Jenny Lapekas

“We Stick Together”: Rebellion, Female Solidarity, and Girl Crushes in ‘Foxfire’

You don’t want to mess with these gals.

In the spirit of ‘Boys on the Side,’ along with a dose of teen angst, ‘Foxfire’ is perhaps the most bad ass chick flick ever. Many Angelina Jolie fans are not aware of this 1996 phenomenon, where Angie makes a name for herself as a rebellious free spirit who changes the lives of four young women in New York. Based on the Joyce Carol Oates novel by the same name, ‘Foxfire’ is the epitome of girl power and female friendship, a pleasant departure from the competition and spitefulness often portrayed between women characters on the big screen (see ‘Bride Wars’ and ‘Just Go with It’). However, it does seem that Hollywood is catching on as of late, and producing films that cater to a more progressive viewership (see ‘Bridesmaids’ and ‘The Other Woman’). When I first saw ‘Foxfire’ around 16 years old, I stole the VHS copy from the video store where I worked at the time.

When is This Movie Going to End? or, Extended Adolescence and Meta Moments in ‘Freddy Got Fingered’

Even the film’s cover–Green mimicking the gesture filmmakers use when describing their creation or cinematic vision–pokes fun at itself.

I know the nineties are over, but I’m still a fan of Tom Green and his eccentric brand of humor. When critics and filmgoers dismiss ‘Freddie Got Fingered,’ I feel it’s for the wrong reasons; to pass the movie off as a cinematic abortion of sorts is narrow thinking. People probably still wonder, “Who gave Tom Green money to make a movie?” I know, it’s like writing a kid a blank check and sending him into a candy store. However, if we’re not receptive enough to uncover the ideas and themes Green presents, and to assess their relevance to Hollywood ideals, celebrity status, and family politics, we need to re-evaluate how we watch film. There’s good stuff to be found in ‘Freddy.’

Family, Friendship, and Getting By: The Two Mrs. Harts of ‘Reba’

It took Reba several seasons to warm up to BJ's manic energy.

Like many of us, I’m a child of divorce, and I saw firsthand the lasting effects of infidelity and separation. For years, I’ve turned on ‘Reba’ because I find it comforting; everything from the stills of the cluttered kitchen to Reba’s adorable southern twang make me feel very tranquil as I clean or type on my laptop. I detect similarities to my own experiences, such as living in close proximity to a parent’s ex or a father who seems to abandon his former life for a newer, shinier one. ‘Reba’ normalizes these experiences and reminds viewers that every family has its issues.

She’s Pretty for a Black Girl: ‘Dark Girls’ and Colorism in America

A drawing that reflects such tragic self-doubt at a surprisingly young age.

I can remember an episode of ‘Chappelle’s Show’ (a sketch series that offered some valuable commentary on race and race relations in America) where Paul Mooney says, “Everybody wanna be a nigga, but nobody wanna be a nigga.” How does this seemingly crude sentiment translate to reality? to a social framework? To color? What he means is this: being Black is still considered “cool” and trendy by some, and it can be a mark of power and subversion. On the other hand, those who find race to be an accessory are more than happy to avoid the consequences and negative stereotypes associated with blackness, such as prejudice and discrimination. ‘Dark Girls’ investigates what causes colorism, how it’s begun to poison Black women, and how Black communities can heal from it.

Rape as Narrative Device in ‘American Horror Story’

Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 6.51.21 PM

I recently began watching ‘American Horror Story’ on Netflix to see what all the hullaballoo was about, and I quickly became a die-hard fan of the series. I’ve heard some feminist criticism that popular television’s rape trope is abused and unnecessary. Many viewers find rape scenes more difficult to endure than the goriest and bloodiest of murder scenes in film and on TV. ‘AHS’ depicts rape in each of its three seasons (season four: “Freak Show” begins in October of this year), and I’ve been trying to make some sense of these scenes: all very different, yet centered around the idea that rape is its own horror, worse than murder. Sexual violence in film has always been controversial, in part because it works as an acknowledgment of something so many victims are afraid to share or discuss, even with other victims. ‘AHS’s handful of rape scenes reference gender roles, mental illness, and identity politics, and do in fact have a place in the storylines in which we find ourselves so invested.

Exploring Imagination and Feminine Effacement in Cartoon Network’s ‘Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends’

It’s interesting that Wilt is created with physical defects (his eye and his arm), pointing up the fact that these are not considered flaws by his young creator, but rather just part of who he is, like a hairstyle or shoe size.

Why examine this offbeat show through a feminist or ethical lens? Because ‘Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends’ (Craig McCracken, 2004-2009) is wildly inventive and subversive. Its plot, which explains that children’s imaginary friends must eventually go live at Madame Foster’s zany orphanage after he or she has outgrown their friend, insists that a child’s imagination has the power to make something real, whether adults believe it or not. At this home, young children are welcome to come and “adopt” one of the friends who is housed there. In this way, the friends are concepts that are “recycled” in order to accommodate children as they grow up.

The Dreamscapes and Nightmares of Jamin Winans’ ‘Ink’

Allel tries to figure out how to save Emma's soul.

Like many fans of this film, I initially watched ‘Ink’ (2009) on Netflix and immediately conducted some research to learn more about the making of this independent picture. It’s also a narrative that lingers with you after you’ve finished watching it, so I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about the film’s acting and score, as well as the pivotal moments that merge with a complex plot that unfolds somewhere between reality and fantasy. After maybe a half a dozen viewings, this story never fails to evoke tears for me.

Love Isn’t Always Soft and Gentle: Female Sexual Desire in ‘Secretary’

Lee gets to better know herself by exploring her body and entertaining erotic thoughts about her inaccessible employer.

Sex and sexuality are complicated, whether we believe it or not. Most of us have experienced some type of same-sex attraction or participated in some kinky activity in the bedroom. Movies often help us to make sense of these feelings and experiences. However, too often, female sexual pleasure and arousal are still deemed unfit for viewing by mainstream film and television. America has a bipolar and hypocritical relationship with female sexuality. Our culture consumes copious amounts of porn and then doesn’t hesitate to slut-shame the women who create and act in pornographic films. Is this because pornography can be seen as objectifying women, while mainstream film humanizes them? Why does the marriage of sexuality and human intimacy feel so dangerous?

“I Choose Gru!”: on ‘Despicable Me 2’ and Lucy Wilde

Gru is slow to recognize that Lucy's antics complement his nicely.

I only recently discovered the ‘Despicable Me’ movies, and I’m overjoyed that I have an excuse to review the second one and to explicate its feminist elements, especially since so many women have primary roles in the ever-changing life of villain-turned-hero Gru (Steve Carell). In fact, I love these films so much, I enjoyed a Despicable-themed birthday cake earlier this week. It’s no mistake that the second movie concludes while Cinco de Mayo festivities ensue–my birthday!

Agency and Gendered Violence in ‘Thelma and Louise’

Thelma is submissive and looks to the confident Louise as a feminist role model.

These characters challenge our gendered assumptions about sex, trauma, and vengeance, which can make audiences uncomfortable. I was likely too young when I first watched ‘Thelma and Louise’ (Ridley Scott, 1991). However, I remember the surge of adrenaline I felt when Louise shot and killed Thelma’s rapist, how incredibly good it felt to idolize these convict women who had had enough with their monotonous lives, at an age when I couldn’t possibly comprehend patriarchal oppression, the comforts of solidarity and sisterhood, or the concept of escapism utilized not necessarily to run away but rather to find your wildest, most genuine self.

‘The Moon Inside You’: A Bloody Good Documentary

Diana gives us a nice view at the doctor's office.

Menstrual studies is a discipline very close to my heart. While earning my master’s degree, I temporarily became obsessed with texts like ‘Periods in Pop Culture’ (Lauren Rosewarne, 2012) and ‘Flow’ (Elissa Stein and Susan Kim, 2010) as I composed my thesis. I was blessed with a supportive advisor who made me realize that those who shot me disgusted looks in the past were in fact the weird, misinformed ones. I find it perplexing that so many have capitalized on menstruation, yet many are still terrified of discussing it in any form or on any platform. Menstruation is uniquely female and yet suggestive of violence, sacrifice, and trauma: that’s compelling. The menstrual cycle reminds us all of our own mortality, the devastating truth that our bodies will eventually decompose or burn into ashes, and that’s terrifying for many people. Why has the “fairer sex” been assigned this burden?

“Yes, You Can’t!”: The Happy Failures of Jerri Blank

After Jerri’s father is eaten by rabid dogs, a doctor tells Jerri, “Your father was dead on arrival.  No matter what I did, he just kept getting deader.”

‘Strangers with Candy’ (Peter Lauer, et al., 1999-2000) is one of the most wildly subversive shows I’ve ever seen on television (most subversive shows are canceled before long–see ‘Wonder Showzen’ (Vernon Chatman and John Lee, 2005-2006, which features segments with David Cross), and it feels like I’ve waited a long time for an opportunity to rave about its hilarious characters and its clever writing. When this delightfully dark show aired on Comedy Central, I was old enough to understand that it appealed to a somewhat alternative audience, yet I was too young to fully comprehend or appreciate the satirical wit and unyielding sense of hopelessness the show conveyed to audiences. Jerri Blank (Amy Sedaris) tirelessly strives for the acceptance of her “peers” in high school, from the snooty cheerleaders and the lusted after jock to the kooky assortment of teachers, which includes Mr. Noblet, played by the wonderful Stephen Colbert, and Jerri’s ironically unsympathetic guidance counselor, Ms. Pines, played by the always funny Janeane Garofalo.