Month: February 2015

Bates Motel: A Crazy Good Show

"Norman & Norma" Image from cinemablend.com

“Norman & Norma” Image from cinemablend.com

As an avid Dexter fan, my TV dreams died when Miami’s favorite blood spatter analyst traded in his slides for a lumberjack beard in the devastating series finale.   My Netflix nights were spent in mourning until finally I found a new fictional serial killer to gush over: Norman Bates.  But I’m not referring to Anthony Perkins’ adult  slasher from Hitchcock’s black and white masterpiece.   I’m talking about the boyishly adorable Bates in the form of doe-eyed Freddie Highmore (sweet as an Everlasting Gobstopper in Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) from the modern-day Psycho (1960) prequel Bates Motel.

from horrornews.net

“Anthony Perkins” Image from horrornews.net

from America's Most Haunted

Image from America’s Most Haunted

Before the shower-stabbing and mommy corpses, Norman was just a shy kid recovering from his father’s untimely death while dealing with his smothering mother Norma’s breakdowns.   In a new town, Norman attracts attention from the hottest girl in high school, Bradley, who is similarly reeling from her daddy’s death.   Not to mention Emma, the yet-to-bloom nerd with CF who becomes his BFF.

from fybatesmotel.tumblr.com

“Emma” Image from fybatesmotel.tumblr.com

from tvweb.com

“Bradley” Image from tvweb.com

Before transforming into the maniac motel manager, Norman helps Mamma Bates get away with murder literally after she offs the motel’s previous owner who assaulted her.   We see Norman first as an overwhelmed innocent before a schizophrenic slasher, allowing us to sympathize with him.   The recipient of frequent kisses and mind-blowing manipulation from Norma played by the insanely charismatic Vera Farmiga, is it any wonder Norman has mommy issues!?  In fact, Norman is surrounded by gorgeous women who often use him.  Even his English teacher seems to have the hots for him!  If it weren’t for the occasional sex-trafficker, drug-dealer, and police officer, you’d think Norman was the only man in a twenty-mile radius.

"Officer Shelby" Image from bloody-disgusting.com

“Officer Shelby” Image from bloody-disgusting.com

Without the guidance of a stable father, Norman is lost in a sea of estrogen.   Sensitive and sweet, he is effeminate—even cooking breakfast in his mother’s apron in a creepy harbinger of things to come.  Still, he is undeniably straight as he says to theater-tech Cody in season two.  Sexuality is a prevalent part of the series as seen first in Norma’s violent rape and then in Norman’s one-night-stand with the girl of his dreams who breaks his heart.  In the world of Bates Motel, sex is pain.  As the series progresses—sexual consummation is a predecessor to death. But how can Norman be held responsible when he himself is not cognizant of the atrocities he’s committed? Atrocities triggered by unbearable anxiety and sexual guilt?   Drowning under the weight of his mother’s crimes inside his labyrinth mind, Norman may be the biggest victim.

"Norman" Image from nerfherder.com

“Norman” Image from mynerfherder.com

After all, he’s an affectionate son who fights against trafficking and an unflinchingly loyal friend who always speaks from the heart.   It’s hard not to fall in love with Norman Bates.   And if that makes me psycho, so be it.

In preparation for season three which premieres on A & E, March 9th, here’s a video of the cast auditioning for their roles—enjoy!!!

 

The Feminist Message of Fifty Shades of Grey

 

fifty shades

(photo from moviepilot.com)

I, like so many other crazy cat ladies, rushed to the theater to see Fifty Shades of Grey (2015), the film adaptation of E. L. James’ erotic novel.   Large popcorn and diet coke in hand, I tiptoed into the dark room—ashamed to be seen. What would my social justice peeps think? But on a Wednesday afternoon, the only other attendees were an elderly couple snuggling a few rows from the front. Nobody I knew. Whew! *Wipes sweat from forehead.   I could indulge in this guilty pleasure without fear of ruining my feminist street cred.

playroom

(photo from eonline.com)

 

In a world where sexual violence and domestic abuse are rampant, widespread, and normalized—I can see why people might oppose a film that centers on BDSM—a largely marginalized sexual practice that ventures far beyond the vanilla foreplay to which your pastor or parents might give their blessing. Negotiating hard and soft limits, playrooms with—cough—no x-boxes, silver tie restraints…WTH? However, what I saw on screen was not torture-porn or a girl falling into mortal sin. What I witnessed was a woman asserting her sexuality, exploring her passion, and deciding for herself what she craves in the bedroom and in a relationship. All relations that took place were entirely consensual. Entirely sober.   And entirely pleasurable.  So I’m going to take a bold stance, one that many of my comrades are sure to disagree with. As a woman who graduated with a Women’s Studies Minor, I think Fifty Shades is feminist.

(photo from variety.com)

(photo from variety.com)

How many films feature a heroine who boldly pursues and negotiates pleasure to her liking? How many movies reward a woman who doesn’t hide from her desires while not painting her a harlot? Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele—our good girl protagonist—is an undiscovered gem. Without the cinematic baggage attached to famous actresses, she is un-encumbered by previous expectations.  Her subtle humor and unique brand of vulnerability endow the role with fresh-faced vitality. What could have been Lifetime cheese becomes a tale of exploration, growth, and heartbreak.   Ana does not blindly sign a contract, selling her soul to some hotshot billionaire who seduces with helicopters and melancholy piano soliloquies. She forces the emotionally-distant control freak out of his comfort zone and into her realm of courtship and commitment. Rejecting his fancy gifts and holding out on the signature, she is the real power-player. She drives Christian crazy with anticipation. Jamie Dornan as Mr. Grey, while attractive, comes across as cold and robotic. Fitting for a man who doesn’t do hearts and candy.

(photo from justjared.com)

(photo from justjared.com)

Most romantic films today are beyond formulaic.   Warm-hearted guy woos quirky girl. They almost kiss, but don’t. Somehow she has a plane to catch. He stops her by whipping out a ring. Tongue-kisses along with declarations of love ensue. And they live happily ever after!!! Christian Grey, although rich and handsome, is no Prince Charming.   He is not about romance and roses. As Mr. Grey honestly tells Anastasia, he’s fifty shades of f—ked up.   Finally, we are exposed to the scenario: What happens when you fall for someone who isn’t storybook perfect?

(photo from etonline.com)

(photo from etonline.com)

I’m not saying Fifty Shades is Oscar-worthy cinematic genius. Or that I think everyone should grab some handcuffs and rope and go to town. (But the Beyonce “Crazy in Love” remix, Danny Elfman score, and soundtrack are fabulous).  I’m not saying Christian is perfect. In fact, he is the antithesis of perfect.  And Anastasia despite her English nerd naiveté recognizes his flaws.  Ana decides to leave Christian NOT because of what her friends and family think or due to what evangelical and feminist bloggers post, but because SHE can’t deal with Christian’s instability. It is her choice. She does not let the man control her.  She walks away…and that is power.