There’s a new Netflix controversy, a film called To The Bone about a young woman with anorexia. Following my love for 13 Reasons Why (which scored me a spot on national radio and TV from this blog post) I thought I’d better watch it. Netflix is sparking conversations (sometimes arguments) about big topics through it’s original TV shows and movies, but anorexia seems a particularly tricky thing to make a film about. That’s probably why there are hardly any films about it.
Obligatory spoiler warning, and of course trigger warning - discussion of eating disorders and mental health.
To The Bone is somehow listed as a 'comedy drama' on IMDB. It's certainly not a comedy. It’s not as hard hitting as 13 Reasons Why, but it’s about a very important, complex issue. Writer/director Marti Noxon was apparently influenced by her own eating disorder experiences and wanted to help raise awareness of the illness. Whether it does this in the right way is up for debate, and I’m still not entirely sure myself. As much as I’ve had a very weird relationship with food and a rather negative relationship with my body in general, I’ve not had anorexia so it’s not fair for me to question if the film portrays it well. Though of course it’s also subjective, so To The Bone may have been Noxon’s experience of anorexia but other people may have a very different reality of it.
Writing about mental health is tricky, especially for films. From my own experience of learning to write screenplays, it’s all about the three act structure and there’s an expectation to resolve all issues in the final act. This might be something relatively easy to do in a blockbuster action film (there's usually just a big fight and then the guy gets the hot girl) but when there are characters with complex mental health issues it’s hard to realistically resolve these in such a short time. In real life, unpicking trauma can take years. This, for me, was where To The Bone went wrong. There was a lot of focus on the illness and the recovery seemed to be done by way of a rather strange, quite rushed, epiphany sequence. And of course there was a boy involved too…uh oh….
There are only two notable male characters in this film and they hardly speak to each other. Technically you could say it passes the Bechdel test with flying colours. The Bechdel test asks if two women talk to each other about something other than a man, and although this was originally a useful test, it doesn’t stop women being overruled by men in films. In To The Bone, both men talk to her like crap, and their behaviour is never justified as such. It’s a particular gripe of mine when women are saved by men in films, but especially when it involves a mental illness. Often there just is no cure, another reason why it’s so hard to make a film which tells these stories in a satisfying, believable, responsible way. My first screenplay, Paper Cuts, is about a young woman with depression and anxiety, and I’ve spent so long working on the ending to find that balance of it being hopeful but realistic. There are many ways people cope with having a mental illness but meeting someone and falling in love is often not the solution. This only puts pressure on another person to have to ‘fix’ them. Strength comes from inside yourself, not from Prince Charming. This is obviously why I don't write romance!
Lilly Collins, who plays Ellen in To The Bone, apparently had an eating disorder herself. It’s no surprise then that she was brilliant in the role, but she did lose weight for it. We can’t say this was a bad choice on her part, because she’s a grown women and is responsible for her own body, but there’s no denying it was a risky move which might have potentially triggered her ED (eating disorder) again.
Whilst we’re on the topic of triggers, the film does have calorie counting, weight loss tricks, disordered eating etc, and there are triggering images. We can’t tell people with ED not to watch this film, it’s their choice and many of them will choose to because it’s relevant to them. As with 13 Reasons Why, all Netflix can do is make sure their audience is warned about the content, otherwise the responsibility lies with the audience. We also can’t say these kinds of films and TV shows shouldn’t be made, because otherwise how would we start a dialogue around them? If this film was banned, where would the line be drawn when it comes to other films?
On the other hand, there are dangerous images of thin women everywhere. For someone to play an anorexic woman in a film, she needs to be noticeably thinner than other women in films, and the ‘normal’ level is pretty bloody thin. It’s not hard to find ‘thinspiration’ in this world.
Some people with anorexia might want to be triggered. You only need to step into the world of ‘pro-ana’ (pro anorexia) websites and thinspiration (sometimes called ‘thinspo’, or even ‘bonespo’) to see that being triggered can be a good thing for them. Ultimately there might be a horrible irony to Lilly Collin’s choice to lose weight for the role in that she may become an unintentional thinspo idol.
In short, maybe this film is made for people who don’t know very much about eating disorders. There could be many benefits to parents or teachers, for instance, watching this to help recognise some things that people with anorexia may do. In this sense of raising awareness, maybe it works.
But let’s talk about Keanu Reeves. Keanu fucking Reeves. Personally, I think he has the screen presence of a lamppost. Apart from in the Bill and Ted films of course. (#NotAllKeanuReevesFilms)
But maybe it’s not all his fault in To The Bone. It’s a mix of:
a) the annoyingly privileged setting (they clearly got her into that residence ‘cos they’re loaded)
b) patriarchal bullshit
c) therapists always* being shit in films
*Okay, so therapists in films are not all shit (#NotAllTherapists) but they need to be recognised in the script as being shit if they are. Take, for example, Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting. He’s not set up to automatically be the one we should trust because he’s working through his own issues. This works. What doesn’t work is when you get a weird, creepy therapist like Keanu Reeve’s character in To The Bone, who is treated like some kind of cult leader. His behaviour is then validated at the end when she returns to the house, and we’re supposed to believe that it’s a positive outcome for her. It’s great that she chooses to take steps towards her recovery, but to go back to a place run by such a weird creepy bloke is simply bonkers.
Keanu/doctor/therapist/perv/cult leader is seen as radical because he says the word ‘fuck’ a few times. ‘Tell those negative thoughts to fuck off’ he says. So insightful and professional. Then he basically tells her to grow up and get over it, she goes away and has her little epiphany and then realises he’s right. The guy who thinks he can cure eating disorders by taking them to dance in some fake rain, is ‘right’ all along. She should’ve reported him, or at least gone to another clinic.
But then, the boy was there. Prince Charming. The pompous British twat who came on to her but then instantly body shamed her when she said no. The one who tried to force-feed her chocolate. The one who sat on a tree branch in her epiphany dream – the bit where she was dressed up like some kind of born again Christian angel virgin and he made everything all better by telling her she was pretty. Couldn’t the stepsister have been sitting on that branch with her, Ellen wearing her usual clothes? Can she not take steps to recovery without there being a man there to help, and without having to wear less eyeliner?
Then there was the mother and the moon. That strange, inappropriate feeding bit where her mother cradled her like a baby. I can see the theory behind that and it was nice to have a slight resolution to their seemingly turbulent relationship, but…really? And the moon…God knows. For a character who didn’t seem remotely spiritual, this ending was a little bit of a stretch for me. But the point is, she reaches the stage where she decides to follow the path to recovery. The intentions are good overall, and above all it’s a dialogue opener.
The strength of the film was certainly in it’s strong female characters and family dynamic, showing how eating disorders effect the whole family. I hope this movie helps people learn a little more about an under-represented topic in film and will open conversations about eating disorders and how we can help people and families affected.
If you or someone you know is affected by an eating disorder, here are some recommended websites:
A note about triggering
BEING TRIGGERED IS NOT A WEAKNESS. If you’re the sort of person who mocks people for being triggered by things they watch or read, or uses the term ‘snowflakes’, you need to take a serious look at what kind of person you are. You wouldn’t laugh if that person was a relapsed drug addict, or if somebody had an injury which flared up. It proves how we don’t take mental health seriously enough as a society. Many people have mental health problems or are sensitive because of bad experiences in their lives. If you’re lucky enough not to have this problem then please recognise that not everyone is the same. It is not cool to laugh at somebody who is upset about something. It shows a lack of empathy, and that frankly you’re just a dick.
Be excellent to each other!
There’s a new feminist controversy in town. It’s called The Red Pill - a documentary by Cassie Jaye about Men’s Rights Activism. You don’t need to have watched the documentary to read this (it’s not a review), but please be aware that this post contains triggering subjects.
If you’re not familiar with Men’s Rights Activism you’d be led to believe from their name that they fight for rights for men. This is what The Red Pill documentary focusses on, and the men interviewed certainly make some valid points. However, despite the documentary being two hours long, it managed to miss out A LOT of what MRA’s actually do, and I mean A LOT.
Let’s start at the beginning – my beginning at least. I first stumbled upon the manophere a few years ago when I came across some articles by a man named Matt Forney:
I soon strayed onto A Voice for Men - a website set up by Paul Elam who is one of the most ‘famous’ members of the MRA community who features prominently in The Red Pill documentary.
Wikipedia defines Gynocentrism as ‘a dominant or exclusive focus on women in theory or practice; or to the advocacy of this. Anything can be considered gynocentric when it is concerned exclusively with a female (or specifically a feminist) point of view.’
Paul Elam once wrote the following in an article on A Voice for Men:
“And the women who drink and make out, doing everything short of sex with men all evening, and then go to his apartment at 2:00 a.m.. Sometimes both of these women end up being the “victims” of rape. But are these women asking to get raped? In the most severe and emphatic terms possible the answer is NO, THEY ARE NOT ASKING TO GET RAPED.
They are freaking begging for it.
Damn near demanding it.”
This has since been taken down, with an explanation criticizing the media for quoting this as an example of ‘typical’ MRA views.
Then I found Roosh V. He's not in The Red Pill, probably because he says he’s not an MRA, he’s a ‘neomasculinist’ (a term I think he made up himself to feel special). Reggie Yates made an interesting BBC documentary series, one episode of which featured Roosh (no longer available on iPlayer but on YouTube here). Roosh is a Pick Up Artist (these are sometimes called PUA’s) and he’s written numerous books, most of which have the word ‘Bang’ in them (eg ‘Day Bang’, ‘Bang Poland’, ‘Bang Ukraine’ and simply ‘Bang’).
He has written so many awful articles, such as the one above, that I could write a long post on him alone (not that I’d want to give him that much attention). A lot of MRA’s are internet trolls only interested in promoting their websites and books. One of Roosh’s worst articles is called ‘How to stop rape’ – sounds ok at first, right? Wrong…
“I thought about this problem and am sure I have the solution: make rape legal if done on private property. I propose that we make the violent taking of a woman not punishable by law when done off public grounds.” – Roosh V, ‘How to stop rape’
Roosh owns Return of Kings which is similar site to Paul Elam’s A Voice for Men ie it’s run by men who say they support men’s rights but instead dedicate most their time to slagging off women. It’s a shame their energy isn’t resulting in anything constructive towards the men rights they all supposedly believe in. Paul Elam’s ‘Activism’ page was empty last time I looked.
The Return of Kings website has posts like ‘How feminism wrecked the social contract between the sexes’ - (I’m not going to link to these articles as I don’t want to give them the traffic) – this includes a horrendous video of ‘women getting hit back’ and outlines how things would be better if men were more masculine and women just stuck to being pretty and told what to do.
In a world where almost all terrorists and mass shooters are male, I don’t think ‘being more masculine’ is the solution to this somehow.
Return of Kings also has an article called ‘8 ways to spot a transsexual’ where they say:
‘It’s cross-dressing men who are so mentally ill that they think they’re women.’
There's a funny irony to their transphobia. The term ‘the red pill’ is explained by Paul Elam in the documentary as being from the film The Matrix - you take the red pill to 'wake up' to reality. However, on his site A Voice for Men it says:
‘…the entire notion of a red pill that can make one return to reality/sanity comes from the movie Total Recall of 1990, not The Matrix that came out nine years later.’
This change is of course nothing to do with the fact that The Matrix is made by the Wachowski’s – two now transgender women. Of course it's nothing to do with that. Sure.
My worry is that people watching The Red Pill documentary with no prior knowledge of the manosphere will take it at face value. The points made in the documentary are not untrue – they discuss male domestic abuse survivors, fathers rights, male suicide rates – all of them a cause for concern. But MRA’s are not tackling these issues in the most constructive way, they’re blaming women instead. Many MRA’s seem obsessed with destroying feminists – the ones who are supposedly stealing their rights. It’s as if they think there’s only enough power for one certain set of people – predominately straight white men, ie THEM.
If they were so passionate, surely they would be running campaigns and setting up charities to help men in these situations. Through my research, I haven’t seen much evidence of them trying to change things for the better. If there were some constructive projects to help men’s mental health to help reduce the suicide rate, or help men affected by domestic violence, then I think many feminists (such as myself) would want to help. But they seem to write these things that purposely provoke feminists to get a reaction. Then when they get angry responses, they can say 'oh look at all these angry crazy feminiazi's, we were right.' It's a manipulative game they're playing and many feminists are falling right into the trap.
Despite Cassie Jaye interviewing a lot of people for The Red Pill, the bulk of the air time was given to the MRA’s. The few feminists were not portrayed well. Take for instance ‘Big Red’ – she’s the one with the bright red hair in the memes shouting ‘patriarchy’ and telling people to ‘shut the fuck up’. She's become the poster girl ‘feminazi’ it seems, when she’s actually just one person who was very angry in that moment. But she certainly didn’t deserve all the trolling, including rape and death threats, from MRA’s:
“In about 12-24hours, I got about400-500 new messages on my blog, most of them hate, which included rape and death threats, also people wishing death upon me or the typical troll “kill yourself” message. They made a meme of me.” - Big Red, We Hunted the Mammoth
There’s no doubt the documentary swings in favour of the MRA’s, despite Cassie Jaye insisting that she wanted it to be ‘fair and balanced’. Due to lack of funding when making the film, she started a Kickstarter campaign, which was promoted by general douche-bag Milo Yiannopoulos in a Breitbart article. So the film was funded largely by Men’s Rights Activists, plus some of the producers are in fact MRA’s too. Balanced...? My arse.
Mike Cernovich is one of The Red Pill's associate producers. He sees Donald Trump as a ‘kindred spirit’ and he supported Gamergate – a movement which involved the severe online abuse of female video gamers. He Tweeted such things as ‘who cares about breast cancer and rape? Not me’ and admits to using online trolling to promote his brand.
And here's Cassie Jaye - the documentary maker - hanging out with Matt Forney...
'Balanced' isn't even close.
I can’t believe in a whole 2 hour documentary about the manophere there wasn’t a single mention of the words ‘feminazi’ or ‘game’. These are two terms so widely used by MRA’s – the first referring to feminists being just like Nazi’s (because they're just like them), and the second referring to the art of picking up women. Now, this is where it can get confusing as there are Pick Up Artists (PUA’s) and MRA’s (and there’s also MGTOW – Men Going Their Own Way) and there is conflict between the groups but it’s too long and arduous to get into. The PUA’s, like Roosh V, seem to be the main teachers of ‘game’ by which they rate women on a scale of 1 to 10 on their attractiveness.
Roosh V has an online forum, but another popular hangout is Reddit. Neither are very nice places to be. There are sprawling threads about the 'red pill' theory, about how to get women, about hating feminists and about how to be more masculine and dominant (with threads like 'how to get a body which attracts women' - masculine body standards can seem as harsh as women's at times) , and of course politics.
“You could have a wife that does whats she's told when she's told if we had governments that gave men the power in the relationship which is natural in nature as men are stronger and smarter. What we need is a government that enforces men to be men and women to be women.” – commenter on Reddit.
There are sad comments too, by which I mean you can almost feel sorry for them. Lonely guys who just want to get a girlfriend. Guys who are so bitter about women it makes you wonder how much they've been hurt by women in their own lives. These men have been fucked over by the patriarchy as much as women have. Striving for such a high standard of masculinity means some men are even considering suicide. The overwhelming thing I found when reading these comments, and from watching The Red Pill, is that these men are hurting. Some of them seem like they’ve had relationship or family issues which have been traumatic, but due to the sigma around men asking for help they’ve not been able to work through these issues in a healthy way. They desperately need gender equality as much a feminists do. They’re looking for a supportive community in which to heal themselves, but they’re in a world where blame is offered as the answer.
I have concerns about the younger or more vulnerable men entering the manosphere. The MRA’s now are teaching the next generation that you get your way by calling people names, trolling on Twitter, and using anger to get what they want instead of peaceful conversations. It’s the anger and difficulties that young men face now that lead them to violent behaviour, not just towards others but to themselves. It probably won’t be Paul Elam or any of the men in The Red Pill that rape women or walk into a school and kill a bunch of kids, it’ll be the men they influence.
When the US President says things like ‘grab her by the pussy’, these violent, misogynist views are being justified. We’re living in a world potentially even more dangerous for women than it already has been. These men on the internet are scared of never getting laid, whereas women are scared men will rape them.
Hate speech is becoming a more normal way to communicate. You only have to type feminism into YouTube and there are pages of ‘feminist fails’ videos with awful, hateful comments all over them:
If you need any more proof that The Red Pill documentary presents a very limited view, there’s a Trump supporter feed about Netflix refusing to stream it, with slagging off Orange is the New Black/Dear White People and other shows because they’re ‘too PC’.
We are never going to be able to communicate effectively through hateful comments on YouTube videos or by ranting on a red pill thread on Reddit. Or ranting in a feminist group on Facebook for that matter.
‘Free speech’ is often the go-to argument used by MRA's, but it’s used to shut down any opinions they don’t agree with. Basically, free speech only applies to them. It’s incredibly hard to know how we can have a successful dialogue with these men. They see masculinity as the epitome of everything wonderful. Maybe we need to call on other men to help us, to show that they can still be a ‘real man’ by being kind, compassionate and respectful. We can also help by keeping calm and not falling for their bait on social media. We should try not to stereotype people but also not to live up to our own stereotypes. Feminists have every right to be angry, they’ve been treated like shit by a lot of people and still continue to be, but being the aggressive, ranty feminist is only going to prove the MRA’s right.
It’s harder for somebody to be mean if you’re kind to them. It’s like when working in customer service if a customer is angry – if you remain calm and smile it’s more likely to calm them down. This may not work online so well but it's worth a try. Something bland can work too eg 'I'm sorry you feel that way' (you of course don't have to be sorry!)
Otherwise, maybe just reply with a cute cat GIF.
Alternatively, the benefit of the internet is - you don’t have to reply. There will be times when you can choose not to engage. Save yourself time and stress, choose to turn off and maybe go and read a book or something instead.
It seems MRA’s and feminists are going around in circles. MRA’s are blaming feminists for apparently blaming men. These blame cycles are not getting anyone anywhere. We can all help by trying to communicate online in a non-aggressive way. I work for a relationship counselling charity and was struck by something one of our therapists said about the state of politics at the moment – the opposing sides are like a bickering couple that can’t communicate without shouting. It feels like a similar relationship between feminists and MRA’s. Communicating online is so tough as we can’t sense the persons tone or see their body language. It means things can often be taken the wrong way.
It seems silly to say ‘don’t be mean,’ but seriously – don’t be a dick. You may think calling someone a ‘fat fuck’ is a joke, but most people probably wouldn’t find that very funny. Think about what you hope to achieve from your words. Overall, I think most people want others to see things from their point of view, in which case you especially should be nice! If trying to engage, using ‘I’ statements might help eg ‘I feel’ instead of ‘you made me feel like’ – this can help someone understand your experience without accusing them and making them feel attacked.
Try to focus on your goal and what you can do to help (as I’m attempting to do now at the end of this post!) Try to be aware of what you don’t know. Sounds ridiculous I know, but we only see the world from our own tiny perspective. We have no idea what people we speak to online were been doing earlier in the day. We don’t know if they just had an argument with their partner, if they have a stressful job or if they have a mental health issue. We only feel the weight of our own hardships. Until we can take steps to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, to learn enough humility to consider that others have had a different/worse experience than our own, we won’t be able to move forward. That’s the brilliant thing about our brains, we can learn and rewire the way we think. To change your mind shows at least you’ve opened your perspective enough to see another way.
“You must be the change you want to see in the world.”
Kindness is so hard to teach. I’m not claiming to know how to resolve these huge conflicts but I know that fighting each other is an old, out-dated technique. It’s time we evolved beyond that.
Suggested resources for men and mental health:
CALM – The Campaign Against Living Miserably: https://www.thecalmzone.net/about-calm/what-is-calm/
Fathers for justice - http://www.fathers-4-justice.org/
Men's advice line - http://www.mensadviceline.org.uk/ 0808 801 0327
Samaritans - http://www.samaritans.org/welisten?gclid=CMqXooe-4dQCFZ2p7QodtmkFVw
I've written a short story about a young vulnerable man sucked into the manophere - available to read here.
There have been a few serious attacks in the news recently. It’s hard doing the ‘normal’ adult thing at the moment, just getting up and going to work like it never happened. It’s a strange world we’ve built for ourselves. My thoughts are with the victims and their families and friends, and I’m eternally grateful to our NHS. I appreciate people not wanting to give the attackers airtime, but we need to notice something happening here – most terrorists are men. Need a statistic? Here you go:
“Overwhelmingly, the majority of people arrested for terrorism related offences are male: of the 3,157 people arrested between 11 September 2001 and 31 December 2015, 92% were male.”
- From ‘Terrorism in Great Britain: the statistics - Parliament UK’
I think we need to talk about this, but it’s a hard one to tackle without instantly having to do the who #notallmen thing.
Happy now? MOST terrorists are men. MOST MOST MOST. This is what we see. This is what we know. I am not placing blame, it’s merely an observation and I’m just asking how we can help because somehow we’re failing men.
Recently, one of my favourite comedians got a whole lot of bother on social media for this:
Again – MOST, not all. If you know you’re not one of the men we’re talking about, there’s no need to cause a fuss.
After the attack in Manchester at the Ariana Grande concert, some people said it was purposely targeted at young women. From what I can gather, extremists don’t seem to like empowered young women taking control of their own bodies, so I could understand the logic. Extremists generally seem to want to incite fear and hatred, and want to feel powerful and in control to the point of killing innocent people and often even themselves too.
Then there was the Portland stabbing but that was a white guy so he isn’t called a terrorist of course. He is a white supremacist who doesn’t seem to show any remorse for killing two men (and injuring one) who were standing up for two women on a train.
‘Famous’ Men’s Rights Activist Paul Elam was quick to start the victim blaming after the incident:
If you’re unfamiliar with Men’s Right’s Activists (MRA’s), they’re mostly men (#notallmen) and they’re mostly not doing much for men’s rights (#notallMRAs) but instead are mostly trying to take down feminists (how many more times can I use the word ‘mostly’?) The thing is, I agree with some of the things they’re supposedly concerned about – father’s rights, domestic violence against men, high male suicide rates, to name a few. It’s just unfortunate that so many of them seem to be horribly racist, sexist and homophobic. They seem to dislike anyone who isn’t a straight white man. This is only based on my short ventures into the ‘manosphere’ (a general name for the men’s rights online community), so I realise it’s from my limited perspective. If you are an MRA and you have a campaign you’d like us to join to legitimately help men’s rights, then do come forward. Many women might be happy to help you out.
I have to protect myself from going too far down the terrifying rabbit hole known as the manosphere. There’s so much hatred there. But I’ve been trying to understand masculinity and how men are becoming so angry they’ll stab people on trains, blow themselves up or drive vans into crowds. Not forgetting, killing themselves too. The male suicide rate in the UK is three times the female rate.
Maybe gender expectations are one of the roots of the problem. I might be seen as too compassionate but I’d rather try to understand why these men have such a lot of anger. In my experience of Men’s Rights Activists online, they seem bitter and hurt and are looking to provoke people, especially feminists, into saying something horrible to them. When people retaliate, it then proves their point. It proves their ‘free speech’ argument right, validating their view that they’re the real victims, hence making them even more pissed off about it all.
However, maybe they are the victims. Maybe they’re victims of a society that tells men not to show emotion. We tell boys not to cry. We tell them to be strong and tough. We teach them that anger is the only acceptable emotion. They have to play with boy toys which are often more violent than girls toys (but girls have equally damaging gender role expectations in a different way). They’re taught to ‘man up’ to deal with their problems. They’re taught that asking for help is a weakness, and that kindness and compassion are girly and weak traits.
Men need gender equality just as much as women, sometimes I think even more so. ‘Feminism’ is a tricky word now because MRA’s see feminists as being cruel and angry, which some of them are. They’re pissed off from a lifetime of living by the rules of the patriarchy so I can see why, but it’s no excuse to be hateful. However, there are a lot of feminists, like me, who think feminism means the same as gender equality. It’s just a word anyway, what matters is the intention behind it.
These men, so unhappy with the imbalance of the world, are affected by the same patriarchal society that feminists are so unhappy about too. If there was just a way for there to be a compassionate, understanding dialogue between the two groups, we might find a way forward. But both sides are firmly in their opposing online worlds, having their own little bickering sessions amongst themselves. Feminists are arguing over who can be the best feminist (and over what the word actually means for that matter) and MRA’s are too busy having competitions about how masculine they can be (they have a whole Alpha/Beta thing going on).
And through just literally typing that last sentence, I realise how ironic that is.
It seems like gender equality is treated as a luxury, but it’s really becoming a necessity now. People are dying, and that’s not solely the fault of toxic masculinity of course, but surely there’s no harm in giving it a go. Gender roles aren’t helping anyone now and it’s time we moved on. We need to break the rules around conforming to be a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’. Just whatever you like. You don’t have to name it and you don’t have to justify yourself to anyone.
We need an injection of empathy and compassion now. We need to try to stop placing blame and focus on what we can do, as individuals, to be kinder. Blaming Muslims or immigrants isn’t getting us anywhere. Terrorist attacks happen in the name of religion only in the minds of the attackers, but the basis of most religions is to be kind, forgiving and generally just don’t kill each other. It’s the person that kills people, not the religion. Often terrorists are quite young men who have been susceptible to radicalisation. We need to think about why they’re drawn into that in the first place and why they decided to become violent, unlike all the millions of other Muslims who don’t.
Thinking about it, they might not be too different from the Men’s Rights Activists or white supremacists who attack innocent people on trains, or storm into schools with guns. Despite being the opposite type of extremists, both are angry at the world. Angry at people for treating them badly maybe? Angry for not having the power and control they think they deserve. I doubt whether these men had been shown another way to channel that anger.
The man who stabbed people on a train in Portland was said to have mental health problems. I’ve personally never seen this same consideration for Muslim terrorists. We need more provision for mental health services, but we also need to help break down the stigma around asking for help. If there is more acceptance around men showing emotion, there could be a chance of helping men who may want to hurt themselves or others.
Kindness and be learned in the same way hatred can be. Our brains can always adapt, it just takes that initial push to start trying to see another perspective. We’re not going to solve the problems in society quickly, or indeed at all, but we can try to make a kinder, non-judgmental, equal world for the generations to come.
I wrote a short story called ‘Manosphere’ about a young man sucked into the MRA community – it’s free to read HERE if you’d like to.
Stay safe. Be kind.
Slimming World have a tendency to post flyers in the run up to Summer to remind everyone to feel guilty about having a good time.
Not today, Slimming World. You don't get to post stuff like this through my letterbox now and get away with it.
So I've re-written one of their flyers.
This is what was originally posted through my door. Made to look like a clever little postcard. Oh the LOLs.
But it's ok, I fixed it:
Fuck Slimming World and their 'syns'. Have a lovely, guilt-free Summer.
Follow me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/melciavucco/
Here’s your inevitable trigger warning, and of course it contains spoilers too. I have a recorded version of this (slightly different but same sort of thing) on my podcast – on SoundCloud here.
I just finished watching 13 Reasons Why on Netflix. Oh. My. God. We need to talk about this show.
This is a really important TV series. It made me emotional. It made me cry. It made me feel down, but it was worth it. I was careful not to read anything about 13RW until I finished, so it was only then I discovered the backlash. I’d like to go through the negative comments and explain my take on them. Who am I? No expert, but I have a little insight. I work for a mental health organisation, am a screenwriter (a wannabe at least) and I was bullied at school (though it was before the days of social media so I guess I had it easy in comparison).
Here are some of the negative responses I’ve come across so far:
‘Hannah is selfish and is overreacting’
If this is truly the way you think, please read up a little bit about depression and mental health issues. This is a very uncompassionate, selfish view to take, anchored in your own limited perspective. Where is your empathy? This view belittles her feelings and defeats the main points of the show. Hannah became so isolated that she felt nobody could help her and her life was empty. This was the result of the behaviour of people at school, but also because of bigger issues in our society of rape culture, gender inequality and sexism.
13RW is a statement on how mental health in teenagers, teenage girls in this case, isn’t taken seriously. If you think Hannah was selfish you might be the sort of person that thinks girls lie about rape or suicidal thoughts ‘for attention’, in which case you are part of the problem. Even if someone takes their own life ‘for attention’, they still made that choice so it’s almost irrelevant. It’s a cry for help, often too late. To think that girls are overly sensitive and emotional proves our social issue around kindness and empathy being weak traits.
'Helplines have got busier'
“The Australian youth mental health service for 12–25 year-olds, Headspace, issued a warning in late April 2017 over the graphic content featured in the series due to the increased number of calls to the service following the show's release in the country.” - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/13_Reasons_Why#Reception
GOOD! If someone watches 13RW and makes a call to tell someone they were thinking about killing themselves, that’s one life that could be saved. If this show is making people speak out, how can that be a bad thing?
‘It never used the words mental health or depression’
Writers are told to ‘show and don’t tell’. 13RW relies on the audience to be able to recognise that Hannah’s mental health problems without the writers having to spell it out. Sometimes certain words can put people off if it seems like buzzwords or jargon. For instance, saying rape culture, feminism, heteronormative, might alienate some audience members. Feminism has a bad reputation (I don’t agree with that, I’m just sharing what I see all the time online). To make a TV show which demonstrates feminist issues instead of using words which might put people off is a powerful and influential way of telling a story. After all, if you’re going to raise awareness and change minds, you need to write in a way your audience can understand.
‘It glamorises suicide’
Oh, like Trainspotting glamorised heroin? I was teenager when that came out and the last thing it made me want to do was take heroin. In fact, it put me off taking drugs altogether. That had more of an impact than any anti-drugs talks at school.
Often female suicide scenes in films are a little too beautiful, but Hannah’s death is realistic and painful, harsh and brutally permanent.
Some schools in the US have sent emails to parents warning them about the show. Do adults know nothing about young people? I’m not even that young any more but it’s pretty obvious if you make a big deal out of something and tell kids not to watch something, they will find a way. That’s what I did with Trainspotting. Just accept that they’re going to watch it, and talk about it.
‘Hannah could’ve done more’/’Clay was there for her all along’
Hannah’s mental health problems got so severe that she didn’t have any energy to ask for any more help. People around her couldn’t recognize that there was a problem, much like many viewers of the show it seems. It’s sad that a lot of the events leading up to her death aren’t seen as anything unusual. This is how normal sexist behaviour has become. Hannah had a picture taken and shared without her consent, then put on the ‘hot list’, and then she was assaulted in public (when Bryce grabs her bum). I’m sure any girls would be familiar with these types of things, but it’s not normal. It’s not acceptable behaviour, and it should be passed off just because it happens a lot. That’s all the more reason to stop tolerating this kind of behaviour now.
In terms of Clay, Hannah was not going to be saved by a love story. We have a major problem in our society with the ‘happy ending.’ The problem with most happy endings is that the heteronormative monogamous relationship, between two young people who stay married forever, is the epitome of perfect. We know it doesn’t always work exactly like that in real life, but we still hold it as the ideal. I bet a lot of viewers were hoping Hannah was just hiding somewhere, then Clay could save her and they’d run off into the sunset together. Happy endings give us unrealistic expectation of love, relationships, gender roles and happiness. Love does not equal happiness. How can a TV show which demonstrates the need to tackle rape culture and suicide be criticised more than the heteronormative, patriarchal rom-coms with thin, pretty women pandering to men? These films only add to the pressure on young people.
Sometimes we have to watch something a little more challenging than a rom-com, otherwise we’ll never learn anything.
‘It says the other characters should blame themselves for Hannah’s death’
Many of the characters blame themselves but that’s part of their grieving process. I think the show is saying that schools can do better. That we – society - can do better. As Clay says, we all need to be kinder, not necessarily in a make-everyone-a-cup-of-tea sort of way (though wouldn’t that be nice) but rather try to understand why other people feel the way they do. Step into their shoes. This is compassion. There’s no harm in giving it a try.
‘There are too many high school tropes’
Jocks, cheerleaders, nerds – as a screenwriter I’d be quick to point out stereotypical, overused characters in a high school drama. However, it could have been done on purpose in 13RW to demonstrate how normalised their behaviour is. It holds a mirror up to society and shows us what we’ve become. The jocks rule the roost in American schools it seems, and we’ve got our equivalent in the UK. Everyone knows you need to at least try to be on the good side of the bullies or popular kids in order to survive school, which is why it’s hard to stand up to guys like Bryce. He’s the epitome of what our society sees as perfect masculinity – rich, white and powerful. Men like him grow up to be men like Donald Trump, and it’s clear there’s a lot of people who like him and his ‘locker room talk’. This has to change.
‘It's not realistic’
Despite the backlash, there are a lot of reviewers and people on social media saying how much the show had moved them and how they can relate to Hannah, I certainly can and it’s been quite a long time since I was at school! When Hannah said ‘but you’ve never been a girl’, it really stuck with me. 13RW is a harsh but true depiction of what can happen to young women growing up in a culture of objectification, toxic masculinity and rape culture. There are unfortunately too many Bryce’s in the world – rich white men, often athletes - protected because they’re at the top of the power food chain.
‘It's oversimplified – “be kind” doesn’t save lives’
True, but when Clay says ‘ we need to be kinder to each other’ I didn’t take that to mean ‘kindness can cure depression and stop people from killing themselves’ but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. People choose to take their own lives because of mental health issues, but there are factors in our society which are not helping. Rape culture ie normalised objectification, sexism, power over women, slut shaming, masculinity standards. We dismiss misogynistic behaviour as ‘boys will be boys’/’bro code’/’locker room talk’. We teach boys that being kind and compassion is weak, that they must hide their emotions and ‘man up.’
If you look at most of the terrorists and mass shooters in the world, not a lot of them are women. With the message that emotion and empathy equal weakness, it’s not hard to see why.
Hannah is a demonstration of what could happen to girls growing up in a society of gender expectations and judgementalism. It’s a hard-hitting show because it has to be. People have been talking and writing about rape culture, consent and gender inequality for a long time but people weren’t listening. It’s taken a brutally harsh TV show to make the world sit up and take notice.
13RW was hard to watch because it’s talking about the very things we want to pretend don’t exist. It forces us to notice. This is the power of storytelling. It has started a dialogue and might help chip away at the shame and stigma we’ve built up around such subjects.
We need to listen to young people, many of them are loving the show. Instead of focussing on the suicide, focus on the reasons why – this is the point of the show after all. It makes no sense that everyone’s talking about the suicide, yet not about the gender inequalities which led to it. Instead of protecting people from seeing rape and suicide because it makes them feel uncomfortable, think about what we can do to address the issues which make girls like Hannah want to end their own lives.
13RW is a demonstration of the issues girls face simply for being female, and the expectation of boys to be more powerful, strong, and less emotional. For us to help, we need to not focus on protecting people from seeing suicide in a TV show, but rather break down gender rules and create a kinder, more balanced environment for everybody based on empathy and compassion.
If you or someone you know is feeling low, take steps to find help. I work for a mental health organisation and many people tell me ‘I can’t call Samaritans, that’s just for when you want to kill yourself’ but that’s not true. Don’t wait until it gets to crisis point. Everyone needs to ask for help in their lives. We need to be kind and have compassion for others, but for ourselves too.
Samaritans: phone 116 123
Recommended further reading - a brilliant article about gender equality by my good friend Natalie Bennett, one of the founders of TIGER Bristol: http://www.teachwire.net/news/tackling-gender-roles-will-increase-student-happiness-in-school-and-beyond
Just a quick post to thank all the wonderful women who inspire me, and also to mention my new post on my other blog page (silly me I posted it in the wrong place. God knows why I have two blog pages really, but hey). It's about how much I hate Fifty Shades of Grey. Read it here - Fifty Shades of...No. Just No.
Here's my pick of a few awesome women who have inspired me...
Sofie Hagan and Deborah Frances-White (The Guilty Feminist Podcast)
Kathleen Hanna from Bikini Kill, Le Tigre, The Julie Ruin
Skin from Skunk Anansie
And finally.... my mum.
My mum is ace.
Happy International Women's Day!!
I went to the London Women’s March on 21st January 2017 and it was bloody amazing. Millions of people marched, in countries all over the world, and I’ve yet to hear of any violence or arrests. We made history that day.
People asked if it was an anti-trump march – he’s already President, so what’s the point? For me, it wasn’t about protesting or sending a message to Trump. He’s probably going to deny this happened, or he’ll lie about it. My concern is what Trump being voted in says about our world today. We’ve been told for a while that women are equal and we don’t need feminism anymore, blah blah blah… but this shows we do. A man who said ‘grab her by the pussy’ is now president. People voted that man to be the president. What does that say about the majority of people? All the awful things he said about women have now been validated and normalised.
With the racism that followed Brexit, and then Trump, I started to lose faith in humanity. It sometimes seems like everyone hates anybody who isn’t ‘normal.’ I can only presume their ‘normal’ means white and a man.
I’d had enough of the hate, bullying, trolling and online abuse, intolerance, and the ‘teasing’ (bullying disguised as something supposedly funny) going on all over the world. Trump was the final straw for me, and seemingly for many others too. The march was to tell the world that hate speech is not acceptable. There is nothing wrong with being kind - it doesn’t make you weak. It doesn’t make you less of a man. Why can’t we just be nice to each other, for goodness sake?
The Women’s March was peaceful, friendly and kind. There weren’t crowds of angry ‘feminazi’s’, but there certainly weren’t any fragile ‘special snowflakes’. People of all genders and all ages (even dogs too) came together to march in solidarity to tell the world that this is not ok. This kind of hate is not normal. The right for everyone to be treated equally is not a radical notion, it's just basic morals. Being accepting and kind to all different people is not a 'luvie lefty' thing, it should be standard practice for all human beings. We're all humans, we're all different, deal with it.
I want to thank all people of ALL genders for going to the march, because it’s important to remember that not all women have a vagina. Thank you to the trans people who marched, the people of colour, the disabled people, to LGBTQ+ people, to EVERYONE. I have a little more faith in humanity because of you. To those who couldn’t march for whatever reason, but supported us in your own way, I thank you too. I was stopped by three men on my way to the coach station in London who wanted to talk about the march and had wanted to go but had to work. Just their interest and kindness was enough. There were people who maybe couldn’t march due to illness or disability, or because of anxieties caused by crowds – probably many other reasons that I’m not even aware of too. I was nervous at the thought of being in such a large crowd, it’s a scary thing. So however you supported the march, thank you.
I felt safe and supported in that crowd of 100,000 people, which I never thought I’d say. I hope everyone else did too. I can’t speak for people in minority groups, but I hope you felt safe, included and accepted.
It was amazing to be part of such a huge movement, millions of people all over the world marching together peacefully. For the first time in a while, I am proud to be a human being.
Keep being kind. Compassion is not a weakness.
To read (or listen to) the full version of #WhyIMarch, click here.
There is an audio version of this if preferred - here.
I’m a feminist but…when my friend invited me along to the Women’s March on 21st Jan 2017 in London, I said ‘8.30am coach? But that’s so early!’ Of course I said yes straight after, but I’ll admit I have been quite the armchair activist so far. I’d write a few satirical stories for my podcast, bust out a few blog posts hoping that somehow some people will read them. Maybe satire is dying now… it can’t be funny if it’s coming true, right? I think people underestimate the power of writers in our society. People watch hours of TV every day. We consume so much media even just through our phones. Films, written largely by men, tell us what our happy endings should look like. Our brains gobble up all this information, which determines how we perceive the world and people around us, and sometimes it’s really not a great influence. Misogyny, objectification and patriarchy are so normal we barely even question them. Yet the world also tells us that there’s no need to fight for women’s rights anymore because we can vote now, right? We are allowed to have jobs and reproduce at the same time! As long as we make sure we’re still pretty whilst we’re doing it all, that is.
If you ever needed proof that sexism still exists today, and gender equality is needed more than ever - an old, racist, sexist, orange-faced ball of raging testosterone will soon be the most powerful man in the world.
But surprisingly, I feel quite positive. Knowing there are marches happening all over the world on 21st January gives me so much hope and strength. I’ve never been to a march before, but I’m so glad to be going to this one. I have a feeling history is going to be made that day.
For me, this isn’t protesting against Donald Trump, it’s about people making a stand together to support gender equality and diversity. I was maybe living in a bubble where I thought the world was becoming less sexist, but the amount of people who voted for Trump proved me wrong – particularly all the women who supported him. Feminists can be any gender, and misogynists can too.
This is our chance to show the people who think modern day feminism is a waste of time that we can unite, regardless of our gender, race or class. I don’t want to see feminists fighting against each other anymore, I want to see us work together for the greater good. I’ve been part of online feminist groups which have been so hostile and full of fights, long bickering threads misinterpreting each other as tensions run high. We’re all angry and upset, but we need to put our energy to good use instead of turning against each other. That’s just what men like Donald Trump want, he wants people to hate each other instead of blaming the rich, greedy old white men at the top like him.
I’ll admit I’m a bloody awful feminist at times, but I’m learning and trying to keep an open mind. I admit I used to criticise Beyoncé’s brand of feminism (as self-objectification to sell music) but I’m not going to anymore. I’ll try not to judge anyone who says they believe in gender equality, because they’re trying to do something positive in their own way. To be honest, there are bigger fish to fry. We have to pick our battles. None of us are perfect feminists. This is our opportunity to stop arguing about the most recent slip-up Lena Dunham made, or criticising each other on incorrect terms we might accidentally use, or judging what level of feminism somebody is at. For the march, let’s put it all aside and agree on one thing: Donald Trump is a massive fuckwit.
Why I march is to try to bring feminism back together. Where the expert 'good' feminists and the 'baby' feminists can unite for a greater cause. To let passion and kindness unite us and channel that energy into what we all fundamentally want – to all be treated like human fucking beings. I march because I want to live in a world where people are allowed to have empathy and compassion without being seen as weak. I march for a world where having emotions is seen as a strength of humanity, and where men are allowed to embrace them too. I march for a world where the pressure to be powerful and rich isn’t as important as being kind, where we can say what we feel without being called loopy lefties or special snowflakes. Caring about the world should not have to take such courage. Being yourself should not have to be so hard. Showing compassion towards others is not a political act, it’s called being a decent person.
I’m marching because I want everyone to be allowed to have their differences without being judged or bullied, for everyone to respect each other regardless of where they’re from, what they look like, what colour their skin is, whatever their gender or sexuality.
Saturday 21st Jan could mark the start of something amazing. Our strength will come from a union of compassion and empathy with our fellow human beings. Let’s show the world how awesome we can be. This is our time to shine.
So you saw a meme, like this one for instance:
And you tagged your mate, Luke, just for LOLs. Nice one.
So what would you say if I asked you WHY it’s funny? Posts like these have thousands of likes, tags and shares. Why? Here’s what I think the honest reason would be – you think she’s fat and ugly. How embarrassing for Luke to be associated with such a fat ugly woman! How humiliating!
You may think what’s the problem? It’s just a bit of a laugh.
Wrong. You are part of the online bullying epidemic, congratu-fucking-lations.
Who made you the God of knowing what’s funny? You think it’s fine, therefore it is. Anyone showing emotion is obviously weak and stupid. But by saying they should ‘get a sense of humour’, what you’re actually saying is ‘I’m right and you’re wrong’ and taking away the right for them to show emotion. People are allowed to be upset about things – we’re human, it happens.
Let’s not pretend this isn’t part of a much bigger picture. It’s not just the memes, this is happening in school playgrounds, in workplaces, even on the street. But if anyone speaks out, they’re told it’s ‘banter’, ‘just a joke’. Like casual sexism is ‘just locker-room talk’.
Fuck that. It’s bullying. Let’s stop dressing this up now. By tagging, sharing and liking these memes you’re the same as a bully teasing somebody in the school playground. That somebody may grow up to have a lifelong confidence and self-esteem issues because of you, but that’s ok because you know you were just teasing. You just keep telling yourself that. I’ll keep telling you that you’re encouraging online abuse.
Teasing is bullying in disguise, for cowards who want to pretend they’re not being wankers. I know some tiny part of you knows that, which is probably why you wouldn’t be able to explain exactly why the memes are funny. Would you say that you think disabled people are funny? That you think gay sex is disgusting? That fat women are ugly and repulsive? No, you wouldn’t say that explicitly, but if you joke about it, oh well that’s fine.
These memes are screenshots of a Facebook page called The Asylum. It’s just one of many pages filled with memes like these. They’re rolling in likes, shares and tags galore. It wouldn’t surprise me if they are in fact ‘Like Farming’ (you know the ‘hit like if you hate cancer’ types? They’re racking up their Likes to be able to sell for big bucks. More info on that here: http://daylandoes.com/facebook-like-scams/)
I have tried reporting The Asylum Facebook page but got this (followed by my response):
Then I took their suggestion of going through and finding individual images and reporting them. I reported lots, and each and every one was denied. I guess because the memes don’t explicitly state ‘gay/fat/disabled/trans/ugly people are gross and should be laughed at’ then they’re fine.
But the intention behind the meme is the same.
So maybe there’s nothing Facebook can do about it. Humans are fucking horrible at times but social media is just the platform. So I’m writing this to you. YOU individually because you are a human being and have the power to make a difference just by not participating in this.
I was bullied all through school and even at times in my adult life, but this is not my sob story. I was one of the lucky ones. Social media wasn’t around for most of my school days so at least I could get away from my bullies to a certain extent. The ones at school that is, the ones outside of school were often worse. They were the adults who should’ve known better. I didn’t even realise that some of what I encountered was bullying, I’d gotten so used to it though my life. It was so normal. Like it’s normal to post ‘funny’ memes taking the piss out of people who are different to yourself.
As a quiet kid who was scared of a lot of things, I rarely spoke up. When someone joked I had five chins, and I started to cry, they said it was just ‘friendly teasing’ and I should ‘lighten up’. Then I felt stupid. I felt like I’d made a scene, and that I was just weird for not having a sense of humour about it. So I learned to laugh. I laughed with people as they bullied me, I perpetuated my own abuse.
Again, fuck that.
It’s taken too many years for me to learn that this kind of behaviour is not acceptable. I will not watch anyone else get torn apart by what other people class as ‘just teasing’.
The majority of those meme photos are real people, who likely have NOT given their consent for them to be used. Certainly in the case of Lizzie Velasquez (pictured right).
"Lizzie, who was born with a rare disorder that prevents her from gaining weight, said viral memes can leave innocent people with a feeling she 'wouldn't wish on her worst enemy', and added: 'At the end of the day we are all human.' "
We live in a judgmental, discriminatory society which thinks to be fat, trans, disabled, a person of colour, or any kind of ‘different’, is less of a human being. People who do not fit the standard of beauty dictated by the media are deemed sub-par humans. By laughing at any of these people and disguising it as a joke, you are hurting others. If you don’t realise this, you’re being an arrogant selfish, uncompassionate, judgemental arsehole.
Bullying is bullying. You make all the excuses you like, but YOU are making things worse. Take responsibility. Stay the fuck away from memes.
Let’s just start off with a disclaimer – I am not a film reviewer, but if you’re here for a ranty feminist blog then you’re in the right place. I went to the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and saw not nearly as many films as most other people, but I want to have a little rant about one of the films I saw – Carrie Pilby.
This post contains spoilers, but that’s okay because it’s a crap film and you probably shouldn’t watch it anyway. It's plot has been done so many times before, it's nothing new so you won't miss much. This is your typical love story, but more shit. I thought it might have a slightly different ‘quirky-comedy’ edge to it…but no. Not even a decent Romeo and Juliet type… no. It’s Bridget Jones but trying to be quirky, cute and endearing.
Bel Powley stars as Carrie Pilby, a 19 year old smart-arsed posh girl, who I wanted to slap round the face pretty much all the way through the film. The actress herself is great, it’s not her fault the character she played was unrealistic and annoying. Bel Powley in fact starred in one of my favourite films of the last few years – Diary of a Teenage Girl – I suggest you watch that instead of Carrie Pilby!
Carrie continually tells us all through the film how clever she is, and drops in names of pretentious writers whenever she can. If she was really that clever, she wouldn’t act like a befuddled 12 year old all the time. She’s supposed to be socially awkward I think, yet she's confident and always trying to be funny.
So she’s seeing a therapist who is…wait for it…her dad’s friend! Would it really be so hard just to do a tiny bit of research into therapeutic practices? I thought it’d be pretty obvious that you couldn’t have any kind of therapeutic relationship with your dad’s friend. Therapists in films really piss me off. Unless they’re meant to be a bit crap, or an ex-therapist (think Good Will Hunting), then they can get away with it. Therapists do not give people lists of ‘five things to make you happy’…yet this is what he gives to Carrie Pilby. Good job her family is frickin’ rich if that’s all they’re paying him for.
So she goes and buys some goldfish which seems to serve no purpose for the plot other than to make her look irresponsible and stupid. Of course another thing on the list is ‘go on a date.’ Of course. I knew this was mainly what the film was going to be about but I expected something funny about modern dating (watch Fleabag if you’re looking for that sort of thing) but instead I got Snow Frickin’ White.
Hello?! It’s 2016! We don’t need to be rescued anymore. Can we not have a happy ending in a film without the man rescuing the helpless lady?
Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. I told you, it’s a rant. Stay with me.
There’s the guy at work , the hot boy next door (literally), and flashbacks to a fling with her hot teacher at uni who didn’t return a book (this is a major part of the plot…yawn). She of course has daddy issues, because why else would she not be able to get a man, right? Her dad is exactly the kind of posh bloke you’d picture him as, the kind that says ‘darling’ a lot. She acts like a stroppy little bitch all the way through the film, repeatedly telling him that she hates him, until he goes to New York to see her and punches her ex in the face to get the book back (ultra-clever plot point, see?)
So what we have is a very intelligent young woman, who gets rescued by not just one, not two but three men; her dad’s mate the therapist, her dad, and the boy next door who is obviously Prince Charming because he wants to know her middle name. Her intelligence is completely undermined by the message that she is happy and ‘fixed’ because of the men in her life. After years of hating her father she suddenly likes him because he punched somebody. That's messed up. She has an average job which he got for her, and seemingly no ambition to do anything else with her mastermind brain. What the film is saying is, like so many out there, is ‘so what if you’re intelligent - don’t get a career, get a man.’
I’m sorry to take this rant out on Carrie Pilby. It’s based on a book and I mean no disrespect to these writers or filmmakers in particular, as this is a bigger problem in the film industry and the media. Yes, some people like a happy ending, and some people like love stories, but they don’t need to hold these strong patriarchal messages. It’s because of fairy tales like this that people fear being lonely. We are desperate to find ‘the one’ and then stay with that person forever. And if you don’t find that ‘one’, then maybe the world will just implode….
Or maybe you’ll just have a run of interesting relationships and have some good life experiences.
Thankfully, I saw another film at TIFF which provided the depth I was looking for: Blue Jay. It’ll be out on Netflix soon. It’s an interesting relationship drama with believable characters and a lovely balance of poignancy and comedy. There’s no underlying bullshit fairy tale or patriarchal message, and it’s brilliant. It's the kind of honest, realistic relationship drama which I wish I could write. As I was only at TIFF for the second half of the festival, it was the first film I watched, which set the bar really high. It was the best film I saw at the festival, and one of my favourite films this year. The Q&A after the screening with Mark Duplass and Alex Lehmann made it even better - such lovely, appreciative guys! I found it really inspirational (with a touch of jealousy of course!)
I’ll admit I was secretly very glad I watched Carrie Pilby. Why? Because sometimes the stuff I don't like inspires me even more than the stuff I like! Not that I think I can necessarily do better, but it reminds me how much we need new stories and new perspectives. Although I’m inspired by the films I love, I sometimes get a little disheartened (‘I can never write anything as good as that’ – I whinged after Blue Jay) but watching something that really ticks me off reminds me that what I write is so different, and that can only be a good thing.
Whilst in Toronto, I met a guy who ran a shop on Queens Street West (called ‘Original’ – it’s amazing and colourful and amazing!). I bought some fantastic sparkly shoes as a reminder of my time in Toronto, and the inspiration I felt to write my next screenplay. Every time I look at those shoes now I’ll be reminded of that feeling (I hope) and of the lovely guy in the shop. He told me he once had his own TV show and he got out of the business as he wouldn’t sell his soul etc – I realise he may well have been full of shit, especially when he said he was friends with Daryl Hannah, but I didn’t really mind.
He reminded me of the importance of being different, staying true to yourself and telling your own stories. In a world of so limited stories, the only way to really make it feel true is with your own voice and your own experiences. Yours are just as important as everyone else’s and you’ve got to wear them with pride, like I’ll be wearing my sparkly shoes!
Other film recommendations from TIFF 2016:
Christine – Have something cheery ready to watch after this one. It’s a brilliant film with fantastic acting from Rebecca Hall about a news reader who shot herself live on air, and it’s about the events that leads up to her death.
Colossal – Anne Hathaway thinks she’s controlling a monster in South Korea! Original, fun, with interesting characters and darker undertones.