Labor Day anxiety about labor

7 09 2009

I haven’t been around much for the past couple of weeks because I have been working frantically on two chapters of my dissertation, plus preparing materials for the job market.  I am feeling the weight of crushing anxiety about my future.  Funnily enough, that doesn’t really give me much motivation to write blog posts.  Besides, anxiety is time-consuming!

So this is just to let my two readers know that posts here will be sporadic as job season rears its terrifying head.  Wish me luck, readers and random Googlers, because I am going to need it.





Warehouse 13: “Burnout” and Steampunk Technology

11 08 2009

“Pixels will never reflect the real thing.” — Artie to Claudia

One of the most appealing things to me about Warehouse 13 is the steampunk sensibility: there’s a warehouse full of the US’s most top secret artifacts, and it’s guarded not by plasma whozitwhats or iPod-esque oojahs, but by practically fossilized early-twentieth-century technology.

But if you stop to think about that for a second, it makes NO SENSE WHATSOEVER.

I mean, sure, I can think of reasons why this might be the case.  Maybe the Secret Service is afraid to upgrade the tech because they don’t know how the artifacts will respond.  Maybe there’s just no money.  Maybe it’s such a monumental task and the Warehouse is so chronically understaffed that it’s simply impossible.  But really, it just doesn’t make sense, from a plot perspective, if you don’t suspend your disbelief.

HOWEVER.

From a thematic perspective, it makes perfect sense.  The retro-chic technology fits in with the idea that there is something soulless about modern mass-produced technology, and the individualized and detail-oriented steampunk aesthetic works against this soullessness.  Just like the artifacts are unique relics of historical moments, the Farnsworths hand-crafted by the “father of television” himself, the Warehouse is a relic of a more ingenious and intellectually ambitious time.  (It’s not a coincidence that one of the artifacts that is most prominently featured during the theme song is a moon rock, along with the television and the Farnsworths and a disco ball — these are all inventions of the long golden age of both science and science fiction, the fifty years from the 1920s to the 1970s.)

On that level, the explicit comparison that Rebecca makes between the Warehouse and this week’s artifact, the parasitic and deadly electrocuting spine, suggests an ominous layer to the show that we haven’t really seen up to now.

Also, that was some serious scenery-chewing from Eddie McClintock, eh?  And good for little old Rebecca for calmly and efficiently saving the day when Myka couldn’t!  I want more of her!

But I’m not sure how I feel about their choice to make her the voice of negativity about the Warehouse.  Actually, let me revise that: I don’t like the way they chose to make her the voice of negativity.  From the writers’ perspective, there was no need to bring her back to the Warehouse except to make her have that last conversation with Myka.  And why have Artie give Rebecca the engagement ring that was lurking in one of Jack’s perfectly preserved drawers except to make it clear that she is warning Myka about the Warehouse not out of a generalized concern for her well-being, but specifically so that Myka can “have a life,” i.e., get married and have a family?

But Myka doesn’t seem to want to get married and have a family, and that’s okay!  I hope that we never see her turn into the stereotypical career woman with the ticking biological clock, desperately in search of a man.  And this show had certainly better not go the X-Files route.  Mulder and Scully together was a disaster, and so would Pete and Myka be.  Can’t we have one independent and fulfilled single woman on TV?  They exist in the real world, after all!

What did you think of this episode, esteemed reader?  On a scenery-chewing scale of 1 to 11 (yeah, it goes to 11), how would you rate it?





An Open Letter on the Occasion of the Psych Season Premiere

7 08 2009

Dear writers responsible for the bits of trivia on the Psych Countdown Calendar:

I love Psych.  I mean, really: I love that show.  It is hilarious and James Roday and Dulé Hill have awesome chemistry.  In general, you do such a fantastic job with the female characters: both Juliet and Chief Vick are excellent.

So it made me really sad to see this on the “Countdown Calendar” that was on the Psych website in preparation for tonight’s season premiere.

EXHIBIT A: Top Five Facts about Lassiter

Nice fish, Lassie

Nice fish, Lassie

Lassiter gets moderately funny jokes about what he does in his free time.

And what Top Five do we get for Juliet?  Well, check out Exhibit B:

Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.

Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.

Moderately funny jokes about whom Juliet might do in her free time.

PSYCH WRITERS.  LISTEN UP.  I really like Juliet!  I think you’ve done a great job with making her fun and giving her characteristics that are original and non-stereotypical.  I love that she is a great police officer who embraces her femininity, and that her femininity is an asset in her job.  I love that she is both a crack shot and an awesome dancer.  But seriously?  The best you can do for her top five is describe not her, but whom she’d date?  You write such a fantastic character, and then instead of telling us about her top five off-duty activities (which I bet would be just as entertaining, if not more so, than Lassiter’s!) you focus on what kind of man she wants?

I call shenanigans.

I’m still looking forward to the season premiere — I mean, what other procedural has a competent and awesome female police chief?  None that I know of (although I could be wrong; procedurals aren’t generally my cup of tea).  But the fact that I do love the show makes me all the more critical of stuff like this.  Please, please, please, don’t let this be a pattern.

Hugs and kisses,

R.R.





Warehouse 13: “Elements” and Race Issues

5 08 2009
Warehouse 13: “Elements”
I started this episode with an audible “OH, NO.”  The scene opens with New Agey flute music and a generic Indian performing a generically Indian ceremony over some sort of tiny generic statuette in a generic cave under the surface of Manhatten.  Visually, this is not promising, but I really wonder what language he is speaking, and how well.  If the voiceover is relatively accurate, that’s something, at least.
Cut to present-day NYC, with someone pulling up the hood on what looks to my admittedly non-expert eyes like a generically Indian  magic cloak that enables the wearer to walk through walls (and also carries its own hip-hop soundtrack, too!).  This is not a particularly sophisticated invocation of the Lenape: they’re figured, as First Nations people usual are, as mystical Others with a unique connection to the land.
Also, Artie takes one look at a <em>feather</em> and says “Looks Native American”?!  Because only the First Nations ever use feathers?  Later he gets more specific: we’re meant to be looking at a Lenape shaman or something in that first scene (did the Lenape have shamans?).  So that gets a bit better, I suppose, in acknowledging a tribe at the very least.
I do feel like Weaver’s repetition of “It’s not meant for you” in the climactic cave scene acknowledges the imperialist creepiness of
I also still really like Leena and I wish she were given a chance to talk about anything that does not involve helping  the white people ~*~understand themselves~*~!  For the first few minutes of the scene between Leena and Claudia, I thought we were going to pass the Bechdel test.  But I think it violates the spirit of the Bechdel test to have the two women characters talk about something that isn’t a man if one of them is still falling into skeevy racial stereotypes.
A note on terminology: I interchange “Indian” with “First Nations” because those are generally the terms that I have seen people of Native descent prefer to use themselves when they don’t use tribe names.  “Native American,” as I understand, is a term that was decided on by white people.

I started this episode with an audible “OH, NO.”  The scene opens with New Agey flute music and a generic American Indian performing a generically Indian ceremony over some sort of tiny generic statuette in a generic cave under the surface of Manhatten.  Visually, this is not promising, but I really wonder what language he is speaking, and how well.  If the voiceover is relatively accurate, that’s something, at least.

Cut to present-day NYC, with someone pulling up the hood on what looks to my admittedly non-expert eyes like a generically “Indian”  magic cloak, which enables the wearer to walk through walls (and carries its own hip-hop soundtrack, too!).  This is not a particularly sophisticated invocation of the Lenape: they’re figured, as First Nations people usual are, as mystical Others with a unique connection to nature and the land.  In this case, that connection is so pure as to allow supernatural manipulation of the elements.

It all just seems so very stereotypical!  I am, of course, more than willing — excited, even — to be proven wrong.  I don’t know enough about Lenape culture to know how accurate any of the representations of Lenape art and language are.  But it all seems pretty generic to me.

Also problematic for me was when Artie takes one look at the feather and says “Looks Native American.”  Because only the First Nations ever use feathers?  Later, however, he at least acknowledges the name of the Lenape, which is one tiny step in the right direction.

I do feel like Weaver’s repetition of “It’s not meant for you” in the climactic cave scene acknowledges the imperialist creepiness of the white dudes collecting Lenape and Lenape-related artifacts in order to find the sacred cave and therefore master the elements.  We’ve had 500 years of fantasies of white domination already; without Weaver’s saying that, this episode really would feel like yet another un-self-conscious instance of it.  And yet the elements are themselves white fantasies: the Water of Eternal Life, in particular, plays into the same myth of the Fountain of Youth that Ponce de Léon kept pursuing.  In fact, the four “superpowers” bestowed by the four elements in the cave all represent what Europeans dreamed they would find in the New World, and the idea of there being a secret cave hidden underneath NYC that would provide all of those things only contributes to the notion that the Lenape and other tribes had Secret Knowledge about how to dominate the earth, but that they nobly safeguarded that knowledge (and therefore the earth) from the greedy rapaciousness of others.

It’s another aspect of the myth of the Noble Savage.  The problem is really that even though this story has an American Indian artifact at the center, the Lenape themselves don’t matter at all to the story.  The artifact is just a plot device, something to enable the white characters to work through conflict and save the day.  There’s no depth to the representations of non-white characters.

Which reminds me: I still really like Leena and I wish she were given a chance to talk about anything that does not involve helping  the white people ~*~understand themselves~*~!  I was so excited for the first few minutes of the scene between Leena and Claudia — I thought we were going to pass the Bechdel test at last!  But even though the two women only talked about Claudia, I think it violates the spirit of the Bechdel test to have the two women characters talk about something that isn’t a man if one of them is still falling into skeevy racial stereotypes.

But what do you think, friendly reader?

A note on terminology: I interchange “Indian” and “American Indian” with “First Nations” because those are generally the terms that I have seen people of Native descent prefer to use themselves when they don’t use tribe names.  “Native American,” as I understand, is a term that was decided on by white people.





The Women of Warehouse 13

1 08 2009

I have been pretty charmed by Warehouse 13. First, it’s a buddy cop show, and I have a weakness for lighthearted buddy cop shows. Second, there are three women who play important roles, and while I’m hoping they get more character depth than they currently have, I’m pleased just to see them!

First, there’s Myka, the Scully to Pete’s Mulder. … You know, I was going to say more here, but really, that pretty much sums it up. I never watched The X-Files much, but it seems like Pete is notably more obnoxious, in that frat-boy kind of way, than Mulder ever was. And Myka deals with it.

Then there’s Lena, the girl who can read auras. I appreciate that she’s there, and that she’s black/mixed race/multiracial (I use so many terms because I’m not sure how the actor prefers to identify). But unfortunately, she and the third important woman, the black Mrs. Frederick, are both Magical Negroes: Lena exists to fetch things, ask probing questions so that exposition can take place, and read auras; Mrs. Frederick has been magically alive forever and she mysteriously sets the entire plot in motion by recruiting Myka and Pete and keeping them on task.

I like the premise of the show: I’ve always loved the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, so an entire show structured around the wacky adventures of a team of artifact scavengers totally appeals to me. Its steampunk trappings are fun, too.

The show’s not going to break ground as particularly thought-provoking or innovative. It’s fluff entertainment, episodic in structure — not nearly as sophisticated as, say, LOST. Still, even though I’ve missed a few weeks, I’m looking forward to catching up on Hulu.

Up soon: I’ll be reviewing unaired episodes of Dollhouse.





Wacky search engine fun

1 08 2009

My favorite search terms by which people have arrived here:

  • dollhouse really distasteful misogyny
  • tim lahaye asshat
  • dollhouse the target lasagna

Most people who have shown up here have been looking for info about RaceFail 09 (the enormous conflict among science fiction and fantasy authors and readers which spanned the first several months of the year) or Dollhouse (unsurprisingly).  I guess I’m going to have to branch out a bit, eh?  Luckily I have some further posts brewing!

(Tim LaHaye really is a total asshat, though.  I’d provide evidence, but Slacktivist is already exhaustively documenting LaHaye and Jenkins’s manifold asshaberdashery.)





My BlogHer shout-outs

31 07 2009

BlogHer was intense!  And brilliant!  The highlight for me was the community keynote — I laughed, I cried, I chased down people at the cocktail parties and demanded their cards.  (Any type of smooth conversational moves? Yeah, I do not have them.)  I enjoyed great conversations with people, but because I didn’t have business cards, NO ONE WILL REMEMBER ME.

Note to self: next year, think about business cards at some point before you actually board the plane.

On the plus side, I stashed all the business cards I picked up in the same purse pocket as a pack of gum, so they all smell minty-fresh!  Maybe next year I should try the same thing only with my own business cards.  I’ll be the one with the tiny MOO cards that smell like mint…

At the newbie breakfast on Friday I met the lovely Sabrina from Sugar Inc., whose clothes were to die for.

I had an excellent conversation at lunch on Saturday with two lovely women named Beverly; we talked about the state of feminism and the possible characteristics of this “fourth wave” (which may or may not be a wave at all).  It was a great conversation — thanks, ladies!

On Saturday night, my dear friend/travel companion/partner in crime (who blogs at One Shoe Off) and I had a great time chatting with Becky of Deep Muck Big Rake and Aviva Pflock (whose book Mommy Guilt was recently published).

At the CheeseburgHer party I chatted with Alana from Letter B and her sister, Kara; together they fight crime run a crafting blog!  (Well, maybe they also fight crime, but if so, it didn’t come up in our conversation.)

I met lots and lots of other wonderful people, but I wanted to make note (for my own sake, really) of the conversations that really stood out to me among many others.  It was a great experience!

(On a different note, I wonder why BlogHer isn’t getting more attention among the feminist bloggers I read…)








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