Archivo de la categoría: Profiles

Nicole Kidman and her Unbreakable Women

Fair warning: This post contains spoilers for The Killing Of A Sacred Deer, The Beguiled and Big Little Lies. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend you to stop reading it.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you must certainly have seen, heard or know at least one movie where Nicole Kidman has been a part of. She’s been active since 1983 and has won multiple awards for her diverse set of performances.

From Eyes Wide Shut to The Beguiled, Nicole Kidman has always managed to draw people’s attention to her striking and nuanced portrayals over the years. She’s dedicated, hard-working and totally devoted to the art, and that’s something is reflected on everything she’s doing and has done in her career.

In fact, one of Nicole Kidman’s many assets is her ability to choose the right characters for her. Make no mistake, many of them haven’t been random choices. She has played lots of different characters, yes, but if you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed that most of them share one particular trait:  they are strong and unwavering women.

Women who have been violated, taken for granted and pushed aside by the patriarchal society as a way to maintain control and power over their bodies.  Women who had been to hell and back but always get back on their feet with their heads up and standing tall. In hindsight, Nicole Kidman’s women are unbreakable.

The unbreakable woman she represents is the irremediable daughter of the patriarchy. She’s strong because her misogynistic upbringing has made her that way; she’s cautious but never stopped fighting for what she believes is right, even when every man around her insists on telling her to do the exact opposite; she’s opinionated because the world wants to silence her constantly and she will retaliate when the situation needs her to do so.

As I said before, her decision to play these characters is not random, she’s been trying to tell something to us with her body of work and the portrayal of these particular traits. In a way, she’s been representing every facet of womanhood since the very beginning.

With that in mind, Kidman’s unbreakable woman portrait can be defined by one of the most important narrative choices that she has ever made during her career, to represent her in two very nuanced ways: The Retaliatory Unbreakable Woman and The Cautious Unbreakable Woman. Two types of women who choose to confront the same problems in different ways. Two women bound by loss and divided by empowerment.

Both these women know that the world they live in is made by men and for men and that they need to fight their own battles because no one is going to support them or save them but themselves. They know they are under constant threat and that the only way to fend for themselves is to face their problems up front and not perpetuating the misogynistic actions they’re surrounded with.

The Cautious Unbreakable Woman is the one that has suffered more of the two of them. She’s the one that has to put up with the awful society standards that have been bestowed upon women, but also the one that is capable of defying them by not letting them affect the way she lives her life.

She’s often portrayed as a rebel woman who is really fed up with the ways that women are supposed to get by on each day. She’s opinionated, very vocal and will always find a way to circle around societal norms in order to get what she wants, especially when it comes to standing for what she believes.

She is Satine in Moulin Rouge (2001), a woman who works at a cabaret as a showgirl — one of the few jobs women could have at the time —that is often sold to the male visitors as nothing more than an object. She is a rebel because, although she lives in a world where women’s bodies are the most requested type of currency and sex is the only way they’re able to connect with someone, she chooses to follow her heart and fall in love with someone, even if that may cost her way of living.

She’s the one that’s constantly defying the societal norms around her by not letting the Duque (Richard Roxburgh) and Harold (Jim Broadbent) control her body and by living her life the way she chooses to until her last breath, in the hands of her love, Christian (Ewan McGregor).

She is Gilly in Practical Magic (1998), a (very witchy) woman comfortable with her body, her autonomy and independence, who is not willing to compromise any of that for anyone, even if that means to stand up to her boyfriend (Goran Visnjic), and to follow up with the lie behind his demise on her sister’s hands.

She is also Anna Murphy in The Killing Of a Sacred Deer (2017), a woman who is capable to stand against someone who’s trying to harm her family and go to the final consequences in order to protect them from a sudden menace embodied on Martin (Barry Keoghan), a teenager who forces her husband (Colin Farrell) to choose to save the life of one of its members: their two children or her, as a personal vendetta.

In the movie, she decides to confront Martin knowing the type of person he is and the danger he represents, but putting her family first. She is also constantly fighting against her husband wishes to push her around by neglecting her opinion and diminishing her.

She is Evelyn in Stoker, (2013) a woman who will stand against Charlie (Matthew Goode), her violent brother-in-law who wants to take her daughter India (Mia Wasikowska) under his wing as a serial killer, even if she’s not that fond of her and doesn’t want to know anything about her.

One of the main traits that stand out from The Cautious Unbreakable Woman is that she may find herself in odd and violent contexts, but she will not act on it. She will stand against a threat, yes, but she will never fire back. The Cautious Unbreakable Woman doesn’t believe that violence solves violence nor it helps to make her point across for that matter, but rather does so by showing fortitude and keeping her head high.

Unlike her, The Retaliatory Unbreakable Woman does believe that the better way to face her problems and the male violence behind them, is by acting on it. She also is a daughter of the patriarchy, but one who is really fed up with dealing with the everyday misogynistic attitudes towards her. She will stand against her perpetrators and she will not endure any type of injustice or act of violence against her.

The best example of this is Grace in Dogville (2003), a woman who will not hesitate to fight back when she feels threatened. Sure, she will live and put up all kinds of abuse and acts of violence against her if that means she can hide from the people who are looking for her, but she will remember it and hold people accountable for their trespasses. Even if it means to kill everyone involved in it, including the man (Paul Bettany) she thought was in love with her but did nothing more than taking advantage of her.

She is Martha Farnsworth in The Beguiled (2017), a woman who will do anything to protect the young girls at her care, even if that means poisoning John McBurney (Colin Farrell), the civil war soldier staying at her school, once he starts making violent threats against her and scaring her protegées.

She is also Celeste Wright in Big Little Lies (2017), a woman who will endure all the violence perpetrated by her husband Perry (Alexander Skarsgard) in order to protect their family, specially her children, but will not hesitate to fight him back when he starts to act violently against her best friends.

With her body of work, not only Nicole Kidman has managed to portray effectively different facets of the male violence that women have to endure every given day, but also, she has given a voice to all the female victims that society has refused to acknowledge along the way.

 

 

 

 

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 their pristine 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.

The powerful narrative behind Idina Menzel’s acting choices.

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the name Idina Menzel (apart from Adele Dazeem)? For me it must be the certainty to embrace oneself. It’s no coincidence that the singer/actress has been carefully selecting through all these years her acting choices to match a certain type of character: the Other.

Menzel has been depicting for long a handful of individuals that can only be described as the Other: a well-thought character which is immerse in a constant state of being different from the common and very shared social identity. her representations, though, are not victims.

If there is one thing that could define Idina’s singular portrayal of Otherness over the past years is her distinctive and constant refusal to be victimized. She has singlehandedly managed to depict a wide variety of colorful characters  that always have refused to lose their unique qualities in order to be accepted. They, instead, try to do something about it.

Just think about Idina’s most iconic characters to date: Elphaba from Wicked  and Elsa from Frozen. They are both strong and powerful women searching for their true self while coping with a society that values passiveness more than authenticity and independence.

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Both Frozen and Wicked revolve around the idea of embracing oneself, of accepting who you are, of not letting anyone to define you, and of taking the Otherness as something that you own and not as something that is not in your control.

Elphaba, on one hand, is a young girl who struggles to cope with the very idea of being a powerful green witch in a place where is not common to have colored people with magic around. Elsa, on the other, is a conflicted woman living with magicals powers whilst trying to do her best as monarch on a kingdom that is not used to have only a queen as their leader.

What’s really daunting about this characters is not just their Otherness, but the way they embrace it as an essential part of who they are. Both Elsa and Elphaba are constrained to fit into a box imposed by the ones around them, but because of their difference, it’s something they don’t want to achieve. They want to be who they are, without any limitations.

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Just as Idina’s life, her characters mostly use music as a way to communicate. Songs in  her movies are often used by her characters as a performative device, where inner thoughts, and identity traits, only become real when they are sung.

If you are familiar with pop culture, you should know that ‘Let it Go‘ and ‘Defying Gravity‘ are ones of the most powerful and empowering songs to date. If you are familiarized with Idina Menzel’s work, you’ll know that they are her go-to melodies when talking about the importance of her career. Within their narratives, these songs function as their hymns to Otherness and their way to embrace it. They are Elphaba and Elsa’s ultimate statement.

Idina’s other famous character, Maureen Johnson, has plenty of ways to express her Otherness in the hit Broadway show, Rent. She is a free person that doesn’t understand life as something that could be either black or white, but something more big in between, an outcast that stands for what she believes and a woman that doesn’t like to be put in a box.

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Unlike Elsa and Elphaba, she doesn’t have to push through a long and hurtful path before embracing her Otherness. She is who she is and she doesn’t care what any other person could think about her or her actions. She is not defined by people nor does she is a victim of their actions. She even has a Tango named after her that really sums up the way people perceive her, making it her ultimate statement.

Even her brief, but stellar, appearance in Disney’s Enchanted as Nancy Tremaine could easily be described as an empowered woman sidelined by her Otherness. Her role within the narrative is to act essentialy as the Other of the Princess Giselle (Amy Adams). She is, after all, the girlfriend of the protagonist’s love interest.

Portrayed by other actress, her arc in the movie could easily fall over the antagonist place. Instead, on Idina’s hands, we got the perfect Otherness arc for a secondary character: she is a succesfull and confident woman looking for love that eventually ends up marrying a charming prince not because the story told her to, but because she decided to.

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There’s something quite exciting and admirable about Idina Menzel’s narrative based on her acting choices: in order to embrace oneself as the Other one must make Otherness visible.

Ron Swanson and the politics of manliness.

I’m pretty sure that one thing we all can agree on right now is that television nowadays is the perfect platform to depict new, and very different, ways of represent people. TV shows now, more than ever, excel at creating true characters with an incredible capacity to be a voice of certain groups of individuals. Now we can see ourselves reflected in the Mauras, the Hannahs, the Leslie Knopes, the Teds, the Barry Allens, even in the Frank Underwoods, all in the interest of fairness and  representation.

Manliness and masculinity certainly have changed too along the years and many manly characters tropes have evolved in pro of a more approachable and well-suited representation that would suit better with today’s gender narratives.

Long gone are the dated representations of the manly man and already worned out Macho trope, defined only by his lack of sensibility, his obsesion with the hero complex and his violent attitudes towards women. Now, a man can be manly whilst recongnizing his own feelings and respecting women, not just because they are women, but because they’re persons too.

I want to invite you to close your eyes and think of an actual manly character that is relevant to his show’s story, and actually share the above featuress. If Ron Swanson went through your mind, then you’re probably right. He is the perfect example of this interesting representation.

If you have lived under a rock and don’t know who he is and what does Parks and Recreation means, let me explain it to you. The show revolves around Leslie Knope, the bubbly and optimistic Deputy of the Parks And Recreation Department of the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana. Ron Swanson, on the other hand, is her boss and director of the same department.

Ron is, by any means, a manly character as he adheres to many stereotypically masculine treats. He constantly claims that he has only cried twice in his life, he loves to fish, hunt, camp and to do wood working, he also is very stoic as he stands on a particular point of view on not sharing any kind of feelings to and with anyone.

PARKS AND RECREATION -- "Ann & Chris" Episode 613 -- Pictured: Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson -- (Photo by: Colleen Hayes/NBC)

If this were any other TV show, Ron’s character could  have easily fallen under the Macho trope, but this is Parks And Recreation, a show that aims to tell stories that are more concerned with depiction, representation and character growth than reproducing stereotypical gender roles. To Ron, manliness is not a synonym of violence towards women.

Ron’s character depiction in fact suggests something very real and relatable, that manliness is actually different for everybody as there is not just one way to be a man, but a handful of features, characteristics and ways to act that can be shaped and molded for each individual.

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He has his own way to understand manliness, he does not cry nor does he shares his feelings, but he doesn’t feel threatened by anyone, specially not by women. He is actually able to recognize the strong influence women have had in his life and the way they helped him to become the man he is now, as he beautifully explains on this quote from season 4:

“I don’t consider my self an anything ’ist, but my life has been shaped by powerful women. My father once told my mother woman was made form the rib of Adam and my mom broke his jaw.

That’s what I think Parks and Recreation is all about, the perfect balance between the depiction of true and rounded characters and their realtionships with each other. Ron’s abilty to aknowledge the strong relationships he has mantained with women all his life it’s just one of many examples of this very idea.

He had a strong mother figure to loook up to, two empowered and determined ex-wives to share his life with, one stubborn and passionate asistant to learn from and an optimist protegee as Leslie Knope to share a friendship with.

I found really refreshing when a TV show I like allows itself to have an incredible pairing, conformed by a man and a woman, that shares a profound level of respect, admiration and caring  between each other like the one Ron and Leslie have.

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They are the ideal depiction of a friendship based on respect, where their genders doesn’t define neither themselves nor their roles within their relationship. He doesn’t need to explain to her how to act and be like a woman in politics the same way she does not tries to change who he is.

If Parks And Recreation has taught us anything is that friendship can trascend gender roles, that stereotypical roles does not define people and that a manly man can, and should, break the mold society is trying to put him into.