Archivo de la categoría: Género y sexualidad

The nice guy and the entitlement to date him in movies

You all know the story, a nice boy meets the wild girl and falls in love with her, along comes a serious relationship and she turns to be nothing he picture she would be. Boy feels betrayed by girl. Boy calls her a bitch. Boy asks himself why does these things always happen to him.

If it sounds familiar to you is because more than a handful of movies and TV shows have depicted this precise story more than enough, I must stay in their rom-coms. Unfortunately, in most of the cases, these stories tend to represent the nice guy  like nothing more than a victim of the thoughtless and rude girl, that used him ruthlessly, without thinking about this hopeless individual that devoted his whole world to woo her and love her inconditionally.

The nice guy trope in fiction is usually portrayed as that one dude who thinks he is entitled to date someone only because he’s treating the person he’s in love with with kindness and respect. This guy is that person who always thinks is being missunderstood, but that’s also lovable and totally deserves to be in a relationship only because he’s nice.

Lately, three films in particular, (500) Days of Summer, Ruby Sparks and Comet, have drew upon this specific formula in order to revert the trope of the nice guy and instead tried to depict something more real: relationships are, first and foremost, something bilateral. When it comes to love, everyone involved are the ones to blame.

If you haven’t watched these movies, let me break them down for you. Boy meets girl (fictional girl in Ruby Sparks’ case). Boy and girl begin a relationship (casual relationship in (500) Days Of Summer’s case). Girl tells boy how she feels about love. Boy doesn’t actually hears girl. Boy sky-rockets to stalker mode and wants girl to change for him. Girl breaks up with boy. Boy is devastated. Boy hates girl for putting him in that ugly position and blames her for everything that was wrong in their relationship.

What makes these movies different from the others is the way the narrative treats the relationship. Instead of begging the audience to side with the nice guy, it asks us to go further and look behind the curtain, that place where fiction collides with reality and where the cracks of their telationship begin to show. These films actual purpose is to look beyond the nice guy facade in order to really focus on the human beings involved in the relationships and the things they struggle with.

(500) Days of Summer’ Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is the ultimate nice guy cliche. He’s kind, considerate and thoughtful, and on the first minute he mets Summer (Zooey Deschanel) immediately gets infatuated by her. She, on the other hand, doesn’t believe in love and hasn’t actually met someone who’s proven her wrong. Summer doesn’t want to get involved in a relationship and just wants to be friends with Tom.

If you have read carefuly, you will probably imagine what will happen next: Tom decides to have a casual relationship with her anyway to prove her he is worthy of her love; then, things go wrong. Summer ends up being the bad one, the one who is rejecting this nice guy who only wants to be in love. The one who crushes his heart .

Tom later learns that Summer is getting married and, of course, he feels betrayed. What he doesn’t know is that she is an actual person who is capable of making her own decisions. She wasn’t in love with Tom and she always told him that. He, on the other hand, decided to hear what he wanted to hear and not what she was actually saying.

Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano) is the nice guy on Ruby Sparks. A dude who’s been trying to forget his ex-girlfriend (the crazy bitch of this tale), but when his fictional character, Ruby (Zoe Kazan), appears in his life as her real girlfriend, everything changes. He is thrilled to have (literally) the woman of his dreams in front of him, the one woman who has everything that he’s been looking for and certainly won’t be cruel to him.

Later in the film, reality kicks in and Calvin learns that, even though Ruby was created by him, she also is an actual human being sounds familiar?,  a person who has feelings and ideas and someone who is not just part of a fantasy. He could try all he wants to change her and expect her to love him back because he’s nice, but, in the end, she is a woman capable of making her own decisions, not someone who Calvin can tamper with.

In Comet, Dell (Justin Long) falls instantly in love with Kimberly (Emmy Rossum) and immediately makes everything he can to woo her. At first, she is not convinced at all and tells him she’s not ready to date, she’s not someone who sees herself spending the rest of her life with someone else.

Eventually they start to date and we see how their story develops in multiple timelines. We also get to see how this relationship was doomed from the very beginning and how it crashes and burn in each and every one of the timelines.

Dell tries to convince Kimberly he is the man of his life, the man who will prove her wrong, the man who will always be nice to her. He tells her that in each and every universe and story they share together. The real problem, though, resides on his stubborness and unwillingness to hear her, to acknowledge Kimberly and her decisions. Once again, the woman is not a an actual person on the nice guy’s eyes, she’s just the idea of what he wants her to be.

As we can see, the nice guy usually lives in a delusional world where his fantasies are attached to the reality he’s part of. He really is a product of the films he lives in. I could perfectly see Tom, Calvin and Dell watching rom-coms and living their life by those depictions of the nice guy.

What’s really interesting is the way these three films use different narrative devices to explain the world their nice guys live in, (500) Days of Summer uses a narrator that gives us instant access to Tom’s mind, Ruby Sparks brings Calvin’s fantasy to life with Ruby, and Comet exploits multiple timelines to evoke Dell’s confusing grappling of reality.

Thus, the real problem with the nice guy as a character is his representation as someone who has null interest in knowing more about the person he has a crush on. He is in love, yes, but he bases his infatuation on the idea he has of the woman, and how she should be, not on the actual individual.

To reproduce this type of depiction is to keep acknowledging that women must date someone just because they are nice and not because they should try to make an effort to know them really. Someone who is willing to see them as  fully formed human beings with an own voice, and not a deranged fantasy that lives only in the nice guy’s head.

La falacia de la mujer protagonista en el cine

Hollywood tiene algo claro: los personajes femeninos empoderados venden. Solo con echarle un vistazo a algunas de las películas exitosas de los últimos años (sobre todo si se trata de franquicias) como The Hunger Games, Mad Max: Fury Road o Rogue One: A Star Wars Story nos podremos dar cuenta de ello.

Tuvieron que pasar muchos años, y diversas peleas dentro y fuera de la industria, para que los estudios comenzaras a ver a las mujeres como algo más que objeto de deseo de los hombres. Ahora es posible encontrar a personajes femeninos que vivan fuera del imaginativo popular y ser protagonistas al mismo tiempo; eso es, sin duda, algo digno de celebrar. Los personajes femeninos pueden -y deben- llevar historias completas en sus hombros sin problema alguno.

Me encantaría argumentar que esto es suficiente para que exista equidad de género y representación femenina suficiente, pero me estaría mintiendo. Es cierto que hemos avanzado mucho, sin embargo, es necesario hacer un especial hincapié y detenernos a pensar en la forma en la que este avance se ha hecho.

Sí, ahora contamos con una mayor representación femenina en las pantallas grandes y sí, ya tenemos mujeres protagonistas dispuestas a llevar historias que antes no eran consideradas dignas de su género.

El problema, en realidad, no radica en la extraordinaria construcción detrás de Katniss Everdeen o de Furiosa, sino en la existencia de otros personajes femeninos que tratan de imitarlas, aprovechando la tendencia actual por representar mujeres fuertes, pero que terminan perdiéndose en esencia.

Ahora tenemos a la muer fuerte, empoderada y con agencia suficiente para mantener una historia donde sus decisiones repercutan directamente en la trama, pero, al mismo tiempo, tenemos a esta misma mujer cuya existencia en la película depende enteramente para validar al personaje masculino (sea protagonista o no) y a sus decisiones.

Aurora, el personaje de Jennifer Lawrence (quién también interpreta a Katniss en The Hunger Games) en Passengers es la representación perfecta de esa idea. Al principio de la película es presentada como una chica independiente, con motivaciones y metas fuertes que la llevan a tomar la decisión de cambiarse de planeta y comenzar su vida de nuevo allá.

Algo que pierde por completo cuando Jim (Chris Pratt) decide despertarla para no estar solo en lo que resta del viaje, es decir, una vida completa. En un momento de la película, Aurora se entera que su despertar no fue accidental, sino a causa de Jim.

En cualquier otra situación de la vida real, una persona común y corriente se sentiría traicionada y herida al enterarse que otra persona literalmente la condena a vivir encerrada. Aurora se enoja, pero al poco tiempo lo perdona e incluso decide olvidar su vida en el nuevo planeta en favor de quedarse con el hombre que ama.

Sus decisiones, antes de conocer al personaje de Chris Pratt, dependen enteramente de ella y de nadie más, pero al momento en que se encuentra con él, comienzan a girar a su alrededor. Todo lo que ella hace es en función de validar a Jim como persona, como ingeniero y como amor de su vida. Aurora termina siendo definida por su relación con Jim y no por sus decisiones.

Lo mismo sucede con el personaje de Maru, intepretado por Karla Souza, en la película mexicana Qué Culpa Tiene El Niño. Maru es una mujer con decisiones propias, ella decide seguir adelante con su embarazo no deseado, no porque Renato (Ricardo Abarca) se lo pida, sino porque ella quiere hacerlo.

El problema radica, más bien, en las acciones que suceden a esta decisión, cuando comienzan a girar en torno a renato y su felicidad, mientras que vemos a Maru pasa de ser protagonista de su historia a espectadora. Para la mitad de la película la narrativa comienza a transformarse sutilmente hasta que llega a un punto en el que  Renato secuestra la decisión inicial de Maru y la hace propia.

Al final, Maru y Renato tienen el bebé y él se corona como el héroe de la historia que mantuvo sus convicciones intactas mientras que Maru se pierde en el fondo, al pasar de ser una portadora de voz y agencia a convertirse en un mero receptáculo de reproducción humana.

La invisibilización de las mujeres en la sociedad -y en consecuencia, en el cine- no es algo nuevo. Por mucho tiempo, incluso en la actualidad, han sido constantemente despojadas de agencia y voz con el afán de tomar papeles dependientes a los demás que les den presencia.

Así, vemos cómo estos dos personajes comienzan su historia portando un nombre y una agencia propia, para terminar al final de la película siendo un dispositivo de validación más, y objetos de sus contrapartes masculinas, “el amor de la vida de Jim” y “la mamá del bebé de Renato”.

Son mujeres a las que se les da agencia, pero no autonomía. Mujeres fuertes que pueden ser protagonistas y llevar la historia principal con facilidad y sin problemas, pero aún necesitan de una presencia masculina a la cual institucionalizar. Mujeres con voz, pero sin credibilidad alguna.

La representación equitativa de género en el cine no significa simplemente tener un personaje femenino que parezca ser fuerte, y que cubra las necesidades básicas de cualquier filme. También significa crear una narrativa acorde a la construcción del personaje, que la valide, e institucionalice, más allá de su aparición.

Abortion and the decision to be a mother on TV shows.

I think there’s something wrong with our society when, still nowadays, people aren’t able to talk openly of abortion without being subjected to a reprimend. It doesn’t matter if you are in favor or against it, people still would snap out of their minds with the very mention of it and this needs to change.

Women are still having -and will keep having- abortions wether people like it or not, it’s a fact. Our responsability, as active members of a society, is to dig in into this controversial -and troublesome- ideas, no matter how (un)comfortable that makes us feel.

We need informed people, we need individuals to be confronted head on with this subject now more than ever, because we can’t keep avoiding it. Abortion is part of our reality and we need to see that. Wee need to accept that and carry on with our lives.

Lately, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to know that TV shows had surpased us on this very subject. Just last year, I’ve came across with four shows that aired different episodes with a variety of colorful stories were abortion has been treated like it is, a  non-judgmental day-by-day decision made by women about her own bodies. Sometimes accompanied by their partners, other times, alone.

Take Bojack Horseman for example, not only did they succesfully managed to make an entire episode (Brrap Brrap Pew Pew) devoted to treat the subject from diferent angles -controversial song included- but it also singlehandedly managed to create an enthralling story for Diane in which she decides to have an abortion with the full support of his boyfriend, Mr. Peanutbutter, and with no regrets whatsoever.

Within Bojack Horseman‘s world, abortion is a delicate topic to engage with too, thus, women are also demonized. What’s refreshing is the much human take of the situation. There there is this strong and confident woman who’s not ready -or doesn’t want – to have a child and her life partner is, nonetheless, by her side all the time. Talk about relationship goals.

Something similar happens in a stelar episode (When Will Josh And His Friend Leave Me Alone?) of the wonderful second season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, when Paula finds out that she’s pregnant right after receiving the news that she was accepted to study law in order to follow her dreams of becoming a lawyer.

And the show comes up with an interesting take on the matter and certainly one that a lot of women has to deal with in any given moment in their life: how much self-sacrifice should women have to face in order to achieve their dreams? What happens when life gets in your way? What you shoould do? How it will affect your life and the way everybody sees you?

The answer is, and as Crazy Ex-Girlfriend perfectly sums it up, to go on with it, whatever the finally decision is or would be. Eventually, she decides to go on with the abortion, with her husband by her side, holding her hand and taking care of her. Paula already has two kids and a prominent future looking right at her, waiting for her.

As we can see, motherhood is not, and shouldn’t be, an obstacle in one’s life.  Motherhood it’s neither a burden every women has to carry on their shoulders, nor an obligation that should be imposed on their lives.

This is something that crosses Lindsay’s mind on a poignant episode of You Are The Worst (Talking To Me, Talking To Me) when she is met with a crossroad deciding if she wants to go on with her pregnancy because she really wants to have a baby or just because it’s what her husband needs to be happy.

As an audience, we’re aloud to see through the cracks of Lindsay and Paul’s relationship. They are -and has been-together more out of a rutine than by a shared sense of love or mutual respect, for that matter; and, as later Lindsay realizes, a baby is not going to help improve it either way. Their not meant to be together, pregnancy aside or not.

Lindsay, as immature and impulsive as she is, ends getting the abortion without consulting it with his husband. Eventually he learns about it and, after a big fight, he too acknowledges that even a baby would not save their relationship.

The series is so nuanced and invested on telling this story, that they manage to make a powerful argument with it: being a mother is, as any other aspect in life, a decision that needs to be made, not by others, but by the couple involved; and, first and foremost, by the woman herself.

Fiona Gallagher, the matriarch and the (somewhat) moral compass of the Gallagher family in Shameless US has to make the same decision on an episode (NSFW) of the sixth season. After she learns she is pregnant she decides, with the help of her boyfriend, to have an abortion. As we can see throughout the whole episode, they are not ready to have a kid, nor they want to.

Praises aside, these four bold series have managed to do what any other show couldn’t, treat abortion not as the main event of an episode, but rather as a part of each of their characters’ stories. By not making a big fuzz about it, they’re really changing the way we should be treating the subject, like a life decision more than a game changer.

One Remake At A Time

There is no rulebook for a perfect time to premiere a TV show, but, if it were, then the new Netflix series One Day At A Time would’ve ticked all the boxes. In an era where remakes are around the corner, this particular TV show, even though is a remake of the 1975 classic, feels particularly fresh and very aware of the context its living in.

I don’t think that the showrunners, Gloria Calderón Kellet and Mike Royce, would have pictured this particular show as a remedy for the Post-Trump election audience, but it sure feels like it. In this day and time, there’s nothing more radical than a TV show starring a cuban veteran nurse of Afghanistan living in Los Angeles and trying to raise her two kids with the help of her mother, as the life of Penelope Álvarez in One Day At A Time.

Granted, the very idea of the selfless single mother navigating through the challenges of life, has been made countless of times both in movies and TV shows, but, and this is what it makes this serie so profoundly adequate, they have never focused the attention on the challenges of being a woman, specially an immigrant.

Focusing the narrative only on the problems of motherhood without understanding what’s like to be a woman, and on the essence and construction behind a woman’s perspective, has always been an usual problem on stories like this. They have been telling us that motherhood (and especially single motherhood) is something inherent to womanhood, something to suffer about, to embrace as something women must own.

Netflix’s One Day At A Time understands this particular issue and depicts it on a whole new view, by building their characters from scratch. Yes, Penelope is a single mother of two, but in no way the series confines her to portray only that role in her arc. She also is a nurse, a veteran, a divorced woman, a daughter and a single lady looking for love.

Of course that she has problems raising her kids by her own, but what’s really meaningful about this show is that her role as a mother is not the one that is carrying the story along. Her collected experiences as a woman living in the USA are the real focus, motherhood just happens to be one of them.

The same thing happens with the depiction of her mother Lydia and Penelope’s daughter Elena, they are both full and well-rounded characters with their own opinions and agency, trying to understand what does it means to be a woman nowadays. Thus, the more profound and enjoyable episodes are the ones that keeps challenging each and one of their personal opinions with the ones around them, and specially with each other.

Lydia is a catholic woman who migrates to USA in the midst of Castro’s goverment looking for a new place to call home, Elena, on the other hand, is cuban girl born in the United States with a particular interest on social challenge and new ways to improve the world she lives in. They both understand life differently, but because the great love they share, they are capable of grasp their opinions and respect each other.

The show not only finds many ways to give her women a voice, but it also manages to put it front and center with a handful of serious debates, that the characters have in each episode, around women’s rights, sexism, religion, lesbianism and gender pay gap. Make no mistake, giving this women her own voice and agency in no way means that the male roles are overshadowed by them, if anything, it helps them to be portrayed in a happier and more fulfilling light.

One Day At A Time makes an incredible effort to present flawed but caring men, that are usually influenced but not defined by toxic masculinity, capable of having profound discussions about homosexuality, mansplaining and sexism without being subjected or depicted as the villains of the story. Something that, at least in my case, helped me to confront the social perspective around of what’s really like to be a man nowadays.

It feels quite refreshing to find a TV show, with the narrative structure of a sitcom, capable of going to the places that even some serious series hadn’t had the nerve to go. Because in a world full of remakes, the ones that are here to propose instead of playing common patterns are the ones that are more likely to succeed.

 

 

 

 

 

Neon lights: the illumination of adolescence in movies

The loss of inocence and the “Coming of age” stories are one of the most used trope often depicted by Hollywood on the mainstream cinema. It’s not uncommon to find movies that circle around that specific moment on every teen life when they transition from being an innocent child to become an empowered adolescent.

Being such a significant time in someone’s life, this rite of passagehas  a lot of symbolisms embedded right into its core. Symbols that some movies like to represent in numerous ways, like with a loss of virginity, or with a big, introspective and literal journey across the country, or even with a Prom dance. You see, the coming of age is something inevitable and very profitable for Hollywood, and this year wasn’t the exception.

From a handful of movies that premiered in 2016, I think that three of them really stand from the others: The Neon Demon, Nerve  and The Closet Monster, not only because I consider them to be actually  good or because I’m pretty sure they harnessed excelent narrative techniques to tell their story, but mostly because their deep understanding  on adolescence and the transition through this rite of passage.


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Of course, each one of them treats different and interesting subjects. Whereas The Neon Demon made a strong argument against the beauty culture, Nerve tried to talk about the dangers of technology and Closet Monster stood against homophobia. But they also depicted certain elements of the coming of age very similarily: using neon lights as a narrative and symbolic tool to reference it.

All of three of them have an innocent character living on a bubble as a protagonist. It isn’t until later when they have to face reality when the loss of innocence happens, along with the appearence of perfunctory neon lights on the scene as a part of their environment to aknowledge it.

The Neon Demon presents the perfect epitome of innocence and virginity with Jesse (Elle Fanning), a young model from a small town  navigating through the difficulties and superficialites of Los Angeles. When we first met her, we see a teen struggling to cope with the reality she is living in while trying to accomplish her dream in order to succeed on the beauty bussiness.

Nerve has the incorrupted Vee (Emma Roberts) as its protagonist. An A-grade student looking  for some emotion that can help her to break free from the routine she has put herself into for the last years, trying to be the perfect girl she always imagine would be whilst making an effort to get the attention from the boy she is in love with.

Finally, Closet Monster introduced us to Oscar (Connor Jessup), a guy who has always lived under the shadow of his homophobic dad, that is trying to understand what his role in the world is and where does he fits in it.

They, like every other teen in the world, are looking for meaning  and substance in their lives. The three of them are facing adulthood like fishes out of water: navigating through a sea of emotions and insecurities, but with a lot of curiosity to push them forward.

The Neon Demon is, by far, the most blunt approach to adolescence by using neon lights as a device to understand the coming of age experience. Its director even blatantly compares this blossom in life with a demon transformation. The more Jesse becomes part of this “adult” world, the more demonized her look and her attitude is. She surrounds herself with neon lights with each step she takes ahead.

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Jesse’s first confrontation with her own beliefs -a very innocent ones, I must say- happens when Ruby (Jena Malone), one of the makeup artist she works with, takes her to meet another models to a party. There, she realizes what really she is getting herself into, when the girls start to criticize her. From the very beginning, she feels overwhelmed but decided to triumph on that city that constantly puts beauty and lust before humanity. Of course, the scene ends with Jesse watching with an offish glare a model show surrounded by neon lights.

But its not until her first runway when she fully embraces her demon-ness . As the industry begins to consume her inner light, she slowly starts to feel that she belongs there. She feels empowered and purposeful to be the best model in town, and she doesn’t care about anything or anyone. This realization comes along with a  beautiful scene where Jesse watchs her reflection looking right at her in fully neon lights.

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Nerve, on the other hand,  approaches to teen angst and insecurity by tackling it with technology obsession. Vee it’s the typical adolescent looking for an adventure and a change of routine. This, of course, appears in form of a daring app that challenge its users to do risky things in change for money and a bunch of memories to gloat over.

Vee’s curiosity comes across like something natural and organic as all her classmates are experiencing the same feelings and excitement of using the app. At the beginning of the movie, she is often surrounded by dim lights and obscure environments, but when she’s ready to accept her first challenge, the illumination changes.

As she enters a restaurant to kiss a stranger, the neon lights that decorate the place begin to shine. In fact, each and every one of the dares  that Vee and Ian (Dave Franco) perform, are surrounded by bright neon lights, getting brighter and brighter as the challenges increase their difficulty.

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To Nerve the coming of age means not only to embarce and confront your worst fears, but to live through them and not under the shadow they could cast above your life. Curiosity is, after all, the fire that ignites the neon lights of adolescence.

Closet Monster reflects a lot upon acceptance and sexuality on teenage years. Oscar has always known that something is off in his life, that something’s missing. Living with a homophobic dad and with the awful idea of an absent mom is not easy for him. All of the scenes with his dad are surrounded by opaque illumination that casts a shadow on both of them.

It isn’t until he meets Wilder (Aliocha Schneider) when his surroundings start to change. As Oscar begins to accept his inner thoughts, his character commences to walk through bright places, and when he is finally ready to accept who he is and confess his love to his friend, the neon lights appear in form of party decorations. This type illumination is, after all, the representation of his desires.

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If this odd cinematographic technique has something to teach us, is that the key to turn on the neon lights that could surround our life, we need to be in contact with oneself and one’s needs. In order to achieve our goal of moving from childhood to adolescence, we must embrace curiosity to outgrow our self-imposed limits.