Tuesday, May 28, 2013


So this week I went from having seen a couple of episodes of Elementary and thought "hey, pretty good" to now I'm done with 2/3 of the first season and anticipate being completely done by the end of the week.

Smarter people than I have already started to analyze how and why this show is really interestingly feminist. Not in a Buffy or Xena "girl power" kind of way that simply takes masculine aspects of power and glues them to a female character, then steps back and says "Look! Feminism! I want cookies!" but in a remarkable, organic way that reflects that the writers of this show think that this is genuinely how gender relations should work, in balanced, usually non-problematic ways.

So I'm not gonna talk about that much. What I also love is how distanced it is from the terrible trappings of other detective/mystery procedurals. Bones, CSI, Law and Order, Castle, Criminal Minds, etc. etc. etc. This is a well-mined genre and somehow this show has already found its place in the world by being so much the same just...better.

Treatment of Gender and Relationships thereof: My very first reaction upon hearing the premise of this show was dread. They were just taking the names of the most famous detective/assistant duo in history and adding a nice little heteronormative will they/won't they subplot like Moonlighting/X-Files/Bones/Castle by genderswapping Watson. They did not. Joan and Sherlock's relationship is organically fleshed out throughout this season, slowly transforming from one of hired companion/recovering addict to one of genuine friendship- and not an inch further. There's not even the slightest hint of sexual tension or romantic interest between the two of them. It's terrible that it's remarkable that two people of opposite gender can be the major leads on the TV show and NOT end up in a romantic relationship.

Treatment of Death and Gore:  CSI and especially Bones revel in the shock value of having explicit gore and mutilated corpses. They love it. Bones begins pretty much every episode with the following scene:

Two people we won't see again in the episode are doing something (going on a hike, riding bikes, volunteering to clean up a beach, whatever). They're having an argument which causes one of them to do something without really paying attention to what they're doing. This causes them to uncover a mutilated, decayed corpse which explodes or falls on them or gets flung in every direction so that they're covered in viscera. Hahahaha gore.

Elementary doesn't linger on corpses. It rarely explicitly shows the injury and the people who are murdered are generally shown briefly and then never again. There is no morgue scene where we get their naked body laid out so we can watch them cut it open: we get Joan looking over the autopsy report a bit later if it's relevant. It acknowledges the violence, then is respectful and moves away from it.

Treatment of Criminals and the Accused: Part of the core premise of Criminal Minds is "Ooh. Serial killers! Sexy interesting stories!" Elementary does not glamorize crime. Sherlock himself has a great quote when faced with a serial killer who became a major media sensation because of a profiling detective's book: “You’ve met serial murderers, they’re duller than the queen’s
jubilee.  Mouth-breathers and chronic onanists, the lot of them.” With the exception of the obvious archvillain, this is not a show interesting the mythologizing criminals and crime and often (and intelligently) takes large, convoluted cases that suggest some genius master villain and demonstrates that they're more easily explained by other means, often just by the fact that several different crimes are being incorrectly conflated into one big one.

That said, it also takes a different approach from dealing with the accused than Bones does, which is the show that I hate so much for it. People who are accused or feel like they're going to be accused get lawyers in this show. Because that's what you do. The police are confrontational, as would be natural because they're trying to get evidence, but they are not violent or cruel. Booth on Bones is often an angry, violent man who has tortured innocent people to get evidence (sometimes when they didn't even have it) and the show gives him a pass every time because he's the good guy. No one gets a free pass on Elementary- actions have consequences- but the 'good guys' rarely need it. That's why they're they good guys.

Treatment of Science and Technology: It's a minor point, but CSI and Bones have such a troubled relationship with reality that it hurts me. Elementary doesn't wrap its detective work in gadgets and terrible science. It doesn't get security footage and then "zoom, enhance, enhance, zoom, enhance". It doesn't create a GUI interface in Visual Basic, see if it can track an IP address. It respects that there are depths of science that someone like Sherlock doesn't know and that those depths? Probably really really goddamn irrelevant to solving a murder. There's a scene where Sherlock is comparing shell casings visually and the detective asks him why he's doing that, that the ballistics computers were working on it, and Sherlock just replies that the computers will take a while and the eye it a precision instrument unto itself and dammit he's completely right. A computer can do ballistics analysis, but a trained eye will be even faster. 

Now, I'm not saying Elementary is perfect. But it is so good. I'm glad it's been actually successful, because I would've been very sad if this was the procedural that died when so many other terrible ones have succeeded.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Men Boldly Going

So Felicia Day made a(spoilery) post about the lack of strong women in Star Trek Into Darkness and, oh happy coincidence, I just saw it yesterday so I can take a stand and say.

She’s totally right. Shocking. So I’m just gonna springboard that into my mostly non-spoilery take.

There are two prominent, named female characters in the movie, Uhura and Alice Eve’s character (who shall remain nameless because minor spoilers). If you guessed that they never even meet each other throughout the movie, you just win every prize ever. That’s hardly the tip of the problem though.

In the first movie, we got Uhura and Spock’s relationship thrust into the narrative. Mr. Plinkett (a reviewer who is really on target with his criticisms, but his framing device is just godawful indefensibly terrible) called this a case of the “Not Gays” pointing out that every single male character in the movie made some reference to women. The “Not Gays” were significantly reduced in this movie to just Kirk (because Kirk) and Spock, because Uhura, and I hope that’s because maybe it’s pretty inappropriate to make everyone on board the Enterprise heterosexual when you’ve got two prominent Star Trek cast members who are gay, including George Fucking Takei? Maybe that’s not cool?

Anyway, whatever. The new issue is that, if you didn’t know, Uhura never needed to have a relationship with a man to be an interesting and sympathetic character in the original series or movies. She flirted on occasion but it was not a defining characteristic of her character. In this movie? She’s all about the Spock relationship. She gets maybe one pretty decent scene divorced from the relationship, otherwise? Nope. Spock. Spock Spock Spock.

Meanwhile, in the original universe, Alice Eve’s character was a brilliant scientist, one of the best in the Federation, who stood up to Starfleet. In this one, she’s eye candy and victim. She is there to be tortured and saved and occasionally half-naked.

When you’re moving backwards from the 1970s, you really need to re-evaluate your writing.

There was one helms officer that I noticed, played by Aisha Hinds, and I thought that was fairly interesting. She was mostly relegated to the sides of the screen and had one line. The weird android guy got a close-up and more lines, while she didn’t. Bleh.

So yeah, I mean. Star Trek was created in the 1960s. It was prominently about men, especially the core trio of Spock, Kirk, and Bones. But it’s 2013 and it’s a rebooted franchise. It’s not wrong to expect more and expect better.

Anyway, as a summer blockbuster, it wasn’t a bad movie. It was better than the first movie, I think, a bit more Star Trek-y, and I did genuinely enjoy it. Just…eh. Eh.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Oh hey guys what's going on over here in Texas

Oh what's that, a judge ordered a woman to stop living with her partner or she'll lose her child because he disapproved of her "lifestyle?"

Oh okay. Thanks, Texas. Thanks for contributing.

If you're wondering how a judge could have this power, it's a morality clause as part of divorce proceedings. The intended effect of morality clause is that, if the divorce had cause that might endanger the children, the judge can put limitations on the parents' behavior in order to protect the children, e.g. one parent was an alcoholic and the judge orders that parent to stay away from alcohol and attend an AA program. Or, in this case, one parent was not terrible interested in the other's gender and clearly this is a massive danger to the wellbeing of her children.


Skyler White is a Bitch

Heck of Breaking Bad spoilers up in here, through season 4.

If you type "Skyler White" into Google, Google will immediately suggest "Skyler White hate". If you actually do the search, it comes up with a Facebook page called "I Hate Skyler White" as one of the first possible links. If you go to QuickMeme and look up Skyler White memes, they are all talking about how she's basically the worst person ever.


Because Skyler White, as the internet so lovingly asserts, is a bitch.

Skyler White didn't accept her husband's resignation toward death as acceptable because she wanted him to live. As a result, he actually overcame his lung cancer. Skyler White felt like her husband was hiding things from her. She didn't trust his mysterious 'fugue state' or that he didn't have a second cell phone. It turns out he was hiding that he was a meth cook and a murderer. She kicked him out of the house because she didn't feel safe with him around her or her family. She was ostracized by her family because they felt she was acting crazy, when they didn't know the truth. She figured out a brilliant cover story to keep Walter safe in his lies. She created the 'legitimate' side of his business to keep everyone safe.

Total bitch.

Breaking Bad is a show about men. Men who do horrible things, in the pursuit of power, of money, of pride, of revenge. Men who are irrational, violent, and murderous. And it's enormously entertaining to watch them fall into this madness, to watch them became these horrible people as they attempt to outsmart each other.

The problem with Skyler is that she's the rational antagonist. A roadblock for the entertaining men. A logical, good person in the midst of the terrible things going on around her. And that's unacceptable. She's smarter than practically everyone else on the show. She's a masterful liar and phenomenal with numbers. She sees through bullshit like no one else on the show. And unlike the men, she's willing to sacrifice her happiness, her dignity, and her pride in order to keep her family safe. She is not the protagonist of Breaking Bad, but she may well be the hero.

Meanwhile, I can't help but wonder how people would react if the roles were reversed. Skyler doing everything Walt does, Walt doing everything Skyler does. Would Walt be as universally hated on the internet? Would Skyler be a beloved anti-hero? I doubt it. Because then Skyler would be a crazy bitch all over again and Walter would be the rational man trying to fix her messes.

I don't think the reaction to Skyler is Vince Gilligan or anyone's fault involved on the show, because I actually seem perfectly capable of watching the show and finding Skyler sympathetic and fantastic 95% of the time. The show never seems to assert that she is a problem. It's the viewers, the internet, the public who are judging her and deeming her a terrible woman.

We should be so lucky to live in a world full of Skylers.

Monday, May 13, 2013

TVTVTV - Week of May 5

I just now figured I might as well write about the various TV shows I watch each week, usually in one big mass of "Gosh I have some opinions" at the end of the week when I play catch up on the TV week. And what better week to do it than...the end of a week where there was practically nothing on TV because it's the end of the season. Yaaaaaaaaay!

Community - "Advanced Introduction to Finality"

When I think about this season of Community, a show I genuinely loved and considered to be one of the smartest sitcoms in ages, I think about Men in Black. The scene near the beginning when J and K are investigating the crashed Roach ship, and the farmer's wife talks about how Edgar went out to investigate it and when he came back, he wasn't the same, like there was a thing wearing an Edgar suit.

This show is now something wearing a Community suit. And just like in the movie, the suit is gradually decaying and looking worse and worse. The season finale just highlights it so much. Paintball fight. Darkest timeline. Movie reference. Jeff Winger speech. And finally, the four season character arc of Jeff, ended with a dream sequence and an unearned attempt at emotional payoff, even though a year ago it would've been fantastic.

And somehow, it got a fifth season. Maybe that's a good thing. Maybe something new and great can pop out of the Community suit's mouth and give the show a better sendoff than what was written. Maybe it'll just be a big bug and the writers will have to step on little cockroaches of references to distract viewers from what they really wanted. No wait, hold on. The show was the big roach in this metaphor. Maybe viewers are Will Smith? I don't know what the little roaches are then. Who was Tommy Lee Jones? Maybe viewers are Tommy Lee Jones and we've been eaten by the show! That sounds right. Let's go with that metaphor.

The Mindy Project - "Frat Party"

I continue to really, really want to like this show and this show continues to be...eh. I like Mindy Kaling! I think there's a good show here somewhere. I think it's amusing enough to watch every week and not hate myself for watching (unlike some terrible, awful shows about forensic anthropologists that will not be named, but the name refers to a part of the body that forms the hard structure and okay it's Bones goddammit I hate you Bones). But every episode tends to follow a formula of: there's the Mindy plot, where she is awkward but weirdly witty and insightful and has some situation with a guy she is dating or wants to date but then it goes back and they break up or almost break up. Then there's the other doctors plot, where Morgan is wacky and the other doctors are kinda grumpy and sardonic. And then at the end someone gets in a fight.

It's always progressing in the sense that Mindy's relationships at least get to come and go and be different each time which is good, but I feel like I've waited a season for this show to progress past the stage where it can't figure out what kind of show it wants to be. I've yet to feel invested in any damn thing going on at all. I think if this show felt more like it had more of Mindy (the real person) and her perspective it'd be better, but the other characters seem to want to demand screen time when they haven't earned it. Or heck, go the other way and just have wacky Morgan hijinks and stuff. But figure it out, man.

Modern Family - "My Hero"

A decent episode of Modern Family. I'm actually struggling to come up with anything to hate or praise about it. The show is four seasons in and I don't feel like it's progressed anywhere, but I do feel like it's at least as good as it was 2 years ago. Next season might be going somewhere decent with the Claire has a job storyline that seemed to pop out of nowhere and the Haley is going to college for realz this time thing. Maybe. But we'll see. Anyhow, I can't even seem to care enough to google a picture for it. Oh well!

Bob's Burgers - Season 2 Episodes 1-5

Season 2 of Bob's Burgers got put on Netflix this week. I'm not going to individually talk about each episode while I pop the top of delicious streaming on-demand media and shotgun hours of a prime-time cartoon, but I do want to say:

This show is freaking great. I watched the first season out of boredom a few months ago and, while it was slow to get going, the second season hits the ground running and it is just brutally hilarious. I feel really bad for this show, which genuinely loves the line between absurdity and an actual touching family sitcom, because it has to air every week nestled deep in the disgusting clutches of the Seth MacFarlane crap monster. It's probably the only prime-time cartoon in a long time to honestly challenge early Simpsons in its greatness.

Also, I love Tina and Louise on this show, but Gene has been killing it so far. "Channel Six news! They'll finger anything with a pulse!"

Oh no, wait. Bob telling his kids to act like they're his kids at the security guard who wouldn't let him in the arcade without children.

"We are your kids."
"Yeah, but...really rub his face in it."

then Louise

"He had sex and then we happened. DEAL WITH IT."



Done now.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Dude, Science is Cool

Malaria. It's a jerk. And so widespread that trying to cure the infected human population is a monumental task.

So why not just cure the vector for it?

Scientists created a malaria-blocking bacterium and infected mosquitoes with it, creating a malaria-immune population of mosquitoes in 8 generations.

No need to hunt down every at-risk human population and cure or inoculate them. Just stop it at the source and let evolution and a new microflora in the vector population handle it. Science is so cool.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

My favorite MRA quote of the week

As much as we talk about patriarchy theory in here, one of the things I rarely see mentioned is how it wrecks the minds of the men who believe it. I was a good little feminist boy, and as a result I had an essential part of my identity taken away for years because I bought into an ideology that demonized every aspect of my being. All I can say is God damn it feels good to finally be a man.
-some moron on Reddit why would I bother linking this

 TL;DR: Patriarchy is bullshit; it feels so good to be a man.

I wonder why it feels so good to be man. I can't begin to imagine why that would be. If only there were some logical connections to be made here, informed by nuanced analysis of society.

Oh well!

For the record, I am not ashamed to be male. I'm pretty happy to be so! That doesn't mean I can't also rage against the entrenched societal structures that give me so, so many invisible advantages because I genuinely want to be on an equal playing field with everyone else (no exceptions) in society.

I am a happy man. I am a grumpy feminist. These things are not exclusive and don't conflict with me at all.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Internet and Free Speech

In my webcomic post, I mentioned that the webcomic world has somewhat fulfilled the promise of the internet. People have been given voices and those voices have found an audience. However, I also mention that quite a lot of the internet has not really met this goal.

In specific, I'm gonna talk about (*siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh*) Reddit. The community and its admins claim to uphold a strong ideal of free speech ont he internet. They are often the first and most vocal opponents of stuff like CISPA or SOPA, etc. They try so so very hard to defend their creepy sections like /r/jailbait and /r/creepshots under the banner of free speech.

The core problem is: Reddit doesn't have free speech by its very design. It has democratized speech. That's not free. That's called tyranny of the majority. There's a firm reason why the first amendment to the Constitution was about free speech and gives absolutely no limitations to it. There is no clause stating that you cannot be heard if the majority disagrees with you. The writers of the US Constitution understood that even in a democracy, democratized speech isn't good enough. It's still a limitation and one that should not be allowed.

Now, I'm not saying there's absolutely no good to Reddit's system. If it really existed such that straight up lies were consistently ignored, buried, and destroyed, that sounds amazing. A world where people only have to encounter things that are true? Magical. But that's not what happens. People vote based on their opinion. So the net effect is things that are true can end up buried and falsehoods end up voted higher than them. I saw an incident this last week where a dude went on a rant about how people want to bury history because they don't agree with it, citing that of course Jews have always be associated with money and profit, look the word jewel comes from Jew. Got 30 upvotes.

Yeah, every bit of it was completely wrong and utter nonsense. The root of jewel comes from the same root as joy. But enough people saw it and said "Yeah, that sounds about right." So misinformation rises to the top because of opinions.

Meanwhile, just today, someone made the statement that "Real woman have vaginas." Subsequent posts responding that "Uh, what about trans women?" not even attacking this guy, just politely pointing out that that's not a cool thing to say? Ended up about -10. Bury what you disagree with so you don't have to deal with it. That's the philosophy of democratized speech. That's the philosophy of Reddit.

These are the ideals of the internet at large. The gatekeepers promoting free speech, as long as it agrees with what the majority want to see.