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Friday, April 29, 2011

Film Fantasy Friday: Just Ella

Aaaaand we're back! Time for a palate-cleanser after my nerd rage of the week. Margaret Peterson Haddix's Just Ella is a retelling of the Cinderella story--and I am a serious sucker for a fairy tale retelling (note to self: do Beauty at some point)--in which Ella reaches the palace and is prepared to marry Prince Charming...only to find that the royal life isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Ella: played by Saoirse Ronan, Ella (or Princess Cynthiana Eleanora) chafes against her engagement to the prince and concocts a plan to escape the palace and her restrictive, meaningless life.

Prince Charming: played by Jamie Campbell Bower, the prince is the handsome but selfish and cruel heir to Suala's throne. When Ella tells him she does not love him, he responds...immaturely.

Mary: played by Kaitlyn Dever, Mary is a servant girl in the palace with whom Ella becomes friends. Mary helps Ella in her plan to escape the palace.

Jed: played by Jack O'Connell, Jed is being groomed to become the palace's next official court priest. However, his true goal is to create a refugee camp for the victims of the Sualan war. He is also in love with Ella.

Lucille: played by Helena Bonham Carter, Lucille is Ella's stepmother. A manipulative, cruel woman with two daughters, Lucille first treats Ella as her personal slave, then attempts to befriend her once Prince Charming shows his interest.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

How I learned to love the Ultimates

Ok, not quite love. "Appreciate" is maybe even too strong of a word. "Understand," not quite. "Accept" might be the best term here.

Wait, what the fuck am I babbling about? The Ultimates and The Ultimates 2 by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch (and whatever idiot did the lettering, because damn son, learn how to use commas). I have some issues with this book. Let me tell you them--indeed, let me tell YOU them, because for certain my manfriend is sick of arguing about this with me. This comes a little late in the game, since the arcs I'm talking about were published in 2002, but I read one or two about five years ago, didn't bother to read the rest, and didn't think about them until last week, when Manfriend said, Hey, you should read The Ultimates.

So I did. At first I was like, Hmm! Look! Hank and Janet are, like, in love and stuff, they get along, they're both wildly smart, this is awesome! I'm so glad we're in an alternate universe where Jan gets to have two Ph.Ds instead of a biweekly beatdown from her bastard husband! Then I was like, SADFACE. Because everything went to shit. A little background--The Ultimates takes place outside mainstream Marvel continuity, so Mark Millar really had free license to do whatever the hell he wanted with the characters. According to Manfriend, the characters are reworked in interesting ways. Not having much interest to begin with in Captain America or Iron Man and only a passing knowledge of the historical Avengers team (Cap, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Wasp, Giant Man), my reactions to The Ultimates are only based on these stories in themselves. I don't have anything to compare them to. So maybe my reactions are the "wrong" reactions, but if a story can't stand up by itself without a relative newcomer having read a bunch of backstory, ur doin it rong.

So what exactly are my issues? My issues can really be boiled down into one thing: poor writing. This encompasses a TON of stuff that I don't like about this book--that the dialogue is in places really odd, that there are strange, seemingly pointless inclusions of real-world celebrities and politicians, that the female characters are sexist, hollow stereotypes, and that the male characters (save Thor, which I will get to in a minute) are ALSO sexist, hollow stereotypes. The art, I must say, is fantastic, and the plotting is really quite good; the storylines major and minor are interesting, the pacing is great, and overall the plot is solid and worthy of its cast. But a comic can't run on plot alone and it really needs substantial characters to move it along. The Ultimates, to my mind, does not deliver on this score. The "Ultimates" team in this universe consists of the historical founding members of the Avengers: Captain America, the Wasp, Giant Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Iron Man, with Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. heading the whole shebang up. Other characters are recruited from various locations--Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch from the X-Verse, Hawkeye and Black Widow from government black ops. All in all, it should have been an exciting ride with a lot of interesting characters. Instead, Millar's "reimagining" falls pretty flat. Captain America's patriotism is revved up to hysterically jingoist levels; Tony Stark, despite a brain tumor which he claims has made him rethink his life and an engagement to Natasha Romanoff, is even drunker and more womanizing than ever; Hank Pym and Bruce Banner take their towering inferiority complexes out on the women in their lives, and said women--Jan Pym and Betty Ross--are cyphers with little power and even less plot presence. Natasha as the Black Widow has a bit more kick in the plot (she betrays the Ultimates to their enemies), but the reveal of her betrayal occurs, of course, when she is naked and fucking Tony Stark. It is not even really feminist to expect well-rounded, interesting female characters, unless the bar is even lower than I thought. It sucks to read a story that's supposed to be a completely new take on established characters and see the same old bullshit.

Then there's the situation of the supporting characters from other teams. The Maximoff siblings, Wanda/Scarlet Witch and Pietro/Quicksilver, are portrayed as limp-wristed, incestuous Europeans who would prefer to pole through Venice reading Shakespeare than actually fight. The "Defenders" team, which Hank Pym joins briefly after being booted from the Ultimates post-wife-beating, is made up of various Marvel characters at their worst: Valkyrie is a yellow-belt karate student in a Red Sonja outfit; Luke Cage is a musclehead sans shirt; Nighthawk is a wussy who gets his ass beat by some gang kids; and Hellcat and Son of Satan aren't even worth mentioning. If the Defenders team was supposed to be played for laughs, it didn't trip my giggle gland. Sorry.

Oh, I mustn't forget to address the matter of the villains! "The Liberators," as they call themselves, encapsulate the white-bread American fear of brown people, yellow people, European people, and basically everyone who isn't a white-bread American. Abdul al-Rahman leads them, a Muslim native of Azerbaijan who watched as the Ultimates team invaded his country; the rest are foreign versions of the Ultimates themselves, from a Chinese Hulk (Abomination) and Iron Man (Crimson Dynamo) to a Russian Thor (Perun) and Syrian Wasp (Swarm). Black Widow, Loki, and to a lesser extent Hank Pym work with this group. They are portrayed as attempting to invade the U.S. and break its grip on national politics, trade, and warfare. In other words, they are the white Republican's worst nightmare.

Character-wise, Thor is another matter entirely. In this 'verse, Thor is either a messiah or a delusional schizophrenic, and he is downright compelling at times, whether he's destroying his evil brother Loki or speechifying about the military-industrial complex. It reads as though Millar poured his all into Thor and every other major character got the leftovers. Clint Barton (Hawkeye) is another oddity; a reasonable, down-to-earth dude with a girlfriend and three kids, who makes coffee for his bodyguards and generally gets shit done (his entire family is slaughtered, of course). Thor and Hawkeye were the real stand-out characters for me, the only ones which I cared about, was interested in, or respected.

The only way in which The Ultimates is palatable is if I read it as a parody of U.S. culture, specifically under President Bush. Everything in this story is so heightened, from the over-the-top characters to the scenes in which Tony Stark flies with Shannon Elizabeth on the space shuttle, Betty Ross dates Freddie Prinze, Jr., and the team sits around casting themselves in a Hollywood blockbuster (it's no accident that Samuel L. Jackson is playing Nick Fury in the current crop of Marvel films. Ultimate Nick Fury is BASED ON Samuel L. Jackson, which makes the scene in which Nick Fury casts Samuel L. Jackson as the man to play him in a movie a mind-bending ourobouros of self-referential meta garbage). The tone of the story often feels as though Millar is winking at himself for being so damn clever. Cuteness is something I can rarely stomach in comics. HOWEVER, if Millar was indeed writing this book as a commentary on the state of global politicking, pre-emptive strikes, and other fucked-up-ness in the U.S. generally and specifically under Bush and since, then I applaud him for being the greatest troll comic writing has ever seen. I prefer to read The Ultimates in this mode...otherwise it's just too depressing for words.

Monday, April 25, 2011

More heavy metal philosophizing

So there I was again, in my car, listening to In Your Multitude by Conception, and a lyric came flying out and hit me in the eyes: "But Mary's crying on the edge of heaven/Deliberation's bad for faith, she claims."

Well, there you have it: the major problem of Christianity, in a nutshell. For boiling down a complex idea to its simplest form, Xander Harris Khan/Ostby can't be beat!

It used to bother me a lot that most of the major faiths in this country really, really discourage their rank-and-file members from thinking too hard about things. It still does. But there's another issue inside this issue (inside an enigma, wrapped in a mystery! Okay), and that is that the major US faiths ALSO discourage feeling too hard. Or rather, feeling the wrong things. It's easy to see why you aren't supposed to think: thinking leads to thinking the Wrong Thoughts, to things like logic and rationality and science and philosophy. But for a faith--and now I will just use Mormonism, because it's all I know in terms of Christian religion--to actively promote "feeling" in the form of "feeling the Spirit" and simultaneously damn all other feelings stemming from religious fervor is pret-ty fucked up. As the kids say. See, the issue with Mormonism specifically is that if you DON'T feel the Holy Spirit, you're doing it wrong. But if you DO feel the Holy Spirit and It's telling you something contrary to what your leaders are telling you, you're ALSO doing it wrong. The LDS church does not sanction direct contact with God except through certain channels--and I assume many other Christian sects also work the same way (if the history of Europe and the US is at all accurate). The members on the ground feel "The Spirit" in the way that they are told to. Its voice tells them the things they know it is supposed to. And if they hear something else, they know it's the devil. When you are raised to know exactly what the Spirit sounds like, if you hear the Spirit say Diana, there is akshually nothing inherently wrong with reading Kushiel's Dart, you understand that God is not telling you this: the Adversary is.

This is monstrous. Members are taught not to trust their feelings, to the point where the only feelings they feel are ones that are produced by the church. Any prompting, idea, issue, tendency, or urge that does not jibe with the church's teachings requires condemnation. Brains and spirits are calcified; if neither free thought nor free feeling is acceptable, only robots are produced.

And now I am thoroughly depressed. Again. I love my proggy metalheads, but they make me have thinky thawts. Time for to change the CD to Britney.

Friday, April 22, 2011

I know, I know

You're all heartbroken at the prospect of no Film Fantasy Friday post today, to which I must say tough tits. I have a day off and I'm going to spend it away from the computer, in pursuit of Italian food, piano bars, and other fine things.

Have a great weekend, fruitful Earth Day, and blessed Easter if you celebrate it (I do. Well, the candy parts, anyway), everyone!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Librarian's joys

Now that my super-srs-bzns posting is over with, we here at Ye Old Blogge can see a return to the happily pointless posting of yore! With that said, I was ruminating the other day (literally; I was eating an apple and thinking at the same time) on why, exactly, I chose this profession--being that there are No Jobs--and came up with a small set of pleasing observations. Behold:

+I like research. And people tend to ask you things when you are sitting behind a reference desk or wandering around a library looking Knowledgeable. Sometimes they are not-very-interesting things ("Miss, where's the pencil sharpener?") and sometimes they are very-interesting things ("Is this book by...*checks author* Sarah Dessen any good?") and sometimes they are long-involved-but-interesting things ("I need information about America's military presence in Pakistan but I don't know how to use this database"). FUN TIMES, with no sarcasm added! I love research.

+Attendant to that, I like to feel smart. Depending on the population with which you work, your patrons may or may not be generally knowledgeable about research and library resources (and even if you work in an academic library, the students might not know shit). This provides lots of opportunities to look AND feel AND BE SMART! A woman I helped with Excel the other day was practically beside herself with how smart I was. Note: I hate Excel and am not very great with it. But I helped her with what she needed to do, and she was grateful, and I felt warm and fuzzy inside about my helpfulness and my brainmeats and the world was a bit of a better place.

+I like talking about things I like. You, as a reader of this blog, may have noted this. Most librarians love to talk about things they like, whether that is books, e-books, e-book readers, iPads and other techy things, computer coding, cataloguing, social media, or music archiving. My Thing is books, of course, and oh let me tell you how many sizes my heart grows when someone asks me about a book (it puts the Grinch's TO SHAME). The very-interesting question of Point #1 actually happened at my internship--at a high school--and I nearly exploded with YES IT IS AWESOME YES SARAH DESSEN IS AWESOME YES TELL ME IF YOU LIKE IT NEXT TIME I SEE YOU. A similar thing happened the other day with Fire by Kristin Cashore and the new Serenity graphic novel, The Shepherd's Tale. So much sqee. At my workplace, a patron asked if we had a copy of Anne of Green Gables. Since this is a tiny academic library, I had to regretfully say no...and offer to lend her my copy. Because I mean really. IT'S MOTHERFUCKING ANNE SHIRLEY PEOPLE. The answer is always yes.

+I like (re)discovering things I like. Working in a library is, of course, a primo opportunity to discover either for the first time or anew some awesome stuff. As I was doing inventory this past month at my internship, I had the distinct pleasure of going along every fiction shelf and having the internal squee upon seeing all my favorite titles in the collection. Hooray, I thought, look at all the Westerfeld! Look, three editions of Burmese Days! LOOK JO WALTON BOOKS!! I have also had the fun-times of discovering many amazing new titles and authors, including Maggie Stiefvater and Justina Chen Headley.

And that is what I have--for now. I'm sure the list will grow. It helps to remind myself, sometimes.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Embodied Gaze: Final Thoughts

There is so much more that can be said on the topic of vampires, sex, our media, and our culture. Any discussion of how the patriarchy/kyriarchy is depicted in entertainment media must focus some attention on spoken language--partially because media such as books and television shows rely on dialogue to communicate and partially because spoken language is a significant tool in the hand of anyone wanting to gain or keep power. The concept of voice has always been important to feminism, and most other radical movements emphasize the voice as a tool of power, often a tool that has been taken from or denied to a certain populace. Buffy, Hex, and Twilight all use dialogue and voice to characterize and philosophize--and in the cases of the male characters, to patronize and terrorize (is that enough -izes for you?).

Angelus is the most obvious mouthpiece, with Azazeal a close second. The pivotal Angelus/Buffy conversation occurs just after their night together, before Buffy realizes what has happened to her boyfriend ("Innocence"). Angelus' dialogue is rife with trenchant misogynist language carefully constructed to show him as the dregs of a woman-hating society. A sampling of their conversation yields such gems as "Like I really wanted to stick around after that;" "You got a lot to learn about men;" "Let's not talk about it. It happened;" "I thought you were a pro;" and "I should've known you wouldn't be able to handle it." All of these lines are pulled, unfortunately, from the every-day--their oomph comes from the fact that viewers recognize them, have heard them from ex-boyfriends and husbands. These are things that abusive men say to the women they try to use and control. These words infantilize, accuse, mock; they shove women's feelings, desires, and needs to the side.

Azazeal, as we saw in the last installment, also knows how to talk--or rather, exactly what to say to make Cassie either strike out or crumple. His flippant "What else are you for?" is the shit icing on a truly grotesque cake constructed of seemingly offhand lines of dialogue here and there--gently mocking, needlingly cruel. He refers to Cassie as "hormonal" when she is pregnant with his son, tells her what she's feeling instead of asking her. He tells her that she "looks a mess", "looks awful"; says disparagingly that she's "not being very friendly," asks why she is repulsed by him. His attitude and words, too, are pulled straight from life and ring uncomfortably true for many women viewers. This is how we are spoken to and perceived: not in control of our own minds, emotions, and reactions. There is a reason the word is patronize. Cassie refers to Azazeal on several occasions as "arrogant" but the key to Azazeal is that he, as a demigod, literally does not care about human lives or emotions: in his worldview, the humans he encounters are for using as needed and discarding. He makes overtures to Cassie in order to ensnare her, intimating that he cares about her, but Cassie and the viewer know he does not, made evident by the way he toys with her. His pretense of casual male obliviousness (the "I'm just a dumb man" cover) does not disguise the fact that he enjoys outraging and disgusting Cassie. She provided him with what he needed--a son--and when she is killed in the second episode of the second series, he gives her little more thought for the rest of his time onscreen, generally only referring to her as Malachi's mother.

Edward at first seems almost innocuous compared to the forthright evil of Azazeal and Angelus. However, from his first appearance in Twilight, his dialogue tags tell the reader everything we need to know about his character. Throughout the four books there are about fourteen uses of some form of the word "mock"--in Twilight, all eight are attributed to Edward; in Eclipse, four are attributed to Jacob; in Breaking Dawn, one is Jacob's and one is Emmett's. A few more uses of "taunt" occur, all attributed to Jacob. Bella surely does enjoy men who make fun of her. Jacob aside, Edward kicks off his "courtship" of Bella by making fun of her, talking down to her, and infantilizing her.

And then there comes the issue of race, inextricably intertwined with issues of kyriarchy. For all its virtues, Buffy is notable for having very few characters of color, specifically African-Americans, and those that do appear are generally stereotyped and usually end up dead--Kendra is the first, a Slayer who appears in season two and is killed; Mr. Trick, a vampire who appears and is killed in season three; Forrest, the angry soon-to-be zombie Initiative member killed in season four; Sweet, the singing demon of "Once More, With Feeling" vanquished in season five; and Principal Wood, a rather badass freelance vampire hunter appearing in season seven (you can also count his mother, Nikki Wood, a Slayer killed by Spike). Of these characters, one survives the destruction of Sunnydale: Principal Wood. The core cast is unfailingly white and able-bodied. One of the lone Asian characters, Chao-Ahn, is used for comic relief as the Scooby Gang attempt to communicate with her throughout season seven; another Asian character, Chloe, kills herself in S7. There are more demon characters throughout the show than there are characters of color.

Hex does not fare better. The core cast are all white and able-bodied. There is one supporting character of color--Medenham's headmaster, David Tyrel. He IS quite a good character, supportive of and concerned for his students' welfare, intelligent, and unwilling to kowtow to the abuses of Jez Herriott, a demonic priest. But his status on the show smacks of tokenism, and the show itself is certainly not representative of the state of the UK currently, with its exceptionally multicultural society.

Much has been written about the state of race in the Twilight series. A follower of the inimitable Cleolinda Jones Tweeted recently to Cleo concerning the newish The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide and its paragraphs on vampire pigmentation--a choice excerpt from the "Pallor" section:

Pale vampire skin is a product of vampire venom's transformative process...regardless of original ethnicity, the vampire's skin will be exceptionally pale. The hue varies slightly, with darker-skinned humans having a barely discernible olive tone to their vampire skin, but the light shade remains the same.

So Meyer's vampires are never black, or Asian, or Native American (notably, there IS a black vampire in the Twilight movies--Laurent is portrayed by an African-American actor. Zafrina, a vampire appearing in Breaking Dawn, will be played by a mixed-race actress. I have to wonder what Meyer thinks about this). Once they are turned, they are as white as white can be. This, coupled with the portrayal of Native Americans in the books, reads horribly familiar to those knowledgeable about LDS cosmology. Much has been made, deservedly, of the "white and delightsome" passages of the Book of Mormon (now changed to "pure and delightsome") as well as the LDS church's history of institutionalized racism. The Twilight books reflect this easily, though it can be argued that after 1976 the LDS church was no longer racist. Pardon my giggles. One of the most striking ways for me in which Meyer's religion bleeds into her writing is in her naming. The main vampire characters have strictly European names--Jasper, Edward, Alice, Laurent, Carlisle, Esme, James, Jane, and so forth. The Quileute werewolves have names pulled from the Bible and Book of Mormon--Jacob, Leah, Seth, Jared, Sam, Paul, Ephraim. It seems almost not worth pointing out where this is deriving from, but the underlying--and in some cases overt--racism of the LDS church cannot be overstated. LDS doctrine states that Native American peoples are descended from Jews straight out of Israel, who fell into wicked ways in the New World and were cursed with dark skin (this part is often played down these days, for obvious reasons. However, as recently as the late 90s, when I was a kid in church, this was taught and understood by most everyone). If this sounds an awful lot like the "Children of Ham" bits in The Handmaid's Tale, well, they're surely kissing cousins. The goal is to become "white/pure and delightsome" once more; in Twilight this reads as "vampires good, werewolves bad," particularly given the "eternal family" of the Cullens with Carlisle the Joseph-Smith-lookalike as patriarch, with juuuust enough nuance on either side to keep the audience generally unsuspicious. But there it is. Once noted, it is difficult to ignore.

Ultimately, the worlds of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twilight, and Hex are OUR worlds. They are peopled with characters who reflect aspects of US. This is why they are so compelling and so frightening. The media in which they are found are often considered sentimental or reserved exclusively for women; Culler notes in "Reading as a Woman" that "sentimental" movies, books, and television, while superficially playing to women's tastes and interests, simultaneously courts men's visual pleasure via beautiful women in subjugated contexts. With the advent of feminism, more and more entertainment is being made BY women FOR women, including romance and sentimental novels and films, with stories being created around the fantasies and desires of women, rather than being aimed at the fantasies of men. Pop culture IS important. What our brains imbibe affects us deeply. Being as this is a geek blog at heart, I feel comfortable quoting Grand Admiral Thrawn: When you understand a species' art, you understand that species. Our art has for so long reflected the dominant theology of Christianity and the dominant sociology of kyriarchy and the dominant cultural pastime of trampling upon minorities. Buffy and Hex challenge the dominant, with varying degrees of success; Twilight all but revels in it. Each instance has flaws, of commission or omission, particularly in terms of race. Each is a scintillating view into the way US culture demonizes female independence, sexuality, and autonomy.

For far more scholarly and incisive commentary than mine, I recommend the following reads:

This is a teeny sampling of the thoughtful body of scholarly and popular work on these topics. I certainly encourage you to explore beyond what I've written and linked here to find out more.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Body Appreciation Sunday: Brainnnnnsssss

So. The brain. It's kind of an important body part. Usually my brain and I get along. It's taken about fifteen years of public school to be ok with the fact that my brain cannot do math, but it's good at other things and generally I like my brain.

Today my brain is failing me. I cannot for my life figure out the proper configuration of wires necessary to get the Wii--television--speakers--THING. MY BRAIN CANNOT EVEN ARTICULATE THE PROBLEM.

Therefore I am consigned to realize, once more, that technology occasionally defeats the grey matter. I am not a genius. I am, as noted, fantastically bad at math and science with math in it. I am also rather uncoordinated. I assume the combination of these two factors is what stands between my awesome hominid brain and the conglomeration of wires behind our entertainment center.

But I still love you, brain. You let me write and wonder about things. I forgive you for failing me today...I guess.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Geek girls exist?

So. Everyone and their mom is talking about that idiot New York Times review about A Game of Thrones. I am not linking to it; I'm sure you know what I mean; and if you don't, well, whip out your Google fu and hop to it.

I just feel the need to add my voice to the chorus of geek girls out there saying O HAI GINIA BELLAFANTE WE DO EXIST. Because yes--I don't like A Game of Thrones. But that's not because I'm a woman and women don't like fantasy. It's because I am not real huge on fantasy epics that don't end. And here is what I do like:

Star Wars

Doctor Who

The Lord of the Rings (books and films) and The Silmarillion (and o let me tell you how very alone I am in that)

Stories about King Arthur--remember how I have "the once and future king" TATTOOED ON MY SHOULDER?

Jo Walton books (fantasy, speculative fiction, alternate history)

Tamora Pierce books (medieval-style fantasy)

Robin McKinley books (paranormal fiction, fairy tale retellings, fantasy)

Sharon Shinn books (fantasy, science fiction)

Margaret Fucking Atwood, people

Firefly, Buffy, Angel, and Dollhouse

Karen Healey books (fantasy)

Dianne Sylvan books (paranormal fiction)


Rosemary Sutcliff books (historical fantasy)

Garth Nix books (medieval-style fantasy)

Terry Pratchett books (spastic fantasy)

Scott Westerfeld books (dystopia, alternate history, speculative fiction)

Octavia Butler books (speculative fiction, historical science fiction)

Ursula K. Le Guin books (high fantasy, science fiction)

Philip Pullman books (alternate history, speculative fiction, fantasy)

Neil Gaiman books (fantasy, fantastic graphic novels and comics)

Patricia Wrede books (fantasy)

N.K. Jemisin books (fantasy)


Frank Herbert books (science fiction)

A whole stinking array of comic books, including but not limited to Batman+Batfamily, Wonder Woman, The Sandman, Deadpool, X-Men, White Tiger, Gotham Central, Gotham City Sirens, Justice League, Ultimates, &cetera

A whole stinking array of cartoons and anime, including but not limited to DuckTales, Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Justice League of America/Unlimited, Claymore, pretty much every DC animated movie, Marvel Knights: Black Panther, Baki the Grappler, Miyazaki films, Avatar: The Last Airbender, &cetera

Terminator films, barring the newest one

and a whole fucking lot more "dude stuff" that guess what, plenty of people with vaginas enjoy. Fuck you, Ginia Bellafante. Learn to a) read b) fact-check OR c) skim the Internet for the obvious.

Film Fantasy Friday: Astonishing X-Men

Time for a break from Accidentally Epic Posting! Ready for some X-action? As interesting as I find the trailers for the new X-film (X-Men: First Class), I'd still love to see Whedon's run of Astonishing X-Men done on the big screen--or small screen--someday. 'Til then, we can dream. This film would encompass volumes 1-4 of the Whedon/Cassaday series, with the ending setting it up for a sequel based on the current Ellis/Bianchi run. Note: I have used a few actors who have played or are currently playing X-Men, because I care about continuity (sort of. Actually I just think that, despite their many flaws, the franchise films have had some pretty good casting).

Emma Frost/White Queen: played by January Jones, Emma is co-leader of the X-Men and the lover of Cyclops. She also seems to have reforged some shadowy alliances from her past, leading the other team members to wonder if they can trust her.

Scott Summers/Cyclops: played by Jensen Ackles, Scott is co-leader of the X-Men and involved with Emma. He is plagued by doubts about his ability to lead the team effectively in the wake of Professor X leaving.

Hank McCoy/Beast: played by Joel Edgerton, Hank fears his continuing mutation will affect his humanity...but not enough to try Dr. Kavita Rao's "miracle cure."

Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat: played by Anna Popplewell, Kitty rejoins the team partly to keep an eye on Emma.

Logan/Wolverine: played by Hugh Jackman, Wolverine...is Wolverine. What is there to say about Wolverine?

Piotr Rasputin/Colossus: played by Andy Whitfield, Piotr was thought dead by all his friends and teammates, but he has returned from the grave in time to have phasingly awesome sex with Kitty. Oops, SPOILER.

Hisako Ichiki/Armor: played by Aoi Yu, Hisako is a new-minted team member (a student, really), who is close to Wolverine.

Cassandra Nova: played by Judi Dench, Nova is Professor X's evil "twin" and the co-leader of the reformed Hellfire Club. She is attempting to destroy the X-Men through Emma Frost.

Sebastian Shaw: played by Guy Pearce, Shaw is co-leader of the Hellfire Club in its current incarnation.

Abigail Brand: played by Katee Sackhoff, Brand is an agent of S.W.O.R.D., a task force which watches and occasionally intervenes in extraterrestrial affairs. She has a thing for furry blue guys.

Ord of the Breakworld: voiced by Ray Stevenson, Ord is an alien from a brutal planet called the Breakworld. The people of his world have a prophecy that one of the X-Men will destroy their world.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Embodied Gaze: Abject Femininity and Pregnancy as Punishment

The "abject" is defined by Barbara Creed as pertaining to such monstrous notions as "sexual immorality and perversion; corporeal alteration, decay, and death; human sacrifice; murder; the corpse; bodily wastes; and the feminine body and incest." Age-old taboos codified and refined by patriarchal religion, most of these monstrosities are found in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Hex, Twilight, and other entries in the supernatural/horror canon. Sexual immorality is concentrated in Angelus, the master torturer and BDSM aficionado, and in Angel's sexual relationship with Buffy, which toes the line of statutory rape and uneven power dynamics (though Buffy is Angel's equal in terms of physical power, his worldly experience far outweighs hers); it also is found in Edward's concern for not sleeping with Bella prior to their marriage, and is Azazeal's main form of recreational and purposeful activity and the main channel for his long-term plans. Corporeal alteration is all too obvious in the realm of vampirism and demonic possession--when Azazeal possesses a human, their eyes become bloody; the vampires of Twilight are inhumanly beautiful with sparkling skin; the vampires of Buffy have the so-called "game face" which is distorted and hideous. Azazeal literally performs human sacrifices (he murders Cassie's best friend, Thelma, to gain power), while Edward shuns the killing of humans for food and Angelus kills with pleasure and abandon. Of course, the feminine body is the focus of all three media, in varying degrees of lust and disgust.

The female form popularly codes in cinema and literature as something borderline, something which by its existence threatens the dominant form, and something which cannot define itself but which must be defined. According to Wittig, "it is civilization as a whole which produces this creature, intermediate between male and eunuch which is described as feminine." Kyriarchal mores dictate that the Other be controlled, manipulated, subjugated, and used as necessary. These mores are explicated in Buffy, Hex, and Twilight in the form of sexual intercourse, pregnancy, and abortion. Indeed, in Twilight even the setting plays on the theme, as Bella moves from dry, hot Phoenix where no boys ever liked her to damp, green, fecund Forks, where every male in sight falls over themselves trying to win her. Wittig further notes that in the current system, the biological capacity to become pregnant and give birth is what defines the feminine body, a position which Azazeal explicitly states in the Hex episode "Death Takes the Mother", when he says, "What else are you for?" to Cassie after she expresses disbelief that he could have thought she felt privileged to bear his son. All three of these media utilize the fall-out of sex to hammer home a point of some kind. Let us delve:

1. Angel literally turns into the evil boyfriend and attempts to kill Buffy and her friends. Bad.

2. Azazeal impregnates Cassie with his demon-spawn, which weakens the veil between the worlds; its birth will open a gateway for the rest of the nephilim to return. Worse.

3. Edward impregnates Bella with his demon-spawn, which first results in it killing her from the inside and then in him performing a Caesarean with his teeth. Worst.

Ranking out of whack, you say? Surely the return of evil angels to the world of humans is worse than a single human getting a bizarro operation from her lover. True enough. However, in terms of power, Bella is far worse off than either Cassie or Buffy. Bella is almost completely without power. Buffy and Cassie benefit not only from their personal power (Slayer abilities and inherited witchcraft, respectively), but also from a support network: Buffy has the Scooby Gang and her mother, Cassie has Thelma, her sometime-boyfriend Troy, and her teachers Jo and David, who are attentive to and concerned for her. Bella is isolated--her mother is thousands of miles away, she and her father are estranged at worst and not-very-close at best, and she shunts away school friends in preference of a group of "tame" vampires. Furthermore, instead of developing her own personal power in terms of independence and intelligence (she's not a ditz by any means), she lapses into learned helplessness and reliance on Edward. This is the pattern of abusive relationships, which divide one participant, often a woman but sometimes a man, from friends and family and force reliance on the other participant alone. In Twilight, Edward enacts many familiar examples of abusive behavior--he mocks and taunts Bella in one moment and is concerned for her in the next, forces himself into situations in her life where he is not needed, orders and commands her to do things, and infantilizes her by not allowing her to make decisions or do things herself. It is not adequately explained why Bella is attracted to Edward in the first place, with the audience being left to assume that Bella's attraction is what allows her to let Edward act in the ways that he does.

It can be interpreted that sex is bad for Buffy and Cassie because of what happens afterward--but it may also be interpreted that sex is not the villain, but the surrounding provenance is, including the male partners, worldview of the society, and pure chance. For Bella, however, sex IS the Big Bad, even once she and Edward are safely within the bonds of holy matrimony, with pregnancy acting as retribution. For Buffy, pregnancy is never an issue since Angel shoots blanks, though for the sake of argument I am going to consider Angelus the offspring of the Buffy/Angel coupling. For Cassie, out of her mind at the time of intercourse, condoms never entered the question and so Malachi was conceived (presumably Azazeal's demon semen--look a RHYME!--is capable of penetrating plain old earthly rubber in any case. This is actually part of the problem I have with the Superman movies). Bella and Edward conceive a daughter on their wedding night. All of these offspring bring havoc, a horror-trope version of the "actions bring consequences" which anti-choice pundits like to spew. Angelus is an ancient evil, given new life and strength; Malachi is a supernaturally fast-growing half-witch half-nephilim who goes from fetus to teenager in a matter of weeks; and Renesmee, Bella and Edward's daughter...she is not evil, but she is a vampire, and her conception and gestation nearly kill her mother.

Twilight, Hex, and Buffy each play around with the popular view that unwanted pregnancies are what happen to "bad girls," with varying degrees of subversion and reinforcement. In some ways, Hex is the most overtly feminist of the three (Whedon's f-card notwithstanding): Cassie is raped, impregnated, and seeks an abortion, while her lesbian best friend is murdered...with the perpetrator of these violences being the poster boy of the patriarchal system who repeatedly strips women of their power to choose. Historically society's answer to the threat of "bad" men (coded in entertainment as vampires or other monsters) was to keep women cloistered or subjugated to "good" men in the form of patriarchal families. Twilight embraces and develops this, with the Cullen "family" of vampires being the ideal and Bella being in favor of her pregnancy, while Buffy and Hex twist it on its head. The "bad men" of these two worlds are embodiments of patriarchal values, with Azazeal being the most damning artifact, evidenced by the following speech made in the episode "The Release":

Azazeal: For me [the Christmas story is about] the courage of Mary. Imagine the scandal for a young unmarried girl...it was an illicit pregnancy and everyone in Nazareth knew it...Mary knew there was no human father. She had no idea how she'd conceived...imagine her plight, her confusion. A mother nowadays might consider abortion. and there would be no baby Jesus, no Christianity. [Abortion] is an act of Herod. The taking of a human life is a sin. When does human life begin? Does it begin at birth, or it does it begin at the end of the second trimester of pregnancy when the law deems a baby is viable? Life begins at the moment of conception, for that is when the soul is born. People speak to me of women's rights. Who speaks for the child who has no voice? The Lord speaks and his voice is clear. He says to those who would murder a child: I am come, that they may have life.

This speech, made to, funnily enough, a church group gathering for scripture study, sums up the anti-choice movement in the US neatly, hitting all the major talking points--when does life begin, who speaks for the "child", careless throwing-away of women's rights and health issues, the red herring of "you might be killing the next Jesus/star football player/doctor who cures cancer." Images and instances of abortion flourish in all three settings--Cassie attempts to get an abortion (thwarted only because Azazeal has influenced her doctor to save the already-viable fetus) and then tries to kill her son, Malachi, once he is born. Buffy kills Angelus, effectively an abortion (and it must be said: she kills him with a phallic instrument, a sword). Edward actually urges Bella to get an abortion which she does not want, and the realities of her pregnancy urge use of the term in its other sense: as something monstrous.

Angel, in contrast to Azazeal and Edward, represents the virgin/whore dichotomy foisted on women by kyriarchy. Wittig states that "women have been ideologically built into a "natural group"...our bodies as well as our minds are the product of this manipulation," with said manipulation being that all women are the same, all go through the same experiences and all have the same proclivities, habits, and reactions. Neither virginity nor promiscuity is inherently better of a state than the other; furthermore there are hundreds more possible states of existence for women to inhabit. Angel-as-virgin and Angelus-as-whore shows this dichotomy for the silliness that it is--as virgin, Angel is the epitome of courtliness and chivalry, handsome, sensitive, and true to his lady; as whore, Angelus tortures, fornicates, and murders, and does so with a grin and giggle. There is no room for the grey, line-blurring version of Angel (which was developed in his eponymous series later on, to much acclaim). Similarly the virgin/whore roles for women allow no in-between and restrict women's choice.

Bella's longing to become a vampire is two-pronged: first, sex with Edward is conditionally tied to her vampirism, since he fears hurting her, and second, she wants entry into the Cullen "family" with its wealth, culture, and close bond. Given Meyer's religious background, it is not difficult to read the Cullen vampires as the lauded "eternal family" of LDS doctrine and Bella's desire to be part of them as a righteous desire for conversion and salvation. We see Bella's sexual feelings inspired not just by Edward's Adonis looks, but also by what he represents: money, comfort, security, family--the prosperity gospel dressed up as an immortal hunk. And magically, when she is turned, there is no negative fall-out. Her parents do not object; the rest of the Cullens remark on her amazing ability to not go crazy at the scent of human blood; she is beautiful, strong, fast, graceful, immortal, and she can have as much sex with Edward as she likes. Vampirism, one of the ultimate evils of horror entertainment, becomes a gift. In the world of Twilight, the patriarchal figures reward Bella with these wonderful things, prizes to take the place of what she leaves behind her: her biological family? Her independence? A college degree and career? In similar ways our patriarchal powers reward women with, ostensibly and in the best cases, faithful and loving husbands, secure homes and incomes, and a place in heaven, in return for not attempting to overthrow the dominant order. As de Beauvoir has it, women are required in every case to forget self and to love.

Returning to Creed's definition of the abject, it is worth discussing how "corporeal alteration" takes various forms in supernaturally-themed entertainment. Azazeal's possession of Cassie, Bella's vamping, and the mode of siring in the Buffyverse all utilize fluid exchange: the "whole big sucking thing" ("Welcome to the Hellmouth"). Vampires in popular Western literature have always been erotic, and more often than not their erotic qualities code as some form of sexual violation. Azazeal is not a vampire, but he is effectively the same as Angel or Edward--hundreds of years old, perfectly preserved, with supernatural powers which include the power to subvert humans into something else. The power is in the sex. Fluid exchange is key in all of these scenarios--for Cassie to become possessed, Azazeal's blood was involved ("Deeper Into the Darkness"). If Angel had wanted to sire Buffy, he would have sucked her blood and then she his. For Edward to turn Bella, he had to inject her with his venom (Breaking Dawn). All of these are clear cases of penetration and most particularly destruction of the hymen. It could be argued that Cassie's first time is with Azazeal, though she is physically with Troy, since Troy is possessed by Azazeal and has Azazeal's blood in him, facilitating Cassie's possession in turn. And--of course--Buffy and Bella are virgins when they have sex with Angel and Edward. Of particular note is that Bella's devirginization is two-fold, since she is vamped in close proximity to her wedding night with Edward. Post-coitus, the three women continue to have their roles defined for them; in Bella's case, she becomes completely Edward's wife and Renesmee's mother, as well as becoming a vampire, settling into the role of wife-mother comfortably. Cassie and Buffy exist in a state of "defilement" due to their perceived sins--this elicits anger and fear on Buffy's part, shame, anger, and fear on Cassie's (with the shame stemming not from the sex act itself, but from her lack of control). However, Buffy and Cassie resist this role thrust upon them and the strictures of femininity defined by outside male forces, the act of which takes more courage than is readily evident on the surface. Zizek notes that "by opposing patriarchal domination, women sinultaneously undermine the fantasy-support of their own feminine identity," meaning that if the dominant social structure is to be taken down, everything it previously covered will come down as well. When women fight forces which have controlled their lives, the burden of both the fighting and the constructing of a new society falls on them. The surroundings of Buffy and Hex WANT the heroines to recreate society, to dismantle the master's house, to use Lorde's perfect phrase. Bella is also urged to aid in creating a brave new world, but her role remains traditional and prescribed rather than revolutionary.

Creed, B.(1993). The monstrous feminine: Film, feminism, psychoanalysis. New York: Routledge.

De Beauvoir, S. (1989). The second sex. London: Vintage.

Jones, J. and Watkins, B. (2004-2005). Deeper into the darkness and The Release and Death takes the mother {television broadcast}. UK: Sky One.

Meyer, S. (2008). Breaking dawn. New York: Little, Brown, and Co.

Meyer, S. (2004). Twilight. New York: Little, Brown, and Co.

Whedon, J. (1997). Welcome to the hellmouth {television broadcast}. USA: WB Television Network.

Zizek, S. (1994). The metastases of enjoyment. New York: Verso.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Embodied Gaze: Insertion and Ownership

In "The Androgynous Mind," Woolf notes that the British suffrage movement "must have made [men] lay an emphasis upon their own sex and its characteristics which they would not have troubled to think about had they not been challenged"; Jonathan Culler states that the reader/viewer is assumed to be male, by author, critic, and culture alike. Certainly the relationship between anxious masculinity and the default male body seems clear to modern audiences who give a care to these sorts of things--the default state of the male being has been threatened since Woolf's time and before by feminists and other radical groups. This fear is firmly entrenched in US culture low and high and gives fruit in the media we are discussing here in the form of heterosexual relationships: Bella and Edward, Cassie and Azazeal, and Buffy and Angel. It is important to note that these relationships do not develop organically or more specifically from happenstance. To understand why, we need to delve into the issue of creeperdom. Behold:

1. Angel stalks Buffy once he has turned evil, because he wants to drive her crazy and eventually kill her. However, his introduction into the series (including his retconned introduction) is also in the form of stalking, despite the fact that Buffy tells him not to follow her.

2. Azazeal stalks Cassie because he is evil; namely, because he wants to impregnate her with his demon offspring.

3. Edward stalks Bella because he "loves her" and thinks that watching her sleep, disabling her car, etc. will keep her safe.

Two out of three stalkers recognize that stalking is bad! Don't do it, kids. Stalking is the most obvious manifestation of "power-over" that a man can display without crossing into the territory of rape and physical abuse. Angel's first appearance in BTVS:1 is in the form of stalking, when Buffy is walking home from the Bronze ("Welcome to the Hellmouth"). Later, once Angelus has emerged, he stalks her in earnest and is shot standing outside her house, looking in her windows at night and also into those of her friends, most specifically Willow and Jenny Calendar, two women; he also threatens Buffy's mother ("Passion", "Innocence"). The first time we see Azazeal, he is standing on Medenham's grounds, watching Cassie from various locations--and this is the mode of his appearance for quite some time. After they have met formally, Azazeal steps this behavior up, appearing in Cassie's bedroom to watch her sleep, standing outside her windows, and following her around school and in town; he even pops up in a bar ("Life Goes On"). Edward's notorious stalking begins, arguably, when he prevents Bella from being hit by a car (Twilight) and then escalates into sneaking into her room while she is sleeping, disabling her truck's engine to keep her from leaving her house (Eclipse), and even conscripting his sister, Alice, into watching Bella for him via her visions (Eclipse). How does each girl react? Buffy tells S1 Angel to step off and stop following her, because she hates being followed and can take care of herself; she actively fights S2 Angelus and eventually kills him. Cassie at first tries to understand why Azazeal is following her around--she initially has no notion of her witch ancestry and powers--and then attempts to avoid him. Bella finds Edward's advances romantic and reassuring, for the most part; when she finds out that Edward has been in her room at night, her reaction is horror--because she talks in her sleep and is afraid of what he might have heard (Twilight).

The male gaze in each instance is an embodied, directed thing, no longer an abstract theory but an active agent with an agenda ('ware travelers, here be alliterative agony). In all cases, the male figures insert themselves into the females' lives; they are not sought, but choose to enter with the careless power that is their birthright. Again from Culler: "The experience of being watched, seen as "a girl," restricted, marginalized" is the experience of women in our society since history began. When the default gaze, body, and experience is male, the right to reject that gaze, body, and experience never exists for the subjugated. According to Mulvey in her seminal work "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema," mainstream film (writ large, mainstream culture) "coded the erotic into the language of the dominant patriarchal order." I would change "patriarchal" to "kyriarchal," given that Bella is complicit--or at least unresisting--in her domination by Edward. Cassie is drawn to Azazeal once he has possessed her, and after the possession has worn off, she still feels a residual pull, but she identifies him firmly as villainous. Buffy is in love with Angel, despite his stalking behavior, because he shows himself to be on the side of good. The line between Angel-as-good and Edward-as-good is that Buffy is never at the mercy of Angel, while every interaction and conversation between Bella and Edward shows that Bella is powerless to defend herself against Edward. Cassie too is vulnerable to Azazeal, but she makes the effort of fighting him and trying to direct her own life.

The physicality of our supernatural males' gazes is compounded by what the wielders choose to do with their power. On the scale of natural to unnatural with "natural" being "most true to idealized heterosexual life", Buffy/Angel is the MOST NATURAL relationship with Bella/Edward and Cassie/Azazeal tied for the LEAST NATURAL slot. This is mostly because Azazeal (in the best possibility) tricks and manhandles Cassie into fucking him and (in the worst possibility) rapes her, whilst Angel and Buffy have sex because they're in love and that's what people in love do, should they desire to...and Bella and Edward are fairly psychotic, emotionally. Specifically, Bella's desire is denied to her by Edward until they are married (at the beginning of the fourth book, Breaking Dawn. This extreme lapse has led to referring to the series as "abstinence porn") due to his sense of what is "right," attributed to his old-fashioned sensibilities; a great deal of their time together is spent in mutual unfulfilled desire. He, like Angel, can be considered "human" because of his fight against his monstrous instincts (and is therefore less threatening than, say, James or the Volturi), and Bella is in fact the first to broach the topic and remains open about what she wants to do. The issues are largely on Edward's end, because of his association of sex sans marital bonds with "bad". Buffy and Angel each have desire and it plays out as naturally as possible, given the situation--Buffy reasons that sleeping with Angel is not so bad because his vampireness is tempered by his ensouled state; effectively he is a superpowered human, and neither knows that anything bad will happen if they do have sex AND neither is leading the other on. Cassie is unwilling to have sex with Azazeal of her own will (due to his unabashed evilness, revealed most emphatically when he murders her best friend Thelma), so Azazeal possesses her. Once she is free of the possession, Cassie's revulsion of him returns, though tainted with memories of what had happened between them. Effectively Azazeal date-rapes her vicariously via intercourse with her boyfriend Troy (who, also being possessed, passes the possession on to Cassie) and then engages in technically consensual sex with her while she is possessed, though it's made clear that she is not in control of her body or mind at the time (in the aptly-named episode "Possession").

None of these relationships are what we would deem "healthy." Why then do we lionize and dream after them? What is the major appeal? Angel, Azazeal, and Edward have some things in common: all are immortal, all are handsome, all are supernaturally powered, all are charming. They are fuckable. But where popular opinion, scholarship, and interpretations diverge is on the question of whether there is something inherently wrong with lusting after the Bad Boy. For my money, the inherent wrong is in the power structure in which heterosexual relationships currently operate. If Cassie/Buffy/Bella desired Azazeal/Angel/Edward and wanted to have sex with him, there should be no negative fall-out, because sex is not inherently bad. The negative fall-out in the real world comes from the system of men's ownership of the women they consort with--once fucked, your organs are no longer your own. This system translates in the media we are examining to: Once fucked, evil appears/tries to take over your body/tries to kill you. The blame falls on the woman, though the instrument of evil is the man (or, in the case of Bella, the fruit of the man). Women's sexuality and women's bodies and women's existence are faulted, often for the harm that comes to them (in the form of victim-blaming). Thus it is Buffy's fault that Angel turns into Angelus; Bella's fault that her fetus is killing her from the inside (and her fault that Edward can't resist her, her fault that Jacob is attracted to her, her fault that James and then the Volturi want to kill her, her fault that Jasper cannot control himself around her, etc. etc. etc. All the fault of Bella's freesia-scented blood); Cassie's fault that the Nephilim return to Earth and Malachi, her and Azazeal's son, is going to tear the world apart.

The crux of Angel, Azazeal, and Edward's behavior is a tendency toward voyeurism, evidenced most clearly by their stalking. Again Mulvey--the pleasure of voyeurism "lies in ascertaining guilt...asserting control and subjugating the guilty person through punishment or forgiveness." With regard to our supernatural men and human women, this definition can be applied two ways:

First, the guilty party is the female (the watched), by virtue of her existence or a slight, perceived or real. The righteous party (the male watcher) applies punishment via sexual avenues. Angelus threatens Buffy's life in overtly sexual ways--the aftermath of their lovemaking, when Angelus has emerged from Angel, is rife with carefully stereotypical misogynist language; he sends her flowers as a subversion of a romantic gesture. Edward denies Bella sexual intercourse, which she desires. Azazeal rapes Cassie after she denies him sexual intercourse.

Second, the guilty party is the male (the watcher), by virtue of his state as voyeur, which goes against what the righteous female (the watched) desires. Buffy fights back against Angelus and ultimately kills him. Bella is bitten (coded in sexual terms as "used" or "damaged") by James, an evil vampire, forcing Edward to save her. Cassie resists Azazeal's further attempts and tries to kill his child.

Both definitions are intriguing and applicable to our situations. The first is the default state, with the watched female body and audience complicit in the male gaze. The second is what happens when the woman and audience wake up--no longer is Edward able to tell Bella, "No one will believe you" with impunity, and Angelus' taunt that Buffy is powerless with her weapons and friends taken from her is shown for the lie it is. Once aware, we are capable of seeing what Bella sees: that there is something profoundly different about Edward, and furthermore, that our eyes do not deceive us. We are capable of continuing on our own, without husband or friends or tools if necessary, for we are humans too.

Culler, J. (1983). On deconstruction: Theory and criticism after structuralism. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Jones, J. and Watkins, L. (2004). Life goes on and Possession {television broadcast}. UK: Shine Limited.

Meyer, S. (2004). Twilight. New York: Little, Brown, and Co.

Meyer, S. (2007). Eclipse. New York: Little, Brown, and Co.

Mulvey, L. (2009). Visual and other pleasures. Boston: Palgrave Macmillan.

Whedon, J. (1997-98). Welcome to the hellmouth and Passion and Innocence. {television broadcast}. USA: Mutant Enemy Productions.

Woolf, V. (1989). A room of one's own. New York: Mariner Books.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Body Appreciation Sunday: The Rack

Greetings and welcome to Sunday! Today I want to talk about boobs. You know, breasts, jugs, fun bags, ta-tas, hooters, tits. Who doesn't love boobs? I am more of a booty gal myself, but I definitely appreciate a nice set of knockers.

I suppose that's offensive enough for now. The point of it all is that breasts are excellent for one very specific reason: they feed babies. Yes, they are attractive, and yes, they feel nice and are fun to play with, but those are secondary to the baby-feeding part. Women who can breastfeed and choose to do so are high on my list of folks to admire, and boo on places that don't want to let them. I like my own boobs very much and I hope that if I have a baby someday, I'll be able to breastfeed it.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Film Fantasy Friday: The Return of the Native

I was oh, SO torn, dear readers, about which Hardy novel to choose for today. I love Hardy, and Return of the Native isn't my favorite of his (that would be Far from the Madding Crowd), but Tess is the best known and, well, I can't resist Eustacia Vye.

Clym Yeobright: played by Michael Fassbender, Clym gives up a business career in Paris to become a schoolmaster for poor kids on Egdon Heath, his birthplace. Assorted trials attack him, including failing eyesight and a not-exactly-smart choice of a bride.

Eustacia Vye: played by Natalie Dormer, Eustacia is a high-spirited, stubborn woman and the local beauty--though also reputed to be a witch. She marries Clym, hoping that he will take her to Paris, but carries on an affair with Damon Wildeve.

Thomasin (Tamsin) Yeobright: played by April Pearson, Tamsin is Clym's cousin, who lives with his mother. She marries Damon Wildeve, but ultimately ends up with Diggory Venn.

Diggory Venn: played by David Call, Diggory is a "reddleman", a seller of red chalk and a strange traveling man. He ultimately renounces his nomadic trade, becomes a dairyman, and settles down with Tamsin.

Damon Wildeve: played by Colin Farrell, Damon is a good-for-little innkeeper with a wandering eye. He marries Tamsin while still carrying on with Eustacia.

And that's how Diana casts it. All images pulled from Google and Wikipedia.
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