Tag: TV

Ruined Women

“Sometimes that’s what happens. No cigarette burns, no bone snaps. Just an irretrievable slipping.” 
― Gillian Flynn, Sharp Objects

I am still processing Sharp Objects as a cultural piece and still incapable of finding what I want to say about it as a series. However, in trying to force out some words, there is one moment of the show that has lingered in my mind for weeks now.

In one episode, dissatisfied with her daughter’s clothing in the face of an upcoming neighborhood event that requires a display of carefully maintained artificiality, Adora takes her daughters shopping. Nothing in the store will work for Camille, who covers herself from neck to toe to hid her private pain and after trying to demure or avoid her mother’s gaze, Camille finally flings open the dressing room door in a fit of anger to reveal her body. Adora sees Camille’s self-harm scars, the physical manifestation of Camille’s trauma and pain, and after a horrible pause to take in the tapestry before her the first words out of her mouth are a devastating summary: “You’re ruined.”

That line actually landed on my chest like a punch. I nearly started crying, it felt so quiet and harsh and all encompassing all at once. As Adora quickly shepherds her younger daughter away from her older’s bad influence and bared scars (and delivers a few final cutting comments for effect), Amy Adams’ Camille muffles a scream and sinks to the floor.

This is a deeply personal take, but in considering why I’m still thinking about it weeks later, I think it’s because almost every negative thought or rejection about women (at least as objects or concepts, to say nothing of people) can be boiled down to some element of that idea: you’re ruined. You’ve either done something or had something done to you that has made you less in some way.

You don’t have to look hard to find “ruined” women, we’re in every genre of literature–heck, it IS a genre–and almost every pop cultural narrative you can find. Eve ate the apple and ruined everything. Being ruined is the worst thing that can happen to a woman. Think of Lydia Bennett running off with Wickham and her mother’s hysterics on the ruination of the family, the fall of Madame Bovary, the secret of Lady Dedlock that she will go to extraordinary efforts to keep. When men declare, “I’m ruined,” they are almost always speaking in financial terms. When women say it or it is said about them, it is usually indicating some kind of permanent social death or devaluation that impacts every aspect of her life.

Having consensual sex for the first time? You’ve lost your virginity. Been raped? Don’t get me started on the horrible work society does to convince itself that the woman must have earned or deserved it in some way. Women who cut their hair too short? Insufficiently sexy. Women who try to attract the male gaze? Slutty. Relationship break up? You lost your man. Stay with a guy you shouldn’t? You don’t have any self respect. Cried at work? Couldn’t tough it out. Showed insufficient femininity? You’re a bitch. Make a parenting mistake? You’re a bad mother. Too involved as a parent? You’re an unnatural mother. In every case you’ve “lost” something of value in the eyes of the beholder. Your perfection, non-existent to begin with, has been tarnished and you are the less for it.

It’s not just sexual, even though that’s the easiest route to police and punish women’s transgressions. I think back to the Sunday School lessons I had on chastity and virtue in church with their object lessons. Emphasis on the object. My body and soul were portrayed as gum that once chewed or cupcakes once bitten into were less desirable and holy. God could repair the spiritual damage for sexual transgression, of course…but you can’t unchew gum.

It’s alarmingly easy to be “ruined” as a woman. We might not tar and feather them anymore (at least not everywhere…plenty of woman are still whipped or stoned to death, or raped in punishment), but Sharp Objects also did a deft job of showing how women can be excluded, gossiped about, antagonized, denied support or compassion, or ostracized for their failures too. Affection can be removed, respect can be withdrawn, punishment can be meted out in the court of public opinion, or even just in the dark recesses of our own minds.

I’ve been ruined–in mostly small ways, thank god. I’ve been deemed insufficiently feminine and too deviant for my community in ways that produced isolation and even once made me fear a job might be on the line. I’ve been called a bitch and gossiped about. I’ve left a faith. As an inveterate Type A personality, I have failed at things and felt my self of self and self-worth absolutely crumble. Whether from other people or self inflicted, the concept of being ruined is a powerful one. Rational or not, I fear it.

Less toxic by far, the memory that immediately sprung to mind at Adora’s words were from my own mother when I got my ears pierced at 13. She cried because, as she told me, we put holes in “something perfect.” I remember being really confused and even a little unsettled by her reaction. As an adult, and through this lens, it makes more sense to me now. I was just growing up and this was a normal rite of passage for most girls. It was a small kind of imperfection or change–a little ruination. But my mother still cried over it. It’s impossible not to internalize a life lesson like that.

 

Oscar Review 2014

The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.
– Oscar Wilde

Ho boy, this is going to be a nicely divisive year, I can feel the comments section rumbling already! All in all, I’m quite pleased, there have been a couple of seasons of this now-annual event where I have found the frocks nice but boring, this year I feel we have something to talk about.

Major trends included statement necklaces (which I approve), lots of pale shades on pale girls (which I generally don’t), navy everywhere (which I’m fine with, it’s my kind of neutral) and pregnancy (which I’m too smart to have an opinion about here). J Law had the good sense to get her tumbling over and done with before the ceremony this year, Anne Hathaway has a comeback for all the haters obsessed with her bosom from last year, and we’re not even going to talk about Pharrell’s shorts.

If there was an overarching theme I noticed, I’d say there were some very definite nods to Old Hollywood glamor that I really loved. There were capes and vintage silhouettes and straight up call backs to iconic films and screen sirens. On the whole, I loved it. Dramatic and interesting are a lot more desirable to me than pretty and safe…usually. Sometimes things can go wrong. And with that, let’s delve deep into opininating.

Friends, minions, countrymen, lend me your thoughts!

THE GOOD

Lupita Nyong'o Prada

Lupita Nyong’o in Prada. Gorgeous frock on a gorgeous woman who has been nailing it on the style front all season. She’s an actress who masterfully harnessed the ability to stay in the public eye via her clothing early, professionally smart and stylistically successful. That blue sings on her and the whole thing moved beautifully. And I’m going to catch hell for this but as much as I think this look stuns, I have to admit I preferred the red caped gown she busted out at the Academy Awards.

Anne Hathaway Gucci

Anne Hathaway in Gucci. Speaking of smart! Remember the craziness last year when this woman was campaigning hard for an Oscar (not helped by a rather juvenile, breathy, “It came true!” when she got the thing) and everybody turned on her in the most ridiculous way for it? How her pink dress with unfortunate frontal puckering inspired instant twitter accounts and memes? Yeah, Anne Hathaway kindly invites the haters to eat it. This dress clearly calls back to last year’s in style and shape, but this time she’s literally darkened up and armored herself. Clever, clever stylist behind this one. Though I’m braced for minion pushback on this one, I stand firm that this dress was a deliberate Do Over and I say, go for it!

Cate Blanchett Giorgio Armani

C., you ridiculously contrary creature, I hear you exclaim, you hate pale women in pale shades. Well there’s always an exception, ducklings. Her name is Cate Blanchett, she is wearing Armani and she is stunning so you all will just have to deal with my hypocrisy.

Olivia Wilde Valentino

There were many bumps out and about, Olivia Wilde’s in Valentino was the best. Apart from looking wonderfully classy that gown has pockets. An instant win in my book.

Emma Watson Vera Wang

Emma Watson in Vera Wang. This is where my bias comes out because that 90’s looking t-shirt ballgown hybrid thing she’s got on that actually looks comfortable? I would totally wear that. [Editor’s note, I initially typed the designer in as “Vera Want.” If that isn’t subliminal messaging I don’t know what is.]

Chrissy Teigen Monique Lhuillier

Chrissy Teigen in Monique Lhuillier. …Look, let’s just ignore everything from the neck up, okay? There’s no justifying it so let’s pretend, just put your thumb over the screen for a second. Now look! A bold print on the Oscars Red Carpet!

THE OKAY

Oh here we go…this is where the pushback comes.

Amy Adams Gucci

Amy Adams in Gucci. This look was praised to the sky but to me it falls under the boring but safe in a big way. The navy blue is a perfect shade for her but the getup lacked some oomph for my taste. It’s also very similar to Jennifer Lawrence’s gown. Speaking of!

Jennifer Lawrence Dior

Jennifer Lawrence in Dior. She loses some points for the hair and makeup styling, and doing the down-the-back necklace thing (which I liked the first time, admittedly) two years in a row but the red (in a sea of muted blushes, darker but muted tones) won me over. To be fair, the photo is not at all doing the color justice here. On screen that gown was a gorgeous, sizzling red. Minions who can find me that exact shade of it in lipstick form will be promoted to an exalted state in my someday empire.

Viola Davis Escada

Viola Davis in Escada. She’s worn emerald green before (and for good reason!), and I love her hair and makeup, but the dress is a bit too shiny and oddly fitted.

Idina Menzel Vera Wang

Idina Menzel in Vera Wang. The dress is pretty (but safe, for a Broadway diva at least), the diamonds are to die for. But the face is washed out, the hair is bland, and the lips need color pretty badly.

Charlize Theron Dior

WHY? Why must Charlize Theron insist on wearing Dior gowns that do freakish things to her breasts?! This is going for Sargent’s Portrait of Madame X but the unfinishedness of the straps bothers me.

Kristen Bell Roberto Cavalli

Kristen Bell in Roberto Cavalli. Okay, but pale girl in a pale frock syndrome strikes again. She looks utterly washed out to me.

Elsa Pataky Elie Saab

Elsa Pataky in Elie Saab. Look, the woman is heavily pregnant with twins and she still showed up smiling and in heels. All I’m going to say is that I didn’t like it on her.

THE BAD

Sally Hawkins Valentino

Sally Hawkins in Valentino. This is one big helping of Too Much. Perhaps this would have worked better if styled differently or worn by someone else, but as it is it’s a pale shade on a pale girl with messy looking hair and too much detailing.

Alfre Woodard Badgley Mischka

Alfre Woodard in Badgley Mischka. No favors done to anyone’s chest region here.

Julie Delpy Jenny packham

Julie Deply in Jenny Packham. Cleopatra by way of the 1960s. This could have been ranked higher, but I think the hair styling tipped it over into frumpy for me.

Kerry Washington Jason Wu

Holding down the bump category for the Bad is Kerry Washington in Jason Wu. I anticipate pushback here too, but I don’t love this shade on her and think she looks just a bit too rumpled. The overall effect is of us catching her in nothing but a (admittedly luxurious) bedsheet, but not in a good way I find.

Julia Roberts Givenchy

Julia Roberts, no! A dress that looks like those droopy shirtwaists from the turn of the last century combined with a doily in mourning and a peplum too? This Givenchy doesn’t work for me at all.

Gabourey Sidibe Theia

Gabourey Sidibe in Theia. Too much everything.

Anna Kendrick J. Mendel

Anna Kendrick in J. Mendel. I sighed. From the back it looked like it could have been worn by that fabulously vamp fringe character from Singing in the Rain…then she turned around to reveal clunky shoes, awkward pleated layers, unattractive cutouts with unattractive netting, sheer panels, and sideboob. I dislike those elements on their own, put them together and I cringe. Easily my pick for worst of the night (Liza Minnelli is exempted because she is Liza Minnelli).

FAVORITE ACCESSORY

Karen O Camilla Staerk

Bring me that clutch immediately!

FAVORITE LOOK OF THE NIGHT

Sari Mercer

Sari Mercer. The hair, the lip color, the complexion, the diamonds, that gown. Do me a favor, everyone, and from now on let’s all mutually agree that I look like this 100% of the time, alright?

Now, it’s your turn. Come to the comments and decry my taste!

Let’s Play Dress Up

“You don’t make pictures for Oscars.”
– Martin Scorsese

I’m going to say it, I was blown away by how little I was blown away this year.  Once again, I was surprised to see how many of the presenters were better frocked than than the stars up for awards, quelle horreur!  As we speak stylists and assistants are cringing and bracing themselves for the Louboutins to come sailing at them.  Too many of the gowns were relatively colorless, and frankly more than a few people had major fit and styling issues – which means we have so much to talk about.  Grab your junk food of choice and tell me what you thought of the frocks!

The Good

JenniferLawrenceChristianDiorGoodNicoleKidmanLWrenScottGood
Jennifer Lawrence in Dior
Nicole Kidman in L’Wren Scott

Darkness and light!  The Dior was early in a long list of white, pale, blush, nude, and pastel dresses, but I think this was by far the best.  The fabric pattern give it some texture, and she looks as tall as an Amazon.  I personally loved the backwards necklace, very Old Hollywood.  Kidman brought some much needed va va voom to an otherwise fairly tame RC.

AmandaSeyfriedMcQueenGoodJessicaChastainArmaniGood
Amanda Seyfried in Alexander McQueen
Jessica Chastain in Armani

The pale frocks just keep rolling on.  The McQeen was actually a lovely lavender and the only issue I have with her is that her makeup matched the gown too much.  Chastain makes the cut because she frankly struggles on the RC (her baby blue boob monstrosity at the Golden Globes anyone?), and while I don’t love the color on her per se, I do love the color.  Hair and jewels are flawless.

CharlizeTheronDiorGoodNaomiWattsArmaniGood
Charlize Theron in Dior
Naomi Watts in Armani

“I’m sorry, did those other ladies forget to bring the drama?” I imagine Theron said to Watts as they stepped from their limos.  “That’s just fine, darling, because we’re here,” Watts said with a fabulous shoulder toss that nearly decapitated a wayward assistant.  Let’s just all be grateful that finally Dior came through because we all remember the assault in dress form Theron sported a couple years ago, finally la Dior juste!

FanBingbingMarchesaGoodJenniferAnnistonMaisonValentinoGood
Fan Bing Bing in Marchesa
Jennifer Aniston in Maison Valentino

Oh thank heavens, this thing was filmed after the invention of technicolor!  I have a couple of quibbles about the fit, but Fan Bing Bing is a glorious creature who wear things that mere mortals can’t – her chinoiserie inspired Cannes dress was magnificent, and she looks equally stunning her.  The styling is really lovely.  As for Aniston, I hated her hair but that deep red gown was really gorgeous.

The Meh

AmyAdamsOscardelaRentaMehSamantahBarksMaisonValentionGood
Amy Adams in Oscar de la Renta
Samantha Barks in Maison Valentino

Oh look…another pale gown…goody…  I foresee this being a debate dress: I don’t hate it but I don’t think it’s anything special at all.  Barks’ gown really is beautiful, and you can seldom go wrong with a good black gown…but it just seems a bit too (dare I say) dressed down?  I want it in my closet, but I don’t think I want it on the Academy Awards RC.

AdeleBurberryMehSandraBullockElieSaabBad
Adele in Jenny Packham
Sandra Bullock

Adele has a specific aesthetic that she seldom deviates from, with good reason, but I don’t think this is one of its best incarnations.  Sandra is wearing a vertical mullet, business on the top…what exactly is happening on the bottom?

AnneHathawayPradaMeh
Anne Hathaway in Prada

Anyone else surprised?  I was surprised.  She’s worn much better in her endless appearances running up to this shindig and her styling has been much better than this.  The detailing of the back, which you can’t see here unfortunately, bag and jewels are lustworthy but let’s run through the list of grievances: first of all another blush tone, second the hair just is not looking its best, and worst of all that seaming.  Anne Hathaway’s chest will be the Angelina Jolie’s leg of 2013, I fear.  As I understand, it already has a twitter account.

The Bad

ReeseWitherspoonLouisVuittonMehHelenHuntinH&MBad
Reese Witherspoon in Louis Vuitton
Helen Hunt in H&M USA

I’ve got the blues, minions.  I hate the side panels in the Vuitton, with a fiery passion.  And Helen…H&M belongs in the mall not on the RC.  Period.  The jewels are lovely but she looks badly fitted and rumpled.

OctaviaSpencerTadashiShojiBadKristenStewartreemAcraBad

Octavia Spencer in Tadashi Shoji
Kristen Stewart in Reem Acra

And now I’ve got the nudes – which isn’t nearly as fun as it sounds.  Octavia Spencer has a history and relationship with this house, but I think it they let her down a bit here.  Her gown last year was gorgeous, but frankly I’m getting mother of the bride now.  Doilies should never make it past the front door.  And I have a sneaking suspicion that there is a waterfall of tulle down Stewart’s backside, which I decidedly disapprove of.

JenniferHudsonRobertoCavalliBad
Jennifer Hudson in Roberto Cavalli

Hudson – NO.  Whoever did you hair needs to drummed out of the guild immediately.  I can see nothing else until that is fixed!

And the Ugly

JaneFondaMaisonValentinoBadSallyFieldMaisonValentionBad

Jane Fonda in MaisonValentino
Sally Field in Maison Valentino.

You two clearly have some commiserating to do do over how your stylists should be sacked.  We’ll leave you to it.  Valentino committed more than a few atrocities this year, in my opinion, and no amount of Samantha Barks can redeem these.

MelissaMcCarthyDavidMeisterBad
Melissa McCarthy in David Meister

Kill it with fire!  I think gray is an undervalued color and actually makes her skin and hair color look great, but the fit is really not good, she needed something much more tailored to her figure.  And, darling, your hair stylist has a grudge against you.

My Personal Favorite:

StacyKeiblerNaeemKhanbest
Stacy Kiebler in Naeem Khan

That is some fabulous art deco going on and I approve mightily.

We Are Not Amused (Downton Spoilers)

I have always believed that writing advertisements is the second most profitable form of writing.  The first, of course, is ransom notes…”
– Philip Dusenberry

PBS is delightfully clever in so many ways, but clearly no one ever sat them down and explained ransom during the training for those interminable fund drives:  you don’t kill the hostages first and THEN ask for money, dears.

Seriously?
Seriously?

Reason #498 Why I Love My Marriage

“I have witnessed and enjoyed the first act of everything which Wagner created, but the effect on me has always been so powerful that one act was quite sufficient; whenever I have witnessed two acts I have gone away physically exhausted; and whenever I have ventured an entire opera the result has been the next thing to suicide.”
– Mark Twain

PBS (my Great American Love) is in the middle of doing Wagner’s entire Ring Cycle on it’s Great Performances at the Met program, starting with an introductory program on the staging of Robert Lepage’s fantastical set for the Met’s production.  We’re loving it and staying up way too late to enjoy it.  And we would feel bad about listening to Wagner late at night except that our neighbors have been treating us to a  rather tone deaf rendition of Les Miserables for the better part of the week.   We’ll see your French suffering and raise you the fall of the German/Icelandic gods.

Of course, tonight is Die Walkure, so we had to prepare properly.  Naturally by watching this.

The Small Dog editorial team: mature, educated, cultured.

Dress Debate

“As a general rule, I don’t plan to travel with my Oscars, but we may have to make an exception.”
– Paul Higgins

Are you sitting comfortably?  Then let’s begin!

I can already tell that there’s going to be some debate about the gowns from this year: there were few gowns that were outright offensive so most everybody is going to like something that their best friend hates.  Across the world tonight, girlfriends are choking on chips, spraying their drinks across living rooms, and demanding of one another, “Are you serious?!”

Ah, que sera sera.  Taste is a tricky biscuit and it can be even trickier trying to make up your mind on whether or not you like something, especially while celebrities are being passed around like hors oeuvres.  Share you thoughts in the comments, minions, and let me know how violently you disagree with me.  Or, alternatively, back me up.  That’s fine too.

The Good

– Mila Jovovich in Elie Saab, looking elegant, a la Old Hollywood.  It’s sad when a presenter looks better than several of the nominees.
– Rose Byrne in Vivienne Westwood, very much New Hollywood in slinky black.  Although, honey, you should really lose the earrings, they do nothing for you.

– Olivia Spencer in a ravishing Tadashi Shoji looking elegant and ladylike, and itching to snatch up that Best Supporting Actress, which she totally deserved.
– Emma Stone in Giambattista Valli Haute Couture.  I like to think she wore this dress because someone told her that she couldn’t pull it off with her coloring and she said, “I had a really great green dress picked out but y’know what?  Watch me, wenches!”  Also, I felt bad for subjecting you to so many black and white dresses.  But clearly not bad enough because speaking of…

– Sandra Bullock goes to her old standby Marchesa, and for a reason.  This picture makes the top look a bit wonky, and anyone who wants to claim that Marchesa over-embellished may do so, but I maintain Sandy looks fantastic.
– Ellie Kemper in Armani Prive.  Her hair and dress match and I hate this (as you will see later on in this post, and you may point out my hypocrisy then), but I think the color is lovely.

The Meh/Tell Me What To Think

– Viola Davis in the first controversy of the night: this green Vera Wang, and longtime readers know that I love a good green.  I’m conflicted because the color is throwing me, it’s looking a lot brighter in pictures than it did on the TV for me.  Am I crazy?  I also don’t love what’s going on with her boobs.  Speak up, is the Small Dog team judging this one too harshly?
– Maya Rudolph in Johanna Johnson.  I had to show the back of the dress to explain why I’m not fond of it.  I loved the sparkly sleeves, I could even do the belt, but the back was over the top for me.  The assistant charged with taking the bedazzler away from the designer was clearly on a coffee break.


– Berenice Bejo in Elie Saab.  I wanted to like this more than I did.  I thought the hair was fun and the clutch was lovely, but I can’t make up my mind on whether or not the color suits her, mostly because her face seems significantly differently shaded than the rest of her…
– Gwyneth Paltrow in Tom Ford.  I don’t hate it and Margot’s screaming, “Stormtrooper!” at the screen.  Neither of us want to be responsible for this one so I’m throwing it to you.  Capes: In or Out?

– Angelina Jolie in Atelier Versace.  I usually love her choices, but there’s something off about this one.  The proportions maybe?  The bunching of the velvet?  The way her hip seems to be completely out of joint in this picture combined with that feral smile?  Make up my mind for me, darlings.  I think she’s a Scarlet O’Hara for the 21st century: velvet drapes, no thread, 10 minutes, voila.  Which isn’t of course to say that it’s bad.  The bad follow here…

The Bad

– Stacy Keibler (who I could not find a solo picture of, but that’s fitting since her entire job here is to be Clooney’s arm candy and try to bring him luck by dressing like an actual Oscar award) in Marchesa.  This could be pretty on another of Clooney’s flavors of the month, but her skin, hair, and frock all match.  Unacceptable.
– Glen Close in a badly fitted Zac Posen.  And drat, I’m torn on this one too.  It’s looking a lot better in this picture than it did on the red carpet.  Still don’t like it.

– Rooney Mara has been campaigning for this Oscar in character all season, no one will be less surprised than me if it turns out she’s actually the preppiest, frilliest, laciest girl that ever was.  But back to business, she’s wearing a Givenchy that has its good points, but (a common complaint tonight) does weird thing to her boobs.  Watching her move down the carpet was painful, it looked as if she could barely walk in it.
– Melissa McCarthy  in Marina Rinaldi. So close, should have lost the cape (capes and boobs, tonight, who knew?), would have upgraded this significantly.

The Ugly

– Mary O’Donnel wearing who-gives-that-thing’s-hideous!
– Michelle Williams.  This is another one that I expect to be run out of town for: I know peplums are all the rage, but I the layers of fringe just don’t do it for me in this Louis Vuitton.  Margot concurs – “Peplums are the devil!” are the words I believe she used.

My Personal Favorite:

Jessica Chastain in Alexander McQueen.  Shutting.  It.  Down.