July 23, 2017

Girls Trip Movie Experience

First of all: This is not a spoiler!

Last night my friends and I went to the theater to see the new movie Girls Trip. When the trailer first premiered several months ago, I was a little apprehensive. I thought it would be too much, too over the top and just inorganic humor. I was with a guy friend and the trailer came on, at the end of it he was silent and unmoved by the humorous clips. He didn’t get it. I immediately felt like I had to say what I said: “Oh that looks so extra!” and he agreed. I don’t know why I said that even though I found the trailer to be funny. One of my co-workers brought up the interesting point: When has there ever been a mainstream movie featuring 4 black women in the lead roles? Never. That closed the case for me. Plus, I saw a couple more trailers and it grew on me. I’m not going to spoil to the movie, but I just want to talk about the energy I felt at the theater.

The movie started at 7:30 and I arrived at 7:25, I’m always late! I ended up parking like a half mile away from the theater because the parking lot was just that full. All day I had been reading about how theaters across the country were quickly selling out of tickets for the movie. I sent my friend a text earlier in the day and asked her to buy my ticket so that they wouldn’t sell out before we could get our tickets. Luckily she did, because the showing eventually sold out! As I was taking the hike up to the theater entrance, I saw an array of black women making the trek with me. All of us were different, some were in small groups, large groups, family groups and some even had on matching t-shirts. At this point I was alone since my friends were already inside. I always take a visual note of my surroundings wherever I am. Somehow I felt that we (the ladies that were walking up to the theater) were all together even though we were all apart. We were spread out so there wasn’t any spatial closeness, it was different. I’m not saying it was spiritual, but there was an air of something. I felt that even in the parking lot. From old to young, light to dark, single, married, in heels, in flats and everything in between, we were just women coming together to see this movie.

Fast forward a bit...I eventually get to my seat with my friends (one of whom managed to sneak in Wendy’s but I’m not telling), the theater was literally packed with hardly any room to spare. My quick visual survey of the room revealed that 98% of the attendees were women and about 95% of them were black. After about 10 minutes of trailers (which I found enjoyable except for the Pitch Perfect 3 one, can those movies die already??!?!), the movie started. As soon as the lights went dim, I smelled a familiar scent--Wendy’s chicken nuggets. The movie is a comedy so of course there were lots of laughs, but it’s the laughter that’s different.

A woman’s laughter is of a different caliber, I’d argue. It’s a sound of freedom, in a world that wants us to be poised and put together at all times. It’s a moment of release and pleasure of the soul. I saw women throwing their hands up as if the screen had just delivered a room shaking sermon. When there was a questionable moment we all collectively said “Hmph, that’s what he said the last time”, when something angered us we shook our heads and turned to our friends in disbelief, when something so outrageously funny tickled us to death the “OMG I can’t believe how crazy funny this is” as we held our stomachs and opened our mouths wide to fill the air with that joyous sound.

Girls Trip is a great movie, but I think the energy of seeing it in the theater was the best thing of all. I cannot remember the last time I have seen a movie that made me feel so good inside. For me, one of the most important aspects of a movie is the viewing experience. Even if the movie is good, a bad viewing experience can change everything. Anyway, I’m so glad that this movie was able to bring women together in such a positive way. Seeing not only the four main cast members having a great and liberating time, but the extras and the supporting roles were women that looked like us. All shapes, complexions, backgrounds, it felt like we were watching our friends. The movie ended with the cast on screen dancing down the street in a second line and the women in the theaters started to dance right along with them. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that we are from Louisiana and maybe our bodies magically tune into the rhythm and start to dance, but still it was a collective effort. We all understood it, no one looked weird or stared in disgust, it was just understood. What’s better than just simply being understood?

If you haven't seen the movie in theaters, I highly suggest that you do! Don't forget to get your tickets early, because they sell out fast. It's an experience you don't want to miss. If you have seen it, how did it make you feel? Did you enjoy the movie? Did you notice any of the things I mentioned? What was your favorite part?

February 26, 2017

Why Hidden Figures Shouldn't Win an Oscar...

...For Best Adapted Screenplay.

This winter some of the most pivotal movies about the black experience came to theaters: Hidden Figures, Fences, and Moonlight. All of these movies grew to be culturally and historically important films. Out of these three in my opinion Hidden Figures was the weakest and most inaccurate. Frankly, it was a PR video for NASA. I dislike when oppressed people get a chance to tell their true stories but they turn into watered down events of what really happened. The movie was based on a non-fiction novel by Margot Lee Shetterly. Shetterly spent lots of time researching in order to write the story about the black women who had been pushed into the background. Here's where the translation gets watered down. The novel was then adapted for the screen by Theodore Melfi and Allison Schroeder. Both are relatively new screenwriters and between the two of them they have written/co-written 4 major films. Now that's not to say that due to their lack of film writing credits they're bad writers, but Hidden Figures was lacking. I think if you read the book by Shetterly, you'd be more inclined to agree with me. Earlier I mentioned that the movie seemed like a PR spin for NASA and most likely it was. Schroeder interned for the company and her grandparents also worked for NASA. Why would someone with such close ties to them want to be completely forthcoming about what was happening behind closed doors? I believe it would've been more realistic to have someone with fresh, unbiased eyes co-write the screenplay. I think they were too focused on making it a cozy movie rather than a realistic movie, which is a slap in the face to the people who endured it. I have to mention one of the most glaring inaccuracies of the movie came from the climax. (spoiler alert) Costner's character learns that Taraji P. Henson's character has to run a mile across the NASA campus just to use the 'colored restroom'. His reaction to this is to physically break the barrier between whites and blacks by tearing down the "whites only" sign. Maybe this really did happen for a day. But what about the next day? In Virginia it was illegal to have whites and blacks use the same restrooms. Do you think no one complained about someone going against the law? It just happened and everyone accepted it? Their biases about black people just went away as soon as that sign came down and they were all content. Hmm...

I have a bone to pick with you Pharrell and Hans Zimmer. Both of you are music veterans, yet the score for this movie was deplorable. The move was set in the 1960s, yet the music was fit for 2016. During the first scene, I leaned over to my friend and said, "Are you hearing this?" And I really hoped that it was just an opening scene attention grabber but nope! I think this took away from the movie and downplayed the tone of the time period. All in the movie was too docile, things just seemed to happened and everything that happened was resolved. No more discrimination, segregation, racism, sexism, it was all resolved because they put a man into space. 

I do think the acting was nice, but the writing and the score ruined it for me. The actors should not be penalized for those flaws. I think all of the actors did a splendid job but I don't see how Octavia Spencer was nominated for her performance. I want to see her do something else besides play the "mama" figure. In comparison to her performance in The Help, this performance was very lackluster. I thought Janelle Monae was an absolute standout and should've been nominated instead. I was glad to see Taraji P. Henson in a different role, she did an amazing job! I was also glad to see Mahershala Ali as her love interest. Kevin Costner was a great fit for his role, as was Jim Parsons. Kirsten Dunst surprised me because she looked so...much older and so bitter, which was fitting for her part.

I know the movie was an inspiration to many women, young and old. However, I cannot look over the fact that this was watered down to make us/the audience feel cozy. I just wanted better writing, deeper writing. It's not that I wanted everyone to feel disturbed or sad, I wanted the real experiences, I wanted to feel something more. I felt like there was an erasure of emotion, too. The only time the main women became emotional was when it dealt with something going wrong at NASA. Yes, we are strong, resilient but still human. Maybe I'm nitpicking....*shrugs* What did you guys think about the movie, specifically the writing?

January 7, 2017

Trichotillomania and Me

I want to start off by saying that this is something I’ve kept to myself for years and years. I’ve never really been open or vocal about it to anyone, not even my family. Over the past few weeks I’ve built up my confidence in regards to discussing it and hopefully I can help someone else. Here’s to strength and overcoming!

When I was 8, my family and I moved to a new neighborhood in a new part of town. I was happy but of course, I was a shy kid. My 3rd grade year at my new elementary school was fine, I met new friends, my classmates were really diverse and interesting, and I excelled academically. Still it was a unsettling experience to be somewhere new. The next year, I remember the teasing increased and my confidence decreased. I don’t remember the exact day I started pulling, but since then I’ve been pulling.

Trichotillomania is a disorder where you compulsively pull or pick your hair. Common areas are the scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes, arms, legs and underarms. It can be caused by many different factors such as stress, anxiety, depression or even just boredom. I believe I started pulling due to being teased and also being bored. I don’t remember the day I started pulling but I know it started at school. In order to ignore my reality and distract myself I’d pull. It gave my hands something to do, it gave my mind an alternate route, it gave me something to focus on besides my school reality. I’d pull my eyebrows and arm hair. I loved my scalp hair too much to even consider pulling it and I rarely pulled at home because my home life was amazing and I was never bored. My 4th grade school picture shows me with patchy, barely there eyebrows. A couple years after I started pulling at school, I started pulling at home because it was a habit. I was also a pre-teen and very hormonal so many things set my emotions off. My parents hid tweezers and fingernail clippers from me because I’d use them to pull my brows and lashes, but I still had my fingers! I’d still pull but I tried to hide it from them, even though it was noticeable. When I didn’t have brows, I would always try to beat people to the punch when it came to discussing them. I always make sure to mention the fact that I was browless so they wouldn’t notice or ask “Where are your eyebrows?!”

About 6 or 7 years ago, I was working with someone and we were talking casually. She mentioned the fact that she had trichotillomania. I had no clue that what I had been doing for years had an actual name or that it was a disorder. Once she described it to me, I immediately said, “I have that too!!”. I was so happy that I met someone who pulled just like me. I didn’t feel as weird or crazy. As I said before, I have kept it to myself because it is embarrassing. When I was pulling I felt invisible, I felt like I was in my own world, I thought no one could see me but of course that wasn’t the case. When I was in middle school someone confronted me about my pulling. She asked me, “What’s wrong with your brows? Why do you pull them? Doesn’t it hurt?” I felt like a Martian. I felt like that weird kid that everyone avoids because they’re weird. I realized that everyone could see me and I tried so hard to not pull anymore because I was 13 and the last thing I wanted to be was weird...Unless weird was cool. At the time it wasn’t. Note: School was the only place where I’d pull publicly. I’ve never pulled around my friends and I don’t pull publicly at all anymore.

When you mention “hair pulling” or “skin pulling” people are instantly repulsed. They start to get ideas about your cleanliness, your sanity, and even if you’re a good person or not. I’m not a psychopath, sociopath nor mentally unstable, I just pull hair. This is why I don’t talk about it. I’ve read the rude, insensitive comments and I’ve heard them in person. I have many other flaws and this one just added to the pile.

Fast forward to today, 12 years later. Due to the fact that my body produces extra testosterone (thanks body!), I have a little more facial hair than average. It’s not extremely noticeable but it’s there. If I just so happened to touch my face and felt a hair, I’d immediately start picking. About a month ago, I decided I wasn’t going to pull. I want eyebrows and I want lashes. I don’t want to pull or pick. I’m no longer in the place I was all those years ago and I do it now purely out of habit and still sometimes boredom. I used a hair removal facial cream to rid of all the hair on my face (excluding my brows and lashes) so I won’t pull them. I went cold turkey and although I have pulled a few stray brow hairs, I haven’t done a mass pull in a month. Everyday I look and the mirror and I’m in awe, I want to cry because I finally have brows, something I haven’t had since I was a child. It has taken *so much* willpower for me to get to this point and I am so proud of myself! I am surprised that I stopped pulling so quickly. It scares me because I don’t know what to do if I start to pull again. How do I get back to the place of not pulling? I’m just going to take it a day at a time and continue to pat myself on the back whenever I get through another day. I still pull my lashes, but I’m working on it. I definitely don’t pull my lashes as much as I pulled my brows. Still...

Although this is not all the complete details in regards to my trichotillomania, this is the meat and potatoes. As I said, it’s still a sensitive subject for me and going into the nitty gritty details would have me very uncomfortable.

If you’re going through trich, there are lots of support groups out there. There’s an Instagram and Facebook page and countless websites. I’d also be so happy to hear from you and about your experiences with pulling. I have heard that therapy and medication have helped but I’m not sure if there’s one true cure. Whatever the remedy may be, I think it’s all in the mind over matter. You’re only going to stop when your mind and body are ready and that’s okay! Way easier said than done, I know. I have a long way to go, but everyday I hope I’m getting closer to becoming an ex-puller.