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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Why Wonder Woman Makes Me Wonder

If you, like me, spent your childhood in the 1970’s, the title of this piece alone should have gotten the old “Wonder Woman” theme song stuck in your head.  All the world is waiting for you…and the wonders you can do. Make a hawk a dove; stop a war with love. Make a liar tell the truth!  I don’t know about that other stuff, but she DEFINITELY had the ability to make a liar tell the truth with her golden lasso.  I loved that show and thought Lynda Carter was as gorgeous and badass as women came, perfectly suited to the role.  

But I grew up in an era of out-of-shape superheroes; for example, Adam West did not exactly look ripped in that Batman costume.  Michael Keaton in the same role was all suit, so to speak.  Remember what a vast “improvement” Christopher Reeve represented over George Reeves in the role of Superman?  Christopher Reeve was handsome and in great shape, but in “Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice” Henry Cavill’s Superman is…well, SUPER-human looking.  He is sculpted and frankly the most true to the original comic version as any actor who has played him yet. 

Which is why I am wondering about Wonder Woman?  Why is it that this kick ass goddess has perfect hair and boobs but no visible muscle?  Are they afraid it would make her less “feminine” (AKA "sexual")?

I did a little research (AKA “googled”) this topic and found a discussion thread that made my heart sink.  The debate over whether or not Wonder Woman should be more muscular in this new film featured the following comments:  males are the muscular ones in comics; women are the slender curvy ones.  both genders at the height of their attractiveness”; “If Batman and Superman have to have huge pecks and biceps why can't we get a Wonder Woman with big tits and an ass?” Hoo-boy.  But the most dismissive comment I saw opined that the ONLY reason people were even talking about this was “because feminism or something like that”.   

The one person who had an actual photo of himself instead of an avatar on the thread (hmmm…) offered this bit of wisdom about the character as written:  she is “a battle hardened warrior who trains rigorously on a daily basis”.  I know absolutely nothing about Gal Gadot, the actress playing Wonder Woman, except how she looks.  And she DEFINITELY does NOT look like that.  She looks more like a thumb-war champion, if you catch my drift.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  And I should talk, btw.
I will have to admit at this point that I am not, nor have I ever been, much of a comic book person.  However, I did grow up watching “Batman”, “Wonder Woman” and “The Super Friends”, so I am not entirely immune to the thrall of super hero legend.  In this spirit, before I go ahead and say what OBVIOUSLY needs to be said here, I am going to tell you what little-girl-me thought about the “out-of-shape” champions she grew up with:  what made them heroic (and ultimately triumphant) was their good intentions.  Corny, I know. 

But I think the beating heart of the appeal of such characters is exactly that…they use their super powers to help the weak, the less fortunate, and the victimized.  I never questioned their physiques.  Batman knew how to outsmart his rivals and Superman and Wonder Woman were genetically superior beings, immune from human weaknesses…such as the need for muscles to have strength.  I’m saying this because I “get” the rationale behind casting another Madison Avenue typical beauty in the role.  However…

This is 2016, people.  And the character AS WRITTEN is a trained warrior.  And her Superman co-star is about as cut as you can be without qualifying as a professional body-builder.  And this mismatch is troubling.  This mismatch concerns me.  Because muscular women, professional athletes even, are often criticized for being “fat”.  Google search that and see the endless parade of articles. 

I think this represents a two-fold problem: 1) yes, we have all been brainwashed by Madison Avenue about what the ideal female form should be (essentially:  anorexic, but with boobs) and 2) muscular women are being targeted for going against the norm.  These naughty rule breakers want us to accept a female shape that is not weak, helpless and in need of a brawny masculine savior.  They want us to comprehend that women can be just as strong as men…and in many cases, even stronger.  They wants us to understand that fierce can be feminine.  And this is apparently a message that we are not yet comfortable hearing.  And casting a dainty looking Wonder Woman is definitely part of the problem.
I don’t want to pick on Gal Gadot for being too skinny.  I want to pick on the Hollywood machine that consistently lets us down when it comes to diversity of ALL KINDS.  Hollywood, like the out-of-shape superheroes of yore, used to be nothing more than a whimsical fantasy fulfiller.  But as it has grown and its reach and subject matter have continued to expand, it has also taken on the tacit responsibility of representing all of us, not just the Marilyn Monroe’s and Clark Gables of the world. 

Which brings me back to Wonder Woman.  Who is the audience for a movie that features such a character?  I’m no marketing genius, but I am guessing it is 1) fans of the comic book and 2) young people.  And I’m no psychologist, but I’m assuming fans of the comic book are going to want to see their heroine accurately portrayed, and young people might benefit from seeing such a character represented as what she actually is:  a warrior.  With my apologies to Gal Gadot, who may very well do a fine job:  there was somebody better for the part.  Probably a lot of somebodies.  We need to be having these kinds of discussions about why Hollywood didn’t think a muscular actress was a commercial choice.  How many viewers (dollars) did they think they stood to gain by casting a model-type instead?

I have already stated my intention to boycott “Independence Day 2” because the casting geniuses decided Mae Whitman wasn’t hot enough to play HERSELF as an adult.  (  I will not be going to see “Batman V. Superman” either.  Because Hollywood won’t listen to our voices until we back them up with our actions.  We need to stand up for women in all shapes and sizes (because feminism or something like that) and we need to stand up for people of all races (because white Oscars or something like that). Doing this means standing up for ourselves, even the Madison Avenue models of the world. 

Time for Hollywood to be subjected to the lasso of truth; are they casting the best person for the role?  Or the one they have deemed most “bangable”?   Strong women are sexy women.  Time to stop judging (and casting) based on outdated sexual standards.   We all have a story, we all have a voice and we are all valid.  And that is a wonder to behold.


Friday, January 22, 2016

10 Terrible Lessons from Romantic Comedies

Confession:  I’m a sucker for romantic movies.  What could be more endearing than watching two adorable people try to resist falling in love?  Of course there must be obstacles to overcome; otherwise you don’t have a story.  I think most of us enjoy the idea of love being an inevitability…even if finding the match is like finding the proverbial needle-in-a-haystack, destiny will not be denied!  Except in The Bridges of Madison County, of course.  Generally speaking though, romantic films promote the idea that there is someone for everyone, and I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment.  However, there are a lot of messages to be found in even some of my very favorite movies that are much, much less appealing:

1)      When Harry Met Sally:  I start here because this is one of my favorite films of all time.  Even though it endorses one of the greatest untruths ever told… men and women can't be friends.  Harry and Sally debate this point early on and Sally tries to take the day with this:  “So you're saying that a man can be friends with a woman he finds unattractive?”  Harry’s response?  “No, you pretty much want to nail 'em too.”  Now, I’m not a man, and I have no idea what percentage of women the typical guy wants to “nail” (UGH) but I have many wonderful platonic friendships with men that I wouldn’t trade for anything.   As a matter of fact, because it is considered an offense against societal mores to be “nailing” more than one person at a time, MOST of my relationships with men have been platonic and I’m assuming that is true for most people.  Unless you are all “nailing” each other behind my back.  LMK, ‘k?

2)     Sleepless in Seattle:  I might as well get all of my Nora Ephron bashing out of the way up front.  This film bothers me SO MUCH that I have devoted an entire blog to it (; however, my BFF has informed me that it is actually giving women permission to break up with the boring-nice-guy (even if he looks like BILL PULLMAN) to look for their soul mate.  Who, in Annie’s case, turns out to be another boring-nice-guy.  With a kid.  Who lives on the other side of the country.  You go girl!!!  It was definitely a good idea to dump your handsome, successful, sweet, local fiancĂ© for a voice on the radio!!!  Boo.

3)     While You Were Sleeping:  Another Bill Pullman film with “sleep” in the title, only THIS time he gets the girl.  From his BROTHER, played by Peter Gallagher, who has never been more hilarious than he is here.  Before you get all grossed out (save that for the next film on the list), the REAL problem in this ridiculous and convoluted plot (I watch it every Christmas!  Woot-woot!) is the idea that dishonesty is somehow “polite”.  There is a wonderful theme here screaming to be heard:  that our fantasies are just that, a FANTASY.  And reality can be so much better because the connections we make go so much deeper than appearances.  Instead we are treated to a ludicrous set of circumstances by which our heroine is kept apart from her #onetruelove because she must “politely” maintain the lie that she is engaged to another.  It’s dumb and wrong.  And I watch it every Christmas.

4)     Dan in Real Life:  In this case Dan, played by the utterly impossible to resist Steve Carrell, does in fact steal his BROTHER’S girlfriend.  Two brothers sleeping with the same woman in the same movie is a little too biblical for me, sorry.  ICK.

5)     Crazy, Stupid, Love:  Again, I GET IT.  There is no way any woman on the planet could NOT fall for Steve Carrell, even when he is acting like a total D-BAG.   As he is here.   This movie has a very confusing message about “revenge” as a valid romantic position.  The way I remember it, Steve Carrell’s wife, who he still loves very much, has an affair with a d-bag and this makes him sad.  So he embarks on a mission to learn how to be a d-bag himself by using women and tossing them aside in order to…win her back?  Humiliate his children (one of the women is his kid’s teacher)?  Destroy his legacy as a good man?  It was all very upsetting and perplexing but never mind that, IT WORKED! So he and his wife lived happily ever after.  Say it with me this time:  ICK.

6)     Love, Actually:  Actually, LOVE this film, even though it is pretty much rotten to the core.  Damn Brits!!!  They make everything seem so charming!  Declaring your love for your best friend’s spouse!  Buying your tarty secretary a nicer Christmas gift than your wife!! Porn as a path to true love!!!   IT’S ALL SO ROMANTIC!!!!  When it’s done with a British accent; I can’t deny it.

7)     Celeste and Jesse Forever*  Turns out, Jesse is an aimless underachiever because of his WIFE.  It’s Celeste’s fault, really.  The RIGHT woman gets him on track and after years of being a wastrel, he becomes a responsible, hard-working success story.  Damn you Celeste!  Don’t you understand that your over-achieving was emasculating?  So gross.

8)     Pretty Woman:  Please don’t make me say it.  Pretty please.  Speaking of which…

9)     Pretty in Pink:  Does anyone like Blane?  Isn’t he a boring snob with no backbone?  But we love Duckie, right?  Ladies…come on, choose wisely.

10) Peggy Sue Got Married:  I KNOW!!!  I love it too.  And at its heart is the beautiful truth that most mothers would remarry their husband, even if he turned out to be a feckless, cheating goom-bah because they could not imagine life without their particular children.  But Peggy Sue had OPTIONS.  And her husband did turn out to be a feckless, cheating goom-bah.  Ladies…come on, choose wisely.

*Upon reflection, turns out Celeste and Jesse Forever  is the last romantic comedy I can remember seeing.  That came out in 2012.  Apparently it annoyed me enough to unconsciously boycott rom-coms for 4 years!  Or maybe I’m afraid that nowadays I’m just going to be watching two hours of young people staring at their phones and “swiping right”??? LMK, ‘k?

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Saturday, January 16, 2016

10 Things Losing My Dog Taught Me About Living

Losing a pet is heart-wrenching.  Anyone who denies this either never had a pet or never had a heart to wrench.  We had plenty of time to prepare for our girl’s passing, and I mistakenly believed that this would make it easier or somehow a relief when she died.  It was not easy and it definitely was not a relief. 

Zoey was a salty old broad to the end, and the departure of her larger-than-life presence has left us with a huge hole in our world; I can’t believe how much I miss her.  Of course in thinking about her constantly, (without her incessant barking to distract me from such thoughts), I realize that losing her has given me a new outlook.  Zoey was a far greater teacher than I ever understood; if she were here today (and could type) these are some things she would tell us about life:

1)      Never bark when a growl will do.  Zoey had about 15 variations of the growl…the “stop bothering me” growl, the “something is fishy” growl, the “unrecognized noise” growl, the “I’m-still-here-in-case-you-were-wondering” growl…and none of them sounded exactly the same.  The girl had TONALITY.  She understood that a well-placed growl could pre-empt a lot of unnecessary barking, and she doled them out judiciously.  HOWEVER:

2)      There is no shame in barking!  Again, there were many variations on this theme, but her preferred bark was robust, full throated and frankly piercing.  Like most Corgis, her insane barking was just as likely a signifier of joy as of alarm…you should have heard her go at it every time the UPS truck drove down the street.  This is not because she feared or was angered by the truck…it’s because she and our UPS guy were IN LOVE.  Which leads me to her next bit of wisdom:

3)     Relationships are the bedrock of a happy existence.  Zoey was a shameless flirt and had many admirers (though none as ardent as that UPS guy).  Flirting got her pets and treats and all kinds of attention, and she was damned good at it.  When we lived in Virginia she had our handsome young mailman wrapped around her little paw, and he was always threatening to carry her away to the glamourous life.  Being engaged by people means you like yourself and enjoy others…and you are still open to all the possibilities of life.  Like maybe riding around in a mail/UPS truck with a box of milk bones and a smitten dude.  Zoey understood this because

4)     You have to know the difference between being shameless in your passions and not having any pride.  Yes, she was a girl with gusto and endless appetites (for food as well as men who deliver parcels) but she was also a dog with dignity.  She had perfected the “I meant to do that” posture to answer any question you might have about her feelings regarding knocking something over or “missing her mark”.  Zoey was a lady and never let us forget it.  Don’t you know it’s impolite to stare at someone as they inhale their food??? Because

5)     Food is AWESOME.  Zoey 100% approved of you eating what you like because she literally never met anything edible that she didn’t enjoy; gluttony is a well-known Corgi trait and all of our vets over the years marveled at her consistently trim figure.  Her huge appetite was never an issue because Zoey realized

6)     Exercise is crucial.  Okay, okay, so MAYBE she is the only dog in the history of the world who actually HID when she saw her Mom get the leash…but to be fair to her, my legs are very, very long and hers were very, very short, so pace may have been an issue.  Also, I take very long walks.  A LOT of very long walks.  Anyhow, she was slim...

7)     But pretty isn’t everything.  Zoey, again like most of her breed, was a pretty little thing…but she knew it was her BRAINS that made her stand apart.  I trained that dog like the Type-A person I not so secretly can be, and got frequent compliments on how GOOD she was…from people who didn’t REALLY know her.   To know Zoey was to understand…a full 98% of the time when she wasn’t either sleeping or eating, she was figuring out ways to work around the rules.  I have never been more certain in my life that a dog fully understood what was expected of her.  And I have never been more certain in my life of the kind of pleasure she so obviously derived from “outsmarting” those expectations.  With her, I found myself quoting the ill-fated Velociraptor wrangler from the first Jurassic Park film on a regular basis:  "Clever girl".  Because Zoey was more than willing to take the lead…

8)     Don’t be afraid to take charge.  Corgis are herders, and they are bred to be in control of not only animals much, much larger than they are, but also in large numbers.  Zoey had absolutely no problem taking command when she saw such a thing was called for…herding can be incredibly useful when you have a lot of small children running about, frankly.  She instinctively ran in circles around the errant group, barking her very own version of a camp counselor’s whistle… she was not intimidated by size or numbers BUT she also knew

9)     It’s okay to be vulnerable with people who love you.  Zoey was terrified of thunder and would break any house rule to get close to us if a storm broke out.  She also hated aggressive dogs and would cower between my legs if approached by one.  As much of a fierce little badass as she was, Zoey had her fears and phobias and she knew just where she could bring them to…

10)  There’s no place like HOME.  There is a reason children call the safe zone “home” when they are playing tag.  Home isn’t a place, it is a feeling.  We all have relationships, routines and yes, locations where we feel at home.  This is where we go when we feel out of sorts, afraid or lost.  Zoey had her safe people, behaviors and places and she knew how and when to utilize them.  I hope and pray that she is truly HOME now.  Some place with plenty of food, no thunder and lots of gentlemen delivering affection and treats.


Thursday, January 7, 2016


Growing up, my parents were not big fans of the New Year’s Eve celebrations;  my Dad called it amateur night and they were more likely than not to spend it at home with us kids, eating snacks and watching Dick Clark by the light of the Christmas tree.  We didn’t have any big New Year traditions or rituals; but when my brother ended up married to a Southern lady, we were all initiated into the eating-collard-greens-and-black-eyed-peas custom to ensure our wealth and luck in the upcoming year. 

My sister-in-law also makes everyone write down a private prediction, to be read in 12 months’ time over that same meal. As I am one of the few people I know who actually loves black eyed peas, I didn’t mind the food part; but I absolutely dreaded making my yearly predictions.   Like in the classic horror story “The Monkey’s Paw”, I couldn’t see any good coming in me committing a “prediction” (wish) to paper…it would certainly be unsportsmanlike to guess at something bad happening, but to forecast something good felt dangerously close to tempting fate. 

I always wrote an innocuous and unimaginative note (“We’ll have a lot of weather!”) and hoped that no one sensed my utter lack of enthusiasm for the game.  HA!  HUGE LIE.  I told everyone about my utter lack of enthusiasm for the game and squirmed openly.   Now that we no longer live close enough to participate, I have comfortably settled back into my no-tradition-is-the-tradition way of celebrating the change in the calendar.

I’m sure you will not be surprised to learn that in addition to not making predictions about the upcoming year, I also refrain from making “resolutions”.  Both of these things seem to add unnecessary pressure and stress--NOT how I want to go into any “new” situation.  Like most everybody else, I am just doing the best I can on a day-to-day basis with the resources and information I have at any given time, and that feels like a good mark to hit. 

However, listening to and reading about OTHER people’s resolutions or lack thereof has inspired me to write my own special list of what I am going to call my New Year ABSOLUTIONS, designed to free me from blame or guilt and release me from unnecessary obligations:


1)     I absolve myself from the mandate to eat kale!  A few years ago KALE was identified as a mighty superfood that would enable me to leap tall buildings in a single bound, or something like that.  I dutifully added kale to my regular routine, even though in my estimation it tastes, especially when cooked, like ass.  To be fair, it is not overpowering enough to ruin a salad when mixed with other greens, but it was ruining my scrambled eggs on a consistent basis.  So I am giving up kale.

2)     I absolve myself from the need to apologize for my gluten sensitivity.  Everybody likes to joke about how annoying and frankly insane “gluten free” people can be, but believe me, if I had a choice I would be typing this with just one hand because I’d have a big, fat New York bagel in the other.  I LOVE GLUTEN but it no longer loves me and the physical consequences of eating it with any frequency are too great.  In short, it already SUCKS TO BE ME when I say “No thank you” to your offer of pizza; I’m not going to add insult to injury by apologizing about it.

3)     I absolve myself from feeling guilty about the fact that I am an epic fail as a “soccer mom”.  NO, I will NOT stand around in the freezing cold, blazing heat or even temperate clime to watch my kid PRACTICE soccer, especially when there is a lovely nature preserve bordering the fields for me to hike on.  NO, I will NOT work at the concession stand; leave that to someone with 4 kids in the league who has to be there all day anyhow.  NO, I will NOT collect money and put together a raffle basket because A) life is short and B) I would rather pay extra at sign up than have to participate in all of the God forsaken fundraising.  I will get my kid to practices and games on time in a clean uniform, I will buy the team photo and make sure my son exhibits good sportsmanship, unlike his mother.  You’re very welcome.

4)     I absolve myself from apologizing for how I look, one way or the other.  I hate yoga pants and wear them exclusively when I am doing yoga—I won’t even run errands in them afterwards because they make me feel sloppy.  I will not leave the house without mascara because my eyelashes are invisible without it and I like to look nice, weirdly.  If I am wearing lipstick, I do not want to be accused of being “dolled up”.  It is amazing to me that NO MATTER WHAT, people can find something to criticize about my appearance, whether I look “dolled up/too dressed up” (?) or conversely “like I haven’t been eating well” (??) or “exhausted” (okay, I am, but that isn’t helping!).  I want to look as good as I can under any given circumstances and I'm not going to apologize for that; but if I look bad, it will not make me feel better to hear you say so.

5)     I absolve myself from the need to “curb my enthusiasm”.  Yes, I am a person who is easily excited and feels passionately about many things and no, I am not going to “calm down” until I’m dead.  Deal with it or don’t, but do NOT try to make me feel embarrassed about it.

6)     In fact, I will not let anyone tell me I don’t have the right to feel how I feel.  There is overwhelming evidence that I am not an irrational or stupid person; therefore, if I am feeling sad or angry or suspicious or frightened there is a DAMN good reason and you trying to tell me otherwise is disrespectful and doesn’t change anything.

7)     I absolve myself from “going along to get along”.  This seems to me to be the most unreasonable solution to any problem.  You start going along a path you don’t believe in and you could end up totally lost, or unable to turn back.  Not for me.

8)     I absolve myself of the need to “explain myself” to anyone.  Judgment couched as concern is a transparent trigger; yes, it will make me angry and no, my life and choices are not your problem  or business.  They are mine and I am good with that.

9)     I absolve myself from the hypocrisy of “yes” when I mean no.  I will not let anyone tell me that “no” is the wrong answer if it is my honest response.

10)   I absolve myself for the bad decisions and mistakes I will inevitably make.  Everyone does, it is part of the process.  I will not be paralyzed by the fear of doing or saying the “wrong” thing, because that is like living half a life.  I will stand by my motto, “Today’s bad experience is tomorrow’s funny story” and try to remember to laugh at my foibles whenever I have the grace to do so.

In short, I absolve myself of the need to be anyone but myself and to act in any way other than how I am naturally inclined to act.  And I extend these same rights and privileges to you!  Wouldn’t this be a wonderful year if we could all mind our own damn business and let other people live as they want in peace???  That’s not a prediction, btw; just a wish.