25. Selfie #6

The worst thing about summer is that everybody wants to do “outside things.”¬†Seriously. Summertime is all about entertaining Caucasian nonsense like requests to spend the day “at the Dunes”¬†( ūüė¶ ) and having dinner with people who think it’s fun to dine al fresco. It’s not. Whenever I eat outside I’m too distracted by protecting my meal from the requisite Old Testament-style swarm of flies/wishing I’d brought my sunglasses with me/hoping I put on enough deodorant to enjoy myself, and I can’t think of a worse way to spend a ninety-five-degree afternoon than scalding my feet on a hot beach and trudging up some giant mountain of sand. Just the other day, a friend included me in a group text attempting to set up a date to go rafting on the river here. Her heart was in the right place–I’d have bitched for weeks if I’d discovered they’d all gone river-rafting without me, even though it’s not something I would ever actually do–but seriously, rafting? On a river? Like who am I, fucking Meryl Streep?¬†No thank you. Please delete my number. I’m perfectly happy sitting inside where there is air conditioning and all the marijuana and HGTV a depressive, antisocial, habitually non-joining single gal could want.

SOME OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES I FIND ACCEPTABLE:

  • Walking six blocks to the library
  • Walking three and a half blocks to the nearest liquor store that also has my brand of smokes (Parliament Lights)
  • Smoking a cigarette anywhere smoking indoors is not allowed (everywhere)
  • Browsing clearance racks at Shoe Carnival when they put them outside
  • Garage sales

Is seasonal affective¬†disorder even a thing in summer?¬†Somebody help because I’m too lazy to Google it and also I have to avoid at all costs any situation that might result in me going down a WebMD rabbit hole and inevitably diagnosing myself with at least fourteen fatal diseases. (It’s a thing.) I’ve been more depressed than usual these past few months and really wishing hard that I had some fucking health insurance so I could get back into therapy but also so I could do perfectly normal-people things like go to the dentist or have my fucking eyes checked–but thinking like that only makes me more depressed because here I am¬†wishing for the regular things in life. It’s depressimg to sit around thinking grown up things like,¬†Wow, I really wish I had health insurance so I could go to a doctor, which I haven’t done in about a decade,¬†or,¬†Damn, if I could make even 40k a year I would be SET.¬†I used to have big dreams. Now all I dream about is dreaming on an actual mattress and not this foam pad bullshit I got from IKEA eight years ago, futilely topped with three mattress pads.

Last night, for example: I was reading in that bed/watching¬†Chelsea¬†and I paused to take an inventory of the furniture in my budoir: a small white bookshelf I got from Salvation Army a few years ago which houses my oddly-robust VHS collection; a weirdly-designed end table I can barely describe that a former roommate “gave” to me when she moved that has actually has part of it broken off because I dropped a mirror on it not too long ago (don’t ask); on that desk, my TV/VCR combo thing from probably 1992; an end-table with a magazine rack on the bottom that I got from Goodwill; and my bed, which is full-size and depressing. Suddenly, I hated all if it. ¬†It’s all junk, I thought. I said it out loud: “Junk. Just a bunch of junk.” It’s not the bedroom of a thirty-two year old man with a college degree; it’s the bedroom of some transient hipster who is prepared to leave it at any second.

Anyway,¬†that got me thinking¬†about this guy I dated for a hot second last year. He was about my age but he¬†lived in a house that ¬†he owned, where he had all sorts of grown-up things like¬†a home-security system, a¬†sectional sofa, and¬†basset hound named after an early-season¬†Project Runway¬†contestant. In his bedroom, he had what I call “an actual bed”–the kind that require, for instance, a box spring and not the sad slats of wood spanning the width of my bed own bed frame. He had dozens of pillows and sheets that felt like caramel on my skin. He had real furniture that nobody else had ever owned but him and a hot tea selection that rivaled those of many restaurants I’ve worked in. The first time I ever went over to his place, he showed off by giving me a full tour, and I didn’t blame him, considering his tour included two “guest baths” and one guest-bedroom, a study with an antique executive-style desk and one of those kitschy green and gold lamps, and something he referred to as an “eat-in kitchen” where French doors led out onto a fabulous patio with a hot tub. I couldn’t help but imagine giving him a tour of my tiny one-bedroom apartment: here’s the living room/my office/place where I keep my books/room where the window-unit air conditioner is; here’s the bedroom/place where my clothes are strewn everywhere because I don’t even have a fucking dresser, I’m that much of a child (actually, that’s unfair to children, because when I was a child, guess what? I had a fucking dresser); through this door here that everybody thinks is a closet because it’s in the God damn living room is the master bath, which doubles as the guest bathroom, isn’t that fun?! I wouldn’t even bother to show him the kitchen, it’s so pitiful. It was clear right away, standing on his gleaming, “original, but I had it restored” hardwood floors in his actual dining room where the table was set in a way that suggested six other people would be joining us even though no one was, he just always keeps it set like that, that I would have shut this shit down, and pronto. I mean, my God: I got my couch for free after the old woman who owned it died, which she probably did on the couch itself, the disgusting the stains I can’t even bear to think about only confirming that when you die, you soil yourself.

I tried to put a noble spin on it, of course.¬†Here was a man who had his shit together, who actually owned things of value, who went on actual vacations, whereas the most valuable thing I own had been my Macbook Pro until I decided to spill an entire cup of coffee on it last December, and the last vacation I took was three years ago and I just went and stayed at my friend’s place in Chicago for a week, smoking weed out of her Pax and spending too many problematic dollars at H&M (I know, I know).¬†He deserved someone on his level, I said, by which I meant, someone in his tax bracket.¬†I could only bring him down. I think I was convincing, and we quickly stopped seeing each other.

 A FEW WAYS IN WHICH I AM NOT A GROWN-UP:

  • Three of my favorite TV shows of the past few years are¬†Scream¬†on MTV,¬†Supergirl on the WB, and¬†Wilderness Vet on NBC
  • I don’t have a dresser
  • My refrigerator is completely empty except for: a bottle of mustard; a probably-expired jar of mayonnaise; a probably-rotten bottle of something called The Skinny Wine Thin Zin, Flavor That Flatters that somebody left here whenever I was last in the grips of a manic episode and invited someone over that I would never drink yet haven’t thrown out; a container of Parmesan cheese
  • The freezer is even worse: a bag of ice that’s been in there since¬†last¬†summer; four empty outshine Popsicle boxes; an unopened tub of cool whip I’ll probably remember is in there randomly one night in the near future while I’m watching The Net on VHS and eat all of it; an empty ice tray; a frozen pizza I bought several months ago before I realized that my oven had stopped working, a situation I haven’t yet resolved with my landlord because my kitchen has been FILTHY and I’m too embarrassed to let anyone see it but too much of a mess to clean it; a plastic grocery bag, contents unknown
  • I will never have what is called “an organized closet”
  • My bank account is regularly over-drawn
  • I am secretly 100% okay with eating fast-food multiple times a week
  • I smoke in bed
SOME RECEIPTS:

 

Round Up: June 2017

I’m about a week late, but nevertheless: here’s the run-down on what I’ve been reading/watching/listening to/etc. over the past month.

BOOKS:

MUSIC:

MOVIES:

  • ALIEN: COVENANT (2017)
  • WONDER WOMAN (2017)
  • CHRONICLE (2012)
  • THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK (1987)
  • THE NET (1995)
  • GOSFORD PARK (2001)

TELEVISION:

  • ORPHAN BLACK, Season 4 (BBC America, via Amazon)
  • QUEEN SUGAR, Season 2 ¬†(OWN)
  • FIXER UPPER (HGTV, via Hulu)
  • SUPERGIRL, Season 2 (WB, via Netflix)
  • I LOVE DICK, Season 1 (Amazon)

The Nate Parker Problem

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Nate Parker is having a hard time. Although for the actor and filmmaker 2016 started off roaringly–in January, Fox Searchlight acquired his Nat Turner biopic,¬†The Birth of a Nation, for an astounding $17.5 million after it screened at Sundance–by summer that roar, no less garrulous, revealed a marked tonal shift when we were reminded that as college a student back in 1999, Mr. Parker had been accused, though ultimately acquitted, of raping a classmate. (His friend and co-defendant, Jean McGianni Celestin, was convicted and sentenced to prison, but this conviction was later overturned. Mr. Parker and Mr. Celestin have, apparently, remained close over the intervening sixteen years: Mr. Celestin has a writing credit on¬†The Birth of a Nation.)¬†The discovery that their accuser committed suicide in 2012,¬†coupled with¬†Parker’s disastrous apology, in which he repeatedly evoked himself and presented that “painful moment” in his life as something that had happened mostly to him, only bolstered public calls for a boycott against Mr. Parker’s film, with popular writers like Roxane Gay vowing in¬†The New York Times¬†that she would not see it. Touted since Sundance as a definite front-runner for all manner of accolades this coming awards season, this praise was quickly replaced with speculation: would Mr. Parker’s troubled past hinder his chances for, particularly, Oscar glory? Would audiences be satisfied with the word of the court, which found Mr. Parker innocent of any wrongdoing? Would audiences, critics, and Academy voters be able to differentiate between Mr. Parker’s past and his present, his work and his art? Or would the bad press prove to be the proverbial nails in the coffin of Mr. Parker’s once-promising career?

Whether or not¬†The Birth of a Nation¬†will be embraced when it is formally released in October remains to be seen. In the meantime, things keep getting worse for Mr. Parker. This month, an interview the director gave with BET surfaced, in which Mr. Parker, among other things, laments the sorts of roles available for black male actors in Hollywood, noting that such performers are often required to perform in drag or play “men with questionable sexuality.” “To preserve the black man,” Mr. Parker is quoted as saying, “…you will never see me take a gay role.” The internet is still grappling with this: Ms. Gay notes that Mr. Parker’s comments “read as homophobia,” and Goldie Taylor, writing for¬†The Daily Beast,¬†though she plans to see the movie anyway, as well finds Mr. Parker’s comments distasteful. Ebony.com’s Michael Arceneaux was less forgiving, declaring, “He’s never getting a dollar of mine again.”

All press is good press, perhaps, and while Mr. Parker’s repeated public bunglings might not speak to the merit of his work, they do speak, I think, to the content of his character, and what seems very clear is that Mr. Parker is a misogynist. Because he was acquitted of those rape charges in 2001 it’s not fair to call him rapist, but his public attitude regarding that “painful moment” — as Gay notes, “The solipsism is staggering” — and his blatantly homo- and femme-phobic comments reveal the internalized chauvinism he mistakes for masculinity and the propagation of harmful systems of oppression he mistakes for a “legacy.”

Mr. Parker’s observation that black actors, especially black male comedians, are routinely given roles in which they have to perform as women is not inaccurate. The list of black actors and comedians who have performed in drag is long and includes, to name but a few, Eddie Murphy,¬†Wesley Snipes, Martin Lawrence, Jamie Foxx, Ving Rhames, Arsenio Hall, the Wayans Brothers, and Tracy Morgan. Keenan Thompson routinely portrays women on SNL,¬†just as Flip Wilson, in the 1970s, regularly donned a dress on his own television show, and Tyler Perry has built an entire career (and amassed a considerable fortune) upon pretending to be a woman.¬†

Mr. Parker is certainly not the first to comment on the phenomena. In 2006, Dave Chappelle famously discussed the issue with Oprah Winfrey, recounting a story in which he “took a stand” against producers who wanted to put him in a dress for a Martin Lawrence picture. The following year, director John Singleton griped to Black Star News, “I’m tired of all these black men in dresses,” and wondered why no one was organizing protests against the tradition. It’s a frequent enough occurrence to bear discussion, and the emasculation of black men as a tool of continued oppression is not without its theoretical merits: the condition of the black American male as he navigates a society bent on his destruction, and the tactics, both subtle and overt, upon which that society might rely, always bear consideration. Nevertheless, the argument that images of black men in drag or portrayals of black men who are not necessarily heterosexual are somehow detrimental to, as Mr. Parker would have it, the preservation of the black man is both disparaging and reprehensible, and that too bears discussion. Aside from suggesting that there’s something shameful or grotesque about femininity (his self-pitying recollection of those rape allegations drip with this same, thinly veiled misogyny), it’s a deplorable¬†act of erasure and exclusion, attempting the¬†removal of gay black men from the equation–as if their homosexuality¬†somehow cancels out¬†their blackness.

If it seems like I am here conflating homosexuality with cross-dressing or drag, it’s only because Mr. Parker’s comments conflate the two. While he expresses, explicitly, an unwillingness to play gay, the roles he offers as examples–Martin Lawrence’s Big Momma in Big Momma’s House and Mr. Perry’s multiple Madea¬†movies–are hardly gay roles. These characters aren’t even of dubious sexuality: Mr. Lawrence’s Malcolm Turner is a straight cop who only puts on a dress because he needs to go undercover, while Madea, matriarch to an ever-revolving band of relatives, is an ostensibly heterosexual (and apparently progenitive) woman. (Indeed, Mr. Parker’s attribution of homosexual subscript to the¬†Madea¬†films is laughable, when one considers Mr. Perry’s consistently flawed perception of black homosexuality, wherein same-sex desire necessarily¬†leads to disease and the destruction of family.) Mr. Parker, lacking¬†the depth to see things like sexuality and gender as textured issues requiring textured terminology, uses these terms interchangeably, a collusion as offensive as his insistence that queer roles would be contrary to “material that I can be proud of, that my kids can watch, that my grandmother can watch.” This view¬†upholds a rhetoric that frames¬†homosexuality as somehow crude, distasteful, or otherwise inappropriate for the family. (And let’s not even talk about the hypocrisy this point of view betrays, considering Mr. Parker’s drunken college three-way–as if there’s nothing even a little gay about running a train on a girl with your bestie.)

It’s evident that Mr. Parker’s version of black masculinity, with its obvious macho underpinnings, is one that considers homosexuality as not only deviant but obscene, and likely fails to recognize the boundaries of sexual consent. That he cops¬†to these notions under the guise of faux black empowerment and concern for the black community only is equally discouraging,¬†as his positions, far from advancing any cause of liberation,¬†in fact¬†encourage further animosity¬†within the larger black community and strengthen divisions between marginalized groups, which only benefits the status quo. In a time when Hollywood has been confronted with its own diversity issues and has vowed to work to address those issues, it’s disheartening — and perhaps a bit terrifying — that someone with Mr. Parker’s insidious message¬†might become the beneficiary of that change.

 

suicide squad is awful as you’ve heard it is

suicide squad¬†is as awful as you’ve heard it is.

the plot is sloppy and haphazard, clunking along pointlessly as moments of insufferably corny dialogue are plunked between sequences of lack-luster action. the art direction is not so bad–the joker’s (jared leto) green slick-back was really giving me ideas for fall, but harley quinn’s (margot robbie) daisy dukes and skin-tight tee, “daddy’s lil’ monster” scrawled across the breast, seemed like a cheap excuse to sex up a woman who is probably sexy in sweatpants. (the actress herself, in conversation with the¬†new york times, expresses some ambivalence about the hot pants, but concedes that they are part of the character’s “iconography.”) of course, i’d have put her in the red and black jester’s costume she wore in the animated series, and which the movie tease us with early on–but that’s just me.

suicide squad¬†introduces us to its titular anti-heroes by on-screen text that gives their names, ne√© and aka, and what they can do. as high-ranking government official amanda waller (played well but without investment by her majesty viola davis) walks national security advisors through a binder containing information on the top-secret task force she’s assembled, comprised of the worst criminals in the world, we meet our primary players. there’s deadshot, played by will smith, a sniper assassin who has never missed a shot. there’s diablo, a former cholo gangster who can spew fire from his hands, and captain boomerang, who throws boomerangs and hits on widows, and killer croc, a man who looks like a crocodile. (there are probably more characters but i’ve forgotten about them because, like the film itself, they’re forgettable.)

suicide-squad-movie-characters-calendar

in any case, waller has some hair-brained scheme to control these criminals by implanting exploding chips into their heart which she can detonate if they step out of line. to lead them she appoints captain rick flagg (an absolutely delicious joel kinnaman). there’s no immediate reason: waller has some speech about how the next world war will be fought by metahumans and the united states might as well be prepared. no sooner, of course, does she assemble this rag-tag group than one of them–an archaeologist possessed by a powerful witch known as the enchantress–escapes her control and begins wreaking havoc on someplace called mid city. send in task force x, who, inexplicably, are sent in to rescue waller and defeat the enchantress. none of it really makes any sense. the enchantress is building a machine to take over the world, but all this machine seems to do is turn ordinary people into shellacked minion soldiers under her control. one wonders why a sorceress so powerful–one who can make people see things that aren’t there, teleport, do basically whatever she wants–would go to all that trouble when she might just as easily cast a spell for world domination.

but no matter. there’s money to be made here, clearly. the show, no matter how tacked together, must go on.

a hungry margot robbie gives it her all but either it’s not enough or there’s not enough to give it to, or both. i was not at all impressed with her partially-realized ¬†conception of harley quinn, but this¬†might not totally be her fault: she certainly hasn’t been given¬†very much to work with.

one feels worse for will smith as deadshot, who is forced to deliver some of the film’s worst dialogue and muster some of the films most artificial emotions. “you don’t kill as many people as i’ve killed and sleep peacefully at night by feeling things like love,” he tells harley quinn, which totally contradicts the idea, otherwise expressed throughout, that his primary motivation is his young daughter.¬†particularly nauseating is a scene in which he attempts to teach her geometry through bullet trajectory–despite his previous efforts to conceal from her the nature of his business endeavors.

Will-Smith-Has-Interesting-Ideas-for-His-Suicide-Squad-Character-Deadshot

similarily disgraced is jay hernandez as diabolo, a conflicted ex-con whose weepy tale about how he murdered his wife and children is a moment of failed pathos so horribly written one can’t help but squirm. he has vowed never to wreak his pyrogenic havoc again. he relents, of course, for his new “family,” and to save the world, which is another thing that felt like hard bullshit about this movie: how quickly these characters–“textbook sociopaths,” allegedly, as harly quinn observes at one point–are bonded together, ready to give their lives for one another. sure, this sort of unlikely commitment is a tentpole of the sorts of movies in which gangs of misfits band together to do something brave and unexpected, but it was particularly hard to swallow in a movie about people who murder their own offspring, or swim in sewers, or do whatever captain boomerang does.

but of course, none of these characters is clearly drawn or convincingly motivated. one can’t help but wonder if the writer was given a story board and tasked with working backward.

which might go some way to articulating why¬†so many dc fanboys are freaking out about the movie’s poor critical reception: as fans of the comic book, they come to the movie with not only an investment¬†in¬†but also an acquaintance with the mythology that critics¬†who are excoriating the movie lack. i’m one of those critics. they only characters i knew anything about going in were harley quinn, because i worshipped the batman animated series that birthed her in the 1990s, and june moore/the enchantress, because I kept seeing her in the trailers and was like who is that witch because typically i’m down for anything involving witches. lacking an exposure to the source material, i was dependent upon the movie itself for both inspiration and a reason to care. the film delivered neither of these things and, no matter what the fanboys believe–some of whom were scattered, solitary, about the theater at the viewing i attended yesterday–the film needed to.

i’d feel remiss if i didn’t mention jared leto’s turn as the joker, one of the most iconic of all the characters in the dc comicverse. always a standout and a staple, the joker became a template for the deranged psychopath supervillain after heath ledger donned the purple suit in christopher nolan’s masterful¬†the dark knight.¬†that was a stellar performance, and it’s clear how much leto hopes to do something similar here. poor jared leto. there’s something cookie-cutter about his turn. he seems to think craziness is best expressed in animated lip movements and creepy soft caresses and false grandiloquence. to be fair, leto had his work cut out for him, taking on this role post-ledger, and it also works against him that the character is¬†completely unnecessary in this movie. he really serves no purpose other than to provide for harley quinn’s momentary escape–a gesture hard to take as romantic when one¬†recalls that he caused her capture in the first place.¬†then he pops up again, in the film’s final frames, purely, it seems, to tease a sequel.

Suicide-Squad

most of¬†suicide squad¬†is run-of-the-mill scenes of fantasy of violence spliced with incoherent bits of exposition that i guess are supposed to stand in for plot points. there is not a face that appears on screen that does not seem to wonder, at least at one point, what it is doing there, not a performance that doesn’t fall flat, and i really can’t say enough about how corny the dialogue is. i really cannot. at times i felt embarrassed, it was so corny. in a year that has already seen its share of disappointing comic book blockbusters, from¬†batman v. superman¬†to¬†x-men: apocalypse,¬†suicide squad¬†really stands out.