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hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.
I binged on the 1995 version of "Pride and Prejudice" with Heather this weekend, which is one of my favorite movies/books, not least because it's immensely enjoyable and fun (as opposed to my usual leanings towards doom and gloom fiction). But one thing that leaves me really uncomfortable with the ending is Lydia being married to Wickham. She's what...16, at MOST, at the end of the book? That's not nearly old enough to be getting punished so harshly for the choices she made at such a young age. I understand that an average 16-year-old woman in the 19th century was probably more mature than an average 16-year-old today, but Lydia is still the youngest of the sisters, which almost necessarily means that she's been spoiled (by her mother, whom I also don't blame. I mostly just *really* dislike Mr. Bennet.) and been allowed to shirk responsibility and I think that while Jane and Elizabeth are responsible, she was somehow allowed to be more under Mrs. Bennet's wing, and I think a large part of that is that no one is really expecting her to end up being married or with any sort of responsibility for a long while yet.

But with a husband like Wickham, Lydia is going to learn some harsh lessons very quickly. Not just in terms of his cheating, but he is going to gamble everything away, and I don't think Lydia would much like being poor or socially disgraced and shunned, which they will be within the year with Wickham's general assholery. In Lydia's case, it doesn't even seem like she's being actively punished as much as Austen just went "They're both shallow and kind of deserve each other." Which, well. Wickham is someone who is willfully malicious and deceptive by design, while Lydia's biggest crime is being thoughtless and shallow...at the ripe old age of SIXTEEN. As opposed to Isabella Thrope from "Northanger Abbey," (whom I adore, BTW), who actually actively drops a well-off man to go after a much richer one with the intentions of marrying up. Isabella's ending is another one that makes me really uncomfortable. Of course, when we leave her at the end of the book, her future is uncertain, but we know enough to know that she's not headed for a good one. And I feel iffy about the conversation between Henry and Catherine that pretty much says that Isabella got what she deserved and/or invited her doom by being ambitious.

This yuletide, one of the things I am most looking forward to asking for is some Isabella fanfic, where she finds her happy ending and satisfies her gold-digging tendencies. Possibly with even Captain Tilney, because I sort of like the idea of her ending up with someone who *knows* she's a gold-digger, but doesn't care. I might have to reread to see how much I actually hate Captain Tilney and if he could be redeemed. I'll never understand how gold-digging in women is somehow WORSE than men wanting to marry pretty girls in these period romances. Both equally shallow (although one is VERY practical and ambitious, and understandable in an era when women don't have career options, and marriage was, in a way, their 'career.'), but somehow, since beauty is a part of you, he really is in love with YOU. As opposed to wealth, which is an external thing. OTBH, I have no idea how this works. Except that all our narratives are from the Male POV so women wanting something out of men and going after it makes everyone freak out, while men can do whatever and it's fine because that's who most people are going to be identifying with. Sigh.

While the "Pride and Prejudice" movie did not cover this part (do any versions cover this part?), and I actually generally love all the bits of interaction that take place between Lizzie and Darcy after the engagement, my only issue with their entire romance narrative takes place during a conversation between the two of them. Elizabeth asks Mr. Darcy what first attracted him to her, to which, he has no specific answer. So she proceeds to analyze his feelings thusly, "The fact is, that you were sick of civility, of deference, of officious attention. You were disgusted with the women who were always speaking, and looking, and thinking for your approbation alone. I roused, and interested you, because I was so unlike them."

Now, I like the first part of the conversation (not quoted here), where you get the impression that he loves her because she was snarky to him (he insists that it was for the "liveliness of her mind," which I adore!). And I generally like het romances where the man has to do the emotional work because the woman is either emotionally unavailable/distant/unstable or just plain not interested, in which case, the guy actually has to respect her wishes and back-off (as Mr. Darcy does) when she asks , because other wise, it goes into a creepy territory. So Lizzie/Darcy kind of push all kinds of shipping buttons for me. But this second bit, where Elizabeth sort of...somehow puts the other women down, makes me a bit iffy because it really brings to attention the weird double standard of the Romantic Period, especially when compared to the treatment of Isabella. A successful woman is she who marries well...but the only one who *deserves* to marry well is the one who doesn't actually *want* wealth. So you have a culture that encourages women to find a rich husband that also actually looks down on women for trying to find a well-off husband. This is so...messed up, and how does that even WORK? So Elizabeth is deserving of all this happiness because this is not the happiness she desired, but Isabella, who wants wealth and fortune and actually WORKS for it, deserves to be disgraced and punished. Now, of course, I love Elizabeth dearly and she is probably one of my favorite heroines in all of literature, so I am not putting her down in any way. But...Isabella amuses me greatly, and she's so...deceptive and artful and works SO hard for what she wants that I just...really, really can't help but want her to get her rich husband, who also happens to love her. And as always, I am bothered by how fiction endorses the happiness of a certain kind of woman while denying that to the more unconventional women.

I kind of wish I remembered more of "Mansfield Park" so I could talk about the gold-digger character in there? But as it is, I can't even remember her name, but I do know that there is apparently one and that a lot of you hate her treatment in the text.

So there you have it, more of my issues with Austen and gold-digging/shallow women. One day, I'll know exactly what I think of it in the light of all the things I love about Jane Austen, given that heroines like Elizabeth *were* unconventional back then, and a heroine like Emma Woodhouse is still insanely hard to find even today. But until then, you're all doomed to see these random thoughts as they occur.

In other news, I see that there's a book about Lydia Bennet giving her a happy ending. I am ambivalent on the reviews, but I think I might get it. If only "Northanger Abbey" were popular enough for such a thing to exist for Isabella...
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.
So, I went to see X-men: First Class last night because apparently, when it's not being marred by my disdain for Wolverine, Emma Frost's appearance in a movie is just as much of a draw for me as one would expect. Friendslist, have I mentioned lately how much I love Emma Frost? And how I wish I could grow up to be her? And how she's the one who started me down the path of my love affair with Machiavellian Women in Charge? Because, yes, all of that. So as one would expect, I fully expected to post a squee filled entry talking about my love of Emma Frost and her epic hardcore awesomeness.

Except, I'm not. The beauty of Emma Frost is that she exists exactly where the line between Machiavellian Woman in Charge crosses over with Femme Fatale, which doesn't happen often because the latter is usually seen as a type who secretly manipulates people to have her way, but never really wants power openly. Emma is happy to play the femme fatale for the end results, but her goal is always to be in power. So what happens when you take power out of that equation? Something very unfortunate, of course. Emma gets reduced to her sexuality, which is something the comics have been guilty of lately.

Despite that, the movie starts out well. The Magneto backstory is compelling, but I might be biased because Magneto is possibly my favorite male character in all of X-men. The team dynamics are good, and not all about, you know, Wolverine. I was shipping everyone with everyone else, and squeeing, and happy, and thinking "OMG, this is the best X-men movie yet," and then we hit halfway point, Emma Frost left my screen, and gave me time to focus on the bigger picture. Where they wrote out all the woman from Plot A so we could focus on the Big Boys playing war games and directing politics. Where women apparently have no place.

Spoilery thoughts on Mystique, Moira, Emma Frost, and the Bromance that can't contain women in its narrative, obviously. Collapse )
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.
04 March 2011 @ 09:05 pm
I spontaneously decided to rearrange my bookshelf and am in the middle of it, and then saw a book meme, very appropriately.  I may be late for World Book Day, but oh, well:
The book I am reading:
"A Conspiracy of Kings" by Megan Whalen Turner, mostly, but I also got distracted by "The Cult of the Divine Birth in Ancient Greece" by Marguerite Rigoglioso, which Amazon sent me today.  YOU GUYS, THE RESEARCH IN THIS BOOK!  *dies*

The book I am writing:
While not quite writing,  I'm kind of outlining/playing with the idea of retelling Classical myths with  goddesses from their POVs, giving them more positive/empowering motivations (and f/f interaction!) than canon does, but in a format where it's kind of one long epic story containing many interconnected stories.  Something like I did with the Hera and Athena story for Yuletide, but more extensive, and involving the whole pantheon.
The book(s) I love most:
I know people have been passing on this one, but I shall use this opportunity to squee over some of my favorites...the ones I can remember off the top of my head, but I'm sure there are more:

"A Lost Lady" by Willa Cather  - This book does something that I have never seen done half as well anywhere else:  it lovingly deconstructs the Courtly Love genre in such a way that I both WANT MORE OF IT and totally HATE IT FOR THE FAIL.  It's epic.  And the heroine!  <3  Possibly my favorite classic literary heroine ever.
"The Descent of Inanna" - So, I have a thing for ancient stories, and this is one of the oldest extant texts we have, so that alone makes me love it.  But!  It is the ORIGINAL descent narrative!  With the woman going on the epic journey, even though it sort of became the domain of male heroes in myth later on.  I love how powerful she is, and how much the text focuses on her sexuality and desire for power, and it's all done so positively.  And the poetry is some of the most powerful I have read, and it makes me want to believe in these stories.
"Medea" by Euripides - Ancient Greek play about one woman sticking it to the Patriarchy exactly where it hurts the most.  And getting away with it.  Okay, fine, Medea may be my favorite literary heroine ever.
"Beloved" by Toni Morrison -  The Medea myth transformed to the Old South, where the same act of defiance is seen as a form of rebelling against slavery, and this book is just so...gah.  Perfect.  I love Medea as a hardcore creepy heroine?  But this is the book that makes me understand her as a human being because Sethe is so vividly drawn, so scary, but so incredibly human.  And the complex, nuanced relationships between the women are unlike any in canon literature. It's entirely possible she's my favorite literary heroine?  ;)
"The Season of Passage" by Christopher Pike -  One of my earliest favorites and despite all of Christopher Pike's fail since then and my issues with parts of it, this remains one of my favorite stories.  Of course...I haven't read it in a while, and TBH, I'm kind of afraid to?  But it's a perfect mix of fantasy, sci-fi, and horror with epic characters.
Jane Austen! Because I can't pick between "Emma" and "Pride and Prejudice."  I think I like "Emma" better on a critical level in terms of REALLY appreciating what Austen is doing with her heroine?  But I think P&P is closer to my heart for various reasons, not least of which is the household dynamic with the SISTERS (<3) and the non-faily romance elements, though they're not quite deconstructive.

It occurs to me that a few years ago, this list would have definitely included things like "The Iliad" and "The Epic of Gilgamesh" and even "The Great Gatsby?"  But I'm so much less impressed with stories about men these days.   "A Lost Lady" is pretty much a more female centric version of "The Great Gatsby," and so closer to my heart, and Inanna and Medea are funner than Gilgamesh and Achilles, as much as I love Achilles.
The last book I received as a gift:
Nancy Drew and Christopher Pike books WRAPPED IN PLASTIC to facilitate my ways. <3

The last book I gave as a gift:
A Lost Lady and Women Who Run with Wolves.
The nearest book on my desk:
I have about 15ish books on my bed right now, all various retellings of Greek myths from women's POVs...since that's the section I'm rearranging right now. 

The last book I bought for myself:
My last order from amazon included the following:  "The Cult of the Divine Birth in Ancient Greece" by Marguerite Rigoglioso,  "A Long Fatal Love Chase" by Louisa May Alcott,  "Lady Audley's Secret" by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, "Turn of the Screw" by Henry James, and "House of Seven Gables" by Nathaniel Hawthrone.
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.
This is somewhat of a follow-up to my earlier meta on authorial intent fail (mainly on BSG), where I argued that writers' lack of concrete authorial intent when writing female characters leads to female characters being read in widely different ways in fandom, often in ways that the canon did not intend. I did recap the ideas from there here, but the original meta is here, for those interested in it.

So I talked a bit before about the slut-shaming of certain types of characters in fandom, and I've been trying to figure out why reasons number 1 through 6 for hating Vala made me scoff and laugh at the person's fail, but the list calling her a whore inspired rage. Or how I'm generally amused by the Emma-hating that comes out of the Jean/Scott shipper pain, but Christy Marx dismissing Emma as a slut inspired thoughts of violence.

I think what’s especially telling about fandom’s perception of Vala as a whore and Emma as a slut is that even given the traditional (and entirely sexist!) definitions of the (sexist/offensive) words prostitute and slut, neither Emma nor Vala meet those definitions? There’s a level of patriarchal judgment going into these labels, of course. But there’s also a reinvention of canon in order to justify hating these women. (Not that it's ever okay to call anyone by those slurs.) Which I don’t think is uncommon in fandom, so I wanted to describe, name, and give examples of this phenomenon. Because I think this is why I really can't engage with mainstream fans.

I've talked before about how the abject and/or object position that most women occupy in fiction makes them more likely to be...interpreted widely differently by different people. And often in ways that canon didn't intend or didn't care enough to make clear. Female characters, in general, are often written in relation to the more narratively central male characters and filtered through the male gaze/male pov/male narrative, so the writers constantly fail to elaborate on their motivations/desires, especially when these things fall outside the things women are traditionally seen as wanting. I had suggested earlier that we approach texts more loosely as women in terms of authorial intent, similar to how research has shown women approaching patriarchal religions. So women, when faced with problematic portrayals of women in fiction, do one of the following things with the text: reject, repress, or reinvent/reinterpret.

I’ve always thought that part of the reason that women have a problem relating to other female characters in fiction is because so much of our fiction still approaches female characters as the other/object. So when women consume fiction, they have to make a choice: either continue to see themselves as Subject and identify with the male subject, or identify with the women and give up the subject position. This, of course, doesn’t excuse in any way the fact that most people refuse to take that extra step in trying to approach fiction from a different POV, but it’s still a factor in how women/minorities consume fiction and they're, of course, unfairly disadvantaged in this. So what happens when you actually realize this pattern consciously or subconsciously, or realize that fiction is treating women in ways that it might not treat men? You can either drop that show/comic/book, and reject it. You can repress that bit of canon. Or you can reinvent canon by writing fic, vidding, fanwanking, or having your own personal fanon or interpretation.

One of the things I mentioned off-handedly that I didn't really explore was the idea of what I called 'negative reinvention.' Where a person deliberately chooses to read a female character in such a way as to justify her/his dislike of the character. In the absence of the female POV, we're constantly forced to rearrange bits of the narrative in our heads for them to give them motivation that the narrative didn't care to explore. And I think how we do that, in large part, indicates how we feel about female characters in general.

Read more...Collapse )
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.
I've always off-handedly known that Joss had planned a gang rape for Inara by reavers at some point, but never really pursued the details past what I had briefly come across? But it's something that comes up for me often in "Firefly" discussions in the context of So Glad It Died Before That. ide_cyan provided some links in my last post with more details, and it was too tempting. I now have details. And thoughts. And rage, OH SO MUCH RAGE. Because the interview linked was done by Tim Minear, aka my TV God.

Hi, fuck you, Tim Minear. I have liked you in the past because while you’ve failed before, you have also been good about admitting the fail and then correcting it where possible, which is incredibly rare with writers. So I had assumed that you had gotten past the issues you had displayed randomly on Angel? Because you gave us “The Inside,” which is a wonderful deconstruction of some very problematic tropes and will never not be epic. And “Drive.” And “Wonderfalls.” All with awesome women and no rape! But apparently, it never goes away.

He goes on for almost three minutes about the Rape of Inara plot here (around the 35 minute mark). Which apparently is what Joss Whedon used to pitch the show to him. You know, Joss the Feminist. (Honestly, at this point, I'm surprised that Buffy had five seasons before rape entered the narrative arcs.) The word “beautiful” might have been used in the context of a RAPE PLOT. Women’s suffering/death as beautiful? My thoughts on it haven't changed. Just…I kind of want to crawl under a rock and avoid fandom forever. Tim Minear was the ONLY writer I had any respect left for.

Like, I do think that Minear tends to be at his worst when working under Joss. But his failure to recognize the fail of a rape plot in the context of Man Pain? At worst, he’s a horrible misogynist, and even at best, he’s one of the Joss-is-God people who can’t see anything wrong with what Joss does. Either way, NO WORDS.

Also, I am now gleefully happy that “Firefly” got canceled. Not that I wasn’t before, but now? I can almost forgive FOX for canceling all those TV shows if it means that Inara was never raped. Also, TV, can you stop having the women with sexuality be raped or otherwise punished for having it while pretending to be edgy for having women with ‘unconventional’ sexualities?

Quotes from the planned rape plot and some thoughts on heroines, consent, and sexuality. Collapse )
Current Mood: enragedenraged
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.
11 January 2011 @ 08:04 pm
So, apparently, in things we should fear the most in 2012, besides, you know, THE END OF THE WORLD, is a Joss-less Buffy movie. There's a petition to boycott! With strong quotes like, "Find me one person who liked Buffy the Vampire Slayer but not Joss, and I'll show you a liar." *dies* Apparently, my friendslist is mostly made up of liars?

And then we have the bit with Joss being bitter but trying hard not to be. YOU GUYS, even if the movie sucks, all the angst it's causing him and the "Joss is God" people is going to be worth it. And can you imagine the wank? That alone would be worth the price of admission.

I'm not saying this won't suck, because more than likely, it will fail epically. But until it does? I'm going to be happy with the fandom pain of the Joss is God people. Because at this point, people's main issue really does just seem to be the non-involvement of Joss. Really, if he were updating it? It wouldn't be as much of an update and I would have to hate it on principle as I'm now required to hate everything Joss does.

So watch me giggle and squee with glee while fandom cries over this happening without Joss Whedon. I want to keep the original concept, the epic Bechdel passing, the mythic and gothic themes, and Cordelia. Everything else? Please cut out without reservation! Starting with, um, Xander. Also, I'm going to go on record as saying that if we must have a het Buffy relationship, I need it to be closer to Buffy/Pike than Buffy/Angel. And! People of color! Let's try this concept with third wave feminism now, yes?

In other words, I'm still as excited as ever about this. And so glad it's finally happening after I had given up ALL hope! This better not fail me.
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.
So I have been seeing Pink's new video linked around the friendslist, but I have been kind of reluctant to post my thoughts on it because I tend to wait things out before posting thoughts so it doesn't seem like it's directed at anyone. Because even if it seems like it is, chances are that it's only just set off an issue I have had forever and just given me motivation to articulate it. So, usual disclaimer: it's okay to like the video, just as it's okay to love "Supernatural" even. It's defending the problematic bits of them where the problem enters, so I'm not saying you can't like this video as a feminist. However, with all the linking of the video, I have yet to see a disclaimer for the misogynistic bit in the song, so I'll leave the praising of the rest of the video to those who can look past the misogyny, and focus on, of course, the misogyny.

Here's the video. Guess which image stuck with me? Um, yeah. The fact that I took one look at that scene and knew that Pink was a PETA supporter despite not knowing a single thing about her? *headdesk* And the video is, of course, directed by a PETA member, who happens to be a man, no surprise there. The women's abject position is made worse by the blindfolds, and notice how Pink herself is not sitting there being milked because, of course, she realizes that she's the subject of the video. Fail, fail, fail.

I got into an argument over PETA with a friend last month while discussing animal rights and she mentioned being a PETA supporter, which led me to hunting down and spamming her with examples of PETA's fuckery, which was all very triggery and actually worse than I had believed it to be previously. So PETA's constant fail has been on my mind, and then that video didn't help. Of course, animal rights are awesome and we should all support ethical treatment of them, but aligning yourself with an organization that repeatedly uses misogynistic imagery and reinforces ugly, sexist stereotypes about women to raise awareness about animal rights would just get me to link you to PETA's misogynistic ads. If you can't be bothered to find an organization that supports animals without hating on women, I doubt your commitment to ANYONE's rights.

PETA has previously provided us with an article on how human women should be milked instead of cows, given us dead and wrapped in plastic women labeled as meat, given us a video where a man beats a woman with a bat for her fur coat, and given us posters calling fat women whales and linking their 'obesity' to meat eating. But it's to shock people into boycotting meat! Um. The animal = human metaphor doesn't quite work when you're working with women, who are not considered fully human in our society and are regularly compared to animals by sources ranging from founding Western literature to, um, Farscape DVD commentaries: it just reinforces what most people already subconsciously believe. Because women's bodies? Not their own, and patriarchal institutions are constantly attempting to control women's bodies, so women being milked against their will? Not that far off from women being forced to have babies they do not want or having procedures performed on their bodies they're not old enough to understand. I mean, women's bodies are slaves to biology, and made for reproductive functions like birthing and milking and getting pregnant, so why not? Women constantly actually get referred to as 'meat' in sexual terms, so nothing new there. Men do beat women up (sometimes with blunt objects and sometimes to death), and one million women dying each year of from anorexia would tell you that it's not being vegan that has kept them so 'fit.' So where is the irony? ALL OF THIS IS TRUE! Maybe not in those exact terms, but when men look at naked women labeled as meat? They don't want to boycott meat because it just reinforces their beliefs and how their brains work/have been conditioned to work. Men watching violence against women on tv? Are more likely to commit violence against women and not more likely to, you know, eat vegetables. Possibly, the only people being SHOCKED by these ads are the people who actually think of women as fully human.

PETA's five most sexist ads for visual proof of the examples mentioned above. Triggery material warnings apply, of course.

So thank you, Pink, for giving us this new addition to PETA's misogynistic body of work. I'm not sure about boycotting milk yet, but I will be boycotting everything you ever do in the future. Gah.
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.
10 November 2010 @ 08:11 pm
I have been meaning to plug "Damages" for over a year now, but my state of mind while actually watching is mostly squeeful love, which is hard to express in words.  But I'm going to be converting people this week, and we'll be watching it online together, so I figured now is the time to gush over its perfection and what makes it so unique and awesome.  If you know me, you know that I generally prefer genre shows and rarely watch things without sci-fi/fantasy/horror elements, and the only exception to that rule is that I would break that every time for awesome women, and "Damages" certainly has that.

"Damages" is a legal drama with season long arcs, which is mostly about two women, and there's plot there somewhere, but what makes it awesome is Patty Hewes, Ellen Parsons, and the relationship between them.  I admit that the plot elements of it (and 'literary' device of starting from the end of the story and going back in this case) kind of initially turned me off, but once I learned to look past them to the characters, I fell in love with all of it.  I suspect that most of you would not have an issue with the plot bits that I did because that's kind of my pet peeve as narrative arcs go.

Patty Hewes is ambitious, ruthless, and morally ambiguous in the way that characters who focus on the Big Picture often are.  What I love about her, especially, is that the show makes no excuses for her, and gives you no explanations for why she is the way she is.  For all that she wants to do the 'right' thing at the end, Patty *enjoys* power, and I LOVE seeing the show be okay with it.

At its heart, "Damages" is a story about the relationship between two women, but it's not the kind of relationship we see on TV between women often.  It starts out as a straight-forward mentor-mentee relationship where the mentor is clearly manipulating the mentee, which, HI, I have a thing for.  Ellen starts out as an ambitious but idealistic law school graduate, with Patty Hewes being the awesome, Machiavellian hardcore, big name attorney who wants to recruit her for her own devious, devious purposes.  The power balance is unequal, but Ellen is smart and learns quickly and her arc is to figure out that she's being manipulated.  The arc of the second season is Ellen manipulating Patty while Patty thinks she's still manipulating Ellen.  It's pretty damn awesome with all the double-crossing and the manipulation as you realize that Ellen cares for Patty despite herself, and Patty is starting to care for Ellen.   This is, like, everything I love about Helena/Barbara from "Birds of Prey" turned into its own TV show. Patty Hewes, of course, is Barbara Gordon.  Ellen is slowly turning into Helena Bertinelli.

This is another thing I love about this show, Ellen's arc.  TV always does the arc where the bitchy, manipulative Mean Girl/Pretentious Ice Princess turns into a compassionate woman who learns to care about the Greater Good and/or people around her.  I don't think it's common to see the opposite of that arc without it being seen as a Descent Into Evil arc? But Ellen arguably has that arc.  She starts out as a Nice Girl with straight-forward motives, learns at the feet of the master, and turns the tables around in a pretty awesome way.  And the best thing about this is that the show sees this as POSITIVE character growth.  So while Ellen has held onto her idealistic ways, she's also learned to appreciate Patty's way and is not above using it when it suits her, and I love her reluctant respect for Patty, and Patty's unexpected compassion towards Ellen, but I also really love how neither of these things keep either of these women from manipulating the other for her own ends.  Hi, world, I might have a thing for Machiavellian women!  ;)

So, focus on my fictional kinks aside, a lot of "Damages" is also about how Patty and Ellen influence/change each other, and while I had my issues with season three, the last scene between them had me convinced that I would keep watching as long as their relationship remains as complex as it has throughout the three seasons. The show doesn't want you to pick sides, and while they're often Worthy Opponents, you're clearly meant to like them both, which is incredibly rare in fiction with women seen at opposite ends of any spectrum or as rivals.  I also like how their rivalry is over ideology and morals, which is a story that we often get with men, but so rarely with women.

The end of BSG, my shunning of Dexter, and the disappointment of "Big Love" all made me appreciate the first season of "Damages" so much more than I originally did because this show passes the Bechdel test possibly in EVERY SCENE.  And would likely fail a gender reversed version of it because Patty and Ellen are the most important people on the show, and they're, arguably, the most important people in each other's lives at the end of season three. And their relationship is deeply complex, nuanced, positive, but not without its issues, which makes it arguably the most interesting and trope-defying relationship between women currently on tv?  A lot of which has to do with the fact that "Damages" is one of the very few shows on TV that's willing to give this much narrative importance to two women and the relationship between them.

So, all of this is to say, WATCH DAMAGES! I'll be watching it tomorrow (Thursday) evening with meganbmoore and aphrodite_mine online starting this week over AIM/Google-talk in the evenings, and you're welcome to join us for this group watch.

Some of us will also follow the "Damages" pilot with the pilot of "Pretty, Little Liars," which also manages to pass the Bechdel test in every single scene, also has awesome women, some manipulation, and pretty much all of that...in a High School setting.  Most importantly, it's ridiculously *fun.*  It's like someone rewrote all the Christopher Pike mystery books with only women.  <3

I'll try to post um...resources for the group watch later tonight or early tomorrow.   ;)
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.
I went to the most epic performance of The Oresteia this past weekend. The Oresteia is my favoritest play (or really, trilogy of plays) EVER, and it's extensive, long, and hard to put on, so it's never really done. But a local liberal arts (CHRISTIAN) college invited a Greek troupe to come and perform this here in Houston. The Christian part is only relevant because I wish to rant about the very culturally-appropriative lecture we got on the plays before the actual epic performance and the effect of Christian imagery on the play's interpretation.

The university's English department head, who teaches The Oresteia, went on to talk about how it's relevant to Christian issues. Because clearly, no one should be watching blasphemous mythic plays unless they can redefine them to fit their own belief/moral system. One of the themes of the play is doing away with the revenge-based justice system to introduce the trial by jury order of law (the incident that the play deals with was seen by the ancient Greeks as the origin of this practice.) Within the play, the old system is associated with a lot of things, and the play sets up numerous binaries which it then pits against each other, while remaining sort of vague on which side its on. The play is dealing with evolution of a culture on a religious level, a civic level, cultural level, governmental/monarchical level, and it also addresses the power shift from matriarchal patterns to a patriarchal system. All of these complex issues were reduced to the following, "You can see the ideals of Christianity and democracy coming to an otherwise chaotic order of things in this play." Thank gods God that the Christian ideals of democracy came along and civilized those savage, barbaric, evil Greeks. It's not like those evil pagans actually INVENTED democracy.

I think what really bugs me is that it's not this single incident, but it's something I have been noticing on and off for a few years now, the Christianization of Greek Polytheism. BSG does it, of course, and it's one of the things that annoys me the most. (No, Tyrol, the Greek gods actually don't CARE if you dance naked in their temples. Some of them even like that! Although, I do wish that they would smite you for...existing.). The new Clash of the Titans is pretty much built around you thinking of Zeus as God and Hades as Satan, as is Disney's Hercules. Hades really doesn't care to be the king of the world, really. And according to Ereshkigal, the Sumerian Underworld Goddess, rulers of the dead have a lot more power because they have the ability to "raise up the dead and to let the dead overrun the living," which makes the rest of the gods tremble in fear. Ability to bring about a zombie apocalypse? Way more awesome than the ability to throw thunderbolts.

And it seems like there's a whole movement in Christian educational institutions to revive the Greek Classics, but it's mostly being done in a Christian context and that worries me. Because these plays were performed as part of a religious festival, were filled with polytheist context, and are embedded with secrets of Greek mystery cults. And when you take away that context and reduce it to a monotheist context, you're taking away something fundamental, not to mention appropriating their religious texts to serve your own religion, which is faily all around. (WHICH! Is not at all to say that the Greeks did not do the same with the cultures they conquered, and I shall forever judge them for erasing some of our more women-positive myths in the process.) I know...the fact that it's not a religion that's widely practiced or a cultural context that's extant makes it hard to care for a lot of people, but it still makes me sad. Because I worry that if this keeps happening, we'll lose a lot of the original context and then these plays really would be all about Chaos being conquered by Civilization and nothing else.

Now, the Oresteia is very much about those things...about an order of justice being introduced, but it's also about mourning the old ways of doing things that's being overthrown because it portrays things associated with that way of life in a very nuanced way (and, say, not the way Mists of Avalon represents Christians, who are all apparently evil.). And since the old order is associated with my favorite character, Klytemnestra, I sort of have to go with that? Give me an epic revenge narrative and I'm all over it. So, law and justice is all good for the world, yes, but narratively? Not all that interesting. (Unless Patty Hewes is delivering that justice.) The new order of things is represented by Orestes, who is, very possibly, my most hated character in any literature ever. My only issue with the play itself was that they used imagery to make comparisons between Orestes and Jesus (which, I'm sure, was directed by the college, given the context, and the general non-failiness of the play otherwise). I...don't think Jesus would be too happy about being compared to this misogynistic asshole, who killed his awesome mother to avenge a father who had killed two of his siblings in the name of conquering nations.

But one of the things they mentioned during the lecture was that the first play ends very peacefully, in that Klytemnestra says she'll put things right again in Argos, and that's the ending. But when Orestes kills Klytemnestra in the second play, it ends with him being hunted by the Furies, who avenge matricides. The thing is that these stories already existed, Aeschylus just took them and turned them into plays, and I really do think that he's sympathetic to Klytemnestra's side because that also explains why I deeply love this trilogy when it's basically about the Male Order of things (as identified within the way) winning out. Because this play is setting up the structure of Patriarchy, which, of course, is a historical reality, just as the myths he's working with are a historical part of their culture. So he can't change the story, but he has a lot of control over what goes inside this story. His Agamemnon is kind of iffy, while his Klytemnestra, who is often portrayed as a foolish woman who basically lets her lover talk her into killing her husband, is the driver of action here. She plans it and conducts her revenge all the way through, and her lover seems like he's only there for the fun sex he provides and not, um, for his brains. Klytemnestra gets her wonderful speech at the end, which illustrates her side of things nicely, and she gets some incredibly powerful dialoague, where she truly thinks that she's done the world a favor by ridding it of Agamemnon, and I love how she firmly believes that what she's done is right and has NO regrets. She is, by far, the strongest and most resourceful character in the play. She might've invented HBIC, really. ;) And when the play ends, she is triumphant.

In the second play, Orestes is ordered by Apollo to kill his mother in order to avenge the death of his father. He's hesitant and manpain-y about the whole thing, finally goes and does it, cries about it some more, and the play ends with him being hunted by the Furies. So the punishment for his actions comes pretty fast, and he's being punished by chatonic goddesses for his wrongs. Which is very different from Klytemnestra's punishment. Which is delayed, ordered by one god, who doesn't even care enough to do it himself. So, really, Klytemnestra's actions are, arguably, NOT punished by the gods. Not like Orestes' are, which I'm convinced is Aeschylus' way of telling us that he hates Orestes just as much as I do. ;) And Orestes wins the case, because that's what happened historically, and the Furies have to agree to let him go. But he wins by such fail arguments that I can't believe that anyone truly believed them? The argument is basically that it was more important for him to avenge his father than to respect his mother because he shares his blood with his father but not his mother. Which is absolutely ridiculous, and a point of view that's contradicted even in the play, where the furies only avenge murders committed on blood-relatives. So it almost seems like a way of pointing out how the new order of things SUCKS. Which, I agree with, of course. ;) Or at the very least, it's open to interpretation? Which, I think, is what Aeschylus is really aiming for.

However, when you present this play in a Christian context and compare ORESTES to Jesus through imagery, there's no question as to which side you want me to side with. It completely eradicates the original structure/conflict of the play which seeks to establish both sides and gives significant narrative importance to the losing side because it sympathizes (and possibly even agrees) with that side. I suspect I might have been okay with the imagery if I hadn't gotten that opening lecture which was very much about directing your thought pattern towards consuming the play in a Christian context. And the new context now gives total preference to the Patriarchal system. I just...worry about our educational institutions if we're teaching young children to not side with Klytemnestra. ;)

In other news, I take great comfort in the fact that despite having won the case, Orestes was pursued by the Furies for the rest of his life, and died by getting bitten by a SNAKE. Which is fun. Snakes were associated with cathonic dieties, which represent Klytemnetra in the play, but snakes are also seen as negative symbols by the New Order, and Klytemnestra is compared to snakes within the play (which can be read as a positive or a negative thing, given which order you're going with.). So, um, clearly, the Furies and Klytemnestra eventually won.<3

disclaimer: this is not about christianity as much as my...distaste for mixing religion with education/other forms of passing on a text in a way where literature/art can't be appreciated outside that context or a context that promotes censorship/shunning original context for religious/moral reasons.
hell to ships, hell to men, and hell to cities.
meta written for eid_ka_chand, exploring how race and gender play a part in fictional hierarchy and analyzing cultural/narrative appropriation.

Vertigo's Fables comics were, in many ways, my reentry into comics and my first foray outside of the X-men stuff and likely the reason that I ever left the X-men bits to pursue reading any other comics. Because they were insanely awesome and combined many of my literary and fictional kinks into a wonderfully complex story about fairy tale characters, exiled from their homelands, living in modern day New York City.

The concept lent itself wonderfully to deconstructing some of the fairy tales, and one of the things I loved the most about it is that it did this by giving the damsels in distress like Cinderella, Snow White, and Briar Rose more agency than they ever had in their traditional stories. Snow White is the deputy mayor of Fabletown, a city within NYC ran and operated by fairy tale characters, but the actual mayor is just there in name and she's clearly in charge of running the entire city. We find out that she took on this role pretty much right off the boat when she arrived in NYC back in the 17th century. Similarly, Cinderella started working as a covert spy for Fabletown as soon as she arrived, and she is one of Fabletown’s greatest assets. And somehow a character trope that has always disturbed me in fiction (because it encourages taking abuse and passively waiting for things to happen because the universe will reward you for being a doormat!) became my favorite character because of how much ass she kicked in Fables-verse. We need this kind of deconstructing of our cultural stories that take passive women and give them agency, while pointing out the flaws in the original narratives. Because the original narratives are deeply flawed.

Naturally, I spent the whole year obsessing and recommending and forcing Fables on to everyone I could influence into reading it. Somewhere close to issue fifty, however, things started to change, and I realized that Fables allowed this sort of gender deconstructive agency only to Western women, all of whom are portrayed as being white in Fablesverse. Because somewhere around then, Fables started introducing the Arabian fairy tale character (called fables) from the epic "One Thousand and One Nights" (Arabian Nights) into its world. There’s the predictable fail where the Arabian fables can’t communicate well in English (but Snow White had no issues communicating with the Arab fables when she went as an envoy two centuries ago!), keep slaves, and run with swords after women not dressing modestly, making it impossible for enlightened Western Fables to give them jobs. Because, you know, Arab people totally lack any ability to adapt even when they have no choice but to do so for their own survival.

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