14.
Christmas town has to stay (it is a Christmas special, I’m afraid). But why not let it be populated by red headed children, living reminders of little Amy and Rory? There could be a joke at one point when the Doctor calls one Rory and it turns out to be Timmy or Andrew or something. The origins of the crack would be uncertain. But the Silence would want to destroy it, resulting in the destruction of the town, which of course, the Doctor would not allow.
“Are you willing”, River Song would ask, “To stay here forever as a guardian of the town? To stay until you grow old?”
And the Doctor would say yes.
The big reveal of Christmas town would be that it, too, was all a hologram, created by the Silence. River Song would explain that the Silence created it as a testing ground for hologram versions of Amy and Rory’s children. “I proved difficult to steal”, she would explain, showing other failed outcomes of her kidnapping as a baby – universes where Amy and Rory got to be her parents.
“River, I’m sorry,” the Doctor would say.
“I’ve had enough of your apologies for many lifetimes. It’s almost time for me to go.”
“A time lord that would choose to die?” “I made that choice years ago. It was you who tried to delay it.”
And what would the crack in the universe be? This time it would have been created by the Doctor, caused by his many failed attempts to get back to dying Amy, to ask for her forgiveness.
However do we explain the Doctor’s regeneration? As usual, solutions in Doctor Who are malleable. River could explain that his valiance at Gallifrey brought him a gift from his people: more lives. This would be a double edged sword for the aged Smith Doctor: All grown up – an old man – he would have convinced, at least himself, that he was ready to die
with his Ponds
Thus bringing us nicely to the final scene and Smith’s speech about age15, spoken to hologram River Song, of course. All of which builds …
To our Amy. And forgiveness for an old man.
One would be forgiven for disbelief after such an abysmal final half-series of Doctor Who during which Steven Moffat’s writing team seemed to show themselves wholly incapable of crafting a flesh-and-blood character out of Clara Oswin Oswald, failing to make use of the considerable talents of actress Jenna Coleman. Were they simply focusing all of their efforts on the uncanny 50th “Day of the Doctor” episode? Or were they still bewitched by the aforementioned Ponds? ↩
Keeping in mind that the Doctor Who companion has always stood in as the viewer’s avatar. ↩
One of the Moffat team’s greatest critiques was providing a believable back story for all this companion-in-awe of the Doctor flirtation. ↩
The Doctor may hem and haw about wanting his campions to live their own “human” lives, but time and again he appears to whisk them away on another awful journey not for them but for his own desires: He doesn’t want to be lonely. ↩
Does anyone really think that Amy and Rory wanted their daughter to be a time lord – stolen, tortured, separated from them only to fall in love with the same creature directly responsible for this carnage? Didn’t it add insult to injury (nearly costing them their marriage) to discover, after losing their daughter and the chance to be parents to her as a child, that they couldn’t have any more children? Their timeline – and happiness – would have been quite different had the Doctor never been involved. But, the child narcissist never wants a sibling. He wants his parents all for himself – never aging, never ending. A selfish love that never dies. ↩
The Doctor’s invincibility as a fighter has never really been in question. His compassion as a creature of the Universe has always been the sticking point (at least since the reboot). ↩
The fact that Davies couldn’t make good on this and just let Rose languish properly shows how thoroughly in awe he was of the Doctor at the end. ↩
Honestly, the might-have-been of Clara’s family life was a page ripped right out of the Pond Series Bible. ↩
Like this fan, who’s love of the Tennant Doctor was so extreme that it seems to have given her both amnesia and visual hallucinations- this is the only possible explanation for this very long and very baseless diatribe attributing absolute feminism to Davies and absolute sexism to Moffat. Clearly, all of the rebooted Doctors have played with and evoked both ideologies. To argue for such an extreme polarity is ludicrous. ↩
Clara, anyone? ↩
This would have given the writing room the benefit of time – a commodity on television shows – and crucial to great writing. After the 50th and the Christmas special, they could have taken a breather and then rallied together to create a complicated and new dynamic between Clara and Capaldi’s Doctor. ↩
He was never good at goodbye’s either. ↩
Just to be clear, that final speech of Matt Smith’s is perfection. More’s the pity that the episode did not properly build to it. ↩