We reacted right away when Columbine happened, spinning every stray hair of a rumor into a tapestry of explanation. A crisis like that draws us in, makes us nearer to the now. It rattles us where we are usually numb. It reorients our world for a time. We stare down humanity, searching every eye to find either a brother or a monster. People are a mix of those things, but we want an either/or. A definitive separator feels good, draws a clear line between monsters and humans.
Assia Wevill was a woman erased for a time, her existence concealed by her final lover, poet Ted Hughes. For decades, he shared very personal things with the world but always wrote Assia out of her own life. More recently, however, Assia’s existence is being retraced again, pieced back together and presented as part of the story of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. After Sylvia died, Assia stepped into Sylvia’s life for a time, like walking into a ghost’s shadow. She cared for Sylvia’s children, lived in her rooms, and finally, six years later, killed herself the exact same way Sylvia committed suicide.
Billie Holiday takes a swig of her drink as she sings into your eyes, and then absentmindedly leaves her glass on your table before she saunters over to seduce the next table. When she vanished the scent of her liquor lingered, rising up from ice cubes in a stinging mint vapor. While she was there, she made you feel like the only person in the crowded room.
The Witch draws from the rich history of Christian European demonic lore, exploring it through a psychological family drama where witches are real.
Patricia Highsmith wrote The Price of Salt, the novel that was rereleased as Carol decades later, in 1949 while undergoing intense psychoanalysis in an attempt to get herself into “a condition to be married.” Being gay was so socially unacceptable at that time that even a free-thinking, tradition-bucking, iconoclast like Highsmith temporarily bowed to the intense pressure to mold herself into who society thought she was supposed to be.
We all think we have full autonomy and sovereignty over our thoughts and actions. Sure, we have the hardware of our DNA, we are shaped by our upbringing and experiences, we are inspired by our heroes, and seek figures of wisdom to help us fumble our way through life – We learn from each other, we seek community, we share and grow. But, when it comes down to dire situations, someone couldn’t possibly “wash” our brains clean and fill it with new thoughts that go against our best interests and core values! That’s what it feels like, but psychological experiments like the 1961 Milgram study have proven that we aren’t always in control of our actions when we’re told what to do by an authority figure we trust.
In 1994-5, Marcia Clark wasn’t just under the immense pressure of the massively scrutinized O. J. Simpson case, she was also a mother going through a divorce. On top of everything, in a trial that was intentionally needling at the depths of the race problem in American, Marcia Clark’s hair really stirred things up as well. Why did Marcia Clark’s hair symbolize so much to us then, and what does it all mean now?
The Coen brothers’ latest effort, Hail, Caesar, shines not when it’s lambasting showbiz, but when it’s celebrating it. The over-the-top musical numbers are stunning and just as magical as the iconic performances they’re inspired by. These types of displays are the essence of entertainment: an attempt to pull you out of yourself and into a looking glass world that sparkles with song and graceful, effortless movements. They’re dream sequences of the human spirit.
The second season of Transparent takes a bold move: through a series of delirious flashbacks we’re introduced to the vibrant life of Maura’s now uncommunicative mother Rose when she was a young girl in 1930s Berlin. The flashbacks start off celebratory, but lead to dark revelations about the family’s traumatic past.
It’s hard to see a real person behind the sheen of the infomercial circus, and the glitter of a mountain of success can obscure the grit required to build it. However, a new David O. Russell film starring Jennifer Lawrence seeks to bring the humanity of Joy Mangano into full view. The movie is “loosely” based on Joy’s life, but is inspired enough by her to bear her name.