Glyph is worse than some and better than others. He believes that life is just one damned thing after another, that only pop music can save us now, and that mercy is the mark of a great man (but he's just all right). Nothing he writes here should be taken as an indication that he knows anything about anything.

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146 Responses

  1. LeeEsq says:

    My theory is that partner dancing declined in popularity as pre-marital sex or at least making out become more socially acceptable. One reason why dancing was popular was that it was one of the few forms of socially allowable sexual contact before marriage. Partner dancing lasted longer in Latin America because the sexual revolution occured latter there. Some most puritanical cultures on the planet, Ultra-Orthodox Judaism, strict Protestantism, and conservative Islam ban mixed partner dancing altogether.

    Another issue is that there has always been a tension between sex and feminism that is somewhat to completely irreconciable. Part of sexism is controlling female sexuality. So obviously part of feminism should be about allowing women to control their own sexuality. Yet, freeing women to be more sexual can often lead to expressions of sexuality that are problematic because they are pleasing to men and fueling sexism. Nobody has ever really managed to square the circle on this one.Report

    • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

      More magicians would be a start.
      Women ain’t the only folks who ought to know how to peacock.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Kim says:

        Humans are strange animals. In many other criters, its the males who are supposed to trust their stuff to attract a mate. Birds are an especially noteworthy example of this but you the same thing in frogs and other animals to. In most human societies, with a couple of exceptions like 18th century Europe, it was the men who dressed in subdued conservative clothing and women who wore the colorful fashionbable aritcles.Report

    • j r in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Part of sexism is controlling female sexuality.

      That is a pretty big part of some forms of feminism, as well.Report

      • Chris in reply to j r says:

        How’s that?Report

      • j r in reply to j r says:

        Well, some forms of feminism are explicitly anti-porn/prostitution (as opposed pro-porn/sex positive forms) and that is a form of trying to exert control over female sexuality.

        Is this really controversial?Report

      • Kim in reply to j r says:

        of course it’s controversial.
        because everyone knows women don’t enjoy pornography.
        And what’s done in the sight of others isn’t the same as one’s own sexuality.

        Go ahead and cue the laugh track now.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to j r says:

        Its a bit ironic, isn’t it?

        Allowing women to control and express their own sexuality while preventing the objectification of women at the same time seems a rather Herculean task.Report

      • Chris in reply to j r says:

        Do you recall the anti-pornography and anti-prostitution arguments from such feminists?Report

      • j r in reply to j r says:

        For starters, there’s even a Wikipedia page on this issue:

        Feminism, like all social liberation movements is going to have a number of different modes of expression. Some of those modes call for maximizing freedom to the individual member of the group. And some of those modes call for solidarity or coordinating behavior across the whole group in order to reach some desired outcome; that’s a form of control.

        As Lee says, there is a tension between sexual expression and feminism. It’s not an irreconcilable tension, but it’s certainly there.Report

      • Chris in reply to j r says:

        You didn’t answer my question. I’m not denying that there are anti-pornography and anti-prostitution (and even more broadly anti-sex) feminisms. I’m asking if you know, and if possible, can summarize, the arguments feminists make against pornography and prostitution?Report

      • j r in reply to j r says:

        I just linked to a summation of some of those arguments and made the case that this is a form of control. If you disagree, that’s fine, but I’m not just being flippant here.Report

      • Chris in reply to j r says:

        I’m not being flippant, I’m asking you to explain it. Linking it is cool and all, but it doesn’t really move the conversation forward. You’re making a claim: some feminism is largely about controlling women’s bodies. For this claim to be true would require not only that those feminists be anti-pornography and anti-prostitution, but they be so for reasons that are about controlling women’s bodies. If it turned out that, instead, what they were interested in is giving women more control of their own bodies (by, say, arguing against broad sets of activities in which women are frequently, perhaps usually, maybe even always coerced and/or exploited into certain behaviors), then your claim would at the very least need some heavy qualification (like, say, that while feminists are interested in giving women more control, they’re doing so by effectively limiting their bodily control; at this point, it might be interesting if you had an alternative means to avoiding exploitation and sexual coercion).

        What you’ve done here is to just throw out a broad claim about feminism, with no defense, and no real engagement of actual feminist ideas. In other words, you’ve done what pretty much every criticism of feminism has done ever. And since you’re smarter and a better commenter than that, I figured I’d give you the opportunity to flesh it out.Report

      • j r in reply to j r says:


        A few things:

        -I’ve made no broad claims about feminism. I’ve specifically said that some forms of feminism are sex positive. Some forms of feminism are not particularly concerned with these areas at all. If I wanted to make a broad claim about feminism, I would do it. No reason for me to be coy on this issue, when everyone knows roughly where I stand.

        -Anti-porn/Anti-prostitution feminism is a real thing. I didn’t make it up.

        – What I did do is make a specific claim that seeking to prohibit prostitution and ban or censor pornography is a form of trying to control female sexuality. This is the meat of the issue:

        If it turned out that, instead, what they were interested in is giving women more control of their own bodies (by, say, arguing against broad sets of activities in which women are frequently, perhaps usually, maybe even always coerced and/or exploited into certain behaviors), then your claim would at the very least need some heavy qualification.

        And I disagree. Everyone who tries to control other people’s behavior claims to be doing it for their own good. That’s just the way controlling behavior works. You prohibit some range of activities on the argument that prohibiting those behaviors leads to the expression of some higher form of freedom and well-being. Selling your body for money is exploitative to you. Don’t do it. Watching porn erodes your ability to see other people as anything buy sexual objects. Don’t watch it. Drugs are bad for your health. Don’t do them. Even conservative anti-porn/prostitution advocates work the exploitation of women into their arguments.

        You are certainly free to agree with these positions, but they are quite clearly attempts to control other people’s behavior out of the belief that you (the proverbial you) know what’s best for them.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to j r says:

        Chris, you can take Andrea Dworkin’s argument that all heterosexual sex is essentially an act of rape as attempting to control other women’s bodies because it says that no women could willingly have sex with a man. The implication is therefore that they should not. Arguing that pornography fuels the patriarchy by objectifying women is also kind of trying to control other women’s bodies because the implication is that women who strut their stuff are aiding the enemy and are basically traitors. The Radical Feminist rejection of transwomen also represents an attempt to control other women’s bodies because they are telling transwomen that you aren’t one of us even though you have the same sort of body.

        I think its really best to take these sorts of claims with a grain of salt. A lot of the arguments originate in academia, so having to deal with the real world implications of your thoughts is not the necessary.Report

      • Kim in reply to j r says:

        would that we lived in a world where children weren’t being killed for love of sex.
        Or disappeared after their usefulness is over.Report

      • Chris in reply to j r says:

        J R, you’re now making one of two arguments, either that all people who make any argument for eliminating, curbing, or changing a particular part of behavior simply want to control people’s bodies, regardless of their stated motives, or that you have some insight into the hidden (at least from direct view) psychological states of anti-pornography/prostitution feminists, and can see that what they want is not to give women more control of their bodies, as they argue, but to control those bodies themselves.

        If you’re making the latter argument, that’s one seriously cynical and, quite frankly, absurd argument. If you’re making the latter, aren’t you the one who frequently insists that others avoid psychoanalysis and stick to what people are saying?Report

      • j r in reply to j r says:


        I’m making neither. I’m saying that attempts to control other people’s behavior are attempts to controls people’s behavior, regardless of what your stated intention is.Report

      • Chris in reply to j r says:

        Except when they’re not attempts to control people’s behavior.

        If a man is in prison, and I set him free, I haven’t “controlled his behavior” even though he may not be able to visit the yard anymore. Instead, I’ve given him control of his behavior. If a feminist calls for non-exploitative/coercive pornography, or argues that there is no such thing, he or she is not trying to control a person’s behavior by making it so that he or she can no longer be coerced or exploited into pornography.

        I’m not saying I buy those arguments, but I’m not assuming that they’re wrong to make a definitive statement without even engaging them, as you are.Report

      • greginak in reply to j r says:

        I think the anti-porn argument would be that controlling/stopping some behaviors are important and worthwhile because they have a strong negative effect on other people. They would say porn leads to harsh sexist views of women as nothing but meat to be used for sex. That hurts women who have nothing to do with porn. Sort of like stopping the noxious emissions from a chemical plant because it hurts everybody.

        I don’t completely buy the anti-porn argument but it is more then just trying to control other people, it is more about protecting most women. You can say those are two sides of the same coin, which they are. But every law/regulation can be rephrased in multiple ways, some of which make them sound ominous and controlling and others which express the harm they are trying to prevent.Report

      • j r in reply to j r says:

        Porn isn’t a prison, so your Duncan Heinz is irrelevant.

        Conservatives who favor censorship are trying to do something good as well. The people who started the Drug War were trying to do something good. In all honesty, I don’t really care what people are trying to do. I care what they do.

        You can say those are two sides of the same coin, which they are. But every law/regulation can be rephrased in multiple ways, some of which make them sound ominous and controlling and others which express the harm they are trying to prevent.

        Yes! This is exactly the point. Notice that this argument works in reverse as well.Report

      • greginak in reply to j r says:

        Yeah when you realize that most arguments can be phrased in different ways where does that get us. To me it says that just saying “they are trying to control people” isn’t’ much of an argument on its own since it doesn’t even attempt to grasp what their goals are or what they are basing that on. Everybody thinks they are trying to do good, so that is also a pointless thing to note.

        What matters is the actual argument they are making. What is the context for the control, because everybody is fine with some controlling of other peoples behavior. Every. Body. The question is what are the costs and to who, is X something that gov/whoever should be doing something about, will it work,etc.

        I don’t’ particularly think the anti-porn argument is that good. I can see how porn can lead some men to have some toxic views but those are guys prone to toxic views in the first place so the porn is really changing them, its more of a mirror on who they are. There is also that free speech thingee so people can say/watch stuff that is ugly or toxic to themselves or repellent. (insert Nickleback reference to crossover to Glyph’s post).Report

      • Chris in reply to j r says:

        I wasn’t saying that porn is a prison, but you knew that. Anyway, you’ve consistently dodged what I have said here, so I won’t belabor the point. I’ll just point out that, as I said at the beginning, you haven’t engaged with feminism at all, you’ve just waved a hand at it. Which is fine, but there’s no reason to take hand waving seriously, particularly when it’s so common where feminism is concerned.Report

      • j r in reply to j r says:

        What matters is the actual argument they are making. What is the context for the control, because everybody is fine with some controlling of other peoples behavior.

        That’s what matters to you. It matters much less to not at all to me. Not everybody is fine with controlling other people’s behavior, especially when it comes to behavior that does not actively infringe on anyone else’s rights. And that’s fine. We can agree to disagree.

        And @chris for the third time, nowhere in this thread was I ever trying to “engage with feminism.” I am making a point against a whole range of arguments that seek to proscribe other people’s behavior on the basis what can roughly be characterized as exploitation. Anti-porn/prostitution feminism just happens to be one of that range of arguments.Report

      • greginak in reply to j r says:

        Everybody is fine with controlling other peoples behavior if it infringes on them or creates significant community problems or externalities.Report

      • Damon in reply to j r says:

        “Everybody is fine with controlling other peoples behavior if it infringes on them or creates significant community problems or externalities.”

        Err, no, not everybody.Report

      • greginak in reply to j r says:

        oh for cthlulu on a crutch. So if someone has a BAC of . 3 weaving across lanes at 70 in 30 zone that is fine and dandy? It okay for some one to target shoot in the middle of a suburban neighborhood? It’s fine to dump your spare mercury in the local stream? How many more obvious examples do i need to come up with? I’m not saying “hell yeah bring on 1984” just that there are some things where 99.9% of people are just fine with controlling other peoples behavior. What i’m not going to do is try to dance around the basic phrasing. Telling someone they can keep pumping lead into the air is controlling what they can do. I’d say its warranted and a good thing, but its control.Report

      • Kim in reply to j r says:

        even those, mostly. Except they except themselves from “having to abide by laws”. Laws are for commoners, you see. And slaves, in that rarified world where slaves still stand witness to all the malfeasance that ought to have died in the middle ages, if not before.Report

      • Chris in reply to j r says:

        j r, what you were doing is what gets done so much here (Saul is the worst offender, but most of the libertarians are guilty of it at least sometimes), which is just waving at something on the “left,” perhaps to make a larger point, perhaps just to get in a dig at something on the “left” (feminism is a favorite target, but it’s not the only one), without having to defend or support the hand waving in the slightest, because most people agree with you.

        It’s very much like what libertarians used to accuse the more liberal folks here of doing, but there are one or two left-wing types here, and more than a handful of libertarians, so it’s easier to get away with it.

        It’s obnoxious, particularly since people who hand wave at things usually don’t have any more than hand waves on the subject, but whatever. Everyone has their stalking horses.Report

      • Chris in reply to j r says:

        Damon, just yesterday, I believe, you advocated “shoving” addicts into rehab. So if not everybody, at least you as well.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to j r says:

        This subthread really went off the rails from the basic premise “hey, isn’t it ironic that anti-porn feminism has a bit a same paternalism as Victorian era defenders of a woman’s ‘virtue’ – in that neither thinks we can rely on women to make decisions for themselves because men are inherently predatory creatures?”Report

      • j r in reply to j r says:


        I don’t know what to tell you, but I’m just not saying what you think I’m saying. I made a very particular point about a very particular brand of feminism. I am not trying to make some broad dismissal of feminism or leftism in general. I do my best to make my points specific and to criticize specific arguments, not dismiss whole points of view, even the ones with which I obviously disagree.

        If I am wrong in the particular claim that I’ve made, I welcome correction. Short of that, I stand behind what I’ve said.


        Why pick all those ridiculous examples when we have plenty that would perfectly demonstrate that people have different levels for tolerating other people’s behaviors and choices? For instance:

        Some people want to make prostitution illegal and throw hookers and johns in jail. Some people want to make prostitution illegal, but only prosecute johns while assigning hookers to social workers. Other people want to make prostitution legal, but regulate it and keep it contained to certain areas. And still other want to make prostitution legal, with little to no regulation.

        Or: Some people want to make drugs illegal and throw drug users in jail. Some people want to make drugs illegal, but put drug users in treatment. Other people want to make drugs legal, but heavily tax and regulate them. And still other want to make drugs legal and maintain only light regulation over them.

        Different strokes for different folks.


        I just want to say thank you.Report

      • greginak in reply to j r says:

        @jr My point was that people are fine with controlling other peoples behavior if there is a good reason. I picked obvious examples to prove what seems like an obvious point. Of course there is a huge debate about is an appropriate reason to control behavior. Yes; that is the debate. General statements about being against controlling people doesn’t directly address the issue.

        Like i’ve said i don’t’ think the anti-porn arguments are all that great, but i have spent some time thinking about them. I think people throw around some vague statements like attributing the only reason for the anti-porn types to believe what they do is wanting control.

        There is a lot of talking past each other with overly broad statements. Sort of like Kolohe’s statement. I could easily counter and say that isn’t’ if funny that people talk about states rights now but back in the day states rights was just a defense of slavery or jim crow suggesting that the only reason someone could be for states rights was being for those things. But that isn’t true, someone could be for states rights yet not for slavery or jim crow.Report

      • j r in reply to j r says:

        General statements about being against controlling people doesn’t directly address the issue.

        Maybe not for you, but for some people it really is that simple. Not sure why you want to keep trying to universalize a trait that very obviously exists across an observable spectrum. You are not accurately representing that spectrum when you try to collapse everyone into the “if there is a good reason” category.

        Some people are highly authoritarian and want to control others even when there is no reason. Some people have an extreme live-and-let-live attitude and don’t want to control others, even when there is a good reason. And lots of people exist somewhere in the middle.Report

      • Chris in reply to j r says:

        I know exactly what you’re saying, and that is doing what I said you’re doing. I know it’s not aimed at feminism generally. Must hand-waving of this genre is just specific enough to refer to something without being specific enough to really counter (see, e.g., linking to Wikipedia instead of answering quotations).Report

      • greginak in reply to j r says:

        I suppose this is where i throw out some pretty obvious examples of times when all ( okay ( 99.9%) of people are fine with actions that control what other people do. Of course i did that already.

        I’ve had a lot of these conversations where the libertarians person makes, what i’m saying it a vague statement like “don’t control other people”. I think that doesn’t really address whatever the issue is although it is something important to think about. So in these conversations there is a lot of back and forth where liberal types point out times when reg/laws have worked and end up saying something like “gah libertarians are against all regulations!” Then somewhere down thread a libertarians, like James, will say “no libertarians aren’t against all regs. Why do you keep saying that.”

        And after all these discussions i think its a completely true statement that all ( okay 99.999%) of people are fine with laws/regs that control what other people do in some cases. That kind of phrasing rubs some people the wrong way, but i dont’ think its any less true.Report

      • Damon in reply to j r says:


        Yes, I used the term “shove”. But in the context of “let’s pull these folks out of prison and shove (put) them in treatment for the addition. Frankly, since I support the legalization of drugs (actually, I reject the concept of gov’t telling me what I can do with my body), this would be a good thing. I’m sure that some of these folks in prison might not want to go to treatment..and I’d be cool with that too…they’d be free not to go…but they don’t belong in prison.

        And that comment was more focused on the medical related issues of the prison population than on a force/choice issue.Report

      • Damon in reply to j r says:

        The elite always exempt themselves..Report

      • Citizen in reply to j r says:

        There are a lot of semantic mechanisms at work here.

        1. I can see the feminism pushback against inculcating impressionable male teens with long durations of 2 Live Crew.
        2. Various porn has quantum of womanhate/womanharm.
        3. Various forms of feminism contain quantum of womanhate/womanharm.
        4. Various forms of feminism contain quantum of manhate/manharm.
        5. Various forms of malinism contain quantum of manhate/manharm.
        6. Various forms of malinism contain quantum of womanhate/womanharm.

        I think jr set the anvil on solid ground with “different modes of expression”

        Are these quantums relative and regulation solveable, or are we just looking for recognition?
        Past the point of recognition why does this -ism hold that much better solution than that -ism?Report

  2. Chris says:

    I’d just say that it’s possible to be sexy, and sell with sex, without being blatantly objectifying women, and it’s definitely possible to do it without objectifying women exclusively (or nearly so). Just ask D’Angelo:

    D’angelo – Untitled (How Does It Feel) from Kewellharry on Vimeo.

    There’s definitely a huge difference in the proportion of EDM fans who are women (I just went to about half a dozen EDM shows in a week, and there were definitely a lot of women there) and the proportion EDM artists who are women. This is perhaps true of most genres of popular music, but that’s sorta the point I suppose.Report

    • Glyph in reply to Chris says:

      Heh, I was wondering a while back if you were going to do a post on the new D’Angelo record, it seemed like it’d be up yr alley.

      I’d just say that it’s possible to be sexy, and sell with sex, without being blatantly objectifying women, and it’s definitely possible to do it without objectifying women exclusively (or nearly so).

      I agree it’s certainly possible, but even leaving aside the likelihood (low IMO, due to the factors I allude to the OP), I guess I’d question to what degree it is desirable to remove all such objectification in this particular arena.

      (Though I am interested in attempts to examine it thoughtfully, which is what I take Sherburne to be doing and what I hope to do here.)

      Given that (IMO) dance music is pretty explicitly about sex, and sex is (again IMO) about taboos and fantasies and power differentials and forbidden desires and unfettered expressions of ids, it’s nearly inevitable that you are going to get some stuff in there that is “problematic” or uncomfortable. Objectifying. Retrograde. Seedy. The “wrongness” is part of the thrill.

      Now, you can certainly shoot for equal-opportunity objectification (though she’s not exactly EDM, someone like Madonna has certainly had no problems in that arena historically; or look at Peaches/Miss Kittin and the forward gals of the electroclash thing; or the huge amount of homoerotic house tracks that still get made, and presumably always will).

      Or, you can be like that Benny Benassi video for “Satisfaction”, which I find hilarious because it seems to acknowledge the issue, and then take it straight over the top.

      But I don’t think you are ever going to take all of the “icky” stuff out; and if you did, I don’t think it would be the same. Bacchanals aren’t meant to be polite. There’s some erotic art I’ve seen that I would never share here, despite its technical excellence and (to me) beauty, because the fact of the matter is that its subjects and themes aren’t always congruent with prevailing current mores.

      I am OK with the mores; but I’m also mostly OK with the art, which falls under the realm of “fantasy”.Report

      • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

        I don’t have a problem with a healthy dose of objectification, because objectification is really a part of all sex and sexuality, but when it is only objectification of women (or almost exclusively so), or when it goes too far (e.g., female bodies without heads, as in the image accompanying Sherburne’s article), it becomes “sex for men” rather than just sex and sexuality. It becomes sex against women, even. And that’s a problem.

        It’s not an easily fixable problem, I agree, since it’s so ubiquitous and deeply embedded in our culture (and perhaps all cultures), but it’s something we can at least work on. I’m not sure what steps to take first, but there are people who think about this stuff all day.

        Oh, and I’m like a 3rd of the way through a post on new R&B with D’Angelo, Jazmine Sullivan, and Petite Noir.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        I’ve been going back and forth on the missing heads. I ALMOST feel like the flyer IS a clumsy attempt at metacommentary – the female figure is clearly computer-generated, and we are being shown the “chassis” of its skeleton as well as the torso overlaying it.

        There may also be some basic sex/death juxtaposition going on here; the implication of a sort of Miami EDM Dia de Muertos celebration.

        (I can’t believe I just put so much thought into a hideous rave flyer. They really are the worst).Report

    • Kim in reply to Chris says:

      “it’s possible to be sexy, and sell with sex, without being blatantly objectifying women”

      oh, yes, you simply need to objectify young boys.

      …thanks, Star Trek.

      (I don’t know HOW they got that past the censors).Report

  3. Jaybird says:


    Imagine two types of music:

    Societal Approval
    Does not cause imbalance to the humors
    Is better enjoyed at volumes such as “3” than “11”
    Can be enjoyed alone just as much as if you were in a crowd and recordings just as much as if you were listening live
    Not silly to imagine someone turning way down and napping during

    Societal disapproval
    Causes blood to start pumping (if not also increase production of yellow bile, black bile and phlegm are reduced in production)
    Better as part of a group, and better live (or actively DJ’ed) than part of background
    Not silly to imagine someone turning way up and humping during

    Which of these musics will draw a crowd of young adults eager to start the whole exploration thing?

    Jazz became something that old people listened to while they were doing crossword puzzles in the kitchen.

    So too will Skrillex.

    And these old people will complain about the sexualization of women that is taking place with nosecore or whatever the hell dumb music young people will be listening to.Report

    • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

      I’m just imagining someone doing a crossword puzzle with Skrillex, so that every word on the puzzle is filled out with some combination of capital A’s and capital H’s:


    • LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird says:

      Some types of music age better than others. Tom Petty seems a lot less embarrasing to watch as an old man than the Rolling Stones.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Kids today and their watching music.Report

      • Glyph in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Counterpoint: I like Tom Petty just fine, but even at his peak he’s nowhere near the Stones at their peak (approx. ’66 – ’72), when they were pretty much the best rock band ever.

        If that means The Stones embarrass themselves well into senescence, that’s a fair trade-off.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Did I ever tell you the story about how I demonstrated that “Gimme Shelter” is the greatest rock song of all time?Report

      • Glyph in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I presume that you simply pressed ‘play’. Some truths are self-evident.Report

      • Chris in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I was all set to argue against that proposition, opened up a comment window and… I got nothing. There is no counterargument.

        I think it was Ellis in Less than Zero who argued that the Stones reached rock’n’roll perfection in the 70s (and then receded from it into the 80s). It’s a good arguement.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq says:

        It’s like you guys forgot about Nickelback.Report

      • Glyph in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Who’s Nickelback?


      • Will Truman in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Among my various moments in Almost Brushing With Greatness, next to having Senator Ted Stevens ask a question about me and seeing one of the Lex Luthors from Adventures of Superboy at a resort, is having given a ride and sang with a guy who the previous week had jammed with the Rolling Stones.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to LeeEsq says:

        (And shaking hands with and being thanked by a former governor of my home state and Oliver North.) (No politics.)Report

      • Chris in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I said this to Jay the other day, but if ya’ll want to hang out with musicians, ya’ll need to come to SXSW.

        My goal is to get everyone here. If hanging with artists doesn’t entice you, then how ’bout the fact that we had free booze from 11 am to 2 am most days?Report

      • Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq says:


        Free you say???Report

      • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        one of these years, perhaps.Report

      • Chris in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Total amount I spent on booze from Sunday afternoon the first weekend until early Sunday morning the second weekend (and I had many, many drinks in that time):


      • Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Who’d you screw to make that happen, @chris ?Report

      • Glyph in reply to LeeEsq says:

        What happens in the “Skrillex, Sponsored By Red Bull Pavilion”, stays in the “Skrillex, Sponsored By Red Bull Pavilion”.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Yes, but people. So many people…Report

      • Chris in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Everywhere we went they gave us a few free drink tickets when we walked in, and then after a certain amount of time (usually a couple hours in), they just made all drinks free. Since most of the places had liquor sponsors (Tito’s, Deep Eddy, Jack Daniels, and such) as well as beer sponsors (Miller and Budweiser, so Saul wouldn’t appreciate it), that meant you could have free Jack ‘n’ Cokes or vodka and Gatorade (I’d never had that, but it was good when you’ve been out for 14 straight hours), or you could have free Miller High Life.Report

      • Glyph in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I…can’t believe vodka and Gatorade never occurred to me. That seems like it could solve some obvious problems.

        Not “diabetes”, though.Report

      • Chris in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I thought about writing up a “doing SXSW for free” post, but either it’d be really boring or no one would believe me.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I’ve read two assertions about music today. One is that Gimme Shelter is the best rock song ever; the other is that Under Pressure has the best bassline in popular music history. I have clearly slipped into an alternate time stream, because where I come from there’s a band called The Who that played a song called My Generation.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq says:

        The line for “Greatest Rock Album” is over there and Quadrophenia is on the list! But I don’t see The Who’s debut album anywhere here…Report

      • Glyph in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I won’t say that “Under Pressure” has the best bassline in pop history (knowing me, and I do, I’d probably hand that honor to something Peter Hook did, or Sting, or Geddy Lee, or Bootsy Collins, or…) – but it IS the best duet in pop history.

        And that’s a stone-cold fact.Report

      • Chris in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Again, obviously.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Pop history, maybe (though back home we had these guys called the Everly Brothers…)

        But it’s not a patch on

      • Mike Schilling in reply to LeeEsq says:

        In 1964, an album was a hit single or two plus some filler. The Beatles changed that pretty much all by themselves.

        Anyway, when did we start talking about albums?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq says:

        We did that when someone felt bad that we weren’t talking about The Who in any given discussion of the greatest rock song. It was an attempt to bring them into the fold.Report

      • Chris in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Also, the greatest bass line in pop music history is actually in “Ice Ice Baby,” which is not the same bass line, as explained here:

      • Glyph in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Vanilla Ice will be hearing from Marvin Gaye’s family’s lawyers, just on general principle.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq says:

        If I were going to run with a bass line, I’d probably have to step aside for Bootzilla. Who could compare? Les Claypool on his best day might keep up if Bootsy had the flu…Report

      • Glyph in reply to LeeEsq says:

        @jaybird – well, you run into two related things here. One is the difference between best bassist, and best bassline.

        By any reasonable measure, Flea is a far more accomplished bassist than, say, Adam Clayton or Kim Deal.

        But I’d vote for the bassline from “With or Without You” or “Gigantic” over anything Flea ever did, because those other basslines, relatively simple as they are, are completely iconic – they ARE the song.

        Which is the second thing – does “best” mean “hardest to play”, or does it mean “catchiest”, or “most original”, or does it mean a combination, or some other quality?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq says:

        What is the unit we use to measure funk?

        That said, we could distinguish between best song, best line, and best 5 second sample. If we’re willing to go with the best sample, I’d say that the little line from Average White Band’s “Person to Person” belongs in there even though, otherwise, I’m probably the only person to mention that band since Bush was president. Herbert Walker Bush. (No politics.)

        Best line? We’d probably have to go to Motown and dig through a whole host of records related either to Quincy Jones or to someone with the last name “Jackson”. (Though there’s a crazy person in the back of my head screaming something about Peter Gabriel’s bassist during the So era.)

        Best bass song?

        This isn’t like picking a best rock song. There’s no obvious song that you could pick that would be above everything else. (“Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow” is first to come to mind but I understand how that’s an acquired taste and do they even make LSD anymore?)Report

      • greginak in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Funk is measured in Shafts. One Shaft is equivalent to the amount of funk in the song Shaft. Most songs, even those that try to be funky, only reach into the micro-shaft region.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to LeeEsq says:

        “What is the unit we use to measure funk?”

        Probably, of all things, the Clinton (Cn) – in SI units. An older measurement is the Brown (Brn), but is still widely used.Report

      • Glyph in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I guess I’d question whether “funky” is the only metric we can use here. Peter Hook is the polar opposite of “funky”; yet he came up with basically a new way to play the instrument, re-situating its place in the song and inspiring legions of imitators. He’s like the Roger McGuinn of bass guitar (is Roger McGuinn “funky”? No way. Is he great? Unquestionably.)Report

      • aaron david in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I have a few albums where Bootsy is relegated to rhythm guitar, and this fellow is on bass:

        And Gabriel s bassist from that period is Tony LevinReport

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

      recordings just as much as if you were listening live

      To me, this means they sound the same, which applies more to music that comes out of loudspeakers both places than music that comes out of loudspeakers one place but musical instruments the other.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        I’m an introvert so I’m not speaking from experience here but I’ve heard that it’s seriously different to be part of a howling mob listening to any given song than it is to listen to that exact same song in the privacy of one’s own basement.

        Like, different better. Not different worse.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Well, if your idea of “listening” involves howling …Report

      • Kim in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        That’s only if people getting notes wrong doesn’t make you grind your teeth.
        “But you havent’ heard the song before!”
        “doesn’t matter, I can still tell when they get the notes wrong.”Report

  4. j r says:

    This is an interesting topic. I’ll start with admission that I have always pretty much have viewed EDM as goofy sounds for people who don’t have rhythm to jump up and down to while wearing not much clothing, shaking glow in the dark baubles, and taking drugs. I like some electronic-ish music, but tend towards the ambient chill out and listen to side of things. If I want to dance, I’m going for hip-hop, R&B, funk, etc.

    So, I’ve always just thought of EDM as broadly Eurotrash music. In other words, I’ve always associated it with this sort of exploitative behavior. Is this new? If I’m reading @glyph correctly, he sees this partly as a function of expanding an existing hedonistic scene to include lots of straight men and women. And if that’s the case, then isn’t the hedonism part of the reason that all these straight men and women showed up in the first place?

    Ready to be educated on this topic.Report

    • Glyph in reply to j r says:

      Well, I should preface my comment by saying I don’t listen to a lot of what is played at EDM festivals today (nor attend them), and I wasn’t a huge raver back in the day either.

      But I’ve been clubbing and listening to electronic-based music of one kind or another for a little over two decades now, and I am basing my observations on that.

      EDM (is) goofy sounds for people who don’t have rhythm to jump up and down to while wearing not much clothing, shaking glow in the dark baubles, and taking drugs.

      You say that like it’s a bad thing. It sounds like a ton of fun to me!

      That said, “goofy sounds” is an epithet you could throw at, say, the bloops and bleeps of Kraftwerk, who are like the Robert Johnsons of this whole scene (and whom I love dearly).

      I’ve always associated it with this sort of exploitative behavior. Is this new?

      IMO, no, which is where I gently dissent from Sherburne. I’ve seen a My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult video or two in my time.Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to Glyph says:

        If an electronic music festival calls itself an “EDM festival” you’re well off missing it. Buncha bro-step – “dubstep” by people like Skrillex who’ve never listened to any dub music.Report

      • j r in reply to Glyph says:


        With my present understanding, I share your dissent. I think about it this way:

        Let’s say that there is a place called EDM Festival Land that goes from being an underground spot frequented by outsiders and misfits to a big popular mainstream playground known far and wide for good music, frantic dancing, fun drugs and scantily clad bodies on display and rubbing against each other. For the sake of the argument, let’s call the first two activities “good clean fun” and the latter two, “exploitation.”

        In getting popular, EDM Festival Land starts to attract all sorts of newcomers. Some of those people are coming for the good clean fun; let’s call them Group A. And some of those people are coming for the exploitation; that’s Group B. Obviously, the people in Group B don’t share Sherburne’s objections. So, the exploitative behavior is only a problem to the extent that the people in Group A are being subjected to it in unwanted doses.

        If it turns out that Group A is small-to-non-existent or that Group A is perfectly able to enjoy the good clean fun without being bothered by the exploitation, then what Sherburne is describing is not much of a problem… unless of course, as per the conversation above, you are of the opinion that exploitative behavior is always a problem, even when the participants are there exploiting and being exploited of their own volition.Report

  5. Tod Kelly says:

    Who keeps putting this in OTC?Report

  6. Glyph says:

    Woo-hoo! I finally broke 100 comments on a post!

    No one commented on the fact that I essentially did with my title, what the piece is sort of about.

    I strongly suspect these two facts may be related. 😉Report

  7. veronica d says:

    A big part of this is a sense of agency for women, which underlays many similar cultural critiques. It’s not that the women are sexy — after all, I wish I was super sexy and the women in the media I enjoy tend to be sexy as fuck.

    It’s about what that woman is doing. What does she want?

    I mean, perhaps half-body-half-skeleton girl is actually a sorceress whose latest spell went awry, and now she is shambling forth to consume the bodies of five (cuz five!) hapless men, to regain her form.

    That would be kinda cool. I bet Buffy could kick her ass.

    But actually no. Cuz actually most dudes have pretty much zero creativity when it comes to women. They want them sexy and passive — in fact in a state of blank submission — cuz that seems to turn dudes on.

    Which fine. Actually, I get it. That is really sexy.

    (Speaking as a subby little slut-girl myself. Mmmmmm.)

    But when that is all we see — well what the heck, dudes? Is this all you want from women? That’s kinda shallow.

    Which is why it’s good to have more women creators in the mix. It’s not that we gals don’t like sexy. Heck yeah we like sexy. Bring it! It’s that we understand — on more than a pro forma pretend to agree but actually change nothing sense — that women have cool brains and we want cool stuff, besides being a dreamgirl for some sadsack man who offers little but the empty vessel of his sad boring little life. (I’m looking at you, Scott Pilgrim fans.)

    The core of narrative is people who want stuff and do stuff to get it. What do these women want?

    You realize an advertisement tells a story, right? These stories suck.

    Do better.Report

    • Glyph in reply to veronica d says:

      @veronica-d – women have cool brains and we want cool stuff, besides being a dreamgirl for some sadsack man who offers little but the empty vessel of his sad boring little life. (I’m looking at you, Scott Pilgrim fans.)

      Speaking as a fan of both Buffy AND Scott Pilgrim, I’m not sure how this shorthand dig is meant to be read – whether it’s about the comic (which is about how Scott eventually grows up and realizes that Ramona is a real person with a real history that both he and she must come to grips with, not simply an attractive blank slate upon which to project his adolescent fantasies, as well as coming to realize that he has been the same crappy type of person as all her exes; so THAT doesn’t seem like the right interpretation); or about SP‘s fans (who I was unaware came in only one invariably-male, female-agency-ignoring flavor – also, they probably wear fedoras).

      Can you elaborate?Report

      • veronica d in reply to Glyph says:

        @glyph — First, I’ve only seen the movie. So if the comic is totes different, then the comic is totes different. Fine. Second, read this.

        Okay first, Starlingsongs speaks her mind, doesn’t pull punches. I like that. You might not. Also she is a lesbian, so we can expect her to want to see the f/f shipping rather than the m/f. Fine. But I still like her points. I still agree that Scott is pretty boring and Ramona is pretty awesome, and a version of this story written by a cool, badass girl, which expressed her own hopes and dreams — well the gal in the story wouldn’t end up with Scott. And the shit Scott learns on his way is kinda banal.

        Which, author-insertion is usually pretty obvious and is usually considered a creative flaw.

        Unless you are very much like the author, of course. Unless you can easily insert yourself.

        Wish fulfillment is fine. But women have wishes also, and I don’t believe for one sketch of Planck’s time that that girl would end up with that guy.

        Sorry dudes, Ramona’s gotta fly!

        Where is my wish fulfillment? Where are the amazing people I’d like to date?

        I guess Twilight fits the bill for a class of young women, but not for me. And saying, well this is Twilight for dudes — well yeah, that’s my point! Bella is a fucking cipher. Scott is the same.


        I have no idea what sorts of hats the fans of Scott Pilgrim wear. Is that relevant?Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Glyph says:

        I don’t believe that’s true. Scott had plenty to offer Ramona, although he was a work in progress (and so was she, although we see things mainly from Scott’s perspective and the point of the movie is him getting her off the pedestal and accepting her as an actual person, so she is somewhat idealized earlier on). Scott was funny and cute (evidenced by the fact he is played by Michael Cera, who may be a bit geeky-looking but there are women who like that), he plays in a band, and they had some common interests and some chemistry. Plus one of Ramona’s exes was dating one of Scott’s exes so it’s clear that they were in similar social circles.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        Actually, I thought the movie was fairly faithful to the comic, if overlong (I would have trimmed a few evil exes).

        And I am not trying to make the comic out to be deep literature, when what it mostly is, is a fun riff on videogame and anime/manga cliches with lots of silly jokes and crazy kung-fu fighting.

        That said, this:

        Scott is pretty boring and Ramona is pretty awesome, and a version of this story written by a cool, badass girl, which expressed her own hopes and dreams — well the gal in the story wouldn’t end up with Scott. And the shit Scott learns on his way is kinda banal.

        Which, author-insertion is usually pretty obvious and is usually considered a creative flaw.

        Unless you are very much like the author, of course. Unless you can easily insert yourself.

        Well, yeah. That’s sort of the point. Scott is callow, and self-centered, and emotionally-stunted, and in many ways deeply-deluded. As many boys (many people) his age are. His realizations may be banal, but they are realizations that many boys (many people) must learn, as they navigate that particular stage of life. And I have no doubt the author was drawing on his own experiences, and that it resonates with people because they have been (or are being) That Guy.

        I agree this would be a flawed story worthy of criticism if the author implied that this was the best way for Scott to be, that Scott is in the right, that Scott need not change – but that is not the story told, at all. It’s narratively tricky to have your protagonist be flawed, and show that by showing, clearly, that the girls around him are real people with inner lives that Scott callously disregards.

        Which, IMO, the comic does very well – it’s a type of “unreliable narrator” (really “protagonist”, in this case) story, where we can clearly see what Scott does not (until later) – and if you told the story from the girls’ POV, then it wouldn’t be a story about him anymore.

        It’s completely fine to say that SP didn’t tell the story that you wanted to hear.

        But that doesn’t make the story SP IS telling any less valid or “true” for what it is – in fact I’d argue that it’s exactly the kind of story that the largely-young-male audiences of manga/anime/comics/videogames need to hear. “Grow the eff up and stop treating people as ‘achievements’ to be unlocked/won.”

        I’d love to read a female-POV-centric version of SP too; but the way to do that is not really to tear down SP just because it’s not exactly the story you wanted, but is rather to *create the female-POV-centric version of SP* that IS the story you want.

        [An aside, pertaining strictly to the film – possibly it’s Michael Cera that’s “boring”. It’s too bad that Topher Grace was too old for the role.]Report

      • veronica d in reply to Glyph says:

        @glyph — None of that really contradicts my point. In fact, I think it actually supports me. It is this: The problem is not that Scott is a boring, stunted person. Indeed, many people his age are (I suppose), and surely such is a character worth writing about.

        And indeed Ramona is also worth writing about.

        But thing is, they don’t really belong together in the story as written, since that girl would have nothing to do with that guy.

        Well, except in his dreams, and the dreams of the men watching. I get that. (I mean, I think she’s pretty fucking HAWT. So yeah. I too can dream.)

        The thing is, she’s there as a token, an object, and whatever “character” she portrays is not fully realized, cuz the author cannot get into the mind of a woman like that. Instead he is in the mind of every dude who has no real idea of the inner life of a woman like that, but who wishes he could have her. The movie is wish fulfillment, and she is the radioactive spider bite that gives him powers or the actually-no-effort training montage that propels him from chump to champ.

        But unlike the spider bite or the training montage, she is purported to be a person, in fact a woman.

        I like movies with women who are fully realized, who make sense as characters. (And for the record, I like my men the same.)

        You can say, “It’s just a dumb movie about video games,” but that concedes the point. It is indeed a dumb movie. Likewise, if Cera falls short — and I’ve liked him well enough in other roles — then that again concedes the point. I am judging the movie that was, not the movie that could have been.


        Contrast with Buffy, another silly and fun show. I find all of Buffy’s boyfriends believable, at least within the boundaries of suspension of disbelief needed to watch a show about a teen girl who fights vampires. But yeah, Angel makes sense. All of them do. I can see why they like her. I can see why she likes them. Likewise, Willow and Oz made sense, and Willow and Tara (sort of; long conversation).

        However, Cordelia and Xander seemed contrived. It’s not that I don’t believe they could ever fall for each other. In fact, I’m certain they could. But they didn’t sell it in the script. It was clumsy.

        Xander and Anya, on the other hand, was entirely believable.


        Anyway, to some degree this is simply about good writing. (Most of) the writing in Buffy was pretty good — if on occasion maudlin. But the relationships were believable. Scott Pilgrim was not. The relationship was contrived.

        But back to my original point, these advertisements with hot but empty women — bad storytelling.Report

      • Alan Scott in reply to Glyph says:

        @glyph , while the movie was faithful to the comic in theme and tone, it’s creators made a number of choices in adapting the book that significantly flattened some of the characters. In particular, I think the portrayal of Roxie in the movie was very poorly handled, and i think the portrayal of the Katayanagi twins was straight-up racist.

        @veronica-d , the secret is that Ramona is actually just as boring as Scott. Both characters are superficially cool (Scott plays the Bass! Ramona dyes her hair! Scott is the best fighter in Montreal! Ramona can take shortcuts through hyperspace!) and yet they have no real initiative. They both just use the people in their lives and leave behind a string of evil exes. Hell, in a lot of cases, they’re the same evil exes: The one they dated in gradeschool and then quickly dumped, the one that turned into a famous jerk after they broke up, the same-sex one that would have been the closest thing they had to a healthy staple relationship if they weren’t straight, and so forth.

        If this story was being told from Ramona’s point of view, we’d be talking about how she was stunted and shallow and that Scott was to good for her.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        @veronica-d – it seems like we are mostly talking past one another at this point, so we may have to agree to disagree.

        Part of the problem here IMO is simply one of medium – the “edition” of SP that I am primarily arguing from is six volumes of comics, yours the film – and there is simply no satisfying way to compare the depth of characterization that possibly occurs in a long-running series to a 2-and-change-hour movie; bringing it up against BtVS (which ran for 7, or 6.5 anyway, seasons – and that’s not counting Angel or comics or the original movie) puts them even farther apart. This is one reason I find a good TV series so much more satisfying than even most of the best movies now; there’s an ability to layer and explore and revisit characters over time that most movies just don’t have the time luxury of doing.

        (Interestingly, we may have SOME common ground – had the SP filmmakers trimmed down the number of evil exes like I thought they should’ve – because as fun as they mostly were, it got exhausting and repetitive to me – they might have had more script/screen time to shade in the girls and Scott.)

        (Also, I don’t HATE Michael Cera, and that’s part of the problem – he’s always just too milquetoast. Scott needed even-more-unflattering shades of selfishness and meanness also, and someone like Topher Grace has shown he can do those).Report

      • Kim in reply to Glyph says:

        Have you read Oddman 11?
        I think that does pretty much give the girl’s side of this… sorta. (or is it just genderflipped?)
        At any rate, it’s Doumei’s trademark hair-brained crazy, so it’s still a fun read, even if you don’t go for this sort of “romance”.Report

      • Alan Scott in reply to Glyph says:

        And @veronica-d , to further tangent this tangent, I think the Xander/Cordelia relationship is a fascinating case study.

        See, to me, the relationship felt believable in that that it made sense for the characters as I understood them and there was chemistry. Only… as much as it made sense for the characters in terms of their personalities, it didn’t make sense for the characters in terms of the setting.

        As soon as Xander and Cordy started making out, I suddenly stopped believing that they were high school students. That sort of “You’re a jerk, let’s f**k” relationship just doesn’t seem like something high-school students would ever do. That’s the point at which it became super obvious that Nicholas Brendan and Charisma Carpenter were almost thirty.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        @alan-scott – to be fair, they never have sex, they just make out a lot – Xander loses his virginity to Faith later, in “The Zeppo”.

        But well, yeah…the actors were in no way high school kids.Report

      • Kim in reply to Glyph says:

        *eyeroll* you’d be surprised what teens get up to…
        actually, I hope you’d be surprised.
        Kids are diabolical little beasts, and turning into teens just makes it worse.Report

      • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

        Teens! I’m so glad none of us ever were teens, so that we have no idea what goes on with them.Report

      • Kim in reply to Glyph says:

        yes, I’ll have you know that I was a right proper bookworm, and had the good sense not to get into any situations, compromising or otherwise (that reputation made for quite a good scandal at Prom, but nothing happened that night).

        I’m sure you were a rapscallion or something like that, but I frankly wasn’t.

        Now, I like to think I’ve learned more than a little bit in the years hence and past, but…Report

      • veronica d in reply to Glyph says:

        @alan-scott — I actually quite like how they develop both Xander and Cordelia, especially in the later seasons. That said, yeah, the beginning of their relationship was really hack.

        Which is to bad, cuz both characters are really good, and Xander certainly had what it takes to be an amazing man, and Cordelia really did have depth down there, waiting to come out, and thus they both “had it in them” to get together —

        Setting aside the Xander cheating thing. I cheated at his age. I don’t judge.

        (The girl I cheated on found out and dumped me, which makes me sad, but also makes me admire her. She set boundaries. She was strong. I was not ready for a woman like her.)

        — Anyway. Yeah they both had it in them to be amazing together, but the writers didn’t sell it at all. Which is a pity.


        On the other hand, Anya is like literally the coolest person in the history of people. So there’s that. I found Xander’s behavior toward her sad but believable.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        Xander is a character that they never really knew how to develop, IMO, and he became mostly superfluous as the show went on in later years. I still liked him, because the actor was so good (shame he’s had so many problems IRL), and certainly could usually identify with him somewhat (until he jilted Anya that is), but he was far more interesting and relatable in the early going, when his motivations were a mixture of love for Buffy, jealousy of Angel, and actually doing the “right” thing no matter how hard – that scene when he chooses not to tell Buffy about Willow’s imminent attempt at a soul-restoring spell (which many viewers never forgave him for) can be read as either simple jealousy and selfishness (he never liked or trusted Angel anyway, even barring his feelings for Buffy), or a desire to protect Buffy by not giving her potentially-distracting info right before she walks into a battle which might cause her to hesitate in that battle for even a split-second and get herself – and not trivially, the whole world too – killed).Report

      • veronica d in reply to Glyph says:

        @glyph — I think with Xander, they had spent so many seasons make him not simply funny — which it’s cool to be funny — but instead the butt of the joke.

        And this is a tough place for anyone, but I think it’s a particularly tough place for men. In our culture, it seem really hard for a man to find his dignity when he’s a constant target of mockery, and in Xander’s case, not just from the jocks, where we nerdy viewers would be boundlessly sympathetic — who here was not bullied by jocks? — but also from the writers of the show.

        That said, I still like him. He was infinitely relatable. But still, you are correct. They didn’t do him justice.

        (And sure, “The Zeppo” hung a lampshade on all of this, but it didn’t really fix it.)


        Neat concept: there is this tabletop RPG “Primetime Adventures,” which is meant to give an RPG structure to play out “one hour TV dramas” such as Buffy. Anyway, each play session is meant to map to an “episode,” and each episode has a “spotlight character,” which rotates among all the player-characters in the group. When it’s your “spotlight” time, your character gets some extra beanies in the game, plus there as an agreement that this is (in a sense) your episode, to put you up front.

        Xander seldom got spotlight episodes, and when he did it was stuff like “The Zeppo” (or the other one with his love spell gone awry). It wasn’t enough.Report

  8. veronica d says:

    @alan-scott — Honestly, it seems pretty disingenuous to say they are equally “cool,” or in your case equally uncool. Cuz they obviously are not. Like, playing bass guitar is cool enough. Having LITERAL SUPERPOWERS is cooler.

    My g/f plays guitar, and actually she’s pretty good and maybe she’ll become famous or something and then I could tell people I dated her — which fine, I’m shallow.

    Anyway, if she came around and said, “Hey, I can shortcut through hyperspace. Here, let me show you.”

    I mean seriously! Her cool factor would rise muchly. THIS WOULD CHANGE THINGS!

    I assume we could become a super duo, with my mad math skills figuring out the contours of hyperspace —

    “She’s a hyperspace-hopping tranny with a troubled past, she’s a math genius with the soul of a long-dead demoness of love. They Fight Crime!

    (I may be exaggerating my own demon-soulness.)

    Anyway, point is, Ramona is waaaaay cooler than Scott.

    Plus look, you kinda left out literally the most important thing: Ramona is hot as fuck.

    In fact, she’s just that kind of hot, the quirky hot that get’s under the skin of geeks. She’s pretty, but that weird kinda antisocial pretty that maybe means she’ll date me (in the mind of the nerd) and not the popular guys who always get the girl.

    In my experience it never works that way. Girls that hot, regardless of how quirky, generally end up with folks out of my league.

    (The secret: get into a better league.)

    Look, it is obvious who wrote this, as in, what kind of person. We have the homeboy nerd — and sure he’s in a band, but no one doubts his social status; he’s dopey and dating a high school girl — and then we have the UTTERLY HOT GIRL from NYC, who has LITERAL SUPERPOWERS (caps lock do not do this justice), and they meet.

    And you can say, “Oh but it makes sense cuz…” followed by stuff. But the reality is that is makes sense cuz nerds got dreams. And they like them spoon fed. And it doesn’t really matter how preposterous they are, cuz it feels good to win.

    Which, fine. I get it. Actually I have nothing against the nerd-gets-the-girl in principle. It can be a fun tale. But I have to believe that she would fall for him.

    Plus there is nothing superficial about brilliantly gorgeous hair.Report

    • veronica d in reply to veronica d says:

      I don’t know why this didn’t thread right.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to veronica d says:

      Am I the only person who thinks that the Ramona in the movie isn’t actually the Ramona in the movie? That Ramona as we see her is Ramona as he sees her, which is in a somewhat idealized form, who dated an honest to gawd movie star and not some guy that actually just had a ten minute appearance as a witness on Law & Order but in Scott’s mind he’s practically a movie star?

      When I see Ramona, I don’t see a character as she exists (even within the movie) but as Scott sees her… as I saw a particular ex when I first met her. And her exes were more than they were because of my insecurities. And of course her character is going to be way hotter than mine, because that is the fog of that sort of love.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Will Truman says:

        It certainly tracks with my take that Scott is expressly meant to be an unreliable “narrator” (even though he’s not technically narrating, we still see things through the protagonist’s eyes).Report

    • Alan Scott in reply to veronica d says:

      On literal superpowers: Scott Pilgrim can jump thirty feet into the air and punch guys into the next province. It’s not hyperspace, but it ain’t nothing.

      On attractiveness, this:

      In fact, she’s just that kind of hot, the quirky hot that get’s under the skin of geeks. She’s pretty, but that weird kinda antisocial pretty that maybe means she’ll date me (in the mind of the nerd) and not the popular guys who always get the girl.

      Pretty much describes Scott Pilgrim once you switch the pronouns around. She is hot because the story is told from Scott’s POV, and Scott sees her as hot. Consider this, for a moment: Ramona Flowers is among the least conventionally attractive female characters in the film.Report

      • Chris in reply to Alan Scott says:

        It seems to me that the fact that y’all have thought it through this much entirely negates the jab that started this whole conversation.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Alan Scott says:

        @chris – Well, maybe not entirely. For one, Will, Alan and I may be atypical audience members. If 99% of the audience is taking an entirely-different message from the work than we are, then…

        Also, while I think @veronica-d may be off on this particular example, I don’t necessarily think her broader point as I understand it – that a lot of media wish-fulfillingly presents improbably-beautiful and accomplished women as little more than cipher-rewards for schlubby, boring and frankly undeserving guys – is all that shaky.

        The problem comes in choosing this particular example – The Bechdel Test doesn’t really indicate anything about any particular movie, because maybe a particular movie is expressly about the way men relate to each other in the absence of women. But it indicates something in aggregate: that certain types of stories or tropes aren’t getting used at all, while others get used all the time.

        Likewise, from the op-ed that prompted this post, the Skrillex e-flyer on its own may have no real meaning, but in the aggregate…personally, I’d condemn that flyer (and so many more like it) on grounds of aesthetic hideousness alone, questionable representations of women be damned.

        There’s no denying that there have historically been very few female DJs/producers/musicians (though there are plenty of singers and performers) in the electronic music scene. Granted that I’m not as plugged in as I once was, or was ever the expert, but if you asked me to name some acts where a female is considered the primary driving force, off the top of my head, I’ve got:

        Miss Kittin
        Chicks on Speed
        Andrea Parker
        Ellen Allien
        Mary Anne Hobbs
        Laurel Halo
        Delia Derbyshire
        Wendy Carlos
        Laurie Anderson

        …and I’m out.

        Like I said, I am sure I am missing some, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all to find the m/f ratio is even more skewed in this arena than it is in other music genres.Report

      • Chris in reply to Alan Scott says:

        Oh I agree with you and with her larger point. And I’m quite certain that the three of you are atypical viewers (I haven’t seen the movie or read the comics, in fact I didn’t even know there were comics), but I’d bet that you’re not all that atypical among the comic readers. That is, more than a few of the comic readers are going to put a bit of time into thinking about it. The movie viewers, maybe not.

        Maya Jane Coles
        DJ Heather (going old school)
        DJ Storm
        Miss Kitten
        Reid Speed

        Both of those are pretty firmly within the bro, if not the bro-step, movement in EDM of the last 5-10 years, but both by women, suggesting that the music might not be the gendered part (and seriously, if you go to an EDM show, the number of women at the show makes this fact almost undeniable). Kito, is actually part of Diplo’s stable of artists.

        The problem with masculinity in EDM culture, like in video games, is with the bros, not the music they listen to (though video games do have the visuals as part of the content, while music doesn’t necessarily). It’s the ephemera, the posters, album covers, videos, and such.Report

      • Kim in reply to Alan Scott says:

        If you’re going to do “unreliable narration” the “boring way” you might as well let the worm turn a bit.
        …. you know, like School Days.
        “wait, you want to date the type of girl who Falls In Love with the guy staring creepily at her on the train??” (and yes, there are a lot of Japanese wankers like this).Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Alan Scott says:

        I like Glyph’s Bechdel analogy. Seems like there is a pretty good case that Pilgrim is a brick on the Problem Wall while being, by itself, just a brick.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Alan Scott says:

        @will-truman – I’m still not sure I am ready to concede SP as a brick at all; but my disagreement over SP specifically, shouldn’t be taken as an argument that there *aren’t* bricks and a wall.Report

      • veronica d in reply to Alan Scott says:

        One should avoid applying the Bechdel Test to make judgements of individual films. After all, virtually every piece of horrible male-gaze-oriented girl-on-girl porn passes the Bechdel Test.

        It was always meant to be understood in aggregate. So naturally everyone started saying, “Oh but does it pass the Bechdel Test?” in evaluating each individual film.

        Blah. Everything is terrible.

        (I haven’t really looked, but I expect we’ll see Hollywood making films that trivially pass the Bechdel Test, but without any meaningful change to content, just cuz people follow incentives and you get what you measure.

        Empty gestures does not a social justice make.)Report

    • veronica d in reply to veronica d says:

      Thing is, if we say “It’s an unreliable narrator and thus…”, we’ve kinda justified a lot we might not want to. For example, if your protagonist is sufficiently racist, does a racist presentation become above critique? That seems like a strange outcome.

      Not that I am saying Pilgrim is so bad, but he is kind of a boring dude, with a few volume knobs turned up in implausible ways. And yeah, that’s the point. I get that. But saying, “This is how he sees Ramona” means that we get exactly the banal view of women that movies like this have all the time anyway, meaning he is unreliable in a perfectly typical way.

      But more, if we say, “The narrator sees women as flat characters, so I can write flat characters,” or “The narrator only perceives cliches and tropes and predictable plots, thus my plot can suck” — well we’ve just elevated every crappy piece of fanfic ever written.

      Yay! Or not yay. Something.

      It doesn’t work. Regardless of Pilgrim’s viewpoint, Flowers is a flat character with no inner life. She is a token for the boy. Saying he’s unreliable only pushes back the question: why did filmmakers choose that he be just this unreliable and just this way?

      The answer is indistinguishable from “They like writing flat female characters.”

      Which, duh.

      An unreliable narrator is an advanced technique, rich with subtext. The audience must see this subtext. Furthermore, they must see it in ways the character does not. For example, in To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout lacks the perspective to know that her Father is accusing Bob Ewell of raping his own daughter. But the audience, with its adult knowledge of sex and power, along with a sense of American racial history, can see this very well. This is deep texture. You have the contrast between her naive, childish view and the ugliness she is growing into.


      By the way, I agree this has little to do with the original topic at this point, but it’s fun to talk about.Report

  9. Alan Scott says:

    I think you have a very solid point, especially since you’re coming at it purely from the perspective of someone who’s watched the film, but not read the books–I said above that the film’s adaptation flattens a lot of the characters. That flattening falls disproportionately on women, and I think it’s worth exploring why.

    This, I think, is where pervasive unconscious sexism comes it. I think Wright and Bacall just didn’t pay enough attention to the ramifications of their adaptations. A great example is the scene in the book where in a fight between Envy and Ramona, Scott tells Ramona that Envy’s knees are her weak point. In the film, that scene is preserved but with different characters and context.

    In the book, the scene helps reinforce the connection between Scott and Ramona. In the movie, it reduces the one lesbian character to someone who can be neutralized with the loving touch of a man. If the filmmakers were paying attention to their own actions with any sort of eye as to their portrayal of women, that scene would never have happened. But they didn’t, and an otherwise decent movie winds up with a really uncomfortable scene.

    That said, I think that it’s valuable to draw a distinction between “unreliable narrator” and simply limited point of view. After all, the work isn’t being narrated by Scott–and while we may not see every side of Ramona (especially in the movies), the sides that we do see are valid glimpses of her character.

    It’s primarily in the framing, not the characterization, that turns this into a case of nerdy protagonist winds up with poorly-defined dream girl. And I think sometimes, that has to be a valid story choice. Some characters have to remain somewhat unexplored in order to tell the story you want to tell.

    So what do you do then? I think the best solution is to write plenty of compelling female characters, so that the one who maybe is a bit flat isn’t setting the standard for how your work of art depicts women. I don’t think the movie really accomplished that, but I think the book certainly did. Knives Chau, in particular, is a fascinating character, but a few other women also get interesting arcs, and nobody feels like they exist just to be “the girl in this scene.”Report

    • Glyph in reply to Alan Scott says:

      “Limited POV” is probably a better term than “unreliable narrator”, which didn’t feel right (and why I kept trying to qualify/clarify what I meant).

      Still, I think that distinction gets a little blurry when you are talking about works in which the protagonist appears to have an overactive imagination, and that imagination is reflected externally in the story we see. In Better Off Dead, I think we are meant to question whether everything we are seeing is really happening, or whether some of it is in Lane Myer’s imagination. So too here, IMO.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Glyph says:

        It’s definitely possible that SPvTW *tried* to use an unreliable narrator but missed. An unreliable narrator though, makes a work exist on a different thematic moral plane than simply a limited POV. In the former, you have to split out what’s in the narrator’s head vs ‘reality’ to figure out the author’s intent on the point they were making. (and people still often miss the point – e.g Fight Club) In the latter, though, there’s no excuse for bad behavior. There’s an excuse for mistakes – limited information – but not for poor moral or ethical choices.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        In the former, you have to split out what’s in the narrator’s head vs ‘reality’ to figure out the author’s intent on the point they were making.

        The more I think about it, it seems like film/TV (as a visual medium) plays around a lot in this gray area where it’s not “unreliable narrator”, exactly (it’s technically POV), but it is still doing this same thing.

        In The Lego Movie, there’s a moment where Wyldstyle is reading Emmett the riot act, but we quickly cut from her angry diatribe to seeing her through his eyes, and now as we hear “her”, she’s suddenly just cooing empty generic platitudes that indicate her interest in Emmett and tossing her hair flirtatiously.

        IOW, the author is explicitly making the point that Emmett’s prone to seeing/hearing what he wants to see/hear, not reality. Granted that this trick is often played for humor (and often not sustained for long), not some serious literary theme, but it’s still basically the same mechanism.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Glyph says:

        And the first episode of Last Man on Earth did the same thing when Will Forte first met Kristan Schaal and it wasn’t Kristen Schall. But both that and lego movie are lampshading the ‘unreliable narrator’ as a one-off gag.

        There are moving picture media that use the unreliable narrator device – the aforementioned FIght Club, Memento, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (from what I understand of it – have only seen clips). That is, though, a different thing than just having a point of view.

        Every media, though, visual, print, or audio, has a point of view. What a visual media precludes are certain narrative tricks. For instance, the HBO version of Game of Thrones couldn’t get away with a key member of Dragon Queen’s inner circle being revealed as another, already met in the narrative, character after several shows of exposition. The books, of course, were able to do this because the audience isn’t ‘seeing’ the character – or more importantly, the actor.

        So, I agree with veronica d that using ‘point of view’ *is* a cop out when a work is thematically ‘problematic’. Where I disagree is that you have made the case that Pilgrim is meant to be told from an unreliable narrators’ pov – even if they ham fisted it. What this means, though, is that Pilgrim’s attitudes and actions (in case, towards women, and a certain woman) is the very thing being critiqued. i.e. you’re not supposed to like him or be like him.Report

    • veronica d in reply to Alan Scott says:

      @alan-scott — +1

      It’s primarily in the framing, not the characterization, that turns this into a case of nerdy protagonist winds up with poorly-defined dream girl. And I think sometimes, that has to be a valid story choice. Some characters have to remain somewhat unexplored in order to tell the story you want to tell.

      I think such a thing is always going to get push-back, insofar as it’s simply bad storytelling, never mind the gender stuff.

      Which, I’d love to see it done well, where it’s really convincing.

      One problem, I think, is that to be convincing, both the man and woman need to change. They both need an arc, and not just any old arc. I don’t think it’s enough to say, “Oh he changed this one way that has little to do with how men appear to women, while she changed in exactly the ways that every nerd wishes every woman would change.”

      I’d love to see a movie about some sadsack “fedora guy” who crushes out on the kinda-nerdy-but-actually-hot new-girl-at-school, and actually convincingly wins her over.

      Of course, he would need to spit out the redpill and lose the fedora —

      And I don’t mean the literal hat. There’s nothing wrong with the hat. If you like the hat, wear the fucking hat!

      On the other hand, he probably wants to lose the hat. What you look like matters. How you dress says things.

      Anyway, she would need to make changes also, just as a matter of narrative — but what must she change?

      Honestly I don’t know, which is my own narrow point of view. A good film teaches stuff.

      I don’t expect to ever see this films. Right now it’s culturally impossible.Report