owlmoose: (lost - hurley dude)
  • A presidential appointee to an EPA leadership position is stepping down because staffers won't play along with his climate change denial agenda. "They’re here for a cause," he said. A cause, like, say, protecting the environment? WHO KNEW.

  • The New York Times and The Washington Post Are at War, and Everyone Is Winning: when two major news organizations are trying to out-do each other in their investigating efforts, there can be no losers (except maybe the Republican administration).

  • I could share a lot of links about the Day Without Women, the strike scheduled to coincide with International Women's Day last week, but I already wrote a whole post about it, so I will limit myself to this New Yorker piece, The Women's Strike and the Messy Space of Change.

  • Ever wonder why the big news always seems to break at night? The Atlantic has a good explainer; the short version is that newspaper publishing deadlines are at night, we're just now getting the stories as soon as they're filed, rather than having to wait for the next morning to read them.

  • Some professors at NYU staged a gender-swapped version of the three Clinton-Trump presidential debates, and did not get the reactions they were expecting from the audience. There's a clip from the rehearsal, which is fascinating to watch. I'd be really curious to see the whole thing.

For your Thursday funny/cute, I commend you to Olly the Terrier have the time of his life at a dog show skills competition. The announcer's affectionate amusement makes it even better.
owlmoose: (quote - eliot hollow men)
I don't remember exactly how the movie Snowpiercer came to my attention, but, as is so often the cause, I blame Chris Evans. However, I've also been following the controversy surrounding it: Apparently, the US distributer (The Weinstein Company, infamous for doing this kind of thing) is afraid that the movie is "too smart" for American audiences, and wanted to cut it down, removing all those confusing things like character development and sideplots and everything making it more interesting than your bog-standard Hollywood action blockbuster (and, although no one comes out and says this, probably soften the violence just enough for a PG-13 rating). But the director, Bong Jeen-ho, stood his ground, and instead it's been given a limited release. Very limited, it would seem: the movie is playing on exactly one screen in the entire San Francisco Bay Area, and it's one of the smallest screens in the multiplex, at that. So because I wanted to make sure I saw it, and I wanted to do my part to help prove Harvey Weinstein wrong, T and I went this afternoon.

Verdict: it was excellent. Smart, stylish, political, thought-provoking. The cast (Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Song Kang-ho, Octavia Spencer, Ed Harris, many many others) was amazing, as expected. Some aspects of the premise fall apart if you think about them too literally, but they aren’t meant to be taken literally — it’s an allegory, and on that level it works perfectly. Definitely recommended, if you have the chance.

Fortunately, the theater was nearly full at 1pm on a Friday, and the audience was buzzing at the end. So hopefully the tiny shoebox theater at the AMC Metreon will sell out every showing, and the theater will be inspired to move it to another screen, and/or keep it longer, and/or expand to other venues. It’s a good sign, anyway. UPDATE: Here's a list of all the theaters in the US that have current or future showings scheduled. Sounds like most of the openings are on Wednesday, 7/2, and a few more on July 4th.

Also playing at the Metreon: the new Transformers movie, which also opened today. Here, and probably half a dozen other theaters in this city. Think about how many gazillions of dollars that big, noisy blockbuster film is going to make today. Nothing against big, noisy blockbuster films! I often enjoy them myself. But how many of the people lining up to see it would have gone to see Snowpiercer instead, if they knew it existed? How many of them would have had a more enjoyable experience, and gotten something to think about along with their action fix? All because Harvey Weinstein thinks we’re not smart enough to handle allegory, subplots, character development. The next time someone starts complaining about Hollywood movies and how bad they are, I know what example I’m going to point to.
owlmoose: (Default)
The latest entry in the area of "readers vote for the best of science fiction and fantasy books" lists is brought to you by NPR. The call for nominations went out in June, and the official list of nominees was released today. If you're interested in voting, you can do so here.

Whenever confronted with a list like this, I almost always have the same first thought: "Where are the women?" So I downloaded the list, and did a little number crunching. My next thought was to compare these results to the Tor.com poll I posted about earlier this year. It's difficult to compare directly, for lots of reasons -- the NPR list is curated and all-time, while the Tor.com data comes straight from the reader nominations, no filter, and only covers the last decade (2000-2010). On the other hand, the NPR poll has stricter genre rules: no horror, no paranormal romance, and no YA, and those exclusions cut out a lot of prolific women right off the bat (no Anne Rice, no Charlaine Harris, no J.K. Rowling). So, lots of factors at work here, and if I were better at statistical analysis, I would be better able to account for them, but I'm strictly an amateur here. ;)

Okay, caveats done; what did we learn?

  • Out of 237 books/series on the list, 52 were written by women, or 22%

  • Out of 167 authors with at least one book nominated, 37 are women, which is also 22%

  • At first glance, the Tor.com percentages look better: 41% of the authors nominated were women, and 38% of the nominated books were written by women. But only 24% of the top 50 books in the Tor.com poll had women authors or co-authors. Since I don't know how many books were culled from the NPR nominations to make the official list, it's hard to say which is the more relevant number to compare.

So for now, not much to say, really. I just wanted to put this on the radar. With luck, I should have something more thoughtful when the poll is done. Watch this space.
owlmoose: (book - key)
Author Lev Grossman wrote an article on fanfiction for Time Magazine, notable largely because he asked for the input of fandom, and it shows -- it's one of the better entries to the genre, despite a few weird things like an implication that hurt/comfort is by necessity AU, and a little too much attention paid to fic-hating authors of the "but the characters are my children!!!" school. I'm also amused by his comparison of fanfic to punk music -- clearly, he didn't attend the right FogCon panels. But overall, it's worth a look.

owlmoose: (kh - xemnas)
The National Endowment for the Arts has now declared video games to be eligible for art grants funding:

Projects may include high profile multi-part or single television and radio programs (documentaries and dramatic narratives); media created for theatrical release; performance programs; artistic segments for use within an existing series; multi-part webisodes; installations; and interactive games. Short films, five minutes and under, will be considered in packages of three or more. (Emphasis mine.)

Also this week, the Smithsonian posted an announcement about its upcoming exhibit on the art of games, planned for next year. (Time for a trip to DC?)

Both very cool things. But mostly, I'm posting about it because I am very amused by the headline on an article about the two announcements:

US Goverment Declares Roger Ebert Wrong: Video Games Officially Art
owlmoose: (quote - B5 avalanche)
Straight guy complains about gay romance in Dragon Age 2 (including a blanket dismissal of women gamers, as a bonus); BioWare employee tells him to "get over it".

The BioWare response makes me so happy. It is just about perfect. He even cites male privilege. I thought about saying more, but the blog entry linked above pulls the right quotes and does a great analysis, so anything I might add would be redundant; just go read it. So, so excellent.
owlmoose: stack of books (book - pile)
I always meant to get back to the Tor.com poll on the best SF/F books of the decade that I posted about a little while back, but it took awhile for them to compile the results and then the topic fell off my radar. So anyway, they released the final top ten about a week ago. Two books by women were among the finalists: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susannah Clarke, one of the top ten from the beginning, and Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey, which benefited from a last-minute surge.

If you check out the entry above, there are several entries analyzing various voting patterns. Tor also provides a Google spreadsheet with the complete data, but that is more than I want to mess with right now. Maybe another day. Anyway, as you might expect, the stats post I'm most interested in discussing here is the one that breaks down the votes by the author's gender. It's worth reading the whole thing, but here are the highlights:

  • 41% of the authors who received at least one vote were women

  • 38% of the books that received at least one vote were written by women

  • 24% of the books in the top 50 were written or co-written by women

  • 12% of the books that received at least 100 votes were written or co-written by women (3/18)

  • 44% of the books in the top 50 have a female protagonist or at least one major female viewpoint character

I might argue with their results on that last point, since I'm not convinced that books with mixed-gender ensemble casts (like the Song of Ice and Fire books) ought to count. As one of the first commenters on the post points out, ensemble casts also include men. As well, many of the books marked on that list have co-protagonists (such The Time Traveller's Wife); they are about women, but they are also about men. The commenter's similar analysis on the percentage of books with male protagonists ends up with a count of 46/50 -- a staggering 92%! Which makes that 44% look much less encouraging.

Still, the patterns among the authors honored are interesting, and it's not surprising that we find fewer women as we go higher on the list. On the other hand, I like seeing the list as a whole approaching 50/50. It would be interesting to see how the gender breakdown would look on similar lists from the 1990s, 1980s, etc., as well as to see how it trends in the future. Especially in light of the (record?) high number of women garnering Nebula nominations this year.
owlmoose: stack of books (book - pile)
So, how about this kerfuffle over the Bitch Magazine recommended reading list of YA literature? It's been all over the Internet for a couple of days now, and it probably deserves a more thoughtful post than I have time to write tonight. But this story hits me in so many places that I live: as a reader, as a writer, as a feminist, as a free speech advocate, as a librarian, as a long-time reader of and some-time subscriber to Bitch. In the end, I couldn't just let it go by.

The background: over on its blog, the magazine's librarian posts a list of "100 young adult novels that every feminist should add to the stack of books on their bedside table." As such lists always do -- as, in fact, I would argue they are meant to do -- it raised questions of what's on the list and what's off and why, and there was lively debate in the comments. So lively that the magazine actually decided to take three books off the list.

Cue the author outrage. For a number of reasons, but I think the big one was this, as articulated by Maureen Johnson in comments:

But I have been incredibly disheartened to see your process for removing books. It mirrors EXACTLY the process by which book banners remove books from schools and libraries--namely, one person makes a comment, no one actually checks, book gets yanked.

The parallel isn't exact, because the editors stated that they did read, or re-read, the books before deciding to remove them. But the comparison is still a fair one, particularly in the appearance of a single critic having the power to get a book off the shelf, or in this case a recommended reading list.

As I put my librarian hat on, I have to wonder if they really thought through the purpose of the list, or about what the selection criteria ought to be. Any librarian will tell you that, before you start collecting materials, you have to have a selection policy: a set of guidelines that you use to decide which books belong in your library. These policies exist for two reasons. First, they help you choose the books to buy. Equally important, they give you a baseline to help you respond to challenges when they arise. Then, when someone comes to you with a concern ("This book is too violent! This book is triggering! This book is not feminist enough!"), you're prepared with a defense, even if you ultimately decide that picking the book was a mistake. The quick capitulation (especially since the stated reason for removing the books was concern about triggers, which could easily have been rectified by adding warnings to the list) is what leads me to to believe that there probably was no formal selection criteria.

Some folks have criticized the original author of the list for posting it without having read all the listed books. I'm less sympathetic to this argument. No librarian has read every single book in their library, or even on the "recommended titles" display; it's simply not possible. To a certain extent, we have to rely on the judgement of others: reviews, back-of-the-book synopses, word of mouth. Yes, I have even been known to judge a book by its cover. But all this just strengthens the argument for selection criteria. When you can't answer a challenge with "I read the book, and therefore I can say it is appropriate for these reasons", you need to have something more specific, more detailed than "my friend read it and said it was good." Which is how the initial defenses for having added the books to the list in the first place read to me.

Librarians take risks in content choices every day. Sometimes, avoiding controversy is the best route to go for yourself, for your institution, or for the community you serve. But when the controversial path is chosen, I really think that we owe it to ourselves, to readers and to writers to stand by those choices, not to cave in to the first or the loudest complaint. We are the defenders of knowledge, and we are at our best when we act like it.
owlmoose: (quote - B5 avalanche)
This is clearly my week to return to current events topics I haven't posted about in awhile.

Back in early December, I wrote a post about the rape charges against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. A day or so later, Twitter exploded, and suddenly this topic was everywhere I looked. I followed the #mooreandme campaign very closely; I didn't post about it here, because it moved too fast for me to gather my thoughts enough for a post, but I did keep up with the hashtag and retweeted quite a lot. After Michael Moore made good (sort of), things died down, but the case is still very much in the media and on my mind, largely because people keep saying stupid things.

People like Naomi Wolf. )
owlmoose: (art - gorey neville)
SE asked me to give my opinion on WikiLeaks and its creator/leader Julian Assange.

Secrecy, government, and freedom of speech )

Julian Assange himself. )
owlmoose: (B5 - Ivanova)
I've written about The Bechdel Test before, but suddenly it seems to be everywhere, so it's a good time for a revisit.

A refresher on The Bechdel Test )

The purpose of The Bechdel Test isn't to determine whether any one movie is good or bad (plenty of amazing films fail, and I'm sure we can all think of terrible films that pass), or even whether any one movie is particularly feminist. In fact, in its current formation, it usually isn't about any one movie at all; it's about looking at larger patterns in Hollywood. The sheer number of movies that fail such a simple test is telling. For example, in a recent column, John Scalzi subjected the top science fiction movies of 2005 through 2009 to the test, with depressingly predictable results: out of 14 movies, 10 failed and 4 passed, and three of the latter were only "technical passes" because the qualifying conversation was not particularly substantial. (His follow-up column is also worth reading, although beware Inception spoilers.) This analysis, and its result, was not surprising. What was surprising was the next place I saw The Bechdel Test referenced in the media: Entertainment Weekly.

This got very long, so the rest is behind a cut. )

I could go on, but this post is already long, and I've been working on it all night, so I will leave it here, and throw it out to the floor with one last thought. The strip that introduced The Bechdel Test to the world was published in 1985. It's kind of amazing that such a simple test, created 25 years ago, can still be so relevant and useful today. And kind of depressing. Still, I'm glad for this recent flurry of attention around it; maybe people will take some notice.
owlmoose: (ffx2 - paine)
And here I was, hoping that I would never have to defend Twilight again, but noooooo, Hollywood had to go and ruin everything.

So the last time I discussed this media franchise, last fall, the fanboys of the world had united in their fear and loathing of Twilight because New Moon broke a box office record that had been held by The Dark Knight, and also because the screaming Robert Pattinson fans had "ruined" Comic Con earlier that summer. Still, the strength of New Moon's box office performance had some people speculating that maybe the studios would finally realize that women actually spend money on movies (note the second paragraph).

Yeah, so much for that.

Authors [of a new scholarly book on Twilight] argue shifting of marketing strategies with Eclipse indicates Hollywood devalues female fans :

Despite the record-breaking success of the first two Twilight films, Summit Entertainment shifts marketing strategies with its third film to attract a male audience, MU researchers said. With the latest Twilight film, the researchers observe that the marketing of Eclipse highlights a subplot of Stephenie Meyer’s book that is dark and violent, a ploy to draw male moviegoers. The official full-length trailer for Eclipse promotes the film largely as an action movie instead of focusing on the love triangle that is established in the third book of the Twilight series.

"Although the establishment of a love triangle in Eclipse is central to the story and marks a very important turning point in the series, the movie trailer highlights the action, rather than the romantic, elements of the story," Aubrey said. "Why is Summit doing this? From a cultural point of view, the media industry doesn’t confer cultural legitimacy on texts until they are embraced by men, not just women."

Because it's not enough that women will see this movie in droves and will spend millions and millions of their dollars on the film and the books and the tie-in merchandise. That's girl money, so it doesn't count. No, Hollywood can't possibly consider a franchise successful unless they can get the men to approve of it. Is this because, as a culture, we tend to value men and traditionally male interests more than women and traditionally female interests? Or is because men are the holy grail target demographic for advertisers? (Then again, we might ask why men are the holy grail demographic in the first place.)

I watched the trailer, and the above analysis is no exaggeration. Except for one brief moment where Jacob and Edward are staring each other down, you would never guess that there was a love triangle, or even a romance. Bella gets maybe 15 seconds of screen time; the focus is on the vampires and a little bit on Jacob. Full disclosure: I haven't actually read the book (I stopped after the first in the series), but from what I recall from reading synopses and talking to friends, the epic romance is the primary focus of the story, and the vampire army business is thrown in to raise the stakes at the end. (If I am wrong about this, I am happy to be corrected; let me know.) The film trailer would have it appear to be the other way around. So, here's the big question: is this just about the marketing, or did they actually change the movie to make it potentially more appealing to male audiences? Because that's where I would move from irritated to outright angry.

Hat tip to Comic Worth Reading; especially check out the comments, because the post's author pwns some mansplainers in a way that is really worth seeing.
owlmoose: (ffx2 - paine)
Check out this interview with Tom Bissell, author of Extra Lives, a new book about video games and their significance as art and culture. Some interesting thoughts particularly on games as a story-telling medium.

Also, I direct you to a really brilliant essay (in two parts; the second part is here) about games as art by B. Kite. Kite brings up the common comparison of games and film and questions whether that's the right metaphor, in particular the quest for the often-mentioned "Citizen Kane of video games"; looks at the politics of SimCity and "Spore"; discusses the potential of
games to illuminate the world around us, a key function of art; and plays with the question of interactivity in all kinds of media:

I’d go so far as to say that all artwork is interactive and involves a kind of play for both the maker and the receptive audience.

Yes. I love this.

And then we come to the Roger Ebert debate. Kite deftly dismantles many of Ebert's arguments and examples; I recommend reading the entire essay, but this is my favorite part:

The fundamental problem with Ebert’s argument lies in his apparent assumption that games either are or want to be a fundamentally narrative medium. In fact, games can do interesting things with narrative, some of which involve player choice and some of which don’t. [...] But I think it’s a mistake to consider games as essentially story-driven in nature. Part of the reason games are so often thought of in this light is undoubtedly due to a hype contingent among both developers and the press that takes any opportunity to tout some coming together of film and games—“interactive movies”—as the inevitable future of both media.

Video games have points of contact with narrative film and literature, just as they do with experimental film, dance, and architecture. Like movies, they’re a bastard medium, and they may be better off embracing this inner bastard rather than tying their future to any single precursor.

It's a thought-provoking idea, that games shouldn't try so hard to be like movies. Games have their own strengths, and designers should be playing to those strengths. Not that I think games should abandon storytelling -- my favorite games have always been those with strong stories. But tacking a story onto a game that can't really carry one, just for the sake of having one, will often weaken the game as a game.

Anyway, it's an excellent article, full of ideas and very readable, and I highly recommend it.

Finally, was Ebert's dismissal of games the best thing that could have happened to the gaming industry? Discuss.
owlmoose: (Default)
Sigourney Weaver says that Avatar lost to The Hurt Locker because the Academy wanted to give the award to a woman.

Our heroes always have feet of clay. Oh Sigourney, why you gotta do this to me? Even if this was taken out of context, the quote is pretty bad, obnoxious enough that I really don't feel like reproducing it here. The heart of it is at Feminist SF, above, and they provide a link to the whole thing at Huffington Post.

There are a few things I want to say about this. First, there's the total lack of historical context: Kathryn Bigelow was not only the first woman to win a Best Director Academy Award, she was one of only four to even be nominated, in the entire history of the Oscars. Would anyone have said that Sofia Coppola lost to Peter Jackson because she was a woman? How about the hundreds of women who never even got nominated (including several whose movies were nominated for Best Picture)? There's no doubt that Bigelow's win was a big deal (Women & Hollywood has some good perspectives on why), and I think it's fair to speculate that the Academy voters might have been partially motivated by the opportunity to make history. There are plenty of stories about films, actors, and directors that have won awards, at least in part, because they struck a chord with the zeitgiest. But to claim that it's the only reason, when they've let other opportunities like it go by, takes a very short view. And it looks an awful lot like sour grapes on Weaver's part.

But the part that really struck me is how, once again, we have a woman setting out to take another woman down. It's depressingly typical, to the point that I'm surprised that this story hasn't traveled further in the media (Weaver made her remarks to the Brazilian press back in April), because it fits so well into the "catfight" trope that the mainstream media loves so much. It puts me in mind of a post from Tiger Beatdown that I was thinking about recently for unrelated reasons*. This bit caught my attention then, and it seems particularly relevant here:

But I will say that I have, recently, been reading a book called Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, by Rachel Simmons. One passage in this, which grabbed me and blew my mind and suddenly made about a thousand troubling incidents way more easy to understand, was about how female bullies pick their victims. The author interviewed a whole bunch of girls about this, and she came up with a really good, really obvious answer. So, do you want to know how they pick their victims?

They pick the girl who seems the most confident.

And this is the dynamic I see at work here, exactly. What shows more confidence than getting up on the stage and accepting the world's most prestigious award for your work, without apology and without acknowledging, either subtly or overtly, the generations of women who came before? On reflection, I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner.

If you followed the stories around Bigelow's big awards season back at the beginning of the year, you might remember that no one was happier for her than James Cameron; not only was he gracious, he seemed genuinely pleased that she and her work were being recognized. Now, I'm not saying that he purposefully unleashed Sigourney Weaver, a woman who has worked on many of his films, to attack Bigelow as his surrogate. But it is a little suspicious to me, that Weaver is the one saying this. I can certainly understand Weaver's loyalty to Cameron -- after all, it was in his movies ("Aliens" in particular) that Weaver was able to make her name as a viable ass-kicking action hero. But she could have been supportive of him without tearing Bigelow down. It's an everyday meme writ large, and it makes me sad.

*I say I was thinking about it for unrelated reasons, but were they, really? That post was a response to the Clay Shirky "Rant About Women" that was the talk of the feminist blogosphere a few months back. In that post, he wonders why women tend not to be as bold about self-promotion as men, and the overwhelming response was, basically, everything I just said above: we're socialized not to, and we get smacked down when we do. In a recent interview about the lack of women pundits, Shirky admits the omission of this fact was a stupid mistake on his part, which makes me feel more charitable toward his rant than I did at first. But anyway, I was thinking back to his post, and these particular responses to it, because of a post by [personal profile] renay where she talks about the marginalization of critics in YA Lit blogging culture. Could this be another form of women attacking exceptionalism, the pack circling around anyone who dares to stand out, in this case by daring to hold a strong, critical opinion, using calls for "niceness" as a cloak? I'm not saying definitively that it is. But it sure makes me think about it.
owlmoose: (Default)
Remember this discussion of video games as art that we had a couple of years ago? The topic is back, with a vengeance, and you can bet I have some things to say about it. Lots of links, as well.

This round was set off by film critic and writer extraordinare Roger Ebert revisiting his long-ago assertion that "Video games can never be art". He seems to have been inspired by this TED talk (unwatched by me, as of this writing) about the artistry of video games to write a thorough rebuttal. Now, I adore Roger Ebert -- I think he is one of our greatest living writers, and he is often an excellent critic of culture as well as of film, but he really missed the mark on this one, and the entire Internet seems to have risen up to prove him wrong. Some of the choice responses:

Links, quotes, summaries, and a pretty cool video )

So I think you all know where I come down on this one: video games are art. I think anyone who has ever played a game would know this, which is why Ebert keeps getting the "you're too old to understand" response from his critics. His age in and of itself is irrelevant -- there are plenty of older gamers -- but the ubiquity of video games is somewhat generational. I think if Ebert would sit down and play one of these games, or watch someone else do it, he might come to understand. I myself didn't start playing games until adulthood, but I have no problem seeing the artistry in games. I work in a school that offers game art as a major. If the work these students are producing isn't art, I don't know what is.

Now, the question of whether video games are good art makes for a more interesting discussion. The Final Fantasy games include beautiful graphic and artwork, but there are those that argue that the stories are simplistic and not much more than a vehicle for the gameplay. I would disagree, but I think the argument can be fairly made. And there certainly other games out there that are pretty but weak on story, or vice versa, or not particularly good at either. But does that then follow that those games are not art? Are bad movies still art? How about poorly-written books, or a simple painting? Is XKCD art? (Hint: "yes".) A lot of this comes down to how one defines art, and although I'm not at all qualified to come up with a definition, I am comfortable in saying that bad art, mediocre art, boring art is all still art. Art doesn't have to try for brilliance to qualify. Some games do try for brilliance, and a few of those succeed. But those are not the only games that I would call art.
owlmoose: (Default)
I would like to direct your attention to this most excellent rant by [livejournal.com profile] madlori about the trope that women are fun killers. I tried to pick a pull quote, but I would have just ended up copying and pasting the whole thing. So go read it. Highly recommended.

The rant was brought on by some of yesterday's Super Bowl ads, which apparently were egregious examples of the trope. I haven't seen these ads, but I can picture them. Why? Because in my 36 years of life, I have seen approximately a million ads just like them: ads (and sitcoms, and movies) based on the concept that women have no purpose except to suck the joy out of men's lives. (And for women, read "wives", because of course, for a man, getting married is the end; it's nothing but drudgery from that day onward.) It all comes back to the idea that women are something men put up with to get sex. There's also the flip-side: women put up with sex, and men generally, for financial stability and for someone else to mow the lawn and take out the garbage. It couldn't be that marriage is ever a partnership of equals, two people who compromise and negotiate and want one another to be happy, oh no. That never happens!

Fortunately, it happens in my house, most of the time. I know I'm lucky that way. I wish society would teach us to hold out for it, rather than perpetuate destructive stereotypes. And this is why media representations matter. As [livejournal.com profile] madlori points out:

And it's everywhere. To the point that sometimes I think some actual women act like this because they've been led to expect it, like it's their role in society. As a woman, it saddens me that my gender is saddled with this perception that we're to be tolerated and endured, instead of enjoyed and appreciated.

Yes. This, exactly. I think that's what leads men to assume that women aren't interested in "guy" things (like videogames, and baseball, and comic books, and science fiction, and...), and it's what leads some women to assume that they aren't interested in them, either. It limits us all, and to what purpose?

So, Avatar

Jan. 31st, 2010 10:51 pm
owlmoose: (Default)
It didn't annoy me as much as I was afraid it was going to.


Spoilers, of course. )
owlmoose: (CJ)
Stop making me want to defend Twilight.

See, apparently the movie of New Moon broke a box office record (biggest opening day) that was formerly held by The Dark Knight, and the fanboys of the world couldn't accept the dethroning of their One True Film. And of course they couldn't just content themselves with arguing that Dark Knight is objectively a better movie than New Moon, which I fully accept as likely. Oh no, it had to be all about how New Moon is icky because it's for girls. Never mind that terrible movies that guys like do well at the box office all the time (Transformers 2, anyone?). A girly movie breaks sales records and the world is ending, oh noez!

You know, I might hate Twilight and everything it stands for, but I can't deny that it's a franchise that's become hugely popular almost exclusively because women and girls like it, based on source material written by a woman, and the first film had a woman director. And, as Women and Hollywood points out, there's a chance that Hollywood might sit up and take notice:

According to Dergerabedian, this movie has the potential to beat the Transformers sequel opening weekend numbers. That movie made $108 million. [Note: New Moon blew Transformers 2 out of the water; it opened at $143 million.] That movie also opened when school was out of session in most places at the end of June, and on a Wednesday, and this movie is opening the weekend of the 20th of November when school is still in session and yet it still might beat it out. Degarabedian says the opening weekend will be “girls kicking the crap out of the boys.” He says that this is the “holy grail” and that this is to the female audience was “Star Wars was to the guys.”

Let’s just think about that. A franchise fueled by girls and women has the potential of beating the machines for the box office record. This movie could potentially be “guy proof” meaning they won’t need guys to see it for it to kick some box office butt. Whereas the other franchises NEED women to make their numbers.

At that point, it almost doesn't matter to me how problematic the source material might be. Like Kate Harding, anything that convinces the entertainment industry that women are an audience worth targeting in large numbers, without worrying if the films will also appeal to men, I am all for. (Also check out the follow-up from Women and Hollywood, which analyses the opening weekend numbers.)

On a related theme, but from a different angle, here's an interesting take from The Escapist's movie critic, who explains why the blatant objectification of men in the marketing materials for New Moon got him to thinking about how women are objectified in pretty much every other sci-fi/fantasy series ever. The whole thing is worth reading, but here's a choice quote:

It was dawning on me, then, that myself and every other male geek currently rolling our eyes at the laughably-obvious, pandering sexual-objectification of these "Playgirl werewolves" had at many times throughout our geek-existence been confronted (or, at least, needled) by our she-geek female compatriots about the laughably-obvious, pandering sexual-objectification of...well, damn near every depiction of the female form in geek culture.

And you know what? If we even tried to defend the point, we probably fell back on explanations and excuses every bit as shaky and transparent as "Twilight"'s nonsense about its wolf men's limited wardrobe budget: "In this future, spacesuit-polymers can be skin-tight and sufficiently-protective!" "Power Girl's costume has what amounts to a cleavage-window because she's still deciding on a logo!" "Female ninjas probably would use their sexuality as a weapon!" "Women in medieval-fantasy don't need to armor anything but their nipples and crotch, cause their fighting-styles rely on flexibility! Especially the Elven Wenches!"

In other words, BINGO.

He goes on to theorize that this table-turning is the reason that the series is so popular, and I suspect there is something to that. He also compares Twilight to selling tainted water to an audience that's dying of thirst in the desert, which I think is maybe taking it a little far, but only a little.

Also recommended: Sady Doyle on the objectification of Robert Pattinson. Some fantastic quotes in here from RPattz, who, like Sady, I'm beginning to like despite myself.

It makes me a little sad, in some ways, that it takes a series as problematic and difficult for me to respect as Twilight to bring all these conversations to the fore. On the other hand, the conversations are so important that I think it's probably worth it. Let's hope that lasting lessons are learned.
owlmoose: (Default)
Or any other electronic book reader, as long as the issues of DRM and right of first sale and all the other copyright/ownership issues relating to ebooks are this unsettled:

Amazon deletes bought-and-paid for books from Kindles.

This morning, hundreds of Amazon Kindle owners awoke to discover that books by a certain famous author had mysteriously disappeared from their e-book readers. These were books that they had bought and paid for—thought they owned.

But no, apparently the publisher changed its mind about offering an electronic edition, and apparently Amazon, whose business lives and dies by publisher happiness, caved. It electronically deleted all books by this author from people’s Kindles and credited their accounts for the price.

If I buy a book, I want to know that I own it. Bad enough that I can't sell or lend an ebook, under most terms of use; I can't even be sure that I'll be allowed to keep it? Again from the article:

...it’s like Barnes & Noble sneaking into our homes in the middle of the night, taking some books that we’ve been reading off our nightstands, and leaving us a check on the coffee table.

By the way, you'll never guess who the author was: George Orwell. Of course. Life imitating art yet again.

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