May 14, 2017

You Just Hate to be a Thing

Before the class session in which students would present their final projects, Dan had paired students with a responder, responsible for asking questions or providing feedback on a single student’s project. I was assigned as Mel’s responder, and the night before class, I noticed she had uploaded a video as part of her final project. Because it was 3:00am and I figured sleep could wait, I decided to watch it. First, I didn’t realize it was Marilyn Monroe narrating the work until about halfway into the roughly six minute piece. I think this is very telling of my viewing experience and the intent of the work. Although it could partially be chalked up to my lack of sleep, I think it is also due to the fact that much of what Monroe says is relevant to me and many other women, such as the many depicted in the short work. Notable, she remarks that she is “generally miserable”, with a cut to a late 1950s/early 1960s dinner party in which well-dressed women are seen smiling and politely nodding their heads. If that is not a depiction of middle to upperclass women’s misery, I don’t know what is. 

Monroe also states that she believes everyone “want[s ]to be alone, but they want to be together”. I found it so striking that right after Monroe finishes that thought, a contemporary woman is shown out in public, maybe at a concert or other event. This is perhaps my favorite part of the short because, as Monroe expresses, it is difficult for women to be in public. While Monroe’s experience was certainly different from most (and certainly mine), it is exhausting to be “together” or be with others, especially in public. Female comedian Jen Kirkman once jokingly compared the freedom men feel when leaving the house with only keys and a cellphone, while women cannot experience that feeling because we cannot take off our gender-signifying body parts before we get out the door. While the desire “to be together” is there, the sense of isolation can feel unavoidable. 

The short closes with Monroe stating that “you hate to become a thing”, followed by this narration in text and credits, revealing that the work was done by our own Melanie Miller. I had no idea that this was her work, and throughout viewing had assumed that Melanie was presenting her research on this work, done by an established artist. I was truly impressed by her choice in archival clips, which while following the narration, did not match it; it had a parallel narrative. I knew Melanie had made some short films in undergrad, but I had never seen any of her work, and I really hope she continues to create more. 

Hannah Franklin

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