Chinua Achebe said, “There is that great proverb — that until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”
Reading Fanon, listening to Malcolm X, watching ‘Concerning Violence’–these are just a few ways to hear the lions. When the hunter listens, though, he sees a lion roaring, jaws open wide to bite and kill. The fear sets in. Oppressive control digs its heels back in.
At the end of season 6, Gemma violently clashes the spheres of power. She’s in the kitchen. She’s using an iron, and a carving fork. Using tools of the feminine sphere, she brutally murders Tara, because she fears that Tara is about to take control and dismantle the club—the life, the style of mothering and living—that she brought home with her so many years ago.
Rural poverty and urban poverty are not the same. Individual racism and institutional racism are not the same. However, these forces are woven together as they are fiercely kept separate in our common mythologies of what America means. We avoid difficult stories that disrupt the narratives we’ve come to understand.
Horror films hold a mirror up to these ideals, distorting the images and terrifying viewers in the process. The terror that society feels while looking at these little girls echoes the terror it feels when confronted with changing gender norms and female power.
While the virgin-in-chains turned abortion-activist was my favorite image in the film, the most emotional moment was during an email exchange with a woman from Nairobi. She kisses the pills when she gets them, and a raw, personal email exchange follows as she goes through the process.
It is absolutely clear that throughout ‘Private Violence,’ Hill allowed Gruelle to take her into a world that she felt compelled to share with the public. That trust, that “wide-eyed curiosity” (as Gruelle said of Hill’s directing technique), created a documentary that not only pays homage to the strength and tragedy of women whose lives are torn apart by male partner violence, but also serves as a wake-up call that the system–law enforcement, news media, medical professionals, local and federal court systems–are not serving victims the way they should. ‘Private Violence’ is a public testament to the horror of domestic assault.
Twenty years later, we need more of what My So-Called Life gave us a taste of. We need teenage girl protagonists to be sexual, not sexy. We need honest portrayals of what it is to be a teenager–not only for teenagers who need to see themselves in faithful mirrors, but also for adults who are still trying to figure themselves out.
Zeffirelli’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is one told by the older generation. Luhrmann’s ‘Romeo + Juliet’ is one told by “unfaded” youth. When Des’ree was singing “Kissing You” as Romeo and Juliet kiss (and oh, how they kiss), she is singing with deep longing and pain. When Glen Weston sings “What is a Youth?” he sings at Romeo and Juliet, about how youth–and female virginity–fades.
I get tired of constantly pointing out that something is Problematic From a Feminist Perspective™; I want to enjoy, not eviscerate. I want to laugh.
So what does idealistic, feminist children’s television look like? It looks like ‘Sesame Street,’ which over the course of its 45-year run has won more than 120 Emmy Awards. ‘Sesame Street’s frank and honest treatment of race, women’s rights, adoption, breastfeeding, death, childbirth, incarceration, divorce, HIV, health, bilingualism, and poverty throughout the years has added a dimension of social understanding to a show that also deals with teaching children their ABC’s and 123’s.
The grotesque is enmeshed with sexual pleasure and violent death–all images and storylines that patriarchal cultures have been weaving together for centuries. A woman’s sexual desire and her actions stemming from those desires are often presented as horrifying and punishable: “unwatchable.” Much of what Breillat shows supports the reality that female sexual desire is real, and the societies in which we must function are at best, uncomfortable with that desire, and at worst, violently hostile.
And then I saw it–a film that extols the importance of female agency and sexuality with a healthy dose of raunch, a film that includes a sexually experienced and supportive mother, a film that celebrates female friendship and quotes Gloria Steinem, a film that features Green Apple Pucker and multiple references to Pearl Jam and Hillary Clinton.
Yes. This is it.