So, the elections happened. The results were terrible, to the point where I’m actually currently somewhat grateful for the degree of separation that currently exists between Puerto Rico and the states. I’m still processing, and in moments when I can process about the comparatively trivial, I think, well, this is going to affect the shit out of my novel.
Context: Over the past month or so, I’ve actually gone back to working on Faerie, which over the years had become something I only occasionally talked about but never get any closer to completing, but has now become some 30,000+ words long, i.e., about as long as an Animorphs book. And then Trump happened, which is making me reconsider the whole thing, again. Now, on top of not being sure if the story about two teenage Muslimahs dealing with their evolving feelings about their religion in a newly Islamophobic environment is a story I should be telling or can do justice to, I’m sort of kinda feeling like Trump and what he’s done need to be part of the story. While this works, to a degree–it fits right in with the themes and plot–it also means rethinking large swaths of what I’ve already done, including the book’s overall tone, as well as several key characters and scenes. So I have questions, and no answers yet.
In any case, until those answers come, I decided to write for today’s 1,500 words a scene where my characters actually deal with the election. Right now it exists more or less as a way to process my own thoughts and put them on paper, and to try to get something positive out of the whole thing: I’m not sure if it will actually make it into the final work, although some version probably will, if the story is still set in 2016 by the time the second draft begins.
Recap: On a sunny April morning, Miki prepares for her first day of school by resolving to be more assertive this year.
I’d blown my whole junior year obsessing over the expectations of others.
This year everyone would see a different Miki…… a Miki they’d never seen before.
I’m a big fan of starting stories at the middle. I like having to try to figure out what came before, and trying to follow a story that requires a flowchart to understand without having the actual flowchart handy; not only does it add a nice mystery element to the whole thing, it means re-watching/-playing/-reading it will make for a rather different experience. Still, I find Falls‘ approach rather peculiar, especially in conjunction with its point of view. We’re told Miki has decided to change, but given how we don’t get any perspective but her own, the reader has no way to know just what this means, just what it meant for her to “obsess over the expectations of others” or how different her new behavior is from her old one. For all we know, she didn’t change at all.
In fact, pretty much the only indication we get of Miki’s changes is her mother’s startled expression when she calls her daughter to the breakfast table, which earns a response of “I’ll come down when I’m ready to come down” from Miki.
As big a fan I am of self-improvement, I’m not entirely sure this qualifies.
I can totally get pushing back when pushed. I can support pushing back. But what Miki is doing here isn’t that: it’s pushing even when nobody is pushing. It’s not saying “my needs and wants are thoughts are just as important and deserving of respect as yours”, it’s “my needs and wants are thoughts are MORE important”. And this isn’t just a one-off, either: the plot of this volume explicitly requires to disregard other peoples’ feelings in favor of her own. While its thankfully not the only way she manages to express assertiveness–there are plenty of moments later on when she pushes back against people who would police her actions–this streak of “my feelings are more important than yours” sours the character for me, particularly in this volume–especially since the book doesn’t really try to call her on it: it’s always presented as a good thing, particularly since its her commitment to harassment that manages to break down The Guy’s mask of aloofness and allows their friendship to take hold.
And normally, this wouldn’t be much of a problem. I don’t require my protagonists to be paragons of virtue, and given the first-person perspective and the fact that Miki is a teenager with lots of room for growth, this bit of selfishness doesn’t necessarily make her a horrible character. What does bother me is the packaging of jerkish tendencies as self-improvement, especially since we don’t actually know how she was before. Perhaps Old!Miki was indeed perfectly willing to push back when pushed, and “becoming more assertive” is actually her way of saying “I’m going to become a jerk”. Or perhaps old Miki was indeed the sort of person who wouldn’t push back when pushed, and her narration is entirely accurate: we don’t know, and there’s no way to know.
If asked to describe Mark Crilley’s graphic novel series Miki Falls in one sentence, it would have to be “Twilight in Japan”. While the truth is more complicated than that, it’s also not wholly inaccurate: like Twilight, Miki Falls is the story of a high school girl living in a small town, who meets a mysterious guy who turns out to be more than human—what’s more, he forms part of a secret community of similar not-quite-humans. They both fall in love with the other, but their relationship is not even slightly accepted by the boy’s community. At the very least, there’s lots of potential for audience crossover.
I first learned of Miki Falls rather accidentally: while browsing the manga isles at Borders (moment of sadness, please—its downfall means I can’t access most books anywhere but online, and It’s Just Not The Same), I stumbled across the creator’s name in the series’ first volume, which immediately got my attention, since Crilley was responsible for Akiko, a fantastic little series which can be most concisely described as The Wizard of Oz meets Star Wars, and which I heartily recommend to anyone with young children. Anyways, I decided to buy it. And then I bought the second volume and so on and so on. Twilight had not yet entered my personal consciousness.
Based on what I’d heard and read about Twilight (I have not read the series, save for roughly the first half of the first book) I’d come to believe that Falls was Twilight done right, in that the characters were likable an root-for-able and that the work itself was not inherently problematic. However, the last few months—thank in no small part to Ana Mardoll’s fantastic Twilight deconstructions—have made me to see Falls rather differently. And it turns out that when seen in a critical light, Miki Falls is, in fact, rather problematic, and the fact that I didn’t see those problems before doesn’t speak very highly of the kind of person I was a year ago.
So I’m writing these now—partly to compare and contrast the work with Twilight, partly to highlight its own particular ideas, and partly to exercise my critical writing skills. I can’t promise I’ll do it regularly, because I have a history of not keeping those, but the aim is to make one of these per week.
The book is divided into four manga-sized volumes, one for each season of the year, which form the titles for each individual volume. Given that each book covers roughly three months of time in great detail, I’ll be discussing individual scenes, much in the style that Fred Clark first popularized among Slacktivites. While I intend to quote passages, I am not entirely sure to what extent I’ll be doing that, since I’m not sure how much would be considered fair use in a medium in which I could repeat all the words and only tell half the story. There will also be occasional pics, depending on what I can find online and how well scans work out.
So without further ado…
(Content Note: Disability, Consent)
Dear Programing Executives At ABC Family:
For some reason, you remain convinced that storyarcs where a teenage girl develops a crush on an adult authority figure, and said authority figure reciprocates their affection, has enough value to keep bringing them up in your shows.
You are wrong.
Wherein Ian Delves Into Sexism in Media, OR Why the Pilot Episode of TMNT (2012) is Highly Problematic
(Content Note: Objectification of women. Abstract descriptions of racism, fat hatred, dehumanization. Words…so many words.)
So I wrote about my thoughts on the first two issues of Nickelodeon’s new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show. Then I went to The Technodrome.com, home of the largest TMNT fan community on the web, and shared my opinions in their forums there, particularly those on how disappointed I was at what I considered their treatment of April O’Neil sexist.
The comments were not particularly well received. This was not particularly surprising.
As someone who’s been part of the board for years, my impression of the TMNT fandom as represented by the board—and people there can correct me if I’m wrong–is that when it comes to gender, a vocal plurality of the believes that the status quo is acceptable, that a work is not sexist if there’s at least one woman in it who is not “useless” and/or can kick ass in some way, and that it’s a subject that never needs to be brought up ever, lest Venus de Milo be suddenly legitimized as a character. Or something.
As a feminist, I disagree. As both a fan of the TMNT and someone who believes that sexism helps makes works worse than they would otherwise be, I have an interest in doing what I can to help make it not be that way anymore.
(Content Note: Rape and Rape Culture, Privilege, Sexism)
So in my last post I argued–perhaps not all that coherently–that, given the prevalence of rape in our society, it was a good thing for there to be comic books that spoke honestly on the subject, and expressed my hopes that, as long as it was bringing up the issue at all, Sword of Sorcery would be that comic.
Upon thinking some more about the issue and reading some additional commentary–some of it right on, some of it not–I feel I should clarify that my thinking on this a bit. I fear that, in saying what I did, I may have inadvertently also said, in effect, that the need for that conversation was more important than women’s need and/or desire for comic books that didn’t deal with the issue.
Sorry about that.
(Content Note: Rape and Rape Culture)
On episode 91 of their House to Astonish podcast, Paul O’Brien and Al Kennedy discuss the return to Amethyst to comics and her debut in Sword of Sorcery #0. The bulk of their review is spent discussing a scene in the protagonist Amy Winston stops the attempted gang rape of Beryl, an unpopular girl whom she’d met earlier that day, by three of their high school classmates. Kennedy, in particular, considered this scene as the low point in the issue, being utterly unnecessary, disruptive of the book’s general feel, and yet another example of comic book writers’ use of rape as a source of cheap drama.
To quote the Slacktiverse, I think it’s more complicated than that. While I am like Kennedy rather sick and tired of the way rape and sexual assault is usually presented in fiction–as something that doesn’t exist beyond the actual act, is often presented in an misinformative manner, and is at times fetishized–I’m not sure altogether sure that the scene shown here was an example of what he refers to.
(Content Note: racism, eliminationist violence, white supremacy, terrorism)
Because terrorist attacks such as yesterday’s Oak Creek shooting are things which leave more thoughts than my limited powers expression know what to do with, I instead leave you with the thoughts of smarter, better people than me.
Mitt Romney [emphasized by me for uniformity] calls the shooting a “senseless act of violence,” which, as I’ve previously noted, elides the fact that, in a frame of racist eliminationism, a crime like this absolutely “makes sense.”
Unequivocally, the sensibilities by which such a crime not only “makes sense” but is considered eminently reasonable, or even heroic, is racist, violent, eliminationist, and vile. But we can’t pretend that particular brand of sense-making doesn’t exist.
Somehow, it seems, [the alleged (*1) shooter, Wade Michael Page ] had become convinced that these people, these peaceful families, were his enemies. He had no basis for deciding this because it was, in fact, not true. These people were not his enemies. Nor were they the enemies of anyone else. And yet, somehow, this man got it in his head that they were — he somehow came to believe that they were an enemy, a threat, a menace to be countered with sudden, lethal violence.
And we all know that “somehow” is not a mystery.
That somehow is a multi-billion dollar industry. The leading figures of that industry are respected, powerful, wealthy people who have grown rich and famous through an infotainment empire that pours gasoline with one hand while shooting sparks with the other — all while denying responsibility or culpability or any association at all with the fires that “somehow” keep erupting.
The crimes of white supremacists are not exceptions and do not and cannot exist in isolation from more systemic forms of racism. People of colour face legislated racism from immigration laws to policies governing Indigenous reserves; are discriminated and excluded from equitable access to healthcare, housing, childcare, and education; are disproportionately victims of police killings and child apprehensions; fill the floors of sweatshops and factories; are over-represented in heads counts on poverty rates, incarceration rates, unemployment rates, and high school dropout rates. Colonialism has and continues to be shaped by the counters of white men’s civilizing missions. The occupation of Turtle Island is based on the white supremacist crime of colonization, where Indigenous lands were believed to be barren and Indigenous people believed to be inferior. The occupation of Afghanistan has been justified on the racist idea of liberating Muslim women from Muslim men. Racialized violence has also always targeted places of worship–the spiritual heart of a community. In Iraq, for example, the US Army accelerated bombings of mosques from 2003-2007 with targeted attacks on the Abdul-Aziz al-Samarrai mosque, Abu Hanifa shrine, Khulafah Al Rashid mosque and many others. And so I repeat: the patterns of hate crimes have a sense, have a logic, have a structure – they are part of a broader system of white supremacy.
(If any of the writers would like for me to remove these passage, or feel I have violated their copyrights, let me know.)
This was not an unavoidable tragedy, nor was it one for which no lessons can be drawn (although the lessons, in this case, are ones many people, including some who pretend otherwise, already knew). Claiming that there is no context for this, that it exists in a vacuum and that therefore nothing can be done in order to prevent it from happening again is dishonest and irresponsible in the extreme. My heart and thoughts are with those who lost loved ones and/or the sense of security to which they have every right to, and my contempt is with those in power who are either dishonest or silent about the reasons for this catastrophe.
(*1) : Journalism/Legal question: Okay, I know the proper protocol is to describe suspects as “alleged [type of criminal]”, even when guilt is beyond reasonable doubt; does that still apply when those suspects are dead?
Note: For the uninitiated, here’s a quick and dirty (and severely abriged) Macross-to-Robotech dictionary. Japanese terms to the left, with Harmony Gold’s names at the right .
Super Dimension Fortress Macross –> Robotech
Hikaru Ichijou –> Rick Hunter
Misa Hayase –> Lisa Hayes
Lynn Minmay –> Lynn Minmei
Lynn Kaifun –> Lynn Kyle
In case it wasn’t obvious from my previous post on the subject, I’ve been thinking a lot about Robotech lately, rewatching the entire series on DVD and consuming whatever additional material the internet machine can provide, including material from its source material. Among that is Macross Flashback 2012, the charming OVA featuring Lynn Minmay’s final concert before her departure from Earth in the SDF-2 Megaroad 01. It’s cheery and optimistic, and it presents some interesting contrasts between the approaches Tatsunoko/Studio Nue and Harmony Gold’s took to the character.
While Macross and Robotech both tell the same basic story, the come at it from different places, and both take different things from it. While determining these differences presents some difficulties when they both share the same footage (although not impossible—see “protoculture”) it becomes a bit clearer when you look at what each company produced afterwards, particularly as they relate to the character of Minmei.
For the bulk of both series, Minmei is characterized is the brave, cheerful, inspiring woman whose spirit proves to be greatest single factor in the transformation of the SDF-1’s civilian population from a collection of refugees to a vibrant community, and whose fame helps bridge civilizations and end the war between the human and the Zentraedi. Without firing a single shot, Minmei became as great a war hero as Max Sterling, Lisa Hayes, or Henry Gloval.
“Does ANYONE think that if Obama had been a tough, principled, unabashed progressive, he’d be worse off than he is now?”
Title aside, McEwan adds nothing else to the blog post, and I sort of wish she had, since the idea that things would have been different (read: better) if Obama held progressive beliefs and fought for them is one I grapple with constantly. I’ve heard progressives make the claim with differing amounts of certainty, which is something I’ve never felt when it comes to the matter. A world in which Obama–or any other Democrat elected as President in 2008–is a Progressive is so far removed from the actual world, charting an accurate alternate history would be as fruitless as finding a soul in Governor Luis Fortuño. About the only thing I would be able to say for certain is that progressives would be happy with him/hir, and that Fox News Coverage would hardly change at all.
Yes, the country would almost certainly be better if we had more progressive policies in place. Would those progressive policies have passed, though, if Obama or a hypothetical other president, had pursued them while Democrats had control of the legislature? My (limited) understanding of the political situation leads me to believe that the answer is “no”, as best evidenced by the whole Health Care Bill debate. Was the Public Option necessary in order for the bill to be as effective as possible? As I understand it, yes–although I also understand that the health care bill we got is considerably better than doing nothing at all. Were progressives right in feeling betrayed when Democrats abandoned it? Sure. Would it have passed if Democrats had been more uncompromising in its inclusion? Like I said, probably not. Would a consistently pro-public option stance on a failed Health Care bill have helped Democrats in 2010? I don’t see how.
Now, there are certain other things which Obama does have control over, which do not require Congress in order to be enacted–say, Guantanamo bay–and where it comes to those, Obama has no excuse for following through other than a) a lack of belief in progressive policies are the best solution, b) or cowardice. Would taking the progressive option, in this case, have harmed him? I don’t see how. Would it have helped him with his base? Yes. Would it have helped with the election? I don’t know, but I’d say that probably not, if we accept that most low-information voters don’t really care about things like that, given they tend not to affect their livelyhoods. A swift withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq would similarly help him with his base, but it’s unclear how that would help congress during the election. That, however, does not change the fact that closing down Guantanamo and ending the wars were the right thing to do, even if they drew no advantage from it.
Moving on to the present day, it’s clear that Obama and the Democrats are now in a much more weakened position, at both the state and the federal level: in many states, Republicans take advantage of their majorities to roll back basic human rights, and Democrats are left with no option but to publicly complain, which they often don’t. At the Federal level, Congress has taken up destroying the economy as a hobby, taking it as a hostage by suddenly refusing to do something that they once did without a thought. Democrats, in response, have taken to promising everything and anything–even measures that go against everything they stand for and help no one–in order to try to get them to stop, a move that a) hasn’t worked, so far b) destroys the Democratic brand in the process, c) moves the center of American politics ever more to the right, as the unthinkable suddenly becomes plausible.
Still, what else could they do? Sticking to their guns would help with the base–it’d certainly reassure me–but doesn’t help unless it turns out that Republicans are actually bluffing about the debt ceiling. If they aren’t bluffing, though–and I don’t believe they are–then you end up with two immobile coalitions and a ruined economy. There’s the argument that Obama would be able to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling anyway, but my understanding of things is that he would not be able to do so until things were already in the crapper. And the same goes for pretty much everything else. All the while, Obama loses his bases’ support.
So to turn back to the main topic: the belief that things wouldn’t be as bad if Obama stuck to his party’s core beliefs. People who believe this must be seeing something I’m not, and I would like to know what that is, because certainty sounds so good right about now.