Tag Archives: movies

Review of Hidden Figures 

15 Feb

Usually, when a movie comes out about historically important women, my excitement is tinged with some trepidation. So often, these kinds of movies are about exceptional women – geniuses or rebels – and they are presented as the exceptions. “Can you believe that a woman did this?” the undercurrent asks. “Isn’t she so brave and unique and so unlike all of those incredibly ordinary women?” As if womankind has only ever had a few moments in history where she was worthy of notice and respect. 

Hidden Figures is not like that. 

There is certainly the genius, Katherine G Johnson, who the entire story is centered around. And all three of the main characters are in some way exceptional. 

But rather than constantly gasping at the heroines’ braveness and intelligence as if that’s the only thing that makes them worthy of being the eye of a movie, Hidden Figures humanizes them. It frames their efforts to overcome injustices not as the sacrifice they must make to overcome their inherent ordinariness, but instead as the ordinary travails of a black woman’s life. It tells the story from the characters’ perspective, pulling the viewers in by reminding us that we have at least 99% of our DNA in common. Black female geniuses want to be happy, it says, and happiness is not transcending gender and race in order to find a partner or do a great job, but encompassing gender and race in the process. A woman can be intelligent and also want to be a great wife and mother, it says. A black woman can be black and also want to be recognized for her accomplishments. 
A black woman can be a black woman and also have white women and men cheering her on. 


Hysteria is in Theaters!

13 Jul

Remember that movie about Hysteria that I mentioned?

It’s in theaters!

Go see it and let me know what you think.  My friend Spring will convince you:

Hysteria, as many of you probably know, was commonly recognized by Western medical professionals as a legitimate disease up until 1952. Women were diagnosed with hysteria if they displayed any of a wide array of symptoms including irritability, fluid retention, trouble-making, having too much or too little sexual desire, being too hungry, and on. Like me, pretty much every day. The common treatment became genital massage, and such was prescribed in early gynecological literature dating back to Hippocrates’ work around 330 B.C. Women would go to doctors, get rubbed off by the physician or his (physicians were most always male up until the 19th century) nurse or assistant. And women went religiously. It was a cycle, of course: repress, pay doctor to orgasm, repeat. The problem for doctors was, as Rachel P. Maines explains in an excellent piece of scientific history, manually stimulating the clitoris of a female hysteric was hard work and could take quite some time. Doctors had other patients to see and money to make, so when the invention of the electric vibrator came along, doctors were, physically and financially, relieved.

Don’t forget to visit Spring’s blog and click on her Rachel P. Maines link.

Vintage Best Friends

2 Nov

Hysteria Movie

4 Sep

While it’s sure to have the worst parts of the historical reality downplayed, and maybe a little too much humor – in the, “you’re laughing because this makes you uncomfortable, aren’t you?” sense – this upcoming movie called Hysteria should be an interesting introduction for a general audience.

“The Help”

13 Aug

I’m usually really excited, for obvious reasons, about historical fiction (especially historical fiction that focuses on people other than the usual kings and presidents) making its way from books to the movies.  So when I first started to see ads for The Help, I mostly reacted with excitement.

But the track record of Hollywood in regards to telling the stories of black women is not good, so I was apprehensive too.  Sadly, it turns out that both the novel and the movie have major problems with accuracy* when it comes to the actual lived experience of black women in the South in the 1960s.  (And that’s not the only problem with it.)  For many white people, this will still be an eye-opening film, but I hope they are inspired to dig further, so that they will learn that this is a watered-down, cleaned-up, and stolen version of what actually happened.

*Found via Jack and Jill Politics.


Update: Another view on the subject.

Sunday Collection

3 Apr

Embedded in a story about environmentalism, how the washing machine has effected women’s lives.

A new-ish trope in American cinema, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl.  On one hand, it’s outside of the usual virgin-or-whore tropes, but on the other hand, it’s yet another trope where women in movies don’t get to be people for our own sake.

A woman who paved the way for other women in country music gets inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Men aren’t the only ones fighting for freedom in the Middle East and Africa.  Unfortunately, women are still paying the price for simply being women that they have always paid in war, whether they were involved in the fighting or not.

And finally, Women in Art, a handy instrument to answer those people who insist that the beauty standard for women has always been the same: