Merlin Club S03E03, “Goblin’s Gold” or “I could have lived a thousand years without seeing Gaius’s tongue”

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Merlin club is a weekly feature in which Jessica Jarman, Bronwyn Green, and myself gather at 8pm EST to watch an episode of the amazing BBC series Merlin, starring Colin Morgan and literally nobody else I care about except Colin Morgan.

Okay, I lie. A lot of other really cool people are in it, too.

Anyway, we watch the show, we tweet to the hashtag #MerlinClub, and on Fridays we share our thoughts about the episode we watched earlier in the week.

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Wednesday Blogging: Motivation

“Jenny,” I’m sure you’re all probably not wondering, “what is it that motivates you to keep to your office hermitage, barely seeking the sunlight or the warm embrace of the outside world?” Well, I’ll tell you. I have several powerful motivators:

  1. Fear of poverty. If you’re new to this here blog, you’ve missed a really exciting past five years. After my career shot around the room making fart noises as it rapidly deflated, I just kept working right along, until the day I no longer gave a fuck and started mocking Fifty Shades of Grey. I owe a lot to that book. If I hadn’t decided, “Fuck it, this book is so bad, I don’t care if no publisher will ever touch me again, if I’m going down, I’m going out in a blaze,” and started viciously mocking it on the internet, I wouldn’t have gotten the courage to say “Fuck it, I’m going to do this publishing thing my way.” But I did, and we went from food stamps to relative financial security in a couple of months. It was insane. But as bad as it was to be poor, what’s almost worse is not being poor, but remembering how easy it was to lose everything the last time. I’m constantly afraid that somehow, everyone will find out that I’m a fraud and not a real writer at all, and I’ll lose everything again.
  2. Fear that I won’t get to write all the books I want to write before I die. Does what it says on the tin. I have so many stories in my head, there is no possible way I could ever tell them all. It’s like my brain is a sinking ship, and I have to get as many passengers off of it as possible. I wish I could write every second of every day.
  3. Just generally being a malcontent. I get angry about things, as you may or may not have noticed. And when I get angry, I write about the things that make me angry, and usually I can make one or two of you angry (either with me or at me), and it goes in a beautiful circle of blazing hostility at the world, ourselves, and other.

That’s pretty much what motivates me. I know “championing social justice causes” probably should be on there, and I should be like, all noble about trying to make the world better for my fellow fat people, but I couldn’t take myself seriously if I were taking myself that seriously, and this blog is really only a thinly-veiled excuse for me to make dick jokes about pop culture, anyway.

As you’re reading this, I’m either recording a segment with NPR, nervous about recording the upcoming segment with NPR, or being super relieved that I’m done recording that segment with NPR. Let’s all cross our fingers that I don’t say something dumb, okay? I’ll ask them when it’s going to be on and let you all know. I’m going to be talking about “All About The Bass.” So it’s a pretty fair bet that today, abject terror is my motivator.

Wanna see what other Wednesday writers get all motivated by (I’ve used variations of “motivate” so much in this post, I feel like it’s not even a real word anymore)? Check out their posts:

Gwendolyn Cease • Kellie St. James • Bronwyn Green

Jessica Jarman • Leigh Jones • Kris Norris

I Am Not All About That Bass: Deconstructing The Summer’s Feel-Good, Body-Positive Hit

You’d know if you’d heard Meghan Trainor’s body acceptance anthem “All About That Bass” before. Because if you had, you’d still be hearing it right now in your head. Over. And over. And over.

Since we’ve got a lot of new visitors here lately, I’m going to restate the unofficial Trout Nation opinion* on liking problematic stuff: Just because we like something doesn’t mean it’s above reproach. We should practice turning a critical eye on the media we consume, as it gives us a chance to view our own thoughts through the lens of pop culture. This helps us learn about internalized prejudices we might otherwise have never realized we had.

(*I said “unofficial” because it’s nothing we’ve ever voted on. It just seems like a lot of people come here specifically for the dissection of pop culture. And we talk about it a lot. But we don’t have a democracy or anything. It’s a government of the people and one bewildered figurehead.)

Before we start taking this apart piece by piece, I want to warn you that the entire song is sung by a white girl using a faux African-American Vernacular accent that’s only about two levels below Iggy Azalea on the “There is no way you actually sound like that in real life”-o-meter.

So, let’s listen to this song and take a look at its accompanying video: 

This thing is catchy, the girl is adorable, the video is like John Waters’s Hairspray if it hadn’t been satire and Amber Von Tussel had been nice. It’s cute and I can see why a lot of people like it. But holy shit is it problematic! Jesus and wowza. Let’s ease into this with some trivial griping before we get on with the serious stuff.

“Because you know I’m all about that bass, ’bout that bass, no treble.”

But what you are singing? Your voice right now? That’s treble. A song that was only bass wouldn’t be a very interesting song. And unless you have a really impressive range that you’re not showing off on this particular composition, you’re going to have a hard time hacking it as a singer in a world that’s all bass and no treble.

So, the lyrics begin:

“Yeah it’s pretty clear, I ain’t no size two/ but I can shake it, shake it, like I’m supposed to do.”

So, she says it’s clear that she’s not a size two:

That's her, the blond one in the middle.

That’s her, the blond one in the middle.

Okay, so, yeah. Maybe not a size two. But not fat or “plus-size” by any means. Don’t let the unflattering dress trick your eye. This girl is not a fat girl. This whole concept of not-fat women believing they need to call attention to their not-fat bodies in order to promote body acceptance baffles me. I call this the “fatcceptable movement.” Notice I didn’t say “fat acceptance movement” or “body acceptance movement.” Both of those ideologies rally against the cultural standard of one perfect size at which an individual earns their humanity. The fatcceptable movement insists that there is only one type of “real” woman, and any outliers are less sexually desirable to heterosexual men, and therefore of less value.

In the fatcceptable zone, you’ll find women ranging from a US size eight to a US size fourteen talking about how big is beautiful, men don’t want sticks, real women have curves, etc. Lots of famous women have made bold statements about their size while living in the fatcceptable zone. Among them are Jennifer Lawrence,  Never Been Kissed-era Drew Barrymore, and Kate Winslet before she started looking like Barbie’s hot mom (that’s a compliment, by the way). These are all women who do not fall outside of the normal range of sexually attractive bodies, but who don’t get described as skinny and who are expected to answer questions about how they feel about their “curves.” Holding women like this up as “plus-size” is meant to spread  a message of body acceptance and positivity to women who aren’t the size two that Trainor throws out there, but who aren’t fat, either. To sum up, easy to digest anthems and slogans of this nature are meant to make women who think they’re fat feel good about the fat bodies they don’t have, while constantly reminding them that they should feel fat.

The lyric “but I can shake it shake it/like I’m supposed to do,” bothers me on two fronts. One, we were supposed to be shaking it this whole time? Why didn’t anyone tell me? Is this going to affect my grade? And two, people who’re a size two can’t shake it? What size is Shakira? Because she’s pretty little and she can definitely shake it.

“Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase/
And all the right junk in all the right places”

It’s in the right places, guys! Meghan Trainor is a fanfic Mary Sue. You heard it here first.

One of the main themes of this song is that women who are considered to be of average size are preferred by men. If this song is promoting body positivity, then why does it define a specific body type as being more desirable, and place all of a woman’s value on her fuckability to heterosexual men?

“I see the magazines workin’ that Photoshop/We know that shit ain’t real, C’mon now, make it stop/
If you got beauty beauty, just raise ‘em up/
Cause every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top”

This verse is what “All About That Bass” could have been. Look how perfect it is. It celebrates the body of every woman and encourages them to celebrate their beauty in turn. Granted, beauty is a subjective construct that women shouldn’t have to worry about in the first place, so there is a problematic ideology that’s still inherent in these lyrics. But let’s focus on how rare it is to hear this message in pop music in the first place.

Like I said, it’s what this song could have been, because after that we’re right back to:

“Yeah, my mama she told me don’t worry about your size/She says boys like a little more booty to hold at night”

Again, the message isn’t really, “I have value, even though I don’t fit the mold I’ve been told I should fit,” but, “I have value, in fact I have more value than some other women who don’t share my body type, because I’m the one a heterosexual man should be attracted to.” And I say should be, because the next few lines say exactly that:

“You know I won’t be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll/So if that’s what you’re into then go ahead and move along”

“If you’re not a heterosexual man willing to objectify me over other women, then HA HA! I am rejecting you first.”

At what point did “body positivity” become, or need to become, yet another method to police each other’s bodies? If a woman has breast implants, that somehow lowers her worth? This is just another way in which the fatcceptable movement tries to define who is and isn’t a “real” woman. Why is it that we don’t view breast implants as body modification on the same scale as piercings or tattoos? I have this crazy feeling that it has something to do with misogyny. Maybe because the primary objective of breast implants is to conform to a specific cultural standard? How is that different from piercing your septum?

I know how it’s different. Men pierce shit, too! Plastic surgery is viewed as a way for women to make themselves more sexually desirable to heterosexual men for as far into their lives as possible. Even reconstructive plastic surgery after breast cancer fulfills this role; when performed for the patient’s personal comfort, it’s still done to uphold the standard that all women must have breasts (well hello, transmisogyny!), which is what’s making that patient uncomfortable in the first place. To be clear, I’m not shaming anyone for having any elective cosmetic surgery for any reason, just defining our world view and cultural expectations of breasts in this context.

So, with that in mind, back to the fatcceptable stance on plastic surgery: even though we’re defining your worth as a woman solely by your appeal to men, if you do anything to try to make yourself more appealing, you’re a fake ass bitch and we hate you.

Now, onto the “stick figure” portion of the chorus. This is just another shot fired at women who have bodies that threaten the self-esteem of women who can only be content about their size if it’s hailed as the “perfect” shape. That’s really what’s at the base of any “eat a sandwich” or “stick insect” barb.

“I’m bringing booty back/Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that/No I’m just playing I know you think you’re fat/but I’m here to tell ya every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top”

This verse perfectly incapsulates what is wrong with this song. What could be a positive message comes out as a backhanded compliment. Sure, every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top, but only grudgingly. You get to feel good about yourself, but only if women Meghan Trainor’s size get to feel better by mocking your appearance. And only if you share the same weight insecurities.

And come on. Saying what you really think, followed by “just kidding,” is the most passive aggressive move on the planet. “Just playing” is like “bless your heart”: it’s a chance for the speaker to say whatever they want while forcing the target of the insult to accept what’s being said in good humor.

Now, since we’re past all the verses, I want to talk about the video. There’s a theme here:

Screen Shot 2014-07-26 at 4.00.37 PM

Screen Shot 2014-07-26 at 4.00.54 PM

Screen Shot 2014-07-26 at 4.02.11 PM

Did you guess the theme? Did you guess “black women as props?” Because that’s the theme. Of the four back-up dancers in the video, one is white. Trainor is shown flanked by two black women several times, including a scene where the women seem to be enthusiastically encouraging her dancing, a la Miley Cyrus’s infamous “We Can’t Stop” video. This isn’t done to encourage body acceptance or equality of any kind; it’s to show the audience that Trainor is cool. White people can’t dance, right? So if black people cheer on a white girl dancing, that lends her points, right? Because the video strikingly recalls Waters’s Hairspray, I can’t help but be reminded of the line, “Being invited places by colored people! It feels so hip!” We white people love to see ourselves getting approval from black people. We just don’t want our societal standing challenged, because that makes us deeply uncomfortable.

Looking at the two bottom images, let’s discuss the role of “booty” in this song. Booty outside of the pirate context has long been used to evoke the stereotypical image of a black woman with a large, round butt. This particular racial trope has been used by white people to objectify, fetishize, and sexualize black women by our media and our white supremacist culture, then white girls apply it to themselves in a positive context. When Trainor calls attention to the size of her butt and calls it a booty, we’re supposed to laud her as being body positive and a strong feminist, but  she can’t “bring booty back,” because it was never used to stereotype her to begin with.

The last picture is a perfect example of how society views the bodies of black women as available to all takers. In this scene, the white woman pictured grabs the black woman’s butt while she’s dancing. This reinforces not only the insidious cultural need of white people to control and sexualize black women’s bodies, but also the dangerous belief that the bodies of black women are on offer for anyone to sample, consent not required.

Sidebar, the fact that all of the above was going on, and the song was written in the style of 60′s pop music, a genre that was appropriated from black artists of the time and repackaged with white faces really drives home a truth that many white pop artists don’t want to admit: that white performers are only doing shallow imitations of black artists, and suppressing those black artists’ work in the hopes that no one will notice.

I know a lot of people are going to criticize me for deconstructing something that seems, on its surface, to be a positive, important statement, but as a fat woman, I’m no longer content for women who are not fat to define themselves as such to lend their defensiveness and unhappiness with their bodies credibility. As a feminist, I’m no longer content to watch women of color treated as props to further an appropriation of beauty standards that white women boast about and black women are oppressed by. If the core of your message devalues other women based on their physical appearance, you’re not promoting an ideal that helps women in the way you believe it does.

Come hang out with me at Authors After Dark

Hey, are you in the southern United States? Are you not in the southern United States and want to travel there for a rad conference? This is going to interest your pants off.

Authors After Dark is a romance novel convention where the focus is the reader. The ratio of authors to readers is incredible. The parties are a riot. And the size of the conference is reasonable, so you’re not getting into an overwhelming, huge-scale con.

You can find more details here. This convention sells out every year, and people wait-list to get in, but this year, the organizers had some extra space and are throwing a five day sale! And, for the first time ever, they’re offering partial conference passes (there are no day passes available).

If you attend during*:                   Then your conference fee will be:

August 6 – 10                                           $175.00

August 7 – 10                                           $150.00

August 8 – 10                                           $100.00

August 9 – 10                                           $75.00

Now let’s talk about that *. Some terms and conditions apply. This offer is only available to attendees who reserve a single occupancy room for the nights they’re attending. Conference fee must be paid in cash when you register. To get the special conference rate (and for more information), you’ll need to contact blueflamesabove @ yahoo dot com. Offer expires August 1st, 2014.

This conference is truly special, and a great way for authors to connect with readers and readers to connect with authors. The parties are fun, and the atmosphere is like a slumber party. Once you go, you’ll want to go back every year.

I would love to see some Trout Nation friends there! If you’re attending, drop me a line and we’ll meet up!

 

Merlin Club S03E01-02, “The Tears of Uther Pendragon” or “Good, he deserves it.”

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Merlin club is a weekly feature in which Jessica Jarman, Bronwyn Green, and myself gather at 8pm EST to watch an episode of the amazing BBC series Merlin, starring Colin Morgan and literally nobody else I care about except Colin Morgan.

Okay, I lie. A lot of other really cool people are in it, too.

Anyway, we watch the show, we tweet to the hashtag #MerlinClub, and on Fridays we share our thoughts about the episode we watched earlier in the week.

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Jenny Watches: The 50 Shades of Grey trailer

Just when I thought I was free from the horror show of Chedward and Anabella, here we are. Like some recurring nightmare in which we’re forced to watch a bad movie based on bad fanfic from a bad franchise that had equally bad movies… wait. No, sorry. Not “like.” That is exactly what’s happening here. It should go without saying that since this is Fifty Shades of Grey, TW: rape, domestic abuse, emotional abuse.

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Wednesday Blogging: Music I’m Writing To Right Now

I know I’ve posted my playlists before–and recently–but this week’s Wednesday Blogging is about what playlists are getting us through our current work in progress. So, rather than just throw the playlist up here, I’ll throw it up here and talk about some of the songs and how they relate, so it’s not a repeat of every other time I’ve done this topic.

I’ll throw some tidbits about The Ex in here, too, so spoiler alert, if you don’t like that sort of thing, fair warning.

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The Big Damn Buffy Rewatch S02E11, “Ted” TW: child abuse

In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone will spend way too much money ona  sexy lady Giles cosplay costume. She will also recap every episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer with an eye to the following themes:

  1. Sex is the real villain of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer universe.
  2. Giles is totally in love with Buffy.
  3. Joyce is a fucking terrible parent.
  4. 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)
  5. Xander is a textbook Nice Guy.
  6. The show isn’t as feminist as people claim.
  7. All the monsters look like wieners.
  8. If ambivalence to possible danger were an Olympic sport, Team Sunnydale would take the gold.
  9. Angel is a dick.
  10. Harmony is the strongest female character on the show.
  11. Team sports are portrayed in an extremely negative light.
  12. Some of this shit is racist as fuck.
  13. Science and technology are not to be trusted.
  14. Mental illness is stigmatized.
  15. Only Willow can use a computer.
  16. Buffy’s strength is flexible at the plot’s convenience.
  17. Cheap laughs and desperate grabs at plot plausibility are made through Xenophobia.
  18. Oz is the Anti-Xander
  19. Spike is capable of love despite his lack of soul
  20. Don’t freaking tell me the vampires don’t need to breathe because they’re constantly out of frickin’ breath.

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. 

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