This semester I’m taking a class from the University of Arizona Humanities Seminars1 (once a week classes for old people for no credit, presented by professors), Scandalous Females in Film, taught by Mary Beth Haralovich, Ph.D.2 (film and television historian).
In previous semesters I have taken Climate Change3, Classic Comedies of European Theatre4, Twentieth Century Art Movements4, Utilitarianism: The Greater Good?5 What’s Bugging You: Insects and Culture6, Nobel Laureates of Literature7,8, and Gotta Sing! Gotta Dance!9,10
Last week, for early film melodrama and the conventions of femininity, we were to have viewed a silent film from 1915 by Cecil B. DeMille, The Cheat. (There are youtubes of most of the films, and the others I’ve ordered from the library or netflix.) We watched a few shorts in class. If the hapless female got caught up in “white slavery” (prostitution) or sex outside of marriage, she was saved at the last minute, thus teaching the women in the audience not to be dumb.
Love: A temporary insanity curable by marriage.
For this week, the independent woman: resisting the companionable couple, we are to have screened A Free Soul (Norma Shearer), who gets saved from the bad guy (Clark Gable!) by her father (Lionel Barrymore, who won an Oscar for his performance), but (spoiler alert) still doesn’t marry the good guy (Leslie Howard, who you probably remember as Ashley Wilkes from Gone with the Wind). Our readings for this are about Romantic Love, and The Love Goddess.
For net week, teen moms and 3rd wave feminism, we are to see either Juno, which won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 2007 (and which I just watched, about a pregnant teen and her decision to have the baby and give it up for adoption – it’s called a comedy-drama) or Precious.
I read the book, Push, by Sapphire, and the character’s plight was so horrible, being raped by her father, having learned neither to read nor write, and having an abusive mother, even if it does have a somewhat hopeful ending, that I hadn’t originally wanted to see the movie, but I got it. The movie won the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, Academy Awards for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for Mo’Nique (who is a stand-up comedian, but plays the mother from hell), and Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay for Geoffrey Fletcher (who became the first African American to win a Best Screenplay Oscar) as well as many other awards. The film was was produced by Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry.
I found it interesting that the nerdy dad in Juno is played by J. K. Simmons who plays the foul-mouthed, abusive music instructor, Terence Fletcher, in Whiplash, which I saw over the weekend at the Loft (and was at Sundance last year, and is nominated for five Academy Awards , including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor for Simmons, and Best Adapted Screenplay). I did a double take when I saw him in Juno, and had to look on the credits to make sure that it was the same person.
Commentary from Sunday’s New York Times regarding The Manners of Downton Abbey: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/18/style/better-check-the-beds-edwardians.html?_r=0
And on a different tack, also from the times, Flesh of my Flesh, about Bat Sheva Marcus, an Orthodox Jewish sex counselor. (If you’re not well acquainted with ultra-Orthodox Jews, they have many similarities to Muslims. The women have to cover up, although not with a burka or niqab in the United States, but they do cover their faces in some other countries. They have to walk behind their husbands. They are separated in the temple. Unmarried men and women should not touch each other. Marriages are arranged – although Jews are only allowed one wife – and so on.)
The Talmud “indicates that during marital relations, the husband may not look at or kiss the wife’s makom ervah,” her private place, the manual warns. The lights should be off, a sheet should cover the couple, the position should be missionary — the wife is charged with keeping sex spiritual, keeping it chaste. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/25/magazine/the-orthodox-sex-guru.html
Fascinating that this exists in the US. But most Hasidic Jews do not watch television, go to movies, or read popular secular magazines. Guess that’s where we’re supposed to be informed.