Patronizing History: Rise of the Rocket Girls

I’m currently reading Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt, the #wlclub pick for May. I wrote this post for the #wlclub google group and decided to store it here as well because it’s about a thousand words on how to patronize female historical subjects and exploring how/why that may happen.

Continue reading Patronizing History: Rise of the Rocket Girls

desk lunch – 2015-05-07

Brought to you this week by One Direction’s “Fireproof,” a very fine musical sedative that gets me to stop thinking/panicking for almost three whole minutes at a time!!!

This starts another argument between husband and wife, mild at first, but then it peppers and there is this thing that distance does where it subtracts warmth and context and history and each finds that they’re arguing with a stranger.

A phenomenal short story by Lesley Nneka Arimah, published in Granta and a winner of Commonwealth Writers’s short story regional prize. This was distractingly good, like I have to leave the house ten minutes ago but NO I DON’T NO I CAN’T I WILL FINISH THIS. So load it on Pocket or- just be late. It’ll be worth it.


REALLY PERSONAL OPINION: I’m over Avengers: Age of Ultron, the ~theatrical cut in theaters right now. I saw it opening night and I had fun! I had my friends, my bucket of soda, purse candy, and a long-term solid affection for the MCU that even casting Baskingshark Crumbsbucket as Doctor Strange couldn’t totally smother. Then the movie happened and, for various reasons, I found it disappointing and forgettable. Literally- apparently Chris Evans had 50 minutes of screentime and I can only account for maybe 12 of them. Forgettable. I’m over it.
 

LESS PERSONAL OPINION: While I’m over AOU, I’m not over discussing AOU because I’m fascinated by the conversations that surround every aspect of this movie. See, the conversations around last year’s The Winter Soldier centered on the themes of its story (contemporary “preventative” warfare; the surveillance state that makes it possible; every single thing about the dual figure of Steve Rogers/Captain America in the real/fictional American psyche). In conversations about AOU, story barely figures because the plot points were sloppy and forgettable. So far the best takeaway from AOU has been the way it made every writer I know leave their theater with a loud and firm I NEED TO WRITE ABOUT THIS. Here are two essays very much worth reading:

I’m not here to bury or praise Whedon, or the larger Marvel universe, or even Avengers: Age of Ultron;
I’m just a girl, standing in front of a movie universe, asking it to give her narrative and emotional consistency.

I went with the cheeky excerpt because to quote any one part of this first part is to end up quoting the rest. This piece uses the concept of “points of care” as a straightforward way to describe how you can lay out the stakes for any given character in a story. For the Avengers in AOU (the central Avengers with 3-5 appearances in the MCU each), those points were developed throughout Phases 1 and 2, and AOU the Phase 2 finale meant to cash in on that prior development. My main disappointment with AOU came from this fundamental difference between the movie promised and the one delivered. Marvel invested in characters over the course of years, and their big return to this reluctantly-formed team completely ignores that they’re wildly different characters from the characters who teamed up three years ago. This essay does a great job of articulating the storytelling failures that characterized the movie.

Once the movie came out, there were a metric ton of problems with how the character’s story arc was presented. And after everyone digested all that, the backlash started. A backlash that seemed centered on Joss Whedon as a person, and not on having a real discussion about the movie.

This io9 piece takes a look at Black Widow’s AOU context- not in-universe context, but an overview of our talk around her role. This reviews the buildup to Black Widow’s role in AOU/the MCU in general, the reception of her story in AOU once the movie came out, and the backlash/fallout directed at Joss Whedon when it turned out that his take on Black Widow was out of tune not just with Phase 2 but also with his own characterization in the first Avengers movie. Also, for this piece in particular: don’t read the comments.


To keep the diary was to defend against memory loss; the prospect of forgetting seemed to Manguso a fate worse than death. But her fixation on capturing every detail didn’t feel quite right either.

I think I’ve kept a journal almost my entire life, from the cute hot pink ones still buried somewhere in my parents’ house to the dark green moleskine in my bedside table right now. It’s difficult to keep a journal and this piece from Vela has stuck in my mind for just that reason. I’ve kept a journal for so long, I don’t know why I keep it, what I hope to get from it, or how it affects my writing. Questions that need evaluating, maybe in… my journal?!


That night, my wife and I began scouring real estate listings, and almost immediately warmed to Satchel-on-Hudson, a lovely village two hours north of the city…. Life out here is placid and wonderful, and has afforded me the time and space for things I could never do in the city, like jarring my own salsa and not living in New York.

desk lunch – 2015-04-30

Brought to you this week by #BaltimoreUprising.
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Historical romance is often (though not always) shorthand for a romance set in England, with the Regency era being the most popular setting. In these books, the duke/earl/viscount hero is usually white (with bronzed or golden skin—because the British Isles are known for their great tanning weather and tawny-skinned inhabitants). The heroines are usually fair—like, really fair—with milky, lily-white skin mentioned often enough to cause concern about their health.

So, you read romance novels or you sometimes think of reading historical romance novels, but the optics of said novels don’t hold much appeal for you: everyone is white; they’re probably rich and if not rich then privileged and literate enough to pass for rich; they claw at each other for titles; and the plot follows the attempts of an emotionally repressed people trying to process an insult hissed at them during a slow dance with a lot of pressing of hands. So, that doesn’t sound like Your Thing. Consider The Toast‘s roundtable featuring black authors of historical romance as they discuss the flawed optics of historical romance and how they’re working to change that. I’ve already preordered out their upcoming anthology of historical romance novellas, The Brightest Day.

Narrative can be oppressive. We fall straight from the womb onto a plotline: the world ushers us to see ourselves as protagonists and map out a lifelong plan…. I’ve always treated the imperative of a trajectory with anxious reverence; this is how an identity is made. But I feared the ambiguity of the process, the impossibility of knowing what narrative would be “correct.”

I think this is the first entry I’ve read in Jezebel’s Fake Friends series, but wow. Wow. This essay on the Frances/Sophie friendship in Frances Ha hits the movie’s points better than the movie did. Ultimately, I’m not sure how much I appreciate Frances Ha on its own terms. While I love Rachel Vorona Cote’s look at friendship/identification in this piece, I don’t know how to feel about the conclusion: that the best a Mature Adult Friendship can offer—should offer, if they want to remain Mature Adult Friends—is a lingering glance across the room.

There are some big debates still underway, not least of all what one might caricature as the battle between Dante and Gladiator, or the question of what makes a cultural artefact worth studying; those classicists who work on SF are usually of the opinion that both ‘high art’ and popular culture are equally worthy of examination. However, this division hints at the second possible reason behind the rise of theory in classical reception generally: in order to defend looking at things like film or SF, it helps to have a really intimidating theoretical justification to back you up.

Hey! It’s an overview of the recent scholarship surrounding recent interpretations of classical influences into science fiction! It’s a general overview with a good, recent reading list of sources, if this sort of thing appeals to your interests (how could it not!!!)

And if you haven’t read Ta-Nehisi Coates on Baltimore, here’s an excerpt and a link:
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British Recluse: Fight a Man and Take to the Sea

Eliza Haywood's "The British Recluse"

For a cosmic hot second in the 200+ years between Eliza Haywood’s death in 1756 and feminism rising from the murky depths of literary scholarship, we lost sight of her work and its role in the development of the English novel. The biographical facts of her life are hard to come by and harder to confirm, but what we do know portrays her as the 18th century’s J.K. Rowling: a single mom with two kids who wrote one of the most popular books of the century (1720’s Love in Excess) and then published a new novel every three months through the 1720s. Haywood was a playwright, a translator, a journalist and publisher, and that was after several years as an actress on the stage. For those two centuries after her death, the literary canon relegated her work and legacy not to the Early English Novelists trophy case, but to the genre sub-basement known as “amatory fiction,” to make room for her contemporaries Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, and Henry Fielding.

Don’t let the amatory fiction label fool you: Haywood wrote novels. Why the long exclusion from the canon, then? Why call it amatory fiction or domestic literature or ovarian dialogues rather than novels? In Haywood’s case, these were romances that had dark turns where women were seduced by rakes that they couldn’t recognize because their families had kept them innocent (read: ignorant). Her novels show the consequences to women who step out of line with the morals of their day: the money and security at stake, the shaming from her family and friends, and the toll those consequences take on a woman’s emotional health.

Click through to read the rest at The Toast.

Revisiting “Ever After”

poster-everafterIn thinking about this piece, I kept coming back to this idea of historical accuracy and the idea that Danielle’s fictional story could lose some of its strength because these inaccuracies (in a fictional story) undermined the world where she lived and therefore her entire story. However, these errors take nothing from the story; if these mistakes were resolved, they would bring nothing to the story. Ever After derives its real strength from the cast of fully realized female characters, who redefined the Cinderella story with a new way fairy tales should be told. Since this October marks 15 years since Ever After’s release date into theaters, let’s look back at Ever After and how it can inform the way we think about the adaptations, reboots, and remakes that populate our current media.

Click through to read the rest at The Toast.