Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Fatal Generalizations in the Teen Movie

Teen movies very obviously base themselves on harmless stereotypes: the jock, the bitch, the nerd, etc.-- stereotypes so deeply rooted into our expectations of the genre that we can't be bothered to think about other possibilities. However, after re-watching the awesomely awful Whatever It Takes for the first time in at least four years, I started to see something recognizably offensive that I had not noticed before: it seems that the typical teen movie's female characters are, more often than not, projections of the archetypal male's virgin/whore complex. Characters can only be one or the other, and there is no inbetween.
While teen movies are generally oversexed as a selling point, there's an underlying tone of moral retribution that has been used to the point of becoming cliche. This easily brings to mind the classic horror movie rule of sexually active characters being gruesomely killed off, a tradition less explicitly carried out in the similar rule of the archetypal whore "getting what's hers". This is the case for Jodi Lyn O'Keefe's character in both Whatever It Takes and She's All That, not to mention others in Cruel Intentions, Jawbreakers, Sixteen Candles (to a point). To make matters worse, O'Keefe's desperately sluttish character in the former is so blind in her horniness that she ends up sleeping with the biggest nerd in the school. Meanwhile, the end of the movie suggests that the prototypical, romance-obsessed good girl, Marla Sokoloff, loses her virginity to the boy-next-door. The message beneath it, whether aware of itself or not, seems ridiculous when thought over: sex for anything but love is outlandish.
Notorious screenwriter Diablo "Honest to Blog" Cody shows an awareness of this when discussing her upcoming teen horror movie Jennifer's Body in the August/September issue of BUST. The virgin and the whore are both present in her story, but instead of portraying the former (played by Amanda Seyfried) as naive and consumed with love, Cody gives the character an honest sexuality. "She has sex for pleasure in this movie, and that was important to me. She's this wide-eyed, innocent blonde who's trying to protect the town, but I wanted to show at the same time that she can have an orgasm, she can get excited about having sex."
To be fair, Cody isn't alone in creating female characters who don't suffer from the virgin/whore complex. The golden age of the teen movie brought forth time-tested classics that avoid such cliched characters-- notably in Clueless, 10 Things I Hate About You, American Pie, Can't Hardly Wait and The Breakfast Club-- instead portrayed as either perfectly normal, virgin teenage girls taking their time or reveal sexually active women as independent and in total control of what they do with their bodies. Not one, nor the other, but both make for good representations of a sexually healthy teenage girl.
But it's almost understandable that these stereotypes are presented to us at such a young age. Teen sex is never a light subject-- it's one of the most obvious portals into adulthood, and the carefree use of young adults as caricatures can take some of the gloom away. Yes, it's a big deal, and yes, it has, on occasion, ruined some lives-- but this doesn't leave sex for sex's sake to the prototypical harlot. Sex for love isn't always perfect (if ever), and sex for pleasure doesn't always make a girl feel sick the morning after. Teen movies, by typecasting women, can promote unrealisitic ideas of what makes a positive sexual experience, of what side a woman is supposed to take. These concerns will follow a sexually insecure woman for a long time, which makes it important to distinguish the utter bullshit of the virgin/whore complex. After all, we're all virgins at some point, all of us riddled with sin. So if we can't take both sides, then who are we?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Florence + The Machine's "Lungs": A Full-Body Experience

"Once more with feeling": this seems to be a prominent idea in UK powerhouse Florence + The Machine's debut Lungs, and God, if you're familiar with Florence Welch's music, such a statement may surprise you-- girl already has a hell of a lot of feeling. Only a few years ago, Welch was a rare breed of rumpus-starting club singer across the pond, discovered and made into the phenom she is today by Queen of Noize Mairead Nash when hearing her sing in the bathroom. Since then, she has gained a following as rabid as her sound, thanks not only to her astounding voice, but to her insatiable, Alice-like curiosity (Welch took a break from a performance by jumping into a pool right in the middle of a SXSW performance, only to return by crawling under the stage) for which she is now notorious. This alone makes it easy to see why hype has escalated so quickly for her, while so many are only now learning who she is. With such a big world of strangers to approach, it is clear that Welch intends to make herself resonate, and a strong album seems the only option. And so the quest begins as such an innocuous, emotionally naked woman as she heads toward us all with a steady drum in her head and a rabbit in her heart.
If you were content with the rougher sounds of Florence's singles and live tracks, I wouldn't get too comfortable-- every familiar track on Lungs' has resurrected itself with more power than before. The perfect example is standout "Howl", which brings to mind Angela Carter's fixation with wolves and, as a live track, was once much more sweet and harmless. Never again, this reworking tells us, as her art has transformed her from mere girl to beast... and the claws are out. Welch gives you a reason to fear her as the album moves on, not only for her magnanimous talent, but for the pure vitriol with which her stories unravel, evident in the strange revenge tale "Girl With One Eye". On it, Welch commands her adversary to "get [her] filthy fingers out of my pie"... wait, what? you'd probably ask any less intimidating songstress, but no. Not only do you not question Welch-- you don't feel the need to. Her affinity for off-color topics is just one of the many things she does so well.
And yet, with her love for the non-sequitur, you can't help but relate to Welch. Her metaphors explain themselves quite easily-- "Dog Days Are Over" references our surprisingly common inability to accept happiness. "Kiss With a Fist" is the clever outlining of addiction to a person, no matter how much you know you're hurting yourself. Beneath all the album's savage imagery, it is undeniably human-- which is at least made clear by the desperate fervor of her words. It's a Peter Pan of sorts, an adolescent girl who refuses to accept the fact that she is becoming a woman, wanting instead to stay in the forest with her imaginary gang of fellow miscreants. The pain this album holds is all internal, fitting readily with the bodily imagery that is visible throughout the whole album, and kept deep inside until its sheer power overtakes her throws her into the tantric behavior that Welch is famous for and has perfectly captured in this album.
After the fit is over, the fire remains. Lungs puts a listener in such a frenzy that it almost seems necessary to smoke a cigarette afterwards. But at this point, Welch's mission is complete: who was once a strange woman has summed herself up perfectly to an unknowing world... though we're sure to learn much, much more about her as her, most-likely, very long career as a performer goes on. A debut like Lungs gives fans the impression that what with Welch's already passion-drenched catalog of singles and onstage fire, which have already shocked fans like Courtney Love, this girl has only begun to spill her guts.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Your New Answer to the Death of Mooka Kinney

Ever since last fall's news of the defunction of fashion favorite Mooka Kinney, there has, without a doubt, been a void in the fashion world. It seems as if designers everywhere are attempting to pick up where Rachel Antonoff and Alison Lewis went off-- rompers have obviously blown up, sophisticated attention to small details (like heart-shaped buttons) have increased, and babydoll chic in general has really seen a comeback. However, nobody does it quite like Mooka Kinney did, and it's been difficult finding something even close to their charm.
Turns out I've fallen in love all over again. MK lovers, look no further than independent label Lulufinder Vintage, a New York-based designer with devastatingly beautiful rompers and dresses for no more than $130 (a guarantee Mooka Kinney, for all their wonder, could not meet). At a glance, the brand shows a stunning attention to quality products (expect delicate silks, lace, flawlessly sewn sequins) that make it such a worthy successor to Antonoff & Lewis's beloved brand. The clothes are, like Mooka Kinney's, innocent with a ladylike edge that instantly readies these babies for the street-- just be wary of all the compliments you're bound to get!

Below are some of my favorite pieces up for sale:I'm sure Mooka Kinney fan Jenny Lewis would adore this retro romper. (Loverboy, $95)
This sweetheart romper practically screams "Wear me to a picnic!" (Midsummer tea, $95)
I could see these aptly-named Magician shorts being a huge hit with Natasha Khan or Liela Moss. (Magician, $89)

Find these and more at Lulufinder's Etsy page.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Lolita Hazed Seasonal Playlist: Summer 2009, Vol. 1: Mosquitos

Photo credits: Nic O'Donnell
It's July, I know, and my summer playlist has been a long time coming-- but only because I've had to think over exactly what could really work for me as summer songs. To me, it's one of the most sonically diverse times of the year, with an atmosphere that sounds just as well with the hook-tinged bangers that litter the season's radio as it does with its integral lazy poolside tracks. Summer has so much more than one sound, and I've decided to take time to cover as many as possible. This playlist centers itself around the slower, latter category of music for the end of a hot afternoon, and it thrives in suburbia.

1. Nightmares on Wax "70s 80s"
What with its dub influences, this song was practically made for summer, while its more socially conscious lyrics may make it seem otherwise. Actually, I wrote a term paper about this song's first verse (indirectly, of course)!
2. Pat Kelly "Somebody's Baby"
Pat Kelly is one of the best dub artists ever. His songs are always so sweet and his voice is enough to lull a beachgoer to sleep. This song is one of his best, a sublime track with a hint of sunshiney melancholy that ends up being far too upbeat to actually bring a listener down.
3. Althea & Donna "Uptown Top Ranking"
Who can't take some reggae in the summer time? I just want to kick back by my nonexistent pool with my existent sunglasses when I hear this one, and it really shines when played without a cloud in the sky.
4. Chapterhouse "Mesmerize"
This is my shoegaze summer jam. It is at once soothing and exhilarating and, like most Chapterhouse songs, can send chills through your spine with so few notes.
5. Le Tigre "Eau d' Bedroom Dancing"
This is a great song to listen to on a bike through the suburbs when the day is coming to a close, but the sun is still shining, its rays flickering through the vibrant canopy of trees above you.
6. Beth Orton "Daybreaker (Four Tet Remix)"
My mom's boyfriend has The Other Side of Daybreak on repeat in the summer, but without that clear bias aside, Daybreaker and its remixed equivalent seem to have been made for summer. This, Four Tet's take on her phenomenal ode to nature, is my favorite example. Throughout the song, its soothing, oceanic clicks practically beckon you into the water.
7. The XX "Blood Red Moon"
This is a strangely romantic song that I've recently enjoyed as a soundtrack for evening cigarette breaks. The imagery provided is wonderfully dark, and while this may have a more autumnal feel for some, this song plus a nightly summer breeze seem hard to separate from one another.
8. Otis Redding "Sittin' on (The Dock of a Bay)"
Otis Redding has a real knack for painting a picture with his songs, and this, one of his most famous tracks, is no exception. I have really fond memories of this song.
9. Badly Drawn Boy "Once Around the Block"
This brings back memories from one of my favorite summer days ever. It was after a day very well-spent with friends at a water park, who I was supposed to meet again later that night for dinner (and some unprecedented playground fun). As I waited impatiently, I listened to this, taking its melody with me outside as I danced in a short sunshower.
10. Nelly Furtado "Turn Off the Light"
Whenever I listen to this song, I'm immediately taken to a night eight years ago, standing in the pool house during a party at the home of my neighbor's "Nana". This song was right at home in the swampy twilight in a shockingly wealthy neighborhood that seemed to be filled with huge haunted houses.

Enjoy, and there's more to come(?).
(Happy fourth, y'all!)


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