Archive | Feminist Matters

On the Edge, Again

I contributed a selection to Flavorwire’s 28 Feminist Writers Every Man Should Read: Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time. I’m obsessed with this book–so much so that I wrote my college thesis on it. To wit:

Piercy’s 1976 utopian novel posits a future in which human reproduction has been mechanized, gendered pronouns have been supplanted by the handy term “per,” everyone can lactate, all adults are expected to co-parent a child with two friends (never lovers), and humans congregate in small towns with extremely direct democracies. In a moment in which dystopias rule the school, this prescient book works as an amazing time machine — not only forward but back to an era in which women liberationists still took their title literally.

‘Gone Girl’: More Savory Than Sweet

Who can forget Ben Affleck’s acceptance speech at the 2013 Academy Awards? “Marriage is hard,” he declared while thanking wife Jennifer Garner, and the audience collectively froze. The next day, Oscar post-mortems were dominated by a debate about the actor-director’s words: Were they inappropriate? Were he and Garner having trouble? Is marriage hard? Imagine an entire movie launched from that declaration – complete with Affleck’s cheesy, unsettling grin – and we’ve got “Gone Girl,” David Fincher’s extraordinary adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s eponymous bestseller.

Though few deny that Fincher is a technically proficient director, charges of misogyny and misanthropy have dogged his films since 1995’s “Se7en,” his serial killer mystery with a biblical twist. True, his body of work – from “The Social Network,” the Sorkin-scripted Facebook origin story, to the ill-fated “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” – doesn’t paint a rosy picture of humanity. (It’s a wonder he’s not accused of misandry.) But it’s not really humanity that gets the shaft in his films; it’s human interactions. People may need people, he suggests, but that doesn’t mean we don’t bring out the worst in each other. In this sense, “Gone Girl” – an unflinching portrait of human intimacy if ever there were one – may be his signature piece. Continue Reading →

Lena Dunham’s ‘Heartburn’

Unlike many of her peers, Lena Dunham doesn’t score buzz for celebrity feuds, leaked sex tapes, or alleged stints in rehab. Instead, the Oberlin-educated actress, producer, director, and writer is known for clever quips, unapologetic feminism, a signature style, her film and TV projects (most recently, she’s producing a documentary about a tailoring company for the LGBT community), and an endearing, brilliantly articulated honesty. In short, she’s the latest in a long line of great Hollywood dames. So it’s no surprise that Lady Dunham has plenty of mentors – from Judd Apatow to her mom, the artist Laurie Simmons, to the late Nora Ephron. In fact, when the writer and director died in 2012, Dunham’s New Yorker remembrance (Nora’s advice about her love problems: “You can’t meet someone until you’ve become what you’re becoming”) was so loving and clear that it launched her own career as an author. To celebrate the publication of her memoir cum Helen Gurley-inspired advice manual Not That Kind of Girl, then, let’s consider a fantasy Dunham remake of “Heartburn,” the 1986 adaptation of Ephron’s thinly disguised account of her divorce from Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein.

Though that film boasted a terrific premise and an astonishing pedigree – Ephron herself wrote the screenplay; Oscar-winning Mike Nichols directed; Oscar-winning Meryl Streep starred as food writer Rachel (the Ephron stand-in); Oscar-winning Jack Nicholson played columnist Mark (the Bernstein stand-in); Carly Simon sang the soundtrack; and the supporting cast included Jeff Daniels, Stockard Channing, Catherine O’Hara, Oscar-winning Kevin Spacey (who plays a subway mugger in one of his first-ever screen roles), and Oscar-winning Milos Forman – it was a mixed bag at best. The problem lay mostly with Nichols. With respect to his legendary wit (check out his early standup with writer Elaine May), it didn’t quite match the sensibilities of good-girl absurdist Nora. On the other hand, Dunham’s combination of excellent manners and wacky irreverence – not to mention her family background of well-off creatives – mirrors Ephron perfectly. Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy