Hey there, internets! Ready for some reading? Excellent. I happen to have some here for you!
First up this week, I’d like to direct your attention to a very fine post by Mickle at The True Confessions of an Hourly Bookseller, wherein she addresses the oft-expressed idea that feminists (and other people with a lot to complain about) ought to be saving their complaints for the important stuff:
To argue that one should only complain about the “legitimately sexist garbage” raises the question of who decides what is “legitimately sexist garbage.” When this sentiment is paired with the argument that false complaints damage feminists’ reputation, the implication is that our “male default” society – not women or feminists themselves – has the final say in what is worthy of discussion. Simply arguing that someone is wasting space with their argument, or saying that you think that they shouldn’t say or do something, is not in and of itself an attempt to silence feminist or female voices. But when it’s combined with the suggestion that we should not make that argument because we must defer to the prejudices of the culture we are critiquing, it comes dangerously close to doing so.
I think I’ve uttered my fair share of exasperated “I wish that person would stop talking/writing/posting – s/he’s making my side look stupid” lamentations to friends (some of which are probably even now lurking in saved chatlogs, waiting to surface someday and embarrass me), but I hope to be able to keep Mickle’s fine line between disagreement and silencing in mind in the future when I want to roll my eyes over someone else’s complaints.
What. The. Hell. Sony.
Total agreement from me. Click on through to her post, check out the ads, and I suspect that you’ll concur with her assessment, too.
Skulduggery himself is delightful, as a witty, urbane Irish skeleton detective sorcerer in a good suit almost has to be, but the real triumph of the book is Stephanie. Though she does read a bit older than her 12 years (and a lot of that may be the dialogue, which is as stylized as a classic screwball comedy and gives everyone a veneer of unflappable panache), she is otherwise a fully-realized and fully believable protagonist. She’s smart, with genuine detective chops, brave but not blindly fearless, and forceful but not obnoxiously bullheaded. At no point does she come off as an annoyingly super-special heroine; although she has latent magical powers and something of an enchanted genealogy, she pulls through mostly on sheer grit. Skulduggery may be the flashy selling point of the book, but Stephanie is its heart.
Julie’s mother Rapunzel, unknown to her, led a rebellion that resulted in the people of the world’s fairy tales escaping the Wild. All of them were captive in their stories, doomed to repeat them over and over, being chopped, starved, frozen, bespelled, poisoned, changed, and very few of them allowed a happily ever after. They were denied their own lives and memories, until Rapunzel and her prince set them free. Now the Wild is a small menace, a captive in Rapunzel’s house, under her daughter Julie’s bed. It’s confined to small magics, like destroying the plumbing or converting Julie’s shoes into seven-league boots, but it can’t escape to take over the town and the fairytale escapees–until one day someone makes a wish, and lets it out.
At Feminist SF – The Blog!, Naamenblog is much less enthusiastic over The Scent of Shadows and The Taste of Night, two books in a series by Vicki Pettersson. The bits I wanted to excerpt were all full of spoilers, so I’ll confine myself to suggesting that persons interested in Naamenblog’s thoughtful analysis should check out the post.
Another interesting thing I read on the internets this week dances back and forth over the line between books and film – “I dream of Darcy,” by Rebecca Traister at Salon.com examines some of the most recent Jane Austen-inspired stuff out there:
In truth, Austen adoration is not a modern invention masterminded by Mr. Firth’s agent. Austen has been admired by critics, from Trollope to George Henry Lewes to F.R. Leavis to Lionel Trilling, very steadily for the past two centuries. Her work didn’t have to be reclaimed by feminist scholars in the ’70s, as it had never gone out of vogue. In addition to academic approbation, Austen has long attracted rowdier crowds of acolytes. The term “Janeite” was coined in 1894 in George Saintsbury’s preface to “Pride and Prejudice,” and Rudyard Kipling wrote a story called “The Janeites” in 1924, about World War I soldiers who get through the ugliness of trench warfare through their shared love of Austen’s novels. “You take it from me, Brethren, there’s no one to touch Jane when you’re in a tight place,” says one of the soldiers in the story. “Gawd bless ‘er, whoever she was.”
But this year’s wave of books and biopics is tinged with something different. Instead of acknowledging the enduring pleasures of Austen’s satire, or demonstrating how smoothly her centuries-old observations apply to contemporary society, this round of fanaticism is more interested in going back in time — or perhaps simply backward — to play dress-up in empire-waisted gowns with suitably dashing suitors to swoon over.
I’m a big fan of Austen’s satire and wit, myself – and I think I’ll be giving several of the titles mentioned in the article a wide berth.
Shifting topic entirely to movies, Grace of Heroine Content recently watched Aliens – and liked it much better than the first film in the series:
Mother figure or not, Ripley simply kicks more ass in Aliens than in Alien. She’s a civilian woman who takes over a military operation, makes plans to destroy many millions of dollars worth of the Company’s stuff, and runs around shooting and blowing things up. She spends most of the movie in charge, pissed off, and fighting, rather than blathering about rules and regulations. I’m all for that. This Ripley isn’t as goody-goody as the first film’s character, and she’s more likable and funnier that way.
I like the second movie better than the first, myself, and not just because Ripley is more bad-ass. For me, it’s a complicated mix of Ripley being way cooler, Vasquez being one of the first muscled women I had ever seen on film, a really awesome class I took in college where I re-watched Aliens and participated in feminist analysis of it, and the fact that when I saw Alien for the first time I was way too young and new to horror films, and the part where Ash’s head gets knocked off made me throw up. For serious.
I find it difficult to ever really enjoy a movie that once made me puke.
Moving away from action/horror and into children’s films, Jen Chaney, guest-writing for The Washington Post’s Celebritology blog, has some concerns about the genders of Pixar’s main characters:
I give Pixar much credit for breathing life into some gutsy, admirable females. Helen Parr of “The Incredibles” not only keeps her household in order, she can stretch her limbs to limits even the uber-flexible Madonna couldn’t reach. Sally Carrera in “Cars” is the spunky owner of her own business. And in “Ratatouille,” Colette (voiced by Janeane Garofalo) makes an impassioned speech about how, as the only woman working in the kitchen at the chi-chi Gusteau’s, she is tired of getting pushed around by all the men. She is femme, hear her roar.
But still, in the end, all of these women wind up playing love interest — and second fiddle — to the heroes.
I would advise against reading the comments attached to the article, unless you’re the sort of person who enjoys headdesking.
In closing this week, allow me to offer up my own meager attempts at humor. Giggling madly over Skype, Karen Healey and I attached lolcats-style captions to a number of pictures from our recent trip to WisCon and California, and she posted the results in her LiveJournal. Perhaps they’ll make some of you smile.
Until next week!