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AvatarComments by atomickristin in reply to Vikram Bath*

On “Dear Boycotting People

Yeah, the only reason I wrote it was that I'd read on Twitter some of the posters from this site hadn't heard about it, were wondering what the dealio was, and I thought it might be of interest to them. No attempt to stir up a tempest in a teacup. Just saw an opportunity for a discussion.

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I wasn't using an Adam Sandler movie to prove any greater point other than Netflix is evidently not running a political correctness agenda. If they ONLY presented Dear White People and shows of that ilk, and then not anything else offensive (Amazon is a lot worse about the lefty preachiness with their original shows, for example) then that comes off entirely different to me. They're not only offending one group, they're offending lots of people.

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Re special pleading - I agree. I direct that argument towards all outrage porners regardless of the color of their outrage. The idea of a monoculture from either side of the culture wars is appalling to me.

If Netflix hadn't made some other pretty offensive things I probably wouldn't bother defending them. Not only The Ridiculous Six (which was pretty terrible) but many of their other original programs have contained elements that felt controversial to me in a good way.

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Re Harry Potter, yeah I remember many times the right did try to boycott or portray as problematic some piece of entertainment. These were usually Christian complaints and not something that tended to resonate with that many people. I'm generally inclined to give them more leeway as they have very little power in Hollywood to make anything at all and so all they have is the ability to vote with their pocketbooks.

Things feel different to me of late. I do feel there's a spirit of real harm in the air (from both sides) and so I feel that Netflix may be trying to thread a very small needle here by courting controversy and offending everyone equally. The stuff on Netflix is not so preachy-preachy like the Amazon or cable shows tend to be, as a general rule.

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Exactly. It is dismaying to me on both fronts - I used to be very lefty-liberal in my younger days and I ~thought~ the left was serious about free speech (SJW did not exist in the halcyon days of my youth) and now I'm older and more conservative and I ~thought~ the right was serious about free speech (aside from the Christians), but it turns out free speech only means "for our side".

Bums me out.

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I haven't had time to watch Voltron yet.

Supernatural also takes a lot of heat for queerbaiting.

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Because it is a numbers game (both money and viewers) you can send that message another way, just by not watching the show. Netflix just cancelled Marco Polo which I really really liked a lot because of low ratings. I think people have it backwards boycotting a company over one show when they've got many other offerings. Just don't watch the show, don't cancel your Netflix membership over it.

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H.L Mencken Twitter would be the best Twitter.

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I've never watched any of those. I know people do, but those people might watch something similar that was just a cut above, too. I think the studios cutting off their nose to spite their face really because they're so afraid to take any chances on anything. P and R (have seen this one a few times) wasn't really taking a chance, it was just an Office ripoff. I don't expect them to put Mad Men on network tv or anything, I just think it's unfortunate that Netflix is getting slammed over this.

This part of the critique I think works better towards movies than TV, since movies IMVHO have really taken a turn for the bland of late.

On “Have We Passed Peak NFL?

RE social consciousness, there's an additional controversy the last year or two with players being accused of violence against women and players being suspended over it. Just one of many: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/22/sports/football/giants-josh-brown-abuse-nfl.html

The NFL is under fire from some parties who that say it isn't enough, others think the whole thing is ridiculous. Again, another topic where they can't please everyone and so they keep taking this middle ground approach that puts everyone off.

It's like the NFL, by trying to placate everyone including people who don't even LIKE the NFL, only makes themselves look like handwringing Jeb-Bushian weaklings who cave at the drop of a Jezebel piece. Not the image you want to present to appeal to the manly men.

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That's a fact. The NFL = 'Murica thing is now coming back to haunt them. Now anything short of a bald eagle wrapped in a flag singing Toby Keith songs will appear to some like they're caving in to social pressures. The NFL literally cannot make everyone happy with any tactic they take in the Kaepernick situation. They're really between a rock and a hard place on this. No matter what they did or do in the future, a good percentage of viewers will be put off by it.

I think it's way too much to ask the NFL to police their players' behavior that heavily. It's unfair for anyone to expect that the NFL force their players to perform patriotic rituals for the American public - and I'd go so far as to call it unAmerican, in a way. It's unpatriotic in a different and much more serious way than taking a knee for the anthem is.

Then again, the NFL has no qualms about policing Marshawn Lynch for using Beats by Dre headphones.

So it's as if the NFL has put themselves in an impossible position of trying to appeal to mom-and-apple-pie patriotism and (I personally believe rightfully) backing down over Kaepernick, while at the same time using their power over their players in relatively shallow and arbitrary ways. Even though I understand their position on that too - guy signed a contract, and all that.

The NFL almost seems like its own worst enemy sometimes.

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A twist on the Kaepernick theory:

My dad actually did stop watching NFL because of the Kaepernick thing. I think people may be trying to put a racial spin on this when in reality for some people it's something else entirely.

My grandfather died in WW2 when my dad was in his mother's womb. He grew up never knowing his dad and he feels that it was a sacrifice our entire family made for our country. So to him, some spoiled football punk with all the privileges in the world, in part because men like my grandfather fought and died for it, refusing to stand for the flag, to him feels really, really not so hot.

He would feel the same way regardless of the race of the guy or the reasons why. It's because he believes in this idea that the flag represents something important and that important thing was what his father gave up his life for. He's in a club with a bunch of other war orphans and they were all boycotting the NFL for this reason. It hurt their feelings, it made them feel like the NFL didn't care about their values or viewership, and I can imagine that anyone who ever felt like they'd made a sacrifice for what the flag represents may share similar sentiments.

He still watches college football as rabidly as ever though.

I understand where he's coming from, I understand where Kaepernick is coming from and where the NFL is coming from too. One of those weird things where everyone's positions makes sense.

I love football, but then again I almost always play video games while I watch it. The commercial thing does grate on ya after a while.

On “It’s Over, Joss

It's like they say in science - proximate causation, and ultimate causation.

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But this isn't "the 10 nitpicky reasons I don't like Kaylee". It isn't even "reasons I don't like Firefly". It was "over time, looking back, I spy a greater trend here that I don't like". I didn't flesh out my objections to Kaylee overall, I picked one thing (little, tiny, insignificant) that I felt was indicative of a larger issue that I have. I had a realization and looking back on it, I see this thread that I didn't pick up on before.

Nearly all the women in the Whedonverse are magically delicious. Exceptional either because they're born that way (Inara being exceptionally beautiful, Buffy is the Chosen One) or because they're altered by some outside force (Willow, Cordelia) or both (River and Fred are both geniuses to start out with, who are then later altered).

There is not a single "everywoman" character like Zander, for example. Even Tara is half-demon. Most of the guys are just dudes. Not all, but most. Giles may be a Watcher but he's not super human. Malcolm is not super human, Jayne is not super human, Wash is not super human, Riley's not super human, Wesley's not super human. They're all foible-y and stuff.

The one female character who is not presented as super exceptional is Kaylee (maybe Zoe, but she was a superior fighter and we don't totally know her background so I can't say for sure with her) . They couldn't resist the temptation, they had to give her some kind of inherent talent that sets her apart from the crowd. It's presented as inborn, a gift from the gods, rather than something that she herself did.

It's the phrasing. It's not something any other woman could aspire to, she can do this because machines talk to her. We can argue if this is because of unexplored history or whatever but they selected a certain type of phrasing in the way the character referred to her own abilities. Passive. She was touched by greatness. It's something that just happened to her that sets her above everyone else. It doesn't have to be supernatural, it's no different than being born a super genius like Fred and River, or beautiful like Inara.

Now, standing on its own it would be nothing to me at all, that's why it seems like such a nitpicky little detail. But in light of all the other stuff, it just seems very odd to me that they couldn't even create ONE female character without giving her a preternatural ability. That's why it's remarkable - because even when the opportunity arises to create a character without resorting to some sort of special ability, they didn't. It's like they couldn't, or something.

Now, I get that everyone can say "oh it's just the trope", the guys are largely helpless and the women save them using traditionally male skills. That's by design. Ok, I accept that. But at some point, when a creator is repeatedly making a very loud claim that they write strong women, I would like an actual, unremarkable woman to show up and be strong. At some point. On her own terms, on her own merits, not because of some inborn skillset that none of the rest of us could ever hope to attain.

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I was using an example that I thought everyone would immediately know. I'm not gonna get sucked into discussing why MacBeth isn't a feminist masterpiece or why we should cut Buffy some slack because it came out 20 years ago and it's better than 7th Heaven. Because that was never what I was doing at all and it's changing horses in midstream.

It is fully possible even in situations where female characters have very little control over their fates, to show that they're still doing stuff constantly to better their situation and get what they want out of life. Even if it doesn't work out for them in the end, like Lady MacBeth, they're doing it. And it doesn't always have to, or even usually mesh with what the male characters are doing.

It is NOT a prerequisite for good women's entertainment that everyone live in a futuristic social justice commune and have equal rights. They do not have to be immune from violence or be the the president of the universe. They do not have to be flawlessly good or likeable. Scarlett OHara is one of the greatest female characters of all time and she is neither.

All I am asking is that the female characters, regardless of whatever situation they are in have some sense of urgency about their lives and not wait passively around for other people to make the decisions - be it other characters or the writers of the show. I did not get that from Firefly or Angel and a lack of control over one's own life seems to be the basic premise of Dollhouse (but at least that gets points for thinking outside the box).

Even passivity can be a (surprisingly effective) method of women getting what they want from life. A passive character is not the issue, it's a passively written character with no real personality or purpose outside of the plot of the show or meeting the needs of the other characters.

Just a few other examples, things I generally like or have watched recently, and again, I'm not offering these up as flawless paragons of feminist entertainment. They're simply representative of what I'm talking about. It is indeed possible to show women who are in dire circumstances who have little control over anything, still trying to control what little they can. And in fact those attempts to control can make for very excellent plot points.

The women in Game of Thrones, most of the women in Farscape, the women in Jessica Jones, the women in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, the women in Marco Polo, the women in Peaky Blinders, Mariah in Luke Cage. Heck, women in soap operas take more control over their lives than Fred or Cordelia do.

Scarlett O Hara would chew up Inara and spit her out. That would have been a fun episode, though.

The guy says he writes strong women. Thus I hold him to a higher standard than I do someone writing, let's say, an episode of Baywatch. I also hold him to a higher standard than I do William Shakespeare.

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A presentation of a person being intuitive and a person knowing something primarily because of intuition are two entirely different things.

In the posts above someone used the word "knack" and I think that's a perfect fit. Can someone have a knack for something, sure, but having a knack for something has a totally different implication than "machines speak to me". Having a knack implies ownership, implies doing something that you discover you're good at and and you enjoy and you keep doing it and get better and better. "Machines speak to me" is just an accident of fate.

I am not and at no time have objected to a woman being good with machines. It is the presentation, that it's presented as being a fluke thing that she has no ownership of and no power over, just something that happened, good fortune, being smiled upon by the gods.

She has a knack. She gets the job. It doesn't have to be explained. The explanation could have given her more self-ownership even if it was a throwaway line like "I have a knack" or "My dad taught me". That's cool too. It could have been written a thousand ways but it wasn't. It was written in a very passive voice. The guy calls himself a feminist that writes strong women and I think since he does that he should be held to a higher standard.

It is not this one moment or that one moment. It's the overall tone of these later shows where the female characters are simply an embodiment of whatever set of skills or attributes the male characters or plot requires and then spend the rest of the time either insane or in a coma, or else wringing their hands about not doing their jobs good enough.

It's just offputting to me.

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Knack is a good word. I like knack. If they'd have had her say "I just have a knack for it" then it wouldn't have stood out to me at all. That communicates a natural ability but also something that is learned.

"They speak to me" is not the same thing.

A big part of my beef here is the passivity of the female characters in Angel and Firefly. I have a knack is not passive. Machines got workins and they talk to me is passive.

If it was just this one tiny thing, I wouldn't even have noticed it.

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This article was not meant as a blow by blow dissection of the Whedonverse. Tons of people have done that already and completely deconstructed all this stuff from just about every feminist perspective imaginable. I could have done that, but I didn't feel like I'd add a whole lot since others have already done so. They are all available for the Googling if anyone wants to read them.

This article was meant as an explanation of why I personally am done with defending the guy on his feminist credentials and why I no longer see his name on something as a guarantee of something I'll enjoy. Many of these episodes I like or even love. It's just that overall, taking a step back, these things start to look different to me.

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This article was not meant as a blow by blow dissection of the Whedonverse. Tons of people have done that already and completely deconstructed all this stuff from just about every feminist perspective imaginable. I could have done that, but I didn't feel like I'd add a whole lot since others have already done so. They are all available for the Googling if anyone wants to read them.

This article was meant as an explanation of why I personally am done with defending the guy on his feminist credentials and why I no longer see his name on something as a guarantee of something I'll enjoy. Many of these episodes I like or even love. It's just that overall, taking a step back, these things start to look different to me.

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We DON'T need an explanation of why Kaylee is good at fixing engines! That's my entire point. She knew how to fix the engine, displayed the ability and aptitude, was hired. No problem. No explanation was required.

The show itself offered the explanation. The explanation given was intuition. The character herself said it was intuitive, that machines just talk to her. I required no explanation, I just don't care for the one that was given. If you would like to explain that away as being implied, that's fine. But I don't have to see it as a moment representative of Joss Whedon's feminism.

I have given several examples of how it could have been done differently, including that it didn't even have to be explained. Any more than Jayne being a good man in a fight needed to be explained.

I think this is really quite misrepresentative of my position.

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The fact is, Whedon sets himself up for this by making claims about the deeper meaning and message of his work. Under NO definition of feminism, from the narrowest to the broadest, is Joss Whedon's post-Buffy work feminist. It just isn't. If he didn't say that it was, he'd not have opened himself up for the criticism.

At no point have I ever said that you're not entitled to your opinion. Tons of people like Firefly. It's meh for me, but then again I don't like 50 Shades of Gray either and tons of people like that. I am simply saying why I personally have rethought my fandom and will no longer be making every excuse in the book for him, which I used to do.

I'm not exaggerating to prove a point, or choosing provocative words to make a controversial article. I honestly do find lots of misogynistic elements in his work, I suspect the guy has some larger issues as a result of that (ie he's a misogynist, even if he's unaware of it and even if others disagree with the way the term is used), and in good faith have tried to explain why I see it that way.

At no point have I ever said that people who don't see it my way are bad. I enjoy thinking about stuff like this more than most do. Most people just want to come home from work and drink a beer and relax for a few minutes and not ponder the greater context and implications of silly TV shows.

But just because I acknowledge the reality that not everyone sees things the same way as I do, I do NOT have to then take some namby-pamby position where I throw up my hands and say "well, I suppose it's true this is all open to interpretation, reality is subjective, the message is down to the listener".

Re: the feminists have spoken, is that really so very different from someone saying "If you're not an engineer, you can't understand?" or "Were you hatewatching then?" or "Is this even proven that Joss Whedon calls himself a feminist?" I replied to these comments, which I found somewhat dismissive, in good faith, so I would hope you'd grant Veronica the same leeway and either respond in good faith or ignore/tolerate.

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Joss Whedon calling himself a feminist and claiming he is writing strong women sets up that conceptual framework.

A woman who thinks Twin Peaks is sending messages through her television is an entirely different scenario unless David Lynch had repeatedly said for 20 years that he was indeed sending messages to people through the television.

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I have always found it rather dystopian that the people in Star Trek seem to have little working knowledge and no appreciation for the culture of our times (ie, always listening to classical music and quoting Shakespeare) Almost as if it's been forcibly excised from history or something. TV is "no longer watched" and this is said with disdain.

They've played with this a few times, giving Tom Paris a love of Flash Gordon type shows, Picard and his detective novels, and of course in the newest movie when Jaylah plays hip-hop and Scotty refers to it as "classical".

I'm sure it's just to keep the universe a manageable size, but I've always liked to imagine what sort of horrible purge took place. Bonfires of television sets, DaVinci Code books, and Def Leppard albums...

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I haven't watched Sherlock. I have an entirely irrational dislike of Benedict Cumberbatch (I think simply for no other reason than that everyone seems to think he's so great.)

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Some of those shows from the 90's to early 2000's were really forward thinking, though. Even just taken on their own merits. And they asked some interesting questions that maybe in a more politically correct time would not have even been raised. I don't expect perfection or feminist or political purity at all, but like you say I don't want to be completely taken out of the story by stuff that annoys me, either. And I mean in either direction...preachiness is darn near just as bad as boob grabbing.

Buffy vs. Dollhouse, Veronica Mars vs. iZombie (or the terrible Veronica Mars movie, for that matter) These are the same people making the same type of show, but one I connect with and one I don't. It's like a strange phenomenon of turning away from the stuff that really worked and embracing the stuff that didn't really matter or didn't always work (like that quirky, quirky dialogue). Luckily, just like you say, there are other shows that do all this better, but I do wonder about the whys and wherefores of it all.

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