After last week’s comparative drought, I have a deluge of internets for you all this week. First up, the Ninth Feminist SF Carnival is up at League of Substitute Superheroes. Lots of good stuff has been collected together, as always – go check it out! And if you dig the Feminist SF Carnivals as much as I do, please consider getting in touch with Ragnell about hosting one: ragnellthefoul[AT]hotmail[DOT]com.
If you enjoy reading smart essays about sci-fi and fantasy and whatever other pop culture things you’re into offline, too, you might be interested in a line of books I found out about this week: SmartPop Books. They have a lot of intriguing titles, and, better yet, some essays available for free download (or perusal online, if you don’t mind loading .pdfs in your browser window). I only had time to read one essay there this week, and while I found that I disagreed with many of the claims the author was making, it was still an enjoyable read, and I intend to go back for more (the essay was “To Sir, With Love,” by Joyce Millman, regarding Severus Snape, if you really want to know).
Nanny McPhee is illustrative of the greater, often unsaid expectations of children and women in this culture. The children’s world is defined by adults, and they’re punished for stepping out of it, much like women are punished for deviating from their gender roles. It’s even more telling that these subtle messages are in a children’s movie, where lessons on maintaining the status quo start young.
Also at Feminist SF – The Blog!, Ide Cyan was not happy about the gendering of tools in The Sarah Jane Adventures:
Why is she defined, here, by giving her sonic “screwdriver” such a gendered form of camouflage as lipstick? Why not a pen? Something connected to her profession? Something that doesn’t have to be uncapped in times of emergency?
Why give a woman a Sonic Lipstick on a series aimed at children, whose other principal character was a young girl?
I don’t find it cute. At all. I find it insulting, and insidious.
At Faux Real Tho!, Lauren explores the relationship between a particular kind of Nice Guy and action movie heroes:
This brand of Nice Guy desperately wants all the world to shower him with appreciation for all of his niceness. He also wanted the world to see his inherent potential as a deeply dramatic, deep, deep guy, who really cares, who cares so much he would do anything “” anything! “” for his family and “real” friends. (Unreal friends are those who don’t appreciate his awesomeness.) And he really wants you to see that. Save the Day Guyâ„¢ is just like the hero in the movies. Just like, I don’t know, every lead character Mel Gibson has immortalized on the big screen.
If you’re interested in the whole Nice Guy thing (especially if you happen to be a guy, and are wondering wtf is wrong with being a nice one), a LiveJournal post by gunderpants, “dating tips a la gun,” might be of some interest to you.
Elsewhere on LiveJournal this week, monkeycrackmary wrote about why she hasn’t shut up yet about wanting to see more strong female characters, and Sara Frost discussed the ways in which some supposedly-threatening female characters are terribly weak [post since deleted]:
What I’m concerned about is that these female characters are weak; they have little real power or abilities, these shallow and pathetic girls. What harm they do is temporary and easily overcome. This is distinct from the male Dark Lords with a similar lack of redeeming qualities; they have power. Even the Repulsive Minion who wants to rape SpunkyGirl Generic is at least something of a threat, but the Mean Girl has no such ability. She’s nothing but low-level spite in a physically frail package, a girl with nothing but her looks (which don’t even appeal to the hero) to fall back on, no special hobbies like secret tuition in swordfighting or horseriding or everything else Special Miss I-Don’t-Want-To-Be-A-Lady occupies herself in.
And this is misogynist: it is bashing female characters who are essentially powerless. It’s similar to the “˜compliment’ “You’re not like other girls”: why do other women, especially those with stereotypical “˜feminine’ qualities, need to be demeaned to make the main female character look good?
Sarah Frost uses the term “Mary-Sue” to describe the heroine of the book she’s writing about. Though the concept of Mary-Sue as a type of character came out of fanfiction and fandom, it’s being used more and more often to describe characters in movies, television, and published fiction, especially in YA fantasy and sci-fi (from what I’ve seen, anyway). Mickle, writing at The True Confessions of an Hourly Bookseller, would like us to knock it off:
My pet theory for why girls are more likely to write Mary Sue fanfic? A) they are more likely to write fanfic and B) They need it more because fewer of the female characters out there fulfill the same function for girls and women that Rocky, Eragon, Batman, Luke Skywalker, James Bond etc. fulfill for boys and men.
So, yeah, any female equivalent of Rocky is going to have aspects of Mary Sue-ness – because Rocky has aspects of Mary Sue-ness.
But we only call River a Mary Sue, not James Bond. And seriously, which is more deserving of the title of Mary Sue – James Bond or River?
Mickle also took on the term “Fan Service” this week, discussing the ways in which the term as it is usually used is sexist (and heterosexist, really). Like many of her commenters (on both posts), I wasn’t sure that I agreed with her at first about terms like “Mary-Sue” and “Fan Service” being gendered-and-or-sexist – I mean, I use them in a gender neutral way! And so do all of my awesome friends! Surely, that must count for something!
But upon reflection, I think it’s worth remembering that the people who are reading and commenting on blogs like Mickle’s (or Hathor, or When Fangirls Attack, etc., etc.) tend to be people who are actively involved in the more-feminist side(s) of fandom(s). Consider for a moment the ways in which the vast majority of fans use “Mary-Sue” and “Fan Service”, and I suspect that you’ll conclude, as I did, that those terms really are sexist, in common usage.
For this week’s “I Read the Internets link that I have no idea how to segue gracefully into,” here’s a post at Packet Switched Press about how the comic Y: The Last Man could be adapted into a seriously rad videogame. It’s a fun speculative post, but one thing that wasn’t addressed which I thought of right away once the idea of “Y: The Last Man as a videogame” had penetrated was – that could totally be a game with significantly more playable female characters than male characters. The storyline in the comics is great, but wouldn’t it be cool – if a videogame based on the concept was ever developed – to explore some of the other aspects of that comic-book world? And not being able to play Yorick or Ampersand would mean that the only choices would be women and girls. I think Hero would make a particularly spiffing playable character.
Finishing up this week, via Elaine Cunningham’s LJ, I saw some funny altered romance novel covers. Some of them are pretty dreadful, but quite a few are hilarious. My favorite is the one with Scottie McMullet.
Annnnd finally – I hear that it’s “National Delurking Week,” or something like that. So, uh, if you’ve been reading us here at Hathor, and never commented, perhaps you’d like to say “hey”? We’d love to hear from you all, and if you can’t think of anything on-topic to say, you can always come to the forums and just introduce yourself.
I’ll have some more internets for you all next week!