by Catriona Mills

Articles in “Film”

Lessons in Gender That I Learned From Watching The Star Wars Prequels

Posted 14 April 2009 in by Catriona

1. Women are essentially interchangeable. You can argue, I suppose, that it’s a terribly clever idea to draw attention away from your central woman by surrounding her with other women who are essentially interchangeable with one another. But, really, that’s just playing on the idea that one woman is, after all, very like another.

Since the main point of the interchangeable bodyguards is to draw the fire of potential assassins, it can also be argued that women are essentially disposable—probably because they are, after all, interchangeable.

2. Women really shouldn’t be Jedi. In fact, I suspect that there must be some odd equal-opportunity entrance requirements for the Academy, else women wouldn’t be allowed to be Jedi. If, thanks to this entirely unfair process of selection, women do become Jedi, they’ll turn out to be terribly bad at it. To take an entirely hypothetical example, a female Jedi might find herself cut down from behind by assassins before she can even turn around, where male Jedi would be able, in the same circumstances, to both turn and draw their weapons.

Yep: entirely hypothetical example.

3. Women are completely obsessed with fashion. Women are so obsessed with fashion, in fact, that it completely takes the place of comfort for them. They might sleep in a nightgown with seed pearls draped across the arms. Or they might choose to spend an evening lounging comfortably in front of a roaring fire in a skin-tight leather corset.

Let’s face it: who hasn’t done that at some point or another?

And, really, there’s no point dressing women sensibly. If, perchance, you do put a woman in a nice, practical (if skin-tight) combat outfit, she’s only going to get the midriff torn off by a sabre-toothed tiger.

Women are like that.

4. Women are terribly poor judges of characters. Even women who are supposed to be accomplished and intelligent can live intimately with another person and never, ever suspect that person of turning to the Dark Side.

Of course, this is convenient for both the other person in the relationship and for the narrative.

5. There is little noticeable difference between a teenage girl and a grown woman. The advantage of this is that a teenage girl can easily be the head of state for an entire planet. The disadvantage is that she won’t really learn from any mistakes she might make at that point.

Another way of putting this, I suppose, is to say that if you haven’t become a queen by the time you’re sixteen, you may as well abandon all ambition—and become a female Jedi.

6. Women are more than a little fragile. Perhaps, in retrospect, this is why they they need to wear corsets even when they’re lounging in front of fires? To stop bits of them from falling off?

The fragility of women is holistic in nature: should they be force-choked by their whinging, psychotic husbands, for example, they will then inevitably die in childbirth, despite the absence of any real biological connection between the trachea and the uterus.

(This is why women should always have doors opened for them: in case they accidentally catch their finger in the hinge and one of their legs falls off. You can’t take any chances with women.)

7. Probably because of their essential fragility, women’s back stories are easily ret-conned. After all, women are essentially interchangeable and disposable, so it should come as no surprise that the disposability extends beyond death.

Especially if the ret-conning helps prevent people from assuming that, just perhaps, not all women are corset-obsessed morons.

Some Films and Television Programmes That Fill Me With A Deep Sense Of Joy: A Possibly Ongoing Series

Posted 8 April 2009 in by Catriona

I’ve already mentioned how much I love watching old episodes of The Goodies, when they haven’t aged too badly (and make no mistake: some have). And it will come as no surprise that every episode of the original series of Doctor Who is dear to my heart. Yes, even “Silver Nemesis” and “Timelash.”

Here are some more programmes (and one film) that delight my heart.

In no particular order of importance:

1. Press Gang

Oh, Steven Moffat. My obsession with his writing started here—and this is one show that is just as enjoyable now as it was the first time I watched it. I’ll admit, the characterisation of Linda looks more ’80s now than I thought it did at the time (so high-powered business woman), but that doesn’t mean I love her any less. Or love Spike any less. Or love Linda and Spike as a couple any less.

In fact, any girlish romanticism in my nature (and there may be some, appearances notwithstanding) can be traced back to my teen obsession with this relationship.

On a slightly related note, I happily watched Doom (the movie, not the video game) once I realised it had half of Dexter Fletcher in it. (The top half, if anyone’s wondering.)

2. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

RANDOM ENGLISH KING WHO MAY NOT ACTUALLY HAVE EXISTED: Put them in the Iron Maiden.
BILL AND TED: Iron Maiden? Excellent!
RANDOM ENGLISH KING WHO MAY NOT ACTUALLY HAVE EXISTED: Execute them!
BILL AND TED: Bogus.

Enough said, really—though the fact that I didn’t even need to look that quotation up on the Internet probably speaks for itself.

3. Monkey

Seriously, this has to be one of the most surreal programmes ever to air. And that’s leaving out the blatant transvestism, which wasn’t limited to Tripitaka. We just watched an episode in which Monkey questioned the overall wisdom of Buddha: “He can’t even make up his mind whether he’s a bloke or not!”

Then there was that episode with the giant mushrooms—which I think were linked to some sort of Fungus King who, knowing Monkey, was called King Fungus. Or the episode with the unicorn who claimed that unicorns could rule the world “if we weren’t so nice—and mythical.” And the episode where Sandy and Pigsy became pregnant. Or the one with the teenage goblin who could cloud-fly, but his cloud had training wheels. Or my absolute favourite: the episode where Tripitaka believed that his other disciples had induced him to devour Pigsy, and he became possessed by Pigsy’s spirit and went to a disco where he danced to the Monkey theme song.

Sheer brilliance.

But there was also the aspect that never occurred to me as a child: for the late ’70s and early ’80s, this was hands down the least Anglo show ever to be a hit on Australian or British television. It may still be, for all I know. Voice acting aside, the actors are all Japanese, and the mise en scene (the costuming, the scenery, the mythology) is Chinese. Sesame Street always had African-American and Hispanic cast members (I don’t remember Asian cast members in my time), and there were other shows that played with issues of racial tolerance—the oddest example I can think of is Fraggle Rock, with its different races living in sometimes uneasy coexistence. But they were never anything like Monkey. It was fantastic for a child growing up in an intensely white town.

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