Tag Archives: Theory & Criticism

Gayin’ Up DC Comics!

So there was much discussion back and forth about who the big DC hero coming out was and it’s been announced:

Alan Scott  – Green Lantern

So whipping out my comic book cred a bit. Alan Scott is not the Green Lantern most of you know. He’s very rarely appeared in media beyond the comics. His original origin had nothing to do with the Green Lantern Corps (or as I like to call them SPAAAAACE COOOOPPS!) it had to do with him finding a green lantern fashioned years ago in Ancient China that instructs him to make a ring which it then empowers.

Most folks don’t know Alan Scott as the Green Lantern, he’s old school – the Lantern of the 50’s and the JSA. Most people know Hal Jordan the 70’s era Green Lantern who was called out for being privileged and white by his privileged and white friend Green Arrow.

So number one why this “coming out” is bullshit is that Alan Scott is not a major superhero any longer. In most recent comics he’s taken on a more wise elder mentor role but he’s not a huge name. Also it’s not a coming out of Alan Scott, if they were keeping him in the main continuity and having an older man come out as a gay man long after he had kids who are now adult I would be  all over this. We so rarely get the POV of the older man coming out of the closet post-family and kids that it would be extremely interesting to see it in a superhero context.

That’s not what they were doing.

What they are they doing are retconning the whole thing.  Alan Scott is not in the main DC universe. He’s no longer an older man with kids, he’s a young hero on Earth-2.  So he’s not in the main storyline, he is no longer the mentor to Kyle Rayner or the father of Jade and Obsidian (we’ll come back to this later) instead he is on a different earth. Okay do I really need to explain the issue with taking a character, reinventing them as GLBTQ and then shunting them into the secondary world (tertiary? quartary? quintary? who knows with comics?)?

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World Science Fiction (Renovation) – Here I Come!

So I will be attending my first ever World Science Fiction Convention this year! 2011’s con is Renovation in Reno, NV. I’ve always wanted to attend a World SF Con and with it being so close geographically this year and a couple of other things that came together it looks like I’m gonna make it! There’s still the matter of rooming to be worked out (if you need a room I have slots, please be not-a-serial-killer, smoking I can live with a knife in the back not so much). Hope to see at least some of my friends from WisCon and World Fantasy there. I’m also going to be on 7(!) panels. Exciting and nerve-wracking.

Here are my panels for the Con:

Thu 14:00 – 15:00, Science Fiction, Gender, and Social Change(Panel), A03 (RSCC)

The workings of any society are a confluence of many different forces and movements. As society changes, its literature and arts (including SF) reflects, anticipates, and perhaps influences the direction and scope of change. How has SF influenced and reflected the changes in gender and gender roles over the past quarter century? As we look back to the work of writers such as Ursula LeGuin and Joanna Russ in the sixties and seventies, what can we say about their impact and
that of their heirs today?

Alexandria Brown (M), Ctein, Amy Thomson, Mari Kotani and Naamen Tilahun

I’m very interested in who we think are the heirs to LeGuin and Russ. Not just authors with a feminist slant (while many authors tend to deny this label) but authors where feminism and gender roles are central to their work in many ways.

Thu 15:00 – 16:00, Why We Still Love _The Twilight Zone_ Fifty Years On (Panel), C1 (RSCC)

While science fiction for kids filled the TV screens of the ’50s, Rod Serling’s _The Twilight Zone_ was, arguably, the first SF show for adults. Featuring sophisticated themes, good writing and a surprising number of young actors who went on to be stars, _The Twilight Zone_ is a classic of the genre everyone should be watching. Our panel talks about some of their favorite episodes and why they’ve lasted.

H. G. Stratmann (M), Gary Westfahl, J. Steven York, John DeChancie and Naamen Tilahun

Okay, admission time. The Twilight Zone freaks me out! Don’t get me wrong, I love it but it still freaks me out. It is one of my mom’s favorite shows so I was exposed to it a lot growing up and I still feel terror over certain episodes (mostly more obscure eps like the one with the bus stop and the doppelgangers). Amazing show, effective and creepy and oh so sci-fi.

Fri 10:00 – 11:00, SF We Love by Writers of Color (Panel), A03(RSCC)

Are you curious about SF by writers of color. How do you
find the good stuff? There are many reading options, and many ways of connecting with the various communities of color producing excellent SF. Join us to look at reading lists from the Carl Brandon Society and other sources. And bring your own suggestions and your squee.

Naamen Tilahun (M), Vylar Kaftan, Anne Gray, Bradford Lyau

Definitely have authors that I think are getting some attention but deserve a lot more. Readying a list.

Fri 11:00 – 12:00, Minority Representation in SF Art and the Ugly Reality (Panel), D05 (RSCC)

Minority representation needs to get better in our visual SF, including casting in film and TV and the design and selection of cover art. A discussion of what’s wrong with the status quo and how the industry can and should improve.

Lee Moyer (M), Aliette de Bodard, Lee Harris, Naamen Tilahun

I have examples I can bring! Examples from multiple decades! Gotta dig through my books and pull out my old copy of Butler’s “Dawn”, Emily Deveport’s “Larissa”, Laurie J. Marks’ “Fire Logic” and of course bring up the recent controversies in cover art and the idea that asking for accurate and inclusive cover art is somehow being a problem author.

Sat 14:00 – 15:00, Unsuppressing Women: The Work and Legacy of Joanna Russ (Panel), D05 (RSCC)

Joanna Russ was one of science fiction’s first
feminist writers and a leading literary critic. Our panel looks at her fiction, reviews, and critical work, and assesses her lasting impact on the field.

Farah Mendlesohn (M), Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Naamen Tilahun, Gary K. Wolfe

Love, love, love Joanna. I’m doing a series over at Feminist-SF The Blog called Remembering Joanna about reading four of the more obscure works she wrote. Only the first part is up so far but I’m hoping to get at least one more up (if not the whole sequence of four) by the time I leave for WorldCon.

Sat 15:00 – 16:00, The Paranormal as Metaphor (Panel), A16 (RSCC)

Paranormal fantasy, including urban fantasy and paranormal romance, is among the most popular genres within speculative fiction. One intriguing aspect of this type of fantasy is its role as a stealth route toward social commentary and change. What are the issues being examined and how effectively are the experiences of various groups presented?

Naamen Tilahun (M), Lucienne Diver, Carrie Vaughn, Rose Fox, Patricia Briggs

Really like the idea of this panel, totally had the discussion of metaphors of vampires and werewolves and witches in on of my classes last year and really enjoyed it. Also sort of want to bring up the opposite effect in metaphor. The way in which Twilight and some other YA works attempt to rework the mythos of these creatures into something that is safe and somewhat non-sexual when their initial metaphor had such a sexual connotation.

Sun 13:00 – 14:00, Feminism in Science Fiction and SF Fandom (Panel), C1 (RSCC)

Feminism and feminist themes are an integral part of SF and Fantasy. There is major annual feminist SF&F convention (Wiscon). Last year the _The Secret Feminist
Cabal_, a cultural history of science fiction feminisms was published. What role does feminism play in modern day science fiction and fandom, and how is that role traceable the seventies and before?

Renée Sieber (M), Ellen Klages, Joan D. Vinge, Naamen Tilahun, Jed Hartman

Loved The Secret Feminist Cabal when I read it when it came out. Gonna try and re-read it before the Con so all of it (or at least the more pertinent bits) are fresh in my mind.

So that is my WorldCon schedule. Hope to see some of y’all there!

Glee, Why You So White?

So Gwyneth Paltrow singing Cee-Lo Green. For all the reasons this hurts and why it should not be even in the most hellish of nightmare worlds, go here: A Few Things About Gwyneth Paltrow’s ‘F*ck You’ As Performed on Glee for an excellent, intelligent and hilarious take on why it is so not okay. I’ve dealt with a lot on Glee (I’m looking at you Matthew Morrison and your incessant need to rap) but this is the first time I’m pretty sure I won’t be getting the songs on my iPod. So the part of the post linked above that seems to be causing the most drama up and in the comments is this part:

The song is off-limits for white people
Unless! Unless you really want to match Cee Lo sound for sound. First off, the soul-pop package doesn’t mitigate this song or its message; it mainstreams it. It’s subversion on steroids, and watered down to high-school pop it’s about as subversive as Reader’s Digest. More technically, I guess there’s nothing keeping Paltrow from actually rhyming that “if I was richer/I’d still be wit’ cha,” (hello, Amy Winehouse!), but her whitening of the phrase is kind of… well, disgusting. Let’s face it: Gwyneth Paltrow singing any variation on “F*ck You” is like Pat Boone singing “Tutti Frutti,” and maybe even worse: At least he didn’t have to dance with Cory Monteith and Chris Colfer.

Okay so the inevitable response to such queries as this is to scream “If you said black people couldn’t cover white songs that would be racist, so this isn’t okay! It’s reverse racism!” Okay first of all that’s a straw man argument that has nothing to do with the initial reasons given for why it’s not okay. Second of all, racism (as many people have said over and over) is privilege plus power. Black people as a group have never had enough power to enforce a nation-wide prejudice on white people in the west which continues through media to this very day.

Ignoring that let’s address that argument as if it’s valid. See the problem is that it’s only valid if equality is the base and we don’t live in an equal society at all and Glee certainly doesn’t exist in a universe of racial equality. See when this season started I was already a little put out that football coach Ken Tanaka and glee member Matt Rutherford were written out of the show and essentially replaced with white folk. Beiste for Tanaka, Sam for Matt. This is no comment on the characters of Beiste or Sam (both of whom I actually enjoy) but to show the whitening of the show in terms of diversity, one of the things they were initially praised for.

In the midst of this look at the guest stars they’ve had on the show so far: Eve, Kristin Chenoweth, Idina Menzel, Neil Patrick Harris, Barry Bostwick, Meatloaf, John Stamos, Johnathon Groff, Britney, Olivia Newton-John, Josh Groban, Cheyenne Jackson and now Gwyneth Paltrow. With the exception of Eve they are all white and Eve doesn’t even get to sing during her entire one episode appearance. How many songs has Kristin Chenoweth had on the show so far? More than Tina, one of the “main characters” that’s for sure.

So why can’t we have some Broadway legends of color? Some Jennifer Holliday, Stephanie Mills, Rita Moreno, Lea Salonga, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Audra McDonald, Taye Diggs. Shoot at this point I’m willing to accept Carol Channing’s sketchy claim to some black heritage and cheer for her as a guest star. Or even some actors/musicians of color? Jennifer Hudson, Halle Barry, Jennifer Lopez, Janet Jackson, Enrique Iglesias, Lenny Kravitz. You could just prop Whitney Houston up in the corner and have her bust out some ‘Greatest Love of All’. Shit, why couldn’t Cee-Lo himself play the substitute teacher and sing his own damn song?

I’ve watched Mercedes get slowly pushed aside, until she is the only glee club member without any kind of romantic interest, or urge at all if the show is to be believed. The relationship between Tina and Mike crosses the line from cute to stereotype so many times it makes my head spin and the treatment of Santana, especially in this last episode with the whole Puck/Artie storyline has drifted far into the overly sexualized latina stereotype.

The way the characters of color end up sidelined so much has resulted in many, many songs by artists of color being sung by white characters on that show. The reverse is hardly ever the case. When Mercedes is given a whole song to sing it is most often a song already done by a black female artist. She doesn’t get to cross that barrier ever (with the exception of Rocky Horror which she got crucified online by Glee fans) while characters like Mr. Schuester and Artie do so on a regular basis. This is not a case of there being a basis of equality that has suddenly changed. This is a case of people beginning to notice that the show is getting more and more white and monolithic in terms of race.

Glee does not rest on a base of equality, just as the world itself does not. To argue the charge of reverse racism you basically have to prove that all things being equal the world isn’t already slanted against People of Color and other oppressed groups. I’m not saying that individual members of an oppressed group cannot be prejudiced but the charge of reverse-racism is erroneous and detracts from the overall question I’ve started to have with Glee, a show I love and would like to continue too love, Glee why you getting more and more white?

And don’t even get me started on the conflation of white, young boy and gay that happens on the series, that’s another post that will be going up later this week.

Appropriative Racial Politics VS Pseudo-Liberalism in Glee

So I am addicted to the new tv series Glee. I talk about it with friends and never miss an episode. Last night’s episode was…interesting in terms of racial identity.

Warning Spoilers Ahead

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Manifesto! 5/5 – Not The Marrying Kind – Statements…The End

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I think there’s humor in the hypocrisy of a movement that fights for marriage equality while lauding a film like “Brokeback Mountain” as romantic when the core basis of the film is an extra-marital affair. But it seems being on the down’low is acceptable as long as those engaging in it are white and only betraying women. Although the theme of pretending to be something you’re not fits in quite well with the homogenizing view of the large GLBTQ organizations.

Manifesto! 4/5 – Not The Marrying Kind: Statements…(cont.2)

Previously – Not The Marrying Kind: Statements…(cont.)

I believe that the fierceness and power of the movement has been bled out by the constant focus on marriage equality as the only issue of importance perpetuated by large, wealthy, privileged groups such as GLAAD and the HRC who are looking out for themselves as opposed to the community as a whole.

Manifesto! 3/5 – Not The Marrying Kind: Statements…(cont.)

Previously – Not The Marrying Kind: Statements…

I don’t understand how fighting tooth and claw for inclusion in such a problematic power structure such as marriage is a fight for everyone’s equality. A marginalized group fighting for a bigger piece of the pie rather than the eradication of the system has never led to liberation.

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Manifesto! 2/5 – Not The Marrying Kind: Statements…

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I understand that marriage is a prison, has a historical basis in silencing women and trading them like pieces of chattel and that a mere fifty years of “change” or transgressive reinterpretations can in no way wipe out a history of oppression and inequality stretching back centuries.

Manifesto! 1/5 – Not The Marrying Kind: Introduction

So both my readings last week went exceptionally well. I got a bunch of compliments on my prose piece and am going to submit it somewhere this week and despite my fear the Manifesto reading went swimmingly. The audience got what I was saying and was whooping and hollering in agreement. In fact after the reading I had a few people come up to me and ask if they could find it online or if it was posted anywhere. I had been on the fence about putting it up online simply because it is pretty radical and the blogosphere is a very different environment than the very radical space I was in for the reading. I’m not up for some of the comments I’ll inevitably get but having folks ask me if they could find it online made me realize that if no one sees or hears a manifesto what is the freaking point?!

So my Manifesto, Not The Marrying Kind will be going up in five parts this week. I’m breaking it up, not to make more posts out of it (or at least not just because of that) but because it’s the way I wrote it – in a series of chunks – and I like the idea of it being experienced in that way. In fact at the reading since we had interruptions from the audience they got it broken into sections as well and I think it worked very well, allowing folks to take in the previous points before moving on. Keep in mind that this is an early iteration of the work and it may grow, shrink, shift during any future re-writes however the core of it will not alter.

Not The Marrying Kind: Intro

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Critiquing Joss Whedon

Joss Whedon created – Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Serenity and the upcoming Dollhouse. Now I have issues with a lot the shows listed, I’m also a huge fan. My problem isn’t entirely with the shows but also in the way a lot of of fans perceive Joss. He gets a lot of cachet from certain segments of fandom – about how he loves strong women, how he describes himself as a feminist, his population of diverse women.

Yeah I kind of scoff at all of that. First of all I will never understand why men who choose to treat women decently get a fucking medal, that should just be par for the course. I know it’s not and we as a society need to work on that but handing out cookies to these men and not allowing them to be critiqued or not critiquing them just allows them to get away with a lot of bullshit – that without the cachet of being a “feminist man” or “pro-feminist man” they would be torn to shreds for.

While I love Buffy & Firefly. (Angel I’m kinda *meh* on) the first thing that I notice is that Joss likes a certain type of woman to be strong: they have to be skinny and white and ever so traditionally beautiful. Not really that feminist to me. I’ve had a lifetime of reading comics where skinny  women become superheroes all the time. Buffy was little different from them to me. I liked her sarcasm, her determination but didn’t truly see her or the show as ground breaking…wait rephrase perhaps it was ground breaking for the medium of television specifically. But it seemed to me that everytime there was a feminist moment of fabulousness it was always within this very narrow view of women so that no ground was actually gained in my eyes. If it was anything it was the feminism he ascribed to was this prevalent “girl-power” pseudo-feminism. Yes, it was great to see girls and women being strong but you know what I would have loved? If we could have seen women of different colors, sizes, abilities, classes being just as strong without fucking up and killing someone innocent (Faith) or dying (Kendra).

And so often the shows fell into stereotypes and tropes:

The destruction of Angel’s life through Cordelia’s rampant sexuality and yes we find out she was possessed and it wasn’t really her but that whole excuse was way muddled and not thought out. 

I would have loved for Gunn (the only recurring POC in his first two shows) to just be able to be smart without a mystical intervention.

The dead lesbian – Tara

The breakdown of women without a male partner or when the male partner leaves – Buffy, Anya, Willow and on and on – in a way where we rarely if ever saw the reverse with Xander and Giles.

There’s a way in which Joss likes to consistently pair physical strength in girls with emotional weakness or fucked-up-ness, almost as if they have to exist side by side and that’s what pissed me off more than anything.

And yes we can’t say that Joss had a hand in all of those, he was the creator but he did not write every episode but as the creator he sets the tone, the pace and the message of the show. None of the show writers are going to write a character completely out of the character that Joss has set. It’s a trickle down effect.

Also I think most of us can agree while Joss might have an inkling of feminism he’s really bad at race…really really bad. Yes, in Firefly we have a mixed crew – which I love – but there’s a way in which River and Inara never have their heritage brought up and the complete absence of Asian folks in this Asian inspired show could be a whole post in and of itself. Just plopping down some folks of color is not good race politics you have to explore it at least a little – and I know he only had 12 episodes. Also the gender politics in Firefly/Serenity weren’t the best. In fact cracked.com listed Hollywood’s 5 Saddest Attempts at Feminism– River’s at #3.

I want to talk about these things, I want to talk about his consistently really bad race politics in all three of his shows. I want to talk about the co-opting of feminism by the mainstream into this whole “girl power” movement where there’s not real critique of power structures and the similarity of this “girl power” movement to the Republican ideology of “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” without any discussion of the continuing hierarchies and how difficult that can make it. I want to talk about all of that and how that’s filtered into Joss’ work but all too often I’m completely shut down by calls of “He’s a feminist!” as if that gives him a free ride to do whatever else he wants.

I own: all 7 season of Buffy, Firefly, Serenity & the first two seasons of Angel so it’s safe to term me a fan but I know that Joss has issues that crop up as do all creators. Shoot I know my own work probably has issues but I would hope that no one would give me a pass, that folks would tell me imy issues so I could be aware of it and either acknowledge it as a problem that had to exist in the work or apologize and try and do better next time. When we don’t allow for these critiques and questions to be voiced then we’re doing a disservice not only to the work but to the creator as well.

There might be posts later that focus on these shows and specifically their race politics when I get the time because:

Buffy – So. California town with little-to-no People of Color?

Angel – Only representation of POC is the trope of ghetto-gang-hustler?

Firefly/Serenity – The already mentioned absence of Asian folks coupled with the complete appropriation of their culture.