20 August 2014

The Ultimate Mary Sue on TV

I bet I wasn't the only one tuning in on late afternoons to watch the continuous reruns of the all-time favorite soppy teen drama of the late '90s-early '00s: Dawson's Creek. I don't know why I watched it, really, because I didn't like it very much. Not the whiny characters nor the boring storyline(s). I was just entering the first years of my teenage years and was really looking for something inspirational and yet identifiable on TV. A character with weight and wit, charm and self-irony, struggles and winnings that I could look up to and mirror myself in. All that that you would want from an idol - whether it's on print or screen or in real-life. I guess I looked the wrong place. I could have just turned it off from the first episode, but I wanted to give it a chance so I kept on watching here and there for as long as it ran on TV. I was actually intrigued to see just how irritated one could get with a show and its characters. And boy, did it not disappoint! Especially one character above them all took home The Most Annoying Female Character on TV-Award: Joey Potter. Miss Goody-Two-Shoes. The Ultimate Mary Sue of Generation X, etc..

She was somewhat meant to be a heroine of the show; the small-town girl-next-door type who struggled with a tough background and aimed to be something in life to prove everyone wrong... yada-yada-yada or something like that, I don't know. And that's exactly the problem! I bet no girl or woman watching really did understand her or could relate to her or even felt sorry for her, because she was so incredibly self-righteous and self-pitying all the time, it was hard just liking her. She never seemed to have to fight for anything; everything just came to her, but for some reason all she did was complaining about it. She annoyed the hell out of me, because of her whining tendencies combined with her judgmental, know-it-all attitude (e.g. her signature 'scornful glance') and oh-so-perfectness that just clashed. I know I might sound like I'm jealous of her, but I really think it comes down to not being able to identify with or relate to her. She's simply uninspiring and, frankly, boring. Every guy she came across seemed to fall for her (for some reason) to the point where it annoyed both her and, even more so, us. All she did was complaining about her 'luck' in life despite her misfortunes and all the boys going after her despite not being able to find love, when she basically lead on two men in love with her for more than a couple of years without being able to choose - or rather, making it a game about her. She is incredibly good at downplaying her own prettiness and talents while almost inevitably or deliberately (either way it's annoying) showing them off. One thing she's definitely talented at, as mentioned in the comments in the above-linked blogpost, is self-victimization; a trade so utterly despised by more, shall we say, feminist viewers and critics (or should we just say the entire female sex?) when it comes to fair and realistic representation and portrayal of female characters on TV etc.. It might just be a (male?) writer's wet dream to have such a victimized Mary Sue to act more as a plot device than to have actual substance and weight, I don't know. I may be harsh in my judgment, but Dawson's Creek isn't exactly known for being a show that brings deep and profound philosophy (a sugar-coated one at the most) into the lives of young viewers, but with that said, it isn't necessarily one to be dismissed in its effect on teenagers either. If young women actually came to see Joey Potter as a personal heroine, it wouldn't be the worst, but it sure as hell wouldn't the best either! Sure, young miss Potter doesn't shoot people down, drink, do drugs or God forbid, has sex, but she isn't exactly a woman any sane woman would want to be. At least, I wouldn't. Her inability to do anything - wrong or right - without whining or consulting others about it and then whining some more about her 'poor' choices in life (which really aren't poor, just not convenient in her oh-so-perfect life) just makes you wanna shake her! But of course, if all the people around her adore her (*cough* cf. Mary Sue) and keep affirming her oh-so-admirable-goodness and non-existent qualities, you don't need much more material to run on character-wise. You just keep that insufferable love triangle prolonged to the point of absurdity until the very last episode and rely the entire outcome on a character that doesn't even have character! Ugh. And I couldn't agree more with Gabriella (author of the above-linked post): Katie Holmes is an incredibly bland and boring actress and far from the object of desire that I'd understand would have men swooning in front of her feet. Why all the fuss, really?

Of course, not all female characters can be as bad-ass, interesting and complex as Joey's female contemporaries on TV such as Buffy or Veronica Mars, but it is interestingly ironic to see the latter thoroughly dispel the stereotype (and for some reason general conviction) about 'the dumb blonde', while our dear Joey - with her otherwise so mousy-brown hair and nose-down-a-book-vibe - gets most of the hate from female/feminist viewers. 

Or what do you think? Do you agree or have there been other - or worse - 'supposedly' heroines on TV that are genuine Mary Sues?

05 May 2014

Classic Movie Stars Look-Alikes - Part Deux

I just continue to come across striking resemblances between actors and actresses from past and present, so I'm happy to be able to come up with a second part to one of my earlier posts:

Marika Green vs. Natalie Portman

Marika Green (on the left) and Natalie Portman

Once again, the resemblance is striking! So much that you'd think Natalie was somehow related to Marika (though, that is not the case. Marika is actually the aunt of actress Eva Green). There's not much else to say but WOW!

Mary Pickford vs. Kirsten Dunst

Mary Pickford

Kirsten Dunst

When I came across this picture of Mary Pickford, I literally thought it was Kirsten Dunst in costume for some film or a magazine... But no, it was Mary! I had to look twice to really get it into my head! Though they both share a certain ingénue/sweet-girl-next-door-look, they may not be that alike if you look at other pictures of them, but in these two they certainly are; sharing that impish, almost secretive look and smile.

Brian Aherne vs. Tom Mison

Brian Aherne

Tom Mison

These two guys are just so similar in so many ways (besides both being close to my heart *sigh*)! Besides their appearances, their demeanours are frighteningly alike, if you watch some of their work. Tom often plays a rather nervous, fretting, almost innocent persona in his earlier TV work, who rather cutely tries to keep up with the more forthright female leads, as does Brian in his films. Both British, tall, blond, blue-eyed and statuesque, often sporting a small beard, moustache or stubble of some sort, they are perfect casting as this type of male character to contrast the more aggressive, sharp-tongued ladies. These guys often stay more reserved and play the amused, surprised or incredulous on-looker (either they are a bit dimwitted in a cute, naive way - or they just pretend to be), trying to understand their romantic leads as they let off steam. At other times they more than willingly jump in on this cat-and-mouse-game or battle of wits. It's quite hilarious to watch. And both Brian and Tom are so adorable!

Angie Dickinson vs. Stana Katic

Angie Dickinson

Stana Katic

I may be totally wrong here, but I just found something strikingly similar to these two beautiful ladies. A confident sexuality perhaps? Or just similar facial shapes, eyes and smiles? Not to mention that they both have played headstrong female cops on TV: Angie as Sgt. Pepper Anderson in Police Woman and Stana as detective Kate Beckett in Castle. 'Nuff said. Here they are in action:

Nils Asther vs. Jack Huston

Nils Asther

Jack Huston

I don't think I need to point out just HOW similar Nils and Jack are - both even sporting that particular moustache!

Carole Lombard vs. Amy Poehler

There's just something about these two blonde comediennes that is so striking. Whether it's their unique talent for comedy, brilliant facial expressions or radiant beauty, they're just unforgettable!

To be continued...

28 April 2014

Romance Stories Under Scrutiny: The Gentleman Complex - From Twilight to Pride & Prejudice

I was watching "Twilight Eclipse" the other day (just to see how bad it really is) and though I laughed and cringed my way all the way through, the most awful moment in movie was perhaps when Edward is refusing to have sex with Bella merely because he's 'old school'; holding on to the 'ancient' notion that pre-marital sex is a sin. A 'rule' which he claims has something to do with the fact that he's from a different era where "things were less complicated" - apparently. He tells her that if he'd met her back then he would have courted her at home, taken chaperoned strolls with her and might even have stolen a kiss or two from her. All the innocent things that eventually lead to a marriage proposal, several years of a just-as-innocent engagement before finally being able to seal the deal and make it to the marriage bed. Hmm, okay Edward, you seem to suggest that this notion is a moral rule that is directly connected to the fact that you were born a hundred years before Bella. But this notion has nothing to do with morality, not even back then as you so romantically make it out to be. It was a convention set by the standard of society and disguised as a moral sin if broken. There's a big difference, although cleverly disguised. Believe you me, men certainly did break this rule before marriage, often with *hush-hush* ladies of the night, whereas women were left in 'blissful' ignorance - not knowing a thing or two about sex nor that their soon-to-be-husbands often weren't as innocent as claimed to be - until their presumably shocking wedding nights. Society - which notably was patriarchal - secretly accepted this because "they were men, after all, it's different when it's women" yet publicly denounced it which basically made the society extremely hypocritical. Yet dear Edward makes it out as if all men from that era were born with some sort of special moral code that made them different from all the ones to come; that they were somehow more decent or innocent back then - real gents... Gee, everybody basically just repressed or denied those carnal urges until they got all screwed up inside. Things were less complicated back then, you say..? And talk about repressing all kinds of basic desires, you certainly should know, though you might personally claim to have a decent set of moral codes. In the end, the movie basically just demonstrates the exact same hypocritical, mind, not-so-ancient notion of a conservative society and film industry that tries to pull certain strings when it comes to 'the chastity of these young people who seem to worship these God-forsaken creatures of the night' and whose fangs basically scream of penetration in more than one way. Rather brilliantly done actually. Ugh, I hate how movies like Twilight twists everything around, like basic historical facts that kids growing up watching these wretched movies should be aware of, rather than be lied to! But I guess it's too much to ask from a movie like this that practically brainwashes young people into some sort of weird ideal for their present and future romantic life.

However, I get the whole nostalgia thing. I of all should! The romanticization of another time where men seemed more decent and behaved, more gentlemanlike. Believe me, I’ve had that major crush on the mysterious Mr. Darcy; wishing he could come and whisk me away, but I also knew that Mr. Darcy was a unique case back then as he would be as unique today. But that is exactly the point: he could just as well exist today. The dangerous thing about girls fantasizing about Jane Austen’s heroes, I think, is the way many more or less make Mr. Darcy exemplary for the male race of the 19th century. Hello! Have you girls totally forgotten Wickham (or for that matter Willoughby, Mr. Elliot, Henry Crawford and all the other shady guys ever so present in Austen's novels)?! It’s rather obvious that the stories Austen wrote were ‘fantasies coming true’ as implied in the film “Becoming Jane”; finding true love AND wealth for young unmarried girls. The chance of that happening back then was likely one in a million, and I bet that Jane met more than her fair share of Wickham-like scumbags (not that all men back then were like Wickham either, but in the end no one can see him/herself as entirely innocent). My point is that once again ONE specific male character becomes representative for a whole generation of men that were far from all that Darcy-like. Young girls today cry out that they want the era of Mr. Darcy back where men were gentlemen, but I ask: Why don’t you think Mr. Darcy couldn’t exist today? Once again, the 19th century was a time of conventions rather than a certain morality when it came to how to act and behave. You could hardly talk to a person before you had been introduced to them by another person that you knew beforehand! The English society perhaps more than any other is engulfed in an immanent politeness to this day, so imagine how it was back then. Sure, one could argue that the immediate politeness and good manners back then certainly couldn’t hurt to bring back to this day – most of all the impressive eloquence – but I still think I’d prefer to live today, since it’s somewhat easier to distinguish good people from bad people, broadly speaking, from their ways of acting and behaving, as we aren’t expected to act all polite and mannered all the time in all of life’s aspects today. It’s like that layer of formal façade has been put down in favor of a more informal approach to people – albeit with debatable equal amounts of advantages and disadvantages to the language. Not that people today cannot act devilishly smooth on the outside and then prove to be total scumbags on the inside, but back then you just should act polite all the time. An upfront that made it perhaps all the more tense and exciting during the courtship itself but also equally hindering, frustrating and easily led to misunderstandings as Jane Austen demonstrates so well in her stories. And I believe that made it only the more harder to tell the goodies from the baddies, since everybody put up that nice front of gentlemanly façade. Of course, Jane Austen - being the amazing judge of character that she was - could see through them, yet made it clear through her female leads that even the best can be deceived. This said, it also gives way to an universal truth that only makes her books all the more better. 
But I’m afraid that Jane Austen’s other ‘intent’ of writing these stories has become a bit obscured. The fantasies were lived out, true, and the bad guys put to shame, while demonstrating great wit and intellect through her writing and human perception of her own society and era of living, yet paradoxically time can be praising and cruel at the same time: Her works became classics but - as it so often happens - were not freed of romanticized interpretations and now many fans tend to see past certain aspects of her ironic writing and self-conscious position. One should always be critical – even though it’s hard to be so in a devoted fandom (oh do I know!). Yet, in my belief, you can be critical in a constructive way without ruining your fandom. Actually, it can become all the more better when you go deeper into the layers of a literary work, a film, a TV series etc.. (Well, alright, Twilight might be an exception to this, but that’s simply because it’s not a fandom of mine, obviously, since I find it horrifically bad).

02 April 2014

Classic Movie Stars Look-Alikes

I secretly pride myself at having quite the visual eye and being good at faces - and while it's a 'gift' that never comes in handy when you spot somebody in the street that you recognize but desperately want to avoid (despite the fact that they've already spotted you too because the recognition practically stands written all over your face) - I always find it great fun to try and detect resemblances and similarities in movies and their stars. When it comes to people, the mere physical resemblance can sometimes be uncanny; at times going to the extreme point of similar mannerisms, certain looks and personal quirks (which makes it so fun to be an impersonator I believe). Or is it all just in my head, I wonder? Oh well, it varies, of course, what people find similar to what or whom and what others don't. I guess it has a lot to do with how we see and associate other people to ourselves and people we know. In the end, I believe visual memory/association to be highly personal and subjective, deeply connected to one's feelings - depending on the significance of the memories, of course.
Anyhow, enough with the 'spacing-out'. This is just some silly stuff and musings I concocted because I - as usual - couldn't help myself. Enjoy ;) 
(PS. I intend to keep updating this list as I come across more look-alikes. Meanwhile, be free to make more suggestions or take a look at some other funny look-alikes throughout time). 

Sylvia Sidney vs. Marion Cotillard

Sylvia Sidney (left) and Marion Cotillard

I once came across this picture on the Internet and I simply couldn't take my eyes of the resemblance between Sylvia and Marion! I couldn't believe I hadn't seen it before! Furthermore, Marion has that old star quality about her; a beauty that made her so well-suited for the 1920s' setting of "Midnight in Paris" (where the right picture above is taken from). 

Lew Ayres vs. Robert Walker

Lew Ayres

Robert Walker

I may be totally wrong on this, but there's just such a striking resemblance between these two guys: the large forehead and contemplating look; the small chin and neat hair that gave them an almost boyish vibe. Arguably, Lew was more handsome during his time, but I'll leave it to you to judge. Furthermore, there's a certain Alan Ladd-vibe about these two as well:

Laraine Day vs. Patricia Neal

Laraine Day

Patricia Neal

The resemblance is uncanny and I keep confusing them all the time! There's just something about their eyes and eyebrows when they both looked anxious or troubled... Just watch some of their respective films and see for yourselves; there are lots of similar moments!

Donna Reed vs. Teresa Wright

Donna Reed

Teresa Wright

I don't really know why I keep mistaking them for one another, because they are not really that alike if you look at other pictures of them. Maybe it's the hair? Or their smiles? Or their sweet girl-next-door-persona in, respectively, "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Shadow of a Doubt"? In reality, Teresa reminds me more of Eva Marie Saint or Joan Leslie, whereas Donna almost has a bit of Olivia de Havilland in her...
Olivia de Havilland

Eva Marie Saint
Joan Leslie

Marlene Dietrich vs. Tallulah Bankhead

Marlene Dietrich

Tallulah Bankhead

Of course, people had seen this coming, and I'm sure it has been pointed out before: the bedroom eyes, the nonchalant attitude, the androgynous look, the adjunct in the shape of a handsome man with puppy eyes etc.. One could include Greta Garbo and even Bette Davis in this category, too. Yet, where Marlene and Greta arguably succeeded in using their foreign origin to add to their exotic allure and mystery, and Bette had her undeniably versatile talent, Tallulah - a true 'Scarlett O'Hara' (a part for which she also auditioned for) or should I say the female version of 'Rhett Butler'? - was perhaps overshadowed in terms of being THE silver screen temptress and more known for her controversial lifestyle and attitude off screen (even to have said to have been in a relationship with both Marlene and Greta). However, this is, as I said, debatable. Even Bette admitted to having emulated Tallulah in "Dark Victory", which Tallulah had played on stage. And Tallulah did indeed have a significant influence on women's emancipation which for no reason should be downplayed.

Greta Garbo
Bette Davis

Paul Newman vs. Michelangelo's David

Paul Newman

Michelangelo's David

Okay, okay. This has gone a bit silly, I'll admit, but still there's no doubt about it! I'm utterly convinced that Paul really was a Greek god, originally carved from marble and then took human form, and sent to this planet to set the bar for male beauty PLUS make the silver screen all the more delightful to gaze upon ;D Or maybe he had lived in a previous life, let's say the Renaissance, and Michelangelo just happened to use him as a model for his work...

Vivien Leigh vs. Maureen O'Sullivan

Vivien Leigh

Maureen O'Sullivan

Surely, they could be sisters! With their shared mannerisms, girly voices, dimpled smiles, coquettish/impish nature and at times even feisty beings, not to mention staggering beauty, they could easily have competed for the role as 'Scarlett O'Hara' in "Gone With The Wind" (yet, we're glad Vivien got the role as she was practically born for it!). They even had the chance to play together in the movie "A Yank at Oxford" (1938) just before Vivien was picked for the role as Scarlett. However, it was said that "[...] Leigh felt judged by Maureen O'Sullivan, (whom she had befriended years earlier at school) because O'Sullivan was happily married and Leigh was in the midst of an affair with Laurence Olivier and awaiting word of a divorce from her first husband, Leigh Holman. Therefore, the relationship was 'strained'":

Vivien Leigh (left) and Maureen O'Sullivan

I mean, just look at them!:


Clark Gable vs. Kent Taylor

Clark Gable

Kent Taylor

Apropos, "Gone With The Wind", another major, significant star from the film is (of course) Clark Gable, who seemed to also have a 'twin'..! Something I would have laughed at before this recent and surprising discovery - because to me Clark's looks have always been so very unique. However, I was watching "I Take This Woman" (1940) where the actor Kent Taylor appeared and he immediately struck me by his physical resemblance to Clark - albeit not as tall, nor  deep-voiced and not nearly as magnetic as Clark - and maybe it was simply the moustache that did it, but there were just something so familiar... Apparently, Kent Taylor and Clark Gable shared other than just looks as both their names should reportedly have been used as the inspiration for Superman's alter-ego Clark Kent.
(Btw, I love how serene and happy Clark looked around the making of GWTW - which I guess dear Carole must take most of the credit for).

Bette Davis vs. Joan Blondell

Joan Blondell (left) and Bette Davis

Joan and Bette only starred in one film together, "Three on a Match" (1932), but was reportedly good friends off-screen as well (though it's hard finding head or tail in the rumours circulating Bette's feuds and friends). Though Bette rather early changed her appearance from blond to brunette which made her stand apart from Joan's iconic blonde persona, they looked very similar during the early thirties. Although, I would argue that Joan had more of the cheeky, down-to-earth and 'rosy-cheeked Betty Grable-beauty' that made her the sex symbol she was in comparison to Bette's more aloof beauty.

Bette (left) and Joan
Joan (left) and Bette

23 March 2014

Movie Parallels: 7 Women vs. 7 Men

Seven. There is something about that number. Not only has it been used countless of times in movie titles and themes, but it, of course, goes way back to several biblical, religious, mathematical, astronomic, musical, antique, literary etc. symbolic references. There are seven days in a week. Seven seas. Seven colors in a rainbow. Seven archangels. Seven deadly sins. Seven principles of man.

Well, one could conclude a lot of different things, metaphorically and literally, from the use of the number seven in the two films "7 Women" (John Ford, 1966) and "The Magnificent Seven" (John Sturges, 1960). The latter, a well-known western with an iconic assemble cast and score. The first, a rather misappreciated drama that arguably could be called a western or even Catholic propaganda, but with an just as iconic assemble cast. Anyhow, both are very well executed and acted out, and they both somehow deal with the topic of saving a group of people from 'savage' captivity. The only difference is that the first film deals with a group of seven different women being captured by Chinese bandits, hoping to free themselves, while the other film is about a group of seven different men trying to rescue a village from Mexican bandits. Yet, all total 14 individuals have that in common that they all seem to have or hide some personal struggles of their own while dealing with the dramatic situation they're finding themselves in, respectively. Each woman must decide for herself what she is willing to sacrifice in order to stay alive - or help the other women stay alive - and hopefully gain freedom from the brute hands of the 'savage' bandits. Similarly, each man must decide for himself what - or if - he wants to gain from the low-paid, unsafe task of helping some innocent village people from a 'savage' gang. The gender-divided take-offs make basis for a critique of a gender-stereotypical perspective, e.g. that the 'sinful' woman (Anne Bancroft's character in "7 Women") is redeemed through her self-sacrifice for the group. Or the seemingly heartless and materialistic men in "The Magnificent Seven" finds redemption, peace or 'a better purpose in life' through protecting the innocent villagers. The idea of the seven deadly sins certainly lurks as a moral reminder in the background in both cases. But both films also deal with the necessity of working together despite differences and keeping a cool head in tough situations, even when others stronger than yourself can't. Some make it, others don't. It's the ultimate (American) test of the human spirit: selfishness vs. self-sacrifice. And whether you like the 'americaness' of it all or not; the great performances, cinematography and directing style certainly will convince you that they're worth the watch - and a constructive critique as well.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...