Saturday, September 29, 2012

Social Justice Warriors

I've been asked to do a post on what's known as SJW, or social justice warriors, on Tumblr. I have to admit from the get-go that my knowledge on what the SJW is/does is pretty limited. And so, like many cultural phenomenon I'm intrigued by, I turn to Urban Dictionary to give me a hand here:
A pejorative term for an individual who repeatedly and vehemently engages in arguments on social justice on the Internet, often in a shallow or not well-thought-out way, for the purpose of raising their own personal reputation. A social justice warrior, or SJW, does not necessarily strongly believe all that they say, or even care about the groups they are fighting on behalf of. They typically repeat points from whoever is the most popular blogger or commenter of the moment, hoping that they will "get SJ points" and become popular in return. They are very sure to adopt stances that are "correct" in their social circle.

The SJW's favorite activity of all is to dogpile. Their favorite websites to frequent are Livejournal and Tumblr. They do not have relevant favorite real-world places, because SJWs are primarily civil rights activists only online.
That was the only given definition on Urban Dictionary so unfortunately I haven't gotten one that paints a better representation of their actions. Though this site, Fanlore, gives a little more description.

In short, SJW is kind of a complicated term. It's both a pejorative and and a compliment, having good intentions at heart perhaps but rather harmful ways of conveying them, and not every SJWer is the same - some actually support what they are saying, others are just operating as trolls.

An image illustrating different thought forums on Tumblr - and a user's comment

This is where things with Tumblr start really getting complicated. For many, Tumblr is a great place for people to talk about issues they couldn't talk about with others face to face, don't feel comfortable addressing in society, or have no means of discussing in the world around them. And thus an online community filled with like-minded individuals discussing the same topics seems to be the perfect sphere for this.

But of course, it's the internet and, like the world around us, it is filled with the exact same problems as our non-cyber lives, perhaps in even more complicated ways because of mediation of text and images and anonymity, publicity/privacy, and copyright issues. It also seems that the internet allows for a wider expression of emotions that are concealed in our everyday lives (shown in fansquees' strong emotional actions expressed online to events in their favorite shows or activities of their favorite celebrities, and by social justice commentators in their strong reactions to each other's opinions). This is more of an observation on my part than a stated fact, but something I think is a prominent attribute to parts of the internet that focus in expression and forums (Facebook, Tumblr, LiveJournal, etc). Both a positive and a negative quality, this makes the internet even more complicated. For one thing, it's wonderful that people can allow themselves to feel a full range of emotions rather than whatever may be deemed publicly appropriate in our non-cyberspace lives. But at the same time, it seems that the lines between expressing oneself and remembering that other people are doing the same get rather blurred and often this erupts into controversy and unkind words. Bringing politics into the arena just adds an extra trigger for this sort of expression. I did some searching for exactly this but wasn't able to find much (social justice posts aren't exactly going to tag themselves as social justice or SJW, after all). However, I did find some postings on people reacting to SJW actions:

And this:

I also found this post, less about SJW but more about Tumblr itself and how quickly it changes:

Not the entire post - just what I found the most interesting and what I could manage to get for a screenshot

The idea of Tumblr being ahead of academia because of how fast it generates ideas is really fascinating. I am continually overwhelmed by how many posts can be generated in a day. With the ability to hit the "reblog" button, ideas can be spread around rapidly - whether they're accurate or not. For example, I saw something going on last week about Mitt Romney doing "brown face" at a event for Hispanic voters, with photos and video footage suggesting that he had painted his face as a ploy to "support" a certain demographic of voters. People were of course calling this racist and outraged that he would do this and claiming you could see the line on his chin or neck where the face paint stopped and his actual flesh tone began, but I never heard a word of this on any other media forum. Despite the alleged "video footage" (which I didn't watch and now that I can't find the posts, regret I didn't) I'm inclined to think it was tampered with by a savvy internet user. And yet no one on the post thus far had called fowl and mentioned that maybe, just maybe, this was fake. An image like this could generate thousands of page views in a matter of minutes and influence a number of people's opinions on Romney. Now, I'm no fan of Romney myself, but I don't think he would do this. Actually, I don't think any American politician in their right mind would do this. (Unfortunately, Romney did actually say the thing about it being necessary for airplane windows to roll down. I really hope that entire instance was a mangled attempt at a joke, because otherwise my entire "no politician would ever do this" idea is going to be weakened a great deal.)

And thus, Tumblr is sort of a maelstrom, a perfect storm between efficiency, emotionality, and expression for it to be both incredibly effective and incredibly dangerous. It is powerful, and I think that is greatly overlooked in academia due to the lack of study on it (seriously, all I can find about Tumblr is "how to market your business with blogging" or "how to use social networking." I find it hard to believe that no one's done a serious study of this network...) Because unlike Facebook, when you post an opinion about something, not only your friends can see it, but the entire world. However, unlike other blogs, it can be shared with one simple click of a button. And, unlike Twitter, Google searches show these posts like one would show links to a website. It is incredibly baffling - it passes by with no more relevance than the typical forum website to some, a useless technology to others, and nothing more than a porn site to far too many college boys (which makes mentioning I have a Tumblr to one of my friend's roommates incredibly awkward). But it also a blogging site, an escape from the mundane for some, a way to talk about problems amongst understanding followers, and a source of sharing fandom appreciation.

It's no wonder after nearly ten months of using Tumblr, I still don't understand it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sherlock, Kpop, and other random things

Unfortunately, my post on Social Justice Warriors and Tumblr is taking a little bit longer than I'd like. So in the meantime, I'm going to write up something short and sweet. Mainly about this post:

If you're anything like me and somehow only manage to find out about cultural trends through other people, this probably won't make whole lot of sense. However, thanks to Tumblr, I had some idea of what was going on here and realized that this fan art was made in regards to this:

For reasons I don't quite understand (other than the fact that this video has been nominated for several Euro MTV awards) this video has become really popular in the States. Which is kind of baffling. Because I've been aware of Kpop (Korean Pop) for several years. I don't know much about it, but I at least can recognize it and knew what the heck was going on when Stephen Colbert was talking about the singer Rain on his show (this was a while ago... 2009 I think). But now this video is huge. And somehow the interest in it has collided with Sherlock fan art.

The internet is a very, very strange place. But in its strangeness, awesome things happen. And I now have a legit reason to post a video from Eat Your Kimchi - because Kpop, Sherlock, and video blogging just merged all together. WIN.

And because it was mentioned at the end of this video, I found out that a group named SHINee has a song called "Sherlock." No, seriously, check it out:

And Eat Your Kimchi's discussion of the video is pretty great too (and okay, I just really like these vloggers):

So other than the fact that the vloggers Martina and Simon tear apart the plot of the music video like Sherlock criticizing a terrible criminal, I really love that Simon has decided that the computer in the video should be dubbed the "iWatson." I found this ridiculously funny. Especially as there's animated show called Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century - haven't seen it yet; it's on my to-watch list (since high school; oops) - where Watson is a robot. The intertextuality of all this is just too great.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

I owe the world an apology (again)

I realized that I'd gotten three hundred and some page views yesterday. Having been away from my computer, I was curious as to why (as that's the highest its ever been). It wasn't for good reasons.

I'd once again upset a Tumblr blogger (who will from now on remain nameless). I cannot and will not link to her blog, I cannot pass my opinion - which is only read as judgement - on anything she posts. I've gotten a message of disdain on Tumblr now and there's nothing else for me to do. I'm not going to unlink the posts where she's already been mentioned because she already is aware of them and what would be the point? The best I can do is refrain from mentioning her from here on out and respecting her wishes.

But I can't help from feeling a little (okay, a lot) angry. Yes, I have no right to express judgement on people's actions. But I didn't think that's what I was doing. Perhaps I was blinded by academic ideals and thinking that because I'm doing this in the name of "research" that gives me some sort of clearance. But I never outwardly went out to people's Tumblr blogs and said what I thought. Then again, what difference does it make where I say it? I'm still saying it. And that's the problem.

It doesn't matter how it makes me feel (I could describe it, but what would be the point? It would only make me sound defensive and the last thing I need to do is to start a battle of words on here).  It doesn't matter that I think I'm doing this for good. It doesn't matter that I have some followers who might agree with me. What matters is that one blogger with a lot of standing sees me as a troll with vile thoughts. And maybe I do need to reconsider how I post on here. But it doesn't matter that how she's called me out seems to me - and only to me - far more unkind than how I called her out on my blog; maybe that's how she felt about my references to her and now we're even (though both the worse for it). What does matter is that I am not seen as being part of the fandom and no matter what I say in defense is irrelevant. I don't get "it." I will never get it. And therefore I should just keep my mouth shut.

But I'm not going to. It's the internet. If I can't speak my mind out here, just like fans and everyone else want to, then where am I going to do it? I'm not going to stop just because one person disagrees with me; I've made that mistake far too many times in the past.

Maybe I'm incredibly stupid or incredibly righteous or incredibly misguided. But I AM a fan; what am I supposed to do make this clear? Not ever fan acts the same way but it seems I'm exceedingly unusual and this is troubling. Making statements about other fans is simultaneously making such statements about myself. I'm not "better" than other fans because I don't obsess; I do obsess. I just don't talk about myself as much because A) I figure no one wants to hear about me all the time and B) there's a certain part of me that thinks the more I talk about it, the more obsessive I will become. But this is easily misunderstood, perhaps through my own rhetoric, and maybe this is something I need to work on.

I really shouldn't worry that it is just a few people on Tumblr out of the multitudes that use it who has a problem with me. But I don't know how this could spread. And quite honestly, I don't understand how the public/private nature of Tumblr and I don't WANT to upset people; that isn't my intent at all. I just want to try to understand what's going on out there and I simply am trying to work through it.

I just shouldn't take it personally. But that of course is much easier said than done. I take everything personally; a fault of my character, perhaps. And I'd really prefer to come out here and write and not have to worry about upsetting people all the time. Obviously not everyone is going to agree with me. However, I'd rather to stay on people's good sides as much as possible.

Sorry for the rambling. My nerves are a bit of a wreck right now and I'm terribly fatigued from studying and schoolwork, so this is mostly just word vomit and PR management. We'll be back to regularly scheduled programming soon, albeit with some changes (there's one coming about social justice and Tumblr, I promise) but for now I need to calm down and drink some tea.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Peanut Gallery: Third Star

This was apparently the weekend to discover terribly beautiful, painful stuff.  For some bizarre reason, in a set of coincidental circumstances that I can't understand, my parents' cable provider had the film Third Star on their on-demand film choices. I really don't know why. Perhaps they think that a few strange Anglophiles who know Benedict Cumberbatch from Sherlock and/or Hugh Bonneville from Downton Abbey would watch it. Or maybe Charter Cable is just getting more diverse in its film options and someone decided, "You know, we don't have enough artistic films that make people cry on our listings this month. We should throw this one on there. Especially because we have Strippers Versus Werewolves as a choice and we really need something to balance out the options" (I kid you not, Strippers Versus Werewolves was an option. My mother and I watched the trailer. It looked as awful as we predicted). 

For whatever reason, on the listing it was and when I saw the title I was shocked. I explained to my mom how I knew of its existence (Tumblr once again) and the fact that apparently it has caused many a Cumberbabe a large amount of traumatic sobbing. So, my mother did what any good parent of a young woman obsessed with a British actor confronted with a film he stars in would do - she insisted we watch it.

How do I describe this movie without giving it all away? Let me use two songs that I'd been listening to before I watched the film and for some bizarre (and also coincidental reason) fit rather well with the whole scheme of things:

(Of Monters and Men, I can't stop listening to this song. And this was before I correlated it to the movie. What is this sorcery?)

Also, this:

(Many thanks to my mother for listening to the Current and encountering this song in all its symphonic, melancholic glory.)

In words, rather than music, this film was absolutely amazing. Tragic, surprisingly humorous, a film with one of the most striking cinematography I've seen, beautifully written,... and it made me cry. Quite a bit. And I always give films brownie points for doing that (because I use to cry a lot during films; I cried through the entire third Lord of the Rings movie when I first saw it, but I think that's because I saw it as a metaphor for change in my life. And now I cry less often due to much effort to hide my emotions. So extra kudos to those that get me to tear up).
If the narrative of this film wasn't striking enough - a man dying of cancer goes on a camping trip with his three closes friends to Barafundle Bay, Wales - and the visuals weren't already gorgeous, the camera effects somehow are able to express the emotions of four separate characters incredibly poignantly and the actors are superb. I thought again and again whilst watching this that if my friends from high school were to go on a trip like this, this would be exactly how the trip would go. I saw aspects of myself in all of the characters as well as many of my friends and it was impossible not to sympathize with them all. And the techniques used by the camera as well as Cumberbatch's expression as James' of pain and the effects of morphine that he experiences were incredible; I was physically cringing at parts. But there are three other aspects of this film that I really appreciate and would like to dwell on a bit:

1) The title: Third Star is a reference to a line uttered by James, quoting Peter Pan: "Third Star to the right and straight on 'til morning." Considering that JM Barrie spent a lot of time dwelling on death as his brother died when he was very young and his mother mentioned that his brother would never grow up, this was a wonderfully fitting line and title. Also, the film reminded me a bit of Finding Neverland, mostly because I think they are both the rare film that I love and yet it tortures me with its narrative progression.

2) I would like to take a moment to recognize that half of this film is a group of men talking about their emotions. There is too little of this onscreen; apparently having emotions is a "feminine" concept and thus the tendency is for men to be fierce and violent rather than talking about they feel and having a greater emotional range than anger and nonchalance. Third Star does a wonderful job expanding an emotional range onscreen for men while also doing a good job of expressing them as rather realistic human beings. It's neither just a buddy adventure story nor tearjerker; it's both of these and interweaves them elegantly. 

Hattie Dalton, director of Third Star (
Also, this film is directed by a woman. Not going to make a big deal out of this (because it shouldn't be a big deal) but there are too few female directors and this causes me to love the film even more.

3) Thematics and stuff: The issues presented in this film, with death, agency (having control over one's life), coping, and friendship were exquisitely conveyed and, even though by the end of film I felt like I'd had my heart ripped out of my chest and set on fire, it was strangely... nice. There's a strange sort of enjoyment in watching a tragic film that leaves me feeling more vibrant and more alive than the usual happy ending. Which is kind of troubling, because I rarely want to watch a sad movie. But there's almost a sense of exuberance at the emotional roller coaster that one's experienced, that it's nice to know you can feel these emotions and yet not actually have them affect your immediate life. I'll admit, it's sort of twisted. But there is something appealing about tragedies that draws me in, that causes me to react to them more deeply. They have a special space of appreciation in my heart.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Terrible mistakes made by the academic fangirl


I am a total twat. But sometimes, I need and enjoy being reminded of that.

I woke up this morning to find that Dudeufugly had found my Youtube video and was not pleased.

Which I deserve.

Once I got over the "cool you watched my video!... and now you're mad at me :(" instinctive reaction I had,  I rewatched part of my video.

Holy shit, guys. I sound like such a douche. Really, if I had never read my blog, had no idea what I was doing, and had just heard me make exaggerated comments about one of the things most dear to you, would you post stuff about how much of a tool I was on Tumblr?

Fuck yeah.

Out of the context of this blog and knowing who I am, what I'm doing, and why, I sound like a total judgmental asshole. Which sucks. This is what I get for starting a vlog in the middle of another blog and assuming that anyone knows what I'm talking about (and oh my goodness, I sound like such a prat. Do people actually listen to me when I talk like that?)

Dudeufugly, if by some magical happenstance you are reading this, I am so, so sorry. This will be the fourth time and the third social media network I will be apologizing on, which seems a bit over-abundant and ridiculous on my part. But I feel the need to do so, since I've acted stupidly on all three platforms. Here is a better explanation of what I was trying to do and how I failed:

I was attempting to express how inclusive Tumblr feels and how, as a person who enjoys using it but is also interested in studying it, it can be a bit ostracizing. It's like showing up in the school cafeteria and wanting to hang out with the cool kids but you don't know the slang or what's popular. And then you learn it, but it just never feels natural to you because you don't quite feel like a native, a natural amongst them. You're always over-thinking what they do, from their secret handshakes and their ways of expressing themselves. You never quite fit in and you wonder why.

Welcome to me in the fan community.

The complicated thing is, it's not like I'm hanging out with the popular kids in a high school cafeteria. I DO follow Tumblr famous blogs, but they're fanblogs for Doctor Who or Supernatural or Sherlock. In a typical high school, they wouldn't be the popular kids. But online they can be - and it's an absolutely phenomenal experience for them, something I have blatantly overlooked and now am kicking myself for being so blind to. Because no matter what I do, I can't slip easily into fan culture. I'm still always an outsider looking in, the one who knows the handshakes and the slang but is always wondering why it's necessary. Why can't we just hang out and chill and talk about how badass John Watson is? Why do we have to use Tumblr in a specific way and express ourselves in a certain pattern?

Because we feel threatened. That's why.

I may not feel as threatened as others because I'm on this weird boundary line between being inside fandom and not, but I'm sure a lot of Tumblr users feel that they need a secret, private space to discuss their interests, somewhere that they won't be judged by their friends, family, and colleagues. I am tremendously lucky; I have friends and family who don't judge me for being a fangirl - and if they do, I simply don't care. I've taken this little mantra by L.L. Hay much to heart: "It does not matter what other people say or do. What matters is how I choose to react and what I choose to believe about myself." I am what I am and I am proud of it.

However, I have to remember how fandom has been treated in my life - it's never been something bizarre or ostracizing for the most part. My dad's a Trekkie, my mom's a Russel Crowe fangirl, I have a lot of friends who are fans of The Lord of the Rings and Doctor Who and so on. It's not that I don't feel ostracized for being a fangirl (sure do; try making friends your freshman year when you tell people your interests are reading and watching sci-fi); it's just that the people who matter to me don't ostracize me for it.

And in that way I am incredibly blessed. Because not everyone feels that way. Not everyone has friends they went to high school with that they can talk to about their favorite shows. Not everyone knows people they are comfortable talking about their interests with. This was a terrible, terrible oversight on my part and for that I am completely ashamed. I'd like to think I have a broad perspective on the world, but every once in a while I tremendously slip up and see just how stuck inside my own perspective I am. You could argue that I can never truly see another's perspective, and you'd be right. But to come across in a way that sounds as if I am judging others for thinking differently is a terrible mistake on my part and one I am disgusted with myself for making.

It's so easy to get into this little comfort zone of academic fangirling, where you're neither here nor there, but floating somewhere in between. You think that no one's going to react because you're used to no one caring about your opinions. You think you're doing fangirls a favor by trying to better express how they act. Except you start slipping into the mass culture idea that fandoms are strange and pathological and bizarre and obsessive. And you slowly slip into exactly what you don't want to do. But it's too late - you've separated yourself from the fan culture and they don't want you back; they don't want to be represented by someone who seems disdainful of what they care about so much. You don't want to go into mass culture because you don't agree with them and you're disliked by them - they still see you as the fan and they don't like that you're so open, so passionate about your interests. You don't entirely fit into all of academia because you keep getting weird looks from people when you tell them that you're final project is on fangirls, because you can hear them thinking in the back of their minds, "Wow, people are trying to cure cancer and she's studying that?" You think you know what you're talking about when you describe Tumblr but you don't get it because you no longer use it for the same reasons as everyone else. You don't understand that by talking about it, you ruin the secrecy of it and the privacy that people hoped to gain in order to openly talk about their interests. You forget that, while hipster blogs view the rules one way, fandom blogs view them another, as a means to keep haters out. Because while I may not see this strongly expressed, some people really, really think fans are weirdos. And they feel the need to express this strongly and frequently.

So, when someone like me decides to make a vlog and post it to her blog, but doesn't realize that watching it only on Youtube makes her look like a jerk, but she never intended to post it on Youtube, she meant to post it through Blogger but their video uploading thing sucks and she didn't think about listening to it from a different vantage point... things get messy and people get upset. And while I feel very, very bad about upsetting Dudeufugly, I'm very glad she let me know about her dislike of it. Because for some reason, it took me this long to connect the dots between all of this. Maybe it was reading Henry Jenkin's Textual Poachers or maybe it was realizing that I stand outside fandom while trying to stand within it that finally helped clarify things to me. It's too bad it took someone getting upset with me to understand this. But it's better in the long run.
Because if I seriously want to study fangirls (and I really, really do - we're/they're a fascinating, intelligent bunch), I'm going to have to accept that not everyone is going to be so happy about that. People are not going to be pleased to see I've linked their blogs in my posts and using them as textual examples. Do I have the right to do that without their opinion? Do I have the right just because it's on the internet and it seems like it's fair game? Do I really have the right to go into a group and say, "See, here's what's going on - what can we learn about ourselves from them"? I happen to believe that everyone is a fan of something, whether people show it or not. Some of us do show it and I'm curious to see why - honestly, I think the expressive lot might be happier and better off. I'm not trying to make fans look crazy or strange; if anything, I'm trying to fight against that. But every once in a while I mince my words, I don't explain myself enough, I try to keep things funny and light and upbeat and tongue and cheek without stopping to realize that not everyone understands what direction I'm coming from, that I am starting to sound exactly like what I'm trying not to do. Being a fangirl who's aware of what's going on but happily embraces it instead of fighting against it and analyzing it as I do would be so much easier, it really would. That's what I was attempting to express in the vlog and failed. I sort of envy fans who are able to do this, to just reblog photos and not to always think so deeply about what it means to be immersed in images and gifs and communicating online. It blows my mind how similar we are and yet how different. And how I can never go back. Once I started seeing the world through this view, you can't undo it. It's like becoming a fan - once these shows have this much meaning, you can't just leave it behind and go back to wherever you were before. I'm stuck in this double no man's land between fandom and academia.

But I have to say, I like it here. I really do. I get to experience the warm, inviting culture of the fandom and think about it in terms of what it means for us/them in society. I just have to keep in mind that because so many different things are converging together, I have to be really clear about what I'm trying to say.

And not make Youtube videos without scripts. :P

Again, I'm sorry. But I'm human and make mistakes. You probably hate me now, Dudeufugly, and that's okay. You have every reason to. I didn't mean to sound like I was attacking your blog; I really rather like it, seriously. But also, thank you for reminding me that A) I make a lot of embarrassing mistakes, B) my writing is better than my speaking, and C) context matters.

Here is an apologetic hedgehog with my regrets.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tom's Troublesome Twitter Tale

Sorry. Got a bit carried away with the alliteration in the title there. But alliteration (actually, I think that's consonance) is fun.

This recount of current Tumblr phenomenon is not so fun. In light of all the posts on Moffat, this event for the most part is now several days old and seems to have died down reblogging-wise on Tumblr. But it involves Tom Hiddleston, social networking, and fangirls.
This is Tom Hiddleston. You might know him from the movie War Horse. Or Midnight in Paris. Or as Loki in Thor/The Avengers. He seems to be a nice, kind, courteous guy. He also actually seems to be in charge of his Twitter account, rather than having an intern or public relations person handle it. However, being a nice guy - a nice famous guy - who handles his own Twitter account has led to unfortunate turmoil.

According to this Tumblr post, Mr. Hiddleston was contacted by a woman and her sister on Twitter, the former whom he presumed to be his personal stylists on the set of The Avengers - they had the same names, at least. The two women said they had a friend moving to London and wondered if he could show her around. Mr. Hiddleston agreed and began following this woman on Twitter. The woman's user image, however, was that of a famous Philippine model. These Twitter users were not who they said they were. The actual stylist was outraged and contacted Hiddleston, letting him know that she did not have a Twitter. Apparently, these accounts were created by three girls trying to find a way to meet Hiddleston. And now fans are terrified that Mr. Hiddleston will become jaded and cynical of his fans and delete his Twitter account.

It's not been a good past couple of weeks for celebrities on Twitter.

Fans reactions have been interesting as well. The original poster of this wants to do something to prove to Mr. Hiddleston that "real fans" are not that overly obsessive, while furiousdee, the blogger I've linked this from, flatly states that leaving him alone would be the best option. Though if you read through the comments, furiousdee is the only one to state this; other bloggers seem to be much more favoring doing something. So what's be done in a situation like this?

Don't ask me; I'm not a celebrity.
No, seriously; I don't have a clue. I do have a Twitter - I mostly use it to post my blog links out there in the hopes that someone will click on it (they don't) and I continue to use it because for some reason Yoko Ono follows me out there and I can't believe that happened (I think it might have been a mistake. But I don't care; it's an awesome mistake). But I can't imagine being famous on that interface; the number of messages would be so overwhelming. Imagine someone trying to express to you how much they love you and your films in 140 characters or less... it's be mad (of course, I think messaging works a bit differently. But whatever. Still, limited expressive interface).

Well, he was in Miss Austen Regrets (
And let's face it - this goes back to the whole searching for Mr. Darcy thing - people believe Tom Hiddleston is male perfection incarnate and enjoy reminding him they think that. Avoiding any argumentation on that level, I do think the constant messaging from fans must be tiresome. But this isn't the first time strange stuff has happened to Mr. Hiddleston on Tumblr, by any means. I had a screenshot of a Tumblr post (which I appear to have deleted - crap) in which the man was sent an image of a tattoo a girl got of his autograph, an image she sent herself to show how much he meant to her. His reply was clearly shocked but courteous (which I think is pretty commendable). And he continued to interact with fans like the generous, level-headed person he seems to be.

So I doubt that there is any real concern as to whether or not he's going to delete his account over this or start hating his fans; methinks he knows that all fans would not act like this and he wouldn't hold it against them all. But I'm not sure how to feel about this need to prove this is the case. Showing your support, I can definitely understand. Given the issues with Moffat's Twitter (which apparently escalated into Amanda Abbington and Caitlin Blackwood, a young actress from Doctor Who, getting Twitter hate - what the heck?!) and the motivation for fans to show that they still support him (they're making a card, it seems), I definitely lean towards the idea of sending support. But then again, I'm hesitant of it. Maybe right now what all these individuals need is space. Or maybe not; maybe they do need a friendly reminder that fandoms are immense, complicated things and that not all people usually react that way.

I don't know. But what I do know is that the fandom's reactions to the fans who conned Hiddleston and who sent hate mail have been... interesting, as you can see from some of the links I've included here and in the Moffat post. It's a sort of blacklash against those who make the fandom look bad, an out-cry that these individuals are not "real fans" and that they are "pathetic" and "creepy." They speak to the pathology that lurks in fandoms, the parts that often get high media attention despite significantly low representation and perhaps frighten fans because of how close to the chest it is. People, presumably not so different from us, sent hate mail or decided it would be okay to plan a way to meet Hiddleston. The hate mail situation I feel is harder to understand - I simply can't fathom how angry you'd have to be with a human being to send them death threats. However, the Hiddleston scheme makes slightly more sense to me, in the sense that it's not uncommon for people to come up with ludicrous ways of meeting celebrities (been there, done that). The difference, though, lies between thinking it and doing it. Most of us would never go so far as to try and put our ideas in action, mainly because we'd think it'd never work and would probably never voice the thoughts we have about this out loud or to anyone other than our most intimate friends. Usually. But let's say said friends are convinced this idea will work. Let's say your plan sounds really legitimate. Let's say you've done your research and you know exactly how to make this (mostly) fool-proof, all just to honor the person you respect most in your life.

Sound a little less bizarre? I think so. Except we know what ends this took, what the final results were, what was necessary to make it happen. And we distance ourselves from it. Understandable, totally understandable. But in playing devil's advocate, I can begin to see how an idea like this could take hold and sound convincing. The mind is a powerful thing and, if you believe in something enough, it can become utterly sound in your head. I'm not saying what these fans did is okay; I'm just saying it's not so far out there that Stephen King could write a horror novel about it. (Okay, so he did write a horror novel about fangirls. But he went to extremes. I don't think any fangirl has ever been this extreme.)

Kathy Bates in Misery, or: why fangirls have a bad rap (

Anyway, the thing is that I see a lot of things on Tumblr that blur the lines between "doing" and "thinking." I see many, many posts about sexual desire, intense longing for celebrities, "real life fan fic" that creates elaborate stories of meeting celebs. I've seen some pretty strong out-lash towards people certain Tumblr users are upset with. I see a lot of stuff that is just flat-out confusing. Sometimes I can't tell if people are being serious or sarcastic, fantastical or realistic, in a persona created only for online use or act as they are in their day to day lives. I don't know and I can't know. Tis the way of the internet.

This isn't always such a bad thing. The nice thing about Tumblr is that it does decrease the stigma of certain issues - sex, GLBT concerns, celebrity obsession, general emotional issues - and creates a platform with (generally) a supportive community to discuss. However, because the community tends to be supportive and of like-minded individuals, there's an added push that legitimizes certain ideas and strains of thoughts. I'm not saying that the fans who planned this did so on Tumblr, but certainly using a social networking interface and being able to hide behind different identities allowed for a support and confidence that wouldn't have been there otherwise.
The push back from the internet community is also interesting. In part, it is a reflex - a sort of disgust and awe that anyone would actually do this. But there's also a sort of vibe of "purity," of trying to keep the idea of a fandom inclusive and positive and having negative vibes and representations of people like this dampens the feeling of community. But also, in my - and only my - personal opinion, I think there's a sense of fear, a worry of getting in too deep, of becoming like them. Generally, fans take pride in their obsession and devotion - it's something to be celebrated and they do so frequently. In this instance, they cannot do so - it has caused harm, so they shun it, denounce it, lambaste it in order to distance themselves from it. Being a fan carries a certain stigma and this is what we face - the idea that fans are merely obsessive, pathological people who latch onto something and cannot let going because there is something missing in their "real" lives. While aspects of this may be true to some degree for fans, this does not mean that they are truly deeply unstable people. Fans are a far more diverse group than this and this shows in the sort of posts I see online. However, nearly every fan I see shows some sort of discontentment with the present state of their lives, whether in their personal state, on the scale of their local environment, a general atmosphere in their country or culture, or in the world as a whole. This is where I think the actual pathology might lie, not in the people but in the world around them.

Which is why I feel rather bad about the people saying the fans who created false Twitter accounts are not "real fans." If anything, they are the most "real" in our general usage of the word, as they took their ideas off the internet into a physical action to make their dreams come true. The difference between them and others is that other fans merely say they would do anything to meet their favorite celebrities while these fans actually tried to do it.

Again, I am NOT saying what they did was alright; I'm just saying that ostracizing them for what they did doesn't help matters. It is not easy to accept that sometimes, fans do crazy things and have crazy thoughts. Considering that the human mind has thousands of thoughts a day, the odds are that many of those are pretty strange and possibly inappropriate are pretty good. But the difference between having these thoughts and expressing them and putting them into action is an interesting boundary - and something about the internet seems to aid the expression of these thoughts while our current state of affairs seems to bring about the need to voice these thoughts. Why else would there be so many people confessing their feelings and ideas online to a bunch of people they haven't actually met?

Brilliant question, I'm so glad you asked. But I appear to have written a much longer post than what I'd bargained for again, so I'm afraid that query will have to wait until next time. thank you for your input, Moriarty. I will keep in mind that not reaching an actual conclusion is sexier. I don't think that's going to fly with my schoolwork, though.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Hedghog Vlogs: The Rules of Tumblr

DISCLAIMER: It has come to my attention that I'm quite an idiot at times. Like a lot. So, while I'm keeping this post up in it's original format, I'm also including a disclaimer in here saying that this is NOT how to make a vlog. One does not start in the middle of blog and act like everyone knows who you are (in my defense, the video was never actually going to be on Youtube but Blogger's video upload feature really sucks so it was just easier in Youtube. But that's a crappy excuse). Anyway, with my utmost apologies to Dudeufugly, Tumblr, and the world in general, I present to you how to look like an absolute prat outside the context of your blog. I'm not perfect - and this is a wonderful illustration of how utterly imperfect I am. Carry on.

Thanks to my friend, Ashley, I've gotten completely addicted to a series of video blogs (or vlogs) called Eat Your Kimchi. Aside from learning awesome information about South Korea from a Canadian couple that lives there, I have also been thoroughly entertained by it and convinced that I should try my hand at vlogging. So I did. Even though it felt like this:
Regardless, here it is in all its infinite weirdness... and yes, it's even on Youtube (because it was the only way I could figure out how to upload it with out exploding my apartment's internet). Enjoy.

Links mentioned above: The rules of Tumblr (be aware of Lil Wayne on autoplay)

For watching, I give you (what else) a hedgehog!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

An Informal Letter To Steven Moffat

Dear Mr. Moffat:
I feel rather bad about things. I really do. Sometimes it's strange how events align in the universe. Just the other day I happened to write a blog post that featured mentions of people alleging you are sexist. And then today I discovered on (where else) Tumblr that you have deleted your Twitter account due to receiving tweets insulting you as a person and death threats. Amanda Abbington has tweeted her opinion on this matter and I have once more found myself stuck in a web of having blogged about something right before it massively explodes on the internet. It is rather weird.

Which explains to some degree why I feel bad about this, even if you did just delete your account because it was simply getting in the way of productivity. Some of the posts I've been seeing on Tumblr in relation to your shows and to you as a person are incredibly shocking. I cannot fathom what would bring someone to the point where they would threaten your life because they dislike your material so much, so intensely that they think you should be dead.

I am a feminist, I am a critic of culture, and I do pass judgement on shows I find rather disheartening in their portrayal of women. While I have seen only a small amount of your work, I cannot say I have ever been upset with anything you have written. You're on the same list as Joss Whedon for sci-fi creators who can have given some real depth to female characters and, while maybe I could understand how small instances could be taken as sexist and wish that you could do more or have avoided certain things, I don't see the episode as sexist, the shows as sexist, or you as sexist. We happen to live in a patriarchy and perhaps the little instances are more an acknowledgement of those circumstances than anything else; those opinions are not necessarily your own - they are present in our society and thus may be present in this representation.

And even if I did find you as sexist, I don't think it merits a threat on your life under any circumstances. Grudge-holding, certainly, but actual hostility? I have little reason such venomous feeling really solves anything. 

I think perhaps I'm reacting rather more intensely to your forfeit of Twitter than I usually would because of a dream I had just last night. For whatever reason, I was in a gender studies class and our professor asked us to explain our feelings about ourselves as women through sketching, to think about whether we had ever faced any sexism in our lives. The girls around me began drawing and, as they drew, a number of them broke down crying at the realizations of what they had confronted in their lives. I probably dreamed about this because I'd been thinking about sexism and gender studies. Then, when I saw that post on Tumblr about you deleting your Twitter, I got quite a bit angrier than I usually would have because sexism is such an unfortunately common thing in our culture, and while I don't believe the people who raise problems are completely crying wolf or seeing something that isn't there, perhaps they are making a large problem out of it than it is and are being nitpicky, looking for something to hate on when such larger issues confront women on a daily basis. I'm not saying this stuff doesn't matter - I absolutely 100% believe it does, and I'm not trying to prioritize one issue over another - I'd be the first to tell you I think sexism in the media is too often ignored; I'm just not convinced that what they're seeing doesn't stem from a position on feminism that I support. Because no matter what, you shouldn't be harassed and degraded. Because how is that any different than the very thing feminists want to stop happening to women? Flipping the script in my mind does no good; it only shifts the behavior off to another group. Which is particularly while I like this Hark A Vagrant cartoon:

For the record, straw feminists (as Hark A Vagrant calls them) are a conundrum. While it forgoes me to judge whether or not someone is a feminist, I don't much care for the way such feminists go about things. While I can't say whether some of your biggest critics are like this, I will harbor a guess that perhaps some of this at least partially influences their opinions. I came across this article which pegs you as having "lady problems" and I have to say, it's rather confused me. They're upset with women being saved by a hero, they're upset with women saving the hero, and just seem plain upset that men are the center of focus in two of your shows. But I get the subtle (or perhaps not so subtle vibe) that they would not be content until women were the only focus in your shows, that women didn't give a whit about what happened to the men in the shows, and forget that some women actually want to have children. While perhaps this is not what they intend to say, this is the vibe it leaves me with and is perhaps a bit unaware of the way this article can be taken. Or maybe it does want to be taken that way. I can't say.

These are the sort of things that make my head hurt and make me doubt whether or not I actually understand anything. Of course there are things out there I don't know, can't know, and don't know I don't know. But I'd like to think I can at least try. And try as I might, I simply can't see what these critics see - which I think I'm better off for, honestly. I don't want to strive for this sort of feminism but hurt others in the process; I don't really think that solves anything in the long run. Again, I'm sorry you've been accosted by such harsh comments; it simply isn't fair to you. People are demanding a sort of perfection that I'm not sure writing in our society can reach. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try - it just means we shouldn't loathe the people who don't quite reach it.

Also, sir, I just realized that your birthday is the day before mine. This absolutely has nothing to do with anything; I just think it's kind of cool (November birthdays are the best).
I also know, in the long run, mine is just another opinion amongst the gazillion that are out here on the interwebs. But I'd like to think I've got a valid opinion and I've got the right to believe it (as long as its causing no harm - "your choice is who you choose to be and if you're causing no harm you're alright with me," Ben Harper has said). And though I also know you aren't reading this, I'd just like to take a moment to thank you for what you have done in your shows. You have given women characters opportunities to do things other shows haven't provided. You have created female characters that have faults and failures as well as strengths and merits. And also, you have expressed male characters who are more than physical strength and force. I think all too often this can be overlooked, but gender stereotypes can work both ways and it's refreshing to see men who are portrayed as something more than matchless, brawny, fighting machines. It's refreshing to see variability and complexity in your male leads and I greatly appreciate that. Here is a hedgehog in gratitude:

I don't care if this is popular opinion or an unpopular opinion - it's simply my opinion and nothing more. But since I'm blogging it rather than positioning it another way and addressing it to you, Mr. Moffat, this makes the whole thing sort of complicated. It seems I'm asserting it more than I would otherwise and emphasizing how I see things. Which is perhaps rather pretentious of me. But sometimes I feel the need to express how I see things in the hopes that I am at least partially correct and that there's room in the world for my opinion. I happen to believe in Sherlock Holmes and I happen to believe in Steven Moffat.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

I'm sooooooo changeable

I was bid by a commenter to discuss the fickleness of fans and I think it's perfect timing considering all this hullabaloo about Benedict Cumberbatch being misquoted about the CBS show Elementary. (Okay, for some random reason, every time I see the word hullabaloo now I think of Honey Boo Boo. This is terrifying but also reminds me that I should blog about how much the obsession with this little girl scares me. If you don't know who Honey Boo Boo is and everything I've just said has made no sense, then thank God.) Anyway, getting back on track, here's the dealio with Mr. Cumberbatch: he did an interview here with the Hollywood Reporter and things seem to have been misconstrued (as the article now accounts for) and posts like this popped up across Tumblr to clarify this. That was, after all the posts on how happy people were Cumberbatch finally came out and said that he disapproved of Elementary had faded.

I'm sort of confused by all the Elementary hatred. Okay, so I get that CBS is kind of a questionable television network (but c'mon, what isn't questionable? Everything is questionable! Even I am questionable! But that is called existentialism, my dear children, and is in fact frowned upon by those who didn't like Waiting for Godot. (Wow, that's gotta be the weirdest reworking of that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory quote ever)). But the show hasn't actually premiered yet and already people hate it and want Mr. Cumberbatch to hate it and want the entire Milky Way and Gallifrey to hate it too.

And this would be my reaction:

Look, I get not liking something after you see it. I get that. I get being concerned about competition from a similar show towards Sherlock. I don't get why anyone would hate it without seeing it first, though, and why they would insist Cumberbatch hates it too. I mean, c'mon guys; this show has Jonny Lee Miller in it; I've mentioned this before; these two are bros. I mean look:

BROS. (Or at least the best representation of such evidence that I'm going to get). 

Instead, this whole Elementary thing has gotten kind of out of hand. As a fan who will pretty much watch anything vaguely Sherlock Holmes related at all (look, I watched the Olsen twins in my youth because they did a mystery series. I have no shame), I don't really hate any adaptions. It's Sherlock Holmes - there's so much you can do with it. Sherlock himself is different in some of his stories compared to others (sometimes he's really friendly and other times he's such a tool) and I like how different representations pick up on this. I may not like what every adaption does, but I certainly don't hate them from the very depths of my soul for what they choose to do. This wonderful little post on Tumblr pretty much sums it all up. (Baker Street Babes for the win!) (I also love the extreme amount of love the Baker Street Babes have for The Great Mouse Detective; that movie was my introduction to Sherlock Holmes and I love that someone other than me is still very adoring of that film.)

It seems like fans are just being pretty fickle, liking one thing but not another; it's like the Coke-Pepsi difference - it's all a matter of taste and one should not be ostracized for it. Or the Mac-PC debate (not that I have ever played nice in that debate; mea culpa my PC-using friends). So I can understand the reservations towards Elementary; I get it. I just don't get the extreme visceral reactions.

Says the girl who threw 50 Shades of Grey across the room. At least twice. 

Of course, I hated 50 Shades of Grey. It wasn't part of something I'm a fan of. I most certainly was NOT its intended audience. But what about these fans who don't like these other Holmes representations? Is it because they feel it isn't directed towards them the way the version(s) they prefer are? Is it because they don't want their niche interest cluttered up by "copy cats?" Is it simply because it doesn't feature Benedict Cumberbatch and therefore it doesn't matter?

Something like all of the above sounds about right.

It gets a bit weirder when dealing with actors. Like fans who stop liking an actor because they're dating someone (as this blurb implies). That I don't get. Or people who don't like an actor because, oh, I don't know, they don't like Bono (Martin Freeman apparently doesn't, according to this). But I'm not personally affronted that Mr. Freeman doesn't like Bono, despite the fact I like U2. Because the world is big and complicated and people have varying tastes and I can respect that.

But in fandoms, that doesn't always work out so hot. It's a bit like how people on Facebook and Tumblr don't seem to get along; there's some hidden dark turmoil that I don't really understand and that I'm not invested in because I don't belong to that group so completely that it becomes an affront to me as a person if someone violates the Tumblr creed or expresses an opinion in a fandom that I don't agree with. Unless, of course, they're being a troll, then I'm probably going to get irked.

But then things get more complicated in this whole "changeable"-ness of the fandoms. And that involves Steven Moffat.

I came across this post sometime ago and didn't really know when to approach it, how to approach it, how to feel about it. It's all fine and well for me to tear 50 Shades of Grey apart because I hate the bloody thing. But it's much harder when the things are being criticized this much are things you love and enjoy. In fact, part of me doesn't quite understand how the people who write posts like this on Tumblr are still fans of the show if they have this much pent-up aggression towards the creators. Of course, that being said, I take a lot of issue with Disney films but I still like them. So maybe from that perspective it is more easily understood.

I did take a look at the Scotsman interview that the post lists and Moffat does come across less positively than I'd like in his comments about women. However, I also know that this is an interview and, if we know anything about media and where this post began, it's that interviews can often misquote. These tweets seem to express just that:

I of course didn't look at every example the "master list" gave and I am not familiar with the characters listed other than Irene Adler (I've yet to get into the episodes of Doctor Who with Steven Moffat in charge; I'm still back with the 10th Doctor and Rose) so I can't speak to that. And honestly, part of me doesn't want to. It's hard as a fan to admit that maybe what we're watching is less than perfect in its perception of women. It's not that we don't see it; it's just that it's harder to talk about. But at the same time, these are some of the best portrayals of women that I've seen, especially with shows like Two and a Half Men and [insert reality show of your choice here] on air. And yet, I still long for better representations, even in the shows I love. So I give kudos to these fans for speaking up. But what boggles my mind is how much they hate the creator.

However, I think that comes from my mindset. To me, I don't think Moffat would be able to create characters as fascinating as Amy Pond, River Song, and Irene Adler if he really hated women. They aren't exactly your typical female leads and they have elements you don't see on mainstream U.S. TV. I don't think this is Moffat here; I think maybe it's more society coming though. I mean, it's the patriarchy - we can't escape it. I know too well the feeling of being a writer and being terrified that your characters are reinforcing gender stereotypes because the plot is progressing in a particular way and then you feel like the patriarchy's won. Maybe it's because a lot of story arcs that are considered good writing come from patriarchial tales. For instance, Anna Karenina is a wonderfully written book - but it was kind of dampened for me when I heard that Leo Tolstoy wanted women to stay in the home and obey their husbands and that novel is an expression of what can happen when they don't. And was we modern writers are standing on the shoulders of these giants... well, it makes it a little difficult for us to find places to branch out to in tales we know that people will want to listen to.

Not that Steven Moffat is a perfect human being by any means. Not saying he's a horrible person by any means either. We as fans also have trouble accepting that actors, writers, directors, etc are the same fallible pinkish-brown monkeys that we are. And holding them up to impossible standards is rather rough on them. Not that they shouldn't be accountable for what they say and what they produce; they know the power of their craft I'd hope. But we also shouldn't expect them to break down the walls of patriarchy with one single TV episode when such a system is so embodied it's impossible to get out of. But when I see posts like the following:
It suddenly gets way harder to make sense of anything. Clearly, fans are more than just fans out here - things matter; the themes and portrayals really, really matter to us/them. We want, perhaps, to escape from our troubled world for just a while, or perhaps want to see something that offers answers that we can't find elsewhere. But when we see this other world is just as troubled as our own or also doesn't have the answers, there's a sense of frustration. We demand better writing, better representation, better hope and if that fails us, we take it out on each other. We call Moffat a douchebag, we insult people for not seeing what we see, we grow jaded when people are less than what we expect of them. And in reverse, as John Barrowman puts it:

It's a vicious circle, with us all pressed up against a glass ceiling we haven't quite figured out how to break through. Here's for hoping we can break through it. And here's for hoping we can begin to see that taking it out on each other doesn't do any good. We should be pushing for better representations and different ways of writing - but as viewers, we have to accept that this may look different than what we're used to, our viewing habits may have to change, and shows may not meet other expectations we have - happy endings, for example, or neat concise story lines. Shows are already beginning to do this, though, and our tastes are growing with them. Sitcoms where every episode ends with a neat little bow are less popular while shows with continuing twists and turns like Breaking Bad and Mad Men are all the rage. But the more complicated shows get, the more complicated the opinions will be. Can we as fans keep a hold of our opinions without attacking others for theirs?

As my dad's friend Ron says: We shall see what we shall see.

So, dear commenter who requested this, I hope this at least somewhat touches on the discussion you were hoping I'd provide on fan fickleness. It sort of digressed into feminism, as per usual with me; I hope you will not mind. For your input, I reward you with a hedgehog:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Study in Fandom

Good news: My classes started and they are awesome.

Bad news: My job continues to suck as apparently our building is possessed by a poltergeist and whenever new tenants move in, it causes bad things to happen to the plumbing in order assert its displeasure. Last year the pipes in apartment #3 exploded. Becky, who lived in that unit and now moved up a floor, is now our building manager while I stayed on as assistant and today, on the first day of class, a toilet exploded (don't ask me how) in unit #303 and flooded all the way down to the basement - including Becky's room. That's four floors. Becky said that her walls looked like they were crying.

Which made me think of this:

Moment of interest is at 1:39 - "Okay, guys, seriously; I don't want to be here alone when the walls start to bleed." I feel you, Johan Hill. I feel you.

I was not part of this debacle today as I was in class, but I was debriefed later. And our worst nightmare has occurred. Somehow, it's far less scary than I thought it was going to be. Maybe because I've forced myself not to care about this building anymore, no matter how cool it could be, because this is the sort of place that breaks your heart and steals your sold. Curse you, brownstones, for having so much potential but the worst plumbing known to mankind!
Apparently Mycroft understands my job. Fantastic.

But enough about possessed 1940s hotels turned apartments. On to more important things at hand. A few months ago, I found this post on Tumblr:

Instead of sympathizing like a normal human being for these two people who accidentally sent non-class related things to their professors, I instead ended up laughing uproariously at this. Because there was a very good chance that I would be studying fandoms for my senior project and that, in the name of science (of course, because that legitimizes everything :P), I could be sending Sherlock fanfiction to my professor.

And in fact, officially beginning tomorrow, I will be embarking on a directed study focusing on rhetoric and identity, specifically in the fandom of Sherlock Holmes. No, seriously; I am. Only in Cultural Studies could I get by with studying fandoms, have my professor think it's brilliant, and prove that college can both be fun and educational.
Now that I'm completely distracted by a happy dancing 9th Doctor, I would just like to take a moment to acknowledge the fact that it's very, very possible that this blog could start to contain lots of ideas from my study (it probably will; I already blog plenty about class as it is). Also, there's very good chance that my professor is reading this right now as my blog was left open on his computer browser today (and if you are reading this, Robin, hi!).

But mostly the only purpose this post serves is for me to textually do what Christopher Eccleston is doing in that gif. And to keep from thinking about my apartment building looking like this:

And instead, ponder the possibility of this:

In the words of Sherlock Holmes, "The game's afoot, Watson!"

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Peanut Gallery: Henry VIII I am not and William Carey feels

I've been threatening to write a post on The Other Boleyn Girl and I've finally gotten around to it (after surviving move-out/move-in week at my apartment which actually was not so terrible). I was debating whether to focus on just the book or just the movie and then I decided I would do a side-by-side comparison because that will be easiest. Also, because I have differing feelings on the two of them.
I decided to read The Other Boleyn Girl because Phillipa Gregory is immensely popular but I know nothing about her writing other than the fact that an acquaintance of mine hates her in the same passionate vein that my professor hates Baudelaire. Also, I wanted to see the movie and I like reading the book a movie is based off of before I see it, if I can. And I wanted to know what all the fuss was about.

So, the book. It was pretty standard historical fiction/romance, I suppose. However, I had a hard time relating to the characters. Except for William Carey who I thought was rather lovely and really liked and was really quite confused as to why Mary Boleyn was so unimpressed with him and much rather preferred Henry VIII. Actually, I just don't understand why Henry VIII was such a hot item. He slept around with everyone, he blamed his wives for being unable to conceive sons (ooh, Henry, you're going to be so pissed to hear that it's actually your problem), he was kind of a dick to everyone. I'm at a complete loss for Mary and Anne's interest in him and I think that severely ruined my ability to understand the romance going on, because all the while I'm rooting for Carey while Mary is falling in love with the king. Oops.

The relations at court were interesting though, and I thought the representations of the Boleyn family was intriguing and complicated. I don't know much about the Boleyns other than what I've managed to scrounge up from conversations with people and from reading a book series from England called Horrible Histories (I never took European history in high school, much to my shame. But it worked out better in the long run because the teacher for that class didn't believe that airplanes were used during World War I. *sigh*). So I really don't know much about the historical accuracy of the book or film and it probably doesn't matter because neither the film or the book work like a documentary. They're just a sort of taking characters that existed and, I don't know, cosplaying with them through writing. Maybe this sort of thing is like historical fan fiction - you take basic historical principles and think about what it must have been like and fill in the gaps of knowledge with what you've been pondering.

Although the moments of historical accuracy were interesting. And tended to bum me out. Like (SPOILERS) when William Carey died of sweating sickness. I'd looked him up on Wikipedia part-way through the book to find out more stuff about him (he collected art, which is pretty awesome) but he really did die of sweating sickness. Which is sort of awful. I mean, all the things to die of in this time period and he gets stuck with sweating sickness? (That is also one of the worst names for a rather serious illness that I've ever heard.) So I was pretty let down with the rest of the book after he died because he was my favorite character and was the only one who legitimately peeved with the Boleyns. I mean, they took his wife away from him so she could sleep with the king so they could gain more power. His family got destroyed after this, even though he was rewarded with a place in court, though he could totally care less as he didn't want to be in court because it wasn't exactly a safe place to be. He couldn't make any choices for himself because everything was being dictated by his in-laws. Oh, and he dies of sweating sickness. I was having some pretty hefty William Carey feels after realizing how shitty things were for him. He got pretty royally screwed over by history (literally).

I also spent much of the book wondering how anyone did anything in clothes like this:
 Really, I don't know how they did it. I'm still wondering about this...

There was also this sense of dissonance I got while reading the sexual stuff in the book and wondering, "Jeez, did people really do blow jobs in the 1500s?" Probably. There's this idea that the past was more sexually innocent when one learns history, well, at least in how I was taught history (at times, but then there's also the idea that it was more promiscuous and dangerous, what with the portrayal of all the raping and pillaging and such). But there's still a sense of weirdness about all of it. Maybe there's more to this; maybe this is why shows like The Tudors are so popular; because there's this strange sort of feeling upon realizing that historical figures had sex and that by watching/reading this sort of thing you learn something personal, intimate about them that's hard to get from a historical text. But I'm kind of digressing again...

Anyway, the end of the book got really weird for me. I didn't much care for William Stafford (Mary's second husband; seems she had a thing for Williams). The insinuation that Anne Boleyn slept with her brother and conceived this monstrous child out of punishment from God was a bit much for me to handle. And by the end of the book, I'd kind of stopped caring about any of the characters, partly because they weren't that easy to relate with and partly because I'm clearly not the intended audience for this book.

So then I watched the movie (actually, I watched the movie before I finished the book but I only had 200 pages left and I knew what was going to happen because it's widely known knowledge that Anne Boleyn is executed by the king). I'd always been sort of intrigued by the film because I like historical dramas. And I found out this guy was in it:

Yup, another Benedict Cumberbatch film. Any bets on which character he plays?

It's William Carey. Because, you know, the odds that my favorite actor plays my favorite character in the book should be rather slim, but since when did that matter? Regardless, there is some pretty damn fine acting to be had from Mr. Cumberbatch and William Carey feels had by all.

Which brings me to my very, very serious complaint about this film. As much as I hate the part where William Carey dies of sweating sickness, this entire sequence has been cut from the movie. Which gives some really serious plot problems. One moment Mary Boleyn (played by the lovely Scarlett Johansson) is married to Carey. Then later Mary is falling in love with William Stafford (played by Eddie Redmayne) and I'm confused as hell as to where Carey got off to. Obviously he still died. But somehow this was cut out of the film. If you watch the deleted scenes, the whole sequence is in there (with some pretty great and painful to watch bits of Carey suffering from sweating sickness). It's like five minutes at the most so why the decided to cut it out for time rather than continuity is beyond me (maybe because they realized that Benedict Cumberbatch's ability to cry on cue would make the scene more powerful than anything with King Henry and they couldn't have that. Or maybe they just had a really crap editor). Anyway, this bit annoys me and makes me think they either didn't catch this flub or decided there was so much craziness going on with the Boleyns, it wouldn't matter if they implied bigamy.
But on that note, I was rather glad the film scrapped the whole idea of Anne (played by Natalie Portman) sleeping with her brother, George (Jim Sturgess; there are a ridiculous number of familiar actors to me in this film; it's nuts) because that was a bit much. I also like that Anne is much more sympathetic but this also really cut down on the complexity of the relationship between Anne and Mary. And then there was this whole addition of a rape scene with Anne and King Henry which was not in the book and just really disturbing. I'm not sure why the did that and I rather wish they'd left it out, unless they had some sort of historical motivation to do so. (Rape scene, yes; William Carey's death, no. I don't get this film.)
Adding on to the list of things I don't get is again King Henry VIII. Is he supposed to be romantic in this film? Because I'm not seeing it. I'm not an Eric Bana fangirl, so maybe that's part of the problem. (Although he was pretty epic in the Star Trek movie. Okay, now I'm utterly distracted by the fact that both Eric Bana and Benedict Cumberbatch are in this movie and they both have played/are playing Star Trek villains in the franchise's revival. Bizarre.) I think I fail at historical romance; apparently kings are supposed to be sexy and one isn't supposed to be questioning whether their intentions are really heart-felt and whether they're misogynists or not. I'm not any good at this sort of thing, so I'm simply not going to dwell on it any longer.
So my feelings about this film are rather mixed; the acting is good but the script leaves things wanting. However, it does have a great cast and Eddie Redmayne makes me care about William Stafford a lot more. Also, Juno Temple has as small role as Jane Parker, the wife of George Boleyn. She was Lola in Atonement and I am rather keen on seeing more of her films so this made me incredibly happy. And I just found the minor characters more interesting than the major ones, which is really a bit odd. The entire story is focused around Mary and Anne and Henry and yet I'm far more intrigued by William Carey, Jane Parker, the Boleyn parents (especially the mother, who is portrayed very differently in the film than in the book, which I rather liked). Maybe if the film had balanced it out more with more focus on the minor characters, it would have worked better.

Who knows. I basically saw this movie because it had Benedict Cumberbatch in it, so really that discredits everything I've said :P So I'll leave you with my lack of credibility and a funny little comic bit from Hark, a Vagrant: