Archive for the 'rant' Category

Some thoughts on Top Chef and sexism

I think the judging on Top Chef is sexist.

Some people might disagree with me. Because of the nature of the contest, it’s hard to make the “sexist” call for individual challenges. Any number of things can go wrong for any chef on any day, and the general taste preferences of each judge inevitably come into play. This is part of the appeal of the show: the general unpredictable nature of it. But the overall picture of who is coming out on top in the end demonstrates that something is not right; some other factor besides the element of chance is coming into play.

Allow me to crunch some numbers. Counting those chefs who appeared on the season eight All-Stars edition twice, and skipping the massive two-part “cook your way in” episode that opened this most recent season, Top Chef has had 68 female and 74 male contestants over the course of nine seasons. That’s about 47.9% women at the starting line, where the contestants have already been vetted to the point where we are meant to believe each has an equal chance of winning the season, even though some may be more experienced than others. Yet, only eight out of 27 of the coveted “top three” spots to end each season have been filled by women—about 29.6%. And only one woman has ever won. 11.1%.

(It should be noted that for that season where a woman won, season four, the commonly stated opinion is that Richard Blais was the most talented chef left at the end, and only his crash-and-burn kept him from winning, giving the crown to Stephanie Izard. He was later brought back for the All-Star season for a chance to right this unspeakable wrong. He won.)

I said it was hard to make the sexist call for individual challenges. But the reason I’m writing this post right now is that I’m having trouble not making that call for the finale that aired last night. I won’t deny that the chef who won, Paul Qui, was a formidable contestant over the course of the show. He went up in a final head-to-head with Sarah Grueneberg, someone who had been in the low end of the judging much more often than he had. But the final challenge is supposed to be about only that—just the final meal that’s being served. Each of the two chefs served four courses, to two sets of judges. At Judges Table, each was complimented on their overall menus, nitpicked on a few details, and generally congratulated. However, none of the judges denied that one of those eight servings of Paul’s was a disaster. A failed dish, too overcooked, that even he hadn’t wanted to serve. On the other hand, all eight of Sarah’s servings had been solid, with her dessert hailed as perhaps the best that had ever been presented on the show. I know that reality show editing means that we’re often led to believe that certain contestants will win when that is not the case. But given what we were shown of the judging, and the opinions that were shared, I find it frankly unbelievable that Sarah did not win. And I’m calling sexism.

I’ve seen others write about the subconscious sexism that seems to be factoring into the Top Chef judging overall. The societal picture of a “culinary master” is generally of a male chef, whereas female chefs are more likely to be pictured as the home-cookin’ type that is so popular on channels like the Food Network. Within the competition itself, some women end up following what they’ve been socialized to do for their whole lives, and help others to their own detriment, such as when disproportionately taking on the thankless “front of house” jobs during Restaurant Wars. This all plays into who ends up making it to the final.

When it comes down to Sarah vs. Paul, I feel that two factors hurt her in being denied the title. First, her “likeability.” Sarah rubbed a few people wrong over the course of the season, and was vocal about when others rubbed her the wrong way. Though she’d obviously bonded with the other chefs who made it to the final episodes, she never reached a point of being charming. I don’t in any way think she should have to, but let’s face it—Paul is intrinsically adorable. His handsome-yet-baby-faced vibe and his frequent chatter about just wanting to make his father proud would make just about anyone feel that inner tug to give him the prize. Sarah couldn’t match him in that game. She is an ambitious woman who frequently mentioned that she put off her wedding to be on the show, and in the ambitious woman vs. attractive, vulnerable man showdown, it’s pretty clear who’s got the edge.

The second thing that hurt her—and I believe every woman who made it to that final challenge before her—is that people, in general, have an easier time seeing a woman fail than they do seeing a man fail. Not that making it to the final round of a grueling competition should be seen as a failure, but that’s just it—there’s this overall vibe in society that I notice all the time that seems to say that the more prestigious the prize, the more difficult something is to attain, then the more a woman should be content just to have been in contention in the first place. (See: Hillary Clinton.) The second part of that message is: it’s harder on a man to lose to a woman than it is the other way around. The judges never shy away from showing sympathy for the person they don’t pick to win. Isn’t it easier to have that person be a woman—who’ll surely bounce right back into wedding planning!—than a man whose father whom he only wants to make proud is literally standing right there? Whether they had the conscious thought or not, the saturating nature of societal sexism and the actual factors at play in the room made it emotionally easier to give the prize to Paul, even though he had not performed as well.

Neither of my theories are ones I can prove. But the evidence I was presented with shows that Sarah should have won, and my gut tells me that these factors—these factors that come into play every day, all over the world, for women who are trying to succeed—came into play for her.

I love Top Chef. The challenges can get ridiculous, and I often call the show out on that, but I don’t think I’ve ever missed an episode. For the most part, I really love the judges, too—especially Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons. Can’t get enough of ’em. But the images and ideas society feeds us become ingrained. Sexist bias is often subconscious, and the female judges can let this seep in just as easily as the male judges. I do think that sexism is in play at this point in the judging on this show. The numbers say it, and the judges pretty much said it themselves last night.


Ruminations on fictional female friendships

Throughout my life, I have had a lot of wonderful friendships with other females. Many of these have been very long-lasting; most of the women I spend time with on a regular basis now I have known since high school. I think very often about how fortunate I am to have a multitude of smart, funny, caring, supportive women in my life, who know me so well. So, I’m lucky—but am I abnormal? Is it odd for a woman to have so many other women for real, true, important friends? I don’t think so. But pop culture really does.

I’ve had several conversations with a new friend in my life—Shannon Bowen, one of the Downton Gabby Society Ladies—about the severe lack of accurate depictions of female friendship on screen. Shannon is a writer who believes in producing the product she’d like to see, therefore constructively addressing the problem at hand. (I really hope that a couple years from now you all will be able to see the film version of the comedy script she’s co-written with a female friendship at its core; it’s great stuff.) What she’s trying to do is something we desperately need as a culture right now. One of the reasons I’m so passionate about film and other kinds of literature is because I know that we can draw a direct link between the ideas we are exposed to and the perceptions we have in reality. For that reason, we desperately need more depictions of women that are not about their relationships with men.

I have raged recently in other spaces about the current happenings in government, where certain people feel that they have the right to regulate women’s bodies, to the point of not feeling like women even need to be included in the conversation about it. There are many factors that go into this thinking, from conservative religious views (separation of church and state be damned) to calculated political moves. Perhaps most alarmingly, there are also some far-right female politicians in the mix. I believe that pop culture contributes mightily to the landscape wherein it’s still possible for these politicians, male and female alike, to see women as people who should not have the same voice as men. Whatever the stated or implied thought process for supporting legislation that endangers women’s health, the belief that women should be controlled in a different way than men are is part of it. Meanwhile, the majority of female characters exist only in order to serve a function in a relationship with a male character—his girlfriend; his mother; his sister; his friend who’s always at the ready to discuss his problems. This is if we’re lucky; a lot of films don’t bother too much with female characters at all. It’s why the Bechdel Test, in its simplicity, is so enlightening about the pervasive pattern. Individual films can fail the Bechdel Test and still be great; when almost all the great films are failing the Bechdel Test, that’s when we need to sound the alarm.

People need to be exposed to depictions of women that are about the parts of our lives that have nothing to do with men. This is key to moving our culture toward one where everyone will view women as individuals who have just as much agency and deserve just as much respect as men do, and not see us simply as components in the lives of men. The simplest way to start this, it seems to me, is with better depictions of female friendships. If women’s friendships were portrayed on screen with the same frequency and variety that men’s friendships are, I truly believe it would help in changing the status quo. And of course, it’s important that these are in projects aimed toward both men and women as an audience—in a post-Bridesmaids world, I know we can do it.

In that spirit, here are just a few of my favorite female friendships of film and TV.

Angela Chase and Rayanne Graff, My So-Called Life

As the story of the beginning of a high school friendship, and a friendship wherein it’ll take a little while for either party to understand why she needs the other one so much, nothing beats Angela and Rayanne. In the same series, the equally impressive but not as generally heralded relationship between Angela and Sharon Cherski—friends who have grown apart, though Sharon can’t grasp why—provides nuanced context for Angela’s new relationships.

Monica Gellar, Rachel Green, and Phoebe Buffay, Friends

In its heyday, Friends was a really good comedy. I’ve been re-watching some of it lately in late night reruns, and I’m still impressed by the complex relationships between the characters. The great part about the female friendships on the show is that the conflicts that come up between the women are rarely about such contrived situations as liking the same man (with a big exception for the bizarre episode where Rachel and Monica fight over Jean-Claude Van Damme…). They talk about men, certainly, but usually in the context of helping one another sort through bad situations. And they also help each other often with career problems and family issues. It’s almost like they all have full, multi-faceted lives! Wow!

Sally and Marie, When Harry Met Sally…

It occurs to me that When Harry Met Sally… probably doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test. Well, it’s a romantic comedy, so we’ll forgive it that. But even if what Sally and Marie discuss is mostly Harry, Jess, and other romantic prospects, the comfortable, long-standing, caring vibe of their friendship always comes through. It reminds me of certain friendships I have, where every embarrassing detail of life can be shared with no judgment.

Thelma and Louise, Thelma & Louise

This one just has to be a given. Wrapped up in a nifty action adventure, we get the story of two women who would support each other through anything, and their individual and collective realizations that putting up with the status quo is bullshit.

Lindsay Weir and Kim Kelly, Freaks and Geeks

The “two women hate each other before outside circumstances make them friends” trope is problematic (is it just me, or are friendships usually formed when two people meet and like each other?), but one of the exceptions to the rule comes with Lindsay and Kim on Freaks and Geeks. Kim resents Lindsay’s intrusion into her group after Lindsay befriends Kim’s boyfriend, Daniel. The animosity isn’t really about Daniel, though—it’s about Kim’s inability to relate to someone she believes has a much easier life than hers. In the amazing fourth episode of the series, “Kim Kelly Is My Friend,” Kim brings Lindsay home just to show off to her kind-of-awful family that she can make a “normal” friend. The chaos that ensues starts the two girls on a path to a real friendship, where Kim eventually becomes Lindsay’s biggest cheerleader as Lindsay struggles to reconcile her own wants with what her parents want for her. Truly great writing, and amazing characters.

Daria Morgendorffer and Jane Lane, Daria

Daria and Jane care about a lot of things that typical teenage characters don’t usually get to care about. They talk about how messed up the world is more than they talk about boys (though they do get the boy talk in there), and their senses of humor are sarcastic and snide. The conflicts they face in their friendship often arise because they are still feeling out their own opinions and convictions, and it’s tough to maneuver when those don’t match up. These characters have depth, and we understand why they would be friends.

There are obviously more great examples besides these. Please share your favorites in the comments! My small sample seems to indicate that TV does a better job than movies; am I wrong? Most of what popped into my head was fairly new; what about more examples from before the ’90s? I want to hear your thoughts!

Calling on the collective brain!

Dear readers,

I would like to compile a list, and I’m asking for your help in making sure it is as complete as possible.

I do a lot of ranting, both on this blog and in real life, about the various sorts of ways female characters and relations between the genders are portrayed in film, television, and literature. Lately I have been thinking a lot about a certain kind of scenario that seems to come up a lot, usually played for comedic value. This is when:

1) a male character, finding a female character attractive, manipulates events in such a way that he tricks her into letting him see her naked, or…
2) a male character already in a relationship with a female character tricks her into letting his friends see her naked.

Some examples:
*American Pie, when Jim broadcasts his tryst with Nadia on his webcam
*Knight and Day, when Roy, having drugged June ‘for her own good,’ changes her into a bikini after reaching their tropical destination
*Kick-Ass, when Dave pretends to be gay to befriend Katie and they do some topless self-tanning
*The Virginity Hit, when Matt has all of his friends listening and is videotaping while planning to lose his virginity to Nicole
*Love & Other Drugs, when Jamie pretends to be a doctor so he can see Maggie’s breasts

Now, if any of these things happened to me in real life, I’d feel violated and in some cases be considering whether I could take legal action. In the movies, generally the female characters are mad for maybe a minute (if at all) before deciding that it’s no big deal, just boys being boys, and almost always end up in a romantic relationship with the guy who’s done the violating. We the audience are asked to root for these male characters, as if this kind of behavior shouldn’t take away any of our sympathy for them. Again, just boys being boys…I mean, if a girl is hot, her body is communal property, right? And invading her privacy is just good comic fun!

There are probably some examples of this going the other way, and I’d love to compile those as well. I am guessing they are far outnumbered, however. I’ll be adding examples to the comments as I think of them…please join me!

It is just as I feared.

I avoided watching (500) Days of Summer for this long because everyone seems to love it, and I had a suspicion that I would hate it. I didn’t want to hate it; I quite like Zooey Deschanel and absolutely adore Joseph Gordon-Levitt. But sadly, I was right. Some might blame it on my personal curmudgeon status, but there are actually many romancey movies that I do like. Just not this one. So, here I present: Top Ten Reasons Why I Hated (500) Days of Summer.

1. The opening description of Summer, beginning with: “Since the disintegration of her parents’ marriage, she’d only loved two things. The first was her long dark hair; the second was how easily she could cut it off, and feel nothing.” HUH? How does that make sense? If you love something, getting rid of it would make you feel SOMETHING. This is not deep and clever. It’s dumb and contradictory. From here on out, I cringed every time the (very unnecessary) narration kicked in.

2. Liking a certain band (The Smiths, in this case) is presented as such a rare trait that it alone could make a man fall in love with a woman. FYI, I know plenty of women who like The Smiths. Along with waaaay more obscure bands than that.

3. Presence of a precocious little sister, wise beyond her years. No one ever needs to be wise beyond their years in film ever again.*

4. Two traits + a desire = personality. Tom: likes music, likes architecture, wants Summer. Summer: dresses cutesy old fashioned, is vaguely witty, wants to remain independent. We can do better than this, screenwriters of the world. (The supporting characters do not even get this much.)

5. But wait, this is a fascinating interaction! He is the ‘girl’ and she is the ‘guy’ in this relationship! Whoa! Crazy!

6. Excessive and not nearly clever enough fantasy musical/movie-referencing sequences. I’ve seen better spontaneous group dance numbers in soda commercials. And The Seventh Seal, for chrissakes? We were done spoofing that with Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.

7. Really though, he is in love with her just because she LIKES SOME STUFF? (And is pretty. Okay. She’s very pretty.)

8. The ending. Immediately after all that protestation, she meets the man she’s meant to be with and is happy forever after.

9. The rest of the ending. Immediately after all that pain, he meets the girl he is supposed to be with and is happy forever after.

9.5. Honestly, COME ON on numbers 8 & 9. If you make a movie where the whole intent is for the couple to not get together in the end, but then they are both just magically happy with other people, what is the effing point? If the film truly examined the process of getting over someone and moving on, I could get behind that. But what we get is one schmaltzy conversation that ends with Tom declaring that he truly hopes Summer is happy with her new man. Uh, no you don’t, Tom. Not that easily. Bloody hell.

10. Last, but not least, use of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Old Friends,” which was retired from any further acceptable pop culture use after closing the episode of The Wonder Years where Paul has his bar mitzvah.

This movie has an 8.0 on IMDb. I do not understand.** If you would like to watch a “quirky” love story, please just watch Amelie again. If you would like to watch a good movie where the couple doesn’t get together in the end, believe it or not, those are out there too. You can ask me for a recommendation…with a spoiler caveat, of course.

*One exception in the television world for Manny on Modern Family.

**It should be said, there is one slight redeeming quality of this film: JGL’s wardrobe. Yes.

In which an insufferable asshole angers me greatly

Oh hey guys! Bret Easton Ellis has an opinion on women film directors! WANNA HEAR IT?!

Via part two of last week’s five-part interview on Movieline, by Kyle Buchanan:

What are your thoughts on women directors? After you saw Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank, you tweeted that you might have to reevaluate your preconceived notions about them.
I did. And after I saw [Floria Sigismondi’s] The Runaways, too.

I loved it.

I wish I’d loved it.
Well, I wasn’t looking forward to it. I avoided it, and then I was with some people and they said, “It starts soon at the Arclight. Let’s go.” So yeah, I do have to reevaluate that, but for the most part I’m not totally convinced, [except for] Andrea Arnold, Kathryn Bigelow, Sofia Coppola…

Not Mary Harron?
Mary Harron to a degree. There’s something about the medium of film itself that I think requires the male gaze.

What would that be?
We’re watching, and we’re aroused by looking, whereas I don’t think women respond that way to films, just because of how they’re built.

You don’t think they have an overt level of arousal?
[They have one] that’s not so stimulated by the visual. I think, to a degree, all the women I named aren’t particularly visual directors. You could argue that Lost in Translation is beautiful, but is that [cinematographer Lance Acord]? I don’t know. Regardless of the business aspect of things, is there a reason that there isn’t a female Hitchcock or a female Scorsese or a female Spielberg? I don’t know. I think it’s a medium that really is built for the male gaze and for a male sensibility. I mean, the best art is made under not an indifference to, but a neutrality [toward] the kind of emotionalism that I think can be a trap for women directors. But I have to get over it, you’re right, because so far this year, two of my favorite movies were made by women, Fish Tank and The Runaways. I’ve got to start rethinking that, although I have to say that a lot of the big studio movies I saw last year that were directed by women were far worse than the sh***y big-budget studio movies that were directed by men.

Which are we talking about?
I mean, do I want to say this on the record? Did you see The Proposal? Anyway, whatever.

Oh, Bret Easton Ellis! Thank you for enlightening me to the fact that I apparently am not BUILT in the correct manner to be AROUSED by films, which are only one of my greatest fucking passions in life. I had mistakenly thought I was enjoying my non-penis-having self while watching films! (NO WORD YET on how Bret Easton Ellis feels about trans men and their collective capability to be aroused by film.) BRET EASTON ELLIS, THIS IS ME SHOWING THAT EMOTION THAT YOU HATE SO MUCH. IT IS CALLED ANGER. AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH.

Okay, breathe, self. Remember that you have always known that Bret Easton Ellis is a tool. At least you are not Mary Harron MOTHERFUCKING DIRECTOR OF AMERICAN PSYCHO, who has been personally insulted. At least you know what the term “male gaze” actually means in this type of discourse! (For the love of god, Bret Easton Ellis, take a Film Analysis and/or Gender Studies class at the 101 level, please, before you ever open your smug fucking mouth again.)

Anyway. The tension in my chest is fading a bit. I will not waste my time further dissecting the stupidity on display here. What I will do is go watch something awesome that was directed by a woman. BELIEVE ME it is about to get really, really womany up on this blog. Stay tuned.

Why I hate the search for “the next Twilight”

In the world of advertising, “If you liked THAT, you’ll looooove THIS” is a traditional method of getting people’s attention. Sometimes a comparison makes sense, and sometimes it’s a stretch. Once in a while, when one of the two compared things is something you love and the other is something you hate, you’re going to need to blog about it.

The gargantuan success of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series makes the search for “the next Twilight” inevitable. It’s hardly controversial for me to say at this point that the Twilight books are very badly written showcases for incredibly questionable themes, such as the idea that if a guy “loves” you enough you should stay with him even though it may literally result in your death (abusive relationships, so romantic!). I truly find them deplorable, even if I can get the appeal to young girls. I read a lot of crap in my day, much of which fed into that same desire girls are taught to have: the longing that a male will find you “special” (ahem….The Valley of Horses. Ladies, I know you know that of which I speak). But none of it was life-saturating on the level of these damn Twilight books/movies.

These concerns have been written about by other people in multiple spaces, and with thoroughness that I can’t match (because I never finished the series, since I refuse to spend any more of my life actually reading those books, BECAUSE THEY PUT ME INTO A RAGE, but I have been told what happens in the series and can I just say, EW, GROSS). I highly recommend the recent series on NPR’s Monkey See blog, wherein they book club their way through the first installment. It is hilarious and also dead-on commentary.

My newest rage—the rage I actually want to speak of today—is the tactic of comparing things to Twilight as an attempt to woo teenage girls into reading something else. As I said, I realize that this is a long-standing method of advertisement. It is also deeply insulting to the intellect of said teenage girls, many of whom, like young me, probably read crap such as Twilight but ALSO will read other things that are not crap, but actual literature. (Or even actual non-fiction! Sometimes girls also like facts, and not just stories! Although stories are so awesome!) Unfortunately, “fans of Twilight” has become its own target demographic, and these girls become defined by their very fandom. (Sidenote: I realize there are many grown women and also probably many males who enjoy Twilight. I’m just talking about YA fiction aimed at and advertised for teenage girls.)

Most of the Twilight-comparison ads I’ve seen so far have at least been for other entries in the supernatural/vampire/werewolf genre. I am sure that some of these books are better than Twilight, and some are not. I roll my eyes at these ads, and feel sympathy for the books’ authors, who probably would prefer people noticed their name, and not Stephenie Meyer’s, on their own damn book. But, such is the nature of genre fiction.

Sadly, though, it seems that now ANY novel for girls featuring a girl as the main character is fair game for the Twilight comparison. Even if it means distorting the very nature of the book! It is just such an advertisement that prompted me to start this post.

The print ad reads “If I Stay by Gayle Forman—a New York Times bestseller soon to be a major motion picture from the studio behind Twilight.” It is accompanied by a photo of the paperback version of the book, which dispenses with the beautiful, spare cover of the hardback edition in favor of a generic picture of a young girl, meant to represent our main character. Above the title on the book cover: “‘Will appeal to fans of Stephenie Meyer’s TWILIGHT.’ -USA Today”. Below, a question: “what would you do if you had to choose?”

Let’s assume that you are completely unfamiliar with the novel If I Stay, but—since it is nearly impossible not to be—you are aware of the whole Team Edward/Team Jacob piece of the Twilight phenomenon. Might you think that this tagline, “what would you do if you had to choose?” on this novel being touted as appealing to Twilight fans, might refer to a similar situation? “Shall she choose Guy A, or guy B?! I know I want to find out!” This is the clear intention of the people behind this new book cover and this print ad.

In truth, though, the actual dilemma of the main character of this wonderful novel is a bit different than Bella Swan’s. Our heroine, Mia, has been in a horrible car accident. She is in a coma. And the choice she must make is whether to let herself die or to try to live in a world where both of her parents and her little brother have just been killed.

If I Stay is one of the best YA novels I have ever read, and I still read a lot of them. Mia—a classical cellist in love with a punk-rock boy; ever-so-slightly a misfit, but adored by her best friend—feels like a real teen in a way that Bella Swan simply never can. The prose and structure of the story work together to create a three-hanky weeper that is somehow never melodramatic. It is simply beautiful. Every single person I have recommended it to has also loved it. It affected me so much that I am literally tearing up just recalling the experience of reading it.

This book is no Twilight. Comparing it to Twilight is an insult. There must be many, many girls who like both Twilight and If I Stay, and perhaps this line of advertising will help even more discover If I Stay (though, let’s not forget—it was a New York Times bestseller in its hardback edition, with no helpful comparison blurb to be seen). But, I think it is low to frame this novel about sudden and unspeakable loss as a great companion piece to a ridiculous series about obsessive “love” at first sight/scent.

If you see this ad, please know that If I Stay is not a book to be dismissed as “the next Twilight”. It is a masterpiece. Some people do still try to write those for teenage girls.

Yeah, it’s still dumb.

Remember my complaint in my Get Smart review about the mind-bogglingly unpossible (as Ralph Wiggum would say) parachuting scene? Check out this exchange from Roger Ebert’s current Answer Man column:

Q. You know the action sequence involving the freefall without a parachute where one person catches up to another? The first time I saw it was in “Moonraker,” and many times since, including “Point Break,” “Shoot ’em Up” and “Crank.” But is it accurate that when freefalling, you can change the velocity to which you are approaching the earth that dramatically, that by closing your arms and legs together, you could catch up to someone flailing their arms and legs?
Tor Ramsey, Shelby, N.C.

A. For an answer, I turned to computer columnist Andy Ihnatko of Boston, who somehow always knows about stuff like this. He replies:

“Yes, it is absolutely true. The short answer is to think about how fast a skydiver falls before and after the chute deploys. Same man, same parachute; after he pulls the ripcord, he’s exposing more surface area to the onrushing air. Simple. Or you can take a look at a YouTube video, which you can find by searching for ‘indoor skydive.’ It shows a static skydive attraction where a huge turbofan in the floor blows upward at the same force as you’d encounter after jumping from a plane. The person in ‘freefall’ position perpendicular to the oncoming air is hovering four feet above the floor. The person who’s presenting the lowest profile can stand in place like nothing unusual is going on.” ”

Okay, I’ll admit that what this guy says probably makes sense in a random testing situation. And I’m glad someone else is bothered enough by these sorts of scenes to write in about it. But no amount of surface area blah blah blah reasoning can serve as explanation for something like 99’s rescue of Max. Let’s not forget that even if she could propel herself to the ground that much faster than him, in the 60 seconds or so it takes her to get her chute on and jump the plane would have traveled about eight miles past where Max fell out. There’s no defense for it, people. It’s lazy writing. You want to write an action sequence that involves hurtling toward the earth from an obscene distance, come up with something better.
I think the reason this sort of thing bothers me so much, and why I’m subjecting you all to another rant on it, is that I’ve been spoiled by some really great action movies in the past few years that don’t at all break the rules of their world. For example, we’ve got the Bourne movies, where absolutely thrilling action sequences consist largely of guys running around and hitting each other, and on the other side of the spectrum sit the comic book movies like Iron Man, where over-the-top-that-could-never-happen sequences are the entire point and therefore are totally justified. And speaking of Iron Man, I believe that movie does in fact feature a fantastic scene that involves good and bad guy hurtling toward the earth from an obscene distance. How bout that.
Okay, silly rant of the day over now.

Other projects:

Downton Gabby: podcasting about Downton Abbey from a funny, foul-mouthed, feminist perspective

Quick Lit: reading one short story a day in 2015

Grand Dames: collecting sundry achievements of admirable women

The MacGuffin: archive of my days as a film critic

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