Tag Archives: Comedy

BLOG: YTC Episode XXXIII: Snap!

Follow me on Twitter: @You_Total_Cult.

The YTC podcast can be found at http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/youtotalcult/

FINAL.2.2

I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but here in the United Kingdom, people with ginger hair tend to get picked on. I have seen this first hand via my own red-headed friends being insulted due to their locks. Of course this is a hate crime with no justification. The fact I *may* have mocked them myself- just a little bit- was always with love and sensitivity hidden inside of the barbed comments… Honest.

 

Mocking the ginger-haired people is not only discriminatory, but it is also downright foolish. For one thing Red hair seems to be associated with Viking and the Celtic genes- neither of whom are known for their social niceties.

In addition, a large source of modern red-heads seems to be the Scots and the Irish, and both of these nationalities have particular cultural reputations for being hard drinking hell raisers. Then of course you get the odd rock star like Josh Homme. Whether you dig his music or not, he’s around 65t 5 and looks like he knows his way around a bar fight.

Queen of the Stone Age indeed!

Tougher than all of these dangerous gingers though would be the character of Ginger. You know, as in ‘Ginger the werewolf’!

SEGUE!!!!

Long time readers (both of ‘em) will know my perchance for a good werewolf fable. My reasons for liking the furry beasts can be found in a previous entry.

One Lupine movie that I have been meaning to revisit again is the low budget Canadian flick, Ginger Snaps.

Taking a less supernatural route than say An American Werewolf In London, The Wolfman or Curse Of The Werewolf, Ginger Snaps treats the Werewolf curse as more like Hepatitis, an infection of the blood that can come from various means.

Uh… Not that I’d know, or anything.

 

Ginger Snaps takes this scientific concept of Lycanthrapy and mixes it with the sexualisation of teenagers. The film is not only about Werewolves, but also a coming-of-age story about a 15 year old girl, Ginger and her 14 year old sister, Brigitte.

Ginger Snaps opens with a dead dog scene, complete with a blood smeared child, a screaming parent and Dutch-Camera Angles. As the camera pushes past the canine corpse, it goes into the darkness of the kennel, and… we’re off!

What follows is a fantastic introductory sequence for the two main characters of the film, Ginger and Brigitte. These two sisters share wonderfully over-the-top teen angst talk to frame the whole film. This is the kind of conversations that are completely heartfelt from an insulated, teen perspective but that will also one day be looked back on through older, gritted teeth at their inane earnestness.

 

Sisters doing it for themselves

Here is some sample dialogue form Ginger and Brigitte from this opening. The sisters are alluding to a suicide pact in lieu of being tired of being misunderstood.

Ginger: Suicide is like… the ultimate ‘fuck you’! …”Out by sixteen or dead on the scene, but together forever”. C’mon! “Together forever…”

Brigitte: “…United against life as we know it”.

 Through just this dialogue, the two sisters are presented as archetype teens that are believable. Their simultaneous mix of sincerity and naivety is horrifyingly spot-on. This brief character set up then leads into the fabulous (yeah, I used that word) credits sequence. These credits present numerous fake suicides staged by the Sisters.

Teens always leave a mess in the bathroom

Ultimately these staged deaths are revealed to be a part of an art project at school, dismissed with their mothers angry line “I told you girls; No more deaths in the house!”

Given the earlier conversation between the two sisters, these credits suggest a much darker scenario has taken place. In effect, not only do the opening credits present a unique title sequence for Ginger Snaps, but they also set up the world of the protagonists, and thus the film, for the audience. Ginger and Brigitte live in a world that is in equal parts playful, misunderstood, creative, morbid and black humoured. Which is a pretty ideal place to be for a horror film audience!

The girls art piece proves to be unpopular with their teacher, and the girls retreat to their PE class. They play Field Hockey, presented as a literal battlefield for the teenage girls of the school.

Despite being despised and mocked as ‘the weirdos’ in their year, Ginger is also starting to become noticed by some of the boys. One of the local jocks, Jason, begins to hit on her. Despite Brigitte knocking Jason for even trying it on with Ginger, Ginger is obviously just a little bit flattered by her first brush with being desirable.

For reasons linked to their bullying, by the evening the girls end up out alone in a woodland. Ginger has just begun to experience menstruation, which rather unluckily for her attracts a giant Wolf. Pff, always the way. Attacked, Ginger is bitten but the two sisters manage to run away from the beast. As the sisters come across an intersection, a local drug dealer, Sam, accidentally runs over the pursuing Wolf I his van, killing it.

“This one comes witha free calender”

And so begins Ginger Snaps study of Ginger as she goes through a difficult physical transformation- no, not becoming a werewolf. Puberty.

The fact that Ginger’s first period led to their attack is the very first link between womanhood and werewolf-ism. In fact throughout the whole movie both Ginger and Brigitte refer to periods as ‘the Curse’. The fact the Wolf was defeated by a speeding van, rather than a silver bullet, also presents the beasts as dangerous but not necesarilly supernatural.

The remainder of Ginger Snaps is a fun mixture of these two aspects, sexualisation and science. Without breaking down the entire movie, as Ginger becomes more animalistic in her daily life she becomes ferocious and sexual. Brigitte, feeling even more alone, withdraws into a world of research with the drug dealer Sam. Together the seek a cure for Werewolf effects via botany.

It is the journey of both characters that allow the film to show the progression of female teens in society. Ginger worries about her looks and reputation (“I can’t have a hairy chest!”) as she begins to embrace her control of men via her looks. Brigitte is dismissed as childlike by Ginger for focusing on books and for net yet having started her own menstrual cycle.

Although both sisters are going down opposite routes in life, they are presented as being equally limited within their own social structure as to ow they are viewed by the rest of the world. As Ginger says;

Ginger:“A girl can only be a slut, a bitch, a tease, or the virgin next door.”

(Sponsorship welcomed!)

Ginger, aside from a few murders here and there, has only really acted like Jason and the jocks so far as her classmates know. Yet she is now burdened with a slutty reputation. Brigitte has done nothing but work hard with Sam, and she is gaining her own reputation somewhere between being a tease and a virgin. Ginger Snaps shows not only the difficulties of women changing physically, but also the emotional toll of new peer groups/judgements caused by how they react to hitting puberty.

Even ignoring sex as a Wereolf-conceit, the Werewolf infection also allows Ginger to express feelings of frustration and powerlessness ripe at a teen age.

Ginger:“I get this ache… And I, I thought it was for sex, but it’s to tear everything to fucking pieces.“

 

Maybe she’s born with it… maybe it’s Maybeleine

Comparing Ginger’s now very present anger and strength to the early scene in the bedroom is quite interesting. Whereas the girls formerly discussed suicide as a form of protest, they have now moved on. They have both grown up enough to go beyond such theatrical melodrama. Ginger is now taking her anger out on the world, but Brigitte is finding a inner will for survival through independence.

The clarim that this is a completely female-centric film is furthered throughout the film by the girls mother completely dismissing her husband. Everything she says or does is ‘for her girls’ and she insists that all men ‘only want one thing’.

In fact all of the male characters are fairly sidelined. The character of Sam is prominent throughout the narrative, but the motive for his attempts to help are questionable, and his effectiveness virtually non-existent. When both Sam and Brigitte square up against an enraged Ginger in Wolf form, Brigitte is the quick thinker who keeps them alive. Sam is…. dead meat, so to speak.

Smoke ’em if you got ’em

Meanwhile Jason, the jock who went after Ginger, has contacted a form of STD from her when she essentially raped him. The men on display are either untrustworthy or at least ineffective.

We’ve al peed blood, right guys…? Right?!?!

Make no mistake regarding the content of the film though, this is all delivered fairly smoothly. Ginger Snaps is not some dry biology study. First and foremost a quick-witted horror-comedy.

Despite its clever appropriation of Werewolf’s as a metaphor for female puberty, it is still an piece of entertainment designed for horror fans- not just feminist theorists. The sharp dialogue alone is proof enough of this. To my mind, Ginger Snaps true success is that is a film largely made by women, about women but for everyone.

Oh, and one final note. Ginger Snaps features a TERRIBLE looking Werewolf. The film was low budget, and it is nearly 15years old. So that is kind of understandable, but really it is craptacular. Even so, as with many special effects these days it is still more engaging to watch this awful prop wobble on camera than any form of CGI. This is of course an old argument in film circles, but it’s still a point worth repeating; there is just no substitute for charm. Particularly in horror comedies.

Hungry like the wolf

Anyhoo, that’s enough about Ginger and Brigitte. Unless I choose to write about the undervalued sequel of course… meh,maybe. But probably not the so-so prequel.

Next Time I’ll be writing about Rooby Rooby Roo.

Thanks for reading,

MJ

BLOG: YTC_Hollyweird: Episode XVIII: Holy Shat!

Follow me on Twitter: @You_Total_Cult.

In the short term, the YTC podcast can currently be found at http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/youtotalcult/

BLOG PIC

The blog below was under an older name of Hollyweird. I have kept the numbering the same so that I could keep track of my posts, but this is where it all begin back in the heyday of 2012…

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Throughout my years I, like many of us, have been involved in the ‘Who are you most like from [INSERT TV SHOW HERE]’ conversation. At different cultural stages I have been a Leonardo from TMNT, a Chandler from Friends and a Mike from Spaced. Most recently I am apparently a Leonard from The Big Bang Theory. Aside from the ability to occasionally pick up women out of my league, I don’t really see the comparison myself. Then again, I am not particularly socially inept, Indian or Jewish, so being a geeky four-eyes is all that’s really left.

The success of The Big Bang Theory has helped to present geek culture in a more sympathetic light, presenting the nerds as plucky underdogs with a lot to learn about real life. Clearly The Big Bang nerds are huge stereotypes and loaded with foibles, but for the most part they are a distinctly likeable bunch. A film from over a decade ago attempted a similar such feat, but with decidedly mixed results. In fact, as opposed to the clueless, pleasant nerds from the B.B. gang, 1999’s Free Enterprise presented its own nerdy-protagonists as socially smooth but hard to connect to. Let’s beam on over and take a gander…

 

freeenterprise

The plot for Free Enterprise can be pretty much boiled down to this; two lifelong friends and Trekkies, Mark and Robert, are worried about their lives. They each juggle unfulfilled film careers with disappointing love lives. As Mark approaches 30, he is concerned that his best days are past him with little to show for it except a comfortable lifestyle. Meanwhile Robert needs to learn to accept responsibility or else face a future of poverty and one-night stands.

A chance meeting leads them to encountering Mr. William Shatner. Seeking their heroes wisdom, they slowly realise that Captain Kirk is perhaps not as smart or cool as they had hoped- in fact, he’s pretty much f’n mental. Shatner’s goal is to put on a one-man play of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar as a musical. This, despite the innate challenge of then having to stab himself in the back….

Can the Trekkies learn to grow up via/despite Shatner’s advice? Can Shatner get his project off the ground? I’m sure you can all guess.

Call me Captain, dammit!
Call me Captain, dammit!

The paper-thin plot really does not matter all that much. This is a character-driven comedy, after all. Actually, I don’t believe that I mentioned Free Enterprise is a comedy, but hopefully the summary of Shatner’s theatrical ambition gave it away. Then again, with the real William Shatner any scheme is possible.

Beating the clichés of The Big Bang Theory by a good decade, the two central protagonists in Free Enterprise are not socially-inept misfits at all. Sure, both Robert and Mark have huge life problems to confront concerning those old stalwarts of companionship and finances. But these problems are nothing beyond those that a heck of a lot of the world’s population face. Avoiding stereotyping, Robert is a full on lady killer. He bounces from lover to lover with all manner of different kinky indulgences hinted at. Robert even has a drinking buddy that he shares threesomes with, the too-too-cool-for-school Sean, played by Swingers Patrick Van Horn.

“Superfan 99, on the left”

Similarly, the more grounded Mark is incapable of getting emotionally close to women, but he is not incapable of getting dates with them. Mark may not be a full on party monster like Robert, but he comes across as a believable guy simply too wrapped up in his own ego to love.

In this way the film is somewhat more believable than The Big Bang Theory or films like The 40 Year Old Virgin. Generally the comedy present in Free Enterprise is aimed at laughing along with the character’s dialogue or actions, rather than laughing at them for ‘not getting it’ in the wider world.

Rounding off the core characters is, of course, the one and only William Shatner. Ol’ Shatty plays himself- or at least a heightened, hard drinking, clumsy, porn-reading, parachuting version of himself. Shatner easily has the least screen time of the main characters. In fact he is virtually relegated to occasional cameos. Still, much like Adam West, Shatner has the ability to be astoundingly ridiculous and utterly deadpan within the same breath and consequently steals most of the film. Shatner may be a terrible actor but he sure is a wonderful presence.

Oh, and did I mention that he raps Shakespeare’s Julius Ceaser in it? That should be a golden selling point in itself as far as sheer Hollyweird value goes.

Big Willy Style

Still, if all of this makes Free Enterprise sounds like some fun-filled geek-romp that paints nerds in a glowing light, then you have my apologies. You’ve been misled! (Or is that misread?) Free Enterprise misfires in many areas, and has its enjoyment factor seriously hampered by it.

As refreshing as Mark and Rob’s depiction as nerds is, the surrounding characters are incredibly lazily presented. Mark and Rob’s friends are as follows; black nerd, Jewish nerd, silent nerd, meek nerd and nerd who cannot get laid. I’m not even entirely sure that they have names. Though ‘black nerd’ is played by the vastly underrated comedian and voice actor Phil Lamaar. Lamaar voices one of this author’s favourite cartoon characters, Samurai Jack. Damn good job, Phil, damn good job!

aku
R.I.P. Mako

As lazy as the friends of Mark and Rob are presented, the depiction of women in the film is far worse. With one exception, the women within the film are either reduced to sexual objects or depicted as heartless/thoughtless creatures.

I should note that to my mind Free Enterpriseis not overt or misogynist by design. Woman kind is not directly insulted within the film. Instead it seems to be more of a case of the screen writers not knowing how to present women beyond being dumb, beautiful or bitchy. The worst part about this is that a major part of the film revolves around Rob finding his ideal woman, Trisha.

"Is that a rolled-up wad of Myler bags or are you just please to see me?"
“Is that a rolled-up wad of Myler bags or are you just please to see me?”

Trisha is stunning and nerdy, smart and independent. These traits should make Trisha the most positive character in the film. She should represent a shattering of both female and nerd stereotypes in one fell swoop. Yet instead she is presented as a ‘token ideal’ form of womanhood, and not even remotely realistically as her own person. We never learn what she does or what motivates her, and in fact she repeatedly lets Rob pay for everything despite his established money issues. Finally, she dumps him when he loses his job.

Now in both Trisha’s and Free Enterprise’s defence, Trisha does have a speech about how breaking up with Rob has nothing to do with money and has everything to do with Rob’s attitude. Yet Trisha still crops up throughout the entirety of Free Enterprise as a perfect, sexual fantasy character when the film requires it, and is then subsequently dismissed when Rob is at his lowest.

Once again this is most likely due to paper-thin writing and poor-acting rather than an attempt to present women in a bad light. Unfortunately, by making the one strong female role seem as deep and believable as puddle made of anti-matter, Free Enterprise paradoxically ends up doing a terrible disservice to real female geeks. Regardless of its quite-possible good intention to show that beautiful women can be geeks too, it all it achieves is showing that women are blank slates that look good in their underwear and not worth the time to actually flesh out.

She’s got red on her

(Maybe now is a good time to pint out that the writer and director behind this movie are called Mark A. Altman and Robert Meyer Burnett. Is Free Enterprise just Wish fulfilment at the expense of everything else, perhaps…?)

The secondary major problem with Free Enterprise is that so many of the comedic deliveries are just off. Rafer Weigel, playing Rob, is believably immature and handsome. So his casting as a childish Womaniser is actually strong in a dramatic sense. But he is simply not very funny. Meanwhile Patrick Van Horn seems to be present for stunt-casting purposes. He is almost identical to his character of Sue in Swingers and really has very little purpose here.

Channelling his inner Kirk
Channelling his inner Kirk

In fact aside from the excellent use of Shatner, the only other true saving grace of the film is Eric McCormack of Will & Grace fame. He actually has excellent comic timing which is pretty damn important in a comedy! Sadly even McCormack is let down by the fact that he comes across as so un-likeable for large stages of the movie. The character of Mark puts people down constantly which works for someone like Bill Murray or Woody Allen because their appearance means they need a defence mechanism. Actors like that playing roles akin to Mark’s merely come across as smart but insecure. However, from a tall, good looking actor like McCormick, Mark’s comments just seems cruelly condescending.

Where there’s a Will, there’s a way

As quite the geek myself, I would love to love Free Enterprise more. It is packed with great moments (the Logan’s Run gag is truly inspired) and a lot of the pop-culture dialogue crackles along nicely. I particularly love the times that characters quote other moves with no clarification of where they are stealing from. You either get the line or you don’t, just like in real life geek conversations.

Oh, and of course it has a F’N RAPPING WIILIAM SHATNER IN IT!!!

It is just a shame that Free Enterprise falls apart over teeny-tiny aspects like, um, its casting and characterisation. Regrettably, the success of the few bits are outweighed by the flaws of the many.

Next time we will all laugh whilst we can, monkey men!

Thanks for reading,

-MJ