Archivo de la categoría: Mixology

Rachel Bloom: musical comedy and spot on feminism

The day I fell in love with Rachel Bloom was actually the first time I ever heard anything from and about her. I was just  in the process of getting over my ex-boyfriend, so, naturally, I was looking for new music for my sad “I’m-over-you-and-I’m-not-sad-at-all” playlist to listen to on an infinite loop. I ran out of options quickly so, as any other lonely guy would do, I searched for songs with the word “dick” on their name and, without realizing, I was rapidly blasting “Pictures Of Your Dick”, by the one and only Rachel Bloom, non-stop. Little did I know that finding this merry tune will be just the tip of the iceberg on my quest to understand and embrace the numerous ways she navigates with her comedy.

For those who hadn’t had the joy of knowing Rachel Bloom, let me break it down for you. She is a comedian who started her career by doing musical comedy on Youtube (Please, don’t miss the opportunity to go to her channel to take a look of what’s she’s capable of) and now she’s the creator, writer and protagonist of The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend TV show, which recently was renewed for a third season.

She is a feminist who uses musical comedy to make a point and to take a stand on what she really believes in. So, in order to understand her comedy, you will need to see it as a criticism and a satire of the society’s actual state.

The clever ways she  balances her feminism in perfect unison with her comedy is, actually, her greatest statement of all; in fact, Rachel Bloom’s best asset is her particular way she uses the deconstruction of tropes, and social constructs, as strong arguments against sexism. Traditional gender roles and moral values are just some of the topics she likes to toy with on a daily basis.

Rachel Bloom sees society as a one big musical. A staging where the performers live by the narratives they taught themselves to believe in in order to follow the rules the script has laid upon them. A play where some tropes could be just as harmful as labels, but that can also be subverted in the same way.

You will only need to take one glimpse on her trajectory to find three subverted tropes that are present consistently on all the things she does: The Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, The Disney Princess and The Party Girl. Her most famous yet is, and thanks to her TV show, the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

This particular trope is pretty complex by itself, not only because it comes from a blatant sexist background, but because women are often labeled with it. You might have heard about this one before, it stems from the outdated idea that women are just emotional individuals that keep making rushed choices with their heart and not with their minds. So, by acting on it, they will always be reduced to this one-note characters that will probably be obsessed with the dudes they had a relationship with.

Rachel Bloom, on the other hand, makes the most of it by really going along with it. She constantly mocks this particular trope by going the extra mile by granting all these particular characteristics to her main character of the show, Rebecca Bunch (played, obviously, by her): she basically moves to her ex-boyfriend’s hometown in order to get back with him, but she’s convinced that that’s not the reason she changed cities.

Rebecca is obsessive, irrational and stubborn. She’s the best caricature of the trope we can get. That’s what’s really enthralling of the show, her character is so exaggerated and over the top that it becomes really easy to deconstruct it in order to identify the flaws behind it. That’s how Rachel Bloom rolls, by exaggerating the stereotype and waiting for the cracks to show.

Her Crazy Ex-Girlfriends are often saying to themselves, and to others, what men would like to hear in order to get back with them, after all, they are hopelessly in love and  very devoted to the man they love. It’s common that they have a really low self-esteem and their personality, and core identity, varies from man to man. They even upload pictures of their ex-boyfriend’s dick online as a form of personal vendetta.

With only two seasons of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend in, we are able to understand, as the audience, that women that are labeled as the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend are, in fact, often constrained by all the high and sexist standards that society have placed on them from the very beginning.  In a certain way, they just acts on it.

Women have to be sentimental — and not tough—, because the gender role they have to fulfill demands them to be like that, but only in small doses and without being too loud, because, without any kind of supervision, it could probably transform into an obsession or, even worst, a direct attack against our very fragile masculinity.

The Disney Princess trope comes right from the same place. Society will always tell us that, in order to have a happy life, women have to become wives, not Crazy Ex-Girlfriends,  and the best way to do it is by drawing the attention of a Prince Charming by being feminine, elegant, selfless and sentimental. That’s why Rachel Bloom’s subversion of this trope is so delicious. Her Princesses are everything but what society likes to call “ladylike”. They like to curse while their sing, and they will certainly talk about poop and menstrual cramps without any decorum. They are, at the end of the day, regular human beings, not impossible standards to achieve.

The Party Girl has her origins on the darkest corner of masculine heterosexuality: the fantasies. This stereotype wants women to be sexy, sensual and carefree but without losing any trace of femininity and elegance. This particular trope can be very contradictory by itself, it asks women to be kind of slutty but without losing her prstine image or any respect from the others, especially from herself. You can also find this girl in any party waiting to woo over some random dudes.

In Rachel Bloom’s world, the Party Girl sings at the club about dying from cancer, throwing up a bile, threatening someone’s girlfriend to kill her and use her skin as a dress, or even flying her dirty panties as a kite, all of that whilst using a revealing outfit. As you can see, she’s anything but sexy.

This is what we really need right now, someone who is willing to use her platform to make strong statements about important topics visible,  with creative methods that can help people understand them in a more accesible way. Rachel Bloom is already getting ahead of everybody.

Fading to black: Lars Von Trier and gender politics.

As I have mentioned before, I really like to watch movies and TV Shows that are capable of making me feel uncomfortable —and, sometimes, even disturbed—not only for the cringeworthy moments, but for their capacity to confront and transform the paradigms with which I live my life by. Lars Von Trier’s films could perfectly sum up all of this.

I’m sure you have all watched at least one of his movies, and I’m also sure we can all agree on one thing: Lars Von Trier’s movies are nothing but average.

I’m not here to talk you into watching some of the best films of his wide and impressive career (something you should definitely do) or to tell you he is one of the most clever minds that the modern cinema has and will ever have (he really is), but to rather talk about something more relevant, and significant, to the times we’re living in: his gender politics.

If there’s something this director is really good at is portraying accurate depictions of what is like to be a woman in our current society, what her place is and how difficult her relationship with the men around her could be.

Lars Von Trier depicts his women like individuals without a voice, without a place to belong and a body to own. These women are often the caretakers, the ones that are always giving everything without expecting anything back, the ones that put everyone else’s needs before theirs. These women are stripped of any type of agency and decisions of their own and are constantly taken for granted.

Men, on the other hand, are the ones deciding upon women’s lives, decisions and bodies. The ones taking the spaces from them, the ones that are constantly putting women down by being condescending and unapproachable. These are the men that think they deserve everything they want, specially when a woman is involved. It’s no surprise that all of Lars Von Trier’s women end up on the verge.

The director has a keen eye to portray hopeless mothers. These individuals are portrayed as both completely vulnerable and always subjected to the men around them. They are women devoted to look after their children and to keep them safe from the dangers of the world.

Selma (Björk), in Dancer In The Dark, is the embodiment of this. She is an immigrant single mother that lives in the backyard of Bill (David Morse), a well-known policeman of a small town of the U.S who would do anything to please his wife, even if it means to steal money from his tenant.

Selma’s otherness is both the cause of her demise and her reason to be happy. She has no place to live, but the shed of Bill. She’s also going blind and lives with a constant guilt over her son’s possible blindness too. Bill takes advantage of this situation by immediately robbing her and putting her in a difficult position; leaving her with no other solution but to kill him.

Selma’s worst fear is to lose her child, to live in a world where his son’s childhood could be instantly robbed from him only because she has a hereditary illness. Selma’s entire life purpose is to procure her son’s health, even if it costs her her life.

So, when she’s thrown into jail, she’s not only becoming another faceless victim, she is also thrusted into a system unable to defend her. A system led by men,  that has control over her body and her freedom. A corrupt system that eventually ends up killing her and her spirit, without hesitation.

Charlotte Gainsbourg also depicted this type of mother on two Von Trier movies: Antichrist and Melancholia. This two women share the same fear of losing a child that Selma has. The difference between them resides on the story.  The woman named “She” loses her son at the beginning of the former and Claire at the end of the latter.

Both woman also have indifferent husbands who thinks that money and complaisance are the best way to be there for their wives in order to help them go through the difficult times. “He” (Willem Dafoe) is a psychologist reluctant to feel any sort of empathy towards his wife and his mourning process over the death of their child. John (Kiefer Sutherland) , on the other hand, is a scientist already fed up by her wife Claire and her “sentimentalism”.

These two men are completely certain that their wives would, and should, process their feelings the same way they do. They think they know and understand them perfectly well, but, in reality, they are just thinking about themselves. They’re not listening to them. In fact, they constantly find ways to silence them.

Dogville‘s Grace (Nicole Kidman) not only is left without a place to belong or live, but she’s also left without any will to go on with her life the very moment she arrives to the fictional town, named Dogville, looking for a place to hide from the gangsters that are after her. In there, the villagers find bizarre ways to mock her, silence her and arbitrary situations to justify the means of owning her body.

What’s really interesting of this movie is not only the raw depiction of humanity that Von Trier portrays accurately, but also the poignant point of view of a woman that is on the verge. Grace reaches a point were she has nothing left to loose. So, she orders the gangsters that are after her, to kill all the people on the town, even the children.

Yes, Lars Von Trier’s women can be selfless caretakers, but they also are human. And, as human beings, when they feel threatened, they will retaliate. Sadly, these personal rebellions will only appear when a breaking point is reached. Lars Von Trier depicts perfectly the way women are raised nowadays, as mute individuals that will not, and should not, raise their voice against anything.

Notwithstanding, Selma’s spends her last minutes alive by singing a song as an act of rebellion against the system that is in charge of breaking her. Claire finds a way to calm her child minutes before the world’s end as a way of retalliation against her fear of letting him down. In Antichrist, She finds a way to mutilate the genitals of her husband as a way to emancipate and break free from the box He put her into.

But, as we will learn from this movies, acting out will always bring consequences to the women involved. Something that Von Trier perfectly sums up on Nymphomaniac. a film where Joe (another wonderful acting piece by Charlotte Gainsbourg) goes against all that standards that the women before her had to live upon.

Joe is a fearless woman who is trying to understand who she is through sex. She is very confident about her sexuality and very conscious of her body. She refuses other men’s advances whenever she wants to whilst she doesn’t put up with them trying to control her body. She, eventually, will learn that society will not tolerate rogue women prancing around with their moral values.

By the end of the movie, Joe will be punished for her actions and for standing against a society more concerned about her behaving than to actually listen to her. Joe will reach for a gun in order to protect herself against a man (Stellan Skarsgard) who wants to control her body, and we will be left with nothing but a fade to black and an uncertainty around Joe’s life. Like all the other women in real life who are brave enough to stand against the very system who is always trying to break them but they keep disappearing.

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.

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.