Thursday Open Thread

What’s going on?

In scary cancer news, the death rate of skin cancer in men has doubled in the past 30 years! Pretty scary, especially considering that this form of cancer is preventable. So ladies, make sure your man wears sunscreen – and get any suspicious moles checked!

In “there’s a light at the end of the tunnel” cancer news. A breast cancer vaccine has been developed which has prevented breast cancer from developing in mice. The trials of the drug in humans are in the planning stages, which means that it can be a while before the vaccine is made available for humans.

If you’re a midnight eater, (or happen to use Ambien), take care of your teeth! Studies have shown that midnight snacking increases the risk of tooth loss, regardless of the type of food eaten.

And, in some fun news – Homer Simpson was named the greatest TV and film character of the last 20 years, according to an Entertainment Weekly survey. What do you think? Do you agree? What fictional characters are your favorite?

Of course, this is an open thread and you are free to disuss whatever you wish. What else is going on?


“Dakota Fanning Rape Movie” Released

If I were Dakota Fanning, I would curl up in fetal position and cry.

Everywhere I turn, the movie critics are tearing up her new movie, Hounddog, like red meat in a lion’s den. It got a mere 18 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Entertainment Weekly’s Lisa Schwarzbaum gave it an “F.” Ouch.

There’s no way Hounddog ain’t a greasy gumbo of a mellerdrammer (sorry for the language, that’s just the effect of too much Southern Gothic cliché gettin’ to me). 
 But Deborah Kampmeier’s pulp fiction — about a country girly devoted to the music of Elvis Presley in a 1950s backwoods located somewhere near Tennessee Williamsland — might have stood a shot at being judged on its own Black Snake Moan terms had it starred some interesting, unknown girl, and not the famous young phenom Dakota Fanning.
 Then again, would this arthouse goo have gotten made if Fanning’s adult team hadn’t agreed it was a fine idea to let their champ wiggle in her underpants?

As it is, Hounddog is destined to be 
described in shorthand, now and forever, as the one where Dakota Fanning Gets Raped. Even so, that violence is only a small, 
 relatively tastefully handled episode in a drama heaped with clichés like…like a big ol’ plate of grits. Here, in one swamp, is a drunk, brain-damaged Daddy (David Morse); a twisted, sin-patrolling Granny (Piper Laurie); 
a battered, sad, sexy lady (Robin Wright Penn), a Wise Black Man (Afemo Omilami) who
 teaches our heroine about the real, black man’s blues music (none of this Elvis hooey);
 and lots of snakes. Under the circumstances, Fanning is remarkably collected and even dignified. As for the rest of the gang,
 they ought to be returned to sender. F

In fact, the movie has become known as the “Dakota Fanning Rape Movie” to the chagrin of its writer and director Deborah Kampmeier who recently told Salon, “Why does our society need to call it that, when that’s not what it is?”

Salon’s Broadsheet defended her sentiment:

So what is “Hounddog” about, really? It’s a touching and beautiful film about the tragedies that befall the broke but not broken in 1950s Alabama. It’s also a richly feminist film, one of the few movies in which a young woman’s burgeoning sexuality is not merely treated as titillation. Lewellen, played by Fanning, is coltish and charmingly immature — yet she’s bewitched by neighborhood boys’ genitals and rattles her grandma when she gyrates her pelvis to Elvis Presley on the radio.

Nevertheless, Concerned Women for America sees it differently. In a Sept. 12 press release, the CWA vowed to “halt distribution of the film” and called on its members to contact local theaters to ask them not to show the film, as well as to call the U.S. attorney general to complain.

But that’s just the latest bump: Kampmeier says it has been 12 years since she finished the script, and she struggled with financial backing for years. “Investors wanted the rape scene removed, and I would never take it out,” she says. “When we got Dakota attached to the film, my producers said we could get the money. But we got Dakota, and I [still] couldn’t get the money.” Funding woes twice halted production during filming in North Carolina. “I was raising money day by day, week by week,” she says. And then the press caught wind of the film.

Have any of you seen the film? I admit, I am afraid to see it after all the horrible reviews. I am especially sensitive to movies where kids are exploited in any way.


Friday Open Thread

MomsRising is circulating a petition for Gov. Sarah Palin, asking her where she stands on issues that concern mothers like equal pay for equal work, health care and affordable child care. As MomsRising pointed out, Palin identified herself as a mom first at her big speech on Wednesday, but offered no details as to how she would actually help mothers and their families.

In defense of Palin, our Kay over at the Workin’ Mom blog highlighted the double standard high-profile working mothers like Palin must endure. Case in point: Sixty-three percent of readers at Working Mother said she should not be running for Vice President considering her “current family challenges.” Disclosure: I, too, voted no just because I could not imagine sticking my children in the public eye during a difficult family moment(s). But in terms of social progress, her running is probably a good thing for working women everywhere.

New Hampshire Public Radio’s Word of Mouth had a show on technology etiquette such as whether it is appropriate to use emoticons in a professional e-mail or reject friend requests on Face Book. Good questions. Have any of you rejected a friend request on Face Book?

In a column at Wondertime, a mom admits that she spends more money than she can afford on clothes for her three-year-old son. I was more flabbergasted at the amount of time she spends to carefully choose outfits. I am curious: Do any of you really dress up your kids with matching clothes, shoes and neat hair-dos? You see, I thought I would be one of these moms as I love clothes, shoes and makeup. As it turns out, I can barely dress myself much less my children. They are lucky their clothes match!  

In belated news, the International Olympic Committee has asked gymnastics officials to look into whether some of the competitors representing China were underaged, according to CNN.

I am looking forward to this season’s Survivor, which premieres on Sept. 25 at 8 p.m. According to Entertainment Weekly, contestants include the 29-year-old Crystal Cox, who was an Olympic gold medalist in the 4 x 400 track relay. Should be interesting.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


What Are Your Favorite Movie Snacks?

Stephen King’s recent column in Entertainment Weekly about the “culinary wonderfulness” of movie theater snack food made me giggle. I wholeheartedly agree with him that eating bad, junky food is part of the authentic movie theater experience.

Actually, it’s the only time I buy the Reese’s pieces butter cups. (King-sized, of course.)

First, support your theater. Buy at the snack bar and damn the expense. You could probably sneak your own food in, but if you’re caught, you’ll be thrown out. As for bringing healthier snacks from home: Did you really hire a babysitter and drive six miles so you could snark cucumber slices half-drowned in buttermilk ranch out of a slimy plastic bag? Is that what you call living it up?

If you want to get healthy, there are places for that: They’re called ”health clubs.” And I find there’s something giddy about tossing down $4.50 for a box of Gummi Bears or a bag of chocolate raisins. It makes me feel like a high roller, especially when the matinee ticket itself only costs 50 cents more.

King said he usually starts out with a Diet Pepsi then it’s downhill from there: large popcorn with lots of butter and Junior Mints, which he eats with tooth picks — that he sneaks into the theater.

I actually order the smallest sized popcorn with no butter — just salt. No soda for me because I do not like it unless I have a stomach ache and use ginger ale as medicine. I know, I am so boring. But I love me my Reese’s pieces. And sometimes I eat Kit Kat, too. (Yum!)

What about you all? Do you do movie snack foods? What are your favorites?


Celebrity Gossip Break: Beverly Hills 90210 Revival!

I love Diablo Cody’s columns in Entertainment Weekly. She recently took us former Beverly Hills 90210 fans down memory lane as CW plans to revive the show with largely new characters. Cody’s take?

I’ll be honest: I wish the old cast was back. Ideally, this spin-off would be an Ice Storm-esque exploration of the West Beverly gang’s bleak adult lives. Brenda would be a soccer mom, David Silver a dentist, Steve Sanders the part owner of a miniature-golf emporium in Tujunga. The Peach Pit would have been gutted, floored in faux-pebble linoleum, and converted into a Pinkberry. They could call the show 9021-Old. I know, that’s why I have an Oscar.

The CW must realize that most die-hard fans want to see original cast members, so they’ve acquiesced by hiring Tori Spelling as Donna (she now owns a clothing boutique) and Jennie Garth to play Kelly Taylor, Guidance Counselor. (This is the perfect job for drama addict Kelly, a character who always treated the most mundane situations like extinction-level events.) Besides, the new cast seems fairly appealing. For one thing, there are finally black and Asian kids at West Beverly. And thanks to the precedent set by modern teen shows like Gossip Girl, you know there will be plenty of drinking and sex without all the boring PC moralizing of the original series. I mean, remember when Brenda “controversially” decided to lose her virginity to Dylan on prom night? That kind of thing happens on a Tuesday morning in the O.C.

Omigod, I SO remember the controversy surrounding Brenda and Dylan! It was the talk at school the following morning.

Me and my friends were all obsessed 90210 fans. And of course, being a high school newspaper editor, I fantasized meeting a hottie like Jason Priestly in the newsroom. LOL!

Were any of you 90210 fans? Do you plan to watch the new series?


Celebrity Gossip Break: The Lohans

I cracked up at this Entertainment Weekly review of the reality show Living Lohan. Yes, we are talking about that Lohan family, specifically 14-year-old Ali who wants to follow in big sis Lindsay’s footsteps. (Run, Ali, run!)

EW harshly gave the show an F, but only after this hilarious review:

Now Mommy’s in full view with E!’s Living Lohan, in which she invites us to gape at her, Lindsay’s 14-year-old fame-seeking sis Ali, and 11-year-old Cody. And hey, it turns out I don’t want to Live Lohan. The irritation turned to repulsion around the first minute, when Dina, after her morning ritual of scanning the tabloids for Lindsay’s weary mug, announces, ”They’d better not start in on Ali like this.” Hey, I have an idea: Don’t film a reality show in your child’s fricking bedroom!

The woman who last year told Harper’s Bazaar, ”Reality shows, I get sick inside,” now invites cameras to document the launch of Ali’s singing career. (The girl makes song choices with all the focus of a kindergartner insisting on wearing her favoritest shoes.) The remainder of the Lohans’ lives apparently revolves around Googling themselves, watching tabloid TV, and then having an assistant Google more. Mother Lohan defends this gossip-gathering as protecting her daughters, but there’s an uncomfortable sheen of glee to the proceedings. ”Is that Lindsay?” young Ali says, looking over her mother’s shoulder at a still from a sex tape starring a Lindsay look-alike; she seems more curious than upset…Dina snipes about the paparazzi’s invasion of privacy, but thanks to her, there’s not too much left to invade.


Oh snap!


Double Standard on Celebrity Nudity?

In light of all the grief teen pop star Miley Cyrus received in posing provocatively for Vanity Fair, Entertainment Weekly shot back with evidence that if Miley were Miles she would not have had to endure the public’s disapproval. The magazine dug up at least four instances, in which male teen celebs were given a pass for racy photos:

Vanessa Hudgens apologized after a nude shot hit the Web last year, while Pete Wentz got away with warning fans against taking risqué photos after his own pics leaked in 2006.

When Lindsey Lohan re-created a topless Marilyn Monroe photo shoot for New York magazine, the website received millions of hits–and so did her struggling career. Yet frenzied fans snapped up tickets to see Daniel Radcliffe get naked in Equus.

Sundance 2007: Dakota Fanning‘s Hounddog–featuring the actress in a rape scene–bows amid a public outcry and calls for an investigation. Sundance 2008: Audiences shrug off a sex scene in The Wackness that involves Nickelodeon star Josh Peck (Drake & Josh).

Blogs went nuts over video of a slurring Ashlee Simpson at a Canadian McDonald’s in 2005. But after Shia LaBeouf was arrested for allegedly refusing to leave a Chicago drugstore in 2007? Lots of talk about his supercute mug shot. Oh, and the charges were dropped.

Then again, for the exception of Daniel Radcliffe, I have never even heard of these guys! Nonetheless, there does seem to be a pattern of double standards here. What do you all think?

In related news, R&B singer R. Kelly was charged with child pornography. This is the same guy who married the late artist Aaliyah when she was only 15 — and has not served a day in prison for it. Ick.


Massachusetts: Ban Video Games!

The Bay State doesn’t want to ban all video games — just the ones “harmful to minors.”

If Boston Mayor Tom Menino and other prominent state legislators have their way, Gov. Deval Patrick will sign into law House Bill 1423, which would prohibit the sale of violent and sexually explicit video games to anyone under the age of 18.

“Harmful to minors“, matter is harmful to minors if it is obscene or, if taken as a whole, it (1) describes or represents nudity, sexual conduct or sexual excitement, so as to appeal predominantly to the prurient interest of minors; (2) depicts violence in a manner patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community, so as to appeal predominantly to the morbid interest in violence of minors; (3) is patently contrary to prevailing standards of adults in the county where the offense was committed as to suitable material for such minors; and (4) lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors.“

As Stephen King, an author not short on R-Rated material himself, pointed out in an Entertainment Weekly column, politicians usually scapegoat violent video games, movies, music — popular culture, if you will — to score cheap political points. Even though King himself is not a gamer, he reprimanded Massachusetts legislators for attempting to play “surrogate parents.”

One of HB 1423’s cosponsors is Rep. Christine E. Canavan, of Brockton. ”I think this legislation is a good idea,” she told the Boston Herald. ”I don’t want this constant barrage of violence on young minds and for them to think it is all right.” It’s a good point…except that it seems to me that the games only reflect a violence that already exists in the society.

Nor will I argue for the artistic value of stuff like God of War, or 50 Cent: Bulletproof, where looting the victims of gang violence is part of the game (players use the money to buy new Fiddy tunes and music videos — classy). I do, however, want to point out that videogames, like movies, have a ratings system, and ones with the big M or A on the box mean ”Not for you, baby brother.”

And if there’s violence to be had, the kids are gonna find a way to get it, just as they’ll find a way to get all-day shooters like No Country for Old Men from cable if they want. Or Girls Gone Wild, for that matter. Can parents block that stuff? You bet. But most never do. The most effective bar against what was called ”the seduction of the innocent” when this hot-button issue centered on violent comic books 60 years ago is still parents who know and care not just about what their kids are watching and reading, but what they’re doing and who they’re hanging with. Parents need to have the guts to forbid material they find objectionable…and then explain why it’s being forbidden. They also need to monitor their children’s lives in the pop culture — which means a lot more than seeing what games they’re renting down the street.

If HB 1423 becomes law, will it remain law? Doubtful. Similar legislation has been declared unconstitutional in several states. Could Massachusetts legislators find better ways to watch out for the kiddies? Man, I sure hope so, because there’s a lot more to America’s culture of violence than Resident Evil 4.

Of course, not all parents are as fortunate as King to have two work-at-home parents and probably a barrage of paid help. A little help from the state would be welcomed by many working families struggling to raise children under the weight of bills and a cacophony of violent media.

But it does seem to be a slippery slope for the state to decipher what material has “serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors.” Also, as King pointed out, how come minors are allowed to watch R Rated movies at 17, but not play Grand Theft Auto? The law would not apply to all media — just video games.

At the same time, I completely sympathize with mothers afraid of their young children playing video games. The games themselves have become so much more graphic and violent than my Nintendo Mario Brothers-playing days. Ari does have a Transformers game on his handheld Play Station that is violent, but we closely monitor and restrict his playing. If it were up to me, he would not play at all. But my husband who grew up playing video games and is aching to buy a Wii, sees nothing wrong with it (in doses). Because he knows more about the games than I do, I have let him set limits on video game playing in our household. For that, I am grateful as it takes the pressure off of me.


Has Presidential Politics Gone Bubblegum Pop?

Prior to the end of the Writers Guild strike, author Stephen King raised an interesting question in Entertainment Weekly: Has presidential politics gone pop? Citing the record-breaking number of people tuning into the news since there were no shows to watch and the celebrities on the campaign trail, King said the race for president was starting to look like a reality show like The Great Presidency Race, or American Political Idol or even White House Survivor.

Knowing our penchant for capitalism and infotainment, I would not be surprised if one day there is a reality show to select the next president!

Are TV viewers’ habits changing because of the writers’ strike? Many reporters who cover entertainment—some at this very periodical—think they are, and that if the strike doesn’t end soon, the changes will accelerate. One change they’ve noted is the ever larger number of TV watchers who are tuning in to coverage of the campaign (which already feels four centuries old). The switch is partly because scripted TV episodes are in increasingly short supply, but it’s also because…damn, people are just interested. If anything has come clear in the last few months, it’s that citizens are tired of the Bush & Cheney Show. They want someone new. Almost anybody, it seems.

Programmers at cable nets like CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News may have been born at night, but it wasn’t last night, and they’re not stupid. They’ve jumped on the bandwagon and produced a constant din of political palaver. Most is generated by the motormouths my friend the Long-hair calls “the White Guys in Ties Brigade.” But it’s not all Pat Buchanan and Chris Matthews; there are also real stars! OMG!!

2008 has become the political equivalent of Celebrity Match Game. Huckabee fans include Ted “I Never Saw a Gun I Didn’t Like” Nugent and Chuck Norris, he of the scary teeth. Hillary Clinton’s got Barbra Streisand. John Edwards is running on empty with Jackson Browne. Rudy Giuliani has got…er, Bo Derek? Romney is trailing the field, celeb-wise, but still trying with Donny Osmond. And even Fred Thompson had a pet celeb: Pat Sajak! (I was hoping my guy Obama would get Sajak, but disappointment is a part of politcs.)

King bemoaned how the election process has turned into a game show. But that is the same argument that has been made about all aspects of American life – not just politics – since self-proclaimed “old fogy” King was a zygote. The fact so many people are tuned into politics and actually participating in our democracy is a good result of the elections gone pop IMHO.