joreth: (dance)
2017-09-10 01:09 pm

Watch Alive & Kicking If You're Into Polyamory Or Dancing Or Both

It is my opinion that social partner dancing is *the perfect* activity for poly people. Partner dancing is a conversation; it reinforces consent and active listening and communication; it actively supports multiple partners and good community skills; it's a physical activity that increases endorphins; it rewards effort and personal growth; it provides a pathway for intimacy and vulnerability; it creates an awareness of yourself, your partners, and your effect on others; and it satisfies the Physical Touch Love Language that so many polys seem to speak (possibly why they're drawn to community-based forms of non-monogamy in the first place).

I strongly recommend the movie Alive & Kicking, available now on Netflix (at least in the US, not sure about other countries). It's a documentary about swing dancing, from its origins to its modern day revival.

These are some of my favorite quotes from the documentary because they highlight exactly what I'm always saying about social partner dance and polyamory:

There's a leader and there's a follower. The leader always has to be thinking ahead, planning what they're gonna do next, how they're gonna move the partner. The follower is responding to what the [leader]'s doing and they have this great conversation.

It's a little hard to learn. It's like a lot of good things in life, maybe you have to put in a little work to get to a place where you get tremendous reward.

When you are social dancing swing, there's no choreography. You are dancing to the music that the band is creating.

You have to improvise, you have to negotiate. Kinda like jazz music, this ability to call and respond, to read your partner and see what happens.

You're sharing your imagination with someone else. That's real intimacy. In that moment, you never recreate it, that's what makes it special.

Unlike some dances I've observed that are partner dances but they're very much "I'm on a date with my girlfriend, don't ask her to dance", lindy hop it's understood that everyone dances with everybody. And the more the merrier. I mean I think really if there were a movie called "lindy hop", the tagline should be "the more the merrier".

...

There's an incredible intimacy that forms among strangers. You meet someone for the first time and by the end of the song, you feel like they're finishing your sentences. If I had that kind of connection with someone I met in the grocery store, I'd ask him for his number. But it's not like that. In swing dance, you just move on and then find the next person.

Frankie always called it, like, "3 minute romance". You're just gonna be in love with this person you're dancing with for 3 minutes and it's gonna be amazing, and then you do it again, and again, all night long.

I know that in some areas, the lindy hop community is pretty well saturated with polys and non-monogamists.

But not in all areas, and it doesn't work in reverse - there aren't many *poly* spaces that are saturated with dancers. If I go to a swing dance in the Pacific Northwest, I can be sure to meet a bunch of polys. But if I go to a *poly* meetup anywhere, I can't be sure that I'll meet other dancers, and if I go to any kind of partner dancing here in the South, I'm more likely to meet a bunch of conservative Christians than anything else. And also, lindy isn't the only (or best) style of partner dancing.

And that seems a shame to me because the nature of social partner dancing fits so well with the nature of poly communities. Especially if you expand to *all* forms of partner dancing, not just the acrobatic, elite level of swing dancing highlighted in the documentary.

There are even more elements that I find valuable, such as the reverence the social dance communities have for people of more advanced age that I so rarely see in other areas of society, and the wider community safety net.

So, go watch the show if you have access to it. Maybe it'll inspire you to learn how to dance, or maybe it will help you to understand why I love it so much. It's worth watching, even with the sprinkling of anti-technology sentiment thrown in there (ah, the irony of people who disparage the internet as a form of communication in a documentary that will be disseminated and spread through online viewing & social media, but that's another rant for another day). Roll your eyes at that part, but the movie is worth watching anyway.

joreth: (polyamory)
2017-05-16 12:38 am

New Poly-ish Movie Review Episode - Trois

www.polyishmoviereviews.com/show-notes/episode14-trois

Just a tiny bit late, but this month's episode is out! One of these days, I will plan my episodes to have better timing with milestones. This movie is perhaps not the movie I would have wanted to mark my 2-year episode. But here is Episode 24 none-the-less!

Content Note: This review contains the sardonic use of ableist language & possibly sex-negative sex worker language intending to mock the sorts of writers who use "crazy" as a scapegoat and their poor depiction of mental illness as well as their obviously one-dimensional and low opinion of sex work.

I am using the language to describe what the *writers* of these sorts of behaviours think and by using these words, I am intending to show my disapproval and contempt for this viewpoint in my tone. I apologize if my intention does not come across or if readers are unable to read or listen because of the language.

joreth: (Purple Mobius)
2017-04-20 04:23 pm

New Poly-ish Movie Review Episode - Same Time, Next Year

www.polyishmoviereviews.com/show-notes/episode23-sametimenextyear

New episode! This time I review the classic play-turned-movie Same Time, Next Year with Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn. Can a movie about cheating find a place on the Poly-ish Movie List?

If you subscribe to Poly-ish Movie Reviews on some kind of podcatcher or RSS feed, you probably already got this month's episode in your podcast feed. But the Show Notes & Transcripts page was posted late, so here's the new episode for this month!
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
2017-01-08 02:09 pm

Newsflash: A Woman & A Man Get Stuck Together And Yet Don't Want To Have Sex!

Hey filmmakers! I know this is a complicated, nuanced concept that takes years of study in advanced academic institutions, but I'm going to spoil the ending for you now:

It is not only possible, but likely, that two people of complimentary genders can be thrown together in a situation and not want to have sex with each other.
I know, I've seen this happen. Like every single mixed-gender office ever. They don't all pair up, even if they're not already married. Even if they genuinely like each other as people. And sometimes, even if they are actually attracted to each other.

Now, some of y'all script writers appear to have advanced doctorates in Non-Trope Writing, because I've seen a couple movies lately where you didn't do this. And I appreciate you. But the rest of y'all need to get your shit together and get some schoolin' because the obligatory romantic subplot that serves to support the male character's story arc is boring, trite, lazy writing, overdone, and way out of proportion to reality. It's like watching a movie set in Harlem around the turn of the last century and seeing only 1 black face (of someone who happens to be in power during Jim Crow and yet not a main character). Like, do you even history bro?

The population is more than 50% "woman" - there needs to be more than 1 female character in a cast of dozens. When you add up all the various ethnicities together, white men are a minority - there needs to be more than 1 or 2 black dudes and possibly that 1 hot Latina in a cast of dozens. And I know that this one will be some seriously high level thesis work for you, but all those women and non-white people have their own stories going on that have nothing to do with supporting some white dude's personal growth, which even white dudes in the audience can relate to if you tell the story well (and if they don't just refuse to relate to on principle).

And when you look at all the times that people don't hook up with each other just because their genitals are complimentary, there needs to be more than 3 movies in the last 10 years that feature a mixed-gender cast that doesn't have the token woman character having sex with the lead male character or any sexual tension leading up to will-they/won't-they subplots.

Because it's totally possible to put an attractive woman and an attractive man* in a room together and have them not want to bone each other.




*I'm not even going to address the problem with body diversity or gendered double standards of age and/or "attractiveness" here - I'm mad enough already.

joreth: (Super Tech)
2017-01-08 11:01 am

Where I Learn More About The Making Of Moana (no major spoilers)

The more I learn about Moana, the more I like it.

I'm about to say a few things that I just learned about the film and the backstory that I like, which aren't *too* spoilery, but if you're really spoiler averse, you might want to not read the rest of the post.  It's mostly about the background behind the movie and not so much about movie plot points.

First of all, I just learned that the production team recruited "experts from across the South Pacific to form an Oceanic Story Trust, who consulted on the film's cultural accuracy and sensitivity as the story evolved through nine versions." Seriously, more movies need to do something like this.

Next, I learned that one of those early versions had Moana as the only girl in a family of sons and her character arc was gender-based. Now, I'm usually all in for a good examination of how gender roles are expressed and inhibit characters, but something I've been really into lately is just having characters be fully fleshed characters that get into situations and who might happen to be not straight white males. MRA defenses of mostly white straight male protagonists include the justification that the story isn't *about* being a white male, so girls and POC should have no problem getting into the story because it could apply to "anyone". 1) Totally not true on pretty much every level of that assertion; 2) if they really could apply to "anyone", then it shouldn't matter if the character *is* "anyone", including non-male, non-straight, or non-white; and 3) yeah, having "white male" be the default setting where making a character not "white male" is a deliberate choice IS PART OF THE PROBLEM.

Ahem.

So, I really liked the fact that the story of Moana is not about her being "a girl". She wasn't prohibited from her dreams by her father "because she's a girl", she wasn't being forced into her traditional role "because she's a girl", and her story wasn't about either overcoming her gender or teaching anyone else to overcome gender roles. Her story was just an adventure story. That happened to happen to "a girl". The story could have been anyone. And I absolutely loved that she didn't have to "be a girl" and yet, she was one.

Next, I learned that the scene with Moana, Maui, and the ... well, I'll just say the "pirates" ... was a *deliberate homage to Mad Max: Fury Road*! Take that you fucking MRAs! Even Disney sees the financial incentive and storytelling value of Furiosa. Even "chick flicks" are fucking badass feminist action movies now. Because, here's a newsflash (and to blatantly steal from some other post I don't have the link to), women actually like action movies but particularly when the main character isn't a sexualized woman. Just tell our stories and we'll come see them. It's not that we don't like action films, it's that it's fucking lazy storytelling when the only women in the film are there to fulfill the (perceived) male audience members' wet dreams and we're *bored* and uninterested in lazy storytelling like that. The action isn't actiony enough to make up for the fact that your few women are cardboard flat and BORING.

There are legitimate criticisms about the film with respect to cultural sensitivity, and I was concerned about that happening when I first heard of it coming out and again when I saw it, but not being familiar with the communities of the people in the South Pacific (other than to know that there is no great controversy or ownership battle over who gets to use the term "poly" online and I refuse to White Knight them by making it into A Thing on their behalf), I was not able to anticipate or later to pick out what those criticisms might be.

So, as someone who is not disinfranchised by whatever gaffs the movie makes, the more I see, read, listen, and think about this movie, the more I want to include it in my top Disney favorites alongside Brave (my #1 favorite for the tomboy struggle), Maleficent (#3 for the lack of romantic love driving force and the nuanced look at a villain without ignoring her flaws) and Frozen (#4 for the lack of a husband and romance plot).

If I didn't list your favorite Disney princess movie, chances are it's because I either didn't like it or because I haven't seen it, so you don't have to ask me "have you seen...?" to find out why it's not listed.

joreth: (Kitty Eyes)
2016-12-17 03:26 pm

Movie Review - Spectral on Netflix

I watched a movie the other night that I was surprised to find that I actually liked. It's a Netflix movie called Spectral that, I'll be honest, I was expecting to suck.

The description reads "We can't see them. Bullets don't stop them. The Army is no match for them. Time to try something totally different."  The title screen graphics looked ... well, it made me assume that the movie would be a typical anti-science, heavy on the action, light on the plot, sci-fi flick.  But [livejournal.com profile] tacit seemed interested in the description and saw it had 4 stars, so we watched it.

I was pleasantly surprised.  I ended up liking all the characters.  I thought even the minor side characters had complex back stories and depth to their character that, even if we didn't get a lot of exposition about them, was clearly demonstrated in the dialog and in their portrayal of the characters.  There really wasn't anyone who was a standard trope caricature.

In these sorts of movies, one can usually expect to find the following characters: The gruff old military leader who is either a total dickhead or a lovable but cranky career soldier; the token demolitions expert who is also "crazy"; the scientist who is either the evil guy because science or the wuss who complains all the time and gets in the way of the real business of kicking ass; the chick who is either a badass tomboy "chill girl" with no real personality or the girlie girl outside girl who is thrown in by circumstance and constantly needs rescuing usually involving strategically destroyed flimsy clothing but will likely be somebody's love interest; and the lead character who is physically fit, intelligent, has exactly all the right skills in every circumstance to lead his team to victory, gets the girl, and saves the day with either the smarts to outwit the dumb jarheads who are making things worse with their shoot-em-up mentality or the fists to beat up the wacky super-genius whose intellect is destroying the world.

None of those characters were in this movie.

The lead was a conventionally attractive, physically fit, and yet super smart white male, it's true. This wasn't a flawless movie. He was a scientist who invented a new type of goggles for DAARPA that gave our soldiers some kind of benefit in urban combat because it could see more on the light spectrum than the human eye can. Because of that, they were also picking up something unknown that the soldiers couldn't see naturally. So they send for him to explain what his invention is seeing (justifying his presence in a combat situation by declaring the data from the goggles to be too sensitive to just send back to him to analyze).

There was a lone woman in the movie, but she wasn't the token badass chick and she also wasn't the completely ineffectual girlie girl in the wrong place at the wrong time. She was one of the lead's obstacles, but her opposition to him was reasonable given her background and position (which is so often left out of movies - we're given opposing characters who seem to oppose for no reason other than to be obstinate and give our hero someone to argue with). She was also not a love interest.

Our military guys were angry at the non-military guy coming into their sacred space, but they were given reasonable motive for feeling that way. It wasn't just "grunt, grunt, we big army boys, you pansy ass, leave now!"

Our combat team leader was gruff and tough but also smart with tactical knowledge and good team-building, mediating, and interpersonal conflict resolution skills, as a successful team leader ought to be. Our team was made up of just a bunch of guys, not the Token Bomb Guy, the Token POC, the Token Sharpshooter, the Token I Made A Mistake Joining Guy, the Token Joined Too Young Guy, the Token Irish/German Jolly Drinker/Fighter Guy, and the Token Small But Wiry Communications Officer.

What really sold me on the movie was the commitment to science, critical thinking, and reason. Our hero consistently maintained a pro-science attitude, not a pseudo-science attitude. Everyone wanted an immediate answer to the problem and everyone had an agenda to get confirmation of a specific answer that they wanted from him, but he kept insisting that science (and solutions) required data and it was foolish to go off half-cocked on speculation and bias.

The movie had 2 major flaws. When they finally did the big reveal, everything they said was actually scientifically accurate as far as we understand the concept right now. Except for one thing, which I won't spoil. But it was the very premise from which all the other things happened. The Big Bad Thing is made of This and exists like This and does These Things - that's all true. But it only happens in a particular circumstance that was not present here.

The author of The Martian has been lauded for his adherence to scientific accuracy in his book, and again with the movie based on it. He crowdsourced the book to make sure it was as close to realistic as possible. But he had one major plot hole - because of Martian gravity, storms wouldn't happen like they did in his book, but without that storm, we wouldn't have a story. In an interview, he explained that he knew of this flaw, but that all sci-fi stories had one Gimme - one major plot device that was excused for the sake of the story because the story can't happen without it. As long as the story was internally consistent, that one thing, if handled well, could be forgiven and even overlooked with the suspension of disbelief. He made storms that don't exist on Mars because he needed a way to isolate his character on the planet. But everything he did afterwards conformed to physics as we know it.

So, this plot point - that The Thing only happens in This Circumstance in real life but doesn't have that limitation in the movie - I'm willing to write that off as a Gimme because they otherwise described it correctly and the movie remained internally consistent.

The other plot point is that the writers seemed to have spent all their time researching their major conflict and didn't spend any time understanding the difference between a machine that "reads" light (i.e. a spectrograph) and a machine that *produces* light. These are VERY different things and, generally speaking, you are not very likely to be able to convert one machine into the other.

This movie did have one typical thing that often annoys me - the manufacturing montage. Building things takes time. It's not very common to be able to outfit a squadron with all new weapons from within a combat zone using found items overnight. Not impossible because it depends on the weapons and the found items. Just ... unlikely. I mean, making a bunch of Molotov Cocktails can be done in a single night, for example. But Tony Stark inventing and building Iron Man by himself in a cave in the Middle East in a couple of days? Yeah, yeah, I know that they explained that away by having him be captured by a well-funded terrorist who magically provided all the materials necessary. Still. Welding and soldering complex mechanics takes time and skill, even assuming you're lucky enough to have the right kind of welder in your found items (which, to be fair, the movie did account for by giving an explanation for why they had the gear that they ended up with).

I'm not saying it's not possible. I'm saying that I've built shit. I've even built shit that I personally designed that never existed before because it came out of my head and I had to use unusual materials because the thing never existed before so the parts for it didn't either. I'm saying that prototyping takes time and untested mechanics rarely work right on the first try. As [livejournal.com profile] tacit put it, movies make manufacturing look easier than it is. Not impossible, but it's harder than the movies make it look.

There was also one moment in the movie that broke me out of it; one phrase that made me roll my eyes and groan ... "there are some things that science can't answer." While this is *technically* true, this is almost always applied in movies to things that we can, in fact, answer. Often, it's applied to things that we *have the answer for right now*, but sometimes it's for things that are currently unknown but that doesn't mean that they're unknowable.

So, my conclusion is that, in spite of these criticisms, I felt that the movie was engaging and internally consistent (which is my version of "plausible" for movies - maybe it couldn't really happen, but given the pretend movie conditions it likely could), and I found the characters to have depth and understandable motivations and most of them to be likable. I would recommend this movie if you like sci-fi action.

However, as we learned with the next movie we watched, you shouldn't necessarily trust Netflix's star rating system. The next 4-star movie we watched was COMPLETE AND UTTER SHITE ON EVERY CONCEIVABLE LEVEL.
joreth: (Super Tech)
2016-05-21 09:49 pm

A Must-See Feminist, Sex-Positive, Blasphemous Flapper-Era TV Show - Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries

Some article somewhere recommended that if I liked some TV show that I do happen to like (and I forget which one), I ought to check out Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries from Australia. Then, after I watched a mini-series about an all-black jazz band in England during the 1920s, Netflix also recommended that I check out several other "historical" epic movies and TV shows, and included among them was Miss Fisher. So I did. And I'm loving it so far.

The article billed the show as a "feminist Sherlock Holmes" whose intelligence and civilian meddling solved crimes and who liked music, partying, breaking social norms, liquor, and sex, especially without monogamy. How could I not be interested in that?

In addition, as I learned from the first handful of episodes, she has no interest in religion (although they have not established whether she actually believes in anything supernatural, her lack of religiosity is established through snarky throwaway comments she makes here and there without focusing on her beliefs), strongly dislikes being around children (although will tolerate and even love certain specific children), is intentionally unmarried and plans to remain so, and also has sympathies for the working class (she is titled) and the alternatively gendered / oriented.

Episodes start right out of the gate tackling issues of abortion, Communism, rape, poverty, class warfare, religious corruption, drug addiction, homosexuality, and sexual freedom.

I wouldn't call her a "lady Sherlock Holmes", because he was a narcissistic, addicted genius who had little to no connection or empathy with other people. Miss Fisher is not a genius, she's just really smart and well educated. She's not narcissistic although she is confident and moves through life expecting things to go her way and people to listen to her. She very strongly connects with and has empathy for other people and that's what keeps drawing her into the various cases she gets entangled with.

The other characters at first seem to fall into certain tropes, such as the naive young constable who assists the more jaded and older detective, and the very naive and "pure" companion to Miss Fisher, along with her unflappable butler and her gritty working class henchmen, but over the course of the first season, those characters turn out to have their own depths of character and they grow along with their experiences. In particular, I really like how the lady's companion character is young, sweet, and almost annoyingly innocent yet turns out to be feminine and proper and also clever and courageous in her own way. She repeatedly steps up to the plate with her quick thinking and bravery at each new challenge without really losing that very prim and proper demeanor that characterized her in the first place.

The show is an episodic series of murder mysteries involving a police detective who is pretty good at his job and a civilian with some skills who keeps butting in and solving crimes with unorthodox methods that exacerbates the local law enforcement who are bound by the same law they are trying to uphold whereas she has no qualms about breaking the law for the greater good. That plot may get a bit formulaic, but it's a formula that I happen to enjoy so it isn't interfering with my enjoyment of the show.

It is also well produced, well acted, and the wardrobe is a-mazing! I have all kinds of costuming ideas now because of this show. It lasted for 3 seasons and there is interest in continuing the series but nothing scheduled so far primarily because of the lead actor's schedule, I believe.

So, if anyone is interested in a female-led TV series with complex and nuanced characters and that doesn't apologize for the women having sex, having multiple partners, choosing their partners deliberately, disdaining religion, being in control of their own lives and bodies, being intelligent, and concerning themselves with social justice issues, based on a book written by a woman and produced by two women, you might want to check out Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, available on Netflix in the US, not sure about elsewhere.

"But Phryne [Miss Fisher] is a hero, just like James Bond or the Saint, but with fewer product endorsements and a better class of lovers. I decided to try a female hero and made her as free as a male hero, to see what she would do." ~ Kerry Greenwood (author)
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
2016-05-18 03:39 pm

Poly In The Media And Using Personality Type Systems In Poly Relationships At #APW2016!

And, if those two workshops weren't enough, in just 2 weeks from now I will be on a panel with Billy Holder and Tikva Wolf of Kimchi Cuddles and others to talk about poly in the media!
If you have any interest at all in polyamory in either news media or popular media & entertainment, you seriously don't want to miss this panel! Saturday afternoon at Atlanta Poly Weekend 2016, come out and see us!

PLUS!!! Sterling Bates will be back once again at APW to discuss how to use personality type systems to improve your relationship communication! This workshop fills up every time he gives it, and he also improves it every time as new research brings even more helpful ways of understanding ourselves and our partners and metamours. I've never missed one of his personality workshops and I learn something new every time.
He will be presenting FIRST THING on Saturday morning! Again, make sure you get your weekend or Saturday passes and check in EARLY so that you don't miss out!

Visit www.AtlantaPolyWeekend.com for the full schedule of all the awesome presentations and workshops next weekend!
joreth: (Silent Bob Headbang)
2016-01-05 03:22 pm

The Dorks Awaken, Hopefully - Why The New Star Wars Film Is Very Important For Geekdom


http://www.the1585.com/dorksawaken.html

Important to read, but with spoilers mainly about the main villain. Although, this article is really more about nerd culture and entitlement, and how those two are linked together than about details of the film. It merely uses character analysis to explore those concepts. I usually copy passages from the articles I'm sharing that especially highlight the point I want people to take away from the article, but I'm finding that hard to do without including passages with spoilers.

So I'll pad this part of my explanation and include them below the cut, and a little out of order because there is a quote further down that isn't really spoilery. At least, I hope by this time it isn't a spoiler, since the potential spoilery detail is in the trailers.

Quotes that highlight the point I want people to take away from this article. )
joreth: (Super Tech)
2015-12-24 11:20 pm

Learning Lessons One Day At A Time

I don't have any kind of TV signal at my house, other than what my rabbit ears can pick up (and trust me, with the weather in Florida, that's not much). I have a shit ton of DVDs, access to Netflix and Amazon, and other entertainment-viewing venues, but not much in the way of "live" programming. And I like that kind of programming. I really enjoy just leaving my TV turned on all day and set to one or two channels that play sitcoms or sci-fi or whatever, just to see what comes on. It's the same reason I still like listening to the radio, even though I hate commercials on both.

One of the TV stations that comes through (barely) is a classic TV station - showing nothing newer than the early '80s and some stuff quite a bit older. Late at night, they stick mainly with the '70s. So I've been watching a show I had seen before but wasn't a major portion of my viewing rotation because I was just a bit too young to be really interested in the plot back then - One Day at a Time​.

I really like sitcoms, but I'm kind of particular in my sitcom viewing. I like watching shows that are groundbreaking in some way and that are, by their very existence, social commentary. Whatever other flaws that show might have, it had an important message that shaped the society I grew up in.

This show is about a divorced mom trying to raise her two teenage daughters in a "liberated" society that she was never a part of. She grew up conservative and traditional Italian Catholic and married young. But her husband had an affair, so she divorced him - a radical enough notion at the time. To make matters even more shocking, she didn't go home to her parents to help her with the kids, she chose to get an apartment in New York and live alone with the kids - no man or family to protect her or help her.

That alone makes the show worth praising, to me. But every time I see an episode, I'm bowled over by the complexity of the situations and the nuance of the responses. It really was a terrific show. I'd like to sit down with the DVDs sometime and really do some thorough reviews on specific episodes, because there are some gems in there.

For instance, the episode I saw a couple of nights ago had the husband trying to back out of child support because he over-extended himself with his business and his new wife and was now facing financial trouble. This is a really easy situation to get black-and-white about - too fucking bad, it was your bad choices, you owe those kids their money because a single woman in the '70s with no college education couldn't get the kind of job to support the three of them without help, and it's your fault they're on their own in the first place.

To make matters worse, the father wasn't just facing financial hardship due to the economy or not making enough money from his company. He sold the kids' childhood home to buy a mansion with a pool and to hire a full-time maid to live in the lap of luxury. So it seems like a no-brainer that the dad is the bad guy and the solution is to sell the damn house, fire the maid, and live more frugally if he can't support his lifestyle.

Although these points are all made in the show, it doesn't stop there. In the course of the arguments over the child support, the mom figures out that the new wife doesn't even know about the financial hardship, and that the dad wants to quit child support because he wants to maintain his lifestyle so that his new wife never has to find out. The *reason*, he says, is because the new wife isn't "like [the mother]" and "can't handle it". She's accustomed to a life of luxury and wouldn't be able to cope with living a more meager existence.

The mom, here, has a perfectly justified opportunity to say "tough shit, that's part of what being married is all about". Instead, she stops her arguing, stunned that the new wife doesn't even know. She points out that the husband is being patronizing, and orders him to go home immediately and talk to the wife - to give her a chance to be an equal partner in their marriage and how to address the situation. Her sympathy in this moment, goes to the new wife, when the rest of society would have seen the new wife as a homewrecker and not deserving of sympathy.

Repeatedly, as the mom argues with the dad over the course of the series, she sticks up for the wife and insists that he treat her better than he ever treated the mom. She does not let him get away with being the same chauvinistic, overbearing, dismissive prick that he was to her.

And then the show goes one further. The daughters, when they find out all the details, turn to their father and say "Daddy, I know you want to support us, but you forget that we're supposed to support you too. That's what family is for. We'll work something out. Let us help you." Without compromising the kids' well-being or letting the father off the hook from his responsibilities, they insist on pulling together as a family, even though they're not a traditional family anymore. The support and respect isn't a one-way street.  In fact, it's an excellent example of support through accountability without becoming a doormat.

In the end, there are no Bad Guys, just people who make mistakes and have messy feelings, who learn from each other and help each other out. The family is changed to match the needs of the people in it, and even though there are growing pains about it, everyone is better off living in a non-traditional family structure which gives each of them opportunities to be their best selves. And they consistently live up to that, stumbling and tripping along the way, but always climbing upwards.

I wonder, since these are the kinds of influences I had growing up, what our society might look like if we still made such programming. And I wonder, since I wasn't the only person to watch and be influenced by shows like this, why I seem to be one of the only people to have absorbed these kinds of lessons.

I find it interesting that the vast majority of the lessons that influence how I do poly and that form the basis for my various activisms, come from mainstream, monogamous, heteronormative culture. I recommend re-visiting these old sitcoms, or visiting them for the first time if you missed them back in the day. Many of them are partially responsible for the adult I turned into, with lessons in empathy and consideration and intentional family and non-traditional choices.  Sometimes wisdom comes from unexpected places.
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
2015-11-24 02:21 pm

Hey Hollywood, You Are Getting Your Ass Kicked By Netflix

Hey Marvel films and other movie makers - the reason why your female-led action movies don't do well at the box office and the reason why women (who make up the majority of the gaming audience) don't much care for your movies and the reason why your attempts at giving your male protagonists emotional depth turn into SNL skits is because you're not Netflix original series writers.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed your fluffy romps with comic movies in the last bunch of years. But that's all they are - fluffy romps with little to no substance. They're trite and common. I'm not saying there's no room in the diversity of entertainment for trite. But if you want to increase your sales, then instead of "pandering" to your target audiences with naked hot chicks but no role of their own except to be rescued or fucked by the male protagonists, with the token female lab scientist or the token female ass-kicker, with dark and brooding action heroes torn up over the loss of their wife or child that shows their "sensitivity", start talking to the writers over at Netflix about how to show the humanity and complexity in a character that doesn't require lots of sex, lots of rape, lots of on-screen violence, or lots of dark, scowling white male faces contemplating the loss of loved ones.

And I'm not just talking about the action series either. Netflix is totally kicking ass at entertainment in general these days. Their series' present us with diversity in emotion, in response, in reaction. They don't rely on "something Bad happened, now the protagonist will sit, staring out at the moon or off in the distance while they prepare to make themselves into a bad-ass fighting machine for vengeance". They show anger. They show pain. They show walls. They show confusion. They show shame. They show remorse. They show internalized blame. They show characters bumbling around and making mistakes. They show lack of acceptance. They show redemption. But not all in the same character. Not even all in the same gender or race or orientation of character.

Sure, there are lots of things I could criticize about any given Netflix show - no media is perfect. But, just like the Bechtel test is best used in aggregate to show trends, looking at the trends of big box office movies in the last decade and the slew of Netflix originals coming out in the last couple of years, and it stands out in sharp contrast that Netflix has a handle on how to write interesting, complex, nuanced characters and plots whereas Hollywood is still leaning on tropes that should have been retired 30 or more years ago.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
2015-02-20 07:37 pm

Why I Get So Angry At 50 Shades Defenses (aka You People Should Know Better)

I think I might be zeroing in on why it pisses me off so much that people are defending 50 Shades.  This is still rough, but I think I'm getting closer to what's wrong with these defenses.  I've been spending a lot of time learning how to support abuse victims over the last couple of years.  Over and over, the message to victim supporters is "just listen, and accept".  Believe victims, listen to them, accept their story.  You don't have to "take sides" by accusing the abuser or doing anything active against the abuser.  You can even reserve some empathy and support for the alleged abuser.  The important part is that you make a safe space for the victim to heal and to feel.

In all the various rants and criticisms of 50 Shades, what I'm hearing is pain.  Sometimes it's from abuse victims being triggered, and sometimes it's from people who feel such empathy that they feel fear and pain on behalf of all the women who have been abused or who will experience abuse because of the rape culture that 50 Shades contributes to (or, as in the 2 articles I read recently, the abuse and murder of women that were directly linked to 50 Shades).

So, here I am, being told that we need to hear victims and to listen to people's pain and to support them, on one hand.  But on the other hand, when it comes to 50 Shades, I hear "oh, lighten up, it's just a book!" and "geez, don't take things so seriously, it's FICTION for fuck's sake!" and "c'mon, nobody REALLY believes this, so just back off and stop making me feel bad for getting turned on by something that other people are afraid of" with a handful of Dear Muslima responses thrown in (in reference to Dawkins' famous reply basically suggesting that there are worse problems in the world so we shouldn't waste any time talking about the less-worse problems until the worse ones are solved).

In other words, all the defenses of 50 Shades sound exactly like rape apologism.  But, more than that, there are people who are trying to say "this hurts me and this hurts others", and yet people, even those who are normally right there on the support-the-victims side, people are hearing those cries of pain and dismissing them out of hand.

As with polyamory, not having a One Right Way does not necessarily mean that there are also no Wrong Ways.  Some things are morally wrong, some things are factually wrong, some things are less likely to succeed than other methods and therefore "wrong".

And a story that romanticizes abuse, as opposed to a story that simply tells of abuse, is wrong.  So is opposing all those voices crying out in pain.  It's OK to enjoy problematic media.  It's not OK to silence and dismiss criticism of that media, and it's especially not OK to dismiss the cries of abuse that the media is triggering.



This is a comment I made on the FB post for this blog piece.  I'm still trying to find the right words to express what's in my head about this, and the following comment got me another step closer, so I'm adding it to this post:


This revelation is coming from a different angle [from the usual criticisms that 50 Shades is how actual abusers break down their victims which is being touted as "romantic" instead of dangerous], and I'm still teasing it out. I'm seeing a lot of defenses of 50 Shades coming from people who are usually right there on my side in the domestic violence discussions. But when it comes to the book, they suddenly switch sides.

And I think what's niggling at my brain is that this is more than just the standard rape apologism rearing it's ugly head. This is the book itself doing harm, and the defenders aren't being rape apologists for real, but it's as if the *book* is the "abuser" itself and its victims are crying out through their book reviews and criticisms, and people who normally fight against rape culture are now defending *the book* as if the book was an abuser that they are desperately trying to ignore is an abuser simply because it's popular and they don't want to lose access to it.

Like, in the kink community when all those rape accusations started coming out a few years ago. A bunch of people defended the rapists because they were leaders in the community, and if you cut off ties to the rapist, then you couldn't go to the awesome bondage parties anymore because the rapist was the only one with a dungeon who threw parties. So people refused to "take sides" or support the victims, and defended the rapists because they stood to lose something socially if they did so.

The defenses of this book are feeling like the exact same thing. People who are totally in favor of SSC or RACK (Safe, Sane, & Consensual or Risk Aware Consensual Kink for those reading this & who don't know) nevertheless defended rapists in the community because the rapists provided stuff that the defenders didn't want to lose access to, so they did the usual sorts of rationalizations that people do when they're invested in a concept and need to hold onto it in order to protect their investment.  I'm sure many of those rape defenders absolutely believed their own arguments, but they were still doing well-known and well-understood logical fallacies, rationalizations, and other mental gymnastics to avoid facing the fact that someone they knew, trusted, perhaps liked and probably needed for something, did a Bad Thing.  It even has a name - the Sunk Cost Fallacy.

The defenders of this book, who are normally supporters of abuse victims, are defending the book in much the same way, where the book has "abused" people and the victims & supporters are crying out, but the defenders don't want to lose their precious jerk-off story or examine their own attachment to unhealthy relationship patterns, so they're dismissing the cries of pain from those who are feeling harmed by the book.



Hypothesis: Some defenses of 50 Shades may be an example of a Sunk Cost Fallacy, where people dig in their heels to defend something they are invested in, resulting in treating the book in the same way one might treat an accused abuser that one wants to deny is an abuser (usually when one receives something beneficial from association with the accused abuser, such as social status, access to social events, even love or a relationship) and dismissing claims of harm from its victims and victim-supporters.
joreth: (BDSM)
2015-02-19 06:43 pm

"And Now [That I've Seen The Movie,] I'm Embarrassed That I Ever Joked About [50 Shades]"

http://www.mamamia.com.au/rogue/fifty-shades-of-grey-review-rosie-waterland/

I've seen a lot, and I mean A LOT, of strawman arguments that it's insulting and overly simplistic to claim that people are too stupid to realize that 50 Shades is fantasy and fiction and that we shouldn't be worried about its impact on society, especially considering the mountains of other material contributing to rape culture in our society.

First of all, it's a strawman because no one is saying that anyone is "too stupid" to know the difference. We're saying that it reinforces an already-existing set of cultural tropes that lead people into abusive situations because we are not told that these situations are abusive. One does not have to be "stupid" to find oneself in an abusive situation. One only has to be unaware of the warning signs, and that's most people. Even people who have been in abusive relationships don't know all the warning signs, and many think that their experience is the ONLY version that counts. I've seen a lot of abuse victims say "I've been in an abusive relationship, and this wasn't it!"

Hell, I've said that myself. Except I said that about a real situation. And that's exactly the problem. I was in an abusive relationship. So I thought I knew what abuse looked like. And when someone else's different abusive situation was presented to me, I, with all my sociology experience and alternative relationship experience and feminist views, I looked right at that relationship and said "I've been in an abusive relationship, and this one isn't the same, therefore it's not abuse." I am deeply ashamed of that now. I could have been a source of support. Instead, I was an enabler.

So, fuck you for saying this movie is no big deal. It is. Not because people are too stupid. Because abuse is that big, that complex, and that difficult to identify.

Second, the reason why we're singling this story out over that aforementioned mountain of material contributing to rape culture is because it's currently the one getting the most positive press, the most defense, and making the most money from deliberately obfuscating, dare I say "blurring the lines", between romance and domestic abuse. Unlike some other examples given, this one is being held up as something to aspire to, whereas most of the other examples (Game of Thrones, just to name one) are depicting graphic violence but not idealizing or romanticizing the graphic violence.

IT'S NOT THE GRAPHIC VIOLENCE that's the problem. It's the ACCEPTANCE of the violence as romance, as desirable, as masking it behind a subculture that already has trouble being understood and accepted in society that's the problem.  Remember, I participate in consensual non-consent, and I do so without a safeword.  I became a weekend sensation one year at Frolicon because of a take-down scene involving me and my two male partners trying to rape me in the dungeon, and I fought so hard that they actually couldn't succeed without my deliberate assistance.  I've been exploring rape fantasies since before puberty.  This is NOT ABOUT THE KINK, it's about actual domestic violence, manipulation, and emotional abuse.

"But I screwed up. I screwed up big time. I went into this film thinking it would be two hours of B-grade hilarity about bondage that I could make fun of. It was actually two hours of incredibly disturbing content about an emotionally abusive relationship that left me really, really shaken. And now I’m embarrassed that I ever joked about it."

"And my opinion was, well, if they’re two consenting adults, and being tied up and slapped is their thing, then what’s the big deal? But I had no idea that Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t just about the sex. It’s also about an incredibly disturbing and manipulative, emotionally abusive relationship."

"And let me be clear to the women who are incredibly defensive of the book that gave them a sexual awakening: When I talk about domestic abuse, I’m not talking about the sex. In fact, I considered the sex to be the least offensive part of the movie."

"Because as I was sitting in that cinema last night, I was completely floored by what I was watching. And by what millions of women had accepted as a relationship to aspire to."

"It’s emotional abuse disguised as a ‘naughty sex contract’. It’s domestic violence dressed up as sexy fantasy.

And it’s a genius, subtle move. Putting this kind of controlling, emotionally abusive relationship in the context of a sexy billionaire who just needs to be loved, makes it ridiculously easy to convince audiences the world over that this kind of behaviour is okay. He’s not some poor drunk with a mullet, hitting his wife for not doing the dishes. Christian is classy. Rich. Educated. He’s not what most women imagine an abuser to be, and his kind of abuse is not what most women would immediately recognise."

"The blurred lines in this film mean any kind discussion about abuse can be easily shut down by those determined to be obtuse because they like the sexy blindfolds.

But there is no doubt in my mind that the film I watched last night was a disturbing and clear depiction of a controlling and emotionally abusive relationship. This was domestic violence. I don’t care how many women learned to embrace sex because of Fifty Shades of Grey. THIS WAS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE."

"This was domestic abuse marketed as Valentine’s Day fun."
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
2015-02-05 10:15 pm

Poly Movie Review - 3

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1517177/ - IMDB
http://dvd.netflix.com/Movie/3/70151000?trkid=5966279 - Netflix
http://amzn.to/2vOuSL4 - Amazon

I've updated my Netflix queue with poly movies so long ago, I can't remember anymore which movies were added because I saw them on a poly movie list somewhere and which were added because Netflix recommended it to me based on some movie from a poly list that I had just added. So I have no idea where this "3" came from. The Netflix summary reads:


Berliners Hanna and Simon, a couple in their 40s, have grown comfortable in their marriage. Independently, each meets and romances Adam, a handsome younger man. When Hanna becomes pregnant, all three must face what they've tried to ignore.


This has every element of a movie I will hate - infidelity, secrecy, Relationship Broken Add More People, and babies as plot devices. This movie isn't going to get a Get Out Of Jail Free card on these points. But I actually liked the movie anyway.

First of all, the description isn't exactly accurate. It's pretty close, certainly closer than Sleep With Me was. But Hanna and Simon aren't exactly "comfortable". They seem fairly happy, if settled with each other. I mean, sure, they do seem comfortable with each other, but the description would seem to imply the use of the word "comfortable" as a stand-in for bored or in a rut. This couple still has an active sex life and still expresses affection and love for each other. Their relationship isn't broken and neither of them go out looking for something to fix it, or their lives. They seem more or less content with their lives, although they experience some tragedy early on in the movie. They are "comfortable" if you use the definition of your favorite blanket that you curl up with to watch your favorite movies with.

So, they have a fairly happy, long-term relationship that experiences some stress that just comes from life. Then they each independently meet Adam. The description seems to suggest that each half of the couple were the ones to pursue Adam, but I got the impression that he's the one who put the moves on the couple. Adam is, apparently, bisexual and fine with casual flings. He has interludes with Hanna and Simon, and then goes about his business. But Hanna and Simon keep thinking about Adam and seek him out for more (which he is certainly amenable to). And yet, Hanna and Simon still seem happy with each other, and they're still both sexually active together.

So, as the summary gives away, Hanna discovers she's pregnant and doesn't know who the father is. So, like in Cafe Au Lait, the infidelity is revealed and they all have to deal with it. And this is where I have to give away the ending in order to explain why I think it's a poly-ish movie. I do wish I could start finding some poly-ish movies where the polyamory is the plot (or just another element in the story) and not the conclusion.

Anyway, here goes. )

This film was more artsy than I generally prefer, but then most foreign films are (this being a German film). It did have some gorgeous scenes, including a beautiful dance between a woman and two men that was fairly blatant foreshadowing. But for once, I didn't find the characters hard to relate to. I found Hanna to be the most disagreeable, but she was intelligent and knowledgeable and she liked to argue politics and she was involved in media. Her husband was quiet and passionate and artistic with a soft heart, filled with compassion. And Adam was a brilliant scientist trying to save the world in spite of the public's Luddite fears holding back his research. I think it was obvious why each of the characters liked the others, whether I liked them or not. They were nuanced and complex, and that always wins big points with me.

So, yes, the story starts out with an infidelity. Unfortunately, so do many poly attempts, which means that we will have that plot represented in our media. And yes, they added a baby. But it wasn't a cautionary tale, there wasn't any hypocrisy really, and no one was rewarded for truly evil behaviour. I found myself drawn into the story and I would recommend watching it.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
2015-01-12 12:52 pm

Poly Movie Review - Something About Sex

Oh. Gourd. This movie. There's so much to hate about this movie. Where to even begin? First start at the beginning. And when you come to the end, stop. Scratch that. You'll probably be asking me to stop much sooner than the end. Anyway, here goes.

This movie stars an all-B-lister cast, with the likes of Jason Alexander and Jonathan Silverman and Patrick Dempsey and Angie Everhardt, so not terrible actors. We meet the 3 main couples in the first scene at a dinner party. There's the feminist man who's hopelessly devoted to respecting his pregnant fiance and she's characterized by her absolute trust and faith in him. They have this pleasantly, non-threatening sort of progressive relationship that's all liberal, but in a quiet, unassuming sort of way. He spends most of his time trying to distance himself from the asshole Neanderthal men around him.

Next is the ball-busting, opinionated photographer and her husband. Most of what we see of her is her neuroses. More on that later. He doesn't seem to have anything redeeming about himself to make him stand out in my mind, other than "her husband". I'm not even sure what he does for a living. Finally we have the Jewish attorney who cheated on his first wife with his current wife, and the current wife who, in spite of once being someone's mistress, is naively in love with the idea of monogamy and fidelity and Twue Wuv.

To stir up the pot, the lawyer invites a writer who is a client of his to his little dinner party. Jason Alexander shows up playing the role of cynical misanthropist to shatter the illusions off the happily monogamous couples, named Art. His character really pisses me off because he's the role that someone like me would be in at a real dinner party, except he's written by someone who hates him and so portrays that role as a misogynist Radical Truther asshole. He pulls out the usual tropes, such as "dogs don't have the artificial restraints put on their biology that people do," and he coins the phrase "The Monogamy Denial" which is the title of his book, stating that all people are inherently non-monogamous but men especially are because evo-psych biological urges, must hump everything, reasons. Blegh. My sweetie watching this with me curled his lip at the character and called him "smarmy". Art is everything I detest about the circles I run in - skeptical, atheist, non-monogamous, alt-sex lifestylers basically using pop evo-psych to justify being shitheads and walking all over people's dignity in the name of "honesty" and "nature".

Remember, this is the opening scene. Things go downhill from here. So Art starts spouting his "monogamy is unnatural" bullshit (and I say that as someone who doesn't believe that the human species is inherently monogamous even if some individuals are), and immediately, I mean, with no lead up, the photographer lady gets righteously pissed off, saying "are you insinuating that we are not monogamous, what the hell do you know? Fuck you!" So everyone tries to calm her down and change the subject, but Art keeps pushing the issue, and the party breaks up early. Each couple goes home ruminating about his "truths" in their own fashion, some wondering if men really are inherently non-monogamous (men, not people, men), some angry at the implications, some taking pity on him and trying to armchair psychoanalyze him as having some sort of pathetically bad experience to make him bitter.

Next we're introduced to a whole supporting cast of detestable characters designed to support Art's position. The lawyer's brother, for example, is a chubby-chaser - a guy who fetishizes fat women - with an anger management problem. He manages to make a totally reasonable position of someone who relishes the physical experience of sex with different body types and still come off sounding like a disgusting creep. He is also opposed to marriage and believes that monogamy is unnatural. Of course.

The feminist man, Sam, is a chef in a restaurant who has a coworker of some sort who fulfills the role of the misogynistic guy who believes women are just cum receptacles there for his pleasure. Sam is, to his credit, outwardly and outspokenly appalled at misogynist's behaviour. But when a feminist woman coworker pops her head in to complain, she has to be written as a bitchy feminazi who disapproves of both men and yells at both of them even though Sam was clearly and verbally opposed to Misogynist Man's behaviour. Then the writers reduce her to a sex object by having her stomp off in a huff, still mad at both men, while Misogynist Man leers at her butt and comments on it, and Sam can't help himself from gazing at it walking away either. Yes, I said "it" and not "her". Because the camera zooms in on her ass.

The rest of the movie is a series of scenes of the men being unable to remain fidelitous to their wives in various contexts, each one questioning whether or not this really "counts" as cheating. Does it count as cheating if he masturbates to porn and goes to blue movies? Does it count as cheating if it's a happy ending handjob at a massage parlor? Does it count as cheating if you pick up a hot chick at a hockey game and take her back to her house and loudly fuck her while your buddy sits in the living room with her friend in awkward silence?

The entire movie is nothing but a reinforcement of gender role bullshit. But, remember, the original premise was that monogamy is unnatural for everyone, so the women don't get away scott-free either. It's just that men, apparently, are more likely to cheat and to do so for purely physical reasons (as we're reminded continuously from the justification monologues throughout the film) and women have more complicated reasons for cheating or not cheating. So, enter the wives.

Claudia, the photographer, waits until nearly the end of the movie to seduce Art. Remember, the woman who blew up with no build-up at even the insinuation that she wasn't monogamous? Specifically at the same guy she is now fucking? So Art asks her about it, and she admits that she and her husband have a DADT arrangement. He comments on the hypocrisy of her defending monogamy at the dinner party and she just says that her sex life is no one else's business. Then we learn that Art doesn't actually believe any of the stuff he was spouting at the party, he just said them to see what the reactions would be for research for his next book.

The lawyer's wife (and former mistress), the one who seems like a freaking Disney character with her big innocent eyes and adamant attachment to fidelity and Twue Wuv, develops a crush on her professor in med school and they have an affair. Meanwhile, the lawyer is wracked with Jewish guilt over the happy ending at the massage parlor and the handjob from the friend while waiting awkwardly for his buddy to finish having sex in the next room. So he tells her about it, she freaks out, he reminds her that she wanted complete honesty, and she graciously forgives him while warning him how difficult it will be to gain her trust back. She never once admits to her infidelity, which was "worse" because she had sex but was somehow justifiable because it involved "feelings". Or something.

Sammy, the pregnant fiance of the feminist chef Sam who likes porn, meanwhile finds one of his videos and completely freaks out thanks to her man-hating sister who was cheated on once and now thinks all men are pigs and will cheat. The sister convinces her that porn automatically leads to real sex. So Sammy hires a detective to follow Sam around and discovers his penchant for blue movie theaters. Convinced that he must also be having sex with women all over the place, they set him up with an "operative" who is "prepared to go all the way" to get the evidence for his cheating. But, as Sammy watches from the surveillance van down the street (seriously), Sam proves himself to be worthy of her love and doesn't bow to the seduction, confessing his devotion and love to his beautiful pregnant fiance.

This movie reinforces gender roles, evo-psych justifications, a cynical view of love, and yet still manages to also reinforce monogamy and social expectations. All the couples remain in their couples, only with lies and secrets and guilt between them, and they all end smiling at Sam & Sammy's wedding in a veneer of happiness with the implication that all is as it should be - cheating husbands and all.

I think the best summary for this movie was given by my sweetie when I asked him what he thought. He said, "It was almost a good movie. It had a budget, it had decent actors, it had locations and nice sets, it had some funny moments. It was almost a good movie except for that bit in the middle. Where they talked."


~Reviews by Joreth - I watch the crap so you don't have to.
joreth: (Super Tech)
2014-09-14 04:43 pm

Samantha Jones Inspirational Posters

http://www.buzzfeed.com/mattortile/hello-my-name-is-fabulous

So this has been floating around my Facebook feed in the last week. I'm re-posting it, not because I agree with every one of them or because I don't think the show has valid criticisms, but because some of the lines are actually really good advice.

The show has a lot of problems with it, I'll be the first to admit. I believe it's important to be able to admit the flaws of the media we like. We don't have to wait for the Perfect Media, we can like stuff with flaws. I just think we have to be able to admit and accept those flaws for what they are.

But I think this show is also undervalued by a lot of my progressive circles because of those very legitimate flaws. And I see most of the devaluing of the show from people who have never watched more than a couple of episodes.

The power of this show is that it highlighted a segment of the population that does not often get highlighted, let alone celebrated. This show celebrated the single, adult, independent woman. Yes, it showed them searching for love and relationships, but even single, adult, independent women often search for love and relationships. These are not mutually exclusive traits.

Over the seasons, as the characters age and continue to date as single women, the show addressed the concepts of aging, of female independence, of designer relationships, of the fairy tales, of social pressure and the expectations of womanhood, of class warfare, of alternative life choices, of dealing with death and mortality, of reconciling poor choices, of introspection, of introverts vs. extroverts, of communication, and of parenthood vs. non-parenthood and the validity of options.

I'm not saying that every episode was gold. I'm also not even saying that I agree with the conclusions they reach on any of those subjects. I'm saying that they introduced the topics to a mainstream audience when those topics had previously gone unstated or under-discussed. Much like The Golden Girls brought to every American living room the idea of seniors having sex and the challenges faced by single women as they age, this show eschews the standard formula of happily married but quirky heterosexual monogamous couple raising children in the suburbs.

It's not very realistic in that it does retain many of the other most-common sitcom (yes, I know it's not a sitcom) tropes of hip, attractive people living in one of the most expensive cities in the world and somehow managing to, not just survive, but thrive with enough expendable income to wear designer clothes and attend fabulous parties searching for love in all the wrong places and hilarity ensues. But it doesn't cover it in the young, early-twenty-something way as those sitcoms; it tells the story from the perspective of women who have "passed their prime", who have reached and passed the age at which they should have overcome their silly, young faux pas and found The One already and settled down into that married-with-children sitcom storyline. It tells the story of trying to find love while one's ability to have children becomes compromised and the effects of aging are just beginning to be seen and dealt with.

It tells the story from that in-between stage, where the women are no longer the hip, young people we can excuse from making the mistakes they make because they're young, and the older people who have already reached the stage where aging is a given and now they have to deal with that class. The process of coming to terms with aging, and of aging in our appearance-obsessed, monogamy-and-love-obsessed society is a process rarely examined.

As I do with any serial or episodic form of media in which there are good episodes and bad episodes, I like to take certain episodes that cover certain topics and examine that single topic on its own merit. I might have to provide some long-term context of the characters to explain why they react or behave the way they do, but the episode itself is being addressed as a stand-alone for the message. Even when the characters reach a conclusion that I disagree with, I find it to be a valuable teaching tool, discussion starter, and illustration of important or complex points.

I have a series of clips taken from a few different episodes that single out certain topics and points that I've uploaded to YouTube, and I post them occasionally when the comments threads are relevant. Maybe someday I'll get around to starting up that blog series on this show. It'll be in the Media Reflections tag here in my LiveJournal, if anyone is interested.
joreth: (Kitty Eyes)
2014-03-17 03:56 pm

Actors And Characters And Canon

I agree with Felicia Day about how changing a character's appearance through casting is not about sticking to canon. In addition to all the other things she says about diversity and minority representation, for me, when I get upset about changing a character's appearance through casting or when it's OK with me has to do with when that character's appearance affects the character development.

Take Annie, for example. That was a story about an unwanted, forgotten child who struggled with adversity in the lowest class of person there was. In the era it was written in and for, being poor and red-headed was the lowest a person could be (because being a person of color was *not* actually a person, and the predominantly white audience could not relate in any way to a black protagonist; just look at the names given to Warbuck's ethnic servants). But today, who better would understand the trials of being in the lowest economic class, hated and distrusted based on appearance alone, with little-to-no options for improving one's station than a little black orphan girl? Changing Annie's appearance from a red-headed white girl to a black girl does not change her character. In fact, one could argue that it enhances exactly those character traits the character was written around without the embedded racism of the early 20th century.

But remember the debacle about princessifying Mierda from Brave? All they changed about her was her clothing, and that sent fans into an uprorar. Why? Because the whole fucking movie was ABOUT her resistance to being princessified. And she WON that battle. That's why we loved her and that's what her entire character was about. Changing her clothing is literally the same as changing her very personality and her whole story. But you could make her a different ethnicity and still tell the same tale.

Most white characters are written as white straight males out of default, not because there is anything inherently white, straight, or male about their characters. There was that article I passed around a while back that advocated to parents that, while reading your children their bedtime stories, try changing up the gender pronouns. It turns out that telling most stories with white male protagonists as female, especially those written for children, doesn't typically alter the story in any way. It's totally believable because the stories aren't usually written AROUND the experience of being a white straight male. They're just stories that white straight males have adventures in. And when that's the case, pretty much anyone can have those adventures.

But when a writer creates a minority character, that writer has to deliberately make an effort to point out that the character is a minority. They usually only do that when they have a reason to do it, such as the experience of being that minority is what results in the character as we eventually meet them. I'm going to overlook for the moment the fact that most minority characters are either poorly written, written flatly, or written to represent or convey a stereotype and just address the fact that they *are* written, but are written for a reason. So to cast that character with a white actor pretty much erases the entire reason for that character having been written as a minority in the first place. Very rarely are minority characters put in a story just because the author felt like describing someone who looked different without those looks being some kind of commentary or effect on who the character is.

I originally wrote "never" instead of "very rarely", but then I remembered modern vampire romance novels (sorry, but Anne Rice and Laurell K. Hamilton write romance novels. They just do. Disclosure: I like modern vampire stories and I read romance novels. I stand by my assertion that they are one and the same). I believe that the minority characters in those stories really could be replaced by white actors and it would not significantly change the characters in any way. I think that these authors threw in minority characters simply to give themselves more adjectives to describe a cast of several dozen that all have six-pack abs, piercing eyes, honey-voices, and long flowing hair. Eventually you run out of ways to describe bulging biceps unless you throw in ebony skin or perfectly symmetrical faces with full lips without adding almond-shaped eyes, but there's nothing fundamentally "ethnic" about these characters that isn't simply "exotic objectification". But I digress.

Does the arrogance and selfish entitlement of Captain Hammer still work if we make that character a black man? Or a woman? Or a disabled person? No, Captain Hammer works best as a white male precisely because of the arrogance and entitlement of the character. He is, in fact, a commentary on the perception of heroes and making him a minority would hurt that message. But there is nothing about the Human Torch that is inherently "white" that a black man couldn't also play.

There is, however, a problem with casting a skinny model as a character who is the very embodiment of physical activity, martial arts, and ass-kicking skills even though both the actor and the character are white women (although a woman of color could easily play her character too). The character represents strong, independent womenhood, while a conventionally attractive female with no muscle definition does not convey that same message. She conveys the importance of beauty over strength and unrealistic ideals of the female body, which directly conflicts with the character's traits. Wonder Woman is an Amazon written by a man who is actually a "misandrist" - he actually really and truly believes that women are the better gender. She does not work as a skinny, conventionally attractive, small woman. She is supposed to be bigger and stronger than men. That's her THING.

Tonto cast as a white actor? Tiger Lily cast as a white actor? Aside from the original racism inherent in writing those characters in the first place, those characters *are* their ethnicities. To cast white actors in those roles is to further the erasure of those ethnicities and to erase their entire motivation for being in the story in the place where they are. If we tried to tell the Color Purple with white actors, we would be erasing the whole reason for that story existing in the first place. If we were to tell The Secret Garden with an Indian protagonist, we would be erasing the whole reason for that story existing in the first place. The whole reason the characters have the adventures they do and the personalities they do is *because* they are wealthy white children in colonial India.

The point here is that my upset or lack thereof when it comes to casting an actor of different ethnicity or gender or orientation than the character has to do with how that character's appearance changes the character's development, traits, and skills, not whether something is canon or not. Did the author write that character's appearance that way for a reason? What does that appearance do for the character's development? Is there another way to accomplish that development? Is that the *best* way to accomplish that development? Does that development or does that appearance represent stereotyping, outdated cultural influences, bigotry, or prevent more complex dimensional characterization or does it instead enhance or explain the character or highlight/comment on the culture's stereotyping, outdated cultural influences, bigotry, or prevention of character advancement? In other words, is that character poorly written because of its appearance, or do the ethnic/gender/orientation limitations placed on the character actually serve a larger social commentary purpose?

I don't want to stick to canon for canon's sake. Sometimes authors make mistakes or write something less well than it could have been written. Doesn't mean I don't like it, just means it could be better. What purpose does this element serve? Do I like that purpose or can the spirit of the story survive with a different take? Can that purpose be served by a different element? Those are the questions that ought to be asked when casting choices are made and plot changes are made going from one medium to another.

Replacing minority characters with white actors is racism because of the larger social issue of diversity representation and because the minority part of the character usually is an important character trait. Occasionally casting white characters with minority actors is NOT racism (or "reverse racism") because there is almost never anything fundamentally "white" about a character that could not exist if a minority actor portrayed that character and because of the larger social issue of diversity representation.

Racism is what happens when someone of an already disadvantaged racial class is disadvantaged or discriminated against. By definition, it is not racism when an advantaged racial class has to share some of the privileges with disadvantaged racial classes, even when sometimes "sharing" means you get those privileges just a little bit less often. That's called putting on the big boy pants and not hogging the spotlight so that others get a turn too.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
2014-01-24 01:16 pm

Poly Movie Review: Hyde Park On Hudson

http://amzn.to/2vTjqvW - Amazon
http://dvd.netflix.com/Movie/Hyde-Park-on-Hudson/70243444 - Netflix
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1477855/ - IMDB

This movie was recommended to me by several people, many of whom are not poly. When that happens, I go into the viewing with a dubious mindset. Most of the time, people who are not poly don't really understand what polyamory is, so when they identify something as "poly", it's not really. I was aware of 32nd President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's affairs. Not in any detail, but as a critic of American politics, I am superficially aware that many of our past politicians' indiscretions were more or less common knowledge but ignored, as the public focused on how they performed their jobs and not what they did in their bedrooms. I am aware of that because of the stark contrast for how we treat today's politicians and celebrities. But that's a rant for another time.

This movie is from the perspective of Margaret Suckley, commonly called "Daisy", who was a sixth cousin* to FDR and a regular companion during his time in office. It is more or less a biography of FDR while he was president of the United States prior to his involvement in WWII and seeks to show him as a relatable human, rather than an impressive government official and leader of the Free World.

It has been established that FDR was married to Eleanor Roosevelt, had a long-time affair with her secretary, Lucy, another two-decade-long affair with his own secretary, Missy, and rumors that are accepted as probably true about an affair with Princess Martha of Sweden while she lived at the White House during WWII. It is also "common knowledge" that these affairs killed the emotional connection between FDR and his wife Eleanor, who remained married to him as a political partnership until he died. Rumors of illicit affairs with the owner of the New York Post, Dorothy Schiff, and the main character, Daisy, are controversial, to say the least.

With this kind of history, I had a few preconceptions going into the film. I thought it would be just another movie about cheating, which is pretty common. Many movies that get suggested to me are nothing more than movies about cheating. Occasionally the cheating is the result of a loving relationship and not just about sex, but it's still nevertheless about cheating. Every once in a blue moon, I will accept a cheating movie as a poly-ish movie if I give it a pass for the era in which the movie takes place if the story feels like it would have been the version of polyamory that I recognize had it not been for some heavy social penalties. In other words, it was as close to polyamory as a non-monogamous relationship could get given the circumstances.

This is what I feel that Hyde Park On Hudson is. From here I will be discussing the movie itself, with complete disregard to the question of historical accuracy. In the context of my Poly-ish Movie Reviews, I care less about the liberties a director takes with historical facts and more about how well the movie answers the question "is this a movie about polyamory or that has polyamory in it?"

In this movie, Daisy is a sweet, naive girl who falls in love with a powerful older man because he invites her in to his heart and shows her the human being he is, not the political office. He is caring and compassionate and frail and vunlerable. She knows that he is still married and she does not harbor a belief that he will leave his wife for her. She has heard the rumors that they have a loveless marriage, and usually that is enough justification for a mistress to accept the role. But Daisy observes the spouses together and believes that they still share an emotional connection. This observation does not seem to provoke any jealousy. She just seems to accept that her lover still loves his wife.

But soon enough, Daisy learns that Franklin is having sexual relations with his secretary, Missy. Missy runs after the fleeing Daisy to confront her and explain the situation. Up until this point, I still felt that this was a cheating movie, just one of those that included emotional connections and not just sex. Missy drops more bombs on the shaken Daisy when Missy reveals that Franklin is having other affairs too, and that Missy knew about Daisy from the moment their relationship began and accepted her. Missy insists that Daisy must accept that she will have to "share" Franklin. Daisy says that can't, but Missy tells her that she can.

So, I could have included it on my Poly-ish list at this point because Franklin has what appears to be loving relationships with multiple women who know and "deal with it", but it would have held a wobbly position on that list. It's the next part that makes me feel that this is a poly movie.

Eventually Daisy forgives Franklin and they begin seeing each other again. Simultaneously, Daisy develops a friendship with Missy. The two women become very close, deliberately using their mutual connection to a lover as the springboard from which their own relationship blossoms. Daisy comes to admire and rely on Missy. Missy often fetches Daisy when Missy believes that Franklin will benefit from her presence. The two women do more than reach a truce regarding their respective roles; they forge an alliance. And both women have a somewhat more distant relationship with Eleanor, but a relationship built on respect and admiration nonetheless.

Eleanore has a separate home, but she is a constant fixture in the scenes in the movie. So the image that is portrayed to us is one of a loving family with Franklin, his smart and savvy political wife, his lover and assistant, and his companion, as well as his mother who appears to know all about who is sleeping with whom. His mother and his wife butt heads, naturally, but everyone seems to get along and to accept or cherish each other's roles in Franklin's life. Franklin's mother and secretary, for example, both "severely criticized [him] for not inviting [Daisy] to dinner" on the night that the White House hosted the King and Queen of England - the first time that British royals had ever set foot on US soil. After Daisy learns that she is not the only one and is pressured into attending another social political function while still sulking about it, Missy is the first to approach Daisy and welcome her to the event. Franklin even publicly declares that Daisy belongs at VIP table, where everyone who is important to him ought to be, along with the royals, his wife, and his other mistress.

This movie is not solely about FDR's romantic life. It is also about the friendship forged between the US and England in the tenuous days before WWII, it's about the pressures of political life on an ailing man, about the effect of foreign wars on domestic issues, and about the dichotomy of being a private person in the public sphere. The movie included stellar acting and touching peeks into complex people in complex situations.  I have to say that, although I knew that Bill Murray was a good actor and I've always loved his films, this was the first movie I've seen of his where he wasn't "Bill Murray" in it. You know how there are some actors that, even while they're good, you still know that they are who they are? Gary Oldman is the opposite of that. He's an actor that I usually make it halfway through the movie before I even realize that it's Gary Oldman. Leonardo diCaprio is one of those actors that, even when he's doing a good job, he's still always Leo.

But Bill Murray's performance in this role thoroughly distracted me from my jewelry-making (I often do physical projects while watching movies - my brain can't focus on a story alone without my hands doing something) because I kept watching in fascination at a face that I just knew belonged to Peter Venkman but there was nothing of Dr. Venkman or Phil Connors or Frank Cross, or even of Bill Murray himself as seen in interviews in that face and in that body. I saw FDR, as I knew him from recordings and film reels. I heard FDR in his voice, I saw FDR in the tilt of his head and the way he held his hands. When I can't see Gary Oldman, I really can't see Gary Oldman. But to physically see Bill Murray and still not be able to "see" Bill Murray was disconcerting and wonderful and I am charmed by this film apart from its poly (or not) leanings.

So I recommend this movie. I thought it was an engaging film that I was willing to enjoy as a narrative and not insist that it be taken as a biography, and I felt that the relationships portrayed in the film represented what I recognize as polyamorous - loving, consensual, accepting, family - in spite of the lack of intentional communication and apparent deception that I feel was characteristic of the era regarding romantic liaisons. Although the modern poly movement of the last 30 years prioritizes communication above all else (and I happen to agree that it is a necessary element to healthy poly relationships), people are still the products of their times and cultures. So a movie set in another time and culture will necessarily have a different perspective on appropriate and effective communication. I may still disagree with them, but I believe other elements are more important to classifying a relationship as poly than whether or not multiple adults sat down around a large table with health reports, spreadsheets, and Google calendars to discuss the future possibility of taking a new partner.

There are many different ways to do poly. Some of them are wrong, some of them are right, some are healthy and some are outright abusive, but what makes it poly is that there are multiple, they are loving, and there is acceptance. It is not poly if there are only two partners & that is the preferred state. It is not poly if it is purely based on sex with no emotional connections and that is the preferred state. It is not poly if there is deception maintained throughout (and if that is the preferred state). It is not poly if the participants feel forced into the situation and begrudge the arrangement. Deception and poor communication certainly exist in poly relationships. But it's what the movie says about deception or communication, or how it's dealt with, that changes it from a movie condemning non-monogamy to a movie that merely presents one example of a loving relationship that happens to have some flaws.



*Sixth cousins are really only barely related. It means that they shared a common ancestor roughly 6 generations in their past. So, in other words, you add 5 "greats" before the word "grandparent" to come up with "sixth cousins". The "once removed" bits in relationship taxonomy refer to whether or not the cousins are in the same generation as each other. So first cousins have the same grandparents. Second cousins have the same great-grandparents. First cousins once removed is your first cousin's child - you and that child have your grandparents (their great-grandparents) in common and are in different generations from each other, hence "once removed". None of this has anything to do with the movie. It was common both in the era and within the Roosevelt family itself for non-first cousins to marry or be involved and Daisy's "sixth cousin" status was completely irrelevant to her romantic relationship with Franklin. It was really only relevant to mention because it was her connection as a relative who had grown up as a child with the Franklin that excused the President of the United States' mother for inviting a nobody like Daisy to the White House to attend the President when he fell ill. But I find genealogy interesting, and I know that a lot of people don't know how all those second/third/eigth cousins twice removed labels actually work, and I also know there are a lot of knee-jerk reactions to the idea of relatives having sexual relationships with each other. So I thought I'd mention it in a footnote.
joreth: (BDSM)
2013-09-28 12:56 am

50 Shades Of Fucked Up - The Movie

Some time ago, I had the occasion to connect with Michael Chapman, filmmaker and creator of the movie The Ledge.  Because of that connection, he started following me on Facebook and has seen me rant about the 50 Shades of Grey pieces of shit er, I mean novels.  Now, it turns out that the actor who played the lead in his movie, The Ledge (alongside Liv Tyler), has been positioned to play the lead character in 50 Shades, Christian Grey, in the upcoming movie version of the book.  So Chapman has even more of an interest in the new movie.  And he asked me my opinion on whether or not the new movie has any hope of being good.

Flattered that an actual filmmaker would seek me out for my opinion on the subject and kind of shocked that he was even aware I had one, I thought about it, and wrote him a long response, trying to summarize my feelings for this book and its sequels into a single email.  It's a lengthy response, but I still think I only barely scratched the surface of what I was trying to convey.

Nevertheless, he liked my response so much that he asked if he could publish it on The Ledge's Facebook page.  Naturally, I said, of course!  I hadn't written it with a public post in mind, so it's clearly an email response to a question, but he was welcome to post it if he wanted.  So, he did, and it has now been read by over 6,000 people all around the world (The Ledge apparently has quite the international following, considering it's a movie with an atheist protagonist and a Christian is the bad guy, and theism vs. atheism is a big part of the conflict).  This is the largest platform I've ever had for one of my opinions.  So I'm pretty stoked!  If you're on Facebook, you can see the post and like it and offer your own perspective: https://www.facebook.com/theledgemovie/posts/598254666879883.  If you're not on Facebook, here's what I wrote:



I think the only way a good movie can come out of that book is if it keeps just the title in common and basically becomes a whole other movie, without the author's "creative" input. There are no redeeming features of that book.

Now, whether it will make *money* or win the cast and crew some acclaim is a different story. But the very premise of the story is that it romanticizes abusive relationships and reinforces the "if you love him he will change" trope, all with very boring, unkinky sex and a lot of really bad writing. It's Twilight fan-fiction for fuck's sake.

It's very premise is flawed, and if the story foundation is bad, there's nothing you can do to dress it up and make it better. Keeping the title and changing everything else about it is common in Hollywood, but it might piss off the book fans. The best thing that anyone in the kink community can say about that book is "at least it got mainstream people talking about BDSM, and maybe, because of their interest, they'll research the healthy ways to do kink." I think my favorite criticism I've heard so far was "It angered both the librarian and the pervert in me", but I don't know who said that.

I think anyone involved in filmmaking as an artform would do well to pay attention to the BDSM community's view on the book. If they are part of a film for the art of it, then 50 Shades is not a good choice. But anyone wishing to earn a little notoriety and be shocking would probably get something worthwhile out of being affiliated with the movie, because it will get attention.

The "big strong domly man trains a submissive woman who just doesn't know she's submissive yet" storyline is one of the most common kink storylines ever. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of books with that same plot. Any of them is going to be better written than 50 Shades, and at least some of them are going to be written by people who actually have some experience in the kink community, unlike the author, James.

In fact, I'll recommend one right now. It's called The Training of Eileen and it's available on Amazon - Elicitation is the first book in the series. It's the same plot - rich guy finds innocent young wife and trains her to be his sex slave. But the difference is that he wasn't abused and raped as a child and who now takes out his sociopathic rage towards women on his partners. This main character is caring and loving - he does what he does because *the submissive likes it*.

It uses the "she just doesn't know it yet" trope, but in this case, it's not a rapey excuse, it's that he paid attention to her early on and detected submissive tendencies in what she revealed about herself. In this story, it's all about giving the submissive what she wants and giving her permission to want it. In 50 Shades, it's all about what the dom wants (to beat women) and the power struggle between him and his girl who wants to "fix" his broken kinky ways.

So, my opinion is that there is no salvation for this movie. It cannot, by virtue of its source, ever become a good movie without doing the Hollywood bait-and-switch - capitalizing on the name but completely rewriting it from the ground up. But it *can* become a money-maker and it *can* catapult the cast and crewmembers into some measure of fame by association. The question is, is that the kind of association one wants to be known for? The kink community does not support the book, except to for those who welcome *any* conversation-starter, even bad ones. Since I have enough trouble getting trapped by men (as I am a single heterosexual female) who think that "coercion" is merely another word for foreplay, to say that I am not one of those who even welcomes it as a conversation starter is an understatement.

I'll leave you with some chapter-by-chapter reviews of the book, if you're interested to hear exactly what is so wrong with it and why:

http://collegeatthirty.blogspot.com/search/label/fifty%20shades%20of%20grey
http://jennytrout.blogspot.com/p/jen-reads-50-shades-of-grey.html
http://zephyrscribe.tumblr.com/tagged/50+Shades+of+Grey
http://theramblingcurl.blogspot.com/2013/02/need-more-evidence-that-50-shades-is.html
joreth: (Swing Dance)
2013-07-09 03:29 pm

Dirty Dancing Is A Subversive Masterpiece

http://www.xojane.com/entertainment/dirty-dancing-is-a-subversive-masterpiece-and-here-are-four-reasons-why

OTG YES! Dirty Dancing is such a complex, multi-layered piece of art that had such a huge impact on me and several facets of my various world-views that it's hard for me to emphasize its importance enough.  This article only addresses 4 points, but I think that's just a starting point, although a very strong starting point.  The article covers having an awkward heroine who never turns into the "beautiful, popular girl" to win the guy, having a "hot guy" like the awkward heroine for who she is as a person without being blind to her until that magical "ugly duckling" transformation, giving "the sheltered 17-year-old all the sexual agency", class politics, and illegal abortion.  Set in 1963.

It's not a "chick flick" or a rom-com, or even your typical "coming of age" story. It's a sociopolitical commentary on class struggles, women's rights, sexual agency, gender relations, communication, trust, and personal growth. Baby remains one of my all-time epitomal characters that helped to define who I am, and Johnny remains the ideal romantic partner to whom I compare all my potential partners. It's not just because he has a nice ass and abs, it's because of his integrity, his character, his personal struggles, and his values.

Dancing, to me, is not just a fun physical activity. It is a vehicle through which we can achieve personal growth and relationship enhancement, as well as a story-telling device that we can use to address controversial and taboo subjects. And this movie combines everything that I find valuable about dance - the fun, the storytelling, the catalyst for growth, the beauty, the pain, the personal expression.  I don't think it's even possible to truly "get" me without understanding this movie.  That doesn't mean that you have to have watched it in order to get me, but that you would have to be the kind of person who *would* understand this movie if you saw it in order to understand who I am as a person.  But watching it helps.

Maybe, in my copious free time that isn't today, I'll write my own full post enumerating the points and analyzing the movie the way the article does.