We may not need to fight for the legal right to marry someone from another racial background in Europe, but in the USA several decades ago up to 41 states legally forbade this act. For that reason, the true story of Mildred and Richard Loving – who married in 1958 in Washington D.C. – will always be an inspiration to me. Their landmark case (Loving vs. Virginia) to legally be acknowledged and accepted as husband and wife in 1967 in Virgina, changed the lives of so many and continues to do so. Last week, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill was voted in, in England, while across the pond in the USA – state by state – the LBGTQ community are finally being granted the same right that the Lovings fought so hard for. This couple’s courage and commitment to each other, against all the odds, has paved the way for my generation to experience true equality. And for that, I am grateful.
Just because I feel like sharing…
I’d have to say that despite not being one of those girls dreaming endlessly about her wedding day (hard as that may be to believe), I’ve always been a bit of a fan of the “wedding movie” genre. While brainstorming new ways to illustrate portrayals of weddings and marriage in the media, I thought it could be a good idea to write an analytical piece regarding this particular movie genre. However, first – just so I get it out there that I actually LOVE wedding movies before I start trashing them! – I’m going to share with you my top three all time favourites:
1. The Best Man (1999; USA) starring Taye Diggs, Nia Long & Morris Chestnut.
Why it’s in the top three: This film is a classic as far as I’m concerned. It’s slick, sexy and as well as having an intelligent script, can boast an entirely African American leading cast, which to me was very important during my adolescent years.
Plot: The story follows Harper (Diggs), the titular best man, as he tries to avoid revelations of his college days ruining his best friend’s (Chestnut) wedding – through the form of a novel he is about to release – as well as making up his mind about the lady in his own life.
Favourite Moment: When Jordan (Long) cusses Harper out in her lingerie. Also, the jumping the broom moment towards the end is very cute!
2. Muriel’s Wedding (1994; Australia) starring Toni Collette and Rachel Griffiths.
Why it’s in the top three: Toni Collette makes Muriel both completely lovable and somehow repulsive at the same time. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to hug and slap a character at the same time so much. The story has both vulgar and heartbreaking moments, but that’s what makes it relatable. This is also (perhaps!) the first wedding movie I ever saw.
Plot: Muriel Heslop only cares about two things: ABBA and her future wedding day. The only trouble is, she doesn’t even have a boyfriend! The Australian comedy follows her somewhat belated coming-of-age story and the adventures she embarks on with high school friend Rhonda (Griffiths), as she breaks away from her abusive father and the bitchy clique* she longs to be a part of, to finally accept and love herself.
Favourite Moment: Either Muriel and Rhonda singing Waterloo or when the head of the bitchy clique screams in the final scene: “I’m beautiful!”
3. Monsoon Wedding (2001; India) starring Naseerudin Shah and Shefali Shetty.
Why it’s in the top three: This movie is beautiful both visually and in its narrative. The intertwining storylines make it more thought provoking than the average wedding film, as well as dealing with the typically taboo themes of incest, sexual abuse, arranged marriages and class structures. Every time I see this film, I notice something new, but not because there’s too much going on; rather because the storyline is so intricate.
Plot: The film follows the Punjabi Verma family as they come together for an arranged marriage in Delhi, India. There are several overlapping love stories at play and several scandals and family secrets to be uncovered, all as the monsoon is brewing as the backdrop to an honest illustration of family life.
Favourite Moment: When Dubey (the wedding planner) proposes to Alice (the housemaid).
* These girls must have been Tina Fey’s inspiration for Mean Girls.
I am super-duper happy with the result of yesterday’s vote on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. Finally men and women in England can marry whoever they like! The only thing I’m upset about is that it appears I sent my postcard in vain… My local MP – Steve Barclay – is not listed among those who voted for, against or abstained the Bill.*
Maybe the postcard didn’t arrive on time, or maybe he didn’t pay attention to it since I no longer live in his constituency. Maybe there wasn’t enough local political pressure for him to vote. Whatever the reason he is not on the list of voters, the fact remains that there are gay, lesbian and bi-sexual individuals and couples living in his constituency who will have been affected by this vote and as their parliamentary representative, Barclay has a duty to represent their voices and political interests.
This Bill is a question of human rights, and by apparently not taking part on Tuesday, Barclay sends a clear message that he doesn’t care about the human rights of some of his constituents. It makes me wonder, had we been in 1960s Alabama (where my father grew up), would Barclay have voted in favour of full civil rights for African Americans? Would he have stood in the way of officially (and finally!) changing the state constitution to allow interracial couples to marry in 2000? I asked him on the postcard to make me proud of my hometown, and I still am, but obviously he isn’t proud of the same-gender loving couples living there.
So for me, this is undoubtedly a happy moment human rights and marriage equality. However it is still a sad moment in local politics.
*If I have made some sort of mistake and Steve is in fact listed somewhere, please let me know!
Great piece from Independent Voices on the name of Beyoncé’s upcoming world tour: The Mrs. Carter Show – pointing out the gender inequalities surrounding changing one’s name after marriage. However, the author could have gone a little further in its analysis of Bey and what her image means for women. Take for instance the o2 promo clip for the tour, which is problematic for various reasons, but especially for the implication that Beyoncé has become Queen Bey since becoming Mrs. Carter. I suppose we shouldn’t have expected much from the woman who wrote Independent Women for her band Destiny’s Child, who then went on to record the anti-feminist Cater to You. No one should expect real female empowerment from the entertainer who ditched band mates like the rest of us dump old pairs of shoes and eventually called it quits on Destiny’s Child when she had gotten the exposure she needed to launch her solo career. Furthermore, since the launch of her career (beginning with her small, blaxploitation inspired role in Austin Powers III as well as her contribution to the film’s soundtrack) she has leaned heavily on the influence of her husband Jay Z (real name Shawn Carter), through their multiple music collaborations to gain her even more exposure and street cred. Regardless of the indisputable success gained from consorting with Hova, his influence has been detrimental to Beyoncé’s pro-woman stance, as I have pointed out in a previous blog post over at Rants & Raves.
True, we should know better by now not to believe in Beyoncé’s faux-feminism, especially when she has a hit record that effectively demands marriage as the ultimatum to a break up. Not that there’s anything wrong with getting married of course – that would go against the ethos of this blog! Marriage is great in a relationship where both parties value the institution of marriage and in a relationship that is ready for marriage. But the worrying impression from the song Single Ladies (Put a ring on it) is that women and relationships are only validated through marriage.
This is further sustained with the Mrs. Carter Show – as if to say Beyoncé has finally arrived now that she is married, now that she is Jay Z’s wife. It doesn’t show the power or independence that Beyoncé – rather ironically – discusses in her recent GQ interview. To the contrary. Like the photos taken for this interview, her upcoming world tour (in name as well as the cabaret style performances which explicitly cater to heterosexual male fantasies), will do the exact opposite of what Beyoncé claims she does for women. Like her song and music video Upgrade You Beyoncé will continue to conjure old-fashioned and out-dated definitions of marriage and solidify women as only validated as the objectified possessions of men – in name and in life.
Ever since my fiancé and I announced our engagement, I’ve had to deal with what seems to be an inevitable preoccupation of many brides: what sort of dress will I be wearing on the big day? I must insist that this preoccupation has had very little to do with me as I already knew I wouldn’t want a “traditional” dress – white and meringue shaped – as I can only imagine they’re awkward and uncomfortable to wear. Also, I’m the kind to – at best – end up either dragging the dress through a puddle or spilling something like ketchup down the front, and at worst, put my heel through the bottom while stomping on the dance floor and then drunkenly dropping half of the back in the loo! No, something shorter with very few frills allowing me to move around and enjoy my day to the fullest it would need to be.
And even though no one else will have to wear this dress on my special day, and even though the decision on the kind of dress I ultimately wear will be mine, everyone else seems to have an opinion. I haven’t been able to talk to many of my girlfriends about the big day – which is still over a year away based on current plans – without being asked “what kind of dress will you wear?” Now, if I don’t know what I’m going to where tomorrow, what makes you think I’ll know what I’m going to wear next year?
I know that this is going to be one of the biggest, most important days of my life and that most brides-to-be take the “dress” VERY seriously, so seriously that the average price of a dress is anything between £1000 and £3000 – and yes, it is an important part of the budget. I know that’s why people keep asking me what I’ll be wearing, but even though I want to look gorgeous on our big day, it’s not really the main priority for me as far as planning goes.
To me, so far, the location and guest list is already keeping me up at night (I know, showing major “bridezilla” signs already..) but the dress for me right now just isn’t an issue. Especially the preoccupation with big, white dresses – it just doesn’t appeal to me. It’s almost as though people don’t realise the whole white wedding dress thing started with Queen Victoria.. time for something a little bit more modern, right? Anyway, somewhere between the constant questioning and suggestions, as well as the surprised reactions when I say “I don’t plan to wear a traditional dress” (and I do get them!) I decided to check out a bridal boutique on my way home from work one evening.
I guess I wanted to see what all the hype and excitement was about, to see if I would be overwhelmed all of a sudden and understand why it was so important to look like a marshmallow on my wedding day. This shop was wall to wall with dresses as tall as curtains. I explained to a very friendly shopping assistant that I just wanted to browse. I headed to their basement thinking I’d be able to look around without too much pressure and was immediately swallowed up by the frills and bows covering the place! In one corner a bride-to-be was trying on a selection with what seemed like her entire family. Instead of catching any of the bridal excitement in the air, I just felt more awkward and put off the idea than ever!
At the moment I decided to make my escape I was asked again if I needed any help, I turned and smiled that I was okay, just looking, and to my horror discovered the that velcro on my bag was attached to one of the gowns. The lady walked off and I tried to delicately remove myself but inevitably made a ripping noise (nothing was actually damaged – it just sounded worse than it was!) which attracted the attention of literally everyone in the store. A more grumpy assistant appeared from out of nowhere, arms full of cloth glaring at me and demanding to know what I was doing. This is only a guess since I don’t speak Dutch and so have no idea what she said – it could have been “You’re gonna have to pay for that!” but I prefer to think it wasn’t, because I didn’t.
You know those moments when you’re so mortified that you literally can’t speak or move. I had one of those. All I could do was give this ridiculous grin. I know it was ridiculous because conveniently, at that particular moment, I noticed a mirror amongst the full skirts and veils and could see just how stupid and suspicious I must have looked to everyone else. When I finally managed to detach myself and headed back upstairs, I had another browse to try and make up for the velcro incident. However, I found myself only reconfirming that I didn’t want to wear a big, white dress – or any kind of big dress for that matter. Too much hassle if you ask me!
That said, I don’t know what I am going to wear. I guess knowing what I don’t want to wear is a good start. I’m sure this drama is going to continue and that at some point over the next 15 months there will indeed be more dilemmas and crazy scenarios that I’ll find myself in. So all I can say for now is, look out for part 2.
I know I have terrible handwriting but just wanted to share with you what I sent to my local MP – Steve Barclay – yesterday. If you’re living in the UK* and believe that everyone should be able to choose how they legally and publicly commit to the person they love, regardless of their gender identity, then you still have time to contact your local MP to ask them to vote in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill on February 5th.
Stonewall‘s website can give you more information on the Bill, the campaign for equal marriage rights as well as help you find your local MP depending on where you live so that you can send them a postcard (like I did) or an email or even a tweet! However you decide get in touch, do it fast! We only have until Tuesday to show our support for same gender loving couples in the UK – so that EVERYONE can get married if they want to.
* If like me your a British national currently living abroad but you still feel strongly about this issue, use the address of your last home in the UK or the address of close relatives (parents, siblings, etc) to find your local MP through the Stonewall website.