Life Rants

Forever a Loan: Reflections on Higher Ed and Debt

As a librarian in higher ed, the cost of college has been on my mind a lot lately.  In his Netflix series Patriot Act, Hasan Minhaj recently did a really great episode about the awful business of student loans and those who profit from them.

Because my student loan payments are set to increase another $50/month soon, I do admit my feelings of anxiety and resentment are amplified just thinking about it. And it does make me sad that I may not be able to buy a house or feel confident that I can retire comfortably in part because of student loans (and partly because our world is so fucked).  It’s frustrating (not to mention unsustainable) that it’s become accepted and expected to take out hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans for an education.  It holds back progress in so many ways when talented, passionate graduates have trouble making a living wage or even finding a job at all–not to mention sending an incredibly damaging message about who deserves to learn and succeed in our world.

I have a friend on another social media platform who regularly rants about how people who can’t afford college shouldn’t take out loans, and it drives me up the wall.  To give you some context, this is also a person who says fat people should be kicked off of health insurance to make it more affordable for everyone else…

And I absolutely urge people taking out private loans to consider how unforgiving debt collectors are in that arena—the government as a lender is bad enough, yet it doesn’t engage in some of the more extreme practices of predatory private lenders.

It’s helped me immensely to think about student loans as medicine; like all meds, there will be side effects, but sometimes you need to take them.  Even with the cost and the side effects, ask yourself what you gain by taking them, and whether those benefits outweigh the negative consequences.

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

I do find it frustrating that 5 years after earning my master’s degree, I still don’t have a long-term contract.  I’m not sure what I’m doing after July of this year.  But I love the profession of librarianship, and I love the number of thoughtful, caring, social justice-oriented colleagues I’ve met.  I should have perhaps waited to have more experience before pursuing my master’s degree, and I don’t love the amount of money it cost me.  But I do love this profession, and I love the path that earning my master’s degree has led me on.  I know librarians are stereotyped as joyless authorities who demand complete silence—and I’ll be honest, we generally do like rules.  However, just mention banning a book or the profession’s problem with race or demonstrators protesting drag queen story hour and you’ll see there is a solid foundation of strong convictions behind the work we do.

I have seen the emotional and financial burden student loans have placed on current students, and I bitterly regret that.  And college isn’t for everyone, and it shouldn’t be expected that everyone attend college–though this is really a problem with the fucked up ways that we value different kinds of work.

But honestly telling people not to pursue college because they can’t afford it is another way of saying “I have very much bought into our current social order and am committed to maintaining it.”  The problem is not with the students taking out loans—it’s with the entire higher ed system and the business of student loans now inseparable from everyday college functions.  And, more broadly, it’s a problem with a capitalist society that commodifies education and undervalues the work of the public service sectors.

I do wish I could be more financially stable, even as I acknowledge I enjoy an amount of financial stability that places me in an extremely privileged position.  And there’s a lot of BS in higher ed, I fully recognize that.  But I would never work on Wall Street or as a part of the military industrial complex or in any number of jobs that benefit a small group of people while actively making the world a worse place for everyone else.  I wouldn’t change where I am or how I’ve gotten here.  And it will be people who push the boundaries, who reach for things that they cannot afford, that were never meant for them—they will be the ones to show that they are not wrong, that they do not need to change, but it’s the world around them that needs to change so it can catch up to them.

That being said–sign me the fuck up for free college if I ever live to see it happen.

Header image by Good Free Photos on Unsplash
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

American Mary, or: Murder > Student Loans

Another week, another blog collab! Part who is even counting of Jillian & Christa’s Great Blog Collab! This week was Christa’s choice, American Mary. Check out her review here.

The Film:

American Mary

Where to Watch:


The Premise:

A struggling med. school student begins performing body modification surgeries for the extra monies.

The Trailer:

The Uncondensed Version:

Word of caution: you probably don’t want to eat anything while you’re watching this movie. I was unwinding with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, which I regretted almost immediately b/c the first scene of this film is Mary practicing surgery techniques on a raw turkey. This is perhaps the most disgusting scene in the entire movie (admittedly, I have a particularly strong aversion to raw meat; objectively, some of the later surgery scenes are pretty gross).

a young woman in a lab holds the body of a raw turkey
Thank me for sparing you all of the really disgusting raw turkey screencaps. You’re welcome.

All discussions of raw meat aside, our story focuses on Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle of Ginger Snaps fame), med. student whose ambitions are high but funding is low. Her creditors are harassing her, her professor is harassing her, and she’s trying to sound sane and normal to her Hungarian grandmother.

It kind of seems like this story is about to take a Lifetime movie twist when Mary applies to work for a shady strip club owner, Billy (played by Marco from Bomb Girls, Italian object of my affections). Mary kind of sucks at the whole sexy routine, but Billy offers her $5,000 to perform an off the books surgery in the seedy basement.

The next day, Mary gets a call from a lady named Beatrice, who has had many surgeries to look like Betty Boop. She has a friend who wants to talk to Mary about an operation, which is essentially to finish the process of making her a real-life doll. Including in terms of anatomy. Catch my drift? No? Am I being too vague again? Okay, she basically doesn’t want to have nipples or a vaginal opening anymore.

a woman with short dark hair and facial features that imitate Betty Boop smiles to a figure off-camera
Easily my favorite character in this movie.

Mary gets $12,000 to do the surgery, which I admit would be extremely difficult to turn down. All I can say is there’s a very good reason I’m not a doctor. I mean, besides all of that math and science.

Meanwhile, ALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL of the doctors are shady as shit, including and especially her professor. She gets invited to a party with all of the doctors, which lead to a solid 10 minutes of me cringing because it becomes really obvious just how creepy her professor is. You know what I mean.

After the events at the party, Mary quits med. school and gets a new patient in the form of her creepy predator professor. Let’s just say he undergoes a few body modification procedures. She also starts a clinic of sorts for people into body modification, which involves more willing patients but is still illegal as fuck.

Billy keeps having fantasies about Mary, whose sudden transformation is marked by red lipstick (obviously). His fantasies are equal parts hilarious and bizarre, pretty much always involving a sexy dance and blood.

a man with dark hair is seated at a booth
Sir? Sir? I’m going to have to ask you to take your fantasy life elsewhere.

Based on her work for the doll lady, Mary gets attention from twins who run a body mod website/mag, who pay her a visit. They’re German (please, please don’t let this become Human Centipede) and ask Mary to switch their left arms and deepen their connection, whatever the fuck that means. IDK, maybe they’re switching vaginas. It’s unclear what exactly the procedure involves beyond arm switching.

Apparently Mary’s creepy prof is still alive, hanging from hooks in the basement, all limbs amputated, mouth sewn shut. Unfortunately, a cop discovers Mary’s activities, leading to his untimely demise. Billy has decided to take out the doctor who tipped off the police that Mary might be a suspect.

Following all of this, her grandmother dies. We’re rapidly approaching Shakespearean numbers with our body count.

The next time Mary sees Billy, he confesses he may have had something to do with that doctor disappearing. He asks her to go to LA with him for a few weeks, and though she seems interested in him, she is the master of bored facial expressions.

a woman with dark hair looks off to the left in a dimly lit room
I’m sorry, Katharine Isabelle. You are better than this screencap.

When she gets home, Mary gets a call from Beatrice, who has been attacked and left to die. It turns out the doll lady’s husband does not appreciate her body mods, and is after Mary for revenge.

What will happen next???

I don’t know, I kind of like leaving cliff hanger endings. This may be the new normal, guys.

The Critique:

There are certain parts of this movie that worked very well, but many WTF moments too. In terms of plot the movie kind of fell apart, but Katherine Isabelle was great, especially when she was being sarcastic and dark. It was certainly entertaining and went by quickly, but there were times I felt mesmerized in the same way as someone watching a train wreck.

And this is just who I am as a person—looking for meaning where there is none, analyzing everything to death—but what the fuck is an American Mary? Does that mean something I’m not aware of? Or is American just used in the way it’s basically used in all titles to warn the audience that satire may be involved in this production?

I also kind of wanted to see more of Beatrice/the doll lady, which I wouldn’t have expected since I was kind of freaked out by the doll lady. I mean, do what you want to do with your body, but I’m probably going to be at least a little creeped out if you look like a doll.

After this movie, I do admit I sort of want horns or at least Vulcan ears.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther 3/5 Pink Panther Heads

I was thinking about 3.5, but then I remembered Antonio Cupo (Billy) doesn’t take his shirt off even once. (Have I ever claimed that I’m not the shallowest of critics? Because if I have, that’s a lie.)

On the bright side, this movie gave me very strange dreams involving Lena Dunham and Antonio Cupo filming a movie together in Italy. I think it was a series of vignettes like Paris Je T’aime except all starring Lena Dunham (because of course they do). In the part I can still remember, Lena Dunham was playing a ‘60s tennis star with a blonde wig who went around looking dramatic on speedboats and trying to impress her benefactor, who I’m 95% sure was Helen Mirren.

Read Christa’s review here for her take on the film!