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Ideal weekend: rain, books, tea, and geek comedy ftw. Tons of schoolwork, maybe less ideal, but some of it is actually really interesting.

(I went on a bureacuratic treasure hunt through the university and managed to sign up for an "introduction to lit theory" class, ("But why?" Lit department. "It sounds really interesting," I say. "You understand it's theory, yes? Just...theory.") and it's honest to god making me giddy. I'm sitting there in class while the prof explains the breaking of genre in Thelma and Louise and literally bouncing up and down a little. Structuralism! OMG, structuralism. Where has this been all my life?)

Anyway, ahem,

Community was pretty good, though on-the-nose social satire might not be their strongest suit. Read more... )

Interestingly meta episode from TBBT, which usually isn't meta in the slightest. Not as bleak as last week, but it had it's moments.

I got into an interesting argument elsewhere about which show is more politically progressive, and I really do have to go with TBBT, even though that maybe makes me insane. Community simply embraces a kind of post-modern fantasy of progressivism, you know? Both shows think the world is fucked and are critical of it, but Community creates an escape, while TBBT admits its power.

Characters on Community do escape, but into this fantasy world. (Community is at it's most interesting, I think, when it suddenly looks in the mirror and admits that Greendale isn't real life. But then it shies away from that again.) One that is properly racially diverse and celebrates education, growth and the ability of good friends and can-do spirit to get you through anything. TBBT has a bunch of people trying to do that, and failing. Dismally, pathetically and gracelessly, to an intrusive laughtrack and embarrassing jokes. (I find that hearbreaking and clear- eyed, but I see why it's not everyone's idea of a good time.)

It's just my usual argument about finding any kind of story that merely gets representation right more than a little politically tepid. Just because your show/book/whatever is wonderfully sensitive and inclusive of race/gender/orientation/etc, doesn't make it actively progressive, merely tolerable. (For example, Meljean Brooks books or even Brooklyn 99, at it's worst.) It can even obscure, rather than expose, the underlying structures of oppression.

I get that "exposing structures of oppression" might not be everyone's idea of a useful thing for a sitcom or a romance novel to do, but we're actually quite happy being super-critical of representation in precisely the most popular, omni-present sort of media. I really don't know which is more politically effective - the cynical exposure of misery or the presentation of a hopeful alternative.

It's very possible that the work the latter does, with the normalization of gay characters or women in the workplace or whatever else these things have contributed to has been more socially worthwhile. But as art, I prefer something like Scandal or The Big Bang Theory, or even Remington Steele, that subvert the post-modern progressive ideal by having it crash up against good old human folly and weakness. Showing the characters trapped in their socially curated needs to fit in, to be loved, to feel cool, strikes me as more interesting and more powerful than showing the people who've magically escaped.

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God help me, I watch a lot of tv.

ok, I may ship Duncan/Britta a little. IDEK. Community )

There's my bleak, undignified, human-condition examining show again! Who's a good weird little sitcom? The Big Bang Theory )

I seem to be in a minority that saw the Boyle/Diaz stuff here as being shippy again?
Brooklyn 99 )

I haven't liked this season much, but Abbie is bringing out the worst in Jess and the worst in Schmidt and i'm kind of into that. New Girl )

Not a lot to say, except how much do I love that Sally really is this raging zealot and a cynical ambitious politician all at the same time? So much. Scandal )
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Wheeee, Big Bang Theory! Sail on, you pack of weird, awkward, unsentimental ships. Sail on. :-)
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There we go, perfect contrast-and-compare geek comedy Friday morning. And a lot of tea. I have missed you!

I know it isn't fashionable, but I really enjoy both Community and TBBT. One is a pleasant, fun bit of fluff that makes me feel good about myself and the world and delivers a few laughs, and the other is a dark, challenging, often deeply subversive and empathetic show that uses laughter to create tragedy.

Community, of course, is the fluffy one. I wasn't madly, utterly in love, but that was fun. The second episode was better than the first, mostly for bringing back my favorite aspects of Community in spades - that Gormenghastian quality that Greendale has. My favorite episodes of Community always give the sense that this place is almost a portal fantasy, that it can contain anything, any potentiality. Nothing is too wild, too improbable, and yet it operates on a strange, inscrutable yet consistent logic of it's own. It almost has a certain grandeur, something kind of epic.

In the repilot episode things felt a little...well, pedantic. Too ordinary, too small, too self-referential and tangled up in itself. The second episode, on the other hand, had so many of those touches of through-the-looking-glass common sense. Yes, of course the Dean is trying to fix everything by learning excel. Of course his thoughts are in a mournful French singing. (my favorite bit.) Of course it's possible to start a riot at Greendale with one comment. Of course there's a class about Nicholas Cage, and of course it can drive a person mad. That's the Community I love.

Big Bang was...what was that? I often feel like i'm reaching for the notion it has a really dark subtext, but that was just text. Giant red blinking neon text. I laughed in place the laughtrack didn't, for heaven's sake. After six and half seasons, the show finally took Penny, for the first time, to that uncomfortable, exposed, failure place that it usually reserves for everyone else. BBT has had other pretty dark episodes before, but never anything so explicit, or, in a way, so kind. For once, humiliation wasn't meant to also be funny.

Maybe it's because, up to now, Penny was still the character that illuminated everyone else's problems. She was a visitor from some far off, more merciful land where quirks are endearing and failure is just something that makes friendships stronger. (Maybe that community college she's never graduated is actually Greendale.) No longer. This is the episode that makes her a native. She hates where she's at and she can't move, because she knows she can't do anything else. Through here own choices and decisions, here she is and she has to live with it, even as it crushes her self-esteem and self-respect day by tedious day. Something that had been a mildly insulting running gag is flipped on it's ear and becomes horribly serious, is revealed to have always been horribly serious and deliberately insulting, hiding and festering and turning into a great, gangrenous wound under the laughter.

...I'm going to finish that really, really long Community vs. Big Bang through the prism of Ender's Game essay some day. I really am.
quarter_to_five: marx (marx)
OMG I think I "solved" The Big Bang Theory and what the fuck it is about this show that I find intriguing and yet couldn't add up. It's not just social-type alienation, it's proper alienation! Geek modes of production! Is geeking-out an act of creation or just the ultimately rarefied consumerism? OMG, so much better. Of course it's Marx it's always Marx.

Note to self: It's always Marx.

I am seriously relieved.
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I am loving this meme. If anyone wants to hear me ramble about anything else, drop me a note. The second half of the month is pretty weedy. Anyhoo:

Favorite Female Characters

I capped it at 3, both because I started running out of time, and because, while there's many, many female characters out there I love and celebrate and think are awesome and want to win at everything forever...these are some of the ones I find really fundamentally compelling. They're not necessarily all that awesome, or badass, or even strong all the time, but they're tangled and knotty and human, and I'm all over that.

Mellie, Scandal - I simply cannot look away from her. She's brilliant, vicious, magnificently bitchy, furious, ambitious, self-destructive, disciplined, passionate, desperate, lonely and basically a horrible person, but that does nothing to make her a whit less sympathetic. I love her. A woman who embodies all the hypocricies and the lies about what women are supposed to be, who chafes under them until she's raw but ties her own knots all the tighter, because this is what she set out to do and she will never, ever, surrender.

The moment I really fell for her? When she's ranting, gloriously, about everything she's sacrificed for him - her ambitions, her career, her home...she had his children for him. It's not so much that I loved her for being a mother who admitted she perhaps never particularly wanted children, it's that she never particularly wanted children and she had them anyway. For him, for his career, for his ambitions, so they could look right on the campaign trail. How amazingly insane is that? Who does that? How much do you have to want it, to tie your life together like that for someone? What have you been taught, what do you believe about what you can do yourself, not as someone's wife that you will turn every single aspect of yourself over to a man's political ambition, that you would make that ambition the core of your being?

And yet. She's not a doormat. She's not a victim of her praxis. She lies and cheats and steals and fumes her way through life. Sometimes she's all soulless, loveless political ambition, looking at her husband's long-term mistress with sneering contempt when she isn't good enough at being his mistress, and then she's this vast, dangerous operatic storm of a person, begging him to at least pretend to love her. At least in public. She'll do the rest.

Amy Farrah Fowler, The Big Bang Theory - Amy makes me really, really acutely uncomfortable, but in a good way. Assuming there is a good way. (I have kind of zero tolerance for sentimentality, so I take sitcoms really seriously and have a blast.)

She's a stunningly vulnerable person, and she's a stunningly vulnerable character. She's not pretty. She wears garish clothes and clumpy shoes. She's not nice and she never catches a break. She's confident, rude, weird, condescending, inappropriate, really, really smart...and apparently the loneliest person on earth. I love all the contradictions of her, how they add up. How she dives into friendship and romance and sociability like an elephant into a china shop. She just has this ridiculous, raw courage, I think, where she'll stand up and just say I think I want this now. Be my friends, be my lover.

At the same time, that gives her such vast capacity to be hurt, and the show doesn't shy away from it. Watching her play with femininity like it's a new toy she's taken out of the box and suffering for it, is uncomfortable and subversive. Watching her fixate her affection on someone who is probably incapable of ever returning it is heartbreaking. Watching her managing to wrest bits of dignity and intimacy out of the molasses-slow wreckage of it all is sometimes kind of sublime.

Laura Holt, Remington Steele - Ok, Laura is badass, and awesome, and strong all the time. And she has an excellent collection of hats. She is, first and foremost, just cleverer and braver and by and large better at almost anything than almost anyone else, and it appears to be driving her crazy.

She's a brilliant detective and she has this almost absurd physical courage - she regularly jumps in front of moving cars, drives like a maniac, gets into fights, breaks into houses, climbs fire escapes in heels - whatever needs doing. The show makes no particular fuss about it, it's just the way she is.

Laura is after...everything. Some perfection of life - career and romance and glamour and ambition. She'll be a beautiful woman celebrated for her brains, with a man who's perfectly masculine and perfectly supportive on her arm, all at the same time. She is going to solve every question ever raised by feminism single-handedly, before lunch, while wearing heels. If she needs to will it into existence, than that's what she will do. She spends the whole show running up hard against the fact that it isn't perfect. That other people aren't perfect. That they will go their own way and do their own thing, and that they will love her in their way, with their own quirks and their own caveats.
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Some friends moved apartment, to a Bialik street, which necessitated: a. a trip to IKEA (TINY PENCILS!) b. watching The Big Bang Theory in the background while we put together the furniture (SQUARE THINGS THAT FIT TOGETHER SQUARELY!) so now I'm all vaguely sad.

(That said, you will drag my dead corpse in there the next time I go to IKEA on a sabbath-night. That said further, I've been in Jerusalem too long, because the crowd looked almost foreign. It honestly slips my mind sometimes that there's bits of this country that are not like Jerusalem.)

I think I would be way less fannish about TBBT if I could find one corner of the internet that agreed even vaguely with my reading of it. Seriously - i'd have watched it, been bemused, read a bit of meta, nodded my head and gone home. But I can't, because apparently no one can see what I see. It's extremely frustrating and somewhat making me doubt my faculties and my taste in fiction.

There are broadly three reactions to TBBT, that I can find:

1. The Identity Politics: Show is anti-nerd, anti-women, terribly made, not funny and generally offensive to the point of being rage-inducing.
2. The Shipping: Show is pro-nerd, is sweet and funny and adorable, with strong characterization and excellent acting, and is also the most romantic thing ever, by the by.
3. The Thoughtful Criticism: Show has surprising flashes of (2) but they are buried under the tired, cheap sitcom humor and convention of (1), which is possibly something of a shame.


Me, I think TBBT is just heartbreaking, and its poignancy comes not despite its cheesy sitcom stylings but entirely because of them, and its characters are at their most interesting and compelling precisely because of the shows unwillingness to not be unkind to them.

I dunno.


Oct. 28th, 2013 02:46 am
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I wrote fic, and I finished the fic (yay, I never finish anything! I've been working on the last page of a short story for three years). Now, people-in-the-reviews mostly seemed to quite like the early chapters, but almost no one liked the ending in the slightest. Total backlash. It's exactly the ending I had planned from the start, I wrote it exactly the way I wrote all the other chapters, and I cannot for the life of me see any other possible ending. I'm kinda baffled. I explained all this to my sister, who reads and writes a lot more fic than me. She immediately nodded sagely and explained, "you're a troll."

Dude, feedback, man. My god, stuff is easier when it stays in your brain.

(Fic in question is The Bedroom Barricade, Big Bang Theory, Sheldon/Amy.)

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- Blacklist, so far, is absurd but fun, thus making it the opposite of SHIELD, which is absurd and no fun at all. I like the main guy's ridiculous over-the-top attitude and am curious about whatever is going on with Read more... ). Oh, and I have a strange amount of sympathy for the skeptical blond agent, like Ward on SHIELD, who is like all straight(probably)-white-male-hegemony-action-reaction-etc, but has no secret past or chosen-one status or anything, andis always running after someone and seems to do a lot of the gruntwork, both physical and mental, and to just work really hard at his job and care about it a lot.

- I watch Elementary entirely for Lucy Liu's choices in textiles, I think (come on, they're worth it. That grey-white tunic dress thing!) Not sure what the politics over there in this episode were, though Sherlock being unable to let go of someone being wrong on the internet was amusing.

- Bang Theory was really sweet this week. Well, no, 2 out of 3 subplots were incredibly depressing, really, but they were deliberately dark humor laughing at messed up people's messed up problems, which is ok. (And Amy and Sheldon were actually really cute and mature.) Unfortunately, I think my strange, strange love for this show comes from the moments where it's more unthinkingly bleak, so if they've actually managed to get a handle on that, i'm now worried that I will like it less? Please, Big Bang Theory, keep being your brutally cruel self!
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...yeah, this is weird for me.

Elementary 2.1 - Read more... )

The Big Bang Theory 7.1/2 - Read more... )

Angel 5.22 - Ok, I have never seen the Angel finale before. I don't know why, I was in the army or something or something, and then I pretty much got spoilered for it by osmosis, but at some point I realized that I had actually never seen it, so now I have. I knew the big stuff, but goddamn, the scene between Read more... ) SO CRUEL. So perfect. So many possible readings. Just damn. Best thing in the episode.


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