Listen to the new One Direction song, "Little Things" yet? If not, you should (below), because it's a real head-scratcher. I know this won't go over well with the particularly fervent One Direction fans out there, but it feels necessary to say. The little boy band that could has just released a new lyric video for the song and, well, those lyrics feel pretty inappropriate for them to sing to their decidedly tween/teen fanbase. The song, written by fellow Brit-darling Ed Shereen has a lovely little melody, but is coupled with lyrics that would feel more at home coming from the mouths of someone over the age of, say, 30 (and even that's a big ole maybe, in my book). Why? Well, it's because the lyrics are about how insecure their objects of affection are, how they don't love themselves, and how they are also maybe too chubby or something. Don't believe me?
"I know you’ve never loved the crinkles by your eyes / you’ve never loved your stomach or your thighs / the dimples in your back at the bottom of your spine / but I love them endlessly." Seems harmless enough at the outset — if a little bit strange. But then it gets worse. Choice lyrics include, "You still have to squeeze into your jeans / but you’re perfect to me," and the real humdinger, "You’ll never love yourself half as much as I love you." Take a listen and hear for yourself:
Uncomfortable yet? Yeah, thought so. Now, this sort of lyrical assault might be more well-received from an older singer, directed at an older fanbase... maybe. Perhaps older women who may be a bit more secure with their body image, or at least understand what their feelings about their own bodies mean (though some may disagree on that front, too) would be able to respond to this song more appropriately. But for One Direction to sing this song? A band whose fans are between the ages of fetus and teen? Girls in middle school love this band. The same girls who are often stepping into full-blown body image issues around that age.
And while many One Direction fans will swear their intentions with this song were noble, it doesn't take away from the fact that the message isn't quite as on-mark as it could be. Here, lyrics are masquerading as comfort, when really they subliminally feed off of girls' insecurity and focus almost exclusively on their bodies. It is all about reminding girls how insecure they are, and they should feel so lucky that a guy has decided to love her in spite of her issues. You know, rather than loving her as a whole human person who is more than just her insecurities about her body image. The song not once mentions anything about these girls' minds or other attributes that could be seen as positive beyond physical desirability, but instead only focuses on what girls feel they should hate about themselves. Isn't talking only about the make-up of girls' body parts, um, objectifying? And don't we think these girls are a little bit young to have their bodies used as a tactic? Especially considering it happens so prevalently already, a seemingly feel-good love song is not be the place for more of this.
And that's not even the most troubling part. To me, the most unsettling lyric is "You’ll never love yourself half as much as I love you." This feels like the lyrical cherry on top of a super-misguided sundae. Telling a young girl that she'll never love herself enough is just downright wrong. Young girls' self-worth is staggeringly low, and made lower seemingly every day — a lot of that thanks to society telling them they shouldn't love themselves because they're inadequate in one way or another. So to say it outright feels dangerous. To accept that girls' self-worth will never be where it should be is not the message young girls need. Because, let's face it: we should be championing these girls to love themselves, with or without the romantic desires of another person. Self-worth and love shouldn't hinge on acceptance from other people. Nor should it hinge on the love of another person — even if he is in a super-famous boy band. These girls should be empowered to be who they are and to hope to be comfortable with themselves. That is what should be lauded.
In the end, many fans will probably disagree, but the discussion feels necessary. One Direction, is this really the message you want to send out to young girls who fall over your every word? Telling them they'll never love themselves feels like a pile-on the younger crowd just doesn't need.
Do you think the One Direction lyrics are dangerous to young girls? Are we overreacting? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
[Photo Credit: WENN]
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Perhaps Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows should have been a trilogy. Splitting the sprawling finale to author J.K. Rowling’s boy wizard saga into three parts — as opposed to its chosen two-part incarnation — might have come across as shameless profiteering (admittedly a not-uncommon practice in this town) but it wouldn’t have been without merit. At 759 pages Rowling’s source novel is said to be a rather dense work plot-wise; surely it could have easily warranted another installment?
I only say this because Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 though certainly a decent film clearly strains from the effort required to fit the book’s proceedings into a two-act structure. While Part 2 slated to open approximately six months from now is alotted the story's meaty parts — namely the spectacular Battle of Hogwarts and its emotional denouement — Part 1 must bear the burden of setting the stage for the grand confrontation between the forces of Light and Dark magic and framing the predicament of its three protagonists teen wizards Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) in suitably dire terms. And it's quite a heavy burden indeed.
As the film opens the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) having assumed control over Hogwarts since the events of the preceding film Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince has wasted no time in initiating his reign of terror. As far as historical evil-dictator analogues are concerned Voldemort appears partial to the blueprint laid by Stalin as opposed to that of his genocidal pact-pal Hitler. Enemies of the Dark Lord's regime are prosecuted in dramatic show trials presided over by the Grand Inquisitor Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) while muggles (non-magic folk) and half-bloods are denounced as "undesirables" and “mudbloods” in Soviet-style propaganda posters and forced to register with the authorities.
As the only viable threat to Voldemort’s dominion Harry and his allies are hunted vigorously by Bellatrix LeStrange (Helena Bonham Carter) and her goon squad of Death Eaters. The Boy Who Lived now fully grown and in more or less complete command of his powers is still no match England's nasally scourge. Labeled "Undesirable No. 1" by the Gestapo-like Ministry of Magic he's is forced to go on the lam where he labors along with Ron and Hermione to solve the riddle of Voldemort’s immortality.
For those not well-versed in Rowling’s source material the film’s opening act is a frustrating blur: After an all-too-brisk update on the bleak state of affairs in Hogwarts we are hastily introduced (or re-introduced) to a dozen or so characters the majority of whom are never seen again. A few even perish off-screen. Had we gotten a chance to get to know them we might be able to mourn them as our heroes do; instead we’re left racking our brains trying to recall who they were and how they figured in the plot.
Rowling's flaws as a storyteller — the over-reliance on deus ex machina devices (in this case we get both a doe ex machina and a Dobby ex machina) the ponderous downloads of information (not unlike those of that other uber-anticipated and somewhat overrated 2010 tentpole Inception) the annoying ability of characters to simply teleport (or "disapparate") away from danger etc. — are more evident in this film than in previous chapters. And rather than obscure these flaws director David Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves both franchise veterans arguably amplify them.
What saves the film are Rowling's three greatest achievements: Harry Ron and Hermione who along with the actors who play them have evolved beyond the material. The film's narrative gains its emotional footing during the heroic threesome's exile ostensibly a series of camping trips — with tents and everything — during which they reflect on their journey together the challenge that awaits them and the sacrifices it will require. Though they occasionally verge on tedious these excursions into Gethsemane allow us precious quality time with these characters that we've grown to adore over the course of seven films even if the plaintive air is spoiled a bit by some rather puzzling attempts at product placement. In their rush to flee the Dementors and Death Eaters it seems that they at least took care to pack the latest in fall fashion:
As devout readers of Rowling's novels know all too well the only foolproof shield against Voldemort's minions is the Bananicus Republicum charm.
Green Zone is a story we’ve already heard shot in a manner we’ve already seen and starring Matt Damon in a role he’s already played. Remember those WMDs that were never found in Iraq and later exposed to be the invention of a dubious and poorly-vetted informant? Remember the misguided and hideously botched attempt at establishing democracy after the fall of Saddam and the violent prolonged insurgency that ensued? If you’ve been away from the television for the past hour and somehow managed to forget any of these details Green Zone is here to remind you.
Damon plays Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller an Army weapons inspector whose frustration over repeatedly coming up empty in his search for Iraqi WMDs leads him on a quest to track down and expose the people responsible for leading him (and us) down that infamously bogus path. Though his hand-to-hand skills are a notch below Jason Bourne’s Miller’s single-mindedness moral certainty and permanent expression of square-jawed defiance — always threatening another “How do you like them apples?” rebuke — in the face of an insidious multi-level government conspiracy are essentially equivalent to those of Damon’s Bourne trilogy soulmate.
And like Bourne his most dangerous adversary isn’t found on the battlefront but rather within the government he once served so proudly. As Miller delves ever deeper into the Case of the Faulty WMD Intelligence Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear) the duplicitous arrogant Defense Department bureaucrat in charge of U.S. operations in Iraq summarily relieves him of his post. (Hint: the better dressed a Green Zone character is the more sinister his ambitions.) But Miller remains undeterred and he goes rogue to locate the CIA informant “Magellan ” a formerly high-ranking Iraqi official whose supposed confirmation of Saddam’s nuclear ambitions served as the basis for U.S. invasion.
We know how the story ends. Green Zone’s pervasive overarching sense of deja vu is accentuated by director — and veteran Bourne helmer — Paul Greengrass who employs the trademark hand-held super-shakycam style which was so fresh and inventive in 2004 but now feels stale and predictable. (Admittedly my aversion to Greengrass’ approach was no doubt heightened by a previous night’s viewing of Roman Polanski’s excellent The Ghost Writer a political thriller as subtle and precise and finely tuned as Green Zone is ham-fisted and haphazard — and which also uses the phantom WMD controversy to far greater narrative effect.)
Green Zone culminates in essentially a violent footrace between Miller and the Army Special Forces as they scour a heavily-armed insurgent stronghold to find Magellan with Miller hoping to secure his potentially damning testimony before the Army can silence him for good. The climactic sequence for all I could tell was either shot in Damon’s backyard culled from Bourne trilogy deleted scenes or assembled from scattered YouTube clips. This punishingly chaotic often incoherent and ultimately exhausting approach to storytelling isn’t cinema verite; it’s dementia pugilistica.