Sameer Mishra may have won the 2008 Scripps National Spelling Bee, but he may be remembered even longer for his reaction to the judge’s pronunciation of a silly-sounding word.
Sameer was my second choice to win the competition: first was, of course, the competitor from Little Rock, Samia Nawaz. She’s even from the school where I attended preschool! Samia ended up tying for 4th place.
As much as I enjoy watching the competition, I have mixed feelings about reporters interviewing the spellers in between rounds. How can it not throw off their game? Also, when did they stop having to wear those identical polo shirts? And since when did PROPER NOUNS become acceptable for use in the competition? What’s the world coming to these days?
I haven’t read Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling memoir Eat, Pray, Love, because, frankly, everything I’ve read about it disgusts me. One day I may have to grit my teeth and plow through a library copy, though, so that when I mock, I can mock knowingly. For now, I’m entertained by travel writer Rolf Potts’ reimagining of the book with the characters’ genders reversed. He suggests that, with a male protagonist, readers would “react with hostility at such a self-absorbed, culturally oblivious and vaguely sexist narrative.”
Potts makes a few too many assumptions that Gilbert’s readers are women (which, statistically, is probably true, but he uses “women readers” in many cases where just plain “readers” would suffice), but his points are interesting, especially in relation to my recent reflections on gender in the Indiana Jones movies.
Comparing a past genre to Eat, Pray, Love, Potts describes the kind of books that (in movie form) were in fact a large part of the inspiration for the first three Indiana Jones movies:
“Around the middle of the 20th century, pulpy American men’s magazines published what has come to be known as ‘adventure porn’—breathlessly told tales that involved hairy-chested men fighting crocodiles, exploring rivers and surviving diseases in far-off lands. Women characters didn’t figure much in these stories, unless they were helpless victims, hot-blooded savage-vixens or hookers. Though this era of men’s travel writing has been ridiculed, these stories no doubt lent a sense of escape to the working stiffs who read them—men who weren’t likely to ever leave the country, but enjoyed the vicarious problem-solving that came with the pulpy adventure.”
How does this relate to Elizabeth Gilbert? Potts continues:
“The legacy of ‘adventure porn,’ I think, is not the kind of adventure writing you see in Outside magazine, but books like Eat, Pray, Love. Instead of wrestling crocodiles in distant lands, our protagonist wrestles despair; instead of exploring rivers, she explores emotions; instead of surviving disease, she survives heartbreak. Men occasionally appear in this survivor’s tale, but they are as one-dimensional as adventure-porn wenches, and mainly serve as a sounding board for the protagonist’s feelings. When these men are giving our heroine love and help, she gushes with admiration; when they can’t intuit her emotional needs, she reacts with despair (and vague contempt). Rarely does she ponder what—besides emotional availability to her—might motivate these men in day-to-day life.”
Unfortunately, Eat, Pray, Love is going to be made into a film—reportedly starring Julia Roberts. I suspect I’d rather see Indy 5.
This past week, Porpoise has continued to educate me in the ways of George Lucas by “encouraging” me to watch the first three Indiana Jones movies before going to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull over the weekend. I’m probably the only member of my generation who didn’t see the original three movies in the 1980s, and I can’t say I’ve felt deprived. I still don’t feel like I missed much, but at least I can understand the cultural influence of Lucas’s and Spielberg’s joint project.
Raiders of the Lost Ark felt overly long to me—and not all that exciting as an adventure. Maybe part of that is because I was bothered by the violence. Yes, it’s PG, but it’s the context of the violence that bothers me. You know that scene everyone thinks is so funny, the one in which the Arab swordsman challenges Indy with fancy sword-twirling, and Indy responds by shooting him dead? Not funny to me. Maybe it’s because I grew up reading fantasy stories with more medieval-style fighting, but Indy’s actions seem decidedly ignoble and cowardly to me. Plus, there’s the question of how, in the relatively modern 1930s, he gets away scot-free after killing so many people. I was also, of course, upset by the monkey’s death, even if said monkey turned out to be a Nazi collaborator. Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood was genuinely fun, but I have to think she could do better than Indy.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was, I think, the one Indiana Jones movie I had seen before, sometime during my teenage years, though I really didn’t remember anything except that it had Nazis in it. Fortunately, it also has Sean Connery, whose appearance as Indy’s dad makes the movie loads funnier and a little more touching than its predecessors. Also, seeing Last Crusade now, I can see how Dan Brown totally pilfered from it to concoct the aesthetic offense that is The Da Vinci Code.
My big problem with the series is with Indiana Jones’s character, who of course is convincing neither as an academic nor as an on-site archaeologist. He’s convincing as someone who is arrogant and thinks he’s an irresistible lady-magnet. The problem is that the films assume that he is an irresistible lady-magnet—which, to me, seems to reflect badly on Lucas’s and Spielberg’s view of women. I know they’re supposed to be referencing screwball comedies of the 1930s, but that doesn’t convince me. The hero of the screwball comedies is often a charming nerd, not a womanizing so-and-so. Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones—or his Han Solo, for that matter—could actually give George W. Bush a run for his money in an egotistical smirking contest, and that’s saying a lot. (Too bad Ford’s too old to play “W,” because he could probably do it well.)
The women themselves? Don’t get me started on Willie from Temple of Doom. In some ways, though, Last Crusade’s Elsa Schneider bothers me even more, because she’s supposed to be smart (she has a Ph.D., though the discipline is never clear), and yet her main function in the plot is sexual. (Look! I wore my best studying clothes to the library! I find tight suits, high heels, and perfectly curled hair so practical for a day of research, don’t you?) The gag in which Indy and his father find out that they’ve both slept with Elsa is mildly amusing, if you don’t think about the fact that it’s just assumed that she would automatically want to sleep with both of them. Beautiful, smart women are easy lays in the Indiana Jones world.
Anyway, now for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Because Indy’s older here (Ford is now 65), he does a lot less smirking. And less running and jumping, though still a lot of punching. I find the aging Indy a lot more tolerable (this film even finds him saying, “Intolerable!”, just like his ol’ dad). Plus, instead of emphasizing what essentially amounts to grave-robbing, the plot of Crystal Skull actually requires Indy to put something back where it belongs. Which is not in a museum.
The plot is, of course, over-the-top and campy, but I don’t have a big problem with that. I like the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, after all (all three of them), and I admit that I can see ways in which the Indiana Jones films might have paved the way for their tone. There are huge plot holes that are never addressed, though, mainly surrounding Cate Blanchett’s character Irina Spalko, a Soviet agent who supposedly possesses psychic powers. Why go to the trouble to announce that a character is psychic, though, if we never see her doing psychic-y things? Also, it never becomes clear specifically why, early in the movie, she thinks she needs a certain box from a U.S. military warehouse.
The most implausible aspect of the plot (in a movie that Lucas originally wanted to call “Indiana Jones and the Saucer Men from Mars”) is that Indy doesn’t realize that the “Marion Williams” that Mutt (Shia LaBeouf) claims as his mother is Marion Ravenwood. I mean, yeah, Indy says he knew a lot of Marions, but how many of them spend all their time hanging out with archaeologists? Anyway, Karen Allen is a joy as Marion, because she’s allowed to look her age and still be beautiful. Also, she’s clearly had a life after Indy, which is encouraging to see.
It’s not a great film by any means, but I can deal with Indiana Jones better when his ego’s been taken down a notch. Maybe I’d like it even better if they make Indy 5 (which Lucas has said would feature Mutt in the lead) when Harrison Ford is 80 years old. And in a wheelchair.
This is the only news I can think of that can console me for the seemingly imminent departure of David Tennant (when an Ood says to the Doctor, “Your song must come to an end,” it kinda seems like another regeneration is coming soon).
I love Steven Moffat’s writing, both in Coupling and in the Doctor Who episodes he’s done: “The Empty Child,” “The Girl in the Fireplace,” and, the best of them all, “Blink.” He knows how to structure an episode like no one else, and he comes up with some of the most memorable one-liners in the business: