Sunday, 27 January 2013


When I was a teenager, I had a cousin who loved Bollywood films. We'd watch them for hours, well my cousin did, and she'd gaze in awe. Years laters, as I became more aware of the Bollywood industry's obsession with 'light skinned' actresses and skin lightening potions, my pleasant memories faded.

There is a trend in Bollywood to pressurise young men and women to either bleach their skin or have the colour of their skin airbrushed over with a white coat. The absurdity of the situation is incredibly hateful. It means you are of no value unless you're fair skinned.

Shahrukh Khan was heavily criticed for this advert:


The message is clear; you can't get the girl unless you're fair skinned. It's evidently discriminating against something that you're born with. Furthermore, it assumes that you are only of worth if you're pale skinned. Why? I believe that idealised notions of 'white' beauty are embedded in religious discrimination, the notion of 'whiteness' and purity. Furthermore, racist discourses become embedded in everyday culture and place absurd pressure on men and women's fragile self-esteem to look a certain way. Cultures built on self- loathing. Cultures and the media plays on these anxieties by capitalising on insecurity and self-loathing.  And if you've never had a problem with your skin, don't worry, they'll create one for you.

You may argue that a lot of paler skinned Western women are equally obsessed with tans. But dark skin is still a taboo, as you can see from the suspiciously light skin of stars such as Beyonce, Rihanna and lil Kim.

Look at Beyonce, a beautiful African American woman reduced to a plastic, Barbie image. How can she possibly think she looks more beautiful now compared to what she was born with?  Rihanna appears to have deep issues about herself, coerced to conform to an idealised cultural construct of what constitutes beauty. It's highly negative as it gives out shallow, destructive messages to her fans. 
You may say that as humans, we are being creative in re-creating ourselves. We all want something different. Something we don't have. But have you ever questioned why? How would being lighter or darker improve the quality of our lives? Think about it.
These are negative, hateful depictions of men and women. The day we stop contributing to these evil skin lightening corporations, we will see a demise in the capitalist machinery that exploits, degrades and destroys both men and women's self-worth. Contrary to belief, the world does not revolve around white, western notions of beauty. All of us are people of colour. We need to embrace and celebrate our uniqueness. Learn to see ourselves for what we HAVE. WE ARE SENTIENT CREATURES, our beauty is distinctive and not reducible to shades of white, tan, brown or black.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Myths of Female Sexuality in Cinema

"I think men believe what they see in the movies - that I am going to throw my head back and have an orgasm in two minutes. I have never done that. It is implausible." - Sharon Stone

Have you noticed the way females are portrayed in sexual relationships in films? Well the usual scenario is a close up of the reclining young female looking estatic as the dominant male leads her to orgasm.  As if…the moment is always spontaneous, without any question of contraception. These unrealistic representations obviously pander to male fantasy, the powerful male capable of inducing orgasm in 30 seconds, to the passive female. If only in real life we could all be so easily satisfied…

These representations are so common that we either sit there and knowingly raise our brows, as we tuck into another box of chocolates, or get angry and switch off. There are never any questions as to whether the female has been fulfilled and she's attained her orgasm, after 30 seconds of cinematic fondling. Funny? I could scream. 

Guys, do not base these fantasy representations on real life. If you want to please your lover then listen to her, tune into her needs instead of a self-indulgent fuck that only leaves YOU satisfied, because that's how they do in the movies…

In cinema there are no bad male lovers, just females who are either frigid, compliant, or whores, if they dare to openly express their sexuality. How deluded are those who control the film industry to think that we females can attain this magical orgasm without us being active in exploring our sexual needs? Without doubt they exist solely for a male audience. But we all know that…

But amongst the banal shit that is spread on our screens, there are a few honest and cynical depictions, albeit, somewhat discouraging. In  Terence Malick's Badlands, Sissy Spacek consummates her relationship with Martin Sheen and asks 'Is that it, then?' Her words echo the sentiments of many girls who realise that real life is not like the movies. There is a lack of personal sexual fulfilment that makes you feel empty because something clearly isn't right. You're NOT the one at fault.

Look at Cybill Shepherd's character in The Last Picture Show. Her disillusionment uncovers the myth. Because she is relying on the 'power' of the male to be satisfied, she will never find satisfaction until she is active and she cannot explore her sexuality through passivity nor can she rely on the active male to be fulfilled. In The Beauty Myth, Naomi Woolf writes of the 'the taboo against representing intercourse as an opportunity for a straight woman actively to pursue, grasp, savour, and consume the male body for her satisfaction, as much as she is pursued, grasped, savoured, and consumed for his?'

Antonia's Line

Of course there are some positive representations, in Boys Don't Cry, Hillary's Swank's love interest played by Chloe Sevigny is depicted as having an orgasm while Swank performs cunnilingus. Unsurprisingly, this beautiful scene caused a stir with the censors and was cut in the editing room. There was no outrage with the graphic rape scene, no surprises again. In Johnny Guitar and The Wicked Lady both characters are displayed as being completely uninhibited by sex. While Marleen Gorris's Antonia's Line portrays all the female characters as sexually unrestrained and active. More power to them, you cry.

However, our pursuit for personal sexual identification is few and far between, but it's wonderful when we do see women portrayed as active and enjoying their sexuality on screen. But for the majority of endless andocentric crap that permeates our screens like a bad smell that refuses to go, we need to critically question these images. Also, we need  to explore our sexuality in a positive and subjective way, not as passive objects for the voyeur, be it on or off screen.


Sunday, 20 January 2013

Understanding the Lolita complex

There are current trends where certain females aspire to childlike images, supposedly inspired by Nabokov's novel Lolita and the 1997 film remake with Jeremy Irons. This film revels in and sensationalises the exploitative relationship between Dolores, who is nicknamed 'Lolita', and Humbert. It coerces the audience to participate as accessories. Personally, reading through the comments on some websites, I find it alarming that young women see Lolita as empowering. Wrong.  Nabokov's novel was intended as a literary exploration into an exploitive paedophilic relationship. It's an unequal relationship based on sexualising Dolores. You may say that she is powerful because of her alluring nature. Wrong again, it's biblical crap that deems females as the temptress. My own view is that the Lolita complex is based on the female as submissive, 'cute' and non-threatening to the fragile male ego.

Stanley Kubrick's brilliant film interpretation of Lolita shows it as it should be, exploitative and disturbing. Nabokov's misogyny resonates throughout the film. Charlotte, the mother depicted as the sexually frustrated widow, is punished for her desires, as Humbert's own sexual desires are centred on her daughter, Dolores, who is reduced to a 'Lolita'. Both Charlotte and Dolores die: Charlotte is run over, while Dolores dies giving birth. Meanwhile, Humbert, takes control over his life, by killing himself. The film is uncomfortable and it should be.

The Loilta complex has transcended all cultural boundaries. In Japan, the term 'Lolicon' is slang for the Lolita complex and sexualised artwork of young girls. A culture which thrives on openly sexualising images of young women yet has one of the lowest rape cases (0.1%).

Whereas in the West, the media's depiction of child-like girly images is subtler.

Half starved pre-pubescent women... these are the images that are idolised in western culture. The difference between these images and those of Japanese anime, manga etc are that the Japanese know that the childish images are fantasy, whereas the subtle coercive nature of adverts in the west pressurise women to look a certain way without questioning the inherent paedophilic connotations. 

As different societies have different age limits in terms of their age of consent, can we seriously reduce every desire to cultural norms?  I'm not convinced. We either agree that there is a stage of maturity, or exist in a society where any child can be manipulated, because they 'consent'. Just because girls go through puberty at an early stage, this does not mean that they can handle physical attention- they lack emotional maturity.

I remember the Rolling Stone's Bill Wyman's relationship with 13-year-old Mandy Smith back in the eighties, a child encouraged by her mother to pursue a relationship beyond her maturity. It comes as no surprise that Mandy has suffered from anorexia for years. Her desire to be the eternal alluring child, instead of facing the exploitation and hurt she experienced by her mother and a decrepit rock star. The shit should have been jailed but rich stars can do what they want. They buy their way out of everything.

Why do some men become obsessed with childlike images and why do females want to enact this? What springs to mind is lost childhood, where the girl-child's needs are met by the 'adoring' but somewhat uncomfortable father figure, smitten by the child's innocent sexuality. These patterns of behaviours are reinforced in a girl's teenage years and adulthood. Subsequently, they role play on unequal power relationships, where the paternal male acts as an educator supposedly grooming/emancipating a young girl. It takes a man to show a female her sexuality… and women are controlled and reduced to playthings solely for male interest. So, this reinforces the girl -child's sense of seductive prowess. These men fear women as their equals and will continue enacting this relationship as long as the girl-child doesn't grow up. Why? Perhaps it's a safe haven for some females, where their actions are reduced to being mischievous, playful, as opposed to taking control over their adult responsibilities, which places too much pressure on them. Real life, adult life is hard. Let's enter the world of childhood regression and fantasy.

These are saliently expressed in Woody Allen's films.  Look at Manhattan or Hannah and her Sisters where the knowledgeable male enlightens the female characters. Yawn… we can't discover art or literature by ourselves, girls. Well, not in Allen's parochial white, middle-class world, a world he desperately craves approval of. Freud would relish these scenarios, the insecure, pathetic fuck incapable of forming adult relationship because they fear adult intellect. These recurring themes of death in Allen's films, and fear of dying, convey a lack of acceptance of the inevitable. 

Allen is not alone, the Rolling Stone's Ronnie Wood's loss of his two brothers has sent him on a similar path, tons of Lolitas that will rejuvenate his lost youth as the parasitic relationships unfolds. Deluded men who think they will live forever through their consumption of pre-pubescent girls. 

Why do these girls go with these old men? Why do they reduce themselves to appendages and accessories? I see it as a shallow exchange - where they sell their youth by deluding these men that they are still desirable. Their American Express card that will buy these mens' lost childhoods at the expense of robbing these girls' youth. Perhaps it's a lack of maturity on both sides but, as adult men they should know better. As long as the media continues to glorify and glamorise youth as central to our well being these images will not disappear.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Celebrities and child abuse

With current sensationalistic stories regarding child abuse in the media, parents may be wary of letting their children interact with strangers for fear of abduction. These incidents are rare, which is why we recoil in horror each time we read about them.  The reality is that children are more at risk of abuse in their own homes from family members than some strange predator.

Source: Pola and Klaus Kinski
Following the recent revelations in her autobiography Kindermund, Pola Kinski, daughter of Klaus and half sibling of Nastassja, reveals a harrowing account of sex abuse by her father, from the age of 5 until 22. She tells how she lived in fear and was reduced to nothing but a plaything. Furthermore, she pleads for the public to stop idolising a man who violated his child's trust and robbed her of her childhood. Sadly, Pola is not alone. An abundance of money and fame is not enough to satisfy the dysfunctional abusive celebrity. His desire to take what he wants overrides any kind of rationale. 
The media often confuses sex abusers with paedophiles. There is a clear difference. Paedophilia is a medically recognised illness that is characterised through a manual called DSM, Diagnostic Statistic Manual. Despite psychologist's claims of 'personality types', there are really no set features, that distinguish paedophiles - each will come with their own individual psychological and social background, but what is consistent is their repulsion towards their desires for children. A sex offender, on the other hand, is someone who clearly chooses to violate children because they want to. These kinds of behaviours are not carried out amongst higher primates such as monkeys; they project a scent that steers familial members well away from their young. Their sole objective is to protect their young. Therefore, if we are supposedly more intelligent, why do we hear of such taboos? My own conclusion is that abuse, be it psychological, physical or both, are embedded in notions of children as the property of the patriarchal figure..  

Many cases, such as that of Mackenzie Philips, the daughter of John Philips from the Mamas and Pappas, undoubtedly stir chills. Family members, particularly her stepmother, Michelle, came forward and denied the allegations. Mackenzie was stigmatised as a woman who suffers from drug and mental health problems, implying that her testimony is untrue. Did anyone ever question why she's so distraught? I can understand her perfectly. But she is not the only one to be derided for her testimony.  
Mackenzie and John Phillips,
Tatum O' Neil and Ryanin Paper Moon
Poor Tatum O'Neil, a child star who candidly spoke of the sexual abuse she suffered, was derided by her vile father, reduced as a spoilt brat going off the rails. Is it any surprise to us that she would react in such a self-destructive way? Our parents are our teachers for social behaviour. How we react to life is reflected by the messages and the kind of nurturing we experience. We do not exist in isolation.

Unfortunately, the law is not equal. In the UK, current government legislation and policies are based on child protection and prevention, but this only covers the interest of the child once allegations have been made. Having worked with many child abuse cases, what appears to be consistent is that the child is made to feel guilt, shame, powerless and dirty, as if it's their own fault. The child in question not only faces interviews that exceed the child's maturity, but is also faced with biases and prejudices. Firstly, the child's testimony needs to be assessed. Secondly, the mother, if present in the family, will often deny the allegations and accuse the child of lying and trying to disrupt the supposed harmony of the idealised nuclear family. Avoidance and denial are also recurring patterns in many cases, where the protective self will block out these disturbing memories as a coping mechanism. The tragedy lies in the justice system, which does not give children a voice, without bias.

Our familiarity with celebrities is an uncomfortable one. They entertain us, break the monotony in our lives. For some, they provide shallow aspiration figures. Therefore, when we hear of celebrities abusing their children, it makes us uncomfortable. Our familiarity with their status forces us to look deeper. I remember for years being unable to watch Woody Allen's films, which I used to love. Recently re-watching Hannah and Her Sisters sent chills down my spine, particularly the scene where Allen, playing the neurotic hypochondriac Mikey, says 'child molestation - half the populations is at it'. He should have added, 'including me'. Let's re-write the scene, with Allen positing, 'I'll make a confession but only through my characters, let's make light of my dark thoughts and actions. My disregard for abusing a young vulnerable child who I choose to marry.' 
Woody Allen, Mia Farrow and Soon Yi Previn,
As I've said, there is no particular type of abuser. The public personas of these celebrities depict supposedly forthright and decent individuals, such as Bing Crosby. Crosby, the devout catholic drunk who instilled fear into his children, has been subject to disturbing revelations by his son, Gary, who tells of being whipped until he drew blood and who, too, was silenced and ridiculed by his family, deriding him as winging and self-pitying without pausing to consider the evidence. Poor Gary, I believe you. If only others could be more open to you and give you support as opposed to deriding you. I also feel for Phil Spector's sons, Gary and Donte, abused and molested by this dysfunctional little man who despite the fame and fortune was lashing out at the world and his family. Let's not forget Simone Signoret's daughter, actress Catherine Allegret, who had been abused by her stepfather Yves Montard. And further implications of child abuse by Serge Gainsbourg. Daddy recorded a song called Lemon Incest in 1984 when Charlotte was just 12… what's equally disturbing is that the song was one of France's all time top hits. Who the hell is buying this shite?

The reality is that families are dysfunctional: we do not choose our parents but we need to listen to all children, regardless of how painful the truth is. We must not protect those who wield power, abuse their children, and then pretend that it didn't happen. As contributors to the vast fortunes that these celebrities amass, while others work for less than a pound sterling a day, aren't we also guilty of dismissing a child's pleas?