Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell, 2020)

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Mr Sausage
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Re: Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell, 2020)

#76 Post by Mr Sausage » Tue May 04, 2021 11:21 am

It’s weird Fennel disclaims any didactic intent given that the movie’s a satire. Nabokov said in an interview that parody is a game, while satire is a lesson. He’s being reductive, but he highlights something essential about each mode. Satire does hold up the failings of people and society to shame and ridicule in order to improve them. Didacticism is inherent to it. And most of Cassie’s revenges come in the form of lessons.

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Re: Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell, 2020)

#77 Post by TheKieslowskiHaze » Tue May 04, 2021 12:01 pm

Mr Sausage wrote:
Tue May 04, 2021 11:21 am
It’s weird Fennel disclaims any didactic intent given that the movie’s a satire. Nabokov said in an interview that parody is a game, while satire is a lesson. He’s being reductive, but he highlights something essential about each mode. Satire does hold up the failings of people and society to shame and ridicule in order to improve them. Didacticism is inherent to it. And most of Cassie’s revenges come in the form of lessons.
Additionally, it's being shown on college campuses free of charge to spark "important conversations about the cultural response to sexual assault, healing, justice and bystander accountability." None of that strikes me as the posture of a movie uninterested in moral instruction.

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Re: Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell, 2020)

#78 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue May 04, 2021 12:19 pm

Without going back to the interviews, perhaps it's a matter of semantics. I don't think Fennell is interested in a reductive didactic intent that the lobbed accusations are often assuming (i.e. "If you do x, you are reduced to y"), but one that is deliberately holding up a mirror to us to address certain injustices in systems and problematic micro-level toxic behaviors to make transparent our disengagement from opportunities for self-reflection and growth. It makes complete sense that this is being showed on college campuses because it exposes the reinforced behavioral patterns we're complacent in. So yeah, is that didactic in the sense that it holds up our failings to us? Sure, but I disagree that it's doing so to aggressively shame us, instead aggressively prompting us to take a good hard look and to experience some subjectively-assigned self-imposed guilt around the ubiquitous patterns we either participate in or ignore on some level, far more tempered than the exaggerations we see on screen. It's specifically guilt, which is different from shame in that it reveals important information about ourselves that we can change, rather than inherent to our toxic cores. I fear that people are watching this and taking it as shame and thus becoming frustrated at interpreting a violation on their inherent character. I do not think that's what the film is doing, nor do I think it's providing a blueprint for specific "moral instruction." It's provoking us to engage in self-guided moral instruction through indiscriminate destabilization from our safe spaces of complacency. That Fennell spends her time targeting the remaining populations to be outed and not the "jocks" or "frat bros" is to her credit, but she could have added an extra half hour to the film and tackled more of these recycled examples and it would have revolved around the same broad idea, though that certainly would have come off as clunky and less effective. Cassie's revenges do come in the form of lessons, but she's not let off the hook either- perhaps validated in her feelings but not endorsed in her actions- so any black-and-white moral instruction seems like a bizarre stance to take towards this film.
Last edited by therewillbeblus on Tue May 04, 2021 12:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell, 2020)

#79 Post by Mr Sausage » Tue May 04, 2021 12:29 pm

It's still worth pointing out that this is not a criticism of the movie. And, tho' I'm not willing to go quite as far as therewillbeblus, the movie does also criticise its own position of judgement.

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Re: Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell, 2020)

#80 Post by Mr Sausage » Tue May 04, 2021 1:08 pm

therewillbeblus wrote:
Tue May 04, 2021 12:19 pm
Without going back to the interviews, perhaps it's a matter of semantics. I don't think Fennell is interested in a reductive didactic intent that the lobbed accusations are often assuming (i.e. "If you do x, you are reduced to y"), but one that is deliberately holding up a mirror to us to address certain injustices in systems and problematic micro-level toxic behaviors to make transparent our disengagement from opportunities for self-reflection and growth. It makes complete sense that this is being showed on college campuses because it exposes the reinforced behavioral patterns we're complacent in. So yeah, is that didactic in the sense that it holds up our failings to us? Sure, but I disagree that it's doing so to aggressively shame us, instead aggressively prompting us to take a good hard look and to experience some subjectively-assigned self-imposed guilt around the ubiquitous patterns we either participate in or ignore on some level, far more tempered than the exaggerations we see on screen. It's specifically guilt, which is different from shame in that it reveals important information about ourselves that we can change, rather than inherent to our toxic cores. I fear that people are watching this and taking it as shame and thus becoming frustrated at interpreting a violation on their inherent character. I do not think that's what the film is doing, nor do I think it's providing a blueprint for specific "moral instruction." It's provoking us to engage in self-guided moral instruction through indiscriminate destabilization from our safe spaces of complacency. That Fennell spends her time targeting the remaining populations to be outed and not the "jocks" or "frat bros" is to her credit, but she could have added an extra half hour to the film and tackled more of these recycled examples and it would have revolved around the same broad idea, though that certainly would have come off as clunky and less effective. Cassie's revenges do come in the form of lessons, but she's not let off the hook either- perhaps validated in her feelings but not endorsed in her actions- so any black-and-white moral instruction seems like a bizarre stance to take towards this film.
I think the film's didacticism lies precisely where it should, in the laying bare of ugly attitudes and systems that perpetuate suffering. The existence of these things is shameful. The title alone is an angry, pointed, and, yeah, shameful reminder of both an unofficial and official (in that it was part of a judge's official ruling) attitude about who is worth preserving and who not.

I guess I don't blame Fennell for wanting to distance herself from didacticism. There is a modern discomfort with the idea. And I wouldn't blame anyone for wanting to avoid associations with the shrew and the scold and other female coded images of hectoring, finger-wagging shrillness. Plus the film has a complicated relationship to its subject that "didactic" might seem to reduce.

But the film is didactic in the way a satire should be: highlighting problems and issues in society that ought to be changed, and it's successful in that. Each of its targets is both clearly seen and represented and worthy of being targeted.

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Re: Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell, 2020)

#81 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue May 04, 2021 1:27 pm

I don't disagree with any of that, but the significant distinction is that the systems and attitudes are shameful, and the film as angry at them, and validates that anger, while it doesn't diagnose the people who perpetuate them as reductively evil or beyond hope- which makes the human beings themselves not shamed with innate doom to remain unteachable, but as guilty for living static lives of diffusing opportunities to be teachable thus far. What it is not didactic about is how we should approach it, and I find it very humble and tragic in how this anger is harnessed in a place that is blocked by systems but also without a clear path that will facilitate cathartic redemption. A life of living without any cognitive dissonance is idealistic but look what happens when someone lives that way in practice, in the world as it is? I do think Fennell believes that if more of us engaged with less cognitive dissonance that the Cassies of the world wouldn't be fated as they are, and this film seems to be servicing that point: To wake us up to these injustices, but not telling us precisely how to engage beyond that, and certainly not shaming us as individuals for our complacency. We are guilty of it, but to shame us would defeat its purpose. That's not how you get people to change, by telling them they have inherent characteristics that cannot be changed and condescending to their potential for societal value; but to critique how we are engaging with the world right now and prompting us to look at it is hopeful, and comes from a place that believes in our potential to change with a sliver of optimism, coated in the cynicism of its central character's experience to drive the urgency of our pace at getting there. People are suffering because we subconsciously take these points from court verdicts, real stories from friends, or even didactic films, and then retreat back into our bubbles. This film does everything it can to halt its function as a vacation for us to pat ourselves on the back and return to 'normal' (like so many other of the Oscar films this year.. I'm looking at you, Nomadland) and I think that's understandably disturbing people. But the ownership is placed on us to do that work, and there's something about the way Fennell parts from her didacticism to thrust the responsibility onto us outside of her film that makes it less potently spoonfeeding an agenda'd didacticism and more exposing these "systems and attitudes" and pointing to us to demand we look at where we fit into all of this, and then ask- not tell- us what we're going to do about it.

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Re: Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell, 2020)

#82 Post by swo17 » Tue May 04, 2021 1:37 pm

I think when Fennell said she didn't want to make a didactic film she just meant she didn't want to make a Michael Moore film. With subject matter such as this it's impossible not to leave some judgments on the table. And CMP's character may check certain stereotypical boxes, but don't forget he's technically one of the "good ones"

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Re: Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell, 2020)

#83 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue May 04, 2021 1:53 pm

Right the question is just where the pointed didacticism is aimed and what the intended consequences are to be gleaned from it. Are we supposed to feel bad and hate ourselves and bow before holier-than-thou artists, or engage in self-reflection and listen to an artist who admits that she doesn't possess the answers either, and doesn't believe we're necessarily beyond saving.

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Re: Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell, 2020)

#84 Post by Mr Sausage » Tue May 04, 2021 2:16 pm

In fairness to feeling bad and hating ourselves as we bow to holier-than-thou artists, some of the very greatest artworks engage in precisely that: Gulliver's Travels, Bouvard and Pecuchet, The Dunciad. There is room for vicious, rancid satire in which the audience is the intended target.

But Fennell isn't doing that, yeah. The audience is not the intended target of the movie. The movie actually presumes its audience aligns with Cassie rather than any of the character Cassie sets out to teach, which is why the movie can get away with using so much shorthand (that DFW wink is a good example of how the movie assumes its audience knows the tropes already). For the presumed or intended audience, the question asked is less "how have we contributed to this system?" than "what do we do with the rage and the despair and the helplessness that this horrible social situation leaves us with?" The movie is not about implicating us in the path to victimization and oppression because that path has concluded before the movie begins. The movie is about the emotional fallout; how there are more victims and a greater despair than one might assume; that attempting to correct the system and restore balance, however necessary or justified, is a poor place in which to heal the self and its traumas.

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Re: Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell, 2020)

#85 Post by dustybooks » Tue May 04, 2021 2:43 pm

Glenn Kenny, who kind of flew off the handle at the relatively mild appropriation of DFW in I’m Thinking of Ending Things, gave this film 4.5 stars on Letterboxd, which I thought was quite interesting.

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Re: Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell, 2020)

#86 Post by Cde. » Tue May 04, 2021 7:14 pm

therewillbeblus wrote:
Tue May 04, 2021 10:42 am
Yes, I do believe the film challenges her doing this in its long game, demonstrating over time that she's her own worst enemy, her version of reality is tragically skewed and fatalistically problematic against giving people chances to be more complex than their repelling traits, that she would need to do in order to have some semblance of a life. The film just does this without condemning her absolutely for this failure, and doesn't dub her as right or wrong. Yet because I think the film is shot for a while through her perspective of the world, the archetypes of men are going to be louder and the reveal of her faults is subtler. I've already said this many, many times in this thread though.

I don't think it's above criticism, though I can see how my statement could be read that way. We literally get a snippet of a character, who is two-dimensional by design and cartoonish to fit Cassie's filter. If you read the film as not having that sheen of exaggerated subjectivity, or saw the jokes as lame, then yeah criticize it for being poorly written. But I interpreted the criticism as accusing the film of being "poorly written" because it's "on the nose, lazy, and dumb" when I believe it was intentionally written that way to reflect Cassie's psychology, and yes, I'm sensing from some people that they're defaulting to project reactively where the film struck a nerve rather than to sit with that discomfort. I think the film is placing us into this tough position by design, but can't we criticize what we didn't like about it while also perhaps questioning that we didn't like what we found because of a personal reason, rather than distancing ourselves from the content to objectively attacking the depiction we're triggered by?
There is implicit criticism of Cassie's approach and the trap she's caught in within the film (in my eyes undermined by the twist), but I don't think there's any indication from within the film that these men are anything more than Bad Men For Us to Hate. The DFW shoutout, and everything else that character says are regurgitations of memes from the past decade or more of online feminist discourse. If the intention was to provoke personal reflection, then the assemblage of a character through cliche is working counter to that. It's not new, it's not uncomfortable, because it's already so played out. What I see is a filmmaker projecting intellectual superiority over a character and flattering an audience for being up on all the memes she's using as shorthand.

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Re: Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell, 2020)

#87 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue May 04, 2021 8:08 pm

Perhaps that was your experience, but Fennell has spoken about how much she loves pop culture, including the things she's seemingly putting down in the film, and I do think that while these are not "new" cliches in and of themselves, they are presented in a new context that isn't didactic the way those feminist discourses are in shaming these men. The difference is in the self-reflexive nature of Cassie's form of vigilantism; the way Cassie 'confronts' uses reveals about her state of consciousness being unexpected, open-ended questions, and staring -as opposed to close-ended insults and categorization that spells out for the men what they 'are'- forces self-imposed valuable discomfort through self-reflection for both these characters and audience members. Now, these don't have to be painful to us- like Sausage says, I don't think we are supposed to identify with these exaggerated caricatures of men- but because I think Fennell is making fun of those thinkpieces too by creating a man that is too ridiculous to actually exist in this form, spouting this information of greatest hits toxicity so rapidly, we can lower our guards and notice the qualities that we may have exhibited from time to time and soak that in. Cassie's approach has enough reserve to provide opportunities, triggering awareness to behavioral differences we may exhibit when we sense a power differential. I didn't think she was being didactic towards these types of people and all the art they consume as BAD, and nothing in the film supports a black-and-white reading of her interest in these themes. If this is true, it's a film far more problematic than any review has critiqued it for in terms of violating its own ethos: it's complex and restrained about prescribing solutions to all this injustice, but it totally dubs fake composites of men and people who read David Foster Wallace as evil. Right.

You are free to take nothing from that scene, but because I've been outspoken about how that scene moved me in a manner towards hopeful growth, due to "the assemblage of a character through cliche," then no, it did not "work counter to that" for this audience member. So when a poster condescendingly declared it as "dumb" because it didn't work for them, I felt compelled to issue a response, not only because that adjective is offensive as a juvenile criticism, but because it was objectively dismissing the value of a scene that I found valuable. The scene had the effect on me to prompt reflection. I didn't miss the cliches you guys are talking about, but isn't it possible- just possible- that some critical of it are overlooking its value and missing a learning experience? Maybe not, but in the spirit of the movie, it was worth challenging.

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Re: Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell, 2020)

#88 Post by Cde. » Thu May 06, 2021 12:47 am

I would say, chill out and let people have their own responses to the material. Debate is good, and I've enjoyed reading some of your posts about why the film worked for you, but you seem way too personally invested if you see a person calling a scene dumb and think they are being condescending and offensive. It's just an opinion.

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Re: Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell, 2020)

#89 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu May 06, 2021 1:46 am

You're right, debate is good, but this is a place where it's fair to challenge criticisms like "dumb," and I was not offended because an opinion differed to mine, I was being cheeky that adjectives like these are offensive to the practice of criticism. I am not the first and will not be the last person to push back on posts that use words like "dumb" to belittle specific content that others have taken the time and effort to explain as having merit to them. I think that's a fair thing to do, and if you're suggesting that challenging them is unacceptable, well, we simply disagree. I'm pretty sure people have responded to that stance in other threads by saying that such a strategy would transform this forum into reddit or an echo chambered blog.

I enjoyed reading your response as well because you explained yourself and are of course entitled to your opinion, and yet because I had a different experience that your response didn't seem to leave room for, and because you quoted my post and responded in a manner that I read as encouraging debate, and because there was more clarification to make based on your reply by agreeing that it's recycled material yet placed in a novel context, it felt worth continuing the debate. Perhaps you didn't feel like continuing it, but I was responding to your post in good faith, and telling someone to "chill out" instead of either responding to the debated subject or tapping out is an odd and demeaning intervention to issue towards someone who's trying to engage with you on a discussion forum. I can and will definitely continue to work on how aggressive my posts are, and I'm aware that I'm "personally invested" in this film with an unmatched energy that might be overwhelming, but I certainly didn't mean to imply that I was raging over here and that my challenges were rooted in offense over misinterpreting the aim of a word.

I genuinely feel like there's room to look deeper at that scene, and my initial response to that criticism was not to open fire and chastise the poster but instead I earnestly asked if they or others saw the scene as realistic or exaggerated, theorizing that there was a version of looking at the film that could make that a fair criticism under a different internal logic; however that’s gone unanswered, which is fine, but telling someone to back off and allow another poster to have an opinion when they never engaged with posited clarifying questions is asking someone not to participate within the ethos of this forum as I see it. My subsequent posts have been responding to others like you who have engaged, and while I’ve used that initial reason in my arguments and presented as notably overenthusiastic, that is not synonymous with bludgeoning someone’s opinion after a debate because it’s never been explained or defended or debated by that source. I apologize if the volume of my response was pitched high and overly combative, and although there are more constructive approaches to communicate that outside of unnecessarily patronizing quips, I'll take the objective behind that feedback to heart. However, I also genuinely thought that we were dissecting the merits of that scene in a permissive back-and-forth, but since you've decided to respond with pejorative 'advice' that deflates discourse, I'll take the hint that I read the cue wrong: Debate Over.

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Re: Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell, 2020)

#90 Post by TheKieslowskiHaze » Thu May 06, 2021 4:37 pm

I guess I'm the "dumb" guy, so I'll jump in.

As I implied in my original post, I think there are parts of the movie that effectively spur the self-reflection that twbb is talking about. Bo Burnham's character works well. His arc forces us to not only confront our ideas about "Nice Guys" but also ideas about how male/female relationships are represented in movies. He's a fully realized character, and the viewer never feels he's just a stand-in for a theme. Also, the subversion of rom-com cliches is fun and smart.

But there are other aspects of the movie that do not work well. The aforementioned Lit Bro scene is one of them, as is the scene with the college dean. Both are surface level appropriations of well-worn #MeToo talking points. It's worth exploring these ideas in movies and fiction, but these scenes added nothing new to the discourse, did not trust the intelligence of their audience, and had characters that felt more like tired memes than actual people.

And even though a movie like Never Rarely Sometime Always does a much better job exploring similar themes, I do not think Promising Young Woman would need a similarly realistic tone. It is a satire, after all. I just wish it replaced realism with something more challenging and interesting than a checklist of Feminist Twitter cliches. In my view, it's fair to call these scenes dumb.

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Re: Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell, 2020)

#91 Post by Mr Sausage » Thu May 06, 2021 5:51 pm

The criticisms of Lit Bro seem to be missing the point. The tension of the scene doesn't lie with him or the couple of low ball jokes now being blown out of proportion. He could be any type of low level predator. The tension of the scene is knowing his predation is about to be reversed without knowing in what manner and how violent the end could be. The scene is anchored in Cassie's next movie, not the object of that move.

The complaints are pointless nitpicking. He doesn't seem like a real character? He's painted broadly rather than subtly? The scene doesn't need him to be those things. There's no material reason to ask for this. I feel like what we're getting in this thread are stereotyped criticisms. Aspects of the movie that are isolated and then called "bad" mainly because one's heard similar aspects called bad many times for other movies or artworks, so the association is taken for granted. They're never called bad in the context of the wider film, eg. what themes or effects they inhibit, what messages they undermine, if they are tonally inappropriate, etc. The badness is inherent in the descriptors: "caricature", "type", "flattened", "short hand", and so on. They're bad, not because of what they do, but because of what they are, or at least what bad-sounding words we can apply to them. It's a lot of received ideas.

Let's take this one: "these scenes added nothing new to the discourse". Assumption: each scene of a movie dealing with an issue must by itself add something novel to the wider discourse. Obvious response: a movie is not just a collection of scenes; a given scene may not be novel, but may compose a movie that, as a whole, adds something novel. (Also worth thinking over: why are we praising novelty so highly and doesn't it feel oddly capitalist to frame art like that, as always needing to be the shiny new thing?)

There's also the inconvenient fact that the movie is clear that dunking on assholes is insufficient. It makes no appreciable dent on either the world's misery or our own, and at some point we have to reckon with the enormity not of the assholes, but the systems designed to coddle and abet predatory behaviour. Lit Bro is in the part of the movie where Cassie is on auto-pilot, scoring cheap and easy reversals on douchebags to no measurable benefit. Empty point scoring (literally, as she keeps score). It's even shown later in the movie that she reverts to this behaviour out of self-destruction, blowing off a more positive relationship. People don't like Lit Bro for being a collection of well-known absurdities, but there's no reflection that he is part of the movie that the movie itself wishes to leave behind as inadequate. The movie places far more importance and dramatic weight on its later systemic critiques, none of which could've been arrived at if Cassie hadn't progressed beyond dumping on unconnected individuals. Even the movie doesn't find these men especially important.

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Re: Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell, 2020)

#92 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu May 06, 2021 6:22 pm

I appreciate you coming out of the woodwork, TheKieslowskiHaze, however maybe I'm missing something, but what would trusting the intelligence of the audience look like? If Fennell is intentionally using cliches to elicit a response that's different than the "well-worn #MeToo talking points" by reframing them as non-answers rather than the hiveminded diluted ideals they're often presented as in these circles, isn't that using a deceptively surface-level appropriation as a gateway to something more abstract? Is it possible that some audience members are becoming distracted away from some alternative purposes of the scenes by the personally-irritating aspects of these scenes?

I'm not trying to be difficult, and I apologize if that's how I'm coming across, but I've laid out perspectives on how this scene could be recontextualized against "nothing new", and also read other members (thanks Sausage) lay out very different readings that still argue for the scenes having value in the context of the whole, and I have not heard responses to said rebuttals. I have heard parroting back that it's dumb because of those initial vacuumed judgments. I don't need to convince anyone of my specific analyses, but I don't feel like the interest is there to engage with the alternative angles put forth, or the film itself as a composite work that's manipulating triggering cliches in a self-reflexive manner.

I am curious to your issues with the Connie Britton scene. I can appreciate that someone could watch the CMP scene and not have the same experience I had (though I think you coming back into the conversation and ignoring all the discourse on the possible merits of that scene only to shrug them off as "dumb" again is just not good faith discussion forum behavior), but that Britton scene was so rich. We see Cassie get to a point of clear moral discord, and while we've already begun to get some distance from her, we finally part completely and take an alternative perspective from the vessel we've inhabited. We also have an earnestly biting meditation on the reality of how cognitive dissonance prevails and then is thwarted only by the infiltration of the "me and mine" circle, even amongst liberals who don't consciously adopt that conservative ethos, and how that selfish provocation can force us to switch our morality on and off.

I didn't see this as a finger-wagging indictment of the dean like a lesser film- or maybe those online echo chambers- would issue, but a very honest moment that both criticizes this behavior and also affirms its psychological value against Cassie who is a walking zombie plagued by disallowing that cognitive dissonance to complement her morality with necessary armor in this unjust world. While I didn't feel empathy for the CMP character, but used some of these exaggerated characteristics to acknowledge my own mild iterations of them from my history, I did feel empathy for Britton- not in excusing her from going through that experience but in the identification with (to a less exaggerated extent obviously) compartmentalizing where I extend my empathy and attention based on the importance of those people to me. It's broad- I would not behave the way she does in shrugging off 'boys will be boys' or whatever- but there is a complex experience in both judging her and ourselves, and giving sympathy or her and ourselves, without choosing one or the other as an absolute diagnosis, that's there to glean.

Edit: Great post, Sausage. I've really enjoyed reading your takes on the film, which I often share but they're also often different enough to really provoke thought and make me question if the values I'm noting in certain scenes/the film as a whole are actually being used in a different context I had not considered, and perhaps even counter to my initial experience.

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Re: Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell, 2020)

#93 Post by TheKieslowskiHaze » Thu May 06, 2021 8:32 pm

I'm not responding to everything (see: Spreading in Debate). In my view, that is not a bad faith forum move. I believe in letting posters put appraisals out there and, at some point, just letting those posts speak for themselves. I think we all know constant back-and-forth does not typically lead anywhere productive or fun.
Mr Sausage wrote:
Thu May 06, 2021 5:51 pm
Let's take this one: "these scenes added nothing new to the discourse". Assumption: each scene of a movie dealing with an issue must by itself add something novel to the wider discourse. Obvious response: a movie is not just a collection of scenes; a given scene may not be novel, but may compose a movie that, as a whole, adds something novel.
This is fair. I do not think a scene or even a movie must add to the discourse. What I was trying to convey: I wish these scenes did something, anything. If it feels like I'm nitpicking a lot of the movie, it's because I'm trying to articulate why so much of the movie, until the third act, felt like obligatory wheel-spinning.
There's also the inconvenient fact that the movie is clear that dunking on assholes is insufficient.
This would be a more interesting narrative trick if the ending were different, but my biggest problem is with the ending. After doing the most actually shocking and subversive and unexpected thing in the whole movie, the narrative completely backtracks and reverts back into tidy fantasy. And I know, I know, one could rebut that there is some cogent, subtextual, self-reflective reason for that, just like there is some generous subtextual explanation for all the movie's obvious flaws. But I just don't buy it. The final shot felt like romanticized martyrdom from a movie too afraid to really alienate its audience.

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Re: Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell, 2020)

#94 Post by Mr Sausage » Thu May 06, 2021 9:09 pm

TheKieslowskiHaze wrote:I'm not responding to everything (see: Spreading in Debate). In my view, that is not a bad faith forum move. I believe in letting posters put appraisals out there and, at some point, just letting those posts speak for themselves. I think we all know constant back-and-forth does not typically lead anywhere productive or fun.
What's productive or fun about shutting down a conversation in this way? It's uncalled for, inaccurate, and tries to make people feel bad for engaging in the way this forum expects.
wrote:I wish these scenes did something, anything.
I have two posts on the previous page where I talked about what these scenes are doing in the movie. This would be why therewillbeblus brought up not addressing rebuttals. You seem uninterested in what other people have to say about the movie.
wrote:If it feels like I'm nitpicking a lot of the movie, it's because I'm trying to articulate why so much of the movie, until the third act, felt like obligatory wheel-spinning.
Maybe. Or maybe you just don't have a good reason for disliking it, so you're harping on all these little things that don't matter.

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell, 2020)

#95 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu May 06, 2021 9:10 pm

TheKieslowskiHaze wrote:
Thu May 06, 2021 8:32 pm
I think we all know constant back-and-forth does not typically lead anywhere productive or fun.
Not always, but some back-and-forth is kinda the point of this space. You just came back to say it's dumb again, and then said the Connie Britton scene didn't work without really saying why, I asked why not, explained why it seemed complex to try to engage you in an inviting way, and crickets. I'd turn the table around and say it's not really productive or fun if someone expresses a vague opinion on a discussion forum, someone else puts in effort to respond, and the original poster doesn't find it worthwhile to support that point or explain why they find the alternative opinion to be misjudged. It just feels like a blog comment. Look, you don't have to do anything you don't want to do. It's a free country. But it's not exactly a foreign stance to hold someone accountable for explaining a posited thought that said person decided to put out into the stratosphere. These back-and-forth conversations on this forum, whether through participation or going back into threads and reading them, have fueled my appreciation for countless films, so agree to disagree on the typical function of debate and its value.

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knives
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Re: Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell, 2020)

#96 Post by knives » Thu Jun 03, 2021 3:04 pm

Mr Sausage wrote:
Tue Apr 27, 2021 3:00 pm
Is the evil lawyer turning out to be remorseful a real cliche? I’m having trouble thinking of examples.
His character instantly reminded me of ...And Justice for All. I actually thought that scene was the film’s highlight where everything worked perfectly along with the other aspects of the system scenes. I think if it had gone full metaphor that way I’d be as enthusiastic about the film as Blus has been. There are a number of moments where the film complicates the emotional place of rape such as the ending or the scene of Bo Burnam inviting her upstairs which makes us sympathetic to the “rapist” of Mulligan through characterization while nonetheless fearing for the “victim” of the men. That part of the film I do adore.
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What I am puzzled by and would like clarification on is with BB’s character. I feel like as it was developed it was largely redundant of the Molina and death scene. Maybe this is immature to the discourse of me and certainly the satire of the film doesn’t need such a consideration, but having a male whose relationship to sexuality isn’t damned is now missing which would be fine to me with a specific target. For example, I’m thinking of how Get Out was specifically about how white liberalism can create situations of racial tension and a specific sort of racism. The satire here is much more flat resulting from its broadness. I’m not arguing that the film needed a good guy, that would probably be reductive and ruinous, but I need more clarity from its satire on what I don’t know.

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell, 2020)

#97 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Jun 03, 2021 3:52 pm

knives wrote:
Thu Jun 03, 2021 3:04 pm
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What I am puzzled by and would like clarification on is with BB’s character. I feel like as it was developed it was largely redundant of the Molina and death scene. Maybe this is immature to the discourse of me and certainly the satire of the film doesn’t need such a consideration, but having a male whose relationship to sexuality isn’t damned is now missing which would be fine to me with a specific target. For example, I’m thinking of how Get Out was specifically about how white liberalism can create situations of racial tension and a specific sort of racism. The satire here is much more flat resulting from its broadness. I’m not arguing that the film needed a good guy, that would probably be reductive and ruinous, but I need more clarity from its satire on what I don’t know.
I mentioned my thoughts on this somewhere in this thread, but I had a similar problem the first watch and the reveal clicked for me on the second.
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My reading of Burnham's role is not a satirization of how none of us have innocent relationships to sexuality, but rather a dual provocation: First, that Cassie is so tragically broken that she is incapable of stomaching a relationship with anyone but this fantastical image of a partner with a squeaky-clean history, that which does not exist; and second, that the existence of a skeleton in Burnham's closet is not the problem- the problem is that he was capable of forgetting about being present for this incident, and moreso, the way in which he responds to Cassie is with a regressive form of egocentricity that projects anger onto her. Sure, he's in a mode of self-preservation, but he immediately jumps to ask how this information will be used against him, rather than express concern about her concern. At first I was repelled by some 'message' that all men were objectively soiled, but I've come around to appreciate this arc as exposing Cassie's self-induced fatalism of romantic alienation, as well as the privileged male's default into self-concern rather than empathetic outreach.

The combination of these two provocations leaves us in a similar place as the rest of the film's underlying tragedy: That perhaps this is how we are wired, and that it feels like a futile uphill battle to change our patterns of behavior. Burnham's self-preservation is not didactically condescended to by the film. Sure, it's a selfish reactiveness that is being stripped of sympathy and called a spade, but Fennell seems far less concerned with calling out specific elements of the character that could be altered to make headway in solving our systemic problems, and more concerned with how deep-rooted we are into these systems of power, into individualism, into prioritizing self-regard; and that Cassie's hopelessness in that moment mirrors our own in watching the nicest guy- who most of us probably identified with in the film up to this point- ultimately also defaulting to a defensive stance. Would I also do that? I'm not sure, but I very well might- in some translated form. And sitting with that reality of how far we are from actual progressive change that will save the Cassies of the world from needing to suicidally sacrifice their lives- literally or figuratively- in order to preserve their moral principles, is the point. Not to easily place Burnham into a box, but to identify and reflect on all the implications of that information.

He doesn't exactly represent objective hopelessness, but contributes to the cynical position of the film. I now think that leaving him as this angelic exception would actually soil the ethos the film puts forth that these systemically-propagated patterns of 'me and mine' reversion into social segregation are ubiquitous. That doesn't mean that Burnham is evil, but that his behavior feeds the overwhelming tragedy that everyone is participating in and that nobody is a victim of- for even Cassie is resiliently closing doors as a survivor, but in the process creating binary subjective truths as boundaries that prevent her from achieving any happiness. She isn't shamed for this, just empathized with as another survivor in the system (though not a 'victim' or a 'villain').

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knives
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Re: Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell, 2020)

#98 Post by knives » Thu Jun 03, 2021 5:47 pm

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I agree with you with regards to he reveal and handling and suppose that my problem is limited to the idea that no one is squeaky clean when that bar is so low as to basically amount to don’t be involved with rape. Is it such a ludicrous suggestion to say that most men haven’t permitted in such a knowing fashion the exploitation of women? Like I said I’m not suggesting he be angelic, but if your position is the intended one why not have him do an infraction through either negligence or by passively taking advantage of the system which would fit better with your sagacious pondering in the penultimate paragraph? I think in such a case I co-sign with you that he is intended to provoke in the male audience members the question of would I be any different. As is his crime as I understand it is far to severe for my to seriously question my difference from him.

I really do think most of the film is excellent agreeing with the earlier comment comparing this to Fassbinder and my favorite parts also reminded me of Tomas Gutierrez Alea who I consider my favorite film satirist. I especially like how the central crime happened to a friend and not the lead which is an approach a lesser film would have taken. It’s a personalized act in the film regardless of how often such acts actually occur since the fear of it is traumatizing to all women, the beauty of Brie’s storyline, which can have a ripple effect. In that sense the movie at its best is most like this line from Terry Prachet’s Going Postal wherein the lead pledges his innocence since no one was hurt by his crimes and a golem in his employ corrects him saying that the ripple effects mean in reality something like 11.9 people are dead by his actions. That idea no bringing it to this debate rendering the squabbles over statistics mute is for me the real brilliance and best effect of Fennell who I am excited to see go into a hopefully great career.

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Re: Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell, 2020)

#99 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Jun 03, 2021 6:49 pm

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I can appreciate that distinction that keeps him at arm's length from relatability in the particulars of the offense, but I think we agree that this is superficial comparative to the response, and the suffocating non-answer of what to do when you are so broken that you are incongruous with the very milieu you're vying to change. This is a film about hope and hopelessness as magnets far stronger than any system we have built to harmonize around justice together.

I'm also skeptical about jumping to the conclusion that Burnham exploited women in a "knowing fashion." This is not to, in any way, alleviate his accountability- but what that scene really drives home for me each time I see it is how we 'overlook' the unthinkable when it isn't happening to us. I don't think it's stretching it to assume that many middle-upper class white men who attended higher education coed schools had passive experiences that they may never know involved being close to sexual assault taking place, whether it was watching a peer enter a room with a seemingly consenting drunk partner or any number of elusive suppositions that never made it into one's working memory. Now, that doesn't mean literally filming sex acts, but the mind is a powerful thing, and we turn a blind eye and subjectively minimize events all the time, especially during those prime years of developmentally-appropriate egocentricity run rampant.

It may be a little far-fetched to assume that Burnham wouldn't acknowledge his participation in the event that made news with his friends once seeing Cassie regularly, but it's also symbolic of white male privilege in his ability to turn off the light in that memory room at will. It's very possible that he was blackout drunk, and then never meditated on the event afterwards because it was shrugged off so quickly by the Dean and briefly with lawyers out of court, and that... he has the luxury of burying that. Like I've said before -and what the scene with Connie Britton really emphasized well- the film does an excellent job at demonstrating how regardless of your political affiliation, western civilization has been conditioned to adopt a "me and mine" default, where unless we are being actively provoked we tend to deviate our attention to other areas that affect us. The film is obviously an exaggeration as it's meant to be, but what it reflects is what it looks like to be someone within this swamp who actually refuses to engage in cognitive dissonance, and what it takes to be that person, sacrificing the self and being alone in a world that you both resent and love, like an abusive relationship that you simply cannot escape.

It's also probably important to bring up again that Fennell has been candid about Cassie wanting to forgive others, with only Molina deserving her forgiveness by being truly sorry and her recognizing a person who is most like her; who is going to punish himself far more than any physical beating she issues ever will. She has great empathy for him because in that moment she becomes sober to the fatal path she's on, but also because deep-down Cassie's actions are driven by loss and all the complex sadness that stems from that, transmitted into anger because that's a tangible emotion that her environment will respond to. But at the end of the day, if Burnham had been truly sorry and met Cassie's expectations of what sorry looks like, Fennell would probably say that he has a chance of being worthy of her forgiveness- though it's Cassie's own barriers that prevent that at the time of disclosure as well as in general. None of this is objectively named (Fennell would never say someone does or doesn't deserve anyone's forgiveness as it's up to that person to issue it) but it is interesting to look at the film as about someone who desperately wants to forgive, and is just unable to/being reinforced against these opportunities relentlessly from all sides.

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knives
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Re: Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell, 2020)

#100 Post by knives » Thu Jun 03, 2021 8:04 pm

I suppose that hits in the specificity I have been hoping for as perhaps the film despite one figure to undermine that is the world of middle class whites which explains why the satire is so directed to that world. Certainly it’s criticisms are a world away from those in Pariah for example whereas I couldn’t help but be reminded of Kavanaugh during the last act.
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As for Burnham’s culpability as I understand it he was videotaped watching the sex act which is an extreme for me.

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