Movies social society

Female Phantoms

Author: Shreya Volety

After living at home without coming in contact with the rest of humanity for seven long months, I can confidently declare I am no longer sane. That is precisely why I found myself digging down the rabbit hole of subreddits that were all discussing why women are often the ghosts in mainstream horror films. Even movies or shows in this genre that I genuinely appreciate are also guilty of having phantoms that are certainly women. And since I had forsaken the concept of working productively, I went on to make an excel spreadsheet of the number of mainstream horror films that were released since 2000, and how many of them featured female ghosts. While it is possible my data set is highly skewed, the number turned out to be 78%. The others were either psychological horror or were centered around a paranormal genderless creature than a ghost per se.

So why are we as a society obsessed with female ghosts?

A weak, but perhaps tolerable explanation that I found in many places was that, technically it was more convenient, both cinematically and aesthetically, to have a long-haired, pale white, high-pitched female ghost walking around than a man of the same proportions. 

(Everything from this point further, is a personal opinion, and I might be completely wrong, so I request my readers, take it with a grain of salt.)

But what I personally feel is a stronger reason, is that in most of these films the victims of the said female ghost, are men. It is much easier for men to be subjects of violence, especially at the hands of a woman, if she happens to be, well…dead.

Most female ghosts are often vindictive, either because they died as a victim of strong sexual violence, or rape, or because they were burned at the stake for being witches, and in some rare occasions (I’m hoping the creators of Conjuring are reading this) it’s because they fall in love with Satan (yep, Satan). And so they’re generally malignant, looking for revenge, possessing live women so that they could commit the same kinds of violence on the men in their lives. Perhaps it is too much to ask for stories where women return alive from deep, disturbing trauma and then reclaim their agency and strength by not committing murder or homicide. Yeah, it is too much. 

While one could (and I’m addressing the one reader who is thinking this) assume that I’m a jobless feminist (yes, I am both) who seems to delight in highlighting patriarchal undertones in mainstream media, what bothers me about this, is that this such a common trope. 

The Haunting of Hill House, which I personally consider one of the best shows in this genre, also has a woman who seems to (for personal reasons) want to kill her own children. But the original novel that the show is based on, was more interested in showing the journey of a complicated, oppressed woman who finds a sense of ironic freedom in dying and being trapped in a house forever (because paranormal sexism is easier to cope with than everyday systemic sexism).

The recent 2020 Hindi thriller, Bulbbul tries to revamp this idea, but fails spectacularly. It falls into the trap of evil vs good. The movie gives a traumatic backstory to a woman, and then justifies her transformation into a vampire-like paranormal creature that “protects” other women from abusive violence. And that is equally troubling. This constant, almost mindless persecution of the living, that most (dead) women in paranormal stories seem to carry on hardly feels strong or glorious. It is not the way to combat violence against women, and it somehow indicates that patriarchy and sexism operate in isolation, one that ghost lady can fight off by simply killing everyone. And it exaggerates the idea of “emotional, sensitive” women that are so passionate, they choose bloodthirsty violence in the afterlife.

In conclusion (because I have no real conclusion), I would recommend three pieces of horror media that I genuinely enjoyed that hopefully don’t fall into the category of films I just spent the last 500 words complaining about – The Shining ( by Stephen King ), The Haunting of Hill House (the novel by Shirley Jackson), and Talaash (written by Zoya Akhtar). 

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The Romanticism of Life in Entertainment Media

Author: Karan Bhowmick

“Jabh Tak Hindustan me Cinema hai, log c#*&^%! bante rahenge.”

(As long as India has a rampant interest in Cinema, the people of India will be misled by it)

At first glance, this quote seemed to me like a half-assed attempt at the criticism of the Indian mindset lathered with sharp dissent. But when I submitted myself to idle introspection, I realized the depth of its critique. Before we dive into the philosophical ramblings and cynicism of societal constructs that my conscience embodies, I want you to take a good hard look on the life you have led thus far. No sugarcoating. Warts and all. 

The quote used is from one of my favorite movies, Gangs of Wasseypur, where the antagonist gives a monologue on how he’s survived the generations of gang wars and bloodshed. He explains that all the youngsters watch movies in movie halls and idolize the hero of the film. This incessant worship of a fictional character lays the foundation for deep-rooted constructs in their mind. They fetishize the ‘ends justify the means’ trope and act solely on their brand of justice. He extrapolates that because he didn’t watch movies as much, he wasn’t shackled by heroic ideals. He schemed out of his interests and his interests alone. There wasn’t a predefined notion as to what he’s supposed to do. The antagonist then concludes with the previously mentioned quote.

“Cinema is a direct ramification of the loss of a sense of purpose” ~ Karan Bhowmick. 

Yes, I quote myself a lot.  I will buttress my argument with another quote, “Life is but a series of addictions strung together in a haphazard frenzy” ~ Karan Bhowmick. To put it bluntly, I am talking about humans and their obsession with escapism. Is this our supposed salvation? We’re all hooked on different drugs, from socially accepted ones like Religion (the drug of hope) to stigmatized ones like cocaine or sex.  We do it for a hit of dopamine. This escapism fuels our need for purpose. Now that I have established a budding environment for my thoughts to frolic around, let’s get right to it. 

For instance, Gangs of Wasseypur depicts the cycle of violence inherited through vengeance. Vengeance acts as the ‘purpose’ driving the protagonist to new heights. In real life, revenge is neither achievable (in a legal sense) nor pragmatic. If your loved ones are killed right in front of you, would you go out and hunt the killer down? How would you know where the killer is? Will you become a vigilante serving your city from the shadows, under the guise of a bat? (The plot of Batman)

Let us talk about the portrayal of life in movies and TV shows. I’m going to take the example of one of the most popular sitcoms, FRIENDS. ‘Friends’ sells us a story of six best friends trying to achieve their dreams in the bustling and ruthless landscape of New York. Not only do they achieve their ambitions, but they also continue to maintain their friendship for ten years (Not saying it’s an unachievable concept). The TV Show casts a blind eye towards the omnipresence of change in life. 

Before all you ‘Friends’ fanatics burn me at a pyre, let me explain, it is NOT wrong for a sitcom to stray from reality, it is refreshing in fact. It is the fact that we subconsciously start believing this is what awaits us in life (Spoiler Alert: It’s not) that plagues society. When we look at TV Shows like Friends, it presents us with a slice of an “idealized life”. There is no major disaster, an inchoate representation of achievement (it does not provide lifelong solace), no repercussions of questionable relationship dynamics (Wtf was Ross and Rachel’s relationship), and an unreal representation of love (it isn’t a panacea to all your problems in life). ‘Friends’ is guilty of all of these, or is it? Isn’t television supposed to be ‘easy to digest tidbits’ meant for unwinding after a long day? It is supposed to be a surreal representation of life to break you out of the monotony of your life.

Let us scrutinize the life of the generic protagonist in a Romcom/Drama. He has a grim demeanor to compensate for his tumultuous strive, and his career is in ruins right up to the point where he meets his girlfriend. Suddenly it’s all butterflies and daisies, the blank canvas of his life has been painted over in a myriad of magnificence. 

Now in my experience of 20 years, Life has been analogous to ‘Being a colorblind painter trying to capture the essence of a vibrant landscape’. An awkward, pretentious mess under the constant dichotomy of your intuitions against deep-rooted ideals. 

In conclusion, I like using quotes and you should watch Gangs of Wasseypur. (If you’re not used to this by now, you’re just gonna have to deal with it) 

” Every f***er’s got his movie playing inside his head. Every f***er is trying to become the hero of his imaginary film.” ~ Ramadhir Singh, Gangs of Wasseypur.

life personal Thoughts Uncategorised

That Damn Pesto Spaghetti

Author: Varshaa

Imagine making pesto spaghetti. The long, straight, pokey noodle soaked in boiled water, just for so long that it turns into a wiggly, satisfying, bendy noodle. Then you pour oil into the pan and upon hearing the sizzle, you act quickly, pouring some of the canned pesto sauce because you don’t really trust yourself to make a fresh one. Watching the sauce sauté, seeing it thickening, your cells secrete dopamine and suddenly you are high as a kite. Somehow the visual of the sauce thickening around the noodle, the green colourful spaghetti with the occasional capsicum and the mystery mushroom, complete with the seasoning of some oregano and pepper, has now transformed you from a productive paper-pushing employee to someone who just wants to cook for the rest of their lives.

See, now you want to ditch this blog and make yourself some good pasta.

If you are anything like me and were drowning in the idea of food by the first paragraph, and hopefully, have watched enough food related movies/shows, you’ll understand that there’s something about cooking that doesn’t just end on the plate. It is not tangible. You can’t really quantify it, but it’s something; it leaves you happy and full, even before you touch your plate.

I don’t know how many of you reading this will get me, but cooking is something that has been very therapeutic for me. You see, the way I see myself, on most days, I am an uptight, righteous activist and will excoriate anyone who utters a word against equality and gay rights. Then comes quiet days where I just cook.

Cooking slows the world down. Suddenly, I don’t care if someone says cooking is a feminine thing to do. I don’t care that I have a ton of assignments due tomorrow. Hell, I won’t blink an eye if the F.R.I E.N.D.S reunion episode released.

Have you watched Julie and Julia? Do you see how happy Mrs. Childs is? She’s not happy because she gets to eat a plethora of French food. She’s happy because she gets to make them. Remy doesn’t care that he’s a rat, all he wants is to cook and you’ll see how happy it makes him, even if that means he has to endure some misery.

Those of you that are quite active on social media, you’ll have seen a meme where a guy pretends to be on MasterChef, the popular cooking show, and “plates” his very usual sandwich, trying to make it look delicious. However, I’m starting to wonder if that is the real deal.

Your creative juices are flowing; even if that just means that you are crushing herbs and gently sprinkling them on the pasta. You feel like you have established something by adding butter instead of the usual oil, because now your tortilla is softer to bite. You see the cheese melt on your grilled cheese and your heart drops a little.

Cooking feels like meditation sometimes. The detailed, repetitive dicing of an onion takes all your concentration and you are more than happy to let yourself float. For a moment, nothing matters than to have those onions diced evenly. Cooking gives you control. You are not anxious anymore. You are in charge and it’s your mission to get that choco lava cake on the plate and no one is getting in your way. More than anything, the sense of accomplishment is the icing on the cake.

Cooking may seem like a lot of work, but I don’t think anything else has had such a therapeutic effect on me. Leaving you with that thought, I’m going to go, make myself some good pasta.