Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Where did that come from...

So within a handful of minutes of logging on, I saw a ton of posts about this whole Martin Freeman is racist thing on my Tumblr dashboard.

Really? This article is from 2008. I just stumbled across it because of that "I hate Martin Freeman" blog I found and was utterly confused as to why they think he's a racist. And now people are all up at arms about it again and hating on each other and totally throwing off the love train that Tumblr very often can be. Dammit.
Is it weird that I feel guilty? I am a total pro at feeling responsible for things I had absolutely nothing to do with. My timing is just... weird. It's weird.

So I'm going to sweat to death in my un-air conditioned apartment, log off Tumblr, and wallow in my weirdness.

I think I need that judging picture again...

Yep, that's the one. Molto bene.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

So, coming off my extreme hate for Christian Grey making men look bad, I thought I'd shift gears and talk about something fantastic and brilliant. Namely Martin Freeman.
This blog post began as an analysis of this post on Tumblr. I thought I had somehow uncovered proof that Martin Freeman might be one of the few actors who receives no hate about his appearance and is protected by a magical shield of rainbows, kittens, and jam (or something cute and protective; I don't know, use your imagination) that keeps would-be Googlers from inquiring about his love life, relationships, and attractiveness.

But then I came across this Tumblr post and I felt an inkling of doubt. "Wait, people call Martin Freeman chubby?" I pondered. My reaction: You know that part of Love Actually where someone in the Prime Minister's Cabinet has just called his secretary chubby and Hugh Grant's character - the Prime Minister - says, "Ooh, would we call her chubby?" THAT is my reaction. Sorry, can't seem to find a clip or a gif of it, so my lame description will have to do. But here's Hugh Grant dancing instead:

Okay, back to our regularly scheduled Martin Freeman.

And then I found this, the mother-lode. The super-potent blog of Martin Freeman hate. I didn't really know how to react. I was stuck at this for a while:
And then this:
And then, as per usual, I sighed and told myself to get over it. Because it's the internet and people have the right to their opinions (though that doesn't mean they have the right to be rude and rub it in other people's faces). And if you're going to call someone rude, fat, and racist, then you'd better has some damn good reason for doing so, and not because this all seems to stem from the fact that you can't stand Martin Freeman playing John Watson and seem to get pleasure out of hating one him.

But I just can't quite get over my initial shock. Because I mean, why would you say these things about anyone? Famous, infamous, average Joe - doesn't matter. I can't think of any situation where saying these things would be okay. And while most of it is subjective (Freeman's performance as Watson, his appearance) other parts are really... strange. Like the repetitive insistence that Benedict Cumberbatch hates Martin Freeman (unless you're Cumberbatch or Freeman, I'm pretty certain it'd be impossible to know this) and that Freeman is a racist. Okay, so can't confirm the friends thing. But I CAN look up the stuff about the racism.

I found this Tumblr post on it and, from there, tracked down this article where the posted comment came from. Okay, okay, I can see why people think his comments on multiculturalism might come across as racist. But I'm not convinced that's exactly the case.

This article is from the Daily Mail. Yeah, this Daily Mail. I don't pretend to be an expert on journalism (actually, that's a lie; I totally do - I've been writing journalistically since I was ten and have been a pompous know-it-all about it ever since; blame my father) but this looks like one of the least legit news websites I've ever come across. And upon Googling "The Daily Mail" I found this article: Daily Mail has a pernicious, lying agenda, says Jon Snow: Murdoch titles are not the only wrong-doers, veteran broadcaster tells Leveson Inquiry. Ah. Now we're getting somewhere. So Murdoch owns the Daily Mail. Why am I am not surprised?

A screen shot of The Daily Mail's home page as of 3:40 pm CT today. I like that Kim Kardashian is a leading headline.
For those of you who may not be up to date on the Rupert Murdoch scandal (as I was until recently), Murdoch is the owner of the world's second largest media conglomerate (he also, Americans might know, owns Fox News Channel. Fun fact for the day). He's come under attack for the international phone hacking scandal, in which his papers were responsible for hacking phones and bribing politicians, celebrities, and members of the British Royal family, all in the pursuit of a story.

So, I can't say I, a would-be journalist, hold The Daily Mail to a very positive esteem. If the best you've got to call Martin Freeman racist is this interview, then I'm finding your allegation rather lacking. (Besides, the article is rather hard to read. It just seems rather poorly organized and I'm confused by the quotations marks - when is the author quoting Freeman or quoting Freeman quoting someone else? It's a bit bewildering. And, can I ask why under one of the photos, the reporter finds it necessary to say: Freeman rarely uses computers and doesn't drive a car. Really? That's important? Also, the dude makes a movie with Gwyneth Paltrow and it's more important that he gets to snog her and that he can't drive than what sort of acting performance he's giving? Methinks this articles priorities might be a tad bit off. )

What I'm implying from all of this is that The Daily Mail's interviewing accuracy and reliability seem a bit...dubious. I am unlikely to base an actor's entire reputation on one interview they do. Quotations could be taken out of context. Explanations could have been dumbed down or cut out all together. There is something incoherent about the article and that's often due to how the interview was pieced together as a printed text. I don't know Martin Freeman so I can't speak for him; maybe he really said what was printed exactly as he said it. And even then, his comments don't read as really racist to me. He has a point about multiculturalism polarizing people; if we become too focused on differences more than similarities, it can cause more harm than good; but, as he says, differences should be recognized and colorblindness is no good. At least that's how I read it - well, after read it over a few times. Seriously, I think it's the article; it took me several read-throughs just to figure out what was being said.
But again; I'm not Martin Freeman; I can't speak for him. He doesn't strike me as racist but maybe he has an opinion you disagree with him on. Maybe you don't like how he phrases things. God forbid he make mistakes and be imperfect and human. (You know what this blog is turning into? Fangirl analysis, feminism (and more feminism), and celebrity endorsement. I think I can deal with that.) Considering a lot of this is coming from a questionable Tumblr blog, I'm not terribly convinced of any of these rumors. I have heard these allegations mentioned elsewhere, but I never see anyone explain WHY (much like the rumors about Michael Fassbender being abusive, which I didn't know much about until I read the hyperlinked source. If you want to read a great post that doesn't call him a prick or say the ex-girlfriend is an opportunistic bitch (like most blogs about the allegations do), READ THIS. It's good at getting into the fact that we just don't know and shouldn't feed the rumor mills and trolls.)

So, long story short - don't know, can't know, so I'm going to focus on what I do know (and get out of some of the really heavy shit for a few minutes): Martin Freeman is damned good actor.

Okay, okay, so I've seen a pathetically small amount of his work. But from what I HAVE seen, I like it. A lot. And considering I cried tears of joy when I saw the trailer for The Hobbit in the theater this weekend, I'm pretty sure that movies going to bloody brilliant (yes, I cried. I'd already seen the trailer but I wasn't expecting to see it before Brave and BAM there it was. And I had an embarrassing fangirly moment of absolute giddy joy. I'm sorry; I have serious hobbit feels.)
Much like Benedict Cumberbatch, I don't know much about Martin Freeman because Googling info about him seems weird and bizarre and slightly creepy. So other than reading over his filmography on IMDb and from what Tumblr informs me or links me to, I don't know much about the man. Which is a damn shame, but I feel like such a creep Googling people (dude, finding stuff about the Fassbender allegations was causing me physical pain; if it wasn't for the good of human kind, I wouldn't have done it). Now that I've admitted that I'm the worst researcher and fangirl in the world, let's get back to highlighting why I like Freeman from the scant things I know.

He, like Cumberbatch and Hiddleston, appreciates the fans. And his girlfriend, Amanda Abbington, is also very appreciative (as highlighted in the link) and also pretty BAMF (seriously, read this interview with the Baker Street Babes. I don't care what the Martin Freeman hater has to say about her; she seems to legitimately care about the fans, which is pretty fantastic. I mean, we're not always so easy to love, sending weird fan letters and creating pornographic fan art (which they are fully aware of - and appreciate), and doing exceedingly strange things in the name of art and fandom. So their interaction with the fan community is really inspiring and considerate.
Also, Martin Freeman really loves records. For some reason, that makes me ridiculously happy (probably because records are boss and I'd love to have a turntable. Where I'd put it in my tiny, tiny apartment I have no clue. But just to listen to some Nina Simone and Frank Sinatra and Kansas on vinyl....ooh, that's be sooooo great.)

 And, because I'm getting rather silly here, I really love this picture:
Mr. Freeman, your feet don't reach the ground. According to IMDb, he's 5'6''. YOU'RE STILL TALLER THAN ME, MR. FREEMAN. YOU'RE STILL TALL IN MY MIND. (No, seriously, I'm 5'2". I suspect that I'm part hobbit (and a secret ginger, based on the ludicrously bad sunburn I got this weekend. I HAVE BLISTERS FOR THE LOVE OF GOD)). Point is, I like that Martin Freeman is "short" for an actor. We should be bros, Mr. Freeman. We can commiserate about being short and then I can stand next you and you'll look tall. Seriously. (I was at the Saloon's block party for Minneapolis Pride this weekend and the shortest man I saw there was STILL TALLER THAN ME (which he took great happiness in). I spent the night hanging out with my friends Kevin and Zach and two of Zach's friends and they are all six feet or taller and I realized how short I am. But I love it. It makes me feel graceful and tiny, two things I totally never usually feel. But I totally digress...)

So, there you go; some Martin Freeman appreciation after all this time (since this blog is named from him, after all). It's interesting me (and maybe this is my blogging bias) but I have a harder time coming across posts (especially text posts) linking to interviews and quotes from him. He likes his privacy so maybe that's why. But back to the opening of this post, I see a lot about Hiddleston and Cumberbatch's looks and a lot of stuff about Freeman looking like a hedgehog or being made out of kittens and rage. Once in a while I'll stumble across something that talks about him being attractive or cute... but the rhetoric feels different. Why is Martin Freeman cute and Benedict Cumberbatch sexy? Why am just asking this now, when I was going to try to wrap this post up?! Well, I'll consider that for next time...

And now that we're at the end, I've decided to refrain from ending with a picture of hedgehogs that look like Martin Freeman because... well, Martin Freeman is not a hedgehog. But here's something far more ridiculous: rabbits that look like me.

Yeah, that's a bit of a stretch...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Why I Hate 50 Shades of Grey, Part 2

So I finished 50 Shades of Grey.

(This song kind of sums up my feelings whilst reading the book.)

In case you were wondering, my previous opinions still hold. However, I'm going to try to talk about the book as a whole and not to go on a furious, tangent-filled rant, citing every sentence that bothers me (because there would be a lot and this post would never end) (and of course, I've just jinxed myself and that's exactly what's going to happen now). Word of forewarning, I am going to talk about sex. Because there's a shit-ton of it in this damned book (it is erotica, after all). Don't say I didn't warn you if it makes you uncomfortable.

1) The "virgin problem": In the section shortly after where I had stopped reading before I wrote my first post, the ever charming Christian Grey gives Ana a lot of shit for not telling him right off the bat that she'd never slept with anyone before. Instead of realizing he assumed something, Christian snaps at her and says virgin "like it's a really dirty word."
"And a nice young man hasn't swept you off your feet? I just don't understand. You're twenty-one, nearly twenty-two. You're beautiful." (109)
He's implying that he can't believe someone of Ana's age and appearance hasn't been "swept off her feet" yet because Christian Grey is a normative asshole (wow, can you tell I'm taking too many classes about gender and ideology right now?) What does it matter if she hasn't had sex yet? What's the "problem" if this relationship is supposed be about the two of you (which it's most certainly not)? Point is, don't assume. Because it makes you look like an jerk.

Sorry, Grey; you had it coming.
Also, along with virginity, there's that whole vibe of Ana being with someone who is more sexually experienced than her. Apparently, this allows Ana to orgasm at the drop of the hat (or as her friend Kate says, "Wow, Christian must really know what he's doing."(158)) And while Kate didn't experience her first orgasm during sex until a year after she became sexually active, Ana experiences hers the first time. At least it is acknowledged that this is probably on the unusual side. More unusual is the fact that Christian is keeping track of Ana's orgasms:
"Miss Steele, you are not just a pretty face. You've had six orgasms so far and all of them belong to me," he boasts, playful again.
I flush and blink at the same time, as he stares down at me. He's keeping count! (270)
Obviously Ana lives in some mythical land where quantity and quality are synonyms. (You know what? I should never read erotica again; I am far too literal for this stuff). Also, Christian is really big on relishing in the fact that he "owns" all of Ana's orgasms and pleasure. Later, this is remarked upon:
"...And I don't want you touching yourself, either."
What? Ah yes, the no masturbation clause.
"Out of curiosity... why?"
"Because I want all of your pleasure." his voice is husky but determined. (223)
Side note - I don't know why Ana worries about the masturbation clause because she doesn't do it anyway. Just in case she couldn't get any more sexually innocent, this is emphasized, which just makes what follows... well, awkward. And the fact that Christian wants all of her pleasure... Jeez, dude. It's like you're a vampire for sex (oh, wait... you are).

2) Sex, sex, and more sex: I would like to politely remind people of something that I learned in health class years ago - men have refractory periods. Please keep this in mind when reading/writing erotica. Because otherwise we're going to have utterly impossible expectations for the human body and it's not going to get pretty. I know it's fictional and in a realm of fantasy but I think that's easily forgotten - which is annoying and certainly not going to make men feel good about their bodies. It's like expecting a woman to orgasm as easily as Ana does; people are different and that's just not going to happen for everyone.  

Ana at one point in the book remarks that Christian acts "like he's just marked off another item on a checklist" after sex (269). This is how I feel about the sex scenes - like it's necessary to go through all these positions and do all of this stuff for Ana's "education" (again, one needs to learn about sex from a more knowledgeable person, or apparently, as Kate describes it, sex will suck). It also treats sex as a crazy other, not part of everyday life (especially for Ana). After coming home from her first weekend with Christian, Ana remarks, "It's so grounding and welcome after the last forty-eight hours of... madness." (163) While Christian is rather unorthodox about sex, sex as a whole is treated as this weird otherness that needs to be exploited and obsessed over. I know, I know, it's erotica, it comes with the territory. But it doesn't really have anything to do with BDSM or anything of that nature; it's just sex in general; sex in this book is treated as some other world, another planet that never coincided with Ana's until she met Christian, though it's natural - bees do it, birds do, even educated fleas do it (sorry, sorry, Cole Porter lapse there). Ana's world is completely void of sexual knowledge, so much so that she even bemoans her literature background:
He's the only one who knows and understands the rules. I'm just too naive and inexperienced. My only sphere of reference is Kate and she doesn't take any shit from men. My other references are all fictional: Elizabeth Bennent would be outraged, Jane Eyre too frightened, and Tess would succumb, just as I have. (224-225)
(May I remind you that was not succumbing for Tess, that was RAPE) (and fuck off, Jane Eyre would NOT be afraid (sorry, sorry, I'm very sensitive towards my Jane Eyre.)) But girlfriend, what books have you been reading for your lit major? Where is Germinal? Unbearable Lightness of Being? They both have sex in them. And if we're really going whole-hog on this, Lady Chatterley's Lover? I know, Ana, that these aren't your typical English novels that young romantic women are thought to have read, but I would think you'd have encountered at least one of my options for a literature class (and Chaucer. A lot of fucking Chaucer). I know it's not going to be a whole lot of help for your, "What do I do when a stalkerish, handsome man wants to slap me and screw me?" but, you know, that's not the sort of problem books could usually help you with anyway.

And in my opinion, Ana, you should probably listen to Kate more. (Actually, I sort of like Kate; she's practically the only character in the book I kind of care about. Mainly because she has this pithy one-liner: "Has that obscenely rich fucker upset you again?" (279). Kate wins, everyone else can go home).

3) Christian Grey: I have found my new most annoying character in writing. I really have. At least for the characters I really hate in literature (Paul Marshall and Humbert Humbert, if you're wondering), the hate comes from how human they are (if that makes any sense at all). No matter how monstrous their acts, they retain a good side, and then you hate them because you initially had a little bit of sympathy for them and it scares you (and so, really, for me at least, hating them is kind of enjoyable because they're complicated). Christian Grey is none of this, despite what this Tumblr use might think:

I'm sorry... this just makes me really, really sad.
The most complex thing about Christian Grey is that you never know if he's going to be a pissed-off jerk or a snarky, up-beat jerk. Ana repeats again and again that he has depravity or that he's depraved. And this is me...

What exactly is Christian's depravity? Are we speaking only of his BDSM interest (which is really not so deprived)? Or is this his fine line between BDSM and abuse, which are not clearly distinguished at all? In particular, he blurs the line between being submissive during sex and submissive ALL THE TIME. In the contract he wants Ana to sign, it is stated that the submissive becomes the "property of the dominate" (169). Now, I don't know much about BDSM but if you read the first paragraph about it on Wikipedia, you'll see that it mentions roleplay. ROLEPLAY, CHRISTIAN. Not teaching Ana how to become something she's not everyday of her life to please you. There are moments of clarity for Ana, where she realizes that this his what he wants, especially on her thoughts about the word obey, (175), that she could get hurt emotionally as well as physically, and upon her remark that he treats her like a car (251). But she never really thinks in depth about these issues, she just complains and moves on. Which is really odd, in my opinion. She's clearly not okay with the treatment she's receiving, but she lets it go. Why? Two reasons, I think.
First, she's desperate for a relationship with Christian, even though it's unhealthy as hell. She describes: "My inner goddess is jumping up and down, clapping her hands like a five-year-old. Please, let's do this... otherwise we'll end up alone with lots of cats and your classic novels to keep you company" (176). She's never felt this way about any man (and that's understandable considering it seems like the attraction between them could be turned into enough electricity to power a small town) and she fears the worst - being a lonely cat lady. Funny, considering my worst fears for her are assault and battery (which is actually the name of an email she sends to Christian, which he tosses off as over-dramatic).

Secondly, she feels bad for him. He's "poor, fucked-up, kinky, philanthropic Christian" (237) because he had a rough life before he was adopted at four (which is funny, because in psychology we talk about how you don't remember much before the ages of three or four, but maybe it was really traumatic) after being born to a crack whore (is that even politically correct? Can you actually call someone a crack whore? That seems totally offensive to me). And, for a guy in to BDSM, he has serious issues with being touched (which I'm not sure what that entails because it is PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE to have sex with someone without touching them. Maybe he just doesn't like tickling and cuddling).

Also, he was seduced by a friend of his mother's (who is called Mrs. Robinson for half the book) when he was fifteen. Which brings up more complicated issues of seduction and rape (and pedophilia) which are really... well, here's a conversation dealing with it:
"I don't think you'll ever convince me that she's not some kind of pedophile."
"I don't think of her that way. I never have. Now that's enough," he snaps. (423)
Due to Christian's disinterest in talking about anything regarding him, a lot of stuff remains unclear (probably to make him remain shrouded in mystery). However, I feel it really backfires. The "you'd rather have sex than talk" (497) notion might make for a kinky joke but it sure doesn't make for a healthy relationship and it doesn't give the reader a whole lot of room to sympathize with Christian. By the end, I feel like I don't know anything about him. Sure, he like BDSM, he has the habit of saying douchey things:
"I will fuck you, any time, any way I want - anywhere I want. I will discipline you, because you will screw up. I will train you to please me." (220-221)
(Yeah, this relationship is DEFINITELY not one of equality; it's all about Christian. Wonderful.)
"It's taking all my self-control not to fuck you on the hood of this car right now, just to show you that you are mine, and if I want to buy you a fucking car, I'll buy you a fucking car," he growls. "Now let's get you inside and get you naked." He plants a swift rough kiss on me. (262)
You know, if you want me to sympathize with Christian, I'm going to need something more than "he had a bad childhood and he was sort-of-maybe wrongfully seduced when he was fifteen and he's TOTALLY HOT so just deal with is downfalls" in order to connect with him. Simply enough, I can't hate Christian because he's not human enough to hate; I just have a disdainful apathy. He's a cardboard cutout of a man, a fantasy that is trying to be two things at once. On one side, he's supposed to be the dark knight who apparently feels undeserving of love (we have this opinion from Ana, and Ana only) (472). A sort of Mr. Rochester or Heathcliff, maybe, apparently going more for the Byronic side. But he's also supposed to be linked to Alec D'Uberville, who is an outright villain, a cad, one who gets no shred of sympathy in Tess of D'Uberville. Or as Ana describes:
This man, whom I once thought of as a romantic hero, a brave shining white knight - or dark knight, as he said. He's not a hero; he's a man with serious, deep emotional flaws, and he's dragging me into the dark. Can I not guide him into the light? (355)
Honestly, this deals with some really interesting notions. For one, romanticizing violence - and not in a BDSM way but in honest relationship violence, because what Christian does is abusive. He tries to convince Ana that she wants punishment to be linked with sex, that he wants the same things as him; he stalks her, he won't let her pay for anything ("are you trying to completely emasculate me?" he says when she wants to buy their meal at IHOP - because God forbid a woman pay for her own breakfast (459)); one moment he reminds her that she can stop at any time and then the next he says she has to do something (it's like a freaking Stanley Milgram experiment; is Ana going to listen to "authority" or listen to her own opinions?) I don't care enough about Christian to hate him - but what I do care about his how he represents men. He's pulled in two superficial directions but not given any real depths. Any depth is glazed over because he won't FREAKING TALK (another stereotype of men; thanks for that) so he remains nothing but a facade and we never get to see what's behind it in this book (and I'm only reading the next two if I can get them for free). All he is capable of being is a rude, good-looking sex machine. And any chance of getting any insight in Ana's attempts to change him are glossed over as all she can think about when she looks at him is how hot he is. How Ana surmises her relationship with Grey (and in a line I think sums up the whole book): Oh yes, I've fallen in love with him, and he can fly. (460)

How I feel about that:
If you want me to believe that Christian is a more complicated character than Dorian Gray, I'm going to need a lot more character development. You remember when I said I wasn't going to critique the writing style? That's getting harder to do (and pretty sure I stopped doing that half way through my first post). Sorry, Ms. James; from one writer to another, I know criticism is rough. But this book is one of the biggest best-sellers of all-time now (apparently it outsold the paperback copies of Harry Potter) (wow, we're calling this "mummy porn" now, according to that article) and it's rather influential. Which means it's a subtle, powerful force. It's fanfiction, erotica, and written by a woman - its going to be read as an illustration of what women desire (which I clearly think it does a pretty poor job of).

This could be a really fascinating, engaging story about issues in relationships, such as the difficulties of falling in love with someone who's abusive, or the rise of fetishes or BDSM in sexual relationships. But it's clearly not that kind of book. It takes on both topics and leaves them shallowly floating at the surface, neither engaging them or discussing them at length, simply leaving them as products of a men, who are "tricky... a different species" (279) and perpetuates stereotypes of both genders (especially of Ana, as the young, innocent submissive girl, along with the Bella influence of someone who would throw away their entire life for a relationship). It shows violence against women in an ambiguous context where it's unclear what the situation is (even Ana doesn't know if she's okay with it or not). It does the same for rape, pedophilia, stalking, and controlling relationships. All said, it actually does a decent job highlighting problems in society - focused only appearance, the conflicts of love and abuse, perhaps if you REALLY look, hidden racial stereotypes (I direct you to Jose- rather blatant - and the more subtle one of Ana's full name (Anastasia), the fact that she basically becomes a sexual pleasure object for Christian, and the history of Russian mail-order brides). But the book wasn't created to be read this way.

BUT it could be read that way. Maybe if we choose to see Ana as ridiculous and Christian as a terrible facade of a man, a faulty idea of the "perfect man," both products of a hyper-abstinence culture meets a sex-crazed one, where we are offered no middle ground, maybe then we'd be getting somewhere. There is a rather great line in the book, on page 510, where Ana remarks: "My worst fears have been realized. And strangely, it's liberating." This is the most honest, accurate line in the book - after having one of my worst nightmares come true this year, suddenly nothing is as scary or as limiting after you overcome it. However, Ana's worst nightmare (that Christian is incapable of giving or receiving love) is far different from my own and one she states is liberating - but not one that actually liberates her. At the end of the book (SPOILERS!) she leaves Grey but we are left with her bawling in her apartment. Even her taking a stand is a defeat because we are not left with the encouragement that she made the right decision; the end itself is a confirmation of how this book is meant to be read. Which highlights another fear of mine - the pervasiveness of sexism in culture, so much so that people think interpretations like mine are madness; that feminists are getting up in arms about nothing. However, realizing such a fear IS liberating; because if I see it without trying then I can't be the only one. (And while we're on the topic of things that scare me, apparently Angelina Joli is in talks to be the director for the movie version of Fifty Shades; if anyone out there has ANY sort of clout in Hollywood, can we please make this not happen? Unless Ms. Joli feels like making a deeper statement about the book in the film version and in that case GO FOR IT. Because I really like Angelina Joli and I kind of cringe at the thought of her being associated with the book as it's written. So yeah - if for some reason, you know, you have influence in Hollywood... maybe kind of, sort of mention it's more than just sexy time with a hot guy and presents both men and women in an unhealthy light? Which is kind of the last thing we need in Hollywood right now...)

I could, of course, talk about this book for a thousand posts, as I really enjoy doing this sort of thing (because, if we're still going with the idea that to hate something means you have to see good in it, in some aspect, that means I enjoy hating Fifty Shades). But I will spare you. Much of it, after all, are my own subjective opinions on romance novels. So I'll save that for something else (The Other Boleyn Girl; I should definitely write a post on The Other Boleyn Girl). So that's that; here's a picture of Martin Freeman for your troubles if you actually read this far (and I have no idea what's going on in this photo, but it just seemed to fit. So roll with it):
 Note: All citations are from Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. Vintage Books 2012.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Why I Hate 50 Shades of Grey, Part 1

(NOTE: This post covers only the first eight chapters of the book. Because that was as far as I could get before feeling the mad desire to vent some anger about it. Perhaps some of my points will be totally invalidated by the book's conclusion. But this is the impression I've gotten thus far.) 

Some of the most ardent sexists I've met have been women who don't even recognize it. This worries me deeply because women influence each other greatly and when you have a woman unknowingly, happily stating that others should be submissive to their husbands, it's suddenly so much harder to argue.

I start out this post with this idea because it's one that's been heavily on my mind recently. Especially through the first one hundred pages of Fifty Shades of Grey. Yes, I bought this book. Yes, I am reading this book. As a purveyor of culture, it's kind of a must. Fanfiction turned best-seller, I was intrigued by it, bracing myself for the craziness that had been hyped-up on Tumblr with posts like this (funny story, the review from Amazon this post uses was the final straw and convinced me I had to read this book. You win, Amazon reviewer). I have the feeling that if this book had been written by a man, people would be decrying it as the most sexist thing to hit bookshelves in years. But it's written by a woman, a woman who's never published a book before. A woman who, as the bio describes, put her dreams of writing "on hold to focus on her family and her career. She finally plucked up the courage to put pen to paper with her first novel, Fifty Shades of Grey." And suddenly critiquing this book becomes so much harder.

So please, Ms. James, keep in mind that this is nothing personal. I don't mean to call you a sexist (as I've never met you, never heard you talk, never even read an interview with you), but I find your writing extraordinarily sexist. I don't want to judge a person I've never met and I separate the writer from the writing; one's craft is not a direct judgement of one's character. But the themes of this book a little over a hundred pages in has got me deeply worried and I worry for the image it presents to women.

So what's my beef with it? Here we go (and, oh yeah, SPOILERS AHEAD, BIG TIME):
1) Ana Steele: I know she's meant to be like Bella Swan, so already we've got a problem (for I'm certainly no Bella fan). But I find Ana Steele almost weaker than Bella. Perhaps age shouldn't be the main factor but it is. Ana is so naive for a college senior; I don't care that she's romantically inexperienced (I'm in the same boat, for God's sake), but her naivete makes her almost impossible to sympathize with. The fact that she doesn't know tequila-based cocktails are a bad idea after a crap-ton of champagne (pg 57), that not eating before going out drinking is dangerous (67), and calls Christian "yummy" (63) seems really juvenile for a character that's just graduated from college. She's also very much a cardboard cut-out of a woman; all minor flubs and flaws and no substance. She describes herself as thus:
"Romantically, though, I've never put myself out there, ever. A lifetime of insecurity - I'm too pale, too skinny, too scruffy, uncoordinated, my long list of faults go on. So I have always been the one to rebuff any would-be admirers. There was that one guy in my chemistry class who liked me, but no one has ever sparked my interest - no one except Christian Damn Grey. Maybe I should be kinder to the likes of Paul Clayton and Jose Rodrigues, though I'm sure neither of them has been found sobbing alone in dark places. Perhaps I just need a good cry."(51)
This brings me to:

2) The stereotypical fangirl: Ana Steele represents a cliche of fangirls. She is not in love with Christian Grey, it seems rather clear - she is obsessed. She complains how controlling he appears but swoons that, "He's not merely good-looking - he's the epitome of male beauty, breath-taking..." (25). In fact, it seems it is only his beauty that entrances her, not his personality or characteristics. When she thinks he doesn't like her, she is utterly devastated, "...crying over the loss of something I never had" (51). She calls Christian a Grecian god and is utterly intimidated by him. Boys like Paul do not entice her, which could be completely understandable except for her reasoning: "...Paul is cute in a wholesome all-American-boy-next-door kind of way, but he's no literary hero, not by any stretch of the imagination." (34).  She is looking for a literary hero, something that is fictional, in real-life. And while I have often shared this trait with her, no deeper understanding is given here, no acceptance that Ana could be idealistic, trying to find perfection in a culture that drives us to this urging. Rather than this, the assumption is that she's just abnormal, rather than sharing in an expression many women exhibit:
"Sometimes I wonder if there's something wrong with me. Perhaps I've spent too long in the company of literary romantic heroes, and consequently my ideals and expectations are far too high. But in reality, nobody's ever made me feel like that." (24)
As for what her ideals are, it's never exactly expressed. Really, if she's looking for a Mr. Darcy-eque man, she's probably not be asking for too much. But given her shallow character, this is never explored. And her literary interest seems to be a lot more...well...

3) All the fucking Tess of D'Ubervilles allusions: Ana has an obsession with this book. And this is the point where my personal bias is going to cloud things. I hate this book; mainly because I've never been able to finish it. Seriously, every time I get to the part where Tess' child Sorrow dies, I can't get any farther. I'VE TRIED THREE TIMES TO READ IT. I DON'T GET IT. I don't think it's Thomas Hardy's writing; I think I just struggle with the plot and the characters.

Anyway, the point is, I've read enough of it to know what happens between Tess and Alec D'Uberville. And then this happens in Fifty Shades, after Christian Grey sends Ana a first edition of the book and a quote from it:
"This quote - Tess says it to her mother after Alec D'Uberville has his wicked way with her."
"I know," Kate muses. "What is he trying to say?"
"I don't know..." (55)
Ana, as a literature major, you should know. I believe what he might be saying is: I WANT TO RAPE YOU. Because, you know, THAT'S WHAT ALEC DOES TO TESS. Or did you not finish the book either? (And "wicked way" might be the worst allusion to rape I have ever heard).

Not good? A bit not good, yeah.

And then this part came along:
As I sit, I'm struck by the fact I feel like Tess Dubeyfield looking at the new house that belongs to the notorious Alec D'Uberville. The thought makes me smile...
  "...I could hold you to impossibly high ideal like Angel Clare or debase you completely like Alec d'Uberville," he murmurs, and his eyes flash dark and dangerous.
"If there are only two choices, I'll take the debasement," I whisper, gazing at him. (95)
May I remind you, ALEC D'UBERVILLE RAPED TESS. This is NOT okay. AT ALL.

Which brings me finally to:

4) Christian Grey: The appeal of this man is an absolute mystery. So what if he's hot. These are the things that come out of his mouth:
"I'm used to getting my own way, Anastasia," he murmurs. "In all things." (44)
"Anastasia, you were comatose. Necrophilia is not my thing. I like my women sentient and receptive," he says dryly. (66)
"Well, if you were mine, you wouldn't be able to sit down for a week after the stunt you pulled yesterday." (67)
 "If you follow these rules to my satisfaction, I shall reward you. If you don't, I shall punish you, and you will learn." (100)
 "Why the fuck didn't you tell me?" he growls. (108) [upon discovering Ana is still a virgin]
You know, I'm starting to think Ana isn't so picky after all. I'd rather be alone than date a cad who has things like this coming out of his mouth. I don't care how much of an emotional wreck he might turn out to be (because, if he's anything like Twilight's Edward, he's going to have emotional issues hidden under the surface). This sort of behavior is terribly dangerous. And thus:

5) S&M and abuse are completely separate things: I don't know much about S&M/BDSM/etc. However, I think the quote from page 67 shown above is definitely NOT alluding to any sort of fetishism but outright abuse. He describes his focus on such apparent S&M as all about his pleasure ("to please me" pg 100) rather than about both of their pleasures (which, from what I know about S&M, is the real focus). His rules and regulations for Ana are even appalling: a specific diet, ascribing to a workout program with a personal trainer, not getting involved with any other relationships while with Christian. This is beyond any sort of fetishism; this is absolute control over nearly every aspect of Ana's life. And yet the only problem she seems to have with it is getting free clothes and the amount of time she has to work out. But then, when Christian takes her home after she spent the night at his apartment, her reaction is:
I belatedly realize he's not asked me where I live - yet he knows. But then he sent the books; of course he knows where I live. What able, cell phone-tracking helicopter-owning stalker wouldn't? (82)
You know, if the guy you just spent the night with totally knows where you live because he's stalking you, YOU PROBABLY SHOULDN'T BE SEEING HIM. And the fact that he likes to hurt women "depresses me" (100). Only depression? Not fear? Anxiety? The fact that maybe you should learn some judo and karate in case things get absolutely mental? But, there's a problem with my opinion because I'm not ascribing to this thought (which brings me to my final point):

6) I'd do anything for you - even that: Ana admits she would do anything to be with Christian. Anything. She goes through intense beauty tending:
Under Kate's tireless and frankly intrusive instruction, my legs and underarms are shaved to perfection, my eyebrows plucked, and I am buffed all over. It has been a most unpleasant experience. But she assures me that this is what men expect these days. (85)
(Quick note on this line - assuming that this is what men expect. This is something I have a serious problem with. There is no one way women are supposed to look; why continue this line of thought?)
Ana also signs over her rights to her diet, workout routine, and what sort of bodily hair she can have. (107)

Remember my concerns with Twilight in my Modern Love post? This is worse; way worse. Because what I've gotten from this book so far basically says it's okay to be abused and raped as long as it's by someone you really love, who apparently really loves you. And this scares me. Really, really scares me more than anything I've ever encountered. I'm truly hoping the rest of the book will change this vibe, but I have feeling that won't be the case. I understand that this erotica and that the characters are not going to be incredibly complex. This is also Ms. James' first book and I understand only too well the courage it takes to write. I don't expect her book to be perfect; nothing I've written ever has or ever will be. I've refrained from making comments on her writing style as, for her first book, that seems a bit harsh. But I really, truly do have a problem with the message I'm getting from it. It worries me that a writer or a reader might have never even thought about what appears on the page, that things that seems so blatantly sexist to me might seem as nothing more than an intense romance to another reader. And while I believe that books should be interpreted in a multitude of ways, this... this is just so wrong. This seems to normalize abuse, obsession, weak women, and domination of women.

 Maybe it gets better. I hope so. But dear God, I haven't even gotten to a sex scene yet...

Thanks, Jim. Thanks for that terrifying possibility.

Note: All citations are from Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. Vintage Books 2012.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Modern Love

On the first morning of summer classes, my alarm clock/radio went off, tuned to the Minneapolis "alternative rock" station Cities 97 where the DJs were talking to an artist who remained unknown to me (as my alarm went off midway through their interview) about love and relationships. And instantly I wanted to roll over and go back to sleep.

The conversation was actually pretty good (focusing on self-love before rushing into romantic love; sound advice, really) but compounding that with all the ads about groups for singles and weight loss and getting rid of cellulite I keep hearing on this station, it ended up rubbing me the wrong way. And thus I found myself pondering the situation of modern love on my walk to class.

Because I feel like settling into this discussion kind of easily (also because I've been slacking off from some of my more "academic" posts), I'm going to get back into the groove easily with two musical examples.

There you go, modern love put musically. I've described this idea of modern love before, in "This is why we can't have nice things" and I kept meaning to come back and talk about it a little more in-depth. Except that I kept avoiding it. Because of reasons.

Okay, okay, so I should be honest with you. I've never had a boyfriend. I've never been kissed. I've only been on one real date (and I asked the guy out) (and why is it that "I Know You're Out There Somewhere" by the Moody Blues is playing in my iPod right now? I mean, I really like the Moody Blues but this is too much, iPod. Especially after listening to an hour of Badfinger). But now that I've said that, I'm going to throw this Tumblr post your way because I shouldn't have to say that like it's some sort of embarrassing admission. What does it matter if you haven't had been kissed by a certain age? Is there some sort of age limit that we have to adhere to? No, of course not. But, because we pinkish-brown monkeys called humans are weird, we judge each other based on our relationship statuses. And if you've never been in a relationship, somehow that makes your self-worth lower than someone who has.
You can guess my feelings about this. Especially as a feminist, basing someone's worth on romantic connection is... well, not so great. Beyond the fact that everyone develops at different time in the romance world, it's also an assumption that everyone wants the same sort of relationships and that it should be the focus, the scope of their entire life. If that was the case, then we'd end up with a bunch of Bella's who don't want to go to college because they can't bear being separated from their obsessive boyfriends (OMG Twilight, the things you say...) I'm NOT saying relationships aren't important; of course they are. I just don't like that society presses that relationships are SO important that if you don't have one, something from your life is missing and you're not living your life right (basically, I'm saying this, just not as concisely). Because focusing too much on relationships can turn into this, "What else is there?" mentality.
(Thank you, Swan Princess, for having Derrik be a total douche and say ridiculous things I can take out of context.)

So all of this makes it more difficult when you are single, living on your own, and perpetually pondering the meaning of life. We're obsessed with romance and dating. Not just focusing on the important issues, stressing the need for love and such, but totally all-out obsessed. Nearly ever magazine I see in stores has gossip or stories about people's love lives. It's one of the first questions interviewers throw at celebrities. Every year, my grandmother asks if I have a boyfriend. WE'RE OBSESSED.
(Quick side note - this gif comes from the movie The Room. It is the worst made movie in the history of humankind. It might also be the funniest.)

Again, it's not that I don't think love and romance are important; it's that we think about them in very concrete ways, in very precise definitions. I don't think these definitions should be so important that we focus every aspect of our lives around them and judge others based on how these definitions are carried out in their lives. And this is where I'd like to introduce a guy named Erich Fromm. He's a psychologist and a social philosopher who wrote the book The Art of Loving. Now, I don't agree with everything he says in this book (especially on some things regarding women and homosexuality). But he does say some really good things about relationships in general. Like this quote on responsibility at work in the act of loving:
Responsibility could easily deteriorate into domination and possessiveness, were it not for a third component of love, respect. Respect is not fear and awe; it denotes, in accordance with the root of the word (respicere = to look at), the ability to see a person as he is, to be aware of his unique individuality. Respect means the concern that the other person should grow and unfold as he is. Respect, thus, implies the absence of exploitation. I want the loved person to grow and unfold for his own sake, and in this own ways, and not for the purpose of serving me. If I love the other person, I feel one with him or her, but with him as he is, not as I need him to be as an object for my use. (26)
To love someone just the way they are, not objectifying them and turning them into an ideal. Hard to do in a society focused on Prince Charming and finding perfection, is it? Frequently, the idea of respect gets left out of the picture in many portrayals of love (*cough Twilight cough*) (sorry, I'm in am "OMG this is not okay" mode with Twilight. I apologize for the repetition) though I think people are generally better about this in everyday life than Fromm might think. At least I hope people are more like Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are."
But oh, behold, the voice of doubt speaks. For I began thinking of a different sort of objectification - that which we put celebrities in. Think about it - our culture is in awe of them, objectifies and often exploits them. All of this is on the surface of my mind because I recently watched the documentary Miss Representation (it's fabulous; look it up. Obviously there were things they could have done better on but it was clearly not created for someone who's rather on top of feminist issues). They spend some time discussing how women's bodies, especially those of celebrities, are viewed in the media. And with these thoughts in mind, along with the Fromm passage I saw months ago, I sat down to write this post. But wouldn't you know it, Tumblr threw a curve ball at me last night and threw something else at me (seriously, I don't understand how these things fall into place just so, but they do).

I was scrolling through posts last night when I came across this about Benedict Cumberbatch. And not long after,  I saw this follow-up post from shmem-the-pem (which is a damn good post in my opinion). I did find the article this quote is from (Tumblr, the fact that you occasionally have better citations than some of my textbooks scares me) which means:
Okay, so even though I found the legitimate source for the quote, I've been wanting to use this gif forever, so here you go.

(You know, I was wondering after I found this story whether I should admit to biased source-finding as this is the umpteenth time I've used a Cumberbatch quote in a post, or whether Cumberbatch just happens to be a human being that happens to heavily relate to the content of my blog. Because, you know, for a blog named after Martin Freeman, there is a crap-ton of Benedict Cumberbatch on here. I've tried balancing it out and it just keeps happening. So, as long as Cumberbatch keeps saying things that relate to things I'm writing about, this weirdness is going to keep happening. Sorry, sir.) (The good news is I have a totally Martin Freeman-related post coming up. If I ever finish this one.)

Pretty much how I feel the universe is reacting right now.
The follow-up written by shmem-the-pem (God I love Tumblr user names) really says it all. We're really rather bad about treating actors like human beings. When culture shows us the way to express our appreciation for them is to be obsessed, objectification becomes all too easy and maybe it's only when we get reflections from actors or people who want to be actors, like shmem-the-pem, that it becomes move obvious how such expression of respect isn't exactly what we think it is. Fromm would say it's not respect at all. But it's hard to deal with your feelings when obsession is easily confused with love. And it doesn't help when love stories don't always show great representations of people.

I was just talking to my friend Ashley about this last Friday. We were talking about feminism and how difficult it is to find really great representations of women in books and movies. It's hard to find portrayals that capture women as strong, but also show their weakness. There's a really great TED Talk I stumbled across today (many thanks to or I never would have known of its existence) that I totally recommend watching that discusses this:

Isn't that brilliant? Tavi Gevinson understands things at fifteen that I couldn't understand until I was twenty. Incredible.

The thing is, as Ashley and I were discussing, there's this problem with women portrayed in movies and books (and thank you, John Green, for this). It's almost always a love story; even in The Hunger Games where people argue, 'It isn't about the love story!" there's still very definitely one present. Which is understandable, to a point. A lot of life is about love. But why does it seem like the principle storyline is always about romance, about finding a man, about finding "the one." The Hunger Games, at least, doesn't have this focus; it's about survival. But Twilight - Twilight is nothing without the love story. Take it out and there is no plot at all.

Not that there is anything wrong about love stories. It's just the sort of love stories that I'm beginning to see - so many like Twilight, where women sacrifice everything to be with a man who doesn't seem authentic. Because as we need more complex representations of women, we need the same for men. And we're back to showing the "what else is there?" view on relationships, that we need this all-consuming, obsessive love in our lives. But if we're going with Erich Fromm on this, that obsessive love, that objectifying love isn't really love. It's just obsession. And if this is the love we're seeing throughout culture, then we're just obsessed with being obsessed.

Oy. This post got much longer than I expected. I was planning on just talking about how convoluted the dating world is (as in, according to the Village Voice, dating may be dead) and how love is such a convoluted term and it's really hard to deal with in society, when relationships are all supposed to be a certain way and you're supposed to have had your first kiss by X year and dating and etc. etc. etc. I sort of got there. Mostly I was sidetracked by feminism and Cumberbatch. (Well, that speaks multitudes, doesn't it?)
The things is, love, much like feminism as Tavi Gevinson described it, is a process. There is no rulebook, no right way to do it. There are, however, things I think we could do better. Curving away from the focus on obsession might be a good place to start. How exactly we'd go about that... well, easier said than done, the fangirl knows. But I also know that if for some ludicrous reason I was a celebrity, I wouldn't want people freaking out when they see me trying to figure out where the hell the bread is in Lunds. As always, I have lots of opinions but no clear answers. But I do have this:
The Swan Princess and a reference to The Room all in one. Perfection. Exactly what I need in this already very convoluted post.

Sorry, I'm a bit short on hedgehogs on the moment. But I felt that this otter was more fitting anyway.

PS: I just started reading Fifty Shades of Grey (because how can I NOT read that book with my interest in culture? And because it's based off Twilight) and I think Fromm's ideas on possession and objectification suit it perfectly. And I'm only on page twelve.

Note: All citations are from - The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm. Harper Perennial. 2000. (originally published 1956 by Harper and Row).

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Some Shameless Promoting

So, you probably don't know this, but I know very little about video games. When it comes to playing them, I'm that frantic button pusher who has no idea what actions results in what move. It looks a little something like this:

Thank you, Cabin Pressure fan art.
Wait, no, this image is me driving (and that is a completely accurate statement; thus I do not drive. You're welcome, Minnesota).

Anyway, the point is, I don't know much about how to play video games. However, I have lots of friends who do play them, along with RPGs, and I find them totally fascinating. Hearing my friend Emma talk about the plot of Bioshock blew my mind because... well, probably because it's Bioshock. But also because gaming is so much more complex than what it's made out to be in our culture. Graphics-wise, plot-wise, community-wise. There's a whole fandom associated with gaming that I'd talk about, if I could. But I'm not a gamer and Lord knows Academia doesn't spend enough time talking about such things (and thus I can't even use my academic pursuits to help me out here). Which is too bad, because gaming is so interesting (get on that, cultural studies).

And thus, I am happy to inform those of you who may be interested in more about this, that Stephen, a friend of mine from the U of M Morris has created a blog called Valknut: Life, Gaming and the World. Like he just started it yesterday. So you should check it out, because it's brilliant and talks about gaming and gender and smart, clever things. Which I think we can all agree the internet needs more of.

So yeah, check it out.

(Yes, rabbits and Martin Crieff in the same post! Life goal made!)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Faust, Melancholia, and another look at Nihilism

I received this email from a reader named Paulina a few days ago as a response on my posts on melancholia and on Nihilism, but because Blogger apparently has a word limit for comment length, she was unable to post it. Fortunately, she emailed her response to me and I'm posting it here, because it's totally brilliant (the images are added by me and somewhat less brilliant). So without further ado, here it is:

I stumbled over your blog because of some obscure Martin Freeman related link... now it's almost 3 am and you have me thinking about melancholia and all that. Two things on that:
1) You might be interested in Goethe's opinion of melancholia as he expresses it in "Faust" (sorry, being German and just having had to read this in school, you know) - at least the idea of it in his time, when it didn't just mean a feeling of not being connected to everything and all that stuff, but was rather thought of as having a second side to it: that of genius, alternating between utter apathy and mad energy (and if you're not thinking of Sherlock Holmes by now, you're no fangirl ;-) ). The beginning of Faust is a good illustration. We find him having studied everything there is to study, having disregarded a personal life beyond that, and realising that he still can't understand all he wants to understand. To prove that he is brave enough to overstep the last human boundary he is on the brink of committing suicide. Next second, he hears the church bells toll for Easter service, delays the plan because of his emotional recollections and when he meets the devil is immediately ready to face all the world may offer in the way of pleasure. Zeal - despair - zeal, which is a far more dynamic concept of melancholia than what it's commonly thought of nowadays.

2) Regarding Nihilism. I'm not sure if it was in this post or the newer one, anyway: I have been "diagnosed" as nihilistic by my philosophy teacher a year ago, and I think I have since come to terms with that. However, I have, while reading "Middlemarch" in February discovered that I am also very idealistic and optimistic. And hopelessly romantic as well, but I knew that before. For some time now I have been thinking about how to reconcile all these beliefs and ideals that are still true for me, and I have come to the following conclusion: The fact of existence is purely accidental. The universe might as well not be (I'm still not decided about the multiverse thing, it's a charming idea, and yet!...). This also means that existence is aimless, except for one thing, which is to prolong itself. Therefore, no decision I make can in any way matter to some greater scheme (because there isn't one). Which gives me the ultimate freedom of not being able to make a wrong decision. I might make such as prove to be detrimental to me, but then they still were right for me. I can, in this absolute and boundless freedom of mine, set myself to any aim I'd wish to achieve and strive after any ideal that suits my fancy, and feel all fuzzy and warm inside when watching Pride and Prejudice the umpteenth time - but if I fail to achieve what I aimed for, it doesn't matter. You see, the way I think of Nihilism is that it gives each individual absolute freedom, because it's not important. Which takes the edge out of it. The human race might destroy it's environment, but that way it'll kill itself, and the Earth won't give a fig. I mean, were only alive as we are because at some point a kind of bacteria significantly increased the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere. (There's this joke where one planet says to another "Oh, I've got this itch that just won't go away!" Says the other "Ach, that's Human. I had it too, it'll pass")

Optimistic Nihilism - "Something like this?" Gina: "Well... *laughs*...close enough."
There is this wonderful idea in one of Douglas Adams Hichhiker novels, where Zaphod Beeblebrox is brought to the ultimate punishment: He is subjected to a machine/computer/thing that shows you the entire universe, all that is, and yourself as a little, entirely insignificant dot. This demonstration of your own insignificance is so overwhelming/shocking/incredible that you die (Zaphod survives by a trick, I can't remember).

So I've decided that I will do as I like, and if there's something I don't like, reconcile myself to it, and set my aim no higher than being remembered when I die, and having a pleasant time till then. No pressure. Nothing really matters.

On a side note, you might immensely enjoy the works of Terry Pratchett (if you don't know them already). He writes about society, but uses the fictional discworld as a sort of mirror for our good ol' roundworld. I'm very sad he's been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, but so far he's still writing and being a bearded old philosopher. As far as I can tell, it's all right up your alley.

Ah well, it's nearing half past three now, I should stop rambling.

Good night,

Happy hedgehog is happy :D

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Excuse Me Whilst I Fangirl
So, I found the coolest place ever at the University of Minnesota yesterday. It's the Sherlock Holmes Collections in the Elmer L. Andersen Library.


Okay, so most of it is underground and can be accessed through request but there was some great stuff that happened to be pulled out when I was in there. A book full of the teleplays read aloud by Basil Rathbone, complete with corrections to the script written in pencil throughout. An original copy of the magazine "A Scandal in Bohemia" was published in. AN ORIGINAL COPY OF A STUDY IN SCARLET FROM 1888 (not in Beeton's Christmas Annual but in novel-form) WHICH I HELD IN MY OWN HANDS (and then felt like I should be wearing gloves and turning pages with tweezers -like instruments as Tom Hanks did in the Vatican Library in Angels and Demons). A doll's house model of what 221B Baker Street is thought to look like. Modern novels written expanding the realms of Sherlock Holmes into cases such as Jack the Ripper, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and The Phantom of Opera (which given my added love for this story/musical, my little fangirl heart was doing mad races in my chest).
Needless to say, this made me very, very happy. As I am doing a directed study next fall on fandoms, specifically on the fandom of Sherlock and Sherlock Holmes, I could have no better asset on my campus. Besides, I'd been meaning to check it out ever since I learned it was here, back before I started college when I heard about it through a promotion on the news for a play about Sherlock Holmes done by the U's theater department on a river boat (Yes, theater on a riverboat; welcome to Minnesota - we actually are that awesome. For some reason, putting Sherlock Holmes on a riverboat works perfectly for me. When I think of riverboats, I think of Hannibal, Missouri, Mark Twain's hometown - where I first saw them. And I already have an association between Mark Twain and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in my mind - and I have no idea why.)
As the brochure describes, the collection consists of "the world's larges gathering of material related to Sherlock Holmes and his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The collections consist over 15,000 items including books, journals, and a wide variety of other items." The collection formed out of the acquisition of several large collections began by a variety of Sherlockians, including a Nobel Prize winning Mayo physician. Somehow, the most material on this celebrated detective is collected in the lovely city of Minneapolis, rather than the also very lovely but more likely (and a bit far away from me) city of London.

And yet, there's something about having a collection like that here that makes sense. I think that Minneapolis and London are secretly BFFs and no one knows it. They have a lot of similarities for two cities so far apart and have a really large age difference (London being founded in 43 AD and Minneapolis in 1867). They're at similar latitudes, they're both situated on world-famous rivers, both get some interesting weather (the upside, I think, is that it seems to rain sideways a lot less in London than it does in Minneapolis. And blizzards, blizzards a heck of a lot less common in London). Culture-wise, they both have strong science fiction communities, writing communities in general, diverse music scenes, influence from industrial/mill work, and a huge body of hospital/health work (seriously, there are so many hospitals in Minneapolis, it blows my mind. And every other person at the U is a med student). And there are a surprising amount of Anglophiles in Minneapolis. I mean, one of the most popular pubs on Nicollet Mall (it's a pedestrian mall downtown and one of the coolest parts of the city) is called the Brit.

Now I really want Scotch eggs (they have really fantastic Scotch eggs. And Strongbow on tap. And fantastic food all around).

So having a Sherlock Holmes collection in the City of Lakes? Weirdly makes sense. Which means, if you happen to be in Minneapolis and have some spare time (and don't mind braving the disaster which is summer road construction on a university campus) you should totally check out the collection. Because I get the feeling no one knows it's there... and it's honestly one of the best keep secrets at my school. Better kept than the fact that Moos Tower looks like a giant tooth (so I've been told).
I'm thinking I should get a bunch of these signs and put them around campus. Just to mess with people. (I'll be like the Gallfreyian-Human Alliance, a Doctor Who-focused group that enjoys writing "Bad Wolf" in sidewalk chalk and posting random flyers like this on bulletin boards:

Yeah, I like these guys).