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Author: JennyTrout

Hiatus

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Hey everybody! I’m going away for a week for my amazing annual writing pilgrimage to Gay, Michigan. It’s here:

a google map of Michigan with Gay marked with a little round divot thing. Gay is located in Michigan's Keweenaw peninsula, the northern-most "fin" of Michigan's land-mass.

 

We’ll be staying at our usual cabin, right on the shores of the incredible inland sea, Lake Superior:

A stunning view of Lake Superior, framed by trees.

 

And, like so many years past, I’ll be working on the next Neil and Sophie book while staring at this beautiful view. I’ll also be visiting her hometown of Calumet, to buy groceries at the Pat’s, as is our ancient tradition.

Everybody have a great week!

The Big Damn Buffy Rewatch S03E19, “Choices”

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In every generation, there is a chosen one. She alone slammed her head in a truck door this morning. 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.
  21. The foreshadowing on this show is freaking amazing.
  22. Smoking is evil.
  23. Despite praise for its positive portrayal of non-straight sexualities, some of this shit is homophobic as fuck.
  24. How do these kids know all these outdated references, anyway?
  25. Technology is used inconsistently as per its convenience in the script.
  26. Sunnydale residents are no longer shocked by supernatural attacks.
  27. Casual rape dismissal/victim blaming a-go-go
  28. Snyder believes Buffy is a demon or other evil entity.
  29. The Scoobies kind of help turn Jonathan into a bad guy.
  30. This show caters to the straight/bi female gaze like whoa.
  31. Sunnydale General is the worst hospital in the world.
  32. Faith is hyper-sexualized needlessly.
  33. Slut shame!
  34. The Watchers have no fucking clue what they’re doing.
  35. Vampire bites, even very brief ones, are 99.8% fatal.
  36. Economic inequality is humorized and oversimplified.

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.

The Economic Violence of Morally Upright Americans

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A car dealership in Brighton, Michigan, had some strong words about a panhandler seen frequently near their building. So strong, they felt compelled to make a sign calling him out. MLive.com reports:

“Please do not give anything to this Panhandler. We offered him a full-time job at $10.00/HR,” the sign reads. “He said ‘I make more than any of you’ and he did not want a job, please donate to a more worthy cause.”

 

When the story went viral, the response was overwhelmingly in favor of the dealership. They offered this man a job! What would possess him not to take it?

Well…it could be any number of reasons, but if we’re going by the sign alone, it’s the pay. Years ago, Amanda Palmer gave a TED Talk wherein she described working as a street performer. She kept track of the amount of money she made and was surprised to realize that it was a predictable income, despite the unconventionality of the job. She didn’t have a name tag, she didn’t have a W-2 or a union, but she knew basically how much she would have made by the end of the week. It sounds like this Michigan panhandler is in the same situation. He knows what he makes, and he knows it’s more than $400 per week before taxes.

This man had sound economic reasoning not to take the job they offered, but beyond that, we have no reason to assume that the car dealership sign is giving us the entire story. Did the man react that way out of pride? Is there a reason he doesn’t feel he could accept the job, such as not wanting to be seen as the office charity case? Is there a felony that would prevent him from employment? Are there disability benefits, like health insurance, that he’ll lose if he has to report even that meager $10.00/hour income? None of these questions are answered by the sign, and all of them are within the realm of possibility.

But maybe people are right. Maybe he’s just lazy and wants free money. Which is, of course, shameful. Good people do not want free money. They only want that which is given to them as recompense for good, honest work. Oh, and whatever they might win from their weekly lottery tickets or at the casino… Clearly, there are only some kinds of free money that are morally right, and simply taking what someone willingly hands you isn’t one of those.

So, why turn down the job? Obviously, it’s because he’s a lazy good-for-nothing, looking to live off the backs of hardworking Americans who are barely keeping a roof over their heads. And we’ve always known that people asking for money on the street are just scammers, anyway. We’ll find “more worthy” causes, like charity organizations that spend $0.02 per dollar on easing poverty while diverting the other $0.98 to their millionaire board members’ paychecks. After all, those board members are working for a living and are therefore more noble and deserving.

If you read between the outrage and performative morality, though, the dealership’s sign highlights a major economic flaw in our country: begging for money on the streets is a better financial decision than having a steady job. A man who panhandles for a living would be downgrading if he went to work for a car dealership because the car dealership doesn’t pay a living wage. Yet we’re supposed to see the man as ungrateful because he won’t take a loss to provide discount labor for this business, rather than examine why a business is paying their employees less than they could make begging on the street in the first place.

No wonder so many people are furious at this man; he’s opted out of the system that oppresses them, leaving them no choice but to embrace economic inequality in order to place value on themselves. Because that’s the lie the working and middle classes have happily swallowed since someone figured out how to wield the Bible as a weapon. Blessed are the poor, so stop wanting money, and God forbid anyone beneath you in the social hierarchy value survival over piety when you don’t have the courage to demand better for yourself.

The dealership didn’t make this sign to right a great injustice the man is perpetrating; they’re angry because they felt entitled to this man’s time, labor, and gratitude, and he dared to give them none of it.

True Blood Tuesday S04E06 “I Wish I Was The Moon”

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Content Warning: Rape

M-O-O-N, that spells “I got a new headset!” The file for this episode is here. Hit play when the HBO logo/sound fade. This was my third or fourth attempt at recording this episode, so I got a little slap happy. But the good news is, I have a new headset and hopefully all the frustration of that stupid Sony POS is behind us!

The Queerness of Wonder Woman

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Spoilers for Wonder Woman. Come back and read this after you’ve seen it. And definitely, go see it.

Though I tried to avoid spoilers for Wonder Woman before I had a chance to see it yesterday, there was one that could not be avoided in queer circles: that Diana, Princess of Themyscira, stated unequivocally that men weren’t necessary for sexual pleasure. It was a line that got big laughs from the women in the audience and nervous chuckles from the men; Steve Rose, a critic for The Guardian expressed confusion over the moment.

We spend thirty or so minutes on Diana’s mystical island home, watching muscular woman with razor-sharp cheekbones hurling weapons at each other. The scenes are shot with what could only be described as the queer female gaze: the leather armor, practical hairstyles, big ass swords and toned thighs that could pop a watermelon are not there to turn men on. At the screening I attended with my daughter, a man behind me whispered loudly to his companion, “Did they have to make them so dykey?”

Yes, good sir. Yes, they did.

But, as some critics were quick to point out, Gal Gadot’s Diana still gets down with Chris Pine. A man! So much for feminism, right?

Slate’s Christina Cauterucci writes in her review, “I Wish Wonder Woman Were As Feminist As It Thinks It Is”:

“The love story in Wonder Woman also seems positioned as a ‘no homo’ response to the heroine’s inherently queer backstory: Diana was raised on a hidden island that contains only women, some of them fairly jacked and butch-of-center. […] Diana is so clueless about men, human activity, and the basic concepts of manipulation and evil—think mute air-breathing Ariel in The Little Mermaid, if she could incapacitate an entire village of German sharpshooters—that her capacity for consent is somewhat blurry. She can’t even understand why Trevor thinks it would be improper for them to sleep in the same bed when they’ve just met. Diana’s naïveté and innocence are crucial to the film’s moral thrust, but they cast her sexual relationship in a shiftier light.”

Cauterucci isn’t the only critic who’s made this observation, but I respectfully disagree. While it would have been refreshing to see a Wonder Woman without a romantic subplot, its inclusion doesn’t erase or devalue Diana’s queerness. It simply means that she’s, wait for it…not attracted to one gender. We already knew that Wonder Woman was canonically bisexual (maybe she’s pansexual; the scope of her attraction is never defined, probably because it’s a movie about war and explosions and not all the steamy, acrobatic Amazon sex going on in Themyscira. Fingers crossed for the sequel).

Neither do I agree that Wonder Woman has a consent issue; Diana’s confusion over the importance of marriage and sleeping arrangements doesn’t rise from some Brooke-Sheilds-in-The-Blue-Lagoon sexual innocence, but seeming impatience at how ridiculous the social rules are in the world beyond Themyscira. By all accounts, Diana has had more sexual education than Steve; the Amazons apparently have a twelve-volume encyclopedia on the subject that she has studied extensively. Not only can Diana consent, but I imagine she must have had to give Steve some on-the-job training. The crucial naïveté Cauterucci describes extends to senseless violence against innocents, not Diana’s own sexuality. The only person who assumes otherwise is Steve, and Diana corrects that assumption matter-of-factly before it can take root in the narrative.

I won’t argue that Wonder Woman is a masterpiece of feminism that lifts up and represents every woman in the world. No movie, TV show, or book can possibly do that, as our stories and experiences are vast and varied. There were many missteps the movie made, from the minuscule parts given to black women and the absence of any other women of color from speaking roles, to the fact that, aside from Gadot and Lucy Davis’s dowdy but spunky Etta, once we leave Themyscira the movie turns into a total dude show. Even Dr. Poison, set up in the script to be the Big Bad, got shoved aside for Remus Lupin. I understand the feminist critics who say they didn’t dig the love story. But to argue that a canonically bisexual heroine is less queer because she has sex with a man off-screen, and to include this as a reason that the movie isn’t “as feminist as it thinks it is,” inadvertently suggests that biphobia and panphobia are somehow progressive.

I don’t excuse all the choices made by the filmmakers or celebrate Wonder Woman as a feminist master stroke in itself, but there’s no denying that its success has opened doors in Hollywood that were previously barred not only for female creators but female audiences, especially queer female audiences. Of course, it was still a movie in which a queer person’s love interest dies, though it was refreshing to see a straight, cis man fridged for a woman’s emotional motivation this time. I thoroughly look forward to the sequel, and maybe an ass-kicking girlfriend for Diana…who doesn’t die.