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Film Corner: LuLaRich (Eps 1-2)

LuLaRich

LuLaRich is a documentary on the rise and semi-fall of the LuLaRoe brand, a multi-level marketing company that has been accused of being a cultish pyramid scheme. I'm a cult survivor. I have thoughts.

Right off the bat, I will say: this is a well-made and gorgeous documentary series. Little touches like using the LuLaRoe logo (the rainbow square) to illustrate multi-level marketing and how it works is just genius. The founders, a married Mormon couple named DeAnne and Mark, come on screen. They're very carefully dressed to be aspirational: he's in a well-tailored suit, she's in a beautiful dress and eye-catching but tasteful strappy sandals. (Editor's Note: I'm informed these are designer shoes which are very expensive and the fashion set would recognize them and know the name-brand.)

The basic outline of the business is given: "retailers" (regular women like you or someone you know) buy $5000 worth of LLR merchandise straight from the company, and are then expected to sell the merch at a markup that they pocket. Mark opens with a story about an ancient Greek philosopher that feels like something out of a church sermon. There's definitely a preacher vibe to his communication style, and we've seen clips already (in the opening) of him bringing down brimstone on the retailers.

DeAnne gives us the brief rundown of their 14 children, 3 of them "adopted from Romania", and 2 of the children are married to each other (no blood relation). If you know about quiverfull and adoption in the Christian community, these are familiar red flags. (Editor's Note: I'm informed that 3 of the "children", including the married couple, were met by Mark and DeAnne as adults and became close friends of the family, but were never formally adopted.)

Mark gives me whiplash by saying he grew up in an ideal typical "middle class childhood" and/but "never considered having a job. That wasn't for me." He means that he wants to work for himself as a salesman / entrepreneur, but what a way to put it. Even in the halcyon days when one paycheck could cover 11-children families, for a kid to never consider a job is...not typical of a middle class upbringing. Like, I considered myself typically middle class and I had a wage job at 16--hired the week before my 16th birthday, actually--because that was just what you did. You got a job. The fact that Mark was raised believing he didn't need to do that is interesting.

I should point out that, hmm, some members of the cultier Christian sub-communities have a lot of rationalizations about why they're special and don't have to follow secular rules about taxes, welfare, etc. Google "bleeding the beast" for deeper discussion.

Mark tells a story about how when he was 16yo they had some financial crises. A neighbor offered to Mark's dad that he knew an open job. Dad: "There's only one thing worse than being flat-broke and that's knowing I'm going to make $412 a week for the rest of my life." Even in a financial crisis, Mark's family taught him that wage work was anathema. He explains that there's no "upper limit" in entrepreneurial work and that how much money you bring in is "entirely up to you".

Mmm. I should also note that there's been a rise of a "prosperity gospel" theology in America, with the belief that God rewards good people with money and success. (And that if you don't have those things, you're not trying hard enough and it's your fault.) This is reminding me very much of that; the idea that how much you make is dependent entirely on you, and that the sky is the limit. It's a very white American privileged viewpoint.

DeAnne talks about how when she was a young wife and mother she longed for designer clothes she couldn't afford. At a swap meet she met a man with dozens of kids' dresses: $80 brand name dresses at $10 prices. Counterfeits, stolen, or overstock? Not explained. DeAnne arranges house parties to sell these dresses.

This is interesting, because what she (apparently) doesn't do is BUY the dresses and sell them at a profit. You know, the entire LuLaRoe business model for their "retailers"? She didn't get rich doing it that way. Instead, it seems like she's getting some kind of commission for arranging and hosting the parties. Which of course is a much less risky investment for her; she doesn't have to worry about getting stuck with stock that doesn't sell and taking a loss. Since that IS what plagued the LLR sellers, it's an interesting contrast. Her suppliers make money because the dresses cost them little/nothing, she makes money as an event coordinator, and nobody has any real financial risk involved.

The shady possible-not-totally-legal implications of this first business of hers are not lost on me. See again above, re: bleeding the beast and not worrying overly much about laws. Particularly laws regarding copyright and trademark. (We'll see more on this later.)

@LouisatheLast. So… his dad thought getting well above the federal minimum wage NOW, but in 1960s dollars worth a hell of a lot more, was beneath him? So I ran a money conversion to see how much $412 in, say, 1965 would be worth today. Y'all. It’s $3,439.59. Per week.

Oh. So I think we file this under the well-documented phenomena wherein rich Americans insist they're middle class? My unresearched gut feeling is that wages like these would put him well above middle class.

DeAnne talks about how she sold dresses around the state, and brought $40,000. This sounds rehearsed, part of the story she probably tells about how LLR started. It's still very unclear what she's being paid for (dresses? or parties?) and where her stock comes from. DeAnne began making maxi skirts at home and selling them. Maxi skirts are...complicated. They're very much a part of conservative Christian culture. They're simple to make. They can have a lot of fabric or very little.

Mark was being sent out daily for fabric and says some of it was $1 a yard, some $4. As a quilter AND a business person, I'm very alarmed. It doesn't sound like they're tracking costs and adjusting prices accordingly, if all the prices for the skirts are the same. DeAnne was approached by a buyer who wanted 20 skirts for her friends, and DeAnne sold them at a bulk discount so that the buyer could resell them at retail amount and pocket the difference as a finder fee. This is their first "retailer" and LuLaRoe begins.

An expert on multi-level marketing explains that after 13 levels of recruitment, you pass the number of people on earth. So you either get in early and be one of the 20% or so who make money, or you suffer as the 80% underclass who don't.

@DefectiveBecca. Initially, she had a bunch of family members sewing the maxi skirts. They were very simple, unhemmed, and they never lined up the stripes. They quickly outsourced it.

THEY WEREN'T HEMMED?! I really think it's something people might not understand; the appeal of cheap "modern" looking (in terms of fun fabric) clothes for your litter of 7+ teenage daughters. It's a lot of kids and young women needing a lot of clothes. But, Jesus, the fact that they weren't even bothering to hem the skirts... no wonder they were able to pump out product fast and fill the house with bags of skirts. I would love to hear how many of DeAnne's daughters and granddaughters she put to work pumping out dresses, but she doesn't go into that.

The documentary does occasional cuts to a Washington deposition of Mark and DeAnne and it's really interesting how closed and hostile they are in that situation. They "don't know", they "can't recall", they "aren't sure" the answers to basic questions. We get to our first retailer commentary, and as several of you guessed: she was a stay at home mom / army wife. Several of you have talked about the sapping boredom in that situation. She would drive dresses around town in her free time and sell them and chat.

DeAnne talks about how many retailers they were getting, and the "simple" pricing scheme: they pay $10 a skirt, sell for $25, and profit $15. I wish the documentary had gone more into the supplier side because these skirts had to be made for pennies to profit. The LuLaRich documentary doesn't document when they switched from homemade to supplier-made, nor who the supplier was, and I wish they had. I do know that the clothing industry has a huge sweatshop problem.

@DefectiveBecca. The homemade skirts were when she ran the Fitted Maxi business with her twin sister Dianne. They started outsourcing within a few months. Then DeAnne cut Dianne out of the business and created LuLaRoe.

The infamous leggings enter the picture: the "buttery soft" leggings that fit everyone, including fat women. Fat women were a big part of their buyers, which is why it's so interesting that later we'll see the company was fat-shaming. One of the retailers explains that with other MLMs, everyone is flogging the same colors and flavors. With LLR, because of the limited runs of fabric, 2 retailers in the same area would have completely different inventory. This is crucial to their early success, because it made the process of signing up a bunch of friends to also be retailers something that felt cooperative. They weren't taking from your piece of the pie, weren't taking your customers. Customers would buy from you both.

LLR is at this point marketing themselves as an empowering opportunity for women to work from home with their children. Full time pay for part time work. To buy in? $5000. The business grows and DeAnne and Mark bring in their family to fill the needs of the business. Their children become the chiefs of various departments. Red Flag: Family members may not tell you honestly when things are wrong. A lot of cults keep leadership positions reserved for family members, because they're going to be the most loyal to the head: to leave, you have to sever your business ties, friend ties, AND family ties. That's hard, and very few can get away or even try.

We're in Episode 2 now. A lot of the women talk about how they just needed a little extra money as a mom. I think about the child tax credit. DeAnne insists that they never tell anyone to go into debt to join, but the retailers relate otherwise. They're encouraged to get a credit card, to borrow from family, to make and sell things. One woman sells her breast milk in order to afford the sign-up costs.

LLR employees talk about how they were made to wear LLR pieces at work. I know this isn't uncommon at some companies, but it's always very troubling to hear. A designer doesn't need to wear her own pieces in order to design. A wonderful guy from the tech side of things talks about how his job in the email dept was to insulate upper management from customers. ...and the data entry was 500 people inputting into the same Google Doc sheet. Lag and errors were endemic.

Mark brags that they've spent money on software they bought, planned to implement, and then abandoned as obsolete. They're 24yo "excel wizard" son was making compensation plans on the fly. Stuff like that. People will say that this is a predictable effect of too much growth too quickly, but I disagree. I see a stubborn unwillingness to hire experts outside the family. They would rather keep the chosen loyal family in charge than do things right. That's a huge red flag.

New retailers were put through an onboarding process which is really sinister and I need to pause and explain this. Women would sign up to indicate their interest in joining LLR. They would go on a waiting list of 3 months or more. They would then be called and told they were clear to "join the family" and order their first $5,000-$10,000 box of merchandise.

The waiting period may have had legitimate business reasons (running a credit check, perhaps?), BUT it also functions as a power play. YOU are asking permission to join THEM, YOU are being made to wait for THEIR approval. It makes the retailer feel chosen, special, lucky to get in the door. If you're lucky and grateful to get in the door, you're less likely to complain. There's a power imbalance early on, and it's very different from the usual Retailer-Supplier relationship, where the retailer decides whether or not to buy from the supplier.

As much as LLR leadership likes to call these women "small business owners" and "retailers", they aren't really retailers in the normal sense; most retailers don't sell ONE product line from ONE supplier. Even specialty stores have more than one brand they sell! And/But/So you have this ecstatic euphoria of women being grateful for being *allowed* to spend $10,000 on leggings. The need for the faithful to be grateful is a very key problem in cults.

Women would be told to get ready for the boxes to come--to set up an office, rooms, etc--because once the boxes came they'd be too busy selling to sort. What happened to that full time work for part time labor? Sounds like they're telling women to expect full-time labor! A retailer talks about the exclusivity of the product: a lot of you have mentioned FOMO, or the fear of missing out. Each pattern at LLR was used for only 3,000 pieces. So if you even *thought* you liked a piece, you better buy it! Right now! Or you'll miss out!

The exclusivity of the print lines served a dual purpose: it energized sales (don't wait! buy!) and it prevented retailers from being in competition with each other, since they all had different stock. If they hadn't, they might not have wanted to sign up new sellers! Mark brags that they put out a million new pieces a day but each print has only 3,000 pieces. Doing the math, that's 334 designs a day. So let's go talk to the design department, shall we?

The designers are being worked flat out to come up with new designs every day, with garish or "flare" being emphasized. But a retailer notes: they don't get to choose the designs they want to sell. This is important, ok? Regular retailers usually get to determine what they want to carry from their suppliers. They know what their local market wants. This is why you'll find different products in retail stores: a Wal-Mart in Dallas carries different clothes from a Wal-Mart in Galveston. But LLR is telling its retailers that they can pick their item types (shirt, skirt, etc) and they can pick their sizes, but the designs are going to be up to LLR.

Now let's say you're an actual small business owner that owns, like, a tiny comic shop. You're going to learn your local clients and carry what they like. You can research whether you have a large Magic The Gathering base or D&D base in the area. Maybe nobody plays D&D in your area, but there's a huuuuge Vampire The Masquerade group. That's going to influence your stock! Maybe you buy fake teeth instead of ogre minis, you stock D10s more than D20s. Your map section leans towards Urban rather than Fantasy.

But if you're a LuLaRoe "retailer" you don't have those options. You can't say, look, my clientele is really young in my college town; send me the memey stuff and the pastel goth stuff, but no big grandma florals or fruit designs. You get what you get. AND you've already paid for those clothes. Because you're not selling on commission, where LLR is taking the risk; you're buying the stock and hoping YOU don't get stuck if it doesn't sell. Question: If LLR is taking none of the risk on the product, if THEY aren't getting stuck with the "uglies" no one wants, what is ensuring that they put out high quality pieces and desirable designs that people *want* to buy? (Answer: Nothing.)

Oh, hey, this is horrifying. And my back of the napkin math was right.

@BridhC. I found the post! It's very enlightening/disturbing. "Textile Designers were required to do 50-60 patterns each day; Colorists had to generate 200-300 colorways each day."

Now we get to the multi-level marketing: for every person you recruit, you get a % of their monthly purchases from LLR. (And they have to keep buying every month, to stay active in the program that took months to join.) The number of recruits under you determines your rank within the company: Sponsor, Trainer, Coach, Mentor. Very loving communal names suggesting that you're nurturing and training the younger chicks in your nest.

LLR openly admits that they don't track sales to consumers--just to retailers--which means they have no insight regarding which pieces are selling, which retailers are thriving, and so on. Their business was just selling to retailers. After that, didn't care. One "mentor" had 5,000+ people in their "team". So of course she wasn't actually mentoring them each. That's not how mentoring works. A retailer explains that she bought $78k yearly goods and sold $83k, so that's a net of a mere $6k for the year. But her bonus was $65k. You can see where the real money was.

Mark seemingly starts to explain that only 20% of the retailers made bonuses but DeAnne shuts him down and says that it was just a nice gift to the retailers for doing direct marketing she was too overwhelmed to perform. Mentors were gifted special gold watches. They were pressured to spend their entire bonus checks on designer bags to be aspirational: people would sign up BECAUSE they saw the Louis Vuitton purse on your arm and wanted to know how you could afford it.

DeAnne would personally contact high level sellers upset if they didn't tag the good pictures on their Insta as "thanks to LuLaRoe". That's...a lot. Again, that reminds me very strongly of the cult mentality: everything good, you're supposed to praise God and the church. It's the double edged sword of prosperity gospel: failure is YOUR fault, but success is that of the church and god. Not you, never you.

This demand that retailers live above their means meant a few things. 1, free marketing. (You too can own these things!) But 2, it keeps you savingsless and dependent on the home company. If you're spending everything, you're not saving. It means that you're never going to get out and leave, because you NEED to stay involved because you're living paycheck to paycheck, no matter how large they are. Regular suppliers don't keep, say, Wal-Mart penniless so that Wal-Mart is dependent on them.

LLR keeps up enthusiasm and identity among the group by having huge events. Even outsiders would fly in hoping to win a raffle that would let them hop the waitlist line. They have a cruise for retailers. LLR spends money like water on recruitment events, and I'm watching this as the designers are overworked into exhaustion (how many unique patterns can even exist?) and the quality starts to downturn. They could've invested some of that event money into the clothes, but the clothes weren't really the product. The people were the product, and the events existed to bring in people.

That's the end of Episode 2. We'll take a break here.

Film Corner: Descendants

Descendants
---

Are the Descendants movies good? They seem like the sort of thing that can't possibly be good but I kinda want to watch them anyway?

We watched the Hades song (from movie #3?) today by accident while ADHD-browsing through YouTube and what struck me the most was that, yes yes Greek god and all that, but even so he should probably not have quite so much sexual chemistry with his daughter. This is why it's so very important to vet actors properly and make sure they know how to do things OTHER than smoulder if they're going to be acting across from a character who is their child/mentee.

-Descendants 1-

Ok, so Evil Island got all the colors in the kingdom. That seems kinda right, to be honest. The first song IS a banger, but it also feels like a song you'd strip to? Which feels kinda wrong for Disney! I have conflicted feelings! We've decided that the white-haired boy is wonderfully gay and Jafar's son is transition goals. The Cruella boy has a lot of "feral Peter Pan" vibes, so I'm interested in learning who his dad is.

.....Kristin brought a lot of Glinda to this Maleficent and I'm not sure how I feel about that. That...does not look like Jafar at all. I am confused. Is this perhaps a kindly uncle who is standing in for Jafar during this scene? While Jafar is off doing something appropriately sinister? I would like to speak to the casting department just, like, in general so far.

Kissmate has had to pause to take a phone call, so I've disappeared into the wiki. I find it both mnemonically helpful and narratively satisfying that these selfish, self-absorbed villains named their children after themselves. Ok, we're back! There's a girl in a wheelchair at the prep school. I'm very invested in her!

Why is Jay a thief, this is so confusing to me. Is Aladdin his parent instead of Jafar? Did Jafar raise him to be a street rat on purpose in the hopes that he'd qualify for another lamp? I realize Mal has doubts about her mother's plan, but. This....vaudeville song and dance routine feels deeply out of place here, tonally speaking.

Jay just owned the field in Death Lacrosse and I'm so happy for him. Jane is good and pure and adorable and I love- why did she think she's ugly? That's a- why did they- huh. Carlos is precious and must be protected and also might be having a moment with this boy, Ben, I'm not sure. Can't believe we gotta break quarantine to go murder Chad, Prince Charming's son.

"Even villains love their kids...?" Oh, Lonnie.

I.....kinda wish the bitchy Mean Girl wasn't the only Black girl. Probably why they added Uma in the next one? Looking forward to that. Man, would've loved to be in the room when someone at Disney was like "it's gonna be High School Musical but with Disney Villains and some of that sweet Hogwarts private school angst." You'd think the royals would be pretty suspicious of the prince falling hard in love with one of the new villainous transfer students.

Surprisingly deep dive on having abusive parents in this movie.

Haha, welcome to Parents Day, mom! Here's a song to remind you of the time you were captive in a scary castle while certain you'd never see your father again! I feel like Belle wouldn't have all these class prejudices against the villain kids? She didn't have the same friction with her dad that Ariel had, of course, but like. She also wasn't born into the whole princess thing.

"How have you remained looking so young?" asks Aurora's mother of a powerful faery.

.....Well, shit, I love Prince Ben now.

Wait, why are they four free (and the dog) but everyone else is still frozen? Disney being brave out here, giving children the dream. I, too, would like to keep my mother in a terrarium and feed her little mealworms.

Ok, maybe this is explained in the spin-off novels or something, but how are "all the kingdoms united" and Beast was "elected" their leader, but we still have a hereditary monarchy and also Princess Audrey and Prince Chad? It can't be a courtesy title, because Audrey made a big point of being a Real Princess unlike Evie, so-

Well, the nameless wheelchair user reappeared for the final song. We'll miss you, nameless disabled girl! We'll watch the next one tomorrow, probably. I DID really like how they handled the love potion. That's about the best way to do that kind of plot, I feel!

Waiting for my pain doctor and I find myself preoccupied with how the villains were not done...how I would have done them in this movie. Even allowing for a degree of defanged-ness for the children, there are some questionable choices here!

I'll start with Jafar. Disney tried to go back to the 1001 Nights by having him as a second-hand goods dealer in the New Lamps For Old sense, but Jafar ISN'T in the source Aladdin story. Disney created him from OTHER 1001 Nights stories (the Vizier archetype) and put him in. Disney Jafar simply doesn't have the patience for the "common people" to own a pawn shop. The Disney Jafar would quickly make himself indispensable to the island's ruler and install himself as second in command, the power behind the throne, designated opportunistic back-stabber.

Speaking of rulers, why Maleficent? She was a powerful faery who fiercely valued her independence! She should be raising Mal in a Rapunzelesque tower, not ruling the island. (And with what power? She has no magic...can she still dragon-shift, maybe?) Surely in the Hobbesian hell of a magicless island of Disney Villains, Gaston (or Clayton in a pinch) would be nominal king of the people ("He's the strongest of us! And the most handsome!") with Jafar doing the actual ruling behind the handsome figurehead.

Evil Queen would convince Gaston to marry her and then carefully ignore his affairs ("They're not prettier than me! A man's eye just wanders for something new.") unless the girl got too ambitious, then agreed arrange an assassination and eat her heart. (I honestly can't imagine Evil Queen raising a daughter without killing her in a fit of jealousy; better to give her a son that she leaches off for emotional validation. Like Cruella does Carlos. I'd give Cruella the daughter/Evie.)

Honestly if Disney weren't such cowards about adding The Gay, I'd make Gothel and Maleficent partnered in a tower and neglecting their kids. (How do they conceive? They still have a shadow of their former magic. Bite me.)

Judge Frollo would also glom onto the new ruler (again, probably Gaston) and create a cult of the crown so he could consolidate power investigating the masses for wrongthink against the kingly representation of God on earth. (Frollo would HATE the two "witches" in their tower, but Gaston always waves him off as Too Serious whenever Frollo tries to urge him into a holy war against the women.)

With a king and priest-class installed, Cruella now has a reason to exist: they're going to need a fashion designer in order to look intimidating and fabulous. She would shine at this. Cruella didn't kill puppies because she was obsessed with pinning dead skin to her body! She killed puppies because it was socially fashionable! Why is she walking around looking like a patchy Grizabella from the Cats musical???

So of the main cast, we'd have:
- Mal: Rapunzelesque shut-in, not princess of the isle.
- Evie: Cruella's daughter, schooled in how to dress to impress the masses.
- Jay: Son of the vizier, taught to be calculating, cunning, and USEFUL to important people.
- Carlos: Evil and Gaston's son. Island Prince, but utterly emotionally drained from reassuring both his parents that they're the Best. Internal wreck, no self-esteem. Dressed to kill but just wants to crawl into a hole and hide. Sweet mess in need of hugs.

I assume they held back Ursula for the sequel (I noticed they were very careful to never mention Ariel or anything related) but if she's sea-witching off the island coast, put her in a coven with Maleficent and Gothel and give the witches' tower a sea-access tunnel.

@IMJackRudd. [Cruella]'d also probably be designing for the military, which would be under the control of John Ratcliffe. Partly because he clearly has a military background, and partly because none of the others would like him and that would get him out of the way.

This is absolutely correct. Gaston would want a shiny standing army. Kind of feels like Disney didn't want to portray an oppressive patriarchal government with a ruling priest-class and a military-obsession for SOME REASON.

@doordoxofficial. Where would the villainous animals from Jungle Book fit in?

Ooh. Between King Gaston, Captain of the Guard Clayton, and Royal Fashion Advisor Cruella, they're gonna be in dire straits. I'd write a "wild" corner of the island where they survive and are hunted (and hunt the hunters in turn) as part of island life.

-Descendants 2-

Alright! It's time for Descendants 2! I'm already confused by the messaging, lol. Descendants 1 ended with "I wanna be good!" and this one is starting with a dance routine on the advantages of being Wicked. Oh, it was a day dream.

Ok, so this is less High School Musical than the first and more Princess Diaries. Mal is overwhelmed by all the princessy decisions that normally wouldn't be left to her anyway, because...well, it would be overwhelming! Mal is stressed that her whole life is on display and her future planned out and...is she supposed to be a normal American girl?? Mal was born the heir to a powerful dragon-faery-queen, this sensation of ultra-exposure to the public should not...be...new??

I kinda feel like the writers of Descendants 2 didn't get Descendants 1? Mal wasn't nervous riding with Ben at the coronation because she's an Average Girl, she was nervous because she had to decide whether to betray her boyfriend or her mother. Now she's frightened by cameras!

WHY IS EVIE HELPING CHAD?! Lonnie gonna kill Chad and I'm here for it. Go Lonnie, Go Lonnie, Go Lonnie! They have a talking dog. They have a talking toxic masculinity dog. Why. This movie feels less populated than the first one somehow. The lost island doesn't have the same...color. Chaos. Creativity.

Uma has a good song, though. I would've started with this one, actually. It's strangely paced to just plop this down after the talking dog scene. Ok, I like her and Hook's boy being together. The son of a pirate infatuated with the daughter of a sea witch is very good and right with the world. And the way they turned her name into a chant was just. *chef's kiss* I wish she had a motivation other than hating Mal for getting out. The barrier was broken last time, why not use that!? Let them be motivated by freedom, not jealousy of the super-white ultra-blonde girl?

Kissmate: "...didn't most of these villains die at the end of their movies?"
Ana: "I guess that's why people keep warning me not to think about the world-building."

Oh no, they ruined Ben. She's clearly trying so hard to please him and be perfect and he's yelling at her for not being organically hand-crafted perfect and buying her perfect at the magic store instead. Asshole.

Poor unfortunate bangs! Wasn't all this part of an initiative to let MORE children out? With Mal and the others being a test case?? Why are there little hungry moppets robbing Evie?

"Ben, if you can't act a little less goody two-shoes, you'll get us caught! And definitely not our incredibly famous faces that grew up around here and are known by everyone." So Evie, Jay, and Carlos are going to drop everything to help Mal and not talk about the part where she left them forever without saying goodbye. Huh.

"I really wish I could take you with me." WHY CAN'T YOU? YOU GUYS RULE AURADON WITH BENNIE BOY. THAT WAS THE ENTIRE PLOT OF THE FIRST MOVIE.

Maybe they shouldn't have given the girls a love song together if I'm supposed to be worried about Ben and Mal's relationship being saved.

THAT'S the plot???? That after the successful test case, Ben just "forgot" to bring more kids over??? Oh, cool, the rest of the plot is where Mal "forgets" her most precious possession, the magic spellbook. Our entire plot is people just forgetting important things they would never.

The writers can't decide what flavor of queer Carlos is. I thought he was a queer boy in D1 but now I think he might be a trans girl in D2.

"If Ben doesn't love you, I'll drive you back tomorrow." BEN LOVING HER HAS NEVER BEEN THE PROBLEM. I FEEL LIKE THIS SCRIPT WAS WRITTEN BY MAD LIBS.

.....ok, I do like the Lonnie solution.

CARLOS JUST SAID "I'M THE LUCKIEST GIRL" IT'S CANON. WE ARE GO FOR TRANS GIRL EGG.

Cons: Once again, the Black girl is the villain.

Pros: Mal has a secret puberty dragon form that Maleficent apparently never prepared her for. This is why Prince Eric should've been invited. He knows how to handle sea monsters. Everyone is surprisingly chill about Maleficent's daughter having a secret dragon form.

How did this not end with Uma being friends with them??? That's breaking the After School Special RULE. Ben was supposed to make her see that he cared about the island, and she'd join them. But no, she turned away so EVIE could make the plea that was Uma's to make. I am sad. We'll do Descendants 3 tomorrow and figure out why Mal has a duet with Hades.

-Descendants 3-

Okay, get in, we're doing Descendants 3. Mal is hand selecting 4 more villain kids to come to Auradon. That seems...really insufficient given that there are now approximately 6,000 innocent kids on the island, best I can count from crowd shots.

I'm having complicated feelings about how this series has moved from "you're not defined by your parents or birth and can be whatever you want" to, like, "you're either born on the preppy side of the tracks or the colorful poor queer side". Really this is part of my problem with the Disney fandom in general: a lot of people start seeing the villains as an aesthetic and forget the fascism of Scar or the Stormtroopers or whatever, and just treat it as a design choice: pink vs interesting.

D1 was like...you can be born "good" and still evil (Audrey) and you can be born a "villain" and still be good (Mal). Now it feels like...so are you from the pink boring side of town or the interesting queer side and I'm having complicated feelings about that change.

Dizzy is taking up one of the precious 4 slots, which makes me irritated because she was supposed to go over in D2. The next two slots are a set of twins who will never speak or do anything interesting, I'm calling it now. Last and most interesting is Celia, Facilier's daughter.

Ben performs a public proposal to Mal and Audrey and her grandmother are evil and pink about it.

They've made the previously-faceless off-screen screaming Lady Tremaine an East Asian woman which...uh...isn't much of a diversity win and has unfortunate implications with her running a hair and nail salon?? I don't feel qualified to comment on this! But! I want to like this, I'm genuinely not trying to be contrary, and I'm REALLY happy that they added Celia as a Black girl who isn't evil, but every time I try to sink into it there's these really unfortunate racial issues that Disney keeps slapping my face. I'm sorry.

HADES is trapped on the island??! A Greek GOD?? Mal blows Hades back into the barrier and he stalks off.

I- You know what? I feel like this series could be a brilliant deconstruction--and maybe we're headed there with this movie!!--about how money and power corrupts even the most good-hearted. Because you have all these lovely good royal kids, Auradon- and Island-born both, going "oh, thank god, we're safe. Hades is again trapped on the island of helpless orphans. Back into our limo with the custom paint job and plates, tallyho" and I'm screaming in horror. I hope we're going there, I pray we're heading in that direction: that Mal and Ben are evil because they've been prioritizing Auradon's comfort over the freedom of all the unfairly imprisoned kids. Please, Disney, I know you can do this.

I find it interesting that Audrey is starting to dress like the VKs she hates so much. Blue in her hair, fingerless gloves, external corset, leather arm cuff. I really wish they'd made Audrey's grandmother white. We'd have one less villainous Black woman (we have 3 right now) and I feel like this...entitlement plot of "I played nice, where's my reward" would fit a white woman better.

Mal decides that they need to close the barrier for good and strand the children there forever. Because the security of Auradon is more important than freedom. So, hey, maybe Disney IS going the "power corrupts" route!

Ok, they did good with Facilier.

"For 16 years I had nothing!!" says the girl who grew up as princess of the island, lol. Like, yes, it's hard having an abusive mother. But you still ate regularly, Mal. I still think there is an inappropriate amount of sexual tension in this song between Mal and Hades.

The talking dog still exists. Why.

Evie is about to get into a smack-down with Mal and Uma if they can't get along and I'm shipping it as a triad. WE HAVE ACHIEVED BATTLE DANCE-OFF. Jay and Gil and Harry are forming a nice little triad, too. This movie is very gay. I approve of that. C'mon, Carlos, Disney Princess at him. You got this!

Ben got a glow-up with fangs and a Riker beard.

Ok, so. I both did and didn't get my wish. They do confront Mal about her actions, but it's less about power corrupting her and more about, well, her being a confused and frightened teenager who shouldn't be in charge of a country. Seriously? The moral is "you can't live in fear because you don't know where the bad will come from"? Not "incarceration is bad"? So they just...unilaterally take the barrier down. Which seems a little, uh, ok, you know what? If Disney wants to radicalize kids against incarceration, I'm ok with that. It was a little hasty at the end but ok.

I wish the moral had been less about "living in fear" (which is messy with terrorism rhetoric and covid and and and) and more about how it's not ok to protect white upper class land values by locking up everything which threatens it, but. And they took Ben's toothy glow-up away, which seems unkind to the fanbase.

I wish Celia had a song, though. How do you cast Facilier's daughter and not give her a song?

It was a nice pretty poppy ending. 4 of 5 stars. No major complaints besides all my little nitpicks. Here's hoping they destroy that magic staff and stop putting it in a museum with one sleepy guard.

Open Thread: Meaningless Symbols

I might, possibly, have been looking into creating an alphabet with absurdly complicated glyphs for letters, a la the Icelandic Palace of the Sun Letters.  These glyphs are a result of me playing around the thing I set up aid said letter creation.

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Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

May Newsletter (2022)

Kissmate here for the Newsletter of May 2022!

April ended with a terrifying close and May's opening isn't looking hopeful either. The Supreme Court leak left us paralyzed and angry, and the senate's passing of protection measures for the justices but not anyone with a uterus made us cold and bitter. The season may be summer, but our emotions are that of a hard winter blizzard. We're doing our best to keep afloat and alert to any news on the SCOTUS, so follow @AnaMardoll for more details as we know them.

One light in the darkness: I'm passing all of my college classes for the close of the spring semester. I'm getting As and Bs (some assignments haven't been graded yet), so I have my pick of the litter for summer classes! I've already enrolled for some career-important ones, like intro to CSE, physics, and Calculus I. It's a lot for summer, I know, but each passing class is one more step closer to leaving Texas.

Cheddar is elusive, as always, but he is slooowwwly coming around. Slowly. He continues to love the pillows under the bed, and is becoming less and less nocturnal. He knows when its food time, for if we're even a little late, he'll slink out from the bedroom and stare at us from the doorway until we notice. Chip and Cookie both have played with Cheddar a bit! Chip and Cheddar will charge at each other with playful chirps, and Cookie was prancing alongside him as he was prancing alongside her! We're so happy that he's socializing with the cats well! Now to get him used to humans... we've been guiding him into a carrier one night a week and putting him up on the bed to watch television with us in a safe environment in the hopes that he realizes that closeness is safe.

Hopefully this month will be a nice reprieve from school life so I can focus on resin-crafting and helping Ana with some writing/reviewing. Fingers crossed!

Until Next Time, Keep Heads High!
Kissmate, @VespertilioGem

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From Ana:

- I'll be posting my Into the Mist review here this month in case you missed it.
- I'm still working on the Snow White retelling as my next Grimms installment.
- We hope to get some resin items finished up and into the shop soon.
- I was planning on taking an ASL class at Kissmate's college, but that turned out to be a no because of pricing issues.

Usual Links
My Patreon: Here.
@KissmateKittens: Here.
My Ramblings Deconstructions: Here.
My YouTube Let's Plays: Here.
My Favorite Tumblr Funnies: Here.

Film Corner: National Treasure

National Treasure
---

Kissmate wants me to watch National Treasure ("A treasure hunter must steal America's most sacred and guarded document.") because he wants to hurt me, I think? (Former history major over here.) At least, I've been told this is like if Dan Brown had gotten really into American history rather than Catholic church history. I could be wrong! I GUESS WE'LL FIND OUT, thanks to Disney+.

"A treasure! Every time it changed hands, it grew larger!" That is not usually the fate of war booty, lolsob. Wildly irresponsible of George Washington to not dip into the secret buried treasure to pay our national bills, lol.

Wouldn't this sunken ship be a solid block of ice all the way through? Why is there open air to walk through? Hahah, REAL MEN don't use ink on those little roller cypher things, they use blood drawn from their own thumbs.

Nic Cage just................word-babbles his way into insisting that there's a secret invisible maps on the back of the Declaration of Independence so he can pour ink on it to see, lol. That was entire logic-free. Also: What did they do to Sean Bean's hair.

You'd think you would have realized before now that your unethical patron guy with unlimited money is a kingpin shark with guns, but it kind of feels like Nic hasn't met him before this scene, lol. They use a smuggler's hold as an exit in a crisis, which begs the question of why the special secret box wasn't IN the smuggler's hold and was instead hidden in a barrel of gunpowder.

What agreement did Nic Cage have with Sean Bean here?? Nic thinks of himself as the treasure's defender, but Sean says this trip should be profitable. Did Nic seriously offer him a share of the treasure? Bad guardian-ing, dude! Seems like it would've packed more punch of a betrayal if Sean had been reassuring him that this was for the Historical Value of it all and the Museums Etc, and then turned on him for filthy lucre. Like, usually in genres like these, the Protagonist doesn't start out thinking of themself as a "guardian" of the secret thing, so it doesn't matter! But IN THIS CASE, he does, so it's really weird that he didn't vet his backer better!

I don't know if I love or hate the wig they have Sean Bean in, but I want him to get another version in, like, pink. It's very pink somehow. Also: I really question whether that explosion was survivable.

Oh, hey, they used "Inuit" instead of the E-word. I do appreciate that.

He has to be told not to touch people's antiques, my god. Baby, what are you doing. "The FBI assured us that the Declaration cannot be stolen." Tsk. The FBI could've spun up a situation in which foreign terrorists were coming and they needed more funding, but I guess they were busy.

Nic tells her that he wants to examine the back of the Declaration and that if there's no map there then it's safe. But...no? Sean Bean is coming for the map because he THINKS there's a map there; it's not like it's safe if there's no map after all! Nic seems to think that Sean has a telepathic link with him, and I find that oddly endearing.

Nic has a really hard time explaining what he wants (a treasure map) for someone who has had an entire lifetime of practice at finding socially acceptable words for what he does. "You're treasure hunters?" "We're treasure protectors." Sir, your only successful expedition ended with blowing up the entire site AFTER setting a lethal kingpin on a vendetta against the Declaration. And you agreed to give him halvsies, apparently. What I'm saying is that I plan to make you turn in your World's Best Treasure Guardian mug that you got yourself for christmas, Nic.

Wait, did they both just say that the Declaration was signed on the 4th of July?!? Like. It's.... complicated? It was signed on July 4th and on July 2nd and on August 2nd and... it's complicated.

"Ian's going to try to steal the Declaration. And if he succeeds, he'll destroy it." WHY?!? It's worth millions on the black market! Why would he destroy it!? It's not even like "he'll destroy it in the process of getting the map" because the map is ON the document, if he destroys the document then he has no map! This isn't like breaking open the David statue to get a key that was hidden inside his willy!

Edison was a hack, I wouldn't be looking to him for inspo, hon.

Has it occurred to either of them that them stealing the Declaration could make it EASIER for Sean Bean to steal it from them (and destroy) (for no reason). Wait, if Nic and his boy-toy *aren't* supposed to be a couple, then why is boy-toy helping him commit federal crimes he doesn't believe in or think is wise? What is his motivation here?

I'm laughing at Nic breezing past security and all the metal detectors just because he's wearing a custodian jumpsuit. I'm guessing this movie was pre-9/11. Sean Bean's turn to evil has not been good for his terrible wig. The wig is angry.

HER PASSWORD IS VALLEY FORGE? WHERE WASHINGTON CAMPED HIS TROOPS? So, ok, she has no interests outside of Washington and is officially in need of a loving intervention--and a class on password security.

He rolled it up, oh my god, he rolled it up and shoved it into plastic. "Are you trying to steal that?!" Okay, no. I have worked register jobs. When a man in an expensive tux at a charity event is carrying something around the gift shop under his jacket you DO. NOT. SAY. THAT. You say, "sir, can I hold that for you up here while you shop?" She would be fired so fucking fast for accusing a fancy guest of attempted theft. It's not RIGHT that she would be, but she would be. So add "customer-facing jobs" to the very long list of things the writers didn't research. (They wouldn't even have the gift shop open during a fancy gala like this.)

The busybody lady from the gala has *amazing* grip strength to cling to these cars for 10 blocks. Then again, the professional hitmen have surprisingly bad aim for their jobs, so.

THEY ARE USING HAIR-DRYERS ON THE CONSTITUTION.

Riley is the emotional heart of this movie and I love him.

They're just....unrolling the Declaration in public, bare-handed, no thought about FBI or cameras, so they can use their 3D glasses....I'm crying, wow, this is such. I do appreciate the deli counter lady who let Blondie hide from her "ex-husband". Nic is whining at the FBI a lot more than I would be, as a federal criminal who stole a priceless historical artifact and then swabbed lemon juice all over it.

Oh gosh, please stop crediting Edison with anything other than patent trollery.

LOL, just once I want a parent to be taken hostage in a movie and for the adult-child to be like "haha, have fun with my Dad" and walk off because they don't actually like their parent. Okay, having Dad point out that the wood should be rotten and unable to support their weight is not actually the same thing as addressing that problem. Oh, see, there you go: the wood is rotten. Bet you wish you'd listened to Dad, asshole.

This entire movie is:

*takes two steps*
"The treasure isn't real! It's gone!"
"This has been pointless!"
"Let's give up!
"Wait!"
*finds a clue*
"The treasure is real!!!!"
*takes two steps*
"The treasure isn't real! It's gone!"
<repeat>

There's just...old Egyptian sarcophagi in the vault? You'd think they would have changed it into something a little more...portable before bringing it over to the new world.

Goodbye, Riley. We loved you very much.

Film Corner: The Green Knight

The Green Knight
---

I'm so excited! We're doing a live watch! THE GREEN KNIGHT. "King Arthur's headstrong nephew embarks on a daring quest to confront the Green Knight, a mysterious giant who appears at Camelot. Risking his head, he sets off on an epic adventure to prove himself." This live-watch is generously sponsored by @beige_wallpaper and @flapflaptho, who provided the funds so I could finally buy this on Amazon. Thank you so much!! I've been wanting to watch this for FOREVER.

I have previously read two things about the Green Knight. One, this excellent retelling by @daniel_m_lavery. Two, this other retelling by the @bettermyths guy, whose book I enjoyed very much! So I am aware of the broad strokes of the story and I am excited to see how very weird this will get.

We're starting with Lord of the Rings style whispering and I'm now REALLY GLAD that I didn't see this in theaters because I wouldn't have caught any of that without captions, lol. Dev Patel is really just the most beautiful man in existence. I think he's waking up in a brothel. He isn't a knight yet and isn't quite ready for Christmas to intrude on his sleep which, mood. His mother isn't feeling Christmas this year either, which seems to distress him a little. Really gorgeous singing sets the next scene. This movie is so visually PRETTY. Wow.

KING ARTHUR IS SEAN HARRIS!! I loved him in the Borgias. He's gonna be a great King Arthur, A++ casting already. Arthur asks Gawain to come sit with him and Guinevere since Lancelot is traveling and Gawain is alone what with his mother at home "not feeling herself" (and possibly doing witchcraft? I AM NOT SURE.) Oh wow, I had genuinely forgotten that Gawain was Arthur's nephew. Are we going with the Morgan/ana/ause mother or the Anna mother. WHICH VERSION IS KIND OF IMPORTANT, lol. I guess we'll see!

Sean Harris is just the best Arthur, so much love. He wants to repair the neglected family connection between him and Gawain, but Gawain feels insecure that he hasn't done anything legendary yet. Arthur talks about how the knights have tamed the land while Morgana-Mom does witchcraft. He asks for a tale, a myth, to entertain him and his queen before they feast, and the doors ominously fly open. Definitely getting a strong vibe of "oh, you thought this land was tamed? LOL, think again."

*rubs hands together happily*

The Green Knight approaches and I love his look? He is VERY Green Man of the forest. Guin reads the challenge and Gawain leaps forward to meet the call. Arthur lends him Excalibur which...whoa. Best Arthur. THE VISUALS IN THIS MOVIE ARE STUNNING. The sounds, too! Every sound the Green Knight makes FEELS like the forest moving. The Green Knight goads Gawain into taking his head off, then stands and picks up the head, intoning "One year hence" as Gawain looks sick to his stomach and Morgana faints. Beautiful. So good.

The crowd goes wild. A year passes and those promised "riches" of fame, popularity, and social approval are showered on Gawain. He's a hero! So brave! The picture of knighthood! But he feels listless and depressed. Arthur visits Gawain in his spiral of destruction and urges him to keep his appointment with the Green Knight. "Is it wrong to want greatness for you?" Priests offer prayers, young witches chant spells. No one wants Gawain to die.

Morgana gives him a green sash to wear about his waist for protection. His brothel girlfriend begs him to stay. ("Why must you be great? Why isn't goodness enough?") Have I mentioned the VISUALS in this film? It is ART.

Gawain gets directions to the Green Chapel from a scavenger who seems suspicious. The boy directs him into a scary forest to follow a stream. This will probably be fine! Ayup, there it is. The scavenger set him up for an ambush to be robbed. We will not be rating the scavenger highly on Yelp, I can say that much. (I want that yellow cloak so much??) Gawain manages to work himself out of his bonds, but he's bereft of horse, shield, axe, and pretty much everything else. He is also extremely lost.

He finds what appears to be an abandoned cottage and falls asleep in the bed, waking only when a young woman asks what he's doing in her bed. OH SHIT SHE GLIDES. I THINK SHE'S A GHOST. Oh god. She needs her head back. That's...that's so sad. Gawain helps her and she warns him that the Green Knight is "someone you know". The axe returns to him, though I'm not entirely sure how. This is beautifully trippy. Like a dream.

I do love how Gawain has been stripped of the outward trappings of knighthood / nobility, which definitely makes this trip seem more desperate and scary. There is a fox and I would die for it. Kissmate has named the fox "Pumpkin". God, the use of COLOR in this movie is so amazing. He just fell down a cliff and there was a single bright orange marigold and it just. Wow.

Well, see, now I don't know if the trippy things are really happening or if they're just the result of a bad mushroom trip. OH MAN, I WISH I'D SEEN THIS PART IN IMAX, MY STOMACH IS INTRIGUED.

Ooh, is this Bertilak's castle? Hahaha, his host is a bear! IS THIS THE BEAUTY AND THE BEAST CASTLE. The Bertilaks are so perfectly cast, my god. I love them. How was everyone in this movie cast so well. Lady Bertilak skulks about the castle being terrifying and Lord Bertilak proposes his little gift-giving game: whatever Gawain gets in the house is to be given to the Lord. (Dear Married Couples: Do not treat your unicorn this way!)

There's a VERY interesting discussion of the color green: how it's growth but also rot, nature but also sickness. The Lord and Lady are doing an amazing job as the fae that Christendom cannot conquer or tame. I love them both. Aww, the fox is talking and it's terrifying and I love him. He's warning Gawain to turn back and go home. Gawain waiting for Christmas Day to arrive while the Green Chapel lives and breathes around him is just... wow. Chef's kiss.

I have a confusion? DID THAT BASTARD JUST- Are we seeing, like, a cautionary tale/vision of the sort of person he'd be if he turned back? Oh gosh, he had a little pocket made so he could always reach down and touch the safety-sash and make sure he was still wearing it? HE'S THE GIRL WITH THE RIBBON CHOKER WHOSE HEAD FALLS OFF WITHOUT IT, OH MY GOD. Haha! I called that it was a vision of the kind of (terrible) man he could become and I'm glad.

That movie was really lovely, thank you so much for making it possible? I feel like I had a really lovely lucid dream. AHHH, THIS IS SO GOOD: The Green Knight doesn't have to discuss race to be about race.

Open Thread: Cracked Pavement

Cracks in pavement, darkened by moisture.

After a rain, the cracks retain moisture for longer, thus the highly visible cracks.

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Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

April Newsletter (2022)

I am so sorry that this newsletter is so late. I like to get them out on the first of each month and now it's April 10th. I came down sick with something not-covid at the end of March and I just haven't shaken it. I keep thinking I'm getting better, and then wham it'll catch a second wind. This--as well as the various symptoms--makes us think the problem is sinus-and-allergy related, but that hasn't stopped it from kicking my ass; I actually took last week off from my day job and I try never to do that.

Here's the sitch: we've had a couple of Film Corner posts go up already on Patreon and I have a third one scheduled for Saturday. After that, I am out of content to post because I have been sacked out in bed, drifting on the waves of sinus medication--which means I haven't been writing or even live-tweeting anything for a couple weeks now. I feel really bad to have dropped the ball, but we're here now.

Here are the plates I have been juggling and which I hope to bring you soon:

- My review of a new genderpocalypse book. This was supposed to be a quick read and I thought it might be a rare decent exception to the badness of this genre. Instead, it's been a slog and truly awful. Good for discussion, bad for getting done quickly.

- I watched the LuLaRich documentary whilst sick and am thinking that this could stand for a longer live-watch. Would anyone be interested in hearing my thoughts on this and cult tactics in general?

- I'm working on a Snow White retelling as my next Grimms installment. I really like this one, even if it's taking longer than usual. Actually, that's probably why I'm agonizing over every little word--I want it to be perfect.

That's really all the irons I have in the fire right now, I'm sorry. Let me know which is most valuable / important to you first and I'll try to prioritize appropriately as soon as I'm feeling well enough to type more. Thank you so much for bearing with me through my various illnesses.

Usual Links
My Patreon: Here.
@KissmateKittens: Here.
My Ramblings Deconstructions: Here.
My YouTube Let's Plays: Here.
My Favorite Tumblr Funnies: Here.

Open Thread: Brightness Behind Clouds

Brightness through broken clouds over a road.

I originally thought I could call this "Bright Sky" but that didn't feel right when most of the sky isn't bright.  It's not really about the sun per se, though, since the whole thing is that the light of the sun is diffused over a large area instead of being in a sun-shaped spot.  Thus "Brightness Behind Clouds".

In a bit of a twist, I didn't actually forget to post an open thread last week.  It's just that until I actually get them going regularly again, everyone's used to only being used to using the once a month newsletters as open threads, and I'm kind of playing by ear whether a new open thread is called for.  Last week, with a then-empty open thread as the most recent post, one really wasn't.

The plan was to post this week's open thread on Friday, though, so . . . yeah.
 
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Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us here, so almost over, but you can still give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

The Men: Race Representation

Post hidden under the cut due to graphic depiction of police violence and childhood sexual assault. Please mind the trigger warnings.

The Men: Demons

Post hidden under the cut due to graphic depiction of self-harm and childhood sexual assault. Please mind the trigger warnings.

Open Thread: Partially Disassembled Cube on a Sweater

A four by four by four Rubik's cube with a two by two by two section of corner removed, the corner cubie itself has remains, but is rotated sixty degrees out of alignment.

Sorry about the open threads going on unscheduled hiatus again.  I'm definitely hoping to go back to having them weekly.  We'll see how that works out a week from today.
 
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Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us here, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

The Men: Queer Representation (Gay, Asexual, Bisexual, Lesbian)

QUEER REPRESENTATION (PART 2)

Post hidden under the cut due to graphic depiction of self-harm. Please mind the trigger warnings.

The Men: Queer Representation (Trans, Intersex, Nonbinary)

QUEER REPRESENTATION (PART 1)

Dedicated fans will find ways to handwave the implications of the premise: the demons are acting in bad faith, or they are alien and do not understand what is evil and what is not, or it was all a dream. With that in mind, what about the other queer representation in this book? After all, Sandra promised that "trans people totally exist and matter in this book", that "there's an important genderqueer character", and that the book is "against gender binaries". 

The Men: First Impressions and Spoilers

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

As a writer, I care a lot about writing technique and about how a novel is shaped over the course of drafts, edits, sensitivity readings, and final edits until at last the book is finished. Sometimes it is possible to imagine where edits have occurred: scenes that feel added or embroidered after the fact, characters that feel more or less fleshed out than others, details that don't quite mesh with the rest of the overall world-building.

As such, I have a theory which may or may not be correct: This book began as the story of a white woman (Jane) and her Black lesbian lover (Evangelyne), and whether or not Jane would chose Evangelyne over the man she married, with a gender rapture as the backdrop for this drama. Racially-diverse but not narrative-critical supporting POV characters were added in a second pass and fade out of the novel at about the halfway mark. Their actions have no effect on the narrative and only Jane's choice matters in the end.

Finally: mentions of trans, nonbinary, and intersex people seem to have been hastily shoved into the final draft. Sandra claims to have had a trans sensitivity reader and I believe her; my guess is that the reader knew they couldn't fix the foundational issues so instead suggested the addition of a few scenes they hoped would lessen the overall problem. I respect the effort they went to, but the eventual additions could be removed with a few swift edits and would change nothing. They're a band-aid where surgery was needed.

Enough about my theories; let's get to facts.

The Men: Introduction

INTRODUCTION

An upcoming book, The Men by Sandra Newman*, was announced on Twitter in March 2022. The book was characterized as what I have sometimes called a "Gender Plague" or "Gender Rapture" and which TV Tropes calls "Gendercide". [*Note: Sandra has stated in the wake of her announcement that she is gender nonbinary, but nonbinary people can use any pronouns we want and do not default immediately to they/them, contrary to popular belief! Since I cannot find anywhere where she has provided pronouns other than she/her, I will be using she/her to refer to Sandra throughout this deconstruction until she indicates otherwise.]

Sandra stated in her announcement tweet that "Everyone with a Y chromosome suddenly, mysteriously disappears. In the months that follow, the world gets better: safer, kinder, more egalitarian. But the book is about women who can't let go of the men they've lost, and devote their lives to getting them back."

MY NEW BOOK Everyone with a Y chromosome suddenly, mysteriously disappears. In the months that follow, the world gets better: safer, kinder, more egalitarian. But the book is about women who can't let go of the men they've lost, and devote their lives to getting them back.

Index: The Men


The Men


Source: The Men by Sandra Newman
Label: Deconstruction (Genderpocalypse)

» Introduction
» First Impressions and Spoilers
» Queer Representation: Trans, Intersex, Nonbinary
» Queer Representation: Gay, Asexual, Bisexual, Lesbian
» Demons
» Race Representation

Note: Last updated 3/27/2022.

Film Corner: Baahubali Part 2

Baahubali 2: The Conclusion

It's time for Baahubali Part 2! Which we may not finish tonight because it's 167 minutes long! Note that these are on Netflix right now! You can watch them too! If you have US Netflix! Once again we get a really cool explanation of how no animals were hurt in the filming of this and the following animals are CGI. The opening credits are beautiful and show stylized stills of major moments in the first movie. I love this style and it's a great way to call back to the important moments we need to know about.

We're back in the flashback: Shiva's Father was declared king by his foster mother and the kingdom was happy and at peace. The Queen Mother is performing a festival ritual that involves walking barefoot to a temple with burning coals on her head. Trouble arises in the form of a rampaging bull elephant, but the Queen Mother and King Baahubali solve the situation with badass cleverness and respect. The people are impressed, and the elephant gets a nice saffron bath before a statue of Ganesha.

The relationship between King Baahubali and his adoptive Queen Mother is so precious to me. He loves her so much and respects her above everything else. It's just so wholesome and healthy and I love them. It's sad that the Villain is going to fuck all this up.

Film Corner: Baahubali Part 1

Baahubali: The Beginning

I've really been wanting to get into some of the Indian Bollywood movies on Netflix because some of them look amazing, so today I want to try watching Baahubali: The Beginning. I'm white and I don't know anything about the epic this is based on, just so I'm clear! The movie opens with a nice disclaimer that no animals were harmed in the shooting of this film and that the ones you see being harmed are completely computer-generated. I like that. I wish more films did that at the beginning, not just at the end.

We open with a woman carrying a baby past a waterfall. She has an arrow in her back, so she's not doing too well. She walks backwards in her own footsteps at the river-- ah! Two soldiers are tracking her. OH MY GOD, she stabbed Soldier #1 with the arrow from her back, grabbed his sword as he dropped it, and stabbed Soldier #2, all without jostling the baby. Dibs on her as my new mom. All babies should be so lucky.

She tries to cross the river, but it's not going well. She calls on Shiva to save the baby boy--he's destined for a throne and some kind of unclear revenge narrative--at the expense of her own life. The water rises over her head and she dies but still holds the baby aloft over the water. A wandering group of people notice the baby being held above the water. A man swims out to get the baby; the woman points at the waterfall and floats away, deceased. Baby is handed over to a pretty woman.

The people are confused by the discovery of a cave they didn't know about. One suggests that maybe the dead woman wanted the baby taken into the cave and up to the waterfall. New Mom tells them that is a very foolish idea and that the baby needs warms and milks. "This is my baby now. I have no children, but this one given to me by the River Goddess. If anyone of you object, I'll trample upon your necks." I LOVE HER? 2 out of 2 women so far are badass amazing.

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