Strike: The Cuckoo’s Calling

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

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

lula landry

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks.

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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.

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.

Anne Recap: I Am No Bird, and No Net Ensnares Me

OK, first of all, these episode titles are unreal.

Secondly, that Anne official image I’m using as my header is unreal. I always feel like she’s looking straight into the depths of my soul.

As much as I think both of these things are super pretty but also a little much, it’s still kind of amazing that, as I said somewhere in the episode 1 recap, if Anne Shirley was real she would very much approve of this adaptation.

As far as the second episode goes, though, I thought most of it was a little “meh.” Approximately 3/4 of it is mostly unnecessary – Anne has taken the train back to Halifax but didn’t return to the asylum like she was supposed to and is instead trying to make her own life as a thirteen-year-old with no money and no adult.

Which is, to recycle the phrase, a little much.

Matthew finds her at a train station selling poetry readings so she can get to… New Brunswick? I can’t remember. She yells at him about how if she goes back with him like he wants, her place at Green Gables will always be precarious and that’s unfair. I’m with her, honestly, but I think a heartfelt conversation between her and Marilla would have sufficed instead of this lengthy adventure.

Anyway. Matthew calls her his daughter spontaneously, shocking himself and Anne, and so she chooses to go with him. I know Matthew likes her right away but I’m a little skeptical that he’s already at the point of spontaneously referring to her as his daughter but I’m OK to go with it because portrayals of adoption are rare and often are in fact horror movies.

I call this whole thing unnecessary because in the book, the brooch does go missing and Marilla does force Anne to confess and then punishes her, but she punishes her by not letting her go to picnics.

Sending her back to the asylum and then freaking out for most of an episode out of regret and fear of what might have gone wrong while Matthew is away fetching her back is A LITTLE MUCH. It’s a much bigger mistake. It’s only sort of forgivable because Marilla hasn’t bonded completely with Anne yet, but even still, what she does is pretty cruel.

But I am willing to forgive the show for this because it leads to a very good final five or so minutes.

Before that, Anne has to be told by like ten different people that Marilla was extremely worried about her, and she still doesn’t believe it because Marilla is against showing her feelings. It was kind of tiring, but on the other hand I like that the focus is on the difference between “Shout it from the rooftops” Anne and “Never say it ever” Marilla. I’m looking forward to this continuing.

And then she and Marilla have a nice conversation in the nice woods.

And finally, Marilla and Matthew ask Anne if she would like to take their name, so she signs their family bible as “Anne Shirley Cuthbert” but keeps making mistakes and she wants to add “Cordelia” in there as well and although I can’t even begin to explain how amazing this moment is, I’m still going to just state for the record: I was delighted and I still am. Anne is the best. Amybeth McNulty who plays her is the best.

Anne Shirley (or, apparently, now: Anne Shirley Cuthbert) is like if a manic pixie dream girl were written well. Which – to be fair – sometimes they kind of are. I think the reason she works where others are grating and kind of insulting is that the whole thing is her own story. She is open and honest about every single one of her feelings and people are confounded by her and in awe of her. People are always trying to get her to contain herself, but she doesn’t. She is unrepentantly Anne of Green Gables.

As a young girl who kept everything to herself, I really loved Anne for being unashamed and unafraid of externalizing the wonder she feels just from existing.

Aaaaand now that I’ve fully remembered why I love this story hopefully I continue to love this version. Considering a flawless five final minutes saved an entire episode for me, I probably will.

Anne Episode Recap: Your Will Shall Decide Your Destiny

In 2017 I fell disastrously out of love with two popular shows, Game of Thrones and Stranger ThingsSo to start 2018 off better, I decided to watch Anne on Netflix. I’m going to watch it properly, slowly, and recap each of its seven episodes because I might like it a lot. Or I might not. It’ll be fun to do this with something that I’m not convinced about yet so I don’t end up feeling betrayed.

Anne is based on Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery, and I’m mostly familiar with this animated version of the story:

Which is delightful.

Also the musical version:

Which is also delightful.

So I think my main problem will be that this new Netflix show seems so far to be the dark and gritty reboot of Anne of Green Gables.

On the one hand, Anne Shirley, whose picture is the dictionary definition for both “precocious” and “melodramatic,” would absolutely love this version of her story, if she were real and not a fictional character in a children’s novel. She’s enthralled by gothic romance and is just a little bit quixotic. She’d love her story to be told with more excessive darkness than it usually is.

On the other hand. It’s still a children’s story. Do we really need the scene where one of Anne’s previous “foster fathers” whips her in the front yard? Do we really need the scene where a group of girls dangle a dead mouse in front of Anne and basically threaten to murder her?

No, I’m going to say.

But that’s just me.

Other than that, I really like it so far. My two worries for the upcoming episodes are as follows:

  1. Now that Anne’s (almost) situated at Green Gables, we shouldn’t need anymore harrowing examples of how difficult life would be for an orphan in the Maritimes in the early 1900s. But I suspect they’ll grittify other things to make up for it, and I don’t know how I’m going to feel about it.
  2. If they make Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert into tragic figures just because they’re single and childless I might get more than a little mad. First, they aren’t childless anymore because Anne, and second, if they had done what people are “supposed” to do and settled into heteronormative relationships, then Anne would be stuck with Mrs. Byrd or worse, because they probably wouldn’t have had a need to adopt her. Third, it doesn’t need to be portrayed as a tragedy just because it’s not the usual depiction of what a “happy” 60-something’s life should look like.

To be fair on that second point, Marilla does, at one point in the novel, think wistfully about the beau she had when she was young. Once. She can do that once, and she can be anxious about aging without someone to eventually care for her (again, until Anne is cemented there) and still be more or less fine with her life choices. Please.

And on the plus side:

The Mrs. Lynde apology was amazing. The song from the musical is probably my favourite from that show:

“Just make my headstone commonplace. And print my name in lowercase. Without an “e.” Just… leave a… space.”

Amazing.

And yet this show’s version manages to be just as good, without there even being a song!

In this episode, we covered:

  • being picked up by a bewildered Matthew at the train station and waxing poetic about a cherry tree;
  • crying a lot;
  • being overly dramatic about how “ugly” she is;
  • being insulted by, insulting, and apologizing to Mrs Lynde;
  • Marilla’s constant attempts to be meaner than she is and to not laugh out loud;
  • being rude to the hired French boy, who is likely unique to this adaptation;
  • meeting the Barrys and pledging eternal love and friendship to Diana;
  • and being accused of stealing Marilla’s broach and being sent away.

There’s still green hair, drunk Diana, Gilbert in his entirety, and other school drama to get to.

Well. So far I’m into it.

“Funny” Anguish, Female Exceptionalism, and Stranger Things 2

Spoilers. Large ones.

Last time I watched an entire season of Stranger Things in a short amount of time, I wrote this thing about the weird trope of young women having sex while someone they’re responsible for in some way dies, or, almost dies. I called it “girls murdering people by having sex” and in this season, Nancy literally tells Steve that they killed Barb. So. I’m right.

This time around, I would like to not be insightful and instead complain about the two things that bothered me. First, the minor thing: the cat’s death.

As soon as they introduced that cat I knew she was going to die. As soon as they introduced Dart I knew he was going to kill her. What I have a problem with (apart from transparent AF storytelling) is more how the show reacts to the death of the cat than the actual death of the cat.

dustin and momdustin's mom

Dustin tells his mom that far away neighbours spotted the cat and sends her off to look. She’s crying, anguished, worried sick, and because of how every other scene between Dustin and Mom-Dustin has played, this too looks like it’s supposed to be funny. Maybe it’s because I’m me, but I don’t actually see anything funny about this. Even if Mom-Dustin never finds out how her cat died, she’ll be left imagining the worst. She’ll never have closure. And knowing how her cat died, while providing closure, sure, will never relieve the sorrow she’ll always feel that her cat died that way, even if she has a new one.

Even if you’re not inclined to sympathize with people feeling reasonable amounts of attachment to their pets or feeling a reasonable amount of worry for them, you do have to note that aspects of Mom-Dustin’s character are also problematic here. She’s an older, single woman, with a cat. She’s adorable, generously affectionate, and in a season filled with bigger dudes, she’s pretty much the biggest woman present (and, she’s, like, not that big). Depicting her worry and sorrow like this, like it’s something to laugh at (and I’m not going to give the show the benefit of the doubt here; again, every other scene between her and her son is played for laughs), is cruel. Ugh.

It would probably have been better if there had been a point to the Dart subplot apart from padding up the run-time, and giving Dustin something to do that isn’t just him being a little shit (and whether what he does with Dart, up to and including facilitating his friends’ escape with candy, is him not being a little shit is debatable). It adds nothing. Learning that Dart feels some amount of empathy or childhood nostalgia is useless if all that comes of it is we watch him die next to a chocolate bar wrapper and are… supposed… to feel… sad? This isn’t nuance added, it’s just, there. Just a little mini adventure in the interest of selling chocolate bars. At least the cringey KFC part was legitimately sad, and not just because four helpless actors were contractually obligated to pretend to enjoy KFC.

And then there’s that female exceptionalism.

I didn’t notice it when I first watched the first season, but then reading this was eye-opening. Eleven is the only girl in a group of four boys and the reality is, she’s only allowed to be there because she’s quirky, quiet, and deadly. That was made very clear in this new season with the addition of Max.

Max’s first appearance concerned me because it seemed like it was carrying on the female exceptionalism of season one Eleven. Max is angry, lashes out, flips off her step brother, and is really good at video games. Everything seemed to be leading up to that dreaded “she’s not like other girls” thing that goes unspoken – but, actually, it gets spoken in Season 2.

I forget what he calls them, but Steve has come up with two categories in which to place all girls ever – it’s fine though, because the only important thing about it is that when Dustin asks, “So which is Nancy?” Steve’s response is, “Nancy is different.”

Uuuuuuuuugh.

Unlike with Mom-Dustin, here, I’m willing to give the show the benefit of the doubt. Steve and Dustin’s whole conversation about how to “get girls” or whatever is absolutely ridiculous, and I think what it’s really trying to get across is not that Max and Nancy are somehow different, but instead that these two boys have a flawed and uninformed outlook on one half of the population. At least, that’s how I’m going to take it, to preserve my peace of mind.

It doesn’t hurt that when Max actually does join their group, she acts like a regular person and not a brooding, intriguing, aloof mystery. She has fun trick-or-treating and joking around, is curious, and wants to be included in whatever the little group is doing. She’s honestly more real than Bev Marsh is in this year’s It, and, minus all of the rejection and rudeness she endures (which I have to talk about in a second), Max is a lot more like what Bev should have been. Until near the end, anyway.

trick or treating

Max starts out as a good answer to the female exceptionalism of season one because what happens when she joins the group is utter dickishness. Dustin and Lucas are both happy at first but start competing for her attention. Mike is pissed because he thinks she’s there to replace Eleven. Eleven is pissed because she thinks she’s there to replace Eleven.

My girl. My boy. You can have more than one girl in your group.

Dustin decides that Max likes Lucas better than him and gets all sad about it. Unlike Ben Hanscom who endures Bev’s crush on not him with grace, Dustin becomes prickly and pathetic about it too. He lashes out at Max just like Mike does.

The only unrealistic thing about boys treating girls like they’re encroaching on their precious nerd safe spaces or lashing out at them when they don’t lavish them with the attentions they think they’re entitled to is that Max, um, stays. For some inexplicable reason.

She does try to leave at one point. But then Lucas goes out of his way to include her in the group’s secrets. They talk. He’s genuinely nice to her. He’s the only one who treats her like a human being. They actually communicate with each other. They worry about what dangerous effects their associating might have on each other. Their relationship is one of the most functional this season. It does bother me that, once again, the only boy being nice to the only girl is the one who has a (requited) crush. But still, in a sea of “everyone is being a jerk to Max,” Lucas’s parts were nice.

The inclusion of Lucas’s sister makes it better. She mocks Lucas for only being friends with boys, so, really, Lucas’s attempts to include Max could be partly him actually listening to the wise council of his sister. Expanding his horizons, getting to know people with different lived experiences, not closing off his spaces to people based on gender, and not just because he has a crush on her and is being selfish.

The best moment this season is her barbie’s make-out session with He-Man, and then when Lucas takes He-Man away she just replaces him with an owl.

lucas sister

lucas sister 2

LOL.

Here’s the problem: Max is finally accepted into the group when she physically attacks her much larger, much more dangerous step brother, threatens him with the nail bat, and then drives them to a pumpkin patch. That stuff was all cool, don’t get me wrong, but the fact that it takes this for Mike and Dustin to get over themselves sucks. None of the boys have to prove their worth to get into the nerd club by assaulting huge bullies and doing things kids shouldn’t be doing. But both Max and Eleven last season had to. Not cool, dudes.

Also, not cool, Eleven.

Look at this:

mike and max

This is the part where Max is wearing Mike down, and actually makes him smile, because she wants to be accepted. I maintain that she’d have blown these losers off a long time ago but whatever, this scene is cute. Except for the part where Eleven is watching this entirely innocent conversation, gets jealous after two seconds, and knocks Max off her board with her mind. I thought maybe we’d have a moment where Max and Eleven talk properly, but no, all we get is Max trying to introduce herself and Eleven ignoring her.

It made me get really sad, remembering the story of how Winona Ryder and Millie Bobby Brown were on set, and knowing that female camaraderie that absolutely happens everyday in real life in response to male dickishness was never going to be portrayed on this show, even though it happens literally on set:

And for the moments the boys on set, with their silly crushes, became tiresome, Brown could turn to Winona Ryder. “I would just go to her like, ‘Ugh, the boys are getting on my nerves today!’ And she’d be like, ‘Got it — come sit.’ And we’d eat cheese.”

I’m pretty sure that if you’re the only girl in a group of all boys, the addition of another girl would be fantastic. But the show wanted to focus on the romantic tension between Mike and Eleven. Which is stupid, because jealousy that turns into rudeness and violence isn’t romantic. Like. This needed a resolution, but the two girls never even look at each other ever again. Season 3?

And then there’s the Nancy/Dustin dance. I was prepared to love it until Nancy says, “Girls this age are dumb. Give them a couple of years and they’ll wise up,” and broke my heart.

Nancy. No.

I mean, maybe in a couple of years they’ll come around because Dustin will be treating girls like human beings rather than being a huge jerk to them when he doesn’t get his way, or only smiling and winking and asking them to dance when he’s interested in them as whatever the 12-year-old version of a sex object is and not because he might actually want to get to know them as people also. But probably not. Not when the older girl he looks up to tells him the rejection he just experienced is basically illegitimate because “girls are dumb.”

I understand that the show is portraying this as, “little innocent boy just wants to dance with pretty girls but they all think he’s awkward and nerdy and then it makes him sad and that’s so sad” but the majority of his screen time with Max this season has either been him coming on too strong or being really mean, and comparatively very little actual listening and empathizing. I feel like all the popular girls have, I don’t know, noticed, that the kid is a jerk to girls, and rejected him accordingly, and not because of his hair or whatever. And where is the extended-for-audience-sympathy part where Max sits alone and cries because the boys that were supposed to be her friends are being total assholes to her and she doesn’t understand why? And then Steve or whoever sits with her and is like, “… um. Go make female friends. Seriously.”

So I’m just going to go ahead and say it. Overall, Stranger Things is totally cool with the “no girls allowed” sign. Because the girls who are allowed are different, so they don’t really count as girls anyway.

Man. I started out this post thinking I enjoyed the season overall and now I actually feel horrible. Sigh.

Pssst. People who make Stranger Things. Please watch this scene please please please. Before you make Season 3. Thanks.

Episode 7: Can Tyrion and Cersei be BFFs Forever Now or What

Spoiler: No, they can’t. Because of bad writing.

sansaspoilers

This is, I’m almost certain, the last episode of GoT I’ll be watching, at least until the books come out or if I get really curious.

Just because I’m all blahed out because I read the alleged leaks and in my opinion the alleged ending of the series is the worst thing I think anyone involved in this show and/or book, if GRRM is planning the same end, could possibly have ever conceptualized as the ending, ever. Like if it were someone waking up from a dream at the end it would be better, in my opinion. Really.

But if you haven’t read the leaks and now I’ve stoked your curiosity, please, PLEASE don’t read them. Just wait a year, watch the six episodes, make up your own mind, hopefully you’ll like it and you won’t feel like you’ve wasted all the emotional energy you spent on this story, which is how I currently feel.

So this episode.

I really liked the Tyrion and Cersei conversation and I think it was a stellar example of one of the times on this show where character development might have occurred but instead, the character stays flat and repeats the same crap they’ve been saying all season. If Cersei had been serious, sure, Jaime wouldn’t have had the motivation he’d need to leave. So what’s happened is that any character development on Cersei’s part was sacrificed for Jaime’s. Of course, Jaime has already had his character development, and, if we were being honest about him, he would have pissed off on her early on this season after yelling at her for burning people alive. And then Cersei would have even more motivation to help with the real war effort.

And they could just pick up the Cersei conflict after the Night King threat is dealt with, or they could easily have found some other way to kill her. She has lots of enemies. Like. Show. Why are you so stagnant and horrible.

I find Cersei absolutely fascinating in the books (I mean, I hate her, but she’s fascinating), and Lena Heady is amazing as her. Both the character and the actor deserve better.

I liked Theon’s mini redemption except for the twist during the fight. That was laughably bad. I’m glad he won his fight but this show is just embarrassing at this point. With this and the Grey Worm sex scene from earlier it’s like they’re trying to make up for laughing about genital mutilation and I’m… glad… but also I’m rolling my eyes so much I’m pretty sure they’re about to fall out of my head.

I don’t like Sam, he’s boring. Bran should already know shit. Speaking of which, why did it take the Stark kids so long to turn it around on Littlefinger? I’m annoyed.

I hope Jon never, ever, EVER goes by the name “Aegon Targaryen.” Also wasn’t that his half-brother’s name? I must have misheard. I also don’t care. It only occurred to me a few weeks ago that the “Jon’s true parentage” thing is an empty story arc and I actually hate it.

Sansa: “I’m a slow learner but I learn.” Girl don’t pretend it’s your fault that this show’s writing and characterization is often horrible. It’s not.

Brienne: *Yells at Jaime for being loyal when there’s no reason to be loyal* Girl don’t pretend it’s his fault. In the books he has already pissed off on her. This show is just a mess.

The real reason I watched was to see Littlefinger get his justice and it was good. I wish that whole arc had been much, much better though. I imagine that when he gets his justice in the book I’m going to be drooling all over the pages and I won’t be able to go on reading because the ink will all be smudged. But for now, the show version will serve.

When I was asking three to predict the season I asked her how she thought the wall would come down, and she said that she didn’t care, unless they used Ghost’s dead body to do it. And I said, “Um, kind of.” And then she wanted me to elaborate but I didn’t. I’ve been quietly chuckling to myself about that for months now.

Well that’s it. Thanks Game of Thrones, we had some good times. Some good CGI dragons, some horrible dead animal metaphors, some very good acting, a lot of unnecessary rape and brutality, some very good music, and some OK politics (the show never really got the nuance of the politics). I will not miss you, though.

I wish you good fortune in the wars to come.

Episode 6: How Did that Raven Get to Dany and then She Got All the Way to Eastwatch in that Minute Amount of Time I Mean Really Now

sansaspoilers

So.

I give up.

Not because of the absolutely hilarious pacing going on this season, no.

Not because Sansa and Arya’s conversation, while much better than their initial meeting, is very, very stupid.

Not because Tormund is still a sexual harasser but everyone keeps laughing at the “joke” that is him leering at Brienne and Brienne being angry and uncomfortable about it, no, not even that.

Not because Viserion died and was reanimated. Nope. I figured the dragons weren’t making it out alive from this story.

Here, have Sansa again, because my reasons for giving up are lousy and you shouldn’t read them.

sansaspoilers

Yes, Sansa, my sweet girl, I am spoiling everything. In fact, I already have.

I read the leaks.

I urge you not to, if you’re reading this and you haven’t read them yet.

“What leaks?”

Don’t worry about it.

Instead, watch this tutorial for how to do Wonder Woman’s intense braid.

Seriously, don’t read the leaks. I knew better, and yet I still did it, and I regret it now. Three and I were up north and I told her, “I’m not going to read any of the leaks this time, because it’ll ruin the experience for sure.” And then an hour later I read the leaks.

If I hadn’t, and I’d just watched the show episode by episode as it comes out like someone with willpower, I probably would enjoy much of it. But there’s something about just reading a cliff’s notes version of it that made me feel completely empty inside.

I just think the way everything happens, it’s just so… not worth it. And that had increasingly been my fear lately, creeping up on me as we move towards the end of the series. “What if after everything it isn’t worth it, if there isn’t a conclusion that makes up for all of the horror and misery we’ve endured in this fictional world so far?”

And yeah. Basically.

And I know they might not be real but they’re pretty convincing. Trademark D&D hackyness in every new development.

If the book version ending resembles the show ending in any way, shape, or form, then I totally understand why GRRM doesn’t want to write it.

Yiiiiiiiiiiiiikes.

Here, watch all four videos in which Shaun TAKES APART Cinema Sins for being way, waaaay worse than any episode of Game of Thrones ever was or ever will be.

In conclusion: don’t ruin it for yourself.

Don’t read leaks.

HBO. Babe. Like. Get your life together, with regards to content hacking, I mean really (oh and don’t air Confederate).

It’s not terrible. It’s just… not what I kind of needed, especially, I mean, do you remember the scene where Janos Slynt stabs a baby while her mother screams and pleads for him to not, all to show that Tyrion is a good person, which we already knew? Yeah. And that’s in the book, too – we don’t watch it happen, which is better, but it’s still in there. Like. If you’re going to just kill babies and rape everyone and the majority of the men, women, and babies in this world are going to suffer immensely while living and die horribly all to help us determine who we’re rooting for in the great Game o’ the Thrones, I need a better ending than that. For I am tender-hearted and very, very annoyed that it doesn’t end with Mormont’s Raven on the Iron Throne.

I HAVE BEEN CHEATED OF KING MORMONT’S RAVEN, FIRST OF HIS NAME, SCREAMER OF “CORN,” HINTER OF SECRET ROYAL PARENTAGE, BEST FRIEND OF DOLOROUS ED.

I’m going to watch the finale for this season, and that’ll be it. I’m so empty. Like Pooh’s tummy.

Episode 5: Eastwatch

I liked it.

sansaspoilers

There was a lot of talking in this one. My favourite discussions in order were:

  1. Tyrion and Varys. Commiserating about serving volatile Targaryens. Good chat, boys. Of course, personally I believe Varys was making Aerys paranoid and murderous purposefully; at least, book-Varys was, so his speech here, which was great, means nothing really. But maybe show-Varys is a decent guy.
  2. Sam and the Maesters. Sam tries to convince people to do the right thing and it hits all the right notes. I forgot how much I like Sam. Go Sam!
  3. Sam and Gilly. Gilly is passionate about learning and Sam is a giant baby. Also he interrupts Rhaegar/Lyanna marriage proof. That’s what happens when man-babies scream over women about how dissatisfied they are with their lot and how annoying the woman talking is to them: important shit gets silenced. I’m sure that was the metaphorical point of that.
  4. Jaime and Cersei I. Jaime tries to get Cersei to see reason in a patient and temperate way. ilu, Jaime.
  5. Jaime and Cersei II. Jaime gets teary-eyed because she’s pregnant and is planning on announcing that he’s the dad AWWWWWWWWWWWW ILU JAIME OMG
  6. Sansa and Arya. Sansa’s like, “You think killing people might make them like you but it doesn’t. It just makes people dead.”
    Now that is the reunion I’ve been waiting for. Arya is so, so wrong, you guys, and I love it. I love that she’s wrong. I’m concerned that the show is going to kind of side with her but so far it looks great.
  7. Jon and Gendry. They geek out about the dads they had even though they never acknowledged them. That was cute and fanservicey. I’ll take it.
  8. Davos, Jon, and Gendry. Davos wants the young men to listen to him and stay alive. He is legitimately the best.
  9. Tyrion and Jaime. AWWWWWW TYRION!!!!! OK I love both of the Lan boys so much.
  10. Dany and Jon I and II. Dany and Jon I is them being nice to each other for once. Dany and Jon II is Jon wishing her fortune in the wars to come like the patronizing moralist he is. Their chemistry is growing on me a little bit. Must be because Jorah is back to witness it and I hope he WITNESSES IT. DELICIOUS, DELICIOUS JORAH AGONY.

That was the best Little Finger scene in a while. I’d like to believe Arya is playing him right back. But probably not.

Discussions I didn’t like:

  1. I take back anything nice I ever said about Bronn.
  2. There wasn’t much, but I take it back all the same.
  3. Seriously I wish Drogon had lit him up last episode.
  4. This is what I hate about this show. There’s a genuine hero moment and then some cynical shithead shows up and mouths off about it. Except here, we’re supposed to be charmed by a guy who doesn’t care that people could end up all burned alive if Dany goes tyrant because he’s so street-smart. We’re supposed to laugh with him at Jaime’s legitimate concerns about the small folk, at Jaime trying to end the war. Fuuuuuuuuuuuck thaaaaaaaaaaaat.
  5. The final chat between all the dudes who don’t like each other. The Hound needed to tell them all to shut up a lot earlier.
  6. Can Tormund shut up forever about Brienne please? This gag makes me so mad. It isn’t funny or cute just because she’s not the typical object of desire for men. It’s not like, “Aww, see, some guy stares at her like she’s a piece of meat, good for Brienne, so she does actually have value.” Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck thaaaaaaaaaaaaaat.

THEORY TIME!

I have my own, brand new, crackpot theory that I just came up with.

I honestly don’t know if someone’s come up with this yet. I bet someone has. But before I dive into the web to find out, here’s what I came up with watching this episode, inspired completely by Gilly being cut off by Sam (seriously all my goodwill toward Sam evaporated during that scene, he was such a dick to her.)

What if it never comes out that Jon is Rhaegar and Lyanna’s legitimate son?

The only reason for it to come out is if Jon has to end up on the Iron Throne. Either on his own or next to Dany. But Jon doesn’t want that.

Jon emulates Ned like whoa. Yes, he thinks Ned is actually his father, but when he learns the truth what connection does he have to Rhaegar or Lyanna? And is this story really trying to teach us that the male succession for the monarchy is a super great thing? Really?

Wouldn’t it be so much more subversive if the book Gilly has ends up destroyed at some point, and if Bran never tells a soul? And then Howland Reed dies? And Jon just lives his life thinking he was the bastard son of Lord Eddard Stark and a mystery woman? And the true heir to the throne never takes the throne and never gets celebrated as the true heir but saves the entire realm without needing to know he’s the heir, just believing he’s an underdog bastard of the last great Warden of the North?

Well. I think so.

All right, next episode is number 6 but it might as well be 9 because we are almost done the penultimate season of Game of Thrones!

30 Days of Avatar: Feminism

Week 10: Messages of Avatar Land

Day 28: Masculinity
Day 29: Animal Rights
Day 30: Feminism

Day 30 is for… feminism. Dun dun duuuuuuun.

Content Warning! Y’know. Casual references to a lot of woman hate.

Self Care tip! When you encounter casual woman hate out there in person or on the internet, throw on “Venom of the Red Lotus” and pretend Zaheer and co. are whoever is doing the woman hate and pretend you are Korra. Very therapeutic.

Oh and also it starts with a random tangent about The Handmaid’s Tale and how there was that panel where all the actors were at pains to state that the show wasn’t “feminist propaganda” and we’re not sure why, just go with it.

All screenshots from Avatar Spirit.

OK so feminism is a tough one because even something that lends itself as clearly to feminist interpretations as The Handmaid’s Tale is sometimes revised as “not feminist, but about ALL people,” by both actors who apparently don’t know what words mean, and the author, even, who – OK but Margaret Atwood knows what words mean! She just struggles with the meaning of the word “feminism” because she’s afraid that people use it to claim all women are saints and martyrs and victims, which robs us of our agency and contributes to inequality – which, no. At least in our opinion.

If it seems that way to you, it’s because you’re not really paying attention. There is a lot of turmoil in feminism. There is a lot of introspection. People are always building up on and dissecting the work that has come previously, and everything, EVERYTHING, gets critiqued, always, and forever. The prominence of rape narrative written by actual victims gets critiqued, for example, because maybe rape narrative isn’t doing much to help matters because it constantly portrays women as victims. We’re not cosigning that one because it seems kind of very stupid, but it’s (sort of) a worthwhile discussion that, while we’re personally not fussed about it, is still happening. Also, The Fearless Girl statue gets a lot of criticism. Because “corporate art.” In fact, just add in every “strong female character” lately – particularly if they’re the protagonist and center of the narrative. We’ve seen critiques of Moana, Wonder Woman, and Daenerys to name a few, many of which are thought-provoking even when we disagree with some (or a lot) of the arguments being made. Some are, of course, crap. Marxist interpretations of art are really important but when they’re presented all on their own without recognition of other factors besides the monetary forces behind commercially successful art made to be consumed by the masses, they’re definitely going to ignore all of those other important elements about art, which can make them sometimes super unhelpful, sometimes super elitist, and occasionally pretty misogynistic. It usually depends on who’s doing the Marxist critique. If they’re doing it on top of a bunch of other things it’s great. If it’s just “commercial art is still commercial art even if there’s womz in it,” it tends to be pretty awful.

Then there’re the different factions of feminism that are actively bad. For starters, there’s pop feminism, though we here at Owlmachine think pop feminism is a good thing, actually. It’s definitely a SUPER FLAWED good thing, though. Like, when T Swift claims feminism whenever she wins an award but does nothing with her enormous platform to advocate maybe not voting for the sexual predator, yeah. That’s really bad and needs to be called out. (But real quick: SOLIDARITY TO HER COUNTERSUING THAT SHITHEAD DJ FOR A BUCK. See, this is why pop feminism shouldn’t just be quickly dismissed, because here’s an example where fair critiques give way to the sort of unearned vitriol we seem to only ever see directed at female megastars.) Thoughtful critique of every single pop feminism thing ever is also really good, but we think (and maybe we’re wrong) that if pop feminism were more prominent, the silly “Is The Handmaid’s Tale feminist propaganda or not” discussion wouldn’t have happened and that’s kind of important. But there are certain feminism things that do really suck. Like white feminism (in which white women yell at, harass, ignore, and belittle women of colour and their voices and experiences because we think it’s uncomfortable to acknowledge intersectionality and how even as a woman, being white = major privilege) or trans-exclusionary radfems (who think trans women are men and have stupidly contradictory opinions about what “being a woman” is – like, how are you a feminist if your argument boils down to “woman = boobs, vag, and womb” YOU’RE NOT IS THE ANSWER YOU’RE JUST GROSS) and those are just two groups. Those are the worst two groups typically, but there’re more. There are different subgroups of those two things and there are other things, like SWERFs. And if you haven’t noticed the pushback on all of these things, you’re not listening to the right people.

We will grant that sometimes maybe it does seem that feminism is a big, tribal monolith, but that is probably because there’s a lot of bigger garbage out there that is more important to address than the minor stuff that can cause infighting (we classify “minor” as arguing over pop feminism and marxist feminism, and definitely not, y’know, transphobia and racism). So although we frequently see feminists doing important self-reflection like seriously questioning the merits of pop feminism or the possible fallout of uncritical sex-positivity or insisting that we center women’s agency even while we’re talking about rape culture or wondering what might go wrong with the conservative co-opting of feminism for things like “lean in” or doing more outreach with regards to the intersections of social justice or even more outreach to men, who are also victims of this stupid system, these important and complex topics can sometimes be sidelined, unfortunately, because Donald Trump is president, and misogyny is still very rampant and all of the important conversations get derailed because feminists consistently have to repeat things that should be taken for granted by now, like: yes, women should be equal, no, women are not currently equal even if there are laws stating they are because of the way the system actually works, yes, women at various intersections have it harder than the rest of us and need to not be talked over, no, women should not be expected to endlessly “debate” whether we are biologically inferior to men in the interest of upholding some idiot’s freeze peach, and yes, rape should be illegal.

Annnyway. The Handmaid’s Tale shows women subjugating other women in order to seize what small amounts of power may be seizeable, which, well, consider what happens when trans women, sex workers, and women of colour speak up about how feminism leaves them behind to see how that happens EVEN WITHIN FEMINISM. It shows how poor men are exploited for their labour similarly, though not completely the same, as women are. It’s therefore kind of clearly feminist – the complex, thoughtful kind of feminist, introspective and self-critical, showing how a hierarchical society hurts everyone at every level and those at the lowest and most vulnerable ends of the hierarchies are hurt the most – though, there is that one pesky criticism for most popular dystopias: there’s nothing about racial politics. And in the book, there’s little in the way of queer politics, though the show has improved on that a bit, if showing horrific executions of and FGMing queer women can actually be considered an improvement (which, no, and of course there’s still nothing whatsoever about transgender and nonbinary people). So The Handmaid’s Tale overall talks about how oppression works, but without showing the mechanisms that would (and do) apply in real life for marginalized people beyond the gender binary, it does fall a little short.

… Anyway. Avatar also has no racial or queer politics. And it can’t even be read through a feminist lens like The Handmaid’s Tale can. This is because in Avatar Land, women and men are equal.

Sure, Sokka makes a stupid comment about women being better at housework and men being better at warrioring and such, and we see his casual insistence that gender roles are real, unquestionable things manifest itself twice: first when he meets the Kyoshi warriors and his fragile masculinity is threatened, and then later more sinisterly in the Northern Water Tribe where women are not allowed to learn how to use their water bending for combat.

In “The Warriors of Kyoshi” Sokka gets all ruffled because the titular Kyoshi warriors are all girls, and they best him multiple times. But then he gets a crush and learns some things and wears makeup and a dress, and he apologizes to Suki for “treating [her] like a girl when [he] should have treated [her] like a warrior.” And she’s like, “Dude I’m both. Loser.” Anyway after that Sokka stops with the casual misogyny and starts being a bit of a fanboy – mostly for Toph and her metal bending skills.

But casual misogyny is alive and well when master Paku refuses to teach Katara combat water bending, because in the north it’s illegal for women to use bending to fight. This situation is solved because Katara is awesome, and the entire Northern Tribe obviously is like, “OK, sure, let’s change our super old customs immediately, that’s something we’re definitely all going to be cool with. Totes believable.”

OK so first, what gives, they edited a bunch of reaction shots and long pauses out 😦

Also, it’s not really that Katara’s already pretty impressive combat skills change Paku’s mind about accepting women pupils. It’s because he realizes that his prejudice is based on being bitter about how he was dumped by Gran-Gran five thousand years ago. She dumped him and moved to an entirely different pole because the Northern customs were too restrictive for her awesome self. This is what gets him to reevaluate his life choices.

And other than that, there’s nothing unequal about how men and women are treated.

Toph’s parents see her as helpless, sure, but it’s more because she’s blind than because she’s a girl. Would this work as well for us if Toph were a boy? Probably not, but that’s not because of the inherent constrictions of gender roles in Avatar Land, it’s because of our own cultural norms. If men, women, et al. were allowed to express themselves and perform their genders in whatever way they pleased, and if everyone were systemically equal, then we probably would read Toph as a blind boy exactly the same way we read her as a blind girl – but then blindness would not be read the same way either so that’s a whole other thing.

There’s also the case of Azula. She is the second of Ozai’s children but he likes her better, because she’s stronger, crueler, and more skilled. He makes her Firelord without even a question. Like in Moana, Azula’s gender is never, ever, brought up as something she has to struggle against in order to be taken seriously as a leader. She bests Zuko in their father’s eyes, but she also overcomes Long Feng and wins the loyalty of the Dai Lee even though she’s THE ENEMY NATION’S PRINCESS AND HEIR APPARENT! Like. They’ll sell their entire kingdom to the Fire Nation because they think her leadership is so great.

Korra is never told that she can’t be a good Avatar because she’s a girl. Time and time again people see her Avataring and later tell her, “Jesus, lady, you are a legend,” without ever qualifying it because of her gender. Even Zaheer, who wanted her wiped out, tells her years after their incredibly epic battle, “Uh, you should have died. There is no logical way you survived that. You kind of rock; have a self esteem boost on me.”

This is probably because when a nation or kingdom or tribe or republic starts backsliding and wants to force women to stick to traditional gender roles, someone like Katara shows up and challenges whichever dude is in charge to a duel, and as we see, gender has no bearing on how powerful someone’s bending is.

It’s important to note that performing what we see as traditional female gender roles does not make someone a bad female character, or a bad, gender-betraying, actual, real-life woman. Katara, who is a fierce warrior, is also a skilled healer, and eventually becomes the best healer in Avatar Land. Besides that, she also performs a lot of wife-work (the less exclusionary term feminists use for this type of work is “the mental load” but we like “wife work” for the moment to easily express what we mean – but here’s an excellent comic on the topic) and motherly support for her group of parentless children as they take on the Firelord. Her emotional and mental labour is central to her character and whenever someone mocks her for it, they usually get taken to task (see “The Runaway” for that). Perhaps the best depiction of Katara doing the wife work is in “The Desert” – as Aang has a gigantic breakdown because of Appa’s theft, Katara is left taking care of the Gaang. She’s even more on her own than she normally would be because her older brother is high on cactus juice – it’s the quenchiest. An incredible moment shows Aang, who is accusing everyone of being less invested in Appa than he is, demanding to know what Katara is doing lately for the group. You see her pause, close her eyes, inhale, and say, calmly, “Keeping everyone together.” What an amazing way of showing something like that. She never breaks down herself, she visibly stays strong, and yet there is no doubt in the viewer’s mind that she is under some serious pressure here. Katara is a LEGEND.

What’s more is that just because she’s motherly and sweet, she also gets to make mistakes and be kind of selfish sometimes. See her snapping at Aang for being a quick learner in “The Water Bending Scroll” or mocking Toph for not being able to see the stars in “The Chase” or everything that happens in “The Southern Raiders.” Katara is a really good example of how this show allows its female characters to be just as complex as the male characters. Katara isn’t defined by her combat skills or her nurturing or her occasional selfishness. She is all of these things put together, which makes her real in a way that a lot of characters, female or not, just aren’t, when the story they’re in isn’t letting them be.

stealth confession 8korrasami2

lin and sukuviraold tophkorrasamitoph and katara 2toph su and lindangerous ladies 2korrasami3

Anyway, we love it.

Avatar Land shows a lot of varied female characters which is one of the best things about the show. It shows women being nurturing as well as hard as stone, making mistakes, learning, and growing. It shows warriors, leaders, police chiefs, dictators, monarchs, villains, heroes, sisters, mothers, daughters, friends, and no one is screaming at them that they don’t belong in any one of these roles or that they should shut up because their words aren’t of value or that Avatar Land is a decaying society because we’ve allowed them to “fuck freely” or that their bodies don’t really belong to them after all as soon as some man is interested in them or if they get pregnant or that they need to smile more. Imagine some patronizing dick telling Azula, unsolicited, that she would look prettier if she smiled more.

azula smile

We know this meme is old, but this is the future that liberals want. And we maintain that it’s a pretty feminist move of the show’s creators to depict their world like this.

And that concludes 30 Days of Avatar! It’s been fun, guys.

Get it?

Jaime Lannister is a Hero

I wanted to expand on a couple of things I either just mentioned briefly or 100% ignored in my episode four recap.

I’ve said my piece on why Bronn doesn’t work as a character but I hadn’t actually realized that they did a kind of clunky super-obvious metaphor with him, so let me give the show a bit of credit. Bronn gets a bag of gold right at the beginning and then ends up having to abandon it in the midst of battle. At the end where he leaps into a possible fiery death, it’s therefore been sort of earned. He’d already made the decision, just as Jaime had, to stick around and do the right thing against pretty terrible odds.

So… Bronn got some character development, he isn’t just acting in a plot-convenient and fan service-convenient way. But I have serious doubts that he’ll continue on this path to good-guyhood. Not because I don’t believe witnessing dragon devestation could possibly change him, but rather because I think the writers are hacks.

I stopped bothering about being nice and not calling them hacks after all the rape and after learning that they’re doing a show about slavery still being legal in the 21st century after GoT is done.

On the other hand, Bronn’s clunky super-obvious metaphor didn’t include dead animals used as props (do you remember when Tywin Lannister laid a dead wolf’s pelt next to the two swords he forged out of Ice because I do and I need brain bleach because that was SO BAD omg) so let’s toast the writers at Game of Thrones for resisting the temptation on that one.

celebrate good times

Congrats, you did something right, guys.

I wanted to quickly discuss Jaime and the fact that he’s a hero.

Jaime started as an idealistic kid who struggles as a King’s Guard. He goes against his father’s wishes to take that vow because he wants to be a hero and then he finds himself distraught in the hallway listening to Mad King Aerys raping his sister-wife because he believes it is their duty to protect the queen as well, and one of his fellow guards says, “Yeah but not from him.”

He stands in the throne room, which was silent apart from the screams and the laughing, watching Mad King Aerys burn Grandpa Stark while Uncle Stark hangs himself trying to save his father, because what can he do? He’s a King’s Guard.

He breaks his vow in spectacular fashion one fine day when Mad King Aerys is like, “Be a dear and kill your dad for me won’t you and while you’re doing that me and my pyromancer are going to burn down the entire city with wildfire kthnxbai” and Jaime’s like, “Double homicide time I guess.”

And then he sits on the throne?

That part makes me laugh. That’s what I would have done. As much as I love Ned, I side with Jaime on this one and think he totally overreacted to finding kid Kingslayer lounging on the throne. I think it was earned. He saved everybody’s life, he can sit on the throne for a second.

Anyway, Jaime is one of my favourite characters. He gets a spectacular hero moment in “Spoils of War” and I’d like to point out a couple of things to mouthy Tyrion in the peanut gallery.

Tyrion calls him a “fucking idiot” while he watches him charge down Daenerys, and I assume that’s mostly out of grief and horror. I mean. He thinks he’s about to watch his brother get fried. But I have this thing about calling heroic people doing heroic deeds “idiots” and “stupid” and “brawn over brains.” Jaime isn’t some stupid jock here. He’s charging down huge odds trying to do the right thing because Jaime is the guy who kills the Targaryen despots who try to burn everyone alive.

Jaime weighs the odds right before he charges. He sees that Dany is busy trying to yank a spear out of Drogon and he sees that Drogon is busy yelling, “OW! MOM THAT HURTS WTF HAVEN’T WE TALKED ABOUT YANKING THINGS OUT OF ME?” He sees that he has a chance. It’s a tiny chance. And if he succeeds, all he’s going to accomplish is Dany-murder. Drogon will kill him right after, and he’s cool with that. It’s not a huge victory because the dragons will still be alive but they won’t be the tools of a conquering queen anymore, and that’s worth it to him.

Before this we get all these great shots of Jaime looking at people burning and turning to ash and blowing away. This is his actual nightmare. And I remember being so angry about how, after Cersei killed a bunch of people with wildfire he just stood there giving her major side-eye but then, nope, the season starts and he’s still in love with her. So IDK, maybe he has to see the people burning for himself before he decides it’s a bad thing? He told Olenna that people won’t care how Cersei achieved peace once she achieves it, which could technically be true of Dany as well. The difference in his perception of these two comes down to family and love and memories of Targaryens past, I suppose.

Anyway. Jaime, in the books, is the best of the Lannisters. In the show he and Tyrion are both pretty equally great. As much as A Song of Ice and Fire is lauded for being “realistic” in portraying cynical people getting ahead by exploiting everyone else, you’d be missing the point in just focusing on that and not noticing that there are actual good people in this story and they aren’t there just to get mocked and killed. Jaime is one of those actually good people. He is flawed. Very, very flawed. He does terrible things. I remember when I was still in the middle of reading the books and I stumbled upon some post about how awesome Jaime is and I was like, “Um?????? But the Bran window thing??????????? I will never forgive him for that, how would that even be possible??????????????????????” And yet here we are.

I’m pretty sure he’s going to die before the end but I hope he gets to die being his heroic self.

I still have hope for Dany, even though I think Jaime was right to try to kill her. I think she’s a better person than Cersei even if it’s only that she’s more capable of growing up than Cersei is. What would be pretty great, I think, is if Jaime and Dany ever have a conversation in which he yells at her for burning all of his men that day. But I kind of doubt it’ll happen.

30 Days of Avatar: Animal Rights

Week 10: Messages of Avatar Land

Day 28: Masculinity
Day 29: Animal Rights
Day 30: Feminism

First of all, shout out to the creators of Avatar for making every animal in Avatar Land a combination of two animals, except for the Earth King’s bear:

Legendary.

Anyway, this post is about Animal Rights, and the only logical place to start is with the Greatest Creature Ever Committed to Television, Appa, the Flying Bison.

Please familiarize yourself with Appa using this self-proclaimed “Definitive Appa Montage,” which sets tragic scenes from Appa’s Last Days to a cheerful tune in order to lessen your pain:

While Avatar is not afraid to unpack complex ethical issues, Appa’s Lost Days may be one of the most honest and upfront interpretations of such an issue in the franchise (or in any franchise). It does not hold back on making us want to cry in a bath tub forever while the horrors animals face in this world slowly wash over us until we drown in a sea of unending misery.

Seriously, it gets real.

 

We start this horrifying journey with the illegal exotics trade. Sandbenders rope up our favourite Flying Bison and drag him out of the desert, away from his friends, forcing him to listen to Aang’s desperate bison-whistling, unable to fly to his lifelong companion. Ugh.

These jackasses sell him to a freaking circus.

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In true “Greatest Show on Earth” fashion, the trainer whips his animals (with fire), using fear to “break” them and force them to do humiliating performances dressed in ridiculous costumes. But this trainer wasn’t prepared to handle a Flying Bison – the original airbenders, this big softie has bending and evasion on his side, and he manages to escape the circus. Would that all animals could murder their trainers and fly off into the sunset, but we dream.

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Next in Appa’s tragic story (seriously, more tragic than Zuko’s, am I right?) he tries to find Aang, discovers that the library sank into the desert, then attempts to take refuge in a few places before being chased off by various predators (giant wasps, giant porcupine boars, and this asshole with the fire stick). No, Avatar is not afraid to handle the question of what to do with wild animals either – what is our responsibility? Something between dressing them up in stupid costumes and chasing them out of our houses with fire, is the answer. (Duh.)

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The Kyoshi warriors find him and show him kindness. Appa is hurt and scared, and they approach slowly, before gently removing the porcupine boar needles and cleaning up the sticky wasp residue from his fur. If you’ve ever attempted to rescue a wild animal or feral cat, this scene will feel familiar – the animal is scared, and ready to either run or fight for their life, and you just want to help them and have no way of explaining that.

Anyway, the Kyoshi warriors do well, until Azula and co. show up and ruin everything.

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Because the writers love to make us sob uncontrollably, Appa navigates his way to the Eastern Air Temple, one of four abandoned homes of his ancestors, the air nomads and their bison, who were extinguished by the Fire Lord. Yikes. Anyway, there he meets Guru Pathik, who shows him some more kindness as well as the way back to Aang.

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But as we know, this episode is a series of disasters and any good news is not to be trusted, so of course, Appa flies to Ba Sing Se, where the gaang is, and ends up being caught by Long Feng, because, of course.

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

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YESSSSSS APPA YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

So to sum up, here is what we learned in one short episode of ATLA:

  • The illegal exotics trade is Evil and pure garbage and should all die in a fire
  • Circuses are Evil and pure garbage and should all die in a fire
  • Be kind to wounded animals who cross your path, even if they do not thank you
  • Appa is and always will be the best person place or thing ever written I will fight you on this
  • three has a giant plushie Appa and it gives her life
  • I’m off topic

In other words, if you didn’t really understand why exotics trading and circuses were Evil and pure garbage and should all die in a fire, this incredible episode will take your hand and walk you through the story of Appa’s lost days with the perfect combination of nuance and pure suffering and it will make you want to cry in a bathtub forever while the horrors animals face in this world slowly wash over you until you drown in a sea of unending misery.

All screenshots from Avatar Spirit.

30 Days of Avatar: Masculinity

Week 10: Lessons of Avatar Land

Day 28: Masculinity
Day 29: Animal Rights
Day 30: Feminism

Day 28 was supposed to be for portrayals of healthy masculinity but is mostly for erm having a crush on Sokka.

All screenshots from Avatar Spirit.

I’d like to talk about Aang for basically ever because he’s a rounded character with lots of power and combat abilities but he’s not a total jerk.

His defining feature as a fighter is that he’s opposed to violence, so he refuses to kill even his most evil enemy. Even when his enemy is waaaaay more powerful than he is, even when his enemy is trying really hard to kill him, and even when he gets a split-second chance to end it all.

He hesitates and then redirects the lightening, then collapses. He’d rather put himself at even more risk than kill Ozai.

We’ve discussed this already but through the lens of masculinity, this is kind of cool. I mean, Batman does this crap too, but that’s about where the similarities between Batman and Aang end.

He’s a gentle soul.

The three separate screencaps of that are essential.

guru feeding birdsguru and appa

In fact, being kind to animals is a recurring feature linked to wisdom and spirituality for male characters. When I think animated characters being surrounded by animals or helping animals trust them, I mostly think of Disney women like Snow White, Cinderella, Esmarelda, or Rapunzel. In Avatar Land it’s Aang and Pathik. Katara and Toph get along with the Gaang’s pets, but Aang is the real animal lover of the group. Also, he’s the vegetarian.

Another aspect of Aang’s version of masculinity is his being comfortable respecting, learning from, and being impressed by his female companions.

impressed aang

Of course what he likes most about Toph’s Ba Sing Se sand sculpture is Basco with the King. Oh Aang, you lovely predictable thing, you.

OK but can I complain for a second though.

Where I find Aang a bit tiring is when it comes to his relationship with Katara. He spends the majority of the series chewing on the fact that he isn’t sure if Katara likes him like that. He’s told by a group of surprisingly sensitive prisoners that “she’ll come around.” And even Roku tells him that “it gets better” as you get older, and “being the Avatar helps” when Aang exclaims that the girl “who didn’t even know [Roku] existed” ended up marrying him.

I want to be clear: this is all fine. It is. It really is. Of course Aang likes Katara and of course he wants her to like him back. Of course he gets wounded about it occasionally, of course he pours out his heart to random dudes he meets.

But.

He never really tells her how he feels. Instead they have random cutesy moments that mean very little in terms of relationship progression, and then he just kisses her before flying off to fight Ozai (he thinks).

I mean. He just grabs her and kisses her. And she’s not a fan.

Later when he’s grumpy because the actor portraying him in the play based on his adventures is a woman, he says, “So, we kissed at the Yule Ball, and, well, I thought we were gonna be together forever. But we’re not.” And Katara’s like, “Yeah, that’s pretty much it.”

OK fine, that was Starkid’s version* (and it’s better). I wish Katara had really said, “Yeah, that’s pretty much it,” to Aang. He was being unreasonable. Instead she’s at pains to explain that she likes him but right now is not a good time because they’re in the middle of a war.

Also they’re 12 and 14 but that apparently doesn’t matter.

I have a hard time with Aang in “Ember Island Players.” I get that he’d be mad at the actor being a woman because being as sensitive as he is, and being that he’s in the middle of deciding what to do about his enemy when he doesn’t want to kill him and having basically everyone tell him that’s weak, of course he wouldn’t like having his gender be attacked. But it does seem a little fragile.

Especially because it seems like what makes him angriest about it is that it makes his relationship with Katara sexless.

friend zone aang

That’s the face he makes when stage-Katara says she loves him like a brother.

I don’t know. The Aang and Katara relationship never sat right with me because it always seemed like it would make a better friendship, and also, they were too young to worry about it as much as Aang did at least, and also, they were kind of busy. I really do think portraying Aang’s attraction to Katara this way, in a possessive, jealous, angry way near the end dents the otherwise wonderful portrayal of a nice, sweet kid. In some ways the ugliness in his insistence that there’s more between them than friendship is connected to the war getting worse, but when they do kiss for real at the end it doesn’t do much to heal how angry and wounded he has already been about the situation until now.

I don’t know. I’m probably in the minority here but I’m not a fan of it.

You know where I’m not in the minority, though? Crushing on Sokka.

Ty Lee likes him:

Yue likes him:

yue crush

A room full of haiku masters like him:

haiku girls

Even TOPH is crushing on Sokka.

(She thought Sokka saved her, but it was Suki.)

(Ouch.)

I have a gigantic unapologetic thing for characters like this so I’m right there with these ladies. I love a guy who struggles a bit with his gender performance but who ultimately overcomes his insecurities and realizes he can just be himself. Usually it’s imperative that they do because they always seem to fall for the awesomest of ladies, so they need to get it together as best they can. It’s why I love Wash in Firefly and why I love Ron Stoppable in Kim Possible and why Ron Weasley will always be my favourite. Hopefully somewhere in this thing I talk about how Sokka is a good portrayal of healthy masculinity and I don’t just gush but I’m making no promises.

Sokka is… flawed.

First of all, he’s a fan of meat. Despite his vow to the universe and to Foofoo Cuddlypoops that if he were to be rescued from the random hole he’s randomly stuck in he’d give up meat and sarcasm, the first thing he asks for when Aang shows up is meat. Which is probably a sarcastic request because Aang is a vegetarian.

Sokka has also been known to fail. His invasion plan during the Day of Black Sun doesn’t go the way anyone wants it to at all. During the battle he allows himself to be emotionally manipulated by Azula and he wastes all of their time. He takes this loss about as hard as Aang does, which is pretty freaking hard.

In the final battle, he fights well but if not for Suki’s rescue in the end, he and Toph would have died. Like. In flames. This isn’t his fault, of course, but the thing about Sokka is that he’s not a super powerful bender like most of the other main characters. He’s not a bender at all.

Occasionally this gets to him. Early on especially, his insecurities do show up and bite him. One time of note is when he meets and is defeated by Suki, and is horrified because she’s a girl. And then he gets defeated by her a bunch of other times, humiliatingly, until he humbly asks her to teach him, he wears a dress and makeup, becomes a better fighter with her help, and learns to respect women, I guess.

Another notable time is in “Jet,” which is a beautiful episode for deconstructing masculinity.

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Don’t you just want to punch him?

OK, probably not, if you’ve seen “Lake Laogi.” But still.

In “Jet,” Sokka is making a whole big thing about how he’s in charge because he’s the oldest, and Katara mocks his presumption of this because his voice still cracks and he hasn’t kissed a girl.

I’d take a moment to complain at Katara because, even though Sokka needs to be taken down a peg in that moment, that’s not a good way to do it (the “Sokka’s instincts” joke she and Aang do moments later is a better way), but, well, the episode does it for me.

Soon they run into Jet, an unquestioned leader of freedom fighters. Katara falls in love.

lol katara

Aang respects Jet immediately. Sokka hates him, of course. At first, it seems like jealousy, and Katara dismisses Sokka’s dislike as stupid macho posturing. But as time goes on we see that Sokka’s mistrust is valid.

Jet is not a nice dude. We do learn later that he did genuinely like Katara, but he’s not a genuine force for good in Avatar Land like he claims. He’s trying to drown an entire town because they’re Fire Nation and therefore acceptable targets. He tricks Aang and Katara into helping him do it.

The only reason it doesn’t work is because Sokka warned the people in time. For Katara’s part, it’s not until Jet himself tells her what his plan is that she believes that he’s that awful, and it’s not fun for her.

She also actually says the words, “I’m sorry I ever doubted you,” about her brother while she’s hoping that he was able to somehow save the town.

The next time she sees Jet she tries to kill him, also. If you were wondering whether this experience had a lasting effect on her or anything.

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“Tell it to some other girl, Jet.”

He seems like the perfect guy. Fighting the Fire Nation, looking after a scrappy band of kids, confident, assured, a leader. But he manipulates her attraction and her feelings for him and is almost successful using her to kill an entire town’s worth of people.

Sokka, who makes mistakes and is not as smooth as Jet and who hasn’t kissed anyone yet and whose voice still cracks and who flies Appa the wrong way when he’s driving and who is sometimes bossy and insecure is still more reliable and a much better person overall.

As we discussed previously as well.

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Also he turns out to be a decent leader throughout their adventures.

I like a couple of things in particular about Sokka.

Number one: he has a couple of kiss-mishaps like Aang but he handles them way better.

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That was when he thought he should kiss Yue but then she stopped and then it was super awkward.

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This was him stopping with Suki because despite liking her a lot, he’s going through some complex emotional issues related to the moon seen in that second shot.

He handles both of these better because they talk about them. He’s not a master of “I’m totally fine with whatever, but just so I know could you tell me what went wrong…” or anything. He’s definitely uncomfortable both with apparent rejection and also being the rejector. But he has the conversations anyway.

Also. Look at the faces he makes whenever he sees Suki.

This is a series I call “:/ D: Oh it’s you!! C: :D”

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The best part is that Zuko is there.

My favourite thing about Sokka though is while occasionally he gets down about how he has less abilities than most of his friends since he’s the main non-bender of the group, he still is a major fanboy.

Of course he fanboys for Suki’s awesomeness:

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But he’s a huge fan of Toph.

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That’s just one instance. But I really love that. I love that he’s secure enough to be smitten by her abilities when he has nothing that compares.

Sokka is a goofball with serious leadership capabilities and he’s a big fan of his dangerous lady friends. He makes it clear that it’s OK to feel your feelings, it’s OK to not be the coolest guy in the room, it’s OK to fail sometimes, even if you’re the oldest and therefore the leader. Of course I love him.

This is a compilation of him being ridiculous and I love it too.

*UM. Did you know that half the dialogue in A Very Potter Musical/Sequel is basically straight out of Avatar? Because I didn’t until just now.

Episode 4: The Spoils of War

K.

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How does a dragonfire battle look less cool than the Battle of the Bastards?

Anyway. Dany seems a bit like a villain, Jaime is a hero, Bronn saving him at the end is the only good thing Bronn has ever done and probably will ever do.

That’s the thing about Bronn. If the show were being honest about cynical, shitty Bronn, he’d have taken off as soon as he heard the Dothraki screaming. He does advise Jaime to leave, but real Bronn would have just been out of there without bothering to provide wise council.

And there’s no way he’d leap almost into Drogon’s mouth in order to save his liege lord. Come on, now.

That’s what I hate about this character. He’s supposed to be a lovable shitty cynic. He is that in the books, and he sucks. He suuuuuuuuucks. He’s entertaining while he’s getting paid and working for Tyrion, but he suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks. There is no value to him at all, and the books are honest about it. The show is trying to have its cake and eat it too with him and it’s annoying AF. This character archetype is the worst and I’m tired of it.

And he’s going to survive it all, isn’t he. He’s going to be on the fucking iron throne at the end, I bet.

Poor Jaime, though. He’s having a rough time with all of this. I’m buying his struggles thus far about trying to believe Cersei isn’t that bad, but, again, the book version is just way better. And watching his men die in the flames is just shit. He’s the guy who saved King’s Landing from Targaryen fire. I mean. If he switches sides I’ll be shocked. In fact, I hope what really happens is that once the White Walkers are gone Jaime kills Dany.

I’m sure that’s how it’ll go.

Because she’s totally going to be a villain. Did you see the way she flipped out at Tyrion?

Oh boy oh boy I’m so excited to watch D&D turn a beloved female character into the beloved male character’s love interest and then turn her into a villain that someone (probably a dude) needs to kill in the end! It’s going to be handled SO WELL!

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I’m glad Drogon didn’t die, though. And when he smashed that catapult that was cool.

The “Sansa is now jealous of Arya because Bran gave her a dagger and she can fight” thing is baaaaaadly written. I can see it working with a good writer but oh man, this is not that.

But Brienne/Arya fighting is the coolest thing EVER.

Sansa/Arya/Brienne/Bran/Podrick is Westeros’s hottest new five man band and I don’t care if that isn’t actually going to happen, OK.

Bran quotes “chaos is a ladder” to LF as if to remind him of the days in which he was, like, effective. And scary. And interesting.

But he looks like he’s scheming now, so maybe with Bran’s helpful reminder of one of his big speeches, he’ll start acting like the LF we know and despise.

Also can all of the Dothraki die.

I don’t like them and their cutting-off-horse-legs ways.

❤ erm

30 Days of Avatar: The Puppetmaster

Week 9: The Horrors of Avatar Land

Day 25: Ko, the Face Stealer
Day 26: The Library
Day 27: The Puppetmaster

Day 27 is for water bending no longer being pretty, flowy, and fun. NOPE.

All screenshots from Avatar Spirit.

This is Hama.

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This is the Gaang’s first reaction to Hama’s walking out of the woods and into their midst.

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It’s played off as an overreaction. After all, Hama, though she lives in a Fire Nation town, is originally from the Southern Water Tribe. She’s the only other water bender from the south that Katara has ever met. She was stolen from the tribe and imprisoned by the Fire Nation as they tried to deplete the south’s ability to fight back. And, she takes in the kids for a time and feeds them traditional Southern Water Tribe food.

However, their first reaction to her turns out to be the most correct reaction anyone could have at finding themselves in the woods with Hama.

Her story is intriguing and tragic, and partly this is because of how her experience as changed her.

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She is so bitter and full of hatred for the Fire Nation that she will do whatever violence she can, even against innocent people, to revenge herself. And as it turns out, she’s capable of a lot of violence.

She learned how to bloodbend while in prison.

Here’s Hama bloodbending Katara, when Katara refuses to use the technique.

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And while Katara can get away from her, Hama is crafty and manages to force Katara into needing to bloodbend to save Aang and Sokka.

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And as she’s being led away back to prison, she laughs, because her work is done. She has passed on her legacy to the only other Southern Tribe waterbender there is.

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Hama is terrifying. That is all.

30 Days of Avatar: The Library

Week 9: The Horrors of Avatar Land

Day 25: Ko, the Face Stealer
Day 26: The Library
Day 27: The Puppetmaster

Day 26 is for the most horrifying all-knowing owl spirit of them all.

All screenshots from Avatar Spirit.

Here is Wan Shi Tong, the library guardian.

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Barn owls are terrifying (unless it’s Errol, but he is a rare exception). It makes sense that the creators of Avatar used a terrifying barn owlesque owl spirit to be the guardian of a vast, overwhelming library, bursting with knowledge, because owls represent wisdom, and barn owls represent terror.

Do not use Wan Shi Tong’s collection of knowledge for developing military tactics. He is violently opposed to using knowledge for violence. Unless it’s to protect his knowledge from being misused, of course.

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Ah!

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Ahhhh!

His look is great, but his creepy, somewhat detached jerk-professor voice (he’s played by Héctor Elizondo who is perfect) really brings this character together so that he can haunt our nightmares forever and always.