Friday, February 22, 2013

The Portrayal of Addiction in Urban Fantasy

Because urban fantasy is thought of as unimportant fluff, it often gets a pass on many of the isms that it perpetuates. It never ceases to amaze me that in a genre which is filled with fantastical elements that so many find it difficult to create a world in which serious issues and marginalisations can be discussed or included in anything approaching a realistic or inclusive manner. Appropriation is absolutely rampant in the genre and it is quite common to take serious issues and minimise them by equating them to fantastical creatures. The viewer or reader is meant to identify with the issues of the supernatural creature, even as the portrayal leaves so much to be desired that it ends up stigmatising the very issue that the genre is supposedly discussing.

One of the recurring topics which urban fantasy has sought to integrate is addiction. One of the most obvious examples in the genre is clearly Being Human (UK).  Vampirism in Being Human (UK) is clearly a metaphor for addiction because the vampires in this series can exist for extended periods of time without consuming blood; however, the moment they are turned, they develop an overwhelming desire to consume blood. Essentially, the battle for each vampire seeking to assimilate is to forgo the consumption of blood thereby; making the consumption of blood a moral failing. By making vampirism a metaphor for addiction, Being Human (UK) is essentially saying that addiction in and of itself is monstrous and so are the addicted. This is highly problematic because even though those who love and support the addicted individual suffer, no one suffers more than the addicted person themselves.

It is clear that Being Human (UK) is attempting to create an equivalency between an addicted human and a vampire. While to some degree the biological nature is explored because it is not coincidental that children of alcoholics are far more likely to become alcoholics themselves. However, a propensity for addiction does not make addiction an inherent part of any person’s nature, not even if they go on to become an addict. This contrasts sharply with the blood hunger of a vampire which, by definition, is an inherent, unchanging biological element of who and what they are.

Being Human (UK) is not the only Urban Fantasy to use themes of addiction when it comes to the supernatural. We’ve seen the same themes in Buffy, Secret Circle and even the latest season of The Vampire Diaries, have their addictive dark magic episodes and themes, Being Human (US) even had body hopping addiction with Sally. It’s common in books as well, with Chloe Neil’s Chicagoland vampires exploring magic addiction. Addiction, whether it be to blood, magic, forbidden arts or innumerable other supernatural elements continues to be raised in the genre - but in nearly all cases, addiction is linked to the damage it does to others. The addict is shameful and needs to be stopped not for their own sake, but because of the people they hurt. No-one is stopping Willow or Mallory or worried about Cassie’s dark magic because them living with addiction so much as they are afraid of the people their powers will hurt. No-one is concerned about the difficulties vampires must endure with their blood addiction, interventions are motivated by fear for their victims.

In all cases, the addict is dangerous, a predator, a threat. Not a victim, not someone who is ill, not even someone who needs help particularly, so much as someone who needs to be controlled - not for their own good, but for the good of others.

We see this continue even with more direct addictive parallels. In True Blood vampire blood, V, is addictive and traded as a narcotic - and we do see it treated this way and very well with Andy Bellefleur fighting his addiction with Jason’s help. This is one of the few good examples on television as Andy is treated as an addict, one who needs help for his own sake not for the safety of others but to regain control and power in his own life. However, V also makes people stronger and more dangerous, so Andy Bellefleur’s struggles exists alongside packs of werewolves on V being extra savage and more violent and a threat to those around them. The message of the burden of addiction and recovery from Andy runs along side the monstrous, supernaturally powerful and enhanced addict with the werewolves.
Read More

Thursday, February 21, 2013

When One Man Spanks Another

'Belt' photo (c) 2010, Aurimas - license:

Alight, I know from the provocative title that you might be expecting kink, but this article is actually about class and adult vs child status. 53-year-old Ron Kronenberge, who is a landlord in the southwest Ohio village of Waynesville, has admitted to spanking a male tenant several times on his  buttocks with a belt.

One of his tenants fell behind in his rent by 2,800 dollars and so Kronenberge told his 29 year old victim, to place his hands hand on a chair and hold on.  He allegedly added, "if you're going to act like a child, I'm going to treat you like one," and then beat the man four times on his buttocks with a belt. Kronenberge has been charged with with misdemeanor assault.

Kronenberge has been described as a pillar of his community.  Clearly, he at the very least had class privilege relative to his victim.  The very idea that it is childlike and irresponsible to fall behind on one's bills is absolutely classist.  Kronenberge's position is hardly unique, as the poor are continually demonized and infantalized in everyday discourse.  This based in the fallacy that meritocracy exists and that everyone has the same opportunities for success.   This is far from the truth and the fact is, no matter how hard a poor person works, they can never catch up, because the system is designed from start to finish to ensure a small elite, with a large class of workers to support their privilege. Poverty in this unbalanced system is not a moral failing when it is absolutely the purpose of the capitalist system.

A Gay Mormon Comes Out to Family and Friends

In the following video, a young man studying as BYU decided to record his experiences over the course of a year coming out to his family and friends.  The responses are actually very positive and supportive which very much surprised me.

It all seems so nice, until you realise that he said that because of his Mormonism, he will never get married and intends to stay celibate for the rest of his life.  This of course is his choice but is it so wrong of me to say that I find this incredibly sad?  Being a member of a faith that tells you it's okay to be who you are, so long as your life is defined by their backward proscriptions, doesn't seem very welcoming, or tolerant to me.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lisa Lampanelli calls Lena Dunham ‘my ni**a’


I would have called this piece White people behaving badly, but I thought that the person guilty of using a slur should be named and publicly shamed.  It would nice if I honestly believed that Lampenelli could actually feel some version of shame for the so-called shocking comedy she engages in but she is far more interested in being as offensive as possible while making money. At this point, given Lampanelli's history would anyone buy a fauxpology?  This kind of comment is exactly what has unfortunately made her a very famous comic as though it takes talent to stand in front of a mike and spew offensive shit night after night.

Using a racial slur is not funny haw haw; it's just racist.  You don't get cool points and get to walk around with cool swagger while being a vile racist.   I can't even hope to give Lampeneilli a pass because this is far from the first time she has said or done anything like this.  Her entire career has been based on offending historically marginalized people for money.

Here's the thing, privileged people seem to always be looking for a way to squeeze in the indefensible.  They sometimes wrap it in a joke and they sometimes claim ignorance but regardless of the justification employed, there can be no doubt that the intent is simply to assert their privilege and power.  To be clear nigga, niggas, niggaz are all essentially the same word NIGGER.  This is a word that White people cannot say on a bus, plane, train, car or anywhere outside of their bigoted little minds without being offensive.  I don't even care if you life long Black BFF gives you permission to use said word, you cannot do so ever, without being offensive. Lampanelli is many things, but what she isn't is a fool and therefore she knew damn well what she was doing when she posted that image with that offensive tweet.

Children Grow Faster Than Parents Would Like

'So Many Toys' photo (c) 2006, B. Carlson - license:

I haven't written about my boys for awhile but they continue to grow and change much to my chagrin. I realized yesterday that Destruction is almost a full inch taller than me.  I tried to take comfort in my youngest Mayhem, to find that he barely fits in my lap any longer -- so I did what any other totally obsessed mother would do -- I pulled out the family photos and zeroed in on the baby pictures.  As I ooohed and aaahed about how little and cute they were, I would by lying if I said I didn't develop a large lump in my throat.  How did these sweet little baby boys grow into the kids they are today?

The reality of the passing of time sometimes just becomes so real.  I remember going into a toy store to do Christmas shopping this year and realizing that I could no longer buy anything for Destruction and leaving sadly. When it comes to him, I am no longer tripping over toys and cursing eloquently and instead, I am yelling about unplugging electronics before he burns the house down. Believe me, no one loves an extension cord like that boy.

Mayhem is in a rush to join him because he looks up to his big brother and wants to do everything that he does.  I know I have babied him more but it's largely because I know that each phase he passes through, will mean the end of that era in our home, unless or until, the boys decide to have kids one day and I get to invoke the mother's curse (may you have a child exactly like you LOL).  When I call Mayhem my baby, he is now quick to tell me that while he may be my baby, that he is no longer a baby. 

No longer being a baby means that Mayhem now desires some evidence of this in his daily life. To that end, we are talking about updating his room. He has also strongly hinted that it's time to get rid of his "baby toys," and get something more age appropriate. When your child starts clearing out their toy box on their own, you know that things have changed. As you might imagine, I want his room and apparel to still look young, but he has other ideas.  Somewhere there has got to be a compromise right?  I thought that shopping for my kids would only be about saving money and spending intelligently (hello coupons), but it turns out that it's also about making sure that whatever I do buy, fits where they are in life right now.  For me, this means hours online because thanks to Fibromyalgia, touring the stores in the winter is absolutely out of the question.  It took awhile for them to get used to shopping this way, as they are both very tactile, but once they realised that online stores offered them options that would never be available to them in our half a horse town (yep, it's so small my city doesn't even qualify as a one horse town) they were in with both feet.

Between Women Season One, Episode Three

Hello everyone, as you know, I greatly support webseries.  I recently discovered Between Women, which is a webseries about same gender loving women of colour living in Atlanta.  The series is about to start their second season and in preparation, over time, I will be posting all of season one.  As always, please feel free to discuss this episode in the comment section. Though Between Women does have it's problematic elements, I feel that it is important because Between Women depicts the lives of same gender loving women of colour and the media is not exactly rushing to tell their stories.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Straight Washed Media

 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.

Well, there are certain genres of media that automatically assume that GBLT people couldn’t possibly have existed, especially if it’s set in the future (especially in dystopians. I tell you guys, us GBLT folks are super freaking tasty – the zombies and aliens go right for us!) and especially if it’s set in the past. Because we all arrived in 1960, don’tchaknow.

It annoys me, but then, erasure is extremely common in most genres, so the even-more-likely erasure that happens here only gets a little bit more of an annoyance. But some shows, films and books really stick in the craw.

Like Enigma which is not-very-subtly based on Alan Turing.

Or Shakespeare in Love with a very straight Shakespeare.

Even Troy, though based on fictional figures, crosses the line with a very straight retelling of the Illiad. Do I even need to talk about 300?

Uh-huh, and it’s not like these examples are one offs, straightening history has been a major habit of the media’s for a very long time. In fact, straightening us in general seems to be a massive requirement and reason #866 why I don’t watch these dancing reality shows is I’m sick of seeing gay celebrities shoved automatically into opposite sex pairs for dancing.

For that matter, straightening history has been a major part of society and academia for a long time. References to GBLT people throughout history have long been buried by academia and that’s on top of the forces of homophobia and transphobia that forced our predecessors to hide and closet themselves when they were alive.