DID YOU READ

Tim Grierson on Hollywood’s Snow White Problem

Kristen Stewart in Snow White and the Huntsman

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In an era of reboots and prequels, Hollywood can’t just cart out its musty old franchises — they have to reinvent them. For instance, James Bond is no longer a swingin’ playboy bedding babes and delivering tart one-liners — now, he’s a brooding, grizzled killing machine haunted by the loss of his true love. So it wasn’t that surprising when not one but two studios decided to dust off Snow White for the modern age.

Made popular by the Disney film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” which hit U.S. theaters in 1938, the Snow White character began life as a folktale approximately 200 years ago. This year’s two Snow White films, “Mirror Mirror” and “Snow White and the Huntsman,” aggressively try to reimagine one of the most famous heroines in fiction and, in the process, show us how we as a society still have a tough time dealing with assertive female main characters.

On one hand, this is a time in which we see more female leads in event movies than in the past. There’s Bella from “Twilight,” Katniss from “The Hunger Games,” Zoe Saldana in “Colombiana,” and Amanda Seyfried in “Red Riding Hood.” Plus, this summer’s “Brave” will be the first Pixar film to feature a female main character. And don’t forget the “Underworld” and “Resident Evil” series. But the two Snow White movies are particularly interesting because they grapple with a character who, as she’s envisioned in the Disney film, is a rather passive person. Yes, Snow White is beautiful and kindhearted — she’s always singing some song — but she’s not a very proactive or compelling individual. In truth, she represents exactly the sort of negative female stereotype that modern women don’t enjoy seeing: She’s pretty but meek, waiting for some Prince Charming to come rescue her. Naturally, “Mirror Mirror” and “Snow White and the Huntsman” want to bring her into the 21st century. But I’m not sure their revamped versions of Ms. White are any less irksome.

In “Mirror Mirror,” the Snow White story is treated with a sort of cheeky, snarky irreverence. Rather than unabashed sweetness, like in the Disney movie, the film (which stars Lily Collins as Snow White) is sarcastic, constantly elbowing us in the ribs to make sure that we know it’s sending up the familiar tale. Ironically, “Mirror Mirror” wants to mock the banality of fairy tales while at the same time being a fairy tale itself. (Love does conquer all in this film, and there’s a happy ending.) But as part of its attempt to revamp White’s story, the movie wants her to develop a little spine. And so we have Collins playing a cutie-pie princess who’s schooled on weapons thanks to her dwarf friends. But more importantly, she’s got some spunk to her now, a self-conscious response to the Disney version’s blissful blandness. If “Mirror Mirror” wants to show young women that they don’t have to grow up to be dainty princesses, then instead it seems like they’re just stuck being sassy. Not that the movie really cares about Snow White that much — the evil queen (played by Julia Roberts) gets the best lines and is way more fun. Of course, she’s also the villain: a bitchy, petty, vain, aging woman who’s supposed to be a hoot because she’s totally mean. In other words, the movie argues that being a proactive, weapon-wielding princess will land you Prince Charming, but the audience will always love you more if you’re simply evil.

“Snow White and the Huntsman” ups the ante by making Snow White not just resourceful but something of a warrior princess. Played by “Twilight’s” Kristen Stewart, Snow White has none of the gentility of the Disney film — barricaded in a tower and waiting to be killed by the evil queen (Charlize Theron), she has to fight for her life to escape, and the rest of the film is a further desperate battle to stay alive. There’s nothing demure about this Snow White or idyllic about her world. The film feels like a knee-jerk attempt to recapture the grimness of the original Brothers Grimm folk tale, but what this mostly translates into is a monotonously joyless film in which Snow White must eventually don a suit of armor and lead men into battle. If the Snow White of “Mirror Mirror” is a hip, cutesy young lady, then the one in “Snow White and the Huntsman” is an unsmiling pseudo-man who has to practically give up her femininity to be a generic action hero. What choices.

Of course, it’s dangerous to look to movies for role models — and it’s ridiculous to assume that young women are so impressionable that they’ll blindly accept portrayals of female characters as guides to living. But for all the criticism that so-called “princess culture” receives, I’m not sure if the responses to the phenomenon in “Mirror Mirror” and “Snow White and the Huntsman” are appreciably better. Sure, these Snow Whites aren’t helpless lasses, but they’re not smart or interesting either. Essentially, they have to become men, taking up arms to prove they’re valuable members of society. Perhaps it’s better than watching movies where the female characters are just wives or girlfriends of the hero. But it would be nice if the fairest of them all could have a few more options other than just being eye candy or an ass-kicker.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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