thedeadparrot: (crouching tiger)
(posted by on Apr. 11th, 2010 09:43 am)
So there's a few new conversations about Mary Sues that have come up lately:

on mary sue policing and why i cannot abide it by [personal profile] niqaeli
Such stuff as dreams are made on by [personal profile] staranise

I just wanted to make a point that hasn't really come up yet about how deeply problematic Mary Sues often are.

First off, I do have to say that a lot of gut-level hatred for Mary Sues tends to be overblown, and I will say that I did tend to experience such hatred when I was younger and more judgmental. I really don't believe that we should police anyone's desire to write Mary Sues, and I don't agree that we should shame people who write them.

But seriously, I am getting sick of hearing about how awesome and feminist Mary Sues are, because 90% of the ones I have read are predicated on the idea that the canon female characters are not good enough for the hero, and, of course, Mary Sue is there to give the hero someone he could ~*really love*~. One of my first fannish experiences with Mary Sues was in the Legend of Zelda fandom, where Link fell in love with a new girlfriend who was awesome because she could shoot arrows on horseback and because she was so much better than Zelda, that lame, prissy, jealous harpy. This was even in Ocarina of Time canon, where SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER happened, and I remember the gut-level anger I felt at the way the author dismissed Zelda that way. Because I like Zelda, and I really hated seeing her treated as if she were less than nothing, insignificant, in comparison to this new character who I had never met before, who I didn't even know.

Recently, I read a Jed/Abbey story where the two of them sort of got Stued/Sued, and everyone wanted to fuck one or the other of them, and all the other female character were so mean and also jealous of Abbey (except CJ, I think). Look, I love Abbey like crazy, which is why I was reading the story in the first place, but all the women except her were treated as if they were flawed for not being her, for not being beautiful and sexy and loved by everyone and having the perfect husband and having wonderful children. If this is our idea of empowerment, tearing down other women for not fitting into some perceived feminine ideal, I don't want into it.

And if you don't think that this fantasy is not harmful in any way, imagine being a WOC who identifies heavily with Uhura and then running into Spock/Mary Sue with long descriptions of how much more beautiful and amazing and better for Spock the white Mary Sue is than Uhura. Imagine that you're a WOC and once again, you're reading fic that reminds you that the ideal woman is not you and will never be you. Fantasies are not inherently unproblematic, not inherently unharmful. There's a reason why feminists are always calling out porn that's made for men, and a reason we're always calling out story lines/images/characters in our canons that are meant to titillate men. Yeah, fanfic does not have that same cultural power that our canons do, but to think that white women in fandom cannot harm WOC in fandom through their fantasies is something we've gone over before. And race is just one axis along which this true. There are many, many more.

I am not exempt from having my own Mary Sues in my head, and I'm sure a lot of us do, but you know what? I've had a few different ones since forever and at least half of them were white (while I am not). Some of them were even male. None of them were disabled, fat, transgendered, or lower class. Mary Sues will always be a power fantasy, and they're also a power fantasy that uses the kyriarchy's standards of power and importance. It's one thing to let these fantasies live in our heads. It's another to actually have them contributed to the fannish conversation.

I found this quote off of TigerBeatdown, and I think it hits on something important:
We seem to be special women here, we have liked to think of ourselves as special, and we have known that men would tolerate, even romanticize us as special, as long as our words and actions didn’t threaten their privilege of tolerating or rejecting us and our work according to their ideas of what a special woman ought to be. An important insight of the radical women’s movement has been how divisive and how ultimately destructive is this myth of the special woman, who is also the token woman.

- Adrienne Rich, “When We Dead Awaken”

Mary Sue the ultimate special woman, the ultimate token woman, and the ultimate celebration of her existence as a cultural construct. I can't embrace her, and I don't know why I would even want to. Yeah, it is true that the amount of vitriol directed at Mary Sue tends to be greatly disproportionate to the dangers of her existence. But don't tell me she is not problematic in other ways besides offending our sense of taste.
thedeadparrot: (bitch please)
(posted by on Nov. 17th, 2009 07:55 pm)
So I managed to stumble on a story on [ profile] trek_rpf_kink about George Takei that is making me want to kill things.

Okay, I'll spare you from most of the stabbity pain )

Okay, that's now off my chest. 'Scuse me while I go find a bucket to vomit in.
thedeadparrot: (light)
(posted by on Oct. 11th, 2009 12:02 am)
The danger of a single story

It's a talk by a Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie, and it's about stories and about authenticity and about stereotyping. It touches on a lot of things I was trying to get at here, except she says it so much better.
thedeadparrot: (crouching tiger)
(posted by on Oct. 6th, 2009 08:19 pm)
[For the Fourth Asian Women Blog Carnival]

You might have heard that Fox has this new show called Glee. I tried watching Glee a few times and couldn't take it, but I think I'm in the minority about that. It happens.

One of the people on my flist made a post about how much she loves the character of Rachel, the "star" of the glee club, who is white and pretty and has a lovely voice. The post says:

Rachel is my favorite and I want her to get everything that she wants. Why do I like Rachel so much? I feel like she's a character that vry well could be unsympathetic, but instead she comes off as vulnerable. I like how she is completely, wholly and uncompromisingly herself in high school even though it gets her nothing but flack. And slurpees in the face. SHE'S VERY TALENTED. GOLD STAR.

There's nothing wrong with this post. Nothing particularly fail-y or offensive.

But, I wanted to say. It's all well and good that you have someone to identify with, but what about me? Who do I have?

There's this other character on Glee named Tina Cohen-Chang. I only got through two episodes of the show (okay, one-and-a-half), but all I learned in those one-and-a-half episodes is that she (a) probably resembles me the closest out of the main cast, (b) she is a backup singer in the glee club, (c) she dresses like a goth, (d) she stutters, and (e) she is not good at anything. She doesn't get slurpees in the face, and it might be that she's uncompromisingly herself considering her wardrobe choices, but we can't see if she comes across as vulnerable or unsympathetic or anything else for that matter. She doesn't get to be talented. She doesn't get a story.

To Hollywood, we have no stories. Nothing beyond what they can take from us and remake into their own image. To them, we are useless, extraneous, ignorable; we all look alike. To them, we do not have our own complicated, strange, beautiful, imperfect lives. To them, we do not get to be the heroes of our own worlds.

But we are. In our own lives, we are the heroes. We make stir fries and dumplings together, and we commiserate over the way our parents guilt us into things, and we watch The Omega Glory to laugh at the racism, and we make fun of our own bad pronunciation of Chinese, and we can hold each other up, hold each other together. And sometimes, our stories will sneak in at the edges.

I think one of the reasons why I love Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon so much is because I saw it in theaters with my father, and I felt closer to myself than I ever had before. The Chinese-ness that always marked me as different was uncomplicated, normalized. The first time I saw a commercial for The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo, I felt amazed that she had her own show. I remember reading The Joy Luck Club and thinking that maybe it didn't really entirely reflect my experience, but I could see myself in the corners, peeking out, in ways I never had before. I think we need more stories like that. Stories that let us be superheroes and supermarket clerks and cops and soldiers and computer nerds and businessmen and reporters and starving artists and pilots and stoned college students and everything in between, because we are all of those things and more. I think we need to keep telling each other our stories, keep submitting entries to Remyth, keep talking to anyone who will listen.

Sometimes, I think about the stories that Tina Cohen-Chang must have that the show may never tell us. Does she go to synagogue with her mother on Fridays and burn incense with her father in the mornings? Did she have a Bat Mitzvah when she turned thirteen? When was the first time she realized no one thought her mom was her mom? Does she sing in the shower? Did she once, in middle school, put on a ridiculous, exaggerated Chinese accent to make the other kids laugh with her instead of at her, only to feel guilty about it days later? Did she decide to become a pagan when she was fourteen? Does she tell everyone she loves the Clash and the Ramones and the Sex Pistols but secretly hides a Jonas Brothers CD underneath her mattress? Does she stand in front of the mirror and practice saying the words she would have liked to use earlier when she was facing down a teacher, another student, her parents? Does she wake up each morning thinking she can't be the lead because she doesn't look right, doesn't act right, doesn't have the right voice?*

I think that last thing might be too depressing for me, so I prefer to believe that her life outside of the glee club is as full and rich as mine is all the time. I prefer to believe that she eats matzo during Passover and likes watching bad Scifi movies and hates cleaning her room, even when her dad guilts her into it. I prefer to believe she's failing math, because she sleeps through class, but she can smoke anyone in the school when it comes writing. I prefer to believe that maybe she thinks The Joy Luck Club is a little overwrought, but when she read it for the first time, she felt a little thrill at being able to understand the bits and pieces of Chinese sprinkled throughout the story.

I prefer to believe that like me, like us, she's complicated and strange and beautiful on the inside in a new age-y sort of way. And maybe the show will give her time to shine and maybe it won't. It doesn't matter really. Maybe someday Hollywood will acknowledge us and our stories, but until then, we have each other, and we have our own truths, our own joys and our own sorrows.

Fuck them if they're not willing to listen.

* Wikipedia and my flist tell me she does get a solo eventually. Cool!
thedeadparrot: (bitch please)
(posted by on Sep. 20th, 2009 12:40 pm)

Unfortunate Fandom Predictions

  1. The more screen time the girls get on Merlin, the less popular the fandom will become.

  2. Somewhere out there, someone believes their RPF smut fic actually happened.

  3. In the next few seconds, a female fan in fandom will say something incredibly failtastic gender-wise about a female character somewhere on LJ.

  4. Regardless of how slashy House and Wilson's relationship will be next season, there will still be a group of people on [ profile] house_wilson who will insist that anything less than the two of them fucking in canon will be a cop-out.

  5. As the season goes on, Glee will only get more misogynistic, racist, homophobic, and ableist. It will also be Fox's smash hit of the year.

  6. Fandom's next big slash OTP will be two white guys.

thedeadparrot: (need for speed)
(posted by on Sep. 13th, 2009 09:21 pm)
My knuckles hurt from punching through a piece of wood. Owwwwww.

Class I am TAing is eating my life.

I haven't really been writing much. Except for this bit of the ninja!Foreman AU for [personal profile] hannah, because she wrote me this awesome story about food in the Trekverse.

I have been getting other stuff done. Like, I cleaned the bathroom, took out the garbage, did my laundry, finished up a week's worth of homeworks and class notes, baked cookies, and set up port forwarding on my router. Productivity is awesome!

Also, I gotta say, I am really fucking sick of people who complain about other people calling out racism/sexism/other-ism. I've run across a few of them, some even anonymously, and you know what? If you're one of those people who has a problem with me hating on your favorite TV/movies/books, you know where the de-friend button is, and I will not be offended. In fact, it will probably be better for both our blood pressures.

Yeah, fandom is changing, and fandom has changed me. You have no idea how important it was for me to discover the words to describe my discomfort and my anger and my existence, and I will always be grateful to fandom for giving me those tools. I am not an acafan. My degrees is in fields that are basically math with a tiny bit of engineering thrown in. I have never taken a class on gender or race theory.

You are not being oppressed by my anger. And when you say, "Why can't fandom be happier?" and, "Jeez, you don't have to make such a big deal out of it," all I hear is, "Why can't you sit down and shut the fuck up?"

Yeah, no. Not going to happen. I've been silent enough as it is.

Context and further discussion:
[personal profile] ciderpress brings the truth.
[personal profile] maschalismos has the screencaps.
thedeadparrot: (bitch please)
(posted by on Sep. 10th, 2009 08:16 pm)
So, my problems with Glee are partially stemming from the fact that the show could be so good, and then every time I watch it, I feel slapped in the face. Repeatedly.

Guess who watched this week's episode? (spoilers) )
thedeadparrot: (shatner bullshit)
(posted by on Aug. 29th, 2009 10:23 pm)
Dear flist,


But I guess I might as well try, with spoilers. )



thedeadparrot: (toph chop!)
(posted by on Jul. 29th, 2009 02:40 pm)
Okay, so I watched the pilot for Glee, because it looked quirky and fun. (Yay, musicals!) And it is.


Spoilers and displeasure underneath the cut )
thedeadparrot: (save your mortal soul)
(posted by on Feb. 23rd, 2009 12:28 pm)
So, apparently Slumdog Millionaire pwned everyone in the face during the Oscars. I'm kind of ambivalent about this, because I'm happy for the wins for like A. R. Rahman and for the fact that this acknowledges the fact that this means that movies with, like, brown people can be interesting and successful. But at the same time, I'm uncomfortable with the movie's success.

I think this post sums up some of the things that bother me about the movie and says them better than I could.

I still like the movie, though I kind of desperately want someone to write fic to fix it. I'm not sure fic can. Well, maybe the Latika portions could be. I don't know about the cultural appropriation bits.


Also, to help cheer you up after that, here is Dev Patel being a giant dork:

Courtesy of [ profile] glassbomb
thedeadparrot: (self-portrait me)
(posted by on Feb. 4th, 2009 02:41 pm)
I have been angry lately because I feel like have a lot of anger to make up for. I've been thinking about race in general and my race in particular, and how I've spent so much of my life identifying as white because it was easier, because it was expected of me, and I've been trying harder lately to say, "No. Fuck that shit. That's not who I am. That's not what I've experienced."

I've spent too much of my life thinking that none of my white friends understand my anger because it's not valid, that I shouldn't get angry because it means rocking the boat, it means making other people upset, and I'm a good Asian girl. I don't do things like that. It means that I've noticed race, and I shouldn't do that, that makes me a racist.

I want to change that now. I want to get angry and say so and have reasons for it. I want to say what I've been pushing away for so long. I want to talk about something that has made me so upset for so long, I still have the scars.

This is about constructions of beauty, and about my own issues, and about racism.

Why I Will Hate Arthur Golden Forever And Ever )
thedeadparrot: (meta)
(posted by on Jan. 7th, 2009 02:22 pm)
So, a few conversations about Merlin (and its race and gender issues) on my flist have made me think about what we ask of our source material, about how we deal with the problematic aspects of what we love.

Like, I know that there's a fuckton that's problematic with Merlin, I really do. But I still love it and its stupid storylines and its characters and the destiny-filled pontifications of the goddamn slash dragon. Even with all of that, though, there's a lot I have to overlook, and there's a lot I have to pretend won't happen, and there's a lot I have to remind myself will happen, in order for me to fully enjoy it.

I prefer to live in a land where Morgana doesn't go evil and crazy, for example, and instead, becomes a powerful sorceress who has her own kingdom that she runs by herself and teases Arthur when, for plot related reasons, he has to beg her for help. Gwen, of course, goes questing with Arthur and kills lots of mystical beasts and helps Arthur run Camelot and makes out with Morgana for fun. And Merlin. And Arthur, even. (Because I'm totally an OT4 girl at heart.) I know that's not how it's going to happen, but fandom's the place where I can make that happen, right? Fandom's how I can remake the source in my own image, right?

It is a lot of work to do that, but to me, the work that goes into making Merlin palatable to me is worth it. I know that it won't be for everyone one. And the thing is, I have to compensate for these things with pretty much every television show and movie I watch, whether it's the evil seductress robots of BSG or the marginalization of Ronon and Teyla on SGA or the horrendous treatment of Rachel in The Dark Knight. I have do this all the time in order to enjoy anything at all.

Even then, there is definitely source material out there that I can't enjoy because, for me, the problems outweigh my enjoyment of it. Firefly has gotten to that place for me with its race issues, the more I think about it, because on a very visceral level, it erases me and my ethnicity even as it co-opts my parents' culture and language. And the show is so much fun, too. I love Joss's sense of humor and I love how the show messes with Western tropes, but at the same time, I watch it and I go, "Is it really that fucking hard to find East Asian actors good enough to give lines to?" Then I get angry and need to go somewhere else and possibly pull out my copy of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.

So, my question to you guys is, how do you guys cope with this bullshit? Do you rewrite canon? Do you just try to ignore it and make it background noise? Are there any particular things that squick you enough that you can't enjoy the source material anymore? How much is too much for you?


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