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This truncated set of 6 eps provided no particular closure, no interesting character development and nothing particularly interesting. The overall flaccidity of the 6 eps just highlighted the show's problematic aspects even more excruciatingly.

In no particular order, the problems were:
  • Steve. The show never did this character justice. He had great potential, especially as someone with the power of discerning whether people were telling the truth, but the show never really knew what to do with him. Without a tortured past full of secrets like the other agents [or at least not enough of the past for a multi-ep exploration], Steve had no grounding, no motivation, no hook. He also never really had anything to do except for to be Claudia's best friend, to die, to be resurrected and to keep the home fires burning while everyone else ran away on adventures. He was a thoroughly dull and objectified damsel in distress type. I feel like the writers identified him by a cluster of traits -- former ATF agent, Buddhist, gay, human lie detector -- and just had him mention those identities occasionally in lieu of developing an actual personality.
  • While we're on the subject again, let's bring up homophobia, one of the show's perennial failings. In 6.4, Savage Seduction, Claudia and Steve investigate a frat where the brothers are using an artifact to split themselves into two parts: studiers and partiers. Claudia and Steve's quest started promisingly with Claudia grumbling about "kids these days" [even though she was the age of the students] and Steve's revelation that he had been part of a nerd fraternity with "book group and holiday a cappella." Then Steve got a hold of the artifact and turned into two Steves, one of which was usual Steve and the other of which was a painfully swishy stereotype. Where did that come from? Steve had never shown any indication of harboring painfully swishy stereotypes. It could have been interesting if those were his long-buried fears about what he might have to be when he found out he was gay, but nah -- the show just played swishy Steve for laughs. Claudia also made a passing remark that she liked swishy Steve "a little bit more" than usual Steve, which was indicative of the show's whole treatment of Steve's sexuality: it was only ever developed jokingly, with reference to stereotypes, even if Steve was bringing them up to say that he differed from them. The show could not take him as a gay guy seriously and invested way too much prurient energy into his sexuality.
  • Speaking of sexuality, the show also capitulated to cultural pressures of heteronormativity. After five seasons of him being annoyed at her exactitude and her being annoyed at his immaturity, Pete and Myka realized that they loved each other. Well, that was pretty obvious. But why did they have to end up as a romantic couple? They may have loved each other and worked well together, but they were not characterologically compatible, so why did the show hook them up? Boring, boring, boring.
  • Furthermore, racism featured prominently in Warehouse 13's final season. It was like they crammed all the racism that they hadn't gotten to into a single truncated set of 6 eps. There were the gratuitous "g***y" references with the fortune tellers in the Ren Faire ep. There was the trash heap of "fiery Latino" stereotypes in the telenovela ep. Then, in the last ep, Leena, who was bumped off for no reason at the end of season 4, was given a flashback scene in which she foresaw her own death in the Warehouse and then, when Mrs. Frederic said that she would try to prevent it, said to her, "But it's okay." No, you stinkin' show -- do not try to retroactively sell me on the useless death of one of the show's two main characters of color. I won't buy it.





 
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Today we're examining The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker. I picked this up because it looked to be in a similar vein as Deborah Harkness' All Souls Trilogy, a silly but agreeably diverting series with occasional intelligent grace notes. In fact, Harkness endorsed Barker's debut novel as "a marvelous plot [with] clever dialogue [and] complex characters...a perfect escape from humdrum reality." I mentally translated this as "fun, shallow escapism" and settled in for some entertainment.

I have not been entertained. Instead, Barker has been providing object lessons in how not to write, here presented for your delectation in no particular order:

1) Spend a significant portion of the book having the protagonist raped and brainwashed, and then forget about it. Nora, a 30-year-old unhappy grad student in English literature, somehow accidentally pierces from this world into the realm of Ye Olde Standarde Faeries: that is, supernatural assholes who appear like beautiful humans but really look disgusting and who enjoy kidnapping humans and messing with their minds. The first 80 pages of the novel detail her transformation into a thoughtless automaton, coerced into a muzzy-headed state of permanent compliance. She is essentially drugged, threatened, gaslighted, forcibly married to Raclin, a draconic fairy prince, raped by Raclin, beaten by Raclin and, finally, terrorized by Raclin's mom Ilissa until she miscarries. By this point, the reader just wants the torture to end, but no such luck. Aruendiel, a human, male magician, rescues Nora, and we still have about four-fifths of the book left to go.

The remainder of the book, however, doesn't adequately address the aftermath of Nora's ordeal. Barker discusses Nora's physical healing from Raclin's assault, as well as the disconcerting experience of having a huge amount of fairy glamour lifted from her. We also get a little bit of ambivalence from Nora about having a miscarriage, but that's about it. We don't, for example, see Nora angry or ashamed at her seduction, regretful that she has left behind the lap of luxury for a hardscrabble life with Aruendiel, proud that she managed to get out or even frightened that the fairies might come after her. She does not appear to have been emotionally affected by her torture at all. For God's sake, she shows more impassioned feeling in her discussion with Aruendiel of his language's sexist deployment of gendered conjugations and declensions than she does about her repeated mental and physical violation at the hands of the fairies.

2) Fail to establish credible antagonists. Of course, the fairies do indeed come after Nora once Aruendiel rescues her; Raclin, in the form of a dragon, chases her on a few separate occasions, but is thwarted when Aruendiel a) pop-flies him into the stratosphere, b) leaves him with a much larger and very pissy lake monster and c) turns him into a rock. Aruendiel's casual [and silly -- seriously, pop-flying him into the stratosphere?] dispatches of Raclin make the prince seem less like a truly threatening abuser and more like an annoying bug. Because Nora and Aruendiel always repulse the fairies, the fairies fail come across as creakingly obvious devices with which to move the plot [such as there is] forward.

3) Use ableist and racist stereotypes in place of character development. In the ableism department, Aruendiel represents one of the most tedious types, the Aloof And Commanding Cripple With A Broken Body, But A Restless Mind, Whose Rudeness And Grimness May Be Excused By His Secret Tragic Past [But It Wasn't His Fault]. In Aruendiel's case, he killed his wife because [somehow] he thought this would free her from an enchantment that Ilissa had put on her. Then he was fighting in some war with Ilissa, and he fell out of the sky, broke lots of bones and died, but his friends brought him back to life. He does not, however, think that he was worth reviving. Why are the Tragic Cripples always so whiny and self-pitying?

In the racism department, one of the most interesting characters unfortunately ends up being the most exoticized. Hirizjahkinis, Aruendiel's friend, is the only female magician in a book where the main culture's characters think of female magicians as highly improbable, if not impossible. Hirizjahkinis skirts the sexist restrictions of Aruendiel's society by being a foreigner from some hot, jungle-covered, southerly place [lazy Africa equivalent] with a tradition of female witches. Physically, she is dark-skinned -- the only non-white character in the entire book [a fact noted by the white characters] -- with her black hair in cornrows. When Nora first meets her, Hirizjahkinis is so exotic and foreign that she wears both a kimono-like robe and a leopard skin over her shoulders. Yes, folks, a leopard skin: the stereotypical sign of a comic-book "jungle girl" or "savage!" Oh yeah, and she's bisexual -- the only non-hetero person in the entire book [also noted by the characters]. Even though she is warm, friendly, patient, competent, unflappable, sexy, badass and clearly the most lively and engaging character in the whole book, Hirizjahkinis suffers from intersectional objectification because, for some reason, Barker thought it acceptable to turn her into an egregious token, the embodiment of all that is different from the straight, white majority in the book.

4) Focus on a vacuous protagonist. I have no idea why Harkness thinks that this book involves "complex characters." They are the least complex I have come across in a long time. The protagonist Nora has no personality whatsoever, and the structure of the book, in which events happen to Nora through no agency of her own, certainly doesn't help matters. Nora is stalled in her dissertation by her advisor, dumped by her boyfriend, accidentally sucked into another world, abducted and raped by fairies, rescued and healed by Aruendiel, etc., etc., etc., shuttling from one event to another like a pinball being smacked by paddles of plot. It is possible to write a fascinating story about a protagonist who experiences dramatic changes in her life that are outside her control, but this is not that story. Said hypothetical fascinating story requires a protagonist with an interesting inner life whose interpretation of events offers counterpoint and/or insight into the whole structure of the plot. Nora, who apparently has no phenomenological experience whatsoever [see her lack of reaction to her rape], is not that protagonist.

Barker does Nora no favors on the development front by depriving her of a history. Sure, she's got an ex-boyfriend and a female friend, but we quickly breeze past these people so that Nora may be brainwashed and raped by the fairies. Quick summaries of Nora's relationship with her ex or an explanation of her friend's personality provide no revealing details about Nora as a person.

And what about Nora's family?  Heck, it's not until two-thirds of the way through the book, when she visits her 10-year-old sister through a two-way scrying spell, that we see that her sister has a shrine to their dead brother and that it now includes a photo of presumed-dead Nora as well. Why didn't we hear about her little sister and dead brother earlier? Why does Barker pass up a chance to forge significant relationships and thus a bit of individuality for her main character? Why does she withhold such important information about Nora's dead brother until practically the end of the book, when the reader is so stultified by the pointless plotlessness that they have no energy left to give a shit? The poignant conversation between Nora and her sister, who thinks she might be a ghost, contains more emotional heft than all the pages before it, but apparently leaves no lasting effect. In conclusion, Nora, a character apparently impervious to the effects of life, bores the poop out of me.

4) Tell the wrong story. Barker spends most of her time on a) Nora's torture in fairyland, b) Nora's physical recovery from her assault, during which she does a large amount of chores with Aruendiel's housekeeper, c) Nora's failed attempts to learn magic and d) her increasing, inexplicable infatuation with Aruendiel. To this, Barker tosses in interminable discussions of human/fairy politics that never seem to impinge upon the plot, scads of silly made-up names ["Hirgus Ext" being a typical example] with no logic behind them [she seems to think that telling the name of everything constitutes convincing worldcraft] and Nora's continual frustration over the sexism in Aruendiel's society. If there's a plot or anything of consequence going on in there, I missed it in the wash of extraneous details.

Meanwhile, there's a much more interesting thread running through the story: that of the conjunction between magic and death, fairyland and the afterlife. Nora enters fairyland through an abandoned cemetery, and it's mentioned that she has always liked old graveyards [a fact that's never enlarged upon]. When she determines how much time has passed in the magic world, she figures that her family must think that she is dead. In her adventures with Aruendiel, she encourages him to bring back to life a young girl. Her interest in life and death takes on new significance when she converses with her little sister and sees herself in the same category as her dead brother: enshrined in absence. Nora has a cautious, curious, mournful relationship with death, which is probably the only interesting thing about her.

Aruendiel does his own dance with death. As a magician, he has used magic enough so that his life has been extended to a few centuries, time enough to see generations of friends and family grow old and die. He has killed a bunch of people, including his own wife, which seems to affect him less than his own death and revivification. Part of him kind of wishes his friends had just let him stay dead, but part of him clearly wishes to keep on living. 

I'd like to hear that story -- the tale of how two people so personally invested in death navigate the trials of life -- but no. Instead we get the housekeeper teaching Nora how to chop up apples. I stayed up way too late last night, reading this book, waiting for something to happen, but nothing ever did.
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Just watched the pilot for Fox's new Sleepy Hollow, which involves Ichabod Crane pulling a Rip Van Winkle, sleeping for 250 years, then teaming up with a WOC police lieutenant, Abby Mills, to stop the Headless Horseman, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. [Previous comments on the trailer here.]

I don't know where to start on the stupidity, so I'll just make a list of things that pissed me off, in no particular order:
  • When discussing slavery with Abby, Ichabod gets all huffy and says that he was an early abolitionist. Abby says that slavery has been abolished for 150 years, and Ichabod remarks, "Yet here I am in shackles [= handcuffs]." His defensive comment about his progressive abolitionism and his turning of the entire history of enslaved Africans into a comment on his momentarily restrained state both serve as a perfect example of privileged white people appropriating the marginalization of oppressed people for their own whiny rhetorical purposes.
  • No one seems particularly fussed about Ichabod's claim that he was alive during the Revolutionary War. The dude giving Ichabod the polygraph test [hi there, Nestor Serrano -- nice to see you!] listens to Ichabod's comments about "the American colonies," "the Revolution" and "General Washington" and, noting that none of these trigger the polygraph, therefore instantly concludes that Ichabod is from 250 years in the past. Or, you know, he could be a) drugged, b) delusional, c) lying, d) several of the above. A, B, C and D represent much more logical conclusions than a 250-year sleep, but this show clearly demonstrates that it has no use for logic.
  • Ichabod's wife, Katrina, was burnt at the stake as a witch shortly after the Revolution. This inaccurate bit of backstory, along with the egregiously stupid detail that witches were burnt in Sleepy Hollow up through the 1830s, makes me want to throw things at the TV. Nobody was killed for witchcraft around here after the Salem Witchcraft Trials in 1692, and no one was ever burned at the stake for witchcraft in this country. I can't stand it when ignorant people try to drag witchcraft trials into centuries where they don't belong.
  • Abby, like most female protagonists in police procedurals, is an Exceptional Woman with no family, no friends, no colleagues and no support system. Her mentor, Sheriff I-Forget-His-Name, is decapitated within the first third of the pilot. Apparently she grew up in Sleepy Hollow, as she mentions a supernatural experience she had in town with her sister in high school, but we never hear about any family or friends she might have in the area. Characterized as a mentally ill failure who bounces in and out of institutions, Abby's sister is dismissed by the plot as a useless, unreliable failure. The story thus sets Abby up as isolated and in a perfect position to become dependent on Ichabod, the only person who believes her. I bet they're going to pair off and fall in love VOMIT VOMIT VOMIT.
  • On a related note, Sleepy Hollow is apparently a single-sex town. The only woman besides Abby with more than two lines is Katrina, a dead damsel in distress who needs Ichabod's help to be liberated from a dreamland where the antagonists have imprisoned her.
  • As the pilot starts, Abby plans to leave her Sleepy Hollow job for the FBI in a week. She really wants to go, and she claims that she does not want to mess up this opportunity. Her actions, however, tell a different story. Throughout the pilot, she defies her captain's orders: interrogating Ichabod, bringing him to a crime scene, releasing him from the mental institution under false pretenses, snooping in the sheriff's office, etc., etc., etc. The captain responds by talking tough and then doing absolutely nothing about Abby's infractions. At first, I hoped that his de facto leniency would lead to a rare instance in which a police department actually supports a TV character's investigation of supernatural phenomena, but nah. It's just sloppy writing, in yet another pointless sacrifice of logic.
  • Could the show have picked a more boring villain? The Four Horsemen are a fine choice, but the show really hampers itself with the decision to amputate the head of one of them. The Headless Horseman literally has no expression, which means he just stomps around, either axing things or shooting things. If the showrunners wanted to show a modicum of inventiveness, they could have employed body language to communicate personality: a raised fist when victory seems imminent, a jaunty twirl of the axe after a successful kill, even an alteration of the gait depending on the circumstances. But no, the Headless Horseman just plods around, hacking things. Booooooooorrrrrrriiiiiiing.
  • The show commits the unforgivable crime of bringing in John Cho to play one of Abby's fellow officers and a secret agent on the side of the Horseman...and then killing him off at the end of the pilot. This is a multipart offense, consisting of a) gratuitous bumping off of a POC, b) lost opportunity for a cool storyline in which Abby and Ichabod's efforts are thwarted internally by pro-Horseman forces on the force and c) horrible waste of a talented actor.
So there you go...racism, historical inaccuracy, illogical plot holes, lazy sexist characterization, dull antagonists and more racism. Awesome!
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...by writing all two regular WOC out of Warehouse 13 in season 4. In 4.10, Artie murders Leena, proprietor of the B&B where Warehouse agents stay. In 4.20, the season finale, Claudia severs the connection between the Warehouse and Mrs. Frederic, the erstwhile caretaker of the Warehouse. Now a normal human being without superpowers, Mrs. Frederic has no plot function, which means that she will not appear in the truncated and final fifth season. Goodbye, token attempts at diversity. Been nice knowin' ya.

I notice that both black women in Warehouse 13 a) were defined largely by their roles as glorified housekeepers [Mammy alert! Mammy alert!] and b) deprived of their power by white people. I can't believe that no one involved with the show said, "Hey, why are we deleting all the WOC? What's wrong with us? Let's examine our show for some fucking racism!"
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In The Ones You Love, Artie, while split into Good and Evil Artie, kills Leena, a WOC and series regular who, though having been around for 3.5 seasons, has yet to receive a last name or any other characterization beyond "B&B owner" and "tool of McPherson." 

Two episodes later, in The Living and the Dead, despite the existence of multiple artifacts that can bring people back to life, Leena is still dead. However, no one gives a shit, except insofar as her death causes angst to a white man [Artie]. In fact, she appears in Artie's subconscious as an essentially vacuous prop to demonstrate the painful reality from which he's shielding himself. Claudia and Steve exercise themselves mightily over drawing Artie out from his subconscious, paying no attention to Leena except as a tragic figment of his imagination. Who cares about the black woman?

In the next episode, Parks and Rehabilitation, Artie stands on tribunal in front of the Regents, who decide to reinstate him as head of Warehouse 13 because Saul Rubinek has an ongoing contract with the SyFy network the plot must go on. The head Regent explains that Artie was kind of possessed by an evil version of himself, so he's morally blameless. He also says that "Leena was a valued member of the team" and that "she knew the risks." 

I buy neither statement. First, Evil Artie was in fact Artie, just a concentrated version of those thoughts and feelings that he censors in his attempt to be a good, kind person. As a part of Artie, Evil Artie is indeed under Artie's jurisdiction and part of his responsibility. No matter what the show wants me to believe, Artie willingly, knowingly and with malice aforethought murdered Leena.

Second, if Leena was such a "valued member of the team," why the hell do we never see her doing anything but being victimized and keeping house in the background? And why the hell couldn't the Regents refer to her by her full name?

Oh right, it's because she's a cardboard Mammy. :[
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Fox just coughed up an extended trailer for one of its new fall shows, Sleepy Hollow, in which Ichabod Crane is a brooding hunk who sleeps into the present day and teams up with a police detective, who is a Sassy Woman of Color [TM]. Together the two of them track the murderous Headless Horseman, who is one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Wait a minute...they canceled Alcatraz, starring a tough-shit woman and a fat guy of color who kick ass and solve mysteries without having sexual tension, for some genre-confused mess that's already manifesting racist and sexist stereotypes in its goddamned trailer?

Well, Sleepy Hollow certainly looks stupid. I can't tell, though, whether it's in the "so bad it's bad" or "so bad it's good" category yet.

P.S. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow actually concerns a slight, silly love triangle story, written by Washington Irving, in which local dipstick Brom freaks out schoolteacher Ichabod so badly that the latter leaves town, removing himself from the competition for the affections of rich Katrina Van Tassel, who naturally has no personality, agency or function besides that of walking plot point.
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I was going to write a long, learned essay about how much the short story Hatchling in Laini Taylor's collection, Lips Touch Three Times, pissed me off, but fuck it. Let me get to the meat of the matter: Laini Taylor, your voluptuous prose cannot distract me from your moral vacuity.

Read more... )
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Steenkamp hailed from Cape Town, South Africa. She began work as a model in 2001 and graduated from Nelson Mandela Metro University in 2005 with a BA in law, then went on to work as a paralegal. She applied to the bar in 2011, hoping to be a legal advocate by the age of 30. She was murdered on Valentine's Day, 2013, two days before the fifth season of reality TV show Tropika Island of Pleasure, in which she appeared, began airing.

She was murdered by abusive, wretched excuse for a human being [and celebrity athlete] Oscar Pistorius, in yet another depressingly common case of intimate partner violence.

How much do you wanna bet he'll get away with it due to his super privileges as a white, rich, straight, cis, celebrity dude who can also play on the public assumption that people with disabilities are useless lumps who can't do anything, much less murder?

And how much do you wanna bet that Steenkamp will disappear in the media's narrative about how they're shocked -- shocked, I say! -- that the inspiringly heroic supercrip should have such a tragic downfall?

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I have watched a few SyFy shows recently [Eureka, Sanctuary, Warehouse 13, Haven], and I've noticed that they all share a hostility toward female characters of color. First of all, representation of WOC in these shows is practically nonexistent. When WOC do appear, they always get marginalized and/or straight up murdered.

Exhibit 1: Kate Freelander in Sanctuary. After Magnus' daughter Ashley bit it at the beginning of season 2, the showrunners brought in Kate Freelander as a substitute. Born in India and raised in the US, she was a) a con artist and b) incredibly annoying. Her character was written so that her unethical practices frequently got the crew in trouble, which did not endear her to me and other viewers. Furthermore, the showrunners never wrote her any close relationships with other members of the Sanctuary team, making her an obvious, forced addition, rather than an essential part of the core group. She was essentially written out of the show in season 4 when she was reduced to a recurring character and sent off to Hollow Earth as an ambassador, which meant that she could be away ambassadoring for several eps at a time, and no one gave a shit.

Exhibit 2: Evi Crocker in Haven. She appears at the beginning of season 2 as Duke's hetetofore unannounced wife. Though she acts as if she's interested in being in Duke's life once again, she also appears to be working against him, although I could never figure this out for certain. She mostly hangs out, developing no particular personality and appearing in useless B plots. Unfortunately written without a clear point [or personality], her character dies in an equally confusing, pointless manner when she is shot by snipers during a lockdown of the Haven police station. I guess she was on the verge of revealing important information to Duke when she died, but, like everything else about her character, this was ambiguous, underused and poorly done.

Exhibit 3: Leena in Warehouse 13. A regular cast member since the beginning, Leena runs the b&b where Artie, Pete, Myka, Claudia and Steve live. However, she doesn't even have a last name, which shows you just how little she rates in the showrunners' relative scheme of importance, and she spends most of her time being ignored and/or victimized. Her ability to read auras never provides dramatic tension or influences the plot, while, by contrast, Pete's vibes regularly do. Her most active plotline occurs when MacPherson controls her mind, using her to steal artifacts in season 1. Then, toward the end of season 4, Artie, having suffered a psychotic break, kills her. Leena's death may be reversible by an artifact, but she's still an underdeveloped and marginalized WOC on a network that has a history of racist portrayals of WOC.
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Hot Toys is doing a 1:6 scale version of Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, as she appears in The Dark Knight Rises, played by Anne Hathaway. I'm getting her! Well...I'm getting the whole doll, then selling everything but her head, as Hathaway has always reminded me of Frank [my version!]. ^_^

And look! Her stupid mask is removable! You would not believe how long it took me to discover this information. In a spectacular failure of communication, both the Hot Toys official site and the Sideshow Toys official site [= official US dealer for Hot Toys] showed the doll only with her mask on and no indication whatsoever of whether the damn thing was permanently attached to her face. No one wants a doll with something permanently attached to its face [well, unless it's Bane -- that's okay because we never see him without his mask]. That just reduces the versatility of the fig drastically.


P.S. The movie was all right, but there were only 2 female characters, Selina Kyle and Thalia Al-Ghul. Otherwise, Gotham was made up entirely of men. How boring, not to mention unrealistic. I also could have gone for at least 15 minutes more of Anne Hathaway. The screen lit up whenever she appeared!

EDIT: The picture I got was not actually of the doll. Still not sure if her stoooooopid mask comes off. Have asked Sideshow Toy.
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As much as I'm interested in the concept of the novel [a cure for aging and its effects on the world], I DO NOT CARE AT ALL about the adventures of the protagonist, a straight, cis, white, middle-class, able-bodied, US man with a societally acceptable body shape and a slag heap of unexamined privilege.

Seemingly THE ENTIRE WORLD revolves around the adventures of straight, cis, white, middle-class, able-bodied men with societally acceptable body shapes and slag heaps of unexamined privilege. They're tedious, boring, self-indulgent and overdone. Find a new narrative, people.

P.S. And if you're a straight etc. man whose protagonist happens to be a straight etc. man, you're suffering A FAILURE OF IMAGINATION. The world don't look like you no more. Get over yourself.
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So today I called Dental Dental of Illinois' customer service hotline to try to find out which type of Delta Dental I had. One of the first questions that the rep asked me, even before my name or ID number, was, "Who's the holder of the policy, your husband?"

Let's break that down...

The rep knew nothing about me, not even my name or my ID number, no personal information, except for that I sounded stereotypically feminine. He therefore automatically assumed that:

a) I was a woman.

b) I was heterosexual.

c) I was married.

d) I did not have insurance under my own name.

I can understand assumption a), but were any of the others warranted? NO! What stupidity!

P.S. MY HUSBAND?!?!?!?!?!? What husband?
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Via Shakesville, I learned today about the "surprise wedding." What is this wretched idea? Apparently, according to the Windsor Star, this man's idea was to plan an entire wedding behind his fiancee's back, with friends and family keeping her in the dark until the moment that he proposed, at which point he said that the wedding would occur within hours.

So let's get this straight...
  • One partner willfully deprives the other of any input in planning a significant, life-changing event, assuming that he knows best for the both of them.
  • The depriving partner even brings the other partner's whole social and familial circle into collusion, basically trapping them in a lie of omission.
  • Finally, as if this weren't enough, the depriving partner sets up a highly public event at which the other partner may be embarrassed, shamed or coerced into submitting.
Such a series of events is not romantic and loving. By degrading and ignoring his partner's agency and input, the depriving partner is saying, in so many words, that his plans matter more than hers, that he matters more than she does. No matter how many of her preferences he incorporates into the wedding, the mere fact that he set everything up without her consultation, basically leaving her only a slot in which to insert her "yes," devalues his partner in general. It's arguably abusive!
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How awful is this commercial? Not only does the male protagonist clearly privilege the alcohol over the woman, but he doesn't give a care that the woman is smothered in the couch. That's not funny.
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How much evidence must I draw together to prove my conclusion? Every single female character of note has been killed off by the cruelly misogynist calculus of the show, leaving a single-sex colony of gruff, bitten men to save the world, which, in the Supernatural universe, has no women in it.

The cavalier contempt with which the show dispatches its female characters really revolts me. Its most egregious murder of women occurred when the show offed its most sympathetic and universally loved female character, Ellen Harvelle, and her daughter Jo in the episode this season where Sam and Dean tried [and failed] to kill the Devil with the magic gun that never kills anything. After multiple seasons of development, during which the audience grew to like and appreciate Ellen and Jo, the two were killed gratuitously in a failed mission. They died for no greater cause or purpose besides the show's inability to countenance a live woman. Misogyny kills, even in narrative form.

Why do I keep watching this show?

EDIT: So I hear that Supernatural has been renewed for a sixth season, which makes me wonder what sort of plot arc can come after the Biblical apocalypse. Anything after that will seem small-scale and jejune. I won't be tuning in. Bye, Supernatural.
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So I just checked out a 42-minute movie, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, on Hulu. It's a love triangle story between aspiring evil mad scientist Dr. Horrible, macho doofus Captain Hammer and activist mushball Penny. It was truly tragic that such witty dialog, catchy songs and all-around solid performances were called into service for an UTTERLY UNORIGINAL AND SEXIST PLOT. I object to the purity, innocence, naivete and kindness of the mushball Penny because these qualities did not make her an effective foil character for the guys; they just objectified her and made her an unintelligent, unperceptive pawn. Her character was so unoriginal, boring and unattractive that I almost quit watching. Vomit vomit vomit. I'm especially annoyed by the putrid sexual politics of this movie because the creators, Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy, are known for slightly more complex, interesting and dynamic portrayals of important female characters. The songs, acting and script were all good, but the plot fucking sucked. Therefore, the film overall gets a mediocre rating, and I'm so deeply offended by the stale sexism that I can't, in good conscience, recommend this to anyone.

P.S. Stalking is not cute, comedic or romantic.
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A post at Sociological Images about the gendering of sperm and egg in popular media got me thinking. I just saw the “brave little sperm” trope on an episode of Family Guy this Monday. Stewie, the hyper-intelligent, destructive, child genius, was celebrating his first birthday. He reminisced about his life in the womb and before, when he was apparently a tiny pilot in a sperm-shaped aircraft [see YouTube clip].

Stewie’s flashback showed him piloting his sperm ship toward the egg and firing at it in a scene reminiscent of the scene in Star Wars where Luke tries to explode the Death Star. He think thinks about being sucked in and “trapped” inside the egg. The relationship between sperm and egg is shown as adversarial, the egg evil, hungry and encompassing, not unlike a vagina dentata.

Of course, this flashback occurs in the context of a cartoon in which everything is supposed to be exaggerated and humorous. However, the fact remains that the humorous exaggeration is presented with gratuitous violence and misogyny. You might argue that violence and misogyny are part of Stewie’s character, which they are, but the flashback does not develop Stewie’s violence and misogyny in a way peculiar to his personality. Instead it just recycles wholesale a tired, sexist cliche about human reproduction.

And this is just one of many reasons that I hate Family Guy.

 
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In the latest Batman reboot, Batman has to deal with both the Joker and Two-Face, all while contemplating whether he's any better than the ends-justify-the-means dudes that he fights. Movie portrays a consistently murky, satisfactorily melancholy vision of Gotham in which it's always night and no one is quite sure they're doing the right thing. New ass-kicking technology, including wings for Batman and a muscular Batmobile with LOITER and INTIMIDATE modes [and the ability to eject a Batbike], provides spectacular pyrotechnics to distract from the fact that most of the acting is serviceable but not exciting. 

Should be telling that the audience cheered and laughed only when the Joker was on the screen. While everyone else is repressed and dire, Ledger's Joker capers in his own manic world, creepy, unpredictable and much more interesting than Bale's Batman, who we know is dull enough to eventually do the right thing [supported, of course, by moralizing from Oldman's Commissioner Gordon].

The movie's strengths are its action scenes, special effects and the Joker. Weak points are the otherwise complete lack of humor, frequently ponderous script and lack of psychological realism, especially in the character of Gyllenhaal's Dawes. Why does Rachel like Harvey Dent? There's no chemistry and no interest. After all those resentful looks she passes Bruce Wayne, why does she insist that his penthouse is the safest location in Gotham? Who cares? This is not a movie about female characters. Screw the female characters. We have no need for them [even though the mayor, some Mob players, Lau and Gordon could be female characters without any problem at all]. This is a movie about MEN and MORALS. Also BIG FUCKING EXPLOSIONS. At these three things, it succeeds.

Three and a half out of five stars!

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 Appealingly fleet in pacing, Tim Burton's adaptation of the opera -- filmed in two colors: sepia and BLOOD RED -- plays up the mordant comedy with stylized performances from all principals. Pasty, broody Johnny Depp, distracted by vengeance, anchors film as Sweeney Todd with a very inward, focused melancholy. Pasty, frazzled Helena Bonham Carter holds up much of the comedy with her insouciant, greasy gaiety as mad scientist of pies Mrs. Lovett. Music is competent, but players mumble too much, but that's not a problem because the simple, pantomime-like nature of the story communicates everything you need to know through body language. Cliched objectification of walking plot points Lucy, Sweeney's wife, and Joanna, Sweeney's daughter, severely mars an otherwise lightweight and satisfying feature.
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I finished American Gothic with equal satisfaction and disappointment. My satisfaction came from Lucas' masterfully done fake death and the neverending tension of the denouement between Lucas, Caleb and Merlyn. 

My disappointment lay in After American Gothic, I have several options.

I've always wanted to see Nip/Tuck, and season 5 is on Hulu. I want to see if Julian McMahon can do a better job than he did in Charmed.

Roswell's angle of powerful half-aliens living among us has intrigued me for a long time, since I've engaged in an epic on the same subject, so there's season 1 of that on Hulu.

Select eps of Outer Limits, an hour-long attempt at a modern Twilight Zone, are also on Hulu.

Though I've already blasted New Amsterdam as boring, it's still so bad that I can't look away. Season 1 continues on Hulu.

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If you want to see a show driven by the power of all-around masterful performances married to a strong, character-driven storyline, check out American Gothic, now available at Hulu. It is an ensemble story of sweet Southern corruption in which forces both good and evil fight for control of a young boy's soul. 

On the good side there's recent Yankee transplant Matt Crower, played with quiet self-possession by Jake Weber, who is such a dry and gentle character in Medium, haunted by his wife and child's death in a DWI accident he caused. There's also Gail Emory, investigative reporter, played by Paige Turco with brooding dignity reminiscent of Yancy Butler at her best, returning to town to look into her parents' suspicious deaths 20 years ago. The boy himself, Caleb, is played by 10-year-old Lucas Black in a startingly intense performance [I love those little, low, dark eyebrows!] that's pretty realistic for a TV depiction of a 10-year-old boy.

On the evil side there's schoolteacher Serena Coombes, played with sexy, slimy relish by Brenda Bakke. And there's Lucas Buck, played by Gary Cole, who is my latest favorite actor. I first noticed him as the Boss From Hell in Office Space, Lumberg, but here, in the starring role, he really gets to show how hellish he can be. As the classic devil, Buck's character operates on fear, doing good things for people, then asking them to pay him back, or else they meet gory demises. He also has an unnerving habit of popping up whenever someone is thinking about disobeying him. He creates a black hole of influence that it seems impossible to escape from. 

The cheesy special effects and fast-motion weather hammer this point home, but Cole's eternally genial front really makes the character work. Even when he's threatening you, Buck does so in a gentlemanly way, which makes his cruelty even more effective and insidious. Cole plays Buck with a certain broadness that comes from his comedic experience, but he also projects such charisma and power that Buck always remains a magnetic and menacing presence. It's a magnificent performance.

Not a perfect show, by any means, American Gothic suffers from a dearth of fully fleshed female characters. While all of the male characters have multiple dimensions, the women remain kinda flat. Gail's the Plucky Gumshoe archetype, and Merlyn, Caleb's dead sister, is the Pure Moral Compass archetype. Tertiary characters are also problematic. In Damned If You Don't, for example, Carter Bowen and family do a favor for Sheriff Buck, which entails letting an escaped con into their house. Said con goes after 15-year-old Poppy Bowen. Wife Etta Bowen ends up dead. I strongly objected to the way that Poppy was portrayed not by the con, but by the SHOW itself, as a Lolita-licious sex object.

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