I like Scandal (2012-present) because I can’t think of a better way than giving my brain a luscious sugary treat than sitting down to watch Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) do anything whatsoever. My only complaint: I just don’t find President Grant (Tony Goldwyn) attractive. And after two years of mulling over the problem, I’ve decided that it’s because his eyebrows aren’t thick enough.


That’s right. Of all the inane, random things to write about, I’m writing about men’s eyebrows. (And it’s not just Fitz. The whole show is littered with men with light eyebrows!)

So, at the risk of embarrassing myself further, let me offer a visual history of thick brows that have titillated me throughout my personal life (in rough chronological order as I discovered them):





Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch

Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch

Alan Bates, in case you don't recognize him

Alan Bates, in case you don’t recognize him


George Clooney from the ER days



Ahh. That feels better. Back to more serious feminist work soon, I promise.

Oh, this is my favorite thing all week: reviews written by noted New England Puritan Cotton Mather in the New Yorker. To wit:

Catching Fire

Verily, I am of two Minds when it comes to “Catching Fire.” On the one Hand, the killing of Children is largely forbidden by Scripture. On the other, so is coddling them. All Sins being Equal before God, I will split the Difference and give this Film two Stars. 

They’re almost as good as those written by Focus on the Family in the good old days, before their website clued into the snort-inducing nature of their prudery. (The site still offers enumerated lists of bad words; for example, did you know that American Hustle has more than 110 uses of the f-word?)

Ahh. Now this perks up the fact that we have one of those dread-inducing faculty meetings with an agenda full of things that make my colleagues want to throw tantrums.

Between the guacamole and the lemony cocktails, we’re doing just fine. How are you?

Also, I’m proud to announce a new triumph in the grilled cheese sandwich: roasted jalepeños. I also used a little cream cheese, an excellent strong/aged cheddar, minced scallions, and a few pickled jalepeños to give it a little dose of something pickled. Chiles in my area are not very spicy at this time of year, and I removed the skins & seeds after roasting them, but there remained just enough of a burn in the sandwich to make them delicious with a bowl of tomato soup.

Stay warm and dry, friends. Best of luck finding a good film for this cold, wintery night — I’m thinking about watching Jane Campion’s classic An Angel at My Table. And then maybe tomorrow I’ll start grading that sad pile of papers I received from my students before the storm started.


The original spray-on tan

14 October 2013

awesome-black-and-white-historic-photos-16I’m still grading papers, which means I give myself rewards of a tour around the internet every 5 papers or so. And look what I found here: a bunch of great photos, including this promotional shot from 1949 of a suntan spray machine.

Don’t you love it that it looks so much like a gas station pump?

Okay, back to the struggle…

So here I was, writing a ponderous post about a difficult film trying to explain why it made my feminism hurt, when a friend sent me a link to a video in which Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a lip-sync contest with Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Merchant.

Naturally I stopped everything and watched. Because that’s what Joe is to me: my internet stalking crush.

Oh, Joe. So young, and with such a weightless little frame, with its rubbery capacity to move and dance and perform impressive physical feats. Like when he reprised the Donald O’Connor number, “Make ‘Em Laugh,” from Singin’ in the Rain as a guest host on Saturday Night Live. Backflips, bouncing off walls, collapsing a sofa — Joe can do it all.

In another life he would have been Gene Kelly.


Let’s not forget the silly scene in the middle of (500) Days of Summer, in which he dances to the somehow-it’s-good-again bit of ’80s awfulness, “You Make My Dreams Come True” by Hall & Oates. He might show a moment or two of awkwardness, but he throws himself into this scene and illustrates the magic of what a white guy can do if he’s willing to move his shoulders and hips at the same time.

His new film, Don Jon, is getting pretty good reviews at the moment — I’ll see it eventually. I must admit, I’m less enamored with the macho version of manliness that he takes on every now and then, like in The Dark Knight Rises, Looper, and Premium Rush. (Curiously, he adopts a New York-ish accent in all of them. I disapprove. I want the un-macho Joe.) But he’s directed this new one — apparently something he seeks to do more often — and therefore, with the Brick and Mysterious Skin versions of Joe in mind (both of which are wonderful), I’ll trot off to buy a full-price ticket to show my box-office love, not just my creepy middle-aged lady internet stalking love.

And then I’ll talk to my therapist about working through these issues.


Nothing makes me feel older than to see a new commercial that blows away all the old tropes and offers up something completely different — and all I can think is, whaaaaaa? Remember those Volkswagon ads in the 90s, the ones with Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon”?

The Camp Gyno is an ad for a tampon subscription service called HelloFlo. I’m thinking about subscribing simply to thank them for this ad.

I think, finally, a real rain has come and washed all the blue liquid off the streets.

Thanks, JE, for this!

Just received my annual royalty check: paltry, as expected. Thus I’m happy to announce that I’ve turned away from academic writing altogether, and have been studying the NY Times Book Review bestsellers lists for advice on future writing. Clearly the time has come to write diet books. Here are a few titles you can expect from me in the near future:

Slim Down by Street Address. A diet regimen tailored for you, based on the last two digits of your house number. Did you know that if your street address ends in 19, you should avoid corn and corn products? If your last two numbers are 83, you need to eat ketchup every day. That’s just the beginning!

The Zombie Diet. Think about it: zombies do nothing but eat, yet never seem to gain weight. Read on to learn this diet trick.


The “Breaking Bad” Binge-Watcher’s Cookbook. A series of lightning-fast, microwaveable recipes for foods utilizing only ingredients already found in your cupboard. The dieting part sets in when you fail to eat anything because the show makes you feel so existentially uncomfortable. Might also be used for binge-watching Battlestar Galactica but the weight loss promises are less foolproof.

All of this planning makes me pretty excited for next year’s royalty check. Maybe then it’ll amount to a little more than knowing I’ll be able to pay next month’s cable bill.

We all know how it goes when a friend compliments you and you deflect the compliment back:

Thanks, Servetus, for the heads-up about this awesome clip!

I haven’t watched Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer — have you? do you like it? This hits that great sweet spot of being both brutally funny and eerily accurate. Maybe I need to look into it….


This is a manifesto about crying onscreen. Because if there’s anything that makes a film lose its authenticity for me, it’s a crying scene.

Picture this: a man and a woman on the big screen, having an emotional moment together. In close-up, a single tear runs out of the corner of her eye (or his). No matter how much people at TV Tropes make fun of the Single Teardrop Trope, it appears un-ironically throughout film today.


These moments immediately take you out of the story. I immediately think, “How convenient that this tear won’t mess up the actor’s makeup!” And I imagine a makeup person standing nearby with an eyedropper, poised to put one more teardrop into the actor’s eye for the next take.

Sometimes the camera cuts back to the actor and he/she sheds another tear. Argh. It’s as if directors worldwide have collectively decided, “If I’m going to have to pay the eyedropper staffer, goddammit, I want the audience to notice that my actor’s crying!”

Here’s a recommendation: when someone needs to cry onscreen, have someone on set give them a pinch or poke them with a pin so we can get an actual tear instead of this fake stuff.


codyWhen I see the single tear, I think of the classic anti-littering commercial from the 1970s, in which an Indian watches someone hurl some trash out of their car. Prompt: single tear.

Do I need to add that the actor in that Keep America Beautiful campaign wasn’t a real Indian? He was Italian-American, from Louisiana.

Do you see the layers of fakeness, all prompted by the single tear?

Now, as someone prone to cry during sentimental commercials, documentaries, and every single viewing of Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility (1995), I’m well-positioned to explain everything wrong with movie crying.

When real people cry — even a single tear — they wipe the tears away. Who the hell just lets one’s tears just sit there? No one onscreen wipes their tears away, because someone in the theater might miss the bathos. (Also: makeup smudge.)

To be sure, crying onscreen isn’t limited to the single tear method; sometimes we see tear-streaked faces (which they also don’t wipe away). Those tears look fake, too — what, do makeup artists use some kind of vaseline? Half those tears lie there like some kind of glop. No wonder no one wants to wipe it away. Fake, fake, fake!


Not to mention those scenes in which an actor sobs mercilessly, only to have not a single tear fall from their eyes.

Let’s face it: when white people cry, their eyes and noses get all red and bloated, and the whole scene gets ugly quickly. (Again, I speak from experience.) Between all the snuffling and nose-blowing and one’s mouth and chin contorting unattractively, well, it’s just … Tonya Harding.

Which, of course reveals why we don’t see a lot of realistic crying in films. The best movie crying I’ve ever seen comes from Michelle Williams — and that’s because of what she can do with her mouth, as I’ve discussed before. Otherwise it’s crap.

But it also reveals my core feminist point: we don’t show real crying because we don’t want to see actual women and men.


girl-crying_l2A single tear — or maybe two — is pretty. When used with women, it appeals to sexists’ worst natures: it aestheticizes women’s emotions, giving us pleasure in her sorrow. It places her in a position of weakness and shows it to be visually attractive.

When she fails to wipe away that genteel tear or two, it begs for a man to do it for her.

And all those dudes out there who only want one kind of woman — the Hollywood kind, whose entire raison d’être is to support a man, and who’s always hot and awesome except when she’s helpless and vulnerable — well, they can keep believing that real women with their messy ugly crying are just big failures. You can imagine how such a man responds to real crying.

Men crying onscreen are just as stylized, although the sexism isn’t so appalling. Which is why Johnny Depp in John Waters’ Cry-Baby (1990) was such a great satire: it’s the same aestheticization, except in this case it simply makes a stone-cold heartthrob more “sensitive.”


Ladies, in case you still fantasize that your dude will cry prettily like Johnny, be warned that real men cry with the same sloppy, ugly abandon that women do. What I can’t understand is how we can see male actors express the ugliest, most terrifying rage and violence onscreen, but never have I seen men crying with abandon as actual men sometimes do. And this hurts both men and women.

Thus, my manifesto: I want a new Dogme 95-style movement — or those animal rights vows taken by modern filmmakers to oppose any form of animal cruelty or pain — that opposes fake crying in film.

A small point? well, maybe. But I think it’ll move mountains.