This is my 2012 post

NB: This will have spoilers.


So 2012 has a metacritic score of 5.1 and a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 39%, but I would not let that dissuade you if you like things that blow up and incredible cinematic distillations of the postmodern world. This is not a movie for critics. This is a movie that takes the apocalypse movie to its logical, incredible, landmass-shifting conclusion. It is almost avant-garde in its total disregard for explaining how neutrinos destablize the earth’s crust, and its full-on repetition of the same dazzling sequence (and it is really dazzling, every time!) of racing to get a plane to take off before the runway crumbles away beneath it. This happens not twice, but three times. Every time, our embattled family that has been broken up by modernity and technology (Dad’s always at his laptop) is left to hold each other as they fly over another destroyed city. It would be cleverly meta if this movie were in any way capable of irony.


The grand political stuff rings sort of depressingly true if you get past all the silliness and bluster and the fact that Oliver Platt is the only evil politician in the entire world and the fact that they save humanity by building arks and that they manage to keep the end of the world a secret for years. (Also, why would they assassinate the director of the Louvre in the same tunnel where Princess Di was killed? And why would the newscast in the movie mention this?) They sell seats on the arks to the richest people in the world, and then they outsource the building to China, where they can just load cheap labour into trucks. So some small proportion of the first world weathers the earthquakes and tsunamis long enough to set a course for the land of the future, the new world — now the highest elevation on earth (because the tectonic plates all shifted?), and probably the only continent to avoid flooding: Africa. We’ll get it right this time!


I’m not arguing that all this genius was in any way intentional — not that the movie is made without skill, the effects are incredible and the action sequences are well-paced and easy to follow, all the actors don’t get in the way of all this (except Danny Glover, who is trying a little hard for gravitas), and it is in general adrenaline-tastic — but oh man, it is, in so many ways, the ultimate.

Twilight may normalize overwrought relationships with vampires, professor says

Screen shot 2009-11-15 at 9.48.38 PM

Real Vancouver Sun story:

VICTORIA — With the second instalment of the Twilight vampire movies about to open, a University of Victoria professor is warning parents and young Twilight fans that the series doesn’t depict healthy relationships between the sexes.

UVic political scientist [italics mine] Janni Aragon says she understands the difference between fact and escapist fiction, but the distinction might be lost on some of the young audience for the book and movie series. “I get that, but does my 11-year-old daughter?”

The article goes on to quote a 12 year-old reader who thinks the way the relationship is portrayed is unrealistic and that Edward is condescending to Bella, and then ends this way:

Aragon said she loved reading the stories: “I could not put these books down. I think it will be interesting to see how Hollywood presents the next book. Ultimately, Bella’s character does become stronger, especially in the last book.”

But she said the danger is that the series will normalize the couple’s relationship for young, impressionable people.

“They need to realize that this is just a movie [about sparkly, baseball-playing vampires], just a book [about sparkly, baseball-playing vampires], and that it’s not the norm.”

Thanks, professor.

Teardrops on my guitar

I am just having a…bad day. Nothing actually bad, just like annoying first world problems. A Taylor Swift bad day, not a Bob Dylan bad day. Plans falling through, misunderstandings, going to like 4th choice restaurant for dinner and having it be kind of overpriced and slow, and the whole day being generally less awesome than I’d hoped when I woke up this morning.

I tried to write a post about Glee, but I wasn’t really in the right mood. I think I will just sit next to my amp and smudge my mascara for awhile.

Taylor Swift – White Horse
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Big boy rides, big boy ice


If I was going to have a threesome with a movie star, I would probably want to do it to this white girl cover of this hip hop song.

Whatever You Like – Anya Marina

I prefer brunettes

Jane Russell, winning at life. The boys? All in the naked shorts? Their bodies turned into nothing but props like the ladies in a Busby Berkley? Awesome.

I spent my afternoon watching musicals; I always forget how much I love Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

People always remember Marilyn in the pink dress, but “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” is such a weird, creepy number. It starts with the girls in the chandelier. Then there are all the ballerinas in pink, which totally clashes with the orange-red background. Then you realize the ballerinas all have these weird black netting veils on their faces. I don’t really think this bit necessarily has a “meaning” in a sort of obvious metaphorical sense (though the veils look like cages and they also look a little like the veils that Marilyn and Jane wear to get married in their double wedding at the end of the movie if you want to get all feminist about it), but the whole thing is so dystopian and clashing and amazing.

Pop Fashion Robot

So Lady Gaga is my favourite, I don’t care what anybody says. I love how she tries to sum up her whole persona in every video: this one’s weird and creepy and kind of sexy and also pretty funny all at once. She even wears my favourite outfit from the last Alexander McQueen show, with the crazy gold studs everywhere.

Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce (Campbell?)


Oh, Mad Men! What a happy, satisfying, the-gang’s-all-back-together kind of an episode! I love how Trudy shows up with sandwiches for everyone, and there’s this warm familial sense that we’re all in this together etc etc. It was almost like watching a different show! Except for the part where Don of all people, who apparently has no self-awareness at all, or was just really angry and upset because his life was falling apart, I guess, called Betty a whore.

Is it weird that I feel weird about that? I have been thinking a lot about how people watch Mad Men lately, and I keep coming back to being surprised that a show like Mad Men — slow-moving, full of unlikable characters (the only exception being maybe Joan, and even then she is still kind of a bitch) whose unlikability you’re constantly being confronted with, about social issues and politics — is as popular and beloved as it is. I know people generally like things that are awesome, and if Mad Men is challenging it’s also compelling and funny and emotionally absorbing, but it still consistently surprises me that some people seem to love it despite apparently not having any idea what’s going on. (I.e. I don’t think the producers meant us to read Don molesting Bobbie Barrett as even a little bit of a proud moment, and I still read forum comments like “Woo! Don’s got his mojo back!” after that episode aired. Then I stopped reading forums about Mad Men.)

So, I watched, I laughed, I totally cheered “Joan!” along with everyone else in the room when Roger said “Let me make a call.” It was seriously satisfying to see Don tell Roger how much he meant to him, tell Pete how actually prescient he is, tell Peggy how much he values and understands her talent, to see Harry get the credit he deserves; but at the same time I feel weirdly guilty about it. I’m supposed to get this feeling from, like, Buffy, the show where love saves the world, not Mad Men, the show about how love is just something guys like Don invented to sell stockings. It’s not that I expect Mad Men to be real, even, it’s more like I expect it not to satisfy my cheeseball desires. I expect to be carefully constructed to totally break my heart. I know NY Mag thinks that it “somehow didn’t feel like some ridiculous holodeck of phony caper-ness,” 1 but I still feel kind of wrong about it. The whole gang just working out of this one hotel room, starting everything anew in some kind of Utopian American Dream blank slate thing — it just seems so much like they were trying to throw me a bone. It feels nefarious; it’s the kind of happy capitalist ending that makes me want to go all Frankfurt school on the whole thing.

Why can’t I just let TV make people happy? I am not usually this weird grad school person who is suspicious of entertainment products that give people good feelings!

  1. Also this has been bugging me, the article claims that Joan has “been with fewer men than Peggy, so far as we know.” I think this is false. We know Joan has been with Kinsey, Roger, that random old dude she picked up when she and Carol went out that one night after Carol told Joan to pretend she was a boy, and her husband; in the pilot she also implies that she boned that creepy birth control doctor she sent Peggy to. Based on what we know, Peggy has been with Pete, that college kid she picks up, and Duck. And that could very well be the entire list of men Peggy’s been with. 

Being a cave painting

So we finally caught up on Mad Men in time for the season finale — which we’re supposed to watch with friends tonight, hence the hurry — and I’m so excited because I’ve been badly avoiding plot twist news for weeks now (I basically knew about most of the major developments, but Mad Men isn’t really that kind of show, so it didn’t really miss out on the experience).

I still have a lot to digest before I do a real post about this season, but I’m excited I can finally read all the posts in my feed reader I have been saving up. If you’re not already reading it, I recommend the consistently rewarding Footnotes of Mad Men, both on the Awl and on Tumblr, which is going to be a book I will buy! It does a lot of work making connections and unpacking a lot of the historical context.

Also, Rachel pointed out this Pandagon post on Facebook, and it is probably the best thing I have read about Betty maybe ever:

The conservative reaction to the Draper marriage shows exactly how effective that storyline is in making its point. A lot of liberals, I’ve found, are bored with Betty for another reason entirely. They can’t understand why she doesn’t just pick up and leave already, if she’s so unhappy. We’re on the other side of it—so feminist that it’s hard to wrap our minds around the psychology of someone who isn’t. But conservatives flip the fuck out, get defensive and start scapegoating January Jones, going so far as to argue that her dull affect is evidence that she can’t act, when in fact it’s evidence that the actress is being fearless in her portrayal of someone whose entire personality has been flattened out by boredom. That isn’t easy for an actress, you know. Most actresses have an urge to be sparkling and charming in every role they play, even those that don’t call for it. It’s because Hollywood is run by men, and you can get a lot farther being eye-catching and charming and making men think that they want to be around you. That Jones, who is very beautiful, is willing to be off-putting onscreen is brave. That she spends a lot of time onscreen making you wish she was far away is the fucking point. She’s supposed to make you uncomfortable.

Betty’s always one of the most controversial characters because she’s so unpleasant to be around, and that’s because she is so, so mired in this world that’s almost completely foreign to viewers now. One of the most persistent critiques you read of Mad Men from people who don’t like it (who are pretty few and far between) is that it constantly reminds you you’re in the 1960s and that takes you out of the story. This is pretty obviously the point of the show, and Betty’s Exhibit A in this argument because as much as you feel for her (or not, as the case so frequently seems to be), it is really hard to put yourself in her place or to understand her. It’s frustrating because she’s speaking English and living in a pretty similar world to the one we are now, but she doesn’t really give you any points of common ground. Betty’s the one who makes it the most clear that the past is emotionally incomprehensible; we can see cave paintings and we can read what they represent, but we can’t really ever know what they meant to people.

“I don’t have the strength to stay away from you anymore” “Then don’t”

I want to talk a bit more about Twilight, and why I feel weird about. Twilight is, no matter how you look at it, a pretty terrible movie that turns vampires into unicorns, but it still, at least for me, captures something pretty real about teen girlhood. Which is probably why it’s so popular with teen girls and the women who used to be them.

When the LRB covers pop-cult stuff, they usually get it really wrong, but Jenny Turner’s piece on Twilight is pretty great:

In accordance with the adage about the rubbishy book making for the better movie, Twilight the film is great. The mise en scène luxuriates in the dinosaur-age greenery of the temperate rainforest, the ugly rainwear from Wal-Mart dampness of school and diner and Main Street, day after day after day. Eighteen-year-old Kristen Stewart, Adjani-pale and massy-haired, somehow makes perfect sense of Bella: she has a particularly fine way of squirming around in her skinny trousers, and perhaps got her chin-out speaking style from Jodie Foster, with whom she co-starred a few years ago as the diabetic daughter in Panic Room. And all the girls are squealing at Robert Pattinson – the noble Cedric Diggory in the Harry Potter films – as Edward: hair quiffed, face powder a shade or two too light, modelled, I thought, on Prince William on a night out at Boujis, laughing fondly down at Kate Middleton when she can’t help herself being middle-class. There’s a little bit of martial-arts-type leaping, some tiny vampire flashbacks done, wittily, like Nosferatu, but that apart, the film is gloriously lucid, without flicker or gloss or shadow. I went to a West End matinée on a Saturday, with girls on their eighth and eleventh viewings, and a few women closer to my age with bags from Debenhams and Primark. It was the first time I’d been to the cinema for ages and I bounced out full of beans.

Then afterwards I found myself feeling wretched, in a way I really haven’t for years and years and years. Why can’t I be freed of the need for food and sleep, why can’t I squirm exquisitely in skinny trousers, why can’t I be for ever beautiful and young? Awful memories were dislodged, of being young and full of longing – a really horrible feeling, a sickening excess of emotion with nowhere, quite, to put it. ‘I wish I could be a vampire,’ I actually said out loud at one point, though once I’d said it, I knew even that didn’t get to the heart of the problem. But the internet is great for discharging all this discontent and discomfort. I watched trailers and out-takes, I browsed on Twilight Moms, I read the interview with ‘Stephenie’ in the latest issue of American Vogue – she is ‘obsessed with the Greek salad’ in her local deli. I read somewhere some interviews with Kristen Stewart, who finds the Twilight craze ‘psychotic’.

For me, it went deeper than longing; watching Bella figure out to deal with her relatinoship with Edward, the vampire who’s constantly trying to “control” himself around her — I related to that, related to it like crazy. Now, watching it I may have been thinking about how the author is Mormon and that her Mormonism influenced the story in a lot of ways, but I feel like it most likely would have been potent for me anyway, in part because when I was Bella’s age, I dated a Mormon dude. I want to be careful writing about this because it was a private relationship that we had a long time ago — but suffice it to say that chastity was a big concern for him. This was okay with me, because I wasn’t really to go any further than we did, and I really cared for him a lot and wouldn’t really want him to do something he was ashamed of. But at the same time, I was a teen girl with hormones and feelings, and obviously I…wanted more. Don’t get me wrong, my high school boyfriend was nothing like Edward — he didn’t watch me sleep, and he was fun and interesting to be around.

Twilight is basically about that feeling — about wanting something you feel you shouldn’t want, about wanting someone to give into desires they really don’t want to, about how when you fall in love at 18 it basically seems like the most important thing in the world — and it does it really well. When Edward tells Bella how “dangerous” he is (main danger skill: overacting), she still pushes toward him. “I’m not afraid of you,” she says, kind of hoping he’ll “lose control” but mostly knowing he won’t.

When he appears (totally creepily) in her bedroom window one night, he tells her not to move. “I just want to try something.” They start kissing, and as soon as he’s opened the door, she goes for it — until he pushes her away. “I’m stronger than I thought I was,” he says. “I wish I could say the same,” she gasps back. I don’t know what the consensus is on Kristen Stewart’s performance, but I think she really takes the Bella on the page and gives her all the desire without really understanding what you’re desiring — the sense that there is something sublime if you could just cross over this one line (which for her is represented by these flashes of Edward biting her neck, which doesn’t really even seem to sublimate the sex thing all that much), but… you just can’t.

It’s sort of awful, because it’s so confusing and guilt-ridden, but at the same time there’s a kind of romance to it, a kind of bigness and stakes that nothing else will ever really have.


Oh, I don’t miss being a teenager at all.

Only One Englishman Per Gala

I was planning to write a longer thing about Twilight and my adolescence and the relations between the two tonight, but I was busy with other things! High culture things.

I maybe somehow went to an Opera gala concert tonight?1 Culture! Opera’s one of those things that you would think I would like, since I like pretentious stuff and when people sing things they would normally say (or that are their heart’s unspoken desires) and also melodrama, but I really know very little about it.

(Stuff like this is weird for me because I’m a big enough fan of all the aforementioned to enjoy the performing of dramatic songs without a lot of foreknowledge. But I obviously spend a lot of time with “low” culture, but I honestly can’t see that big a distinction between opera and like, a soap opera, besides oldness and the fact that one is performed in a foreign language. They both really are these sensationalist, stylized dramatic forms with ridiculous stories and overwrought emotions expressed through song and other totally artificial behaviours. Though opera does have the whole vocal virtuouso thing. Which is to say, the more I think about it, the more I think opera is probably awesome and is just waiting for me to discover it.)

Then Pamela Martin (of local CTV news fame) came out and said “May all your news be good news.” Then we ate our free cake and tried to have a drink at the Cascade on the way home, but there was a 25-minute wait, so we just bought some IPA since we’re trying to catch up on Mad Men before the season finale Sunday.

…I only wish I had talked Alex into wearing his bow tie.

  1. Just the concert part, not the $650/plate dinner part. They had people holding candles lining the sidewalk on Granville — to shield elderly concertgoers from the drunk kids coming out of the clubs — between the concert venue and the dinner venue. Culture! 

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