Friday, January 13, 2017

Funny Femslash Friday

I love a good multi-fandom femslash fan vid.

The one below features Grey's Anatomy, The L Word, Lost Girl, Glee, Imagine Me and You, and I Can't Think Straight.... and I think I'm missing a couple? Anyway, it's funny.

I love the coming out moment featured from I Can't Think Straight:
[Leyla's father arrives home, sees Leyla and her mother in the kitchen]
Leyla (to her parents): I'm gay!
Leyla's Father: But I've only been gone two hours!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Cynical Populists

The New York Times ran a series this week on the upcoming Women's March on Washington. The idea behind the series was for different women to discuss their opinions on whether such a march is useful.

I'm of the opinion that it will be useful for at least four reasons: (1) to communicate that, regardless of any electoral outcome, we are worth fighting for, (2) to be a symbol of mass resistance against the incoming Trump administration, (3) to send a message that the incoming administration is of questionable legitimacy given the yet-to-be resolved questions about Trump's ties to Russia, and (4) to go in solidarity with other marchers and like-minded individuals who are not able to attend.

In contrast, I find the following opinion, of a former Bernie Sanders delegate, featured in the Times to be mostly depressing:
"Protesting is good for awareness of a cause but if we think we are going to change anything with a march we are wrong. The Democracy Spring demonstrations against the power of money in politics brought little attention and no results. Any success by protests against the Dakota Access pipeline are likely to be short-lived. Thousands flooding Philly last June didn't change one super delegate vote. These were the best organized and most attended protests in years and they had absolutely no affect on their causes. We need to change our tactics.

If there is a march, it will be widely reported, and relatively no one will show up because we all know this is a fruitless exercise that will make us feel better but will have no effect on anything else. We already all know there is a problem with women's equality, yet we do nothing significant about it. It's because we all know legislation really isn't going to change it, only a societal shift in sexism will."
My point here isn't to harp on this particular woman too much. Rather, today I note a divide I see among the pragmatic and (what I call) the non-pragmatic left. One of the dangers I see in populist politicians like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders is that what they seem to best at is stoking the embers of rage against a clearly-defined enemy - the Establishment, in both cases - and making grand promises of sweeping change that, when pressed for logistics and details, turn out to be not grounded in pragmatic realities.

Think: Candidate Trump leading his fans in chants about how Mexico would pay for his wall. Now, it turns out it's not going to happen like that. Or, Bernie's disastrous New York Daily News interview. When pressed for details on some of his signature talking points during the primary, he was unable to articulate nuanced details for implementation.

Both men consistently led huge emotion-laden rallies, tapping into people's real anxieties and desires for Big Change. Anger is not a bad thing. There is a lot to be angry about. Yet, sweeping change does not typically quickly or easily happen in the US (which is something that also gives me small hope in the years to come. We must pressure the media and all branches of government to resist - we do not, yet, live in a dictatorship). Yet, when Big Change doesn't immediately happen like their leaders said it would, angry people end up cynical. Notice how it takes about two "failed" rallies for the above-quoted woman to give up on protesting.

Rallies and protests don't always immediately result in the desired outcome. When we march January 21, 2017, Trump will not be impeached January 22. But, that's not really the point. We aren't living in a movie, or playing a video game, where Things Will Be Resolved if we undertake a sufficiently-dramatic action. In real life, political change often occurs because of the actions of many people using a variety of tactics, some who get credit and most who do not.

Consider: the woman quoted above rightly says that we need a "societal shift in sexism" to change attitudes, but she doesn't think marching or legislation is the way to go. Yet, pragmatically, how do these "societal shifts in sexism" occur? Is it elves in trees who plant feminist consciousness in people's minds while we're asleep? (She also says that Bernie taught her that we spend too much time on identity politics, so that's another mode she's given up on. In which case, good luck addressing sexism if we must take a "I don't even see gender" approach about it!)

Change occurs through a variety of modes. For a first necessary step, related to the populism we saw in 2016, we must eradicate from our minds the notion that big change can only happen if a Great Person (usually a man) leads the true believers to it. Secondly, big change happens through many people taking many small actions in their daily lives: conversations, writing, reading, marching, voting, lobbying, advocating. This is what I think President Obama was referring to this week in his Farewell Address. These are actions many of us have the capacity to undertake to some degree.

Teaspoon by teaspoon, we empty the sea.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Recap: Supergirl 1.13 "For the Girl Who has Everything"

To begin, we see Kara waking up on Krypton. Her mom explains that she had the Argo Fever, but she's better now (Fun Fact: Argo is the name of Xena's horse). Back on Earth, we see that Kara's really in some sort of coma and oh sweet Jesus WHAT IS HAPPENING:

I don't know why there are a dozen long-clitted red roses on Kara's chest, I just know that there are. Alex, Winn, and James find her like this and evacuate her to the DEO. The DEO can't figure out what it is or why it has put Kara in a coma, and when they try to pull it off of her, it starts to kill her.

The first suspect here is Max Lord (obvs), but he claims not to know anything about it. We then see Non and Astra talking about a master plan they have called Myriad, which involves a solar storm and taking Supergirl down. So, the good news is that Astra is back. The bad news is that the rose-thingy is Non's doing and it's called a Black Mercy, which sounds horrific.

Astra and Non revealing their master plan
At CatCo, Winn and James try to cover for Kara's absence. And here, I feel like it needs to be said. I love Cat, but as a media executive does she really have enough free time in the day to go around asking, "Where's Kiera?" every five minutes? Just wondering! However, this storyline leads to one of the funniest Supergirl moments so far: the gruff J'onn J'onnz shapeshifting into Kara and working at CatCo so Kara doesn't get fired.

At Alex's apartment, Astra shows up and says she wants to help Kara. Astra sure seems to know her way around Alex's apartment. Hmmm, I wonder why. Astra explains what the Black Mercy is and how it's making the fantasy "Krypton" world more and more real to Kara the longer she's in it. To get out, Kara has to reject the fake reality. Also, for some reason, most of Alex and Astra's conversation happens with their faces mere inches apart:

I do not reject this fantasy
At the DEO,  Max helps them inject Alex into the fake "Krypton" fantasy so she can help Kara realize it's fake. When Alex gets to "Krypton," Kara doesn't recognize her and Alex is put in handcuffs. Alex the Badass attacks the guards, however, and gives a rousing speech about how pain is a normal part of life. This seems to plant seeds of doubt in Kara's head about the reality of her perfect "Krypton" fantasy life. Kara then rejects the fantasy and gets out of the Black Mercy's grip.

Once she wakes up, Supergirl then goes after Non, while Alex and J'onn go after Astra. Just as Astra is about to kill J'onn, Alex stabs Astra through the heart with kryponite (nooooooo!). Supergirl gets to Astra just before Astra dies. Seeing that Supergirl is upset, J'onn tells her that he, rather than Alex, was the one who killed Astra (blub). He tells Alex later that he didn't want Supergirl to stop seeing Alex as her hero (double blub). And now, there's this angsty secret between the sisters.

Deep Thought of the Week: For Buffy fans, this episode might have reminded you of the episode "Normal Again." There, Buffy was stung by a demon that made her believe her life as a slayer wasn't real and that she was actually a patient in a psychiatric hospital.

A recurring theme in Buffy was that life on Earth was hellish (remember "Bargaining" in Season Six, after her friends brought her back from the dead, she asked, "Is this hell?"). In "Normal Again," it was in Buffy remembering her ties to her friends - her chosen family - that drew her out of the comforts of escapism and back to reality, however hellish it was. We saw a similar theme with today's Supergirl episode.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Do Trump's Promises Even Matter to Fans?

Writing at The Week, Paul Waldman has a theory as to why many Trump fans may not care if he breaks his campaign promises. The theory is that we have to understand Trump through a lens of dominance.

He writes:
 "When Trump talked about this during the campaign, liberals like me would say in exasperation, 'Don't you all realize this is fake? He's a con man!' His most ardent fans would have responded just like pro wrestling fans do: Of course we know it's fake. The point is the show, the drama, the way it makes us feel.

But on this particular pledge [to build the wall], it was about more than being bold. Consider the line about the wall getting 10 feet higher when the Mexicans say no. It was about dominance — something deeply important to Trump personally, and which his fans could experience through him. It's about making those foreigners kneel before us, where their resistance only increases our power. It was the equivalent of Michael Corleone telling Senator Geary, 'My offer is this — nothing. Not even the fee for the gaming license, which I would appreciate if you would put up personally.' That's how you show someone who's boss, by making them pay for their own humiliation.

That was what thrilled Trump's audiences: the idea that through Trump they could feel dominant, potent, admired, and feared. People who complained that the world had conspired to make them impotent and leave them behind saw in Trump a force of empowerment. Mexico paying for the wall isn't about money, it's about power."
I think about some of the taunting I see in response to Trump's Electoral College win. The conservatives saying "Seeeeee, this is why Trump won" each time we stand up for ourselves.

How abusive is that? The more we stand up for ourselves, the more some people tell us we're pissing off Trump supporters who, in turn, will only vote even harder for him next time around. (Also, Alternate Take: That Meryl Streep speech is why Clinton won 3 million more votes than Trump.)

Trump and his fans have a hard time handling resistance without resorting to this dominator/abuser mindset. He himself appears to want meek subservience, as he shows an entitlement to people not fighting back. Think of how he plays the victim each time someone calls him out publicly. The press, critics, people on Twitter - all of them so unfair!  Don't they know he's the Big Swinging Dick Alpha Dog? Why isn't everyone bowing down!?

His fans and enablers are just as bad.

Trump being President won't make the lives of his fans better in a material sense. And, he may break most promises he made to them. But through him, some people can live out their fantasies of dominance over liberals, progressives, immigrants, people of color, the disabled, women, and feminists.

And, that's something, I guess?

Monday, January 9, 2017

On Recognizing Everday Authoritarianism

I have a new post up at Shakesville. Here's a snippet:

"Would most Americans who are not explicitly targeted for oppression and violence know, for instance, if we were living through a time comparable to the Holocaust? Undoubtedly, the particulars would differ and so, wouldn't many people make distinctions that would gaslight the present-day horrors inflicted on others? (Don't many people already do this, with respect to state-sanctioned violence today?)

These questions are partly why I'm finding the endless calls for liberals to empathize with Trump voters, but so rarely the reverse, so vile right now. Where is the pressure on Trump voters - particularly angry, violent white men - to understand literally anyone else in society?"
Head to Shakesville to read it all!