Tuesday, June 27, 2017

An Actual Event

I stole that title from one of the comments on the video, BUTOHMYGOD if this isn't the coolest NIN has ever looked and they sound as amazing as usual. "She's Gone Away" is already my favorite song on Not the Actual Events and here's Trent in a leather jacket and sunglasses with Mariqueen and Atticus flanking him, all of them in subdued blue and violet lights and shadows.

IT'S MY DREAM AESTHETIC. It's like they walked out of a cyberpunk movie.

I already kinda wanted to watch Twin Peaks for a while now. I might actually do that now just to get to the episode featuring them.

I read on the /r/nin subreddit that Trent had sent an email about orders related to NTAE, and at the end he'd slipped in a "yeah btw you're getting more music,"


Thursday, June 15, 2017

American Bitch

Now Playing: Michael O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori - Perchance to Dream

So this is a topic I keep coming back to: change. Impact. Blah.

See, my problem with Lena Dunham's Girls comes down to Hannah and Marnie. While Shoshanna and Jessa made mistakes, felt guilt, felt anger, and were forced to change, Hannah and Marnie are the same throughout the entirety of season 6 as they were in season 1. If anything, Marnie used to be the Straight Man of the four girls and she went on a complete downward spiral.

It's also frustrating to hear Dunham talk about the episodes. On the HBO site, every time an episode finishes, it automatically plays an "Inside the Episode" segment where she and sometimes other creators talk about the events in the show. Half the time, I have no idea what the fuck she's talking about. It's like her actual characters have depth and intentions that are interesting to analyse and figure out, but as soon as I hear her opinions, I want to be like, "uhm. No. That's stupid. I don't think you get it." (And she's the creator).

It's condescending, but the quickest way to explain how I feel it harms her writing is how she's forced a lot of the relationships in the show. More than a few times, she's been like, "there's this girl and this guy and I always knew something sexual/romantic would happen between them." It makes me think not only does she not understand her own characters, she also doesn't seem to understand a man and a woman don't necessarily have to have a sexual  encounter just because they're a man and a woman. (Not even gay characters are safe from this treatment. Or side characters).

I have trouble with the way she develops dialogue and character arcs. It's like I start to see it go in the right direction--a progression that feels both earned and organic. Then she either goes too far or veers off the rails completely.

So when American Bitch aired, I not only did not trust the show to be able to handle the complicated nature of sexual assault and power dynamics, I also made sure not to listen to the Behind the Episode segment. 

It surprised me how much I liked the episode. And I adored a lot of the think pieces that came from it. But as the series continued, I realized that it hadn't been an episode at all. It'd been an essay. Nothing that happened in American Bitch ever affected a single aspect of the show. Not in terms of impacting the plot, not in terms of how it could have affected the characters, and definitely not in terms of themes or issues. 

So I finally watched the Behind the Episode and sure enough, the creator discussion is so vapid that I regret even clicking on it.

(And yet its YouTube comments are a lot more profound. Go figure).

But I try to give Dunham the benefit of the doubt sometimes. It's not like she's a bad writer, after all. Maybe the lack of lingering impact is supposed to be the point. Maybe it's supposed to comment on how the events that transpire in American Bitch are relatable to a lot of women, and no matter how odd, troubling, or even traumatic those can be, they're just snippets of our lives we don't know how to address. So we don't dwell on them--if only because we don't know how or because they're so commonplace--and life goes on.

I hadn't even thought much about the episode until the other day--the day I referenced in my last post, when I talked with one of Flip's friend about the bizarre phrasings we use surrounding sex and virginity. I spoke up about that, and later I wondered if I did it purely because it bothered me or because I had the slight hope he might think critically about the strange ideas we hold of "virginity" in our society.

But if I truly believed I was trying to steer this person into any kind of critical discussion or (and I'm being widely optimistic here) lasting change, I would have addressed the one thing that always bothers me about him: he cannot refer to women as anything except "bitches." 

It's driving me nuts. To the point where I actively avoid being in the same room as him. I stay civil and I'll make small talk when prompted, but it's like as soon as I forget about that habit of his and I decide to be friendly, I immediately regret it when he rambles on about, "if I did X, I'd get all kinds of bitches." (That's a somewhat-direct quote. If I went word for word, you'd think I was making shit up). 

It's such a ridiculous way of talking that it should be cartoonish and therefore easy to dismiss. But it's infuriating because I know he's one in a million who think the same things and say the same things and have it influence so much of what how they perceive and treat other people--especially women.

So why didn't I say anything?

In the moment, I simply forgot. But maybe I don't think we can have any lasting effect on one another. It's one of those things about life that exist and I don't dwell on it for long because I don't know how to address it.

(Although that still makes for shitty fiction. So I guess Girls isn't any more profound for being as crap as real life is).

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


Now Playing: Rihanna - Desperado

Yesterday, I talked to one of Flip's friends about relationships, sex, boundaries, libido, etc. He'd come over with another one of their mutual friends and they breached the subject and ended up asking me and each other a bunch of questions until it turned into a discussion.

I disagreed with a lot of the points two out of the three boys brought up, but at the very least they seemed to acknowledge a lot of their opinions were completely centered on who they were as individuals. So, like, they hold strong opinions on subjects like sleeping in separate beds or the kind of boundaries they have with strangers vs. girlfriends, but they don't expect those opinions to be universal.

But anyways--at one point, Flip's friend mentioned his girlfriend, and he got to talking about how, despite being a modern millennial Casanova, he's willing to wait for her to be ready to have sex, as she's still a virgin.


Based on all he's shared, that label has been shredded to strips until a single, tiny piece remains. They've done a lot together and she's clearly interested enough to progress the sexual aspect of their relationship slowly. But because there's been no "finishing act", she and her boyfriend and her friends maintain the label of "virgin." Which isn't to say that since she's practically not anymore they might as well get the intercourse over with--if she's not there yet or doesn't want to, that's fine, that's her business, no one should impart any judgement.

But broadly speaking, it's odd that in heterosexual relationships that label has to remain firmly attached (with a few asterisks and footnotes of clarification) until the so-called "actual" fucking takes place.

I wasn't going to comment on it. Then Flip's friend said the dreaded words,

"Well, when I take her virginity--"

Cue barf sound.

I don't mean metaphorically. I mean I interrupted him to pretend to gag and roll my eyes and kinda screw up my face like I just saw someone take a dump on the carpet.

I told him then what I'm going to repeat now: I hateee that phrasing. With a passion. The hate only intensifies as I get older.

I always disliked it growing up, since I thought the whole concept of it was arbitrary as hell and I already knew "virginity" was mostly used to shame boys who "had" it and girls who'd "lost" it.

But I hated the phrasing because I hated that it made it sound like some physical thing you could hold in your hands and toss out. Soon as I learned that there's not even such a thing as "popping" or "breaking" your hymen (and how troubling it is that we use such violent language to describe what should be normal sexual situations), I realized there was even less need for that kind of phrasing.

When I read the great Jenny Trout's breakdown of Fifty Shades of Grey, it solidified my dislike for it because in one particular chapter analysis, she wrote:

Why do we talk about the “giving” and “taking” of virginity? Like it’s a tangible object than passes from hand to hand? I don’t understand it, but it’s definitely in the parlance of our society. The woman “gives” and the man “takes”. I’ve always hated that. I don’t feel like I gave anything away when I lost my virginity. I feel like I shared an experience. But then again, the kid who punched my v-card was also a virgin, so maybe in that case we just swapped virginities.

(Emphasis mine because that's just too funny).

Oddly enough, when Flip's friend used that phrase yesterday and I objected, he initially seemed to think I was against the word "taking." He immediately tried to correct himself with, "when she offers me her virginity" and that sounded equally ridiculous.

I had to ask him--does he collect virginities? Does he put them in a jar and then place them up on one of his shelves?

Now I can't stop thinking about that. Like. There's gotta be at least one fantasy novel that does that.

It could even be with witches to play with the old stereotype that women only want sex as a kind of currency or in exchange for favors. Maybe there's a coven out there that preys on unsuspecting boys, takes their maidenhood (? see?! There's not even a male term for it! ARBITRARY), and then puts the virginity in a vial to be used for spells, potions, hexes, etc.

It's the only way that concept would ever make sense.
"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
- Carl Sagan, in his message to future explorers of Mars.