"I don't think that being a strong person is about ignoring your emotions and fighting your feelings. Putting on a brave face doesn't mean you're a brave person. That's why everybody in my life knows everything that I'm going through. I can't hide anything from them. People need to realise that being open isn't the same as being weak."

- Taylor Swift

Thursday, October 22, 2015

A shackle;
To people of my blood
But not my tongue
(or heart)

A badge of honour
I am the blood of kings
God; how I have dishonoured them
(In ecstasy)

A war cry
I exist
In No Man's Land
(I am no man)

Soft, and plump
Fingerprints and bruises fade
I cannot be hard

(I have too much heart)

But by God;
I was made strong.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


You are everything I hate
Sweat, smoke, and sand
I want...

(I know you.
You are tears and grass stains and broken dreams)

I like the way this hangs in the air
You are quick to catch the scent-

You look up, I look down
And then you look down on me

(Perhaps we will find equilibrium
When I am on my knees)

You built this suburban sprawl
With your bare hands;

You are a beast of a man

I want to see

How much of a beast I can be.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Macbeth: A Review

Now Playing: Magnets by Disclosure ft. Lorde (dancing past the point of no return, let go, we can free ourselves of all we've learned) 

Sometimes you watch a movie trailer and you are absolutely enthralled; your life depends on you seeing this goddamn mesmerising film.

I called up my favourite pasta-and-good-times buddy to lure her into this mission of mine, which turned out to be a genuine mission of finding where the hell was showing this film, which was allegedly released in Australia two weeks ago. It's a telling sign of everything I disdain about Perth that there was only one place showing it; an artsy fartsy, tiny rundown cinema buried in the nightclub district. The screen was not much bigger than a fancy modern flat screen, of which my parsimonious house manages to have two, and the cinema was a poky little room that seemed impossibly lacking in capacity until you realize that your only comrades are a few old people and a swarm of absurdly silly giggling bubble tea drinkers.

Macbeth is one of my favourite Shakespearean texts, although I must admit that upper high school and university seemed to be far more preoccupied with Hamlet and my professor's penchant for the historical plays, and so my sense of the plot was a little rusty. Despite this, the film seemed aimed at the bourgeois English academic type, and strikes a perfect balance between authenticity and loyalty to the text, whilst still managing to throw in the odd curveball to keep things exciting.

There is a logic to this rendition that is somewhat lacking in the original form of early modern theatre as bawdy mass entertainment with scant budgets and recycled props. Macbeth is reimagined by Fassbender as suffering from PTSD; a soldier struggling to live outside the battlefield binary of friend or foe. The implausible slaughter of Duncan is rendered in the most realistic way possible, with the subtle choreography of the many character's psyches dancing together in perfect unison. The Macbeth's passion for power and privilege is also reinforced by the great gap between Duncan and his beloved Thanes; Macbeth's castle is little more than a leaky church and a few tents in the middle of god knows where, which contrasts sharply with the grandeur and luxury of the palace they eventually inhabit. The woods coming up to Dunsinane is cleverly reimagined into a far more plausible battle strategy, and the film does not employ the black comedy of other early modern tragedies. And in the end a coda featuring Fleance provides the realistic implication that the bloody dynastic politics are far from over; which makes sense, given that Fleance, not Malcolm, is claimed as the legendary forefather for the Stuart dynasty.

Shakespearean texts can get a bit dude-centric, and the testosterone fueled, bloody plot of Macbeth is no exception - so it was interesting that the film chose to highlight the soldier's familial relationships, and the importance of wives and heirs to the patriarchal structure; which contextualizes the Macbeth's anguish, and the violence against Macduff's 'pretty chickens and their dam'. In this way, the women and children of the story are not just pawns, but things that the Macbeth's openly covet; Macbeth seems transfixed by Banquo's Fleance, and Lady Macduff is Lady Macbeth's foil in every way; Scottish, demure, and blatantly fecund. This fixation over women and children reaches a bloody head through the clever reinterpretation of the slaughter of the Macduffs, which will shake even the sort who can sing The Bard in two-part harmony. The re-imagining of Macbeth's bloody ascent to power as means to 'fill the void' left behind by their dead child also provides an interesting dynamic for the close relationship between Macbeth and his wife, which seemed incongruous in incarnations of Macbeth that cast her as the aggressive manipulator of a browbeaten husband - Macbeth and Lady Macbeth become a sort of Henry and Anne Boleyn thing, with the conspicuous absence of an heir hanging in the air like the Scottish frost. In the absence of comic relief, the focus on relationships instead heightens the drama to almost uncomfortable levels as people are hacked apart, burned alive, and go insane.

The highlight of the film is Marion Cotillard, who is a dynamic, enigmatic, and strangely sympathetic Lady Macbeth; her viciousness and ambition is contextualized by personal tragedy and her emotionally fraught position as an outsider. There is no excusing of her monstrosity in the film, but as you watch her wide, alien eyes grieve, and then light up with ambition, and then quietly fade away into nothingness, her story has a complexity and a sincerity that is hard to not empathize with. The representation of women in this film is nuanced and poignant and pulls away from the Madonna/whore dichotomy that the passive Lady Macduff and the bitchy Lady Macbeth used to represent; almost all of Lady Macduff's lines are cut, but she still manages to be a fascinating character in the way the camera lingers on her eyes, which shrewdly take in everything that happens in her soldier husband's world, and in her final, agonizing lines. This film manages to pull off the impossible feat of not only casting the most perfect Academy Award-winning and -nominated actors, but also the right child actors to pull at your heartstrings just at the right moment.

My only whinge - and it is a minor one - is the habit to zoom in on Macbeth and hold the camera there as he delivers line after line of flawless Shakespearean text. Which is all well and good, on stage, but this film is so focused on scenery and character that it drags a bit on the already dense and fairly slow-paced film. I understand that this was probably to give Macbeth more screen time, and that his endless soliloquys are essential to the plot for the three people who somehow manage to cling to every word between the rough Scottish accents and the even rougher wind, but the film manages to find more interesting ways for Lady Macbeth to spew her lines out ('Out, damned spot' is particularly good) so I think they really ought to have tried a bit harder with the titular character. That being said, the movie redeems itself of its endless zoomed in soliloquies with a pretty spectacular rendition of 'tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow'  

 This year's Cannes was dominated by Australians - Mad Max, and then Mad Mac; and the latter is well worth the headache of tracking down a theatre that is willing to screen this to this land of bogans.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Abuse, Literature, and My Childhood

Now Playing: Magnets by Disclosure ft. Lorde (I was wondering about you and that girl, she your girlfriend? Face from heaven, bet the world she don't know, pretty girls don't know the things that I know) 

So Twilight turns 10 years old this year and Stephenie Meyer continues her long tradition of inexplicable decisions and has released a gender swapped 'reimagining' of the book.

Twilight was released in 2005; I think I read it one or two years later, at about eleven or twelve. And I was, like most teenage girls, enthralled. I was part a generation of young, bookish girls who saw Bella as a kind of real-world Hermione with the Best Boyfriend In the World, which is an insult to Hermione, boyfriends, and the world.

I didn't think they were well written. Some of it didn't make sense and a lot of it made me laugh out loud. But I adored Twilight, and I know exactly why.

It was the first time I had come across any media specifically targeted at my age group that explicitly discussed sex and sexuality. The only romantic stories before Twilight were fairytales, but that was less romance and more 'inexplicable marriage to man I barely know'. By age eleven I had hit puberty like a freight train but between my nerdiness and Asianness and general unprettiness I was treated as borderline disabled. It was only by being Bella, by stepping into a character's shoes for a moment, I was allowed to explore all the things that flooded my younger self's brain.

If there is one thing to be commended about Twilight is that Bella is an excellent reader surrogate - it was so easy to pretend to be her. So I, and millions of other young, vulnerable girls,  had a relationship with Edward.

Later on an older and wiser me read all the literature about Twilight being violent and abusive, but when I first read Twilight I thought everything about their relationship was romantic and passionate and exciting. It was all I wanted. I was totally drunk on the idea of a relationship like that; and that was when my All Consuming Need for a Boyfriend kicked in. I knew I wouldn't meet Edward, but I thought I could recreate at least a part of it.

Turns out, I did.

I met someone who, to my eye, was incredibly beautiful, extremely charismatic, charming, polite. The conversation was always witty and fiery and our relationship had an intensity that frightened me; but that was okay, because Bella is always frightened of Edward and she was his one true love and all of that. I had stopped reading Twilight by then, mostly because it wasn't cool, but I had internalized those ideas and even though I stopped pretending to be Bella I never stopped wanting what Bella had.

Abuse, it turns out, does not end in a pretty cottage and a perfect wedding and an adorable child who somehow never needs nappy changes and everyone gets to live forever. Abuse tore me apart. It happened so long ago but it casts a shadow over every day.

I'm not saying that Twilight caused me to end up in an abusive relationship; I was very young, and extremely gullible. But Twilight was a huge part of the media I consumed that taught me what I wanted, and it had the special distinction of being the only book in my childhood that acknowledged female desire; even in the most toxic, twisted ways. I had been such a punky, rebellious kid but I became a total doormat around the people I thought I loved and even now I struggle with the many misogynistic attitudes that I have internalized by reading garbage that perpetuates harmful ideas about gender and sex and relationships.

I am part of the Twilight generation, and I'm angry. I've learned not to put too much value in 'firsts'; I know that they don't define you, that you can rebuild after a bad experience, but that was my first encounter with a heroine who had any concept of sexuality and I was so starved of that that I drank it up blindly. When you're a child, especially a weird, isolated child, you trawl desperately through books to find someone like you; and even though I never really found myself, in Bella there was a tiny acknowledgement, a little bit of validation, for things and thoughts and feelings that people taught me were wrong and that I should hide. There are dark consequences to selling a story about an abusive relationship, even if it is a fictional story in a badly written book about a hilariously uninteresting student and a sparkly chandelier of a vampire. Yeah, it was just a book. But I was just eleven; and now I am just nineteen and I am still trying to navigate the moral quagmire of sex and relationships and the more Stephenie Meyer tries to revive and reincarnate her dead dog of a franchise, the more damage she will do to little girls who deserve better.


Friday, October 09, 2015

Better Man.

I went back--

To our old haunt today.

Ones that don't like to pick at scars.

I remember babbling to you--
(Fifteen years old)

About this NEW BOOK

And you said it was dumb
Real women aren't caught between men

Well, now.

I am proud to have loved you.
To love a wretch is a wretched thing

But to love is to be the better man.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Why are we so quick to judge people who love their abusers? Love, by definition, is loving someone as they are; and there is something really admirable about that, to love something as deeply flawed as another human being. I don't know why we are so quick to judge that.

The burden should not be on people to fall out of love with the people that hurt them; so many people have tried to coax and goad and guilt me into falling out of love, to deny feelings, and it nearly broke me. The real challenge is to recognise and accept that when someone hurts you, they no longer love you.

Your feelings are your own. Own them and value them and always be proud that you can love so recklessly and try, very hard, to never let that go.