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In which I have a lot of thoughts about Michiru March 7, 2017

Posted by Erin Ptah in Erin Watches, Meta, Uncategorized.
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All caught up with the Sailor Business podcast. They get better about doing research as it goes on! Plus, by now they have a large-enough listener base that a lot of solid, deep information is being called/sent in. Good stuff. Very listenable.

Followed a rec from one of their episodes to the Love and Justice podcast, where the shtick is that they compare plots across all the different versions. Starting with the Crystal episodes.

I did wince when they got to Ami’s introduction, and were confused that the manga was “more modern” than the ’92 anime, because she uses a CD instead of a floppy. Guys, your whole thing is comparing different versions, and you don’t realize the manga had two different releases? (Well, three at this point, but the uber-high-quality edition hasn’t been released stateside.) The version used for the Kodansha translations has a whole lot of updated art, most of which involves fixing wonky figures and adding more details, some of which involves the Dark Kingdom tech getting an upgrade.

Again, it’s still early episodes, and fun enough that I’m sticking with it. Hopefully someone eventually clues them in.

***

I ended up writing a long thing to Sailor Business, because they’ve been really doing a disservice to Michiru’s character. And apparently I have a lot more Feelings about her than I realized.

Context: They just passed the two-parter where Usagi is a daimon target. Before Uranus and Neptune arrive on-scene, Michiru asks Haruka if she’s really okay with the possibility of that cute girl being sacrificed. Haruka, stoically, insists that she’s fine. They gotta do what they gotta do.

…So our hosts keep saying Michiru is “passive” or “go along to get along.” Because Haruka is the more overtly loud and confrontational one…and that means Michiru is just following her lead, taking cues from her.

But now they’ve seen Michiru’s episode with Ami — she didn’t waver or wait for direction, she went straight for the jugular. And that’s a microcosm of how she’s approaching the whole quest: do something ruthless and cruel in the short term (pulling no punches with Ami/killing the Talisman holders) for the sake of a greater good in the long term (making Ami stronger/saving the world).

There’s an old butch-femme trope/cliche, that femmes are “steel wrapped in velvet,” and that’s Michiru. On the surface she’s all soft graceful feminine hobbies, but underneath she’s perfectly capable of knifing you in your sleep.

The flip side of the trope is that butches are “velvet wrapped in steel,” i.e. Haruka has a tough exterior but is a marshmallow underneath. Which lines right up with the podcast’s favorite relationship trope — “which of these people is the dog, and which is the cat?” Haruka is the dog! She barks really loud, but she’s a sucker for belly rubs. She yells a lot about how they have to kill the Talisman holders, to cover the fact that she’s the one who wrestles with it most in private.

Michiru handles the idea much better. Michiru is the cat who will knock all your stuff onto the floor, and look you in the eye while she’s doing it, with zero remorse. Michiru is the senshi who would win Most Likely To Become A Supervillain — not from brainwashing/hypnosis, we already know who’s most likely to go through that, but based on her own personality and for her own reasons.

So when Michiru asks Haruka if she’s okay with killing that cute innocent Usagi to save the world, there are two things going on here.

First is basically a supervillainy spot-check. Michiru knows it makes sense to her to kill a few people for the Greater Good, but is that really the moral strategy, or just the most coldly efficient one? Well, Haruka wouldn’t be capable of doing this for the sake of cold efficiency alone. So Michiru can reliably calibrate her moral compass by Haruka.

The second angle is Michiru being a concerned girlfriend. What if they get the Talismans and save the world, but afterward Haruka can’t handle the guilt? What if she has lifelong nightmares about Usagi’s death?

We don’t see what would have happened if Haruka had broken down and said “no, I’m sorry, this is too much, I can’t go through with it.” So different viewers can have different interpretations. My guess is that Michiru would say “it’s okay, sweetie, you don’t have to, we’ll find another way”…and then send Haruka home and go to Tokyo Tower on her own, making herself solely responsible for whatever happens to any Talisman-holders who show up.

Because sacrificing three lives for the sake of the world is one thing, but making Haruka feel bad about herself? That’s a bridge too far.

So, yeah, ruthless…but also, to be fair, a teenage girl in a traumatic situation. Part of the way she’s handling it is by telling herself, “look, I know I’m not a Good Person. A good person wouldn’t be this resigned to murdering three innocent people. But at least I can protect Haruka’s soul from being crushed along the way. I still get to draw the line somewhere, and I choose here.”

It takes another level in heart-rending when (and wow, I am looking forward to these episodes) you find out that Haruka got into the senshi game for Michiru. She told Haruka not to do it — trying to protect her, although at that point it was in an impersonal, “nobody should have to deal with this stress” way — and maybe Haruka would’ve listened, except then Sailor Neptune got in a monster fight she was going to lose without Sailor Uranus as backup.

So on some level Michiru is trying to atone for not being strong enough to keep this cute girl out of the fight.

 

…and you know, this makes it all the more satisfying when we get to that one SuperS special. A minor antagonist claims he has world-destroying powers, but Uranus and Neptune aren’t intimidated by that threat anymore. And Neptune cheerfully leans into her ruthlessness — she’s 100% bluffing, but she’s very good. Terrifies the pants off the guy. She has the power to simultaneously be a Big Damn Hero and out-villain the villains.

(Would you believe it, when I was a teenager, Michiru was the senshi I was least interested in? No, really. Even accounting for the context of her relationship with Haruka, who is probably my team-wide fave, I was not expecting to have this many Michiru feelings. But someone was Wrong On The Internet, and bam, here we are.)

Doctor Who Series 8 approaches June 29, 2014

Posted by Erin Ptah in Fandom, Meta.
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New teaser for the next season of Doctor Who…and I’m kinda discouraged.

It was encouraging to see Twelve getting an older-looking body, with a style reminiscent of some of the earlier Doctors. But partly because I was hoping it was a hint that they were going to take a more old-fashioned approach to the writing, too. Ditch the “every season gets a narrower and narrower focus on the Doctor himself and his personal importance” trend along with the “every Doctor gets younger” one.

More aliens and mysteries and diplomatic shenanigans and adventures, please! Less of the Doctor navel-gazing and fretting about whether he is a Good Person. There’s only so much you can do with that, and by this point I assure you it has all been done.

I don’t think queer fetishization means what you think it means. March 3, 2013

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Came across this tumblr post on what counts as queer fetishization with respect to m/m shipping, and was annoyed enough to write a post about it.

(It doesn’t get directly addressed, but it’s worth emphasizing any time a discussion like this comes around that the majority of slashers identify as queer.)

Point by point:

…some key aspects of queer fetishization include:

1. straight or straight-passing privilege

(a) No. All straight people have straight privilege. That doesn’t mean all straight people are fetishizing queer people.

(b) No. There is no way to talk about “straight-passing privilege” that doesn’t come across as playing queerer-than-thou over bisexual people, gay people who don’t shatter established gender norms, and trans* people in relationships with the “less queer-appearing” sex/gender combinations. Stop it.

2. shipping exclusively white cis men

This may involve fetishization of whiteness, cisness, and/or maleness, but none of it is related to fetishization of queerness.

It’s also fair to note that there aren’t a lot of trans* characters out there in media in the first place. And as for the gender part, some writers — hard as it is to believe — are exclusively sexually attracted to dudes in their fiction. That’s no more shameful than being straight is.

3. usually misogyny (writing out women, killing off women, bashing women for “getting in the way of” a slash ship, etc.), racism (ignoring people of color), and transphobia (ignoring trans*folk)

That kind of misogyny isn’t related to queer fetishization either. It’s just misogyny. The two can be tied together when we’re talking about f/f relationships, but not so much with m/m ones.

Ignoring characters of color in your fannish experience is frequently eyebrow-raising, and can very well be racism. But it’s not queer fetishization.

Same with trans* characters, only less eyebrow-raising; see previous comments about rarity.

4. consistently ignoring canonically queer characters in favor of slashing canonically straight characters

Jack/Ianto.

Kurt/Blaine.

I mean, this phenomenon would be worth analyzing if it were actually happening, but I don’t buy that it is. Main characters in big fandoms who are queer men get slashed with just as much enthusiastic juggernaut fervor as main characters in big fandoms who are straight(-identified) men.

5. comments indicating slashing all men you meet, to the point of disregarding individuals’ sexual identities

Oh no, the sexuality of a straight-identified man was not sufficiently respected! This is a serious and threatening issue which queer people should find personally insulting!

…no, hang on, what I meant to say was that the tender feelings of straight men are the last thing queer people should be worrying about. Let alone trying to elevate to the level of fetishizing queer people.

6. treating shipping as activism

Yeah, this is really annoying.

…I’m not sure it’s an issue of fetishization so much as the general issue of Ascribing Too Much Importance To The Stupid Stuff You Do On The Internet. But it is a thing that happens, is annoying, and is related to queerness, which makes it the most relevant thing on this list so far.

7. ignoring, talking down, or harassing queer people for voicing their discomfort with fetishistic behavior

Also a real issue, and a Bad Thing To Do.

But while it falls squarely under the umbrella of Things Not To Do To Queer People, it really isn’t part of the fetish-y subcategory thereof.

What weirds me out is that nowhere on this list are any of the behaviors I would classify as queer-fetishizing. And there are plenty! Insisting that same-sex relationships are inherently more “pure” or “equal” than het ones, for instance. Writing out past het relationships in a way that is not only misogynistic (“ugh, that woman never deserved him”) but actively creepy about queerness (“his devotion to this other man won’t be true and worthy unless he was always 100% same-sex attracted”). Forcing all gay characters in your fanworks into sexual stereotypes — say, the “fey, slender, beautiful, fragile, submissive gay guy” mold — regardless of their canon characterization. Harassing queer people IRL for details of their sex lives in a way that you would recognize as inappropriate with straight people. Opposing gay rights in real life — that is, reducing queerness itself to a “okay in fiction, not appropriate for real people” fetish a la non-con.

But instead of bringing up any of that, this person fills the list with problems from other *isms, people being annoying on the Internet, and the hurt feelings of straight men.

tl;dr sometimes fanfic writers have issues re: queer people but this person is talking through their hat.

“Well, you should learn to control your temper” December 30, 2012

Posted by Erin Ptah in Meta.
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Earlier today I came across a post about critical examination of media. It’s engaging and well-written and makes a lot of very good points, and I agree 100% with its conclusion.

But I take issue with one of her examples, and it’s one that people bring up a lot, so allow me to tear it apart unpack it.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is not an abuse-apologist narrative.

(more…)

Monday-ish roundup, 10/30 October 30, 2012

Posted by Erin Ptah in But I'm A Cat Person, Meta, Works Roundup.
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But I’m A Cat Person
Dressed For Snow (art | Sparrow, Bianca, Patrick | worksafe)
Stained Glass Rabbit (colored lineart | Cybele | worksafe)
The Girl With The Hex (art | Cybele, Reseda, Poe | worksafe)
Get That Bat (art | anthro!Reseda, other character | worksafe)

Fake News(/The Sentinel)
Whap! (sketches | “Stephen”, Jon, liberal!”Stephen” | worksafe)
All My Roads Lead To You, part 1 (AO3 mirror) (fic | Jon/wife, Jon/”Stephen”, others | PG)
A Little Nap (art | tiny!Jon, “Stephen” | worksafe)

Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Cat and Masque (art | Homura, Madoka | worksafe)
The Girl With The Wish: a multi-mahou-shoujo comparison (meta | Madoka, Shugo Chara!, Utena, Sailor Moon, Jeanne | G)

General/Miscellaneous
Gymnast Girl (commissioned art)

This Week in But I’m A Cat Person:
Taking a break with some art and bonus material before we dive into Chapter 9…

Summaries of the unproduced SJA episodes! August 27, 2012

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Details taken from the SJA companion magazine, found on Tumblr:

The one where Mr. Smith is put in a human body and flirts with Carla

The one that’s being partially repurposed into a Who episode, featuring Rani Doing Journalism

The one where Sarah Jane is part of (another) ancient prophecy, Jo Grant discovers it via Doing Archaeology, and Sky pulls a Tinkerbell Jesus

Miscellaneous other concepts that never got expanded for production

I really dislike what they were planning for Sky, and will be sticking with the fanon theories for that one. And really, poor Sarah Jane, how many ancient prophecies about her does one woman need? I’m torn about whether I like their idea of a Torchwood crossover, or whether I’m glad that scenario will be left to fic writers. On the plus side, the Mr. Smith thing could have been fun, another callback to Jo would have been awesome, and ACE. WE COULD HAVE HAD ACE.

What does everyone else think?

Points of interest. August 24, 2011

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Diana Wynne Jones on the differences between writing for children and writing for adults, and why the latter isn’t as freeing as it sounds like it should be.

Turns out you can stream a lot of video on VLC. Awesome.

Maid cafes have their beefcake counterpart.

Seems the term “BNF” is much older than I thought. Here’s some meta on the subject (contrasting it with the now-defunct category of “Neofan”) from 1954.

Awesome natural stuff: Immortal jellyfish that age and regress and re-grow; artificial reefs made from things like subway cars; the world’s biggest known caverns, underground spaces large enough to hold a New York city block.

Congress Spotted Leaving Gay Nightclub. Aw, Onion.

A gathered history of Disney’s relationship with the Oz books, and all the failed projects along the path from getting the rights to actually putting something together.

Historically accurate interpretations of Disney Princess outfits. Shiny.

Narrative anti-kinks February 14, 2011

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I think I’ve put a finger on one of my narrative anti-kinks. For lack of a shorter name, let’s call it Drama And/Or Angst In Which None Of The Characters Are Likable.

It’s easy to avoid when people are in conflict and one side is clearly The Heroes — your basic Joseph Campbell monomyth, and/or football game featuring the Packers. (Go cheeseheads!) It gets more complicated when the hero starts doing morally questionable things, but often you can understand where they’re coming from, even if you disagree. Or at least, you can see how their Issues are distorting their worldview, and feel for them. The Ninth Doctor did that a lot; Ten too, less effectively.

On the far end of that scale, I think, is what you usually get from “Stephen”. He can be flat-out abusive over something ridiculously petty…but he’s so ridiculous about it that you still kind of want to pat him on the head and say, yes, I know, it is horribly unfair that the Starbucks under one side of your desk closed, so now you have to go all the way to the other side if you want a latte.

Fights in which neither side is Wrong are also fun, where you’re not so much cheering for a single viewpoint as hoping that all parties can get together and work something out, or at least find a tenable balance. Desperate Housewives does this all the time, putting two people with clashing viewpoints on a collision course over some issue, then just letting them bounce off each other as they frantically try to avoid the horror of a heart-to-heart talk.

The problem comes when you have nothing to cheer for at all. Death Note avoided this for me by having such complicated schemes and machinations that it distracted you from the increasing lack of characters worth caring about. Both the Tenth Doctor and BtVS pushed it a lot in their later seasons, with too many moments of “yes, I know the bad guys are evil, but the heroes are being such dicks right now.”

And at least those had their epic fantasy/sci-fi/adventure goings-on to keep up the interest. Worst of all is when you have a completely mundane or domestic setting, with characters fighting over something stupid or petty or “completely fixable if you would just do Simple Thing X and stop angsting about it.” And it’s not cute or funny, but played completely straight, as if the reader is supposed to be tormented on behalf of at least one of these people, when the narrative has given you no reason to be anything more than annoyed with both.

The whole setup is my anti-emo-porn. Not only do I avoid it when I can, but if I end up reading some by accident, it leaves me grouchy and irritated until well afterward.

Is there a shorter term for this scenario? A trope name, maybe? I feel like there should be. I can’t be the only person who gets this put off by it.

On a semi-related note, is “descriptions of drug use” a narrative kink for some people? I’ve come across a few fics recently that go into minute detail about things like a couple of characters smoking pot, which to me is about as interesting as a step-by-step description of somebody loading a dishwasher. But these are written with the kind of loving detail usually reserved for, well, sex scenes. Is it a “you had to have been there” kind of thing, or (as with porn) are there people who enjoy these scenes for their own sake, and I’m just not one of them?

more personal miscellany October 20, 2010

Posted by Erin Ptah in And Shine Heaven Now, Fandom, Personal.
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Can anybody open this file? The extension is .DCR, and it should be an image, which I believe is animated. (I made it myself, so I know it’s virus-free.) If you can convert the frames into some more universal image format and get them back to me, I will shower you with cookies.

Watched Pleasantville yesterday, while working on go_exchange assignment. This movie, you guys. This movie. Not only is it a visual and technical marvel, the whole thing is clearly a metaphor for fandom. A couple of viewers step into canon, and…okay, the first thing they introduce is porn, with a strong focus on female sexuality. But this is followed by AU, and crossovers, and shipping, and character studies, and all sorts of depths that the original series never explored. I want to buy everybody I know a copy.

Speaking of fandom: my WIP folder no longer has a scrollbar. Pretty soon I’m not going to know what to do with myself.

Picked up an AO3 account, thus silencing forever that nagging voice in the back of my head saying maybe I should make use of my ff.net one to upload things. Currently posted: all my non-fake-news stuff, and a couple of the fake-newsy crossovers. Not planning to post the whole fake-news oeuvre; still mulling over which bits to post, and when.

Shine readers who follow the forum will already know that I’ve had trouble sleeping, and am a bit behind on updates. Still working on it. Will be up to speed soon. Possibly after a nap.

For your entertainment in the meantime: Not My Fandom Fest is, with the possible exception of Pleasantville, the most disarmingly charming thing I’ve seen all week.

Welcome to the tubes August 19, 2010

Posted by Erin Ptah in Meta, News Roundup.
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The psychological havoc wreaked on people who work as Internet content screeners. Much as I appreciate the inherent possibility of awesome in the wide-open Internet, I’m glad these people are out there fending off the worst of it.

Facebook struggles with how to cope when users die. Especially when they keep getting cycled through the “You should get back in touch with ____” macro.

How the Internet is throwing a wrench in our normal cultural process of forgetting a person’s wrongs, or at least putting them in perspective, over time.

AfterElton examines the influence of slashfic. Rather awkwardly. There’s a lot of “slashers are all straight women” and “gay rights are all about men”, and some reliance on badfic stereotypes (it all recapitulates traditional gender roles and is never realistic!). At least it was generally positive?

More than a year from its frenzied kickoff, the long-term progress of serious hacker activism in Iran. (Hands up if you noticed that the guy at the front of this is queer!)

A couple of scientists go on vacation, come back with new ideas about the brain and how we’re affected by our growing digital overload.

Desperate Pandora Employees Scrambling To Find Song Area Man Likes. Warms my geeky Pandora-loving heart.