I have family in Orlando and my Ohio family regularly visits the Sunshine State. Disney World is our playground of choice. We love the Mouse’s house, offensively overpriced hot dogs and cucumber salads be damned.
I have been to Disney World as an adult four or five times. I only went as a kid once, I think, and at that point I was a teenager, so I’ve never really experienced it as a child. That’s OK. There’s so much to love about it as a grown up–even a princess-questioning lady grown up–because it is so creative.
Everything at Disney World is thoughtful, visually speaking. Disney gets down to every last detail.
Here’s an example. On our most recent visit my family stayed at The Pop Century resort, a hotel the Disney empire operates. The buildings of the resort are decorated with giant metal sculptures of American cultural icons–mood rings, 8-tracks, a Yo-Yo.
Our courtyard this go-round was home to a two-story foosball playground.
And this guy. A four-story Big Wheel (which, neither here nor there, I like to imagine was used in a giant’s version of “The Shining” and that Jack Nicholson the Giant was a real diva on set… “I ordered whales for dinner! Not elephants! Someone is getting fired! I’m Jack Nicholson the Giant!).
A massive Big Wheel would have been impressive enough, right? Where else can you see that out your hotel window? But, alas, Disney details ensue.
That reads “Recommended Child Weight 877 Pounds.” Clever. Thoughtful.
That is just one example of many in an entertainment complex that is big and powerful enough to be its own city, but you get the idea.
So here it is. My takeaway for life from Disney has nothing to do with dreams or wishes or romance or anthropomorphic ducks. It is this: For best results, never half-ass anything and never stop trying to make things better. I’ll take honest effort over wishing on stars any day.
This past Monday I had the great honor of participating in comedian Dustin Meadows’ monthly Struck a Nerve show at Wild Goose Creative in Clintonville. At these shows, writers, comedians and artists wax poetic and irreverent on different themes. For example, last month’s topic was 2013; I do believe a character who was a pot-themed wedding planner of gay weddings made an appearance. So, yes, fun. This month’s edition was focused on… Batman! Here’s my piece and its PowerPoint images transcribed as best I could for a blog post. If you missed the show, I regret to inform you you missed out on a great night. That’s OK. Just come next month.
Batman for (most) Straight Girls: An Essay
My hypothesis is that most modern American straight women have a similar storied relationship with The Dark Knight. It’s not that we don’t like Batman, it’s that our relationship to Batman (and superheroes)–like our relationships to most things–is fucking complicated.
It goes a little something like this.
Girls meet Batman in childhood. Through cartoons, movies, the lunchboxes of little boy classmates and little girls with hip, gender-neutral parents. AND… costumes.
Every Halloween there is a little girl dressed up as Batman. It’s cute. Yellow and black are complementary colors that look good on even your ugly child. And how sassy with the tutu!
Ask the little girl who Batman is, though, and she likely doesn’t know. I mean, she’ll probably say super cutely “Batman!” but she doesn’t really know who he is other than that one guy with the suit.
Funny, because fast forward just a few precious years later and there’s a high possibility she’ll be wearing a Batman costume again.
I’m Batman Barbie.
To be fair, a decent number of little boys do not know who or what they are dressed up as either. This is kind of the beauty of being a kid—you’re adorable until you start to have your own opinions and liking your own things and choosing your own Halloween costumes.
At 11 or 12 I chose to draw stubble on my face with a permanent marker and don my least favorite coat for Halloween. I was “Hobo In Windbreaker.” This was, I believe, the last year my parents let me trick or treat.
Anyway, Batman is a cultural force. His sixteen pack is everywhere and it is hard to ignore.
As an average little girl your interest in kind of starts to wane [(Bruce) Wayne (heyo!)] as you find your own interests and the allegories that best relate to your own tiny life.
Some of what kids are into, gender difference-wise, happens organically. Batman is OK to Girl Average, but there are not a lot of girls around and there’s a lot of kicking and his best friend/ sidekick is honestly kind of annoying, like a little brother or something.
I was way into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a kid. Not because of the turtles; because of April.
April! We had so much in common, her and little I! I mean just look at our lives! We both had red hair! And we both…. had … red hair…
So some of it happens organically but a lot of what kids are into is marketing, subtle or otherwise. Google image search “superheroes for girls tshirt” and you will get multiple takes on this theme:
If it isn’t “GIRLS RULE” screaming desperately from your pre-pubescent mosquito bites, it is an image of myriad female comic characters slinging some message of teamwork and friendship. I bet girls would like to don a little ass kicking in something meaningless like a T-shirt, too.
I imagine some marketing centaur somewhere steaming, “You know what we need to teach these asshole mean girls about? Friendship.”
My point here is that I think little girls are often socially herded into caring about cartoons and things that aren’t violent. Or if they are violent or heroic in some physical capacity they are rooted in teamwork and friendship (ie. Power Puff Girls).
While Batman has his helpers, he is, at the root of it, a lone bat, and that is what is so appealing about him on some level. I think girls could really use that a dose of imaginary self-reliance and responsibility via technicolor, to hell with self-isolation’s repercussions.
We want to feel the rage of righteous dark justice, too, bro.
Back to marketing of Batman, et al. It becomes a whole new nemesis as an adult. Here’s an example of a recent superhero t-shirt design for grown women compared to one for little boys.
Yeah, Pow, indeed. Pow right to your sense of being taken seriously by anyone who sees you wearing that T-shirt.
The psychology happening in these designs is a whole other item of rant, but it kind of lays the groundwork for the way young adult women interact with the Batman.
I used to use Batman as a pickup line. Asking a man “Batman or Superman” and judging him thusly was like a game of existential foreplay.
If a man selected Batman he was probably a jerk and thus more likely to get laid at 21. If a man selected Superman he was probably a lonely, tormented dreamer and most likely to spend two lonely, tormented years with me at 22. If he said Spiderman he was probably Friend Zoned immediately and married by 24 to someone who was not me.
I stopped asking this question when a dude responded, “Wonderwoman, baby.”
Why did I do that? Chicks! Why do we do that? It’s not like a man has ever asked me if I was more into Nsync or Backstreet Boys and took me seriously when I explained why.
And, honestly, I probably wouldn’t want him to. If Bronies have taught us anything, it is that there is little sexual attraction to be found in grown men who hitch their wagons to the little pink ponies of our girlhood.
So superheroes can become an interest you feign–like watching sports or Robocop–to get a boy to like you. Then you grow up and kind of stop giving a shit and figure out what you really do like.
I discovered I loved Batman for the most stereotypical of reasons–Heath Ledger.
An ex of mine really wanted to see “The Dark Knight” when it came out in the theaters. I had stopped using existential superhero foreplay at this point but I should have on him. He loved Gambit, the wily little magic card player who could manipulate any energy he touched.
Yeah. Sounds familiar.
OK, so, Heath had just offed himself and well, morbid interest. Like I said, girls are dark.
(And, hey, just a feminist aside here: Did anyone else notice that part of the mythos of Heath’s suicide is that he was just so twisted from really getting into his acting and playing such a demented character and it just took over? And also Christian Batman Bale’s epic meltdown on the Terminator set was forgiven just a little bit because of all that high-octane action? Meanwhile, Lindsay Lohan is just a crazy drug addled asshole who deserves to never work again and suffer a lifetime of shame for her mistakes? Maybe they’re all assholes. Maybe you’re the asshole, America.)
OK, so we are watching The Dark Knight. It’s in the movie theater and the screen is larger than Wonderwoman’s boobs. The sound is eerie and the mind-fuck that the leading actor is now six feet under in the reality you are actually living in but don’t feel a part of anymore because the story unfolding in front of you is so honest but surreal and putting you in a whole tailspin of storytelling and… Holy shit, Batman! I love Batman! I want to know all about Batman!
And so I learned all I could about Batman. I bought comics. I watched as many Adam Batman West episodes as I could physically handle (which really wasn’t many). I was super secret Batman fan girl.
Why super secret you ask?
Because America is an asshole.
I knew myself well enough to know my intense interest in Batman would last about a year. I would consume as much of its darkness as I could and move on to a new interest that sated my need for sanely expressing and releasing the reasons for my own dark nights.
See, if you’re a girl who says you like Batman and do not know everything about Batman and/ or comics ever, you run the risk of being stereotyped into this:
FAKE NERD GIRL! FAKE NERD GIRL!
Heaven forbid you have a fleeting, varied interest in a subject on your journey through millions of life subjects.
My Batman obsession has been replaced since then with other things that help me feel like my own natural darkness ain’t so twisted. Like a six-month long X-Files binge. A brief but intense obsession with Iron Maiden. An even more brief attempt to learn to play clarinet again.
Dark, dark things.
Now, I, like, I’d venture to say, most grown modern straight woman, am… just a bitch that likes Batman.
My mom has gifted me at least three copies of “Grease” in my lifetime. I own zero now. I probably sold the DVDs at some point while taking care of my long line of Kenickies.
That’s OK. I can recite the movie by heart because I was incredibly obsessed with it as a child, teenager, young adult and quarter-life crisis adult.
Not obsessed in that weird theater kid way, though. The songs were fine but I didn’t, like, have the “Grease” soundtrack in every room of the house and I don’t know the sock hop dance number.
In hindsight (because who can pick this up about themselves as a kid?) what I really liked about “Grease” was the Pink Ladies and the different ways they were girls.
Rebellious friends running the halls of Rydell, the Pink Ladies gave me a unique place to consider the different ways to be feminine, to be a girl.
I was never interested in Sandy except that her story was what introduced me to all these other interesting people. That was probably because her life was too unattainable for a redhead with bad teeth. Girls like me didn’t get boys like Danny Zuko.
Also, as I got older, I realized Sandy was the type of girl who would bitch to the sluttiest friend she had about her all-encompassing fear of being labeled a slut for making out with a strange guy the night before when said slutty friend has just told her about fucking a strange guy the night before. Ugh.
When I was very young, I enjoyed Frenchy (who was totally the prettiest, right?). The Frenchy actress was on the Thomas the Tank Engine show in the ‘90s and I also watched it all the time. Kids’ interests are so associative.
But Frenchy was dumb. And I was not. So I always just felt for her like I would a best friend (she would have been a good one… flipping off those other cheerleaders… thanks, French).
Marty Maraschino, like the cherry, was eh. She was desperate with a leechy personality built on soggy expectations but redeemed herself in the final scene when she shows Sandy how to smoke a cigarette supa dupa sexay.
My girl for the longest time was Rizzo.
I always liked the leading lady’s best friend because that’s who I was in real life. One quarter good looking, three quarters personality/ possible mental health issue.
Rizzo was all vulnerability haphazardly masked in sexual rage. Tough stuff on the outside but a total kid when the going got tough, when the sex and problems got real. She was such a wannabe hardass.
Now that I could relate to.
But for all her flaws Rizzo would never give up who she was for a Danny Zuko type. Plus, who wanted a dude like Zuko? A guy who would change his personality at the drop of the hat like that? (Oh, yes, the Lackluster from Down Under, that’s who.)
I always crushed on Kenickie.
Yeah. I’ll take that Hallmark card, thank you very much.
Kenickie was wild and raw and scared of all the right things and handled them in all the wrong ways.
I loved it. And I loved Rizzo for loving it. That kind of attraction I could understand. Not the we-met-at-the-beach and-hung-out-for-two-days-and-shall-now-be-in-love-for-ev-er shtick.
White doves still poop orange slime.
I have a feeling the writers really liked Rizzo, too, or at least understood how dynamic of a character she was. Who did the movie pan to when the Principal McGee said on the final morning announcements that someone in the school might one day be the next Eleanor Roosevelt?
Now… who are we missing… what was her name…
Oh, Jan. If you say Jan was your favorite Pink Lady you’re lying. Or you played her in your high school’s version of the musical.
Google search “Jan +Pink Ladies” and only the first three links are actually related to the character. The Google image search results for the same prompt don’t have ANY images of her or the movie.
That’s too bad. Here’s why.
If you did, indeed, play Jan in your high school’s version of “Grease,” you were probably the fifth best person who tried out for Sandy. However, if “Grease” were made today, Jan would be the main character, portrayed by Zooey Deschanel or Lizzy Caplan.
Her name would probably still be Jan.
Jan is super “awkward” in “Grease.” But because “awkwardness” had decades yet to become an attractive attribute of which to aspire–“Awkward” is like a nice, ironic wine–Jan is just a secondary character. Her quirkiness is evident but not gratuitous; her trashiness endearing.
Eating Twinkies with a dessert wine after nailing the impression of a hygienic cartoon beaver? That is manic pixie dream girl gold to film writers today! That scene could just be the trailer for the next Zach Braff movie.
Jan totally would be an example of 1970s’ manic pixie dream girls if not for the fact that, since no one back then appreciated the kind of character on screen, they couldn’t, didn’t sensationalize her. So we viewers are treated to sweet baby Grease-us’ funniest little diamond in the rough without her baking cupcakes and dancing in the rain and referencing great pieces of literature or partaking in hokey singalongs.
Well, I guess there were hokey singalongs.
The manic pixie dream girl thing seems over. It and the anchor-tatted mermaid it rode in on have been identified and thus become predictable, outdated. But Jan in this modern day context is a fun thing to consider on one’s 500th viewing of the movie.
I thought about Jan, briefly, after I watched “Gravity” this weekend. Sandra Bullock plays mission specialist (read: not a full-time astronaut) Dr. Ryan Stone. Stone is stranded in space after her crew’s mission gets bombarded by space debris and alien poop.
OK, not alien poop.
The last hour of the movie, basically, is just Bullock/ Stone trying to survive. Without giving away too many character developments, it struck me afterward–once I came back to earth (buh dum chi) from the pure visual and sonic joyride “Gravity” whips you around on–that it was interesting that the movie followed a female astronaut.
Having a man save himself seems like a more obvious writing choice, especially in 1) a major blockbuster and 2) a movie about space. Everyone knows girls don’t like science!
Sexual tension between Bullock and co-star George Clooney is nill. Refreshing.
Dr. Stone’s sadness, of which we learn about in the most unclumsy of ways, stems from a very human, universal experience of loss, one both a man and a woman could feel. Her trauma is not related to a sexual relationship with a man. Refreshing.
“Gravity” is also not a Girl Power promo piece. No one and nothing preaches “I’M… YEAH ME OVER HERE!… YEAH, I’M AN ASTRONAUT… AN ASTRONAUT WITH A VAGINA!!!!!!!” It’s just an awe-some human story told with a woman. Gender held no gravitas. Say it with me: Refreshing.
I love the dual role fictional characters’ lives, stories, worlds play. When done well they are at once the greatest of escapes but agents for social, cultural change. They help you forget about yourself for a few hours but, if you’re willing to listen, reveal parts of your person previously unearthed.
My favorite story about myself is, of course, one that I do not remember. Self-romanticized myths lead every great autobiography. I have had 26 years to inject my own bloated (pun! you’ll see…) self-congratulatory expectations into this story: The story of my being trained to produce poo in a potty.
It was a hot July day (not verified) in 1988 and my mom was totally pregnant (verified) when I learned that my older sister did not wear diapers.
WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME I DID NOT HAVE TO SIT IN MY OWN WET WASTE?
Sounds like every parent’s dream, right? No sticker chart or Tootsie Roll-lookalikes to clean out of a tiny plastic “toilet” necessary. BUT, this July day, whilst my poor mother was sick from the beautiful and miraculous pile of goo gurgling in her belly, we were all in Detroit visiting family. My mom was alone with us girls in a hotel room. It was hot. We were far away from home. She was dealing with 24-hour morning sickness.
“Please, Jackie, just wear the diaper now and I’ll buy you big girl panties when we go home,” she said as she clung to the trunk of the hotel toilet regurgitating lunchtime’s Chi-Chi’s treat.
Does man willingly submit to serfdom when he learns means of attainable self-reliance?! Does man willingly eat salsa when free queso is available?! Does man willingly watch “Nashville” when he knows anything else is on TV?!
Mom shoved us girls in the car and off we went to buy me some stupid cotton underpants. She threatened severe corporeal punishment on my little white bootay if said cotton underpants got any sort of excrement upon them. They did not. And that was it. I was potty trained.
I love that story because it is indicative how stubborn I am, which has mostly been a blessing when applied to things like school, work and cyber stalking people I find attractive. I’m a pretty determined person.
Or perhaps I just don’t like sitting in my own pee. I guess we will never know.
So… that’s a little bit about me. Welcome to my blog. I plan to reference poop a lot less in future posts… my apologies if that’s what brought you here in the first place.
If what brought you here was the headline, here are my favorite songs with my name in them. Jackie proves to be a go-to stubborn character in songwriting as well. Or an adventurous drug-consuming character, also fans of cotton undies.
Come back soon!
“Jackie Blue,” by Ozark Mountain Daredevils
This song was recorded on a farm. I, too, was “recorded” on a farm. Dairy.
“Judy is a Punk,” by the Ramones
To be clear, Jackie is a punk and Judy is a runt. It’s Judy’s turn to cry.
“Walk on the Wild Side,” by Lou Reed
Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side and name your kid Jackie.