The Cosmopolitan Divide, part 22


We’re not dealing with astronomy here, but even when it comes to bedside astrology, it’s still worth questioning our own views. Are Cosmopolitan and other such magazines a step backwards? Sometimes you have to look at old theories in light of new evidence; sometimes you have to look at evidence in light of new/different theories.


The Cosmopolitan Divide, part 21


Moreover, sometimes you do have to go back and double-check, even with previous findings.  I’m not talking about the covers here; I mean, cleavage is cleavage is cleavage. I’m referring to theory. Theory informs research, research produces findings, findings confirm, refute, complicate, etc., the theory. Inevitably, though, theory may eventually be questioned, its blind spots exposed.

Blah blah blah Galileo, right? I’ll give you something that you probably don’t hear every time Galileo’s brought up: retrograde epicyclic motion.  One of the things that the Ptolemaic model had to explain was why the other planets sometimes appeared to reverse their direction in their orbit around the Earth, occasionally doing a loop-de-loop and travelling backwards for a little while. Aristotle says the Earth is the center of the universe –> those other planets sure do weird crap!


The Cosmopolitan Divide, part 20


Some of you have probably spent the last 20 weeks wondering why the hell I’m so dense. Obviously the cleavage on the cover is a message that women should have a body good enough to show it off. Obviously the juxtaposition of cover and messages (“30 Beauty Boosters”, “The South Beach Diet: Peel Off 7 Pounds Fast“, f’rinstance) is meant to imply connection. Do this (“The South Beach Diet: Peel Off 7 Pounds Fast“), be that (Jessica Simpson), get this (“Feel Happier (and in Control) on Your Most Crazed Days”). Obviously.  But you have to be able to back that up. Did you even read parts 5-10?


Movie Review: Ghostbusters (2016)

I just saw the new Ghostbusters movie. I’ll give you the TL;DR first; or, I suppose that’s the “too long, won’t read”.
Good dialogue and visual gags, 95% solid story, and God bless the team that oversaw the color choices.
Ghosts should be green, thank you for the green ghosts. Thank you for the blue ghosts. Thank you for the pink offsetting the green, it was very 80s. Thank you, color team.
I laughed throughout the movie, and I was happy to be the only person in the theater who laughed at the communist undertones of Rowan’s plans. I’m sure if I knew more, it’d be even funnier!
I enjoyed the attention to detail–that is, my own attention to it, anyway. I’m not sure what all time periods are meant to be represented in the film’s final fight, but I saw two films from 1971, and one from 1976 on marquees. I suppose any big film nowadays has so many people working on it–and with computers–that you’re bound to get lots of detail. It’s simply what you notice that informs your reading, so I appreciate being the kind of person who pays attention to the background to begin with. Anyway, we’ve got the 1920s (or a highly stylized version of it, anyway) in the form of the parade balloons. Sidebar: the 1920s are actually referenced twice, explicitly. Let me back up. The first time was in the concert hall, where the prissy manager is upset at the Art Deco fixtures being physically destroyed. (The fact that a metal band (can someone tell me if this was really what a metal band looks and sounds like these days? or was it movie metal, the way movies treated punk characters in the 80s?) is performing in the venue doesn’t faze him, though, I should point out.) You’ve got the 1960s present when the Slimers–the woman Slimer replete with a flip hairstyle–taking a joyride through the city. Oh yeah, and the pilgrim, and whenever the hell the locked-up daughter was from, and whenever the prisoner was supposed to be from.
There’s this mix-and-match, a picking and choosing of what parts of the past to show. Sure, to make the story read, you have to pick ones that are *obviously* representative of certain eras (like, were there Pilgrims in New York? I’m clearly the wrong guy to ask), but the approach remains clear. And it’s the same approach that the film takes when dealing with the original Ghostbusters movie (I’d say movies, but I still remain the only person on the planet who loves GB2). You get jokes about how you can’t have things exactly the same: the rent for an abandoned firehouse is prohibitively expensive; a paranormal studies department could only exist at a shitty college* that forgot it was there; it’s finally revealed at the end that Holtzmann builds all the cool equipment from stuff she finds in dumpsters, and yeah, seriously, where the hell did the original Ghostbusters get the money and manpower to build a giant containment unit? The mix-and-match goes further–nods to the cartoon in the form of Holtzmann’s cartoon-Egon hair; Rowan being simultaneously the 80s cartoon logo, a pastiche of even older “cute ghost cartoons”**, AND both Oogie Boogie and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
It’s commercial, and it’s pandering to an extent, and yes, and I’m sure if I knew more about communism and cataclysms, I could either make this film punch itself–or explain itself. I mean, come on, the opening scene has a ghost terrorizing someone who makes their living off of the commodification of ghost stories. And don’t get me started about how Patty Tolan knew the street artist who made the No Ghosts logo, yet we don’t see her tracking the guy down to license his creation. But it’s precisely the same type of love/hate relationship I–and likely a large swath of my generation–have with the pop culture we grew up on. We wouldn’t have the movie we got without love for the franchise, and we wouldn’t have the movie we got without a willingness to criticize the past. It’s how I write my comics; it’s how I write my Perfect Strangers blog. I think it’s a type of thinking about old media, and our relationship to it, that will never sit well with those who are simply fans, and just want to consume.*** I think that’s part of why Star Wars was a “success”, and why this “wasn’t”. I think it’s why the Perfect Strangers fan community will never get past my swear words and toilet humor to see the thought (and love, I’ll admit) I put into those reviews. I don’t want to downplay the sexism inherent in the pre-criticism of this film, because that was a bunch of bullshit from whiny guys. (An aside: I believe that no one who dislikes GB2 has any fucking right to criticize this film on any basis, but that’s a post for another day. Another aside: I have some theories about why these type of guys are semi-legitimately whiny, but just can’t see the bigger picture (spoiler: it’s basically the same short-sightedness of affirmative action critics).) (Do I love my parenthetical asides or do I love my parenthetical asides?)
I’m going to say that this movie is a great balance of goofy and serious in its storytelling, and like Socrates, let’s understand the city by looking at the man. The hyper, overworking generative force of the Ghostbusting team–Jillian Holtzmann, who manages to be comic at both the broad and detailed levels****–is herself constantly clothed in a fusion of mismatched styles. I think people like to break teams into easy personality categories: the “funny” one, the “serious” one, the “nerdy” one, the “heart” of the group. You know what? Holtzmann *is* the Ghostbusters: she makes everything work and tells everybody what to do. She’s not a leader; she’s a god damn force. She’s the perfect combination of theory and practice, the perfect balance of goofy and brainy, and I fell in love with her more than I’ve swooned for any lesbian with great hair (which is strangely damn often).
Other tiny things I loved:
–There’s a scene late in the movie, where Abby is running from Rowan’s ghost; she tries to lock the door with both locks, even though we–and she–saw in the first act that there’s no amount of locks that can keep a ghost from opening a door
–Erin and Abby’s motivations can be understood through their backstory of being teased in high school for their belief in ghosts; everyone called them the “ghost girls”. At the end of the movie, the resolution of both the threat of the movie and their relationship’s arc results in their hair turning white.  I teared up at the fact their reclaiming of the put-down had taken physical form.
Things I hated:
–the Harold Ramis bust was kind of lame
–I’m primed to keep an eye out for what I call the “videogame scene” in movies like this (that is, a scene that seems to have been come up with by someone who said “this will be great in the video game”), and that scene was popping the parade balloons as they approached
–Also, this movie plays super fast and loose with whether ghosts are made of physical material, and whether the ghostbusting equipment only impacts ghosts, or the physical world as well. We got a whole sequence in Ghost Dad where Bill Cosby went from passing through an old woman’s crotch; to working on trying not to fall through the floor; to mastery over his new relation to his environment by travelling through a phone line. It felt like there were no rules, or at the very least none explained
–This movie shows its seams. I could have used a little more Rowan, and I feel like there probably was more Rowan. I’ll admit I read about the dancing scenes that were cut before I saw this, but I think I would have realized there was something missing in that part of the movie. I mean, Rowan-as-a-ghost-as-Kevin putting people into dance positions, and then nothing happening is the equivalent of one of those “scene missing” screens. Also, the scene where the team tries out Holtzmann’s inventions felt off, like there was too much edited out of it; but hey, this thing was already 105 minutes.
–Ozzy’s cameo was total shit
Lastly, I think they missed an opportunity for Bill Murray’s and Dan Aykroyd’s cameos by not having them be the bums from one of the deleted scenes from the original movie, but I suppose you can’t get everything you want.
*I love jokes about shitty colleges
**Harvey Comics tried to sue over the No Ghosts logo, claiming likeness too similar to Ghastly Trio (Casper’s brothers)
***I think you should all be paying attention to whatever South Park is going to say about this with its 20th season, because “member-berries” are certainly resonating with this line of thinking I’m going down
****never, EVER take your eyes off of her if she’s on screen; she never turns off

The Cosmopolitan Divide, part 19


What Colson-Smith found is that, even though gendered messages only made up about a third of the cover texts on those magazines, their prevalence did increase between 1999 and 2003.  Women’s magazine covers had more gendered messages than men’s did. Aside from celebrity news, beauty/body image and fashion were the highest ranking category of text on the women’s magazine covers.  What’s most surprising to me is that beauty/body image messages accounted for almost a quarter of the text on the covers of Good Housekeeping. I seriously thought that magazine was about couches and flowers and cookies or whatever.


The Cosmopolitan Divide, part 18


Colson-Smith’s research had a number of hypotheses, but three concern us here: that gendered cover messages would increase over that time period for both men’s and women’s magazines, that beauty/body image and fashion themes would be most prominent on women’s magazine covers (compared to other themes), and that women’s magazine covers would have more gendered messages than men’s.


The Cosmopolitan Divide, part 17


Rhajon N. Colson-Smith, who probably never thought her name would end up on my dumb blog, finished her thesis in 2005: “Look Younger, Lose 10 Pounds, and Influence Your Audience: A Content Analysis of Popular Men’s and Women’s Magazine Cover Blurbs and the Messages They Project to Their Readers”. She looked at four different magazines’s covers (Esquire, Good Housekeeping, Gentlemen’s Quarterly, Vogue) for the years 1999-2003 to see what kind of messages they contained.  Her literature review, unlike mine, was a real one, and she found that magazines telling women what they ought to be has its beginnings in the early 20th Century.


The Cosmopolitan Divide, part 16


And what I’m finding from the handful of articles, one thesis, and one monograph that I’ve identified as relevant for this series, is that Cosmopolitan’s covers say a lot of things, too!  I’ve been staring at the cleavage and not even reading the words.

Words like

  • the gyno crisis every woman dreads
  • 10 girlfriend goof-ups
  • make him your love slave
  • is your skin aging too fast?
  • draw men like moths to a flame
  • get Cosmo cleavage


The Cosmopolitan Divide, part 15


I’ve also done a modicum of research for the second half of this series, to try to answer the question of why cleavage was being used to sell a product to women. My coverage of the literature is going to be spotty and incomplete.  I feel like I need this kind of disclaimer (read: apology) since I’m a librarian and part of my job is to encourage students to be as thorough as they can when searching for academic resources on a topic.  Get more than you need and winnow, I say.  Check their bibliographies for further relevant research, I say. Use Web of Science to see newer pieces that cite what you already have, I say.

I say a lot of things.


The Cosmopolitan Divide, part 14


And, yes,

“sought confirmation” = sneakin’ peeks at breasts because I was 13,


“sought confirmation” = everyone’s a scientist whether or not they want to admit it.

It can be both!

My hunch was, with only a couple of exceptions that I can remember, validated and re-affirmed each time. To sum up what I’ve said so far: hunches have value; hunches have shortcomings, hunches need data. And I’m building what could, if you’re feeling generous, be termed a dataset.