November 9th, 2009

breaking bad

A learning experience all round

This very long thread in metafilter (800+ comments) and this discussion of the thread (currently at 200+ comments) may seem impossibly lengthy to consider reading, but nevertheless I am going to recommend them.

The original thread is a discussion of a 'guide for men' about how not to appear threatening to women. And to understand why women get edgy when you - innocent man, with no bad intentions - approach them in a friendly way. The discussion kicked off with a range of comments from men saying the article was silly and attacks and street harassment by men on women were rare. For example (this is a man speaking):
I read the article and am saddened that this woman feels this way on a daily basis, but I also don't think she speaks for all women. In fact, I am pretty sure she doesn't. She's right in that she gets to set her own level of risk assessment, but I think she set hers on the level of paranoia. That's not a good way to go through life.

But then the thread took off with dozens and then hundreds of women posting their normal experiences of being pestered, harassed and threatened. Stories that are normally not shared. A very small number of men on metafilter interrupted the thread to try to stop what was happening, but the majority did not.

It was a learning experience for me too. Not because the stories of being followed, shouted at, groped, flashed at, frightened etc are new to me, but because I hadn't really ever considered that men don't know what it's like. Men literally don't realise what happens, and how often, and how upsetting it is. I've got to my age and I didn't realise that men don't see it happening the way women do. Because the harassers don't do it when you are walking with a man. And women don't talk about it much.

Don't get me wrong. I am old and plump with grey hair. I don't get hassled in that way. When I was young I did. I hated it, and I was frightened of it. I am so glad that it doesn't happen any more.
breaking bad

The Fourth Kind

'The Fourth Kind' as in 'Close Encounters of...' this is a B movie about a fictional case of alien abduction in an isolated Alaskan town called Nome (which really exists). It's a short low-budget creature feature, which I liked, and made me quite scared. Written and directed by an African-American called Olatunde Osunsanmi, who also appears as a professor called Awolowa Odusami.

It's a clever film, because it uses the audience's expectations to weave a veil of authenticity over a story which is pure hokum. The story begins with Milla Javocich explaining that the film consists of real footage, interspersed with reconstructions, and she will play the part in the reconstructions of a real woman, Abigail Tyler, a psychologist whose patients are remembering alien abduction events. Then you see black and white footage of Abigail Tyler who is very plain and self-conscious compared to Javovich. The whole film slips between this 'real footage' which has unattractive people acting awkwardly on poor-quality film stock, and the 'reconstructions' which are full-colour Hollywood style footage with known minor actors. Sometimes there is a split screen with 'real' footage on one side and 'actors reconstructing the same scene' on the other side of the screen. Sometimes there is a sound-track taken from a 'real' recording of a police interview, while actors on screen mouth the lines. Sometimes the screen splits into four, and the border between the different types of film wanders from side to side on the screen.

Clever. Of course the 'real footage' is actually pretend: this is not a documentary about real events. But most of the really spooky stuff happens in the 'authentic' footage, so it gains a feel of authenticity.
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