Open Thread: Problematic in Hindsight

Content Note: Ableism, Transphobia

I re-read James Randi's Flim-Flam this week, since we've been watching The X-Files for the first time. I find this book to be fascinating, and I've read it at least 3 or 4 times in the past, but I was suddenly hit this time by the fact that there's an ableist insult ('crazy', 'idiotic', 'insane', etc.) on almost every page. Yeech. I just never noticed before.

Runner-up for mention is that I keep wanting to re-read Piers Anthony's Rings of Ice because I *remember* liking having a trans woman protagonist in the cast. However, having learned a lot in the intervening years, I'm intensely worried that the handling of the trans woman character was probably terribly, terribly wrong. (I note here that the book is not feminist-friendly, but I have never gone into a Piers Anthony book expecting otherwise. [content note: attempted rape])

When was the last time you read/watched/played an old book/movie/game and were struck by issues you hadn't noticed before?

Open Threads are meant to be chatty, end-of-week fun times. Please refrain from negatively auditing other people's responses as that discourages participation. Thank you. 


Loquat said...

Interesting coincidence - I was looking up Piers Anthony just recently, because I had a vague memory that some book by him had done "white people as endangered species" with way less racist fail than that "Save the Pearls" series, primarily because it was set in a future where the vast majority of the human race had intermixed to the point of homogenisation, and therefore ALL present-day ethnicities had almost vanished. So there were some white kids AND some black kids AND some asian kids, maybe some kids from other races too, all being raised in separate little fake villages otherwise populated by standard-brown people in [color]face, where each village was assigned to re-create whatever historical culture the People In Charge had decided was appropriate. (The book is Race Against Time - the Amazon reviewers only have complaints about the quality of the storytelling, not about racism, though of course that doesn't guarantee anything.)

But yeah, do I trust Piers Anthony to not fail in multiple dimensions when writing a teenage girl who's been raised in something resembling a medieval Chinese village? Oh hell to the no.

zzxjoanw said...

It's been bothering me lately how, in the Witch Mountain series, no one ever tried to teach Tia sign language.

Lonespark said...

This happens to me a lot...

Spouse has the example of having bought Disney's The Aristocats for the kids and then realized it has one incredibly racist scene that I think may have been cleaned up in later additions. In general things have to be fairly blatant to affend Mr. Sparky, partly due to racism in his (abusive, neglectful) childhood.

Not really upon revisiting, but Spouse was all enthusiastic about The Ugly Truth, and I figured it would be fairly enjoyable because Gerard Butler's ass, etc. It's not a feminist work, and what annoyed me most about the plot was the fact that Katherine Heigl's character didn't sleep with the guy she'd been after the whole movie before finding True Love.

But the main thing that weirded me out is that I perceived her character as mentally ill, but no one in the movie looks at it that way. She hides in a closet, at work, because she's afraid a segment she produced will be poorly received. I am familiar with this type of behavior, having done it, and people don't tend to smile on it. Her character is the boss, but she has bosses, and friends, and no one suggests, even jokingly, that maybe this level of anxiety is unhealthy/dysfunctional and something she could get help with.

Rakka said...

Mythbusters has tons of "insane" and "crazy" thrown around like there's no tomorrow. It's started to bother me a lot, even though the connotations is usually awesome-cool rather than evil-bad.

I've noticed on rereading that while Le Guin has great touch for sexual orientation being present in her worlds, they tend to be trans-excluding. I can think of Gethen's unvoiced fixed-gender persons who are not treated very nicely by the dominant cultures, and in one of the stories in Birthday of the World collection there's a woman in O presenting as man. But most of the cultures presented are very strictly gendered and there's not much room for other expression. Particularly 11-Soro (in Solitude) and Seggri (in Matter of Seggri)seem just downright horrifying, especially for transwomen. (I'd love to talk about Solitude more. It's a lovely story of bare bones civilization, it's all so visible when the clutter of social dominance is removed. But I am an introvert, in an introvert culture, and I assume other people would read it very differently.)

Rowen said...

I recently reread A Civil Campaign and was . . kinda blown away at how "Nice Guy" Miles Vorkosigan can be.

Amaranth said...

I find myself wondering how the Calormenes in the next Narnia movies are going to be handled. I remember being annoyed even as a kid that they were obviously both Middle Eastern and evil for no good reason I could figure out.

So far they've managed to avoid the issue, but once they get around to making The Horse and His Boy and the Last Battle...I just don't see how they can stay true to the books without pissing off the entire collective Arab community.

Rowen said...

Are they going to make those? I feel like each movie's been doing progressively worse in terms of box office sales.

Redwood Rhiadra said...

I myself am an atheist, and I used to read Randi's weekly newsletter, for about three months, before I could no longer put up with it. Randi is one of the worst anti-theist bigots I have ever come across.

Lunch Meat said...

Tom Clancy was one of the first authors I read, along with Michael Crichton, Stephen King, and John Grisham, when I was in my teens and just discovering novels that were not Christian fiction, so I was really into his work. I checked out "The Sum of all Fears" from the library the other day, How can an author whose name is almost universally synonymous with "too much research and detail" be incapable of writing a woman that rings true to me? And how can a 900-page novel only pass the Bechdel test because of a half-page conversation?

I'm actually thinking about a short deconstruction of it, not because I'm upset, but because it's just annoying. This would be my first decon, and it might be too long for me to handle.

Will Wildman said...

Well, there's no rule that it has to be based on content. A series of thematic posts could work, for example; each one touching on the 900 pages' collective problems with X, next week with Y, next week with W (just to surprise people).

Naomi said...

I re-read the Little House series as an adult. (Books, not TV show. I watched the TV show a few times growing up but was never a regular viewer, in part because I was a literary purist and was offended by Michael Landon's lack of a beard.)

I knew going in that these were really racist books. The thing that really caught my attention was the extent to which the fact that Ma and Pa are going something totally fucked up in "Little House on the Prairie" (where they deliberately settle on Indian land) is actually called out by Laura and vigorously squelched. (She asks, where will the Indians go? West, her parents tell her. She asks something like, will they be upset? and won't they eventually run out of west? and her parents tell her to shut up and go to sleep.) When two Indian men come into her house, she describes people who are starving to death -- she doesn't say, "these men were starving," but she describes the fact that she can see every one of their ribs, jutting out against their skin. As a kid, I didn't realize what she was describing but what's really shocking (not problematic, exactly -- in a very weird way this book was LESS problematic than I had expected from my memories of it!) is that she doesn't hide, at all, what they're doing. She's really honest about it; it's right there, in front of you.

No, what really took me by surprise when I re-read these books was how absolutely terrible the parents are. My mother pointed out to me at some point that Pa dragged the family away from Wisconsin, which has some of the most fertile farmland in the U.S. and where they had family members and a support system, and moved them again and again. Every time they moved, their situation got worse, and at the point when they really SHOULD have said "on to Oregon!" Ma put her foot down and they wound up in the Dakotas, on really terrible land. (If you're going to farm in North Dakota you probably want irrigation sprinklers, which Pa couldn't very well install in the 1880s.)

But while Pa is shiftless and irresponsible, Ma is emotionally abusive. I mean, she openly favors Mary, AND she does it in ways that enlist outsiders (like when she instructs the girls to ask their beloved aunt whether she likes "golden curls or brown curls" better -- WHAT THE HELL, LADY?) She pretty much set them up in a horrible rivalry, which got derailed by Mary's sudden disability (but then Laura's long-time jealousy was used to make her feel responsible for her sister.)

Laura's sense of irrational responsibility was used to manipulate her into illegally teaching school. She was FIFTEEN when she became a teacher (and everyone knew it; there were lots of winks and nudges because presumably someone who was old enough -- i.e., sixteen -- would have refused a posting this terrible). She was sent to live with total strangers, one of whom repeatedly threatened everyone else in the house with a knife.

This isn't just a matter of "times were hard! things were different!" She led a terrible life, that got romanticized a great deal by her uncredited co-author, Rose the Libertarian.

(I knew that Rose had changed things -- for example, they weren't actually 25 miles from Independence, on their farm in Kansas -- they were something like 5 miles away, and she changed it to 25 miles to make it more dramatic. So after re-reading the series, I tracked down some biographies of Laura Ingalls Wilder to see what else got changed. The bit I find most fascinating: during the Long Winter, which really was every bit as awful as she describes, the Ingalls family had a whole additional family living with them. Some people got stranded in DeSmet when the trains stopped running, and SOMEONE had to take them in. Laura loathed them; they were whiny and complained all winter. So she wrote them out of the book. I would really love to read the version where they were there!)

Ana Mardoll said...

Race Against Time, huh? I can speak to that, I think, as I've read it at least twice.

SPOILERS, if you're interested.


The idea is genuinely interesting and starts out truly creepy because of the Zoo Humans implications, Truman Show Style.

But you're correct that the characterizations of the non-white, non-modern characters is .... not great. Also bizarre: why the aliens choose to raise the white people in modern times familiar to the reader, but the colored people in significantly older more exotic settings.

And then the ending moral appears to be that inter racial romances don't work because of historical racism - once the black girl finds out about slavery, she clings to the hulking black guy and never looks at the white guy the same way again.

Yeeeeeah. :/

Well, the writing isn't awful. It still may interest you as a concept, albeit done problematically.

Ana Mardoll said...

Oh my gods, thank you! I have always hated Ma and Pa Ingalls and I thought it was just me. I actually went on a rant yesterday about Pa Ingalls uprooting them from their support system over and over like that. BRAIN TWINZ!

Ana Mardoll said...

Also: the bit where Ma makes Laura give up her doll. RAEG.

Way to instill the idea that girls don't own shit because Patriarchy!!

Nina said...

The Aristocats also has some frustrating sexism fail. My daughter loves it because singing cats, but I just grind my teeth every time the kittens make nasty comments about "females" and at the end when Madame says "we need a man around the house!" Blech. Guess we'll be having a chat about it when she gets old enough to notice and discuss that sort of thing (at 3, she hasn't acquired a concept of gender yet, so we aren't quite there).

As for race fail in Disney movies, I don't intend to show kiddo Peter Pan after seeing the whole Native American scene as an adult. Yiiiikes.

Isabel C. said...

Oh, man, Little House. I love those books, aaaand yet.

On that note: Anne of the Island, as I mentioned in another post. Gilbert misses total Nice Guy, thank God, because he does go out and get a life after Anne turns him down, and there's a whole paragraph about how he's a little more distant but not moping or avoiding her. Her change of mind...well, I can deal. She's in college, she's sheltered and romantic and so forth, and it's less "he's been here all along" and more a matter of getting enough distance to realize that your childhood buddy's all grown up. I can deal.

However: every single other sympathetic character in the book puts in a line to Anne about how foolish she's being and how she and Gilbert are clearly meant for each other, and if I were Anne, I would invite the entire population of Avonlea to kiss my no-doubt-freckled ass and butt the fuck out of my love life, GOD.

Aidan Bird said...

You mentioned Gethen from Left Hand of Darkness. Why did you use the term "fixed-gender?" I'm just a bit confused, to be clear. : )

I read it as the society there was intersexed people, since they technically had both organs for male and female, and which set they used in mating depended on the relationship between them and their partner. Their gender identities also seemed to be neutrois - no gender - for they never specified any gender outside of neutral. The diplomat sent to them is the one that gendered nearly all of them male.

One of the problems I have with the book is mostly that they kept showing the people of Gethen as stagnant in terms of culture, and I interpreted the book as saying this is what happened if you have a gender-neutral society, which I definitely do not agree with. Did anyone else get that interpretation from that book?

I haven't read the other three you mentioned, but since I do love Ursula Le Guin, it's definitely on my list to read.

Aidan Bird said...

As for Piers Anthony writing a trans character? I found nearly all his books badly written and problematic, except for maybe one, and even that one had problematic elements it just was actually written well. So, to be honest, I wouldn't trust Anthony to write a trans character well at all. So I'm personally cringing at the thought that he tried.

I may go pick it up and see how he did it, but I'm expecting the worse......

Steve Morrison said...

I don't believe there were any aliens in Race Against Time; the "stans" were (IIRC) future humans who had interbred to the point that they no longer had distinct races.

Silver Adept said...

No Anthony apologia from me, but *points up at username* you might guess where I got my start. I don't think I'd go back and re-read, though, as what I do remember mostly confirms with what others are describing - good starts, awful finishes, and a lot of gratuitous and not very well handled sex.

I remember Sequiro, a hose with mental powers from the Mode series, being quite nonchalant about how he would fix a problem where the main character had her headgear rumpled such that it advertised her as being available to any man that wanted her. (This is after we find out that the humans are mind slaves to the horses on his world.) He basically says he'll mind-control some other woman and send her to fill the male slave's sexual desire. Not "no sex for you", but "here, have someone else." Consent? What consent?

Actually, a lot of the "going back and realizing there's a lot more there" involved old shows like The Muppet Show and Looney Tunes. Once I was old enough to recognize everything going on, both of those series got funnier and also a lot more disturbing. Often in the same scene.

Nina said...

What I remember most about the Laura Ingalls Wilder books n terms of fail was the blackface scene in...can't remember what book, one of the later ones. Little Town on the Prairie? Or The Long Winter? It was weird to me as a sheltered white kid, but thinking back on it now is seriously uncomfortable.

A truer example of the question at hand (things that were fine when younger, but became more problematic in hindsight) for is Pa's constant uprooting of the family. As a kid, I sympathized with his desire to go west, see what was beyond the next rise, etc. As an adult, I feel bad for Ma, who keeps getting uprooted from her support structures and her space and moved to increasingly remote and hostile areas. Sooooo not cool.

Anthony Rosa said...

Trigger warning: Discussion of dating transsexuals

Guys... I have a problem. Okay, there was this nice girl who lives in the next town, and I was thinking of dating her. Problem is, and I found this out just now, she is transsexual, and is biologically male.

Here's the thing: I'm straight. Kinsey 0 straight. I like her, I enjoy her company... and I'm very glad she told me this before we got anywhere close to serious.

I dunno what to do. I'm not comfortable dating someone who is biologically male. I like her for who she is, and I enjoy her company, but when it comes to more intimate things... well, if I was bisexual or something, if I had any sort of fluidity in my sexual orientation, I know I wouldn't care. But I don't. It's not a matter of anything being "icky", but... if a gay man asked me out, I'd be flattered but I'd also have to turn him down. I know I have to turn this woman down too, because it wouldn't be right for me or fair to her.

If I did it, if I dated her, I could enjoy her company. If I did it long term, I could become quite intimate and close. But I know that I would be forcing myself, every step of the way, to date someone whose body I am not wired to find attractive, and for whom physical intimacy is... well, it's not a matter of preference in the sense that I am not attracted to some women, while I'm attracted to others. It's that she's going to have a male body for at least the next three years, and I am not capable of doing that.

And it hurts, because I don't want to hurt her. But I feel like I have to tell her. I feel awful about this, please someone give me advice, I need help to make sense of this.

Rowen said...

Piers Anthony was REALLY cool when I was 14. Some guy kills Death!! The planet is split in TWO. Nature is Fate's DAUGHTER!! There's a terrible pun!! Something about a tree!! She managed to get her insulin and learned how to be a princess playing video games!! The harpy prince was stuck inside a magic right the ENTIRE TIME!!

And then I got older and started reading more mature lit. I kinda view him in the same light as Mercedes Lackey. In fact, I think the two go hand in hand (There's a teenager, and they're sad. . LIKE ME and then a SUPER SPECIAL HORSE comes and tells them they're SPECIAL and unlocks their magically/psionic powers!!! And they become friends with the QUEEN and SAVE THE COUNTRY!!)

Both, I feel, have some sort of place, but at some point in time, I'd expect people to be able to move on and recognize the major flaws staring one in the face.

Naomi said...

Mercedes Lackey! Ohhhhhhhhh yeah. Some college friends of mine wrote the following satire of the Valdemar series:

And it sums up a lot of my issues with Lackey's books....but not all of them. Alas, no time for essay-ranting right now. Maybe later. (They're great high school nerd wish fulfillment fantasy, I'll give them that much. Except for the part where nearly every heroine gets raped sooner or later.)

Re Laura: the blackface was another "holy crap, OMG" moment when I re-read them as an adult. I totally remembered the doll bit, though, because EVERYONE remembers that. Ma making Laura give away her treasured childhood doll is one of those scenes that SCARS CHILDREN FOREVER.

graylor said...

When I was a young critter, my sister recced the first few Xanth books to me. They were great. Xanth is Florida! Magic is demonic math (or something--it's been a while). I did think it was a bit skeevy where the hero encounters a woman who, according to the lunar cycle, is either beautiful and stupid or ugly and smart. I didn't have the words for it and had a distinct lack of fantasy novels available to me, so I just ignored the icky bits.

Then I got older and attempted to reread the Xanth books and just couldn't. I had a similar reaction to the first few Discworld books (naked green murderous nymph women--yeah, that's totally what this female teenager wanted to read about) but in desperation picked up The Fifth Elephant many years later and found that it had gotten much better. It's odd, but Zelazny (also recced to me by my sister, who, furthermore, loaned me the Vampire Chronicles when I hit puberty: my sister tried hard to be a bad influence, ;-p) seems to have weathered far better than Xanth, even though I still want to beat Merlin with a cluestick. Which is not to say the Amber books are without problems, but if you have a high tolerance for acid trips, they can be interesting.

I have a soft spot in my heart for Mercedes Lackey though I can't drag myself through Arrows of the Queen again. Still, she wrote race-car driving elves and had it make some tiny bit of sense in-world. Though I haven't reread those in ages either because there are only so many absued children I can stand to read about.

Looking at the isue from the opposite direction, I'm considering giving Charles DeLint another try. I still have a paperback of his about some marvelous house in Canada. There was a woman and a snake scene that massively squicked me when I was in junior high and I never finished the novel.

Rowen said...

I read Arrows of the Queen once, along with the two books after it, and have yet to have an urge to reread them. Same thing with the Silver Gryphon, but that's because I don't like "lost in the woods, surrounded by panthers" types of stories. Some of them have actually held up, I recently reread the Vows and Honors books, and still enjoyed them, THOUGH, it was just after Ana had talked about 1) curly hair in heroines and 2) rape in fantasy, especially as a motivation to kick ass and in general. SO, the fact that Kethry's described as having unruly amber hair and the cover shows Sorcery Barbie AND both Kethry and Tarma have rape as part of their backstory was a little . . . on point, I think.

Asha said...

Robert Jordan. *sniffs, tugs braid, twitches skirt* And wondering if he had met more than one woman in his life. Or met an editor. I tried reading some of Mercedes Lackey's stuff recently, and was struck by how bad the writing was. As in, the prose was on the same level as Twilight, but at least her characters are better and more interesting. She tried jumping on the Steampunk bandwagon, but her great premise just sort of petered out. Her writing was the first positive portrayal (or even acknowledgement) of homosexual characters that I had ever read, so I still have a soft spot for her. Anne McCaffery... I loved Dragon Song, Dragon Singer, and Dragon Drums, but her earlier stuff, and then the later stuff like the Freedom series? >_<

David Eddings was my first love when it came to reading grown-up books. (And my first insert Mary Sue.) The later, when I read stuff that had more interesting female characters, I realized that he really had issues with Orientalism, women and ethnic minorities.

Once Piers Anthony hit his 'panties!' stage I started getting uncomfortable with his stuff. Plus, the Mode series was... bad. I read just the one book but the people were just annoying.

Moonlit_Night said...

Heinlein is one of my favourite authors ever, and may be a critical reason I don't have a major personality disorder. So I cut him some slack on his quirks, such as wise crabby old men who get girls. Sometimes he shows the marks of when and where he was brought up, but he obviously worked hard to learn how to think for himself, and overcoming limited viewpoints trained into you early is a major theme in his body of work.

I recently re-read his "I Will Fear No Evil" (1970) and am not sure how I feel about it now. On one hand, I really quite like the two main characters, but its concept of how to be female was dated, and kind of disturbing. It's not sexist in the usual sense -- women are strong, smart, capable, can do anything -- but being female was very much performance art. And, at least around men of a certain age or older, apparently required a whole lot of manipulating them emotionally or via manners and appearances, to get what you want while exhibiting the kind of personality traits (e.g. sweet and compliant) that they want you to exhibit. This seemed to be less so when the younger generation were alone with eachother, and it would have been really interesting to have enough scenes (or another book in the same ficton) to explore that. I wouldn't want to have a long close relationship with someone who could and would manipulate me so deftly, but that seems to be taken for granted here as perfectly normal and even good.

It makes me kind of want to read a deconstruction of the book, but one done by someone who loves Heinlein's work and has read plenty of it, so she knows what things are typical Heinlein and which ones mostly appear in this novel. Also so that she understands how Heinlein obviously loved to write in as much flouting social conventions (usually over sex and other touchy issues) as his editors/publishers would let him get away with.

Ana Mardoll said...

CN: Dating Issues, Bodily Attraction

Anthony, I don't know how to advise you because I've not been in this position, but I will try.

First of all, hugs if you want them, and a Tray of Comforting Things.

Second. Physical attraction is complicated, and people frequently cannot help what they are and are not attracted to. One of the best articles (imho) that Kate Harding, Fat Acceptance 101 Goddess, wrote was one that basically said "if you aren't attracted to fat people, then you aren't attracted to fat people." It doesn't make you a bigot -- you might be a bigot, but you might not be. You might just be someone who isn't attracted to fat people. It happens.

If someone were to be my friend and if we were to have sexual chemistry and if they were to then confess that they just aren't turned on by my body . . . well, yeah, it would hurt because my body isn't something I can help or change. But I'd rather they were open and honest about that upfront so we could be friends only, rather than he try to be my boyfriend for the sake of Liberal Street Cred or whatever only to realize a few years into it that, yeah, no, this isn't going to work after all. That would suck.

If you're not attracted to someone because [insert physical characteristic here], then . . . you're not attracted to them. You don't owe anyone physical attraction anymore than, say, women owe Nice Guys physical attraction because Jasper or whatever. Preferring blondes, or hot muscular guys, or people who are a size 32, or bodies that don't have penises, or people with purple contacts in their eyes . . . those attractions aren't your responsibility to try to change. If for some reason you want to try to change, then you try to change; but if you don't want to change, that's alright too. Again, you don't OWE ANYONE a sexual relationship.

It sounds like you're trying to be honest and communicative, which is what I usually suggest in all relationships. And -- based purely on what you've said here -- I feel like the other person is responding with inappropriate pressure. It wouldn't be alright for a Nice Guy to pressure a woman to find him attractive when she doesn't; it wouldn't be alright for a man to pressure a lesbian to find him attractive when she doesn't. Obviously there are some extenuating circumstances here that you've pointed out, and it seems like you're trying to be compassionate and understanding about those circumstances. And I think that's generally a good thing.

But. Again. Nobody *owes* anyone else a sexual / romantic / friendly / whatever relationship. Relationships should be symbiotic and mutually beneficial, not something that hurts someone and that they try to maintain in order to become something that they're not. My two cents.

Ana Mardoll said...

CN: Piers Anthony Writing Trans Characters

I read "Rings of Ice" about 10 years ago when I was waiting to be picked for jury duty, so ANYTHING that was remotely interesting would have been received well by me in those circumstances, and I was delighted to have a cool trans* protagonist. However, here are things that I vaguely remember about the protagonist in question.


The character is a trans woman whose voice and mannerisms change fairly radically depending on whether she is trying to pass as cis male (for purposes of safety) or whether she is being open about her status as a trans person. The changes in her voice and mannerism are almost always accompanied by a change in dress, plus the addition of a wig -- when she is wearing feminine clothing and wig, she presents "traditionally feminine" mannerisms; when she is wearing masculine clothing and no wig, she presents "traditionally masculine" mannerisms. I seem to recall that when she doesn't have access to her feminine clothing and wig, it almost seems like she stops being a trans person, which is obviously so massively fail that I'm wondering if I'm misremembering.

In my hazy memory of the book, it seems like Piers decided that combining a trans person and a multiple personality option as triggered by specific dress styles was the best way to write a character. The result strikes me as highly muddled and potentially feeding into a lot of stereotypes about trans persons having a confused sense of self or being related to cross dressing or any number of other pieces of misinformation.

I don't think it was handled well, but as said, I only read it the one time and I didn't know enough then to spot the Fail as strongly. I will note that the trans character was my favorite person in the book, bar none, because she far outshone the other characters in terms of being useful, sensible, and awesome during the apocalypse. I will also note that she doesn't live until the ending and the whole book rather stupidly revolves around an Adam and Eve plot, which is the worst plot device in the whole world because NO I DO NOT WANT TO REPOPULATE THE WORLD AFTER THE APOCALYPSE, FUCK YOU.

So it's not a book I recommend in retrospect. :/

Timothy (TRiG) said...

The racism in Nevil Shute's A Town Like Alice is not exactly subtle. The Australian Aboriginals are barely treated as human. And the narration and every single character in the novel just assumes that this is the way things are: no one calls attention to the racism, it just forms a pervasive background to the action.

(The parts of the novel set in Malaysia have a very different feel to them.)

Somehow, on my first reading of the novel, as a young teen, I missed that. On my second reading, I was horrified (and astonished at how blind I'd been in my first reading).


Loquat said...

following Ana's lead on the content notes here -
CN: Dating Issues, Bodily Attraction, Living In The Closet, "Ex-Gay" Therapy

Dude. If you don't like dick, you don't like dick, and your would-be girlfriend needs to accept that. The only people I've ever heard seriously claiming that orientation can be changed are those "Pray the Gay Away!" guys, and we all know how crappy their results are.

Now, I have heard of people forming successful romantic relationships with people they weren't sexually attracted to, and I think it is possible to love another person on an emotional/intellectual level so much that it compensates for a total absence of sexual attraction, but it sounds like you don't feel anything near that degree of love, and also the only examples I can think of right now are gay people who accepted that they were gay but made a conscious decision to marry someone of the opposite sex regardless, often in cases where there were significant benefits accompanying said choice (green card, familial acceptance, potential for biological children, etc). So that's probably not an example you want to follow.

I don't know what you can do to help deal with it. Maintain a firm "no" and wait for her to get over it, I guess.

Amaranth said...

Ye gods, yes, David Eddings. I loved the Belgariad and the Mallorean when I was a teenager, and still do to some extent. (I liked them better when I didn't know his later books are basically the same story and the same characters recycled, over and over again :P ) Some of the best quips and one-liners I've ever encountered are in those books.

Second time around, I was much less amused at how "the West" is composed of all the good, civilized countries and "the East" is full of bloodthirsty barbarians, thuggish primitives, and just generally unpleasant people. I didn't like how a race's stereotypical "norm" tended to be the primary and most commented-upon characteristic for every single character. Like all of the little quirks and oddities that made characters interesting existed solely because they were ____ Race. And even though "race" seemed to be little more than a set of physical characteristics and a few mental attitudes that every single member of that race *always* displayed, it's treated as this uncrossable dividing line between different nations. "Oh, they'll never understand ____ because they're (race), and you know how Those People are..."

And there was the fact that Nadrak women are owned by their men, and this is treated as an okay thing. Even though characters do occasionally express outrage at this, they are quickly told by other characters that it's not so bad, it's all very civilized, the women actually have a lot of power even though they are slaves, and hey, we aren't here to change their culture because Important Quest. I don't mind a book having a culture in it that enslaves women, but I don't like it when the text treats this as a "cultural thing" I should just accept. *grumble*

MaryKaye said...

Piers Anthony's _Macroscope_ was a defining book for me as a teenager. I'm kind of afraid to re-read it now. I read it so many times I could quote hunks of it today, so could I really be surprised....? --I'm afraid I probably could.

Another book that had a tremendous influence on me was Lindsay's _A Voyage to Arcturus_. I found the ending strange and sad and puzzling as a teen. Now it seems of a piece with the flesh-hating Gnosticism of the rest of the work, but I couldn't see that then, and when Krag says "My name is pain" it didn't make any sense to me.

It's weird when something has become that integral to your own creativity: the tendency in my own stories and roleplaying games for colors to have certain kinds of meaning come from Lindsay. I'm not at all sure I approve of _Arcturus_ but it doesn't matter (which would probably please its author a lot if he knew).

Another one of those for me is Glorantha--I hardly got to play RuneQuest but the God Learners are part of my mental symbol set forever, and the Red Goddess and the Seven Mothers. The best novel I've yet written is very clearly a response to that storyline--I don't know if readers see that but I can't escape it.

Asha said...

The Diamond Throne, Ruby Knight and Sapphire Rose and the later books are just as bad. It's really annoying how people DO NOT QUESTION their bloodthirsty deities, at all. Or that in the Belgariad and Mallorean there are no goddess. Or that there is only one 'sensible' female in all those books, until the last one where Poledra is introduced and she's still a wolf... And basically all the good guys are European, while the bad guys are something else. Yet they create the Knight in Sour Armor so well.

Ivy Sylvan said...

I think it's great that you're honest with yourself about what you can and can't do. It can be hard for transpersons to find someone who can appreciate both their physical sex and their actual gender while waiting to transition. But that doesn't mean that pressuring you into a situation that you're uncomfortable with is right. If the answer is no, then it's no, whether you're male, female, both, or neither.

Cupcakedoll said...

There's a point I never thought of. I suppose the uncaring and unfunded child welfare system of their fictional city thought that being able to communicate with the deaf wouldn't really help her communicate with the non-deaf and thus wasn't worth bothering with. Though I wonder now how much Tony translated for his sister and why nobody ever noticed that the two of them could communicate.

Also, happysquee for someone who's read the books! The movies were fun, but the books were better. Alexander Key actually wrote half a dozen childrens' books, of varying quality but all worth a look.

Now I'm off to reread some Tamora Pierce and hope I don't notice anything problematic enough to spoil my fun!

Aidan Bird said...

What do you mean by "physically male?" Are you only talking about her genitals? Because, I really don't know how to help you with that. And to be honest, if she's a transwoman, you being attracted to her doesn't mean that your sexual orientation has changed. You're still straight. As for specific body parts, that's what you need to talk to her about because only the two of you can sort that out properly.

But no, your orientation hasn't changed. She's still a woman.

Aidan Bird said...

Thanks for the heads-up, Ana. I don't think I want to read Rings of Ice after your description of it. The trans character's portrayal would drive me to tears.

Actually, now that I think about it, there's a lot of books that drove me to near tears with awful portrayals of trans people, gay and lesbian people, mental illnesses, rape and recovery from that, and survivor from family and/or partner abuse. Not any one is coming to mind right now, probably because I'm a bit tired and have been a bit triggered tonight.

Aidan Bird said...

Also, just reread your post, Anthony, and realized you mentioned she was pressuring you. If you are uncomfortable about anything, be upfront and honest about it. And ask for her to respect that. If she cannot, then rethink the situation, for respect should be pretty crucial for any relationship. So I thought I'd add that, since I think I missed that when I first read your post.

Samantha C said...

Nice Guys have been getting to me more than they used to. I own a CD called Dreamland, starring Brent Spiner in a sort of radio musical, half radio-play and half beautiful jazz standards. It's really very good. Except the whole plot is about how Spiner's character falls madly and instantly in love with a girl across a crowded room, and pressures her relentlessly to love him. I actually LIKE instant love even, and his heavy pressure to sleep with him after a week of dating, after she sings a whole song about wanting to take it slow, and then having it happen, started to really creep me out. I still listen to the CD but I was sad to realize how much that was in there.

Aidan Bird said...

Ah, thank you for the clarification. It sounds like you handled it respectfully as well as you could. It also sounds like she has only just started her transition? Remember sexual reassignment surgery is not the only aspect of transition - hormones and other treatments take up the majority of most transitions - as well as transitioning one's wardrobe and one's voice. It's a very long and complex and hard road to take. It sounds like you caught her at the start of it?

I do hope all goes well for you and her after this, and that a stable friendship can be formed. Also, if you want to know any resources to learn more about transsexuals, let me know. I have a ton lying around in my bookmarks and I'm more than willing to list a few to help you learn more if you'd like.

Anthony Rosa said...

If anything, the person who would really need that sort of information is my friend. I don't think she's in a mood to accept any "help" right now, at least not any she perceives as coming from me, but from the things she's told me, yes, those sorts of resources would be great for her.

As for the transitioning: Yes, I'm aware of how arduous and long and difficult such a process is. And also yes, I caught her before she even began counselling. Basically, I've caught her before her transition has even begun. And that makes it even harder. It's painful to upset her at such a delicate time in her life... but I'm not the one who can be there for her as a love through this. To try, or pretend otherwise, would only make it worse, and string her along.

Rakka said...

Sorry about the delay, was in the Iron Age for a few days.

Bleh, brainfart, meant fixed sex of course. I didn't read Gethenians as intersexed, rahter than latent binary. It was cool how there was no hassle of gender most of the time. And I think the cold, rather than not being gendered all the time, was a reason for the slow changes in Karhide (and the totalitarian government played a part in Orgoreyn) - if you're living on the edge of survival as is, big changes are probably what you'll go after. But well, I'm from a cold country. That may play a role in my interpretation. We only kick started industrializing after WWII because it was kinda pushed on us. Heh.

Aidan Bird said...

You made the right choice there, Anthony. Transitioning is pretty hard and scary, but having a friend through it helps a lot, especially considering how hostile our world can be to trans woman. I hope she can see the friendship you offer at the very least. And let me know if and when you'd like the resources. I can dig them up then.

EdinburghEye said...

Oh. One of the things I love about Anne is that when Gilbert Blythe negged her she hit him over the head with her slate and wouldn't speak to him for years. I mentioned this in a blog post earlier this year and what do you know, I got a man with a classic "BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MENZ" comment... who hadn't read the book.

Anne gets less and less Anne-ish as she grows older - by the time her children are old enough to have stories there seems almost none of the wonderfully independent girl left.

EdinburghEye said...

Robert Heinlein's novels.

I read many of them before I transitioned into a feminist. Then I re-read them, and I had lost my ability to accept that boys would always be the ones to have adventures that weren't defined by being able to get pregnant/having sex with men: the Wise Cranky Old Men just irritated me: the endlessly pushed heterosexual supremacy just annoyed me: the nastiness of some of the boys towards/about girls (and the way girls were taught to accept it) was infuriating. The all-boy all-the-time environment of the Eagle Scouts novels just sucked now I couldn't pretend I belonged there. They made me angry, and they made me more angry because I remembered being able to enjoy them.

Then I stopped reading them. Not all at once. Gradually.

Then about twenty years later, I picked up a couple of them to look at and realised that while they were still sexist, and I could clearly perceive all the thngs that still annoyed me, they didn't make me angry any more: I was able to accept that they were written by a man who had, as Moonlit_Night says, at least tried - even if he went on taking for granted so much that it never occurred to him to question.

Anthony Rosa said...

I will, thanks.

Isabel C. said...

Hee! Yeah, good point there: dude, do not pull that shit. SLATE. And urgh re: comment.

I got that too. I mean, some growing up obviously has to happen, and that's good, and there are bits in Rainbow Valley especially where she's all "...guys? STFU about the minister's kids and their OMGSCANDAL, okay?" and so forth. But she does seem to get a lot more Idealized-Wife-and-Mother after she marries, and that's unfortunate. I have no problem with her marrying Gilbert or having kids, but I'd much rather have read about her as eccentric writer mom who occasionally dyes things the wrong color and loses her temper and stuff.

Also, there's a dig at childless-by-choice people at the end of Ingleside which just merits some eyerolling, and a bit about divorce in House of Dreams which irks like hell. I still like the later books a lot, and Rilla in particular for the WWI aspect, but I think I like them better for eccentric late-Edwardian rural characters than for Anne herself, which is a pity.

Francis said...

I recently reread A Civil Campaign and was . . kinda blown away at how "Nice Guy" Miles Vorkosigan can be.

On the other hand that blows up in his face spectacularly. Miles is problematic for it - but it was him being a "Nice Guy" that set up at least one major part of the catastrophic dinner party in the middle of the book. I don't find books where the protagonists do bad things and then face the consequences and have their nose rubbed in it to be problematic as books.

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