Three’s Company Too

Today I want to talk about polyships! Polyships deal with polyamory, where more than two people are dating each other at the same time. This is a little different than polygamy, where one person is married to multiple people (usually one man with several wives, like in the Mormon religion) or open relationships (which usually imply two people who are in a committed relationship, but permit each other to see other people outside of the relationship). Polyamory connotates three or more people seeing each other.* If you want to learn more about about polyamory, I suggest watching the movie Professor Marston and the Wonder Women–it’s about the man who created Wonder Woman, his wife, and their life partner.

(*Note, my definitions of these terms may not agree with other people’s, as everyone defines their relationships differently.)

So I want to talk about a few OT3s of mine, and I have to first bring up Sense8, that wonderful Netflix show that is a freaking love letter to the LGBTQ+ community. (Spoilers ahead.) There are two throuples (couples involving three people instead of two) in the show. Lito and Hernando were a gay couple (Lito identifies as homosexual, but Hernando’s sexuality is never specified, so he could be gay, bi, or pansexual), but they end up bringing a woman into their relationship, Lito’s coworker Daniela. She at first just wants protection from her abusive ex-boyfriend, but she eventually becomes a special part of Lito and Hernando’s relationship, and they form a family.

The other polyship was a bit of a surprise. Kala’s storyline was set up as a classic love triangle story. Even though she is in an marriage to Rajan, she is clearly in love with Wolfgang. Her arc is set up to lead the viewer to believe that she will ultimately leave Rajan for Wolfgang. But in the series finale, Kala is torn between Wolfgang and Rajan, whom she also ends up loving. And even though you would think Rajan and Wolfgang would be rivals and hate each other, they get along quite well. In the end, they decide to just Kala have both of them, and Wolfgang and Rajan actually end up loving each other as well. It was one of my favorite parts of Sense8.

So my first ever polyship was Steve Rogers (Captain America), Bucky Barnes, and Peggy Carter, from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I headcanon all three characters as bisexual, and I think both Peggy and Bucky are great for Steve. And I think that over time, Peggy and Bucky could love each other too. They would all bring something to the table if they were in a relationship: Peggy, her strength; Steve, his loyalty; and Bucky, his sensitivity.

…and the sex would be amazing.

My most recent polyship, however, is from Wynonna Earp–that is, the titular Wynonna, Agent Xavier Dolls, and Doc Holliday (yes, THAT Doc Holliday). They’re another trio of bisexuals, according to me. It’s clear from the beginning that both Dolls and Doc absolutely adore Wynonna. And even though they hate each other at first, Doc and Dolls grow close and form a special bond. Even though all three of them are rough and tumble demon hunters, there is a special tenderness in the way they interact with each other. (MAJOR SPOILER) And when Dolls dies, Doc is just as broken up as Wynonna–which just proves he loved Dolls as much as she did. (Plus their ship name is the Ghost River Triangle, how perfect is that?)

So that’s my little tribute to polyamory and the awesome ships they produce. Let’s give them three cheers! (Pun intended.) -TRL

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Where Is My Monster Girlfriend?

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I’ve been thinking about this ever since Lindsay Ellis put out this video (which is awesome, I highly recommend it) on the history of monster romances. Beauty and the Beast narratives are a long and time-honored tradition of story telling, and was most recently repeated by Guillermo del Toro with the Oscar winning The Shape Of Water. In stories like this, the dynamic is nearly always the same: unconventionally unhandsome monster man and conventionally pretty human woman fall in love. But it got me wondering: where are the monster girlfriends?

Let’s take a look at Greek mythology, at one of the first monster ladies: Medusa. According to the account by the Greek poet Ovid, Medusa was once a beautiful woman who caught the attention of the god of the sea, Poseidon. Poseidon took Medusa in Athena’s temple, and as punishment, Athena turned Medusa into a hideous monster whose ugliness would freeze mortals on sight. (Which is kind of BS, considering Medusa was the victim of rape and clearly Poseidon was the asshole here, but…that’s another discussion.) Medusa does not get a happy ending; she is beheaded by the Greek hero Perseus.

In more modern days, the female monsters you encounter are usually found in horror. They are not the Romantic, sympathetic heroes; they are the horrifying killers that crawl out of your TV set or attack campers in the woods or they burn down the prom. And even then, characters like Samara and Carrie White are still humanoid. They’re not really beasts per se. Mermaids and sirens are creatures, but they’re usually portrayed as beautiful and magnetic as they lure men to their deaths.

Usually, when the B&B narrative is reversed, the woman isn’t a monster at all. The reason she’s unloved is because of some shallow aspect of society. Usually it’s because she’s fat. Or she’s a nerd. Or she’s a tomboy.

I’ve noticed a huge difference in how male monsters are portrayed vs female monsters, and how their stories resolve. The male monsters are nearly always flawed yet lovable, and female monsters are always vengeful and evil…and most are still attractive. See, there’s this drive to appeal to the male gaze that looms over all of cinema. The women must be beautiful whenever possible. Which is why stories about truly ugly yet sympathetic (maybe even lovable) female monsters have yet to be produced. Ugliness in men can always be forgiven; in women, it cannot.

Disney is the most egregious campaigner for this way of thinking. They have a real problem with ugly women being heroic and beautiful women being villains. In Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, the evil Queen (who is fairly pretty) takes on the persona of an ugly hag to commit murder. When Disney adapted the fairy tale of the Snow Queen, they changed the story drastically. In the original story, the Snow Queen was the villain, and a beautiful woman to boot. In Frozen, the Snow Queen is a troubled, pretty anti-villain, and her sister is the true hero of the story. In Moana, Te Fiti has to turn into a scary lava monster before antagonizing Moana and Maui.

But of course, the best example is Ursula from The Little Mermaid. Disney made absolutely sure this woman couldn’t be considered attractive by making her fat and masculine.

(And this is not to say that fat women or masculine women can’t be attractive. I’m not saying that personally. I’m saying that this is how mainstream (male) filmmakers think. They make these decisions based on what convention deems to be beautiful: that is young, thin, and feminine. There’s a reason we haven’t had a fat Disney princess yet.)

So what I’m saying is, we see stories about women loving male beasts all the time, because society seems to view women as less shallow and more open-minded. But what about stories where men love female monsters? Well…I can only think of one off the top of my head: Cyberwoman.

“Cyberwoman” was an early episode of Torchwood, a spinoff of Doctor Who (it’s kind of like X-Files). The members of Torchwood find out one of them has been harboring a half converted Cyberwoman because she was his girlfriend before she got turned into a cyborg. And it’s the dumbest, most female-objectifying episode of anything I’ve ever seen. The Cyberwoman is basically a regular looking beautiful woman except that she’s in a metal bikini and wearing Cyberman headphones. She’s even got high-heeled silver platform boots. It’s…it’s so dumb.

Anyway, she ends up losing her mind and going on a murder rampage. She has to be killed twice before the episode is over.

And that how it always ends, doesn’t it? Where male monsters are always treated with sympathy and are redeemed, female monsters get axed. A prince turned furry beast gets the chance to earn the love of a beautiful woman and is saved in the end, while a poor girl who never asked to get raped and transformed into a gorgon has her head chopped off. There are no monster girlfriends. In fiction–in society–if a woman doesn’t have sex appeal, what’s the point of saving her? ~TRL

Don’t Let Boys Be Mean To You

My mother is a huge doormat.

Growing up, she always impressed upon me the importance of forgiveness, whether or not the party in the wrong deserves it–or even wants it. It’s no wonder that she stayed married to the same abusive man (my father) for 17 years until he died or why she was willing to let me suffer the daily torment of bullying until I was on the verge of suicide at age 13.

But that’s our burden as women: having to excuse bad behavior. Because if we don’t, when we speak up against the ones who are doing us wrong, we’re labeled as bitches, or that we’re too sensitive, or that we can’t take a joke, or maybe it’s that time of the month. Either way, our legitimately hurt feelings are just labeled as us being overly emotional, and are dismissed. And that’s wrong.

I had a bunch of guy “friends” in school, most of which thought it was hilarious to tease me and insult me nearly to the point of tears. I took their harassment and belittlement, because I knew if I protested, I would be considered too much of a girl to hang with the big boys. When I was 17, I once asked myself why I hated spending time with my friends. At age 21, I now realize they were never my friends in the first place.

But I’ve realized that no matter what friendships you think you’re losing, you have to stand up for yourself. You can’t just let bad behavior slide because “boys will be boys”. Boys will never develop empathy or compassion until we make them listen to us. So if someone is making you feel upset or comfortable, speak up. If you can see that your friend is being hurt by someone else’s words, don’t just laugh along with their abuser. We’ve been letting boys be mean to us just for the sake of getting them to like us for far too long, and it’s completely unacceptable. ~TRL

Our Last Day Of Freedom

The Internet is a great place, isn’t it? On the Internet, a Swedish kid with a webcam can pretend to be scared by video games and make an assload of money for every 10 minute video he cranks out onto YouTube. You can connect with anyone on the globe who has a computer, whatever pornography you want is probably somewhere out there, and a surly autistic white girl like myself can rant about TV shows till the cows come home.

For the poor and oppressed of America, the Internet was our land of milk and honey. In a world where money speaks louder than real human voices, a free platform like this was the only real way that we stood a chance to be heard. But no more.

Today is the end of the free Internet.

If you’ve been on the Internet for longer than a week, you’ve probably heard of net neutrality. And today marks the FCC’s repeal of it. Essentially, this gives big Internet service providers like Comcast and Time Warner the power to regulate their customers’ access to the Internet. Before today, all Internet services and websites were equally accessible thanks to net neutrality.

What does this mean for you, dear reader? Well, say you have a Netflix account. But say that your Internet provider has their own streaming service that they want to push onto their customers. They now have the power to slow your Netflix service down to the point of not being able to use it…unless of course, you pay extra for access to it. Think of it as a cable company selling you channel packages…except on the Internet instead of satellite TV.

This is capitalist greed at its finest. Politicians and big corporations do supervillain team ups like this all the time. A free idea exchange like the Internet is a threat to a totalitarian like Donald Trump. So he and his administration would do anything to shut us up. Like…getting in bed with big businesses that can manipulate the system and squeeze money out of their customers if certain restrictions on their power are removed.

Although weirdly enough, Chancellor Tiny Hands isn’t the culprit this time (at least, not directly). The man responsible for the repeal of net neutrality is a stocksucking reject character from The Big Bang Theory named Ajit Pai. He is currently the chairman of the FCC (put into that position by guess who?). Pai cares more about cozying up to ISP fat cats and his stupid fucking giant Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups novelty mug than the American people’s right to fair access to information, and the right to share it.

This isn’t just about the ability for bleeding heart feminazi Marxists like me getting to bitch about…whatever. This concerns everyone. From the college grad student doing research for their dissertation, from the unemployed stoner watching porn in their mom’s basement. This is just one more way your government is stealing your voice. We all need to prepare ourselves for a new age in America. Because this could be our last day of freedom. ~TRL

13 Months After 13 Reasons Why

Warning for discussions of sensitive material ahead, including suicide and rape.

(You see, Netflix? That’s what you’re supposed to do. Put a trigger warning beforehand.)

Hey, it’s Catherine. Catherine, the Red Lady. That’s right. Don’t adjust your…whatever device you’re reading this on. It’s me, live on the internet. No return engagements, no encore. And this time, absolutely no requests. Get a snack. Settle in. ‘Cause I’m about to tell you why 13 Reasons Why is garbage.

I read 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher in high school. I knew going in that it was about a girl who commits suicide and then leaves behind a series of cassette tapes (what is this, 1994?) narrating why she killed herself, and why her classmates are to blame.

I wasn’t greatly affected by the book because a), I already knew what was coming, and b) I wasn’t suicidal in high school. Depressed, yes, suicidal, no. I didn’t really think much of the book to be totally honest. It was about Stephanie Meyer level prose. Just milquetoast teen melodrama.

Then about a year and a half ago I learned that that book I read in high school was getting its own Netflix series. And I remember thinking to myself, this could potentially be very bad. Suicide is a touchy subject for most people. That’s not to say there should be a taboo on the subject. I think a certain amount of healthy discussion can actually help prevent suicide. It’s all in how you handle it. The important thing is to show suicidal people the consequences of committing such an act, without glorifying suicide or shaming those who might be contemplating it–as if suicidal people don’t have enough to feel bad about. It can be a tenuous feat, which is why most people don’t even touch it. Between glorification and victim shaming, I’m sad to say that 13 Reasons Why succeeds in doing both.

It’s been roughly 13 months since the first season debuted on Netflix, so I think now is a fitting time to discuss it, especially since a second season is in the making why??? Why would they do this?????.

Everyone’s hot take on 13RW is that it’s suicide glorification…which is true. Hannah Baker leaves a suicide note behind for the express purpose of inflicting guilt on everyone she felt had wronged her. Suicide isn’t about other people. Suicides are singular events. People kill themselves because they truly feel they have nothing to live for. They aren’t thinking about revenge or how sad everyone will be about their deaths as they do the deed. They’re just thinking about how everything will finally stop, and maybe there will finally be peace.

Even though it’s mostly Hannah’s point of view guiding the audience through the flashbacks, it’s a boy named Clay who is the narrator. He was in love with Hannah, and only sees her as this guileless cinnamon roll who was too good, too pure for this world™️. Since the two main points of views come from the victim herself and the guy who was blindingly in love with her, of course Hannah’s death is going to feel romanticized.

But at the same time, 13RW also manages to shame suicidal people as well. It paints suicide victims as pathetic and vengeful, as people just seeking attention. Hannah’s tapes torture the people she talks about on them, and then she ensured those tapes were distributed. Not to her parents, who might be horrified to learn of what their daughter went through in that last year but at least they could make sense of this horrendous tragedy and not wonder forever if it was their fault…but to the people Hannah deemed responsible for her death. The backstabbing friends, the slut-shamers, the rapist, and the dismissive counselor. And also Clay; for some reason Hannah decided to torture him for 10 tapes or so before finally revealing that he wasn’t to blame because he was actually really nice to her. And then there’s the contingency that if the tapes are properly listened to and shared, an ally of Hannah’s was going to make sure the tapes went public. It was very clear that this girl was seeking revenge, not peace.

…oh yeah, and all the obvious ones, like the graphic rape scenes and Hannah slitting her wrists onscreen (in the book, she just takes pills, but I guess that doesn’t have any shock value), but everyone else has already covered that.

Look, I appreciate what Selena Gomez and the creators of this show were trying to do. Suicide and depression are serious topics, especially for teenagers, so they made a show specifically targeted at teens to dissuade them from killing themselves. But like the book, this series didn’t have anything poignant to say on the subject. It was essentially thirteen hours of angst and violence porn that only caused an upsurge in teen suicide rates. I haven’t heard of anyone who was comforted by watching the show–only traumatized or further depressed by it. I don’t know that there’s a positive way to portray suicide…but this definitely isn’t it.

And I beg of you, if you are contemplating suicide, consider this your sign not to. Talk to someone. If there’s not a counselor or someone close to you you can open to, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (America): 1-800-273-8255. Or if you’re not American, go look up the hotline for your own country. Because speaking as someone who has been depressed for years and feels as though surviving each day is an uphill battle, believe me when I say: there is always something worth living for. ~TRL

(PS, I wasn’t serious about that “no return engagements” thing, that was just a joke. I’m still going to make posts on here. That is, if I’m still able to if and after Congress repeals net neutrality.)

Neo-existential Nihilism On The Rise…In Cinema

Existentialism is a pretty ubiquitous term, as my History of Theatre professor once said to me. Essentially existentialism is the examination of the individual and how their own free will shapes the path that their life will take. This is going on the idea that there is no grand scheme or cosmic force that affects the universe or its events. An existential crisis may lead the individual to ask the questions, “What makes life meaningful? Does life mean anything at all?”

Well, a nihilist would say “no”. The word nihilism literally comes from the Latin word meaning “nothing”. A nihilist rejects all conception of intrinsic value in life and existence. There is no meaning to life, so why even try to seek it? Why bother with anything if there’s no point to living?

Take Sherlock. In the beginning, the show seemed like a fun modern imagining about a socially inept detective and his everyman best friend solving crimes and righting wrongs. But at some point…the story changed. By the last season, Sherlock and John were no longer solving crimes. It seemed like all their characters seemed to exist for was to suffer. It was no longer a story with a definite beginning, middle, and end, but just a montage of pain and suffering. It’s like the writers didn’t give a shit anymore about telling a story or honoring the original material. They just wanted to squeeze their money’s worth out of teenage girls in love with Burberry Cumbercooch’s lizard face. The writers presented these mysteries, like how Sherlock survived falling from atop a tall building, or where it was all leading with Moriarty, only to laugh in the viewers’ faces for daring to care about the story in the first place.

Or better yet, look at Star Wars. The original trilogy is a masterpiece in story telling. The reveal of Luke Skywalker being Darth Vader’s son is revered as the most amazing plot twist in cinematic history. People became enchanted with this idea that stories could be clever and tie together in ways you would’ve never seen coming but make perfect sense once the answer is revealed. But the new movie, The Last Jedi, seems to spit on one of the core reasons the original movies were so beloved. The makers knew that people would be speculating about Rey’s origins, because her character was purposely made mysterious to get you wondering about her, only to tell the audience that Rey’s parents are nobodies. There’s no grand plan, it’s just nothing, and the makers think you’re stupid for picking up on clues specifically put there for you, and for trying to solve a mystery when there never really was one in the first place.

Oscar Wilde once said “life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” And nothing has proven him more right than this new age of social numbness, what I call neo-existential nihilism. It seems like humanity is caught in a backwards slide, losing more and more of our empathy day by day. A giant halfwitted bigot is running the United States, Congress is doing nothing to stop him, there’s a new hate crime or school shooting every week, and the only people who seem to give a damn about standing up to it is high school students–the same ones who are getting slaughtered. We live in a time when we care more about getting to own guns than the lives of children. It’s an idea that sounds like it belongs in a gritty dystopian society YA novel, but it’s not. It’s our horrifying reality now. Did we really, as a people, become so disenfranchised with our own species because of Columbine, and 9/11, and all of humanity’s other atrocities, that we lost the ability…to care?

Love Is The Answer (Feminist Media)

A Wrinkle In Time was one of my favorite books as a child. So when I first saw the trailer for the Disney adaptation, I was eager to see it. Meg Murry was just like me: wore glasses, self-deprecating, stubborn, misunderstood, and angry with a world that devalued her. So I was excited to finally see her save the day on the big screen.

What I wasn’t expecting was to burst into tears as Meg angrily declared to the monster that she was flawed, but regardless, she deserved to be loved–a message that 14 year old me really needed to hear. Hell, that’s a message 21 year old me needed to hear.

Less than a year ago, another woman-empowerment movie, Wonder Woman, also directed by a woman and also starring Chris Pine funnily enough, came out. Both movies tell the story of powerful women who fight monsters that are portents for humanity’s inner darkness. At the end of the movie, Diana says that “only love can save the world”, meaning that we must spread love for one another to fight hatred and violence, but A Wrinkle In Time teaches a different but equally important lesson: we must also love ourselves.

This is an important lesson to show young women, especially girls of color. Girls are taught from a young age that they’re automatically in competition with each other, that they must be skinny, dress like mini-fashion models, that they must smile and swallow their anger. Girls of color are especially impressed upon to be more like white girls. Meg’s naturally curly hair is a reoccurring topic in the movie. She ties it up at school because she’s embarrassed that’s not sleek and straight, and when the IT shows her her ideal self, her hair is straightened like the popular girl from school.

And society is rough on teenage girls. They mock their YA books, their music, their makeup, their UGG boots, their pumpkin spice lattes. And from as young as age 12, men are already sexualizing these young women, yet teenage girls who want to explore their sexuality are labeled as sluts. So a movie with a girl who saves the day by something as simple as appreciating who she is is a refreshing take on adolescent girlhood. And note, once Meg had learned to love herself, the first thing she does is show kindness to the girl who had bullied her at the beginning of the movie, who we see is suffering as much insecurity as Meg herself.

Diana said, “It’s not about deserve. It’s about you believe in. And I believe in love.” Well, Meg Murry shows us there is one person who deserves our love: ourselves. Because our love for ourselves will spark love for others. And only love can truly save the world. ~TRL