Caring for an Older Cat — Katzenworld

We’ll always, ALWAYS extol those who care for and adopt senior pets, but it’s important to remember that senior pets require special care that only gets specialer as they continue to age.

It’s also important to remember that when choosing a younger pet. Ideally, your younger pet will one day become a senior. As the villainous, manipulative Scar once said, be prepared!

Here’s a nice post about caring for senior cats.

The post Caring for an Older Cat appeared first on Katzenworld – Welcome to the world of cats!. Caring for an Older Cat As cats age they need a bit of extra care and attention to ensure they remain happy and healthy. Cats are considered elderly when they reach around eleven years old but many…

via Caring for an Older Cat — Katzenworld

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The seed never sees the flower

image

We had some lousy (and unsurprising) news about the environmental impact we have had and are having this past month.

I wanted to briefly write about it because the news itself is scary, and frustrating, and after being scared and frustrated about it for a minute I, like many others, I think, just sort of… push it all aside, and try to pretend like everything is fine, because, what else can I do?

I also kept seeing one sentiment bounce around social media, directed at a tweet from CNN listing some things individual people can do to lessen their environmental impact. Anger about how most of the damage is done by a few corporations, and, underneath, sometimes, fear about wanting to take any personal responsibility.

That fear is understandable. The way our world is set up, even small lifestyle changes are difficult. You have to be committed. You have to have means, too, depending on which changes you’re making, and not everyone does, so, I get it. I also wholly agree that voting is the most important thing any of us ordinary people down here on the ground can do (hasn’t been working out for us so far, though).

But I’m always suspicious of anything that outright rejects the premise that individual choices matter. Of course they do. They might not be huge on their own, but they matter, and they add up. They have the potential to add up quite a lot, actually.

Whenever I hear specifics about the horrible state of the world, my salvation is always looking for something to do to help. Often there’s not a lot that can be done. The environment is a bit of a different story. There are so many choices we can all make in a day that are small, and that add up. I’m not going to say what they all are, because I think in this consumerist world, those small things are going to be different for everybody. I know which ones work for me, and which ones I feel safe aspiring to, and that can be enough for now.

Environmental catastrophe is such a demoralizing, disempowering, frightening topic. But as for pretending everything is fine, because, what else can I do? I’m done with that. Instead, I’m going to try to stop being afraid to think about it, try to stop thinking there’s nothing I can do, and try to start doing more.

And ALWAYS listen to this.

So You Found a Box of Haunted Kittens… What Next?

The image source is also a recap.

I can’t help it, I’m sorry.

Episode 2 of The Haunting of Hill House will be spoiled.


Episode 2 of The Haunting of Hill House features a box of kittens, and as far as animal-related horror moments go, it’s not actually that bad. You don’t have to know much about kittens to have an inkling early on that not all is right with this box o’ the kits, and when the horror starts happening with them, the images are brief. There’s no lingering on their suffering, and their deaths are used to examine how child-Shirley’s experiences with death shaped her as an adult. It’s narratively relevant, in other words, and that is usually not the case when the pet dies in a horror film.

But still, I’m a professional, and as much as I was happy to see that animal death wasn’t being used as cheap shocks by lazy writing and direction, I still was watching some people make bad and uninformed decisions regarding a box of kittens (which they later argued about in a refreshing little dialogue scene that also includes the bizarre implication that one of the kittens had to be… uh… shot). So I have some pointers for the next time anyone happens to find a box of kittens, because everything that could have gone wrong in this situation went wrong, and we can all stand to learn a new thing. Just in case.

Step One: Don’t Listen to Mr Dudley

No, you should not leave them there. But not because of the ghost dogs. If you’ve found some listless, thin kittens, they’re probably abandoned or orphaned. Take them. Set a trap in case mom comes back. (You’re going to want to check that trap at least daily while it’s set.)

Step Two: Make a Few Phone Calls

If the box o’ kittens are listless and thin, they need emergency veterinary treatment (which is probably going to be euthanasia, but hey, not always). Vet treatment is expensive, even euthanasia, so, if you’re not made of money, call your local animal shelter. If they don’t have space, call your local animal control. If you don’t have one of those, look. I don’t know. Don’t shoot them, though, unless you REALLY don’t have any other options.

Step Three: Don’t Feed them Cow’s Milk

So you’ve decided to let your child try to raise them. Congratulations. Head to the store for some Kitten Milk Replacement. If you can’t get KMR reliably, there are other, less convenient options.

Step Four: OK But You Have to Make them Pee First

Kittens are pretty helpless, moreso even than human babies. They can’t urinate or defecate on their own, so you have to stimulate their urogenital region to make them do it each time you feed them so they don’t die.

Step Five: OK So Now One’s Dead, Maybe It’s Time to Go to the Vet

There are hotels around, so surely there’s some sort of animal hospital nearby. They may have a serious viral disease or congenital problems. Go get some diagnostic work done (and probably some euthanasias).

Step Six: OK So Now Just One is Left Alive and It… Might Be… Demonic?

It’s probably not demonic; you just live in a haunted house full of black mold. But now you’re pretty sure they should have been euthanized, right? OK, good. Maybe consider other alternatives than walking into the woods and shooting the last one. It’s tiny. Come on. I suppose if there really aren’t any other options, you can technically euthanize a kitten by shooting it, but on a clear day with a perfectly good station wagon in the driveway, just… just take it to a vet.

Step Seven: Try not to be a stubborn pedant when you watch TV

I’m sorry, it’s just that this summer some guy came to the shelter I work at and dropped off two juvenile squirrels that were clearly most of the way through the process of starving to death. He’d been “feeding” them puppy milk replacer, which is actually the correct food, but whether he found them already half-starved or he was just kind of putting the powder in their general vicinity and hoping they would absorb it like some sort of weirdly powerful vacuum, it didn’t work, and I had to euthanize them. And if he’d brought them earlier they could probably have been saved. Also I didn’t shoot them because a) guns are stupid and I am not allowed to have one at work, and b) they’re too small for that.

I couldn’t suspend my disbelief throughout that subplot. All I could do was watch, hearing my Animal Shelter Professional Judgey McJudgerson voice echoing gravely in my brain: “Ooooh, that’s really irresponsible of them to let her do this,” and “Ooooh, she’s feeding them cow’s milk, and way too little of it,” and “Ooooh, she’s not emptying them first, that’s not good,” and “Well they’re either starving or they have FeLeuk, so, this isn’t going to end well,” and “Oh come on, that is an inappropriate method of euthanasia for anything smaller than a coyote.”

But, as I said before, this episode wraps up the doomed kitten subplot with Hugh and Liv having one of their few arguments, each disappointed in one another and themselves about how they (mis)managed Shirley’s naive expectations and her subsequent horror and grief. It’s still refreshing to see the doomed animal element of a horror have actual significance, and while this story certainly won’t teach anyone how to successfully raise orphaned kittens, it does offer a lesson about making mistakes and recognizing them as such.

A Love Letter to The Emperor’s New Groove in Two Parts

~Bewaaaare the groooove~

~Grooooooooove~

This is me in Grade 9 (baby):

  • My best (and sort of only) friends were two girls who were way too intense for any of our own goods
  • Through them I discovered the joy of Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in theatres. Seven times.
  • Through them I discovered the joy of Beyblade, a truly ridiculous show
  • I wrote poetry about death because of course I did
  • I still had braces
  • The braces are probably why I wrote death poetry
  • I watched a lot of bad horror movies, because my friends wanted to
  • I watched Holes many more times than was technically necessary, because my friends wanted to (and also I wanted to; who am I kidding)
  • We ate a lot of Chinese food
  • I had to pick a side when my two best friends had a friendship-ending, common decency-ending fight over a guy who, we much later found out, was gay

and

  • Before that fight, they made me watch The Emporer’s New Groove

Despite how tumultuous that year was, I look back on it fondly. Thankfully things got a lot better in the ensuing years, and probably it’s because things got better that I can’t remember defining movies and TV shows that I was watching from, say, grades ten or eleven, when I had other friends whose drama was mostly kept politely off to the side.

My grade nine media consumption was a lot of fun and also kind of all over the place. And apologies to RotKBeyblade (heh), and Holes, but The Emporer’s New Groove is the piece of media from my early high school career that I love the most. It wasn’t just a well-made and/or hilarious distraction. The Emperor’s New Groove is the one that, I think, shaped me the most. I guess I’ll try to articulate why.

Let’s start with Yzma

Yzma is far and away my favourite Disney villain. She’s not the one I think is the scariest, she’s not the one I think is the most compelling, but I do think she’s the funniest, and the one I can actually muster up some sympathy for.

Three and I have gone through all of this before but still, for comparison’s sake:

  1. The scariest villain, according to me, is probably the Horned King from The Black Cauldron, mostly because of the scene where his dragon things chase Hen Wen. Oh and the Gurgi thing. Yzma has nothing, scariness-wise, on him. Honestly, she has nothing scariness-wise on any of the other scary villains either.
  2. The most compelling villain is a bunch of them, but mostly I think it’s Ursula. I like that she manipulates people’s vulnerabilities; there’s a lot to consider there. Comparatively, Yzma is just a disgruntled employee who is also a bad person.
  3. The other funny villain is maybe Captain Hook. His humour comes entirely from being repeatedly injured by Tic-Toc and Smee’s unlikely tag team. Yzma, I think, is funny in her own right at least some of the time.
  4. I have some sympathy for Dr. Callahan from Big Hero 6, but only in that I feel bad for him. None of his actions are justified. Yzma’s murder attempts are not justified and are of course morally wrong but on the other hand, who can blame her, really?

I was recently thinking about how not-all-that-awful apart from murderous intentions she is, and then “The Kronk Thing” occurred to me. “The Kronk Thing,” is, in case you’re wondering, the sort of jokey implication on Kuzco’s part that Yzma has Kronk around because he’s attractive. And, following from that, all of the other implications. Which would make Yzma a sleazy boss figure.

So: Yzma and Kronk

Kuzco says, describing Kronk to us, “Yzma’s right hand man. Every decade or so she gets a new one. This year’s model is called, ‘Kronk.'” And later, at Yzma’s dinner party, there’s an uncomfortable conversation while Kronk runs off to attend to his spinach puffs.

“He seems… nice,” Kuzko says.

“Heh heh, he is,” Yzma replies.

“He’s what, in his early twenties?”

“I’m – uh – not sure.”

And then there’s an awkward silence until Kronk returns.

See, maybe it’s just that Disney wouldn’t let the animators go all in showing an older lady being all over her much younger, easily manipulated employee, but, to me, the Yzma/Kronk relationship reads as a completely professional relationship and/or an oddball friendship. In both instances, one isn’t pulling their weight. Kronk, bless him, doesn’t really have the conniving wits with which to function properly as Yzma’s evil henchman. And Yzma is not doing her part in their supportive friendship. Kronk even tells a squirrel that Yzma has a harsh exterior and is almost impossible to connect with.

Again, to me, that’s friendship and a work partnership. It’s not romantic or sexual at all.

This moment is maybe the most suggestive between them:

I’m talking about Eartha Kitt purring, “Kronk, darling… but now, all is forgiven.”

And, yes, it’s Eartha Kitt.

And she is lounging suggestively on a couch.

But she seems mostly interested in whatever tiny animals’ legs those are that he’s handing her.

And her purring and lounging can entirely be about her feeling content now that she’s the emperor and Kuzco is “dead,” rather than her being attracted to Kronk and wanting to act on it.

Whether it’s Disney being toothless and we’re just supposed to take Kuzco at his snarky implications or if their relationship is not meant to read as sexually exploitative to anyone other than Kuzco, what is on the screen is on the screen, and what isn’t, isn’t.

Soooooo I’m going to read it as a platonic working relationship.

A Note on Sexualizing and Desexualizing Women Characters

This is a nuanced topic (that I once sort of got into). Sexualizing a female character doesn’t have to be a bad thing, and desexalizing a female character also doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Personally, I really liked that Moana didn’t have any romance in her story, mainly because she’s a fourteen-year-old girl and she doesn’t need any. I also really like that Merida actively pushes against marriage for the entirety of her story, finally convincing her mother that she shouldn’t be forced into anything she doesn’t currently (or ever) want.

I do remember the argument made around the time the movie was first out that not giving Moana a romance is like suggesting that women of colour aren’t worthy of romantic love. I think that is a bit of a stretch, but how women of colour characters are treated is a huge complicated discussion, so even though I think it’s OK if for 90 minutes she just self-actualizes and doesn’t worry about dating, I wouldn’t dismiss the argument out of hand.

And then there’s Elsa. She’s THE ice queen, and for most of her life, her reluctance towards marriage is clearly about her fear of her own ice powers. Now that those are sorted out, though, she could theoretically have romance, if she wants some. And considering how popular she is and how her story is already pretty well suited for a queer story, it would be nice if, should Elsa have romance, it’s with a woman. It won’t happen, but it would be nice. In this case, keeping Elsa romance-less, and the creators occasionally walking into interviews uprepared to answer questions about lesbian and/or WLW Elsa without doing the queer-baiting thing, result in all of us being hyper-aware that this particular desexualized female character could have been decent lesbian/WLW representation.

And sexualizing female characters doesn’t have to be bad. I think Esmeralda in Hunchback of Notre Dame is a really good example of where it works. Esmeralda is a complicated person. She’s kind and compassionate, and she acts when she sees injustice. She’s frustrated by people’s apathy in general and sometimes she’s a tad out of line. Just a tad. But a tad nonetheless.

She’s also the “finest girl in France” with entrancing entrances. And while Quasi’s romantic interest in her is depicted as pretty innocent, Pheobus’s isn’t.

Neither is Frollo’s but no one cares about him.

Esmeralda is angelic but also sexy. The movie, in my opinion at least, pulls it off. I think if she’d been too far over into the angelic side of the Madonna-Whore spectrum, the rebuke Frollo gets and keeps getting for being a creepy creep would have mattered less. Esmeralda is sexy, and that’s not all there is to her, and her sexiness doesn’t mean she’s less human. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t deserve to be respected and treated with dignity.

But that doesn’t change that in the greater context of the Disney canon, generally, Disney seems much more comfortable and willing to sexualize women of colour than white women. Compare Wendy to Tiger Lily for the gross child version of sexualizing or not sexualizing characters. Pocahontas and Jasmine show more skin than Belle or Aurora. Yes, there’s Ariel. And yes, there’s Mulan. But the general tendency, at least through most of the 90s, is for women of colour to be sexualized more than white women.

So women of colour being sexualized more than white women is a problem, but there’s also the problem of older women being desexualized entirely. Consider the stoic, high necklines and frowny faces of Snow White’s Evil Queen or Cinderella’s Lady Tremaine or Sleeping Beauty’s Maleficent. Those are three powerful women, definitely, and barely that old. Tremaine is graying, but the Evil Queen is maybe in her mid-late 30s, and Maleficent looks like she’s in her mid-late 30s. But power for them comes with being desexualized, having men scrape and cower before them, and they’re also the picture of evil, so, yikes.

There’s also Ursula in The Little Mermaid, who is fat and somewhat sexualized. Her body is definitely there and she makes it obvious. She also isn’t fussed about being desirable, which puts her on par with the other three desexualized evil ladies. And she sashays around her lair and puts on bright red lipstick and puts mousse in her fabulous hair, so, who really knows. She’s a more nuanced one; there’s a lot to unpack there, as I already said.

Yzma is maybe the oldest of Disney villains, unless Maleficent is ancient (which she probably is but she doesn’t look like she is so whatever). Her age is noted in various ways. Sometimes, it’s noted in jokes where there might be a little sympathy afforded her, like when Kuzco tells her she’s completely obsolete.

But on the other hand, seeing a joke like this one:

is kind of disappointing.

I sort of like the joke at Kuzco and Pacha’s expense, like, “Really, you’d rather be stabbed to death than look at an old woman’s body?!” But it’s clear the joke is actually about Yzma. Yuuuup, horrifying old lady body. Shield your eyes.

The running joke about Yzma’s appearance is that people generally describe her as being “scary beyond all reason,” which doesn’t necessarily have to be about her age or even her appearance more generally, but I don’t really want to make an excuse for this joke. I buy the behaviour from Kuzco but Pacha, who presumably intends to grow old with Chicha, needs to get over himself, as does the world with it’s revulsion towards aging bodies, and in particular, aging female bodies.

Also, the movie is full of a lot of really good jokes, and also the gay panic resuscitation one. Why not cut this one out (and also the gay panic resuscitation one can go too) and put a better one in its place?

So while I really enjoy the nonsexual, nonromantic working relationship/friendship that is Yzma and Kronk, I do think it’s worth noting that the movie’s enthusiastic desexualizing of Yzma is there, and it’s stupid, and it doesn’t need to be there at all.

But, can we talk about Chicha?

Chicha is a pregnant lady and a mom. It’s hard to tell based on her outfit but it looks, to me, like apart from the pregnancy, she may actually be a Disney woman without a conventionally attractive/unrealistically proportioned thin body. Maybe. No matter what her body type actually is, she’s really conventionally pretty, and voiced all sultry by Wendie Malick. Her and Pacha are reasonably affectionate, even while she’s heavily pregnant.

Moms are desexualized all the time. Furthermore, in Disney movies, often they don’t even exist. In this movie, Chicha participates in schemes, gets to be funny and warm and likable, and even endures Yzma exploiting her pregnancy to surreptitiously plot with Kronk.

 

 

 

 

And that is pretty great.


This has been Part One. I don’t know when or where Part Two will show up, but it will, and I’m sure it will make a point eventually.

But until then, bewaaaaaare the groove.

Hilary Swank: Hot or Not?

Boredom causes me to be in the middle of a The Office re-watch. The show is pretty easy to just put on in the background, only occasionally making me think. Recently the part that made me think was that one part where Michael says he’s like Neve Campbell in Scream 2 where she thinks she can just go to college but then the murderer comes back – I think he’s referring to Toby returning from Costa Rica – and then he says that he learned a lot of lessons from that movie. I’m confused about whether that joke is at Michael’s expense or at Scream 2‘s expense or both, and for some reason it’s really bothering me, because – what did Scream 2 do to anyone, ever?

But this one subplot in the episode “Prince Family Paper” has most of the office workers formally debating each other about whether Hilary Swank is hot, and I have a couple of observations, weirdly.

So Stanley complains: he’s been corrected for referring to her as something besides “hot,” intending it as a synonym, and he thinks he can refer to her as beautiful, attractive, hot – it’s all the same, right?

But Kevin says that it’s not the same, because, a painting can be beautiful, but he doesn’t want to have sex with a painting.

Lo and behold, The Office has explained (sort of) the Split Attraction Model.

(That romantic and sexual attraction can be separate things for some people)

(So… that’s not really what Kevin just explained there, but, aesthetic attraction is a thing too – someone can be aesthetically attracted to someone without being sexually attracted to them)

It gets better, though. Jim seduces Kevin as a fantasy Hilary Swank who shows up at Dunder Mifflin to have sex with Kevin.

But Kevin ultimately retains his opinion that Hilary Swank isn’t hot because “is she hot” isn’t the same question as “would you do her.” And lo and behold, The Office has just explained that people can want to and do have sex with people they aren’t sexually attracted to.

At first glance it’s a little absurd – it seems like Kevin is contradicting himself. And maybe he is, just to be stubborn. However, people can want to have sex with people for a lot of reasons besides just being sexually attracted to whichever specific person so, he could also be telling the truth when he says she’s not hot because he “wouldn’t bang a painting” and also when he says the question isn’t “would you do her.”

Kevin isn’t asexual but he could be motivated to have sex with Hilary Swank, even lacking at least some degree of sexual attraction, for various reasons: in this scenario he’s being seduced, so, arousal, which can happen without attraction, desire, which can also happen without attraction – it’s an opportunity to have sex, and he’s clearly one of those guys who buys into the whole “peak masculinity = having as much sex as possible with women” thing, so, there are actually quite a few complex physical and psychological reasons for him to want to have sex with Hilary Swank even if he isn’t sexually attracted to her.

So while Kevin is almost convinced to switch sides when he realizes he would actually have sex with Hilary Swank, he maintains his original opinion because he, on some level, knows he can want to have sex with her but he still isn’t sexually attracted to her, which means, to him, that she’s not objectively hot.

To be clear, I’m 100% positive that The Office isn’t trying to examine all of the grey areas of sexual and other forms of attraction here. Probably instead, the debate is supposed to be whether she is conventionally attractive, which is clearly what Oscar is arguing against when he brings out a facial symmetry chart, but, come on.

This debate is completely pointless, which is something none of the participants brings up. If the question “is she hot” is supposed to refer to someone’s universally accepted sex appeal, as in, the only way we can say “yes she’s hot” is if we prove that objectively, she’s sexually attractive, well, that just isn’t a thing.

Lots of reasons for that: some people aren’t sexually attracted to women; some people aren’t sexually attracted to anyone, and even those people who are sexually attracted to women aren’t sexually attracted to EVERY woman.

“Conventionally attractive” is the sort of concept that’s only useful when we’re interrogating society’s standards of beauty and the fallout associated with them. The term is also not what they’re looking for, because “conventionally attractive” is a broad enough concept that it allows for both the existence of queer people and for the reality that people are attractive in lots of ways besides the socially upheld “conventional” ways of being attractive.

Anyway. Congratulations, The Office, because, I think this subplot was supposed to mainly be absurd and yet, here I am, having spent brainpower contemplating it. Well played.

And the image.

Autumn Equinox Reading Roundup

(I know Coraline takes place in the early spring but it may as well take place in the fall because it is the ONLY Halloween movie)

I’m willing to admit that this was a weird summer. I must, anyway, because my reading list is here and it’s… here.

Kill the Boyband by Goldy Moldavsky

kill the boy band

I have a lot of thoughts about this one. First of all, excellent premise and title.

Things like this, when they emerge every rare and wonderful so often, remind me of Jane Austen’s early work, called the Juvenalia, in which women behave badly. So rarely are women allowed to behave badly in media, at least, rarely are women allowed to behave badly in ways that aren’t designed by and intended for consumption by straight men.

I am a HUGE advocate of things like this. It’s why I eventually gave The Female of the Species a chance, and also why I loved it. Gone Girl is amazing, I’ll hear no argument against it.

This is YA Gone Girl. Instead of depicting a crumbling, toxic marriage, it’s about young women responding in toxic ways to their frustrations with the men at the center of their lives (in this case it’s a boy band). Toxic fandom is described realistically. Familiarly. Kind of frighteningly so. Also the girls in this book are all awful people.

They have mitigating circumstances (well… maybe one of them does). Still.

But as much as I want to be 100% positive, there are certain things I really didn’t like about this book. Let’s do a spoilery list.

  • Fat shaming? I put a question mark because there’s… um… absolutely no reason for it as it shows up in this book. Apple, one of the girls, the most emotional, the most devoted one, is also fat, and it’s treated really poorly. The protagonist at one point thinks that maybe Apple is self-loathing because of her weight and that’s why she’s so fervently in love with the least popular boy in the band, because he’s more attainable and less likely to reject her and also that’s all she thinks she’s worth. But there’s no actual evidence of Apple’s supposed self-loathing, so, if we’re supposed to take the protagonist at her word, that’s stupid. What’s also stupid is that Apple is always eating for comedic effect and also always climbing all over the one boy they kidnap (sexual assault, she commits sexual assault… and I’m not really sure the book is aware of that) and it’s funny because not only is she… uh… sexually assaulting the guy, she’s also fat, so, you know. Every time this came up I rolled my eyes. There’s just no reason. There’s never a reason, really, but this may have been the most egregious example of fat shaming I’ve read, and I’m a huge JK Rowling fan, so. Yikes.
  • … sexual assault. Apple gropes/licks/does other obnoxious things to Rupert P, tied up and helpless. As I’ve already said, partly it’s supposed to be funny because she’s fat, and also it’s supposed to be funny because he’s secretly gay. But… neither of those things actually makes the sexual assault funny. Now, one of the other girls was gray area raped by one of the other boys (this is a mid-late book reveal), and that’s treated fairly seriously, though I don’t think we’re ever supposed to sympathize with her fully, even after the reveal. This isn’t because of the gray area (she took all her clothes off in his dressing room and was otherwise clearly game for it… but she’s a teenager and he’s a grown man, and he took pictures of her and otherwise humiliated her afterwards, so, rape with a side of awful), but instead because she’s taking her revenge waaaay too far. I was really happy with that, but seeing as this book treats that rape thoughtfully, presenting the victim as a victim but also as the actor in her own story in a way that would make the rape-enthusiasts in the Game of Thrones writing room tremble in awe and shame (doesn’t take much, though. To be clear, what I’m saying is, the Game of Thrones writers are horrible), the “funny” sexual assault that Rupert P endures is just. Why?
  • The gay thing. So Rupert P ends up murdered. We’re unsure of which girl did it. They all have motive and are all also horrible people. First thing’s first: he’s one of two gay characters present. The other is his secret boyfriend, whose lover is now murdered. That’s a trope fulfilled, isn’t it. Also, the murderer is his fake girlfriend. At this point I actually can’t remember whether she knew he was gay and was being helpful or if she really didn’t know, but I lean toward the former. Anyway, her motivation for murdering him is that he’s also a horrible person, very inconsiderate of her and her needs. I felt for her right up until it’s revealed that she murdered the gay man she’s been pretending to date to revenge herself of his inconsiderateness. Also, Rupert P is the most hated band member, hated by at least one of the other Ruperts, enduring occasional blackmail and frequent upfront homophobia from him. My thoughts as this story unfolded are basically summarized by this question: Why choose this band member to have as a punching bag and end up murdered?

These are all conversations, and in general I try to remember that everything is problematic. A story where girls get to be gleefully, horrifyingly awful without any meaningful redemption is welcome and necessary…

… but that stuff is… well. It’s certainly there.

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily XR Pan

the astonishing color of after

Sad. Cute. Very sad, very cute, in that order forever and ever.

I wish I had something more to say but here’s maybe all that’s necessary: if you like YA, magical realism, and are prepared for musings on depression and suicide, you will really like this book.

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

dread nation

Why aren’t more dystopian novels like this? Why aren’t more historical fiction/fantasy novels like this?

(I know the answer and it is that most things that get published are by white people)

The setting is Alternate Universe America, where zombies attacked and though slavery is sort of over, it’s not really, because white people have set up this establishment where black and first nations children are taken to a special school where they learn to be zombie fighters. Specifically the ones the book focuses on are girls taken to learn to be body guards for young white girls and women.

If you like zombies and would enjoy a refreshing dystopian book where racism is actually depicted and discussed intelligently, this is it. I also really liked Katherine. Katherine was good.

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

throne of the crescent moon.jpg

finally read this, by one of my favourite twitterers. I was pleased to see characters featured in his short stories collection, which I read last year, were the mains here. Adoulla Makhslood and Raseed bas Raseed are extremely entertaining, and sometimes endearing, with their banter and very different opinion set on the way of the world. And there’s also Zamia, who can turn into a lioness.

Sometimes the violence/references to horrors in the past are stomach turning, at least for me, but not A Song of Ice and Fire levels of horror and our female voices are not in constant fear of rape. So there’s that.

This is definitely for a fantasy reader’s TBR pile.

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

elizabeth is missing

This was INCREDIBLE. A mystery novel where the sleuth has dementia and is mixing up her memories of her present-day friend, Elizabeth, who has gone missing (but no one will take her seriously), and her memories of her sister Sukey, who went missing when they were both young.

It’s so frustrating. It had me on edge. It made me look up this song on Youtube (but I did not leave a comment saying that’s how I got there). And the ending.

Yeah, I’d recommend this one too.

Twice in a Lifetime by Jodie Griffin

twice in a lifetime

This is a nice, mostly fluffy romance about two women in their fifties. Two things: two women, and also, women in their fifties. Apparently it’s a rare thing in and medium, and as I’ve never encountered one of these before, I guess it’s true.

I liked it a lot, but because I was apparently in a mood all summer, all of the fluffiness got to me a little. Which is stupid because, a) That’s what this book is for, so why am I complaining, and b) It wasgood.

My one note is a note I’ve made before (I remember a similar complaint for When Dimple met Rishi): people doing very sexual things in front of their siblings/parents/children isn’t cute. At least, I don’t think it’s cute. I actually think it’s kind of a lot inconsiderate. In this book, whenever it happens (and it happens at least twice), it’s done so that whoever can remark about how happy his or her mother is now, which is great, but they don’t need explicit evidence of the sex their parents are having to know they’re happy together.

Orrrrrrr is that just me? IDK. There are other moments where the kids say things about her newfound happiness with her girlfriend that are about companionship and don’t involve explicit evidence of sex, though, so, I stand by this complaint. But my complaint about the fluffiness is because I was a dark brooding soul this summer and this is the only exception.

Depression and other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim

depression and other magic tricks

I have the unfortunate habit of forgetting large amounts of poetry after I’ve read a collection. But I do remember enjoying this. It was humane and honest and sometimes sad, and I think basically exactly what I wanted when I grabbed it off the shelf.

Read poetry! Start here.

The Witch’s Boy by Kelly Barnhill

the witch's boy

I really like Kelly Barnhill. This book is grim, even compared to The Girl who Drank the Moon, though.

Grim and charming, I think, are the two words for a Kelly Barnhill novel. I’m definitely going to read everything else she’s ever written, because the combination works.

I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya

i'm afraid of men

On the subject of grim…

You really do need to read this. I kind of thought I’d read it and I’d nod along and though it would broaden my perspective a little, mostly it would be things I’ve already thought a lot about (and am currently thinking a lot about, because, current state of the world, and all), but one of the arguments she makes in here caught me by surprise.

She talks about how we need to stop talking about the “good man” because it directly contributes to normalizing abusive behaviours as typical of the “normal man.”

I hadn’t considered that, and she makes her case, and I’m actually not going to do that anymore. But even if she hadn’t made this specific point, this was still essential reading, particularly now, particularly for everyone.

Misery by Stephen King

misery

Woooooooooooooof.

I have a lot of things I’d like to say about this novel, and I think maybe I’ll write a billion-word essay about it one day soon, but for now:

  • of the Stephen Kings I’ve read, this is one of the best
  • like all other Kings I’ve read, the problems I have with it are the same: a little bit of the kind of weird, casual racism that you get in something like The Green Mile which is trying to talk about racism but isn’t really, and is actually contributing to a couple of stupid tropes (I do like The Green Mile, though); fat shaming (there is so much fat shaming in King books. I overlook it in It a little because at least Ben is treated as a fully human character in a way Annie never is, but, still); and a weird demonizing thing he does about maternal affection and control, which is sometimes intelligent and sometimes seems just a bit misogynistic
  • the main character is a biiiiiiiiig woman-hater. Hates that his most successful books are about a woman, that women are his readers and biggest fans. Looks down on them.
  • he’s at the mercy of a woman who will belittle the work he’s proud of, destroy it, even, force him to make something for her, torture him, kill him, eventually. And that… is extremely interesting.

You Were Made for This by Michelle Sacks

you were made for this

I finished this in the early hours of today (the day I’m writing this, anyway). It broke me.

I just.

I picked it at the store yesterday because it had pretty cherries on the cover AND I AM ONLY NOW REALIZING THAT THEY ARE IN WHAT IS CLEARLY A BROKEN DISH WHAT HAVE I DONE

This is Gone Girl without the thrill – because Gone Girl is thrilling, allowing its enthusiastic readers/viewers to see their most selfish, violent fantasies depicted right in front of them in a way that women generally don’t get, because generally, the most selfish, violent women are either Annie Noakes-types or Elle Driver-types that men like Stephen King draw up. A heterosexual man’s idea of a villainous woman. Some of them, like Annie Noakes, are actually kind of interesting. But when we get to see a woman’s idea of a villainous woman, and when we get just a bit of a secret vicarious thrill, that is a rare treat.

But this isn’t thrilling. It’s still entertaining as hell. It’s awful. Awful things happen. And my favourite part is that the male character, Sam, horrible, misogynistic, awful man Sam, is horrible and he thinks that he has all the women around him fooled but he doesn’t. They know who he is, and the two protagonist women are, actually, worse than he is, and that is literally my only solace now that I’m done reading it.

I recommend this one if you have the stomach for it.


WELL.

Now that it’s fall, maybe I’ll read something cheery. Galbraith has a new one and it’s huge and right next to me, so, I’m looking forward to that.

Happy autumn!

You Should Watch American Vandal (and you should definitely watch Season 2)

I *just* finished season 2 of American Vandal and I’m here to say: you should too, if you for some reason haven’t already.

“Why do I like this so much?” I was wondering to myself throughout the whole experience. The final episode really made it clear: this show is emotionally intelligent in a way a lot of TV just isn’t.

There’s also the fact that I find a lot of “true crime” documentaries tasteless and sometimes outright harmful, that I used to watch them anyway and feel skeezy afterwards, that with only a rare couple of exceptions I really wish I’d never watched them and won’t watch new ones unless they’re thoroughly vetted by someone else, I guess. And American Vandal has the same tropes, music choices, aesthetic, and manages to show them all up, which is a lot of fun.

But really, it’s the emotional intelligence. Lately, I’ve been watching a few old episodes of The Office where our favourite characters are actually kind of awful. It’s not always, of course. Jim and Pam are usually kind people and easy to like. But I do keep coming back to the Amy Adams character from seasons 1 and 2 in particular. I can’t remember her name, because, I don’t think the show really wanted me to. I do think the part where Jim is excessively mean when he dumps her is supposed to show that he’s not perfect, but ultimately that episode oozes with syyyyympathiiiiize with poor, friend-zoned Jiiiiiiim and it, uh, works. I do feel bad for him. But knowing it all turns out fine in the end really contributes to watching how Amy Adams’ character is belittled in small ways, how Pam seems to be nice to her but is actually not nice at all, how she smirks privately because she likes Legally Blonde even though Jim has just told Pam it isn’t worthy of being on anyone’s top whatever list, and feeling kind of gross about it.

Happily, American Vandal will show something kind of gross and eventually, or, almost immediately, call it what it is. In season 1, one of the “filmmakers” gets “put on blast” amazingly. It was an amazing moment on its own, made just a little better because I wasn’t expecting it. TV usually allows protagonists to get away with callousness and unthinking dismissals of other peoples’ humanity, but here, not so much. There are always consequences when people do that, even if it’s the “filmmakers” themselves. I don’t want to go into specifics because I think you should just watch the show, but, it’s good stuff.

Season 2 is bigger and smarter even than season 1, and the final episode is a 40-minute long gut punch of a reveal, culminating in a little monologue about social media and Gen Z that is, by far, BY FAR, the smartest thing any TV show or even news media has ever said about either of those subjects and the undeniable link between them.

You should watch it.

Animals. Animation. Pixar. Disney. Nemo. Lion King.

It’s time to talk about different representation of animals in animated movies, and this is mostly because of this article about Andrew Stanton, Pixar filmmaker, on how Finding Nemo is kind of a response to The Lion King.

Stanton says, “‘I liked working with the limitations of the rules of nature, as opposed to breaking the rules and saying everything’s in it for the ‘circle of life.'”

Unsurprisingly, I think 20-something Stanton, and whatever-age-he-is-now Stanton, are both wrong about The Lion King. And also about Finding Nemo. And also about the “rules of nature.”

Quickly, then, on TLK’s opening scene: yes, “Circle of Life” shows a bunch of prey animals bowing to a newborn predator who will be their king. A few scenes later:

Mufasa: Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance. As king, you need to understand that balance, and respect all the creatures, from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope.

Simba: But dad, don’t we eat the antelope?

Mufasa: Yes, Simba, but let me explain. When we die, our bodies become the grass and the antelope eat the grass. And so, we are all connected in the great circle of life.

And sure, the in-universe explanation for how this lion monarchy ecosystem works hinges on lions and all of their prey being philosophically aware of the bigger picture beyond each individual life and death. I guess it’s easy to think that seems a little hokey, particularly if you’re wrapped up in the rampant individualism of our modern times, but The Lion King is actually about human society and its thesis is that a true leader’s core identity is his responsibility for everyone else. Even those he eats. Soooo.

But if you like, we can ignore that The Lion King is completely about humans – or – humans as we should be – and talk about rules of nature and how they do and don’t apply. Why not?

First: Cooperation and Empathy in Animals According to an Actual Researcher

I have a lot of jumbled thoughts about this but here’s an actual expert doing a convenient and entertaining Ted Talk:

And now on to what I, the all-knowing knower of these things,* think.

*No.

The Rules of Nature IMO in Two Parts

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Part 1: Humpback Whales and the Empathy Explanation

Have you heard that thing about how humpback whales, if they see orcas attacking prey, will get all agitated and try to intervene? Well, I have, and I decided that humpback whales and myself are kindred spirits. I like orcas, but orcas are not very nice. They’re not the most humane of hunters, and they kill baby gray whales only to eat their tongues. Jerks.

But as to the humpback’s orca hunt disruption behaviour, biologists and behaviourists are baffled. Is it empathy for the prey that compel humpback whales to try to help orca prey? Some say yes, others say that humpbacks see orcas as a threat because occasionally orcas will kill a humpback. So, the theory goes, if a humpback thwarts an orca hunt, there’s a slight possibility that other humpbacks will be saved.

What.

I know that we need to wait for animal linguistics to be a thing so that we can figure out how to talk to whales before we can know for sure why they do any of what they do, but, come on. The simplest explanation is usually the correct one. Humpbacks are distressed by orcas hunting because anyone decent would be, if they’re allowing themselves to empathize with the prey. They intervene because they are compelled to help out of empathy. Deal with it.

My point here is that, I, a very singular human being, believe that our cultural interpretation of the natural world is incredibly narrow and often wrong-headed. Some of us, educated some of us, look at something like this humpback thing and feel the need to explain it using evolutionary theory. “What’s good for my species specifically is good for me. Gotta get my genes out there.”

Sometimes animals just do things. I know. I am one. So are you. And I don’t know what you did today, but I spent it watching people watch TV shows that I’ve seen to see their overdramatic reactions, and if I was doing that because somewhere deep within me my instincts were telling me that’s what I need to do to get pregnant, well, I think I need to see one of those therapists that specializes in evolutionary Darwinism as the root of all decisions people make (in other words: a very bad therapist) because something has gone horribly wrong.

We’re not always trying to propagate the species, or us, specifically. Even Darwin would be sick of how every little thing has to be explained with Darwinism these days. Relax.

This need that researchers have to fight tooth and nail against admitting that animals might be able to empathize is mind boggling to me, especially considering that their alternative interpretations basically require us all to take, on faith, that animals all have this incredibly complex Machiavellian understanding of their own place in the ecosystem. If you’re arguing that because we can’t prove the whales are acting out of empathy, we must instead state that whales are acting out of self-interest, I’m sorry, but, you need to prove to me that animals are ruthless chess players.

If it really is self-interest that compels humpbacks to disrupt orca hunts, that means we all just have to accept, without any actual research, that humpbacks are thinking through a bunch of different steps of what would be a whole complicated cognitive process. We’d have to accept that humpback whales recognize orcas as orcas, a potential threat to them personally, or perhaps they even recognize them as a threat to their entire family group. Then they also must recognize that the prey animal is whatever species they are, ie, they’re not a humpback whale or an orca. I’m OK with this so far; I’m pretty sure they do this easily.

But then they’d have to understand that it’s healthy and good for the orca pod specifically to kill their prey so that they can eat. And they’d have to understand that it would be bad for the orca pod to miss this particular chance at a meal. And they’d have to be of the opinion that it would be worth it to spend their energy disrupting this one hunt they’ve encountered on the off-chance that, I don’t know, the pod will never get a chance to eat a meal again and they all starve, thus lessening, albeit in a minuscule way, the chance that orcas might kill those individual humpbacks. And so they place themselves in at least a little bit of danger to try to stop the hunt, because maybe these dangerous animals that they know might kill one of them one day won’t get to eat if they’re successful and then the orca pod will eventually starve and then they’ll have preemptively made the ocean a little safer for themselves and themselves only.

WHAT.

HOW DID YOU GET A SCIENCE DEGREE.

RETURN IT. MAYBE YOU CAN STILL GET A REFUND.

First of all, that is incredibly irrational reasoning, if that’s indeed what’s going on in their heads. But really, we can’t even prove that humpbacks can do any reasoning, but when it comes to explaining behaviour like this, where the simple explanation is empathy, instead it’s perfectly fine to just assert that humpbacks are, of course, capable of nonsensical overthinking irrational reasoning.

Anyway, we’re all super sure that animals are too stupid to cooperate or to be driven by things apart from a prototypical jungle version of the profit motive and therefore we say silly things about kids’ movies that feature animals who are allegories of humans. And I think we should maybe rethink that one.

terk

Part 2: Ishmael and the Devaluing of the Natural World

I read a book of modern philosophy once. The blurbs on the back of this book that are trying to sell you on the premise are all really, really out there, like, “This book changed my life entirely!” and “I can’t look at anything the same way ever again!”

Well, I read it too and I can attest: yes, this book is majorly perspective-changing, though I didn’t really agree with everything it argued. Also, it’s more than a little demoralizing. But ultimately, it’s trying to show how the way we tend to perceive our own culture as against the natural world is a huge part of why we’re having so much trouble stopping ourselves from destroying the planet.

It’s about a guy who signs up to take lessons on saving the world. The teacher is a telepathic gorilla named Ishmael. So, yeah, you should probably read this book. But the concept from the book that matters for this discussion about TLK and FN’s depiction of nature specifically is that humans take for granted that human civilization, removed from the wild, is “superior,” and a lot of that is down to how we perceive (and depict) the natural world: as savage, dangerous, brutal. Once, I heard some sort of animal making distressing noises in my backyard, and I figured it was fine, but I wanted to be sure. When you google this stuff I can tell you, a lot of people who know nothing have “helpfully” posted responses to posts describing different shrieks and calls that go something like this, “It was something getting eaten alive.” K no, Brad. You’d be more useful silent. (Ultimately I found out it was a fox. The sound is called a “vixen scream” and it sounds like a woman being murdered, but it’s probably just a mating call.) People do this because they just take for granted that life in the wild is miserable, brutal, and short.

And yeah. Sometimes, that is true. But be honest, whenever you’ve gone out into the wilderness, or even just a little patch of green in some urban or suburban area, the animals you see are mostly just living their lives. You can probably find evidence of predation if you look – spider webs are stationary, so those will do it, but mostly animals are just interacting with their environments, watching you watch them, eating or gathering food, and stuff. You may see fledglings being fed by mom and dad, or flying lessons, if you’re lucky. Sometimes, animals just chill on some perch and make a lot of noise, and sometimes squirrels actually throw acorns at your head, which is nice.

The majority of what goes on in the wild is just life. It’s hard to fathom this, but animals are actually totally fine. Most wild animals, even and especially when they’re in distress, really hate being approached by humans. Sometimes they’ll allow a human to help them without freaking out too much, and sometimes they may actually seem to ask for help, but a lot of them really would rather struggle on their own (I’m not advocating leaving a wild animal in distress alone. Just be sure it’s actually in distress and call the right service). Wild animals, if offered the choice of being zooed or petted rather than having to find all of their own meals and watch out for predators, might surprise you with their answer. I mean. Some of them might take us up on an offer of an “easy” life in captivity, but I’m pretty sure a lot of them are just fine as they are.

This would be a lot clearer if nature documentaries weren’t made almost exclusively by and for people with massive animal death boners, but, alas, we don’t live in a world that kind.

I love animals but until nature documentaries feature more stuff like the following and less of the overdramatic death and suffering scenes, I’m not watching them.

This moose does a little angry dance when he can’t reach the ball anymore and it is the best thing.

Or is the best thing baby moose in a sprinkler set to sentimental music?

Or is it a crow snowboarding on a roof?

Or maybe foxes on a trampoline?

No, it’s actually this:

I love this because they both have exactly the same reaction to almost bumping into each other (although the bear’s reflexes are much better). Who says humans and animals are that different?

It really is important to try to retrain our brains into not thinking of the natural world as bad and brutal and dangerous, because in doing so we make it easier to allow large scale habitat destruction to take place which, it turns out, is super bad for us because we need to breath. Also, there are in fact humans who live in the natural world. Some of them haven’t made contact yet, and hopefully won’t. It seems very strange to think about, but as it turns out there are actually humans out there among other species who need us to protect their homes. And by “need us to protect their homes” I mean, of course, they “need us to stop freaking destroying everything everywhere always because why are we doing that even.”

Pretty cool, right?

(Like. Not that their home is in danger of being wiped out, but that they’re still here at all.)

Ishmael is all about the differences between us and the people who live in this way. The term the book gives them is “Leavers,” because they don’t cause the kinds of destruction that we, the “Takers” do, with our agriculture practices. It argues that we need to live more like them in order to not destroy ourselves, and I think it makes its case really well.

I don’t know how possible it is for us to reduce our environmental impact, but the book definitely makes the case for changing our attitudes towards this way of life, whether it’s humans living it, or other animals, and it asks us to, at the very least, do what we can to not tread on them.

Unfortunately, when we depict the natural world as being inherently brutal and destructive, we end up with the conclusion that we are also inherently brutal and destructive. This causes us to devalue the natural world and all of its inhabitants (including ourselves), because in a brutal, competitive world, it’s only right that the most brutal and most competitive animal rises to the top and can then do whatever it wants with all the rest below it. This, incidentally, is not even a little bit what Darwin meant by “Only the strong survive.” It also causes us to devalue our many, many, many other inherent qualities, such as cooperation and empathy. You know. Those little soft skills that are actually the key to human survival and ingenuity. But who’s keeping track?

If we could just understand that cooperation and yes, sometimes, even empathy are inherent parts of the natural world AND inherent parts of human societies of all kinds, we could begin fostering those good qualities as our treasured qualities. We could begin using them to solve the gargantuan problems caused by the fact that all our prominent loud mouths have been declaring, 24/7 and for the past 500 years at least, that competition and brutality are the only true things in life and that this is the way it should be, “because nature.”

So in that spirit, I’m going to try to explain that The Lion King and Finding Nemo have pretty cool things to say about the natural world, and about predators and prey, and about a broader, natural community, despite what 20-something Andrew Stanton thought all those years ago.

Animated Ecosystems

Finding Nemo is up front about the kind of world its characters are living in. Why shouldn’t it be? It makes ample use of the natural world to heighten the stakes. We meet Marlin and his wife, and their gazillion eggs, right before a large predator fish shows up to eat them all. That neatly sets up everything we need to know. Marlin is overprotective; Nemo is all he has. Quick. Clean.

Our most formidable antagonists are humans, who aren’t even trying to eat anyone when they take Nemo. They’re just “helping.” And while humans are the worst, we do still have sharks, anglerfish, jellyfish, pelicans, seagulls, and, sigh, humans, again, to contend with as well.

If you map out the Finding Nemo story from one specific lens, what you can find is a couple of very small fish battling an enormous ocean of much larger prey until, finally, they return home safe to the anemone.

But that isn’t the full picture.

Finding Nemo depicts the ocean’s ecosystem as a community. The scariest of predators don’t talk, but some of the others do. Bruce and his vegan shark pals all talk. We get to know the pelicans. Seagulls may only say one word, but still. And then there’s the dentist, who has some of the best lines in the whole movie. Seagulls say their word for comedic effect (ps – gulls are smart, don’t believe everything you see in a Pixar movie), but the fact that Bruce, Nigel and co all frequently talk to fish they’d otherwise be eating allows them to empathize with their would-be prey.

Nigel saves Marlin and Dory from the seagulls because he’s met Nemo and has heard all about Marlin’s epic journey. Bruce and his friends are trying out a more compassionate lifestyle. While Chum may not be the most… dedicated vegan shark there is, he is quick to empathize with Marlin when he hears how Nemo was taken. He’s also quick to help try to restrain Bruce while Marlin and Dory try to escape.

The barracuda and the anglerfish don’t talk, which, yeah. That’s an important style choice. If they talked that would not work. Really only predators that don’t eat prey get to talk – but for a movie that does intimidating but talkative predators really well, try Happy Feet. The skuas are good, but the leopard seal is the best.

(Note that he only talks after Mumble gets away) (Still)

(He has a cute smile and gets very soundly insulted but he still manages to be terrifying)

(Happy Feet needs a post)

However, including predators who have long conversations with would-be prey and who empathize with their would-be prey and who go out of their way to help their would-be prey is, in my opinion, pretty forward thinking.

I know Stanton and the rest of the people who made Finding Nemo didn’t add in the discussions and empathizing and helping out each other across species barriers for realism purposes, but the way I see it, the movie basically represents what life in the natural world is really like, just with a lot of anthropomorphism added in.

Here’s the best example of the sense of community we can see in this ecosystem:

No, that doesn’t happen in the wild. That’s a humans-and-social-media thing. But wild animals are all existing in “the great circle of life” together, and while occasionally two individuals might come up against each other with an important clash of self-interest, ultimately, all species are working together to survive as various ecosystems, intricately connected to every living thing on the planet in the web of life.

A sated predator doesn’t generally kill for no reason. Many predators spend most of their time doing things that aren’t hunting or killing. Snakes, even – what do snakes do when they’re not hunting or digesting? I don’t know, but I do know that many snakes don’t need to eat all that often. Most of their time alive is spent not killing things. I’m not saying they spend the rest of their time participating in Disney movie plots, but there is more to a predator than predation.

Finding Nemo admits that, presenting its empathetic predators like new vegans or like sorry-not-sorry omnivores. That may not be natural realism but it is truer to the complexities of predator species than many narratives that have prey animals as protagonists depict, including supposedly true-to-life nature documentaries.

As you know, the ecosystem portrayed in The Lion King is definitely a community.

Predators as Protagonists

Keeping in mind some of the empathetic predators of Finding Nemo, I’d like to present exhibit a: The Lion King’s female love interest.

She shows up for the first time we’ve seen her since she was a cute little cub and she tries to murder Puumba.

She stops when Simba recognizes her and says her name, and suddenly all those teeth and claws are gone.

The real-life version of this and the Simba/Scar fight is here, and it’s a little bloody:

(Why we need slow motion replays, close up images of wounds, and lion mating I don’t know, but as far as violent wildlife videos go, this isn’t bad)

(The females, watching/participating in that second fight: men are traaaaaash)

Back in the fictional world, Timon is unimpressed.

#TimonisAndrewStanton

So Timon shouts about how it doesn’t make sense for everyone to suddenly be friends immediately after a vicious attack and also she wanted to eat Puumba, “and everybody’s… OK… with this?” and Simba’s response is, “Relax, Timon,” and then they move on.

See, Timon. You’re in a movie about predators. We aren’t shying away from the fact that they’re predators – I mean, we’re not going to show them kill anyone. We might show some savage fights, and we might show one of them trying to kill a main, beloved character, but as long as they keep their actual killing and eating off screen all is well.

I’m going to suggest that this is exactly the same tactic that Finding Nemo uses with its predator side characters (despite what Andrew Stanton thinks).

In the end, we have to acknowledge that Nala isn’t a bad guy for trying to eat Puumba. She’s a lion, she’s supposed to hunt. It’s just that certain would-be prey are off limits.

That isn’t entirely unrealistic. In the wild predators occasionally do something weird, like that one lioness that kept taking baby onyxes and keeping them. It’s a sad story, don’t look it up. We see predators empathizing with prey much more often in captivity, though.

Human intervention causes a lot of these strange situations where animals that would normally kill or be killed by one another actually become friends. Even though the human intervention is pretty much essential, it does seem like predators have the inherent ability to empathize with an animal they would normally see as prey. Otherwise, this wouldn’t ever work.

It’s not… impossible, then, for a baby lion to grow attached to a warthog and a meerkat. It’s just very unlikely that all three of them would make it out of that situation alive.

Ultimately, I think the real difference between Finding Nemo and The Lion King in how they work with the rules of nature is that Finding Nemo has small, vulnerable prey animals as its protagonists, and The Lion King has the largest, most invulnerable predators on the Savannah as its protagonists. It’s easier to incorporate a lot of short scenes in which small, vulnerable fish are chased and almost eaten and have your audience continue to sympathize with them than it is to incorporate a lot of short scenes in which your young couple terrorizes singing warthogs and fight brutally and have your audience continue to sympathize with them.

The Lion King pulls of a more impressive feat in this regard, as far as I’m concerned. Lions are a bad species, but it isn’t really their fault that they’re so violent and angry all the time, and I certainly don’t blame Nala for hunting. I don’t blame Simba for attacking Scar. I don’t blame the hyenas for killing Scar. Marlin, Nemo, and Dory do comparatively few violent and murdery things, which makes perfect sense. I just think allowing the more gruesome realities of a predator species to simply be nodded at and kept mostly offscreen doesn’t automatically make The Lion King completely disingenuous about what life is like in the wild.

Would you like one more example? In Simba’s Pride, which is, I know, the sequel, and not the actual movie, and also I hate it, Kiara’s coming of age ceremony is her being sent out to kill something.

Because the plot is something else, it’s easy enough to squeeze in a scene where Simba won’t let Kiara grow up and she gets all angsty about it that also involves predation.

I don’t like the sequel, but I do like that both female protagonists are allowed to hunt and attempt to kill things. It’s probably because the filmmakers were aware that lionesses are generally the hunters of the species, so they allowed the female characters to do things that female characters usually can’t do and remain sympathetic. Especially in kid’s movies.

There’s also the broadway version:

In which Sarabi and the rest of the lionesses actually kill something, on stage.

How’s that for “working with the limitations of nature,” huh?

IN CONCLUSION

We have learned many a thing today.

  1. The natural world isn’t all bad and needs to be protected (by us, from us)
  2. Animals aren’t chess playing Machiavellian strategists who have all also read On the Origins of Species by Means of Natural Selection
  3. Finding Nemo and The Lion King both work within the limitations of nature for dramatic gains, just, differently, because one movie has small prey fish as protagonists, and the other has lions
  4. Both movies depict the natural world as a broader community, which is realistic in a metaphorical sense because of biodiversity and the web of life
  5. Nala tried to kill Puumba in a fairly lengthy onscreen scene
  6. AND MOST IMPORTANTLY:

The Lion King is an animal allegory about people, specifically in the context of leadership, and how benevolent leaders have to respect everyone, even the most vulnerable among us.

(And Finding Nemo is an animal allegory about the struggles of parenthood, which is also important.)

Let’s think more carefully about the stuff we watch and the world we live in, K?

Blogging While Angry: Newspaper Transphobia

Long story short: a few years ago Kathleen Wynne, former Premier of Ontario, replaced an old and outdated sex ed curriculum with one that includes discussions of consent, cyberbullying, sexting, same sex attraction, and transgender peoples’ existence. Some people (we’ll call them “social conservatives;” get all PC about it) were, um, really mad.

Then we elected Doug Ford, partially, one has to assume, because of his promise to get rid of the scary, new, and relevant sex ed curriculum the big bad lesbian Premier put in place. Now his people have promised to replace it again with the old one, although they’ve walked it back a little bit. Now the story is they’re going to have a huge consultation about it first and then do who knows what.

(Why?)

(Just… leave it alone. It’s fine.)

And while I’m angry about all of that mess, most of my anger right now is (helpfully, healthily, usefully, wonderfully) directed at this random opinion piece published in The Globe and Mail by Debra Soh, PhD, who describes herself as “a former academic sex researcher,” and who is very sure that teaching children that gender is a social construct (it is), and isn’t a binary (it’s not) and is instead fluid (it is) is bad (it’s not).

“A curriculum that teaches gender fluidity is misleading and will impair a child’s ability to have an accurate understanding of the world,” she writes.

Look. A statement like that requires some evidence.

I’m going to go ahead and suggest that there isn’t any evidence, at all, ever, to suggest that children learning that gender isn’t a binary and is a construct has confused or otherwise impaired them.

To be fair I’m one of those people who knows that nonbinary people of all different types exist, and I know that at one point they were all children, and that some of them may even live in Ontario. How is learning that their gut feelings about how they embody various gendered spaces are valid going to impair their ability to have an accurate understanding of the world? She asked, facetiously, because she knows that a statement like this, so baldly typed and published in an international newspaper without scientific backing of any sort arguing that the science is actually against what she’s arguing against but without showing it at all, very clearly implies that this writer thinks that nonbinary people are deluded or whatever.

“The backlash is emblematic of a disdain for those who lean right politically, and a desire to rally against Mr. Ford for the sake of political divisiveness. This is evident in the number of media outlets and individuals on social media, angrily pointing the finger at social conservatives,” she writes.

I think my little cutesy crossed out section there is a prime example of what “social conservatives” refer to as “virtue signalling.” In other words, I’m trying to claim some sort of moral high ground because I think nonbinary people are valid and I believe them when they describe their own experiences, and of course in the process I show “disdain” for anyone who doesn’t. And the only reason I would ever do this is because I have a personal vendetta against Doug Ford, probably only because I hated Rob Ford for saying the words “gravy train” a lot.

It was pretty grating, you have to admit.

Ford was elected (probably) in part as a reactionary response to Wynne, her womanhood, her lesbianism, and her really good sex ed curriculum. It’s a little more complicated, of course. He was also likely elected as a reactionary response to upping the minimum wage by almost a toonie an hour, something a frightening amount of people were very, very, very against. Also because of the good chunk of people who would happily elect Trump up north, who call Justin Trudeau “Justine” and still make hair jokes, whose every move is reactionary.

And the rest of it is probably because people are disappointingly apathetic at the best of times and don’t pay attention/apply empathy to the big decisions they make.

My question is, why is it me, and the other people mad that they’d attack good education, who are being needlessly divisive, and not Ford and his people, gutting good education just to make bigots happy?

Anyway. Four years (at least) of Ford is a waking nightmare, so here’s something important:

I don’t think I’m better than anyone else. I’ve just read some stuff. I follow some people. I’ve watched a Youtube video here and there. If the thought of people who identify neither as male nor female, or as femme but not fully femme, or as masc-of-centre, or as male one day and female the next, or as demi-, or simply as nonbinary freaks you out, take a deep breath and read up on it. Do a Google search, use your critical thinking skills and your empathy and grow up. It’s not a big deal.

If you’d rather sit back and watch someone (a cisgender someone, if that helps any) explain some things, there’s a Bill Nye episode that includes a weird ice cream metaphor.

(Are there sex and gender scientists who argue that nonbinary people are deluded and that gender is 100% a biological thing? Sure. Debra Soh is apparently one of them. They’re what we call “bad scientists.” Not because their politics are bad, but because their science is quite clearly informed and shaped by their bad politics.)

(I know that there’s this fear that research that states that gender is just biological sex and that “biological sex” is an all-encompassing thing itself that no one can ever “defy” and that transgender people are mentally ill will be gagged by evil government forces bowing to the mighty will of the SJW. Instead of worrying about that, which is simply the plot of a so-far unwritten really boring right-wing dystopian novel, researchers should try to do better research, get tougher skin about legitimate criticism, and note that what transgender people themselves face from potentially hostile governments, or, if they’re lucky, just hostile fellow citizens, is much worse, and a much more realistic threat.)

Here, read it for yourself. Half of it is about how we need to be sex positive. Just remember, though, we can’t admit that femininity and masculinity aren’t biological realities that none of us can ever defy healthily. That would damage the children, upon whom femininity OR masculinity are thrust based solely on what genitals they were born with, rightfully so, hem hem.

My kindergarten self, age 4, yelled at by the boys for trying to play with dinosaurs and owning a Man-Bat while wearing purple dresses, rolls her eyes at this crap. She doesn’t even need to be nonbinary to know that gender is a construct.

I could end by saying that probably Soh would say that dinosaurs, Man-Bat, and purple dresses aren’t what she means by gender but first of all, we all know that these things don’t magically exist in a genderless vacuum when it comes to our very concerned society, and that when we say “gender is a social construct” this is EXACTLY what we mean, and second of all, I’d rather say this, and only this, forever amen: Man-Bat was my favourite right up until I left him in the driveway and my dad accidentally ran him over, leaving me bereft, but then I forgot about his existence until one day my mom was like “and then dad ran over Man-Bat” and I was like “what the HELL is a Man-Bat.” Life is unfair and tragic, Man-Bat, and children are fickle. I’m sorry.

I’m so sorry.

Fragile Masculinity in Incredibles 2

This right here.

(Also BAO was really cute)

MY JAWBREAKERS

This article contains Incredibles 2 spoilers.

Father’s day is meant to celebrate the males in your upbringing; to honor the special gift of fatherhood and the many life lessons and laughs it brings throughout. These Hallmark holidays are typically warm, sunny excuses to bond with family members and take an afternoon to unwind and smile outside the stresses of every day life.

Which is exactly why we chose to treat my dad to a showing of the sequel to our long-time family-favorite: Incredibles 2. What could be more wholesome? The original Incredibles was a hit for many reasons; the splendor and innocence of a Disney superhero family layered masterfully with adult humor and perspective– in other words, an instant classic. We were practically gnawing our nails in excitement to see the follow-up this Sunday afternoon.

I found Incredibles 2 to teach a valuable lesson in stamina to other animated films…

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Summer Solstice (Belated) Reading Roundup

(Parent Trap is the ultimate movie of summer, according to me. It’s got everything: Lindsay Lohan, Linsday Lohan doing a British accent, Lindsay Lohan doing an imitation of Lindsay Lohan doing a British accent, also it’s actually the best and I don’t think anyone could convince me otherwise)

(I think it’s in Spanish)

I’m late but whatever, let’s do this. Spoiler alert: I liked everything.

Spring Equinox

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Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

Well.

I’ve had my complaints about how pretty and poetic McLemore’s prose is when talking about her other two books – because I am boring and have bad taste, maybe. But I really liked this one.

Maybe I was more open to it because of the cover art and the title, but I do think the magical elements in this story are really intriguing, moreso than the magic in the other two.

I liked it.

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The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

I liked this too. People in this world have “teacup” animals as pets – like, people are walking around with teacup crocodiles and lions or whatever they want, and I’m worried that there will be more abuse of them in further installments in what is apparently this series. Other than that I’m looking forward to the sequel because it’s very interesting so far.

Not sure if sci-fi or if everyone is actually telling the truth and it’s fantasy or maybe it’s both! Either way, it’s really cool.

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Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys

This was really good. I didn’t expect to like it very much because it’s Lovecraft and I don’t have time for that. The only Lovecraft I’ve tangled with is that DEFINITELY NOT A PARODY BOOK Awoken by Sara Elinsen.

But I liked it.

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Pulchritude by Ana Mardoll

I liked this too. I was expecting it to be a little more (for lack of a better/existing word) gooshy, like the other Ana Mardoll one I’ve read, but it wasn’t.

It was pretty depressing though, and although the cover insert/blurb/whatever warns the reader not to expect what you’d usually get out of a fairy tale, and although I knew it was going to come to a not very nice end, I was still taken aback by it. But it’s what I wanted, so.

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Bad Girls Throughout History by Ann Shen

This was educational. Each woman has a brief little blurb about her, and I did read a few of them with an eyebrow (or two) raised. One specific example I can remember is while I was reading through the inevitable Tudor England portion and the book gushed about Elizabeth (rightfully) but didn’t feature Mary.

And.

OK.

Maybe I’m just Catholic (lapsed) (is there such a thing as a not-lapsed Catholic?), but Mary Tudor has gotten the shaft throughout history.

She’s super problematic but so was Elizabeth, who participated big time in colonialism, if you’d like one example. Mary should have gotten a nod.

Also Jane Grey deserved one too.

And although I got annoyed at that mainly because I’m a Tudor-era nerd, I couldn’t help but wonder what other details were being skipped, and who else maybe should have been included.

Ultimately I still think this is worthwhile, but it’s very Ladies in History 101, which, I think, it’s trying to be.

And I liked it.

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Islands of Decolonial Love by Leanne Simpson

I liked it, it was beautiful.

I had a favourite passage I tweeted:

And there you go.

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The Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan

[Insert stock explanation of how much I love Courtney Milan’s romance novels here]

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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Yup.

(I do have some concerns about the Nina/Matthias thing but I want to read the sequel, watch the inevitable HBO series/movie/other broadcast series/whatever, force my sister to read it, AND THEN I’ll talk about it.)

All right summer, here we go!

PS: WT ACTUAL F, WORLD POLITICS? W. T. ACTUAL. F.

The animal welfare movement’s #metoo problem

This is unfortunate and unsurprising.

Nonprofit Chronicles

171101-ryan-metoo-tease_ann11kSexual harassment and gender bias in the animal welfare movement have been talked about for years, mostly but not entirely in private. Now the problems are bursting into public view, and not a moment too soon.

Last night, the Chronicle of Philanthropy published my story about the Humane Society of the U.S. It reports that Humane Society’s board of directors has hired a Washington, DC, law firm to investigate an allegation of workplace misconduct against its longtime chief executive, Wayne Pacelle. Among the topics, insiders say, is an alleged sexual relationship between Pacelle and a female employee.

The investigation at HSUS, which is the nation’s most important animal welfare group, comes as women in the animal protection movement are publicly calling out some of the movement’s most prominent leaders, accusing of them of offenses that range in gravity from using language that creates a frat-like “bro” culture to sexual assault.

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Strike: The Cuckoo’s Calling

This show (based on the Robert Galbraith – pseudonym of JK Rowling – book series about Cormoran Strike, private detective extraordinaire) finally premiered in Canada, and now that I’ve watched all three parts (of the first novel), here is the laziest review of life for it:

  • the cast is very good: everyone looks, acts, and sounds as if they walked off the pages of the book
  • some changes in the order of events are weird. Unsurprisingly I prefer Rowling’s pacing/order of events, but her way probably works better in a novel than it would in a TV show
  • still, can’t help but feel like the slow, internal, meticulous novel version of this exact story works at least 70% better than the show version, which makes me sad
  • maybe that will change for Silkworm because that one is a RIDE
  • the most annoying change of events is Strike sleeping with Ciara – I think that happened after he talked in detail with Guy. Even if it happened before, the thing they did where they make it so that Guy points out how good Strike apparently is at sex according to a supermodel who has a lot to compare him with in front of Robin is, like, the heaviest heavy hand freaking ever, and unnecessary. Very, very unnecessary.
  • buuuut it was one thing, whatever.
  • more uncomfortable about this is that in this book/tv series, the [spoiler] two characters who are murdered are black women. It is sort of interesting that the murderer is shown to be racist but not in the cartoonish, unrealistic way that a guy who murders two black women would normally be portrayed. Instead, he’s a relatively normal white person, at pains to be like, “Well, it’s a black fellow in this footage – not that the fact that he’s black makes it suspicious by itself, I’m not – it’s just the time and location that makes it – you know what I mean.” Of course he also murdered his brother when they were both children so race isn’t his motivation, not at all, so it’s this weird thing where he is trying to capitalize off of societal racism in who he tries to point the finger at and in how he thinks he’ll get away with the second murder (I’m pretty sure he almost does, too), and he’s slightly, everyday racist himself, and he murders two black women – one purely out of self-interest, the other out of familial jealousy. The thing is, black women being murdered in real life isn’t really something that can be separated so easily from their being black women, and that aspect of the murders is noted but not the focus. And that can be an interesting thing, it can be a problematic thing, and it is likely both of those things at once. I actually have a lot of thoughts about Rowling’s two murderers in the first and second books. The third murderer is scary and all but he’s also pretty typical. The first two really threw me when they were revealed, made me uncomfortable, and I’m still having trouble sorting through how much of my discomfort is because I think she’s being a little problematic and how much is that she’s being unexpected and brutally honest in ways that make me squeamish. I think it’s a little bit problematic and mostly, she just got me. But unfortunately, the show version didn’t really add to my deliberations at all, apart from reminding me that I already have that going on somewhere in my subconscious.
  • I am excited to see Silkworm but also scared. That book was genuinely disturbing. Strike’s… discovery early on, and the reveal of who the murderer is and all of the fallout… yeah. If the show version has managed to pull it off I will be disquieted all over again, and if not I’ll be pretty disappointed.

lula landry

My biggest disappointment is that all of the little references JKR adds in there about women like Princess Diana, Marilyn Monroe, and Amy Winehouse, and the pressures of fame and objectification and tabloids and all of that garbage on young, talented, beautiful women which flesh out Lula’s story aren’t really present here. It feels like they should have been able to do that much easier in a show, particularly since they play clips of Lula’s Youtube videos. Those nods give the story relevance, depth, and create a real sense of empathy for the fictional victim whose voice is never actually heard in the book. We could have used them in the TV version of events.

Anyway, this has been your late-June reminder to read books.

These books are really nice reads. Financial realities, terrible boyfriends of amazing women who infuriatingly don’t realize that – not even that they deserve better, more that they don’t realize that they don’t deserve such trash in their lives omg Robin what are you doing, slow internal piecing together of the mystery, uncomfortable reveal of a murderer that up until this point has been at least a little bit sympathetic…

But in general, mysteries are great and we all deserve nice things in our lives so pick up a mystery at your earliest convenience.

And me. Hi, me. You’ve read these three books (for pleasure), one by Anthony Bidulka (for school), a bunch of the Lillian Jackson Braun Cat Who books (because you’re a cat person), and that’s IT, despite the fact that a good mystery is just about your favourite thing ever. So pick up a mystery at your earliest convenience.

Thanks.

Behind the Scenes of Fiddler

I remembered this morning that Fiddler on the Roof exists. Although it’s one of my favourite movie musicals, and a few years ago I got to see it on stage and obviously I loved it on stage too, it’s one of those movies I occasionally forget about and then remember and watch over and over for a couple of months.

I did a google image search and this photograph of Rosalind Harris, Michele Marsh, Neva Small, Elaine Edwards, and Candy Bonstein goofing off on set came up:

daughters

And it’s great.

And this reminded me of my other permanent Fiddler on the Roof opinions, such as: can we agree that Tzeitel, Hodel, Chava, Sphrintze, and Bielke are the best names ever?

I also think a Disney version of Fiddler would be cool, mainly because I’ve always linked up Tevye’s daughters with various Disney ladies in my mind. They’re stubborn and strong and the three oldest ones manage to tell a phenomenal story just by falling in love with increasingly “inappropriate” men.

And unlike some people I think Disney movies do a really good job of tackling unpleasant aspects of humanity – when they try, at least. If they did a straight adaptation of the stage show it would probably be fantastic but even if they updated it a little, I can imagine it being very good.

Also Tevye is one of the best characters ever and he should be animated.

You can’t tell me Disney wouldn’t kill this.

But it won’t happen – mainly I think because this story focuses on the older generation and Disney movies are, rightly, aimed at kids – the fact that I loved this as a kid probably wouldn’t sway too many Disney greenlighters.

It’s fine, though. The 1971 movie is perfect.

The Not-A-Princess Disney Ladies

Let’s talk about the ladies of 90s and early 00s Disney movies who aren’t princesses, simply because we don’t do it enough.

Esmeralda

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When I was a kid, I wanted to be Esmeralda. I didn’t want the dancing or the persecution. I just wanted to have her sense of justice and the courage of her convictions.

She’s probably still my favourite Disney lady (honestly the competition is tough, but the fact that she was my childhood hero probably pushes her over the edge).

^^ This. All of it. This is who I wanted to be when I grew up.

Not the part about getting burnt at the stake. But if someone did ever try to do that, I hoped (and I guess I still hope) to be that defiant.

Esmeralda and the Jewel song “Hands” – that’s the definition of who I want to be.

Esmeralda is a bit more complicated than the fact that she’s my hero, though. For one thing, Jason Alexander (the voice of Hugo – everyone’s favourite gargoyle) was very excited about how “voluptuous” she was, compared to, >cringe< “Pokie.”* Which is just great.

But on that note, she’s one of Disney’s women of colour characters, and she is more sexualized than a lot of the white women characters and that’s… disappointing.

In the context of just the movie she’s in, though, her being sexualized is a good thing. She uses her sexuality to earn a living. Frollo tries to slutshame her and ends up falling directly into hell at the end of the movie so, point taken, Hunchback of Notre Dame.

She’s just doing her job, man. You can’t sentence her to death by burning just because it made you confused about… not even your religious convictions, really. Just your convictions about what a great, virtuous guy you are, despite all the genocide you’re doing.

If Esmeralda had been portrayed much more “innocently,” the point the movie makes about male entitlement wouldn’t have been as strong. Esmeralda is unmistakably a sexy, sexual woman, and you still don’t get to just do whatever you want with her. It’s important. A miracle, even, that this is a major part of a movie aimed at kids. When people say they want Disney to go back to making Hunchbacks of Notre Dames instead of the “garbage” they’re doing now I always roll my eyes but in this one respect, I agree. I’d like something edgier and ultimately more valuable from Disney occasionally.

Look at how she’s this woman that men can’t stop just flat out grabbing.

esm1esm11

… why does he think he should just sneak up behind her?

After this, of course, he earns her trust and respect and doesn’t pull this crap again.

The crown jewel is, of course:

Blegh.

Anyway. With Quasimodo, on the other hand – if they’re touching, she’s often the one who initiates it.

And these moments are always really sweet and thematic or whatever.

The moment that stands out where Quasi is the one rather forcefully initiating contact is, well:

I’m sure there are others, like when he’s helping her escape the cathedral or when he thinks she’s dead but the point still stands. There are clear differences in how these men act towards her, what is being coded as wrong and unacceptable, and what is demonstrated to be right.

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I’m not one of the people who wishes Phoebus wasn’t in it and the romance had been between these two because one thing we are sorely lacking in this world is portrayals of male/female friendship. I think it’s perfect the way it is, though I do get the yearning for this romance too. But it’s OK. There are other women in Paris.

Anyway, especially in a movie that goes all in on male entitlement to women’s bodies and love, having a scene where Quasi gets all heartbroken and then moves on, remains her friend, doesn’t, ultimately, anyway, resent her boyfriend, saves her life from the guy killing her because he can’t have her… is cool.

The word “cool” covers it, right?

Meg

meg4

AKA, the best thing in Hercules.

Maybe most out of all other Disney ladies, at least the ones who aren’t villains, Meg is jaded, cynical, worldly.

“Well, you know how men are. They think ‘no’ means ‘yes’ and ‘get lost’ means ‘take me, I’m yours.'”

meg2meg3

Regarding these ^, first, she’s great, second, Hercules is the cutest, and third, her stinger, “Don’t worry, Shorty here can explain it to ya later” is fantastic and deserved.

Meg is soundly mistreated throughout this movie, and a good chunk of that mistreatment is, again, this is another woman various men can’t stop grabbing. But there are also moments where the good characters are overly hostile towards her as well.

Phil is the worst to her, and some of the time his mistrust and anger towards her are justified but mostly his attitude is pretty garbage. Then Hercules himself, when Hades tells him Meg’s his henchwoman, just – like – dude, let her talk. If you’d let her talk, she’d tell you the whole stupid story in which she’s only sort of to blame, and even then, not really.

She’s sad and indentured. Come on, now.

And I know, we need him to get really really sad and feel all betrayed because we require some dramatic tension, but it’s still a little tiring when she’s right next to him and he could have just asked her to explain it to him after the fact. And if he really is the nice, understanding guy that the entire Meg relationship is painting him to be, he probably wouldn’t have blown up right away.

Then there’s Hades himself. Since Hades is the villain, everything he does is wrong so I guess it’s fine how extremely grabby he is with her the whole time.

Hades is the worst.

He’s not worse than Frollo but he is pretty bad still.

While collecting images of him seizing her by the shoulders and being gross about “curves” I remembered that he even grabs her spirit and mimes her talking to Hercules, so here’s that:

hades and meg 10

That’s – yeah. That’s not cool. Hercules’s face is the truth there, as is the part where he megasonic-punches him into the pool of the dead for this.

It’s just so extremely disrespectful. Again, he’s the villain, but Meg gets snarked at way too much by the good guys too, which is lousy.

Meg, you deserved better. Which is something Hercules knows (throughout most of the movie, anyway).

I like her as she is, but the fact that she’s all but blameless for her situation (she sold her soul to Hades with the best of intentions, after all) is something I’ll note.

If Meg was working for Hades out of a general lack of consideration for people around her and had to realize the error of her ways, like Kuzco in Emporer’s New Groove, it would just be… better. First because it would make how angry Herc gets make more sense.

More importantly, though, and this is a recurring theme here at OwlMachine, we really want, nay, need, some unlikable, morally complicated women characters in Disney movies. Honestly, Maleficent in Maleficent is a START. We need them to pick up the ball they started rolling there and go way bigger.

Maybe not way bigger. But we wouldn’t say no to a female Kuzco.

Please?

Jane

jane sketching

I’m not a huge watcher of Tarzan so mostly I know that Jane is a very enthusiastic zoology/art nerd. Which is cool.

I do like this one moment where she’s the one who initiates the kiss at the end and he doesn’t know what that is so she gets all embarrassed.

CuuuuuuuuuuuUUUUUUte.

Like all of the ladies so far on this list, she’s here to fill the love interest role, and although I prefer the almost kind of edgy version they did with Meg – the cynical, downright jaded  version of the love interest – Jane is pretty great too. She’s warm, enthusiastic, and empathetic. Pretty much impossible not to like, is Jane.

Nani

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I would die for Nani.

This girl has it all: tragically dead parents, a traumatized/eccentric/probably needs some therapy little sister that she is now the sole guardian for, a violent alien dog, no job and tourist season is over, a really hyper-vigilant social worker hounding her every step, a love interest she can’t actually deal with right now, and more aliens coming to destroy her house.

Poor Nani.

Her relationship with Lilo is a typical explosive but close sister relationship, strained these days mainly due to the dead-parent thing. And also because The State keeps threatening to take Lilo away, which is very unhelpful.

Thanks, Stitch.

There’s really nothing else to say about her, at least, not that I can think of now. How about a bullet list? That always helps when I just like something and wouldn’t change it one bit.

Nani for president:

  • because she’s good to the core
  • she’s doing a fantastic job considering her circumstances
  • she is holding it together like a champ and I’m not even exaggerating when I say: her presence in Lilo and Stitch is always legitimately inspirational and comforting
  • the part where she tells Stitch she knows he can talk, then he says, “OK, OK,” and she screams and hits him is GOLD
  • David could tell you the rest
  • I wish every Lilo could have a Nani looking out for them.

The End

And that’s it for this era of Disney movies. I’d like to talk about each of them in more detail some other time because these characters are great and should get talked about more.


*I know this because of this Lindsay Ellis essay which is always worth a watch

Cerebrus was never meant to be screencapped

Picture yourself trying to write about cool things, needing a still image or two from Disney’s quite frankly AMAZING(ly awful but still AMAZING) Hercules, heading over to disney screencaps dot com which is now animation screencaps dot com, and finding this.

This brief snippet of Cerebrus fighting himself over a steak is always a favourite of mine whenever I watch Hercules and it looks so fluid and cool animated but stilled it’s just the gift that keeps on giving.

Animation is cool.

So is Hercules, which does this a lot, really.

Infinity War Gripes

It’s been 24 hours since I’ve seen Infinity War and I’d just like to say that I didn’t… really… like it.

I sent a rant to my sister afterwards and I’m posting it here.

Spoilers follow.

The very simplistic morality here: sacrificing half the population for big ideas is bad, and, the more morally gray version is that sacrificing individual players to save the entire universe is also bad. But the one… doesn’t follow the other, sorry.

I’m sure there will be some major solution that involves using the stones rather than destroying them, like how Harry uses the hallows rather than just stealing them and whatnot, and the lesson will be that intent is important which is a good simplistic moral. but like, the amount of time both teams wasted not destroying the stones was stupid. Especially in Wanda/Captain America’s case, where Dr. Strange wasn’t there to be omnipotent. Like the point is that the superheroes are fighting this fascist who thinks killing half the people saves the rest but here are these elites who think killing their friend to save half the universe is a bummer. There’s no complexity there. The only good part was when Quill was going to kill Gamora but Thanos stopped him. That Wanda eventually tried but didn’t do it right away is stupid.

Quill getting mad and ruining Tony’s plan is perfectly fine, that’s human. Wanda being like “but my robot boyfriend” is human too, but she had time to deal with it and come to terms with it. And WAY WORSE was Dr. Strange, deciding at the last second to let Thanos do his thing by giving him the time stone in exchange for Tony’s life.

I’m assuming he knows that somehow this course of events will lead to righting everything but if that’s the case then:

  1. a) He hasn’t learned to be a team player, which is what his arc was supposed to be, since he starts out on their space adventure by saying, “I’m not saving you or the kid over the stone,” and now he’s saving Tony over the stone. But he isn’t really sparing Tony’s life and sacrificing the stone and half the universe. He’s just letting this play out so that everything gets undone. The theme of putting individuals above the more lofty goals is meaningless because he isn’t really doing that, he’s just doing lousy comic book time reverse stuff. If the point is that to ultimately save the universe they need Tony so for now they sacrifice the stone and the universe to save Tony so that he can later save the universe and, I guess, the stone, that’s… not the theme. Or I guess in some stupid convoluted Randian way it is, but, it’s really bad.
  2. b) If you’re going to be an avenger you put the rest of the universe above yourself. Which is what Thanos did for his stupid goals and he’s bad. Soooooo… The Avengers is just about a group of people who never have to make hard sacrifices because plot conveniences get them out of it and they generally don’t even consider those sacrifices for more than half a second because “that would be vaguely evil,” and they get to just do whatever they want with literally no guiding principles. That’s stupid.

There is no moral complexity here. No one is examining good versus evil or heroism as a thing to question and be careful with. It’s just sort of spectacle.

I only liked the Guardians’ parts and Thor. Thor’s lightning moment was good, I thought, though it could have been much stronger with better focus. Also now that Rocket is alone, and every one of his friends is dead, that random set up between him and Thor about how Thor has lost everyone but Rockt hasn’t now means that the two of them are BFFs and work through their feelings together and in doing so save all their friends, right? Because if that’s a subplot in the sequel then I’ll bother watching it.

But so. Is anyone going to stay dead? And if not, what’s the point? Where is the tension? Why did I watch all of this play out, where really only Starlord learned anything (and not really, he’s dealt with grief before), if it’s all going to get erased in the end? Why isn’t the next going further than just presenting Captain America’s lack of an arc and instead cutting him and the other boring ones out entirely and just being called God of Thunder and the Rabbit Save the Universe because honestly, you could make an excellent movie out of that, focusing in on things that are interesting, and just having everyone else be there as cameos.

Murder Princesses

A long, long, long time ago, I started writing a thing about how Andrew Stanton was annoyed that predator and prey species coexist in The Lion King and so he went on to infuse his movie, Finding Nemo, with such examples of natural realism as a pelican scooping up two fish and some sea water and flying them away from a flock of seagulls to rescue the son of one of the fish, who is acquainted with the pelican because the pelican frequently visits the fish tank where the fish son currently lives to watch a human dentist practice dentistry the way the rest of us watch the olympics or whatever.

And I keep getting distracted and writing paragraphs about humpback whales and fictional telepathic gorillas and human civilizations living in South American rainforests, and now,

84years

and I think it’s time for just a quick post about something I only fully began to appreciate recently.

Nala and Kiara are murder princesses.

Nala, best friend and love interest of The Lion King‘s protagonist, tries to kill and eat Puumba, one of the protagonist’s surrogate fathers.

It’s mostly played for comedic effect. The scene is tense and quite scary, but probably no one except the very young in the audience actually think SHE’S GONNA EAT [PUUMBA]. Also Timon tells Simba to GO FOR THE JUGULAR.

They can pull it off precisely because the entire audience sees a scary lionness preparing to pounce in the long grass and thinks, “Oh, it’s Nala,” so we know what we’re in for is one of those hijinks-infused sequences in which everyone misunderstands everything until finally each of the love interests realize who the other is.

It’s just that this hijinks-infused sequence is a very dramatic chase scene in which the female love interest and basically Disney princess is trying to kill and eat one of the comedy animals.

This is what happens when your movie is about lions.

In the very not good though still admittedly technically competent sequel, teenage angst ensues because KIARA JUST WANTS SOME FREAKING INDEPENDENCE, DAD.

INDEPENDENCE WHILE HUNTING. KILLING ANTELOPE THINGS.

I’m even willing to admit that Kiara’s murder princess scene is a little bolder than Nala’s, since, in The Lion King, we know Puumba, and we know that it’s Nala, and we’re assuming that everything will be set right as soon as Simba shows up.

In this sequence, Kiara is just hunting a random herd of animals who don’t have any lines or names. I’m not even sure what species they are. They’re probably purposefully not one of the more recognizable prey species of lions. Could anyone root for Kiara after watching her hunt a herd of zebra, for example?

Personally I don’t root for her at all, but that isn’t the point and I’m just jaded. The actual point is that theoretically, Kiara could be successful on her hunt because she isn’t hunting a main character or even a character with a small speaking role. She isn’t hunting anyone off-limits.

lknalaisterrifying4

But Nala’s the one with all the teeth and claws, and also she’s in the better movie. But it doesn’t matter. Disney’s lioness princesses/queens are violent predators and the movies are kind of shockingly honest about that.

Neat.

Anne Episode Recap: Wherever You Are Is My Home

A note on my complaint about Marilla being a tragic woman because she turned down some guy:

I said in the previous post that book-Marilla is “totally cool with her choices” regarding choosing not to marry Gilbert’s dad way back when, but as it turns out, she did regret it. But like, not melodramatic-Netflix-series regret, just kind of low key regret. As far as I’m concerned my point still stands. Her being over-the-top tragically devastated that she never married and such is just sad, and makes no sense when, again, the fact that she and her brother remain unmarried is exactly the reason for Anne’s arrival to Green Gables which is a happy thing and probably wouldn’t have happened if Marilla had married, and Anne Shirley is no one’s consolation prize. She’s the best. SO.

On to the finale of this first season:

Wow, it’s way too dramatic. Matthew gets suicidal. He actually tries to kill himself in this episode. I’m not 100% against this in theory, first because we could probably use some sensitive depictions of people dealing with depression and suicide ideation (this is not that, not at all, but I do think it was at least partially an attempt at it, and maybe it will mean something to someone, IDK) and second, because I do think adaptations can and should change fundamental things in order to be more relevant to the moment they’re being made in and to add new depth to the story, but this entire episode didn’t work for me and I have very little to say excepting this run-on sentence I’ve just written.

I do also want to ask who in maple-syrup-loving hell that guy is at the end. The shot holds on his face forever, and then Anne’s reaction to his existence goes on forever, and I’m completely lost.

At first I thought she knew him somehow, or maybe that he was about to declare that he was someone somwhat significant to the Cuthberts, or maybe to Gilbert, or, anything, really. But no.

So, what I’m left with – is Anne going to have a crush on him? He’s probably some character from one of the other books and I’m just out of the know. I could google it but instead, I’ll wait for season 2.

This series so far has had a lot of very high notes, but right now I mostly just feel like revisiting cozy, comforting Anne of Green Gables with only minor drama and no rape references and attempted suicide.

Anne Episode Recap: Remorse is the Poison of Life

All right, let’s get back on this vegan horse.

(I don’t know, OK, horses make me sad so whatever)

A Series of Unfortunate Events has been updated on Netflix with its so far amazing season 2, which I am halfway through, and I decided to prolong my enjoyment of that by finishing up Anne first so here goes, with the penultimate episode with a title that doesn’t make sense. “Regret” instead of “remorse” would work, but as it is it’s confusing. Only Diana’s mom is remorseful and it’s framed as a good thing so I’m a little lost.

Things that I remember about the series so far:

  • Anne isn’t allowed to be Diana’s friend anymore because they got drunk on what they thought was raspberry cordial but was actually sherry or something
  • Matthew has some sort of romantically tragic past, much to my annoyance
  • Gilbert’s dad is dying

Things that I didn’t remember about this series and was confused about as I watched:

  • The kids talk in a really difficult-to-ignore modern-type jargon – except Anne who is over-the-top, and Diana, who talks pretty much like she does in every other version (albeit she’s a little more savvy than normal)
  • Maybe it’s just the boys who talk like it’s the 21st century and not 190whatever, saying things like “I don’t get you” and such
  • None of Anne’s interactions with Gilbert make sense, except for the part when she cracked a slate over his head

Regarding that last one then: it’s kind of a shame. My theory, based on the fact that the running theme of ROMANCE = GOOD, LACK OF ROMANCE = HORRIBLE TRAGIC REGRET permeates this episode in particular, is that the writers/directors/creators were, strangely, feeling a little pressured to apologize for including the Anne/Gilbert romance at all.

And I have some evidence to that effect.

Exhibit A: Lesbians and Kindred Spirits

In this episode, Diana’s great aunt comes to stay because her “companion” has recently died. Anne misunderstands and thinks that means her companion was her BFFL but Great Aunt Josephine comes right out and says that she was basically married to the woman, so there’s that. Which is great!

It’s not so great that this reveal is done in a super allonormative (centering sexual/romantic relationships as the most important type of relationship at the expense of every other type of relationship) way but whatever. 190something lesbians are really, really important, and I’m much more annoyed with the handling of Marilla’s tragical romantical past than the “Aunt Josephine is a lesbian and therefore Anne should begin preparations to marry Gilbert at the age of 14” subplot.

But anyway, in setting us up for the very unshocking lesbian reveal that we were all supposed to understand long before Anne does, the older lesbian couple gets connected, multiple times, to the Anne/Diana friendship. When I studied Anne of Green Gables in university, my prof made a brief note that queer readings of Anne abound because of how intense their friendship is.

There are a lot of… declarations of love. Vows. Over dramatic promises and bonds. It’s good stuff.

I’m more than OK with reading Anne and Diana as being maybe sort of a lot romantic and/or sexual, and I’m also more than OK reading it as a very important platonic friendship. But in this episode, they seem to nod to the same-sex attraction interpretation of the relationship and then dive right into highlighting Anne/Gilbert.

This is especially bizarre because so far it has been extremely one-sided, with Anne feeling angry, ashamed, and frustrated in most of her interactions with Gilbert and only feeling a little bit of sympathy for him when she learns that his father is dying. We’re not really ready for the cutesy stuff to happen. She’s barely acknowledged that she doesn’t hate him.

I’d say they’re going, “See, Anne/Diana, we know, that would have been great, here’s an old lady lesbian grieving over her dead lover as compensation while we pursue Anne/Gilbert instead” if I were cynical, which I both am and am not. I want Anne to have her Gilbert romance. I don’t see why she couldn’t have more than one romance, frankly. I also don’t know why she has to have any romance at all. The book ends with an itty bitty nod in that direction, which we all knew was coming the whole time but which is still, compared to the show’s version, pretty muted. In my opinion, the more muted version makes a lot more sense considering the ages of these characters.

It’s also better done. The gradual shift from dislike to totally crushing on each other while competing in earnest the whole time is done very well, and it’s one of the bigger draws for a lot of the books’ fans over the years. I can’t help but feel that if the writers had been less concerned with trying to make Anne/Gilbert “progressive” by “justifying” its existence, which it does by showing that strong, confident, independent role-model Josephine was also into romance, the whole romance subplot would have been a lot better.

Exhibit B: Live your life with no regrets (and that means get married or do the 190whatever lesbian version of getting married)

Early in the episode Great Aunt Josephine tells Anne that she can get married at whatever age she wants, if she wants. And if she chooses a career she can order her own white dress and wear it whenever she wants. Anne declares she’s going to be her “own woman” and she’ll be the heroine of her own story.

K, good, great, I like it so far.

Then Anne tells her, “I’m just like you, no romance ever.”

And Aunt Josephine says, “That’s not like me at all, I lived a full life, was basically married to my woman, etc. Basically, just make sure you live without regrets.”

While Aunt Josephine cries about what she’s lost due simply to old age but doesn’t regret having because “grief is the price we pay for love,” Marilla is there for the contrast, showing us that the actual tragedy is to turn down romance and then get old and wish you hadn’t turned down romance.

Now if only Anne was aware that living without regrets can sometimes mean choosing to not have romance.

I’m honestly trying not to go on and on about this stuff, partly because I’m not aromantic and so this isn’t entirely my lane. But also because I like to try to balance my legitimate enjoyment of a thing while acknowledging how it might be flawed in ways that might exclude or erase certain types of people. I’d like to just say “Hey, decent but sort of confusing episode; I didn’t like how the Marilla ‘tragic romance’ thing was handled though, kinda allonormative/amatonormative, guys.” I don’t really trust that my urge to dissect it and explain exactly why it bothers me is a good urge and not an obsessive, slightly self-destructive, time-wasting, re-centering urge.

While I was reading The Night Circus I was actively fighting the urge to get annoyed about how important the romance was at the expense of every other type of relationship the characters could have gotten happiness, support, and meaning out of, but I ended up writing forever about it. I really would rather not have done that, but I can’t ignore it when I see it. Also although there is a lesbian romance mentioned in that book, just as there is one mentioned here, The Night Circus’s lesbian romance is super tragic, involving suicide, even, whereas here, it’s simply a portrayal of a woman who has grown old with her lover and is now alone because, well, death happens, which makes it slightly better.

It’s still weird that it’s the catalyst for Anne to learn that romance isn’t the devil, but, this portrayal still a little better, and I don’t know that complaining about the allonormativity is worthwhile when at least this show is just casually here on Netflix noting that queer people lived and loved even as far back as 190something. (I know queer people have existed forever, I just can’t convey sarcasm in this medium).

I’d love to instead gush about how (genuinely, honestly, giddily) happy I was to see references to ACTUAL GAY WOMEN on this show and just leave it at that, but Matthew and Marilla are sort of important icons of mine. There are a couple of unmarried older family members in Emily of New Moon as well, but I don’t remember their names. Anne of Green Gables is the bigger cultural product, and I’m very familiar with shy, terrified-of-women Matthew and severe, had-a-romance-with-Gilbert-Blythe’s-dad-but-decided-fuck-it Marilla.

Annnnnnnd instead of just calmly portraying Marilla’s slightly wistful, “Oh, yeah, he was my beau once, we were going to get married but things changed,” as, yes, slightly wistful, maybe even quite sad since he’s dead now but mostly OK with her life choices, they went full tragic.

So Matthew and Marilla’s mom was a mess because of their older brother’s tragic death, it’s implied they both turned down possibilities of romance because their mother was too much of a burden/tyrant/boring familial relation for them to do what they really wanted, which was romance obviously, yadda yadda.

I’m going to just go ahead and state for the record that portraying Marilla as this sad woman looking back on her unmarried, virginal life and going “AHHH WHY DIDN’T I JUST DO THE THING” is the wrong choice. Not because romance (… and sex) is bad, but because in the source material Marilla’s totally cool with her choices. Why change that?

Why change that indeed, when, if Marilla had been married with biological children, she’d probably never have adopted Anne and Anne would instead be living in horrible conditions, being abused and listening to husbands rape their wives every other night?

Like? Did they temporarily forget what story they’re telling?

Here’s the better version:

Marilla confides in Anne, who is currently worrying about how large (or small) a role romance should play in her life. “I had a romance once,” she says in her harsh but strangely vulnerable Marilla-esque way. “I liked him, he wore a stupid hat, he asked me to marry him, I had other things to do. Who knows what would have happened if I’d said yes. Maybe I’d have been happier. But having said no, I’ve been led to the point where I needed to adopt a precocious orphan and so far that’s turned out very well, so whatever, make the choices that are right for you.”

I say, if you must “justify” letting Anne have romance when she’s also very clearly a feminist in this version, do it without accidentally implying that romance is an essential part of womanhood, feminism, and life in general.

But also, you could just not bother trying to justify it. No one worth listening to thinks Anne liking a guy ruins her feminist cred, or, in fact, her queer cred. Come on.

Other Stuff

Gilbert’s dad dies, which I sort of mentioned. Gilbert gets in a fist fight. Also maybe he moves to Alberta, or maybe we’re just supposed to think he moved to Alberta.

The girls make a shepherd’s pie for Gilbert, and as they’re explaining the pie to him Diana says that Anne is a good cook and then Anne screams, “BUT I’D MAKE A HORRIBLE WIFE!” And then she runs away and everyone looks around at each other uncomfortably and it is quality television.

Also Matthew’s favourite ship sinks? There’s this part where the grocer tells him it sank and there was no insurance and the name of the ship seems to mean a lot to Matthew. I’m confused. Maybe we’re not supposed to know until the next episode what that’s about or maybe it’s something I forgot from a previous one but I hope it’s just that he likes to look at that ship and now he’s sad because he only has second-rate ships to look at.

I’m sure that’s what it is.

ONWARDS.