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June 2017

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Life Moves Pretty Fast by Hadley Freeman

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for: People who enjoy pop culture analysis that is serious but not too serious.

In a nutshell: Film critic explores some of the top movies of the 1980s, focusing on what made them good and why we don’t see them anymore.

Line that sticks with me: “Nineties teen makeover scenes are all about stamping out a teenage girl’s awkwardness and unique personality, whereas the girls in the eighties teen movies celebrate those two qualities.” (p76)

Why I chose it: Book club!

Review: First, thank you everyone who voted for this as our CBR book club pick. It’s pretty much made for me: nonfiction, essays, humor, pop culture, written by a woman. Huzzah!

I haven’t read any of the other reviews of this so I might be repeating other folks, but I wanted to go into without any preconceptions. And overall, I enjoyed so much of it. I appreciate the author’s honesty about her feelings about the films, and the fact that she didn’t remove herself from the analysis. It’s apparent — and she acknowledges — that much of what she has to say is based o personal taste, yet she’s able to back up her assertions.

So instead of focusing on the good (and there is so much — especially her analysis of teenagers and teenage girls specifically, and the overall way these films tackle sexism), I wanted to share a couple of things that bothered me, and they are intertwined: the discussion of race (or lack thereof) throughout, and the Eddie Murphy chapter, where Ms. Freeman seems to put much of the discussion of race.

Ms. Freeman spends so much time providing good critical discussion about the depiction of women in film (ten of the eleven chapters, while not each focused on gender issues, at least touches on it), but she glosses over racism in nearly every other one. She does mention the issue in the chapter on Ghostbusters, and sort of makes an attempt and looking at it when talking about John Hughes, but mostly she seems to just be making excuses for filmmakers.

But any movie set in NYC that she discusses, for example, should at least be questioned if there aren’t any non-white characters (When Harry Met Sally … I’m looking at you. And I love you, but that’s a pretty white NYC). And sure, John Hughes may not be able to speak personally on the experience of a person of color, but perhaps he could seek to include at least a couple of non-white, non-stereotypes characters?

And then there’s the Eddie Murphy movies chapter. Ooof. Just not great. And I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about it, but it feels ironic to have nearly the entire discussion about race shoehorned into a single chapter. A chapter with the subheading “Race Can Be Transcended.” Oh Ms. Freeman, no. Just…no. You would have benefited from a sensitivity reader here (of course I’m assuming she didn’t have one, but I could be wrong). Or perhaps just a read over of this article.

Because of that, this otherwise four-star book gets three stars from me.

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