Category Archives: Fun with Isms

Letting Boys Cry

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One of the first things Yuri Katsuki does onscreen is cry. His establishing character moment is him weeping uncontrollably in a bathroom, the picture of vulnerability and hopelessness, after doing badly at the Grand Prix. And he doesn’t stop crying, either—his tears, and his anxiety, return time and again over the series, and while he eventually learns to handle this anxiety as his confidence is nurtured, the narrative never really presents this emotion and his expression of it as a bad thing or a weakness. Yuri is a highly expressive, emotional young man, and the show he’s in lets him be that. And that’s quite a rare thing to see in fiction, let alone from the protagonist of a sports anime—surely one of the most manly genres out there, given that they’re all about feats of physical prowess!

It seems paradoxical to have the protagonist of something in the action genre—be it sports or superheroes—cry, because crying is, well, such a non-masculine and non-heroic trait. Journalist Ben Blatt recently released the findings of a study on word use in books, which found that, among other things, women were commonly described as “sobbing” but men almost never were, especially when the novel in question was written by a man. The study suggests that “Male authors seem, consciously or not, to hold that if ‘real men don’t cry,’ then ‘fictional men don’t sob’.”

And yet there’s Yuri, sobbing—and not the only man to do so in that show either. Granted, a lot of Yuri!!! on Ice plays with and strays from what we would consider “manly” (dancing, themes of love, throwing away strict conventions of gender presentation with Viktor’s long hair and flower crowns, etc.), but this departure from gendered expectations is still worth noting. Usually, the perception is that boys don’t cry. Crying is a sissy thing to do, an unmanly thing to do, a girly thing to do, and society says the accepted and desirable alternative is to bottle up your feelings or project them outwards onto other people. This is one of the neatest examples of toxic masculinity you can find: being emotional is somehow feminine, and, of course, that that makes it bad.

Head to Lady Geek Girl and Friends for the full article!

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Cute Queer Webcomics for the Soul

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I think we can all agree that the Tragic Sad Dead Gays genre isn’t welcome these days (not to say that it was ever totally welcome, but given the progress of time and sensibilities, this sentiment has become much more mainstream). Instead, a whole bunch of creators are embracing the idea that LGBTQ+ folks are just as capable of being protagonists in stories with happy endings, and stories across an exciting range of genres. This week, we zoom in on the romantic dramedy—tales of love, growth, and shenanigans set in a world recognisable as ours. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, it’ll change your life—or, maybe you’ll just enjoy some sweet queer content, able to relax with the knowledge that a respectful handling and happy ending is in sight.

As I’ve said before, I feel weird writing about stories that aren’t yet finished, and as all the webcomics below are ongoing, I can’t review them in good conscience because I haven’t seen the full story. Consider these not reviews, then, but recommendations of a few little gems I’ve found this year that I find particularly delightful so far, and that I invite you to jump into and come along for the ride as they progress. Continue reading

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Until Dawn and the Indestructible White Guy

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A while back, WB and I attempted what we called a Maximum Chaos playthrough of the game Until Dawn. Until Dawn is basically an interactive horror movie, presented cinematically but offering its players the chance to steer the story in different directions based on character interactions, decisions, and quick time events in action scenes. The Maximum Chaos run involves picking the most risky choices, starting as many fights between characters as possible, and not hitting any of the QTEs, leading to the most exciting, dramatic, and gory story possible. Given Until Dawn’s “anyone can die” premise, this leads to some interesting and brutal action. But, as we learned along the way, it also reveals that certain characters are quite literally indestructible no matter what your button-pressing and narrative choices inflict on them, and some are far too easy to damage, which leaves the game with some unfortunate implications.

Read the full post on Lady Geek Girl and Friends!

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Cute Demon Crashers Set to Return with Cute, Comfy and Consensual Queer Content

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I don’t normally seek out erotic visual novels, but if I did, I doubt I’d leap to describe them as “delightful.” But Sugarscript’s Cute Demon Crashers  proved the exception in both of these, by not only getting me to play a sexy dating sim but leaving me with a warm fuzzy feeling that (you’d think) would be uncharacteristic of the genre. If you look at the creators’ mission statement, though, you’ll realize that was the point:

In our team, we felt there was a need of consent and safe spaces in 18+ VNs for women, and NaNoRenO 2015 was the perfect excuse to make a game to fit those needs!

Consent and comfort is a massive, integral part of Cute Demon Crashers. College student Claire (who the player can rename) accidentally summons three incubi and one succubus who sense that she’s lonely, and over the course of the game she can bond with them and learn about them, and, if she wants to, pick one to have sex with that night. Whichever adorable sexy demon she picks, the ensuing sex scene is sweet, gentle, sometimes funny, and each demon is lovely in their own unique way. Because consent is an integral part of the development team’s mission, it’s an integral part of the gameplay: plenty of options pop up throughout the scene, with Claire’s lovers asking her if she wants to do this, or that, or stop. And indeed, a big stop button is available in the corner of the screen at all times. If you hit the button or want to back down, the demons never make Claire feel bad about it, and they do everything they can to make sure she’s physically and emotionally comfortable throughout the whole process.

There are no bad ends in this visual novel. It’s entirely about having a good time and exploring sexuality in a fun, safe, and comfortable way, with the magical love demon aspect managing to be adorable rather than skeevy like it could be. The whole game was a delightful and fun experience, which is why I’m super excited that Sugarscript has announced that they’re working on a “Side B” sequel/spinoff for the game.

Jump to Lady Geek Girl and Friends for the full post!

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Moana the Mythic Hero-King

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Moana was several different brands of delightful, but one aspect that captured my heart is that it draws its inspiration from mythology rather than from fairy tales—something Disney hasn’t really done since Hercules, and something that gives its heroine a very interesting dynamic. The movie features the trickster god Maui as one of its main characters and incorporates other elements of Polynesian folklore, but I was especially interested—and pleasantly surprised—to see that Moana herself has quite a traditional mythical hero’s character arc.

She is a leader, chosen by nature and destiny, who sets out on a quest surrounding an important magical object, where she ventures through the realm of the supernatural and tangles with gods. When it’s over, the balance of nature is restored and she returns to her people as a wiser and more capable ruler. It’s a quintessential hero-king quest narrative, which, incidentally, is also a quintessentially male narrative. But without so much as a shrug, Moana gives this archetype to its female heroine and sends her on her journey.

Remember how I said I could write a whole post gushing about Moana? I did, and you can read the full thing over at Lady Geek Girl!

 

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Make It Gayer: Until Dawn

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Until Dawn is one of the most aggressively straight pieces of media I’ve come across. All but two of its eight main characters are set up as romantic/sexual pairs, and defined as this in the quick flash of character introduction we get at the start of the game. It’s equally important for the player to know that Ashley is “academic” as it is to know that she has a crush on Chris, and given how wafty the characterisation in the game can be, their relationship status becomes one of the few concrete things we do know about them. The only two characters who aren’t either dating someone of the opposite gender or mutually crushing on someone of the opposite gender are Josh and Sam, and Josh spends half the game making lewd jokes like “I just want to push her down and make some snow angels you know?” about the girls.

Sam is a strange outlier in that her relationship identifier is “Hannah’s best friend” rather than “Emily’s boyfriend” or “Mike’s ex” or “has a crush on Ashley”. Josh is noted as Hannah and Beth’s older brother (for clarity, mostly, so in case you missed the brief mention of it in the prologue you know this important bit of information and the story will make sense), but this still leaves Sam as the only one defined by a platonic relationship. Which really, really sticks out like a sore and lonely thumb when everyone else is paired off for their respective storylines into romantic couples rife with sexual tension, some… more believable than others.

You spend enough time with Jess and Mike to see their chemistry, but Emily and Matt seem to just fight and belittle each other the entire time save for occasionally announcing that they really, really want to sleep together. Which is not what a healthy, normal, or well-written relationship looks like. Frankly, it feels forced, like the writers jammed them together into a couple because that’s just what teenagers do, right? Are horny for each other? Continue reading

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Make It Gayer: Fangirl

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Fangirl was/is a very important book to me. It did so many things that I rarely saw and it did them relatively well—a character deeply ensconced in fandom, who writes fanfiction on an industrial scale and deeply loves it, and isn’t presented at all as a parody or something awkward to kind of laugh at; a look at the way fandoms can shape and help people and the incredible catharsis that can come from engaging with a creative work; a protagonist with anxiety disorder; a fictional mother that left rather than tragically dying as is the norm; the horrors of plagiarism as a legitimate antagonistic plot device; and, and this is one of the big ones honestly: a YA love interest I actively liked.

Guys, Fangirl was good. Cath was a great, relatable and three-dimensional protagonist and I came to really adore her and support her, and in the end her coming of age didn’t involve her leaving fandom and fanfic behind so much as branching out and embracing other kinds of creativity and friendship as well. And good lord, her relationship with her soft, sweet, good-hearted but ultimately flawed and human love interest Levi was a rare gem of teen romance that I really connected to and enjoyed.

But.

Upon finishing this novel, filled with the popping candy joy of completing a good book, I realised something I hadn’t really thought to notice while reading it: gay people only exist in fanfiction. Continue reading

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