Pitch Perfect – Fuck This Movie

Hello everyone!

Due to a massive amount of sickness I got hit with this month that smashed apart any plans I had, there won’t be a new episode of Brain Food or Voices of Dissent this month. It’s just the way things go, sometimes.

However, before we left this month off, I did want to do a short review on a musical comedy released last year that completely flew over my head (a side effect of living so damned far up North despite Internet access) and that’s Pitch Perfect. Now, from the header you can pretty much gather that I was not a fan of this movie, and here are the reasons why.

1. White People Singing And Dancing

The plot revolves around the Bellas, an all-womens group of singers in a form of music I’ve never heard before called Acopoco. It’s where you all sing and add in the backbeats and tone and rhythm without any instruments. This type of movie also belongs to a genre of entertainment that RVCbard, in a conversation with me regarding this movie, called “White People Can Sing & Dance Too.”

And my answer, after seeing the movie, is that no, they can’t. WE can’t! I literally sat with my face in my hands during ANY of the singing segments because it was so damned embarrassing. I was playing Kingdom Rush on my iPod while watching this movie, just trying to get through it!

Watching those segments of the movie was like watching people fail in their auditioning for Canadian/American Idol, it was gut-wrenchingly bad. It’s like they’re trying to prove they’ve got rhythm SO BAD…

2. Diversity

Lets look at the poster for this, shall we?

So, out of that group of white women, we have one black woman, and one Asian woman… and that’s about it.

The plus-sized white woman is called Fat Amy, played by Rebel Wilson, and it’s a title she gives herself and isn’t ashamed of, and the movie does do good in depicting her as an actual character whose sole interest isn’t food, although there are a fair amount of food jokes in it.

The black woman is Cynthia Rose, played by Ester Dean.

She’s also a lesbian, and one might think “Hey, a woman of colour who is also gay and not the Hollywood Ideal Shape with some awesome hair! Great!”

Well, I did too, and then after her introduction, the rest of the movie happened. See, her being a lesbian is played up as a joke half the time and the behaviour she exhibits is problematic, to say the least. She acts in ways that would be considered lewd and rude from men, but the movie plays it off for laughs. She feels up the straight women, she scopes them out up close, at one point nearly shoving her face into the cleavage of the member of the group who is promiscuous (and which the film labels as a slut and also plays that up for laughs).

There’s also a scene near the end before the final championship match, contest, whatever Acupulcola Sugar Free music singing does, where the Bellas are sharing their darkest secrets, and she admits that she has a gambling problem. Fat Amy makes some stupid snide remarks about her ‘coming out’ and even though Ester Dean plays Cynthia Rose as someone who is confident in their sexuality and without guilt about it, the movie itself is again making fun of her, and the whole thing came off as homophobic and racist.

I should also mention that the leading characters of Chloe, played by Brittany Snow)

And Chloe (played by Anna Kendrick)

Were supposed to be gay and get together, but that was written out.

Oh, and Chloe was a redhead…

Then we have Lily, played by Hana Mae Lee.

Her ENTIRE character is that she’s a Shy Girl who speaks so softly almost no one can hear her… and she’s a pyromaniac, too. This ties in too much with the Shy Asian Girl stereotype, and Lily grows none whatsoever throughout the entire movie. Her character is a one note joke at the start of the movie, and it’s a one note joke at the end of the movie.

3. Nice Guys Always Win.

Once more, the nice guy wins and gets the girl, despite being a creeping, passive-aggressive shithead and despite the two having Negative Chemistry together.

I am talking about Jesse, as played by Skylar Astin.

This guy all but stalks Beca from the start of the film, is generally annoying, has almost no charisma, and wins her over by constantly harassing her at work in the university radio station they both work at, coming over to her room, and by showing her movies and acting shocked and mortified that she hasn’t seen the ending of the  ‘greats’ like The Breakfast Club and other stuff.

This is some nice guy heteronormative bullshit here, and I wanted Beca to slap him, drive him out of her room, and get with Chloe. At least those two had some chemistry together.

And speaking of Beca, we come to my final complaint about this movie:

4. White Middle Class Privilege

Beca is attending a pretty damned good university FOR FREE since her father, a tenured professor there, is paying her way… her entire way.

But she doesn’t want that as she wants to go to Los Angeles and become a DJ and remix music.

Now, I like Beca, I do, but good lord if her whining over having to attend university for free didn’t grate on my nerves! A free ride through university in terms of costs?! Hell, what I wouldn’t give for that now, considering that I myself am going back to school for further job training.

It’s not to say that I didn’t have help from my parents, because I did, and I’m eternally grateful for everything they’ve done for me in terms of the support, be it food or money or lending me a vehicle after mine was smahed in an accident, and love, but Beca acts like a spoiled brat at the beginning. Post-secondary education is expensive up here in Canada and, from what I’ve heard, really expensive down in the US, so I doubt that she came off as sympathetic to those who are struggling to pay the costs of attending university, either currently or afterwards. Hell, I’m still paying off student loans!

The last few years have shown especially the gap between the upper and middle class growing, and even more people becoming lower class and the working poor, as one report called it, and that has always had a huge effect on people of colour, yet Beca is complaining about having this free ride! The movie ends with her staying in university after the first year, but hell, who’s to say she couldn’t pursue her love of music? She’s literally soaking in her white, upper middle class privilege and it really made me shake my head and sigh.

In short, fuck this movie. What little good it has is outweighed by the bad, and you can find better movies elsewhere to watch that have a richer, more diverse cast of characters who are deeper and more developed.

Why do I fawn over GBLT computer games characters?

I am a gamer, I looove my computer games. I can merrily sink several wasted hours into my lovely shiny pixels, especially story-based RPG type games. Yes it’s the official seal on my geekery.Sometimes my slightly obsessive nature can require Beloved to physically pull me from my computer so I do things like eat and go to work.

And you know one thing that can nearly guarantee my leaping to the games shops (well Steam) with my money? Gay characters. Let me see a gay character inb that game and my wallet’s already in my hands. Yes, I’m thrusting my gay agenda into your games! Nothing is sacred, straighties.

See, I’ve actually bought games purely because they’ve had a gay character. That’s been enough for me. Does that sound pretty damn desperate? Probably – but it’s so damn rare to pick up any game that isn’t wall-to-wall straight folks that just once, just for a second, being able to escape into a world where I actually get to be me is precious.

And I know right now that there are people running to say how many computer games there are that don’t include any sexuality at all! That is has no straightness! That sexuality is just irrelevant! Or that xyz character could be GBLT.

Don’t. Really, don’t. That excuse is a poor one unless you come from a la-la land that doesn’t have heterornormativity. And you don’t. And heteronormativity bites us on the arse twice here.

First of all – if that character shows no inclination for any sexuality whatsoever? Congratulations – heteronormativity will render them straight. Because of the myriad joys of privilege, straight is the assumed, the default.  If you see someone with no indication of sexuality at all, they will be taken as straight. Unless there is an overt indication that someone is not heterosexual then that is what they will be assumed to be. And don’t tell me that the game designers and distributers and 99.9% of the game players won’t see it through exactly the same lens. And yes it’s annoying and no, we shouldn’t assume straightness all the damn time – but we do and that’s not likely to change any time soon – if ever, given how much straight folks outnumber us. This is why I’m less than amused by the *hint hint wink put on your slash goggles* pretend-inclusion people expect us to buy.

When “no sexuality until shown otherwise” is considered default then I’ll concede that a game/book/TV series has no sexuality (and even then, I doubt it) until then, let’s not fool ourselves or pretend we’re looking at something that is anything but straight.

Secondly, I can nearly guarantee that I can look at your “completely-sexuality free” game/book/programme and see straight sexuality somewhere. We don’t see straight sexuality because our heterosexist society presents it overwhelmingly as the norm. We are so bombarded with heterosexuality from the very moment we open our eyes that it becomes background noise. This is why the sight of 2 men holding hands is ramming our sexuality down your throat and worthy of someone throwing a bottle at us, while my having to watch endless hours of straight folk all but having sex on TV advertising everything from perfume to cooking utensils is considered quite normal. I can’t even watch them hock loans to me without seeing a happy straight couple.

So, there probably is straight sexuality in that “sexuality-less” game of yours. A family, a couple, a love interest, a crush, something – something that, were it a gay or lesbian relationship, would leap out from the screen, doubtlessly yelling “PC” “gay agenda” and whatever other whining I’ll have to hear from disgruntled straight gamers who have been traumatised by the dreaded gay.

So, why does this matter so much to me? Why would I buy a game I know nothing about just because it has a gay character, regardless of its other flaws? Well, I’ve said before again and again why it matters.

Gaming is escapism, in some ways even more so than reading – especially the story-based games I prefer. It annoys me to read a book and be expected to identify yet again with a character who is nothing like me and be transported yet again to a world where I don’t exist. But it annoys me far more to actually participate, to play a part in this story and have my role represented by a straight person as well! I’m not just supposed to identify with a straight person, but I have to play one as well.

I loved Mass Effect 2, I really did, I had to be physically dragged away from the computer.  But it annoyed the hell out of me that there I was, Sparky Shepherd, saviour of the galaxy, having to dodge Miranda and Tali’s constant romance hints (there’s no “actually I’m gay, stop asking” option) while at the same time Jacob and Garrus and Thane were there WITH romance scripts but for some reason they weren’t an option – unless I played a female Shepherd. And if I played a female character, I’d have a choice of aliens who don’t have a male gender at all – or one potential fling that doesn’t even count as a romance option. And those not-as-equal-as-straight-relationship-straight-gaze-lesbian-relationships still make this game more inclusive than 99% of what’s out there

And is it really that much to ask? Is it really so much to ask that I get my geeky escapism going as well? Is it that hard to have a gay man as the hero? Do I have to play it straight every time – I did enough of that in real life, I don’t need to do it in fiction as well.