Hope you all enjoyed yourselves yesterday as much as I did! Round 1 continues with another eight vixens and heroines ready to duke it out for your votes.
The Breakfast Club Girls
TEAM GISELLE: Molly Ringwald as Claire
TEAM CARMEN: Ally Sheedy as Allison
Classic 80’s goody-two-shoes Claire Standish from John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club is the most popular girl in school and seems to have it all together, but like so many other perfect pretty princesses, she’s hiding a secret pain. Claire’s perfectionism masks a terrible home life, with bitter parents who use her to get back at each other. She skips school to go shopping and ends up in detention with the other Breakfast Clubbers, who treat her with scorn and disdain because of her social status. Claire is a little more edgy than Ringwald’s character in Pretty in Pink (putting on lipstick with her cleavage and flirting with bad boy Judd Nelson), but she’s still the red-haired girl next door we all want to bring home to our mothers.
And in the other corner we have Allison, Ally Sheedy’s brooding character in The Breakfast Club. Dismissed as a nutjob by the others, Allison hides from the world behind her shaggy dark hair and a shyness that verges on the mentally unhinged. And the edgy exterior isn’t an act; she shoplifts, steals wallets, and turns out to be a compulsive liar – the ultimate tortured bad girl. Claire gives her a makeover at the end of the movie, with girly makeup and a pretty dress, but really, don’t we all like her better in black?
The Shakespearean Sirens
TEAM GISELLE: Desdemona from Othello
TEAM CARMEN: Lady Macbeth from Macbeth
It’s a little hard to fully get behind Desdemona, the long-suffering wife of Shakespeare’s war hero Othello. Falsely accused of infidelity by her husband’s slimy BFF Iago, she gets smothered to death in her bed by Othello in a violent rage, but survives just long enough to cover for him to the horrified bystanders who rush in when they hear the racket. Everyone’s all, “Who did this to you?” and instead of ratting out her murdering husband with a dramatic, “J’accuse!”, she’s like, “Uh, nobody.” Luckily, they’re not idiots, and Othello is arrested and gets the comeuppance he so richly deserves (his horror and guilt when he realizes what he’s done are truly satisfying to behold). But still. Girlfriend, by the time he’s trying to murder you in your PJ’s, we’ve gone well past the point of “I’m sure he didn’t mean it!” For an alternate version of this story, we recommend you check out this hilarious short video from the “Sassy Gay Friend” series produced by the Second City sketch comedy group, where they imagine how plays, films and novels could have ended more happily if a sassy gay friend had intervened on behalf of the doomed heroine. And if anyone needs his services, it’s Desdemona.
In the center of the tornado of witches, ghosts, blood, superstitions, curses, spells, hallucinations and nightmares that is The Scottish Play stands the ruthless Lady M, arguably Shakespeare’s most deliciously diabolical character this side of Richard III. In a play full of juicy, twisted characters, she steals the show from the moment she shows up onstage, invoking the gods to fill her veins with ice and strengthen her resolve to do what must be done. Which, as we all know, is a whole lot of murderin’. It was suggested to me once by a theatre professor that the Macbeths were the only happily married couple in the entire Shakespeare canon. (Happily married, that is, until the death and insanity fully sets in.) And to a certain extent, it’s a theory that makes sense – they love each other, they support each other, and they work together towards a common goal. It just so happens that that goal involves a lot of stabbing. But is she a demonic vixen who leads her husband on to his doom, a shrewd politician with the guts to do the dirty deeds Macbeth is to chicken to finish himself, or just another desperate housewife who will do anything to keep her man? Who cares, when we get to watch her go do deliciously bonkers right in front of our eyes?
POP CULTURE BRACKET
TEAM GISELLE: Taylor Swift
TEAM CARMEN: Lady Gaga
Swift, a direct descendant of the modern-country-girl genre pioneered by Shania Twain and the Dixie Chicks, is one of the industry’s most bankable stars. It’s no coincidence that this country songbird’s biggest hit was a song called “Love Story” that retold the story of Romeo and Juliet with a Nashville twang (even though she’s actually from Pennsylvania); this blonde girl-next-door has cornered the Wholesome Country Lass market, writing dreamy-eyed love songs about girls waiting for their knight (or cowboy) on a white horse. She’s like a 21st-century Dolly Parton with . . . let’s just say a more proportionate upper torso and leave it at that. She’s not without a little bad-girl edge, though; she’s known for writing songs that eviscerate her exes, and leaving them so thinly-veiled that any fan can tell which boy she’s talking about. But with her sweet-as-pecan-pie voice, who could stay mad at her? Even Kanye West, who famously interrupted her acceptance speech at the Video Music Awards in 2009 to tell the world that Beyonce should have won instead, wrote a song for her as an apology; though I suspect that, if they ever actually recorded that song and performed it together at the VMAs, the Earth might explode.
The world’s most provocative pop star and performance artist isn’t afraid to generate a little controversy, from her often violent and morbid music videos to her crazy ensembles (The meat dress! The masks! The hair sculptures! The plastic bubbles! The meat dress! The outfit made of Muppets! The shoes that look like hooves! The meat dress!) to her even-more-crazy entrances (I have a feeling we’re going to be talking about her appearance at the 2011 Grammys, where she was carried down the red carpet in a giant egg by a brigade of scantily-clad cabana boys, for a long time). But lest you dismiss her as a wacko fame-seeker, she’s not just making a big noise about nothing – she’s fearlessly outspoken about her political beliefs, and underneath all the flash and sparkle lies a genuinely talented pianist and singer who writes her own songs. Gaga cites Queen, David Bowie, Michael Jackson and, of course, Madonna as her musical and fashion influences; interestingly, one of the things those artists all had in common, to varying degrees, was an ability to evolve and remain relevant over a period of decades as trends changed. In 20 years, will Gaga be a pop culture footnote like the Spice Girls or a living legend like the Material Girl? Will she ever buy a pair of pants? Only time will tell.
The Opera Divas
TEAM GISELLE: Mimi from La Bohème
TEAM CARMEN: Tosca from Tosca
If you only know Mimi the seamstress from La Bohème via Mimi the exotic dancer from Rent (the grunge-rock musical that transplanted Puccini’s colorful Parisians to Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the middle of the AIDS pandemic), then you’re working off inaccurate information. Let me bring you up to speed. Mimi loves Rodolfo, a writer, and his 1830’s French intellectual roommates, who on paper sound a lot like hipsters – there’s a painter, a playwright, a musician, a philosopher, a rich guy they all scorn for his total lack of hipster street cred, a couple that keeps dramatically breaking up and then dramatically getting back together, and the whole thing’s fairly reminiscent of my four years in a liberal arts college. But anyway. Rodolfo and Mimi love each other, but of course they’re both terribly poor, so once Rodolfo figures out that Mimi is wasting away of consumption, he fake-dumps her, hoping that she’ll be so mad at him she’ll run right out and hook up with some richer guy who can take better care of her. Which is basically what happens. But because true love conquers all, she eventually ditches the wealthy viscount and the hipsters find her wandering the streets, dying of consumption, and bring her to their sketchy and unhygienic dive of an apartment, the better to guarantee a dramatic final scene where she dies in Rodolfo’s arms.
And now we take a very different kind of Puccini heroine – the passionate, jealous Floria Tosca, an Italian singer who goes a little bonkers when she starts to suspect that her artist boyfriend Mario is doing a little more than just painting with the glamorous Marchesa who’s modeling for his Mary Magdalene portrait. Mario, who has revolutionary sympathies, helps his old friend Cesare, a political prisoner, hide from the police; police chief Scarpia is suspicious of him, and manipulates Tosca in his evil schemes to capture both men. He has Mario arrested, but says he’ll let him go if Tosca tells him where Cesare is hiding and agrees to sleep with him. Tosca, who is no idiot, gets him to put his promise in writing, but once she has the signed document she stabs him to death with a knife she took from his dinner table. (PUCCINI SAFETY TIP #245: If you invite a tempestuous, somewhat violent woman to dinner with you so you can blackmail her, stick with finger food. Knives and forks are just asking for trouble.)
Voting is open in the comments! GO!