October 21, 2017

Thesis and The Final Year

I'm pretty much at the midway point in both the writing of my thesis (I have almost a full first rough draft), and my penultimate semester as an undergrad student! That's super exciting, and I'm absolutely loving it!

My classes are pretty good this semester. I'm taking a civic communications and media studies course in the Black freedom movement which has been fascinating. We look at African American speakers and authors from the antebellum period all the way to contemporary Black Lives Matter activists. It's been neat to read the speeches and secondary material on people like Henry Garnett, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, Shirley Chisholm, Maria Stewart, and so forth, and (perhaps depressingly) this is the first class I've taken that's focussed exclusively on Black historical figures, which... y'know, really just kinda proves its own point right there. In addition to that class, I'm also taking an Early Black Literature course, which focusses on Black authors from the time of Slavery to Reconstruction. As you can imagine, these two classes taken side by side talk to each other a lot, and that's been a boon in terms of thinking academically about race, social death, agency, gender, and so forth. The professor for the literature course is outstanding, too! My third class is a philosophy of art course... I guess they can't all be winners. Seriously, this class is the least interesting course next to that anthropology class I took a year ago. Philosophy is challenging but not in the fun I-want-to-figure-it-out way, more in the please-for-the-love-of-God-get-to-the-point way; my cousin majoring in the subject makes a bit more sense now honestly ;). At least the professor is a hoot in class!

 My gender studies thesis is basically a literary analysis of Black Iris from a queer and feminist lens, arguing that violence as a form of identity legitimation should be thought about and written about more in works of fiction, and more broadly criticizing the utopian depictions of queerness in fiction and advocating for a more varied depiction of queer people in literature. So yeah, it's a bit of a mess, but hopefully it'll come together by the end of the semester. Might do with this what I did with my Buffy thesis a few years back and post it up here, but I don't know. The thesis class itself is pretty good. There are eight of us, and being that this is a gender studies thesis class and all of our topics are interdisciplinary and so varied, we get a lot of interesting conversations out of the period; I'm definitely thinking more about queer kinship, the environment, gender and family, than I normally would have thanks to the other people's topics in the class. And the instructor is good too; she's also Canadian, so y'know, that helps.

I'm liking this semester a lot, and I'm signing up for classes for next semester soon. I guess that'll be my last time doing that, which is kind of scary! I always thought of post-grad stuff as being far enough down the pipeline to be hazy at best, but now it's pretty much right on top of me, and to be honest I have no idea what I'm going to be doing after this besides a trip to Australia (which is a whole other post that I'll get to). For now, I'm focussing mostly on the present; when points like this in life come up, I'm usually one to not dwell on the future because then I feel like it's too immediate and the stress ramps up.

As for the blog, I think I'm going to keep things lite for now, I'd like to ease back into it. I have some thoughts about what I want to blog about, but I think weekly entries like this one will be good. I really hate writing with a fanbase in mind--I wrote with that mindset whenever i did reviews of stuff and I think that really hampered their quality. So if I do go back to giving my thoughts on movies or shows or whatever, I want them to come from me, not form the me that I assume other people are wanting to read, if that makes sense. So we'll see what happens.

October 14, 2017

I'm Back, I think

Yeah.

It's definitely been a while, a lot has happened, a presidential election, half of America was on fire...

Look, this whole blogging thing, well, to be honest, I kinda lost interest in it. The few episodes of Transformers Prime I had left to review didn't grab me, and my more general stuff didn't grab me either, and the larger the gap between posts got, the less inclined I wanted to go back to this, and for a while in the summer I sort of forgot I had this site--and frankly I'm amazed viewcount on here is still a thing. So subject-wise, my interest in this blog, this blog's purpose, has more or less died away, or at least shifted significantly since I was last on here.

It's my senior year of college, and to think that this blog, whatever it's been, however I've used it, has been around for five years (longer than that if you count the archived stuff from the old site), well, that is pretty cool. And I'm writing this post because I do want to continue to generate content on here. Not to just rack up posts--I've never felt that that's been healthy for a blog or made the creator feel good--but to just share my thoughts on stuff with people again. And I hope there's still an audience, however small, out there that still wants to read what I have to say.

So what's been going on? Well, I went to London, that was fun. Oh, Wonder Woman came out and I saw it six times in the theater and I absolutely loved it! And Transformers: The Last Knight came out and I said I'd never give Michael Bay money for it... and then three months after it's release a friend dragged me to it... and I liked it. Um. I had a whole strenuous adventure over the summer with housing and moving and stress and thesis research. I'm writing my thesis for the women's and gender studies major requirement and it's awesome! I'm writing about Elliot Wake's Black Iris book and doing a queer/feminist analysis of violence and the body as presented in the work, so that's cool. I'm planning on going to Australia next summer.

So stuff's been happening, and I do plan on talking about some of it in the future on here.

As for what this blog's going to be for now? I haven't really figured that out yet. I might just ease back in with some general movie reviews/thoughts stuff, who knows. But I am alive, and I'm doing well, and the blog is back. I'll probably give this site a new skin too because that always feels like I'm being productive when I'm actually not being productive in the most obvious way possible. Stay tuned, and thank you for sticking with me and checking in from time to time here in my absence. It is very nice to be back!

December 6, 2016

Bad Boy- Mini-Views

Hey all.

Okay, so for all two of you who still keep up with this blog which is kinda dead (sorry, college has been relentless this semester, and--sorry, but can we all agree that this year in general was just fucking horrible), anyway, thank you for sticking with me here!

Um, so, anyway I just finished a book.


It's a book that I'd been looking forward to reading ever since finishing up Elliot Wake's other novels Cam Girl, Black Iris, and Unteachable. It's called Bad Boy. You can buy it here.

I'm hesitant to even write this review, because, full disclosure, I just really wasn't feeling this one. Don't take that to mean this book is bad. It's not. In fact, just culturally and contextually, this book is absolutely necessary. The plot in this one revolves around YouTube vlogger superstar Ren Grant, a transgender man who is also the muscle behind the vigilante group Black Iris, itself formed in the final pages of Wake's third book of the same name. But when he's falsely accused of rape, he has to find out who has framed him and why. Characters here include Ren, his ex girlfriend Ingrid, and his new (really hot) flame Tamsin, plus the returning characters Ellis, Vada, Laney, Armin, and Blythe. Pro-tip: read Black Iris and Cam Girl first before reading this one. Then read them again, because if you're anything like me, names will become confusing for you.

This has probably the most ambitious attempt at weaving in social commentary, transgender discourse (for lack of a batter term, sorry, I really hate that word), and surprisingly nuanced looks at masculinity and the patriarchy, of any of Wake's books. I really loved that Ren struggles openly and internally with his views on masculinity and how that intersects with him transitioning in gender. How does one cope with becoming a person who's body is seen as being inherently part of a patriarchal oppression? How much agency does one lose and gain when they do so? Are they worthy of that agency or is that agency imposed upon them? These questions are raised implicitly and explicitly by Ren himself through narration and some YouTube vlog excerpts dispersed throughout, and I found all of that fascinating. Ren was at his strongest as a character when he was struggling with these questions.

I loved that Ren went in-depth about his transition. It would've been so easy to just gloss over this and trust that the reader would be able to parse this out from the actions of the plot and the climax, but by going in blatantly and talking about what it's like, what being on testosterone is like, how your brain chemistry shifts, all the surgeries and emotional breakthroughs and breakdowns, it lets us see this character fully. I liked that a lot, both in terms of yes thank goodness, we're seeing more representation of marginalized voices in literature, but also in terms of just knowing this character's story and knowing his journey. When he grapples with how this false accusation of rape is affecting him socially and mentally, when he catches himself falling into stereotypical masculine behaviors and always has to ask himself "will I prove all those misandrists and men's rights activists both right?" this is what I call a complex and wholly satisfying way of intertwining academic and feminist discourse into a work of fiction. Wake showed he had that skill in Iris and especially Cam Girl, and it's back in spades here.

The plot, and the surrounding subjects here, is the books biggest weakness, at least for me. Wake loves to go complex, he loves to go big with his plots, he likes that twist and fling of stories. And I thought he just outdid himself in Black Iris, a book so complicated I went through and rigorously read it in chronological order just to see if it all added up in the end (it did). But here, the plot's not really complex, it's just complicated. Complicated to the point that it becomes mundane, even banal at times. And it really comes down to the Black Iris piece of this. Cut that out, have it focus on Ren and his ex Ingrid, throw in a romance between he and Tamsin, and I feel that the story would be so much stronger, tighter, and more believable. What Laney and the gang do is fairly behind-the-scenes, and I feel that Ren could have figured it all out without their involvement. The one thing I will say, just to end this paragraph on a positive note, is that the inclusion of the returning characters did let us see a much better realized Armin. I loved his interactions with Ren. We got to see two men who were both flawed and frustrated with their own masculinities in ways that just really spoke to me, as someone who deals constantly with internal misogyny, misogynistic performance, etc. Really good on that character front!

The pacing in this was really rough for me. For the first half, especially, I was more surprised than irritated, because Wake is usually so good at keeping a consistent pace throughout his work. The first third is this book's weakest point, as it has to reintroduce many characters from Iris and Cam Girl, and build up this new character. And that's terrible, because I know so many people who would put this book down before getting to the good part. Again, just comparing this to Wake's other works, character introduction and allusion is usually a much more subtle process than it was here. And as such, this takes away valuable space from Ren's own story. The second half does ramp up the pace a bit, and there's a reveal in here that was pretty good. But it all just feels a little too... flat (?) coming off of Iris and Cam Girl and how driven those plots were in relation to their characters.

As I sit here digesting the book, I've been mulling over my criticisms, trying to see if they're even worth bringing up or taking into account when you yourself go out and buy this. Bad Boy is about a transgender person learning to put himself back together and become his own man. It's written by a trans author who has worked his ass off to get to where he is. A major theme in the book is that we are all put together from fragmented identities, a patchwork of various movements, views, and assumptions that both shape and are shaped by us. The pacing, the writing, the plot, the characters, they all bend to this theme too, being built out of this wonderful world that Elliot Wake has created and simultaneously adding to it in important ways. To quote Ren directly, "Being a man means being strong enough to let your fragility show," and Wake has done that. I didn't think this book was Wake at his best. But I do think this was Wake at his most honest, at his most transparent, and at his most genuine.

November 21, 2016

Thoughts on Supergirl 2x06 "Changing"

I've been super inactive lately just in terms of posting stuff. To the like five of you who care about this, sorry (but thank you obvs. for caring!). It's been a super busy month—depressing af too obvs.—and honesty Supergirl and the impending release of Elliot Wake's newest book are the only things fueling me through these last few weeks of 2016.

Really loved this latest episode of Supergirl! This episode had so much awesome in it, it's kinda insane when compared to the previous episodes that honestly haven't been that exciting for me. It's like they saved it all for this.

Alex's coming out was amazing; just so real! Multiple threads of character and different emotions going into it too which was fantastic! It would've been so easy to make this completely happy or just prey on the painfulness, but Chyler and the writers really run the full gamut of Alex's emotional spectrum which was very smart. It gave us an Alex that reacted differently about her being gay when in the company of different people and that was su smart, because it made her more human that way. Super resonant! They even played on the fact that she's an adult coming to terms with this; I just... like, this is amazing! We've never seen that before, not really. I cried, seeing this kind of representation on screen. I also found it satisfying just from a narrative standpoint that Alex and Maggie didn't end up together by episode's end. This was realistic too in how Maggie handled herself and how Alex reacted, and I'm glad that this didn't fall into the trap of insta-love. This is a relationship that's worth the growth and the depth; I'm so glad they're in it for the long haul.

Winn and James finally got to take more active roles in the show which was nice to see; as soon as James showed up in that suit before he even spoke I knew that dude had a voice modulator! He doesn't look nearly as silly as pictures made him out to be; the suit works great in motion. Mon-El and M'Gann are also growing as characters. I'm still not crazy about Mon-El as a character in his own right yet; his use as comic relief is good but I don't know if there's enough depth to this guy to draw his hero trepidations story out for so long. M'Gann Mors though, it should be neat to see where her relationship with J'onn goes after the reveal in episode four that she's a White Martian and her donating blood to J'onn this episode. Setting up conflict is great and I hope they do as equally good follow through.

And coupled with all of this great character work is an external story this week that I actually cared about. I've been thinking a lot about this episode since it aired last Monday. I'm mostly just super happy that Alex's story is being treated as real and as a legitimate character journey. (It's obviously made a big enough impression on me to write this!) Part of why I hadn't posted reviews of the previous few episodes (besides me being swamped with school stuff) is because the external plots of the past few episodes just haven't been all that interesting or nuanced to me. Alien amnesty acts are all well and good, and having a political allegory is fine, but how the show's been handling stuff like this is just so obvious and as such loses a lot of the impact for me. But this episode we have a debut of a classic Superman villain in a way that ties more directly into how the characters themselves are acting (prominently with Winn, James, and Mon-El), so there's more stuff to care about with regards to the external plot this time around, which was so great.

Also, I think I was still used to Supergirl taking a more active role in the show—she is the star, after all. But that was a last season thing; this season is all about interpersonal relationships and how the character dynamics can be shaken up, which is fantastic and it is what a second season is supposed to do. Kara's character is developing very slowly and her arc as a reporter is like the least interesting of everything going on, which I initially thought to be a negative, but on looking back, this is probably all to the benefit of the show because it allows room for other stories to be told. Now, we have Alex and Maggie and their relationship, Winn and James as a team, J'onn and M'Gann's conflicting relationship, and Kara being supportive of her sister.

So yeah, I loved this episode! More like this, please!!

October 18, 2016

Thoughts on Supergirl 2x02 "Last Children of Krypton"

This season is definitely going in strong!

As with last time, Superman’s around, but I’m so glad that this didn’t feel like scenery chewing at all: his presence felt natural and they enveloped him nicely into the workings of the show without ever compromising on any other plot or character material, and that’s great.

The strengths of this episode definitely stem from tight character work and interactions. The fight between Kara and Alex felt as real as ever, both actresses doing a fine job balancing their conflict and rising tension without becoming catty with one another. I could’ve done with a bit more of that, actually, but what we got was great, and a sign that the two Danvers sisters are going to be in more loving conflict this season, which is exactly what I want. J’onn and Clark not getting along due to the former having Kryptonite on hand feels a bit forced for me, but they devoted enough time to it for it to make its point, and again, given that this episode was a character-driven one, this element plays right into that, and it’s a good way to help integrate Clark into the story so that he doesn’t just seem like the hired muscle of the week.

The pacing this week was very good. This is something that the show had struggled with last season, and it seems to have settled into its own now. It’s a pace that’s fast, but not breakneck, allowing for a variety of tone and character beats to shine. While the hour tends to cut a lot to different locations (I found the Fortress of Solitude sojourn to be a bit tedious), the upshot is that the character conflicts and interactions remained the focus. The fights looked quite good, and the dual fight between Superman and Supergirl and the two Metallos was well done cinematographically; some sweet transitions in there!

Where this fell short for me was pretty much everything having to do with Cadmus. Don’t get me wrong, Supergirl’s needed a strong serialized villain for some time; Astra and Myriad didn’t really pan out too well, and I have a feeling that the writers learned from that and are now trying to make up for lost time by just introducing the season-long villain right off the bat. While this is good in intention, the execution feels rushed. We barely know anything about Cadmus, and what we do know feels ever so much like a cheap knockoff of the excellent depiction in the Justice League Unlimited show. Maybe that’s just me, but I really hope we can get into the workings of this group besides just knowing that they’re evil. This villain has the potential to be very good and very nuanced, and I’m not seeing that right now.

Also, Metallo himself wasn’t great. I’m only tangentially familiar with his comic book stories, so maybe this is how boring and lifeless he is there too, but this on-screen representation just didn’t hold my interest. This would be a bigger knock against the show if the character stuff weren’t so strong, but even so, they really need to work on developing good villains here.

Cat’s leaving! No surprise here, though they gave her a good emotional sendoff, which I liked. Snapper Carr is gonna be a pain in the ass to watch, but it was nice to see Kara set him kinda straight by episode’s end. And Kara’s (and Supergirl’s) goodbye moments with Cat rounded things out nicely.

Next episode looks to be even better, with the mysterious Mon-El waking up and Wonder Woman POTUS herself Lynda Carter coming in on the scene! Exciting!!