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Taking as a springboard Mary Cheney's comparison between drag and blackface, Miz Cracker posts on Slate's Outward Bound with a discussion of the two subjects. Miz Cracker notes that, at base, Cheney objected to drag because she saw it as a mockery of an oppressed group [women] created by a powerful group [men] for degrading purposes. Miz Cracker wonders if drag is inherently misogynist.

Miz Cracker basically argues that drag is not like blackface because blackface is inherently racist, while drag is not inherently misogynist. The comparison between blackface and drag breaks down because blackface and minstrelsy used to be ubiquitous idioms with great cultural influence, but drag has never achieved such a pervasive high profile. That's because blackface was performed by the oppressors in positions of power, whereas drag has been performed by oppressed people in positions of marginalization. I'm not sure how this is relevant to the presence or absence of misogyny in drag.

In fact, I think Miz Cracker's contrast between blackface and drag breaks down because it does not recognize multiple axes of oppression. When she argues that drag has been performed by oppressed people who are marginalized, she's referring to gay/queer men marginalized by their sexuality. However, though gay men may be marginalized on the axis of sexuality, they do have the privilege of being men in a misogynist society. Therefore, when men do drag, no matter what their sexual orientations, they may also be seen as performers in positions of power [as men] compared to the people that they are portraying [women]. Miz Cracker's insistence that it's just a few individually misogynist queens who mess up the whole art form entirely ignores the complex structure of drag and its location at the intersection of mutiple axes of power and oppression.

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As much as I hate to draw attention to stories that portray people with disabilities as sources of inspiration, I'm linking to this story about Paul Smith. For decades, he used a select ten characters from a typewriter to create intricate works of art. I love the bold and yet sketchy lines he makes. Very cool!

Yes, it is relevant to Smith's art that he had cerebral palsy. His inability to use a more traditional instrument such as a brush or pencil prompted him to employ the typewriter. However, there's absolutely no need to describe Smith as "suffering from" a "terrible condition" and therefore "remarkable" and "awe-inspiring" because he created art. There's no indication that Smith perceived himself as suffering, burdened or even awe-inspiring. In a video about his work, he says, "It's something to do." As far as I can tell, he was enjoying himself as he listened to classical music and meticulously created his masterpieces character by character. I'm not claiming that Smith had a purely joyous existence -- for example, he didn't attend mainstream school, which leads me to speculate that he might have felt painfully lonely in his youth -- but I'm not seeing the horrible suffering that this stinky article assumes he felt.

I desperately loathe the trope of disabled person as inspiration to non-disabled people. The OddityCentral article epitomizes the dehumanization implicit in this theme when it concludes, "He died on June 24, 2007, at the Rose Haven Nursing Center in Roseburg, Oregon, but left behind an impressive portfolio of typewriter art, and most importantly the inspiration that you can overcome anything in life, if you put your mind to it." This sentence dismisses the entire content, texture and detail of Smith's life by depicting him solely as an oppressed person who miraculously overcame his oppression to make art. It assumes that Smith's disability can be separated from his experience and art, that it's a barrier between him and a fulfilling life -- because there's obviously no way a person with a disability could ever have a fulfilling, happy life while also having a disability. In short, this sentence dehumanizes Smith by assuming that an inextricable part of his life, his cerebral palsy, can be excised like an early stage of cancer.

But the article isn't satisfied with chopping up Smith into neat little segments [Person vs. Disability] and comparing him to some  non-disabled person's ridiculous standard of a fulfilling life. No, the conclusion dehumanizes him a second time as well when it dismisses his artistic accomplishments and legacy, claiming that Smith's status as "inspiration" is more important. Yes, who cares about Smith's life and art and disability and the relationships among these elements of his experience? Smith was not a significant person who deserved dignity and respect like all other beings. No! He was a superhuman exception to humanity whose primary purpose in this world was to educate the lowly non-disabled people about how we, too, can distance ourselves from the revolting materiality of our weak and mortal flesh and transform ourselves into pure creative mind, ascending to a plane where physical pains and distinctions are irrelevant.

I also hate the Supercrip narrative because of its creaky old Cartesian dualist underpinnings that smack strongly of racism and sexism. Relatedly, Eddie Ndopu discusses just such misogyny and racism inherent in portrayals of Reeva Steenkamp's killer, athlete and miserable human being Oscar Pistorius. [My other discussions of sexism, ableism and racism at work in Steenkamp's murder and the portrayal thereof can be found at "Reeva Steenkamp, 29, is dead" and "Reeva Steenkamp still dead; ex still to blame, but declared innocent of murder by courts."]

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I finally got to watch the first ep of season 2 this morning. Overall I feel a sense of relief that all significant characters introduced in the previous season remain in action.

Nicole Beharie as Abby and Tom Mison as Ichabod re-establish their easy, sympathetic chemistry. Their characters each have equal opportunity to rescue and be rescued by each other, a refreshing change from other male/female TV pairs in which the man does all the rescuing of the woman.

Jenny, Abby's sister, has survived so far, giving Lyndie Greenwood a chance to play an important auxiliary to Abby and Ichabod. Even more unflinching and martial than Abby, Jenny contributes a satisfying level of physical ass-kicking, as well as great affection for Abby. Grounded by her relationship with her sister, Abby escapes the Exceptional Woman trope/trap.

John Cho and John Noble return to bolster the main characters with some stellar supporting performances. Cho's sniveling, pathetic Andy, who alternates between helping and betraying Abby, decides to do the former in this episode. I hope he recurs, as I find his status as regretful servant of evil, who nevertheless performs good acts, interesting. Noble's Horseman of War, also Ichabod and Katrina's son [?!], lurks ominously, threatening people in the plummy tones of a classically trained actor, while picking scenery from between his teeth. I'm having a very, very hard time dissociating Noble from his 5 seasons as Walter in Fringe.

All that said, I do have some reservations. First of all, where was Captain Irving?!?!?!?! How dare you deprive us of Orlando Jones for an episode, especially right after he gave himself up to law enforcement? He'd better show up soon, along with his family too. Sleepy Hollow can't just not show a whole third of the characters of color like that!

I particularly want to see Irving's daughter Macey return and get some development. As a wheelchair user since getting into a car crash with her dad and then as a temporary vessel for some demon, she smacked a little too much of the Tragic Tabula Rasa Cripple last season. However, I think her brush with demonic possession could provide a chance for some character development. Maybe she could link up to the demon realm and give Abby and Ichabod some guidance therefrom? Of course, this will probably not happen.

Second of all, Katia Winter as Katrina, Ichabod's wife, just gets the raw end of things. Despite billing Katrina as a main character, the show grievously underwrites her. For example, her fascinating past as a powerful witch who joined a coven dedicated to protecting the town -- this aspect of her character dwindles over the first season as her status as pawn in the struggle between Ichabod and the Headless Horseman grows. Furthermore, where a person with more acting skills, like Nicole Beharie, Lyndie Greenwood or, heck, even Amandla Stenberg [who plays Macey], might add something to the role, Winter can't even muster that. The stereotyped nature of her character just shows up how untalented she is. 

I eagerly await further episodes, however!
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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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Wow, Slate actually has an interesting article for once! On Outward ["expanding the LGBTQ conversation," whatever the hell that means], Miz Cracker writes a post on "Getting into Drag: The Many Meanings of Being a Queen." To answer the question of what drag is, the author interviews other drag performers. In bullet form, her findings are as follows:
  • Drag ain't necessarily about looking glamorous and fashionable. Nor is it necessarily about appearing unclockably feminine.
  • Drag may be thought of as an acting job, performance art in which one creates and embodies a character.
  • Drag usually has subversive elements in which the performers comment on and criticize society.
  • Drag has an ambiguous relationship to trans identities. For some people, drag is a means to seriously explore alternative gender presentations. For others, it is not particularly reflective of their own gender identities.
In my estimation, Miz Cracker neglects some important aspects of drag. For one thing, she doesn't really interrogate drag queening's history as an art practiced by men, frequently in comic contexts. Thus it has an ambiguous relationship to the concepts of femininity and womanhood. In its exaggerated style, does drag reflect a loving tribute to women and femininity? Is it rather an over-the-top misogynist mockery? Drag is not inherently fabulous and therefore unproblematic, and I think a truly substantive inquiry into its nature should address its messy history.

For another thing, how does race play into dragging? Toward the end of her article, Miz Cracker refers to Kizha Carr's treatment of racism in one of her routines. She also adds that drag "is the only forum where [she] can speak candidly...about the issues shaping [her] life," one of which includes racism. Right, so drag queens of color may take race as a subject for commentary, but how does race more generally inflect queens' initial decisions to go into drag queening and then the development of their art in general? Drag queens from different racial and ethnic backgrounds probably have different reasons and philosophies, depending on their cultures of origin, that help them interpret their work, and we can't have a full discussion about the meanings and goals of drag without that information.

Finally, how does socioeconomic class contribute to the discourse on drag? All the queens in Miz Cracker's article, including the author herself, talk about performing in bars, dealing with sexual harassment from audience members, etc. In other words, the queens spend much of their time playing small venues and not earning tons of money. They work hard and depend on an uncertain income. Even though Bob TheDragQueen appears in the article with bling that says RICH clamped between her teeth, she and her sisters probably really aren't. 
What's going on here? Aspirations to upward mobility? A proclamation of self-worth through looking richly caparisoned? I dunno, but I'd sure like to find out.
 

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...check out the E-mail that landed in my box yesterday. For context, Daz produces digital models and ancillary content; one of their most popular characters is Aiko, a model with manga-inspired proportions and appearance [who, I might add, grows less manga-like and more realistic with each iteration :( ]. The latest version, Aiko 6, debuted recently, and so has new content for her. Daz also recently released Lee 6, "an Asian-inspired character for Genesis 2 Male(s)" [their words, not mine], so content for this character has been appearing as well.

Read more... )
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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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 ...with Barbie and all her friends because, for the most part, it manages to balance light humor at no one's expense with slapstick and clever in-jokes. Midge as snorting, safety-obsessed introvert who talks like the 1950s also cracks me up -- and she's so cute when she appears in Smidge of Midge in greyscale!

I also really like Ken, who ultimately ends up being portrayed as just another character who happens to be Barbie's boyfriend, rather than the major plot motor and deus ex machina of the series. He's goofy and utterly devoted to Barbie ["Barbie sense...tingling..."] and supremely confident enough in his masculinity to invent a super-sophisticated closet for all his girlfriend's clothes. In other words, rather than having gay panic over activities often coded as queer, Ken does IT, back-end programming for the Super Style Squad [actually saying, "Beep boop bop," with Skipper as they hit buttons ^_^ ]. I can't tell you how happy I am to see a cartoon where all the characters, male and female, take fashion, style, clothing, etc., etc., etc., seriously, and no one shits on it for being trivially feminine. That's actually kind of revolutionary.

Life in the Dreamhouse would be even better if it ditched its racism and ableism. For example:
  • The cast needs more POC in significant speaking roles besides Nikki.
  • While we're discussing Nikki, she needs to develop a modicum of personality beyond Sassy Black Friend. For God's sake, she even does the head jerks and vocal fry so routinely associated with this stereotype. Everyone else has some interest or trait to differentiate them [Teresa's monkey, Midge's macrame, Summer's high energy, Skipper's use of gadgets, Ryan's really bad songs], but Nikki has nothing.
  • Furthermore, the show needs to stop using Afros as a visual shorthand for disastrous hairdos. When all characters have shiny, sleek, straight hair and curly, kinky, gravity-defying clouds of natural locks are depicted as the ridiculous punchlines to jokes, people with such curly, kinky hair are derided by extension.
  • The ableism needs to go too. Any use of "lame" as an adjective meaning "bad quality, boring, uninteresting, etc." should be scratched from the script pronto. Ditto for any appearance of "crazy" for "wild, unusual, strange, exciting" or "cray cray" for same. Just cut it out.
  • In terms of additions, I think that Life in the Dreamhouse would be greatly improved by the appearance of Becky, a photographer friend of Barbie who uses a wheelchair. I mean, c'mon -- if they can devote the air time to a running gag on the inadequate single elevator in the Dreamhouse, surely they can devote an episode to its upgrade and Barbie and Becky's happiness when Becky can finally get to the second floor to see her super-awesome closet, right?
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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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Bared to You by Sylvia Day [Crossfire #1] shares a lot in common with the [unfortunately] more popular Shades of Grey by E.L. James. As in the 50 Shades trilogy, the Crossfire trilogy follows the first-person adventures of an administrative-assistant-level young woman, Eva in Bared to You, and her rollercoaster relationship with a young rich man, Gideon in Bared to You, who owns the company for which she works. They have sex and fight a lot, sometimes simultaneously. Their relationship involves some bdsm, submission for the protagonist, domination for the love interest. A series of assumptions, piss-offs, misunderstandings, apologies, jealousies, running-aways and reconciliations passes for plot. And don't forget the sex. At the end, the reader is exhausted, but there are still two books to go!

But that's where the similarities end. Crossfire exceeds 50 Shades in quality at every level.
Read more... )
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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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Interactive and/or serialized and/or illustrated sci fi/fantasy stories decorated with a mid-century pulpy flair appear to contain actual women and people of color! 
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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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...Poorly Dressed is racist. Also classist and sexist. It's a site on the Cheezburger network that mocks "seriously questionable style moments." They derive a lot of their mockery from the fantastic things that women of color do with their hair.

In a textbook example, a WOC who sculpted an Easter basket out of her hair + weave got trashed. She [or her hairdresser] demonstrated amazing creativity and ingenuity to create an eye-catching work of art that then got shit on by the Intertubez, where commenters characterized her as a cheap, tacky, "ghetto" person with no sense of style. Basically she was vilified for being a WOC whose hairstyle [e.g., using a weave] is associated with poor and working class women.
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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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Last year, I observed that Sy Fy hates women of color. I would like to extend this observation by saying that the network is clearly involved in an eliminationist campaign against all characters of color in its shows.

I say this because I recently watched the season 3 finale of Haven, who follows the adventures of Audrey Parker, whose reincarnations are somehow tied to the waxing and waning of the supernatural Troubles in Haven, Maine. The season follows Audrey, Nathan [love interest] and Duke [fifth wheel] as they track the serial killer du jour and learn more about Audrey's past lives. Wheeee.

Season 3 blatantly demonstrates the show's structural racism in its disposal of men of color. A black man, Tommy Bowen, appears early on as a detective from Boston with a personal interest in catching the Bolt Gun Killer [BGC -- serial killer du jour]. He hangs around, making skeptical quips about the Troubles and generally not doing anything, until about halfway through the season. At that point, it is revealed that he is the BGC, or, more accurately, the shapeshifting BGC killed him several weeks before this discovery and has been pretending to be him for a while. So basically the showrunners went to all that trouble of developing a character of color, giving him a name, backstory, arc and significance...solely for the purpose of killing him off. Since the same thing happened to Evie Crocker in season 2 and since there are practically no other named, recurring, developed characters of color on the show [with one exception -- see below], it's very clear that the show runners hate people of color.

My worst fears about Sy Fy's eliminationist program were confirmed in the season 3 finale of Haven. Another man of color, Agent Howard, reappears after an extended absence. Originally introduced as Audrey's supervising agent, he is the person who originally sends her to Haven in the pilot. He is apparently orchestrating events behind the scenes with his mysterious magical powers, as we see him occasionally in the ensuing few seasons, but we know very little about him.

Anyway, in the finale, we finally learn [SPOILERS!!!!!] that he functions as the ageless guardian of the Barn, a magical recharging station into which Audrey is supposed to disappear every 27 years so that the Troubles may temporarily stop. Audrey, Nathan and Duke try to get explanations from him, but Agent Howard remains firm that Audrey has to go into the Barn to stop the Troubles; there's no other way. Well, unless Audrey wants to kill the person she loves [Nathan], which would end the troubles forever.

Audrey doesn't wish to do that, so she enters the Barn anyway to at least give Haven a 27-year respite from supernatural hell. Nathan, upset, reacts by shooting Howard [part of an incredibly stupid gunfight], bringing the total of significant secondaries who die during this episode to four. And the Black Guy Bites It, disappearing into shards of light along with the Barn. Audrey spends so much time trying to combat the Troubles, but she never notices the most deleterious one of all: the racist vortices of death that inevitably suck in all characters of color who come to Haven.

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I used to have this doll: a Hasbro Classic Collection Vietnam nurse from about 2000 or so. She was my drag king. Then I got rid of her, but now I want her back and can't find her anywhere! I can find the AA helo pilot and the Caucasian nurses, but no AA nurse. Come back to me, drag king!

Read more... )
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I made some 1:6 scale spaghetti this week. At first I coveted Rement's Fun Meals #8, Spaghetti and Meatballs, but it's out of print and running at ridiculous prices on Ebay. I am not paying $20.00 for a plate of plastic spaghetti! I don't even pay that much for a plate of real spaghetti.

Anyway, I decided to make my own. I mixed up some yellowish tan polymer clay and rolled it into a long thin string. The I swirled the string into a pile and cured it. After curing, I added sauce. The lumpy consistency of the acrylic paint worked in my favor, giving the appearance of tomato chunks and possibly pieces of ground beef.
Read more... )


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Tutorial on DOA: http://www.denofangels.com/forums/showthread.php?39703-Tutorial-on-dyeing-your-doll-(with-pics)

Discussion thread on DOA: http://www.denofangels.com/forums/showthread.php?50004-Dyeing-a-Doll

spamsama's tutorial in DOA discussion thread: http://www.denofangels.com/forums/showthread.php?50004-Dyeing-a-Doll&p=1951682&viewfull=1#post1951682

Tutorial on BJD_WTF: http://bjd-wtf.livejournal.com/2251.html
  • Basically...Tan RIT dye is recommended for darkening a doll's skin color. Some have also have good results with cocoa brown...not dark brown.
  • I have to prepare the dye by adding it to warm/hot water, which I then bring to a boil. Then I have to dunk each part that I want colored, making sure not to let the piece hit the bottom of the pot, checking frequently to see if I am achieving the tone I want.
  • I also need to keep stirring the dye to make sure that it does not settle to the bottom of the pot.
  • When parts are the appropriate color, rinse with hot water to get rid of extra dye, then cold water to cool everything down.
This sounds like so much fun! I am definitely doing this with Metel when she arrives! \o/
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I forgot that Chaz is a woman of color! [She is a tan Batchix Nan Sook.]

I wonder if Lumedoll or Tinybear would sell just some 1:6 scale tan heads to me?

Ooooh, a fellow Figurvore member made a hybrid from a Tinybear Coco and a Hujoo Wings. I like that idea!

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On October 23, 2012, I listed the 1:6 scale BJDs I wanted: Elfdoll Doona Ryung, Xagadoll Lara, Tinybear Bonbon, Alchemic Lab Unoa Light Fluorite and Souldoll Soul Little Metel. In less that three months, I've acquired all of them [counting my Alchemic Lab Azurite for the Fluorite] except for Xagadoll Lara. I'm less interested in Lara these days, so I'm fine with not having her.

With all of my previous 1:6 scale resin wants satisfied, I now covet, In no particular order, the following:
  • Soom Faery Legend Auber. White or grey, it doesn't matter.
  • Soom Faery Legend Cylin. She's the female equivalent of Kremer [Flower], with separate fluttery transparent ears. I just saw an owner picture of her on the DOA marketplace, and she's really cute. She's one of the less popular Faery Legends.
  • Lumedoll Lumelight Koit in tan.
Easiest to get would be Koit, since he's still in print. Second easiest would be Cylin, as she appears on the secondhand market with some frequency. Hardest to get would be Auber, who very rarely appears on the secondary market.

Blah blah BLAH!!!

P.S. I have a disturbing lack of dolls of color in this iteration of my population. Pretty much everyone is "white skin" or "normal skin," with the exception of my Limhwa Sara [currently known as Kristin]. I am now considering dyeing a few people...like my incoming Souldoll Soul Little Metel. Maybe Dillon too...apparently he's already been dyed [and then undyed -- poor little dude]. And maybe some Me and My Muses secondaries like Avery [Lumedoll Lumelight Elin] or Mazzy [Lumedoll Lumelight Arine] when they're done.

Heck...I just realized that I have an unused Soom Mini Gem body [temporarily occupied by Isabel] and an extra Elfdoll Kathlen sleeping faceplate [previously Absinthe]. I need to make a headback, and then I can experiment with dyeing that. Woooooo hoooo!

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Is there any interest in seeing the first three episodes in an aborted 1:6 scale melodrama, The Pink Squad, written [and crappily photoed] nearly a decade ago?

It was my earliest scripted photostory series [as opposed to my earlier, pictures-only attempt], and it contains many of the characters and themes that we know and love today:
  • Female protagonists
  • Queer characters
  • Trans characters
  • Disabled characters
  • Characters of color
  • Vermonters
  • Kinky sex
  • Horny robots
  • Mad science
  • An amazing amount of sarcasm
  • PINK HAIR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111eleventy

DISCLAIMER:
If I do post this story, please note that it contains humor that I thought was funny back then, but which now strikes me as blatantly racist, sexist or transphobic. That's the main reason I've refrained from making it public again.

On second thought, maybe I'll just summarize it or something. There are some cool, engaging, humorous, well-developed aspects to it, but it's also a glaring example of How Not to Write People with Marginalized Identities.

Or maybe there's no rehabilitating a bigoted piece of personal history, as fascinating as I find it for reasons of historical creativity. Arrrrgh, I dunno.

EDIT: Fuck it. Discretion is the better part of valor. No Pink Squad for you.

P.S. Earlier I wondered if Baozha started me on my pink hair kick. Uhhhhhhh, nope. I place all the blame at the feet of the Pink Squad.
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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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I enjoy Warehouse 13 as an entertaining time-passer with engaging interplay between the main characters. I do not enjoy irrelevant racism in my escapist fare.

For some reason, ep 4.5, No Pain, No Gain, kicked off with Myka and Claudia in yellowface geisha drag over in Japan, where two stereotypes were seated at a kotatsu. The Japanese stereotype invoked Ancient Oriental Mythology and spoke broken English like, well, a Japanese stereotype. The Middle Eastern stereotype forked over the proverbial briefcase of cash for a magical artifact, but, interestingly enough, he was unable to speak. Myka and Claudia nabbed the artifact and returned home with heads full of Japanese stereotypes. Why do people do this lazy shit? Do they think it's funny? It's so contemptible.
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I'm ready to read Nalo Hopkinson's entire oeuvre! Partly because Midnight Robber sounds awesome [and has a cover apparently drawn by my favorite illustrators, Leo and Diane Dillon] and partly because I need an antidote to all those stories that treat Voudun like a lazy trashcan stereotype for "primitive evil magic." [I'm looking at you, Chasing the Dead by Joe Schreiber, for just one of innumerable examples.]

The local library even has some of her books available for borrowing. Very surprising, given that Vermont is like the second whitest state in the nation.

EDIT: Oh no, Leo Dillon is dead! No more beautiful collaborations.
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I've been reading Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: The Remarkable Journey of Siamese [sic] Twins from Slavery to the Courts of Europe, by Joanne Martell. It's a biography of conjoined twins Millie and Christine McKoy, who were born into slavery in North Carolina in 1851. Owned/Managed by a variety of people during their lifetimes, they toured with sideshows in both the U.S. and Great Britain as singers and dancers. They died in 1912.


Discussion of rape, dehumanization and sexual assault behind the cut. )
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Earlier this week, I fired off an enraged letter to one of the authors of a NYT article about the death by suspicious fire of Lorena Escalera, a trans woman of color. The article was a vile cesspit of sexism, transmisogyny, transphobia, racism, bias against sex workers, stereotypes, objectification, dehumanization, othering and probably many other forms of bigotry that I am not currently picking up on.

The NYT responded to the criticism with vacuous, unsympathetic justifications that positively reeked of unexamined privilege. GLAAD analyzed the paper's response, accurately describing many of its shortcomings. I should note that the GLAAD critique does not, however, recognize the NYT's bias against sex workers in the article about Escalera.

If the NYT really wanted to, as it claimed, "capture the personal [story]" of Escalera, why didn't it do what most writers of articles about dead people do and incorporate information from people who actually knew her? Some people among her social circle of friends, family members and fellow performers at the House of Xtravaganza would have provided comments on what they remembered her for and how much they missed her. Instead of interviewing the neighborhood ignoramuses who had no respect for Escalera as a woman or as a person, the NYT should have sought out quotes from people who saw her as she was: a fellow individual deserving respect. But no...the paper merely perpetuated multiple axes of oppression by selecting a narrative of dehumanization.
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The NYT writes about Nepalese pedicurists practicing in New York City. These people, almost all women, face challenges if they move to the US. Some Nepalese women decide to go into the salon industry because licensure is affordable and relatively quick. When it comes to pedicures, however, some newly minted Nepalese salon workers balk:

Women in Nepal, especially Hindus, touch only their husbands’ or parents’ feet as a sign of respect, said Tara Niraula, an advocate of immigrants’ rights and a former administrator at the New School who was born in Nepal and is considered an expert on Nepalis in New York. To touch strangers’ feet is to show deference they have not earned, Dr. Niraula said, and to label oneself as low-class, or at least lower than the person whose feet are being handled.

A pedicure customer reacts to this cultural aversion with surprise and the following response: “You would think she was born to do this.”

Wow, how insulting. The customer's comment dismisses the salon employee's choices and hard work, not to mention the cultural differences and bigotry she endures. Instead, the economically privileged customer naturalizes a brown woman genuflecting in servitude before her by saying that the salon employee's skills seem innate. It's a subtle form of objectification that takes part of the same racist assumption that people of certain colors are just meant to be enslaved.

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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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When I first made Qingting, a Hun type vampire and associate of Chow Bang, she was an American Girl Girls of Many Lands doll on a cut-down Obitsu body, but I didn't like that because it was too tall and the arm fastenings too frail. I now have a new body for her, closer to her original height of 9". See photo below for how I transferred her original torso, hands and feet onto a 23cm Obitsu framework.

The next photo shows another GOML I've worked on recently. She was original a Yupik Native Alaskan character, Minuk, but she has now been repurposed and rearticulated to be Maggie, Absinthe's sort-of niece.Read more... )
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Disney's upcoming animated pile of bull hooey, The Princess and the Frog, apparently takes my subject line as a thesis.
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Another trade with corsetkitten yields a bad-ass doll [photo by Mick Balte] done by Character Options with no designated character...although I suspect she will become Alicia, Janet and Velvette's mom, an ex-feminist porn star turned evangelical Christian and writer of devotional poetry.

After college, Alicia and friends moved out West to start their feminist porn company. Alicia had her kids with some of her fellow start-up dudes in the business, then moved to her hometown area, Boston, to escape the volatile world of Californian porn in order to raise her daughters.

She has a long history of disappointment in her daughters because they appear to take after her own sexually adventurous tendencies. She kicked Velvette out of the house when Velvette started her fetish modeling and fashion designing. Velvette went to live with Janet, who was the exemplary, smart, overachieving, successful, sexually repressed daughter, until the sex scandal that brought her dismissal from MIT. Fearing their mom's disapproving wrath, Janet and Velvette stayed far away in Cambridge, pissing each other off instead of dealing with Alicia.

Like I said, Alicia turned her considerable zeal into evangelical Christianity. She got saved and convicted. She may be an ex-masturbator.  Since both Janet and Velvette are queer, with heavily kinky associations [Janet with robo-sex, Velvette with BDSM], they both pretend that their mom doesn't exist. It's a protective measure because they are sure that she will condemn them. She keeps sending them books of her devotional poetry, which they keep ignoring. It's obvious that the daughters still love their mom and the mom still loves her daughters, or at least they all WANT to love each other, but they stay apart because of painful history.

There are definite class tensions between Alicia and her daughters because Alicia was indoctrinated with the concepts of assimilating, overachieving and being an outstanding representative of her race. She not-so-secretly thinks that Velvette and Janet are not being a credit to her because their behavior reflects a reversion to the "black woman as oversexed slut" stereotype. "I wanted you to work hard and make something of yourselves, not sleep around and ruin it!" Clearly there's an element of bitterness and possibly self-hatred here, since Alicia had kids, which interrupted her hard work on the porn co.

Clearly I'm not going to explore all these tensions in depth in one side story, but, if I can at least allude to them accurately to make a rich, believable portrayal of my favorite secondaries [who are also characters of color]. [I've been thinking a lot recently about, as a white writer, writing believable, convincing, non-stereotypical characters of color, which is hard.] Yay more plots for Velvette and Janet! ...Especially Janet... I think everyone dumps on her, but she has a really interesting inner life and motivations and past [what was that scandal at MIT????] that she never divulges. It's always the quiet ones....

Well, anyway, the Martha Jones doll obviously needs her hair painted grey and her face lined to show age.

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This fan-made BTVS/Angel vid, Origin Stories by  [personal profile] giandujakiss,  argues that the ID of Spike with the Black Leather Coat of Bad-Assness glosses over the fact that he stole it from Nikki the Slayer, one of his kills. The connection of Spike and the BLCB-A runs over the story of Nikki and her son, Robin, who saw her die and ends up helping Buffy and co. fight Uruk-Hai uber-vamps in season 7. Even when Spike dies out of BTVS and reincarnates in Angel, he still gets the damn BLCB-A, a deeply problematic privileging of the pouty Romantic WHITE monster anti-hero at the expense of the interesting and complex characters of color. [livejournal.com profile] untrue_accounts  writes in words what the video shows in pictures, for those of you who are more verbally oriented.

I find these complementary commentaries deeply incisive and deeply disturbing, especially as they portray the actions of a fan favorite character to be the worst form of appropriation. It's an especially bad form of appropriation because the show is constructed such that the audience is supposed to suck it up because a) Spike is so awesome!!; b) Buffy defends Spike, thus throwing her support behind his usurpations; c) did we mention that Spike is awesome?!!  We're not supposed to criticize the characters everyone likes, even if they are doing morally wretched things, because the popular characters are Good Guys, thus inured to criticism.

Why yes, I am late to the party. What else can you except from someone who just discovered Men Without Hats at the end of last year?

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Collected at Newspaper Rock.

Native Americans in Children's Literature covers that subject critically and thoroughly. Beverly Slapin has an especially accurate and trenchant essay about the stupidities perpetrated by ignorant non-Native authors trying to write YA novels with Native American characters.

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I've always been interested in Aishah bint Abu Bakr, youngest and favoritest wife of Muhammad, ever since I wrote a biography of her during my sophomore year in high school. This Slate article discusses some modern titles about her.
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I've been fascinated by the Salem witchcraft trials for decades. It's one of the few widely recognized events of American history in which girls and young women were pivotal actors. It's also one of the few places in early American history where we can hear the voices of girls and women, in their accusations, depositions, confessions, wills and apologies. When I was the age of the afflicted girls, I read with fascination about the mysterious and destructive behavior exhibited by girls who were my age 300 years ago. The primary source documents gave me a vivid sample of their speech and thoughts, while still leaving me with the major question of WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?
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From Feministing: Armed forces refuses to investigate the suspicious circumstances of Lavena Jackson's death. She was the first female soldier from Missouri to die in Iraq in 2005. Strong evidence suggests that she suffered assault and rape before being murdered, but the armed forces call it a "suicide." Online petition to open an investigation here. I don't understand how the armed services thinks it can successfully persuade people to join if it rejects people for being gay, harasses and murders people for being female and does not adequately support its veterans. 

My tag on the petition:

Investigate the misidentified "suicide" of this soldier and expose the physical assault and other suppressed circumstances surrounding her death. Challenge the regime that, through cover-ups, allows such sexual abuse of female soldiers.
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This is what I have to say about the racist, sexist New Yorker cover portraying Barack and Michelle Obama as militant Islamic [?] terrorists: 

1. It's only satire if it's obvious to intelligent, discerning viewers that it's satire. Intelligent, discerning viewers at Feministing and Michelle Obama Watch [and other blogs rounded up by MOW] do not, at the very least, think it's obvious. If it's satire, then it's bad satire. It hits the rim of the SATIRE basket and falls into the trash heap.

2. Privileged people hardly ever make innocent fun of people who do not have a certain privilege. Whatever its actual editorial make-up, the New Yorker represents dead white male power; so the cover represents dead white male power making fun of African-American people. Since dead white male power and all those who support it have a long, sordid history of making fun of African-American people, this cover joins that tradition of sexist, racist bigotry.

I E-mailed the New Yorker and the cartoonist [Barry Blitt] with the above message, which will do exactly shit.

EDIT: HAH! Blitt's mailbox is full. Looks like he's being roundly criticized [and probably praised from some quarters] by many others.

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I'm currently reading Blood Colony, the last book in Tananarive Due's African Immortals trilogy. Details about some pretty awesome vampire novels inside. )
Verdict: With a sympathetic cast [including assertive and realistic women, woooo hoooo!], the pacing of a suspense series and a compelling moral exploration that most fantasy trilogies can't hold a candle to, the African Immortals trilogy provides an intelligent and delicious revision of vampire lore. 
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With Barack Obama cinching the Democratic nomination for President, he and his family now suffer even more scrutiny and bullshit from those who can't bear the thought of a black guy in the world's most powerful office. Michelle Obama Watch, a newly instituted blog, stays on top of one form of prejudice in particular: those attacks directed at Michelle Obama and the "wee Michelles" :D, Sasha and Malia. Stay on top of the poo-flinging from all quarters with this rapidly [and tragically] expanding Web site.

P.S. Ever since developing a minor obsession with the notoriously shielded Chelsea Clinton, who moved into the White House when she was a teenager just a few years younger than me, I've been particularly vigilant about the mainstream media's use of Presidential or possibly Presidential kids. I supported the Clintons' decision to privatize Chelsea as much as possible, and I continually applaud Chelsea's opacity and reserve in the face of the press constantly asking her stupid prying questions. I think that her parents' attempts to create a Poo-Flinging-Free Zone around Chelsea in her childhood allowed her to develop into the tough character that she is today. Now that she is an adult and the anti-poo shields are down, she clearly has a force field of determination and composure that allows her to resist the intrusive idiocy of the mainstream media.

I see the Obamas creating the same Poo-Free Zone for Sasha and Malia. While Sasha and Malia appear with their parents at campaign events and while their dad refers to them in interviews, both Sasha's mom and dad protect them from direct interrogation. They also do not exploit their girls as campaign symbols. I have hope that they will keep such vigilant protection around Sasha and Malia for as long as the Obamas remain in the political arena, not because the wee Michelles :D are delicate feminine flowers that can be shattered easily by animosity, but because they are kids who deserve a healthy environment in which to grow up. A healthy environment means one in which they can build realistic self-concepts without people constantly questioning and criticizing them.

All of this is to say that one of the recent entries in the Michelle Obama Watch especially unnerves me. It's the entry about an artist whose exhibit, The Assassination of Hillary Clinton/The Assassination of Barack Obama, included a picture of Sasha and Malia labeled "nappy-headed hos." It's bigoted and stupid and racist and objectionable to launch such nasty aspersions at any member of the Obama family, but it's especially bigoted, stupid, racist and objectionable to use these terms to describe the Obama daughters, who, as children under the age of all marks of adulthood [voting, driving, drinking, consenting], are minors without power or recourse to defend themselves from such stupidity. The artist's statement that he wanted to "raise dialog" about "substantive things" misses the point that name-calling people who are littler than you actually kills the opportunity for civil discourse, even if you think you're doing it ironically. Inflammatory language like "nappy-headed hos" makes you look like an insensitive douchebag who's so out of touch with reality that he doesn't realize the punishing power of language, especially when wielded by the powerful over the powerless.

I'm trying to think of a tag for entries that discuss "race," ethnic background, skin color and related stereotypes, bigotry, beliefs, etc.

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Nobody knows this except my wife [and now the 3 readers of this blog], but Velvette from LHF has two siblings [that she knows about]. One is her sister Janet, technically her half-sister since they share a mom. But she also has another half-sister, Gemini Beaumont, member of the End of the World [Provincetown vampire clan]. I currently have Velvette and Janet in 1:6, but Gemini will soon join them.

Janet's an Integrity Toys Janay head on a CG Ebony body without ankle cups, which makes her shorter than usual. Velvette, my most beautiful 1:6 doll ever, is a Barbie Mbili head [yes, I yanked it from a doll that I paid $100 for] on a CG body with a Caucasian skin tone painted over [very sloppily] with burnt umber. Since I want a familial resemblance between Velvette and Gemini, Gemini will be a Mystery Squad Kenzie head on a CG body with Caucasian skin tone. Both Velvette and Gemini have the same head mold [Angel/Goddess], but the differences in skin tone and paint jobs make them look like different people. And yes, I am aware that Velvette and Janet do not have a familial resemblance, but I don't care. They're half-siblings because I said so. :p

I'm really excited about Gemini. She has squizzly red hair that I want to put up in a Bride-of-Frankenstein-like 'do, but I'm not sure how to make it stay up.

Janet and Velvette [and Gemini] have the most convoluted family tree. I'm still trying to figure out how Janet and Gemini are related. Since they have a half-sister in common [Velvette], it seems reasonable to suppose that they are related, but I can't determine how. Maybe they're quarter-sisters? :p
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I found them some hair that doesn't look like it's been run through an ironing machine. [I think Materyllis might straighten her hair, but not Velvette, who has cumulus clouds of hair, and Janet, who has a fuzz cut.] Hey, Velvette and Janet and Susie and Materyllis! Realistic hair awaits....
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I want to see this movie. From a review mentioned here, I see that it has a varied spectrum of well-developed characters. Plus the animation kind of reminds me of Leo and Diane Dillon's elegant artwork.
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On and off for the past few months, I've been trying to make a digital verson of the penanggal, a Malay vampire with a distinctively monstrous appearance.

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So I picked up a bunch of local history books at the library recently. One is In Our Own Words: Stories of North Cambridge, Massachusetts 1900-1960. The most memorable person in the book is Ruth Jones (1895-1996), an African-American townie. She comes across as a take-no-shit person who tells you what to do because she's experienced and smart and wise, and she knows it. She's also incredibly smart and stubborn, in an admirable, ambitious way. In the book, she gives all these great details about cadging food from the gardens of the rich white folks and being the first black girl to graduate from Somerville High (1915) and dealing with racism when she went to Boston University in the late 1910s. In the interview, she obviously loves to tell stories and to preach.

Anyway, after I read about her and decided she was completely awesome, I wanted to work her into the story somehow. I decided I should have a vampire based on Ruth Jones in the general details of experience and character.
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At the end of one of the Pink Panther movies, Inspector Clouseau is dining at a Japanese restaurant when the server hands him something on a tray. It is a fortune cookie, which contains the following message: "Beware of Japanese waitress bearing fortune cookie." Being completely oblivious, he takes a while to realize that he should have paid attention to the very person who gave him the fortune cookie. Meanwhile, the "Japanese waitress bearing fortune cookie" turns out to be Clouseau's assistant, Cato, who takes every opportunity to ambush Clouseau to keep his self-defense techniques up to snuff. Cato attacks Clouseau. A melee ensues. And...curtain.

Beyond the stock comedic elements of drag, slapstick and food fights, this scene also depends on the viewer's familiarity with fortune cookies. As presented in this country, fortune cookies are a phenomenon strictly associated with Chinese restaurants. Your average American probably thinks of fortune cookies as a Chinese invention, rather than a Japanese one, which is why "Japanese waitress bearing fortune cookie" is incongruous and therefore funny.

However, fortune cookies really are Japanese in origin, argues researcher Yasuko Nakamachi. Years of painstaking research into the fortune cookie trail have convinced her that the ubiquitous dessert of American Chinese takeout restaurants actually first began in shrine-side Japanese bakeries, where the wafers were hand-cooked over open coals. Reports of these Japanese fortune-cookie ancestors date back almost 200 years in literature and illustrations. Go read the article for speculation about how Japanese temple wafers hopped the ocean to California and somehow developed into a quintessentially American institution that was firmly associated with Chinese cuisine. 

And don't tell me you didn't learn anything today.

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