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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Monday, June 27, 2011

Green Lantern

I saw Green Lantern despite bad press. Like the film Burlesque ( this film cannot be talked of in terms of story because Green Lantern is not about plot, it is about effects. It might more CGI than I like but on this level the film is well done. The last act was silly but the effects were good. Not the best film but not the worst.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Reality Films

I watch what I call ‘reality’ films and now that there is a postal strike and I get films through the mail, I’ve watched some of them again. These may include Groundhog Day, The Matrix, Blade Runner, Sliding Doors, Moon, Dark City…I’m looking forward to including Source Code to my list. I’ve seen these films many, many times. Reality works my buzz and I like that these films respect the audience’s capacity to ‘understand.’

Monday, June 20, 2011


I was never a Motorhead fan – not because I thought they were bad but there was simply a lack of exposure. Heavy-metal musician Lemmy Kilmister is the lead singer of the band – an Icon. This film is a documentary about him. He is such a captivating character. He was presented as complex and layered. While apparently a bad-ass, he has a soft-spot for his son. I am a music junkie and I learned a thing or two here.

Super 8

So I saw Super 8 – cute, that’s all. Spielberg music score was evident (you will feel here and now). J.J. Abrams is good at monsters who toss things. Why all the fuss?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

X-Men: First Class: A Commentary on ‘Difference’

X-Men: First Class: A Commentary on ‘Difference’


Be Mutant and proud.
Raven/Mystique in X-Men: First Class

Friday, June 10, 2011

Passenger Side.

on Twitter they commented on my review 'thanks so much for the kind words! glad you enjoyed the film.' So here you go again:

A film review of ‘Passenger Side.’


And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.
Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, June 9, 2011

POP goes the TEEN

(originally published June 29,2009)

As a teenager you are at the last stage in your life when you will be happy to hear that the phone is for you.

~ Fran Lebowitz

Simply skimming. Images of youth in popular culture. Not Toddlers and Tiaras (2009) about toddler beauty pageants, which makes me sick or the 20-something hot bods in the new Star Trek (2009), I am such a Cougar - "an older woman who sexually pursues men at least eight years her junior."(Wikipedia) I am discussing teenagers and tweens - "the stage between middle childhood and adolescence in human development, generally in the age range of 10 to 12 years of age." (Wikipedia).

"High School Musical is a Disney movie that tells the story of some high school students - Troy [Zac Efron], Gabriella [Vanessa Hudgens], Sharpay [Ashley Tisdale], Ryan [Lucas Grabeel], Chad [Corbin Bleu], Taylor [Monique Coleman] - as they audition for, and react to their friends auditioning for, their school's Spring musical."

I looked at all three High-School Musicals and the Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert films in addition to many others. Briefly about Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: "The fictional pop star [Hannah Montana] was created in 2006 for a Disney Channel comedy series about an ordinary teenage girl leading a secret double life. Before long, the manufactured Hannah was very popular with genuine audiences, generating the onslaught of merchandising opportunities expected of a post-Lizzie McGuire hit." ( In Hannah Montana: The Movie "Disney's tween sitcom hits the big screen, sending Miley and her dad back home to Tennessee.,...For those not yet in the know, Cyrus plays a fictionalized version of herself on the Disney Channel's wildly popular series "Hannah Montana." (Daily News)

In a very utopian way, I imagined things would change for kids. Not only was I wrong but so disappointed. The gender division is enormous. Boys play sports and are ridiculed for being artistic in the High School musicals. Someone discussing gender equity in high school sports on the internet said, "In high school, traditionally, boys' sports are seen as important and girls' aren't. Example: In "High School Musical" the boy wins a sports game and everyone is freaking out but the girl wins an intellectual championship and no-one cares. This way of thinking is all over the country and has existed for as long as school sports. Recently, however, there have been lawsuits over giving equal time and facilities and funding to girls' sports. Here in Michigan, some girls' teams won the right to play basketball during the typical basketball season instead of during the boys' offseason." (

It is ironic because these films are predicated on singing and dancing yet the subject-matter finds these activities contentious.

The gender division has a metaphor; in the cafeteria the so-called "brainiacs" sit together, same with "surfer-dudes" and jocks. All sing about maintaining the status-quo while one from each group "confesses." A "brainiac" likes rap, a "surfer-dude" plays the cello and wears a tie, and a male jock bakes. I wanted them to break the rules and escape the mold. No such luck even with confessions.

I watched the uber-delicious, Zac Efron (born October 18, 1987, behave Romy!!) in 17 Again (2009), where like in High School Musical 1, 2 and 3 he plays basketball in High School. "Zac Ephron -- the David Cassidy of the 21st Century -- makes his grown-up movie breakout in 17 Again, a movie about a middle-aged guy who's disappointed in his life and magically becomes young again so he can return to high school and make things right." (

In High School Musical the following dialog takes place:

Chad: Have you ever seen Michael Crawford on a cereal box?

Troy: Who's Michael Crawford?

Chad: Exactly my point! He was the Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. Now my mom, she's seen that musical twenty-seven times. And she put Michael Crawford's picture in our refrigerator. Yeah, not on it, in it. So my point is, if you play basketball, you're gonna end up on a cereal box. If you sing in musicals, you're gonna end up in my mom's refrigerator.

We need to validate how fabulous it is for young men to enjoy musicals and for young women to play sports. The divisions we have created are damaging and false. There is a spectrum for femininity and masculinity. Sports do not automatically belong to males and musicals - females. You do not have to be a gay male to like musicals or a gay female to like sports. One can be gay but these activities do not define sexual preference.

"We now must talk about Zac Efron, whom we meet in the first scene [17 Again] as Mike, a high school basketball star in 1989, shooting hoops with no shirt on and preening in the manner of both a high school athlete and a movie actor who is painfully aware of his own appeal: hey everyone, I'm acting. Nice pecs, huh?" ( It is so hard to watch him as an actor when his celebrity status and gorgeousness is so foregrounded. Certainly he can act, but who cares?

I want to discuss sexuality. Teenagers have sex. "The sexual activity took place at a number of places. And probably the two most common places for sexual activity to take place were either at the home of one of the adolescents. A lot of the adolescents had parents who worked, were at home alone, had parents who put in 40, 60, 80 hour work weeks...," noted Claire Sterk. ( Many of the images portrayed try to contain sexuality.

Miley Cyrus has commented on the sexual Vanity Fair pictures taken by famed photographer Annie Lebovitz, "The photos, appearing in the upcoming issue of Vanity Fair, were taken by Leibovitz, a renowned celebrity photographer whose edgy, silver-toned portraits have included subjects such as Angelina Jolie, Scarlett Johansson and a naked, pregnant Demi Moore."Lebovitz said, "I'm sorry that my portrait of Miley has been misinterpreted," Leibovitz made a statement released by Vanity Fair. "Miley and I looked at fashion photographs together and we discussed the picture in that context before we shot it. The photograph is a simple, classic portrait, shot with very little makeup, and I think it is very beautiful." ( Sirus said, "I never intended for any of this to happen and I apologize to my fans who I care so deeply about." ( Get over it, I say. claims, "Some say High School Musical is the young generation's Grease. With a G-rating, it is definitely a much cleaner version of high school love illustrated through catchy songs and cool choreography." The image Disney seems to want to portray is of teenagers being mega-clean cut. All three High School Musicals and the Hannah Montana brand are squeaky clean: "The Disney Channel, which airs Cyrus' TV show "Hannah Montana," was also critical of Vanity Fair." [A] situation was created to deliberately manipulate a 15-year-old in order to sell magazines," ( and a half.

The emergence of chastity rings speaks to an emphasis on abstinence;

"Selena Gomez (from Wizards of Waverly Place) and Demi Lovato (from Camp Rock) posted a Q&A vlog on youtube and talk about purity rings, being in love with Shia Labeouf/William Beckett, and stuff. oh and then they sing Hannah Montana." (LiveJournal)

"The Jonas Brothers are an American pop boy band. The band gained their popularity from the Disney Channel children's television network. Hailing from Wyckoff, New Jersey, the band consists of three brothers: Kevin Jonas, Joe Jonas, and Nick Jonas. In the summer of 2008, they starred in the Disney Channel Original Movie Camp Rock. They have released three albums." (Wikipedia) The extremely popular boy group have joined the band-wagon;

"The Jonas Brothers have vowed to abstain from sex until marriage.

The popular band of brothers wears purity rings as "promises to ourselves and to God that we'll stay pure till marriage," Joe, 18, tells Details magazine in their March issue.

The rings are "just one of our ways of kind of like being different than everybody else out there," Nick says.

"I got mine made at Disney World," Nick, 15 adds. "It's pretty awesome."

Oldest brother Kevin, 20, has a ring from Tiffany's. "It's pretty rock and roll," Kevin tells the magazine. "It's getting banged up a little bit because of the guitar."

Though Nick tells Details that he loves the trio's fans - the "screaming girls are awesome," he says - the brothers have told they enjoy being single." ( Yup.

"Miley Cyrus, 16, says she wants to keep her virginity until she marries, implying her 20-year-old good Christian boyfriend Justin Gaston's dry spell may last another 10 years!" (SawfS News) Uh-huh.

Is it too radical too suppose these kids could have education about STDs and have a healthy sex life? In the popular high school film Twilight (2008) the lead characters are in love but do not get it on because he is a vampire and is scared he might kill her. I am sensing a disturbing trend.

There is a gigantic market aimed at tweens and teenagers. "Rock & roll may never die, but you know it's been eaten by the consumer culture when you see Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert, in which the bouncy diva of prepubescent bubblegum pantomimes every rebel-yell gesture in history, all to exalt girl-power attitude as something you can acquire." (

Did you know that there is a website that markets to tween girls? It's called "TV & Pop Culture Fan Gifts for Tween Girls." Talk about getting them early on many levels. To be a tween girl, according to the branding on this website, is to buy into the following description of items: "Be A Star With High School Musical's Games, Fashion Angels Crafty Kit, Totally Bananas Harajuku Perfumes, Beautify Your Bratz Dolls for Budding Fashionistas, Hip Disney Fashions for Girls, "The Princess Diaries" Books & DVDs..." (TV & Pop Culture Fan Gifts for Tween Girls) etc.

My impulse would be to show the power young girls have but I think that the gender stereotyping outweighs that. Undoubtedly, that the girls have buy-power is great. However, look at what they can buy. I personally love that stuff but I am fortunate - I can make an informed decision.

Images of teens in popular culture are problematic. The problems have an upside though. They often shed light on what needs to be fixed.


17 Again. Director, Burr Steers, Offspring Entertainment, 2009.

Camp Rock. Director, Matthew Diamond. Disney Channel. 2008. Accessed May 1, 2009.

Daily News Accessed May 4, 2009. Accessed

May 4, 2009. Accessed May 4, 2009. Accessed May 1, 2009.

Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour. Director, Bruce Hendricks. PACE. 2008.

Hannah Montana: The Movie. Director, Peter Chelsom. It's a Laugh Productions. 2009.

High-School Musical. Director, Kenny Ortega. Disney Channel. 2006,

High School Musical 2. Director, Kenny Ortega. Walt Disney Pictures. 2007

High School Musical 3: Senior Year. Director, Kenny Ortega. Borden and Rosenbush Entertainment. 2008.

LiveJournal Accessed May 1, 2009.

SawfS News. Accessed

May 1, 2009. <> Accessed May 1, 2009.

Star Trek. Director, J.J. Abrams. Bad Robot. 2009.

The Internet Movie Database.

The Internet Movie Database.

The Quote Garden. <> Accessed May 2, 2009.

Toddlers and Tiaras. Reality-TV. Authentic Entertainment. 2009.

TV & Pop Culture Fan Gifts for Tween Girls. Accessed May 4, 2009.

Twilight. Director, Catherine Hardwicke. Goldcrest Pictures. 2008. Accessed May 1, 2009. > Accessed May 1, 2009.

Vanity Fair. Accessed May 1, 2009. Accessed May 1, 2009.

Wikiquote Accessed

May 1, 2009.

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia Accessed May 2, 2009.

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia Accessed May 6, 2009.

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia


May 1, 2009.

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia


May 6, 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. She lives in Montreal where she continues her writing. All books are available online.

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.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

film review - Bridesmaids

A review of the film ‘Bridesmaids.’


A friend is someone who lets you have total freedom to be yourself.
Jim Morrison

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse or Yup

(originally published July 6, 2010)

My idea of Hell is to be young again.

Marge Piercy

I saw Twilight: Eclipse. It is the 3rd installment of the The Twilight Saga based on the books (‘Twilight is a series of four vampire-based fantasy romance novels by American author Stephenie Meyer. It charts a period in the life of Isabella “Bella” Swan, a teenage girl who moves to Forks, Washington, and falls in love with a 104-year-old vampire named Edward Cullen… Thus far, the first three books have been made into a series of motion pictures by Summit Entertainment; the film adaptation of Twilight was released in 2008 and the second, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, was released on November 20, 2009. The third film, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, was released June 30, 2010.’ Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia)

I am fascinated by youth-culture and the Twilight series is a part of tween and teenage life. Vampires are my thing.

In the film a character is missing, a flyer is circulated, and his date of birth was on it – 1990. In 1990 I was doing my Master’s Degree! I am far from aged but born in 1990?

As the raging hormones around me screamed, I realized this isn’t Kansas anymore. Despite my research rationalizations, I felt old.

Ok, the film – Bella, Edward and Jacob – a real love triangle complete with jealousy, depth and emotion. I believe that the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” series on television was a billion and a half times better but this was watchable and I did kind of feel like a voyeur/visitor. I like the send-ups in Buffy, the horror of high school. Eclipse may have had vampires and humans who transform into wolves, the mystical, but it was a strait forward story and provided a glimpse into the minds of the teen fans. The vampire metaphor for alienation, isolation, eternal youth and beauty continues to fascinate me. Metaphors for transformation are very necessary as teens’ bodies change and as they move into adulthood. It can be extremely complex to tell a tale of teen metamorphosis so setting it in the mystical is a way to deal with that.

Conventional, utopian versions of high school make me ill. Disney’s High School Musical films are true horror to me – creepy, eerie, strange etc. (see my article POP goes the TEEN - The uber-scrumptious Zac Efron is the only eye-candy that makes those films worth watching.

The plot: ‘The vampire Victoria (James’ mate from Twilight) has created an army of “newborn” vampires to battle the Cullen family and murder Bella for revenge. Meanwhile, Bella is compelled to choose between her relationship with Edward and her friendship with Jacob. Edward’s vampire family and Jacob’s werewolf pack join forces to successfully destroy Victoria and her vampire army.’ (Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia) You know, the usual…

This film deals with sexuality or the lack thereof. In ‘POP goes the TEEN’ I say, “In the popular high school film Twilight (2008) the lead characters are in love but do not get it on because he is a vampire and is scared he might kill her. I am sensing a disturbing trend.”

You probably need to be familiar with the main characters – I highly doubt that this film would stand on its own. I think that being involved in teen culture also helps. I can see why most teens like all Twilights – a lot. Their pain, frustration and angst is represented. This film is not about grownups but about them. I think that the film’s slim merit lies in that.


Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Creator: Joss Whedon. Mutant Enemy 1997-2003.

High School Musical. Director: Kenny Ortega. Disney Channel. 2006.

Shiller, Romy. ‘POP goes the TEEN.’

The Internet Movie Database.
Accessed July 2, 2010.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. Director: David Slade. Summit Entertainment. 2010.

Twilight. Director: Catherine Hardwicke. Goldcrest Pictures. 2008.

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia
Accessed July 2, 2010.

Wisdom Quotes
Accessed July 2, 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.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

‘Avatar’ or Abled-Disabled

(originally published March 1, 2010)

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 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 fantas 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.


Boles, David W. “Enforcing the Ugly Laws.” (accessed September 14, 2008)


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

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia

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.

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, June 2, 2011

'Nine’ or All That Glitters is not Gold

I decided to post some older reviews...

(originally published April 5, 2010)

'Nine’ or All That Glitters is not Gold

Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, "She doesn't have what it takes." They will say, "Women don't have what it takes."

Clare Boothe Luce

[*Entire article is a spoiler alert] Okeedokee (do people still say that?), here we go. I saw the film ‘Nine: “Nine is a musical with a book by Arthur Kopit and Mario Fratti, music and lyrics by Maury Yeston. The story is based on Fratti's adaptation of Federico Fellini's semi-autobiographical film 8½. It focuses on film director Guido Contini, savoring his most recent (and greatest) success but facing his fortieth birthday and a midlife crisis blocking his creative impulses and entangling him in a web of romantic difficulties in early-1960s Venice.”(Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.)

The film is not a documentary.

No doubt the talent was there, the fashion was fabulous, there was glitz and glam and Sophia Loren. All the things I adore but the film was flawed – majorly. The context is the 60s when the idea of women-as-objects prevailed. The film was actually made in 2009. Films made in the 60s stand as documents of the time. Films made now can comment on the time. I feel that it is a cultural responsibility.

Film theory has been very vocal about the traditional “gaze:” “In considering the way that films are put together, many feminist film critics have pointed to the "male gaze" that predominates in classical Hollywood filmmaking… Laura Mulvey's seminal essay "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" (written in 1973 and published in 1975) expands on this conception of the passive role of women in cinema to argue that film provides visual pleasure through scopophilia, and identification with the on-screen male actor. She asserts: "In their traditional exhibitionist role women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that they can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness," and as a result contends that in film a woman is the ‘bearer of meaning, not maker of meaning.” (Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia)

I enjoy validating women’s re-appropriation of “the gaze” in a subversive kind of way. I adore power-through-sexuality. An article written in response to one of mine says, “What intrigues Shiller is the gender-bending identification that leads straight women to bond with the love lives of overtly gay male characters (some of whom are played by straight men, which adds yet another layer to the conundrum). She concedes that "hot male bodies in action are a big part of the draw," but maintains there's more to this "female gaze" than meets the eye. "Juggling the object-of-desire's ambiguous sexuality is part of the straight fan's own gender performance," she writes. "The object she desires says something about her own sexual play and sexual orientation." (San Francisco Chronicle) Subverting the traditional ‘gaze” is amazing.

I’m going to resist the strong temptation to turn this article into a film theory lesson. I can only hope that film Profs will use this movie as an exquisite example of “the gaze.” The women here were sexual and used their sexuality to ascertain power but unfortunately all of their power revolved around getting the male director. In no way did they make anything their own. I am frankly exhausted by a notion of straight man/director as centre of the universe. It is insulting to say the least.

You know, in traditional Melodrama and Opera women are punished and are usually killed for being sexual and having desire. Pretty lethal stuff, eh?

The Nicole Kidman character says that she’d rather be the man than the woman behind the man. She also laments that women come off of their pedestals for a mere kiss. But women are still beautiful objects on a pedestal in the film. If what she articulated linked up with the film’s portrayal, well heck, that would make sense but it does not link up.

I wanted the women to own power, be gorgeous, have talent and be sexual. It may be hard to do this in life but on-screen a possibility exists. So when I see recycled, harmful ideology I want to scream, or write an article.

It is incredibly powerful to rework “the gaze” in female terms and I wanted to re-read this film but I could not. I felt pulled in two directions. The aesthetic was great but the representation of women sucked.


Chonin, Neva. “Young Gay Men Having Sex.” San Francisco Chronical. September 12, 2004.
Nine. Dir. Rob Marshall. The Weinstein Company. 2009.
Shiller , Romy. “Why is Queer As Folk Making Women … ?”
The Quote Garden
Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia
Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia

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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

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Yeah, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. So we’re stuck in a franchise. We know the characters well and unfortunately the people making the film seem to think this is enough. The writing was frankly weak and lazy. The concepts were intriguing – Mermaids and The Fountain of Youth - but it was executed poorly. I want to be clear here, the elements were not lacking but the story around them was.