Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

I'm back! And reading! And maybe even blogging! No promises!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Hi again!

Have you ever gone through old posts and just thought: " opinion is so completely different now that I kind of just want to delete that post entirely"?

Because I do have a few of those.  I'm tempted to edit a tag to them stating "this is not my opinion anymore."

Or maybe just address them with a new post.  "Please look at the following posts.  They're all WRONG."

More likely I'll just leave them be.

That's the downside to having a ten year old (almost!) blog I suppose.  :-)  Everything I posted was my true opinion at the time.  But sometimes opinions change.  :-)

Saturday, February 14, 2015


In honor of the holiday, I'm curious:

What's the most romantic line that you can think of from any book/movie/tv show?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

In Defense of Fifty Shades of Grey

I honestly can't quite believe that I'm writing this, because between you and me, I HATE this book (and likely the subsequent books) with a passion.

But I feel like there is a certain lack of fairness, for lack of a better word, with regard to the way this book/upcoming movie is being treated.

This is inspired mostly by this tumblr post (I'm not entirely sure of the etiquette regarding linking tumblr posts, so I linked the one from one of my favorite author's tumblr.  I recommend her to anyone.  She's fantastic.)  This post has been reblogged, as of the time of me writing this, more than 175,000 times.  And that's fine.  Free speech and all that.  But it got me thinking about this entire thing.

I am absolutely in favor of donating to domestic violence shelters, by the way.  But I also think that if someone wants to see the damn movie, they should.

Basically, I think that we should be a little bit more fair in how we address Fifty Shades of Grey.

It's NOT that I think we shouldn't be criticizing this book.  There is a lot to criticize in this book.  One of my favorite hobbies is reading truly enraged, eloquent people tear this book and its sequels apart with true, glorious vitriol.

But at the same time, I think that a lot of people (myself included) go a bit overboard when we talk about these books.  And in doing so, I think we are doing a lot of people (intelligent people who, for whatever reason, actually like this book/series) a serious disservice.

Therefore, now that I have actually experienced the first book, I would like to talk about it.

Abusive Relationships

It's a common accusation that the relationship between Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele is abusive.  This accusation is absolutely correct..  This post can illustrate it far better than I can.  Christian Grey is a terrifying individual, Anastasia Steele spends most of the book bouncing back and forth between enthralled and terrified.  There is an actual rape scene (which neither character quite acknowledges.)  There's stalking, abuse of power, the use of alcohol and sex to manipulate.... what?

Don't get me wrong.  If this were a real life relationship, I'd want Ana to run screaming toward the hills.  As a reader, I still do.  But Ana is not a real person.  Christian is not a real person.  No real people are harmed during the course of reading this dreck.

Fifty Shades is hardly the first book/series to feature an abusive relationship and not really treat the subject with the seriousness it deserves.  Romance novel shelves are rife with tales upon tales of alpha males and the women they walk on (to be fair, there are also stories of truly maddening harpies and the beta males they've virtually castrated.  And there are even healthy portrayals of people in love.  But they are not relevant at this time.)

Romance novels aren't alone in this, but they're an easy target because unlike say, James Bond (for whom "No" also seems to be far more negotiable sometimes than it ought), the relationship is the crux of the story.  Fifty Shades isn't the first or the worst example of this type.  It is however the most popular.

And of course, it's that popularity that has a lot of us gasping and clutching our pearls when we read passages of this book.  "This book is normalizing abuse!  This book is teaching women to accept abusive relationships!"

Bullshit.  No one has yet proven correlation or causation between liking Fifty Shades of Grey (or Twilight before it, or any of the countless examples before that) and becoming a part of, or staying in an abusive relationship.

Something we really ought to remember is that while Anastasia Steele starts off as a virgin with no idea how to interact with a man in a sexual or romantic relationship, the primary readership of these books are not.  The majority of the readers of Fifty Shades of Grey are adult women who have had a broad depth of experience.  They know what a real relationship is like.  They know what abuse is.  And I'd wager that the vast majority of them would run screaming if their husbands actually acted like Christian Grey.

And okay, yes, there are those essays and articles that pop up every so often "I wish my husband was more like Christian Grey" and "I left my husband because he wasn't like Christian Grey."  But if you actually READ them, instead of looking horrified by the title, you see fairly similar narratives:  there are some women whose needs aren't being met in their relationships and now they finally have a way to articulate this.  They're not looking for their husbands to actually abuse, rape, stalk and terrify them like Christian does Ana.  They just feel bored, neglected, and want a little bit of an exciting fantasy to spice things up a little.

Rape/Abuse Stories Can Be Power Fantasies (and not always like you expect)

I mentioned above how Fifty Shades of Grey isn't the only book in which you see rape or abuse.  Romance novels featuring rape are hardly new.  One example, that pops up on TV Tropes all the time is E.M. Hull's The Sheik, from 1919.  The Gor novels have a substantial female fanbase.  And one day, I will blog my horrifying childhood experience with books by Sharon Green.

If you ever decide to look at the non-consent/reluctance category at, or under the Rape/Non-Con tags at Archive of Our Own, it becomes pretty clear that quite a lot of people, the vast majority of them are not rapists or wannabe rape victims, like to read and write erotic stories featuring rape.

I like to call this "ravishment fantasy" because, while the situations in the stories/books are rape and abuse, without question, and would be terrible if they happened to a real person, the point of the story really isn't the rape.  The point is often the power fantasy.  And the power dynamic isn't always as obvious as it looks.

Here's one: Good Girl redeems a Bad Boy:  A cruel man meets an innocent girl and through her kindness and love, she makes him want to be better than what he was.  He becomes a good man for her.  This is Beauty and the Beast.  This is Fifty Shades of Grey.  In this sort of fantasy, the rape and abuse are actually part of the woman's power fantasy.  Yes, Christian Grey can physically overpower Anastasia Steele, yes, he controls pretty much every aspect of her life.  But in the end, Ana essentially rewires who he is.  (Spoiler: He's still a dick.)

Please note that while I use heteronormative scenarios for this, the actual pairings in these stories do not have to be heterosexual male-female, nor does the male character have to be the one who is the abuser or rapist when it is a heterosexual relationship.

Here's another:  Good Man Can't Help Himself.  This one's a bit darker.  The man, normally a morally upright fellow, generally stoic and controlled, meets a girl and simply cannot control himself.  He must have her!  He can't resist his urges!  This is what she does to him!  Of course in the real world, this is utter bullshit. It is never the victim's fault when an abuser hurts him or her.  But escapism isn't the same as reality.  The key part of the fantasy, of course, is that the man in this family is someone the woman desires.  One that she imagines never would have noticed her.  But he did notice her!  He can't help BUT notice her!  And of course, he's torn up by guilt afterwards.  But now, she knows how he feels so the power is in her hands.

The Good Girl who Never Gives Up:  Here's a kind of perverse power fantasy when you think about it.  Our culture is so very fucked up about female sexuality.  Promiscuity is bad, fantasies are to be mocked, and god forbid any woman over fifty confess to sexual inclinations.  EW!  And if you're raped, you deserve it, because only bad girls wear those skirts, go to those parties, walk in the park at night.  Good girls don't do that.  But then, how does a good girl get to explore sex.  It has to be forced onto her by someone she would have desired if she ever understood that kind of thing!  This is a moral high ground sort of power fantasy.  The fun of sex, without the guilt.

The Guy Who Provides Everything Whether You Like it Or Not:  This is the rapey version of the Cinderella fantasy, really.  The girl is under a lot of pressure, overwhelmed, lacking the finer things in life.  And the guy, rich and handsome, swoops in to take her away.  He gives her clothes, fine things, takes her places.  But of course, the girl, being the modest sort and not a Gold Digger At All, can't possibly just accept these gifts.  HE must force her to take them.  She gets to enjoy everything she could ever want, guilt free.  And he does this because he is obsessed with making her happy.  She might protest the sex too, but he can give her everything she could possibly want there too, without her ever needing to ask.

Of course there are other reasons people read and write ravishment fantasies, and this isn't intended to be an extensive list.  But using the ones above, how many can you check off for Fifty Shades?  Obviously the first.  Sort of, the second.  Christian's not a good man, but he is driven by his obsession for Ana which seems to have no real explanation in the text.  Ana hadn't ever had an orgasm before Christian, and he certainly is able to provide her with everything she could ever want.  Including orgasms.

So yeah, on a realistic level, Fifty Shades of Grey is a horrible book featuring an abusive relationship between a stalking psychopath and his passive victim.  But from a ravishment fantasy perspective, the story appears to be fairly satisfying.

Bad BDSM versus Meta BDSM

Another common complaint about the book is that the BDSM is terrible.  Which is, to my limited knowledge of the practice, absolutely true.

Many BDSM practitioners are justifiably upset with the book, because of the damaging and dangerous way that the books portray their lifestyle.  (If you are interested, writer Jennifer Armintrout/Abigail Barnette has utterly demolished the books' portrayal of BDSM at her Jealous Hater Book Club, and Peter Tupper of also posted his own reviews from a BDSM perspective.)

It seems like the vast majority of BDSM practitioners who talk about these books condemn Christian Grey as a terrible dom, the consent as being dubious at best, and the negotiation is lip service.  He spends 3/4 of the first book trying to push this idiotic fucking contract down her throat, ignoring her/distracting her when she attempts to negotiate anything closer to her own liking.  She gives him some limits of her own (i.e. anal sex), and he blithely decides to ignore them.

I'm certainly not going to say these practitioners are wrong to be mad.  This is completely offensive.  But I think some of the worry that this will inspire new people to try BDSM without any real understanding of consent or potential harm, or that it will scare people away from BDSM by portraying it as abuse, is a bit much.

The average reader of this book was never going to be a hardcore BDSM person.  She's a middle aged woman who wants a little spice in her life and maybe she can realize that despite what society tends to say, it's perfectly fine to own a sex toy or two.

Though on an interesting, meta level, there is a more consensual BDSM situation going on here.  Not Ana's and Christian's of course.  That is just fuckery.  But one between E. L. James and the reader.

I'm thinking about roleplay scenarios.  Even non-BDSM folk occasionally like to play with those.  "I'll be Han, you be Leia.",  "I'll be the naughty school girl, you be the principal with a firm hand on his ruler,"  "I'll be the naive college student, you be the millionaire who just can't resist her for no real reason."

That's basically what this is.  E. L. James has set up a scene for us.  We get to play Ana, through the first person story, while E. L. James controls everything else to give us the experience we are (or are not as the case may be) looking for.

Ana's relationship with Christian may not be Safe, Sane and Consensual, but the reader gets to indulge in this silly ravishment fantasy with the ultimate, foolproof safeword in the fact that we can close the damn book.


The one thing that Fifty Shades of Grey and its sequels have done that is legitimately positive is that it has given a generation of women a somewhat more legitimized outlet for sexual fantasies.  For whatever reason, this thing has taken off, and people are actually talking about it.  A lot.  When female sexuality, especially older female sexuality, gets derided so often, it's actually pretty refreshing.

Of course, this isn't going to stop people from derisively calling it "mommy-porn" or whatever other term is cool right now.  That term, if nothing else, proves why we shouldn't belittle or ignore this effect.  Women shouldn't be shamed for having sexual fantasies, and the fact that Fifty Shades of Grey seems to be inspiring a lot more criticism than Hot Tub Time Machine 2, or whatever the fuck that crap is, really says something.

A Conclusion Of Sorts

Again, I am absolutely not saying that people shouldn't be criticizing these books.  There is a LOT to criticize.  Ana is one of the most genuinely unlikable characters that I've ever seen, Christian's a psychopath, the relationship is terrible, the BDSM is awful, the sex is overrated, the series is rife with sexism, racism and homophobia both overt and understated.  If you want to tear these books apart, do it, please, and give me a link!  I love reading that!

But let's keep the whole thing in perspective.  It's a crappy book series.  It's not going to lead to an upswing in abusive relationships.  It's not going to ruin sex, BDSM, or popular literature in general.  It's not the end of feminist empowerment as we know it.

And per the tumblr post that inspired this: yes, absolutely give money to domestic violence shelters.  They really need the help.

But go see the movie if you want to.  Even if you're just curious.  Even if you want to mock the shit out of it.  You're a consenting adult, do whatever the hell you want.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Random Thoughts on Television

Can I just say that I'm loving all the awesome comic book type television shows that are on right now?

Well, not ALL of them.  I gave up on Agents of SHIELD because the only character I find remotely interesting is a villain.  And that's not really enough for me.  I'm not a huge fan of villains without some kind of redemption arc.  I'm okay with some anti-heroes or morally grey characters, but this character really isn't one.  So I'm moving on to a show where I like the HEROES.

I adore Flash.  Flash is goofy and cute and fun and features a main character who actually LIKES being a hero.  I've seen some people compare it to Smallville, but really, it reminds me more of Lois and Clark.  Barry's got his costume, and his name, and it's very obvious what romantic pairing is going to be end game.  But it's such fun to see how it happens.

I'm less enamored with Arrow.  It's a well written show and I am amused by exactly how much of a douchebag Oliver Queen is in this, or any really, universe.  But it's not really "I MUST WATCH" for me.

Gotham however is great.  I'm leery on Bat-products, I'll be honest with you.  They always seem just a tad repetitive.  (The same could be said for Superman products, but Superman has traits that appeal to me more.  I've never claimed to be fair. :-))  However, a Bat-show starring Commissioner Gordon?  Is great.  And in a weird way, I find it more optimistic than most Bat-products.  Yes, Gotham City is going to hell in a handbasket.  But there is someone who's trying to do what's right, who will hold the moral line until Bruce grows up and is ready to deal out some Batarang therapy.  I'm sure Gordon won't escape without a little tarnish, but as long as he gets to keep that inner core of Jim Gordon, he should get to avoid the worst of the corruption.

If they do irredeemably corrupt Jim Gordon, I will be really really upset.

Also, I'm enjoying that I can leer at Ben McKenzie without guilt.  I love Flash, and they're all very pretty, but they look so young to me.  I just want to give them hugs and pack them lunches.  No leering damnit.

I haven't seen any Constantine yet, though.  Is it any good?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Oh right!  I have a blog!  Though to be fair, a two week hiatus is better than two years!  :-)

I have been spending far too much time playing video games than actually doing anything interesting.  Sorry.

But I'm back.  Theoretically.  :-P

Thursday, October 02, 2014

I've Been Schooled

So my mother is an unexpected virtuoso in the art of reciprocal television torture.

Reciprocal television torture is when you and another person alternate watching episodes of truly awful (or sometimes decent) television so that you can mock it and suffer together.  There are bonus points when you find something TRULY terrible to torture the other person with.

I do this with quite a few friends.  It's fun!  It is truly my favorite hobby.

Anyway, my mother had a similar idea.  See, whenever I get weirdly obsessed with something new (which is, unsurprisingly often), I end up trying to inflict it on everyone as much as possible.  So when my mother came to visit, she knew that I would attempt to inflict my current terrible obsession (Still Emergency!.  There are a damn lot of episodes of that show.)

So she planned ahead.  And brought something terrible of her own.  And we would (and did) alternate episodes of each.

My mother brought season 1 of Here Come the Brides.

And we watched episodes.

I think I've just been schooled.  By my mom.  In my own favorite hobby.

I am so proud.  :-D

(PS:  What the fuck was that dead thing on Bobby Sherman's head?  Just asking.)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

I watched things.

So anyway, recently I saw a Sci-Fi Channel Original Movie: Fire Serpent.  Beware of spoilers.

I admit, I only decided to watch this movie because of the actors, who included Nicholas Brendon (Xander from Buffy), Sandrine Holt (Li Ann from Once a Thief), Randolph Mantooth (Gage from Emergency) and Robert Beltran (Chakotay from Voyager).

I was not disappointed.

Of course, I wasn't disappointed because I expected a really stupid movie.  :-P  Sentient fire that hitches a ride in people's backpacks.

The acting was actually decent though.  Really all of the actors deserved to be in a better movie.  :-)

One thing that bothered me was that I actually thought Nicholas Brendon's character, "Jake", was utterly superfluous.  He was the newbie fire fighter who gets to be all disbelieving and skeptical when Mantooth's "Dutch" tells him all about the scary fire creatures.  Later, he gets to be earnest when trying to convince Sandrine Holt's FBI character, "Chris" about the danger.

Honestly, the movie would have worked just as well without him.  "Chris" would have met "Dutch" anyway, because she and her boss (Beltran's character) suspected him of arson.  She is already disbelieving and skeptical.  He is already more than able to explain the situation.  There was really no need for the middle man.

The only real useful thing "Jake" does is in the end battle, and well, as it's that sort of movie.  And honestly, there's no reason "Dutch" couldn't have done that as well.  (Mantooth appears to be in quite good shape for his age.  Easily still believable in an action role.)

I know some folks criticize movies for inserting a young white American man into a cast when it's really not necessary.  Sometimes I agree with this critique, sometimes I don't.  In this case though, it was really very obvious.  Jake contributes NOTHING to the overall narrative!  (The actor does a good job with what he has, but really.)

There were some good points though.  Surprisingly.

First: Of the four lead characters, only one was a white man.  Sandrine Holt is half Chinese.  And both Mantooth and Beltran have Native American ancestry.

Second:  All the interrogation scenes were really good, if too short.  They could have done a whole movie of just Robert Beltran and Randolph Mantooth being cryptic and ominous at each other across an interrogation room table and I would have enjoyed it.

Third: They managed to have a scene with two Native American-identified actors and neither had to act like the stereotypical mystical Indian stereotype.

There were of course bad points, such as the fact that the damn thing makes no sense at all.  The time line is completely fucked.  The gratuitous flashback to 1966 doesn't even TRY to pretend to be 1966.  (The clothes, hairstyles, everything are blatantly modern.)

Also the dude playing young Dutch is awful, and a terrible casting job.  But then, I might have been more open-minded if I hadn't been watching a lot of Emergency.  (I've seen John Gage, and you, sir, are no John Gage.)

They try to explain how Dutch knows so much about these things, but it doesn't make a lot of sense considering that this thing kills anyone in close enough contact.  I just figure he pulls the shit out of his ass and everyone believes him by virtue of the fact that he used to be in Emergency.

That said, it's hard to seriously complain about flaws in a movie like this because...well, it's a Sci-Fi channel movie.  You kind of get what you come in for.