This DVD showed Appellate Judge Rob Lineberger how to use grrl power to fix his leaky pipes.
"We've broken through glass ceilings; we've just never learned how to fix them."—Julie Sussman
May as well come clean up front: I was the wrong DVD Verdict judge for the task of reviewing Dare to Repair: A Do It Herself Guide to Home Improvement. Julie Sussman and Stephanie Glakas-Tenet have done the world a great service by demystifying household repair tasks and empowering women to fire up their cordless drills. We are, or should be, past the time when seeing male hotel maids or female construction workers seems odd. In this enlightened time, and as a self-proclaimed enlightened man, I should rise above the petty, media-driven dream world that shows Dad carving the turkey while Mom mops the floor.
And yet, here I am fighting the urge to make jokes about color-coordinated toolboxes with quilted hammer cozies. This DVD brings out the most sexist, "prop up my feet on the couch and drink a beer" pig in me. The feminist angle falls on deaf, pointy ears as I wallow in my nest of Sports Illustrated back issues. All I want is to see the sawdust fly, hear the throaty rumble and high-pitched whir of power tools.
Sussman and Glakas-Tenet co-wrote the immensely popular Dare to Repair book, which is pushing its 15th printing. That, ladies and gents, is what we call success. And now they are taking that success, and the message of empowering women to pick up the hammer, into your living rooms.
The fundamental information in this DVD is sound. I learned something within the first 15 minutes that might save my life one day: I've never been particularly careful about touching the circuit breaker box with only one hand at a time. I will now. Less critical, but nonetheless informative, are tips on how to level a washing machine, change a toilet seat, trip the breakers, and shut off the main water to the house. The ladies demonstrate these concepts on rollaway appliances or in field trips to actual homes.
Despite the solid tips, this video seems like a 75-minute infomercial. Though the content is fine, the delivery is cheesy. The women give their spiels in front of a live studio audience, the kind that "oohs" and "ahhs" at just the right time. The patter between them is polished to a tee, as though they've given the same demonstration a thousand times before. The affair is mechanical, and not particularly convincing. And the jokes are as corny as jokes can be. The resemblance to an infomercial is so strong that I could hardly get past it.
By the same token, some of the material on this DVD (presumably the stuff beyond the original broadcast) seems amateurish. For example, there is a visit to Lowes, where a camera is perched atop an aisle and we watch Sussman shop for tools. We can barely make out what she's saying, and the camera is so far away that we can't see what tools she's selecting. In other words, the vignette is nearly useless as a real-world guide to selecting proper tools.
Nonetheless, the women have charisma and a disarming way of discussing "guy" stuff. Stephanie Glakas-Tenet earns major points by telling stories based on her inside knowledge of the CIA, FBI, and NSA, acronyms that will quicken the pulse of any espionage fan.
So the setup is corny, the repairs are on the simple side, the acting is somewhat forced, and some of the segments are less impressive than others…yet this DVD does what it sets out to do. Dare to Repair: A Do It Herself Guide to Home Improvement throws a ladder over the battlements and breaches the wall of gender stereotype. If there's a lady in your house who could use a nonthreatening primer on basic (and I do mean basic) home repair, this is a good first step.
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