Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Quote of the Year: On Human Ugliness

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gets it, a sample from her New Yorker piece:
"Now is the time to resist the slightest extension in the boundaries of what is right and just. Now is the time to speak up and to wear as a badge of honor the opprobrium of bigots. Now is the time to confront the weak core at the heart of America’s addiction to optimism; it allows too little room for resilience, and too much for fragility. Hazy visions of 'healing' and 'not becoming the hate we hate' sound dangerously like appeasement. The responsibility to forge unity belongs not to the denigrated but to the denigrators. The premise for empathy has to be equal humanity; it is an injustice to demand that the maligned identify with those who question their humanity."
She ends by noting that ugly ideas, gone unchallenged, start to "turn the color of normal."

Human cruelty has existed forever. But, I think about this quote, ugly ideas "turn[ing] the color of normal," and wonder how the Internet might have changed cruelty, or at least given us another avenue for the widespread expression of it.

[content note: ableism, bullying]

As an exercise in empathy (or something) a couple of weeks ago, I tried my hand at civil dialogue with a Trump supporter who was all over the place expressing glee that "Killary" was going to prison. Within minutes, without provocation, he began gloating about my "libtard tears."

I think of our soon-to-be Internet-Bully-In-Chief. I think of how normal cruelty and the expression of it on the Internet are perhaps enabled by (even well-intentioned) utterances of "don't feed the trolls."

And so the comments, full of human ugliness, sit there unchallenged, with other humans indifferent to it, hurt by it, enabled by it, accustomed to it, emboldened by it.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Dear The Left

[Content Note: Bigotry, Privilege]

First they came for the trans people, and we said, "America is sick and tired of hearing about liberals’ damn bathrooms."

Wait, no. That's not right, is it?

Do you have as many thoughts as I do about the various white-male-authored think pieces about how identity politics and political correctness have supposedly alienated "ordinary white people," causing Hillary Clinton to lose the 2016 election? Of course you do.

Welp, head on over to Shakesville to read the full piece.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Friday Crush: Cate Blanchett's Tribute

So, Cate Blanchett read a tribute to Amy Adams at the IFP Gotham Awards.

Take a brief moment today, if you will, and imagine Cate Blanchett, Cate Blanchett who is also a master in this profession, observing you at your job and then rendering such a compliment, below of which is only a snippet:
"I marvel at Amy's indefatigable curiosity, as a performer. It's the best listening/acting in the business by a country mile. And I don't know how she does it. But Amy appears sort of porous on the screen, not just inhabiting emotional states, but allow them to pull and unfold, a little like patches around her. It's almost as if she vibrates at a different intensity and wavelength for each performance, at a different wavelength from the rest of us. Without wobbling. And she can be so still, and contain so much, that it feels like she might just explode. She makes the ordinary extraordinary, with exquisite observation and detail. Her characters are profoundly accessible on screen, wide, wide open doors to allow the audience in, yet she has this uncanny parallel ability to realize people who hold a secret, and often from themselves, so they're full of mystery and magnetism."
Whoa. Flung out of space.

Meanwhile, I'm over here like, "I barely even know what to order for lunch."

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Election 2016 Fallout Part 9: On Resistance

Hi readers! I'm delighted to let you know that I have joined Shakesville as a new contributor.

(ps - I'll continue to write here in Fannie's Room, so don't worry the Xena posts aren't going anywhere!!)

Shakesville has been such an important resource both to my development as a progressive feminist over the years and during this past election. I'm so grateful to Melissa (and the contributor community) for welcoming me.

For my first post there, I am starting with the final installment of my Election 2016 Fallout pieces. This one is on the topic of resistance. You can read the whole thing at Shakesville, but here's a snippet:
On resistance

In my eyes, the quest to defeat Trump and what he stands for has already begun. Inherent in this struggle is survival. As some in the media ask us to collectively fixate on the navels of angry white people, especially men, I think back to those early Trump rallies when the press would show security escorting anti-Trump protestors out. Trump would encourage violence against them and you could see it on the screen, his supporters cackling with glee in the background.  "I'd really like to punch that guy," Trump would boast, while thousands of white faces laughed at their hateful avatar.

The part of me concerned with self-preservation tells me that these people laughed because Trump was acting out their violent fantasies, particularly against the politically correct, over whom Trump's win has become a symbolic victory.

I do not expect that people entertained by Trump's calls to violence will now be nicer to us with Trump in charge. No. They knew exactly what Trump is. It was part of his appeal. "We know what we're getting," they'd say. "He tells it like it is. That's why we love him." And so, on that basis, here is what I believe, via Liel Leibovitz:
"You should treat people like adults, which means respecting them enough to demand that they understand the consequences of their actions. Explaining away or excusing the actions of others isn’t your job. Vienna in the first decades of the 20th century was a city inflamed with a desire to better understand the motives, hidden or otherwise, that move people to action. Freud and Kafka, Elias Canetti and Karl Kraus, Stefan Zweig and Franz Werfel—these were the eminences who crowded the same caf├ęs Siegfried and his musician friends most likely frequented. But while these beautiful minds struggled to understand the world around them, the world around them was consumed by simpler and more vicious appetites. Don’t waste any time, then, trying to understand: Then as now, many were amused by the demagogue and moved by his vile vision. Some have perfectly reasonable explanations for their decisions, while others have little to go on but incoherent rage. It doesn’t matter. Voters are all adults, and all have made their choices, and it is now you who must brace for impact. Whether you choose to forgive those, friends and strangers alike, who cast their votes so deplorably is a matter of personal choice, and none but the most imperious among us would advocate a categorical rejection of millions based on their electoral actions, no matter how irresponsible and dim. So while you make these personal calculations, remember that what matters now isn’t analysis: It’s survival."
Keep reading here.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Recap Wednesday: Supergirl 1.7 "Human for a Day"

Welp, true to its name, this episode begins with Supergirl having lost her powers due to the intense energy she spent fighting Red Tornado. Rest assured, she will gain her powers back once she absorbs sufficient radiation from the sun.

Humangirl promptly catches her first cold and then goes to CatCo with it. Two things: It's awful that so many workplaces have such shitty time-off policies that people often go to work sick and it's also awful being in workplaces being near people who have contagious colds/flu. Cat concurs, this is her upon hearing Kara's sniffles:

"You're sick? But that means we can't make out later."

Later, an earthquake strikes while Kara is walking down the street with James. Kara falls, "breaking her arm." Kara's "injury" results in James stripping off his shirt and making a sling for her. Scare quotes intended because it is in the realm of possibility that the arm thing was a ploy to get James to take his shirt off. Just kidding, her arm is probably broken. But still:

Kara and James make their way back to CatCo and, lo and behold, the world's second-most-egotistical man in the world, Max Lord, is on screen yammering about Supergirl being "the world's most unreliable hero" for not helping with the earthquake recovery. Here is my screenshot of him:
*fart noise*
Cat agrees with my analysis. Of particular note, she also calls Supergirl "my girl' not once but twice during this scene. She is also not having Max's public denigration of Supergirl. And, before she can take off her shirt, Cat Grant is on a mission to restore Supergirl's image.

Meanwhile, the DEO is on lockdown. An alien named Jem(?) got loose during the earthquake. Hank goes off with two other agents to try to track him down while Alex observes from a monitor. There is an encounter and some vague scuffling, but Alex loses visual with Hank. It's all very suspicious when he comes back minus the two other agents.

Alex is already suspicious of Hank because he hasn't been honest about serving in the DEO with her father. So, when Hank leaves again to track down Jem, she follows him against his orders. When she finds Hank, she pulls a gun on him and has him handcuff himself to the wall while she goes after Jem. And, you know I adore Alex, but I just want to put it out there that she could have maybe handled her distrust of Hank at a more opportune time. Like when there wasn't an awful mind-controlling alien on the loose:

This seems.... fine?
Anyway, Kara and James come across an injured man while walking around National City. Because she doesn't have her powers, she's unable to save him. She's devastated, and James tells her, "No hero can save everyone. But a hero never stops trying." And, I just want to add that I really have come to like James and I hope he and Clark Kent (or Lucy Lane, but probs Clark) can live happily ever after one day.

Kara and James then see some men break into a convenience store and start looting. Even though she still doesn't have her powers back, Kara changes into her Supergirl outfit to try to stop the crime. Her approach will be to use Reverse Imposter Syndrome, I guess? If you wear the superhero outfit and people think you're a superhero, you can get away with anything? (This is also called "privilege," maybe?)

Cat believes in her girl.
Simultaneously, Cat is giving a live on-air monologue intended to counter Max Lord's negativity. Her message is that while it's true that Supergirl hasn't been helping with the earthquake recovery, we should listen to Supergirl's call to "heed our better angels." Cat further says she has confidence that Supergirl will return when we need her most (sigh, if only) and until then we should work together. (sigh, Stronger.... Together). On screen, we see Supergirl talking down the robber, ultimately getting him to hand over his gun.

Here I'll add that someone should make an app of Cat Grant giving us wise, tough love, and uplifting speeches as we go about our daily lives, inspiring us to perform feats of courage.

Speaking of speeches, Winn has a Xander moment and gives Kara a pissy little lecture about how she'll never have a normal romantic life, so she shouldn't go after James. He had walked in on Kara and James hugging (literally just platonically hugging) and he had a nerd-rage meltdown about it. (Unduly harsh of me? Read THIS re: white male nerds in film.)

Moving on to more pleasant topics, Supergirl's powers come back and she starts saving people all over the city. Because that's what she does.

AND ALSO, we learn Hank's big secret. He reveals to Alex that he's not actually Hank Henshaw, but a Martian shape-shifter named J'onn J'onzz (it deserves bold text, because of the way he says it). The reveal is oh-so-dramatic and wonderful and I love him. He seems so proud of his real identity and I feel sad that he has to hide it.

J'onn J'onzz
Hank/J'onn had apparently made a promise to Alex's father, before he died, that he would watch over Alex. That's the reason he recruited her into the DEO (she gets to stay because she's a badass though). Love love love this plot twist.

Deep Thought of the Week: So, say you're Supergirl or Superman. You have extraordinary powers compared to everyone else. What exactly is the process like where you learn to regulate your strength? Are your first interactions with physical objects on Earth a Goldilocks Scenario where you're constantly breaking Baby Bear's stuff? And is it so annoying to your adoptive family?

How many people do you hurt? Do you always have x-ray vision or do you have to concentrate in a special way to use it? Do you tell people if you see tumors?  If you get road rage, do you "accidentally" laser people into piles of dust?

What I am saying is that I would watch the hell out of an episode of nothing but super-power mishaps happening.