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So, as people have no doubt heard, the Quad City Times recently reported that Vivian Boyack and Nonie Dubes married recently after 72 years together. The gay rights mainstream's obsession with marriage equality is problematic, as is the whole concept of romantic love. That being said, I appreciate [hah!] the photo of Boyack and Dubes holding hands in front of the officiant for several reasons.

For one, the photo represents aspects of queer culture that popular media likes to gloss over: a) women who are b) old, c) [visibly] disabled and d) at least somewhat invested in the butch/femme roles. Look! Two women in wheelchairs who are happy! ^_^

For another, the photo shows just how deeply Boyack and Dubes care for each other. Boyack reaches over to Dubes with a sort of protective air, while Dubes keeps Boyack's hand firmly within hers. They look calmly at the officiant; though this is a significant day for them, they also know that this is also a mere legality that does nothing to change their steadfast devotion to each other. That sort of mutual happiness always makes me want to cry. Sniff sniff.

Read more... )
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Greer Gilman, master of purple involuted mock-Jacobean epics, muses about one of my favorite themes. The girls who have adventures in labyrinths fare differently compared to the boys. [Also she has a bone to pick with Tehanu's crabbed domesticity in Ursula Le Guin's novel of the same name. So do I, Gilman. So do I.]

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

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

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

Pfffffft.

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

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

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

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

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I'm deeply saddened that I find this noteworthy, but I have to say that, in my albeit limited survey of Queen's music, I have found remarkably little in the way of condescension, objectification and misogyny directed toward women in their songs. I'm still waiting in dread for the inevitable sexist stereotypes to crop up and drop my opinion of them, but so far they seem on a level with Men Without Hats. That is, they care less about slagging more than half the population and more about doing what they love: making music! 

Take, for example, Queen's Killer Queen. It's a character sketch of a rich, powerful woman who has expensive tastes and an indomitable will. After an enumeration of her expensive preferences in company and cuisine, the lyrics describe her as "Dynamite with a laser beam / Guaranteed to blow your mind / Anytime"  -- i.e., she's attractive and sexually powerful, but she doesn't threaten, piss off or annoy the speaker. He calls her "dynamite," in the sense of "highly skilled at what she does," "sexy" and "explosively awesome." He wants her to blow his mind!

Even the verse in which she's compared to a cat comes across as laudatory. While woman:cat similes tend to connote peevish competitiveness [cattiness] and sexual objectification [qua pussy cat], the simile here calls the woman "playful as a pussy cat."  The verse describes how she pursues the speaker avidly, then suddenly stops, "temporarily out of gas." The speaker recognizes that she's playing a game -- "all out to get you" -- but doesn't think she's a cocktease or playing hard to get. No, he goes along, happy to play with the woman. The song ends with an acknowledgment of the woman's irresistible effect on the speaker ["Recommended at any price"], as well as listeners ["Wanna try? / You wanna try..."]. It's very obvious that the song Killer Queen is sung as a tribute by a dude who desires, respects and perhaps even loves a woman for traits that other people would probably deride.

...People like, for example, the Rolling Stones. The Stones' analogue to Killer Queen would have to be Stupid Girl, in which the singer sketches a character similar to the Killer Queen. The woman in Stupid Girl dresses expensively, values material goods ["...she digs for gold"], pursues men aggressively ["...she grabs and holds"], etc. The singer even trots out a feline simile: "She purrs like a pussy cat / Then turns round and hisses back."  Heck, the Killer Queen and the Stupid Girl are probably the same person, just described from different points of view.

While the speaker in Killer Queen thinks that the woman is the best partner he's had, the speaker in Stupid Girl absolutely loathes the woman. It's right there in the title of the song! Finally, the comparison of the woman to "a lady-in-waiting to a virgin queen" implies that she's close to power, but actually lacking it, really just a glorified servant. Furthermore, the virginity of the queen in the simile passes by association onto the woman, connoting sexual inexperience, coldness and inaccessibility. The speaker clearly can't stand the fact that he desires this woman, so he projects all his hostility onto her and vilifies her for being interested in people other than himself. [Gee, I wonder why? He's such a catch! :p ]

In my imagination, this is how the story goes: There's a young woman -- let's say her name is Regina ;) -- born into wealth and power. She's neither particularly good nor particularly bad, neither particularly selfish nor unselfish, just a person of average character. She really enjoys her material privileges, though. She knows that her wealth and attractiveness give her a certain license, so she exploits this in her active, assertive search for romantic and sexual partners. She always has the flashiest and latest and best and most expensive of everything, and she carefully, deliberately cultivates her status as trendsetter. She holds meetings with her staff, for example, where they go over long-range ramifications of, say, choosing vegetarianism. For another example, she has a panel of people who critique every outfit she wears, looking not only for high quality, coordination, fashionability, originality and daring, but also for rip-offs, appropriation, offensiveness, copyright infringement, etc. Regina has a reputation for being somewhat mysterious and reclusive, but this is mostly because she spends so much time analyzing every more in private before she makes it in public.

Regina's work pays off. People wear what she wears, eat what she eats, travel where she travels, support the causes she supports, While not an actor or singer or model or fashion designer or hereditary titled person, Regina hangs out with all the coolest of all these groups, or, more precisely, they seem to hang out with her because they want her awesomeness by association. In short, she has become one of the most powerful people in the country. As a style icon, she has enormous influence to shape the most basic aspects of people's lives, from the contents of their closets to their moral considerations. Regina shamelessly enjoys this power.

There are two people -- let's call them Freddie and Mick ;) -- who represent the divergent opinions that the public has about Regina. Freddie recognizes Regina's achievements. He understands that people in Regina's position are neither inherently sexy nor glamorous and that Regina has carefully crafted the role of style icon for herself. He realizes that the creation and maintenance of such a status requires a lot of time, money and energy, and he's impressed by her ambition, acumen, intelligence and hard work. He notes that, while she does not have a traditionally defined profession, she has turned "style icon" into her own demanding, full-time job. And, of course, like many people, Freddie feels the effects of Regina's glamour. Her quick movement through dating/bed partners just proves to him that she's admirably lusty, playful, fun-loving, probably "dynamite" :D in the sack and exhausting to anyone she moves on from. He lusts after her; he has a huge crush on her; he thinks she's amazing and really enjoys their friends with benefits hook-ups. If anything, he has a little hero worship going on that keeps him from seeing Regina as an imperfect person, like him.

On the other hand, Mick contemns Regina as an airhead heiress who does nothing and is famous for being famous. In his eyes, she wastes her fortune on trivial tokens of femininity, like clothes and cosmetics. Her assertive pursuit of sexual and romantic partners makes him think that she's a slutty whore...and also a frigid b***h because she declined to date him after having sex one night. He hates her because she's a woman who has the temerity to be happy without him in her life. It goes without saying that Mick is, of course, a miserable, wretched excuse for a human being. :p
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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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Interactive and/or serialized and/or illustrated sci fi/fantasy stories decorated with a mid-century pulpy flair appear to contain actual women and people of color! 
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I have a really early version of Lesbian Couples by Merilee Clunis and Dorsey Green, which I picked up in a used bookstore because I find [relatively] old advice books fascinating, especially when they have to do with queer people. 

I expected very little from this book, but was pleasantly surprised to discover that even the first edition was surprisingly down-to-earth and practical. It spends a lot of time discussing how feminine enculturation, socioeconomic differences, race/ethnicity differences, disabilities and illness, age, fatness, outness, feelings about one's body, familial opinions, etc., etc., may play out when women are involved in relationships with women. It offers standard techniques for respectful communication and listening with an acknowledgment of how the aforementioned factors may complicate them for women. It's very matter-of-fact, unsensationalized and sensible. The clear, calm writing style, combined with its mostly successful efforts to include people with a wide range of identities, makes it a refreshing change from trendy, narrowly targeted bullshit ['s'up, Rules series?].

Anyway, I see they updated the book after about 20 years. ^_^
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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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Hey kids! Are you ready for your daily dose of outrage?

You are? Well let's get crackin'!

I just read Cunt: A Declaration of Independence by Inga Muscio. More precisely, I tried to read it, but ended up throwing it against the wall in disgust about 50 pages in.

Ostensibly, the book is a feminist reclamation of the word "cunt," which apparently amounts to a long discussion of how wonderful uteruses, Fallopian tubes, ovaries, eggs, menstruation and all associated hydraulics are. I don't object to the concept -- we need more appreciation of these long-devalued body parts -- but I object strenuously to the execution.

Muscio insists that all women have cunts. Yes, she actually writes that. I promptly yelled at the book, "NO THEY DON'T!!!!!!!" but this did not alter her erroneous assumption. Apparently all the women I know who don't have cunts aren't women??!?!?!?!?!?!? Keep your essentialist claptrap to yourself, Muscio.

In one of the book's early chapters, Muscio talks about her childhood in which she was shamed and characterized as unclean for menstruating. She then recounts her reacquaintance with her reproductive system, her determination of her own reproductive schedule and her switch from "feminine hygiene products" to sea sponges and rags. There is also a huge tangent about the ocean and the moon and how this somehow relates to fertility [hint: it doesn't]. Yay hooray, she liberated her reproductive system, and she feels good about it.

The problem arises when Muscio prescribes her reproductive liberation program for all women. First of all, as I mentioned before, not all women have the same biology. Second, even if they do have the aforementioned long-devalued body parts, they don't all menstruate. Third, if they do menstruate, they don't necessarily do it on a regular schedule the way that Muscio apparently does. ["Fun" experiment: try figuring out your menstrual "schedule" if you have PCOS!] Fourth, the ocean and the moon have nothing whatsoever to do with menstruation. Fifth, some of us have slightly more complex relationships to our bodies than "Ick, I'm disgusting; the patriarchy has oppressed me!" then transforming into "My womanhood is wonderful!" However, Muscio presents her experience as the sole option, thereby foreclosing on the full and varied range of experiences that a full and varied range of women have in their bodies.

This is not feminism. This is simplistic, biologically reductionist bilge in complete denial of multiple axes of oppression.
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The company just contracted with a vendor of online business skills training courses. Subjects offered are as diverse as PivotTables in Excel and anger management.

I have no problem with the hard skills courses, but I feel ambivalent about the soft skills courses. On one hand, I am grateful that such courses exist because their existence implicitly acknowledges that nobody automatically knows how to manage anger effectively, for example. On the other hand, I have deep philosophical discomfort with the way that emotional labor -- i.e., soft skills -- is demanded by corporate culture, but coded as feminine, demeaned and undervalued in this society. 

There's also the philosophical discomfort created by knowing that the corporations are trying to control what employees feel and how they feel it.

I have no easily summarizable thoughts on these subjects.
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I'm active on 2 message boards for 1:6 scale figs. On one of them earlier this week, a heterosexual, married woman posted some pictures of her vampire dolls with an inexpensive Barbie subbing for one of the expensive vampire characters that she had not purchased, but wished to. She wrote, "Hubby says no more. At least until Christmas..." In other words, her husband told her that she can't buy any more figs till Xmas.

So her husband issued her an ultimatum about what she can and can't do in pursuit of her interests, and she just accepted it. That's not an interaction between equals; that's an interaction between a superior [husband] and a subordinate [wife]. Where does her husband get off, thinking he can control his wife's interests? Why does she accept his control without complaint?

I know why. Her husband probably earns and controls most of the money in their marriage. I bet she's financially dependent on him. Both of them think of the money as all his because it mostly flows from his job, his inheritance, blah blah blah. Both of them also think that, because it's his money, he gets to dictate its distribution. Therefore, he graciously permits his wife to have interests that involve spending money...well, until the interests become too expensive, in his estimation, at which point he forbids the continuation of his wife's interests because she is taking something away from him. She should be sacrificing for his preferences and wellbeing instead! I mean, God forbid the two approach their relationship from a standpoint of equality, mutual respect and support, rather than a standpoint of sexist, transactional manipulation.

I see the same type of interactions play out on DOA, a forum for people who like Asian ball-jointed dolls. I've heard the following story several times: a young, heterosexual woman writes that her boyfriend feels a deep, shuddering repugnance towards BJDs, not infrequently to the point of forbidding his girlfriend to get any more of them. The poster, of course, feels deep distress and wonders what to do.

Answer: Cultivate relationships with people who respect you and your interests. If a family member, friend or partner tries to control your interests, they're trying to control you because they don't like you the way that you are. They're trying to control you, especially if you're a woman and your interlocutor is a man, because they've internalized the sexist societal dread of autonomous, equal women. They're scared of you. They probably even hate you. Do the world a favor, and surround yourself with people who believe in and practice love instead of fear.

Anyone who says, "No more dolls till Xmas!" instead of "Let's work on our financial goals together" and "You do what you want with your hobby money, as long as you're happy and not hurting anyone" will be kicked to the curb. Anyone who says, "The dolls or me!" as an ultimatum will promptly be dumped in favor of the dolls. That's because I respect myself, while the other person obviously does not.
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A while back, when I still lived in Massachusetts, I was housesitting overnight at someone's house. I found some cheap paperbacks by Nancy Collins there -- Sunglasses After Dark and In the Blood -- and read them quickly, staying up late. They followed the adventures of Sonja Blue, a reluctant vampire trying to suppress her monstrous nature, which she termed "the Other," while also taking vengeance on her maker and ridding the world of supernatural menaces along the way. Back before urban fantasy devolved into a set of cliches, this trilogy [capped by Paint It Black] entertained me and made an impression on me in the way that Sonja's vampirism was portrayed as an alien entity in her head against which she struggled.

Harboring happy memories of this trilogy, I recently got all 3 books off Amazon.com and settled in for a bit of fun. I quickly realized that the Sonja Blue series is a) full of cliches [not urban fantasy cliches, but cliches in general] and b) horribly misogynist.

Speaking of a), I don't even know where to start. All the characters are stock types, and they all speak exactly as expected. For example, the British pimp spews a debased version of Cockney slang ["ducks?" "guv'nor?!"] dreamt up by someone whose experience with the British idiom extends to a single viewing of Disney's Mary Poppins. The oleaginous evil dude makes a suave proposal to our male protagonist of In The Blood that's all ominous inneundo and silly euphemisms. I could go on, but I'd exhaust myself in listing the ways in which the characterization is lazy.

Speaking of b), the series doesn't come right out and hate women blatantly, but it does so in more insidious, structural ways. Sonja moves in a world where most of the people she meets are men, while the women are usually reduced to sexualized window dressing. The one exception, her main antagonist in Sunglasses After Dark, Caroline Wheele, is defined as the widow of a charismatic evangelist [she killed him] for whom, with her psychic talents, she was the power behind the throne. When Caroline dies, the spirits of her victims pull her to pieces, reducing her to an insensate object in the very way that the author reduces all female characters.

The trilogy apparently really hates sex too. Any sex scene is one of transactional exploitation, without any appreciation or emotional connection. Sexual and psychic violation forge both Sonja's and Caroline's personalities, and they go on to perpetrate the same abuses on others. Actually, now that I think about it, there's almost no sex acts in the trilogy. It's all rape, all the time. Anyone whose perspective automatically makes sex an abuse of power has a serious problem. Of course, the trilogy's hatred for sex ends up being a hatred for women, since all the women are reduced to sex objects.

Finally, Sonja herself is constructed as a misogynist character. She doesn't hate -- or at least tolerates -- male characters, with whom she occasionally forms mutually beneficial relationships. But she really doesn't like other women. At best, she feels comtempt for them, at worst, as with Caroline, hatred. Furthermore, Sonja is that most tedious of types, the Exceptional Woman [see my criticism of Brave for details], whose value only lies in her repudiation of her status as a woman and her embrace of pursuits and skills coded as masculine. Blah blah blah yuck.

I'm finishing this trilogy, and then I'm getting rid of it.
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Both organizations piss and moan obsessively about the evils of queer sexuality and trans identities while refusing to recognize the reality: namely, that queer and/or trans people exist within their ranks and that "ACK COOTIES GET IT AWAY!!!" is not a compassionate, acceptable, morally defensible to address these people.

I'm going to talk about the Boy Scouts because I have more experience with them than with Catholics. Sometimes I think that what happens in BSA hierarchy and what happens in local BSA troops are completely different. For example, all my family members involved in BSA describe an enjoyable experience of making friends, playing with their peers, going on adventures and learning fascinating things. I will not claim that everyone's BSA experience is like this, but I will note that, in my admittedly unscientific sample, nobody mentions "pissing and moaning obsessively about the evils of queer sexuality and trans identities" as a primary pursuit.

What is wrong with the BSA leadership? Why are they so pathologically focused on what a very small number of people do with their bodies? Don't they have better things to do, like run the damn organization?
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I previously pronounced Pixar's upcoming Brave as bilge. I stand by that statement, despite the awesomeness of the protagonist's hair.

Remind me against why I'm supposed to be excited about a headstrong princess defying restrictive standards of femininity and charting her own destiny, thus proving that she's just as good as a man? That trope just reinforces the idea that a female character with self-knowledge has to be an egregiously ass-kicking iconoclast in order to determine her own life. It's a form of exceptionalism that dismisses the much more interesting [and common] stories of the ways that women create their own stories in more ambivalent, less flagrant fashion.

Pixar/Disney clearly thinks it's so great for doing Brave, like they're supposed to get feminist cookies for pushing tired stereotypes. This movie irritates me so much, and it's not even out yet!
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I read advice columns for the same reason I watch mediocre TV shows. I gain entertainment not only from the stories told, but also from the advice supplied by the columnist and, frequently, the commenters. Plus there's always the opportunity to castigate the TV show or the advice column for how good it could have been.

Before I go into critiquing the NYT's most recent Social Qs, let me just say that the only advice column I can currently take seriously is Captain Awkward. She's a person with no official credentials to tell other people how to live their lives, but she, along with the trenchant commentariat, manages to provide practical, straightforward, explicit, helpful advice to the questioners. Be warned, though; she does use sexist slurs ["bitch" and "dick"], as well as ableist adjectives ["crazy"]. Despite her failings, I approve of her generally open-minded approach.

Now back to my original subject. In the most recent Social Qs, a letter writer says that her daughter's future mother-in-law loves Fifty Shades of Grey, a BDSM romance novel. "As a feminist," the writer dislikes the books and wonders how to respond when the future MIL asks the writer what she thinks of the books.

Philip Galanes, author of Social Qs, advises the following:

Engage your future in-law, mother to mother. Steer clear of judgmental terms like “offensive,” but try to get to the bottom of her excitement. Say: “I’d hate for a man to treat me or my daughter that way. What do you think the big appeal is?” She couldn’t object, and it might start an interesting conversation.

Good advice. When someone asks you your opinion of something controversial with which you disagree, you can neutrally state that you have a different view and, if you're interested, attempt to start a more general discussion and go from there. Of course, you can react in other ways [for example, "I don't really feel comfortable talking about that" is also perfectly acceptable], but this is a polite option.

I agree with the advice, but I resent the snide tone in which it's delivered. Galanes spends one paragraph of four answering the writer's question and the other three making sneery judgments about BDSM. In effect, he undermines his advice to be respectful and tolerant about things you don't know anything about by being derisive and dismissive about a subject with which he is [clearly] unfamiliar. Wow, he's really shoring up his credibility.

Besides an anti-BDSM stance, I also detect some misogyny in Galanes' response. Romance novels are predominantly read by women and, for that reason, are frequently not taken seriously, especially by male critics. Galanes' incredulity that female readers could find romance novel tropes interesting seems to subserve his distaste with Fifty Shades of Grey.

P.S. We're not even getting into the letter writer's assumption that feminism is incompatible with BDSM.
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The New York Times has an article about women going on crash diets in preparation for their weddings. This, of course, represents nothing new or even unusual. It's still sad, frightening and self-hating, though. The women interviewed internalize a cultural hostility toward women and toward a diversity of body sizes, shapes and masses by literally cutting themselves down to a societally acceptable size. Like the horrible "giving away of the bride," which transfers ownership of the woman from her father to her husband, these wedding crash diets and other modern traditions for heterosexual marriages literally diminish participants and bodily reformat them into transactional currency to be objectified. "The greatest day of one's life," indeed.

P.S. Diets don't work anyway. At least 95% of people who diet gain the lost weight back.

P.P.S. Don't even get me started on how this article [along with so many other articles in the NYT that concern women, queers and trans folks] appears in the Style section. We're not good enough for the main paper?!

Brave

Mar. 7th, 2012 12:26 pm
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Merida is a nice name, but I think Pixar's latest outing, coming in June, will be shite. Pixar's overcompensating. If they really wanted to earn my respect, they would have had important female characters in their movies from the beginning.
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Dan Savage, a gay male advice columnist who writes for the Seattle Stranger, has some cachet among liberals/Democrats/progressives as being queer-friendly, pro-kink and open-minded, but he still has lots of privilege as a thin, white, rich, cis, married, U.S. man. I've collected several criticisms of his advice which should make you think long and hard before calling this columnist helpful, progressive and open-minded. In no particular order...here they are...
Read more... )
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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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They all contain female protagonists who are over the hill at my age >:( [Eve's Xmas] and who learn the true, fulfilling value of heterosexual marriage through the intervention of unrealistic "meet cutes" [His and Hers Xmas] or Magical Wise Negro fairy godfathers. Vomit vomit vomit. They're sort of fascinating in a stomach-churning sort of way.
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Bones is back [well, I finally got to watch the first ep of Season 7], and there's yet another Pregnancy Plot on the table. After suffering an entire season of Angela and Hodgins' heteronormative nesting behaviors in Season 6, we have to go through the same thing again with the 2 main characters, Bones and Booth. I say "the same thing again" because there's apparently only one way for mainstream pop culture, especially TV and movies in the US, to treat pregnancy.
  • No matter what the situation of the woman getting pregnant and the way that she gets pregnant, she always wants to go through with the pregnancy and have a child and raise it herself. Where are the miscarriages? Where are the adoptions? [Once Upon a Time, featuring Henry, Emma's son that was given for adoption shortly after birth, remains an exception to the rule.] Where are the abortions? Mainstream pop entertainment does not reflect the realities of so many pregnancies.
  • The attitudes of the prospective parents suddenly become suffused with gooey lovey-doveyness, confidence, starry-eyed idealism and happiness. I mean, God forbid that anyone feel hostile or ambivalent about the fetus! That's just not possible! That would destroy the unrealistic emphasis that TV has on pregnancy and childbirth being some sort of panacea for life's problems.
  • Pregnancy brings out the inner femininity of the pregnant woman and fulfills her. No matter how many successes and enjoyments the character has had in her life before becoming pregnant, the glorifying way in which pregnancy is haloed on TV makes all the other accomplishments and sources of joy insignificant in comparison. For some women, pregnancy may be the best thing they've ever done with their lives, but, if TV insists that every pregnant female character feel this way, then these shows are just reproducing boring, essentialist, reductionist stereotypes about what women can do and be.

Pregnancy Plots just instantly flatten out character depth and plot dynamism. Furthermore, their relentless heteronormativity makes me want to throw up. 

Beeswax

Aug. 7th, 2009 06:09 pm
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I am interested to learn more about this movie, as it is about a set of female twins in their late 20s and one uses a wheelchair and one walks!



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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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In the most recent Atlantic, Caitlin Flanagan writes about "What Girls Want." Basically, she says that all girls want steadfast male devotion, like she did, which is why the Twilight series is so popular among teen female readers. She makes the horrible logical fallacy of assuming that her particular experience is universal; in doing so, she erases all possible variations of sexual maturation -- due to race, class, gender, socioeconomic status, size, disability, etc. -- that young girls experience. She especially erases variations in young girls' sexual preferences, assuming that they're all heteronormative. We ain't no monolith, you dipstick, and we don't all want slavishly adoring masculine suitors.
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On the eve of the movie debut of Twilight, much pissing and swooning occurs on the subject of vampires as depicted in this film. Lots of articles wonder about the attraction that the Twilight vampires have to their audience.

Rosemary Black, New York Daily News: 1) Women are drawn to Byronic heroes. 2) We desire them because the intense fear provides orgasmic arousal. 3) They're the ultimate symbol of a chaste sensuality. 4) They're perpetually young, sexy and intensely devoted to their mortal lovers.

Kate Harding, Broadsheet [Salon]: 1) New York Daily News is full of shit. All the article's arguments represent tired stereotypes about female sexuality. 2) Women are attracted to the recent crop of vampires because they are written by women and /or because there's a focused on well-rounded female characters.

Henly 424, Salon commenter: The current iteration of the vampire, an intensely devoted, magical, eternally loving being with awesome superpowers, recapitulates the old fantasy that a supernatural creature can somehow rescue an ordinary kid from a life of boring normalcy and transform him/her into something powerful and stupendous, merely by association with the undead.

There's not anything particularly attractive to women as a whole about vampires as a whole. For women as a whole to be attracted to vampires as a whole, both women as a whole and vampires as a whole would require definition as monadic entities. However, women are diverse in their attractions; vampires are diverse in their manifestations. The idea that "vampires" can reveal something "essential" about "feminine sexuality" can just go to hell.

Even if we're talking about the type of vampires shown in the Twilight saga [which we probably are, even though it's never explicitly stated], the question is still not "Why do women love vampires?" The question is "Why are these particular characters extremely popular among a huge subset of U.S. readers who are mostly teenaged and female?" There's no ahistorical answer. I can't stand it when people can't frame their inquiries with appropriate exactness.

As to why the Twilight vampires are so popular with their audience, I think Laura Miller's analysis of Bella as Mary Sue is an insightful start.

The LHF vampires are amused about the amount of critical ink being spilled in an attempt to explain their attractiveness to mortals. :p

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Leonard Sax argues that the great popularity of the Twilight series among hetero women <25  constitutes proof that we should abandon the ridiculous feminist ideal that men and women should be treated equally. He says:

The fascination that romance holds for many girls is not a mere social construct; it derives from something deeper. 

And what is this "deeper" something? It's an essentialized gender binary in which women are passive, cuddly and nurturing and men are aggressive, violent and death-dealing.

So basically his argument is that girls still like Twilight because they are biologically programmed to like it; ergo, feminism has failed.

The huge amount of interest in the Twilight books demonstrates only that romance is popular; it does not demonstrate the reasons behind the popularity. Sax' conclusions of romance as biologically innate and feminism as a stupid failure represent unwarranted leaps of logic. In fact, I could just as easily argue that the popularity of the Twilight series rests on the culturally constructed assumptions that the target readers -- hetero girls -- are expected and environmentally conditioned to like romance. 

Some people should actually learn how to formulate coherent thoughts before they're allowed to write for public consumption. :p

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Part I is here. Part II is here.

All right, I've fired my first salvo: to wit, Breaking Dawn breaks rules of good fiction by being inconsistent with the logic established in earlier books. Now my second reason for despising Breaking Dawn shall be detailed here. As I mentioned earlier, I find Breaking Dawn "philosophically objectionable." 

Oh look...more spoilers, not to mention a well-reasoned argument impervious to twits! )

 

 
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So, just in case you couldn't tell from my capsule reaction last night, I deem Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer the worst book in a horrible series. I have two major reasons for calling Breaking Dawn the turd of the series.

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With the final book of the Twilight Saga coming out on Saturday [woo hoo!!], Laura Miller takes a critical look at the immensely popular glurge. She correctly notes that Bella's extreme lack of personality makes her a Mary-Sue-shaped costume which the typical fan, a young teenaged heterosexual girl, can climb into so that she can have virtual smoochies with Edward:

She is purposely made as featureless and ordinary as possible in order to render her a vacant, flexible skin into which the reader can insert herself and thereby vicariously enjoy Edward's chilly charms...Edward, not Bella, is the key to the Twilight franchise, the thing that fans talk about when explaining their fascination with the books. 

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

All of this makes me think that, even though I no longer actively work on Jareth's Realm, Labyrinth remains the dominant narrative template through which I live my life. It keeps infiltrating all of my own artistic endeavors.
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According to the NY TImes, "The Bush administration wants to require all recipients of aid under federal health programs to certify that they will not refuse to hire nurses and other providers who object to abortion and certain types of birth control." This same proposal also wishes to define the use of common contraceptives as abortifacients because they terminate "human life" "before...implantation." 

Thanks to tikva's highlight of the especially galling sections of the report and to hammercock's link to NARAL, I E-mailed my Congresspersons.
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Prompting by the recent theatrical release of Kitt Kittredge: An American Girl, some Slate writers have an informal discussion about the series of dolls that spawned said movie.
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Several weeks before Breaking Dawn crawls out of the coffin [August 2, baayyyyybeeee!], New York Times columnist Gail Collins examines the appeal of the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. Jessica Valenti and Courtney Martin, both of Feministing, a blog I check frequently, provide input. Valenti and Martin observe that lusty and repressed Edward represents a chaste and non-threatening affection, sexually speaking. [We won't address the fact that his emotionally manipulative and controlling acts make him a prime example of an abusive personality.] His cuddly sexlessness represents one extreme that today's teen girls are pulled toward. 

Courtney Martin, the author of “Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters,” spends a lot of time on college campuses and says students seem to be torn between anonymous sex and monogamy — “either hooking up with no expectations or you’re basically married. You stay home and watch movies.” 

The implication is that a balance should be struck, that young women who are growing up and exploring their sexuality should not be bound to emotionally involving but sexless chastity or anonymous, promiscuous activity without emotional connection. Ideally, these young women should find sexual identities that incorporate both human drives to be understood and get laid. The Twilight series, with its extreme insistence on sexual repression, does no justice to the variety of human experience. And this is only one of the reasons it's so bad.

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...is that Mahy explicitly identifies witchcraft as a feminine power, then makes Laura's partner, Sorry, a male witch. I'm not thrilled with the idea that certain powers are inherently masculine or feminine, but I definitely like the idea of a male character trying to reconcile himself to the fact that his power is not gendered in the same way that he is expected to be. In an interview about The Changeover, Mahy comments:

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

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

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

As you can see by the reviews on Amazon, this book is either a work of transcendent genius or a piece of unreadable, pretentious fluff, depending on the perspective of the reader. I personally liked it.
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So I finished Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story, which was grotesquely overrated, unfunny and generally stupid. It's about a pretentious loser of a wannabe writer, Tommy, and his vampire girlfriend Jody. 

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After reading Stephenie Meyer's Twilight, I needed to wash my brain out with a vampire novel of higher quality. Since I've practically memorized Carmilla and Dracula at this point, I chose instead a modern classic: The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause. It tells the story of petulant, artistic and sensitive Zoe, 17, who feels as if her world is imploding because her mom is dying of cancer. She meets Simon, a sympathetic badass vampire bent on vengeance against his brother for killing their mom. Simon helps Zoe deal with her mom's demise, and she helps him achieve revenge.

Good things about The Silver Kiss: Klause writes in a fast-paced style, but with frequent flashes of poetry in her use of unexpected adjectives. From the title onward, she creates a fascinating atmosphere of magic and melancholy.  Her portrayal of the grieving Zoe's mood swings is accurate and compassionate, anchoring the book in a drama that readers can easily identify with. Unlike Meyer, who can't write an appealing, active character to save her life, Klause shows both Zoe and Simon as broken-hearted characters who think way too much and thus have a common bond that explains their attraction. Finally, Klause's use of vampires as a metaphor for the grieving process illuminates both Zoe's stories and vampire myths in general, offering a believable reason that such deadly humanoid parasites could be sympathetic.

Bad things about The Silver Kiss: Zoe does not read as a 17-year-old to me. Even making allowances for her grief and general strain, I find it hard to believe that her constant whininess and snappishness would come from someone over 15. Klause should have made her 15; I don't think the story would have suffered. Relatedly, I sympathize with Zoe because I've experienced death and know how it can punch one in the gut, but still...while sympathetic, Zoe is a hard character to like and follow along with. Simon is a bit better, although Klause tries too hard [e.g., in the scene where he beats up drunken doofuses and steals one of their leather jackets] to make him edgy. These lapses are forgivable, though, when compared to the main problem of the book: the ending. I accept Simon's suicide/sacrifice, but I reject Zoe's sudden confidence and lack of fear about dying. All along, Klause depicts grief as a tangle, and it's never unknotted so simply and completely. Even if Klause had written that Zoe "wasn't SO scared any more" instead of "wasn't scared any more," that would have been better.

Nevertheless, The Silver Kiss is a vivid, nuanced novel about vampires.

New Moon, the sequel to Twilight, is, however, not. It's just more of the same sluggish melodrama that we saw in Twilight. A coworker who borrowed Twilight from me summed up my feelings toward this series well when she said, "I finished Twilight. I stayed up late reading it." Thoughtful pause. "I didn't like it very much."

Next up: Blood-Sucking Fiends: A Love Story by Christopher Moore.
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Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn's impressive physical comedy -- with rubbery, expressive faces and slapstick timing -- really make Death Becomes Her.  Competing for the affections of plastic surgeon and undertaker Ernest [played by Bruce Willis], Madeline [Streep] and Helen [Hawn] characters ingest a magical elixir that guarantees perfect youth. Unfortunately, the formula does not guarantee perfect invulnerability, so Madeline and Helen prevail upon Ernest to do their heavy-duty make-up and maintenance. Will they tempt Ernest  to immortality? Will they be able to keep themselves together [literally]? Who really ends up with immortality in the end? 

With dry wit, the script deftly skewers the modern equation of youth with beauty and happiness; Streep and Hawn, masters of zingy delivery, drop bons mots that kept me chuckling. They play their constant goat-getting with such relish that the fact of their misery goes slightly less noticed until the end, when they attend Ernest's funeral and learn that, through his kindness, charity, sense of humor and good works, as well as his descendants, he has truly reached immortality.

On a vampiric note, I enjoyed Death Becomes Her for its investigation of the flip side of immortality. Madeline and Helen's physical fragility exemplifies a damning and unexpected consequence of living forever. [I particularly liked Madeline's confrontation with the medical establishment. Her controversion of all laws of physics drives the examining physician to drink.] Meanwhile, Ernest, who thinks of immortality as boring, lonely and pointless, provides the philosophical argument for a finite lifespan.

[Filed under "vampires" for treatment of immortality.]
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I eagerly devoured Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, which I mentioned in a previous entry, and hoooooo boy, it was even better than I expected, which is to say that it was gloriously horrible!
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Following up on my previous comments about the Divine Screw, I have an example of the reinvention of this theme in Tanith Lee's sprawling series Tales of the Flat Eath [good plot summaries and overview here]. In one of the major, multi-book storylines, the male divine, Azhrarn, the Lord of Wickedness and most powerful of all the demons who are de facto rules of earth, gets his freak on with Dunizel, human priestess. Their daughter, Sovaz/Soveh/Ahzriaz, goes through a whole book, Delirium's Mistress, searching for herself. She goes from Sleeping Beauty to death-dealing vigilante to despotic goddess queen to prisoner under the sea to wise innocent child to dueler with angels to mortal sage. She ends up, satisfyingly enough, bargaining with Death for a mortal life, which she receives.

Despite Lee's active, overdetermining essentialism about sex roles [men=active, women=passive], the three players in her Divine Screw transcend the narrative limitations to become rich characters.

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Having been American Gothicked out, I skipped over the pond to investigate the BBC's Hex. The British show seasons are usually 6 to 8 eps, 1/3 the size of American show seasons, so I watched the first season, eps 1-6, before, as the reviews commented, the cast switched around and character development went out the window.

On a more thematic note, I have a huge objection to the Divine Screw narrative line, despite having co-created a decade-long saga predicated on just this exploitation. You know the story: Some all-powerful dipwad wants kids and decides to rape a human woman. The woman may resist, but the Penis of Doom cannot be stopped. The dipwad rapes the woman. She conceives a son, always a son -- the Dipwad is convinced of it. The woman may try to abort the fetus or to kill herself, but her attempts avail nothing against the Son of Dipwad. The woman gives birth to Son of Dipwad, who inevitably takes after Dipwad Dad. The expendable woman, having served as an incubator, is pretty much abandoned by Dipwad, and who cares what happens to her next? All focus shifts to the glorious Son of the Penis of Doom, who naturally fulfills his destiny and destroys the world.
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Hmmm...interesting. Commentary later. 

LATER: I'm rather annoyed by the narration's tendency to overdetermine the women's experience by addressing the reborn dolls as if they are actual children, rather than dolls. From what I can see so far, owners of reborn dolls range in their reasons for owning and playing with reborn dolls, just in the same manner that people own and play with any other type of dolls [duh], from action figs to Barbies to RealDolls to 3-D models. The very title of the docu, My Fake Baby, sensationalizes the reborn doll interest as a pathological baby substitute for old woman with empty aching wombs, but, if you investigate the docu closely, you'll see the dolls functioning as much more than kiddy substitutes.
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As the stepparent of a 6-year-old, the Disney princess marketing machine is old news to me. This article by the always-behind-the-times Newsweek pisses me off, though. Here's part of the concluding paragraph:

Considering that "What's Love Got to Do With It" attitude, it's no wonder that Disney is modernizing its princess formulas.

 
P.S. For bonus nausea [and possibly VOMITING!!!!!], note that the 2009 Princess and the Frog is set in New Orleans. Cue the sassy Southern mammy stereotype, the comic and subhuman speaker of Cajun creole, not to mention the stupid, ignorant, stereotyped jokes about voodoo [more properly called Voudon, I think]. Extra bingo points for gratuitous depiction of New Orleans as some sort of swingin' place full of cheerful Stepin Fetchits just groovin' to the wild rhythms of that racy, "uncivilized," "wild" jazz. 

P.P.S. For a bonus bonus, read Deborah Siegl's review of Enchanted, which uses the movie as a case study to argue many of the points I bring up here.
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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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Yesterday I went to see the long-awaited Pan's Labyrinth, in which 10-year-old Ofelia exchanges the horrors of post-WWII Spain for the equally viscous horrors of her imagination. While her mother dies in childbed and her shinily sadistic stepfather shoots resistance fighters for sport, Ofelia turns to an ambiguous faun, who offers her the prospect of royalty in a dream world if she can complete three disgusting tasks.

For 99.9% of the movie, I liked it.

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Count Your Sheep by Adrian Ramos features regular doses of whimsy in which little girl Katie talks life and play with her friendly countable sheep, Ship, and her mom. For example, she thinks the cheese wheel in her fridge is a piece of the crescent moon, which disturbs her because, if people are eating the moon, there will be no need for astronauts, and then what will she be when she grows up? Brilliant at capturing the childlike, associative, poetic mindset, Count Your Sheep is an enjoyable cartoon at no one's expense. It remains consistently inventive and never becomes precious.

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