How Overcoming Oppression Makes Lives Worth Living

On January 31,2015 as part of the Reelout Film Festival in Kingston, I attended the film Lives Worth Living. I had never been to a film festival and did not know what to expect. I went into the Screening Room where there was a line up of people at the door, we walked into a small theater and a man came up to the front to provide a background on the short films we were going to be watching. Unlike the majority of the movies I watch which contain a heterosexual matrix, Lives Worth Living contained multiple gender identities and many sexualities that one may identify with. Lives Worth Living was a series of short films that displayed many issues in modern day society that contain cross-cultural relevance. The series of films were all extremely unique and each displayed a very different way of telling a story. The first was a tape recording where a narrator described the pain of losing her brother. The simple visuals allowed all the focus to be on the words and the pain displayed in the author’s voice. The second film was a beautiful silent film that displayed two men overcoming obstacles and seemingly impossible differences to fall in love. This was an incredible film that would most likely not get much media attention because the lead characters were sexual minorities.

My personal favorite film featured another sexual minority, an LGBTQ women struggling with anxiety who attempts to hide her anxiety because she thinks then she will have a better chance of the woman she loves loving her back. Most modern day popular movie are shown through a lens of androcentrism, with the movie being about how the overly sexualized female can gain the attention of the male. Everything is centered on the man and how the woman can please the man to win his attention. This movie is very much the opposite, with two female leads it adds an interesting dynamic where it is not about a female trying to please a man, but instead 2 females being honest and open with each other and forming a relationship based upon that. This movie is my favorite because there are so many places where the viewer can think deeper into the film. The main character struggles with anxiety, the anxiety is especially prevalent when she is in situations where others could judge her, the female lead character does not dress like a stereotypical female, but instead chooses to wear traditionally male clothing. Children are often raised with gender socialization; children are taught because they have a specific sex they should act a certain way. (Boundless, 2014) When children choose to go against societal pressures and dress how they choose to, they are often judged and ridiculed which can cause many stresses in their lives, often disorders such as anxiety can be developed as well, this could have been the cause of some of the women in the films anxiety.

In the media today, the main feature films are based on characters with heterosexual privilege. They are commonly white, upper class, physically attractive, heterosexual people, if there are people of color or of a lower socioeconomic status they are typically placed in highly stereotypical roles. In Lives Worth Living, the minorities that are typically marginalized in society and not displayed in the media were the featured roles. One short film was about Phantom Rude who was a transgender drag queen. The movie was a documentary on Phantom Rude’s life, the appeal in watching this movie is that for those of us who are bound by our white privilege in that we commonly view movies that pertain to our place in society, with actors who are similar to the majorities of society, there is often a high underrepresentation of minorities. Our white privilege blinds us to the needs of those around us, (MacIntosh, 1989) Watching Phantom Rude’s story provided the viewers a glimpse into the lives of those who are often cast out by society. Watching Phantom Rude’s story illustrates that so many people who are marginalized have incredible lives and stories that we never get to see.

The short film in Lives Worth Living all demonstrated different forms of intersectionality. In one film there was a girl who was struggling with anxiety and the fear of letting people know what she was struggling with. She was also struggling with society marginalizing her because she identified as LGBTQ. Both these issues are interlocking and both cause oppression. Telling people about her anxiety would not completely provide the freedom she is searching for, she must also find people who will support her and encourage her in her sexuality. Fixing one if the issues would still leave her facing oppression. The main character must find support for both of the struggles she is facing in order for the oppression to be resolved. Simply finding support for one of the forms of oppression would not solve the issue because the oppression would still be there. Phantom Rude also faces oppression because he is lower class as evident in that he is living out of a van, and also LGBTQ. Phantom Rude experiences oppression for being lower class and for being transgender. If one of these oppressions were to be alleviated, the problem would still be present as there would still be oppression based on the remaining circumstance that would still exist.

Overall Lives Worth Living was a very well done film. It highlighted people who were often marginalized by society however had incredible stories to tell. It brought to light issues that society likes to pass over such as oppression faced by LGBTQ, suicide, mental illness, and treatment of those living in poverty. Watching Lives Worth living was a very eye-opening experience that I would highly recommend.

-thelazyriser

Works Cited:

“Gender Socialization – Boundless Open Textbook.” Boundless. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2015.

“Lives Worth Living Shorts Program.” Reelout. Reelout Arts Program Inc., n.d. Web. 9 Feb. 2015.

MacIntosh, Peggy. “White Privilege, Unpacking the Invisible Backpack” Web. 9 Feb. 2015.

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3 comments

  1. curlyfrypoutine · February 22, 2015

    I enjoyed how you used your film review of “Lives Worth Living” to point at the problem with mainstream Hollywood media and its tendency to focus on privileged people in society while leaving out minorities. Personally, I think this is a very big issue – even though the media can be called “just entertainment,” society is being constantly exposed to it and as a result, our opinions, beliefs, and prejudices are strongly shaped by what we see in magazines and in movie theatres. In Martha M. Lauzen’s article “It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World: On-Screen Representations of Female Characters in the Top 100 Films of 2013,” a analysis is provided regarding gender and race in the top films of 2013. I found it interesting to learn that females made up only 15% of protagonists and 30% of speaking characters. 73% of these female characters were Caucasian, and even more distressing to me was the fact that only 3% of female characters in 2013 were Asian, a representation that is on par with the amount of “alien” female characters (Lauzen 2014).

    In this blog, you state that the film would “most likely not get much media attention because the lead characters were sexual minorities.” I would be interested to know your opinion on whether the representation of minorities has grown in the past few years, and if it has, whether the representation is accurate. For example, the TV show “Orange is the New Black” has been quite popular recently despite the fact that it features many minorities – transgender women, characters of many different races, and homosexuals.

    Works Cited:

    Lauzen, M. (2014). It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World: On-Screen Representations of Female Characters in the Top 100 Films of 2013. Retrieved February 22, 2015, from http://womenintvfilm.sdsu.edu/files/2013_It's_a_Man's_World_Report.pdf

    Orange is the new black [Television show]. (2015). United States: Netflix.

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  2. 4pce · February 23, 2015

    What I found most intriguing about your post was the look at androcentrism, which is placing the masculine perspective as at the central point of view. The label in itself seems fairly straight forward, however when placed under scrutiny I begin to question its merit. For example, Phatima Rude is a female impersonator. It’s unclear from what I read online if Phatima Rude is strictly a drag performer or a transgendered/transsexual person. If Phatima Rude were just a performer who enjoys dressing in what is typically viewed as female clothing and stylization, but identifies as a male, would his story be viewed as a form of androcentrism? Furthermore, would female to male transgendered/transsexual individuals and stories that focus on them be considered androcentrism? I think the majority of people would say no, on the basis that neither situation follows a typical view of “masculine” point of view. However, as the label in itself does not identify as typically masculine, but rather just simply masculine I believe the usage of a term such as androcentrism can be more confusing than what it may have intended to be used for. This problem I believe stems from the fact the term was coined during the first wave of feminism. Ideas of gender and sexuality spectrums did not exist and therefore the terminology used is dated or have insufficient definitions for the current views of gender and how it affects our daily lives. This is also why there are so many terms to learn in gender studies classes, such as GNDS125, as new theories and concepts on gender, sexuality, race, etc. are constantly requiring more inclusive terminology

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  3. lazybreakfast95 · February 24, 2015

    It seems as though your experience with the reelout film festival was different from mine. I find it quite interesting that your film was a series of short films rather then just one long one. I like how you incorporated the idea about majority of major movies that are seen in big time movie theatres contain heterosexual matrix’s.

    I agree with your thoughts on sexual minorities. It is unfortunate that even in todays technologically advanced society films that do not include the typical heterosexual love stories are not getting near as much attention as those films that do. I, much like yourself would think the film that includes two females under sexual minority would be rathe interesting. It is nice to see a different perspective in films under similar romantic story lines. Personally, I am interested in how people react to mental illnesses such as anxiety so I think this movie would be a great one to see how they set out the characters to act towards one another in the film under one of them struggling with mental illness.

    I did not know this was an option at the reelout film festival or I think I would have watched this video! My question for you is do you think this film all though focused on marginalized people would do well in a major theatre? I think the story lines behind each short film are deep enough to do well.

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