Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Lady Gaga



So. I saw this the other day.

I don't usually care one way or the other about Lady Gaga. I hear her and I shrug my shoulders and I continue on my day.

But honestly? My favorite bit of this video?

Is when she's being male on the top of a piano in the middle of a cornfield.

When I say that I wish for nothing else that I could be androgynous? Yeah. That's /exactly/ what I'm talking about. So utterly elegant and male and female in the simplicity of its presentation.

And don't even get me started on when male!Gaga pulls fem!Gaga in for a kiss.

It's just so hetero-normative shattering on so many levels that I just end up watching the video again, just to soak it all up.

(music? what music? who cares about the music?)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Telly Finales: Which Got It Right and Which Got It Less-Right

Finales are tricky things.

Hell. Writing in general is tricky.

But I think finales are particularly important. They should tease a person. They should force the viewer to anticipate the return.

They should, in fact, torture a person with the agony of wondering what happens next.

Unfortunately, shows tend to have a very narrow definition of what it takes to get the audience to that hunger.

It's not surprising -- narrow is "safe" and "safe" usually means more money.

It's a difficult tension that telly has to navigate. But really good telly navigates it well.

Like in crafting a story in general, there are two broad elements that can drive a finale: plot and character. I prefer character stories myself because I find them to be more substantive, but as with all things, whatever floats your boat. I'll be looking at the finales from both of these elements.

I only have a few television shows I watch regularly (or somewhat regularly -- SGU pissed me off to no end with it's non-hulu streaming and then the crappy quality on its site, I just waited for netflix to stream it and finished watching it today, so I know I'm way behind on the real finales).

So here we go:

Glee

Glee is a guilty pleasure of mine even though I think the show has its issues. However, looking at it from a strictly craft perspective, I have to say that Glee's finale failed as a finale. It didn't rip my heart a new one (like another did), and that was nice not having to pick up the pieces (again), but even happy-ish finales can still produce that hunger for more. And Glee still failed in that regard.

The lack of character development really crippled the ability for Glee to craft a story that would make an audience hunger for what happens next (obviously, it makes the audience want more, but that's a different sort of want -- it's more of a this-is-tasty-let's-have-some-more, not an agony, I guess).

So, even though people are saying "i love you" and characters are suddenly together that never had any real chemistry before just becomes part of the normal scenery that Glee is in the habit of lobbing at the viewer. Basically, there is no resonance (well, for me, obviously) between myself and the people on the screen. I am not emotionally attached to people (well, except for Kurt), so at the finale ends, I'm not really hurting that I won't be seeing these characters for a few months.

Therefore there is no agony regarding the welfare of these people either on a plot or emotional level. Character development stalled out long before season 1 even finished its run -- I see no reason why season 3 should change its tune now (so that even rules out hope for something new). I fully expect to see the same melodrama in different clothes spun out in season 3 that was rehashed in season 2 and trotted out in season 1.

But it'll be done in song, so it'll be worth it.

Even the plot wasn't all that surprising. They couldn't win nationals because then there wouldn't be plot stakes for season 3. And, because there are only so many plots available to a high school glee club, there isn't really a lot of ground that hasn't been covered.

Unless they do something daring and surprising in which case -- more power to them!

Castle

I lurve Castle in the same way I lurve me some pie. Which is, I'm fond of pie. But I'm not like Dean-Winchester-in-Love-with-Pie.

I can survive without pie.

Castle is one of the more fun procedural shows (which I generally despise) for me to watch. But unfortunately, there isn't a lot of character development that goes on. So, the finale fell back on plot -- oh, no! Beckett's been shot!

But really, the viewer can't really feel anxious about her welfare because the chances that she'll live are high -- if she were to die, the atmosphere of the show would be drastically changed. The tenor would be different.

It would be a huge risk to kill off Beckett -- and if next season takes it, good for them.

But Castle plays it safe. So, even though I'm looking forward to its return, I'm not agonizing over it. The only real stake is if Beckett Will Live Or Die -- and as I've already explained, it's not much of a stake.

Bones

For procedural shows I supposedly hate, I seem to watch a few of them, don't I?

I haven't really cared much for this season of Bones -- I'm not sure why. Something's missing. But the finale bugged me -- Angela had her baby, Booth and Bones dressed up as these ridiculous characters undercover, and then Bones ends up telling Booth that she's pregnant.

It's probably just my thing against pregnancy story lines. But just for the record, I find it out of character that Bones wasn't on birth control.

I'm not really sure what the stakes are supposed to be here -- how Bones' and Booth's relationship will develop? I feel like this question has posed before though.

Anyway, the episode itself was meh. The question it poses is meh and a bit stale.

Fringe

Oh Fringe. You know I love you. Fringe had a good season finale I thought -- it opened up new avenues of tension that hadn't been able to be explored before because of how the universes were so separated. But now they're not. That opens up a whole new world of conflict. So that's good--that's always good.

But then they made a mistake (I think from a craft perspective) of erasing Peter's character (I haven't kept up with the spoilers, but I'm assuming he's coming back?). But even if the character does return, taking him away essentially "reset" a lot of character development, especially in the case of Olivia.

So she used to be hard and emotionally closed off, but Peter helped break her out of that. Without Peter in her life, logically, her character should be reset to Pre-Peter.

If it's not reset, then there's issues with the plot and the rules its established. And that's never fun.

SGU

SGU had so much potential. And even though I wanted to shake their shoulders over the "Epilogue" episode (where their Other!Selves established a colonization) because they still had the girls in pioneering skirts instead of pants (they were wearing pants on the ship! why would they revert to wearing skirts when that's less practical -- so fucking gendered) and for not showing Ray's date (even though showed whom everyone else ended up with -- I don't care that Ray never got together with anyone but I do want to know who the mysterious "she" was) and for that terrible montage of women giving birth -- alkjadsfkldfsa.

deep breath.

SGU had its flaws.

But it had a beautiful finale. I'm going to classify it as happy, simply because it didn't make me want to pick up the pieces of my heart (again).

The plot is relatively simple -- if it had been renewed it would have opened up opportunities for new tensions, just as with Fringe. So, plot-wise, strong.

Its real strength, though, were its character moments. Eli comes into his own. And it's so beautiful the newfound confidence he has. And, as I was watching it (I hadn't realized I was on the last episode since I had lost count), I couldn't wait to see how his development would affect the other characters around him.

How would he handle himself when he exited the honey-moon period of newfound confidence? Would he regress? Would he change into something new, something great, something dangerous? Could he eventually replace Young as the captain of the ship? How would he and Rush get along? Sure, Rush seems okay with it for now, but there's nothing he can do about it, not when they have to make it for three years.

Oh, and yeah, plot question here -- does Eli survive? Does he manage to fix the pod? If he didn't, would he have had the courage to kill himself?

These are all questions I want answered.

And I will never get them answered because the finale ended on that final moment of endless possibility.

It torture knowing that I'll never see those possibilities explored.

And yes, this is probably the most surprising of the finales. When I was watching the season, I saw its potential, I saw it finding its feet, but I wasn't expecting the quality that the finale delivered.

It was a pleasant surprise.

Supernatural

The other finales focused on Sam and Dean which, despite my love for Supernatural, was a bit "safe." I mean, the show is about Sam and Dean. No matter what, they're going to pull through all right -- physically and characteristically speaking (not that I find the soulless!Sam plot a waste of time, all these moments of exploration are good too, but they provide different kinds of satisfaction than what a finale should provide, I think).

So focusing their what-happens-now moment on the third character that has grown by leaps and bounds and is positively one of the most beautiful and purest characters in the history of the show was a brilliant move, craft-wise.

Story-wise, it just broke my heart to fucking pieces.

I like the shift from "what-will-happen-to-Sam-and-Dean" to "what-will-happen-to-the-state-of-Cas's-character?" because there are real stakes there.

And it just seems to escalate, even though I'm trying not to take whatever I hear too seriously. Knowing that Cas was supposed to die at the end of season 6, knowing that Collins has been demoted from regular to guest just increases the anticipation.

Especially since the stakes are actually two-fold:

will Castiel die either as the Big Bad or in some other fashion early in the season?

and, the more important one to me,

will Castiel be redeemed in character whether or not he dies physically?

And that's torture.

So even though the finale just pounded me bloody (and it's still bleeding my heart, I think about Supernatural all the time), I think it was a really good move from a craft perspective.

The agony of not knowing whether Castiel will survive in tact (character wise, especially) is almost overwhelming for me.

And then of course, this question also affects the show's core too: how will it affect Dean's relationship with Cas -- and even Sam's, to an extent. Because he just stabbed the person he said he'd die for -- doing that does things to a person.

Then of course, there's also the plot element of the wall in Sam's brain being removed, and how he's gonna deal with that trauma.

Yeah. Having Cas become God is serving double and triple duty all connected to plot and character elements that are just pregnant with possibility.

I just hope they succeed in following it up and choose not to retreat into "safe and easy" territory. Which I don't think they will, it just wouldn't make sense from a craft perspective, but hey. Shit happens all the time.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Doctor Who: The Story That Almost Was

So I just finished watching "The Almost People." I know this must disqualify me from being a true fan, but ever since my publishing class, I'm reluctant to download something illegally.

No wait.

That bit's a lie to make me seem more respectable.

I actually just got tired of seeing my favorite telly cancelled for lack of viewership.

So I try to keep it all right and proper, straight and narrow, all on the level, as they say.

So, in general, I don't like reviewing double-parters (or, as in this instance, tri-parters) -- because it's just not fair to judge something without all the facts.

But I have to say, this arc with The Gangers -- just did not do it for me.

At all.

Character development was so, so shoddy. First Jen (both flesh and genetic) is a sweet girl, and then she turns into a genocidal maniac. Then into a weird, creepy-ass spider thing?

I don't know. It was like. Nuance is too hard! Let's go for monstrous instead!


Just. No.

That was boring.

And then don't even get me started on Miranda.

It's so boring having all these people yelling for someone to die. I mean, I know it happens in real life all the time, but story-telling is a chance to really delve and see why people get all rabid at the mouth for a good old fashioned genocide in the park.

And then her random change of heart? Because she's dying from a clot?

Say what?

So. Let's talk about Amy.

Amy. The Almost Person.

But, the entire episode has been about how the Almost People are actually People.

So -- why did the Doctor disintegrate her?

And the look on her face when Rory leaves her. That was. Heartbreaking.

And it seemed so unlike Rory to leave Amy -- flesh or genetic. I just.

Hmmmm.

That bothered me. It really, really bothered me.

And I'm trying to figure out how the Silence fit into everything -- but maybe that'll be explained in the finale. Which, yes, I'm waiting a week unless my will crumbles.

But, right now, I just can't help but wonder if Moffat has stumbled into a classic story-crafting blunder:

Trying to be astonishing in all the wrong ways.

Finding out that someone isn't who you thought they were isn't astonishing.

People encounter that every day of their lives.

And, I'm sorry, but the main anxiety regarding The Gangers wasn't moralistic -- wasn't, who's more human, who's more of a person -- it was

Who gets to be the boy's father?

Now, good fiction doesn't attempt to answer hard questions. It just proposes them.

Doctor Who answered that question by tidying everything up all nice and pretty. Gangers and humans survive --

but there is not a double to be seen to ask that terrible question because Jimmy and Miranda and the other one are dead, they're all dead.

And the Doctor destroys Amelia Pond, the Flesh.

There will be no one asking:

Who is the baby's mother -- and wouldn't that have been interesting, Amelia Pond, pregnant and not pregnant on the deck of the TARDIS, experiencing the labor and pain of birthing a baby she doesn't even have in her womb --

Who is the Doctor's companion --

Who is Rory's partner --

because she's gone.

And so, I am disappointed.

But not with Matt Smith. Because he bouncing back between Time Lord and Flesh was fantastic.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Discourse: Daisy, Rosie, and Her Mother

One of the reasons I like Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys so much is because there is this romantic tragedy going on that never turns towards the melodramatic and is, as the story continues to be spun, quite sensible and unexpected and, dare I say, fresh.

None of the very tired emotional responses that one would expect.

But really, I think what I like best of all, is that after frequent and often pronouncements of "I hate you" and "I don't want to ever see you again (even though I secretly love you)," romance is not resolved with a (newly reformed) white knight saving his lady love from the dragon, monster, what-have-you.

And it could very well have taken that turn. Rosie and Her Mother are, after all, locked in a dank prison, waiting to be killed by an insane wanna-be predator of a man, yet they don't just simply wait -- they do not expect to be saved.

Rosie is quite willing and able to be proactive. And even Her Mother joins in once she dispenses with the obligatory negative, wet-blankety remarks about the liklihood of success and death (one being more likely than the other).

But it is Her Mother that distracts the Bad Man and it is Rosie who wallups him on the head with an old chain she tugged down.

And it is a ghost who kicks the wanna-be-man-predator-thing in his sensitive areas for so rudely murdering her.

And, finally, it is Daisy -- who has no romantic interest in Rosie whatsoever but rather a dedication to justice and the defeat of evildoers -- who shows up with the entire might of the police force at her back.

No white knights. No swooping in to save the day. No damsels in distress.

Just courage and will.

And romance still was found by one and all.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Regarding Moffat and Doctor Who

I don't really have anything to say about the latest two episodes of Doctor Who -- the pirate one, Gaiman one -- other than I thought that they were fun, and that I enjoyed them immensely (Gaiman's more so than the pirate one, obviously).

I suppose they were both a break from the wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey puzzles of Moffat's openers, and that was nice.

Seeing the Tardis in a human body with a human mouth speaking with a voice was beautiful.

Seeing the Doctor bite his fingernails when Rory died (again) was poignant.

Seeing the Doctor so sad, oh so sad, when the Tardis had to leave that human body and him trying to deal with his grief in his little swing has he tinkers with the Tardis and then the closing scene as he asks the Tardis if she's there and the lever goes down in response was so beautiful and so sad that there really aren't words, no not really.

And the idea about how the word "alive" is such a sad word was brilliant and unexpected (I knew Gaiman would never go for the cliche "love" but I couldn't think of what word the Tardis could possibly mean, but then of course, it was revealed and it was beautiful and real and oh so sad yet satisfying).

The Tardis demanding to see her thief and then explaining how she stole him because she wanted to see the Universe was glorious.

I watch Doctor Who for those moments.

But, beautiful and emotionally satisfying as they are, they do not proper blog entries make. Or perhaps, too much was going on at the time when I watched them and I just had to enjoy them and move on, instead of prying them open and taking out all their little parts.

But watching and enjoying the small tastes of fan reaction that I allow myself (I refuse to do more than dabble my toes so as not to get burned out -- and also, time restraints) has given me some thoughts over which to percolate.

I've been thinking more about some of the fan complaints about Moffat telling the same story and to tell something different please:

Creepy Children (Are-You-My-Mummy boy <-> Time-Lord-Girl)
Visual Centric Monsters (Angels <-> Silence)
Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey
Something that Appears to Be Evil But Is Actually Trying To Do Good (Pirate, 9's story line in World War II)

I think there are others, but I can't remember them.

I don't actually mind the similarities between the Angels and the Silence. I think they're different enough that it doesn't matter. That's like complaining that the Daleks and the Cybermen are too similar because they're both for genocide in order to promote a master race while completely ignoring their more nuanced differences. It just doesn't bother me because in real life, sentient beings and animals have similar drives.

The only difference between a very hungry tiger with a taste for human flesh and a killer bacteria is that one is more tangible the other. A tiger can be shot. One knows how to kill a tiger. One can also run away from a Tiger.

But, if the bacteria is a nasty one, you might not even know you're sick until it's too late to be cured.

Either way, if all else fails, you still end up dead.

That's how I see the difference between the Angels and the Silence. I, personally, find the Silence to be far more discomfiting than the Angels. I find them to be more complex too.

The Angels seem to be more or less your typical predators (like tigers). It's hard to hate them (for me) because they're just doing what all organisms need to do: eat. I can't fault them for that (which doesn't necessarily mean that I'll just let them eat me, no sir).

But what about the Silence? Their motives don't seem to be driven by a primal need for survival. What do they want? How many of them are there in the Universe? More than the ones on Earth, for sure, since the Fish-Vampire in Venice saw them, apparently - but then that also raises the question of how she remembered them etc.

So, I'll take the Angels and the Silence over the Daleks and the Cybermen any day of the week. In fact, I wouldn't be bothered if there was a long, healthy break before their next reappearance (unless it's something subversive).

I don't mind Moffat playing with time travel in more than a Oh-Let's-Go-to-the-Past-or-Future sort of way. I will admit, I am not a fan of the time-loops that are the effect of their cause (last episode of season 5). But I'll forgive it (like I did with Fringe) if the characters are strong enough.

Plots are dimes a dozen, after all. It's the people that count.

Creepy children. I think that the Time-Lord-Girl and the Are-You-My-Mummy boy are hardly comparable. Of course, they're children, and they're both locked up in a "mask" of some sort. And they're both rather mysterious and don't make sense.

But otherwise, no, I don't think so (I may re-evaluate my position once the story is complete, of course).

I think that the Are-You-My-Mummy boy was an excellent vehicle to explore some good old fashioned social commentary, particularly the stigma of teen mothers, in a certain time and place that is still culturally relevant today. But to be honest, I don't really see any of that with the Time-Lord-Girl, who has the possibility to be so much more (though hopefully she does not function as a mere device a la the Golux).

And let's be honest: creepy children is a time honored trope. It just depends on what the writer does with it. In my opinion, the trope was subverted in the first series of New Who. As for the Time-Lord-Girl -- well. It's too early to say.

The only one I haven't really talked about is the theme that Bad Things Aren't Really Bad Just Mistaken. I don't mind this because the idea of a Bad Thing Doing a Bad Thing Because It's a Bad Thing is boring and simplistic and utterly lacking nuance. And, despite the Pirate's episode similarity to the Doctor Dances, they're not the same story.

Though it's been a while since I've seen 9's story, I recall it as more plot-centric. Sure, we meet Captain Jack, but I can't really think of any dynamic changes going on character wise (for either the main ones or the secondary ones, save for Captain Jack). This isn't to say that there weren't great character moments -- because there were -- but it just seemed very plot centric (though not all Plot, obviously).

On the other hand, the Pirate episode was social commentary slapping superstition in the face. And, I really like that because, even today, people are more willing to attribute something they don't understand to some kind of Nebulous Supernatural Force rather than poking it with a stick and finding out what's going on. So yes, more knowledge > superstition please! I also think it worth noting that this kind of commentary was absent from 9's story in season 1.

I also think that there were some interesting character insights in the Pirate episode that also serve to differentiate and individualize the similar thematic elements -- for example, the Doctor and the Captain. Both wanderers, but having made different choices in their lives.

And even Rory and Amy had some insights as well -- even though Rory died again and haven't we seen this before, tash-take-it?

Well. Yes. We have. Except we haven't.

When Rory first died in the Dream-Lord episode, Amy became very Shakespearian in that she would rather be dead than not to have Rory in her life. Very romantic and all that rot, but not especially helpful. Too Romeo and Juliet for my tastes.

Which is okay, because I think it shows Amy's emotional state -- she's childish. Not quite grown up yet, maturity wise.

The second time Rory dies, Amy can't do anything but weep. And try not to forget him. She is crippled with grief, a greater grief without the small hope that this world is a dream and that they can wake up and everybody can live again.

The other times Rory has "died" doesn't count, I think, because Rory didn't die -- no not really because it was either Mind Games or Red Herrings or Let's Pretend, but, in the end, he was never actually, tangibly dead.

Though, in Gaiman's episode I thought it an interesting dynamic. I don't remember where I read it, but I do agree with the interpretation that Rory's "death" in The Doctor's Wife is more of an insight into Amy's emotional state regarding all the sacrifices that Rory has made for her. Which gives her more depth and dimension.

But, in the Pirate episode, when Rory is drowned and dead again, Amy doesn't react the same way. She's afraid and she's sad but she's pro-active in that she's not crippled with grief, she's not going to kill herself.

For the first time, she takes real action to save Rory. And of course, that has a lot to do with the circumstances of the death -- how exactly does one become proactive when Rory is shot/being-erased-from-existence, after all?

But I still think that the tenor of her emotional reaction is more grown up. More mature. And I like to see that kind of growth in people. And so, even though it is the same, it is still different.

Of course, this is why it's hard being a writer. There are only a few plots in this world (I think it was Asimov who said there were only three), which is why I don't really bother with them when I determine if I like something or not. Moffat does seem to have some familiar themes with which he revisits again and again, but in my mind, he holds them in different lights, exploring them in different ways.

Familiar is not always bad, just as long as it's not stale. And of course, there is the debate of the responsibility of author and reader. Creation is so subjective. Another person's stale is someone else's revelation.

I don't think Moffat has reached that point but, to be honest, it's a little hard to judge when series 5 and series 6 are so obviously halves of the same story. So really, it depends on how season 6 turns out, I think.
And I'm patient enough to wait. I love the Doctor and I love Rory and I love Amy.

I just want to see them live their fantastic, extraordinary lives.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Discourse - Lucifer: Evensong, Volume 11

Everything about this was beautiful and amazing.

But since this blog is devoted to gender and sexuality issues, I'd just want to say this:

Elaine inherited the position of God.
Mazikeen inherited the position of Lightbringer.

And may I just say that Elaine getting rid of hell -- that is true mercy.

Oh my fucking god. I just kind of want to cry and hug everybody forever and ever.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Doctor Who: Love a Tomb [Spoilers]

The more I think about this episode, the more I think it's pretending to answer a lot of question but not really.

For example, how on bloody earth did they get from the Warehouse situation to Canton pretending to hunt them down? Or from the Doctor telling Canton to look behind him at the Silence (what a rubbishy name) to having the Doctor all chained up?



With a rubbishy beard and a self satisfied little smirk, completely cool and collected and charismatic in the face of anything.

And where exactly did they get the materials to build the knock-off Pandorica? And when exactly did the Doctor and Canton have time to cook up this plan? And how did they get the TARDIS into Area 51? And where is Future!Eleven's TARDIS?

Shit has happened in that warehouse and now we're going to have to wait to figure out what, exactly, happened.

Bollucks.

Just amp up the anticipation and the suspense why don't you.

Though, I have to admit, when "three months later" scrolled down at the bottom and it showed Amy running



the first thing that popped into my head THANK THE TARDIS THERE IS NO BABY BUMP.

And I was very happy. And then Amy was like oh I was mistaken and I was even happier.

Even though I think the Silence is a bollucksy name for them, I do admit that they work fantastically as television monsters. I mean, I don't think their effect would be quite the same in like a novel.

As long as there's been something in the corner of your eye or creaking in your house or breathing under your bed or voices through a wall.


Oooo. Shivers.

But this scene here, with Amy, in the orphanage? Chills when I watched it. Chills.



First, everything is fine. Creepy, but fine.



Hands! Oh my god! And then the very next frame:



!!!!!

WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR FACE

And of course, the weather doesn't help a bit: it was a dark and stormy night. Oooooo.

Though, this entire orphanage scene also raises more questions than it actually answers.

A). Where did Amy actually get the pen? In the beginning, the episode always showed a pen dangling from their necks. But there is no pen anywhere on Amy's person that I noticed -- just a flashlight. So, who marked her up -- or was it just a continuity error?

B). If the pen-less-ness was just a continuity error, then why would Amy mark up her face? That just seems like it would be awkward and unnatural because it would be even harder to see the tally marks (no peripheral). But then Rory was all marked up on his face too, so maybe I'm just overanalyzing it. The marked up faces are more compelling than arms and hands -- but I'd still like a reason. /pout.

C). And what happened in the lost time? Something significant or Amy just counting how many of the creepy Silence are haunting the "orphanage" (if it's even still a real orphanage, herrrumph)?

And who is this woman?



Who's dreaming and what's the dream -- though, to be honest, I'm hoping it's not something similar to what happened in the Library episodes.

Still. I'm going to guess there's a perception filter at work here. I bet that bedroom wasn't even real.

I hope not because there's this:



It's like -- ah, can't get away from the pregnancy! But, the closing scenes, the one where it showed the bio scan oscillating from negative to positive gives me hope that a) there won't be a pregnancy period or b) even if there is a pregnancy, there'll be a rousing good story behind it which will hopefully be ultra light on the soap opera aspects so many of these arcs tend to take. (And apparently, the tumblr-verse is calling it Schrodinger's Uterus, which kinda made me smile, I admit it.)



I adore the framing of this scene, just fyi.

I love Rory. What a beautiful man.

Rory: She can always hear me, Doctor. Always. Wherever she is, and she always knows that I am coming for her, do you understand me. Always.

Amy: Doctor, are you there, can you hear me? Doctor -- oh god. Please, please just get me out of this.

Rory: He's coming, I'll bring him I swear.


I love how the show still highlights Rory's insecurities, but how it never dwindles into some machismo bullshit. How, even when he's not sure whom Amy loves in that one scene, it seems like his love for her transcends the territorial, melodramatic relationship patterns that is so stereotypical of so many shows these days.

And that's so, so beautiful. (Though, now that it's established that Amy loves Rory, I hope the show won't keep on pointing it out to the viewers, no matter how sweet it is.)

And I love this weird, little, simple, beautiful relationship that is beginning to form between the Doctor and Rory.

Especially when they talked about Rory as a roman in more than an off-the-cuff sort of joke:

Rory: Rome fell.
Doctor: I know, I was there.
Rory: So was I.
Doctor: Do you ever remember it? 2000 years, waiting for Amy - the last centurion?
Rory: No.
Doctor: You're lying.
Rory: Of course I am.
Doctor: Of course you are. Not the sort of thing one forgets.
Rory: But I don't remember it all the time.


And in this moment, Rory becomes more than the boy who waited for Amy all those years, but he becomes someone more -- it's acknowledged (understatedly, which are the best kind of statements), that Rory is, technically, older than the Doctor. That he is, in some ways, equal to the Doctor -- and yet, in many ways, not because he doesn't remember it all the time, unlike the Doctor. But, I thought this would be an interesting aspect to have in the companions (because Amy isn't typical either, what with the whole of time pouring through her head growing up) and I wasn't sure if it'd be ignored or what -- but, here it is. And it's so lovely.

And it's part of what makes this relationship between Eleven and Rory so endearing that I can't even describe it -- it just, made my heart melt whenever I saw him interact with Rory, how he sort of looked at them out of the corner of his eye when they were kissing their I-love-yous. It was just.

That's true love, there. In all its forms.



River: My old fella didn't see that did he? He gets ever so cross.
Rory: So, what kind of doctor are you?
River: Archeology. Love a tomb.


Oh, River Song. You are cooler than the sum of Indiana Jones and Lara Croft put together.

Also? Why don't Americans use the word "cross" more often? What a lovable word.

And the Doctor's description of her:

This is my friend River. Nice hair. Clever. Has her own gun. And unlike me she doesn't mind shooting people. I shouldn't like that, kinda do a bit.


Aw. Excuse me, I'm going to go melt into a puddle of goo at their little relationship/flirty/type-thing they've got going on.

I suppose it'd be a rubbishy sort of review/musing/squee-fest if I didn't talk about the girl, the nameless girl, the Time-Lord-Girl:



Couple thoughts:

1). The girl is the "honour" that the Silence spoke of to Amy, maybe? ("We do you honour. You will bring the Silence. But your part will soon be over.") Except a pregnancy isn't exactly "soon," unless they were planning to go all Fringe-y on her.

2). The girl is out of time -- because of the photo Amy found. So, how did she get into the time she is now? With the knock-off TARDIS? But why would the Silence need a space suit if they had the technology to make a knock-off TARDIS?

3). Speaking of the life-supported Space Suit, perhaps the girl needs it to live -- which is why she is dying six months later. But why would it take her six months to die if she needed the suit to live? And if she needed the suit to live, why would she just regenerate? Unless the process would fix why she was dying or why she needed the suit in the first place? If something happened in the six months, then what and why weren't the readers privy to it. *grumble (but only the good kind of grumble)* I also noticed that with the three months later notation at the beginning of the episode + the six months later at the end = nine months, which is always a significant number because of the whole birthing metaphor-imagery-thing at work. Balls.

Doctor: Incredibly strong and running away -- I like her.


(aside, I do like that the show isn't always gung-ho about its heroes having to be strong and bold and facing whatever's coming with squared shoulders and what-not; it doesn't mind celebrating the Trickster nature of the hero, and that I love.)

Misc. Thoughts

I love how the show establishes how Nixon became so paranoid (record everything!) which basically is a fan-fictiony explanation for Watergate:

Doctor: Oh, Dickie. Tricky Dickie. They’re never going to forget you.


Oh, excuse me while I giggle.

Also, I wasn't really expecting this:

President: This person you want to marry. Black?
Canton: Yes.
President: I know what people think of me, but perhaps I'm a little more liberal --
Canton: He is.


And, despite the Doctor's wishes, it still hasn't happened yet! Hello, Social Commentary. And they science fiction isn't relevant. ;)

Also: Eleven and River kissing. I love how he doesn't know what to do. It's so adorkable. I just melted inside.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Doctor Who: Swearing on Fish Fingers and Custard since 2010 (spoilers)

Spoilers for The Impossible Astronaut below.

When I finished watching this the first time, I was incoherent and could only manage a Ten-like triple-what.

Second First Impressions

Before I go in depth, I don't really like blogging about two part episodes. They're evil with eviler cliffhangers and evil half-stories. So it's rather like trying to evaluate a book you haven't actually read yet, and I always feel like whatever I end up writing is just shallow, shallow, shallow. But here goes.

I was proud of myself for avoiding spoilers for the most part. Still, I was not expecting the sheer unpredictable-ness of the story itself.

The Doctor dying before the first ten minutes? What the heck. And for some reason, probably because of Mark Sheppard's affinity for villains, I was expecting Delaware III to be a bad guy -- but then he wasn't! I also wasn't expecting Rory and Amy to be keeping house together while the Doctor is swanning off in balloons, gadding about under lady's dresses, and generally having the most ridiculous adventures in the history of ever.

So yes. I felt like the beginning had put me all off center because I was expecting everyone to be in the TARDIS all nice and proper instead of. Well.

Separated.

So that was interesting and new. I mean, series 2 started with newly regenerated Ten and Rose. Series 3, 4, and 5 Rose is all gone, but at least the Doctor is still in his TARDIS, which is more than can be said for Future!Eleven -- because, where is Future!Eleven's TARDIS? I mean, don't get me wrong -- he looked quite dashing on the hood of his red car but it's not his transportation of choice...is it?

And he knew that Amy saw those creature-things. Could see it in his eyes. And he knew the astronaut was coming.

And the Impossible Astronaut is impossible not because it came from a lake, but because the astronaut is a child in a man's suit.

I'm guessing.

But really, the beginning and the rest of the episode really demonstrated Matt Smith's acting ability I thought. I kept on thinking as I was watching it the first time -- this is off. This isn't like proper Eleven. He's got a diary! Not even Ten started keeping a diary. And then he was always looking so old and sad.



And he tipped his hat -- got his tenses all wrong:

A lot more happens in 1969 than anyone remembers. Human beings. I thought I'd never get done saving you.
And of course a lot more happens because there's aliens buggering about that make people forget them if they're not looking at them! Then there's the parallel language that appeared in the first angel episode of the fifth season--except it was in the present tense, not the past: "I'll never be done saving you."

I doubt I'd have caught it on a first viewing if I hadn't spent most of yesterday evening and night having a Doctor Who marathon.

Character Development

Since this is the first time in the new series where all the people are the same (Eleven, Rory, and Amy), I was concerned that there'd be either stalled or ignored character development. But when Future!Eleven dies, Rory says,

There's a boat. If we're going to do this, let's do it properly.

And I can't really imagine pre-Roman Rory saying that at all. So it was nice that his character remained developed.

Then the bit in the TARDIS where Eleven is borderline paranoid about everybody and just wants to ship them off back home.



Conflict! Tension! Stakes!

And then, there was the look on River's face when he chose to trust Amy over her. Poor, poor River.

Her little monologue gave those episodes in the library new, emotional punch:

When I first met the doctor, a long long time ago, he knew about me. Think about that. Impressionable young girl, suddenly this man just drops out of the sky, and he's clever and mad and wonderful and knows every last thing about her. Imagine what that does to a girl. Trouble is--it's all back to front. My past is his future. We're traveling in opposite directions. Every time we meet, I know him more, he knows me less. I live for the days that I see him. But I know that every time I do, we'll be one step further away. The day is coming when I'll look into that man's eyes - my doctor - and he won't have the slightest idea who I am. And I think it's going to kill me.

Which is just even more compounded by the look on Rory's face and how he's making these connections between River and Amy and my god.

Tragic.

I also can't help but wonder how Amy using a gun will change their relationship. It'll be interesting to see if the Writers-That-Be will mess with the usual Doctor/Companion relationship that has been sort of defined in the previous series, particular in season 4 with Donna and Ten, where she basically told him he needed a companion to keep himself human, to keep himself from going too far (in fact, "Turn Left" was basically an entire episode about the importance of the companions in the Doctor's life).

Now though -- it's Amy who's gone too far -- who is, in fact, acting a little bit like Ambrose from series 5 -- so, it'll be interesting how or how far they'll tweak the typical Doctor/Companion relationship in that respect (though I can't blame them if they don't decide to be ultra-bold with it...it is, after all, one of the most defining aspects of the show).

And what's character development without a bit parallelism?



Symmetry of the oh-my-god-i-thought-you-were-dead-but-you're-not-not-really-how-can-this-be-poke.

The Kid.

The first words we hear from the kid are:

I'm scared, Mr. President. I'm scared of the space man.

And of course everybody thinks the "space man" is the Impossible Astronaut that Killed our Beloved Eleven from the Future.

Eleven, who doesn't know about the astronaut-intent-upon-his-death, believes that the girl has told the president everything he needs to know, and he just isn't listening. Hmm.

But then it turns out that the kid is the astronaut -- unless the thing in the astronaut took her inside...but that seems an odd method of kidnapping.

I can't help but wonder if the Space Man is actually the Doctor. I mean, Donna was always calling him Space Boy. And why else would the astronaut kill the Doctor?

But that doesn't make any sense. The timing is all wrong because the child was talking on the phone to the president before the Doctor came, and the dialogue and actions don't match up if there were some wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey moments at work.

So maybe it is just something similar to what happened in the library episodes...vashta-narade-like creatures eating people in space suits.

Cause and Effect, or, the Curse of the Headache-Inducing Nature of Time Travel

Okay. So. After the Doctor is killed but before they meet him in his-his present, they all agree that the Doctor wanted them to do something, that he still needed them. Then they seemed to agree, on the TARDIS, that they were going to save him.

But then River told Amy that they couldn't stop the astronaut in '69 because then the inciting event in 2011 wouldn't happen, thus creating a paradox.

I wonder, when Matt Smith decides it's time or whoever else decides, will keep this ending -- or if this will manage to re-write itself somehow, cause and effect be damned to davey jones locker.

Amy Pregnant

wut.

See that. I'm so disappointed I can't even bother to spell my indignation properly.

Dear yoda help us, I swear to god. What is up with the pregnancy storylines? I mean -- Fringe, Stargate, ergh! BIRTH CONTROL people.

I'm hoping it's not going to be /just/ a pregnancy storyline. I'm hoping it's not going to incredibly dull and melodramatic, like these things typically are. I'm hoping she's not pregnant at all, though she seemed rather certain (I'm hoping that since River and Amy were both sick after seeing the monstery forget-me aliens, she's just...assuming she is). I can't really imagine Rory not being more protective of her if she was...he seems to be the type (but in an adorable kind of way).

Unless he doesn't know either.

Grr.

Assorted Bits of Awesome

You know, the Future!Eleven prologues his upcoming death, funeral, and wake with this:

I've been running. Faster than I've ever run. And I've been running my whole life. Now it's time for me to stop. And tonight, I'm going to need you all with me.

When I heard it in the trailer, I thought it was a bit generic. I mean, the Doctor running (running, in and of itself, in its various contexts and definitions) is -- pardon the pun -- a running theme in the show, but in context with the entire episode, this sounds rather specific. I wonder if the show is going to dip into some Classic Who.

These are the times when I curse my continued procrastination to watch Classic Who.

Geek fail.

The forget-me-aliens -- when they first appeared, they seemed to be quite threatening. Imposing, even. But then, when River ran into them in those old tunnels, they reminded me of rats and that's not an imposing image at all (though, it was frightening how Rory and River would see them, and, though they're still literally gasping with terror, still say, all's clear and all's well and it's like oh-my-god).

Though that would explain why the Old Tunnels were old and nobody knew about them. I've bet the forget-me-aliens have been there for just as long, making everybody forget about them and the tunnels and their little knock-off Tardis.

I wonder if they built the one in "The Lodger" too...

I wonder why they're so interested in the Doctor and him knowing all the things he must and mustn't know.

The Doctor: [regarding the presidents]. Lovely fellows. Two of them fancied me.
That made me smile.

Delaware III: What's going on here?
Doctor: Nothing. She's just a friend.
Rory: I think he's talking about the possible alien incursion.

Falling in love/flirt, despite his trust issues.

It seems like, with the forget-me-aliens, memory is going to be another important theme, just like it was in last series. I wonder how they'll play with the idea in new and intriguing ways.



Beautiful and sad.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Discourse -- Lucifer: Exodus, Volume 7 by Mike Carey

This is the volume in which two things (continue to) occur:

1). Mazikeen is awesome.
2). Elaine is awesome.

So now that Heaven is up for grabs, basically, some titans think they can just go out and claim it. Then Lucifer goes Doctor-Who on them as he defeats them in a timey-wimey fashion.

But forget that. Let's talk about how Mazikeen strides into heaven, doesn't give a single fuck that she's not wanted there, in order to warn Lucifer and foil their plans. See, the titans had created a Bizzarro-Lucifer from the memories of a waitress who used to work at Lux. So Mazikeen drags the waitress, works some magic, and voila! good guys win the day and then the angelic host is all grumpy because demons are bad and god forbid they be sullied with the presence of the likes of Mazikeen, right?

Behold the power of lesbian-love:







Oh. Beautiful.

And as for Elaine -- check this out:



She became a guardian to Lucifer's world in the last volume, but she was still in her little-girl school clothes. But now now she's grown up and her clothing changes to reflect that.

I find this absolutely refreshing in a society that infantalizes women. And, of course, the clothes continue to symbolize her Grown-upness -- there's a scene towards the end where she's disappointed with herself and angry at the job she had to do and she reverts to her school-girl uniform and then reverts back when Mazikeen tells her she's acting like a child.

Cool stuff.

But, I think the most poignant story of this volume was the one about Thole and Martin.



It was like a dark version of Dr. Seuss.

The story was wonderful -- playing with themes like love and self-hood:



I like this because it touches on a common theme in speculative fiction -- ideas of perception and selfhood. Are we humans entirely sure that the beings we mindlessly other are not individuals too, granted with "personhood" as well?

But the theme isn't hammered over the reader's head -- it's just there, in all it's simplicity.



I like this because it recognizes what a complicated emotion love is. Sometimes I feel that it's always so simplified in a lot of stories.



Awwww.



I adore this image. Anyway, upshot is, Thole ends up attracting himself a mate and, in the fashion of black widows, she is a bitch from hell. Of course, Martin feels rejected and, in a fit of pique and jealousy, throws away the self-stone Thole had made him.

I found the gesture to be an incredible metaphor. How many times do we everyday people just throw ourselves to the mercy of our emotions -- allow ourselves to surrender to some of our darker impulses? And I couldn't help but wonder that, somewhere when that happens, when we become villains in our own stories, that we are throwing away our selves in anger or pain or grief.

I love the background -- the fragments of faces, of identity.

Poignant. Beautiful.

Another moment of Elaine-Awesomeness:



Whereas Mazikeen fulfills the imperative of Lucifer to get rid of all the immortals in his universe with the sword, Elaine does so with the mind.

And she takes away Thole's immortality:



I may have gotten teary eyed at this point in the story:





Martin is obviously more adjusted than me. I think that Death would have been proud of him.

On a happier note: Mazikeen looking sexy and awesome as all hell

Discourse - Lucifer: Mansions of the Silence Volume 6 by Mike Carey

At first, it seemed that this was a fairly plot centric volume: find Elaine. Talk to God the Father.

And then wham.

Surprise visit of Holy-Shit-They-Actually-Went-There.

Yes. That is a literary term.

Meet Jill Presto:



mother to be of a magical baby because the tarot people raped her and impregnated her with it. Throughout the course of the story, the boy has become corporeal and is trying to cozy up to mother dearest, declaring his love for her and trying to convince her that she must love him too:





Then he becomes injured in the course of the story as he steps in to protect his vessel/mother.



And she does make her decision:




Please, Jill. Tell us how you /really/ feel. This is where I first began to stagger. I mean, you just don't see mothers acting like this in a lot of pop cultury things. I mean, even Gabriel still loved her demon spawn from Xena: Warrior Princess.

But then this took the cake:



Excuse me while I have a holy-shit moment.

Perhaps this doesn't seem so significant if viewed in a bubble -- but consider:

Take Fringe for example. Where "abortion" is never even mentioned as an option (even when it's later revealed that the pregnancy would probably kill both mother and child).

Then there's another show called Invasion -- it's about aliens, but what's the first symptom that aliens have been fiddling with the humans? When women stop acting like mothers. So -- you have a mother abandoning her kid (side character played by the chick that plays Peggy on Mad Men, btw). Then you have another primary character who's a doctor. She doesn't seem to be Off because she stops being such a good job. Oh no. Something's wrong because she stops being a good mom. She doesn't call her kids and tell them that she's going to be late after a big ass hurricane.

It's the Monstrous Mothers trope -- women so far perverted that they reject the very fiber of their being -- their motherhood -- and thus become irredeemable monsters.

And here this is being subverted in a glorious fashion.

Jill doesn't want to be a mother. She wants to have a career and have good sex. She is furious when someone tries to tell/force her that she needs to love this child. I really appreciate how they position love as a choice, as an action springing forth from someone's agency, instead of something natural.

It's self-validating. Individuality first, role second.



But the volume wasn't just about motherhood -- it was about fatherhood too. Because God the Father is abandoning the Silver City and randomness/chaos is about to ensue. Gabriel feels betrayed, Lucifer is hardly surprised. Though perhaps my favorite line so far in regards to Lucifer and God the Father is this:

FOR YOU ARE THE KING OF CONTRIVANCE AND MANIPULATION, MY SAMAEL, BUT IN THAT, AS IN ALL THINGS -- YOU LEARNED FROM YOUR FATHER.

Slytherins! The lot of them. And I fucking love it. I'm hoping the fatherhood theme will play out more in further episodes, but I just find the juxtaposition of a masculine character and a feminine character abandoning certain roles society has thrust upon them to be fascinating.

And, of course, I like the subversion of the typical concept of God so prevalent in Judeo-Christian societies. I mean, I don't think that "contrivance" and "manipulations" would be the first adjectives the average person would use to describe "god."

Monday, April 18, 2011

Regarding Game of Thrones (spoilers)

So I thought that the first episode of Game of Thrones (which I watched on youtube) was mostly good.

Except for one part which I find really, intensely irritating.

It was after Dany weds Khal Drogo and they go on their ride, which preludes their sexual intimacy. Well, if it can be called intimacy.

It sucks being a wife/female and all in Westeros, we'll put it that way. And because of that, it just makes what the writers' change all the worse, in my opinion.

Here's the scene in the book (though they skipped the part where Dany unbraids his hair):

He began to undress her.

His fingers were deft and strangely tender. He removed her silks one by one, carefully, while Dany sat unmoving, silent, looking at his eyes. When he bared her small breasts, she could not help herself. She averted her eyes and covered herself with her hands. "No," Drogo said. He pulled her hands away from her breasts, gently but firmly, then lifted her face again to make her look at him. "No," he repeated.

"No," she echoed back at him.

[. . .]

After a while he began to touch her. Lightly at first, then harder. She could sense the fierce strength in his hands, but he never hurt her. He held her hand in his own and brushed her fingers, one by one. He ran a hand gently down her leg. He stroked her face, tracing the curve of her ears, running a finger gently around her mouth. He put both hands in her hair and combed it with his fingers. He turned her around, massaged her shoulders, slid a knuckle down the path of her spine.

It seemed as if hours passed before his hands finally went to her breasts. He stroked the soft skin underneath until it tingled. He circled her nipples with his thumbs, pinched them between thumb and forefinger, then began to pull at her, very lightly at first, then more insistently, until her nipples stiffened and began to ache.

He stopped then, and drew her down onto his lap. Dany was flushed and breathless, her heart fluttering in her chest. He cupped her face in his huge hands and looked into her eyes. "No?" he said, and she knew it was a question.

She took his hand and moved it down to the wetness between her thighs. "Yes," she whispered as she put his finger inside her.


In the television version, Drogo skips the foreplay, never asks her permission, and, most importantly, Dany's agency is never acknowledged in the HBO version when she says yes.

I find this very problematic for me on all sorts of levels.

1. It completely removes Drogo's complexity. In the telly version, he's just a stereotypical savage who wants what's "his." He just takes off her clothes and bends her over. He's just a type--and a really harmful cultural stereotype at that, too.

2. I don't really understand why they toned down the brother's physical abusiveness (pinching her nipple, primarily) -- though, in fairness, they did get the emotional abuse spot on -- and increased Drogo's. I just think that there was a difference between the two in how they treated Dany as a sexual woman, and that the Writers-that-Be completely removed the difference by not showing the rest of the scene.

3. Dany is so awesome. None of her dialogue should be removed -- ever! (I'm only half-serious, but they really shouldn't have axed the "yes," imo).

Everything else was amazing. I love the guy who plays Jaime -- the look on his face at the end, when Bran discovers them. It's not really until later in the series that Jaime becomes one of my favorite characters because, in Game of Thrones, you don't really see his complexity. But here -- with a real actor being able to show it, without the filter of a little child's eyes, you see it plain as day. And that's beautiful.

They covered a lot of ground in a short while. Dany's final scene with Drogo (grumble grumble) is on page 85 of my book and the closing scene with Bran is on page 71.

One more caveat -- Robb? Theon Greyjoy? I'm not sure if Greyjoy made an appearance, but I think the guy who plays Robb (who I think is Robb?) would make a better Greyjoy. I never pictured Robb as being so douchey.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Discourse - Lucifer Volume 5: Inferno

I have to say that this is probably my least favorite of the series so far. Which isn't really saying anything because I stayed up past my bedtime reading it, Mazikeen is still my personal hero, and Lucifer is still up to his usually charismatic, trickster self.

I guess I got the feeling that this text was all about setting pieces in order for more substantial character arts and Awesome Happenings -- which is totally okay. Set-up whets the appetite for more. If every minute of everything was awesome, then there would not be an awesome.

I wasn't really expecting Mazikeen's husband to show up. That was an interesting story-line -- I like how she defeated him, how because she was a woman, nobody taught her, nobody expected her to learn -- but she did. Empowering.

I also liked the character Lys. She's been infected with humanity, she's scrabbling for her father's authority. All good stuff. Looking forward to see what'll happen next with her.

I think when one of the most tender moments was when Duma came to Lucifer's aid. There is so little compassion -- true compassion -- like that left in the world. I find it utterly beautiful wherever I see it. And when he tells Lucifer that three have defied God's will -- he looks so sad.

Speaking of compassion -- there was an odd little arc about Miss Zim'et and Sabah. There is this trope that the Big Bad is always going to want human life, babies, or some virgin -- but they wanted Sabah's tumor, thus saving his life. I wasn't really expecting that, and I thought it hinted at an interesting direction. I hope to see more of where this leads.

I guess the most surprising character was Solomon -- I wasn't really expecting him to show up. I'm glad that they kind of commentaried on that blind fanatacism, forcing them to question whether they truly are doing God's will, even if they think they are.

Good stuff.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Supernatural First Impressions

Supernatural "My Heart Will Go On" (6.17): Spoilery

I heard that this episode had Fate in it. And I was really dreading it because one of the things I like about Supernatural is that it's very gung-ho about free will and giving Destiny the bird and what-not. And when I heard "Fate" I translated it as a personification of the fate that we see in texts like Beowulf, etc. So I was very much leery of the idea, to say the least.

But I was wrong! It was the Greek goddesses of Fate, which was a huge relief. And it renewed my appreciation for how well Supernatural navigates the tension between fate and free will because it's a rather nuanced idea that flicks like Star Wars always failed to properly explore.

Also -- Fate was a badass. Not only was her librarian look super hot, but she was a strong female character -- which Supernatural, despite it's otherwise awesomeness -- rather lacks (since we're talking about strong female characters, it was nice to see Ellen and to hear that Jo was off being an awesome hunter).

I really loved how Fate called Castiel out on the carpet. I thought she was complex -- she's angry that the world is suddenly a chaotic-topsy-turvy mess more so than usual, she's angry that she's lost her job--that the rug's been pulled out from under her feet, and she's angry that Castiel has been abusing angel privileges and saving boat-loads of people to fund his angelic civil war. And instead of wringing her hands, she goes through the proper channels, and then when that fails, does something about it. Very cool.

And you know, since we're talking about gender (I know, it's all I can think about these days--hopefully that part will get turned off soon, it gets a little exhausting sometimes), I really liked how the show sort of played with some stereotypes that are so commonly applied to women:

Don't be so emotional, Castiel tells her. You're confused. And the show subverts that by really playing off the different emotional dynamics at work here -- both the individual ones and the cosmically broad ones.

Sometimes I think the problem with shows is that they go too far in a polarized direction: either a woman is a stereotype in that she's passive or what not, or she's either the kick ass standard bearer that says This Show Believes in Feminism Because Look At How Macho This Woman Is. And so I liked that Supernatural did have her being emotional and reasonable at the same time. It was realistic and three dimensional and awesome.

And, if we're talking about three dimensional characters: Castiel.

I think it takes guts to take a fan favorite and to put him in circumstances where his motivations and desires will, perhaps, conflict with what made him so lovable in the first place. In Season 4, he was heaven's bitch, just accepting what he was told. In Season 5, Sam and Dean showed him what it meant to be human. But then he got put in charge of heaven and now he has some serious decisions to make. And he has conflicting motivations, and he must choose, and instead of doing the right thing, he tries to have his cake and eat it too (I couldn't help but think that his little speech to the boys about how they taught him about freedom etc. was sort of preluding a course of action that he knows they probably won't agree with in a future episode).

I love how palpable his shame is: even as he's denying Fate's accusations about his motivations for saving the Titanic, you can just see it (and he's obviously not used to lying, that's so adorable and beautiful and simultaneously sad that he's learning how to -- especially in context of that one episode where he asked Dean why people lie). And, even though he stopped Balthazar when she threatened to have Dean and Sam killed, I can't help but think that it was also because he knew she was right.

And then of course, he lies to Sam and Dean, covering for himself, blaming Fate because he's not brave enough to blame himself.

I can't say I'm thrilled with the direction that Castiel is being taken from a personal, squeeing fangirl point of view, but I have to say that, as a writer, I really respect the show for not keeping Castiel as Sam and Dean's backseat angel buddy. I feel like there are high stakes for the character, like the show is taking the opportunity to explore more of his character to make him round and full and real, and it just thrills me.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Gender Alert: Mad Men

In the fourth season of Mad Men, the second episode "Christmas Comes But Once a Year" has a mini-arc involving Peggy in which she must decide whether she wants to accept or reject the advances of her current boyfriend, who wishes to have sex with her.

He says to her that he wants to be her first--and she does not correct his assumption that she is a virgin (though the first season established her fling with Pete and the subsequent child, along with exploring tensions between her choice as a career woman vs. a mother).

The reason I mention it is because my human sexuality class recently had a superficial discussion regarding virginity (superficial because the class is one hundred plus people and we were already behind). Needless to say, the topic was rather hot and controversial, but it came about that it is still popular for women to be less than truthful about how many people they've slept with or simply outright saying they are still virgins, even if it's not so.

I find it sad that we are in such similar circumstances where women are forced to censure themselves simply because of how they will subsequently be viewed by society (indeed, I find even the idea of "virginity" to be a relic of an ignorant past and best to be abandoned entirely).

There is, in fact, no winning in this kind of situation. For Peggy, she is objectified no matter what she chooses. Because the boyfriend wants to be her first--whether as a status claim or "to take her" is not entirely clear through the course of the episode, but I can't help but think it's one or both of those motivations--he objectifies her from a person to a thing of conquest.

If she corrects his assumptions (assumptions which limit her sexuality is an individual), then she will be labeled a slut or a whore--denigrating terms in and of themselves.

Obviously the issues aren't so strong today, but they are still present.

That's really one of the reasons I like Peggy so much--it's fascinating to watch her (and Joan) navigate these power structures so deftly.

Speaking of Joan, I rather loved her scene in "The Good News" when, after she receives flowers from Lane, she storms into his office, confronting him about he has infantalized her, making her feel like a "helpless little girl." Of course, it was a result of a mix-up in flowers, but that her beliefs regarding Lane's motivations were even an option reveal the sort of disrespect she has to navigate on a daily basis.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Discourse - Lucifer Volume 4: The Divine Comedy

Unfortunately, again, I cannot remark at length about the text and must limit myself to highlights only.

Lucifer as Anti-hero, Lucifer as Character

This text introduced an interesting juxtaposition of Lucifer.

First, it begins with Lucifer revealing himself to the citizens of his newly populated world. He towers above them, a figure of strength, and a taker of no bullshit.



His first command is the forbidden commandment of worship.

This is, inherently, an image of strength. Lucifer is beautiful in his rebellion, in his absolute self assuredness, in his confidence, and, most importantly, in himself.

However, as the draws towards its end, that strength is undercut with a newly revealed aspect of his character.

It's not when he falls when the Cards attempt to establish themselves as gods in his universe. It's not when he falls prey to a magical attack from behind (a plot point simmering since volume 2), it's not even when he goes forward into hell to face the angel completely powerless (which is, ironically, an image of strength in and of itself).



It's when he converses with Death that he reveals the fragility of his character, of his inexorable will.



He does not accept death, he flings himself against her in anger and denial - and she cooly, confidently gives him a piece of her mind and advice while she's at it.



The differences between their manners is staggering -- and it adds more depth to an already complex character.

I think that's one of the reasons I love this image so much:



It incapsulates the very nature of their conversation.

And it is beautiful.

As for the anti-hero - Lucifer knows how Elaine adores him. How she loves him. How she'd do anything, absolutely anything. How young she is.

And he does not warn her that in giving life to him, she will sacrifice it for herself.



That moment is so poignantly sad.

I love how Carey isn't afraid to make it absolutely real.

Lucifer, Michael, and Yahweh

I liked how Lucifer and Michael became two sides of the same coin essentially. Lucifer is full of this inexorable will, Michael full of creative power. Without them both, the new universe would never have come to be.



They are, in a way, a circle, incomplete without the other. And this is seen even more clearly in Michael's fall.

I'm eager to see how volumes 5 and onwards will explore this circle that's sort of coming into light. And, of course, I could be misreading it, but I hope I'm not.

I love how offended Lucifer was when Death compared him to Yahweh -- even as he conveniently ignores all their other similarities: creation (the big bang encore), a first people, appearing on high and delivering a commandment - simply differing on the nature of the commandment.

It's interesting that in this and other literature about the devil, folks have always commented on Lucifer's pride, the pride that eventually lead to his downfall.

Yet, he commands people not to worship anybody -- not even him.

And, on the contrary, the god of the Bible is a jealous god, demanding the sole worship of himself.

It's just interesting, the juxtaposition of the two characters in parallel with each other.

I also liked the subtle (and not so subtle) commentary on religion. Lucifer's world was perfectly happy and content without religion -- they were beautiful and intelligent, so much so that Rachel slips into that universe with wonder and amazement.

This world - torn apart by war and there are still nations living impoverished and uneducated.

And it's only when the Cards come claiming to be gods that true, national disaster strikes.

My atheist heart thrilled.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Lucifer and Death



Words cannot adequately express how much I love this image.

It's so rare to see a woman carrying a man like this. Or a man in such a vulnerable position.

Oh my god.

Discourse - Lucifer Volume 3: Dalliance With The Damned


Unfortunately, this is going to be less a review and more of a highlights. So, without further adieu (since I still have Volume 4 to read and it's due back at the library tomorrow):

Lucifer as God; Angels as Demons

Still enjoying the inversion that's going on here. Lucifer makes his realm and his only command is

Bow down to no one. Worship no one. Not even me. Do you understand?

So beautiful.

And then of course one of the angels comes to the man in the form of a serpent, inspiring doubt in the man's (the man's! gender-bender) about Lucifer's role as creator as well, the paradox (so popular in Christian mythology) of freedom in slavery to a deity, polarizing opinions of good and evil, the philosophy that the end (or, in his words, the intent) justifies the means, the nature of desire, and other things of a philosophical nature that I wish I had the time to more thoroughly think about.



Still. Gender-bendery goodness, nature of good and evil, all good stuff.

Mazikeen

Yesterday, I enthused how Mazikeen didn't tie herself down to Lucifer and how she went off on a journey and how I still liked it, regardless of how much the reader saw of her journey or not.

Well. I'm here to tell you that Mazikeen's journey was bad ass.

She goes to find her identity, and is instead elected leader of the Lilim after she outwits her trial (since her fellows thought she had betrayed them by staying with Lucifer).

And when in hell, someone introduces her as Lucifer's consort? Oh no. She's having none of that.



Also, I really love how she refused to play act by costuming to the period that Hell had set as its desktop.



I also think I want her t-shirt: normal consciousness will be resumed.
I think I know my next Halloween costume. Oh yes.

So, in volume 2 she left to find her face -- a quest for identity. And then she found her identity in a role of leader of the Lilim. And when Lucifer refused to ally himself with them -- she didn't stay again. She left with her people. I think that's so great.



And you know what's also great? That Lucifer isn't threatened by her not staying with him all the damn time.

Pain As A Drug

One of the things I've learned in my writing class is that people -- and especially writers -- thrive off the misfortune of others. We love to gossip about it. Etc.

I've often thought about this -- noticing the little ways I myself take pleasure in the pain or discomfit of others (I can only speak for myself, but I think every individual has their own private bit of themselves that enjoys the non-happiness of others in their own unique way).

And that was illustrated (heh, pun) here, with the pain powder that was...orgasmic. But it was orgasmic because it wasn't true pain, not like he later describes:

One of the nobility of hell has picked me out to be her toy. Compared to you I am happy indeed. But somehow it rings like false coin. Do you remember the first lad or lass you loved? When you felt your chest was too narrow to hold your heart? When it seemed the world was made anew by your passion? And do you remember the fear that comes with love? The fear that it cannot last? The fear that you cannot be worthy of it? Truly we were not. none of us. But did it not come anyway? How we have poured our souls into another's lips and eyes. How we have died and been born again in the ebb and flow of their breath. All gone. The flesh you loved is dust. The words you whispered stir no echoes. And it may e that the one you loved most dearly sits at supper now with angels, and has forgotten your name. They think they mortify us with whips and wheels. But then, they have neither lived, nor loved. In truth -- they know nothing of pain at all.

I found that an interesting concept.

Lucifer as Anti-hero

There's this problem, see, with anti-heroes in stories. Anti-heroes walk a fine line. They can't be too base because then they'd make poor protagonists and then nobody would like them anymore.

Sometimes writers try to avoid this by defanging or declawing them, as it were. Spike sort of went through something similar (unfortunately).

It's difficult because you don't want them to stagnate and be boring, but they can't really be someone whom they're not at the same time (I fancy all characters have this problem, it's just really obvious and more noticeable with anti-heroes in my experience).

So, there are these two scenes where Lucifer is a magnificent anti-hero -- and the writers could have shied away and had him done something more palatable.

But they didn't.



First, he gives a demon a soul. I mean that's just. Wow, that's just cruel. And I'm in awe of it and yet, at the same time, that's...cruel (well, I suppose one doesn't become lord of hell for nothing). But yet - it's a testament to the multi-facetedness of the character.

The second bit was when some kids snuck into his house -- and prayed to God. Of course, he wouldn't save them for that. It reminded me of those people who are like -- and thank god my loved one survived this terrible accident when, in reality, it was because someone was a damned good doctor who gave a shit about his job.



So I really enjoyed that scene as a writer -- because Lucifer's still an anti-hero here instead of bowing out and taking the noble option -- and as a person who is appreciative of social commentary, wherever it can be found.