Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Geek Squad, Part II

To make up for my brain's failure the other day, I thought I'd dive back into the idea of the "sexy geeky leading actor" and attempt to look at this a little more closely in three particular actors: David Tennant, Matt Smith, and Benedict Cumberbatch (I know, I know, it's only a matter of days until the cease and desist order comes; it's getting out of hand. My apologies for the trillionth time).

But first, what makes a guy considered geeky attractive? This website had some thoughts, as well as these Youtube videos:

How does this play out with celebrities? Let's see...
1) David Tennant: This man is ridiculously popular. Ridiculously. Last spring, I saw in person at my university the dismay and upset of a Whovian who had still not gotten over the fact that he is now married (she was actually quite irate about it; it was kind of surprising). He's played one of the most popular (if not the most popular) reincarnations of the Doctor and also has various movie roles (Barty Crouch Jr in the fourth Harry Potter film... I had no idea that was him o.O And he was also epic in Fright Night). But what makes him geeky and attractive to geeks?

Obviously it's Doctor Who. Playing a charismatic and humorous yet darkly tinged hero makes him incredibly attractive (I don't know much about Mr. Tennant  as a person, so this is the best I can postulate on). The Doctor is... but why am I yammering on about the Doctor when Craig Ferguson has a perfectly brilliant explanation of it all? Cue Mr. Ferguson:

"Intellect and romance triumphing over brute force and cynicism" - bingo. That's it. Maybe at the core of being a geek is a little bit of romanticism and characters like the Doctor speak to that. And thus, when actors like Tennant become this character, they appear to express these same qualities from within themselves.

Also the Scottish accent and tight leather pants from Fright Night probably doesn't hurt.
2) Matt Smith: Pretty much the same deal as Tennant. I haven't seen much of the 11th Doctor yet, but I like what I've seen so far. Very excited and curious and child-like, but also angry and dark and wizened. It's pretty epic.

And again, it's speaking to that romantic sentiment. Matt Smith has often been dubbed as fans as acting like the Doctor when he's just himself (like in this post. And a hundred others I've seen and now can't find). It's easy to read a lot of his personality into the Doctor, as it is with Tennant.

Also, the hats and hipsterness doesn't hurt.

3) Benedict Cumberbatch: Somewhere in the infinity that is the universe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is very, very upset with us. For many reasons, especially this:
Oops. (I especially like this ghostbees comic on the same topic.) But in related ideas, Conan Doyle is probably upset with the continual perception of Sherlock Holmes as a sexy crime solver. I mean casting Rupert Everett and Jeremy Brett and Basil Rathbone and Robert Downey Jr. and now Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller... Oops.

On one hand, it's like trying to cast the role of Mr. Rochester: he's supposed to be unattractive but he's also a romantic lead so it's kind of a Catch 22 for Hollywood (unless you cast Michael Fassbender, of course, and then it's just like well fuck it, it's Fassbender, we don't even care. He was great in that movie so this is not a complaint). So there is a sort of trend towards making Holmes and Rochester (shall we say) aesthetically pleasing.

But, being a Sherlockian since I was thirteen or so, there is something sort of sexy about Holmes which I think Conan Doyle didn't expect modernity (or post-modernity, or post-post-modernity, if you so desire) to fixate on. And that, namely, is:

(Another gif I'm going to end up overusing; I can tell :P)

 Geeks find intelligence sexy. Why? Well...

Yup, American high schools; gotta love them (but, as a wise Youtube commenter said: "Don't blame the kids, blame the schools that educate them". And not all schools are this bad. Well, mine was pretty painful; there was a teacher there that didn't know a squid was an animal. And she taught honors and AP Biology. Oh yes...). This is one reason at least I find intelligence a rather nice trait. Because if I have to spend my time talking with someone explaining that Canada is in fact not a state in the United States, I'm going to be rather put out.

But sometimes I feel rather confused about this whole intelligence thing. Like when people comment that they aren't surprised I'm a book worm because I look like one. Or how someone can look intelligent. But often see Cumberbatch, Tennant, and Smith described as intelligent-looking. And I find myself agreeing with this idea but I don't know why. What does intelligence look like? Is it something about their smile, their eyes, their freaking cheekbones? Who knows?
And it gets more baffling for me. Like the blog that's devoted to words Benedict Cumberbatch has used to and explaining what they mean and where they've used by him (interesting thing I thought of. Isn't it funny how Cumberbatch's vocabulary is emphasized but Smith's and Tennant's aren't? I feel like they could use the same sort of descriptors and terms but aren't recognized for it. Unless Cumberbatch's vocabulary really is that singular; I can't say).  Part of me is quite glad that people are praising high vocabulary and wanting to expand theirs. But at the same time, I'm thinking, "Wait... I use some of these words sometimes. I know what they mean. Is that unusual? Is emulate that uncommon of an English word?" And then I feel very confused as my vocabulary isn't that extraordinary and I can't spell to save my life (thanks for that, Catholic school; phonetic spelling is a FAIL. I will forever sound out Wednesday as Wed-nes-day so that I can spell it correctly. This is apparently a Catholic school method of teaching spelling; two or three other people I have conferred with on this agree. Why? Haven't a clue). Point is, I feel rather odd about people extolling words I've come to see as everyday. But then I'm the sort who'd rather download a dictionary on her iPhone than that flashlight app that Kevin keeps telling me I should get (dictionary app WAY more helpful for classwork bro; just saying). Is that weird? I no longer know (and don't actually care. I like words. Even if I cannot spell them :P).

Also, the Tumblr post I included image-wise in my last post gets me kind of confused to:

Intelligence intimidating? Maybe... The only situation like this that comes to mind for me was with a professor who was teaching an upper level undergraduate/intro graduate course who looked like Anthony Bourdain and was very, very intense about everything. As in he spent an hour explaining why he despised Charles Baudelaire and Gustave Flaubert so much and I sat there in class almost cowering because he was so intense about it all, speaking in this really dark, heavy voice and raising his voice but not shouting, like someone right on the verge of getting into an argument. Yes, I couldn't remember a damn thing about Madame Bovary and I hadn't read any Baudelaire yet (they weren't assigned for class; this was actually kind of a tangent on the professor's part) but it wasn't because he knew these things and I didn't that intimated me; it was that he was so fierce in expressing it. It wasn't his knowledge; it was his delivery (and the fact that he really, really hated Baudelaire more than I hate 50 Shades of Grey - and that is saying something).

I kind of doubt that Mr. Cumberbatch is like my college professor (otherwise interviews with him would be very, very difficult, I should think). He seems far more laid back. So I'm rather confused how he could be intimidating. But then maybe I should admit that just maybe I have "above average intelligence" (whatever that means, because now we're getting into the issue of actually being able to measure intelligence with numbers and tests, which I think is just plain silly) and might have at one point or another intimidated people with things I have said. Maybe we're intimidated because we're just afraid of saying we don't know something...

Okay, steering clear of a giant tangent I feel coming on there, I'm going back to Sherlock Holmes. You know who is incredibly intimating? Sherlock Holmes. The bro can deduce where you're from, what you've been doing, and whether you're any good at football in ten seconds. Awesome - but terrifying. So if he's so intimidating, why is he still sexy?

Good question. Guess who doesn't have an answer?

Yup. This blogger.

I will admit, the first time I read A Study in Scarlet, I hated Sherlock Holmes. I couldn't understand why he was so popular; he seemed like a total tool for thinking things were so obvious. I really, really didn't like him. But then I reread the story later and thought he was brilliant. Sarcastic, rude, and brilliant. What changed? I probably started seeing aspects of myself and others I knew in Holmes. I probably figured out that Conan Doyle wrote detective stories differently then we do today (as in there is little chance you'll be able to deduce what's going on until the end because you don't get the clues along the way). I probably enjoyed the fact that Holmes was a bit of a tool (but a clever tool). And I'd probably seen this by that point:
(Ugh. Top hat. I totally forgot he wore that damnable thing in this film.)

This is Rupert Everett as Sherlock Holmes from BBC/Masterpiece Theater's Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking. I get the feeling this wasn't very popular but I loved it. I've realized in retrospect that this is the first Sherlock Holmes actor I encountered that wasn't directed towards kids (ie: The Great Mouse Detective and Wishbone, both of which I adored - and continue to adore) and set me up for a world of sexy, deducing detectives. Thanks for that, BBC.

But why is it sexy? In some ways, Holmes is like the Doctor - deeply flawed but deeply intelligent and using intellect over brute force. And romance... well, perhaps no, perhaps so (I'll let the Johnlock shippers and anti-Johnlock people fight that one out). Regardless, the relationship between Watson and Holmes is crucial and without it, we wouldn't have any of the stories, as Watson recorded all of Holmes' cases and was interested enough in his work to document it and... TANGENT. SORRY. (I like how the bits on Tennant and Smith were all nice and neat and then we get down to Cumberbatch and it's just a disaster. How did this even happen...) Unlike the Doctor, Sherlock Holmes (as a wonderful post put it - which I now of course can't find) is a man trying to be a god while the Doctor is more like a god trying to be a man. Think about it...
So, like Tennant and Smith, Cumberbatch seems to have become very popular (and thus very sexy in the eyes of many) for assuming a role that speaks to... well, geek ideals it seems. Intelligence and intellect and sarcasm and such. But I'm still kind of baffled why I see so much more on Cumberbatch's intelligence than Tennant's or Smith's. Maybe I'm just looking in the wrong places. But even looking through posts on Tumblr doesn't generate much help. What is this? I mean, look at this Tumblr post on Cumberbatch: it's a freaking list of merits and attributes. I've never seen anything like this for Smith and Tennant. Maybe Cumberbabes/bros just really like lists. The most I could scrounge up for Tennant was a nineteen second clip of him speaking German and the fansqueeing that follows in comments. And for Smith...
Shut up, Tumblr. It is nearly the premier of the new season of Doctor Who so that's all I'm going to be getting for the time being anyway. But I'm still weirdly baffled by the difference. Maybe it's just the difference in actors, or a difference in fandoms. Or is it also a difference in representing them based on the characters they play? Maybe I just need to diversify my blog following more...

As usual, I haven't the foggiest. And I'm also running out of Martin Freeman-hedgehog photos and have given in to making a few myself :P In the meantime, enjoy this comparison between Sherlock-Cumberbatch and Toothless from How To Train Your Dragon:
That should only take about a day for people to start making Smaug references with that...

Ooh, and one last thing before I meander off here - I've been getting some really good ideas/submissions from talking to my friends Ashley, Bridget, and Sarah, and from emailing with my penpal Paulina. But if you happen to have some sort of recommendation, submission, idea, more pictures of Martin Freeman and hedgehogs, or you're Mr. Cumberbatch's lawyer sending me the cease and desist order, feel free to send them my way, either in email or comment form. Or if you're also confused as hell because you ended up here just looking for a photo of Matt Smith on a dinosaur, that's okay too. :D

Monday, August 27, 2012

Geek Squad

Once again my brain has dissolved into a box of cats.

Not so much because I'm turning into a Marvel supervillian (though that would be pretty awesome, I've got to admit) or because I'm feeling mentally unsound. But more because I'm in utter denial that classes start in a week, I've got to deal with apartment turnover this week in my lovely assistant manager position and learn the names of 20+ new tenants, and I still have no idea if my directed study is going to work out for this semester as my professor hasn't emailed me back yet (I'm sure he's busy but it makes me nervous. Especially as I feel like I should have more planning done for it :P)

So basically my mind's a bit scattered with the return to university and the fact that I was out of town for a few days in Ely, Minnesota, which is a wonderful tiny town that is ridiculously far north and looks like something out of a postcard.

Also in my time racing about the state of Minnesota and trying to remember that school is a thing that is happening, I've sort of lost track of what I was planning on discussing in my next blog post. I have about twenty-seven drafts, so it's not as if I'm lacking topics. I just lost my bearings of where to start of again. So I'm just going with what came up first in my queue and going with it.

That being (once again) - appearance! Yay! Namely the trend of "the sexy geeky leading male." And how this is a bit baffling to said sexy geeky leading males.

I'm rather caught in a strange space after reading these articles. Part of me is really, really happy that actors like Andrew Garfield and Matt Smith are getting the adoration and attention they deserve. But part of me is also stuck in the "Goddammit, it's all about appearance again!" realm. But, as we know, I'd be lying if I didn't care about appearance in some respect. And so, I find myself totally caring about appearance and being happy that not all actors look like Channing Tatum while simultaneously being frustrated that this could be potentially promoting shallowness all the while thinking that maybe it gives hope for the rest of us so-called geeks that we can finally get away from stereotypes of geeks.

A quick etymology lesson here: geek is one of those bizarre words that means a multitude of things to a multitude of people. Urban Dictionary briefly describes a geek as someone who "does not have to be smart, a Geek is someone who is generally not athletic, and enjoys Video Games; Comic Books; being on the internet, and etc." and also a bit longer one:
The term "geek" originally referred to the carnival performers whose act consisted of biting the heads off chickens and eating glass. Over time it came to be applied to anyone who got paid to do work considered odd or bizarre by mainstream society.

The term now enjoys a special status within the technical community, particularly among particularly knowledgable computer programmers. To identify oneself as a "geek" indicates a recognition that most people still consider programming computers to be a bizarre act, along with a certain fierce satisfaction in being very good at their inglorious profession.

That most software geeks now easily earn twice as much as the average laborer just sweetens their defiant embrace of the term.

Note: Unlike the word "nerd," which is always pejorative, "geek" often carries a positive connotation when used by one of the group. The use of the term by outsiders is considered insulting.
My computer dictionary includes the reference to carnivals and also states that a geek is "an unfashionable or socially inept person."

Thanks, dictionary. Thanks for that.

Geek carries with it both negative and positive aspects and obviously isn't used to refer to people biting off the heads of chickens these days. However, it's also been taken by those who are called geeks and also intermixed with words like nerd and dork and picked up references to fan culture until it's really hard to know what geek really means unless it's used in context. Generally, though, it seems the word geek has come to mean someone who is very passionate about something - whether it be computers, music, books, football, what have you. As a very clever person from my Italian class said last fall, "Everyone's a geek, because everyone's passionate about something." (Or maybe he said nerd. Considering I'm still not really sure there's a difference, moot point.)

But the typical idea of geek really doesn't leave much in the way of room for female geeks. Because of its reference to the tech world and the low number of women working these jobs, it's assumed that geeks are men.

(Pretty sure I enjoy using this gif far too much.)

If being a geek is all about passion, then every woman I know is a geek. They're all passionate about something, even if you generally wouldn't call having passion towards human rights or writing geeky. And of course being a fansquee is a form of geekery (is that a word? I'm making it a word) in itself. And yet the idea of a geek still refers to someone wearing a pocket protector and thick glasses. Go figure.

Point is, I'm usually rather torn with the idea of geeks. I myself am most certainly one but I hate the connotation it tends to carry with it. So then I do what other geeks do and embrace the title, to hell with all else, and totally geek out.

But what continues to confuse me is the physical aspect that being a geek supposedly carries with it. How did certain celebrities get deemed as appearing "geeky" rather than... I don't know, however you'd describe Brad Pitt or someone. Maybe I don't see geeky as an appearance thing. Maybe I've never really noticed the difference but subconsciously knew and have always been attracted to geeky sort of guys and just never thought about it. Maybe I'm oblivious to everything and been on Tumblr too long.

Hmm, thinking the last one has some serious validity there...

Regardless, appearance does have something to do with it. Otherwise people wouldn't get so upset about the TV show New Girl and being upset that a geeky girl is "too attractive" (and people in return wouldn't get so upset that you can't be attractive and be a geek). And people wouldn't make a big deal about Benedict Cumberbatch's vocabulary. And saying things like this:

And I wouldn't be so goddamn flabbergasted by this photo:
Blue eyes and top hats; if I were a DC superhero, that'd be my Kryptonite. Good thing I'm not a DC superhero. :P

I'd like to talk more about this, but my brain has currently decided to give up on life and turn to mush. So, more on geekdom later. For now, enjoy a complimentary Martin Freeman and hedgehog photo:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Peanut Gallery: Atone
Considering I watched Atonement twice in one week to write a paper on it (and again with my mother a few weeks later because I could),  I decided that I should also write a casual review about it (infused, of course, with observations from my paper).

This movie has recently become one of my favorites, which is pretty great considering I loathed the book the first time I read it. I was in high school and young and dumb and didn't like Briony because she seemed like a snot to me (in retrospect, she totally reminds me of... well, me in high school. So that explains a lot). I also read it when I had the stomach flu and that was a TERRIBLE IDEA. Seriously, do not read this book if you are the slightest bit nauseous. It's like getting punched in the stomach when you read it, and that's on a good, bright sunny day. But I reread it not long ago and realized that it is absolutely genius. And then I saw the movie.

This film is one of those rare, peculiar creatures that sneaks up on you like a stealthy jaguar and then, out of nowhere, tears your heart out and eats it in front of you. It is devastating. And yet I continue to enjoy it greatly. Why? It's one of the best adaptions of a book I've seen. It leaves very little out and does a rather good job expressing action that mainly occurs in the character's heads. Of course, it's impossible to do this perfectly but I think it does it very, very well.
Also,  Joe Wright is a very, very clever director. I had ample things to discuss in my paper with all the camera techniques and details the film contains. I won't throw them all at you (the list I came up with was rather lengthy and I ended up cutting a lot of them out of the paper because otherwise it would have meandered on for over ten pages with me just talking about how windows are used throughout and so on) but I'm going to geek out about some of them. Interwoven into the film is the concept of vision and seeing, of believing one’s eyes and relying on them to discern truth from fiction. Briony Tallis, on the day of a large dinner party celebrating the arrival home of her brother, witnesses an event she does not understand between her sister, Cecilia, and their housekeeper’s son, Robbie. Mistaking the budding romance between Cecilia and Robbie as a threat of sexual mania, Briony accuses Robbie of a crime he didn’t commit and sentences him with the adamant faith Briony has in her own vision ("I saw him. I saw him with my own eyes," Briony repeats over and over, professing her belief in being able to identify Lola's attacker).

I really love the use of lighting; it's toyed with, blinding the viewer at times, illuminating characters in warm halos, and hinting to the presence of camera at times (at the part where Briony finds Lola, a beam of light can be seen focusing on them, coming from behind Briony. The source is not from her flashlight and, as there is no one else at the crime scene, it seems to come from the camera). There are also a plethora of mirrors in this film. Mirrors are generally a reference to the camera in film, but the way Wright uses mirrors is so cool. When Paul Marshall first sees Lola and her brothers, he initially views Lola talking to her brothers as a reflection in a mirror he can see from standing in the hallway outside of the room. The viewer shares this view with him and, as he steps into the room, another mirror can be seen on the wall behind him. Actually, there's just a crapton of mirrors in this room, which is really interesting as this scene is super creepy... for reasons I'll get to shortly.

I am also a huge fan of the the soundtrack used throughout; it's pretty distinct and unconventional when compared to most Hollywood scores. It forms an ominous presence throughout, full of sounds that mimic the clatter of typewriter keys. Heavy, percussive piano and rapid string orchestration also comprise the music and provide an eerie, noticeable presence that helps distance the viewer from the action onscreen. During certain instances, such as Marshall’s arrival at the Tallis house, the music is unusually dark and heavy, providing both a use of foreshadowing narratively and insisting to the viewers to pay attention to what they see with caution and keep a skeptical eye. Also, the inclusion of Debussy's "Clair de Lune" is brilliant and poignant reminder of the losses of war, especially after the sickbed talk with Briony and the French soldier (total tearjerker, trust me).

But perhaps the number one reason this movie is brilliant is how uncomfortable it makes me. Why? Because Paul Marshall is one creepy dude. I would like to take a moment (or twelve) and fansquee over the talent of Mr. Benedict Cumberbatch and his ability in this role to make me absolutely loathe the guts of the character he portrays.

Because, somehow, marvelously, this guy:
(See, I told you, Ashley and Bridget - he is a ginger :D)
Becomes this guy:
This guy is Paul Marshall, and if he had a super power, it would be perfectly personifying the male gaze. Like in the scene where he first speaks to Lola. Though we know little about his character, the way he leers at Lola speaks multitudes. His gaze is eerie, jarring, and uncomfortable, and upon handing Lola a chocolate bar and darkly uttering, “You have to bite it,” the viewer feels a strong urge to look away. And possibly throw things and cringe and cry.
Okay, so apparently I only added this gif because I'm some sort of masochist as just finding this link, downloading it, and adding it in this post caused me to unleash a series of curse words and... well, do this:
It doesn't matter how many times I see this movie, how many times I watch this gif. It is always uncomfortable and disconcerting and I have a really hard time reconciling that this actor is the same one who plays the clever, snarky Sherlock and the sweet, if short lived, William Carey (The Other Boleyn Girl). However, if I wished to deny that this was the same actor, I'd be doing Mr. Cumberbatch a great disservice, because he handles this role with such skill and grace. It could not have been an easy character to portray but he does so with such panache that it makes the film even more of a pleasure to watch. Even if that pleasure involves me cowering in a corner, feeling I shall never trust humanity ever again.

(There are giant spoilers from this point forward. So, if you haven't seen the movie or aren't familiar with the book, please don't blame me for giving away the ending to you).

Marshall’s gaze is important again later in the film, during his marriage scene to Lola. As he and Lola pass by Briony at the back of the church, the couple stare at her in shock. They continue to walk past and, just as they reach the door of the church, Marshall turns back for a double take. Marshall cannot believe his eyes, something the viewer (uncomfortably enough) will come to share with him. By the end of the film, the viewer will be doubting their own vision of the events of the film. (And I will be left wondering if that double take was planned or improvised. Because it's the perfect encapsulation of the film - guessing sight, doubting what you see, looking backwards to understand. It's brilliant.)
Probably the most emotional part of the film for me is the the segment in the television studio where Briony explains that Robbie and Cecilia both died and that the entire scene with them living together is an invention of Briony's mind. In the scene of Briony’s imagining, Robbie calls Briony an “unreliable witness” in reference to her perception of Lola's rape. As the viewer has shared Briony’s perspective for much of the film, they are aligned with her and an become an unreliable witness themselves. They can no longer quite trust in what they have seen and, as the final scene of Robbie and Cecilia on the beach is shown to them, it rings with a melancholy longing provoked by the narrative and also a skepticism in the camera with the impossibilities it reveals. In the end, we are left with Briony's wish to give her sister and Robbie the happiness they did not receive when they were alive. But it does not exactly provide the viewer comfort, as we know this is not real.
I could ramble on about this movie forever - how interesting it is that it uses the theme of a writer crafting a tale to express the narrative of the film (and film-making in general). How the theme of vision is used in so many different ways throughout. How fantastic Saoirse Ronan is as young Briony. But I'll spare you. All I can say is no matter how many times I see this film, its impact grows in magnitude and I end up loving it more and more.

Monday, August 20, 2012

We Stand With You

For me saying this generally isn't a political blog, I'm once again getting rather political. Probably because I attended my first protest on Friday afternoon.

The band, Pussy Riot (
It was small, but it was effective and totally worth attending. On Friday, it was announced that the Russian punk band Pussy Riot had been sentenced for their 40 second protest against Putin in an Orthodox church (called an act of "hooliganism" and "blasphemy") and received two years in a penal colony for their actions. (You can read more about online if you want more info; just Google "Pussy Riot sentencing" and loads of news articles will come up. Or read this blog post.) Here in Minneapolis, a young woman organized a spontaneous protest in response to the extremeness of their sentencing and to spread awareness about the issue. My friend Sarah, who studied in Russia this summer and is headed back this fall for another nine months abroad, found out about the protest and invited me to come along with her and our friend Kelsey. And I couldn't resist.

I'm not unfamiliar with Pussy Riot; I heard about them earlier this year from Sarah, who blogged about them in May, and we discuss Russian politics quite a bit as roommates last year. So naturally I was interested to show my support at the protest. Also, as a feminist, I wanted to show my support of women voicing their opinions against a government that is... shall we say, complicated. And being a writer, I wanted to stand up for free speech. Which is not always such an easy thing to do. In my everyday life, while I decry Archie Bland's editorial and wish fandoms were more careful about their words, I can't deny that they have every right to say what they say. Of course, while I wish people would not say certain things and be intelligent and empathetic enough to know the power of their words, they still have the right to say what they want. There is nothing worse to me than having your voiced silenced or being unable to speak up (and I've had too many instances of this in my life, as mundane as they are compared to the real suppression that occurs elsewhere) and I knew that if I let this opportunity to support such speech go past me, I'd regret it. So protest time it was.

I was pleasantly surprised by how many people knew about the issue (and yet was rather put out when one woman didn't even know who Putin was). We only received one negative comment in my time there (and that was from a woman who was very upset that we had the words "Pussy Riot" in a "family area," as if we had any control over the name of the band. And since when was the Stone Arch Bridge a "family area?" It's a public pedestrian bridge... whatever. Free speech, right? She can say whatever she thinks). We wore face masks like the band does, as you can see from the above pictures, which they wore to show they could be any woman in Russia. And while we stood there over the Mississippi river, it was really cool to think that elsewhere across the world, others were doing exactly the same thing as us.

Protest in London (
So while I continue on my politically ambiguous trek through life, it's nice to know that I can still express my opinions, especially on an issue that is near and dear to my heart. I felt I was also doing some good. As Garry Kasparov said in this op-ed, "If you live in a democracy you have a voice. Do not waste it."

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Clothes May Make a Man, Part II
I had no intention of writing a follow-up to my previous blog post. I was really hoping to get back to finishing my post on Atonement and discuss a couple articles from The Guardian my mom found for me or maybe even dive into the complicated fandom surrounding the Once-ler from The Lorax.

No such luck. Because I found this article. And it got me a bit put out about the universe. (However, I am somewhat gladdened at the fact that the Once-ler still fits into all of this :P)

Of course, I am rather more upset about this article than if it was bashing someone I didn't know much about. But because it's Benedict Cumberbatch, I was rather disheartened. I mean, what has he ever done to anyone? It's not like he's Mark Zuckerberg, who may or may not have stolen his idea for his company from Harvard classmates. It's not like he's Paris Hilton who was born into extreme wealth and hasn't done much other than spend, party, and be an utter twat on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (awkwardest interview ever. Poor Craig). He's not like James Cameron who deep-sea dives in a submarine to the Titanic because he bloody can. He seems like a nice, kind, level-headed guy. Which makes Archie Bland's comments all them more severe.

I think what makes this article utterly offensive and odious is the name-calling. For Christ's sakes, people - it's his birth name. How is making fun of it like Bland not a form of bullying? I rather like this comment that I found at the end of the article:

Wonderfully said, so I'll leave that there. And then I saw another comment, of which I was wondering myself:

Bingo. I have no idea what the salary would be like for a journalist writing for The Independent, but I imagine it's probably rather good. I'm getting the feeling this journalist just enjoys being an internet troll and decided to write an article to do exactly that. So it's probably not worth getting all up at arms with... but I'm still a bit agitated, so I'm going to anyway. :P

This whole bashing, for reasons I talked about before, just simply doesn't do any good, other than making people feel terrible. The writer says Cumberbatch has nothing to complain about and then perfectly illustrates exactly what the problem is. This isn't like claiming reverse racism, which doesn't really make sense because claiming that a minority is suppressing a majority is impossible. But, as the Occupy movement tells us, the wealthy are in the minority (the 1%) and so it seems actually mathematically likely that such prejudice could occur. But because this involves money, it assumed that such people are far better off.

Clearly none of these people listened to the Beatles growing up.

Okay, so OBVIOUSLY having money is a necessity and having more of it provides advantages (paying bills, having health care, a certain sense of security). But it doesn't solve provide everything (happiness, satisfaction, love, cures for ills, you get the idea). It provides the means, but not the ends. And being happy in general is just hard. I think shmem-the-pem on Tumblr sums this up pretty well. But I'm just not the sort of person who puts a lot of faith in money.

I also like what this blogger from the Telegraph has to say about this. In some ways, this is just the reverse of what was said and done towards people in the lower class not so long ago. By trying to flip the script and inverting things, everything just seems... crappy.

What's interesting and bothersome is the degree to which people are upset with this apparent poshness, even (according to one of the commenters) apparently calling for Cumberbatch to change his name. (Nooooo... it's a beautiful, lovely name. Hold on, I need a gif for this...)

I just don't get the extremes Cumberbatch's comments are generating. I mean, in the original article I found this in from the Huffington post (the link actually works now; yay) Cumberbatch mentions that he'd like "to be offered a job as a blokey, Danny Dyer-type character, but it hasn't happened yet." His background seems to lead to sort of typecasting. I get the vibe (and yes, this is only my impression and my opinion - as always) that all he wants is for people to see him as a person, not as pile of cash. Really it doesn't seem too much to ask.

So it would seem the best thing to do in this situation is to ignore the haters and not give a damn. Which another British actor seems to be doing pretty well with:

"What would you like your fans to know?"
"Cinnamon Toast Crunch only has 30 calories a bowl."
Congratulations, sir.  Considering the tabloids are saying this:
I much prefer you telling me that Cinnamon Toast Crunch appears to be a low-calorie cereal. The amount of win in your diversion of George Stephanopoulos' question it amazing. Rock on, British actors. Rock on.

And because I'm in a random mood, I've realized that or some reason, the Google query "erotic hedgehog" led to my blog.

I just... I... ah...


And that was BEFORE I wrote the "sexy versus cute" post. So I have no idea what that's all about. But, for your efforts, dear Googling person, I give you this:
Because I have no idea what you were initially looking for. And that's as close as we're gonna get on here. You're welcome.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Clothes May Make a Man

I've titled this post off a line from a song in The Producers but it's going to take me a bit to get to what initially triggered this bit of randomness. Because, for the umpteenth time on this blog, something from Tumblr instantly relates to something I've written. And once again, it's something Mr. Cumberbatch is said to have... said.

This is getting really weird.

Anyway, the quote I saw mentioned comes from this article in the Telegraph.  Of course, it's an interview and I'm rather wary of interviews these days (looking at you, Daily Mail). Especially as I've seen people say before on Tumblr that Herr Cumberbatch doesn't intend on leaving the UK. Apparently this article went viral earlier today because I originally found it on the Huffington Post and I couldn't get the link to load and the comments on Twitter shown on the bottom of the page were really starting to pile up and people were beginning to comment about it all over Tumblr, debating about whether he's being serious, about whether he's being tongue and cheek, whether this is a misquote... et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Oh, the internet...

 (What did I do before I had this line to express my doubt in internet sources? Really, I love this so much.)

Anyway, I'm not going to ponder whether or not what Cumberbatch is alleged to say is actually what he said and in what sort of tone and so on because why in the world would I know that? (Besides, there's enough people scrutinizing this, I don't need to jump on board and nor do I want to... even though I kind of already have by writing this. Damn) I wouldn't know what he actually said unless I was psychic... which would be terrible for the world. Instead, I'm going to marvel in the weirdness of the publication of this article right after I had my post on wealth and clothing. The universe is a funny, funny place.

And it makes me feel very funny as well. After the post mentioning the Westwood jacket, I feel like a bit of a tool for being wary of expensive clothing. Because, as I was later discussing with one of my friends, if I were wealthy, I'd be buying clothes like that too. The weirdness of it is all rather relative (and partly due to the fact that I'm incredibly cheap). But the fact that I would be somewhat nervous around wealth makes me feel somewhat like a jerk. Especially in light of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
So generally I don't talk much about completely outwardly political things on here (other than feminism, of course). Mainly because that's not the intent of this blog; there a hundreds - nay, thousands - of political blogs out there, especially in regards to the Occupy movement. This is not one of them. Especially as, when it comes to politics, I don't seem to fit with any existent American political party. In general, I actually don't like politics much at all - I care very deeply about the issues but the hullabaloo around it is mostly unhelpful. Politics has become all about telling other people you're right and disagreeing when you think they're wrong and arguing the rest of the time, when trying to see from other points of view and leaving things open for discussion would probably be far more helpful than yelling and name-calling. But in the current political climate, at least in America, having a discussion is nearly impossible. So, today I get to be political despite the little voice in my head calling, "Noooo... this is a terrible're going to piss everyone off." Because that's where discussing politics gets people most of the time.

Yes, thank you for your insight. (
Which is exactly my problem with Occupy movement. There is no room for discussion. The 1% is wrong, the 99% is right, all the complicated nuances going on in both sides and the fact that it completely eliminates the opportunity for one to be in-between the two groups disappears. (Also, I'm rather confused how a group representing those who are out of work and have low-paying jobs could demand that people bring tents to camp out on Peavey Plaza in Minneapolis to protest. Yeah, I'm a college student with a limited income - I definitely own a tent that can withstand cold Minnesota nights.) While I agree that class disparity sucks, I don't think that getting pissed off at people who are wealthy is going to do any good. It's not the people, it's the system. What can you do when your starting salary happens to be high above that of someone else's? Are you going to refuse it and demand to be paid less? Probably not. I wouldn't. Money is a sign of success in our culture and that's going to take more than demanding equal distribution of wealth to overcome. Because as long as we still have concepts of wealth, I don't think moving money around is going to help much.
Of course, this is just my opinion and it has certain weaknesses. But I just don't think getting enraged at the wealthy is going to do any good. It certainly doesn't do any good for me. Because I'm probably one of the 1% myself. I don't have to pay for my college education - my parents are paying, because they set up an account for me when I was really young so I wouldn't have to worry about student loans. Yes, I am incredibly fortunate for that and I am thankful for it every day, but I've gotten some snotty reactions from fellow college students about it that are not as fortunate as myself. I don't like that I'm being criticized for something I didn't do; I didn't even know I had the college account until a few years ago, when I started school. It's not like I rub it in other people's faces. It's not like I suddenly have it easy because I don't have to pay tuition (dear God, why are psych textbooks so expensive? Why is rent so expensive? Why is milk so expensive?!). It really isolates me from my fellow students when suddenly they view me differently because of my monetary standing. But it gets weirder for me. My grandfather (who died before I was born) used to work for the county REMC, the electric company for rural areas in Indiana, and used to climb telephone poles year around to fix electric lines; quintessential blue-collar work there. My great-grandparents were Italian immigrants. My parents didn't have a lot of money when I was growing up - it's not like we had serious financial issues by any means, but there was a definite presence of fiscal conservativeness in my younger years. And by tossing me in with either the 1% or the 99%, my experiences are blurred into extremes. It divides where I've come from with where I am, and divides me from others, by forcing me to choose extremes, rather finding what I have in common with other people. I feel like we should be bringing people together, while the Occupy movement is simply driving people farther apart.

So if you're still reading and haven't decided that I'm either a Communist or a bourgeoisie pig, congratulations. You stuck it through that little soap box and I appreciate it. But I feel like I need that background on the Occupy movement and my opinion on it to illustrate why I'm interested in this article from the Telegraph. Being a college student at a liberal state school in a big city gets a lot of influence from position like these. And so this has weighed heavily in my mind over the last year and a half or so.
I have one more random antidote to suffer you through before getting back to where I started. And that is the very peculiar dream I had after writing the post on the Westwood jacket. I dreamt that, for reasons unbeknownst to me, the actor Daniel Day-Lewis had suddenly decided that he was going to refuse to take the salary offered to him in the next film he was acting in. This was probably influenced in some way by the mention in my cinema class after watching My Beautiful Laundrette that Daniel Day-Lewis actually taken time off to become a cobbler in Italy for a while and had to be persuaded to come back to work in Gangs of New York (found mention of this under the trivia section of his IMDb bio, so might be legit). Somehow my addled subconscious got a hold of this and warped it after writing about celebrity wealth.

So with all of this weirdness in my head, I stumbled across the Telegraph article today and thought, "Shit." Really, if I think the distinction between social standing is bad in the States, a place where class standing is expressed differently, I can't imagine how pronounced it must be in the UK. Britain has often been perceived as a clearly class-based society. Writers like Charles Dickens, William Makepeace Thackery, Charlotte Bronte, and Ford Madox Ford show this prominently in their writing and... well, it's what we learn a lot about in Cultural Studies. And so this shouldn't surprise me if this is such a problem.

But the aggressiveness and the timing of all this surprises me. It seems like now that Cumberbatch is famous, it's a bigger deal that he also went to private - I mean public - I mean private school. Because now he's wealthy and had a privileged background and so on and so forth. As if that was his fault and something to be blamed for.

*sigh* This is why I don't like this crap. Blaming people because they have a different background than someone else. Because they had certain "advantages" and therefore deserve to be punished for them or something. Somehow, I fail to see how treating people who have had more "privileged" or wealthier upbringings or showing a prejudice towards them is any different than showing that sort of prejudice towards people with poorer upbringings. You know, if people hadn't mentioned online that Cumberbatch had attended a private... a school that costs money to attend (really, what is with this total backward meaning of public school between the US and the UK? It's a major pet peeve of mine) and that people teased him for going to "Hogwarts," I seriously would have had no idea that was the case.

And really, what does it matter? When it comes to acting, backgrounds vary dramatically. Tom Cruise initially was enrolled in seminary school. Kristen Stewart and Kate Winslet were both child actors. Brad Pitt dressed up like a chicken selling Mexican food until he got his break (no, seriously, he did). Acting might be one of the few careers where having training isn't always necessary. Not to impugn Mr. Cumberbatch's work by any means of course, but classical training doesn't mean instant success - what matters is the what you do with the training.

And of course, there's the issue of the salary, as my weird Daniel Day-Lewis dream highlighted. Actors get paid a crap-ton of money. But would I refuse that salary if it was offered to me? Nope, probably not. Is it their fault that they get offered such high sums? (And may I note that American's two highest paid actors - Tom Cruise and Kristen Stewart - happen to have far different training than Benedict Cumberbatch?) It also doesn't help anyone either that the media is intent on focusing on the glamour and expensive lifestyles of celebrities and reacts in shock when they're buying eggs in a grocery store or walking around in sweatpants. And there was some freak-out on Entertainment Tonight the other day about some celebrity wearing clothes from Kohls, a department store, and I just sighed.

And now we're back where this post initially began. To think this started out as a post about clothing...

I was having a text conversation with my friend Ashley the other day about wearing nice clothes to boost confidence. Which led to a long philosophizing on style and appearance in reference to people we know who don't dress that well and act odd about people who do dress up. For instance, I said an acquaintance of ours, "always calls me a hipster in a backhanded way and I just ignore it as best I can" and "does this whole 'dressing nice is so bourgeoisie' thing that makes me feel like a jerk." And the rest of the conversation went something like this:
Ashley: Everyone can find clothes that look great on them and they don't have to cost a lot of money. It just takes more work for some people than others…
I am mean when it comes to people I don't like though. It's my brainwashed "woman" side coming out or something…
Me: That's ok. I find it really hard to treat people I'm mad at nicely. I'm friendlier with perfect strangers :P
Ashley: Sorry about the clothes rant. I've been watching too much What Not to Wear* this summer and they're all "what you wear should reflect who you are on the inside"
Me: It's fine. I love what not to wear. Most of the time they're really nice about advice. I just feel like clothing is a way to respect your body and show you care about it (as nudity is frowned upon in this establishment :D) thus people don't have to be fashion geniuses but trying and caring is important. It isn't a monetary statement but a show of respect for yourself (end of my philosophy of clothes)
Ashley: That's exactly how I feel. Yea, people don't always know what looks good on them, but your clothes should make you happy when you put them on. Otherwise, why are you wasting money on them anyways?
Me: Exactly! I 100% agree!
Ashley: See, I always like your clothes because when you wear them, you look so confident and happy!
Me: Aww thanks! That's what I try to do and I'm glad it's working!
* What Not to Wear is a sort of fashion reality show where two experts are brought in to throw out the entire closet of a person who has a very questionable wardrobe and helps them to find clothes that look good on them and make them feel good about themselves.
And thus you have it - my philosophy of clothes. This is one thing I like about What Not to Wear - it's not about wearing clothes to express class or status or to show you can afford a Gucci handbag or whatever - it's about buying things you like because they make you feel good about yourself and express who you are. In a world that's so image conscious and appearance focused, it's a way of keeping tabs on who you are amongst mass-produced clothes and reclaiming uniqueness amongst certain fashions that seem focused on sameness. It's compromising between what society wants us to be and what we want for ourselves. Which is why if people actually enjoy wearing Crocs, then I'm not going to stop them. And it's why I hate it when people say you can't wear denim on denim - if you are happy wearing denim on denim, wear denim on denim. It isn't about the money. I buy a ton of my clothes second hand and I apparently look decent.
But then I thought about something else - men's fashion. It's not exactly easy for men to buy nice clothes at resale shops. I mean, I've seen my friend Kevin's polo shirts after he's had them for a year - they wear out really fast and get holes where they rub against belt buckles and these are Hollister polos. Not exactly a cheap store. And considering Kevin is like 6'3" or some crap like that (weird, tall people :P) his clothes probably wear out faster from twisting and turning and ducking under things (while I just trod on the hem of my own jeans and that's the only part of my clothes that actually tend to wear out fast). But I've looked at men's clothes (okay, I have a thing for three piece suits. I can't help it) and they are not cheap. And if they are cheap... it utterly shows. Which is probably why men rarely wear suits to work now - they are pricey (and overly formal. And probably really warm. But look at Gatiss over there! With the vest and the pocket watch and the...ugh. Sorry, I'll shut up).

Also another draw back for men: unbeknownst to me, apparently they have to care about money more. We discussed this quite a bit in my psych class this summer. There is an expectation that men are meant to be well-off and have a good career and money in order to support a family. This is less of an issue for women because men are expected to be the bread winners and women are supposed to rely on men (yay patriarchy). There's this pressure for men to have high-earning careers and be well-off to entice women. Which is something that for women seems to be a total non-issue.

That kind of sucks, guys. That really kind of sucks. You have to have money to impress. But if you have too much, you're criticized for it. If you don't have money, you can't make the same impression with either your suit or your reputation or your freaking business cards. Which makes me think of this scene from American Psycho:


Well, no happy, neat bow-tie ending tonight. Alas. Better luck next time.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Rupert Graves is dreamy... and good at football

If ever I say again that I don't care about appearances, remind me that this is why I am an absolute liar:

Yep. I am a tremendous liar. And for that I'm very, very sorry.

This has been a post about nothing but Rupert Graves. You're welcome.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Two for Tea

My brain is doing weird things again. Weird academic things. Well, it's always doing weird academic things, relentlessly, to the point of me wondering if I'm not actually becoming some sort of Sherlock-esque blogger who sees their work everywhere and never can get their brain to take a day off. It's not necessarily a bad thing. It's just... weird.

Especially when I'm sitting in class, talking about the distinctions between elite, mass, and popular culture and a quote from Robert Downey Jr. pops into my head (which I'm remembering from this Tumblr post):
“This is probably going to get quoted in every publication just because I said it. And I’m not even saying anything. I’m not talking about my films, I’m not talking about my life, and I’m not talking about the world. And yet, the media will print it simply because I said it. And at this moment in time, I bet there is an artist around the corner of this hotel, on the street, with a mind far beyond ours, but we will never listen to him simply because he has not appeared in a movie. And that is what is fucked up about our culture.
(Okay, so I feel kind of weird quoting RD Jr on a quote in which he says, "Everyone's going to quote me on this." But he said it and I didn't so... gotta give cred, bro. Otherwise it's plagiarism... right?)

I thought of this because we were discussing how films fit different categories of culture - elite and mass. Mass culture is what we usually call pop culture (though popular culture is actually, according to cultural studies terms, not common and probably non-existent thanks to the existence of Ideology) and comprised of things like Hollywood blockbusters, prime time television,  and Furbys.
So I don't know if these were sold anywhere outside of the United States, but these creepy little toys are called Furbys and they were, for some godforsaken reason, very popular in the 1990s. I never had one because I thought it looked like a soul-stealing gremlin but a bunch of people had them at my school. Did I mention that they were supposed to echo your speech and learn phrases from you, like a furry little robot that was going to take over the world? Man, the 90s were weird...

But back to culture distinctions. Mass culture is pretty straightforward. Elite considers itself "high art for an enlightened minority." Think art house films, certain kinds of modern art, and yuppies eating muffins and drinking organic coffee while watching art house films and looking at certain kinds of modern art (FYI, this is me way more often then I'd like to admit).

Most of the time, we're caught between making art that's considered elite or mass. Popular art is very hard to make (and like I said before, probably impossible to get at due to Ideology) because it requires people to just make art, not because they need to for money and not as a hobby (as that implies they have a "real" job that earns them money), to not distinguish between producer and consumer, and to avoid defining people by what they do - instead, they just do it.

We were discussing how certain films (The Battle of Algiers was the one we watched) uses non-professional actors to keep the focus on the issues the film deals with rather than on celebrity associations with big-named actors. This got us into a conversation, stemming from discussions of mass culture, about why we use big-name actors in the first place. And thus my brain went instantly to Robert Downey Jr's quote.
Acting is very, very strange. Think about it - a bunch of people pretend to be other people (something, it could be argued, people do regardless, everyday) and some people are in the news all the time for acting, while others will never be recognized for it. Acting, at its core, is very, very simple. I mean, as a little kid, I used to play make-believe and dress-up all the time (admittedly by myself because I'm an only child and rarely lived in neighborhoods with kids my own age). But I think my mind approached things very differently as a kid interested in writing than perhaps a kid who would go on to do acting (not that it kept me from trying; I once thought I was destined to be an actress - maybe it's better for the world that didn't work out). I was always better at describing things in my head with words and images and ideas whereas acting requires that sort of description to come through in voice and actions and body language. To me, acting has always followed a parallel with writing, which makes sense - in our way of making films and plays and shows, writers and actors work off of each other. And yet I have favorite actors, but I can't say I have a favorite screenwriter. Even novelists, who tend to be the most noticed writers usually don't have the same fame that actors have. Generally they can leave the house to buy an avocado without being bombarded by a swarm of screaming fans.

Which then caused me to arrive at a different idea: why do we hold actors in such esteem? I mean, obviously what they do does take a lot of skill and its mind-blowingly impressive. But why do we have favorite actors? I mean, it's not like I write blog posts about my favorite plumber (but man, I should. Plumbers are AMAZING). The whole fascination with acting is bizarre. Especially the stratification that come with it. In what other career (except in probably music) do people regard you as a higher being, better than the common person, like gentry amongst the peasantry? I've described it before as actors taking the place for this sort of yearning we have for royalty in America and, perhaps in some ways, a desire to marry royalty. But really, what does it all come down to? Money.

I am of the sound mind that money is an entirely ridiculous concept. Little pieces of paper that are worth certain amounts based on current exchange rates based on our economy compared to others, all which only has meaning because we decided that this shiny stuff called gold was worth some serious value? Absurd. However, I also know too well that I need money in order to have any sort of perceived success in life and, more importantly, to keep from starving and freezing to death. I want to not care about money, but that's utterly impossible. And thus, like many other twenty-somethings, I find myself thinking about wealth. And wealth and fame - as the two are often described as going hand in hand.
This is all very interesting after having just finished reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. A beautiful little book focused more on characterization than plot, it follows the storyline of two characters - Renée, the concierge of a wealthy Parisian apartment building, and Paloma, a twelve-year old genius who lives there with her family. Renée has tried for years to conceal the fact that she reads Tolstoy and is very intelligent from her high class tenants, afraid that destroying their perceptions of a typical concierge will cause hostility from them. The tenants ignore her and "when people walk by her, all they see is a void, because she is not from their world" (145). It surprised me how prevalent the divisions between class were in this book, given it was published in France in 2006. Perhaps France really is that divided by class; I don't know, I've sadly never been there. But at least to me as an American who's  aware of class here in the States even though it's much more muted, I found it really poignant and yet distressing. Renée is reluctant to begin a friendship/relationship with the new tenant in her building, a man named Kakuro. Though they have much in common, Renée feels they cannot truly be friends because too much divides them - she is low-class, he is wealthy. They are from two different spheres in her mind and this cannot be changed.

As my brain's been doing weird things, I began thinking about this in terms of celebrity culture. This is generally the vibe I get from people talking about celebrities - that they're in another sphere from them, they could never, ever meet them because there's 7 billion people in the world and they don't inhabit the same locales they do. Which reminded me of this Tumblr post:

I can understand this, to a point. I grew up in Indiana. The coolest thing there, aside from Indianapolis and the universities, are a lot of cornfields. A LOT. (Indiana, I love you, but you used a cornfield as the background of your license plates for cars. You're playing up your own stereotype; c'mon guys.) But on the other hand, I feel like this comes from a sense that some places are prioritized over others. I've lived in the Midwestern United States my entire life and am no stranger to the concept of "flyover country," the idea that everything between LA and New York doesn't matter. Most of the time, this is an unfair stereotype of East and West Coasters. Sometimes, people actually act like everyone not from New York or LA is uncivilized. And because this exists, people start worrying that the Midwest is actually that uncool.

Which is total crap. Minnesota is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. Wisconsin's great too (especially around the Great Lakes). Missouri is wonderful (especially the Hill District). But LA does have the film industry and that's why actors are there and not out here. There are certain places to work to make it big, and those places happen to be LA and New York, and thus actors aren't here because the work is different - there's less money to be had.

Of course, we're thinking about certain kinds of actors - famous ones, the recognized ones RD Jr is referring to. There are a lot of actors in the Midwest, especially in Minneapolis and Chicago. There are a lot of community theaters here too and I've seen some really wonderful productions from them. But that's the point RD Jr is making - these aren't the sort of actors we think of. We respect and admire famous actors more than the people in our local communities. Why that is comes from a lot of things. Famous actors make more money, appear more successful, are perhaps more talented. They are under certified scrutiny and have thus succeeded in a way unknown actors haven't because they have been weighed and measured and found promising by the media. And thus they find a sort of success others don't.

This puts me in a very complicated as a fansquee (yes, I'm adopting this word now. The more I use this term, the more I like it and, for the greater good of the world, I'm using it. Reasons for why can be found here. Any confusion that arises from using it... Oh well. Confusion can be good). I really, really like famous actors. If it's not apparent by now that I really admire Cumberbatch and Freeman, you must be new here (and hello!). And I feel I have every reason to admire these two, along with a gaggle of others: they're clever, hard-working, humble, talented... I could go on, but I'll refrain from the long list of praising attributes I could come up with.

But then there's people like Kristen Stewart.
I confess: I cannot stand her. Not because she was in Twilight (that's just unfortunate). Not because I know anything about her personally (I really don't know a thing; I haven't seen much in the way of interviews with her and the ones I have seen have been... let's go with unhelpful). Not even because she cheated on Robert Pattinson (although, Mr. Pattinson, that totally sucks. I'm sorry). No, I don't like Kristen Stewart because I hate her style of acting.

One could argue that she isn't actually acting. But, because I don't know anything about her other than what I see onscreen, I can't make that claim. All I know is that when I see her assume a character, I can clearly tell she's acting. Not in a "I'm non-professional and haven't done this before" kind of way but more like I can see all the director's instructions written across her face, like she's been told what to do but it doesn't sink in any deeper. It's like looking at the floor of a theater and seeing all the marks used to show actors where to stand, and not because she wants us to know she's acting but more out of carelessness. This probably sounds uncommonly cruel and I don't mean it to be. It's perhaps a matter of taste. But she is also the most highly paid actress in Hollywood. And as I happen to find her style far less satisfactory and achievement-worthy than say someone like Mr. Cumberbatch or Mr. Downey Jr., Ms. Stewart continues to bother me.

And since this post is meandering on forever and I haven't even gotten to the stream of thought that prompted the title, I might as well take another detour. Who's to say that one form of acting is better than another? Who is allowed to have that authority? Theater critics? Other actors? Viewers? Peanut galleries such as myself? Do I perceive Kristen Stewart as a bad actress because she actually is bad or because we have a certain idea of what good is and she simply doesn't fit my definition of if? Is acting all a matter of taste or is there really a proper way to do it? Does bad acting remind us more that we're simply watching a representation of a character onscreen more? Can this be better achieved by good acting? Is it up to acting to remind us that we're watching a film? What IS the goal of acting?

I need to bring this gif back...


Before I get too far down the dark, scary road of metaphysics and phenomenology or anything of that nature (which is currently where I feel like I'm headed), I'm going to reroute myself to "simpler" thing. Meaning things I could at least discuss without my head exploding.

Amongst all of this thinking about acting, fame, and money, I began contemplating a very strange thing: how isolating fame can be. The general line of thought is that because one is famous, everyone knows and loves you. That's generally why most people want to be famous. It is, of course, not so simple. And this really came to light when I read a Franz Kafka story for class last spring.
The story in question happens to be "Josephine the Singer, or the Mouse Folk." It's a fantastic little tale about Josephine, a singer (obviously) amongst a society of mice. She's the quintessential diva, expecting all mice to stop their work and pay attention when she sings. And if they don't, she has a little hissy fit and stamps her feet until they do as bid. She sees herself as separate from the rest of the mice, too frail to do work and unable to, as it will damage her art. While the other mice "pipe" and it is considered common place, what she does she marks as far different, a higher art form, music as apposed to common noise. Most of all, what she wants is "public, ambiguous, permanent recognition of her art, going far beyond any precedent so far known" (246). Her music is meant to bring the community together. But as an artists, she separates herself from the community, standing "almost outside the law, that she can do what she pleases, at the risk of actually endangering the community, and will be forgiven for everything" (244). While separating herself seems to give her a greater power, it comes with the price of distancing herself from her own fans, her own people.

Sound familiar?

I've prattled on before about the distancing that comes from being a celebrity. I mean, when our magazines come up with stories like this, we sort of have a problem:

(Ok, so you should check out the Tumblr post this comes from because the gifs someone added in as a reaction are fantastic.) Wow... celebrities use baskets. This just in: celebrities breath oxygen and eat food too.
I know, Sherlock it's totally mind-blowing! Actors are human beings? My God, I thought they were dinosaurs.

Sarcasm aside, this really bothers me. A lot. Way more than it should for a random, blogging college student who has had zero interaction with celebrities. But it does. People who meet celebrities apparently get criticized for not being their biggest fans and having conversations with them (so what, she's a Twilight fan and therefore isn't allowed to hang out with Cumberbatch? What crap. I would hang out with Robert Pattinson if I had the chance. He makes fun of himself for playing Edward Cullen. And saves snails (Snail talk begins around 3:11, if you watch the video). Therefore he is awesome.) (And honestly, I will pretty much talk to anyone these days. I listened to someone talk about cement dome houses for over an hour at a wedding reception. Not to impugn Robert Pattinson as an interesting conversationalist; I guarantee he is far more interesting than cement domes.) Despite my fansquee nature, I'd like to think I could revere an actor and yet still talk to them without treating them like a rare breed of Alaskan muskrat or something.

But then I remember what, in part, freaks people out about celebrities: money. Because people with high levels of wealth get treated differently. And lots of money tends to freak people out.

Example: I was at the Mall of America with my friend Kevin a couple of weeks ago. We were in Nordstroms, looking at clothing we could not possibly afford. I found a woman's leather jacket I thought was cool and pulled the hanger out to get a look at it. And then I saw the price tag and almost died.

So you can't see the jacket in these photos Kevin took, but that's irrelevant. What you can see is me holding the price tag and trying not to freak out (especially as a clerk had just come by moments before and asked if we needed any help). $995 for a coat. From a girl who shops at H&M and Target and at second hand boutiques, and, when she's being spendy, Macy's, this is an unfathomable amount of money. 

And a few days later I saw this Tumblr post about a jacket Senore Cumberbatch has been known to wear. Someone tracked it down, found out it was Westwood, and decided to share the price with the Tumblr fandom. In case, you know, you feel like dressing yourself or someone you know like Benedict Cumberbatch (maybe kind of creepy but that's a topic for another time). 

But it's £817 ($1,094).
Goddammit. All my good intentions of thinking I wouldn't be freaking out are gone. Because if someone is standing next to me wearing a coat that costs more than the monthly rent of my apartment, I'm going to be freaking out. Not because they're a famous celebrity, not because I'm shocked that, somehow, out of the 7 billion people in the world, I'm fortunate enough to encounter them, but because I'm astonished that people can walk around in a coat that price and not be terrified of getting anything on it or having it destroyed or ripped off their back and sold on eBay.

Which is really a rather silly thing to be worried about. Because I didn't care until I knew how much the coat costs. Which seems like a pointless thing to care about. If appearances don't matter and I don't care about money, then clearly I shouldn't care about the price of someone's clothing. And yet once I know, things are suddenly more complicated. And hence my weird feelings about money.
I think this is what really drives our division between celebrities and everyone else, between famous actors and unknowns, between people we'd hang out with and people we'd freak out upon meeting: money. Money and the acquisition of it, along with fame, changes everything.

I don't know what I'm prattling on about here. I only have thoughts, not answers. I'm not calling for the dissolution of a monetary society or anything like that. Our idea of earnings go much deeper than just paper and gold. It's an idea of having earnings that we cling to and one that can't just be easily erased. As long as we see work being worth something, and certain types of work worth more than others, then this is how things are. It's not the most terrible, awful thing in existence, but it's rather bad at times. In short, it's complicated.

So of course I have no answer to this predicament. Nor should I; it's not something easily solved and I'm not authority on the matter. I'm not a political science major or an economist or a philosopher or a Marxist; I'm just a bizarre fangirl making things awfully complicated and confusing. Yay!
But this whole post began with one initial thought surrounding the RD Jr quote - there are actors that are famous and there are those that are not. But I'd like to treat them the same, with equal respect that they deserve, that anyone deserves. I'd like to be the sort of person who'd have coffee with any sort of artist - Richard Branson, the beat poet next door, U2, that person who knits little scarfs for the lampposts around campus, the guy who plays the violin on the Washington Avenue bridge every fall; seriously, anyone. But then I decided that "having coffee" didn't fit the right connotations to me (mainly because I was still thinking of yuppies eating muffins, drinking coffee and watching art house films). So then I thought about my preferred beverage: tea. I've just finished reading Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett and I came across this quote in it: "Tea was an amazingly useful thing. It gave you an excuse to talk to anyone" (235). And I realized, that was it. Tea. Tea is an amazingly universal beverage. Not everyone may like it, but it serves some important function in most cultures. And these days, it seems rather simple and humble compared to coffee (especially compared to those complicated concoctions you can get from Starbucks).

I'd like to be able to invite artist to tea, regardless of career, status, intellect, etc. I'd like to be able to invite Academy-award winning actors to tea without having to worry about not being impressive enough or interesting enough. I'd like to actually believe that we as a society can treat celebrities as equal instead of putting them at a lofty height and isolating them at the same time. I'd like to think that thinking this way would start to ease some pretty big divides. Because it's just two people, having a chat over tea. What's more simple than that? 

Citations from:
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. Translated by Alison Anderson. Europa Editions 2008.
"Josephine the Singer, or the Mouse Folk" by Franz Kafka. Unknown Edition.
Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett. HarperCollins 2003.