Monday, September 20, 2004

Well-Directed Rage

Check it out: a compilation of female bloggers on the web (so the next time somebody starts up with the "where are all the women bloggers" rant, we can have an answer. WE'RE RIGHT HERE).

Also, the House has just passed a bill that restricts (even further) women's access to abortion and contraceptives (if the former doesn't scare the shit out of you, the latter better):

NEW YORK (AP) - In Congress and states nationwide, anti-abortion activists are broadening efforts to support hospitals, doctors and pharmacists who - citing moral grounds - want to opt out of services linked to abortion and emergency contraception.

A little-noticed provision cleared the House of Representatives last week that would prohibit local, state or federal authorities from requiring any institution or health care professional to provide abortions, pay for them, or make abortion-related referrals, even in cases of rape or medical emergency.

Feeling pissed off? Fill out a quite form with Naral's Pro-Choice America and get your voice heard by your local Senator (the Senate will be voting on this bill). It takes half a minute - spread the word to your buddies and get them to petition as well.

Book Fetish

Books I picked up this weekend:

Jonathan Strange and Dr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Iron Council by China Mieville

The Shape Changer's Wife by Sharon Shinn

Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body by Susan Bordo

These all will be, I expect, fucking brilliant. Unfortunately, I'm still backlogged. Currently working on finishing Nick Mamatas's Move Under Ground, which unfortunately isn't a "train book" and has to be saved for bedtime reading (ha). Reading Move Under Ground is a bit like being on drugs.

Transcending Social Mores

As is wont to happen this time of year, the birthdays are coming fast and furious here at the office. On birthday days, two dozen donuts and a coffee cake appear in our breakroom, without fail.

Today, I stared at the donuts. I stare at the donuts every time they bring them in. As I've just done another spate of reading about hungry women, women who deprive themselves, furtive attitudes toward food, the binge and purge cycle, and etc., I carefully went through my own food-obsessed thinking in weighing my decision to cut a thumb-sized piece of coffee cake from the enormous loaf looming aside the donuts.

I resolved to have this one piece, to curb any later compulsions. It was sufficiently small, I reasoned. I was hungry. I had a craving for it. There was, in fact, no good reason not to eat it. It wasn't like I was going to eat the whole loaf. I haven't had a binge eating session in almost a year.

I hid in the breakroom and did not take this carefully portioned piece of coffee cake back to my desk. I ate it standing up. I hoped no one would come in and see me. I busily poured coffee and turned my back when one of the architects came in. I furtively chewed the remainder of my stolen piece.

I returned to my desk, satiated.

And thought about women and food, and how we're not supposed to desire anything, and why is it the only women we see eating in films and TV are the ones who're supposed to be evil, psychotic, or just plain fat (which is a shorthand for so many Evils these days)?

Because good women don't eat. Good women don't get hungry. They've transcended their bodies. They're good little anorectic girls.

I rage about a society that wants me to be smaller and quieter, and here I am, feeling those pangs because I'm not smaller and quieter. Failed woman. All over again.

I'm not a stupid person. I'm in fantastic health. I'm smart.

Fuck transcending the body. My own inability to transcend social mores really pisses me off.

Demon Juice!

So my buddy Jenn says to me on Saturday night, "There's this show on the SciFi channel that the reviewers are comparing to Buffy. Apparently, it's about this woman named Lilith who's half demon who goes around fighting demons. They'll probably play with the biblical imagery. Might suck. Could be cool. Wanna watch it?"

There's a big push of shows preening themselves to "be like Buffy," now that there's absolutely nothing else even remotely like Buffy on television. Reviewers' idea of "being like Buffy" has been distilled to this formula: "Attractive young female with superpowers battles the forces of darkness."

That's about all any of these hyped-up shows ever have in common with Buffy.

So me and Jenn sit down to watch this show. Really, I should have known better. I'd submitted myself to the atrocity that was BattleStar Galactica, because the SciFi channel made a bunch of noise about the number of its female characters (women would make up about 1/3 to 1/2 of the cast), and how they were going to be so buff and cool and independent and new and different. But it turns out that having lots of female characters basically meant the audience of 14-year-old boys (assumption of audience, much?) got to watch more on-screen sex action. Since everybody knows that the only reason you pack women into a cast is cause you can have more on screen sex. For those not really interested in the sex, we got to play the "Woman... or Cyclon?" game. By the end of the series, you've discovered that you can tell the Evil female characters from the Good ones because the Evil ones have sex.

Which means that of the four "progressive" female leads, half of them are robots.

Yea, that's right. Robots. Women are robots!! HAHAAHaaha. Hell, I haven't read the women-are-really-robots story about a bazillion times, have I?

But hey, it's a Saturday night, I don't feel like leaving the house, and this shitty show comes on.

Our Heroine emerges from the thick ooze of a primordial swamp, and our Old White Man Narrator tells us that God created Lilith before Eve, but Lilith "would not lie beneath" Adam, and talked back to him (likely told him he was bad in bed), so God Cast Her Out. And, for some reason, cause she's an evil, headstrong woman who critiqued the size of Adam's penis, she goes on this millennia-long killing rampage, and appears to subsist mainly on human flesh. Mainly male flesh, actually, since she's never shown killing any women, just men and young boys. Cause, she's, you know, EVIL.

She's then tracked down in the "near future" by this band of Old White Male Priests (seriously. They're all men. I thought I saw some longer hair in one of the group scenes, but if some of the young acolytes were female, I don't know, cause we never saw their faces) who have been running after her for centuries (these are the guys who spam your e-mail accounts with penis-enlargement advertisements, which fund their serious work). She's captured, but not killed, so that the old white men can commodify her body and use it for "science," the way Sigourney Weaver is co-opted in the misogynistic monstrosity that was Alien IV (oddly enough, written by Joss Whedon, but I have my own theories about that).

Fast forward, and Lilith is Revealed as a petite, dark-haired (of course) little woman who rides a motorcycle and dresses in leather but walks around and speaks like a passive, inane, brainless child. She's living with some Old White Man (Jenn commented: "That better be her father") who turns out to be a plant from the Society of Old White Men who's been "raising" Lilith since the priests turned her out of the medical facility after taking away her memories. They hope to "tame" her (though of course they use the word, "civilize" and talk about how much they want her to show more womanly "compassion for humanity"). She's given a book by a "mysterious" person who wants to help her "regain" her past, and in that book, she reads about Bible Curses, like those Weird Birth Marks on her wrist that are the "Marks of Daggoth" - five of them - that will disappear upon Every Act of Kindness Lilith performs in the good female nurturing role. She subsequently saves a child from getting hit by a car, and one of the marks is removed.


Wait a minute.

Lilith has been alive for millenia. She obviously figured out once upon a time ago that a single act of kindness would take off the marks one by one and she would not longer be demon-cursed, so WHY DIDN'T SHE JUST PERFORM 5 PERFUNCTORY GOOD DEEDS SO SHE WOULDN'T BE CURSED?

Oh, that's right, cause then the White Men couldn't "save her", couldn't you know, remake her into a less intimidating figure.

Silly me.

While in the medical facility, her demon juice (dark light???) was extracted, and now one of the scientists injects it into himself as a cure for immortality. What he doesn't know is that too much female demon juice will turn him into a monster!!!

The white man becomes a plague-carrying demon, which, if you didn't guess, is going to be the Master Villain that Our Passive Heroine will have to face - a guy drugged up on her demon juice! He couldn't control himself! It's all her fault, because she produces demon juice! Demon juice! Fucking women and their demon juices!

OK. Sorry. I'm getting distracted.

Anyway, so Lilith is approached by the guy who initially shot her and captured her so she could be experimented on by lots of eager white male hands who doubtless took this opportunity to whip out their penises for review (she was only let go, of course, after she gave her "thumbs up" approval of the size of all members).

The guy who shot her is now to act as her "trainer" (because, obviously, after millenia fighting off men, she really needs a man to teach her how to, uh, kill stuff). As for characterization of our Trainer, he's got a brief scene with a blank-eyed blond woman, a woman who gets two whole lines that make up the only other speaking female role in the whole movie. Her lines are made up of such winning constructions as "as you know, we're not married anymore," and "as you know, our son has been dead for years." These are all delivered so that the audience jives that Our Trainer is single, and Suffering after the loss of his son, who was, of course, killed by the Evil Lilith, which encouraged Our Trainer to slaughter that evil bitch.

Once Lilith and our Trainer meet up, we have our obligatory two-minute training sequence, with music, though it appears that instead of a "learning over time" montage, in fact, she's only training to be a demon hunter for the afternoon, and the two of them take off once she's learned how to channel her powers so that she'll become a black woman when she's ready to kill.

Oh, have I not mentioned the black woman thing yet?

Of course! Her magic superpower is "darklight" so when she goes into Evil Sexual Demon Temptress mode, she turns black! Yes, that's right! A black woman, with claws! She's showing her inner bitch! Her True Nature! Everyone knows how sexually dangerous black women are, right!! (imagine if a black actress played this part, and whenever she channeled her "powers of good" she became a white woman - what kind of outrage would that have produced, I wonder?).

So our petite heroine goes out to kill the demon, and gets her ass kicked, though I'm not sure why, except that the demon's, you know, a guy, and she's, you know, a little girl (the fact that she's been fighting demons and men for millenia is, once again, not apparently a factor here. Her success or failure appears to depend solely upon how well she listens to her "trainer").

"I bet she sleeps with him," I said to Jenn. "That's the good deed that gets her curse removed. She's gotta fuck her father-figure trainer and ease his pain with her demon body. Just you wait."

Our heroine pants after her trainer like a well trained dog, (at one point, I finally said, "Why don't they just put a collar on her and stop with all the pretense?"), and then they discover the plague victims who are dying from the plague that the demon is passing onto people, and we get our first crowd shot, and yes, yes, that's right, ladies and gentlemen, there are some female plague victims in the crowd! Whooo! They're the first female faces I've seen in any crowd scene in this whole movie (Jenn insists that there was also one black guy in a scene with the swat team, a brief crowd shot. He appears to be the only brown-colored person in the whole movie). One would think that men reproduced by, you know, jerking out each other's ribs. Though that might be construed by Bible-thumpers as borderline homoerotic, so we likely weren't allowed to see all that rib-jerking on screen.

So, the only way to make a cure for the plague is to get the head of the demon, and fry it up into an antidote. The Old White Male Priests have the trainer bring Lilith back into the Priestly Lair so they can restore her memories of all the Evil she's caused. She's taken to a little room with about four panels of "in memorium" names lit from behind, because, you know, this is the future, and carving them would take too long, and put the movie over budget ("Hey, wait a minute," Jenn said, "Did they REPEAT THE NAMES? Rewind that." She rewound it, and sure enough, on the four panels of the death list we got all in one shot, it was easy to see that the names had been repeated from one master list. "Low budget," I said. Lilith was such an evil bitch, she killed a bunch of people twice).

"See all this death you caused," the Old Evil White Man says.

"I'm so ashamed," Lilith says, crying. "I'm just going to kill myself."

And the Old Evil White Man gives her a "knife" made out of "talus" (isn't that like talcum powder?) that "dates back to the Garden of Eden" and is the only material that can kill her, a cursed half-demon woman.

As she raises the knife, she is once again Saved by her trainer, who convinces her of all the good she can do in the world.

"I'm evil, I've done terrible things, I deserve to die!!!" she says. She's presumably now regained all of her bazillions of years of memories (as the whole reason they brought her in to the death lists was to "give her back her memory.")

So, upon getting her memory back, knowing that not only was she cast out of the Garden of Eden cause God made Adam bad in the sack, but now she's been medically fucked with by these old white men, who captured her, extracted her darklight, wiped away her memory, and likely did countless other unhappy things to her evil demon (read: Female) body while they all patted themselves on the back for capturing the Evil Woman who carried with her the power of the female gaze that men have been trying so hard to shut up for thousands of years.

And instead of slaughtering all of these idiot men, what does she do?

She tries to kill herself.

The fuck?

What kind of fucked-up Lilith demon is this?

Then the trainer tells her to go out and kill something, and I know exactly what kind of "action heroine" this is. It's the one who acts as a passive marionette whose strings are jerked around by men. She protects them, listens to them, doesn't talk back, does exactly as they say, and feels guilt whenever they tell her to. She's a character written, directed, and produced by men.

"You know what's really sad," Jenn said to me after Lilith pulled open a big metal door in an effort to save her now plague-stricken Trainer, "you know they pitched this as a female-empowerment movie."

I have no doubt that they did just that.

In the end, Lilith slays the evil demon with the use of some "Toxic Adhesive" (seriously) and saves everyone from the plague unleashed by the old white guys. Yet another one of her marks of Daggoth burns away, so she's only got a couple more good deeds to do before she's free of the curse. It sure is lucky that she met these white guys. She'll get rid of the curse in the course of an afternoon, now that she's got white men around to train her properly!

After all, it's not *science* that's all wrong - it's women!

Our final scene is a mutual masturbation scene between the Old White Priest and the Trainer, who congratulate one another for the fine work they've done taming Lilith into a good little housetrained terrier.

Next week, she'll be baking cookies!

Now, *that's* a fearsome, empowered female heroine!

Why don't they feed us more of this stuff? Oh, that's right, they do. Every goddamn day. And they'll keep marketing spayed women and incompetent men with penis-complexes as female-empowerment episodes.

After the "show," the SciFi channel saw it fit to further aggrevate us by showing a trailer for its next debacle, its adaptation of Earthsea.

Upon seeing Danny Glover opening up the scene, I said, "Is Ged supposed to be that old?"

"Uh," Jenn said, as the trailer spun out, full of lily-white characters frolicking in the sundrenched flora, "That's not Ged. That's the old guy who trains him."

"Huh. Wait a minute, then. Why is the rest of this preview full of white people? Isn't Isabella Rosellini's character supposed to be the only white person in the whole book?"

"Yep," Jenn said.


"You do realize now why Ellen Datlow will never buy any of your stories, even though she likes them?" Jenn said, pointing at the frolicking parade of whiteys. "She works for *these* people."


This Woman is Wacky

Does anyone else, like, seriously believe that Ann Coulter is insane? I mean, not insane in a rah-rah Bush is great way, which is fine, because there are certainly things about Republicans that half the country likes, and that's cool, cause it's a free country, but... um... why is it that the press loves this insane woman? because she's insane?

For the record, she's also equated Ronald Regan with Jesus Christ. How important is this presidential election in the larger context of the Republic and its history?

Ann Coulter: Insofar as the survival of the Republic is threatened by the election of John Kerry, I'd say 2004 is as big as it gets. Is there one standout issue, and why does it make a difference? What are the most crucial issues?

Coulter: I repeat: The survival of the Republic is threatened by the election of John Kerry. I'd say that's the big one. What would a Kerry administration mean?

Coulter: Quite possibly the destruction of the Republic.

At least she's got the research paper formula down pat: Tell them what you're going to say. Say what you're going to say. Tell them what you said.