If you’ve looked at a computer or television screen in the last week, you’ve probably heard something about Ferguson, MO and a boy named Michael Brown. Perhaps you’ve heard a lot of conflicting stories. Let’s gets some facts straight.
I often like to say that I was born loving Monty Python. As superlative as this sounds, it is a claim based on a vivid childhood memory of my Dad flipping through channels one day and letting the screen rest on a clip involving an English narrator and exploding bushes. As any Python fan will know, this of course was the “How Not to Be Seen” sketch, but all I knew at the time was that I was rolling on the ground laughing uncontrollably and experiencing a joyous sensation of silliness unleashed and liberated. But then my Dad changed the channel and started watching NASCAR, and it wasn’t until a decade or so later, after half-watching Holy Grail during a German class (in English; don’t ask) that I caught myself wondering if this was the same group of people I encountered in that still fresh and delightful memory. So it is with all that affection in my heart that I started thinking about gender dynamics in Monty Python – and realizing, with some surprise, that there are elements in their work worth thinking about critically.
This occurred to me first on what must have been the 27th or 29th viewing of The Life of Brian, undoubtedly their best movie and in fact, one of the best movies ever made. I was watching one of my favorite scenes in the film, when Brian befriends the revolutionary Jewish cell the Judean People’s Front (or is it the People’s Front of Judea?). At one point, we meet the vulnerable push-over member of the group, Stan. Stan keeps interrupting the flow of declarative principles that the group leader, Reg, likes to harangue his followers with by correcting Reg’s gender-normative language to include women. The short exchange that follows involves Stan confessing to his desire to be a woman, and Reg eventually commenting of this, “it’s symbolic of his struggle against reality.”
TW for rape culture and graphic depiction of rape threat
If you listen to pop radio, odds are you’ve heard Turn Down for What (TDFW) by Lil Jon and DJ Snake. I’ve heard it before, but only recently had the misfortune of watching the music video. It was an innocent click—I was browsing YouTube and there it was. I guess most people simply see it as a somewhat bizarre electronic dance music video, aimed to shock the viewer. What I saw was an appalling and offensive embodiment of rape culture. Continue reading
Guten Borgen Beigen, animals and crackers. Time for the billionth installment of appreciating female comics!
This week we are appreciating an oldie but goodie. Currently on tour with her also hilarious husband, let me introduce you to the fabulous Megan Mullally!
I fell in love with Megan Mullally when she played Karen Walker on Will and Grace, but she has a long entertainment pedigree. She made her Broadway debut in Grease in 1994 and she has appeared in several Broadway musicals since. From 2006 until early 2007, she hosted the short-lived talk show The Megan Mullally Show. In 2010, Mullally starred as Lydia in the second season of Party Down. She also co-stars as Chief on Childrens Hospital on Adult Swim, and has had recurring roles as Tammy Swanson on Parks and Recreation, Dana Hartz on Happy Endings, and Aunt Gayle on Bob’s Burgers. She’s won seven consecutive Emmy Award nominations for her role on Will & Grace, winning in 2000 and 2006. She’s also received four Screen Actors Guild Awards for her performance, and was nominated for four Golden Globe awards.
Here you go, kids:
I am a freak of nature: I am an American woman who actually feels satisfied with her body. And its not like I’ve really “worked” on having positive body-image either. I have always felt more-or-less satisfied with my body. In fact, I am so incredibly not-concerned with my body, that I typically don’t think about it at all! But recently I HAVE started thinking about the phenomenon of my positive body-image. Mainly I’ve been thinking: “ How the fuck did that happen?”
So how did I get to be this way? When I stop to think about it, there were about three major factors that played into my ability to “naturally” learn to love my body, all involving messages I received in my childhood and early adulthood.
Dear Old Bluesman,
We need to talk about your song last night — the one about how women should shut up, quit nagging, and generally keep their opinions to themselves. You know, the one you dedicated to all the “little ladies who are going to be mad” in the room? I know a lot of people would say that I don’t have a right to tell you how to sing the blues, being a young white woman… but since I’m also one of those mouthy women you dislike, I’m going to go ahead and say something: Continue reading
Ladies and fish, it’s time for another installment of Appreciate a Female Comic Weekday! I present to you one of my favorite SNL cast members:
Nasim Pedrad was born in Tehran, Iran and lived there until 1984, before emigrating to the United States when she was two years old. Her younger sister is comedy writer Nina Pedrad, who wrote for 30 Rock during its final two seasons and currently on New Girl. She is bilingual, fluent in English and Persian.
Nasim frequently performed her one-woman show Me, Myself & Iran at the Los Angeles divisions of ImprovOlympic and the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. She has received an LA Weekly Best Comedic Performance of the Year Award as the lead in the comedic spoof After School Special.
Her guest appearances include Gilmore Girls and a recurring role on ER as Nurse Suri. In 2011, she was a recurring voice on the Fox animated series Allen Gregory. Catch her this fall in the upcoming FOX sitcom Mulaney!
NASIM PEDRAD, GAY EDITION:
NASIM PEDRAD, NON-GAY EDITION:
I gave birth to one child, a son, but I have thousands of daughters. You are black and white, Jewish and Muslim, Asian, Spanish speaking, Native American, and Aleut. You are fat and thin and pretty and plain, gay and straight, educated and unlettered. And I am speaking to you all.
-Dr. Maya Angelou, Letter to My Daughter
I have struggled to put into words the shade of grief I felt on Wednesday after I learned of the passing of Dr. Maya Angelou, to describe the ache I have continued to feel in the days since. But as I reflect on her life and what she meant to me, there is one word that can sum it up: Auntie.
Maya Angelou touched so many. Her literary works inspired, her activism ignited, her teaching empowered, and for a lucky few her personal mentor-ship guided. I can’t speak for all those who were impacted by Dr. Angelou’s life, but I can speak to the way she impacted me and the community of black women that surrounds me. Over the past two days, I have heard and seen so many black women in my life say that they think of Maya as a family member, an elder, a spiritual guide, and that losing her feels like we “lost an Aunt.” It’s because we have.
She was our Auntie. That fly, fabulous, jet setting aunt with the fascinating stories. Dr. Angelou embodied black girl possibility. Here was a woman who grew up in the deep Jim Crow South. Poor. Black. Sexualized, used, and abused. The type of girl whom the world spits on. Yet in the pages of her books, the lines of her poetry, and the curve of her smile we knew her to be defiantly alive- traveling to places we had never heard of, delighting in the sensuality and beauty of her black body, gracing stages she was never supposed to step foot on, passing out her elegant, biting wisdom like first-aid kits for our black girl souls.
She was our Auntie. That aunt who just gets you, who seems like she can see your insides. Dr. Angelou understood the black girl struggle intimately. Here was a woman who understood our pain and our hopes, because she had felt them too. We are all forced to stand in the crooked room of a misogynoir world, and we all struggle to stand up straight in the mirror. Maya was in that crooked room with us- and she had not only discovered a way to see herself clearly, but amazingly, she could see us clearly too. She was right there by our sides, pushing and prodding and shaping us, showing us it was possible to hold our heads straight and align our spines with the sky.
Dr. Maya Angelou, we thank you. We are honored that you counted us among your Daughters, and that we may now count you among our Ancestors. We love you. Ashe.
Real talk: sometimes it can be hard to choose the things that make you happy if they’re not what society tells us to do or be.
Interwoven systems of privilege and prejudice in the US want so many things from us. They want us to dress and act in a way that puts us comfortably within the bounds of the gender assigned to us at birth, be straight, be monogamous, be Christian (or at least believe in God), be a certain weight, talk a certain way (code-switching, anyone?), have a certain amount of sex, and on and on. It’s confining if you succeed and can be painful and dangerous if you fail. It’s suffocating.
The damage of narrow social expectations is twofold: external, and internal.
When we fail to meet these expectations we face shaming, discrimination, and even violence from those who want to “correct” us.
But even our own brains are working against us- we’ve been marinating in these systems of privilege and prejudice for our whole lives, for so long that we’ve absorbed them. So even when we know it’s bullshit, we still feel that reflexive shame, or loss, or fear, about claiming the things we want and the things we are that lie outside society’s box for us.
That friggin’ sucks.
It’s a good start to be able to see what’s happening clearly and know that it sucks and it’s bullshit, but sometimes that’s not enough. Sometimes you just need a little extra inspiration to be brave and be yourself. Sometimes you need…
Or better yet: a playlist. Here are five songs to inspire you to do what makes you happy. Please share your own in the comments! Continue reading