The Trickster Archetype in Pop Culture, Part Three: Tricky Ladies

jamie moriarty

I spent my 2017 academic year picking a fight with Joseph Campbell and his blithe assumption that The Hero can only ever be a dude. Well, as my focus shifts from Heroes to Tricksters, the same issues crop up. The most famous mythological Tricksters discussed in the field and in popular culture tend to come from the following list: Norse Loki, Greek Hermes, West African Anansi, Polynesian Maui, and various versions of the archetype that appear in Native American mythology in the form of the Coyote, Raven, and Hare characters. These are all Trickster gods rather than goddesses. Lewis Hyde—whose book Trickster Makes This World I’ve quoted a few times in this series—quite confidently declared that “All the standard tricksters are male”. And, in a broad sense, he’s correct. But does this need to be the case? There are plenty of folks—including one particular writer I’ll be looking at today—who say “c’mon, my guy” and disagree. Continue reading

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Hey There, Demons: January ’19 Roundup

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It’s me, ya girl!

And so passes January, the first month of 2019 and perhaps my least heterosexual month of blogging ever. As I wrote in my latest post, it turns out that examining queer tropes is important to me. The idea for that Bloom Into You article planted itself (no pun intended) in my brain not long after the show premiered back in October, but, well, it turns out that hurling your own story out into the digital void takes more emotional energy and general bravado than I initially realised. I finished it, though, and got some lovely responses across the platforms where it was shared. So thank you to everyone who gave it (and my other writings here) a read; writing has always been what I do to make sense of things, and I feel like through projects like this I’m really beginning to find my feet. I haven’t written out the words “I’m biromantic asexual” before, and this month I did it twice, in a row (and a third time just then!!), which is a big yikes but also feels pretty good. I will be celebrating both Twenty-Bi-teen and Twenty-None-teen this year, and doing the best I can to improve and embrace myself.

Oh, and I lived through a monstrous heatwave this month too, but that hardly makes for a heartfelt roundup introduction, does it?

On the blog:

The Trickster Archetype in Pop Culture, Part Two: Better the Devil You Know – my exploration of the Trickster in modern media continues! “It would be more accurate to call Loki the archetypal little shit than to say he’s truly Evil” may be one my favourite lines I’ve written

Queer YA Mini-Reviews: Aces, Alchemy, and Ancient Magic – the reviews and recommendations continue with Let’s Talk About Love, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, and Summer of Salt

Bloom Into You (and Me), a Story About How Representation is Important – I get my feelings about Bloom Into You‘s great premiere out of my system in longform, mixed with some personal essay-ing about why I’m so passionate about representation in fiction

On Anime Feminist:

Rewriting the Script: Revue Starlight‘s Rejection of Tragic Queer Tropes – a dive into how my favourite swashbuckling theatre anime interrogates historical tropes like ‘Bury Your Gays’ in its beautifully meta finale

Fun and funky further reading:

And/or viewing, because I’ve found some particularly fun video content this month:

Surprising absolutely no one, my first recommendation for this month is Lindsay Ellis’ new video digging into the Death of the Author theory. It’s a lot of fun, and very informative, and features John Green physically manifesting in her home upon her trash-talking his book. It stirred up some really interesting conversations between me and my friends about the changing landscape of fame and writing.

Brian Gilbert gives a crash course on The Good Ol’ Monomyth and Kingdom Hearts, which… well, I can confidently say he explains the first one well, but as for the franchise itself? I haven’t been involved with it, so others will have to chime in there. Though even he gets a little lost…

The newly-discovered (by me, anyway) Jenny Nicholson breaks down sensationalist thriller Trigger Warning, which is exactly as dumb as it sounds… including a dive into the meta-story surrounding the book’s author and how it came to be which ends up significantly more thrilling and twist-filled than the novel itself. A long watch, but deeply enthralling, in a “watching a train wreck” sort of way.

Now, onto good old fashioned text articles:

The New Spider-Man Movie Makes Live-Action Superheroes Look Boring – a celebration of Into the Spider-Verse and The Incredibles 2 as well as a look into the devaluing of animation as a medium, despite the wonders it can achieve.

Every Bizarre Bit of Transformers Movie Lore that Bumblebee Retcons Out of Existence – exactly what it promises. God, these movies were… so much. Bumblebee was a delight and I’m happy this franchise has somehow been pried from Michael Bay’s hands.

The 2,500-Year-Old History of Adults Blaming the Younger Generation – the more things change, the more they stay the same. I think my favourite part of this article is the implication that chess was the Fortnite of its day.

How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Ended Up in a Donkey Kong 64 Charity Twitch Stream – in case you missed it, here is a neat summary of one of the most mind-boggling and heart-warming stories from this month, in which video essayist HBomberguy (of “Sherlock is Garbage and Here’s Why” fame) hosted a ridiculously successful Twitch event for a trans charity.

And of course it was time for a new season of anime, so be sure to peruse the AniFem premiere guide to see what looks good! (Can you believe it’s already been a year since A Place Further Than the Universe and Laid-Back Camp came out and stole my heart?)

And that brings us to the end of the first roundup of 2019! Take care out there, as always.

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Bloom Into You (and Me), a Story About How Representation is Important

Bloom Into You (11)

I talk a lot about how “representation in fiction is important”—it’s kind of the backbone of most of my writing, from my blog posts to my PhD, where it factors into both the creative element and the theoretical part behind it. It didn’t start out as a project about LGBTQIA+ rep, necessarily, but through everything I’ve done it’s leaned more and more in that direction, as a result of me following tangents I’m interested in and passionate about.

Early last year, my supervisor asked me why exactly this area was so important to me, trying to get to the heart of the matter. I think she asked me this for her benefit and mine—after all, you want to understand what makes your own project tick, and have a grip on exactly what your priorities are and why they are your priorities. The answer I ended up coming up with was a personal one that sort of surprised even me: I sidestepped the traditional “everyone deserves to see themselves represented in the media they consume” and instead said something like “queer rep is important to me because I think, had I seen more of it, my life might have gone quite differently.”

Oof! Wow! That’s baring my soul a little, hey? Let’s shrink back behind the comfortable shield of media analysis for a bit, and talk about Bloom Into You. Continue reading

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Rewriting the Script: Revue Starlight’s rejection of tragic queer tropes

revue starlight (115)

Fittingly for a series so inspired by theatre, Revue Starlight has quite a spectacular finale. Across its twelve-episode run, the musical, magical, swashbuckling school story explores themes of competition and rivalry, unfair systems, and love and friendship. It brings these all together in an ending that packs a wonderfully metatextual and rebellious punch, with its main characters Karen and Hikari (and the relationship between them) taking the lead.

You knew I wasn’t finished writing about this show. Read the full piece on AniFem!

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Queer YA Mini-Reviews: Aces, Alchemy, and Ancient Magic

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It’s time for another set of reviews celebrating the vast and delicious variety to be found in young adult fiction! This time round we have a contemporary romance, a historical romp, and a quirky and delightfully haunting story about love and magic. Travel onwards for recommendations! Continue reading

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The Trickster Archetype in Pop Culture, Part Two: Better the Devil You Know

The Good Place - Season 1

In the midst of talking about what Tricksters are, let’s take another brief interlude to talk about what they’re not. Last time I mentioned that Kyuubey isn’t a Trickster just because they’re tricky, and neither are most others who fill the sort of Faustian demon role in their story, and I want to expand on that. However, I also want to look at a couple of demonic (or demon-ish) characters from fiction who do fit the archetype, and explore exactly why. Demons and devils (and fantastical equivalents of these things) can be Tricksters, but it’s not because of their devilishness. Rather, it’s almost in spite of their devilishness, and comes down to a few key points including, once again, their place in the narrative itself. With a spoiler warning for both The Good Place and the recent state of the Black Butler manga, let’s dive in. Continue reading

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Ragnarök and Roll: December ’18 Roundup

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If this is the December roundup, I guess it must be the roundup of 2018 as well–a year that simultaneously felt like it lasted 1,000 years and felt like it lasted six minutes.

It’s been a big year for writing, once again. As of now I’m officially one year into a PhD (!), which, if all goes according to plan, is one third of the way through. I have been told that my first year went pretty well, and bewildered as I am I’ll have to trust my supervisors on that. It feels like I’ve learnt so much, yet at the same time I feel like I’m treading water in a sea of things I still need to know and understand. But that’s probably pretty normal–I don’t have to be an Expert in anything just yet, and I’m having a good time finding my feet and my groove.

I have a journal paper currently in the peer review process, hopefully for publication in the middle of next year–in the meantime, though, if you want to peek at what I’m studying, you can take a gander at this conference presentation I gave (my second ever!) on playing with tropes!

Somehow, I managed to sneak in some feature writing this year too: the AniFem team continues to be a delight to work with, and I’m proud of the work they’ve helped me craft and put out this year. I like all three of the pieces I got published (and the next one in the pipeline, too, but that’s a behind-the-scenes secret) but am particularly fond of this one comparing the relationships in The Camping Anime versus The Ramen Anime. I also wrote a couple of pieces for The Asexual, both published in their journal and for their general website. It feels a little spooky writing so openly about my own experiences with my sexuality (especially that first one), but I’m getting the hang of it with the frame of fiction to guide me. Lady Geek Girl and Friends unfortunately closed its doors early this year, but I had a whale of a time writing for them while it lasted, too.

On the blog this month:

The Paladin Caper: The Gang Saves The World – Rogues of the Republic comes to an end, with a fizzle rather than a bang, and I question whether a big epic plot is really more important than character development.

The Trickster Archetype in Pop Culture, Part One: Down with the System! – the Trickster is a very versatile archetype, which is how I’m able to talk about Marvel’s Deadpool and Roald Dahl’s Matilda in the same post. The first of a series!

A Big Ol’ Pile of Anime Recommendations (2018) – my favourite new series I watched this year, all collected in one place!

Cool web content:

Laid Back Camp (5)

Cursed with Insecurity: Howl’s Moving Castle in Print and Film – a look at the different approaches to Sophie and Howl (and their relationship) in Diana Wynne Jones’ novel versus the Ghibli adaptation, and what kind of message each version sends

Defining and Redefining Popular Genres: The Evolution of ‘New Adult’ Fiction – a journal article about how genre is fake (my mantra for the year), or, at least, how genre should be considered an ever-evolving and organic thing rather than something static and decided by a set group of people. And what the hell is a ‘new adult’ book anyway?

Bloom Into You, Touko Nanami, and the Terror of Social Performance – a character study of Touko and her deep-seated self-doubt, and how her struggles and flaws are relatable.

Double Decker‘s Treatment of Trans Characters Leaves a Lot to be Desired – a breakdown of how exactly the Tiger and Bunny spinoff dropped the ball when it introduced trans characters to its cast, disappointing many viewers (myself included) who were initially excited for the show.

“We Must Be Strong, and We Must Be Brave”: Power and Women in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power – how the delightful reboot places emphasis on different kinds of strength, not just those that come from magical swords.

The Invention of the Passive Fairy Tale Heroine – tracking the shift in fairy tale tropes over time and how they reflected cultural shifts taking place.

On Laid-Back Camp and Nature as Society’s Companion Rather Than Society’s Foe – how my new favourite slice-of-life show upturns the common “hur dur technology bad, get away from it all and experience the wilderness” narrative by portraying tech instead as something that enhances the characters’ experience of nature and brings them closer to each other.

Different Interpretations as Solidarity, Not Opposition – there’s been a lot of talk about how Yuu of Bloom Into You can be read as either an aromantic asexual or a lesbian, and this article takes the “why not both?” approach, in terms of both how sexuality is a spectrum and how different viewer’s interpretations can be valuable to the overall conversation around such things in media.

My gosh, and I think that wraps us up for 2018. As always, thank you for reading, and take care out there in the wide world!

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