Saturday, February 27, 2010

Build a Better Chick Lit: Modelicious!

I'm back to recapping books, baby! I've read a couple of horrible YA/chick lit books about modeling. There's Model Student (a girl has to balance being a student at Columbia University with being a model). And there's Violet on the Runway, in which a high school girl goes from being awkward and dorky to a high fashion model when she's discovered in her small town by an agent. It's basically the training bra version of Model Student. I decided to show what stereotypes (modeling and chick lit) they fulfill, with a little help from Tyra and the good people at Cycle 8's modeling cliche photoshoot.

The Girl Who Is Here to Win, Not Make Friends.

Don't pretend you don't know who that is. Every cycle has one! In Violet, it's Veronica, the jealous roommate who shares a Zoolander esque apartment (complete with bunkbeds) with the title character. However, since our protagonist is a six foot tall Pollyanna who snorts sunshine, lollipops and rainbows instead of coke, Veronica realizes that being a bitch isn't all it's cracked up to be. The girls bond and Veronica learns that friendship is more important than a Page Six mention.

OK, I lied...Violet herself has a teeny bit of bitchery in her (though she's still only a 1.1 on the Doherty scale). This is what she says to her best guy friend when they're at a nightclub where he's MSTK-ing the whole scene:
You have no idea what this world is like...You sit at home in North Carolina scrolling through Gawker and Fishbowl and thinking that you're a part of things. Well, you're not. You're just a sad nerd of a boy who fills his time reading about other people's lives because he doesn't have one of his own. Go back to your blogs. Hey, maybe you'll even make the Post tomorrow--in the background of a photo of me.
Violet, can I please be in a Page Six photo holding your hair back?

Emily in Model Student's best bitchy moment? One day, she's walking along and she hears yet another "Daaaaaamn, you so FINE, baaby" come-on and prepares her best bitchface. Only the guy isn't paying any attention to her. Em realizes that he's looking at another girl who is, in her words, "'like, five foot two inches and not even cute." Bitch. I chortled so hard in the jewelry shoot scene where a hand model accidentally-on purpose gives Emily a bloody nose.

Dumb Models

'America's Next Top Model': Model Stereotypes: Caridee, the Dumb Blonde model

Violet's not dumb. She's just a fresh faced ingenue who smiles on the runway instead of affecting a fierce scowl. But since she's so damned cute, the fashion world thinks she's as whimsical as Ariel combing her hair with cutlery. Making this the ultimate in escapist fiction, her agent even tells her not to perfect her walk since everyone loves her sweet, "real," unpolished image (read: yes, you too, earnest young reader, can be a model! You don't need to go on scary go-sees! You don't even have to work hard!)

As an Ivy League student, Emily does her best to shatter the dumb model stereotype. She takes a particular joy in reading Paradise Lost in between lingerie shots on the beach in the Dominican Republic. Em's "I'm a smart model!" act isn't cute as cute as she thinks, though. I'd like to put her and Sasha "My porn name is a reference to Oscar Wilde" Grey in a room together so they can have a pretention-off. (And Sasha, sweetie, Dorian spelt his surname with an "a" not an "e." Somewhere, babe, there's a picture of you getting really, really smart.)

However, Emily is SMARTMODEL FAIL when you read a scene where she feels betrayed by her first agent. Does he (A) cop a feel (B) demand sexual favors or (C) tell her to lose ten pounds within the hour? No, it turns out he receives a fee from the other agencies he's taking Emily to interview at when she first comes to New York. She's mad that he's not escorting her to agencies out of the joy of being with her. That Armani wearing Shylock!

Drugs're baaad, mmkay?

Because Violet is basically the Dawson's Creek of YA lit in terms of risque-ness, the designated bad girl has to do all the drugs and boozin''. (For those paying attention, in Dawson's, that's Jen Lindley who ends up dead in the finale, and in Violet, it's Veronica who goes to rehab.) Violet limits herself to drinking (but, to placate any parents reading or watching along), her drinking is always accompanied by her feeling horribly hungover the next day, with the requisite "head in the toilet" moment.

Emily does drugs. This doesn't bother me. What does bother me is the scene where feeling alienated from her friends, Emily runs in desperation to Washington Square Park where drug dealers surround her hissing, "'Smoke, smoke'" and, "Tell me what a pretty girl needs!" It's as if the producers of Les Miz directed an anti drug PSA.

A is for Anorexia, B is for Bulimia...

Violet is as PG-13 with eating disorders as it is with drugs. In fact, Violet even makes a point of chowing down on some mixed veggies from the Chinese place when someone points out that she's losing a lot of weight. Realistically, this is the model world equivalent of sticking a straw straight into a goose and sucking, and Violet is the Adam Richman of fashionistas. But hey, it keeps Kate Harding off the editors' backs. Once again, Veronica is the designated bad girl and vomits herself into celebrity rehab.

Emily, however, does engage in Extreme Dieting to lose weight even though she never actually becomes anorexic, making her the Bill Clinton of YA lit ("I counted calories"/"I smoked" but I never "lost my period"/"inhaled"). She also attempts to go bulimic but can't vomit on command.

Less than ten thou a day? As if.

Somehow Emily manages to be this girl even though she never really achieves supermodel status. She gets huffy at wearing a tiny jumpsuit to an industry event. Doing a shoot dressed as a chorus girl on the West Side Highway almost sends her to the Rape Crisis Center. She's cast in a music video and is horrified when she has to make out with a guy dressed as a sailor. (She recoils as if asked to join in the 120 days of Sodomy when she finds out he's gay.)

Violet, on the other hand, is NOT this girl. She's more, "Gee whillickers, I get to wear purty clothes and you pay ME?" it's a wonder she never accidentally wanders into an American Apparel warehouse to be trapped in there for years until someone does a raid.

I'd love to see these girls react to shoots that a lot of people would consider quite a bit creepier.

Casting couch

Violet is way too escapist chick lit for something as crass as the casting couch mentality to even exist in this world. After all, Violet gets driven from go-see to go-see by a supportive chauffeur. She lands runway gigs and campaigns without ever having interviewed with anyone. Violet's idea of a casting couch would probably be a designer asking to see her book.

When Emily goes to Italy, part of schmoozing means dealing with guys who like to drug models at parties and then screw them. The scene is intense, with leering Italians on Vespas and broken English and girls passing out right and left and it's all very What if Tom Wolfe had ghostwritten a model memoir.

Going nude

Yes, nudity. We all know that the nice girl from the boonies who loves Jesus and won't do nudity and just isn't edgy enough for couture (sorry, cycle one's Shannon!). In Violet's world, nudity means changing clothes behind a screen but in front of an open window. She somehow manages to do a runway show without flashing anyone, though.

Emily manages to make a hjiab wearer look debauched, when she mentions that initially, her idea of nudity was having scarves draped over her chest for head shots where her shoulders were bare. She also decides she needs cocaine to get through a music video shoot where she and another girl make out naked in a bathtub.

Okay! Since these books are also steeped in the traditions of chick lit, there are some other requirements, as those of you following the syllabus know. Yes, there is brand and clothing worship (with a devotion that would creep out a Moonie) and the fetishization of boys (no one here passes the Bedchel test, ever). What else?

Self deprecating narrator

How do books where the narrator is a model manage to do this? In Violet's case, before she became a model, she was "awkward." (Read: wore glasses and was constantly complaining about being too tall and thin. Violet, you and every Francesca Lia Block character who moans about having a nose that's too small and eyes that are too big with breasts too small for her tiny frame are cruisin' for a brusin'.)

In Emily's case, it's Don't hate me because I'm beautiful. On Emily's first day at orientation, she wears a minidress and high heeled boots (fresh from agency seeing) and the Columbia students react like she's a woman baring her ankles in Warren Jeff's fundamentalist Utah. Guys are also lining up to date her, random men give her bouquets of roses on the street, and girls eye her jealously. What costumes shall the supermodel wear to all tomorrow's seminars? Poor Emily. She has to resort to bulky stained apparel to gain the respect of her fellow students (one girl approvingly says, "I had completely the wrong idea about you--completely," when she sees Emily in "untied sneakers, untucked button down shirt, and stained Columbia sweatpants").

There's No Place Like Home

Any time a girl goes on a wild adventure, she has to learn that a career in the fashion world is the chick lit equivalent of becoming Tony Montana. You either quit the life or go out in a blaze of white powder (see also Andie in Devil Wears Prada). After a talk with her wise old vegan aunt who lives in Brooklyn, Violet learns that Dolce & Gabbana can't compare with Mom, apple pie, and going to prom (until the author gets the option of a sequel and Violet's back on the runway).

And Emily decides that she's not going to be anyone's clothes hanger anymore. However my personal theory is that Em's decision has zip to do with integrity and is more about that time a guy wolf whistled at a short uncute girl instead of her. I guess dieting to fit the sample sizes is less important than pleasing the Sir Mix-a-Lots of the world.

Based on the book covers, I think both Violet and Emily need prosthetic legs. And for Emily, an extra parting gift:

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Movies in a Minute: Dirty Dancing

And it's the latest installment of Movies in a Minute. Oh, the nostalgia. The weird but sweet combination of eighties and early 60s music. And shirtless Swayze. Begin!

Baby: "That was the summer of 1963 - when everybody called me Baby, and it didn't occur to me to mind. Before President Kennedy was shot. Before I called Latoya for the name of the guy who did her rhinoplasty."

Johnny: "I'm a poor boy who dances."

Baby: "Want!"

Penny: "I'm a poor girl who dances."

Baby: "Ooh, pretty romantic dancing girl who ran away from home, forsaking family and obligations, all for her craft."

Penny: "The condescension. It burns. *Sob.*"

Baby: "What's wrong, Penny?"

Billy: "She's in trouble, Baby."

Baby: "I don't understand."

Johnny: "She's knocked up."

Baby: "I'm a sheltered Jewish girl whose doctor father described menstruation as a gift from the pixies. Can you be any clearer?"

Penny: "Bun in the oven! In the family way! Eating for two! On stork watch?! But don't worry, I'll take care of it."

Baby: "Take care of..."

Johnny: "Shmabortion, Baby, okay? Don't say the a-word--we can't turn a movie about me taking my shirt off into Citizen Ruth, all right?"

Robbie: "Hi, I'm Robbie. I knocked up Penny. You can tell I'm bad news because of my swarthy features and the fact that I read Ayn Rand."

Billy: "Johnny! It's all taken care of. Baby got us the money. But the guy who's going to go pick up Penny's fetus so it can go live on a farm is coming to town the exact date and time that you and Penny had a dance gig at a resort clear across town."

Johnny: "Well, I guess the cute spunky but sheltered JAP will have to be my dance partner."

Baby: "Me? Why me?"

Johnny: "Because everyone else has to work, and a film about a nice Jewish girl helping shiksas procure shmabortions at a mountain resort would be a pretty piss poor coming of age story."

Baby: "But won't it take weeks and weeks of training before I'm ever as good as you or Penny?"

Johnny: "Nah. All we need is...

Trey, Matt, and Johnny: "A montage!"

Eric Carmen: "I feel the magic between you and I..."

Sadako: "Between you and ME! You and ME. Okay, that's it. Say you and I again. Say it, motherfucker, I dare you!"

Johnny: "Kid, ya done good."

Billy: "Johnny! Johnny!"

Johnny: "What is it? Is it Penny? Did she fall down the well?"

Billy: "That's...pretty much the only way we can put it without making this movie unwatchable for the preteen girl set, yeah."

Baby: "I know! Daddy! Help!"

Dr. Houseman: "What's wrong, honey? Did they decline your card at Saks again?"

Baby: "Penny's in trouble."

Dr. Houseman: "Stay away from my daughter. Stay away...forever! And as for you, Baby, your dead mother is probably rolling around in her grave at the sight of you."

Baby: "Mom's not dead."

Dr. Houseman: "Don't mess with the Jewish guilt."

Johnny: "Mmmm, integrity. Break out the body double, the K-Y, and the Ben E. King, and let's bump uglies, Baby."

Rob Reiner: "I'm Rob Reiner, and this moment's just been Reinered. That's right. I took Stand By Me for my picture. Ben E. King's locked up in a windowless cell with River Pheonix and WIll Wheaton. You can have Solomon Burke, though."

Robbie: "Because this movie hasn't had much in the way of antagonists, here I am! Well, it looks like I picked the wrong sister. That's okay, Baby, I went slummin' too."

Johnny: "Why you--

Robbie: "Feel the wrath of Ayn Rand, bitches! Now I'm going to break Baby's older sister's heart!"

Blow Monkeys: "You don't own me, don't say I can't go with other boys."

Lesley Gore: "Unfucking believable. You guys let Eric Carmen and Patrick Swayze sing and yet you covered the song that I made famous? I'm out of here. Could I get some more pictures of Jennifer and Cynthia in their underwear for the road?"

Max Kellerman: "I'm Max Kellerman, and I own this place. I can't stay silent any longer! Time to oppress the poor working man. Johnny, you're fired for stealing money!"

Baby: "No! He couldn't have stolen. He was with me last night. The whole night."

Dr. Houseman: "The whole--the WHOLE night? And he's not a doctor or a lawyer? He's not even an accountant? Is there any non Jew at Kellerman's who hasn't slept with my daughter?! To Pandateria with you, wench!"

Johnny: "Thanks, Baby. But I done screwed a customer, and that's bad for business, so I'm out on my ear."

Baby: "So I did it for nothing. I hurt my family, you lost your job anyway, I did it for nothing!"

Johnny: "That's not true, Baby. You embarked on a summer of self discovery. You'll have a great story about sleeping with the help when the Mount Holyoke girls try to rib you for being too prissy. And years from now you can brag about being pro choice before Roe v. Wade made it cool. Well. Goodbye, forever."

Baby: "Sob."

Johnny: "There's ten minutes left in the film, and I'm back to dance while channeling the Man in Black for no real reason at all."

Max Kellerman: "I'm going to allow this."

Johnny: "Time for the literal and metaphorical lift that celebrates you becoming a woman!"

Bill Medley: "Now, I've...had...the time of my liiiife--for God's sake. From being a Righteous Brother to being mistaken for Rick Astley?"

Mrs. Houseman: "She gets it from me."

Dr. Houseman: "From you? Please. I'm Billy fucking Flynn."

Mrs. Houseman: "Okay, honey. You want me to let you hold my Tony on the way home?"

Sidenote: I really wonder why Baby never told her father that Robbie got Penny pregnant. Then again, wouldn't it have robbed the movie of about 35% of its drama?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Movies in a Minute: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Further installment of Movies in a Minute. Full disclosure--I did indeed love this movie, and still do. For those of you asking the inevitable, "How did you feel about the remake," I say...What remake? Tim Burton went straight from stuffing Helena Bonham Carter into an ape suit to stuffing her into Hot Topic wear. On with the snark!

Cue the orgasmic chocolate infused opening credits which has prompted more bulimia binges than any other film in history. (Yup, I've counted.)

Shopkeeper: "Come on, kids, Sammy Davis is busy sitting shiva for his dying career. Let's rip off Candy Man so I don't actually have to do any real exposition about Willy Wonka. Free candy!"

Shopkeeper: "Oh, not for you, spunky, destitute child. Sorry, Charlie, I only hand out free snacks to kids who can already afford it."

Cute sideburned little boy: "Willy Wonka's giving out five tickets hidden inside chocolate bars! You gotta buy Wonka Bars! Go, capitalist enterprise, go!"

Bedridden Grandparents: "Happy birthday, Charlie!"

Charlie: "I wish for working plumbing, a Beatles lunchbox, and a Golden Ticket."

Grandma Josephine: "We knitted you a scarf."

Charlie: "Gee, thanks, Grandma. It smells like you only dropped it in the bedpan once this time. Why can't I get a golden ticket, too?"

Mrs. Bucket: "Don't worry. You'll get your turn. Cheer up, Charlie..."

Sadako: "It's Cheer up, Charlie! The poorest excuse for a musical performance since Kanye and his autotuner hit up Sea World! Come on, guys, let's all go to the lobby."

Charlie: "I got a golden ticket!"

Slugworth: "Boy. If you give me one of Wonka's top secret ideas, you get all the money you want. Think about it. A bicycle. A big house. All the food you can eat. Dr. Kevorkian's home phone number."

Charlie: "I got a golden ticket! I wish you could go, too, Grandpa Joe."

Grandpa George: "Uh...kid? You know, I'm sitting right here. Thanks. Way to make me feel like the zaftig girl at the Playdude Mansion."

Grandpa Joe: "Screw atrophy! I'm going to to the Chocolate Factory! Suck it, Grandpa George--you can accompany him to the Glue Factory next month when the cable bill comes in."

Mrs. Bucket: "Dad? Where was all this energy when I brought home your Wal-Mart greeter vest?"

Willy Wonka: "Welcome to my factory, fat German, loud mouthed American, spoiled only child, TV addled brat, and good hearted welfare kid. This is where chocolate isn't made, it's created from the glint of wonder in a child's eye, from a baby's first peal of delighted laughter. Please sign away your right to sue before we begin."

Willy Wonka: "Those are the Oompa Loompas. They lived in a sad little land where they had to romp around all day with no responsibilities, their hands idle all day. But I took them here and rescued them from a lifetime free of cares. Aren't they wonderful? Just try to avoid using the words workers compensation or minimum wage in earshot of an Oompa Loompa."

American Apparel CEO Dov Charney: "I can learn so much from you. The exploitation masked as charity. The non existent wages. The color scheme and fashion sense..."

Augustus: "Chocolate! Nom...nom...nom."

Willy Wonka: "Stop, please. You're polluting my chocolate! You're--oh, good. Away with you. Someone throw him a hairnet, please."

Charlie: "What about Augustus?"

Willy Wonka. "Oh, come on, don't look so sad. No one wanted to sit next to Fats Goebbels over here. Everyone on board. Time for the screening of Un Wonka Andalou."

Kevin Smith: "Why is the FAT KID the one who was 86ed first? Before even getting to see the Factory? To Twitter! And why is the punishment for the gum chewer that she has to blow up like Kirstie Alley after a bad Thetan reading? Wait till Kate Harding hears about this."

Willy Wonka: "I'm going to give you kids who haven't passed background checks or even signed nondisclosure agreements each one everlasting gobstopper. Now don't sell them on the black market. Pinky swear!"

Grandpa Joe: "Ooh, fizzy lifting drink! Come on, Charlie, this'll make up for my permanently revoked driver's license."

Charlie: "Grandpa! We're not stopping! Mr. Wonka? I'd like to come down now..."

Grandpa Joe: "No, Charlie. It's okay. Being really, really gassy will help us descend! Now it's Grandpa's turn to shine. Turns out your mom skimping on the prunes and Malox so we could make that payment on the TV was a great idea."

Veruca: "I want it NOW!"

Sadako: "Heh. That's what SHE said. OK, no more Office reruns for me."

Willy Wonka: "Goodbye, British Nellie Oleson."

Mike Teavee: "Look at me! I'm the first kid to be sent through television! I'm famous! I've got so many opportunities! Little People, Big World! The Incredible Shrinking Boy! Stallone's body double! All those roles Mickey Rooney's not cute enough for anymore!"

Kevin Smith: "And why is the skinny toothpick kid the one who gets to be on TV? Mike Teavee sets an unrealistic standard for couch potatoes everywhere, you know. Not all of us were sticking our fingers down our throat while watching episodes of Batman!"

Willy Wonka: "Thank you...and GOOD DAY!"

Grandpa: "Slugworth is going to get his gobstopper. Come on, Charlie."

Charlie: "No, Grandpa. We can't steal from a corporation! That's like accidentally taking a pen home from the bank! Next you'll be saying we should remove the tag from the gigantic urine soaked mattress you sleep on."

Willy Wonka: "Charlie...Charlie, you've won! Sorry, Charlie. In my spare time I like to set up impossible ethical dilemmas to tempt impoverished children. But you passed!"

Charlie: "You mean--

Willy Wonka: "Yup. You, too, can grow up to be the Howard Hughes of Chocalatiers!"

Grandpa: "Yippie!"

Willy Wonka: "You see, I wanted to make sure a child inherited the factory. A child who was pure of heart and good. A grown up wouldn't be any good. He'd want to do everything his own way--he'd offer the Oompa Loompas benefits and overtime wages, and then where would my carefully stockpiled fortune be?"

Charlie: "I love you, Mr. Wonka."

Willy Wonka: "Quiet, you. Mel Brooks finally called back. Goodbye, children's films, hello paycheck."

Sidenote. If binge eating, gum chewing, and watching too much TV are cardinal sins, Roald Dahl should stay away from: sorority houses, people trying to quit smoking, and the public school system.