The Week in Review: January 5th, 2014

Bus Stop: White Cat

I had a very relaxing and productive New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, and I’m really enjoying the new year. I’m a bit superstitious about the accumulation of time, and I always feel weighted down at the end of months and, especially, years. But 2014 is a whole new year without any mistakes in it, to misquote one of the Quotable cards at work, so I’m quite pleased.

This week, I got through The School of Good and Evil and Defy. I’ve also started on The History of Food in 100 Recipes, which I’m not that far into.


Dresden Codak author Aaron Diaz looks at Tolkien and race. I especially love his point linking Arnor and Gondor with Upper and Lower Egypt, given Plato’s own theory that the Egyptians were the descendants of the Atlanteans and the fact that Numenor was based on Atlantis.

Clive Thompson at Wired has had it with parents fretting over kids communicating online, pointing out that not only is social media inherently, you know, social, but the reason kids flock to it so is a symptom of parenting with increasingly short leashes.

At Slate, Amanda Hess examines n+1’s pamphlet No Regrets, where female readers discuss their experiences with the “midcentury misogynists”—Hemingway, Kerouac, Roth, and the like. It explores being alienated from a text by its treatment of female characters, taking what you can out of problematic texts, and how a text taking a stand against you teaches you to challenge all texts.

The Nerdist podcast is always very good, but, for their retrospective of 2013, the hosts get personal and deep, taking inventory of all the bad and all the good that happened to them over the year. It’s really cathartic and inspiring.

Friend of the blog Renay talks about Event Horizon and how bad media can still be good for you:

A black man as a hero? A black man who lives against all odds? I was shocked enough to start seeing the pattern, if that makes sense? I’m certain a rewatch now (it’s been awhile) would reveal all the terrible, problematic stuff I’m missing, but even though it might have screwed up it still gave me building blocks I would’ve missed out on otherwise. … And of course it made me start thinking about the SF tropes that were being used, etc. and led me to other, better films. But it’s an important piece of my development into an SF fan and just a fan generally — I wrote so much fanfic for this film after years of only really reading fic. I am so glad those stories are lost to the internet! /o\

I won’t ever claim Event Horizon is a good film (even as a kid I found some of the stuff it does dumb/hokey). But even bad films can serve good purposes.

If you, like me, totally missed Stephen Colbert’s cameo in The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, here it is.

s.e. smith asks, “Where Do You Learn Your Cultural Traditions?” to point out how people use highly unnatural learned behaviors—such as toasting with water instead of a drink—to police the behavior of others and “prove” that they’re Other. This really resonated with me because I’m hyperaware of learned behaviors, since I never had an opportunity to learn a lot of those cultural traditions as a child.

Jen Dziura at Medium rips apart a piece by James Altucher where he uses his privilege and manipulation to get what he wants and encourages others to “break the rules”. Of course, as Dziura points out, that only works if you’re white and middle-class.

In the wake of Martin Freeman’s rape joke, I think it’s high time we all revisited this Jezebel piece about how to make actual rape jokes (emphasis mine):

This fetishization of not censoring yourself, of being an “equal-opportunity offender,” is bizarre and bad for comedy. When did “not censoring yourself” become a good thing? We censor ourselves all the time, because we are not entitled, sociopathic fucks. Your girlfriend is censoring herself when she says she’s okay with you playing Xbox all day. In a way, comedy is censoring yourself—comedy is picking the right words to say to make people laugh. A comic who doesn’t censor himself is just a dude yelling. And being an “equal opportunity offender”—as in, “It’s okay, because Daniel Tosh makes fun of ALL people: women, men, AIDS victims, dead babies, gay guys, blah blah blah”—falls apart when you remember (as so many of us are forced to all the time) that all people are not in equal positions of power. “Oh, don’t worry—I punch everyone in the face! People, baby ducks, a lion, this Easter Island statue, the ocean…” Okay, well that baby duck is dead now. And you’re a duck-murderer. It’s really easy to believe that “nothing is sacred” when the sanctity of your body and your freedom are never legitimately threatened.

tumblr user aiffe proposes that, if that glamour Thranduil pulled at Thorin to intimidate him in The Desolation of Smaug really does veil actual injuries (including a blind eye), the film version of Thranduil might be blind. It’s a really interesting headcanon that fits in nicely with Pace’s performance. We’ll see if it can survive The Battle of the Five Armies.

Rihannon at Feminist Fiction tells us why we actually need more Mary Sues in mainstream media.

Steven Moffatt laughs at Sherlock’s female fandom because, in his words, they all just want to date Sherlock and thaw his cold heart, which will never happen. This despite the vast lack of Mary Sue fanfiction where authors invent self-insert characters to pair off with Sherlock, because the only person who would ever want to date Moffatt’s Sherlock is Moffatt’s John Watson. Meanwhile, Elementary develops meaningful relationships between its female characters.

There’s no date on this piece, but “How Hollywood De-fanged Potter’s Radical Politics” responds to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 by pointing out how the film smoothes and ignores the politics of both the novel and J.K. Rowling herself.


Purchased: None
Added: Storybound by Marissa Burt, To All My Fans, With Love, From Sylvie by Ellen Conford

8 thoughts on “The Week in Review: January 5th, 2014

    • Yeah, we’ll see. I’m thinking of putting together a piece on middle grade fiction where characters (mundane or fairy tale) explicitly attempt to change their narratives. It’s a level of meta I haven’t seen for that age group, so I’m fascinated that there are any examples of that at all.

  1. That’s a neat piece about reading the male authors — I read the n+1 piece and enjoyed it too, but I hadn’t thought about the idea that reading hostile books could make you a more critical reader. Interesting idea.

    The Dziura piece is great and so true. I wanted to hug that article.

    • There is nothing like getting the door slammed in your face while reading a canonized book to see the system at play. For me, reading C.S. Lewis makes me so aware of the systems in which he functioned and the rigid identities that he probably never realized he could question. I have such an impression of him as a deeply sad man.

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