CULTURE

Elizabeth Banks and Busy Philipps Join Rally in DC to Defend Abortion Rights

The My Right My Decision rally in DC on Wednesday focused on the positives and success stories of abortion

Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

The world is full of different kinds of suffering.

There are base physical pains—abdominal cramps, aching joints, tearing flesh. And then there are deeper, more crushing forms of spiritual and psychological anguish—the feeling of being inadequate to provide for a loved one, or that your mere existence has ruined another person's life. No one should have to live with that kind of pain. That's the idea behind a rally on Wednesday in Washington DC and an accompanying hashtag on Twitter, which both seek to celebrate and defend a powerful tool for the prevention of suffering: abortion.

Of course, some suffering is unavoidable. For those cases we have spiritual and philosophical guidance that can help us come to terms with daily struggles. The rest of the time, we turn to science to create solutions that can save us from pain. Science can give us new limbs, restore our vision, replace our organs. Any and all of these methods for reducing suffering deserve to be celebrated, and they often are. But abortions—one of the oldest medical miracles—have recently become so taboo that our culture would sooner demonize them than say anything positive about them. This is despite the fact that a safe, minimally invasive procedure—or even just a swallowed pill—can often save two lives from tremendous suffering and despite the fact that nearly a quarter of American women will have had an abortion by the age of 45.

The groups responsible for maintaining that taboo—groups that promote shame around abortion—are vocal enough that most of us are familiar with their arguments. They have decided without evidence that a human embryo or fetus—at any stage of development—is a child with a soul and rights and feelings. They believe that the mere existence of a fertilized egg inside a uterus necessarily obliges the human attached to that uterus to be a nurturing host to the life inside them. They equate abortion with murder, and they want to force the rest of us to conform to that standard of morality. They bolster their claims with graphic images and false claims that people who receive abortions usually regret the choice. Then they push for irrelevant laws that hide the motive of restricting abortion access.

The My Right My Decision rally in DC formed in response to the Supreme Court case of June Medical Services, LLC v. Russo, which revolves around a Louisiana law requiring clinics that provide abortion services to staff a doctor with admitting privileges at a local hospital. While the purported motive is to improve safety measures, critics point to a similar law in Texas that was struck down in 2016 after the court found no compelling safety benefits. Instead, it seems to be part of a surge in legislation designed to restrict abortion access and take advantage of the shift in the balance that took place when conservative justice Brett Kavanaugh replaced moderate Justice Anthony Kennedy on the bench.

With celebrities like Busy Philipps and Elizabeth Banks in attendance, along with politicians including Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib, the rally that took place Wednesday morning was attempting to counter stigma with success stories and a defense of freedom. As Banks put it in her address to the crowd, "Today we are taking the opportunity to present reproductive freedom, including abortion, for exactly what it is: no less than liberty itself." As for Busy Philipps, she had an abortion at the age of 15, and has been open about how important that was for her life: "I'm genuinely really scared for women and girls all over this country."

While opponents will point to instances of regret, the reality is that 99% of abortions are not a source of regret but of relief, even five years after the fact. By and large, people are not making the decision lightly, and they really do know whether or not they're ready for the trauma of pregnancy and labor and the responsibility of parenthood.

In an imaginary world where population was dwindling, where the medical costs associated with pregnancy and delivery were covered by the state, where there were no negative social or professional repercussions for anyone who might become pregnant, and where an infant given up for adoption could be guaranteed a humane childhood, it might be understandable to see pushback against abortion rights. Unfortunately, that is not the world we live in. In our world, the planet is being ravaged by overpopulation and overconsumption, medical debts are a driving force behind American bankruptcies, and hundreds of thousands of children without parents are subjected to cruelty and neglect within our foster care system or at the hands of ill-equipped parents.

Easy access to a procedure that can prevent those horrors—and the horrors of inevitable "back-alley" abortions—is something worth celebrating, not stigmatizing. Which is why the hashtag #MyRightMyDecision was trending on Twitter Wednesday morning, with images from the rally that featured women holding signs that proclaim "I Had An Abortion," "Abortion is Healthcare," and "Thank God For Abortion."

The idea that creating more and more people is fundamentally a good thing—regardless of their quality of life—is a deeply flawed assumption, and it's foundational to the so-called "pro-life" movement. While a baby, in the right circumstances, is undoubtedly a miracle—they can bring so much joy and meaning to life—an abortion is just as miraculous when circumstances are simply wrong. When the process of having or raising a child is made untenable by health concerns, economic realities, youth, trauma, or a basic lack of desire to be a parent, it is not only cruel to the parent to restrict abortion access, it's cruel to the child who—through no fault of their own—will already be a source of problems and a focus of resentment before it's born

A child born in that situation has little chance to thrive. While other forms of birth control are preferable, abortion is a hugely important last resort, and it's refreshing to see culture beginning to embrace the positive side of abortion, and defending it against shame and stigma.

While rally-goers and Twitter users are making their voices heard, a decision on the law will likely not be passed down until June.

FILM

Kristen Stewart's "Charlie's Angels" Character Is "Definitely Gay"—But Is That Enough?

In "Charlie's Angels," our Bella has finally become a swan. That doesn't mean the film can escape some traps.

Kristen Stewart has the Internet in a tizzy thanks to her role in Charlie's Angels, and her performance as Sabrina has a lot of people questioning their sexuality (or celebrating what they already knew).

Thanks to the omnipotence of the Internet, Sabrina's queerness isn't in question. According to Out Magazine, in an interview with PrideSource, the director Elizabeth Banks confirmed that the character is "definitely gay in the movie."

That doesn't mean that Sabrina is exactly overt about her sexuality in the film, though—there are no lines in the script about her sexual orientation. According to Banks, this was purposeful. "When I cast [Kristen Stewart], I just wanted her to be… I just felt like she's almost the way Kristen is. I don't feel there is a label that fits her," she told Digital Spy. "The only thing that was important to me was to not label it as anything. It's fine if the media wants to label it, I think that's OK, but I didn't do that. I just let her be herself in the film."

Apparently, Stewart "wanted to be gay" in the movie, though she's also not hung up on labels. "I just think we're all kind of getting to a place where—I don't know, evolution's a weird thing—we're all becoming incredibly ambiguous," she said in an interview in which she also clarified that she doesn't exactly identify as bisexual anymore. "And it's this really gorgeous thing."

This philosophy feels aligned with our current moment, where the boundaries of sexuality, gender, and other paradigms are constantly blurring and shifting. On the other hand, there's a fine line between refusing labels as an act of protest and refusing labels as a way of ultimately obscuring identities, thus winding up back where we began.

Is Charlie's Angels queer-baiting? It's definitely going too far to say that a film is queer-baiting simply for coding a character as gay without explicitly addressing their orientation, but Banks's and the film's treatment of Sabrina's queerness still raises questions. How important are labels, and is our end goal to normalize them or disintegrate them completely?

In liberal Hollywood circles, perhaps it's enough to express queerness as an implicit character trait, but in a world that still threatens LGBTQ+ people's rights, there's a dearth of characters that are out and proud. On the other hand, queerness and relationships aren't anyone's entire identity, and they shouldn't have to be, onscreen or off.

Despite Banks' insistence that her film is newly "woke," Charlie's Angels has always toed the line between regressive and revolutionary. According to Vulture, "You could chart a mini arc of corporate feminism onto the Charlie's Angels franchise." The film is about three attractive women who are empowered because they do the bidding of an invisible commander, after all, and what could be more reminiscent of the corporate world's rapid consumption of the girl-boss illusion? A capitalist enterprise hasn't improved simply because it's being run by a woman, after all, and a film isn't feminist just because it features female characters in positions of power. "What's so depressing about the new film is that the most radical thing it can think to do to update this concept is to hint that Charlie has actually, this whole time, been a lady," the article continues.

Similarly, a film isn't pro-LGBTQ just because it tacitly implies a character's queerness. It's true that queerness is becoming more widely accepted and less stigmatized overall, though. (Stewart herself just gushed about wanting to propose to her girlfriend, Dylan Meyer). That means that we should be working towards representing more radical politics and more underrepresented identities onscreen, not just erasing all identity politics now that bisexuality has been subsumed into the realm of acceptable traits, and not just calling a film feminist because it stars a couple of women.

Feminist or not, Stewart's performance (and costume choice) are so strong that her character's existence is ultimately a victory even if the rest of the film falters. She's even been branded a Hollywood Chris, after all; maybe that even means that someday, our Hollywood Chrises won't be all white.



FILM

The New "Charlie's Angels" Reboot Looks Like Another Male Gaze Fantasy

Charlie's Angels can't shed its core premise of badass women answering to a lazy man.

Sony Pictures Entertainment

Charlie's Angels has always been a male gaze fantasy couched in faux female empowerment.

Unfortunately, the new Charlie's Angels seems no different. Watch the trailer here:

CHARLIE'S ANGELS - Official Trailer (HD) www.youtube.com

Set to a new collaborative single by Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande, and Lana Del Ray with the apt lyrics "Don't call me angel / Don't call me angel," the Charlie's Angels reboot seems hellbent on subverting franchise expectations. But even with a female writer/director (Elizabeth Banks), Charlie's Angels can't shed its core premise of a group of cool, badass women ultimately answering to a mysterious man named Charlie. After all, this is CHARLIE'S Angels.

The reboot follows a new group of Angels played by Kristen Stewart, Ella Balinska, and Naomi Scott. Bosley is a woman now, played by Elizabeth Banks. And this time, they're going international...or whatever.

In 2019, the concept of Charlie's Angels is extremely outdated. Even if the movie did somehow manage to successfully bring something close to female empowerment to the big screen, it's bothersome that in our wildest fantasies, we still can't imagine a world where these "Angels" don't work for Charlie––or where Ella Balinska's midriff is bared for the "plot." Even if the mysterious Charlie turned out to be a woman using a codename, it wouldn't change the movie's real selling point: "badass" sexy women performing for an intended male audience. Retire this franchise.

FILM

Now in Theaters: 5 New Movies for the Weekend of May 24

Watch Will Smith degrade himself with blue body paint in Disney's "Aladdin."

Welcome back to "Now in Theaters: 5 New Movies for the Weekend."

This week, Will Smith degrades himself with blue body paint for our amusement.

WIDE RELEASE:

Booksmart

BOOKSMART Trailer (2019) Lisa Kudrow, Olivia Wild, Teen Movie www.youtube.com

Directed by Olivia Wilde and produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, Booksmart looks like a Gen-Z version of Superbad. The movie follows two high school seniors, Amy and Molly, who decide that the eve of their graduation is the perfect time to make up for "wasting" their teenage years on studying and achieving good grades. Early reviews are overwhelmingly positive, and the movie looks raunchy, edgy, and representative. Booksmart is easily my pick of the week.

Aladdin

Disney's Aladdin Official Trailer - In Theaters May 24! www.youtube.com

Disney's latest live-action adaptation is here, and like all the live-action adaptations before it, Aladdin looks...okay, I guess. Honestly, it's hard for me to understand the appeal of all these live-action Disney adaptations. They're technically fine, but considering the fact that animation brought so much of the inherent charm and magic to the originals, these remakes seem doomed to always come up short. Take Genie, for example. Animated goofball Genie is fun and awesome. Partially-CGI-blue-body-paint-Will-Smith Genie is just unsettling.

Brightburn

BRIGHTBURN - Official Trailer #2 www.youtube.com

What if Superman...was evil? That's pretty much the premise behind Brightburn, a superhero horror movie produced by James Gunn and written by his brother and his cousin. I love the idea of a horror movie that subverts superhero archetypes, but at the same time, the trailer looks surprisingly dull considering the subject matter. Ultimately, this might be more of a generic spooky boy flick than anything truly groundbreaking.

LIMITED RELEASE:

Diamantino

Diamantino – Official Trailer www.youtube.com

A Portuguese-language, genre-bending political comedy that made waves at Cannes 2019 (ultimately taking home the Grand Prize during International Critics' Week), Diamantino looks absolutely absurd. The plot follows a disgraced soccer star who sets out on a journey to find a new purpose for his life. The movie seems to involve incredibly bizarre imagery, including futuristic technology, galactic landscapes, and puppy fever dreams. If you appreciate bizarre cinema and can find Diamantino playing near you, I'd highly recommend checking it out.

Isabelle

Isabelle | Official Trailer (HD) | Vertical Entertainment www.youtube.com

If you ever watched The OC and wondered what Adam Brody is doing now, here's your answer. Isabelle is one of those horror movies that seems designed solely to pad Netflix's Halloween offerings. We've seen the premise a bajillion times––a couple gets haunted by some generic ghost girl––and outside of Ringu, I don't think it's ever been done well. I don't know what audience this movie is geared towards, but if it happens to be you, just go watch Ringu again instead.

Welcome back to "Now in Theaters: 5 New Movies for the Weekend."

Maximize your time by only seeing the movies recommended to you by some guy on the Internet.

WIDE RELEASE:

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part – Official Trailer 2 [HD] www.youtube.com

If you like fun movies and you can only see one this weekend, here's your best bet. The first LEGO Movie was genuinely awesome. If the sequel is even half as fun and creative as the original, then it'll be well worth watching. All your favorite LEGOs return, including Emmett (Chris Pratt), Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), and Batman (Will Arnett). Chris Pratt also voices a new character, Rex Dangervest, who seems to be a LEGO-ized conglomeration of all Chris Pratt's previous action hero roles.

Cold Pursuit

Cold Pursuit (2019 Movie) Official Trailer – Liam Neeson, Laura Dern, Emmy Rossum www.youtube.com

Stop me if you've heard this one. Liam Neeson is a nice, normal guy―a family man―until a bad guy hurts a person he loves. Now he needs to use a very specific set of skills to kill a bunch of people. No, this isn't real life, and it's not Taken either. This is Cold Pursuit, and Liam Neeson has a snow plow. So if you've liked every other movie Liam Neeson has ever been in, and you're not currently boycotting him, you'll probably like this one too.

The Prodigy

The Prodigy Teaser Trailer #1 (2019) | Movieclips Trailers www.youtube.com

The latest entry into the "Spooky Boy" genre of horror films, The Prodigy asks the age old question: "What do I do if my son is a Spooky Boy?" This kid has it all - an angelic face, an unusually high IQ, a metronome ticker fashioned into a shiv. Will his mom be able to stop him before he engages in some Spooky Boy shenanigans? Does anyone care?

What Men Want

What Men Want (2019) - Official Trailer - Paramount Pictures www.youtube.com

A reimagining of the 2000 Mel Gibson vehicle What Women Want, this version finds Taraji P. Henson cursed with the power to hear Tracy Morgan's thoughts. She can hear other men's thoughts too, but Tracy Morgan seems like a particularly painful person to have around in this scenario. Most of his thoughts are probably things like, "Butts! HAHAHA." I don't know why anyone would willingly subject themselves to that, but if the inner-workings of Tracy Morgan's mind sounds appealing to you, I guess you can see this movie.

LIMITED RELEASE:

The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot

The Man Who Killed Hitler and then The Bigfoot - OFFICIAL TRAILER www.youtube.com

A movie titled The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot carries some serious expectations. Blood, guts, action, Hitler, "The Bigfoot." Except...The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot actually looks pretty serious. Or at the very least, way more serious than the title would suggest. Academy Award nominee Sam Elliot stars as the titular man who killed Hitler and then the Bigfoot. I'm very confused by the contrast between title and tone, but early reviews seem mostly positive, so this might be the weekend's dark horse for best watch.


Dan Kahan is a writer & screenwriter from Brooklyn, usually rocking a man bun. Find more at dankahanwriter.com



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Film Lists

10 Dos and Don'ts to Surviving Reboots in 2019

Remember the offensively bad 2015 remake of Fantastic Four? The worst has yet to come.

Sometimes a remake is a gift of nostalgia, and sometimes it's a scourge against fans who deserve better.

Among 2019's onslaught of comic book movies, documentaries, and movies for nerds sans superheroes in tights, many studios are standing firm in their boycott of original ideas. Disney is launching a blitz attack on the American public with live action remakes of Aladdin and The Lion King (albeit the later is forgivable as long as it's precious), while MGM is animating a fan favorite, The Addams Family (which is forgivable as long as it's creepy).

Here are 10 Do's and Don'ts to survive this year's storm of reboots:

DON'T: What Men Want (February 8, 2019)

IMDB

Nobody asked for a remake of this 2000 Mel Gibson film except the devil. Taraji P. Henson stars as the female version of Gibson's character, a sports agent who's overlooked for her male coworkers. Controversial singer Erykah Badu plays a fortune teller for some reason, and she gives Henson's character the ability to hear what men think. With an early 2.9/10 rating on IMDB, people want to watch this movie even less than they want to hear men's thoughts.

DO: Godzilla: King of the Monsters (May 31)

HorrorNews

Bring on the CGI circle jerk of gratuitous violence and melodramatic monster tropes! Millie Bobby Brown and Vera Farmiga star in this gladiatorial face off between Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, and all three heads of King Ghidorah. A "crypto-zoological agency" (totally a real thing) called Monarch has to save humanity when all these monsters rise.

DON'T: Aladdin (May 24)

Gamespot

Disney recruited Guy Ritchie to recreate the 1992 classic. With Egyptian-born actor Mena Massoud as Aladdin, Power Rangers' Naomi Scott as Jasmine, and Will Smith boggling minds as the Genie, it looks just as strange as the live action Dumbo and Lion King remakes being released this year. Except it seems more wrong.

DO: Shaft (June 14)

Little White Lies

What's more appropriate for the third Shaft film than to include not one, but three Shafts?! Richard Roundtree and Samuel L. Jackson return as John Shaft and John Shaft II, but the new addition is Jessie T. Usher (Independence Day: Resurgence) as the very unique John Shaft Jr.. Described as "a cyber security expert with a degree from MIT," Junior enlists his father's (Jackson) help "to uncover the truth behind his best friend's untimely death." Yes, with three separate Shafts, this movie promises to be confusing, but it looks super fun.

DON'T: Men in Black: International (June 14)

YouTube

With the Men in Black franchise already stretched thin, this could go terribly wrong. But the quirky chemistry between Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson in Thor: Ragnarok restored our faith in the Thor franchise, so there's a chance they're worthwhile as Agent M and Agent H. Both agents "tackle their biggest threat to date: a mole in the Men in Black organization," and hopefully Hemsworth and Thompson will bring some of the irreverence and offbeat humor they managed in Ragnarok.

DO: Child's Play (June 21)

Dread Central

The worst birthday gift a mother could give her son is being brought back by the producers of It. Aubrey Plaza will play against type as the unwitting mother who commits child abuse by giving her son a Chucky doll. Plaza seems the type who would do that because it's funny.

DON'T: Grudge (June 21)

Variety

It's a 2019 remake of the 2004 remake of the 2004 Japanese original, Ju-On. While this version will include John Cho, who's an eternal delight, the film will also feature an attractive American woman (Andrea Riseborough) entering a haunted house before an entity tries to kill her. Again.

MAYBE: The Lion King (July 19)

IMDB

Reasons to not outright pan this film as a bastardization of your childhood include: Jon Favreau directs, Hans Zimmer scores, Donald Glover is the voice of Simba, Seth Rogan is Pumbaa, James Earl Jones is Mufasa, and Beyoncé is Nala. Not to mention, John Oliver is the perfect voice of Zuzu, while Oscar-nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor voices Scar.

DO: The Addams Family (October 18)

Den of Geek

After this animated feature premieres in time for Halloween, the Addams will be the creepiest family since the Lohans. While the live action cast remains iconic, this remake features Burton-esque artwork and an all-star cast of Charlize Theron as Morticia, Chloë Grace Moretz as Wednesday, and Oscar Isaac as Gomez.

DON'T: Charlie's Angels (November 1, 2019)

Marie Clare

At first, this seems promising, with Charlie played by Elizabeth Banks, who also directs; but who are the newest, coolest angels? Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott. and Ella Balinska, for some reason. Remember the offensively bad 2015 remake of Fantastic Four? Me either. Hopefully, we'll forget this reboot just as quickly.


Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.


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