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For those of you not up on the latest hip party game for people in their 20s and 30s, let me introduce you to Cards Against Humanity. Essentially a group form of multiple choice Mad Libs, this game features a bunch of black cards, which contain sentences with key nouns left out, and a bunch of white cards, which contain nouns or noun phrases. Each player draws a hand of 10 white cards, and then everyone gets a chance to read a black card aloud. After a card is read, players choose from their hand the white card that they think best completes the sentence. These cards are distributed to the reader anonymously. The reader reads the selections aloud and selects the one they like best. The player whose white card is chosen wins the black card. All players draw another white card to keep their hand up to 10, and the role of reading black cards passes to the next player.

In concept, Cards Against Humanity is the sort of game I love. There's no competition and no real winning or losing. The game emphasizes creativity and amusement instead of points and strategy. It's the type of game that grows exponentially more hilarious with more and more players, and it sparks very interesting side conversations when people ask or joke about each other's choices.

In practice, however, I find Cards Against Humanity very problematic in terms of content and framing. The black cards, with their framing sentences, feature mostly topical references familiar to people in their 20s and 30s. Examples include: "What does Prince insist on being included in his dressing room?" and "What does Obama do to unwind?" Fine, no big deal.

It's the white noun cards, though, that drive me up the wall. If they contained only generically amusing phrases such as "murder most foul," "inappropriate yodeling" and "licking things to claim them as your own," I wouldn't object. But no, those cards are a distinct minority. The white cards focus heavily on topics apparently considered taboo or difficult to discuss by the white, straight, cis, male, bourgeois creator, including people of color ["brown people," "the hard-working Mexican"], people with disabilities ["amputees," "Stephen Hawking talking dirty," "a robust Mongoloid," "a spastic nerd," "the profoundly handicapped"], queer people ["the gays," "praying the gay away"], fat people ["feeding Rosie O'Donnell," "the morbidly obese," "home video of Oprah sobbing into a Lean Cuisine"], gender-nonconforming people ["passable transvestites"], genocide ["inappropriately timed Holocaust jokes," "helplessly giggling at the mention of Hutus and Tutsis"], Muslims ["Allah [praise be unto him!]," "72 virgins"], poor people ["poor people," "homeless people"], old people ["Grandma," "hospice care"], child abuse ["child abuse"], rape ["surprise sex"], paraphilias ["German dungeon porn"] and crap ["fiery poops"]. I could go on, but then I'd be quoting the entire suite of white cards.

Cards Against Humanity glancingly acknowledges the problematic structure of its game by billing its audience as "horrible people." "It's as despicable and awkward as you and your friends," crows the main page of the game's Web site. Of course, below this description are various cool publications and people praising the game, so clearly the game's creators see being "despicable and awkward" as a coveted, desirable status. They quote condemnations from the Chicago Tribune ["absurd"], The Economist ["unforgivable"] and NPR ["bad"] in contrast with praise from INC ["hilarious"] and Boing Boing ["funny"]. Thus they associate criticism with old-fashioned, conservative, humorless media outlets full of old people and appreciation with the young, hip, cool crowd. To be "despicable and awkward," then, is ultimately to be cool. 

What does Cards Against Humanity's concept of coolness -- that is, their idea of rebranded despicability qua awesomeness -- entail? Basically it means laughing at anyone who's not a straight, white, cis, bourgeois, hipster dude [like the creator]. Don't try to tell me that, because the game has white cards like "white privilege," it actually critiques those who are discomfited by the concept. No, it doesn't, not when the majority of cards make marginalized people who lack privilege into punchline after punchline after punchline.

If you're still not convinced, let me break it down to you with a single example: the white card that has the phrase "passable transvestites." There is so much wrong with this card that it's hard to know where to start. Well, to begin with, clearly someone thought this phrase worthy of inclusion into the deck of white cards, meaning that someone perceived it as shocking, racy, funny and potentially ridiculous. So what's shocking, racy and entertaining about "passable transvestites?" Yeah, a gender nonconforming person who goes out in public en femme so that they avoid being clocked always makes me laugh. The stats on trans and other gender nonconforming people being harassed, assaulted and killed provide comic relief every time I read them. The outdated language on this white card -- the vexed concept of "passable," coupled with the no-longer-used, clinical-sounding "transvestite" -- signals that the game's creators are hung up on old-fashioned binaries of gender presentation, the transgression of which they find hilarious and pathetic, instead of a matter of life and death.

I can make the same points about Cards Against Humanity's treatment of people with disabilities, the prejudice against whom can be summed up in a single white card: "Stephen Hawking talking dirty." Yup, yup, of course, people who are neuroatypical, emotionally atypical and physically atypical to the extent that society doesn't really know how to accommodate them -- they're comedy gold! I mean, really -- can you imagine a man with paralysis talking dirty? First of all, he'd be doing it with the help of his computer, which is inherently hilarious, you know, because he can't really talk. Second of all, it would imply that he, despite being unable to move parts of his body, has active sexual desires and interests, which is a shock, because no paralyzed person has ever had sexual interests and agency before -- ever! They're just...like... wheelchair-bound automatons. Yeah, "the profoundly handicapped" are a gas all right. Yet again, Cards Against Humanity's decision to employee the passe and offensive term "handicapped" shows that they're not interested in mocking prejudice, but in perpetuating it.

EDIT: As rosettanettle points out in a comment on my LJ crosspost, the creator of Cards Against Humanity expressed regret for the "passable transvestites" white card, which is now no longer included in decks. This does not, however, negate any of my points. If anything, it reinforces them, since the creator's expression of "regret," which came only because he was called on his transphobia, comes across as less a regret of treasuring bigoted tenets and more a regret at getting caught. I also suspect his theatrical Tumblr photoset of him lighting the card on fire of being a self-aggrandizing performance so that he may be showered with praise about what an enlightened ally he is. Why do straight, cis, white, middle-class dudes think they deserve extra special plaudits for meeting minimum standards of decency? "Despicable," indeed.
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Greer Gilman, master of purple involuted mock-Jacobean epics, muses about one of my favorite themes. The girls who have adventures in labyrinths fare differently compared to the boys. [Also she has a bone to pick with Tehanu's crabbed domesticity in Ursula Le Guin's novel of the same name. So do I, Gilman. So do I.]

I like her observation that the girls [Ariadne, Alice, Eilonwy from -- yack! -- the endlessly irritating Book of Three, Arha/Tehanu, Sarah] find their ways out; they know where they're going. Meanwhile, the boys [Theseus, the White Knight {?}, Taran, Sparrowhawk/Ged, Jareth] don't; they get lost and bonk around aimlessly. They're "clueless," Gilman says, which is to say without a clue...or without a clew, Ariadne's map-like ball of thread that knows the way through the passages. ["Clue" as a hint of a guide derives from "clew" qua thread. I love etymology!]

So why do we only hear of the boys getting out and through the maze? Why don't we ever hear of the girls who get to know their labyrinths and walk through the darkness, unafraid of Minotaurs?

Beats me. For some reason, Inanna's descent to the otherworld ain't considered as compelling. Why not???

Pfffffft.

Goin' to read Moonwise again, even though it drives me up the wall.

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Coming in Xmas 2014! Watch the preview! Hopefully it features less racism and sexism than the 1982 version with Aidan Quinn!

I'm actually really excited about this! I have fond memories of the 1982 version as one of of the few movies of my childhood focusing on a female protagonist's experience [the other two being The Journey of Natty Gann and Labyrinth] and allowing her to fully develop as a character! Also I like the soundtrack! And my Annie doll!

Wouldn't it be neat if there was an Annie doll from this movie that actually looked like Quvenzhane Wells? I would snap that up in a moment! Quvenzhane Wells is talented and adorable! I'm going to see this movie, possibly in the theater!
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Here's Lesley Gore doing You Don't Own Me in 1989 with the same expressive passion that she imbued the performance I recently mentioned. I love the way she bounces on her toes, as if the force of her voice is going to sweep her off her feet. She looks so grounded and so powerful.
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This video of Lesley Gore, most likely around 17 or 18, singing You Don't Own Me live, fascinates me. She sings with such joy and passion and expressiveness; she clearly loves to sing! Plus she's hot; I love her baggy eyes and her long straight nose and her rectangular face and those amazing flickery eyebrows. It also doesn't hurt that she's one of us. :D
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Though generally not a fan of Jennifer Connelly's one-note performance as Sarah in Labyrinth [where that one note = HUH???], I do love the way she delivers that line. She starts off reciting the little climactic speech from the play that she was struggling with in the beginning.

As she begins, you can see her speaking pro forma, mouthing the words because that's the function of the Protagonist during a Showdown with the Antagonist. Staring into middle distance, not really at Jareth, she goes through the motions necessary to achieve the Climax...

...And then she stalls on "kingdom as great." While she's wracking her brains, Jareth takes the opportunity to butt in with a truly ridiculous show of groveling: the "Do as I say, and I will be your slave" speech that has launched a thousand kinky OTPs.

Sarah continues to try to remember the next Step in the Formulaic Process, but then you can actually see the moment where she stops. She looks up at Jareth and really perceives him for the first time in that scene. You can see her realizing that, for all his bluster, he's terrified of her. You can see her deciding that he's no longer worth it. You can see that weight of terror lifting from her shoulders. You can see her confidence blooming as she looks straight into his eyes, standing up a little taller, even smiling a bit.

At that moment, she's finally full of herself and her own power. You can see her pride and her hope and her determination when she states with calm finality and some amazement, "You have no power over me." Those words happen to be the Next Words in the Spell of Confrontation, but, more importantly, they are the words with which Sarah seizes her own agency after an entire movie of being a whiny, reactive, powerless girl. HURRAY!!!!
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...and women are officially allowed [gee, thanks!] in combat in the US armed forces, are we going to be drafted?
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Thanks to Racialicious, I just watched episode 1 of Awkward Black Girl. It's a first-person Web-based comedy series with short eps about ABG's awkward social life. Issa Rae, the creator, director, writer and star, is hilarious. Watch her express her frustrations by secretly writing rap lyrics in her bedroom. There's 1 season of 12 short eps out so far.
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Not only is Ivan Doroschuk hot, energetic and smirky, with a shuddersomely wonderful voice, but he's also...GASP...a feminist! Hey Men kind of blows my mind, being as it is a song about respecting women and children and, for men, embracing a wider, more compassionate definition of masculinity. No wonder this song never made any hit lists.

EDIT: This just in. Ivan Doroschuk is also a great big geek. He has been known to jump around in circles singing ["Tell me tell me tell me where do the boys go?!"] regularly and play air guitar at his own shows.

EDIT EDIT: I'm gonna have to buy the Live Hats concert DVD and somehow get the music off it. Here's another awesome tune -- Security -- about being haunted by one's confidence. And here's the creepy original, apparently not available on CD anywhere.

EDIT EDIT EDIT: If I made a 1:6 Ivan Doroschuk, it would fail to capture his appeal because much of his magnetism comes from the sheer abandon with which he flings himself about in spasmodic blitheness.

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[profile] bellatrys rambles intriguingly about Labyrinth in an entry from November, 2007, and why it's so powerful...because of the final showdown. In the final showdown, where Jareth grovels and Sarah stares him down, we receive an example of a climax so rarely according female protagonists: the direct confrontation with the evil and the rejection thereof. Sarah sees through Jareth's bullshit; she acknowledges her equality with, indeed, her supremacy OVER, him. She rebalances her life by asserting herself to be the stronger character. I agree with bellatrys' comment that the movie should have ended there, without the puppet party afterward. [Found via The Hathor Legacy.]

All of this makes me think that, even though I no longer actively work on Jareth's Realm, Labyrinth remains the dominant narrative template through which I live my life. It keeps infiltrating all of my own artistic endeavors.
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Does it make a difference? Does its capacity for change depend on how many readers you have? How does it measure in efficacy compared to writing letters to the editor, sending complaint E-mails, protesting with signs on the town green, marching in yearly celebratory parades, boycotting, writing sarcastic graffiti on ads, making Web comics, praying, delivering sermons, donating to fundraisers, yelling at your TV, lobbying local/state/national government, etc.?
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Sociological Images drew my attention to Viktoria [interview and photos here], the May 2008 cover model for Bizarre, a British glossy about fetish activities and style. Viktoria is a woman in her early 20s who designs and models fetishwear. Her left leg is amputated below the knee. As Lisa asks in SocIm:

What makes Viktoria “bizarre”?  Is it her amputated leg?  Is it the fact that she has an amputated leg and is still incredibly sexy?  Or is it that she has an amputated leg and still considers herself a sexual person?
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...is that Mahy explicitly identifies witchcraft as a feminine power, then makes Laura's partner, Sorry, a male witch. I'm not thrilled with the idea that certain powers are inherently masculine or feminine, but I definitely like the idea of a male character trying to reconcile himself to the fact that his power is not gendered in the same way that he is expected to be. In an interview about The Changeover, Mahy comments:

...[T]he boy...in spite of everything retained something of his original feminine quality... something he fights against by assuming a degree of sexual aggressivenes. Behind him stand the figures of his mother and grandmother and he has inherited qualities from them that give him an ambivalent nature. 

As Laura goes through her changeover, growing up into her sexual, protective, assertive power, Sorry simmers down from the aforementioned prickliness. He realizes that his front as a bullying, sexually aggressive asshole is a defensive overlay that occludes his actual strengths. In the actual chapters when Laura does her changeover, he coaches her and accompanies her, much like a midwife. This is where he shines: as a guardian, a comforter, a restorer, a carer. He ends up accepting his witchcraft and his role as a nurturer, rather than a predator. This is how he makes sense of his supposedly feminine powers.

Clearly I need my own copy of this book, preferably the hardcover edition with the beautiful cover.
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In The Changeover by Margaret Mahy, as in Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, a young schoolgirl meets an older, wiser, handsome young man. She, with her sharp-tongued asperity, and he, with his awkward remoteness, both lack social graces. Both distant from the usual flurry of teenage life, they are attracted to each other. The girl discovers that the boy is magical and that he lives with a family that are just as supernatural as he is. Increasingly intimate with the boy, the girl struggles with her attraction not only to him, but to the magical power that he and his family represent. Will she choose normal life or an isolating life of power beyond her wildest imagination?
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I zipped through Innocence by Jane Mendelsohn, a metaphor-drugged story about Beckett, a young teen girl who grieves the death of her mother. When her father marries the school nurse and Beckett gets her horribly painful period, she suspects sinister and blood-related hunger lurking beneath the surface of her new stepmother. Eventually Beckett determines that her new stepmom is out for blood and that she, Beckett, is the Last Girl of the horror films, who must either confront the monster or become its culminating victim.

As you can see by the reviews on Amazon, this book is either a work of transcendent genius or a piece of unreadable, pretentious fluff, depending on the perspective of the reader. I personally liked it.
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What's a dragontaur? you ask. It's a therianthropic creature that, similar to a centaur, has the top half of a human growing where the dragon's neck would be. As you can see from the picture below, taken in the dragontaurs' natural habitat, they are fiercely feminist creatures who do not deal kindly with stupid comments from wanna-be heroes.
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