Change and culture

So i suppose fair warning to my ‘readership’ this piece touches on issues of gender and culture and expresses views that some members on the left might find – regressive.

– The Brave Bothan

So today something happened – Certainly a thing that I didn’t find comfortable or endearing in the slightest; but I would like to put it here to provoke thought.

Annually the organisation that I work for hold a series of training seminars to ensure that employees are up to date on what management consider to be corporate culture for the firm. For the last half a decade or so these have necessarily included a section or two on gender and gender politics both within and without the workplace.  I attended one such seminar today – and was caught in one of the most uncomfortable intellectual and moral positions I have ever been in.

A senior executive was giving a seminar on gender perspectives – with the outcome being mostly advocating for an undefined increase in awareness of cis gender perspectives, which was annoying in and of itself. During the course of this seminar the executive shared an anecdote about a consultation with foreign nationals that the firm had been involved with. It was a shelter development project for impoverished peoples as part of a government sponsored aid program.

A design consultation session had been held with all the tribal elders of the region – who due to the region’s gender politics were all male. After the completion of the consultation session the firm built the shelters to specification. The flaws were apparent only after completion of the program – these shelters lacked a kitchen…

Corporate embarrassment aside – the executive at this point made the quip that if only one single woman had been involved with the planning process this glaring oversight surely would have been rectified…. as women inherently solve these types of domestic problems…..

My heart veritably broke.

Here was a senior executive member of the firm not only committing a correlation/ causation fallacy – which is embarrassing and horrific enough in and of itself – but ostensibly under the auspices of promoting gender equality she was committing such a fallacy without realizing the ways in which she was confirming negative gender stereotypes.

I honestly didn’t know what to do – Any attempt I could have made to publicly correct her concept of gender relations and roles would have only served to diminish the overall intent of the seminar. But failure to correct such regressive and patriarchal stereotypes would be to allow those values to suffuse the outcomes of the seminar.

I was caught – trapped but the desire not only to not rock the corporate boat and undermine a senior executive – but also completely and painfully aware that by saying nothing I was allowing a whole room full of people, representing all facets of the company, to take in and perhaps internalize and unknowingly regressive stereotype.

To my shame at the time of writing I stayed silent.

Despite realizing at the time what had been said and knowing it’s impact I couldn’t muster the courage to fight for the cause the way it ought to have been. I stayed silent – not wanting to undercut, however righteously and senior executive.

The gender stereotypes we have been raised with are insidious in the way they influence our thinking – even when we think to champion the cause we are subject to our own fallibility. I believe that the human giving the brief had every intention of championing a positive case for gender equality they just fell victim to ingrained concepts of gender roles.

I elected to join this human’s committee to try and  shape the way my organisation views and interacts with concepts of gender.

But this doesn’t make me feel better about my cowardice.

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The Good Side of Bad

So I was flicking through the rather extensive selection of film analysis channels I subscribe to on YouTube the other day – when a previously unnoticed commonality occurred to me. The proprietors of all these channels were horror movie fans. This seemed strange to me –I have certainly always felt that there were not a great many people passionate about Horror as a genre. My experience has always been that it was a struggle to find people to enjoy a good scary movie with. However my selection of YouTube channels seemed to suggest differently. Now at this stage I must stress I have never searched YouTube for horror specific content – not trailers not analysis nothing. All of my film analysis channels had been found on the back of their intellectual rigor – not on common interests at a genre level.

 Now I don’t mean to create unnecessary sectarian thought in the world – but I don’t think it to be a particularly contentious thesis to forward the notion Horror is a largely underappreciated genre or at the very least still considered ‘niche’.
I wanted to spend some time today expounding upon my take on reasons you might like to try a Horror film if you have yet to do so.

1) They come from a moral history – Now despite appearances the history of the modern horror film actually is ne of teaching moral lessons. Much like the darker Grimm Fairy Tales of yore the re-emergent horror boom of the 70’s and 80’s, which began with the success of Halloween, was founded on traditionally Christian principles. In fact, within the Horror subculture rather a great deal of fun is poked at the fact that the sure-fire way to know who will die in a film of this era is to see who engages in recreational drug use or premarital sex. This tradition stretches as far forward as the 2013 remake of ‘The Evil Dead’ where the main character’s drug use is used to both literally and allegorically mask her possession by the devil. In traditional film and story telling we are expected to identify with the protagonist and inherit his/ her moral code. In Horror – we are meant to see the actions of the victims as cautionary tales of morals not to enact or inherit. This level of moral story telling is largely absent from modern film making – which is rather a shame given the rich history that cautionary tales have within the wider human culture. From The Little Mermaid’s feet feeling like walking on glass – to Santa beating you with a cane if you were naughty story telling in the modern era would lose a great deal if we sacrificed the horrific.

2) They are a test bed for new directors – Horror has survived into the modern era because it is very cost effective. I cannot overstate how cheap horror films can be to make by compassion to the goliath budgets of the summer blockbusters of The MCU. As a result of this directors that get brought on by studios with little experience are often given these smaller projects to helm and cut their teeth on. A perfect modern example of this is James Wan. Do you like the riveting return to form of Furious 7? Thanks James Wan’s excellent directorial skills for that. James started his studio film making career with the first three instalments of the Saw franchise. He continues with Insidious, Sinister and The Conjuring. All of these films were financial smash hits. So he was given the reigns of a much larger and weighty project – Furious 7. This is not an uncommon career trajectory. Sam Raimi made his name on the original Evil Dead franchise and was given the Toby Maguire Spider-Man run as a result of his successes. If you want to see great directors given the opportunity to shine – support the horror genre. Film is becoming increasingly expensive and studios are not willing to back unknown quantities. Increasingly consumers need to vote with their wallets and horror films provide us a way to taste test a director’s skill at low risk to the studios. If we start supporting this under-loved genre we may see a commensurate rise in great directors as we allow them more chances to show off their creative flair.

3) They help develop a health relationship with fear – Horror films are primarily about making the audience feel as disempowered as the victim characters. Their success relies, largely, on the audience buying in to the narrative stakes of the script enough to feel genuine fear for these characters on screen – or even – fear at the possibility that the reality they are seeing might be one with that which they are living. This sits in stark contrast with the norm within the modern film industry. All too commonly films are about creating false fantasies of empowerment within the audience. Without sometimes being reminded of the stark contrast between these empowerment fantasies and how genuinely disempowering reality can be it is easy to understand where anxiety and fear can creep into one’s psyche. The horrifying truth of modern life is largely one of disempowerment. We continually interact with corporations far larger than ourselves for most of the basic amenities of life and as anyone who has ever come afoul of such a corporate entity can tell you – being held to ransom for water or power by an uncaring unflinching corporation is genuinely disempowering. Horror helps us normalise these fear in the same way the ancient Greeks normalised failure through the tragic play. This historic tradition is again one we should seek in large part to preserve as it helps to normalise the more frightful and precarious parts of our existence.

These are just a small smattering of the reasons I think that horror should be given far more credit than it currently receives. I have been in love with the genre for the large majority of my life and I hope that if you haven’t that this piece has helped shed some light onto why some people choose to explore the darker side of things.

 

Our Inner Child

So recently I have found myself happily involved with rather a remarkable human. This person challenges me emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. They are in a great many way my equal or better and I have spent the last period of my life being rather enthralled by the everyday challenge of rising to this new level of potential they have helped define.

I still remember our first outing – a 6 hour stroll through the cultural district of my city. Exchanging banter and intellectual observations on arts from all eras. This has been rather the tone of the relationship thus far – one of intellectual curiosity and exchange.  It would be in all this – incredibly easier to lose touch with what I consider to be my more joyous side. Not that intellectualism doesn’t bring me joy in it’s own way (or else why would I write this blog for fun) but I do acknowledge that intellectualism can be quite dry at times – and those overly disposed to it’s use equally so. One of the things that I have most enjoyed about the company I have recently kept is the ability to lapse at will back and forth through both the joyously childish self and the more reserved intellectual self.

This has caused me to ponder on the importance of childish joy in the everyday.

I have pondered at length differences in people and particularly how we see them reflected in media. One of the key divisions this pondering ass fixed upon is the emergence of ‘gritty’ media as synonymous with adult media. This can be most easily seen in the tonal differences between ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Torchwood’ and ‘The Flash’ and ‘Arrow’. In both cases the former is the more childishly joyous franchise and the latter the grittier franchise.

All 4 series continually deal with themes of heroism and sacrifice – they all cover off on an extensive range of human emotions; many of which are thoroughly within the negative range. All 4 shows seek to take their audiences on an emotional journey with the characters.

I have always found this to be accomplishable with Doctor Who and The Flash – but rarely so with Torchwood and Arrow. Despite many similarities in production values and target audiences the latter two franchise lack a critical element for me – the heart that childish joy brings to the more successful franchises.

It is in our most dire moments – when the stakes are the highest ( as they frequently are in all 4 series) that joy is the most useful and integral to my personal image of humanity. The fresh joy of our inner child – the dawning curiosity and inner laughter it finds in almost every new situation is what pulls us through our most trying times and helps bring light to even our bleakest moments.

Both the Flash and The Doctor manage to showcase this – in the case of The Doctor sometimes literally as a child – both series show us wisecracking heroes and casts who use humor to lighten the mood when everything else seems dire. Arrow and Torchwood, by comparison, feature an excess of brooding and melancholy.

This same dichotomy is more than likely behind the failure of the DCEU vs the Marvel EU. The former once again feeling like a largely humorless and gritty place whilst the latter manages to capture the elusive but very real and very very necessary childish inner joy that grounds our reality.

So next time you are facing a situation that seems a little more than you are capable of handling just remember the abiding value of joy –  you don’t need to laugh at your circumstances but I guarantee you that in no situation has all light gone from the world – you can always find something to laugh at, something to inspire a fresh sense of wonder in your heart. celebrate-954784_960_720