Links: Thursday, June 26th

June 26, 2014 Links 9

Tom Waits/Cookie Monster mashup – God’s Away On Business

  • On Street Teams, and My Lack of One – I strongly dislike the sort of reader who’s attracted to joining a “street team.” At best they’re sycophantic cheerleaders and at worst they’re intimidating bullies. I avoid reading authors with street teams so I can avoid having those readers stop by my review.

    And I’m sure most authors who use street teams are careful to say “You’re under no obligation to give a good review, or talk up a book you don’t feel enthusiastic about,” but human nature being what it is, I think it must be pretty awkward and difficult for a street-team member to accept the free books or whatever swag comes their way without doing some promo in exchange. I can all-too-easily imagine a street-teamer thinking, “Well, I didn’t love it, but it won’t kill me to talk it up a little.” Or even worrying, outright, that she might be dropped from the team, or might incur the wrath of other team members, if she decides to sit out a particular book’s promo blitz. (The wrath of street-teamers is no joke, as a number of review kerfuffles have now shown us.)

  • What Can SFR Offer To Readers With Disabilities? – Heather Massey wrote a really great piece on disability and science fiction romance. (I helped her out a bit with links and a read-through.)

    SFR has loads of potential when it comes to disabled characters. A few books feature them, which is great, and those got me wondering how many more we’ll have to look forward to. The question is how can SFR best represent such characters? How will readers know an SFR handles disability in an authentic, compelling way?

    I’m going to tackle this topic and more in this post, which I intend as a conversation starter and resource rather than a comprehensive presentation.

  • Thanks for trying, but ugh! – Ever read a review someone else wrote about a book you also read and have it make you want to give up reviewing? Because this one has me questioning my life and my choices and whether I should even bother anymore. I gave this book a B-.

    This was a tough one. After I stopped reading Wallflower I had to take a break to gather my thoughts. I wanted to explain my issues with it without just writing off as a huge offensive mess, because it isn’t a bad book. However it does have some big problems. I’m going to do my best to tackle my issues with the book, while still giving it credit for trying.

    To be fair, I went into reading Wallflower with the expectation that it was about an open/out trans/genderqueer character finding love, which it is not. That expectation in combination with how the issues of gender and ethnic identity, as well as racism, were mishandled ruined the book for me.

  • Let’s Stop Pretending Dickens Was The Platonic Ideal of Very Serious Literature – Dickens was great and all, but he was popular. How he became the patron saint of “improving” or “difficult” literature escapes me.

    He was a commercial fiction writer. He published his works in serial form, mostly in literary journals, often changing the tales as he went in response to his audience’s reaction (not, notably, in service to some Higher Art, but in service to what people wanted to read). He wrote sentimental dramas with tidy, often happy and romantic, endings- a bit like our modern soap operas. Much of his fiction was the vehicle through which he preached his message about the poor, sanitation, and child labor, using fiction to make pointed statements about modern social issues? Sort of like Jodi Picoult? It served him well: he died a wealthy man.

  • I Was a Teenage Wolverine: On Superheroes and Disability – A lovely post about reading a disability experience in comics where one wasn’t necessarily intended.

    The Marvel character who meant most to me during those first years of illness, tests, operations and haphazard recovery was Wolverine. He’s the most marginalised of the X-Men, a tough guy with a well-hidden heart, whose rage gets him into trouble that his adamantium claws then have to get him out of. He’s the victim of scientific experiments and brainwashed to forget his past, and the episodes of the Saturday morning cartoons that uncovered his origins hit me right where it hurt.

    I obsessively re-watched this videotaped episode, Wolverine screaming in pain and horror, monitored by detached scientists, with the ultimate threat of vivisection. Not just the medical trappings of these scenes resonated with me, but I saw in Wolverine’s ordeal the utter loss of control over my own life. As surgery was followed by more surgery, and recovery never was complete, I found myself with a constant dread of dying. Wolverine showed me that it was okay to be angry about what was happening to me. Where Wolverine took his rage out on everyone and everything around him, I spent mine on inanimate objects, pummeling pillows and crushing cardboard boxes. I’d wind myself up until I was exhausted.

  • I’m So Excited for the Pixar Movie About an Ordinary Girl That I Keep Making Goat Noises – Whatever with this weird headline, but a Pixar movie about a girl who is a hockey player (and not a princess) sounds pretty cool. I might actually go to the movies for that.

    The premise is, admittedly, kinda wonky. The movie follows the exploits and adventures of Riley, a preteen girl who moves to San Francisco with her dad. Rather than relying on more traditional storytelling devices, the actual plot hinges on the five anthropomorphic emotions that work together to make Riley who she is — Joy, Fear, Disgust, Anger and Sadness. Joy takes the wheel for the first 11 years of Riley’s life, but after the trek out west (and, presumably, when certain puberty hormones start to kick in), Sadness starts edging her out of the driver’s seat. (I should also mention that Joy is voiced by Amy Poehler, Disgust by Mindy Kaling and Sadness by Phyllis Smith. Just, you know, something of potential interest.)

  • ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2’: Is Gobber really gay? — SPOILERS – There’s been chatter about whether or not one of the characters in HTTYD2 was gay and the director has said that he is indeed. It’ll be nice when a gay character in a kids movie doesn’t warrant a news article, but I guess it’s a start.

    When Dragon 2 premiered at Cannes last month, audiences raised an eyebrow at the remark. Had battling dragons cost Gobber an appendage even more important than his arm and leg? Or… is Gobber gay?

    It’s the latter. Ferguson ad-libbed the second part of the line, and director Dean DeBlois chose to keep it in. “The nice thing that Craig brought to it is, it’s such a hand-off line that I think for the older members of the audience, it’ll take them a moment to realize, like, ‘Did he just say what I think he said?’” says DeBlois. “And then you’re moving on. [The movie] treats it like normalcy, and that’s what I really like about it. Because I’m a gay man, and I don’t draw attention to myself for that reason. It’s just a fact of who I am, and the way the world is, and it’s nice to treat it as just a passing notion that isn’t something that people have to get so up in arms about. I think it makes people chuckle, and in every test screening we’ve had, it’s always gone over really well. I know there are probably a few people whose feathers it will ruffle, but you can’t worry too much about that. Particularly in 2014. It’s so prevalent out there, in TV shows and movies. It’s the norm, as it should be. I’m proud of it. It contributes to the daring and progressive quality of the storytelling of this [planned] trilogy.”

  • The Perplexing Problem of Romance – Get your Romance Thinkpiece BINGO card, because this hits all the squares. Zzzzzzzz.

    And yet, romance novels continue to be the most disdained of all genres. Often not just disdained or dismissed, but reviled with an unbridled hatred that oozes and splutters.

    Why is that? Serious question.

    Genre novels such as mysteries or science fiction are often dismissed, but they are not often reviled the way romance novels are. Why is it so much more ridiculous or ignorant to read and write romance novels than something like Game of Thrones or the latest gory offering from Patricia Cornwell?

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An ice hockey fan from north of Boston and the genre's most beloved troll, Ridley enjoys reading contemporary and historical romance, as well as the odd erotica novel. As someone who uses a wheelchair, she takes a particular interest in disability themes.

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9 Responses to “Links: Thursday, June 26th”

  1. Fangs 4 the Fantasy (@Fangs4Fantasy)

    Am I missing something about this How to Train Your Dragon Thing? Because the more I look the only indication I’ve found anywhere about Gobber’s sexuality in the film is:

    ““This is why I never married. This and one other reason.””

    But the way everyone is talking, I assume there is more?

    As for Dickens – I LOATHE Dickens. I hate his books so much. My English teacher’s overwhelming and slightly disturbing obsession with Dickens very nearly killed my love of reading. Dickens was paid by the word and ye gods of mercy it shows! Even Tolkein and Anne Rice don’t produce such grossly over-written dumps of excess verbiage (and they’re both REALLY good at that).

    But to be fair to Dickens, it’s not just him I hate, it’s what he represents. I hate this representation that TRUE literature needs to be overwritten and old (preferably with a dead author), this bound definition of “classic” that sneers at any literature written by any author not long buried who isn’t capable of rendering a reader comatose with cumbersome prose.

  2. Meoskop

    I hate Dickens, haven’t liked a single thing of his I’ve read.

    As to Gobber, that is the only line but what gives it impact is context, both in the fictional world and not. The studio announced a character would be revealed as gay before the film released. They could have left themselves wiggle room, going for the shrug, but they committed it to canon.

    It’s a kid’s series (more than the films, there are specials / tv episodes) and Gobber is an established primary character and a trusted father figure. Contextually, the character isn’t written with “gay-cues” in the way too many are. No drag, no sashay, no winks. So it’s like the interracial Cheerios ad or the interracial & disability Swiffer ad, something normal presented that way – no big deal. This person you trust, that you like, that is important in the lives of the leads, is gay. So what? It’s not a big secret to expose, it’s a fact of Berk.

    Now if they go on in the specials or films to “gay-him-up” that will completely undermine it. For me the strength is that he wan’t written as “the gay one” and his being gay didn’t become a “shocking reveal” or played for mockery. It reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend recently – there are people who think of you as their friend Amy (random name) and people who think of you as their gay friend, Amy. The comma represents a huge difference in attitude and internalized bias. Gobber’s gayness didn’t merit a comma.

  3. Jill Sorenson

    Why does that review make you want to give up, because the reader saw things in the book you didn’t? I really hate the idea that the most critical person is always right. One person sees 2 problems, another sees 10. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the second reader has a better eye. Problematic elements are open to interpretation, and “challenging” material often gets widely divergent responses in a way that safe stuff doesn’t.

    I just read A Spear of Summer Grass, which drew a lot of controversy. I found it a bit white savior-ish, at worst. Hardly a cesspool of overt racism. Opinions vary. I’m not bothered that some readers have a different interpretation.

  4. Fangs for the Fantasy

    It’s not stereotyping I’m worried over – it’s actual inclusion. I’m actually looking for some indication in the actual film that he’s gay – because that line? To say the least it’s ambiguous. Without outside explanation it’s a stretch to call that one line as a solid indication of gay inclusion! “And one other reason” could include anything from impotence to his fiancee tragically dying the night before his wedding and him never looking at another woman again.

    Sure the show creators have added some Word of Gay ( support, but that trope is old and tired and hardly inclusive. We’re hardly “portraying” gay characters when it needs explanatory notes; that’s pretty insulting.

    Is that line the ONLY indication that Gobber is gay? Because that’s really lacking – without reading the interviews it’s going to be really easy for most of the audience to read him as straight

    I certainly hate the idea that the film gets inclusion credit when our happy exclamations have to come with a proviso:

    YAY! Gay kids can finally watch a programme aimed at them with a gay character in it*
    *so long as they google him after the film’s over…

    I don’t want stereotypes – but I do want actual portrayal. Not an ambiguous hint that can kind of be read that way if you google interviews by the creators. That’s not inclusion, that’s not portraying a minority. That’s not even tokenism.

  5. Meoskop

    I agree it could be read other ways, which is part of why (imo) the creators went public with it as canon. As to if it was – in the group I was with it was taken as intended. I completely agree we need non-stereotype representation. What was impactful to me is that this was only the third character I know of and the first main one in all of American animation. I can think of plenty of homophobic moments, but only two other gay characters, and at least one of them was a minor blink and you miss them player.

    Could they have done more? Sure. But they didn’t have to do anything, much less make their intentions known in the publicity. I think it’s a positive thing that will add pressure to matter of fact representation being standard.

  6. cleo

    @ridley – fwiw (to paraphrase this insightful blogger I follow) reviewers just have to stay humble, check their privilege, and do the best they can.

  7. Ridley

    @cleo: I try. Sometimes, though, people point things out that I totally missed and it’s so obvious now that they’ve highlighted it that I feel like a dunce. I mean, what else have I just let ride because it involved subtle racism that’s just part of the background for me?

    It’s a fabulous, review, though. She’s so clear in her objections. It’s a pretty explicit blueprint I can work from going forward.

  8. Nu

    Thanks for sharing your input in that SFR article, Ridley. It was very generous of you, and I’m sure writers, in particular, will appreciate it. There are a lot of helpful tips there.

    I’m really happy to hear about an ordinary or “tomboyish” girl as a Disney heroine too. Hockey was my favorite sport along with soccer. The backlash against tomboyish heroines in recent years (“we don’t need to be like men!”) has really annoyed me. As if no women like that exist.

  9. Fangs 4 the Fantasy (@Fangs4Fantasy)

    @meoksop They didn’t do anything. It was an ad-libbed line with no planning before hand (which makes me question how much of the “non-stereotype” is just because it was a retcon) and with no explicit inclusion on the show. This is just Dumbledore or Stargate all over again.

    If we’re counting this as one of the gay characters in animation then what low standard do the other’s meet?

    It’s such a gross low standard that LGBT people are supposed to be happy with when it comes to inclusion – complete erasure, with the occasional character said to be gay by the creators without actually bothering on the show. And then they get praised for it. They may as well just leave it to fanfiction! It reinforces the whole idea that we’re too obscene for kids shows – because even our supporters think we need ambiguity, subtext and hints rather than actual inclusion.