Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Guest Post: Girls Gone Wicked

Girls Gone Wicked: What Oz the Great and Powerful taught me about being a feminist
by Charmaine

Sam Raimi’s prequel to The Wizard of Oz has been lambasted for containing misogynistic themes. But does it?
It certainly is a far cry from L. Frank Baum’s ode to girl power, The Wizard of Oz. With his pockets full of music boxes and glue, the con-man blunders through Oz, winning hearts, until he meets The One. It’s every man’s fantasy: little to no competition, and women so starved of male affection and attention that they become instantly besotted.

According to the bitingly insightful review by the New York Times’ film critic Manohla Dargis, it will “drag you back to the same dreary, heavily trod destination, to the same exhausted formulas, gender stereotypes [and] general idiocy.” On the bright side, as Alex Cranz of FemPop notes, perhaps the most obvious redeeming factor of the film is that it is a prequel, hence, “the already excellent Wizard of Oz becomes, not a film about Dorothy stopping an evil witch, but about Dorothy re-establishing the matriarchy.”

Why do we set such high standards for the fictional characters we see on the silver screen? Why do we care about how women are portrayed in movies, even ones as clearly fantastical as Oz?

Feminist critics of the movie have a point. The histrionic women flitting around a shabby commitment-phobic conjuror aren’t exactly perfect examples of female autonomy. But at a deeper level, by turning the struggle between good and evil into a magical catfight over a mortal con-artist from Kansas, the screenwriters inadvertently tap into insecurities that most women have struggled with at some point in their lives.

For starters, take the candid and somewhat embarrassing brashness of the rash, young Theodora as she throws herself at a stranger she barely knows, followed by her soul-consuming heartbreak when he ran off with someone “better”.

Most of us have been there (before The Rules came along and taught us to strategize our way into a healthy relationship, of course). It’s the old-school Wizard of Oz version of the obsessive texting, cyber-stalking infatuation with that one cute guy. It’s normal and natural to get a little obsessed, but to see someone go all the way’s almost painful, isn’t it?

Seemingly cold and pragmatic, Evanora appears to manipulate Oscar for her own purposes, but loses it all the instant she lets her guard down. After dashing her sister’s romantic hopes, tempting and trapping Oscar with the promise of immense riches, and coming close to achieving total domination of the kingdom, all her efforts come to naught. Despite her ruthlessness and intelligence, she pays dearly for a moment of rage and passion, losing both her beauty and dominion over Oz.

Does this sound familiar? How many times have we heard this from our fathers, our mothers, our mentors and career advisors? Control your emotions, or the intelligent, competent woman that you have worked so hard to become will become a sniveling, vulnerable wretch, labeled as “unprofessional” and doomed to flounder in a sea of mediocrity. Forever.

Glinda is the epitome of “wife material”, and the girl that all exes love to hate. Infinitely tolerant, wise to his foibles yet willing to tolerate his bullshit, she magicks him into a close approximation of a successful man. She has an impressive Rolodex of loyal subjects, and she uses them to nudge a clearly unworthy man to the top of society. She risks her life to defend him against his two crazy exes. She travels in a cloud of happiness, rainbows, and purity.

In her glowy white dress, complete with soap bubbles of goodness and an unwavering faith in the virtue of her two-bit hero, she also manages to resist the temptation of his pouty lips and deadbeat charm until she has successfully placed him on her throne and made him worthy of her affections. And then only with the most demure of lip-locks, complete with an adorable foot-pop. Ugh.

As much as we tout feminine solidarity and a rah-rah, “us-sisters-gotta-stick-together” attitude, how much of this actually translates into congratulating a woman for finding the love of her life? Most of the action centers on the “wicked” witches hurling vitriol at Glinda out of sheer spite and jealousy. Who doesn’t love a rollicking hate-fest when our exes get with someone new?

Would the strong, confident feminist I wish I was behave like this? Of course not. As feminists, and at an even deeper level, as women, we fall short of the ideals we set for ourselves. We say we want to support one another, but it’s so terribly hard not to envy each other’s (seemingly) perfect hair, skin, relationship, job, you name it, we can find a way to hate each other for having it.

The witches are not role models, and I doubt producers meant for them to be seen that way. Yet we can all relate to them. I can see myself giggling over this movie (now) with some girlfriends, whilst feeling a twinge of guilt as I recall the times I’ve resented a woman for the very things that make her incredible and inspiring.

Oz is yet another uncomfortable reminder of how we fail each other repeatedly. We are rarely the women we aspire to be. We can only love the women that we are, and keep an eye on the wicked witches within us. Can we forgive ourselves for that?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

ruby red: longwear red lips

Ruby Red: My tried and true method for red lips that last (pretty much) all night long

I don’t know about you, but none of those “red lips that last!” tutorials ever work for me. I feel like I’ve tried pretty much every variation of the standard steps, e.g. use lip liner, apply thin layers of color with a lip brush, blot, set with a translucent powder, find a unicorn, hug it deeply, etc. As someone who’s been performing  since age five and is thusly well-accustomed to the art of SUPER INTENSE stage makeup, I’ve waded through over two decades of lip color innovation. And by innovation, I pretty much just mean that the most exciting development was the kind that you paint on, and then you have to make your mouth into a weird blow up doll shape while it dries, and then you put on the lip balm that comes with it so your lips don’t die from dehydration…and then? And then it just cracks and flakes off in a few hours anyways.  Yeah, fuck that shit.  

When primers became the new darling of the makeup world a few years back, I thought that my lipstick-related prayers were answered. Sadly, none of the lip primers I tried out seemed to make that much of a difference for me. I was a saaaaad panda. I came to terms with the idea that if I wanted to wear lipstick, I’d just have to be that chick who checks her lipstick every fifteen minutes.

But then. BUT THEN! I went to Sephora to have a makeup playdate with myself (y’know, like you do) and I stumbled upon an amazing stain. I was very skeptical at first – stains are one of the lip color innovations I’ve scoffed at over the years. As I am a darker skinned lady (think MAC Face and Body in C6/MAC StudioFinish Concealer in NC42 – they’re the closest foundation/concealer I’ve found) with darker coloring (raven hair that is somewhere between 1 and 1B with espresso tones, dark chocolate colored eyes), I‘ve learned that I require highly-pigmented (and usually more expensive, boo) makeup. However, when I swatched this stain, it stayed put on my hand, even through a few washes with soap! And now I share it with you:

Stila Lip and Cheek Stain in Acai Crush!

I’ve heard the other stains in this line are great too, but I’ve had the best success with this particular shade. This gorgeous highly-pigmented stain with a light and smooth gel-like consistency  is the key to my ruby red long-lasting lips.

Here’s what I do, from start to finish:
1.    Emolliate with a jelly-style emollient. I love Aquaphor for this, or the ubiquitous Tyra Banks approved Vaseline - I use the cocoa butter one! Let it do its thang for a few minutes, then blot it off onto a paper towel.
2.  Exfoliate gently with a method of your choice. You can buy one of those schmancy lip exfoliants, but my mom swears by the old olive oil and sugar trick, which I’ve modified by using brown sugar or confectioners’ sugar instead of regular granulated sugar. I suggest you use just enough olive oil to make the mix into a paste-like consistency, rub the concoction on your lips, rinse off, and then pat dry. Be aware that my skin is pretty resilient, though, so YMMV.
3. Emolliate again immediately with a light lip balm. I recommend Nivea A Kiss of Moisture (dark blue tube) or Nivea A Kiss of Smoothness (light blue tube) for this. As with step 1, let it sit for a few minutes, and then blot it off.
4.  Apply lip liner of your choice (optional) and then apply the Stila stain. I don’t generally line my lips as my lipstick doesn’t tend to bleed, but if yours does, I highly recommend lining your lips with a liner of your choice. Then, fill in your lips with the stain. Try to use even strokes that ensure each area of each lip has the same amount of product in terms of layers and pigment distribution. I usually end up doing 2 to 3 very thin layers on each quadrant of my mouth. Once you have finished applying the stain, let it dry and set for a few minutes. This technique may take a few tries, so don’t get too discouraged! 

Nota Bene: A lot of Stila’s products are clickable pen applicators, and this one is no exception. The first time you use it, it can take a bunch of clicks for the product to appear on the brush. This is normal. I recommend clicking the top 4 or 5 times, then wait a few seconds for the product to emerge, then click a few more times if there’s no product/not enough product, wait another few seconds, rinse, repeat. Don’t get impatient like me and click thirty times and then end up wasting a bunch of product. 

5.  Apply lipstick of your choice over the stain base. Voila! Red lipped glamour and glory is yours!
As for which lipstick to choose: I don’t tend to splurge when it comes to lipsticks, especially since I have had great success recently with the reds in the L'Oréal Infallible Le Rouge line and CoverGirl LipPerfection Lipcolor line. There’s still some color transfer with each of these lines, but it’s minimal.

I must confess that the large glowing photo of Beyoncé on the L'Oréal store display featuring her wearing L'Oréal Infallible Le Rouge Refined Ruby is the reason that I chose that particular shade because QUEEN BEY!!! Luckily for me and my occasional impulse-buying habit, it turns out that this shade is super versatile. It’s a bit sticky while it’s setting which weirded me out at first, but it turns out that once it’s set, this stuff stays. the eff. in place. 

The CoverGirl LipPerfection Lipcolor line has some amazing colors with a smooth and creamy application and fairly long wear AND A SHINY TUBE!  I like Euphoria (dark mauve-red) and Tempt (dark hot pink) in particular.

When I’m going for a matte red, I layer Tarte LipSurgence Matte Lip Tint in Fiery or Nars Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Cruella over the Stila stain. The matte crayon/pencils sometimes gets oddly clumpy if you retouch, but they last for a long time after the initial application. Plus, the Tarte one smells minty! Huzzah!

7 hours (and two slices of pizza) later, with only very minimal touch-ups after eating!

Be aware that all of these long wear colors can be somewhat drying. So far, I haven’t found a good lipstick that stays put AND is actually hydrating, but like I said, my skin is resilient so it’s not too much of an issue for me. If it is an issue for you, caveat emptor!

Here’s hoping this method works out for you. I know that when I figured this method out, I felt like the heavens opened up and shone down a warm buttery beam of light upon me. Got anything like that? Please share in the comments section, because sharing is caring! Yay!


In a future episode: Ruby Red - glitter lips edition, coming direct to you from NYC’s drag and burlesque scene!

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