Carrie by Stephen King

My curiosity was piqued by the recent hype surrounding the news of Hollywood’s remake of the 1976 Carrie horror movie. I have been flooded by Facebook shares of the amazing advertising stunt done for this 2013 remake, that deserves a place in the Just For Laugh Gags arsenal of classic pranks. If you haven’t already seen it, here’s the video:

This pretty awesome advertising stunt was enough to make me read the novel, out of curiosity – I just had to know how the plot went. Carrie is Stephen King’s fourth novel. It started as a short story, one that King wrote because he was accused; King recalled, “Some woman said, ‘You write all those macho things, but you can’t write about women.’ I said, ‘I’m not scared of women. I could write about them if I wanted to.'” You can read an online copy of the book here.

The novel starts with the incident of Carrie’s first period in the school showers and it is one to remember. It certainly stains the book with a bold statement of what it is like to be female. King’s attempted portrayal of a woman’s innermost thoughts, while far from being perfect, certainly deserves some credit, especially since it comes from a man.

Carrie’s reaction to her own period represents a curiosity towards this topic which, at the time when the novel was written, was a taboo one. Her horror, while, to some extent, unrealistic and ridiculous (I mean, who doesn’t know about having periods) mirrors a very much male ununderstanding towards the whole idea of female periods. But while we’ve learnt to slap on sanitary pads or insert tampons way before we get our own periods (thanks to those awkward sex-ed classes), Carrie’s reaction certainly puts thing in perspective.

First off, it’s not normal to bleed. Bleeding normally stems from injuries (internal or external) and that amount of blood that comes from our nether parts each month would normally be taken as a serious, fatal injury. But we still take our period in stride – it’s easy to forget that that red, troublesome substance is our blood, and it’s our biological egg discharging itself. 

Would you like your eggs served on an overnight sanitary pad, or ultrathin one?

Would you like your eggs served on an overnight sanitary pad, or ultrathin one?

Carrie’s unrealistic reaction, while representative of male, morbid curiosity about our periods, also puts our very own periods into perspective. It’s our fucking eggs that’re bleeding out, girls.

King also, in his book, explores rather accurately the clique psyche of females. The bullying that Carrie faces in school is representative of female brutality that is typical of high school females, even though such portrayal is often blown out of proportion by media (movies like Mean Girls). The mechanism of the bullying that goes on in schools (by girls) is accurately explored; it feeds off the mindless insults and a collective gossip pool that causes the bullying to have an impregnable facade of strength and infallibility. Carrie’s pain, as a girl who is faced with such bullying, is realistically conveyed to us, as well as her simple desire to fit in. Her joys at dressing up and being asked to prom, where she gains a potential semblance of social life, is all very real, and natural considerations for any girl (even one who has a crazy psycho mom).

King reveals his take on the female group psyche through Sue, who feels genuine remorse at her actions. It is normal for one to feel a sick sense of remorse and regret at such mindless cruelty (as Tommy Ross did) when a period of time has lapsed and when we look back in retrospect, but King brings this forward (albeit unrealistically) and plays out his disgust through Sue’s regret and sympathetic gestures, even though her altruism would be hard to come by in real life.

Also of minor interest is King’s somewhat stereotypical creation of Chris. An uptown girl with a rich father, she pines for the affections of Billy, who makes her feel dirty and who subjugates her. King’s creation of such a weak, seemingly 2-D female character is stereotypical. Nevertheless, he gives the reader convincing intimacy with Chris, making the reader feel like he is peering into the secrets of such a seemingly inapt relationship to discover the magic that works behind it. And we find ourselves, while reading the story, drawn to this unconventional relationship and believing in it – emotions of fear that Chris will be harmed by Billy are real.

Ultimately, King does fall into the category of “a man writing about women”. But he is certainly not afraid to explore his female characters and provide persuasive portrayals of them, albeit ones that are infused with male judgments passed on the female psyche. While feminists criticise this to be inadequate and of little value, they are accurate representations that do not discriminate. After all, he makes us hate Margaret White, whose manic view of women is presented as ludicrous. He certainly does not agree with the old crackpot: “And God made Eve from the rib of Adam. And Eve was weak and loosed the raven on the world. And the raven was called sin. Say it, the raven was called sin. And the first sin was intercourse.”

Sexism is good in the gaming community

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Upon having secured the modern woman equality in most legislation, this medusa now turns her many heads to the more subtle forms of sexism within society. But as the extreme feminist speaks out against covert sexism, it seems that she has forgotten the meaning of the “equality” that lies at the heart of the movement.

Many feminists today reject the obligation to look pretty in uncomfortable stilettos and curl their painted lips at being jokingly asked to “make a sandwich” because they are signs of sexism. So far so good – until we realise that our armies aren’t half female, and that we still expect men to hold doors open for women.

In one of the most male-dominated communities of today, the gaming community, sexism might seem to threaten its female minority. As a medic in the competitive Team Fortress 2 scene however, I must say that I am rather glad for the lack of “equality”.

While they no longer hunt for food with spears, males in the gaming community have incredible reflexes and aim which do not come as intrinsically to women. Some might say that given enough time, a good female gamer can beat the average male hands down. True, perhaps, but only with a lot more time, effort and a brain configuration that doesn’t represent the typical female’s.

This skill set, one that doesn’t seem intrinsic to women, isn’t the only thing keeping us out. In a competitive online environment where the civility of human face-to-face interaction is stripped away, the sharp bones of criticism and boiling blood are exposed. Men rage, criticise and judge each other in a gaming scene which reeks of testosterone. Female gamers on the other hand, are treated with more restraint and patience, because women cry.

And indeed, despite a watered down version of the competitive community’s lingua franca, vulgarities, we still do. The co-founder of the Asian competitive Team Fortress 2 gaming servers admitted, “I’m pretty sure all the girls have cried at least once before”.

I can just picture the extreme feminist raving: Double-standards! Injustice! Sexism! Women aren’t weak! – Albeit with a little less conviction than normal. Of course, few would admit that sexism can ever be good.

But for the protection that such male restraint and consideration offers female gamers, harmless jokes that instruct us to make sandwiches surely aren’t too big a price to pay.

Sexism in its modern form is more covert, and feminists can march to eliminate it with the same suspicion and paranoia that the Red Scare took towards communism. The extreme feminist can demonise it and demand its utter elimination. The question is, can you survive without it?

Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines: an anti-feminist defense

For those unfamiliar with the controversy, Robin Thicke’s new music video, “Blurred Lines”, has received a great deal of flak for being misogynistic and sexist. Those who are offended by it certainly take issues with a few things: the nudity, the suggestive lyrics, the “rapey” undercurrents to the song. And the list goes on.

“What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman,” Thicke jokes, not helping his case at all. The lyrics of the song are undeniably sexist:

Good girl
I know you want it
I know you want it
I know you want it
You’re a good girl
Can’t let it get past me
You’re far from plastic
Talk about getting blasted
I hate these blurred lines
I know you want it
I know you want it
I know you want it
But you’re a good girl
The way you grab me
Must wanna get nasty
Go ahead, get at me

The song should be titled “I know you want it”, instead of “blurred lines”, if you take into account the number of times each phrase has been repeated in the song. The repeated phrase “I know you want it”, has been criticised to resemble the mentality of rapists. But hey, how many times have women said things they don’t actually mean? Plus, telling a man you ‘want it’ can get you labelled as a ‘slut’, or a ‘whore’.

Despite the repetition, the title of the song is still blurred lines – and Thicke says, “I hate these blurred lines”. Rather than enjoying the ambiguity and the space to read between the lines, the males request for clarity and communication to prevent misinterpretations.

While rapists take advantage of their victims, the males in the videos draw their own (blurred) lines. None of them are seen groping the naked models. I mean, combing her hair even though she’s perfectly naked shows an appreciation for finer aspects of the woman’s physicality – her long hair (and that model, by the way, has hair I’d kill for). And while they feast their eyes on her body and catcall, they hardly make advances; hands in pocket, leaning against the wall – clear passivity. It doesn’t hurt to look.

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The following lyrics also jump out at you:

Tried to domesticate you
But you’re an animal
Baby, it’s in your nature
Just let me liberate you
You don’t need no papers
That man is not your maker

You the hottest bitch in this place
I feel so lucky, you wanna hug me
What rhymes with hug me

So, hit me up when you pass through
I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two

The first two sets above demonstrate the respect that women get; ultimately they are always in control of the situation and any interaction is consensual because they’re empowered. The last set is a bit more debatable, but it’s the girl ‘hitting him up’ to have a fuck, not him tearing her ass up for his own pleasure – she gets to enjoy a huge dick.

Lucky bitch!

Lucky bitch!

So the lyrics certainly aren’t “rapey” or misogynistic – it resembles the way males and females flirt.  The song is certainly laden with sexism, but in a humorous, light-hearted way – there’s no need to be an over-sensitive, PMSing girl about it.

There have been two different videos to the song, and there are notable differences about the two. The one linked to the beginning of the post is the “clean” version.

Most of the time, the men are admiring the women, and it is the women who look into the camera. The girls are enjoying themselves, and the fact that they hardly look at the men show that they’re pretty indifferent to what the men are saying – and indeed, when men flirt, we keep on rolling our own way, taking it as an occasional compliment. The girls have their own fun – dancing, riding the bike, riding the stuffed dog, throwing dice around – without paying much attention to the males whose words and dance revolve around the girls. And, who can forget the image of feet around Robin Thicke’s face?

The feet at his face, and his perfect indifference about it is a unique image. What immediately came to my mind, was – Robin Thicke has a foot fetish. And lo and behold, that’s appreciation for another part of a woman besides her tits and her hips. (Not to forget that a woman’s feet at a man’s face often happens when he’s worshiping a dominatrix’s feet).

Thicke about to get slapped by her foot

Thicke about to get slapped by her foot

The women in the clean version prance about their own way, unaffected by the men, while they admire their physical beauty.

On the other hand, the explicit version speaks a different story. The girls have quirkier dances and seem less reserved in front of the camera. It also features Emily Ratajkowski more heavily, and the men simply fade into the background unlike in the clean version. Emily knows she’s beautiful, and she isn’t shy about it. She’s a real “good girl” in the sense that she doesn’t sell her body to the males, but neither does she hide her beautiful body. And the men simply appreciate.

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quirky dance 1: the mouse

quirky dance 2

quirky dance 2

quirky dance 3: the "what up, bro"

quirky dance 3: the “what up, bro”

So, what were we saying about sexism and misogyny? It certainly is sexist, but does it really objectify the women? When something is objectified, it’s insignificant and its opinion is ignorable. But it’s the men’s opinion that are being ignored by the women here, and their opinion is an expression of beauty. If you ask me, the music videos certainly aren’t feminist in nature, but presents a more nuanced and more faithful picture of the ‘fun’ interactions between both genders. The nude women certainly are beautiful and it’s normal for males to flirt and want to get these good girls in bed – duh, tell us something new. But such interactions aren’t always sexist and discriminatory against females – they’re nothing to get indignant over, either. “It’s a pleasure to degrade women” WHO KNOW THEY’RE BEAUTIFUL, and who don’t feel one bit degraded by sexism. Take it easy, girls. It’s not that Thicke, T.I and and Pharrell are the best men to make fun of this, but Emily and co. that blow the sexist undertones and feminist objections out of the water.