Reality TV

It’s behind a paywall, but I thought Helen Razer’s critique of the amount of ‘teaching’ that we try to pull out of reality TV was a good one.

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Deadpool and vulnerability

I expected Deadpool to be funny. It was laugh out loud at points, although a little tired in others.

I expected it to be a little violent. It was more violent than I expected.

What I didn’t expect was a story strand that centred on vulnerability, and a character’s need to show it.

Deadpool is a little smarter, funnier, and has a little more heart than your average superhero flick.

Ryan Renolds plays Deadpool, a wise-cracking, lethal killer in a movie that enjoys breaking the fourth wall, and making jokes about superhero movie conventions. That’s all to the good.

Many of the lines are funny, if a little dependent on too many sex jokes at points. The action is a little more violent than I would have liked, but it’s beautifully choreographed. The meta-reflections on superhero movies are on point.

The thing that I found interesting, though, was the gender politics and the vulnerability. As Deadpool says, this isn’t a superhero movie. It’s a love story. [He also says some other things, but I’ll leave that for when you watch the movie].

The movie signals that the gender politics are a little different early in the piece. Deadpool (pre superpowers transformation) uses his mercenary skills to threaten a pizza boy, telling him not to stalk someone. The message is a good one. Later, in the romantic montage where Deadpool meets his love interest, there’s a sense of both of them being active agents, of it being a two-way connection rather than a one way attainment of an object.

What I particularly liked, though, was the fact that one of Deadpool’s challenges is to be vulnerable. He acquires superpowers, and a facial disfigurement. It’s described as horrible, but it’s just a set of lumps on Ryan Renold’s face.

He’s scared of showing her his face, and so he hides. The fact that he then spends an extended period following but being afraid to talk to her isn’t, I think, a good thing. But that a crucial plot point turns on Deadpool taking off his mask, showing his face, and asking for care/affection/love/feelings, is, I think, a really good thing. It’s not often (that I can think of) that an action movie features a character being actively vulnerable, and I think it’s great.

The bit where Deadpool tells his taxi driver to kidnap his romantic rival and kill him is less great.

On vulnerability, multiple people have recommended this 2010 TED talk by Brene Brown on vulnerability. It’s a good one. If you’re like me and prefer to read things, there’s a also a transcript. It’s very good:

Courage, the original definition of courage, when it first came into the English language — it’s from the Latin word “cor,” meaning “heart” — and the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. And so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly. And the last was they had connection, and — this was the hard part — as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were, which you have to absolutely do that for connection.

The other thing that they had in common was this: They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they really talk about it being excruciating — as I had heard it earlier in the shame interviewing. They just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say, “I love you” first … the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees … the willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after your mammogram. They’re willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental.

… 

We live in a vulnerable world. And one of the ways we deal with it is we numb vulnerability. 

You can’t numb those hard feelings [vulnerability and other negative emotions] without numbing the other affects, our emotions. You cannot selectively numb. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness. And then, we are miserable, and we are looking for purpose and meaning, and then we feel vulnerable, so then we have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin.

Different frameworks

I spend a bit of time thinking about how the conceptual framework that is economics is expanding into different areas of our lives and societies. I do so less in relation to legalization, but maybe that’s worth thinking about too. As Richard Ackland writes in the Saturday Paper:

The legal profession is blissfully happy with the TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership], which opens the possibility for conquest of neglected areas of human activity not yet fully colonised by lawyers. 

Different frameworks

I spend a bit of time thinking about how the conceptual framework that is economics is expanding into different areas of our lives and societies. I do so less in relation to legalization, but maybe that’s worth thinking about too. As Richard Ackland writes in the Saturday Paper:

The legal profession is blissfully happy with the TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership], which opens the possibility for conquest of neglected areas of human activity not yet fully colonised by lawyers. 

Marieke Hardy’s ‘You’ll be sorry when I’m dead’

I enjoyed listening to Marieke Hardy when she was on Triple JJJ breakfast. She was funny and irreverent, and there was a refreshing honesty. Perhaps something like vulnerability?

Those qualities are what’s likeable about this collection of essays. She writes about experiences she’s had, and she does it hilariously, but at the same time a touch poignantly. A three-way with a prostitute, being hit on by famous writers, and the collapse of relationships.

Hardy writes honestly about things that have happened, and she does it hilariously. But at the same time it feels that she uses humour to keep a distance. There’s a willingness to admit pain, and fear, and that’s commendable. But at times it feels that Hardy continually ends up saying about different events ‘This is what happened, isn’t life funny …’ – without a larger framework or conclusion.

That, I think, was what felt missing for me. These are funny essays, and they’re enjoyable – they’re good, light reading. But the opportunity to lift them above the standard ‘I’m a funny writer, now I’ve published a collection of bits and pieces I’d already written’ is missed. So it’s worth reading if you need something light, and it is genuinely laugh out loud funny, but at the same time I felt a sense of missed opportunity when I finished it.

Srdja Popovic’s ‘Blueprint for Revolution’

Popovic writes in a very low-key, readable style. At times, it’s almost easy to forget that this is a writer who’s been involved in a difficult campaign in Serbia.

That’s a strength, in that it makes the book very approachable. You can plow through it in a day. It’s also in some ways off-putting at times – it feels as though Popovic can skate a little too confidently over what are complex issues. This is particularly the case where he talks about other countries, which he does a lot: Egypt, Tunisia, Sudan, Ukraine and others all feature in his examples.

The book largely does what it promises to do. He talks through a set of ideas about what is important in a campaign to bring about change. He avoids the trap of getting bogged down in overly detailed notes, or trying to tie them too specifically to particular events or structures.

Which is perhaps the weakness of the book, in that it’s not the kind of topic that can be dealt with in a book the way some things can, like a piece of history, or a complex theoretical issue. The book is good, but it’s a launching point rather than an answer.

Worth reading, though, if the full title intrigues you: Blueprint for revolution: How to use rice pudding, lego men, and other nonviolent techniques to galvanize communities, overthrow dictators, or simply change the world. 

Below are some of the quotes I found interesting:

  • ‘Every dictator, I explained, is a brand … And like all brands, dictators are desperate for market share and exposure’. I noted this mainly because it seems to fall into thinking of the world in terms of brands, which is a framework I’m not fond of.
  • Popovic (accurately, I think) argues that most people are uninterested in politics, for very valid reasons:
    • ‘… they also have a lot on their minds, things like jobs and kids and big dreams and small grievances and favorite TV shows to keep up with …’.
    • ‘… they want respect and dignity, they want their families to be safe, and they want honest pay for honest work.’
  • Highlights the need for unity: ‘ … a revolution only picks up steam once two or more groups that have nothing to do with one another decide to join together for their mutual benefit’.
  • Talks about power structure and asymmetry – this is something I know less about: ‘Every tyrant rests on economic pillars, and economic pillars are much easier targets than military bases or presidential palaces’.