The Carly Rae Jepsen video, Call Me Maybe is a painful example of the contortions a woman has to go through to express sexuality without being called a slut. She sees a beautiful man, and is physically pushed by her friends into trying to attract his interest, because she obviously can’t just go up to him. Then, ostensibly having attracted his attention through her zany sitcom shenanigans, she hands him her number, making it a point to say she’s not a slut and never does this (“I just met you / and this is crazy”), before handing him her number and pointedly ceding all future authority and activity to him (“so call me maybe”). Then she reiterates that she’s not a slut (“and all the other boys / try to chase me”). All so she can hit on the boy next door. One to ten she still gets called a slut.
Can a female character be a “brilliant, solitary, abrasive, Bohemian, whimsical, brave, sad, manipulative, neurotic, vain, untidy, fastidious, artistic, courteous, rude, polymath genius”? Well, I don’t see why not, and nor does Sophia McDougall at the New Statesman.
That a female character is allowed to get away with behaviour that, in a male character, would rightly be seen as abusive (or outright murderous) may seem – if you’re MRA minded, anyway – an unfair imbalance in her favour. But really these scenes reveals the underlying deficit of respect the character starts with, which she’s then required to overcome by whatever desperate, over-the-top, cartoonish means to hand.
“Strength”, in the parlance, is the 21st-century equivalent of “virtue”. And what we think of as “virtuous”, or culturally sanctioned, socially acceptable behavior now, in women as in men, is the ability to play down qualities that have been traditionally considered feminine and play up the qualities that have traditionally been considered masculine. “Strong female characters”, in other words, are often just female characters with the gendered behavior taken out.
The movie really brings home (especially through the song lyrics, which are just PERFECT) that this Good Girl / Bad Girl dichotomy is damaging to Elsa, and the only way she can really be free is to reject them both. She doesn’t need to be (and fundamentally can’t be) a perfect good girl, but she won’t find freedom by moving over to the bad girl stereotype offered to her by a restrictive society. She’s only free when she throws both of them in the trash.
Also amazing, and very rare: a cursed girl saves herself.
One of the things I like about this song is that the princess is a hero while being feminine, or not, as she wishes. She never wore socks, but she did wear a silver dress. She did what she wanted to. The illustration for the proposed book shows her wearing a pink dress over torn jeans, which captures the spirit perfectly.
I really do know nothing about Morrissey. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard his music. Apparently, it’s powerful stuff, and Morrissey himself is a powerfully controversial figure, whose public statements are often deeply problematic and at contrast with the nature of his work. This is a very good article, and it’s an interesting look at our interaction with and appreciation of problematic art, but I’m linking to it also because the writing is awesome:
I don’t know Morrissey’s motivation for writing the Smiths tune “Accept Yourself,” in which he sings “Anything is hard to find, when you will not open your eyes, when will you accept yourself?” I may never know what he intended when he wrote “Dial-a-Cliche,” but I know when I heard the lyric “You find that you’ve organized your feelings for people who didn’t like you then and don’t like you now,” it made me consider how, in remaining closeted, I was performing for an audience most of whom hadn’t paid a dime to get into the show.