Recently, I saw the documentary Freedom to Marry and was thoroughly underwhelmed. A part comes from my own doubts around the now finished fight for marriage equality but another part comes from just how predictable the documentary was. Jay Weissberg reviewed the film for Variety and wrote that:
Despite a small theatrical run, “The Freedom to Marry” feels designed for TV in every way: It does its job more or less efficiently (we could do without Wolfson’s parents’ friends talking about what a bright boy he was) in cookie-cutter documentary fashion. Rosenstein, a childhood acquaintance of Wolfson’s, is unable to disguise the artificiality of certain “spontaneous” conversations before the cameras.
And that’s exactly what it felt like. The message and theme of the documentary oversaturated the film in a way that felt like you were being hit over the head with what the filmmakers wanted you to take away from it. That doesn’t mean it was completely terrible or anything – there were some great moments and the film does hark back to how gay people have been treated in the United States. But I ultimately left the theater feeling underwhelmed by the production and forgotten by the larger LGBTQ+ community. (That last part isn’t necessarily tied to the documentary and is a larger trend that I’ve personally felt in the past few months.)
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about using real life pain, tragedy, and abuse as entertainment. A part of this comes from listening to the podcast Missing Richard Simmons, in which one journalist looks into the enthusiastic fitness instructor’s rather sudden retreat from public life a few years ago and the turmoil that the show caused. Listening to that show felt weird at so many moments and Amanda Hess over at the New York Times nailed exactly why it felt so invasive.
There are so many other examples similar to Missing Richard Simmons that are based on that same sort of premise: using and telling someone else’s story in a very public way. Many (but not all) of these productions are about events that are traumatic and violent, making them moments that I’m sure not many would want to constantly relive on a public stage.
Honestly, I was kind of excited to see the new live action Beauty and the Beast. Like some people my age, I grew up on Disney and Dreamworks films. I knew many of the popular songs by heart and The Lion King was one of the first movies I remember watching. I would daydream of going to Disneyland or Disneyworld and while I don’t think she’s perfect, I love the idea of Emma Watson as Belle.
But there’s a part of the movie that I feel conflicted about: LeFou being gay. Because of this tiny subplot, there’s an Alabama theater not showing the film, Russia has banned those under 16 from seeing it, and Malaysian censors requesting that the tiny scene showing him dancing with another man, all of which makes me want to see it just to spite them. And from what I hear, this subplot is one of the tiniest points in the entire film.
Self-care can mean a lot of different things – it can mean taking the time out to watch some stuff on Netflix with friends, going out to lunch, taking a nap, going on a hike. In a time of uncertainty and stress, being able to take care of yourself both physically and emotionally and making sure that you’re doing okay is important. As Melissa A Fabello describes in a video for Everyday Feminism,
So self-care is basically any set of practices that makes you feel nourished, whether that’s physically, emotionally, spiritually, all of the above. Self-care is putting aside time to recharge in a way that’s meaningful to you, and that can mean different things to different people.
I’ve written about my own mental health on various occasions for a variety of reasons but largely because it was through other people talking about their own struggles with mental illness that I realized just how much my life was impacted by depression and anxiety. It was through the conversation around mental health that I realized just how much my life could benefit from therapy and medication.
My first go around at therapy didn’t go very well. I was still in college and finishing up a particularly awful semester. I felt unwelcome on campus and going to the school’s health center for therapy didn’t help. It took me another two years to finally decide to go back to therapy after that but once I found an amazing therapist, I was convinced of the good things that therapy can provide.
With one of the latest federal actions revoking federal guidelines that support transgender students to use public school bathrooms that match their gender identity. While the stance from the administration is to leave transgender rights up to the states and local schools, this move also reverses work done by the Obama administration last year and means that protections and support would vary widely from area to area.
Learning about others and deconstructing your own biases and assumptions is critical in any sort of activist work. There are books, films, television shows, podcasts, YouTube videos, and so much more that cover a wide range of issues and topics. Some films and television shows to watch in this current era include:
Cleve Jones is a well-known labor and gay rights activist and his recent memoir, When We Rise: My Life in the Movement, follows his activism and life as a gay man during the 1970s and 80s in San Francisco and on. He worked with Harvey Milk and State Assemblyman Art Agnos, created the AIDS Memorial Quilt, cofounded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and now works with the hotel, restaurant, and garment workers’ labor union, UNITE HERE. When We Rise is a powerfully authentic memoir about his life, travels, work, and experience with HIV/AIDS and offers an amazing insight to a rarely talked about piece of US history.
My depression is ever-present. It’s always there in my life – some days are good, other days are bad, most days I simply exist. I’ll go weeks feeling fine, not quite up to par with everyone else in my life but definitely productive in my own way. Then my depression will start to creep back and soon, I’ll be weighed down by a heavy fog.
Keeping up with all that’s going on in the world is daunting and overwhelming. I made the mistake of putting my phone down for a couple hours awhile back and came back to the news of the UC Berkley protest over Milo’s scheduled talk and a whole lot of other stuff. That’s why I’m so thankful for newsletters that compile news and much more. So, I thought I’d share some of my favorites:
- Bim Adewunmi’s ‘…the fuck is this?’ – okay so this one is less news related but this (sporadic) newsletter is always a joy to read.
- Bitch Media’s Weekly Reader – this newsletter is a collection of different recent pieces about feminism and pop culture. If you have any interest in feminism and pop culture, I definitely recommend this one.
- Buzzfeed’s Another Round Newsletter – as if Fridays weren’t already great, this newsletter comes out weekly on Fridays and in addition to sharing relevant links, there are animal gifs, things to read and watch, and random internet ephemera.
- The Daily WTF – this one is from WTF Just Happened Today? and specifically collects the daily things that Trump and his administration are up to.
- In Other Words newsletter – this is a feminist community center and bookstore in Portland, often known for the basis of the Portlandia “Women and Women First”. (Although, the show and center infamously split ways.)
- Guerrilla Feminism: The Newsletter – Guerrilla Feminism is an intersectional feminist nonprofit and this newsletter is sporadic but remains a great way to find out what’s going on with GF.
Are there any newsletters that I missed? I feel like my email is mostly just newsletters these days but with such great content, I’m alright with that!