Cool Girl or the Good Girlfriend Syndrome

Within feminist theory gender roles and norms are not only identified based upon the parameter of sex, but into subcategories of these generalisations. Some of the more common ones are the Good Girl, the Madonna, and the Whore for women and the Emotionless Jock, the Sexless but Lovely Male Friend, and the Gay Best Friend for men (as still, feminist theory can’t identify specific roles for people standing outside of the binary frame of gender, since lack of representation for people of non-binary identities). These represent certain roles created from social pressure of gender, and while most people can recognise these patterns, there is one stereotype that is mostly left alone, that I personally only really have come across in Gone Girl (2014), what one of the lead roles Amy Dunne defines as the “Cool Girl”.

Cool Girl is described as a role a woman takes on because of a man, specifically in the frame of a sexual and or romantic relationship, and entails a state of being that exudes ease. A cool girl is not complicated, nor of her own character, but absolutely subversive to a man, in his specific personality. Cool girl doesn’t have standards, but not in the same way as the Whore, but suited for the man of the said relationship. Amy explains this in her monologue in the film as “Nick loved a girl I was pretending to be. Cool girl. Men always use that, don’t they?  As their defining compliment. She’s a Cool girl. Cool girl is hot. Cool girl is game. Cool girl is fun. Cool girl never gets angry at her man. She only smiles in a chagrin loving manner and then presents her mouth for fucking. She like what he likes. So, evidently, he’s vinyl hipster who loves fetish monger. If he likes girls gone wild, she’s a mall babe who talks football and endures buffalo wings at Hooters.

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Cool girl adapts. This is not to state that people should never adapt or compromise for each other, in healthy relationships this is usually a must, since people more often than rare are not perfectly suited for each other, even in the most beautiful stories of love. But adapting, and compromising, for each other, meaning both parties are equal, is different to what occurs in the case of a Cool Girl. Within a relationship where the woman becomes the Cool Girl, the adaptation and compromising comes from only one part, leading the other part, the man, to think there is nothing to adapt to and living after that standard, his standard.

The concept of a Cool Girl can also be extended, exploring relationships in which these adaptations are not only made in the framework of personality and lifestyle choices, but of emotional matters. Goals and dreams in life, fundamental values of the relationship, and emotional work. The Cool Girl has now entered into a much deeper psychological framework of the relationship, what I personally call the Good Girlfriend Syndrome. In my definition the Cool Girl is more of a shallow kind of adaptation, mostly used in rapid, easy going relationships, or in the early stages of a more emotional, committed relationship. This is also the case of the relationship between Amy and Nick Dunne in Gone Girl. Amy present herself as Cool Girl in the earlier stages of the relationship, and even though this charade continues for a longer period of time, the stereotype has now morphed into the Good Girlfriend Syndrome. In the beginning of the relationship Amy adapted to certain lifestyle choices, but moving forward she adapts to deep emotional matters of her relationship with Nick. She follows him to live in his hometown so he can be close to his mother, even though she would have rather not, and she adapts to his extreme comfort in their relationship, even to the point when he stops to put effort into their relationship. But she sticks with it, dragging the weight of the emotional work needed in the relationship. The desire to be a good partner to someone is not the same as wanting to be a Good Girlfriend, while it might seem similar, or even natural. To act as a great partner in life require understanding, emotional commitment, and most of all honesty, while acting as the Good Girlfriend accordingly to the (my) theorem of the named syndrome requires primarily one thing, which stated earlier; adaptation, but also the discipline to do so, which related back to more common grounds of gender generalisations and pressures from society of women taking care of others in spite of hurting themselves.

This is interesting in many layers, but probably mostly because it reveals a lot about inequality among men and women in close relationships, and is a contribution to the question of how men view women. Because even though Gone Girl is a psychological thriller, which reveals itself by altering Amy from the Good Girlfriend into a psychopath, which is not a topic for this time or matter, this film (and book) is my opinion a perfect example of modern inequality and the view of women, both in depicting the first reality of Amy constantly adapting but then later in defining and questioning the paradigm. This is modern criticism of this inequality that is very present of this time, that even though society is becoming more equal, it’s not fully there, especially in close relationships. This films tells the story of the everyday matter of how men seek out what is colloquially called “real women”, in the sense that Amy presented it in her monologue. Women with meat on their bones, who like beer and burgers, and who are not complicated but down to earth. This is the view a lot of men have of women, and sometimes can be praised for, for when a man loves a woman who is not conventional to previous paradigm of women. However, this is wrongfully misleading, since this is not depicting women as real, but just altering the scheme of which women are compared and held up against to. A real woman is a human being, both beyond but also strongly influenced by her gender and those assumptions gender comes with because no one can truly escape society.

Gone Girl is a film that has been praised, and obviously also criticized, for various reasons. It has been nominated and awarded for its technicalities of production, screenplay, casting and actors, soundtrack, and depictions of an alternative for the villain, and has also been ranked upon many top lists of film of modern day. Amy Dunne as a character has been widely discussed, studied, and been viewed in awe, both for being a ruthless psychopath and also being an interesting character in film that has brought something new to the screen. But Gone Girl has also provided the identification and definition of a gender assumption, the Cool Girl, and given representation of a new field of study in the matters of gender equality in close relationships and feminist theory.

Adrian

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Unread in my bookshelf

Literature, reading, and books are one of my greatest interest and aspect of life. Spending a Friday night buried in a blanket and reading a book sound like the ultimate night, and I fill out shelf after shelf with book finds from my local charity shop. However my speed of purchasing and collecting books is much greater than my reading rate, which leaves me with tons of unread, presumingly gems, in my bookcase that makes it on the list of must reads. Here are some of those books:

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21 Lessons for the 21th Century (2018) by Yuval Noah Harari
This is the one that brings me the most shame that I have yet to read, even though it only has been released for months, since Harari is one of my favourite authors and I utterly love his previous books Sapiens and Homo Deus. This book is the third instalment of his works addressing humanity and its history, presence, and future. Both Sapiens and Homo Deus are graceful pieces of literature, the writing similar to fictive but the content highly non fictive, creating two masterpieces that I predict will be viewed as both scientific and literature classics in the centuries to come. So to embark on 21 Lessons for the 21th Century is something I hopefully will be able to prioritize moving forward.

Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) by George Orwell
To be honest, I did start reading this book only to find myself bored. Orwells previous short story Animal Farm from 1945, with a highly similar message, is definitely a modern masterpiece, which I absolutely adore, but it was something with Nineteen Eighty-Four that simply felt… off. However people have told me the beginning is slow and even dull, only to later develop into something spectacular, so it’s a story to set aside time to read through for later wonders.

The Vegetarian (2007) by Han Kang
One specific subgenre of thought that interest me greatly, regardlessly if it’s in literature, films, or just discussions amongst friends, is the burning question of how men view women, especially in modern society and in close, often romantic, relationships. And for what I guess, The Vegetarian is a perfect example of that, presented to the reader in the first line only: “Before my wife turned vegetarian, I’d always thought of her as completely unremarkable in every way.”

The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) by Margaret Atwood
A modern, must read, that, obviously since appearing on this list, I’ve yet to read. The story combines the messages of previously mentioned Nineteen Eighty-Four and The Vegetarian into a mixture of the totalitarian state of a patriarchal dominance, which sound equally emotionally dreadful as thrilling; a book I naturally find myself gravitating towards.

The People in the Trees (2013) by Hanya Hanagihara
Wandering, and also wondering, around in my local bookshop one day pondering upon which books to buy next, because an overwhelming sea of unread books in my bookshelf is never enough, I stumbled across the section of books being advertised by the recommendations of the people working there, and on top of the shelf was this, The People in the Trees. Never heard of seen of it, but being bombarded by Hanya Hanagihara as an author of A Little Life from 2015, I thought it was a new coming novel, but nevertheless the book was the debut novel of the author originating back to 2013. And due to excessive trust towards people, especially for people doing works in their fields, it ended up in my bookcase, still unread but excitedly waited upon.  

Adrian

Films To Be Seen

In an endless sea of films there will always be another and another, and yet another, one wish to have been seen before the inevitable death of us. And my list of films that fill with me with excitement to see is equally as long as infinity, but to list all in their entirety would also be impossible, so here are a few to start with:

The Master (2012)

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In the medium of film, this is definitely seen as a modern classic depicting a story of a small, religious collective based upon the Church of Scientology. It has been ranked the best of film of modern time, and been nominated and won several awards for its greatness. There is also the very well known interrogation scene between the two main character, played by Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman, which also has praised greatly on its own. The trailer and the outlook upon this movie speaks loudly to me, and I hope to watch it soon.

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

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When my former partner found out that I had been listening to Bohemian Rhapsody by Panic! At the Disco and not by Queen he definitely had a small mental breakdown forcing me to listen to the original and due to him Queen is now on my Spotify playlist, amongst few other (music isn’t my strong suit, it’s more of a transportation for me than a joy). But since starting to really appreciate the band and their works I’ve found myself craving to see the film depicting the life of Freddie Mercury, curbing my interest of music into films.

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

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A film classic yet to be seen! Horror films are not my favorite genre, however I’m all about the wicked and slightly disturbed, usually the more insane the better. Also, since I’m such a geek for films I’ve wanted to explore the titles amongst the director Stanley Kubrick, so A Clockwork Orange is definitely on the list of movies to see.

Adrian

 

The Joker: Ledger versus Phoenix

One of film history’s biggest roles is the Joker, with his psychopathic yet oddly witty personality thriving in his dominance and absolute carelessness. He is not only unlike any other character on screen, but also unlike any villain, nor superheroes thereof. To portray a realistic, complex, and suitable character is an art in itself, but to create a villain on screen demands serious techniques beyond any other. Especially the Joker, since he above all is an established favourite amongst the comic book characters and is presented with such ludicrous manners parading in his suit of a clown. To make this character in a non animated film, that also thrive to be taken seriously, is therefore a project of great complexity; especially in casting the best suited actor for the role.

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Presented in I Am Heath Ledger (2017), the actor of which the documentary was created to praise was not highly respected or trusted to take on the role of the Joker. When Christopher Nolan released that he would cast Heath Ledger as the Joker in upcoming sequel to Batman people were not overly excited, not even his close friends by seen in the documentary. By this time Ledger was not an A-lister, only having done a few roles and even by mastering the role of Ennis del Mar in Brokeback Mountain (2006) he was not seen as an actor of value in the eyes of the public. However Ledger delivered and performed his part as the Joker with such depth that the success rate of Batman: The Dark Knight (2008) skyrocketed, landing on many best-movies-of-all-time lists. It also established Ledger as a force to be reckoned with, and being considered as one of the greatest actors and delivering one of the best performances of perhaps the century. Most importantly, he didn’t fall flat in comparison to Jack Nicholson and his interpretation of the Joker in Batman (1989), however Ledger stand beside him; even above in many eyes (including mine).

While the Joker has indeed been portrayed after Ledger by Jared Leto in Suicide Squad (2016), the performance and even simply the appearance of Leto easily can be compared by George Clooney’s lousy attempt at taking on Batman in Batman & Robin (1997), it would have been better never proceeded, here we stand again; letting the role of the Joker move forward to another actor with both anticipation and fear. This time to Joaquin Phoenix in the upcoming film Joker (2019).

Phoenix is formerly known for his performances in The Master (2012), Her (2013), Gladiator (2000), and Walk the Line (2005), also recognised for his activism including being cast as the narrator for the documentary Earthlings (2005). And while the anticipation of watching Phoenix playing the Joker is remarkably higher with him already being an established actor, it also allows for a higher downfall if he doesn’t succeed. It is not with distrust in Phoenix as an actor this is pointed out, but with the element of surprise. Previously mentioned Ledger was not thought of much before he wooed everyone with his performance, which while it was a disadvantage leading up to the release of the movie quickly turned to an advantage. Ledger could enter the role of the Joker completely and dominate everyone with his brilliance, partly because no one thought he would. However, in the case of Phoenix, its the opposite. He has the advantage leading up to the release of the origin story of the Joker being highly trusted and already dominating the discussion of upcoming films, but the question is if he can stand tall when the film is let into the world.

Also, the success of both the film and the character of the Joker is not simply based upon the performance of Phoenix. It also depends on the entirely of the movie, primarily based on the techniques of film making and adaptation of the story line. An in this, Batman: The Dark Knight had an advantage. A origin story is not for everyone’s consumption, since it usually is far less exhilarating and much more straight up geeky than a protagonist versus antagonist element to the narrative. If the latter appears in Joker, the character of the Joker is also determined by the portrayal of Batman, since the chemistry is crucial to the story. Another interesting aspect to this is the idea of protagonist and antagonist duos, in the theory of film making is set to being an absolute. The Joker performs best with a specific opponent, any form of good hearted fellow won’t do. A deeper analysis of this is presented by the Lessons from the Screenplay, which dives deeper into why Batman: The Dark Knight was the ultimate film for both Batman and the Joker. This a key point in the infrastructure of which the Joker has to exist in to be able to perform as a character, which is probably hugely missing in an origin story.

However, the origin story also has advantages to the classical good versus evil narration. The time frame of which the Joker will have in his own movie is much larger, focusing primarily on him as a character and allowing all elements to explore and develop the role further than what could be done in a film following another character. Every element of Joker can be used to benefit the story of the Joker, in his madness and insanity but also have time to gain understanding regarding other sides of the character such as his background and perhaps more vulnerable emotions. And this, hopefully, nuanced portrayal of the Joker will succeed gracefully if Phoenix step forward into the role as he previously has done, being nominated for three Academy Awards and a sea of other honorships.

All things considered, my personal view of the matter is that while Phoenix might perform with elegance and deliver a well rounded version of the Joker the premises of him conquering the leader of the role to both Nicholson and Ledger seems too unlikely for him to succeed. Especially with the shock factor of what was the work of Ledger’s acting combined with an less outstanding but still honorable performance of Christian Bale playing Batman and the directing by Nolan that created the masterpiece that is Batman: The Dark Knight. However, it will bring much interest and contemptment to follow the path to the release of the Joker and hopefully Phoenix, and the film, will not only amaze me, but also prove me wrong.

Adrian

Call Me By Your Name

In regards to films and series I’m someone who is drawn to the bizarre, mysterious, surrealistic, and slightly insane, topping my favourite list of movies and series are titles such as Batman: The Dark Knight (2008), Maniac (2018), Twin Peaks (1992-2017), and Black Swan (2010) etc, all leaving me feeling shaken to my core of fear and overwhelmed with the satisfaction of it all, it’s a mysterious kind of drug. However, the exception to this is Call Me By Your Name (2017).

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Call Me By Your Name is based on the book, with the same title, released in 2007 by author André Aciman. It tells a coming of age story exploring matters of the human range of emotions, both beautiful and miserable, regarding relationships, sexuality, and primarily love depicting a whirlwind of a relationship between the two main characters. The film is a masterpiece by director Luca Guadagnino with wonderfully hurtful but beautiful original songs by Sufjan Stevens, a pastel colour palette that set the tone of the story perfectly, and a screenplay with such elegance it won an Academy Award. Both the film and the book can be discussed during endless hours only for their craftsmanship and other matters of production, such as storyline and characters depictions. The film can also applaud itself on forming one of the most well acted performances by lead actors Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer, who deliver electricity with their characters Elio and Oliver and mostly, the chemistry between them.

The plot explores and develops the theme of falling head over heels in love with someone, and what that entails. It explores sexuality, both in the matter of its definition but also like a phenomenon that forces human beings to obey and surrender to one’s desires. But what sets this story apart from other love stories for me, is the complete acceptance of love not only being the cause but often the reason of feelings of confusion, shame, and sadness. Call Me By Your Name explores not only the beauty of being in love, but the agony with it. To have such strong emotions towards one person isn’t always easy, it never is. This isn’t a mediocre feeling of liking someone, or the wholesomeness of loving someone dearly, this is the kind of feeling that knocks you over completely. The moment Elio fell in love with Oliver, he also fell apart. Every cell of him disintegrated into nothingness, an act so subversive he had to follow. Oliver, throughout the story, was completely controlling of Elio, not in his action but in his mere existence. And completely broken down, Elio had to rebuilt himself with Oliver within every cell of his body. Elio could never be the same. People might say that this is insanity and that love shouldn’t make you feel this strongly, and to a certain degree that is correct. To feel this strongly is highly self destructive, especially if the other person doesn’t share the experience. It knocks the power balance out of the game. However, emotions are not under human control, they are free spirits of chemicals that rush through people without needing consent of existing. And yes, feeling such love is truly insanity.

The book explores this insanity much deeper than the film, it can easily explained that while they both share the same core theme, love comes with pain, the film focuses more on the matter of that it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved, but the book is centered around the idea that being in love is not only beautiful and happy. And while this separation is necessary for the film to have been received as it was, and it brings beauty to a specific topic of love, people who only have seen the film are missing out on a serious matter. The book dives deeper into Elio’s thoughts around his own feelings about being in love, much more personal than what Oliver ever is a part of. For being in love is so much seen as something you share, and while part of it is, a huge part of this feeling is only for oneself to explore and live with since you also have to live with yourself being in love, without the person you’re in love with. One’s whole personality might change, curb to the person one is in love with, and the fundamental feeling of existing is altered.

“I didn’t know what I was afraid of, nor why I worried so much, nor why this thing that could so easily cause panic felt like hope sometimes and, like hope in the darkest moments, brought such joy, joy with a noose tied around it. The thud my heart gave when I saw him unannounced both terrified and thrilled me. I was afraid when he showed up, afraid when he failed to, afraid when he looked at me, more frightened yet when he didn’t” page 59

The insanity of being in love is not very often portrayed in medias of consumption, or at least any similar to Call Me By Your Name. The usual imagery of someone being crazily in love is slapstick comedy, while Elio’s emotions are stripped of any kind of humorous character. It’s raw, it’s real, it’s insane. And throughout the story it is never fully considered to straightforwardly wrong, the insanity of Elio’s feelings towards Oliver are depicted with such ease that it seems… given? And perhaps this is why the sad love story of Call Me By Your Name stands strong with my favourite films amongst more outspokenly insanity, the movie depicts something alternative to the very normative narrative of love and makes my personal emotions and experiences feel less… deranged.

Adrian

Tinder and the Art of Selection

Tinder and other online dating services have rapidly increased in both its usage and social acceptance over the last few years, to have met a romantic partner through an online site seven years ago was considered embarrassment of horrendous amount but having one’s first encounter on Tinder today is the new norm. And the accessibility is truly remarkable, everyone with a smartphone can sign up for free and swipe the night away finding people in their close surroundings that turn out to be a perfect match. Whatever someone might want in a romantic partner can easily be put into numbers and statistical matters, such as height in someone’s biograph section or those perfect dark curls. It filters through a lot of meaningless tries; political standpoints and sexual preferences that don’t match can easily be swiped away. Left!

It can’t be denied that online dating is convenient, it allows for people to hold higher standards in their relationships and not accidentally get emotionally involved with others who might be disrespectful or who they don’t share the same fundamental values, however it also allows for people to set unrealistic standards for people, and ultimately not view people as people. On Tinder you might swipe left on someone because they are too short, even with just an inch, or because their third image made them seem weirder for your liking, but someone can be utterly miserable at presenting themself online and be that inch “too short” but in real life be incredible compassionate, caring, and attractive enough for you to flutter just at the thought of them holding your hand. And reflecting upon your current relationships, the closest ones in our lives are not perfect (if it ever would exist such a thing), mostly far from, and the primary reason we find liking in them is because of an unexplainable connection that only can be experienced in interacting with them personally, usually in real life. Also, thinking about them in matters of qualities it doesn’t matter if they tick the boxes of “the ultimate friend”, which they usually don’t, because they provide personality traits that you wouldn’t ever imaging finding appealing. The same principle works for romantic relationships. The person you might fall in love with and have an amazing relationship with might not be a morning person which you anticipated, but they can perhaps speak several languages, and while they can’t cook even if their life depended on it, again which you wished, they woo you with their skills in bouldering. But most importantly, being that inch shorter than wished for will never undermine the fact that someone will make you laugh until you cry and cuddle you all throughout the night when being ill and make you feel the best version of yourself. Love doesn’t grow and bloom from the shallowness of specific details, but from the connection between people. People are not their qualities that can be specified and written down into a character limited bio on an online dating app, they are complex and diverse individuals which needs to be explored fully in regard of wishlists.

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Ultimately, people should not be open to love everyone, I can’t disagree with that. But to find a romantic partner is more than statistical analyses. It’s wonderfully weird to fall in love with someone who you never thought you could love, and most of the time those relationships last the longest. Tinder will never be able to provide that.

Adrian

 

The Beginning, Again

Once again I’ve found myself gravitating towards the mystery that is writing, like trying to return to a long lost lover that never really left me through multiple other.

Let’s meet, again.

This space is for me to express my never ending interest in the art of writing, through scrapping down ideas and thoughts on both nonsense and life defining matters such as literature, film, relationships, politics, and other things that keep me awake at night.

Adrian