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.

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A 2018 Mini Adventure

On New Year’s Day I got an email from an Italian woman that she was trying to send to her friend, but I guess our email addresses were similar so I ended up with it instead.

It went like this:

Buongiorno, 

Ecco il pdf della ricetta della torta di mele. Ieri credo di aver frullato troppo le mele, se riesci a frullarle un pò meno forse la “crema” rimane più consistente..Ti allego anche la ricetta di una torta crudista al cioccolato che ancora non ho provato a fare ma sembra mooolto golosa…

Sotto trovi il link al sito di ricette crudiste da cui ho tratto quella del cous cous di cavolfiore + tante altre.. (a proposito mi sa che ho dimenticato l’insalatiera di vetro che lo conteneva. Non ho fretta di averla, alla prossima occasione..)

http://www.ricettecrudiste.it/ricette/couscous-crudista/

Dalla classica ricetta Nordafricana un couscous crudista a base di cavolfiore e ortaggi. Una meraviglia per la vista e per il gusto, scoprite la ricetta!

Grazie ancora per l’accoglienza e la gradevolissima serata. 

Di nuovo Buon 2018 a tutti.

In other words:

Hey.

Here is the pdf of the apple pie recipe. Yesterday I think I blended the apples too much. If you can shake them a little I think the “cream” might remain consistent. I also attached the recipe for a chocolate cake that I haven’t tried yet but it seems soooo decadent.

Below is the link for the website I got a lot of raw recipes from, like the cauliflower cous cous (btw I know I forgot the bowl, I’m in no rush to have it back, next time).

Thanks again for the reception and the pleasant evening.

Again Happy 2018 to everyone.

So I checked out the recipes, using Google translate because though I am Italian I’m nowhere near fluent. As luck would have it, they’re all vegan. All of them. Also raw, which, I think, was more the point, but still. I’m always saying I could use more raw vegan in my life.

I replied and told her she got the email a little wrong but thanked her for the recipes anyway because I’m going to try them. I replied in English, and then she replied with “Hey sorry thanks for telling me enjoy the recipes there’s no gluten or dairy in any of them,” also in English, so I felt like a jerk for not trying to reply in Italian. But it’s fine. Google is a thing.

Look. This is perhaps the most magical thing that’s happened to me via email. And I’ve been offered jobs via email. A job I like, even, once. The first time I talked to my long lost brother was via email.

BUT THIS TRUMPS EVEN THAT.

It probably has something to do with that one terrible guy who has texted me by accident twice now thinking I’m his (probably) terrible friend, telling him to date exclusively virgins, sometimes virgin sixteen-year-olds.

I keep meaning to reply one day pretending I’m someone he knows and say “Bro help I keep obsessing over whether the hotties all my friends are dating are virgins is there a support group do you know help me” or “Bro I’ve started dating this teenage virgin hottie but bro help if we have sex she won’t be a virgin anymore do I then have to dump her and find a different teenage virgin hottie but then if so the cycle starts again or I get arrested so what do, help.”

But I never get around to it.

The point is, someone contacted me by mistake and bequeathed three raw vegan and gluten free recipes and one of them is a chocolate cheesecake.

Thank you, internet.

Anyway. I’m going to blog the three recipes because unlike some people I could mention I’m not worried about anyone’s virginity status, and therefore I have lots of time to do things where otherwise I would be occupied thinking about who’s a virgin and who isn’t a virgin. Fancy that.

I’ve made the first one already! Technically I should have started with the apple pie, and then done the cheesecake, and then the cous cous, but I started with the cous cous because I’m a lot more excited about dessert so I figured I’d just get the vegetables out of the way.

INGREDIENTS

For the cous cous:

1/2 of a cauliflower
Cumin
Turmeric
Curry
Salt
Pepper
Olive oil

For the toppings:

1/2 of a bell pepper
1/2 of an onion
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons olives
5-6 cherry tomatoes
1/2 T of peas
1 carrot
1 stalk of celery
The zest of half a lemon

Blend the cauliflower with the food processor*** so as to obtain a grain similar to the classic semolina. Transfer the cauliflower couscous into a large bowl and season with cumin, turmeric, curry, salt, pepper and oil.

Cut the pepper, the onion into cubes (you can marinate it with salt and vinegar first), the tomatoes, the carrot and the celery. Add the capers, previously desalted, the peas (fresh or frozen) and the olives. Season with salt and pepper Add the cous cous to the dressing, top with the lemon zest and decorate with fresh mint.

***Food processor in Italian is “robot da cucina” which is pretty great news. A direct translation of that is “robot of the kitchen.”

I forgot the peas and cherry tomatoes. I also “forgot” the lemon zest and the mint (I was too lazy for that) but it would have been good. Even without those four ingredients, I actually liked this a lot. The fact that there aren’t any measurements for any of the spices meant that I just added until I liked the taste and I have to say, that makes a difference.

I also DID NOT marinate the onion and pepper in vinegar first, because I HATE THAT. I HATE THAT SO MUCH. I HATE WHEN I BUY FUN LITTLE SALADS ONLY TO FIND OUT THAT IT ALL TASTES LIKE VINEGAR AND ONLY VINEGAR.

But if that’s what you like then go for it. It’s definitely missing a tang and that’s probably because I didn’t add the zest.

Well, that’s it for now. Next time is a raw apple pie. So. Yeah.

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.

100 Books: December

Jan Feb March April May June July August September October November

Phew.

I was reading up until midnight. And past midnight. But I count anything I finished by 1:15 a.m. on January 1st as something I read in December because, come on.

I’ve also been counting anything I finished in early hours of first days of any month as being from the previous month, so at the very least I’m consistent.

I read 17 books this month. Really it’s 16, which makes this an even 100 (I’m almost sure and I’m afraid to go back and do the math and find out I’m short). But there was one horrible extra book that counts on a technicality and so I’m including it to complain about its existence.

Here are some notes from the end of this journey:

  1. As December wound down someone on our Twitter timeline was talking about having finished *365* books this year. *365* BOOKS. And she finished before the month was over, so that’s MORE THAN ONE BOOK PER DAY. HOW. But despite a little bit of jealousy, mostly I feel very proud of that person. I hope one day if we happen to be in the same vicinity I’ll just spontaneously be struck with the desire to shake her hand and congratulate her and then we’ll both be really confused. But anyway.
  2. Reading 100 books in a year was a little much. I think now that I’ve proven to myself that it can be done, I’ll read more books than I so far have been reading per year, but the deadlines make it hard to enjoy things. I have a bad habit of skimming that I picked up while studying English Lit in university, and also from being a Harry Potter fan and needing to know everything that was going to happen as quickly as possible but still understanding what was going on in the story, and that habit reared its very practical and useful head here. I want to slow down and enjoy things that I read from now on, though.
  3. Kids’ graphic novels are good.
  4. I have some favourites. And I’ll probably blog about them at a later date.

For now, here are the last 17 books of my 101 books read in 2017, a not good year, but an OK year. With books.

Lumberjanes: Volume 5

lumberjanes 5

CTRL C CTRL V: It’s good it’s Lumberjanes so it’s very Lumberjanes and good.

Lumberjanes #21 & Lumberjanes #33

lumberjanes 29  lumberjanes 33

Same as above, but here I read two chapters that will eventually be added to their own volumes. I prefer reading it as a whole thing, and also I missed a chunk between the end of Volume 5 (I think) and the beginning of #21, and obviously there are several chapters missing in between the two I picked to read. But anyway. When they’re added into their own volumes I’m sure I’ll reread them and be just as happy with them as I was reading them separately.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

a christmas carol

It’s basically the Jim Carrey mocap movie adaptation, but obviously it’s just a book and it doesn’t have the overdramatized chase scenes and screaming, so, I loved it, but I also missed the overdramatized chase scenes and the screaming. I know why this is a classic but of course I already knew why it was a classic. Despite the fact that there are thousands of movie adaptations out there to choose, even if you don’t like the mocap one, I still recommend it because it’s nice, short, seasonal reading and all it asks is that you be a generous person if you’re totally capable of being a generous person, both in money and in simple kindness to the people around you.

You Can’t Punch Every Nazi by Mike Isaacson

you can't punch every nazi

This is a 30-some odd page zine that contains information on modern fascists and some strategies on how to talk to them. I personally don’t know any people who have been completely seduced by fascism but we’ve all seen the slow slide into rather harsh far-rightism, and most otherwise good, decent people do harbour slivers of white nationalist opinions. I decided a while ago that I would try to speak up when someone I know espouses harmful opinions, and I figured this would help.

It’s the beginning of 2018 and somehow, I think it’s pretty useful, and also, it’s available here for free.

The Invasion of the Tearling by Erica Johansen

invasion of the tearling

My Christmas gift to me was waiting until December to read this. It mixed it’s high fantasy main story with a modern(ish) day dystopia kind of like early-stage Handmaid’s Tale, which was very surprising and also very surprisingly well done. Kelsea is a teenager on her way to very young adulthood and she acts like one, and so far, I love everything about it.

It was especially good to read this book now that I’m completely disenchanted with Game of Thrones and even A Song of Ice and Fire. My sister said in her review of the first book in this series that it’s like if A Song of Ice and Fire was only about Danaerys. That was how she sold me on the book, too. And I agree, that’s pretty much what the Tear universe is so far. After watching the seventh season of the show, I’m going to go so far as to say that the Tearling series is like if Game of Thrones had any reason for existing whatsoever. (I’m sorry but I’m so done. I wish I wasn’t.)

Because Tearling is grappling with how to be a good leader, how to be idealistic, how to create a just society in ways that Game of Thrones is certainly not. Not at all. Maybe the books. Not the show. The show is a pile of rancid cynicism with good acting, music, and CGI.

OK, so, positivity: this series so far is gold. It’s not without it’s uncomfortable faults, but it’s good stuff.

Reasons to Vote for Democrats by Michael J. Knowles

reasons to vote for democrats

I realized as I was writing this post about some really good books that I could technically include this incredible waste of paper because the joke is that it’s blank.

Like.

There are chapter headers and then just blank pages.

It’s.

Look I think all books need to be printed on recycled paper but I think this book especially is an incredible waste of forest.

In some ways I understand that it’s kind of funny but the joke is actually on you if you pay your hard-earned money for a blank book that took a bunch of jerks pretty much no effort to create.

Anyway. My sister and I were shopping for a book for our frighteningly conservative-minded (which means racist) (maybe it doesn’t always mean racist but in this instance it really does) cousin and that’s why we even saw this waste of space.

I’m one of those people who thinks there’s no halfway understandable reason to vote Conservative apart from racism and hatred of air but I’m going to say this too: a book called “Reasons to vote for Republicans” or “Conservatives” or “Donald Trump” that’s completely blank would ALSO be bad. Just as bad, actually, because surely at least our side can come up with some arguments and counter-arguments like reasonable people who don’t want to cheat people out of money and trees in exchange for negligible artistry.

Anyway. We bought Humans of New York for our cousin and maybe he’ll glance at it twice. Whatever. That one actually took effort to create.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

eleanor oliphant

I don’t think there’s praise enough for this book.

This book is all over the place here – and I don’t mean huge eye-catching displays at Chapters, because no, but it’s everywhere else. It’s in big box grocery stores. Usually, to me, because I’m still a bit of a snob (but I’m working on it), if there’re two solid shelves of a book at Walmart or a substantial stack of them at Costco it’s maybe not the best book, or it’s a blockbuster book like Harry Potter or Twilight or A Thousand Splendid Suns.

I’m not sure if Eleanor is a blockbuster but I hope it is. It was exactly what I needed, in any case, and I’m sure lots of other people could get something they might need out of it. I picked it up because I liked the cover and the summary sounded OK, but it exceeded all of my expectations enormously. Eleanor is instantly likably unlikable. I love her, and I love that she’s sometimes a little bit difficult to love. Pretty early on there are hints that all is not well and the more you learn on that front the more lovable she becomes. It doesn’t hurt that as we learn more about her she learns more about sensitivity, which is excellent.

It’s worth pointing out, mainly because of how much I loved this book, that it deals quite a lot with child abuse, depression, suicidal thoughts, and domestic violence. I think it handled these various topics really well, but obviously your mileage may vary.

There are two big reasons that caused me to decide that this is probably my favourite book this year.

  1. The climax/”conflict is now at peak levels of intensity” moment. I was waiting from the first few pages for the conflict to blow up and be ridiculously dramatic. But, no. It’s handled with a lot of maturity. Eleanor figures out what she needs to figure out without making a huge scene the way she would have in a different book, or maybe in a quirky rom-com version of this same story. It’s not that she faces her problems squarely and with heretofore unseen inner strength, because she doesn’t. But neither does she act like many of the lovely teenagers in all of the lovely YA I’ve read this year would have, bless them. I was torn because while I felt bad for Eleanor, I was also thrilled at how calm everything was. The fallout is also handled really well, I think. There’s just enough drama, it’s nicely paced and rather cathartic and it’s everything.
  2. I like how the one potential maybe romance thing ended – small. And potentially… not romantic. Although it’s clearly implied that it’s romantic and I’m all for it being romantic but I think it’s exactly the right way for that subplot to have ended. Again, maybe it’s just that I’ve read loads of YA but I’m comparing this really quite beautiful slow progression into romance (that maybe is going to stay friendship, who knows) to a climax in which two characters make out furiously in a tree in front of all of their family members, and, yeah, this is more my speed. Also, it’s so important that “romance” is not a thing that fixes everything. I know there’s a place for that, but I prefer when it doesn’t happen.

I didn’t want it to end. And when I did finish it I wanted to just reread it, since that was my only realistic option. But I had more to do before the year’s end so I COULDN’T.

Underwater Dogs by Seth Casteel

dog

I learned that labs are terrifying and that dogs are ridiculous.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

binti

This short novel/novelette is really cool. It’s science fiction, which is not close to being my favourite thing in the world, but it does what science fiction is supposed to do, as far as I’m concerned, anyway: it challenges things. This is a challenging story that has pretty much all of the characters reevaluate their initial feelings and biases and work together. I kind of think this shouldn’t work (I can’t give away why). But it does.

There are a few sequels to this and I’m definitely interested in reading them. Sci-fi so rarely captures my attention but this one was really really cool.

Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh

spirit hunters

We bought this for our youngest cousin. It’s a ghost/possession/haunting story for children and it’s super creepy.

I read it quickly before wrapping it (I usually try to, because sometimes a book will seem like a good idea on the shelf and then you bring it home and it’s full of unfunny rape and animal cruelty jokes for literally no reason and then you have to go back out shopping again because this trash is not worthy of our baby cousin) and I’m a little worried that it’s going to give him nightmares.

On the other hand, I kind of hope it gives him nightmares. When I was a kid I loved scary stories and getting spooked. Well. It was a love-hate relationship, maybe, because I never loved the part where falling asleep at night was impossible. But in the end it’s always worth it. I recommend it for the kid in your life who wants to get scared but because horror movies usually have unnecessary sex/gore/etc. they aren’t allowed to watch most of them yet and they therefore need to resort to scary books. This one will do.

Insane Clown President by Matt Tiabbi

insane clown presidency

We bought this one for another cousin! Mostly we think he’ll like the cover art. There are also illustrations along those lines for each and every chapter, which, unfortunately, is the best part of the book.

That’s not to say it’s not good, because it is pretty good. It’s just that the subject matter is so bleak and ultimately not funny.

Notably, Tiabbi’s discussion of Bernie Sanders/the young progressive vote/Hilary Clinton was by far the most palatable pro-Bernie thing I’ve read. Usually pro-Bernie stuff is condescending because it kind of has to sneer at the Democratic base for choosing “an establishment candidate who isn’t really that progressive personally” while ignoring that the Dem base probably went for Clinton because she was the more realistic choice, and they wanted the more realistic choice. For reasons. That need to not ever be dismissed.

HOWEVER. My reading, and other pro-Hilary readings, can often be condescending the other way, towards the young progressives who rejected Clinton. I’m still sure some of them are ridiculous and would never have voted anyway, even if Bernie had won the nomination, but the reality is, it really really is a good sign that a candidate like Bernie Sanders, no matter how tiresome hearing his name has kind of become, did so well, especially with young people. Their reasons for picking him were good ones. Tiabbi’s stuff made that clear without being awful and unnuanced and broish.

Anyway. Let that be the last I hear about the 2016 primaries and the 2016 election. It’s 2018 now and all I want to hear about is the impeachment.

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

sisters

This was kind of wrenching. I really liked it, except for the part that involved dead/dying pets. One more time: the 2017 lesson is that graphic novels for kids are awesome.

Antifa: The Antifascist Handbook by Mark Bray

antifa

giphy (1)

HHHHHHHOMG. So.

I have a lot of thoughts, but they don’t really matter. Basically, if you’re interested in antifa at all, and, I said this earlier when I talked about reading the book about terrorism but I’m saying it again now, if you’re living in today’s reality then you probably are at least somewhat interested in the topic, I highly recommend this one. It places current antifa tactics and groups in their historical contexts, which is really unnerving when this book demonstrates all of the similarities between what’s going on now and what went on right before WWII. I don’t think the book is scaremongering – in fact I just think it’s being honest. I took away some fairly hard-hitting points from it, the most important of which is, if we’re serious about “never again,” we need to understand all of the different facets of how we actually make “never again” the reality… and this book suggests that antifascist action, some of which is violent, is a crucial part of it.

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

radio silence

We intended this book for our little cousin but thankfully I read it first. It’s just a touch too old, but we’re lending it to her in a year or so because it’s so good.

First of all, I think it’s the most accurate and realistic depiction of being a high school student I’ve ever read or watched or encountered anywhere. And while that means it was delightful to read – the feeling of “so someone else felt like that once too!” is always so beautiful to stumble upon – that also means it goes to some very dark places.

This and Tash Hearts Tolstoy are high on my list of books I wish I’d been able to read when I was a teenager, but no matter. I’ve read them now.

Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral by Phillis Wheatley

poems on various subjects

It’s available online to read freely, like, right now. I suggest you check it out, even just one or two poems, because the backstory on this one is intense.

I can’t really say anything about it except “how did I take two American lit courses and we never were assigned even one of these poems,” but here’s a thing you should definitely read about it.

Assholes: a Theory by Aaron James

assholes a theory

I don’t really know what the theory is, but this was a fun read. It will actually make you feel a little bit better about having to put up with a certain type of person you might often have to put up with.

Also there’s reference to Donald Trump, but he wasn’t even running for president when this was published (do you remember those glorious days), so it was kind of sad.

Arrival (but really, Stories of Your Life and Others) by Ted Chiang

arrival

Science fiction! Not my favourite.

I hadn’t realized that this is a collection of short stories, only one of which is the basis for the movie Arrival which I really like. The story is good – it’s probably my favourite in the collection – but I prefer the way the movie handled the alien aspect of things.

However. Amy Adams’ storyline in that movie kind of bugged me. In this version the character makes a similar personal life choice, but you get to see her thoughts and nightmares about it, and everything makes more sense. There’s a significant change in the adaptation as well that makes me frown a bit. SPOILERS FOR BOTH VERSIONS: In the movie, her daughter is fairly young, maybe a teenager, when she dies of an illness she was always going to contract and suffer through. In the story, she’s 25 – still young but an adult at least – and she dies rock climbing. Maybe the movie makers thought the rock climbing thing would make audiences go “Wait why couldn’t she go with her to the cliff or tell her not to go on that particular day” and sure, those would be fair questions. The illness makes it clear that there really isn’t anything she can do to prevent it.

Buuuuut the point is she can’t? The way we perceive time, when someone dies suddenly, we don’t see it coming and couldn’t have prevented it. The way Amy Adams’ character sees time, she can see a thing coming and yet she still can’t change it. She just knows it’s going to happen.

This bugs us because we can’t understand how a person could be able to see bad things coming and not be able to prevent them, what’s the point etc. etc. but the point here is that aliens will have vastly different ways of existing in this universe than we will, so. Shut up.

Ultimately I like this story, I like what it says about us and our one way of living in the world, but I think it’s fundamentally flawed because we can’t just magically escape our narrow understanding of the world to write or to read a story, not fully.

Also I wrote a bit about the heptapods and how I think they look like squid, but I forgot to talk about how they also look unnervingly and I think purposefully like human hands, but with one extra digit.

Anyway. The other stories were all a lot like this too, where I liked them but they were challenging and, I think, sometimes kind of too bold for their own good. But I definitely think this collection is a worthwhile read. Again, as with Binti, I think any sci-fi that properly challenges me is worth my time.

AND THAT’S IT! Time to… read. More. Again. Yey!

That One Quiet Moment in The Last Jedi

Spoilers.

This is a short one.

Also Merry Christmas and/or happy December 25th!!!! ❤

There are a bunch of quiet moments in The Last Jedi, and I know, because my sister was sitting next to me digging in a bag of popcorn during almost all of them so it was hard not to notice. Most of them are when Rey is talking to Luke or Kylo.

But there’s one quiet moment that’s also a huge epic action moment, and that’s where Vice Admiral Holdo drives her ship, at light speed, through the First Order.

So I was sitting there, making my impressed face,

gen10

looking at the silent aftermath, and because it’s so quiet I heard a few kids, all over the theatre, one by one, in hushed tones, go, “Whoa.” It was kind of like, after the first one spoke up, the other few had to answer, or maybe they were just all compelled to go “Whoa” at various times.

What was already a really cool moment became even cooler because of those few kids and their pure reactions.

Confession Time

(The featured image today is Aurora singin’ with her critters because 100% that is me, in the woods behind our house, singing these stupid modified lyrics while surrounded by friendly woodland creatures. It happens. Shut up.)

I try, I really do, to not be obnoxious in the veganism. I’m relatively new at it, after all. Sure, I’ll judge OFAH and stuff, but otherwise I try to be nice and not easily offended by things so that the people around me start to lose the stigma of “vegan=humourless moralist.”

But. OK. So when “The Christmas Song” comes on, and it gets to the line about helping to make the season bright, I sing,

Tofurky and some mistletoe

Help to make the season bright.

I’m sorry. I don’t even eat Tofurky, but it doesn’t ruin the meter like “just scads of Christmas cookes, French toast, scalloped potatoes, lasagna and I guess some mistletoe but that’s kind of not important” would.

It’s a thing I do often, actually. I rewrote some of the lyrics to Billy Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young” which is about pestering an apparently chastity-committed Catholic girl into sex. I changed it so it’s from her perspective.

You think not having morals is badass and so great

You say you’d laugh with sinners and scoff at the saints

But there’s Hitler and Stalin and Pot and Hussein

Not all sinners are that much fun

Some of them made the good die young

-this next part gets wailed-

MY MOM THINKS YOU’RE A LOSER AND SHE WANTS TO KNOW WHAT YOUR DEAL IS

Now are you even sure you’re into me,

Don’t alienate me from my family.

Whoa-oh-oh-oh

It’s a catchy song so this way I can sing along to it, just this part though, without getting mad about random Catholic girl fetishism and, like, blatant coercion. TBC the church needs to get over itself on this and many other issues but no means no, Billy Joel. It doesn’t matter if you don’t agree with her reasoning because her reasoning is based on weird misogynistic sex-negative beliefs about human nature, it’s HER BODY.

Also I don’t for a second buy that he’s concerned about her sexual freedom in the name of feminism or out of concern for her as her own person. Dude’s looking for a naive girl to manipulate so he doesn’t have to actually navigate a relationship with someone he respects.

(I don’t care if the point is that she wants to have sex too and just needs a bit of cajoling I AM SO DONE WITH ROMANCE NARRATIVES EVEN IN SONG FORM THAT PULL THIS WHINY SHIT GIVE ME ENTHUSIASTIC CONSENT OR I WALK.)

(PS WE CATHOLIC GIRLS GET CONFIRMED AT AGE 13 YOU SICK FUCK NOW PISS OFF FOREVER.)

I want to rewrite the entire song from her point of view but it’ll take too much time uuuuuugh I’m so laaaazy.

And “Cheerleader.”

Ooh, I think that I’ve found myself a cheerleader

She has literally no wants and needs of her own.

I tried.

Not really.

Sorry Paul McCartney, but…

Well she was just seventeen,

Well you know what I mean.

(What I mean is that I’m a pedo-FY-YULL.)

How could I be expected to not act creepy (WOOOOH) when I saw her standing there.

“You know what I mean,” is the part that gets me. It just sounds so lecherous and leering, fetishising of the young as well as just kind of creepy, and it’s out of place in a song that is otherwise apparently a simple song about meeting someone at a dance and falling in love.

Why not: “We were just seventeen,/well you know what I mean.” Problem solved.

And after the election I rewrote “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria.”

How do you get a woman into power?

How do you get the jerks to come around?

(I skipped a chunk here)

You just need someone who’s a bit like Thatcher,

A bit of a fascist

And maybe like Palin:

A clown.

Many a thing you know you’d like to tell them (the electorate),

Many a thing they ought to understand,

But how do you make them stay;

See the truth in what you say,

Get them to take the pill and keep it down?

Oh how do you get a woman in to poweeeeeer,

if she’d actually be awesome… at the… jooooooob.

(And Sister Margaretta comes in with the alternative lyrics harmony)

And be way better than the guy they chose insteeeeeeeeead.

I don’t know guys I’m bored a lot.

Also three rewrote some lyrics for “Would You Still Love me the Same” because the song offended her, making the singer do increasingly horrible things and still expect to be loved unconditionally.

If I stole all your cash, if I burnt down your house,

Tell me honestly, would you still love me the same?

If I punched a puppy, if I murdered your mom,

Tell me honestly, would you still love me the same?

(why the two of us get annoyed enough at ridiculous song lyrics to reference genocide and murder is beyond me but I guess it has something to do with the fact that we go all in on things we feel moderate distaste for)

PS: don’t try singing along with these. There are lots of extra syllables and/or the meter is all off.

❤ erm

A Coco Complaint

I FINALLY went to see Coco and I have one extremely important complaint:

WHY ARE THERE NO FULL-LENGTH SONGS SUNG BY ANTHONY GONZALEZ ON THE SOUNDTRACK????????????????????

Ahem.

I suppose, technically, both “Proud Corazón” and “Poco Loco” are full-length songs, but “Proud Corazón” is only two minutes and “Poco Loco” is LESS than two minutes and in the movie that performance 100% gets interrupted. And “The World es Mi Famiglia” is less than ONE MINUTE long! What is this nonsense?

Pixar basically made a musical without making a musical, and the short bursts of song throughout the movie definitely work for the pacing BUT I WANT FULL-LENGTH AND MAYBE EVEN LIKE 20-MINUTE VERSIONS OF THESE SONGS ON THE SOUNDTRACK AT LEAST, COME ON!

Pixar what are you doing to me.

This is not OK.

I am not OK.

The Polar Expressay

Anecdote time.

A few years ago, my younger cousin was beginning to doubt, so one day, finally, he went to his mother for reassurance.

“Mom? Do you believe in Santa?”

This is a tough situation because, first of all, the kid has trusted you with one of his innermost fears, a sneaking doubt that he wishes would just evaporate, a sneaking doubt that he never used to experience when he was younger. Now you have to answer properly because this is a big deal question and it has taken a lot of courage for him to trust you with it.

Next, it’s hard because he’s at the age where it’s too early to just rip the band-aid off and admit the truth, but at the same time, he’s too old for a bald-faced lie because he’s going to remember asking this question and that you bald-face lied and he won’t trust you ever again.

So what do you do?

My aunt, thinking quickly (and amazingly), said, “… I believe… in the… spirit… of Santa.”

And he nodded sagely and said, “Yeah, I believe in the spirit of Santa too.”


Belief is a pretty big deal this time of year – not necessarily in Santa, or even in the religious aspects. I always try to believe in the spirit of the season, and the importance of family and friends, or whatever. The inherent gentleness inside all of us. The potential for peace. That stuff is what all of the songs are about, anyway.

This year I’m in a bit of a funk. It’s not down to any one thing, but these days it seems like it’s a little difficult to believe in all of that in general. Due to that, I wanted to look at the Christmas animated movie that is entirely about belief, but that also leaves me with too many questions to be comfortable.

If you want to be an awful cynic about it, you can do a surface reading of The Polar Express (the movie, anyway – I haven’t read the book and I don’t know if or how it differs) that goes like this:

  • The Pol Ex tells kids it’s a buzzkill to be skeptical
  • No, really. Main Boy is always questioning Main Girl and it’s depicted as if Main Boy is a huge buzzkill and Main Girl is always right anyway and all his questioning does is make her doubt herself, but what if she one day is wrong? Is she really not supposed to listen to criticism or “sober second judgement” ever? So when her ticket says “LEAD” at the end, what, is she supposed to be a dictator?
  • Billy is told to just buy into Christmas™ because everyone else is doing it, it doesn’t matter what his lived experiences are
  • Billy is told to trust some elves and a magical gift dude who has never given him a present before because everyone else is doing it, it doesn’t matter what his lived experiences are, and also, all of those previous Christmases that didn’t work out were… his fault?
  • There’s a ghost on this train
  • No, really, there’s a ghost and he’s extremely creepy, and there’s also a room full of terrifying marionettes and the ghost makes one of Scrooge move and yell existentially terrifying things at Main Boy for kicks
  • There are so many potentially child-murdering fuckups on this magical journey, and the conductor, engineers, and all of the elves should get fired

But I’m not an awful cynic. All of the “don’t be skeptical” messaging that seems to be going on is rather undercut by Fourth, Arrogant Kid’s entire existence. It’s not that you shouldn’t be skeptical or curious or even self-conscious and doubtful – all of those are essential things. It’s just that there are times, such as when you’re about to die for the fifth time in a row on this bullshit train journey, that you need to kind of just trust yourself. And your friends. And, I guess, God, or something. Whatever your guiding light is. And on Christmas Eve at 5 minutes to midnight, your guiding light is “The Spirit of Christmas.”

Billy’s subplot is strange, though. If you’ve got nothing productive to say about poverty or neglect or whatever is going on with Billy, then, um, maybe don’t include it and give it a simplistic magical solution.

As for the ghost and the terrifying stuff, I really like it. I find it quite comforting, actually. Whenever the ghost shows up I feel inexplicably safe (yes, even when he’s marionetting Scrooge). It’s likely because the ghost’s entire existence is to mock the kid for being skeptical. Sometimes skepticism needs to be mocked (because you’re being a dick, Declan), and the times to mock skepticicm are basically Christmas time.

I also like all of the almost-death because it’s fun to watch, so sue me. I’m not a fan of “In the real world these people would be so fired” criticisms in general because, first of all, duh, this is a movie, if you meant to watch real life for an hour and a half you took a wrong turn somewhere, and second of all, IDK, have you seen the White House lately aidhfjsdnkandcka

But here’s some less awful cynical critique.

The culmination of Main Boy’s doubt vs belief conflict has him turn away from struggling to see Santa behind columns of elves, and turn away from reindeer anxiously trying to fly while their bells jingle absolutely silently, and close his eyes. “OK. OK. I believe. I… believe…”

It’d be a pretty shallow movie if just seeing Santa confirmed Santa’s existence. It’d be pretty shallow too if the sound of the sleigh bells is what did it. But no, it’s neither of those things. Main Boy can’t hear the bell until he lets himself believe, tells himself he believes, insists that he believes. It’s more about the fear of believing in something in case it turns out to not be true, or if it turns out to not be all you imagined, and you get hurt.

The sound of the bell becomes concrete evidence of Main Boy’s belief, instead of being concrete evidence of the existence of Santa and all of the magic around him. This is all well and good, because although concrete evidence of the magic is what Main Boy has been looking for this whole time, finding that evidence can’t possibly give him what he needs. The problem is, once you prove something with concrete evidence, you can’t really believe it anymore, not truthfully, because then it’s just a fact. “The Spirit of Christmas” is something you believe in, not something you prove.

What I don’t like about the sound of the bell is what’s said about it at the very end of the movie. Main Boy, having grown up into Tom Hanks (like everyone else in this universe), talks about how his friends and even his sister all one by one found that a year finally came around when they could no longer hear the sound of the bell, but Main Boy always could. That’s the part that just doesn’t work for me, because if it’s supposed to be a point about kids having a specific way of believing as opposed to adults, then Main Boy Who is Now Tom Hanks should really not be able to hear it as an adult. And if instead it’s supposed to be about how the Polar Express experience itself was a lasting thing that ensured he would always be a little bit more childlike and believey than everyone else, I’m not a fan of that either, because that’s weird, and the train almost fell through ice and went down a roller coaster, and, I don’t know, it just doesn’t work for me.

Maybe they just didn’t know how to end it otherwise, so they went with, “Our parents couldn’t hear it but we could but then all the other kids grew up and couldn’t and while I grew up into Tom Hanks I still could, TA-DAAAA.”

(that has nothing whatsoever to do with this, nothing at all, but I can’t even think the “word” “ta-da” without thinking about this so)

I’d rather think about the duality of what’s strictly, factually real here, and what’s not but still kind of is. All of that junk is firmly on my playlist: magical realism, Life of Pi, etc. When Main Boy wakes up on Christmas morning, he rips his pocket, even though at 5 to midnight the night before he already ripped his pocket as he made his way outside to see the train. There’s some concrete evidence that the polar experience was a dream.

But then his sister finds the bell wrapped under the tree, with a note from Santa referencing that he lost it the previous night.

Two pieces of evidence, proving two different and conflicting realities.

Their mom comes over and asks what he’s got, and asks who it’s from.

“Santa!” they tell her, and her “Santa, really?” answer sounds really skeptical. I don’t know how it’s possible to instruct an actress to read that short little line and somehow convey that she knows Santa isn’t real while humouring her kids and being a little bit confused but not overly worried about it, but, they did it. Or maybe I’m just reading that into it, but it really does sound like she’s doing double duty there.

And if she doesn’t believe in Santa, and if it’s her and her husband who are putting the gifts under the tree and pretending they’re from Santa, and if the bell is not from her and her husband, then Santa is both real and not real in this universe, which is… interesting.

Belief is a tricky little abstract concept. The duality of “Santa is real!” and “But he’s not, actually!” and then again “But he still kind of is, ultimately!” is interesting but it doesn’t have much to contribute on the subject. It probably comes back to the important climactic moment where Main Boy decides to believe. Deciding to believe in something is big, important, crucial, but in this movie, it also happens right before Main Boy sees Santa up close and actually talks to him. Metaphorically it’s nice I guess; it grants catharsis. But choosing to believe in something, even if it’s “The Spirit of Christmas,” is not a thing that you do one time and then that’s it, you’re set. Faith gets shaken. Time moves on, you get older, you lose people, unexplained things happen in “free and fair” elections, and it takes near-constant work to remain believey, no matter what it is you happen to choose to believe in.

I’m of two minds, fittingly. I like that The Polar Express illustrates belief the way that it does, but I also think its conclusion is a little too simplistic for the big concepts it’s trying to discuss. It’s why I prefer A Christmas Carol and Arthur Christmas – both of those have pretty simplistic ideas at their hearts. A Christmas Carol meshes generosity of spirit (and wealth) with the Christmas season, and Arthur Christmas is about doing your job for the right reasons and very much masculinity all day with the masculinity oh my God it’s entirely about masculinity. Simple ideas expanded with detailed stories and characters. Pol Ex is more about simple characters grappling with big ideas, and, maybe it’s just me, but I like the “simple ideas, complex characters/exploration” type better. They seem neater, cleaner, and ultimately more satisfying.

But there’s really nothing like the train materializing out of the mist.

100 Books: November

Jan Feb March April May June July August September October

WELP.

This was easily my most productive month, reading-wise. 17! That means I have 16 left. To be read in one month. That’s just grand.

Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova

awkward

I started the month off right with a graphic novel from Svetlana Chmakova. It’s heart-wrenching and adorable, and tackles bullying and uneasily navigating friendships, but mainly it looks at what happens when you make a mistake. Can you make up for it? How?

It does such a good job. I hope this book is widely available in school libraries everywhere because it’s fantastic.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

my brilliant friend

I’ve been reading this for probably at least a year and a half now. It’s lovely and fascinating but it’s also really dense, and at times a little emotionally draining – nothing extremely horrible happens, but because of how vivid the characters are and how well Ferrante illustrates the relationship between Elena and Lila it’s an intense read.

When the Moon was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

when the moon was ours

This one requires a long, wistful sigh before going any further.

I *wanted* *so* *badly* to capital “L” Love this book. I almost did. But a lot of McLemore’s prose is floaty and dreamy and beautiful and some of it doesn’t work for me.

This is absolutely a failing on my part, and I’ll cop to it. I love magical realism and I *want* to love dreamy, floaty, beautiful prose, but I often get stuck on it if it isn’t exactly the way I want it to be. At present I can’t even think of an example of an author who pulls off this sort of thing stylistically for my stupid, particular tastes, but I will say that there are certain passages in here that are breathtaking.

When it works, it works. It makes a love scene twenty thousand times more romantic, it makes the setting entirely more beautiful, and there are enough of those moments for me to decide that I’m the problem here, not the prose. But there are some moments, like this one that stuck in my craw: I’m not actually going to quote it but basically Sam has observed that two characters have a bunch of similarities that are probably due to their being blood relations. One of the things in the list is that both women wear out their right shoes before their left shoes, and, come on. Why would he know that? I know him and Miel are close but, who on earth is close enough to know how exactly their friend/lover’s shoes get worn out, and why would he also know it about her guardian?

Anyway, it’s such a little thing, meant to be stylistic and not taken literally the way I, a ridiculous person, took it, and got frustrated. What’s way more important is that this love story between a girl and a trans boy is stunning. It’s so good. It’s written so well. I just wish it had been a tad less dreamy/floaty/beautiful because I suck.

Oh, I also LOVE the way the conflict was resolved. So, so much.

Indexing by Seanan McGuire

indexing

Seanan McGuire is a national treasure. I don’t think I get to say that, actually, because she’s American and I’m not but I’m saying it anyway. And to think I found her because some brocialists decided to mock her for using Harry Potter as a cultural touchstone to form a rally cry about Trump’s election. Her tweet was basically a call for everyone to assemble and she used the Hogwarts houses to talk about how people with different strengths should play to those strengths in the fights to come.

I mean. It was cutesy and harmless and a lot of people, especially young people, enter and familiarize themselves with politics through popular art but the brocialists didn’t like it and she got dog piled. For using Harry Potter in real-life political talk. (Everyone does that guys.) I followed her immediately and I’ve so far loved every book of hers I’ve read.

I actually started out not liking this one very much – the premise is that fairy tales are trying to happen every day and there’s a Bureau that tries to prevent them, staffed by almost-fairy tale leads. So. It’s wacky. But halfway through it grew on me, mainly because the characters were so likable and I felt the need to stick with them, and once the stakes got high I was hooked. I have the sequel downloaded and am really excited to get back to this world, it’s cool and deadly.

Islands of Decolonial Love by Leanna Betasamosake Simpson

islands of decolonial love

This is angry and impossible to turn away from. Because it’s a collection of short stories I’m having trouble remembering specifics, but I do vividly recall one part in one story where the characters do some civil disobedience by picketing the OFAH headquarters purely out of spite with a sign that says “First we’ll kill your animals, then we’ll fuck your women (with their consent, of course)” and though I am not a fan of hunting at all I am a huge fan of consent, and of antagonizing the OFAH (which spends an uncomfortable amount of time whining that First Nations have limited or no regulations on their hunting) and I laughed out loud and heartily.

“it takes an ocean not to break” was my favourite. It was strikingly beautiful and hard to face, dealing with mental health, suicide, therapy, and the systemic racism behind it all.

Sistah Vegan compiled by A. Breeze Harper

sistah vegan

Sistah Vegan gets its own post!

What Terrorists Want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat by Louise Richardson

what terrorists want

giphy (1)

If the subject of terrorism interests you, and, it probably does, considering the time in which we’re living, I highly recommend reading this because it puts everything into perspective. The main takeaways are that the post-9/11 “War on Terror” was a gigantic missed opportunity to better understand the “why” and “how” of terrorism, which, you’d think, would be essential for combating it. This was not a surprising conclusion, but it’s still an important one.

It was written when Bin Laden was still alive, and one thing I missed here was a look at unorganized angry white man terrorism which is becoming the norm in the United States, but which has also touched Canada. I’d be really interested in Richardson’s take on how something disorganized fits into the definition of terrorism, and the similarities and differences.

Yikes. Heavy stuff.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

brown girl dreaming

This is absolutely beautiful.

A Pussycat’s Christmas by Margaret Wise Brown and Anne Mortimer

a pussycat's christmas

This isn’t cheating what are you talking about.

OK, so it’s an extremely short children’s book that I’ve read many times before, what’s the big deal?

It’s important seasonal reading, though, and, whatever, I’m close and yet far from the goal number so I have to do things like this.

It’s a good book. This is one of my favourite Christmas images ever.

cat

I want my kitchen table to look like that, always.

Also this cat is perpetually horrified and I love it, she’s like my Chili.

Brave by Svetlana Chmakova

brave

I read this sequel to Awkward in ONE SITTING and it was incredible.

INCREDIBLE.

It’s mostly about bullying and the bigger problem of isolation, and it tackles these issues gently and realistically and also it ruined my night, here you go:

jensen1

jensen

*cries forever*

Seriously, though. I’m thinking about buying this for my little cousin for Christmas because I think it’s both really well done and important.

A Song for Quiet by Cassandra Khaw

a song for quiet

FIRST OF ALL: Cassandra Khaw’s author pictures are the absolute best things ever.

I read one of hers last month, and it was chick lit, so this extremely dark novella was a bit of a shock although now that I’ve browsed through her available work, it looks like this sort of thing is her normal.

I only wish I had read this earlier this year, or maybe last November. Its apocalypse stuff and apathy stuff and cynicism and despair are very late 2016 – early 2017 for me – but then it ends fairly optimistically… and I don’t think I’m there yet. So maybe I actually should have waited to read it until late 2018 (fingers crossed).

The Pemmican Eaters by Marilyn Dumont

the pemmican eaters

Finally, I read some Marilyn Dumont! Her work kept being referenced in that anthology I read earlier this year so it was nice to actually find out what everyone was talking about.

I’m a sucker for Canadian history, and these poems are about the Riel Resistance. I’m also a sucker for rhythmic poetry and whenever her meter kicked in I was reminded specifically of “Puerto Rican Obituary” by Pedro Pietri, one of my favourite ever poems, so, overall, I guess you could say this worked for me.

Farewell, My Queen by Chantal Thomas

farewell my queen

Just as dense as My Brilliant Friend and also intensely about women’s relationships. I found this pretty strange, overall, and that’s fitting considering it’s an intimate look at a really strange moment in history.

The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore

the weight of feathers

I read this other book from McLemore this month and I liked it better – but I liked the ending a lot less. I liked how it ended – I agreed with the choices the main characters made and all, but as to how the conflict got resolved, I was a strong “meh.” When the Moon was Ours definitely has the better conflict resolution – that was my favourite part of that book. Here, it’s a Romeo and Juliet situation but between two circus families, and basically the two kids get everyone to leave them alone so they can run off together by making out furiously in a tree in front of everyone. And I thought that was stupid. Call me cold-hearted, but, meh.

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby

we are never meeting in real life

This was everything. Some of it was heartbreaking, some of it was hysterically funny, a lot of it was relatable – I loved it. I’ve never read a collection of personal essays before, and yet I still suspect that if I started doing that regularly this would find a spot and remain on my top five list, at least.

Lumberjanes Volume 4

lumberjanes vol 4

What is there to say about Lumberjanes apart from that this series has been the highlight of my year and no, I don’t think that’s tragic. In fact, I’m delighted. I can’t wait for it to be a TV series (come on, something this fun and lovely HAS to be made into a cartoon dramedy), but I love it as graphic novels in the meantime.

In this volume, it looks like maybe things aren’t as idyllic at Camp Lumberjane (I don’t actually know if that’s what it’s called) as we may first have suspected, but I trust that the girls will fix everything in time.

Smile by Raina Telgemeier

smile

Telgemeier’s Ghost was the first graphic novel I read this year, and I loved it so much I decided to give things like Lumberjanes and Awkward and Brave a try and they’ve been some of my favourite things ever. I grabbed this one and read it in a sitting. It brought back many painful memories of braces – though my tooth “problems” were not nearly as severe as Raina’s (all I’ll say about hers is ouuuuuch).

It also reminded me of the time I dumped all of my friends and got an entirely new group of friends, also while wearing braces, also determining that it improved my life tenfold. So this was a nice trip down memory lane to probably the most fraught couple of years of my life so far (which makes me very lucky, that the worst I dealt with was stupid preteen-teen angst in grades seven and eight).

I think if I’d had this book at the time, it would have soothed me a little bit, so bless Telgemeier for it.

November’s lesson is that kids’ graphic novels are amazing. That will be all.

Sistah Vegan: A Review

(Image is from Wishing Well Sanctuary)

I finished Sistah Vegan this month and decided it was worth its own post so here are my very inexpert thoughts on intersectional veganism and the book that compiles some essays dealing with the topic.

sistah vegan

**Disclaimer: am white person whiting it up over here.

Prologue: The Uncomfortable Reality of Racism in Animal Rights

Here are a couple of comments I stumbled upon recently, in response to an animal advocacy group sharing an article that said Canada was badly ranked for it’s treatment of animals (unsurprising).

halal comment

The first comment is frustratingly ignorant. The SPCA can only do so much, guys, because the laws suck and need to be updated. Pay attention to who you’re voting for. The laws also require law enforcement officers who are actually interested in enforcing the laws in order to be effective. Pay attention to who isn’t doing the enforcing and give them hassle when they fail to act. Don’t break into people’s houses and steal animals and ruin animal cruelty cases that the SPCA are building up legally. Come on, now.

The second comment is, you know, racist.

It’s ignorant, too, because, really. What is the SPCA supposed to do about an industry practice that is entirely legal and defined as “not animal cruelty” and instead one of the acceptable methods of slaughter?

I should expand on the “racist” thing though because I happen to know some people IRL who would take issue with that label, annoyingly. “It can’t be racist if it’s about a religion” OK Brent, best case scenario you’re a bigot, congrats, but I’m still going to call it racism because Islamaphobia gets directed at anyone who looks vaguely brown.

Why is it a problem that people are against Halal? Well – it’s not. Halal is not a great thing where animals are concerned. It requires animals being slaughtered for food to be alert during slaughter whereas otherwise the animal would be stunned first. Personally I think it’s not the biggest difference because animals slaughtered for food tend to be at least somewhat aware of what they’re heading for before they get stunned, especially if the slaughterhouse is badly designed or not following the top guidelines, but it makes enough of a difference to the individual animals that really that sort of practice shouldn’t be allowed.

But why single out Halal? Kosher is exactly the same. Also, why single out either Halal or Kosher? Why not single out the industry standard practice of grinding up male chicks while they’re still alert? That is not done because of religious laws, just for, I don’t know, expedience, maybe. Or what about gestation crates for pig mothers, which is a practice that causes immense suffering for years on end rather than for just a split second at slaughter? How about going after gigantic quotas that lead to massive stress among the already stressed-out workers, which of course leads to physical abuse of the animals, either as a necessity for reaching quota or as an outlet for frustration?

How I deal with Halal and Kosher is that I’ve just resigned myself to being mostly silent about it, because there are, in fact, animal advocates of both the Muslim and Jewish persuasions who are having these conversations within their own communities and it isn’t my place as some rando Catholic to butt in. Why not allow them to take care of their own cultural practices, particularly these days, when their communities are under quite a bit of stress because of certain unmentionable somehow elected officials? Really, ever since September 11, 2001, it hasn’t been the opportune moment to start browbeating Muslim people about one of their cultural practices that isn’t good for animals. Especially when non-Muslim Canadians aren’t exactly lining up to tidy up our own garbage practices.

Canada has plenty of animal rights issues to tackle that are not specific to our Muslim communities. Like the seal hunt. Like all of those other meat industry standard practices I mentioned. How about the transportation of pigs for slaughter? That was kind of a big deal a while ago.

Also, Islam is in many ways a pretty animal-friendly religion. Sure, Halal requires animals to be alert for slaughter and there are the sacrificial animals during Eid, but Muslims are technically not supposed to eat pork ever (good for pigs), and a lot of their fasting rituals require them to abstain from meat for lengthy time periods each year (good for food animals in general). Christianity could learn a thing or two.

I don’t know this commenter and for all I know “Halal” was just the first thing that popped into their head when it occurred to them to email the SPCA. But probably not. I think it’s more than safe to say that this is an example of someone who probably does care about animals, but who also is upset about Muslim people existing nearby and has decided to kill two birds with one stone and join the two pet causes.

I’m ashamed to say I didn’t speak up here. I seriously considered it. I think things like this hurt everyone, because first of all, it’s racist, which is never good, and then there’s the fact that there easily could be a Muslim person scrolling through these comments, and animal rights needs allies, and to have allies we need to make people feel welcome, and not make them feel like they do anywhere people enthusiastically voted for Stephen Harper and his low key Islamaphobia. Finally, it does delegitimize us a bit. People are looking for any excuse to dismiss animal rights as a thing worth discussing, and if you’re using it as a platform to be racist, you’ve basically handed them a perfect reason to stop listening forever.

The reason I didn’t speak up is sort of complicated. The first problem is that Facebook will then plaster that conversation on the walls of my friends, some of whom are my coworkers, and I didn’t want them to see me calling a stranger an Islamaphobe. And that’s basically what it would have been, because the second problem was that I couldn’t come up with anything calm and reasonable to say.

I still think the right thing to do was to think about it for a while and then post something along the lines of, “Hi there – Islam is a pretty animal-friendly religion, actually, considering the fasting and such, and there are lots of other, non-Islamic and totally legal industry practices that cause a lot of suffering to food animals, none of which the SPCA is capable of ending on its own. We need to vote smarter and put pressure on our elected officials so that they know we want animal welfare improvements. Have a LOVELY non-Muslim-hating day!”

Alas. Next time.

And that said…

The Actual Review

The book is a collection of personal essays about the broad experience of black women vegans. A lot of the essays focus on health veganism. Health veganism is cool and all but for my part, I’m not really interested in hearing about the health benefits of being vegan these days. What I actually want to hear about are the pitfalls. I’d like in depth examinations of B12 deficiencies and where to get calcium, vitamin A, omega 3s, iron, and zinc, because although I do have vague ideas about all of those things, being nutritious is really tricky and I think it can only help to be honest about how complex it is. My sister has talked about some of that before but I’d like to see more of that from vegans regularly because it’s helpful stuff. (HERE’S THE PART WHERE I UNSUBTLY SHOUT OUT TO THREE TO WRITE MORE NUTRITION STUFF.)

Health veganism, from the perspective of all of the essayists is especially beneficial for black Americans, however, and that’s where my own perspective is limited. I may not be all that excited about how useful a vegan diet can be for combating obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, but because black Americans are disproportionately more likely to die from these health problems than other races in America, it’s clearly worth more discussion.

There was also a really intriguing conversation near the end of the book between women discussing being fat, black, and vegan/vegetarian, and that was one of my favourite parts. Fellow vegans: FAT SHAMING. IS NEVER. OK. FAT SHAMING. ONLY. DOES HARM. THANKS.

Perhaps my favourite essay was “Being a Sistah at PETA” because I’m a PETA apologist. I love PETA criticism and here was some really well thought out criticism written by a former employee. She says she wanted to apply the intersectional message of a vegan diet being good for black Americans’ health considering they are more likely to face certain health problems made worse by animal consumption, but PETA wanted to focus on fur-wearing in hip hop and getting various black celebrities to be publicly anti-fur. It seems clear from this essay that their goals were really short-sighted and, like, extremely white. Outreach to any community that focuses on “what animal rights can do for you” would probably be more effective in the long run than patronizing “let’s get celebrity role models to say stuff for us and that’ll do it.” Sigh, PETA. While you may like your bad publicity and your celebrity partnerships, sometimes maybe try reaching out in a thoughtful manner. Cover your bases, is all I’m suggesting.

Finally, we arrive at “the dreaded comparison.” The biggest takeaway I got from this collection was that it’s really, really important to be thoughtful about rhetoric. Comparing animal exploitation to human atrocities is important, and probably essential, both for understanding how animal exploitation works AND for understanding how human exploitation works, but, especially if we’re white, we need to think carefully about when and why we’re doing it. Mainly, we need to not scream all day about how the meat industry is just like slavery or the Holocaust, because in doing so we may be hurting marginalized people. There are several accounts of hearing black people say they were viscerally disgusted by “meat is like slavery” rhetoric and never gave the issue more careful thought afterwards. If someone has observed throughout our culture that animals are worth far less consideration than humans, and also that their own humanity will always be up for debate because of systemic white supremacy, this sort of rhetoric will never help animals, and instead will always hurt people. If we’re doing comparison, it needs to be in specific contexts only, thoughtful, studious ones, looking at the similarities and differences between human and animal exploitation. We can still ask people to begin to value animals more and to consider their suffering when they make decisions, and we can absolutely use strong rhetoric to do so, but I think white animal rights activists especially need to take several steps back if we’re going to use human atrocities that didn’t affect our ancestors and don’t affect us currently as easy rhetorical devices, and, like, not do that.

Sistah Vegan is good reading for anyone who wants to help make the animal rights community less racist and therefore much, much better. We need to be accommodating and intersectional. It’s the only way forward.

Anatomy of a Traitorous Disney Opinion: We Liked the Beauty and the Beast Remake

Hi there! Here we all are on this fine day, finding ourselves parked on this web page which belongs to two people who preferred the 2017 Beauty and the Beast to the 1991 Beauty and the Beast. It’s not the first time we’ve liked the newer, live actioner version of a Disney classic better than the original version, but our preferences tend to run against the grain of how, like, everyone else in the universe feels about these live action Disney remake movies.

We wanted to discuss our B&tB feelings in depth but were too lazy to write another long-winded post about it, so we went on a Canadian staycation and had an actual verbal conversation about it and recorded it, probably while black bears lumbered around outside looking for snacks. But we didn’t bring the right equipment for the microphone so the sound is not great; only one of us is properly audible. So, this is an extremely informal transcript/summary of that conversation. It’s really important that we share it, guys. We were totally insightful. *shifty eyes*

First, we complained about our internet names and how weird they are instead of actually introducing ourselves.

To fix this I’ll just stick this here: hi, I’m erm, I had a stupid day today and it involved a lot of dying animals. Three is my sister and she’s currently making a video about Michael Scott for a class for her MBA.

So then we yelled at each other about who should start talking. Then Three tried to hum the iconic Disney opening “When You Wish Upon a Star” notes and it was really bad. She may actually be tone deaf and/or she doesn’t remember 3/4 of the notes and the order they go in of that song. But then we started, right off the bat, with something important.

Erm: I think you’re too harsh about Belle.

Three: I think YOU’RE too harsh about Belle.

Erm: Wow, good counterargument. You said, that she – she’s elitist. I think you’re right, but I think, sometimes –

Three: Did I say she was elitist?

Erm: No, that was between the lines. I think that sometimes, in a movie, your character has to kind of be elitist.

Three: Well, I think that’s why Belle works for so many people. Because everyone wants to believe that they are the one person –

Erm: That’s what you were saying, and I think you’re being harsh.

Three: How is that harsh?

Erm: Because –

Three: I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, I’m just saying it’s a thing.

Erm: Well, you have to keep pointing out that it’s not a bad thing.

Three: OK, well, next time I write a post about B&tB I’ll point out that it’s not a bad thing. But it is the whole – look, it’s not a bad thing unless it’s the entirety of the character, is to be better than everyone else.

Erm: But that’s not really the entirety, because she’s so isolated from everybody most of the time, and then, OK, so, in the town, that’s what it’s about but when she goes to the castle that’s not what it’s about anymore, now she’s just at the castle.

Three: But she doesn’t do anything in the castle.

Erm: OK, but that’s your other thing, is that she does nothing, so –

Three: Well that’s my – that’s what I’m saying is when the entirety of your –

Erm: She does go off and save her father twice.

Three: Yeah, that’s something, but, why is her only personality saving men?

Erm: That’s not a personality, that’s actions.

Three: Sorry. Why are her only actions saving men?

Erm: … because… that’s just… how it is.

Three: At least in the live action she saves herself, or tries to.

Erm: Yeah, I think she has more to do in the live action, but not that much more.

Three: And she tries to teach a little girl to read.

Erm: Yes, but still, these are small things, like her story doesn’t change all that much. It’s just little details that they added that make it a little more –

Three: I like to see little hints of a personality in there because I know that she’s there to perform a specific role for the audience to make you feel like you could be put in this story, she’s the avatar character, she’s the Bella Swan of this story, and you can be like, “I can be her,” and, yeah, you probably could, but it’s nice to see her occasionally do something other than be kind of a blank slate, save men from themselves.

Erm: *mutters unintelligibly through that whole speech*

LATER…

We argued about whether the Beast was going to save Belle from the wolves or apologize or just to get her back in the animated one, and basically decided that it doesn’t matter. But we note that in the new version everyone knows about the wolves so it’s clearer that he is trying to save her, not just recapture her.

We compared how the servants cower while Belle is yelling at the Beast for not cooperating with the hurt/comfort she’s trying to provide him with, whereas in the new version, while the servants are still occasionally scared of him, mostly, they don’t let his dickish behaviour go uncommented upon.

Three: So, you say that in the animated version it’s not clear what lesson he’s supposed to be learning, ’cause it’s almost like there’s two stories happening simultaneously, like one about appearances and one about controlling your temper, and he doesn’t seem to learn either.

Erm: Yeah.

Three: So what lesson would you say he’s learning in the live action?

Erm: He does learn that – he’s a snob, and that goes away, and that’s all that happens. Basically, he learns a lesson she should have been learning if they had made her character flawed and needing an arc. It could start with her being a snob, and she has to learn.

Three: That not being able to read doesn’t make you less of a person.

Erm: Yeah, but, I don’t think that’s what she believes, but, sure.

Three: She believes it about Gaston.

Erm: No.

Three: Although, he is a terrible person.

Erm: She knows that he’s a terrible person because he’s a terrible person.

(We agreed to disagree)

We talked about how we haven’t seen Gaston apologists ever. But there are a lot of Scar and Frollo apologists and we’re unimpressed. I informed Three that there are Ratcliffe apologists – more like, there are people who are honestly impressed by Pocahontas for showing how “both sides were wrong.” When, y’know, one side was clearly the wrong one.

Erm: We also complained [in the blog post we did on the animated movie] about the town and how it’s designed to be awful. Um. I don’t know. Is it that big of a deal? Is there anything like that in a Disney movie, ’cause that is a thing, like, if you live in a really intolerant place and all of your neighbours are horrible people…

Three: I think we wrote that in a time before Trump was elected, where we were a lot more likely to look at these people and say “Oh I bet there’s human inside of them and they’re probably very nice and have a lot of real problems and insecurities,” and now we’re just like “Ah you know what, they probably would have voted for Trump.”

Erm: Yeah. But in the live action version they do have – I think it’s in the spur of the moment that they [form a hate mob], but then the magic breaks and then they remember that they’re married to these people. So, it’s weird, the hate mob that just showed up is a bunch of good people.

Three: The hate mob is just like, “Can we kill my wife and child?”

Erm: It’s just really bizarre.

Three: It is really bizarre. I don’t – that’s true, maybe that doesn’t work.

Erm: A lot of the story doesn’t work in the live action and the animated one.

Three: I really enjoyed the fact that some of them were married to the servants, though, because why wouldn’t they be?

Erm: Because it’s hard to be married to someone who lives in castle.

Three: Well maybe they all lived in the castle. I don’t knooooow. I’m just saying they have families and lives, they’re not just servants, like there’s more to them than that.

We debated whether three’s description of Belle in the post was too harsh, because erm thought that you could do that with any of the Disney princesses (at least until the early nineties), and we didn’t really get anywhere except to suggest that maybe Belle seems “worse” (for lack of a better word) than the others in terms of agency is because it isn’t really her story, she just serves a narrative purpose in the Beast’s. Falling in love with the Beast is important, because it shows that she’s compassionate, but the act of falling in love is also really passive. It almost seems to happen against her will, in fact.

Erm: And we already know that she’s capable of [falling in love with the Beast] because she knows Gaston is an idiot despite the fact that he’s pretty.

Three: I think the reason I go out of my way to say that Belle is a bad character as opposed to any of the others is because –

Erm: Is she a bad character or is she just not the focus of the story when she seems like she should be?

Three: I don’t know. She doesn’t work for me as a character. And the reason why I always have to fight that is because the understanding is she’s supposed to be ours. If you’re a brunette, she’s supposed to be yours. If you like to read, she’s yours. If you’re quiet, she’s yours. If you’re an outsider, she’s your princess, she’s for you. She’s supposed to be our favourite.

[Three is apparently very angry about the several people who assumed her favourite princess is Belle]

[Shoutout to all the Middle Eastern, Native American, Chinese, African American, Polynesian, and, we’re assuming, Scottish women who dislike the movies/princesses that people must automatically assume they love, because apparently this is a problem]

[Seriously, though, we imagine that, for example, being Native and having to hear about Pocahontas all the damn time when it’s not a good look – like, at all – at colonialism, would be kind of a nightmare]

Three: There’s just nothing to her.

Erm: It’s because it’s not about her, it’s about the Beast.

Three: Yeah. And I guess what it is is that the story that could have been didn’t happen, and I feel like I was cheated out of a princess.

Erm: I don’t think I was cheated out of a princess but I do think that Beauty and the Beast is a missed opportunity. To have a female character who has to learn something and who starts out as unlikable because this would have been the opportunity to do that.

Three: They’re never going to write an unlikable princess. They get chewed up and spit out every time they try.

Erm: I don’t know that they try.

Three: Merida?

Erm: That was Pixar. But yeah. When Brave came out I saw people arguing that she was wrong, she should have just gotten married and why was she so mad, and it’s like, are you serious? Do you want to actually think about that for a minute? I just think – when you’re used to all the princesses being nice people from the start and then you have one who is slightly selfish – and I think Merida was right.

Three: Yeah I think she was too.

Erm: And I think the movie doesn’t think that she’s right, but she was right.

Three: She was right.

Erm: She’s basically Ariel. She does exactly what Ariel does. She goes and finds magic to solve the problem of her parents not letting her do what she wants to do and then it ruins her parents’ life, and then in Brave it comes down to, she has to apologize. But they were kinda going to ruin your life, and they weren’t listening to you, so what were you supposed to do?

Three: Yeah, I don’t even think she is selfish.

Erm: No, and I think that her parents have a lot more power than she does, so it is more their responsibility to actually listen to their kid.

Three: But, for some reason, people can’t handle seeing a princess who isn’t perfect. And this comes back to the fact that female characters are held to a much higher standard than male characters. We’re fine seeing male redemption arcs all the time but when do you ever see a female redemption arc, especially in children’s lit?

Erm: And this would have been perfect for that, because in the original fairy tale – it’s not like she really learns anything, it’s just that the beast is a good guy except for the fact that he sentences people to death for picking a flower, but other than that, he’s a good guy, and she lives in the castle, and over time she learns that he’s good even though he looks scary, and then she leaves, and decides to come back. So all you had to do was add some personality, so that she would be resistant to liking him, even though he’s nice, because of the way he looks, and there you go.

Three: So she learns that appearances don’t matter.

Erm: Yeah, it’s not about him. He’s like any of the cursed princesses in any story. He just needed to be saved.

This said, we still like that they fleshed out the Beast’s story for the live action, which they did because the Disney version really is his story. And we felt that they should have just committed to that.

Cinderella was Jack Jack and Gus’s story, according to us, which is a thing we’ve said before.

So then erm wanted to talk about masculine self-hate and managed to not talk about it very well.

Erm: I think that, mainly in the animated one, most of the Beast’s conflict is just about masculine self-hate. He’s just wounded and he lashes out, and he recognizes immediately that she could break the spell but thinks it’s also impossible.

Three: And tries anyway, and when it doesn’t work he’s like, “Of course it didn’t work.”

Erm: He’s afraid of rejection so he asks her in a really aggressive way.

Three: What part in particular is the self-hate, is it the end?

Erm: Yeah. Yeah! Because she leaves and then he gives up on life.

Three: So he literally lies down and lets Gaston try to kill him.

Erm: And still doesn’t get up despite being beaten to death and shouted insults at, he’s like, “Ah, it’s fine. This is how I die.” I don’t know – it’s hard to talk about because I don’t think I understand it at all, being female, but I know that it’s a thing, like, that’s why they put women on pedestals, that’s why Belle doesn’t have a character, that’s why most of the princesses don’t have [unintelligible – but, maybe something along the lines of flaws, arcs, idk].

Three: So what is the man and the beast archetype?

Erm: So it’s a dichotomy – I think that Disney does masculinity really well, usually, but here, they’re kind of relying on – it’s a really old model of perfect masculinity against animals. So everything that’s perfect, like, being logical, and – uh –

Three: Gaston?

Erm: No, because he’s not. He is and he isn’t. But like, being at the top of the food chain, and logical, and smart, and thoughtful, are all on the man side, and then everything chaotic and hysterical and emotional and – violent is usually on the animal side. But then what happens is that they put anybody – so like women: women are considered to be emotional, so they get put on the animal side. And then, anyone who isn’t really rich is more like an animal because they’re uneducated, so they can’t be as logical, and then anybody who isn’t white is obviously more like an animal – that’s how they justify everything to do with colonialism, that’s how they justify slavery, obviously anybody who’s gay – anybody who isn’t a really rich white guy from Europe, is more like an animal. So this system hurts everybody, except the extremely rich white guy, basically. And the way that they do it in Beauty and the Beast is that the Beast proves that he’s not a beast by not being violent towards Gaston, and not caring about his life anymore, and being tamed by femininity, and Gaston gets put on the animal side – and the problem with that is that he’s uneducated, and a brute, and he’s a villager. I think that they’re not trying to do that, but in some ways it’s still connected.

[this stuff is more complicated than this]

[and is 100% the basis of the intersectionality of animal rights, btdubs]

Erm: And I don’t think that – Hunchback doesn’t do that.

Three: No. Well, Frollo is clearly a powerful white man.

Erm: He is, and he’s religious, and virtuous, he thinks.

Three: He seems to be nonviolent – until he doesn’t anymore, but still.

[“Seems” is a good word here. Frollo is torturing people and genociding from the very beginning of the movie. It starts with him killing Quasi’s mom and attempting to drown an infant. He just thinks he’s justified, and despite the fact that the audience knows he isn’t, right from the start, his authority and self-righteousness kind of makes us forget what a reprehensible and violent person he is, which is exactly how logical powerful rich European white men got away with all sorts of atrocities – it was for everyone else’s own good, because those dudes knew best. Or at least, that’s what they kept saying.]

Erm: Oh and, um, Tarzan. Because the guy – he’s British, and like, really British, with a pompous accent, he’s got the gun, he’s the logical one, he’s manipulating everybody –

Three: But Tarzan, the uneducated ape-person, is – so, Disney likes to ask the question, who is the monster and who is the man, not just in Hunchback but in a bunch of different movies, and in Beauty and the Beast, the answer was, the blond-haired, blue-eyed prince with the expensive education, who happens to be having a bad hair day, is the man, and Gaston is the monster.

Erm: Well, in this one, he says, “I am not a beast,” [it’s a really good impression of Dan Stevens, for real] and it’s like, where did this conflict coming from? You haven’t discussed this at all. And even, in the Mob Song, LeFou gets a line that we both like, which is, “something, something, something, something,” [it’s a less good impression of Josh Gad, to be honest].

Three: It’s written really cleverly and I can’t remember what it is. Something about, yes there’s a beast, but I’m afraid the true monster has been awoken or something, it’s way better than what I just said.

[It’s: “There’s a beast running wild, there’s no question/but I fear the wrong monster’s released.”]

Three: So, saying, sure, there’s a beast out there somewhere but this guy is the actual problem, which, thank you, LeFou, for being all of us, at all times.

Erm: Well, yeah. I think Beauty and the Beast lends itself to masculine self-hate which is probably why it didn’t do as good a job at showing the healthy version of masculinity – I don’t know that there’s one healthy version of masculinity but they do show you the unhealthy version and they reject it.

Three: Well. Certainly Gaston is unhealthy.

Erm: Yeah, and I think they do that really well, it’s just a little bit uncomfortable how clear it’s made that he’s stupid. But now, I’ve changed my mind a little bit, because of what happens in politics, when you don’t uphold intelligence.

We talked about the wardrobe joke and how it’s a little, tiny bit better than the animated version of the same joke, but it’s still a joke at the expense of men in women’s clothing which isn’t cool and is sort of low key transphobic. Or not low key.

Also we liked Gad’s LeFou; a simple matter of taste. We acknowledged that he isn’t good representation at all but we liked him anyway.

Three claimed she doesn’t like Olaf, erm said, “Three of House OwlMachine, I name you liar.” Because she couldn’t stop laughing at the part where Olaf says, “I don’t have a skull.”

She continues to claim that even though she thinks that is one of the best lines in the movie, she doesn’t want Olaf to be there. And then she forgot that Hei Hei exists. But she likes Hei Hei. She just forgot him.

We talked a lot more about upcoming live action Disney movies, but we had very little else to say on the actual topic so for now, I’m going to stop transcribing.

Maybe I’ll pick it back up for when the next live action remake comes out.

In conclusion: we liked the live action one better, probably mostly because it was longer and fleshed out the side characters a lot and we responded to that. Because the main thing that we learned here is that our fundamental problems, mainly, that Belle doesn’t drive her own story/have an arc/learn anything/have to self-actualize, and that the Beast is a bit of a strange depiction of masculinity, for Disney, at least, didn’t really improve in the live action one.

Emily’s Best Christmas Present Ever: Whoo Boy

emily's best christmas present ever

oh my goodness

So.

I found this on my bookshelf a while ago. It was written for me when I was in Grade 1 or something by two Grade 3 students who were my reading buddies. It felt vaguely familiar as I was reading it, but there are definitely things in here that went completely over my head (and, most likely, they went over the authors’ heads too) when I was little.

But it’s delightful so I’m writing a blog post about it. Merry very early Christmas.

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So, first of all, excuse my pictures. I was too lazy to not do this while giggling on my bed, and the result is that they’re all really badly cropped and whatnot but it’s fine.

Next, we have to wonder whether the main character is supposed to be me. She does kind of look like me. Honestly, even the parents look a bit like my parents. And if so, it’s lovely that in a book written about me for me, the authors chose to portray my family as being too poor to afford milk. That’s a really fun and not stressful at all imagination game.

Milk is bad anyway, family, no worries.

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Page 2 was just Emily’s mom yelling at her that they’re going on a walk. So here’s page 3, on their walk through a dystopian nightmare without any trees or plants at all. And if it’s supposed to be near Christmas, well, I guess they’re also too poor to afford outerwear.

I’m sure the subject of poverty will be treated sensitively by the authors. I can tell by how Emily says sadly that she wants to live in a house “like that,” which probably means, a house that people who can afford milk can afford.

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For dinner, they had little pieces of bread.

What.

I’m not going to touch the continuity error. The miserable dinner is enough for me on this page.

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Um.

You know what. I’m not going to say anything.

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I think the authors were heavily influenced by every Christmas special ever in which some lucky kid gets to go with Santa to do his grueling job. Also, Santa has a beard on this page.

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Everyone is bug-eyed on Christmas morning, seems legit.

I do have some questions.

Why are they running downstairs if they’re expecting there to be nothing under the tree?

Also why is that chair so horrible.

Also the dad needs a better outfit. Hopefully one of his presents is an outfit that doesn’t match his chair.

Also I approve of the overalls, which are what Emily is wearing on this page, I assume.

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Oh wow, that new chair is even worse than the other one, and it matches the dad’s outfit even more and I’m exponentially more horrified by that and also the fact that Emily changed her sensible overall outfit into a dress that ALSO matches the terrible furniture.

And the wrapping paper changed colours. It’s the magic of Christmas day.

20171103_120107

Poverty solved, everyone! Just learn how to build a house, and then if you have lots of kitchen supplies you can eat stuff that isn’t just pieces of bread. Also a doll.

Honestly, though, it’s pretty much on par with every well-meaning Christmas thing that tries to tackle this subject. Remember Billy in The Polar Express? What was that? Why was that? And that was made by professionals! Professional adults! Talk to my sister about it, she has the bluntest takes ever on that aspect of that movie.

Anyway. Hopefully this year is the best Christmas ever to all of you who celebrate it. And to those who don’t, hopefully your December 25th is still really really good. And also, it’s kind of early for Christmas wishes but I’m not even sorry.

And thanks very much to Krista and Amanda. Ladies, you are amazing. Thanks for being my reading buddies. And also for writing me into a story in which my family is destitute and basically starving but it’s OK because Santa fixes it with tools and a how-to book on home construction.

AND. It’s the giving time of the year. Inspired by this story and its extremely naive take on poverty, I’m reminding me and you that food banks exist! They’re easy to give to because many grocery stores have bins for donations all year round, and I basically live at the grocery store so, cool. Check out their most-needed lists.

(Also, as someone who works at a non-profit I can tell you that financial donations are always the bomb) (seriously, cash is good) (non-profits have bills to pay and as nice as it is to get the stuff on the wishlist – and as easy as it is for people to do that if they happen to be at a store with bins or if they happen to be cleaning stuff they don’t need out at home – cash is the most useful thing)

The Saga of the Terrible St Catharines Vet

… has come to a close, for now.

To summarize, there’s this vet who was (and still is) practicing in St Catharines (a city in southern Ontario that has a really good vegan doughnut place). He is not a very good vet. His staff members took covert video footage of his particular brand of veterinary medicine, which included slamming animals, choking them, and punching them.

The College of Veterinarians of Ontario disciplined the vet by suspending him for ten months, slapping him with a fine, and are requiring that he gets retrained on how to restrain animals.

So, here’s the thing about that.

There’s already quite a lot of mistrust of veterinarians and vet medicine in general. When a doctor or an RVT takes your pet to the back to do a few procedures out of sight, pretty much their most important job is to ensure that the human client trusts them to be kind, gentle, humane. While it’s true that restraint is usually required to get procedures done safely, and that even minimal restraint can be upsetting for doting humans to see, for the most part the staff at the back are good at what they do and are doing it right because to do it wrong would go against their entire being.

Now people have seen this footage of a vet slamming animals around, and of course every time they drop off their pet for surgery or even just to get a vaccine done they’re going to worry on some level about what’s going on back there. They also know that the CVO didn’t revoke his license, which is absolutely what they should have done, if only to protect the profession. But also because, yeah, dude needs to not be practicing medicine. It’s going to be hard to convince people to trust veterinary medicine as a whole when the CVO won’t even suspend someone who is on camera punching a chihuahua.

Earlier this week this story somehow got worse, because the Crown decided to drop all sixteen charges of animal cruelty against the vet filed by the OSPCA. They decided to do this because the CVO had already investigated and disciplined the vet.

There was also something about the OSPCA officer investigating without a proper complaint being filed. The officer says he was responding to the video footage that had been released to the public and was widely viewed.

Laws are complicated, but for animal cruelty laws in Canada and Ontario specifically, it really does come down to whether you have sympathetic law enforcement on your side or not. And precedent. Precedent is key.

The crown could have pursued the animal cruelty charges. There was evidence. Crimes had clearly been committed. There are lots of precedent-setting cases of dogs and cats being struck and the abuser being found guilty of animal cruelty. And as for the CVO, well, it isn’t the CVO’s job to prosecute veterinarians for animal cruelty. That task is left to the OSPCA and cooperative prosecution. Alas.

Everything went wrong here. The CVO should have taken a more decisive stance, and law enforcement should have actually enforced laws. By not doing so, the next case of an abusive vet (and it’s coming) will be harder to prosecute, not easier. It will be harder, not easier, to obtain justice for the animals who are abused next, and it will be harder, not easier, to prevent something like this from happening again without demonstrating that there are tangible and appropriate consequences.

The vet in question and his family have received death threats, so I guess I should add that that’s never cool. The dude is garbage and he should find a job that doesn’t involve animals, or humans, really, but no death threats, thanks.

Also, his clinic is still open and people are still going there. Hint: don’t. There are vet clinics everywhere; find a new one.

Further reading on this depressing case of maximum apathy: St Kits, CBC, OSPCA.

Don’t watch the video, though. Instead, watch this.

100 Books: October

(I know Jane is sketching in a sketch book but I needed to use her at least once because anyone with this much enthusiasm for gorillas living in family groups is required to show up in a header image so whatever)

Jan Feb March April May June July August September

Frankly, I’m impressed by how well I’ve staved off the temptation to just reread It. The temptation is HUGE. And yet, all I’ve done is go looking for this section, where Richie takes Ben and Bev to a double horror show:

“Howdy, Haystack!” he said. “Thought you went chicken on me. These movies goan scare ten pounds off your pudgy body. Ah say, ah say they goan turn your hair white, boy. When you come out of the theater, you goan need an usher to help you up the aisle, you goan be shakin so bad.”

Richie started for the box-office and Ben touched his arm. Ben started to speak, glanced at Bev, who was smiling at him, and had to start over again. “I was here,” he said, “but I went up the street and around the corner when those guys came along.”

“What guys?” Richie asked, but he thought he already knew.

“Henry Bowers. Victor Criss. Belch Huggins. Some other guys, too.”

Richie whistled. “They must have already gone inside the theater. I don’t see em buying candy.”

“Yeah. I guess so.”

“If I was them, I wouldn’t bother paying to see a couple of horror movies,” Richie said. “I’d just stay home and look in a mirror. Save some bread.”

I’m sad that they didn’t go to a movie in the new version. In the 90s one, Richie actually screams that last part at Henry and co. and then dumps his pop on them, which makes it probably the best part of the whole movie. In the book, Richie of course isn’t that stupid but even though they’re cautious, the three get cornered by the goons in an alley and somehow manage to win a little scuffle and escape mostly unharmed, which is also pretty great.

Anyway all this proves is that, a) It 2017 needed to be at least six hours long. Honestly. What were the filmmakers thinking, making it only two and a half? and b) Books are very good, very detailed things. The evolution of how shy Ben and outrageous Richie talk to and relate to each other over the summer of ’58 is one of the many little gems that you can’t do in a movie adaptation because apparently people don’t want to sit for ten hours straight in a very uncomfortable theatre chair – not even to see the part where Richie negotiates lawn mowing with his dad so that he can earn two bucks to go to the show in the first place. That is crucial, I tell you. CRUCIAL. (It was actually really funny.) But seriously, the Ben/Richie dynamic shifts pretty much unremarked on as time passes, but Ben starts out completely overwhelmed by Richie and ends up being perfectly comfortable beeping him like the rest of the losers do. It’s a tiny detail, but one I really liked as someone who takes a long time to open up to others, especially people of the Richie “Trashmouth” Tozier persuasion.

So yeah, leaving It alone now, on to the books I read for the first time this month.

Twelve. So. Three short of the goal. Yeah.

Cuckoo Song by Francis Hardinge

cuckoo song

I actually finished this one sometime in September but forgot to add it to that post. It’s more of an October book anyway. Just look at that cover. I brought it around with me sometimes and everyone who saw it was like, “What is WRONG with you??”

The book is exactly as creepy as the cover would suggest. It’s also one of the best depictions of little girls, and sisters especially, that I think I’ve ever encountered. Ever. In all of media. Mainly because it focused on all of the venom and the spite that exists in those relationships, alongside actual love, and it doesn’t make any sense and yet that’s how they are. How is it possible to sympathize with multiple characters who loathe each other and occasionally try to sabotage the other’s existence? Look, I don’t know, you’d just have to read it to understand. It’s amazing, and such a good story as well.

Of course, my favourite part was when they kidnapped a rooster because they needed his protection and I was SO SURE that bird was going to die but he didn’t, and it was awesome. But the rest of it is amazing too – I seriously can’t overstate how good this book is. Read it. I know Halloween is over but hey, if the Mayor of Halloween Town is already preparing for next year with Jack then you can read this creepy, amazing book right now.

The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

the girl from everywhere

YA fantasy where the premise is if you have a good map and an imaginative navigator, you can sail a ship to any place, any time. So pretty cool, in other words. The characters were really likable, there was dad-daughter angst, overarching theme of not being sure of belonging, a love triangle that was only a little bit irritating, so all good stuff. There is a sequel/conclusion to this and I am beyond excited to read it. I hope the dog survives (she’s a beagle).

I’d say more but I think I need to see how it ends before I can gather my thoughts. It’s really good, though.

The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine

the shadow queen

I’m mixed on this one. It’s a retelling of Snow White but with an action girl protagonist and a hard fantasy backdrop, so it’s both something I should like a lot and also something I’m pretty tired of.

What stands out to me about it is the love story (please guess who the love interest is) (yes, it’s the huntsman, go you) (OK it’s actually a foreign king who has come to beg for help from the evil queen and he’s also a shapeshifter but the only thing he can shape shift into is a dragon and the queen turns him into a hunter by removing his human heart but forcing him not to shift into a dragon so he’s basically a human dragon ACTING like the huntsman) (spoiler alert). We like a story about an evil woman who sends a dude to kill a girl and then he tries to but then because she’s so pretty and scared he just can’t bring himself to do it, don’t we. Why? I won’t attempt to answer, it’ll just get too “Feminism 101” in here.

Anyway, this version of that story is different. Snow White Lorelai is not afraid of the Huntsman Dragon Dude Kol. Pretty much immediately she figures out a way to temporarily help him remember that he doesn’t actually want to kill anyone. While I liked this change, and liked how it added to the romance/conflict/whatever, I do still have to go all “Feminism 101” and point out that it’s kind of weird that we like stories like this where nefarious forces/vampirism are compelling the dude to kill the girl he likes but because he’s such a great dude/through the power of true love/because the protagonist is a magic action girl, he doesn’t kill her. Although in this one he (SPOILER!!!!!! Highlight if you don’t care and you just want to read a complete sentence.) sort of does. And in Twilight he turns her into a vampire which is almost the same as dying. It’s just as gruesome as dying, anyway.

I’m not saying this was a horrible depiction of romance because it was waaaaaay better than Twilight and it was also pretty enjoyable, but, it was something I kept in mind. I’ve done too many feminist readings to ignore stuff like this. It is my curse. Except, no. Critical thought is always better than the alternative.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

caraval

Girl goes to magical five-night circus that is also a game and everything is just a little more dangerous than she thought it would be and also she has to find and potentially rescue her sister.

This had a cool, threatening, magical atmosphere with a lot of twists and turns but I have my issues with it. The big twist at the end, I think, makes a lot of the long, drawn out conversations and internal monologues that Scarlet deliberates over that happen throughout the book and especially right near the end seem a little far-fetched. Even still, the twist worked on me. It even made me tear up a little.

Theeeeee romaaaaaaance was the bigger thing that made me frown. Midway to the end of the book it was nice, but my dude starts out being a total dickface. And I mean a TOTAL dickface. He is awful. I think his cockiness is supposed to be thrilling and sexy, like Christian Grey or something, but, spoiler alert, Christian Grey sucks and so does first-half-of-this-book Julian. I hate to be so inflexible on this point, but also I don’t find jerkwad guys who go out of their way to make the women they like uncomfortable attractive, so bite me.

But thankfully he turned around, and also the sister plot took over as the main event near the end, as it should, so all was well. I’ll be looking out for the sequel.

Asexual Perspectives by Sandra Bellamy

asexual perspectives

This is a nonfiction in which a whole whack of asexual people answer the biggest questions pertaining to being asexual, like: what do you think about sex, sexual attraction, relationships, relationships between allos and aces, the sexualized world we live in, your greatest ace-related fears, etc.

I wrote a whole long thing about it and just made it it’s own post, here.

The Duchess War by Courtney Milan

the duchess war

CAN COURTNEY MILAN TEACH A CLASS TO YA AND FANTASY WRITERS ABOUT WRITING MALE LOVE INTERESTS. PLEASE.

There’s a part where she’s wearing a pretty dress to an event she’ll see him at and when he finds her he’s like, “I know who you’re wearing that for.”

And she’s like, “…”

And he’s like, “For you. You’re wearing it for you. Do more things for you. You go, Glen Coco.”

rafiki

(LMAO so I was going to use a picture of someone looking lovestruck but as I was scrolling through to find one I came across this and I couldn’t stop laughing at the absurdity so)

Anyway. Suffice to say you should probably read Courtney Milan. Start with this one, it is very good.

My minor complaint is the cover. All of her covers are pretty and all, and I understand why they have to be the way they are, but I kind of wish this woman on the cover looked like Minnie is supposed to actually look, and was wearing what Minnie is supposed to actually wear. Because I think these dresses are all the wrong era. Because I think this series is set in the Victorian one. So. Why are all of their necks showing, and why so shiny?

Again, I get it, it’s marketing. Still.

Emily’s Best Christmas Ever by Krista and Amanda

emily's best christmas present ever

oh my goodness

Yeah. This is also getting its own post.

Not Your Villain by C.B. Lee

not your villain

I read Not Your Sidekick (the first in this series) earlier this year and liked it despite its third person present tense, which drove me up the wall. This time around, I also liked it, but seriously, I am not a fan of that tense. It’s such a personal preference, but then, third person present isn’t a particularly popular tense, at least, not in the fiction that I read, and maybe there’s a reason for that.

Anyway. There is a really nice flashback scene near the beginning that is in third person past tense and it was the easiest part of this book to read for me, and I wish the whole thing was in that tense.

Moving on from tense issues now. The featured character is a trans boy and he’s in love with his BFF who, as it turns out, (SPOILERS)is questioning/somewhere on the asexual and/or aromantic spectrums, and the part where she comes out to him is perfect and I love it. But man I wish it was written in third person past.

The Hollow Girl by Hillary Monahan

the hollow girl

I LOVED this book. Earlier in the year I read something else of Monahan’s, The Awesome, (she wrote that one as Eve Darrows) and I said I liked it but with caveats, and I detailed the caveats, but really, when I say I liked it, it was more that I liked the idea of it. In execution I thought it was too quirky by half and the sex stuff, which should have been good, was, according to me, the expert, kind of offensive.

But I follow the author on Twitter and she’s great. I’ve been following the build-up for The Hollow Girl‘s October release and it’s clear this book means a lot to her. Finally reading it was amazing, because it’s easily one of my favourites this year, and it’s so nice to see something someone is passionate about having made be really good. It should always be that way.

It’s really dark, quite upsetting at times, but I couldn’t look away and the characters were instantly lovable. It highlights a Romani community, showing customs and cultural attitudes that are different than typical Western things, but doesn’t get expositiony. Instead, it makes the world easier to disappear into, and the characters fascinating. In many ways it reminded me of The Female of the Species, just because of how women taking back power and wielding it in response to male violence is depicted.

Bearly a Lady by Cassandra Khaw

bearly a lady

This was a fun little novella, kind of like Some Assistance Required in that it was one of those supernatural romances in which there are fairies and vampires and werewolves walking around as if it’s all good. It’s kind of weird, but also kind of hard not to find immediately engaging. Also, werebears are a good idea always.

Lumberjanes Volume 3

lumberjanes vol 3

All right, real talk, Lumberjanes continues to be the light of my life. This series is perfect. PERFECT. Also it doesn’t hurt that they’re quick and so much fun to read and I am definitely in need of more of that as this year comes to an end.

An early November horror story for you, courtesy of Jen:

lumberjanes jen's urban legend

I LOVE JEN SO MUCH.

When there are a gazillion volumes out, I think it requires an animated TV adaptation.

Unforgivable by Joanna Chambers

unforgivable

It isn’t Courtney Milan, but I liked this one a lot. I didn’t like that the conflict that kept the couple apart could have easily been solved as early as the half point of the book, but then it would be short and brooding and hurt feelings and overdramatic declarations of love wouldn’t happen.

Actually, the declarations of love are never dramatic. It’s more that it takes so long to get there, and whereas with Duchess War I was totally fine with how long everything was taking, here I did get a little impatient.

Still, it’s good. It was a nice look at a guy lashing out and being mean and feeling instantly bad about it and working to be a better person throughout, because the main character made a few bad choices here and there and seeing it from his perspective keeps him likable. Honestly, it works, somehow. And again, all non-Romance genres that include hetero romance subplots need to learn some stuff from the Romance genre because. Seriously.

All right November. What’s in store?

(Is it impeachment? Please say it’s impeachment.)

“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.

The Essential Halloween Accessory

is a savvy, scrawny, old, torn-eared black cat.

I wanted to write a whole thing about this animated cat to end all animated cats and how he’s like the Cheshire Cat if the Cheshire Cat had been on Alice’s side but I couldn’t figure out how to do it without just stating facts.

Instead, here are some of my favourite caps of the Coraline cat. They’re from Disney Screencaps once again, the site which, apparently, doesn’t stop at Disney.

coraline catcoraline cat 2coraline cat 3coraline cat 4coraline cat 5coraline cat 6cat can talkcat is a bastion of wisdomi've seen that lookmy cat would never do thatcoraline cat 7

Get you a cat in case of other-dimension monsters with nefarious intentions for your eyes.

#MeToo

Sooooooooooo.

I didn’t want to post this anywhere else because my experiences are comparatively minor and I don’t want to take up space. The thing is, I would never tell any woman or anyone else of any gender that, if they have had similar experiences to mine, that those don’t count and they shouldn’t take up space. I just generally know better than that, and it’s hard not to know better than that as I’ve scrolled through all the different hashtags as they happened (#metoo #beenrapedneverreported #yesallwomen) as well as the harrowing blog i believe you | it’s not your fault. But I guess I’ve internalized different rules for myself.

To try to combat that, I figured I’d at least write a blog post.

First:

I am very, very lucky. I got one degree and one diploma, and both of those programs (English Lit and Veterinary Technician) are female-dominated. I work for an animal non-profit: animals = female-dominated industries; non-profits = female-dominated industries. My bosses are all women. I did work alone behind a counter in a dry cleaning storefront for a few years but male customers were generally decent to me. My male relatives are good people. My male friends are good people. Both grown male predators I knew who in theory may have acquired access to me did not because they were scared of my dad. I’m lucky.

I was 6, they were 6

It was a stupid kid thing. We were on a soccer team. I was the only girl. The thing is, I really liked soccer. Not that I wanted to do it for real ever, but it was fun just for fun. But I assumed, maybe wrongly, maybe rightly, that the boys didn’t want me there because I was a girl. I wished there was just one other girl on the team, but there wasn’t, so I barely tried and just waited for my parents to say I didn’t have to do it anymore.

I don’t know if they didn’t like that I barely tried, or if they really just didn’t like that I was a girl, but once, after a game, they cornered me and were trying to kiss me. Sometimes, the story gets told as if it was cute. I don’t really know, maybe it was cute. I don’t remember it. I remember playing soccer, losing another game, and I remember right afterwards, when my dad and the coach (a really nice guy, genuinely upset about it even though I barely ever tried) talked about how I wasn’t coming back. I remember that I was just kind of like, “Oh good, I don’t have to come to soccer anymore.”

I don’t know, but I still kind of know, that they did it out of cruelty. They were pretty young, but they still somehow decided the way to punish the girl for being there was to use a PG version of sexual violence.

I was 8, he was 8

He was my friend. Someone offered him money from Barbados to beat me up. He took it.

I ran the entire length of the playground twice, looking for a teacher at first, and eventually just settling on some other friends when I couldn’t find one. He didn’t really hurt me, but when he did catch up to me what he was doing was, I know now, pre-sexual weirdness. It was humiliating (it still is, actually) and really scary because I didn’t know how to make it stop. He was my friend, and he wouldn’t stop.

When we were 12, his best friend and my cousin blurted that he (my friend who “beat me up,” not my cousin) really liked me and had been wanting to ask me out “forever.” I said no out of shock and then felt really bad, and then thought about it some more and was like: holy shit.

How could I ever trust him after that? Yeah, we were young, but we were friends and his weird pre-sexual urges trumped our friendship and his own ability to just be commonly decent. He was barely sorry after it happened. I remember his non-apology, and turning my nose up at it.

Assorted

Being screamed at by teenagers in cars. (“You’re a slut!” once at 10:00 pm in a mostly empty campus parking lot – I burst out laughing, but it was less funny when they circled back.) Being leered at since age 12. (Men – and women – can look at me all they want, shit, I look too. Leering is what a lion does to an antelope it’s planning to kill and the difference is clear to the leerer and the person getting leered at.) I went clubbing exactly once and got groped a lot and also the music was terrible so there was no saving that evening.

Now

I like emotional intimacy but goddamn if I don’t have trust issues, and they get in the way, and it frustrates me to no end. I have always, ALWAYS avoided male-dominated spaces like the plague. Guys who are mostly harmless but who aren’t paying enough attention to my “please leave me alone” vibes freak me the fuck out, and it’s often a waste of my energy.

I don’t make eye contact. I try to stay away from dark places when I’m alone. I’m not going to go clubbing again but honestly that one is no real loss.

I don’t want to be afraid of men. Can they stop acting scary? Can they stop with the sexualized violence, and all of the violence? Can they stop screaming from cars or across the street or across the mall? Can they make sure someone wants to be touched before they do any touching?

When people talk about raising sons to not become adult male predators, I so rarely think of my own experiences with young boys who were already committing acts of sexual violence. I don’t care how minor those acts were. They sucked. They were scary. They were traumatic. They didn’t need to happen. I did nothing to deserve it. Those boys should have been taught better.

One other thing

I am almost positive that one of the predators I knew would have done something to me at some point if not for his respect for and fear of my father. I repeat this here because my father, who scared a predator off me and my sister just by being large and present and male, didn’t know if he was allowed to feel violated by his. He was. He is. It was a stupid little thing, just like all of my stupid little things, but it was still a violation.

Can we make it all stop now.

Hermione and Ron: What Went Wrong?

 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^ This, by Emily Sowers, who will hopefully make a thousand more soon, is a good video essay.

I could just leave it there, but watching it got me thinking about my simultaneously most hated and most beloved topic of discussion: Ron and Hermione, and their adaptation hell.

The video starts with Hermione and then can’t quite help but comment on Ron. In fact, I think because of the ways Ron and Hermione are intertwined in the story, it’s almost impossible to talk about the changes the movies made to one of them without discussing the changes made to the other.

I’ve often felt a little weird about complaining that the movies made Ron useless and bumbling, and then adding, “And Hermione isn’t useless enough! Where are her flaws?” I think that’s because at first glance, removing Hermione’s flaws and taking away any sign of weakness makes her a stronger female character, and if I want her to cry more and mess up and be bossy and be the butt of a joke occasionally, that’s me wanting a strong woman torn down.

But I’m done worrying about that, because no. I wanted Hermione to be more like she was in the book because she was real, and her flaws were uniquely feminine, and removing them is – look, I’m not going to say it’s misogynistic, but it does suggest that unfortunate thing where we’re all really turned off by what are generally considered to be feminine traits. Also, complex and flawed female characters are so important and WHY RUIN HERMIONE LIKE THIS. She was perfect the way she was, with her damn flaws intact.

Six years ago (nothing changes, alas) I wrote this:

The real root of the problem is that they failed at both characters separately, so their interactions inevitably didn’t work properly. With Hermione, the hair is just the beginning, but it represents what they did to her. She was supposed to be flawed, but they stuck her on that horrific pedestal and turned her into the world’s most perfect, most bland, most heroineish heroine. I suspect that deep down, the filmmakers are supporters of Grangerverse. If you’ve been reading this in sheer horror that I put so much thought into such things, I can assure you that it only gets worse from this point on. There are some crazy people who think that Hermione is God himself in human, fictional form. She is so brilliant, so perfect, that she is actually, without JKR’s knowledge, the main character. As in, when JKR named all of the books after HP and made him the protagonist she simply wasn’t thinking straight. These people are also very often people who despise Ron, which reinforces my suspicions about the filmmakers.

Grangerverse isn’t relevant anymore, but I do occasionally see the odd pro-Hermione comment that makes me feel sad. Not because I think Hermione shouldn’t be celebrated – she should. Every day we should be throwing Hermione Parties. I get sad because I can’t just take for granted that the pro-Hermione comment is informed by the real Hermione, flaws and all. Also, this typical pro-Hermione comment is usually at the expense of Ron and that’s how I can tell that, yeah, this person either didn’t read the books or did, but only once or twice, and now only remembers the movie version.

Which is a shame.

Because movie-version Hermione is a one-dimensional character: defanged, prettified, and smooth where she should be all rough edges.

I’m friends with a Hermione-type in real life, and let me tell you, sometimes conversations get difficult. Hermione is demanding of her friends. She doesn’t let things go. She doesn’t always listen. She doesn’t always spare her friends’ feelings. She’s stubborn and confrontational. These are all traits that make her amazing, but they also have their pitfalls, just as Ron’s humour and surprising displays of sensitivity are the flip sides of occasional cruelty and insecurity. In my real life friendship where I guess I’m the Harry to my friend’s Hermione, sometimes I feel like there’s a huge spotlight being shone on all of my shortcomings and my friend can’t or won’t notice that it’s making me a bit uncomfortable. She’s an amazing person and I love her, and she doesn’t mean to make me feel bad – no, she really is just trying to make me better and often that’s great and invaluable to have that, but, look. I change the subject a lot. Because. Nobody (except Hermione-types) can be that pure.

Examples of Hermione being an exhausting friend:

  • Those freaking homework diaries she gives Ron and Harry for Christmas. I can only imagine. I would rip my hair out.
  • Being infuriatingly nosy about what her friends’ marks are, all while loudly complaining about her own (very good, but apparently not good enough) marks. It’s impossible to commiserate with Hermione; she’s top in the class and yet she’s still too insecure about marks by half.
  • Remember when Harry uses sectumsempra on Malfoy, feels rotten, and she lectures him about it nonstop? It’s like, Hermione, he knows, shut up.

And Harry and Ron love her anyway.

She’s also not always Ms. Extremely Bloody Capable – she mostly is, of course, but sometimes she can’t quite do a thing. The video essay pointed out a lot of key Hermione fumbles but whatever, a short list:

  • She can’t fight Boggarts for shit, at least in third year
  • The freak-out with the Devil’s Snare in book one is a highlight for sure
  • She cannot do social justice work well. She is very bad at it. Just ask any Hogwarts House-Elf (this is not to say she was wrong, because of course she was right. But SPEW is, um, not the way to do anything, ever)
  • She’s often a mess during or after combat, especially in the Ron-gets-splinched part.

And Harry and Ron love her anyway.

Hermione is sometimes, surprisingly, really insensitive. She and Ron seem to flip-flop on this – where usually she’s the one who picks up on others’ feelings Ron is the one being a little flippant (or a complete jerk), but where she’s insisting on being confrontational Ron is noticing that it would be better if she left it alone. Some key Hermione being insensitive moments:

  • Well, the sectumsempra part works here too
  • Remember when her cat was non-stop after Scabbers? It turned out that Crookshanks was right to persecute him but nobody knew that at first. She handled that whole thing really badly, which is to say, she didn’t handle it.
  • A couple of times she gets people to do things for her by being overbearing and insufferable. A fun time was when she blackmailed Fred and George into not testing their skiving snack boxes on first years, and a less fun one was when she cornered Neville into signing up for SPEW.

And Harry and Ron love her anyway.

She is occasionally, delightfully, ridiculous:

  • Her huge crush on Lockhart is a fine example. She slept with his get well card under her pillow. Oh, Hermione.
  • When she failed her DADA exam because her Boggart turned into Professor McGonagall telling her she’d failed everything and she went to pieces.
  • She asked McLaggen to the Slug Club Christmas Party to spite Ron and regretted it almost instantly and then spent the evening hiding behind columns.
  • She blackmailed Rita Skeeter. Both ridiculous and amazing.

And Harry and Ron love her anyway.

Hermione cries all the time. All. The. Time.

And they love her anyway.

See, that’s the thing. If you take a female character from a book who cries a lot and sometimes doesn’t really act like the brightest witch of her age and you adapt her into a perfect, intelligent action girl and stick her on a pedestal because you think it’s more realistic, or entertaining, or god forbid more feminist that way, then, no. Please don’t. It’s not more feminist. Feminism is not about wanting women to be on pedestals and if you think it is you have been led well astray.

And finally, allow me to comment on the Ron thing, because I will probably never stop commenting on the Ron thing. In fact, if “The Harry Potter movies ruined Ron and I will NEVER rest in peace because of it” isn’t engraved on my tombstone then someone’s getting haunted, I swear it.

I no longer care if you wanted Hermione and Harry to end up married. That’s fine. They’re compatible. I mean, he yells a lot and she cries a lot and they aren’t attracted to each other in the slightest but fine. Have it your way – it’s eons better than wanting either of them to have ended up with Draco so I’ll take it.

But I am sick of the anti-Ron thing. Hermione isn’t too good for Ron just because she’s smarter than him. She isn’t too good for Ron just because he has insecurities and makes mistakes sometimes. She isn’t too good for Ron just because he sometimes says mean things. He’s flawed; she likes him anyway. He works on his flaws and occasionally even learns something.

If you’d like to talk about how writing a friendship-to-romance where the friendship is occasionally volatile as a way to hint that they’d be a lot happier if they’d just kiss already is problematic or at the very least not your favourite thing, I’m here for that. I’ll have that discussion. Sometimes Ron and Hermione’s fighting annoys me too. What I like is that they always get over it, even if it’s a big fight, because of course they do. They’re friends and also apparently in love. But I see that point and I’m good with it.

But can we also discuss how I think the real appeal of the Ron/Hermione romantic relationship is the appeal of having someone you know well, who knows you well, who has seen you at your best and your worst, who often expresses annoyance at you and at whom you often express annoyance, who you can argue with without the world ending, who doesn’t let you get away with indulging your worst instincts without calling you out for it, turn out to be romantically interested in you even though you’re both sometimes annoying? I think this works from both sides of their relationship. They know each other’s worst habits and are friends in spite of them, and if they’re also capable of being lovers in spite of them, well, isn’t that a lot more realistic a depiction of a healthy relationship than it ever gets credit for being?

I don’t really know. I’m more open to Ron/Hermione criticism than I have been in the past, but if you come at me with “She’s perfect and he’s always eating,” I’m going to tell you to crack open the damn books. Which is what Hermione would say. Seriously, if you hate Ron so much stop emulating him. He’s the one who would just leave it at the movie version.

**Also we went to see It again after I’d drafted this post and now I think Bev got almost the same treatment as Hermione did. I’ll have to write extensively about that at some other time.**


In other nostalgia news, I narrated an old LotR parody fic we wrote and it was definitely not a waste of time… *shifty eyes*

Click Haldir to listen.

haldir

100 Books: September

Well now I guess it’s October.

october sally

Jan Feb March April May June July August

So I am apparently slowing down, due, I think, to the encroachment of old age. I turned 28 this month.

I’ve read all of 54 books which leaves a grand total of 46 books left to reach my very reasonable goal. And that means 15 per month from now on. It’s happening, I tell you. By the power of honey crisp apples and being able to watch holiday and fall/Halloween/cozy type movies again, I will surely pull it off.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

down among the sticks and bones

I can’t believe how much I loved this. It’s a companion to Every Heart a Doorway, which I read later this month because I loved this one so much. I prefer this one, but both are really good. Where are the movies, I ask?

I would highly recommend these to anyone who likes kids falling into magical realms. Read Every Heart a Doorway first though, and then BE ABSOLUTELY SURE to read this one too.

Lumberjanes Volume 2

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I’m only on Volume 2 but these are killer. I love them so much. They’re so much fun, so easy to disappear into, and I wish they were longer (except then I’d have a harder time finishing my 100 this year so not really, they’re the perfect length for a kids’ graphic novel anyway).

So I discovered in this volume that camp counselor Jen is me.

jen is me

I’ve legitimately considered what might happen if I had to suddenly leap into danger to help someone and every time I’ve considered it I’ve been pretty cynically sure that this exact thing is what would happen, so this is by far my favourite moment of any of the books I’ve read this year.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

every heart a doorway

What I said earlier.

And also, the main character is asexual and I wasn’t expecting that. Her version of ace isn’t mine (I mean, there was a lot about aesthetic attraction, which, yes, I latched onto that like a lifeline to perform for my friends with Leo DiCaprio and Orlando Bloom, so, it’s a thing for me too, but she didn’t go into the confusing romantic attraction the character seemed – to me – to be feeling at times, and kind of implied that blushing while being around Kade was all down to aesthetic attraction. I’m sure that’s the way it is for some people, but, not me), but still, I could relate to some of it which was nice.

Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

of fire and stars

Fantasy and political intrigue and irritating family members. Two princesses, and they slowly (really, really slowly) fall in love. I really liked this romance, because more than any other I’ve read this year (and maybe ever), it took soooooo long. It’s hard to explain but I really liked it. I liked how they have complicated and mixed feelings about each other at first, and they shift slowly, and, eventually, it’s romance. It’s also why I like Courtney Milan’s romance plotlines. It takes FOREVER.

I also love that Mare (Princess 1) is bi and Denna (Princess 2) is… maybe… possibly… homoromantic demisexual? I read her like that because, a) that’s typical of me to assume everyone is some sort of ace before being proven wrong, and b) much is made of how she’s never felt the way she feels about Mare before. She could have just been surrounded with heteronormativity, of course, or, really, she just never had an opportunity to meet lots of women to be attracted to. Either way, I liked how their romantic histories and present-day romantic realities were so different.

Also it’s all about bigotry and scapegoating and terrorism, so that was interesting.

She-Wolf and Cub by Lilith Saintcrow

she-wolf and cub

I’m not usually one for sci-fi but this was pretty cool.

A woman who is mostly robot and also an assassin is assigned to kill a child (who… is a vampire… made by science…), and instead she takes the child and runs. And that’s the story.

I LOVED this protagonist. Abby. Abbymom. Mom. Jess. Whatever her name is. She’s tough as nails but super caring and sometimes shows it and often doesn’t. I also liked the weird, almost-not-there-at-all romance between her and Sam (… another robot person).

OK I didn’t love the graphic animal cruelty – one scene in particular grossed me out a lot. But if animals were dying it was usually quick.

Crash Override by Zoë Quinn

crash override

Are you on the internet? Well, you must be, if you’re reading this. So. Now you need to read this book.

Seriously.

It’s… yeah.

I’d planned on picking this up as soon as I heard it was coming out, but I recently saw a recommendation to buy it as an audiobook because Quinn narrates it herself and does a good job. So, that’s what I did, and that’s what I recommend you do. She had her life torn apart by the internet hate machine, wants desperately to find solutions that don’t ruin everything, and wants to prevent it from happening to anyone else, and hearing her read it aloud herself definitely drives the point all the way home.

Welp, that’s September.

I have a lot of reading to do.

Three’s Abandoned Princess Appreciation Post

This post is a thing Three wrote months ago and then abandoned. Apparently she abandoned it because she was under the impression that she had already posted it. It doesn’t have a conclusion but I’m posting it anyway because it’s pro-Princess and why not, we could use more of that always.


For most of my life, I have been confused and fascinated by “Baby On Board” bumper stickers. My primary concern is this: If you do not, in fact, have a baby on board, is it then okay to crash into you? No? Then isn’t the sticker a little redundant?

I suppose I can forgive the existence of these stickers since they are well-intentioned – they mean to remind people to drive safely. I’m okay with that. However, every day when I get to work, I park next to a car which has two crown-shaped bumper stickers.

The blue: “King on Route.”

The pink: “Princess on Route.”

I’m sorry, I have to ask. Assuming that these do not refer to legitimate royalty, why does your son get to be King and your daughter is a mere Princess? That was obviously a deliberate marketing decision made by someone, somewhere. Do we not like the word ‘prince’? Or, worse, do we mistrust the word ‘queen’?

Or… are we using the traditional patriarchal monarchy in which your son is the Crown Prince (still not King, but anyway) and therefore your daughter will be Princess for life because she’s not entitled to rule unless your son dies with no heirs?

Gotta say, since this isn’s a real monarchy (again I’m making an assumption, but if these people really are royalty, why do they work in the same building as me?) why can’t you stretch reality just a tad further and make your daughter a Queen?

Thus, every morning, I am reminded about Princesses and all the rules and regulations that come with being one. And this is where I’ll begin.

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“SHE DOES NOT DOODLE”

A Princess Is a Role Model

I’m the princess. I’m the example. I’ve got duties, responsibilities, expectations. My whole life is planned out, until the day I become, well, my mother. She’s in charge of every single day of my life.

The requirement for Princesses to be Role Models goes beyond the lessons Merida gets from her mother in Brave. Indeed, when Brave was released, we were inundated with criticism about Merida and her suitability as a role model for girls. Clearly, these people either didn’t watch the movie or just completely, embarrassingly, missed the point. But I digress: Today is about Disney.

While Disney certainly relies on traditional female narratives more than it should, it is also not afraid to unpack those narratives. As the Disney Renaissance rolled around, we saw princesses begin to participate more actively in their stories, and Disney began to provide some gentle commentary on the patterns we tend to see in our female characters.

beauty-and-the-beast-disneyscreencaps.com-1949

G:”And you know who that little wife will be?”/B: “Let me think.”

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Gaston is the best thing about this movie. He, and the way Belle reacts to him, hit way too close to home.

While Ariel pursues a dream of her own, and Jasmine plays a side-role in someone else’s adventure, Belle’s story has the most poignant animate metaphor ever for all Patriarchy who marches into her house and tells her that she’ll be marrying him. And as we all have at some point or another, Belle rolls her eyes and then tricks him into leaving her house so she can get on with her life.

Four years later, this happened:

Pocahontas

“Is all my dreaming at an end?”

Pocahontas, like Belle, is faced with a traditional narrative: Marry the man who we’ve deemed good enough for you. In fact, Pocahontas’ narrative is a little less on-the-nose than Belle’s, because her father is in on it – and because Kocoum seems to be perfectly nice, if serious. Despite this movie’s (many) flaws, it opened the Disney Door to the idea that even if a man is decent and good looking and  your dad likes him, a woman might not want to bone him and shouldn’t have to. HMMMMMM IMAGINE THAT. And it isn’t even because she’s after John Smith instead, because she hasn’t met him yet. She just doesn’t want the future she envisions when she imagines herself married to stoic warrior dude.

Now, this isn’t groundbreaking stuff. These are tropes in themselves that belong to many female characters outside of the Disney and Fairy Tale realm, where they don’t go for the one guy and instead go for the other guy (see: every Romantic Comedy ever). So let’s get into the real deep-fried tofu of the discussion with my three personal favourites.

Mulan and the Female Narrative

mulan1

“Can I just-“

There she is. You knew it was coming.

Mulan depicts an extremely strict cultural narrative for women, referenced again and again in song, dialogue, and imagery like this:

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Literally painting her face to look like “a perfect porcelain doll.” There’s a reason why many complaints about the tendencies of women in Disney end in: “Well, except Mulan.” Also, I could watch this GIF all day. I wish I had those liquid eyeliner skills.

Self-image, or “reflection,” is one symbol the movie uses to not-so-subtly talk about the female narrative and how it doesn’t quite suit all of us. While Belle and Pocahontas lamented being expected to marry men they weren’t really into, Mulan didn’t even mention the that they were attempting to marry her off – she sings about the fact that her personality is at odds with the role she is expected to play as a woman, wife, and daughter.

Mulan

“Can it be, I’m not meant to play this part?”

The crux of this issue, of course, is that being who she is would “break [her] family’s heart.” While it’s clear that she feels conflicted about who and what to be at this stage in her life, the choice is taken away from her when her father is summoned back to the army – now that she has to save her father’s life, she grasps the opportunity to escape as an added bonus.

That reflection imagery comes back when Mulan goes to chop her hair off, in this genius sequence which is only more genius with soundtrack:

so-she-takes-matters-her-long-hair-her-own-hands

Thus, Mulan solidifies her commitment to rejecting her narrative that society is trying to impose on her because she is female, while taking one last look at her own face in the reflection of her father’s sword. Symbolism.

Tiana and the Female Narrative

Tiana

“Look out boys, I’m coming through!”

We discussed this one recently (erm’s note: haha, recently), touching on how Tiana rejects the idea of fairy tales and wants to gain everything through hard work. We can try reading this through a feminist lens as well. Shall we?

The traditional female narrative we like to criticize Disney for involves a lady like Cinderella sitting pretty while the plot happens around her. Some ladies, like Belle and Mulan, get dragged into adventure because they have to save their fathers, and in doing so manage to become self-actualized. But they didn’t do it on their own – they were compelled by circumstance.

Tiana is also technically compelled by circumstance once the frog stuff happens, but the difference between her and her fellow princesses is that unlike Cinderella, Belle, and even Mulan, she isn’t waiting around at home passively dreaming about how nice it would be if things were different, which is what Cinderella does before starting her day and in between her chores, and it’s what Belle does after Gaston proposes to her, and it’s what Mulan does before the conscription notice happens. Not that this sort of passivity is inherently bad, because it’s not. It’s relatable, for one thing. A lot of life is being a little patient and dreamy. But it is nice, for a change, to have a female character out there taking charge and actively trying to make her dream happen as soon as we first see her as an adult working two jobs. Ambition. It’s a scary thing for women to have, apparently, but Tiana has it in spades. (erm’s note: we should really talk about how the movie is a little really weird about Tiana and her ambitions at some point but for now just take it for what it is.)

pf5

“Prince? But I didn’t wish for any -“

Fairy tale circumstance only slows her down, if we’re pretending that the main narrative is Tiana getting her restaurant (which… it kind of is). Between froggy princes and racist realtors, it seems like everything is working against Tiana’s Palace.

But even though she has to temporarily stop chasing her restaurateur dreams and fall in love real quick, the role that Tiana plays in her fairy tale is a role often held by a man.

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“Yep, I’m used to it. Guys, I want a castle.”

Like this man, for example.

Tangled is a traditional story of optimism VS cynicism, in which optimism wins out because Disney and also because Children’s Lit. We have our beautiful, virtuous, wide-eyed optimist Princess, and then we have Flynn Rider, who is just too good for all of this fairy tale stuff. Or so he thinks.

The new renaissance princess of The Princess and the Frog is probably this lady:

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Tiana is held in stark contrast to Lotte throughout the film:

princessandfrog4

“I’d really like to help you, but I just do not kiss frogs.”

Tiana is no thief, and she’s not a “heartless” “cynic,” but as far as she’s concerned at the beginning, she is definitely too good for this fairy tale nonsense. The movie sets out to prove her wrong about love and magic and fairy tales, and in doing so, it completely turns Disney stereotypes on their heads by letting the princess change her own mind rather than her dude’s.

Elsa, Anna, and the Female Narrative

Here’s another movie that deliberately set out to deconstruct female narratives.

Let’s talk about Anna first.

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“We would like your blessing of our marriage.”

So Anna is supposed to be the traditional princess in this movie. She checks all the boxes – cooped up with no social life to speak of, gets compelled to go on an adventure to save someone else, falls in love immediately and decides to get married right away… Every part of her story mimics the Renaissance princesses.

Until:

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“If only somebody loved you.”

*Glass shatters* This isn’t a Renaissance movie, folks.

Now, I think we all saw the Anna/Kristoff thing coming, so I doubt many of us were completely shocked by this reveal. However, it was the first time in any Disney film that a Princess has it wrong about her Prince. Until now, we’ve been very reverent toward the idea of true love, but Frozen argues that it’s a little more complicated than that.

But this isn’t about romantic, prince/princess love, it’s about women. So what does Anna tell us about women in Disney?

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“Some people are worth melting for.”

From the beginning, this was a movie about sisters in particular, but Olaf’s love for Anna makes an important point: Love isn’t all princes and princesses. Sometimes it’s family. Sometimes it’s animals. Sometimes it’s snowmen. And all of it has power. In other words – the romantic story arc for women is not all we’re good for. Women have plenty of other stories to tell:

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Like when we throw ourselves in front of a sword to save our sisters.

Elsa is a whole other thing. First of all, is she the first Disney Queen? She is, right? I mean, the first Disney Queen who isn’t a villain. (erm’s note: she’s forgotten Nala and Nala counts OK I don’t care that she isn’t human.)

So she’s got that going for her. She’s also got a bit of a Mulan thing going on, except where Mulan is bad at being ladylike, Elsa is bad at not killing everyone around her with her ice powers. She knows that if she were honest about who and what she is, she would be letting an entire kingdom down. She puts a tremendous amount of pressure on herself to keep everything as it should be.

And then:

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While Mulan had to take drastic steps to save her father, Elsa reveals her magic in front of the whole kingdom, so she flees. It’s simply time to face the storm inside of her.

She has already broken the mold at this point, but I also want to take a quick second to discuss the following:

Let it Go as a Source of Female Empowerment

As evidence, I present all the little girls who sang this song for like a year straight. It wasn’t annoying at all. Okay, it was annoying.

Only because I hate kids.

But anyway, let’s break this thing down, shall we?


That’s where it ends.

Because she wrote a whole separate post about “Let it Go” which is here.