Joyful Noise - A Feminist Critique Part I

July 6, 2012

I just watched the movie, Joyful Noise, for the second time.  I must say I really like the gospel feel-good movie with Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton.  Besides the great music, the movie offers a lot to talk about.  Some brief comments: I love how the cast is diverse in both race and body size.  There are Black, White, and Asian people all singing together in the same choir.  I didn’t see any Latino people in the movie though.  There are at least two Asian men.  There are also fat, skinny, and in-between sized people.  Even better, fat is not equated with ugly and lazy, as is our culture’s usual meme.  In fact, one of the side storylines is about one of the choir member’s sex life.  Angela Grovey is a fat Black woman, whose character, Earla, after four years of celibacy is trying to have a sex/dating life again.  Even though she is fat, she has no trouble finding men who not only want to date her, but want to have sex with her too.  It is very refreshing to not have fat be positioned for once as a hindrance.  She is even called “pretty” by her girlfriend in the movie and I think she is too.  And even better, Earla teaches all the choir members fast-paced, energetic dance moves that they use to help them in the choir competition, disproving the myth that fat people are lazy and unathletic.
(Angela Grovey at the Hollywood premiere)
Which brings me to one of my main issues with the movie-for a show about gospel music, the main focus seems to be on sex and purely straight sex at that.  I’m really not a prude, but I did grimace when Dolly Parton’s character tells Queen Latifah’s character’s daughter that she needs to show people that she’s a “woman” now and hands her a makeup brush.  That is how the world sees women, but if being able to apply makeup is the only way to prove one’s woman-ness, then the toddlers who enter beauty pageants are women at two years old.  Not that womanhood should have to be proven anyway.  What makes up a woman?  Hell if I know.  I identify as a woman, but I also know that my womanhood has absolutely nothing to do with having breasts, being able to have babies, wanting to have babies, or even having a vagina.  It has nothing to do with wearing makeup or shaving my legs.  It’s something deeper that I cannot describe.  Words that remind me of women are strong, creative, life-giving, spiritual, nurturing, and powerful.  Beauty also comes to my mind, but not the kind of beauty that has to do with fakery, but the awesome, rugged beauty of our Earth Mother.
I have two more points I want to make about the movie-one positive and one problem.  Next time I write I will talk about how much I deeply relate with the autistic son’s wish to be “normal” (the positive) and the movie’s inappropriate use of the word “crazy” and “crazy” euphemisms (the problem).  These were especially problematic when used to describe the autistic teen by his mother (Queen Latifah).  Why?  No loving mother would ever use that kind of euphemism to describe a son or daughter who is already stigmatized as “crazy” by neuro-typical people.  BUT, that is a discussion for another day.  Stay tuned!
Recommended Links:
Dances with Fat Unsufferable Evils
Today I declare, again, my Independence from a culture and a government that is trying to alienate my unalienable rights and attempting to create a world where I am shamed, stigmatized, and oppressed until I look like they want me to look.  They will not succeed, I will not allow it.  I will help to raise an army against them and we will win.
The Fat NutritionistThe DeathThreat: It’s Not About Health
In the grown-up world where rational people live, it is not actually set in stone that “obesity” is a disease, not least of all because the definition of “disease” is still somewhat fuzzy – which is handy, because it can be stretched to conveniently cover physical traits and behaviours that you find distasteful, thus becoming a useful means of social control that sets “health” (definition also fuzzy) as the new meritocratic standard of Good Dog/Bad Dog, which is a game we all love to play.
The “obesity = disease” theory is also not set in stone because being fat does not lead to an exclusive, inevitable set of symptoms or health outcomes, despite all the alarmism in the media.

One comment on “Joyful Noise - A Feminist Critique Part I”

  1. I understand your problem with the use of the word "crazy" in the movie, particularly given the negative connotation or stigma attached to the word, but perhaps its usage is part of a realistic depiction of society and used in the interest of verisimilitude and not to offend anyone. Much as a slur might be used in a movie, perhaps it's being used because of the potency of the word. I haven't seen the movie, though, so I'm only going by what you have said.
    I like the quote about normal from the movie. 🙂 I think maybe its inclusion is closer to the movie's overall message.

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