A tool for critical viewing

Here’s a handy memory device for the next time you watch a movie.

It will help you remember the 3 rules to Alison Bechdel’s measurement of gender bias in media.

The bottom line is TWO–are there two named female characters on screen? If yes, great! Advance to the next level.

The second is TALK–do these female characters talk to and interact with each other? If yes, holy crap, you’re moving up to…

The third criteria TESTES–do our characters talk about something besides testicles? If they only talk about men, the film fails. But if they do not, hurrah! Get that star!

The original context of this test was a comic strip, yet I find myself amazed and horrified at how regularly films fail it….and often on the first level. Try it for yourself sometime.

-Nicole

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Media Review – The Triplets of Belleville

The Triplets of Belleville 

Directed by Sylvain Chomet

2003

Well, that was….unexpected. Almost understated, in the sense that no one makes a statement throughout the movie, barring the beginning and the very end. Being an American raised on Disney animation, I’m used to hearing my animated characters babbling a mile a minute. It took me a while to accept the non-verbal qualities of these characters, who are anything but silent. The soundtrack is brilliant, adding an individuality to both characters and locations. But beyond formalism, beyond its stunning good looks, what’s the heart of this very deliberate work?

I’m mostly stricken by the movie’s very passionate portrait of aged womanhood. Old women in this cinematic world are protectors, strong, indefatigable, entertaining and unique. They are vital, full of life, and that’s why I said I was stricken. The contrast between how I view age and how Grandmother Souza and the Triplets express their age…..it’s the difference between quiet, colorless institutional walls and the heat and sound of the club where the Triplets perform. Can any of us imagine our grandparents and great-grandparents performing in a sleazy club….?

How about hunting for their dinner every night? Throwing explosives? Biking uphill? Or the most impossible of all, enjoying every minute of everything?

Ebert says,”Most animated features have an almost grotesque desire to be loved. This one doesn’t seem to care. It creates a world of selfishness, cruelty, corruption and futility — but it’s not serious about this world and it doesn’t want to attack it or improve upon it. It simply wants to sweep us up in its dark comic vision.”

Did we watch the same movie? Of course the film doesn’t want to be loved; when you’re old, you get your priorities straight. And if it is nothing else, Triplets is aggressively old. It does the unthinkable: equates female age with vigor, and youthful manhood with passivity.
Champion, the grandson, cannot do anything for himself, ever. He has to wait to be rescued by Souza, his grandmamma. Poor, horse-faced boy.
The film indicates to us that her grandson is Souza’s prized possession, exactly like a pure-blooded racehorse. He has no agency of his own. In fact, the men in this world are either passive like Champion or violent like the mobster villain. Cynical, right, but perhaps that’s how age always views youth? The young need direction, or they’ll grow into petty thugs…
I do agree with Ebert on one thing; these women Chomet has created are ferocious. And I don’t want them any other way. Willfulness, determination, and energy….for every tooth lost, another cackle and another song! That’s one vision of aging, and it is beautiful.
(Time to break your faith in humanity. Who did this film lose the Academy Award to? Pixar’s Finding Nemo. Ufff! Thank you, and good night.)

Media Review–Hysteria

Hysteria

2011

Director: Tanya Wexler

Starring Hugh Dancy and Maggie Gyllenhaal

“That woman was hysterical.”

“Yes, very difficult case, that one.”

Symptoms: Erratic behavior, anxiety, depression, and physical aggression. Diagnosis? Overactive uterus. Cure? Hysterectomy. Makes you want to be a Victorian woman, doesn’t  it?

I couldn’t help but feel that I’d been attracted to this movie under false pretenses. The advertising campaign hyped the invention of the vibrator as the film’s main theme. I sat through an hour of Victorians dithering at each other with absolutely no vibrators present. Nada, not even an inkling. All there was by way of amusement were the “vulvar massages” given by the (painfully awkward) Dr. Mortimer in the name of some very flawed science. Volia.

So they hooked you with the vibrators, but what you actually get is just a banal romantic comedy. Honestly, the vibrators get much less screen time than they deserve. I know we’re all desensitized, I know that they wanted to keep the R rating, but something about the presentation of this film strikes me as miscalculated. You would think that the focus would be on women’s pleasure, women’s bodies, and women’s struggle to take back their bodies from men. You would expect sensuality. You would, gasp, expect to be turned on with the “patients” as they discovered the doctor’s invention.

Instead, the film can be summed up with this image:

That’s right. This is a film about men. Specifically, older doctors unwilling to change their ways in accordance with the findings of the younger professionals. This is a film about Dr. Mortimer realizing that his superiors are wrong, and that hysteria as it is defined does not exist. At the end of the day, the film centers around his decision to take the stand (literally) and proclaim that hysteria is merely an excuse to oppress women, to keep them fearful of insane asylums and hysterectomies.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Romantic Comedy may have not been the best genre to deal with these themes. The comedy succeeded brilliantly at parts. And I think that any film dealing with the invention of vibrators must have humor in it. But this film is relentlessly light-hearted, even when it’s trying to be serious.

Observe:

This is Charlotte, our feminist heroine. She is always positioned next to blown-out windows, covered in pale light so we understand that she’s a saint. And then suddenly three-quarters of the way through we’re presented with this Charlotte:

AND THAT RIGHT HOOK.

Bugger the police.

While I adored that moment, it also pushed me over the edge. The playful tone of the entire rest of the film, the bright cinematography, the acting…the conventions of the genre dictate that nothing bad could really happen. Because we know she’s going to end up with the good doctor, like we know Juliet is going to kill herself over Romeo. Some things, like Shakespeare, are inevitable.  Surprise, Charlotte’s uterus was safe the whole time.

And there’s the problem. This film is a romance, with a little bit about body politics, when it should be a drama about body politics with a little bit of romance.

In short, fiery Charlotte is not enough to prod this movie from moderately amusing to mind-blowing.

Ladies, if there are too many mediocre things in your life, Dr. Mortimer and I recommend this once a week.

If you say so, Doctor.

Media Review – “Saturday Night Fever”

“Saturday Night Fever”

1977

Director: John Badham

Starring: John Travolta, Karen Lynn Gorney

SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER is the ultimate male pornographic fantasy film.  It has a central character that is young, handsome, and worshipped by his friends.  He has a cocky and suave bravado and oozes cool charisma wherever he goes.  Most importantly, when he struts into a dance nightclub, he is transformed into a swinging, hip shaking,  prancing god.  Men want to be like him and women simply want him.  During a time of hedonism gone wild and of rapid, consequence-free promiscuity in a pre-Aids America, it’s no wonder that the “hero” of FEVER was so easily idolized.

FEVER does a great job balancing comedy and drama.  Re-watching it now the one aspect of it that still is fresh is its frank and brutal honesty at times.  Tony is likeable, but he is undeniably a crude racist (he flaunts ethnic slurs around with his buddies to unseemly levels).  His treatment of women is equally appalling, and a later scene where he fails at making a half-hearted attempt at raping Stephanie is revolting.  Then there is another very difficult scene to digest where Tony’s friends, one by one, proceed to rape the drunken Annette.  Tony does not partake in the sexual abuse, but when his friends are done he puts salt on Annette’s wounds by asking her if she’s finally satisfied with herself.  Oddly enough, it is the unsavory material in FEVER that separates itself away from other films of teen angst.  The time period and culture is different, but it still feels current.” – Craig J. Koban, CraigersCinemaCorner.com

 

“Saturday Night Fever.” It’s got the moves. It’s got the disco. It’s got the rape that NOBODY told me about.

Maybe it’s just me and the people I talk to, but whenever I ask about the classic cult film, “Saturday Night Fever,” the first few things mentioned are John Travolta and his skin-tight pants, that the movie was a voice of a “generation,” and often I also hear that the film has a very special place in the pop culture hall of fame. Why is it though that no one seems to remember / care about the two, count ’em, two(!) rape scenes in “SNF?!” Are we desensitized? Are we embarrassed? Are we turned on? Are we dismissive? I don’t know, but I’m going to try to figure it out.

I like to study editing. Film editing. Editing theory. Non-linear. Compositing. Short-form. Sync-point. If you don’t know what these words mean, don’t worry about it. If you do, congratulations, we have something in common. Long story short, I was always told to watch “SNF” for how it was cut together. Plus, I love disco music (it should never have died…). So one night, after my mother and I get home from work and are ready to pass out exhausted, I find “SNF” listed on cable and in my sleepy stupor decide to finally get around to seeing it. The credits roll and the famous take of Travolta walking down the street with his paint-can swinging to the beat comes up. Nothing too exciting yet. Twenty more minutes in, there’s a conflict; uh-oh, who will he dance with in the contest?! Well, that’s just great. I can’t help but think that everyone who loves this movie must be seeing something I’m not, because it’s really not that fantastic.

And then, BAM! Close to the end of the movie and out of (almost) nowhere, Annette, one of the main characters, gets gang-raped when she’s drunk. She’s literally pinned down in the back of a car while Tony’s buddies take turns. She’s saying “no” in a muffled and pained voice and then Travolta’s character even has the guts to call her a “pig.” WHAT?! WHAAAATTTT!?? Did no one else notice this scene?! Nobody?! Really?! ARE YOU ALL BLIND?! No, we can’t write it off as “boys will be boys.” No, she was not “asking for it.” No, I’m not crazy, I’m angry. And disturbed. I even had to turn off the film to cry for a little bit after that scene. The other rape is an attempted violation when Travolta’s character tries to force sex on his dancing partner after they win. Yeah, that’s how I’d celebrate too, buddy. After he’s been trying to court her throughout the whole film, Tony has an angry moment and pushes her down into the backseat of a car and tries to get his rocks off. She fights and he lets go (wow, ain’t he a good guy?) and they end up becoming friends at the end. Oh, I’m sorry if I ruined the movie for you.

So, back to my original questions….

Are we desensitized?

There is such a thing as rape culture and it’s spreading. Rape culture is the commercialization and perpetuated approval of sexual abuse and violation that is running rampant in our society. Certain types of media encourage it, i.e. some rap music videos and lyrics, some video-games, etc. Certain people and groups encourage it, i.e. bro-culture, etc. And certain mindsets encourage it as well, i.e. “women are objects,” “men must be hyper-masculine and hyper-sexual to have worth,” etc. This is all detrimental to our world and to ourselves. Thoughts of self-sexulization, chauvinism and worse, the acceptance of both, destroys more intellectual ways of valuing each other.

The very fact that no one remembers this scene seems, to me, to really answer this question by itself.

Are we embarrassed?

No, I really do not think we are. “We,” being audiences that absorb content as well as creators that generator the content that the audience absorbs. I think “commercialized sexiness” has become so banal that we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves if we didn’t have commodified sexuality fed to us all the time. That being said, we live in a world where rape can actually be sold as “sexy” since it’s still sex and, say it with me, sex sells. Seriously, check out half of Dolce & Gabbana’s ads. I think American culture accepts rape as a fact of life without actually examining the consequences.

Are we turned on?

Maybe. The idea of power is a staple in Western culture and patriarchal reality in the East. In “SNF” power extends from showmanship on the dance floor, popularity on the street and talents in the bedroom – all pretty sophomoric if you ask me. So wherein this caste system of status does rape fall? The ability to dominate another seems to be a point of pride or at least a way to release some stress from a long night shaking your tail-feathers, but it’s more than that, it’s the sole fact that the Tony’s friends rape because they can. Because it’s acceptable, because it’s the 70’s, because it’s in the slums of Brooklyn, because no body was saying “no.” (The woman’s “no” doesn’t count, duh.) What kind of a world do we live in where you can take for granted the fact that you can have sex anytime you want it simply because you want it, with or without consent?

What also worries me is the idea of “scripts.” No, not film or play scripts, but dialogues created by cultural phenomenons in the media. Basically, “scripts” are repeated themes shown over and over again in TV shows, in movies, in lyrics, etc. and once they become ingrained, they become reality, sometimes without media consumers realizing it. This is particularly frightening when young people start seeing patterns like when to be sexy, how to be sexy and with whom to be sexy. Behaviors start to be commodified instead of being authentic and this leads to regret, confusion and the need for approval from others participating in such “scripts.” You can read more about “script” research here.

Are we dismissive?

Um…YES. And yet, it’s a movie, it’s not real life! She knew better than to get into their car! It was a different time period! At least women aren’t being raped as much anymore! She could have stopped them if she wanted to! They thought that she wanted it! Kids are young and stupid! ….and, your point? That you’re a dumb-ass? Oh, I got that.

I’ve heard each of those phrases at one point or another and they don’t cut it. I don’t give a flying you-know-what, because the justification of abuse is the beginning to an end of turning your head the other way. It’s seemingly the by-stander affect and that is a miserable excuse…for anything! Open your eyes to what you let slip between your fingers and what’s in front of your nose.

No one has to like every movie (or piece of “art”) ever made. Even I can tolerate most media I don’t like when it is used to start a dialogue on ethics, reality and stereotypes. Not everything is sunshine and fuzzy bunnies, but when there is a slap-in-the-face moment of truth in a work of commerical art, it needs to be used to discuss those realities, in reality. It CANNOT be written off. So in the end, a rape scene shouldn’t ruin “SNF” for me, but it does. And I think it does, because the rape is never used to start the conversation about not raping. The rape is not a plot or character conflict, but more of a tell-tale sign of who the characters are and how they view the world and themselves in it.

Media Review–Story of O

Story of O

By Pauline Réage

Translation by John Paul Hand

1954

Influences: The Marquis de Sade

 

We had no idea that this book would have such an affect on us. In reflection, we are disturbed, intrigued, confused and frustrated. Story of O was suggested to us by a co-worker who said that he knew of a writing that “surpassed” Fifty Shades of Grey. Curious, we each read it and tears of anger flowed from our eyes. Binge eating, hugging and raving rants were all we could do to fill the void of unpleasantry that Story of O ripped in our hearts (and frontal lobes). Before we officially sat down to write this review, we did “research” for several hours which included watching several Rihanna music videos, listening to the lyrics of “E.T.” by Katy Perry and “No Church in the Wild” by Jay-z, Kanye West and Frank Ocean and, finally, reading the testimonies and self-help blog of an actual submissive / BDSM slave. It was a fun time.

And now, because we simply cannot handle this book or take it seriously, for a limited time only, we have chosen to re-write the beginning of Story of O, almost word for word, with our own context, setting and sense of humor. You’re welcome.

One day Nicole and Darragh go to a section of the Internet where they never go — the scary part. After they have taken a stroll through Youtube and have scanned the higher numbered pages of Google search, sitting together in the dank lighting of the Office, they notice, on one link of Wikipedia, on an interface where there are never any good articles, a page which, because of its title, invites them to click.

“What is this?” Darragh says.

She opens the page. It is Summer, but they have been inside all day. They are dressed as they always are: beat-up Converse sneakers, ripped sweaters, black-framed glasses, and no hat. But long hair which gets caught as they huddle close over the keyboard, and in their dirty book-bags they have their dirty books and feminist theory articles.

The page loads slowly, Nicole still not having said a word in response. But she pulls out a notepad from her bag and her eyes scroll down the window. She takes off her glasses, thinking Darragh wants to talk about what they’ve just read. But instead Darragh says:

“I think I threw up a little.” Nicole hands her a napkin in humorous response. Darragh takes it distractedly, puts it on the table and adds:

“There are just too many things wrong with this. I don’t know where to start. Can you please hold me?”

By now the Internet connection, which is less than trustworthy, has decided to freeze the screen, and Nicole has some trouble closing the window; she’s also afraid that Darragh may actually vomit. Finally, though, the window is at least minimized, but they’re not the least bit embarrassed to be reading NSFW articles at their job. Besides, it the same office in which they started this blog anyway.

“Fasten your seatbelt,” Nicole says, “and hold onto your panties, because I think we need to review this on FF.”

That’s easy enough, all they have to do is read one of the most infamous BDSM “erotic” novels ever written in less than two weeks and retain their sanity. And it’s written by a French woman. Nicole looks over at Darragh and says:

“You shouldn’t stay curled up in a ball in the corner. You’ll only start rocking back and forth.”

The floor is littered with burger wrappers, crumpled pages, broken audio cables and pens left empty and lonely. It’s quite a disgusting sensation to wade through it to get to the computer. Then Nicole says:

“Oh God, there’s a movie version and it’s on Netflix.”

The Internet connection is no longer frozen and is streaming a disturbing clip from the 1975 trailer, and Darragh doesn’t dare ask why Nicole just sits there without moving or saying another word, nor can Darragh guess what all this means to her – having Nicole there motionless, silent, so sad and exposed, so thoroughly glued, to a story going God knows where. Darragh doesn’t need to tell Nicole what she thinks or how she feels, since it’s obvious, but she’s afraid to un-bunch her legs and come close to the screen. She sits with out-stretched arms braced on either side of the wall.

“Well that was…..yeah,” Nicole says suddenly. Here they are: on the Internet, beneath fluorescent lights – they are annoying lights – inside of some sort of institution which can be seen nestled between North Philadelphia and Center City, the type of huge collegiate dwelling where one finds students asleep on sofas at any time of the day or night and wandering aimlessly through the halls along Broad Street. The real world is some distance away, and it is always a little unsettling anytime anyone leaves. Outside it is raining.

Yeah, we did that. And now here’s our actual review:

Enter the world of the woman called O, and give up any thought of mercy. This is no coy rip-off, couched in the supernatural realm of fantasy. Here there are no excuses, and absolutely no safe words. This is a testament to the power of conditioning on the human brain. Also, it’s torture porn.

We have many thoughts about O and her story. The plot is minimal, summed up and spoiled by the blurb on the back cover. O is kidnapped, conditioned to be a submissive sex slave, and given to two men. Both tire of her and discard her at the novel’s end. The last sentence? “O, seeing that Sir Stephen was on the verge of leaving her, preferred to die. Sir Stephen gave his consent.” She needs his permission to die. O has nothing to call her own.

Why do we resent this book? Why does it anger us? Dehumanization, for one.  Previous readers have already commented that “O” might as well be an abbreviation for object. Indeed, the novel follows O’s transformation from a human into a living sex toy. The book glorifies the most generic role-playing of master and servant. There’s no individuality in the characters. They are not defined by anything other than their extravagant sexual acts. They are animals that happen to have extreme mating rituals. We can’t speak for anyone else, but watching dogs and cats have sex is not arousing to us. That’s how detached we felt while reading….as if we were watching several stray cats do it. O isn’t a person, she’s a sex-bot.

[Added Paragraph] But then there is the idea that O may very well be the perfect woman. She is thin, beautiful  and submissive. She lives to be loved in whatever form “love” many take. She is simple and un-materialistic and low maintenance. She doesn’t mind if you beat her, brand her or betray her, as long as you don’t leave her. Because then she’ll want to die. O is so perfect, she’s living, breathing clay for any Pygmalion that comes along to sculpt. She is so devoted to her idea of acceptance that she does whatever she can to find it and receive it, including, but not limited to: being raped by several strangers one after the other, being flogged and whipped until she bears permanent scars, getting a leash attached to her genitals and proclaiming slave status to appease her Master. And what really makes O the perfect woman is that one may assume she does not have a menstrual cycle nor can get pregnant. There are no consequences for her Masters to be concerned about. They have nothing they need to apologize for because their actions only seem to ripple to O, who is literally an “o,” an orfice, a sex doll. O cannot possibly be the ideal woman because she seemingly does not live the lived experience of what it is to be a woman, biologically or gender-chosen.

We are struggling in a conflict between accepting O’s submissiveness, because she accepts it and being overwhelmingly frustrated by her awareness of oppression. At the end of the day though, we just are trying to wrap our brains around understanding how anyone could live an authentic BDSM lifestyle. We’d like to think that Story of O is perhaps an ironical take on patriarchy and a hyperbolized tale of gender roles and politics. Maybe that is myopic, but it is the only way we can consume  its passages in good conscience while hoping, praying and at least pretending it is commentary on the ills of society and institutional brutality against women. From this perspective, it’s as if Pauline, the author, is mocking cultural standards by writing a satirical subversion that says, “Of course women want to be abused! They cannot think for themselves! Yes, violence is the answer! Oh, and men are insane, sex-crazed lunatics without an ounce of compassion. Yes, that’s it; women are merely walking, talking (if they’re allowed) holes for self-centered dicks to put their dicks into!”

Analyzing Story of O in this way lets us compare it to the graphic movies of South Korea’s “extreme cinema” genre. Ki-duk Kim, a director who has created several films that fall into this category, is often called a misogynist for his violent and profuse use of rape, prostitution, gang brutality and sickening sub-cultural realities. His defense for such accusations? Well, he says that his movies are actually more like commentary on society, forcing audiences to see what they ignore in their communities everyday. He believes, like other “extreme” artists, that the “slap-in-your-face” method is disturbing enough that it actually does raise awareness about social issues. We would like to think that this is what Pauline had intended for her book to do; the idea that Story of O is not criticizing the BDSM community, but is highlighting the larger problem of gender-typing and manipulation.

This also settles into the “reality” of “desensitization.” Just look to any one of the music videos listed below as examples of the male gaze, of self-sexualization and of the “pornification” of the mainstream:

Dirty Talk” – Wynter Gordon

S&M” – Rihanna

Disturbia” – Rihanna

Alejandro” – Lady Gaga

Dirrty” – Christina Aguilera

Lady Marmalade” – Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya, Pink (there’s a riding crop in this one!)

You can read the novel (if you’re a little crazy or a little curious) here, although we do not take blame for any emotional distress caused.

*Two young feminists were scarred in the reading of this book. No animals were injured. Lots of sweet potato fries were consumed though.

Media Review–“Sweet Love”

2012

Chris Brown

Album Fortune

directed by Godfrey Taberez and Brown

“Breezy keeps the sexiness at an all time high throughout the tune with explicit lyrics that, in theory, could easily win any girl over.”

Nadeska Alexis

Ever watch something and get that wave of deja-vu, that sense of ‘we’ve been through this?’

Watching modern music videos is a lot like babysitting a room full of preschoolers. “No, no, sweetie, don’t touch that again. No, we’ve been through this, that doesn’t go there.”

Case in point:

No, Chris, beds don’t go outside. This not funny or even absurd, it’s just a little bit sad and pathetic. Where did he learn to levitate all those women at once? Hogwarts? He is striking a rather Voldemort-like pose.

And the absurdity doesn’t stop there. Brown is surrounded by ghostly holograms of women, who flicker like the “Bad TV” filter in your computer’s editing program. And look! It’s like Kanye West all over again! Why have one ghostly hologram chick when you can have….drumrolll….TWO! While riding in your limo, no less! We certainly have never seen this image before!!!

In all seriousness, this video is downright insulting to both women and men. Brown boasts to his love interest that “tonight is the night I change your life” as long as she will let him control her body. How about no? She controls her body. Her and only her. Otherwise that’s called possession. And honestly, if you have to mind-control a woman to have sex with her, you’re doing it wrong.

The most irritating issue that this video brings to light for me is that of passivity. There is a meaningless dance sequence near the end of the video where a line of guys faces a line of girls. The guys do some athletic moves and express themselves. The girls? They stand still with their legs apart, swaying ever so slightly. No dancing. Just open thighs. They are spectators of this mating ritual.

Women are passive, right? They are the receivers, not the instigators. They watch and are watched for the pleasure of men. At the mere approach of a strong, attractive man they swoon. Of course, they’ll strip for you. Or roll their hips and grind on command. We do what the pretty man tells us to.

Not remotely.

Unlike porn or this music video, we don’t come with a pause/play button. We don’t flicker in and out of existence. And we sure as hell don’t have an on/off switch.

But in the end, women’s roles are a footnote in “Sweet Love.” First and foremost, this video is a love letter from Chris Brown to himself. The majority of shots center him. There are endless closeups of his face. The amorous adventure that the song promises turns out to be his giant ego-trip. The unnamed woman is just an accessory for him. Her personality is a fill-in-the-blank; she could be anyone.

So what?

Romance without consequences, that’s what. No compassion, no understanding, no appreciation for someone else’s humanity. Just a selfish desire to satisfy me me me. Hit and run romance. And never, ever, a positive model of equality.

Ultimate permissiveness. Let me tell you, that wins me over any day.

Media Review – “Payphone”

“An Enjoyable, Mini-action Movie?” ENJOYABLE FOR WHOM??

2012

Maroon 5

“Payphone” from Overexposed

The last time I used a payphone was in Europe, because I didn’t particularly want to deal with international charges on a cell phone. I’ve never seen a working U.S. payphone booth actually in use. But out of all the things wrong with this video, that is a downright trivial detail. First of all, who thought it was a good idea to overlay the sound effects onto the music track? It’s percussive and distracting. Not that I’m sure I really want to hear Levine’s voice whining, “fairy tales are full of shit/one more fucking love song I’ll be sick.”

If this video is his idea of a fairy tale, imagination really is dead. The cliches are never-ending. I was particularly entertained by the transformation of the nameless “office girl” from uptight working girl to desparate, fleeing criminal. This begins at 1:28, where Levine’s character signs to her to take off her high heels. Now barefoot, she is dragged through the masses of her hiding co-workers by Levine, who’s toting a gun. Like this:

Couldn’t be more generic, right? Also, we don’t even get her face. Just the heroic man. I’ll get to him in a second. After losing her heels, being shot at, running down sidewalks barefoot, our girl also loses her updo. Well, heck. She was too uptight anyway! She looks MUCH more attractive like this:

Yep, he’ll definitely notice her now. Running for your life together is remarkably akin to a roll in hay. Sweat, adrenaline, disheveled clothes, the whole shebang. And naturally this happens:

(It’s okay, he has glasses and a business suit!  He’s not really a threat.) But then, instead of a kiss, Levine just lets go of her and bolts. Supposedly trying to draw the chase away from her. How noble. Except for the part where it’s his fault to begin with!

At 2:30, barely halfway into the video, the girl’s part is over. Fin. The rest of the film is just (another!) generic police car chase, complete with inappropriate balls of flame and impossible car escapes. The girl was just a catalyst to turn Mr. Meek Levine into an action hero, of course.

And what’s going on with men’s roles? Well, we have a screamingly-obvious dialogue between the Male Protector vs. the Male Aggressor. The obvious aggressors are the robbers at the beginning, whose violence threaten the girl. Levine takes the gun to protect her and himself. However, the police mistake him for an aggressor, which forces him to become aggressive, apparently. Instead of turning himself in and explaining the situation, he chooses to steal a car.  Because clearly there is no better way to handle it.

Maroon 5 could do well to look at some fairy tale literature–then at least they might think of something better than a regurgitated adolescent outlaw fantasy. And by the way, Levine, women are not props for your action hero dreams. We don’t owe you something for “saving us” from a predicament you created. As far as we’re concerned, this looks like an ego-stroking exercise in pointlessness.

Don’t call us anymore.