Thursday, May 31, 2012

This Post Has No Title (For No Good Reason)


It's been a rough week. Which is substantially impressive, as it's only Wednesday. And tomorrow's Thursday.

I never did get the hang of Thursdays.
I've had a strange sense of deja vu given some serious family health problems that have occurred; I spent Easter in a hospital - not in the hospital myself, but visiting - and I spent Memorial Day the same way. That's caused a tremendous amount of worry and stress and I'm rather pissed off at the human body at being so fragile.

Also, I've decided that I am a boss building manager, but if I have to deal with the tenant who refuses to respond to texts and emails and then looks all snotty when I go to her door demanding information because if I don't find out where her rent is I will lose my job, I might punch her.

And if my brain decides one more time that it should interpret friendly advice and concern as harsh, serious critique and try to make mountains out of molehills, continuing to try to play another round of "me against the world" I shall be very, very upset. Just because, brain, you are the most important organ in the body (according to yourself) does not mean you have any right to psyche me out about everything. Seriously, stop being such a twat.

Oh my God, I'm arguing with my own brain. This is terrible. And it has nothing to do with fangirls.

Well, it kind of vaguely does. I'm a persistent fangirl in absolute, utter denial who obsesses over the strangest things in the oddest of combinations all while hiding it behind this "I understand things because I'm a psych major and I study culture and I'm not cool, because not being cool is cool. Except that I was not cool before not cool was cool so... I'm totally not cool."
If you haven't noticed, my mind is a box of cats right now. Oh God- I've made a Loki reference. That's a bit not good.

I'm making so many random references per second in this post, it's like I've just given up.
Yep. Brain a box of cats. Feeling like Sherlock Holmes. Arguing with my brain and not able to handle Thursdays. Real quality post, guys. Real quality post. (But great gifs of brilliant actors, that makes up for it, right?)

What was I saying? Oh, right, boxes of cats - my brain has gone from its usual slightly chaotic blended state to full out puree in the matter of a few days. How I long for the ease of Sunday afternoon, watching the Indy 500 with my dad and dying of heat on the deck while scrolling through Tumblr posts about the BAFTAS (because, even though I was doing it for "research," we all know I am utterly obsessed with Sherlock and that the more up front I am about my (pretty certainly irrational) passion for that show and *cough* a certain actor who stars in it, the less I will sound like a hypocritical doofus). Sunday seems such a simpler time after the stress Monday brought and the doubt I've placed in my own mind over the course of the past few days. And because my brain may be able to handle psychological terms and cultural texts, it's still pretty black and white when it comes to friendships and relationships (not entirely a bad thing, but not necessarily very good either). So when I begin to recognize my flaws and I hear them confirmed by others, part of me is tempted to think that there's something utterly wrong with me as a person, because God forbid anyone have a flaw (those italics are sarcasm. Just so you know. Because people have flaws, dammit. Why is that so hard for everyone - TOTALLY including me - to accept?).
The good news is I feel about 2 billion percent better after talking things over some quality G&Ts with my best friend and writing some really shit poetry (not after the G&Ts; the poetry came a couple days came before) (I don't care how good of a writer I might become someday, I will always write shit poetry. It's like Baudelaire and Avril Lavigne's lyrics had a love child that was raised solely on angst and bitterness. I have been tempted to post poetry on my other blog, but it's too cringe-worthy for me to even consider for more than half a second). The nice thing about writing shit poetry - it gets some rough feelings off your chest, and then you can move on. And then you're left contemplating  things slightly differently. I was thinking about when I get upset with someone, I tend to let things simmer under the surface, but then I cling to it, as only a grudge-holding Scorpio can, rather than letting it go. Perhaps if I fully embraced the problem and let it blow itself out, I wouldn't have such a slow burn under the surface.

Part of me knows that my loves and obsessions work in much the same way; I don't embrace them on a wide, spectacular level. I only admit them after someone else discovers it, or if I'm so passionate about it I can't contain myself. I try to keep things hidden beneath the surface, to not show how obsessed I am because I think it's inappropriate. But then I become more obsessed by trying NOT to be so obsessed. It's a total backfire.

This is where fangirls come in. Perhaps those fans that are really out front and vocal about their interests have a better time with it than I do. Those who post about it and discuss it more openly seem to have an easier, more accepting time with fandom. They can more easily see the good in it while I get distracted by those who take it too far and bring out the bad. I look to see the good but can only find the downfalls, and not because I don't believe in the good but because I fear the bad within myself. And it blurs my vision and highlights what I am unknowingly looking for. While I can easily say most fangirls are not stalkers or obsessive, jealous, jaded fans, it is harder to for me to really believe this when I fear that these same traits are playing out in my mind. I feel like this goes back to the legions of posts I did on body image: I can see the beauty in everyone but myself. I can see the good, noble fan in everyone but me. I'm trying to make things black and white (good traits, bad traits) where there's really a lot of grey. Hell, it's not even grey. It's a multifaceted prism of colors I can't even begin to identify.

In short, it's complicated.
Thanks, Jim. Thanks for that.

So, if you're still reading this after the unleashing of the box of cats, congratulations. Normally I'd post this sort of nonsense on my personal blog, but it fit here. And I was feeling exceptionally "I must write about my feelings" tonight.

I am making this all kinds of awkward. Alright, alright, I can tell when I need to just shut up and let it end for the night. But for one more added dose of weirdness, I give you this:

I can only imagine what people think when randomly coming across my blog. Oh boy...

Friday, May 25, 2012

Life Ruiners (and Cumberbitches)

You might have heard the term life ruiners before (you probably have. Unlike me, you probably learn about weird cultural quirks via people or other internet sources, instead of my method of basically spying on Tumblr. Really, I'm beginning to feel like a spy, a mole amidst their daily business. It's beginning to get weird). In case you haven't heard the term, Urban dictionary's definitions are rather interesting. Here's their first entry:

There you go. Pretty straight forward. You want it expressed musically? Okay, we can do that. It's kind of like this:

This is probably the weirdest usage of this song, but seriously, every time I see someone talking about life ruiners on Tumblr, this song pops into my head as the soundtrack. To sum up, in one way or another, someone (usually a famous actor) expresses some perception of perfection and thus, because said person is perfect and unattainable, you hate this fact and are perceived to take it out on them. It's also sort of like this. Or this. Or this:

(OMG, who thought of the Jack Harkness reference? CANNOT UNSEE). (Sorry, sorry, two of them are both about Cumberbatch. Not by choice - there's just a lot of people dubbing him a life ruiner frequently on Tumblr hemisphere I inhabit. I admit to a convenience sample, for you researchers keeping tabs). Where was I? Ah, yes. On first look, this whole life ruining thing makes no sense - one moment, a fangirl can be expressing their love for a certain actor and then expressing how much they hate them because they've given her unrealistic expectations for other men, caused her to spend copious amounts of time thinking about someone they don't even know, and overall ruining their lives. But Tumblr users have a different perception of this term of "life ruiners" (this post in particular referring to the lovely Tom Hiddleston):

Where I'm usually in the mindset of the blogger greenwanton here, apparently the word means exactly the opposite. It's actually a term of endearment.

Further discussion is given here:

Either this highlights my utter n00b status in the land of internet communication. Or the fact that things on the internet just don't make sense.

I'm confused by this whole thing. I wanted to say that this is kind of inappropriate, showing this hate for someone you otherwise admire. But now it's supposed to be a sort of endearment. Perhaps it just comes with the territory. I mean, having a Tumblr requires the learning of jargon; words like "ship," "canon," "OTP," and "YOLO" are pretty necessary to know if you want to make any sense out of most postings (for those of you who blissfully unaware of this jargon and have dedicated such brain space to something (some would deem) far more useful, "ship" is short for relationship and refers to the act of pairing two characters from a show, movie, etc together in a relationship; canon means it's generally accepted idea or theme or law in fan culture; OTP is short for one true paring, and YOLO is you only live once. Unless you're Jack Harkness. And the Doctor. And Rory. And apparently Sherlock Holmes (look I'm just coming off the Reichenbach falls here. My mind is still boggled and flipping through all the possibilities of how the hell Season 3 is going to work out. I've already admitted defeat, but it's fun nonetheless. I look forward to your brilliant plot twists, Misters Moffat and Gatiss)).

Obviously, "life ruiners" is working as a sort of jargon. But it still bothers me. At some level, some fan girls probably actually feel that their lives have been ruined by their obsessions with actors/shows/what have you. While they're likely in the minority, it's what is represented, even by fangirls themselves. Not all fangirls are like this, thank you very much:
You know what's weird? In order to find a picture like this, I had to search for Twilight fangirls. They have a reputation of being really extreme and photos like this further reinforce this. Now I have met some pretty hardcore Twilight fans - noting one who ACTUALLY wants to name her child Reneesme - but why is it so much easier to find these sort of reactions for Twilight than other fandoms? Does Twilight just have crazier fans - or at least a higher concentration? (Extraordinary claims need extraordinary measures, any statistics prof will tell you.) Are there just more documentations of these sort of fans because the fandom is so popular and well-known? Do these sort of reactions take other forms in fandoms (such as text posts rather than photographs)?

The thing is, we don't really know what's going on in this photograph. It's linked to post-Twilight depression but there's no actual source for the pic. For all we know, this girl just saw Twilight and couldn't believe that film wasn't a comedy (fun fact: I laughed through the entire thing. For many reasons, but greatly in part because of its interpretation of American public school. Really, that's what some people think high school is like? Really? That and High School Musical has made it look like a freaking amusement park (which, in case you haven't noticed, I'm some degree bitter about. Because it's really not)). This is a probably unlikely explanation, but, you know, it's possible.
This comes up when I Google women. Fuck you, Google Images.

The thing is, lots of things get attributed to what fangirls are like. They're supposed to be crazy, angsty, obsessive, unlucky at love... well, you can fill in the blanks yourself. I think one reason I've brought up feminism so much on this blog is because a lot of the assumptions that are made about women echo those about fangirls. There's this urge to peg women into certain types - femmy, athletic, nerdy, bitchy, money hungry, MILFS, on and on and on. And there's a similar vein for fangirls. You're  super obsessed, or nerdy, or happily enraptured, or whatever other facet you can think of. But then there's "normal;" the outside, the un-obsessed, the lucky people who are "mainstream" society.

"Normal." You know, I need a psych tangent right now. As a tortured psych-cultural studies scholar (two fields that pair wonderfully together but really, really don't get along), I've really grown to hate this word. Who decides what's normal? We do. As a society, we just mark off boundaries of what is acceptable and what's not. Sometimes it's for good (Murder? Never going to be okay. Good thing). Sometimes it's not so good ( "Everyone should tan because it's awesome" = bad). Sometimes it's really bad ("Homosexuality? Mental disorder!" = so bad psychology may never live this one down. Seriously, this was in the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, AKA what psychologist use to define mental disorders, until the 1970s). I don't like where normal  sometimes takes us. So I'm becoming increasingly wary of it and trying to not use it as much as possible (which is so hard to do; it's such a common word; hell, it's a "normal" word. Ugh). However, a music therapist who I heard guest lecture this year said something really cool about normal; he said that while writing lyrics with some of his patients, they came up with the line, "Normal is just a cycle on my washing machine." And it is.

Okay, okay, reining myself in from my psych tangent, my point is, normal is not so easily defined - just like fangirls, just like women, just like humans. There is no right way to be, there is no one way or the other, there isn't even a bunch of correct options. THERE ARE THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS. There are things wonderful and shortcoming about all of them.


Sorry, I love my caps lock too much.

I began this blog wondering if these assumptions about fangirls had any validity, mainly because I saw things like life ruiners expressed so frequently online. And from what I've seen so far, it's kind of a mixed bag. Stereotypes have to stem from some sort of truth and so there are people online who are highly obsessed or angsty or unlucky at love (in all the multitudes of definitions those words carry with them) but it seems highly unlikely that too many people are all of this at once.

But is there an urge to peg oneself in this way because it's accepted as "the norm?" Do even "outgroups" like fangirls have a "normal" level? Often I see things reblogged about how it's the "rules of Tumblr" to do certain things. Is there an sense that certain behavior is expected because, well, it's the internet?

Yeah, probably, to some extent. I mean, there are obviously things that are not okay (being a royal douche and saying totally hurtful things). There are somethings that are cool (general fandom stuff) and there things that are highly encouraged (reblogging certain posts, making Mean Girls references, no matter how obscure). It's an online community; there are going to be certain trends. But to what extent are these trends reoccurring because people just want to fit in? At what point does your original opinion dissolve and you begin just going along with the flow, adapting to what's around you because it seems to be the norm?

I'm not trying to make Tumblr sound like some crazy conformist mechanism (it probably is somewhat conformist, in certain facets, but again - I don't think that's the main influence of it; I don't think there is one main influence overall). But there are ways I think it neutralizes your reactions to things. I mean, when I first got my account, I was shocked by how fan culture sexualizes their reactions to photos or gifs of actors. Now I've gotten used to it (although I still haven't decided whether it's a great leap for an acceptance of sexuality or if it's demeaning to the people being idolized. Probably both).

One thing that I have not gotten used to (and this will finally take us back to the idea of Tumblr jargon) is the nickname some Benedict Cumberbatch fangirls have given themselves: Cumberbitches. It may be witty. It may be clever. It may sound cute. But I still don't like it. 

It's just so degrading. For all parties involved. Yes, it's showing your loyalty and your support, but don't you think there's better ways of showing that than using a demeaning term that captures and supports the oversexualized, obsessive qualities that people stereotype fangirls with and use to dangerously idolize actors. You could argue that it's some sort of reclamation of language. You could argue that the power is in what it doesn't say - that these girls are smart and clever and kind (which they are; they seem an incredibly saavy intelligent group in many ways) and thus defying stereotypes through using stereotypes, you could argue that I'm a snooty academic and I have no business spouting my opinion on what's wrong or right (there's truth to that).

But I just don't like. I can't even make myself like it. It sounds demeaning to me. And I can't get away from it.

Apparently I'm not the only one who's not terribly fond of it. I heard rumors on Tumblr that Mr. Cumberbatch himself was not exactly a fan and I was able to track down the video where it came from (it's at about 3:40; unless you want to watch the whole thing, which I recommend - it's a great interview). But even here Cumberbatch is incredibly graceful about the whole thing, still showing his appreciation for his fans even when what they do worries him.

Which is a far sight more astute than my "I DON'T LIKE IT" whines (which is really what I feel like I'm doing). But in my defense, maybe I'm allowed some whining after Googling Cumberbitches and coming across things like... well, things I'm hesitant to post but am doing so only because I can't describe them:
Really? Gang banging? Under what circumstances is that EVER okay? Philoso-raptor, how dare you.

And this one (which just makes me cringe over and over and over):

And now I begin to see how I adapt to things on Tumblr. Calling someone a life ruiner jokingly, affectionately, suddenly no longer seems like a big deal. Why make a mountain out of a molehill when people mean this seriously, when a fangirl seriously dislikes a celebrity just because they're dating someone, another woman that the fangirl then demeans?

Of course, you could play devil's advocate and say, "Well, they have a right to their opinion; who are you to say they're wrong?" This is 100% true. But does anyone else get this ugly clenching feeling in their stomach when they see something like this? Doesn't it just feel harmful on some level? There's a difference between stating an opinion and harming someone in the process and I believe no opinion should actually harm. I happen to feel this one crosses the line. And considering that this image, the philoso-raptor, and a bunch of pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch were the only things that came up when I Googled "Cumberbitches," this sadly set the precedent. Because while Cumberbitches may have multitudes of diversity, pegging themselves under one term that carries with it a certain amount of associations allows for them easily to be encompassed in representations like this. One small opinion is blown out of proportion and comes to represent a whole, a whole that becomes faceless because due representation isn't given. Fangirls might be their own sort of minority and in my opinion they're getting - and in some ways giving - themselves a bad rap.

This is an immensely long post, one I didn't mean to stretch on for this length. But I feel it needs said. I don't want fangirls to be a faceless mass; I want them to be linked, to be a community, but I think it should be recognized that each person is unique. They are more than a faceless mass screaming their heads off at premieres and I hope that others - and themselves - see that. And really, I this is more the vibe I get from fangirls:

Not that I should be trying to peg in and define fangirls either; but I hope that this is different from simply defining. I hope it presents a more diverse, varied portrait. But I worry that I'm just painting another picture, trying to show an opposite, an antithesis, when there is far, far more in between. Basically...
You and me both, Sherlock. You and me both.

See, I shouldn't blog when it gets late. I get all wibbly-wobbly and confused. But then, fangirls are complicated. I think it's very wibbly-wobbly (timey-wimey). But for now, I'm going to grapple with my morality somewhere else - and leave you with this very mind-bending crossover:

Cannibalism. We just went there. Oh boy... (but I'm not going to lie; when I saw this in the movie, I couldn't believe the hedgehog coincidence. Boy, the world is weird).

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Save Undershaw!

Today is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's birthday. In conjunction with that, there is a movement online today to bring attention to Undershaw, the home that Conan Doyle designed, lived in, and wrote many of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Unfortunately, his home has fallen into disrepair and is considered being torn down and replaced with a town home complex. Like any good Sherlockian, this infuriates me.
If you have the chance, please watch the above video and check out the Facebook page supporting the Save Undershaw movement. Tomorrow is the final day for the High Court to decide the fate of Undershaw and, while I'm rather late getting around to this, please sign the petition and help raise awareness about it. I know, I know, you've got like twelve hours, really I'm sorry, I'm such a twat (doesn't help that I'm on the other side of the pond, either). But imagine if this were Mark Twain's childhood home or Earnest Hemmingway's house; what would it be like for those of use who are Americans to see such iconic sights threatened by townhouses? (Coming from a girl who grew up in suburbia, I think we have enough goddamned townhouses). Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is one of the most incredible writers and influential people I know of in British culture and Western culture in general. So save Undershaw! Martin Freeman wants you to.

Actually, he probably does and I'm not just trying to bribe you this time. But I can at least guarantee that Mark Gatiss wants you to Save Undershaw:

And this guy:

C'mon, give that mustache some love. Save Undershaw!

Of Bloggers and Blogging
So, whilst I was looking for photos of Martin Freeman (because, I mean, who doesn't look for photos of Martin Freeman? The man is ridiculously charming), I stumbled across this blog, namely this post: I cannot express to you how happy this post makes me. Why? Maybe because it calls Martin Freeman a "sexy little hobbit." Maybe because it likens John Watson to Jesus. Maybe because it made me laugh so hard I nearly fell over, more than once.

Because Google linked me to ALL of the posts tagged under Martin Freeman on this blog, I began reading more of them (which you can find here: (Personally I really love So You Think You're Dating Sherlock Holmes and Why Did I Like Sherlock Holmes (so goddamned much)? - because I realized I'm not the only one who thought of The Princess Bride during "Study in Pink." Thank God.)

What did cheeky clever writers do before blogging? Especially ones interested in British TV shows and movies (there seems to be a high correlation in cheekiness and an interest in such things. Perhaps due to an affection for English humor). I think too often I take for granted the accessibility I have to wonderful, intelligent websites right at my fingertips. And the fact that my blog is apparently considered one of those.

Blogger has this nifty little feature that allows you to see the statistics of your blog, such as what searches are linked to it, what countries are reading it, and what posts have the most views. The other day I realized one website in particular was giving me a bunch of page views. So I looked up and this is what I found:

I don't even know what to say. Seriously. I spent an hour after I found it waving my hands around and expressing my utter shock and elation like Craig Ferguson (here, I'll give you a visual example:
Yep, exactly).

This writer liked my blog. And, she liked my blog enough to write about it on her blog.

Wow. Wow wow wow. Words cannot express my gratitude. To be included in such a clever post is stunning and very, very appreciated. Thank you so, so much.
But clearly I have some rather large shoes to fill and some high expectations to keep. So back to work! There are posts to read, culture to study, hedgehogs to be gushed over. Like this one:


Friday, May 18, 2012

The Liking of the Sherlocks

After getting frozen yogurt the other evening with my roommate, Sarah, we were walking back to our apartment and somehow I got to talking about Sherlock. I began commiserating that I didn't know anyone who liked the show when Sarah said, "I like it. I never said I didn't." "Oh...," I replied, astonished. I mean, Sarah watches the show with me; she's never expressed any dissatisfaction with it. But she never out-right said, Thor-like, "This show. I like it. ANOTHER!" Or, in non-Avengers terms, Sarah did not express her views on the show the way I do, which consists of me getting all giddy about it and telling anyone who stands still long enough how fabulous it is. Because Sarah doesn't love the show the way I do, I assumed she didn't like it at all.

Rookie mistake.

I think I stumbled upon an inherent trait of many fangirls, fandoms, and lovers of any cult TV show or movie. It's a sort of "us against the world" mentality, where because shows like Sherlock, Doctor Who, Supernatural, Firefly, etc are not super popular - either because they're British imports, sci-fi/fantasy (which carry with them a certain about of stigma), or both. They don't fit the traditional examples of American television (such as sitcoms and procedural dramas) either in the characterization, writing, or the way the show is presented in general (ex: the show Community experiments with different styles of storytelling instead of doing each episode the same, Sherlock has a short season of 3 episodes, each episode being 90 minutes in length, and Lost did crazy things like having a black cloud of God-knows-what and a polar bear on a tropical island). In one way or another, conventions are broken and the shows are thus relegated to a status of "other" or dubbed as cult shows. When talking about the show, one compensates for its status as something "other" and begins to see things in black and white - either you love it, or you don't. There is no middle ground of just liking it. It's either fierce admiration or loathing. And if you loath it, prepare for a shit storm.

Even while this is totally absurd, as I am totally guilty of doing this, as shown above. While I am not a huge fan of Firefly and I just causally like it, it did not cross my mind that Sarah would have the same sort of association with Sherlock. Also, I have this rather bad habit of assuming people won't like the same things I like - for personal reasons - and also from reinforcement of this in both fandoms and in society. As I've iterated in other posts on body image, society isn't always so good at reinforcing confidence. In television viewing, when networks cancel shows that are near and dear to our heart, we might take this as a personal affront. If this happens more than once, then you start to feel... well, a bit ostracized.

There's a sort of reflex to this reaction of thinking people won't like it because, well, we're told by critics and by the Neilson ratings that people don't like it. We then feel the need to protect it passionately. And we simply forget that people may not be as passionate as us because they don't feel as invested and/or threatened. There is, of course, an inherent problem with this - the Neilson rating system is crap. So, you monitor some random people's TV and they tell you what's popular and thus what people want to watch? I'm sure that worked better before convergence technology when people DVR and watch online or watch on their iPhones or watch illegally by some internet means (I am one of the few people of my generation who does not torrent. Partly because I don't know how and partly because I am positive the moment I do it, the FBI will catch me. Hey, I started watching MegaVideo and they shut that down right after. I'm not taking any chances). Now I think the Neilson ratings just exist to make network executives feel better instead of trying to accept that technology has changed greatly and that the "public interest" is even harder to define than it was before.

But they still base their "keeper" shows of Neislon ratings and thus awesome shows suffer. Sarah is a huge Heroes fan and thanks to its "unpopular" cult status, it was ended prematurely. I watched the CW show The Legend of the Seeker when I started college and was crushed when it was cut off after two short seasons. 30 Rock is in its last season and I celebrated when I heard Parks and Recreation was renewed for another season.

But wait, you might be saying. 30 Rock? Parks and Recreation? How are these cult shows?
Well, they don't operate like your traditional sitcom. Yes, sitcoms are expected to work a certain way, as they don't, they are given cult status. And, according to the Neilson ratings, they along with Community are not popular. And they happen to have a little more depth than your average sitcom (like Two and a Half Men) (but that's only my opinion). The thing with cult shows is they aren't so rare anymore. What's really popular right now? Downton Abbey, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Sherlock (3.2 million viewers with its premiere. I am far too excited about this). ALL CULT SHOWS.

So you'd think with the growing popularity of these sorts of shows, we'd be able to chill out and accept that they more people watch them and that there are going to be varying degrees of interest in them. And yet I still made a totally humiliating mistake regarding a person I know very well (I mean, fuck, I live with her). Why?

Because it's very easy to assume. Very, very, very easy. People still assume cults shows and fandoms are not to be taken seriously. When in fact they are everywhere. We also tend to assume that everyone knows about these shows and either cares or doesn't. Which is unfair. Because there are LOADS of shows on TV and it's very easy to be overwhelmed and not know what's going on. And so, perhaps the assumption that someone doesn't like a show because they don't react to a mention of it is unfair simply because they haven't heard of it. But there's that added problem of reflexive protection. If someone hasn't heard of it, we suddenly feel the need to express how great the show is to compensate for any differing opinion. This reflex can be dangerous.

As I am a bit of a Sherlockian (and by a bit, I'm rabidly obsessed and can trace the beginning of my love for the cultural icon back to The Great Mouse Detective which I saw when I was three. Seriously, I blame Disney), I have grown rather interested in the development of another Sherlockian TV show, this one entitled Elementary. This one features Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller, who starred (oddly enough) with Benedict Cumberbatch in a stage adaptation of Frankenstein and who was in the film (talking about cult classics) Trainspotting (yes, he played Sick Boy in Trainspotting. THIS MAKES MY LIFE. SORRY, I MUST FANGIRL ABOUT THIS. I LOVE THIS MOVIE AND NOW ITS LIKE EVERYTHING I LOVE IN THE UNIVERSE IS TIED TOGETHER BY A HANDFUL OF BRITISH ACTORS. AND KEVIN BACON). Of course, now that another adaption of Holmes is going to hit the airwaves, there are some... well, debates taking place. This website makes it sound like the two shows are going to have an actual smack down, WWE style (and it also makes it sound like American TV is once more trying to compensate for something. Thanks, guys, keep telling us all of our programming sucks. Because that's really reassuring when we've got so much of it. (I like that American TV is thought to be crappy when shows like Mad Men and Modern Family have captivated so many viewers. Note to self: talk about this more elsewhere. As in not a tangent in a tangent)). Fans on Tumblr are voicing their hate for it, saying its totally riding on the coattails of Sherlock. People are hating on Lucy Liu. People are hating on Steven Moffat, creator of Sherlock, in showing distaste for Elementary and for the numerous other things people like to hate on Moffat for. People are just in general hating.

And Elementary hasn't even premiered yet. See the dangers of protective reflexes?

I, again, am guilty of this hate. When I first heard about Elementary months ago, I was pretty peeved, mainly because I have some major CBS qualms (which run roughly around my dislike for Two and a Half Men, CSI Miami, the utter unnecessary revival of Hawaii Five-O, and CBS's indifference to the awesomeness that is Craig Ferguson). But the more I hear about it, the more curious I am. I mean, every adaption of Holmes has been different. We've gone from cartoon mice to drug-using Sherlock portrayed by Rupert Everett to steam-punkish Guy Ritchie films to deductions in Modern London, and I've enjoyed them all. Why not try something else? I was watching the special features on my copy of the film Atonement the other day and the author of the book, Ian McEwan, was describing how adapting a book into a film is just one person's interpretation of the book, that everyone has a different view and thus there are millions of different screenplays that could be made off of one book alone. Sherlock Holmes has four novels and 56 short stories. Imagine the possibilities.

Of course, there is a certain attachment to the versions of things that line up with our perceptions. I happen to love Sherlock because it does such a smashing job of portraying the characters just as I've always imagined them (or as close as one can realistically come). That doesn't mean I don't like other interpretations of Holmes; I just happen to like this one best (that I've seen; I should qualify that. I haven't seen Jeremy Brett and I know I am missing out on something utterly spectacular). But I can see how some fans would get very attached to the interpretation they like best and not want something, as they see, meddling with it. I, for one, have a really hard time dealing with all the versions of Jane Eyre (FYI, my favorite novel) as they all do things rights but they always have something lacking and then I have to reconcile which does it closest to what I have stored up in my mind (generally, for me what's missing is the cross-dressing scene. Okay, this is a painfully irrelevant tangent, but I don't care. One of my favorite scenes in the entire book is a part where Mr. Rochester dresses in drag as an old gypsy woman in order to gauge how Jane will talk about him and Blanche Ingram without him being present. This is a brilliant, brilliant scene, and not in any adaption I've seen. So, film makers, if you absolutely feel the need to remake this film AGAIN, do me a favor and at least include this part. 'kay, thanks). (OMG, WAIT - IT IS IN A FILM VERSION FROM 1973. Still different than the book, but I like that Jane knows it's Rochester (because, I mean, really; how wouldn't you?):

I gotta check this film this out).

Okay, so after that gross tangent, where was I? Oh yeah, difficulties with adaptions. The more there are, the harder it is to choose which is best. But why does there have to be a best? Can't they all be good in their own right? Sure, but the whole premise of fandoms seems to be in choosing one thing over something else. And if you love all the different interpretations, then it's just a huge mess. The entire point of fandoms would be gone.


Did you know this is an emoticon in Gmail? This is absolutely not relevant at all this but I felt the need to use it. Mainly because it actually works in Blogger and it makes me happy. And because I have no nice, neat little ending for this post. Sorry.

And I just realized Jeremy Brett was in My Fair Lady. JESUS CHRIST EVERYTHING I LOVE IS SERIOUSLY RELATED. Sorry, there is a copious amount of caps locks and fangirling in this post. But I enjoy expressing emotion through the use of caps locks. Sorry if it seems like I'm shouting at you; I really just mean it as ways of stressing a point of showing excitement. But we cant talk about the of font and typing later. So, as I have absolutely no sweet, sane way of ending this, I will end with a song. One that, once again, links two things I love together. Gerry Rafferty, thank you.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

More Stuff on Body Image and Beauty and... Stuff

Sorry for the ridiculously vague title. But it's been over a week without working on a post here and I'm feeling guilty. Though I did just have finals. And a 21st birthday bash to attend, in which I finally found a drink I dislike, which pleases me as I was starting to worry that I could drink just about anything (it's the J├Ągerbomb, if you're curious, and it is the most foul concoction I have ever let myself drink). And now that I've been busy, my ideas of gotten kind of stale, and I can't remember exactly the direction I was heading for some of these posts. So this one is going to be... well, pretty garbled.

Two weekends ago, my roommate and I went out for a few drinks after seeing The Avengers. While sipping Guinnesses at a table in a very empty pub, a couple of men walked up and asked if they could sit with us. After my roommate politely declined their addition, they decided to sit at a table where they ogled us until we finished our beers and left. I was certainly booking it out of the pub a lot faster than necessary and my roommate inquired about my uncomfortableness, to which I responded rather curtly about not enjoying being objectified. Which spurred yet another interesting conversation about body image. So, with your indulgence, here's another post on just that.
I'm not used to people staring at me. I've always been rather invisible, unnoticed, obscured. But in the past few years, that's changed. Comments are made (some of them rather lecherous), looks are given, and more often than not, I am made incredibly uncomfortable by them. There are varied reasons for the uncomfortableness, depending on the situation - the comments are actually sexist and rude, I'm slightly socially awkward, or men coming on to me sometimes flat about makes me uncomfortable because I am totally not used to it. But an overall theme is this, as I realized while talking to my roommate: I am not used to thinking of myself as physically attractive. And any attention payed by men, I honestly revert to this rational of thinking: it doesn't matter what I look like, all he sees is an object of pleasure.

My roommate pointed out, however, is that there is a different way of approaching this: yes, the guy may be ogling you. But you are attractive, irregardless of what is going through his mind. You have the choice to let it bother you or to turn it around and take it as a compliment. Perhaps it is better to be seen than ignored, for at least when you are seen there is a struggle for power taking place. And as my roommate said, the power is in your hands - you have the upper hand. Let him look; he's not going to have you, is her rationale. Better to take it as a compliment and sashay away than feel used. If we're going to have to play the game, we might as well bend the rules in our favor.
But sometimes "the male gaze" as it's known in cinema leaves no ability for the rules to be bent. Sometimes it leaves the individuals it's looking at in a position that has no upper hand. Take for instance the idea of beauty. I full well know that how I see beauty is not how the general public does - or at least how the general public is perceived to. I don't care much for lots of make-up; it makes me feel like I'm wearing a mask (and it takes sooooooo long to put it on if you're going with the whole concealer-blush-mascara-smoky eyes routine or whatever it is they outline in magazines). I never used to wear any make-up at all in high school. I try not to correlate that with the number of boys who talked to me, versus now when I wear a little eyeliner and sometimes concealer. Despite my whole "I am beautiful no matter what" assertion, I still wear make-up. I want to wear make-up; I like how I look with a little eye pencil and lip stick. What then? Am I doing this because I really want to, or am I just fulfilling what society expects? Would I ever, ever consider going on a date or to a show without any make-up at all? What's so attractive about wearing make-up, anyway?

And now I have no idea if I really have the upper hand or not.

Because we're going down this road, check out this post I saw reblogged on Tumblr by my roommate's sister. This goes back to the idea of being able to see beauty in others - in this case, people who are considered to be "beautiful" as deemed by society's current landmarks - but not seeing it in oneself because one doesn't look like them. And so it seems really fabulous and ridiculously easy for them to say that everyone's beautiful when it seems they themselves don't have to worry about their looks. But I'd disagree. I'd say people who are considered beautiful worry about their looks as much as anyone else - perhaps out of fear of losing them. I've honestly never met anyone who doesn't show some sense of dislike or worry about how they look. While we argue in psychology that too much self-esteem and self-confidence can hurt you, I honestly think this is a non-issue; I've never met someone with too much self-esteem or too much self-confidence. Not to say it doesn't exist. But it seems like a terrible distractor when trying to discuss why so many people can look in the mirror and be utterly unsatisfied.

Then maybe there's another devil's advocate edge to this. Maybe being unsatisfied is good; because looks don't really matter in the end anyway. That's not to say you shouldn't care about your health or anything like that; I just mean maybe we should be focusing more on the whole us instead of just the surface. Which is, of course, easier said than done. Because what's the whole us anyway? We're still centered around this Cartesian split between the mind and body and it's hard to combine the two back together. And even then, what does that mean? Would we still continue to see ourselves as just a body and a mind? How do we perceive a whole "us?" Who bloody knows?

Before I spend anymore time fathoming these impossible questions, I'm going to switch gears to another instance of body image discussion. Mainly, this quote from Benedict Cumberbatch which comes from this interview:
I mean, in Hollywood as well, the sanest, smartest people I know are beholden to the body image, to the f—ing aging shit. Of course we’re visual vessels to portray characters and tell stories, so of course people are going to want to see their better reflection or someone who’s dazzling or stunning or attractive. But it’s great when people like Charlize Theron can have “an ugly moment.” Then when people say, “it was just ‘unbeautifying’ her — that’s why she got the Oscar,” I just want to get up and punch them. Not only was it an incredible performance in “Monster” and a really unattractive character in “Young Adult,” where she was extraordinary, but she’s proven that actresses can have more than a shelf life, that they can have careers dependent on where they are and who they are at any given time in their life, not trying to maintain the idealized youth thing.
Three cheers for brilliant people being brilliant. Really nothing to add to that; I'll let his words speak for themselves.

And speaking of Monsieur Cumberbatch, Tumblr is packed to the gills today of photos of said actor on the beach, shirtless and in board shorts. And while I scan the bloggers gushing over his body (gushing in all honesty I am not exempt from; guilty as charged) I find myself going back to where I started this wayward post - staring at people. Something Tumblr users are very good at. There are obviously huge differences between a man staring at a woman and a woman staring at a man. And there are differences between staring at an image and staring at an actual person (something Baudrillard would strongly emphasize, I'm sure). And, as my roommate, some degree of ogling is necessary because... well, because we're human beings that feel sexual attraction and that's how it goes. But I feel vastly uncomfortable when I realize I am ogling photos online. Not so much with photo shoots, those are created in the interest of the ogler (epic win, ogler is actually a word). But more so with candid photos, paparazzi shots, images taken by fans. Along with the general issues of the paparazzi, these sort of photos just seem too invasive and sort of... well, real. Yes, yes, Baudrillard, you would condemn me for further blurring the line between representation and reality; I know. But Baudrillard needs to step out of the equation for a moment if I want to figure out any way to deal with this:

Oy. Puns.

If I wasn't already under the presumptions that Tumblr has provided regarding the fact that Cumberbatch doesn't understand why people see him as so attractive or that he doesn't sound like the flaunting sort, I'd still doubt the accuracy of this showbiz tidbit. For one, from the photos I've seen, I don't really perceive any flaunting. He's just chilling out on the beach; it's not like he's become "The Situation" or something (okay, that's the second time I have mentioned "The Situation" and Cumberbatch in the same post. Weird). And secondly, have you ever been to the beach and been like, "You know, it's so warm and sunny, I think I'm just going to curl up under this parka and roast like a marshmallow instead of wearing a swimsuit"? I was in Florida for spring break; it was 80 degrees in March and wearing anything heavier than shorts and a tank top was unbearable. Of course he's topless - it's the beach (and why the word choice of topless instead of shirtless? It's socially acceptable for men to not wear shirts last time I checked). I mean, really, tabloid writers?
And then I was reminded of this post I saw the other day, in which a very clever fan comments on Cumberbatch's disregard for a tabloid poll that voted him the sexiest man alive, a disregard that the fan presumes stems from his focus on work, not fame. Because, at the end of the day, acting is a job - a marvelous and brilliant one, but a job none the less. And the fan asserts that Cumberbatch is not interested in the parties or the glamour or the fame, it's about the work of acting, the passion and skills it takes to become another person on stage or on screen.

After reading this, I had a sort of epiphany - how often do I hear about an actor's appearance or how they regard their appearance, rather than their actual careers or skills or what makes their performance styles different from other actors? The Oscars are more focused on what the stars are wearing then what their performances in the nominated films comprises. Shows like Entertainment Tonight are nothing but the fame and glamour of celebrity life. Some magazines do a really good job of showing actors as more than just pretty faces with awesome lives but when it comes down to the  base impression of the average actor that exists in society, I think it's a rather shallow, image-based one rather than one that fails to take into account the immense amount of training and skill necessary get where they are.

And when it comes down to it, while some might take Mr. Cumberbatch's comments about his own appearance as cruelly self-depreciating or signs of low self-esteem, maybe it's really something more akin to a dismissal of something that doesn't bear worrying about. There was a post I came across the other day but has since disappeared into the maelstrom that is the constant flux of Tumblr, seemingly a quote from Cumberbatch himself. (Yes, yes, I have no actual source for this. I'm taking all of this form the word of a blogger on Tumblr about someone I've never met and know very little about. This is all kinds of weird and has many opportunities to be misconstrued. But I'm going to take the blogger's word for it). Roughly, it was something along the lines of Cumberbatch stating that looks aren't something to worry about, as they can't be changed and, as an actor, they're often manipulated for the sake of a role. Mentioned was the fact that he has actual scars from the make-up and prosthetics worn as the Creature in the stage version of Frankenstein. Let me repeat that just in case it isn't clear: HE HAS ACTUAL SCARS FROM UNDERTAKING THE ROLE OF THE CREATURE.
Now that is devotion.

And now I'm back to where I was in a previous post, trying to figure out how to define beauty (how do I always get myself into these impossible discussions?) while juggling the idea that everyone is beautiful, looks aren't the most important thing in the world, and yet the aesthetic appearance of people is how we generally perceive beauty. Thus I am reminded of this charming tidbit from Roald Dahl's The Twits:

Dear God, I loved this book when I was younger (why past tense? I still love it). I happen to think this is rather true. But I also find truth in the following:

Can both of these things be true? Why not? Beauty, like anything subjective, can be anything you want it to be. There is no one definition for it - in fact, there shouldn't be. At least it is certainly more than make-up ads and rejuvenating skin creams. Perhaps, most of all, I hope it includes something like this:

So I'm going to leave this discussion of beauty here, because I could carry this on until the end of time. For sticking it out through this long, winding post (that not so subtly expresses my fanaticism for Senore Cumberbatch), I reward you with this little Easter egg I came across the other day:

THERE IS A WORD THAT SPECIFICALLY DESCRIBES HEDGEHOGS. I love the English language. (But be careful, Martin Freeman. I have a feeling you are going to be seeing much more of this word.)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I Believe in Sherlock Holmes: Sherlockian Fandom Then & Now
I came across this article today:  I Believe in Sherlock Holmes: Sherlockian Fandom Then & Now

If you have any interest in the Sherlock fandom, fandoms in general, cultural studies, or are a living, breathing, sentient being, I recommend reading it. Seriously. This author is doing what I wish I had the ability to do (but am lacking the finesse and training). It's well-written, it's interesting, it brilliantly looks at fandoms as something more than just a goofy cultural quirk, and it makes me feel a hell of a lot less alone on my weird little iceberg of academically studying things people don't take very seriously.

So yeah. Read it. Trust me; it's worth it.
If I told you Martin Freeman wanted you to read it, would you do it? Okay, Martin Freeman wants you to read it.*

* The opinions expressed on this blog in no way reflect the actual opinions of Mr. Martin Freeman. They are inherently the author's and as said author has no personal affiliation with Mr. Freeman, the above statement is henceforth an utter fabrication. Thank you for noticing this notice. Your noticing it has been noted.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Please Don't Feed the Dust Bunnies

I believe I have briefly alluded to my job on here, but not in very much detail (as it generally doesn't relate to my usual meanderings). In fact, I think the way in which I have described it was something like this:

Let me explain: I don't wear a bison hat and float around in laundry basket on my job. However, it often feels this way. I'm the assistant building manager at the apartment building I live in. Here's a quick synopsis: it's an old brownstone that used to be a hotel in the 1940s. My roommate (the main building manager) and I are in charge of maintaining... well, everything: from changing light bulbs to fixing minor repairs to calling people to come out and fix major problems to giving people tours when the new lease season rolls around to cleaning each unit when people move out. Have I been in water up to my ankles, bailing out someone's bathroom when the water main burst? Yep. Have I inhaled concrete dust while cleaning out the boiler room because it hadn't been cleaned in God knows when? Yes. Have I felt the not-so-subtle sexism of someone's uncertainty that I can do my job because I'm a woman? Yes. It is not the most pleasant of jobs. But dammit, when it comes down to it, I like it. It's not something most people would want to do or even choose to do. Yet I've gathered skills from business management to home repair to just flat-out communication skills. And I don't think you've truly lived until you've cleaned the hair and dust and dirt from a vacuum cleaner's filter with your bare hands (which is exactly how I spent my morning, thank you very much).

We had a tenant unexpectedly move out this morning and the state of her studio apartment was not so good (please, please, PLEASE tenants of the world: when you leave your unit, for God's sake CLEAN. Most buildings hire cleaning crews but after having to clean units by myself, by hand, I would not wish it on anyone. And wipe down the inside of the fridge; you know when you spilled milk in there and I don't; when I have to clean up the solidified, spoiled substance that's taken on a yellowish tinge in the bottom of the fridge, remember it's coming from your security deposit). So I spent part of the day cleaning her unit, finding stuff she (or perhaps even a previous tenant) had left behind and feeling... well, generally odd. I don't know if you've ever cleaned a living space that wasn't your own, but it has a very weird vibe to it. It's like a detective, going through someone's stuff, except in reverse; you're finding what they left behind and trying to remove any trace it was ever there at all. It's incredibly bizarre. Anyway, I'm trying to occupy my mind with something and I end up thinking about celebrity homes and who the hell cleans them. Because this sure as hell doesn't clean itself:

So, being curious, I did some research. Once I got past articles about "spring cleaning" by celebrities (meaning their homes are for sale and we are to yearn after them, fruitlessly wishing we could own Kim Kardashian's mansions; or so the journalists entice us to yearn) and some story about two guys pulling a prank about installing gutters at celebrity homes, I finally found this site, which describes "household managers," "executive housekeepers," and "laundry specialists." Creepy, and not entirely helpful. And there was nothing much after that... something about the X Factor "cleaning house," and various celebrities "cleaning up their act." And that was it. It's still a mystery. But I have a hunch who does it and why I can't find a damn thing about it.

In the United States, most janitorial staff these days are minority populations or immigrants. The last time I stayed at a hotel, I noticed that nearly all of the women who cleaned the rooms were Hispanic, or of African or Middle Eastern descent. This is the norm now; this is how it would be if you were to hire a maid for your own home, and this is how I imagine it is for celebrity homes as well.

And yet here I am, doing work that isn't too different from theirs, except that I have the cushy, incredibly fortunate benefit of being in school at the same time. I, presumably, won't have to do this sort of work for the rest of my life. But I was thinking about this work and how I'm qualified at something I'll likely never use - namely knowing what to clean in another person's place. It takes an eye for detail, it really does, and you have to think about things that might often be missed that collect dust - the tops of doors and door jams, the woodwork around the edge of rooms, the top of the fridge. I feel like I've accomplished something when I leave an apartment utterly clean. But it's different for me; I don't do this every day of my life. And I most likely won't have to after I get my degree.

It's this strange quandary for me, having a management position that requires blue collar work while I simultaneously read Baudelaire and Baudrillard while the people running my university hire their homes to be cleaned by the same people who's jobs and lives I've been pondering. It's this suddenly apparent illustration of class that puts me in a strange position. I'm middle-class, in college, white, female. But I'm doing work that most people would scoff at. And yet I'm curious to know what it would be like to work in the hotel industry or in a hostel, changing sheets and cleaning toilets. Or what it would be like to clean the floors and windows of Brad Pitt and Angelina Joli's home. And yet I also want to know what it's like to be immersed in such wealth. To know how people can wear shoes that cost more than my entire wardrobe combined (and then some). And how these two extremes can exist at the same time, in the same place.

These shoes cost £920,000. Seriously.
Sometimes, when I get to thinking about things like this, I realize how utterly bizarre the world is.

And this simultaneously makes it better and worse.