still figuring things out on this intarwebby thing

i want to keep in touch with my friends. I want to hear what they have to say. I want to know what’s going on in their lives and how they feel and if anything is going on that they want me to be a part of.

That’s why Facebook is so important for me.

BUT…. its turned into a place of very little appeal now…. its

soapbox
ranty
snarky
scary
sad
and self-congratulating

None of which would be a big problem (gawd knows I am those things too) except those qualities have become the only times it is not superficial. All the news is sad and scary and angry-making. Or else its cute kitties and puppies. Once in a great while its inspiration-porn which is uncomfortable.

Mostly its just a daily outrage machine. Which isn’t to say the subjects brought up aren’t important but I can’t get behind the exhausting barrage of competing culture-wide problems.

I’m more interested in knowing how everyone’s doing but most of what I get is everyone hiding behind the liberal cause de jeur.

One of the reasons I still love Livejournal more than facebook is because when we were ALL on Livejournal we had more categories and thus we could be friends with more than one type of person. I was in political groups, social groups, parent groups etc
Not to say we didn’t get into arguments, dear gawd of course we did, but they happened mostly on the group pages. Most of us reserve our personal page for personal things. The political posts were not as frequent or common. Because when we posted to our page, we took our time, thought it out and assumed we were addressing all our close friends.

Facebook has gone beyond being a big cocktail party and turned into an sort of online state fair – everyone has a booth where they simultaniously sell their wares AND hawk their views AND hob-nob with friends and family. If you’re close you get to visit behind the booth and everyone plays musical booths all day long in some sort of complicated square dance that involves more steps and rules than I can keep up with.

I’m so tired. I just want to talk about how we’re all DOING. I don’t want to stand on a soapbox and scream any more (well, okay maybe every now and then?) I just want to explore each other and feel close again, not what was the latest violation of decency in the news today. I pretty much know all my friends and family’s political and social views.

Maybe that’s part of the problem – there’s nothing left to LEARN anymore.

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Yes I’m still around

I’m trying to change how I view my life and how I approach it. I think, because of the divorce, I have spent the last year in a weird haze of just being swept along with whatever is happening and not really putting forth any effort of any kind. I’m done with that. Anyone who knows me well knows I cannot stay ineffective for long. I hate being inactive, non-productive… I have to do something to feel like I”m working towards my own happiness.

Whenever a change in life is necessary, a change in attitude is primary. I absolutely must alter the way I relate to my own problems. I spent most of my marriage bending over, bowing down and generally trying to paint all problems as transitory. Eventually my own attitude could not stand by any longer and continue the charade of nonchalance. I DO care about my life. I DO care about my happiness. I DO care about how things work out for myself. I’m not a martyr whatsoever. I never will be. I thought I could sacrifice my happiness in order to stay in that relationship but not only was that wrong but it wouldn’t have worked anyway. You can’t give up yourself and maintain a duality at the same time. Sacrifice of the self only begets a monarchy.

So here I am, trying to figure out how to take the helm again and plow forward. I feel like I took a break from my own life and I guess that’s what I did… no more. I once had a goal, an inspiration and many dreams. The expression of those concepts may have changed, but the drive toward realization remains.

Let’s begin.

Cultural Similarities

I remember having the talk with my parents.
When I was pregnant for the first time I actually thought about how I would deal with the talk with my kids.
I dread the day I have to have the talk with Lil Miss.
I realized there’s just no good way to say it.

Our “people” got where they are today by slaughtering millions of people who had every right to hate us and want to kill us. Because originally there was enough room for all of us but we weren’t content with that. We felt threatened by their very existence. There were decent folk who were willing to live in harmony (on both sides) but overall, war was what prevailed. And we “won”. Because we had “superior firepower”. We also had other countries backing us. So of course we “won”

Won what?

Why the right to claim this land as OURS. The right to make the rules. The right to go back and whitewash history to make us look like “the good guys”

“Are there any of those people left?” is the inevitable question.
“yes, actually there are. A very very few. We pushed them into tiny patches of land that we didn’t want”

And I will have to explain how we acted as if this was very magnanimous on our part. How we have a history of pushing Stockholm syndrome on the people who were here first. I can spend all day talking about the various nuances of the history. I can talk about how some of the “other side” were in fact scary horrible people who never had any intention of letting us live in peace. I can talk about how some of “our side” were good decent folk who really wanted the rest of our people to stop warring the original inhabitants. Even so, I will have to talk about greed and how discovery of the land’s riches made most people willing to step all over anyone in order to be the first in line to lay claim to more of the sanctified earth. How even our moral views were warped enough to pretend that we had some intrinsic right to be here and take over this land. How our pretense at compromise was torn down again and again as we decided again and again that the tiny patches of land we gave them were actually worth something to us after all. Our pretense that we were ever interested in letting the other side continue as a people

I will have to explain how our people also had others backing us, how we would never run out of firepower. I can explain how we used propaganda to paint the other side as evil and savage and bloodthirsty. I can talk about how our people came to truly believe the other side weren’t even human beings, just disgusting animals worthy of death. I will definitely talk about how we incorporated this disdain and disgust into our culture so that generations to come would also distrust, despise and demean the other side – so that our children and their children’s children would never successfully make peace.

This talk will happen. Its part of where we come from. Its not the only history we have. It doesn’t negate the good things we have done any more than the good things negate this part. I hope that when we have this talk, my daughter will be suitably horrified and sad that our cultural lives rose from the bloody pyre of vanquished people whose only crime were to be here before us, live differently than us, and want different things from life than we did.

Then the inevitable end question will come.

“We don’t still do this, do we?”

Everyone is not beautiful

DISCLAIMER: I am speaking primarily of women here. Not becaues I don’t think these issues affect men, but because not being a man myself I can only theorize based on a few comments and brief discussions Ive had with men about these issues. I wish more men would discuss these things honestly. I suspect the reason my empathy is so shallow for men is because they really feel uncomfortable being open about body and image and self-esteem issues. That’s the main message I get from them. For every man who runs to up to point out “men have these problems  too!” there’s twenty men who change the subject. And sadly, the ones who run up to inject themselves into the female-based discussion only do so to derail, not to add to an overall conversation. I think the primary problem for men and image has to do with shame and secrecy. Society pressures men to strut and act like they don’t care about their image. I find it hard to believe men are really so different from women in that regard. So ultimately, I leave the male version of the issue alone – its not my story to tell and thus far I don’t have enough input to incorporate their story into ours. But I do believe the discomfort and anxiety that goes along with image issues affects men just as often and just as clearly as women. 

 

Here’s the thing, I actually don’t believe everyone is “beautiful”. To be frank, I haven’t yet met anyone I didn’t find attractive, but I can’t get behind the “everyone is beautiful” campaign. I also don’t think that campaign is ever going to really take root. Because really, not everyone is “beautiful”.  Perhaps that’s a semantics game because I’m going by a definition of beauty that I am pretty sure is the most common one. I am also pretty sure the “everyone is beautiful” campaign is going by a different definition. The common understanding of beauty is “the arrangement of symmetrical features and lack of aberrations that society deems to be most attractive” 

 

The fact is that not everyone can possibly measure up that way.

 

I think the real issue is how people merit themselves. I am not talking about potential, either. We can potential people all over the place and it doesn’t mean squat. That starts venturing into “you can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it!” territory which I *know* is bullshit. If you disagree, fine but answer this question: can I ski through a revolving door if I put my mind to it?

I say that not to ruin a very nice uplifting sentiment but to place the parameters of the discussion. We can’t truly discuss human traits if we don’t have roughly the same vocabulary.

 

 

 

The beauty we usually talk about when we talk about strangers is the outside appearance – their attractiveness. The beauty we talk about when we talk about people we know is the inside – their persona. But we can’t conflate the two. The outside beauty, while nice, isn’t something we can do anything with. It may enhance the landscape when its around but it doesn’t really affect us just by existing. Beauty from the inside is so called precisely because it *does* affect us. It is some quality (or a group of qualities) that enhances our actual existence even if only for a moment. Someone’s beautiful persona can lift us up, give us solace, urge us on or calm us down. How incredibly versatile for a quality that is so incredibly undefined!

 

This is why I don’t like calling someone “beautiful” unless I am speaking strictly of their outward appearance. Attractive – maybe because sometimes what’s attractive isn’t in the looks at all, but beauty is something I *see*. 

 

Beauty is skin-deep. Beauty is as beauty does. Beauty glows in love. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is truth. Beauty is pain.

 

Beauty is subjective.

Well, if beauty is subjective, why is it that so many people have decided on some particular traits and made them “the standards”?

Is excitement a subjective thing? Can I label anyone I like with that word and say “well I just think everyone is exciting?” I could but how believable is that really? What about joy? Is everyone joyful? Smart? Helpful? Generous? Thoughtful? Spontaneous?

 

I want us to talk more about the inner awesomeness that each person carries within. I want to cheer on the people who need it most. I want to say encouraging things to the ones who sit at home, feeling scared and sad because society has told them again and again that they don’t measure up. I want *that* campaign to happen and be successful. I just dont’ think its going to work if we keep using the word “beautiful”

Because those people know better. They know that society isn’t lying to them. Society dictates what is “beautiful” and they didnt’ make the grade. We can talk all day about overcoming the pressures of society and feeling good about yourself and empowerment and reclaiming terms but ultimately we ARE society. Society is people. Its the people around us too. And when the majority of the people around you are telling you that your looks don’t make them happy, there’s no arguing it. We can argue facts until one of us discovers the valid truth but arguing opinions is ridiculous. I’m not going to continue to argue against the opinions of MILLIONS either. I can disagree all I want but trying to change those people’s opinions is ludicrous. And who am I to arbitrarily decide when the majority of society is wrong in their personal preferences?

 

I’ve known an awful lot of people in my near-half-decade of life. Like I said, I’ve yet to meet someone I didn’t think was attractive on some level. But I’m odd like that. I didn’t, however, think everyone I’ve ever met was “beautiful”

 

And I am totally okay with that. What I’d like to see, rather than a minority of society working so hard to change the majority’s opinion, is an acceptance of the differences. What I’d like to see is us embracing the other qualities of people instead of “beauty” and making it a point to exalt those qualities just as much. Every time we push this “everyone is beautiful” campaign, we reinforce the notion that beauty is the most important thing of all.

 

Why can’t we try just as hard to tear down the notion that beauty trumps all?

 

Why can’t we try just as hard to exalt other forms of attractiveness?

 

That’s what I want to see. 

Female Characters that are actual characters and not caricatures

Its a problem now, this “Strong Female Character”. Used to be, females in film (and most other media but let’s stick to film) existed only as romantic fodder or foil for the male hero. Thus the “damsel in distress”. She was two dimensional, (or worse) she was petty, she was not very bright but she was ravishingly beautiful. And I use the word “ravishingly” for a reason.

Over time, this became tiresome for people. Yes, women mostly spoke up but it can’t be ignored that men, when asked, by and large were pretty tired of having good movies ruined by vacuous caricatures that women played. If you can’t put a decent character in there, then don’t, seemed to be the overall agreement. Though most men weren’t exactly clamoring for SFC, they certainly weren’t against them. So, Hollywood responded.

It started small, with female leads not being weak – women knew self-defense. Women weren’t afraid to talk back to the hero when he was being a jerk and they proved they were smart. Women started kicking ass occasionally too. Male viewers were thrilled – women kicking butt is sexy, after all. But it wasn’t quite what was asked for. It felt like a bone being thrown – here; have some physical prowess, some brains and you don’t have to bow and scrape. But they were still weak, weak as characters.

But hold up a minute… I agree that the ratio of male to female characters is WAY off (come on, 50% of the world is female and we’re lucky to have ONE female co-lead in any story?) and I agree that the mainstream idea of “good female character” is really a comic-book version of a hero with some boobs attached and I absolutely agree that the vast majority of movies don’t pass The Bechdel Test (which isn’t the arbiter of what makes a good female character or good feminist-sympathetic movie, its just a good indicator of sad trends)
HOWEVER
I also think something else is going on… I think we are starting to have Fading Female Syndrome.
There are, in fact, many movies and more every year that rise above those problems in hollywood and break the usual expectations about female characters and feminism itself. But we can’t seem to remember them

Take Black Widow… from teh Avengers? Remember what she did? The really super cool thing she did that NOBODY else could do? You don’t remember? She was just a babe in a black vinyl suit who kicked a few butts and ran around showing her tits? Yeah, wasn’t that the same thing she did in the new Captain America movie? Yeah, run around in leather and show her tits?

Wrong.

In the Avengers, Black Widow was the only hero who managed to get Loki to reveal himself. She was the ONLY one who could mind-play better than he could. If you recall, his face was pretty shocked when he realized he’d been played too. And she DNGAF. Her neckline was no lower than Hawkeye’s. She was the person who negotiated half of what the Avengers did. She was the one Hawkeye talked to – without a shred of romance – when he came out of his brainwashing because he knew she had been through similar. As noted in the article, she was the one who closed the portal that let all the aliens in!
So in essence, Black Widow wasn’t just a SFC (although being a counter-spy, interrogator and heroine she had to be some kind of strong, they all were) she was interesting. She carried her own scenes. She added to the story. She contributed to the group dynamic. She was a real character, not a caricature. And that film probably doesn’t even pass the Bechdel test.

But let’s go back… other female characters who carry scenes, add to the story, move the plot and contribute to the group dynamic – women who are interesting characters. (and who may or may not pass the Bechdel Test)

Jane in Thor (1-3) (passes)
Giselle in Enchanted! (Passes)
Merida in Brave (passes)
Tiana in Princess and the Frog (passes)
Mulan in Mulan (doesn’t pass but given the plot that makes sense)
Maleficent (passes)
Snow White and the Huntsman (passes)
Rapunzel in Tangled (passes)
Mother Gothel in Tangled
Caroline Fry in Pitch Black (passes)
Alexa in Aliens Versus Predator (passes)
Vasquez in Aliens (passes)
Ripley in Alien (passes)
Susanna in Girl, Interrupted (passes)
“Haley” in Hard Candy (doesn’t pass – only two characters in teh whole movie- however, the main character does talk on the phone to another named female about other subjects. However it fails because that other female was never shown or heard in the movie so she is not a real character)
Juno in Juno (passes)

These women are real characters. They mean something to the movies they are in. Most of the are central characters but some of them aren’t even that. They are still important characters to the plot of the movie and if they were replaced by a man, the story would not really be the same.

These aren’t the only ones I’m sure but they are the ones I particularly remember. How many do you remember?

How many did you watch on screen, enjoy watching, in fact, because they were interesting, competent, real characters yet promptly glaze over in your memory later? I’ve heard different views on the quality of each of these films but I often wonder when I hear someone else talk about them, if the person saying so does not remember the main character like I do? Didn’t have the same visceral reaction to experiencing a real woman on-screen. A woman I could really get into, worship, love, hate, or otherwise be immersed in was up there onscreen for 2-3 hours? Did they see the same characters I did? Did it not mean anythign to them?

How often have you seen a character – especially NOT a main character – played by a female where the character wouldn’t have been the same, had the same impact, wouldn’t have nuanced the story if it were played by a man?

Going on the first linked essay.
If Trinity had been played by a man, and Neo were gay, how different, REALLY, would the Matrix storyline have been? Aside from teh whole socio-political fallout, let’s pretend society DNGAF about gay characters anymore and society even accepts that gays can fall in love and love each other just like straights do. Now does the story change?
No. Because Trinity, bless her wall-climbing heels, exists to fuel the main character to action. She provides an excuse for the villain and the strength of her character is how much she believes in the hero. If it weren’t for her belief, he wouldn’t be the man he becomes.
Nope. Wouldn’t be any different if Trinity were a man.
Because there’s no nuance to her. There’s no depth to her. She exists purely in service to the male characters entirely. And the Matrix franchise fails the Bechdel test too! Even though there’s more than two females!

So in addition to the Bechdel test, I propose the “real character test” (Or hey if it get popular, call it the smibbo test, that’d be awesome)
1. is there a female in the main cast who has unique lines?
2. does she get a scene to herself?
3. when she has a scene, does it NOT revolve around one of the main heroes? (Damsel in Distress, Fall of the ass-kicker, romancing the stone-heart etc)
4. if she were replaced by a male actor, would the story seem much different?

Now, after all that, the question I ask of you is… will you now remember that character? Or will her boobs blind you to the fact that there’s some excellent writing and acting going on right now? Will you look back and know the reason why you liked that movie was because the FEMALE CHARACTER made it what it was?

Because if the character wouldn’t be the same if it were played by a man, then why can’t you remember how very real she was?