Friday, 12 July 2013

Geeks and Bullies

I was bullied as a kid. Relentlessly and aimlessly bullied. I was a special needs kid who had some neurological quirks and didn’t have the social niceties or group awareness enough to hide them. On top of that, I also had two (very) lazy eyes, a giant birthmark on my face, I walked on my toes and I was useless at sports. Pick on the weird kid is a game that never loses its entertainment value for kids.

Sound familiar? Yes? Good. We have a common ground to start from.

Let’s start with 5th grade. Gym class.

Your class is running laps. There are two kids in your class who hate you. You’re really not sure why, but they really, really hate you. You were trying to stay on the opposite side of the gym from the boys who hate you. But here’s the thing: You’re slower than them, and running hurts. So, no matter what you do, you fall further and further behind. As you’re falling behind, they’re staying at the same pace, so no matter what you do, eventually they’ll be next to you. And then they’ll subtly push you hard enough that you’ll fall. Or maybe this time around, they’ll say something horrible to you. Or maybe they’ll steal your glasses. That’s always a favorite.

It’s just two kids. You could tolerate it. They can’t be everywhere. But here’s the thing: Of the 24 kids in your class, ten of them will egg on those two kids. Ten of them will pretend they didn’t see it, or maybe laugh uncomfortably. So now, instead of facing two, you’re facing twelve people outwardly against you, and ten more who might not agree, but who are perfectly willing to go along with it as long as it means that they aren’t the next target. And those two kids are *always* around. If they aren’t, then there are two more like them from another class, and two more to take their places, if they move.

If you’re lucky, like I was, you’ll have one amazing classmate who isn’t willing to take crap from those kids, and who will run next to you and even shout them down at times. So then there are two of you as the focus of the tormenting, but that’s the best you’ll ever hope for. The gym teacher doesn’t care. Your academics teacher will actively side with the bullies. The only respite you have is when you can hide away, in a book, or in the nurse’s office, or in art class. But eventually you know you’ll have to go back out and face them. And everyone else will stay as silent as they’ve always been.

Is this ringing any bells?

Now fast forward 10 or 20 years. You’re an adult now. You’re still a geek, but the power dynamic has changed. You’re as big as the rest of the kids. You’ve amassed a group of other geeks large enough that you’re insulated from the bullying that you experienced as a kid. Additionally, you know that there are people who you can call on if you have trouble, who will immediately trust you and believe your side of the story.

But what if that weren’t true? What if you had to go through the rest of your life fearing those two kids who actively hated you? And wondering if the other ten who made excuses for them or joined them occasionally were going to cross the line into actively hurting you. What if you had to spend the rest of your life wondering why those ten kids who pretended not to see were *still* pretending not to see.

Welcome to being a woman in the geek world. Only now, the word “bullying” is replaced with “harassment”. The pushing down (in most, but not all situations) has been replaced by groping. The insults about your appearance have now been replaced with cat calls, inappropriate sexual advances and unasked for “compliments”. The stealing of the glasses… Well, that’s been replaced by people who fetishize girls in glasses. And no matter how long you hide in your room, you know that as soon as you come out, they’ll be there, wherever you go.

It’s still a very small percentage of people who are actually the problem. To extend the classroom analogy, two out of 24. And there is still the occasional kickass person who stands next to you and tells people to stop it. One person out of 24. But that still leaves 20 people (you’re the 24th, for those pedants who were going to call me on my math skills). 20 people who can see the bullying, oh, I mean harassment, happening. Ten of them probably don’t understand why it’s wrong, or don’t care. Ten of them do care, but don’t know what to do.

Geeks have a tendency to wear their past bullying as a badge of honor. They think it makes them better than the bullies, and better than the kids who stood by and did nothing. They also tend to wear their hatred of their bullies and those like them as a badge of honor. But they refuse to see the bullies in their own ranks. And by refusing to see, they turn themselves into those kids who refused to step in and help them, those kids who stood by, averting their eyes, chuckling nervously and smiling at the bullies in hopes that they won’t be next.

Don’t be those kids that stand by silently. We’re geeks. We are used to being the underdogs. But here’s the thing. We’re adults now. We don’t need to worry about kowtowing to the popular kids anymore. We don’t need to worry about being stuffed into lockers. And best of all, if all of us take a stand and say “No. The bullying must stop”, then the bullies lose their power. If, for every person who is egging on the bully, another one steps up and says “cut that out”, then they lose their power. They lose the power of silence that the schoolyard bullies so completely rely on. The bullies knew then that their power rested on the silent compliance of the rest of the students. If other kids had constantly pointed out when they did something wrong, they wouldn’t have the power to still do it. Bullies aren’t stronger or faster than other kids. They’re just better than the others at intimidation. At manipulating the social order. And the social order that they’re manipulating people into is one of silence. One of thinking that they have to comply or they will be the next target.

But here’s the thing: If no one is standing silently by, then there’s no one next target. Remember, there are two of them and 22 of us. If the bystanders are all actively standing up against the bully, the bully has no power. They can’t hurt us. Or if they do, they will be quickly and effectively stopped. When it’s two bullies against one target and one kid who stands between them, there’s a good chance both of the two bullied kids will get hurt. If there are two bullies and 22 allies, then guess who’s going to get stuffed into a locker? It won’t be us.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Humanist Marriages are now one step closer to realisation.

Dear Chief Mauskateer,

I wanted to write to you to pass the good news that government has now accepted the proposal I put forward in an amendment to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill to give legal recognition to humanist marriages!

When the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill was being debated in the Commons I received a large number of emails and letters from constituents in support of my humanist marriage amendment- it was hugely encouraging to know that the campaign for humanist marriages had so much support from such a wide range of constituents.

Although the government initially opposed my amendment I am delighted that a crossbench Lords amendment to the same effect has now been given government support. Under the new proposals which have been made the government will be able to give humanist marriages legal recognition once a review has taken place (due to be completed by the end of 2014). Further details can be found on the British Humanist Association’s website.

As a humanist and as a Lib Dem I am thrilled that legally recognised humanist marriages in England are now within sight. I hope that you will be pleased by this news and thank you once again for writing to me in support of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill and humanist marriage.

Yours sincerely,

Julian Huppert
Member of Parliament for Cambridge

Thursday, 4 July 2013

What our Daughters (and sons) Need to Know about Modesty

Every year around this time I see articles circulating facebook and blogland that detail exactly why a christian woman ought not to wear a bikini or some other "immodest" article of clothing and I am reminded, as much as I love the church, how broken our view of womanhood and modesty are.
The argument goes something like this: Men are visual creatures and immodest clothes cause men to lust over you. And since the apostle Paul says not to cause a brother to stumble, you need to cover up. 
I can see at least four major problems with this line of thinking.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Much Ado About Nothing: Joss Whedon's Shakespearean debut.

Fran Kranz as the likable Claudio

I am a huge fan of Much Ado About Nothing - it is my favourite Shakespeare play and I love it both on stage and in the picturesque adaptation by Kenneth Branagh. (1993). I am also a huge fan of Joss Whedon, having watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer on t.v since it was first aired, and then watching and loving Firefly, Serenity, Dollhouse, Angel and the Avengers. And Toy Story, which he co-wrote, and most films he's been involved in.

He is, in my opinion, a wonderful man, who cares about the demographic he writes for. Any interview with him that I've read, watched or listened to, I've gone away feeling jealous of the interviewer and hoping that Joss is busy with his next project. So of course when I read many many months ago that he had secretly filmed Much Ado in his house with all his - and any fan's - favourite actors, I was very very excited.  It made sense to me - I've seen people comment that Shakespeare is out of Joss's depth, despite it now being fairly common knowledge (among Whedonites at least) that he and his friends read Shakespeare for fun at his house on a regular basis - because Beatrice is one of Shakespeare's strongest female characters, second perhaps only to Viola of Twelfth Night.

I am lucky to be living in Cambridge. Not only was it in our local Arts Picturehouse cinema (bit pricey but awesome for Indies) but it was out on the official release date AND it'll be out in the normal Cineworld in July. I can have multiple screenings, yay!  So I went the first opportunity I had - last Sunday.
I was so so excited. And the excitement did not wane, despite the fact I found myself trying to stop critiquing or judging particular scenes and themes.

I'll try to break this down into a few sections so that it doesn't turn into a massive essay.  [Edit: I failed.]

Hero and Don Pedro at
the celebration party for Pedro and his men
Aesthetics, Music, Cast

Joss's house is beautiful. I'll get that out of the way. The cinematography and costumes were wonderful and each scene makes for gorgeous stills. I liked that it was modern but in black and white. It added to the charm, and in a way, separated the story from Miami or wherever Joss lives and placed it Somewhere Else. The story is isolated from the rest of the world, and it worked for me.

The costumes were simple: everybody wore the same one or two outfits throughout the film, and it was all very natural looking. This was a modern, well-to-do middle class family having people stay for a month or so, with free-flowing wine and the time and money to spend partying and being leisurely. And why wouldn't they? Pedro and his men have been at war and have come back victorious. Or at least alive. It's time to celebrate!

The music: ah, the music. After the triumph of Once More With Feeling (I still maintain that Hush is the better of the two, but by gum I still know every single word to OMWF) I knew that Joss's music choice would be appropriate. I loved what he did with Shakespeare's lyrics, creating a nice lounge music-style jazz song (incidentally performed by brother Jed Whedon) which synced wonderfully with the black and white, relaxed, sophisticated, wine-abundant party atmosphere. There is little Joss can't do, it would seem. I will be grabbing the soundtrack as soon as I am able.

The cast is well-chosen. I have heard that Anthony Stewart Head was supposed to play Leonato, but had another commitment - whilst initially I was sad, I thought Clark Gregg was a wise second choice. He played gracious host to Don Pedro and doting yet equally (more, actually) condemning father. Frankly, I hadn't realised before quite what a massive arsehole Leonato is to Hero. Richard Briars, in the '93 Branagh version, is cross, but he comes across more as a grieving father. This could be down to Joss's abridging, or Gregg's interpretation of his lines. Or maybe it's because Briars had such a friendly face.

Amy Acker and Alexis Denishof, in my opinion, were strong choices for Beatrice and Benedick. I don't think, though, that Amy Acker came across quite "merry" with her war of words as Emma Thompson or other portrayals. I think it works, though, since Joss inserted a backstory to Beatrice and Benedick's relationship. By showing that they'd slept together before he went off to war, leaving both of them embarrassed and angry with each other enriched Beatrice's admission to Pedro that Benedick had lent her his heart a while in the past and provided some reason to their squabbling.  Alexis chose to portray Benedick as a womaniser upset to see his manly crew breaking up because of love - he is a bachelor and he wants to stay one, dammit! And Claudio has betrayed him by falling in love with Hero, the sap.  His lines, again, were perhaps not as sharp or witty as Kenneth Branagh's Benedick, but with the understated cinematography and music, it works. The words are still funny, but the delivery put a fresh spin on it for me - he came across more as a wannabe lad who is too proud and set in his ways to admit that the fling he had had with Beatrice had affected him as much as her stinging words could.  Both Acker and Denishof show the audience that they are skilled too in the art of slapstick, falling, rolling and just generally being silly when each's character is overhearing the "gossip" created by their manipulative friends and family.

Claudio is circled by sharks
Fran Kranz is the first Claudio that hasn't made me wish he'd end up as dead as Romeo. True, Joss's faithfulness to Shakespeare means that Claudio can't woo Hero for himself, he has to have Pedro do it for him, but he is less clawing and drippy than Robert Sean Leonard or any stage actor I've seen. Rather than being wet, he's more dorky and awkward.  There is something endearing about him, and I felt genuine sympathy when he was preyed on by Sean Maher's Don John and his cronies, circling him like sharks in the pool/lake.  There was something tragically comic about Claudio sulking in the pool with a snorkel and what could the nth martini, suddenly joined by the heads of Don Pedro who bites at his doubt and paranoia with knife-like precision.

Which leads me to Sean Maher: it's his first role since he came out as gay, and what's more, his first role as a villain. I could tell that he relished it - he glowered and sulked on camera and voiced his lines with a menacing drawl, dripping with as much disdain, lust and malice as he could muster. That sounds a little as though I thought he wasn't fabulous - I don't think he was a bad Don Pedro. I enjoyed his portrayal. I also enjoyed the gender bend of Conrad. This isn't anything new - I've heard of Conrad being female before, though I've never seen it in action - and it works. It adds to the modernisation of sexual relationships. I do not think that Conrad and John are romantically involved, either, which is cool. I think they are purely using each other to get off - which, as judgey as it could be construed, added to John's self-gratifying nature. His entire purpose in the play is to cause mayhem and havoc because he can not stand others being happy or things going well for others. He is also bored. Conrad does her best to alleviate his displeasure and boredom, but it is Borachio's news of impending nuptials that forces John into taking more malevolent action. (To Conrad's evident disappointment)

Tom Lenk may remind Archer fans of Ray Gillette, but let's
not forget that Fillion is an ass!
The rest of the cast are of course perfectly picked, from the misused Margaret (Ashley Johnson) and Ursula (Emma Bates) to Dogberry (Nathan Fillion) and Verges (Tom Lenk - an under mentioned person in all the hype).  When I heard the flawless Nathan Fillion would be playing Dogberry, I was more intrigued than amused. I couldn't much picture him spewing Shakespeare and in a way, this helped create his character. He is just so daft and playful, and by being one of the last people (by his own admission!) to understand or get Shakespeare the fact that his lines served to highlight stupidity and a poor grasp of language meant he was the ideal choice.  He was like a bumbling version of Castle (his current crime-solving, womanising, murder mystery-writing T.V character)  only instead of the sharp Kate Beckett, his side-kick is Verges, the equally stupid lapdog, beautifully played by Tom Lenk. I really want to see a Dogberry and Verges spin-off! I do. I think they'd have hilarious adventures together, dumbfounding the people around them with their own brand of intellect. Tom Lenk plays a little on his portrayal of Andrew, but it works really well with the idiot version of Castle, creating a dynamic duo of their own.

Much Ado as a Modern Adaptation

The film makes the play accessible to young and modern audiences - I will use my poor boyfriend as an example. He doesn't not understand Shakespeare, but, in his words, he takes a little longer to "translate" the language. However, it did not detract from the enjoy-ability of the film or play. Whilst the language was at times alienating, ("why use 5 words when 20 would do?"), he still enjoyed the film overall.

I will just mention the first problem with Shakespeare as a modern adaptation: character's names. The only names that are mentioned clearly are Leonato's, John's, Hero's, Beatrice's, Claudio's, Benedick's and the maid's. Verges's and Dogberry's are not mentioned at all, perhaps because of how utterly unrealistic their names are. Leonato and Hero's at least can be attributed to pretentious middle-class backgrounds. Conrad's name is used as a surname (since he is now a woman) but I can not remember a clear reference to Borachio or Don Pedro's names. If they were, it wasn't overly highlighted and only done once. The only problem with this was that my boyfriend couldn't quite keep up with who the minor characters were - he knew the play from GCSE, but he is one of those people that needs it to be absolutely clear when a character's introduced as to which names apply to which person.

Beatrice and Hero listen to the accusations with disbelief.
It is very difficult to translate Shakespeare into a modern adaptation and keep the original language at the same time. Particularly if you are well-known for being a feminist. I imagine Joss wanted to get rid of the old-age message of virginal purity and to deal with things from a "did she or didn't she have sex with someone else" angle instead. At least, that is what I thought, from the film. So, if that was his intention, he succeeded.  The problem with the original play being translated into the modern world is of course that values have changed. Nobody, outside of the zealously religious communities in America or more "third world" countries actually give a damn whether you're a virgin at marriage. Which is why the almost sex scene between John and Conrad and the sex scene flashbacks of Beatrice and Benedick serve to get around the fact that Shakespeare goes on about virginity and purity. In the case of this adaptation, the emphasis was less on whether Hero was a virgin but on her fidelity and honesty. It was implied that she had a crush on Claudio from before the wars, and Claudio had noticed her, but it wasn't until the war was over that he thought about her seriously at all. I therefore took it to mean that upon their acknowledging the truth of their mutual affection, Hero had given the impression she had waited for him - after all why else would Claudio be hurt at the idea that she had been sleeping with someone the past 12 months as well as for the duration of their engagement? In such a modern setting where sex is freely given before marriage, whilst it's upsetting to know that she'd loved someone else once (or had fun with someone else once), he can't exactly claim betrayal because she'd slept with someone when they weren't an exclusive couple.  So that is how that particular part of the dramatic storyline was dealt with.

Instead, the fuss around Hero's virginity is changed to a fuss around the fact that she was a cheating whore, playing on the modern culture of slut-shaming, beautifully. This was further amplified by (a brilliantly delivered) monologue of Beatrice, where she be cries her womanhood and that her womanhood is what is standing between her defense of Hero's honour and her being believed. If she were a man, she said, she would be able to properly put Claudio and Hero's accusers in their place, and, (between the lines) what's more, they would listen to her and further feel the force of her hate and abuse. If she were a man, she'd have much more power against their slut-shaming, misogynistic ways than if she were a woman.
Hasn’t he proven himself to be a great villain—slandering, scorning, and dishonoring my cousin? Oh, I wish I were a man! He pretended that everything was fine until the moment they were exchanging vows, and then—with public accusation, blatant slander, pure hatred—Oh God, if only I were a man! I would rip his heart out in public and eat it.
They have spread rumors about Hero. They did it in the most horrific way (if a woman were to jilt a man this way, she'd be hated by the groom's family, not believed so willingly) possible: at the alter and in front of family and friends. They have essentially called her a whore and outed her as someone who sleeps around and cheats. Cheating or not, no matter what feminists and sex-positive people say and do, women are still vilified if they have had more than one or two sexual partners, particularly at a young age, whilst men who have had "only" one or two sexual partners are mocked. It is a gross double standard that fits well with her speech, and resonates with the modern audience.  Personally, despite the fact that there's no way to avoid mentioning the word "virgin", this aspect of the called off wedding and scandal has worked well in a modern setting.

Sean Maher as the mastermind behind the scandal
The second problematic plot device is of course Hero's "death". The point is, she is not dead, but it is the guilt of causing her death that forces Claudio to marry "someone else" in penance. Now-a-days alarm bells would go off immediately - that a girl would fake her own death to get back at someone, and worse, force him to marry her after all, would be seen in any other context as stuff of nightmare and lunatic asylum material. (One of the few times the internet misogynist's "bitch be crazy" response is appropriate)
I mean, in fairness to Joss, how can one possibly portray this storyline in a modern setting well? It's just absurd and ill-advised. I did, however, love that it was the PRIEST, not Leonato's brother, that came up with the scheme! In fact, the priest was more forgiving and willing to believe Hero than her own father was. (Something I will come back to later).
The fact is, that without changing the plot slightly, it's impossible (in my opinion) to translate Hero's non-death into a modern adaptation. However they did make the deception more believable: Hero faints/goes unconscious in front of her accusers, so in all the mayhem it is quite possible that her heart really did give out. Claudio, Pedro and John never see Hero come to, which plays in her favour.

A happy end for our favourite sharp-tongued couple
The boring scenes before the fake wedding are handled well, I think. Amy Acker's speech, "If I were a Man" and her request for Benedick to prove himself by killing Claudio at first felt as iffy in a modern setting as the fake death idea, but then if Benedick is a soldier and has more virtue than Claudio appears to have, killing his friend for the sake of another's honour plays fairly well. It's not entirely convincing, but then he never has to go beyond showing he has a gun on him in the first place, something that was bitterly comic as a scene.  I felt that after the jilting of Hero the film, aside from the public declaration of affection between Benedick and Beatrice, highlights the darker side of the play in a modern setting.

Not all are happy in the end: of course there's the arrest of Conrad, Borachio and John, but Pedro, I felt, also loses in this play. He is quite clearly the third wheel in the story, the wingman. He has seen his two friends get married - what was feared by Benedick initially has come to pass for Pedro. He is the only one without a lover.

Leonato has been exposed as a benevolent patriarch, which works well with the title in its new setting. The title is another of Shakespeare's play on words: nothing, in Shakespearean, is "vagina". There was much ado about Hero's vagina and whether or not it was in tact. In this case, there was still much ado about her vagina - whether it has been faithful. Leonato demonstrates that he is a perfectly loving and doting father so long as his daughter is behaving as he would expect a good woman to - faithful, true and pure for one man only. As soon as this is thrown into doubt, he venomously spits at her that he wishes she were dead rather than have the humiliation that his only daughter is a skanky ho. (Paraphrasing, obviously).  I also, despite the fact that it's a happily ever after situation, feel a bit sorry for Hero: she is in love with someone who believes a man with a shady past (he enters the film with his hands bound for Christ's sake!) over the love of his life where her sex life is concerned, and although he might well have learned from this ordeal, he only ends up at the alter a second time because a) he's guilty and b) he thinks she's someone else who looks like her. He humilated and slandered her in front of everybody! He's a nasty piece of work if you think about it. I also feel a tad sorry for Claudio in that he's been manipulated into a marriage this way, but maybe then they deserve each other? She didn't exactly tell her father to stuff that idea or stand up for herself much. It is for this reason that I feel that this blogger's final argument is not a negative point:

Whedon’s interpretation ultimately makes the much ado about nothing in the title seem like a negative reflection on his characters rather than a charming reflection of the inherent nonsense and complication of true love.

I feel this is an accurate summary, really, but it's not a bad thing. Joss Whedon's comedy relies on the ups and downs of human nature and life. He successfully tugs at heart strings because he can be dark, touching, moving or dramatic when required. He also makes light of life and events. He has a knack for displaying every human emotion on screen whether it is supposed to be a light-hearted show or not.  I feel this interpretation of Whedon's version of Much Ado does him credit: he has once again been able to highlight the darker side of humans.

So: my overall argument or tl;dr?  It's a good film. It's a good adaptation. It might not 'wow' you, necessarily, but I think it is a worthy take on one of Shakespeare's funniest plays.  You will enjoy it, even if you do not think it does not deserve the hype that Whedonites everywhere have been giving it.

I am sure that it will be used for the study of Much Ado at high school/GCSE and Alevel.

I rate this film an 7.5/10, and my amazon pre-order was made days ago.

[UK cinema release listings | US/International cinema listings]

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Review: The Truth About Love

It has been a loooooooooong time since I last blogged. Nearly 9 months, meep. And I have a good reason, I promise: my course is a 3-year course condensed into 1 and I'm supposed to be a fully qualified teacher by the end of it and omg it is SO hectic and hard!

Anyway, I finally got around to listening all the way through to P!nk's latest (hur, 2012) album, "The Truth About Love". I may have owned it for a week, but this is the first evening in a long time where I've had some down time to just chill out and listen to music without driving to work. I shall be forcing this album onto my friend when we drive to school tomorrow.

I love Pink/P!nk. I really do. She is a badass. She has a great voice and what's more, as she's got older, her songs have got better and better and she's gritty in a wonderful way, but still catchy.

You have no idea how excited my best friend and I were when "U+Ur Hand" came on in our student club - we went mental. Not only is it a great song to dance to, it has a fantastic message that everyone should pay heed to.

So, the Truth About Love.  The singles on it are 'Try' and 'Blow Me (One Last Kiss)' [Links to Youtube videos - may be NSFW]. I have to say, I found 'Try' more catchy, but both are good songs with great lyrics.  'Blow Me' is really similar to another song by the same composer. He also did a song for Kelly Clarkson, so it's probably not that surprising if there's overlap. It happens.

Try is a song you want to listen to when your love life or general life is getting you down - I mean the chorus alone should get you singing at the top of your lungs in the car to work:

Where there is desire there is gonna be a flame
Where there is a flame someone's gonna get burned.
Just because it burns doesn't mean you're gonna die
You gotta get up and try and try and try.

Simple lyrics and quite clear: Love is gonna hurt at some point but there's no point in shutting yourself down and not trying again.

And that seems to be the over riding theme of the album. My other favourite, which I think is the best single of the three is 'Just Give Me A Reason [feat. Nate Reuss]' - now this is just my first proper listen through, but I think it's about a lot of insecurities people can bring to a relationship. The lyrics describe what feels to be an all-too familiar feeling in a relationship where one person thinks the other is unhappy in some way, reading into signs that may or may not be there, whilst the other person is trying to deny these signs. But again, the over riding message is that we can learn to love again - whether that's in the "struggling" relationship or in new ones isn't quite clear to me. But worth a listen and it's a pretty tune, I thought.

The first song on the CD, 'Are We All We Are' has a more grungy, rock feel to it, with a good solid beat. I can see that one being a good club mix, once DJs get their hands on it. It's repetitive enough as well for it to work.

'True Love' is a bit more along the lines of what T.V, Films and Books would describe as true love - being driven crazy by the object of affection - but there is a slightly less jokey side of it: 

And you make me so mad I ask myself / Why I'm still here or where could I go? / You're the only love I've ever known / But I hate you, I really hate you / So much that I think it must be // Chorus // True Love, true love, it must be true love / .....

Overall it has a pop-rock/hip hop type feel to it, and it's featuring Lily Rose Cooper. It's fast and upbeat and quite boppy with a lot of repetition.

And finally, what I think is a really refreshing track (and worth mentioning): 'A Slut Like You'. It opens with the ultimate sex-positive lines:
"I'm not a slut I love love / Tell me somethin' new / 'Cause I've heard this".
This song is about women who enjoy sex for what it is: sex. It's about women having fun, and that it's ok if they're 'sluts'. (A social construct and nobody's damn business anyway, unless they're carrying an STD)
In fact, the 'slut' tells the listener that she is a "slut like you" - presumably men or other sex-havers.  But she also, in line with U+Ur Hand, reaffirms that the 'slut' is "not a cracker jack / You can't go inside / Unless I let ya".  So this song should win some points with sex-positive feminists out there.

Also, her pink hair is back!
The rest of the album sounds like P!nk but is a good mix of styles, with slow songs demonstrating the range of her vocal talents (and gorgeous piano riffs) and others that are more rock and roll or party playlist-style.

P!nk has collaborated/featured 4 other artists, and to great effect. Nate Reuss and P!nk should duet more often - their voices are lovely together.
Eminem was an interesting and different addition too.

Sound-wise "The Truth About Love" is not too dissimilar an album from "Funhouse", but if you loved that album, then that's not a bad thing.