Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Penguins from Hell

The other day I rewatched The Magdalene Sisters. I've seen this movie more than a few times already, and admittedly it's not exactly uplifting. But films are intended to provoke many responses from us, and laughter does not always have to be one. This film in particular simply makes me reflect on my Irish and Catholic heritage. What does Catholicism mean to me? What does it mean to other Catholics? What does it mean to the heads of the Catholic Church?

The poster for this movie is very deceiving, and shows a smirking Nora-Jane Noone, who plays Bernadette.

She looks coquettish, perhaps like the female protagonist in a romantic comedy about some women with the surname Magdalene.

From this image, the viewer has no idea that the film is going to depict the physical violence and sexual abuse inflicted on residents of Magdalene Asylums: homes for 'fallen women.'

The story takes place in Ireland in the 1960's, but these asylums, which made money by using the residents as free labor in their laundries, had been established in the 18th century. It is horrifying to find out that the last Magdalene Laundry closed in 1996. Also, these places were not relics of fundamental religion in uber-Catholic Ireland either, there was a location in Philadelphia, PA.

So the residents of these places were 'fallen women': aka unwed mothers, girls who were suspected to be promiscuous, girls who had been raped, etc. The nuns tell the girls that hard work and penance will give them salvation and an entrace to Heaven, and they must follow the way of Mary Magdalene.

It certainly sounds unpleasant, but not necessarily horrifying. EXCEPT: these nuns are scary! They have none of the understanding, forgiveness, compassion or gentle humor that characterizes the nuns who taught me in school.

They miss no opportunity to humiliate and hurt the girls. I think the most disturbing scene is one where the girls are in the shower room, anhe nuns play a cruel and perverted game to judge them based on their bodies. (Smallest breasts, biggest bottom, etc)

I have blogged before about my admiration and awe of nuns, and I am fascinated by their position in our collective imagination and the way we portray them. Everything from the caricatured 'boxing nun' toys to nun dolls and calendars that contain humorous images of Nuns Having Fun.

So no matter how many times I watch this film, it is jarring (to say the least) to see these nightmarish nuns.

Monday, April 2, 2012

For the Love of Covers

In my History of Children's Book Publishing course, I was recenly asked to find "the most beautiful book." I had to write a paper defending my choice, and the book could only be a year or two old. This assignment was all based on aesthetics: the dustjacket, the casewrap, the type of paper used, the font, etc.

I had planned to choose a YA book because their covers are so beautiful and interesting so I went to a B&N store to have a look around. I found one book with a cover that looks strikingly like another one I'd seen:

Unlovable was published in January of 2011, and Between was published the following August.

I can't help but wonder the reason between the strong resemblance. I haven't read either book, I just like the covers.

What is it about girls on swings? It should look innocent because of its hearkening back to childhood, but both of these covers are meant to make us somewhat uncomfortable. If the upside down grey cloudy sky in Between doesn't exude a sense of foreboding, surely the swampy cemetery scene in Unlovable does.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

God, Himself could not explain to me why we need to see this ship sink in 3D

Being a History scholar and film enthusiast, I am naturally psyched about the upcoming rerelease of James Cameron’s 1997 epic Titanic.

I saw this movie seven times in the theater, and every time I was still invested in the romantic fate of Rose and Jack. I also was horrified each time upon watching the victims of the tragedy drown, fall to their deaths and freeze in the icy Atlantic. There are so many reasons why this infamous accident has captured the American, and the world’s collective imagination. The Edwardian attitude of man’s infallibility is probably the biggest one. Even now, over 100 years later, people still want to know more about what exactly happened on the night of April 14th, 1912. recently, there was a story that scientists believe the moon’s cycle that year affected the earth in a way which led to icebergs traveling more, which explains why there were so many in the ship passageways.

I enjoy reading and learning about the Titanic, and also watching films about it.

However, when I heard that Titanic is being released in 3D this month, I have to wonder “Why?”. I understand that 3D is a big thing, and it helps ensure that a film’s release will generate profits. I also understand that Cameron’s Titanic was a blockbuster hit (thanks to fans like me!).

But I do not feel that a film that depicts approx. 1500 people dying in such horrifying ways necessitates a huge 3D translation. It’s as if the film‘s new tagline will be “Witness the destruction and death in life-like detail!”

I realize that jack and Rose are fictional characters, but there are a handful of characters based on actual people, but what should it matter either way? I touched on this in an earlier post about our need as a society to preserve every single site/building that has played a role in any historical event; are we already removed far enough so that we no longer view the Titanic as a human tragedy but as a freak accident that makes us gawk?

Would anyone really want to see a film about Vietnam in bloody, 3D detail? What is the relationship between a historic event, especially a tragedy, and the length of time since it occurred that equates when it is appropriate to exploit it for monetary gain?

I “am ready to go back to Titanic” as Brock Lovett asks old Rose, but I am grateful that I did not have to live through this event, so I do not feel the need to pay for the illusion that I did.

Whatever my ticket does cost me, it will be worth it to reaffirm my love for Leo.

"I'll never let go, Jack. I promise."