Sorry for the lapse in recaps. I hope you found something just as boring and frustrating to read in the meantime. Shall we get right to it, then?
Some of you have asked about a few of my past releases that aren’t available for purchase anymore. Well, that’s because the publishing rights for some of my novellas have reverted to me, and several of them will be re-released as refurbished self-pub titles.
The first of these is Bride of the Wolf, a paranormal historical romance, which releases Tuesday, February 16th:
Betrothed to the heir of Lord Canis, Aurelia finds herself thrown to the wolves. The Canis Clan are no ordinary warriors, but beasts raging beneath the skin of men. Their name chills the heart of every man in Britannia, though the heart of one maiden may be saved…
Once a mighty warrior in high esteem among the Clan, Sir Raf Canis knows all too well the dangers Aurelia will face in her new role as Lady of Blackens Gate. Tasked with the humiliating errand of delivering his brother’s intended, Raf instead finds himself fighting for her life–and falling into an impossible love that he cannot deny.
Bride of The Wolf will be available on Amazon and Smashwords on Tuesday, February 16th, other retailers to follow.
Quick rundown of the episode: In a final bit of humiliation, Cicero and Brutus go before the senate and say Caesar should be declared emperor of Rome. And Caesar is like, “Cool, thanks. By the way, if any of you fuckers step out of line again, I’ll murder you.”
Servillia is still recovering from the brutal attack by Atia’s men, and Atia stops by to pretend to care and to call Brutus a coward. Also, to invite Servillia to sit with the family at Caesar’s triumph. And Servilia plays the game right back, asking where Octavia went and why. Octavia has joined a cult that encourages self-harm, since, you know. Her girlfriend of two years tricked her into incest. Octavian shows up to take Octavia home, but she doesn’t want to go. This is only the latest incident in which Octavia is made to do something she doesn’t want to because her family’s public appearance is more important than her happiness.
Speaking of people not wanting their kids to be happy, Servilia continues to passive-aggressively remind Brutus that he should have killed himself rather than submit to Caesar. She starts a little book club of traitors with Quintus Pompey and Casius, and even writes a treasonous pamphlet in Brutus’s name. Which, you know, isn’t a great idea. Servilia isn’t so much concerned with restoring the Republic as she is getting back at the Julii, which Brutus points out. But it’s cool, Caesar is fine with Brutus, probably because he recognizes Servilia’s writing after eight years of corresponding via scroll.
Lucius Vorenus has started his political career, and he’s not really very good at it. Posca is trying to do a kind of Pretty Woman thing, trying to turn a soldier into a magistrate, but Niobe isn’t as good at handling the people as Vorenus is. Also, there are hired goons willing to remove hecklers, like at a Trump rally. Pullo, meanwhile, is going through the unemployment blues. He’s been told he can’t march in Caesar’s triumph, which is kind of shitty seeings as how he basically saved Rome and stuff. But he’s got a plan. He’s going to win Eirene’s heart by buying her freedom from slavery, and then he’s going to marry her.
Caesar’s triumph is a big deal. Everyone gathers in the forum to watch Caesar ride in on a chariot with his face all painted with blood, and hey, remember Vercingetorix, king of the Gauls? He’s been in prison this whole time. They tart him up and trot him out to be executed in front of the cheering, happy crowd. If you want to know how they execute him, ride in the backseat of Bronwyn Green’s Saturn Ion with the seatbelt on. That, but then you just get left to rot in the town square.
Pullo buys Eirene’s freedom and goes back to the Aventine to give her the good news and a brand new dress. She’s as happy as he expected her to be. As is the man she’s in love with, another slave in the Vorenus household. Hearing this, Pullo snaps and smashes the guy’s head into a column over and over until he kills him. While Eirene screams and Niobe tries to comfort her, Vorenus scolds Pullo for scaring the children and destroying Vorenus’s property. Vorenus feels disrespected, and he and Pullo nearly come to blows (not that kind, Jess), and Pullo leaves. In a tavern, Erastes Fulmen approaches him and offers him a job, which, you know, is probably not a great offer to take.
My favorite part of the episode: It’s a very small moment, but when Vercingetorix’s body is dumped in the garbage, a small group of Gauls take quietly from the city and build a funeral pyre as a proper sendoff. It’s pretty touching.
My least favorite part of the episode: Eirene’s screaming after Pullo kills her boyfriend. I dreaded it on this rewatch, and even watching the episode again to write the summary, I muted it. That actress is amazing, because those screams have haunted me since the first time I saw this air on HBO years ago. Like, this scene is Adriana-getting-dragged-out-of-the-car-on-The-Sopranos level haunting for me.
Team Atia or Team Servilia: Servilia. She wrote political propaganda to attack her former lover, and is cooking up a campaign to destroy his whole family. I admire her dedication.
Favorite watch-a-long tweet:
Trump: “I’d like to see Vorenus’ Roman birth certificate.” #LegionXIII
— Gabriel Fortin (@gfortin_05) February 2, 2016
What hairdo or costume would Bronwyn steal? Niobe’s blue stola:
Guess Jess’s head canon. I feel like she’s probably looking forward to the comfort side of some hurt/comfort.
Whether you’re hoping to see Hillary Clinton march gender equality right into the Oval Office, or you’re waiting for Bernie Sanders to lead us into the post-capitalism future of your dreams, there is one undeniable fact about this election cycle: Hillary Clinton is the target of a lot of misogyny. From the predictable jabs your drunk uncle makes at the family reunion–”She’ll get the P.M.S. and invade Russia and then we’ll all get nuked!”–to the media’s insistence on running only photos with the harshest lighting in an effort to point out that, yes, she has indeed aged much in the way human women tend to do, we’re making damned sure that for every step Sanders takes, Clinton must take two.
Are we on the same ground here? We’re all in agreement that there is, indeed, a gender bias working against Clinton? Okay, good. And Courtney Enlow agrees with that, too. She even wrote a think piece about it: An All-Caps Explosion of Feelings Regarding The Liberal Backlash Against Hillary Clinton. In it, Enlow points out the frustration many women feel about the current campaign. While Donald Trump’s loud, rude, and obnoxious schtick is charming to some (probably equally loud, rude, and obnoxious) voters, it would be a turn-off coming from Clinton. While Sanders can take the stage in an ill-fitting suit, wild hair, and a scowl, Clinton could be fresh out of that Stepford Wives machine and still be criticized for showing too much toe-cleavage, or not enough toe-cleavage, or whatever could possibly be used to detract from her physical appearance and turn our minds away from her as a politician. Enlow is absolutely right, there is a double standard at work that means Clinton must take great pains to appear calm, rational, and mildly appealing.
Enlow stated at the outset of her piece that she feels this race is “very, very personal,” and I agree. I also feel that this race is very, very personal, at least where one part of Clinton’s record is concerned. It’s actually the part that Enlow is very quick to dismiss criticism of:
YOU DON’T LIKE THAT SHE HAD CERTAIN NOW-UNACCEPTABLE POLICIES BACK IN THE ’90S? HEY, I GET THAT THAT SHIT SEEMS LIKE LAST WEEK, BUT IT WAS ANOTHER GODDAMN WORLD ENTIRELY. I GET THAT WE ALL THINK WE’RE THE UNIVERSE’S BESTEST HUMANS BUT MOST OF THIS COUNTRY JUST LEARNED TRANS PEOPLE EXIST, LIKE, YESTERDAY. LET’S NOT PRETEND WE’VE ALL BEEN THE MOST INCLUSIVE PROGRESSIVE SUPER-COOL PEEPS FOR LIKE A THOUSAND YEARS NOW. PROGRESSIVE MEANS JUST THAT–PROGRESS. SHIT THAT WAS A BIG GODDAMN DEAL AT THE TIME IS NOT COOL NOW. PROGRESS. IT’S FUCKING SWELL.
The problem with her “certain now-unacceptable policies back in the ’90s” is that they aren’t from the ’90s. See, back in 2004 (or as we apparently describe the ’00s now, the ’90s), Clinton was fine with the definition of marriage as one man, one woman, stating:
I believe that marriage is not just a bond, but a sacred bond between a man and a woman.
She called those marriages a “fundamental bed-rock principle.” At the time, she was opposing a constitutional amendment that would prohibit same-sex marriages, but in her remarks she carefully positioned herself as not defending marriage equality, but the sanctity of the constitution as a living document. She took great pains to assure us all that she, personally, did not support same-sex marriage. In 2006, Clinton felt that marriage equality wasn’t a federal issue, and should be handled by individual states. In a 2008 Human Rights Campaign questionnaire, she reasserted her opposition to a federal decision on marriage equality, once again saying that it was a state-level decision. She also said:
I support full equality of benefits, rights, and responsibilities for individuals in
loving, stable, same sex relationships and in principle, I would like to see federal
benefits extended to same sex couples that meet certain standards. I would need to
examine the feasibility of implementing such a provision and look forward to
working in partnership with the Human Rights Campaign and others in the gay
rights community to determine the best path for realizing this goal.
Remember, in 2008 the only “certain standard” that needed to be met for a man and a woman who were married to claim spousal benefits or “responsibilities” was to be married, which Clinton opposed. She needed extra hoops to prove the legitimacy of same-sex relationships, but only after she decided wether those hoops were feasible. This system of hoops appears to be so complex that it would have to be assembled by committee.
It’s been a long time since 19902008, though. People grow, and people change. But usually when they do it, they can pinpoint a reason or reasons why their thinking changed, and admit that they were wrong. In 2014, Clinton sat for an interview with Terry Gross on NPR. Clinton was candid when it came time to scrutinize her vote in favor of the Iraq war, saying that she was wrong, and explaining that she didn’t want to voice that for fear of dishonoring the soldiers on the ground in the conflict, soldiers she had helped put there. When it came time to talk about marriage equality, however, she stumbled. While she easily accepted responsibility for the lives impacted by her Iraq war vote and offered reasons why she did not publicize her conversion, she could neither admit that she was wrong on marriage equality, nor explain why her views had “evolved.” That word came up a lot. Usually, we see “evolved” used as part of an explanation (“the giraffe’s long neck evolved from a need to reach leaves on higher branches”), rather than an entire explanation. But Clinton has none, and that her evolution seemed to take place conveniently in time for her next presidential run has left some members of the LGBTQA+ community (myself included) skeptical as to her sincerity. That doubt was certainly not dismissed by her campaign’s celebration when individual states’ same-sex marriage bans were overturned by the Supreme Court:
Our new favorite map. RT if you live in a state where marriage equality is law. pic.twitter.com/7GlCwCJHyg
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) June 26, 2015
There was no acknowledgement that her political position seven years earlier was the position that the Supreme Court had just struck down. Just a quick jump to pride, as though she’d been there for the fight all along, when in 2014 she described her “evolution” to Terry Gross as something akin to being caught in a riptide and simply embracing the inevitability of being swept out to sea.
Enlow goes on to say:
AND IF YOU COME AT ME FOR EVEN ONE GODDAMN SECOND WITH A “YOU JUST LIKE HER BECAUSE SHE’S A WOMAN” I WILL DESTROY YOU WHERE YOU STAND. I LIKE HER! I LIKE HER POLICIES, I LIKE HER PLANS, I LIKE WHAT SHE STANDS FOR, I LIKE THAT SHE’S GROWN AND EVOLVED AS A HUMAN AND POLITICIAN! I LIKE THAT SHE WAS FOR MANY OF US MY AGE ONE OF OUR FIRST ROLE MODELS OF A SMART, PROFESSIONAL, KICKASS WOMAN AND THAT SHE ISN’T AFRAID OF THE WORD “FEMINIST” AND I’M SICK OF HAVING TO APOLOGIZE FOR LIKING HER, FOR HAVING TO QUALIFY AND SEE YOUR SIDE AND RESPECT YOUR OPINION WHEN I FUCKING DON’T AND YOU FUCKING DON’T RIGHT BACK. I LIKE HER!
AND MOST OF YOU LIKE HER POLICIES AND PLANS TOO BECAUSE A) THEY’RE BASICALLY FUCKING OBAMA AND B) THEY’RE NOT THAT FUCKING DIFFERENT THAN FUCKING BERNIE.
I sympathized with the first sentence so much. I, too, am tired of being told that my choice in this race comes down to Hillary’s gender. Women are being pushed into either defending their choice to vote for Hillary or defending their choice to not vote for Hillary. It’s about one thing, and one thing only, from both anti- and pro-Clinton voters, and that thing is feminism. So I understand Enlow’s frustration there. What I don’t understand is her framing of how we should exercise our choice as voters. Clinton and Sanders are very similar in policy on the big issues, that’s true. But Enlow seems to be asking us why, if the two candidates are so similar, aren’t we choosing the one who is a woman?
Well, for me, and for some other LGBTQA+ folk out there, our question is why, if the two candidates are so similar, should we choose the one who spent two decades reminding us that we’re second class citizens and striving, unapologetically, to make that a reality? Why, if the two candidates are so similar, would we choose the one who can’t account for her evolution of feeling toward marriage equality, but very much insists it has nothing to do with politics?
IT IS ABSOLUTELY GUT WRENCHING THAT THIS BADASS, IMPORTANT WOMAN HAS BEEN DIMINSHED AND WRITTEN OFF AND HATED HER WHOLE CAREER, HER WHOLE EXISTENCE AS A PUBLIC FIGURE.
Hillary Clinton has absolutely faced an uphill battle through an endless landslide of sexist bullshit, and the battle isn’t over. But Hillary Clinton is a rich, straight, white, cis woman battling through a landslide on a mountain that isn’t even on the map for anyone who isn’t rich, straight, white, and cis. For all that Enlow insists that Hillary has been forced to “play the game” because no other options were available, she overlooks the myriad privileges Clinton started out with, and the advantages she gained through policies she publicly supported (some of which were signed into law by her husband). Policies that made damn good and sure that people who aren’t rich, straight, white and cis had a much steeper hill to climb, with a landslide four times larger than the one she faces now.
The choice of Enlow and other women to unapologetically ignore that reality is theirs; I certainly don’t have the energy to stop them. And Enlow’s piece is not an outlier. Since the beginning of this race there has been a simmering antagonism on feminist social media that slyly insinuates, but stops short of outright declaring, that votes for Sanders are votes against all womankind. Those of us who aren’t voting for Clinton are naturally feeling belittled, silenced, and patronized by that discourse. If Enlow and other feminists want us to believe that their votes are not swayed solely by the fact that Hillary Clinton is a woman, then they must extend that same courtesy to women who don’t support her. It’s not some weird cocktail of internalized misogyny, lust for free stuff, and total political ignorance that’s making some of us turn away from Clinton. It’s Clinton herself.
Quick rundown of the episode: Things open with elephant tragedy, and then it just gets worse from there. Cato and Scipio off themselves in the desert, and I marvel at the casual attitude the Romans have to suicide. News of their deaths apparently have reached Rome, since Caesar, Anthony, and Brutus enjoy a play about it.
Well, Brutus doesn’t seem to enjoy it, but. You know. He’s also living with his mom, who thinks he should have committed suicide rather than come home.
So anyway, Caesar is back in Rome. Everyone is back in Rome. It’s been two years, and when Vorenus gets back, he finds his apartment is tricked out with new decor and four slaves, and his wife an entrepreneur who owns a butcher shop with her sister. Pullo is happy to see Eirene, who now speaks Latin. Which, you know, for the purposes of the show is English but with a German accent. Vorenus and Pullo go to work in the butcher shop, where Vorenus runs afoul of the local mafia. So Vorenus has to send his kids to the countryside to avoid them being raped and murdered, and he waits with Pullo and Niobe for Erastes Fulmen (who’s basically the Godfather) to come start some shit.
Octavian is back in Rome, too, which gives Servilia a plan. She’s pissed off that she has to make nice with Atia and Caesar at social functions, so she leverages her on-going love affair with Octavia to find out stuff about Caesar. First, Servilia just asks Octavia to find out whether or not Caesar has the affliction Octavian said he does. Instead, all Octavia can find out is that Octavian helped torture and kill Vorenus’s brother-in-law. Servilia suggests that Octavia sleep with Octavian to find out what’s up with Caesar, and she convinces Octavia to do it by telling her that Atia killed Glabius.
While Vorenus and Pullo wait to fight Erastes Fulmen, somebody else shows up. It’s Caesar, with a job offer: magistrate of the lower Aventine, which is like, the neighborhood where Vorenus lives. So when Erastes shows up to kick some ass, he sees a lot of soldiers waiting, and decides to leave it for another day. But this brings up another problem: Pullo feels pretty unsuccessful next to his friend who’s come home to find himself flush with cash and a new job in politics.
Octavia does manage to seduce Octavian, who knows the whole time that she’s trying to get something from him. So basically, he fucks his sister knowing it’s a transaction, and shames her for it afterward. Atia finds out her kids have committed incest and she freaks out, like people generally do. It’s actually kind of nice to know that there is some upper limit to how fucking terrible she is. I mean, it’s pretty high up there, but at least it’s there. Octavia tells Atia she did it because Servilia told her Atia killed Glabius. And Atia swears on a bunch of gods that she didn’t, because Atia apparently figures she can talk her way out of shitting on the gods, too. We already know she totally killed him.
Pullo comes home drunk and tells Eirene a story about how she reminds him of his mother. Then he rapes her, because she’s a slave and can’t consent to his advances. She clearly is not into him.
It’s Yom Kippur and Atia’s man, Timon, who is Jewish, is out to get a job done. A job he’s clearly not okay with being a part of, either because it’s a religious holiday, or because it’s fucking terrible, or both, considering his religious conviction storyline in season two. Anyway, in retribution for Servilia tricking her kids into incest, Atia has her men attack Servilia’s litter, strip her, and cut off her hair before leaving her in the street.
And this whole time, Vorenus’s kids are like, fleeing to the country, thinking their parents are dead. Which nobody really mentions at all.
My favorite part of the episode: Caesar is a giraffe murderer.
Caesar: “It is the height of four men, with a long neck, like a goose, spots like a leopard, and the speed of a horse.”
Brutus: “I don’t believe it. A new chimera.”
Caesar: “I assure you, it is quite real. With any luck you might see one at my triumph. I’ve been trying to bring one over for months now, but the wretched creatures keep dying on the way here. They do not like the sea.”
My least favorite part of the episode: I know it’s HBO and everyone is terrible, but Pullo drunkenly raping Eirene is so disheartening for me. Especially when I know what happens next week.
Favorite costume: This a twofer:
Here’s why I like this so much. It looks a little gray in the screencap, but Octavia is wearing pale lavender here. Throughout the episode, she’s wearing purples of various shades. Now, she’s committed this terrible crime against nature as a means of a plot. Now, what’s Atia wearing? Ding ding! Purple. Octavia has become Atia, and the purple clothes have foreshadowed this for the entire episode.
Team Atia or Team Servilia: Team Atia. First of all, fuck Servilia for stringing Octavia along for two years only to use her as a weapon. Second, the revenge Atia plots against Servilia is ruthlessly cruel, to the point that Atia could be running the Roman mafia, and to be quite honest, I admire that kind of hardcore cruelty in a historical woman character. I didn’t know anything about the importance of a Roman woman’s hair, but apparently it was a BFD. As in, women had busts of themselves made with interchangeable wigs. As in, there are tons of surviving sculptures showing women doing their hair, so centuries later we know that they spent a lot of time on it. So Servilia having her hair cut was the ultimate attack, probably just as bad as being stripped naked in public.
Favorite watch-a-long tweet:
I feel like “concentrating on poetry” is Roman version, of “But, mom! We’ve got a gig!” #LegionXIII
— Bronwyn Green (@Bronwyn_Green) January 26, 2016
What hairdo or costume would Bronwyn steal? This might be the “safe” choice, but I know that Bronwyn is a) a sucker for green, and b) a sucker for girdles.
Guess Jess’s head canon. Jess was sadly absent this week, but I’d like to think it would involve that scene where Pullo is naked and oily.
In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone ordered way too many Girl Scout cookies this year. She will also recap every episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer with an eye to the following themes:
- Sex is the real villain of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer universe.
- Giles is totally in love with Buffy.
- Joyce is a fucking terrible parent.
- Willow’s magic is utterly useless (this one won’t be an issue until season 2, when she gets a chance to become a witch)
- Xander is a textbook Nice Guy.
- The show isn’t as feminist as people claim.
- All the monsters look like wieners.
- If ambivalence to possible danger were an Olympic sport, Team Sunnydale would take the gold.
- Angel is a dick.
- Harmony is the strongest female character on the show.
- Team sports are portrayed in an extremely negative light.
- Some of this shit is racist as fuck.
- Science and technology are not to be trusted.
- Mental illness is stigmatized.
- Only Willow can use a computer.
- Buffy’s strength is flexible at the plot’s convenience.
- Cheap laughs and desperate grabs at plot plausibility are made through Xenophobia.
- Oz is the Anti-Xander
- Spike is capable of love despite his lack of soul
- Don’t freaking tell me the vampires don’t need to breathe because they’re constantly out of frickin’ breath.
- The foreshadowing on this show is freaking amazing.
- Smoking is evil.
- Despite praise for its positive portrayal of non-straight sexualities, some of this shit is homophobic as fuck.
- How do these kids know all these outdated references, anyway?
- Technology is used inconsistently as per its convenience in the script.
- Sunnydale residents are no longer shocked by supernatural attacks.
- Casual rape dismissal/victim blaming a-go-go
- Snyder believes Buffy is a demon or other evil entity.
- The Scoobies kind of help turn Jonathan into a bad guy.
- This show caters to the straight female gaze like whoa.
- Sunnydale General is the worst hospital in the world.
Have I missed any that were added in past recaps? Let me know in the comments. Even though I might forget that you mentioned it.
WARNING: Some people have mentioned they’re watching along with me, and that’s awesome, but I’ve seen the entire series already and I’ll probably mention things that happen in later seasons. So… you know, take that under consideration, if you’re a person who can’t enjoy something if you know future details about it.
Quick rundown of the episode: Humiliated by his side’s loss to Caesar, Brutus returns to Rome, to a mother who seems equal parts relieved by his survival and embarrassed that her kid lost in the war against her ex-boyfriend. But it’s cool, because now that the and his traitor friends have returned to Rome, they can just keep on plotting. Brutus doesn’t want to get involved right now, but I think we all know that’s going to change. Antony overhears them plotting, and warns Cicero that if he acts up, he’ll nail his hands to the senate doors.
Caesar arrives in Egypt, where all the speaking Egyptians are as white as this year’s Oscar nominees, and Pharaoh
Jeoffrey Ptolemy presents Caesar with Pompey’s head. Caesar isn’t very thankful for the gift, and decides to help Cleopatra overthrow her stupid, spoiled brother. He sends the thirteenth out to find her. She’s out in the desert smoking opium and waiting for her brother to get pissed off enough to kill her. Luckily, Titus Pullo shows up just in time to stop her from being assassinated. Cleopatras’ womb is “between the flood”, so she comes up with a plan to get inseminated any way she possibly can, so that when she inevitably seduces Caesar, she’s already got one in the chamber. Her slave brings her Lucius Vorenus, but he can’t do the job, so it’s down to Titus Pullo to have some tent-shaking, acrobatic sex with her. They smuggle Cleopatra into the palace in a sack, and Caesar wastes no time getting her into the other other, proverbial sack. At the end of the episode, he proudly present “his” baby to his cheering army, while that little shit brick Ptolemy floats face down in some sandy water.
My favorite part of the episode: When, in what can only be described as my perfect romantic evening, Titus Pullo and Cleopatra bounce off the walls of her pavilion like ping-pong balls to the sound of extremely enthusiastic ululation.
My least favorite part of the episode: Every single Egyptian with a speaking part is a white person. Ptolemy, Cleopatra, the guy who was Cassandra’s slave in the Doctor Who episode “A New Earth,” every single one of them is white. There are a lot of black Egyptians in this episode. They’ve all been cast as slaves who have no lines and who just stand behind the talking white people. What the fuck, HBO?
Favorite costume: When Cleopatra returns to the palace all decked out, and her slave’s makeup is AMAZING.
Team Atia or Team Servilia: Doesn’t really apply in this episode, as neither are featured. Servilia has a sex scene with Octavia that’s presented in contrast to Caesar’s scene with Cleopatra, but that’s about it.
Favorite watch-a-long tweet: When Jess was unimpressed with Caesar’s dramatic style of lovemaking.
Full of drama and all that. Gotta get old. Cleo’s like, get on with it so I can convince you the baby’s yours. #LegionXIII
— Jessica Jarman (@jessjarman) January 19, 2016
What hairdo or costume would Bronwyn steal? Bron is sucker for comfort, so I’m going to go with Cleopatra’s linen nightgown thing.
Guess Jess’s head canon. Pullo and Vorenus double up on Cleopatra, but end up being more interested in each other.
Now go check out Bronwyn’s and Jess’s posts (Jess’s might be a little late this week due to illness), and join us Monday at 9 PM EST for season one, episode nine, “Utica”. Tweet to #LegionXIII to join us!
CW: This installment of Don’t Do This Ever deals with child sexual abuse and victim blaming.
This week, popular romance author Karen Marie Moning announced on her Facebook page that fan favorite narrator Phil Gigante would return to record the audiobook for Feversong, an upcoming novel in her beloved Fever series. Certain issues prevented him from narrating the most recent book, Feverborn, disappointing fans. It’s a great thing he’s coming back and everyone is happy, right?
Except for the part where “Phil” is Phil Gigante, convicted sex offender and pedophile, and the “issues” that prevented him from narrating Feverborn were a prison sentence followed by house arrest.
Ceilidhann at Bibliodaze covered the full story in depth, so I suggest heading over there and getting “all the details,” to borrow a repugnant phrase from Moning herself, and view a screenshot example of the discourse that followed the announcement. Some readers were overjoyed at the promised return of their favorite narrators, but others raised concerns over Gigante’s continued involvement in the series.
Moning’s initial response, which you can see at Bibliodaze and Red Hot Books, was to defend Gigante. She claimed to have insider knowledge proving his innocence, but has yet to come forth with it. Readers are meant to take her at her word, and ignore the fact that Gigante pled guilty to accosting a minor for immoral purposes, as well as possession of child sexually abusive material, just two of the four felonies he was charged with in the incident. In a plea bargain, Gigante was sentenced to only four months in jail and three months on a tether.
Despite Moning’s assurances of Gigante’s innocence, some readers didn’t back down, resulting in the current state of the post on Moning’s Facebook page:
One party Moning doesn’t seem terribly interested in protecting are readers who have survived sexual abuse, either as children or adults. Whether her motivation is driven by loyalty to a friend or desire for the continuing success of her audio titles, Moning is alienating readers who have stayed faithful to her for novel after novel. For some of them, Moning’s books may have provided them an escape during difficult times. How can these readers be expected to continue to support Moning, now that they’ve seen her defend an admitted sexual predator?
It’s not just Moning who’s to blame for victimizing these readers. Many fans still stand on the side of Gigante. They jumped in to hypothesize what “really” happened, from suggesting that the girl came onto Gigante to sharing anecdotes about the ubiquitous “guy I know”, who pops up time and again in stories about predatory teen girls tricking grown men into committing sex crimes. Gigante is, after all, the voice of the romantic hero of their dreams; he’s simply too sexy and beloved to have done such a thing. Never mind the fact that, no matter how sexually forward a teen might be toward an adult, the adult has the responsibility to not engage them. Never mind the fact that Gigante pled guilty to these crimes. Their enjoyment of his narration precludes him from any possible misconduct.
We’ve talked many times on this blog about separating art from an artist and enjoying problematic content or content made by problematic creators. Ceilidhann brings up David Bowie as an example; while celebrated for the impact he had on GLBTQA+ people, he also had sex with minors, a fact that complicated our global mourning for many fans. The conclusion I arrived to with regards to Bowie was that I didn’t have to defend his actions to recognize the enormous influence he had on my life. I’m sure that, for some readers, Moning’s series has had a profound effect on their personal lives, and therefore they’ll continue to read and enjoy the audiobooks. But they can do that without insisting that Gigante didn’t commit a crime, or that his victim was lying. They can do it without arguing with readers who’ve decided to stop reading Moning’s books. They can do it without harming their fellow readers with their victim-blaming rhetoric.
Moning’s defense of Gigante extended much further than simply defending his innocence. She also suggests there might be some kind of conspiracy behind his conviction:I’m not privy to all the details of Moning’s business arrangements, but she seems to be saying here that she has some power over who is cast for her audiobooks. If she didn’t want the issue discussed on her Facebook page, it would have been so much simpler to just say that she couldn’t comment on Gigante’s legal issues, and that the producer made the casting choice they believed readers wanted. There was no need to argue his innocence or suggest there was any further information she could provide that would make Gigante’s actions acceptable. She did, and in doing so she gave some of her devoted readers license to speculate as to the sexual predations of a fourteen-year-old girl against a grown man. Her actions give her readers who are survivors of assault and abuse the proverbial finger.
In another comment defending Gigante, Moning lies about the crime he was charged with, and specifically states that links proving otherwise will be removed:
Moning claims to want to protect all the parties involved, but she never addressed the rampant speculation and victim blaming that took place on her post, right alongside her own defense of Gigante. Is the fourteen year old girl he sent nude photos to not an involved party? Are the readers who feel tricked or cheated for having purchased books narrated by Gigante not involved? What about fans who would prefer not to support an author who lies to her readers in order to defend a child molester? To the casual observer it seems the only people Moning is interested in protecting are herself, the fans who agree with her and will continue to hand over their money and praise, and Phil Gigante, sex offender.
Authors, if you find yourself in a similar position, you have three choices. You can fight to disassociate your work from the bad actions of the person involved, while sharing disappointment in that person with the fans who are also being let down. Alternately, you can remain neutral, stating that such decisions are out of your control; whether your readers believe this is true is out of your hands. Or, you can defend a man who sent nude photographs to a fourteen year old girl, claim you have some secret knowledge that would excuse what he did, and lie to your readers about the crimes he was charged with. I would hope it goes without saying that the third option is what you should not do, ever.
UPDATE: Moning has released this statement on Facebook:
Now, everybody who’s been around these parts knows that Christian Grey is a creepy rapist. That’s not in dispute. But I’m still going to give you guys the heads up here with a CW: Rape, not because this is a rape scene, but because so many things he says/thinks in this chapter sound exactly like something a rapist would say/think. So there’s your heads up.
EDIT: I just woke up and read this amazing post on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. It is so super relevant to this recap, I had to edit to include it.