Yes, I Did Go See It

On opening night. And paid full price, at that.

Legally Blonde 2, that is.

A good friend of mine and I have for the last several summers made a point of seeing as many bad summer movies as possible, and particularly those that have some girl-appeal (witness the trip to see Josie and the Pussycats two years ago. I seem to have blocked last summer’s fare out of my memory). Her daughters, 8 and 13, are at the heart, I think, of Legally Blonde 2‘s target demographic, if I can judge by the general composition of last evening’s audience.

And I can’t help but wonder, after having seen the movie, where the girl-empowering notions they’re coming away with originate. The L.A. Times review refers to Elle (the Reese Witherspoon character, for those of you who haven’t partaken of the Blonde franchise) as an “alpha girl,” though an unlikely one, suggesting that her effectiveness as a character lies both in her personal power and in her nonthreateningness. And indeed, repeatedly throughout the movie we see Elle charm her way into being taken seriously by a slew of Beltway politicos, including the hardened, embittered Congresswoman from Texas and the “conservative NRA spokeman from Alabama” (who is referred to as such no fewer than three times in the movie).

So, message number one: smart is good, but sweet and cute is necessary.

Elle encounters a bunch of opposition in the course of her quest — which quest involves the ever-so-1990 issue of the animal-testing of cosmetics — and in particular from a series of powerful women, including her boss, her co-workers, and the above-mentioned Congresswoman from Texas, who is finally won over only through the uncovering of their sorority-sisterhood, and who then performs the most thorough about-face ever seen in U.S. politics. Elle does get support in this quest as well, but that support comes from a few limited places:

1. Men.
2. Sorority sisters.
3. Dingbats.
4. The style-challenged.

And the message here? Powerful, attractive women cannot be trusted — unless they have also drunk from the sacred cup of sisterhood?

Okay, I’m willing to countenance the argument — which someone ought to bring up about now — that it’s a summer movie, for crying out loud, and a sequel at that. It’s not to be taken so seriously as all this. It’s darned entertaining at moments — in fact, the Times is not far wrong when it claims that the movie’s “wonderfully wacky absence of logic” is one of its charms. But I couldn’t help but look around that theater-ful of 8-to-13 year-olds and wonder what of all this might wind up internalized after all.

Fall Break

Ahhh. A few blissful days to regroup, kick off one’s shoes, sip a warm beverage, grade two stacks of papers, read three books, plan two committee meetings, fly to Albuquerque for a conference, finish the revisions on the manuscript, meet with the architects on the building renovation, and otherwise enjoy a few days of… um… calm.

There’s been very little posting here of late (by me, I mean, not by my faithful commenters), which makes me very sad. The falloff has less to do with the fact that I haven’t had time to write than with the fact that I haven’t had time to get interested enough in anything to consider it worth writing about. And that’s just darned sad. So a moment to follow up on a couple of topics raised by earlier comments:

–Mom was in town this past week, and on Wednesday, we caught an episode of The West Wing, the first I’ve seen in just about a year, and can I just say, yawn. Aaron, my friend, you’ve let me down. Where is the pop and fizz of Sports Night, both in the dialogue and in the characters? Where is the obsessive treatment of governmental arcana so fascinating in the first years of TWW’s run? Once upon a time, your show managed to be the foremost public outlet for serious political discourse without being preachy or self-righteous; what has caused this vast decline? Is it simply the never-ending campaign trail? Has the Jeb Bartlett I once wanted to be my president gone the way of Al Gore, self-parodying, bombastic, and impotent?

–Having been taken to task for my gripes with Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed, and in preparation for a student reading group of same (itself in preparation for a lecture by author of same, here at the College Just South of the No-Longer Flaming Hill), I’m delving into the book again, this time with a new appreciation (thanks to CSA and BT) for the ways that Ehrenreich herself actually does describe the limitations of both her project and its potential for inspiring social change. You’re absolutely right, CSA, that the book is a wake-up call, and you, BT, are similarly dead-on in suggesting that this wake-up call is aimed at those sitting the ideological fence, closing their eyes to the difficulties of the working poor and persuading themselves that the American dream works, because it’s convenient. Ehrenreich never really makes any bones about the fact that the book is journalism, not scholarship, and as such, I think I ask too much of it to ask for solutions. Part of my earlier aggravation, which was really transformed into high dudgeon by the play — which is in effect an extended monologue by “Barbara Ehrenreich,” supported by a cast of amusing and pitiful workers — has to do with the centrality of Ehrenreich’s voice in the book, the ways that the narrative becomes all about her. But then, this is a larger problem with journalism today, I think: the story, as a friend once observed, now transforms with light-speed into the story of the story, and in that story, the journalist is hero.

I think there’s a connection between these two things, but I’m too tired to be able to figure it out right now. Perhaps after a little bit of the “rest” I’m sure to get during my fall “break,” and after a little input from some friends, I’ll take another stab at it.

Today, Of Course

Night before last (meaning Monday night, the 9th), I watched Showtime’s airing of Reflections from Ground Zero, a series of nine short films produced by graduate students from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. I’m not sure whether it was any of the films themselves, or rather the generally haunting remembrances, or my past life at NYU, or my more personal and present requirement to address the date in a suitably professorial manner (at a faculty-student luncheon at which I’m to appear on an official panel) — whatever the cause, night before last (meaning, as I write pre-sleep, last night) I dreamed of the World Trade Center, over and over.

Dreamed of watching it come down, powerless on the wrong side of the country and on the wrong side of the television screen. Dreamed of searching for a way off of the 104th floor. Dreamed of debris, and panic, and evacuations.

Today is a day I’d rather not acknowledge — rather not, in fact, experience. Rather ignore from a safe spot, with the covers pulled securely over my head. I don’t suppose, though, that any of us have that luxury any more, and that the luxury of covers-over-head is part of what got us into this mess in the first place.

I don’t have anything suitably professorial to greet the day with, no guidance for my students, or even, at a much baser level, for myself.

What I do have is a need to reach out. A quick message, then, for the friends I left in New York, now a shocking four years ago: I miss you more today than ever.