Wonder Woman, James Cameron, and Mansplaining

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Dear Men, Including James Cameron:

A large number of women don’t give a flying fuck in a whirlwind what you think about Wonder Woman, period.

We most certainly do not care about your opinions regarding whether or not Diana Prince is a feminist, as we do not care about your opinions regarding whether we are really feminists and if we are, is that being mean to you.

If you are a man and still with me here, you are almost certainly not one of the men to whom I am speaking.

James Cameron has a bee in his bonnet over Wonder Woman because he believes the female characters he created, Sarah Connor and Ripley, are true feminists and Wonder Woman as portrayed in the RECORD-BREAKING BLOCKBUSTER 2017 movie is not.

Some man actually told me that because James Cameron is older than I am, he knows more about feminism than I do.

I say, when James Cameron goes to work every day and stands on his feet for eight hours while simultaneously experiencing a menstrual period that makes the shower scene in Psycho look tidy, he can open his mouth to me about feminism or any other topic that ultimately revolves around women.

(Yes, I know that there are male feminists, but as with white people shutting up while black people are speaking out about their experiences living while black, I think men need to be quiet when women are talking about feminism.)

What does feminism mean to me? One of the many things it means to me is being able to say that James Cameron is wrong in his interpretation of Wonder Woman, wrong to think he knows more about feminism than women, and just fucking jealous because Sarah Connor and Ripley didn’t resonate with myself and the women that I know the way that Wonder Woman did.

I cried during the entire “No Man’s Land” scene in Wonder Woman when Diana was struggling to block the machine gun fire with her shield because that’s how it feels to be a woman every goddamn day. We are assaulted from all sides with words, fists, laws designed to turn us into goddamn Handmaids, judgements for not being housewives and mothers, judgements for being housewives and mothers, and the constant beating-down by society, shaming us for being fat, too thin, too sexy, not sexy enough, not being Wonder Mommies, being Wonder Wommies, choosing not to have children, having too many children . . . I wish I had a shield to block all of that from striking me every day.

I didn’t see women leaving the theater after Wonder Woman pumped up and excited. I saw women, including my mother and sister, walking out shaken and silent. Because they nailed what it’s like to be a woman. And they gave us a vision of a society of women who can fight, love, make laws, create a world without men. The movie did leave me feeling empowered, and I think that’s the problem with men who mansplain feminism and Wonder Woman to women.

Because deep inside, men like that know exactly what we are thinking and that their day is drawing to a close.

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The Surprising Emotions Evoked by Wonder Woman

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I expected to feel excitement and “female empowerment” when I finally saw Wonder Woman. Instead, I watched the movie in silence, crying, and hoping no one would notice. My mother and sister were also mostly silent. Some people around us were laughing and gasping, but it seemed that most of the women in the theater were struck by the same sense of awe as I was.

When I was buying our tickets, a women in her fifties asked me if I had seen the movie yet. She had also bought tickets to Wonder Woman. When I said no, she looked as if she wanted to say something, but she just shook her head. I realize now she must have been there for a repeat viewing.

I’m 44. My mother is 69. My sister is 37. None of us have ever seen a movie with so many powerful women. Honestly, the whole movie could have consisted of life on Themyscira and it would have made me happy. My mother is a retired police officer and said she physically felt the blows the Amazons dealt to the invading Germans.

The thrill during that sequence wasn’t about seeing women beating up men. It was from seeing women defending themselves, each other, their home, their way of life, and winning . . . but of course in a situation like that, the loss of life obscures the win. In many movies, a group of people like the Amazons would have celebrated the win and mourned their dead as heroes. The Amazons didn’t celebrate. They knew that something sacred had come to an end.

Hippolyta’s “you may never return” was heartbreaking and ambiguous. Diana’s resolve was also heartbreaking, but unavoidable. At some points, her bull-headed insistence on DOING IT RIGHT NOW made me want to shake her even though I thought she was on the right track. Until the end.

The scene where she is floating in the air absorbing everything that Ares throws at her is fixed in my mind. And then she threw it back.

I, and I am sure every woman, knows that feeling of wanting to throw it all back at someone. I’m not a proponent of that forgive and move on crap. I’m a proponent of throwing it all back at them, whoever they are.

I was shaken as I left the movie. So was my sister. She said she was going to ask her boyfriend to buy her a Wonder Woman doll. I thought hell, no, and we went to Walmart and I showed her all the dolls and bought the one she liked best.

I put up my Wonder Woman posters last night. They are a bit jarring in my room, which is traditionally feminine . . . but what is more traditionally feminine than an Amazon? Strong, passionate, nurturing, a woman who will die defending her family.

Today, I was depressed. I got on Twitter and read the news, the depressed tweets, the angry tweets, the tweets that divide us, I thought about our enemy, our common enemy, enemy to all women even if they don’t see him that way, and I thought that to set things to rights, we all have to be Wonder Woman. We all have to care more about what’s best for others than we care about ourselves. We all have to be willing to sacrifice everything for people we don’t even know, refugees, people dying for lack of someone willing to help.

I don’t see that. I see bickering and infighting and separation. I don’t see the obstinacy that characterized the young Diana: I will do this no matter the risk to myself because it is the right thing to do, and I will see the humanity in everyone.

So this is what I took away from Wonder Woman. The movie opened my eyes to things that I hadn’t fully comprehended before. It made me feel responsible for things happening in the world that I had not considered my responsibility.

It’s more than a superhero movie. It is the perfect movie for our time.

Can a Villain Be a Villain?

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Or, can a monster be a monster?

This is a hard one for me because I write vampires, all of whom would describe themselves as monstrous in many ways, but not monsters.

Of course the sympathetic vampire started with . . . Carmilla! She beat Dracula by 25 years!

What prompted this post wasn’t vampires with whom you can sit down and earnestly talk before they drain you dry. It was goddamned Jeepers Creepers.

I hate this movie so much that I watched it and the sequel last night, and I figured out why Jeepers Creepers works and Jeepers Creepers 2 doesn’t. The sequel brought us too close to the monster.

Okay, let’s define the movie monster we’re dealing with here. We’re dealing with the bizarre, horrifying, disgusting, demonic, soul-devouring THING that’s never been a person. This isn’t the type of monster you can even try to reason with because once it notices you, you’re dead.

Monsters got wimpy for a while there; maybe that’s why zombies are so popular. Zombies are way worse than the demon from Jeepers Creepers. They aren’t even interesting.

And that right there is why Jeepers Creepers 2 fails. It brings us too close to the monster. The closer we get to the monster, the less it scares us.

The monstrous vampire in my first book has a backstory that readers learn as the series progresses, but essentially, this vampire was a human monster and was chosen to become a vampire for that reason. But you’re not going to get chummy with it. You’re not going to spend much time with it, for the same reason we shouldn’t have spent so much time with the monster in Jeepers Creepers 2: Both are simply evil things.

Times are bad and we’re trying to make chummy with century-old villains, like the villains in fairy tales. There’s no understanding of why DAMMIT THAT PERSON IS JUST BAD. There are too many excuses.

Vampires can be amplified versions of ourselves, our desires, our evils. Or, they can just be monsters.

If your villain is a vile creature, let it run free. Monsters require no reason nor rhyme. Just don’t allow it to spend to much time onstage, because the more we see of it, the more we question it, and questioning the monster saps its power.

Zombie Night

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*contains spoilers*

I’m not a zombie fan as such, but I do like a good zombie movie. Those are hard to find despite the fact that there are so very many. Most, like Dawn of the Dead, start out fairly well and descend into gore and nonsense. Zombie Night has an uneven beginning and I almost changed the channel because there were so many characters making ridiculously poor decisions, but I watched the whole movie, mainly because Anthony Michael Hall’s character was strong and well-written, and I ended up liking the movie.

Dumb decisions: locking Birdie’s blind, confused mother in the basement and locking Irina in a room “for safety.” The girl falling into the open grave gets a “meh” from me. It felt like a way to kill off a character, but it did make sense because she was running through a graveyard full of zombies.

Anthony Michael Hall’s character emerges the hero in the bright light of morning. Having the zombies go dormant in daylight was a plot device I haven’t seen yet in a zombie movie. I liked the fact that Birdie was bitten and didn’t turn, but that was left open-ended as well as what would happen to all the inert zombies when the sun set. If you like zombie movies, you’ll like this one. If you’re not a big zombie fan but you like horror, you may still like Zombie Night. Try to imagine The Purge with zombies. Check it out if you get a chance.

The Woods

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(2006, starring Agnes Bruckner, Patricia Clarkson, and Bruce Campbell)

Are you a fan of the original Evil Dead? Then you’ll probably like The Woods. Bruce Campbell stars in both movies, and both movies are set in demon-haunted woods and involve lots of screaming and multiple deaths.

The Woods is not nearly as gory as The Evil Dead, but it is a good old-fashioned style horror movie with a wonderful creepy atmosphere. It’s set at an all-girls boarding school in the late 1960s. I got a Grudge 2 vibe from the sinister headmistress (Clarkson) and the mean girl who starts out stereotypical but isn’t what she seems. And the calmly bizarre behavior of the adults reminded me a little of the original Wicker Man.

The movie really looks as if it was filmed in the 60s. The hairstyles, makeup, and clothing are authentic, and the lack of computers and smart phones is refreshing. The Woods isn’t a teen flick or a slasher movie. It has a real story and good acting. If you pay attention, it may become a surprise favorite.

The Marsh

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(2006, starring Gabrielle Anwar, Louis Ferreira, and Forest Whitaker)

The Marsh combines the well-worn “blocked writer rents immense creepy old house in the country for peace and quiet but the house is haunted” trope with some modern twists and film-making tricks that save it from being too predictable. The Marsh is only 90 minutes long, so the story doesn’t drag. Look away to check your Twitter timeline and you’ll miss something creepy. The producers relied heavily on the type of ghost effects we’ve come to expect in horror movies since the American remakes of Ju-on and Ring set new standards for scary. In fact, several scenes seem almost to have been lifted from The Ring, particularly the scene where Claire goes to Philip Manville’s farm to ask him what happened to his son.

The writer in The Marsh is a young woman, and she’s not an alcoholic novelist like male authors in similar movies usually are. She writes and illustrates children’s books. She also has terrifying partial memories that seem to come alive when she moves into the old house. The child ghost in the house looks like the main character in her book. She has two potential love interests. Typical to the formula, one becomes a suspect in the mystery she’s trying to solve. One is the editor of the local paper, the other is a cynical paranormal investigator, and the town is apparently entirely populated by eccentric locals. At times the story is almost too precious, but the rare female author character and the two men interested in her and/or the goings on at the house and the small town’s history keep the film interesting.

You’ll see shades of The Haunting in Connecticut and Stir of Echoes in The Marsh. It’s worth a first look (with the lights out, of course) for the jump-scares, and a second, closer viewing to fully understand the story.