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The Corset Question: real controversy or pornographic wish fulfillment?

The Corset Question: real controversy or pornographic wish fulfillment? published on No Comments on The Corset Question: real controversy or pornographic wish fulfillment?

I was reading Wikipedia the other day and I came across an exhaustive article on The Corset Controversy. I read all the testimonials, arguing pro- and anti-, in various 19th-century periodicals, and I was like, “Is this for real? It sounds like something out of Penthouse letters.” My question occasioned an entire essay on the subject, cast in the form of a dialogue between me and Jareth. I’m just excerpting it here because I don’t feel like rewriting it univocally.

Me: Maybe you can help me.

Jareth: Certainly! Shall we parse the intricacies of Georgette Heyer’s complex portrayals of her female characters? ^_^

Me: No, but it’s tangentially related, insofar as I was reading about the Regency period on Wikipedia. Then I moved on to fashion in general, which, of course, got me into corsetry, which ended me up at an article called The Corset Controversy.

Jareth: Is this like The Woman Question?

Me: I dunno. What are you defining as The Woman Question?

Jareth: Oh, all that piss going back and forth in the latter part of the 19th century and the early 20th about women’s rationality, educability, legal rights, suffrage, etc., etc., etc.

Me: Not directly, although the two overlap chronologically. The Corset Question was a debate that ran on from about the 1790s to the 1890s. It was, of course, a disagreement over whether women should wear corsets, which was also referred to as tight-lacing or figure training. Detractors said that corsetry caused pain, squished the wearers’ bodies, reduced their lung capacity, muscle strength, and stamina, and ruined their health. Proponents said that, if practiced correctly, wearing corsetry was physically enjoyable, harmless to health, strength, and posture, and also fashionable/sexy.

Jareth: Are you sure that debate is over? –Because I don’t think it is. Whenever the subject of corsetry comes up online, usually in the context of costuming, Ren faires, and/or kinky clothing, there are always people who sound off on how disgustingly restrictive, painfully disfiguring, and generally evil corsets are. Then there are always people who are into corsetry who counter with something about it being perfectly fine if you do it right. Boy, is it tedious…

There are certain subjects, I think, that people have learned are bad through received wisdom. Like you should never put metal in a microwave because it will cause a nuclear detonation and wipe out your house. Or you should never trust a stranger who asks you for directions or offers you a ride because they’re clearly a child-molesting pervert who’s going to kidnap you, rape you, and leave you in a ditch. And you should never do any illegal drugs ever because they will either kill you the first time or damn you to a hell of escalating addiction and misery.

…I’d put people’s unreasoning objections to corsetry in the same category as stranger danger and the War on Drugs. People have worked themselves up into such a froth about the putative damage caused by corsets that they won’t stand to hear any actual information on the subject. Of course, the received wisdom is also so pervasive that it’s very hard to figure out what is true about corsetry.

Me: See – that’s kind of my problem.

…Reading selections of letters in the Wikipedia article makes me suspicious – specifically, all the pro-corsetry ones. Seriously, they all sound the same, especially when they insist over and over again that it was painful at first, but they quickly got used to it, and now they enjoy the “snug,” “tight” fit.

For example, there was a whole protracted argument in the Toronto Daily Mail about corsets, especially for girls and teenagers. It was in a weekly section called Woman’s Kingdom, and it started off on April 7th, 1883, with some mother asking if tight-lacing could be done without damage. There were the usual pro- and anti- sound-offs, and then there was a sidetrack about preventing girls from cutting the laces of their corsets overnight.

Here’s where I get suspicious. This is directly from the May 19th, 1883 Toronto Daily Mail in the Woman’s Kingdom section, page 5:


“Mother” asks how to prevent her daughters taking off their stays during the night. I must confess I am a disciple of the old school, and believe in the efficacy of corporal punishment. The “severe punishments” …were whipping, which I administered. They were severe, but they served their purpose. Two applications prevented any further interference with the staylaces. I would recommend “Mother” to try the rod with her daughters. –STAYLACE.


I have a very simple plan to prevent my children cutting their laces when they are first put into tight stays, to obtain a temporary relief from the pain which is undoubtedly severe at first. When one of my girls disobeys me by removing her stays, I adopt this plan: After retiring, I fasten her wrists together with a silk handkerchief. This keeps her hands out of mischief, and she soon gets accustomed to the stays. –A.B., KINGSTON.

And here’s some more on the subject from the next week, May 26th, same paper, same section, same page:


I can entirely endorse what “A.B., Kingston” says, that the best way of punishing children cutting the laces of their stays is by confining their hands. Instead of a silk handkerchief I use a small leather strap, with which I fasten the wrists together at night to keep the hands away from mischief, and as a punishment I fasten the hands behind the back for the greater portion of a day. I find that a week’s restriction, which means a good wholesome position for the hands, induces a respect for the laces for all time to come. –A.R.


I positively smiled at the plans suggested to prevent girls under training removing their stays, such as whipping them or tying up their hands. Mothers, listen to my plan. I get a small chain and a little padlock. When the stays are laced, I put the chain round the waist and fasten it with the lock, and put the key in my pocket, and there the stays have to remain till I remove the chain. Is that not simple? –COMMON SENSE.

Jareth: O_O Are you fucking kidding me?

Me: No! I’m legitimately getting this from pdfs of scanned Toronto Daily News microfiche that are freely available on Google News. Here’s a link to the head of the Woman’s Kingdom section for the May 19th quotes; go read it for yourself:




Jareth: *clicking, reading*

Holy shit, you weren’t kidding. Wow, that makes me so sad.

Me: Yeah, but do you think that’s true?

Jareth: Are you seriously doubting the existence of corporal punishment?!

Me: I’m doubting the existence of bunches of people practicing what sounds weirdly like kinky bondage fantasies, combined with corsetry fetishes, on their kids.

…To me it sounds suspiciously like people getting a thrill from airing their fetishes in public through the medium of fictional letters.

Jareth: Oh… I was looking at it from a child abuse viewpoint. I can believe that it’s true because people visit all kinds of of horrible, degrading, painful treatment upon their kids.

I can also believe it’s true because of the simple fact that people wore corsets regularly  at that time. That includes kids! I’ve seen the ads for kids’ corsets, so it’s not like it was a rare phenomenon. Also there was a whole spectrum of attitudes toward corsetry for children, so naturally there would be people toward the extreme end who would lock their kids into stays at nighttime.

…I’m sure that some of the pro- letters were just elaborate whack-off hoaxes, but you say that this Corset Question went on for over a century, with pretty much the same arguments back and forth. I don’t think a 120-year-long whack-off hoax campaign over multiple countries, through multiple media outlets, is really likely. I think it’s much more probable that people were just coughing up the same pro- and anti- arguments at each other. Some of the pro- testimonials, I bet, were distortions and outright lies, and some were accurate reflections of how the writer perceived their experience. But I’m inclined to judge it a real controversy with real beliefs, real people, real stories, and real experiences behind it, even if it sounds pornographic.

By the way – I think you’re imposing your own modern judgment on this whole subject.

…Nowadays, pretty much no one wears corsets; they’ve gone from ubiquitous articles of clothing to costume-like things associated with extreme sexualization and kinky sex. You’re probably reading kinky sex back into the Corset Question because that’s what corsetry signifies to you, the modern reader.

Me: Mmmm, true. That makes sense. At the same time, though, I also see the Corset Question as intimately related to the Woman Question. If the Corset Question is about women’s physical freedom, then the Woman Question is about women’s legal and political freedom. The social body thus literally becomes a site for conflict as various people try to control it via the Corset Question, thus expressing their answer to the Woman Question.

Jareth: …So the Corset Question really is the Woman Question. Interesting.

Hey, can we talk about Georgette Heyer now?

Me: How ‘bout later? Writing an essay on the Corset Question just tired out my brain.

Jareth: Okay! I’ll hold you to that! ^_^


“When you turn, you turn me AWWWWWWWNNNNNNNNN…”

“When you turn, you turn me AWWWWWWWNNNNNNNNN…” published on No Comments on “When you turn, you turn me AWWWWWWWNNNNNNNNN…”

Otherwise known as My List of People That I Have the Hots For and Who Are, So Far As I Know, Decent Individuals, Plus The Reasons They Are Hot. Please provide info if I am mistaken!

Shirley Bassey: Sings like magma, moves like a wave, and smirks.
Lesley Gore: Sings like magma again, obviously loves what she does, queer, feminist.
Pete Burns: Moves all body parts with a fascinating sinuousity, sings, clearly enjoys being about as hammy as a deli sandwich, has carefully curated and super creative signature style with zero fucks given about what anyone thinks.
Freddie Mercury: Magma, wave, can’t resist air-guitaring, radiates joy on stage, loves cats.
Ivan Doroschuk: Totally bad-ass image belied by flailing enthusiasm for making music, straight white cis dude feminist!
Peter Dinklage: Dry, sarcastic sense of humor, immense acting talents, floppy hair, soulful eyes, general embodiment of sexiness.
James Marsters: Good actor, thoughtful, smart, witty, seemingly humble, sharp cheekbones, nice smirk.

Robert Pattinson: Good actor, fascinating nose, tantalizing hair, entertainingly tongue-in-cheek perspective on Twilight franchise success.

Kristen Stewart: Immense acting talents, intense eyes and mouth, very few fucks given stylistically speaking, refuses to smile on command.

Janelle Monae: Immense talents in singing, doing concept albums, genderfucking, dressing snappily, and articulating her artistic philosophies.

People I Have The Hots For Who Are Problematic Individuals, Plus The Reasons They Are Problematic

David Bowie. Rapist. Racist [i.e., do not try to tell me that China Girl, both song and video, aren’t].

Kate Winslet. Rape apologist for Roman Polanski.

Emma Thompson. Rape apologist for Roman Polanski.

Tilda Swinton. At the very least, cultural appropriation in Doctor Strange.



This is your periodic reminder not to judge a book by its cover…or its title…or its premise…or its first third…

This is your periodic reminder not to judge a book by its cover…or its title…or its premise…or its first third… published on No Comments on This is your periodic reminder not to judge a book by its cover…or its title…or its premise…or its first third…

We went to the Fourth of July book sale in Williston, a yearly extravaganza in which Alling Library volunteers stock the gym of Williston Central School with tables of books, organized roughly by category, and then stand back and let the hordes descend. The library raises money, and the horde gets cheap books. Fun for all!


This year I acquired, among other things, Demon Lover by Juliet Dark, which is either the best or the worst pseudonym for a paranormal romance novelist, depending upon which second I’m making the judgment. It combines the inexplicable fetish US authors seem to have for folkloric fairies of the British Isles with the inexplicable fetish that people from outside New England and northern New York have with small, elite, liberal arts colleges in these locations. It follows 26-year-old assistant professor of demon sex visited regularly by — you guessed it! — a sexy demon. Plot ensues.

Okay, this is cool. I’m all up for academic types running up against the fictional objects of their research actually existing. Then you get the chance for them to deal not just with reality shifting, but a particularly personalized clash thereof. You also get the chance for the academic type to apply their intelligence and knowledge to the situation at hand in a way that, one hopes, would be more interesting than the response of the average person who knows nothing about, say, sexy demons.

Well, not with this book you don’t. Instead we have the Triple B — that is, a Badly Boring Book. How do you make a book with such a cool premise a tedious slog? I’ve provided a handy numbered list below.


  1. Make the main character’s entire existence revolve around the male love interest in the most egregious way possible. Main Character [MC, since I can’t be arsed to recall or  look up her name] studies sexy demons because one started hanging around after her parents died. She wrote a book about demon sex based on her research, and her book got her a job at Adirondack Fairy U, and now she teaches about demon sex. Her life is driven by the sexy demon, but we’re not done yet; we have to suffer through an entire book about MC’s present-day, demon-motivated activities. At this point, MC comes across as the emptiest of ciphers, with no motives, personality, or significant relationships of her own, unrelated to the sexy demon. Here we have the sexist trope of fictional woman as nearly irrelevant appendage of  male love interest taken to a stupefying extremity. I remain crashingly indifferent to MC and to the sexy demon, who has predetermined the entire narrative by grooming MC since puberty to be his alarmingly devoted partner. Where’s the plot, character development, exploration, surprise, or pleasure in that? It’s uninteresting and screamingly pedophilic to boot.
  2. Give the main character expertise in characters like the love interest, and then prevent her from applying that expertise. MC is supposedly an expert in sexy supernaturals, but this seems to have no effect on her own experience with one of ’em. She teaches a class full of books on demon lover-like characters, but these only appear as name drops without affecting MC’s self-awareness or insight into her predicament. She knows, for example, that this type of sexy demon will eventually exhaust her with sex and kill her, but she never seems particularly alarmed. In fact, MC might as well not be an expert in sexy demons because, the one time she needs specific info on the aforesaid sexy demon, she turns not to her own research, library, or personal associates, but to the Fairy Queen, who dropped a vague passing reference to the sexy demon having been human once. The author writes many opportunities for MC to demonstrate individuality, assertiveness, or, at the very least, a fleeting modicum of original thought, and then stonewalls every single one of them. You can literally see the author forcing her ostensible heroine into passive, ineffectual, clueless twittitude, much as the sexy demon does. I’d feel sorry for the main character, but she’s not enough of a person to really merit any sympathy.
  3. Railroad the sexy supernatural for a significant portion of the story. For a while there in the beginning, MC and the sexy demon have rapey encounters [still not clear on whether she consents to any of this, especially as she thinks it occurs in her dreams] and subsequent dramatic conflicts. Then MC tries banishing the sexy demon, and the story just flattens out, even when a dreamy new prof appears, and MC starts getting it on with him. Of course, to the surprise of absolutely no one who has been following the moonlight imagery associated with the sexy demon, the new prof is the demon, just in human form and totally not banished at all. Yet this is incredibly boring because all MC and the new prof do is…uh… have lots of hot, consensual sex. That’s it; that’s their entire relationship. No character development! No explosions! To be clear, I’m not campaigning for persistently rapey love interests here. I’m just saying that we read paranormal romance for dramatic conflicts and sexy supernaturals, and the author provides neither for long enough so that my mind wanders.


In summary, this treatment of the demon lover trope greatly disappointed me and, even worse, bored me. Hey, even though Father of Lies disappointed me [probably even more], it approached the same subject more engagingly — in much better prose too. 


Ham + tired religious imagery + misogyny = Sex Hat Keine Macht

Ham + tired religious imagery + misogyny = Sex Hat Keine Macht published on No Comments on Ham + tired religious imagery + misogyny = Sex Hat Keine Macht

Oomph!’s music video for the song is nothing novel, and the amount of time lavished on Marta Jandova acting like she’s in a third-rate shampoo commercial is abysmal when compared to the amount of time we see Dero Goi tied to the bed. There should be at least four minutes of the latter and two seconds of the former.


That being said, I, as usual, find Goi’s scenery chewing melodrama irresistibly hilarious, especially in this video, for some reason. I think it’s probably the bodily emphasis on his attempted rejection of the Macht of Sex: flailing, pushing, lurching.

You know, main character — if you’re slam dancing in denial, you might wish to re-examine the sources of your vehemence. I’m not advocating for a capitulative landslide here, but for the realistic appraisal of your interest in the subject, as clearly your zealous attempts at repression aren’t benefitting you.


But seriously…could the imagery in this video be any duller and more trite? And could the lyrics any further epitomize Baudelaire’s favorite trope, the Misogynist DeathSex? [Sample lyric: “Du blutest nicht genug für mich / Küss mich noch ein letztes Mal.” “You’re not bleeding enough for me / Kiss me one last time.” Implication: …Before I kill you.] Snore!


And now, for an antidote, Poi Dog Pondering’s Blood and Thunder.

“Say things” and “plaything” don’t rhyme!!!!!!!!!!!!

“Say things” and “plaything” don’t rhyme!!!!!!!!!!!! published on No Comments on “Say things” and “plaything” don’t rhyme!!!!!!!!!!!!

There’s a verse in the German Labyrinth that goes:

Wenn ich in deine Seele tauche
Und dich für meine Lust gebrauche
Dann word ich deine Sinne blenden
Das Spiel kannst nur du selbst beenden

Oomph! changed the lyrics for the English version to:

When I possess your soul, I’ll say things
And use you as my personal plaything
The time will come — I’ll dull your senses
If you don’t stop, this game is endless

That is one of the most flaccid translations ever. What the hell, Oomph!? How can you translate that verse with a screamingly obvious lack of, well, oomph?

Here’s a more literal translation, courtesy of yours truly:

When I plunge into your soul
And use you for my lust
Then I will blind your senses
Only you can end this game

And my less literal translation, still a work in progress:

I’ll go deep inside your core
And I’ll use you as I please
I will blind you and benight you
Only you can end this game

See where Oomph!’s stinks? This is a verse that needs short, sharp, declarative words — concussive stuff, assaultive language, precision. But instead Oomph! goes for the multisyllables [“possess,” “personal plaything”], which, while plosive, attenuate the brief force of the German.

Also…seriously, Oomph!? You’re gonna go all generic in a verse that needs specificity? The original indicates a targeted inward strike, followed by exploitation for lust, and then a complete sensory overpowering. The speaker says exactly what’s going to happen, while, in the English, we have just a vague “possession,” during which the speaker will “say things,” followed by “dull[ing] senses.” In the original, we have complete physical and mental ruination precipitated by rape, after which comes sensory implosion. In the English, it sounds like the speaker is casually planning to set up shop inside the listener’s skull and talk about, you know, some stuff, while fucking around a little bit, which might cause blurred vision.

They’re so good with other parts of the song too. For example, Klopf klopf, lass mich rein / Lass mich dein Geheimnis sein is literally Knock knock, let me in / Let me be your secret. But the English goes, Knock knock, let me in / Let me be your secret sin, which captures not only the rhyme, but also the shame and humiliation for which the speaker is aiming. Too bad they couldn’t sustain it.

“I’m asking you as a person / Is it a crime? / Do you think that you could fall in love / With Frankenstein?”

“I’m asking you as a person / Is it a crime? / Do you think that you could fall in love / With Frankenstein?” published on No Comments on “I’m asking you as a person / Is it a crime? / Do you think that you could fall in love / With Frankenstein?”

Been listening to some New York Dolls, the eponymous album only, in the last few days. Also been trying to figure out what’s going on in Frankenstein, since I can only understand about 50% of the words, and it drives me up the wall. Let’s see if I can follow along with the lyrics…


We start off in New York City. Something [bad] must have recently happened. All the kids are fucked up. Probably has something to do with Frankenstein.


The person to whom the speaker is singing used to be pretty cool, dancing, tripping, figuring out what was what. Behind that nonchalance, though, lurked the listener’s sense that Frankenstein would start controlling their life.


So now Frankenstein’s back, trying to run the listener’s life, telling them that everything they’re doing is wrong. The listener feels like shit because of Frankenstein’s treatment and takes it out on the local scene, trying to manipulate it in the way that Frankenstein manipulates them.


Is it wrong to fall in love with someone like Frankenstein? Maybe the listener could use a friend. Sure, Frankenstein might be misunderstood, but still — he makes the listener feel trapped in their own home.


The listener knows they’re not alone, right? Even though the role doesn’t quite fit, even though the listener’s gonna get it, the speaker can’t keep quiet. It’s time to scream this story in the streets.


The speaker concludes with a single serious question: Does the listener really think this is going anywhere?


Hmmm, okay, now I clearly understand what the song’s about. Looking at the lyrics, I read it as a description of an abusive relationship, as observed by the sympathetic singer. The singer contrasts the listener’s earlier, pre-Frankenstein happiness with their behavior since meeting the nasty Frankenstein. Desperate and control freaky, the listener seems to be using Frankenstein’s own tactics on their social circle. The speaker perceives that the listener feels some sort of attachment to Frankenstein, but also feels lonely and oppressed. The speaker says that it’s okay to have friends besides Frankenstein and foresees nasty events in the listener’s future. Even though they love Frankenstein, Frankenstein ain’t ever gonna love them back.


The Wikipedia article on the album offers interpretations of the song about Frankenstein as New York City itself, working a transformative number on naive young people who flock to it.





Home invaders, vampires, rapists, kidnappers, and other people who think intent is magic

Home invaders, vampires, rapists, kidnappers, and other people who think intent is magic published on No Comments on Home invaders, vampires, rapists, kidnappers, and other people who think intent is magic

I detest characters who think that no means yes [fuckin’ Lovelace… >_> ], but I must admit I have a special depth of hatred for characters who manipulate others’ ambivalence.

For example, in no particular order:

  • Christian Grey. As I’ve discussed ad nauseam [most recently here], Ana thinks Christian’s pretty hot. However, he also terrifies her. Christian gives exactly zero shits about Ana’s terror. He assumes that her lust for him means that she wants him. He equates the presence of her lust with consent to sexual activity. Thus, in his mind, he is perfectly justified in raping her.
  • Frank from Rocky Horror. In my discussion of rape scenes I’ve missed, there are successive parts of RHPS in which Frank rapes both Brad and Janet. Both of them express distress in these scenes, as well as some indications that they’re turned on. Some twisted logic in Frank’s mind, same result.
  • That pervert in that movie who’s obviously watching that girl’s house, just waiting for her to give him an excuse to break, enter, scare her, and wangle her into his mind games. [Which movie? Find out below the cut.]


I have a particularly violent loathing for scenes according to the following template:

Protagonist [all by herself]: Hmmmm, should I do make this statement?

Audience: No!

Protagonist: I really shouldn’t.

Audience: Yes!

Protagonist: I mean, it’s not very nice…

Audience: Don’t say it!

Continue reading Home invaders, vampires, rapists, kidnappers, and other people who think intent is magic

50 Shades of Poooo, book 1, chapter 12: not missing it this time

50 Shades of Poooo, book 1, chapter 12: not missing it this time published on No Comments on 50 Shades of Poooo, book 1, chapter 12: not missing it this time

After having read Clarissa, which handled the whole rape scene plot in a frighteningly realistic manner, I repair to 50 Shades of Pooooooooo, chapter 12, location of a rape scene that I’ve apparently missed all the times I’ve looked at it. Continue reading 50 Shades of Poooo, book 1, chapter 12: not missing it this time

One of the things I especially dislike about rape scenes

One of the things I especially dislike about rape scenes published on No Comments on One of the things I especially dislike about rape scenes

…When I miss the rape scenes because I’m so inculcated, acculturated, and inured to depictions of normalized sexual assault that I gloss over them as examples of…well, not unproblematic sex, but at least not-rape scenes.


Rape scenes I have missed:


  • The bit in Rocky Horror where Frank tricks Brad into sex by pretending to be Janet and Janet into sex by pretending to be Brad.
  • The one in chapter 12 of 50 Shades of Poooooooooooo. Hat tip to Cliff Pervocracy for identifying and deconstructing it.

I figured out my main problem with romance novels.

I figured out my main problem with romance novels. published on No Comments on I figured out my main problem with romance novels.

I’m reading them from Clarissa’s perspective, in which all the women should be respected and allowed to live their lives on their own terms, without the male characters steamrolling them and assuming that the women really, truly want their hot bods, even if they express ambivalence or lack of interest. Let the women make up their own minds without being coerced.


Meanwhile, other people, who enjoy them much less critically, are reading them from Lovelace’s perspective. This point of view, in which intent is magic and we can obviously skip all the negotiation because they both know that, deep down, she really wants it, has a powerful hold on people, but…but…it’s just not how the world works.

The most horrific scene in Clarissa…

The most horrific scene in Clarissa… published on No Comments on The most horrific scene in Clarissa…

…is not actually the rape scene, in my opinion. It’s the scene in which [yet again] Clarissa has escaped Lovelace’s clutches and found refuge in some nice person’s house.

Lovelace finds out where she is and barges in. He claims that Clarissa is his wife. In excessive anger over a disagreement, she, the silly thing, is now denying their marriage. He has, however, come to take her home now.


Clarissa, understandably vibrating with fear and barely able to support herself at the sight of her jailer and abuser coming after her [yet again], says that she is not his wife. He is not her husband. He’s vile, horrible, contemptible, and mean, and she wants nothing to do with him.


And the women who stand between Clarissa and Lovelace, guarding Clarissa, don’t know what to do. They hold their ground in compassionate defense of the obviously terrified and distressed Clarissa. And yet they can’t dismiss Lovelace out of hand. He has cleverly predetermined the situation so that every statement of Clarissa’s may be interpreted as the unreasonably incensed blather of a hysterical wife. Plus he’s a straight white cis aristocratic dude, and, just as the women are used to deferring to him and his ilk, so he is used to receiving deference.


That, right there, is the horrifying crux of Clarissa: the realization that straight cis white rich dude privilege may be employed to break links of compassion, altruism, and resistance so that even allies start thinking that they should betray each other for a man’s favor. It’s this sort of scene that demonstrates the chilling omnipotence and inevitability of straight cis rich white dude privilege.

In such a setting, Clarissa’s choice to opt out of the toxic system entirely by dying appears less like the Instructive Apotheosis of Virtue and more like The Only Thing She Really Could Do. I pretty much loathe Heroine Deaths for the Promulgation of Moral Sentiment, but I can accept Clarissa’s death because, besides being morally sentimental, it arises straight out of Clarissa’s character, conflict, and setting. She chooses to die because, as the bulk of the novel demonstrates, it’s the sole action she can take on her own terms. It’s not a happy ending, obviously, but, given the fictional universe and its populace, it’s right and fitting and good. [The happy ending is when Lovelace dies. > :p ]

I finished an abridged version of Clarissa last night.

I finished an abridged version of Clarissa last night. published on No Comments on I finished an abridged version of Clarissa last night.

No one really knows how long Samuel Richardson’s epistolary novel Clarissa, first published in 1748, is. The exhaustive story of a young rich white woman’s struggle for self-determination is, however, considered the longest novel in the English language. If you’d like to follow the story, I’ve modernized, condensed, and dramatized it for you in a single blog post below! You’re welcome. Continue reading I finished an abridged version of Clarissa last night.

It’s “Let’s complain about Hot Toys!” time again.

It’s “Let’s complain about Hot Toys!” time again. published on No Comments on It’s “Let’s complain about Hot Toys!” time again.

Hot Toys has a real hard time doing likenesses of women, which makes me downgrade their vaunted verisimilitude. Who cares if they can do decent dudes if they can’t be arsed to bring the same accuracy and realism to their women?

Case in point: There’s something off about their attempt at Daisy Ridley as Rey. Pictures show that she has a squarer jaw, narrower face, narrower eyes, more angularity around her lips, and just overall more character. Also none of the pictures of the doll show her from the rear, so we can’t see if her hair has been accurately duplicated.

Meanwhile, over on the other branch of the family tree, I have no idea how the likeness of Adam Driver as Kylo Ren is because his mask won’t come off! [And we know how I feel about that… >_> ] I can understand Captain Phasma or your standard issue storm troopers with molded-on masks, but c’mon, HT — Darth Vader Jr. Jr. dispenses with the mask for key segments of the movie. In fact, I’d argue that the whole point of this character is the tension between the mask and the face underneath, but I guess the doll doesn’t have tension because he doesn’t even have a face. Did they just not want to do a portrait? Why not? Driver’s distinctive features would probably make for a really cool portrait.


Okay, guess we’ll have to wait to see who they reissue for the sequel and the sequel to the sequel.  It is my fond hope that Captain Phasma starts running around without her helmet on and maybe even has a last, desperate, sweaty, maskless duel [like Rey and Kylo] so we can get a doll of her with an actual face. If she doesn’t, I’m at least holding out for her continual treatment as a non-sexualized individual and eventual survival — she already has to deal with enough crap as the token Nazi Empire woman with any significant lines. I do not want her to end up like Irina Spalko in Indiana Jones and the Unnecessarily Confusing Jump Cuts. [Seriously, could anyone follow the chase scenes in that movie?] If the choice ends up being between a) permanent masked badassery and b) unmasked sexualization [which it probably will end up being], I vote for a).


Okay, well, I guess I had more feelings about that than I expected. :p

In case I needed another reason to find Duran Duran’s Hungry Like the Wolf objectionable…

In case I needed another reason to find Duran Duran’s Hungry Like the Wolf objectionable… published on No Comments on In case I needed another reason to find Duran Duran’s Hungry Like the Wolf objectionable…

…I just saw the music video for the first time, and it’s one of the purest, most horrible depictions I’ve seen of Brown People As Props On Great White Hunter’s [Misogynist, Racist, Objectifying] Journey. The singer, who’s not only white, but also dressed in white, just in case we forgot he’s white, mouths the lyrics while plowing through crowds of subcontinental Indians. He grows increasingly irritated as people keep him from shoving his way through the crowd. I like to imagine that all the extras aren’t following the direction to obstruct the singer, but instead are pretending to go about their daily business, unimpressed by some white dude who thinks that the world should clear a path for his penis. Quick cuts reveal that he’s chasing after an African woman, who inexplicably has pointless designs painted on her brows and cheeks. The end up in the leaves of a swampy forest, rolling around. I think they’re supposed to be contending, but the slow motion just makes it seem like they’re doing some sort of badly coordinated tumbling routine. Brilliant.


On a purely cinematographical level, this video also fails miserably because it’s filmed during the daytime. However, the first lines of the song — “Dark in the city / Night is a wire / Steam in the subway / Alleys afire” — describe an evocative setting in which the exhalations from the underground mirror the singer’s panting, while the fire in the dead ends links into his energy and urgency. Also I would like to point out that this song happens at night, which heightens the whole singer=wolf metaphor by connoting wolves baying at the moon. The nocturnal setting is essential to the song, but the video discards it in favor of daylight for no apparent reason. Why? They couldn’t wait a few hours? They didn’t have enough spotlights? Who knows? This music video stinks all around.

Paul Smith takes typewriter art to the next level! Also Reeva Steenkamp is still dead.

Paul Smith takes typewriter art to the next level! Also Reeva Steenkamp is still dead. published on No Comments on Paul Smith takes typewriter art to the next level! Also Reeva Steenkamp is still dead.

As much as I hate to draw attention to stories that portray people with disabilities as sources of inspiration, I’m linking to this story about Paul Smith. For decades, he used a select ten characters from a typewriter to create intricate works of art. I love the bold and yet sketchy lines he makes. Very cool!

Yes, it is relevant to Smith’s art that he had cerebral palsy. His inability to use a more traditional instrument such as a brush or pencil prompted him to employ the typewriter. However, there’s absolutely no need to describe Smith as "suffering from" a "terrible condition" and therefore "remarkable" and "awe-inspiring" because he created art. There’s no indication that Smith perceived himself as suffering, burdened or even awe-inspiring. In a video about his work, he says, "It’s something to do." As far as I can tell, he was enjoying himself as he listened to classical music and meticulously created his masterpieces character by character. I’m not claiming that Smith had a purely joyous existence — for example, he didn’t attend mainstream school, which leads me to speculate that he might have felt painfully lonely in his youth — but I’m not seeing the horrible suffering that this stinky article assumes he felt.

I desperately loathe the trope of disabled person as inspiration to non-disabled people. The OddityCentral article epitomizes the dehumanization implicit in this theme when it concludes, "He died on June 24, 2007, at the Rose Haven Nursing Center in Roseburg, Oregon, but left behind an impressive portfolio of typewriter art, and most importantly the inspiration that you can overcome anything in life, if you put your mind to it." This sentence dismisses the entire content, texture and detail of Smith’s life by depicting him solely as an oppressed person who miraculously overcame his oppression to make art. It assumes that Smith’s disability can be separated from his experience and art, that it’s a barrier between him and a fulfilling life — because there’s obviously no way a person with a disability could ever have a fulfilling, happy life while also having a disability. In short, this sentence dehumanizes Smith by assuming that an inextricable part of his life, his cerebral palsy, can be excised like an early stage of cancer.

But the article isn’t satisfied with chopping up Smith into neat little segments [Person vs. Disability] and comparing him to some  non-disabled person’s ridiculous standard of a fulfilling life. No, the conclusion dehumanizes him a second time as well when it dismisses his artistic accomplishments and legacy, claiming that Smith’s status as "inspiration" is more important. Yes, who cares about Smith’s life and art and disability and the relationships among these elements of his experience? Smith was not a significant person who deserved dignity and respect like all other beings. No! He was a superhuman exception to humanity whose primary purpose in this world was to educate the lowly non-disabled people about how we, too, can distance ourselves from the revolting materiality of our weak and mortal flesh and transform ourselves into pure creative mind, ascending to a plane where physical pains and distinctions are irrelevant.

I also hate the Supercrip narrative because of its creaky old Cartesian dualist underpinnings that smack strongly of racism and sexism. Relatedly, Eddie Ndopu discusses just such misogyny and racism inherent in portrayals of Reeva Steenkamp’s killer, athlete and miserable human being Oscar Pistorius. [My other discussions of sexism, ableism and racism at work in Steenkamp’s murder and the portrayal thereof can be found at "Reeva Steenkamp, 29, is dead" and "Reeva Steenkamp still dead; ex still to blame, but declared innocent of murder by courts."]

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Songs of the self-deluded stalker, part seventy billion and three: Separate Ways [Worlds Apart]

Songs of the self-deluded stalker, part seventy billion and three: Separate Ways [Worlds Apart] published on No Comments on Songs of the self-deluded stalker, part seventy billion and three: Separate Ways [Worlds Apart]

Journey’s song "Separate Ways [Worlds Apart]" came on one of Janna’s Pandora stations a few days ago. A few lines caught in my head ["If he ever hurts you / True love won’t desert you"], but I didn’t know the source. So I banged out the words into a search engine and came up with the full set of lyrics, which I will now summarize as follows:

I’m so obsessed with you that I’ve been monitoring your activities since our breakup. "You’ll never walk alone" — literally. I’ll be watching through my binoculars — you and your current partner. If he ever hurts you, I’ll be right there to comfort you…also to lay the hurt on him for mistreating you. In summary, I am a dangerous, deeply deluded misogynist who is very likely to kill you and your partner once I’m done wailing about how much I love you.

I would really like to believe that, like Sting’s Every Breath You Take, Separate Ways is actually supposed to be a disturbing evocation of obsessive, abusive behavior, but I can find no evidence.


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Cards Against Humanity and the insidious trap of hipster prejudice

Cards Against Humanity and the insidious trap of hipster prejudice published on 1 Comment on Cards Against Humanity and the insidious trap of hipster prejudice

For those of you not up on the latest hip party game for people in their 20s and 30s, let me introduce you to Cards Against Humanity. Essentially a group form of multiple choice Mad Libs, this game features a bunch of black cards, which contain sentences with key nouns left out, and a bunch of white cards, which contain nouns or noun phrases. Each player draws a hand of 10 white cards, and then everyone gets a chance to read a black card aloud. After a card is read, players choose from their hand the white card that they think best completes the sentence. These cards are distributed to the reader anonymously. The reader reads the selections aloud and selects the one they like best. The player whose white card is chosen wins the black card. All players draw another white card to keep their hand up to 10, and the role of reading black cards passes to the next player.

In concept, Cards Against Humanity is the sort of game I love. There’s no competition and no real winning or losing. The game emphasizes creativity and amusement instead of points and strategy. It’s the type of game that grows exponentially more hilarious with more and more players, and it sparks very interesting side conversations when people ask or joke about each other’s choices.

In practice, however, I find Cards Against Humanity very problematic in terms of content and framing. The black cards, with their framing sentences, feature mostly topical references familiar to people in their 20s and 30s. Examples include: "What does Prince insist on being included in his dressing room?" and "What does Obama do to unwind?" Fine, no big deal.

It’s the white noun cards, though, that drive me up the wall. If they contained only generically amusing phrases such as "murder most foul," "inappropriate yodeling" and "licking things to claim them as your own," I wouldn’t object. But no, those cards are a distinct minority. The white cards focus heavily on topics apparently considered taboo or difficult to discuss by the white, straight, cis, male, bourgeois creator, including people of color ["brown people," "the hard-working Mexican"], people with disabilities ["amputees," "Stephen Hawking talking dirty," "a robust Mongoloid," "a spastic nerd," "the profoundly handicapped"], queer people ["the gays," "praying the gay away"], fat people ["feeding Rosie O’Donnell," "the morbidly obese," "home video of Oprah sobbing into a Lean Cuisine"], gender-nonconforming people ["passable transvestites"], genocide ["inappropriately timed Holocaust jokes," "helplessly giggling at the mention of Hutus and Tutsis"], Muslims ["Allah [praise be unto him!]," "72 virgins"], poor people ["poor people," "homeless people"], old people ["Grandma," "hospice care"], child abuse ["child abuse"], rape ["surprise sex"], paraphilias ["German dungeon porn"] and crap ["fiery poops"]. I could go on, but then I’d be quoting the entire suite of white cards.

Cards Against Humanity glancingly acknowledges the problematic structure of its game by billing its audience as "horrible people." "It’s as despicable and awkward as you and your friends," crows the main page of the game’s Web site. Of course, below this description are various cool publications and people praising the game, so clearly the game’s creators see being "despicable and awkward" as a coveted, desirable status. They quote condemnations from the Chicago Tribune ["absurd"], The Economist ["unforgivable"] and NPR ["bad"] in contrast with praise from INC ["hilarious"] and Boing Boing ["funny"]. Thus they associate criticism with old-fashioned, conservative, humorless media outlets full of old people and appreciation with the young, hip, cool crowd. To be "despicable and awkward," then, is ultimately to be cool. 

What does Cards Against Humanity’s concept of coolness — that is, their idea of rebranded despicability qua awesomeness — entail? Basically it means laughing at anyone who’s not a straight, white, cis, bourgeois, hipster dude [like the creator]. Don’t try to tell me that, because the game has white cards like "white privilege," it actually critiques those who are discomfited by the concept. No, it doesn’t, not when the majority of cards make marginalized people who lack privilege into punchline after punchline after punchline.

If you’re still not convinced, let me break it down to you with a single example: the white card that has the phrase "passable transvestites." There is so much wrong with this card that it’s hard to know where to start. Well, to begin with, clearly someone thought this phrase worthy of inclusion into the deck of white cards, meaning that someone perceived it as shocking, racy, funny and potentially ridiculous. So what’s shocking, racy and entertaining about "passable transvestites?" Yeah, a gender nonconforming person who goes out in public en femme so that they avoid being clocked always makes me laugh. The stats on trans and other gender nonconforming people being harassed, assaulted and killed provide comic relief every time I read them. The outdated language on this white card — the vexed concept of "passable," coupled with the no-longer-used, clinical-sounding "transvestite" — signals that the game’s creators are hung up on old-fashioned binaries of gender presentation, the transgression of which they find hilarious and pathetic, instead of a matter of life and death.

I can make the same points about Cards Against Humanity’s treatment of people with disabilities, the prejudice against whom can be summed up in a single white card: "Stephen Hawking talking dirty." Yup, yup, of course, people who are neuroatypical, emotionally atypical and physically atypical to the extent that society doesn’t really know how to accommodate them — they’re comedy gold! I mean, really — can you imagine a man with paralysis talking dirty? First of all, he’d be doing it with the help of his computer, which is inherently hilarious, you know, because he can’t really talk. Second of all, it would imply that he, despite being unable to move parts of his body, has active sexual desires and interests, which is a shock, because no paralyzed person has ever had sexual interests and agency before — ever! They’re just…like… wheelchair-bound automatons. Yeah, "the profoundly handicapped" are a gas all right. Yet again, Cards Against Humanity’s decision to employee the passe and offensive term "handicapped" shows that they’re not interested in mocking prejudice, but in perpetuating it.

EDIT: As rosettanettle points out in a comment on my LJ crosspost, the creator of Cards Against Humanity expressed regret for the "passable transvestites" white card, which is now no longer included in decks. This does not, however, negate any of my points. If anything, it reinforces them, since the creator’s expression of "regret," which came only because he was called on his transphobia, comes across as less a regret of treasuring bigoted tenets and more a regret at getting caught. I also suspect his theatrical Tumblr photoset of him lighting the card on fire of being a self-aggrandizing performance so that he may be showered with praise about what an enlightened ally he is. Why do straight, cis, white, middle-class dudes think they deserve extra special plaudits for meeting minimum standards of decency? "Despicable," indeed.

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Stop singing about stalking!

Stop singing about stalking! published on 1 Comment on Stop singing about stalking!

I realize that a bunch of songs by my favorite artists are about stalking. For example, Love Is Strong by the Rolling Stones. "A glimpse of you / Is all it took / A stranger’s glance / It got me hooked…" Mick Jagger sings, then detailing how he follows the woman for vast distances. For another example, Hungry Like the Wolf by Duran Duran. "Burn through the ground / Break from the crowd / I’m on the hunt; I’m after you…" Duran Duran sings. In the second example, the man is literally chasing the woman, trying to run her down. She’s trying to escape, probably in fear for her life, if not her safety, and it’s a poppy, upbeat New Wave hit!

Stalking songs disturb me differently than domestic violence songs [e.g., the Rolling Stones’ Under My Thumb or There She Goes by the Velvet Underground]. In the domestic violence songs I listen to, the abuse is framed as part of a dysfunctional relationship. Somehow this lets me critique it more effectively. In stalking songs, though, the abuse appears as an acceptable behavior in the context of a two-way, loving relationship. This is false on two counts because a) it’s an unacceptable behavior in any context and b) there’s no two-way, much less loving, relationship in the stalking songs. It’s an entirely imaginary relationship based on misogynist objectification. The singers of stalking songs seem so wrapped up in their own little worlds that they are more impervious to critique.

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50 Shades of Rape Culture: “You do the math”

50 Shades of Rape Culture: “You do the math” published on No Comments on 50 Shades of Rape Culture: “You do the math”

Hey kids! I know that you eagerly awaited my scathing rant on chapters 2 through 5 that I promised, but too bad. I will dispense with an analysis of all the problems in chapter 5 to zero in on a particularly repugnant snippet therein.

To set the stage, immediately before chapter 5, Ana and acquaintances go out drinking to celebrate the successful end of finals. Ana becomes sloshed and drunk-dials Christian. Her so-called friend Jose sexually assaults her, only to be fended off by Christian, who has tracked Ana’s cell phone and come to pick her up. Jose leaves as Ana, no doubt mirroring the reader’s disgust, pukes everywhere. She and Christian dance for a little bit until she passes out.

Chapter 5 begins with Ana in an unfamiliar bed. She quickly realizes that Christian has taken her to his house and removed her pants. Inevitably, Ana wonders if he raped her. Christian assures her that he likes his women "sentient and receptive" [p. 66], so he did not assault her while she was unconscious. Ana appears disappointed by Christian’s assertion. In a paragraph discussing her confusion about his apparent lack of hots for her, Ana muses [p. 69]:

"He said he likes his woman sentient. He’s probably not celibate then. But he’s not made a pass at me… I don’t understand. … Am I repellent to him? You’ve slept in his bed all night, and he’s not touched you all night. You do the math. My subconscious has reared her ugly, snide head. I ignore her."

As we have already observed, the math is pretty easy to follow. Here’s the equation:

Christian + unconscious Ana rape

Ana, however, seems to wish that Christian had touched her when she was unconscious. In her perspective, his sexual assault of her in her unconscious, unable-to-consent state would prove his desire for her. Because she apparently subscribes to the trope of romance novels that men can’t control their libidos, she conflates rape and desire. It’s a testament to how deeply she has been indoctrinated with a misogynist rape culture that she regrets not having been fucked over in her sleep.

This instance represents possibly the only moment in the series that Christian exhibits a modicum of basic human decency, and yet he gets no credit. I’m not expecting the the story to glorify his not raping an unconscious woman. However, it would be nice if the main character, with whom we are supposed to sympathize, didn’t fault him for it.

I think this excerpt represents E.L. James’ troubling inability, on a global level, to assign the appropriate ethical weight to…well…just about anything. She treats Jose’s sexual assault of Ana like an awkward date, after which Ana feels guilty that she doesn’t call him. She treats Christian’s tracking of Ana through her cell phone as charming protectiveness on his part. She treats bdsm as a dramatic secret nurtured by broken psyches and peeing on a consenting partner as something akin to pedophilia. Whether she’s dismissing significant problems of surveillance, control and consent or using her sense of revulsion as a moral proxy, she gets it wrong again and again.

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Rape ad nauseam in Laini Taylor’s Lips Touch Three Times

Rape ad nauseam in Laini Taylor’s Lips Touch Three Times published on No Comments on Rape ad nauseam in Laini Taylor’s Lips Touch Three Times

I was going to write a long, learned essay about how much the short story Hatchling in Laini Taylor’s collection, Lips Touch Three Times, pissed me off, but fuck it. Let me get to the meat of the matter: Laini Taylor, your voluptuous prose cannot distract me from your moral vacuity.

Continue reading Rape ad nauseam in Laini Taylor’s Lips Touch Three Times

Reeva Steenkamp, 29, is dead.

Reeva Steenkamp, 29, is dead. published on No Comments on Reeva Steenkamp, 29, is dead.

Steenkamp hailed from Cape Town, South Africa. She began work as a model in 2001 and graduated from Nelson Mandela Metro University in 2005 with a BA in law, then went on to work as a paralegal. She applied to the bar in 2011, hoping to be a legal advocate by the age of 30. She was murdered on Valentine’s Day, 2013, two days before the fifth season of reality TV show Tropika Island of Pleasure, in which she appeared, began airing.

She was murdered by abusive, wretched excuse for a human being [and celebrity athlete] Oscar Pistorius, in yet another depressingly common case of intimate partner violence.

How much do you wanna bet he’ll get away with it due to his super privileges as a white, rich, straight, cis, celebrity dude who can also play on the public assumption that people with disabilities are useless lumps who can’t do anything, much less murder?

And how much do you wanna bet that Steenkamp will disappear in the media’s narrative about how they’re shocked — shocked, I say! — that the inspiringly heroic supercrip should have such a tragic downfall?

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Have I mentioned that I loathe public proposals?

Have I mentioned that I loathe public proposals? published on 1 Comment on Have I mentioned that I loathe public proposals?

Warning: Coercion, disregard for autonomy, objectification, misogyny, etc., etc., etc.

I just read about yet another one in Slate, wherein technology columnist for the New York Times David Pogue made a fake movie trailer about his relationship with his girlfriend. Then, as the Slate columnist L.V. Anderson writes,

"In case you don’t have the inclination to watch the video: He produced a five-minute movie trailer for a fake romantic comedy based on his relationship with Dugan (starring two good-looking Broadway actors in the lead roles), which he convinced a movie theater to play for Dugan (and all of their families, plus some unwitting strangers) before a feature-length film. He hid three cameras around Dugan’s seat before she sat down so that he could record her reaction. At the end of the trailer, he led her to the front of the theater, gave a short speech about how wonderful she was, and asked her to marry him."

Longer coverage [and the horrible video] here:

So, not only was it a public proposal, but it was a secretly recorded public proposal. She was under SURVEILLANCE. Even ickier, as Anderson points out,

"Pogue timed the filming of his faux trailer in such a way that Dugan had to say yes in the span of about two seconds, or else the trailer would stop making sense. (He’d humbly pre-recorded a jubilant celebration.) "

There…the subtext has become the text. Pogue [and, by extension, all of the other guys who engage in this public proposal crapola] expects his fiancee to agree. At the same time, with Pogue's proposal, as with others, the assent from the fiancee is actually irrelevant. As the rigid structure of Pogue's fake trailer demonstrates, it's all about the happy day of the one who proposes. The expectation of the fiancee's yes gives her no room to say anything else. The show must go on! Let's have a party, for the guy has just acquired a new accessory [=wife]!

Ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh.

Catholic Church leadership and Boy Scouts of America leadership both adept at hiding rapists

Catholic Church leadership and Boy Scouts of America leadership both adept at hiding rapists published on 2 Comments on Catholic Church leadership and Boy Scouts of America leadership both adept at hiding rapists

The Catholic Church leadership and the Boy Scouts of America leadership are similar in another way besides their virulent anti-gay sentiment and policies: they both abet child abuse. Just like the Catholic hierarchy, the BSA hierarchy apparently has a history of ignoring allegations, letting accused child abusers move to other troops or locations and otherwise keeping abusers around.

It's extremely hypocritical that both the organizations denounce the immorality of queer people and yet fail to recognize the immorality being perpetrated largely by straight dudes inside their organizations.

Paint It Black by Nancy Collins [Sonja Blue #3]: banal in its badness

Paint It Black by Nancy Collins [Sonja Blue #3]: banal in its badness published on No Comments on Paint It Black by Nancy Collins [Sonja Blue #3]: banal in its badness

Just finished the third book in the Sonja Blue trilogy, Paint It Black by Nancy Collins. Kinda funny how she took the title from a Rolling Stones song that was more original, memorable and deeply felt in a few verses than the entire Sonja Blue trilogy was in 3 books. Anyway, I think there was something in there about Sonja's consummation of her quest for vengeance against her vampire maker, but it was lost in an incredibly tedious string of rape, murder, murder by rape and rape by murder that was trying hard to pass for plot.

I was mostly reading the book because I was curious to see how Sonja's adopted vampire/human hybrid daughter Lethe would turn out. When Lethe went into a cocoon, popped out as a teenager after a few weeks and raped her adoptive father [Sonja's partner], then flew around the world [without a plane], raping 24 other guys, with the goal of producing some sort of master race with super psychic powers, I was disgusted. I was disgusted by the complete vacuity of the whole enterprise and its venomously misanthropic, morally bankrupt imagination. It was bad because it was stupid and stupid because it was bad.

I swore an oath to myself that I wouldn't swear any more in my LJ, but I have to break that oath now because the Sonja Blue trilogy was the shittiest shit that ever shat. It's an offense to good writing, good plotting and good character development. It's an offense to all people of any sex and gender presentation, but especially women. It's an offense against anyone who believes in kindness, respect, humanity and fairness. It's an offense to originality and creativity.

I've concluded that it's not actually a trilogy. Instead, it's an actively destructive vortex of hostility. It's a testament to the sad depths of banal depravity of the human imagination. It's a diseased mutation of novels, a literary cancer born from kyriarchical nastiness. It's deeply revolting on every level — line by line, cliche by cliche, regurgitated theme by regurgitated theme — and potentially damaging. I live in the kyriarchy; I already experience multiple axes of oppression daily; I don't need the inhumane dicta of the kyriarchy concentrated and injected directly into my amygdala in the form of this trilogy.

If, for some bizarre reason, you want to read a series that hates you and enjoys doing so, I heartily recommend the Sonja Blue trilogy. You can have my copies. Take them, please. I would burn them in cleansing fire, only I don't think there's any place around here where I can do so without violating some sort of city ordinance. Barring that, I'll settle for tossing them in the Dumpster or recycling them in the vain hope that the pages might contribute usefully to society in their next life.

I don't just hate this trilogy. I reject it. I repudiate it. It represents all the vile oppressions against which I struggle every day. This trilogy is just one of my many enemies and oppressors.

I will not let it win.

Prudie blames rape victim [probably not for the first time].

Prudie blames rape victim [probably not for the first time]. published on 3 Comments on Prudie blames rape victim [probably not for the first time].

A letter writer in her late 20s writes in Prudie's latest Slate column that she and her husband have negotiated the following boundaries: One time, they were drunk, and he was horny, but she did not want to have sex, so she shoved him away. They now agree, that, if they are drunk and/or sleepy, they should secure each other's consent before having sex. Good? Good!

Then they both got drunk. Her husband did not ask her consent, but she "went along," in her words. She concludes, "I can’t fathom how he could have ignored our agreement. Should I just drop it or am I right about feeling abused?"

In response, Prudie comments derisively on college codes of conduct that advise consent in sexual situations each time the participants start a new activity. She then contrasts such requirements to interactions in a married couple, where, she says, "implicit consent" can be assumed.

Prudie winds up by insulting the letter writer as "prim, punctiliious, punitive," while suggesting that the letter writer is abusing her husband: "Living in terror that expressing one’s perfectly normal sexual desire could end one’s marriage, and freedom, is itself a form of abuse."

Bloody hell, can we all see what's wrong with this response? The letter writer's husband forced himself upon her without obtaining her consent, as previously agreed. Why yes, in fact, that is rape. That's a problem!

Even if one has a hard time wrapping one's head around the fact that this interaction is rape [this is apparently Prudie's problem], one can at least admit that the letter writer's husband overrode a clearly stated boundary and thus disrespected the letter writer's autonomy and agency. This is also [at least] the second time that he has behaved in a similar manner. This is a red flag for, at worst, an abusive asshole and, at best, an individual so inculcated with cultural misogyny that he really needs to grow up and learn how to treat women like people before attempting further relationships. That's also a problem!

Prudie does not recognize these problems, however, because she is too busy making fun of the letter writer and talking out her ass about her ideal concept of marriage. Apparently, her vision of marriage includes unlimited license for one partner to rape the other. If the victim doesn't put out or even dares to feel disturbed about his or her agency being disregarded, the victim is being a poor partner. The victim's oversensitivity is stifling the rapist's "perfectly normal sexual desire." Don't you know that expecting a relationship based on mutual respect and enthusiastic consent "is itself a form of abuse?" The problem is all in the head of the victim, who should be lying back and thinking of Dan Savage. :p

That's rape culture right there: victim blaming, victim shaming and valorization of the rapist's feelings and experience over the victim's. And that's a problem!

50 Shades Freed: Ana’s continued pregnancy and gooey maternal feelings

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Oh for God's sake! Less than 2 pages after fearing for her safety because she's pregnant, Ana suddenly changes her mind (p. 413):

"…Perhaps I shouldn't tell Christian. Perhaps I…perhaps I should end this. I halt my thoughts on that dark path, alarmed at the direction they're taking. Instinctively my hand sweeps down to rest protectively over my belly. No. My little Blip. Tears spring to my eyes. What am I going to do?"

Well, because this is a romance about a fertile, heterosexual couple, they will be brainwashed by Baby Magic into abandoning their previous agreement to postpone kids. The Miracle of Reproduction will overawe them, activating their dormant, but hereditary and totally natural, parental instincts. With surprising ease and no ambivalence at all, they will quickly convert to anticipation and adoration of their little Blip. Baby Magic is overtaking Ana even in this paragraph: Automatically characterizing her thoughts of abortion as a "dark path," she "instinctively," without any thought at all, develops protective inclinations. YAY BABEEZ!

I detest this trope so very much. I've discussed before, in relation to Bones' pregnancy on her eponymous show, the trivializing, insulting and misogynist ways pregnancy is portrayed in popular media. It compresses a range of emotional, intellectual and characterological responses into a single trajectory of blissfully complaisant, essentialized and instinctive [ergo brainless] femininity. It's pretty much always a horrible derailment of character that represents a descent into utter boredom.

This can't end well either.

50 Shades Freed: Ana’s pregnancy and ensuing ABJECT TERROR

50 Shades Freed: Ana’s pregnancy and ensuing ABJECT TERROR published on 1 Comment on 50 Shades Freed: Ana’s pregnancy and ensuing ABJECT TERROR

At the end of Chapter 19, Ana discovers that she's pregnant.
Continue reading 50 Shades Freed: Ana’s pregnancy and ensuing ABJECT TERROR

No, Mr. Wallek, YOU’RE “kind of bizarre”: rape culture at work in a stalking case

No, Mr. Wallek, YOU’RE “kind of bizarre”: rape culture at work in a stalking case published on 1 Comment on No, Mr. Wallek, YOU’RE “kind of bizarre”: rape culture at work in a stalking case

John Wallek, plumbing and heating inspector for the state's Public Safety Department, faces charges of stalking a much younger woman also employed by the state. Wallek harassed the woman at work, at home and online, messaging her with E-mails and Facebook posts for about a year, even after being told to stop.

For some reason, the Freeps interviewed Wallek, who stated, "It's all kind of bizarre. I just don't believe it has gone this far."

Look, folks — it's an embodiment of rape culture! Only in a society in which women are presumed heterosexual and automatically available to all types of attention from men, only in a society in which women's consent means diddly squat because, so many times, they are presumed to have granted it merely by existing, only in such a society would a man think that his possible conviction for being a misogynist ass would be "kind of bizarre" because it's going against the unstated expectations of man-woman interaction in this society.

Jeez, how "bizarre" is it that a woman wants to be treated with egalitarian respect and decency? It's mind-boggling. It's almost like…almost like…women are people too! Imagine that.

Violence Against Women Act meets opposition in the Senate.

Violence Against Women Act meets opposition in the Senate. published on 1 Comment on Violence Against Women Act meets opposition in the Senate.

The New York Times says that, among other reasons, Republicans do not want to support this anti-domestic violence legislation because "…it also dilutes the focus on domestic violence by expanding protections to new groups, like same-sex couples, they say."

What is the implication here…that there are no same-sex couples with women in them? That queer couples don't experience domestic violence? Both of these are patently false assumptions. I don't understand why more domestic violence prevention would be a BAD thing.

Clearly the Republicans just don't like people who aren't straight, cis, white, able-bodied, rich men. More than that, they actively want to kill them. It's a frightening world we live in.

Reasons that Dan Savage is a shit.

Reasons that Dan Savage is a shit. published on No Comments on Reasons that Dan Savage is a shit.

Dan Savage, a gay male advice columnist who writes for the Seattle Stranger, has some cachet among liberals/Democrats/progressives as being queer-friendly, pro-kink and open-minded, but he still has lots of privilege as a thin, white, rich, cis, married, U.S. man. I’ve collected several criticisms of his advice which should make you think long and hard before calling this columnist helpful, progressive and open-minded. In no particular order…here they are…
Continue reading Reasons that Dan Savage is a shit.

I hate Lifetime Xmas movies part deux!!!

I hate Lifetime Xmas movies part deux!!! published on No Comments on I hate Lifetime Xmas movies part deux!!!

Yesterday, I watched another Lifetime Xmas movie, The Road to Xmas, in which a woman is happily engaged to an Italian man. He’s preparing a surprise wedding for her in Aspen and, when one of her photography shoots is canceled, she decides to fly out early to surprise him. When her flight is canceled, she hitches a ride with a widower and his teenaged daughter. The woman [naturally :p ] falls in love with the widower, conveniently discovers her fiance’s infidelity and dumps the fiance for the widower.

For a Lifetime Xmas movie, The Road to Xmas was surprisingly tolerable. This is probably because the movie itself was a road-trip romance that happened to occur arround Xmas, rather than a film in which Xmas plays a starring role as the holiday of cliched and enforced happiness for all.

Because I could watch Road to Xmas without gagging on holiday cheer, its problematic elements stood out all the more strongly: 1) homophobia and 2) domestic violence.

You see…the photographer’s fiance wasn’t just having an affair with some random woman…he was sexing it up with the male wedding planner. After unbelievable excuses, the fiance protests that he really wanted the wedding between him and the photographer to work out, which makes him seem like not only a cheater, but a cheater deluded enough to think that a straight marriage would somehow keep both parties happy when one party is secretly gay. After an entirely heteronormative movie, two gay characters appear only to provide a devastating [yet convenient] end to the photographer and fiance’s relationship, thus reinforcing the idea that gay people are selfish homewreckers.

I also objected to the domestic violence at the end of the film. When she discovered that her fiance was gay, the photographer swung her fists at him, slapping him and pounding him in the chest. He said something like, “Please don’t hit me!” or “Why are you hitting me?” Her response was something like, “It’s the only thing I can think to do, and it feels good.” The photographer’s blows against her fiance were shown to be ineffectual and comic, but just make the assailant a man and the victim a woman to see how chilling this exchange truly is. Can you imagine a male character justifying violence against a female character by saying, “It feels good”? Most people would recognize such a situation as the abusive behavior it is. When the assailant is female, however, and the victim male, the situation is minimized, diminished and played for comic relief so that the violence seems more palatable, even acceptable and dismissable! Vomitorious.

The boring Pregnancy Plot strikes again.

The boring Pregnancy Plot strikes again. published on 1 Comment on The boring Pregnancy Plot strikes again.

Bones is back [well, I finally got to watch the first ep of Season 7], and there's yet another Pregnancy Plot on the table. After suffering an entire season of Angela and Hodgins' heteronormative nesting behaviors in Season 6, we have to go through the same thing again with the 2 main characters, Bones and Booth. I say "the same thing again" because there's apparently only one way for mainstream pop culture, especially TV and movies in the US, to treat pregnancy.

  • No matter what the situation of the woman getting pregnant and the way that she gets pregnant, she always wants to go through with the pregnancy and have a child and raise it herself. Where are the miscarriages? Where are the adoptions? [Once Upon a Time, featuring Henry, Emma's son that was given for adoption shortly after birth, remains an exception to the rule.] Where are the abortions? Mainstream pop entertainment does not reflect the realities of so many pregnancies.
  • The attitudes of the prospective parents suddenly become suffused with gooey lovey-doveyness, confidence, starry-eyed idealism and happiness. I mean, God forbid that anyone feel hostile or ambivalent about the fetus! That's just not possible! That would destroy the unrealistic emphasis that TV has on pregnancy and childbirth being some sort of panacea for life's problems.
  • Pregnancy brings out the inner femininity of the pregnant woman and fulfills her. No matter how many successes and enjoyments the character has had in her life before becoming pregnant, the glorifying way in which pregnancy is haloed on TV makes all the other accomplishments and sources of joy insignificant in comparison. For some women, pregnancy may be the best thing they've ever done with their lives, but, if TV insists that every pregnant female character feel this way, then these shows are just reproducing boring, essentialist, reductionist stereotypes about what women can do and be.

Pregnancy Plots just instantly flatten out character depth and plot dynamism. Furthermore, their relentless heteronormativity makes me want to throw up. 

Yark, what an anti-romantic, coercive gesture! The “surprise wedding”

Yark, what an anti-romantic, coercive gesture! The “surprise wedding” published on 3 Comments on Yark, what an anti-romantic, coercive gesture! The “surprise wedding”

Via Shakesville, I learned today about the “surprise wedding.” What is this wretched idea? Apparently, according to the Windsor Star, this man’s idea was to plan an entire wedding behind his fiancee’s back, with friends and family keeping her in the dark until the moment that he proposed, at which point he said that the wedding would occur within hours.

So let’s get this straight…

  • One partner willfully deprives the other of any input in planning a significant, life-changing event, assuming that he knows best for the both of them.
  • The depriving partner even brings the other partner’s whole social and familial circle into collusion, basically trapping them in a lie of omission.
  • Finally, as if this weren’t enough, the depriving partner sets up a highly public event at which the other partner may be embarrassed, shamed or coerced into submitting.

Such a series of events is not romantic and loving. By degrading and ignoring his partner’s agency and input, the depriving partner is saying, in so many words, that his plans matter more than hers, that he matters more than she does. No matter how many of her preferences he incorporates into the wedding, the mere fact that he set everything up without her consultation, basically leaving her only a slot in which to insert her “yes,” devalues his partner in general. It’s arguably abusive!

Stephen Moyer: Vampires are real men, which is to say RAPISTS, and women love it!

Stephen Moyer: Vampires are real men, which is to say RAPISTS, and women love it! published on 5 Comments on Stephen Moyer: Vampires are real men, which is to say RAPISTS, and women love it!

In an interview with Nylon, Stephen Moyer, currently playing dead cheeseface vampire Bill in True Blood, expounds upon the appeal of vampire characters to a female audience:

The thing about vampirism is that it taps into a female point of view – you have an old-fashioned gentleman with manners who is a fucking killer… it’s an interesting duality, because in our present society it would be an odd thing for a woman to say, ‘I want my man to be physical with me.’ How, as a modern man, can you fucking work that? It’s one thing to be polite and gentle… But when do you know it’s OK to crawl out of the mud and rape her [as Bill does in one scene]?… It’s difficult stuff for a bloke, but a vampire gets away with it…. I think that’s the attraction of the show – it’s looking back at a romantic time when men were men, but they were still charming.

Let’s look at his claims, shall we? First, Moyer thinks that he knows "a female point of view." He, as a man, now speaks for what women want. He, a white heterosexual male, has authority on what women want! We need no input from actual women to determine what those strange feminine creatures desire. Let the authoritative man tell us. He’s an expert because he’s not a vampire, but he plays one on TV.

Moyer believes that women desire "an old-fashioned gentleman…who is a fucking killer." Yes yes, polite murderers! They’re really sexy! They hearken back, claims Moyer, to a "romantic time when men were men, but they were still charming." Yet what were men doing during this time? Crawling "out of the mud and [raping] their partners," as his character Bill does to Sookie in one scene apparently.

Have you got that? There was a time, in Moyer’s dim, ahistorical, misogynist view of things, when men raped women, and women liked it. It was a "romantic" time, so lovey-dovey. Women didn’t have to do anything so difficult as saying what they wanted. They could just count on men to screw them against their will…politely, though, and with manners.

Moyer may be talking about vampires as vectors of rape fantasies, which have nothing to do with real non-consensual sex and everything to do with the fantasizer forcing herself to let go and experience pleasure, something she may have a hard time doing outside of her head. I acknowledge that these fantasies of masterful, sweep-you-off-your feet sex partners exist. I acknowledge that these fantasies may be framed as non-consensual. I acknowledge that part of the allure of vampires as portrayed in True Blood and other modern media is their masterful, sweeping-off-feet tendencies. I do not dispute the existence of these things.

I do object, however, to Moyer’s characterization of feminine desires. Whether he’s referring to sweep-you-off-your-feet fantasies or not, he’s doing so inaccurately and misogynistically. By calling rape "romantic" and claiming that "men were men," he’s confusing an observation about vampire as sexual fantasy with some stupid essentialist drivel about masculine aggression, not to mention the misogynist bullshit idea about women secretly yearning to be raped. Therefore, instead of providing an insight into the popularity of the vampire figure [as other actors who have played vampires have demonstrated that they can do with intelligence and humor and WITHOUT misogyny], Moyer ends up providing insight into how much he loathes both men and women. I’ve just lost all respect for him. D:

Putrid gender politics in Brimstone

Putrid gender politics in Brimstone published on 2 Comments on Putrid gender politics in Brimstone

All righty, so I’ve been watching Brimstone. It’s a canceled show with John Glover [the awesome! also gay!] as the Devil goading on some guy with a fascinating nose. The guy is Ezekiel Stone, who went to hell for killing his wife’s rapist. Now back from hell, he has a second chance at life on earth if he can round up 113 escaped souls and shoot out their eyes, sending them back to hell. Continue reading Putrid gender politics in Brimstone

Enough with the fast-forward Jesus babies!!

Enough with the fast-forward Jesus babies!! published on 1 Comment on Enough with the fast-forward Jesus babies!!

This weekend, I returned to one of my guilty pleasures, the glamorous, cliched, convoluted and opaque BBC series Hex [2005-2007]. This gorgeous trash heap of magic + soft-core porn features fallen angels, lesbian ghosts, witch burning, time traveling, demons in the guise of priests, kinky nurse fairies, blah blah blah, all taking place on the isolated grounds of Medenham Hall, a boarding school populated by 6 sexy students, 2 or 3 teachers and gallons of moody mist.

Anyway, one of the tired plot devices trotted out by Hex is that of the fast-forward Jesus baby. As the result of a Divine Screw between a supernatural male and an ordinary female, the fast-forward Jesus baby develops alarmingly fast from conception to birth. Continue reading Enough with the fast-forward Jesus babies!!

Twilight: No abusive personalities here, says S. Meyer.

Twilight: No abusive personalities here, says S. Meyer. published on 1 Comment on Twilight: No abusive personalities here, says S. Meyer.

In a 2007 Q&A in Alpharetta, GA, Stephenie Meyer addressed the possibility of Edward being a grade A douchenozzle an abuser. Meyer’s response, transcribed below, illuminates her deluded perceptions of her characters and her dysfunctional relationship toward her fictional products. My comments are in regular face type.

Question 12: There’s been some speculation on the internet….. about Edward being an abusive boyfriend….. ?

Because he IS!

Meyer:  Yeah, yeah, OK. There’s a lot of stuff online that has, honestly, broken my heart recently. It is difficult to read things that take such a negative spin on something that is very personal and also makes a lot of sense inside your head. 

Translation: “Cogent analyses hurt my feewings. I also don’t care if the readers think that Edward makes no sense because…well, he makes sense in my head, and that’s all that matters. I spit upon readers and their demands for narrative coherency!”

I think it’s, I have a hard time with that one because to me you have this kid, sure, he’s a hundred and something, but at the same time he’s also seventeen and it’s the first time he’s been in love. And he fully recognizes that he does things wrong, he’s very aware of that. 

A repentant dude who confiscates your keys because he doesn’t want you going anywhere is still a dude who confiscates your keys. Just because a jealous, possessive emotional wreck recognizes his mistakes does not absolve him of his past stupidity.

Edward at the beginning of Eclipse goes too far one direction. In the middle he’s like, I’m screwing this up, I’m doing this wrong, I’m not being fair. He goes too far in the other direction. He never quite finds the balance because he’s so black or white about everything. But he has only the best of intentions pretty much at all times, and to think of him as either mean or controlling or having any kind of neg- wanting to impact Bella’s life in a negative way is really not how his character is.

Good intentions do not justify jealous, possessive, irrational, controlling behaviors.

On the other hand I get the same thing about Jacob, where he’s too pushy and he’s too physical and he’s causing all these problems. 

“Too pushy” and “too physical” are the most pathetic euphemisms for “sexual assault.” Remember — this character kisses Bella against her will. That’s sexual assault, dudes.

And I don’t think people realize quite the layer, the level of desperation that he’s at. He’s not desperate to make Bella fall in love with him, I mean, that would be an excellent perk. He is desperate to save her life, and if you saw your best friend teetering on the edge of the fifth story of the building, playing with the balcony, you would reach up and yank their arm, even if it would hurt them, because you were trying to save them. And Jacob really is kind of past rationality at that point. 

Translation: “Give Jacob a break. He is so worried about Bella that he can’t think straight. He practically forces himself on her precisely because he is so concerned about her.”

This weak justification reminds me of a common “reason” rapists give for assaulting their victims: “Oh, it was for his/her own good. I was doing him/her a favor because he/she is never going to get any otherwise.”

So I think that people sometimes will go out looking for the negative when really if they gave them the right intentions, I think they are understanding characters better. 

I don’t care what the characters’ intentions were; both Edward’s and Jacob’s behaviors indicate abusive personalities. Their intent and their creator’s intent does not sway my interpretation of their actions.

Breaking Dawn review, part III: Bella turns into a baby-breeding ‘bot.

Breaking Dawn review, part III: Bella turns into a baby-breeding ‘bot. published on 34 Comments on Breaking Dawn review, part III: Bella turns into a baby-breeding ‘bot.

Part I is here. Part II is here.

All right, I've fired my first salvo: to wit, Breaking Dawn breaks rules of good fiction by being inconsistent with the logic established in earlier books. Now my second reason for despising Breaking Dawn shall be detailed here. As I mentioned earlier, I find Breaking Dawn "philosophically objectionable." 

Continue reading Breaking Dawn review, part III: Bella turns into a baby-breeding ‘bot.

Hey HHS, get OUT of my uterus! >:

Hey HHS, get OUT of my uterus! >: published on 2 Comments on Hey HHS, get OUT of my uterus! >:

According to the NY TImes, “The Bush administration wants to require all recipients of aid under federal health programs to certify that they will not refuse to hire nurses and other providers who object to abortion and certain types of birth control.” This same proposal also wishes to define the use of common contraceptives as abortifacients because they terminate “human life” “before…implantation.” 

Thanks to tikva’s highlight of the especially galling sections of the report and to hammercock’s link to NARAL, I E-mailed my Congresspersons.

Subject: I oppose the proposed HHS ruling where contraception = abortifacients

Dear [Decision maker],

I’m writing to express my opposition to a proposed new Health and Human Services regulation that could discourage doctors and health-care clinics from providing contraception to women who need it.

Not only does the proposal interfere with women’s rights to do as they wish with their own reproductive systems, but it also makes no sense, as on p. 30, lines 8-11. In this section, “abortion” is referred to as “the termination of the life of a human being…whether before or after implantation.” This definition equates an unimplanted embyro with a fully developed human being, which it is NOT. The proposed HHS rule would thereby privilege the unimplanted embryo over the fully developed, autonomous woman that carries the embryo.

Such discrimination against women should not be tolerated. Oppose these regulations and support reproductive rights for women. Thank you for your attention.

Of course, this won’t do anything, but I feel a tiny bit better for spitting in the hurricane. And look…I did it without swearing.

Stephenie Meyer hurts my brain.

Stephenie Meyer hurts my brain. published on 3 Comments on Stephenie Meyer hurts my brain.

Eclipse is a big fat turd, mind-boggling in its display of authorial ineptitude. I’m seriously stupefied by the abounding incoherence. In Twilight and New Moon, the characters had some consistency, no matter how repulsive and stupid they were. In New Moon, however, said consistency went out the window, with Edward and Jacob suffering the most. Also I the reader suffered when Bella took her stupidity to new lows.

Edward…well, he flipped his shit. I found his character mildly interesting in the first two books because he was basically always fighting a hard-on. Suddenly he stops fighting his hard-on and basically browbeats Bella into marriage so he can avoid having sex out of wedlock and they can do the nasty soon soon soon. I thought his character was all about balancing out his hunger with rationality, not giving into it. So, from a purely objective point of view, Edward failed his Consistency Test, whether I liked him or not. And I don’t like him. Since he failed as a purely structural device, we don’t need to go into his disgusting personality: his disabling Bella’s truck so she couldn’t go see Jacob when she wanted to, not to mention his constant physical restraining, mouth-covering and otherwise squishing of Bella — examples of him abusing her by merely existing.

Jacob failed his Consistency Test and flipped his shit too. In book 2, he really came into his own as an energetic spot of real character development in an otherwise dull series of mood swings that were trying to pass as a plot. Book 3, however, sees his cheerfulness and ebullience disappear for no apparent reason to be replaced by the volatile, surly traits of a sexually assaulting pervert. I really don’t see how that came about because it wasn’t in his character. Yet book 3 shows him equal to Edward in mind-fuckery, violating Bella by kissing her against her will, pretending he’s gonna die unless she gives him a hug, etc., etc., etc. For a book that is supposedly about a love triangle and Bella’s decision between two guys [Meyer insists that Jacob is Bella’s “other option”], book 3 doesn’t actually offer Bella any choice of guys. Both Edward and Jacob are sneaky, pissy, controlling, tempestuous, manipulative creeps.

Bella has flipped her shit too. Well, I thought she had flipped it when, in book 1, she conceived of an overwhelming desire to become a vampire. But now she’s really flipped it. She pauses to think about the consequences of her vampirization. This is a promising sign. Maybe she’ll think about the loneliness of living far beyond her parents and other family, about the transient lifestyle needed to avoid human suspicion, about her sacrifice of a normal human life [possibly including college, graduation, dating, marriage, family of her own], of the constant struggle with addiction to human blood, of the danger she may be to her human loved ones as a feral “newborn.” Right?  Right…? Wrong. Bella worries occasionally about going nuts as a new vampire, but mostly she obsesses about having sex as a human with her darling Edward. Yes, that’s right, folks. She actively dismisses concerns about her future trajectory as a human being, the temptations of blood-drinking, the danger of being a newborn vampire. And, even more incredibly, she doesn’t even think about her parents and family at all. No, all she focuses on is getting her rocks off. The narrow-minded, selfish, heartless, immature and actively stupid behavior of this character amazes me. Why does the entire cast of this series fawn over her as if she is a saint? She really is an ungrateful, wretched human being. I’m trying to think of some charitable means of reforming her to introduce a little compassion into her soul, but my imagination fails me, primarily because I loathe her so much that I can’t think of any benefit to her continued existence.

After American Gothic come other shows.

After American Gothic come other shows. published on 1 Comment on After American Gothic come other shows.

I finished American Gothic with equal satisfaction and disappointment. My satisfaction came from Lucas’ masterfully done fake death and the neverending tension of the denouement between Lucas, Caleb and Merlyn. 

My disappointment lay in

the reduction of Gail, once an interesting, assertive character, into a witless walking womb who, for some reason, was in love [?!] with Lucas and became a temporary receptacle for his Sperm of Doom. Thus she fell victim to the Divine Screw trope. 

Additionally, Merlyn also suffered from devolution. She started off as a dull Pure Guardian Angel, then showed more ambivalence, texture and humanity when she borrowed an unborn baby’s soul in order to reincorporate and experience life again. After this, her increasingly violent and vengeful pursuit of Lucas — “an eye for an eye,” she said before trying to snap his neck in one ep — suggested less moral clarity and more moral greyness. Interestingly enough, she seemed as much in danger of abusing her powers and becoming like Lucas as Caleb was of becoming like Lucas. Then she reverted to her dull sacrificial state in the end and conveniently died.

After American Gothic, I have several options.

I’ve always wanted to see Nip/Tuck, and season 5 is on Hulu. I want to see if Julian McMahon can do a better job than he did in Charmed.

Roswell’s angle of powerful half-aliens living among us has intrigued me for a long time, since I’ve engaged in an epic on the same subject, so there’s season 1 of that on Hulu.

Select eps of Outer Limits, an hour-long attempt at a modern Twilight Zone, are also on Hulu.

Though I’ve already blasted New Amsterdam as boring, it’s still so bad that I can’t look away. Season 1 continues on Hulu.

Subversive Divine Screw redux in Tanith Lee’s Tales of the Flat Earth

Subversive Divine Screw redux in Tanith Lee’s Tales of the Flat Earth published on No Comments on Subversive Divine Screw redux in Tanith Lee’s Tales of the Flat Earth

Following up on my previous comments about the Divine Screw, I have an example of the reinvention of this theme in Tanith Lee’s sprawling series Tales of the Flat Eath [good plot summaries and overview here]. In one of the major, multi-book storylines, the male divine, Azhrarn, the Lord of Wickedness and most powerful of all the demons who are de facto rules of earth, gets his freak on with Dunizel, human priestess. Their daughter, Sovaz/Soveh/Ahzriaz, goes through a whole book, Delirium’s Mistress, searching for herself. She goes from Sleeping Beauty to death-dealing vigilante to despotic goddess queen to prisoner under the sea to wise innocent child to dueler with angels to mortal sage. She ends up, satisfyingly enough, bargaining with Death for a mortal life, which she receives.

Despite Lee’s active, overdetermining essentialism about sex roles [men=active, women=passive], the three players in her Divine Screw transcend the narrative limitations to become rich characters.

Azhrarn, despite being the personification of Wickedness and therefore selfish, sadistic, nonchalant, cruel, supercilious and generally nasty, nevertheless comes across as very human in his need for an audience [=humans to torture], his pride, his tenderness for those he loves, his great capacities for grief and desire for vengeance after Dunizel is stoned to death. 

Despite being a Glowing Symbol of Feminine Passivity and Receptivity, Dunizel comes across as intensely stubborn, almost obsessed in her devotion to Azhrarn, and her Griselda-like suffering, in which she eventually wins, can be seen as the novelistic version of the sub really calling the shots in a BDSM game. 

Finally, their daughter, who goes through a Tarot-card-like cycle of birth, death, rebirth and self-discovery, proves to be the richest and most interesting character. She achieves the full humanity and compassion that both her parents were attracted to, which they both yearned for, but could not attain because they were still somehow detached.

Azhrarn and Dunizel’s daughter, clearly at the point in her life when she was a beautiful, but cruel, goddess on earth, as taken from the back cover of the omnibus edition of Tales of the Flat Earth

Furthermore, Lee devotes time to the relationship between Azhrarn and Dunizel, in which she explores what I referred to earlier as “the balance between wonder and terror.” We see each of them aggressively seducing each other by being quintessentially themselves. Azhrarn is sadistic [turns into wolf, bites off Dunizel’s arm] and Dunizel is masochistic [falls in love with wolf, sacrifices self to him to save city], and they each find in the other someone who heightens and concentrates their very selves. Eventually Azhrarn cracks under Dunizel’s submission such that he becomes the sub and she becomes the domme. [In some of the best conversations, he tries to be broody and threatening as he says, “Look what you have reduced me to! I am lovelorn!” Meanwhile, she points out, “I don’t buy it. It’s CONSENSUAL enslavement.”] It’s all very kinky and a bit sick and not a little tainted with stupid yin/yang essentialism, but the point is that it works as a piece of psychological insight to explain the ambivalence between people and divines.

What I’m trying to say here is this: Lee’s use of the Divine Screw trope is unusual. The male Divine ain’t the center; instead, it’s the female human mother and the halfbreed daughter. In fact, the women are so central to Lee’s Divine Screw that the product thereof is a daughter, something inconceivable [hah!] in most versions of the tale. Moreover, Lee just doesn’t change the sex of the Child of the Penis of Doom. Lee actually pays attention to all parties, father, mother and child, and gives them their due. Women with subjectivity! How revolutionary.

Review of Hex eps 1-6 and some notes about the Divine Screw

Review of Hex eps 1-6 and some notes about the Divine Screw published on 4 Comments on Review of Hex eps 1-6 and some notes about the Divine Screw

Having been American Gothicked out, I skipped over the pond to investigate the BBC’s Hex. The British show seasons are usually 6 to 8 eps, 1/3 the size of American show seasons, so I watched the first season, eps 1-6, before, as the reviews commented, the cast switched around and character development went out the window.

In season 1 of Hex, shy, artistic Cassie tries desperately to be popular, but wins the eye of no one except her snarky roommate Thelma, who has a huge crush on her, and Azazeal, a fallen angel and professional lurker. Both Thelma and Azazeal want to get into Cassie’s pants, so essentially season 1 forms a love triangle. Azazeal kills Thelma at the end of ep 1, turning her into the Dead Lesbian archetype, and it’s basically all downhill. Despite Thelma’s investigative work and devotion to freeing Cassie from Azazeal’s influence, Azazeal claims that Cassie is destined to have sex with him. Azazeal possesses Cassie in order to get in her pants. Cassie and Thelma try to get Cassie an abortion, but Azazeal possesses the doctor so that the baby ends up being born. Since a child by Azazeal and a human woman will let the rest of the fallen angels out of prison, the failed abortion is a very bad thing. Season 1 ends.

Unfortunately for Hex, love triangles only work if you have three points to connect — in other words, three compelling characters. Cassie and Thelma are lively personalities with great, energetic chemistry. Thelma especially gets all the quips and, as played with a comically expressive face by Jemima Rooper, lights up the screen whenever she’s on. As Cassie, Christina Cole strikes me as a second-grade copy of Keira Knightley: winsome in a slight, scrawny way, but mediocre in the talent department. Still, she works well with Rooper in the best parts of the show.

Michael Fassbender as Azazeal, however, dooms much of the enterprise. Partly I fault the script writers for this because he spends entirely too much time lurking in a criminal, yet extremely tedious, manner, watching Cassie. And partly I find fault with Fassbender, who apparently can’t register any of the emotions that a fallen angel might be feeling at finally returning to power. How about some excitement when he’s killing Thelma to restore his strength? Or some gloating arrogance when he says to Cassie that they are fated to have sex? Or some relish and triumph when they actually do screw? No, he just drifts in and out of the shadows with a bored, rather blank look on his face. Since he’s the main plot motor, his crashing dullness removes suspense and narrative urgency from the show, leaving it more atmospheric than truly engaging.

[In fact, the most insight into Azazeal’s character that we get is an impassioned speech against abortion that he makes to a bunch of people in a church. He says that people tell him about women’s rights, but he doesn’t think that anyone cares about the baby’s rights. He says that life begins at conception, “because that is when the soul is formed.” Well, it’s nice to know that this millennia-old demon is actually an uptight, narrow-minded, poisonously bigoted weirdo who would fit right in with those fundamentalist wackos who think abortion should be legal, but, when asked how much time a woman should serve for having an abortion, say, “Durrrrr,” and can’t answer the question.]

On a more thematic note, I have a huge objection to the Divine Screw narrative line, despite having co-created a decade-long saga predicated on just this exploitation. You know the story: Some all-powerful dipwad wants kids and decides to rape a human woman. The woman may resist, but the Penis of Doom cannot be stopped. The dipwad rapes the woman. She conceives a son, always a son — the Dipwad is convinced of it. The woman may try to abort the fetus or to kill herself, but her attempts avail nothing against the Son of Dipwad. The woman gives birth to Son of Dipwad, who inevitably takes after Dipwad Dad. The expendable woman, having served as an incubator, is pretty much abandoned by Dipwad, and who cares what happens to her next? All focus shifts to the glorious Son of the Penis of Doom, who naturally fulfills his destiny and destroys the world.

I object to the Divine Screw theme because it doesn’t care about the women. To this story line, they’re just temporary baby holders, nine-month pieds a terre for the Sons of the Penis of Doom before they pursue their inevitable conquest of the world. The Divine Screw theme does not interest itself in what it is like to be Divinely Screwed. It assumes that the result of the Divine Screw, the Son of the Penis of Doom, is the important part, the next chapter in the story.

Leda and the swan, a famous mythological rape, is referred to via Yeats’ poem in an ep of Hex.

Leda and the Swan, by an anonymous Renaissance painter

Without challenging the Divine Screw theme itself [some other time], I argue for the primacy of the women. Penises of Doom don’t reproduce asexually! They need sexual reproduction with women in order to have children. Women, however they react to the Divine Screw, constitute a necessary half of the story. In fact, to me, they’re the more interesting half. Penises of Doom and Sons of Dipwad have been around for millennia, stomping heroically all over the earth, but they’ve been making so much noise that you can’t hear the Mothers of the Children of Doom. 

You can’t hear them tell you what it’s like to be approached by the Divine. You can’t hear them tell you how they wrestled with angels, how, in their relations with the Divine, they took on divinity themselves. You can’t hear them tell you about the confusion and pain and power of being caught between the worlds of mortal power and those of supernatural unearthliness. You can’t hear them tell you about the fear and anxiety of knowing that they would have unusual children and perhaps the hope that the children would be, well, usual. You can’t hear them tell you about the harsh things their families and communities said to them and the harsh things they said to themselves…and the stories they ended up telling themselves to rationalize. You can’t hear them continue to live and find meaning in things, despite having been treated like shit and exploited. You can’t hear them wonder how in the world to raise their extraordinary children. You cannot hear their courage and perserverance, for it is not a warlike courage of Heraculean deeds, but an interior courage manifested in their continual striving to balance wonder and terror.

Great show, but…

Great show, but… published on 2 Comments on Great show, but…

If you want to see a show driven by the power of all-around masterful performances married to a strong, character-driven storyline, check out American Gothic, now available at Hulu. It is an ensemble story of sweet Southern corruption in which forces both good and evil fight for control of a young boy’s soul.

On the good side there’s recent Yankee transplant Matt Crower, played with quiet self-possession by Jake Weber, who is such a dry and gentle character in Medium, haunted by his wife and child’s death in a DWI accident he caused. There’s also Gail Emory, investigative reporter, played by Paige Turco with brooding dignity reminiscent of Yancy Butler at her best, returning to town to look into her parents’ suspicious deaths 20 years ago. The boy himself, Caleb, is played by 10-year-old Lucas Black in a startingly intense performance [I love those little, low, dark eyebrows!] that’s pretty realistic for a TV depiction of a 10-year-old boy.

On the evil side there’s schoolteacher Serena Coombes, played with sexy, slimy relish by Brenda Bakke. And there’s Lucas Buck, played by Gary Cole, who is my latest favorite actor. I first noticed him as the Boss From Hell in Office Space, Lumberg, but here, in the starring role, he really gets to show how hellish he can be. As the classic devil, Buck’s character operates on fear, doing good things for people, then asking them to pay him back, or else they meet gory demises. He also has an unnerving habit of popping up whenever someone is thinking about disobeying him. He creates a black hole of influence that it seems impossible to escape from.

The cheesy special effects and fast-motion weather hammer this point home, but Cole’s eternally genial front really makes the character work. Even when he’s threatening you, Buck does so in a gentlemanly way, which makes his cruelty even more effective and insidious. Cole plays Buck with a certain broadness that comes from his comedic experience, but he also projects such charisma and power that Buck always remains a magnetic and menacing presence. It’s a magnificent performance.

Not a perfect show, by any means, American Gothic suffers from a dearth of fully fleshed female characters. While all of the male characters have multiple dimensions, the women remain kinda flat. Gail’s the Plucky Gumshoe archetype, and Merlyn, Caleb’s dead sister, is the Pure Moral Compass archetype. Tertiary characters are also problematic. In Damned If You Don’t, for example, Carter Bowen and family do a favor for Sheriff Buck, which entails letting an escaped con into their house. Said con goes after 15-year-old Poppy Bowen. Wife Etta Bowen ends up dead. I strongly objected to the way that Poppy was portrayed not by the con, but by the SHOW itself, as a Lolita-licious sex object.

For example, she was shown performing suggestive oral maneuvers on a Popsicle while squeezed into a porch swing with the con. The way in which this scene was shot suggested that Poppy was doing a preview blowjob on some food in an attempt to seduce the con.

Camera lingers in slow-mo here on Popsicle held by ex-con.

For another example, camera panned from her feet, up her legs, to her chest and head as she slowly entered the swimming hole, objectifying her in a way that, say, Gail is never objectified.

You should see how interested the camera gets when she starts hiking up her dress so she doesn’t get it wet.

In the end of the ep, it is revealed that it’s Etta that the con is after. So the pornographication of Poppy was…what? A red herring? As far as I’m concerned, it was gratuitous and deeply disturbing because everyone was out to objectify her, from Buck, who wanted to give her a job in his office and “take her under his wing,” to the con, who was feeling her up, to the very camera angles themselves. Despite obviously having sexual exploitation as its theme, the ep refused to examine the subject and instead just cranked up Poppy’s sexiness, thus making the viewer complicit in Buck and the con’s attacks on Poppy. No irony or commentary here either — we’re just expected to agree that Poppy is a hot little slut who brought misfortune to the family by being too damn sexy.

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