Ideal I

Good with money. Pays bills on time, all the time. Never overdraws on bank account. Has no credit card debt. In fact has good credit. Is current on student loan payments. Never has to rifle through car for loose change to turn into cash at a CoinStar for cigarette money, because always has expendable cash and doesn’t smoke cigarettes anyway. Also doesn’t have a car because lives in a city with practical public transportation system and can afford to rent a car when necessary. Doesn’t buy cat food at 7-11. Doesn’t buy anything at 7-11. In fact only goes to 7-11 on July 11th for a free Slurpee. Doesn’t say things like “Tinder is for dates, Grindr is for hook-ups.” Isn’t on Grindr. Isn’t on Tinder. Isn’t single but isn’t “in a relationship.” Has a clearer sense of what is romantically desired than that. Eats better. Drinks more water. Drinks less whiskey. Isn’t stoned all the time. Has read Moby Dick, or isn’t bothered by not having read it. Didn’t like The Lovely Bones. In fact never read The Lovely Bones. Doesn’t like people who don’t reciprocate. Doesn’t think about those people. Always washes his hands after masturbating. Didn’t make that scene at your bonfire last year. Wasn’t there without an invitation. Didn’t make that scene when fired from that restaurant, or that other restaurant. In fact was never fired. In fact never worked in that restaurant, or that other restaurant, or any restaurant. Didn’t leave that unnecessarily cruel note for a bad roommate magnetized to the refrigerator that one time. Isn’t passive aggressive. Isn’t offended when someone doesn’t get Mariah Carey. Is happy for you. Never wonders what it would be like to kill someone. Doesn’t get anxious at parties. Doesn’t flirt with straight men. Doesn’t have sex with “straight” men. Isn’t vaguely flattered when treated like a lady by straight men. Didn’t spend much of last year wondering about the logistics of being in a thrupple with you and your boyfriend. Didn’t wear that terrible outfit to the art museum that one time. Doesn’t check your Tumblr. In fact isn’t on Tumblr. Doesn’t tweet nefariously. Doesn’t think of at least three mean things to say to someone immediately upon meeting them, “just in case.” Owns, doesn’t rent. Isn’t missing a toenail. Regrets fewer sexual partners. Was allowed to go as Catwoman for Halloween in 1993. Didn’t ask to go as Catwoman for Halloween in 1993. Didn’t want to. Doesn’t worry about sounding too gay. Doesn’t think it’s more important to be smart than nice. Hasn’t smoked four bowls already today. Isn’t high right now. Didn’t underestimate your friendship. Didn’t get carried away. Doesn’t love one cat more than the other. Was sophisticated enough to understand that guys are just horny in the mornings and if you’re there and you aren’t related to them they’ll probably try to fuck you. Had enough self-respect to walk away when you said that. Never made you say that. Doesn’t look back in anger. Doesn’t look back. Doesn’t worry about the future but does have a 401k. Doesn’t think about dying but does have life insurance. Has health insurance. Sees father often. Isn’t irritated by mom for calling every day. In fact beats her to the punch most days. Is an informed member of the electorate. Doesn’t read Gawker. Doesn’t read the comments. Doesn’t stream movies illegally. Eats breakfast. Does dishes. Doesn’t think about you. Isn’t afraid of straight men. Is closer to my brothers. Knew what you meant when you said “brother.” Didn’t sing Bad Romance at karaoke that one time. Has seen Citizen Kane. Isn’t listening to Blue by Joni Mitchell on vinyl right now. Does a better impersonation of Diane Rehm. Knew Audie Cornish is black before she was on Another Round with Heben and Tracy. Wasn’t surprised to find out Audie Cornish is black. Didn’t do that to you. Isn’t visibly bored when people talk about sports. Doesn’t argue with people on Facebook. Isn’t on Facebook. Doesn’t speak without thinking. Takes fewer selfies. Doesn’t think about writing art criticism of own selfies. Didn’t wear that one outfit to that poetry reading that one time, or at least took off the scarf before reading. Has published more. Is more confidant. Is nice to sisters, visits grandmothers. Is never scared. Is sorry. Doesn’t walk like a woman. Didn’t look for the deeper meaning of the dead leaf that just drifted past window. Didn’t bother to write this. Doesn’t think this matters.

On Slave Movies

 1.

This week it was announced that Fox Searchlight Pictures scooped up distribution rights to the antebellum-set film The Birth of a Nation after it screened at the Sundance Film Festival for a cool $17.5 million dollars. The movie, not to be confused with the 1915 film of the same title, tells the true story of Nat Turner, the former slave who in 1831 led a rebellion to free other slaves in Virginia, resulting in a violent altercation with white slave owners that left almost three hundred people dead.

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Nate Parker in The Birth of a Nation, 2016 (Google images) 

The deal made headlines for a few reasons, not least of which was that impressive price tag, which represents the largest deal ever made at Sundance. And it would be remarkable in any year for a film written by, directed by, and starring a person of color, with a largely non-white cast, to broker that sort of deal.

This is good for the movie. The deal comes with the promise that when Fox releases the film (a date has not been set), it will do so in 1,500 theaters nationwide, giving the movie the chance to reach a huge audience. Furthermore, it’s hard to imagine Fox shelling out this kind of dough without allotting a significant portion to marketing, which can make or break a film, in terms of commercial success. Hype is powerful. So, good. In a year when the racism and exclusion of Hollywood has been brought into clearer focus by the January 14 announcement of the black-less Academy Award nominations, it’s heartening (but also uncanny) that a “black film” should be the big news out of Sundance–that revered festival notorious for linking big studios with small films, many of which end up recognized by Oscar (see: Boyhood, Whiplash, The Usual Suspects). See, Hollywood? Black films are relevant. If the “dramatic steps” the Academy plans to take have immediate repercussions–and if The Birth of a Nation is as good as early reports are saying–we’ll likely see it as one of next year’s big Oscar movies.  

Which, again, is a good thing: that this year’s #OscarsSoWhite is only an issue because it signifies how white Hollywood is. While it’s true that the Oscars can only recognize the films that get made, there is a certain aspect in which the street goes both ways: an Oscar win or even a nomination can bring attention to a film that might otherwise have flown under the radar–such as Precious in 2009–and the Academy has a responsibility to that. Despite its flagging social relevance, the Oscars still have some sway, and films honored on Oscar night typically see an increase in ticket sales or streaming ratings which can definitely affect trends in cinematic representation, which is where the true problem lies.

But The Birth of a Nation seems like just the sort of movie the Oscars would hasten to recognize–and just the sort of film it doesn’t need to. The discussion concurrent to that of the lack of non-white films getting made is the one about what types of non-white films that are getting made. What types of non-white characters and experiences are appearing on screen.

Well, the last actor to win an Oscar was Lupita Nyong’o in 2013. She played a slave. The last before her was Octavia Spencer in 2011. She played a maid. Before her, Mo’Nique, in 2009, in her role as an abusive matriarch. The only black actress to win for a lead role was Halle Berry, way back in 2001, for playing a similar role. The trend stretches back to Hattie McDaniel 1939, the first black actor to ever win an Oscar, for her portrayal of Mammie in Gone With The Wind.

Other black performances that tend to garner Oscar attention, like their white counterparts, are portrayals of historical figures–though for blacks, these usually skew toward entertainers (Jamie Foxx in Ray, Angela Bassett and Lawrence Fishbourne as Ike and Tina Turner in What’s Love Got To Do With It?) or athletes (Will Smith in Ali, Denzel Washington in Hurricane). Occasionally, we get political figures (Washington in Malcolm X, Forrest Whittaker in The Last King of Scotland). 

The movies themselves, with near infallibility, are movies of black struggle–or, as Kara Brown put it in her essay for Jezebel–“movies about slavery or slavery-adjacent violence against black people.” It would seem that for white Hollywood–indeed, for the white imagination–struggle already signifies the black experience in America. Do we need The Birth of a Nation, or any other slave movie for that matter, to further support that?

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12 Years a Slave, 2012 (Google Images)

2.

In Visual Pleasure & Narrative Cinema, Laura Mulvey suggests that “mainstream film code[s] the erotic into the language of the dominant patriarchal order.” That is, as a product of the patriarchy, mainstream movies both express and signify patriarchal desire and represent visually the ordering of the world according to patriarchal directives. In short, Mulvey says, movies cater to “the male gaze” (she means the white straight male gaze, or should), which “projects its phantasy onto the female figure, which is styled accordingly.” It’s why women in film are routinely as passive as they are beautiful: they function to satisfy the male gaze.

Though Mulvey focuses primarily on the presence of the female in film, her arguments are equally applicable to the presence of the black body. Mulvey builds on Freud’s notions of “scopophilia,” or the inherent pleasure humans derive from “looking,” a “primordial wish,” according to Mulvey, which the cinema satisfies. “Here,” she writes, “curiosity and the wish to look intermingle with a fascination with likeness and recognition: the human face, the human body, the relationship between the human form, and its surroundings, the visible presence of the person in the world.” A fascination with likeness, with recognition.

That it is likeness and recognition that the male gaze (the patriarchal gaze, inherently white) craves goes a long way to explaining why Hollywood routinely turns out slaves movies (or “slavery-adjacent”), why representations of people of color on screen are so narrow and one-dimensional. Brown notes:

Often, films about slavery receive laborious, highbrow praise for truly showing the horrors of the institution to a larger audience—the unspoken suggestion being that after watching these films, white Americans will better understand and empathize with the slave experience. However, it really smacks of an opportunity to assuage what apparently is a deep emotional burden of being white and having benefited from white supremacy. How nice, that a white viewer can feel good about themselves for shedding a tear during Amistad.

She’s right about the praise, and why, but the fact is, slave movies don’t actually assuage white guilt–because they’re not supposed to. At least not in the mainstream. That would be counter to the patriarchal order. That a white person might be moved, for instance, by the scene in 12 Years in which Lupita Nyong’o is savagely whipped, no more indicates a feeling of guilt over being white in a system that panders to whites as being moved by news footage of a highway pile up indicates that one feels responsible by virtue of being a driver. One feels bad because no one thinks car crashes or slavery are good things. The fact is, slave movies don’t assuage white guilt; if they do, then white guilt must be some serious shit, if it takes a slave movie every few years to alleviate it. One can’t help but think that a single viewing of Roots would be enough.

Instead, it seems, these movies reassert patriarchal notions of white supremacy. What the white male gaze sees when it sees black bodies depicted in this way is their contrast to his own whiteness. The recognition he derives is not through the slaves or their plight, but rather through the white characters. Whether that gaze identifies with the characters who are slave owners or those who are abolitionists would be telling to know in individual instances, but in either case what is important is the whiteness, and its elevation above blackness in the diegesis, and how that elevation transcends the diegesis, both mirroring and influencing real life.

These movies fetishize black struggle, and black pain. No matter how horrifying the violence, it is glorified. These movies do so well not because they make white people feel bad about this violence and its modern day permutations, but because they make white people feel good, because the exposure to blackness–the other, the contrast–in the form of slavery, or servitude, remains within in the acceptable boundaries of the patriarchal order, blackness as signifier of white supremacy. The black body, like the female body, functions in cinema according to what the patriarchal gaze wants to see, and it wants to see it struggle, it wants to see it in pain.

These movies have less sinister effects as well. Slavery was abolished less than 200 years ago, but the advances of technology and culture in the intervening years push antebellum America further into the past than it actually is. Slave movies assist in this, with their primitive, rural settings, their Victorian interiors and costumes, the absence of automobile and electricity and other trappings of modernity. The optics trouble the chronology. Slavery wasn’t as long ago as it looks in the movies. This helps the white imagination disconnect slavery from the modern day, and from its modern day repercussions, allowing people to not see how the white fear that leads to the systematic murder of black people at the hands of white police officers is rooted in antebellum myths about the inherently violent nature of African Americans, or how the emasculation of black men, an integral part of the enslavement process, today affects the arrangement of black families. The period piece–the other genre in which slave movies are indelibly rooted–in historicizing slavery, also fictionalizes it.

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Amistad, 1997 (Google Images)

3.

I used to be friends with this guy, this white guy. Let’s call him Wayne. I didn’t know Wayne for very long but we did spend a significant amount of time together. We bonded quickly over nearly identical tastes in books, movies, and television, and in particular a shared fondness for Boardwalk Empire, which was completing its run at about the same time we started hanging out. At a point, Wayne’s roommate moved out of they house they shared, apparently taking the HBO with her, so I offered him use of my HBOGo account. I did this because I believe in getting the most for my money and because I’m a kind and generous person, despite what they say.

About this time, 12 Years a Slave became available, and when I went to watch it, I noticed Wayne already had. I could tell because when I hit play the movie started where he’d stopped it, about halfway through the end credits.

I thought nothing of it, of course: the movie had just had a stellar awards season and a lot of people were talking about it, so it wasn’t so shocking that Wayne would watch it. What was shocking to me was his revelation, later, of having watched it not once but many times. I don’t remember how many times exactly but I do remember being stunned by the number.

Stunned, and appalled. It wasn’t the reason Wayne and I stopped being friends, but I did wonder why anyone would subject themselves repeatedly to the particular horrors and depravities of that specific film, let alone a white someone. To be fair, Wayne had a penchant for horror films; but there’s something different about the fantasy violence of, say, Saw or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, where the protagonists are almost always representative of the white status quo, which facilitates identification, and the recreation of the real life brutality enacted by the Atlantic Slave Trade in 12 Year a Slave. What was Wayne getting from his repeated viewings? It was curious to me, rankling, off-putting. He kept referring to the film as “beautiful,” and though for a time I thought he meant technically, I can’t help but wonder if what he actually meant was it’s beautiful to look at.

 

 

 

Flashback Friday: She’s All That

Of a morning when I had things to avoid nothing to do, I watched She’s All That on HBOGo.

It embarrasses me not at all to say that I fucking love this movie.

Watching She’s All That as an adult means realizing how much that movie (and its cousin-films, 10 Things I Hate About You, Clueless, Never Been Kissed, Can’t Hardly Wait, etc. — those paragons of late-90s teen rom-coms that are the direct descendants of the John Hughes’ films of the previous decade) influenced the vision I had of what high school would be like, even as those movies themselves seemed to validate my vision. I read the movies both as a primer for and proof of what high school would be like, and they failed me on both counts, and for that reason, in retrospect, these films, with their false representations, assume a somewhat menacing quality as regards my personal development.

But: how lovely to remember when the promise was believable, when it was something that seemed real! How lovely to consider the sort of idealism required to support such a notion, and that you once possessed it. For me, in a certain sense, my opinion of films like She’s All That are always going to be reducible to nostalgia — but I think even that petulant emotion can have its critical benefits.

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What cool kidz looked like in the 90z

Perhaps a defining aspect of teen-centric romantic comedies of the 1990s (aside from their rotating casts) is how they are often adaptations of classic literature: 10 Things is a retelling of Shakespeare’s The Taming Of The Shrew, while Clueless is based on Austen’s Emma and the late-coming (and AHEM! underrated!) Whatever It Takes updates Rostand’s Cyrano de Begerac. And so on. She’s All That is all Pygmalion — or My Fair Lady, if that’s more your speed.

The film follows Zack Siler (Freddie Prinze, Jr.), an uber-popular high school senior whose girlfriend, Taylor Vaughn (played TO PERFECTION by Jodi Lyn O’Keefe) suddenly dumps him after Spring Break. Taylor went to Florida for the week to partake in MTV’s annual bacchanal of televised festivities, had a torrid affair with a cast member from the current season of the network’s hit show The Real World (the ridiculously named Brock Hudson, played by the always grotesque Matthew Lillard), and returns with her bad news — a mere few weeks before prom!

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Poor Zack. 😦

Unwilling to be cast as the victim (or, quelle horreur! go dateless to prom), Zack accepts a bet with his friend Dean (the late Paul Walker) that he can makeover any girl in the school into “the next Taylor Vaughn” — that is, into Prom Queen Material — by that year’s prom. The rules state that Dean gets to choose the girl, and he chooses Laney Boggs (Rachel Leigh Cook) the weird, quirky, bespectacled arty chick. In her paint-stained overalls, stumbling under the weight of her canvases and art supplies, Laney is an obvious impossibility for prom queen. She’s not merely unattractive or unfortunate, like others of the girls Zack and his friends consider: Laney ignores the edicts of fashion and interest that govern her classmates not because she is ignorant of them, but because she rejects them. Flaunting her non-conformity — that is, her resistance to the male gaze — is worse than the girl who picks her wedgie when she doesn’t think anyone is looking, or the mousy girl with glasses and acne. A blind person could see that, dowdy art-teacher-in-training wardrobe notwithstanding, Laney is gorgeous. She’s making herself ugly on purpose. (She’s not ugly at all, even when the movie wants us to think she is.) Zack protests the choice — as a task, Laney seems insurmountable — but, rules are rules, and eventually he relents.

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Ugly (left) and Pretty (right) Laney

Clearly She’s All That is not without its wayward politics. That a group of entitled guys get together and decide that a) the social reputation of a female peer is completely dependent on her status as the girlfriend of the popular jock, and b) that said popular jock is capable of turning any girl into prom queen reeks of a chauvinism that seems stripped directly from the times of the source material. Yet one of this movie’s triumphs is how it complicates the chauvinism it might seem to espouse.

One of the ways the movie accomplishes this is by deliberately highlighting the detailed attention paid to posturing and performance that is the backbone of that chauvinism. At the beginning, as the first day back from Spring Break commences and Zack meets up with Dean (the late Paul Walker) and Preston (Dule Hill), they regale each other with tales of their vacation exploits: Dean brags of bagging an older stewardess onboard his flight to Cancun while Zack admits that he had an OK time skiing with his parents. Dean is all puffy-chest and conviction; Zack is casual and evasive: “Yeah, you know, skiing with my parents, it was alright.” Neither character expresses anything that even approaches sincerity or emotional depth here, as they (and the under-scripted Preston) saunter across the quad, all cool disaffection and macho swagger. Zack’s Jeep Wrangler with the vanity plate that reads “Mr Prez” and Dean’s habit of employing a supposedly street vernacular both suggest a completely exterior, performative quality to their masculinity, one expressed in material or contrived attributes (their walk, Zack’s Letter jacket, Dean’s casually loose fitting Dockers) and not in anything intrinsic to them. Their shallowness is further highlighted when Zack tries to get deep with thoughts of graduation and the future and his cohorts can’t follow.

What this focus on the performance of masculinity foretells more than anything, I think, is the potentially destructible quality of masculinity and the anxiety an awareness of that destructibility (even an unthought awareness, a subconcious awareness) can produce in men. This point seems validated later in the opening segment, when the DJ for the school radio station (another unfulfilled promise this movie made to me about high school) announces that Zack has been dumped. The DJ’s (Usher Raymond, doing…something, I’m not sure what) (and still looking like Toad from Mariokart) comments on Zack’s masculinity are so overt it’s hard not to read them as significant: “Keep that head up, aight?” I focus on the word “that” in that sentence, at it seems a striking departure from the more common “Keep your head up.” Maybe I’m being pedantic here, but the odd diversion from the common phraseology seems to imply that the head to which the DJ refers is not the  same head to which the figure of speech refers, and so becomes a threat to Zack’s very literal manhood. It is to save his reputation (and his boner, I guess) that Zack accepts Dean’s wager.

The skin-deep nature of Zack’s manhood is further evidenced in his main subplot, which involves a pushy, over-involved father with smothering expectations and a secret drawer full of college acceptance letters. It’s easy to roll one’s eyes at this obvious play to our sympathies regarding Zack, whose ulterior motives with Laney could easily make him unlikeable: poor rich white boy can’t decide which Ivy League university to go to. What a raw fucking deal. It’s striking, however, when one considers how deeply entrenched in his own masculinity (and masculine privilege) Zack is (as we’ve seen), and how that masculinity must be further troubled by his home situation. Inside, Zack must not feel like much of a man: he can’t even stand up to his father and proudly make his own decisions.

Yet maybe what troubles masculinity more is the character of Laney Boggs herself. I love Laney. I love her calm, slightly on-edge determination to be herself. I love her unflappable conviction in who she is, even when that conviction seems to falter and she allows herself to be done up and glamorized for Zack’s benefit. I love her irritation with the arbitrary concerns of her classmates. Although she spends the bulk of the movie unwise to her position as the butt of a joke, Laney is nevertheless a character of radical thought. She is an old soul in a young woman’s body: her mother died when she was young and now she looks after her younger brother and her well-intended if clearly bereaved father. She’s not ignorant of the real world and its plentitude of atrocities and catastrophes: she watches documentaries about riots in obscure countries and then makes art in response to it. She worries about how many gallons of chemicals are dumped into the ocean each year, and doesn’t think worrying about it detracts from her existence (“Don’t you ever smile?” Zack asks her, as they stroll along the beach and she mentions pollution. “I smile,” she responds. “It’s just, you mentioned the ocean and I saw this thing on CNN…”). Meanwhile, as the Real World subplot with its repeated interruptions of faked Real World-esque footage into the narrative portends, her contemporaries blithely accept MTV’s distorted reduction of reality and conduct themselves accordingly.

Characters like Laney — odd or quirky, typically inclined to art,  always unconcerned with trends and convictions — certainly weren’t unheard of, even way back in 1999. That same year featured Julia Stiles as Kat Stratford in (again, I’m sorry) 10 Things. Daria, perhaps the greatest symbol of nonconformist 90s feminine angst, premiered on MTV in 1997. But as remarkable as characters like Daria and Kat Stratford are, they nevertheless suffer from the same malaise that often plagues agentic, empowered female characters who think for themselves: they are framed as bitches. Laney, though, is cut from a slightly different cloth than her sisters. Laney is different but not indifferent, confrontational when offended but not aggressive. And this doesn’t imply any sway to masculine authority on her part: “I thought I said I was busy,” she tells Zack, when he shows up without notice at her house, and when he’s evasive about taking her to prom, she has no problem accepting Dean’s offer. Now that she’s surprisingly been nominated for prom queen, she wants to go, and if Zack wont’ take her, she’ll go with someone who will. She is mad when the details of their bet emerge, but her anger does not supersede her hurt feelings.

Because the big thing about Laney is that she’s authentic. She’s genuine like the singer. She’s real. She’s not perfect — she’ll experiment with self-modification, like when she allows Zack’s sister (Paquin, perfectly vampy) to make her over for a party at Preston’s house, but that’s a choice she makes. And, when things at the party go awry after a hostile encounter with a jealous Taylor Vaughn, Laney takes it as a lesson learned, having been reminded “of the reason I’ve always avoided places like this and people like you,” and the next day she’s back to her old self, in her old clothes. (That she omits her glasses here-forward, however, hints that maybe she kind of liked that other, glamorous Laney.)

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“I’m wearing tie-die and my hair’s a mess so you know I’m serious about my art.”

The humor of She’s All That holds up surprisingly well — or is it just distance and the cynicism of adulthood that causes me to see in the film a winking self-awareness, to see it as to a degree poking fun at itself and other movies like it? Meta-commentary was big in the 90s, though it typically crops up in darker fare like the Scream trilogy and films like Jawbreaker or But I’m A Cheerleader (both of which were also released in 1999). Then again, last year, the director M. Night Shymalan (The Sixth Sense) did come out as the movie’s ghost writer. At the end, Laney likens herself to Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, perhaps one of the most famous of all romantic comedies (and another Pygmalion progeny). And Taylor’s depthlessness is so pronounced its hard to take it as a legitimate character trait and not as a nod to mean girl characters of the genre. Likewise, Dean’s hyper-masculinity is exaggerated as much by his braggadocio and aggressiveness as it is by his bulked-up, over muscled body — perhaps signifying the residual strains of patriarchal oppression that frame all romantic comedies?

A lot of the movie’s blatant jokes are still funny. Taylor’s expression of zero concern over whether or not she’ll be elected prom queen feels something like proto-Amy Schumer humor: “I could win this thing in florescent lighting, on the first day of my period, cloaked in TJ Maxx. Plus, not to be a bitch, but who’s gonna beat Taylor Vaughn?” Speaking of herself in the third person only exacerbates her deluded nature.

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I still laughed out loud during the scene where Zack attends Laney’s avant garde performance art show, which feature a white guy in his underwear dancing around a garbage can with two midgets in silver-blue face and blue bodysuits who declare, “My soul is an island; my car is a ford” and “I wanna be like Mike.” The choreographed dance sequence at prom still had an effective absurdity to it, which now seems like a sly comment on the mating ritual constituted by  prom — and indeed, by high school. The movie isn’t just funny. It’s witty and clever, both in the minutiae of its dialogue and in its pacing and plotting, even when it’s clichéd or (less often) contrived. The ending is happy enough to be schmaltzy — the villains vanquished, our lovers are reunited under a starry night sky — but rescued by the cunning tailer: at graduation Zack, as payment for his lost bet (Laney did not become prom queen) has to process in the nude. His nakedness here is symbolic of his own newfound authenticity. Though this transformation indicates that Zack (not Laney) is the film’s true protagonist (the one who experiences the most change), that Laney is the agent of this change (so overtly implied by his nakedness at the end) is turns the idea that he might improve her on its head.

I can forgive She’s All That for the lies it told me, for its many misleadings and empty promises about high school because it stands out among other movies of it’s time and stripe for its humor, pathos, and subtle subversion of the motifs and conventions of its genre. I still adore Laney Boggs — her name, her look, her essence. Paul Walker’s Dean is still the perfect embodiment of the sort of douchebag I would have publicly hated but privately crushed on in high school. And if nothing else, the movie proves that Gabrielle Union looked exactly the same in 1999 as she does in 2015.

INDIANA JONES in WRITER’S BLOCK

Hey ya’ll!

I was going to make a post that was one of those, “Wow, I haven’t really posted in a while,” but I ended up ruminating on what therapy is like instead, which is better, because an actual post is always better than a post explaining why there haven’t been any posts.

Not that I suspect anyone is sitting around chewing their nails wondering why I haven’t posted, or even noticing. But, I digress:

One of the things I’ve been doing while I haven’t been blogging is making this short film you should check out right now:

And we’ll talk later, yo.