Saturday, July 12, 2008

Self-Promotion

So remember how I said I was gonna post pictures here? Well, that was kind of a lie, because they're actually somewhere else. Just like Jess had her side project (4 Credits, which I'd link to but can't seem to find), I now have this. I have broken free from the 60-photos-per-album restriction! Life is so crazy!

But yeah. Check it out. Or don't. I'd prefer it if you did, though.

-Josh

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Fetishization of the Abnormal

My roommate and I were walking down Broadway after work today and started talking about couples in New York. We noted that there are a lot of really skinny and toned women out there who date heavier men with beer bellies. It’s basically socially acceptable for this WASPy tennis playing blonde to marry someone far less attractive or athletic. If you’re cynical, you could say it’s because she wants his money, or she settled because she couldn’t find someone that lived up to her original standards; or it’s also possible that she does love him, because isn’t it true that women are more open to deeming intellect and sense of humor as attractive and thus more easily allow those qualities to override physical imperfections? It’s not unfair to say that women do this far more often than men, because we do, we’re fine with dating men who we don’t find 100% physically attractive because their personalities often times make up for what they might lack upstairs (balding?) or downstairs (small dick?).

But the thing is, men aren't the only ones not granting women the same grace. Ashley and I realized that when we see skinny women with heavier men, we accept it and move on. But when we see heavier women with skinny men, we automatically assume that the guy has some sort of fetish for heavier women. And that’s a very American thing to do, I think: automatically fetishize anything that is considered “abnormal” within society’s stringent expectations. We don’t grant that skinny man the possibility that he’s dating the heavier woman because she’s smart, or has a valiant sense of humor, or is nice to strangers, whatever. Instead, we automatically assume that there is something wrong with that man for being willing to date someone who doesn’t conform to the societal standard of beauty.

And that’s a type of sexism - but also a symptom of societal judgment - that is engrained in everyone, even women. It’s something I’m going to try to consciously banish from my thinking. I don’t want to be complicit in the fetishization of anything deemed “abnormal.” It’s not right.

-Jess

Print Journalism May Be Dead, But Sexism is Not

My mom e-mailed me this articulate and interesting article that explores the subtle sexism that pervades the lives of women in the media, particularly in regards to print journalism. Jessica DaSilva wrote a rather inspiring post on her personal blog discussing a staff meeting that covered the logistics of the layoffs at her paper, The Tampa Tribune, and highlighted why, despite the long hours and vicious paycuts, her boss continued to work for a paper that "wasn't even in the black last year." Her insights provide a compelling look at the industry, and I see a lot of myself in DaSilva's excitement and enthusiasm over journalism. I moved to New York hungering for a byline, but was immediately greeted with the startling fact that Print Journalism Is Dead. I've also heard a lot about sexism in the industry recently, and in her article, Chris Nolan shines a light on the dynamics between young female journalists and their older, primarily male, bosses. One of the commenters on DaSilva's post, who goes by "Jamie," is wrought with condescension and unnecessary criticism, even stooping so low as to say, "What, praytell, young lady, would you like them to do?" Young lady? Oh, fuck no! Jessica may have fucked up the spelling of "laid off," but minor spelling errors like that don't necessarily threaten the future of her journalism career; and subtly chalking it up to her youth and her gender is not only sexist, it's outrageous.

Though the response has been overwhelmingly positive, I've still been catching a lot of flack for the mistakes I made in regards to the whole Jezebel thing. One of the things I noticed was how shocked everyone was at my age. I admit that I am young and have much to learn, but it gets frustrating when people assume I can't think critically because I am young, or that I make mistakes solely because I am 20 years old. I completely relate to Jessica (we do have the same name, afterall). Young women are capable, strong and articulate, and just because one person says something does not mean it applies to the entire subset. Because I made a point of conveying how much I admire(d) Tracie and Moe, suddenly there was a ton of hooplah declaring that all young women who read Jezebel admire Tracie and Moe. I do not intend to speak for my generation. If people relate to my opinion, as a young and budding feminist and journalist, then that's something I'm really proud of. I'm simply trying to figure out things for myself, and honestly, I have a long way to go. But hey, I have my entire life to do so. I just think that young women like myself, and Jessica DaSilva, should be held to the same high standards as our older male counterparts. I've been lucky in that - for the most part - I've been held to that standard. Young people may fuck up more because we haven't garnered a lot of experience yet, but to assume that we can't be capable and successful journalists because of our age or gender is antiquated and false.

Below is the conversation I had with my Mom about the article.

JESS: i really like that journalism article you sent me from Spot On. it was depressing but really good
MOM: yeah, wasn't it? goes to show that sexism isn't dead as so many would have us believe
MOM: also interesting that they were giving her shit because she's young--sound familiar?
JESS: what really got me was the condescension of "praytell, young lady"
JESS: so fucking obnoxious
MOM: exactly!
JESS: yeah, it does
MOM: get used to it, unfortunately. it's the way of making you be "less." and there they can combine being a woman with being young. like how could you possibly know anything?
MOM: of course they're 50 year old dinosaurs who can't change, but god forbid we should say that
JESS: they're insecure and feel threatened by people who are younger and smarter
MOM: exactly
JESS: meanwhile they may know that it's "laid off" but they'll never be as tough as jessica desilva because they don't have to go through the shit that she does, which will ultimately make her a better writer
MOM: right--and focusing on that kind of ridiculous detail does not take away from her overall argument
JESS: yeah it's a way to undermine her self confidence so that she'll doubt what she's writing. And THAT is something I can totally understand.
MOM: again it's a classic tactic
MOM: i know--it's hard to stay focused on the bigger picture in those circumstances because it immediately makes you feel stupid.
MOM: did you see how she responded to it though?
MOM: she said in comments "thanks, I sometimes mess that up" or something to that effect. like taking it at face value and moving on
JESS: right
MOM: very effective way of making the person look like a jack ass without calling him one
MOM: something to remember if/when it happens to you
JESS: yeah
JESS: i have a hard time not taking things straight to heart. if one person says something remotely mean i completely take it personally and it will ruin my entire day. and anything good that happens is immediately overshadowed by that one comment
MOM: yep—I struggle with that too.

Right now I'm really working on changing the way I field and cope with criticism; because as Jessica DaSilva demonstrates, people in the media world - but perhaps especially young women - face a lot of it.

-Jess

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Guilty Pleasures


Sorry for the delay. This week has been the absolute worst in terms of me doing anything productive. You'd think I'd have gotten adjusted to getting up early three days a week, but nope, still can't get myself to go to bed early. And I wonder why I'm always exhausted.
Anyway, here ya go, three more songs to make your friends hate you:

1. K-Ci and Jojo, "All My Life." So I just randomly started singing this (to, um, myself) at work today, and I suddenly remembered this song and how much I loved it. From the junior-prom-slow-dance piano intro to the Catchiest Chorus Ever Written, this song is the musical embodiment of every awkward tongue-kiss you gave or received between the grades of six and nine.
There's this whole desperate undertone in the lyrics, like they're all "Yes I pray that you do love me too" and I wonder what would happen if no, she doesn't love K-Ci and Jojo too, and then I start imagining a My-Chemical-Romance-esque emo-balla where theyre like "All my life I wasted my time on you" or something equally cheesy. It's kind of haunting, especially when the vocals inexplicably fade out and all you can hear in your headphones is the sound of these pleading R&B singers praying for you or something. But let's focus on the positive, shall we?
The strings are gorgeous, admit it, and as I said before, the chorus is absolutely touching--and damn catchy, to boot. This is one of the songs you listen to once and then want to hear five more times.
And that piano intro! My god, it's so junior prom! Like I don't know how else to explain it. The only other time I expect to hear it is on Top 40 radio while I'm driving on the freeway at three in the morning, designated-driving my drunk friends and hoping--praying-- that they appreciate the ridiculousness of the moment too.

2. Avril Lavigne, "Sk8er Boi." So Avril Lavigne clearly had issues growing up. She was, like, a sk8r gurrrl, and all of the other kids stuck up their noses at her, and now she's, like, rocking up MTV, and all those skinny blonde bitches who made fun of her in high school are gonna be sorry.
Oh wait.
See, Avril, here's the thing. I'm on to your game. You were super popular in high school, weren't you? You were a teen scene queen and you had a lot of friends, and you were always destined to be a star. (Christ, you sang with Shania Twain, who probably deserves her own Guilty Pleasures column, but that's another story.) But you didn't quite have the voice for pop, did you? So you needed to find an alternative route. So you flirted with guys with guitars and cast yourself as a punk princess, seeing the potential to make millions off accessible pop-rock. And your business savvy is to be commended, Avril. But it's the way you spell the word "boy" in the title of this song that gives it away. You're trying. You're trying so hard. You're succeeding as well, but girl, you have had to put in a lot of effort to achieve your Delia*s-meets-Converse look. And for someone who's only twenty-four, and therefore pretty much in my generation, give or take a couple of years, you are so wildly out of touch with people my age that you believe we'll think you're just like us if you use Internet-slang like "boi." Which nobody ever used, ever, because it's no shorter than the real word and just reeks of I-just-got-instant-messenger-and-my-screen-name-has-the-word-baby-in-it-three-times. So keep doing your think, "Sk8r gurrrl." We'll all be listening. Because I hate to say it, but I think you won.

3. Los Del Rio, the fucking Macarena. Okay, strip away the shame and stigma associated with this song. Forget the Bar Mitzvahs and Yankee games. Forget everything you thought you knew about this song and listen to it as though it were your first time. You'll realize something rather astounding: this is a really good dance song.
Like, the beat is solid, that vaguely Latin synth line is damn catchy, and the lyrics, though in Spanish, manage to be catchy anyway--everyone you know has their own version of what the words to this song are.
And yes, this song sparked a wild dance craze, but I think the reason it first achieved fame is because Those Of the River know how to write a decent pop song. The version you and I know and, yes, love was remixed by the Bayside Boys, which is where those two-timing ladies come in. They're talking about blatantly cheating on their boyfriends because, well, "His two friends were sooo fine." This song is dirty! Not only is it a good dance song, but it's a naughty dance song. No wonder it became a hit.
What I'm saying is, sometimes you just have to get over yourself and accept that there are some forces in this universe you can't control. And one of those forces is the Macarena. Now, since this is the first time you've heard this song, allow me to teach you the dance. First, put your hands out like this...

-Josh

Shopping Wish List For Broke Girls [Like Me]

I'm broke. I really can't reiterate that enough. I eat a lot of Ramen and drink water to curb hunger. I spend more money on cigarettes and other substances than I do on food. I haven't gone shopping in a month, which probably isn't that long, but for me it seems like forever.


I'll also admit that I'm very into fashion, and I'm not really ashamed of it. Sadie wrote a great post on Jezebel yesterday explaining how she came to appreciate fashion as an art form. I do, too, to some extent. I love the Costume Institute exhibits at the Met and I appreciate couture as an expressive and highly physical art form. I also am of the mindset that outfits can be an easy way to express individuality otherwise reserved for different activities... like... blogging. Yeah. But since I'm broke and fashion-minded, I often turn to a New York Girl on a Budget's Best Friend: Forever 21.


Here are some screencaps of some of the stuff I'm currently digging, and each item is under $30. If you're bored and want to do some browsing on the site (or other similarly priced sites), I'd love to see the other items you guys come up with. Also: I'd like to use this time to point out the fact that it's sooo annoying that H&M doesn't have online shopping, because whenever I go into the store that's closest to my apartment (the one on Broadway in SoHo), I always end up flying into a rampage and elbowing tourists out of my way in a violent effort to get to that Last Cheap Shift Dress.

Anyway, I was a little disappointed with the website's selection, but here are the few looks I came up with. Also, it's pertinent to point out that I only ever wear dresses or skirts, which explains why all four items I chose are dresses. I don't know why- I just really hate pants.





Oh and in case you're a cute straight boy lurking on Jess and Josh/Sara Benincasa's brother, this is what I wear when I blog ;) ;) ;)
-Jess

Housekeeping

I've been really busy recently with everything that's been going on, but I wanted to do a little housekeeping so that we can kind of consolidate recent J&J references across the interwebz into one neat little post. (Hey look! My OCD is showing!) In case you're interested, which you probably are not but this makes me feel organized and in control so I'm doing it anyway, below are recent linkbanks and writeups including J&J. Some are positive, some are negative, all are worth a read if you're dangerously consumed with boredom at work like me.


2. Young Manhattanite - One and Two


4. CVXN










14. About.com - Women's Issues Blog - I'm someone's role model!


16. Politics as Puppetry - NYU Sucks (Duh)


18. Thunderbolt - J&J as quotable as the Prime Minister of India?


20. Crap, I wish there was a 20th one because now I feel all unbalanced. Alright, um, - Number 20.


-Jess

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

GODDAMN

So I was linked to by Feministing and this is a very big deal to me. As in, I read the site daily and also read and own Jessica Valenti's Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman's Guide to Why Feminism Matters and even got it for my Mom as a Christmas present this year and okay even my Facebook references Jessica Valenti.That said...YES! I will abstain from categorizing her as a "feminist hero" as that has stirred up quite a shitstorm in the blogosphere, but I will say that I very much admire Valenti and the work that she does. So I'm just awestruck and delighted to even be subtly referenced in one of her posts. YAY.

-Jess

Oh Look - a Float With a Penis On It

So another one of my girlcrushes is Salon writer Tracey Clark-Flory. She wrote an article in Broadsheet today about a 4th of July parade that occurred in the Massachusetts area that basically turned into a public shaming of the Gloucester "pregnancy pact" girls. The parade is supposed to focus on an event of national or local importance, and -- instead of creating floats based on something constructive like the presidential election or rising oil prices -- the parade participators decided to concoct floats with completely offensive anti-female messages on them such as, “Sluts missed sex ed” and “She smelled like tuna, I should’ve pulled out soona.” Besides the fact that this is factually incorrect – i.e. one of the major problems that contributed to this whole fiasco is the fact that Gloucester doesn’t even provide sex ed for students in high school – it’s also incredibly offensive and unnecessary. It’s personally disrespectful to the women involved in the controversy, but it also rings shrilly of sexism against all women. Seriously, if you don’t like vaginas, there’s really no need to make that tired, played-out “OOH they smell like fish!” analogy.

The other thing I don’t understand is that the parade contributors are potentially reacting to the situation due to personal conservative ideology. Calling women who get pregnant in high school “sluts” and damning them for the poor choices they’ve made as impressionable teenagers is not only offensive, but reeks of a conservative and/or religious undertone that stands in stark contrast to the graphic imagery presented by the parade floats. One float was little more than a penis shooting out liquid onto the crowd; seriously, the gay pride parade could have opted this float and conservatives everywhere would have been up in arms. I don’t understand how you can reconcile conservative ideology that deems women who have premarital sex “sluts” with a float with a giant dick on top of it. This is ostensibly a family event, judging from the crowd in the video; I’m not a conservative, but I wouldn’t even dream of bringing my hypothetical kids to an event like this. It’s hateful and rife with bigotry, not to mention no one really needs to be sprayed with fake cum from a penis float, no matter how hot out it is. Video below.



-Jess

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

"THIS is breaking with the theme, Mom. Okay? You need to shape the FUCK up."

We've had a lot of new commenters around these parts recently, and I really love that the things Josh and I write have been stimulating such furious discussions. But I'll admit: if you comment with a Blogger ID, not only do I read your profile, I also Google you. (I know, I'm a creep) And that's what I did for Sara Benincasa, who is a comedienne and writer in New York, and also the star of this video, which I've watched like 50 times now and think is fucking hilarious. Do yourself a favor and check it out below:



-Jess

Found Jess's Boyfriend

And he raps.

Yes, it's the same guy who did this thing.

He is funny.

-Josh

No More Muffins

I guess someone else on teh internetz had some bad breakups that forever turned them off of muffins?

Okay. I want to talk about Tracie’s Jezebel post on Emotional Conquistadors, but I want to do it in a way that focuses entirely on the content of her writing and puts aside judgments on her motives for posting it. That said, anyone who got funneled over here because of this post should also go to Jezebel and read Managing Editor Anna Holmes’ reaction to the whole thing, as well as the myriad of comments it generated. It’s worth it: trust me.

Anyway. Tracie’s post oozed with a sincerity and insecurity she hasn’t really revealed before on Jezebel. Many Jezebel readers and Tracie supporters are very sex positive in their views of feminism. This doesn’t mean manipulating the "rules" to justify one night stands or casual sex, but instead viewing female sexuality in a way that allows for sexual openness and the relative removal of shame from sex. I’m still trying to figure out if I agree with these ideas, but it’s safe to say that Tracie and these other women can compartmentalize physical attraction and emotional attraction much better than I can. I’ve tried to separate sex and love, and I fucking suck at it. I almost always go into relationships claiming that I’m emotionally detached and only in it for the physicality, but inevitably I end up developing feelings for the person I’m with, even if they aren’t necessarily that great of a person. I envy the way some women can treat sex casually. I try to, I really do, but it’s just not the way my brain is wired.

That’s not to say I’m against sexual liberation. I mean, once you’re my boyfriend, I’m really very slutty. I just haven’t found a way to separate sexual and emotional satisfaction so that I don’t feel ashamed afterwards. Maybe I’m letting society dictate what should make me feel bad, but I really believe it’s just the way I think: Lady in the street but a freak in the bed, so to speak.

But for some reason I still attempt to entertain the notion that I can remain emotionally unattached while fucking someone. Like Tracie, "I’d rather be fucked than fucked with." And these men that she speaks of in the article – the ones who are emotionally manipulative, know just how to burst through that defensive shell and get under your skin – these are the ones I always end up falling for. I can be incredibly complimentary and supportive and giving when I really like someone. I bake muffins for them for fuck’s sake! So I’m entirely susceptible to the Emotional Conquistador. I know how to make people feel good, I know what to say to make them feel special, so it’s no wonder that men who crave ego plumping flock to me.

The irony is that the more I get hurt, the more open I become. I went through a pretty ravenous breakup a few months ago, and I experienced the traditional emotions: “I’ll never date men again” became “I’ll never date men like him again,” which then became “Alright I want a boyfriend now.”

I’ve learned from my past relationship mistakes, but I also refuse to walk around like a robot, fucking anyone I want to because I’m scared of developing a tenuous emotional connection. I’ve been hurt in the past, I’ll be hurt in the future, and yes, sometimes I wonder if the good things that come along with all that pain are even worth it. Ultimately I guess the answer is yes. That’s why people still continue to get married despite the over 50% divorce rate, right? There are people out there who still believe in love. I’m wary to declare myself one of them, because, as a child of divorce, I do have some fucked up opinions about relationships and marriage. But I think, overall, I’m beginning to trust my instincts. There is a definite middle ground between falling head over heels with anyone who pays you attention and living life completely stoically. It's a delicate balance that I think many women have trouble navigating; all it takes is one person to break through to you and then break you. I guess, for me, I'm willing to risk it. So the emotionally needy hangers-on in constant demand of validation are welcome to continue flocking: but I’m not gonna bake you any more muffins.


-Jess

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Summer Existence

:(

Another Point of View

So there's this girl Vanessa who goes to NYU with me and she's a very avid Jess and Josh reader and once she even sent me a Facebook love letter declaring her self-proclaimed "mad girlcrush" on me (mutual!), and really, she's very cool. She's good people. That said, she wrote this fucking awesome post about what feminism means to her over at her blog, and if you're interested at all in any of the shit I've been talking over here recently concerning women's issues, I highly recommend it. It's lovely.

-Jess

May There Be 50,000 More

In the vein of honesty that I deem so holy, and in light of Josh’s (fucking awesome) post that touched upon what’s been going on with our blog recently, I wanted to clarify a few things.

The fact is that because of one thing I wrote, Josh and I have begun to garner a following wider than we’d ever expected; this little thing we've got here just broke 50,000 views. Josh described his personal reaction to the current uptick in this post, but I wanted to kind of elaborate on the way this whole thing makes ME feel.

For those of you who have been reading Jess and Josh for awhile, you know that I’ve always been searingly honest in describing my feelings and I’ve been a rather unabashed oversharer, willingly splaying myself out like some sacrificial lamb to be scrutinized, examined, complimented, and hated on. It makes me feel good to give pieces of myself to other people, but I think there comes a point where you end up losing sight of who you are because of it. When does talking about your life become narcissism? When does narcissism become fatalism? I guess I feel that I can’t keep lending pieces of myself out: once I give them away, they won’t ever be mine again. Besides, no one ever asked me to spit that oversharin (Emily Gould learned that shit from me cuz I'm smarter).

So the little media attention we’ve been getting has thrown me into a fit. I can’t sleep anymore, I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat to check my e-mail, read comments and notes various readers have sent my way, conduct furious technorati searches hoping that no one has linked to us again. The morning The Huffington Post article went up I spent all day working damage control. I’m not sure how something so NOT about Jess and Josh became so much about Jess and Josh. Why do our opinions matter? Fuck! We are up against some pretty fierce people, I mean, the co-creator of The Daily Show knows who I am; the features editor of my favorite website e-mailed me; I’ve been getting e-mail flooded with compliments and criticism from people across the country who came upon Jess and Josh because of HuffPo or other places mentioning the Jezebel fiasco.

I’m a nervous person, I have OCD, I’m an anxious freak. These are things our dedicated readers have come to know and probably not love about me. I mean, I’m writing this on the train back from Philly - I had to go home for a night for a much needed visit to my therapist - and all I can think about is how I’m going to have a million e-mails when I get home all concerning this one thing that I wrote and never expected anyone to read. Do you know how terrifying that is? There is currently a colony of butterflies inside of me. I never ever wished to see 0 e-mails in my Inbox until this thing began.

And I think that people, but women in particular, are constantly at odds with learning how to be themselves while still vying for acceptance from their peer groups. Let’s be honest: I wanted the Jezebel editors to like me, which is why I backpedaled. I wanted Lizz Winstead to like me, which is why I took responsibility for backpedaling. Ironically, all three probably hate me now. And I know overall this is about me liking myself, but my opinion of myself has always so broadly been based on what others think of me; and now there are people out there who have this idea of me, this opinion of the persona I adopt to write this blog - which is more or less me, but less and less like me every day - and I don’t know if I’m strong enough or tough enough or ready enough to handle their criticism. I kind of expected to have a few more years to sort these things out. I’m not saying this is the be-all end-all of my media career: one oft-linked-to blog entry does not make a blogger a Blogger with a capital B. But it is the start of something that tidily lends itself to this larger existential crisis I’ve basically been skirting since Josh and I posted our very first entry back in November: in the future, am I tough enough to do this as a career? God forbid Gawker ever talked shit on me, I think I’d maybe off myself - okay, not really, but do you see what I’m saying? God dammit, I’m sensitive, I’m a fucking female Keith Gessen. (Sidenote: I’m sorry for railing on you, Keith, me and you, we’re the same in many ways, only you have a novel published and like, a career, and I have a blog that people read once or twice because feminism is dead, or not dead, depending on who you ask.)

Anyway. I want to keep giving pieces of myself out to people through my writing. On a personal level, it’s cathartic, but I also think doing so is what sets Jess and Josh apart from other media-type blogs: we talk about news stories, but Josh and I are also very upfront about the innerworkings of our personal lives or how certain events emotionally impact us. I am learning, for now, to stick to my guns. If honesty is what I so revere, then I could stand to be a little more honest with myself. I shouldn’t have backpedaled on that Jezebel article, because there is nothing wrong with expressing disappointment if you’re truly disappointed. I mean, that’s the ultimate task of the millennial, isn’t it? -- Learning how to parse emotions, but also learning how to describe them in a sophisticated and easily received way. It’s really the burden of people my age; we have a responsibility to deconstruct our emotions in a more nuanced way than those before us, simply because we now have the tools to do so.

So no, I don’t want to stop oversharing just because more than three people are reading this right now, or because I’m afraid of a backlash or of criticism, whatever. Kanye was all, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger,” and I think that’s true to some extent, but if you sense some hesitations in posts to come, now you understand why. I’m working through some things: some of that shit you will witness, some of it I’ll reserve for my diary and a couple of Xanax bars. But now you know. Honestly.

-Jess

The Dopeness of "The Wackness"

I saw The Wackness on Thursday, which I’ve been honestly waiting to see since I learned Mary-Kate Olsen infiltrated the cast. Not to mention I have a MAJOR girl crush on Olivia Thirlby -- totally wish I could look like her/treat relationships with the degree of nonchalance she does in the movie.

Anyway, the film itself was better than I expected, though I was disappointed with Mary-Kate’s much hyped role as it ended up really only being about 7-10 minutes of actual screentime. The crux of the movie relies on the nuanced relationship between recent high school grad and pot dealer Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck) and his therapist Dr. Squires (SIR Ben Kingsley), who suffers from the throes of a startling midlife crisis that eventually leads to his third divorce. The movie attempts to explore the complex loneliness that plagues the human condition in New York City in the 1990’s, when Giuliani was just beginning to dig his claws into the city’s grime (this, in fact, is a major theme throughout the film with many references to Giuliani and his rather fascist attempts to cater to the bourgeois class). Though the relationship between Shapiro and Squires’ stepdaughter, Stephanie, is stirring at best, it’s the chemistry between Kingsley and Peck that really drives the movie. There is an intimacy in both of them that only reveals itself when they are together on-screen. Both characters end up relatively heartbroken, nursing ebbing drug addictions, trying to figure out how to navigate the confusing hand they’ve been dealt.

Furthermore, Stephanie’s blasé treatment of Luke’s feelings is a refreshing departure from normative gender stereotypes. I’ve seen a ton of movies where the girl gets her heart broken by some nonchalant asshole, but in The Wackness we get the flipside. Stephanie also manages to remain somehow heroic despite the fact that she sleeps with Luke and then gets back together with her ex-boyfriend. Luke himself is tender and inspires a youthful sympathy, because really, we’ve all been there -- broken heart, ubiquitous love for weed, etc. (Okay maybe only I've been there?) His proclivity to ignore the “dopeness” of life, and instead relish in “the wackness,” is something I can truly relate to. At the end of the movie, Luke seems to have reconciled the glass half full/empty life views, and when Stephanie attempts to apologize for hurting him, he makes a very poignant statement along the lines of:

LUKE: Don’t apologize. I’ve never done this before. I want to remember what this is like.

STEPHANIE: What what is like?

LUKE: Having my heart broken.

In a moment of true cinematic gold, Luke steps into the elevator after this final exchange, a heavy angsty teenage heart bleating inside of him, and Stephanie cracks a wry smile because she can finally guiltlessly appreciate their romance for the subtle joke it was.

I think the movie will speak to a complex audience – teenagers, certainly; potheads, people who grew up in the 90’s, baby boomers suffering midlife crisis torment, Nas fans. (The soundtrack alone is almost worth paying the $12 to see the film for – the beginning of the 90’s hip hop movement plays a huge role in nudging along the plot).

But in the end it’s the fascinating relationship between therapist and drug dealing patient that sets this film apart from other angsty indie films; it’s an old cinematic fairy tale that both patient and therapist end up learning from each other, but the gracious way Peck and Kingsley navigate this relationship makes the film break through right into your chest and sit between those rib bones, much in the same way Stephanie breaks through to Luke: fleetingly, painfully, but in a conscious way that makes it all worthwhile.

-Jess