Feminist Sunday: Ruby Sparks (2012) by Zoe Kazan and The Myth of Romantic Love

feministsundays2Feminist Sundays is a weekly meme created at Books and Reviews. The aim is simply to have a place and a time to talk about feminism and women’s issues. This is a place of tolerance, creativity, discussion, criticism and praise. Remember to keep in mind that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, although healthy discussion is encouraged.

You know I am a TV junkie: if it is a TV show and has crimes on it, I’m in. I can easily watch five forty-minutes long episodes a day and do not feel really bad about it or myself. But, every once in a while, I do watch a movie, and occasionally, it is also a good movie. Ruby Sparks (2012) by Zoe Kazan had been on my radar for a long time. Mr.B&R who is a movie-junkie really enjoyed it, and even though we have very different tastes – I am more a binge-TV-consumer while he is more delicatessen – but he is a feminist as well, so that dissipated my original doubts on the movie. Also, I recently came across this comment by Zoe Kazan who wrote the script and starred as Ruby in the movie:

“I think that the [negativity associated with the] label discourages some women from calling themselves that. I think saying that “you’re a feminist” is a little bit like saying that you’re a humanist, because what it’s really about is equal opportunities and equal thinking about genders being only a part of your identity rather than something that would define you and define your character.. I had a hard time when I was younger sort of reconciling my feminism and my femininity.”

Kazan told Wakeman an anecdote about a time she wore a Hello Kitty Band-Aid at a press event for “Ruby Sparks” and received some criticism. “I felt like, ‘Who are you to tell me what my feminism means to me?'” Kazan told Wakeman. “Just because I wear a skirt doesn’t mean that I am inviting rape and just because I wear a Band-Aid that has a cartoon character on it doesn’t mean that I’m infantilizing myself.”

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So, I decided it was right time to watch Ruby Sparks. Here is the trailer:

Can you guess my initial doubts about the story? A young male writer that creates a female character, a muse, that he brings into life. But Kazan is way cleverer than that. Much more. The writing is just a metaphor of how we create identities in real life, because not only do we construct ourselves – and I think my generation has turned self-crafting into an art thanks to the supposedly public images offered in Facebook and Instagram – but also how we construct others. And especially in a relationship. And especially how men constructed women and these had to adapt to that image. This is what is called “the myth of romantic love.”

The myth of romantic love is still very present in contemporary fictional productions and it can basically be defined as the “and they lived happily ever after”. Love stories in movies, books, ads, are highly constructed and even though they can work on-screen or on paper, they are not similar at all with real life, so they should never be taken as examples. Problem is, they are. In this myth of romantic love, “love will make you suffer” is still a rule, but one that applies mainly to the women in the relationship. As a consequence, violence, both physical and psychological, is justified and a whole set of patriarchal rules come into action. This myth has consequences in everyday life, with examples such as “My boyfriend doesn’t like me to do X, because he is very protective” or “I have to send him a picture before I go out so that he sees how cute I am dressed.” This myth also perpetuates high standards for women, who are seen as perfect and flawless creatures who are totally invested in the relationship. However, as time goes by, and women are seen for what they are – human beings with flaws and virtues like anybody else –  violence emerges in many and varied forms. So, to sum it up, the myth of romantic love is very much related to violence against women and traditional gender constructions.

And what does this have to do with the movie? In Ruby Sparks, young writer Calvin Weir-Fields  (Paul Dano) makes a character he dreams of and considers a muse come to life. Her name is Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan) and she is completely Calvin’s creation: everything he wrote about her has materialized in front of his eyes. But, he is so in love with her that he decides not to type her up anymore, to leave Ruby for what she already is: perfect. However, as the honey-moon phase ends (those first dates, those first adrenaline-filled encounters), Ruby wants to do things outside the relationship: she wants to join a class, she goes out with her classmates, and this means, she escapes Calvin’s reign. She has her own individuality and she no longer is the perfect woman he thought. How will Calvin react to this? And, how will Ruby? This is where Kazan’s imagination is at its best, because presenting the story as fictional or magical she is able to address deep gender issues such as controlling partners, jealousy, subjection and autonomy.

Now, Ruby Sparks is a Hollywood movie, written by a young woman and with a real-life couple starring as the two main characters. But it only made $140.822 on its opening weekend in the USA according to IMDB. It makes me sad that movies that could change the way young people view love and relationships are not widely accepted while the famous and upcoming G – and no, I won’t even mention the books here – with its perpetuation of traditional gender roles where women are subjected will surely make at least 10 times better.

Meanwhile, I think you should all watch Ruby Sparks because is the perfect movie. Kazan did a great job with the story, creating a feminist comedy that addresses contemporary heterosexual relationships and she proved that there can be feminist and empowering love stories.

UPDATE:

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Feminist Sunday: Everyday Sexism (Part II)

feministsundays2Feminist Sundays is a weekly meme created at Books and Reviews. The aim is simply to have a place and a time to talk about feminism and women’s issues. This is a place of tolerance, creativity, discussion, criticism and praise. Remember to keep in mind that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, although healthy discussion is encouraged.

It’s been a long time since I posted anything for Feminist Sundays, mainly because I am reading a lot and working on some very interesting reviews and interviews with women writers. But, yesterday I found this video and I had to share it with you all. I once had a female professor we will name Al, who was openly criticized by a fellow – male – classmate because she was teaching way too much feminism or women’s representation. Al wisely stared at my classmate for a few awkward seconds and then she said: “Well, it may sound not-interesting-enough for you. But let’s see how important it is: let’s make the women in this situation men”. And, obviously, the thought was so ridiculous we all burst out in laughter. Ever since, Al’s recommendation has stayed with me and it has been now turned into a short film called “The Oppressed Majority” by Eleonore Pourriat, who has many other feminist productions you can check here. The original is in French, but luckily for the rest of us, it is subtitled in English. I’ll leave you to laugh to a bare-chested woman high as a kite tells a baby how hot his father is.

 

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Feminist Sunday: Poet Hollie McNIsh

feministsundays2Feminist Sundays is a weekly meme created at Books and Reviews. The aim is simply to have a place and a time to talk about feminism and women’s issues. This is a place of tolerance, creativity, discussion, criticism and praise. Remember to keep in mind that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, although healthy discussion is encouraged.

I know it’s already Sunday night, but I just discovered this poet called Hollie McNish who does spoken word. And she is so good and so amazing that I had to share a video with you all. No more words from me, just listen to her and get lost in her words…

Feminist Sunday: Body Image

feministsundays2Feminist Sundays is a weekly meme created at Books and Reviews. The aim is simply to have a place and a time to talk about feminism and women’s issues. This is a place of tolerance, creativity, discussion, criticism and praise. Remember to keep in mind that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, although healthy discussion is encouraged.

Are you ready for the summer? I certainly am! I can’t wait to have free time, enjoy myself, go out with the puppy and the wonderful Mr.B&R and wear my favourite dresses, show off some skin!

But you know what it is time for? Go to the beach. I personally do not enjoy it very much, but I do go every once in a while. And do you know who – apparently – knows about going to the beach and exposing your body? The cosmetic industry. If you watch TV, you’ll see more ads than ever about super-slimming and reducing creams now than the rest of the year. I do not pay adds special attention, but one of these has made me want to buy the product for a few seconds. The images of Asiatic ballet dancers on a beach showed perfectly sculpted legs – mind you, they are ballet dancers! – moving slowly and being effortlessly lifted by the male dancers. And I want that cream.

Wait… What?! Yes, I did, for a few seconds. Luckily I changed my mind as quickly as possible. So, then it was time I asked myself: “Why would I need to look like the ballet dancers on the ad? Elena, are you Asian and/or do ballet? No! Then, what is happening here?” And do you know what was happening? A little bit of self-hatred that comes after centuries of reification of women’s bodies. The people behind the ad just took advantage of that and created a new need for women, even those with a healthy weight. I did some research and checked out the cream: it costs nearly seventy euros. A little fortune nowadays to reduce your body, and get rid of the bits that we are told we should not like, and above all, we should not have. Women are presented with Asiatic bodies, but not only that, Asiatic, ballet dancer-bodies.

During the same period I thought about this, a lovely lady I follow on Twitter called Rachelle Denton, Twitted these pictures:

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And then I remembered this amazing Tedx talk where model Cameron Russell talks about how the images we are fed are highly constructed and we do not realize it. I find this video extremely interesting because she compares pictures taken the same day: some personal, some modelling. And it is very hard to believe that the young woman in both pictures is the same, but she is. Take a look:

So, maybe we should stop considering the images we are fed as the standard or a representation of real life. Maybe. we could change the types of images we are exposed to. Blogger Brittany Gibbons has an inspiring TEDx talk on how to do that and it is so good, I won’t say anything more about it. Just watch:

So, apart from ranting a bit about the images we are fed, I just wanted to share how frustrating it is to be told your body – YOU! – has things that should not be there. I do not know about you, but I do not want to be told I have to look like a ballet dancer on an ad or any other media-constructed image.

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And this realization makes me happy. Because my career, my salary and my self-esteem do not  – and should never, ever – depend on restricting my body and fighting against genetics, my cultural inheritance and my perfectly healthy body. Women bodies seem to be constructed in two ways that, paradoxically, work together: a lack (why don’t you have that body?) and an excess (why do you have fat/wide hips/breasts/curves?). To back those ideas up, we are constantly exposed to constructed images of other women who had, or seem to have, those bodies. I ask myself, then, how is it we want to live our lives as if they were an ad? Why do we – working women with responsibilities, not enough time and many other problems – want to emulate static icons? Why do we want our lives to be image-perfect? Meanwhile, just remember to remain healthy, ballet dancer or not, because we should never want our lives to be an ad, and therefore, constructed by others. Why don’t we just enjoy our lives as we construct them?

Feminist Sunday: Everyday Sexism (Part I)

feministsundays2

Feminist Sundays is a weekly meme created at Books and Reviews. The aim is simply to have a place and a time to talk about feminism and women’s issues. This is a place of tolerance, creativity, discussion, criticism and praise. Remember to keep in mind that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, although healthy discussion is encouraged.

It’s been a while since I wrote a Feminist Sunday because I have been super busy. But, I really missed the posts and all the healthy discussion and sharing that comes along. I am surprised every Sunday about how much of your personal and private issues you are willing to share in this community. So, thank you.

Spring is here and temperatures are rising which means… Spring clothes! I am thinking of white jeans, short-sleeves and, in general, more exposure of everyone’s bodies. And, somehow, people think they have the right to comment on women’s bodies which I think is always rude and a bad idea. I wish people stopped and thought before opening their mouths if they would be voicing the same comments to a man.

This may sound a little extreme and I am aware of that. Just recently I lost weight because… life. I really have no idea why. And everyone has a right to comment on how good I look now, so I ask myself: “How did I look before?!” Hand in hand comes the thought: “If I lose more weight or if I re-gain it. How will I look?” I also ask myself why people think they have a right to comment on my body when I usually omit anything not only about their bodies, but about their minds too.

As I am writing this post, I am also thinking of Everyday Sexism and how personal comments are still not considered an aggression. There are even women who do not consider it as such, but if you ask them: “Would you cross the street to avoid it?” Most would say yes.  Here it is a video of how ridiculous it would be if women acted like some men do. Why is it that when women do it is “ridiculous”?

So, what do you think about this right to talk about a woman’s body in such a free way? How does it affect you?

Feminist Sunday: Dallas Buyers’ Club

feministsundays2

Feminist Sundays is a weekly meme created at Books and Reviews. The aim is simply to have a place and a time to talk about feminism and women’s issues. This is a place of tolerance, creativity, discussion, criticism and praise. Remember to keep in mind that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, although healthy discussion is encouraged.

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB AND AIDS

Last Saturday I finally watched Dallas Buyers Club, a movie that I had long wanted to see because it speaks of an era that changed the world. For those of you who do not know about it, Dallas Buyers Club tells the story of Ron Woodroof who has recently been diagnosed with AIDS and is looking for a way out of the system that, he thinks, is just killing AIDS patients with their drug testing. This all takes place in Dallas in 1985 when AIDS was still not completely understood and people were afraid of those suffering from it. But since it is a movie, here is the trailer.

Now, why this movie and this theme? First of all because of a personal interest since my mom has been a nurse since the early 1980’s and the chaos and confusion that she and medical staff had to face until they discovered what was AIDS and how it was transmitted is epic. I do not know how they made it, but these people deserve all my respect and love. Secondly, because at the time AIDS was a “queer/fagot’s disease”. The movie makes a great point of who and how were affected: Ron is a heterosexual man, but the people surrounding him are transsexuals, homosexuals and some women. If you still haven’t figured it out it was society’s outcasts. Ron himself refuses to believe he suffers from AIDS because he is not gay and he feels free to insult others suffering from the disease as well. But, as time goes by, the disease proves to be a far stronger link than what differentiates them. That is how the relationship between Ro and Raynon (Jared Leto), a transsexual who is friends with Eve, emerges.

But, there is also a missing link here and that is professional women. If you are a fan of Grey’s Anatomy you can see how women doctors were treated in the character of Ellis Grey. In this film, Jennifer Garner plays Eve, a young, hopeful and hard-working doctor who has to fight against her boss and the chemical industry personified in middle-aged, white men in suits who just want to make the most of the AIDS epidemic. She joins Ron, Raynor and the whole buyers club who are just looking a day more to live.

Eve and Raynor at the hospital.

Eve and Raynor at the hospital.

All this came to my mind after thinking of the book Queer Theory by Donald E. Hall. I read the chapter “Who and What is Queer?” where he mentions the 1980’s as a decade that saw the emergence of AIDS and, as a consequence, the criminalization of homosexuality. That the disease was at first linked mainly to homosexual men did not help and a kind of hysteria was unleashed putting AIDS victims into the “outcast” group that already contained women, transsexual and travesties. So, queer theory is the name given to those theories and approaches that study – in the case of literature and movies- the representation of outcast groups in society and how they create their identities. AIDS patients became a part of these theories as they developed in the 1990s because along with other groups they were being misrepresented in both art and life. In the movie, Eve, Ron and Raynor stand for the three groups that suffered the most repression and criticism in this period: professional (medical) women, transsexuals and AIDS patients no matter their previous identities: Ron was well-respected in his misogynist, drug-dealing group until they knew he suffered from AIDS. Then, they repudiated him.

So, this is why I thought it was important to devote a Feminist Sunday to Dallas Buyers CLub. Because, not so long ago – and sadly still nowadays – AIDS has labelled people as outcasts usually in relation to their sexual orientation or even their gender. I think it is important for feminism to remember those battles that seem won but that still need to be fought and, above all, those battles that unite us rather than divide us.