Self-aggrandizing Journalism

The journalists I respect risk a lot in the hopes of raising awareness of or pressuring oppressive agents, so I’m disappointed at the coverage of Ferguson, which has focused on “looting and rioting” rather than the protesters linking arms to protect storefronts and police or that several incidents, like the broken windows at a nearby McDonalds, are the result of adults fleeing tear gas, sometimes with kids in tow. That is beside the journalists exploiting protests for face time and career advancement, abusing locals, and trampling memorials for Michael Brown. This comment from journalist Matty Giles says it all:

As another media member who was down there videoing and taking photographs – my photos of members of the community doing anything other than rioting were not accepted by the networks. When I took pictures of men standing shoulder to shoulder protecting stores that had been broken into, no one cared. When I got video of Antonio French pleading with a young man who wanted to fight the cops, and managed to talk him down and calm him down – no one is interested in that story. The networks want sexy photos of police with guns raised and people fighting each other.

I left on Monday. The story of how police treat that community, and how they have subsequently treated people thereafter is one that should be told, but no one is listening to that story.

After seeing ISIL exploit the genuine sacrifice of the Syrian people, I know the pain when opportunists rush in. Check out #OperationHelporHush or to fund supplies for protesters. I’m really shocked the police haven’t announced any plans for change at this point -it wouldn’t be hard to pacify the public from a practical standpoint, wave some false promises, and that, too, Syrians know; take some tips from us, Ferguson- but at least Atty. General Holder’s supportive. Keep on, Ferguson.


James Gunn Disappoints with Guardians of the Galaxy Movie

At Feminism/geekery, Kate Reynolds says everything we’re thinking, or I, at least, about director James Gunn’s big-screen adaptation of Marvel comic Guardians of the Galaxy.

Interviewed by The Daily Beast’s Marlow Stern, Gunn says, “If it was up to me, and I was the first one who’d written the screenplay, I would’ve put two women in the Guardians,” but he later says in the same interview that little has survived of the original script written by Nicole Perlman. So which is true?

Somehow, I think the same Gunn who called Gambit a “Cajun fruit” had a heavy hand in a script wherein the only superheroine is undermined and called a “whore” by one of her alien allies in a “comic” moment -and I heard the audience laugh; particularly in light of the kids present, it was disturbing- and the skills of the deadliest assassin in the galaxy are repeatedly trumped by a raccoon and a thief. Why was Gamora so missish, and finally, why did Peter Quill need to find women expendable for man cred? How does this reconcile with his reverence for his mother? All of this ad-lib sexism seems like distinctly earth-man baggage (see James Gunn).

Not for lack of trying, Guardians is the first Marvel movie I couldn’t enjoy wholeheartedly, and as much as I love Chris Pratt, it will be my last from James Gunn, who can apparently only relate to misunderstood raccoons and (someone’s) masculine ideals like the reinterpreted Peter Quill.

Eid Mubarak!

I’ve been down due to the events in Gaza these past few weeks, I haven’t been able to think of much else, but my sister’s in town and it’s Eid. Sad to say the situation hasn’t changed overseas, but praying for a resolution soon.

The French Revolution Game I’d Like to See

We’ve encountered many bizarre defenses for Ubisoft’s exclusion of female characters from some of their Assassin’s Creed games, including their latest about the French Revolution -Sarah Ditum at Kotaku highlights some of the most vexing– but one claim, echoed at various points by developers and fans, puzzles me most: women did not change history. My friends, women not only changed history, they did it with panache.

Case in point, Theroigne de Mericourt, pictured above, French revolutionary, chaffed by the restraints on her gender, debated with important French politicians, wore a male riding habit, and befriended the Austrian courtier who, convinced that she led the Revolution, captured and interrogated her. Eventually, she waded into battle. Long before she raised a pistol, however, Royalist journalists vilified her as the antithesis of “good” femininity, violent and promiscuous. She later delivered her fiercest condemner to a mob.

Attacked by women from the opposing Jacobin rebels, Mericourt was rescued by a famous Jacobin leader whom Charlotte Corday would later assassinate with a knife she pulled from her corset, blaming him for the grisly turn the Revolution had taken as dissenting revolutionaries with whom she sympathized were executed. She was once called “the angel of assassination” and at her trial famously said, “I killed one man to save one hundred thousand.”

There you have it, built-in diversity, one female revolutionary who wore men’s clothes and carried a pistol, another who accomplished her assassination in a traditional gown and corset. Are these stories not begging for a treatment in a book, film, or game? C’mon!

Are Female Characters Likeable?

At her blog, Ada Hoffman’s speculations on whether audiences like female characters less than male characters brought to my attention this great post from It’s four years old, but this insight from commenter fenzel about the persistent misconception that kickass female characters are just faux-men is still relevant -perhaps the most relevant to me:

“Maybe women want to have adventures too, and want to be adventurers, and when we identify this need as masculine, we shut them off from something they want. And maybe when we insist women not be portrayed as adventurous, or be only secondarily so, or alienate them from our storytelling’s predominant adventure phantasmagoria, we diminish them and shrink the space where they might exist as fictional characters or self-identifying beings…

… And maybe, by insisting that something is essentially masculine when it isn’t, we shortchange and diminish men as well, by limiting how they might imagine themselves and setting them up as essentially hostile to modernity and social progress when there is no real need to cede that ground either.”

I understand, in a way. An audience long exposed to kickass female characters as tokens in an all-male cast will dismiss them as much as their writers do. Case in point, Maggie in TNT’s Falling Skies constantly plays second fiddle to the entire cast even though she’s the most competent soldier in the war against aliens- because the creators of the show don’t give her any conflicts and maintain her as one-dimensional all-star. At least Anne got some development as war chief slash vengeful mama.

In Shana Mlawski’s column, she suggests that we still represent women as bastions of morality in fiction while male characters enjoy leniency and open minds from audiences. They can be anti-heroes, cowards, losers, et cetera, et cetera with apparently far less criticism. Although I’m a fan of neither, we have yet to see a female-starring Breaking Bad after Weeds. This reminded me of a conversation with a friend, when I observed the differences in urban fantasy by men and women, which focus on everymen and overachievers, respectively. “Overachievers” may be unfair, since urban fantasy heroines have problems, but they always triumph in contrast to urban fantasy heroes who barely hold onto their limbs and typically stumble into solutions rather than outwitting -and never overpowering- anyone.

I’ve always thought this spoke to women and men’s struggles (and these characters definitely revolve around struggle.) I can only guess at the reasons some men relate to the heroes. Do they feel helpless or stressed by life’s boss battles and find it cathartic to read about another man at wit’s end? I can definitely understand the appeal of the heroines, however. Women are expected to accomplish this, that, and the other, and urban fantasy heroines may not technically manage all of them, but they come close. Notice I’m speaking specifically to urban fantasy because protagonists change radically by genre. I’m told scifi features similar heroines, but as racism slaps me in the face every time I pick up a scifi, my forays into the genre have been few. Kickass female characters are still, by and large, a minority, but as I’ve noted and fenzel notes, they’re criticized harshly. We can’t expect to relate to every female character and view that as a lack of realism. Are there a lot of action heroes strolling among us?

So, in sum, maybe it’s all of the above. Maybe we want some better writing and more opportunities, maybe we’re expressing different struggles, and maybe we need to appreciate a spectrum of female characters, failings and triumphs because, as Hoffman notes from her informal survey, the only consistent is that no character is likeable to everyone.

From Whence and Whither So Many ‘Saving Muslim Women’ Book Covers?

I cannot tell you how disgusting and fetishistic I find the “Muslim woman saved by Western culture” genre that Western readers gobble up to affirm their superiority and indulge morbid delight. Now, even more problematically, these covers are migrating to translated works unrelated to that theme, as if they’re representative of any Mideast or African lit. I wish an editor would see this.


It was last November that Adam Talib gave his talk about “Translating for Bigots,” and this May that Africa is a Country wrote about “The Dangers of a Single Book Cover.” There is a lot more to be said about how Arabic literature (in translation) is jacketed, and how this packaging affects how we experience books:

From a slide in the presentation "Translating for Bigots." From a slide in the presentation “Translating for Bigots.”

It’s not only six-year-old children who prefer the taste of foods that are packaged with licensed cartoon characters; adults also perceive a difference in the taste of potato chips depending on the colors on the bag. Although it seems that similar studies haven’t been done on dust jackets, surely it’s a small leap to believe that the outside of a book affects, at least in some way, how we perceive the contents.

That’s the theme — briefly discussed —…

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