Does “Playing Gay” Have to Stick?

By Johannah Cousins

I’m currently living at my mother‘s house, waiting for my work permit to come through so that I can start my first real job, teaching in England. Suffice it to say, I suddenly have a lot of free time.  I’ve been watching my way through Six Feet Under, a show which aired before I had either the emotional capacity to enjoy a program about a funeral home or HBO, which means frequent trips to our local movie rental for the next few discs.  As people who work slow-moving jobs in small towns are wont to do, the gray ponytailed man at Video Exchange has struck up a bit of a rapport with me, enough that he now feels comfortable commenting on my selections.

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Is Twilight's Eclipse in on the Joke?

By Johannah Cousins

Every time a new Twilight film comes out, my brother and I brave the madding crowds and ridiculously overpriced tickets to see it in theaters.  The overblown romance and cheesy dialogue of the saga is singularly entertaining and best captured on the big screen, where each one of Taylor Lautner’s constantly displayed abdominal muscles can be larger than the human head.  From the melodramatic opening sequence, we’re laughing.  But we’re far from the only ones.  In fact, amidst the endless discussion of Twilight‘s serious diehard fans, the ones who wish they could date Edward or Jacob themselves, it seems that a sizeable chunk of the films’ viewership is being ignored: the amused.

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Joan Rivers: How to Age Vividly

By Johannah Cousins

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Last night, my best friend and I went to see a new documentary, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work.  An in-depth look at the past year of Rivers’s life, interspersed with footage from her decades-long career and interviews with family and friends, the film was enlightening in the way that intensive examinations of the day-to-day existence of celebrities generally are.

Being famous is often quite unpleasant; the entertainment business is incredibly damaging; celebs cry, too, and so on.  But what makes this movie particularly interesting is that it’s a familiar story told about an unfamiliar subject: an older woman.

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How to Think About Women in Movies

By Johannah Cousins

Sapphic VictoryMost people probably think that men and women are equally represented in film roles.  After all, most movies have a male lead and a female lead, and there are Best Actor and Best Actress categories in every awards show.  Plus, you know, women make up roughly half (actually slightly over half) of the world’s population, so it seems natural that they would have roughly half of the film roles.  As the Bechdel Test, an interesting/sad little thought exercise I recently discovered, shows us, this is hardly the case.

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'Lost': Does Every Story Have to Be a Love Story?

By Johannah Cousins

As you may have heard, Lost recently came to its overly complicated end.  The final episode faced the impossible tasks of tying up six years of bizarrely frayed storylines and ending the journeys of over a dozen major characters in one two and a half hour chunk.

Obviously, only the most central plot points and themes could be covered. So why, then, would a show which always focused more on building complicated mythologies and dealing with huge life questions than on developing credible romances devote so much of its finale to kissing and flirting?

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Storybook Endings: What Movies Teach Us About People in Love

By Johannah Cousins

Last night, my mother and I rented Up in the Air.

I reviewed the movie for my school’s newspaper back in January, but my mom is constantly a little behind the times, and I had liked it enough to agree to watch it again.

What struck my mom the most about the film, and what I think left such an impression on me the first time, is the unconventional way in which the major romance, between George Clooney and Vera Farmiga, unfolds.  We are so accustomed to stories about love progressing in certain ways that it can be quite shocking when the plot takes a different turn. [Spoilers ahead!]

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Gender and 'American Idol'

By Johannah Cousins

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Lee DeWyze is officially the winner of the ninth season of American Idol.  The triumph of Lee, the third scruffy, low-key, guitar strumming, regular Joe white guy in a row, over the dreadlocked and husky voiced Crystal Bowersox will no doubt cause a certain amount of consternation amongst the incredibly devoted Idol commentators and fanbase.

Many will blame tween girls and their mothers for voting with their eyes instead of their ears, and many will claim that Crystal deserved the win. But Idol is a voting show, a show about giving the people what they want. And if “the people” are young girls and middle-aged women, why shouldn’t their desires count?

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Iron Man 2: Can Women Only Relate to Female Characters?

By Johannah Cousins

Over the weekend, I saw Iron Man 2.  Apparently I was far from the only woman to do so.  With a 60%/40% male/female audience breakdown for the film’s opening weekend, Iron Man 2 has surprised Paramount studios by attracting a huge number of female viewers.

One distribution exec even commented that these were the kinds of female numbers one might expect for a movie aimed specifically at that demographic, such as Sex and the City 2.  So why did such a theoretically male-targeted film draw so many women?  Or should the real question be: why is the studio so surprised?

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Why Does Bisexuality Make Female Pop Stars "Edgy"?

By Johannah Cousins

Christina Aguilera is staging a comeback.  Though a tremendously successful pop artist from the late 90s through the middle of the last decade, Aguilera has not released an album since 2006, and the music scene has acquired new stars in her absence. With her new disc, Bionic, coming out next month, she needs to do something big to recapture the public’s attention in a crowded market.

In her recently released video for the album’s first single, “Not Myself Tonight,” Aguilera uses a common tool of the female pop star who wants some extra press: getting sexy with another woman.

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Lazy Husbands and Shrewish Wives: Media Portrayals of Marriage

By Johannah Cousins

I just saw Date Night, Tina Fey and Steve Carell’s new romantic comedy/thrilling caper. It was cute, the kind of film that is perfectly enjoyable but perhaps not especially memorable. But what it does contain, in place of unforgettable laugh riots, is one of the more refreshing depictions of a married couple to show up in mainstream culture for quite some time.

In a media dominated by images of oafish, layabout husbands and angry, overcritical wives, a film that presents familiar marital issues from both sides, without relying on lame “women are always like this; men are always like that” humor is something to get excited about.

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