My Self-Imposed Rules for Critique

I’ve been considering the process of media review, and I’d like to set some boundaries for myself. Having been in situations where my own work was critiqued, I know how it feels to subject your work to the not-so-tender gaze of other people. So, in an effort to be a better reviewer, I came up with this criteria:

1. I’m not analyzing media made before 1980. I’d like to keep the focus on contemporary work, and keep it relevant.

2. I’ll try to reference at least one other reviewers’ opinion of the work in my crit.

3. Going off of 2, I must put the work in context, either by comparing it to something else done by the same artist (s) or something else made at the same time.

4. At all costs, I must not fall into the fallacy of ad hominem abusive. Insulting men is not the purpose, as I see it, of what feminist critique is trying to accomplish.

If I neglect any of these, call me out on it!

Famous Feminists

Hannah Wilke

A Temple alumnus!

“Since 1960, I have been concerned with the creation of a formal imagery that is specifically female, a new language that fuses mind and body into erotic objects that are namable and at the same time quite abstract. Its content has always related to my own body and feelings, reflecting pleasure as well as pain, the ambiguity and complexity of emotions.” (comment on her project, “Intercourse with…”)

Hannah Wilke Through the Large Glass documents one of Wilke’s most effective and well-known performances, in which she performs a deadpan striptease behind Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (also known as The Large Glass) at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Dressed in a fedora and a white suit, and evoking the style of 1970s’ fashion icons such as Helmut Newton and Yves Saint-Laurent, Wilke strikes a series of poses and then strips. She is seen through the glass of the Duchamp sculpture. In her self-conscious affectation of the often absurdist posturing of a fashion model, Wilke willfully uses her own image and her sexuality to confront the erotic representation of women in art history and popular culture.”

Oh, Lolita: The Things We Forgive for Love?


Directed by Adrian Lyne


Why doesn’t this film ultimately work for me? In my opinion, the entire trick of the novel is lost in adaptation to a visual medium. I read Lolita as a tale about subjectivity and distortion.  So, for example, when Humbert describes how Lo is sexually aware and precocious, even taunting him, I read that section twice. And I realize that no twelve-year-old is mature enough to consent, ever. Humbert, a much older man, has never been a female and certainly has never been a little girl. He can’t empathize.

To me, the film does not convey this forced perspective. Partially it has to do with the medium itself. Since we no longer have to imagine the events, it’s harder to step back and analyze what’s happening. The action is unfolding in front of us. We must watch them fight and come together and fight again. By using Humbert’s point of view shots, the film shows us how desirable Lolita appears. We all become Humberts while watching those close-ups. And if you are becoming something, it’s very difficult to evaluate it critically. Why else did I find myself wondering why Lo was being harsh to him? Because the movie wanted me to see him as a madman, but a madman in love.

Yes, Humbert is depicted as a victim of his own unnatural lust. Sorry? Since when is the phrase “I’m in love” an acceptable excuse for exploitation? Here is a man who has taken advantage of a child who was entrusted to his protection. And somehow, the movie makes it romantic. No! Humbert is an egotistical weasel who has no idea what his “darling Lo” is thinking, feeling, or experiencing at any given moment. Lo is denied any voice of her own; we’re only watching what Humbert thinks of the situation. Who knows how much of it was in his imagination? The only allusion the movie makes to this incredibly important theme is two scenes where the frame stretches and squashes. This is presumably to indicate Humbert’s deteriorating mindset. Needless to say, it is clumsy at best. At worst, it is distracting enough to allow you to miss the entire point: the story is a solipsism.

It is quite possible that the truest adaptation of Lolita is simply a shot of a man giving a little girl candy and then raping her. Repeatedly.


NOT COOL – “How Lovely To Be A Woman”

Ann Margret in Bye Bye Birdie, 1963.

This song perfectly describes the slanted gender roles and descriptive physical traits of the what it is to be a woman, well, a stereotyped, Hollywood-ized, female character of the mid-Twentieth Century to be exact. Unfortunately though, we still see these factors in play today: the beauty standards, the male-female hetero assumed behaviors, the vanity and the deceptive reputation that woman are so often accused of. Yes, one can defend this classic modern musical narrative as a reflection into the subtleties (and certainly not so subtle) parts of Americana culture in the 1960s as one era of fashion, music, culture and morals changed to the next, noting the clearly iconic Elvis-like character that circles the main plot as a trending bridge from adolescence to adulthood, but it is more than that. In essence, this play and movie, provides staples of gender-bias (seriously, listen to the lyrics of “Special Boy” …. oy vey) and showcases behavioral development through the eyes of pop culture, not reality. And then, of course, just take a moment to really try to understand Ann Margret’s part in “Lot of Livin’.” Dear God. And her character is sixteen. SIXTEEN.

No, I am NOT arguing that drinking, per-marital sex, cheating or cheesy pop stars are immoral. Instead, what I AM saying is that we must critically look at our cultural icons, be they movies, actors or ideals. This film is a humorous critique of American society, but nonetheless it influenced thousands of fans, largely young fans looking for role models.

Overall, the film is great, fun, well-styled and entertaining to watch and listen to. The songs are catchy, the dances funky and the plot very silly, but analysis is always needed when such tight boxes are placed around a generalized member or culture in society, so they we do not to take it literally.