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BOOK REVIEW: No Way! Okay, Fine – A memoir of pop culture, feminism and feelings by Brodie Lancaster

BOOK REVIEW: No Way! Okay, Fine – A memoir of pop culture, feminism and feelings by Brodie Lancaster

Hachette Australia
June 2017
Paperback, $32.99
Reviewed by Natalie Salvo

Non-Fiction/Society & Culture/Feminism & Feminist Theory

6.5/10

For many years Brodie Lancaster felt like she had to play the sidekick, never the lead. She was told things like, “Girls can’t play drums.” She also doubted herself and felt like she had to be likeable in order to be accepted. But this writer, editor, and DJ has proven to everyone that she can achieve big things, as she details in her debut book, No Way! Okay, Fine. It’s part-memoir, part-cultural criticism and polemic, and she talks about growing up as a young millennial woman in a small rural town and embracing her love of different forms of popular culture.

Brodie’s story has some things in common with Lindy West’s Shrill in that both had complicated relationships with their bodies when they were growing up. They both also learned to come out of their shells and become proud fat-accepting women and feminists. Lancaster describes an upsetting shopping trip with her mother who was, for many years, a proud size ten. Brodie’s mum thought that taking her daughter bikini shopping would be a good kind of exposure therapy to tackle the subject of the youngster’s weight.

It doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m doing, the physical space I occupy is never far from my mind.
These thoughts have been there since before my dad told me I was too big to have a piggyback ride – a rule that didn’t apply to my older sisters. They persisted when I was eleven and my middle-aged softball coach told our team that ‘women like Brodie and I will never look like models and we’re okay with that’ (this was news to – and not okay with – me).

Brodie advocates for fat acceptance, though this was something that proved difficult for her when growing up. Watching a film like Shallow Hall broke her heart because she could see herself reflected in Gwyneth Paltrow’s fat Rosemary role and the outrageous, gross, and humiliating things the character was subjected to. Lancaster also puts together her thoughts on how beautiful women are treated in Hollywood. This is a place where no female can win or be accepted for being themselves because the pretty girl too often has to be cut down a peg or two in order to be “liked” in a film.

If a successful and beautiful and charming woman on screen is going to have any kind of romantic success, she needs to be neutralised first. She must fall over or hit her head or get bovine-strength anaesthetics at the dentist and drool over her briefcase. She must be perfect but not threatening, otherwise we can’t cheer when the male lead falls for her.

Lancaster’s memoir also shows her grapples with different identities. You get the sense that it took her time to work out what her true self looked like or at the very least to distinguish this from what she thought she ought to be. Her thoughts about growing up in a small town include:

I am not like Tim Riggins, the football player in Friday Night Lights who was so proud to be from Texas it became synonymous with his name. The place I am from is so far from being a part of my identity, that the person I was there and the person I am now don’t feel like they ever intersected.

As a teenager she felt she was a “fake little Christian” because she went to church but didn’t feel the faith of those around her. She also considered herself a “poseur teen” because she forced herself to listen to hard-core music to be just like her peers. These days however, she is comfortable living in Melbourne and is a proud and unashamed fan of Kanye West and One Direction. She has some thoughtful ideas about self-anointed taste makers or those annoying people who think they have “good” taste and berate those whose likes differ from their own, but it’s also refreshing to see that she believes that people constantly grow and change their minds about different things.

I was scared for a long time of putting my ideas and hopes and feelings on paper, because they are not cast in amber; they change every single day and committing them to a permanent record felt like setting myself up for failure…
I’m a different person now than I was when the idea of writing a book was first floated by me, and I’m a different person now than I was when, 18 months later, I decided to do it. I’m different now to the person I was when I finished writing everything you’ve read up until this point, and by the time you read this I’ll have changed again.

The prose in this book can be very conversational, especially when Lancaster keeps things casual and dots her sentences with frequent pop culture references. While it can be interesting to see these things framed through the prism of a white feminist woman living in Australia, sometimes it can be a little overwhelming for the reader. This is particularly the case if the reader is unfamiliar with the references she makes. Lancaster does explain these things as best as she can but there is no substitute for having seen or heard these things first-hand for yourself and some readers may find themselves floundering a little.

This book is at its best when Lancaster is being disarmingly honest and personal about her life. It is in these moments that her experiences are relatable and have an opportunity to strike a chord with the reader. Perhaps one of the best examples of this is when Lancaster admits that she has experienced self-doubt before:

I never felt like someone who’d be interesting enough to write about themselves. But now, every day, I do as Alison [Bechdel] does, and tell myself – not to convince, but to remind – that I have something that is worth listening to. It is not easy, but muzzling the voice in our collective head that tells women their stories are not important is essential if we have any hope of leaving a mark. I had to confront that feeling every day to get to the point of you touching this page and reading these words. But here you are. Here we both are.

No Way! Okay, Fine is an interesting book about Brodie’s life and an insightful analysis of pop culture. This book feels like a great conversation with a clever young woman and it will introduce readers to lots of new films, music and TV shows. This book is ultimately another strong and sassy voice in the choir of promising young, feminist writers. May their chorus continue to be loud and fervent.

BOOK REVIEW: No Way! Okay, Fine - A memoir of pop culture, feminism and feelings by Brodie Lancaster

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  1. jons says:

    In the event that anybody names themselves as being women’s activist and backings anything toward misandry, at that point they are not what they say they are. They go too far amongst women’s liberation and misandry. If you don’t mind comprehend this. I am for finished correspondence, sexual orientation imbalance is a genuine social issue. I would know, I have genuine involvement with it day by day, and I am in a social issues class in school right now. I am a glad women’s activist who bolsters the majority of its goals, I don’t bolster misandry.

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