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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Links and Updates

I usually write up a special post to mark the end of one year and the beginning of another, but between one thing or another, my goodbye to 2017 slipped past me this year. Kind of like the year itself.
The biggest change for me was that I finally got a job as a library assistant, and though it's only fixed term, I received the training and experience I need to hopefully make the leap to permanent position a little easier. It was a huge year in that respect, and it means I can finally start saving in earnest for a trip to Europe. Will I get there this year? Fingers crossed.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Woman of the Month: Princess Leia Organa


Princess/General Leia Organa from Star Wars
Sometimes these entries chose themselves, and I always knew that Princess Leia would end up the first Woman of the Month in 2018. With Carrie Fisher's last performance in The Last Jedi finally released in cinemas, it's a good time to look back at what this princess really meant to people.
I watched the original Star Wars trilogy when I was still young enough to take Leia for granted: the white robed, cinnamon bun hair-styled princess wasn't a feminist icon or a subversion of the distressed damsel – she simply was. It wasn't until I got much older that I realized how game-changing she really was.
When you strip away all the sci-fi trappings, Star Wars is essentially a fairy tale: there's an orphaned hero, an evil dark lord, a wise old wizard, a magical sword – and an imprisoned princess. But although Leia narratively embodied the role of a princess in terrible danger, she certainly didn't act like one. From the moment we see Darth Vader confront her on board Tantive IV, her spunk, self-possession and bravery is made clear.
As the trilogy continues, we discover her wit, her temper, her gentleness, and her leadership skills.
But if there's one thing that's always bugged me, it's when she's described as "a woman who didn't need rescuing." This completely ignores the fact that... um... yeah she did. The entire second act of A New Hope revolves around Luke and Han's liberation of her from the Death Star, and to say otherwise is to rob Leia of her vulnerability and the value of teamwork.
Luke gets her out of the cell, she gets them out of the corridor, and the droids get them out of the trash compactor. To deny Leia her need to be rescued is to ignore the secret of her appeal: that she's traditionally feminine and masculine; her own ying and yang. Here is a beautiful young woman in a white flowing dress and fantasy hairstyle who bosses the boys around, openly insults those who oppose her, and competently wields a blaster in her own defence.
The woman who sneers: "I recognized your foul stench coming off the elevator" at Governor Tarkin is the same as the one who gently talks down a jumpy Ewok by offering him something to eat. She's as tough as nails, but that doesn't rob her of kindness or vulnerability.
And then, thirty years later, we saw the return of Leia not as a princess but a general: still sharp, still in charge, but with an additional sadness to her. It's a mixed blessing every way you look: she lost her son to the Dark Side, but gained a surrogate son in Poe Dameron. She watched the New Republic fall, but carries hope into the future with a new generation of Rebels. She's suffered endless losses, but the fact she's still standing is a testimony to her equally endless strength.
And as divisive as The Last Jedi has proved to be, I don't think anyone could fault its final scene: Leia and Rey on board the Millennium Falcon, surrounded by a motley crew of rebels, pilots, droids and aliens that make up the last of the Resistance. Leia's final words on screen are directed as much to the audience as to Rey: "we have everything we need."
Thank you Princess, thank you General, thank you Carrie Fisher.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Reading/Watching Log #24

This is my final reading/watching post for the year, and there was a lot to get through: picture books, crime dramas, graphic novels, Norse mythology, Eighties horror, a couple of Christmas specials and an extremely divisive sci-fi blockbuster to cap it all off. 
Yes, I have seen The Last Jedi, but my review is going to be a while yet. I'm still processing the whole thing, and... well, have you seen the fandom? We're at the point where the slightest appreciation or negativity about the finished product will result in a screaming meltdown, and I really don't want to deal with that right now. 
But as they say, this is no longer the Golden Age of Television but the Diamond Age. There are so many astoundingly good shows out there to enjoy, filled with top-notch performances and high production values. The only problem is the sheer volume of it.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Women of the Year: A Retrospective

When it came to my viewing material in 2017, it was a year for feminist icons. I finished Xena Warrior Princess, revisited Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and got started on The X-Files, finally meeting Agent Dana Scully in the process. I was introduced to the likes of Laura Cereta, Ada Lovelace and Katherine Johnson. I watched The Handmaid's Tale and Still Star Crossed and Big Little Lies.
This year we saw women as Jedi, women as Star Fleet captains, a woman as the Doctor. We got Michael Burnham and Jessica Jones and Rosaline Capulet and Eleven. It was the year of Rose Tico, Phillipa Georgiou (however briefly) and the announcement of a live-action Mulan. A couple of days ago the trailer for an all-woman Ocean's Eight was dropped. We got Amazons and Valkyries and the Dora Milaje. It's like the universe has decided if we can't have a woman for President, we're damn well gonna get women as EVERYTHING ELSE.
Korra and Asami returned from their honeymoon holiday in deep canonical love. I discovered the wonderfully damaged-but-not-broken Dutch on Killjoys. Max not only survived the conclusion of Black Sails, but prospered. Orphan Black stuck the landing and gave its clones a beautiful send-off, filled with happiness and love and each other.
And of course, there's no ignoring the fact that TIME Person of the Year were the Silence Breakers who spoke up about the rampant sexual harassment culture in Hollywood and beyond.
That many of the above are women of colour is a vindication of my prediction at the end of 2016: that storytelling in all its forms would step up to the plate, that now more than ever artists from all over the world would recognise the true need for representation. It's far from perfect, and we can certainly keep doing better, but my inner optimist believes it's a solid step forward.
There were a few hiccups along the way. Two beautiful doctors, Veil from Into the Badlands and Claudine from Versailles fell to the Stuffed in the Fridge trope, killed off pointlessly to agonise and motivate their male counterparts. Kara Danvers on Supergirl found herself orbiting a black hole of a love interest. There were some complicated developments in The Last Jedi (don't worry, I'll get to that in good time). I'm still on the fence about Eleanor Guthrie's fate on Black Sails, but they did so well by almost all the other women on the show that I'm liable to give them a pass.
When you look at the bigger picture, I honestly believe things got better – and will keep getting better. So beyond my twelve women of each month, here are some of the other ladies that made an impression...

Monday, December 11, 2017

Star Wars: Final Thoughts

Final thoughts about The Last Jedi...
As stupid as it sounds, I'm genuinely anxious about this movie. There's so much I want from it, but a lot more that I don't want, and I've had at least one sleepless night worrying about it. Most of my concern has to do with a potential shift in focus, from a range of loveable and diverse heroes to a white male villain and his justification for genocide, patricide, fascism and torture.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Top Twelve Best Television Moments of 2017 (that I watched)

I saw a lot of stuff this year, and I'm happy to say that most of it was pretty damn good. It's true that we're living in the golden age of television, and whatever your preferred genre – crime, romance, fantasy, sci-fi, dystopia, adventure, period drama – there's plenty on offer to fit your specific tastes, all of it reaching incredibly high standards.
There was plenty of "much watch" stuff I didn't watch, such as the live-action Beauty and the Beast and the final season of Sherlock, and by all accounts I didn't miss much (I may get to them eventually, if not just to complain about them). But I try to keep this blog relatively upbeat, so below the cut you'll find twelve of the best moments of my television viewing year. Some are humorous, some are heart-warming, but all of them struck a nerve in one way or another.
They're not ranked in any order, though I've tried listing chronologically according to their airdates (to the best of my memory – if I'm wrong, don't bother correcting me as I don't care that much). I did however leave my number one favourite till last...

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Reading/Watching Log #23

This is being posted a day late, but I churned through a lot of stuff in November. As someone who doesn't going to the movies that much anymore, I ended up seeing three films this month, two of which were superhero flicks. There were also plenty of graphic novels, a lot of stuff set in the Eighties, the nearing completion of my "finish books series that you started" project, two re-watches, and a horror movie. I love 'em, but I'm kept awake all night afterwards.
Plus, I got TONS of stuff to say about Stranger Things.