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An Incomplete Guide To Terrible Netflix Christmas Romances

I start this blog post knowing it will probably necessitate a Part 2. But I’m just one girl, and there are just so many shit Christmas romances on Netflix (Australia). On a recent rainy weekend, I managed to knock out four of the suckers. By the rules of these movies, if I’d been hanging out with a stranger for that amount of time, I should be ready to get engaged to that bland white dude by the time the sun set. Anyway this is kinda like my movie reviews, but in this case I only want you to watch them so we can talk about how bad they are. Know my ratings scale bears no relationship to movies that aren’t crappy made-for-TV romances. Titles link to trailers.

A Christmas Prince
The only actual Netflix production from what I can tell (the rest are from the Hallmark/Lifetime school of schmaltz). And if you think this might be reflected in say….production values, a decent script, believable accents? You’re in for a surprise. I guess all the budget went in to procuring the charming Rose McIver from iZombie (although she’s not allergic to made-for-TV-trash…I bring to you, Petals on the Wind). Amber (McIver) is a copy editor at an implausible magazine, somehow sent on the even more implausible mission to attend a press conference in the tiny European nation of Aldovia. Something something the prince has a deadline to accept the crown and he is on permanent walkabout. He turns up just in time to meet our plucky heroine, luckily.
What do you think the accent of every single person in this snowy, mountainous European country is? If you answered ‘vaguely British, I guess’ (romantic lead Ben Lamb is actually English, but still managed to make it sound fake) then you’ve probably seen one of these movies before.
There’s a lot of mysteries in this movie. Why is this royal family’s security so lax that they just merrily accept that any old American who turns up two weeks early is clearly Princess Emily’s tutor? Why are the royalty in these movies so unwilling to do their fucking jobs, which is really just turn up places, smile and shake hands? (this is gonna come up again, sorry). Does Emily actually end up doing any school work over the course of this entire movie? I don’t think they give out degrees in mischievous matchmaking. Also she’s smarter than Amber at maths, and yet Amber’s going to get to be the fuckin’ queen because of some dumb female succession rules (spoilers, I guess? Come on now).  And why does Prince Richard look so much like this guy?

The Christmas Prince actually received my lowest rating, but it was also the first one I watched. I guess I had some warming up to do before I surrendered all attachment to logic (I watched The Room before The Spirit of Christmas, so I was fully off the deep end by that time).

3/10 for so much additional implausibility (wait til you get to the result of Richard’s evil cousin’s schemes, y’all) that I can’t share without spoilers.

Once Upon a Holiday
More dirtbag royalty, oh my god. They didn’t look far for the fucking names in this one, either. Princess Katherine of Montsaurai (Mont Sore Eye) has an aunt named Margaret, an old family friend named George, and meets an old bloke named Harry who may or may not be Santa, or a wizard, I’m not really sure but he can make people disappear and there’s not really any comment on it.  Anyway, Princess Katie is also not a big fan of her minimal responsibilities, or her aunt. Said aunt probably should be a Princess too, given she seems to have been the sister of the king, but it’s all extremely unclear, and in the end Margaret seems to act as a personal assistant and excuse-for-Katie-maker.
Dirtbag Katie sees her opportunity to piss off on a trip to ‘New York’ (I don’t remember any establishing shots that suggested this couldn’t be literally any city in America), so she steals some clothes that were being donated to charity. She runs in to Jack while being completely unable to function in a big city, because apparently sending her to the best universities in the world did not involve her handling money, or  learning how not to casually leave your possessions where they can be stolen. What it DID get her is an inexplicable American accent.
Jack is another classic bland white man, who had some hot shot career and then wanted to work with his hands as a carpenter or some shit. His ex-wife dumped him because ‘she didn’t sign on for a guy who works with power tools’, but I wonder if it was maybe because he’s a gullible idiot. Well, he’s found his perfect match in this terrible liar, who pauses while searching for a fake surname at a holiday party (she settles on ‘Holiday’), and instead of implying she’s ever travelled internationally, tells him she saw an art piece (exhibited in Milan) in a book. It’s a good thing they’re such a perfect match, because at the end he suggests they ‘spend all of their Christmases together’ after legitimately three days of acting like fugitives from justice.

4/10 I was going to leave it at A Christmas Prince but I had to find out what the ‘joys of a normal life’ were that Katie would discover, because to me normal life is taking out the bins and paying the bills, and I’d much prefer to be a princess. Nothing that happened in this movie resembled normal life, anywhere, especially not in ‘New York’. Apart from maybe getting robbed.

A Holiday Engagement
Okay I can’t believe I have to do this but warning: that trailer is basically the whole movie.
Have I mentioned that I read quite a lot of romance novels? It has occurred to me that part of my warm feeling towards this movie is just because it uses one of my favourite tropes – the fake relationship. Made slightly more complicated in this scenario because David is pretending to be a real person – Hillary’s now-ex fiance Jason. So much room for shenanigans!
This is a slightly older one, a special little slice of 2011 which you can date pretty exactly due to the presence of Haylie Duff as the social-climbing sister of Hillary (ha). Golly. Haylie Duff. They really did spend an unreasonable amount of time trying to make fetch happen with that one (she got her very own Terrible Christmas Romance two years later!).
I will say that this one is exactly what you expect, whether you watched the spoileriffic trailer or not, with Hillary’s overbearing Mom (Shelley Long) eventually learning maybe she can quit being terrifying enough for her daughter to think it’s an okay idea to invite a stranger in to their home, and everyone realising Real Jason is garbage, but it really gets by on its leads. I have a bizarre affection for Bonnie Somerville, despite my main association with her being Rachel, Sandy’s co-worker on The OC who tries to seduce him. She can actually fucking act, which is bloody rare for these things, and has some nice chemistry with Jordan Bridges who plays David.

7/10 But I need to deduct a point because this movie is mostly set at Thanksgiving. Luckily Shelley Long starts setting up for Christmas straight-up the day after Thanksgiving, doesn’t she know it’s bad luck not to wait til December? Are you a shopping mall, Shelley Long?
(The internet tells me this is an Australian thing? I will say none of the Americans on my Instagram feed seemed to put them up before we hit December).

The Spirit of Christmas
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You
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Kidding
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Me?
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10/10 for this guy’s fucking face, let’s all go home.

On the narrative side, my new crush up there is a corporeal not-ghost (for 12 days of the year, we don’t really know what he does the rest of the time but presumably it’s mostly ghost-y) who can also disappear and re-appear at will. This movie really doesn’t give a fuck about the rules of ghosts, any more than the others cared about the rules of royalty, getting to know a person for an adequate amount of time, or basic common sense. He took a blow to the head that killed him in 1920 and comes back every year acting like Christian Grey. Except with no BDSM, just with really proper speech and a cranky attitude. The movie only finds one excuse for him to take his shirt off, which is a bit half-arsed. The fact that he likes to be alone in his old house (rather than having to deal with our ‘heroine’, who’s mostly insufferable) is the movie’s reason for him not knowing anything about mobile phones and referring to them as ‘communications devices’.
The spooky mystery element – basically, who dun killed him, and is it stopping him from passing on – is a nice little bonus on top of what would be a pretty ordinary ‘oh you want to bone a ghost? Well that’s fine because he has a body’ story.
I think the best part of this movie is even though it wants us to think all lawyers and the general profession of lawyering is a bit evil and shit (so much time pressure!), she doesn’t stop being a lawyer at the end. I’ll let you guess about the boning.

My rating as above stands.

Bumbling along with Bumble: The Tinder Trends Sequel

….that no-one asked for.

You’ve heard of Bumble, right? It’s kinda like Feminist Tinder, in that ladies have to make the first move to make contact when they get a match, or that match damn well disappears. The whole thing kinda freaks me out, because I already spend 100% of the time thinking I come off as too thirsty, but nevermind, I wasn’t there to make matches! I was there to collect some of that sweet sweet data.

This post is intended as a sequel to my Tinder Trends series, but particularly the epilogue where I examined age-related data. Unlike The Big Study, I only collected data on 100 profiles (as I was hoping to have it done around PAX, but then I came down with an almighty case of PAX pox and did not want to think about men or romance or having a body). I set the parameters the same as The Big Study, however, searching for men between ages 25-40 within a 50km radius. I  also collected a few extra data points that were of interest to me.

First things first! Bumble did not want me to be a cougar. Well, not so much…

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This is good, because I have spent enough time with men in their twenties to last two lifetimes! More than 50% of the men Tinder showed me were in the 25-29 age bracket, whereas 41% is a much more manageable number of men I almost certainly wouldn’t date unless I started to have some sort of emotional crisis. Thanks, Bumble. There is always the chance that Bumble’s user base just skews a little older, or that the men on there set their age preferences a little closer to their own actual age.

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What ho, 30-35 year old men. Why is is that you’re 12% more likely to mention your height (my old bugbear), than, say, what you’re looking for? Once again, the older cohort were WAY better at expressing this than the young dudes. One of the biggest changes is the drop in the youngest age groups even having a bio at all. On Tinder, over 70% of guys in the 25-29 age group had something – anything – in their bio. Even if it was rubbish. Even if it was a bunch of emojis (seriously, some of these dudes really need to reconsider the picture-is-worth-a-thousand-words thing). But in this set it was only 59%. And I gotta say – 41% not having anything to say? It’s not good enough. In the current environment where women are having to think about sexual harassment and assault literally every day, men should consider themselves lucky that a woman might even consider going on a date with them without a full police check. If they’re not going to offer any information about themselves, then they shouldn’t be surprised when the inevitable future comes about:
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In this dataset I also picked out what is actually a photo feature, but it it got thrown in there because it’s a Y/N rather than a numbers thing. If you put another person in your first photo….
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Don’t make it a magical mystery tour to find out which one you are! I came across a guy and ALL of his photos were group photos. No-one is matching with a dude just because he has a wide variety of friends who drink in a vast array of foreign locations.

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Across the board, Bumble men actually slipped in to my cliches more firmly than Tinder men. There was a higher average number of travel pictures, of animal photos, SO many more gym selfies (HELLO older dudes who want to show off those gains), and and a heck of a lot more bar photos. But additional cliches emerged quickly too, cliches that only emerged about halfway through my Tinder research so I didn’t have an opportunity to factor them in to my data. I live in Melbourne, so no great surprises that apart from weddings, there’s a lot of photo ops when you suit up to get wasted at the races.
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Don’t put that photo on your dating profile you idiots

Guys also really want you to know they ride a motorbike. I don’t know. Judging by the age data it doesn’t seem to be linked with mid-life crises, motorbike dudes in my unfortunately vast experience just really. want you. to know. about their motorbike.

My new bugbear is the small child accessory! This is frequently accompanied by a vehement disclaimer that it’s not their child, but a niece or nephew. I’ve got a new idea! If you’re a parent, just disclose it. You don’t need a photo. It’ll make some nice content for your sparse bio. If you’re not a parent, don’t put a child in your online dating profile, unless you can also provide proof that their parents permit you using their kid in the pursuit of sex. And even then, probably don’t do it?

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However, it’s not too prevalent. About ten per cent of profiles pulled out the small child accessory. About the same percentage of profiles that did not feature a single photo of the subject’s face in full.
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So what are the overall takeaways from this Bumble vs. Tinder exploration? Well, just putting the power in women’s hands to initiate communication might be a slight improvement on Tinder, stemming the onslaught of dicks that can be experienced on such a platform (I mean, I presume that happens. My experience on Tinder is generally of matches that never go anywhere, but when I was on there I also explicitly stated I didn’t want to see anyone’s penis in my bio). But it doesn’t follow that the pickings are all that much better. The data actually tracked very closely with Tinder, when it came to how many people had something to say for themselves, how many were annoying cliches, and how there was a lot of content that didn’t quite fit in to easy categorisation. Is it nice to know that this app was showing me people a little closer to my age? Yes, but that can be controlled with preferences.

Want to know what the main difference is? You can switch off horndog mode (which I did when PAX rolled around) and switch to Bumble BFF. It’s just intended for making friends. As someone who’s still finding her feet in a new city, and has travelled solo, this idea appeals to me way more than talking to strange men on the internet. But unless you think it’s okay to choose friends on appearance alone…

You need to have a goddamn bio.

Victorian Values went to PAX Aus

Here from the depths of my PAX pox, I wanted to write a little about my second-ever PAX.  It’s a companion piece of sorts to Fake Gamer Girl, because once again I felt overwhelmingly welcomed in a community where I should feel like a complete intruder.

I didn’t push myself too hard this year, given that the con was wedged between two major deadlines at work, but I am proud of myself for actually making it inside the expo hall this year. Although not til Sunday, which meant I missed the gorgeous Nimble (who I met at the Dog Lover’s Show earlier this year) and Scarlett from Australian Working Dog Rescue, who were brought to PAX by the people behind Destiny. I was jealous of many selfies with the pups over the course of the weekend, not that I’m bitter or anything.

For me PAX kicked off for the second-year running with co-op drinks, organised by Jason Imms, which has both been a great social kick-off and vague ruiner of weekend, as neither time have we managed to leave before the bar closes. Co-op drinks for me could be renamed to Do I Recognise That Person Off Twitter? Uhhhhhh I Don’t Know What To Do I’m Horrifically Socially Awkward Drinks. But nonetheless it is an opportunity to meet and catch up with a bunch of Sydney people from my wider social circle and I would probably continue to sneak along to co-op drinks even if I wasn’t attending PAX. Good god, am I gamer yet?

First thing I did with my vaguely-hungover arse on Saturday was plonk it down at a panel. This year The Great Debate was on Watching People Play Games Is More Fun Than Playing Them, with Ally McLean, Burnie Burns and Jesse Cox playing ‘for’ and Rae Johnston, Lawrence Leung and Jordan Raskopolous playing ‘against’. And Liam Esler attempting to act as general chaos manager. As neither a gamer nor an enthusiastic watcher I wasn’t sure what side I’d come down on, but Rae really convinced me of the legal pitfalls of staring through someone’s window.

One game I found insanely fun to watch at the AGPN Presents: Partymode panel was Nidhogg II (I think, please don’t hurt me anyone. How many games can there be about being eaten by a giant worm???). It had the crowd roaring and possibly rooting for the giant chopping machine to chew up to contestants.

I spent most of the next two hours after this event just shitting bricks about our own Let’s Play Some Bad Dating Sims panel. I was so lucky to be on the panel with a bunch of lovely ladies who did not seem to be worried at all – Tegan, her co-workers from Allure Media, Hayley and Amanda, and the wonderful other Katie Steggy, who when she ordered a burger to be delivered to the stage made me feel sure that everything was going to be a-ok. Being an anxious weirdo I’d turned up at the panel room early, and got to see the line growing and growing until about ten minutes before we were due to start, we were told the queue for our panel had been capped. So I guess we worked out where all the people who weren’t out drinking or at the Saturday night concerts were. We had a lovely, enthusiastic crowd who made me feel incredibly welcome despite admitting to being the token non-gamer, and who really got in to audience participation, which was delightful. And the panel was such fun for me. Tegan had asked us to research and pitch a dating sim to play, and mine was Panzermadels. I don’t want to spoil it too much except to say that the concept is a boy who thinks he’s going to learn about military warfare ends up at a school filled with WWII tanks that look like Japanese schoolgirls. We ended up playing the sim for the entire panel and spoiler alert, I did not spend money on this game, so our run-though was my first experience of it (a few audience members were happy to admit they’d played it!) and it was just…a real eye-opener. Shout-out to Hayley for her voice acting as our main character Erwin Lemmor (yep….that’s Rommel spelled backwards).

Here’s a photo stolen from Tegan’s Twitter, I suspect taken by Rae!

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Because when you think ‘bad’ you think Comic Sans – nice one Tegan.
(additional shoutout to Alex for clicking buttons for us so we could just mock the game)

And from the other side, terror looks a bit like this:
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Because I skipped the insane idea of more drinking on Saturday I was able to haul in to the convention centre at a reasonable hour on Sunday – note, yes, it’s nice when cons are on in your city, but trying to motivate yourself to commute in to the CBD from where you can actually afford to live for the seventh day in a row is not the easiest thing in the world. First I decided to learn about Making Names In Games from Seamus Byrne, Rae Johnston, Jesse Cox, Holly Conrad and Ashley Jenkins. Partly because my friends were still getting breakfast, partly because this is obviously important stuff for me to learn because I am clearly going to be a big Name In Games.
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Also, I actually played a game! I entered the expo hall with some trepidation – holy mother of god, that front area is noisy – and poked my way back to PAX Rising where the indie games live. Partly to visit my pals at Inflatality, who had just released their game on Steam and had an enthusiastic crowd wanting to play, and partly because I really like seeing the creativity and visual aspects of these games. I may not be a gamer, but I’m still a huge effin’ huge nerd with a communications degree. I can appreciate. Once I met up with Alex and Tegan she managed to tell multiple people that I’d really enjoy the new Orwell game because I’m great at internet stalking. While this is absolutely true, I played the game and I sucked pretty bad, needing the developer to stand behind me and offer hints (and straight up cribbing off Tegan). Very interesting reflection on the current political environment, that one! Anyway, it was really nice to meet lots of friendly faces and exhausted devs at PAX Rising. I hope you’ve all got cracking on sleeping for a week, because you’re the real MVPs.

As expected, there were heaps of panels I would have liked to have seen, and people I would have liked to have caught up with, but I hope PAX is never extended beyond three days. Because I am 31 years old, and I will die. Stay tuned for my ‘Tinder is totally a mobile game’ thesis, and see you next year.

Victorian Values at PAXAus!

Hello! As mentioned in my last post, I’m going to be appearing on a panel at PAX Australia!

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Here’s the pitch:

pitch

I thought I was just going to go to PAX and catch up with my friends but apparently I now have ~responsibilities~. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a gamer, but I’ve been doing some research for this panel and I have found some seriously weird stuff. Bless you, people who want to date swords (????).

So if you’re around on PAX Saturday and don’t mind delaying your boozing for an extra hour, come check us out and we’ll have some freaky shit for you.

The Bachelorette Australia Weeks 3 and 4: Taking Out The Garbage

Back at the start of the season I shared my impressions of some of the contestants. There’s so much filler in the early parts of the season that I only picked a select few to discuss – Ryan, The Interrupter, Jarrod, The Keenest Bean That Ever Lived, and Sam, Who Calls Them Cans.

Oh boy, did the turn out some peaches. Sam decided to make best buddies with fellow dillweed Blake, who I would feel comfortable in referring to as ‘this season’s Jen’, except with more floral urination (I’ll return to that one). Sophie wasn’t afraid to call out Sam on the incident when his verbal diarrhoea led to him repeatedly let Sophie know he was looking down her dress. He excused this as an attempt to use humour to connect with her even though it wasn’t, y’know, at all funny. Despite his many attempts, the only thing funny about Sam is his delusional hairdo. Nonetheless, our Queen, who can be a bit awkies herself, seemed happy to move on from this. After all, Sam was owed two single dates after his first night Double Delight rose triumph (still never got any word on whether this meant he was safe from elimination until he got them both). I suspect she was just biding her time, however.  Because when Single Date #2 came around in Episode 8, it was nothing more than an opportunity to insert his foot directly in to his mouth. The guy tried to mansplain the music industry to Sophie Effin’ Monk. Boy you better stop, better run away.

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She didn’t send him home directly from the stretch Hummer, as I would have. No, this arrogant twat, who walked away from the date with no kiss and no rose, was still oozing confidence going in to the rose ceremony. Then our queen racheted up the tension, sending her Chosen Fellas (new/old bloke Stu, Jarrod, James, and Apollo My Prince) out the of the ceremony, summarily dismissing Unsung Hero AJ so she could face down Sam and Blake, who had just recently been thinking they could perhaps be numbers 1 and 2 in the finale. Briefly quizzing them both on their intentions, she sent Sam home, saying it wasn’t quite right.

You can say it, Sophie. Sam ‘isn’t quite right’.

Let’s talk about Unsung Hero AJ here for a second, because he played a very important role. This chef rolls in as one of The Old Blokes and he’s very tall but bald and  moderately fine-looking and just seems like a pretty nice dude with no chemistry with Sophie. But oh, did he provide her a service. It was under the guise of ‘not ruffling feathers in the house’, but he totally threw a spelling bee (ugh, don’t ask) in episode 6, spelling ‘cuisine’, ‘quizine’ (that sounds like a horse tranquiliser bro). What did this mean? Ryan wins and gets to spend some alone time with Sophie.

They didn’t make him go through this in his school uniform, unfortunately.

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(this is a bad screenshot but I don’t want to look at his face for longer than necessary)

So lately this fucknugget has been talking about how he doesn’t really want a woman who swears. I’ll leave my general response to that to the immortal words of True Blood.

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Sophie, much like myself and bonafide smart person Stephen Fry, enjoys a bit of a swear. She thinks truck drivers could learn a new turn of phrase from her. He’d also said last time they hung out (and, in fact, the first time they met), that he wants ‘a girl who takes care of herself’ aka a perma-hottie. Sophie just wants to dag out in her trackies tbh (god is it any wonder we love her?). So she knows, in her heart of hearts, that she’s not the right girl for Ryan and he needs to go find someone else, preferably an inanimate sex doll that he can treat like the wardrobe he destroyed in week 2’s Man Test (yeah sorry I can’t even touch that bullshit representation of gender roles, I’ll just say, if you need things fixed around the house, consider paying a professional? People do those things as a legitimate trade.  Help stimulate the economy by not entering a committed relationship only to save a few bucks).

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Yes, this is acceptable

So Sophie knows it’s time to take out the trash, but in the end she boots him because he doesn’t actually….like her? And she has a bunch of people here who do? He says that he would be willing to have a public relationship (to be clear mate you’re on a reality show right this second, and went through a whole casting process to be here) if he thinks she’s ‘worth it’. And it’s like watching that lightbulb moment go off over every woman’s head, when they realise it’s time to get rid of the fuckboy. As he doubles down on the looking good, and the swearing (even mentioning that he himself works on a construction site and ‘you can imagine what that’s like’), she tries so hard to make him see that he just wants everything that’s the opposite of her. So..she sends him off. And he has a mini tantrum, bringing his own little potty mouth out to play. Sophie’s shocked enough to break that fourth wall like it’s chipboard.

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And so Week 3 drew our time with Overly Aggressive Ryan And The One Time I Have Not Been Attracted To A Kiwi Accent to a close.

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So as of now, Sophie has recycled her two biggest pieces of trash. But we need to talk about Jarrod. And we can’t talk about Jarrod without talking about Blake.

I can’t type his name without getting this in my head by the way.

Congratulations Blake, you’ve officially brought me back around to looking on Jarrod more favourably. Like, not a lot – I’d probably still consider pissing in his pot plant if I had the imagination for such things – but bullying people is a great way to make people feel more warmly towards the victim. The plant thing? Cheesy, thirsty, and dumb, and I’d want to urinate on it after the second time it came up in conversation, third at best. But in Week 4 there was a sleepover night that made it clear that Blake is nothing more than a bog-standard schoolyard bully. Sophie asked the boys’ families to send in something from their childhood, and unfortunately there was no scandalous ballet shoes moment. However Jarrod received his childhood blanket, bringing up an emotional reaction as he remembered family members who have passed. You can only imagine how this was improved by Blake sniggering and sniping away about how it’s only a blanket. I actually wanted to give Jarrod a high five when he told him to shut up.

Guess what men? It’s not fucking cute to shame other men for having actual emotions. You are toxic masculinity embodied, Blake, and I need you to do something for me:
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Jarrod, you little thirst monster, I need you to do a few things. I need you to learn some basic mathematics. I need you to never say the words ‘pot plant’ ever again. And just chill the hell out, you’re turning in to a beetroot more and more every episode and I’m worried you’re going to have an aneurysm.

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Stop doing….all of this.

Even as the world proves to us that men as a whole are basically garbage, at least we have one thing. We have Apollo and puppies.

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I’ve decided to stop occupying the corporeal realm and live inside this post.

To finish off, a couple of updates!

  • This week I should be back to livetweeting Sophie’s adventures, unless life is completely unfair.
  • I may do a separate post for this, but next week if you’re in Melbourne you can come see me at PAX! My bestie has somehow roped me in to a panel on Bad Dating Sims, I don’t know how I allow these things to happen. I’m currently looking at a Tinder Trends follow-up to line up with that, although doing the data collection for that may depend on me not actually spending all my nights livetweeting telly.

 

‘Battle of the Sexes’: The Victorian Values Review

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A word of warning to my fellow Aussies: we’re going to have a pretty unique perspective on this movie. And if you care about any queer person in your life, you’re going to find it effects you. Because:
a) We’re currently going through a non-binding postal survey that has essentially turned in to a national referendum on the way LGBTQI people live their lives.

b) Margaret Court. Just….Margaret Court.

I’ve got to tell you, I had to do a bit of a Wikipedia dive on this one. Margaret Court was never on my radar (even though she has an Arena named after her, my bad), so making her a villain of the piece seemed a little….obvious, after her comments in May this year. But given this movie was filmed over a year before that, I wanted to see what else may have informed that decision. Turns out Margaret Court was raised Roman Catholic and then went full Pentecostal around the period the film is set in, became a Minister in her own church and has used that platform to speak out about gay marriage (and a bunch of other things). Safe to say, she well and truly had form before her comments this year. I’ve heard stories of audiences booing her appearance, however, despite the Lido loading us up on Pimms at today’s preview, my crowd mostly kept it in.

(As an aside, I am so glad they got an Australian actress to play Court, although strangely Jessica McNamee did seem to slip in to a trans-Pacific accent sometimes).

Battle of the Sexes is undoubtedly a story about Billie Jean King, a story about sexism, homophobia, fear, and strength. This is not Steve Carell’s story to tell, and as such he takes a bit of a back seat. I mean, his character is played as such a loser that he sleeps in the back seat of a car. And his son’s couch. Yeah, Bobby Riggs is not doing great at the start of this story. And, with real life being a spoiler again, he ain’t doing too crash hot at the end, either. But he does have an colossally smug period in between beating Margaret Court and taking on King. Carell effortlessly slips in to Riggs’s bravado and showmanship – and no-one that’s ever scene The Office could doubt this.

King is surrounded by a colourful cast of characters as she establishes what will become the Women’s Tennis Association. It kicks off with the Virginia Slims Invitational and nine players, including King and her good friend Rosie Salas. Rosie, played by Natalie Morales, ends up not only winning the tour, she also finds herself  calling the match between King and Riggs, with some oafish white dude holding on to her neck in a way that has never not given me the heebie-jeebies. Also helping establish the Virginia Slims International is Gladys Heldman, played to acerbic perfection by Sarah Silverman. Heldman is shown to be alongside King at the moment that spurns her to move in to a new realm – a pay dispute with a tournament organiser – however their relationship is a little vague. Wikipedia tells me they were essentially colleagues, but the movie had me convinced Heldman was King’s manager, until the moment King asks her husband Larry to tell Riggs she’s ready to bring it on. Whatever their relationship, Silverman trying to shove cigarettes in the hands of these athletes because of the sponsorship deal she’s locked down is a hoot.

King’s relationship with Heldman isn’t the only one the movie futzes. At the centre of this story is King’s queer identity, her struggle as a married woman coming to terms with her sexuality, and meeting a woman who could change everything (all the while being observed by the judgey judgey eye of Margaret Court, and casually being cheered on by seemingly-not-at-all-in-the-closet Alan Cumming, assisting the team on wardrobe).  King meets Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough) in a hairdresser’s chair, and what follows is a brief but intense love affair, clearly seen and comprehended by King’s husband Larry (Austin Stowell). Billie clearly knows what she wants, and the impossibility of having it. The movie ends on a gentle note, with Cummings’ character telling her that one day things will change and they will be free to love who they love. The postscript on the movie tells us that eventually King did move on from her marriage to Larry, and began a long-term relationship with a woman named Ilana Kloss. She and Larry are still buds.

What the movie fails to mention is that King and Barnett (who is still present at the end of the movie) were in a relationship for many years after this. In fact, King was only dragged out of the closet against her will in 1981 when Barnett sued her for ‘palimony’.

On the theme of identity struggles, this movie really doesn’t know what it wants to be. It contains many clear dramatic elements, in King’s struggle with her sexuality and in the battle for women to establish their place in a male-dominated arena. Hidden Figures was somehow much more accomplished at balancing this with comedic elements. Battle of the Sexes takes a broader approach. Fred Armisen is there as the man shilling bogus vitamin pills (and possibly speed?) to Riggs. Riggs’s therapist, who’s there to help him with his gambling problems, has a blackjack debt to him. These ridiculous elements certainly circle around Riggs (altogether laughable himself), and it makes it incredibly difficult to mesh in to King’s dramatic storyline. Here we have a Joke Person up against a Real Person.

But of course, these movie isn’t just a fumbled mesh of comedy and drama. Even though it’s a movie supposedly about tennis, the ‘sports’ part felt reasonably absent until the last act – the match between King and Riggs. And this is where I suspect we find there’s actually a pretty decent sports movie hidden in here. Because the promotion has made no attempt to hide the outcome (and why would they?), but we can feel real stakes and real tension. As someone who is not aggressively in to tennis, it reminded me of just how thrilling the game can be to watch. And when you can know the result and still get that invested? That’s some pretty good film making. Someone in my audience clapped when King got a key shot. The woman next to me cried when she won. I don’t think the Pimms had a lot of influence on this, either.

Do I need to tell you that Emma Stone is fantastic? That she shows vulnerability and strength in equal measure and you will want to high-five the heck out of her while gently reminding her that her husband seems like a really nice guy? That she will make you wish you had witty bon mots and not just pure blinding rage next time someone says something sexist to you? And that she will make you ache, ache for everyone who sees the cruelty and the judgement surrounding them and quietly retreats in to secrecy, waiting for the world to change.

If only it had changed a little more.

The Bachelorette Australia 2017 Week 1: Toxic Masculinity Ruins The Party Again

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Okay, to be fair, that was just a Murderino reference, and I don’t think anything’s truly ruining this party. I think Sophie Monk is having the goddamn time of her life and she will sass anyone who tries to bring her down and/or bring a man bun to the party.

But oy.

There are a few corkers in this bunch. I’m not wasting my time talking about Blake – just go back and read anything I said about Jen or Leah on The Bachelor if you want a rant on cartoon villains. No, this is about men who I think have actually revealed something of themselves (creative editing nothwithstanding). Some of them started strong in episode one and then quickly devolved in episode two. But first let’s start with the guy who was a clear d-bag from the start – Ryan.

This guy is just aggressive. Every woman I spoke to after this episode agreed that this man has some form. A prematurely greying Kiwi 26 year old construction foreman, he doesn’t seem to have a lot of respect for women, particularly Sophie. He tells us: ‘My ideal woman, she’s gotta look after herself. She’s gotta be respectful, she’s gotta have a great smile, good laugh, funny, and charismatic, and have that sponatuity [sic] that I’m looking for in a woman’. I’ll note two things here:
1) He certainly didn’t mention familiarity with the English language
2) How many of those things do you think he ticks off himself?
The first thing he asks her upon meeting her is why her past relationships have failed. He negs her on various things including her taste in pop music, creepily licking his lips as he supposes allowed that he might be able to change her taste (Sophie: ‘Yeah, right’). She seems to see right through him, sending him away from the red carpet pretty quickly, but he’s not quite done for the night. As Sophie prepares to kick off the cocktail party with a speech, he drags her off as soon as she opens her mouth to check that she is ‘there for the right reasons’. Ryan. You’re the one that needs to answer that question, not her. It’s a blessing that he gets minimal screen time in episode 2, as I feel some pretty violent urges towards this guy.
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Jarrod made a minor impression in episode one, another Gimmick Guy inviting Sophie to squash grapes with him, as he runs a vineyard. This whole vineyard thing is a bit odd. He says to Sophie at the first cocktail party that he finds women act differently towards him – aka keener – when he mentions the vineyard, but he makes the damn thing about 50% of his personality on the show and mentions it constantly. Anyway, Jarrod makes a damn good impression on the first single date with Sophie. For some unknown reason they’re walking on a highwire – given Sophie hates heights, I think we can pretty much put the nix on the idea that the Bachies organise or even have any input in to their own dates. Jarrod’s not much of a fan of heights himself, but when Sophie damn near shits herself, this former army man goes in to cool, calm, and collected mode, and gets her through it. He had the entirety of Twitter eating out of his hand, even though he pulled out the ‘treat a woman like a Queen’ line and appears to be a terrible kisser who made me recoil from my television (it’s possible Sophie is also a terrible kisser, but time will certainly tell on that one).

So how did this guy stuff it up? By going….intensively possessive and weird. Firstly he returns to the house to give a monologue instructing the other men on How To Date Sophie Monk, and I kind of wish it was all terrible instructions so I could pretend it was sabotage. At the cocktail party he argues with the other men on his determination to pull Sophie aside to thank her for their date. I get both sides on this one – he already has a rose, so he needs that time the least. On the other hand, all’s fair, etc, etc. But firstly, he yells a classic version of the old ‘not here to make friends’ chesnut, by telling the boys that he doesn’t want to marry any of them (do you want to marry Sophie? You’ve gone on one date! And the name of the game is that she’s also dating the rest of them…). And next he gives her a pair of uggboots, causing some minor drama after Blake had already given her a pair on the first night. I mean, points to all these boys for knowing the way to the heart of a bogan,  but Jarrod…

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Sam came in strong with an intro utilising three adorable nephews boasting about how Sam sometimes takes them to Target to try on bras (??? can I blame Safe Schools on this?). During the initial cocktail party, somehow we travelled back 16 years to when the walk-off in Zoolander was a fun, current reference. Sam made an appropriate spectacle of himself and gamely took part in a concessional undie run in the freezing cold. Sophie handed him the ‘double delight rose’, a new, fuzzily-defined thing entitling him to two single dates.

Within 5 minutes of episode two starting, he is champing at the bit. The first date of the episode is announced and he’s ready to stand, hoping Sophie will ‘stop playing around with him’. I’m gonna give him the benefit of the doubt and say he’s probably not thinking too tactically (why are you in a rush, dude? Surely not having one of your dates blown straight away is a good thing?), he’s just keen for a change of scenery. No-one’s on this show to hang around with blokes all day. When another date comes up, he’s still keen as a bean, basically yelling to the camera ‘I want my date! I want my date!’. But no, he doesn’t want to be on a group date. Too bad, you’re on it. And…it’s gross. Around episode two on the Bachies is time for a photo shoot, and this time it’s ‘famous couples of [fictional] history’. He’s playing Robin Hood to Sophie’s Maid Marian, and he cannot stop himself from looking down Sophie’s dress and commenting on her breasts, loudly announcing ‘I just looked at Sophie’s cans, sorry!’. Is it possible his mental age is lower than those infamous nephews? Who told you to openly ogle a woman, Sam? It makes Sophie so clearly uncomfortable, pulling a face and saying ‘You’re not meant to tell me’ and ‘Can you please not say that’ (and laughing, because that’s what women have to do diffuse tension) when he makes a second comment. She’s trying so hard to be professional on this shoot while this guy is acting like a lech. It’s a good thing that James is also in their scene, and he’s able to rebuke Sam a little bit while making Sophie laugh. Based on her comments – particularly noting his negative, jealous comments about James – I think Sophie has seen right through Sam, and probably walked out of that shoot to get some very specific feedback from the producers on the particulars of that double delight rose.
Sam, I was rooting for you. I figured at some point during the show, they’d get rid of your ridiculous man bun combover, and you’d be a generally reasonable human being. Who would have known, that the guy who was noted with surprise that there wasn’t ‘at least one douche’ on the first night, actually turned out to be the greatest douche of all? Turns out we were dealing with a ‘he who smelt it, dealt it’ situation.
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Also if you don’t think Apollo whose real name may or may not be Jake is a beautiful perfect angel then I don’t want to talk to you.

As should be clear from this post, no, I am not recapping this season! I just have a lot of feelings and wasn’t able to livetweet this week. Want to catch up on the events of the week? Check out Smart Bachie Person Jodi McAlister’s caps at BookThingo. Or if you’re just in it for the lols, Sinead Stubbins is back in the Power Rankings game over at Junkee, and I cannot freakin’ believe I didn’t know about the hilarious Punkee video recaps before a few weeks ago.