Handle with Care: Representing Chinese Factory Workers

Penny Wang | June 11, 2018
Stories about the miseries of Chinese factory workers have been regarded in the West as welcome gestures against the dehumanising globalised market economy to which China has submitted itself. These expository accounts have been applauded as signs of critical reflections against the silence imposed by the Chinese government—a government the Western media label as authoritarian and indifferent to the lower-income populations victimised by its profit-oriented policies. Much as I appreciate the necessity of such exposés, either through reports or slightly fictionalised accounts, I usually find these narratives deeply problematic. Taking an event I recently attended as an example—a screening of the short film Before Christmas directed by Chuyao He on 11 May at Edinburgh Printmakers (part of the Edinburgh Short Film Festival), I would like to examine exactly what is wrong with these representations.

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Their Unrelenting Eyes: I Feel Pretty and the Entrapment of Narcissism

Nadia Ahmed | June 4, 2018
Addressing the lives of women, particularly white, heterosexual, cisgender, American women, is the film I Feel Pretty, which came out last month. What struck me upon watching this film was that the main character’s sense of self compares so closely to the narcissistic woman described in Simone de Beauvoir’s work The Second Sex (1949).  This article is concerned with drawing parallels between I Feel Pretty and The Second Sex in order to question the transcendence of the protagonist, Renee (played by Amy Schumer), who, bored and unsatisfied with her life, inculcates herself into a state of self-obsession.

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Stories Worth Telling: Black Panther and the Rise of Diversity in Popular Culture

Patricia Ng | March 28, 2018
No matter what you say about the Marvel cinematic franchise, they are making some bold moves. Rather than simply making films about popular superheroes, they have now moved on to lesser-known characters, especially those belonging to minority groups. The newly released Black Panther is certainly one of their best examples. Featuring T’Challa (Black Panther), the king of the fictional African nation Wakanda, as the lead, the film can be seen as yet another attempt to diversify the entertainment industry. In recent years, Hollywood has been producing more and more movies with female leads and a culturally diverse cast, like the upcoming female spin-off of Ocean’s Eleven and the multi-ethnic cast in the new Star Wars reboot films. There is nothing wrong with creating films that don’t have white male leads, and we should welcome narratives that promote diversity. Yet, with the rise of such a trend in popular culture, one has to question what it means for a diverse narrative to be good.

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Fantastic Catharsis and Where to Find It

Laurie Beckoff | March 27, 2018
Fantasy, science fiction, and other speculative genres are often pejoratively labelled ‘escapist’, accused of being too distant from real-world issues and allowing audiences to dissociate from reality to indulge in daydreams. They let us forget about the problems plaguing our society so that we can enjoy an action-packed adventure or a whimsical jaunt through a magical land.

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Empty Words: The Politics of Performing Change

Anahit Behrouz | January 10, 2018
In an article for The Pool published the week before the 2018 Golden Globes ceremony, film critic Helen O’Hara questioned what a Hollywood awards ceremony would look like in a post-Weinstein world. O’Hara argued that although women only get 27% of the lines in the average Oscar-winning film, this year’s Golden Globes nominee list showed a progression towards a more equal awards ceremony, with numerous women and female-focused films up for consideration. As heartening as this may be, O’Hara did not delve into the question of how the mechanics of an awards ceremony in a post-Weinstein world would work, and what the optics would look like in an industry spending millions of dollars in self-congratulation during the same year that its ugly underbelly has been exposed.

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Leave Us Our Precious

Laurie Beckoff | December 4, 2017
The announcement of Amazon purchasing the rights to The Lord of the Rings was met with a resounding groan from many Tolkien fans. While some are certainly excited for more Middle-earth on their screens, a large contingent is more than a little concerned about how their precious story could be ruined.

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Gaga: Five Foot Two – Documenting Fame and Fibromyalgia

Anna Kemball | November 20, 2017
Microphone in hand, her bejewelled boots dangling, Lady Gaga rises into the heights of the NGR Stadium to rehearse an aerial performance in her Super Bowl halftime show. Rising higher, out of the camera’s focus, the singer disappears from view as a choir is heard singing Kaval Sviri (better known as the fight theme of Xena: Warrior Princess). So begins Gaga: Five Foot Two, a feature-length Netflix documentary. Although the documentary covers the release of Joanne, Gaga’s latest album, and her Super Bowl performance, reviews have focused on the coverage of her fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), a long term condition characterised by widespread pain, fatigue and other symptoms. The name alone – referring to the singer’s height – suggests our focus should be on Gaga’s physicality as we watch Gaga: Five Foot Two. On the face of it, documentary coverage of FMS is a much-needed representation of an “invisible disability” that affects around 1 in 20. Making the condition “visible” must surely be a good thing, right?

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The (Ignored) Feminist Heroes of Wonder Woman

Scheherazade Khan | 13 June 2017

Warning : Spoilers ahead for Wonder Woman (2017)

Though box office ratings and some critiques seem to suggest that Wonder Woman is finally giving a female role the appropriate attention, I join with other critics who argue that the movie itself failed to deliver on the hope that it would be a feminist dream. For me, Wonder Woman suggests that the only way for female superheroes to be successful is to mimic traditionally male roles. That is, having adventures, engaging in physical violence while proclaiming superior – if not slightly naïve – moral standards, all while wearing absurdly tight clothing that seems like it would be a hindrance when fighting for one’s life. In comparison, the working women in the movie (of which there are a grand total of two) are used either as comic relief or for nefarious purposes.

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The Siren’s Call: Mica Levi’s Soundscapes of Alien Femininity

Katie Goh | 15 May 2017

Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2014) opens with a bright white light shining into the audience, which then morphs into an eye over the span of five minutes, accompanied by a crescendo of buzzing violins. The opening is disturbing and abstract, setting the tone for the film’s sonic and visual imagery and for the alien language created by Mica Levi’s soundscape.

Mica Levi’s second film score was for Jackie (2016), Pablo Lerrain’s biopic of America’s most famous widow, first lady Jacqueline Kennedy. The film chronicles Jackie’s response to the aftermath of her husband’s assassination as she simultaneously processes her personal grief and works to mythologize her husband’s legacy. Both Lerrain and Glazer’s films are about alien femininity: whereas Under the Skin centres on a literal alien playing as woman, Jackie follows an alienated woman.

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