Fascinating Women Characters
Frida Kahlo’s sense of kyriarchy, in which the tension between Indigenous culture and European imperialism is a core aspect of her multi-faceted narratives of oppression and resistance, is simplified in Julie Taymor’s film ‘Frida’ towards a more Euro-American feminism, focused on Kahlo’s struggle for artistic recognition and romantic fulfillment as a woman, to the exclusion of her ethnic struggle.
‘Into the Badlands’, based on the classic Chinese tale ‘Journey to the West’, is set in a futuristic dystopian world where past wars have created a new feudal society. It’s gratifying to finally get an onscreen Blasian couple where they kiss, have sex, and get to have a real relationship.
Writer/Director/Actress and Moonfaze Film Festival Founder Premstar Santana has taken on the challenge of not waiting for Hollywood to feature feminist cinema. She is creating the platform that elevates feminist viewpoints from marginalized voices that rarely get the opportunity to shine.
Dispersed among the footage are archival glimpses into Nina’s journals, where we can read quick sketches of her own thoughts and feelings. And although the particular journal entries are chosen and shaped to fit the narrative Garbus is presenting, it only helps to give us a deeper understanding of the complexity of being a Black woman artist in racist America. Nothing has changed.
We need new filmmakers like Cecile Emeke to break new ground with digital media. Smash the stranglehold of white filmmakers being the only ones telling Black stories that often dredge up old stereotypes and tired narratives. We need the specificity of Emeke’s vision. And dammit, I need more Rachel and Olivia in my life.
‘Bessie’ is one of the rare mainstream films that shows an unapologetically Black, female and queer protagonist. That alone is groundbreaking in an otherwise straightforward biopic.
The most remarkable feature of Ron E. Scott’s Canadian drama ‘Blackstone,’ apart from its blistering probing of Kellogg’s “ugly facts” of demoralization, is how closely it links gendered oppressions with other exploitations.
There is, nevertheless, something magical about Bessie’s life and career. How did an impoverished, orphaned Black girl who spent her childhood singing on the streets not only survive but succeed in a land that still lynched its Black citizens? There is something profoundly modern and heroic about the woman herself. An independent woman with attitude and talent, she has to be one of the most charismatic feminist icons of the 20th century.
“Why do you want to see a movie that looks depressing?” I asked, trying to persuade her to watch something more entertaining. In reality, what I wanted to say was “Look, I don’t want to re-live Aunt Grace onscreen.” I eventually did say that out loud as we walked into a theater full of people that looked my mother’s age and older. I did a double take. I could not believe there was no one else there my age or younger inside the theater.
Ursula’s show-stopper, “Poor, Unfortunate Souls,” presents case studies of mermen and mermaids made miserable by culture. What this song really teaches is that internalizing cultural messages is a fatal weakness, and rejecting cultural conditioning is a source of great power. Small wonder that Ursula had to die the most gruesome onscreen death in all of Disney.
‘Ex Machina’ and ‘Her,’ by contrast, are uncomfortably searching explorations of the hetero-male fear of, and emotional need for, women, that feel like self-scrutiny. By replacing women with female images that are literally constructions of male fantasy, the films offer no distractions from probing the heroes’ own psychology. These guys are not chauvinazis. They are the real deal.
White and non-Black people can have a “bad hair day.” But only Black folks get labeled with bad hair for life, no matter how it is groomed. Especially Black women. Go to any retail store that sells hair products and the ethnic section (read:Black) has more hair creams, gels, mousse, sprays, relaxers, grease, puddings, pomades, hair butter, oils, lotions, to fry, dye and lay that bushy crown to the side. I won’t even get into the hot combs, wigs, weaves, lacefronts, extensions, and clip-ons used to hide a Black woman’s natural hair state. It’s one thing when little Black girls are indoctrinated early to hate their hair, but what about little Black boys who may also be genderqueer? How is this hair struggle tolerated by a homophobic mother struggling to keep her head above water?