A not-all-that-thought-out post about a terrible (imo) trope

CONTENT WARNING: rape and fictional depictions of rape, sometimes used in shows/movies as metaphors for other things, discussed. Everything is just my opinion as I try to explore why certain shows/movies/books bugged me so much when I think what they’re trying to do, maybe failing to do, maybe succeeding, isn’t necessarily harmful. It still bugs me.

I haven’t seen either of the two things I’m about to talk the most about, which is a GREAT way to start off having an opinion (</>sarcasm). One is the first episode of Black Mirror, which I heard described in detail by a group of people grasping at progressively shorter straws trying to explain to both us 0wlmachiners why the episode was good. The second is a movie I’m not even going to name, and it has multiple depictions of sexual violence used as a metaphor for a specific country’s government controlling and abusing its people from birth to death and afterwards (if you know, you know, and if you don’t, you likely don’t want to know but either way google it yourself if you must but SEVERE content warning if you do).

I will say right up front that I’m not making any moral judgements of the storytellers or the people who watched these things and got something out of them. All I’ll say is that I personally wouldn’t get anything out of it – and here’s my attempt at understanding why not.

I’m told that in the first episode of Black Mirror, a prime minister/president/politician of some sort is blackmailed into raping an animal on live television. I forget what would happen to him if he doesn’t. I don’t think anyone uses the word “rape,” it’s probably “fuck,” if Black Mirror allows that much swearing, or something less R-rated if they don’t. But animals can’t consent, and while rape of an animal or any kind of sexual violence to an animal is not the same and doesn’t have the same long-term consequences for the victim as rape and sexual violence of humans (though some animal victims undoubtedly experience trauma), it’s still repugnant.

I think you, the viewer, are supposed to feel worse for the coerced animal rapist, though. I don’t think they give the animal a name or a backstory or any other scenes (if they did, I underestimated them. Still not going to watch it).

In Unnamed Movie, the main character is a man who commits acts of sexual violence to others. I think he murders a woman he’s raping at one point (I think she is unnamed and has no backstory, and no other scenes). He rapes a child at another point (child does have a name and other scenes). He is being manipulated, blackmailed, and drugged, I’m pretty sure, by some sort of powerful group of shady operators who I guess represent the government.

Because the victims here, himself included, are all human, I do think you the viewer are supposed to feel bad for everyone, but your protagonist is the one doing all the rape.

Is he a victim of rape himself? Is the animal rapist politician in Black Mirror? Yes. There’s no consent in any of these situations. There is only coercion of various types.

But.

So.

OK.

In real life, there is a despairingly high amount of sexual violence. Enough to make you say (SPOILER kind of for The Good Place which you should watch as a palate cleanser every time you need one, whether you’ve seen it already or not) “Oh, THIS is the Bad Place!” Regularly. I do think that sometimes, real life sexual violence is like these specific fictional depictions. Sometimes, people are coerced into hurting other people. But the majority of sexual violence is between two people. It’s one person who doesn’t want what’s happening to happen, and another person who decides that whatever the other person wants doesn’t matter, and continues on anyway. Or one party can’t legally consent because of a power imbalance and the one with more power goes ahead anyway.

If you’re going to use rape as a metaphor, why not tell the story from the point of view of someone who is raped, and not from the kind of weirdly specific and with added complexity point of view of someone coerced into raping someone else? Furthermore, why delve into the emotions and struggles of the coerced rapist but NOT anyone that is raped by said coerced rapist?

If you’re trying to use sexual violence to make your audience uneasy and create pathos for your main character, why not just have them be a victim of sexual violence rather than having them be someone forced into committing sexual violence on someone else?

Why the added layer?

On the other hand, maybe depicting this kind of sexual violence is a good thing on occasion. Coercion plays a role in a lot of real life sexual violence, so why not depict it like this? And to these sentences I wrote to myself, I can only say that I don’t think it’s a bad thing to depict coercion and its connection to sexual violence, even when done like this, necessarily, but I do question why the tendency seems to sometimes be to tell a sad story, in detail, of a poor guy who was forced to rape, and only use the individuals he rapes as narrative and thematic tools rather than characters in their own right.

I have, at least, seen and read Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire. Tyrion at a very young age is forced to rape a girl he had married the day before because his dad was really mad at him about it. This sad story tells us a lot about Tyrion, his dad, and their relationship. We know very little about Tysha. I can’t remember whether the show even had her name stated out loud. I feel like if we knew Tysha, it would be an even sadder story, but then I guess GRRM couldn’t do that frustrating “she wasn’t a secret sex worker!!!! :O:O” reveal and that’s what was most important. Of course.

Kind of similarly, while being assured that the animal-rape episode of Black Mirror was worth watching, I think I might have asked, “So what if they’d forced him to rape a human?” And there’s really no good answer for that. Again, sexual violence and animals is a different animal (…) than sexual violence and humans but frankly I shouldn’t have to keep repeating that I understand that. The problem in all sexual violence is the human perpetrator abusing someone with less power, temporarily or permanently, then them. That problem doesn’t change no matter who the victim is. If you can’t tell this stupid story with a human victim, you shouldn’t tell it with an animal victim. (Did I say I wasn’t going to moralize? Oh well.)

Regarding Unnamed, I think the story of how the government “rapes people their whole lives” or whatever would be better told, if it must be told, by having the protagonist not be a coerced rapist. In this metaphor that makes him a weapon the government wields against his fellow people. Could he not just be a victim and not also a coerced perpetrator? There are two issues here: first, you oddly align your protagonist to your antagonist since “rape” is the bad thing that the government does and even though the protagonist is being raped himself, he is also raping others with much less power than him. I think that dilutes the message thoroughly. Second, by focusing on coerced guy, you explore in detail coercion and sexual violence, but you don’t really ever explore what rape… just… is. I haven’t actually seen the movie beginning to end and I can’t be sure, but I don’t think that buddy ever curls up somewhere and contemplates his own body, and the absolute horror of not being the one controlling what was happening to it. They could have done this, it would have added to their message, but I think that requires a deeper understanding of rape than what seems to exist here. (If I’m wrong and they do have even one moment where he deals with or tries to deal with his trauma, then, I underestimated Unnamed Movie but I’m still not going to watch it.)

I think what we have here (now this is really just me thinking in blog form without really having any expertise) is maybe an attempt, and definitely a failure, to empathize.

A rape victim is BROADLY, GENERALLY, understood and assumed to be physically weaker than the rapist, probably female, and probably something has been inserted into their bodies that they didn’t want to be there. This obviously isn’t always the case and we need to get better about understanding that. In general, male victims of rape and sexual violence aren’t being coerced into raping someone else as well. They are being physically overpowered or they are being manipulated. Because of this, most male victims have more in common with the fictional people/animal that these male protagonists are being coerced into raping than they have in common with the coerced protagonists. Coercion is hugely prevalent in real life sexual violence, but no matter who the victim is, it’s much more often coercion into being raped, not into raping someone else.

In writing about how uneasy sexual violence makes us and about how horrifying it is, in trying to explore the concept of rape as a metaphor for fascism and such, are these writers not able to actually imagine what it’s like to be that animal, or those victims of the drugged, blackmailed guy, or Tysha? Are they refusing to do so? Is imagining instead what it would be like to be forced to rape someone else the closest they can get to empathizing with rape victims, even though men, like them, do get raped, and when they do it’s not usually like what they’ve had their male characters on page and on screen doing?

(I think so.)

Probably the most “realistic” one of these three depictions of being “forced to rape” would be what happens to Tyrion, which is bleak for various reasons. Mainly because things like this sometimes do happen to kids, but also because it’s not very good, and yet it’s probably better by far as a story “thoughtfully” engaging with rape, with rape of men and boys as well, and the ramifications therein, than those other two.

I will allow one more moralizing statement: it is bad that Tysha, the animal, and the various more powerless victims are not given their own stories, and often not even named. It is bad that they (generally) fulfill one story role, that they occupy so little space, that their lives, deaths, traumas, horrors, are so inconsequential to these stories in their own right. Every time this happens, it’s a deliberate choice by the storytellers and it should stop. If we’re going to tell stories of men being forced to rape, then the stories of the other victims of that coercion need to be told and told properly, dammit.

Romance of Deception in Animated Movies

A new romance blossoms. But alas, it is threatened. Danger and power-hungry villains trashing monuments lurk in the shadows, but the tender new romance’s main foe is something much smaller, much more personal, and, with much more specific stakes.

The man has been lying, the whole time, to the woman.

It’s OK, though, she’s bound to forgive him.

I wanted to look at the sometimes bizarre, potentially weird, probably problematic dynamics of a couple of deception romances that occur in some animated classics. Just for fun. Not to judge anyone for liking them (I like them too), nor to suggest that these romances have produced a problematic blueprint that vulnerable child viewers might use when forging their own relationships. I do think media representations matter, but I also think that interrogating media you engage with and enjoy is the best way to make sure you don’t replicate its problematic elements. Also I doubt anyone is really trying to emulate someone like Dimitri IRL, but then, who knows.

Speaking of which…

Anastasia and Dimitri

Let’s set aside the objective fact that this movie really shouldn’t exist and that even the way it does exist, with blatant reimagining of real historical events, it’s eyebrow-raising at best. The characters are likeable. Some of the songs are good. The outfits rock. We can set the real history of it aside for 90 minutes.

What I can’t set aside is my befuddlement at the love story. I remember quite enjoying it when I was a kid and a teenager. Back then, if a romance wasn’t enemies-to-lovers or didn’t involve belligerent sexual tension, I wasn’t interested. I’m not sure why that held appeal for me, though I am inclined to think it’s because those tropes are kind of juvenile. I’m still down to engage in some slow-burn misrepresentation, miscommunication, misunderstanding, and mind-changing, but the clear dislike and trading of insults that happen between Anastasia and Dimitri when they are new acquaintances no longer does it for me.

That’s not even the issue. If it were, I might say, “Well, I don’t really understand at what point they stop hating each other’s guts. Is it when Anya wears a dress? When he sees her in something not ridiculously oversized he falls in love with the shape of her or whatever? And she reciprocates because she likes dancing with him? That’s kind of weak, but, OK.” And that wouldn’t be worth a blog post.

No… it’s more the fact that Anya overhears her grandmother reaming Dimitri out for being a heartless con man, having held auditions for someone to play Anastasia only to take the grieving but hopeful Dowager’s reward money and run, which is exactly what he was planning on doing. This is his plan literally all the way up until he realizes that Anya is actually Anastasia, not just a good lookalike with convenient and manipulatable amnesia.

At that point, he forgets all about the reward money, because suddenly a future with Anya isn’t possible so it no longer matters. I understand why this changes things for him, but I do wonder what his plan is before he realizes the truth. Does he really think Anya would be fine with their scamming the Dowager, or that she’d never realize what they were doing? I guess it doesn’t matter, because Anya is Anastasia, so we never have to find out.

“Princesses don’t marry kitchen boys,” Dimitri laments. Right, but big-hearted women marry con men who deceive them and any other nearby emotionally vulnerable women for cash? Sounds plausible.

As a random aside, I hear a lot of complaints about Naveen from Princess and the Frog. Personally I like Naveen, but I guess I see where those complaints are coming from. OK not really. Flynn/Eugene from Tangled is pretty much the same person, just minus the royal blood and adding in thievery and one brief anecdote about being a poor orphan, and everyone loves him. My semi-relevant point is, Naveen, who has personal growth, who demonstrates an actual change in heart over a prolonged period of time in his movie, is waaaaaaaaay better than Dimitri here. I do get what Anastasia is going for and it has limited time to truly flesh it out, but I’m struggling to think of one Disney dude who starts out half as bad as Dimitri. Not even Nick Wilde, or Kuzco, for that matter. OK. Maybe Kuzco. But his ENTIRE movie was about making him into a better person. Dimitri gets one line.

Dowager: Why the change of mind?

Dimitri: It was more a change of heart.

He fell in love and is now a good person.

Well gosh golly me. That’s not how that works.

It’s particularly annoying because all Anya wants is to find her family. Now there is that “found family” element to the Dimitri thing, sure, but I’d buy that more if she ran off with Dimitri plus Vlad and… Sophie, I guess. Or if she ran off just her and Pooka, which would be the ideal ending in my opinion. Instead she just gets married, promising to see her grandmother again soon, and it doesn’t feel great from my perspective.

Before the murders, she’s shown making promises with her grandmother to be “together in Paris.” This phrase turns into the only clue she has about her family after she suffers from amnesia. When she learns that she really is Anastasia, she has to contend with the fact that her parents and siblings are dead, not that the movie is all that interested in that. Still, she has finally found what she says she wants in her “I Want” song, “Journey to the Past.” Comrade Phlegmenkoff says she always acts “like the queen of Sheba,” and high society walking, dancing, eating, and giving orders come naturally to her throughout. Are we really supposed to believe this girl doesn’t want the royal life the second she gets it back? “Once Upon a December” displays the luxurious parties that, by the end, she for some reason is no longer interested in. It also shows her enjoying herself with (I think) her sisters, and dancing with her father. Even if she doesn’t care about parties and gowns, she has found the one surviving member of her family and has only just got back the confidence to believe the memories that are now coming back to her, and she leaves her and everything else instantly to elope with the con man who spent most of the time they’ve known each other so far lying to her and manipulating her so that he could scam money off an old lady.

What.

What we see in this song? This is a character AND a movie that deserves a different love story and a different ending.

Megamind and Roxanne

My feelings towards Anastasia might be lukewarm to vaguely/nostalgically fond, but I LOVE Megamind. Does that love I have for it mean that I’m less weirded out by Megamind’s deception of Roxanne? No. But the fact that the movie frames it a little bit differently than Anastasia does… does.

A) There’s a lack of (real) belligerence. This may be enemies-to-lovers, but it’s a pretty unique version of that in that Megamind likes Roxanne from the beginning. Does he know he likes her? Probably not. Self-awareness is definitely not a strength Megamind has. But everyone else knows he likes her, or, at least, the audience does. For Roxanne’s part, she’s shown being not at all afraid of Megamind, even when he has kidnapped her, even when he’s finally succeeded and has taken over the city. She’s irritated, amused, and then sad and angry, but never scared.

“Please talk slower.”

B) He doesn’t set out to deceive her, he’s just stupid and ends up piling on the lies because he has no reason to tell her the truth. Or does he? Roxanne blatantly asks him, “Do you really think that I would ever be with you?” And he says, “No.” (It’s a very good scene). Minion previously tells him, “The bad guy doesn’t get the girl!” a statement Megamind echoes later (“I’m the bad guy. I don’t save the day, I don’t fly off into the sunset, and I don’t get the girl”), not long before he does save the day. To Minion, before his disastrous date, he says, “Maybe I don’t want to be the bad guy anymore!” But instead of doing the right thing and telling Roxanne who he is, he just carries on as he is, pretending to be a Metro Man historian or whatever that dude is supposed to be.

While he doesn’t mean to deceive Roxanne, there’s a point at which he decides to carry on the lie because it’s rewarding for him – specifically because he knows he actually has a chance at romance with Roxanne while he’s not the supervillain.

C) There’s a much more prolonged “crap I screwed up” part in this movie, compared to whatever strife Dimitri goes through. He loses everything except his terrible plan to turn Hal into a hero. He leans all the way into it, and things get even worse. He finally has to seek out Roxanne just to fix his mess. (Though he does bring up their catastrophic “breakup” at this point. Just once. Maybe the thing he says about not getting the girl is a second mention of it. Maybe he is a bit mopey. But allegiance-changing and heartbreak are tough.)

D) Though it’s not explicitly stated, when Roxanne asks Megamind to save her and he does, I think he does it without expectation that she’ll take him back afterwards. My justification for this belief is that he seems surprised when she turns off his hologram/deception device and is happy to see him. It’s minor but it exists.

(1:59)

E) It’s Megamind’s story, whereas in Anastasia it’s not Dimitri’s story. Megamind is a supervillain who slowly turns into a superhero. We expect him to misstep on his way to becoming good, so his follies are easier to forgive than Dimitri’s are as far as I’m concerned.

Aladdin and Jasmine

I had forgotten about this one, as the deception in this romance barely registers, but it’s definitely there, so let’s discuss.

When Aladdin first meets Jasmine, he likes her right away, and she lies by omission by not just telling him she’s the princess. He does find out shortly afterwards. When he next meets her, he’s dressed as a prince and pretends to be a whole other person. She shortly afterwards figures out she’s already met him, at which point he makes the frankly ridiculous choice to continue to lie to her. “I sometimes DRESS as a commoner.”

As the audience, we know that Jasmine doesn’t care about prince pedigrees. She does live under a law that requires her to marry a prince, though. Does this mitigate the lying? Maybe. Might not Jasmine have worked with Aladdin to keep up the façade, if Aladdin had told her the truth? Probably. Also, the Sultan just changes the law in the end so… what was the point?

The movie makes it clear that Aladdin’s deception is a bad thing, but it’s only partially about building a healthy foundation for their budding romance. The rest of it is that Aladdin is determined to continue to use the Genie to continue to deceive everyone into thinking he’s a prince, which means reneging on his promise to free the Genie. “She has to marry a prince.”

Of the three movies I’ve talked about so far, this is the one with the least reaction from the lady. Jasmine is just like, “Woah, didn’t see that coming,” and then she never mentions it again. It sort of makes sense, because, as stated above, she doesn’t care about royal blood. Jafar tells her in his irritating but amazing “Prince Ali Reprise,” so there’s a good chance that the medium is more infuriating to her than the message is. It does really seem that Jasmine doesn’t care that Aladdin lied to her. But. Who could stay mad at that face?

Conclusions

Well.

Deception in romance goes down easier if the main character is the deceiver. In both Aladdin and Megamind’s cases, it’s easier to empathize with their deception as they are the protagonist.

It’s sort of contradictorily better both when the woman doesn’t seem to care at all, and when she’s mad for a longer period of time. Jasmine is barely phased, and Roxanne is mad about it until the final showdown with Hal.

In Megamind and Anastasia, forgiveness is sped along because of the villainous guy trying to ruin everyone’s day. In Aladdin there is also one of those but there seems to be nothing to forgive from Jasmine’s point of view.

But really, the only interesting conclusion I have to draw is this:

“Princesses don’t marry kitchen boys.”

“I’m the bad guy. I don’t save the day, I don’t fly off into the sunset, and I don’t get the girl.”

“I’m a street rat, remember? And there’s a law. She’s got to marry a prince.”

Megamind can choose to become a hero. Neither Dimitri nor Aladdin can do anything about the class structure (but the Sultan can) (awkward but I’m going to say it anyway… so can the Bolsheviks). All three feel that they are something that is unchangeable, but the reality is, all three of them are in stories that are about (or adjacent to historical events that suggested that) people can be more than what society tells them they are. In Anastasia’s case it’s just sort of incidental, but still.

Megamind is clearly the winner here. Believing that since infancy he has been destined to battle Metro Man on the side of “evil,” losing his nemesis and later losing his chance at romantic love compel him to rethink his identity.

Aladdin runs a close second. He’s the “diamond in the rough,” someone who is much more than what he seems. I believe this is about how he uses his third wish to free the Genie because the Cave of Wonders had decided that Genie enslavement isn’t cool anymore, but in any case, people tell Aladdin he’s a worthless street rat and the movie says, “he’s poor and almost homeless but that’s not the same as worthless” which is kind of nice.

And Anastasia has Dimitri start as a kitchen boy, but he’s not really a kitchen boy in the end. Not anymore. But that’s awkward because the teenage girl who was a real live person and who this is loosely based on was murdered in the power struggle, so let’s just end the post.

BEEE YOURSELF.

The Genie

The Flat Guy in Fellowship of the Ring

It’s Valentine’s Day of 2021, and I hear it is a particularly stressful moment in the pandemic for a lot of people – likely mainly because of how long it’s been. I have the stress too, so here is something that shouldn’t make me laugh, and yet, it does.

In The Fellowship of the Ring, the four innocent hobbits go to the Prancing Pony, which is located in a gated community of human males, for some drinks, and also to expose themselves as having the ring in their possession to spies of Sauran or whatever. Fortunately only Aragorn notices, so they escape.

The nazgul do hear all about it and rush over. When they arrive, the gatekeeper is shocked by their sudden and swift appearance and doesn’t have a chance to get out of their way, and then they knock the door on him.

It starts at 1:29

Since the first time I ever watched this movie, I always noted that the door falls on the guy and he is presumably crushed by the weight of the nazgul and their horses, but he is crushed so severely that the door just falls completely flat on the ground. There’s nothing underneath that. He is paper thin.

I know it’s a cinema trick (kind of a lazy one at that… no disrespect though, I like some lazy cinema) but I can’t not look, and as time has marched progressively on (it came out in 2001) it has only gotten funnier to me.

In fact, if you watch carefully, you notice that he is squashed flat before the first horse even really gets in there, so just the weight of the door itself was enough to immediately turn this gatekeeper into Flat Stanley.

RIP flat gatekeeper man.

(The featured image is someone’s pet ferret at the Prancing Pony, and I never noticed the ferret. The guy becoming flat instantly I noticed, but not the ferret. Sigh, brain, sigh.)

Untamed Heart – a post, apparently

Tis the season for Untamed Heart, a strange Christmassy romance/drama movie that I have a soft spot for.

I don’t know how to sum it up in a way that might help someone decide if it’s something they’d enjoy watching, but here is a paragraph copy-pasted from the “reception” section of its Wikipedia article:

Film critic Roger Ebert wrote that the film was “kind of sweet and kind of goofy, and works because its heart is in the right place”.[5] Hal Hinson of The Washington Post said that the film “is hopelessly syrupy, preposterous and more than a little bit lame, but, still, somehow it got to me”.[6]Vincent Canby of The New York Times, said that the film “is to the mind what freshly discarded chewing gum is to the sole of a shoe: an irritant that slows movement without any real danger of stopping it”.[7]Entertainment Weekly gave the film a “B−” rating and Owen Gleiberman praised Tomei’s performance: “With her flashing dark eyes and libidinous overbite, Tomei is adorable — she looks like a flirtatious bunny rabbit — but what’s astonishing is the range of expression that passes over those delectable features”.[8]Rolling Stone magazine’s Peter Travers wrote, “The Rain ManDying Young elements in Tom Sierchio’s script are pitfalls that Slater dodges with a wonderfully appealing performance. His love scenes with the dazzling Tomei have an uncommon delicacy”.[9] In his review for The New YorkerAnthony Lane praised Tomei for bringing “startling high spirits to a dullish role. She snatches moments of happiness out of the air and shares them out to anyone who’s around”.[10] Mike Clark, in his review for USA Today, wrote, “Director Tony Bill (My Bodyguard) is adept both in the yarn’s meticulous buildup and in his handling of the actors”.[11]

– Wikipedia

I don’t think that helps either. And that one sentence, you know the one – OK I’ll be specific it’s “[the film] is to the mind what freshly discarded chewing gum is to the sole of a shoe: an irritant that slows movement without any real danger of stopping it” is really something. I’ve personally never thought to describe a movie with such a simile, but then I’m not a movie critic. Also I don’t like that one buddy’s description of Marisa Tomei. Just say you want to have sex with her think she’s pretty and is also a good actress, and for some reason this surprised you, and move on.

There are a couple of things that give me pause about this movie:

1. The portrayal of Adam is weird

He’s very childlike. Not quite Elf childlike – maybe more like Forrest Gump childlike. This is sometimes fine but in scenes that get sexual it’s a little bit bizarre (like in Forrest Gump tbh).

This video essay is about the same sort of thing but with the genders swapped. It seems that childlike women are portrayed almost entirely (if not just entirely) as sex objects for the gratification of the male protagonist. When the childlike love interest is a man, the tone of the relationship and entire film tends to be completely different, and they’re not portrayed as sex objects, but it still is kind of weird.

Edward Scissorhands is one more example. Caroline from Untamed Heart, Jenny from Forrest Gump, and Kim from Edward Scissorhands are worldly (for lack of a better word) compared to their male love interests. Jenny definitely is, and Kim only is because Edward is a humanized cookie robot who has lived in isolation until the beginning of the movie, but, still. Edward Scissorhands is super innocent* in its portrayal of the romance. They kiss once; it’s almost a chaste kiss. Both Forrest Gump and Untamed Heart portray some sexual stuff between the main characters; both seem really aware of how innocent** the male leads are in these situations (at least at first), and design the scenes around that fact.

It’s not what I would call “bad,” exactly. The innocence*** of these characters isn’t sexualized. It MIGHT be romanticized, though. It’s DEFINITELY romanticized in Untamed Heart, especially in comparison to the other two. It mildly weirds me out, and maybe one day I’ll be able to articulate clearly why.

*I hate the word “innocent” used to describe romance stories (that don’t feature sexual content). Other words used to describe them are similarly bad (“clean,” and I can’t think of others), but we need some way to describe them, I guess. I don’t know how else to describe the romance between Kim and Edward. Just know I hate it (see below).

**I also hate the word “innocent” used to describe a character and their relationship to sex and sexuality. I used it, I know, but I struggle to find another word to describe Adam, Edward, and Forrest here. “Childlike” is super gross specifically/especially when talking about sex scenes, “vulnerable” is, in my opinion, a closer description, but it’s also weird and not exclusively descriptive (you can be the most sexually-experienced person ever and still be extremely vulnerable), and “inexperienced” might be true but it’s also not quite enough (there are inexperienced people who aren’t necessarily vulnerable or randomly act like children), so, “innocent” it is. I just want to say that the use of this word, whether describing fictional male characters or anyone in real life, implies that the opposite of “innocence” is “guilt.” First of all, sex and sexuality is just not that badass. It’s also not bad, full-stop. Sexuality can and should be a healthy part of being human, and forcing fictional and real people into a dichotomy of innocence/guilt or clean/dirty or madonna/whore or child/adult, no matter what their sexuality/sexual history is, is unnuanced, gross in some instances, and harmful in many ways.

***Ughhhhh to sexualizing (and romanticizing) “innocence.” But specifically what I mean is, in one scene, Caroline takes her shirt off and we have what seems like it’s planning to be a sex scene, but it turns into a romance scene instead, because Adam is overwhelmed by her heartbeat (or something, look, I don’t know). In a movie where the “innocent” love interest is female, you’d not have this same thing happen (prove me wrong, cowards). Romanticizing it is also weird, though. It’s just… differently weird. Maybe because culture views women as being all but incapable of victimizing men, even boys, and I’ve internalized that a little bit so I don’t as readily get creeped out as I do when I see a born sexy yesterday lady getting jumped by the male protagonist.

2. The whole… attempted rape… thing

There’s an attempted rape in this movie that goes on for quite a long time. It’s very unpleasant to watch.

Because it happens to the protagonist, and it happens early on, it’s not really a misused plot device as many rapes and attempted rapes are (COUGH GAME OF THRONES and A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE COOOOUGH) This way there can be a focus after the fact on the impact it had on Caroline (protagonist). For a while. At some point it becomes more about Adam. The men who did it, who Adam previously beats up when he saves her, come back and stab him and then end up arrested for it. But for a short while at least, the focus is on Caroline. She’s shown calling in sick for a week, walking through the mall looking depressed, jumpy, and insistent on being picked up after work at 2 AM so that she doesn’t have to walk home again. It seems real, and not just a brief incident done to build up the romance later that has no other impact.

Of course shortly after that the romance happens and all of the impact stuff pretty much disappears, but, I’m still more or less OK with this. It does help that there’s a scene where Caroline tells Cindy (female friend and coworker) about it. She tells her mainly to explain why she’s dating Adam but still, it’s a good scene and shows real care between the two women.

The main reason I really like this movie…

…is that it’s about a waitress and a busboy.

Really.

It seems like a minor thing but it’s really not. It’s pretty unique. I can think of a few other stories of working class romance (Brokeback Mountain is the only one coming to mind, and it’s much more of a tragedy than this) (yeah, Untamed Heart doesn’t end happily, but it’s no Brokeback Mountain), but I do think it’s not typical of a movie like this. Isn’t there usually a high power job involved? Maybe ’tis just the season to mistake all romances and/or romantic comedies for Hallmark movies, I don’t know. In any case, both of the mains are young and there’s always the chance that they plan on doing something other than service industry stuff as a career instead, but Adam’s not in school, Caroline is in beauty school but is not taking it seriously at all, neither of them talks about “saving up so they can do xyz instead” or anything. It’s a romance with a lot of drama on the side about two working class people.

There’s even a short part where Caroline tells Adam about her stepfather. She says “Step to the rear!” while pantomiming someone opening a bus door, then, because Adam doesn’t get it, explaining, “He’s a bus driver.” She goes on to describe him as “a really good guy” who was on Candid Camera once, describing the scenario he was put in and how “he was really great about it.” That little part stuck out to me from the first time I saw the movie. After watching this for the first time I completely forgot about it, until it randomly came back into my mind and I went on a quest to find it again. When it got to that part, I immediately knew what she was going to say. Any indie movie would kill for such a colourful tidbit, is all I’m saying. It’s so quietly brilliant, mainly because of Marisa Tomei, but still.

The diner setting is a huge draw for me too. There are those two guys that seem to be there all the time; they’ve noticed that Caroline called in sick for an entire week and know all the happenings every night. For some reason, diners that serve as home base in movies or TV are always a pull for me. I like the breakfast place in Dead Like Me, and the one in Groundhog Day is fun, when I used to enjoy Friends I liked Central Perk. Real life diners, bars, coffee shops and so on are not nearly so homey or magical – at least, they’re not in Canada.

I like that the boss is irritating. I like that the waitresses’ daily irritations are shown. I like that they’re tired after work and have fun while they close.

Merry Christmas, and/or Happy December 25!

Do Not Let this Knowledge Change You

The Sins of the Father

Morgause shows up and taunts Arthur into leaving Camelot to do some challenge or another. Haven’t we done this already? I recall a similar set of circumstance with Nimueh in season 1. I assume Morgause will end up dead at some point and I really hope her death is less stupid than Nimueh’s.

This is one of those episodes that shows just how much this show has to work with – a good setup with the Camelot mythos, good characters, enough mystery and “sins of the father” for a really cool redemption (or something) arc like Zuko’s or the one in The Dragon Prince. The problem is, they’d have to deviate a lot from the source material to do something like that. 

But I mean, really! Imagine a Merlin in which Prince/King Arthur starts out as enemies with all of these dangerous ladies but ends up as their ally. It’s not that out there anyway, considering the very bizarre relationship Morgan/Morgana/Morgan Le Fay/whatever has with Arthur in a couple of olde takes on this story and she ends up accompanying him to heaven or whatever that was. I’m still extremely fuzzy on this legend. All I know is, in Merlin at least, I think Arthur AND Merlin are aligned much more naturally with these dangerous ladies than with Uther so, what gives?

Ygraine says, once Arthur has learned that his father sacrificed her life to bring Arthur into the world, “Do not let this knowledge change you.” But like, why not? 

Merlin gets mad too, because of the hypocrisy.

And yet… don’t let this knowledge change you.

The episode presents “let[ting] this knowledge change [Arthur]” as Arthur killing his own father, as though there are no other options. There are a whole bunch of nonviolent ways to do things differently than Uther, to cut him out, etc. Instead, Merlin lies and says that Morgause was the one lying to get Arthur to stop. Which, frankly, makes Merlin kind of a bad guy.

This show, man. Why didn’t they just… ugh.

Anyway. Apart from the stupidity of that, this is a really good episode for all of the male characters and also Morgause. 

The Lady of the Lake

Why is this called this? Well Merlin falls in love with a druid girl who is also a were-winged jaguar. And she dies at the end. So he puts her in a boat a la Elaine and sets her sailing.

I don’t know.

Watching The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad

For the first time!

There’s a lot of old Disney animated (and non-animated) movies I’ve never watched. This one is logged under “Halloween” movies, so let’s go.

I like Sleepy Hollow, I guess. Mr. Toad is the only thing I liked about The Wind in the Willows, so I have high hopes.

The most fabulous character in English literature, you say? Yeah, Mr. Toad seems about right.

And of course, it’s animals acting like old men. Redwall does it better. (Ooooh, Disney’s Redwall. I’d watch that.)

Toad and Cyril the horse’s song is good. “Though the roads are perpendicular.”

I was not prepared for this

So, I’m sorry, am I supposed to be sympathizing with Rat, Mole, and MacBadger? Because I’m not. Except Mole, maybe. He’s cute.

The court case has started, and with all of Mole’s waving and tongue-sticking-out at the prosecutor, I now love him.

My new animated crush.

I don’t actually understand being attracted to animated anthropomorphic animal characters (no, not even the fox Robin Hood). To each their own, of course, but it’s not for me. Though I do have to admit that this Mole guy is a charmer.

Now Cyril is on the stand, interrogated by the prosecutor about where Toad got the car. “The only way a gentlemen gets anything. The honest way.”

“And what is the honest way?”

“Ha ha, I thought you wouldn’t know that, guvnor!”

Roast him, Cyril!

Yeesh, the speciesism re: “deceitful” weasels. I well remember it from Wind. And Redwall, to be fair. The weasels should be allowed to keep Toad Hall and I bet they don’t. It’s a shame.

Ah, you see, the human barman is actually the evil one. Humans are the only species worth distrusting. And the overreaction to Toad’s prison escape is a poignant reminder that the criminal justice system all over the world has been in dire need of reform for a long time.

Oh wow, Toad just almost drowned himself. He is stupid.

WTF is that roast Rat and Mole are eating? That’s not a thing. Neither is MacBadger’s Scottish accent, lol.

Why didn’t they just confirm that the weasels bought Toad Hall? Yeah, the criminal justice system in Wind in the Willows land is bad.

There was an extended action sequence and after that I must say that Toad doesn’t deserve Mole and Rat as friends.

OK that was good. Sleepy Hollow time.

Ichabod is described, rudely.

Some guy named Brom gives a horse and dogs beer. Don’t do that.

And now a song about Ichabod, also rude.

Now this happens:

What. Am I watching.

Katrina’s introductory song is also kind of rude.

And it’s over!

It was bizarre, and entertaining, and it didn’t end like I thought it would. I’m actually surprised to find it’s pretty much loyal to the source material.

Well, that was fun. But I preferred Toad’s part.

Unlikable Women: Briony Tallis

Unlikable women: short list; Elle Driver

**Having never read the book the movie Atonement is based on, I can only talk about the movie version of the character.

**I only have jumbled thoughts about her as well, so, proceed at your own risk.

**spoilers for Atonement

I don’t really think Briony is an unlikable woman, but I’m not sure that’s how viewers of the movie broadly feel about her. Nuance apparently doesn’t exist, even for viewers of a film that asks you to understand multiple perspectives of the same event, and asks you to understand, and even like, three people, one of whom has harmed the others without any chance of ever repairing the harm.

But this is Owlmachine and I can say what I want about Briony, so there. Here are the facts about Briony Tallis, re: false rape accusation:

  • she has a crush on Robbie, a groundskeeper or something at her family’s home
  • she and Robbie have some sort of friendship, where she gives him all of her stories to read and he does so and is generally encouraging
  • at one point she jumps into a river and he saves her – she does it out of vanity, and he gets really mad because they both could have died
  • she witnesses three moments between Robbie and her sister Celia over the course of one day, and thinks he is some sort of sexual predator
  • one of the aforementioned is consensual sex, but she thinks it was rape
  • she witnesses a friend of her brother’s raping her cousin later that day and is sure, though she saw someone else, that it must have been Robbie
  • she lies to the police that she saw Robbie with her own eyes, believing that it was him, and that he is dangerous
  • she is thirteen at the time

Her lie ruins Robbie’s life, and Celia’s life, because the two of them had just begun a romance. Also WWII happens shortly afterwards so Celia becomes a nurse, and Robbie becomes a soldier so that he can get out of prison. Both of them die.

There are mitigating factors here. I think I’ve laid them out, but again, if you please: she’s young, she doesn’t understand the full consequences of her lie, she had no idea everything between Robbie and Celia was OK and that Celia wasn’t in danger, etc. In the moments before Briony walks in on the two of them having sex in the library, she is shaking with fear. She is legitimately disturbed by what else she’s seen that day as well. Nobody talks to her. There’s a nice moment where Robbie pauses before leaving the library, almost like he’s thinking about saying something to her, but then doesn’t. None of the three have a chance to talk to each other afterwards, because two of the girls’ cousins run away and during the search party another cousin gets raped.

[Now is as good a time as any for me to just briefly mention that I have a lot of conflicting thoughts about the way this story is constructed, and what it is ultimately about. Pain, I think. Mistakes. Bad choices. Misunderstandings, miscommunication. The inability to connect. Authorship. Atonement.

We linger on the pain of the three main characters. Robbie and Briony in particular get a lot of screen time during which they are in pain. By contrast, Lola, the girl who gets raped – and who later marries her rapist, seeming to both know and not know, or maybe not wanting to know, that he’s her rapist – gets very little screen time in which to be in pain, or to do anything, once she has been raped.

I’m not sure I’ve watched any movie or TV show that actually took on the impact rape has on victims. There’s a recent police procedural I liked, Unbelievable with Merrit Weaver and Toni Collette, but that mostly focused on the police. I haven’t seen a drama like Atonement which shows the effects of rape on someone’s budding/passionate/inappropriate romance, for example. It’s not that I want to, but I’m not sure I’m entirely comfortable with the focus being only on Robbie, and not on Lola. I realize Lola didn’t have to go to prison or to the war, buuuut she did later marry her rapist, which can’t lead to much happiness. My point is, there’s a lot of sad things that come out of Lola’s rape, but I’m not jazzed that Lola’s marrying the rapist is mostly portrayed as sad because that means she can’t testify against him and clear Robbie’s name.]

That said, I can also list some things about Briony that may signify her as an unlikable woman:

  • “asexual” – not as a sexual orientation, though. I remember director Joe Wright describing Briony this way, talking about both her costumes, which are always loose and shapeless and cold-toned, as well as I guess the fact that she doesn’t have sexual partners
  • her hair, clothes, and jewelry never change from when she is thirteen to when she is a much older woman, like she is frozen in time to when she was thirteen, never moving past her mistake in any way
  • she gets old, gets sick, and writes her last novel as a way to atone for her mistake, fictionalizing an encounter where she struggles to apologize and gets yelled at, as well as moments of happiness for Celia and Robbie who didn’t live long enough to actually have them

While I don’t personally think of any of these things as unlikable, again, I’m not sure that our society agrees. Let’s talk about points 1 and 3 (I don’t have anything to say about 2).

Asexual: First of all, Briony lives a long life. We see her for brief moments as a thirteen year old, an eighteen year old, and a seventy-seven year old. For all anyone knows, she had multiple strings of lovers from age 19 on. She could have been married, she could have been divorced, she could have remarried, and so on, and so forth. I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to think she hasn’t, though, and that she hasn’t because she’s punishing herself for her mistake at thirteen. I’m not sure what I think about that, except that mostly I think it’s stupid.

Denying herself sex might be a way of atoning, but sex isn’t the only way to connect with others. She has a family, a brother, possibly nieces and nephews if she never has children of her own. We see her as a nurse at eighteen, and though she keeps her fellow nurses at a distance, she connects easily and with feeling and warmth to her patients. The only people she can’t really connect with are Celia and Robbie, and even then, there’s another nice little moment where Celia watches Briony try to apologize and is clearly feeling something – maybe not forgiveness, but compassion, at least.

I’d be less weirded out by the “Briony is asexual because she falsely accused a guy of rape” take if not for the weird moments during the scene where she confesses and tries apologizing to Robbie and Celia. She stares at their bed in a kind of pervy way, and later at them, when Robbie attempts to attack Briony and Celia stands in front of him and calms him down “romantically.” Both moments strike me as unnecessary. Do you really stare at your sister’s bed and your sister and her lover as they have some sort of intimate “feminizing the masculine violence out of him” moment – because – I hope not.

I have similar feelings about Darcy’s proposal to Elizabeth in Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice. Every time I watch it, I shake my head when there’s this weird, out of place moment where they kind of look at each other like they want to just start fucking. At least, that’s what I think they’re thinking. In that moment they truly hate each other. She hates him for all the reasons she’s had before, and he hates her for rejecting him. It is just inappropriate. You can put sexual tension in Austen, but not in that part. At least, in my opinion.

Similarly, though, I don’t think the moment where she stands in her sister’s apartment and struggles to apologize is the moment Briony Tallis would choose to write about herself having multiple moments of horniness directed at her sister and her sister’s boyfriend. But what do I know.

Old: In the same scene I was just complaining about, Briony looks out the window and sees an old woman walking down the street with a walker. It nicely mirrors a scene where Robbie looks at an elderly couple while he and Celia awkwardly have tea. Robbie looks at them and seems to know that he will never get there. Briony looks at this old woman and seems to know that this will be her fate, to be an old woman.

I think the implication goes further than, “I’m going to grow old.” I think “alone” is in there too. This irks me as well, because neither we nor Briony know anything about this woman. She’s just alone as she walks down the street. She could have friends. She could have family. She could have a dog. She could have a lesbian lover at home. She could have multiple ghosts haunting her. YOU DON’T KNOW.

Anyway. Briony has gotten the better end of the stick. Objectively. Celia and Robbie die young and that is the tragedy, not that a woman grows old. But, again, I’m not sure society broadly would agree.

To be fair, it is more that she grows old and never moves past the guilt she feels. But still. She gets to become a successful writer, and she uses this gift to atone.

A Song of Water, Earth, Fire, Air

Recently one half of Bryke, creators of Avatar: the Last Airbender, published a letter explaining their feelings about leaving the Netflix live-action Avatar project. Someone shady published a piece stating that the reasons they left were:

a) Netflix wanted to consider a few white actors and Bryke were very opposed, and

b) Netflix wanted to age up the characters so that they could include violence, blood, swearing, and sex, and Bryke wanted it to be, you know, FOR KIDS.

So this might not be true, and that article and guy who wrote it are for sure shady, but honestly all of that rings just a little bit true to me. Why else would Bryke leave, saying “You might like it, but whatever it turns out to be, it’s not what we wanted,” because, yikes.

First hearing the news I felt rage akin to how I used to feel annually for 10 weeks around May about Game of Thrones (there is now just a hollow blackened cavern where any feeling about GoT used to be). But at this point, I just have to laugh. Let’s go with it! If Netflix is trying to make Game of Thravatar, or Ravatardale, or Sabravatar, OK. Let’s imagine that, just for fun, and to soften the blow when the final product arrives.

The only problem is I’ve watched just one episode of Sabrina and none of Riverdale, so this will be depressingly Game of Thrones heavy – as in, the whole thing will be Game of Thrones. I’ll throw some A Song of Ice and Fire in there too. What would George RR Martin do with the Gaang? NOT AGE THEM UP AT ALL! Jon and Robb start at 14! Dany 13! 13! Why??????? Sansa starts at 12! Arya 9! Arya, now 10, is portraying a sexually-suggestive character on the stage and basically using seduction to get close to an assassination target in one of her preview chapters for Winds of Winter. I mean, her target is a pedophile, but still. He could have just NOT written it like that. In GRRM’s novelization of Avatar, you can bet the Gaang and co would be sexually active, maybe having sex scenes in excruciating detail happening on the page. Maybe one of the kids would have large, dark areolas and another of the kids would obsess about the large, dark areolas. But don’t fret, GRRM would also throw some rape or almost-rape in there too for all of the girls – for historical accuracy, of course.

K. Maybe it’s not entirely a hollow blackened cavern where my ASoIaF/GoT feelings used to be. Yet.

Anyway.

First thing’s first, and this has nothing to do with Game of Thrones:

Who do they want to cast as white?

  • I’m trying to pick out some plausible characters and am really struggling. They just aren’t white. Why is this hard?
  • The Cabbage Man?
  • Maybe Aang
  • Maybe everyone in the Water Tribes again
  • … Zuko? They wouldn’t, would they?
  • I can’t, it doesn’t make sense.

Game of Thravatar

Sigh.

The Ending

Let’s begin at the end. It won’t have a satisfying conclusion. It will either have a conclusion so badly-crafted that we can’t help but wonder “Hey guys, maybe you’ve mentally checked out of this one and should move on to other projects that make you happy, like that ‘slavery is still legal in the 21st century’ one – ah, OK, maybe not that one, but still?” But they’re like “no, no, we’ve got this,” but it makes no sense, except that it is designed entirely on the format of “penultimate episode, something terrible and unexpected happens and involves a main character” set up in Season One, or they will just stop releasing episodes. And they’ll be like “we promise, we’re working on it,” but we’ll have seen the last few episodes they released and how they meandered and wasted time with characters who could easily have been cut entirely, like a three-parter on the swamp guy’s nephew and even a 40-minute arc of the mugger Iroh meets becoming a masseur,  and we’ll think, “Nah, guys, I think maybe you want to quit and work on other projects that make you happy?” but they’ll be like “no really, it’s coming. Next year, I bet.”

While option two is frustrating, at least it’s not option one, where, I guess, in a shocker of all shockers, Aang decides, “Fuck it -” (and he says “fuck it” because he’s aged up) “why don’t I just harness the power of Sozin’s comet and destroy the Fire Nation?”

firelord aang

Zuko and Katara are there, and they either miraculously survive or they die and Aang is like “Oops but now I’m the Dark Avatar King Guy” and Toph “mercy” kills him while Momo wrecks all the Avatar temples, which are the symbols of Avatar power that corrupts, or something, and Iroh will be like, “Hey, wasn’t there supposed to be a climate change metaphor in here somewhere?” But everyone ignores him, because most of them are dead.

The Incest

There would be incest and it is too gross to think about.

The CGI Budget

Appa gets killed instead of gets lost to save the CGI budget. Momo might also die due to this, but we need him to do the symbolic destroying of the Avatar temples so maybe not.

Hawky

Hawky would be a raven, and he would say, “CORN!”

This would be OK.

Dangerous Ladies/Sand Snakes

When Zuko is at the Boiling Rock and Mai shows up, she should accuse him of cheating on her with Katara or something (hey, maybe he really does do that, why not), and say this incredible line, “You want a good girl, but you need the bad pussy.”

mai2

I can see Mai saying that. I can see anyone saying that. I mean, people say that on a daily basis. While I’m grocery shopping, I hear people saying this to each other. The cashier greets me with “You want a good girl, but you need the bad pussy.” On the radio, they introduce each new song with “You want a good girl, but you need the bad pussy.” And every song’s chorus is “You want a good girl/but you need the bad pussy.” PM Justin Trudea begins each Covid announcement with the time-honoured phrase, “You want a good girl, but you need the bad pussy.” It is inscribed on the inside cover of every book, and is engraved on each tombstone. It will be on mine, when I die, and my last words will have been, “You want a good girl, but you need the bad pussy.”

Side note: I hope they paid that actress all the money for that shit, and also I know that they didn’t and that all the Sand Snake actresses were likely hideously underpaid.

Anyway. The dangerous ladies will be naked at least half the time for little to no reason. They will have clear motivations that the show will forget and entirely flub. We’ll barely see knife-throwing, chi-blocking, and blue flames. They’ll lose pretty much every fight within minutes. There may be WLW action that is not taken seriously, and there will literally be men onscreen watching every time it happens to reinforce that it’s only happening because of the straight male gaze.

Misogyny, in 100 different flavours

I did recently watch a few episodes and assorted clips from the earlier, “good” seasons of GoT, and I had forgotten how much the show hates women. Arya with her “most girls are stupid” and whatever crap that was with the Waif. Then there’s Brienne with “you sound like a bloody woman,” etc. How heartbreaking it is, that they made those two characters misogynists. Both of them have reasons to resent certain women in their lives, but Arya’s is sister-drama which is very different from hating ALL women, and in the books when Brienne thinks of people who have been cruel to her, shockingly, it’s always been men. But hey, they’re fighter-women so they must hate women just like all the men do, right?!

Here’s how that would look in Game of Thravatar:

  • Toph’s “sugar queen”ing of Katara would increase tenfold
  • Toph would say, unprompted, a whole bunch of stuff about how much she hates “girly” things and other women in general
  • The part where she and Katara go to the spa and Katara tells her she’s pretty after bullies make fun of her would be cut
  • “The Runaway” would be cut
  • Nobody would ever say anything nice about Katara, ever.
  • Whoever gets raped will have a scene where they say, “I’m glad it happened because it taught me not to be stupid and realize that the world is a dangerous place.” Not like she already knew that, or anything…
  • They will write a consensual sex scene so poorly that the editing turns it into a rape scene. Genius!
  • Azula would be openly dismissive of her friends. She wouldn’t care about them at all. When they turn on her, she would just lock them in a dungeon to slowly die and never think about them ever again.
  • Similarly, any and all secret pain she feels regarding her mother would be cut
  • Her mother is dead, in fact. Why have her be still alive, living in exile, for further comic books to explore? She’s a mom, we don’t care about her story unless she died tragically. Raped first, of course.
  • None of the girls would ever talk to each other, basically
  • Some of them might have sex, but again, only while some man watches. Extra points if it’s a man who has been castrated.

katarajet4azula smile

Misandry, but for real

Game of Thrones… might actually hate men as much as if not moreso than women, though the man-hate is sneakier and subtler. Poor Aang is not going to fare well.

  • Gonna be a lot of physical and psycho-sexual torture of Jet when the Dai Li capture him
  • Jet gets castrated by the Dai Li and then everyone makes fun of him for it, including when Smellerbee makes out with Katara in front of him or something
  • Castration will be a widespread thing, and they’ll take as many opportunities as they can to draw attention to it. Like maybe someone actually tries to touch Jet’s genitals at one point and makes a comedy face, like, “Wait, whaaa?”
  • Long Feng will kick Jet in the castration and it will not be painful at all, turning the tides in the important action scene.
  • Except then Long Feng will kill Jet with a rock. But it’s OK because he was castrated, so what did he want to be alive for anyway, right? He can’t do anything anymore. You need a genitals for literally everything you do in a day, right guys?
  • People will make castration jokes at Aang for some reason (probably because he’s a vegetarian)
  • People will also make fun of Aang for being an Air Monk, and will make a lot of virginity jokes at him
  • Aang has deep convictions about not killing anyone – as unseriously as Sokka already takes this in the original? Imagine that turned up to 1000.
  • “You eunuch-vegetarian-virgin. You want a good girl, but you need the bad pussy, and as we all know, that sacred saying means you gotta MAN UP and commit murder.” All of the previous Avatars will say this to Aang, as he asks for their wisdom while traveling on the Lion Turtle.
  • Sokka will also not have a good time. He starts out making kind of misogynistic jokes, and that entirely ends in S1E4 after he meets Suki and learns a lesson. But in Game of Thravatar, that will never end. And until he fucks for the first time on screen (BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT WE ALL WANTED OUT OF A LIVE ACTION ATLA, RIGHT?), he is made fun of for not being enough of a man, or, something.
  • Sokka’s jokes will be about sex and swear words, and nothing else (think Bronn’s “brilliant” material)
  • Zuko will die. Instead of being redeemed, he’ll just switch to the good side at the last second and then sacrifice himself and die. (TBF this one is more a Star Wars thing, but, still)
  • Or possibly, Zuko will do the hard work of redemption, but at the very end he will abandon it all and go hang out with Azula and be killed in Aang’s vengeance. He’ll be like, “Whatever man, I don’t care about anyone or anything.” And we’ll all be like, “Uh… like one episode ago you did, WTF?” And he’ll just shrug, and die, for no reason at all.

aang ashamed

A Song of Water, Earth, Fire, Air

It would be too long.

Honestly? This book series took a lot out of me. It has taken me some time to realize this, but the reality is, even something that’s supposed to be as “harmless” as fantasy novels can still do harm.

I haven’t read one of these books in years. It’s been almost a decade since the most recent one came out, and for me, they didn’t have any reread value. Still, moments in them stick out to me like rusty nails I step on out of nowhere in my day-to-day life. Sometimes when a book or movie or a show does that, it’s special, but in this case it’s not. It’s all the horrific moments, which are only there to provide characterization for whoever is narrating at the time. Out of context, it’s just wanton cruelty, and it’s stuck on repeat in my head.

I found the politics interesting, the characters were very easy to love and to be terrified for, the villains easy to hate (yeah, Ramsay and Euron are not complex), complexities of characters who aren’t just villains were interesting… There’s just so much trash to wade through.

Near constant depictions and references to animal cruelty, rape, torture, and baby-killing. Beloved characters die, and their bodies and memories are desecrated. Very little justice. There is a lot set up, and so far, no payoff. This is in service to “subverting fantasy genre tropes and expectations.” Yeah. But first, are they being subverted, though? Did you see what happened to Jon in the show? Very typical. And very empty. Will the point, in the end, be that nothing matters? Then why wade through all the death and suffering of innocents and the vulnerable, just to reach that bullshit Nietzschesque conclusion? Second, you can’t subvert expectations at all, if no one knows how it ends.

Whatever. GRRM doesn’t owe anyone anything. But if I’m going to pay my money for a book, I want answers and payoff and closure. Open-endings are fine, as long at they are endings.

Also at this point I’m not unscrewing my skull and placing my fragile brain back into the planetos. I will read the plot points on wikipedia.

But for ATLA but live-action and on Netflix, I have but one planetos-related quip.

There is always one boob out in Ba Sing Se

Dany goes to Quarth in book 2 and we find out that the fashion there is to have a cheeky one out, as Hannah Gadsby would put it. So Dany lives her life in Quarth wearing gowns that are designed to always have one boob out. She’s like, just turned 14 at this point.

There are a couple of asides about men staring at her one exposed tit. One of the such pedophiles is of course show-fan favourite Jorah. Later, Dany is queen of Mereen, where it is NOT the fashion to have one tit out, Dany wears a dress “in the Quarthian fashion, with one breast exposed” or whatever.

Why, babe?

I’m talking to GRRM, not Dany. Dany, you do you.

When I first read this I was like, “Oh, OK, cool.” It wasn’t until maybe a month ago, which is almost a decade later, that I’m realizing why in the show, when Dany arrives at Quarth, none of the ladies were walking around with one of their boobs just lolling about. HBO has a nudity quota, I thought, why not take this obvious chance to fulfill it?

Yeah. It’s because that would look ridiculous.

I looked it up on google, and, fine, women are beautiful, but the asymmetrical look is difficult to pull off, especially with an eye-grabbing breast in the mix. Google it yourself. You’re welcome. It still doesn’t look elegant.

It would also be really impractical. What if you have to lean over something, you could snag a nipple.

IT’S STUPID, I SAY.

I don’t want to accuse GRRM of anything untoward but like, it’s a fourteen-year-old girl and it would look bad and inelegant, so why is a boob out? And if that’s what he’s into (especially if there are large dark areolas involved, which, by the way, if you hadn’t already caught that from those unnecessary Oakheart chapters, that’s, uh, definitely fetishistic and racist, as Arianne is the only non-white girl here and the only one whose areolas are given such creepy, rhapsodizing attention), why not just keep that to himself and not publish it?

Anyway. GRRM would have Ba Sing Se fashion be one-boob-out and it would be stupid.

Also I maintain that for no reason at all, his characters are way too young.

Netflix, but why

I don’t want to sound puritanical about not wanting the ATLA characters to fuck. But that’s what fanfiction is for, and importantly, this is a property for kids. It’s one of the best shows ever put on television and it was made specifically for a child audience. Does it have to be taken away from them?

The original show implied sex. What was that Sokka/Suki thing in the tent?

The original show had a whole whack of violence. Zuko walks around with a third degree burn scar on his face. Do you need more? Do we need to watch people get their limbs crushed by earth-bending? Why? Just so kids can’t watch it?

Also, I watched A Series of Unfortunate Events. That show got away with a lot, but it’s still child-friendly, and it’s also fantastic. Not being able to just throw sex, swearing, and gore onscreen means a creative team has to get creative. That’s why entertainment made for kids, if it’s good, tends to be really good. Why not just go with that?

Why take Avatar from kids?

And Finally, Animation

I was looking forward to more ATLA content. Especially since they had Bryke, and they were “going to do it right,” and they were going to try to be as culturally sensitive as possible and give a whole bunch of jobs to a whole bunch of people of colour.

But the live-action remake does make animation seem less desirable and less prestigious and less important than live-action, and that remains very stupid.

Happily, no one can take ATLA and LoK away from anyone. They’re animated, beautiful, with great characters, great messages, friendly for all ages, and they have SATISFYING CONCLUSIONS.

THANK YOU TO THEM.

manly aang 2

Poignancy out of Bronies (Broignancy?)

First of all, no, shut up, erm. Why.

This is just a quick post to briefly discuss something Jenny Nicholson says in her The Last Bronycon video:

Whether or not you know anything about MLP, MLP: Friendship is Magic, and/or the brony phenomenon, this video is fascinating and worth watching.

Specifically I want to say “Hey, yeah, that’s a good point!” to one thing she says early in the video:

“And I speculate that maybe, in a broad general sense, men are not socialized to recognize uncomplicated, unsexual fondness for a female character.”

Obviously this speculation is useful when discussing bronies but of course I heard her say it and was like “holy shit that’s probably extremely true and applicable to how broadly, generally, men engage in way more than just My Little Pony” and it became the most profound thing I’d heard all week, which wasn’t difficult. I’ve been watching reaction videos mostly, lately. Send help.

But seriously, this nuanced, multifaceted look at the brony fandom is really engaging and educational, if you like to learn more about cultural phenomena specifically in the internet age (as I do). The one speculation I highlighted here is followed by a whole bunch of other observations and critiques that are also really interesting. At her most scathing, discussing how smugly some adults will defend their sexualization of child characters (which as we all know is not something unique to bronies AT ALL), she says something like “it’s like they’re LARPing in a universe where this is all totally fine and OK,” and I liked that. It’s the best, most clarifying way I’ve ever heard someone describe the bad-faith way ephebebehephiles talk about their ephhepphhhhpephhphphphebephilia. (Pedophilia. It’s pedophilia.)

But I promise it’s mostly not about the strange sexualization of ponies and children’s media and the occasional but awful sexualization of children characters, though that’s probably what you would be expecting from something about bronies. Basically she addresses these aspects, calls the harmless parts harmless, calls out the not-so-harmless, and talks sincerely about all the rest of the fandom too, including parts she herself helped shape. While I never watched her parody Friendship is Witchcraft, I watched other popular fan-made parodies of other animated media around that time and if I’d been into the MLP universe it looks like Friendship is Witchcraft would have been exactly my speed. It’s always interesting to see creators of viral internet stuff grow and look back on their creations introspectively and thoughtfully, so that was also a highlight.

Anyway it’s good. May she and others like her document more cultural/internet phenomena. Also! Bonus nostalgia points: I had forgotten I had a pony or two from G1 or G2, and that I combed her hair, until watching this video. It was not an earth-shattering revelation or anything but that was kind of nice.

How to care for YOUR pony’s hair. Because it is relaxing.

Transformative Works

3!

Disclosure

This Netflix documentary, produced by Laverne Cox, discusses portrayals of trans people in media over the last ever, basically. It features a whole bunch of trans actresses, actors, and various culture critics. They talk about the films and TV shows they watched growing up and how those portrayals made them feel, both the positive, and much more often, the negative.

I love stuff like this in general – the ways media changes people and makes people feel will always be fascinating to me. Regarding portrayals of trans people specifically, I’d started thinking about how Sense8 came out and its complete humanizing of Nomi was so different from a lot of the throw-away portrayals of trans people I’d watched in the 90s and 2000s. Watching this documentary, I noted how many terrible portrayals I’d (thankfully) missed. There’s some discussion of an arc for a trans woman on Nip/Tuck which looks truly awful. I’d seen a few episodes here and there, but missed that whole arc. And whatever Ace Ventura movie I saw, it thankfully wasn’t the garbage one featured in this movie. I was a young, impressionable cis, and I don’t honestly know what kind of impact the overt disgust these fictional trans women characters were treated with would have had on me.

This documentary asks questions about those things. How do cis people view trans people, how do media portrayals of trans people affect their empathy for trans people, and most importantly, how do media portrayals impact trans people, and especially young trans people? They do also make the important point about how elevating a few trans actors in the eyes of society won’t actually liberate trans people in general.

Do you watch/have you watched media, possibly with trans people in it? Without trans people in it? This documentary is for you.

But if you’re not already very familiar with the works discussed and shown in this movie, then content warning for severe transphobia.

The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson

This documentary follows Victoria Cruz, a transgender women from the Anti-Violence Project, attempting to get the Marsha P. Johnson case reopened. Her death had initially been ruled a suicide, but it’s hard not to believe that it was probably a murder.

In the process she speaks with friends of Marsha’s, and the history of the Gay Right’s Movement and Stonewall features as well. One important takeaway is that sex work, especially for trans women, and especially for trans women of colour, is dangerous work, and it’s still today the way it used to be in the 90s, and in ever – when trans sex workers disappear or their bodies are found, not enough is done to give their families and friends closure, and not nearly enough is done to keep them safe in the first place. And even for trans women of colour who aren’t sex workers, there’s not enough done to keep them safe either.

I would like to now watch a documentary made in 1992 called The Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson, because I think it probably features more of Marsha herself. This one does have many clips of her, but I would like to see more of her life. That said, I liked the way it followed Victoria Cruz. I would like to hear more about her life as well – the joyful parts, the monotonous parts as well, if she wanted to share any of it.

Even this Page is White by Vivek Shraya

I’d already read this book, but felt it was time to reread it. It’s a collection of poetry, with a conversation between Shraya and a few white friends about racism in the middle.

This collection makes me uncomfortable, but that’s the thing about trying to commit to anti-racism: you have to be uncomfortable sometimes. You have to “sit in your discomfort.” Shraya has made herself uncomfortable as well, confronting her own internalized racism, and the ways that racism affects Indigenous people and black people differently.

I thought it was important to read something written recently by a Canadian trans woman of colour – while the reality of everything happening in the US is hard to ignore (and we shouldn’t ignore it), white Canadians need to reconcile with the racism that happens here and not just congratulate ourselves that we’re not American. Especially for any and all white Canadians, I recommend reading Shraya’s work, and in particular this one.

Disappointment and JK Rowling

Alternate title: UGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

JK Rowling recently tweeted some fairly transphobic things, which is perfect because it’s not like we were paying attention to anything else right now. There’s obviously never a good time to be transphobic, but it’s particularly bad when the Black Lives Matter movement is everywhere, making consistent news, and pushing for much needed progress.

Anyway if you are unaware and care to know more about the JKR thing any further than “she tweeted some transphobic things and that’s bad,” this Variety article sums it up. I recommend you do not read the comments, though.

So she’s been on the edge of TERFdom for some time now, or, that’s how I’ve been seeing it. A lot of trans people I follow or whose tweets are retweeted into my feed have considered her to be much more than on the edge of TERFdom for at least a year, and some thought so as early as a few years back. Obviously they were right and I should have listened, but I didn’t want to. I’ll admit it. It was uncomfortable to agree with them 100% that JKR was a TERF, because Harry Potter is important to me, and so is (was?) JK Rowling.

I’ve seen a lot of “who cares what she thinks?” This is totally understandable, both from people who don’t care that much about JKR or HP, and from people who have recognized that there are more important things going on than a white author lady and her weird transphobia, and of course the people who are both of those things.

So, yes, “who cares,” except, I do. Not because she was important to me (though, yes), but because HP is ingrained in the culture, JKR is a household name, and she is very influential, especially among young people and new generations of children. Why did she have to drink the transphobia poison? And while she’s not as bad as Graham Linehaaaaaaaaaaaaaaam (idk), yet, she’s more important than he is.

Also the stuff she retweeted and linked to was……….. bad. There was one article about a scared lesbian who is scared to be openly transphobic. Technically all it says is that she just doesn’t want to put her pronouns on all her emails, and the LGBT advocacy place she works for is OK with people NOT doing it, but she’s afraid people will notice her not doing it and there will be consequences.

There’s probably some nuance to find there. The article JKR tweeted didn’t have any. It was hyperbolic, to say the least. Don’t be like me and click on it, it is not worth your time, and JK Rowling, who is a talented writer of stories that depict and discuss bigotry, should have recognized it for what it was.

JKR clearly feels like she’s speaking up for a beleaguered group, made up of cis straight women, cis lesbians, and cis gay men, whose spaces of biological femaleness and/or same-sex attraction are under threat if we admit that gender and sex are more complicated than the male/female binary, x and y chromosomes, menstruation, and secondary sex characteristics. She isn’t, though. Everyone, cis, trans, gay, lesbian, bi, pan, ace, aro, intersex, straight, and so on is going to be fine if we listen to the science. The science, to sum up: biology is complicated. Of course it’s real and has lived consequences. A cis woman’s biology is a crucial part of her lived experience as a woman. A trans woman’s biology is ALSO a crucial part of her lived experience as a woman. These two things can be true, and many other truths about all types of gendered and sexual experiences can also be true, all at the same time, without erasing JKR’s or anyone else’s womanhood.

The self-righteousness of JKR and other cis women and men like her stops them from introspecting and realizing this. After all, if JKR really is speaking truths that her butch lesbian friend feels enthusiastically vindicated by, why should she stop?

I have the answer! It’s because when you read some of the threads started by this “discourse,” you see some vile shit. Maybe JKR states that she loves and supports trans people and will march with them IF they’re discriminated against (babe. come on), but many of the people celebrating her “brave free speech” are not similarly benevolent. They say things like “trans women are not real women” and “trans men menstruate because they’re women, only women menstruate,” and “woke SJW trash 57 gender bullshit,” etc, etc, etc. JKR is not on the right side of this argument, and she’d know that if she were truly paying attention, but she won’t. First, because she’ll continue to feel vindicated by the mass amounts of TERFs and TERFy people out there in the wilds of the internet and real life who will reward her every time she does some TERF stuff in public. Second, because honestly, it’s clear she doesn’t care that much.

How incredibly disappointing.

It’s wrong to expect perfection of your role models but FFS, this is not that. We can expect them to have common decency and to learn and grow. Will JKR be like James Potter and get over her tendency to pick on those already vulnerable and feel remorse, or will she be like Snape, forever stagnant and self-righteously indignant at the suggestion that she should not keep mobilizing her power and influence against a vulnerable group because of the relatively minor abuse* she’s caught in the past?

IIIIIIIII bet it’s the second one.

Here’s further reading by Katie Montgomerie, which is crucial if you’re not understanding the problems with what JKR said.

Specifically, this: “It is an attempt to create a false dichotomy between supporting trans rights and just agreeing with the entire field of biology. The argument is “If we call trans women women, then we can’t discuss sexism against women or sexuality”, but in fact the truth is the exact opposite. Trans women face misogynistic sexism and sexual violence for being women every day. Trans lesbians face structural and street homophobia/lesphobia across the world. Both of those are observable facts. After all, does a sexist abuser ask to see your original birth certificate before sexually harassing you? No. And if we aren’t allowed to describe that reality then how can we address these problems?”

*I personally don’t like some of the rhetoric, but it doesn’t matter much. I don’t want to tone police, because I’d much rather TERFs got over themselves and didn’t say their TERF things that then get the violent rhetoric responses in the first place.

It’s Time to Give Up, Baby Pirate Man

(please excuse the title, i can’t and won’t attempt to explain myself, just place me under a rock and ignore everything i ever say ever again)

I watched Sinbad recently. I had a lot of thoughts about the titular character and how irritating it is that he doesn’t really ever grow up.

That probably requires explaining, because in this movie Sinbad actually gets down on his knees and puts his head on an executioner’s block, fully, legitimately, intending to die for a crime he didn’t commit, to spare his friend.

He’s still a baby man, though, and I would like to go into it. But it’s going to have to wait, because before I can focus on Sinbad, I want to discuss this movie broadly.

And by “discuss this movie broadly” – I of course mean “write gibberish about Eris.”

Eris. Is ALL. That matters.

Eriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis.

(eris)

Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas has one of the best animated villains… ever.

eris and the book of peace

Showing a still image of Eris is egregious. She has to be seen in motion to be truly appreciated, but this movie is one of the hardest to find clips of on Youtube (at least, it was when I stared writing this. Now there are a bunch! Go watch them).

Whoever animated her should have been given Oscars. They should simply have been handed Oscars. All of them – if The Academy actually cared or understood anything about animation, they would have done so, I say.

She’s also voiced by Michelle Pfeiffer, which is great because Michelle Pfieffer may actually be the best.

Well voiced, well animated, and, completing the trifecta: she’s well written. Somehow, miraculously, they got this character right.

Eris is the goddess of discord, and she has big plans to throw the world into chaos by getting the new heir to Syracuse wrongfully executed through a little manipulation of the flawed status quo. She flirts and whooshes around while she’s doing it all. She changes her size like Alice does in Wonderland – but she does it on purpose, to great effect. She’s murderous and sneaky and spiteful and extremely feminine, and the hero she’s up against who eventually gets the better of her is one of those *adorable* sexists, and yet, somehow, Eris works.

So Disney women villains.

Disney women villians, yes.

YES.

LET US COMPARE.

(the isolation delirium has set in, I believe)

The Powerful

I’m pretty sure Eris is more powerful than any Disney villain. Ursula is quite formidable once she has the trident and is not to be messed with even without it, but she’s a demoted goddess if anything, and she can be killed with a boat. Maleficent is scary and effective, but she’s no goddess. Those are the only two I’d say come anywhere close.

But Eris is the literal goddess of discord.

The Calculating

Nobody is more calculating than Lady Tremaine. The Evil Queen is a bit calculating for sure, but Lady Tremaine is maybe the only real match for Eris.

But Eris’s schemes are on a whole other level – Tremaine wants her grandson to be king, but Eris wants to topple whole governments, and her plan is way more sound than Lady T’s is.

The Sneaky

So… hold on to your hat, I have a bit of a revelation for you: all of the Disney canonical women villains are sneaks. I think we’ve found the answer to the “how does the culture view women” question.

The Evil Queen masquerades as a harmless beggar woman with a harmless basket of apples to appeal to Snow White’s kind heart.

Lady Tremaine does a lot of little subtle things that neither Cinderella nor any onlooker who isn’t a mouse can call out as unfair or straight up abuse without sounding at least a little bit paranoid.

Cruella sidles up to Anita and Roger trying to buy the puppies, and when rebuffed, hires people to steal them.

Madame Mim cheats in her wizard duel.

Maleficent, in the scene that is only not the standout scene because of the cake scene, pretty much seduces Aurora into touching a spinning wheel from the shadows.

Ursula disguises herself as Vanessa, but also, her entire deal is emotionally manipulating people into selling their souls to her so that she can put them in a garden for seemingly no other purpose than to be extremely fracking scary.

Yzma invites Kuzco to dinner to show there are no hard feelings – fully intending to murder him and take his place on the throne.

Mother Gothel steals a baby and raises her to be obedient because she needs her magic to stay young. She also very cleverly manipulates the Stabbington Twins.

And Assistant Mayor Bellweather! You know what she does.

There are plenty of male villains who are also sneaky. But there are also a lot of male villains whose sneakiness is 10000% bad-dad specific. They are just pretending to be a better person than they really are, to the complete and utter disappointment of whoever the hero of the day is (Pixar likes this one: Up,  Monsters Inc, Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3Coco, etc). Their de-maskings are often kind of devoid of flair, like Ernesto’s kind of was in Coco.

Some male villains are just evil, but with less lofty evil goals than the likes of Maleficent or even Mim (such as Ratcliffe, or Frollo). Now, those ones lie, and they emotionally manipulate, but it’s to serve their larger purpose of… genocide. So. And they really don’t sneak the way other villains sneak. They believe they are in the right and most of the bad things they do are them trumpeting all about how right they think they are.

Then there are just those who are not sneaky at all: Shan Yu, Callaghan (wearing a mask is just not fabulous enough to count as sneaky), The Horned King, and Gaston (“elaborate” plan aside. I don’t think he’s smart enough to truly be sneaky).

Some sneaky male villains include Jafar, Scar, King Candy/Turbo, Edgar, and Hans. Leaving Hans aside, what we have here are four rather effeminate male characters.

I’d love to go into great detail with all the Disney (and Pixar!) villains and discuss which ones are maybe feminine and which ones are maybe queer-coded, but for now, I’m going to leave it at this: the sneakier you are, generally, the more feminine you are, as well.

And that one holds for Eris.

What I like specifically about Eris’s sneakiness is that she delights in it. Playing Sinbad, she has this grin on her face that does the job of convincing the witness that she really is the devil-may-care thief, but she’s really just smiling because she LOVES PLAYING PRETEND.

The joyous female villain who has fun while she does villainy! So necessary. And I don’t think we’ve seen her since Snow White’s step mom laughed for forty years while she prepared a poisoned apple, in 1930.

The Sexy Ones

???

So………….

OK.

Disney likes to do a thing with their female villains, and that thing is that they desexualize them.

This can be a lot of fun, sometimes. Sexy female villains are often kind of upsetting to watch and/or read because as we have said so many times before, they are bad and badly written because sometimes you can’t help but pay some attention to the misogynist male writer behind the curtain who writes them as a weird kind of revenge porn, so, at least Disney doesn’t tend to do that. And throwing up a towering image of a powerful woman who is at the top on her own, without any sickly sweet romance, without some man – barking out orders, actually, at men – wielding awe-inspiring amounts of power – yeah, that’s fun to watch. That they all fail is less fun. That sometimes the desexualizing is done in the form of jokes about their appearances is also less fun. That their evil and their power is tied, inextricably, to their being sexless is not fun.

Of course, there’s Ursula*. Ursula is sexy. I don’t know that the movie knows that she’s sexy, but, she is.

But Ursula is unconventionally sexy. She’s fat, and wants to be fatter, and in 198whatever when this movie came out right through to 20whatever year this is now, “fat” and “sexy” – especially for women – only go together if you’re working against the overarching cultural narrative that there is one body type alone that can be considered sexy and attractive.

There are two women villains that are could be considered sexy in theory. There’s Madame Mim** in “beautiful” mode. She does a little dance and everything. I don’t think this counts because the point of it is that she turns back immediately into a shorter, fatter version of herself that we are meant to understand is the True Mim. Vanessa is another take on exactly this, but I kind of think everything Vanessa does is way less sexy than anything Ursula does, which is kind of cool.

There’s also Mother Gothel***. She’s like the Evil Queen in that she’s conventionally attractive, but the True Mother Gothel is old and aged. This is like how the “True” Evil Queen is sort of the form she both takes the most joy in and dies in, which is also aged and old.

Also I don’t know that Mother Gothel is animated in a sexy way at all. Her voice is certainly there, but she seems pretty asexual to me, and I’m using that term not as in that’s what I think her sexual orientation is (but, yeah, I do think that, sorry), but that she just isn’t doing anything sexual, at all, ever, on the screen. Even though she’s in love with her reflection.

*Ursula: unconventionally sexy and the movie either doesn’t think she’s sexy or is deliberately like, “yeah, she’s sexy, but unconventionally, OK.”

**Mim: she’s only doing an act; she pretty much states herself that it doesn’t count

***Gothel: she has time for one thing and one thing only: chasing, imprisoning, and keeping eternal youth even though she’s barely satisfied, and also her “true” form is old which, according to Disney and a lot of other jerks, can never be sexy

Eris is sexy in a way that doesn’t require an asterisk, because she’s got a conventionally attractive body type and she has a conventionally attractive face with conventionally attractive amazingly animated fluid lustrous beautiful hair AND Michelle Pfeiffer’s voice SO.

Ahem.

eris

She might as well be in charge. We have basically arrived here as a society anyway.

Eris in her own right

OK so.

Eris’s elaborate scheme is ruined by Sinbad being simultaneously stupid and noble. His nobility: he decides to go and die for a crime he didn’t commit so that his friend, the heir to a throne, won’t. His stupidity: he never realizes that in doing so, he’s conning Eris into keeping her word and giving back the book of peace.

“…………… I didn’t lie!” No shit, Sherlock. Isn’t this man a cynical con artist thief type dude?

Anyway he had to be such a dummy, because if he had known that Eris was never going to let him die, so long as he went back and pretended to be willing to die, then he’d still be lying and she would have been well within her rights to keep the Book of Peace. In order for everyone to live happily ever after, the main character has to do a stupid, basically.

I’ll return to Eris’s palpable, beautiful frustration in this scene in a moment. First, I want to talk about her amazing plan before it was ruined.

Peace in Syracuse + Syracuse’s friends and allies is dependent on a magical Book. As soon as that Book gets stolen, everyone loses their minds. The criminal must be brought to justice so they can get their Book back.

Let’s see if I have this straight:

1. Accost the likely thief

2. Behead him when he won’t give up the booty

3. ?????????

4. Peace restored

It gets more hilarious, though. Eris’s true plan isn’t even about the Book. She knows that Proteus, noble heir apparent, was Sinbad’s childhood friend, and will believe him when he says, truthfully, actually, that he didn’t steal the book. He’ll step in, and the stupid laws of Syracuse will state that if the true criminal doesn’t return WITH the stolen object, the stand-in gets beheaded.

1. Imprison the heir to the throne as a stand-in for the likely real criminal who has refused to give up the booty

2. Execute the heir when the guy who already wouldn’t give up the booty WHEN HE WAS IMPRISONED AND HIS OWN LIFE WAS AT STAKE doesn’t show up with the booty

3. ?????????????????????

4. Peace restored

I’m not doing a CinemaSins thing. Yes, this makes no sense, but I think the movie is so much better because of it.

Sinbad’s whole deal is “the freedom of the sea” (and also “the freedom of a life of crime and casual misogyny” but we won’t talk about that), directly compared to Proteus’s life of noble duty and sacrifice. Proteus even discusses this with Marina, the principled and antagonistic love interest. The conflict is more pronounced in Marina – she loves the sea (and for some reason, Sinbad) but she also feels that she has a responsibility to stay on land and be a politician. In the end, boringly, she chooses Sinbad and the sea, while Proteus is happy for them from his life on land as a public servant monarch.

And before this, everyone, including the king, is super frustrated with the confines of the silly law that have them needing to execute their heir, who is a principled, good politician, even though it will right zero wrongs. But they still go along with it, because it’s “the right thing to do??????????!”

I’m going to suggest that it’s not.

The charm and romance of Sinbad’s pirate life is enriched by the restrictions apparent in civilized society, which is one great thing about this movie. Then at the extreme end of the spectrum, there’s Eris, in all of her chaotic glory.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I can’t help sympathizing A LOT with her. She sees some silly rules and restrictions, sees how incredibly easy they’d be to shatter, and goes for it. She’s like a cat, spying a battable object close to an edge. Of course she’s going to swat it off and ruin everyone’s day.

Here’s a statement that I’ll apparently make: Eris’s attempt to bring down Syracuse is more fun, clear, engaging, and has way more to say than the Joker’s similar attempt at Gotham in The Dark Knight. (In my opinion. But I’m correct.)

If I’m only correct for one small detail, it’s this: Eris would absolutely have succeeded if not for the change of heart of one itty bitty man. The Joker is proven wrong by whole groups of people (some do try to prove him right, granted, but ultimately they cooperate and prove him wrong). If Sinbad hadn’t felt all his pesky feelings (and he tried really hard to not feel all his pesky feelings – EVEN MARINA, who is likely the reason he’s feeling all his pesky feelings, tried to convince him to not go back) Eris would have succeeded. Everyone else, all the principled political class of Syracuse and surrounding, were apparently fine to let the good prince die, because them’s the rules. They were apparently giddy to play right into Eris’s hands.

And this is why when Eris is fuming, sneering, scowling, and then, eventually, gracefully disappointed but moving on to new projects, it’s so easy to sympathize. You were so close, lady. I feel your pain.

BECAUSE NOBODY LEARNED ANYTHING.

Is it not, then, that it is you, Syracuse, and not Eris, who are the real agent of chaos????????

At least at the end of Aladdin, another story where some rando exploits the silliness of the ruling class for his own gains, the Sultan is like “Oh wait I can just change the law.”

There’s none of that here. I guess it wasn’t important.

That of course means that if Eris ever tried again, this time knowing not to rely on someone like Sinbad to stay selfish, she’d DEFINITELY succeed.

Dun. Dun. Dun.

(eris)

We were meant to be a community

And that’s the post.

 

 

 

It’s not supposed to be profound. It’s like saying “the sky is blue.” It’s obvious.

 

 

 

I’m not trying to be poetic. It’s just what’s rattling around in my brain.

 

 

 

I’m also not saying “we were meant to be a community… and therefore everything should open up again immediately because I’m bored and alone” because no. It’s pretty much the opposite of that.

What’s the point of human society, if we don’t take care of each other?

Things I’ve seen in the pandemic part 2

People driving like maniacs.

Really want to get into the hospital to see what’s happening for yourself, don’t you. And to take half the road with you. “Best Human in the World” award forthcoming for you, pals.

A bunch of Sonny with a Chance episodes.

I like this strange Disney channel sitcom. The characters are great. It’s often genuinely funny. I don’t understand why there are so many meat references, though. I don’t actually think most sitcoms reference meat as much as this show does. I could be wrong, of course. I’m not a sitcom connoisseur.

Most of the shelter animals getting into foster homes.

Many rescues, and even some shelters, operate majorly through the use of foster homes. We use them for certain cases, like animals with broken limbs that need excessive amounts of time to heal, and kittens, and puppies. In general, though, animals that come to our shelter stay in our shelter until they’re adopted.

But people stepped up, possibly because they have nothing else to do right now, and the shelter is almost a ghost-town. It’s great to know the critters don’t have to wait out the pandemic in their stupid cages.

People still being snippy with grocery store workers.

Guys. Come on. Seize this opportunity to learn and grow as a person in this one respect. It’s just basic human decency and you can’t even manage.

People thanking grocery store workers.

I guess that’s the counterpoint. Hopefully when this is all over, the workers will remember a lot more positivity and professed gratefulness than the jerks being jerks. Also, if essential workers could be paid a fair, actually livable wage, that too would be great.

The Kim Possible episode “Rappin’ Drakken”

I’ve seen a lot of KP episodes, but never “Rappin’ Drakken.” I’d heard the episode title and that alone made me chuckle, but I didn’t really want to actually watch it.

Anyway I have Disney+ access now, so in my scrolling I saw this episode, complete with the summary: “Drakken’s new mind-control shampoo fails to fly off the shelves,” or something along those lines, and I was delighted. The episode itself is similarly delightful. I can’t believe I waited so long to watch it.

Kim Possible holds up, man.

The Kim Possible live-action Disney Channel movie.

I liked it! They had to wait this long to do it, I believe, because they needed CGI tech to improve. Rufus was ADORABLE, where, in years passed, he would have been creepy at best.

I like that Kim got to be more human/teenage girl, complete with flaws and somewhat surprisingly drawn-out despair, than her cartoon superhero self. I do love the cartoon superhero version too, but I like that they gave their new version a real purpose for existing by making her a little more real.

I like that a grandma makes an appearance, too.

Insomniaaaa

Only on the days I have to get up for work! When it’s my weekend, it’s like my body doesn’t know there’s a mode of existence beyond sleep. Way to be, self. Way to be.

Onward!

Non-spoilers: I liked it. It was not as goofy as I thought it would be. I liked the raccoon-unicorns.

In fact, I really liked the raccoon-unicorns. Here is an example of an animal in a Disney-adjacent animated movie acting like a different animal, but instead of the equation being x=y where x is any animal under the sun and y is a dog, x=unicorns, and y=raccoons. How fresh and exciting! And also very weird. A very strange choice, overall.

OK spoilers underneath.

It’s typical Pixar – a detailed alternate universe/dimension world used to tell a poignant story about people’s insecurities and flaws. Specifically I’m thinking of Monsters University, where the alternate dimension was telling the story of Mike and Sully and their respective insecurities more than the ethics and energy story from the original. In Monsters U we see a slug guy being late for the entire semester. The librarian is very tall and the most terrifying person in existence, next to the Dean. Frazzled students build doors all semester and react exactly how you’d expect them to when they get destroyed.

I’m pretty sure The Good Dinosaur is that same thing but gosh golly me I can’t get through that one, which is, perhaps, my flaw. And insecurity. Toy Story is another one (that I don’t like) (but we don’t talk about that because I’m in the very small minority). Toys going through existential crises, cut in with clever explorations of how a toy society would even work. Onward does the same thing, sporting elves, centaurs, cyclopses, pixies, dragons, and so on, but it’s just a story about an anxious kid and his risk-taking DND enthusiast older brother trying to spawn the top half of their dead father before sunset. You know. As you do.

It reminded me of Wall-E with one very minor subplot. The modern day Onward universe has forsaken a lot of its magical heritage. The pixies not knowing how to fly and The Manticore turning into a frazzled businesswoman who only uses her flight power after a car crash forces her to reminded me of that “you may have experienced some bone loss” line from the Buy n Large propaganda/return-to-earth video. I don’t know how I felt about it – only that I’m glad it was minor.

I liked that the mom got to participate. She participated even more than Squishy’s mom and was similarly cute.

And then there’s the poignancy. All I can say about it is that I’m glad this movie exists. It’s doing good work. A lot of Disney/Disney-adjacent movies have dead parent(s), but this one, since it’s set in a modern-if-alternate universe, probably has more relatable things to say to actual kids who are missing a parent. And as a Frozen and Lilo and Stitch fan, I’m definitely not going to say no to brother love, which was happily the main point. More, animators. More.

I mean. I just watched it today. I’m sure my thoughts will evolve. But for now, it did my favourite thing that an animated movie can do: it surprised me by surpassing my expectations.

So thank you to all the creators out there, whatever it is you create. Someone somewhere is having an easier time because of you. Even when we’re not in a pandemic.

EXCEPT you, radio show hosts who do prank calls that I am forced to listen to at work. You can get furloughed. Forever.

Oh Poor Timothy

A little more than 10 years ago my then-laptop didn’t like the internet. It would take forever to connect, and sometimes would connect but so poorly that I couldn’t even use it, so what, I ask, was the point?

To stave off frustration I opened a Word document one day and called it “Things I Type when the Internet Doesn’t Work” – forcing myself to do quick bursts of “creativity” instead of getting really, really mad that I couldn’t watch Youtube or go on Facebook or whatever.

One of the things I wrote was a stream of consciousness called “Oh Poor Timothy.” I wrote the title first, thinking it sounded funny, then thought, “OK, who’s Timothy and why is he so poor?” The rest just sort of happened. I read it now and am proud of it. I don’t think it’s genius, or even close. It’s a little too… overstated. Or something. I do recognize it, though, somewhere in the pit of my soul. It says things that are true for me now, and were apparently true for me then.

These days my stream of consciousnesses are deliberately creepy, and, I think, better, but I still love “Oh Poor Timothy.” Check it out – or, better yet, write one yourself. One technique I learned and have used successfully is to stare into the flame of a candle while writing. Failing that, I once stared at a lake. But if you don’t have a candle or a lake handy, you can just stare at a fixed point and write whatever comes into your head. In my opinion, if you make it creepy, it’s more fun. But do you.

Oh Poor Timothy

He told me once that he never really cared much. I tell him often that I do, I have, I always will. These are words like ethical and empathy, they sound soft and malleable and easy to stack in the far corner of the mental attic next to memories from the day the sky was white and time seemed endless. Stacked and gathering dust, they are a part of his vocabulary like any other word, but they come out undercooked, in the centre they are cold, they are watery, a displeasure to chew on. Sometimes I rage against the walls of this container, sometimes I sink to the white plastic floor that smells like artificial lemons, weeping. He sits next to me and reads a magazine. “Call the fire department, the flames are leaping, we can see them in your mouth, in your mind, they’ll extinguish them, you’re making a spectacle of yourself.” He smiles. He is relaxed. He is tranquil. He is a mountain, cool and unmoved. We stare into the face of the beast, and I am in fits of apoplexy, not knowing what it is I feel – it is shame one moment and the next fury, the next sorrow, the next terror, the next helplessness, the next fury again, and impotence, and rage, and impotence, and rage, and shame. He smiles, perplexed and uncurious, opens his bottle doesn’t read what the label says and takes three long hard satisfying gulps and the liquid is downed. “I never really cared much,” and I can only think, can only think oh poor Timothy as he looks at my sad, furious face made foolish by caring, and smiles, perplexed and uncurious, a mountain, cool and unmoved.

Things I’ve Seen so far during the pandemic

1. I watched all of Breaking Bad. And El Camino.

I had been avoiding this show religiously. I heard it was good, and I didn’t doubt it – I just thought it would be like Wolf of Wall Street but an entire 5 seasons of 7-16 Wolf of Wall Streets per season and I didn’t think I’d have the energy for that.

It is, kind of, like Wolf of Wall Street. The difference as far as I can tell is that Wolf was a little bit sneaky about how it felt about its characters and the choices they were making. Breaking Bad is blunt.

The teddy bear eye. Tio Hector’s bell dinging. The many, many times Walt is shown in shadows or behind blinds so that it looks like he’s in a cage. That time Walt says, “You know, Jesse, actions have consequences. You can’t just make choices and expect to never have to face them” – or something like that. And oh, how I laughed.

I hated Walt so much. I understood what he was going for and on a few occasions I was rooting for him, but man, he sucked. And he kept getting worse. But what a cathartic experience when, unlike in the real world, apparently, he did absolutely have to pay for his consistently horrible choices. The time I liked him best was when he finally said something true about his motivations to Skylar instead of bullshitting her to the very end like I thought he would. That felt good.

I liked that everything set up had payoff. Some of it built slowly, other stuff had immediate consequences (that first episode of Better Call Saul might have done the immediate consequences thing best though).  I forgot that television could be like this, what with Game of Thrones and its nonsensical wrap-up intended mostly to shock instead of truly develop characters. Also A Song of Ice and Fire isn’t blameless, for the sheer volume of things set up that are never payed off.

Anyway you don’t need me to tell you it’s good because you’ve probably seen it. But it’s good.

2. Everyone is irritable.

This is to be expected.

3. A lady was taking a picture of her majestic dog on a walk.

On the way home from a failed-because-too-crowded grocery trip, I saw a very majestic German Shepherd was posing in a seated position, ears going all the way up into the sky, while their walker crouched and got pictures at good angles. It was cute.

4. A mallard in someone’s swimming pool.

I was on a trail and heard quacking. I looked up, thinking it was flying overhead, but no, he was right there in someone’s backyard. Then he got into the pool.

5. Some racism on an animal rights Facebook page.

Typical – I’ve seen it before, I’ll see it again. This time I said something. It wasn’t the actual group doing the racism, it was just in the comments. One literally used the word “race;” they were all talking about how Chinese people are “barbaric” which is also a word multiple comments literally used. I added my own comment asking the group to delete the racism. Not sure if they did, because for my own sanity I muted my comment.

I don’t know why it’s such a difficult concept: you can advocate for animal rights without being racist.

6. At least one person who thinks maybe this virus is because of the terrorists.

This was not on Twitter, this was real life. And I could not escape the conversation.

7. People still posting things on social media that imply this “isn’t a big deal.”

It is already a big deal. It will be less of a bigger deal later if we all make sacrifices now. But no one needs me to say that, we have all been told.

8. Some guy shouting “AND NOW WE’RE APPARENTLY ON LOCKDOWN AND ARE ONLY SUPPOSED TO GO OUT ONCE A WEEK” at Walmart.

I don’t know who this guy was talking to or why he was yelling but the whole store could hear him.

9. I watched all of The Vietnam War documentary.

It took a lot out of me. The number of times I heard “10 000 were killed” or “5000 were killed” and so on was staggering. The gall of American presidents and their advisers. Nixon was breathtakingly evil of course, but Johnson was so frustrating. So too the American people, every time they voted for Nixon, and the time 79% of them felt the National Guard was right to shoot (and kill) unarmed students, protesters or not.

It was hard to feel any positivity towards humanity afterwards. The only saving grace is that most people now seem to realize what a colossal mistake it was, but that doesn’t unkill any of the people who died.

10. This video.

Mac makes a quarantine better.

11. The dark walls and ceiling while I struggle to actually sleep so that I won’t be bone tired during my long work shifts.

Yeah.

Winter? Books?

It’s not technically spring yet, but there’s a pandemic on so I’m officially ending winter early.

Sooooo how are you? Great? Great. We’re all great.

I’m actually fine, but like most people I’m bogged down with much more worry than usual for family members and friends who are higher risk, for the community at large, and for however this is going to affect my workplace. I’m the type of employee who has to physically go to work, and the animal shelter I work at is going to continue to require supplies and woman-power, so, hopefully there isn’t mass systemic breakdown, because then we’re all pretty much screwed. And, of course, I’m more isolated than usual, though I start my new four-day work-week of 10-hour shifts tomorrow, and I’m sure I’ll be ready for more social distancing about half an hour in.

I have read some books this year though, and I guess I might have a bit more time than usual in the coming weeks (months) to read more, so here we are, listing some books, for something to do.

Daughters of Nri by Reni K Amayo

daughters of nri

This is a fairly dark YA fantasy – lots of violence, a monkey dies (in my opinion) needlessly at one point which of course annoyed me, there’re depictions of, or at least discussions of domestic violence, a cool mentor figure gets burnt alive…

I thought this book wove misogyny really well into the threatening backdrop that the two main characters, who are twin sisters separated at birth, have to deal with, but some of the violence – actually mainly the monkey dying – I could have done without. I also personally would have preferred not losing the cool mentor lady to being burnt at the stake, but I do understand its purpose in the narrative, and it didn’t feel gratuitous.

My favourite part was the end, which means I’d probably read a sequel… on the other hand, I absolutely hated the one love interest. I hated him. One of those “I’m so worried about the girl I have a crush on that I’ll yell at her whenever she wants to be proactive” ones, giving my strong Edward Cullen vibes. So I’m going to have to weigh my feelings there when the sequel comes out.

After the Wedding by Courtney Milan

after the wedding

I think romance novels are a fantastic way to wait out the pandemic, as it happens. If you’re looking for a romance novelist to check out, Courtney Milan is always my recommendation.

It was good. It’s Courtney Milan.

Not Your Backup by C.B. Lee

not your backup

I think I now have to stop reading this series. In the previous one, the parts where Bells had these really cool *past tense* flashbacks were my absolute favourite parts. In this one, the parts where Emma figures out her aro/ace identity and what she wants out of a relationship with Bells were my favourite parts. There’s definitely a lot of good here, but it’s ultimately not for me, and not in a “it’s YA so obviously I’m not the intended audience” way. It’s a style thing, mainly.

I do think the premise is great, and the characters are great, but I have two main complaints: first, the third person present tense, which I rarely enjoy. Second, there’s way too much exposition. A whole bunch of it could be cut out, and you’d definitely be left with less details, but a cleaner, quicker story overall, and it would be more engaging. But that’s just my opinion.

But it’s queer YA scifi and the premise and characters are great. Once again, I’d have to weigh my likes and dislikes against each other in deciding whether to read another one.

the sun and her flowers by Rupi Kaur

the sun and her flowers

Sooooooooooo I got this book (a collection of poems, Kaur’s second published) and read about 3/4 of it without knowing who Rupi Kaur was, or who Nayyirah Waheed was, or what milk and honey was, or anything about the acclaim and the criticism milk and honey had received. Randomly I saw a tweet mocking Kaur’s poetry as “shallow” and saying that Kaur plagiarized the poet Nayyirah Waheed and wouldn’t acknowledge it.

Social media (and Twitter in particular) has a way of removing all nuance, always, but even knowing that, I was troubled by the tweet I saw and held off on finishing the book. Eventually I picked it back up. Honestly? Inspiration vs Plagiarism is a really complicated subject and I haven’t read Waheed’s stuff. I do always wish authors would be more forthcoming about their inspirations – especially when one has been a bestseller for weeks and weeks on end and when you’re dealing with black women artists, especially. But I do think, having read this second collection, that it’s clear a lot of Kaur’s poetry is deeply personal and it can’t therefore be dismissed so simply as just a knock-off of someone else’s work.

That said, there’s more to Rupi Kaur’s poetry and why it has been so successful to consider. I don’t think I can adequately discuss it, but I do recommend this article about the topic – there’s definitely a good point made there about stuff that sells because it’s more “universal” and more “comfortable” to a white, western audience.

And that said, I’d also recommend the sun and her flowers. Many of the poems made me pause and think. Some of them made me blush. If it does that, the parts of it that might be shallow and all, it’s good enough poetry for me.

Next time I go on a poetry run, I’ll grab Waheed’s salt.

Well, that’s it for now.

Stay safe out there!