The Shape of Fish Sex

nfjrytqo5bjnhfuf1jmc

It’s the day after the Oscars. The day everyone loses all motivation to watch all movies that have been nominated for Best Picture. There’s nothing to win anymore. Last week they were all stars, shining equally bright in your Watchlist. I want to see The Post. I want to see Darkest Hour. Give me an empty cinema, a soda with infinite refills and enough candy to have some fun. Give me 20 hours to watch all Best Picture nominations. I was so depressed that I couldn’t share the fun with the rest of the world tonight. I went to sleep and all options were open. Could Lady Bird have been the brightest star in the Hollywood skies? Would a female director walk away with so many awards in her hand she couldn’t carry them anymore? I was so rooting for her. I had no idea who would win the Academy Award for Best Picture so when I woke up this morning to the news that The Shape Of Water showered in Oscar glory all night, I had to rethink the movie and I had to reconsider what it means that this was chosen as the Best Picture. 

What does it tell you that no one bats an eye when a woman has sex with a fish? It seems I have seen a complete different movie than everyone else. I could sugarcoat it, sell this story the same way the media has by making sure everyone understands that it’s a modern fairytale. But I’m not buying it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate this movie. I’m not here to bash it. It’s a beautiful movie. The premise is beautiful. But I have an issue with something that reveals itself to have deeper layers if you peel off the surface. And that’s how women are still disadvantaged before and behind the camera. Directors get away with all kinds of weird for the sake of art. I get it. Art is weird. There are no rules when it comes to art. And to a degree, I stand behind that.

But WHY do male directors feel the need to make their actresses strip for irrelevant shots of 3 seconds. We see Sally Hawkins several times in the bath tub completely naked pleasing herself. Nothing wrong with a little self-love. Yet we’re still presented with the male gaze. Too many times there are completely irrelevant shots of naked women committing sexual acts mimicking a soft porn. In a world where men have used female sexuality against them and have used it to reduce us to lust objects, I have a problem with these things. They remind you of the dark reality that still creeps its way into everyday life. But I didn’t have a problem with the masturbation scene an sich. Only when it’s paired with a scene where this same woman has sex with an amphibian, I take issue with it. And let that be the exact case. I loooved the movie. But thát scene weirded me out. and in the end, it was completely unnesessary. Sex was used to show romantic intimacy between the fish & Eliza (Hawkins). It makes me wonder. Could the point of intimacy and love and unconditional acceptance not have been made any other way? It always feels like some weird fetish satisfaction. The issue is here that female sexuality tends to be exploited in some niche arthouse movies and no one bats an eye because art is always an excuse, and so allegory. You can literally get away with anything if you just say it’s a metaphor.

The story of The Shape Of Water is about outcasts. People who are not accepted because they do not adhere to the norms accepted by society. Eliza is mute. Her neighbor is gay. The Amphibian Man is .. a fucking Amphibian. Zelda (Octavia Spencer) is black (note that the movie was set in another time). Eliza finds connection in someone who will never belong, just like her. He doesn’t see her ‘disability’. He sees her for her. And that’s a beautiful premise. Nothing better than a love story in which two people can accept each other for who and what they are. It’s sweet. She feels the need to save him so he saves her. But they’ll never be saved. They’ll never be part of the normal world. In many movies, the main heroes adapt to what society wants of them and suddenly they’re happy. Being like everyone is the magical cure. Fuck that.

[spoiler alert] at the end, Eliza dies (what a surprise) and is revived by Amphibian Man where her scars are turned into gills. They can finally be together. I thought it’s a cute ending. Could the sex not have occurred then? She’d be half-fish, it would make more sense! Still would be gross!

The Academy Awards has always been a political event. You’ll turn it on and you’ll be mesmerized by the beautiful gowns and tuxedos of all the gorgeous movie actors & actresses that received that special invitation. You stay because you’re kinda curious what happens. You remember seeing one or two movies that have been nominated so who knows, they might win a prize and then you can brag that you’ve seen that movie. You’d be like so hip. All those other losers will only watch that movie after it’s won. That’s so cliché. But wait, your favorite movie didn’t win. Another movie did. And you go online to find out why, and you find out it’s because of race or sex. and then anger gets the best of you. You’ll start tweeting shit like #OscarSoWhite and suddenly there’s much more at stake than an evening spent in front of the tv. And I applaud everyone who stands up for injustices. Especially for events like these. Events that are bigger than life, admired by people all around the world. Yet all the beautiful faces in front of the tv are not represented in the Academy. The Academy consists for the large majority out of white men. And that shows in the results. I was disappointed that Greta Gerwig didn’t go home with anything. But maybe someday the male gaze will not be so prominent in the pictures anymore and women are seen for what they really are: as directors and as actresses. Sexuality doesn’t need to equal agency.

Advertisements

mother! – an alternative analysis

7 years after Aronofsky’s magnus opus Black Swan hit the screen, Aronofsky’s highly controversial movie mother! is now screening in every major cinema in the country. Naturally, with my Unlimited card, I had no choice but to go see it. Black Swan is in my top 10 greatest movies of all time so my heart beat faster when I saw the trailer ending with ‘from the maker of black swan and requiem for a dream’ (which I still have to see).

I was following Metacritic and RT for a while and I was hoping that it would break records because the premise sounded interesting. I had no idea what to expect but Javier Bardem (in one of my top 10 movies as well; Vicky Cristina Barcelona) and Jennifer Lawrence were starring and they are both amazing.

I decided to steer away from the opinions surrounding the movie and its meaning. It was said to be a highly allegorical movie which Christian themes and my knowledge on the Bible is very limited. So I didn’t expect to ‘get’ the movie right away. I went to see it and formulated my opinion while watching it and then decided to look up Aronofsky’s intentions. In hindsight, they were pretty clear. I knew that Javier was supposed to be God. They made no secret of that. I also knew that the baby was supposed to be baby Jesus (I almost expected Javier to straight up tell her ‘let’s call him Jesus’ with his Spanish accent since y’know, it’s a very common name in Spanish speaking countries). But no one had names so it wouldn’t make sense either way.

I will not lay down the entire plot of the movie and discuss it from start to finish, I will pick some scenes and plots and allegories and symbols and first show my pure feminist analysis that is not directly related to what Aronofsky is trying to show with this movie (Genesis, basically). Later on I will set out how the feminist themes can be interwoven in the Genesis story and how they correlate.

In short, I found an interesting unique perspective in the movie as the experience of a woman in today’s society. It feels like we are constantly screaming for help but no one hears us. We feel disorientated and no matter how hard we scream and how much we try to get it all out of our house, men don’t take our problems as serious and completely disregard our requests. Jennifer keeps asking Javier to send the people out but he ignores her requests all the time. In the end, they are shooting people and the woman is giving birth and yet he does not allow her to have peace in her own house. He could prevent all the misery that happened to her by just listening to her wishes (sending the people away), but he doesn’t so she gets accosted in her own home and her baby gets brutally killed.

It also symbolizes how wives literally ‘make the home’ of the husbands (the woman is rebuilding the house of her husband from scratch), but yet get no appreciation and generally get taken for granted. She asks him countless of time ‘why am I not enough for you?’ No matter what some wives do for their husband, it can never be enough.

When Ed Harris’ character enters the house and Javier’s character tells him that she rebuild the house he tells her ‘so she’s not just a pretty face’. Every woman in the cinema could relate to that comment. The second we do anything that takes any effort, men act so damn impressed like damn I didn’t knew women were capable of doing stuff. It seems like a lighthearted funny comment but it also showcases inner misogynism. Now for more misogynism; Jennifer’s character gets harassed continually in her own home. One guy goes as far as calling her a stupid cunt for not giving him her phone number even though they literally just met and she’s married and he’s generally being a douche. It had no place to really be there because it added nothing to the mother earth allegory and symbolism; it had to be a sneer to the way men treat women. Also when the sons of Ed & Michelle’s characters enter the scene, one of them quickly makes a remark towards Jennifer’s character too (something about her butt being a good view). Seriously dude. Do not harass a woman and especially not in her own home. This represents that even in a place where they feel like home (college campuses, their hometown, even their literal home, women cannot seem to escape creepy comments that are borderline harassment).

Throughout the movie, we feel the woman’s agony and anxiety. She just wants to be left the fuck alone with her husband but he keeps inviting people in, deeper reinforcing her belief that she’s not enough for him. He’s trying to find inspiration in life and death because he’s a writer with a writer’s block (God was a poet! I always knew it).

Now to be fair, the problems don’t only come from men. Pfeifer’s character runs her mouth a little too much too. Shaming her for wearing nonsexy underwear and pressuring her into having a baby because ‘youre not gonna be young forever’. Reinforcing the stigma around women who do not have babies. Problems that women deal with do not just come from standards set by men, but also other women.

Bardem’s character was hailed as a prophet because he was literally God. But aside from that; while Bardem was being hailed, Jennifer’s character was always in the background not being taken into consideration (except for Wiig’s character who keeps referring to her as ‘inspiration’). Fair enough, Bardem’s character was actually the one with the career so it wouldn’t make sense for Jennifer’s character to be treated as a prophetess but if you parallel it to how women and women get treated for the same accomplishments it kinda hit home.

When a man is harassing Jennifer’s character and leaving her crying and screaming and while they also literally killed her baby, Bardem comes along and tells her to ‘forgive’. ‘we must always forgive’. Well, that is something God would say, right? But it is also allegorical for how society sometimes fails to take (attempted) rape and harassment seriously (just leave it be if you weren’t hurt. no reason to get riled up! just forgive and forget).

Now at the end of the movie while Jennifer’s character self-destructs and everyone around her, her husband rips her heart out and keeps the stone as a trophy (allegorical for trophy wife?) and starts over with a new wife who conveniently looks almost the same.

Now, there is no denying that the movie is about Genesis and Bardem’s character is God, Lawrence is mother earth, Harris is Adam and Michelle is Eve. Their sons are Abel and Cain and all the unwanted guests are God’s creations who end up destroying the world. And the end signifies God wanting to start over and hope for the best. Since the movie is so allegorical, people have found very polarizing interpretations in it. Aronofsky has expressed his intentions so the ‘real’ meaning is out there but the beauty of film is also that people can still look at their own interpretation and stay with it. When a movie is really chewed out for you with a clear structure and dialogue that explains what’s gonna happen and why it is happening second for second, it’s another story. But in this case, he is promoting people to find their own interpretation too (but maybe not as much as Lynch tends to). Interpretations apart from the intended one could be the one I highlighted above, but that can also be narrowed down to the problems within marriages (men not looking out for their wives and disregarding them, not appreciating them), an artist’s narcissism (nothing is ever enough for him and he rips peoples heart out for his own gain). I mean, Bardem’s God was literally a narcissist.

I still think that even within the Genesis theme of the movie, a quick snark to the treatment of woman in general is juxtaposed with the treatment of (mother) earth. Men corrupt women; mankind corrupts the earth. Because near the end of the movie, when mother earth is fed up with everyone around her and tries to stab them, they kick her while she’s down and call her every term that woman have to deal with ‘slut, cunt, bitch, whore’ and as far as I know, no one has ever called mother earth that. Fair enough, she has to deal with war and mankind’s decay in general but no one is calling her a slut. So while Jennifer’s character is a representation of mother earth, she’s also a woman, married to a man who seemingly does not love her the way she loves him and deals with horrible treatment and harassment so I find both a Christian and a feminist theme in the movie and because of the variety of interpretations that can be thought of about this movie, I loved every second of it.

So don’t let the polarizing reviews keep you from watching it. This movie will definitely go down as a cult movie that film lovers will discuss for years to come.

Disclaimer: some of these views are rather extreme but that is what movies do; they exploit extremities. I do not think that all men are misogynists and neither does Aronofsky. It was just a feminist reading of a rather extreme allegorical movie and of course real life is less black and white than that. So just take all these observations with a grain of salt rather than a mirror of what I think about men and women and marriages because obviously that is not what I intend to do.

 

Persepolis – hope is not dead

tumblr_no5i42g95a1s9f8i8o7_400

 

From Japan we move on to Iran for a less innocent and cutesy coming-of-age story of a young woman raised in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. While this movie offered a lot of insight in female issues in Iran, it was way more than that; a tale of loss due to war and a tale about the price of freedom. The distinction between the liberal Western political views and the Eastern ones become clear when the main character, Marjane, befriends some free-spirited anarchists at a French school in Vienna.

Marjane was anti-Shah, that much was clear from the beginning of the movie. Her school indoctrinated positive feelings towards Shah, but her family, especially her uncle Anouch, make it clear to her that Shah is not chosen by God himself but a mere tiran. It couldn’t possibly get worse than that, right? Everything will be great when Shah gets bumped from power. That optimistic revolutionary view turned into a bitter pill when Iran is ruled by Islamic fundamentalists and yet establishes a tyranny that forces women to cover their hair and body and take away their pop culture, make up and music. There is a scene where men are selling forbidden things to Marjane: make-up, Michael Jackson, Pink Floyd, and Iron Maiden, which Marjane gladly buys and Iron Maiden becomes her national anthem. She emancipates herself and protests the establishment by rocking clothes with obscene texts (punk is not ded) on them and sports Nike sneakers. A young girl that realizes that no one ought to dictate how we dress and that we should always stay true to ourselves and this mindset never changes. Sure, in order not to be taken captive by the scary men with guns on the street, it’s important to wear your veil but when you’re driving in the car with your girlfriends and blasting music, the veil goes bye bye while her friends laugh at the nerve. It may be a small act of rebellion; but those small acts all amount to something, albeit a personal rather than public victory.

Persepolis (2007) takes place in three cities: Teheran, Vienna and Paris. The first part of the movie shows her early life in Teheran and the rise of the Islamic Republic. When she pisses off her religion teacher by schooling them on propaganda, she gets shipped off to Vienna, where she could become a free, emancipated woman, as per her mom’s wishes. Sure, Iran had become a totalitarian state that took away all the freedom women had, that did not mean Marjane had to suffer under that regime. She was young, smart and opiniated. Surely she’d find success in a world with Western values.

tumblr_n5inyn1vqd1tag67do4_1280

 

But not even someone who was so against the fundamentalists values in Iran could adapt to the liberal Western lifestyle that easily. She had a hard time making friends as no one understood her before she went to a French school. Her mom’s friend that promised to host her shipped her off to a Christian convent (oh the irony of escaping one fundamentalist country and ending up in a convent with nuns where yet again her freedom is restrained). She feels lonely as she’s trying to find her place in Vienna. And we can all relate to that feeling of moving somewhere new and it feels like everyone is speaking another language. And sometimes they literally are, like in this case. And worse, it’s German.

Her family back in Iran was mainly communist. Her uncle Anouch specialized in Marxist-Leninism and even til his dying day in prison he told Marjane that the proletariat will rule. Anoush laid the foundation for her love for Marjane’s belief in communism. My knowledge about Iran is extremely minimal. I know there’s a totalitarian theocratic regime going on that restricts the freedom of women and most likely men as well. So if I sound ignorant; I am going on my Western prejudice. Anyhow, I never knew that communism was a big thing in Iran, but around the revolution it seemed that people really wanted an establishment of a communist regime. and that is what took their lives. However, Marjane’s hippie friends are anarchists who say that politics is something absurd adapted by man to fill the void of life. They were nihilists and Marjane took that badly, juxtaposing it next to her background in Iran were people were killed due to their political beliefs; who gave their lives for the freedom of their generation and the next. She is not afraid to call people out on their bullshit and sexism and that is what makes her so powerful.

After being forced out of the convent by running her mouth, she goes from house to house and ends up in a villa with a Swiss woman and her dog who thinks she’s a hooker and eventually accuses her of stealing her broche. But she could literally not have done so at a worse time; Marjane is wallowing on her bed after she caught her seemingly perfect boyfriend cheating on her while bringing him croissants. Isn’t that the worst way to catch someone cheating? You’re providing someone with croissants. The ultimate act of love. You do not expect to find someone you’re bringing croissants in bed with another woman. There should be a law against that. And then we see flashbacks of the gross pimply cheapskate cowardly jackass that he actually was. We all romanticize our boyfriends at the height of our relationships. It takes another woman in their bed to see them for who they truly are.

After her post-cheating boyfriend and post-being accused of stealing a broche by the damn woman with her damn dog she flees to the streets and seeks refuge there but doesn’t seem to find it. She walks the streets and feels empty, alone and literally sick. While she’s in the hospital recovering from bronchitis, she calls up her family and asks if she can move home; no questions asked. So, the leaves the Free World of Europe to return to Iran, where the war is finally over. However, she comes back and finds everything has changed. She feels alienated from her family and her youth friends and many people close to her have lost their lives. The state is as repressive as ever and her character has never changed. However, at some time she needs to get her shit together and go to University. What could go wrong at University? Sexist dress codes! She does meet a boy though, and she ends up marrying him for about a year until she realizes it was probably more an infatuation than real love and infatuations never last so she divorces; against the advice of her friend.

Her mom tells her it’s time to be a free, emancipated woman in Europe again and ships her off to Paris and tells her to never come back to Iran because how it is right now, it’s not the right place for her. And that’s how the movie ends, on a hopeful note. We do know that the character in question will become successful so it’s not a mystery ending but a beautiful picture regardless.

The drawing style of this movie was unique. Black and white with hints of color; when arriving in Vienna, when returning to Teheran & finally when arriving in Paris. Color marks a new beginning, or a return to the familiar to begin anew there. The themes recurring in the movie are girlhood, repression, war, loss, love, family, politics and most importantly: freedom.

Between God and Karl Marx speaking to her she loses, and finds herself and loses herself and finds herself again because life is not a lineair process. We do not lose ourselves once and then find ourselves and then live happily ever after. We are continually re-inventing ourselves according to the circumstances. Being free in Teheran is different than being free in Paris. Circumstances are integral to freedom but in the end, freedom comes from within. You always make a choice. Always (hear that, Sartre?), as grannie tells wisely. Marjane chooses to not conform to the restrictions imposed upon her freedom in modern day Iran but rather to find her freedom in Europe. But she also needed to find her freedom from within. The movie ends with the taxi driver asking where she is from and she answers: Iran. And this moment is really important because it marks her internal freedom. Before, she told lies about her being French to avoid the awkwardness that came with revealing her true nationality. However, her grandma’s words haunted her as soon as she said it. She was to be true to herself. She must always have integrity. Because that is where true freedom lies.

So not only was she able to find freedom in her circumstances but also within herself and that’s why the movie ends on a hopeful note with what seems to be a standard ‘time to finish the movie and i don’t know what to end with’ piece of dialogue at first.

‘So what did you think of the movie?’

‘amazing’.

 

Persepolis is an autobiographical movie directed by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud and was released in 2007. 

Kiki’s delivery service (1989) – Studio Ghibli

tumblr_onhtbrxPry1sz111so1_r1_540

For 103 minutes, the above girl and cat have captured my complete attention and left me in awe for the entire movie. From the beautiful seaside town scenery, the perfectly timed jokes to the relatable teen (and adult) melancholy.

Kiki’s Delivery Service is a beautiful coming of age movie about a young girl who seeks independence in a new town, as per witch mandate. On her way to finding a new town to live in, she meets another witch who is returning home from her quest to independence and she asks Kiki what her skill is and that’s when she realizes being on her own might be a lot harder than she thought in advance. She’d have to find her witch skill. And when she arrives to the new town (by accident) it’s everything she had dreamed it would be. The ocean stretched out before her signified all the possibilities she could find a town where everything is foreign. The ocean of possibilities swallowed her whole and finding her place did not come as easy as she thought it would be. No one would talk to her, or let her sleep in a hotel (without her parents) so she contemplates leaving the town.

tumblr_n3zibp6abo1rmvkpdo2_r1_500not so excited anymore..

But when she least expects it, help comes in the form of a pregnant baker, Osono, who offers her a roof, a job, and throws in breakfast too. Utilizing her skill (flying), she makes deliveries and meets special people along the way (Ursula, the painter and an older woman for whom she has to deliver a pie to her grandchild). Of course, there is a boy too who is introduced earlier in the film but it was not love at first sight (take that, Disney!) Rather, she has her reservations about the boy, Tombo. He’s an aviation enthousiast and is therefore fascinated by her. I thought this is cool because he doesn’t fall for her purely based on her looks, but he falls for her because she has special abilities that fascinate him.

tumblr_okh4htusxk1sz111so1_540

After a given moment, Kiki realizes she can’t understand her cat Jiji anymore (her being a witch allows her to understand her cat and he her). She tries to fly her broom but she can’t soar. Fortunately, help comes in the form of Ursula who helps her lay the groundwork for regaining her confidence and motivation. Ursula empowers her in a way that she was unable to do herself and after a while, she can fly again when Tombo needs her help. So in the end she saved Tombo, regained her confidence and thus her flying abilities but heartbreak comes in the form of the fact that she can’t understand her cat anymore. Yet, the story was empowering and extremely feminist too and that’s why I finished the movie with a smile. This is exactly the kind of movie I would show my little girl (or boy) if I had one.

Jiji

Animal sidekicks in animated movies usually do not stick with me. They are welcoming additions but rarely make me feel things the way Jiji did. I had a genuine laugh out loud moment during this scene:

tumblr_ojsttsd2wv1u5yc4qo1_500

I just thought it was so cute and innocent and in no way fabricated as cat mugs are literally everywhere you look. Despite the fact that Kiki can’t understand him anymore at the end of the movie, he has found happiness with a beautiful white cat and with his little babies. And of course he’s still close with his protegée.

 

Ursula

Despite her short cameos in this movie, she is my favorite character. She added so much to the movie. She is witty, smart and extremely empowering. She spends her time in solitude to perfect her art and dedicates her life entirely to her craft.

tumblr_mzmfs1oep81t5uevqo2_500

tumblr_mzmfs1oep81t5uevqo1_500

When Kiki loses her power, Ursula compares magical power with art. Sometimes artists lose their inspiration and need to regain confidence in order to get it back. She tells Kiki that she needs to find her own inspiration and that will help her get her powers back.

Kiki

tumblr_ob0i0bkhyf1uqwlj3o1_500Story of my life, girl.

A typical 13 year old girl , but with witch abilities. I think it was beautiful that in the beginning of the movie she is mainly concerned with buying a cute dress and in the end she is facing an existential crisis and ends up saving a boy from falling from the sky. This really shows the transition from 13 year old girl to young woman.

The movie has so many aspects to discuss in a blog post. Papers can be written about the recurring themes in this movie but I’d like to make a short feminist analysis of the movie.

Miyazaki is known to feature strong, relatable women. He drew inspiration from the daughter of a friend for Spirited Away because the women he saw on the screen were not like young girls he knew in real life. And this is really visible in the movies I have watched of him thus far (Spirited Away and of course Kiki’s Delivery Service). 

The movie passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors. But this alone is not enough to deem it a feminist movie. And this might not be a feminist movie in everyone’s perspective because I believe every woman has a different view of what empowers her. Osona believes in her straight away upon meeting her and takes her in and provides her with everything she needs for independence. Ursula helps her regain her strength. The older woman shows her much needed kindness at a time when needed most and although Tombo is a big part of the movie, he does not take over the narrative. He does not look at her like she is weak, or dumb. He admires her and she inspires him. In the end, she saves him when he could not save himself. So the fact that she loses herself and finds herself by the grace of Ursula, Osona and the older woman is extremely empowering and that it ends with her saving a man rather than being saved by one is something not often found in Disney movies. The movie did not end with marriage (because that is what all females should eventually aspire to right? Because everything is great in marriage). It ends with her getting her shit together. And that is amazing.

I’ll give this movie a 9/10 and I feel like it will enter my all-time favorite movie list soon enough. I need to digest it a little more but I’m looking forward to watching more of Miyazaki’s movies.