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.

James Gunn is a sexist, racist, homophobic asshole…

… and he’s also slated to be the director and co-writer of next year’s Marvel movie, Guardians of the Galaxy.

But why is he such an asshole? Well, because he wrote a darling piece on his own website, the second poll release of the top 50 superheroes you most want to have sex with, and it’s everybit as classy and tasteful as it is.

Which is to say it isn’t.

Now that it’s gotten some buzz, James took it down but this is the internet, asshole! You may TRY and take it down, but it remains up there forever and ever, digital bits and bytes showcasing your shitty behaviour towards everyone who doesn’t fall into your neat, strict little category of what’s normal.

Kudoes  to The Mary Sue for linking me to the Google Cache of that garbage article.

Here are some of the highlights:

32. Batwoman

This lesbian character was voted for almost exclusively by men. I don’t know exactly what that means.  But I’m hoping for a Marvel-DC crossover so that Tony Stark can “turn” her.  She could also have sex with Nightwing and probably still be technically considered a lesbian.

I don’t want to post anymore than that, but leave the link for you to follow and read. And of course, nearly ALL the pictures used for the women are the most cheesecake, pinup girl-ish that he could find from the more porntastic of the industry’s finest, such as Adam Hughs and Al Rio.

Once more, it’s the same old song and dance, the same old garbage of the Old Boys Club being as insulting and as exclusionary and as homophobic as usual because god forbid that anyone who isn’t straight, white, and male enjoy what they enjoy or maybe even point out that something, SOMETHING, is off, or wrong, oroffensive.

I am SO sick of this garbage, because this is what they view as normal. Reduce Wonder Woman to a bondage kink S&M sex doll? Normal, because it’s not like she’s a deep and complex character with a long history-

Oh wait, she isn’t because DC Comics erased it. >_<

But again, this is the norm, this kind of thoughtlessness hidden behind ‘humour’ and a shitty attitude towards women and people of colour and LGBT and those who intersect across all those areas. Yeah, I’m not seeing this movie, and it might not matter all that much to a company like Marvel that they don’t get my 12 dollars, but it sure as hell matters to me.

Plus, one other area of concern is one of the members of the Guardians of the Galaxy, Gamora, who was written as a lesbian in recent years, having, from all accounts, a deep and complex relationship with the new Quasar, a woman. How many wanna bet her orientation will be erased or ignored?

Character Versus Narrative: Arrow’s Diggle

(spoilers for the CW’s Arrow ahead)

I’ve been watching and enjoying Arrow lately.  And one character, Green Arrow’s bodyguard / partner / sidekick John Diggle, has made me think a lot about the way characters are presented in-universe versus their actual role in the narrative.  Specifically, I started thinking about this in regard to race.

And getting mad.

In a lot of ways, I love how they present Diggle.  But then I look at that presentation from outside the show, and I hesitate:

How the show presents him: He’s black and Oliver Queen / Green Arrow’s not only white, but a white rich kid son of a billinaire whom Diggle is initially hired to protect . . . and this doesn’t go unmentioned.  Diggle’s sister-in-law specifically asks him about following a couple of rich white boys around, in a conversation that clearly places these people as central to their own lives, and not characters who look for white employers to attach themselves to.  Which I like!
Except: In the show, his character does work for the Queens, and he is a secondary, supporting character to the rich, white Oliver Queen, who is the protagonist of the show.

How the show presents him: He’s a military veteran who cares deeply about his country.  When Oliver compares the two of them, Diggle has nothing but contempt: he tells Oliver that no matter what happened when Oliver was shipwrecked, he’s NOT a soldier, and will NEVER know what it means to be one.
Except: Oliver’s the one who starts the social crusade first, and is portrayed as the one who figured out how to make a difference and from whom Diggle needed guidance to do the same.  After his initial resistance, Diggle joins Oliver on his crusade, implicitly granting credence to the idea that Oliver has found the right way to make the world better.

How the show presents him: Diggle explicitly tells Oliver when he joins him that he’s not there to be a sidekick.
Except: On the show, Oliver is, again, the protagonist, and Diggle is supporting, so his role in the show is as sidekick.  Oliver’s the one who founded the whole operation and has been the one spearheading the plans and dictating the way they operate.  He invites Diggle to join him like he’s favorably rewarding a good puppy, and shuts down his suggestions because this is “his” operation.  Also, Oliver’s the one who kills the man who murdered Diggle’s brother (without any acknowledgement thereof), taking a good chunk of Diggle’s agency away from one of his own storylines.

How the show presents him: Diggle emphasized again in the latest episode that he’s there to work with Oliver, not for him.
Except: Diggle doesn’t actually join Oliver for any of the action in the episode; Green Arrow always goes in alone.  Also, Diggle has to push and manipulate Oliver into taking the case, which Oliver only starts to care about after it intersects with his own goals . . . and only then does he become invested.  As always, the narrative does not punish Oliver for this behavior.

How the show presents him: Diggle served in Iraq, is a personal bodyguard, and can kick every type of motherlovin’ ass.
Except: Because he’s the hero, Oliver always has to be shown as being better at kicking ass.  Not only does Green Arrow get more amazing action sequences, but Oliver beats up Diggle every time they go head to head (before they team up, and later while sparring) with a physical superiority that borders on humiliating.

I feel like I see this a lot in media.  The female character is vocal about being able to take care of herself, but the narrative still puts her in a position from which she needs to be rescued.  The minority characters might be shown to be just as competent as the white characters, but they still somehow end up dying first.  The character of color calls the white lead out on being selfish and thinking the world is All About Him, but because he’s the lead, the show is All About Him.

Just look at the African-American Police Chief trope—in all of those shows, the black guy/gal has done better and advanced farther than the white protagonist in universe, but still isn’t allowed to be the hero.  Gah!

As much as I do want writers to make women and characters of color equal through characterization, it’s lip service when the plot and narrative still put those characters in second place to the white men.