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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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Around these parts, we have Front Porch Forum, a uniquely Vermont Internet development, which provides E-mail lists for every town in the state [sometimes for several neighborhoods within towns, if the towns are large enough]. Like most E-mail lists, it contains classifieds, notices from town government and local services, requests to borrow things, thank you notes and loads of rants. I belong to the Winooski one and one for the neighborhood in Burlington where I work.

A few days ago, someone posted on the Winooski FPF that she didn't like a sign that Sneakers [restaurant] put up in a little garden in an island near our horrible traffic rotary. It said "Sneakers -- Yield to Bacon," which she, as a member of a Muslim household, found insensitive. She added that it was a safety hazard, impeding visibility for drivers and pedestrians, and wished that it was removed.

As Seven Days, our local newsweekly reports, poo flinging ensued. An inevitable backlash of posters castigated the original poster as a coward, a terrorist and the epitome of what was wrong with today's "politically correct" society. Soon a representative from Sneakers posted, apologizing for upsetting people, explaining the joke behind the sign and adding that the sign would be taken down. The inevitable backlash then apparently subsumed the restaurant in its bitter wash; Seven Days reports that Sneakers has received so much bile on its Facebook page that it took said page down.

For the record, I recognize that the sign was offensive to the original poster, even though it wasn't intended to be. I disagree with her particular targeting of the Sneakers sign as a danger, however, since other local businesses put up little signs in the sponsored gardens on the rotary islands, and she didn't seem to have a problem with them. I thought that her original complaint was a reasonable statement and justification of her opinion, and I also appreciate the restaurant's respectful response. They did include the "Well, we didn't mean it!" line in their apology for offense, but they did apologize sincerely, and they took down the sign as a gesture of good faith. If only more institutions acted with such sincerity and sensitivity...
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Her vibrant pink, knotty hair looks like the 1:1 equivalent of my 1:6 scale action figure Anneka's. As cool as I find the color of Wachowski's hair, I seriously query her white woman's appropriation of dreadlocks. >_>
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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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Having familiarized myself with the general layouts last year, I focused this year on the details, particularly of the sets.
Read more... )
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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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Janna and I hit the Dollars for Scholars Train Show this morning, conveniently located blocks away from where we now live. I spent hours making panorama shots and correcting the nasty yellow fluorescent cast on all these photos, so witty captions will be sparse.

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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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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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Janna and I went to the Vermont Rails Train Show at the Champlain Valley Fairgrounds in Essex Junction, VT, yesterday. Woo hoo! We enjoyed ourselves immensely. I took 273 pictures in the hopes of getting at least 25% of them to develop acceptably.
Read more... )
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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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Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl have collaborated on an exhaustive quaternary of YA Southern Gothic romances, the Beautiful Creatures trilogy. There was some interesting stuff going on in the first book [although I'm still not sure what happened during the climax], as well as a vivid, if rather stereotypical, setting, so I kept reading.

Recently I plowed through the last installment, Beautiful Redemption, which had significantly less plot, character development and complexity than the previous three episodes. I've been detecting all along Garcia and Stohl's strangely uncomplicated and idealized portrait of the southern US, but one moment in Beautiful Redemption encapsulated all that was problematic about the series.

Toward the end of the novel, [white] protagonist Ethan has come back from limbo and reunited with his [white] angstball girlfriend Lena and his other supporters. Ethan asks his [white] friend Link what Amma [a literal Magic Negro + Mammy twofer who acts as Ethan's maternal figure, then ultimately sacrifices her life for his] was talking about when she mentioned that she caught Link doing something shameful in the cellar when he was young.  Link explains that Amma caught him dressing up in a Civil War uniform. The uniform did not belong to the Confederate ancestors of which his family was so proud, but to some acquaintance's Union ancestors.

Garcia and Stohl write [pp. 440-441]:

I burst out laughing, and within seconds so did Link. No one else at the table understood the sin in a Southern boy -- with a father who led the Confederate Cavalry in the Reenactment of the Battle of Honey Hill, and a mother who was a proud member of the Sisters of the Confederacy -- trying on a Civil War uniform for the opposing side. You had to be from Gatlin.

It was one of those unspoken truths, like you don't make a pie for the Wates because it won't be better than Amma's; you don't sit in front of Sissy Honeycutt in church because she talks the whole time right along with the preacher; and you don't choose the paint color for your house without consulting Mrs. Lincoln, not unless your name happens to be Lila Evers Wate.

Gatlin was like that.

It was family, all of it and all of them -- the good parts and the bad.


Right there the authors trivialize an entire history of racism, slavery, sexism, cruelty and oppression by equating support of it to talking in church or painting one's home without talking to one's neighbors first. It's just a harmless peculiarity, a peccadillo, that causes Ethan to feel uncritically jubilant and nostalgic about his hometown. While he does acknowledge "the good parts and the bad" at the end of this quote, his laughter demonstrates that, while he may struggle with the made-up Southern history of mortals vs. magicians, the ominous real Southern history of torture, war and suffering bothers him very little.

Way to go, Garcia and Stohl. Thanks so much for, among other bilge, perpetuating the myth that the United States is a "post-racial society."

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...About some dude running around with the power to pull fictional objects from books into reality and thereby preventing book magicians [libriomancers] from duking it out with vampires and thus exposing magic to the world. Entertaining and intellectually easy, thispassably written trilogy opener contained some cool ideas magic [via books!] that were under-served by the pedestrian prose.

I was interested and somewhat pleased to note that the protagonist's partner and love interest, Lena, an extremely tough dryad, was explicitly written as fat, bi/queer and polyamorous [with varying degrees of success depending on the trait], but apparently this blew a few fuses in other readers' heads. On Amazon, for example, "RG" describes Lena as "a rubenesque nubian dryad, in other words a chubby black woman who sleeps in a tree." I think "RG" thinks that this is a bad thing, as "RG" then proceeds to go off on a tangent of racist, anti-fat misogyny. There are indeed problematic aspects in Lena's characterization [which I may get into when it is not half past midnight]; however, the mere presence of a fat woman of color who sleeps in a tree is not axiomatically grounds for derisive excoriation.

Fortunately, in the next comment, J. Platte takes "RG" to task for the misogynist, anti-poly assumptions in the post, but fails to rebuke the egregious racism.

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This Band Aid stinker is the most colonialist, objectifying, racist, condescending piece of shit ever. I mean, seriously. African people experiencing hunger, starvation and food insecurity are even explicitly referred to as "the other ones," thus distanced and separated from the ostensible audience of the song, which is privileged [non-African] listeners from colonizing countries who have enough to eat. I understand that the song is trying to contrast the want of some people with the plenty of others, but the words that the lyricists use make the people in need sound practically subhuman.

I also really love how an entire continent is portrayed as a miserable monolith. No one's ever happy -- "...the only water flowing / Is a bitter sting of tears" -- in part because the weather's rotten ["that burning sun"] all the time. The entire landmass is apparently omitted from the water cycle, as there are no rivers there...or any precipitation, for that matter. Most tragically of all, everyone on the continent has no idea what date it is because they suffer a grievous calendar shortage.

Of course, the song portrays the solution to this dire lack of date tracking as colonialism: "Let them know it's Christmas time and / Feed the world." Yeah, have a sudden attack of white guilt and throw food at those ignorant people down there...or at least throw money. Your donations will magically function as a civilizing process that will turn them into devout Christians who can tell time and appropriately worship Our Lord and Savior the Son of God Capitalism.

Holy shit, that's a wretched song.

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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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Peter Pan was published in 1911 by the British author J.M. Barrie, based on a 1904 play called Peter and Wendy. It’s the story about three British kids, Wendy, John and Michael, who go to the Neverland of their imaginations. There they have adventures with pirates, mermaids, wild animals, lost boys and, of course, the boy who wouldn’t grow up: Peter Pan.

The concept of Peter Pan and the crude outlines of the story have exerted a fascination over US and British readers for more than a century. Thanks to Disney’s 1953 animated adaptation, most US fans have rather superficial ideas about Peter Pan, chiefly involving flying, fairy dust, pirates and maybe a crocodile. Naturally, the play and the novel are much messier and more interesting than our cliched ideas about them.

Having read Peter Pan many, many times, I could provide you with rants on everything from the authorial interruptions to the treatment of female characters, but right now I am focusing on the Indians. Yeah, there are Indians in Neverland. They are members of the Pickaninny tribe, referred to by that narrator as “red men,” and they scalp people. I am not making this up; Barrie specifically writes that the name of the Indians’ group is a racist term for African-American people. Furthermore, the Indians have silly nature-related names like “Great Big Little Panther.” They also talk like stereotypical Japanese people who can’t pronounce their Rs. In short, the Indians are a horrible farrago of Edwardian racist stereotypes, which kind of makes sense, if you figure that Neverland is populated by Wendy, Michael and John’s ideas of Indians gleaned from idealized and disparaging media they have consumed.

The only Indian in Peter Pan to develop something like an individual personality is Tiger Lily. Described as the trite Ice Maiden who “staves off the altar with a hatchet,” she is beautiful, imperious and aloof to all potential suitors. For some reason, though, she has a rather pathetic crush on Peter, declaring, “Me his velly nice friend.” [See what I mean about the stereotypical broken English?] Her major scene occurs when Smee and Starkey kidnap her, but untie her at Peter’s orders, as they think he is Captain Hook. Tiger Lily does the smart thing and immediately jumps off Smee and Starkey’s boat and swims away to freedom. Other than that, though, she’s a barely personalized bit of scenery.

One hundred years after Barrie published the original novel, Jodi Lynn Anderson decided to vomit forth her revisionist response entitled Tiger Lily. In this version, narrated by an observant but mostly uninvolved Tinker Bell, Tiger Lily is merely referred to as a “native,” a member of the Sky Eater tribe. A teenager, she lives with her adoptive father, the cross-dressing shaman Tik Tok, and excels at “masculine” pursuits and suppressing her emotions. She meets Peter Pan and falls in love with him, an experience that, of course, feminizes and gentles her. [I fucking hate that trope.] Her impending marriage to a cruel lout, as well as the arrival of Wendy, John and Michael, messes everything up. Angst ensues. As far as I can tell, this is a cheap attempt to capitalize on the paranormal romance subgenre by employing, for no discernible reason, the trappings of a previous author’s universe.

As soon as I heard about Anderson’s book, I began to cringe. Why is she so interested in rehabilitating stereotyped Indians? What makes her think she has the authority to tell Tiger Lily’s story? Why do we need yet another white author with no native connections treating the Indians of Peter Pan like shit? [I’m serious. In all sequels and adaptations of the story that I’ve read or read about, the Indians fare extremely poorly. Please check Debbie Reese’s "Peter Pan" and "Peter Pan in Scarlet" tags on American Indians in Children’s Literature for details. Reese is an author and activist tribally enrolled in Nambe Pueblo (New Mexico), and she knows what she’s talking about.] The answer to these three questions appears to be 1) no idea, 2) absolutely nothing and 3) we don’t. Yet Anderson forges ahead.

I decided to give Tiger Lily a chance, though. I was right – it is cringeworthy and terrible. The persistently clueless portrayal of the Sky Eaters combines with the talentless writing to create a literary disaster.

This book is so bad that I don’t even know where to begin. Let’s start, for want of a better place, with the subject of consistency. All of the “native” tribes of Neverland appear to be named after their location – the Bog Dwellers and the Cliff Dwellers, for example – except for Tiger Lily’s tribe, the Sky Eaters. Why aren’t they named after their location as the Forest Dwellers? What’s this irrelevant business about the sky and eating it? Here’s just one clue of many that Anderson hasn’t thought her world through.

The Sky Eaters behave like a loose collection of Native American stereotypes. They live in huts; they have a medicine man, Tik Tok, even though he is called a shaman, who heals people and works magic; they wear deerskin clothes; they have long black hair and high cheekbones; many of their names follow the stereotype of Literally Translated Natural Phenomenon; they worship many gods or spirits…argle bargle bargle. Despite this, they don’t seem to have any culture. Anderson will often add asides about the Sky Eaters’ marriage customs, religious beliefs or bathing habits, but we never see these things affecting the characters’ actions or the development of the plot. Tiger Lily’s little village, populated by the Loving Adoptive Dad, the Disabled Kid With a Crush on Her, the Teen Exemplar of Femininity, the Evil Suitor, the Evil Suitor’s Mom and Various Uncomprehending and Gossipy Tertiaries, could appear in any other setting without a problem. It’s a thoroughly generic story and a thoroughly generic setting, which Anderson only gestures at making specific. And, unfortunately, her idea of making the Sky Eaters specific involves tossing them into a pit of Indian stereotypes.

Even though I’m only halfway through, I’m dogged by the sense that Anderson is telling the wrong story. As I mentioned, the depiction of Tiger Lily and the other Sky Eaters is so vacuous as to deter sympathy, identification and investment in Tiger Lily’s experiences. Furthermore, Tiger Lily and Peter Pan have a tediously formulaic Forbidden and Doomed Love piece of crap going on, which is also boring. I’m much more interested in…well, basically anyone except them. For instance, what’s Tik Tok’s history? How does Pine Sap [Disabled Kid with a Crush on Tiger Lily] feel about being a sensitive, thoughtful butt of tribal jokes? What’s the relationship between Smee and Hook? Why does Tink have a crush on Peter? Where the hell are all the other faeries anyway? Where’s the magic?

Neverland holds such a grip on our imaginations because it’s a problematic, messy, dangerous, powerful place. Anderson commits a crime against fiction by sticking it somewhere in the Atlantic, leaching out the magic and populating it with racist and sexist cliches that wouldn’t grow up.

P.S. I just know that Pine Sap is going to die. The disabled character always bites it in this kind of ableist tripe.

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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 just finished Vanishing Acts, and it enraged me, just like every single book of Picoult's does. I'm so pissed that it's difficult for me to articulate why I find her work so narratively offensive, but I'll try.

Let me first give you my idea of novelistic success: a story motivated by characters' actions, featuring robust, believable people who just happen to live on paper. In the best novels, characters act according to their nature. Their actions are not propelled by the plot; they propel the plot with their actions. Even if what they do is surprising, it's exactly what they have to do because that's who they are. They are psychologically consistent people whose actions provide insight into their heads.

Picoult does not start her stories with robust characters at all. Instead, she starts with abstract concepts. In the case of Vanishing Acts, she's got Memory, Divorce, Alcoholism, Parent/Child Relationships, argle bargle bargle. Upon such a Procrustean bed of Big Important Themes, she throws the generic skeletons of her "characters," or, more precisely, "authorial puppets," who then twitch according to her grindingly blatant plot machinery. And we're supposed to accept this as a story?! Your average car commercial on TV has more genuine, compelling drama.

Now I enjoy a cleverly and neatly turned plot as much as any reader, but that's not what's going on in Picoult's work. What's going on is plot-driven melodrama trying desperately to pass itself off as a Significant Work of Our Times. You can tell it's Significant because there are [obvious, boring, unenlightening] Parallels Between Characters! There are Appropriate Poetic Quotes before each section! There's a Magical Negro Indian character who exists solely to fulfill the whiteys' epiphanies by infodumping Hopi mythology [which then becomes nothing more than a metaphor for...Lord knows what, as I was skimming at this point] and then conveniently offing herself! That makes this book Thematic and Deep, right? Right? Why are you laughing at me???

Picoult's books are all essentially diagrams of checkers games put into words. I was going to say chess, but that's too sophisticated. Maybe Connect Four is a better analogy. She's a cheating cheater who cheats because she tries to pass these diagrams off as stories.

I have really got to stop reading her books. It's like eating something that tastes good while you're chewing it, and then you get a little indigestion several bites in. You ignore it because you want to finish your portion. You continue, and your aches and pains increase. By the end, when your stomach is full, you feel bloated, heartburned, constipated and utterly unable to contemplate anything but the sore state of your digestive system. That's about how I feel right now, literarily speaking. Ooog.
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Big Chief Studios currently has Eleven out, with Amy Pond coming and Ten waiting for approval. As much as I'd love to get a 1:6 scale Ten, two things stop me. 1) The prototype is a great likeness of David Tennant as Ten, but he looks like he's been hit with a surprise bout of the runs. He should be smirking confidently, not looking as if something ambushed him. Nothing surprises the Doctor! 2) The company's very name and logo [a red dot wearing a stylized "Plains headdress"] reek of racism. I can't support that bigotry. Pity, as they have decent-looking dolls.
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I'll say a phrase, and you tell me the first words that come to your mind.

Okay? Ready? Here we go:

"Lesbian vampire erotica."


Read more... )
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I cancelled my New York Times online subscription today. The rep recorded my detailed comments about why I was cancelling. I doubt that will make any difference, though. On to slightly less offensive news sources...
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I couldn't use the NYT's form to send a message directly to the reporter who wrote that horrible article about trans women of color on Christopher Street, so I E-mailed the public editor, the executive editor and the president with the following:

I’m writing to express my disgust with Sarah Nir’s July 24th article about trans women of color on Christopher Street: “For Money or Just to Strut, Living Out Loud on a Transgender Stage.”

This article is just as revolting as the NYT's coverage of Lorena Escalera's death.

Do you seriously think it's acceptable to refer to the trans women of color in the article as "exotic...parakeets?" The term "exotic" is just a racist dogwhistle for "different and, therefore, unacceptable." Meanwhile, comparing women to birds dehumanizes them in a dismissive, sexist way. Thanks a lot for perpetuating the oppression and bigotry aimed at trans people and/or people of color, especially women!

I urge you to write about trans women and/or women of color with respect, treating them as equal human beings. Given the NYT's track record, though, I doubt this will occur.

EDIT: I just alerted GLAAD's Aaron McQuade, Director of News and Field Media, about the NYT's poo-flinging. I did this because he was the one who wrote on GLAAD's site about the NYT's poo-flinging at Lorena Escalera. Also going to submit an incident report on GLAAD's site.

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They just published another article about trans people, called "For Money or Just to Strut, Living Out Loud on a Transgender Stage." It's about young trans women of color on Christopher Street in the West Village in New York City. In the summer nights, some of them gather in this area. They enjoy the freedom to express their fashion sense and/or their desires openly. They do the usual activities covered under the rubric of "hanging out" for twentysomethings: talking, eating, dancing, arguing. Some of the women are sex workers.

I want to know more about the motivations of the women who moved here because they found it safer and more welcoming. I want to know more about the class conflict that they experience when they earn small money doing sex work in the vicinity of expensive condos. I want to know more about the daily lives of the women, activists and sex workers alike, who congregate on Christopher Street after dark.

And, thanks to the New York Times, I will never learn any of this from their coverage. I don't know where to start on how disgustingly problematic it is, so I'll start with the title. Calling the women's hang-out place a "stage" implies that their activities are false, untrue mimicry. Since the women in the article are, you know, living their damned lives,   the use of theatrical terms suggests that their lives are trivial and second-rate...probably in implicit comparison to the lives of the owners of the extravagant mansions lining the street.

The rest of the article goes on and on about how the women look, how they style their hair, what they wear, even comparing them at one point to "flocks of exotic — if risqué — parakeets." Hey look -- it's dehumanization! Where have I seen that before? Oh yeah, in the reprehensible NYT coverage on the death of Lorena Escalera, who shared some traits with the women in this article: she was a trans woman of color in her 20s, and she had done sex work in the past.

Time for another letter, calling out the NYT's racism and cissexism. I should really cancel my subscription.
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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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Watched the first two eps of the BBC’s Sherlock the other night, starring Benedict Cumberbatch’s lips and cheekbones as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as John Watson. The three-ep first season transplants the crime-solving duo from Victorian/Edwardian London to present-day London, where the two act as “consulting detectives” to Detective Inspector Lestrade and the rest of the new Scotland Yard.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes really reminds me of David Tennant and Matt Smith as the Doctor. With a spectacular intellect that moves much faster than the brains of mere mortals, Cumberbatch’s Holmes astounds people with his rapid-fire deductions in the same way that Tennant’s and Smith’s Doctors shock people with their free-associating intelligence. Additionally, both this Holmes and those Doctors take a self-conscious, performative glee in their superiority, enjoying the way that they befuddle people. Just as Smith’s Doctor is an adventure junkie, gleefully shouting “Geronimo!” as the TARDIS speeds toward a crash, so Cumberbatch’s Holmes enjoys living on the edge, dancing near suicide in the first ep just so he can get the buzz of adrenaline. I attribute some of this similarity to the fact that Sherlock was co-written by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, both writers of eps for the New Who. Also interesting to note is that Cumberbatch has something of the Doctor – or at least the Doctor’s potential in him – as evidenced by the fact that he discussed taking over for Tennant, but never did. 

Needless to say, I love Sherlock for its strong characters, its Doctor-like Holmes and its stellar lead actors. I dislike it for its pointless exoticization of Chinese people as demonstrated in the ep The Blind Baker. From the minute the eerie stereotypical bamboo flutes start playing in the first scene as a clay tea set is ceremonially laid out, we know we’re in for Chinese stereotypes. The stereotypes continue throughout the ep, including a scene in which the Chinese tea set-laying-out character speaks to her brother in unsubtitled Chinese, reinforcing the idea of foreign characters as strange and incomprehensible.  This ep’s main villain, General Shan, leader of a gang called the Black Lotus, even delivers, as her first line, a supposed Chinese proverb in halting English [something about a book being a magic world in your pocket]! [I also noticed that General Shan’s English started out broken in her first scene and markedly improved throughout the rest of her scenes, making me think that she was directed to speak in stereotypical stilted English.] I condemn such lazy, thoughtless characterization as racist.

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As part of the 1982 program Faerie Tale Theater, Mick Jagger [yes, that Mick Jagger] starred in an episode entitled The Nightingale, in which he donned fingernail extensions, a fake ponytail, heavy eyeshadow and general yellowface in order to play "the emperor of all Cathay." Ever since I heard of its existence at least 20 years ago, I've been wanting to see this ep just because the conjunction of Mick Jagger + Faerie Tale Theater seems incongruously silly. After 10 minutes of viewing, I can report that Mick Jagger as the emperor is indeed incongruously silly, and the whole setting comes across as a load of exoticized, racist, pseudo-Chinese, stereotypical shit. My curiosity of over 20 years has been satisfied, and I'm disappointed.
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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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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 watch TV shows exclusively online because a) I'm not tied to a specific airing time and b) I can stream them in the background while working. Interestingly enough, I find that many TV shows work perfectly fine without the images as radio shows because the clearly differentiated voices and the overdetermining music provide enough clues as to what's going on so that actually seeing the screen isn't necessary. Forthwith, my current slate:

Bones. I watch this primarily for the great chemistry between David Boreanaz [Seeley] and Emily Deschanel [Bones]. After a flaccid, frankly  boring start to season 3, the quality has picked up, both in the writing and in the mysteries. Though I find the increased prominence of the earnest, lonely, overanalytical and geeky psychologist Sweets charming, I'm still bitter at the writers for dispensing with Zach at the end of Season 2. His out-of-character departure ruined the wonderful rapport between the "squints" on Bones' team.

The Colbert Report. Amusing mild parody. I enjoy watching how much fun Stephen Colbert has with his character.

The Daily Show. Amusing mild parody. Jon Stewart's straight-man mugging STILL hasn't gotten old for me.

Fringe. Painfully stupid, chronically incoherent and blitheringly underpsychologized, this simplistic show is one that I love to hate. I also like listening to it because it's so anvilicious that I don't even need to look at the pictures. Will never be forgiven for its mangling of the "Boston" setting.

Heroes. You know, back in season 1, I used to like this show. However, I think it hit its peak with the season 1 ep, "Company Man," focusing on Noah Bennet and family. Since then it has imploded on itself repeatedly, reformatting character development multiple times, introducing and dropping characters at alarming speed, creating plot holes so large that they could expand and engulf the universe and, msot criminally, turning all the characters into impetuous, stupid morons. Like Fringe, it requires no brains or even eyeballs to appreciate its schlockiness.

House. I actually really like this show, mostly because I really like watching Hugh Laurie act like an arrogant genius bastard. Brilliant comedy!

The Office. I watch this not for the plot or even the characters, but because its small moments accurately capture the combination of zealotry, awkwardness and puzzlement characterizing white-collar at-work interactions. The characters' strange antics aren't so amusing as the other characters' often deadpan reactions to said antics.

Psych. I'm conflicted about this show. It's a comic detective show about a guy who pretends to be a psychic for a police department. It would be a slight, silly diversion, except for the fact that the fake psychic's reluctant partner and best friend is a black dude who suffers slapstick indignities and gets ordered around by the fake psychic all the time. Very Stepin Fetchit. No new eps until January, by which time I will probably have conclusively determined that it's a racist cesspool and therefore left it alone.

Supernatural. Even though this show suffered a largely plotless third season and even though it suffers from such misogyny that it kills off all female characters or makes them disappear, I'm still a loyal fan of this show who will be watching it through the bitter end of season 5. Actually, it's more accurate to say that I will be watching JENSEN ACKLES AS DEAN WINCHESTER through the bitter end of season 5. Ackles and co-star Padalecki consistently use their nuanced portrayals of the brothers to turn the occasional mediocre script and hammy line into a sincere, layered portrayal of fraternal devotion. Also, in case you haven't noticed, I think Ackles is hot. With an angel charging Dean with aversion of the Apocalypse, there seems to be an interesting plot for season 4, so I'm excited about the show on a structural level again, which I haven't been since the end of season 1. Let's hope that the Apocalypse doesn't fizzle like the demon war that was supposed to happen after the Winchesters opened up the gate of Hell.
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Johnny Depp signs on to do Pirates 4. Stop beating a dead horse to death, Disney.

Also, we get a preview of Disney's horrid Princess and the Frog [previously discussed here], with a princess of color, and ohhhhhh...it's sick. Why in the squackity squack is the firefly missing teeth and talking like Jiminy Cricket in blackface? Also, "Tiana's" very stretchy face and wide mouth make her a knock-off of Ariel. It makes me want to PUKE kick my heels up and PUKE throw my hands up and PUKE throw my head back and PUKE... [Apologies to the Temptations.]


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At the recent Value Voters Summit, 2 grade A nimrods sold souvenir boxes of Obama Waffles, linking Obama with Aunt Jemima, Muslim myths ["Point box toward Mecca for better waffles!"], stereotypes about rap [bilge on side of box] and generations of pop-eyed African-American mascots with smiles bigger than their heads. See this video for details of Obama waffles packaging and the disingenuous justifications of the nimrods for spreading their hatred.

When confronted directly with this train wreck of sexism, racism, exoticism and general stupidity, said nimrods protested that they "didn't even think of" the Aunt Jemima comparisons. They insisted that their product was "political satire." No, it's not. They're just bigots trying to fit into satirists' clothing. What dipsticks!
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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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A kidnapper steals Susan's young daughter and delivers an ultimatum. Susan must follow a prescribed route through eastern Mass. in order to get her daughter back. But history lies uneasily in these small New England towns; in fact, as Susan makes each stop along the way, history rears out of its grave to shamble after her. As she races to protect her child, Susan discovers the truth, not only about the darkest moment of her own childhood, but also about a centuries-old, supernatural evil that's been haunting the region.

Schrieber pushes Chasing the Dead along with quickly paced prose full of nervous beating hearts and splattering viscera. His simple story trades in archetypes -- Mother on the Defensive vs. Sadistic Monster -- without complexity of character. Not a problem, though, because Schrieber is too busy grossing you out and pulling you along to the next chapter. The perfect mindless suspense novel, strengthened by the fact that Schrieber portrays a convincing eastern Mass. setting.

My one complaint is the gratuitous use of "voodoo" as the ultimate source of the centuries-old, supernatural evil. Instead of Haitian voodoo, the evil character could have been transformed by anything labeled "sinister magic."  Since the evil character started off as a white, English-speaking colonist, he could have made a deal with the Devil or some local New England witches, which would have made much more sense, considering his background and beliefs. Why toss in an unneeded exploitation of "voodoo?" Bullshit like this just reinforces the popular American misconception that Voudou/Voudun is some morally suspect practice involving zombie creation, rather than a legitimate religion.

[Filed under "vampires" for the use of unkillable, soul-sucking evil.]
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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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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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