Sunday, June 24, 2012

How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Spider-Man

I like to think that there are definite pros to going out with me (breasts, weekly blog mentions, good with dogs) but I'd be a fool to think there weren't obvious drawbacks to the Mr. Caroline experience (leaves wet towels on the floor, incapable of speaking at the appropriate volume, seems to never go home).

However, I think the most obvious drawback of going out with me is I'm kind of a dickhead. I'm not trying to be funny. My mother called me yesterday just to tell me I'm a dickhead.

And not just for the terrible things I do and say, like (in this case) not returning her calls, or (in other cases) breaking up with two different people in the same Waterstones, but also for my general lack of taste or respect for anything. I only like about three albums, and will only watch about four kinds of films, and all of those films are The Royal Tenanbaums. And this used to worry me.

Let me explain.

There are more articles on what being in a relationship 'means' then there are articles about how uncomfortable Johnny Depp is with his hearthrob status, and to reiterate any of that information here would be a waste of your time. (Although did you know that Johnny Depp was on the original 21 Jump Street, but hated it so much he got himself fired, just because he was so uncomfortable with his hearthrob status? Yes. Of course you know. Everybody knows.)

However, to get to the heart of this post, it's necessary that I talk a little about what I think relationships are about. But because that is boring, I will keep it brief. Relationships are about spending the majority of your free time hanging out with one person.

And that's only if you win! Almost every relationship everyone has will lose. You can put as many reasons on why this is as you like, but the one that makes the most sense to me is this: "Darling, hanging out with you has become a bit shit."

When Chris and I met, we spent so long having the "No, YOU'RE CUTER." conversation that it took me a while to recognise the glaring error in our relationship.  Essentially, we had nothing in common. Chris likes Transformers, explosions and Michael McIntyre. Caroline likes being a giant snob about everything.

Obviously, everything important is there. We like each other, the same people, drinking beer and eating lunch. However, I became concerned that my constant "What is it with you and explosions already?" would prove a drag, and decided that it was time to get on board with at least one thing. I decided that one thing should be Spider-man.

Because every new relationship trying to stand on its shakey calf legs needs a 'thing', Spider-Man became our 'thing'. Admittedly, Spider-Man has been his thing since he was ten, so he had a bit of a head start. So came an onslought of Spider-Man, in his every precious form. What started with the Sam Raimi movies on quiet evenings in became the cartoons on hungover Saturday mornings, which eventually became the comics when there was just nothing else around to read. And somewhere along the way, I just got it.

I love Peter Parker. Actually, I suspect I might be in love with Peter Parker. Further, I suspect I have always been in love with Peter Parker. If I might venture one theory more: I think I am Peter Parker.

This is probably where die hard fans will be keen to correct me: No, Caroline. You are not Peter Parker. You are a blogger from Cork who works in a recruitment firm. I know, guys.

Peter Parker is himself, and he is Spider-Man. When he is Peter Parker, he spends all his time getting stuffed into lockers or acting the spaz at Oscorp or The Daily Bugle. He's a good person, ish, which we know because he likes to pick up stacks of bills that are stuffed behind depressing-looking kitchen appliances and frown at them. Mostly though, he's kind of a spaz. If he's not being a spaz, he's being Spider-Man, who needs to make jokes just to feel even vaguely secure.

It's these elements of Spider-Man's character that sealed my interest, beyond just trying to be a slightly more interesting girlfriend.  I know I'm a Johnny-come-lately to this whole scene, but I think it's a big part of the reason why, after fifty years of insect-based puns, people still love Spider-Man.

Spider-Man uses humour as a crutch. Fighting bad guys is scary, and he needs to put something in-between who he is and what frightens him in order to be able to deal with it. As I'm prone to doing, I'm going to take myself as a case study.

I find things scary.  I've been a grown-up for almost exactly a year now, and I still feel like I'm faking it. All my family and everyone I've ever known are a plane ride away, and that is something that never stops being scary.

Every now and then, whenever I find myself standing alone in the middle of Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square, one blistering thought occurs to me: If I dropped dead right now, I wonder how long would it take for my family to find out. Sometimes I find myself so homesick, feeling so completely alone and so horribly out of place that my foremost instinct is to curl into the foetal position and eat a whole jar of Nutella with my hands. And sometimes, that's what it comes to.

But most of the time, I make a joke. I write a blog. I do my best to get on with it, and remind myself that everything I've done - skipping graduation, moving country, taking a succession of terrible jobs and terrible apartments - was my choice.

I keep making jokes, and I keep writing blogs. I try to build up a ridiculous persona of a sassy Irish gal just trying to make good in the big city. Because at the end of the day, every single one of us needs a persona to put between themselves and what frightens them.

It's either that or you pee your tights.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hey, Jessica Biel: What the Hell is in Your Handbag?

Its been a very busy week for Work in Prowess. For one, we launched our official Twitter feed! For two, we decided to start calling ourselves a we now. Yes, that's right. In a mere couple of weeks, Work in Prowess will drop its humble dotblogspot moniker and evolve like a mighty Charizard into a fiery dotcom. This will mean a lot of things, things with vast ideological and moral reprecussions, but mostly it will mean the following.

1. Work in Prowess will look so, so pretty.

2. Work in Prowess will not just be the half-formed thoughts coming from me in my bedroom, but will facilitate the half-formed thoughts of many different people from over a dozen filthy bedrooms.

3.  Me and all these bedrooms will be able to cover so much more material that the possibilities will be truly endless. My hope is that the end result of this will be a women's lifestyle website that will talk about what you actually want to read about. So, that's two parts brain farts, one part "Was Halle Berry's Catwoman that bad, really?" and several additional parts "I'm a girl, and this is what that is like."

The first thing I wanted to do before officially launching the new site was to find out what people wanted from it. So I asked what people thought was missing from the female media landscape.

And got this response:

Because I will not ignore the cries of the people, I decided to track down a celebrity to look inside the handbag of. And what celebrity is more captivating, more definitive of our generation, of pop culture at this very moment then.. uhm.. Jessica Biel?

WIP: Hey, Jessica! Thanks for coming in today to show us all the things you put in your handbag, when you carry your handbag.

JB: Thank you, Work in Prowess. I've been a fan of you and your sister company, the internet, since the very beginning.

WIP: Thanks Jessica Biel. That is very sweet of you to say. So what kind of handbag do you have with you today?

JB: I have a brown handbag.

Here is an artist's rendering of Jessica Biel's Brown Handbag

WIP: Cool. What kind of shit is in it?

Jessica Biel: I literally have no idea. The first thing I've pulled out is a bunch of unwrapped cough sweets with bits of my hair stuck to them.

WIP: Ugh, that is the worst.

Jessica Biel: I know, have you seen my hair?

WIP: You have tons of it. I relate. Humidity is an ongoing daily struggle for us both.

Jessica Biel: Hey, look what else I've found in here. Applicator-less tampons.

WIP: Jessica Biel uses applicator-less tampons?

Jessica Biel: No! Not even. I was in Pasadena? Doing this movie? And I was on like, the rag? And the only place I could get tampons was this weird-ass Mexican drug store. And literally all I could find was these applicator-free tampons.

WIP: They look like bullets!

Jessica Biel: They feel like bullets. Do not mess with them. I'm telling you, WIP, I do not know how those Mexican women deal with that much hands-on experience.

WIP: Hahaha. So, Jessica Biel, what were you doing in Pasadena?

Jessica Biel: I was their filming my new movie, Hitchcock.

WIP: Hahaha.

Jessica Biel: Excuse me?

WIP: Nothing, it's just for a second there I thought you said Hitchcock. Like you were in a movie about Alfred Hitchcock.

Jessica Biel: Why is that funny? I am in a movie about Alfred Hitchcock.

WIP: Because.. you're Jessica Biel.

Jessica Biel: What is that supposed to mean?

WIP: You're not really an actress are you? You appear in films. You appeared in Valentine's Day. You appeared in New Years Eve. The only thing anyone remembers you for acting in is Seventh Heaven. And they made your character smoke a joint and then we never saw her again. You can't be in some biopic about Alfred Hitchcock. You have no place there.

Jessica Biel: Hey, I just found a bunch of loose nails in here.

WIP: What?

Jessica Biel: It's from my new movie, Nailed! It's about a girl who gets a nail in her head.

WIP: Pardon?

Jessica Biel: I know! Fun, right? Then she goes mental and falls in love with a hapless young Senator, played by Jake Gyllenhaal!

WIP: You're being serious, aren't you? This is a movie that is really happening, isn't it?

Jessica Biel: Along with Playing The Field.

WIP: It's a rom-com about sports, isn't it?

Jessica Biel: Oooh, look! Vaseline!

Jessica Biel will be appearing in Nailed, Hitchcock and Playing the Field, which are all movies that are actually happening, sometime relatively soon. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Be Nice To Strangers

There's a lot of things about being a girl that I find frustrating, and I don't think I'm alone in this. It's not that I'm not happy with being a girl (Who wouldn't be happy with having a pair of tits, for crying out loud? Tits.) it's that how women are represented in pop-culture tends to piss me off. We live in a world where the depth of  a female character is represented by the fact that her name is Alex and she runs an organic bakery and she doesn't trust men, intrinsically, maybe because she's had a terrible experience but probably because they're all fundamentally shit.

But this has been pointed out countless times, and reiterating it here would not only do a disservice to much better phrased and more original arguments, but would also undermine the number of fantastic female characters being written by exceptionally talented writers all the time.

Like this one!

And this one!

And all of these ones!

The thing I find most frustrating however, is that women seem to like being portrayed as being totally lame. They self perpetuate it in their own media by writing terrible articles about men and saying terrible things about other women. I should point out here that when I say terrible, I mean that in the 'utterly morally bereft' sense, and also in the 'universally boring' sense. They're not even coming up with new insidious things to tell us every week. It's literally the same bullshit over and over again. This is perhaps best explained by the illustration below, which was not done by me, but which I really, really wish was.

Because all of this crap exists, and because it exists in such volume that it completely dwarfs anything awesome made by women at all, it's really important for me to believe that it's the media who has the problem. This is obviously ridiculous, because blaming 'the media' is like blaming 'the economy' or 'society'. Things that we like to think are autonomous bodies completely separate to us, but really only exist because we tell them to.  It's our actions that determine their outcomes, and this is what brings me to the point I really want to make. Which is this:


There was probably no need to put that in capital letters and bold print. There was also probably no need to use the word 'fucking' quite that explosively, and Mum, I know you're reading this, and I know you're composing a five hundred word email on why I shouldn't have, and I'm sorry. You are right, you did not raise me to say such things. 

Obviously, the notion of being lame is completely subjective, and if there were a definitive list of lame things that women do and if I was allowed to write that list, it would include things like Katy Perry, cupcakes and nail art. But this wouldn't be fair, because I know lots of smart, fun girls who for some reason, genuinely enjoy nail art, cupcakes and.. that other thing. And far be it from me to question that. 

I also don't want to imply that it's only women doing lame things, because men do a ton of crap things too, but right now these things don't really concern me. 

However, I can think of one way in which women can improve their public image drastically, and it is so simple that I'm surprised it isn't handed out written on stiff card the moment we hit puberty. 

We need to be nicer to strangers. 

We need to stop acting like men wanting to talk to us is such a massive pain in the arse. When a man we don't know tries to start a conversation with us, and he does not seem like an immediate physical threat or someone who's going to ask us if we want a free moustache ride, we should be nice. We should not post facebook updates about how some 'creeper' had the audacity to talk to us. And at all times, we should realise this: it is really, really hard to approach someone you like the look of. 

When someone takes time out of their day to try to make you feel good, try to be a little more gracious. Even if you have no interest in that person whatsoever. Stop acting offended, and stop acting like they're wasting your precious time. 

There are more nice people in the world then there are assholes. If you believe otherwise, you're in for a pretty miserable existence. 

There are more not-rapists then there are rapists. So shut up about rapists already. They are a threat, yes, but they make up a relatively tiny percentile of the population. And do you know how seldom rapes happen in Waterstones at 2pm on a Saturday? Almost never. 

You may use the retort that "He's only talking to me because he wants to sleep with me."

So? You'll find the majority of conversations that happen between strangers can be boiled down to "Hey, can you do this one thing for me?" And whether that one thing is directions or spare change or a place to put his genitals, at the end of the day, you don't have to do it. But you can politely decline, and you can say "Have a nice day" afterwards. 

Women need to stop acting like sex is something men need to trick them into. Sex and your ability to have it is not the statue that Indie swaps for a bag of sand in Raider of The Lost Ark, only to be chased by an angry boulder seconds later. 

You are not the statue, and you are not the angry boulder. The look on your face when someone well-meaning talks to you should not melt the face off a dozen Nazis. You are just a human who another human is trying to connect with. 

You're not the Ark of the Covenant, either, but that should be obvious.