emilyrugburn’s review published on Letterboxd:
I didn’t watch it again, I just have more to say 😂 (here’s my other review)
First, I wanna clarify that my pronouns are he/him cuz I don’t wanna feel like I’m hiding under the cover of possibly being presumed she/her (my name is a deep cut Almost Famous reference).
On Instagram, I follow Quagmire Tartarsauce’s New Beverly Cinema, and along with the many glowing reviews of Once here on letterboxd, the New Beverly story feed is the other place I’ve noted the interesting demographics of supporters of the film. It’s been truly revealing.
I expect Angry Young Man (and, of course, it goes without saying - Angry Old Man) filmbros whose favorite movies are The Godfather, Fight Club and 500 Days Of Summer to be blindspotted to the despicable misogyny of this film just as its director is. That’s a sad but expected conclusion.
But it’s been weird to see so many women embrace the film as well, and seem to find no moral problems with it. I feel you could almost draw comparisons with the “white women for Trump” phenomenon of 2016’s election demographics....except that so many of these women are young! Much like the young women who appear in the film. And it raised a thought that I wanted to share along with what I said before:
Los Angeles is well known for embracing films that stroke its ego. And, similarly, there is a shared cultural awareness within and outside of LA that the city itself is, in many ways, an ever-contradicting bullshit artist. Ryan Gosling’s Seb expresses this in La La Land when he says (endearingly or insufferably, depending on your mileage) that the city “celebrates everything and values nothing.” Hell, there’s even a documentary called Los Angeles Plays Itself, where the double meaning of the title is very much intended. So how is the demographic reception of Once an example of how Los Angeles plays itself?
Well, to me - and, again, he/him so women/femmes should feel welcome to interrogate this notion or share their own takes on it - there is a collaboration that happens in some instances of misogyny. A collaboration very much at play when (almost exclusively white) women vote against their interests politically, and a collaboration at play when young women - both in the audience, and onscreen - encourage the narrative misogyny of a film like this by playing ball with it and giving it praise.
I think of some of the women in the cast just in terms of their aesthetic style - Mikey Madison, Harley Quinn Smith, Kate Berlant, Margaret Qualley - and to me, they seem to obviously exist as part of the high-waisted jeans/no bra/proudly thick eyebrows millennial/Gen Z femme zeitgeist that breathes vital fire into the very MeToo movement that a film like this assaults and disparages! And on New Bev’s IG story, I see, again and again, LA lifestyle blog influencer after influencer after influencer posting their shots of the screen where they’re about to celebrate QT’s ugliness, or proudly wearing their Once Upon A Time t-shirts.
And it just makes me think - this is part of how Los Angeles plays itself. Most of us folks out here in the world who identify as either a member of a marginalized community or an ally of those communities (I’m queer so I’m both, but still mostly a privileged ally) are against misogyny, period. We don’t make exceptions. But for some of these women, especially in LA and I guess elsewhere too, there can be exceptions if it means a prestige gig, or if you know someone who got one of those prestige gigs.
But in those moments of “playing ball” or gritting their teeth through it for the opportunity or the chance of one in the future, misogyny and patriarchy are still rearing their gross heads.
That being said, the list of people responsible for this gross movie is a whooooooooole long-ass never-ending list of (mostly white) men before any women’s names appear on the list. No femme actor in, or viewer of, this film is responsible for wiping QT’s dirty chin or bearing the brunt of his blame.
But it’s still worth sharing this as a simple reminder of how cities, and people, play themselves.