All posts by c_blackmerraynolds

Love and Vengeance

The intersecting themes of family and violence in The Godfather bring up interesting moral questions.  Don Corleone seems to see himself as an honorable man who values family above all else.  He shows his deep family values by involving his family in a feud against another family that gets various members of both families killed.  He is the godfather to many, and gladly includes his extended family in the cycle of killing as well.  The beneficiaries of Don Corleone’s family values are indoctrinated into a seemingly inescapable cycle of irrational violence.  Instead of protecting and supporting his family like his title suggests, Godfather Corleone is dooming them all to kill and be killed.


They're all doomed.
They’re all doomed.

Michael, Don Corleone’s son, tried to stay away from the violent world that his father created for him, but ended up getting sucked into a plot to avenge an attack on his dad.  Though Don Corleone hoped that Michael could dissociate from the family “business,” Michael ends up getting involved in defense of Don Corleone’s honor.  Each new generation gets sucked into the violence when love takes the form of vengeance. And the cycle propels itself forward as both sides are constantly seeking revenge.  Can’t they understand that a Corleone death is just as tragic to the Corleone family as a Barzini death is to the Barzini family? Both sides are living in constant fear and tragedy for no reason that I can see (except that it makes a great film).

To me, this is a film about the irrationality of violence.  The sides are arbitrarily assigned; you are born Corleone or Barzini. In the Crips hood or the Bloods hood. Israel or Palestine. Neither side is inherently better than the other. But both sides are convinced of the other’s overwhelming inferiority. Both hate each other with a passionate fury.  So they attack back and forth to prove that they are indeed valuable human beings. Stop and think. If you kill my kid it will cause me immense suffering.  If I kill your kid it will cause you immense suffering. We are both suffering immensely! How does this make any sense!? Killing is unproductive and cyclical.  I hate Don Corleone for equating murder with family love, but I applaud the film for illuminating the irrationality of violence so vividly.

How to Avoid the Dreaded Turkey Neck


The first thing that I learned in Hollywood was how to avoid the dreaded “turkey neck.” A novice to the horrors of a saggy under-chin, I found myself seated with a group of middle-aged mothers at a free wellness seminar in our apartment complex. Tami and Shiva, our neck health experts, coached us in a series of breathing exercises and stretches that they assured would protect us from this dreadful fate. Having lived 22 years under the illusion that the turkey neck was simply the part of the bird that you had to chop off before plucking, gutting, and cooking thanksgiving dinner, I was intrigued to learn more about my neglected chin and neck skin, but more importantly about this new group of people that places so much importance on such things. My newfound neck gurus did not disappoint.

The message that I took away from the neck seminar was this: there is a right way and a wrong way to look. If you look “right,” you are powerful. Happy. You belong. If you look “wrong,” you are lesser. This message is transmitted to women far more frequently and intensely than it is to men. It is no surprise that the students at the chin maintenance class were overwhelmingly female, with the exception of two males whom I had invited. Women in our country are held to an extremely limited and nearly unreachable physical standard. We scrutinize every part of the female form, all the way down to the skin on the underside of the chin. The skin on the underside of the chin! Seriously?

Norma Desmond getting ready for her closeup
Norma Desmond getting ready for her closeup

Though it is shocking to me every time, the strict social controls on women’s bodies that I am discussing here is not by any means a revolutionary discovery. And it is not only happening in Hollywood. This phenomenon has been observed, discussed, and resisted by many. Media, including the film industry, has often been accused of creating limited views of beauty and valuing women primarily for their bodies while simultaneously making women feel physically and intellectually inadequate. In 2014, only 52% of Hollywood’s most popular films passed the Bechdel test, whose sole requirement is that a film must include two women talking to each other about something other than a man (, 2015). Hollywood produces an overwhelming amount of content that excludes and objectifies women. However, this industry is not an evil machine intentionally designed to oppress women. So what is going on here that is causing this type of content to be produced?

Well, women aren’t producing it. According to Melissa Silverstein’s blog, Women and Hollywood, women comprise 7% of directors on major Hollywood films, 18% of editors, and 5% of cinematographers (, 2015). In a city that produces some of the most viewed content in the world, men tell the story. What would happen if women became more involved with filmmaking in Hollywood? Would the turkey neck survive? I doubt it. When women and men have an equal role in producing media, women and men will have more equal relationships in other facets of life as well.

Perhaps the best way to avoid the dreaded turkey neck is not eliminate saggy neck skin, but instead to stop dreading bodies that stray from a narrow idea of the perfect body. Until then, keep your chin up, neck back, digastric muscle strong, and breathe deeply. You too could have a flawless neck.