In Defense of Fanfiction

ffictionhead

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT: DURING MY TIME OUT OF COURT, I GOT A SUBJECT REQUEST!!

This is my first real client! And like all lawyers when they accept a case, I screamed “OMG!!!!” and updated my diary. Next thing I know, I’ll be filing subpoenas and drafting up wills! Awwwwww yeah, knew I was ready for this shit! BRANG. IT. AWN.

“I was curious to see how you would handle FANFICTION,” my friend calmly typed before the sudden and understandable ALLCAP SCREAM. “Especially with such gems as Rekka no Badass.”

I always knew my first real client would include screaming and the word “badass.”

lady-justice copy

BA and blind.

Before we get into my confusing main example, let me briefly explain fanfiction: Shit. Also, poorly-constructed fan creations using popular characters or stories, shared online and derided by millions.

But yeah… Shit.

Rekka no Badass is a fanfiction about Fire Emblem, an old Gameboy Advance game. In Japanese, the game’s titled Rekka no Ken, hence the disjointed jumble of portmanteau titling. Either that or all people named Ken are badasses.

But logistics aren’t important. Not when author sadal suud outwrites Hemingway. Here’s an excerpt…

(Eliwood) worked in silence on the top of the highest mountain in the world, his concentration so extreme it was like a gay monk and hardass mercenary had babies. That extreme. His knitting rapiers dueled each other desperately, throwing their long, hard forms against each other again and again and again, growing moist with the sweat of Eliwood’s hands…

AND IN THE MEANTIME.

The codpiece was completed!

In his ecstasy Eliwood punched the universe in half.

Codpiece enthusiast

Eliwood: Codpiece enthusiast.

With this example, I run into a problem.

I don’t normally start with the precipice of an argument, but this is clearly the best fanfiction ever created. The entire genre has been validated. Without hyperbole, Rekka no Badass is the greatest creation of the human race.

However, last week I alluded to another fanfiction. And unfortunately, the Twilight-inspired Fifty Shades of Grey puts us back at a solid zero. When I add in the other fan porn, we descend to rock bottom.

Oh, did I not mention that a lot of fanfiction is sexual? Cause yeah…

Eliwood put on his shiny new codpiece. It sparkled in the reddish-burgundy light. In order to activate it, he hip-thrusted the sound barrier to oblivion, and immediately proceeded to dry-hump the ever-loving shit out of Lady Lyndis, for it is not really sex if all the clothes are on, and only a true badass waits for marriage.

Lyndis: To be fair, wouldn't we all?

Lyndis: To be fair, wouldn’t we all?

See, there’s two main grievances people have with fanfiction. One’s the piss-poor quality. The second is constant teenage-level perversion. And nothing illustrates both better than (oh lord NOT AGAIN) Fifty Shades of Grey. Or, as it was known in the fanfiction community, Master of the Universe.

Here’s an excerpt of the original source, written by the incomparable Snowqueens Icedragon (now known as the far-less-awesome E. L. James):

The doors open and I hurry in… desperate to escape… I really need to get out of here. I turn to look at him and he‘s leaning against the doorway beside the lift, one hand on the wall… he really is very, very good looking… it‘s distracting. His burning green eyes gaze at me… “Isabella…” he says as a farewell. “Edward…” I reply and mercifully the doors close.

… … … … … … … Really, Snowqueens?

ellipsis

An Icedragon’s worst enemy.

And here’s 50 Shades, by E. L. James (she should’ve kept Snowqueens Icedragon):

The doors open, and I hurry in desperate to escape. I really need to get out of here. When I turn to look at him, he’s leaning against the doorway beside the elevator with one hand on the wall. He really is very, very good-looking. It’s distracting. His burning gray eyes gaze at me. “Anastasia,” he says as a farewell. “Christian,” I reply. And mercifully, the doors close.

See what good an editor can do? Mrs. Icedragon put her story through a publishing house, had it edited, and now it’s cured of being a complete mess of dots and long pauses. Quality goes up with good editing. But since we can’t all have the opportunity of Snowqueens, how do we validate fanfiction? How do we defend unedited mayhem comprised of non sequitur and horniness?

Well, it’s actually even simpler than knitting a codpiece or whipping your lover.

Remind me when the movie comes out. Future client alert.

An Snowqueen’s best friend.

In a post for badreputation.org, guest blogger Nat Guest defended fanfiction. Guest actively authors the stuff, and admits the community is “the home of squeeing fangirls high on sugar and manga, or else of hopeless deviants: furries, kink-seekers and the downright filthy.”

She said it, not me…

"An ellipsis! NOT AN ELLIPSIS!"

“AAAH!”

But really, the sexuality is not hard to defend. It helps mostly female fanfiction authors deal with pubescence.

“Out in the real world, it’s difficult to own our own sexuality,” Guest writes. “There’s simply no room for shades of grey. You’re either frigid or a slut; you’re either straight or gay; your sexuality and identity is whatever people perceive when they look at you. But within the fanfiction community, away from the patriarchal mainstream, we can discover and explore how we feel about our own sexual and gender and personal identity…. Through the medium of fandom, we can find out who we are, and what we like, and how we feel, all through just reading stories together. And then hopefully – eventually – we get to write our own story.”

Which is surprisingly similar to my defense of Fifty Shades of Grey. Who’da thunk?

Without the sexual deviations (looking at you, HarryPotter/ProfessorSnape), the only thing to defend is quality. And that’s also easy:

We all have to start somewhere.

TheMarySue.com published two articles that defend even the worst fanfiction as a form of communication and practice. Many fanfiction sites encourage discourse and criticism, which is editing in a nutshell. Giving these young authors a voice should not be looked at as a bad thing. Imagine the shit Shakespeare wrote in his teens.

We can.

Oh. Right.

Beyond that, I don’t see much of a problem. I realize there’s a lot of bad fanfiction out there, but it’s a case of babies and bathwater. Fanfiction has enabled anyone with imagination and a keyboard to create, to share, to communicate. And using established characters allows a fantastic jumping-off point. It’s also a way to get more readers and explore narrative structure. The more I think about it, the fewer downsides I see.

It might be shit. But it’s worthwhile shit.

Hmm. I fear my first request was pretty easy. I guess I’m just a badass lawyer. Though it could be the codpiece I knitted…

"An ellipsis! NOT AN ELLIPSIS!"

“NOT AGAIN!”

In Defense of Fifty Shades of Grey

fiftyshadeshead“Let’s do something stupid.”

For too long now, I’ve needed a topic to get back in the blogging harness. I felt tied, if you will, to a certain routine. I needed… mmmm… discipline. Maybe something a little dangerous would get me back in the swing. The sex-swing. Which is an actual object I witnessed through fearful tears.

This week, I was determined to do something stupid. And it doesn’t get much stupider, much sadder, than…

“One for Fifty Shades,” I half-mumbled. The teller recoiled. Part of me died.

Another part of me was living...

Another part was living

With seven dollars willfully misused and the saddest four words in existence hanging like a stench, I fell to a transcendent new low. I lingered outside, pretending to wait for a nonexistent girlfriend as close to American Sniper as possible. But they knew. The pervy middle-aged ladies knew.

I realized too late the cost of waiting. I’d have to walk in when they were all seated. Damn. Damn damn damn damn damn damn damn damn damn.

“WHERE IS MY DATE JESSICA WHO IS REAL AND IS DRAGGING ME HERE AND PERHAPS THIS IS THE WRONG PLACE FOR THE AMERICAN SNIPER FILM?,” I skillfully proclaimed upon entrance.

Luckily we were all similarly shamed. An unspoken agreement wafted around the room: We tell no one. 

gag

That’s how I ended up with a bunch of women at a Fifty Shades of Grey matinee. Most were aged half a century. I was surprisingly not the only male in attendance, but the others had the luxury of coupling. Hen-pecked husbands with little to lose.

My envy welled. Lucky bastards.

Of course, by the end, no one seemed particularly lucky. Because I can think of no reason anyone would enjoy Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s amateurish, stilted, the leads have no chemistry, the motivations are atrocious, and (this is the oddest bit) it’s not in the least bit sexy.

In my notes, I have three ALLCAP lines. Two are “NO CHEMISTRY” and “REPULSIVE, HOW TO DEFEND.” And my very first line is “WHY ANNIE LENNOX, WHY?

With that, let’s review my notes.

notes

Good lord, I hope everyone knew I was taking notes…

The film begins with dark city skies and an Annie Lennox song. I know, I was also crestfallen. It wouldn’t be the last time either, since the Rolling Stones have a song attached and Beyoncé has two. Two. Oh Queen Bey, what have you done?

I have many notes from Anastasia and Christian’s first interview, but I’ll spare you the details. It’s mostly weird platitudes and emotionless flirting.

“I could offer you a job here.”

“(breathy snort), I don’t think I’d fit in here, look at me…”

“I am.”

Oh gag me with a… well, I can never use that phrase again.

And when Christian literally stalks Anastasia to her job at a hardware store (“oh, of course,” I noted), they have a bit more wispy flirting as he buys tape and rope. I am now unable to buy either without gagging… hmm, can’t even use the word.

After more super-creepy controlling behavior, Christian and Anastasia eventually get it on. You see boobs, possible inner thigh kissing, ass from both parties, one shot of thrown panties and hands hitting a bedspread. I’m unsure of the exact proceedings. It’s all so inky and moody and stupid.

“Why can’t they turn on a light,” whispered a nearby woman I nicknamed Berta. Her husband, who I will call Burt, responded with a distracted “Eh?”

The next morning, Anastasia dances to “Beast of Burden.” It’s now the second thing I think when I hear that song.

After this, Christian attempts to convince Anastasia to sign a contract. A contract filled with descriptors like “The Dominant” and “The Submissive.” And nothing is sexier than a table read of legalese jargon. Those court documents get all the ladies hot and bothered.

And when Anastasia asks for regular couple stuff outside the kinky weekends, Christian rebuffs with…

“Dinner and movies aren’t my thing. Try to keep an open mind about this. Agree to be my submissive, and I’ll be devoted to you. This is what I want.”

To her credit, Anastasia runs away from this creep. But she relents after a walk, where Christian reveals that he was a “submissive” at age 15 (!!!) for one of his mother’s friends. He tells Anastasia of the many benefits of bondage, of being free from all choices. Because… I can’t even make a joke.

Real talk: Are any of you turned on by this horseshit? This damaged, molested jackass talks about the “freedom of giving up control,” freedom “from making your own decisions.” Is that what anyone wants, to be a brainless piece of meat? To be used by a sadist in manipulative mind games? To be stripped of personhood for sexual gratification? I am volcanically outraged by this.

Afterward we get a semblance of denouement. They have a long, dark scene of veiled BDSM set to underwater Beyoncé. The slap-happy couple go rich-people plane gliding. Christian calls Anastasia his “girlfriend,” which shouldn’t be a character peak but is played thusly. And it all ends with an angry Anastasia storming out and boarding an elevator, the threat of “sequel” hanging in the air. But I admit, I was almost too angry to care.

I wrote, “REPULSIVE, HOW TO DEFEND” in my notes, underlining a few dozen times for irate emphasis. But I think I found some answers. Thank God for Burt and Berta.

As the credits rolled, Burt asked his wife, “Well, did you enjoy it?” And Berta, bless her soul, responded with an unamused “Eh. Nothing I’d want to try.”

I personally disagree. The rich-people plane gliding looked awesome.

I personally disagree. The rich-people plane gliding looked AWESOME.

As Cracked author  points out in his article “4 Reasons ’50 Shades of Grey’ Is the Limp Bizkit of Sex,” you can tell a lot from ticket sales. He links to a couple different lists, one for the most pre-order ticket sales for Fifty Shades, the other for most religious states. Bell eloquently asserts, “it’s the same fucking list.” And while Bell writes about commercialism, I choose a different tangent.

I’ve read calls to boycott the film and Christian pleas for purity, but the uproar speaks to the fact. Many of the ladies seeing the film are religious. Some of those women must be a little… well, bored. Maybe outwardly prudish. A little curious. Maybe sexually repressed.

If they’re turning to this, they must be desperate.

This is hotter.

Better than the movie.

If nothing else, maybe Fifty Shades of Grey shows a need for communication. If you’re feeling dissatisfied with your marriage and sexual life, there are ways to liven it up. BDSM is one of those options, but not as depicted in Shades. BDSM folks hate this series with a passion. They say it’s an unsafe and unhealthy depiction of their hobby, and I’d trust the lady with the leather whip.

Burt and Berta were uninterested, but maybe they displayed the point. Openness about possible kinks is a surprisingly good goal. Most of the ladies watching Fifty Shades might find it embarrassing or perverse to talk about their fetishes. A lady must be a lady at all times. But here’s a guy secret:

We kinda like when you talk about fetishes. I know, what a surprise.

"Martha, is this what you meant when you..." "Shh shh shh... let me have this..."

“Martha, is this what you meant when you…”
“Shhhhh… let me have this…”

It helps to not be sadistic, and to not demand someone give up autonomy. I don’t respect power plays and selfishness. But it’s not really about what I respect. Maybe that’s what some people need.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m disturbed and deeply repulsed by the idea of sexual dominance. But some people are weird. Fifty Shades might be for them. After all, I represent a minuscule portion of their intended audience. The “misanthropic, moronic young male” market probably isn’t a high seller.

In the end, I’m forced to admit that Fifty Shades might help couples feel more fulfilled.

There’s other admirable discussions derived from this series, like thoughts on gender equality and amount of change required for a relationship. And most importantly, there’s articles about abuse, and not the “fun” kind. I’m talking about psychological and emotional abuse, like Christian displays repeatedly in this (need I remind you?) terrible, terrible film.

Granted, this series might convince people in abusive relationships that everything will turn out alright, that their sadist partner can be normalized and that free will is bad. I weep for that possibility. But I believe it’s more an exception than a rule. And who knows, maybe the sequels (good god no) will correct the flaws of the source material. Like… this movie did?

I just recoiled. Another part dead. Oh well, I’m not defending the source material. I don’t want to talk about Twilight fan fiction.

See you next week, when I’ll defend… dammit, fan fiction? Really?

Dammit.

“Let’s do something stupid.”

In Defense of Furries

furryhead

Why are people afraid of furries? Most haven’t even seen one in person. They haven’t been to a convention, or met the human underneath. Heck, most haven’t even watched furry porn.

I join people on most of these fronts… oh God, fronts. For I too have never seen a furry in person. Oh God, furry in person… I haven’t been to a convention. Good lord almighty. Or met the human underneath… nnnnnnnn… a furry costume. But…. nnnnnnnnnn… I am defending them. And in my curiosity… nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn no no no no no no no no no no.

And now I’m very afraid of furries. For good reason. Reasons. All the reasons.

No no no no no no no no no no

No no no no no no no no no no

But I need to defend them. It’s what I do. So let’s get right into it and down to business… ew.

Some of you innocents might be wondering what exactly a furry is. And guess what? These images will not be voided!

furry1

Lupine

furry2

Feline

bovine

Shia LaBeouf

They’re people who enjoy/dress up like anthropomorphized animals. You know, animals with human characteristics, like walking on two legs, talking, dancing, posing… other things a gentleman doesn’t mention. It’s like being a fan of high school mascot costumes.

That devotion goes from like to like, love to love.

I am no gentleman.

Ew. A red leather sofa.

But let’s start with the easiest thing to defend. Which, surprisingly, is most of furrydom.

You see, it’s not as creepy as people like to pretend. Most of the hype is all bluster and hoopla. Let’s start with an article from vox.com, titled “9 questions about furries you were too embarrassed to ask.”

According to author :

  • Only about 30% of furries at a convention dress up in full body suits. Most are there in regular clothes, some with ears and/or tails.
  • It’s not primarily sexual. “Men reported spending 34 percent of their online roleplaying time on sexual content, and women reported spending only 21.4 percent. Nearly half of male furries, and a large majority of women, reported that sexual content played little or no role in their introduction to the fandom,” Matthews writes.
  • Fan art is practiced by nearly 90% of furries, making drawing their most important pastime.
  • “Furries are overwhelmingly male and white, are disproportionately likely to be gay, bi, or trans, and skew younger, with an average age in the mid-20s.”
  • About a third of furries don’t feel 100% human. “(8 to 14 percent) report meaning this in a physical sense, with many more stating they feel not fully human mentally or spiritually. About 38 to 53 percent report a desire to be 0 percent human, if they could be.”
After which it just gets confusing.

After which it just gets confusing.

So people uncomfortable in their own skin, finding community in art and self-expression. That’s pretty much any fandom ever, from comic books to drag queens to Trekkies. And pretty much the entire human race, if our brushes are broad enough. If that’s all I have to defend, this’ll be an easy post.

Unfortunately…

It gets weird.

It gets weird.

And as we all know, no other fandom gets creepy with sexually-explicit material. What’s that link, you ask? Why, it’s a Google search for “Star Trek porno.” About 1,000,000 results. Sure, none have polar bears with strap-ons, but is that less creepy than boinking a green alien with tentacle hair?

Stupid cheap slacks...

I checked. The answer is no. Or more accurately, no no no no no no no no no no.

I’m actually hard-pressed (I hate myself) to think of a reason behind all the furry hate. What could spur the creation of www.godhatesfurries.com, a website so stupid I refuse to link to it?

But I can provide an answer. It’s the petty need to be better than someone.

I fear we’ve accepted furries as the universal butt of an easy joke. “I may be a duct tape fetishist, but at least I’m not a furry,” someone might say. No matter what kind of weird, deviant geek you might be, you can be normal in comparison. Somehow we’ve accepted this thought process, like most “normal” people are united against the furry scourge. Do we need that tribalism in the 21st century? Because it’s petty and, quite frankly, disgusting.

As is all pornography, but one thing at a time.

As a side note, my internet search history is fuuuuuuuucked.

As a side note, my search history is fuuuuuuuucked.

Now to why I picked this topic: Last weekend was Midwest Furfest, the second most popular furry-based convention in the country. Midwest Furfest suffered a terrorist attack, an intentional Chlorine gas leak. The convention center was evacuated, and nineteen people were sent to the hospital. To be clear, some scumbucket hated furries so much that he tried to poison thousands of them.

And people laughed.

Most notable was Mika Brzezinski, a host on MSNBCs Morning Joe program. She discovered what furries were on-air, and ran off in an uncomfortable giggle fit. And people found it appropriate, because it’s furries. If you’re not enraged, you should be. Newspeople should be better. We should be better.

If you count Morning Joe as "news."

Morning Joe should be… nevermind, asking too much.

Luckily, I’m not the only one who’s upset by this.

 of the themarysue.com writes, “Forget about the fact that ‘furries’ is such a hot Internet buzzword for just a second. Forget about how their relatively harmless kink might squick you the heck out. Can we at least agree that no one deserves to be gassed while at a convention, and that maybe now is not the time for jokes to the contrary?… Heck, what happens when it’s somebody who hates one of your hobbies?”

duct

“We have ways of dealing with scumbuckets.”

But seriously, furries are people. Interesting people, flawed people, weird people, mostly good people. This article by Patricia Hernandez at Kotaku is particularly enlightening, if you’re interesting in first-hand experience. As I mentioned, I’ve never met a furry. But it doesn’t take much for me to empathize when they’re getting gassed at their gatherings and no one seems to care. I’m immediately and fully on their side.

Can’t we get past the urge to belittle other people for their hobbies? Having a geek hierarchy is just the stupidest thing ever. It’s petty and snooty, which are some of the worst qualities to have as human beings. I’d rather be aroused by Looney Tune cosplayers than to possess either.

"Oh Gossamer, no one can know of our forbidden love."

Oh Gossamer, no one can know of our forbidden love.

I’m not getting into the weirdest stuff, like spirit animal names and fursonas (mine is an elk, according to this quiz). I’m not saying furries are necessarily easy to get along with, or simple to understand. But I do think abject rejection is unfair, and being unaccepted to the point of universal ridicule is tragic. I truly hope we can agree on that.

That said… guys, the pornography is really creepy. Sorry furries. For the porno, it’s just a long string of no no no no no no no no no no.

elk

But something about this elk costume seems so very yes…

In Defense of Florida

flordiahead1

Wha? That’s not the Florida I want. Sunshine and beaches? What’s to defend? I want the weird Florida, the crazy Florida. C’mon Sunshine State, give me something bizarre!

flordiahead2

There we go.

Those headlines come from a Buzzfeed article titled, “24 Crazy Things That Have Already Happened This Year in Florida.” Published Jan. 8, 2014. I… I included less than half of them, and that’s only eight days… EIGHT DAYS!?! Maybe they’re connected, just covered from different angles. Like, the Baptism Brawl happened at Chuck E. Cheese’s. And the combatants used tomahawks and spatulas and… bananas.

I’m clearly in over my head here. But that’s alright, my empathy powers and lawyerly logic haven’t failed me yet. I’ll just have to think like the weirdest Floridian, get inside their head. Maybe…

D'aw, just ruin my fun will you?

… nope nope nope. I don’t have the money or disposable limbs necessary to fondle vicious swamp dinosaurs. But feel free to send me cash, I’ll put it in my reptile snuggle fund.

Let’s get away from things that can kill me. I prefer not to die, if you don’t mind. Let’s find some reasons Florida tends to be so very very bizarre.

Steven Rosenfeld of alternet.org compiled a list of possibilities. One of those reasons? The curious mix of people drawn to Florida.

No!

You don’t say?

Rosenfeld asserts that Florida has a higher concentration of live-in visitors than any other state. That means, few native Floridians and a ton of rowdy house guests who stay long past their welcome. Everyone’s chasing that subtropical climate, including the elderly, the immigrants, the rich, the poor, the rednecks, the tourists, the circus freaks, and the nudists.

It’d be like having an all-night rave with old carnies and redneck nudists. And… you’ve stopped reading my blog to move to Florida, haven’t you? I lose so much of my audience to redneck nudists…

But if weird-ass raves don’t float your party pontoon, maybe loose laws will. Because Rosenfeld’s second reason concerns the loosest laws this side of Dodge City in the1800’s.

"I told ya'll not to molest that ther 'gator, but didja listen, NO!"

“I told ya’ll not to molest that ther ‘gator, but didja listen, NAW!”

“To say that Florida has a loose regulatory environment barely states it,” he writes. “People move there to buy homes that can’t be siezed in bankruptcy proceedings. There’s loose gun laws, of which the Stand Your Ground law is but one example.”

There’s also no system for monitoring prescription drugs, no state income tax, no enforcement of copyright law, few zoning restrictions… it’s like the Wild West gone even more laissez-faire.

Craig Pittman of Slate.com points to another side-effect of this attitude: bad hookups.

“The combination of warm weather with millions of tourists means we have a lot of people dressed in skimpy clothes who aren’t staying long,” he writes. “Add in that aforementioned no-rules, YOLO atmosphere and you can see why illicit sex is such a constant temptation—and why it can so easily go haywire.”

So Florida might foster an atmosphere where this kind of living is easy. You can get in a lot of hot trouble. But there’s something else, something more worrysome. Rosenfeld’s Number One reason points to it:

“Florida cops don’t keep quiet.”

How could they?

How could they when this is their job?

Rosefeld points to an interview. “NPR’s Brooke Gladstone, the New Yorker who co-hosts On The Media, last year interviewed Florida newspaper reporter Will Greenlee about the state’s off-the-charts crime stories. The police reporter said Florida’s permissive open-records laws give the media inordinate access to detailed police files, where they find the lurid tales.”

Craig Pittman offers the same explanation, saying, “Florida has long enjoyed a tradition of open government records, which means a lot of the weird stuff that the cops see winds up available to reporters looking for something to make their readers’ jaws drop. So when a retired Tarzan actor got arrested because his pet tigers kept escaping, it made the papers. When a woman claiming to be a vampire attacked a man outside a vacant Hooters, it made the papers. When Vanilla Ice’s kangaroo and goat got loose, it made the papers.”

So everything comes together to reveal the truth. But notice the scary thing there. Florida’s weirdness is known only because of loose coverage laws. So in your home state… what is being covered up?

"Local blogger molests alligator"

“Local blogger molests alligator, dies for joke”

All our weird people may be hiding, their misdeeds never reaching public light. What if we are all living in “Florida”? What if your world is filled with redneck nudists and Baptism Brawls, and you don’t know it? The reporters in Florida have the biggest, easiest catch, but that certainly doesn’t mean Florida is the only weird state. And they have beaches to compensate.

So don’t get too comfortable. “Florida” might be closer than you think.

And if you’re scared your neighbors might be cosplaying congressmen with snake farms, you might want to call some cops or buy some weapons. A whole bushel of them.

Maybe they'd help with gator attacks?

Maybe they’d help with gator attacks?

In Defense of Left Behind 2014

leftbehindhead

I feel the need to be upfront. I haven’t seen the recent Nic Cage version of Left Behind, whose art I’ve lovingly appropriated above. But worry not, ye Doubting Thomases. My defense of “Left Behind 2014” may not have technical weight, but it’s surprisingly iron-clad in perspective.

That said, the movie is shit.

After reading reviews there’s a lot I could talk about, but I’ll zero in on something specific. Near the end of the film, a Little Person gets punted down a slide like a football. He’s apparently very angry and abrasive, but still… punted. If God made an Eleventh Commandment, it’d probably be against kicking Little People off playground equipment. The Twelfth would be the same thing underlined.

commandment

“Seriously guys? I thought that went without saying.”

If you need further info on the film’s quality, Rotten Tomatoes published a pretty fantastic critic consensus. It reads: “Yea verily, like unto a plague of locusts, Left Behind hath begat a further scourge of devastation upon Nicolas Cage’s once-proud filmography.” Oh, and it scored 2% approval. 2. Ridiculous.

But I’m not going to defend the film’s quality. Let’s talk about Left Behind. You know, the series. The series I’m notably not defending.

Left Behind

Which means I can be as mean as I please.

In reading reviews, I found a Christianity Today article that was particularly enlightening. I expected it to assert that the film is not Christian, a point writer Jackson Cuidon emboldens with extreme enthusiasm. It’s as if he wants to distance Christianity from Little Person punting, for some reason.

Zacchaeus

No wonder Zacchaeus was in the tree.

However, Cuidon did something I didn’t expect. He criticized the popular source material.

“Growing up, I was horrified at the idea that the books were supposed to represent my positions, or the positions of most other Christians,” he writes. “(The books) talked about Christianity, sometimes. But, at their core, they were political thrillers, featuring characters directly transposed from better Tom Clancy narratives—still violent, hostile, and un-reflecting, they just prayed a little more and took communion sometimes.”

Interesting. See, I grew up in the heyday of Left Behind, and my mother occasionally shopped at Christian bookstores. So I recall the overwhelming merchandise opportunity brought by this particular series. Popular rapture theory makes a lot of money, which is kinda weird if you think about it.

rapturecar

It also brings out assholery, which is also kinda weird.

I had always considered Left Behind a big part of 90’s Christian media, and 90’s entertainment at large. I recall a “Left Behind Kids” series I perused in 5th grade, which wasn’t anything special then and is simply bizarre in retrospect. Just kinda pulpy Christian thrillers, but nothing terrible.

Of course, if you ask a Catholic…

“There is nothing wrong with having a successful publishing franchise, but when that franchise contains anti-Catholic prejudice and bad theology, that is a problem,” writes Jimmy Akin of Catholic.com. Akin has a particular objection to the second book:

“In Tribulation Force we learn that when the Rapture took place, the Pope was one of those taken to heaven. That doesn’t sound anti-Catholic, but (the authors) go on to explain that this Pope ‘had stirred up controversy in the church with a new doctrine that seemed to coincide more with the ‘heresy’ of Martin Luther than with the historic orthodoxy.’ In other words, the only good pope is one who agrees with Protestant teaching.”

Not only that, but the post-rapture Pope is one of the major villains. He also hates Martin Luther. Coincidence?

"These are my 95 Theses. 93 are about Catholicism, the other 2 are for Little People. Seriously guys, not cool."

“90 are about Catholicism. The other 5 are Little People and slide etiquette.”

But there’s other issues. According to Charles Henderson of Godweb.org, the books are “as American as apple pie.” The main characters are American, the ideals are American, the themes are American, the bad guys are European liberals… it’s almost as if Left Behind was written to bait American Conservative Evangelicals, to draw on paranoia and fear for monetary profit. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…

"It might be the end of the world, but I feel fine."

Make it rain, Rapture. Make it rain.

Theology’s not the only problem. There are people who dislike the books as pure literature. Jason Rosenhouse of Scienceblogs.com writes, “Even granting their somewhat idiosyncratic understanding of Revelation, as literature this is pretty thin gruel. Paper-thin characters, clunky writing, implausible plot twists… Most of the pages are given over to outright proselytizing, whenever the characters can be persuaded to take time out from mocking unbelievers.”

Even today, there are pastors hosting radio shows and publishing books responding to the errors of Left Behind. Their woes range from theology to philosophy, sociology to literary standards, interpretation to end-time apathy… the only thing they have in common is disdain for Left Behind.

That, and very poorly designed websites.

That, and very poorly designed websites.

So, how does that make the recent movie defendable? Well, Left Behind 2014 has excised the weird pseudo-Christianity. The books should be considered (at best) light thrillers with a rapture twist. But some evangelicals saw the Christian plating and fell for a ruse. Some actually base their theology on what amounts to a poor Tom Clancy novel. Do you realize how ridiculous that is?

Left Behind 2014 has no pretensions on being Christian. It’s not confusing, it doesn’t cause any problems in Christian circles, it doesn’t mislead. It’s distilled stupidity, and there’s value in truth. Maybe it’ll take the series down a peg. And if this shlock can help Christianity be a little more pure, it is both good and worthy of praise.

And for everyone who doesn’t care about Christianity, we have another Nic Cage flick to laugh at. Really, that’s all I needed to say in the first place

tumblr_lzqxqz2d7i1qdytxb

Those are the crazy eyes of a LP punter.

In Defense of #Gamergate

gamergatehead

This post addresses jilted boyfriends, emotional abuse, lies, sex, video games, journalistic integrity, feminism, hatred, sexism, hackers, explosions, rape threats, murder plots and perverts . But I will answer your most pressing question first.

The young lady up there? Her name is Vivian James. Step one.

Wah.

Wah.

Ms. James was created on 4chan as the anime mascot for a Twitter movement protesting …what? No, I… I don’t know why they have an anime mascot. But don’t ask questions yet, this gets weirder before it gets vaguely understandable. Just accept that a perturbed redhead is the avatar for thousands of ALL-CAP forum posts and YouTube screeds.

Though now that I think about it, all controversial subjects should have anime mascots. Life would be easier. Or at least, more entertaining.

The anime mascot for Russia-controlled Crimea.

The anime mascot for Russia-controlled Crimea.

But let’s get away from Vivian. She’s leading me further into an Escher print. Let’s start with something more fun: A ruined, unhealthy relationship. Wheeeeeee….

Zoe Quinn is an independent game developer and activist, and, as her name foreshadows, a woman. That last point has made her life a little difficult. In an interview with NPR, she says, “I don’t think I’ve ever released a game without getting some sort of rape threat… It’s like the Internet is eager and waiting for a reason to be a total scumbag to you — at least if you’re a woman.”

Quinn once dated a programmer named Eron Gjoni. “Once” meaning their relationship exploded. Like, in supernova fashion.

I blame Bomberman.

I blame Bomberman.

After the messy breakup, Gjoni wrote a 9,000 word thesis to “warn you to be cautious of Zoe. [This post] is here to paint a portrait of her actual personality.”

The first part of his epic saga is titled, “Act 0: Whereof One Cannot Speak, Thereof One Must Be Silent.” After this he, to reiterate, wrote about 9,000 words. Wherefor only had he selfsame silence advice therein.

“The Zoe Post” reads like an episode of Dr. Phil. She lied, she cheated on him multiple times, she manipulated him, he accused her of having sex to garner better game reviews… daily on OWN, check your local listings. He also made her real name public. And multiple pages of their personal texts. And revealed most of the guys she slept with. So yeah.

While she did indeed cheat on Gjoni, it’s since been revealed that the reviewer she sexed didn’t review her game at all. But little things like facts tend to get in the way.

Yes, Vivian. I share your feelings.

Yes, Vivian. I share your feelings.

#Gamergate started off bad, calling itself #TheQuinnspiracy, as if one developer was controlling the whole industry with sexcapades and feminine wiles. Here’s a collection of tweets, compiled by Quinn in her Cracked article, “5 Thing I Learned as the Internet’s Most Hated Person.”

cracked

Classy. Quinn received death threats, rape threats, accusations of being a slut whore slut slut slut whore whore fake fake fake bitch bitch. But it got worse when some of the horde found her address and phone number. And those of her friends and family.

Quinn writes, “My dad’s an old-school biker dude who types with two fingers and has me fix the settings on his cellphone every time I see him — I still don’t think he quite understands what all this has been about. He just knows now to hang up when someone calls and screams ‘YOUR DAUGHTER’S A WHORE’ into the receiver.”

The mob hacked her friends’ Skype accounts, contact lists, social security numbers, bank statements… she actually had to move and cancel credit cards. People who defended or shared her viewpoints got similar treatment. And, as Quinn points out, this all stems from an angry ex.

Carrie Underwood has nothing on Eron Gjoni.

Carrie Underwood has nothing on Eron Gjoni.

Afterward, some accused Quinn and her friends of blowing the threats out of proportion to garner sympathy and page views. Which… well, the hat’s made of tinfoil and the argument’s soft as baked potatoes.

To be fair, some video game review sites did receive valid complaints about corruption and paid reviews. But trolls only care when it involves conspiratorial feminists using sex in power plays.

Luke McKinney was pretty close when he penned Cracked’s “7 Reasons ‘Gamergate’ Proves Humanity is Doomed.

I blame Bomberman.

Reason #5: Dammit, Bomberman!

However, even something born of falsity and misogyny isn’t devoid of hope. What was rightly covered as angry white males venting frustration over perceived power loss has become… well, it gets tricky.

Nate Rott of NPR writes, “#Gamergate is about two key things: ethics in video game journalism, and the role and treatment of women in the video game industry — an industry that has long been dominated by men.”

The WordPress blog Refrigerator Rants elaborates on other topics, such as undeserved anger at social justice, online harassment, shallow vilification… all good stuff. Well, bad stuff. You know what I mean.

All those are important topics, deserving discussion. Which finally brings me to a defense of this whole affair. Started to feel like Eron Gjoni… though I’d need 7,000 more words…

Wah.

Wherein Escher striketh again on the non.

#Gamergate has not doomed humanity. There’s a lot of ugliness in this, and no online argument is worth scaring people from homes and ruining lives. But now we work with what we’ve got. And we’re looking at a movement for integrity, equality and transparency in video games. All good things. Luckily, there are many intelligent parties furthering those goals. It’s just some of their background players are lunatics, brats and/or perverts. The background is too frequently louder, but don’t let baby join the bathwater.

What started as shit is now not-shit. Where it goes and what it affects is hard to tell, but it’s going up. Granted, we started at slut whore slut slut slut whore whore fake fake fake bitch bitch… but up is up.

After all, how bad can it be? It has a cute anime mascot!

Ooh... oh my...

Ooh… oh dear…

In Defense of Disney Princesses

disneyhead

I started this entry when Disney announced the pretty pretty makeover of Princess Merida from Brave. Feminist websites (which I obviously frequent) were pretty pretty perturbed by the girlification of the badass princess unconcerned with appearances. In fact, going against feminine social conventions was kind of the point of her film… that and bear hijinks.

But now, Merida’s redesign has been sent to pretty pretty purgatory.

princess1

So where does that leave me, huh? I put a lot of research into this entry, dammit! I now have the search history of an 8-year-old girl and her femi-Nazi mother, and for what? For Disney to respond positively to a fan petition? Why did those crooks have to do that now? I exclaim my question to the unforgiving skies: “WHY?”

“You know what, I’m a man!” I thought. “I do what I want, dammit! If I want to write a blog about animated princesses, break out the pink frills and glitter ’cause I’m gettin’ this thing done!”

So instead of defending one princess redesign, I’ll just have to defend all of them. And since I’ve been called “more of a feminist than any girl I know,” (by a female mind you), I’m looking forward to this on multiple levels… haha…

I’m a man, I’m a man, I’m a man.

Wah.

Wah.

I don’t like being angry. So when I began my research this week, I was happy to find that the Disney Princess website is great fun. They have screenshots, backstories, videos telling girls how special they are. Games, dolls, dressing rooms for the most popular girls… you know, everything I could ever want. So obviously, I played around in the popular girls’ dressing rooms.

Why yes, ladies, I am single. Why do you ask?

Here's "Psychedelic Belle with magic whoopin' stick"...

Here’s “Psychedelic Belle with magic whoopin’ stick”…

"Pirate Cinderella attacked for fruit basket"...

“Pirate Cinderella attacked for fruit basket”…

And my masterpiece, "Tiana hidden by giant crocodile, censored frog."

And my masterpiece, “Tiana hidden by giant crocodile, censored frog.”

But while giggling uncontrollably, I became disappointed. I only had five princess options (Rapunzel and Ariel were the others, for the curious). Where is my Mulan? I want to invade the dressing room of the princess who pretended to be a man. Is that so wrong?

But then I clicked on Mulan’s pretty pretty homepage. What I found wasn’t Mulan.

It's an advertisement for Claire's.

It’s an advertisement for Claire’s.

Really, these representations are not fair to most of these characters. Sure you can warp the image of Snow White because she’s dumb as socks. Aurora spent most of her time slumbering and pining for men, so she’s not great either. And yeah, Ariel made a deal with the devil in order to get a man (at the price of her voice… a little on the nose there, Disney).

But what about Cinderella? She was downtrodden, right? Until the universe granted all her dreams, foremost of which was a man… oh. Wait, Belle! She’s inquisitive and booksmart, and people sing about how weird she is! Until she develops Stockholm syndrome… and stays in an abusive relationship… because she believes she can change the Beast… and does. Dammit. Pocahontas yeah not even gonna try.

"I love you. Please don't lead Europeans to kidnap me or wipe out my people. Pretty pretty please?"

“I love you. Please don’t lead Europeans to kidnap me or wipe out my people. Pretty pretty please?”

Let’s get a little more modern:

Mulan. Warrior (who, in the first scene of her film, is shown to be uncomfortable in the fancy garb OF A PRINCESS).

Tiana. Realized her dream of becoming a successful business owner. Not a princess.

Merida. Simply doesn’t give a shit.

My point? Disney has been trying to rectify the stereotype of their female leads. The inspirational videos on their pretty pretty website expressly state that any girl can be a princess. They show girls shooting arrows, racing go-karts, practicing judo… you know, not just drinking tea and pining for boys. They have that too, because some girls arethat way, to be real.

So why do all of their princesses end up looking the same? Does Disney believe all girls should end up in some cookie-cutter mold, probably while making cookies? Are they unaware of their adhesion to traditionalist values?

Maybe. But maybe it has less to do with societal impressionism and more to do with what really makes Disney churn out their shiny products: Money.

And not Disney money.

And not Disney money.

Outside of society questions or femininity discussions, could this simply be a business decision?

Let me pose a question. How much does doll manufacturing cost? Wouldn’t it be faster if you could have the same essential doll, paint it differently, drape it in different clothes and send it to be snatched off store shelves? And if you could do that, wouldn’t you?

See, I think the redesigned Merida was less a sign of messaging and more one of greed and product cohesion. They set the standard decades ago, and their new characters have to conform to the mold. Like literally, there’s a plastic mold in their factories.

It screams at the same pitch as messaging flaws, but what if it’s more complicated?

Wah.

Why is Pocahontas so fascinated by her wrist? And is Merida threatening her? … this is a drug party, isn’t it?

I’m not saying Merida’s pretty pretty redesign was a good thing. Frankly, the fact that public outcry changed Disney’s approach is pretty neat. There are enough people in the world who care that little girls get fed some pretty awful pop culture crap. It’s a good sign that things could change.

However, we should give Disney credit too. It’s a company, and will only do things when they get money out of it. If we don’t buy into their stereotypes, we can demand anything we want. The feminist movement (anyone can be anything) and the business world (cut out any differences we can) don’t merge well. Let’s give Disney credit for walking a pretty awkward tightrope. They’re doing their best, and they’re willing to change if we ask for it loud enough.

So let’s get some awesome new princesses. I for one want a mutant princess. Or a half dinosaur princess. Or maybe, like, a space cyborg princess who goes on adventures with nerdy bloggers. You know, something crazy.

And now let’s talk about the body image Disney imposes on young males…

No nipples, oddly shaped pectorals...

No nipples, oddly shaped pectorals…