Friday, July 13, 2018

Painfully Rich

So we all know - and don't really believe - that being rich doesn't make you happy, unless, that is, we have been stinking, filthy, "painfully rich" as the condition is described by the the author of the book on the Getty family, on which the 2017 film All the Money in the World is partly based. Only then, it would seem, do we know, especially if we are the heirs to such painful riches, as J.Paul Getty's children and grandchildren were.

But now, with the production at last of this painfully real 'truth inspired' film of the 1973 kidnapping of one of Getty's grandchildren, we, the not painfully stinking, can finally see for ourselves just what BIG money can do to a man and his family.

And so I urge all to see this film, as I have just done, for that reason if no other. Although you won't only come away thinking how much better you feel about not being rich. For the story of how the grandfather, at the time the richest man in the world, refused to pay the ransom money for the safe return of his grandson, and as a result the grandson was kept in near squalor and fear for his life for five months and eventually had his right ear cut off, an ordeal that he never recovered from psychologically and died prematurely no doubt partly as a result of, will also shock you to the core, as seeing is believing - almost - to learn just how ruthlessly arrogant and heartless an insanely money-obsessed man can actually be, as if we needed any more evidence of this, which we don't really.

But the film is also illuminating on a gender front, as the mother of the kidnapped boy, who was just 16 at the time, fights such a valiant and tireless battle against this ruthlessness on behalf of her son, having asked Getty for no money to raise her three children when she was divorced from her husband, Paul Getty Jr, that her lack of greed, humanity and strength, which in the end sees her son finally returned to her, albeit scarred for life, provides a salient and reassuring counter to the man's corrupt, callous heart.

I feel reassured at least. And I wonder how many gender stories of this sort remain out there still untold, it took long enough to tell this one, though it is totally made for film.

When Getty senior died he left not one penny in his will for the kidnapped grandson (though he himself had inherited a business worth 10 million from his father). What a fucking arsehole, even if, in theory at least, he might have been doing the boy a favour. Alas, it was too late for that.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Yes, yes, Nanette (Hannah Gadsby)

'Remarkable', though 'not that funny', according to one male reviewer
Just when I thought I knew all the western cultural heroes who were brazen misogynists, now Picasso must be added to the long list, thanks to Hannah Gadsby's insights on the man and art delivered in her devilishly daring, honest and brilliant Netflix stand-up special Nanette.

But this is not what Nanette is about - misogynist men - at least not mainly. Nanette is a comedy, for starters, if a very new and cutting-edge comedy that stretches the boundaries of traditional stand-up to a new and, I believe, distinctly, if also challenging, feminine shape, or shapes. This is no one-size-fits-all reshaping.

But Nanette is mainly a show about WOMEN, and FUNNY WOMEN more specifically, and funny, lesbian and otherwise "different" women who do not fit nor want to fit the man-made mould of what it is to be a human female in this male dominated and distorted world most specifically.

"Nanette" rejects the mould of female comedy in which women find themselves in a self-deprecating mode in order to get laughs from men as well as those women who, like Hannah previously, are too ashamed to be themselves and own their anger about the way they are judged and abused simply for being women, and especially for being "different" women. Hannah will carry that shame no more and if that means the end of her comedy career then so be it, as she says on stage in a perfectly timed and balanced performance that pulls no punches and is brutally honest, while knocking its audience over by shouting and repeating its rarely spoken, deeply personal and political feminist rage.

And as a woman, a different and funny, if straight woman who has been wrestling with speaking my own feminist truth for decades, and most recently in reaction to an experience on and around the stand-up stage that I believe was seriously sexist and discriminatory towards me as a not young woman, Nanette feels more than timely and gives me strength to continue fighting that battle.

And so I believe this is our time, hers, mine and yours. Women are not only proving we are funny, as so long denied, but we are showing we are funny (and fierce) fighters in a way that male comedians are not and never have been, indeed never have had to be. Seinfeld, for example, has just told Dave Letterman on his show that he has no interest in speaking about Trump in his act, instead he offers twenty minutes on chocolate raisins. Kathy Griffin, on the other hand, did speak out in anger about Trump in her comedy immediately after his election and was exiled from her country for a year for her troubles. Michele Wolf took a similar risk at the White House Correspondents' dinner this year and was pilloried by many in the press, and Chelsea Handler was similarly outspoken about Trump before and after his election. And unable to stomach his outrageous success and stupidity, or to make light of life through humour in the face of it, Chelsea walked away, after only two seasons, from her own show as the first female evening talk show host in the US.

Indeed Hannah says she has to get out of comedy because she is no longer prepared to hide her history of being abused nor the anger and shame she has felt about being a lesbian and a victim all these years, truths that are generally not funny. But with the incredibly positive reaction to her Netflix special worldwide, it is more than likely that Hannah will have a career in the international public eye speaking her hard and not always funny truth for some time, whether we want to call that comedy or not is up to us.

I would like to think that comedy in 2018 and beyond can and will stretch to this sort of very personal and political truth-telling, warts, wounds and all performance. Because as funny as Seinfeld is, or at least was, twenty minutes on raisins by a straight white male comic in the age of Trump, I think says as much about the limits of his kind of comedy going forward as Griffin's daring decapitated head stunt says about the potential of hers and others who work harder and braver to forge the laughs from within the lessons than traditional comics have ever done. And watching Letterman last night, I got the feeling that he saw this in Seinfeld too, as close a friend and fan of Seinfeld's as he is.

So thank you Hannah and Kathy and Michele and Chelsea and others; your (our) time has finally come. Paint that, Picasso. 

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Funny girl?

While the comedian's away (in Australia helping my very old mother recover from a life-threatening hip break and post-op stroke), a man, in the rain, at night, turned up on the doorstep of our house in New Zealand to deliver to my husband a copy of the magazine with this article on me based on an interview I had done several months prior on my new and, at that time, burgeoning career as a stand-up comedian.

NZ Life & Leisure June-July 2018
Life can be funny like that sometimes. Because the day before I got the early morning call from my sister's new boyfriend, who I had never spoken to before, that my mother had had a post-op stroke and was, as we spoke, being rushed across Sydney for an emergency life-saving procedure, I had submitted a 25,000-word gender and age discrimination complaint to the NZ Comedy Guild, in which I allege that my exclusion from the finals of the national Raw Comedy Quest to find NZ's best new comedian was sexist and ageist (an associated form of gender discrimination), and not, as otherwise assumed, due to my lack of comedic ability.

As this formal complaint (yet to be answered by the Guild) has put my comedy career on hold and ostracised me from the NZ comedy community for the foreseeable future, and possibly forever, the title of this much delayed article is now in some serious question, and that's even before we go into any issue that I, or others of the feminist persuasion, might have with the descriptor 'girl' to refer to someone of my vintage.

But the good news is that Mum survived and two weeks later is showing signs of regaining the will to live, something that, after losing almost all her mobility overnight, had all but deserted her. And one of the clearest signs of hope is her ability to make light of and even laugh at her predicament. Finding herself bewildered by the large Italian male nurse's aid asking her, in a thick accent, 'Do you want to move your bowels?', having already christened him 'Hercules', she offered him in response a flirtatious smile and said hopefully: 'You are very strong!' Which, although not exactly answering Hercules' question, provided some light relief to all in the near vicinity, and to Mum when I explained to her the question -- just in time to avoid testing how strong Hercules really was.     

Humour helps, is what I say to this, even when, perhaps especially when, in our darkest and least dignified hours. And so we must fight for our right to make laughter out of the variety of challenging situations that life throws our way, many, if not most, of them long beyond our youth, especially as women.

Mum (in dark blue) and friends, shortly before her fall

Monday, May 28, 2018

When women win

...we all win.

This is my first blog for a while on account of some seriously stinky sexist shit hitting my feminist fan a few weeks ago and making it VERY hard to breathe, much less type.

Also, Blogger decided, roughly at the same time, almost certainly in conspiracy with the sources of that stinky shit, to shut down my access to the function that allows me to see views and post news.

But, as if a lovely little lady leprechaun (leprechauns are supposed to be male and mischievous, but those ones aren't real, not anymore) worked her lovely lady magic to make THIS happen in the land of leprechauns and with it released my airways and fingers -- simply by signing out and in again under another name -- to type back.
The women of Ireland, at long last, deemed to be worth more than the smallest of their parts
The fan shit here still stinks and I am doing what I can elsewhere to clean that mess up -- I will let you know how that goes in due course -- but thanks to the brave women of Ireland who fought for their right to be considered more autonomous and human than a minuscule fertilised egg residing within their own bodies and won, I feel stronger this morning to carry on the fight to prove that I too am more, so much more, than a walking, weeping womb. I can talk and type back, too.


Friday, April 27, 2018

Bigger than Bill (Cosby, Constand and Consent)

Andrea Constand stands strong 
against systematic victim blaming and shaming
'This trial and verdict is bigger than Bill Cosby, it sets the groundbreaking precedent for the standard of consent... 

From opening statements to closing arguments, the defence used tactics of victim blaming and shaming... 

Cosby’s attorney told the jury that Constand’s rape was her fault, declaring that she wasn’t “acting like she was raped”...

These are tactics that are used to intimidate survivors—but Andrea Constand stood strong and was not intimidated.' Carmen Rios, Ms. Magazine

The Guardian describes this long overdue and in many respects unprecedented verdict in the re-trial of comedian Bill Cosby as 'a major milestone in the #MeToo movement against sexual assault', and it would seem that as his previous trial in 2017 prior to the first #MeToo revelations was deemed a mistrial, that without that movement Cosby would likely never have been convicted of sexually assaulting anyone, though he had already admitted in court to drugging women with powerful sedatives in order to prevent them from resisting his sexual advances. 

Six of Cosby's victims in court last year

Still, as it stands for the 80-year old comedian, who has continued to perform until last year, though Constand first came forward with her allegations against him 13 years ago, and by 2015 more than 60 other women had made similar public allegations against him, the decision (by a jury of 7 men and 5 women) that might send him to prison finally is the least the justice system can do to uphold women's human rights against sexual abuse and to deliver the message to boys and men that girls and women are not their sexual play things to be used and abused without punishment.

But it's a bloody good start.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Two Women Leaders and a Baby

April 17, Berlin
It's not often you see two female political leaders side-by-side at a podium, and it's never that you see two female leaders side-by-side at a podium when one of them is pregnant! Indeed it's a wonder this unprecedented event last week did not break the universe, as TV's "Veep" predicted would happen in the US if the president and the veep were to both be women.

Alas, Veep's pre-Trump prediction was proven painfully prescient for that country, the universe of the USA proved that it could not hold together with the thought of even one female leader at the political podium.

However the backlash against that disastrous and misogynistic decision just might have contributed to bringing about this unprecedented podium we see here, with Merkel partly motivated to stand for a fourth term in office after Trump's win (worried as she was for the universe with a moron in charge of its only inhabitable planet), and the Women's March with record-breaking attendance here in NZ and around the world protesting this political outrage firing up voters against the political patriarchy of old here, whether on the left or the wrong wing of politics.

I for one gave more money to the party's campaign and attended it's campaign launch where Ardern gave her first official speech as leader, solely because she had taken over the reigns of leadership, having had little faith in the man who was leading the party before her and believing that gender politics matters in itself. Believing indeed that our present, still deeply unbalanced global political situation of only 11 female prime ministers or presidents in almost 200 countries, is the first thing that is wrong with the world of politics -- and indeed with the world altogether, given the ramifications of political patriarchalism.

And this picture above speaks a million words in favour of positive and critical change on this subject, not least because one of these women leaders is pregnant, and visibly so, sending the message to hundreds of millions, if not billions of women (and men) that pregnancy is not a disability and women can, and must, if they choose, combine motherhood and the most exacting jobs in the paid workforce and the universe will not break.

April 20, London
Indeed it might just be what saves our beleaguered 'universe,' if, that is, we have not left our matriarchal move too late.


Monday, April 16, 2018

A Quiet Place (please!)

Blunt and Krasinski and daughters last week
I think it's more than likely that Krasinski, who rewrote the screenplay for this film he also directs and co-stars in, and which begins with a ten-minute segment of agonising silence through which my teeth were poised painfully over the crunchy nut-choc top of my rapidly melting ice cream, was drawn to the project due to the arrival the previous year of his (and wife Emily Blunt's) second child.

'What's this script? "A Quiet Place"? I'm in.

I could be wrong.

Apparently Emily took a different view of the situation, though. She had to be persuaded to do the film, perhaps thinking it was not possible or believable to make a film that requires young children to be almost totally quiet for any period longer than, say, four and a half seconds. Aliens, yes, silent young (not asleep) children, no.

Or it might just have been that she was feeling a little postpartum still, having delivered their second child less than a year before hubby pitched the project to her.

But although she is partly right about the challenging premise, the film that she and John co-star in is a triumph on many levels and already a box-office hit. Other people love silence too, it seems.

And horror.

And Blunt and Krasinski paired, no doubt.

It's a rare thing to see real-life husband and wife films, not least because Hollywood is not known for its success in breeding happily married couples. The couple who make films together stay together, is not a thing. Until now, I suspect. These two are showing us how it's done. Never mind aliens with massive pointy bullet teeth and surprisingly noisy (the aliens aren't silent) shape-shifting heads. Give us a believably loving and respectful Hollywood couple and we're in.

At least I'm in. And, I suspect, a demographic that doesn't normally embrace horror is in for this film that is not only well acted by adults and children (and aliens) alike, but well re-written by Krasinski, who, I am guessing, modified what were probably more generic gender characterisations in the original script by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, to present a more balanced than usual distribution of blame and bravery between the male and female characters.

I could be wrong (again). If so well done to Woods and Beck, who wrote the original screenplay and who are contracted to write the sequel. I guess time will tell.

Certainly some of us are, unlike the aliens - who look remarkably similar to last century's aliens - finally beginning to evolve into gender-conscious and responsible beings who accept that the principles of feminism are the future, or at least the present and near future. Beyond that, it will depend on the backlash. If the guys with the money, madness, misogyny and might get their way, it might be a never-ending human silence as we self-destruct and the planet is taken over by screeching, shape-shifting aliens with bullets for teeth!

But let's hope not. Let's hope for a quiet(ish), kind place instead.