Metapost: Deconstruction Vote

So while we're still chugging cheerily through Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, and Midnight Sun, it's probably about time to start thinking about what deconstruction(s) might be fun to do in conjunction with the Twilight posts. So it's polling time!

Ground rules for the polling should be established first. First, you can pick as many choices as you want, but you can't undo or redo or change your vote after it's been cast. Not because I'm trying to be strict, but because I have no idea how to alter the pollcode code to undo a vote. I don't even think I can trace your votes, so I wouldn't be able to change your votes, because I don't know which are yours. SO CHOOSE WISELY.

Second rule, if there's something you really really really want to see deconstructed but it's not included in the list below, bring it up in comments. If there's a huge groundswell of support for it, we can add it to the decon list.

Third rule, since I've already shown a tendency to abuse my power, it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone if I choose to override the democratic process, particularly in the case of any ties. The alternative would be to stage some kind of contest match wherein the "winner" is chosen by whoever can render the best hilarious original drawing of the work in question for a CafePress T-shirt or something. Let this be a lesson that I'm not above cheap theatrics.

Fourth rule, please pick for deconstruction something you would actually like to read. That might sound silly, but it's the comments and the reader discussion that keeps me on track with the posts.

Rules understood now? Let's meet the contestants:

The Chronicles of Narnia
The Chronicles of Narnia and I have a history together, not unlike Ross and Rachel from Friends, but instead of us patching up after years of bad blood and heartbreak, I suspect instead that this particular deconstruction will be largely negative. Unlike my Twilight posts where I try (and usually fail) to be polite and to reign in the snark to acceptable levels, I'll likely show a lot more emotion and less restraint in any CoN deconstruction series. This is partly because the CoN author is long-dead and isn't likely to get his feelings hurt at this point, and partly because CoN was the first literary love that I can honestly remember, and it felt like an epic betrayal when some of the later books started to really delve deep into what I now perceive as racism, religious intolerance, and sexism, but as a child just perceived as very uncomfortable. If you like-or-love CoN and especially if you feel like older works should be judged by the standards of their source time period rather than by our modern standards, you probably won't like anything I have to say about this series.

Tone: Negative.

Pros: Lots of possibilities to discuss racism, sexism, religious intolerance, the psychological breakdown of being an adult in a child's body, betrayal, and a society composed of gigantic animals that don't wear pants.As far as I know, a detailed deconstruction of this series doesn't really exist online, so we'd be breaking new ground.

Cons: Some readers may not appreciate having a cherished childhood series and/or theologian treated poorly by some know-it-all on the internet.

Method: Chapter-by-chapter across the 7 book series.

This is the video series, not the anime graphic novel (which is also good, or so I've heard, but I liked the video series and want to do it first). Husband brought home Claymore earlier in the year and I utterly loved it. I thought it was incredibly fresh, fun, and original - sort of like Dragonball Z (which I also enjoyed - that sucking sound you hear is all my coolness cred being pulled down the drain, I know) but with capable women, a much faster pace, and a lot less farting around between fights. The quick and dirty plot synopsis of the series is that monsters really do exist and a Super Secret Organization has found a way to infuse monster biology into human women in order to create super soldiers capable of fighting the monsters. The super soldiers are strong, fast, capable, and clever, but they're ultimately expendable warriors and almost all of them are doomed to die badly - either in battle or as a monster. The series is incredibly dark, and will utterly wreck you.

Tone: Positive. 

Pros: Lots of possibilities to discuss loss, loneliness, the dangers of devoting yourself mindlessly to a single entity or cause, the fear of becoming what you hate, and all the ways in which this series may or may not get sexuality completely wrong. (Discuss!)

Cons: Will almost certainly be positive in tone (although I promise to stop sounding like a gibbering fangurl), which is very nice for deconstructing interesting themes, but has less possible entertainment-by-snark value. Will be more enjoyable for people who have seen the series, which may be none of you. Probably the series is available on YouTube, but readers may not want to commit to watching the whole thing. Also, the series is remarkably violent - Anyone Can Die.

Method: Episodically across 26 episodes.

We've talked about Deathlands before, and they're still not available in eBook form, but since I'd rather review these from a bird-eye view, I think the quoting will be less necessary (therefore, transcription should be less of a problem). I like the Deathlands series, but I enjoy them ironically and I've been known to screech with rage when the heroes do stupid things for the sake of the plot or in order to maintain macho credibility. Any deconstruction I write will probably be negative in intent, but light-hearted in tone. I'm vaguely concerned that the fun may be diminished for you all if you haven't bothered to read the OMG 100 THAT'S-ONE-PLUS-TWO-PLUS-A-LOT series.

Tone: (Humorously) Negative.

Pros: Lots of possibilities to discuss racism, cliched manliness and womanliness, the assumptions that so often govern "after the end" apocalypse novels and why the men might not automatically rule us all with an iron fist, and the fun of parsing the fine difference between "morally ambiguous" and "being a jerk".

Cons: It's a 100 book series that may start to drag a bit on people who don't feel the need to commit to that level of effort. The writing is decidedly average and the books are almost deliberately derivative, so I don't expect people to follow along and would attempt to bring everyone up to speed such that they don't need to read the book to enjoy the deconstruction humor, but I'm not sure I'll succeed. Also, this will be a book-by-book series, so the time between posts may annoy you guys.

Method: Book-by-book over the 100 book series. Re-evaluation of whether or not to continue may occur every 10 or so books.

Ergo Proxy
This is another anime series that I like, or at least that I want to like. The series is deeply introspective, but (in my opinion) extremely rushed at points and eventually seems rather hastily tied up - either because the show had been canceled or because the writers had completely run out of ideas (or at least, ideas that had a modicum of sense attached to them). As such, any deconstruction that comes out of this will be one part positive exploration of themes and two parts trying to suss out what, precisely, is going on. I think this would be a fun, interesting, thought-provoking challenge, but I also recognize that this may be one of those philosophical wank-fests that only a few people care about. Once again, probably most of you haven't seen this series, but also once again, there are probably YouTube videos of every single episode.

Tone: Positive/Explorative.

Pros: Lots of opportunities to explore philosophical questions of self, how much one's genetics determine one's essential being and personality (i.e., are we more than the sum of our parts), futuristic social dystopias, and the ethical treatment of adorable pet robots.

Cons: Obscure series that may not appeal to all readers, and at least some of the "philosophical" pieces may come off as a little reaching by the author. The last season goes completely off the rails, but potentially in a good way.

Method: Episodically across 23 episodes.

The Hunger Games
I hesitated to offer this one because almost all of you have probably read or at least heard of The Hunger Games already. Deconstructions of the series have already been done before, most notably by Mark of MarkReads and it's very likely that I wouldn't have anything valuable to add to the growing pile of praise and critical commentary building around the series. Furthermore, I realize that not all of you are in total enraptures with the series, and - in fairness - with good points to be made on that side. I am offering it up for this poll, though, because I do jaw on about the series from time to time (so it seems only fair), and I probably could lay down some interesting things to say on the series, especially as it stands in contrast to some other (nameless) popular YA series.

Tone: Positive/Explorative.

Pros: Interesting contrasts provided in terms of survival ethics, humane methods of war, unreliable narration, and love triangles between deeply conflicted characters propelled by very different motives and life views.

Cons: A similar deconstruction / in-depth review has been done before in an extremely competent manner; some of you may be sick of The Hunger Games and might like the internets to take a break from the subject, at least until we get some distance from the whole thing.

Method: Chapter-by-chapter over the three book series, and possibly with excerpts from The Girl Who Was On Fire selection of essays. 

The Path
The Path is an indie video game that takes the "Little Red Riding Hood" fairy tale story and goes completely off the rails with it. It's not a particularly good game in the sense that it's fun, interesting, or exciting to play - almost all of the gameplay involves running around a scary dark empty forest looking for the next item that will trigger a cutscene, but the endings for each of the six sisters are extremely dark, disturbing, and full of hidden meaning just waiting to be sussed out. Fans of the game adore it for its Wild Mass Guessing and Epileptic Trees - and the developers definitely enjoy fan-baiting with their posts that all fan-explanations are correct in their own way. To give you an idea: just one of the endings has been theorized to mean everything from being an oldest child in a large family, to committing suicide over lost artistic ambitions, to frustration with excessive housework, to discovering a budding interest in lesbianism.

Tone: Exploratory.

Pros: Interesting opportunities to explore the hidden meanings within a heavily symbolic framework, including dark coming-of-age themes and a very scary, oppressive architecture to work with.

Cons: The fan theories around this game (and mine in general) will include some pretty graphic violence, rape, death, loss, pain, and so forth. The game is certainly "fun" in the "what the heck does this symbolize" sense, but not "fun" in the light-hearted happy tone sense. Seriously, even one of the paths available has more dark symbolism and scary elements than the entire Twilight series as a whole. Also, some people might be put off by the philosophical navel gazing.

Method: 6 girls, 6 paths, 6 posts.

I'm conflicted about adding this one because (a) it's a currently unfinished trilogy, (b) it's by a brand new author and I try not to criticize new authors too harshly, and (c) I'm not 100% sure how well this will work out as a deconstruction. The plot in a nutshell is that humankind has been ravaged by a plague that causes everyone to drop dead on or before their 25th birthday, and oh-by-the-way only North America exists now. The book is interesting and handles some themes well, but my biggest pet peeve is that the ambitious world-building is never fully explored and doesn't impact the plot in nearly the same way I would expect. This is here by "popular" demand, by which I mean exactly one person asked for it. But that means 10 people wanted it but didn't ask for it - according to my Internet math - so it's here for you to vote on!

Tone: Probably negative.

Pros: A lot of opportunities to discuss world building and how it can and should impact the plot overall, as well as the moral ambiguity implied in a situation where finding a cure for humanity may well mean the survival of the species, plus the sexual and social implications of a polygamous society where the wives are not willing participants.

Cons: The book represents a lot of common ground in YA today including a somewhat anemic love triangle and SPECIAL GLITTERY EYES. I'm not against starting another deconstruction series with that in mind, but the whole thing may end up feeling rather derivative of the Twilight posts. (Which may be precisely what you guys want!)

Method: Chapter-by-chapter over the three book series.


Update 1: Okay, part of my post has been lost. Please wait while I describe The Path and Wither. *sheepish*

Update 2: Alright, everything is up now! Looks like when Blogger had that hiccup last week, they rolled this post back to an earlier version. I'm pretty sure I had something terribly witty and awesome to sum up here, but it's gone forever and you'll all have to be tormented by the fact that you missed out on my incredible wit and wisdom. Hopefully we'll all be able to sleep at night anyway. *grins* Now vote away!

Update 3: The poll is closed! More details here.


Charleen Merced said...

 Hunger Games!  Hunger Games!  Hunger Games!  Hunger Games!  Hunger Games!  Hunger Games! 

Seriously, I didn't even have to read the descriptions. Although Claymore is also a good option. And let's be honest, after your post about Deathlands, I think you'd get caught in an endless loop between books 30-40. 

BTW!! You can also do Buffy Season 8, (idk if you like the series). It's in netgalley. 

Matt Smyczynski said...

 I voted Claymore. I've been interested in it for a while, and it's on Netflix now, so I could even watch along as you deconstruct!

Carrie said...

I voted Wither or the Path. I'm a selfish douche with no triggers who is super interested in psychology and hyperviolence with a purpose, so the Path sounds fabulous to me. It's probably a bad idea as a whole, though, since this blog is meant to be a safe space and working with the Path will likely lock at least some people out. So, what I'm saying is, I've cast my vote, but don't listen to me.

Narnia is near and dear to my heart. It was my first fantasy series and I was not observant enough as a very small person to observe its more negative aspects. If you do Narnia, I will read it. It will make me sad. It will make me think. It will make me argue with you (maybe). It may ruin some of my childhood memories. All told, you should probably do that. Or the Hunger Games.

keri said...

I like the idea of narnia just because everyone talks about the Ew Ick bits, but doesn't really go into details that I've seen. Plus, it's so well-known and could get you site views (if that's something that concerns you). 

Emmy said...

 Narniaaaaaaaaaaaaa. :)

Ana Mardoll said...

@charleenmerced:disqus LOL, I read the first part of your post like a kid pounding on a table with knife and fork. Is that about right? :D  (I *did* snag the Buffy comics, thank you! I'm very much looking forward to them, but I confess - and this is my secret shame - I haven't seen all of the TV series, and I'm worried that I might miss some of the backstory/context. I'm still gonna try to read them, though!)

@StanManX:disqus Ooh, I hadn't even thought of synchronized Netflix streaming. We could ALL WATCH TOGETHER. :D

@9f316c9283356f2a0480f40475041b6b:disqus I'm not your long-lost twin sister or something, am I? I think whatever we end up doing will have to have trigger warnings plastered all over it, though - even Wither has a 21 year old impregnate a 13 year old. :(

@twitter-60631454:disqus Oh, I am most definitely motivated by narcissism in general and page views in particular - it's much harder to write something when you're fairly certain that no one is going to read it. :D

Also: HOLY SMOKES BATMAN! The Chronicles of Narnia is practically wiping the floor with the other contestants while Deathlands sits in the corner sulking to itself. You guys DID hear me say I'm going to be totally unpleasant and bitter and come off like an Angry Feminist Pagan Liberal Strawman about the CoN series, right? Is that what you WANT?? I don't want all of you quitting in disgust when I start going into seizures over the "Calormen" and their wacky Muslim ways in book 5. :P

Charleen Merced said...

About right Ana. Also, I would like to also vote for claymore. I think that would be a fantastic idea and we can watch on Netflix together. I've already seen it but, I'd totally watch it again.

So Ana. Stop. Don't read season 8. Stop, do not move an inch.

/me removes season 8 from ana's possession.

DO watch the series first. Otherwise, you won't get any of the backstory.

PersonalFailure said...

CoN Puhleeeze!!!!!!!!!

Hated those as a child but never knew why. I think you could help me with that. (In my family, not liking CoN was a huge betrayal, so I had to read 7 books and pretend to like them. It was awful. )

BrinBellway said...

I have a strange relationship with Narnia. Due to a mysterious accident, the family collection has only the odd-numbered books, and I never got around to checking the even ones out of the library. (Mom bought me Prince Caspian when I was sixteen or so, but I haven't gotten around to reading it.) This led to things like reading Voyage of the Dawn Treader having no idea who Caspian was. Somewhat fond memories* alternate with near-complete unfamiliarity.
I look forward (especially since Narnia seems to be winning) to seeing others' viewpoints.

I also voted for Wither, because I like world-building and it sounds like the discussions would be fascinating.

*But not--I think--fond enough to keep me from wanting your deconstruction.

Samantha said...

I would advise against doing Narnia because, as you said, it has the potential to erupt into great controversy.  I love your blog and frequently use it to find new books I want to read.  This being said, I'm sure I'm not the only one who would get turned off by the inevitable conflict that would arise.  And he IS a great theologian and his books ARE (and were intended as) thinly veiled Christian (Anglican) allegory that specifically reveals the theological understanding of his times.  Fighting against Christian theology of the early 1950s seems to fill a different goal than the stated one of this blog.

Anna said...

 Book 5 is Voyage of the Dawn Treader. It doesn't include anything about the Calormenes (not "Calormen") and their wacky Muslim ways. I think you meant book 3 :P

As you may have guessed from the above, I'm something of a Narnia fan. This means that I won't enjoy a negative deconstruction series of the books, and might decide to avoid reading said deconstruction altogether. However, it probably means that I'd be challenged more and learn more by a deconstruction of the Narnia series than by any of your other suggestions... so deconstruct Narnia, I guess?

Ana Mardoll said...

Oops, sorry, I should clarify that *to me* the book order is:

1. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
2. Prince Caspian
3. Voyage of the Dawn Treader
4. Silver Chair
5. The Horse and His Boy
6. The Magician's Nephew
7. The Last Battle

That's the order of the books' publication, it's the order I read them in as a kid, from a literary deconstruction POV, it's clearly the order in which the series was written, and it's also (imho) the best way to trace certain trends in the writing.

And I *did* double-check Wikipedia before I posted, since I haven't had to spell "Calormen" for a few months - the wiki claims that Calormen is the noun (and the name of the country) and Calormene is the adjective form. I suppose Wikipedia could be wrong - I'd have to dig out my copy of THAHB in order to check. :)

Mime_Paradox said...

 Voted for Narnia because it's the only series of the lot I'm familiar with.  Question, Ana: are you familiar with the book/movie/manga Battle Royale, about a group of Japanese high-school teenagers forced battle each of a regular her to the death as part of a nationalistic ritual?  It'd be interesting, I think, to make an in-depth comparison between it and The Hunger Games, if you decide to take that on, particularly given the different cultural backgrounds of their respective authors. 

hapax said...

Voting for THE HUNGER GAMES because I hated them deeply (sloppy worldbuilding and anvilicious), and I'd like to get in a civilized fight with someone who can articulate why zie liked 'em.

Probably won't read a CoN deconstruction, because I've read busloads of Lewis criticism, both positive and negative, I doubt very much (to put it politely)  that I'll hear something I haven't heard a million times before.  Like arguing with creationists, it just gets old after a while.

Kristy said...

 Hey, Ana?  I know you don't know me, and I don't know you.  I'm just a random reader from the internet.  Still, please don't do Narnia.  I don't have a good or even a passable reason to list here.  But please don't.

hapax said...

I just pulled WITHER from our new book shelves.  Holy crow, I remember that now -- I was squicked out just by the review!

If you want to read that one so I don't have to....

Matt Smyczynski said...

If I chant "Claymore!", does each repetition count as another vote? :)

Here's why I'm not particularly interested in a Narnia deconstruction (and I don't mean to sound entitled or whiny, I'm just hoping comment participation will sway your decision!):

a) I don't think it's entirely fair to judge books from that era by the same standards as current books. I mean, racism is wrong no matter what, but you do have to keep in mind that people use words and phrases that come from the culture they are steeped in. For example, I tend to say "mailman" because that's what my mom always said and it comes out faster than a gender-neutral variant, but I'd roll over in my grave if someone in 2150 used that as evidence that I thought women were unfit for delivering mail. But, if I have any subtle misogynist tendencies, that's fair game.

Basically, I don't want you to be "unpleasant and bitter and come off like an Angry Feminist Pagan Liberal Strawman" because I get the impression that will involve nitpickery that ends up diluting the valid points you raise. Plus, if I want rage, I can just go hang out at a gaming forum :)

b) I got bored with Narnia at book three (Dawn Treader) while the cousin was still throwing up and was never able to muster up the will to go back.

c) Narnia doesn't (seem to) drive Christian culture the way Left Behind does, so I don't see myself getting to use your words as ammo in an argument with someone ;)

d) I still have a couple of CS Lewis books on my shelf that I haven't read, and I'd prefer not to go into them thinking he's an ass.

aravind said...

 Narniaaaaaaaaaaaa. I keep hearing people (of course, white straight male Christians near exclusively) talking about how progressive they are and it makes me want to break things. I kind of loved them as a kid, but I like seeing things that I loved as a silly child get analyzed and treated like terrible things, because, well, they were. 

I really always liked his efforts to create really awesome dystopias (dystopii?), but when every single one boils down to basically the same anti-Christian despotism in Soon you can spot the relatively unfounded persecution complex. There's this unhealthy lack of concern for how Christian (at least in all the definitions I've seen) doesn't translate into "good person" necessarily, let alone "good person that would never be racist/sexist/asinine/etc".

I read them in the internal plot order, so this will be an exercise in rethinking about them, but that's okay. I recently actually tried to think about how they work in the order they were written, and I think it gives (like you said) some context in a way that really is worth it. It's justified, especially in a deconstruction, even if I can't help but think of the books in the alternative order.

Basically, I think the popular vote has a point.

Ana Mardoll said...

Wow, I didn't expect the vote to be so contentious! I'm not sure how I feel about that!

We've still got several more days to go (I figured I'd close the polls on Saturday 5/28), but at 66 of 94 votes on CoN, that's 70% where the others are hanging out in the teens. That's an amazing percentage, although Husband did point out that everything else was very much not mainstream, which was something of a culture shock for me. YOU MEAN NOT EVERYONE WATCHES ANIME IMPORTS, HUSBAND? Apparently not. 

Now that I've had a weekend to think about it, I should probably clarify that my "Angry Feminist Pagan Liberal Strawman" comment was meant to be sarcastic and flippy before I ran off to do something else that day. There are things I love about the CoN series, and there are things that I don't. I'm not intending any deconstruction to become a "burn all the books, they're worthless" tirade any more than (I hope) my Twilight series has been. For me, a deconstruction is about pointing out, vocalizing, and being aware of difficulties in the writing while still saying, basically, that you're not a bad person for liking the material. (After all, I think we have at least one reader here that likes Twilight non-ironically. Right?? On second thought, you don't have to answer that.)

This isn't to say that people are going to like everything I write about CoN. And CoN is tricky because it's got all these childhood memories wrapped up in it. There's this line between "Yeah, ok, maybe that wasn't cool" and "But this is my childhood you're ruining" and it's a really hard line for some folks - I do get that. (I think we all saw that this weekend with Kidd's excellent post on Dr. Seuss:

I had always intended that based on how the vote went, I'd probably pick a book series and a "visual" series and do two more deconstructions and people could pick and choose what to read and follow. I certainly don't want to lose anyone as a reader and I don't want to ruin anyone's childhood and I most definitely do not want any of my deconstructions to make someone feel like they can't/shouldn't read and enjoy something - my goal is always to explore and inform and - ultimate - to read too much into things.

I mostly put the "positive/negative" warnings on the deconstructions so that people would know what aspects I'd be focusing on with these items. 

Matt Smyczynski said...

Do what makes you happy, and I promise not to complain about what you write.  :)

(but seriously, if you ever do Claymore, I will so watch along with the deconstruction!)

Nenya said...

Another person here who voted for Narnia because it's the only one I've seen/read. :D (I've heard of The Hunger Games but not read them, and am fascinated to learn that Ana likes them and Hapax doesn't--I had formed an ambivalent impression of them from people's comments in other places, and would probably find a deconstruction interesting. Alas, I can't go back and change my vote.) I read Narnia for the first time when I was 18, so there's no childhood memories being destroyed there, but parts of the books are dear to me. (Aslan's death & coming back scene in LW&W is something I would not enjoy being snarked.) Other parts have either left me shaking my head in confusion, or rolling my eyes. So I might be unhappy with parts of the deconstruction and enjoy other parts, I guess. (As opposed to Twilight, where I'm both very interested in learning a bit more about the source material, and not at all emotionally connected in a positive way to the text.)

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