The Week in Review: January 26th, 2014

Internet: Singing with Harper

This week has been pretty destabilizing, but I’ve landed on my feet with a new job and, as seen above, a song. I read Swordspoint this week and watched Sherlock, if only out of sad, sad obligation.

Links

There’s a new trailer for Maleficient—that actually uses footage from the original Sleeping Beauty to promote it, to my great amusement. For the most part, this looks like a lady-led slice of subpar fantasy, which I am all about, but Maleficient and Aurora actually having a relationship beyond antagonist/protagonist interests me. And the young Maleficient (glanced very briefly here) looks pretty pleased with acquiring the powers of hell, so hopefully the narrative won’t be that she turns to evil after having her heart broken.

There have been a lot of reimaginings of Game of Thrones, particularly ones that take its court politics to China or Japan. (Which I adore!) But these six images reimagine the series in feudal Japan by paying close to detail. Aspects of Shinto are reflected in weirwood lore; the Wildlings are modeled after the Ainu; and Dany is relocated to the Mongolian steppes. It’s gorgeous, thoughtful work, and it’ll soon be available as prints!

Grantland’s Caleb Hannan’s piece about a trans woman may have contributed to her suicide. I haven’t read the piece, because, honestly, taking a pretty lightweight story about a scam about golf clubs and turning it into a detective piece about discovering someone’s “real” gender (because being trans is a scam, don’t you know?) is cruel, lazy, and hideous. Autostraddle has a good take down of this.

Tor.com is launching a new column, “Post-Binary Gender in SF”, written by Alex Dally MacFarlane! I loved her short story “Feed Me the Bones of Our Saints”, so I’m excited.

In her review of Cinderella for her Great Disney Blogathon, Jess Plummer offers an interesting take on the film’s centrality to Disney and its heroine:

And I have to be honest – I’m willing to give Cinderella a bit of a pass because when I think about her, it’s not in the isolated context of her movie, but in the context of the Disney Princess Collection, where she is not a protagonist who fails to protag aggressively enough, but one option among 13 for little girls to identify. And let’s face it: not every little girl is as rebellious as Merida or as sporty as Mulan or as curious as Ariel or as determined as Tiana. Some little girls are going to look at quiet, gentle, compassionate Cinderella, and see themselves. As far as I’m concerned, the more variety in personalities in the Princess Collection, the better – even more passive ones.

Leonid Tishkov is an artist who travels the world with his own private moon. The results are gorgeous and weird.

I usually don’t care for tag meta on tumblr (because I am a fandom old who grew up on LiveJournal before the exodus), but tumblr user notbecauseofvictories outlines her Harry Potter head canon for the Chicago School for Sorcery and the various magical traditions in Chicago. It’s genius.

After Seth Meyers leaves in February, his spot at Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update desk will be filled by the current head writer, Colin Jost. He and Cecily Strong have worked together in the past well, so here’s hoping.

Purchase a waffle iron so you can put your leftover pizza into it. You must do this because the resultant waffle calzone type things look amazing. Thanks, Serious Eats.

Harley Quinn’s new series got off to an awful start with that contest (you know the one), but it might canonize her heavily implied romance with Poison Ivy, if this page is anything to judge by. Oh man, I really don’t care for Harley’s new look or the way the new 52 has been treating her (she wouldn’t massacre children, DC, come on), but that’s… that’s adorable. (The dog they’re cuddling with in bed is a rescue. As in, Harley kidnapped it off the street from its cruel owner. That’s my girl!)

I’ve stopped watching Agents of SHIELD, because it’s just not that great, but an upcoming episode will feature not only the Lady Sif (yay!) but the Asgardian sorceress Lorelei—who happens to the Enchantress’ little sister. I’ve always wanted the Enchantress, also known as Amora, to turn up in the Thor films, especially because the films take a “sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic” route which could reframe Amora interestingly. Having her little sister show up is great, because it might just herald not only Amora, but Amora’s mentor, Karnilla, Queen of the Norns and chiefest of magical users. A parade of morally grey witches! I am so down.

The first images for the film adaptation of The Giver have been released. I hadn’t realized they were aging Jonas up to sixteen, which may inevitably point to a love affair. Still, looks good. Check out those kicks on Jonas.

Artist Evan Palmer has adapted Tolkien’s creation myth, the Ainulindalë, into a fifty-four page full-color comic. The character design for the Valar are a little wobbly, but the abstraction of the world before creation is gorgeous.

Becky Chambers at The Mary Sue reviews Assassin’s Creed Liberation HD. It’s not an amazing game, according to Chambers, but the Persona system is a fascinating look into race and class:

Aveline has three distinct ways she can present herself. Her Assassin garb carries notoriety no matter what, but gives her full access to her combat skills. The Lady Persona means no climbing or jumping (because, let’s be real, corsets are not conducive to parkour), but she can bribe guards to look the other way, coax them to follow her into the last secluded corner they’ll ever see, or silently dispose of them with her parasol gun. Her parasol gun. This Persona gains notoriety very slowly — she’s a lady, after all. She can get away with a lot. Quite different from the Slave Persona, which accrues notoriety for acts as minor as knocking into someone on the street. Guards need little excuse to rough up a slave. The trade-off is that in this guise, Aveline can blend into the background. Just pick up a crate, stand close to other workers, and disappear into the crowd. A fine way to escape from the scene of a crime.

Story-wise, the Persona system translates like this: Aveline is a master social engineer, able to manipulate class, race, and gender expectations to her advantage. She knows that the same townspeople who wave and call “Bonjour!” when she wears snappy green silk won’t look twice at her if she’s wearing rough cotton and carrying a broom. She knows when to flaunt her beauty and charm, and when to look down and play stupid. She wears a different face with everyone. With her family, she is spirited and affectionate. With her mentor, assertive and attentive. With her targets, menacing. Or coquettish. Or invisible.

Aveline’s malleability is further underlined by her cultural identity — or, rather, identities. She speaks with high-society polish and quips about the inferiority of Spanish wine, yet feels right at home among swamp-dwelling smugglers and runaways. She respects her African elders. She respects her French peers. She despises slave owners, but genuinely loves her father, who once owned her mother. The way she approaches her duality is complex, but this isn’t the story of an outcast. This is the story of a calculating woman who found herself with one foot on either side of a divide, and built a bridge to walk between.

All I know about V. C. Andrews is Flowers in the Attic. I had no idea that she was dead and that her publisher spent a lot of time passing off a ghostwriter as her. Kate Aurthur at Buzzfeed has the whole wackadoodle story.

And now that you’re curious about ghostwriters, Priceonomics reveals just about as much as you can about the secretive practice.

Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame is coming to California in October 28th. POUND THE ALARM. It looks like this is an English translation of the original German production. A Christian school in Florida actually got there first, with permission from Disney, so it might look a little something like this.

Orion Martin’s project “What If the X-Men Were Black?” interrogates the series’ use of civil rights movement imagery and its predominantly white, male, and otherwise privileged cast. Mutation has always been a very flexible metaphor in the series that’s always shaded a little more towards sexual orientation (powers manifest at puberty, being able to pass as “normal,” the Legacy Virus), but this is incredibly apt and powerful.

And then Gene Demby at NPR’s Code Switch summoned a round table to talk race and diversity in comics inspired by Martin’s work. There’s so much good stuff here, but I’ll highlight Kelly Kanayama’s thoughts on the whitewashed al Ghuls:

Giving the benefit of the doubt on the al Ghul situation is difficult for me, because they’re one of my favorite fictional families. However, I wonder if the studio’s casting of white actors was driven in part by a desire to avoid accusations of stereotyping, which would definitely have happened if they’d cast Middle Eastern/brown-skinned actors as global terrorists (although everyone involved seemed fine with setting up the excellent Ken Watanabe as a disposable decoy villain, but — as the terrible, terrible Die Another Day teaches us — it’s different when Asians are involved).

Of course, this wouldn’t be nearly as much of a problem if we had more Middle Eastern characters in popular media, and/or if the studio had been willing to engage with the complexities of the al Ghuls’ characters. If there were more Middle Eastern faces, voices, perspectives and experiences being represented to the general public, seeing two antagonists with that ethnic background would be less problematic, the same way that having white villains in American movies isn’t said to reinforce stereotypes of white people, because a wide variety of white people’s and characters’ experiences are represented in our popular media.

Besides, sharing characteristics with a stereotype doesn’t make someone a stereotype. In the comics, Ra’s al Ghul certainly seems shaped by his cultural and ethnic background, but the multifaceted nature of his personality prevents him from being reduced to an easy stereotype (unless the writers are really bad). He’s a father, a leader, a conflicted nemesis/mentor figure, a man who’s lived through centuries and seen empires rise and fall. All of that could theoretically have been brought out in the movies, and if it had, the studio could have cast a Middle Eastern actor in a role with nuanced, intricate characterization.

Acquisitions

Purchased: None
Added: None

6 thoughts on “The Week in Review: January 26th, 2014

  1. Ooh, coincidence – I read ‘Swordspoint’ this week for the first time. What did you think of it? I really enjoyed it – though I felt there was a lot Kushner didn’t explain and about which I would really like to know more.

  2. Dang! That high school production of Hunchback is really good. I can’t help but still miss the voicework of Tony Jay and Paul Kandel (esp. on that glorious high note on the end), but still, impressive. I would love to see the Broadway production of this.

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