Women are Not Androids

This morning, as it is Revenge of the 5th, directly following May the Fourth (be with you), I was intending to post a long con recap of Starfest. But as I was getting my second cup of tea in the breakroom, I saw a ticket scroll by and tell a story that stirred something sad deep inside me, and reminded me of some conversations that arose throughout my panels this year.

Trigger warnings for rape possible in this post.

The story that clicked across on CNN was that of a rapist who pled guilty to raping a girl and got a 45-day sentence because she’d had sex before.

Let’s break this down into a totally different analogy for you. I own a home. I have grass, trees, a fence, windows. The house was built a few years ago. Let’s say someone throws a rock and breaks my window, not only shattering the glass but also clonking my 2-year-old-daughter on the head, causing her extreme pain, emotional trauma and possibly brain damage. And then the person who does that admits to a court that he did it, and the judge gives him a slap on the wrist because there was a time (during construction) when my house did not have windows. Without even taking the violence of the act into consideration.

During my panel discussions at Starfest this weekend, we covered Overcoming Barriers in Science Fiction, and Female Role Models in Science Fiction.

A very important part of this conversation revolved around female sexuality. People asked questions about whether a character who was sexualized could be considered a role model. I want to call to mind characters like Bo from Lost Girl, Inara from Firefly. This is very important. In those worlds, those women are portrayed as powerful partly because they maintain control of their bodies and the right to enjoy themselves and others sexually without being persecuted for that right. Bo is a succubus whose powers come from her ability to be a sexual creature. Kinda like a lot of women, actually, even if they don’t realize it.

Women are sexual creatures. Men are sexual creatures. Weirdly enough, human beings still like to enjoy one of our basest instincts: sex. So why are women punished even by other women for admitting to or giving into those desires, so much so that having ever had sex before is enough of a “pass” to ignore the violence and hatred involved in rape?

 Before anyone jumps in with any uneducated rants on how I’m clearly anti-life because rapists make babies, let me turn you toward this amazing article by an ex-pro-lifer, who points out that the so-called “pro life” movement is really brainwashing people to give up a really important part of themselves: the part that identifies as a sexual creature. 

I recently read a comment from a cosplayer in the community who was complaining that skirt length varied depending on who was making the costume. This (female) cosplayer seemed to imply that the length of the skirt showed the personal values of the woman wearing the costume. As though if a woman didn’t cover up enough of herself, she was unworthy of the stipulation that Cosplay is Not Consent. If the idea were true, even a little bit, that covering up stops the power-hungry Other from devouring the bodies of women and getting away with it, then there wouldn’t be rape in countries where women are forced to cover it all.

It’s time to wake up. It’s time to stop telling our girls that it’s OK to judge each other for the sex they want to have. Am I advocating teen sexual activity? Nope. Am I advocating slut-shaming them and telling them they deserved to be raped because they’d had sex before? What kind of twisted crazy is that?

Here’s a thought. This kid is getting beat up in school. Do you tell the kid that they deserved to be beat up because they’d been hit once before?

I want to be able to talk about other big issues, but this keeps coming back. Every day there’s something new about another rape case gone awry because the victim isn’t heard. There was even this wild explosion over anti-harassment policies, new to Steampunk World Fair. Most of those explosions were by men allegedly afraid of being considered “guilty before proven innocent.” Like SPWF is taking away their personal rights by telling them they can’t rape people.

Stop telling girls they deserve to be raped like it’s your privilege to punish people with your penis.

Fastforward a bit. Guys. You should be outraged, because this is just one more case of the world relegating you to the sum parts of raping meat popsicle. Obviously you can’t control yourselves so you get a freebie. Especially if the girl is underaged and sexually active.

Now let’s talk about how to overcome this barrier. Because this barrier starts with you.

Don’t assume that because you’ve never been raped, this doesn’t apply to you.

Don’t assume that because you’re in a good relationship others are exaggerating their problems.

Don’t blame the victim. That only happens in hate crimes. No one blames the victim when their own car gets jacked. Or their house gets burglarized. Why would you blame the victim when their body gets violated, whether it’s rape or racist/homophobic violence?

Do understand that having your very core freedom–the freedom to be able to own your body and be safe within your own skin–violently ripped from you is damaging and terrifying, and that people may not be able to talk about it.

Do be a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves.

Do find someone to speak for you, if you are a victim who is afraid of speaking out.

Do realize that the victims don’t need forgiveness, they need understanding.

Do understand that the victims don’t know that they don’t need forgiveness.

Don’t give up on the people you know who have been damaged. A $20 bill is still good even when crumpled.

Don’t ever, EVER say “but he’s such a nice guy…”

Do be aware. Keep your eyes open. Look around you. You can prevent so many bad situations by just saying “Hello” when someone looks uncomfortable around the person they are with. This goes quadruple for science fiction/comic conventions.

Oh and hey, don’t be THIS GUY. If a person is concerned for their own safety, they might have a good reason.

Japan Days 11 and 12: Ikebukuro and Akihabara

I’m going to combine some days of exploration (mainly places like Akihabara and Ikebukuro) because it’s difficult to separate them.

First there was breakfast at the host family’s house.

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And then waiting for the bus.

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We started with Ikebukuro, and we were there early but on Saturday morning–and that was our first mistake. There were huge crowds everywhere, of the teenaged variety.

But at least they lock their smokers together in cages:

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It’s a forward thinking place with loads of American food…

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Ikebukuro houses Sunshine 60, a huge shopping complex with 60 floors. The 60th floor is a 360 degree observatory area that you can pay to look out from. But the elevator…it’s the Shinkansen of elevators. Our ears popped as we rode it!

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Aubri was asleep, so we didn’t actually go out on the observation deck. We just rode up and down.

Once back down, we set out to the task for which we were in Ikebukuro…the giant An!mate store that is possibly the largest anime store in the world, and also a couple of manga stores specializing in doujinshi (fan drawn manga).

From An!mate we acquired a huge headache, two hours of losing each other, and a couple of boxes of Final Fantasy Creatures. I got Alexander. Twice. The FFVIII version and the FFXIII version. Seriously.

It took us a bit of wandering, but we finally found Mandarake, our favorite store. It’s actually just a few doors down from the old location of the An!mate store, but it’s hard to locate because it’s inside a basement floor reached only by a deep winding staircase. Seriously. We spent a good amount of time perusing, but we could barely breath inside because of all the teenaged girls. They have lots of quality items from 200jpy, though, and by far it’s the cheapest place to go.

Nearby is KBooks, but we were afraid to venture in with the crowd. We DID make it to An!mate (the big one), though.

Nearby, a few quirky signs:

(RolePlaying Cafe)

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(Japanese Grumpy Cat Cafe)

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And Aubri met some mascots:

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We had some kaiten (conveyor belt) sushi, but Jamie and Aubri weren’t impressed by the selection. The place we will go later, in Minami-Senju station, is much less expensive and much tastier.

We also passed some BakudanYaki!

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After sheer exhaustion settled into our feet, we headed back home for the night. The next day we ventured out into Akihabara…which might seem like madness on a Sunday (and actually is, if you think about it). Akihabara is home to Electric Town, a place where you can find parts and gadgets for maybe less than they would be normally. It’s like Made In China Ebay, but at a flea market. But Akihabara also is internationally famous for all the anime shops.

On Sunday they close some of the streets to cars so that only pedestrians can cross. The result is a swirling vortex of mostly non-Japanese Otaku mixed with lots of Lolitas and other craziness… All concentrated in a 6 block by 6 block radius.

The last time we were here we got REALLY lost looking for a host club targeted toward girls called Queen Dolce. This time we found Queen Dolce while looking for a used cosplay store called Jupiter.

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Jupiter was OK, but very creepy and packed with almost strictly obscure female costumes (not just for women, but female characters). Add to it the very creepy old guy working there who looked pretty annoyed to be seeing us, and it wasn’t someplace I would recommend for the sewing disinclined.

However, beneath it is a collector store with old figures and sets. I got the Secret of Mana for PS1 collector set (sans the game, alas) for 300jpy. The figures and music box are cool.

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We wandered into a department store afterward and found these essential convention survival kits:

Also this was in the window of an Adult Shop, being advertised as extra sexy. Wait, what?

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Oh, and this thing…

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We went inside virtually every anime and hobby store in this 6 block radius, seeking Final Fantasy action figures among other things. We finally found *one* Lightning from Lightning Returns, and wound up acquiring it. I probably could have paid the same $80 (7910 yen, to be precise) on Amazon, but I can’t tell if the one they carry is the big size.

I also picked up a couple more Final Fantasy Creatures packs. I got the Bomb and another Alexander, alas.

Aubri decided we needed more pictures of her…
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We found a duck while wandering around the Electric Town area looking for friends…

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Gave up on the friends and went back to Queen Dolce (which doesn’t open until 4pm). Basically it’s a small, quiet little place where the girls wear men’s clothes and talk in their version of deep voices instead of high pitched “cute” voices. To be in the cafe you have to buy at least a drink an hour. We ordered their “original blend” tea and a caramel latte, as well as waffles with ice cream.

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Aubri proceeded to adopt one of them and ran her ragged for the next 50 minutes or so. It was adorable, and we talked her into letting us take a picture (normally not allowed)

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We trudged back toward the station, feet aching. Aubri wanted another cameo.

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We found a “Victorian pub”

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And then we stopped by the Gundam Cafe on our way out.

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Fist bump the Gundam…

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Had to get a Gundam-shaped taiyaki of course.

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And then it was time to go home…seriously. And for the next day: Tokyo Disney Sea!

 

 

 

Japan Day Five: Takamatsu

So there’s a “direct” train from Matsuyama to Takamatsu. The distance by road between the two cities is about 158km (109 miles, less than my commute round trip if I have to go down to Colorado Springs). But the train takes about 3.3 hours to get you from Matsuyama to Takamatsu, and it doesn’t leave until 9:15AM… And so therefore we didn’t get to Takamatsu and drop our stuff off at the hotel until 12:45PM. We made the decision at that point to skip the Naruto whirlpools because they were another hour away by bus.

Despite all of this, this post will be pretty picture-heavy further along.

 

So we went to basically my entire reason for this city stop: Shikoku-mura  village. But first, coffee. Conveniently there is a Starbucks a short walk from our hotel Takamatsu Washington Plaza. That is the only recommendation I can give for this hotel, because the rooms are cramped and the beds are so hard, tiny and uncomfortable that I would have been better off sleeping on the floor. But at least there is internet in the room.

So on our way to Starbucks we ran into this guy, Matsunaka Akinori, setting up and singing. He’s with Tower Records on tour apparently… Aubri liked his music and wanted to dance.

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His voice is really nice, so we decided to get a CD. He signed it for us and let us take a picture:

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He was very nice and hopefully becomes ragingly famous. 😉

So we spent a few minutes deciphering the crazy tourist map directions, grabbed our Starbucks caffeine (well, they have earl grey lattes on the menu, but they still don’t let it brew before flooding it with milk)… Alas.

It’s about a 20 minute train ride to the stop closest to Shikoku-Mura village, and you are accompanied by these guys:

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Apparently they are the local train line’s mascots? We saw posters of the dolphins plus the train conductors doing fireman-calendar-like-poses fully clothed inside an onsen bath… I wasn’t quick enough to snap a photo though.

Now on to Shikoku-Mura. Museums in Japan are funny because they are often one little house or room full of stuff that isn’t really relevant if you can’t read the placards. Not only does this museum come with English translations to the big signs, it’s also basically a reconstructed historical village of ~26 houses from all over Japan, with incredible xeroscaping and different kinds of scenery and walking paths around each one. This is NOT an accessible museum, though, and we were grateful that we left the stroller at the entrance office. It’s 800jpy/adult to get in, and it was an amazing place to let Aubri run and stretch her legs.

Now for the pictures. Brace yourselves…

The bridge we actually came here for (there was a picture in our guidebook)

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Rocks!
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Thatching a new addition’s roof.
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These are not actually friendly snakes!
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Do not tangle with boar.
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A wayside Buddhist temple + teahouse for travelers.
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Aubri made a friend.

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The most incredible thing was that this place was so filled with blossoms–especially sakura! We finally got to take loads of the sort of pictures we came here during April to take!

Also we found cosplayers!

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Stepping into the world of Spirited Away…

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We let Aubri run and enjoy herself for about two hours, but she finally got tired and it was time to go.

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She begged for her stroller the whole way back (fortunately we were almost to the gate when her tired hit). But she felt better as soon as she had cake.

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So we headed back over by the hotel (got there around 5 o’clock) and proceeded to wander around the HUGE arcade nearby looking for food. Udon is Takamatsu’s specialty, but we wanted a shop that had both curry udon and tempura udon.

We found a few odd things along the way…

Barber shop:

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Cat cafe:

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I’d written down the name of a famous udon restaurant–Tsurumaru. Ironically the place was right next to our hotel (about four doors down). Aubri fell asleep right before we got there, so we had to wake her up. They were kind enough to give her some noodles (which we added broth to) for no extra charge.

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They were amazing! Totally lived up to their reviews. After that we dropped the stroller off (with the camera, oops) and went back to wandering. Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of the gorgeous sakura-and-molasses parfait that we ate. It was delicious.

In Takamatsu more things seem to be on the ground floor, and we noticed loads of people had dogs. Maybe because it was Sunday we were just seeing more of it? Anyway, I’m excited that we finally found a museum as cool as it sounded in the guide.

Tomorrow we’re off to Hiroshima, Miyajima and Kyoto. Yes, all in one day. Since we’ll be doing tons of travel (with fewer pictures), that post will have some tips most tourists don’t know as well.

The Bechdel Test Is Not Enough

Lots of new movies are coming out, as is the usual happening at the beginning of the year. Of course this creates this whirlwind of discussion about how movies are not representing the non-male population. My wife was kind enough to link me this video, which is a Ted talk about how movies are impressing our young people.

For your reference, the Bechdel Test basically has three requirements: Are there at least two female characters, do they talk to each other, and is that conversation about something other than men?
A friend also shared this article with me, which is a good argument on why the Bechdel Test isn’t enough.

Now fast forward about 35 seconds, and this sparked a conversation about the Lego Movie, which just came out on February 7th and has a staggering 96% on Rotten Tomatoes as of the time of this writing. Whoa. Very few animates movies ever maintain that kind of high rating. I just happened to see it this past Sunday, right before this whole conversation started.

Now, the Lego Movie barely passes the Bechdel test, and it only passes by virtue of the fact that the Unikitty character is being considered female (although it’s a cat unicorn thing, so I don’t know how much identity reinforcement is really happening there). The main female character, Wild Style, is a totally kickass Master Builder who basically has no romantic interest in the other main character until she does. I don’t want to spoil the plot for you, but of course they get together in the end.
Here’s the not-so-awesome. There are basically exactly four female characters in The Lego Movie. Five if you count Unikitty. Out of thousands of characters. You have Wonder Woman, Random Cat Lady, Female Construction Worker (with cleavage), Unikitty, and Wild Style. The last character they had to invent, because there are basically no female legos in the real world.
EDIT: Apparently there are actually six because Lego Cleopatra.

You know how I know that? Because I LOVE Legos, I play with them more often than any adult should. Oh, and because this brilliant 7-year-old also noticed that there are no girl legos.

But despite this weirdly disproportionate arrangement, the Lego Movie still technically passes the Bechdel Test. I hope you will understand, then, that I feel there is a call for a greater test.

We’ll call it the Seibert Test because that’s my last name and that’s how you name stuff like this.

First, to adequately represent the actual population of the world, is the cast (including minor and major characters) made up of at least 50% female characters?
-If you don’t think this is a problem, you need to read this amazing article on Geena Davis. “The percentage of women in crowd scenes in films is 17”. 17%, not even close to the actual nearly 51% of the population that is female.
In order to pass this test there must be both minor and major characters, so a movie with one main male character saving a planet full of women only to be wined, dined, and sexed by them? Does not pass. Sorry, Captain Kirk.

Second, because we’re all sick of the stereotypes, is the genre ANYTHING other than romance?
-If you don’t think this is an issue, name three movies with an all-female or mostly-female cast that are not porn or romance movies (especially rom-com). Let me see… Steel Magnolias? Nope, 8 female and 12 male characters. Arguably a rom-com-drama. Bridesmaids? Rom-com. Sex and the city? C’mon, it has the word Sex in the NAME. If you think of three movies, now think of three that have been released in the last decade. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
I want for someone to prove me wrong, except that rom-coms keep being delegated to the girl’s section in the movies. This needs to change.
To pass this portion of the test, the movie can’t be filed under one genre but so full of romance that no one really knows the difference. It’s safe to say if it fails the Bechdel it will also fail this one.

THIRD, do any of the female characters have power over their own destiny?
Movies like The King and I, which have literally 60 or 70 female characters, would fail this portion of the test because basically everyone is stuck going along with the whims of a powerful male. Some define this as being a “strong” character, but I like the way my friend Betsy Dornbusch calls it “women of impact.” If a character just goes with what’s happening and lets the world hand her platter after platter of whatever the hell, she’s not really a character of substance. Which means she exists to tick a box. This is not how real people work, and it’s not how characters should be either.
For the record, if there are no intelligent conversations between two women, there probably won’t be any evidence of passing this point.
A caveat/addendum to this rule is that rape may not be used as a plot device to further the story unless necessary for the sake of historical accuracy or because of a “real events” representation. It is not an easy out for the writers to use to show how much of a jerk the bad guy is and may not be used as a power play or in any way painted in a positive light. Rape strips power from the characters in a movie or show and that can never be fully recovered.
– Why do we need this check? Because otherwise movies with one dude with a harem would totally count as gender equal because there are lots of women in it.

FOURTH: Are ALL Characters capable of being equally hypersexualized regardless of gender? You can put the girls in awkward skin tight clothing if you do the same thing to the boys because it’s A. Porn or B. A World Device.
Examples of this: The Avengers in Joss Whedon’s World, the characters in Remember Me (a recent Capcom/Steam release that got not enough attention), Orange is the New Black (mostly).
– If you don’t think this is necessary you probably also don’t notice yourself staring at cleavage.

FINALLY, as a bonus point, shoes. Sensible freaking shoes. Dear DC: Catwoman probably shouldn’t wear spikes. Neither should Wonder Woman. Kate Beckett would be one of the coolest characters ever if she didn’t wear those idiotic heels. At least Lt. Rizzoli only wears those heels in the promo photos. As sexy as they make you look, they are clearly a crippling disadvantage–especially in action situations! No real woman makes these dumb footwear decisions if they live in a highly active situation.
…except my wife who insists on cute shoes, but she clearly isn’t guiding my action star criteria.

Interestingly enough, there are lots of series that seem like they would make this cut–and that’s our perception of female-crowding in media going on, apparently. For example, I feel like Once Upon a Time has a solid and extensive female cast. But according to their wiki, they have only 61 female characters and over 100 male. Hey, L Word has lots of ladies, but it’s basically porn, sex, porn, romance, drama, porn. It was on HBO, though, so what do you expect?
Frozen by Disney has two female protagonists and they talk about lots of things besides boys–but as soon as Elsa hits 18 she becomes weirdly hypersexualized, and they are basically the only female characters in the whole movie (except Mom who dies, random lady with a kid, a single servant and a female troll or two). In the grand scheme of things there just aren’t a lot of girls around in Disney movies. This is kinda weird considering the fact that the Princess market is their biggest money maker…

Recently someone linked this very sarcastic and brilliant Cracked article  (yes, I did just say that) reversing the roles and calling out bad characterization of women in movies. I appreciate their points of view, especially since my biggest complaint in the Lego Movie was not its lack of female characters. Instead, I was frustrated by the “wind-blown plastic hair” and the fact that Emmett completely tuned out Wild Style because she was pretty.

To recap, the Seibert Test  calls for the following:
1. That a movie or TV show contain at least 50% female characters comprised of both main and minor characters.
2. That the movie/tv show be any genre other than romance and not have a romantic element so heavy handed that it “might as well be” romance.
3. That at least some of the female characters have impact over their own destiny and rape is not a plot device.
4. That if hypersexualization occurs in the movie/show, it is equally applicable to all of the characters regardless of gender.
4.5 That there are sensible shoes where sensible shoes should occur.

If film and TV directors and writers would take the reality of what the world looks like into account, and apply this test not just to female characters but to minorities as well, we would see a drastic shift in the way the next generation looks at people. We aren’t invisible and we aren’t going to be the silent majority any longer.

Frozen: A Whole New World for Disney

So, I know this movie came out a little over a month ago. I should have posted my thoughts then, but since several people have asked me recently, I wanted to open the discussion now.

Many of my close followers know that I was particularly frustrated shortly before Frozen came out because of the crass comments by a Disney lead animator, basically suggesting women all look alike. That’s obviously true with Disney, since all you need to do is change the hair color and the freckles and you have basically every Disney lead female animated basically ever. I was also frustrated because I felt that they weren’t really advertising this movie, and probably because it was more about girls than normal.

But since I am a guilty enjoyer of Disney, I decided to go see it on the day after Thanksgiving anyway.

In case you don’t know, Disney’s Frozen is a liberal reimagining of the Snow Queen story. Basically everything from this point onward will be spoilers. Lots of bullet points and numbered lists here!

The MAJOR issues with this film are also prevalent in a lot of other Disney movies, but here we go:

1.  I have 4 sisters. You can’t take our hair, swap it around, and get a different sister. Women don’t all look alike, seriously. The sisters look exactly alike, but since the animator was whining about that we kinda assumed this would be the case:
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2. Apparently girls can’t have an interesting story without being estranged from their parents or orphaned entirely. Both parents die shortly in the film, leaving the sisters emotionally stranded and without any adult supervision really.

3. There are NO MINORITY CHARACTERS in this film. AT ALL. Unless we assume the trolls are minority characters, because they are made out of rock so their skin is grey. And they have a shaman. Jamie did point out to me that it’s likely set in Sweden or something and it IS set in 19thish century wherever, so I suppose it might make a little sense for basically everyone to be white and blue-eyed… But really, Disney? The snowman is your token black guy?
*Note that we know the reason this happens is because their market share in Japan is huge, and Japan historically prefers pale characters.

4. The music is weirdly Broadway-esque and consists of a lot of songs about the characters doing whatever it is they are doing. They have interesting music but the lyrics are generally unimaginative and subpar compared to the rest of Disney’s musicals. The song “Let it Go” is the only real exception, though the lyrics are a bit weird there too.

5. All the grownups are all-knowing, and the characters always know what’s happening next. Except Anna and Elsa, who are naive and stupid compared to everyone else, apparently.

6. Not surprisingly, the story revolves around the idea of True Love, Disney’s trademark.

 

My nitpicky and frustrated additions to this list include:
7. The fact that Anna (the redhead) apparently falls in love instantly with the first male she meets outside of the castle. And then they share a really awkward song about sandwiches. This song was probably the main thing that shut down the members of my friends list that hated this film.

8. Both of the female main characters are emotionally stunted and clueless (but this could be attributed to being locked in a castle since early childhood).

9. The second Elsa decides to just be her Ice Queen self, she stops walking like a girl and starts sashaying her hips like a sexy woman–creepy, Disney! This one was really jarring.

10. Why are there so many orphans? The lesson that kids can’t have any adults in their life or they will grow up emotionally stunted seems pretty blaring. Even Kristoff was apparently an orphan, except for his Troll family and his dog-Reindeer? By the way, Disney, Reindeer aren’t that big. I think you meant to make Sven a moose.

11. My least favorite part: Anna feels her “True Love” must save her from certain death and rushes off to get him to kiss her. Because she needs a male to save her, right?

12. GIANT PLOT HOLES like why did Anna need to have her mind cleared of knowing her sister had ice powers?

13. Most frustrating possibly, the fact that all the adults keep telling Elsa that she’s not allowed to have emotions. Any emotions. No feeling, no contact. Otherwise she’ll hurt other people. Is this Disney’s way of highlighting children’s emotional abuse?

14. Anna is obsessed with the idea of falling in love. But most teenagers are obsessed with relationships on some level (male or female) because this is when hormones+society expect us to start being sex crazed. Disney just left the sex out. This did make the first part of the movie REALLY uncomfortable though.

15. I can’t get over how much I feel like the trolls were thrown in to give us a minority character.

16. I have mixed feelings about the Trolls’ song because it seems like it borderlines on encouraging dysfunctional relationships. The song says “we’re not saying he can be fixed, but maybe you can work it out together.” What??

Now let’s talk about what Frozen did right, because there are some things I really appreciated about the movie.

1. First of all, despite being completely isolated and experiencing the boy-crazy-puberty at 16, Anna is actually a very powerful character in terms of her impact. She takes charge of the castle in a time of crisis, refuses to let any adults (even the one she thinks she loves) tell her that she can’t help her sister, and sets out to climb a mountain by herself. She does a poor job of it, but she IS a sixteen year old girl who was raised in a castle. She doesn’t exactly have mountain climbing experience.

2. Elsa refuses to let Anna marry the guy she met ten seconds ago. Because you don’t really love a guy you just met, little sister.

3. Kristoff and Sven keep getting into trouble. Chased by wolves, chased by a giant snow beast. Anna lights the wolves on fire and cuts the rope to save them from the snow golem. She’s quick on her feet and never looks back after making a decision.

4. Anna never knew (thanks to the Trolls) that her sister had ice powers. But when her sister goes a little overboard and freezes everything, Anna chases after her despite having been unable to see her until five seconds before that. Because she can’t let her sister be alone.

5. Elsa is faced with lots of armed bad guys and doesn’t falter. Despite the fact that she’s being hunted by a ton of adult males, she refuses to let them take her down.

6. Disney actually pulled a fast one, because (EXTRA SPOILER) the guy Hans that Anna thought she was in love with is actually the Bad Guy! He’s been plotting to steal the throne and he leaves her to die! I was gleefully pleased by this because “HEY GIRLS, ATTRACTIVE MEN YOU MEET WHO PROFESS THEIR LOVE MIGHT NOT HAVE GOOD INTENTIONS!”

7. The absolute low point of the movie is when Anna feels like everyone has abandoned her and she’s going to die because she was betrayed. The cheerful snowman tells her to buck up and she realizes Kristoff is trying to save her. In normal Disney movies she’d let him come to her, but in this case she drags herself half-Frozen (ah hah) into the snow and tries to find him, despite the snow storm. In other words, she gets off her ass, throws aside her depression and overcomes.

8. And THEN she sees Hans about to kill her sister, the one who pierced her through the heart with ice, and steps in to intervene–losing her chance to get a True Love Kiss from Kristoff and become a Real Girl again.

9. The reason I find 8 so interesting is because Disney broke their own traditional norm of True Love. They let two girls exhibit True Love to overcome “The Curse.” This is awkwardly incesty, but a step toward understanding that the heterosexual norm is not the only valid form of love. When they hugged (and did this weird nose thing that made it look like a preemptive kiss) Jamie got this look on her face, and I was like “Shutup-they’re-sisters-you-creep.” Naturally the whole theater heard me, yikes.  

10. In the end, Elsa realizes that her emotions aren’t what is causing her to freeze everything. She really just needs to overcome her own fear in order to control her powers. Overcoming fear is a powerful message.

11. Elsa doesn’t end up in a relationship! The trailers made Jamie and me think that we were setting up for both girls to have a boyfriend in the end, but Elsa gets to be herself and Queen without interference.

12. It’s about time a recent Disney movie (not Pixar) failed to end in a wedding.

13. The characters were almost all of “adult” age. This is mostly a sign of the times and acceptability, however.

14. Neither Anna nor Elsa exhibit ANY “womanly” characteristics of housekeeping etc. No cleaning, no cooking, no sewing, no painting. Anna is a bookworm with a wild imagination, and somewhat like I imagine Belle would have been if she’d been written with more modern sensibilities.

15. I expected the snowman (Olaf) to be really irritating, and he turned out to just be a cute insightful sidekick.

16. At the very end Anna punches the Bad Guy in the face. Just clocks him one. BAM! She’s got a good right hook.

Ultimately, Brave and Mulan are the only other Disney movies so far that have proven to have strong female characters that take their destiny this much into their own hands. But Brave wasn’t about True Love, it was about family bonds. Mulan had all kinds of other stuff to overcome, and her story was also ultimately about responsibility.  Frozen has the potential to tell girls that it’s OK for them to be themselves and be brilliant and talented, regardless of their circumstances. It doesn’t do the best job of it, but considering Disney’s track record, it’s off to a better start.

The Resolution, Revisited

I know you’d probably rather see a post about resolutions on New Years Day, when it really matters. But the truth is, it’s a good time to check in. How are you holding out? Have you done something today that you resolved yesterday to do?

Many families have some kind of good luck charm they use to carry their wishes into the next calendar year. For some (like my extended family) it’s the belief that a hamhock cooked in black eyed peas brings good luck. For others it might be the jotting down of hopes, dreams, and ideas that boil down to good intentions for the new year. Others still believe that a kiss at midnight is the key to happiness for the next year.

Whatever you believe, even the most pessimistic of us likely resolve to do something important for the next year.

Some of the best resolutions I’ve heard have been to read more books, to write more, to love more, to live unfettered by doubt and stress.

Most commonly people tend to make resolutions to do very big things, such as working out every single day or losing a lot of weight. These are so common that gyms raise their prices during Jan/Feb in anticipation of all the new signups. If you want a 24-hour-fitness gym membership, get it in July, not January.

Most people break down and revert to old habits before the end of January, and that’s based on the anatomy of habits in general. It takes 3 weeks to really establish a good habit, and longer if it’s replacing a bad habit. More importantly, going from zero activity to an hour working out every day is too difficult for your body to keep up with. Change is difficult, so you have to take baby steps.

The most important advice I can give anyone is to make it easy for their habit change. For example, if you’re not a morning person, don’t choose to work out at 6am every morning. If you work 12 hour shifts, try not to work out right after you get off work. If you’ve never worked out before, start by taking walks or following through a Yoga DVD for a month before upgrading to the expensive gym membership that will make you feel miserable and guilty for not using it.

A friend of mine recently said that she feels resolutions are like birthday wishes–if you tell everyone, it won’t happen. That might be true, but you certainly need an accountability partner.

From my business excursions and training I’ve come to understand some important concepts about resolutions and goal setting. One of them is the idea that your life and goals are like a big jet. It takes a lot of fuel to get off the ground at the beginning of the month, but not so much fuel to keep it in flight. If you let the plane land, though, you have to keep working to get the energy going to start back up again. It’s easier to keep moving forward.

My suggestion, then, is that every day you decide not to go to bed each night before you have done something that has advanced your goals. If your plan is to become a published author, write at least a paragraph or edit something before bed. If you want to read more books, read ten pages before bed every night. If you want to work out and lose weight, start doing a few situps or stretches right before bed, and raise the number gradually every night. If you want to run a marathon, walk around your block today. Tomorrow, walk it twice. Keep increasing the number of trips around the block, day by day.

Next, I advise that you write your goals down in present positive, and read them daily. Write them down as though they exist for you today. “I am fit, friendly and sociable. I am successful at work and I have been promoted this year.” Train your subconscious to go out and get what you want. Never write goals that are negative or that involve other people doing things. The only person you can change is yourself.

A mentor of mine tells the joke that three birds are sitting on a fence. One decides to fly off the fence. How many are left?

The answer is three.

Ultimately, a resolution is just a wish until the flame of action is applied to it. Once you make a decision and put action behind the decision, you can accomplish great things.

I am not your sister! An observation of behavior in the workplace.

I apologize for the delay in some posts–NaNoWriMo has devoured my soul this month. Also, rant alert.

Recently I have been embroiled in passionate discussions with some men and other women about my experiences working with male peers in the workplace–particularly those in a certain age range older than I am. While I was doing a little digging to find similar experiences with others, I found this horrible article that I REALLY hope is satire (but based on his other posts, can’t possibly be) and this one with the terrible advice to treat everyone you work with like family. And a whole lot of awkwardly conservative blogs advising that women control men’s sexuality, yadda yadda.

So, with my luck in research, I’m not going to be citing a lot. Instead, I’m going to talk about my own experiences. You can agree or disagree with my interpretation of them, but remember that I have personally experienced these and therefore it really happened. I encourage you to share your own experiences, provided they aren’t “well, I’ve only ever experienced perfect gentlemen in the work place, and you’re just prejudiced against male coworkers.” Not true. I have dozens of male coworkers, and I only have this problem with three of them.

First, let me say that I have worked with my brother, with my wife, and with my mother. I have also been known to tell people who volunteer under me that I’ve got so many younger siblings that I am stuck in permanent “big sister” mode–which has been my way of explaining when I worry about what people eat, whether they are drinking too much, etc. However, I have never used that attitude as an excuse to bully people into taking the actions at work that I expect of them. And as I am realizing how frustrating I find this series of events, I am also making the effort to let people figure out their own eating habits without my help.

As some of you may know, I have been in the IT field for about 11 years–for the first 6 of those in a retail capacity, but nonetheless. As I moved into the more professional sector, I have encountered many male figures of nonauthority who seem driven to take it upon themselves to be my “protector.”
And while it might seem nice to have someone big, tall, with a booming voice or whatever rushing over to get you out of sticky situations every time you talk yourself into a corner–that’s not what is actually going on here.

At the moment I have only two key examples of this, but there were three before one of them moved on from the company. All at the same time.

Exhibit A: Individual decides he likes me. So any time anyone mentions my name, he makes sure I know about it. But that also means that he doesn’t want me to move out of the role I am in, he wants to keep his “little sister” around. So he tells me stories about how this person or that person is holding me back, trying to pit me against other coworkers.
Oh, and he always warns me to watch my back if I get into a verbal sparring match with someone. (This is the person who is now gone).

Exhibit B: This one picks fights with me via email to “show me” that I need to learn to be more positive and present more solutions via email, instead of only presenting what won’t work. That would be a totally valid point if it came to me in a private conversation instead of a CC-all fight wherein he ribs me for not having my usual humor.
Oh yeah, he usually tells me he thinks of me as a little sister. But he also sends me emails saying “Really? Why would you say something like that with people CCed?” and then doesn’t realize I am being sarcastic when I tell him “Thanks for your dedication to my career.” He likes to say people are “always” saying that I “always have  negative things to say,” but of course can never provide examples.

Exhibit C: This guy does it to everybody, not just me. I should say, all the women. He pokes and prods. He tries to tickle me. He pretends to punch me in the face and teases me if I flinch. He walks up behind me and rubs my shoulders. He’s constantly coming up with weird pet names. He’d totally be the perfect big brother, except we’re not related and I work with him. Did he ever check in with me to see if I was cool with being touched? Nope. Not even a little.

So here’s where there is a pretty fine line. I’m casual friends with each of these people, and I am also personally a fairly open individual. So it’s not like I am hiding my family life or personality from anyone I work with.
However, what I have found in my own experiences is that this sliding over the line from “colleague I like” to “my little sister” eliminates something that drives the coworker to actually listen when someone like me says “Stop that! I’m really bothered by this thing you are doing!”

It also appears to be a convenient and patriarchal way for these men to try to make me do what they want–because they just want what’s best for me, because they are more experienced and know about these things, because I am raw, unfiltered, loud, etc etc and will make waves or make enemies…

Don’t get me wrong. I like having friends at work. I like chatting about non-work things. I don’t like being told by a peer who has no management clout over me that I’m going to get myself in trouble if I don’t toe his imaginary line.

The last two of these both have daughters, so I suppose I should be grateful that they aren’t treating me like a daughter?

Interestingly, I have foils to these people in the real world who don’t treat me this way. I haven’t been able to determine if it’s the difference in perceived respectability (IE at work I’m one of many, outside of work I have other accomplishments) or if it’s just flat out personality of these people.

So now that the rant half of this is out, and most likely one part babble, let’s talk about the behaviors.

Essentially, a friend would point out “Hey, you might want to consider rephrasing that,” or “Hey, I think a breather is in order.” They would not say “You need to change your behavior and/or do this thing my way because I have your best interests at heart and I know what’s best for you.”

You know what? You don’t know what’s best for me. If it’s not OK for the government or my father or a random stranger to dictate who I am (and it isn’t!), it also isn’t OK for a colleague to take on the role of some kind of protector who can only protect me by telling me what to do. You don’t have my back. You have what you think is a leash. And I am not yours to tame, my friend.

I promised I was done ranting, but I guess that’s not entirely true. Ultimately, my point is that no adult can prove their own value and respectability when being overshadowed by a “big brother” figure who insists on holding their hand whether they want it or not. Get out of the way and let me succeed or fail on my own merit.