All the Ways in Which Ace of Base’s “The Sign” Doesn’t Apply to Someone After A Breakup

There are a wealth of available tracks to listen to after a breakup. From “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” to “Nothing Compares 2 U,” there’s no shortage of auditory condolences for your loss. But one of the few “I’ve come out of the other side of this much stronger and better than you” songs offered to the recently jilted and/or forced to let go of a loved one because he or she can’t endure his or her shit anymore is Ace of Base’s 1993 single, “The Sign.”

Perhaps because of its anomalously uplifting lyrical content, highlighting all the benefits of shedding one’s ex like a snake’s skin, “The Sign” was embraced by Americans as few other Swedish-made products have been. Blame it on the naïveté of the 90s–the sheer predilection for cheesiness at this time–but, for whatever reason, listeners of “The Sign” seemed blissfully unaware of the reality that absolutely zero of the sentiments expressed have ever applied to any dismantling of a relationship.

Starting with “I, I got a new life, you would hardly recognize me, I’m so glad/How can a person like me care for you?/I, why do I bother, when you’re not the one for me?,” it’s immediately evident that Linn Berggren has never been through a real breakup as what one actually thinks after it’s over is, “Oh God…Holy shit. What have I done? I’m going to die alone. My ex is going to triumph in life by finding someone else before me and/or having a more robust bank account.”

Linn continues with her pack of lies by insisting, “I saw the sign and it opened up my mind/And I am happy now living without you/I left you oh oh oh.” First of all, Linny baby, the music video (at least one of the many versions filmed) depicts a scene of a man leaving his girlfriend first and then she decides not to take him back when he offers her a rose (as if that’s an adequate apology for calling into question her self-esteem). But let’s be real, she probably only did that because she just didn’t want to risk being the one rejected again. It was a defense mechanism, her decision to leave.

Elsewhere Linn indicates a sort of dissatisfaction with her “partner” by referencing the idea that she’s always the one who has to buttress him–the sole reason he’s even still afloat–as she sings, “No one’s gonna drag you up to get into the light where you belong/But where do you belong?” Apparently, not with Linn. Thus, it doesn’t seem like she wanted to leave her boyfriend, so much as, well, he sounds kind of like a deadbeat from this tidbit of information, and she needed to find someone who could at least afford to pay her passage to America.

The real clincher of the entire fallacy of “The Sign,” however, is this: who takes an ankh as a “sign” to ditch your significant other anyway, huh? There’s a reason no one listens to Egyptians anymore. It’s why the phrase “like reading hieroglyphics” exists (and if it doesn’t, it should). Then again, having to endure the searing emotional pain of a breakup is almost equally as unpleasurable as attempting to decipher an ancient language.

“Lotta White Folks In Here”: Moonlight

It is rare for black audiences to “get” a “serious” movie. Sure, once a year, Hollywood will throw the “demographic” a historical film about civil rights or some other era of oppression in their tortured annals for Oscar nomination reasons, but, in general, the depiction of black life is left to Tyler Perry, another Barbershop installment and, once upon a time, the Wayans Brothers.

And so, more than the fact that Moonlight is a sort of Boyhood for black gay men, Barry Jenkins’ second feature is special because it isn’t necessarily a movie “for black people,” designed to separate audiences because of the specificity of a cultural experience. While, yes, having a mother addicted to crack in the projects isn’t exactly common to white childhood, Moonlight speaks on a global level to the cruel nature of humanity and the flawed system perpetuated by the U.S. (incarceration levels, an inability to get ahead–you know, all that jazz).

That’s why, while in the movie theater, I hear, “Lotta white folks in here.” Whether derogatorily slanted or not, it does indicate what Moonlight is transcending in the genre of “black cinema.” Jenkins’ ability to convey a wide stretch of emotions with a single expression or shot speaks to the perils and pains of being alive as a whole–not merely as a result of being black. Though, of course, Jenkins does speak through the voice of Chiron a.k.a. “Little’s” (Alex Hibbert) surrogate father, Juan (Mahershala Ali), the local drug lord of his Miami neighborhood, by asserting, “Black people are everywhere. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. We were the first ones on this planet.” It is almost as if to remind those white folks in the audience to know their damn place.

In any case, Juan is filled with such isms and life lessons as these as he watches Little being incessantly bullied by the other kids at school–who can sense he’s what his drug-addicted mother, Paula (Naomie Harris), calls a “faggot”–from afar, and resultantly offers his house as a port in the storm from the trauma of both his scholastic and domestic existence. To further lend comfort is Juan’s live-in girlfriend, Teresa (Janelle Monáe, looking not so androgynous in this role), who lets Little take his time with the few and far between words he does choose to say.

Based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, the simple title of its filmic adaptation is twofold: 1) Juan gets his nickname, “Blue,” from constantly running around in the moonlight as a rebellious child in Cuba and 2) one might say that Chiron is moonlighting as a “normal” boy, in spite of the fact that everyone can see through his act. One boy in particular, Kevin (Jaden Piner), can read Chiron like a book with one glance. Their rapport is solidified one day when Chiron absconds from a kickball game and is pursued by Kevin, who encourages him to fight back against his tormentors and prove he’s not “soft.” When Chiron insists he isn’t, Kevin challenges him to show off his physical strength by pushing him to the ground and getting into a tussle with him. The camerawork hones in on the the sexual rawness of their pretend scuffle, and sets the tone for the rest of their encounters–always tinged with a hint of the forbidden.

And yes, perhaps because Moonlight also centers on the struggle of being gay and coming to terms with all the implications and ramifications of such a still semi taboo sexuality, its net of appeal also extends far past the black community. As Little becomes teenage Chiron (Jharrel Jerome), his path again runs into Kevin’s, who affectionately calls him Black at this point, and tells him how he got detention for having sex with a girl in the hallway and making her moan so loud he got caught. He then makes Chiron promise not to tell anyone, adding with more than a hair of inference, “I know you good at keepin’ a secret.”

When a moment of happenstance prompts things to escalate between Kevin and Chiron, it alters the entire trajectory of Chiron’s life, and leads him to repeat the cycle that feeds into the reliance of low to no income people on drugs–whether selling or buying.

The passage of more time turns Chiron into Black (Trevante Rhodes)–an obvious foil to his mentor, Blue. In this incarnation, he is in direct masculine contrast to his former effete self. But a call from the past leads him back to where it all started and the revelation, “No one’s touched me since you.” And who can’t relate to this level of unfulfilled yearning and unknown pleasure?–black or otherwise.

Destiny’s Child’s “Cater 2 U” Somewhat Nullifies Beyoncé Being a So-Called Feminist

Just as people like to forget that Beyoncé had to slum it with Sisqo for a while back in 2000, so too, do they like to brush aside a little song called “Cater 2 U” from Destiny’s Child’s final album in 2004, cheesily titled Destiny Fulfilled.

Because it was ten years before the The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour, (when the word “FEMINIST” served as the backlighting for her stage) and Beyoncé had yet to be positioned as Beyoncé, she was amenable to belting out such lyrics as, “Let me help you take off your shoes, untie your shoestrings/Take off your cufflinks/You want to eat, boo?” And while, sure, those ardent defenders of Bey might try to argue that this was really more of a Michelle Williams vocal heavy track, there is no denying Beyoncé was at the helm of most “decision-making” for the group.

The video doesn’t help much to promote Beyoncé’s current brand of feminism either–though at least it’s not a complete precursor to the kitchen and living room-related interactions between Betty and Don Draper that would take place in 2007. Instead, it’s Beyoncé, Kelly and Michelle sitting in fetal positions naked with each other during the intro as they croon, “My life would be purposeless without you”–a far cry from the current Beyoncé sentiment of “Boy bye.” As the trio prances about making Vanna White-esque gestures indicating their serviceability, a lone man in the desert watches them while licking his lips salaciously. Separately, each woman performs her own display of obsequiousness. For Beyoncé, it’s swaying her hips in a bathing suit on a diving board while wielding a yellow wrap. For Kelly, it’s writhing around on the hood of a car. Michelle manages the least “accommodating” pose in spite of having some of the more disgustingly retro lyrics being left to her stead, merely caressing herself on a chaise lounge.

Together, they dance about in dresses that look as though they were designed by Adrianna Papell. But unlike, say, Tweet or Ciara, they aren’t dancing for themselves but for the benefit of a man, the breadth of who they’re “catering to” expanding to two other men by the middle of the video, equally as lip-licking in nature while watching them.

This grotesque foray into a bygone era is in direct contrast to the strategic shift in Beyoncé’s career by 2014. After evolving into a self-proclaimed feminist, she insisted,

“I’m not really sure people know or understand what a feminist is, but it’s very simple. It’s someone who believes in equal rights for men and women. I don’t understand the negative connotation of the word, or why it should exclude the opposite sex. If you are a man who believes your daughter should have the same opportunities and rights as your son, then you’re a feminist. We need men and women to understand the double standards that still exist in this world, and we need to have a real conversation so we can begin to make changes.”

And yet, Beyoncé wasn’t aiding in the establishment of any changes by releasing the audio and visual monstrosity that is “Cater 2 U,” but rather, setting her own definition of feminism back at least sixty years. As Destiny’s Child brags about how they would “do anything for [their] man,” it’s evident that Beyoncé was clearly living in a guileless fantasy world pre-being cheated on by someone as ugly as Jay-Z. Echoing the inward thought processes of a dog, the declaration, “I got your slippers, your dinner, your dessert and so much more/Anything you want, just let me cater to you,” makes it impossible to look at the now iconic image of her with the word “FEMINIST” projected behind her and think anything other than “HYPOCRITE.”

I Fink You Freeky & I Like You A Lot: Elle

When it comes to what to expect from Paul Verhoeven, the only thing any viewer can predict for certain is that it will always be something with just a tinge of freakdom to it. His latest feature, the sixteenth in his canon, is no exception. Called simply Elle, the film opens with the jarring sound editing of Michèle Leblanc (Isabelle Huppert) being raped to the watchful and curious gaze of her cat, Marty (often a scene stealer throughout).

With a screenplay by David Birke adapted from Philippe Dijan’s Oh…, Verhoeven interweaves his distinct knack for layered details starting from the very outset, portraying Michèle as the sort of matter-of-fact woman who gets right up after being sexually assaulted and takes a bath, splashing away the strategically placed triangle of blood that forms in her bubble bath as she goes about the business of continuing on with her life.

As we gain further insight into Michèle’s background, it’s unveiled that her father is currently serving a life sentence for committing the mass murder of every child on their block when she was just ten years old. Often suspected of partaking in the murders with him thanks to an immortalized picture of her helping him burn their furniture in the yard after he came back home and an occasionally aired TV special called The Accused Will Rise, Michèle could never quite recover her reputation from the ordeal. Nonetheless, her no-nonsense, domineering attitude led her to become the CEO of a successful video game company with a noticeably erotic bent. Her longtime friend and business partner, Anna (Anne Consigny), helps her run the company, and is, according to Michèle, even closer to Michèle’s son, Vincent (Jonas Bloquet), than she is. Indeed, Michèle can’t fathom Vincent’s insistence on moving in with his pregnant girlfriend, Josie (Alice Isaaz), a young girl she deems psychotic and opportunistic. Because Vincent was only months ago dealing weed as a profession, his transformation into fast food worker warms Michèle’s heart enough to convince her to give him three months’ rent up front so he can fulfill his earnest desire to move in with Josie–his urgent enthusiasm for being a father one we ultimately learn is rooted in his need to compensate for the grotesque legacy established by Michèle’s own patriarch.

Tellingly, Vincent’s request for a bit of financial aid comes right on the heels of Michèle being violated. So pragmatic and impassive is Michèle that she not only doesn’t bother to inform the police, but also gets an STD test as soon as possible after the event. She eventually informs her ex-husband, Richard (Charles Berling), Anna and Anna’s husband/Michèle’s paramour, Robert (Christian Berkel), of the attack many days later over dinner and then brushes it off by saying, “I feel silly even telling you” just as the waiter brings a bottle of champagne. It is thus that Michèle’s impenetrability serves as the anchor for all of the many running themes (including the inevitability of female friendship being the only source of true love in a woman’s life) throughout Verhoeven’s taut cinematic universe.

In spite of her recent attack, Michèle still can’t help but lust after and masturbate to her across the street neighbor, Patrick (Laurent Lafitte), a mercurial banker married to a religious zealot. This parallel, of course, mirrors the fanaticism of Michèle’s own father, who killed in the name of defending God’s honor. It is these subtle yet over the top interconnected threads that make Elle so immensely engaging to watch. Paired with the deadpan humor and timing of Huppert (who one could almost imagine in Gina Gershon’s role in Showgirls in terms of cutthroat nature displayed), Elle comes across as an epic thriller without ever realizing until the end just how simply it was made.

The deeper Michèle delves into finding out who her assailant is, the more she unearths just how high her tolerance for monsters are, both of the video game and real life variety. Then again, because Michèle has slayed more than her fair share of brutes, a masked rape fetishist seems like just another drop in the bucket.

At Last Credit Where Credit Is Due: Madonna Wins Billboard’s Woman of the Year Distinction

In an era where it’s more common than not to completely shit on Madonna (generally because of her age), it’s uncannily refreshing to learn that one of the few major entities that hasn’t turned its back on Madonna is Billboard.

Though they briefly lowered their standards last year upon awarding Lady Gaga (incidentally Madonna’s on again, off again nemesis) the distinction in spite of the fact that her only musical output in 2015 was the Linda Perry-wary, Oscar-nominated track “Til It Happens To You,” Billboard seems to have regained its senses by selecting the creamy smooth pop icon goddess as its choice for an accurate representation of what it means to be a record-breaking iconoclast.

In addition to shattering just about every expectation consistently throughout her now thirty-plus year career, Billboard’s motives for electing Madonna this time around pertain most notably to her Rebel Heart Tour, which sold over one million tickets and grossed 1.31 billion dollars across four continents. Elsewhere, her philanthropic blitzkrieg of late (typically maligned by cynics like Morrissey, another in the arsenal of Madonna despisers unfortunately) has been a source of endearment to Billboard, with the publication pointing out that “Madonna’s Raising Malawi organization is currently constructing Malawi’s first pediatric surgery and intensive care unit, which will double the number of life-saving surgeries performed on children each year, provide intensive care after critical surgeries, and train specialized Malawian medical staff.”

All of this accomplished merely in the past year is a minimal sampling of Madonna’s creative and humanitarian output. But then, most will still negate her being deserving of any accolades. And again, for the sole argument that she’s “old” and “over.”

The Evolution of Hocus Pocus Into A Movie for Generics

It’s difficult to imagine a time when Hocus Pocus wasn’t something that both thin and fat generics alike were obsessed with. Its constant screenings on the Disney channel and, later ABC Family, would make it a staple of October and Halloween viewing over the years since its initial box office “failing” in 1993.

Maybe it was the movie’s summer release (somewhat overtly ill-timed on the studio’s part) that only attracted the bona fide Halloween junkies to the theater that year, dooming the film to instant “let’s just rent it at Blockbuster in October” status. Or maybe Bette Midler and Kathy Najimy were too ahead of their time in being “women of the people” actresses to resonate with viewers until decades later. Whatever the case, Hocus Pocus was quickly as deeply buried as Thackery Binx’s (Sean Murray) sister, Emily (Amanda Shepherd), after the Sanderson sisters absorb her youth.

If not for the magic middle class entity that was cable TV in the 90s, it might never have caught on to the level it has now with, oy, les millennials. I mean really, did you ever think that, in your lifetime, Hocus Pocus would become as generic as Uggs, multicolor leaves and pumpkin spice lattes during the fall? No, you thought, like all basiques, that it was just your thing–something only you and your friends truly appreciated.

But alas, every oversized cable knit sweater-wearing, mermaid snuggie-loving girl age twenty-three to thirty-three has an erection for this movie–can quote its “quirkiest” lines (mainly those made by Winnie) and have either thought about or actually executed going as one of the three witches come October 31st.

It’s not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with being enamored by Hocus Pocus like clockwork on a seasonal basis (generics occasionally have decent interests and trend foresight–just look at the popularity of the ombre), it’s that one can’t help but feel the taint of its goodness with each passing year. It makes one yearn for the time when only those with exclusive Disney channel access could enjoy it (there’s a lot to be said for classism eliminating universal taste).

As Jay (Tobias Jelinek) laments to his sidekick Ice (Larry Bagby), “Oh man, how come it’s always the ugly chicks that stay out late?,” it can also be demanded, “Oh man, how come it’s always the generics that get a hard-on for watching Hocus Pocus every Halloween?”

The Only Reassuring Thing About American Honey Is That People Still (Sort Of) Buy Magazines

If you’re looking for a film to reassure you that America is still one of the most economically booming countries in the world, Andrea Arnold’s American Honey is not here to console you. Interestingly, Arnold’s Britishness is perhaps what lends a hyper-objective portrait of the desolate existence of youths in Middle America. Her exploration of troubled, displaced teen characters was established with the rebellious, misanthropic nature of 15-year-old Mia (Katie Jarvis) in 2009’s Fish Tank, a natural jumping off point for the reluctant protagonist of American Honey, 18-year-old Star (Sasha Lane).

Struggling to make ends meet in white trash-prime Oklahoma, Arnold opens the film on Star dumpster diving for, among other food items, a still packaged chicken. Along for this bout of done-out-of-necessity “freeganism” are her surrogate children. We later find out she’s only taking care of them as a result of her uncle and aunt being largely unfit to do so themselves. Further into the backstory is Star’s origins being from Texas, which she was forced to leave after her mother died of a meth overdose. This is the tale of woe she tells for the first time to a trio of cowboys during her first magazine subscription sale. And how she ended up selling, of all things, magazines, is merely a case of vagabond-specific fortuitousness. After carrying the sad, sagging chicken (one of many standout emblems in the film) across the street to the K-Mart to follow her intuition to the sight of Jake (Shia LaBeouf, ultra-channeling James Franco in Spring Breakers), Star can’t deny her instant love at first sight attraction to him. As the obvious ringleader of a gaggle of “ragtag” youths dancing without inhibition to Rihanna’s “We Found Love,” Star watches him unabashedly as he moves to the beat in an overt effort to impress her. When he unknowingly drops his phone, she seizes the opportunity to return it to him in the parking lot.

Like some sort of bull and toreador standoff, the two approach each other, getting close enough to kiss. It is then that Jake proposes Star should come with him to pursue a “business opportunity.”  Before she can accept of rebuff the offer, the white van filled with his crew whisks by. She notes, “They want you.” He arrogantly returns, “Everyone does.” Almost as though to prove it to herself, she insists, “I don’t.” Hopping on to the van, Jake shouts to Star that they’ll be leaving from the Motel 6 the following morning. This brief taste of excitement puts Star’s home life into sharp contrast, prompting her to flee after taking her honorary son and daughter to their mother as she’s line dancing in a bar.

In the parking lot of the motel, Star is startled and disappointed to learn that Jake has a girlfriend, Krystal (Riley Keough), who also just happens to be in control of the entire magazine selling operation. Still, Star’s jubilation is apparent as she gets into the van with the others, all equally as lost and poverty-stricken as she. And, more importantly, it’s the first time she’s experienced a true sense of community. While most are fine with their cursory hand-to-mouth existence, one of the most interesting and complex supporting characters is Pagan (Arielle Holmes), whose obsession with Darth Vader offers multiple instances of both comic relief and poignancy. Star eventually becomes so accustomed to her aura of blackness, that she takes it with a grain of salt when Pagan asks, “You know what Darth Vader looks like underneath his suit? A skeleton. Just like the rest of us.”

As Jake “trains” Star in the art of selling, their attraction to one another becomes increasingly challenging for them to ignore, and begins to reflect upon Jake’s salesmanship–a revelation that makes Krystal livid as she demands of Star, “How come Jake made less money today than he has the entire year?” Star, whose issues with authority become more apparent throughout the narrative, offers Krystal a placating excuse, one that is negated when Krystal asks, “Do I make myself clear?” and Star snarks back, “Crystal.”

Though her drive to sell is low, her brief peaks of charisma with older men work in her favor–each encounter ominously threatening to lead into a sexual assault, but, mercifully and surprisingly never quite culminating in that. In the meantime, her relationship with Jake only becomes all the more destructive, a mirror of sorts for the unfocused, uncertain lives of Americans (especially youthful ones) now.

Arnold’s adept use of semiotics and imagery is consistent throughout, with particular regard to use of insects (most notably bees and butterflies) and animals–Star’s Mowgli-like interactions serving as one of the prime sources of her relatability and still-maintained innocence.

Like a hybrid of Spring Breakers and if Regina George’s sister in Mean Girls had gotten a dark drama spinoff, American Honey makes no apologies for the state of Americana now: largely consisting of Kim Kardashian obsession, poverty and a love of meth and Mountain Dew. It’s a long way from Norman Rockwell’s portrait of it, but hey, time augments all wounds.

On The Head Exploding Theory Put Forth by Sarah Jessica Parker

For as “frothy” of a show as Sex and the City was perceived to be, a new theory put forth by Sarah Jessica Parker (more than likely due, at least in part, to wanting to eradicate the masses seeing her solely as “one-dimensional” Carrie Bradshaw in the midst of Divorce premiering on HBO) lends a different level of complexity to the story’s universe and will have many fans’ heads exploding.

Revealed on a podcast called, appropriately, The Nerdist, Parker discussed, in addition to her Divorce character, Frances, a belief she has apparently long held about Carrie, which is that “Samantha,” “Miranda” and “Charlotte” were mere conjurings from the columnist’s imagination. Matter-of-factly, Parker told Chris Hardwick, “They’re such perfectly archetypal characters. So you’re writing a column about sexual politics and observations of female/male, primarily, heterosexual relationships, so you’re picking one type.” Thus, positing that the way each woman “neatly” fit into every standard blueprint–whore, prude and bitch–a little too neatly, Parker also explains Bradshaw’s own presence in the “fictional” narrative of the trio’s lives by saying, “She is among them because that’s her way of infiltrating story and affecting story too, to have her own actions affect those friendships and document their response.” Leave it to SJP to render Carrie true to narcissistic form.

Adding to the meta nature of this revelation, Candace Bushnell herself created the alter ego of Carrie Bradshaw to write about her own escapades from a more distanced perspective in The New York Observer. Thus, it was never truly certain how “stylized” Bushnell’s own column was–at this rate, was Mr. Big ever real? Sure he was “sprung” from the image of Ron Galotti, but who knows how much of what Bushnell wrote was invented? And then, there is the Chris Noth incarnation of Big to negate Galotti’s toady existence, as the former is clearly more attractive and maybe even a little more dickish, if you can believe it.

Parker then added of Carrie’s writing method, “You’re saying ‘this type is this and this,’ and then you complicate it more, like any good writer does. So I’m not entirely sure they are actually real.”

At the same time, because Sex and the City was created by a gay man and written primarily by gay men for the entire duration of the show, is it any wonder that the women were so caricaturized into distinct prototypes?–portrayed as essentially four, what Madonna would call “queens on the rag,” walking the streets of Manhattan.

And yet, in many respects, Parker is giving far too much credit to Carrie as a writer. The woman was only capable of publishing “compilation books” out of her best articles. Sure, Carrie was great at making puns and asking unanswerable questions, but, beyond this, her writerly skills, were, quite frankly, not adept enough to invoke the imagination required for the level of embellishment Parker is referring to.

Plus, giving Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte Tyler Durden status is a (curly) hair far-fetched–even by post-postmodern standards.

Trans-Antagonism Turns Portlandia, Ergo Portland, Ugly

Portlandia is that sort of show you never really need to watch to understand what its primary sketches are. And one of the most famous, set at In Other Words Bookstore on Northeast Killingsworth Street, is “the feminist bookstore” sketch a.k.a. Women and Women First. Unfortunately for Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, the real feminists who have cooperated from the outset of the show’s debut in 2011 have severed all ties with the production, citing, among other reasons, the show’s disrespect for the space.

But more than the flat fee paid by Portlandia to film in the bookstore being insufficient to make up for fledgling sales, volunteers at the space have described the portrayal as “trans-antagonistic and trans-misogynist.” Beyond Armisen’s bad drag act is In Other Words’ vexation with what they see as a juggernaut of gentrification promotion.

Portlandia is, in essence, “fueling mass displacement in Portland” as the city gets marketed by the show as “something twee and whimsical” that a new generation of yuppies (still a more viable word than hipster) will gravitate toward in lieu of cities like New York or San Francisco.

One volunteer in particular, Shanti, also explained the issue taken with Portlandia due to its caricaturized depiction of whiteness in the city: “This area of Portland used to be primarily African American, and people are being priced out. Portlandia has shown a white version of Portland. They haven’t portrayed Portland in a way that’s inclusive of all the other kinds of people who live here.”

And so, with its racist (“the last time the show filmed in our space, the production crew asked us to remove the Black Lives Matter sign on our window”) and transphobic (“dude in a dress jokes are lazy, reactionary and actively harmful”) bent, a TV series that has saturated mainstream culture is finally getting the check it needs to reassess its priorities. Alas, In Other Words’ decision to break ties with the IFC show has come too late to stop the rent hikes and influx of “technocrat hordes.”

Gaslighting A Key Component Explored in the Amanda Knox Documentary

It was the legal trial of the decade–and, as it was bombastically billed by the media, “Italy’s trial of the century.” Amanda Knox and her boyfriend of five days, Raffaele Sollecito, were the most classic twenty-first century cases of being at the wrong place at the wrong time–victims of a modern day witch hunt, if you will. But, obviously, more Amanda than Raffaele.

With that unintentionally mischievous look that captivated the world and allowed room for interpretation of her guilt, Amanda Knox, directed by Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn, is the first time the anti-heroine of her own narrative has been able to speak for herself. And the line she strategically chooses to open with is, appropriately, “Either I’m a psychopath in sheep’s clothing or I am you.” By the end of the documentary, fastidiously researched by co-writers McGinn and Matthew Hamachek, those with compassion will see that she’s all of us. Anyone could have been in her position, most especially–to be honest–a woman. Circumstances of oblivion, naïveté and, worst of all, a misogynistic country brought upon very little in the way of good luck for Knox.

However, before Amanda Knox was painted by the tabloid-leaning press as “Foxy Knoxy,” she was just a normal college student, a garden variety banal Pacific Northwesterner. That is, until the one “special” quality about her, being well-traveled in Italy (her first trip to the country was at fifteen years old) led her to Perugia to study abroad. While there, her studies were, as she herself stated, surprisingly lax. Hence, Knox decided to take a job bartending at the nearest local haunt to her apartment on Via Della Pergola 7.

The so-called partying lifestyle in Perugia led Knox to attend a theater show by herself, where she locked eyes with the rather naïve, sexually inexperienced Raffaele Sollecito. From the moment they met that night, the two became inseparable for the next week or so–that is, until the murder of Knox’s British roommate, Meredith Kercher. The now infamous footage of Knox affectionately kissing Sollecito post-finding out about Kercher’s death was the first inkling of fuel for the fire of Giuliano Mignini, the lead prosecutor in the case out to solve the “mystery” as quickly as possible–even if that meant making the shoe fit even when it didn’t.

The city’s fear of the unknown–being unable to identify what sort of cold-blooded monster could be capable of such sexually violent depravity–spurred on Mignini’s desire to pin it on the most effortless scapegoat. Amanda, both American and unwary of spreading her DNA at the scene of the crime, was clearly going to be the most likely candidate for Mignini to accuse. Building a case around her that reeled in the likes of her boss, Patrick Lumumba, and her unwitting boyfriend, who ended up backtracking on the ironclad alibi Knox had in telling the police she spent the night of November 1, 2007 with him, Mignini was also influenced by his own self-admitted passion for detective stories–a passion that colored his desire to solve a more complex mystery than was actually there (it should have been an open and shut case after discovering Rudy Guede’s DNA in Kercher’s room).

Also present in the documentary to weigh in on his role (sort of like a synecdoche for all of the media) in spinning the case is Nick Pisa, a journalist for the notorious British rag, Daily Mail. As he grinningly and, with much continued pride, rehashes the spoon-fed tabloid fodder he was given to lend a sensationalist approach to the murder, Pisa proves the primary point filmmakers Blackhurst and McGinn intend to iterate, which is, of course, that the clout of the press in swaying the public is more dangerous than we can ever fully fathom.

Throughout, Knox re-tells her tale of woe with the sort of calmness that made people question her innocence in the first place. Undeniably, Knox’s slowness to report the suspicious look of things in her apartment–from blood stains in the bathroom to feces in the toilet–is what initiated her quick demise in the realm of innocence in the eyes of Italian authorities, who have, to be honest, zero tolerance for “weirdness” (something Americans are far more accepting of).

Her “unusual” reactions, including slapping her ears repeatedly when asked to go through the knives in Sollecito’s apartment to see if any of them might match the murder weapon, served as a catalyst for her conviction. Upon viewing her bizarre response to being asked to go through the knives, Mignini was only further sold on Knox’s guilt based on her abnormal comportment.

Taking advantage of her vulnerable state and non-fluency in the language, Italian authorities used physical abuse to get the answers they wanted out of Amanda if she responded in an uncertain or “cloudy” manner. These extreme measures, both cruel and highly illegal (at least in the U.S.) were taken to the next level while Knox was in prison, and was falsely informed that she had AIDS so that the police could gain more information about past lovers she cited in order to cooperate with treating the disease.

Treated like a hybrid caricature of a whore-witch, Knox watched four years of her peak youth go by in a Northern Italian prison (though one imagines that, at least, the food was probably far superior to an American one). Even after an independent forensic investigation confirmed that the original DNA evidence obtained by the police was both poorly gathered, faulty and insubstantial, many remained unconvinced.

After Knox’s exoneration, there was a clamoring in the streets of Italy insisting upon her guilt. Lusting for the blood of a woman they had been brainwashed to believe was impure, sex-crazed–a villainous Circe sicked upon the country to get away with murder for her own sport–it became clear that this was about something more. It was about punishing someone (not coincidentally a female) for her lifestyle. Now “safely” back in her corner of the world, Knox spends her time advocating for the wrongly accused.

So what’s the lesson of Amanda Knox, really? For women, it might be: careful how “slutty” you make your online presence (MySpace was a real killer–no pun intended–for Knox’s lost lamb potential). For others, it might just be: don’t travel, ever. But then, over 50% of Americans don’t have passports anyway.

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