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For Your Entertainment

It’s been four days since the 2010 Oscars premiered at the Kodak Theater on a cold rain-filled Hollywood night. Yet, we’re still talking about it. We saw history being made, we saw dresses being judged, and we also make jokes about the whole event. That’s Hollywood for you.

When Kate Winslet walked on to the TV screen wearing a silver strapless gown by Yves Saint Laurent, I’m sure the damp red carpet was quickly evaporating. She radiated with beauty, looking like she stepped out of a time machine. She brought that old Hollywood glamor that only those starlets back then possessed.

When Taylor Lautner and Kristin Stewart introduced a tribute to horror films, I was horrified. What were they doing there? They weren’t accomplished actors–they didn’t do any movies that were Oscar-worthy. I’m not a big fan of their acting chops either, particularly Stewart. And why was “Twilight” part of the Horror genre? Then it hit me when I saw a parade of other young stars like Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, and Miley Cyrus, who haven’t quite established Oscar-worthy performances either. This was Hollywood’s ploy to gain younger viewers. They got to catch us when we’re young, right?

When Sandra Bullock won the award for Best Actress, I was ecstatic. I absolutely love her and her other funny movies, so to see her win an award for a dramatic one–that’s huge! However, I would’ve liked to see the award go to Merryl Streep for her role as Julia Child in “Julie and Julia” mainly because mimicking Julia Child is no easy task. But I’m fine with Bullock winning.

When Katherine Bigelow became the first woman to win “Best Director,” I wasn’t shocked. But I’m sure it was definitely an F-U moment for her ex-husband, James Cameron, who was also in the category for his movie, “Avatar.” I mean, come on, Cameron helped create an entirely different way to shoot a movie using a special camera invented just for the movie, as well as hired a USC linguistics professor to create a working language too. And need I mention that Cameron’s “Avatar” placed some people in depression? Surely, he should have won for creating such powerful movie, especially since his movie made billions compared to Bigelow’s movie, right? Wrong. And as Jimmy Fallon put it best last night:

“Did you watch the Oscar’s, or as I like to call it, James Cameron’s own personal ‘Hurt Locker.'”

Why do we obsess over celebrities? Don’t we have enough stress to keep us occupied–the economy, the job market, our own lives? It surely can’t be healthy, right? Maybe it’s our defense mechanism–escapism. We don’t like how our own lives are going so we fantasize about a better one, or as Fergie Ferg puts it, “by the glamorous, ooh the flossy, flossy.” She reminds us that, “If you ain’t got no money, take your broke self home.” Yah, I’m broke. I think I will.

Maybe we obsess over celebrities because it’s a way to connect to others, or as Professor Nicholas DiFonzo calls it, “The Water-Cooler Effect.” The term comes from a study of office behavior. In a large company, workers would have informal gatherings around the water cooler, chatting, gossiping, and talking about current events. If one doesn’t participate in the conversation or have some kind of opinion or have the latest news about someone, then one was left out of the group. Rejection can be a cruel thing, especially when you see that person for 8 hours of your life of every single work day.

Professor Alex Pentland, in an article for a November 2009 issue of Psychology Today, puts it best when he writes:

…it underscores that we are all social animals and that our connection with others at a local level – our tribe – is vitally important. Second, with increased cohesion likely comes an increase in things such as shared tacit knowledge, shared attitudes and work habits, and social support.

But whatever the case, the celebrities remain present in your life for your entertainment. And they get rich entertaining you. Check out this NY Times graph in which we spend $1000 to $5000 for our entertainment.

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The Face That Launched A Thousand Hate-Mails

“Was this the face that launched a thousand ships
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?
Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss.”
– Christopher Marlowe in Doctor Faustus

It was the story that had  historical roots based on an event that occurred between 1194-1184 BC. Legend has it, three goddesses quarreled over who was most beautiful and left this judgment to Paris, prince of Troy. After Hera bribed him with ruling all of Asia and Athena bribed him with fighting skills and the best warriors, Paris ultimately chose Aphrodite. She bribed him with the most beautiful woman on the planet: Helen, queen of Sparta. King Menelaus of Sparta, as possessive as he was, sought for the return of his wife. And thus, the tragic Trojan war began.

Helen returning with Menelaus. Photo Credit: About.com

About three thousand years later, the classic story of two men fighting for the love of one woman–a “trophy” woman–hasn’t changed…that much. Instead, it’s taken more mythical proportions. With the “Twilight” series, a vampire and a werewolf (actually, he was a shape shifter) fought for the love of Bella Swan, the “trophy.” It’s interesting that “Bella” is the Italian word for “beautiful.” But is Bella really that beautiful? I have to be very careful here. I wouldn’t want to get bitten by what I write.

You see, less than a week ago, I took on a perilous journey. I did what not many men have done before: I read the “Twilight” series. My fraternity brothers have asked me to turn in my man card and are prepared to throw me off the cliff of the Hills of Westwood. The women in my life believe that I am incredibly sensitive and courageous for even daring to read the books. And me? I wanted to understand women. I wanted to understand why they love this darn book so much. I didn’t understand why they would cry, why they would scratch, and why they would wait for days when the second movie came out. I’ve never read the books, but like most men, I knew to hate it. It was something that men had to do–had to hate the things of women because if we didn’t, we would be seen as weak. I guess it’s one of those men vs. women thing that we men are taught. Nevertheless, I wanted to understand women, and one way to understand them is by the stories they tell–stories women make for other women.

Yes, I know that Stephanie Meyers targeted this book to young teenage girls. That’s probably why I couldn’t stand the two books. It was so slow, so filled with relationships. So soap opera. So blah! I couldn’t bear reading the first chapter, let alone the entire series. But the last two books had something that men love: blood and guts. Perhaps that’s why I related so much to this half. There was a story of war, of strategy, and of chivalry. There were description about the thrill of the hunt, of working in a pack. These are things that men love, and perhaps this (at least in the perspective of one woman) is what women still desire in men despite feminist attempts. But that’s for a later post on masculinity in “Twilight.”

This post is about Bella Swan, the supposed heroine of the series. I said earlier that I had to be careful when talking about Bella and her beauty. You see, after reading pages after pages of how Edward (the vampire) was beautiful, how he should be a model, how he looked like he was cut from marble, and how he was like a Greek god, and how Jacob (the werewolf/shape shifter) was 6’7″, copper skin, huge, and muscular, I still had no idea what Bella looked like. I didn’t know whether she was a “Helen,” whether she had the “face that launched a thousand ships.” I know, you think I’m shallow, but I’m looking at it through a guy’s perspective. Two guys wouldn’t fight for her if the woman wasn’t beautiful in their eyes. Sorry, it just had to be said, but I compromised by saying “in their eyes.” Beauty is relative, right? Maybe. All I knew of Bella is fair skinned and has brown hair and eyes, that she’s a child of divorced parents, that her birthday is some time in September, and that she’s 5’4″. I later learned there’s a reason for her lack of description. Meyers left the description vague because she wanted it to be easier for girls to insert themselves as Bella.  So if girls are supposed to walk in Bella’s shoes, then perhaps Bella is the heroine of the story, a far cry from damsel in distress, right? Hmm…

The Cullens with Bella. Photo Credit Twilight Review

There have been many articles criticizing Meyers for being anti-feminist by how Meyers writes Bella’s. I’ll admit, Bella seems to enjoy the kitchen, doing all the cooking, the cleaning, the laundry for her town head sheriff father, Charlie. But surely, if she enjoys it, it isn’t a bad thing, right? I can hear the women in my life groan in unison. Come on Gio, we’re heading to 2010, NOT 1910. I think she’s more melodramatic than real-life teenage girls. So should girls really look up to this fictional character or admire what she does?

I’ve gotten a lot of No’s. It seems that many guys and some girls just hate her. Just Google “Reasons to hate Bella” or “I hate Bella” and you’ll see why this post is titled the way it is. And I for one have never wanted to slap a girl until I read about Bella. If she was a real girl, I’d probably slap her a couple times for her own good. If girls like to think they are her, then there’s a lot of girls I need to slap some sense into. I fear for the youth of this world, especially if they start acting out. Here’s my reason:

10. She doesn’t pay any attention to her friends. Being the new kid in school isn’t easy. But here, she’s surrounded by a circle of friends who actually give her the time of day and who actually like her

9. She almost dies several times, but doesn’t. She should just die–as in her character should never have seen the light of day. Okay, I’m not that sadistic. It would be better if she was able to redeem herself. All she does is complain and complain–“woe is me” crap. She puts herself in danger to get some kind of high. Leave that stuff to the daredevils.

8. She’s in love with a killer. Yes, that’s what vampires do…kill. You’re just asking for it. See #6.

7. She’s so selfish. She puts other people’s lives in danger. She doesn’t think about how her relationship affects the people who love her. See #6.

6. She kept a life-threatening secret from her dad. I know, I know, I sound like a parent. Teens keep secrets from their parents all the time. But this is life-threatening. Edward mentioned several times that he could kill her. She’s dating a guy who has the potential to kill her–who wants to kill her because her blood is so appetizing. You shouldn’t keep these kinds of secrets away from your parents. Especially, when the people that are associated with your boyfriend (i.e., all those other blood-thirsty vampires) can kill your parents.

5. She doesn’t have any life goals except just being with Edward. See #3 for more clarification. Your life shouldn’t revolve around another person. Take care of yourself first.

4. She pressures guys to have sex. This was an interesting gender-role reversal to me, and not that I’m applying that it should be guys who pressure girls to have sex. No one should pressure anyone to do anything they don’t want. But let me remind girls the power of saying “No.” If a guy doesn’t want to, quit tempting him. If you expect respect to go both ways, then do so. And, you’re a little too easy–you want it too much. That doesn’t say much about you as a character.

3. She can’t do anything without her Edward. She was depressed over a guy for almost half a year. That’s a good reason to slap some sense into someone. If you are that obsessed over a guy, you have issues. You couldn’t do anything without this guy. This girl is so clingy! You certainly do not find your identity in another guy. You need to know who you are first!

2. She uses guys. Not a big deal, right? Girls use guys all the time. We all know that she used Jacob. Clearly this is a guy who cares a lot about the girl, and all she does is lead him on. Guys hate being led on. Meyers writes it in a way as if it’s okay for girls to do this because Jacob just keeps coming back.

1. She’s so whiny! Come on Bella. You complain about the world so much. As the saying goes, “B*@&$ please!” Your life is not so bad. Even if you complain about being part of a divorced family, you’ve got two parents who love you a lot. That’s more than some people in this world.

Dear Youth of this World,

It’s okay to like the “Twilight” series. Just don’t think the real world should be like that. And certainly do not behave recklessly like Bella Swan. Perhaps that’s the only redeeming value of the character–that she is an example of what NOT to become. Your identity should not rest whole-heartedly on one-person. When that person dies or goes away, then who are you? You are your own person. You need to find your identity first before committing to a relationship.

I am thankful that Kristen Stewart did a tame version of Bella–maybe it’s because Stewart can’t act. I’m not fond of her. However, I’m glad that Stewart’s Bella isn’t as whiny as it is in the book. If she was whiny, I probably would’ve thrown popcorn and soda at the screen.

This public announcement best describes what I feel about Bella and young girls who want to be her.



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Live Free or Twi-Hard: A Guy’s Perspective On Women’s Perspective of the Twilight Series

C.S. Lewis's book looks strangely like "Twilight." Photo courtesy of W.K.

We’re a culture of story-tellers. We’ve been doing it for so long. Homer. Shakespeare. Fitzgerald. And with any good story comes a moral to that story. Stories teach us about ourselves–they teach us about our fears, what we value, lessons we need to learn. And stories, if they are good enough, will pass the test of time. They will be passed on from one generation to the next to teach the next generation where they come from and warn them of what they have the potential to be. Stories reveal our identities.

Like most guys, I find the female world mysterious and complicated. I think Relient K puts it best in their song, “Mood Ring.” They suggest that girls should get mood rings to warn guys of what mood they currently are in: “Mood ring oh mood ring/Oh tell me will you bring/The key to unlock this mystery/Of girls and their emotions/Play it back in slow motion/So I may understand the complex infrastructure known as the female mind.” Now okay, guys are somewhat mysterious too–we don’t like talking about our feelings. However, there are times that we are allowed to show our emotions. The BBC reveals some and Tremendous News reveals a hilarious set. Women often see our true emotion when (and this is some of my own thoughts) 1. Something happens to our genitals. 2. We lost a lot of money. 3. Someone we truly love dies. 4. Our favorite sports team loses. See, guys are simple.

If stories do reveal identities than perhaps those romance novels that women often like to read also reveals their identities. Perhaps it reveals a woman’s fantasy–what he should look like, how he should talk, what she believes a man must do to win her heart.

Books like "Twilight" and "Harry Potter" get kids to read again. Photo Credit: Children Book Blogs

Being a guy and knowing “Guy Land” because I live it and have researched it, I asked myself an age-old question better men than me have asked: what do women want? If stories do reveal identities than perhaps those romance novels that women often like to read also reveals their identities. Perhaps it reveals a woman’s fantasy–what he should look like, how he should talk, what she believes a man must do to win her heart. Enter Stephanie Meyer, author of the “Twilight” Series. Her 4 books have made the New York Bestseller list, and like J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series it inspired children and teenagers to stop playing video games or shopping for clothes and go to a bookstore and pick up a book. The “Twilight” series reveals a certain type of heroine in the main character, Isabella “Bella” Swan, but feminists believe she’s a “villain” (more on that in other posts). So why write anything about Meyer’s “Twilight” series? They aren’t important; they aren’t a special work of literary genius? I could care less about the series, but when a book like that spawns a movie (“New Moon”) that the Los Angeles Times reports as breaking two-box office records in one day, as well as create a pre-teen and teen frenzy during its premiere, or how book publishers have started to change the covers of their book to mimic “Twilight”–to say that the books can or doesn’t influence the next generation is to say that the moon doesn’t influence the ocean waves. I can still hear the screaming and crying girls. I shudder thinking about it.

After 2 hours of reading the first book, I’m on page 212. And what I’m learning so far…well, it’s terrifying.

A couple days ago, I wrote about the double standard with Taylor Lautner being “jailbait” I realized that before I could make more judgments, I should really be an informed reader. I’ve never read the books, but I was introduced to the first movie back in June by my friend, Jillian. She loves the movie, and loves the book even more.  To see her and other girls light up when Edward or Jacob walks into the room–it was interesting. So in order for me to understand what the “Twilight” books were revealing and how they could affect the next generation, I needed to know what the fuss was about–I needed to read the books myself. And the bet was made for me to read the books before the New Year. So I picked up the phone, called my friend Victoria, and borrowed her books. Oh, and if you’re reading this Victoria, I was quite secure in my masculinity to be walking around UCLA with the books in hand. Okay, I was a little embarrassed when I walked by the gym. I wanted to approach the book differently. Other reviews and other websites gave a woman’s perspective on the books. I wanted to give a guy’s perspective on the woman’s perspective of the books. Like I said earlier, we can learn a lot from the stories we tell, and the “Twilight” books aren’t an exception. I want to learn what it is that girls and women want in a man–or at least what they think they want in a man. I want to learn what they want a man to do. After 2 hours of reading the first book, I’m on page 212. And what I’m learning so far…well, it’s terrifying. So you’ll have to wait for the next post–I’ve got to continue reading.

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Jailbait

TaylorLautner1

Taylor Lautner on GQ. Photo Credit: Gossip Teen

I woke up to a horrendous display of advertisement–or really, it was a rerun clip of Access Hollywood‘s Shaun Robinson interviewing Taylor Lautner in the “New Moon” premiere in Westwood a couple weeks ago. Robinson is seen showing off a shirtless Mattel doll version of Lautner’s character, Jacob Black, and asking him of his opinion. Lautner was embarrassed–seemed uncomfortable. The whole thing was sort of awkward. You could see it for yourself at the end of the entry. Over at Twitter, a female friend of mine joked about how she was counting down the day that Lautner turns legal. He is only 17, but in the words of Jacob Black, “Age is just a number, baby.”

Britney1999

Britney Spears was 17 on April 1999 cover of Rolling Stone, Photo Credit: Dolly Mix

I have to admit, I am interested in this Taylor Lautner phenomena, mainly because of the ramifications that who he is and what he’s done is steering the change of how we view masculinity and femininity today. Don’t quite follow me yet? Take for example this countdown that a fan made to countdown the days that Lautner turns 18. Now let’s go backwards in time–countdowns like this have been used to celebrate past “jail-baits” as Britney Spears, the Olsen Twins, and Lindsay Lohan. Grown men that counted down the days were seen as perverted and disgusting. Now, fast forward to 2009. It’s the women’s turn. Now, I’m all about equal opportunity, but are women getting as much flak ove their comments on Lautner and the fact that he is “jailbait?”

I don’t think so–and definitely not at the same degree as men. Actually, there isn’t much clatter about cougars eyeing the shirtless Lautner, except on sites like Just Mommies, a message board for moms. So apparently, it’s okay that a shirtless seventeen-year-old boy can pose provocatively, but when a seventeen-year-old girl (and she doesn’t have to be shirtless, i.e., Britney Spears) poses provocatively, it turns heads. Double standard?

And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I discovered that they made a more realistic Taylor Lautner-Jacob Black action figure. And yep, you guessed it, he’s shirtless. I have to agree with fellow blogger,  Nobody Puts Baby in a Horner, when the blogger writes:

“I’m not saying that you can’t have him as your object of lust-eyes because you can do whatever you want, but I am saying it’s difficult to forget how, unless you’re another teenager, those lust-eyes are technically statuatory-rape-eyes.  Sure, the thought police aren’t throwing anyone in jail over the a few idle thoughts, but still: He’s only seventeen, so YIKES!!!”

Yes, big YIKES!!! With 3 exclamation marks means extreme warning. I don’t know whose bright idea it was to create such an action figure. Apparently, it was revealed in Comic Con for the Twihards (a term for die-hard Twilight fans). Poor Taylor Lautner. Poor Tay-Tay. Will he ever escape his identity of just being eye-candy instead of being an actor? I mean, that is what he wants–to be recognized for his acting talent. A Showbiz Spy article reveals Lautner’s ultimate desire:

“I worked hard to get in shape for this role,” Lautner explains. “My motivation was the movie and the fans, but I don’t want to become known as just a body. If I had to choose, I would never take my shirt off again in a movie, but I guess that’s not very realistic. I certainly won’t be asking to do it, though.”

Well, that’s a start. I’m no fortune teller, but I predict that the next few roles you’re going to get will continue to exploit you. Sex sells, eh?

Now you may be thinking, what’s the big deal? Am I advocating that it’s okay for older people–men and women–to lust over underage teens as long as there is equal flak on both sides? No. I’m just quite concerned that people forget that Lautner is still a boy with a man’s body–well, at least until February 11, 2010. People should stop and take a look at themselves. Let me repeat again, he’s 17!

jacobblackactionfigure

Jacob Black action figure. Photo Credit: Twilight Book Addicts

Now, you might be saying for me to take a look at myself, that I’m just jealous that I don’t look like him. Heck ya I’m jealous–me and every guy that doesn’t look like him gets jealous. And the men of the world felt the same way when 300 came out. But that’s exactly how Lautner is changing, or rather, adding to masculinity. Men are running to the gym again, and cougars are on the prowl. Now, women are the ones with the “lustful eyes” and men are the ones “lusted after.” As 2009 comes to a close, we find ourselves at a changing landscape: the image of “jailbait” isn’t a girl; it’s a boy…a really buff boy at that.

What do you think?

“Do not get me upset. Things are gonna get very ugly!” – Jacob Black in “New Moon”

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It’s All So Draining: Exploring Vampires

Edward Cullen

Photo Credit: CSPA Workshop

The end of Halloween and the beginning of November can only mean one thing for girls all across America. Their two-year wait can now be count down to a matter of seventeen days before they see their precious heart-throb without a heart-throbbing in the big screen. Enter twenty-three-year-old British actor Robert Pattinson, who plays forever seventeen-year-old American vampire Edward Cullen. Girls seem to fall madly in love with him. One girl I asked described the actor-character as, “Gorgeous. I want him to come rescue me. And if he wants to bite me, all the better.” Another girl said, “His eyes are just beautiful.” Sorry, excuse me if I barf. I don’t quite understand his charm–he looks like a drug addict, especially around his eyes! But maybe that’s why he brings that specific appeal to Team Edward, rather than his rival in Team Jacob (the werewolf in the movie). Before angry girls start writing in, I’m not bagging on Pattinson–just his alter ego, the way he looks in the movie and pictures. I’m a big fan of him as squeaky clean Cedric Diggory. But enough with “Twilight” and “New Moon.” This post isn’t about them, but rather about our fascination with vampires.

Vampire mania seems to be the trend these days. Heck, when you’re sitting on gold, you got to exploit it while you still can, right?  When “Pirates of the Caribbean” came out, just about everyone wanted to be a pirate–even porn stars. And I’m sure the Halloween costume sales for pirates or naughty pirates increased during the trend. But these past two years, vampires are in. Case in point, “The Vampire Diaries,” which air on the CW. It’s about two teenage vampire brothers fighting for the love of a teenage girl. One vampire doesn’t drink human blood, the other does. Sounds somewhat familiar to the vegetarian Cullen clan. Then, there’s “The Vampire’s Assistant.” It’s about a teenage vampire who doesn’t drink human blood and who has to fight against his best friend-turned vampire who does. Yes, things sound quitet familiar. And the success of HBO’s “True Blood,” which is an adult vampire story also about a vampire that doesn’t drink blood who is constantly challenged by vampires who do drink blood, opened my eyes to why we’re so fascinated with them.

Vampire Diaries

Photo Credit: TV Fanatic

First, we have to understand the past. Perhaps it’s human to want to know what happens to us after we die. Is there or isn’t there an afterlife? And what if you can live on, even after you die, but the price you pay to live is by killing another? From the Dark Ages to the Victorian era, to the early 20th century, we’ve been fascinated by the vampire mythology. For several hundred years, that fascination was more of a fear of the dead and of the unknown. I just watched The History Channel’s special on vampires, and it was remarkable for me to learn that even to this day, some European graves have corpses with stakes in their hearts because of the vampire paranoia. But if we used to fear vampires for several hundred years, why are we in love with them today?

Perhaps it’s because we are no longer afraid of seeing dead bodies. Thanks to shows like CSI and NCIS, who have pushed the envelope into seeing how a human body looks on the inside, we don’t cringe as much when we see the dead bodies. We’ve been habituated to death and death isn’t quite a mystery in our Age of Enlightenment. Or perhaps we like to flirt with the ideals of the vampires. Vampires are rebellious and live (ironic, I know) freely, who live life dangerously and in a constant mode of excitement. Deep down each of us, we all secretly want to rebel from a life of mediocrity, a theme I know all too well from “Fight Club.” Or maybe, we don’t fear vampires because they’re just darn too sexy. The classic Dracula was a middle-aged man dressed in a cape who fed on beautiful virginesque (I made up that word) women. It’s definitely creepy. But nowadays, the vampires are dressed like you and me and with the exception of the “True Blood” vampires, I have not seen a vampire over the age of 30 who is not physically fit or not physically attractive. And when we make out with a vampire, such as the case with Kristen Stewart, we are literally making out with death and figuratively flirting with death. I thinking the “flirting with death” part intrigues people, and thus attracts them to the vampire mythos. There you go, today’s vampires have undergone image reconstruction, and whoever is doing the PR work for vampires needs to get promoted or get a raise. It is now cool to be a vampire.

But with all that said, can we lay it off with all these vampire stories that seem to be recycled? It’s all so draining! Enough with the “vampire who drinks human blood versus the vampire who doesn’t” storyline. Well, I guess I have to wait until the next trend. What does our fascination with vampires reveal about our own identities? Maybe the fact that although we understand death scientifically, we still fear death spiritually. Is there life after death? The vampire flirts with us and entices us with his answer.

Photo Credit: CSPA Workshop

Photo Credit: TV Fanatic

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