Tag Archives: film

Killing the Glad Girl

There is a scene early in the film Red Dust where Clark Gable goes to toss a drunk worker at his rubber plantation into bed, and discovers that Jean Harlow has taken up residence there. She kicks the drunk to the floor, and the exchange goes like this:

Harlow: You’re not going to leave the corpse here?
Gable: It’s his room. Didn’t you know?
Harlow: Honest I didn’t. I just took the first room the houseboy showed me. Oh, please you guys. This place is full of lizards and cockroaches as it is.
Gable: One more won’t hurt. Come on, lets have it. Who are you? Where’d you come from?
Harlow: Don’t rush me, brother. I’m Pollyanna, the Glad Girl.

She means it sarcastically – she’s a stranded hooker (yet the most ethical and compassionate character in the movie. It’s a great film.) And I was intrigued by what it was referring to – a Depression-era advertising shill? Some cartoon lady who was glad because her floors were shiny, or her dishes were super clean? So I googled.

It turned out that “Pollyanna the Glad Girl” is regular old Pollyanna, the eternal optimist. She’s pathologically optimistic.

From wikipedia:
“The title character is Pollyanna Whittier, an eleven-year-old orphan who goes to live in the fictional town of Beldingsville, Vermont, with her wealthy but stern and cold spinster Aunt Polly, who does not want to take in Pollyanna but feels it is her duty to her late sister. Pollyanna’s philosophy of life centers on what she calls “The Glad Game,” an optimistic and positive attitude she learned from her father. The game consists of finding something to be glad about in every situation, no matter how bleak it may be. It originated in an incident one Christmas when Pollyanna, who was hoping for a doll in the missionary barrel, found only a pair of crutches inside. Making the game up on the spot, Pollyanna’s father taught her to look at the good side of things—in this case, to be glad about the crutches because she did not need to use them.”

It’s all well and good to find some little silver lining in a bad situation. But to paint the whole thing with a broad brush and say it’s a positive – NO. If your partner punched your teeth out, I hope you wouldn’t say that they were a bit crooked or stained anyway, and now you can get some lovely caps. I hope you wouldn’t stay with him and hope to win him over and mend his ways with your “positive attitude”, the way Pollyanna did her creepy old aunt in the book. Would a qualified therapist tell you to do that? No, they’d try to get it into your head that you need to GTFO.

That book is from an era when kids weren’t supposed to feel sad, or angry, or disappointed, they were supposed to SHUT UP. Fred Rogers grew up in that era, and he dedicated his life to countering the idea and telling kids that it’s OK to FEEL things. I highly recommend the documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” You can rent it on amazon prime for a pittance – about $2.99. Here’s Mr. Rogers winning over a hardassed senator who was all set to refuse him funding. I think Senator Pastore was raised with similar rules, and he could relate:

A majority of people here in the US are uninsured, or underinsured, and can’t afford quality, certified counseling or therapy. So people seek out reassurance from readers, aspiring readers, bad readers, all kinds of readers, in card reading communities. Often free, from new readers trying to gain experience, from incompetent readers, from readers following the lead of others. The good, seasoned readers are outnumbered by the bad ones, and people will cherry pick what they want to hear, anyway. And this phony reading is becoming normalized. It’s not difficult to find articles like this one https://www.dailydot.com/irl/tarot-cards-facebook/

Reassurance is not therapy. Therapy is, by all accounts, HARD. People who tell you everything will be OK and you’re doing the right thing (even if you aren’t) are not therapists. We’re venturing into pathological things like co-dependence and denial here.

I’m here to tell you that you’re better off with NO treatment that with BAD treatment.

Card reading – real card reading – is predictive fortunetelling. We don’t pretend to fix people or “make everything all better.” When asked what the cards say, we interpret them – AS IS. Death or the Coffin are endings, not “transformation”.

We’re living in time-space, and that means loss sometimes. Think back to your past. Even if you made it to this point without being truly, horribly abused in any way, you’ve experienced pain. People die, pets die, bad things happen sometimes. That’s just the way life is, it HURTS, and we need to acknowledge that, not stick our heads in the sand and go “LA LA LA LA LA – NOT LISTENING!”

I can’t reassure anybody that everything will be OK without lying. “Everything” is NEVER OK. But this lowlife fortuneteller (with about as much respectability as Harlow’s hooker Vantine in Red Dust), can do everything in her power to Keep It Real. It’s helpful – I rely on reading for myself, and my clients say that they’re helped by readings – but it’s NOT therapy.

The only thing it has in common with actual therapy is that it acknowledges when something is wrong.

If you really feel called to become a counselor, here are the requirements to be licensed in your state. “Owning a Tarot deck and practicing on the internet” is not one of them. https://careersinpsychology.org/how-to-become-a-licensed-counselor/

I hate oracle decks (but not the Literary Witches)

It was the face on the box that caught my eye as I was browsing. I thought it was Charlotte Brontë. And there were wolves and hands and trailing vines…I had to find out what this was.

As it turns out, it’s not Charlotte. It’s Emily, the Wuthering Heights sister. The book that spawned multiple film adaptations and that Kate Bush song.

Any one of the Brontës would be a clear indication that this deck is not here to lead you down the primrose path with affirmations and assurances that Your Angels Love You and everything will be All Better. It promises to SAY what’s wrong, and if it delivers good news, well, you can bank on it.
The same could be said of Toni Morrison. Or…

Virginia Woolf. Agatha Christie. Sylvia Plath. Emily Dickenson. Sappho. Anaïs Nin. Flannery O’Connor. Mary Shelley. People I’ve read, people I need to read. The collection is by no means complete, but it’s a pretty damn good sampling of female authors.

There is another set of cards in the deck, “The Witches’ Materials” Little everyday things to drive the plot along, so to speak:

It’s a substantial deck with some size and weight, and it’s linen. The box is sturdy. All in all, above average quality.

by Katy Horan and Taisia Kitaiskaia. And there’s a book. You don’t need the book to read the cards, but it looks like a good book.

VAMP: the Theda Bara Tarot from Jook Art

Sample of the Majors and the card backs. The sepia tone on some of the card faces is from a lamp, and is not actually present on the cards themselves.

Haven’t we all been intrigued by Theda Bara since we were kids? I remember the first time I stumbled across a photo from Cleopatra – I think it was in Encyclopedia Britannica – the intense, heavily made-up eyes, the snake bra…this was not the wholesome, cute, boring little thing that we were expected to like and try to emulate, no Gidget or That Girl. THIS Cleopatra made Liz Taylor’s look boring! Theda was a different kind of icon, the likes of which my eight year old self had never encountered before.

In real life, she was different: a hardworking girl who never actually drained a man of his resources and vitality, or lured him to his doom. But she had people believing in the persona:

“…her popularity was unstoppable. In 1915 alone, she starred in eleven pictures. Labeled “Hell’s Handmaiden,” she received two hundred letters a day, including over a thousand marriage proposals. Adoring fans named their babies after her. Her movies ran continuously, sometimes playing six times a day.

“Some fans failed to distinguish Bara from her fictionalized roles. One bitter moviegoer wrote, “It is such women as you who break up happy homes.” Bara replied, “I am working for my living, dear friend, and if I were the kind of woman you seem to think I am, I wouldn’t have to.” Another, a criminal defendant, claimed that he killed his mother-in-law after viewing one of Bara’s films.

Bara defended her role: “The vampire that I play is the vengeance of my sex upon its exploiters. You see, I have the face of a vampire, but the heart of a feministe.” But she also worried about the image she perpetuated: “I try to show the world how attractive sin may be, how very beautiful, so that one must be always on the lookout and know evil even in disguise.” Besides, she added, “Whenever I try to be a nice, good little thing, you all stay away from my pictures.”
– Source: https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/bara-theda

And another article, with some outstanding photos: Cinema’s First Sex Symbol was also America’s First Goth

I have only seen her early film, A Fool There Was, and her comeback attempt, The Unchastened Woman. In the former, she’s predatory, rapacious, and unencumbered by ethics. In the latter, she’s a wronged wife and her vamping is justified. Both films could use some TLC and restoration. Almost nothing survives. I’m not sure that there is anyone left in this world who remembers seeing the others. We have little but her first starring role, tiny fragments of film, and the still photos. We don’t get to see her develop as an actress. We don’t have her Cleopatra. We will never get to see her read the cards in Carmen:

But somehow, she is still having an impact. The Vamp type is alive and well, still luring men to their doom in contemporary media. People still emulate her look, or emulate someone while unaware that the person whose look they copied was emulating Theda.

So when it was announced that there would be an entire Tarot with Theda on every card, I had to check it out. Warily, at first, since so many theme Tarots go horribly wrong.

I need not have worried. This description at the website drew me in – I HAD to have this deck.

“For the major arcana, the text is taken from ‘The Symbolism of the Tarot’ by PD Ouspensky published in 1913. This book consists of pen pictures describing a journey through the 22 cards of the majors.

“For the VAMP majors, snippets of this text can be seen intertwined with the image so that only certain words can be seen, and I have found that depending on the question, different words make themselves apparent to me.

“For the minor arcana, the text is taken from the 15th century tarot poetry of Count Matteo Boiardo. He proposed a 78 card tarot deck with the minors being split into suits based on the Four Passions of Fear, Jealousy, Hope and Love. The VAMP tarot deck uses these minors which are well suited to the themes of Theda’s films dealing with such passions and emotions.

“Boiardo wrote a three-line poem for each card, and these are shown in their entirety on each minor card in the deck.”

– from http://jooktarot.com/theda-bara-tarot

I’m normally not a fan of renamed suits, but these are so flawlessly done. I ABSOLUTELY make an exception for this deck! And the text – these are not bland little affirmations and useless new age promises of getting things just by thinking happy thoughts. This is a roadmap for life. Some examples:

The Four of Fear:
“Fear keeps four horses at the service of a chariot
Under a cane, tied to a yoke
It also keeps many in servitude, whom I do not excuse.”

The Three of Love:
“Love, the end and final goal of your earnings
Is a continuous sighing until you die;
And he who laughs one day, cries thereafter for a year.”

The Four of Jealousy:
“Jealousy, when it comes,
it is better not to think that you can fight it,
Because it wins everyone:
But it is good to be able to tolerate it.”

The Four of Hope:
“Hope, when it comes together with reason
Is the sweetest food for the heart that wears it;
If it comes another way, it brings more suffering.”

A sample of the Minors from each suit.

One would expect a theme deck about an actress to be shallow and kind of dumb. That is emphatically NOT the case here. This deck is deep. There are references to mythology – it would be fascinating to read alongside the Grand Jeu AstroMythological Lenormand (it’s one of those rare decks that could definitely hold its own with that one.) Or just by itself.

The calligraphy and photos are exquisite. You get a unique hand crafted box and accordion-style booklet. The card backs are in the style of the early 20th century Art Deco Egyptian Revival that was so popular in Theda’s time.

I can’t find a single thing to criticize about this deck. I can’t put it away. I may have to get a backup copy.

And I am on tenterhooks waiting for their wet plate collodion process deck! http://jooktarot.com/wet-plate-process

Jook Art is a father – daughter collaboration, Steve and Katherine, and they are superbly good. You can get a copy of the Vamp Tarot here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/694810115/vamp-the-theda-bara-tarot-self-published?ref=shop_home_active_1&crt=1

Box, deck, and extras – all the loot.

You can watch or download A Fool There Was here https://archive.org/details/A_Fool_There_Was

Or just watch right here. 😉

And The Unchastened Woman