Saturday, September 23, 2017

Mother! Rantview

I recently went to a cinema screening of the film Mother! directed by Darren Aronofsky, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem and I HAVE FEELINGS ABOUT IT.

It was an interesting film to watch. I saw it with another writer friend on a whim and my only knowledge of the film was a short trailer I'd seen the week before. Conceptually, it was phenomenal. I get why a lot of mainstream movie-goers wouldn't like it; it's very out there and seems to have been promoted as a thriller without an art house-style disclaimer. But for me, a writer with a literary theory fetish, it was intriguing.

Jennifer Lawrence plays a woman who has rebuilt the wreckage of her lover's house from the literal ashes. Her lover, played by Javier Bardem, is a poet caught in the clutches of severe writers block. Easy for my friend and I to relate to at the start. They seem to occupy a fragile paradise, but one night a man knocks on their door claiming he thought it was a bed and breakfast. The audience sees a glimmer of how fucked up the dynamics between these characters is when the poet invites this stranger to stay without consulting his partner and despite her very obvious discomfort.

After a strange night, the stranger's wife shows up. She's a nosey bitch to say the least, presumptuous and disrespectful towards Jennifer Lawrence's character in an almost deliberate fashion. Things get messier quickly after she arrives, with she and her husband entering the poet's study in secret and accidentally breaking something very precious. Then it escalates. Like, their kids suddenly show up and someone is murdered kind of escalating. And my god does it enter the territory of surrealism after that.

I don't want to just give a recap of the film. It was good and I think it's worth watching. What I want to do is explain the feelings I had about it. First, that I loved it. The acting was great. The cinematography was exceptional. It was thematically complex and engaging. On the surface, it was a film about a couple who had their fragile paradise disturbed by strangers and the burdens they brought. It was about the tension that created and the way that played on their relationship and the poet's writers block. Deeper down, we get a subtext about the idea of the writer as The Creator. We get a feel of the writer's ego when the poet overcomes his writers block and creates something beautiful. But he is also the dictator and the supposedly higher being of the world of the film.

And this is the part that really got to me. The film was sensational. I really enjoyed it. For the most part. But it got under my skin for one reason. Throughout the film, it was painfully obvious that the poet held a complete disregard for the safety and wellbeing of Jennifer Lawrence's character. As did every other character. But the way the poet treated her ... with such disregard, such carelessness, and such undeserving entitlement ... that was sickening. And it got worse and worse as the film went on.

The part that really got to me was when they were arguing and she challenged him, 'You can't even fuck me', after enduring endless criticism from the strangers who stayed with them about not having children. It got to me because in response he pins her again a wall and starts passionately kissing her. And her initial response was to push him away. She didn't want him to get intimate with her at that point. She was angry and had every right to be. But then the anger melts away, after her attempts at resistance prove futile. The anger melts away and they make love.

This pisses me off. A lot. Because not only is it a cliche, it is also a cliche that promotes sexual violence. I'm sick of seeing films and tv shows and reading books where someone starts making out with someone against their will, and then it turns it into a steamy, beautiful moment of love. It's not romantic. It's fucking abusive. And it validates the same type of underhanded abuse that gets played out in the real world. 

Mother! was impressive and enthralling in it's thematic content, acting, and cinematic direction. And I can deal with being labelled one of those arseholes who likes art house films. It was a weird film, but I liked it. But I cannot get past this shortcoming. I cannot get past the idea that there is no redemption, no saving grace following the excessive violence and disrespect towards Jennifer Lawrence's character, but a feeble illusion of one I could see right through. It did nothing for me. And others can argue as much as they want that 'oh, it was making a point about the patriarchy' and 'but it was an allegory about how people treat the earth' and 'there was a biblical subtext'. There was also an inherently violent, sexist subtext. And while it did not portray it in a positive light, it also offered no solution. It did not overcome the problem it highlighted.

People describe it as 'confronting' and then justify it using the subtext about creative people and egos and the way people treat mother earth. But this excuses nothing. It doesn't make this behaviour okay, even in a film. It's aweful. And I do not have to be okay with it just because it was otherwise a good movie.

I apologise for this rant, especially for anyone who hasn't seen the film yet. I needed to get some rage off my chest.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

A long way to the top

I've been pretty down the last few months (by which I mean, since 2017 began). Between toxic people in my life and the struggles of securing a job in the arts industry when you've just graduated, it's been a tough time. I've reached out for help, and kicked myself into gear to try to get out of the slump. Slowly, it's been working. I managed to remove some of the more toxic people from my day to day life and I started to find some validity in my job, even if it isn't in my preferred industry. But some bigger things needed to change, so I got thinking, and I've made some bigger decisions.

I chose to take a break from university. I withdrew from the one unit I was enrolled in a week before the census date so that it wouldn't affect my academic record. I can take this break for up to twelve months, but to be perfectly honest ... I have no intention of completing the Masters I am enrolled in. Although half of it was credited on account of my Honours degree, it was still going to take me two years to complete what was left at the pace I was going. Frankly, it seems to be a repeat of my undergrad, with perhaps a little extra detail and longer essays. In the long run, I don't think the stress or the student debt is worthwhile unless I'm taking away something more. After my twelve month intermission, I might do a course transfer into communications or marketing--IF I choose to continue study. Masters was never part of my plan, so I am not upset at the idea of dropping it altogether. It doesn't feel like quitting. It isn't. It just wasn't supposed to be from the start and maybe that's okay. I guess the only reason I didn't outright withdraw from the course was because I can still work on the student magazine as long as I keep my place in a course, even if I'm not enrolled in a unit.

I started teaching myself a little bit of design. I've never been able to get the hang of Adobe programs like Photoshop or InDesign, so I thought I'd try something a little more basic. I created a free account with Canva online and I've been experimenting with magazine designs using some of their pre-made templates and articles saved on my laptop from editing with WORDLY. Just for practice, of course, until I get the hang of it. One of my friends who is a bit of a designer herself gave me some really positive feedback on the attempt I showed her. We might start a little zine together, just for fun. I'm hoping that with a bit of practice using Canva, I'll be able to upgrade to InDesign and actually be able to include it as a skill on my resume; it's something a lot of the jobs I've been looking at want from their applicants.

I also intend to apply for an ABN (Australian Business Number) really soon, so that I can start freelance editing, and maybe freelance writing. I don't really know how that will go, considering how competitive and small the industry is in Australia. But hopefully, with a few testimonials and a domain name, I'll be able to get the idea off the ground. I know it's going to be an uphill battle, but I'd rather try and try and try than sit back and let myself be miserable at a call centre forever.

And of course, I need to start looking for a job in my field, at least until I can get freelancing to work for me (and I know there's no guarantee that will happen). Because, again, I have to try to make my dreams come true rather than sit back and let myself be miserable at a call centre forever.

Granted, the call centre isn't so bad when I put aside the fact that it's not the industry I did a degree to end up in, and I feel like I've gotten a really good grip on what I'm doing there recently. I've had a lot of good feedback from the members who call in, especially for cover reviews and hospital enquiries. Private health insurance is complicated, but I'm being told that I'm good at explaining how it all works and being thorough in the information I give. It still makes me feel pretty good when they take a moment to genuinely thank me at the end of a long call. It makes it worthwhile to endure all the people who call up just to yell at someone for no real reason ... I only wish the pay was a little more substantial.

How do you deal with the struggles of making it as a writer or editor? What decisions did you have to make to try and make things work? 

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