Do you know about trouble dolls? I think they’re Guatemalan, and they’ve been given to me a lot over the years. The years in Peru, the years in Santa Fe—the floors and the ledges and the shelves were littered with trouble dolls, and my life was littered with trouble. Supposedly, you can pick up these little, handmade, beautiful dolls and tell them your worries, your troubles, then place them in their box and they will worry for you. So you can get some sleep. Well, I put all my troubles in cocaine and booze and heroine and pot and guns and pussy. Those were my trouble dolls. I should have confided in the dolls—the little, handmade ones—more often. I have a point. I swear I do. Marilyn was like a trouble doll for a lot of people: A lot of people needed her because she was beautiful and she was sweet and she was pretty much what a lot of people believed was a perfect woman—a sexual machine with a heart. And a lot of people needed her because they wanted her to fail or to cry or to die, because they wanted to believe that all of her gifts—physical and otherwise—wouldn’t save her or make her happy. So the ugly and the mean-spirited could feel better about their lives and their various lacks. And a lot of people looked at her and saw money and sex and power and an evil sort of joy that comes from getting off. She was a product, a commodity to them. And a lot of people needed her because she so clearly needed a friend, needed some love, and a lot of people really wanted to give this to her. So Marilyn Monroe was this creamy, sweet, beautiful trouble doll for a lot of people, and we whispered to her image or her memory and told her what we needed, what we desired, and then we believed that things would happen or change. And she got put in her box and was put on an eternal shelf, where we can continue to ask of her what we need.-Dennis Hopper in an interview with James Grissom [x]
Do you know about trouble dolls? I think they’re Guatemalan, and they’ve been given to me a lot over the years. The years in Peru, the years in Santa Fe—the floors and the ledges and the shelves were littered with trouble dolls, and my life was littered with trouble. Supposedly, you can pick up these little, handmade, beautiful dolls and tell them your worries, your troubles, then place them in their box and they will worry for you. So you can get some sleep. Well, I put all my troubles in cocaine and booze and heroine and pot and guns and pussy. Those were my trouble dolls. I should have confided in the dolls—the little, handmade ones—more often.

I have a point. I swear I do.

Marilyn was like a trouble doll for a lot of people: A lot of people needed her because she was beautiful and she was sweet and she was pretty much what a lot of people believed was a perfect woman—a sexual machine with a heart. And a lot of people needed her because they wanted her to fail or to cry or to die, because they wanted to believe that all of her gifts—physical and otherwise—wouldn’t save her or make her happy. So the ugly and the mean-spirited could feel better about their lives and their various lacks. And a lot of people looked at her and saw money and sex and power and an evil sort of joy that comes from getting off. She was a product, a commodity to them. And a lot of people needed her because she so clearly needed a friend, needed some love, and a lot of people really wanted to give this to her.

So Marilyn Monroe was this creamy, sweet, beautiful trouble doll for a lot of people, and we whispered to her image or her memory and told her what we needed, what we desired, and then we believed that things would happen or change.

And she got put in her box and was put on an eternal shelf, where we can continue to ask of her what we need.

-Dennis Hopper in an interview with James Grissom [x]
Posted 4 days ago
September 27 2014
0 notes

Living In Her Shadow

image

Not only is true love rare and true rebellion rare, real love is itself a radical form of rebellion—engagement, thinking, and being—-Masha Tupitsyn

I’ve been living in the shadow of a woman named Rebecca. At night, I can feel her presence at the edges of the room or the tip of his tongue. His ex-wife. His first love. Rebecca. The one he never wanted to leave but whom left him because her desires went in directions he couldn’t satisfy. There are parts of him I feel will always be hidden from me that her eyes have gazed.

I told him recently that I didn’t want something nebulous. Where I give give give until I’m a fucking husk, just tears and futile anger. I want something concrete and true. I want someone I can create a home with. He’s not ready, of course. And I can respect that. But he says he cares and I feel he cares. So I say I’ll stay even though I feel like I am unspooling already. I feel him pulling away. Yes, let’s take our time and chart the origins of our scars, let’s learn the texture of each other’s laughter. But it has become clear in the last month (so devoid of passion) that I am the only one imagining a future for us, I am the only one really, deeply wanting this to be more than what it has been recently. Dinner and drinks and an occasional fuck. 

Sometimes I feel I have so much love to give, I could burst.

Earlier in the relationship I would take pictures of the bruises I earned. When we fuck it is (was?) an almost violent act. It was the first time I felt like I wasn’t restraining myself. That I was fully present. 

There are a lot of things he doesn’t know about me and I of him. He knows only in brief flashes, like aged polaroids pinned to corkboard, about my thorny family life. He knows nothing about the two headed beast coiling in the pit of my mind I call madness. I take especially great pains to hide my anger from people especially him. And yet IT still bleeds out.

Sometimes I feel I stain people with my presence.

The color of poppies.
The color of open wounds.
The color of my madness.

I know (intellectually) he doesn’t feel like that. And yet I wonder…

Because his kisses taste like a Sunday afternoon but he fucks like a Saturday night.

Because he has a smile so warm, so inviting I know it can’t only reveal itself for me. Because I am censoring myself already. I’m writing him poems I’ll never slip into his pocket. Because I make up such a tiny part of his life and he is already devouring mine.

This all gets me thinking about Joan Fontaine, the cinematic martyr sacrificing herself upon the altar of love again and again. I always turn to Joan Fontaine when my romantic life is going to shit. I think she is the most human of the Old Hollywood stars. Fontaine won’t be reclaimed by feminists or become the sort of Old Hollywood star to be configured as a modern woman, someone to look up to. Her roles are primarily that of women in painful states of becoming brought upon by love. Not just any kind of love but tragic love. Poisonous Love. The kind of love that cuts you to the marrow. The kind of love that pains you and forgets you. Unrequited yet delicious all the same.

She’s constantly in the shadow of something (a memory, a wish) or someone (a first wife, a dead lover).

Even when she plays bad (see: Born to be Bad) eschewing the constraints of her martyrdom she exists in the shadows…of the woman she truly is and the woman she’s pretending to be. She still wants love but doesn’t know what to do with it.

There are whole universes in the way she looks at a man. Universes born of a longing I know all too well.

In an act of masochistic melancholy I watched Rebecca for the first time in years. Even though I am unlike the second, unnamed Mrs. de Winter I see myself in her. She is soft and yielding and naive, where I pretend to be more tough than I really am and have cut my teeth with a healthy amount of cynicism. But we both yearn and love too deeply. We’re both living in the shadow of a woman named Rebecca. We both fucking deserve better. 

In text messages with my friend Michelle we discussed relationship fantasies. And how we’re coming to accept we do want families. I have begun indexing these fantasies, usually while listening to Fiona Apple or Fontaine’s warm voice fluttering in the background. I don’t want to live with my partner (most likely). I am not interested in having children. I dream of being with a man who is a fellow artist I can collaborate with. Or maybe he isn’t an artist but a muse. Someone who is more easy going and stable than I am. Someone who doesn’t mask their true emotions with anger and fear and bitchy comebacks. For a brief moment I thought the man I am still murkily, somewhat with could be this for me. That we could be what we need for each other. He is the first man I have been with that I have ever imagined a future with. That I could see easily fitting into my life for years to come. But he’s too afraid and I’m too damaged. The music of our relationship is just out of key. And then there’s his ex-wife always in the margins. 

Rebecca. Rebecca. Rebecca. I wonder how he says your name in the dark when I’m not around. I wonder if it sounds anything like the way he says mine. 

classicladiesofcolor:


Anna May Wong's Certificate of Identity, August 18, 1924, National Archives at San Francisco.

She was born Wong Liu Tsong in 1905 in Los Angeles to a Cantonese-American family that had lived in America since at least 1855. However, being an American didn’t matter in a time when people of Chinese descent were being heavily legislated against. Beginning in 1909, any people of Chinese descent entering or residing in the US, regardless of the country of their birth, had to carry a Certificate of Identity with them at all times. Even at the peak of her fame, Wong still had to carry papers like the one above to prove she was allowed to be here. Read the rest of the article.

classicladiesofcolor:

Anna May Wong's Certificate of Identity, August 18, 1924, National Archives at San Francisco.

She was born Wong Liu Tsong in 1905 in Los Angeles to a Cantonese-American family that had lived in America since at least 1855. However, being an American didn’t matter in a time when people of Chinese descent were being heavily legislated against. Beginning in 1909, any people of Chinese descent entering or residing in the US, regardless of the country of their birth, had to carry a Certificate of Identity with them at all times. Even at the peak of her fame, Wong still had to carry papers like the one above to prove she was allowed to be here. Read the rest of the article.

oldfilmsflicker:

An Unmarried Woman, 1978 (dir. Paul Mazursky)

oldfilmsflicker:

An Unmarried Woman, 1978 (dir. Paul Mazursky)


Elizabeth Taylor holding the Best Actress Award for her performance in Butterfield 8 at the 1961 Academy Awards.

Elizabeth Taylor holding the Best Actress Award for her performance in Butterfield 8 at the 1961 Academy Awards.

Posted 1 month ago
August 16 2014
1,162 notes

How to Marry a Millionaire may not be a good movie but I have an extreme fondness for it.


© Richard Avedon; Elizabeth Taylor for the Look magazine, 1956.
© Richard Avedon; Elizabeth Taylor for the Look magazine, 1956.
Posted 1 month ago
August 03 2014
3 notes

My Writing Process

image

I was very excited to be invited by Candice Frederick of Real Talk Online, to discuss my own writing process for a blog tour involving a lot of other talented writers. Just to be on the level, writing about writing (especially my own) can be an uncomfortable process especially since I am in an interesting transitory phase. I am pushing my own boundaries, revamping my usual writing process, and examining a lot of things both personal and creative in my life. Without further ado…

What am I working on?

Currently, I am writing a feature titled Medusa Untangled and developing a pilot that I plan to write next. I am also writing a long form essay tentatively titled, Lilith and her Heirs: Thoughts on the Post-Studio System Femme Fatale.

How does my work differ from others’ work in the same genre?

My voice and perspective as a writer.

Why do you write what you do?

Because there is no version of my life, present or future, without writing. I would feel incomplete. When I tell people that screenwriting (and film in general) saved my life I am not being hyperbolic. My obsession with film came just as I was dealing with the some of the worse days of my illness. Screenwriting in its own odd way brings a sense of order to my mind. I love writing essays almost as much as I love screenwriting. They bring a sense of joy and wonder into my life. They also help me make sense of myself and the world around me.

How does your writing process work?

I currently have been revamping my writing process. Since I have a regular job I tend to write late in the evening for a few hours except for my days off when I can dedicate more time to writing. I tend to outline quite a bit, gather research and inspiration which I consider the pre-writing phase of my work. I usually write first drafts by hand or on my typewriter. This helps me to focus on my actual work and stop self-editing. From there I complete all of my next drafts in Scrivener. My writing process is also very physical. I tend to act out scenes, pace a lot. But this does often change a bit depending on the project. I have an idea I am trying to decide if it should be written as a feature or a novel and the pre-writing has been going on for a while. I even have an extra large Moleskine dedicated to the project. I try not to create too many hard and fast rules. Each project is its own animal.

Thanks again to Candice for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour!

Posted 2 months ago
July 28 2014
2 notes

echo chamber

There is an article from The Dissolve going around that breaks down the issues with the “Strong Female Character” and makes a case for what writers/directors should in fact be focusing on when writing women. It is a good article even if it’s saying things that have already been said before and the people sharing it and discussing it, already believe what the article is preaching. I’m going to be honest one of the reasons I decided to take a break from Madwomen & Muses besides a desire to focus solely on my screenwriting, was the feeling that writing straight film criticism on this blog was pointless. How many feminist (or feminist leaning) blogs and articles have we read that make the same point that The Dissolve makes? Yes, these articles are important but in the grand scheme of things they don’t help the same way actually having more women involved in the filmmaking process behind the camera would and they are very surface level critiques that only the completely myopic or women hating would deny their validity. It isn’t just about how are stories are being told but who is telling them.

I realized during my break from Madwomen & Muses that I love nonfiction almost as much as I love screenwriting. I am at my best with film criticism (and my other non-fiction pursuits) when I couch it in my personal experience. Which is why I had to write briefly about a comment I noticed on The Dissolve article, screencaptured below.

image

The comment is a micro example of the myopic understanding of film history that angers me. It is no secret that I am rather obsessed with and frequently defend the femme fatale. I got into a heated conversation about the nature of the archetype after my Bright Wall/Dark Room essay about True Detective came out. Some people believe the femme fatale is, in essence, a dark mirror for the neuroses of the male lead. That her sexuality isn’t rooted in autonomy but in the weird desires of the male writers in creating a sexual woman and then punishing her for being sexually realized.

The thing is film hasn’t evolved in a straight line. It is a convenient and neat lie to say that as women progressed in real life, they progressed on screen. I don’t think it is a coincidence that the women’s picture was dying around the 1960s and finally died in the 1970s (with a few exceptions). I don’t think it is a coincidence that we rarely see female characters of an unlikeable sort whose unlikeability isn’t rooted in fantastical badasses or women who don’t wield guns with abandon. I yearn to watch (and write) women with barred teeth and sharp claws who skirt the edges of acceptable morality. Women who are layered and further the cinematic depictions of actresses like Barbara Stanwyck.

To say, "I’m not saying in anyway it is enough, but I do think evolution is spinning in the positive direction. Contrast that to the murderous, calculating she-devils of the 1940’s to early 1970’s film noir/film noir lite and it is significant", like the first commenter on The Dissolve article did is to ignore the fact that those femme fatales do something most female characters (even the supposedly strongly written ones) aren’t allowed to do in modern times: advance the plot. The noir films, both cherished and obscure, couldn’t exist without their femme fatales. She is the main engine for the plot, she advances the story sometimes far more than the male lead. And to compare the post-studio system femme fatale to her 1940s ancestor shows how many ways film regressed as women gained more power in their personal lives because of feminism. These modern femme fatales aren’t challenging the subtext and politics in the genre. They aren’t better written, more autonomous or even more interesting (for the most part).  Rather like many supposedly Strong Female Characters these post-studio system femme fatales reveal a flaw in mainstream feminist thinking and desires of the audience to watch women commit acts we consider reprehensible when done by men. They are cold automatons of desire, grit and violence. Is this the best fellow screenwriters can do? Is this all we are willing to receive as audiences?

Ultimately no matter how well-written or true articles like this one on The Dissolve are a part of me is bored of having these same conversations over and over again. I’m tired of talking about and reading about the issues with women on screen and how to make them better without anything really happening or without creating more challenging, layered critiques. How many people do these articles reach who change their minds for the better? I’m not saying I don’t enjoy these articles or think they are wholly pointless, but personally I have decided writing them is not for me or Madwomen & Muses.