The Danish Girl

After months of waiting for its release, today I finally went to the cinema to watch The Danish Girl.

Although I was initially a little worried that the trailer gave away the plot of the entire film, I can honestly say that it didn’t and there were a couple of twists in the tale that I was not expecting.

Plot twists aside, The Danish Girl really is a beautiful film that explores gender identity in the 1920’s, a time period where the concept of being trapped in the wrong body, so to speak, was unheard of.

The Danish Girl is based on the book by David Ebershaff and tells the true story of Lili Elbe, a courageous and brave woman who pushed all known boundaries in order to externally become who she was internally. In doing so, Lili became a pioneer for the transgender community and a role model for us all when it comes to pursuing what we really want.

The film perfectly captures the confusion and distress experienced not just by transgender individuals but by those closest to them who struggle to accept these changes. For me, the most remarkable part of the film was Gerda’s unconditional love towards Lili and her heartbreaking realisation that her husband no longer existed was definitely the most touching.

This film explores LGBT issues and deals with raw emotion in such a way that we are taken on Lili’s journey alongside her and are able to become truly involved with her transition from male to female.

The confusion, heartbreak, strength and joy experienced by both Lili and Gerda at various stages result in an incredibly moving film that is sure to become iconic.

Image via The Danish Girl.

‘The Girls’ – Short Review By Musical-Hating Feminist

At the weekend I went to the theatre with my girlfriend and some friends to watch the production of The Girls, a new musical produced by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth and based on the hit Calendar Girls.

Although I haven’t seen Calendar Girls I know the overall story plot yet I was still unsure of what to expect. I’m not a fan of musicals and, if I am completely honest,  I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the performance very much. However I was pleasantly surprised. The cast were all excellent and the plot was moving, funny and, in my opinion, surprisingly feminist.

I won’t spoil the play for anyone who is planning on seeing it (I would definitely recommend it, by the way) but I will say that the way the female characters rally around one another and offer heaps of support in light of the events was truly refreshing to see.

The women work through their differences and begin to encourage and empower one another as the play progresses. The way we see these female characters build one another up is in stark contrast to the negative portrayal of women as bitchy, jealous characters that has become all too common.

In addition to the overall feel of a sisterhood that was portrayed in The Girls each character had their own message to give to the audience and two of these really stood out to me.

The first was one character who admitted she had previously had cosmetic surgery and spoke out saying she refused to be ashamed by it.  The character acknowledges that it is her body and her choice and states she will not be made to feel inferior to the other women because of her decision to change a part of her body she did not love.

She believes all women have the right to love their physical appearance, (I second that) and if that means they have to resort to cosmetic surgery then so be it.

The second character who really struck me was the oldest of the group who decided to take part in making the calendar despite people suggesting she shouldn’t due to her age.

She shocked everyone by going through with it and demonstrating that women of all ages are beautiful and that we should not be ashamed of our physical appearance simply because we have gotten a little older.

Despite my initial thoughts regarding the play I thoroughly enjoyed it and took a few little pearls of wisdom home with me. I left the theatre feeling uplifted and quite moved by the blatant display of girl power that I had just witnessed.

 

Image by The Girls Musical Official Website

Refugees are NOT Immigrants

Recently the news has been full of stories about refugees fleeing Syria and seeking asylum in nearby countries. British headlines have been full of news about the refugees’ movements with some of them featuring unsavoury views which would imply that, not only are a lot of people in Britain racist, but many of them work for the media.
It seems that, rather than actually researching events in Syria and feeling so overwhelmed with compassion for these poor people, like any normal human being would, there are a few people who are instead choosing to jump to mindless, ignorant conclusions and label these refugees as immigrants with ulterior motives.
Let me break this down for you. In March 2011 a group of peaceful protestors were met with open fire by the government, four of the protesters were killed instantly. The following day, the same gunmen who work for the Syrian president turned up at the funeral of one of the deceased and shot at those who were grieving. This was just the beginning. From that point, the violence escalated and over 1000 different groups of people opposing the Syrian government emerged meaning that, by July 2012, civil war in Syria had been declared and the lives of over 200,000 innocent civilians had been taken.
Then, (yes there is more), an extremist group you may have heard of called Islamic State, (who, by the way, do NOT represent the views of Islam in any way, shape or form!), seize the opportunity to move into Syria and gain land and power due to the confusion and chaos that has ransacked the country. Then, as if shit is not bad enough for the people of Syria, the government supposedly begin to use chemical weapons against the people living there.
Eight million Syrian citizens have been left with no choice but to evacuate their homes and a further four million have fled the country completely in a bid to seek safely elsewhere. I think those poor people probably have a bit more on their mind than deciding on the best way to take your job, don’t you?

Volkswagen Fuel Emission Scandal

As many of you have probably heard, Volkswagen have recently come under fire for fitting certain models with software known as a ‘defeat device,’ which essentially enables their cars to pass strict tests determining whether they are deemed safe for the environment.
The number of cars that Volkswagen admitted to being affected by this has climbed from the original number of 482,000, which they claimed only affected vehicles in America, to a possible 11 million cars distributed worldwide. This means that millions of unsuspecting car owners have been emitting a harmful amount of nitrogen oxide from vehicles they were led to believe were environmentally friendly since as far back as 2008.
The use of these ‘defeat devices’ means that cars such as Beetles, Audi A3s and certain models of the Golf, to name just a few, appear to be a lot cleaner and more environmentally friendly than they actually are. Volkswagen have been knowingly misleading not just regulators, but customers worldwide, by lying about the amount of harmful emissions and pollution being released from their vehicles.
Quite rightly, there are now widespread concerns over whether the installation of this type of device is common practise amongst manufacturers in the car industry. It would be unethical to tar each company with the same brush, however, if it turns out that one large company has been cheating the system in such a devious way, it does call into question whether rival manufacturers have taken similar actions in order to keep up with the competition and increase the performance of their own models.
This recent scandal is particularly worrying when we take into consideration the fact that pollution is responsible for taking 12,000 lives per year in Britain alone. This number could be significantly reduced if only big names such as Volkswagen started being honest about the amount of harmful chemicals released by their products instead of simply being profit focused. The exposure of Volkswagen’s deceitful ways is also concerning as it makes you wonder how and why they have been getting away with using this software for so long and calls into question whether the regulations put in place regarding harmful chemicals being released into the environment are too lax.

Pop Music Problems

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Even if you don’t listen to the sort of radio channels that typically play pop music it can be difficult to get away from the newest mainstream delights from the likes of Katy Perry or Nicki Minaj. Pop music is regularly featured on television adverts and movie soundtracks and I suspect that, even if you lived your life with the mute button turned on you would still encounter the occasional friend or colleague singing or humming pop music to themselves as they went about their daily business. There is no escape.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a few mainstream artists who regularly release singles that are pretty catchy and contain lyrics that actually have some meaning, however, they seem to be diminishing rapidly. Over the years, different styles of music have arrived on the scene and gained temporary popularity. Prior to the arrival of childhood favourites such as N’Sync and the Spice Girls, we saw the rise of heavy metal, grunge, punk and hip hop to name just a few. This is proof that society’s musical taste is constantly changing, however, twenty years on and pop music is still dominating the charts. Except that the music we now categorise as ‘pop’ has been heavily influenced by a growing club culture and has transcended boundaries into the land of dance music. This has resulted in a recent stream of ‘dance-pop’ featuring fewer words and more instruments and, unfortunately, when I say instruments what I really mean is DJ decks. The days of guitar solos are long gone.
It is not just the quantity of the lyrics in mainstream songs that are decreasing but the quality of these lyrics, causing me to question whether the songwriters of today are actually any good at their jobs. When we compare Freddie Mercury’s masterpiece ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ to Katy Perry’s more recent hit ‘Firework,’ which was written by four people yet still opens with the question, ‘do you ever feel like a plastic bag?’ the degeneration of song lyrics becomes apparent. This is what mainstream song lyrics have been reduced to and, sadly, this is one of the better examples.
The lyrical barrel has definitely been scraped of late and it seems as though two templates have been developed for the use of today’s ‘dance-pop’ songwriters. The first template is the one where the same three lines are simply repeated over and over again throughout the duration of the entire song. These lyrics tend to be heavily accompanied by lots of thumping bass and will have the occasional ‘yeah’ and ‘ooh’ thrown in to shake things up a little. The second template features a lot more words but a lot less sense and usually results in me shouting at the radio. These lyrics contain double negatives and poor grammar, let’s take the lines ‘this is our house, this is our rules’, from Miley Cyrus’ ‘We can’t stop,’ as an example. With songs such as these playing a huge role in mainstream culture I cannot help but worry that the children of future generations who are exposed to them will struggle to pass their English GCSE.

Annoying Things that are Inevitable on any Shopping Trip

1). You will encounter slow walkers.
So, you are in a bit of a rush and want to get your shopping done as quickly as possible. In your head you are able to make a quick dash into a store, make a beeline straight for the items you need and pay for them at ninja speed. Straight in and straight back out again. Should be simple, right? Wrong. Unfortunately, people with more time on their hands than you have also decided to pay a visit to that particular shop, meaning that your shopping trip starts with a game of dodgems as you weave in and out of everyone milling around outside the store. You are already a few minutes behind schedule by the time you have made it through the entrance and you are then met with further delays as you find yourself stuck behind a couple taking a romantic stroll and stopping every minute or so to admire how well stocked the shelves are.
2). Queuing behind someone who is buying the entire contents of the shop.
Eventually, you manage to tick everything off your shopping list and make your way over to the check out. However, you then realise that, judging by the queues at the tills, every single person who lives within a two mile radius is also in that shop and trying to pay for their stuff. You find yourself under pressure with only a few seconds to decide which queue to join. You quickly weigh them up and join the shortest as rational thought tells you that this is the faster option. A few minutes tick by and you note with satisfaction that there is now only one person in front of you. A few more minutes roll by and you begin to wonder why you aren’t moving. You glance up and realise with horror that the person in front of you is still unloading their items as they are buying one of everything in the entire shop. Exasperated, you look around only to discover that someone who joined another queue after you is already paying for their things.
3). People will be unorganised.
Okay so you are getting closer, the cashier is scanning the last few items from the customer in front’s game of supermarket sweep and you are eagerly waiting, cash in hand, to pay for your stuff and get out of there. The items have all been bagged and the cashier is telling the person in front how much it has amounted to. You are feeling giddy with joy. However, it seems that rather than getting their money out in advance like any self respecting shopper would do, the person in front has been stood twiddling their thumbs for the last ten minutes and must now spend another five digging around in their huge oversized handbag looking for their money. Of course, when they do manage to find it they will start slowly counting out the exact amount in copper. Clearly they have all the time in the world and are completely oblivious to the steam that it probably coming out of your ears right now.
4). You will be asked if you need a bag.
Finally, you have made it to the front of the queue. You have had a quick run through of the usual niceties and the cashier is scanning your items. Then comes the inevitable question of, ‘do you need a bag?’ I realise that not wasting bags is hugely important to the environment and asking this question is most likely a requirement of their job. I also realise that if I have only bought a bottle of water and a lipstick then I could just chuck them in my handbag and be done with it. However, when someone has scanned 14 of my items and can blatantly see that I have nothing to put them in then it just becomes a stupid question. No bag for me thanks, I can just juggle everything out of the shop.
5). You will need more hands.
By this point, your spirit has been crushed and your feet probably hurt, however, you still have one last hurdle before your shopping experience is over. Some cashiers will kindly pop the receipt in one of your bags for you; however, other, more sadistic, cashiers will lay it out flat on their hand and pile your notes and coins on top of it in size order. They will then present this to you and watch as you try to quickly separate the coins from the notes and the notes from the receipts whilst simultaneously juggling all of your bags. As you don’t want to inconvenience anyone behind you, you will probably do this whilst shuffling away from the tills and will most likely end up dropping a few unruly coins as they make a bid for freedom and roll underneath something big and heavy.

This was recently published on http://www.laffalot.co.uk.

A Society Where Psychopaths Have the Upperhand

I recently read a book called ‘The Wisdom of Psychopaths’ written by a man named Kevin Dutton. In this book, Dutton reviews a series of studies on individuals who fit the ‘psychopath’ criteria and provides evidence to suggest that these people, rather than inevitably becoming the serial killers we might expect, actually have an evolutionary advantage that may increase their ability to succeed in our society.
Over the years the term ‘psychopath’ has become quite loosely used and I doubt that most people realise what a true psychopath actually is. It has become the term of choice when describing an overly emotional ex-girlfriend, think the stereotypical ‘bunny boiler’ type that we were taught by the iconic film ‘Fatal Attraction.’ We tend to associate this word with people who behave erratically and engage in acts of passion due to an excess of emotion, however, this is the exact opposite of what a psychopath, in its truest definition, actually is.
A psychopath in the true sense is someone who is completely in control of their emotions because, technically speaking, they do not have any. Now, my initial thoughts were that psychopaths must lead a very empty existence if they are incapable of feeling anything, just imagine a life where you are incapable of forming meaningful relationships. However, if they are unable to feel love then the chances are that they are unable to feel emptiness so for them it probably makes no difference. Besides, although evidence suggests that psychopaths are incapable of feeling love towards another, many psychopaths throughout history have had seemingly fulfilling relationships, with many going on to get married and have children. This indicates that, contrary to what we may believe, psychopaths are able to form some kind of bond with another human, meaning their lives may not be empty after all.
With this being said, the more I thought about it, the more I thought that maybe, just maybe, being incapable of feeling may not be such a terrible thing. Although they may not be able to fully feel what I will refer to as ‘positive’ emotions like the rest of us, they are also unable to feel, thus be affected by, what I will refer to as ‘negative’ emotions. This is the point that Dutton seems to draw on in his book; he invites us to imagine a world where we feel none of these negative emotions. There would be no loneliness, no guilt, no sadness, no anxiety and, above all, no fear. For many people, it is our negative emotions that hold us back from doing the things in life that we really want to. These negative emotions are the reason we did not apply for the job we really wanted or set up our own business when we had the chance. They are the things that hold us back and prevent us from doing the things we truly desire.
Just imagine how many opportunities we would have taken if we felt no fear. If we weren’t scared of failing we would step out of our comfort zone more often and would be more likely to reach our full potential. Imagine a life where you did not fear failure. That is the life that psychopaths lead. Their lack of emotion enables them to live the life that they want to. Although this occasionally does lead to a psychopath turning to a life of crime, many psychopaths instead become extremely successful and fulfil their maximum potential in terms of their career. Their lack of guilt and anxiety often makes psychopaths extraordinary business people who thrive in cut throat environments. Their innate ruthlessness gives them the edge over those ‘normal’ people who are often held back by their conscience and their emotional attachments. For this reason, Dutton refers to psychopaths as having an evolutionary advantage over the rest of us and, in a modern society where one night stands have replaced loving relationships and wealth equates to power, I wonder if he might be right.

Shame on the Anti-Body-Shaming Campaign

Every now and then we see a new campaign crop up and take social media by storm. We become flooded with images and videos of the latest craze as hundreds, possibly even thousands, of people participate in them with good intentions at heart. The latest campaign that seems to have taken over all of my social media feeds is the ‘Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover’ campaign which was started in a bid to draw attention to and combat the problem that is body-shaming.
As far as I can tell, this campaign seems to consist of young people posting videos of themselves with red and brown marker pen scrawled over their faces so that they look to have acne and a monobrow. I have seen videos in which people with perfect vision are wearing glasses and have even seen one where someone has got some kind of metal strip, possibly a straightened out paper clip, and put it in their mouth to look like a brace. After a couple of seconds of them prancing around the screen will go black and they then reappear having removed the pen from their faces to show how they usually look, complete with flawless skin, gorgeous hair and a perfectly made up face.
While I am all for a campaign against body-shaming, I must say that I’m a little bit confused about what this particular campaign is achieving. These videos, in my opinion, are doing relatively little to combat this problem. In fact, I would go as far as to suggest that they are contributing to it. I, for one, love that there has recently been a broader spectrum of what is accepted as beautiful, rather than the definition of beautiful just being reserved for those who conform to the image of beauty that is advocated by the media. Isn’t that essentially the message that a campaign against body-shaming should be sending out? That everybody is beautiful? I thought it was, so you can understand my confusion when I see anti-body-shaming campaigns pin pointing certain features and replicating them when trying to portray an image of someone who is meant to be ‘unattractive.’
The people featured in these videos have used the stereotypical features that society has deemed as ‘unattractive’. However, my problem with this is that it simply shames those people who actually have these ‘unattractive’ features through no fault of their own. There are thousands of people in the world who have bad skin or excessive facial hair, these videos are essentially sending out the message that these people are ugly. Those with glasses or braces are also shamed and labelled as ‘unattractive’ by the very existence of these videos because they are also utilised by the ‘ugly’ versions of the people starring in them. The videos highlight how we have been taught a version of what is ‘unattractive’ by TV shows and films. They reiterate the story of the geeky bespectacled girl who receives a glamorous makeover and turns into the most popular girl in school that we see in films such as ‘She’s all That,’ ‘Never Been Kissed,’ ‘Mean Girls,’ and ‘The Princess Diaries.’ Seriously, I could go on all day. These videos start by showing someone with drawn on acne and excessive facial hair, directly inferring that people with these features are ugly, and then finishes by showing the same person looking absolutely flawless, pouting and preening themselves as they show off how successfully they have conformed to the standardised ideal of beauty that society has created. To me, these videos come across as less ‘let’s fight body-shaming’ and more ‘look at how pretty my new MAC foundation makes me.’

A List of Things that Annoy Me.

1). Bad spelling
I understand that not everyone has the same grasp of the English language and that even the brightest of people have the odd few words that they struggle to spell. However, I just don’t understand how people are incapable of spelling basic words correctly. Let’s take the word ‘tired’ for instance, this word consists of five letters and has a difficulty rating of 0.2, yet I still see people frequently making the mistake of writing ‘tiered’. You are not tiered. You are not a wedding cake. You are tired. Just like I’m tired of your bad spelling.

2). People who try to enforce their opinions onto others.
We all believe that our own opinions are correct, however, the majority of us are willing to stay open minded and listen to the beliefs of others. We can then have a polite discussion about our different views and leave the conversation feeling enriched and open to new ways of seeing the world. Unfortunately, there always seems to be one or two people who lack respect towards other people’s beliefs. Rather than listening to your argument they will try to destroy it. I find this incredibly disrespectful. I’m very opinionated but I try to always keep an open mind and actually enjoy trying to look at things from another person’s viewpoint. Unless that viewpoint happens to be racist, sexist or homophobic.

3). Bad manners
If you’re walking through a doorway and someone is following you then hold the door open for them. If someone happens to do this as you are walking through the doorway then say thank you. Don’t be rude to people working in shops or in restaurants, they are entitled to earn a living without someone who thinks they are above them acting shitty. Unfortunately, common courtesy no longer seems to be that common. Manners don’t cost anything so please start using them if you don’t already.

4). People chewing with their mouths open.
I don’t feel an explanation is necessary for this one.

5). Slow Walkers
You know the ones that I mean, those people who amble along aimlessly stopping every few seconds for no reason other than to see whether you walk into the back of them. They have no cares in the world and they certainly have nowhere to be. This point also extends to those couples who feel the need to take a leisurely stroll through busy shopping centres whilst holding hands. These slow walker duos are especially infuriating because they are harder to overtake. A least when they walk in single file we are able to dodge around them.

6). The influence of the media
The influence that the media now has over young people, especially young women, is actually quite disturbing. Personally, I think that a lot of what we see in the media has an incredibly negative effect on someone’s body image. My reason for this is simple- how can somebody learn to love themselves and be comfortable in theirskin when our standards of what is beautiful have become so narrow. Girls, you don’t need bigger lips or breasts, we just need to look somewhere other than Closer magazine for our role models.

#angry, #annoying, #beauty, #frustrating, #media-2, #opinion, #rude, #socialcommentary, #society, #thoughts

Why I Feel Sorry for Paris Hilton

Although I did watch the TV programme ‘The Simple Life’, I can wholeheartedly say that I have never been a fan of Paris Hilton’s. In fact, I tend to categorise her with the rest of the terrible ‘role models’ who are famous for simply being famous. The whole dumb blonde routine has always grated on me but even so, I don’t think that she deserved what recently happened to her. I don’t think anybody deserves it.
This is something that I never thought I would say but I actually feel sorry for Paris Hilton. Yes, you read that correctly. I feel bad for her. Let me explain. Recently, I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed and came across a clip showing Paris Hilton appearing on a TV programme which I assumed would be similar to the American show Punk’d. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Punk’d, (where have you been?!), this is a sort of reality TV show that plays pranks on unsuspecting celebrities. Expecting a bit of a laugh I started watching the clip which shows Paris become the victim of a prank played by an Egyptian TV programme called Ramez in Control. I quickly worked out that the main difference between Punk’d and Ramez in Control is that the pranks on Punk’d are funny. This clip was not funny. It was cruel.
Paris is the unwitting celebrity who falls victim to the show’s latest extreme prank. The clip that I watched shows Paris aboard a small aircraft under the impression that she is going on a little outing to see an aerial tour of Dubai. Unfortunately for poor Paris, this isn’t the case. Hidden cameras show Paris sat on the front row of this tiny aircraft, happily chatting away to her fellow passengers, (all of whom are professional actors), when the plane suddenly nosedives towards the ground at the hands of the stunt pilot in control of it. Drinks get thrown around, people get thrown around and all hell breaks loose. At this point, not surprisingly, Paris has started to freak out a little bit. As if hurtling towards the ground wasn’t bad enough, after a few minutes the back doors of the aircraft open and a man, who unbeknown to Paris is actually wearing a parachute, appears to fall out of the plane. Cue Paris panicking and assuming that death is inevitable.
To me, a prank is a funny but harmless joke that is played on someone. The prank played on Paris was neither of those things. A prank is something that tricks you. It should not be something that leaves you crying and screaming hysterically. It certainly should not be something that tricks you into thinking you are about to die. I didn’t find the clip funny in the slightest. In fact, I found it disgusting. As I have already stated, I am not a fan of Paris Hilton. However, I don’t think that anybody, no matter how annoying they may be, deserves to go through the trauma of thinking that the plane they are on is about to go down. Death is not something we can be this light hearted about. It is not funny to fool anyone into thinking that they are going to die. It is unethical and just plain mean.
Once the aircraft lands, you can see a very shaken and still teary Paris say that she thought she was going to die. It has since circulated that she is planning on suing the company for emotional distress and I can’t say that I blame her. Reality shows are constantly trying to outdo each other by doing more and more outrageous things but this prank seems to have completely backfired. Instead of making me laugh at her expense it has actually made me pity Paris Hilton and, dare I say it, warm towards her a little. It has even made me feel a little guilty for enjoying the scene in the movie House of Wax where she dies.