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Journey's song "Separate Ways [Worlds Apart]" came on one of Janna's Pandora stations a few days ago. A few lines caught in my head ["If he ever hurts you / True love won't desert you"], but I didn't know the source. So I banged out the words into a search engine and came up with the full set of lyrics, which I will now summarize as follows:

I'm so obsessed with you that I've been monitoring your activities since our breakup. "You'll never walk alone" -- literally. I'll be watching through my binoculars -- you and your current partner. If he ever hurts you, I'll be right there to comfort you...also to lay the hurt on him for mistreating you. In summary, I am a dangerous, deeply deluded misogynist who is very likely to kill you and your partner once I'm done wailing about how much I love you.

I would really like to believe that, like Sting's Every Breath You Take, Separate Ways is actually supposed to be a disturbing evocation of obsessive, abusive behavior, but I can find no evidence.

Gaaaaaaaaack.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EDIT: As rosettanettle points out in a comment on my LJ crosspost, the creator of Cards Against Humanity expressed regret for the "passable transvestites" white card, which is now no longer included in decks. This does not, however, negate any of my points. If anything, it reinforces them, since the creator's expression of "regret," which came only because he was called on his transphobia, comes across as less a regret of treasuring bigoted tenets and more a regret at getting caught. I also suspect his theatrical Tumblr photoset of him lighting the card on fire of being a self-aggrandizing performance so that he may be showered with praise about what an enlightened ally he is. Why do straight, cis, white, middle-class dudes think they deserve extra special plaudits for meeting minimum standards of decency? "Despicable," indeed.
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I've been listening to Classic Queen on heavy rotation for the past few days. After grossing out about my favorite songs with stalking in them, I am pleased to note that, at least on this album, Queen avoids that trope. In fact, their lyrics even bend the gendered norms in some cases, describing romantic experiences of one gender in terms usually reserved for another.

Example 1: One Year of Love. The singer says, "It's always a rainy day without you / I'm a prisoner of love inside you / I'm falling apart all around you / And all I can do is surrender to your love." Assuming that this is a man singing to a woman [hooray for heteronormativity -_- ], this is very unusual language for the masculine narrator. The typical masculine experience of love involves pursuit, penetration and conquering. The singer, however, describes imprisonment, dissolution and submission -- traits much more commonly associated with the feminine experience of love.

Example 2: Tie Your Mother Down. At the end of the song, after urging the listener to get her family members out of the way so that she and the singer can screw, the singer says, "Give me all your love tonight / Give me every inch of your love." In the vast majority of rock songs sung by dudes, if there's "love" with any dimensions associated, it just means "penis." [See Not Fade Away by Buddy Holly: "My love's penis is bigger than a Cadillac / I try to show it, but you drive me back." Just stop stalking her already!] Therefore the attribution of a quantified love to the singer's [presumed female], is unusual. The feminine action of loving is described in more masculine terms. I have no grand conclusion, especially not based on these two examples, but they sure make me like Queen even more!
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I realize that a bunch of songs by my favorite artists are about stalking. For example, Love Is Strong by the Rolling Stones. "A glimpse of you / Is all it took / A stranger's glance / It got me hooked..." Mick Jagger sings, then detailing how he follows the woman for vast distances. For another example, Hungry Like the Wolf by Duran Duran. "Burn through the ground / Break from the crowd / I'm on the hunt; I'm after you..." Duran Duran sings. In the second example, the man is literally chasing the woman, trying to run her down. She's trying to escape, probably in fear for her life, if not her safety, and it's a poppy, upbeat New Wave hit!

Stalking songs disturb me differently than domestic violence songs [e.g., the Rolling Stones' Under My Thumb or There She Goes by the Velvet Underground]. In the domestic violence songs I listen to, the abuse is framed as part of a dysfunctional relationship. Somehow this lets me critique it more effectively. In stalking songs, though, the abuse appears as an acceptable behavior in the context of a two-way, loving relationship. This is false on two counts because a) it's an unacceptable behavior in any context and b) there's no two-way, much less loving, relationship in the stalking songs. It's an entirely imaginary relationship based on misogynist objectification. The singers of stalking songs seem so wrapped up in their own little worlds that they are more impervious to critique.
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Hey kids! I know that you eagerly awaited my scathing rant on chapters 2 through 5 that I promised, but too bad. I will dispense with an analysis of all the problems in chapter 5 to zero in on a particularly repugnant snippet therein.

To set the stage, immediately before chapter 5, Ana and acquaintances go out drinking to celebrate the successful end of finals. Ana becomes sloshed and drunk-dials Christian. Her so-called friend Jose sexually assaults her, only to be fended off by Christian, who has tracked Ana's cell phone and come to pick her up. Jose leaves as Ana, no doubt mirroring the reader's disgust, pukes everywhere. She and Christian dance for a little bit until she passes out.

Chapter 5 begins with Ana in an unfamiliar bed. She quickly realizes that Christian has taken her to his house and removed her pants. Inevitably, Ana wonders if he raped her. Christian assures her that he likes his women "sentient and receptive" [p. 66], so he did not assault her while she was unconscious. Ana appears disappointed by Christian's assertion. In a paragraph discussing her confusion about his apparent lack of hots for her, Ana muses [p. 69]:

"He said he likes his woman sentient. He's probably not celibate then. But he's not made a pass at me... I don't understand. ... Am I repellent to him? You've slept in his bed all night, and he's not touched you all night. You do the math. My subconscious has reared her ugly, snide head. I ignore her."

As we have already observed, the math is pretty easy to follow. Here's the equation:

Christian + unconscious Ana rape

Ana, however, seems to wish that Christian had touched her when she was unconscious. In her perspective, his sexual assault of her in her unconscious, unable-to-consent state would prove his desire for her. Because she apparently subscribes to the trope of romance novels that men can't control their libidos, she conflates rape and desire. It's a testament to how deeply she has been indoctrinated with a misogynist rape culture that she regrets not having been fucked over in her sleep.

This instance represents possibly the only moment in the series that Christian exhibits a modicum of basic human decency, and yet he gets no credit. I'm not expecting the the story to glorify his not raping an unconscious woman. However, it would be nice if the main character, with whom we are supposed to sympathize, didn't fault him for it.

I think this excerpt represents E.L. James' troubling inability, on a global level, to assign the appropriate ethical weight to...well...just about anything. She treats Jose's sexual assault of Ana like an awkward date, after which Ana feels guilty that she doesn't call him. She treats Christian's tracking of Ana through her cell phone as charming protectiveness on his part. She treats bdsm as a dramatic secret nurtured by broken psyches and peeing on a consenting partner as something akin to pedophilia. Whether she's dismissing significant problems of surveillance, control and consent or using her sense of revulsion as a moral proxy, she gets it wrong again and again.

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As I have noted before, Prudie, the Slate advice columinist, has strict standards of gender performance that the women she writes about regularly fail to meet. Some of them don't dress in a feminine enough manner or know how to apply makeup. Some of them object to being maritally raped. And some of them have the temerity not to give a shit about the six hairs on their areolas that their boyfriends find inexplicably revolting -- the horror! Her list of women who fail true femininity keeps growing and growing.

Therefore I was pleasantly surprised with a recent Dear Abbie column that could have turning into gender policing, but didn't. It was about body hair on women, a subject that hits Prudie's buttons. The writer to Dear Abbie complains that his wife no longer shaves her legs after 25 years of marriage. He thinks her leg hair disgusting and wonders what to do.

In response, Abbie provides a little relatable context for the man, saying that perhaps the woman is freeing herself from a tedious routine in the same way that a man who has shaved his face for years for his job might grow a beard after retirement. Abbie also adds that the letter writer should put up and shut up.

I like that Abbie's response, first, provided a frame of reference that the letter writer might understand. Her analysis of the woman's leg hair as  rejection of an obligation turns the focus away from the offended man and onto the woman, who probably has perfectly reasonable motivations for doing it -- motivations that have nothing to do with the man [gasp]! Abbie's reframing allows her to identify the real problem: the letter writer's belief that the woman owes him hairless legs. She objects, saying that, instead, the letter writer owes the woman respect. if anyone needs to change, it's him, not her.

Wow, an advice columnist with a healthy respect for bodily autonomy! Will wonders never cease? I think I should start reading Dear Abbie as an antidote to Dear Prudence.

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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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Apparently there's a [mini?] series coming up this fall on NBC called Dracula.  Based on the sluggish, exceptionally uninteresting preview, this adaptation shares a lot in common with the movie Bram Stoker's Dracula, including the concept of Dracula as a tragic, wronged individual, the characterization of Mina as the reincarnation of Dracula's dead wife, reliance on expensive set dressing and costumes and casting of a sexy actor from across the pond as the titular vampire. Wow, looks like a snooze.

What is it with the idea of Mina as Dracula's reincarnated wife? Where does it come from? To me, it appears to be a modern ploy to make Dracula less of a sicko rapist predator who just goes around collecting women and children and more of a Tragic Lover who has a flimsy pretext for stalking Mina. Whatever. The Reincarnated Lovers trope bores me to tears because it establishes intimacy between characters with no narrative work whatsoever; the author just claims, "Oh yeah, they knew each other in a past life!" and thinks that such an empty Insta-Relationship will actually be accepted by the audience.

It would truly be interesting to start off with a Fated/Reincarnated Lovers relationship that is eventually exposed as bullshit. The woman begins believing that her partner's status as her Reincarnated Lover means that he is her One True Love. However, she slowly realizes that they end up getting together in life after life because the partner is a manipulative asshole who repeatedly engineers the protagonist's dependence on him. He keeps her with him by using just enough niceness as intermittent reinforcement, but mostly by threatening and gaslighting her until she believes that their relationship represents True Romance As It Is Supposed To Be. The protagonist eventually figures out that just because things have happened this way before does not mean they must happen this way again and just because things have happened this way before does not mean that is the best way for them to go down. She goes off to live her own life, which of course the ex-partner can't stand, so he begins stalking and harassing the protagonist. He breaks into the protagonist's house and tries to rape her. She kills him, possibly with the help of her current partner. The story ends with the protagonist and her current partner watching out for the reincarnation of her ex so that they can insure intervention such that, this time, he doesn't grow up to be a total waste of a human being. To be clear, this is not about the protagonist gentling the beast with her virtue, but declaring that somehow she would like to give her ex-partner the opportunity to break the cycle of violence.

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Iplehouse Doria's special edition fantasy head amuses me to no end [as does the phrase "tonsil hockey"].

Read more... ) 

I keep thinking she needs an ice cream cone. :d "Whoops...sorry...dribbling a little bit there... Creemees are so delicious, but so messy!"

Araminthe: "Keep your sloppy desserts away from my camera. >:( "

As may be surmised by the fact that she is already interacting with my other dolls, this doll will most likely join the 1:3 scale hordes. More specifically, I am trying to engineer a split in which one buyer gets the body, another the human head and me the fantasy head. Then I'll scrounge her a body that is cheaper and much more poseable than Iplehouse's shapely, but not very movable, offerings.

If the split goes through, her name will be Yamarrah, and she will be extremely! perky! She will enjoy ice cream and Jazzercise, and she will dress in an oversize sweatshirt, leggings, legwarmers and hightops. She may also have a sweatband and large triangular earrings. She will definitely have a fur wig! She and Janvier Jett can swap makeup tips.
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I conclude that Slate keeps around certain commentators [Camille Paglia, Katie Roiphe, William Saletan] precisely because their uninformed, reactionary blatherings piss people off. That's the only reason I can think of. I mean, surely no one takes these clueless blowhards seriously?

This week's bloviation comes from William "Pointless and Sententious" Saletan's column on The Trouble with Bondage. That's bdsm, by the way, and the article discusses the reasons why bdsm will never go mainstream.

I thought the reason was that the majority of people weren't interested in it. But no, silly me. Saletan's article, as near as I can figure out, goes something like this:

blah blah blah lifestyle blah blah blah voluntary pursuit of pain wtf?! ewwwwwwwww blah blah breath play is dangerous blah blah anti-feminist sickos who like rape scenes blah some people take it to extremes blah blah I have no idea what I'm talking about, so I'm just going to call bdsm "consensual domestic violence" and cash my paycheck blah blah blah lifestyle choice.

As a human being with a functioning sense of decency, I find it repulsive that Saletan trivializes intimate partner abuse by using it as a metaphor for something it has nothing to do with. Way to go, you picayune, misogynist fuckhead. I'm glad to know that you're more interested in making false equivalencies than dealing with actual deleterious symptoms of kyriarchy.

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I was going to write a long, learned essay about how much the short story Hatchling in Laini Taylor's collection, Lips Touch Three Times, pissed me off, but fuck it. Let me get to the meat of the matter: Laini Taylor, your voluptuous prose cannot distract me from your moral vacuity.

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

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

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

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

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Warning: Coercion, disregard for autonomy, objectification, misogyny, etc., etc., etc.

I just read about yet another one in Slate, wherein technology columnist for the New York Times David Pogue made a fake movie trailer about his relationship with his girlfriend. Then, as the Slate columnist L.V. Anderson writes,

"In case you don’t have the inclination to watch the video: He produced a five-minute movie trailer for a fake romantic comedy based on his relationship with Dugan (starring two good-looking Broadway actors in the lead roles), which he convinced a movie theater to play for Dugan (and all of their families, plus some unwitting strangers) before a feature-length film. He hid three cameras around Dugan’s seat before she sat down so that he could record her reaction. At the end of the trailer, he led her to the front of the theater, gave a short speech about how wonderful she was, and asked her to marry him."

Longer coverage [and the horrible video] here: http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2012/08/31/david_pogue_nicki_dugan_marriage_proposal_it_should_never_have_been_publicized_.html

So, not only was it a public proposal, but it was a secretly recorded public proposal. She was under SURVEILLANCE. Even ickier, as Anderson points out,

"Pogue timed the filming of his faux trailer in such a way that Dugan had to say yes in the span of about two seconds, or else the trailer would stop making sense. (He’d humbly pre-recorded a jubilant celebration.) "

There...the subtext has become the text. Pogue [and, by extension, all of the other guys who engage in this public proposal crapola] expects his fiancee to agree. At the same time, with Pogue's proposal, as with others, the assent from the fiancee is actually irrelevant. As the rigid structure of Pogue's fake trailer demonstrates, it's all about the happy day of the one who proposes. The expectation of the fiancee's yes gives her no room to say anything else. The show must go on! Let's have a party, for the guy has just acquired a new accessory [=wife]!

Ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh.
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Grimm is back for a second season, and it's still incredibly stupid. The latest episode, Bad Moon Rising, follows our protagonist, police detective Nick, as he chases a gang of coyote Wesen [= therianthropes]. The gang leader kidnaps his teenaged niece, Carlie, who, along with her parents, left the pack when she was very young. The gang leader plans to rape Carlie, as is apparently customary for coyote Wesen to increase the numbers of their pack.

Read more... )
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The Catholic Church leadership and the Boy Scouts of America leadership are similar in another way besides their virulent anti-gay sentiment and policies: they both abet child abuse. Just like the Catholic hierarchy, the BSA hierarchy apparently has a history of ignoring allegations, letting accused child abusers move to other troops or locations and otherwise keeping abusers around.

It's extremely hypocritical that both the organizations denounce the immorality of queer people and yet fail to recognize the immorality being perpetrated largely by straight dudes inside their organizations.
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Just finished the third book in the Sonja Blue trilogy, Paint It Black by Nancy Collins. Kinda funny how she took the title from a Rolling Stones song that was more original, memorable and deeply felt in a few verses than the entire Sonja Blue trilogy was in 3 books. Anyway, I think there was something in there about Sonja's consummation of her quest for vengeance against her vampire maker, but it was lost in an incredibly tedious string of rape, murder, murder by rape and rape by murder that was trying hard to pass for plot.

I was mostly reading the book because I was curious to see how Sonja's adopted vampire/human hybrid daughter Lethe would turn out. When Lethe went into a cocoon, popped out as a teenager after a few weeks and raped her adoptive father [Sonja's partner], then flew around the world [without a plane], raping 24 other guys, with the goal of producing some sort of master race with super psychic powers, I was disgusted. I was disgusted by the complete vacuity of the whole enterprise and its venomously misanthropic, morally bankrupt imagination. It was bad because it was stupid and stupid because it was bad.

I swore an oath to myself that I wouldn't swear any more in my LJ, but I have to break that oath now because the Sonja Blue trilogy was the shittiest shit that ever shat. It's an offense to good writing, good plotting and good character development. It's an offense to all people of any sex and gender presentation, but especially women. It's an offense against anyone who believes in kindness, respect, humanity and fairness. It's an offense to originality and creativity.

I've concluded that it's not actually a trilogy. Instead, it's an actively destructive vortex of hostility. It's a testament to the sad depths of banal depravity of the human imagination. It's a diseased mutation of novels, a literary cancer born from kyriarchical nastiness. It's deeply revolting on every level -- line by line, cliche by cliche, regurgitated theme by regurgitated theme -- and potentially damaging. I live in the kyriarchy; I already experience multiple axes of oppression daily; I don't need the inhumane dicta of the kyriarchy concentrated and injected directly into my amygdala in the form of this trilogy.

If, for some bizarre reason, you want to read a series that hates you and enjoys doing so, I heartily recommend the Sonja Blue trilogy. You can have my copies. Take them, please. I would burn them in cleansing fire, only I don't think there's any place around here where I can do so without violating some sort of city ordinance. Barring that, I'll settle for tossing them in the Dumpster or recycling them in the vain hope that the pages might contribute usefully to society in their next life.

I don't just hate this trilogy. I reject it. I repudiate it. It represents all the vile oppressions against which I struggle every day. This trilogy is just one of my many enemies and oppressors.

I will not let it win.
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A letter writer in her late 20s writes in Prudie's latest Slate column that she and her husband have negotiated the following boundaries: One time, they were drunk, and he was horny, but she did not want to have sex, so she shoved him away. They now agree, that, if they are drunk and/or sleepy, they should secure each other's consent before having sex. Good? Good!

Then they both got drunk. Her husband did not ask her consent, but she "went along," in her words. She concludes, "I can’t fathom how he could have ignored our agreement. Should I just drop it or am I right about feeling abused?"

In response, Prudie comments derisively on college codes of conduct that advise consent in sexual situations each time the participants start a new activity. She then contrasts such requirements to interactions in a married couple, where, she says, "implicit consent" can be assumed.

Prudie winds up by insulting the letter writer as "prim, punctiliious, punitive," while suggesting that the letter writer is abusing her husband: "Living in terror that expressing one’s perfectly normal sexual desire could end one’s marriage, and freedom, is itself a form of abuse."

Bloody hell, can we all see what's wrong with this response? The letter writer's husband forced himself upon her without obtaining her consent, as previously agreed. Why yes, in fact, that is rape. That's a problem!

Even if one has a hard time wrapping one's head around the fact that this interaction is rape [this is apparently Prudie's problem], one can at least admit that the letter writer's husband overrode a clearly stated boundary and thus disrespected the letter writer's autonomy and agency. This is also [at least] the second time that he has behaved in a similar manner. This is a red flag for, at worst, an abusive asshole and, at best, an individual so inculcated with cultural misogyny that he really needs to grow up and learn how to treat women like people before attempting further relationships. That's also a problem!

Prudie does not recognize these problems, however, because she is too busy making fun of the letter writer and talking out her ass about her ideal concept of marriage. Apparently, her vision of marriage includes unlimited license for one partner to rape the other. If the victim doesn't put out or even dares to feel disturbed about his or her agency being disregarded, the victim is being a poor partner. The victim's oversensitivity is stifling the rapist's "perfectly normal sexual desire." Don't you know that expecting a relationship based on mutual respect and enthusiastic consent "is itself a form of abuse?" The problem is all in the head of the victim, who should be lying back and thinking of Dan Savage. :p

That's rape culture right there: victim blaming, victim shaming and valorization of the rapist's feelings and experience over the victim's. And that's a problem!
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After mulling for a few days, I've determined some of the most problematic assumptions underlying 50 Shades of Grey. As I've discussed, it is about a young woman, Ana, who embarks on a submissive, bdsm relationship with the dominant and slightly older Christian.
I mention child abuse and rape below the cut. )
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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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I started 50 Shades of Grey, by E.L. James, first in the 50 Shades trilogy, last night. The trilogy constitutes a very drawn-out romance novel with bdsm themes, starring Ana as an inexperienced college graduate and Christian as a 27-year-old CEO and millionaire. 

Let me tell you, folks -- it's a treat! And by "treat" I mean "a book in dire need of a ruthless and judicious editor." I found myself rolling my eyes up to thrice a page at some infelicity of style or bizarre authorial choice. I fear I'm going to sprain my ocular muscles by the time this book is through.

In no particular order, here are some of my observations after about the first 60-80 pages [I forget where I stopped]:

Ana has an unusual relationship with her inner monolgue, which she, in her first-person narration, inaccurately terms her "subconscious." Her "subconscious" repeatedly appears personified, tapping its foot and rolling its eyes at one of her stupid remarks, for example. This gives the unintentionally hilarious picture of a homunculus inside Ana's brain, providing MST3K-like commentary on everything she does. It's an interesting characterological device if you want to explore it, but, of course, James doesn't, so Ana's internal divide ends up revealing nothing interesting about her.

Furthermore, Ana's inner monologue sounds off indiscriminately, no matter what the needs of the story. It's almost always repetitive. For example, when Ana admires Christian's office building, she describes it as "impressive." Okay, she's impressed. We do not need to know that her internal monologue is saying, "Wow." Ana's inner voices have a reaction to every single event in the novel, mostly along the lines of, "I feel horrible for doing [insert embarrassing thing] in front of Christian." Since Ana's body language and speech, also detailed in the text, clearly demonstrate her chagrin, her thoughts add nothing to either the story or her personality. In fact, she ends up coming across as literal-minded, unanalytical and kind of stupid.

On another subject, Ana keeps tripping over her own feet and falling into Christian's arms. She should consult her primary care doctor about this. I think she might have problems with proprioception.

Speaking of Christian, he too is a very odd duck. He has the most labile emotions of any character I've met recently. His feelings change from paragraph to paragraph, as he vacillates between leering at Ana, freezing her out, then getting angry that she's not acting the way he wishes her to [which, of course, he hasn't communicated to her at all]. His actions are extremely unusual, in that most people don't cycle through emotions so rapidly. His transparent, fluctuating facial expressions suggest that he was inadequately trained in the socially acceptable methods of monitoring and expressing his emotions.

We know that Christian has some painful secret past, so it's possible that James intended his emotional instability to manifest his internal damage. However, given the way that James completely fails to recognize opportunities to psychologize her own characters, even as she's writing these opportunities into the story, I doubt that I'm supposed to be considering what historical effects led to Christian's emotional problems. More than likely, James wishes us to read Christian's instability as the seductive moodiness of a typical romance-novel alpha male.

On a related note, I see nothing but trouble for Christian in any sort of bdsm scenario. An ideal scene requires explicit, trusting communication between the participants about their roles, interests and dislikes. Christian would much rather impose his will on his partners, instead of initiating productive dialogue. He's the sort of creepy dom who would touch people sexually without their permission and probably ignore their safe words.

A particular incident between Ana and Christian set off warning bells for me about Christian's abusive traits. In one scene, Ana gets drunk for the first time and impulsively calls Christian. She has a short chat with him, at which point Christian flies off the handle and states that he is coming to pick her up. He tracks her location by using data from her cell phone call. Conveniently, Christian arrives just in time to save Ana from being raped by a "friend." Ana pukes on herself and Christian [that's what I think of him too], then faints, waking up in Christian's bed in her underwear.

Look, Mr. Grey -- I don't care how "justified" you are [according to the story] with the assault and the puke and the sexual tension. You are stalking Ana by finding her through cell phone data. You are assaulting her by nonconsensually removing her clothes. Furthermore, you are a classic abusive personality in the first place for using her phone call as an excuse to control and confine her behavior. You really are a repulsive individual. And if you "quirk" your eyebrows or grin a "sardonic" grin one more time, I'm taking away your poetic license.

The same goes for you, Ana. If you don't stop biting your lower lip and saying "crap" and "double crap," there will be consequences.
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John Wallek, plumbing and heating inspector for the state's Public Safety Department, faces charges of stalking a much younger woman also employed by the state. Wallek harassed the woman at work, at home and online, messaging her with E-mails and Facebook posts for about a year, even after being told to stop.

For some reason, the Freeps interviewed Wallek, who stated, "It's all kind of bizarre. I just don't believe it has gone this far."

Look, folks -- it's an embodiment of rape culture! Only in a society in which women are presumed heterosexual and automatically available to all types of attention from men, only in a society in which women's consent means diddly squat because, so many times, they are presumed to have granted it merely by existing, only in such a society would a man think that his possible conviction for being a misogynist ass would be "kind of bizarre" because it's going against the unstated expectations of man-woman interaction in this society.

Jeez, how "bizarre" is it that a woman wants to be treated with egalitarian respect and decency? It's mind-boggling. It's almost like...almost like...women are people too! Imagine that.
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Summary: Jerkwad protagonists Lee and Angel actually go on sales calls. Angel gets results by stereotypically flirting and playing up "feminine" mannerisms. Lee gets jealous and accusatory, then tries the flirty style to great failure. Meanwhile Angel gets a date with one of the doctors he was selling to.

Analysis: Oh God, I can feel my will to watch draining away as I watch this show. I feel my mouth hardening into a permanent cringe. I thought that the collective scorn and criticism of the Internet and the known world would force this show back into the dank hole of "isms" whence it came, but apparently not.

The transphobia...because Lee can't describe how Angel looks as a woman without mocking him for stereotypically masculine traits such as big biceps and a broad chin!

The sexism and misogyny...because this episode just assumes without question that women using their sexuality in the workplace to get what they want is acceptable and appropriate!

The slut shaming...because Lee can't express his jealousy of Angel's success without intimating that Angel is a whore!

The trivialization of date rape...because Angel was going to drug his doctor date if the date put any moves on him!

The homophobia...because God forbid that two men touch in an affectionate or intimate manner!

Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive list of prejudices evinced in Work It. The stupidity is multi-dimensional, much the same way as Dan Savage's bigotry, and no one entry can comprehend it all...maybe a series.

My favorite response to Work It was someone's tweet saying, "I think ABC left out a letter when they described this as 'the new hit show!'" LOL!

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Yesterday, I watched another Lifetime Xmas movie, The Road to Xmas, in which a woman is happily engaged to an Italian man. He's preparing a surprise wedding for her in Aspen and, when one of her photography shoots is canceled, she decides to fly out early to surprise him. When her flight is canceled, she hitches a ride with a widower and his teenaged daughter. The woman [naturally :p ] falls in love with the widower, conveniently discovers her fiance's infidelity and dumps the fiance for the widower.

For a Lifetime Xmas movie, The Road to Xmas was surprisingly tolerable. This is probably because the movie itself was a road-trip romance that happened to occur arround Xmas, rather than a film in which Xmas plays a starring role as the holiday of cliched and enforced happiness for all.

Because I could watch Road to Xmas without gagging on holiday cheer, its problematic elements stood out all the more strongly: 1) homophobia and 2) domestic violence.

You see...the photographer's fiance wasn't just having an affair with some random woman...he was sexing it up with the male wedding planner. After unbelievable excuses, the fiance protests that he really wanted the wedding between him and the photographer to work out, which makes him seem like not only a cheater, but a cheater deluded enough to think that a straight marriage would somehow keep both parties happy when one party is secretly gay. After an entirely heteronormative movie, two gay characters appear only to provide a devastating [yet convenient] end to the photographer and fiance's relationship, thus reinforcing the idea that gay people are selfish homewreckers.

I also objected to the domestic violence at the end of the film. When she discovered that her fiance was gay, the photographer swung her fists at him, slapping him and pounding him in the chest. He said something like, "Please don't hit me!" or "Why are you hitting me?" Her response was something like, "It's the only thing I can think to do, and it feels good." The photographer's blows against her fiance were shown to be ineffectual and comic, but just make the assailant a man and the victim a woman to see how chilling this exchange truly is. Can you imagine a male character justifying violence against a female character by saying, "It feels good"? Most people would recognize such a situation as the abusive behavior it is. When the assailant is female, however, and the victim male, the situation is minimized, diminished and played for comic relief so that the violence seems more palatable, even acceptable and dismissable! Vomitorious.
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Via Shakesville, I learned today about the "surprise wedding." What is this wretched idea? Apparently, according to the Windsor Star, this man's idea was to plan an entire wedding behind his fiancee's back, with friends and family keeping her in the dark until the moment that he proposed, at which point he said that the wedding would occur within hours.

So let's get this straight...
  • One partner willfully deprives the other of any input in planning a significant, life-changing event, assuming that he knows best for the both of them.
  • The depriving partner even brings the other partner's whole social and familial circle into collusion, basically trapping them in a lie of omission.
  • Finally, as if this weren't enough, the depriving partner sets up a highly public event at which the other partner may be embarrassed, shamed or coerced into submitting.
Such a series of events is not romantic and loving. By degrading and ignoring his partner's agency and input, the depriving partner is saying, in so many words, that his plans matter more than hers, that he matters more than she does. No matter how many of her preferences he incorporates into the wedding, the mere fact that he set everything up without her consultation, basically leaving her only a slot in which to insert her "yes," devalues his partner in general. It's arguably abusive!
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The inaccuracies in SVU really both me, not just those about twins and trans people, but those regarding just about everyone in the known universe.

Read more... )
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Why the hell does SVU always include stupid threats and jokes about the heinous subject of prison rape in every episode?
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In an interview with Nylon, Stephen Moyer, currently playing dead cheeseface vampire Bill in True Blood, expounds upon the appeal of vampire characters to a female audience:
The thing about vampirism is that it taps into a female point of view – you have an old-fashioned gentleman with manners who is a fucking killer… it’s an interesting duality, because in our present society it would be an odd thing for a woman to say, ‘I want my man to be physical with me.’ How, as a modern man, can you fucking work that? It’s one thing to be polite and gentle… But when do you know it’s OK to crawl out of the mud and rape her [as Bill does in one scene]?… It’s difficult stuff for a bloke, but a vampire gets away with it…. I think that’s the attraction of the show – it’s looking back at a romantic time when men were men, but they were still charming.
Let's look at his claims, shall we? First, Moyer thinks that he knows "a female point of view." He, as a man, now speaks for what women want. He, a white heterosexual male, has authority on what women want! We need no input from actual women to determine what those strange feminine creatures desire. Let the authoritative man tell us. He's an expert because he's not a vampire, but he plays one on TV.

Moyer believes that women desire "an old-fashioned gentleman...who is a fucking killer." Yes yes, polite murderers! They're really sexy! They hearken back, claims Moyer, to a "romantic time when men were men, but they were still charming." Yet what were men doing during this time? Crawling "out of the mud and [raping] their partners," as his character Bill does to Sookie in one scene apparently.

Have you got that? There was a time, in Moyer's dim, ahistorical, misogynist view of things, when men raped women, and women liked it. It was a "romantic" time, so lovey-dovey. Women didn't have to do anything so difficult as saying what they wanted. They could just count on men to screw them against their will...politely, though, and with manners.

Moyer may be talking about vampires as vectors of rape fantasies, which have nothing to do with real non-consensual sex and everything to do with the fantasizer forcing herself to let go and experience pleasure, something she may have a hard time doing outside of her head. I acknowledge that these fantasies of masterful, sweep-you-off-your feet sex partners exist. I acknowledge that these fantasies may be framed as non-consensual. I acknowledge that part of the allure of vampires as portrayed in True Blood and other modern media is their masterful, sweeping-off-feet tendencies. I do not dispute the existence of these things.

I do object, however, to Moyer's characterization of feminine desires. Whether he's referring to sweep-you-off-your-feet fantasies or not, he's doing so inaccurately and misogynistically. By calling rape "romantic" and claiming that "men were men," he's confusing an observation about vampire as sexual fantasy with some stupid essentialist drivel about masculine aggression, not to mention the misogynist bullshit idea about women secretly yearning to be raped. Therefore, instead of providing an insight into the popularity of the vampire figure [as other actors who have played vampires have demonstrated that they can do with intelligence and humor and WITHOUT misogyny], Moyer ends up providing insight into how much he loathes both men and women. I've just lost all respect for him. D:

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All righty, so I've been watching Brimstone. It's a canceled show with John Glover [the awesome! also gay!] as the Devil goading on some guy with a fascinating nose. The guy is Ezekiel Stone, who went to hell for killing his wife's rapist. Now back from hell, he has a second chance at life on earth if he can round up 113 escaped souls and shoot out their eyes, sending them back to hell. Read more... )
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So I just checked out a 42-minute movie, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, on Hulu. It's a love triangle story between aspiring evil mad scientist Dr. Horrible, macho doofus Captain Hammer and activist mushball Penny. It was truly tragic that such witty dialog, catchy songs and all-around solid performances were called into service for an UTTERLY UNORIGINAL AND SEXIST PLOT. I object to the purity, innocence, naivete and kindness of the mushball Penny because these qualities did not make her an effective foil character for the guys; they just objectified her and made her an unintelligent, unperceptive pawn. Her character was so unoriginal, boring and unattractive that I almost quit watching. Vomit vomit vomit. I'm especially annoyed by the putrid sexual politics of this movie because the creators, Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy, are known for slightly more complex, interesting and dynamic portrayals of important female characters. The songs, acting and script were all good, but the plot fucking sucked. Therefore, the film overall gets a mediocre rating, and I'm so deeply offended by the stale sexism that I can't, in good conscience, recommend this to anyone.

P.S. Stalking is not cute, comedic or romantic.
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In a 2007 Q&A in Alpharetta, GA, Stephenie Meyer addressed the possibility of Edward being a grade A douchenozzle an abuser. Meyer's response, transcribed below, illuminates her deluded perceptions of her characters and her dysfunctional relationship toward her fictional products. My comments are in regular face type.

Question 12: There’s been some speculation on the internet….. about Edward being an abusive boyfriend….. ?

Because he IS!

Meyer:  Yeah, yeah, OK. There’s a lot of stuff online that has, honestly, broken my heart recently. It is difficult to read things that take such a negative spin on something that is very personal and also makes a lot of sense inside your head. 

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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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Eclipse is a big fat turd, mind-boggling in its display of authorial ineptitude. I'm seriously stupefied by the abounding incoherence. In Twilight and New Moon, the characters had some consistency, no matter how repulsive and stupid they were. In New Moon, however, said consistency went out the window, with Edward and Jacob suffering the most. Also I the reader suffered when Bella took her stupidity to new lows.
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If you want to see a show driven by the power of all-around masterful performances married to a strong, character-driven storyline, check out American Gothic, now available at Hulu. It is an ensemble story of sweet Southern corruption in which forces both good and evil fight for control of a young boy's soul. 

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

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

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

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

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The two ads for Barska binoculars are part of a print trio that trivializes stalking. From Ads of the World, as noticed by Shakesville. To compound the creepiness, the supposedly female stalker is actually a guy in drag [note Adam's apple], a move that adds extra layers of dismissal and degradation. While some commenters opine that the series is creepy [see Shakesville comments], sexist and stupid, the majority seem to think it is funny [see Ads of the World comments or that it deserves "kudos." No, it doesn't.

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Dunkelziffer creates a viscerally effective PSA about the importance of helping kids who experience sexual abuse. A slithering arm/penis thing, covered with hair and moles, appears at various points in a woman's life, leaving only when she's dead. Ad accurately transmits the deep disturbance and revulsion that survivors of abuse can feel in almost any situation, as well as the feelings of disgust, invasion and violation. Also great use of the arm/penis thing to depict how the abuse seems to take on a life of its own. One and a half minutes of pathos and horror.

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When I saw this ad linked over at Feministing, my brain crunched, stopped and blew a few circuits of sheer incredulity that such sexist, racist, ageist bigotry could actually make it to the screen. 
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Talia Mae Bettcher writes an interesting article in Hypatia about transphobia and its connection to murders of trans people. Basically she points out that there's this persistent theme that trans people are deceivers and that, if one checks what's in their pants, one sees what they "really" are. So what we have here is the essentialist notion that gender depends not on how one dresses, acts and identifies, but what one covers up with one's underwear. 
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Conveniently enough for my therianthrope kick, BoingBoing linked to this French Orangina commercial. In case you are ignorant of this awesome drink, Orangina is like sweetened, watered, fizzy orange juice with some pulp, and it is so very good. 

The commercial starts with a bipedal humanoid deer woman, who is masturbating rocking in solitary ecstasy on a swing in a bucolic forest. Then a bipedal humanoid bear man steals her Orangina.
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 If you really want to see an offensive ad, check out Kabayanihan's anti-violence print ad below the cut, courtesy of AdverBox. 
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Kissed, the movie mentioned in my July 3rd entry, came in the mail on Monday, and I watched it. I'm only now reviewing it because I was busy priming and painting Tuesday and Wednesday.

Kissed, a closely focused movie with very few extras or characterological background, is a character study of two characters who are debatably nuts, yet perfect for each other.

Despite the inherent unlikeability of the characters, Kissed is an interesting, solid movie. It's by no means as artistic, philosophical, psychologically profound and daring as it thinks it is, but it's interesting and saved largely by convincing performances. The acting is all-around low-key, underplayed, even a bit deadpan [hah], which keeps the story from becoming sensationalized. The lack of extras [never have I seen a more desolate college campus] mars the realism, but also adds a dreamy, depupulated atmosphere to the story, demonstrating how much Sandra and Matt are focused on things besides the real world. The languid camera work and the poetic voice-overs add a meditative mood to the proceedings, though there are far too many fade-to-the-white-light-of-transcendent-orgasm shots. Also, the voice-overs could have been used much more parsimoniously, at the beginning, the end and during the extended childhood flashback of Sandra's. 

Apparently Kissed is based on a short story, "We So Seldom Look on Love," by Barbara Gowdy. I'll have to look into it. Maybe it provides some history for Sandra and Matt.

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