(*Edited - content added, nothing removed)
Okay, so I can't give a full review of this star-studded movie yet because I haven't seen it all yet - but I will say that from what I've seen so far, it's an absolutely brilliant, scathing satire of our culture - and accurate!
Just a forewarning - you may see yourself - OR - it may cause arguments with whomever you're watching it with - if they see themselves among the people being satirized.
Because I'm sorry, as much as we want to skewer just the political right, and claim this movie is skewering just the political right - it's actually skewering all of us, American culture in general, with us liberals included - and we need to admit it if we're going to make things better ;)
Otherwise, it's hilarious and spot on (so far)!
Thus far, it's been about 50/50 on critics' review of the film -and to be honest with you?
Though I haven't seen the full film yet, I honestly think, from what I've read - they're just pissed that they saw themselves being skewered, too ;)
It's all fine and dandy to hilariously skewer Trump as the poster boy for white-male privilege - but don't you dare point out how even we liberals ourselves have benefited from white-male privilege and enabled this broken socioeconomic system and overly value materialism too! (Harrumph)
So the premise is, an astrophysics PhD candidate at Michigan State University, Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) - yes, that Michigan State University, my husband's alma mater - discovers a comet, 5 to 10 km in size.
When she shares it with her team, they, and her supervising professor, Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio), do the math - and they discover the comet's trajectory is headed straight for earth - and will cause an extinction-level event.
The only problem is - neither the press - nor the president - nor anyone at all - cares.
Instead, they care about things like the latest breakup and make-up of pop stars.
They care about a presidential nominee for the attorney general, who never went to law school, and in fact, was just discovered to have been in a soft porn movie - and yet his political party pushes for him anyway (taking the Christian forgiveness/redemption angle again, without the person having admitted wrongdoing or remorse?)
They care about which of them can be the first press member to cover those stories, rather than the fact that there's a comet headed directly to earth that will annihilate us - either that, or trying to distract from that fact, focusing instead on their political agenda, calling it fake news and assigning conspiracy theories to it.
Now - I'm gonna get really honest and candid, here, about this interaction, and why we didn't watch the rest of it yet - because it momentarily caused an argument between myself and my husband, last night (which has now resolved).
In fact, it got uncharacteristically ugly. We usually use pretty textbook good communication, but for some reason, this one set us off on ugly paths, I guess.
Okay, so the background/setup ...
First came the scene where they're trying to brief the president on the event.
The president's son - who is inappropriately Chief of Staff, of course, and a complete douchebag - disses them for being from Michigan State rather than Ivy League.
For those unaware, Michigan State indeed does have an outstanding astrophysics program, actually in the top 10 in the nation - and it's true many people don't know it - but it really doesn't matter which university discovered it - if it's real, can be proven, and the math works out, then we should listen.
Regardless, my husband could not get past the president's douchebag son dissing his alma mater of Michigan State as not being the most well-known university for astrophysics.
I get it - but even more frustrating is that 20 minutes later in the movie, Dr. Randy - who is ordinarily a shaking, nervous-vomiting, rambler, whom the usually very calm Kate has to rescue and interpret - takes a Xanax before their first press interview - and Kate now loses it in frustration, yelling at them for their apathy, after the inappropriately gleeful press duo continues to joke about the severity of the situation.
Shades of Ellen Ripley in Aliens, trying to convince the corporate-government that the colony they just set up was in great danger.
As you may recall, Ripley keeps a very cool head in an actual crisis, but became frustrated with what the board room thought was so important, which was the bottom-line dollar rather than human lives, and lost her cool (and she did have PTSD) - getting her labeled as unstable and crazy - until they later lost contact with the colony and they realized she wasn't so crazy after all - she was telling the truth, the situation was as dire as she said, and they should've listened to her, and she was the perfect candidate to go back and deal with the situation, having prior experience with them.
Back to Kate finally reaching her frustration tipping point with the press and momentarily losing it on camera, I found myself also saying:
"No, no, Kate - don't do that - they're going to call you crazy and skewer you and discredit you, and that Scarlet Letter brands forever, even if you're later proven right, even if you never lost your cool again."
"Remember, these days, with social media, snapshot-moment public perception is reality - the public believes that single poor moment is who you are overall, for better or worse, no extenuating circumstances perhaps we can't see allowed - so sayeth our gnat-attention-spanned culture - especially for women."
Because you know how people of color cannot get angry on camera, it will be flipped back on them as overall disposition?
Only men - specifically only white men - are allowed to get angry on camera or publicly - in fact, these days, it's encouraged and applauded - even when white men behave like unwarrantedly like overprivileged "Karens."
In fact, we don't even have a name for overprivileged men who behave like "Karens" and throw fits over nonsense, when they can't have their way, do we?
But I have met plenty of male "Karens," too, believe me - if you've ever waited tables, you know what I'm talking about - you'll meet plenty of "Karens" while waiting tables - both male and female, believe me.
Back to the show and Kate momentarily losing her shit - which was not over nonsense - it was over a comet crashing into our planet, and the overly gleeful press making jokes and dismissing it - the morning press dynamic duo turns to Dr. Randy, who is Xanaxed out, and asks: "Is she always like this?"
It was a perfect opportunity for him to say, "No, she isn't - she's just reached her tipping point of frustration with the amount of inappropriate gleefulness or apathy being displayed thus far, over the 99.7% chance that an extinction-level comet will crash into the earth, six months from now."
But he doesn't.
Instead, he jokes, "I should've given her one of my Xanax."
Which would've been okay - had he also answered the question - responding that Kate wasn't normally like that - she was normally the calm, cool, articulate one.
In fact, again, she was the one bailing him out of his laboriously loud anxiety breathing, shaking, stumbling, and rambling - it's just this time, he took Xanax before the interview, and she didn't - but both of them were frustrated with the apathy and dismissiveness of it all, and trying not to panic themselves about the comet situation.
So of course, he's the darling of the day, with really horrible memes being shared about her being a crazy bitch, and him being f---able - and he's totally getting caught up in it, instead of focusing on the comet problem.
Then her boyfriend, a member of the press - who, mind you, hyperventilated and was stumbling around in the street like a crazy man, when she calmly told him about the comet - and constantly asks her for the correct words to use in his articles - became so embarrassed by her anti-apathy outburst, that he writes a piece called "You Know The Crazy Girl on Morning TV? I Slept With Her" - which she finds out like everybody else does - by reading the article in the news.
Literally no one - including Dr. Randy - was defending her, and doing their best to distance themselves from her - because of one poor moment - and despite her being absolutely right and them knowing it.
It was at precisely at this moment, this scene - this inappropriate time - that Mark chooses to turn to me and say: "That f--ker dissing Michigan State. Pisses me off."
Okay, so this is where it starts to get ugly - from both of us - and I have apologized for my part (see below).
I'm sharing this because it's really honest and it's really important for us all to have these types of conversations (just not with such venom) - and Mark knows I am and also agrees these types of conversations actually need to be had, with all of their emotions, if we're going to get anywhere as a society - only not allowing it to get as uncharacteristically ugly as we allowed this one to get :(
Me: "Oh my God, are you still on that? Really, right now? That scene was like 20 minutes ago."
"You just watched the woman who discovered the comet, and bailed out her nervous-wreck, rambling boss in front of the POTUS - AND talks down her hyperventilating boyfriend, panicking in the middle of the street like a crazy man, over the comet - get skewered for a momentary lapse after being met with inappropriate cheerfulness or apathy by government and press - and all you have to say is the unfairness of Michigan State being dissed by an obvious idiot, 20 minutes ago?"
"First of all, Michigan State is not you - you are two separate entities."
"Secondly, the president's son is clearly a douchebag, only in that position because he's the president's son, rather than his own merit, so who cares what he said - 20 MINUTES AGO?"
"Thirdly, the entire point of this film is the stuff that we think is so important, really isn't - how important is it that some idiot dissed Michigan State in either the grand scheme of this film OR in life?
"That's the entire point of the movie that you're completely missing - that status shit we think is so important really ... isn't."
"Lastly, you have nothing to say about how they treated her for a momentary lapse versus how her boss usually is when not on Xanax?"
Mark: "Of course, that's horrible - it just pisses me off, Michigan State has some of the best programs in the world, my particular master's program is the best in the country, but because it's also a Big 10 sports college, people don't take it seriously."
"I'm smarter than most people that say that anyway, most don't even have master's degrees."
Me: "Oh, is that so? You think having a master's degree makes you better than everyone else?
Mark: "Better than most of them, yes, particularly the rednecks here (Kentucky)."
Me: "Oh, HELL no, you did NOT just say that to the half-redneck girl you met here and married, without a master's degree."
"So does that mean me, too?"
"Okay, maybe that's fair - but my redneck grandfather only had an 8th grade education, and was the smartest man I ever knew. God, what a lawyer, doctor, or scientist, who could've made, or maybe a philosopher, but he had to quit school to work on his family's farm."
"My other redneck grandfather, from Harlan, Kentucky, scored the highest on the state civil service engineering exam in history, he set the record, and was later given the key to the city of Louisville, never having gone to college - you think you're smarter than they were?
"I bet both of them are 10 times smarter, it's just they didn't have the money for college or even to finish school, they had to work to help their families."
Mark: "Thanks, appreciate that. Hey, I worked hard on that, I got in by my own merit, and I got the GI bill for being an Army ranger, which I earned, and took out loans. My family didn't pay a dime on this one."
"Okay, I didn't mean that, I was just pissed at Michigan State being dissed. You know I think you're brilliant and you had extenuating circumstances, and I don't think you're a redneck OR include you in that redneck category. And your grandfathers, too."
" *Sigh* - I'm just arrogant, that's my flaw, you know this. "
Me: "Oh? That's your only flaw, is it?
"And why is it when white men say "arrogance is my flaw," it actually sounds like yet another badge of honor rather than remorse?"
"I have never heard a woman or person of color, male or female, ever say such a thing, with pride, like that. Maybe they do, I just haven't heard it. "
"Arrogance is among the worst of human flaws, to me - it shouldn't be a more socially acceptable flaw in men, and it definitely shouldn't be so easily dismissed - arrogance is America's biggest flaw and will likely be our downfall."
"I know you worked hard, I know you're extremely intelligent - but you can't pretend that your family's shady connections in Detroit, your grandfather being a multi-millionaire, your being from upper middle class, your being the social director for a top-tier white fraternity at the same school as an undergrad, and your just being a white male - didn't give you opportunities that others who worked just as hard, and are just as smart, if not more so, to get in, right?
"By the way, you've never mentioned the ____ requirement, how you did on that. How did you do?"
Mark: "They ... um ... (ahem) ... waived it ... for me?"
Me: "Wait ... they WHAT?!?
Mark: "Okay, I ... didn't complete it. I asked them three times, but X and Y said not to worry about it, I'd get in. I'd already pretty much done the work as an undergrad."
Me: "Would this be the same X and Y who degraded women and stated that they aren't smart enough to complete this program, that supposedly pissed you off later, but you still put on your resume as references?"
Mark: "Erm - yes."
Me: "And this is the first time I'm hearing about them waiving one of the key requirements to enter the program for you?
Mark: "Yeah ... and now I'm sorry I told you."
Me: "You have GOT to be f-cking kidding me! You think that would've flown at any other university but the same school as your undergrad?"
"Any other school besides your undergrad would require you to fulfill that requirement. You know that, right? That's an objective assessment of ability in that field, rather than subjective decision, that's why it's there. It's not perfect and still somewhat socioeconomically biased, but it's at least some effort at objectivity."
Mark: "I know. And again - REALLY sorry, I told you - and getting sorrier by the minute."
Me: "Yeah, you're not helping your own argument, that's for sure - you're actually helping me prove my point."
"So ... you're NOT sorry that you took advantage of white male privilege, keeping God knows how many women and people of color out of a STEM master's program, who did complete that requirement and aced it, because you're a white male - you're just sorry that you told me about it? Got it."
Mark: "Hey, I argued with them later about women and people of color. And you know all my friends in Detroit are black. "
Me: "Oh, don't give me that white-fragility bullshit defense of yourself - they bent the rules for you, openly not wanting women and people of color in - and you went along with it until you were actually in the program, then argued with them, and you think it makes it all okay? I'm sorry, but the end doesn't justify the means. You knowingly took advantage of white male privilege."
Mark: "Hey, I didn't know any of those people denied personally, I just knew I had an opportunity. "
"Do you think I was like, sitting there, rubbing my hands together, like "Aha, I'm getting in versus all these other women and black people without completing the requirement?"
Me: "Ergo my point - that IS white male privilege, getting more opportunities and advantages than women or people color, then excusing your taking them by objectifying them as people you don't know - and worst of all, you can't admit it!"
"And yes - though I doubt you broke it down by race and gender, no - but to a certain degree, you were rubbing your hands together with glee - because you knowingly went along with this unfair opportunity - you just didn't want to think about what demographic of people that really affected and what that really meant, who was being shut out, they were nameless nobodies to you."
I also think you avoided telling me because you knew how I'd react - which is why you keep saying, "I shouldn't have told you." You already know it wasn't right."
Mark: "What did you expect me to do, not take the opportunity?"
Me: "No - I expected you to insist on completing that requirement anyway, just like everybody else."
"Then nobody can ever question that achievement, you did complete it all - and most importantly, when you say ridiculously arrogant things like "Having a master's degree makes me better than most people, especially the rednecks here in Kentucky," you at least have something to back it up with - but as it stands, they bent the rules to get you in anyway, so WTF are you talking about?!?"
Mark: "Are you saying I'm not smart enough to get in?"
Me: "Of course I'm not saying that - of COURSE you are smart enough to get in - and you DID ace the program once in - it's just you should've insisted on completing that requirement and proving it, just like everybody else."
"How many other women and people of color weren't simply waived through, who did have to complete it and aced it, only to be turned down by a couple of sexist, racist assholes?"
"You think we women or people of color can get away with not completing national-standard program prerequisites, and instead, just go play a round of golf at the country club with them, or have a scotch with the big boys in the boys room at Grosse Pointe Yacht Club, or go to an MSU game together, and we're in?"
"It doesn't work like that for the rest of us - in fact, it's a slap in the face to the rest of us that you won't even acknowledge."
Mark: "Are you saying that they bent that rule for me simply because I'm a white male and because of my family's connections? They didn't even know me. And again, my parents didn't pay a dime of my college tuition, that was all GI bill and loans."
Me: "You keep saying that, whaddya want, a lollipop? There's one right over there."
"I'm not dissing your Army ranger experience, you earned that GI bill - but in addition to having your courses, books, and equipment being entirely paid for, you got extra low-interest loans - PLUS - you got enough money from those so you could join a prestigious white fraternity - AND - you didn't have to work an actual job - you could focus exclusively on your school work and your frat-boy shit."
"I took out regular interest loans, worked full time AND went to school full time, and still got a cumulative 3.77 GPA - which was higher than your undergrad, by the way - and huge loan bill I'm still paying on, when I'll never earn as much as you - where's MY lollipop? Where's MY waive in without completing the requirements?"
"We can't afford for me to go back to school, especially since I still owe so much still already, plus I'm too old to be doing that stuff now - and even if I could, if the powers that be, like X and Y, decide I'm not good enough because I don't have a penis, then it's a no-go anyway."
So you're damn right I'm saying that - that IS white male privilege. They don't have to know you - it's the automatic presumption that you're smart, capable, and a good person just because you're a white, upper-middle-class male, instead of making you prove it."
Mark: "You think Michigan State allows cheating or acts like good ole' boys, favoring white privilege?"
Me: "I think things are changing there, but yes, I do - what would you call it? You think this shit only goes on at the University of Kentucky, or even just in the South?"
Mark: "I'm not a good ole boy and I'm not like Trump."
Me: "No, but you sure as hell went along with that system and took advantage of that opportunity others didn't have because of their gender or skin color or poverty level, didn't you?"
Mark: "Michigan State does NOT ordinarily bend rules and they do NOT cheat (sniff)."
"They bent the rule because they liked me, I worked hard in undergrad."
Me: "Oh, so your precious Michigan State doesn't ordinarily bend rules or cheat - the rule-bending for YOU was "special," because YOU are so "special?"
"Hahaha! That's hilarious!"
"Three words for you - DR. LARRY NASSAR"
(For those unaware, the FBI finally investigated and uncovered, with video evidence, that Dr. Nassar of Michigan State - sexually abused dozens of female gymnasts at both MSU, and on the US Women's Gymnastics team, for over 20 years - and Michigan State University knew about it and covered it up, allowed it to continue.)
I was absolutely furious.
I was too mad - probably mostly at arrogant men I once knew more than my husband, taking it out on my husband :/
That doesn't excuse the near verbal abuse I gave my husband, which I realized later wasn't just about him - it was about the system - and our liberal men who benefit from it and condemn it at the same time, out of both sides of their mouths - and say to themselves, "Well, when I'm in a position of power, I can change it."
No, liberal white men - the fact is, you wouldn't be in that position if you weren't afforded special opportunities because of your being a white male - extra opportunities you knowingly took, telling yourself you'd combat the system later, when you were in power - the end does not justify the means.
Regardless, when I woke up this morning, I apologized for my part:
"I'm sorry. I love you. Of course I think you're brilliant and a hard worker - and my grandfathers weren't smarter then you, I didn't mean that, I was just trying to put a pin in that momentary arrogance bubble to pop it, having dealt with prior arrogant men."
"My grandfathers were the template, the high bar set for men - and all of those requirements, you met - which is why I married you :)"
"I don't know why I got so mad, I think my anger wasn't just at you, it's really at prior arrogant men I've known, abusing their power, and just this entire bullshit socioeconomic system we keep clinging to beyond all reason - and how there's no end in sight - because we white liberals talk a lot, but we still benefit from it, so we talk much and do little, all the while, continuing to enable it."
"That's not excusing what I said, I'm just explaining my anger level so that you know it wasn't about you, or at least just about you. That was damn near verbal abuse from me, and it wasn't warranted."
"It doesn't mean my actual points weren't valid, mind you - I just I didn't need to be so mean about it to make my point, get so angry. I didn't mean it and it mostly wasn't even about you."
"But in my one small defense - you may want to think twice about ever saying that a master's degree makes you better than anyone else, especially Kentuckians, ever again LOL."
"White male arrogance sets me off crazy, it's a very old trigger with me, that I clearly need more work on, but just an FYI - you may not want to push that button until I have LOL"
"Not saying you deserved what I said because of it, mind you, just saying - that's clearly not going to go over well with me."
"Look - all I'm saying is, if this society is ever going to change to what we want, then we have to take a good hard look at ourselves, how we enable it - how we've benefited from white privilege and even white-male privilege, even ourselves as liberals sometimes - even me, whom other people have considered especially woke for a white girl, for a lot longer than most white people, who just woke up like two years ago."
"It's a jagged little pill to swallow, isn't it?
But it's the only way we can get better."
"As I said, I've been pretty woke for a long time, longer than most white people, because of my experiences - but I STILL have to swallow jagged little white-privilege pills myself sometimes.
"There were times, as anti-racist as I am, I still enabled the system, even went along with implicit racial bias without even realizing it, even as recently as a couple of years ago - and I also had to recognize my own white privilege to a certain degree, as a child at least. "
"My childhood was shittier than most, yes - but before my dad left, and before I was homeless even later, at least we had everything we needed and more, at least I experienced that."
"In addition to that hell, at least we didn't have to also worry, at that point, about a roof over our heads or food or clothes or toys to play with on top of those things, like so many - and I went to a top-notch nationally ranked public high school - like that meant shit as far as opportunities or giving the benefit of the doubt, if you were poor and/or from a troubled family, they pretty much pigeonholed you and didn't support you are your future- but still, the educational opportunity was better than inner-city schools."
"And people assumed we were a decent, sane family because my mom was a devout evangelical nut who loved Jesus - and she got a "Get out of a mental-hospital admission free" pass, one too many times, because of her evangelicalism beliefs."
"So yes, as woke as I've been for longer than most white people, I too, benefitted from white privilege, even white male privilege - it's a jagged little pill to swallow and it sucks, but it's truth - and if I'm brave enough and strong enough to take that on the chin and admit it, you can too."
For his part, Mark says he never really thought about how many others were kept out of the program because they didn't get that rule bent for them, and he now feels terrible about it - and again, that he shouldn't have said that about his master's degree making him better than most people, especially here in Kentucky, he didn't mean it - he was just mouthing off after a diss of Michigan State.
"Well, good morning, you're more awake. Welcome to even more wokeness. And I bet there are other examples, if you think about it some more. There were for more for me, still today, as woke as I've been for a long time."
"Guilt sucks, doesn't it? The wishing you had a time machine and could go back and change it. I've been there."
"Guilt is appropriate, but no shame. Not only because you had help with this broken system of ours being ingrained in us, but because shame leads to depression and immobility, it stops all progress. Guilt is uncomfortable, but unlike shame, it's a motivator - we remember it, and strive to never do it or allow it again - whether it's an argument with our loved ones or enabling white privilege ;)
"I love you, and again, I'm sorry :("
We'll resume watching the movie soon ;)