Gather round, gang! Like I did a few posts ago with The Cauldron of Story, it’s time to take some literary theory I’ve come across in my research and apply it to modern media—in this case, Barbara Fass Leavy’s weighty and extensive discussion of folklore about supernatural marriages, and an overtly cute anime about a dragon who is also a maid.
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Mythology is super fun—though this is easy to forget when most of our access to it comes in textbook form. I’d love to soak up as many legends and stories from around the world as I can, but Wiki-walking can only get you so far, and often you can get lost in those walls of text and the academic language. Plus, how do you know where to start?
These epic tales of heroes, gods, demons and magical shenanigans were often meant to be told out loud, spread by word of mouth for the purpose of entertainment. A podcast, then, is the ideal modern media to get yourself into these ancient tales. Today’s web crush Spirits is exactly that, and it comes with a bonus dose of friendship, feminism, and alcohol!
Head to Lady Geek Girl and Friends for the full post!
Lucky Star is, on paper, potentially a recipe for disaster. It is very much a show just about the daily lives of high school students, not even following any coming of age arcs or concrete plotline, and mostly just features its characters talking about everyday stuff. It’s full of pop culture references and nods to otaku culture from its time of print, which was the year 2006. And… like, literally nothing happens. If you asked me to tell you the “plot” of Lucky Star I wouldn’t know where to start—it’s not even dramatic enough to root itself in a “four friends in their last year of school” framing device. Stuff just kind of happens. This show should be a boring pile of ridiculous, but it’s not—it’s hilarious, compelling, and has held a special place in my heart for years. Why? I’m not sure I can tell you, but I’m going to attempt to crack this mystery for the ages. Continue reading
When people ask me if I enjoyed Stranger Things, my response has to be “Well, it wouldn’t usually be my thing, but somehow I watched the entire thing almost in one sitting, found myself gasping or shouting at it more than once, and will be haunted by that menacing synth music for years to come… so I guess it’s doing something right.”
One of these somethings has to be the character writing, which creates fictional people compelling enough to keep you hooked even if the story itself is based heavily on tropes we’ve seen many times before and probably wouldn’t make the show stand out on its own. Most of the main cast are interesting and layered in their own ways, and are put together with what I think is a very neat amount of technical skill, chiefly surrounding that age old writing mantra Show, Don’t Tell.
For instance: at no point do we ever need to be told that Jim Hopper is a human disaster with a tragic past, because this information is handed to us on a silver platter of visual coding. He has the neatest establishing character moment in the series, I think, which paints a picture of his basic personality and contradictions and hints to his backstory, light-handedly enough to be intriguing and plain enough to demonstrate all the details the audience needs to know about this guy to progress headlong into the story. We see a child’s drawing pinned in pride of place on the wall, which is then panned away from to show a messy kitchen, even messier living room, the TV still on, and a scruffy, displaced looking man sunken into the couch. There’s no dialogue, just Hopper peeling himself off the sofa, completing his morning routine interspersed with sips of beer, deep “pull yourself together man” sighs, and about fifty cigarettes. And then this addiction-soaked splatter of a man who conked out without even having the energy to turn the TV off puts on a sheriff’s uniform. Continue reading
A beefy, black-clad, gel-haired, sometimes-badly-tanned man stands dramatically in the middle of a desert. He did not believe in ghosts, he tells you, in a deep and strangely jarring monotone. Until he came face to face with one. What follows are high-contrast images of creeping shadows, sped-up footage of anonymous scary-looking women in white dresses, someone with what I assume is meant to be blood but looks more like lipstick gone wrong around their mouth, and flickering grayscale images of frightened-looking or conspicuously-posing members of the cast. The strange fusion of jock, nerd and theatre kid stereotypes is Zak Bagans, the other guys are his paranormal investigation crew, and these are their Ghost Adventures. And you can already tell you’re in for a wild ride of reality television.
Currently with twelve seasons and still going strong, Ghost Adventures follows Zak and his team as they travel to reputably haunted locations and lock themselves in for a night to try and capture evidence of ghosts. Along the way, expect shoddy re-enactments of the local ghost stories, over-dramatic narration, and the three investigators inevitably screaming “BRO! HOLY [BLEEP] BRO! DID YOU SEE THAT DUDE? [BLEEP], DUDE” and/or “I can really feel an energy in here man. Holy [bleep].”
It is ridiculous. And it is the best reality TV show I have ever watched. Continue reading
I’ve written a few posts on here about magical girls and how important they are, so it was with a bit of a shock that I realised, apart from my beloved W.I.T.C.H. comics, a few out-of-order chunks of Sailor Moon I caught on TV as a kid, and Puella Magic Madoka Magica, I hadn’t actually… watched that many. Of course, most of this is because my pre-and-early-teen self broke out in hives at even the implication that a show or book was girly (the dread scourge!!). Perhaps sitting down and periodically bingeing all 50 episodes of Go! Princess Precure with CP is a kind of retrospective remedy for that, but mostly, it’s just been ridiculous fun. And it’s made me think more about the genre, and balk a bit at Madoka (specifically, the movie continuations) and how they take great pride in being deliberately gritty deconstructions that kind of… kick the breath out of the entire point of magical girls.
Go! Princess Precure is 2015’s instalment in the Precure (or Pretty Cure, or PreCure, or Cute Girls Save the World With Perfume All Year Every Year and Sell Millions of Toys in the Process) series; the story of three (later four) young girls who gain the powers of the Princess Precure to battle an evil kingdom of despair. They transform with the power of Princess Perfume and Dress Up Keys, gaining frilly skirts and Big Hair, and for their final attacks they go into Elegant Mode and earn themselves enormous ballgowns. They exhibit the true traits of princesses: beauty, inner strength, kindness, delicacy, and above all hope and love and determination to follow their dreams. It’s ridiculous, adorable, and genuinely engaging and well-put-together (kids’ shows can be like that—who knew?). Also strangely relaxing, which I realised was only strange to me because, again, the magical girl show I’m most familiar with is bloody Madoka Magica, where the most openly determined and hopeful magical girl warrior gets her head bitten off three episodes in. Continue reading
[Spoilers ahead for Sense8 and Dumbing of Age; contains discussion of transphobia and homophobia]
Just because a story’s world is prejudiced and awful, doesn’t mean the story itself is. In fact, in some cases the story bends the world to its will in order to protect the characters that said world is cruel to.
Sense8’s Nomi Marks, for instance, is a transwoman living in a very transphobic world—even at a Pride celebration, a group of women bully her by erasing her gender identity in a variety of rude and obnoxious ways, and she also has to contend with her overbearing, equally obnoxious mother, who insists on guilt-tripping her and calling her by her (male) birth name. These are things that happen to real people every day, and they’re awful—unfortunately, Nomi is also a protagonist in a sci-fi TV show, so it can only get worse.
And it does: Nomi ends up trapped in hospital awaiting an operation that will effectively lobotomise her, the papers signed by her mother, who insists “I love you, Michael, and this is for your own good” (even if Mrs Marks is kept in the dark about the lobotomy because, as it turns out, it’s secret government agency psychic stuff, the sentiment is still horrifying, and presented as so). The nurses won’t listen to her, she ends up handcuffed to the gurney, and everything is absolutely terrifying and awful, and Nomi sobs for someone to help her. It looks like a bleak fate lies ahead for the show’s sole trans character.
But then, someone does come to help Nomi. Continue reading