The home page for author Eric J. Juneau

Bird Box: It’s a Metaphor

bird box poster

Saw Bird Box over the weekend. I know it was good, because I couldn’t sleep last night because I was thinking about it so much. Replaying every scene in my head over and over.

It’s just everything. Just good storytelling, good movie-making. I tweeted, while I was watching it, “No one should ever be allowed to make something this good.”

Or it could be horror movies. The last time this happened to me was Saw. And that was as much being scared of the irony vs. deconstructing the plot holes (there’s no way that guy could lay on the floor that long and not move). Anyway, Bird Box.

The whole thing’s a metaphor for becoming a mother.

tfios augustus waters cigarette metaphor

There’s been a strange increase in this new genre of “family horror” (a name which is terribly misleading) in the past handful of years. The Babadook, Hereditary, A Quiet Place*, Halloween (the newest one), The VVitch, mother!, Insidious, 10 Cloverfield Lane. Women are no longer in trouble because of an axe-wielding masked maniac. Now they’re in trouble because something’s trying to hurt their kids. The allegory of sex has become the allegory of parenthood.

*It’s kind of funny that the two best horror movies of the last two years–“A Quiet Place” and “Get Out”–are opposite each other. Think about it. Both are “Monster in the House”, but one is about one who gets treated as the invading monster and the other is about a family attacked by the invading monster.**

**And while I’m thinking about it, “A Quiet Place” and “Bird Box” are kinda opposites too. In one, you must be soundless. In the other, you must be sightless.

bird box see no evil monkeys

The Babadook is the most obvious allegory for family trauma. It represents the feelings of guilt, grief, and depression after a traumatic death (her husband, in this case). As the “Babadook” gets closer, the mother acts out against her child. (Or is it the other way around and she acts out, causing the Babadook to move closer, hm?) She only wins when she confronts it, both the monster and her husband’s death. But, like grief, it’s not something she can get rid of. When the movie ends, it’s still in her basement. The grief is never going to go away, but it’s manageable.

babadook
Babadook-dook-dook, Dook of Earl, Earl, Earl…

In Bird Box, the story starts with pregnant Malorie… who is surprisingly uninterested. She’s dispassionately painting some dispassionate people while her sister gets all her groceries. She’s pretty unattached to everything. I thought maybe she was on the spectrum at first. She seemed like she couldn’t understand empathy.

Anyway, the doctor tells her “the baby is coming whether you want it or not, so you better get used to it”. That’s the first time she throws up. It’s not morning sickness, it’s nerves. My wife did the same thing.

flex seal bird box

The whole movie is an allegory for the unknowns that come with being a parent for the first time. Hence the blindfold–you’re going into it blind and there’s nothing that can guide you. Dr. Spock can write as many books as he wants but he’s not going to be there at 3 in the morning when your kid is crying and can’t stop.

Malorie seems like a woman who always knows what to do. A good planner. Someone in control. Parenthood is not about that. It’s about rolling with the punches. Adapt, overcome, survive. Be like water. You’re driving blind (which they actually do).

So as soon as shit gets cray-cray, she’s in a house with other survivors. Now, we all know that the biggest threat in these movies isn’t the monster, but man.

facebook monster man

So who do the survivors represent? Well, when you have a baby, your relationships with people are going to change. You don’t have as much time as you used to. No one wants your job but everybody thinks they can do better. So you got Charlie (the weird cousin), Greg (the helpful gay guy), Lucy (the useless friend who says she’s going to be there for you because she’s always out on Friday night in her selfish hedonistic ways), and Douglas, the angry father-in-law with a shotgun (played by John Malkovich, need I say more?).

We also got Olympia. She’s also pregnant, and she’s the other side of Malorie’s coin. She’s all excited, but also never experienced hardship. She’s the sweet innocent who lets in Gary, the impetus of their demise.

Gary is the guy a single mother dates who says he’s going to be there for you, be there for your kid, but just wrecks everything. Takes it all away. I think the movie was too nice letting the handsome Tom survive.

So now Malorie’s got her own kid and Olympia’s. And her fears have come to fruition. Tom, the co-parent, is the fun one, but she’s the hardass. Get to bed, brush your teeth, do not take off your blindfold or I will hurt you. She doesn’t even give them names, they’re “Boy” and “Girl”.* Is this her spectrum showing? Or is this some kind of Adam and Eve grandeur.

*(Please please please let this movie be popular enough to start a new naming trend, like “Bella” and “Khaleesi”.)

bird box blindfold sandra bullock pinata

Anyway, the backstory is over and this is where the “movie part” of the movie happens. All the tension and drama and action. So we don’t get to wrap up this allegory until the end. Everyone has wandered off and Malorie makes a plea to her children to come back. This is especially poignant with Girl, who she threatened before because she went wandering after Malorie, thinking she was in trouble, and got harshly reprimanded.

Malorie promises to let her listen to the end of the story, to show her wonderful things. This is both the dark night of the soul and rising up to the challenge. Because being a mother isn’t about control or “winning”, it’s about being and staying together. And when they’re safe, Malorie gives them names, indicating their new, more personal, relationship.

bird box monsters
New D&D campaign

So that’s Malorie. That’s her journey from detached and connectionless and depressed to smiling and content. Really, you don’t even need monsters for a story like that. So then, what is the monster?

It’s her.

It’s Malorie’s own self-judgment. It’s the monster she sees when she looks inside herself. Think about it–people who see the monster become locked off. They can’t be reached, can’t be reasoned with, can, and become conclusively sad. They can’t love or be loved. And that’s what she sees when she looks outside her body. She is cut off from people, accepting of no love, only sadness and fear.

bird box eyes

The crazies play a role in this too. They’re byproducts of the monster. They bring others down around them, make them sad. They’re what Malorie is afraid for the people around her. They’re going to drag everyone down with them.

And the reason why victims of the monster commit suicide is because that’s what Malorie’s thinking in the back of her mind. She’s worried that she’s not worth it in the long run. You’ll note she’s never very happy during the movie. Not that that’s surprising given the situation. But also, she has nothing she’s moving toward, nothing to go to. No reason to hope. She’s afraid she’s not worth being here. The monster is Malorie’s worst self.

bird box sandra bullock blindfold

Since these scenes are sprinkled throughout the running time, they’re meant to run parallel with the flashbacks (and you can see that with the “one of you will have to look” kind of thing and the placement of the psycho in the river with the psycho in the grocery store). In this way, the scenes in the present show us the tension and mood for the past. Malorie is still a hardass and still not quite capable of loving her children. Not till the very end when she realize what she could lose–the future. More specifically, their future. Cause parenthood isn’t about you, it’s about helping someone else.

So yeah, that’s Bird Box. I was surprised that it’s Rotten Tomatoes score was so low. It should have been at least a 70%. And Sandra Bullock hits all the right buttons.

bird box kfc chicken

Analyzing the Disney Villains: Nobody (Brother Bear)

emptiness

NOBODY

Brother Bear (2003)

Hello?

Anyone?

Is anyone there?

No, there isn’t. I guess that’s why I wanted to mark this one out. I can’t say this is anything but a joke entry — non-canonical. But it’s worth noting that this movie has no villain. That’s difficult to write, especially for a high concept.

The conflict arises from the main character’s own emotions and desires. Kenai wants to become a great warrior like his two older brothers, but when he tries to prove it, he accidentally gets his older brother killed by a bear. The later quest for vengeance results in him becoming a bear and having to take care of a cub. Thus a valuable lesson is learned.

This is an anti-villain. One that only becomes antagonistic as a result of the circumstances. Thus the audience sympathizes with them because they didn’t want to be made this way, even though the goal is ultimately evil. He’s an unwilling monster.

But I can’t cast Kenai as both the villain and the hero. So, here we are. And I hardly think it matters. There’s no Kenai character at Walt Disney World. My kids don’t carry around stuffed Canadian grizzlies (Well, they do, but they’re not Brother Bear licensed). So let’s just skip this one and move on. ‘Kay? ‘Kay.

Analysis of Demi Lovato’s “Heart Attack”

demo lovato heart attack black hands

This damn song has been in my head for days, so I figured I’d take a tip from “Todd in the Shadows” and look at what the hell is up with this song.

I think the world must have a “So-bad-it’s-good” relationship with the music world. Or a “We Love Stupid” relationship. But there are so many bad, horrible songs out there. Jason DeRulo’s “Talk Dirty to Me“, Black Eyed Peas’s “My Humps“, Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe“, Britney Spears’s “Toxic“, “Gorilla” by Bruno Mars, anything by Katy Perry or Ke$ha. Songs that plummet past the pit of “low quality” into “this shit is ridiculous”. Some people are even trying to force virality, like “#selfie” is trying to replicate the success of “Gangnam Style” with obnoxious lyrics coupled with EDM.

“Heart Attack” is like that, and it comes from a similar source — a Disney pop princess who’s trying to seem “more adult”. She’s a cross between Kelly Clarkson and Miley Cyrus. The song is so damn catchy, but I have no idea what it’s trying to say.

Some overnotes first. With all the diva pop vocalizing and voice manipulation, this sounds like a Christina Aguilera song. It suffers from the same over-production and auto-tuned synth vocals meant to appeal to tweens. That makes it like a car wreck: hideous, but unable to look away from.

Second, what is with the black goo? She starts with black paint or oil on her hands. Throughout the video it drips down behind her, and as she writhes and caresses herself out of passion, her face becomes painted with it. Why is she covered in black goo? Is that oil? Is that her “good self” trying to break through? Why is the good side black? Is this a mud wrestling thing? Like the “Dirrty” and “I’m a Slave 4 U” videos? Maybe she’s becoming an alien? She certainly looks inhuman.

Puttin’ my defenses up
‘Cause I don’t wanna fall in love
If I ever did that
I think I’d have a heart attack

First, I think “heart attack” is a rather poor choice of words. She’s talking about the number one killer of humans. I bet all you out there know at least one person, family member or friend, who died of a heart related disease. And she’s using it as a trite metaphor for your infatuation. Risk touching some nerves on that one.

The phrase “putting my defenses up” is repeated through the song. But it never says why. Why doesn’t she want to fall in love? Did she have some love trouble last time? Is she one of those girls that falls for bad boys? Or if she was spurned by a boy. Or if she’s just always been independent. Or if she’s bi-curious.

Never put my love out on the line
Never said “yes” to the right guy
Never had trouble getting what I want
But when it comes to you, I’m never good enough

This song is just like “Miss Independent“. Again, I have no idea why she never said “yes”.

The last two lines aren’t even related. “Getting what I want” makes it sound like she wants the guy, but “when it comes to you, I’m never good enough” implies that she doesn’t.

Actually, I’m not sure what it implies. Does she think she’s not good enough for the boy? Or the boy is too good for her? The first implies an inconsistent self-image with the rest of the song. The second means she has self-esteem issues. Who is this guy who’s so up there it’s making her lower her inflated opinion of herself?

When I don’t care
I can play ‘em like a Ken doll

Ew. And don’t you know that Ken dolls have no parts “down there”? Does that mean she teases them sexually? This is not endearing me to your situation.

Won’t wash my hair
Then make ’em bounce like a basketball

First, isn’t leaving the hair unwashed a move in hairstyling some times? Second, is this meant to drive off a guy? Wouldn’t that be the effect on everyone? I’d think it would repel more girls than guys. I don’t think it would have much effect on boys. Some of them don’t mind a nasty girl. (Maybe this is where the black oil is coming from.)

I may not be up on the “lingo”, but I guess making them “bounce” means either she’s leaving the boys or the boys are leaving her. “Call Me Maybe” had a more sympathetic character*.

*You know why “Call Me Maybe” was so successful? Because it included fantasies for both the girl and the guy. For the girl, the fantasy was that she would be assertive enough to give a guy who she just met her phone number. Even in this age, girls still have trouble being as forward as boys. For guys, the idea that this girl, out of all the other boys chasing her, chose him.

But you make me wanna act like a girl
Paint my nails and wear high heels
Yes, you make me so nervous
That I just can’t hold your hand

This is a girl who doesn’t wash her hair, and she’s having trouble holding a guy’s hand? And women don’t paint their nails and wear high heels for men. No guy cares about a woman’s hands. They don’t even notice that kind of thing, unless they’re like those Lee Press-On nails, which is simply a danger response.

And high heels make you walk funny. They wear them for other women. It’s a decorating competition thing, and I don’t understand it, but I know about it. Plus, who the hell wears heels in high school? I’m assuming that’s their target demo.

You make me glow
But I cover up
Won’t let it show

Does she have radiation poisoning?

All kidding aside, I actually like this line. I identify with this sensation, and needing to hide it. But it’s not like a crush thing. It’s a “can’t show weakness” thing. The girl’s already in a position of strength. She’s reaching down to him, not up. Is this another girl power fantasy?

So I’m puttin’ my defenses up
‘Cause I don’t wanna fall in love
If I ever did that
I think I’d have a heart attack
I think I’d have a heart attack
I think I’d have a heart attack

Never break a sweat for the other guys
When you come around, I get paralyzed

Good to know you give 110% in relationships. That’ll help when/if you get married in the future. I’d love to know why other guys provide no pressure on her.

And every time I try to be myself
It comes out wrong like a cry for help

I have a feeling your “self” may just not be worth hanging around. I know this from experience: acting like a bitch is not seen as a cry for help. It’s a signal to get away. No one wants to associate with someone who treats other guys like shit. You know what guys do in that situation? They find someone who won’t. The onus of tradition is on guys to find a girl, not the other way around. Is that what’s happening here? She’s having so many guys try and date her, she doesn’t care about them at all? Except this one guy who she may or may not be dating? Guys do not like a project. At least not one that’s more trouble than it’s worth.

It’s just not fair
Pain’s more trouble than love is worth
I gasp for air
It feels so good, but you know it hurts

You have a very screwed up nervous system. You’re just at the holding hands phase and you can’t even seem to get past that. What pain?

But you make me wanna act like a girl
Paint my nails and wear perfume for you
Make me so nervous
That I just can’t hold your hand

Now we’re wearing perfume. That’s probably a good idea since you don’t wash your hair.

You make me glow,
But I cover up
Won’t let it show,
So I’m puttin’ my defenses up
‘Cause I don’t wanna fall in love
If I ever did that
I think I’d have a heart attack
I think I’d have a heart attack
I think I’d have a heart attack

The feelings got lost in my lungs
They’re burning, I’d rather be numb
And there’s no one else to blame (no one else)
So scared I take off and I run
I’m flying too close to the sun
And I burst into flames

If there’s a guy who’s making you feel like this, one who you’d rather feeling nothing at all than be around, you should probably get away from him. This may be an abusive relationship. You went from cold-hearted to feeling everything at once. Are you Elsa? You did sing the Frozen single.

You make me glow,
But I cover up
Won’t let it show,
So I’m puttin’ my defenses up
‘Cause I don’t wanna fall in love
If I ever did that
I think I’d have a heart attack
I think I’d have a heart attack
I think I’d have a heart attack
I think I’d have a heart attack
I think I’d have a heart attack

So you are so heartless that if you ever did find something you loved more than yourself and your sense of independence (or ego or invulnerability), you think your heart would rupture a valve or stop or burst. Seems a little much. I know most songs are more passionate and extreme than real life. But this feels over the line.

Things You Should Know About: MarzGurl Picks Apart Twilight

marzgurl anime

MarzGurl is one of the Channel Awesome (A.K.A. Doug Walker’s That Guy With the Glasses) vloggers. She specializes in anime and the works of Don Bluth, which are a lot more comprehensive than I thought.  Plust she looked smoking hot as Princess Mononoke in Suburban Knights.  Channel Awesome’s more known for their videos, but right now MarzGurl is doing something I think is fairly important.

She’s examining Twilight, the book, as she reads it. She was curious what all the fuss was about, as any good geek should do, and is posting a literary analysis as she goes on.

I’m really impressed with the level of detail. She’s looking at exactly what is wrong chapter by chapter, specializing in Stephanie Meyer the writer and Bella the character. And it’s not just good because Twilight deserves to be bashed (and if you don’t believe me, click the link).  It’s good for writers. It shows the level of detail you need to go into when making a novel, unless you want to reveal yourself as an incompetent fraud.

For example, in the first few pages, it’s immediately clear that Meyer has no idea what time her story is taking place. Bella starts in Phoenix, AZ and going to upper Washington state. Even though it’s not relevant to the plot (what plot?), MarzGurl does a great job illustrating that, by the context clues, there’s no way to determine what time of year it is.  The temperatures and precipitation cited are inconsistent with the real world. It’s clear that the author herself doesn’t know, and doesn’t care.  And that’s bad writing.

Not to mention the great descriptions of how apathetic, ungrateful, shallow, whining, and manipulative Bella is. Before we even learn about Edward, she has three other boys pursuing her, and she doesn’t give a rip.  Yet she claims to be unattractive and plain.

Not to mention Meyer’s writing style. I’ve never read her books, but I can see right away, by the passages MarzGurl points out, how inconsistent and nonsensical her prose is. People don’t sound like they’re talking to each other. They don’t sound like real people, let alone teenagers (she did get one part right – that they’re self-centered). Plus her characterization hops from one mood to the other, with no motivations. There’s a lot of “and then” connectors, but “but” and “therefore” like there should be.  She can’t decide if Bella wants to be noticed or unnoticed.  She can’t decide if Edward wants to be around Bella or not.  She can’t even decide what time it is.

So check it out. Twilight fan or not. You’ll be glad you did.

MarzGurl Picks Apart Twilight: The Novel