Monthly Archives: September 2016

Jenny Reads Fifty Shades of Midnight Sun: Thursday, May 26, 2011, part three or “I don’t understand why you’re interpreting the things I’m doing as the things I’m literally doing.”

Professor Farnsworth from Futurama, saying, "Good news everyone. I've got some very bad news."

E.L. James announced via Instagram that she’s hard at work on a sequel to Greyentitled Fifty Shades Darker From Christian’s Point Of View. One hopes that is a working title and not catchy marketing that’s already been set in stone. If you read the excerpt, it’s clear that James didn’t care for the reviews of Grey which almost universally denounced the man of her dreams as a psychopath. It looks like she’s decided to give his characterization a complete 180 that we never saw evidence of in the original series. It’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out, in terms of all of his internal “remorse” and “panic” not doing a goddamn thing to change the abusive behavior he’ll continue to exhibit throughout the series.

In other Fifty Shades Darker news, the trailer for the next movie premiered, and quickly passed Star Wars: The Force Awakens as most watched trailer on the internet. Or something. I don’t quite remember. I do want to point out, however, that the trailer for The Force Awakens was way easier to masturbate to.

Let’s time travel back to Thursday, May 26th, 2011, or the day that will apparently never fucking end.

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The Big Damn Buffy Rewatch S03E010 “Amends”

In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone burned her hand very badly on a Pop Tart and is busting through the lidocaine spray so furiously that she might actually develop an addiction. 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 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.

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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Every Concert I’ve Ever Been To, In Absolutely No Order

On our way to Chicago for the Billy Joel concert, Bronwyn Green and I bemoaned the fact that we’d been to so many concerts, but couldn’t remember them all. We decided to sit down and tally them up. We did not endeavor to put them in any sort of order, though. Here is my list of artists I’ve seen live. At least, what I can remember:

Lee Greenwood Technically my first concert. Battle Creek Airshow, sometime in the ’80s. Went with my mom.

Hootie And The Blowfish What I tell people my first concert was. 1994. Went with my mom.

Rusted Root The first time I learned what pot smelled like.

Joan Osborne She opened for Rusted Root, the night after she lost every Grammy category she was nominated in to Alanis Morissette. It came up.

Alanis Morissette Twice, once for Jagged Little Pill, second time because she toured with Tori Amos.

Tori Amos Five times, including a show Bronwyn Green was at, before I knew her. She mentioned this in front of my Baba, who said, “Oh, my granddaughter was at that show! I think you two would like each other.” Met Tori twice. One of those times, I puked on the sidewalk.

R.E.M. Twice on their tour for Monster.

Radiohead When they opened for R.E.M.

Patti Smith Twice with R.E.M., including her first performance in like, twenty years or something.

Oasis

Bush

No Doubt Not as good live, I can tell you that for free. Saw them with Bush.

The Goo Goo Dolls Not as good live. Saw them with Bush.

The Verve Pipe About a billion times. They’re a local band.

Green Day In front of the stage in the pit. Billy Joe said, “If that girl with the pink hair falls down again, somebody help her up!

Dave Matthews Band I remember nothing about this concert. Not because of weed, but because I was on sedatives because I’d been in a…we’ll say it was a plane-landing accident the day before. Probably should not have tried to go to anything for a while.

Steve Martin and The Steep Canyon Rangers Front row center. Lots of eye contact with Steve Martin, which was very weird.

The Black Crowes Birthday present from D-Rock. Second row, amazeballs.

Tony Bennett Really recently, too. And he’s still got it, baby!

Mandy Patinkin Twice, and got to meet him once. He gave me a kiss on the cheek.

Rufus Wainright With Tori Amos

The Cranberries Just as good live.

Barenaked Ladies Someone puked on my coat.

Sarah Brightman She flew on wires. There were glitter canons.

Flight Of The Conchords Worth the ticket price, definitely.

Korn (I worked concessions at a Family Values show. Counting this because I couldn’t escape the music)

Incubus (see above)

Orgy (see above)

Rammstein (see above, but they’re the one band I was excited about. I was excited about Ice Cube, but he left the tour literally the date before this one)

Limp Bizkit (see above)

Ani DiFranco

Richard Marx Actually awesome concert. He’s really funny, you should go see him if you have a chance.

The Living End

Indika

Gavin Degraw With Billy Joel

And of course, Billy Joel, twice.

You can check out Bronwyn Green’s list here. And share in the comments the musical artists that you’ve seen. I very much want to be envious of you all.

Pro-”Gay For You” Arguments In The Romance Genre (And Why They’re All Still Bi/Pan Erasure)

Yesterday, a Facebook friend made a post about the “Gay For You” or “GFY” trope popular with readers. The trope is sheer garbage: a character is straight as an arrow, never questioning their sexuality for a moment or even aggressively asserting their straightness. Then they meet “The One”, the romantic love interest. The straight protagonist knows, deep, deep down, that this is their One True Love™, and that love can overcome any odds. Even if that odd is that one of them is straight and the other is their same gender. “It’s okay,” the trope reassures us. “He’s not really gay. He’s just gay for him.”

This is seen most often in M/M fiction. M/M romance is written by people of all genders, but within the romance community it’s no secret that women are the target audience. Romance readers in general are voracious, but M/M readers seem to have a voracity and budget all their own. At a recent conference, I met a woman who said she reads M/M exclusively, and that she buys up to a hundred books a month. But the genre is still competitive, with some authors releasing twenty or more titles a year. As a result, M/M romance reaches–and influences–people who aren’t LGBTQA+, for better or for worse.

Gay For You is one of those areas where the “for worse” comes in. The GFY trope satisfies the reader’s desire for a happy ending by promising that the couple will find happiness together despite their sexualities, rather than finding their happiness through discovering their sexualities. Homosexuality is treated as a hurdle to be overcome, a tragic circumstance that could have destroyed the relationship had the romantic connection been less intense. That’s not just homophobic. It’s biphobic, and it’s bi/pan erasure.

It didn’t come as a huge surprise to me that the conversation quickly became heated, with lovers of the trope defending it as “just fiction” and actual LGBTQA+ people desperately trying to explain why the trope erases bi/pan people. In one particularly frustrating thread, a reader took the position that it’s “just fiction” and people shouldn’t be using it to learn from. She stated that she herself would rather learn from “real people” about these issues, but when four very real bisexual/pansexual people tried to engage with her on the subject, she refused to listen and cited her transgender cousin and “lots of gay friends” as proof that she can’t possibly be homophobic.

Yeesh.

Because actually interacting with these types of readers and authors is frustrating beyond belief (and because bi/pan people were being tone policed by straight, gay, and lesbian readers and authors in the Facebook thread that inspired this post), I thought I’d create a handy guide to the most common defenses of the trope and the reasons that all of those arguments are 100% Grade A USDA Certified Trash.

“It’s just fiction!” The old saying “life imitates art” didn’t spring up for no reason. Our earliest histories were stories painted on cave walls and told around fires. Stories inform the way we see our world. The first time I saw two women kiss on TV, it was Mariel Hemingway kissing Roseanne Barr on primetime television on the sitcom Roseanne. If you’re unfamiliar with the episode (titled “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”), the kiss takes place in a gay bar that the title character of the show, Roseanne, visits in an effort to prove that she’s okay with gay people. Hemingway’s character kisses Roseanne without asking her permission, and the kiss goes on for an uncomfortably long time as the camera fixes on her shocked expression. When Hemingway pulls away, Roseanne makes exaggerated faces in an effort to wipe her mouth off. Seeing this cemented two things in my mind: one, that lesbians were predators out to make straight women uncomfortable, and two, that normal, relatable women should be disgusted by F/F sex. And while the show was fiction, it was the only way the information was ever presented to me. No one took me aside and gave me a list of resources to change my mind. The show did end with Roseanne acknowledging her homophobia, but the kiss scene had already done its damage.

For many readers, fiction is the only chance they have to interact with people outside of their own experience on a deeply personal level. That’s why #OwnVoices is such an important hashtag on social media: it’s not enough to just put marginalized people in stories. They have to be portrayed in a way that’s authentic, or risk reinforcing stereotypes that harm real people. If your defense of “Gay For You” is, “It’s just fiction!” then you’re ignoring the visceral power fiction has over our minds, and how often it’s used to transform them.

Sesame Street is fictional, too, but I bet it still taught you your ABCs.

“Gay For You happens in real life all the time!” No, it doesn’t. A person might realize late in life that they’re gay, and that might be the result of an attraction to a person of the same gender. But that’s not Gay For You. Is the character gay? Then they’re gay. Is the character still attracted to and wants to have sex with a member of the opposite sex? Allow me to introduce you to the concept of bisexuality or pansexuality. Is your character attracted to anyone, irrespective of gender, but with preferences that change throughout their lives? Allow me to open your mind to the idea that sexuality is fluid, and that the sexuality of a character who wants to have sex with just this one particular guy but no other guys can be described more accurately without the word “gay.”

This might sound like some kind of weird homo-gatekeeping. Don’t get me wrong, people are free to label their sexuality however they’re comfortable. But authors using “gay” to describe all same-gender sexual relationships, even those engaged in by people who don’t identify as gay, isn’t just bi/pan erasure. It’s homophobic. And saying, “But it happens in real life!” doesn’t magically fix that when there’s so little accurate representation of bisexual and pansexual people in entertainment in the first place.

“So what if it’s not realistic! It’s not like women can actually fall in love with vampires or something!” This argument relies on a false equivalency between bisexual people and vampires. One of these things is not like the other, in that one exists, and one does not. If you write a vampire book, but your vampire really looks more like a werewolf on paper, you’re not hurting vampires and werewolves. If you write a Gay For You book, you are hurting real gay, lesbian, bi, pan, queer, and sexually fluid people.

“I read GFY all the time, and I’ve never once read one that erases bisexual people!” The very fact that you’re calling it “Gay For You” erases bisexual and pansexual identities. It’s not being marketed as “Bi For You.” It’s not being marketed as “Pan For You.” “Gay” cannot be used as a shorthand for bisexual or pansexual in this context without erasing us, because it reinforces the belief that all bi/pan people are just undecided voters.

In fact, “For You” in any context when describing sexuality is reductive, because it reinforces the idea that all sexuality is defined by the genders of an individual’s partners and not by the individual themselves. This is the type of thinking that leads to “gold star lesbian” and “fake bisexual” labels. This is the type of thinking that totally removes asexual, aromantic, and gray-ace people from the discussion entirely, as not having sex or not having romantic relationships leaves them undefined in the narrative.

“But the GFY books I read call the characters bisexual.” That’s nice, but see above. If you want to read about bisexual people or people coming out, super. But don’t refer to those stories as “Gay For You” in shorthand. The second you say “gay” when you mean “bi/pan,” you’re erasing us.

“I write stories about bisexual characters and people who are realizing their sexualities as adults, but I market them as GFY because they sell better.” Let me translate this for you: “I don’t care if it hurts real people. Reinforcing harmful stereotypes also reinforces my bank account, so I’m going to keep doing it.”

Marketing is hard, especially when so many books are out there. You want to find your audience. I get that. But think of it this way: do you really want to find the audience that is looking for books that reinforce ideas and misconceptions that result in real-life harm to people? Do you really want your work to appeal to them? And if it does, what does that say about your work? What does it say about you?

Plus, saying, “I don’t really believe this, it’s just how I’m marketing the books,” isn’t a magical shield against criticism. If LGBTQA+ people question your integrity as a result, it’s their right. They don’t have to believe you have good intentions. They don’t have to absolve you or give you the benefit of the doubt. If their real life struggles mean less to you than your bank account, and you’re willing to state that in public, don’t be surprised if people call you out on it. And if you do it again and again, don’t be surprised if people grow tired of it or terse with you.

Write what you want to write. Read what you want to read. But if those things are harmful, stereotypical, or downright bigoted, then you need to own that. I’m fond of saying that there’s no such thing as unproblematic media. As long as we live in the culture we’re living in, that’s going to remain true. But don’t defend it. Don’t argue with the people it’s hurting. And if you’re not willing to listen, say so at the outset instead of wasting everyone’s time. If you don’t like being thought of as homophobic or biphobic, maybe the easiest way to avoid that is to stop being homophobic and biophobic. Maybe stop asking, over and over again, why people think GFY is wrong. And if you’re a reader or a writer who truly wants to read about bisexual characters and portray them accurately, stop touting your stories as Gay For You.

Jenny Reads Fifty Shades of Midnight Sun: Thursday, May 26, 2011, part two or “We don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do…until I want to do it.”

It’s time for another Grey recap! I realize that somewhere along the way, I stopped putting in links to my older recaps. This is because I’m as capricious as the sea. You’ll note that instead of writing this, I could have put the link in.

Also of importance: I’ve noticed the occasional remark in the comments asking about inconsistencies in the book (like Ana taking off her graduation robe, etc.). These are just places where I skipped that passage or didn’t mention what seemed to me to be an inconsequential detail. If there is a massive inconsistency like that, I’ll definitely note it. My nit-pickery is the stuff of legend. I just don’t want you to get the impression that this book has errors in it that it doesn’t actually have. There’s enough badness in it already.

Okay, let’s get inside of this like a skin suit.

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Let’s Get Crafty Out Of Desperation!

You know that stereotypical “Yay, my kids are going back to school soon” mom thing? Yeah, that’s not played up for laughs. As the first day of school draws closer and closer for my youngest, her boredom and anticipation have turned to neediness and destruction. Now, with her new backpack stuffed with fresh supplies and new clothes she’s not allowed to wear yet just sitting around, taunting her, I’ve cleaned up messes like clear nail polish poured over our bathroom sink, a whole bottle of acrylic paint spilled across our dining room floor, and a sandwich threaded through our apple-coring/slicing machine. Two of our dogs received very amateur haircuts.

In desperation, I suggested we do some crafts. Now, I’m not the kind of mom who arranges activities for her kids. Nobody entertained me or enriched my life with activities daily when I was growing up; if I ever said I was bored, my grandmother would automatically answer, “Well, I’m so thrilled, I could shit!” But when it gets to the point where activities will divert the focus away from destruction, I’ll do anything. And the things we did actually turned out pretty cool. You might be interested in making some of them, too.

We got Halloween-ish, y’all!

It's wreath covered in ping pong balls painted purple, black, and orange. Well, the orange ones aren't painted, they started out orange. Each ping pong ball has a single googly eye on it, and there's a big stripy bow in Halloween colors, with another little eyeball in the center.

There are a lot of versions of the eyeball wreath floating around online. This is our spin on it. We used spray-on fabric paint on ping pong balls (and used plain old orange ping pong balls we didn’t have to paint, just because we’re lazy), then glued a little googly eye on each one and hot glued them to a styrofoam wreath wrapped in black ribbon. My tip for this one: to paint and affix eyes to the ping pong balls, put big loops of duct tape on a  piece of cardboard and stick the balls to the tape to keep them from rolling away.

Two terracotta flower pots. One of them is painted with black and orange stripes. The other is painted with purple and green. Both of them contain mounds of moss and a fake leaf. Styrofoam balls with googly eyes on them are stuck on pipe cleaners that are stuck in the moss, giving the appearance of eyes growing on stalks like plants.

We pained these terrecotta flower pots and filled them with florist foam. The moss is glued around the foam. The leaves came from fake flowers we used in the next project. The eyes are styrofoam balls with more realistic-looking googly eyes, and the stems are pipe cleaners. I got this idea from somewhere, and I have no idea where. It was either last year or the year before that I thought, “I should make those,” and then never did. Happened to remember them this year. My tip for this one: moss smells fucking disgusting and you’re going to have to air out your house.

Finally, the last project, and also the easiest:

A black vase with black artificial flowers. Some of the flowers have eyeballs in them.

There is no easier Halloween DIY than this one. I already have a ton of spray paint owing to the fact that I tend to get mad about stuff and make signs. Anyway, I used black matte spray paint on a random glass bottle hanging around. The flowers are fake ones I bought at the craft store. To make the eyes, I bought a pack of glow-in-the-dark bouncy balls with eyes on them, then cut them in half and glued them into the centers of the flowers. My tip: find flowers with hardy construction that can bear the weight of half a super ball. Also, use hot glue instead of tacky glue, which was my initial mistake. Eyes were EVERYWHERE, because they bounce when they fall off.

So, there you have it. Arts and crafts central. These are all pretty easy to do, and almost everything can be found at an arts and crafts store. Except for the ping pong balls, which I had to buy at a sporting goods store. I made the mistake of approaching one of the workers at the store and saying, “Two things: I need to know where your ping pong balls are, and also I’m going to need to use your restroom.”

It was only hours later that I realized why the guy gave me such a horrified look.

HAPPY CRAFTING EVERYBODY!