October 3, 2008

Southland Tales: Bullshit I Kind of Liked

Filed under:Science Fiction — Lake Desire @ 9:00 pm

Donnie Darko is my favorite American movie, so I was excited for Richard Kelly’s next movie, Southland Tales, for years before its production. Then I forgot all about it and realized the movie was release two years ago and recently came out on DVD. I picked up a copy at my university library today and watched it in one sitting. Here’s my initial impressions, probably to be revised once I read the graphic novel. (The film is parts 4-6, the graphic novel parts 1-3.)

I’ll try to avoid major spoilers, but I do hint at what happens in this post.

The Rock, Buffy, Justin Timberlake. Cool. Republicans and Neo-Marxists fighting over the election, ubiquitous surveillance, the draft, brain-washing an actor and a cop to make black-mail footage, World War III, mad science teleporting the ocean’s energy to fuel perpetual machines. Wow, that’s a lot going on. Justin Timberlake describes his world as being on the verge of anarchy to describe an increasingly repressive government and its resistance.

I found the first chunk of the film pretty overwhelming. I was lost in an overly complex plot that failed to convince me of it’s epic importance or justify the violence. I was introduced to a radically alternate 2008, and wasn’t convinced of such cultural and technological changes in the three years since the fictional nuclear attack in Texas that split off Southland Tales’s timeline from mine.

This movie is explicitly leftist, and I love it when science fiction features politically radical characters. But the radicals in Southland Tales were superficial. As much as I like seeing women with guns yelling, “facist pigs” at the police, I found the Neo-Marxists unbelievable because both the men and women used sexist language and mostly just accused people of being facists without any analysis or clear political objectives. What was their goal? To help the democrats win the election? That doesn’t really make sense to me.

By the second half of Southland Tales–once I started to follow the plot (probably because some of the convoluting side-plots narrowed with killed-off characters) I actually was getting into the plot. It was like my old school games: you start off thinking the fate of a city or nation is at stake, which is a pretty big deal, but it’s actually literally the whole frickin’ universe.

In addition to themes of time travel and dimensional rips, Southland Tales visually cites Donnie Darko. There’s a poster of Frank’s rabbit mask on a wall. Near the end of the movie, a character is shot in the eye and channeling Gyllenhaal’s cute/whiney/mumbling/dreaming Donnie. There are probably a few other references I overlooked.

Southland Tales did turn out to be a bit like Donnie Darko in some of its themes and music sequences, but also with an explicit political theme and engagement with radical politics. I think neither goal really turned out especially well.


May 23, 2007

Carnival Reminders

Filed under:Personal, Science Fiction, Site News — Lake Desire @ 9:49 am

Hello everyone! I’m still around, but I’ve been outside cycling and enjoying the nice weather instead of gaming and writing about it. (Maybe I need to finally get that ladies D&D group together so we can do something nerdy outside.) And I’m stuck on Pokemon Pearl, that doesn’t help much, either.

Hey bloggers and LJ folks: Don’t forget to submit to the 14th Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans at Heroine Content by May 30 and the very first People of Color Science Fiction Carnival by June 15. As usual, I’d be happy to host your writing here if you’re not a blogger yourself.


January 26, 2007

All I Remember about Aki is Her Bikini

Filed under:Gender, Science Fiction, Sexism — Lake Desire @ 6:45 pm

I mentioned the other day I watched Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, for the first time since the film was in the theaters.

Square ain’t exactly progressive in its race and gender roles, but it was still disturbing to see Hollywood slapped all over Final Fantasy’s more or less deep themes. And with it came all that bullshit of a mainstream, capitalist narrative. Like sexism. And racism.

Aki is a doctor. She has her own spaceship. She saves the planet. So she’s supposed to be the filmmakers’ perfect woman (remember when she was in Maxim?), but having her PhD and knowing how to pilot a ship into space are pretty cool, even if its men deciding what makes a woman perfect. Like there is such a thing.

What did I remember about Aki after all these years? That she is a Mary Sue. (It sucks Mary Sues are almost all we get as female leads, but also sucks because that label, in a way, invalidates them as legitimate characters.) I remember the detail of her hair, her pores, her bikini picture. That in the film her boyfriend dies to save her. Stuff that we always hear about women: their looks, their scandals, their romances. Not their mental or physical accomplishments, but their abilities to look good and be somebody’s girlfriend.


August 3, 2006

Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans: 3rd Edition

Filed under:Online Communities, Science Fiction, Site News — Lake Desire @ 10:26 pm

Welcome to the 3rd Edition of the Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans. Putting together this issue has been a pleasure; I’m learning so much about comics from you lot.

If you’d like to host a future issue of the carnival, please E-mail ragnellthefoul AT hotmail DOT com .


Film and Television

Starting us off, Jen of reappropriate writes on Lois Lane in her Margot Kidder incarnation as a feminist icon:

And despite being married to the most powerful man in the world, the flawed Lois is a reminder that what is truly breathtaking is not what Superman can do with his powers, but what humanity, particularly femininity, can do without them.

In the category of race, LiveJournal user rachelmanija writes a two part post that analyzes the pros and cons of colorblind race casting, honing in on Star Trek.

In another LiveJournal post, bitterfig shares her Thoughts on Lady in the Water, the latest M. Night Shyamalan film.


Pam Noles–in “Persistence Overcomes Resistance”: Thoughts On The Black Panel at Comic Con International, 2006–recounts and analyzes the lone Black Panel at this years Comic Con:

It’s one thing to choose to not acknowledge the myriad Other around you when you set out to do your fiction. I might even argue that this is your right, in a Woody Allen sense, if you choose to unleash your skills exploring a unique cultural subset with as much verisimilitude as you can muster to which this type of issue is not entirely applicable. But it’s something else ENTIRELY to recognize those differences, yet be too afraid to even make the attempt to engage with them on any level in the fictional worlds that you create from your soul. What’s wrong with your creator soul that the thought of realigning yourself beyond your default boundaries is so very frightful that you won’t even make the attempt? If you are too afraid to do that, perhaps it’s time to take another look at the job description.

On the Whileaway LiveJournal Community, Ide Cyan writes on desirability of male nerds in Spider-Man: Unmasked and how it influences her purchases.

100LittleDolls discusses Batwoman in Access to Power:

As far as DC making the current incarnation of Batwoman a lesbian: it’s to sell books. DC in no way believes that straight women can’t be powerful, that a straight woman superhero isn’t the answer to the typical male (straight) superhero. Most of the superhero’s that we read about are straight: Wonder Woman is straight, She-Hulk is straight, Phoenix is soo straight, I could go on and on. I can only count on one hand the number of lesbian superhero’s I’m aware of.

In Monday Misandry, Ragnell wonders if any man would actually avoid entertainment with respectul female characters.

Katherine of Whereof one can speak writes about female characters positioned as the Other and how difficult it was for her to identify with these characters when she was a girl. From her post Costume design and reader identification; or For God’s sake, woman, put some underwear on!:

Well, Sheeva was a very cool character in many ways. She was self-assured, confident, strong; she could make things explode with her mind. Even the above image of her is not the worst cheesecake I’ve ever seen, by a country mile: there’s no cleavage, she’s reasonably proportioned, her stance and expression are not porny and (gasp!) her shoes have flat heels.

But she’s not wearing any underwear!

And BANG! my eight-year-old self lost interest, just like that.

Panties still seem to be out these days for superheroines. Karen Healey breaks down the of an upcoming issue of Supergirl in Whose Goddamn Title Is It Anyways:

What the fuck is that miniscule ruffle that barely covers the top of her thighs? Could it possibly be made any clearer that this sixteen-year-old flying superheroine is not wearing underwear?

If you weren’t familiar with either of these characters, based entirely on the depiction of their costumes and positions, which one would you say is capable of beating the crap out of the other without breaking a sweat?

Who is powerful?

Who is vulnerable?

Yeah. And people wonder why I’m angry.

In An Open Letter to Edgy Writers Who Write About Really Real Real Life, Dan Jacobson writes about rape as a plot device:

You may think that this means that I think there’s something inherently wrong with dealing with sexual assault and rape in comic stories. This is not precisely true. Dealing with it is fine. But simply introducing it into the text is not the same thing as dealing with it. Simply presenting it as bad, or taking a textual stance against it, is not the same thing as dealing with it. We all know it’s bad. You won’t be blowing any minds with that stunning revelation. And yes, the same could probably be said for all violent crimes. What sets rape apart, however, is that it is a crime that, the overwhelming majority of the time, happens to women, and happens to them precisely because they are women.

Video Games

Guilded Lily has conducted a wonderful two part interview with game developer Tara Teich on getting more women into the game industry.

My own entry for the carnival is Passing, in which I discuss my reasons for hiding that I’m a gamer and a geek.

100LittleDolls–after experiencing a form of malicious alternative masculinity–declares in her post Masculinity, Nerds, and Me:

I’m not interested in games, comics, anime, what have you, in order to prove anything. My interest is that I simply like them. I think the guys I came in contact with initially started out the same way, but found that as they grew older and had their masculinity questioned, they had to use their hobbies as a way to prove themselves. I, as a geek girl, stand in direct opposition to that, which is why I failed, after the first couple of hours, to find a common ground with them.

That’s it for this issue! Thank you all for submitting. Keep an eye on the official carnival home for announcements involving the next issue. Until then, keep reading, writing, gaming, and opining.


July 27, 2006

Official Call for Submissions: 3rd Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans

Filed under:Science Fiction, Site News — Lake Desire @ 8:50 pm

I’m hosting the next issue of The Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans, which will be released one week from today on August 3, 2006.

The issue’s theme–or writing prompt–is the present through origins. This could be a reflection on how your feminism and geekiness came to intersect, a post that traces the the evolution of women in a particular genre, a revisitation of the old school canons, a look at fresh and new things that are starting a revolution of their own, a memoir of finding that first great book or game or comic that really clicked for you, or whatever you can imagine.

Of course, the usual guidelines are fair game. They are (written by Ragnell):

  • All Weblog Postings on Science Fiction and Fantasy works in all media (books, comic books, television, film, roleplaying tabletop games and video games) written from a Feminist Perspective are eligible.
  • Fan fiction written from a Feminist Perspective is eligible.
  • Posts about fan fiction written from a Feminist Perspective are eligible.
  • Posts about conventions and fan gatherings of a Feminist nature are eligible.
  • Posts about conventions and fan gatherings written from a Feminist Perspective are eligible.
  • Posts about any science fiction or fantasy fandom written from a Feminist Perspective are eligible.
  • Posts linking to newsand announcements are eligible, so long as they pertain specifically to the Feminist Sci-Fi Fantasy community.
  • Considerations about science fiction/fantasy news from a Feminist Perspective are eligible.
  • Analysis of non-Feminist works from a Feminist Perspective are eligible.
  • Rants about any of the above written from a Feminist Perspective are eligible.
  • Posts which spell “Space” using 3 A’s and two exclamation points and are written from a Feminist Perspective are eligible.
  • Posts about Green-Skinned Amazons (from Outer Spaaace!) with more than two breasts that are not written from a Feminist Perspective will not be eligible (and if they aren’t damned funny,* will be reproduced for mockery).
  • Posts about Getting Your Girlfriend into [specific type of fandom] had also better be damned funny. If written from a Feminist Perspective (even tongue-in-cheek), they will be eligible.

    *Sexist and/or homophobic does not equal damned funny, nor does it constitute anything approaching a Feminist Perspective.

  • Anything goes, really.

    Submission deadlines are August 1, 2006 (although I’ll still consider late submissions if I have time). Please E-mail them to lakedesire@gmail.com or use the web submission form.


    June 18, 2006

    Feminist Science Fiction Carnival: Call for Submissions

    Filed under:News, Online Communities, Science Fiction — Lake Desire @ 8:13 am

    Hey bloggers! Ragnell of Written World is hosting the first issue of the the Feminist SF Carnival. The issue will be posted July 2, 2006, and the submission deadline is June 29, 2006. From the carnival introduction:

    The Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans periodically collects posts from the hazy side-reality where feminist social consciousness meets the outer limits of the imagination. This is to draw attention to lesser known bloggers, to bring individuals of like-minded (or at least, understanding) interests together, and to foster the growth of feminist fan communities.

    Discussions of science fiction, fantasy, and fandom–from a feminist perspective–in all mediums are cool, including books, film, video games, television, and table-top games.

    Submissions for the first issue can be E-mailed to Ragnell ( ragnellthefoul AT hotmail DOT com ) or submitted at the submission form.

    Cross-posted on Feminist SF – The Blog!


    May 2, 2006

    Feminist SF – The Blog!

    Filed under:Feminism, News, Online Communities, Personal, Science Fiction — Lake Desire @ 10:30 am

    I’ve started contributing to a new blog called Feminist SF – The Blog!. I’m writing there under my real name, Ariel Wetzel.

    The blog was founded by Laura Quilter of FeministSF.org, and she’s also started a new Wiki for Feminist Science Fiction. I’m planning on adding some entries about video games, but I invite you all to beat me to it.


    February 27, 2006

    Memorial for Octavia Butler

    Filed under:News, Science Fiction, Writing — Lake Desire @ 10:40 pm

    Pacific Northwest readers: there is going to be a memorial for Octavia Butler at the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle on March 2nd, 2006, at 7:30 pm. My class schedule will make it difficult for me to attend, but if I am able to make it down to Seattle I’ll post here so I know to say hi to any readers attending.

    Tip-off on Whileaway. Also information there on a memorial in New York March 3rd.

    I’ve also posted a bit more about Octavia Butler on tekanji’s blog, including links to some of her work available online.


    January 23, 2006

    Giving Up Being Female

    Filed under:Gender, Science Fiction — Lake Desire @ 9:34 pm

    Via And We Shall March, LiveJournal user Coffeeem discusses being a female scifi fan:

    Like Pam Noles, I inserted myself into the stories I loved. I identified with the brave, resourceful, persevering heroes. When in high school I read Lord of the Rings, it was something like a religious conversion: I was determined to do right whatever the cost, to become the kind of shining hero who would carry the Ring, who would defend Gondor, who would defeat the Dark Lord.

    I never felt I couldn’t do that because I was female. Nope. Because at some point, in my mind, I had given up being female.

    The post is a response to Pam Noles’s Shame essay and goes on to discuss finding feminism and joy in femaleness through Samuel Delany’s science fiction.

    Coffeeem also goes on to treat the Battlestar Galactica miniseries to a feminist anaylsis I don’t necessarily agree with, probably because I’ve watched the characters grow in complexity. Interestingly enough, I remember having a similar impression to the females on the show during the miniseries. I think the actual series has more feminist elements than nonfeminist.


    January 22, 2006

    Battlestar Galactica and Choice

    Filed under:Gender, Science Fiction — Lake Desire @ 11:13 pm

    blog for choice

    Today is Blog for Choice Day in honor of 23 years since Roe v. Wade. The latest episode of Battlestar Galactica also dealt with choice and gives me a convenient blog topic. The show continues to make me uncomfortable by raising moral issues with no easy answers, and I love BSG for it.

    In last Friday’s episode, Epiphany, President Roslin orders Boomer’s pregnancy terminated. (Boomer is a cylon agent–a “human model” created by sentient artificially intelligence gone rogue–that I argue is very much human.) The characters involved are divided in support of the president’s decision, not on whether or not the abortion was moral itself (with the possible exceptions of Helo, the fetus’s human sire, and Six, a cylon with her own motives) but on whether or not it was right to force Boomer to terminate her pregnancy against her will, for the good of the colonial fleet. The colonial fleet, overall, seems to support the right to one’s own body, including the right to choose to keep a pregnancy–an equally important side to “pro-choice.” The gray area is whether or not that right extends to a machine. Again, a very relevant issue to raise with human-machine integration and genetic engineering redefining humanity in contemporary real life.

    One thing that bothers me about the episode: Roslin and supporters want to abort Boomer’s fetus because it is an anomaly. Allowing a human-cylon hybrid to exist is dangerous and against the interests of the colonial fleet as a whole. This suggests an irresponsibility towards bringing to term a pregnancy that deviates from “normal.” Parents of children with disabilities are sometimes ostracized for not aborting the fetus if prenatal screening detected a birth defect (I think it is an individuals right to do so if she chooses here, not anyone else’s business). My gripe with this? It further alienates people with disabilities by suggesting they are a “burden” to society and judges whose life is worth living.

    (Back-posted because I didn’t have time to finish this yesterday.)