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.

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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:

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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.

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… 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

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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.'”

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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:

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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

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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,

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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.

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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.

Spring Equinox Reading Roundup

(I think every Winnie the Pooh story takes place during spring. Unless it’s the ones during winter. Or if they go to Eeyore’s place, then it’smysteriously fall.)

Instead of doing this monthly like last year, I thought I’d be super pretentious and do them for every change of season. So today, on the day of 2018’s Spring Equinox, here are the books I’ve read so far.

the fate of the tearling

The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The way this series ends is BOLD. I’ve never read anything like it. There are a couple of things about the ending that bother me (like if they changed history so drastically I don’t think the same people would all exist hundreds of years later), but I’ll gladly set them aside to have the book end the way it does (because it’s necessary to see everyone we already know living drastically different lives in order for it to have as real an impact as it does, even if it’s silly) because it is so different from and more honest and thoughtful than 100% of the high fantasy I’ve ever read.

Get started on this series if you like fantasy. Here’s three’s review of the first book in the trilogy if you need a push.

 

inexxing reflections

Indexing: Reflections by Seanan McGuire

I loved it. The sequel was much easier to get into than the first one, and Sloane gets a bunch of point-of-view chapters which is pretty much all I want out of the year. Sloane is a living embodiment of a Wicked Stepsister archetype constantly fighting the urge to murder everyone around her, in case you needed to be sold on this series.

 

let's talk about love

Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kahn

Asexual romance where the protagonist is adorable and confused and questioning, and her love interest is the best ever. The one little problem I have is with the conflict resolution with Alice’s BFF, because it ends with Alice apologizing and her friend… not. She says, “You need to tell me if something bothers you,” and that’s what serves as her reciprocating Alice’s apology and I’m not really a fan of that. I did like the version of this in Tash Hearts Tolstoy which I read last year. Tash has an in-your-face female BFF and they have a huge fight, and though Tash is certainly at fault for some of it, it’s not entirely on her to smooth things over in their friendship. But it’s a relatively small problem. More like this, thanks.

 

beneath the sugar sky

Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire

I didn’t like it as much as the two previous books in the series, with Down Among the Sticks and Bones (which was book 2) still being my obvious favourite.

 

Print

Knit One Girl Two by Shira Glassman

Short, sweet, well-done. There was a cat occasionally.

 

the night circus2

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I wrote a whole long thing about this one.

 

the girl who drank the moon

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

It’s amazing. Know a kid? Get them this book. And read it yourself.

 

suicide sex club

Suicide Sex Club by C.M. Blackwood

I think this is the first straight smut I’ve ever read. It was a little much (and by “a little” I mean “a lot”) but it’s also surprisingly sweet much of the time, or, maybe not really that surprisingly sweet, because I’ve read a murder mystery/lesbian romance by Blackwood before and it was similarly cute. Though with a lot less sex.

I’d be cautious reading this one if you’re sensitive to self-harm and abusive/disassociation-style sex and rape. There’s also one brief mention of pedophilia. I’d also note that it doesn’t portray sex work in the greatest light – Tory is a sex worker and she’s lovely but the titular “Suicide Sex Club” is an exploitative sex trafficking type place. It also doesn’t portray BDSM in the greatest light, but no one who participates in BDSM acts are doing so conscientiously or not as a way to self-harm, so, by not suggesting that this is the way to do that stuff properly, it’s way less misrepresentative of BDSM than 50 Shades is.

 

your favorite superhero sucks

Your Favorite Superhero Sucks by Noah Berlatsky

Admittedly, the latest superhero mega blockbusters are getting to me. I loved Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2Thor: Ragnarok, and Black Panther. Obviously I also loved Wonder Woman. Each of these movies has its flaws, or, in Black Panther’s case, maybe “slight limitations” might be a better term, but they’re still important and more interesting than most of what else Marvel and DC have been serving up lately.

Still, superheroes are kind of a weird thing, and considering how they’re dominating the pop culture scene right now, I think it’s really important to critique them at every available opportunity.

This book is a good place to start. I found a couple of the essays ridiculously funny, especially “Our Batman, Ourselves.” I didn’t agree with absolutely everything, but even where I have differing opinions I think Berlatsky makes a lot of really good points. And really important ones. Pop culture needs scrutiny.

 

even this page is white

even this page is white by Vivek Shraya

A collection of poems, mainly dealing with racism. Shraya confronts white privilege head on. She spotlights white peoples’ reluctance to confront our own privilege, racism, and racist assumptions in such a searing way that I really think every white person, especially every white person in Canada, should have to read it. I’m not saying it’s the cure to our own special Canadian-brand antipathy, because no, but finding ourselves listening to people saying things that make us uncomfortable more and more often is the only way forward, and this book does its part.

Aaaaaaaand now it’s spring.

The Night Circus and Amatonormativity

Whaaaat Are You Talking About

Amatonormativity: the prevailing belief that romantic relationships are universally desired by all people and that they are preferable to other, nonromantic relationships

Sucky for a lot of reasons, but mainly because there are aromantic people in the world. That’s people who don’t feel romantic attraction, or who feel romantic attraction rarely or only in certain contexts.

For a nice, concise, fairly topical, real-life example of amatonormativity in action: did you watch the ice dancing? Did you see Virtue and Moir? Did you see all the ravenous speculation about how even though they’ve always said that they’re not a couple, they must be dating, they must be having sex, how could they not, it’s not like acting is a major component of ice dancing or anything…

I roll my eyes, but I also understand, sort of. I get it, you got swept up in the dances. They’re very good. They make us all feel things. Great. But hey, if it really does turn out that they’ve been telling the truth this whole time and they’re just a man and a woman with a super close, supportive, platonic friendship that can remain a platonic friendship even during occasional three minute stints in which they stare at/touch each other like they really wanna so that they can up their artistic score, well, that’s good. Because When Harry Met Sally was wrong and men and women can and should be friends, close friends, even. Not everything needs to be a romance.

In Fiction

So, there’s this article talking about how Voldemort, with his infamous lack of interest or perhaps even lack of ability to love, is pretty much the aromantic character in Harry Potter and he’s also the guy who wants to murder a baby so that he can adequately chop up his own soul.

I don’t really agree with the thesis here, because I’ve always read Harry Potter as centering, first and foremost, friendship. Harry’s survival is thanks to his mother’s love for him, and after his parents are gone it is Ron and Hermione, neither of whom he is attracted to, who are most important to him. He has a special bond with Molly Weasley as well, who treats him like he’s her own son.

When Harry finally reveals himself to Voldemort in their final battle, it’s to stand in front of Molly when Voldemort turns to kill her. He’s saving Molly, not Ginny. After the battle, Harry sees Ginny but lets her be for the moment, choosing to seek Ron and Hermione out instead. Friendship and the love between a parent and child. That’s they key thing Voldemort doesn’t have time for – or, actually, that’s the stuff he devalues so completely that he thinks it’s a good idea to spend much of his time killing peoples’ friends, children, and parents – and why, according to Dumbledore, he is ultimately defeated.

People asked JK Rowling throughout the years whether Voldemort ever dated, and her answer was always, “Um, no. He totes wouldn’t even ever have been interested.” The thing is, people who do evil things in real life often do form romantic and sexual attachments and relationships, but in literature it always seems strange to have the evilest of the evil date someone. And that is probably absolutely entirely because of amatonormativity. If romantic relationships are the best thing ever, even, maybe, the only thing that really matters, why would evil people take part in them? Surely they would be too evil to understand how great they are, and, if evil people did get into a romantic relationship how could they remain evil?

So. Even though I think every time Dumbledore said, “Harry it’s cool, you’ll beat him because you can love and he can’t,” he wasn’t talking about romantic love, yes, Voldemort being so very clearly aromantic is kind of a buzzkill.

Buuuuut I love Harry Potter for its depiction of friendship. It’s top notch on the topic of friendship, and bless JKR for that. Harry PotterIt, and AvatarThe Last Airbender/Legend of Korra are stellar for friendship. Sure, there’s romance and sometime sex, sometimes even eleven-year-olds having sex, but it’s mostly about how great and important and life-saving and world-saving friendship is and I’m giving them all props for that.

(also I think Charles Weasleton and Sirius Black are aroace and awesome, but only Charlie’s ID was *sort of* confirmed, in an interview, post the Deathly Hallows release, so I guess they don’t count)

(but they’re totally aroace and awesome I don’t care)

the night circus 3

The Night Circus: Sales Pitch

Hi.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is one of the best fantasy/magical realism books I’ve read in a long time. It’s stylish, in it’s chic third person present tense, with the occasional chapter in second person present tense. When I read third person present in other books, and so far the only other books I’ve read in third person present are the Sidekick Squad books by C.B. Lee, it drives me up the wall. But not here.

It has beautiful, mystical, magical, romantic prose. When I read super stylish, super romantic prose, and mainly I’m thinking of anything by Anna-Marie McLemore, it drives me up the wall. But not here.

(C.B. Lee and Anna-Marie McLemore are still very good though, I’m just a little picky. I like Rowling prose, OK? Sweet and super simple. Leave me alone.)

The prose is… it’s… it’s just flawless. Reading this book is like eating a giant piece of this cake. Or this cake. Or – oh. Oh wow. OK so it’s like all of those, I can’t decide. Just all of them. It’s very decadent, and very good, is the point I’m trying to make.

I want to go to the Night Circus. I want to live there. It feels real, it feels beautiful and magical and just a little bit dangerous, and it’s been a very, very long time since I’ve fallen so hard for a fictional, magical world.

the night circus2

The Night Circus: Alas.

Here’s the thing, though.

The entire circus itself is created in order for the two protagonists, Marco and Celia, to have an arena in which to compete. The competition is deliberately vague: they basically just have to create magic things, different tents, different showcases, and they have to keep all of the people they’ve roped into the endeavour relatively safe and happy while they battle it out. Both are set on this journey by overpowerful completely cold-hearted ancient father figures when they are powerless children. They grow up, learn their different styles of magic from their different mentors, and then they start battling it out.

But, wouldn’t you know it, they’re both super hot young adults and they fall for each other. He falls first, she’s sort of resistant until she just can’t ignore how intensely he burns for her, you know, typical stuff. And because of this, the fairly vague competition turns into basically just them writing love letters to each other in the form of circus exhibitions and being completely impressed by each other’s magical prowess. Mostly he’s impressed. Typical stuff.

I’m not aromantic, and, more importantly, I’m usually a sucker for this sort of thing. I’m pretty sure, even not being aromantic myself, that you can be a huge fan of cutesy but still extremely intense romance stuff even if you don’t feel romantic attraction or if you only feel it sometimes. Anyway, what I wanted to get at is this: this is fine. It’s fine. It’s great. I’d normally love it. I did quite like it, I guess, as it is.

But, I’d read the “Voldemort as aromantic is super problematic” article first.

And.

So.

Here’s the thing.

There isn’t… really… like… any friendship in this.

There are two sets of twins, I’ll grant.

Here’s the thing about that: in the older twins’ case, they’re two fabulous ladies, two members of the really awesome group of people who found the Night Circus. One of the other members, some guy, is trying to determine which one of them he’s more in love with. Happily for all three of them, one of them dies. She goes to that some guy and asks why none of them have aged in the ten years since the circus began, and he sends her to Marco’s mentor, who compels her to accidentally walk in front of a train. And then the second twin and some guy start dating.

I make it sound sort of suspicious, like some guy wanted one of them to die to make his choice simple. I’m pretty sure he didn’t. But it’s just rather weird to me that, well, this is what happens to one set of twins. Like. Some guy is in love with both of them, trying to choose. And then. One of them dies. Like. What?

The younger twins are a boy and a girl. Widget, the boy, says and does normal, overly precocious literary child things that no real child would say or do. Poppet, the girl, says and does normal, overly precocious literary child things that no real child would say or do, and she also falls in love with some other boy who shows up to save the day at the end.

I’ll be honest: I’d be a little less annoyed if it had been Widget falling in love and Poppet just got to do her own thing in the end. But I’d still be slightly annoyed. There are a handful of scenes with the brother and sister being together, but their relationship isn’t as real as I’d like, and most of their scenes include Bailey, the boy Poppet falls in love with. And there isn’t a reason for her to fall in love with him. From Bailey’s perspective, she’s an exotic circus girl who is super nice to him, so of course he falls in love with her. I’m not saying he needs to be the most interesting manboy in the world for her to fall in love with him but there’s no exploration of how she feels about him at all. It’s just supposed to be a given, I guess, that she’d like him.

The only other relationship that has any sort of significance and that isn’t a romance is the one between the enigmatic contortionist Tsukiko and Isobel, the woman who is in love with Marco and who Marco is not in love with but he doesn’t tell her that until near the end (of course). But we only see glimpses.

And then the villains. Mr. A H- and Prospero the Enchanter, who both enjoy teaching children how to do magic so that they can compete with the rival’s student until one of them eventually dies. Prospero is Celia’s father. After she and Marco have sex, Prospero follows her around and calls her a whore a bunch of times, telling her she’s weak, she’s better than all of that, he’s extremely disappointed in her, he’s probably manipulating her girlish heart and of course doesn’t feel anything real for her, those feelings are for lesser people to indulge in, etc.

Tsukiko is a former winner and student of Mr. A H-‘s. Her opponent was another woman, and the competition between the two of them was also basically just a giant magical romance sexytimes fest. She says something along the lines of, “It’s been great being here, it’s the only thing that comes close to reminding me of the bliss I felt when I was magically intertwined with my long lost love, etc.”

Eventually Tsukiko’s magical girlfriend killed herself to end the game because she couldn’t bear to go on living if she’d have to live without Tsukiko. And Celia and Marco do the same thing sort of. It ends with Bailey saving them somehow. I’m still very confused about how that works, because to me, Bailey seems like a competely boring blank slate moderately enthusiastic fan of the circus, so why he’s ultimately the key to saving the circus and preserving Celia and Marco in eternal ghostly love is sort of beyond my capacity to understand. But boring rando saviours are not my topic today. And if they were, I’d much rather talk about the complete and utter bullshit that was Bard the Bowman being the guy to take down Smaug randomly near the end of The Hobbit. WTF forever, Tolkein, that sucked. But the Luke Evans version of events is fine.

MORE IMPORTANTLY is that even though reading this book was freaking delightful, by the end of it I was more than a little bit tired of how central and all-encompassing all of the sickening romance of it all was. I’d have liked there to have been just a little tweaking; just give Celia maybe one friend (one that doesn’t want to bone her because she does in fact have a friend and we never see her side of that friendship, which was platonic, we only see his, and he mostly wants to bone her) (sigh); give Marco a friend instead of a poor hopelessly devoted woman he continues to lead on despite being thoroughly uninterested in her; highlight Poppet and Widget and their sibling fights and mischief, things that would be more realistic than just having two precocious literary children being sagely and dull. There’s a super old glamorous lady who is (of course) entirely desexualized along for the ride too; give her something to do other than making knowing comments to Celia about how much Marco wants to bone her.

There is one conversation between Celia and the surviving fabulous lady twin in which surviving twin has figured it out and knows that Celia is somewhat responsible for her sister’s death, and she calls her out on it magnificently. That conversation was one of the highlights of the book and left me in awe. That’s the sort of thing that’s sorely missing from the rest of it: evidence of love that exists beyond and outside of romance and sex.

Regarding the Tsukiko revelation, also, at first, I thought, “Oh good, finally, a queer romance on top of all of these straight ones,” but then I thought, “Naaaah, we don’t see it at all, and one of them is tragically dead and the other one is tragically stuck living forever without the love of her life. Typical.”

I think it’s unfortunate that the book centers the romance in such a way as to basically overshadow even the possibility of other kinds of love being worthy of mention. I’m not trying to say that romance shouldn’t be the focus; rather, if the characters had been allowed to have other relationships that made them happy, other relationships that fulfilled them in other ways, the exploration of their romance would have been enhanced.

My evidence for this is the two and a half Courtney Milan books I’ve read. And Harry Potter. Courtney Milan writes straight-up romance, and there are always friendships and family relationships while the super sexy romance stuff is the main focus, and the other relationships always complement the romance nicely.

In Harry Potter, it’s much easier to feel the pain of loss when characters die even if they aren’t, like, Harry’s lovers. It’s easier because it has been established, thoroughly established, that friendships and family bonds matter and losing people you love, even if you don’t love them romantically, is excruciating.

Adding friendships and family relationships enhances everything. It makes everything deeper, and ultimately it makes it more real, because our lives are enriched by all of the people who matter the most to us, and many of those people aren’t romantic partners.

The book is good though.

The Most Dramatic Dog Rescue Ever

I recently remembered the absolute best, most dramatic dog rescue story from work ever, and here it is, in blog form.

I was minding my own business at work, working, and then glancing at our new dog that day, a small, elderly, Scottish terrier crossed with x, y, or z. She was quiet and seemed a little sad.

My coworker materialized behind me and said, “OH MY GOD, DID YOU HEAR THE STORY OF THAT DOG?”

I said, “… no?”

So she launched into it. A woman was jogging along, as you do, when she spotted a dog dangling like Mufasa from a balcony just above her.

She stopped and called us, because the dog was too far up for her to just grab. We were sending someone out to help the dog, but obviously she wasn’t going to be able to dangle there for fifteen minutes, so, thankfully, the good Samaritan stayed. And caught the dog, when she fell just minutes after the woman hung up the phone.

She couldn’t get into the apartment to return the dog and there was no one around to help, so she brought the dog to us for the owners to pick up.

The dog was blind and deaf. When the owners arrived to pick her up, they were horrified. They hadn’t realized that she had slipped quietly out the door onto the balcony. So then she was just stuck out there, with limited senses to figure out what was even going on, and she was small enough to slip through the rails, which she did, almost falling, and it probably would have been to her death.

So, hey, if you spot someone in distress, that’s your chance, I guess, to be a complete and utter superhero. I hope that lady is having an excellent day today.

A Mini Adventure in Raw Apple Pie

Due to the magic of the internet I started 2018 off right, by receiving an email in error from an Italian woman gifting me with three raw vegan recipes.

The second of those is a raw apple pie recipe and I was skeptical, but also intrigued, especially because I had a tip from the lady: “Yesterday I think I blended the apples too much. If you can shake them a little I think the “cream” might remain consistent.”

So I have no clue what she actually meant in her actual Italian version of this email by “shake them a little.” But. I tried.

I used a huge trifle dish or whatever the hell this horrible thing is. I bought it to make tiramisu in and I don’t know what it’s really for, but the point is that my pictures end up awful because the dish is always in the way.

But this is what it looked like:

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lookit that masterful decoration there

I did not blend the apples too much.

Here’s my translation of the recipe:

Il Tortino di Mele

Ingredients:

6 Apples
1 cup Raisins
1 1/2 cup Sunflower Seeds
12 Medjool Dates
3 tablespoons Coconut
1 or 2 tablespoons Cinnamon (adjust the quantity to taste)

Instructions:

Soak the dates for one hour. Soak the raisins for 15 minutes.

For the crust: blend the sunflower seeds in a food processor to reduce them to a powder. Place the sunflower seed powder in a small bowl. Next, use a food processor to blend the drained raisins in into a paste, and then mix with the sunflower seeds until a solid and homogeneous dough is obtained.

Spread the dough thus obtained in your monstrous trifle dish or something else suitable to hold the shape of a raw apple pie. The dough should have a thickness of about one centimeter and will serve for the base.

For the filling: use a food processor or a blender to blend the drained dates into a paste. Place blended dates in a medium bowl. Peel and cut the apples into reasonable slices, then place them in a food processor or a blender. Blend gently and not too much. Shake them a little. I guess. Add the apples to the dates and then add the cinnamon. Mix carefully so as to mix the ingredients and their flavours well. The whole thus obtained has to be poured over the previously prepared base and then leveled with a suitable spatula.

Add the coconut to cover everything. To finish decorating, arrange nicely sliced pieces of apple in a decorative fashion (see photo) (for what not to do).

Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

I bolded the parts that are AMAZING thank you Google Translate and also the Italian Language.

What I didn’t leave in are that “soak the dates” is my translation from “put the dates in the bath” and once again I have to mention that the direct translation from Italian of “food processor” is “robot of the kitchen.”

ROBOT. OF. THE. KITCHEN.

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I honestly don’t know if the apples were supposed to be blended more thoroughly than that, but the way I did it was pretty good. Surprisingly, with zero flour and zero vegan butter and zero cooking, this tasted like apple pie. It tasted like a simple apple pie that had gone in the fridge after cooking. I liked it.

Well, next up is the cheesecake.

This is not a Defense of JK Rowling

(but it is in favour of waiting and seeing, for me, anyway. You do what’s right for you.)

(imagine that the Jude Law Dumbledore leaning back with that slightly disappointed expression on his face is looking at that David Yates article and the entire way JKR handled Dumbledore’s sexuality reveal)

Re this.

If you’re inclined to be angry and disappointed because Yates said Dumbledore’s sexuality isn’t “explicitly” going to be in this upcoming HP extended universe movie, I understand. Maybe Yates spoke clumsily, maybe he means that Dumbledore’s complicated past with Grindelwald will be onscreen, just in a sneaky, hinty kind of way that maybe isn’t “explicit” but that doesn’t leave room for heteronormativity, but even so, it’s disappointing. Dumbledore is gay, he’s gay, he’s gay. There should be some way of placing that onscreen without jumping too far ahead into the Dumbledore/Grindelwald backstory or whatever.

Gay people don’t magically become heterosexual when they’re single or not infatuated/in love with someone. If Dumbledore is focused on other things and only sneaky/hinty focused on his past feelings for Grindelwald in this movie, there are other ways of throwing queer fans and viewers a bone and nodding to Dumbledore’s identity onscreen unambiguously because of course it’s well past time for that. It should have been in the books, explicitly.

But.

(OK first it was Yates who said everything. He’s the director. If “Dumbledore is gay make it clear” wasn’t written in the script he could certainly have added it in himself. He’s not getting a pile-on, I noticed. Nobody is “done forever” with David Yates. Just the successful lady writer. I’m not saying don’t call my favourites out for things because they’re women and my favourites, but do note that we seem to expect perfection from her and not really from him. Guys. Come on.)

(Second, everything everyone has said about “you need to be explicit otherwise no one will know they’re queer” is absolutely true but I kind of sort of a lot think in this case it… isn’t)

(Everyone knows Dumbledore is gay)

(Ask everyone you encounter tomorrow about Dumbledore; they all know he’s gay)

(In A Very Potter MusicalSequel, and Senior Year Dumbledore is explicitly gay. In the Epic Rap Battle between him and Gandalf, Dumbledore is explicitly gay. It’s like… a thing that everyone knows. Voldemort is bad, Dumbledore is good, and he’s gay)

(It wasn’t in any of the books or the movies explicitly and yet everyone knows he’s gay)

(Very few authors can pull that off. None of them should, really. It isn’t fair that it worked in this case. But it did. It doesn’t mean Dumbledore is great representation, because he isn’t. Because he can’t be, if the only confirmation of his identity is a footnote. But there is an overwhelming sense of “Well people just won’t know that the character is gay unless you state it explicitly,” and yes that’s true, in all cases but this one. This is the exception that proves the rule, and it’s the exception that proves that even if you can pull this off, you shouldn’t. His orientation should have been explicitly in the book. It wasn’t. It’s annoying. It’s heteronormative as hell and honestly it’s hurtful. But everyone knows Dumbledore is gay.)

(97% of the people who watch Grindelwald’s Crimes or whatever it’s called are going to be watching it knowing Dumbledore is gay even if there isn’t so much as a wistful glance in Grindelwald’s direction on Dumbledore’s part. Doesn’t let the filmmakers off the hook, but, we should be honest about that. Gives us a chance to say, hey, look, do the actual hard work of getting representation right rather than just having it be a footnote, because this isn’t good enough. Leaving it at “Dumbledore doesn’t count because it’s not explicitly in the text” will cause a lot of people who won’t do basic extrapolation (and you know they won’t… because you know you have to tell them in the book that the character is whatever marginalized identity explicitly for them to accept it, so of course they need this one thought all the way through for them as well) to look at this situation and think, “Um, everyone knows Dumbledore is gay so this is clearly wrong.” The problem isn’t that no one knows he’s gay. The problem is that JK Rowling, because of decades of heteronormativity, didn’t think it was necessary to make it explicitly clear in the book that Dumbledore was in love with Grindelwald even though that sort of detail actually does add to the themes and character development, but it’s made explicitly clear that Madame Pince has a crush on Filch, which is not important at all. Dumbledore counts and is super useful to the representation conversation because he counts precisely as an example of how you do it wrong: yes, he’s gay, personally I think it’s generally good for the world that he’s gay, but his being gay is apparently an unimportant bit of trivia and doesn’t need to be known explicitly for readers to understand him, and that is the problem.)

All right. So. People seem to be under the impression that there won’t even be a nod to the complexities of Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s romantic and/or sexual past in this movie, which is about, I think, the war between them. If that’s the case, yeah, that’s stupid. Personally, I think what Yates means is that Grindelwald and Dumbledore aren’t going to make out onscreen in this one. Because. Well. Grindelwald is a genocidal dick and Dumbledore isn’t. So.

Personally, I think it would be pretty much impossible for JKR and Yates to have made a movie about their war without nodding to the complex history of the two characters. I do on the other hand think it’s possible to say something worded badly in an interview about your upcoming movie that you can’t spoil because it isn’t out for another several months and you weren’t planning on detailing exactly how the complex relationship shows up onscreen because you want people to pay the money to see it. I’m not saying all the people complaining should shut up and wait and pay and go see, because it’s up to you what you spend your money on. I understand if you’d rather spend it on queer creators’ stuff. That’s great. That is obviously the better choice, especially considering that it’s pretty much a given that Dumbledore/Grindelwald is going to be problematic. It’s just that I’m struggling to understand how it’s even possible for there to be not even a nod to the context of the Dumbledore/Grindelwald past here, and I’ve landed on, “He just misspoke.”

Maybe I’m naive. Maybe they really did try to get away with depicting Dumbledore’s famous defeat of Grindelwald without any clear reference to their romantic history.

What I do know for sure is that if they ever actually get around to depicting that relationship, Dumbledore and Grindelwald is… not going to be a nice story.

But I’m still looking forward to it, I have to admit.

I’m looking forward to it because: it is going to be fascinating, fitting into a pattern of tragic romances that JK Rowling has already written into the main story as well as a couple of peripheral stories, all of which are heterosexual. It is going to be a bit of a mess, too, simply because this romance is going to be at the very least tragic and it’s probably going to be way worse than just “tragic,” and, well, why is the only gay relationship depicted in the Harry Potter universe going to be a tragic, toxic sludge? And once it is depicted, there will probably be specific aspects of this relationship that will fit into typical bad tropes and stereotypes about gay men and their relationships, unless JKR manages to pull off the frankly impossible and avoid all of those entirely. Ultimately, I think the whole thing will be useful to dissect and critique. Especially because, before I knew he was gay, I thought Dumbledore was ace. And I think, given what we know for sure about Dumbledore, he could still be somewhere on the ace-spec. THIS DOESN’T EXCUSE ANYTHING. I’m not trying to say that my head canon ace Dumbledore solves the problem of his gay identity not being explicit on the page because OF COURSE IT DOESN’T. I just mean that JK Rowling does interesting and maybe a little bit problematic and maybe still sort of intriguing things with her tragic romances, as far as ace and aro people are concerned, and this relationship is going to shed more light onto what and how I think about all of that.

(But yeah, I don’t like that Johnny Depp is in it. I don’t like that JK Rowling defended keeping him in the movie. I really don’t like that.)

And as much as I’m looking forward to the inevitable critiquing, I’m also extremely wary of how this is all going to turn out, with regards to Dumbledore himself. I love that he has flaws and weaknesses, yes. I’m worried that he’s going to turn into a tragedy, romantically speaking. He is a tragedy where his family is concerned, and that’s important and needs to stay. I don’t want him to be a romantic tragedy, though, and I kind of think that’s how this story ends.

I think that because I saw Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I saw the extremely creepy, unsettling relationship between Grindelwald and Credence. I saw how Grindelwald was manipulating Credence’s obvious feelings for him. He used the word “friend.” They both used the word “friend.” But. I saw what I saw.

I was looking for it, too, because I also read Deathly Hallows. Yates, in his movie version, skimmed almost entirely over the Grindelwald/Dumbledore’s past thing, but I still remember the book. Dumbledore got all white-supremecyish as a young ‘un. Partly he was inclined towards that because of what happened to his sister.

The other part of his anti-Muggle bigotry is that he was in love with Grindelwald. And Grindelwald, it was strongly hinted at, had manipulated Dumbledore.

My prediction for their relationship onscreen is that it’s going to be extremely toxic. We know it ends horrifically. The details of it that we have so far seem to suggest that it fits into a pattern of romantic tragedies that are already explicitly detailed in the books as romantic tragedies.

There are several of them. And they’re all heterosexual and explicitly and unmistakably romances in the actual text. So. Yeah. Here are the ones I remember off the top of my head:

Snape and Lily

Super toxic. Snape is definitely in love with Lily, his best friend, but he’s also convinced that becoming a Death Eater is the only way forward for him. He wants power, being so powerless himself. He chooses that over her. Because it’s a book, of course it’s literally him who gives Voldemort the information he needs to eventually kill Lily. Snape begs for her life, which is why she’s able to die and save Harry.

As far as we know, he wasn’t in love with anyone else, ever. He maybe never had a romantic and/or sexual partner, ever. I’ve seen a lot of people criticize that for being juvenile or unlikely but, no, it fucking isn’t. It happens, it’s a thing, for a lot of different reasons. And sometimes people rarely or never feel those feelings that compel someone to seek out those relationships to begin with.

(JK Rowling seems to know that without really knowing that there’s a word for it. See Charlie Weasley for the best example. This is a periphery story, just like Dumbledore’s sexuality is. I know people like to read opportunism into her post-publication declaration of Dumbledore’s being gay, but I’ve always seen Rowling as curating a huge amount of backstory information for all of her characters. I believe her when she says she always saw Dumbledore as gay. I assume she knew he was in love with Grindelwald before she name-dropped the dude on the Chocolate Frog card in Philosopher’s Stone. I don’t think she was trying to score “ally points.” I think she was just being clueless. Which is not an excuse, but there is a difference. But apparently these things, like Dumbledore being gay and Charlie being ace, are not explicitly stated in the text because she considers those details to be trivia, irrelevant to plot and theme. That’s a pretty large problem because, first, Dumbledore being in love with Grindelwald absolutely changes how we read that history. Dumbledore being romantically in love with Grindelwald explicitly absolutely would have enriched the thematic resonance and all of the character development we were getting there with him. And second, I think most of us these days understand that separately from theme and plot, a fictional character’s identity matters. And that JK Rowling seems to not understand that, or that she seems to not understand that there’s work that authors need to do to ensure that people don’t just read white, straight, cis, able-bodied, thin, allo, and so on and so forth into every single character because they’ve been trained to do that through decades of the huge white canon, is the actual problem here. Dumbledore could easily have said to Harry, “… oh and I was also in love with him.” It would have worked, it would have been explicit, it would have been easy, and ultimately it seems that JK Rowling didn’t think it was important to make sure the readers knew what she was implying, whereas in other, hetero, quick little romance stories it’s absolutely clear that it’s a romance.)

(Honestly, though, considering how many characters of hers I can read ace into, I maybe have a little niggling about a certain author and a certain ace-spectrum and I’m not even a little bit sorry)

(If she is an ace egg, that doesn’t excuse any of this, of course. And I know we’re complaining about needing more than just our head canons. Still. It’s not often that fictional characters fit so easily into being read like this and I can’t separate it from how I interpret all of the romance, tragic and not tragic, implied and explicit, in the story.) 

On the other hand, maybe the tragedy of Snape’s first and only love compelled him to live a life of self-loathing and self-loathing–induced celibacy. Which is kind of silly, or it’s kind of Arthurian Romantic, take your pick.

I’m picking a-spec Snape because it makes more sense and is less sad, but you do you.

The Grey Lady and the Bloody Baron

We get this one in a whirlwind reveal while Hogwarts collapses around Harry and company. The Grey Lady was beautiful, narcissistic, and a thief in life. The Bloody Baron was some guy who was in love with her in life. He confessed dramatically, she was like, “Ew,” and then he murdered her. And then, overcome with remorse, he killed himself.

What sticks out to me for this one is that Rowena Ravenclaw was the Grey Lady’s mom and the broken relationship between her and her daughter was the actual tragedy here, rather than the Bloody Baron being terrible, which is kind of nice.

Merope Gaunt and Tom Riddle

Merope is a victim of constant abuse. She brews a love potion in order to catch Tom Riddle’s attention. It works. It’s a love potion. It’s rape.

They get married, have a baby, she stops feeding him love potion, maybe, Dumbledore speculates, out of remorse, or maybe she was hopeful that he might really have fallen in love with her by then.

But no. It was rape.

Voldemort had been conceived, though. Tom Riddle leaves, Merope gives birth and lets herself die from heartbreak after naming the baby after his father.

Voldemort grows up not understanding “the power of love.” Deliberately, I think. I think somehow he understood that hopeless, delusional love for his father was ultimately a horrible experience for his mother, and that a love potion had taken away his father’s ability to choose, and that both of his parents chose not to love him because it was too much. I’m open to other interpretations, because Voldie was a bad dude even when he was a little kid, but Dumbledore gives him a bit of the benefit of the doubt while he is a student at Hogwarts and I think that means he was capable of turning out differently, but, upon learning the sad, twisted story of his family, he started making some wretched, soul-mutilaty choices to try to avoid the same fate as his parents.

I think JK Rowling is saying, with these three doomed love stories, that love is painful. It’s hard. It’s almost not worth it, except, in the end, it is. Because even if you mess up and then you have to live as a regret-ghost because you did a terrible thing, or as a regret-living person because you did a terrible thing, your only other option is to cut your soul into eight pieces and your greatest ambition in life becomes trying to murder a baby, so, love people however you do that, and try not to get them killed indirectly/directly murder them.

There are also lots of non romantic, non sexual, also doomed love stories that aren’t tragic in the same way as those romantic ones are:

Harry and Lily

It all comes back to this, again and again. Lily loved her son enough to die for him, of course she did. She saved him doing it. Eventually he emulates her and dies for everyone he loves as well, to save them. Lily’s last moments are horrifying and not your typical awesome, self-sacrificing hero standing between a monster and the innocent. She’s begging, crying, powerless without a wand. She endures it anyway, dies anyway, because she loves her son, and it’s what saves the wizarding world, eventually.

Sirius and James

I think Sirius is aroace. You want him to be gay? Go for it. But I think all of the telling “not interested in the hopeful girl in the exam” and “pasted posters of Muggle women and motorcycles to annoy bigoted parents, not out of interest towards the women” hints can be read either way. And either way, Sirius loves his friends. He thinks he’s doing the right thing, making Peter be the secret keeper. When it turns out he was wrong and his mistake gets Lily and James killed, Sirius pretty much gives up on his own life. A lot of factors beyond Sirius’s control come together to land him unfairly in Azkaban, but those factors that he can control he misuses out of rage and grief.

When he escapes, he does a lot of sulking and almost ruins his newfound relationship with his godson because he won’t grow up and be responsible. It’s very understandable. The murder of his best friend ruined his life. Still, it’s clear, made clear all the time, every time Sirius talks about James, that having James in his life makes it worth living for Sirius, who had been miserable right up until he met and was accepted by James on the train. Love is messy and Sirius doesn’t navigate it as gracefully as he could have, but ultimately it’s his core, making him different in all the ways that matter from his evil cousin as she kills him.

Harry and Hedwig

I’m not over this.

Harry and Dobby

I’m not over this either.

What Harry keeps learning, every time someone dies, is that love is awful. But worth it anyway. Knowing that you might very well lose the people you love doesn’t mean shutting yourself off from them and choosing not to love.

But do note that in the romances, Snape doesn’t love again, ever. The Bloody Baron certainly doesn’t. Merope couldn’t even love her son after Tom left. Tragedies, the lot of them.

So… what’s going to happen to Dumbledore, after Grindelwald?

Dumbledore and Grindelwald

I’m convinced we’re going to see this onscreen. And here’s how I think it will go.

They probably are going to have a whirlwind romance. It might be cute. For a bit. But they start feeding off of each other’s bigotry, and eventually it will become clear that Grindelwald is manipulating Dumbledore’s feelings for him in a way that is disturbing but not as disturbing as the Credence thing because at least here they’re the same age and neither of them are troubled, abused teenage boys.

Dumbledore cuts off their relationship when he realizes that he doesn’t actually want to be an “Enslave the Muggles” kind of guy. Or is that why he cuts it off?

Is it actually only when Arianna almost kills them all, and when one of them, accidentally, maybe, kills her, that Dumbledore ends it?

And then Dumbledore is idle. He won’t confront Grindelwald as he begins his atrocities, because he is terrified that Grindelwald will confirm that it was Dumbledore’s spell that killed his own sister. Probably also because of all of the complex romantic/sexual feelings, too.

When I was a kid and had no idea that asexuality was a thing, I still always picked up on and paid special attention to characters that didn’t have romances. Dumbledore was an old guy, unmarried. It seemed right to me, that he should be unmarried. At some point I thought to myself, “I just don’t think he feels that way about people, and that’s why he never got married.”

And then JK Rowling said he was gay.

I think Dumbledore can be a-spec too. Maybe the type of feelings he has for Grindelwald are rare or almost absent, and for him they strike only once. Because while it’s possible that post-Grindelwald Dumbledore did some dating and romance and stuff (which he could still have done even if he is actually some sort of ace and/or aro), I kind of sort of a lot think he absolutely didn’t. Maybe it’s because he usually doesn’t think of people in romantic and sexual ways, like I thought when I was a kid.

Or, maybe, and I think this is the winner here, it’s because it fits into the pattern those other tragic romances all fit into and he fell in love young with a guy who turned out to be manipulative on the one hand and genocidal on the other and they got into a fight that killed his sister, and as punishment for himself, he chose to never love again. Something like my interpretation of Voldemort, but much less extreme. He chose to never pursue romantic love again, because he didn’t consider himself worthy of it.

That’s what I’m expecting, anyway.

Based on all the Harry Potter I’ve consumed throughout the years, I think I’ve picked up on Rowling’s Harry Potter love and tragic love and tragic romantic love patterns. As much as I think she’s kind of writing her way around the a-specs, I think she really does love a tragic romance where it goes bad and the one partner decides never to do it again maybe because they’re broken now, and maybe it’s because they’re still trying to grapple with the after-effects, and maybe it’s because they only feel those things rarely and it just doesn’t happen again for them. All of that is there, possible, to read into these romances. When we finally get Dumbledore and Grindelwald it will probably be there too.

There’s a lot to say about this story, the way I’m expecting it to happen. There’s good stuff there, maybe, and there’s some problematic stuff as well. Maybe it will happen completely differently. Maybe Dumbledore did love other men afterwards and it was never discussed because it wasn’t relevant to the plot but, like, pepperup potion is though. And also firecrabs. And flobberworms. And Sir Cadogan. THERE IS A HINT AT A ROMANCE BETWEEN MADAME PINCE AND FILCH. SO.

Whatever happens, it’s kind of crucial that Dumbledore is stated to be gay, and that this statement comes separately from his complicated and very likely toxic relationship with Grindelwald. Because the Dumbledore/Grindelwald love story is a tragedy, and Dumbledore being gay is not a tragedy.

I’m looking forward to analyzing this love story, critiquing it, wondering about what went wrong and what could have been better and what, hopefully, works about the portrayal of this relationship. But Dumbledore’s identity should be its own thing, not only onscreen tied to a toxic romance. That I can say right now, without waiting to see any of the movies or waiting to see how the relationship itself is portrayed.

I hope Yates apologizes to Rowling about that interview, btw. Also I hope both of them do the thing, or that they have done it already, because it honestly isn’t that much to ask for. And I hope we all keep reading and recommending stories that are explicitly about queer people and those that are written by queer authors, because that is always a good thing. This tag contains all the ones I read last year. So far, this year, I’ve read Let’s Talk About Love which has a biromantic asexual protagonist, and I’m reading Beneath the Sugar Sky of the Wayward Children series which features an ensemble that includes a trans boy, an ace girl, and maybe the lesbian girl shows up again. I’m only halfway through but I’m hopeful because she’s my favourite.

In Favour of the Babe Article

Katie Way, the author of the Babe article about “Grace” and Aziz Ansari, is currently being dogpiled on Twitter for a couple of reasons. Mainly because she wrote the article, in huge part because she sent a blistering email insulting journalist Ashleigh Banfield, and maybe a little bit because her piece was sort of amateurish and potentially caused unnecessary damage to Grace, its subject.

I read the email to Banfield and found it a little bit cringey, because Way does attack Banfield for her age and makeup and for being irrelevant, which is untrue (and is also the problem), but I thought her rage was justified. Banfield, wagging her pen at the camera, goes on and on speaking directly to Grace and tells her that she should have this, should have that, and now she’s damaged the #MeToo movement by being a not-good-enough victim of an experience that wasn’t quite traumatic enough to qualify it as worthy of discussion at all. If Way’s email had omitted all of the unnecessary attacks on appearance and age, and had admitted that Banfield’s relevance is a huge problem if she’s going on TV and declaring that a woman sharing her story about being coerced is somehow harmful to the movement, then it would have been perfect.

Not “professional” or anything. Not “respectable.” But perfect. Right now is a time for anger, and it’s regrettable that this anger is sometimes directed at older women, but, hey, maybe don’t victim blame. CC Margaret Atwood.

Anyway, Banfield said this in response: “The reason I want to share that is because, if you truly believe in the #MeToo movement, if you truly believe in women’s rights, if you truly believe in feminism, the last thing you should do is attack someone in an ad hominem way for [her] age or [her] highlights or [her] lipstick because it is the most hypocritical thing a woman who says she supports the women’s movement could ever do, and that’s the caliber of the woman who was given all of this power, and was able to wield this power.”

Noooooooope. Slightly more hypocritical, I humbly think, is the victim blaming. Is the failure to understand that sometimes a woman can’t just leave, sometimes she feels unable to just say outright in harsh language what she thinks, because she’s trying to minimize and not hurt the guy’s feelings, which she has been socialized to do, and he has been socialized to pursue, pursue, pursue, you know, because of the misogynistic culture we live in that allows Trump to be elected president.

In the case of the Babe story, there was more than a ten year age difference between Ansari and Grace, and Ansari is famous and respected and is kind of known for being one of those “feminist” men. Also, she liked him. She probably wanted to have sex with him, maybe not that night, or maybe that night, if he hadn’t turned her off by his hearing “I don’t want you to force me because I’ll hate you,” as an invitation to KEEP GOING.

One more thing on the older feminist/younger feminist divide that is apparently happening here, in this piece Tracy Loxley concludes with, “If there’s one thing I’ve come to dislike about where #MeToo has gone, and the backlash that has emerged, it’s the disconnect between younger women, and those of us who are middle-aged and older. In learning more about Banfield’s history, I can see she sees #MeToo as a godsend, and sees Way and her subject as ungrateful whiners, not to mention a historical blind spot to the gains women before us have won. To us old ladies, Grace’s apparent helplessness has struck a chord, in that she seemed so disempowered to tell her possibly receptive date what she wanted. Then again, it also read like the story of a girl who didn’t know what she wanted.”

I’m not entirely sure what this… means. Rather, I know what it means but I don’t know what I’m supposed to take away from it, apart from frustration. I’ll admit that some of us millennials could sometimes word our thoughts better to avoid sounding dismissive of the work older women have done to create the climate we have now where we can even discuss these things. But I think most of us understand that we’ve come a long way. Do we need to prelude every statement of “We have much further to go,” with, “Not to take anything away from the progress of the past, but…”?

For my part I’m horrified by the apparent inability of some of these women to understand that Grace was trying to communicate what she wanted. Multiple times, either in words or by getting up and walking away, she communicated that she wanted to slow down and probably stop. Not once does Ansari ask if what he’s doing is OK, if she wants to keep going. Where is these women’s shrewd focus on that communication failure? Why characterize him as “possibly receptive” when he hears, “Whoa, let’s chill,” to mean, “keep going”? The inability to understand that if Grace appears to be “a girl who didn’t know what she wanted,” it’s because she liked the guy, respected him, wanted to have sex with him at some point if not that night, and she had to endure him refusing to pay attention to her clear signals, clear even though she tampered down on them to spare his feelings, or her own. Millennials are just asking that the burden of this communication not solely be placed on women. It shouldn’t be too much to ask.

Banfield may be all about #MeToo as a movement SOLELY about rape and other, more minor sexual assaults and harassment, as long as those more minor things are career-stifling, but her inability to acknowledge that being coerced into sex during a date is a huge, very common problem that women who date men have is, in my opinion, an incredible disappointment. Liking someone and having them not take you at your word, not listen to you when you say you want to slow down, ignoring your body-language cues of discomfort (like REPEATEDLY PULLING YOUR HAND AWAY FROM HIS DICK), is dehumanizing. Maybe it doesn’t have a direct effect on a woman’s career but it’s a problem. It needs to be discussed, because, though this sort of thing is comparatively minor, it happens all the time.

This is why I’m glad that Way’s piece exists. I’ve been seething all week, but I’m glad. I’ve muted SO MANY men and women who think that a woman going home with a man means she is legally obligated to have sex with him and legally obligated to never ever complain about his, at best, lack of consideration for her. I’ve muted so many victim blamers and slut shamers, but there are always ten more to pop up like freaking Whack-A-Mole. I’m still glad this happened. If #MeToo didn’t include this story, if we decided as feminists to only focus on instances where consent was clearly absent, we wouldn’t be pushing forward towards a brighter, kinder future for everyone to enjoy however they want to.

This from Laurie Penny goes into how this story AND the backlash that’s been heartily fueled by it push #MeToo forward into fighting for sexual liberation for EVERYONE. Sexual liberation for women requires access to contraception and abortion, AS WELL AS women feeling as though they can go on a date with a guy, go to his house, even, and he’ll respect them and their boundaries. If women are afraid of their potential partners, they aren’t sexually liberated. This isn’t new, not at all. Penny wrote this in September of last year, and there have been plenty of others like it before. But in the wake of the Babe piece, there are more pieces from more sources more clearly connecting that the burden of communication and ensuring consent are not only women’s responsibility is an essential tenet of feminism. “This is not an anti-sex movement gone off the rails. It is a pro-sex movement just laying the tracks,” from this by James Hamblin. “It may feel like the rules shifted overnight, and what your dad called the thrill of the chase is now what some people are calling assault. Unfortunately, no one — even plenty of men who call themselves feminists — wanted to listen to feminist women themselves. We tried to warn you. We wish you’d listened, too,” from this by Lindy West. “If #MeToo somehow brings about a world in which sex has to be excellent and much-wanted in order to happen at all, bring on the puritan dystopia,” from this by Sady Doyle.

The one thing I disagree with in Penny’s piece and in others that have highlighted that requiring men to pay more attention to their partners is an important part of this new women’s movement are the complaints about Way’s piece. On the one hand, I do agree that it needed some trimming. The wine part at the beginning just doesn’t need to be there, for example. On the other hand, the lurid play-by-play that some suggest lacks integrity for a sexual assault piece, I think may actually be essential here. I think it should have been written and edited more carefully, definitely, but even in some pieces that begin by criticizing this aspect of the reporting, the author ends up pulling details from the play-by-play to explain why and how this encounter is coercive and where there is nuance and why it is important to discuss it. It’s possible that with a more experienced and tactful writer the same thing would have been achieved but without leaving Grace as exposed as she’s been, but, I doubt it. I think this story has made so many people angry because it’s a very common experience, and now plenty of men are panicking that they, too, will be held to account for coercing or trying to coerce women. No matter how tactfully the story was told, it would have caused the same backlash. I think, anyway.

A bit more on the backlash:

Here is Katie Way’s pinned tweet.

Read through the responses, if you can stomach it. Her crime is being rude to a prominent journalist, which I’m absolutely certain 100% of the people screaming at her or even simply casually mocking her have done. There are also a couple of tweets from me, at the grossest of people I saw there, just saying “fuck you” but with extra vowels. I wish I could have been more eloquent, but I was mad. I was also not brave enough to reply directly in praise of the part of her email about Banfield that I liked. I was the only dissenting voice, apart from two people who liked this article she wrote on prison life, and one person telling her the dogpiling would eventually pass.

Twitter is a gross place.

We also did a thread, here:

jumping off of a Nora Reed thread on how they think Way’s email kind of rocks because it shows sexual assault survivors that their rage at the frankly disgusting victim blaming Banfield and other prominent, older women have done is shared. Survivors whose stories resemble Grace’s aren’t alone. Katie Way is prepared to, somewhat clumsily, sure, lash out on their behalf. That, too, is why Way’s original piece is so important. A lot of people have had this experience. For many of them, Grace’s date with Ansari is how their rape started. After the piece, many more people went through their memories of uncomfortable, possibly traumatic sexual encounters, and realized that they had been coerced and/or raped. And they aren’t alone. And it isn’t right. Just because what Ansari did wasn’t AS BAD as what plenty of other men have done, it’s not to be dismissed as “revenge porn” or “attention whoreing.” It’s integral for anyone who is interested in having sex without hurting anyone to see stories like this, to learn from them. Grace liked Ansari, I’ve said before, and I’ll repeat. She probably wanted to have sex with him. Instead, she went home crying and traumatized. We need to dissect encounters like this to begin to change the culture.

I am all about reaching out to older woman and for celebrating all that they have accomplished with fewer resources, but right now what I’m seeing is a 22-year-old woman whose career is just beginning being shouted down from all corners, even though her piece has been a jumping off point to discuss the central point of having a feminist movement at all. There will always be time for measured critiques of how she wrote the piece and why she wrote it and why she wrote that email, but right now, I’m on her side.

Anne Episode Recap: Tightly Knotted to a Similar String

This episode opens with the grossest spelling bee ever.

The horrible, horrible teacher is setting words for the teams (girls vs boys, because of course) while staring at Prissy. The words he chooses start with stuff like “gorgeous” and “ravishing” and then “callous” and “cruel” (because she isn’t simpering, and is instead looking distinctly uncomfortable), and then it’s “contrite” and, ugh, “engagement,” which she perks up about.

Uggggggh.

It finally ends because Gilbert lets Anne win. Later in the show, his father is dying, she figures it out, and feels some sympathy.

Also, she gets her period.

She screams and yells things about it that I want to scream and yell about it also every month. Marilla gets all affectionate. She and Rachel have a nice conversation about menstruation and Anne and the girls do the same. It’s nice. Rare, I think, for media to show women talking long enough to get around to discussing experiences they have that don’t revolve around men.

Matthew buys Anne her dress, from a lady who is apparently the girl he was *supposed to end up with* if only *tragedy* hadn’t struck and made him, and Marilla, apparently, *tragically unwed forever.*

I don’t want to complain too much because there are allo people who remain single and their experiences and feelings about them matter also. There are probably also lots of ace and/or aro people who have relationship woes of various kinds. I just think it’s kind of sad. I wish Matthew (and probably Marilla) didn’t have to be portrayed as such tragic figures just because they don’t have romance and/or sex.

This story line hasn’t progressed, though, so who knows what I’ll think about it later.

Anne and Diana accidentally get drunk, then Mrs. Barry declares that they can never associate with each other again, and it is very dramatic. Anne and Diana declare their love for one another and then Anne’s all happy because she gets to wear her puffy-sleeved dress to church, the end.

Mostly, I liked it. I like that Anne gets to act moody and ridiculous like a teenager would. Rare, refreshing, cleansing, etc.

Anne Episode Recap: An Inward Treasure Born

(changing up the featured image because of this)

All right so:

People determined to excuse Aziz Ansari because the woman he was super aggressive towards didn’t just leave the apartment entirely or say explicitly “no” or “stop” was annoying today. Based on the discussions I saw about it I was expecting it to be much grayer than it was when I actually read it. I was thinking, “Really, guys? You think she wasn’t being clear enough?”

There was also some Margaret Atwood nonsense. She wrote an op-ed called “Am I a Bad Feminist?” and the answer is yes. She really is, if indeed she’s a feminist at all. Her shtick is calmly, gently restating over and over that feminism makes us all want to insist that women are angels, victims always, forever blameless.

  1. No.
  2. To me, feminism is the radical notion that a woman can be flawed and complicated and that human experiences can be gray and SHE SHOULD STILL HAVE HER BASIC HUMANITY RESPECTED.
  3. I honestly thought, until recently, that was kind of what Atwood meant, to a certain extent. But apparently no.
  4. To Atwood, “women aren’t angels” means “we need to always always always mistrust sexual misconduct allegations especially if they’re against well-respected and powerful men I like. Because women aren’t angels.”
  5. (Nobody is saying we need to instantly convict every person accused of sexual misconduct. Nobody. NOBODY IS SAYING THAT.)
  6. (False accusations are rare.)
  7. (Rapists and sexual harassers never facing any consequences whatsoever for their actions is PRETTY COMMON.)
  8. (That NEEDS TO CHANGE.)
  9. (We can start by getting rid of judges who excuse rape because of what the victim was wearing or because there was previous flirtation or because “she didn’t look like a thirteen-year-old.”)
  10. (Holding more terrible men accountable for their actions is PROBABLY NOT GOING TO HURT ANYONE WHO ISN’T A TERRIBLE MAN.)
  11. Fuck you, Atwood.
  12. Ten bucks several Atwood controversies down the line is going to be one that is her going full TERF. I’m calling it now.

Also the thing she retweeted the other day, apart from the Sullivan shit piece, was a shit piece about how #metoo goes too far in that workplace flirtation can be hot.

There’s a little paragraph that’s like, “Straight women like when men are sexually aggressive because it confirms our desirability and can be thrilling and unexpected.”

OK so kudos to this writer for discovering what kinks are.

She should have followed through with her research to determine that acting on those kinks with a partner still requires consent if it’s being done, like, right.

I find it hard to believe that – look, I don’t care how kinky you are. You aren’t always, in every context, with any potential partner, up for being grabbed and kissed, or even just flirted with. Which is where the millennial feminist affirmations of “FUCKING ASK” or “enthusiastic consent” come in. It should not be that hard to understand that none of us are asking you to not have your romance and your sexy funtimes the way you like them. And MAYBE, a conversation about harassment and assault, particularly where women are just trying to go to work and do their jobs, is NOT THE PLACE FOR YOU TO SHOW UP AND SCREAM INTO THE VOID THAT YOU LIKE FLIRTING.

Nobody cares. Do your thing. Do it consensually. THAT ISN’T WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT, BRENDA.

I’m finding it legitimately exhausting that the backlash so far has been people itching to do a bad take looking at a movement revolting against the silencing and horrific sexual harassment and assault of women in the workplace and going, “But, but, but, how will we do romance, then?”

THAT. ISN’T. ROMANCE.

IT ISN’T ROMANCE.

THAT YOU JUMP SO QUICKLY TO EQUATING IT TO ROMANCE IS SCARY AND AWFUL.

STOP.

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK

So on this episode of Anne, a pastor shows up and says Anne doesn’t need to go to school anyway because she can just stay at home and learn how to be a wife, and then Marilla gets PISSED and yells at Matthew, who basically just asks if she’s OK, “Now, is there anything I can bake or clean or mend or fetch for you?” before storming off, and then when Billy jokes that “girls are so useless” and they should “stay in the kitchen” and that they should “leave the men to their work” Anne screams, “Why don’t you give me that hammer and I’ll finish the job myself if YOU’RE too busy being a bully to GET IT DONE?” And then all the men laugh.

Last episode I thought Ruby and Josie smiling in a rather shocked way meant that they admired Anne for smacking Gilbert with the slate, but apparently I was wrong. This time, I’ll say I guess it’s possible that the men think Anne is just being silly, but it still plays to me as though they thought it was legit great that she screamed that at him.

When it comes to Ruby (and Josie, probably, but she isn’t here this episode), I still think she does admire Anne. I think she just understands that Anne’s behaviour and personality and orphan status make her stick out, and that it’s socially unacceptable to be seen publicly liking her.

I’m going to hold onto that because the smiling/awe from last time really, really doesn’t make sense to me as the girls laughing at Anne’s expense. Do they not know what to make of it? Are they shaken to their cores? Yes. You’re not supposed to loudly, violently, publicly rebuff Gilbert Blythe. But Anne did. Upon further reflection they decide to uphold status quo and keep treating her badly because she’s too dramatic for their delicate sensibilities (or so they’ve been taught).

So apart from the screaming, this episode was fairly dramatic in other sort of overblown ways. Anne gets to be a hero and I like it, but it is kind of out there. I prefer the budding friendship with Ruby. I also like the moments she gets with Gerry, who keeps hinting that he really wants to go to school and be educated but he doesn’t have that opportunity. My prediction is that Anne will lobby for him to go to school at some point, or that she’ll teach him herself, or both.

Well that’s all. Hopefully news won’t be as aggravating next time I recap an episode, or, if it is, hopefully Anne will scream at someone again because it’s so rare to see girls and women in media fully let loose with their rage. It’s CLEANSING, I say.

Anne Recap: But What Is So Headstrong as Youth?

WELP.

This one is a winner. Truly and completely a winner.

Finally, Anne is settled at Green Gables so she goes to school and it’s THE BEST.

While at school she learns the complicated politics of being friends with girls and enemies with boys and also insinuates that Prissy Andrews is fucking the teacher OOPS.

There’s a scene in which her new girlfriends are enthralled and giggling listening to her explain sex without having her even having the faintest clue that sex is what she’s describing, and it starts off as hilarious (ANNE SHIRLEY IS TALKING ABOUT SEX!!!) but then it gets dark because now she’s describing the alcoholic abuser she lived with and all the times she listened to him rape his wife without really understanding that that’s what she was listening to. So. Oops.

The girls are scandalized – not because it’s rape, but because of Anne’s impossible-now-to-ignore proximity to sex and alcohol, because it’s 1908, of course.

Parallel to this is Marilla, joining a progressive mothers’ group.

MARILLA. JOINS. A. PROGRESSIVE. MOTHERS’. GROUP.

THEY DISCUSS FEMINISM.

Then Rachel gets mad at her for “being a suffragette.”

Marilla: There was a lot of civilized talk about women’s education social reforms.

Rachel: Next you’ll be telling me you all burnt your corsets and danced naked in front of town hall!

Marilla: We ran out of time.

marillarachel

Oh and also Matthew: I reckon every new idea was modern once… until it wasn’t.

I love Matthew.

Marilla and Rachel are snapping at each other as Rachel is leaving but then Anne bursts in and congratulates them for being such good friends for so long and then they sort of forgive each other. Aww.

But Marilla gets kicked out of the progressive mothers’ group because of Anne’s Prissy Andrews teacher-fucking insinuations, as Mrs. Andrews is kind of one of their leaders. But near the end Marilla goes to visit Mrs. Andrews and declares that it isn’t Anne’s fault that she’s witnessed so much, and, also, too bad progressive parenting doesn’t have any room for compassion. Rather than looking scandalized and obstinate, Mrs. Andrews appears thoughtful.

So. I hope Marilla gets to be in the progressive mothers’ group again and I hope she stays there forever.

Meanwhile pedophile teacher is the actual one at fault and it seems pretty clear that this show is going to hold him to account, which is delicious.

Oh, and Gilbert shows up.

He saves Anne in the woods, she gets told off because Ruby likes Gilbert so she isn’t allowed to talk to him, she promises not to.

All this while, by the way, Diana has been working hard trying to make sure Anne can be part of the group and she is a goddess. She is amazing. I love her so much.

Making Diana’s job harder and perhaps ensuring that Anne can’t be friends with these girls is the fact that Gilbert thinks Anne is cute, and he’s popular, and he’s not used to rejection, so he persists. And finally, at his lowest, bewildered that she’s determined to ignore him (BECAUSE SHE WANTS FEMALE FRIENDS!!!) he does that thing where he pulls her braid and calls her “Carrots.”

And she cracks her chalkboard over his head. Screaming, “I’M NOT TALKING TO YOU.”

And then Ruby and Tillie and Moody stare at her in awe.

ruby

Even Josie is impressed.

josie

I think… I think Josie might actually be a little bit in love with Anne in this version?

Maybe she’s actually of the opinion that Anne is ridiculous and is laughing at her, but as of the end of this episode, to me, this is reading as admiration. Which is cool, because I think we need more adaptations where female characters who supposedly hate each other in the original are just going to be friends in the new version. Why not?

Rebecca where the narrator and Mrs. Danvers become BFFs, for example? Yeah. I want that. Would it change the entire story? Yes. Good.

In this case Josie was always more of a Kate Sanders to Anne’s Lizzie McGuire, which makes the possibility of their friendship make even more sense.

I’m hopeful.

ANNE SHIRLEY HAS A VERY BAD TEMPER.

YES.

The episode ends with Anne running into Marilla’s arms and sobbing that she’s never going back to school.

This was perfection. LM Montgomery would be fucking proud.

I’m sorry I’m swearing while talking about an Anne of Green Gables adaptation but MARILLA IS IN A FEMINIST GROUP NOW AND ANNE HAS JUST BECOME THE ENTIRE CLASS’S HEROINE FOR REFUSING TO INDULGE GILBERT’S NONSENSE AND WALKING OUT ON THE PEDOPHILE TEACHER. SO.

Oh hey it’s the 1985 version AND the 2017 version.

What I think I’m also really liking about this episode as opposed to the others so far is that while everything I said last time about how Anne was always great because she just does what she does and says what she says without worrying about judgement, in this episode, she’s completely worried about judgement.

That is, she’s struggling to tamper down on her big personality in order to have friends and succeed. I have to assume, because it happens in the novel, that she ultimately finds a balance between being who she is and thinking about others. As in, there are some moments where she shouldn’t just talk. Like when she’s basically slandering Prissy Andrews. That’s not good. But sometimes she should absolutely be who she is and not worry about societal norms, like when Gilbert is being mean and the pedophile teacher is being misogynistic and unfair. In order to get through life without being exiled or hurting people you have to care a little bit about fitting in with the people who matter to you, but you do have to find ways to be true to yourself.

So, yes, she’s like if a manic pixie dream girl were actually written to be a human being. Which is awesome.