Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Vampire Diaries, Season Four, Episode Three: The Rager

Tyler is asleep in hospital bed after being shot and a police officer is standing guard at the door to his room. Suddenly, a noise in the corridor attracts the cops attention and when he leaves to check it out, he is assaulted by Connor Jordan.  Hearing the noise, Tyler awakes and when Connor enters his room, Tyler is nowhere to be seen.  Tyler decides to attack Connor from behind, but Connor manages to inject a paralytic into Tyler.  He lays Tyler on the bed and then draws some kind of liquid from his fangs, before rushing out of Tyler's room. Connor returns to his RV and is clearly making something from the venom which he withdrew from Tyler.  When he sits at his desk, he looks at two folders and decides to open the one with Jeremy's name on it.
Stefan is outside the house working on a motorcycle.  Damon sees this as his midlife crises but Stefan says that the transition has been rough on Elena and he wants to take her out to have a little fun.  Damon informs Stefan that Connor stole some of Tyler's venom last night and now he plans to hunt him and kill him.  When Stefan offers to help, Damon turns him down and the brothers are back to arguing about Elena yet again.  Damon plans to leave town because the agreement was that only the one Elena chose would get to stay, but Stefan says that things are different now because Elena is one of them. He justifies punching Damon in the face by saying that he was being dramatic and Damon did after all blood share with Elena. 
Matt and Elena meet at their old make out spot. She again expresses angst for having to feed and Matt asks her to let him do this for her because he owes her his life.  She only feeds briefly and when Matt asks her if she had enough, she responds, "no, but if I had anymore, I'm afraid I wouldn't stop." Elena wipes her lips and puts a bandage on Matt and then they head off to school. Matt questions whether she should be there or not, and Elena says that the vampire hunter knows that she knows Damon and so this place is safer and then adds she wants to be there because it is her senior year. Honestly, was I the only one rolling my eyes? How long are they going to keep these kids in high school already? They don't act like the kids that they are supposed to be and never attend school for anything other than planning dances, or wretched founders events. As they walk through the parking lot, Elena notices a flyer stuck to a car, which calls for a town curfew of ten pm.  Matt reminds her that Tyler was shot in front of half of the town and that everyone is a little freaked. 
Carol and Tyler return home and Tyler is not pleased to see two men standing in the foyer when he enters.  He assumes that they are more deputies and Klaus enters.  Klaus says that he was halfway to Chicago, when he heard that Tyler was attacked but duty calls. Tyler sarcastically replies, "Nice to know you care."  As Klaus walks forward he says, "I don't. I should have killed you for the stunt you and your little friends pulled, stopping my heart and leaving me in a coffin to rot." Tyler reminds Klaus that he hijacked his body and kissed his girlfriend and suggests that makes them even, but Klaus is not convinced.  It seems that Klaus is there because hybrids are a dying breed and he cannot make more, and will not allow anyone to take liberties with those that are left.  Klaus points to the other hybrids and instructs Tyler to consider them his bodyguards.
Elena and Stephen are sitting in history class together and he points out that it's been awhile since they were in a large class together. Uh huh, no shit sherlock and that would be because no one on this show actually attends class.  Rebekah enters handing out fliers, announcing the anti curfew party that she is holding and invites Elena to attend so that they can bury the hatchet.  Elena replies that it's a pretty big hatchet.  Elena notices the new address and asks, "new house huh, did your brother finally kick you out?" Rebekah replies, "he didn't kick me out, I left." They trade barbs until Stephen asks he Rebekah she is still in town. Rebekah says that history is her favourite class and then asks about Alaric, only to bring up the point that she killed him. Elena throws her pencil at Rebekah but Rebekah catches it and throws it at Elena, piercing her shoulder.  Okay, what kind of material are their pencils made of in Mystic Falls?

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Problem With 'Breaking Amish'

Breaking Amish is a new show on TLC. I must admit that I have long been fascinated by the Amish, largely because of their close knit culture and their refusal to use modern technology.  When I learned that Breaking Amish was designed to be a form of documentary about 5 people leaving their Amish and Mennonite communities to travel to New York and live among the English for the first time, I must admit that I was excited. I imagined the culture shock and the emotion of leaving behind a way of life that was all consuming and the doubts that would occur. What I did not imagine, and probably should have given the fact that it is airing on TLC, that it would be nothing more than a farce representing itself as a documentary series.

A lot of reality TV in and of itself has an unpleasant undertone. In theory this is a way for us to learn about unusual experiences, lifestyles that are different from our own and different circumstances through a different viewpoint - certainly a laudable concept of expanding people’s horizons. But this is very rarely what we see; far more often reality TV exists to present us with people that are considered “weird” or “other”  by society and encourage us to both decide that their lives are somehow our business and then to pity or judge them. It’s a combination of an old fashioned freak show and a town pillory - from the raucous activities of Jersey Shore and Real Housewives to the insular culture of American Gypsies to the family life of Honey Boo Boo this is all about watching people regarded as “freaks” and then judging them and is only exacerbated by the frequent targeting of vulnerable people.

From the very first episode something about this show struck me as wrong. How exactly did TLC manage to find five people interested in leaving their closed communities all at once? The cast were all old enough to have gone through Rumspringa - a time when the young have the chance to live among the English and make the decision as to whether or not they want to remain Amish. Their fascination with creamers, cell phones and microwaves seemed feigned at best. Rebecca, in particular, went out of the way to display disgust about the outhouse in her home.  If having an outhouse was a part of her normalised life, why is it so absolutely disgusting to her suddenly? It’s not like indoor plumbing was ever a part of her everyday existence. Right after getting off the plane, their language completely changed and they used all of our current vernacular, including cursing. After a moment’s contrived confusion about chop-sticks, they adapted happily enough to eat a meal in a Chinese restaurant. They presented very accurate seeming shock at a $50 hotel breakfast (I was shocked, never mind them!) but then maintained that same shock for a $10 a head meal. Navigating an airport is a matter of brief confusion, but a bedside radio is incomprehensible. And that’s before we consider the likelihood of Jeremiah getting a driving license and job as a taxi driver in New York city so quickly. Many inconsistencies just didn’t pass the smell test.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I have a new article up at Clutch Magazine.

After the debate, Anne Coulter took to twitter to degrade president Obama and in the process was disableist.

People living with disabilities (PWD) have worked very hard to make it clear that the word retard is offensive because it is disableist.  Essentially, to use the word “retard” in this fashion is to take someone’s life and use it as a pejorative to attack neurologically typical people.  Even when confronted with the problematic nature of her chosen language, Ann Coulter — being Ann Coulter — decided to double down on her bigotry by saying, “the only people who will be offended are too retarded to understand it.” Ann Coulter has built a career by touting the indefensible and by being as offensive as she possibly can be, so it’s not hard to understand why when pressed on the offensiveness of her speech, Coulter decided to up the ante.

There will be some people who will look at her tweet and say that it is irrelevant because of the source, but PWD cannot afford to take this stance.  John Franklin, who is a disabled Olympian, penned the following response to Coulter’s tweet.
After I saw your tweet, I realized you just wanted to belittle the President by linking him to people like me.  You assumed that people would understand and accept that being linked to someone like me is an insult and you assumed you could get away with it and still appear on TV.

I have to wonder if you considered other hateful words but recoiled from the backlash.Well, Ms. Coulter, you, and society, need to learn that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor.

No one overcomes more than we do and still loves life so much.

Come join us someday at Special Olympics.  See if you can walk away with your heart unchanged.
I fall into the category of believing that Coulter does not have a heart.  Whether she truly believes all of the vile things she is on record as saying, or simply does it as a shtick to make a profit, it’s quite clear that as far as historically marginalized people are concerned, Coulter has a vested interest in insuring our continued oppression.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

White Lady Tears from the Back of the House

'Tears are tasteless' photo (c) 2008, LMAP - license:

Once again a post I wrote entitled Which Race has the Most Beautiful Women? back in 2009 has again attracted an ignorant fool full of privilege and denial.  Of all of the pieces in the Womanist Musings archive, this piece seems to repeatedly attract the worst. I have thought from time to time about closing down the comments on it, but the degree of racist comments that it receives convinces me to leave it open, as it occasionally produces fodder for a post.  This time I have decided not to break down the comment and will leave it to you to deconstruct should you have the energy.
I only have one thing to say here, and it's this: I was directed by a link to this blog to read about racial fetishization, and though I hoped to be enlightened, I feel surrounded by hatred of white people, white women, especially. As you may guess, I am a white woman, and though I have no personal experience for what it's like to be a POC, no WOC has personal experience for what it's like to be a white woman.

You may think that experience has little, if any, merit, but it's not true. Surely, you've heard of "white guilt. I would imagine you've never thought much about it because, why would you? You're not white. The media, the textbooks, people you do and don't know haven't been telling you for years that you enslaved people, stole land, abused a whole race of people, etc. I don't know if there's an equivalent for POC, but, if not, just try to imagine growing up with that kind of weight on your back.

And anyone who thinks white people are exempt from experiencing racism, someone needs to pull the wool off of their eyes. I've been called a "cracker" by other white people, and there may be times when I think the word is funny, but, mostly, it sounds like a racial slur to me, and I hate it. I can't tell you how many times my "whiteness" has been talked about as if it's some kind of negative character trait.

I think you mentioned the word "whiteness", and I can't remember if it was simply a reference to the color of someone's skin, or a stereotype. If you used it to characterize my race, then shame on you. Shame on you for singling out one race as racist. Do you realize how hypocritical that is?

Now, I'm not trying to say that I've suffered more, worse racism than any other race, and I'm not trying to discount the racism that POC experience. But I do experience it, as do other white people. We may be the "neutral" or media's "ideal", but a lot of people resent us for that. And it sucks. I didn't pick the ideal. I don't support the ideal. I think beauty, intelligence, kindness, cruelty, laziness, and hatred can and do exist in any kind of body.

That's all I really have to say. This seems unfinished, but, c'est la vie. I hope something I've said will reach someone.
What she said did reach me.  Everything she had to say served to confirm just about everything I have written about Whiteness and White woman's tears since I started the blog.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Review of Hotel Transylvania

I know it's a cartoon, but it has vampires, Frankenstein, and the invisible man, how could we possibly resist?  Count Dracula builds a hotel - a retreat if you will where monsters can be safe from the threat that human pose to their existence. He builds this hotel to honour a promise to his dead wife to keep their daughter Mavis safe.  For 118 years he watches over Mavis and runs his hotel until she decides that she wants to see the real world.  Count Dracula is not at all pleased and even builds a fake town and fills it with zombies to convince Mavis that the real world is a dangerous place and that humans will suck her toes.

Both Mavis and the Count return to Hotel Transylvania, where the count his happy until her realises that a human has found his way to the hotel. Johnathon is the very first human to enter the premises and his very existence put the reputation of the hotel in danger. The Count dresses him up and asserts that he is Frankenstein's cousin.  That's right, Johnathon is introduced as being related to Frankenstein's left hand.  Even with the disguise, Johnathon's ideas make him a threat to the count and this only increases when it becomes clear that Mavis has feelings for him.  Somehow, the count must rid his hotel and keep his daughter safe from the human.

Essentially, Hotel Transylvania is the story of an over protective father, willing to do anything to keep his daughter safe - by safe, I of course mean under his control.  What is good about this is that Mavis does not stop asserting her desire to see the world.  Mavis knows what she wants out of life and is determined to get it.  For all of her inexperience, she knows that there has to be more to life than the stories her father has told her and when Johnathon tells her about the places he has been, she becomes determined to leave the hotel.

Johnathon is the sole representation of humanity in this movie and of course he is White, male, straight, cisgender and able bodied.   Nothing represents humanity like a White guy.  Now, where have I seen humanity represented as completely White before? Ah yes, The Bee movie. Complete erasure in the media, let alone cartoons, is an everyday occurrence but when it comes to cartoons, because they are targeted at children, we are not supposed to ruin their innocence and actively critique them. Heaven forbid that little White kids grow up to learn about their privilege and kids of colour learn that their erasure is wrong.  Nope, that would be a critical discussion and everyone knows that active and engaged thought is not a habit we want kids to pick up. After all, their innocence is at stake.

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Privilege and Low Expectations

This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness.  Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here. Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from Sparky.   

One of the many many many not-very-coded speeches privileged people like to give is the one on “low expectations”.

You know the one – the one that says that welfare, affirmative action, any kind of accommodation, anti-discrimination rules or anything else to try and help marginalised people is somehow patronising and demeaning because it “expects too little” of marginalised people. Because it expects marginalised people to need help (completely missing the many ways marginalised people are hindered and the fact that society is already geared to help the privileged). Like many of the arguments of the oppressor, I’ve been dismissing it.

But I think I was wrong. I think that, yes, there are people out there who are labouring under the soft tyranny of low expectations. There are people who achieve so little because so little is expected for them.

I’m talking, of course, about people who are clinging to their comfortable blanket of privilege, those folks who have taught us time and again to expect the least from them. And the least is what we get.

Here are some expectations I wish we could have of people the expectations I wish we could have, the expectations I wish we could expect everyone to meet – as a bare minimum.

We will expect you to keep a civil tongue in your mouth. You’ll find it helps to keep a civil brain in your head – then you won’t say offensive shit “accidentally”. When I was a child, my parents would have sharp words if I “accidentally”  swore – we expect you to meet the same standards I managed as a small child. I have every confidence you will achieve this. Eventually. With practice.

We will expect you to recognise the limitations of the word “sorry” and how it does not justify or excuse your prejudiced or bigoted behaviour or language. Show some of the responsibility you always prattle on about. Certainly not if you’re only “sorry”  that you’re caught

We will expect you to learn from your mistakes. Children can learn not to repeat bad behaviour when corrected, we now expect the same of you.

We will expect you to be responsible for your own ignorance. We’re not your teachers or your parents. You are expected to know what you have the means to learn without us spoon feeding you. Especially if it can be learned with a little common sense and basic empathy.

We will expect you to stop making excuses and we will stop making excuses for you, whatever they are.

We will expect you to listen to us.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Princess ‘Sofia’ Disney’s First Latina

I have long history of disgust with Disney, and even more specifically Disney princesses.  Many of the princesses send a firmly anti-woman message to young girls and they are largely White, or play into a colonialist narrative like Pocahontas. It was with much trepidation that I clicked on a link directing me to an image of princess Sofia.

Once again, light bright and damn near White wins again.  Would it have killed Disney to make a Latina princess look more Latina?  It certainly does not help matters that the voice of Sofia is herself a White woman, but we are supposed to believe that Disney is all about equal representation all of a sudden.  Sure they're about diversity as long as the person of colour as passing privilege.  We see this in the media time and time again and yet continue to expect a cookie for their faux inclusion.  Princess Sofia even lives in a made up country because heaven forbid anywhere in Latin America be chosen as a setting.

The Walking Dead, Season Three, Episode Two: Sick

This episode opens were the last one left off.  Darryl is ordering the prisoners out of hiding and Maggie and Rick are trying to save Hershel. One prisoner holds a gun on Darryl. T.Dog opens the freezer and kills the guard inside. The prisoners don't know what to make of the situation and Rick's group does not have time to explain because of Hershel's injury.

As the group races through the hall, Darryl shoot a zombie to keep the way clear.  The prisoners walk slowly out of the room in pursuit of Rick all carrying pipes and one a gun as a weapon. By the time they get Hershel on a bed, he looks pale.  Somehow Carol has started to act as a medic and when Glen suggests cauterizing the wound, Carol says that the shock will kill Hershel and that they need to let it heal on its own.  Darryl confronts the prisoners and tells them that they have been pardoned and are free to go.  The prisoners want to know why a group of civilians are breaking into a prison and a stand off has begun.  Glenn goes to follow and Rick instructs him to stay by Hershel's side because Maggie is going to need him.

The prisoners want to know why they don't take Hershel to the hospital and reveal that they have been locked in the cafeteria for ten months.  They say that one guard looked out for them and locked them up and gave them a gun for protection. Rick reveals that society has completely broken down. The prisoners start to worry about their families and Rick tells them that half the population has been wiped out and when they doubt him, he says, see for yourself.  The prisoners head out and see the dead bodies in the yard and say that they never thought they would be so happy to see the fences.  One asks if its a disease and Rick says that they're all infected because everyone who dies comes back as a zombie.  One prisoner asks where they came from and where they're headed and Rick says Atlanta and are not headed anywhere for now.  Tomas suggests that they separate but Rick makes it clear that they are not going to be bossed around and that they took the prison and set the prisoners free.  The agreement is that Rick will take out a cell block for them, if they agree to share the food and stay away from their people.  At this point, we are fifteen minutes into the series and we have not been given names for any of the prisoners.  It's also interesting how the prison population matches prison population demographics, but that is not the case with the survivors.

They have managed to get the bleeding to slow down for Hershel.  Lori says that they could use some bandages, gauze, pain killers and antibiotics.  She and Carol are convinced that they will get through this.

Rick goes back to the cafeteria to check out the food supply and of course they are far more stocked up than the prisoners let on.  The prisoners try to tell Rick that he can only have a little, but Rick reminds them that they agreed to.  Maggie hugs Glenn and says that it was stupid of them to let Hershel go because they could have cleared the whole cell block with just the five of them.  Maggie is worried about what will happen if he does wake up, because they spend a lot of time running and now he be able to walk. Glenn tries to reassure Maggie and says that they have been through so much already.This incident makes Hershel the first disabled person on the show.

When Maggie checks on Beth, she is ripping Hershel's pants and Maggie says that there's a good chance he may not wake up.  Beth is not pleased but Maggie does not want her to get her hopes too high because they are not equipped to deal with this.  Beth say that they have Carol but once again, the ever so grounded Maggie says that Hershel only taught her a few things. When Rick learns that Hershel's position is not good, he instructs Glenn to put his cuffs on Hershel because he is not taking any chances.  Lori pulls Rick aside and she is worried about the living conditions but he says that his only option is to kill the prisoner.  Lori admits to being a shitty wife and says that she knows he is not a killer and does not have any malice in his heart. Lori instructs Rick to do what he has to do, to keep the group safe and to do it with a clear conscience.The last time he followed that advice Lori did not react well.

The prisoners want to know why they shouldn't shoot guns and Darryl says that the noise brings attention to them. Rick instructs the prisoners to only take head shots, but they are not impressed by the instructions.

Glenn handcuffs Hershel just as a Maggie is walking in.  Carol assures Maggie that this is just a precaution and Maggie asks for a moment alone with her father. Maggie holds Hershel's hand with tears in her eyes and tells him that he doesn't have to fight anymore.  "If you're worried about me and Beth, don't worry about us, we'll take care of each other.  Go ahead Dad, it's okay, be peaceful. You don't have to fight. If it's time to go, it's okay. I just want to thank you for everything." Maggie then kisses Hershel.  This is a powerfully acted scene and really brings a sense of exactly what the survivors are going through.

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