Category Archives: Review

How Does Maggie Rogers Do It?

By Avery Serven

“Cut my hair so I could rock back and forth without thinking of you” might just be one of the most empowering musical lines to come our way. The phrase comes off the song “Alaska” from Maggie Rogers’s debut album, Heard It In A Past Life, which was released on January 18, 2019.

The 24-year-old singer-songwriter has been well-known in the alternative genre since the release of her first EP, Now That the Light Is Fading, in 2017. This EP captures Rogers while she is still a student at NYU, grappling to find her own voice in the sellout world of music. Songs like “Color Song” and “On + Off” show a style of music that is inspired by both folk and pop, with ethereal sounds highlighting her powerful voice.

Heard It In A Past Life moves away from this to signify a new stage in her life. Rogers deviates from her folk/indie roots to produce a record that sounds more like something from Haim or Sylvan Esso. The record seamlessly blends various themes together, such as maturity, heartbreak, and uncertainty. This allows for a personal connection between Rogers and her listeners. The result of this personal connection are songs that can only be described as being “uniquely Rogers.”

An echoing beat calls the listener to the dance floor, establishing Rogers’s distinctive sound in the first track off the album, “Give a Little.” Rogers’s raspy, yet strong, voice admits: “If I was who I was before / Then I’d be waiting at your door / But I cannot confess I am the same.” The upbeat background music, combined with Rogers’s melodic excitement about pursuing a new love, sets a tone for the album that is both nostalgic and hopeful for the future.

Rogers continues to show that she is not afraid of change in “Overnight,” a song about making peace with the fact that people change. “Overnight” is a great example of Rogers’s effortless key changes, which appear in almost all of her songs, giving her a distinctive and genuine sound. The song marks a time of transition in Rogers’s life, with her lyrics emphasizing an acceptance of the unknown.

Rogers’s music is so impressive that the listener should feel honored just to take part in it. This can be felt in “Say It,” a sultry tune about denying your romantic feelings for someone. The song manages to capture the tricky feeling of falling in love despite knowing that it may not be a good idea. A synthesizer beat with a futuristic sound, combined with Rogers’s silky voice sailing through the lyrics, gives the listener the privilege of feeling this emotion at Rogers’s level.

Maggie Rogers is a truly original artist, with both her voice and her words carrying beauty and honesty. She is no longer a young undergrad trying to find her path amidst a whirlwind of emotions. Rogers is mature and reflective now, honing a signature musical style that reveals that she has not necessarily moved past that whirlwind, but rather has come to embrace it.

The Parallels between The Handmaid’s Tale and the United States Today

By: Rachel Harmon

*Spoilers below*

While I may be late in the game to finally watch The Handmaid’s Tale, I am certainly glad I did. The Handmaid’s Tale is a Hulu original series based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel by the same name. This dystopian, fictional story centers around Offred, a handmaid, who is forced to bear children, as she is one of the very few women who is still fertile in her society. Offred defies her commander and stands up for herself to escape the horrible life in which she lives. The series presents many ideas that are strikingly similar to current issues surrounding women’s reproductive rights, such as: women fulfilling their “biological purpose” as bearers of children, and women degrading themselves to avoid the tortuous consequences of rebelling against patriarchy. These ideas are not farfetched, for there many governments around the world that subjugate women’s bodies and reproductive rights.

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It does not shock me anymore in our current social climate that some people would fall into the notion of following strict Conservative Christian values. The women in The Handmaid’s Tale were reduced to serving men and the home by being servants, gaining permission from their husbands to do anything, and being stripped of their jobs. This was only achieved by a huge following (mostly men) that would enforce this because the women had passions and jobs that were outside of strict Conservative Christian values. Thus, it was degrading and disgusting the way the men of the society treated the women since they were forced to completely change their way of life.

In addition to changing their way of life, the women were treated in the most horrifying ways I have ever seen on television. This treatment seemed counterintuitive, because the men were treating the handmaids as the lowest of all women, despite their being the only fertile women of their society, and in my opinion, the most valuable. You would think they would receive the best treatment, considering the circumstances, but no. The handmaids were raped, beaten, cattle pronged, isolated, and tortured. You would think the most valuable people in that society would be treated like royalty, but they were hardly treated like human beings. In Atwood’s society, the commanders trade the handmaids as commodities with other countries that do not have fertile women. The handmaids were only seen as concubines; once they give birth, they were sent to another family to start the process all over again.

The Handmaid’s Tale made me think about how women are treated today. We are still demeaned in our workspaces, cat-called in the street, and seen as sexual objects. It is ridiculous that we have to try more to be seen more, believed more, and heard more. Even though we are human beings, it is still like we are fighting to prove this to everyone.

In an article about the similarities between the TV show and today’s political climate, Jennifer Armstrong corroborates the notion that Margaret Atwood’s novel cannot be categorized as science fiction because it “mirror[s] the United States’ embrace of conservatism…as well as the increasing power of the Christian right and its powerful lobbying organizations” (Armstrong, 2018). Atwood’s novel confronts the United States’ concerns of “the rising political power of Christian fundamentalists, environmental concerns, and attacks on women’s reproductive rights” (Armstrong, 2018). These are no different than the concerns in 2019.

While The Handmaid’s Tale presents a scary alternate reality that seems removed from our current American society, it is not as strange as we might believe.

This is what truly scares me. Women have come so far in terms of living outside of the home and being their own individual person that it would be heartbreaking to see this progress all be for nothing. We cannot dismiss Atwood’s story as pure fiction because women are being oppressed by society now. We cannot be naïve as we watch this show, and more importantly, we cannot believe that this could never happen to the United States. It could, and we should be active in supporting organizations that will uphold abortion rights, access to equitable pay, contraceptives, and education. We cannot become complacent in believing that we are done fighting for our rights and we must continue to fight every day.

 

Sources:

Armstrong, Jennifer Keishin. “Culture – Why The Handmaid’s Tale Is so Relevant Today.” BBC News, BBC, 25 Apr. 2018, www.bbc.com/culture/story/20180425-why-the-handmaids-tale-is-so-relevant-today.

“Watch The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 1 | Prime Video.” Amazon, Amazon, www.amazon.com/dp/B073X7TYY2?tag=moviefone-20.

 

Ocean’s 8 Review

By Annie Jonas

Who knew that alcohol-scamming, jewelry-stealing, and the power of criminal sisterhood could be so inspiring?!

A few days ago, I saw Ocean’s 8, and let me tell you, I have never wanted to be a pick-pocket more in my life. Seriously, Awkwafina convinced the shit out of me. There is one scene where she’s in line at Subway with Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett, and she manages to steal not just one, but BOTH of their watches. Two watches! While ordering a turkey sandwich! That’s multi-tasking at its finest, if you ask me.

After re-reading my previous article on Ocean’s 8, I began to think a lot about the things that made this movie different from it’s older brothers (I am referring to the Ocean’s trilogy here). I realized that while there were differences, those differences did not necessarily mean “good” or “bad.” They just meant “different.”

To begin, I was surprised by the complete lack of violence in the film. I contemplated this for a long time because I wondered if the predominantly female cast dictated the extent of violence– or lack thereof. I thought about other female-lead films such as Atomic Blonde or Wonder Woman and the differences were striking. But then I began to think about the lack of violence as a statement, as a breach of what heist films are and can be. These women did not need guns or tanks to get their message across. All they needed was their intellect and careful planning (and the occasional Halal food truck turned computer hacking headquarters). Coming to that realization was refreshing, especially in a time where guns and violence infiltrate almost every aspect of our modern lives.

I spoke with Anto, our editor-in-chief, about the film and she made a good point about her hesitation towards the feminization of the film, specifically stating “I didn’t like the fact that the robbery had to be so ‘feminine,’” a.k.a., at the Met Gala. This was the second major difference I noted between Ocean’s 8 and the Ocean’s trilogy.

While the trilogy focuses on the grit and sleaze of casino culture in Las Vegas, Ocean’s 8 presents a more cosmopolitan, upscale, and glamorous culture of the elite. Sandra Bullock even emerges from prison in an evening gown, and then proceeds to shoplift expensive makeup from an upscale store (this was actually a very cool scene, especially for a wannabe-pick-pocketer). I agree with Anto that the film did take on an exaggerated feminization of sorts by making the heist a jewelry heist at the Met Gala. But, the film also emphasized the remarkable position women play within the world of the elite.

Anna Wintour, Heidi Klum, Serena Williams, and Kim Kardashian were just a few of the many cameos in the film. Regardless of the elitism, “feminization,” or superficiality of the world the film presents, we cannot forget that these women are leaders of empires, queens of the fashion, social, and sports industries.

Ocean’s 8 presents a “woman’s world,” so to speak, a world that is female-centric and female-dominated. The definition of “pussy power” sums up the film’s feminine energy nicely: “power as held by women, especially seen as coming from inherently feminine qualities or from female sexual allure.” It is important to see the femininity in the film as a source of power, not as a source of powerlessness.

“Five Years, Eight Months, And 12 Days” Is About How Long I’m Willing To Wait Until Female Narratives Become More Than Just “Female Versions”: Musings On Ocean’s 8

By Annie Jonas

The Ocean’s trilogy is kind of like Kim Kardashian’s kids. The first one arrived and you were completely thrown for a loop, utterly flabbergasted. It was as if you had been swept away (pun intended–– that was an ocean joke, FYI). Then, the second one arrived and you couldn’t stop wondering if a better name could have been used. By the third, you were just as exhausted and frustrated as Kim’s surrogate must have been after going through a long labor and still not getting invited to the baby shower. The trilogy, like many other film series, has its pros and cons that give it a rich and robust arena for praise and criticism.

Ocean’s 8, like the trilogy, also has its pros and its cons. The film received drastically polarized views from Ocean’s and non-Ocean’s fans alike. Two areas of debate which frequented many tweets and news articles concerned the film’s originality and intersectionality–– or lack thereof. These two categories piqued my interest, and they have inspired the following musings:

#1: Sandra Bullock described the film as a “parallel story” to the Ocean’s trilogy in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. I wonder, however, what is lost when we make “female versions” or “parallel stories” of films instead of creating entirely new narratives for women? While an all-female cast is enticing to a world that is dominated by men in both cinematic and social senses, the idea of a “female version,” “parallel story,” or “spin-off,” etc. places the female narrative as the male narrative’s shadow, as always existing within the silhouette of a masculine cinematic history. A “female version” places the all-male cast as the default and the all-female cast as the exception. Furthermore, Ocean’s 8 does not give women the breadth of complexity that female narratives need in cinema. Instead of creating a “spin-off,” why not create an entirely new heroine, one with a new trajectory, one who does not live in her brother’s shadow?

#2: The theatrical release poster features all 8 women standing fiercely against a bright red background looking off to the distance. Some have praised the poster for its badassery, while others have noted its racial placement of characters. Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, and Helena Bonham Carter are larger than Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, and Awkwafina, who are squished and much smaller than their white counterparts. Sarah Paulson is placed between Rihanna and Mindy Kaling to “make-up” for the clear racial divide.

Similarly, another photo release reveals the same racial placement.

Overall, Ocean’s 8 is a film that poses many important questions that are necessary to think about in an age of female resistance against sexism and androcentrism in Hollywood and beyond. I am intrigued to see the film and eagerly aw8 its release in June.

Her Body and Other Parties

Stories by Carmen Maria Machado
Reviewed by Anna Bottrell

Immersing myself in this book took a sharp adjustment of expectations, as at first I almost slipped into mistaking Carmen Maria Machado’s surreal style for a play on the absurd, a beautiful and precise craft where the meaning lies more in the sensation of the sentences than in their larger sum. However, almost violently, at the end of every story a clear vision sets itself into place. Additionally, the stories build throughout the book with their shared theme: women’s bodies. Who has them, who wants them, and what is it like to live in such prime real estate?

The stories cover topics such as dehumanization, objectification, sexual assault, queer and lesbian relationships, and body shame.

Instead of writing women’s experiences through dialogue, Machado paints a vivid portrait with her imaginative descriptions of a world that seems inside out. Its beating heart lies in scenery. Significance is revealed through physical manifestations, and so the body and mind express themselves as one — open to the senses for observation.

It struck me as interesting that few of these stories have an exact setting, in time or in space. They seem to emanate from an archive of common culture, rather than from the manifest world. The stories take familiar elements and setups, and they bind them into Machado’s psychologically thrilling surrealism. However, this borrowing does not make them predictable. When Machado manipulates a familiar scenario, she makes it her own. She does this with a folktale in her story “The Husband Stitch”, post-apocalyptic survival in “Inventory’, and even Law & Order: SVU in “Especially Heinous”. Machado’s voice feels like something that is filling gaps in perspective, something that was always necessary to add.

After reading Her Body and Other Parties , I can re-examine the bits and pieces of common culture that Maghado wove into her stories. As they were untouched, they seem off. Stale, surface level. When Machado writes, she sees her subject matter with a sense of refreshing clarity. A folktale I heard in my childhood may appear to me through her warped vision with a new grain of truth, and suddenly feel urgent and contemporary. It may suddenly feel important.

This book is important. Machado appears to agree. She writes as if to say, “This is the world underneath your world, the world you’ve been told to ignore; but, it exists”.

She drives this point home in the book’s first passage, with a wake-up slap of reverse psychology:

(If you read this story out loud, please use the following voices:
Me: as a child, high-pitched, forgettable; as a woman, the same.
The boy who will grow into a man, and be my spouse: robust with serendipity.

My father: kind, booming; like your father, or the man you wish was your father.
My son: as a small child, gentle, sounding with the faintest of lisps; as a man, like my husband. All other women: interchangeable with my own.)

She has my attention.

See this post in the Clarion magazine as well at bu.edu/clarion