Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Storytelling Is Not A Discrete Section Of The Brain

Recently, I’ve been fairly put off by women in literature, though it isn’t their fault. Descriptions typically tell you little of what the character looks like and a lot about what turns the author on. Breasts will be mentioned first or second on the list of her features, and they will grab many more adjectives than any other feature. Repeat observations on her status, condition, or for use in the particular scene always seems to head back to the breasts. I’m not upset with fetishizing women, I am that this sleazy thought process is so ingrained that authors do it without thinking. As though every reader really only cares about the level of perky to her tits. I’m not a scumbag and I’d like be recognized as such.

Where I think women are really getting beat on is with male fantasies running rampant in the guise of cultural taboo inspection. Recently I’ve read a novel where the twenty-eight year old male accepted, without complaint, his destiny to get with a fourteen year old girl. Another where an eleven year old (female) wanted to marry the early twenty-something (male). I’ve read about a society where women don’t know where babies come from and sex is just something you do with every guy you know. Another that laughed at the concept of breasts being an area of the body to be covered (feh, ankles are scandalous). Men’s role remain unchanged in each of these new incarnations of society. So are we really exploring cultural taboos through literature or are we creating realms of easy women? One could look at the book in question as a social artifact, make some observations on the current status of women as seen by men in whatever time period the book found publication. But I was reading a story and I’d much rather stay there. Does the male reader more easily lose himself in these fantasy worlds by adopting the author’s sexual proclivities? Certainly there are moments within the narrative designed to be a respite, giving the hero satisfaction which extends to the reader. What I feel when I have a woman served on a platter to me is revulsion. The illusion of the author’s GodHand, that feeling when reading that the story is from a genderless being of pure authority, is whisked away so quickly, with so little fan-fair, that I am double shocked by that and also the pervy old man now sitting with me, whispering tales of young women whose body and mind have been scripted to serve a hapless man hero.

Please stop. You are ruining your own story. You are doing so with a smile that is sly to you and creepy to me.

The female partner to the male protagonist is designed to be perfect for him. Saint like. The guy’s a bumbling mess with a mean streak of luck, but she loves him unconditionally from the moment she sees him even though he rarely, if even, says or does anything right by her. Funny that. I wonder if the condition many female characters find themselves in is due to an author’s inability to create a believable coming-together. Which isn’t a slam. Finding a person in this real world can often seem a lucky series of events in which nobody does anything particular to form the union, but it happens anyway, so perhaps personal experience isn’t the deepest well to draw from. What I’m saying is, if she’s only there to have magnificent breasts and provide personal closure for the hero, I’d prefer her left out.  

There is no reason to treat gender as any different than any of the other constructions of story. It should serve the story in some way. Strip away the great tits and what does a weak tag-along do for the hero? I vote nothing. Any calamity that befalls her is a frustration to the story proper. I have rarely, if ever, felt anything but happiness at the prospect of some little tart getting killed. Usually she does something dumb to get into the situation. I think it would be good for the hero. Toughen him up while providing more focus. If there must be a love interest, can they be an honest character?

The lack of female characters in stories is distressing (also: curious) because there is no reason for it. Often times the male lead isn’t all that manly. Though I’m loathe to start drawing lines to decide where and what manliness is. I like that male characters don’t all need to be Conan or worry for half the story if they’re living up to their father’s ideals. The point is, characters themselves, as is, could be shifted to a different body with no difference in overall narrative. I wonder if this area just gets glossed over in an author’s creative process. Perhaps they only think of Who and How someone beats the ArchFiend, and plug in a male just to get the gears moving forward. Perhaps it’s just for comfort. To know the emotions, social markers, ect, and thus be able to handle any contingency the story might present(as stories don’t seem to be all planned from the start).  Though the character is then taken to such ends that personal experience means little to nothing. Is there a different gender reaction to being named the Chosen Hero? Only if the story is located in actual Human time, with the full history guiding perception. I like to think that if creating another world, alien races, and uncontrollable powers, why not make the sexes equal? I read mostly Fantasy and Science-Fiction, but the imbalance is in more stories and in more ways within Fantasy. Makes me think there’s something in the Fantasy story construction process that tilts the mind to naming males in leading roles. Because even though it’s an alternate world, Fantasy is perceived as somewhere in some history, not a future or present. Then are prejudices leaking in by association?

Regardless, I don’t want to see the genre upended for some moral stroke uplifting women. Those false parades produce only a glamorous shell, which would only serve irony to again emphasize women’s shallow role in stories. I want better stories. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Where Life Lives

My father sent me quite a few pictures from his trip to New York City. They were enough a taste for me to form an impression. All images taken by my father's phone, probably while he was walking, so the quality isn't fit for any fancy magazines, but they provide a mortal view of an incredible place, which I like more. 

I got the feeling that NYC was a place where life itself had coiled around and still writhes. It was so big yet had none of the overly commercialized trash of L.A.. There were little pubs and stores, but all larger than the indie feel of Seattle, as is right given the success one must gain from business in such a huge city. It was as though they had grown up but decided to stay cool. And the doors on that one embassy!! Solid Gold!!? The world did all rumble into NYC. Identities sprouting up not by some geographic rhythm, but where ever there was room. It was just ballsy to see some tower proclaim "Yeah, I'm Gothic" while the neighboring one wasn't the least bit shy to claim modern stylings. All these icons standing tall with no regard for anything else.

I'd love to upload more, especially the ones I specifically mentioned in the post, but managing multiple pictures in Blogger is pure aggravation. Short of having my own website, are there better blogging tools out there?

Monday, May 7, 2012


Avengers was not universally a success. Some characters were flat and stiff the entire film (Scarlett) while others just flowed (Downy, Renner). The jokes and comical bits had such an obnoxious, labored, setup it was almost intolerable. Thankfully the punch-lines were funny enough to carry how heavy-handed the writing got. Characters leave essentially the same, with maybe a minor tweak or a new buddy. But oh!, that final battle! Chest pounding, roar stifling (I was moved but I doubt public tolerance would extend to me screaming in the theater), action due to brilliant cinematography, and I especially applaud making every member of the squad useful through the major action, with Hulk stealing the entire film.

Rather than remove each facet for inspection, I'll keep in the spirit of breezy and fun with just the highlights (for me).

Hulk was riveting. Hulk made every single scene he was in the best of the film, until he upped himself in his next scene. His jokes were the funniest. His physical comedy killed. Hulk was mesmerizing. Silly hyperbole from a zealot? No no. I do like Hulk. I identify with his powers. But his powers mesh so perfectly with the viewing experience. As the action ramps up, I get more pumped, and thus a connection. It’s easier to imagine swatting a Space Chariot to bits than any other power on display in the film. It’s the most direct as well. Not even the Captain really compares because the Captain has finesse. He lands a punch or places a kick. The force and location are deliberate. Hulk just throws himself around. The feel is not “incapacitate this foe”, it’s “get me on him”. His rage bowls them over with almost no contact needed from Hulk. The only thing I missed was from the first (recent) Hulk film. As Hulk fought he’d grow. An ingenious touch that could actually elevate unbridled rage further during the course of a fight. It also had a one-upsmenship quality, allowing the Hulk to play the Confident Ass. The new dimensions of his character make up for that loss. No longer at the forefront of yoga techniques, Bruce Banner has been reimagined, and the reveal is one line: “I’m always angry”. This is like Superman saying “smoke and mirrors, really”. Bruce Banner is not suppressing Hulk. They are now two personalities sharing the same body. Sharing, not fighting for control of. This means Hulk can be a part of the story rather than a final plot device to clean up. Everyone should be excited because this means more Hulk.

Everyone still had a part to play when the Final Battle began. And here’s the weird thing… each role fit the character. I know! Hawkeye didn’t try to keep a similar bodycount to Hulk. He can’t. Not even the Norse God could keep up (Hulk STOLE THE SHOW). Hawkeye tracked enemy movements. He smartly observed their weakness and passed it on to a team member who could exploit it. Holy Shit! Hah, maybe the regular movie-goer isn’t blow away by this. It’s natural, right? What the hell else would he do? This is not common knowledge to comic book artists. When a fight starts, SPLASH PAGE, everyone punches something. That’s the fight. I loved not having to mentally keep track of all the characters, as the non-godlike ones got lost in a boring shuffle.

There is a tendency to portray fantastical action as though it were an equation. So unbelievable that only a straightforward presentation will suffice. The shot is zoomed way out, gently tracking the hero, while their movement is catalogued. That sorta works if I am physical in the same space as the incredible hero. But only because "real" fires off strong chemicals in the brain. Anyway. Avengers did it right. The cinematography tucked you right next to Iron Man as he flew through a busted New York. The aftermath of each Hulk punch was properly obscured by the colossal amount of debris loosed. And when some alien ran into Cap’s shield, you could feel their world stop dead before it violently reversed. Ect. Point is, living vicariously through a Superhero battle is exhilarating. Bravo.