Subscribe to The Shiller Articles by Email The Shiller Articles: 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Burlesque




A review of 'Burlesque' http://romyshiller.com/Burlesque.php

Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere.

Helen Gurley Brown

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Fair Game


A film review of 'Fair Game' http://romyshiller.com/Fair_Game.php

Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.

Benjamin Franklin

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGO1yWhyEQ4

Monday, November 15, 2010

Hereafter



Next: A film review of 'Hereafter' http://romyshiller.com/Hereafter.php

Death is nothing more than a doorway, something you walk through.

Dr. George Ritchie

Friday, October 22, 2010

STATS


I decided to reveal some of my statistics because some of my readers are unfamiliar with me. Taken from my website: http://romyshiller.com/STATS..php

Please see an experimental 15 min. film I am singing in - ’94 http://vimeo.com/16226762

I am compiling my articles into a book. http://rshiller.blogspot.com/


My novel (that I'm currently writing) is set in Montreal in the 1980s. As a pop culture specialist I am uniquely qualified to present the popular lore of the time-period. Having lived in Montreal at the time also helps. The story concerns a love-affair between the 20 something Gala and Vlad - who is otherworldly. This is a very topical and cinematic book - I used to read scripts for a film producer, consequently I know. It is currently being written.http://romyshiller.com/My_1980s!.php

I have a PhD from the University of Toronto. My doctoral thesis was "A Critical Exploration of Cross-Dressing and Drag in Gender Performance and Camp in Contemporary North American Drama and Film." http://romyshiller.com/A_Critical_Exploration_of_Cross-Dressing_and_Drag.php

According to the book ‘Third Wave Feminism and Television: Jane Puts it in a Box’ (I.B.Tauris, 2007) by the head of women's studies at South-Carolina University, I am a third wave feminist. I am quoted extensively for my article on the television show Queer As Folk (Fab Magazine, Number 213, April 23, 2003, 12-17.)

I have three books, ‘You Never Know: A Memohttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifir’ (2008, Trafford), ‘Again’ (2009, Trafford), 'Who Knew?' (2010, Trafford). Reviews are on my website: http://romyshiller.com/

I am included in the Bibliography of Theatre History in Canada.

My article Drag King invasion: taking back the throne (CTR, Volume: 86, Spring 1996, Pages: 24-28.) is in the book: ‘Camp: Queer Aesthetics and the Performing Subject’ (University of Michigan Press, 1999) which as the promotional material states, “addresses the multilayered issue of camp, whose inexhaustible breadth of reference and theoretical relevance to the issues taken up by academic research in recent years...” In a very lucky way my work has been appropriated by the gay community.

I am in an issue (Fall ’08) of U of T Magazine.

http://www.magazine.utoronto.ca/08autumn/alumninotes.asp#memoir

My book You Never Know: A Memoir (Trafford, 2008) and story are at CBC News Sunday. http://www.trafford.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-000166944

I'm reviewed as the feature artist for the August 2008 issue of Lipstik Indie: http://www.lipstikindie.com/

A pop culture critic, I wrote articles for magazines as diverse as FAB and Canadian Theatre Review.

I am a contributor for Shebytches.com I feel honoured on many levels. It is really important to diminish words that have been used to belittle, denigrate, humiliate etc. The term ‘bitch' has been reappropriated and through this site is full of power and strength. (For example, many in the gay community have owned the word "queer.") View current articles such as: Ogre-Drag, POP goes the TEEN, Double Standard? People seem to abhor ‘difference', Big Bother etc.

I write film reviews for Live for Films. http://www.liveforfilms.com/

I had acted in a television series on YTV called System Crash.

In addition to having a PhD from the University of Toronto, I have an MA from there as well. My BA is from McGill.

One of my articles has been translated into Italian and is used to teach a University course on Communications.

A separate article is taught at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta. It has been chosen to be included in a book.

I have been on the same course syllabus as Simone de Beauvoir.

review - You Again



Next: A film review of 'You Again.' http://romyshiller.com/You_Again.php

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S1-UMzt9e34

Savor the moments that are warm, special and giggly.

Author Unknown

Friday, October 8, 2010

Let the Right One In


next, a review of the film Let the Right One In.

A little girl is sugar and spice and everything nice - especially when she's taking a nap.


~Author Unknown

http://romyshiller.com/Let_the_Right_One_In.php


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICp4g9p_rgo

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps


A film review of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

If you want to feel rich, just count the things you have that money can’t buy.


Unknown source

http://romyshiller.com/Wall_Street:_Money_Never_Sleeps.php

Monday, September 20, 2010

film review - Easy A


A film review of Easy A.

I used to be Snow White, but I drifted.

Mae West


http://romyshiller.com/Easy_A.php

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Going the Distance


A review of the film ‘Going the Distance.’ http://romyshiller.com/Going_the_Distance.php

I wish that you were here or that I were there, or that we were together anywhere!

Author Unknown

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love. - film review


My review of the film Eat, Pray, Love.

I think I deserve something beautiful.

— Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love)

http://romyshiller.com/Eat_Pray_Love.php

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Runaways



Review of the film 'The Runaways'

Girls have got balls. They're just a little higher up that's all.

Joan Jett

http://romyshiller.com/The_Runaways.php

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Inception






An article/review http://romyshiller.com/Inception.php

You see things; and you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say, 'Why not?'

George Bernard Shaw

Friday, July 16, 2010

Predators or Get Him


Well, what are you gonna try next, cheese?
- Dillon from Predator (1987)


My review ‘Predators or Get Him' http://romyshiller.com/Predators_or_Get_Him.php

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse or Yup


My idea of Hell is to be young again.
Marge Piercy

Please check out my new article:

http://romyshiller.com/The_Twilight_Saga__Eclipse_or_Yup.php

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

STATS.


I decided to reveal some of my statistics because some of my readers are unfamiliar with me. Taken from my website: http://romyshiller.com/STATS..php

I am compiling my articles into a book. http://rshiller.blogspot.com/

My novel is set in Montreal in the 1980s. As a pop culture specialist I am uniquely qualified to present the popular lore of the time-period. Having lived in Montreal at the time also helps. The story concerns a love-affair between the 20 something Gala and Vlad - who is otherworldly. This is a very topical and cinematic book - I used to read scripts for a film producer, consequently I know. It is currently being written.http://romyshiller.com/My_1980s!.php

I have a PhD from the University of Toronto. My doctoral thesis was "A Critical Exploration of Cross-Dressing and Drag in Gender Performance and Camp in Contemporary North American Drama and Film." http://romyshiller.com/A_Critical_Exploration_of_Cross-Dressing_and_Drag.php

According to the book ‘Third Wave Feminism and Television: Jane Puts it in a Box’ (I.B.Tauris, 2007) by the head of women's studies at South-Carolina University, I am a third wave feminist. I am quoted extensively for my article on the television show Queer As Folk (Fab Magazine, Number 213, April 23, 2003, 12-17.)

I have three books, ‘You Never Know: A Memoir’ (2008, Trafford), ‘Again’ (2009, Trafford), 'Who Knew?' (2010, Trafford). Reviews are on my website: http://romyshiller.com/

I am included in the Bibliography of Theatre History in Canada.

My article Drag King invasion: taking back the throne (CTR, Volume: 86, Spring 1996, Pages: 24-28.) is in the book: ‘Camp: Queer Aesthetics and the Performing Subject’ (University of Michigan Press, 1999) which as the promotional material states, “addresses the multilayered issue of camp, whose inexhaustible breadth of reference and theoretical relevance to the issues taken up by academic research in recent years...” In a very lucky way my work has been appropriated by the gay community.

I am in an issue (Fall ’08) of U of T Magazine.

http://www.magazine.utoronto.ca/08autumn/alumninotes.asp#memoir

My book You Never Know: A Memoir (Trafford, 2008) and story are at CBC News Sunday. http://www.trafford.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-000166944

I'm reviewed as the feature artist for the August 2008 issue of Lipstik Indie: http://www.lipstikindie.com/

A pop culture critic, I wrote articles for magazines as diverse as FAB and Canadian Theatre Review.

I am a contributor for Shebytches.com (http://shebytches.com./) I feel honoured on many levels. It is really important to diminish words that have been used to belittle, denigrate, humiliate etc. The term ‘bitch' has been reappropriated and through this site is full of power and strength. (For example, many in the gay community have owned the word "queer.") View current articles such as: Ogre-Drag, POP goes the TEEN, Double Standard? People seem to abhor ‘difference', Big Bother etc.

I had acted in a television series on YTV called System Crash.

In addition to having a PhD from the University of Toronto, I have an MA from there as well. My BA is from McGill.

One of my articles has been translated into Italian and is used to teach a University course on Communications.

A separate article is taught at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta. It has been chosen to be included in a book.

I have been on the same course syllabus as Simone de Beauvoir.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Appropriate or the Seinfeld/Lady Gaga thing.



To criticize is to appreciate, to appropriate, to take intellectual possession, to establish in fine a relation with the criticized thing and to make it one's own.

Henry James

A recent event made me think “oh crap, here we go again.”

Jerry Seinfeld [‘an American stand-up comedian, actor and writer, best known for playing a semi-fictional version of himself in the situation comedy Seinfeld (1989–1998)’ - Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia] can't stand Lady Gaga [an American recording artist.] Read that sentence aloud. Sounds odd, doesn't it? What business does Seinfeld have knowing who Lady Gaga is?

He's a 1990s pop culture icon. She's a 2000s pop phenom who was barely 3 years old when "Seinfeld" debuted on NBC.

On second thought, maybe Seinfeld's declaration that Gaga is "a jerk" because she flipped somebody off at Citi Field and was rewarded with a seat in his empty luxury box makes perfect sense. The man is famous for complaining about people. And Gaga — beneath all those ridiculous outfits — is just people. Why shouldn't Seinfeld complain about her and that finger and those "rhinestone bikinis" in his box. It's what he does.

Anyway, to my knowledge, they haven't met. Seinfeld heard about Gaga's June 10 performance art, or whatever, at Citi Field and lit into her shortly on a New York radio station shortly thereafter.
(Lehighvalleylive.com)

Those two clash in almost every way. Jerry Seinfeld epitomizes what middle-America aspires to. Lady Gaga does not. “[W]hy is it that we are so fascinated with the freaks?” asks one commentary (The Daily Barometer.) Jerry Seinfeld said that Lady Gaga should apologize to Met fans. 'Then I'm willing to forget the whole thing.' (James Montgomery) I’m sorry but Met fans, Seinfeld, Lady Gaga? I’m reminded of that Sesame Street song: “one of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong…” I mean, really.

I think that what really bugs me is that some very smart people, who previously liked Gaga, buy into the backlash. “Betty White: Immune to backlash. Lady Gaga? Nope.” (Queerty)

If anyone expects conventional, appropriate behavior they’re looking in the wrong place. Look at what she wore to a baseball game. “Lady Gaga shows off a pair of studded panties and bra while walking into a baseball game at Citi Field on Thursday (June 10) in Flushing, Queens, New York.” (Just Jared.)

We cannot ignore the fact that Seinfeld and Gaga share a Rolling Stone cover. The cast of Seinfeld transforms their look, trying to appear rocker-esque in a parodic way. Transformation through apparel is a hallmark of Lady Gaga: “Lady Gaga channeled Peter Pan in a sparkly green body suit and booties by Giorgio Armani.” (Los Angeles Times.) It is fairly synchronous/suspicious that the incident at Citi Field happened when it did. Bad publicity is still publicity.

So, I take her criticism with a grain of salt. I don’t expect her to be appropriate – only fabulous.

Bibliography

Just Jared. “Lady Gaga: Studded Panties Parade!”
http://justjared.buzznet.com/2010/06/10/lady-gaga-studded-panties/ Accessed June 27, 2010.
Lehighvalleylive.com
http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/entertainment-general/index.ssf/2010/06/jerry_seinfeld_thinks_lady_gag.html
Los Angeles Times. “Grammy fashion: At the Grammys, style doesn’t stop at the red carpet.” January 31, 2010.
Montgomery, James. “Jerry Seinfeld: Lady Gaga Should Apologize To Met Fans.”
Accessed June 27. 2010.
Queerty. “Watch Yourself, Gaga: Backlash Is Around the Corner.”
Accessed June 27, 2010.
Rolling Stone. Editors Jann Wenner, Will Dana. Wenner Media LLC. 1967-
Seinfeld. Creators: Larry David, Jerry Seinfeld. Castle Rock Entertainment. 1990-1998.
Sesame Street. Creator: Joan Ganz Cooney. Children's Television Workshop (CTW). 1969-
The Daily Barometer. “Lady Gaga: Genius freak or just plain freaky?” Amanda Rappe.
http://media.barometer.orst.edu/media/storage/paper854/news/2010/05/20/Forum/Lady-Gaga.Genius.Freak.Or.Just.Plain.Freaky-3920204.shtml Accessed June 27, 2010.
Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerry_Seinfeld Accessed June 27, 2010.


Romy Shiller is a pop culture critic and holds a PhD in Drama from the University of Toronto. Her academic areas of concentration include film, gender performance, camp and critical thought. She lives in Montreal where she continues her writing. All books are available online.

WEBSITE: WWW.ROMYSHILLER.COM

If you wish to contact Romy Shiller, feel free to email her at romy@romyshiller.com.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Alien films and the Maternal



Motherhood is the strangest thing, it can be like being one’s own Trojan horse
.

– Rebecca West


Check out my article called:

Alien films and the Maternal

http://romyshiller.com/Alien_films_and_the_Maternal.php

Monday, May 10, 2010

American Idol (Season 9) and Amazing Adam




A taste for irony has kept more hearts from breaking than a sense of humor for it takes irony to appreciate the joke which is on oneself.

Jessamyn West

So, I was going to boycott the television show American Idol (“American Idol is a reality television competition to find new solo singing talent… Debuting June 11, 2002, as American Idol: The Search for a Superstar on the Fox network, the show has since become one of the most popular in the history of American television.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia) after the Adam Lambert fiasco last year (he finished as the runner-up on the eighth season). Instead, I watched EVERY episode.

My justifications for watching the show this season included the fact that Judge Paula Abdul was replaced by the incredible Ellen DeGeneres, this was Judge Simon Cowell’s last season and I never would have had the privilege of hearing Adam Lambert sing if I hadn’t watched the show. He is often identified the following way; “…one of the most talented - and certainly the most flamboyant - singers to ever grace the Idol stage. Having wowed Simon Cowell and the judges with his renditions of songs by the likes of Michael Jackson, Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith, Lambert may have finished second to Kris Allen on season eight of the talent show, but it's his glam pop-rock style that abides.” (inthenews.co.uk) Maybe, just maybe, there would be another find.

However, when contestant Todrick Hall sang “Somebody To Love” by Queen I craved Adam. Todrick Hall was kicked off the show following that performance – not surprising. In my article 'People seem to abhor ‘difference’ (http://www.shebytches.com/romyshillermay252009.html) I say, “I can’t be the only one who thought, when Adam and Kris sang with Queen guy, that Adam was much better suited to the style. If asked, I believe he should fill in the void left by Freddy Mercury. Honestly.”

All of the contestants were very good. I enjoyed Lacey Brown’s soft and sweet songs. Cute Casey James played up the Cougar thing. I’m in trouble… Judge Kara Dioguardi was often teased for liking a younger man. Siobhan Magnus was Adam–esque in the flare for drama department - only. Tim Urban should be on the television show Glee. I obviously missed my calling as a casting director. He would make a great male-cheerleader. Big Mike was wonderful but overrated. Crystal Bowersox and Lee Dewyze were the most excellent but really not one could compare to Adam Lambert.

I went on Youtube to revisit some of his Idol songs. Yes – he was great.

It’s probably for the best that I wasn’t attached to any one contestant – avoiding disappointment this time. I did expect to be entertained and I was.

For the first time ever on the show (April 13, 2010) a previous contestant mentored current ones. It was Elvis week. Adam Lambert was asked to be a mentor. He sang his own song the following night, “What Do You Want From Me?” A highlight, of course. Brilliant, of course. You know, Simon Cowell said that Adam Lambert should have won (On The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, March 8, 2010). I totally agree. Still.

Adam Lambert is quite radical. In my book You Never Know: A Memoir I say; “Difference is something that most people avoid. Fitting in becomes a goal. Personally, I think difference is valuable. It is the “same” that irks me. Variation is not the same as inconsistency. One can be incredibly multi-tonal and consistent.” (Shiller, p.23.)

Even though he claims that no one is doing what he does in the mainstream, (GMTV, UK) the mainstream cannot contain him. That is why, in part, he lost American Idol and was refused appearances on some American Television shows. His guy-on-guy performance on the American Music Awards (November 23, 2009) resulted in several media cancellations including Good Morning America but “Chris Brown who beat up his ex-girlfriend Rihanna, has been booked for an interview and a performance on the show...” (Showhype.com) An internet site says, “During his performance of “For Your Entertainment”, Lambert simulated oral sex with a male dancer, kissed his keyboard player, Tommy Joe Ratliff, while writhing on stage. The more “offensive” parts that aired on the live east coast feeds were edited out before airing on the west.” (Homorazzi.com)

“There are a lot of double standards as far as that goes,” Lambert said backstage, a few days before the awards show. “We’ve seen female pop and rock performers do that for the last 10 years. They’ve been very provocative, owning their power and sexuality. You just don’t see men doing it very often. And I’m hoping to break down that double standard with this number.” (MSNBC)

He’s right – the Madonna and Britney kiss (MTV's 20th annual Video Music Awards) was not punished at all. Lambert said, “I didn't expect it to be as big of a deal as it was but in hindsight I'm glad it went down the way it did because it facilitated a conversation about the double standards.” (inthenews.co.uk) Examining ideology is good.

So the finale came. Either Crystal Bowersox or Lee Dewyze would win. I was certainly entertained but the finale needed more swish. ('Sneaky Gays' promotional clip for Glee.) Crystal was much better than the obviously nervous Lee. Lee Dewyze won – big surprise? To be honest, I didn’t care who won. Maybe, just maybe, there is something valuable in having a favorite and being pissed off when they don’t win.

I thought that the following contestants should have won in previous years: Jennifer Hudson (Season 3), Bo Bice (Season 4), Elliot Yamin or Chris Daughtry (Season 5), Adam Lambert (Season 8) - “My expectations are usually modified but this was too much to bear.” (People seem to abhor ‘difference.’)

Last year I felt so involved because I was invested…hmm.



Bibliography

American Idol
Accessed April 15, 2010.
Good Morning America
Accessed April 23, 2010.
Glee. The television series.
Accessed April 28, 2010.
GMTV
Accessed April 26, 2010.
Homorazzi.com
Accessed April 23, 2010.
inthenews.co.uk “Interview: Adam Lambert”
Accessed April 28, 2010.
MSNBC
Accessed April 23, 2010.
MTV
Accessed April 23, 2010.
Shiller,Romy. People seem to abhor ‘difference.’ May 25, 2009.

----------------- You Never Know: A Memoir. Victoria, BC: Trafford. 2008.
Showhype.com
Accessed April 23, 2010.
The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
Accessed April 15, 2010.
West, Jessamyn.
Accessed April 15, 2010.
Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia
Accessed April 26, 2010.
Youtube
Accessed April 23, 2010.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Marriage, Divorce and Being Single or The ‘M’ Word


(originally published May 5, 2010)

My article is

Marriage, Divorce and Being Single or The ‘M’ Word.’ I examine some of the roles we are forced into and the damaging effects of ideology. I am not against marriage at all – I am for free-will.



If divorce has increased by one thousand percent, don't blame the women's movement. Blame the obsolete sex roles on which our marriages were based.

Betty Friedan:
speech, New York City, January 20, 1974


Marriage, Divorce and Being Single or The ‘M’ Word


You know, to be a single woman over a certain age really enacts a double standard. Men are labeled ‘bachelors’ - lots of doubtful questions arise for women that do not exist for men. Is she gay? Does she have trouble committing or holding down a man? In my non-fiction book Who Knew? (http://romyshiller.com/Who_Knew.php) A continuation of You Never Know: A Memoir I say, “Wow. To be an unmarried woman is so suspect. I certainly could have gotten married and will - one day. I remember having a teacher in high-school who was unmarried and I definitely pre-judged her. I was not outside of ideology or expectation. It is kind of bizarre to be in a similar situation now. I was doing a Masters Degree and a PhD. I studied singing at The Royal Conservatory of Music. I had a band. There were relationships and jobs. I acted on film, a TV series and theatre, wrote articles, studied French and took seminars on photography and voice-work. Sorry if marriage was not a priority. I feel like it does not matter what I did – marriage would have been a measure of success.”

It is so bizarre to me. I do so much yet validation from most others would be based through my relationship with a man. Sorry – but like it’s so hard to get married? Look, I do want to be with someone forever and marriage would concretize that idea but there are no guarantees, eh? Amy, a third-wave feminist like me says, “society has valued marriage to the extent that some people stay in marriages that aren't healthy -- and do so, because "not being married" or being "divorced" in this society punishes people -- especially women -- even those for whom divorce is a ‘life saver.’" (feminist.com) A stable partner would be great, but if marriage is not an option, so be it.

Like many children, fairy-tales were read to me. Instead of idealizing a prince-charming, I may have regarded the situation as make-believe. I never immersed myself in an ideology most take for granted. I still don’t. Good cake at weddings though. Usually, free drinks too. An excuse for a party? I’m honestly not a hurtful person; I just get a kick out of making fun of things.

A New York Times article says, “The most recent crop of reality television shows taps the fantasies we first learned from fairy tales: castles and fortunes, true love and romantic destiny, and above all that most perfect storybook union, the ''fairy tale wedding.'' On the rose-strewn finale of ''The Bachelorette,'' Trista chose the shy fireman Ryan, who promptly got down on one knee and held out a diamond. ''I don't think that I could have imagined a better ending to this fairy tale story,'' she sighed. Meanwhile, on ''Joe Millionaire,'' 20 would-be Cinderellas competed for the hand of a modern-day Prince Charming.” Ich but firemen... (“Fairy Tales and a Dose of Reality.”)

Gay marriage – well, if it’s legal for straights, I say why not? “Brad Pitt gave one hundred thousand to fight the passage of Proposition 8, an amendment that would outlaw gay marriage in California. Brad's donation is the biggest that any A-list celebrity has donated to this date. But it comes as a shock that Ellen DeGeneres or Portia haven't given a penny to the cause. Rumors have it that eleven million dollars has been raised to fight Prop 8.” (Associated Content)


“Brad Pitt, ever the social activist, says he won't be marrying Angelina Jolie until the restrictions on who can marry whom are dropped.” (Advocate.com) Way to go Brangelina!

I know some absolutely fabulous women, pioneers, who feel judged because of their non-marital status. If as much energy around them would be focused on their incredible accomplishments instead of analyzing why they’re single there would be such a positive shift for everyone concerned. This gets me mad on so many levels.

I was looking at the website, Single-Woman.TV. It celebrates singleness. This truly opposes dominant belief structures. Instead of judging and being negative there is pragmatic positivity and a very welcome breathing space. You are not suffocated into fitting-in. The very opposite of a Stepford wife is enabled: “The term "Stepford wife", which is often used in popular culture, stemmed from the novel [The Stepford Wives is a 1972 satirical horror novel by Ira Levin], and is usually a reference to a submissive and docile housewife.” (Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia)

In my non-fiction book You Never Know: A Memoir (http://romyshiller.com/You_Never_Know_-_intro.php) I say; “I guess the way my mind works is pretty revolutionary. I do not think like most people I know, that’s for sure. By many standards, I am pretty unconventional. My actions speak for themselves. Two things I can think of right off the bat are that I am unmarried and I do not have kids. Not that I do not want either, but they obviously have not been a priority for me. I was never the kind of girl who dreamt of her wedding day. Having a stable partner is very nice, but I never thought I would need to get married to have that. I remember when I was eight years old, a little boy asked me to marry him. I know we were too young to get married, but I cannot shrug this feeling that I was hard-wired for resistance early on.” (pp. 117-118.)

It is revolutionary to go against the grain, to resist a standard, a dominant ideology. It takes a lot of courage and strength to do things differently and I admire, no esteem, those that do. I know very well that I opt out of the so-called ‘normal’ (I can’t stand that word) but for me it’s like breathing air - a habit which takes little effort on my part. I do validate the effort and challenge most face though.

There is a ton of pressure to fit in and conform. Mark Twain said; “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” In You Never Know: A Memoir I say; “Difference is something that most people avoid. Fitting in becomes a goal. Personally, I think difference is valuable. It’s the “same” that irks me. Variation is not the same as inconsistency. One can be incredibly multi-tonal and consistent.” (p. 23)

Pat Donnelly’s article “How not to find love” (The Montreal Gazette) describes how playwright-actor-dancer-singer Fenulla Jiwani in her play, 30 Dates, draws upon her own dating experiences and feelings about arranged marriages. The pressure to get married is fierce. Donnelly adds, “Looking for Mr. or Ms. Right? Now that online dating and speed dating have entered into the equation, the comedic possibilities have multiplied.” I know that “arranged marriages” are cultural but the inference…

Even celebrity Carmen Electra feels pressure to marry: “The former 'Baywatch' star - who got engaged to the KoRn guitarist in April after a whirlwind romance - insists the couple are in no hurry to tie the knot but are constantly being asked if they have set a wedding date.”

She said: "It's funny; everyone else puts so much pressure, asking, 'When are you getting married?”
"If it was up to everybody else, we would be married and divorced already." (“Carmen Electra Feeling Under Pressure To Get Married.”)

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia says; “Divorce or dissolution of marriage is the final termination of a marriage, canceling the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage and dissolving the bonds of matrimony between married persons. In most countries, divorce requires the sanction of a judge or other authority in a legal process.”

I’ve had excruciating break-ups and the torment of divorce must be horrific. There is a great temptation, I’m sure, to be pain-free, to avoid conflict. There might be a fire one has to walk through to get to the other side. This side may ultimately hold mega-relief. Probably, stepping outside the ideology of marriage to some, feels very risky. I know so many people that are in bad marriages. Obviously, I think it’s worth it to get out. Breaking up is never easy, but why suffers permanently? All of the rationalizations in the world don’t seem to cut it. “Recovering from a breakup or divorce is difficult. However, it’s important to know (and to keep reminding yourself) that you can and will move on. But healing takes time, so be patient with yourself.” (Helpguide.com)

The power of ideology cannot be underestimated.


Bibliography


feminist.com
Accessed September 16, 2009.

Helpguide.com
Accessed November 30, 2009.

iCelebZ.com. “Carmen Electra Feeling Under Pressure To Get Married.” June 9, 2008.
Accessed October 4, 2009.

Levin, Ira. The Stepford Wives: a Novel. Fawcett Publications. 1972.
Marriage Quotes
Accessed September 16, 2009.

Shiller, Romy. Who Knew? Victoria, BC: Trafford. 2010.
---------------. You Never Know: A Memoir. Victoria, BC: Trafford. 2008.


Single-Woman.TV
Accessed September 21, 2009.

The New York Times. “Fairy Tales and a Dose of Reality.” March 3, 2003.
Accessed October 4, 2009.

The Quote Garden
Accessed October 3, 2009.

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.
Accessed November 30, 2009.

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.
Accessed September 21, 2009.


Romy Shiller is a pop culture critic and holds a PhD in Drama from the University of Toronto. Her academic areas of concentration include film, gender performance, camp and critical thought.

Romy Shiller is a 3rd Wave Feminist according to the book Third Wave Feminism and Television: Jane Puts it in a Box by the head of women's studies at South-Carolina U.

Books are available online. She lives in Montreal where she continues her writing.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Queer As Folk


Queer As Folk

It’s Monday night. I’m in the living room. My boyfriend is in the bedroom. I’m wearing my sexy black teddy, mules with gentle pink feathers dangle from my perfectly pedicured feet, my lips are swathed in a lipstick called Fatal Femme. It’s a holy time and I want to be ready. My fireplace roars. My popcorn is poised for the new season of Queer As Folk. Like many women across the country who watch the show – fifty-two percent according to the Nielsen ratings in 2001, and growing – I’m addicted. I am not alone.

“At the beginning it really surprised me,” says Queer As Folk producer Sheila Hockin. “All of us working on the show, Showtime in the States and Showcase in Canada , expected to have predominantly a gay male audience.” Because most of the lead characters are male, the assumption was that “the group of people portrayed would likely be the people watching the show. It startled us in the beginning and at first we thought that maybe we’re drawing gay women.” After reviewing fan mail and Web sites about the show they realized it was a lot of straight women.

When openly-gay actor Robert Grant, who plays Michael Novotny’s (Hal Sparks) HIV+ lover Ben, appeared on The Mike Bullard Show, he noted that the women “like the cute guys. They relate to the stories or whatnot, but here’s the key... I found out that the truth is, women love to watch two guys getting it on! I was really surprised by this… it’s always, guys like to watch two women... socialization-wise.” Hot male bodies in action are a big part of the draw. Surprise! We could stop right there if that was all there was to the show’s fascination for women – there’s a hell of a lot more action happening in gay porn that could satisfy a Betty’s need to see Studly getting it on with Dudly.
So what exactly are women getting all wet over? What kinds of identifications are women hooking into? Women are creating their own gender performances in fantasy and play in ways that make gender go nuclear. Straight women watching Queer as Folk might be the ultimate Queer quotient. Femininity and masculinity, associated with “appropriate” sexual identification and desire, is suddenly attached to culturally inappropriate male and female bodies. There is an explosion of identification: girls desiring straight boys playing gay boys. Girls wanting to be a feminine boy kissing a butch boy. Girls wanting to be taken by or wanting to take a gay/straight boy. Girls romanticizing gay desire and freedom of sexual play.

What we are experiencing now is Gender Meltdown.
Why women find QAF appealing finds part of its answer in Hockin’s musing that “women find it erotic and sensual to watch.” Queer representations, however, transform the relationship the straight female audience has with the erotic and sensual, triggering new kinds of identifications because women need to take a leap not usually necessary in traditional (straight) television dramas or comedies.

Eroticism and sensuality are intertwined with romantic situations and dramas housed in queer cloth. Still, women are wrapped up in it. “Women are drawn to the working out of romantic relationships,” says Hockin. “And how people negotiate relationships. The power-plays. There are Ethan-Justin fan groups…a whole group of people on the Web called BJshippers – Brian-Justin Worshippers. People are so heavily invested in that relationship. [The executive producers] Ron [Cowen] and Dan [Lipman] think of Brian and Justin as one of the great Romantic couples.”

Hal Sparks plays the sweet and dysfunctional-enough-to-be-believed Michael Novotny, Brian Kinney’s (Gale Harold) best friend. I ask him what aspects of his character might appeal to women. He replies: “His sweetness. His vulnerability and his habit of binge eating comfort food when he gets upset.”

In a more serious vein, he feels there are common romantic identifications. “This is the first time many women have seen what they go through with their husbands and boyfriends portrayed honestly on screen. Most straight relationships on TV are told in an incomplete, male-focused way.” Sparks says that women relate “with a combination of deep rooted teary-eyed understanding and throw popcorn at the screen in frustration. I think we all can relate to unrequited love in some way.”

For straight women, buying into the show’s romance and eroticism is more complex – it is something of an identity juggling act. Keeping all the balls up in the air becomes especially convoluted in the worship of the actors. After all, to fall for one of the boys on QAF is often to fall for a straight boy playing a gay boy. Sparks has been upfront about being straight: “A very small section of the fan base gets angry every time I say I’m straight because they are under the impression that I ask to be asked so that I can say, ‘I’m straight, thanks for asking – here’s 10 bucks,’ and distance myself from the show. In my heart I know this criticism comes from people who have been severely marginalized by our culture and fear it will get worse.”

You may as well be desiring Matt Damon for all the chance you actually have of seeing Michael or Brian waltz through your door at the end of the day. But there is the illusion of possibility that is tempting beyond the illusion. And obviously, you might be falling for a gay boy too. In any case, the so-called secure straight identities actors have in distinguishing themselves from their characters gets blurred. They have kissed and often been naked with members of the same sex, after all. In character or not. Juggling the object-of-desire’s ambiguous sexuality is part of the straight fan’s own gender performance. The object she desires says something about her own sexual play and sexual orientation.

The show brings role-playing to the surface. Femininity is not necessarily female and masculinity male. On QAF there are traditional roles taken on by both sexes. Females, such as Melanie Marcus (Michelle Clunie) take on a traditionally masculine role as the provider for the family and it could be said that Justin, played by openly-gay Randy Harrison, takes on the femme role to Brian’s über-butch. Gale Harold plays a gay man objectifying men in the way that some men have historically objectified women. Brian’s total bad-boy hotness is reminiscent of the womanizer seen on soaps from suds past, collapsing a traditional (straight) male archetype with a butch gay one. Hal Sparks notes, “Ironically, even though the relationships on the show are predominately male-male, since one person must take on the feminine role, women get to see their struggle played out more fully.” Women might find a certain reflection of themselves in a gay ‘feminine-role-playing’ man on TV. Or a butch one.

The toss-up of conventional roles creates a grab bag of lust opportunity and gender play. Sheila Hockin elaborates: “A lot of straight women wildly romanticize Brian Kinney. There is some commentary on the Web, straight women talking about sexual fantasies to do with the characters, where they want to be a guy Brian kisses. They don’t want to be a woman. It all gets very gender-bending.” Women are not just taking a peek as themselves, replacing characters on the screen (Justin, for example) with their pretty, pouty faces, they’re also masquerading as gay males. Gender Meltdown.

With all the hype about women getting turned on by the gaze, straight women are also watching women getting it on. And this is something we don’t usually hear about. How do straight women relate to the lesbians on the show? Exit the Professor, enter Ginger and Mary-Ann.

The lovely Michelle Clunie plays Melanie Marcus, the somewhat butchier partner to Thea Gills’s Lindsay Peterson. Speaking from “my own perspective as a straight woman,” Clunie describes what turned her on to the show. “Before this I never saw two women making love in real life or in the theatre or in a porno or anywhere. I know the first time I saw the pilot, I thought ‘wow that’s kind of hot, I never thought about that before.’ I think a lot of straight women are re-thinking ménages-à-trois. I mean, there has always been this fantasy of two women for guys. This puts the shoe on the other foot.” She goes further by saying, “In a way because there is so much male nudity on the show and so much male sex on the show, it’s almost like we’re objectifying men.”

Women are also re-evaluating the ménages-à-trois players. “I’ve even heard women say ‘wow, I wonder what it would be like to be with two men?’” says Clunie. “One boyfriend of a girl came to this party and he said something like ‘do you want me to kiss a guy?’ because the girl watched Queer As Folk and she was really into the guy-guy thing. I think that it’s opening up a whole sexual layer to explore. And I think that’s wonderful and great and why not?” The exploration of sexual layers between ‘straight’ couples takes the term to task… It’s almost as though a new language needs to be created to accommodate the play involved in watching the show.

While the straight female fan hoopla is intriguing, there have been concerns on the fan chat-boards. One gay fan feels that the straight fans are given more credibility, that it means more to the show that there are female viewers, “sorta like AIDS didn’t mean anything until straights were affected...can’t exactly explain why this hits me so oddly, but it does.” Another fan worries the show might change to attract straight fans: “It may be cable but it’s still commercial American television and that is all about numbers, ratings and demographics.”

I asked Hal Sparks and Melanie Clunie if their performances were affected by the knowledge that they had a huge het female fan base and they both replied in the negative. Clunie’s primary goal was, “to be true to my character.” Sparks says, “My only real focus is on interpreting the script as close to the writer’s intention as I can. The British show had a big female fan base with no help from me. So, I just try to stay out of the way. Let Michael live without my ego getting involved at all.”

Producer Sheila Hockin is adamant that the writers have only been concerned with depicting the characters from their own gay, cultural perspective and that the story would not shift to accommodate a straight female audience. Rather the stories would grow, like the characters, from clubbing to different growth-oriented gay priorities and concerns. “The show has never been written for straight women,” says Hockin.

So what does this mean?

It isn’t surprising to find women subtextually replacing Justin with themselves or with an altered gay male version of self. That is what queers have been doing for decades, watching TV shows that didn’t represent their desire. What gay man hasn’t been Scarlett to Rhett or J. Lo to Ben?

In fact, straight women might be the ultimate Queer quotient when it comes to watching Queer as Folk by inhabiting that twilight-zone, the marginal, the Other – qualities of the Queer that are seemingly taking a lovey-dovey hiatus from the show within a gay context irrespective of a straight female fan base.

Women now have fantasy access to back rooms they could never get into before. The straight female fans might be fags in mental drag; they might be Queer as folk.

• Toronto writer Romy Shiller is a pop culture critic and holds a PhD in Drama and Film. Her academic areas of concentration include gender performance, camp and critical thought.

FAB Magazine, Number 213, April 23, 2003, 12-17

Romy Shiller is a 3rd Wave Feminist according to the book Third Wave Feminism and Television: Jane Puts it in a Box by the head of women's studies at South-Carolina U.

Books are available online. She lives in Montreal where she continues her writing.

http://romyshiller.com/Queer_As__Folk.php

Saturday, April 3, 2010

‘Avatar’ or Abled-Disabled


Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.
Helen Keller

[*Entire article is a spoiler alert] I seem to be going against the grain – a lot. In the 1980s song "I'm A Stranger Here," by Five Man Electrical Band, Aliens come to Earth are told that the planet is paradise but they hear children cry. The song protests injustice and environmental abuse. (In the 80s.) The extremely popular film Avatar is largely about environmental abuse and an Alien race: “[It] is a 2009 American science fiction epic film written and directed by James Cameron and starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez and Stephen Lang. The film is set in the year 2154, when humans are mining a precious mineral called unobtanium on the lush moon Pandora in the Alpha Centauri star system.” (Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia)

There are many disabled feminists who say that being in a wheelchair is not a tragedy which requires a cure (Spritzophrenia). I completely agree but I also believe that the film ‘Avatar’ moves beyond that. I think that it is very important to show an able disabled guy on the screen. Yes, his avatar is able-bodied but it is also not human-Alien, other. A militant straight white guy in the film calls the race ‘savages’ and ‘blue monkeys.’ Disparaging remarks regarding “otherness” mirror many in our culture.

The fact that in the end the disabled guy CHOOSES to become one of them is subversive to say the least. He gets legs but he also gets otherness. Of course his new reality would suggest he is now one with all but he is set apart from humans. Good or bad is subjective.

I really like that he’s shown to be very capable in all states. It’s very affirming, I must say. As a disabled woman confined to a wheelchair I have dreams in which I am jogging and I really do not believe in a correlation between image/identity and pictures. I feel free to use an older able-bodied author picture because I do not feel that a contemporary photo would be more accurate. Having an avatar is not false.

I met a guy online that I really liked and I learned that his profile picture was a completely different person than him. I ended up feeling nostalgic for an image that I associated with his ‘voice’. I am a big supporter of shifting identities so I really had to assess the idea of image. In Avatar and in my older pictures there is a hybrid quality which points us to identity. I guess that his choice really put me to the test because all it pointed was who he wanted to look like and while I miss the fake him, I can adapt. He might even actually be a “she.” Sexuality is now foregrounded – I cannot make gender a given. It is valid to choose to side-step image; confusing though it might be. We might want the “whole,” “closure,” or the “complete” but in my view the “fractured” is way more interesting. That is why I like this film’s idea of an avatar. The oneness or whole/the environment is juxtaposed with a fractured image but I digress – that’s a different article.

Many voices deal with the presentation of disability here: “There are many articles, blogs and disability chat room posts floating around the Internet that say yes, the movie that has made over $200 million in ten days is a big insult to the disability community for two major reasons. The first reason being that the fantasy film - and the key word here is fantasy - does not give an accurate portrayal of life with a disability. The second, surprisingly less important, reason is that Sam Worthington, who plays paraplegic Marine Jake Sully, is not actually a paraplegic.” (Drummond) I am so not insulted.

Also; “It could be seen as positive that disabled people are not hidden away. But a closer analysis reveals that the popular cultural images of disability commonly perpetuate negative stereotypes, and often pander to the voyeuristic tendencies of non-disabled audiences.” (Disability in Media) Lots of dissention.

The whole idea of not being “hidden away” resonates profoundly with me. In my non-fiction book 'Again' I quote David Boles and say; “Recently, I was seated to eat near the kitchen in a restaurant. I am currently disabled and in a wheelchair. My mother said it reminded her of segregation. I will never let this happen again. I will insist on being seated elsewhere. An out of sight, out of mind mentality will not apply to me. That this mentality by others continues to pervade is astonishing. ‘Are you aware in the early-to-mid 1900’s it was illegal to be “found ugly” on the streets of some mainstream American cities like Chicago, Illinois (Chicago Municipal Code, sec. 36034) and Omaha, Nebraska (Unsightly Beggar Ordinance Nebraska Municipal Code of 1941, sec. 25) and Columbus, Ohio (General Offense Code, sec. 2387.04)?

Your punishment for being caught (in) public ranged from incarceration to fines of up to $50.00 USD for each ugly offense.

Here’s how the Chicago Municipal Code described and enforced The Ugly Law:

No person who is diseased, maimed, mutilated or in any way deformed so as to be an unsightly or disgusting object or improper person to be allowed in or on the public ways or other public places in this city, or shall therein or thereon expose himself to public view, under a penalty of not less than one dollar nor more than fifty dollars for each offense.

The goal of Ugly Laws was allegedly to preserve the pretty facade of the community. The disabled, the indigent and the poor were a part of society, but nobody wanted to deal with them and fewer still wanted to actually look at them. So laws were passed to keep the deformed — especially those with Cerebral Palsy and other disfiguring diseases — inside and out-of-sight.’

The way I think and the way I look now will just have to be dealt with.” I know that I am far from ‘ugly,’ whatever that means, but being in a wheelchair seems to categorize me or puts me in a box. There are so many categories that leak or don’t apply.

In the film, the avatar is neurologically connected to the user and physically it is a hybrid of the user and foreign race. There is a new definition of identity. The amalgamation of various states is complex. I think that we need to reconfigure identity on several levels. In Life I would take this idea further. For example, not all disabled people are the same, have the same mind-set and speak for one another. To be lumped with others, into a “community” is offensive, not having an able-bodied actor portray a disability. Sure, commonalities between persons with disabilities exist but the same could be said for red-heads, Canadians or tennis-players. What I’m trying to say is that there is uniqueness amidst commonality. We tend to ignore our differences and in my mind we should celebrate them.

In my other non-fiction book 'You Never Know: A Memoir' I say: “Difference is something that most people avoid. Fitting in becomes a goal. Personally, I think difference is valuable. It’s the “same” that irks me. Variation is not the same as inconsistency. One can be incredibly multi-tonal and consistent.” (p. 23) I perceive difference and otherness as beneficial and positive.

Representations of disabled people in pop culture are so rare (the television show Glee is changing that) that accuracy almost becomes a ‘beside the point’ idea. We rarely show able-bodied people going to the bathroom, for example, in standard film or television so if Avatar takes a fantasy approach to our disabled character, well, there’s precedence. It might be contentious but it’s usual.

There are some films that deal explicitly with disability. Avatar is not one of them. In You Never Know: A Memoir I say: “Bonnie Sherr Klein made a film on disabled people called SHAMELESS: The ART of Disability (2006), which I saw in Montreal. I remember studying her and her film, Not a Love Story: A Film About Pornography (1981), at McGill, “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” (Star Wars, 1977). She had a stroke several years ago, had brain surgery and still managed to make this film. She is a definite new inspiration for me. It must be difficult to make a film generally, but when you are disabled you have to wrestle with external and internal demons. Being suddenly disabled is traumatic on so many levels.” (pp. 132-133)

I’m not the kind of person who gives a hoot about what other people think of me in general but any kind of positive representation of disability is good. Let it be dominant enough to be a cliché. Then I will discuss alternatives. I do not perceive our current representation in Avatar as “pandering.” (Lynne Roper) Black persons, Jews and Gays have a tradition of being sorrowfully under-represented in popular culture media. No one is going to tell me that absence is the way to go.

It is wonderful to me that our lead disabled character chooses to step outside the mainstream.


Bibliography

Boles, David W. “Enforcing the Ugly Laws.” http://urbansemiotic.com/2007/05/01/enforcing-the-ugly-laws/ (accessed September 14, 2008)

BrainyQuote


Cameron, James. Avatar. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation . 2009.

Disability in Media
Lynne Roper of Stirling Media Research Institute introduces some concepts and activities for considering the representation of disability.


Drummond, Megan. “Avatar & Disability: Does the Film Give a True Picture of Disability? Does it Need to?”


In the 80s. “Greatest Eighties Protest Songs.”


Klein , Bonnie Sherr. SHAMELESS: The ART of Disability. NFB. 2006.

Shiller, Romy. Again. Victoria, BC: Trafford. 2009.
-------------------. You Never Know: A Memoir

Spritzophrenia’s blog. “My Avatar Spiritual Experience.”
http://spritzophrenia.wordpress.com/2010/01/03/my-avatar-spiritual-experience/

Suite101.com. “Avatar & Disability: Does the Film Give a True Picture of Disability? Does it Need to?”


Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avatar_%282009_film%29

http://romyshiller.com/Avatar_or_Abled-Disabled.php

Romy Shiller is a pop culture critic and holds a PhD in Drama from the University of Toronto. Her academic areas of concentration include film, gender performance, camp and critical thought. She lives in Montreal where she continues her writing. All books are available online

Friday, March 5, 2010

‘Nine’ or All That Glitters is not Gold - process


In March my article is “‘Avatar’ or Abled-Disabled,” in April my article will be

“‘Nine’ or All That Glitters is not Gold.”

So, I saw the gorgeous film ‘Nine’ but it was problematic. I am grateful that I can critique it, make sense of it. I guess that I’m really a 3rd Wave Feminist (I'm a 3rd Wave Feminist according to the book Third Wave Feminism and Television: Jane Puts it in a Box by the head of women's studies at South-Carolina U., Merri Lisa Johnson.) – on the one hand the glitz and glam rocks my world, on the other the objectification of the women pisses me off. I’m all about re-appropriating ‘the gaze.’ This film however, reabsorbs old stereotypes. Too bad. I’m hopefully going to show that it does this.

Article now available at: http://www.shebytches.com/romyshillerapr52010.html

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

‘Avatar’ or Abled-Disabled – process

I was thinking that I could write about the Gaia-esque Matrixy quality of ‘Avatar,’ after all reality is my thing, but I think that I’ll focus on disability which is a rare find in a film. I hope to explain that the disabled lead is very capable and is presented as quite able.
I hope to focus on visible disability and an idea of identity on the screen – accurate or not. I believe that this film is ripe for short critical analyses of disability. There are many criticisms and accolades in circulation on the internet about the film. I guess that I’ll add my two-cents to them. This is a very hot film, seen by many people, so James Cameron’s portrayal of disability is important. Just so you know, I enjoyed the film but at least ½ an hour could have easily been edited out.

My 1980s













Go 1980s! There's something that's just so cute about that time. And not just yellow nail polish and 'I'm a loner.' ~ Jennifer Sky

I was thinking of the fantabulous 1980s, the awesome decade my novel, (that I’m currently writing) is set in: “the decade that brought us Dallas and DeLorean, Madonna and MTV, Chernobyl and Cats, the Tylenol Murders and the discovery of the Titanic, Rubik's Cube and Reykjavik, Farm Aid, the fitness craze…” (The Eighties Club: The Politics and Pop Culture of the 1980s.)

I had the very best life in the 1980s which few people know about. I went clubbing so much, danced nearly every night, had transformative relationships, worked my ass off in trendy clothing boutiques, studied, took private singing lessons, acted/auditioned and lived in Paris, France for a bit.

In my forthcoming non-fiction book ‘Who Knew?’ A continuation of ‘You Never Know: A Memoir’, I say; “I was in Toronto for graduate school and work for 14 years. I always thought Montreal was the best city in the world, very eclectic, so it is ironic that I am back here now. There are sidewalk cafés where one can people-watch over a bowl of steaming café au lait. My favorite bakery is on Mount Royal Street. I have tried the very best quiches, almond croissants and fruit-custard pies ever. I had bought a fruit-custard pie there for my brother Doug’s birthday dinner. “The borough is largely composed of the well-known Plateau neighborhood, famous for its bohemian reputation and characteristic architecture.” (Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.) The bagels rolled by hand and baked in a wood-fired oven at Fairmount Bagel…do not even get me started. I used to go to a greasy-spoon on Parc Avenue (officially avenue du Parc) for Sunday brunch and I am certain they used those bagels. Le yum. After brunch, I would head on over to a slope on Mount Royal to listen to the tam-tams (drums). So colourful and unique. They still exist.

In the Fall, I would take walks around Beaver Lake (or Lac des Castors) to see the changing colours on the trees. Fresh air on my face felt so good. In the winter I would watch the children on toboggans. Rosy cheeks and runny noses were “de règle.“ If I got cold there was a pavilion nearby and I could warm up inside.

During the summer, I would watch the fireworks (International Fireworks Competition) across the water in Old Montreal. It was way before the water area was built up and I sat on a little grassy patch of land. A friend of mine would sand wooden-round tables for a restaurant during the day and I would visit. That restaurant is no longer in existence and I forget its name but I will always remember the sweet smell of the sawdust.

While studying English – as my official discipline - (I took courses which included women in film, existentialism, communications and drama) at McGill University, I used to work at a trendy clothing boutique on Boulevard St. Laurent. The street is called The Main by many Montrealers. It is the city's physical division of east and west. After going night-clubbing or writing essays, I would often go to a restaurant called The Main, for matzo-ball soup. I would drink beer and play pool at a bar near there; La Cabanne. Lux, a “resto” north on St. Laurent, was industrial looking and along with your fries and mayonnaise you could read a magazine that you bought from there.

I also love winter – I belong here. My memories of skiing and skating are kind of magical. I remember skating at Parc Lafontaine amidst light snow flurries. I felt like I was in a snow globe. While I feel there are shameful accessibility issues here, I cannot leave Montreal.”

I used to dance at this trendy nightclub called Business. A good friend of mine called the blaring music “Boomsiboom.” The many other songs I listened to still run through my head such as; Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock’s hit "It Takes Two," Sinéad O'Connor’s, "Nothing Compares 2 U" or Soul II Soul’s “Back to Life” (However Do You Want Me), INXS’s "New Sensation," Terence Trent D'Arby’s "Wishing Well,” Lisa Stansfield’s "All Around the World" etc. They are my music score of the decade. I will listen to an 80’s radio station when I can. I own a CD called “Danse 80s.” Not only do I know most of the words to the songs but I experience such happiness.

Top Ten Pop Music Groups from the 80s: U2, Bon Jovi, Genesis, Journey, Guns N Roses, Kool & the Gang, Culture Club, Foreigner, Pointer Sisters, Aerosmith. (Suite101.com) The following individual singers recorded the top 10 in-demand songs: Madonna, Michael Jackson, Prince, Pat Benatar, Sade, Whitney Houston, Gloria Estefan, Bobby Brown, Kenny Loggins. (Suite101.com)

Writing about the 1980s in my novel is nostalgic and like time-travel. To be transported to that era in my mind is wondrous; “- that happy little decade between social activism and self-loathing grunge. Back when the Coreys were king and Kirk Cameron hadn't been left behind. When Cabbage Patch Kids spawned Garbage Pail Kids, and we liked it.” (80's Pop Culture)

While much of my current novel is fantasy, a lot is real such as: “Before Madonna made it fairly conventional, Voguing was a popular dance: “Vogue or "voguing" is a highly stylized modern dance characterized by photo model-like poses integrated with angular, linear and rigid arm, leg, and body movements. Popularized by Madonna's song and video of the same name, the unique inner-city dance subculture was brought to international mainstream attention.” (Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.)

I was in a Voguing show at Business where I had to cut suits off of drag queens who subsequently Vogued in sequined outfits. I was dressed like Charlie Chaplin: A black suit, white shirt, bowler hat. It was so much fun. I really enjoyed watching Voguing in the clubs. It was like a secret hand-shake or being in an exclusive circle. When Madonna’s Vogue came out I loved it but it changed everything.

All of this was before home-computers and cell-phones or texting. Rap music was just becoming popular. American Idol didn’t exist and the trend known as Grunge hadn’t happened yet. Raves were a future event. We were on the brink of a cultural evolution and all I wanted to do was dance.

It is kind of like looking through a photo album – the memories! I’m not sure but this decade feels kind of under-whelming pop-culture-wise, eh? There was a lot of great stuff for me in the 1990s but frankly it paled in contrast to the 1980s.The 70s were before my time but Disco seemed great to me. I would have gladly been Warhol-esque in the 60s. The repressed 50s would have been hard for me. Although Italian fashion… “While French couturiers like Christian Dior and Jacques Fath were pairing down their couture designs and championing them as ready-to-wear garments for American department stores and New York boutiques alike, only Italian fashion artists understood the desperate need for more accessible, comfortable, and yet equally refined and tailored collections.” (Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. “Made in Italy: Italian Fashion from 1950 to Now.”)

I worked in a hip clothing boutique on St. Lawrence Boulevard a few doors down from Business: “The shops are known as much for their interiors as for fashion, and the trendsetting Parachute boutique on Montreal's newly stylish St. Lawrence Boulevard is a sparsely decorated, airy space with a rough concrete floor, ceiling and walls, and rusted steel shelving. The heavily textured silk, cotton and woolen clothing, much of it worn by men and women both, is displayed on sloping banks of stainless steel”. (The New York Times. “In Montreal, Where to Find What's Au Courant.”) It no longer exists.

I’d see many of the same people at nighttime as during the day. Many customers would buy clothes from our store to go clubbing in. I would usually get amazing soup for lunch ‘to-go’ across the street at Shed Café. I made some amazing friends at Parachute and most were French-speaking. I had the opportunity to speak French socially and at work.

In my non-fiction book ‘Who Knew?’ I say; “Montreal is both French and English speaking. While the French language has a dictatorial quality to it (language “police” exist) I adore French. I lived in a quaint apartment in the predominantly English West-end in the 1980s, Notre Dame de Grace (N.D.G.). I breathed the East-end so it felt like a little retreat. My place had a little balcony and I would stare at the garden below in the Spring while sipping on a cold, sparkling gin and tonic. There was a lush forest-like feeling to my “retreat” and I often felt that I lived in the country, not a city.”

So, the yummy 1980s…I am very glad I was an adventurous spirit then. That decade enabled the best parts of me because it had a vast repertoire of available fun. I took advantage of it all. Cynthia Payne (“…a retired English party hostess who made the headlines in the 1970s and 1980s when she was accused of being a madam and of running her brothel…” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia) said, “When I look back at the 1980s I pinch myself. Did I really do all that?” I can relate. Now I have the greatest memories – really. They not only sustain me but I find them spectacular.

Beyond the very influential book ‘Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture,’ we are a ‘lost’ generation but there is so much pop-culture to be found that we might need to reconfigure our major presence now. Compared to the Baby-Boomers we were kind of invisible but now they’re aging. It is finally our time. I’m convinced of it. ('The Shebytches Articles' blog: http://rshiller.blogspot.com/ December 18, 2009)

I was watching the film I Love You, Beth Cooper (2009) and the context is graduating from high school. The most evocative songs re: graduating were from the 1980s – I swear and without bias. The first time that I heard a RAP song was in the 80s. Imagine. I remember being under-age, going to a night club and dressing up in ‘New Wave’ clothes (“In the 1980s in the United States New Wave became a catch-all term that applied to new music acts in general and synthpop and British acts in particular.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia) Further, Boy George and early Madonna were fashion icons and radical. An article on Gen-X culture says; “This past summer [2009] saw the untimely deaths of a trio of icons: Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson and John Hughes. They were baby boomers, sure, but became famous as creators of Gen X cultural touchstones.” (Canada.com . “Don’t look now, but [G]eneration X is middle-aged.”)

The aesthetic of the 1980s was really kitschy in retrospect (shoulder pads!) but every decade has a style. The hair was too big, the make-up too thick, colours too bold etc. “In early 80s, the New Romantic fashion styles kicked off the decade with great hair experimentation. For a while there seemed to be a competition to see who could build the tallest hair, have the strangest angles, or a favorite of this site - how much plastic, metal and mousse you could fit into your hair and still keep your head upright.” (“80's hair styles: big hair.”)

To me, it was about ‘the grand.’ Everything seemed very obvious and ‘in your face.’ I think it was ironically a very real decade because what was fake wasn’t hidden – there was little hypocrisy. Most everything from fashion to furniture was bigger-than-life, much was Camp. A friend said, “It’s great that our generation saw through the illusions of society. We were able to detach ourselves from the materialist world and question everything that came at us. Plus, we had a lot of fun along the way.”

In my research for some of the pop culture of the 80’s I found the following:

Where's the beef?

One of the biggest catch phrases during the 80’s came from a Wendy’s commercial slating the phrase “Where’s the beef?” The phrase seemed to catch on not because of the words themselves, but rather because of the commercial itself and the grumpier old lady asking “Where’s the beef?” I heard a wav sample of that commercial the other day and it got me thinking about other key phrases that were said during the 80’s. Often, it was not the words that were being said, but the people that said them that made the phrase so significant.

Here are just a few.

1. Trickle down economics
2. What you talkin’ about Willis
3. I pity the fool!
4. Hasta La Vista Baby!
5. Read my lips. No new taxes!
6. Don’t have a cow
7. Take a chill pill
8. I have the power!
9. I want my MTV
10. I’ve fallen and I can’t get up

Wow.

The movies…iconic. The Breakfast Club was my favorite. In Sixteen Candles (1984) the Molly Ringwald character says: "I loathe the bus. There has to be a more dignified mode of transportation." Ha! Or, “I can't believe my grandmother actually felt me up.” Man, she was all over the place!

Trivia: “The Brat Pack that took Hollywood by storm in the 1980s consisted of the young actors who starred together, in some combination, in films such as St. Elmo's Fire, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink and Less Than Zero. For a few years Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Ally Sheedy, Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, James Spader, Emilio Estevez, Demi Moore and Robert Downey, Jr. were the hottest items in Tinseltown. (Some film scholars claim the Brat Pack should also include Charlie Sheen, Matt Dillon, Sean Penn and Tom Cruise.) These flamboyant and sometimes self-indulgent stars made headlines on and off the screen. They lived life in the fast lane. They had the Yuppie Look and Attitude down pat. According to Mike Dilien, they wore designer jeans and cool sunglasses, shopped Rodeo Drive, cut deals at Spago's and drove sports cars.” (The Eighties Club: The Politics and Pop Culture of the 1980s.)

In St. Elmo’s Fire (1985) the Ally Sheedy’s character says: "Men... Can't live with 'em, can't shoot 'em." OMG. From Back to the Future (1985) Marty says: "Doc, you built a time machine... out of a Delorian?" In Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989), Keanu Reeves’ character “Ted” says: “Be excellent to each other & party on dudes!" or Patrick Swayze’s character in Dirty Dancing (1987): "Nobody puts baby in the corner". Ghost Busters (1984) Winston Zeddemore: “Ray. If someone asks if you are a god, you say, "yes!"

I could go on and on, the lines were simply fabulous.

TV - A-Team, B.J. & The Bear, Cagney and Lacey, Cheers, CHiP'S, Designing Women, Diff'rent Strokes, Doogie Howser M.D., Family Ties, Fantasy Island, Golden Girls, Hill Street Blues, Knotts Landing, L.A. Law, Married with Children, Moonlighting, Mork and Mindy, Quantum Leap, Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Cosby Show, The Facts of Life, The Incredible Hulk, The Love Boat, The Wonder Years, Three's Company, etc. Feeling old?

I’m not the same as I was in many ways, but people change. I am sooooo glad I had my 80s.

Bibliography
80s Culture: 80's hair styles: big hair

80's Pop Culture

A-Team. Creators: Stephen J. Cannell, Frank Lupo, Stephen J. Cannell. Productions. 1983-1987.
Back to the Future. Dir. Robert Zemeckis. Universal Pictures. 1985.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Dir. Stephen Herek. De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (DEG). 1989.

B.J. & The Bear. Creators: Christopher Crowe, Glen A. Larson. Universal TV . 1979-1981.
Canada.com “Don’t look now, but generation X is middle-aged.”

Cagney and Lacey. Creators: Barbara Avedon, Barbara Corday. Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) . 1982-1988.

Cheers. Creators: James Burrows, Glen Charles, Les Charles, et al. Charles/Burrows/Charles Productions . 1982-1993.

CHiP'S. Creator: Rick Rosner. MGM Television . 1977-1983.
Coupland, Douglas. Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. St. Martin's Press. 1991.

Dallas. Creator: David Jacobs. Lorimar Television. 1978-1991.

Designing Women. Writer: Bill Kenny (series). Bloodworth-Thomason . 1986-1993.

Diff'rent Strokes. Creators: Jeff Harris, Bernie Kukoff. Embassy Pictures Corporation. 1978-1986.
Dirty Dancing. Dir. Emile Ardolino. Great American Films Limited Partnership. 1987.

Doogie Howser M.D. Creators: Steven Bochco, David E. Kelley. 20th Century Fox Television. 1989-1993.

Family Ties. Creator: Gary David Goldberg. Paramount Television.1982-1989.

Fantasy Island. Creator: Gene Levitt. Columbia Pictures Television . 1978-1984.

Ghost Busters. Dir. Ivan Reitman. Black Rhino Productions. 1984.

Golden Girls. Creator: Susan Harris. Touchstone Television. 1985-1992.

Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.“Made in Italy: Italian Fashion from 1950 to
Now.

Hill Street Blues. Creators: Steven Bochco, Michael Kozoll. MTM Enterprises. 1981-1987.

I Love You, Beth Cooper. Dir. Chris Columbus, 1492 Pictures, 2009.

Knotts Landing. Creator: David Jacobs. Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS).1979-1993.

L.A. Law. Creators: Steven Bochco, Terry Louise Fisher. 20th Century Fox Television. 1986-1994.

Like Totally 80s

Makefive. “Best 80s TV Shows.”

Married with Children. Creators: Ron Leavitt, Michael G. Moye. Embassy Television. 1987-1997.

Memorable quotes for Ghost Busters

Moonlighting. Creators: Glenn Gordon Caron. ABC Circle Films. 1985-1989.

Mork and Mindy. Creators: Joe Glauberg, Garry Marshall, Dale McRaven. Henderson Productions . 1978-1982.

Quantum Leap. Creator: Donald P. Bellisario. Belisarius Productions. 1989-1993.

Quotesea

QuoteLucy

IMDb

Shiller, Romy.
___________. Novel in progress. *part of this article appears in my book.
___________. 'The Shebytches Articles' blog: http://rshiller.blogspot.com/
December 18, 2009
___________. Who Knew? Forthcoming.

Sixteen Candles. Dir. John Hughes. Channel Productions, 1984.
Squidoo. “Like Totally 1980s Movie Quotes .”

Star Trek: The Next Generation. Creator: Gene Roddenberry. Paramount Television. 1987-1994.

St. Elmo’s Fire. Dir. Joel Schumacher. Columbia Pictures Corporation, 1985.

SUITE101.COM

The Breakfast Club. Dir. John Hughes. A&M Films, 1985.

The Cosby Show. Creators: Bill Cosby, Michael Leeson, Ed. Weinberger. Bill Cosby.1984-1992.

The Facts of Life. Creators: Dick Clair, Jenna McMahon. Embassy Pictures Corporation. 1979-1988.

The Incredible Hulk. Marvel Productions .1978-1982.

The Love Boat. Writers: Buddy Akinson (writer), Lee Aronsohn (writer). Aaron Spelling Productions. 1977-1986.
The New York Times. “In Montreal, Where to Find What's Au Courant.” November 9, 1986.

Three's Company. Creators: Brian Cooke, Johnnie Mortimer. DLT Entertainment Ltd. 1977-1984.

The Eighties Club: The Politics and Pop Culture of the 1980s

The Wonder Years. Creators: Carol Black, Neal Marlens et al. New World Television. 1988-1993.


http://www.shebytches.com/romyshillerfeb12010.html

Friday, January 22, 2010

Opposition - my introduction to 'Again'


I cannot think of permanent enmity between man and man, and believing as I do in the theory of reincarnation, I live in the hope that if not in this birth, in some other birth I shall be able to hug all of humanity in friendly embrace.

Mahatma Gandhi

I have been contrary all of my life. I rarely did or said what was expected. Honestly, among most of my peers I am the mildest. I am not extreme in appearance or attitude but how I think is out of the ordinary. As usual, I am not about changing minds; I am about integrity in the face of opposition. If I try to be honest and truthful and if what I say belies one’s belief-system, I feel I am like a mirror – one can see who they are or who they are or are not in me. I do not need anyone to agree with me or believe what I believe. I am not trying to convince anyone of anything. I am simply writing my truth. I love writing and I adore this subject-matter, reincarnation, but I am very aware that it is considered controversial. The thing is – controversy never stopped me. I am so willing to “push the envelope,” I am willing to go the distance.

Once I had an affair with a gay man. No, he was not bi-sexual, he was gay. Confused? Since then, he has been in a relationship with another man for more than ten years. I got flack from gay and straight people. Did that stop me? People have a very difficult time with blurred definitions. I understand that people need to believe in categories. At times these categories resonate with one’s behaviour and at times they do not. I believe these categories are often constructed, a fiction: Possibilities and options are limited – ways of being are limited. Obviously, many people do resonate with their definitions. To stretch our minds is good. At times certain definitions just do not fit.

If my actions made my life harder or if they would prevent me from carrying on, I am not sure what I would do but I have been blessed with a constitution and life-force full of fortitude. I am very resistant to opposition, I am very strong. Not thinking or believing what other people do is habit. I tend to resist what most consider the norm. That is why I can write this book. In many ways, I am preaching to the converted and in many ways, I am in complete opposition to fundamental beliefs.

I am more about layering codes than dichotomies. What that means is, I prefer blending realities rather than separating them. To me, nothing is cut and dried. There are no absolutes. No givens. If someone is hoping for a black and white definition of reincarnation, I highly doubt they will get it. To me, partiality reigns. All I know is that there are glimpses and fragments of knowledge. We are not privy to the whole picture. We are accordingly limited by our senses. To find evidence of this, look at various animals and their realities. The world of the fish in the fishbowl is the fishbowl. All it knows is some “hand” feeding it. This could be magical or omniscient to a fish. The fish is severely limited by its environment, senses, etc. So moving on from this, I understand that I can only know so much. I am a fish in a fishbowl. I am limited and any quest of mine is circumspect. I can explore the unknown, the mysterious, other notions. I can observe the hand that feeds me, my fishbowl. I can know a warped reality, a skewed perspective. I do not believe in concepts that invoke ideas of the real, the solid or the secure. Things that are shaky or wobbly feel more appropriate.

I enjoy stability in my life but I am unfazed by change or difference. I find the qualities that involve the so-called strange appealing. I know that some people find my attitude kooky or weird. Being set-apart or anomalous is great to me. I prefer the fringe or edge. Tremendous power resides in deciding to be oneself – whatever that entails. It might be very contrary to others and it takes strength and courage to own one’s truth. Bravery exists in many different areas. It can be small – a child in the playground standing up to a bully, – or large, like Martin Luther King, Jr.

Personally, I truly believe that standing up for oneself has great value. Putting oneself in harms way because of a decision to manifest integrity can, and often is, a real possibility. I believe the alternative is worse. Challenging dominant ideas is fraught with danger. It might just be easier to surrender, to be defeated, but where is the fun in that? The decision to own power is, well, powerful. I keep thinking of Rosa Parks: “…an unknown seamstress in Montgomery, Alabama refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. This brave woman, Rosa Parks, was arrested and fined for violating a city ordinance, but her lonely act of defiance began a movement that ended legal segregation in America, and made her an inspiration to freedom-loving people everywhere.” Power, inspiration and possibility: Incredible. We can all make a difference. Just because one’s life may feel ordinary, it is important to know that we are capable of the wondrous. A decision not to give up a seat can change thoughts, attitudes and ways of being; ways of understanding. A small gesture can lead to a revolution. We are all capable of impacting others and we are meaningful beyond our current or obvious circumstances. It might be impossible to see the big picture; so we need to follow our guts and hearts. Recently, I was seated to eat near the kitchen in a restaurant. I am currently disabled and in a wheelchair. My mother said it reminded her of segregation. I will never let this happen again. I will insist on being seated elsewhere. An out of sight, out of mind mentality will not apply to me. That this mentality by others continues to pervade is astonishing.

Are you aware in the early-to-mid 1900’s it was illegal to be “found ugly” on the streets of some mainstream American cities like Chicago, Illinois (Chicago Municipal Code, sec. 36034) and Omaha, Nebraska (Unsightly Beggar Ordinance Nebraska Municipal Code of 1941, sec. 25) and Columbus, Ohio (General Offense Code, sec. 2387.04)?

Your punishment for being caught (in) public ranged from incarceration to fines of up to $50.00 USD for each ugly offense.

Here’s how the Chicago Municipal Code described and enforced The Ugly Law:

No person who is diseased, maimed, mutilated or in any way deformed so as to be an unsightly or disgusting object or improper person to be allowed in or on the public ways or other public places in this city, or shall therein or thereon expose himself to public view, under a penalty of not less than one dollar nor more than fifty dollars for each offense.

The goal of Ugly Laws was allegedly to preserve the pretty facade of the community. The disabled, the indigent and the poor were a part of society, but nobody wanted to deal with them and fewer still wanted to actually look at them. So laws were passed to keep the deformed — especially those with Cerebral Palsy and other disfiguring diseases — inside and out-of-sight.

The way I think and the way I look now will just have to be dealt with.

http://romyshiller.com/Again.php