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The Blatherings Of A Blitherer

Phil Miller and Male Entitlement

March26

NOTE:
This post contains spoilers for the first five episodes of Fox’s Last Man On Earth.

Phil Miller has spent much of his post-virus last man on earth time wallowing in his own filth, drunk, in droopy underpants. In the Before Times, the 41 year old man had a job- not a career- as a temp. Unless the Tuscan, AZ temp market is vastly different from the Chicago, IL temp market, he was making $8-11 an hour, or just enough to afford his shabby apartment, single lifestyle, and not much more.

When Phil, who has given up on personal hygiene, sobriety, and life, meets clean and well groomed (shaved legs, even!) Carol, he stumbles across her clean drying laundry (and bra) first, spinning a fantasy of the sexy young soulmate they belong to. Carol’s less than conventionally attractive appearance puts him off immediately. She doesn’t live up to his fantasy. She isn’t what he deserves. Phil, who has literally been living in a pile of garbage and shitting in a pool, is convinced that she isn’t good enough for him. This despite the fact that Carol, annoying quirks aside, has her life pretty together. She manages to bathe and wash her laundry, for instance. She has plans for the future that don’t involve soaking in an inflatable pool filled with alcohol. And unlike temp Phil she had an actual career as an office manager of a business, which meant she was making significantly more than Phil and also probably had PTO, health insurance, and a 401k. In the old world, there’s a good chance she would have been out of his league, and yet Phil considers himself comfortably superior to her because of her appearance and insistence on stopping at stop signs (which, by the way, ignoring stop signs lead to a car crash when Melissa shows up). But really, which is worse: being a stickler for grammar or shitting in a pool and living amidst literal piles of literal garbage with food crusted on your face and in your beard?

Likewise, when Melissa shows up– younger looking than Carol, more conventionally attractive, more stylish, more made-up, more blonde– Phil feels entitled to her sexually and emotionally. She is more attractive than him, and again, in the before times she had a career as a Real Estate Agent and made FAR more money than he did. She, again, would have been very out of his league and yet he feels entitled to her simply because he exists and he wants her. Melissa can barely tolerate his creepy and predatory company, desperate horniness aside. (And in a world where every single vibrator and battery is free and available, would she REALLY be that desperate for sex with a creepy married dude? That plotlette very much feels like something a group of dudes would come up with.) Phil has nothing to offer her besides sex, and yet he feels he deserves her and if given the chance (no Carol, no Todd) she would realize how great he is and return his interest and attention, even though he has an established history of lying to her and betraying her trust.

This is an example of the same male entitlement that gives rise to the Nice Guys who have nothing to offer save feigned respect and kindness with an ulterior motive, and who deride and berate the women (usually better looking, with better jobs and social skills) who don’t appreciate their greatness and refuse to fuck/date/marry them.

Phil’s attitude is toxic, and dangerous, and creates a hostile and threatening environment for Melissa and Carol to navigate. When Carol pulled a gun on drunk, urine-soaked Phil and demanded to know if he was a nice person or not he said he was. But as his interactions with his fellow survivors show, he isn’t very nice at all.

Will his brief moment of emotional vulnerability and truth with Melissa mark a change in his toxic personality, or will he continue being a barely likable (albeit wittily written) character? I have a sneaking suspicion that “Last Man On Earth” may reflect the reluctance of an increasing number of survivors to put with him and his manipulations.

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Bechdel, Mako Mori, and other “feminist” “tests”

February7

In 1985, Alison Bechdel used an idea by her friend Liz Wallace to create a strip for “Dykes to Watch Out For” where two women discuss going to see a movie. One states her movie rule: That any movie she watches has to have:

  • at least two women
  • who talk to each other
  • about something other than a man

The character goes on to state that the last movie she was able to see was “Alien” because the two women in it discuss the monster.

This is, again, a comic from 1985.

Thirty years later, most movies still fail this basic criteria. This is the absolute bare minimum required for anything approaching decent representation of women, and yet most movies and tv shows don’t even offer this much. Marvel, for instance, is much lauded for their leftist movies, yet in “Captain America II: The Winter Soldier” Black Widow and Agent Maria Hill don’t interact except to discuss Nick Fury and who shot him. Black Widow, an amazing character, doesn’t interact with ANY women, although she talks about them in attempts to get Steve Rogers laid.

It’s possible to have a movie that passes the Bechdel test and is still a horrible movie that treats women like garbage, too. You could have two women whose only interaction is to discuss how much they looooove chocolate and manicures and shoes, for instance, or how bad they are at math. But since the vast majority of movies and tv shows have no or only one woman, even that doesn’t happen.

So some people have proposed the Mako Mori test to see if a movie is “truly” feminist, even though the Bechdel test isn’t anything close to a guarantee of feminism. The Mako Mori test is simple, involving:

  • at least one female character
  • who gets her own narrative arc
  • that is not about supporting a man’s story

Wow wow wow, amazing right? A movie that has a fully fledged female character that does stuff independent of a man? Well this obviously blows the Bechdel test out of the water, who needs that garbage thing anymore, right? Except this ignores the fact that Mako Mori type characters, as great as they are, still tend to be Exceptional Women who exist in isolation, in worlds populated almost solely by men. “Pacific Rim” had all of one female character other than Mako Mori, who had very few lines, and never interacted with Mori. Mori was raised by a man, studied with men, had no women in her life. She’s treated, her character is treated, as a human being with motivations and flaws and goals just like male characters are routinely treated. But she’s the ONLY female character allowed to be human. It’s a step forward, but it’s a baby step.

It is incredibly easy to set up a movie, tv show, or book that passes the Bechdel test. It’s the lowest possible bar for treating women characters as something more than accessories for male characters or tokens, yet most media still utterly fails to do this simple thing. The Mako Mori test provides a template for a more realized woman character, but still leaves her isolated and tottering gently on the pedestal of Exceptionalism. They’re both good starts, but after thirty years media still has the same problems Liz Wallace and Alison Bechdel were so frustrated with.

It’s interesting to see people pitting the Bechdel Test and the Mako Mori test against each other, as if there’s only One True Way to express women as human. And of course by “interesting” I mean “depressing as hell.” They’re both pretty bare bones requirements and yet these basic needs still aren’t met. Women overwhelmingly are not treated as humans and when they are, Mako Mori aside, they tend to be white women.

A Sherlock Holmes Fan Fiction… thing? IDEK

November16

So apparently at one point I commenced writing a Sherlock Holmes fan fiction. I found it in my google drive while looking for Secret Chicago stuff. I have no idea where I was going with this, but it’s a big of brotherly bickering between Sherlock Holmes and his eldest brother Sherringford. What was I leading up to? Why is Sherringford wearing dark glasses? What’s happening? What’s Mycroft doing? Is this before Watson (probably)? Was I… was I going to discuss their parents here? Is this even based on the BBC tv show? I can’t remember now.

“Sherry!”
“I’ve told you, SHIRLEY, don’t call me Sherry.”
“But your name’s so long and it saves so much time!”
“It’s disrespectful.”
“It’s a nickname. It’s done out of fondness and brotherly love. How can something so tender and respectful and loving be disrespectful?”
“Because I don’t like it and you know I don’t like it. I’ve asked you to stop calling me that and you are disregarding my wishes… disrespecting them, if you will. It’s disrespectful because you are purposely doing something I dislike. Ass.”
“But it’s respectful to call me an Ass?”
“I call them as I see them, Sherlock.”
Sherlock huffed and flopped onto Sherringford’s bed, sprawled on his back.
“If you dirty my coverlet with your muddy boots, I will flog you.”
“That is an empty threat.”
“Are you willing to test me?”
Sherlock sighed and inched downward a bit, resting his heels on the foot board of the bed. Sherringford shook his head and removed his dark glasses, polishing the lenses on his special glasses cleaning cloth.
“That isn’t much better. Where is Mycroft? I thought you were tagging about after him today.”
“He’s out. He wouldn’t say where he was going.”
“I imagine he’s with a girl, then.”

posted under 100 words, fanfic, TV | Comments Off on A Sherlock Holmes Fan Fiction… thing? IDEK

Joss Whedon and the Myth of the Exceptional Woman

October15

One of the tropes Joss Whedon returns to over and over is The Exceptional Woman. In his narratives, this is a (generally very young, very physically small) woman who is the best ever at what she does without having to really work at it. It’s either a natural talent, or an unnatural one forced upon her against her will… sometimes painfully. On the one hand, you have your Willow Rosenbergs and Kaylee Fryes, and Skye (no last name)s who may work at something but don’t need to work THAT hard because they are NATURALLY GIFTED. Willow did a lot of research, but also had a vast well of world-ending power deep inside her. Kaylee could fix engines she’d never seen before, because OSMOSIS (her dad was a mechanic, it rubbed off on her). Skye does a lot of computer work, but has never had to seriously study anything seriously, or even finish high school. Naturally talented! Gifted! Effortlessly amazing! On the other hand you have your Buffy Summers and your River Tams, cruelly manipulated and forced into something they didn’t want to be, by the actions of old men. Unnaturally gifted, they don’t have to work for what they have either. Sure, early series Giles is always bugging Buffy to practice and study strategy and be serious, but over and over we were shown that she doesn’t need to.

Joss Whedon is often lauded as Feminist, and as good for women. His shows, especially “Buffy,” are considered girl-positive. And it’s honestly rare to see decently developed female characters on tv. But the way Whedon persists in displaying women and their abilities is harmful to women.

Why do I say this?

It’s rare for women to be recognized as experts in their field, even in women-centric discussions like Feminism or in traditionally women-centric fields of employment like teaching or nursing. As Ben Barres has famously pointed out, people react differently to scientific research, to facts and figures and provable results, based on the gender (or perceived gender) of the person publishing the work. It’s why Kim O’Grady only got callbacks on his resume after he added “Mr” to his name. It’s why a man who admitted to attempted murder and “accidental” rape was one of the paid spokespersons for Feminism for years. Patriarchal society accepts that men are superior to women, and that it’s rare for women to be in positions of power or authority, to be good at what they do, because they just are innately inferior. Patriarchal society accepts that men and women simply think differently and that the way women think (and speak and socialize and budget their time and spend their money etc) is inferior to the way men think (and all the rest). Patriarchal society accepts that a handful of women will be super exceptional and naturally gifted and will rise to the top, proving their natural worth, but the rest of women are just inferior or lazy or stupid or too busy shopping for shoes or whatever to do the same.

So when a Big Name in media, someone lauded as Feminist, routinely portrays only Exceptional Women Who Are Naturally Gifted, it buys into the established myth that most women are mundane but some select and glorious few are ~~SPECIAL~~ and ~~GIFTED~~ and ~~DESERVING~~. And it reinforces the narrative that while it’s accepted and normal for men to work hard and get ahead, to study martial arts or science or tactics or wood working or whatever to become successful, the same isn’t true for women. The only really acceptable way to be a stand out woman, a central character, is to have The Hand Of God marking you as innately special and gifted. And that means it’s ok and normal and routine for men to be experts and leaders 95% of the time, because most women just can’t cut it.

It’s a way of both putting women on a pedestal (so special! so exceptional! so naturally gifted!) while also putting limits on them (no need to try to work hard or study or practice, you’ve got it or you don’t). It’s a way of establishing unrealistic role models and goals. It’s a way of dismissing most women and their experiences.

It really sucks.

And it’s harmful.

(NB: I have not discussed “Dollhouse” at all because I found the show deeply, deeply creepy and did not watch it.)

This is the sort of thing one might use twitter for…

September28

Kind of an info dump here, a lot of unrelated things.

1) I “cut” my foot but really what probably happened is that my feet are really really dry and my foot cracked. It hurts and I’m trying not to walk on it too much because that stretches the crack/cut. It’s possible I stepped on a bit of broken glass or something and didn’t feel it when it happened, because my feet are really calloused up and I don’t always feel when they’re cut. So people ask me a lot if I have diabetes/neuropathy (because I am all OH GOD I CUT MY FOOT OH THE PAIN THE PAIN because I am a big whiny baby). I don’t. I used to dance competitively and my feet are coated in fleshy armor. Most likely my feet just cracked, but I’m embarrassed to say that for some reason, so I stick with the “cut it and didn’t realize it” story even though it leads to Diabetes questions. I have no idea why having dry cracked feet embarrasses me.

2) This should probably have been my lede as it will no doubt interest people a lot more than my stupid foot. I’ve been re-reading all the Amber books (yay!) which I haven’t read in, oh, ten years or so. This despite having been in an Amber game that lasted about a decade (literally). Anyway, I fell in love with the series all ver again, for all that much of the writing is very clunky and inconsistent and Oh, The Sexism (which does get better with time, but never gets, you know, great). I want to run an Amber game set in the version of Amber that’s grown up around Corwin’s Pattern. This world is essentially a Fantasy/Idealized 1920s France filled with Jules Verne shit, jazz music, and tasty food. It has its own version of the Courts of Chaos (which I am leaning towards making kind of Fairy Like complete with different Courts), and many of Corwin’s offspring don’t know about Amber. Or about his son Merlin. The hook of the game is that Shadows are disappearing/being destroyed and the players (the youngest adult children, all with Pattern) need to figure out why.

3) I have PCOS and lately I have been trying to limit my intake of refined carbohydrates (bread, all things that are good). So I wake up in the morning, declare to myself that I’m going to cut back, then eat nothing but toast all day. Today I woke up and had a bowl of oatmeal. I’m eating chili for lunch. We’ll see how the day plays out. I LOVE BREAD SO MUCH YOU GUYS.

4) I once again submitted an application for medical benefits/SNAP. This will be my fourth application in less than a year. We qualify like woah and since we are in a new fiscal year perhaps they won’t simply ignore the applications this time around. Wish me luck. It’s becoming really obvious that I need to get back on Welbutrin and that the generic stuff is not cutting it.

5) We finished watching “Life on Mars” which I really liked (the UK version) and now are working our way through “Ashes to Ashes” which I don’t like as much for a number of reasons including the main character (and I’m struggling to figure out of that is internalized misogyny on my part or not) and the many many times she’s reduced to a figure for The Male Gaze. Drake seems less of a main character than Tyler did, and Guv seems more of a presence, more of a character (as opposed to a Rival Force or whatever). I still like it a lot, though.

6) I also watched “Elviria: Mistress of the Dark.” My God I love that movie. I want to do a comic that combines the basic plot of Elvira (campy horror movie hostess inherits house and magic in conservative small town) and “Life on Mars” (she also is in the past).

7) If you’re on Dreamwidth, I’m “Brigid” on there.

posted under life, stuff, TV | Comments Off on This is the sort of thing one might use twitter for…

Despite what the commercials claim…

December28

Despite what the commercials claim, dieting isn’t going to fix all your problems.

No, joining weight watchers isn’t going to prevent jerks from slamming into your desk and spilling coffee all over your shirt. Nor will joining weight watchers prevent rain from falling from the sky and getting you wet.

I just… what?

Dieting isn’t some magic fix that will repair everything that’s wrong with your life.

Also, if you are an adult, don’t be surprised if a child’s size chair is too small for you. No amount of Special K magical special diets will turn an adult’s butt into a child’s butt.

Adults and children are different sizes. Children are smaller than adults. Yes, there are especially large children and especially small adults, but in general, child-sized things are child-sized because children are smaller than adults.

As baffling as the weight watcher’s commercial was (seriously? coffee spills can be solved by losing weight? only fat people spill coffee when jerks bang into them? rain, which once fell on the just and unjust alike, now targets fatties?), the Special K commercial seems more harmful. There’s the push to shrink female bodies, to reduce them to non-adult sizes. There’s existing rhetoric about how dieting mentality infantalizes women by removing their ability to chose what to eat, that dieting mentality punishes women for defying the ideal feminine norm and growing hips and butts and breasts (you know, secondary sexual signs). But now the message is coming clear: adult women are fucking hose beast lard bags if they don’t fit neatly into furniture scaled for children. Women: they need to remain child like and child sized or they are useless and terrible and need to be fixed. Adult women: there is something wrong with them.

The hell?

Note also that both commercials show conventionally attractive women who do not appear fat, or even chubby, and who have children. Ahh, true womanhood. Hot and fertile.

posted under advertising, body issues, feminism, health, life, TV, women | Comments Off on Despite what the commercials claim…

Oh, hey, “The View;” your ignorance is showing

May28

Since having a baby I’ve spent a LOT more time watching really damn boring and frequently offensive daytime tv. I was watching “The View” today while cuddling a very cranky post-vaccine baby when Justin Long came on as guest to promote his new movie “Drag me to Hell.” “Drag me to Hell” is a simply HILARIOUS movie about a woman who is cursed by a disgusting, toothless, greedy Gypsy. Oh ho ho! Those Gypsies! They are almost human! Look at how ugly and backwards they are, tossing about their magical demonic curses! In fact, they are so non-human that most reviews don’t even bother to capitalize the “G” in “Gypsy.” Well, you know. It’s not like gypsies can READ or anything. Well, anything other than chicken entrails. HAW HAW HAW it sure is fun to mock a frequently maligned minority and set them up as the constant villain! Then, of course, there’s also the question of why Long was featured as a guest since apparently he does next to nothing in the movie.

While interviewing him, someone (Whoopi?) asked if he believed in curses. He says that no, of course not, he doesn’t! But he was raised Catholic (lolcatholiclol) and they have ALL SORTS of curses! Uh… what? Seriously? What flavor of Catholicism would that be? Because I was raised Roman Catholic, went to religious schools and everything, and I don’t remember any mention of curses. I have to admit, that caught me by surprise; I was waiting for some cannibalism or vampire joke (loltransubstantiationlol) so the whole “hot bed of curses” allegation really came out of left field.

Of course none of this was questioned. Because Gypsies aren’t a real group of people; they are fantasy caricatures who toss off curses left and right and are non-Christian and animalistic and ugly and thus it’s totally valid to have them be the odious villain. And I’m not trying to claim that Catholics are sooooo discriminated against, OMG you guys, you just don’t UNDERSTAND what it’s like to be a persecuted religious minority! But seriously. Curses? I don’t really get people who mock Catholicism in that way (because dudes, there is so much that deserves deriding). I would never ever EVER make fun of Judaism or Islam or most sects of Christianity and claim they are all about the curses and crazy times. But then, maybe I’m just classier than a gaggle of douchebags on tv.

Oh, that’s scary.

posted under religion, review, social responsibility, TV | Comments Off on Oh, hey, “The View;” your ignorance is showing