Fat Acceptance: Callous Helpfulness

[Content Note: Medical Issues, Surgery, Fat Hatred, Dieting]

Ana's Note: This is a Fat Acceptance 202 post, not a 101 post. If you need a 101 course on Fat Acceptance, please refer to Kate Harding's excellent archive; there are about 10 linked posts in that archive and they are all awesome and admirably cover most FA 101. 

Please also note that this post is going up the week I'm in hospital. That means moderation will be done on a smartphone whilst I am under heavy medication. Comments which are not FA-friendly will be removed without notice, warning, or apology.

Narnia: Good Hair, Bad Hair

Content Note: Racism, Murder, Rape, Domestic Violence, Violent Deities, Animal Attacks

Narnia Recap: Prince Caspian has been told (in flashback form!) about the peoples of Narnia. 

Ana's Note: Instead of my usual sprinkling of links in-text, I'm going to place many of them at the end because some of them require content notes. Also be aware that this is a post about racism in the context of (among other things) hair texture. If that statement drew a total blank for you, please note the links at the end of the post and check your privilege before posting. I appreciate your help in keeping this a safe space.

Recommends: Some Movie I've Never Heard Of!

Oh my god, I just found Ruby's deconstruction of "Escape from Hell" and now my sides hurt from laughing so hard. I've never heard of this movie before, but I wouldn't be a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan if I let little things like that stop me. This is super late, but if you haven't seen it and you enjoy snarking at old movies you may like this thing. I certainly did.

RECOMMENDS! What have you been reading/writing/thinking about this week?

Twilight: Painted Waitresses

Content Note: Rape, Surgery, Cancer, Choice, reference to BDSM

Twilight Recap: Bella is sitting in the car with Edward while Edward calms down.

Twilight, Chapter 8: Port Angeles

And now, a confession.

I'm not as familiar with Romance as a genre as I am with, say, almost anything else. (Except maybe Thrillers and Cozy Mysteries.) I tend to hew to the Fantasy / Science Fiction / Literature / Historical Fiction side of the bookstore. Oh, there's still lots of romance in the books I read, since nearly all of them have someone falling in love with someone else, but that's usually more of a by-product to a larger plot, and half the times doesn't even make good sense in the wait-how-is-this-going-to-work-long-term sense.

Open Thread: Favorite Video Game Plot?

What's your favorite video game plot of all time? (Differentiated from "favorite video game" because play mechanics can ruin the overall experience, I know.)

I really, really, really love Persona. I really like the whole "many selves within you" aspect, probably not the least because it always used to bug me growing up that people would talk to me about wanting to know "the REAL Ana" as if I wasn't real all the time. I really like the character of Mary, because she's a relatively rare disabled (sort of. It's complicated.) character in the video game landscape, and I really like the exploration of her character as deeper than peaches'and'cream. And I love that the characters start off looking like stereotypes (the Rich Kid, the Responsible Kid, the Smart Kid, etc.) and then turn out to have all this depth of character unfold because people are not stereotypes, and if you think they are, it's your failure to look deeper. Ah, memories.

I don't like the PSP remake quite so much, I'm afraid.

Runners-up include Lunar (the PS remake where Luna gets some agency), Final Fantasy X, and Final Fantasy Tactics (the plot makes sense after the 8,734th play through!).


Hunger Games: A Question of Agency

Content Note: Death, Agency, Reproductive Rights

Hunger Games Recap: I've decided to run a Hunger Games deconstruction to post on a non-regular basis. This will not be a line-by-line deconstruction like Twilight and will not precisely be a read-a-long like Narnia; it will be a thematic deconstruction by chapter with the assumption that everyone is already familiar with the books. Spoilers lurk herein.

The Hunger Games, Chapter 1

I love "The Hunger Games". It's probably my most favorite book series of all time at this point. I've read the books half a dozen times. I've listened to the audio books more times than I can count. I love the series: heart, mind, and soul. I also feel like it's one of the most feminist book series I own. This is not a coincidence.

Author Interview: Amanda Johnson on "Mommies' Priceless Moments"

Ana: Today we have Amanda Johnson introducing their book, Mommies' Priceless Moments. I haven't read this book myself, but Amanda was kind enough to agree to guest blog about their book to any readers who might be interested in the subject. Amanda, how would you describe your book to your prospective readers? In broad terms, what is your book about?

Amanda: This book is a golden collection of short funny true stories about young children from parents worldwide.

Ana: What themes does your book explore and what do you hope the reader will take away from the experience? Is there a particular feeling or experience that you hope to evoke in the reader? Essentially, do you hope your book will mean to a reader?

Amanda: My basic aim was to expose the real challenges that come with being a parent, and to showcase them in an amusing light. I did this by speaking with parents up and down the country, and compiling a book that contains their [zany], courageous and sometimes almost unbelievable stories. My intent is to help parents to understand that they’re not alone in their experiences.

Ana: What prompted you to write this book and did you have a specific inspiration in mind? Were you influenced by a certain author or work that inspired you to add your voice to this genre? Besides the boatloads of money and rockstar fame, what motivated you to write this book? 

Amanda: After having my son Tyson, I decided that the best advice I got about parenting was not from the “How To” books I read, but from other parent’s experiences. The [zanier] and funnier the experience, the more I felt like I was not alone. The biggest motivation behind this book was definitely my son and the stories friends and family told me to comfort me when he was first born.

Ana: If you could compare your book to any other existing works, which ones would it be and why? If the one thing you could say to a prospective reader was, "If you like X, you'll love my book!", which work would be invoked so that a reader could judge whether or not your book is their cup of tea?

Amanda: I would compare my book to "Belly Laughs: The Naked Truth about Pregnancy and Childbirth" by Jenny McCarthy. This is because her book is the naked truth about pregnancy and Mommies' Priceless Moments is the naked truth about raising children. The biggest differences between our books are that her book is only from her view and my book is a collection of short stories. Another difference is that she uses swear words in her book and mine is clean. But if you enjoyed reading Jenny McCarthy’s book you will enjoy Mommies’ Priceless Moments.

Ana: Is this your first or only published work, or have you published other books? If you have published other books, how do they compare to this one? Do you have any more books planned, either as a follow-up to this one, or as a completely different book or genre?

Amanda: This book is my first and only published book. If it does well I hope to come up with a second book with more funny true stories about kids.

Ana: Where can readers obtain a copy of your book for them to enjoy? How can they contact you with any thoughts or questions? And do you have a means by which they can "sign up" to be notified when your next book comes available?

Amanda: You can buy Mommies' Priceless Moments on Amazon for $2.99. You can also buy it as a hardcopy for $9.80. You can find me on Facebook or email me.

Ana: Thank you. I understand you have the first chapter of your book available as an excerpt for interested readers? Is there anything else you wish to add for our readers?

Amanda: You can preview my book here. Make sure you like my Facebook page I am always giving out prizes to my readers. I look forward to hearing from everyone so please also visit my website.

Thank you!

If you are an indie author interested in being interviewed, please read the interview policy here.

Narnia: Savior White, Savior Bright

Content Note: Genocide, Othering through Romanticization, Nazis

Narnia Recap: The Pevensie children have rescued a dwarf.

Prince Caspian, Chapter 4: The Dwarf Tells of Prince Caspian

Hey! You know what would be awesome? I'm going to tell you what: leaving these Pevensie protagonists behind for four chapters or so. I mean, the book only has fifteen chapters total, so it's not like that's more than a quarter of the book. Let's go find a new protagonist, one who is less burdened by hurtful memories and sad emotions and muddled theological implications about gods who override choice despite ostensibly being all about free will. A new protagonist who represents everything that good, right-thinking people want and need in a protagonist: an innocent white male who will most definitely not be blamed for the heaping amounts of privilege he's been cozily wrapped in his entire life.

Review: Slow Cooker Revolution

Slow Cooker Revolution: One Test Kitchen, 30 Slow Cookers, 200 Amazing RecipesSlow Cooker Revolution
by America's Test Kitchen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Slow Cooker Revolution / 978-1933615691

We've made several recipes out of this book and both my husband and I really like it.

The layout is very nice -- bolded recipe list on the side of each recipe, with the instructions across from the list. A lot of the recipes have little "tips" at the bottom of the page, often for how to select product or keep things from going bad. There are pictures, but there's not one for every recipe, but since this is a crock-pot book and not dishes that require a lot of assembly, I don't mind so much as I normally would.

I do wish that in addition to the cooking time, there was a "prep" time -- the last two recipes we tried (Baked Potato Soup, and a pork chops with soy sauce) had a lot of "fry the bacon in a pan, fry the chopped onions, stir in flour, stir in chicken broth slowly, THEN dump everything in cooker" and that takes a bit of time in the mornings when you're trying to get off to work. But it's a minor complaint and can be figured up pretty easily with a little more reading prior to trying the recipe.

Taste-wise, everything we've made so far with this book one or both of us has liked, so if you happen to share similar taste-buds with two random internet strangers, you'll like these recipes! For my friends in the food intolerances camp, this book doesn't try to be food intolerance friendly and there are no obvious recipe alterations offered for that. (Not surprising, since that's not how it's being marketed, but now you know.)

If you've got a slow cooker and you'd prefer a book of recipes to the hit-or-miss internet, I can recommend this one as having some solid offers.

NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through Amazon Vine.

~ Ana Mardoll

Metapost: Surgery

Content Note: Surgical Stay, Cancer

Ramblites, I meant to put out May/June newsletters about this, but not all of you are subscribers and time got away from me, so here's just a regular metapost.

I'll be having back surgery on 5/29, which is a Tuesday. I should be in the hospital for about 3-5 days for recuperation, and Husband will be with me during hospital visiting hours. (Mom and Dad will not be able to attend as previously planned, because Dad is going through his radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

After my surgical stay, I'll be out of work and largely house-bound for 8-12 weeks (at which point I hope to go back to work), and I do not at this time know what level of consciousness I'll have. (Depending on how my body reacts, there may be lots of sleeping involved.)

Posting-wise, I think we'll be alright. Here's what I have pre-posted as of today:

I expect to keep adding to that; if I absolutely can't keep up, we'll have another week of open threads or something. You were all very kind and patient during the last one, and I can't thank you enough. Thank you.

Moderating is another thing entirely: I can reply to comments, and delete comments, and spam/un-spam comments from my Disqus phone app and that's going to be about it for at least my hospital stay. I certainly won't, for instance, be able to ROT13 comments, since that takes a lot of movement and access to relatively high-level computer resources. If we get some kind of bizarre troll influx, I'll just mark the crappy stuff spam for temporary purposes and sort it all out later, but what are the odds of that happening? (Famous last words.)


I guess I should say something about me now for those of you who want to know and have the spoons.

I'm doing fine, although I'm at the point where I'm feeling a little subdued and tired in advance of everything. This is the second time I've had this surgery, so I know what to expect and am not really apprehensive, but I'm not really jumping for joy either. I just had my hair sheared down to a pixie cut yesterday because I did this surgery before with longer hair and it was a pain to manage in-hospital, and while I look cute and feel cute, it's not the cut I would have chosen for myself normally (or I'd have already had it), so that and about a million other things kind of squat on my shoulder and remind me that I don't have nearly as much control over my life as I would like.

So I also had the hair-stylist put in bright red streaks, and I bought some feathery headbands and a couple of pairs of legwarmers, because goddamnit, if I have to be in hospital, I am determined to have fun. Also, legwarmers are permanently affixed in my mind to Cleo the Cat who I remember thinking was cool, classy, and sexy. (Disclaimer: I haven't watched Heathcliff in years and my childhood impressions were rarely accurate.)

And, of course, there's Dad. He's doing fine so far, but all the doctors and nurses assure us that Things Will Get Worse (in terms of pain and tiredness and swollen throat and stomach tubes) which is obviously not very reassuring at all. But theoretically after he passes through the fire on all this, he should be cured of cancer. Which is great, but supposedly he'll also have dry-mouth for the rest of his life, an increased risk of other kinds of cancer thanks to the radiation, and he might not have taste-buds after this. Basically, I'm dealing with this by not thinking about it very much.

So. I'm fine, really I am. Husband has gotten me a nice spreadsheet game to sink into (Patrician IV), and I have a backlog of Kairosoft games to play, and I have about eight zillion books to read, and of course there are things to say about Twilight so I'm doing alright. This is really just a heads-up to let people know what's up and what's going on and why I'm not always answering comments as much as I used to -- I love reading them (so much; there's at least a dozen a day that I read 3-4 times before filing them in the "Keeper Comments" folder on my gmail), but answering them is a little fiddly sometimes. And I am sorry for that.

Peace out, and I'm looking forward to waking up from surgery and seeing how you like that day's Narnia post.

Recommends: All Different Kinds of Sexy

This is now way late, and I've already recommended Escher Girls before, but this post, so much: I Can't Be the Only One Disappointed it Wasn't Just Ponies Cosplaying as DC Heroines.

The background being that someone used My Little Ponies as a justification to draw your typical "sexy supergirl" pose, someone else was kind enough to do a redraw that actually provides some ethnic diversity, and someone else pointed out that the very real problem with the ubiquitous "sexy supergirl" is that it ignores that there's any particular kind of sexy besides simply having breasts and a willingness to wear very little in the way of clothing:

The sameness of the character designs hurts this. There’s a lot of different kinds of sexy. Athletic and tough can be sexy. Voluptuous and plump can be sexy. Nerdy and smart can be VERY sexy. Gentle and nurturing can be sexy and so forth. Here sexy is conveyed entirely by “large tits, lots of bared skin”.


RECOMMENDS! What have you been reading/writing/thinking about lately?

Twilight: Appropriating Victims' Experiences

Content Note: Rape, Vehicle Collision

Twilight Recap: Bella has been rescued from an imminent gang-rape by Edward Cullen. 

Twilight, Chapter 8: Port Angeles

Twilight was not -- and I think most people will agree with this statement -- written to be taken as complex social commentary. It's a romance novel, built around the eroticism of sexual abstinence and denial. And for all that, it works pretty well if you like that sort of thing. Or so I'm told. YMMV.

Open Thread: Fan Discontinuity

What fan discontinuity are you (or would you like to be) a part of? 

Personal example: It's such a shame that George Lucas never got around to making the prequel films for the Star Wars franchise.

Also: A Hitchhiker's Guide the the Galaxy movie would be awesome! It's a shame no one has ever picked up the rights for that.

Etc., etc., etc.


Feminism: The Patriarchy Hurts Women, Too

I've been thinking a lot lately about Anne Boleyn.

It started simply enough: Husband was so excited at having Amazon Prime videos piped into the house that he wanted to start watching a new TV series together. A very great problem, however, is that I highly prefer subtitles for anything we watch and Amazon Prime is not (yet) streaming subtitles with the videos. We already knew from a previous aborted attempt to watch "The Tudors" that the DVDs of the series had surprisingly not been bundled with subtitles, so when we noticed that they were available to watch on Amazon Prime, they seemed like a reasonable choice since we couldn't get a better quality experience elsewhere.

See? Simple.

Author Interview: Jenna Katerin Moran on "Fable of the Swan"

Ana: Today we have Jenna Katerin Moran introducing their book, Fable of the Swan. I haven't read this book myself, but Jenna was kind enough to agree to guest blog about their book to any readers who might be interested in the subject. Jenna, how would you describe your book to your prospective readers? In broad terms, what is your book about?

Jenna: Hi!

Fable of the Swan is a YA urban fantasy.

It’s about ... hm. Three things!

It's about objectification. If you know how, you can pull out somebody’s soul and turn their flesh into a reconfigurable weapon.

It’s about the source of value. A long time ago, one of the Jotun stole “being good” from Death’s dominion. As a species, they never quite managed to take advantage of that themselves, but at least the world itself was worth something after that.

It’s about a girl growing up in a kind of broken town surrounded by the multicolored void and how she makes and loses friends, achieves enlightenment, and eventually turns into a brass cephalopodan war machine and wrestles Death.

Trigger warnings: depersonalization and objectification, both self- and other-caused; abbreviated but graphic depiction of self-harm; emotional abuse within a relationship; realistic but tangential depiction of OCD; isolation and loss of family; non-consensual and physical-interaction grounded alteration of people's souls/minds; mild use of weightist language by characters; occasional references to "mad science" and similar uses of language by author and characters.

Ana: What themes does your book explore and what do you hope the reader will take away from the experience? Is there a particular feeling or experience that you hope to evoke in the reader? Essentially, do you hope your book will mean to a reader?

Jenna: Oh, man!

 I feel so pompous when I try to talk about possible lessons or messages or themes, and then I feel like I’m dodging your question if I don’t.

I mean---mostly, it’s a book. It’s for reading. For fun!

 I’d like to think that it might stir up the reader’s thoughts on being an embodied mind, or on what it means to be good or bad, but I didn’t even feel comfortable pushing non-controversial stuff like “acceptance is better than denial” all-out, much less any of the book's subtler messages.

 I'd like to imagine that some of my thoughts on the persistence of personhood and the need for care with one's moral authorities will be useful to someone at some point? Except that that would imply that they're in the situation where that could be useful, and I don't really want anyone to be in a situation to need anything I might have said there, so I don't actually like to imagine that at all! Sorry for the false information at the start of this paragraph. ^_^

Mostly it is for fun.

Ana: What prompted you to write this book and did you have a specific inspiration in mind? Were you influenced by a certain author or work that inspired you to add your voice to this genre? Besides the boatloads of money and rockstar fame, what motivated you to write this book? 

Jenna: I’m writing a variant setting for my RPG, Nobilis, and wanted to kick it off with a novel. Mostly!

Ana: If you could compare your book to any other existing works, which ones would it be and why? If the one thing you could say to a prospective reader was, "If you like X, you'll love my book!", which work would be invoked so that a reader could judge whether or not your book is their cup of tea?

Jenna: Hm!

There’s a lot of Zelazny in this, a little bit of Barker, a bit of Vance, and some Revolutionary Girl Utena.

 If you love those things then you might like Fable of the Swan.

Ana: Is this your first or only published work, or have you published other books? If you have published other books, how do they compare to this one? Do you have any more books planned, either as a follow-up to this one, or as a completely different book or genre?

Jenna: Most of my previous work was in RPGs---Nobilis, the Weapons of the Gods RPG, some stuff for Exalted. Most of that was under the name R. or Rebecca Sean Borgstrom. (Names are a trouble!)

I have a currently disorganized fiction blog, Hitherby Dragons, and another couple of books out there on Amazon/Smashwords: An Unclean Legacy, which is about family drama and redemption in Ye Standarde Faux-Medieval fantasy world* and Invasion, which is a picture book with illustrations by Elizabeth Sherry.  

An Unclean Legacy is more chaotic, so there’s more jewels and a bit more fun in it but it’s also a little more demanding---I think? I don’t know! I can’t read them through someone else’s eyes!

Elizabeth Sherry’s work on Invasion is simply astounding; I think it deserves to be a modern classic, and I don’t mean because of my contribution but because of hers. The art. The ART!

On the other hand, I can see why not everyone would want to read a picture book that handles extremely innocuous content (Puppy, Kitten, and Lamb vs. ordinary things like lamps and blankets) under horror genre rules, so there is that.

 I absolutely have more books planned!

I have one in my back pocket to cover me if health gets in the way of a steady release schedule, two in progress, and will be continuing the series that this particular book is in . . . hopefully, this year. ^_^

* unashamedly so.

Ana: Where can readers obtain a copy of your book for them to enjoy? How can they contact you with any thoughts or questions? And do you have a means by which they can "sign up" to be notified when your next book comes available?

Jenna: My books are available at Amazon, Smashwords, and DriveThruFiction/Comics/RPG.

I’m available on gplus as Jenna Katerin Moran (here), and people can generally catch my attention by commenting on my blog. That’s probably also the best place to check to find out when my next book will appear.

To find the book, hm! Here’s a Smashwords link, since it’s a nice simple link and Smashwords has practically all possible ePub formats: Fable of the Swan, at Smashwords.


Ana: Thank you. I understand you have the first chapter of your book available as an excerpt for interested readers? Is there anything else you wish to add for our readers?

Jenna: No, thank you! I appreciate your offering this opportunity.

As for the excerpt, you can find that on Smashwords too (in HTML or ePub; I’ve set it to make the first 40% of it readable for free).

As for adding something for our readers---thanks for your interest! I hope that if you buy my book it brings you some happiness. ^_^ I guess I also hope that you find happiness even if you don't buy my book, but that seems a little stingy of you in your magical castle of happiness. Think of . . . of . . . um, me!

Best wishes,

If you are an indie author interested in being interviewed, please read the interview policy here.

Narnia: Where Angels Fear To Tread

Content Note: Loss of Family, Execution Methods

Narnia Recap: The Pevensie children have determined that the ruined castle they have found themselves in is their old home, Cair Paravel.

Ana's Note: Because there has been some discussion in the comments about this, I want to reiterate that the charter for my deconstructions is not to say a book is bad, or that an author is bad, or that a fandom is bad. I believe art is subjective, that most problems occur in text despite (rather than because of) the author's intentions, and I believe people should enjoy what they enjoy without guilt. 

My deconstructions are about having a conversation with Society, about voicing my opinion about an aspect of art and how Society at large frequently chooses to interact with it, and about using that art as a stepping-stone for discussing feminist issues. Discussing long-dead authors may be interesting, but discussing our modern society and how we are influenced by and interact with their works is much more so for me -- and this is what I've tried to do.

I hope you enjoy the result, and thank you for reading.

Review: The Lady in the Tower

The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne BoleynThe Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn
by Alison Weir

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lady in the Tower / 9780345519788

I'm really beginning to like Weir's historical analyses, though they do seem to suffer from some of the same problems. Overall, though, I loved this book and though I initially borrowed it from the library, I ended up buying a copy of the audio book to listen along to as well as buying a copy of my own to keep on hand. So take that as the strong recommendation as it is.

This is a scholarly look at the last days of Anne Boleyn. Weir starts with the last time Anne saw her husband Henry, follows the coup that brought down Anne and her faction at court so swiftly, analyzes the trial in close detail, explains the finer details of the execution, and ultimately follows with a quick overview of how Anne has been historically portrayed, depending on era and religious inclination.

One thing I really love about Weir's books is her use of source material. Everything presented to the reader is presented with context: this was written by so-and-so, writing during the reign of such-and-so (which greatly influenced what was safe to write about Anne Boleyn), with a religious bias of thus. Weir uses biased and hostile sources, but she uses them with discretion, noting whether or not she believes the source to be true or a fabrication. I like that, and I appreciate how she tries to provide a very broad-yet-clear view of the subject.

Some of the writing stumbles I noticed in her book "Mary Boleyn" are repeated here, though. There is a lot of repetition throughout the book, probably to help the reader follow along, but there is sometimes a strange sense of devja vu, as though you've accidentally flipped back a few dozen pages without meaning to. And the source material is sometimes sprinkled in so liberally that it threatens the flow of the reading -- this was why I ended up switching to the audio book, which handled the presentation much more smoothly. (And with really lovely accents on the part of the narrator; she cannot be praised enough.)

Then, too, the last chapter of the book (the one after Queen Elizabeth) should, in my opinion, be avoided entirely. The whole chapter embarks on a Golden Mean Fallacy intent on proving that the work you've just finished reading is unbiased and scholarly because it falls in the middling position of an analysis of Anne. It is extremely disconcerting as a reader to have just read how the jury was deliberately stacked against Anne, how an intended verdict may have been communicated to said jury in advance, how the king almost certainly must have sent for the executioner before the trial even began, and how Anne was very likely framed... only to have the author turn around and chide fellow historians for the "misconception" that Anne was "murdered". For Weir to assert that such a term is inappropriate because "she was executed in accordance with the law as it then stood" comes off as reaching, since it's entirely clear that she and the other historians are saying the same thing with different words: that Anne's death was deliberately engineered by others, and that the charges against her were spurious.

Having said all that, I strongly recommend this book, provided that you are good at following along over the copious quotes and sprinkled repetition (and, if you're not, check out the audio book which eases that almost entirely) and also provided that you take my advice and skip the last chapter.

~ Ana Mardoll

Recommends: Dragon Riders

I don't read blogs as much as I'd like to because I seem to be so dang busy all the time lately, but this piece by Chris over at Stealing Commas blew me away: A thousand generations of Dragon Riders.

One of the funnest and yet hardest parts (for me) of fantasy writing is the world-building. Fun, because you can do pretty much whatever you like and have a jolly time doing it; hard, because it all has to weave together into a coherent narrative and heaven help you if someone comes along and, say, asks why Harry Potter can't 'participate' in the Tri-Wizard Championship by walking onto the field and getting zero points each time. (Because SHUT UP, THAT'S WHY, I'm guessing. Fantasy is hard, ya'll.)

So here is a dragon rider story that takes into account the evolution of weaponry, agriculture, and mathematics as a function of a fantasy world with dragon riders. And it is awesome.

RECOMMENDS! What have you been reading/writing/thinking about this week?

Twilight: When Rape Plays Matchmaker

Content Note: Rape

Twilight Recap: Bella is on her way to Port Angeles to help Jessica and Angela pick out dresses for the school dance.

Twilight, Chapter 8: Port Angeles

Oh my gosh, ya'll, do you know what day it is? It's CHAPTER EIGHT DAY!

You may not immediately see why that is so very exciting, but let me assure you in advance that Chapter Eight is one of the very worst things I've read in my entire life. It is a carefully packed present of misogyny wrapped with a ribbon of loathing and addressed with a card filled with victim-blaming and a coupon for a free conservative nightmare lecture. Christmas has come early!

Open Thread: Anachronisms?

Ramblites, I have a question.

I cannot seem to watch or read historical fiction anymore without running into a scene where a Lady Of Very High Birth has a big fight (sometimes she wins, sometimes she loses) over the right to breastfeed her own child. And in almost all of these cases, it really is settled historical fact that a wet nurse would have been used in the cases I'm running into. And that's part of the big fight: her husband or her mother or her whatever expresses shock and horror that My Lady Of Very High Birth would balk tradition like this.

And I'm wondering: what's the truth behind this?

On the one hand, I suspect this is a bit of modernity leaking into these stories: modern perspective coloring our historical fiction. On the other hand, I really don't know; maybe lots and lots of Ladies Of Very High Birth really wanted to nurse and maybe really tried to do so, but the patriarchy and lack of social support made it too difficult.

On the third hand, maybe there was a little of both -- Ladies Of Very High Birth who didn't want to nurse and ones who did -- and I've just been reading all the historical fiction of the Ladies who did.

Can anyone answer this question?

Has anyone else noticed this in Every Historical Fiction Ever or is it just me?

Any other recurring anachronisms* people want to share?


* I would have added "functioning birth control" because it was a pet peeve of mine that people could fornicate their butts off in historical fiction and not get pregnant, but then I read "Mary Boleyn" by Alison Weir and she dropped this tidbit without so much as a how'd-you-do:

Other methods of preventing pregnancy included inserting pepper or a sponge soaked in vinegar into the vagina, sealing the cervix with beeswax, having anal sex, or doing some “hard pissing” after intercourse.

Well, okay, then! o.O

Feminism: When We Like Problematic Art

This week I got in an argument about a movie.

The movie itself isn't important.* There were good things in it, there were problematic things in it. One side of the argument liked the movie overall but didn't like the problematic elements; the other side of the argument liked the good elements, but disliked the movie as a whole. Each side felt like the OTHER side was saying they were a Bad Person for having their opinion. Neither side, as it turned out, actually thought that at all -- they were just trying to have a discussion.

Communication, it would seem, is hard.

Metapost: Google-Fu Fail

Someone -- Will? Chris? Laiima? A fevered dream brought on by too many sandwiches? -- explained a while back, probably not on THIS blog, but somewhere I read, about the difference between primary cause and secondary cause, and I recall arson being the analogy used. As in, the primary cause of the fire was gasoline and matches, the secondary cause is that the neighbor likes fire.

I cannot find this now and I want to reference it for a post. Does anyone remember where this was, because I cannot find it via Google. Much appreciation.

Author Interview: Anthea Carson on "The Dark Lake"

Ana: Today we have Anthea Carson introducing their book, The Dark Lake. I haven't read this book myself, but Anthea was kind enough to agree to guest blog about their book to any readers who might be interested in the subject. Anthea, how would you describe your book to your prospective readers? In broad terms, what is your book about?

Anthea: This book is about Jane, a woman in her forties who is stuck in the past. She wanders the lake, where voices call to her from the bottom. She can't seem to get on with her life. She has these terrible nightmares, she can't sleep. She can't keep a job. Her therapist tries to help her. She says Jane needs to remember a past incident, and come to terms with it in order to forget it. Her AA group tries to help her. They tell her she needs to work through her issues. She has little more than contempt for them. Her mother tries to help her, but seems as overwhelmed as Jane is. And Jane isn't very nice to her mother. Then, to avoid jail time, Jane has to go to anger management. But then they start dragging her car up from the bottom of the lake. Why now, she wonders, after all this time, why are they dragging her car up from the bottom of the lake?

Ana: What themes does your book explore and what do you hope the reader will take away from the experience? Is there a particular feeling or experience that you hope to evoke in the reader? Essentially, do you hope your book will mean to a reader?

Anthea: The themes of this book are denial, refusing to let go of the past, guilt, repressed memories and addiction. Denial is a condition where we refuse to look at the truth, even though we know what the truth is. We push that truth out of our consciousness and lie to ourselves, and then believe our own lies. It is a very common condition. Letting go of the past is not something we really do, it's more that we accept that the past is gone. Denial can keep us in the past. These things operate together to keep us stuck. These defense mechanisms are there to protect us, but they don't really serve us. Repressing a memory is a form of denial so strong we can't even remember the truth. Sometimes we do this to avoid guilt or shame, guilt or shame we don't even know we have because we've constructed our walls of protection from the truth so well. Addiction is the result of a decision to live in lies.

Ana: What prompted you to write this book and did you have a specific inspiration in mind? Were you influenced by a certain author or work that inspired you to add your voice to this genre? Besides the boatloads of money and rockstar fame, what motivated you to write this book? 

Anthea: As I wrote this story I realized I had been writing this story in my subconscious for forty years. I am a recovering alcoholic, and if I were to relapse I believe this woman would be me. I am of course also influenced by some key sources. The movie The Sixth Sense, several episodes of The Twilight Zone, Lost Girls by Andrew Pyper, Swan's Way by Marcel Proust, James Joyce, both Tom Wolfes and perhaps William Faulkner have influenced my writing.

Ana: If you could compare your book to any other existing works, which ones would it be and why? If the one thing you could say to a prospective reader was, "If you like X, you'll love my book!", which work would be invoked so that a reader could judge whether or not your book is their cup of tea?

Anthea: If you like Faulkner, The Sound and The Fury, The Twilight Zone, The Sixth Sense, you might like my story. If you like to think, don't mind trying to solve a puzzle, don't mind rereading or struggling a bit to figure something out, or if you don't mind hazy endings. If you are okay with the ending of The Lost Girls by Andrew Pyper and don't feel you need to throw that book across the room when you are finished, you might like The Dark Lake.

Ana: Is this your first or only published work, or have you published other books? If you have published other books, how do they compare to this one? Do you have any more books planned, either as a follow-up to this one, or as a completely different book or genre?

Anthea: No, I have two other published books. One is called "How to Play Chess Like an Animal," (I'm a chess coach) and I had a co-author for that one (five time Colorado Chess Champion Brian Wall) and a young adult fiction called Ainsworth. The Dark Lake is the first part of a trilogy. The two books following it have already been written.

Ana: Where can readers obtain a copy of your book for them to enjoy? How can they contact you with any thoughts or questions? And do you have a means by which they can "sign up" to be notified when your next book comes available?

Anthea: My book is located on Amazon Kindle. People are welcome to contact me by email, although I get lots of spam so it might end up in my spam folder so perhaps Facebook or Twitter. I hadn't thought of setting up a way for them to be notified of my next book; I will set that up soon. Probably at my website.

Ana: Thank you. I understand you have the first chapter of your book available as an excerpt for interested readers? Is there anything else you wish to add for our readers?

Anthea: Here is the link to my online sample. Thank you for reading and supporting indie authors.

If you are an indie author interested in being interviewed, please read the interview policy here.

Narnia: If Only They'd Planted Ginkgo Biloba

Narnia Recap: The children have been pulled back into Narnia and have found an abandoned castle with apple trees for sustenance.

Prince Caspian, Chapter 2: The Ancient Treasure House

Last week we talked about an ongoing world-building problem with Narnia: namely, how much the children remember about their adventures therein. This is not a trivial point to me, since it's on this question that hinges a great deal in terms of the Problem of Susan. After all, if some magic muddles the children's memories of Narnia, she can hardly be blamed for thinking of the whole experience as a child's dream game. And if magic doesn't muddle their perceptions and memories, then we are justified in asking how all this zig-zagging between Narnia and England and all this living of two lives concurrently is affecting the children emotionally and mentally.

Review: Cafe Nippon

[Content Note: Ads]

Cafe Nippon
by Kairosoft

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It really should not come as a surprise to me how much I love this game, since I love pretty much all the Kairosoft time-sink games and I love restaurant management simulation games so, so much, but good-grief-on-a-gravy-roll I love this game. I can't stop playing it.

Self-Promotion: Print-On-Demand Version

Greetings and salutations! For the half a dozen of you who wanted a print version of Pulchritude, this is now a thing that exists! (And I am inordinately flattered!)

The bad news upfront: it's not as cheap as I'd like it to be, and I can't afford to give away free copies because CreateSpace does charge me for my own copies. So I'm sorry about that. And I encourage you to read for free before you buy! You can download the ePUB/mobi version or read online on GoodReads!

The print-on-demand price is $7.99. It's a 6x9 trade paperback, so taller and thinner than the mass market paperbacks you may or may not be more used to. For those who are curious, the royalty rate susses out differently depending on vendor:

What that means is that the base price just to print the book is $6.69. The royalties on CreateSpace sales are $2.38 and the royalties on Amazon are $0.78 because the Amazon Cookie Monster likes a higher quality macadamia nut than your work-a-day sugar-cookie-scarfing CreateSpace Cookie Monster. (In comparison, I make about twice that 78 cents on Amazon Kindle sales for my $2.99 eBook.)

The links to the book are here:

Author Interview: Doyle MacBrayne on "Eve ver. 2.0"

Ana: Today we have Doyle MacBrayne introducing their book, Eve ver. 2.0. I haven't read this book myself, but Doyle was kind enough to agree to guest blog about their book to any readers who might be interested in the subject. Doyle, how would you describe your book to your prospective readers? In broad terms, what is your book about?

Doyle: Sara Waters a grad student at Purdue who created a new algorithm that encrypts data faster and better than ever before. However, her impetuousness combined with her brains and ego also created the perfect program for hacking in, undetected to any system. When the FBI showed up at her office investigating the disappearance of a professor, she found herself under scrutiny. Sara destroys her program afraid that if found the FBI will use it indiscriminately. She doesn’t want anyone to have control over information or privacy. Thomas has other plans, he’s sure he can convince Sara to gather information on the crime families he’s been investigating once she realizes that they are trafficking humans. Sparks fly between them as they try to figure out how to get what they want and get what they need without spoiling what could be something good between them.

Ana: What themes does your book explore and what do you hope the reader will take away from the experience? Is there a particular feeling or experience that you hope to evoke in the reader? Essentially, do you hope your book will mean to a reader?

Doyle: This is supposed to be a fun, diverting read. My hope is that while waiting for dance class to be over, or baseball practice to end, you have a few moments to spend with this amazing woman, Sara Waters. I love her, she's impetuous, brilliant, funny, sarcastic. I want you to laugh out loud, and hope that she finds true love, while not getting killed.

Ana: What prompted you to write this book and did you have a specific inspiration in mind? Were you influenced by a certain author or work that inspired you to add your voice to this genre? Besides the boatloads of money and rockstar fame, what motivated you to write this book? 

Doyle: The motivation - Sara Waters' character is based on my wonderful middle child, who is amazing, impetuous, and very sarcastic. I also was motivated by a horrible news item from Russia; grandparents were selling their seven year old grandson for parts. Literally. Fortunately they were caught, but it definitely affected me. After researching it further, I found that there really is something called medical tourism, where people wanting kidneys, etc. can travel to different countries and get them.

Ana: If you could compare your book to any other existing works, which ones would it be and why? If the one thing you could say to a prospective reader was, "If you like X, you'll love my book!", which work would be invoked so that a reader could judge whether or not your book is their cup of tea?

Doyle: I would say if someone likes Janet Evanovich, this is a similar style. It's just a fun read. Good plot, great dialogue, romance and mystery.

Ana: Is this your first or only published work, or have you published other books? If you have published other books, how do they compare to this one? Do you have any more books planned, either as a follow-up to this one, or as a completely different book or genre?

Doyle: This is my very first book, and the only one I have planned with this character. This upset my daughter Sara very much, because I have promised her a VW Bug if we sell enough copies. :) I am currently working on another novel, Death by Zombie, the main character is based on my oldest daughter Rachel. My new story takes place in a deserted ghost town in Like, NV. Except, it's not deserted, there is a hospital for the ill and criminally insane supernatural beings.

Ana: Where can readers obtain a copy of your book for them to enjoy? How can they contact you with any thoughts or questions? And do you have a means by which they can "sign up" to be notified when your next book comes available?

Doyle: Eve ver. 2.0 is only 99 cents and is available at Amazon. It is also available as an audiobook at Audible.

Ana: Thank you. I understand you have the first chapter of your book available as an excerpt for interested readers? Is there anything else you wish to add for our readers?

Doyle: They can download an excerpt through Amazon.

If you are an indie author interested in being interviewed, please read the interview policy here.

Recommends: Atheist Day

This is going to seem a little late to you all in The Future!, but in case you missed this, I enjoyed this peace by Cary: An Atheist's Proposal.

I'm not an atheist, but I was touched by Cary's opening paragraph about hymns. Though I'm not a Christian anymore and I actively avoid churches for all kinds of near-triggery reasons, I still find myself singing "Wonderful Grace of Jesus" and "In My Heart There Rings a Melody", because even though I don't believe the words, I love the melody. And it makes me sad that my chosen religion doesn't really have anything quite like that, though I'll admit that the Mercedes Lackey filk songs tear me up something fierce.

And now I've gone and derailed myself already. Anyway. Link! I liked the post and you may too. Also: space related holidays for the win!

RECOMMENDS! What have you been reading/writing/thinking lately?

Open Thread: A Genuine Question

You people who watch "Game of Thrones", how do you do it? o.O

Husband bought the series and I've been trying to watch with him. Two episodes in and it's like ALL THE NICE THINGS have been taken away forever from me. It's not grim or dark or gritty so far, it's just been really awful people doing really awful things, and so far only to women, children, and a single highly traumatized man.

Is there a coping mechanism to get through this that I don't know about?

Open Thread: Corsets

(A special post-op open thread that I probably won't be able to immediately participate in because of the ICU's "no 3G, no WiFi" rules. But here it is anyway.)

An open note to my doctor:

This is a corset.

This is a back brace.

Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with the differences and adjust your terminology accordingly. Telling patients that their new back brace is "basically like a corset" is setting up some false expectations in the extreme, let me tell you. If I can't wear it at a Ren Fair and blend in, it's not a corset, dang it.

Twilight Themes: Venn Allies Behave Badly

Content Note: Misogyny, Misogynistic Terms, Fat Hatred, Sex Work Hatred

In November 2011, when we were still undergoing the labor of love that was the 12-post deconstruction on Chapter 5, mmy was kind enough to send me a link to this Cracked article. And as much as I wanted to smile and laugh and nod, I found myself frowning and sighing and frustrated. Which was, of course, why mmy was kind enough to send the link in the first place: it cries out for a deconstruction post. And I've thought about this post literally every week between then and now. So now I want to take a moment and talk about Twilight and Allies and Misogyny and oh so many other things.

Open Thread: Kissing Shakespeare

If you could go back in time and have a relationship (romantic or otherwise) with a famous historical figure, who would it be?

Today's Open Thread brought to you by "Kissing Shakespeare", which sounds like all the things that are Not My Thing wrapped up into a single pretty package, but may very well be more awesome than knitted cowls and baby penguins. But not more awesome than baby penguins wearing knitted cowls.


Animation: The Little Mermaid

Disney. The word is so synonymous in my mind with "animated feature films" that it's like using "Kleenex" for "tissue". When children come to my house, as they sometimes do, they're invariably drawn to my huge selection of "Disney movies", only about 70% of which are actually affiliated with Disney in any way shape or form. I enjoy most of them, or I wouldn't own them. They each have their own problems, but a good many of them have something truly positive that I treasure. And what better way to start a deconstruction of animated feature films with the one I knew first and loved best: The Little Mermaid?

The Little Mermaid is possibly one of the most contentious movies I've ever loved. It was created in 1989, and has been specially beloved by many children in general and by myself in particular since then. I must have watched the movie eighty squintillion times as a child; it was one of the few videos I loved enough to manage to convince my parents to buy, and I watched it until the video literally broke from use. By that point, Disney had locked the reel in their "appreciate for value" vault and when they relaunched the movie in theaters in 1997, I was there to see it on the big screen. I have never been able to watch the movie without sobbing straight through from opening titles to end credits.

I sometimes feel like everyone I meet online has seen this movie at least once. Almost all of them have an opinion on the movie. Most of the opinions are strongly polarized: either Ariel is a free-thinking young woman who bravely rejects racism to forge her own destiny and create a lasting peace between two cultures or she's an idealized anti-feminist icon, complete with Barbie-doll figure and shell bikini, completely willing to throw away her family, her culture, and her own voice for the sake of a man she's never even met.

Those who fall between these two views tend to stay out of the flame wars. I don't blame them.

I like The Little Mermaid. I like a lot of things that are problematic, and I don't think there's anything necessarily wrong with liking problematic things as long as a certain awareness is maintained that Problems Abound Therein. Art is complicated like that. But I like The Little Mermaid and I think it's compatible with valuable feminist messages. Certainly, it was my first introduction into a feminist narrative and I have always considered the problematic romance storyline to be camouflage for the real story. But we'll see whether or not you agree.

Please note that everything I say from here on in is just my opinion.

For me, The Little Mermaid is the story of an Otherkin girl living in a world that is hostile to Otherkin. Ariel is a human born into a merperson's body, and in a culture that routinely lambasts humans for the very same things that the underwater world does: eat fish. (Seriously. That shark at the beginning who chases Ariel and Flounder is clearly trying to eat them. These are not Happy Vegetarian Fishes.)

For me, The Little Mermaid is the story of a feminist girl living in a world that is hostile to feminist ideals. Ariel is a headstrong young woman who wants knowledge and growth and her own voice, but these things are being systematically denied to her. The only form of learning her father permits is that of patriarchy-approved women's pursuits: she may study music, but not other cultures.

For me, The Little Mermaid is the story of a culture-conscious girl living in a world that mandates insularity. Ariel wants to learn about cultures and peoples and practices and histories different from her own, but she lives in a world that holds even third-hand study of such things to be utterly forbidden because the power structure believes that the populace is safer if they are steeped in fear and ignorance. (Fearful merpeople won't try to make contact with the humans, and thus fear maintains their secrecy.)

And now I'll walk through the film and explain why I feel these things.

The opening titles air over singing humans as they work on the local prince's pleasure ship / wedding ship / fishing ship. Well, there are three ships in the movie, and they all look pretty much the same to me, so I'm going to assume that Prince Eric has a fleet of all-purpose boats and this is one of them. But the sailors are singing while they collect fish in their nets and Eric (and the audience!) is learning, and here are a couple of problematic things up-front.

One, everyone in this universe is white. (We're going to be seeing this one a lot in the Disney deconstructions.) Two, this is not a working class universe. Oh, the fishermen are fishing, but this is really the only work you're going to see in this movie outside of a quick shot of laundry-washing and some cooking. I think Eric's kingdom is supposed to be one of those picturesque smaller ones where the royalty aren't far removed from the common folk and don't mind getting their hands dirty, but it's kind of a muddled message and it only gets worse when we get to Triton's kingdom. Let's just place a big sign over the deconstruction that these are Privileged White People with the inherent issues that inevitably follow.

We pan down under the sea to the King Triton's Schmancy Music Hall and Combination Throne Room just in time to see Ariel completely fail to show up for a music gig that was intended largely to glorify her father while his daughters display themselves to the populace and use their vocal talents to praise his name. I can't imagine why a young woman might think she had better uses of her time than to be a public ornament to her father, nor why she might refuse to come to rehearsals (as Sebastian tells us). And when her father realizes that Ariel has failed to show up for the concert, his eyes literally turn red with rage. Yowza.

And here is an important point: Ariel's dad is abusive. Oh, I think he doesn't try to be, and I even think he doesn't want to be, but he is. And I really do think it's a function of The Patriarchy Hurts Men, Too. You see this clearly in the scenes with Triton and Sebastian: both men shore up each other's will to be harsher than they otherwise individually would be inclined to be, and they do this because they think it's expected of them. When Triton is alone and when no one is looking, his face softens, his expression is sad, and he sighs and weeps for the decaying relationship he has with his daughter. It's when others are looking -- notably, Sebastian, the only other adult male in Triton's scenes -- that Triton is at his most abusively fierce.

I don't think this is a coincidence. Triton isn't monstrous and Sebastian doesn't callously bring out the worst in him; they both reinforce each other's commitment to harmful patriarchy ideals, because they've been raised to believe the patriarchy expects them to. Neither is it a coincidence that Triton's final act of redemption comes after he and Sebastian have revisited a previous conversation and they've admitted that they were both wrong and that their actions were harmful. But now I'm jumping ahead.

By giving Triton this characterization, Ariel is immediately given a rich and sympathetic background before she even swims onto the stage. She's living in a deeply patriarchal and oppressive community where her status as "princess" is largely ornamental and wholly subject to the whims and wishes of her father. While she probably had moments of tenderness between her and her father, particularly when she was younger and could be indulged as a child instead of punished for being a woman, their relationship is strained by his insistence on publicly conforming to aggressive and abusive parenting models whenever anyone is looking. These shifts in emotional tone probably confuse and frustrate Ariel: why is her father so kind at times and yet so harsh at other times? She's coped with the on-and-off abuse by literally withdrawing. By forgetting rehearsals and the concert and pulling back into her cavern of collections, she's not passively asserting herself or deliberately catering to the patriarchy; she's trying to carve out a safe space, mentally and physically.

We are introduced to Ariel who, at great personal risk to her safety -- both from the sharks who seek to eat her and from her father who could severely punish her -- she is scavenging human items from old shipwrecks. And this... is amazing! Our protagonist is an explorer. What's more, she's a scientist, going to a direct source (albeit a bad source, since the seagull is actually ignorant of human affairs, but Ariel has no way of knowing that) to be educated on the items she finds. She wants to understand the humans, and to study the things they do and the items they create. She has a whole secret museum dedicated to all the things she's collected over the years.

Words fail me in describing how incredible I find this. In another movie, or in a book, there would be more time spent on just how incredibly subversive Ariel is being and has been, for literally years and years. This isn't a trivial hobby or a girlish obsession; she's the only person in her culture who is both willing and privileged enough (due to the fact that Triton might not blast his own daughter into tiny bits for breaking his laws) to almost single-handedly set up an entire cultural museum of study on a race of people right outside the kingdom's doorstep. The sheer bravery and gumption and intellectual devotion necessary for Ariel to have done what she's done is amazing: she's essentially created her very own Human Studies department right under the king's nose because studying other cultures is important, dammit.

I dare you to bring me a Disney heroine who has demonstrated similar levels of bravery, intellect, scientific pursuit, and proactive awesomeness within the first 15 minutes of her own movie.

Then we cut over to Ursula, and... I have mixed feelings about Ursula. On the one hand, she's a fat woman and a villain in a movie that has problematic body portrayals. Ariel's sisters are almost uniform in body type, expect for Adella who kind of sort of maybe looks a little bit bigger than her sisters, in the Lane Bryant model sort of way (i.e., same breast and hip proportions, just slightly bigger all over) and who was promptly slimmed down for the sequel because Disney got the memo that fat people are not sexeh because DEATHFATS. The only other fat women in this movie are the castle servants, who are fat in the non-threatening happy-servant kind of way, and the fat woman in the Ursula song who "this one [is] longing to be thinner". And -- rage! -- the fat merwoman's tail extends up and over her breasts like Ursula's does, but the thin incarnation of the fat woman has the bare-stomach shell-bra combo that Ariel sports. Because nude fat stomachs are obscene and ugly, but thin fat stomachs are normalized and pretty! Grr, Disney.

But! Ursula is sexy. Her breasts! Her butt! The way she moves! Her voice! I don't honestly remember really... noticing this as a child, but it's there and it's largely treated as... normal. Ursula isn't evil because she's sexy, nor does she seem really to be evil because she's fat. She's just evil and fat and sexy, all in the same package, and I guess that's kind of cool? I'm not sure. But then when I noticed that in this viewing, I realized that this movie is actually VERY filled with women's bodies. Can we say that about any other Disney movie?

I don't just mean the bikinis and the tummies; the women's bodies here move. Ursula struts realistically around her cave and gods but those breasts and butt are there and they move. And -- skipping forward a bit to Ariel's "I Want" song -- Ariel shakes her hips when she sings about "strolling along" the street; she undulates her whole body sensually when she imagines being "warm on the sand". There are bodies in this movie! And... while they are sexy bodies, I don't feel like I'm being clubbed with Male Gaze. I like it. I like how it seems to normalize women's bodies as real, as things that come in different sizes, as things that can be uncovered and sexy and yet not objectified into T&A without a head or a personality needed. I'm just sorry that we have to leave the 1980's in this regard.

Coming back to the movie, Triton yells at Ariel for missing rehearsal. He cuts her off multiple times in this scene, and calls humans "barbarians" which is a nice bit of othering to throw onto the pile of objections to Triton's character. He then tosses a tone argument at Ariel, which effectively cuts off not only what she was going to say but also punishes her for reacting realistically and legitimately to his bullying. Then Triton tells her that as long as she lives under "my ocean", she'll obey "my rules", which is totally not controlling or an abusive conflation of kingly privilege and parental privilege. And then Triton and Sebastian decide that Ariel, who is a young woman budding into her sexual awakening, needs "constant supervision". Patriarchy for the win.

And then we have Ariel's "I Want" song and it still gives me shivers. The opening lines -- "If only I could make him understand. I just don't see things the way he does. I don't see how a world that makes such wonderful things could be bad." -- reinforce that Ariel is not only longing to be human already, but she's also inherently more open-minded than her close-minded and prejudice liege-father. Her fantasies of being human conflate with her fantasies of living in a feminist-friendly society where she can speak her mind freely and grow intellectually: "Betcha on land, they understand; bet they don't reprimand their daughters. Bright young women, sick of swimmin', ready to stand. And ready to know what the people know; asking my questions and get some answers."

MORE WOMEN! The picture of fire and the wind up toy that shows dancing both have women in them. The parallel is obvious in that Ariel wants to be these women, but I'm still blown away looking at how many women are in this film in places where I frankly think nowadays they'd be edited out. Maybe it helps that this movie wasn't made or marketed with the All Important Male Demographic in mind, I don't know.

Sebastian tumbles out and informs Ariel of what she already knows: her father would be furious if he found out about the museum. Which makes so much sense, really, that his racial hatred of humans extends so far that he would deny his subjects the ability to even study them, if only to come up with more effective ways of avoiding the humans, because studying leads to understanding and understanding leads to compassion and compassion doesn't mesh well with racial hatred. And, yes, I know they've woobied him up with two decades' worth of backstories and personal tragedy, but I think that waters down the message that sometimes even people we love can be racist assholes. 

We zip up to the surface for Ariel to see Prince Eric and for some character establishing shots. And I have to say that Eric is probably my favorite Disney prince. He's hanging out with his working class and while that could be seen as slumming, he doesn't seem to mind getting rope burn on his hands and he knows how to steer the boat, so he's at least not adverse to learning. And he goes back to a fiery burning ship to save his dog.

Ariel saves his life.

They didn't have to do it this way. They could have had Ariel and Eric catch a glimpse of one another and fall in love that way. Ariel could have been singing in a quiet grotto and Eric could have been drawn to the sound and seen her for a split moment before she disappeared. It would have been pretty and feminine and sweet. But they didn't do that. They had her proactively search the burning wreckage of a ship, and drag an unconscious man to safety on the shore. And that tells me two things. One, in 1989, being saved from death by a woman didn't emasculate you forever in the eyes of the (probably) male screenwriters. Two, in 1989, saving a handsome man from drowning was considered an acceptable female fantasy with all the strength, verve, and determination that accompanies that.

Haha, no, there's totally not a backlash against feminism today in 2012. IT'S ALL YOUR IMAGINATION.

Sebastian tries to convince Ariel that life under the sea is better than life as a human. He has a jazzy musical number and Ariel gives him quirky yeah-I'm-not-buying-it looks before it becomes clear that she's not really needed for this song routine and goes off with Flounder. And here is a big ol' world-building mess because apparently the fish neither work nor eat, and they all live off of plankton delivered to their doorstep every morning by magic. Or so Sebastian seems to think from his position of Privilege? I dunno. This is why deconstructing movies with talking animals is hard.

Triton calls Sebastian into his throne room and interrogates Sebastian while cheerily pointing his weaponized triton at the little crab. Haha, that is not scary at all! Sebastian breaks down and tells Triton about Ariel's museum, and Triton shows up and brutally destroys it all while she weeps and begs him to stop. And this scene? Wrecks me every time. The bit with Triton building himself into a rage -- "One less human to worry about! ... I don't have to know them -- they're all the same. Spineless, savage, harpooning fish-eaters, incapable of any feeling..." -- is both horrifying and priceless because it really gets through how xenophobic and racist Triton truly is. He doesn't care that he's frightening his daughter; the rage has built in him to a point where terrorizing her makes more sense to him than actually talking to her or doing anything other than abusing his position as both king and father.

And this scene is so utterly valuable. Because now Ariel will go to the sea witch and trade her entire life away (and her voice) to go chase after a man she's never met. Remember that anti-feminist message referenced way back up there at the beginning? But that's not what she's doing, not really. As much as Ariel laments in a moment that "If I become human, I'll never be with my father or sisters again", her father has driven her away. Ariel isn't safe under the sea, not emotionally or psychologically. Her life's obsession with studying and understanding and educating herself on human culture will never be accepted -- and if she persists in trying to do so clandestinely, it will only be a matter of time before someone discovers her secret, betrays her to the king, and all her work is destroyed. She knows that fate is inevitable, because it's just happened not ten minutes ago.

Ariel can either go home and be a good mermaid and play with her hair and go to voice rehearsal and marry a merman who will never share her interests or understand her and she can live and die frustrated and unfulfilled. Or she can take a chance and become everything she's ever wanted: a human. And she can become that human by finding true love -- "Not just any kiss," Ursula cautions. "The kiss of True Love." -- with the first human she's ever met, a man who attracts her with his courage and bravery and adventurous spirit. It's a gamble, and possibly not a good one, but it must seem like the one hope for happiness left available to her.

Human!Ariel washes up on Prince Eric's beach and is taken for a traumatized survivor of a shipwreck, which seems plausible enough. And while I'm not 100% sure I like Grim pressing Eric to woo the traumatized survivor of a shipwreck rather than, say, provide for her education and psychological care and place her in the best possible position to choose how she wants to live the rest of her life, I do love that Eric is shown as being highly reluctant to treat Ariel with anything less than courtesy and respect. A privileged man who doesn't react to a pretty half-naked woman washing up on his beach like Christmas has come early? Yes, please.

There's a scene with a French chef that is so heavy on the cultural stereotypes that I don't even know what to say. I was going to say that this was one of the only animated feature film songs that features a foreign language, but then I remembered the Charo song in Thumbelina, which is also heavy on cultural stereotypes. *sigh*

Then Eric and Ariel go on a tour of "his kingdom", which seems to basically be this one decent-sized town, and Ariel is in complete Manic Pixie Dream Girl mode, but for once this makes sense because everything she sees is literally new and exciting and amazing and a dream come true. And then he lets her drive the carriage and she loves it and clears an oddly-placed death-defying jump and once the panic passes, Eric settles back like this is the good life and Ariel is clearly having a ball. I think that's sweet, frankly.

And then there's a lot of singing and near-kissing and Ursula showing up to ruin things and Ariel being towed out to the ship which is not nearly as awesome as her swimming out there under her own power, and I get that it makes sense that swimming-with-legs would be something she's not mastered, but still it feels like the Feminism Power has run out, and then Ariel and Eric reunite just in time for it to be TOO LATE and Ariel is a merperson and Eric does not care even a little bit because Eric is not a racist asshole like Triton. And then Eric saves Ariel's life with a harpoon while Triton watches, and this is hilarious given Triton's earlier rant about humans-who-wield-harpoons.

After the exciting showdown scene, Eric recovers slowly on the shore while Ariel watches from her rock. Triton and Sebastian watch from further out, with Triton realizing that she really does love him and that this hasn't all been About Him and her special butterfly rebellion. Gee, ya think? Sebastian tells him "children got to be free to lead their own lives" and Triton references as earlier conversation where Sebastian said the opposite. And this is the moment where everything is unspoken, but for me it seems like they're saying yeah, this whole Patriarchy thing is garbage and we were wrong. And the Triton gives Ariel her legs back, she marries Eric, and there's a new era of peace for both kingdoms, and it is awesome.

And... yeah. It ends in a 16 year old marrying a guy she's known all of three days. (Assuming we don't go with the standard handwave that between cuts there could have been years and years of dating that we didn't see. Because movies don't work like that.) And, devoid of context, that is Very Problematic. Hell, even with context, it's not something that gives me warm fuzzies. I do not like the Mandatory Marriage at the ends of these movies, or the implication that it's not a Happy Ending without one. And I like the Mandatory Marriage even less when it happens to two teenagers (or one teenager and one guy in his early twenties) who've known each other only over the course of a few adrenaline-packed and hormone-driven days. I don't feel like this is a healthy formula. So there's that.

But it's also one of the few movies I can think of where an Otherkin protagonist gets the form she's always felt was really hers. And it's a movie where a brave young woman defied the racist and xenophobic laws of her homeland in order to create a greater understanding between two cultures and almost single-handedly engineer a peace between both kingdoms. And she did all this while she was sixteen, as a young woman in an abusive family where she was only valued for her ornamental status. She held on to her inner essential self and managed to forge her own path without ever once beating herself up for the abusive things that others did to her. Throughout the movie, the entire narrative seems to scream that being strong-while-female is not a bad thing: it's okay to defy your racist asshole dad, it's okay to save the life of the handsome guy who won't then turn around and act all emasculated and shun you, it's okay to own your "acceptably feminine" talents in ways that make you happy, social expectations be damned. And for a movie that is now over twenty years old, that seems kind of awesome.

Ana's Happy Feminism Fuzzies Scorecard
- Otherkin narrative where protagonist proactively gains the form she wants
- Feminist narrative where protagonist longs to be taken seriously as a cultural researcher
- Intellectual narrative where protagonist values museums and cultural study
- Racial/Cultural narrative where protagonist demonstrates that Racism Is Bad
- Body Positive (with caveats) narrative where women characters abound of different body sizes
- Patriarchy Hurts Men narrative where good men are abusive because of patriarchal expectations

Ana's Sad Epic Fail Scorecard
- Narrative that is entirely cast with white people and has a Angry French Chef stereotype
- Narrative that contains muddled class portrayal and is largely about privileged people
- Narrative that contains no openly QUILTBAG characters
- Narrative that ends with a teen marriage between two almost-strangers

Final Thoughts: The Little Mermaid is -- like most Disney movies -- rife with issues of class, race, hetereonormity, and body portrayal. But in my opinion it's ironically one of the least problematic movies in the set ("ironic" because the current cultural narrative is that we're now BETTER at those things than we were in the 1980s), and if you're a white heterosexual class-privileged girl living in an oppressive patriarchy -- as I was when I came to the movie -- it may just resonate with you. Maybe.

As a final link, here is a picture of Disney Princesses dressed as the villains in their movies. I like the Ariel/Ursula swap so very much.