black holes and gray matter. in one thousand tangos.

             

The Death of Adulthood in American Culture | NYT

TV characters are among the allegorical figures of our age, giving individual human shape to our collective anxieties and aspirations. The meanings of “Mad Men” are not very mysterious: The title of the final half season, which airs next spring, will be “The End of an Era.” The most obvious thing about the series’s meticulous, revisionist, present-minded depiction of the past, and for many viewers the most pleasurable, is that it shows an old order collapsing under the weight of internal contradiction and external pressure. From the start, “Mad Men” has, in addition to cataloging bygone vices and fashion choices, traced the erosion, the gradual slide toward obsolescence, of a power structure built on and in service of the prerogatives of white men. The unthinking way Don, Pete, Roger and the rest of them enjoy their position, and the ease with which they abuse it, inspires what has become a familiar kind of ambivalence among cable viewers. Weren’t those guys awful, back then? But weren’t they also kind of cool? We are invited to have our outrage and eat our nostalgia too, to applaud the show’s right-thinking critique of what we love it for glamorizing. …

Something profound has been happening in our television over the past decade, some end-stage reckoning. It is the era not just of mad men, but also of sad men and, above all, bad men.

Don is at once the heir and precursor to Tony Soprano (fig. 2), that avatar of masculine entitlement who fended off threats to the alpha-dog status he had inherited and worked hard to maintain. Walter White, the protagonist of “Breaking Bad,” struggled, early on, with his own emasculation and then triumphantly (and sociopathically) reasserted the mastery that the world had contrived to deny him. The monstrousness of these men was inseparable from their charisma, and sometimes it was hard to tell if we were supposed to be rooting for them or recoiling in horror. We were invited to participate in their self-delusions and to see through them, to marvel at the mask of masculine competence even as we watched it slip or turn ugly. Their deaths were (and will be) a culmination and a conclusion: Tony, Walter and Don are the last of the patriarchs.

In suggesting that patriarchy is dead, I am not claiming that sexism is finished, that men are obsolete or that the triumph of feminism is at hand. I may be a middle-aged white man, but I’m not an idiot. In the world of politics, work and family, misogyny is a stubborn fact of life. But in the universe of thoughts and words, there is more conviction and intelligence in the critique of male privilege than in its defense, which tends to be panicky and halfhearted when it is not obtuse and obnoxious. The supremacy of men can no longer be taken as a reflection of natural order or settled custom. …

It seems that, in doing away with patriarchal authority, we have also, perhaps unwittingly, killed off all the grown-ups.”

In my main line of work as a film critic, I have watched over the past 15 years as the studios committed their vast financial and imaginative resources to the cultivation of franchises (some of them based on those same Y.A. novels) that advance an essentially juvenile vision of the world. Comic-book movies, family-friendly animated adventures, tales of adolescent heroism and comedies of arrested development do not only make up the commercial center of 21st-century Hollywood. They are its artistic heart.”

Maybe nobody grows up anymore, but everyone gets older. What happens to the boy rebels when the dream of perpetual childhood fades and the traditional prerogatives of manhood are unavailable? There are two options: They become irrelevant or they turn into Louis C. K. (fig. 5). Every white American male under the age of 50 is some version of the character he plays on “Louie,” a show almost entirely devoted to the absurdity of being a pale, doughy heterosexual man with children in a post-patriarchal age. Or, if you prefer, a loser.”

Y.A. fiction is the least of it. It is now possible to conceive of adulthood as the state of being forever young. Childhood, once a condition of limited autonomy and deferred pleasure (“wait until you’re older”), is now a zone of perpetual freedom and delight. Grown people feel no compulsion to put away childish things: We can live with our parents, go to summer camp, play dodge ball, collect dolls and action figures and watch cartoons to our hearts’ content. These symptoms of arrested development will also be signs that we are freer, more honest and happier than the uptight fools who let go of such pastimes.

I do feel the loss of something here, but bemoaning the general immaturity of contemporary culture would be as obtuse as declaring it the coolest thing ever. A crisis of authority is not for the faint of heart. It can be scary and weird and ambiguous. But it can be a lot of fun, too. The best and most authentic cultural products of our time manage to be all of those things. They imagine a world where no one is in charge and no one necessarily knows what’s going on, where identities are in perpetual flux. Mothers and fathers act like teenagers; little children are wise beyond their years. Girls light out for the territory and boys cloister themselves in secret gardens. We have more stories, pictures and arguments than we know what to do with, and each one of them presses on our attention with a claim of uniqueness, a demand to be recognized as special. The world is our playground, without a dad or a mom in sight.

I’m all for it. Now get off my lawn.”

Read on.

“To: Hollywood liberals
Cc: Amy Pascal, Steven Spielberg, etc.
From: Manohla Dargis
You donated millions to President Obama’s campaigns, you drive hybrid cars. You don’t like fracking, you do like recycling. You’re against bullying, you’re for marriage equality. You’ve traveled from Haiti to Congo, Sudan and beyond to lend a generous hand. The six major studios plant trees, recycle, reuse and even compost, and claim that they’re working on becoming 100 percent sustainable. In 2011, Sony Pictures Entertainment in Culver City, Calif., became the first zero waste lot, which, unfortunately, doesn’t mean the end of Adam Sandler movies. You may be confused about gun control, as is the rest of the country, and you make bank on representations of extreme violence — but when it comes to many issues, you are often as liberal as conservatives insist you are.
So … what’s up with not hiring women to direct movies? Is there something about double-X chromosomes that makes you squeamish? Are women biologically incapable of directing movies, especially the franchises that prop up the big studios year after year? It’s not like women can’t blow stuff up (see Kathryn Bigelow) and that every man can shoot action (see “Divergent,” etc.). It’s great when the industry takes a chance on a new talent, but how about mixing it up? Sony tapped Marc Webb, whose sole previous feature was the modest romantic comedy,“(500) Days of Summer,” to revive the “Spider-Man” franchise, and Anthony and Joe Russo, TV guys, were handed “Captain America.” Now Colin Trevorrow, who’s directed exactly one itty-bitty independent feature, “Safety Not Guaranteed,” has been tapped to direct the reboot of the “Jurassic Park” series. When Deadline.com announced the news of his hire, it asked, “Why Trevorrow?” Good question.”
“To: The movie studios
Cc: Netflix, Apple, cable television, YouTube, BitTorrent, the Criterion Collection, Hulu, Google, Dropbox, Amazon, Facebook (and 37 more)
From: A.O.S.
We like to watch movies. We like to watch them at home, on tablets and flat screens, and at the gym or on planes or even in movie theaters. Ideally, we would like to be able to watch what we want, where and when we want, for as little money as possible. We are interested in quality, novelty and variety, but also in the familiar, the easy and the comfortable. If you keep making us happy, we will keep making you rich. We will also continue to complain.”
“To: Everyone
Cc: Marvel
From: M.D. and A.O.S.
Comic-book superhero movies seem to be taking the place in the American imagination that the western once did. It’s been estimated that more than 7,000 westerns have been made in the United States since 1903, a saturation that — much like western dime novels and melodramatic plays, Buffalo Bill shows and the art of Frederic Remington — shows how deeply the genre once spoke to particularly (if not exclusively) American ideas about itself. The genre’s iconography, from the white and black hats to the horses, remains rooted in our collective imagination, as do some of the themes, including the tension between the nominally savage and civilized, and the little woman waiting as the hero rides off.
Aside from Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, women are still waiting — on screen and off — for a place in the comic-book-branded, fanboy-dominated superhero cosmos. This is not to say that there are no superheroines. Katniss Everdeen, with her deadeye aim and her heavy existential baggage, has proved that a girl can fight injustice and inspire fans as well as any man in a bodysuit and cape. But she had to stage her incursion into the mainstream from the world of young-adult fiction. The Marvel Universe and its DC counterpart — the worlds of Iron Man, Spider-Man, Batman, Superman and the X-Men (notice the pattern) — are strongholds of patriarchy. It’s time for them to open up.”

Memos to Hollywood

To: Hollywood liberals

Cc: Amy Pascal, Steven Spielberg, etc.

From: Manohla Dargis

You donated millions to President Obama’s campaigns, you drive hybrid cars. You don’t like fracking, you do like recycling. You’re against bullying, you’re for marriage equality. You’ve traveled from Haiti to Congo, Sudan and beyond to lend a generous hand. The six major studios plant trees, recycle, reuse and even compost, and claim that they’re working on becoming 100 percent sustainable. In 2011, Sony Pictures Entertainment in Culver City, Calif., became the first zero waste lot, which, unfortunately, doesn’t mean the end of Adam Sandler movies. You may be confused about gun control, as is the rest of the country, and you make bank on representations of extreme violence — but when it comes to many issues, you are often as liberal as conservatives insist you are.

So … what’s up with not hiring women to direct movies? Is there something about double-X chromosomes that makes you squeamish? Are women biologically incapable of directing movies, especially the franchises that prop up the big studios year after year? It’s not like women can’t blow stuff up (see Kathryn Bigelow) and that every man can shoot action (see “Divergent,” etc.). It’s great when the industry takes a chance on a new talent, but how about mixing it up? Sony tapped Marc Webb, whose sole previous feature was the modest romantic comedy,“(500) Days of Summer,” to revive the “Spider-Man” franchise, and Anthony and Joe Russo, TV guys, were handed “Captain America.” Now Colin Trevorrow, who’s directed exactly one itty-bitty independent feature, “Safety Not Guaranteed,” has been tapped to direct the reboot of the “Jurassic Park” series. When Deadline.com announced the news of his hire, it asked, “Why Trevorrow?” Good question.”

To: The movie studios

Cc: Netflix, Apple, cable television, YouTube, BitTorrent, the Criterion Collection, Hulu, Google, Dropbox, Amazon, Facebook (and 37 more)

From: A.O.S.

We like to watch movies. We like to watch them at home, on tablets and flat screens, and at the gym or on planes or even in movie theaters. Ideally, we would like to be able to watch what we want, where and when we want, for as little money as possible. We are interested in quality, novelty and variety, but also in the familiar, the easy and the comfortable. If you keep making us happy, we will keep making you rich. We will also continue to complain.”

To: Everyone

Cc: Marvel

From: M.D. and A.O.S.

Comic-book superhero movies seem to be taking the place in the American imagination that the western once did. It’s been estimated that more than 7,000 westerns have been made in the United States since 1903, a saturation that — much like western dime novels and melodramatic plays, Buffalo Bill shows and the art of Frederic Remington — shows how deeply the genre once spoke to particularly (if not exclusively) American ideas about itself. The genre’s iconography, from the white and black hats to the horses, remains rooted in our collective imagination, as do some of the themes, including the tension between the nominally savage and civilized, and the little woman waiting as the hero rides off.

Aside from Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, women are still waiting — on screen and off — for a place in the comic-book-branded, fanboy-dominated superhero cosmos. This is not to say that there are no superheroines. Katniss Everdeen, with her deadeye aim and her heavy existential baggage, has proved that a girl can fight injustice and inspire fans as well as any man in a bodysuit and cape. But she had to stage her incursion into the mainstream from the world of young-adult fiction. The Marvel Universe and its DC counterpart — the worlds of Iron Man, Spider-Man, Batman, Superman and the X-Men (notice the pattern) — are strongholds of patriarchy. It’s time for them to open up.”

Memos to Hollywood

I didn’t want to believe it but it’s true: the Kubrick torch has been passed

By far, my favorite film of 2014

"Somehow Johansson, Glazer and his cinematographer Daniel Landin transform how we think of this star. They’ve taken one of the most glamorous actresses of the modern era—a woman whose looks have been abstracted into hubba-hubba caricature in most films, and on awards shows—and ironically restored her earthliness by having her play a creature not of this earth. They’ve made her beautiful in a real way, with hips and blemishes and folds in her skin.”

At the press screening, the final credits were greeted by a sudden nasal exhalation from us critics: the sound of people realising they have been holding their breath. It’s the equivalent of regular audiences jumping to their feet and applauding.”

Many will loathe it – the premiere at the Venice film festival was met with boos. It will also blow minds, its punk experimentalism and raw sensuality making pretty much everything else seem hopelessly quaint. Masterpiece is the word.”

©2011 Kateoplis