Box Set Castle continues to evolve as I take over more and more display space at work. (Above is a “For the sci-fi/fantasy fans who have everything…” display; I’ve only managed to sell one copy of The Tolkien Companion off of that.) In Warcraft II terms, it’s gone from a Town Hall to a Keep, but “Box Set Castle” is catchier.
In any case, IT’S THE THICK OF THE HOLIDAYS! Winter solstice holidays are my favorite. I lost my last few days off to a hideous cold, but I’m feeling a lot better. (Although I can’t access my upper register at the moment, so I’ve been enjoying surprising people with a deeper voice.) My reading has been picking up, mercifully; I finished After the King, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, and The Princess Academy this week. I’m reading Louder Than Hell and I’m listening to A Wrinkle in Time. I’ve just realized that I only ever read about fifty pages of A Wrinkle in Time as a kid, but there’s no stopping now that I’ve started.
Mario Batalli’s new store, Eataly Chicago, features a Nutella bar. As in, a bar where you can get Nutella and snacks of your choice to dip in said Nutella, not a Nutella candy bar. Well, I guess my Christmas shopping for my brother is done.
Over at Autostraddle, butch Gabrielle talks about her experience wearing leggings out in public for the first time in a while:
So I don’t know why my B-rate, wide flat butt caught any dude’s attention but the eyes of men were upon me. Gag. Like fucking gag. I knew I’d made a wardrobe error of sorts when the first dude I passed on the train platform was like, “Nice booty, girl.” I wanted to unzip my skin and wear something else. Just the fact that my thighs and behind were on semi-display seemed to make it okay for men to comment on them. I caught my homeboy, a dude that’s called me his “little brother,” gazing at my body when I picked up the keys I’d accidentally dropped on the floor. Yo, what? Also, cis-brown-bro-dudes opened doors for me like all of a sudden I was a person to them. It felt so weird — like a gift that was two shades away from being something I wanted. It felt good but weird and insincere and totally dependent on the amount of ass they were allowed to see via me. Where does one return a gift like that?
Captain Awkward has some wise words about communication, as ever: this week, she tells us that “HINTS. DON’T. WORK.” Too true.
Bitch is currently having a fundraiser! You should donate, because feminist media is important, and so they can continue to employ my friend Ari. She’s in this supercute video!
J. J. Abrams is apologizing for keeping Khan’s identity a secret in Star Trek: Into Darkness by pinning it on the studio. He just didn’t want it to distract from the movie! Which would be reasonable, except that he lifts dialogue wholesale out of a very successful film titled The Wrath of Khan, and that he plays the reveal of Khan’s identity as a reveal when nobody has any reason in-universe to know who Khan is. (A commenter on io9 proposed that Star Trek: Into Darkness should have opened with ten minutes of the Eugenics War, which makes me writhe in jealousy.) And that’s not even starting on the whitewashing.
“A Patrick Swayze Christmas” is one of the best Christmas carols ever. Maybe I can watch Roadhouse for Christmas this year, because Roadhouse is magic.
NPR’s Linda Holmes points out that Catching Fire casts Peeta squarely in the role of “Movie Girlfriend”, making it a franchise that troubles gender; Mimi Schippers at Sociological Images posits the troubling only exists as long as Katniss doesn’t choose between Peeta or Gale. Once she ceases moving between “Movie Boyfriend” (to Peeta) and “Movie Girlfriend” (to Gale), her gender performed in relation to others settles. Schippers ponders a world where Katniss doesn’t have to choose. I’m pairing these because you really do need to read both of them to get at both the gendered archetypes of film and at the concept of gender being constructed in relation to others.
Josiah Hesse at Splitsider, himself a bit to the right, wonders why there isn’t a successful conservative political comedy show.
Michelle Cottle called First Lady Michelle Obama a “feminist nightmare.” Melissa Harris-Perry is sending her a suggested reading list about black feminism, because Melissa Harris-Perry is awesome.
Several awesome people (like Gavia Baker-Whitelaw and Aja Romano) from fandom have banded together to form Big Bang Press, a small publishing press focused on the original fiction of fanfiction authors. Donate to their Kickstarter!
Have a super-cute comic about dwarves and brides, courtesy of Sammy Montoya.
Another end of the year tradition is DJ Earworm’s mash-up of the year’s hits. This year’s edition is “Living the Fantasy.” I find these so interesting, because they distill the subtext of all these songs into a song that just screams it. The mood of the year is really captured, and this one is about moving on and triumphing.
Gal Gadot has been announced as Wonder Woman for Batman vs. Superman. Having never seen her in anything but a YouTube clip from The Fast and the Furious, I tentatively like this choice? She’s Israeli and has military experience, which fits nicely with the character. I have a hard time seeing her as Wonder Woman at the moment, because she’s so slender, but I assume she’ll bulk up for the role to look like an Amazon. (I also think of Diana as six feet tall, but Gadot is still plenty tall.) Of course, now I have to consider whether or not I actually want to see Zack Snyder work his grimdark magic on Wonder Woman, because I know if I don’t go, there’s going to be a tidal wave of people claiming that people just weren’t interested in Wonder Woman. Decisions, decisions.
In other casting news, Alexandra Metz will be joining Once Upon a Time come spring as Rapunzel. I’ll be happy to see Rapunzel join the show, and I’m happy to see the cast get some diversity.
Apparently there’s going to be another X-Men movie? Bryan Singer tweeted “#X-Men #Apocalypse 2016,” which is how we announce movies now. We know nothing about the film, but I hope it turns out like Days of Future Past—either good or deliciously, mindblowingly awful.
In other X-Men news, Fox is apparently trying to create its own Marvel universe with that franchise and The Fantastic Four. So there’s going to be two Marvel cinematic universes. Good luck, children of the future!
Cats might be a movie. I don’t particularly talk about small child Clare, because she is not as hilariously tragic as preteen and early teen Clare, but this was my jam. Talk about repetitive readings: when my parents took me to see a touring production of it, I got upset that it wasn’t exactly like the West End production I watched ad nauseum on PBS. Sure, Digimon soon came along to initiate me in the ways of fandom, but until then, all Cats, all the time. I’ll be there with bells on.
YouTube user Sleepy Skunk has created a supercut of hundreds of films, selected from the biggest releases of the year. Like DJ Earworm’s annual mash-up, it’s a really interesting look into what themes unite certain forms of pop culture. Film is more stable than music, though.
This is a soap made to look exactly like a The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past Super Nintendo cartridge. Okay, so that’s only available for pre-order, but still. It exists.
And to complete a raging “MY CHILDHOOD!” trifecta, we’ve got some casting news for the World of Warcraft movie. (Bells. On.) Of particular note are Paula Patton, giving me the speculative fiction diversity that I crave, Travis Fimmel, who should only be playing a dwarf, and Rob Kazinsky, better known as Chuck in Pacific Rim or that guy who was Fili and then dropped out of The Hobbit.
Leah Schnelbach rounds up several Tolkien recipe resources at Tor.com. There’s even a link to the least shortbready lembas recipe I’ve come across yet!
Ask Polly was particularly transcendent this week, tackling a letter from someone indifferent to even her supposed passion.
French director Christophe Gans’ newest picture is a pretty classical take on “Beauty and the Beast.” Looks lovely.
Noelle Stevenson drew a lovely comic about body image as a way to explain body image issues to her brother. (Not safe for work due to tasteful nudes.) Since her brother was confused that women have body issues despite the fact that “men don’t care about that,” she elaborates here.
At the Dissolve, Tasha Robinson discusses the ending of Catching Fire (the film) in the context of film series and downer endings.
This is a .gif set of Tolkien writing Elvish. It’s just as calming as watching fish.
The upcoming Flash television show is looking for an African-American Iris West. It’s been a pretty good week for ladies of color in speculative fiction franchises!
So why choose attire/ garb from two wholly disparate cultures to dress a white woman/ princess? Well the first answer is that the elaborate beauty of these styles lend themselves well to a fantasy universe. But there’s something else, and that is the white-centrism of fantasy that always assumes and privileges a white gaze. The costume designers were clearly operating from an ethnocentric perspective of “well these are unique and different!” where the difference and uniqueness is racially predicated. These styles are assembled hodge-podge because of the assumption that no one watching Star Wars would know or care.
As the quote by Junot Diaz illustrates, the cultures of people of color are not just varied and beautiful, they are full of stories of devastation, tragedy, survival, heroism and resistance, the type of stories that fantasy is made of. The problem is, we understand fantasy as white and European. White bodies and white-only environments are almost indissolubly coupled with escapism and heroism in our cultural imagination.
This means that stories about and by POC that could get told, are replaced with white narratives instead. Star Wars is one of the biggest fantasy franchise in the West, and it’s representation of POC is appalling. Don’t worry though, because there are plenty of racial caricatures! Like minstrel!JarJar who speaks a butchered form of pidgin, the slave-trading money lender with a “long nose” and the “Tuscan Raiders”.
At the AV Club, Dennis Perkins discusses (and links to!) the Beatles’ Christmas records sent out to fans every year while the band was together. It’s a festive way to track the history of the band, as the last two records had the boys recording their parts separately.
I roll my eyes at Hanna Rosin’s The End of Men whenever I come across it at the store. Ann Friedman tackles it elegantly by asking “What Does Manhood Mean in 2013?”:
What’s striking isn’t the lack of consensus on what defines masculinity now, but the utter confusion about how to go about doing so. That’s because America is finally getting around to having the conversation about what it means to be a man that, decades ago, feminism forced us to have about womanhood. Women still face social consequences when they don’t conform neatly to gender norms, but many of even the most ideologically progressive men are just now starting to talk about how to break with masculine stereotypes and still hang onto a sense of gender identity. Goldberg and Rosin, in using traditional definitions of manhood (the simple, stoic breadwinner), declare him dead, or at least less marketable to advertisers. Men’s magazines, which now peddle facial moisturizers but still often shy away from heartfelt confessionals, have spotted how hard it is for men to balance both embracing and rethinking masculine stereotypes — and they’ve made some attempts to address it, but mostly ended up documenting the confusion.
Added: Wonder Woman Unbound by Tim Hanley (via The Mary Sue), Truly Wilde by Joan Schenkar (via work), The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn (via work), Every Day by David Levithan (via work), Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel (via work), Mothership by Martin Leicht and Isla Neal (via work)