I just finished the Backstreet Boys documentary (Backstreet Boys: Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of currently streaming on Netflix) and let me tell you, it was amazing. Much like their music it doesn’t go deep, it doesn’t make you think, it just gives you what you want. It plucks at the heart strings in a very basic, obvious way, just like all their songs. It’s simple, it’s less than 2 hours long and it’s perfect.
Tragedy struck a Lafayette, LA movie theater on the evening of Thursday, July 23rd 2015, when a gunman, John Russell “Rusty” Houser, opened fire during a screening of “Trainwreck”. He fired 20 shots and hit 11 people, some multiple times, before turning the gun on himself and ending his own life. Two women, Jillian Johnson, 33, and Mayci Breaux, 21, were killed in the shooting spree.
This event comes almost exactly three years after James Holmes opened fire on a movie theater in Aurora, CO during a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.” He was convicted on the day of the Louisiana shootings. While there are obvious similarities between Holmes and Houser, these tragic cases are vastly different. In the three years since his actions in Aurora, Holmes has offered up little evidence of a motive. He wrote in his notebooks “‘The message is, there is no message.'” He wasn’t trying to prove anything or make a statement, he just wanted to commit a violent act.
Details about who Houser was are still coming out. While we will likely never hear his motive directly from him (save for notes or videos he may have left) we cannot rule out that this was a hate crime against women. According to The Washington Post, he “inveighed against women’s rights, liberals and minorities.” The New York Times describes him “as a man with a diffuse collection of troubles and grievances — personal, political and social — who had a particular anger for women…and a changing world.”
According to Calvin Floyd, who knew the shooter, Houser “‘had an issue with feminine rights. He was opposed to women having a say in anything.’” He attempted to control his adult daughter’s life, trying to halt her wedding and harassing her at her work place. The Times reports Houser had been accused of domestic violence and “believed that women should not work outside their homes.” His daughter and wife had to get a protective order against him.
Evidence suggests that what happened in Louisiana was not a spontaneous act and that Houser had planned to escape. It’s probable that he purposefully chose this particular movie–which has a clear feminist bent, a modern chick flick rom-com, written by and starring a woman–and though he injured at least one man, it is likely not a coincidence that the two people he killed were women.
While the police are, as-of-yet unable to name a motive, there is a good deal of evidence to suggest he carried out these actions because of his hatred for women. It seems that, in light of this, we should be thinking of Houser not as the latest James Holmes, but the latest Elliot Rodger.
Last night Patricia Arquette won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. The film itself was beyond reproach. A triumph of modern filmmaking. Arquette did a masterful job and her award was much deserved. She’d prepared ahead, reading a pre-written speech. After the general thank yous and a plug for her charity, she said,
“To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights, it’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”
Which is terrific. It’s elegant and eloquent. Short, succinct and accurate. She played it well, not calling anyone out or blaming anyone in particular but asking everyone to fight. In a dreary awards show that celebrates the exact same kinds of people saying more or less the same things year after year, this was brilliant and lovely. Unquestionably one of the evenings highlights. It even prompted this reaction, which was tailor made for the pop-feminists of the internet:
But, sadly, it of course did not end there. After leaving the stage she was swept off to answer reporters questions in front of a step-and-repeat where she said:
“It’s inexcusable that we go around the world talking about equal rights for women around the country and we don’t have equal rights for women in America. When they wrote the Constitution, they didn’t intend for us to be equal. It’s time for all the women, all the men who love women, all the gay people and people of color, who we fought for equal rights for, to fight for us.”
I think when it comes to the Bechdel Test I am more bothered by movies that fail on the final stage. IE there are two or more female characters with names and they talk to each other, but only about men. I think not every movie needs to be about women, men have issues and experiences that can entertain us, and while the culture certainly has been biased towards them I think there are still stories to be told. But what bothers me are movies that are ostensibly about women (rom-coms, chick flicks etc) but are really about men because that’s all these women talk about.