One girl’s frizz

I have been unhappy with my hair this week.

No false modesty here, I have great hair. When it’s good, it’s really good. I’ve been propositioned to sell it*. It’s thick, and strong. It has body and volume. But when it’s bad, it’s bad. 

My hair was unruly on Monday. Not Fantasy-Novel-Princess-Surveys-Windy-Plains-As-Her-Curls-Fly-About unruly. No. Frizzy, fly-away, dry, crazy-lady unruly. I was too sick and busy to care enough to do anything about it. 

Then a monk told me my hair was gorgeous. “Just absolutely gorgeous,” he said again. A monk. A classmate of mine, upon entering the classroom and before saying hello, commented on how awesome my hair looks. I look at it and it still seems frizzy and dry. 

So, ok. Everyone? Let’s just stop being mean to ourselves. Because clearly, as a species, we have no fucking clue what other people find attractive.

Read all the beauty magazines you want, it’s still a total crap shoot. Evidenced by the backlash against the most recent episode of HBO’s Girls, “One Man’s Trash” (which may well deserve its own blog post, if I can convince myself that the world needs another internet opinion on Girls), we love to pretend that there is some universal attractiveness rubric, and then BOOM, beautiful chiseled Patrick Wilson goes and fucks Lena Dunham, whose thighs touch, and everything we thought we knew was wrong and the internet explodes. Jesus christ. 

I know it sounds hokey to tell you to remember, the next time you’re hating on something about your appearance, that someone out there thinks it looks awesome, but literally, that is what happens. Somebody thinks my frizzy hair looks gorgeous. Somebody wants to bang that fat ass. 

 

*At this point, you should know that the only way I would sell my hair is if the love of my life were in need of a watch chain. 

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The Newsroom: Behind Every Great Man are 15 Other Great Men (and One & a Half Great Women)

The Newsroom is smart. It is witty, and impassioned and oh, did I mention smart? I liked a number of things about The Newsroom. Aaron Sorkin at his best is my favorite thing to watch. He makes intellectualism a moral issue and I love him for it. If I could boil the first season of The West Wing in a spoon and inject it into my veins, I would.

But Aaron Sorkin has lady trouble. In that, he doesn’t really like to write them as characters. Oh sure, they exist, and sometimes they’re even awesome, but for every CJ Cregg, there are 20 Josh Lymans. 20 whip smart, misunderstood Aaron Sorkin avatars at every stage of life, shooting through hallways soliloquizing at record speed.

If Sorkin were a new writer, fresh to societal criticism, I would note the gender failings of The Newsroom and hope for better next time. Lena Dunham was rightly criticized for her alarmingly racially homogenous cast, but I can note the (correct) criticism of Girls and still enjoy all of the things it did right, because I genuinely believe Lena Dunham will learn, and that her mistakes come from inexperience and ignorance, not hatred. But now she knows, and if her next project features the same palette, she will have made an active choice. “I’m sorry, I just didn’t think…” becomes “I chose not to think.” Aaron Sorkin has had chance after chance to fix the glaring hole in his record and he doesn’t care to.

I guess it isn’t everyone’s job to fix sexism. I suppose it’s anyone’s right to just not give a shit about racial and gender diversity. But Aaron Sorkin’s whole schtick is “doing better.” Being better. Tilting at windmills. Which I love! But it is hypocritical to rant at the American public for sinking into the intellectual and moral mire, to pat yourself on the back for “speaking truth to stupid” and then blithely ignore the negative impact your work has on 51% of the population. Aaron Sorkin prides himself on tackling The Big Issues. Well, Aaron, gender equality is a Big Issue. It is a moral issue. When you are a self-appointed prince of the liberal elite, you must be held to a higher standard. Depressingly, the “higher standard” for mainstream tv is still pretty low and shouldn’t be that hard to reach.  

Sorkin is an experienced writer, one who crafts meticulously and understands structure and symbolism. I do not believe any of his choices are haphazard, though I do suspect his motivations are sometimes subconscious.

Let me run through my specific issues:

1. In the opening rant (you’ll recognize it from Studio 60 and the Sunset Strip, with like, relevant bits cut and paste) Will McAvoy sneers at a “sorority girl” then goes on to extol the virtues of some mythical foregone time when you could “be a man” and there were “great men” who were venerated for being great men.  

2. The first time we meet Maggie (the charming Alison Pill), she is being emotionally bulldozed by her older, more successful boyfriend. I’m not saying people don’t have boyfriends, or personal drama, but Sorkin is a writer who nearly fetishizes the Character Introduction, so to have Pill’s first words on a show about journalism, politics, and morality be about her relationship is insulting.

3. Will McAvoy knows the names of his white, male colleagues, but not his female assistant or his Indian blogger.

4. The first time the two named female characters (The aforementioned Maggie and our main female protagonist Mackenzie) interact on this show about journalism, politics, and morality they discuss….clothes, beauty, and boys. Again, I’m not saying that female co-workers don’t discuss fashion or relationships. I do! But in Aaron Sorkin-land, to make this their primary interaction is defining and insulting.

5. When Maggie is promoted by Mackenzie, it is not because she does something noteworthy in her work (which she does later in the episode!). No, the impetus for her promotion is that she has displayed a warm, fuzzy feeling. While loyalty is certainly an admirable quality, in Sorkin-land, men are lauded for merit, even when they’re assholes. Women are rewarded for being nurturing.

6. So far, there are zero visible LGBTQ characters.

I have not given up hope. Mackenzie is pretty great so far, not seeming to suffering from any of the usual trope ailments that seem to strike Sorkin ladies: Hungry Thin Lady Syndrome, Beautiful Klutz, Neurotic Overanalyzer. Future episodes promise other prominent female characters from Jane Fonda and Olivia Munn (although, good god, am I really pinning any feminist hopes on Olivia Munn?!) Pill’s character Maggie had a shaky start (and Sorkin was especially lazy with her, pulling her almost quirk for quirk from The West Wing’s Donna Moss), but I think there’s potential in that arc.

The Newsroom has other problems that have nothing to do with feminism, most notably that, seriously, I believe Aaron Sorkin does not think we will notice that he is recycling himself at an alarming rate, including his own personal issues. Yeah, you gotta work your shit out through your art, but you’re obviously not making any progress, because you’re chewing the same gristle you were 4 years ago.

A lot of people hate The Newsroom because it’s made by pedantic blowhards for pedantic blowhards. I have a pretty high tolerance for pedantic blowhards (myself included) so that won’t be what drives me away from the show. Sometimes, I need my hour in the liberal, intellectual echo chamber. But I do need to see him try to respect my gender, to try to write something new. I know it’s hard to leave the formula when you feel like the formula works. Bad news, though. It doesn’t work anymore.

I’m still holding my breath for Aaron Sorkin to grow. I want to believe there’s another great show in him. Call it quixotic.

Falsies and Duct Tape: I’m a Drag Fan Girl

Around the age of twelve, my friends and I began going to the movies and mall without our parents, which felt like delicious freedom. There were rules, of course, and movie choices required approval. My friend Charlotte and I, blossoming theater nerds and proto-liberals, were desperate to see To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar. Our conservative parents insisted we did not. Down the road, there would come bigger acts of rebellion, but this felt like a doozie at the time: we went anyway. Charlotte and I concocted a story (I really hope I’m not ratting Charlotte out here) about seeing a different movie. We even picked a movie we’d already seen (I think it was The Babysitters Club but I wouldn’t swear to it) so that if our parents questioned us on the plot, we wouldn’t get caught, claiming to have loved the movie so much it demanded rewatching.

Mainstreamed and Hollywood as it was, that was my first peek into drag culture, and I will continue to press my face against the window for more. These days, you’ll find me at the bar every Monday for Ru Paul’s Drag Race, which is, in my opinion, the best reality series on tv today. (Spoilers ahead) The bar is always hazy with smoke, packed with people there to cheer for Sharon Needles, our spooky hometown ladyboy and the experience has a lot of parallels to watching a Steelers playoff game in a crowded sports bar. Instead of touchdowns, tackles, and interceptions, we cheer and jeer for fierce runway, acerbic bon mots, and flying wigs, but the energy is the same and the excitement is palpable.

The surface trappings of drag might be enough to explain my ongoing interest: high hair, heels, and drama laced with humor are a pretty good sell on their own, but I think there’s a deeper fascination. Drag pulls back the curtain a little on the beauty myth and demonstrates handily that femininity is whatever the fuck you want it to be. A few years ago, I watched, rapt, as a dear friend rearranged his brow line and brushed on different cheekbones in our ragtag dressing room before a cabaret.

Disclaimer: This photo is of a different, less rag-tag dressing room

He is a handsome man in day to day life, but in drag, she’s downright beautiful. Even towering 6’7 in heels and hair, she looked more mainstream feminine than my cisgendered ass.

I'm pretty sure Bunny is sitting, while I am standing

I found a roll model in Patrick Swayze’s Ms. Vida Boheme, kicking down doors in pink satin jammies. Drag plays with the fun parts of gender without getting trapped in them. A recent episode of Ru Paul’s Drag Race found straight dads challenged to rock the runway as pregnant ladies, mentored by the queens in competition. There were varying levels of success, but I don’t think any one of them lost a drop of masculinity by being open minded and playful. Queens like Sharon and Latrice, and yes, even the otherwise unlikable Phi Phi (I’m biased!) fought hard for acceptance and success; seeing them hang with these tough dude dads who say they’ll love their kids gay, straight or whatever tells me they’re making a difference. Shows like Ru Paul’s Drag Race and its predecessors are part of the “how” that goes along with every “It Gets Better” video. Real change sometimes comes wrapped in pleather and lace. Support your local drag queens, not just for social change but because it’s probably one of the best shows you’ll see. Oh, and GO SHARON!

It’s Not Valentine’s Day, It’s HBO

Your kid could be the kid who hands these out instead of Spongebob Valentine’s in the school exchange. I’m just sayin’. Available at Walgreens and other fine retailers. 

HBO Original Valentines

You’re great, but this is really a love letter to Baltimore.

I’ll Be Your Stallion That Mounts The World

Fang Bangers put the “V” in Valentine

You Make My Heart Go Bada Bing

Omar Coming, Yo…To Wish You a Happy Valentine’s Day

Let’s Hug It Out!

If You Exploded, I’d Carry You Around In A Jar
The Talbot Jar
Image from True Blood Wiki 

A Lannister Always Pays His Debts–And I Owe You a Kiss

Be My Taxi Cab Confession