BlogHer 2009

21 07 2009

In a couple of days I’ll be headed to BlogHer with a very dear friend.  It’s the first time for both of us, and it’s my first time at a conference that is neither (a) for super-religious teenagers (I should post about those conferences, though; they’re terrifying) nor (b) academic.  I’m a little bit overwhelmed just thinking about it! On the plus side, I bought some desperately needed new shoes that should provide the necessary comfort while still looking stylish.  At least, I will keep my fingers crossed that they do, because if they don’t I have no other good options for footwear!

At any rate, I’m excited about the conference and seeing so many smart, savvy women all gathered in one place.  Feminist issues are dear to my heart, and, after all, what is more feminist than women writing and publishing whatever they want, having their voices heard and finding support in an increasingly isolating society?  Okay, so maybe a few things, like equal pay for equal work and universal access to health care, but how will we accomplish those goals without communication?  Not easily!  So go bloggers!


Celebrities: Diversifying Power

15 07 2009

I just wanted to make a note of the Forbes top five influential women in media: in order, Oprah Winfrey, Diane Sawyer, Ellen DeGeneres, and Tyra Banks. I am impressed that of those five, two are African-American and one is lesbian.

Of Forbes’s top 100 celebrities, the top five include Angelina Jolie, Oprah, Madonna, Beyonce, and Tiger Woods; you don’t get a white dude until #6, Bruce Springsteen, who beats Steven Spielberg at #7, and then it’s Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt, and Kobe Bryant to round out the top 10.  So of the top 10 most powerful celebrities, five are men and five are women.  It’s like the general population is also half male and half female!  Amazing!  And, interestingly (to me), four of the top ten are African-American or mixed race.  Again, it’s almost as if a significant portion of the US is not white!  Astounding!

I’d like to see what smarter people with economic training have to say, but I’m struck by the methodology for calculating the Celebrity 100:

The Celebrity 100 is a measure of power based on money and fame. Earnings estimates, which include income from films, television shows, endorsements, books and other entertainment ventures, are calculated between June 2008 and June 2009. Figures were rounded off where appropriate. Sources include Billboard, Pollstar, Adams Media Research, Nielsen SoundScan, Nielsen BookScan, Nielsen Media Research and SNL Kagan. Fame is calculated using Web hits on Google Blog Search, TV/radio mentions on LexisNexis, overall press mentions on Factiva and the number of times a celebrity’s image appeared on the cover of 25 consumer magazines.

Which 25 consumer magazines?  What’s the demographic for each of them?  I’m just wondering about using magazine covers to gauge fame when as far as I know, magazine subscriptions have been dwindling.  I assume we’re talking about magazines like People, Vogue, Cosmo, and other checkout-line staples, where anyone who buys groceries ends up seeing the faces on the cover.  But I’d like to know more specifically which magazines count and which don’t.  Rolling Stone probably does, I would imagine, but how many magazines are included in their list that target Latin@s, for example, which make up a significant portion of the population?  Does Forbes, as I suspect they do, privilege magazines targeted at middle-class white women?

The list of the 400 richest Americans is more revealing, though: there are only four women in the top 60, and it’s not until you hit #60 that you finally see a face that isn’t white: Patrick Soon-Shiong, just ahead of Steve Jobs.  Don’t worry, white dudes: you’ve still got wealth and power locked in, in spite of the way you’ve voiced your fears over the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor (*cough*LindseyGraham*cough*).

Quick Dollhouse Link

20 04 2009

This post on the complicated feminism of Dollhouse is one of the best analyses I’ve seen yet.  It took me a while to get on board with this show, but the last couple of episodes in particular have really convinced me that Whedon really is trying to address the issues that have been bothering me — and that those issues are meant to unsettle me.

Also, it seems like all I’ve been doing is posting about Dollhouse.  This is unfortunate, since I’ve also been reading a lot of Lois McMaster Bujold recently.  Jo Walton’s been posting over at about the entire Vorkosigan series, and I recommend all the posts.  Bujold also turns up to comment, and just today Walton capped off the posts with an interview with Bujold, who tells us (among other things) that Miles dies at age 57.  Oh, Miles.  The thought of his death makes me far sadder than it ought.

Side note: Slacktivist is awesome

5 04 2009

I have a post about the last episode of Dollhouse brewing. First, though, I’m catching up on my Google Reader, and I wanted to note this excerpt from Slacktivist Fred Clark’s latest post:

The somewhat grim seriousness of my response to these scenes [in the sequel to Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’s awful Left Behind] would probably be dismissed by LaHaye and Jenkins as yet another example of the humorlessness of feminism. That whole trope — the Humorless Feminist — is another example of the reassertion of an undeserved claim of authority. The claim in this case, is that they know what’s funny and we don’t. […]

And why do misogynistic complaints about feminists’ humorlessness fall so flat?  Why are these scenes with Buck so desperately unfunny?

Comedy is essentially revolutionary. This scene is counter-revolutionary. That’s never funny. Everything in these pages is about reasserting hierarchy and punishing anyone who challenges it. That’s never funny either.

Buck Williams isn’t the court jester, he’s the sycophantic court prophet. The court prophet isn’t funny. (Nor is he really a prophet.)

The jester is funny because he mocks the king. He deflates the over-inflated and humbles the proud. This is what comedy does. It’s what comedy is for. It brings down the powerful from their thrones and lifts up the lowly; it fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty. (Mary knew from funny.)

That’s what makes it funny. That’s what makes us laugh.

Everything that Buck does in the Chicago bureau of Global Weekly is intended to tear down the lowly and lift the powerful onto their thrones, to fill the rich with good things and send the hungry away empty.

That’s not funny. That’s the opposite of funny. And I’m not laughing.


See?  Awesome.

Dollhouse 01×07: Echoes (SPOILERS)

28 03 2009

HERE is the Whedon I’ve been waiting for!  This episode grabbed me from the beginning.  It’s a premise that makes sense (except I kept wondering how her stockings stayed up), with emotional stakes that matter, and FINALLY we get the character conflicts that the show has been building up since the first episode.  It’s a shame that the first half of the season was so dreadful.  This is making even that part of it worthwhile.

Except — holy crap, why did it have to be the black guy who turned out to be the murderer?  Seriously?  Throughout most of the show I was so impressed that a black guy was cast as one of the grad students, and then he turned out to be less than honorable.  GAH.  They gave him a halfway decent motive — he wants to help his mother — but that doesn’t solve the problem.  And the fact that he is set up to become a new doll at the end of the show doesn’t really make it any better.  Is there a larger point here about certain experiences of black masculinity?  I’d like to think so, to see this as a condemnation of the structures that force young black men into untenable choices.  But I’m not sure that we get enough information about and sympathy for Sam’s character for that to be the best interpetation.

Still: best episode yet.

Dollhouse 01×06: “Man on the Street” (SPOILERS)

21 03 2009

… I don’t even know.

So now we’re supposed to feel empathy for the client whose fantasy involves nonconsensual sex with a woman brainwashed into believing she’s his wife, rather than nonconsensual sex with a woman brainwashed into believing she’s doing a one-night stand?  That seems even SKEEVIER, somehow.

Also: what kind of idiot is Ballard, talking specifics of his cases with his freaking neighbor? Of course she’s a Doll — I wondered about it when we first met her, then decided she wasn’t, but as soon as we discovered her apartment was bugged it was clear she’s an active — but even if she weren’t, Ballard is a PRIZE MORON to talk to her about an open case.

I also can’t figure out what we’re supposed to think of the framing device: which of the various perspectives are we supposed to agree with?  Our very first woman-on-the-street is an African-American woman — the only African-American that I recall seeing in the entire framing device — and she talks about this being slavery and nothing but.  Her blurb coming first indicates that hers is the perspective we’re meant to believe.  And yet by putting the word “slavery” in her mouth turns it into a racial thing, and I can tell you exactly what much of America will do with that statement: dismiss it because “black people are always making everything about slavery.”  (I can’t tell you how many times I heard that growing up, from people inside and outside the family.)  Also, they couldn’t do something LESS stereotypical than the Sassy Black Woman?  So while on the one hand I completely agree with that perspective and commend them for starting off with a black woman at all, on the other hand, there are still some highly suspicious racial issues going on in this show (also with Topher’s Asian-American lab assistant — have we even gotten her name yet?).

And yet the show ends with Echo apparently asking to go back to Joel Miner.  Whedon spent much of the episode showing us all the ways in which the Dollhouse is evil (and it is!).  This episode in particular focused on the issue of consent, particularly with the awful, vaguely pedophilic rape of Sienna by her handler.  But ending the episode with a close-up on Echo and Miner’s clasped hands, after that weird interchange between Echo and De Witt, ends up sanctioning Miner’s particular fantasy.  Don’t worry, that ending says, Echo wanted to go back to him!  Look, nonconsensual sex is okay in marriage because the guy will win her over with his sweetness! And… no.  Just no.

Dollhouse 01×05: “True Believer”

19 03 2009

The jury inside my head is still out deliberating on Dollhouse.

My major problem with the show since episode 1 has been the preposterousness of the premises.  I can’t figure out why anybody would pay the enormous fees to do most of the tasks that Echo has been hired to do.  However, needing to infiltrate a cult, while still seeming wildly improbable, strikes me as somehow less wildly improbable than some of Echo’s other missions (such as BEING A MIDWIFE, wtf).

So: cults are creepy, as we all know, and yet no cult could be as creepy as the Dollhouse, or the dark potential of Whedon’s own ambiguously misogynist narratives, in which Echo gets hit or shot at or otherwise hurt every week, all in the name of… showing how bad misogyny is?  (SPOILERS behind the jump) Read the rest of this entry »