Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Hypocritical View of Martyrdom

(This is an old English paper I wrote for college a few quarters back. I was struggling to reach the minimum length, so I admit I stretched the bit about America’s Christian origins a bit to match my argument. I never lied, but I am aware of a larger picture I didn’t represent here.)
      Martyrdom is the act of a person either sacrificing his or her life or enduring suffering for a higher purpose.  The practice can be seen in many separate cultures all over the world and it is a social phenomenon that is perpetuated through the ideologies held by the cultures.  In the culture of the United States of America, the prevailing views of martyrdom are affected by both the existing ideologies that were present when the country was formed and by acts of martyrdom perpetrated against the country as a form of aggressive action by its enemies.  After the suicide attacks of September 11, 2001, which were perpetrated by Islamic terrorist Osama bin Laden, the mainstream American culture has typically associated the subject of martyrdom with the hateful Islamic extremists, as well as to the comparable kamikaze attacks Japan perpetrated against the Allies in World War II.  While it is true that it is reasonable for members of American culture to disagree with ideologies that would encourage violence carried out against its people by martyrs, the mainstream American culture has a hypocritical stance of martyrdom in which martyrs who uphold American values are glorified as brave heroes, and martyrs considered enemies are cast as irrational and cowardly.

Real Doll Men Wear Pink

Back in February, I picked up an interesting doll from a toy store in Langley, Washington. It’s a fairy spirit of something or other with an interesting blend of elements that in today’s society would be gendered both as feminine and masculine. It is clearly a man with a big grandfatherly beard, yet his jacket is bright magenta.
This character appears in a variety of different outfits, some themed for different holidays such as with him being the Easter bunny, etc. I was drawn to this particular doll because of the unusualness of a man wearing something well that would generally be considered for women. I suspect that this doll is based on older fashions in which pink was considered a masculine color, but it is interesting that in today’s society such a thing could still be made and with dignity as opposed to comedy. In modern day society, pink is considered to be inherently feminine, to be displayed by women and no one else to the point where just displaying pink can indicate femininity. Even though the doll is probably using an earlier standard that says pink is only for men, being too aggressive to be worn by women, this is certainly not the way things are done these days and this doll is interesting because it challenges the gender-coded norms of today.

Examination of Female Characters - Part 3 (Halo)

(Crossposted from Halopedia)
Continuing my examination of the female Halo characters (parts one and two can be found here and here), I will now focus on the short stories featured in Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe. I had intended for part three to focus on the original Halo novel, Halo: The Fall of Reach, but I just (finally) picked up Evolutions to read on my spring break vacation to Mexico. With the stories fresh in my brain, this seems the best piece of literature to use. Part three will cover stories from Pariah to The Mona Lisa. To reiterate, this article series is to answer whether or not Halo is sexist, and comments like “I think the female characters are hot!” are inappropriate.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Dragonling

You may have noticed that my username is dragon-related. I’ve got a thing for dragons. A while ago, I looked all over the Internet for dragon art, printed out a bunch of them, and taped them on my wall. I’m a dragon nut. Why do I obsess about dragons? Well, I learned to read with a dragon. Yes, there was If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and Love You Forever for when I was a wee young one, but when I started the more advanced children’s books the book I fell in love with was The Dragonling by Jackie French Koller.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Unfair Lilith (Supernatural)

In seasons three and four of Supernatural, Sam and Dean Winchester fight against a powerful female demon named Lilith. The character Lilith comes from a medieval Jewish legend, which brings together various other legends. In legend, Lilith is a succubus or vampire, originally a human woman but cursed by God after she refused to submit to her husband. Lilith is often used by feminist groups as a symbol of female subjugation. In Supernatural, Lilith remains a villain, yet the character is carefully altered to retain none of the misogynistic qualities of the original legend.
The legend is that the traditional story of Adam and Eve is incomplete. Instead of God making the first woman out of Adam’s rib, he first made Lilith out of the same earth that Adam was made to be Adam’s wife. But when they were to have sex, they fought over who should be on top. Adam insisted that he was the superior one, while Lilith claimed that they were equal. As the fight would not resolve, Lilith spoke the name of God, which allowed her to leave Eden. Adam prayed for God to return Lilith, and so he sent three angels to bring her back or kill her. Lilith, however, shacked up with the demon Asmodeus and made a deal with the angels that she would live as a malicious spirit to give birth to hundreds of demons and threaten newborn human babies, swearing an oath on the name of God that one hundred of her children would die every day and that she would back off on the human babies if people would hang amulets inscribed with the angels’ names. In absence of Lilith, God created Eve in her place, using Adam’s rib to ensure she would be subordinate to him.
That’s the legend. It doesn’t really make sense. For one thing, if the angels have Lilith at their mercy, why make the deal at all? Not to mention the way it completely ignores the Fall of Man. How does she know what’s coming with the serpent and everything, let alone what an amulet is? You take for granted the standards of fanfiction in 2010…

Thursday, March 11, 2010

God Hates Parodies

The Westboro Baptist Church is a group of hatemongerers led by abusive husband and father Fred Phelps. They are probably most well known for their catchphrase “God hates fags” that they use as a website and that they pull out to picket soldiers’ funerals. They have a variety of phrases that use the start “God hates” and then apply it to a subject that’s suffered recently as a means to promote their hatred such as with “God hates America”, “God hates India”, and “God hates Jews” to name a few. They are horrible and oh so easy to make fun of. Therefore, I give you God Hates Parodies!

In the opening sequence of the vampire show True Blood, we see a church sign that says “God Hates Fangs”.
Then, there’s this guy dressed as the Burger King king mascot with a sign that says “God Hates McDonald’s”. I love it. (Source)
And because the WBC attacked Twitter, “God Hates Retweets”. (Source)
At the same event as the above, “God Hates Ponies”.
EDIT: Well, the WBC hit 2010's Comic-Con. Counter-protesters included this Star Trekker with a sign that says "God Hates Jedi" on one side and "God Needs a Starship" on the other (Jedi source, Starship source):

And there's this guy who's either a fan or a hater of the webcomic Carpe Chaos, who has a "God Hates Carpe Chaos" sign (Source):
 There's someone with a "God Hates Sentries" sign (Source):
There's a woman and a man dressed as Jesus who have a sign that says "God Loves Everybody" (Source):
 Then there's this anti-feline guy with a "God Hates Kittens" sign (Source):
Finally we have a man with a sign with rainbow flags on it that says “God Hates Fred Phelps” (Source):
EDIT2: I'm not sure where they all came from, but there are some more from the website God Hates Protestors.

A "God Hates Snuggies" sign (Source):

 A"God Hates Sin, and cos too" sign from a math protest (Source):

A "God Hates Hateful Christians" sign (source):

And then there's a counter protest with signs including "God Hates Fax (but loves email)", "Team Jacob", and "Jesus Loves Soldiers" (source):

Sunday, March 7, 2010

iTunes' Gay Pride Songs

iTunes has various collections of songs for sale that fit certain genres. One of these genres is gay pride. They have “Gay Pride Month”, “Gay Pride: Boys” and its sequel, and “Gay Pride: Girls” and its sequel. These all have different descriptions, with “Gay Pride Month” recommending various singers and promising a rocking Pride Month, “Gay Pride: Boys” talking about progress and suggesting a couple songs while suggesting items in the playlist would be good for a “pride party (or gay wedding!)”, “Gay Pride: Boys 2” highlighting various songs and promising “sultry sirens”, “Gay Pride: Girls” appealing to feminist values by essentially urging users to support female singers challenging a male-dominated world, and “Gay Pride: Girls 2” being more of the same as well as highlighting various songs. I think it’s interesting how they all take different focuses. I also find myself questioning if all the songs are really that relevant to the playlists they’re placed in.
Let’s look at “Gay Pride: Boys”. I’ll just view the first page. The first song on the list is LoveGame by Lady Gaga. Lady Gaga herself is relevant to the gay community being bisexual, but is the song relevant? I mean, it describes wanting to ride a “disco stick”, a clear phallic metaphor, so gay guys can at least relate to the sentiment. The problem is that it’s sung by a woman, and includes the lyric “The story of us. It always starts the same / With a boy and a girl and a [grunt] and a game”. That’s… not gay.
The next song is If U Seek Amy by Britney Spears. While this one is actually gay, I’m not sure why it’s in “Gay Pride: Boys”. Britney Spears is a woman singing about how “all of the boys and all of the girls want to ‘If U Seek Amy’ [F-U-C-K me]”. Shouldn’t that be in “Gay Pride: Girls”?
The next song is Feedback by Janet. Janet Jackson is certainly a gay icon, but is the song relevant? It’s about a teen girl saying she’s sexy and wants to have sex. She doesn’t say with whom, and there is some mention of her addressing girls (albeit in a way that implies they’re jealous), so one could imagine that she might be talking about wanting to have sex with girls. It’s a bit of a stretch, but one could say that the song has lesbian themes. Again, why isn’t it in “Gay Pride: Girls”?
Looking at the other songs, we have a few that are explicitly gay and belong, as well as some that seem unrelated but have general themes of being an outsider, and others that are lesbian-related and should be in the other playlist.
So, now let’s look at “Gay Pride: Girls”. One might imagine, from looking at “Gay Pride: Boys”, that it’s just overflowing with relevant songs that they need to stick some in the boys’. At first glance, that would seem to be true.
The first song is I Kissed a Girl by Katy Perry. It may be in question whether or not its content is bisexual in nature or just drunk straight girl experimentation, but it clearly has a lesbian theme. Okay.
The next song is All the Things She Said by T.A.T.U., which at least describes lesbian characters. The singers themselves may be fake lesbians, but the song itself describes a fictional scenario about lesbians. I’m willing to accept that as belonging.
Next song: Girls Just Want to Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper. This one can be construed as relating to lesbians, but it’s about a straight girl who wants to have fun with her boyfriend. Cyndi Lauper has performed at gay pride events, but it seems like Apple should value the song’s relevance over the artist’s.
Now, there’re plenty of songs here that are lesbian related, more so than “Gay Pride: Boys” has relevant songs. There’re also some I can’t figure out why are there, like Bitch by Meredith Brooks. The song sounds like a woman with BPD singing about her various moods to a boyfriend. There’s the lyric “you have to be a stronger man”. As far as I know, she hasn’t done anything for the gay community. It’s like Apple just consolidated lesbian and feminist stuff and called it “Gay Pride: Girls”. They’re not the same thing, though.
Looking at “Gay Pride: Boys 2”, we have a lot of songs written by women, many of them related to the gay community, about lusting after men. There are only a few truly gay songs. There’s also Girls Just Want to Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper. WTF? Yeah, I’m sure that would make great song for a boys’ gay wedding… Granted, the playlist description has changed from saying its songs would be good for a gay wedding and instead for showing pride with general attitude. Still, why have a girls’ song in the boys’ section?
“Gay Pride: Girls 2” has a mix of both lesbian-related songs and generic songs that could be interpreted as having lesbian or just gay themes. While the playlist description specifies that these artists are gay or gay-affirming, it keeps a definite feminist theme. While lesbians and feminists are definitely related, one does not equal the other. It seems wrong for a gay pride playlist to have heterosexual songs just because the artists are women challenging a patriarchal world.
Finally, “Gay Pride Month” seems to have a mix of songs from the various “Gay Pride” lists. There’s Lady Gaga, Elton John, Pet Shop Boys, T.A.T.U., and Indigo Girls to name a few. The selections look good, a lot of them gay-related, and it’s like the best of all the others were chosen to represent gay pride as a whole.
iTunes is remarkably gay-friendly by having this thing in the first place, which is commendable. It’s just that the playlists are worth criticizing. The lesbian playlists seem to be lesbian- and feminist- themed instead of just sticking to the title, and the gay boys’ songs are more just related in general. I don’t know if this says something about the availability of gay songs or what, but I would say that the playlists are definitely flawed and need more gay songs.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

From Here to Misogyny (Angel)

There are very few episodes in Buffy and Angel that I find outright scary. One of the exceptions is “Billy” from season three of Angel. I used to actively avoid it, skipping around it when watching my DVDs, and only fairly recently have I felt comfortable watching it. Instead of a scaly demon or fanged vampire, the titular villain is very human in appearance, and his power evokes human evil. Joss’ thing is that he tries to promote feminism, and “Billy” might be his most overt attempt with a villain that exists as an embodiment of misogyny.