Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Harry Potter Pumpkins (and how to make your own)

Yeah I know I haven't been posting in a long time, and I should let you know right away that that's not likely to change.  Nonetheless, I love carving pumpkins, and given the amount of work I put into them (including creating patterns from actual pictures, applying my patterns to the pumpkins, gutting the pumpkins, and then actually carving them) I wanted to share them with a wider audience.  I'm actually pleased with how they turned out, having learned some way to improve on last year's small issues.

Image description: group shot of four Harry Potter-themed pumpkins, lit with candles.  From left to right: Harry, Ron, Voldemort, Hermione.

More pictures below the fold

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

On elder abuse II

Note: This is me venting.  I am not a therapist of any kind, nor do I presume to be one.  Everything in this post is based on what I've observed, and how I try to make sense of it.  It in no way is intended to reflect the experience of others, particularly those who suffer with addiction or mental illness.  I am not speculating on the connection between addiction and mental illness with verbal abuse beyond the scope of my own experience in my own family.

In September of '09, I wrote a post regarding elder abuse, in which I discussed the verbal attacks my grandpa sustained daily. This last weekend, I observed my grandpa in the garage, trying to get me to stay and visit with him, and felt so guilty I couldn't stay. I am ashamed that it took me almost a year to act, and am ashamed that that "act" only manifested in a phone call to a help hotline earlier today. That phone call resulted in me being referred to Adult Protective Services. I will find out in a few days if they will act or not. 

I just can't stand the thought of my grandpa being in that house, in that environment.  He's a prisoner. He's dependent on my grandma, and all she does is treat him like shit. 

My grandma humiliates my grandpa, blames him for his own accident (he's got limited mobility, and has a difficult time speaking resulting from cracking his head open three years ago).  She insults him.  She yells at him for everything.  She controls his money.  She doesn't let anyone except my dad be alone with him.  I don't think he leaves the house except for doctor's visits.  Well, that, and going out to the garage--the garage is the only place he can go to get away from her.  

My aunt thinks it's my grandma acting against her fear of losing him--that she's so scared that he had that accident that it manifests in ugly, abusive ways. I've discussed reporting it with my aunt, and with a few other family members and friends of the family, but no one wants to be the one to raise the alarm. No one wants to hurt my grandma. But why should her fear, why should her feelings be more important than the well-being and happiness of my grandpa?

I know if my dad and grandma are contacted by Adult Protective Services, they will be upset. I will own up to it. I will be the betrayer. I will admit to disrupting their lives, and not fucking caring. My dad is perhaps worse than my grandma. He's an enabler. He's so fucking distracted with his alcohol addiction that he just "stays out of it." His own father is put through mental anguish to the point where he has told my aunt that he wishes he was dead, and my dad does nothing.  He lives with my grandparents--sees this every damn day. He won't step in. He won't even fucking clean the house.  He's so self-righteous, bragging that he lives with his parents to help them in their old age; it's bullshit--he only drinks.

It's like they're all just rotting there--Dad and Grandma are too deep in their own self-loathing; they're sinking.  They're consumed by their own anger and frustration at the world--everything is always someone else's fault--that they've fallen into their own self-destructions.  And my grandpa is being dragged down with them.

That family has always been the definition of dysfunction, and I admit that having grown up (partly anyway) in that house has left its mark on me, much to my own horror; and yes, my grandpa did his share of fighting back when he was able to (though that was mostly in response to my grandma's verbal attacks)--but I cannot let that man die in that house and not try to help him in some way.

If my dad wants to be a worthless sack of shit, if he wants to be self-destructive, I don't fucking care anymore. I honestly don't give a shit about him anymore. I'm past trying. I can't even remember all the times I tried with him, and only got yelled at. So fuck it. He can rot for all I care. And if my grandma wants to be useless in her house that hasn't been cleaned in I-don't-even-remember-how-long, then fine. She refuses to see a doctor, take her medication, or see a therapist. I dread visiting with her because of how awful she is. But I'll be damned if I leave my grandpa to wallow in that despair.

Even visiting that short time on Sunday was long enough to illustrate a very pathetic existence. It's almost indescribable. My dad is smoking and drinking his way to a sad and lonely end of life; he looks 20 years older than he is. And my grandma is stubbornly neglecting her own health. Why should my grandpa be neglected?

It's just so disgusting to think about. I'm anxious about hearing back from APS. I hope something can be done for him. He doesn't deserve to live his last years like this. No one does. I'm very afraid for him. And I'm disappointed in myself for not calling that number sooner. But I think, like everyone else, I was still afraid of hurting my grandma, and still felt guilty for even thinking it because I was afraid of alienating my own father.

But that guilt has turned to pity, and pity can't prevent me from doing what I should have done already.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Please help Renee's family

Yesterday, Renee at Womanist Musings lost a dear member of her family: her nephew Jesse James Cox.  Renee's family is unable to pay for a funeral, so she has reached out to the blogging community for help.  If you are able to, any amount will help, please head over to her site.  In the top left corner of the sidebar is a donation box.

I have admired Renee and her work for some time now.  She's put a lot of effort into her site, and works daily to challenge racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, disableism, and many other forms of injustice.  If you can help in any way, please visit her site.

My deepest condolences to Renee and her family during this time--losing a loved one is heartbreaking, and even more so when one is lost so young.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sexual Assault in Back to the Future or "I'm totally about to ruin your nostalgic love for this movie, so get ready"

[Trigger warning]

For the first time in probably more than ten years, I watched Back to the Future with my boyfriend, who had never seen it.  I remember it being not that great, but it's one of those classic 80s movies that everyone should see once.  I guess.  Watching it as an adult was very different than that first viewing as a kid.  Much of that had to do with my change in how I perceived the sexual assault in the movie.

I think we all know how the story goes: Marty's inventor friend, Doc, invents a time machine, Marty is sent back in time in his escape from scary brown terrorists, whom Doc cheated out of a proper bomb in exchange for time-traveling necessary plutonium.  Before he locates Doc in 1955, Marty inadvertently prevents his parents from their fateful meeting.

Let's stop here for a sec because this is where the sexual assault first enters: Marty's mom, Lorraine, falls in love with George after her dad hits George with the car.  Lorraine in 1985 still never knew what George was doing in the middle of the street in the first place.  Well, Marty follows George in 1955 and we find out that George was in a tree with binoculars watching Lorraine undress.  Lorraine's dad hits him, or is supposed to hit him, when he falls out of the tree.  However, Marty pushes him out of the way and is hit by the car, thus becoming the love-interest to his mom.

At any rate, during the course of events where Marty tries to figure out how to return to 1985, and also how to ensure his existence by getting his parents to fall in love or at the very least "park the car," we observe more sexual assault.  In the cafeteria, Lorraine is sitting with friends, and Biff (who in 1985 is George's boss, or at least more successful coworker) has his hands on Lorraine.  She is clearly uncomfortable.  She tells him to go away; she is cowering away from him.  Marty encourages George to stop them, but George is afraid, and slinks away.  So Marty steps in (which further cements Lorraine's attraction to him).

Later in the movie, Marty comes up with a plan to get George with Lorraine, a plan which involves Marty being not so nice to a nice girl (his mom), and he tells George to rescue her.  George points out that that is not a very nice thing for Marty to do, but he assures George that's it's totally cool cuz it's pretend and stuff.  Hear that everyone?  Sexual assault is okay if you're only pretending to assault the woman to act as wingman to your buddy (or father!), but it's gotta be believable, so scare the shit out of her.  Ugh.  I can't believe I just wrote that.

Anyway, the plan goes wrong.  Turns out Lorraine is totally hot for Marty, but quickly changes her mind when she finds kissing him feels like kissing her brother.  Biff interrupts, and in an act of revenge against Marty for a sweet skateboard escape attempt that earlier trashed Biff's car, Biff hands Marty over to his thugs, and jumps in the car with Lorraine, presumably to "have his way" with her.  Yeah, it's called rape, but it's not really treated as such in the movie.  It does, however, mean that George can really prove himself a man because Lorraine is really being sexually assaulted by Biff (and not just pretend sexually assaulted by Marty).  Long-ish uncomfortable scene short: George rescues Lorraine.  Seriously, this scene was really uncomfortable to watch. I mean, after all the other assaults that Lorraine endures, it's made even more disgusting by the fact that I'm made to think "omg will no one save her?"  That's what these assaults are all building up to, right?  George has a chance to protect her, and eventually does before it can escalate anymore. But it's just a prop to motivate George, which falls into that cliche of women dying / being assaulted / or being in any other form of danger to cause a man to act (I think one of the best examples of this is Wolverine in the X-Men movies, since the women are basically required to die twice to get Wolverine to do stuff).

Oh, but after George proves his manliness by saving Lorraine's virtue, George gets another chance to really hang on to that manliness because (guess what!) Lorraine is assaulted AGAIN.  Some random dude on the dance floor shoves George out of the way and has his hands on Lorraine even though she, again, says no, and even tries to get away.  At this point I believe I was throwing things.  Apparently the character of Lorraine exists solely for the purpose of being sexually assaulted.  I mean, she like goes around doing Lorraine things, and gets assaulted.  And it's okay, because eventually some upstanding man will defend her.  Maybe.  And even when she's sitting with friends, her friends just carry on like nothing is happening.  Can I get some damn female solidarity please??

Oh yeah, George eventually reclaims Lorraine for a second time.  Marty still exists.  Hooray.

But there's one more thing I want to talk about before I wrap this up.  Marty returns to 1985 to find that his and his family's lives have significantly improved because George is now a Man.  We have several signifiers that tell us about the family's success: Marty's brother is wearing a suit and not a fast-food uniform!  His sister has several boyfriends.  SEVERAL!  His mom is not fat!  That's like, the best kind of mom, right?  And his dad is the boss of other people!  Including (omg you're so not ready for this) Biff.  BIFF EVERYONE!!  You know, the man who consistently sexually assaulted his mom in high school, including a near-rape!  Yep.  They keep him around to wax the car because it's an indicator of MANLY SUCCESS and is not at all triggering to Lorraine having her attacker so close every day of her adult life.  Because Biff is subdued now, and is not at all likely to you know, attack her again despite having shown a propensity for just that behavior.

As a kid, I think I sort of glossed over these attacks.  They're treated so callously in the movie that I didn't process it as something out of the norm.  I simply accepted that Biff was a jerk, and Lorraine needed someone to save her, and then everything was okay.  I didn't think of George as a predator, even though he  is, because the movie still frames him as a hero.  When I saw Biff at the end waxing the family car, I thought it was a funny sort of justice--ha, serves him right!  Only as an adult do I see how utterly fucked up it is that Lorraine has to have him in close proximity, and how fucking unrealistic it is that she would be okay with that.

But no one cares about a woman's discomfort if it means her predator-turned-hero-turned-husband is all confidant and shit.  Yay for manliness!

Friday, July 9, 2010

There is no justice--Oscar Grant's murderer sentenced to 2-4 years

This is just utterly depressing.  I just viewed the video again, [heavy trigger warning] and I am at a loss for words.  How anyone can view that and buy into the cop's story that it was an accident is just beyond me.  The guilty cop is Johannes Mehserle and is only getting 2-4 years for manslaughter.  It's particularly telling that moments after the shooting, the cops involved attempted to confiscate witness' cell phones.  How the fuck am I to believe he thought it was an accident when immediately following the police officers involved attempted to cover it up?

Mehserle's defense was that he thought he had reached for his taser, but in fact pulled his gun and shot Grant.  The two weapons are one two different sides of his body.  I find it highly unlikely that he did not know which weapon he reached for.

There are others who've said it better than I have, so I'll direct you to them.  My deepest condolences with Grant's family at this time.

Anna Marie at Feministing:

Mehserle got involuntary manslaughter, y'all. INVOLUNTARY MANSLAUGHTER. That's what you get when you get into a car accident. According to ABC News, "Regarding the upcoming sentencing, Burris [Grant's family attorney] said, 'He should be going to jail for the rest of his life, but yet he very well may get a sentence that does not even require him to go to jail, which would be the ultimate insult and travesty that I can imagine.'

Melissa McEwan at Shakesville:
The whole taser-gun switcheroo is on what the verdict rests. It was Mehserle's contention that he had accidentally pulled out his gun (located on his right hip) instead of his taser (located on his left hip) and fired a round into Oscar Grant before realizing he'd "grabbed the wrong weapon."
Which, in my estimation, is all a red herring even irrespective of its alleged veracity (which is a whole other issue). The fact is, Mehserle could not have justifiably used his taser in that situation, either. Grant clearly hadn't come close to resisting, and thus Mehserle's intent was to hurt him, plain and simple. That he hurt him until he was dead doesn't make it involuntary. Fuck.
macon d at stuff white people do:
Violence in the wake of racial injustice is what gets the attention of the white-framed media, not the injustice itself. As I write this, CNN finds the news of a basketball player's team-switch bigger news; readers have to search more carefully for a link that says, "Hundreds protest after BART verdict."
Would "thousands" have bumped the story up the page? "Hundreds of thousands"? Whatever the number, it's the protests that the white-framed corporate media focus on today as the "story" here. Not the searing injustice of yet another light sentence for the state-sponsored killer of yet another unarmed black man.

I will likely be adding more to this list as the day goes on.  You may consider this an open thread on the verdict.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Last Airbender: fail fail and more fail

I just returned from viewing the shitfest that is The Last Airbender, and my quick reaction  to it is as follows: this movie seems to be done with such lack of care and detail that it views like Mr. Shyamalan heard about the popular cartoon show from a friend, and decided to make a movie based on a second-hand description.  "Oh, so the brother and sister find this kid frozen in ice, and then they go to some temples, and some Earth Kingdom villages, and then the North Pole?  Oh, yeah, let's throw in that flying buffalo thing...and the lemur too, I guess."

Okay, now to the longer complaints.  First, the racebending, which, if you haven't heard, is the most obnoxious fucking thing about this horrible movie.  What we have is an entirely Asian world.  What  Shyamalan has given us was a cast of white people in leading (good) roles and brown people as side characters and bad guys.  One of the arguments that racist defenders of this casting will cite is that perhaps the white actors that got the parts did better than the other people who auditioned (like Asian kids!).  Yeah, except that the casting call for the part of Aang called for a "caucasion" male.  After having viewed the movie myself, I find it hard to believe that there is not one Asian actor who can out-act any of those awful white kids.  Noah Ringer was somewhat passable--I mean, I'll give these kids some slack--the dialog just sucked big time, but nonetheless it wasn't as if any of these kids brought anything unique to their roles.  Seriously, white Sokka didn't even need to be in this movie.  He was just some white dude hanging around that occasionally felt the need to protect some ladies.

Shyamalan has responded to some of this legitimate criticism to his casting fail.  This one's my favorite:

Here’s the irony of the conversation: The Last Airbender is the most culturally diverse movie series of all time. I’m not talking about maybe one Jedi, maybe one person of a different color – no one’s even close. That’s a great pride to me. The irony of this statement enrages me to the point of … not even the accusation, but the misplacement of it. You’re coming at me, the one Asian filmmaker who has the right to cast anybody I want, and I’m casting this entire movie in this color blind way where everyone is represented. I even had one section of the Earth kingdom as African American, which obviously isn’t in the show, but I wanted to represent them, too!
And I fought like crazy to have the pronunciation of the names to go back to the Asian pronunciation. So you say “Ahng” instead of “Aaang” because it’s correct. It’s not “I-rack,” it’s “ee-Rock.” I’m literally fighting for all this. And who’s getting blamed? ME! This is incredible. And so it’s infuriating, this stigmatization, that the first word about the most culturally-diverse movie of all time is this accusation. And here’s the irony of it, this has nothing to do with the studio system. I had complete say in casting. So if you need to point the racist finger, point it at me, and if it doesn’t stick, then be quiet.
So...pronouncing names the correct Asian way makes up for those names belonging to characters portrayed by white actors?  And you're not racist because you're Asian and you're so aware of diversity that EVERYONE gets to play Asian dress-up?  Yeah, not buying it.  Shyamalan's sense of diversity doesn't even make sense: white kids as Inuits alongside brown Inuits in an isolated part of the (Asian) globe.  Um.  What?

I'm sure there are those who would have defended Shyamalan's utter race fail had this movie had even the tiniest entertainment value.  But, lucky for us, there is none!  I went into the theater tonight really hoping that the movie would at least feed my inner fandom.  But, as I stated at the beginning of this post, it really seemed like Shyamalan never even saw the show.  There were just so many beloved elements missing in this movie.  I was aware going in that nothing good could really come of a movie cramming 20 episodes worth of events into an hour and a half long movie (which is quite short for movies of this type, but nonetheless felt like an eternity.)

It's hard not to compare this movie to the cartoon, but it's especially sad when the movie doesn't even do the cartoon an ounce of justice.  All the movie characters are loosely based on the cartoon ones because Shyamalan exchanged important things like plot and character development for special effects.  In the cartoon, Aang is an almost typical 12-year-old boy, who has to constantly do grown-up things.  He's fun-loving and adorable, but when he's angry or grieving and falls into the Avatar state, we are angry and grieving with him.  The Aang in the movie was a 12-year-old boy whose eyes glowed occasionally when he did some really serious martial arts moves.  Katara in the cartoon is fearless, her love and protectiveness for Aang is endearing, and her skill as a waterbender is underscored by her ambition.  She believes in Aang, but she also believes in herself.  The Katara in the movie does magic with water sometimes, inexplicably follows Aang around, and is overall pretty dull.  I mean, in the cartoon the reason she's excited to meet Aang in the first place is because she's never met another bender before, and they go to the North Pole so she can learn waterbending from a Master--yes, she likes Aang, but with his flying bison (which was horribly underused in the movie--"We haven't seen Appa in awhile, let's throw him in this scene for no reason") she has the ability to go across the world.  As for Sokka...well, he was essentially a prop.  The only reason we even knew he was Sokka was because people were calling him "Sokka."  Where's the sarcasm?  Where's the leadership?  Oh who cares?  Look, special effects!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Zuko was similarly horrifically disappointing.  I really did like the idea of Dev Patel playing him, but with an already horrible script without significant character development, I didn't really care about him like I was made to in the cartoon series.  My favorite part of Zuko in the show, and his uncle Iroh by extension, was how sympathetically he was portrayed.  In most of the series, he's simultaneously the bad guy and a good guy.  We understand him.  We understand his ambitions and the motivation for those ambitions (or, rather, obsessions).  Zuko and Iroh both lost something they cherished, both sticking together in their banishment, both having lost their honor in some way, and both wanting to reclaim it: Zuko by presenting his father with the Avatar, and Iroh by accepting the blessings in life, even if they aren't what he thought they should once have been.  In the movie, we know how Zuko was scarred, we know Iroh lost a son, but it's not developed enough to make the viewer really feel for these characters.  For mere seconds Zuko and Iroh do something "good," but that's not enough.  Shyamalan did a great disservice to the cartoon by creating this movie, where plot and characterizations are just mashed together into something that takes a backseat to the special effects. Special effects, while visually stunning (when done right, and trust me, the ones in this movie were not done right) are no substitute for the audience being able to empathize with the characters, even the bad ones as the series intended.

Here are a few other complaints:

  • Who the fuck gave the okay on this script?  Doesn't anyone know how to get these flat characters to interact with one another?  Oh, guess not.  See why character development is so damn important?  It helps you figure out how the dialog should go.  At least the series had the dialog right.  There were some episodes that left me with chills, and with others I was so moved I was crying.  That's how you fucking do it.  
  • Shyamalan apparently also has no concept of distance: Zhao was able to travel back and forth to talk to Fire Lord Ozai in what seemed like short amount of time.  Does Shyamalan realize it takes quite some time to travel by ship?  I'm guessing no.  I'm also guessing that Zhao didn't have messengers or something.
  • The earthbenders were disappointingly underused.  In the series, their fighting style was always my favorite, and it was such a disappointment to only see them for one short scene.  I know I know.  This was Book One, which is Water,  but still!  And, again, Shyamalan clearly does not understand the series at all, because that scene depicted the earthbenders being imprisoned, not on a metal ship away from land, but in a compound full of (you guessed it) earth!  That just doesn't work in that sense.  In the series, the earthbenders despair because they have lost the means to bend.  They do not fight because they are in a hopeless environment.  In the movie, they're all "Oh, the firebenders got us.  We're done..."  THEY ARE SURROUNDED BY EARTH.  The plausibility of their giving up just doesn't work here.  
  • The female agency was totally removed.  Central to Katara's characterization in the series is her desire to act.  She's the one who initially releases the iceberg containing Aang.  In the movie, it's Sokka just hitting the ice.  And (back with the earthbenders) in the movie it's Aang who gives a speech to boost the spirits of the earthbenders, and they eventually start bending.  In the series, it's Katara on the ship without Sokka or Aang.  She tries to speak to the earthbenders, they are in despair.  They do not fight.  So Katara, with the help of Sokka and Aang, give the earthbenders not only the hope required to act, but also the means.  They're not just sad and surrounded by earth.  In the series, it actually illustrates how the earthbenders need Katara.  
  • I know this one seems like a stretch, especially for someone who doesn't already understand characterization in humans, but Appa and Momo are also characters in the series.  Significant ones.  Not just CG animal props you can trot out every couple of scenes cuz OMG THE EFFECTS.  Fuck.
  • I'm sorry, but Aasif Mandvi just wasn't badass enough to pull off a good Zhao.  I mean, he has the whole douchebag thing down, but was lacking in believable ruthlessness.  
  • This was Zuko's scar?  Really?  Come on.
  • It really didn't seem like Shyamalan understood the Avatar's world.  Firebenders can bend fire without their being a fire nearby.  Zuko demonstrates this by melting the ice underwater.  Yet everyone shits themselves when Iroh makes "fire from nothing!"  That's what a firebender is.  Watching five minutes of the show would tell you that.  There's no doubting that Iroh is a powerful firebender, but this was just lazy.  And while I'm complaining about that inconsistency, when Katara is fighting Zuko, why didn't she just put out the fires?  Because firebenders (apparently) can't firebend without it, and Zuko set fires prior to the fight which he (apparently) needed.  Except firebenders don't need to do that.  
  • SPOILER ALERT:  If you want to see an amazing climactic battle at the North Pole, I recommend watching the two episodes at the end of Book One, because the battle in the series was much more dramatic, engaging, and...well, good.  The movie version?  Well, I'll tell you: Aang's eyes get all glowy.  He waterbends a huge ass wave.  But then makes it go away again after a painfully long build-up.  The Fire Nation ships high-tail it out of there.  Because waves that don't do anything are scary as shit.  Battle over.  I think I screamed "WHAT?" in the theater at this point, annoying some of my fellow audience members.  But seriously.  WHAT????  In the series, Aang, angry at the invasion, angry at the murdering of the moon spirit, loses control and enters the Avater state, becoming a giant water monster spirit thing and DESTROYS THE FIRE NATION INVADERS.  All of them.  Ships too.  Oh, and meanwhile, Zuko and Zhao have an awesome fight that was omitted in the movie.  Their fight is interrupted by the moonspirit seizing Zhao, and Zuko attempts to save him, but Zhao refuses to take Zuko's hand.  So he dies.  Not by a bunch of waterbenders, as in the horrible movie.
Basically Shyamalan took a lot of liberties with this movie.  If there's going to be a trade-off in which certain things are exchanged and events are altered, those alterations should at least be good.  And consistent.  Like the reason Aang ran away from the air temple in the first place: in the movie it was because he didn't want to not have a family; in the series it was because he would have been taken from Monk Gyatsu, who was like a father to Aang, and would have been sent away to train as Avatar, so he ran away because he couldn't deal with losing Gyatsu and having a responsibility he never wanted.  This is a much more heartfelt explanation: fear of losing a loved one rather than being denied potential loved ones.  A 12-year-old kid doesn't think of the family that could never be when he has one in the present.  

If I missed anything important, please let me know in the comments.  Meanwhile, I'll be re-watching the series in an attempt to forget the swill that Shyamalan dared call The Last Airbender.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Presentation of gender in Toy Story 3

I have previously written about Pixar's lack of developed female characters (here, here, and here).  Before I dive into any sort of analysis of Toy Story 3, I am going to state what I usually do when I analyze anything people are going to get defensive about: I loved this movie; nonetheless it is still subject to criticism.  My discussion of the film is not a reflection of my dislike of it, but is rather an attempt to discuss why this movie is not perfect.

As with the other Pixar films, the presentation of gender was rather disappointing.  We're quickly presented with "this is what girls play with / this is what boys play with."  Ken is consistently shamed on being a "girl's toy."  It's played for laughs that he loves clothing, or wears Barbie's scarf.  In one scene he's tortured by having to watch his clothes be ripped apart, until he finally caves.

Once again, there's a significant lack of female characters.  According to this trivia page there are 302 characters in the movie.  A glance through the cast list shows that a little over 30 are voiced (i.e. considered major characters).  22 (not including Spanish Buzz) are male.  12 are female.  And we all know that Woody and Buzz are the main characters.  Yeah, there's Jessie, but she's not in charge, and she often defers to Buzz or Woody to tell her what to do since it's understood that as Andy's favorites, they're the leaders.

Perhaps the most obnoxious bit of sexism came from how other characters treated Mrs. Potato Head.  Voiced by the famously naggy Estelle Harris, Mrs. Potato Head yaps.  A lot.  In fact, she is the lead in the promo at the beginning of the movie advising the audience to STFU during the film.  Basically, she's talking during the movie, her phone rings, she's yapping.  Finally, Mr. Potato Head removes her mouth.  The movie is enjoyable now.

This happens a few times in the movie as well.  She's mouthing off to her captors (which I do not believe is unreasonable, since the other characters were similarly protesting their situation), and her mouth is removed.  This is a manifestation of the male desire (and apparent right) to shut up nagging women.  Her mouth is always removed by a male, either her husband, or one of the male adversaries.  And it's supposed to be funny each time!  I mean, I know she's a Potato Head, and all the parts are removable and all, but not once does Mr. Potato Head lose his mouth privileges.  But a female character who dares interrupt men doing Important Things is silenced.  Oh the hilarity!!!

But before I am accused of being an oversensitive "you're looking too much into it" feminist, I'll share a few of my likes of the film.  One of the most touching scenes in the whole movie was of the little girl, Bonnie, playing with an assortment of toys.  She is wildly imaginative: a tea party transforms into a fight against a witch, and the only option is to escape in a spaceship.   SPOILER ALERT: the scene with Andy and Bonnie playing together was also really cute.  I was tearing up watching the two of them play.  Bonnie was really shy at first, but once Andy presented what was left of his childhood toys to her, she opened up.  I loved how the focus was on her and the toys.  And it didn't matter that all of those toys previously belonged to a boy, or that she was a girl playing with what is understood to be "boy toys."

And despite Ken being shamed for it, and despite it being played for laughs, I did still enjoy a male character with an unapologetic love of fashion.  

And Jessie is still pretty badass.  Bonus points for her being voiced by Joan Cusack..  

I also liked the scenes with the toddlers.  From the point of view of the toys, it was quite frightening, yet simultaneously funny because the kids are like monsters to them.  I mean, they're just kids, and that's how really little kids play.  But I can see how it could be doom for toys.  The audience sees a toy's perspective, following the anxieties of toys.  And now I feel really guilty about donating those boxes of toys last month...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

RIP Rue McClanahan

I've just found out that another Golden Girl has passed away.  McClanahan, best known for her role as Blanche, died this morning of a stroke.  She was 76.

I don't have much to add right now except that she was a talented and beautiful woman who will be deeply missed.

My condolences to the friends and family she leaves behind.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Being anti-children really isn't helping anything, you know

I'd like to direct your attention to a thread over at Feministe, On Hating Kids.  I'd also like to point out that the author of the post gets one thing right: that hating kids is quite ridiculous, and it hurts women too.  But after that, the post fails to really make the point that children do matter, as do the women that have them.  Sadly, it's only the opening paragraph that makes a good point:

Sybil at Bitch PhD is right on the money with this post — the “I hate kids” line is pretty ridiculous, and it’s unfair to expect that kids will never be allowed out in public spaces. Hostility towards children is also, in practice, largely sexist — it’s moms who largely bear the burden of caring for children; it’s moms and female care-givers who are largely stuck inside when children aren’t welcomed in public spaces; and at least in my experience, it’s moms who are disproportionately glared at if their child isn’t perfectly behaved (dads, on the other hand, are considered sweet just for taking the kid out in public).
The rest essentially reads, hating kids is bad, but...I'm single and I shouldn't have to deal with other peoples' kids, which sounds an awful lot like "I'm not racist, but" followed inevitably with something that is in fact racist.

Now I'd like to direct your attention to Renee's post, My Child Takes Up Space, which asserts that children are not burdens--they are people.  She points out "What really needs to be recognized about children is that they don’t have the capacity to act in the same way that adults do." Yes, they're going to act up sometimes, and often that will be in public.  It's absolutely ridiculous to hold children to the same standards of public behavior as adults, who have had the time to be socialized.  Treating children as subhuman is only continuing an anti-children cycle.

I will not pretend I'm not annoyed by a child screaming in public, because I certainly am.  But it happens, and its unfair to hold all children accountable, and its even worse to expect the parents to be ostracized from public activities simply because their children will occasionally behave like children.

I'm finding that many of my female peers have not only decided not to have children, but are quite anti-children.  Now it is certainly their right to not have children, but there is no reason foist anti-children sentiments on women who have had children, or who plan on having children.  Several of my peers have even gone so far as to mention to me that the sight of a pregnant woman annoys them.  Well, that's just too damn bad.  Not every woman will choose to have children, but plenty do, and being hostile to children and their parents helps no one.

I know that when I have children, I will lose touch with several of my friends who not only choose not to have children, but cannot stand it when people they know get married and have babies.  I do not plan to censor my conversations because my single friends don't want to hear about my baby.  Like it or not, children are people, and they mean something to their parents.  Nothing can be gained by exclusion, nor by hostility towards children and mothers, who have the audacity to appear in public.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Some workplace sexism

Alright ladies and gentlemen: I've got a new "everyday example of sexism" anecdote for you.

A friend and I were at work earlier this week when we were approached by one of our supervisors (for reference, this is a man who seems to shift between friendly and helpful to "ick kinda creepy" on a regular basis.  He's very approachable in terms of sharing our concerns, but there are times also when my friend an I give each other "that look" and make an excuse to leave--but that's perhaps a story for another day).  Anyway, he wanted to tell my friend something, but acted sort of nervous about it.  My past experience told me that he wanted to compliment her (which admittedly does warrant nervousness because she's one of those people that does not take compliments well because she thinks that those complimenting her are being insincere).  Finally, he gave up the attempt and told her he would tell me, and then I can tell her.

So after my friend walks away, this supervisor lowers his voice and asks, "Is she planning on leaving [boyfriend]?"

I was very confused by this question, so I replied "Not that I know of.  Why?"

"I just noticed that she's been doing her make-up and hair a lot this week, and I was wondering if she was thinking of leaving [boyfriend]."

I admit it took me a few seconds to recover from this mental leap of his.  All I could manage was "What?  You think she's advertising early or something?"

After I told my friend about our boss' absurd assumption, I had time to think about it more.  And the more I did the more I got irritated by his statement, because it was incredibly sexist.  Let's break it down with a bulleted list (my favorite!):

  • There is an assumption that when a woman is available, she will advertise it: hair and make-up will be done.  Basically she will (apparently) take pains to make herself look more attractive.  This point plays into a greater narrative about our culture, in which woman who dress a certain way, or have their make-up a certain way are perceived as available.  Let's stretch that just a tiny bit further...rape culture anyone?
  • If a woman is "unattractive" or if she doesn't take the time to look presentable, then she's already in a relationship.  Or she's single and doesn't care what she looks like.
  • Women only wear make-up to make themselves attractive for men.  Women don't wear make-up because they just feel like it, or because it's one of those things that they enjoy doing for themselves.  And they most certainly do NOT make themselves attractive for other women.  

Did I miss anything?

I think if I were to discuss this with the man who said it, it would be brushed off as an innocent remark.  But that's how all this works.  It's all so ingrained in our culture and our perception that it this sort of comment is unconsciously sexist.

As a side note, how is it any of our supervisor's business even if she were planning on breaking up with her long-term boyfriend?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Fuzz Therapy

I haven't done one of these in a while, and it's certainly not for lack of Princess pictures, rather my own apathy.  I should probably start writing more, lest someone mistake this for a kitty blog, but whatever.

Why yes, my kitty is quite the lady: right over left.  This wasn't a lucky picture either--she sits like this quite often.  Sometimes she'll even sleep with her head resting on her crossed paws.  Makes me giggle every time.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Dear PlayStation--women gamers exist!! kthnx

I'm sure some of you are wondering what I've been occupying my time with since my last serious post (especially  given my seemingly sudden absence).  Well, a lot of that time I have spent playing video games.  One of those happens to be God of War III (I've already beaten it, by the way, and am playing through it again).  With that in mind, I wonder if any of you can tell me what I might find offensive about the latest douchebag PS3 commercial:

Woman: Dear PlayStation--I know in God of War III, you're this Kratos-guy seeking vengence against the gods.  But since my boyfriend got it, he's been totally ignoring me (whimpers).  
Dude: (fighting Leviathan boss in God of War III): Okay, aw!  Okay, hold on.  
Cut to Kratos ripping jaw off leviathan.  
Woman: Um...hello?
Dude: Thanks for coming.
Woman: (in disbelief)  Ugh!
In this short commercial we learn:

  • Women are attention-seeking whiny bitches, who cannot stand when their boyfriends pay attention to anything else, least of all a video game.
  • Women do not play video games.  They do not understand the appeal of video games.  They have no idea who big name characters are because the realm of video games is incomprehensible to limited lady-brains.
  • Men choose women over video games.  Every time.  I wasn't even aware that there was a women vs. video games thing happening.  Oh well.
  • PlayStation is still pretending that female gamers do not exist.

This commercial is particularly rage-inducing to me, as I, a woman, have not only heard of Kratos, but has played as him, and has already beaten the game in question.  This commercial says that women don't play video games, and still are not even considered part of the gaming demographic.

Perhaps it's just confusing to some people, since the God of War series is as far from a traditionally feminine game as possible.  Kratos is essentially raw testosterone, committing all sorts of atrocities in his quest for vengeance.  It's difficult to imagine that women can find enjoyment in disemboweling centaurs, ripping enemies in half, or smashing a man's face against stone until his face is unrecognizable.  But I assure you, dear readers--it is possible.  It would be nice if gaming industries could remember that from time to time.

Admittedly, it may be a little creepy that I cackle maliciously as the action slows on a particularly gruesome battle, but that's another issue entirely.


Filthy note

This is by no means a promise to be more consistent in writing here; however I'd like to let readers know that I have missed writing, and I don't want to let this blog, which I spent a significant amount of time building, be forgotten.

While I'm a bit too flighty to promise a certain amount of posts in a week, there are subjects which I'd like to write about.  Plus, I sort of miss having a wider audience for discussions.

And remember--I do have an open guesting policy, so if you have something you'd like to share, feel free to email me.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Filthy note

You may have noticed the lack of posts lately, so I thought I'd just let everyone know what's going on.  I've been under a bit of stress lately trying to do wedding stuff, plus I needed one of those "steps back" in regards to the blogging.  While it can be fulfilling work, I am often left emotionally drained, and I need the break.  I'd like to give you all a time frame for when I anticipate returning to blogging, but unfortunately my brain doesn't work that way.  I feel like I need a break, so I take a break, and I don't know when a sufficient break has been had until I no longer feel like I need a break.

Plus, with less than five months until the wedding, I really need to focus on that or it won't happen--and we really really want it to happen!

Some of you may continue to see me around the interwebs, and I do read all comments, even on older posts if any of you should feel like browsing.

Update: the wedding has been called off. We are no longer engaged, but we are still together.  Nonetheless I will be taking an indefinite break from blogging.