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My Top 10 Movies of 2016

As I write, the 2017 Oscars are just around the corner, and the batch of nominations has actually been bugging me a little bit. Not because the films that are up for awards aren’t artfully made and brilliantly performed explorations — because for the most part, I’ve found that they all are — but because of something that the awards show has well-established since its existence: the genre of “Oscar movie.”

The fact that the Academy Awards place heavy, dramatic works above lighter, more comedic projects is certainly not news, but it’s something that has irked me for years. Making a crowd erupt in laughter is just as impressive as bringing them to tears.

As you can probably tell from this intro, I strongly prefer comedies, rom-coms, dramedies… anything with some levity and humor… to working my way through a long drama. Obviously, that’s not always the case — one of my favorite movies of the year was Moonlight, which is as hard-drama as they come — but I would love to see the Academy give some love to the movies that comedy-nerds like myself were obsessed with. But that’s not going to happen, so I’ll just give them some love on my blog instead! Equally prestigious, right!?

NOTE: While I like to think I made it to the theater to see most of the big movies in 2016, there are a handful that either I’ve been told or I myself thought I may enjoy from last year that I haven’t seen yet. These include: The Witch, A Bigger Splash, Lion, Swiss Army Man, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Captain Fantastic, Loving, Fences.

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10. La La Land
dreamy, infectious, winsome

Let’s start this list off with a bang, huh? La La Land quickly went from being the must-see movie of the year to the most controversial one after cleaning up at pretty much every awards show so far. Of course, the movie’s critical success is attributed to Hollywood’s own narcissistic self-involvement, awarding a film that literally sings the praises of old Hollywood musicals. It’s also been (rightfully) dinged for having a white man in this modern savior of jazz role — there’s a scene where Ryan Gosling is mansplaining why jazz is good to Emma Stone that really makes me cringe. But all that controversy aside, this was an ambitious and well-crafted movie that I really did enjoy, and I downloaded the soundtrack right after I left the theater. Though it’s kind of become this love-it-or-hate-it thing, it’s at the very bottom of my Top 10 because I enjoyed it, but there were a lot of other films that I loved more. And I certainly don’t think it is deserving of the best-movie-ever-made type of praise it seems to be getting from Hollywood.

9. The Lobster
outlandish, sardonic, engaging

What stood out to me as one of the year’s most unique and interesting cinematic experiences was The Lobster, a movie set in a society in which being single is not permitted. Admittedly, I’m a sucker for this kind of Orwellian, dystopian satire, so I was all-in with this movie right when the premise was set up, but I think it’s engaging enough to pull in any viewer that gives it a chance. I will say it did feel a bit like two movies smooshed together, as the first half and second half are pretty much told from different perspectives, but I actually thought that choice helped add a lot of color to the strange, alien universe of the story.

8. Hello, My Name Is Doris
goofy, cringey, heartfelt

Not a lot of traditional rom-coms came out in 2016, but we did get this little gem of a movie. Before even seeing this film, I was incredibly intrigued by the pairing of lead actress Sally Field, best known for more dramatic roles, and writer-director Michael Showalter, best known for off-the-wall comedies. The combination worked perfectly for me, as the story of an older woman falling in love with her much younger coworker blended Showalter’s humor with Field’s heart. As the delusional love story rolls along, you find yourself both laughing at Field’s hilarious characterization as well as genuinely rooting for her.

7. Zootopia
smart, radical, purposeful

Surprisingly, the most beloved animated movie of the year wasn’t the Pixar joint (sorry, Finding Dory…), but Disney’s blockbuster story about an animal city torn apart by prejudice. The trend in mainstream animation recently has moved toward not only entertaining children, but also delivering a more complex storyline with references that adults will enjoy as well, and in my eyes, Zootopia is the crowning achievement of that. Not only is the film super imaginative, colorful, and packed with jokes, but it also delivers a buddy cop, detective noir storyline that is incredibly well-crafted. Oh, and of course the whole thing is an excellently executed allegory for the racial prejudices that exist in our society.

6. Hidden Figures
energizing, fun, loving

I didn’t leave a movie theater last year feeling more invigorated than after I saw Hidden Figures. There really isn’t a more likable trio of actresses working today than Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae, and each of them delivered powerhouse performances in this movie that balanced compelling emotional lows with humor and an infectious strength in the face of adversity. It is PACKED with powerful, rewarding moments where these women beat the odds and come out on top — there hasn’t been a movie in a long time that has caused me to clap and want to yell “Yes!” as many times as this one did.

5. Don’t Think Twice
original, welcoming, crushing

Just because this movie is about comedy, don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s not one of the most poignantly soul-crushing movies of the past year. The cast itself is a dream come true for any comedy fan, so of course Don’t Think Twice more than delivers on laughs, but what really makes the movie so gripping is the how quickly you feel a part of this group of friends, and how fully you take on and relate to all of the tensions and insecurities that their jokes are masking. Rather than just a fun look at an improv comedy troupe, the movie instead deals with the nasty little fractures in relationships that form from one-sided success and jealousy. It surprised me as being one of the most reflective and honest movies I saw this past year.

4. Moonlight
artful, sparse, magnetic

Obviously, I’m in pretty good company putting this movie towards the top of my Best Of list, but there’s just no arguing that it was the best drama to come out of 2016. Every aspect of this movie did exactly what it was meant to do in order to draw the viewer into the complex life of a character that is so rarely given prominent screen time. What really impressed me was how effectively the movie used silence; Chiron doesn’t have many lines at all in this thing and yet you know every thought going through his mind with each tiny, nuanced expression.

3. Kubo and the Two Strings
transportive, epic, visually stunning

Despite all of my love for Zootopia, it wasn’t the animated movie that most wowed me last year. That honor belongs to this breath-takingly gorgeous ode to ancient Japanese mythology. Kubo and the Two Strings could hold its own as one of the best animated movies of the year for its beauty alone, but the reason it soars towards the top of my list is that it combines that stunning animation with a wildly original hero’s quest story that becomes both surprisingly dark and incredibly poignant. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself not wanting to leave your seat after the credits roll, just wishing yourself back into that impossibly enthralling universe.

2. Edge of Seventeen
endearing, authentic, brash

The 2016 movie I’m most definitely going to rewatching again and again in years to come is Edge of Seventeen, which boasted what I think is one of the sharpest, most hilarious, and most endearing scripts of the year. I can’t overstate how great this script (by Kelly Fremon Craig) is — it’s got the quick, colloquial, instantly quotable feel of a Diablo Cody piece. On-screen, the credit all goes to Hailee Steinfeld’s ability to draw the audience in with her quick-witted, sardonic jabs, and then twist her humor into teenage insecurities, making her empathetic but with a what’s-she-going-to-say-next edge. I’ll also say that newcomer Hayden Szeto, who plays an awkward high school student named Erwin, makes it absolutely impossible for anyone not to smile from ear to ear whenever he’s on screen.

1. Sing Street
charming, exuberant, touching

La La Land may be the 2016 movie everyone’s singing along to, but for my money, it doesn’t hold a candle to the overwhelming charm of Sing Street. Where La La Land goes all-out with sprawling, dreamy sequences (which I loved, by the way), this instantly engaging coming-of-age story delivers the same musical wow factor on the stage of a school gym. Filled to the brim with strange and lovable original characters against the inviting cobblestone backdrop of 1980s Ireland, the movie hits it out of the park in every department: comedy, drama, fantasy, music, even adventure. And if you aren’t tearing up during the final scene then you just aren’t human.

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Shoutouts To The Other Movies I Loved That NEARLY Made My List:

Deadpool, The Nice Guys, Love and Friendship, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, Other People, Hell or High Water, Moana, Arrival

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Television Just Perfected the Abortion Episode 3 Times Within a Month

Wound up in a messy knot of religion, politics, gender, and healthcare is abortion, one of the most divisive subjects in our nation right now. Abortion has always been tricky for television shows to tackle, and especially given the impending conservative political climate about to fall on America, it’s risen from a hot-button issue to a scalding one. But in the face of this controversy, several TV shows have to turned the issue on its head all coincidentally within the span of a few weeks.

Historically, long-running television dramas would depict abortion as a major arc in an episode or season. The decision would be treated weightily, and episodes focusing on abortion tended to take on the preachy feel of an after school special. In contrast to that, recent episodes of Jane the VirginYou’re the Worst, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend have all left to moralizing by the wayside and instead portrayed abortions as matter-of-fact decisions that woman have had to make in order to do the right thing for themselves and their families. And most importantly of all, each abortion served only as a subplot, occurring in the background with each episode revolving around a different main issue.

As the only hourlong drama of the bunch, Jane the Virgin understandably lent the most weight to the subject. But notably that weight was not on Xiomara’s decision to have an abortion, but instead on coming to terms with telling her Catholic mother Alba about the procedure. Having spent a large chunk of the previous season reiterating the fact that she doesn’t want more children, Xiomara finds herself testing positive for pregnancy after a one-night stand with a man that she doesn’t want in her life. Xiomara gets the abortion and does not feel guilty about her decision, but she does grapple with how to break the news to Alba. When she tells her, the mother and daughter begin to fight, but in the end, Alba comes to accept her daughter’s decision and they move on together.

True to its blunt style, You’re the Worst made the rationale surrounding Lindsay’s recent abortion even less emotionally driven. After Lindsay (rightfully) realizes that she would not make an ideal mother and that she actually cannot stand her boyfriend Paul, she wistfully has one last meal where she can “eat for two” with bestie Gretchen and they set off to get her abortion as if it were between grocery shopping and doing laundry on a list of errands. To drive the point home further, a pro-life protestor even sits Lindsay down for a discussion as she makes her way into the clinic, and after hearing about her situation, the protestor admits that she agrees abortion is the best option for Lindsay in this case.

Finally, a mere days after these other two episodes of TV, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend featured what is most likely the most passing reveal of an abortion of a main character in television history. After Paula discovers she’s pregnant, she resigns herself to put her dreams of enrolling in law school on hold as she and her husband realize that they are already struggling to raise their two children and maintain a budget. But after a judge commends Paula on her impressive legal ability, she decides that it’s about time she start prioritizing her ambitions, and both her family and friends are shown to support her decision when in a quick scene we learn that Paula got an abortion and submitted her application to law school.

The shift in tone from weepy to matter-of-fact surrounding abortion would be refreshing in just one show, but coincidentally occurring in a similar fashion on three separate shows at the exact same time, it’s barometric of population that is well past religion and politics encroaching on a woman’s individual right to make the decision that is right for her. At such a tense and frightening time for the reproductive rights of women in America, it’s at least somewhat comforting to know that we can escape into television for an unsentimental depiction of a scientific procedure that has helped thousands of women in this country live better lives.

The 4 Male Romantic Interest Archetypes from “Buffy,” “Gilmore Girls,” and “The O.C.”

Was there ever a better era for high school dramas than the late ’90s-early ’00s? The answer, of course, is no. As a dedicated student of both “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Gilmore Girls” who is currently watching “The O.C.” for the first time (I know, I know), I can’t help but notice that the female protagonists pretty much have the same 4 guys to choose between. They are:

The tortured bad boy with a soul

Tortured Bad Boy

Spike, Jess, Ryan

Every high school has a bad boy, and if we’ve learned anything from romantic teen dramas, every bad boy secretly has a heart of gold. This boy may have done bad things in his old life before moving into this new town, but he’s trying to make a new start for himself. His outsider status, however, makes it hard for him to fit in, and he can find himself in more fights than he’d want to be involved in. Thankfully, one girl in this new place cares for and believes in him.

The goofy lovesick nerd

Lovesick Nerd

Xander, Marty, Seth

All the drama can get tedious after a while, and that’s when a little comic relief comes in handy. This is the awkward, goofy guy that is head-over-heels for the female protagonist who only sees him as a friend. Sometimes his geeky charm works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

The bland, straight-laced, all-American jock

Bland Jock

Riley, Dean, Luke

He may not be exciting like the bad boy or funny like the nerd, but at least he’s nice to look at? This guy excels at athletics, and can offer the female protagonist sex, but not much else. He also has a pretty bad habit of cheating…

The entitled asshole

Entitled Asshole

Parker, Logan, Oliver

And then there’s the rich kid who’s used to getting everything he wants in life, including the main girl. This guy is notable for his ability to charm women into participating in activities that they would not normally perform. In the end, he and the girl just don’t share the same set of values.

NOTE: The obvious omission from the list is Angel from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” I guess he somewhat falls in line with the tortured bad boy and the bland jock archetypes, but Spike and Riley clearly better fill those roles.

It Is About Time That We All Acknowledge ‘The Michelle Trachtenberg Effect’

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I have sat idly by for years without bringing this up, but I can do so no longer. We all need to face the fact that when it comes to television, Michelle Trachtenberg is an ominous force of doom. In movies, Trachtenberg has given solid, fun performances in “Ice Princess,” “17 Again, “Harriet the Spy,” and more, but when she departs from the big screen, her she fits into a weird form of menacing typecasting. Basically, she has a habit of showing up in the final seasons of good shows and messing everything up.

Maybe it was a coincidence when Trachtenberg showed up out of the blue to complicate the lives of both the Scooby Gang and the Fishers in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Six Feet Under,” but when she did it again in the final seasons of “Weeds” and then again in “Gossip Girl,” it became her brand. Plus, these are known to be her major television roles — this is what Michelle Trachtenberg is known for!

Probably the most complicated of these shows to argue exhibits The Michelle Trachtenberg Effect is “Buffy,” since Trachtenberg’s character of Dawn Summers isn’t really meant to be a malevolent character, but she still brings a host of new dilemmas with her and is a pretty universally hated by diehard fans of the show. Basically, Dawn is to blame for Buffy dying (for the second time), she develops some weird kleptomania that leads to a lot of demonic issues, and is just an all-around crybaby that everyone needs to babysit or horrible stuff happens.

In “Six Feet Under,” Trachtenberg manages to swoop into the drama and do some major damage in just a 4 episode arc in the middle of season 4. As the pop singer Celeste, Trachtenberg hires David Fisher’s husband Keith to be her bodyguard and then has sex with him, causing major tremors in the pair’s marriage. In “Weeds,” Trachtenberg plays Emma, a fellow drug dealer who shows up in season 7 and we initially think is a friend to the Botwins, but turns out to be the kingpin of their opposing operation.

Finally, the writers or casting directors for “Gossip Girl” must have picked up on this Trachtenberg trend, because her character of Georgina Sparks is the most cartoonishly apparent representation of The Trachtenberg Effect of all. Georgina has appearances early in “Gossip Girl,” but becomes a fixture in the show’s final seasons. She has a knack for appearing during season finales and dropping huge bombshells, most notably that she was pregnant with Dan’s child, which turned out to be a lie. Throughout the show, Georgina is presented as a manipulative sociopath, even rivaling Blair in her viciousness.

So what do we take from all of this? Basically, when you see Michelle Trachtenberg making appearance towards the end of your favorite show, get ready for the shit to hit the fan.

The Most Prehistoric Thing In “Jurassic World” Is The Film’s Take On Gender Roles

The much-anticipated Jurassic World was guaranteed to take a huge bite out of the box office, but the film didn’t deliver when it came to feminist portrayals. Sure, people want to see awesome dinosaurs and they want to see Chris Pratt — that and the nostalgia factor are why most people are seeing this movie anyway — but those things certainly shouldn’t have to detract from the role that the women of the movie play. This is especially true since the film’s protagonist is a woman. Although Claire may be the main character, less than one third of Jurassic World‘s credited cast who actually have character names are women, with only 4 female characters named. Let’s take a closer look at the limited ladies of Jurassic World:

The Four Females

The most disappointing part about the women in this movie for me is that they are all great actresses, but are restricted from showing the full breadth of their abilities.

Bryce

Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) — As the film’s protagonist, you would expect some depth from Claire, right? Sorry, you don’t get any. Even though Howard has delivered incredible performances in The Help and 50/50, she can’t save this character’s rigid and clichéd storyline. The first Jurassic World trailer was the scene in which Claire goes to convince Chris Pratt’s dinosaur expert Owen to take a look at her lab’s newest creation. It basically follows the formula of classic TV sitcoms that involve a woman being too up-tight for her own good who just needs a fun-loving guy to loosen her up. In fact, the trailer was called out for this “70’s era sexism” by Buffy creator Joss Whedon. Claire’s evolution from rigid, solitary businesswoman to a more human and loving character doesn’t save her either. Her character goes from being an icy bitch to a submissive wife, jumping from one outdated stereotype of women to another. What’s probably the worst of all is that she is never actually right about anything, but Owen is basically infallible! You’d think that if Claire spent all of her precious baby-making time focusing on work, that she would actually know how to run this park, but no. In every scenario when she and Owen have a difference of opinion, Owen winds up being correct. Claire is shown to come out of her shell as the story progresses, but only by following Owen’s orders and cowering behind him. On top of that, Owen gets all the jokes. Granted, Chris Pratt is a talented comedian, but Howard has proven that she can deliver jokes amazingly as well — you’d think the writers would throw her at least one little laugh.

Judy

Karen Mitchell (Judy Greer) — Speaking of missed opportunities for humor, Hollywood’s constant-costar Judy Greer plays Claire’s sobby sister Karen in the movie. The character of Karen can easily be boiled down to two words: concerned mom. Even before she sends her sons off to Jurassic World, Karen is worried and teary (although it turns out that she should be). Karen’s other two scenes in the film are a worried phone call she makes to Claire wondering how her kids are doing and then pressuring her into starting a family of her own, and then welcoming her kids back into her tear-stained arms when they finally reunite. It’s totally believable for a mom to be worried when sending her kids away to a dinosaur-filled island, so it’s not like Karen is behaving strangely, but she is probably the second most visible female character in the film, meaning she has to be focused on despite her lack of any character depth beyond weepy mom (another tired female stereotype). It really sucks that the writers didn’t give Karen more scenes or even just a few more lines in the film so that the audience could experience the awesome comedic ability that we’ve seen from Greer in Arrested DevelopmentArcher, and so much more.

Lauren

Vivian (Lauren Lapkus) — As with Greer, Lapkus was tragically underutilized as the data-spewing control room operator Vivian. Most fans might be familiar with Lapkus from her role on Orange Is the New Black, and she’s also a regular on various comedy podcasts, including her own, where she performs hilarious characters. However, you won’t get any laughs from Vivian, except for one in her final scene and the best turn of the whole movie. Throughout World, Vivian is basically the unfunny female counterpart to Jake Johnson’s punchline-machine control room operator Lowery. It does make some sense that the writers would give more jokes to Johnson, who will be more recognized as a comedian by viewers thanks to New Girl, but Lapkus is a comedic powerhouse ready to be unleashed in a mainstream role, and giving her no jokes whatsoever is a severe oversight. As I mentioned before, Vivian does have one of the best moments of the movie when she rejects Lowery, who thinks he’s about to score a kiss for staying on the dangerous island, by saying she has a boyfriend. The scene hilariously turns the whole action movie cliché of a woman rewarding a heroic man for putting himself into harm’s way on its head. In the end, though, it is still focused on a man, and Lowery blames her for not mentioning that she has a boyfriend before that moment.

Katie

Zara Young (Katie McGrath) — When I was thinking back on the movie, I actually thought there were 3 main females. I had totally forgotten about Claire’s snobby, glued-to-her-phone assistant Zara, and she wasn’t very hard to forget. Zara’s main scene is being mutilated by a Pterodactyl and then eaten by a Mosasaurus; before then, she plays a one-note assistant who we really don’t know anything about, aside from the fact that she’s British and kind of bitchy. If she was given just a little more development she could’ve been amazing, akin to Emily Blunt’s character in The Devil Wears Prada, but we barely see any of her at all until we are watching her be killed.

The Primary Female Struggle Is Work/Family Balance

So what do we take away from the women of Jurassic World? Well, the only things that we ever hear any of them talk about are their jobs or their families. I would contest that none of the female characters in Jurassic World ever go deeper than just being a simple and arcane allegory for how women should prioritize their time between work and family. Claire’s primary evolution, and what seems to be the moral of the film, is her choice to focus less on being an icy businesswoman and open herself to falling in love and having a family. We see that Vivian makes a very clear separation between her work and home life, Zara is brutally punished for only having a work life, and Karen is portrayed as a good mom, but perhaps still not successful at work as we see her taking orders from a higher-up while calling to check up on her kids. Basically, the movie boils down the female struggle to a simple dichotomy, with professional ambition at one end and family life at the other, never to intersect. Not only is this a gross oversimplification of female life, but the movie doesn’t even validate both life paths. The moral we get demonizes single working women, and basically says “get a man or your life is empty.”

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So, Let’s Talk Bechdel Test

When talking about feminism in cinema, a good jumping off point is the Bechdel test. The Bechdel test is a set of three qualifiers to determine how females are characterized in a work. To pass the test, a film must:

  • have at least two women characters;
  • who talk to each other;
  • about something other than a man.

I would argue that Jurassic World fails the Bechdel test, although it’s a bit of a gray area. The only woman in the movie who speaks to another female character is Claire, who has conversations with Karen, Vivian, and Zara. When talking to Karen and Zara, Claire speaks exclusively about her nephews. To be honest, I don’t fully recall what Claire and Vivian spoke to each other about, but I do know that they probably only said a few sentences to each other, and it was purely business related. Technically, the movie may pass the Bechdel test for a few dry, robotic sentences between Claire and Vivian about how best to take down a super-dino, but I really don’t think what the two women did in that control room even really qualifies as talking. Claire is basically barking out questions and waiting for a response, not even from Vivian specifically, as Lowery is actually almost always to the to respond. Another murky area on this topic arises when considering the sex of the dinosaurs in the movie.

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Do Dinosaurs Count?

Not all of the female characters in Jurassic World are flops, just the human ones. The Velociraptor squadron let by Owen and the powerful killing machine Indominus Rex are all female, a point that the movie makes very clear. Some observers have argued that making the badass dinosaurs female actually makes the film feminist. To those people I say: HELL NO! First of all, if you have to stretch so far to argue that the representation of a whole different species is what makes the misrepresentation of human women permissible, you really don’t have a good argument going. Even if the female dinosaurs were displayed as strong, smart, independent, and totally feminist in every way, the viewer couldn’t just ignore the bland and clichéd treatment of the human women! Secondly, we actually learn from the original Jurassic Park movies and novels that all of the dinosaurs are female in order to keep them from reproducing. So, making these dinosaurs female wasn’t really a choice for the Jurassic World writers; it was just canon.

Finally, it’s not like the dinosaurs we see are even fleshed out enough to be strong feminist representations. Sure, we learn a lot about Owen’s raptor pack, and they are incredibly strong and intelligent, but even they are relegated to following the orders of a man. In a way, the raptors represent the fervently loyal, subdued ideology that Owen molds Claire into by the end of the film — capable and savvy, but only taking action when ordered by Owen. The Indominus Rex isn’t much better. No, she doesn’t follow orders, and yes she is probably the most intelligent and strong character in the movie, but is portrayed as irrational and unwise. It’s also worth pointing out that her name is two masculine words, nominally stripping her of her femininity. These might be nitpicky points, but trying to analyze a giant lizard that we only see when she’s mauling and devouring stuff in terms of gender does not give you a lot to work with, which is another reason the dinosaurs shouldn’t be viewed in the same regard as human women in this film.

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Disgracing Dr. Sattler’s Legacy

Another major reason that the lack of feminism in Jurassic World is so disappointing is that the original Jurassic Park movie was so ahead of its time in regards to female representation. Laura Dern’s character of paleobotanist Ellie Sattler broke down gender stereotypes left and right. She was a successful academic who was enthusiastic about life, courageous, loving, and not concerned with superficiality. Interestingly, Claire and Ellie deal with a similar situation during their films, as well: how to segue their work-oriented lives into starting a family. While Claire is resistant to this and must be wooed into a relationship by Owen, Ellie retains her agency throughout her story; it’s her idea to have kids and she is trying to convince her boyfriend to go along with it. The other major female character in Jurassic Park is Lex. While fearful of dinosaurs, Lex is a confident young woman who is incredibly intelligent, which she displays in her ability as a computer hacker. In a film primarily focused on showing dinosaurs tear stuff apart, Jurassic Park showed us that audiences can enjoy a thrilling action movie that include strong, complex women, something it must have forgotten to remind its successor about. Overall, though, both movies were incredibly successful and entertaining, which raises the question…

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Should Feminism Even Matter In Action Movies?

In the end, what does this discussion even accomplish? Despite portraying women as simply cold work robots or a hyper-loyal man-pleasers, Jurassic World was a a visually stunning, adrenaline-pumping thrill ride that excellently built on the original trilogy. And when audiences are going to see an action film, isn’t that all they really want — guns, danger, chase scenes, near-death escapes, blood, suspense, etc.? People know what they’re getting when they buy a ticket for an action movie, and an enlightened take on feminism is not something viewer would expect. So, why would an action movie even try to include a complex female character when viewers will gobble it up as long as it’s got enough explosions?

My response to that question would be: Well, why the hell wouldn’t they!? The characters and their traits in a movie will have no effect on the amount of blood, guts, and fighting you can include. An action movie can easily feature a strong, independent, smart female role just as it can feature a strong, independent, smart male role, which it so often will. Recently, another action remake has gotten attention for its surprisingly feminist reimagining, without skimping on the action. “Mad Max: Fury Road” proved something that, except for backwards men’s rights activists, fans are starving for more positive female representation in action movies. It’s something that’s been shown before in blockbusters (“The Avengers” and “Kill Bill”), cult hits (“Serenity” and “Dredd”), YA adaptations (“Divergent” and “The Hunger Games”), and various other action subgenres, but some movie-makers apparently still aren’t getting the hint.

Action films have a long history of playing on the heroic male/damsel in distress structure, so it’s become something of a default for the genre. But the world has come a long way since the first action movies were made. Some things have stayed the same — we still want to see fight scenes — but women can’t be treated like an object to be rescued anymore.

What that world not only needs, but craves, is more Ellie Sattlers and less Claire Dearings. Please?

Parsing “Rack City:” A Poetic Reading of Tyga’s Opus

   /       / |  ^    /  |    /        /  |   / ^ |   /

Rack cit-y bitch, rack, rack cit-y bitch

/      /   |  /       /   |  ^     / | ^    / |   ^    /

Ten ten ten twent-ies on ya titt-ies bitch

^      ^        /  |  ^ ^ / |  /      /   |   / 
Hun-dred deep V.I.P. no guest list

/     /  |   ^        ^       /  |   ^      ^      / | ^      ^
T-Raw you don’t know who you fucking with?

Tyga’s “Rack City” is a iambic tetrameter that makes heavy use of strophee, overtly to express express aggression and cause stress, and covertly to admit captivity and subtly cry out for help. Tyga opens his work immediately by setting the scene, and we are thrust into the realm of Rack City in media res.

The first line makes heavy use of stressed syllables, and directly addresses the reader as “bitch.” It’s easy to see that our narrator is not glad that we are in Rack City. But while the hard stresses blatantly display the narrator’s anger, as if he is spitting the words at you, they may also underlie that Rack City is something that he himself cannot escape. Much like the employment of strophee in Tennyson’s “The Lady Of Shalott,” who describes his subject as being trapped by “Four gray walls, and four gray towers,” an absurdly stophaic line, Tyga’s use of stressed syllables could also illustrate the unbudging firmness of Rack City’s “walls.” “The Lady Of Shalott” also happens to be written in iambic tetrameter. Perhaps the residents of Rack City and the Lady of Shalott have more in common than the reader first assumes.

We move on to our narrator (could it be Tyga himself?) describing pieces of currency that he is now raining onto our bosoms, which seems to imply that we, the reader, are female. Normally, the act of giving someone money is seen as a kindness, but as we’ve already established the aggression of this narrator towards us, we are instead meant to see this as a subversion of the usual act, and it becomes degrading instead. Once again, we are met with a heavily strophaic structure at the beginning of the line, but that quickly softens into an iambic structure. Although he is disrespecting us with his words, the change in structure seems to suggest a breaking down of the narrator’s emotional walls. This is the closest we’ve felt to him since the work has begun.

Tyga paints another layer of the scenery with his next line, which suggests that we are in the V.I.P. section of a nightclub within Rack City. When paired with the previous line, Tyga has also added a layer to our identity as the reader — we must be a stripper who works at the establishment. The line begins with two anapests and ends with a strophee, which makes the line read like a joke. Anapests are a rising, bouncing meter often employed in comic verse, and the strophee serves as the blunt punchline. The question becomes, who is the joke on? Is the narrator mocking us by flaunting his status at this nightclub (he is a V.I.P. who was allowed to enter a crowded establishment without the bouncer even having to check the guest list), or is he just giddy to be momentarily forgetting about the stress and worries that life in Rack City imposes upon him? Either way, the narrator’s treatment of the reader up to this point has been far from pleasant, and he still seems to be keeping us at a distance emotionally, leaving us to ask what has happened to him in Rack City and how this place has shaped him into the man we see now.

Finally, the narrator is given a name. T-Raw, which would seem to suggest that the work is at least somewhat autobiographical, if not that the narrator is Tyga himself. Similarly to the past lines, the words of this line display an anger towards the reader and elevate the narrator to a status of power, which is clearly important to him, as established in the last line. Importantly, although this line and the previous line both work to identify the narrator as a man of power, they are basically complete inverses metrically. The third line started with the bouncing anapests and ended hard on those strophees, but this line starts with the hard and constraining strophees and then softens to anapests and finally ends on the softest foot of meter: a pyrrhic. The pattern of this final line echoes the second line, when the structure softened from strophees into iambs, which makes the overall work a constant shifting between hardened aggression and a longing to let someone else in.

The opening strophee on T-Raw also underlines the point about Tyga using stressed syllables to depict captivity. Much like our narrator is trapped by Rack City, he is also confined by his very identity here. This question of identity is all-important in this final line, as T-Raw literally asks the reader if they know who he is. We can most likely assume that T-Raw is a nickname, and while his question is overtly meant to intimidate, it works covertly as a cry for help, which is also shown in the softening of the meter. Our narrator has been so shaped by his confinement in Rack City and his identity as T-Raw, that he no longer knows who he truly is.

How Cell Phones Would Have Changed Famous Stories

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Romeo & Juliet

Juliet (21:34) – Im gunna pretend 2 b dead but im not going to rly b dead lol 😉

Romeo (21:36) – Kk luv u

The Little Mermaid

Ariel (14:23) – Hey, I’m Ariel. Sry I can’t talk but a sea witch stole my voice. Its a total bummer (long story), anyway the only way i can talk again is if you kiss me. I get that that’s a lot of pressure and like you dont have to do anything you dont wanna do but just letting you know thats why i cant talk :/ So like think it over it can just be like a quick peck then we can chat idk w/e.

Prince Eric (14:26) – Kk i gotchu

Ariel (14:27) – Lol thx so much!

Fight Club

Jack (19:55) – Hey Tyler, wassup?

Self (19:55) – Hey Tyler, wassup?

Jack (19:57) – Wtf it’s saying that I’m just texting myself?

Self (19:57) – Wtf it’s saying that I’m just texting myself?

It’s A Wonderful Life

Mary (19:20) – Hey, idk where u went but come back everyone is giving us money $$$ cha-ching!

George (19:21) – Omg that’s gr8! Ok omw back home!

Twelfth Night

Sebastian (10:06): Hey, I’m still alive. In this place called Illyria? Where u @?

Viola (10:13): Bro, same! Phew, I almost had to dress up like a man to get a job working for a duke or something. KK let’s meet by the docks and get out of here.

Finding Nemo

Marlin (9:13) – Where r u?

Nemo (9:42) – A dentist’s office in Sydney.

Marlin (9:44) – UGH ok I’m coming to get u.

Nemo (9:48) – How r we texting we live in water? Also we are fish?

The Odyssey

Odyssey (22:24) – Still detained on an island by a witch 😦

Penelope (22:27) – Alright I’ll keep waiting… Thx for checking in

Canterbury Tales

The Prioress: “So yeah, that’s my tale you guys! Did you like it?”

The Wife of Bath: “Sorry I was texting and missed it :/”