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Posts tagged ‘books’

Ender’s Game

Moderatrix’ note: If you have not read Orson Scot Card’s Sci-Fi novel, Ender’s Game, (and why not?), this post is not for you. You man want to consider skipping it, as it will contain spoilers about key characters and plot elements.

If you don’t mind that sort of thing, Party On, Wayne.

 

I approached Ender’s Game not knowing what to expect, which was a good thing. I seldom venture out of my genre of fantasy reading, and I like my fiction in certain confines. I appreciate a good space opera from time to time, but they are few and far between, and usually have to be recommended by a trusted friend. “Trusted” here reads as “someone who has recommended a book to me that I have finished”. Even a good Star Wars novel must come with a stamp of approval. There are just too many to be going all willy-nilly in the book section.

I liked it. I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed it from a Sci-Fi appreciation perspective, viewing it with a startling awe of how accurate Card’s prediction of future possibilities were. His concepts of using video game technology are not so distant today, and the idea of a whole military school devoted to using such things is not far-fetched. I was taken aback by the idea of military super-genius children driven to a place so cold that all that mattered in life were the war games played in a school for future leaders, but the idea, in my mind, was not so out of this world that I couldn’t see a universe under threat resorting to such measures.

I added my military perspective to my reading of Ender’s Game, and for anyone who is a military person who read this novel prior to their career, I would encourage you to re-visit it now, after your training has changed your understanding of where you stand in the world and how things are done for your own good when you don’t fully realize it (much the same way I encourage you to pick up Catch-22). If, for some chance, some Very Important military person (or even a middle peep) is reading this, I reach out and say that Ender’s Game helped me appreciate rank and structure as it should be just a smidgen more.

Emphasis on “should” is important.

In my line of work there is a lack of understanding, appreciation, and even compassion for the military and its members. Our rights, needs, and causes are not championed the way that others are, even when those causes overlap and intersect with those of others in the social justice sphere. I think this has a lot to do with the perception of the military over the last decade and more. We are viewed as harbingers of destruction and violence, and rarely as we are meant to be: defenders of peace. I think that deep down some people think that we deserve the mistreatment we receive. That is probably because we haven’t been directed as ethically as we probably could have been. The flip side to this is that we are viewed as a monolith by many; the military is a huge machine that thinks and moves as a hive-mind, I think many believe. I think that we are viewed as a structure that has given up our rights, for whatever reason.

I used to call myself a pacifist, even during my enlistment, and have only recently realized that I grossly over-extended the definition of that term. I believe in seeking peaceful ends whenever necessary and not using violent force against those weaker than you for the sake of dominating someone who doesn’t threaten your life. I won’t object to the use of force to preserve your safety. I learned that one the hard way Once Upon A Time.

But Ender’s Game demonstrates, beautifully, my thoughts on military power, even only as one element of a brilliantly put-together novel.

Colonel Graff, a character than I don’t believe is supposed to be sympathetic — or perhaps that was my own perception of him — was somewhat endearing to me. I saw his actions in a light that was understandable through the lessons that I was taught in boot camp. The tearing down of certain personality traits, the intention of making a person feel isolated, the almost brutal way that training makes an individual dependent on themselves and no one else while at the same time making them fully in need of a team to accomplish their goals. These things and more are necessary in order to protect the lives of people who can’t see the broader picture from outside the frame; people who can’t know what is at stake for their own protection. Even if it pained Graff to inflict pain upon Ender the way that he did and allowed, he knew the sacrifices that had to be made in the name of what he believed to be the Greater Good. These things are seldom pretty, and I think often those of us who don’t see the bigger picture of decision making lack the perspective of how horrible and difficult those decisions are. The dramatic effect of inflicting these things on a child make it all the more shocking, and Card, I think, was brilliant in this choice.

I understand that military Chains-of-Command see and know things that civilians never will. They learn and know things that will never be seen nor heard by people lower than certain levels of security, and they will forever be the subject of hatred for it. In a perfect world they must use this to protect lives, and the people below them must answer orders without question. The training process that Ender undergoes at Battle School, and later at Command School, while far more extreme than anything I’ve encountered, demonstrates what we who have taken training and military pledges know: Whatever is necessary is what we will do to protect those we swore to serve.

In a perfect world we would need no military, because there would be no war. Perhaps we could all sit down to tea and work things out nicely and wear pretty hats. I like hats and look good in them.

But Ender’s Game expresses a theme that deep down we know to be true: Standing military forces are necessary. We must be willing to defend ourselves, or we risk going the way of The Naked Empire (and I promise never to use a Terry Goodkind reference in a way that indicates he might have been on to something ever again, mmm’kay?) from that eponymous segment of The Sword of Truth series.

Graff explains this best on page 253 of the edition I was reading, when Ender asked him, quite simply, why it was they fought the buggers. Graff’s answer is equally simple: They attacked first. They were provoked into fighting when a peaceable solution failed. They were provoked, and had to defend themselves. He said:

“Ender, believe me, there’s a century of discussion on this very subject. Nobody knows the answer. When it comes down to it, though, the real decision is inevitable: If one of us has to be destroyed, let’s make damn sure we’re the ones alive at the end. Our genes won’t let us decide any other way. Nature can’t evolve a species that hasn’t a will to survive. Individuals might be bred to sacrifice themselves, (254) but the race as a whole can never decide to cease to exist.”

I believe that people have an innate sense to defend themselves, and rightly so. If we don’t do so, then the first person strong enough to overpower and destroy us will, and we deserve to have it happen. Who else should? Along that line, if we can help someone who is being bullied, we should as well, for the right reasons, but that is another post. If we are unwilling to defend ourselves we deserve the fate handed to us by the dominating force.

This isn’t to say that military powers should run unchecked. Quite the contrary. We have a responsibility to ensure that our militaries are being engaged in just causes, and I have said this before. Even Ender, in the end, could not bring himself to wipe out the buggers completely, even as they worked, it seemed, to wipe out humans. Ender had compassion and a knowledge of what was right, and decimating a whole species to annihilation was not just. As he became the Speaker for the Dead, he did what I hold to be central to self-preservation: finding a peaceful solution if possible so that you can live with yourself when doing what must be done.

Military politics are so complex and layered, and difficult to discuss in progressive circles. I know that it can be charged and difficult. It is also tinged with a bit of personal when I consider the life-toll that I know of. It is understandable that it is. I don’t know if there is a great Karmic balance sheet the Universe uses, but I hope there is, and I hope that it really does try to set it even. I hope it is beyond what I have lived and seen.

I don’t know if Orson Scott Card intended to reach out and facilitate a sympathetic view of the military and the tough choices made by people who must decide who the sacrificial lambs are going to be, or the sacrifices made by those who volunteer. But, aside from being a guy who obviously had an affinity for the Atari, I think he gets many things right, and makes a case for the consideration that the military may not be a giant monolith at which to aim ire.

How To Dress Up Misogyny In Fantasy Fiction

Something that was marked in the “loved” side of the Love-Hate  relationship I have with Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth Series (which, I don’t care what he says, is a fantasy fiction series, so there. If you didn’t want to write fantasy, you should have picked a different genre, setting, concept, whatever, for your pedantic preaching… I mean, you had a dragon who could speak, and a chicken which was an incarnation of evil) was the variety of characters that showed up throughout the course of the twelve books. Incidentally, it is the longest series I have ever read, and I almost quit in the middle of Faith of the Fallen, regardless of the fact that my favorite character was developed in that particular book.

One strike in the “hate” column, were it possible for me to keep up with the number of things I hated, is the way that Goodkind took incredibly interesting women characters and wrote them into incredible tropes whose sole purpose was to serve the whims of the principle protagonist, who might be the most annoying man I have ever read written into (fantasy) fiction, ever. And I have read some Star Wars fiction, and all of the Twilight books.

I am not sure if it annoyed me more or less that these women characters were from most perspectives, well, awesome. I fell in love with them on most fronts. The first of many, Kahlan, was undoubtedly one of the most unusual characters I’ve ever met in fiction. She was a matriarch of sorts over all of the Midlands with a rare and incredible power.

As a Confessor she commanded respect from everyone who crossed her path, or that was how things were intended to be. Until, that is, she met and fell in love with Richard Cypher, who turned out to be *spoilerspoilerspoiler* the heir to the Rahl line. A woman who is used to having kings and queens bow to her ultimate and unquestionable authority suddenly has her reign usurped by her fiancée and doesn’t seem to mind because she can still rule by his side. Once they are married.

In my mind it was fun to have this woman placed in a position of ultimate power only to have her toppled by the parties of men. Another Queen, who happens to be Kahlan’s sister by a coincidence, is also dethroned, then brutally raped and beaten until she literally goes insane by a group of misogynistic marauding men working for the Ultimate Evil Socialist Baddie (I am not kidding). The women who run the Palace of the Prophets, a group of powerful sorceresses who train young wizards, have their palace usurped and destroyed out from under them. This theme did not go unnoticed. /digression

Kahlan’s father taught her everything he knew about war and survival, and as a result she knew how to train young soldiers who were outnumbered greatly and spent more time leading armies than Richard — who was prophesied to lead the final battle against the great Socialist Evil. But love conquers all, right? When Richard decides that he must throw out the laws of the old Midlands and unite them under D’Hara (even though it doesn’t work), Kahlan, flinching momentarily, does anything she can to support Richard. Goodkind even goes to great pains to show her failing when she goes against Richard’s advice — even though it doesn’t make sense given her educational background, her personality, or the strength of her character and her power. One of the most absurd aspects of the story is that some of the greatest power she wields can only be invoked on behalf of Richard. And that particular point is never fully explained. I will never be able to fully explain all the ways that I loved Kahlan so much, and was so disappointed and frustrated at the same time with how her character was written.

I don’t know, though, if it measures up to the way that I became righteously indignant in behalf of Nicci. When Nicci was first introduced, I wasn’t aware that I would ever see Nicci again since she seemed to be an aside character, one of those cardboard cutouts who serve as a momentary evil tool of the devil Keeper of the Underworld. Then I was remotely aware that she would turn up again — the whole “I’m going to kill Richard” thing gave it away — but didn’t imagine that she would develop to the point that I would find her the most amazing person in the series. Hands down.

But.

Nicci spent the last third of the series being a martyr for Richard’s needs. Worrying about Richard’s health. What was best for Richard. Sleepless weeks studying ancient tomes because Richard doesn’t know squat about his own abilities, and Nicci has more than enough for three wizards and five sorceresses. In spite of Richard knowing exactly jack about being a wizard he magically is able to pull miraculous theory out of his arse so he can save Nicci’s life. Save. Her. Life. Because the most contrived plot points meant to show that Richard can do anything no matter how many times these incredibly educated women attempt to teach him anything, he instantly proves them wrong in the most amazing ways.

During the last third of the series, Nicci is constantly being shoved to Richard as a love interest, with whom she has fallen in love but is trying to keep that feeling buried, and she goes to great pains to help him in whatever way he needs because of this. She makes herself a sacrifice to Richard, and in the end, she is fulfilled because Richard is happy, even if it almost kills her in the process. She takes on heroic acts of selflessness because it doesn’t matter if she dies so long as the thing that makes Richard happy and successful comes to fruition. These things just don’t add up to her character development.

The Mord-Sith, Cara, who is sworn to Richard’s side is one of the most feared women in all the Midlands, known for the legendary torture that turns her into a weapon for the Lord Rahl. After Richard becomes the great hero who sets all Mord-Sith free, Cara chooses to be his personal guard. Now, Cara is badass, even as the lore created by Goodkind — who has no problem describing the torture and abuse of women as a plot device to show how horrible a bad guy can be — is as fascinating to me as it is triggering and problematic. Tougher than iron spikes and determined to show you that no man can scare her let alone better her at anything, the thanks Cara gets for throwing her life in front of danger for Richard’s protection is Richard’s insistence that she needs to be “more feminine”. Somehow her lack of desire to swaddle babies and feed squirrels makes her less feminine, because there is obviously only one definition. Cara is the stereotype of “strong female character” in that she is supposed to be the “anti-female” or something, but she is witty and clever and endearing, but there is a never-ending side-story to make her into a better, softer woman.

The series is rife with graphic descriptions of violence against women. Rape and gory death drawn out in great detail. A serial killer who rapes and strangles prostitutes to ensure that everyone knows that they are less than human. A man who cuts off the nipples of women to control them with magic. Rape scene after rape scene described to ensure you know just how evil someone is. Women reduced to sex slaves by the “bad guy”. Combined with subtle message after little detail that ensures you know that gender roles are expected not only in the Midlands, D’Hara, and all of the New World, but in the heart of the philosophy that is being pounded by the beaten horse in this Randian-lite crap, the utter contempt that Terry Goodkind has for women shines through in what would have been an incredibly enjoyable series.

And I’ve only scratched the surface. I’d have to go, book by book, to get more in-depth.

It baffles me the way that someone can write incredible women with depth and amazing attributes and still demonstrate a full-on hatred for them with the stories and plots written out for them. The way their lives unfold and the arcs stretch on, at times, made me weep with anger. To this day I can’t figure out how I can hate a series so much and enjoy it at the same time.

Ramona and Beezus

Movie poster for Ramona and Beezus, with Selena Gomez and Joey King. King has paint covered hands wrapped in a hug around Gomez' waist.While I have been taking a day or two from the internet for some mourning time we took Kid to see Ramona and Beezus, which if you are not familiar with it, is a movie based on the Ramona Quimby children’s book series by Beverly Cleary. Ramona and Beezus is loosely adapted, covering all of the books from Beezus and Ramona to Ramona’s World.

As a child about Kid’s age I was an avid reader, and the Ramona Quimby books were some of my favorites that I think I read again and again. I am sure that by the time I was Kid’s age I had read them at least twice. I had forgotten about them until I saw the poster for this movie, and have been collecting the books up for Kid since. They are a little under her reading level, but right around her amusement level, for sure. Just as I did, we have found that she relates to Ramona as a person who is imaginative and sometimes misunderstood.

Ramona, by the end of the series, and for the purposes of the movie and this review, is a nine-year old girl. She has an active imagination that sometimes gets the best of her, and a ton of energy that she sometimes has trouble channeling in the proper ways, because it is very creative energy and she has trouble expressing that to adults who have forgotten how to think as creatively as children easily do. While this is a series about primarily a young girl and how she relates to the people in her world, the problems Ramona faces are fairly universal (from a fairly privileged standpoint), dealing with everything from sibling rivalry, school anxiety, feeling left out, bullies, the emotional distress of a parent losing a job, of your parents fighting, and many other things that young children deal with as they mature. Part of what I loved and clung to about Ramona as a child was that her family was not the perfect family that I saw on TV or in movies as a child. Ramona and her sister fought. Ramona’s parents didn’t always get along. Ramona’s family had trouble with money, and Ramona often had to wear hand-me-downs too. Ramona sometimes did silly things and was laughed at. It made me realize that I was not that far off from other kids, that somewhere my story could not have been that unusual, because some lady somewhere knew enough about it to stick it in between a book cover (well, some generalities, but it was a start…).

Book cover of Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary. Features a taller pale girl in a knee lengthed white dress looking down and over a shorter pale girl seemingly throwing a tantrum, in overalls, a t-shirt, and paper bunny ears.The movie, Ramona and Beezus, was a charming adaptation. The lead, Joey King, broke my heart with her perfect portrayal of Ramona Quimby. The way this was adapted hit so many parts that took me back instantly to the books that I used to sneak under my bed sheets at night on my top bunk with my flashlight and try to quietly read after bedtime. Small details that I thought they missed (Ramona’s toothpaste) came up later and made me laugh while I was busy sniffling (in all fairness, the day you are crying in bouts because you miss your dad is not the best day to see such a sentimental movie, but I digress…). There were some things that were noticeably left out, such as Ramona’s war with her father over his smoking and some other things that you expect to get lost in a movie translation. But, overall, it made the shift to the big screen while staying true to the spirit of the books. It passed the Bechdel test with flying colors, with scenes between Ramona and Beezus, Ramona and her Mother, Ramona and Aunt Beatrice… all very well done.

My criticisms:

The movie had way more source material involving Ramona and her Father, and it was obvious. I often see movies about fathers and daughters and their relationships. Only here and there did it touch into Ramona’s relationship with her mother (the extra-heavy suitcase). I remember Ramona’s mother being the more strict of the two parents, but really, I felt an obvious lack of presence from Ramona’s mother. The scene with Picky-Picky was well done, but could have used more of an emotional portion of having to have Mrs. Quimby discover what her daughters did to spare her having to deal with this on top of working and all the other stress she was experiencing.

Selena Gomez played a fabulous Beezus. I have really enjoyed her as a young star so far (I admit to liking her on her Disney channel show, Wizards of Waverly Place, it being one of the few shows I can stand on the Channel). She is an up and comer if I do say so myself, and by the career she has had already, I think she would agree! Selena Gomez is of Mexican American and Italian descent and, from what I can tell by peeking around in the bios of the rest of the cast, no one else cast as her family in this movie has similar ethnicity.

Part of me finds it troubling that Gomez would be cast in a role where part of her identity could be so erased. Part of me is struggling to come to terms with the possibility that they were trying to present a mixed-ethnicity family… except that is not what one could gather from this situation with two predominantly white parents. I am not arguing that Gomez should not have been cast because she was “too Hispanic” or anything like that, but that since she and King were the leads for this movie, perhaps more attention should have been paid tot he family they constructed around them. I can’t help but feel as if it was a careless disregard and erasure of part of Selena Gomez’ identity.

Promo-still of Selena Gomez, a latina young woman, and Joey King, a pale girl, caught in a sisterly embrace lying on their stomachs as Beezus and Ramona Quimby for the movie Ramona and Beezus.All of that aside, I found Ramona and Beezus charming and a throwback to my childhood. I also found in it an ache to re-read some classic books that gave me a great feeling of closeness with a character that helped me remember that it was OK to be different. That sometimes being different and creative and a bit of an oddball was OK, and even lovable. I recommend the movie, directed by a women, and based on source material written by a woman, and containing a lot of moments between and about girls and women, it was a very funny and fun (yes they are different) movie.

Ramona and Beezus

Movie poster for Ramona and Beezus, with Selena Gomez and Joey King. King has paint covered hands wrapped in a hug around Gomez' waist.While I have been taking a day or two from the internet for some mourning time we took Kid to see Ramona and Beezus, which if you are not familiar with it, is a movie based on the Ramona Quimby children’s book series by Beverly Cleary. Ramona and Beezus is loosely adapted, covering all of the books from Beezus and Ramona to Ramona’s World.

As a child about Kid’s age I was an avid reader, and the Ramona Quimby books were some of my favorites that I think I read again and again. I am sure that by the time I was Kid’s age I had read them at least twice. I had forgotten about them until I saw the poster for this movie, and have been collecting the books up for Kid since. They are a little under her reading level, but right around her amusement level, for sure. Just as I did, we have found that she relates to Ramona as a person who is imaginative and sometimes misunderstood.

Ramona, by the end of the series, and for the purposes of the movie and this review, is a nine-year old girl. She has an active imagination that sometimes gets the best of her, and a ton of energy that she sometimes has trouble channeling in the proper ways, because it is very creative energy and she has trouble expressing that to adults who have forgotten how to think as creatively as children easily do. While this is a series about primarily a young girl and how she relates to the people in her world, the problems Ramona faces are fairly universal (from a fairly privileged standpoint), dealing with everything from sibling rivalry, school anxiety, feeling left out, bullies, the emotional distress of a parent losing a job, of your parents fighting, and many other things that young children deal with as they mature. Part of what I loved and clung to about Ramona as a child was that her family was not the perfect family that I saw on TV or in movies as a child. Ramona and her sister fought. Ramona’s parents didn’t always get along. Ramona’s family had trouble with money, and Ramona often had to wear hand-me-downs too. Ramona sometimes did silly things and was laughed at. It made me realize that I was not that far off from other kids, that somewhere my story could not have been that unusual, because some lady somewhere knew enough about it to stick it in between a book cover (well, some generalities, but it was a start…).

Book cover of Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary. Features a taller pale girl in a knee lengthed white dress looking down and over a shorter pale girl seemingly throwing a tantrum, in overalls, a t-shirt, and paper bunny ears.The movie, Ramona and Beezus, was a charming adaptation. The lead, Joey King, broke my heart with her perfect portrayal of Ramona Quimby. The way this was adapted hit so many parts that took me back instantly to the books that I used to sneak under my bed sheets at night on my top bunk with my flashlight and try to quietly read after bedtime. Small details that I thought they missed (Ramona’s toothpaste) came up later and made me laugh while I was busy sniffling (in all fairness, the day you are crying in bouts because you miss your dad is not the best day to see such a sentimental movie, but I digress…). There were some things that were noticeably left out, such as Ramona’s war with her father over his smoking and some other things that you expect to get lost in a movie translation. But, overall, it made the shift to the big screen while staying true to the spirit of the books. It passed the Bechdel test with flying colors, with scenes between Ramona and Beezus, Ramona and her Mother, Ramona and Aunt Beatrice… all very well done.

My criticisms:

The movie had way more source material involving Ramona and her Father, and it was obvious. I often see movies about fathers and daughters and their relationships. Only here and there did it touch into Ramona’s relationship with her mother (the extra-heavy suitcase). I remember Ramona’s mother being the more strict of the two parents, but really, I felt an obvious lack of presence from Ramona’s mother. The scene with Picky-Picky was well done, but could have used more of an emotional portion of having to have Mrs. Quimby discover what her daughters did to spare her having to deal with this on top of working and all the other stress she was experiencing.

Selena Gomez played a fabulous Beezus. I have really enjoyed her as a young star so far (I admit to liking her on her Disney channel show, Wizards of Waverly Place, it being one of the few shows I can stand on the Channel). She is an up and comer if I do say so myself, and by the career she has had already, I think she would agree! Selena Gomez is of Mexican American and Italian descent and, from what I can tell by peeking around in the bios of the rest of the cast, no one else cast as her family in this movie has similar ethnicity.

Part of me finds it troubling that Gomez would be cast in a role where part of her identity could be so erased. Part of me is struggling to come to terms with the possibility that they were trying to present a mixed-ethnicity family… except that is not what one could gather from this situation with two predominantly white parents. I am not arguing that Gomez should not have been cast because she was “too Hispanic” or anything like that, but that since she and King were the leads for this movie, perhaps more attention should have been paid tot he family they constructed around them. I can’t help but feel as if it was a careless disregard and erasure of part of Selena Gomez’ identity.

Promo-still of Selena Gomez, a latina young woman, and Joey King, a pale girl, caught in a sisterly embrace lying on their stomachs as Beezus and Ramona Quimby for the movie Ramona and Beezus.All of that aside, I found Ramona and Beezus charming and a throwback to my childhood. I also found in it an ache to re-read some classic books that gave me a great feeling of closeness with a character that helped me remember that it was OK to be different. That sometimes being different and creative and a bit of an oddball was OK, and even lovable. I recommend the movie, directed by a women, and based on source material written by a woman, and containing a lot of moments between and about girls and women, it was a very funny and fun (yes they are different) movie.

Being Native in the Twilight Saga and The Importance of Being Sam and Emily…

I’ve gotten more than a bit of attention for my post on racism in the Twilight Saga, and more than my share of criticism.

Apparently if you don’t think that the over-description of non-white vampires and other non-white people is the author’s way of being explicitly Not Racist (I call this exotification, but wev), especially when she remarks how exotic and strange their “bushy hair” and dark skin were, then you are digging too deep and just looking for something to complain about because you don’t like something.

Perhaps.

Or, maybe I don’t need to go digging for racism because it is pervasive and so ingrained in my daily life that I can just casually sit and let it come to me.

Most notable is the way that I see Native Americans/First Nations/Indigenous Peoples portrayed in pop-culture in North America. I have seen in various places that people are So Excited! that The Saga has treated Natives so well and depicted so greatly, and that all the actors are actually Native and blah blah blah…

Funny, is that I found in the Wikipedia entry, the first line in almost all of the actors portraying the Quileute people spelled out all of their ethnic heritage, to verify that all of those actors were indeed Native American or First Nation (with the notable exception of Taylor Lautner’s entry, who is the only actor they didn’t seek out specifically for being Native American, and, while I think it is cool he discovered a part of his ancestry, didn’t discover he had any Native blood until he researched for his Twilight role). To secure the cred of the makers of the film, so that we all know that not only do they look Native, but that they are indeed Native. To secure the racial and ethnic integrity of all the actors, making sure that we have no doubt about their heritage so that the makers of Eclipse can smile smugly to themselves about how good they were to all of those indigenous actors…

While I do want to give credit where credit is due, I fully support the casting of Native/First Nation actors to play these roles, especially when we have movies and directors who are refusing to do so (I’m looking at YOU M. Night…), there has been a notable culture surrounding these movies, and their fandom that OMFG YOU GUIZE BUT THEY ARE CASTING REAL NATIVES SO YOU MUST BE SO PROUD!!!!11!!ONE!

But be honest about it. The casting director did not specifically seek out only Native actors for the Native roles. Only for the non-principal parts. For the role of Jacob they were perfectly willing to go with someone who looked Native enough, and settled with someone who considers himself White. But when it came down to how good he looked for the big beefy wolfy role in in the subsequent movies, they were willing to toss him aside for someone who looked closer. Fair enough, sure, because nowadays, you really can’t tell if someone is truly Native (or any ethnicity) just by looking at them. But the makers of the Twilight Saga movies sure as hell were not hopelessly devoted to the idea of casting only Native actors in Native roles. Don’t kid yourselves.

Treating Native people so well.

Indeed.

It also has started this belief that somehow Native people need to look a certain way or somehow be able to verify their Native blood, which as I have noted before, is a racist concept, and hurtful to Native/First Nation people. I just simply do not know other ethnic heritages where it is demanded that we do this — that we must provide this information — to be allowed to be recognized. Prove that you are called on the roll and we will believe you. The fact that I carry a Tribal card makes me no more Native than others who have lived with a deep sense of their heritage and yet don’t have their name on a roll.

Even more troublesome (to me, at least) as I have read these books, multiple times, is the framing of the Sam and Emily Relationship.

The imprinted and forever dynamic. This cosmically chosen and all enduring love that can survive all and can escape nothing…even Sam’s accidental outburst of Werewolf rage, that left Emily with scars running all down one side of her face and further. She forgives Sam because he couldn’t help what he did, and Sam is very overwhelmed with guilt and truly sorry for what he did because he loves her so much and tries very hard to make sure he never does it again… Really, what choice does she have? Sam has imprinted on her, and they are to be together. Forever. She belongs to him and he to her and nothing can keep them apart… not even the rage that marred her face.

Where have I heard this before?

As a Native woman who spent a good portion of her life growing on a reservation and who still fellowships with those still there, this is not uncommon to me. I’ve heard so many times how our men are volatile…how they can not control their rage (especially when drunk)…how they beat their women in fits of that rage… All the stereotypes that made us less-than (as if White Men never beat their wives or girlfriends or had fits of uncontrollable rage or couldn’t control their liquor), that were intended to Other us and make us into these odd savages that should be tucked safely aside and controlled. It worked, for a long time. We are even just now still reclaiming land that was ceded under treaties.

And knowing the stats of Native women and domestic violence, and knowing that they are shockingly higher than other minority women living in the U.S., devastatingly higher than White women, I wonder how anyone could possibly make this allusion in a book and not see the racist undertones that they had created. How they could not see the triggered memories that they might invoke in some people? Emily’s unquestioning acceptance of Sam’s treatment of her…how it is all OK because he really, really loves her… and how anyone could read this and then accuse me of digging for racist undertones to get upset about.

Which is a common theme in this series of books and movies; as long as you really love someone all of your distasteful behaviors are perfectly excusable. Stalking, control, emotional abuse, sexual assault, and now physical and brutally violent abuse. All tied up neatly and passed off as Epic Examples of True Love.

I know that many people who grew up on reservations work hard to overcome stereotypes, that they work hard to make sure that they are never seen as someone who falls into the trap of being seen as just another “dirty Injun” or “angry drunk from the rez”. Yes, these stereotypes hurt more than just women and it hurts me to know that a series so popular would choose a Native American couple to display this kind of “accidental” event. It hurts me to my core to see it in Sam and Emily. Almost more so than an ancient duty that keeps the tribal youth from being properly educated and remaining high school dropouts, almost more so than it reducing them into barefoot savages who run around naked in the woods eating raw animal flesh and invading each others’ thoughts (and reducing the only woman wolf to a bitter and angry ex-girlfriend).

Almost.

But Sam and Emily are important, because they symbolize the way modern pop culture and media still see Native people in relationships. This is how a White woman novelist and White woman screenwriter see us.

Stephenie Meyer and Melissa Rosenberg might have done some research when doing their writing, but it doesn’t replace lived experience. It doesn’t erase the pain, the hurt, or the shame. Their intent might even have been to uplift and make Native culture beautiful, but intent doesn’t matter more than actions. What matters is what came out of this in the effort to chug movies and books out at the speed of Fast Food cups and ticket sales.

Being Native in the Twilight Saga and The Importance of Being Sam and Emily…

I’ve gotten more than a bit of attention for my post on racism in the Twilight Saga, and more than my share of criticism.

Apparently if you don’t think that the over-description of non-white vampires and other non-white people is the author’s way of being explicitly Not Racist (I call this exotification, but wev), especially when she remarks how exotic and strange their “bushy hair” and dark skin were, then you are digging too deep and just looking for something to complain about because you don’t like something.

Perhaps.

Or, maybe I don’t need to go digging for racism because it is pervasive and so ingrained in my daily life that I can just casually sit and let it come to me.

Most notable is the way that I see Native Americans/First Nations/Indigenous Peoples portrayed in pop-culture in North America. I have seen in various places that people are So Excited! that The Saga has treated Natives so well and depicted so greatly, and that all the actors are actually Native and blah blah blah…

Funny, is that I found in the Wikipedia entry, the first line in almost all of the actors portraying the Quileute people spelled out all of their ethnic heritage, to verify that all of those actors were indeed Native American or First Nation (with the notable exception of Taylor Lautner’s entry, who is the only actor they didn’t seek out specifically for being Native American, and, while I think it is cool he discovered a part of his ancestry, didn’t discover he had any Native blood until he researched for his Twilight role). To secure the cred of the makers of the film, so that we all know that not only do they look Native, but that they are indeed Native. To secure the racial and ethnic integrity of all the actors, making sure that we have no doubt about their heritage so that the makers of Eclipse can smile smugly to themselves about how good they were to all of those indigenous actors…

While I do want to give credit where credit is due, I fully support the casting of Native/First Nation actors to play these roles, especially when we have movies and directors who are refusing to do so (I’m looking at YOU M. Night…), there has been a notable culture surrounding these movies, and their fandom that OMFG YOU GUIZE BUT THEY ARE CASTING REAL NATIVES SO YOU MUST BE SO PROUD!!!!11!!ONE!

But be honest about it. The casting director did not specifically seek out only Native actors for the Native roles. Only for the non-principal parts. For the role of Jacob they were perfectly willing to go with someone who looked Native enough, and settled with someone who considers himself White. But when it came down to how good he looked for the big beefy wolfy role in in the subsequent movies, they were willing to toss him aside for someone who looked closer. Fair enough, sure, because nowadays, you really can’t tell if someone is truly Native (or any ethnicity) just by looking at them. But the makers of the Twilight Saga movies sure as hell were not hopelessly devoted to the idea of casting only Native actors in Native roles. Don’t kid yourselves.

Treating Native people so well.

Indeed.

It also has started this belief that somehow Native people need to look a certain way or somehow be able to verify their Native blood, which as I have noted before, is a racist concept, and hurtful to Native/First Nation people. I just simply do not know other ethnic heritages where it is demanded that we do this — that we must provide this information — to be allowed to be recognized. Prove that you are called on the roll and we will believe you. The fact that I carry a Tribal card makes me no more Native than others who have lived with a deep sense of their heritage and yet don’t have their name on a roll.

Even more troublesome (to me, at least) as I have read these books, multiple times, is the framing of the Sam and Emily Relationship.

The imprinted and forever dynamic. This cosmically chosen and all enduring love that can survive all and can escape nothing…even Sam’s accidental outburst of Werewolf rage, that left Emily with scars running all down one side of her face and further. She forgives Sam because he couldn’t help what he did, and Sam is very overwhelmed with guilt and truly sorry for what he did because he loves her so much and tries very hard to make sure he never does it again… Really, what choice does she have? Sam has imprinted on her, and they are to be together. Forever. She belongs to him and he to her and nothing can keep them apart… not even the rage that marred her face.

Where have I heard this before?

As a Native woman who spent a good portion of her life growing on a reservation and who still fellowships with those still there, this is not uncommon to me. I’ve heard so many times how our men are volatile…how they can not control their rage (especially when drunk)…how they beat their women in fits of that rage… All the stereotypes that made us less-than (as if White Men never beat their wives or girlfriends or had fits of uncontrollable rage or couldn’t control their liquor), that were intended to Other us and make us into these odd savages that should be tucked safely aside and controlled. It worked, for a long time. We are even just now still reclaiming land that was ceded under treaties.

And knowing the stats of Native women and domestic violence, and knowing that they are shockingly higher than other minority women living in the U.S., devastatingly higher than White women, I wonder how anyone could possibly make this allusion in a book and not see the racist undertones that they had created. How they could not see the triggered memories that they might invoke in some people? Emily’s unquestioning acceptance of Sam’s treatment of her…how it is all OK because he really, really loves her… and how anyone could read this and then accuse me of digging for racist undertones to get upset about.

Which is a common theme in this series of books and movies; as long as you really love someone all of your distasteful behaviors are perfectly excusable. Stalking, control, emotional abuse, sexual assault, and now physical and brutally violent abuse. All tied up neatly and passed off as Epic Examples of True Love.

I know that many people who grew up on reservations work hard to overcome stereotypes, that they work hard to make sure that they are never seen as someone who falls into the trap of being seen as just another “dirty Injun” or “angry drunk from the rez”. Yes, these stereotypes hurt more than just women and it hurts me to know that a series so popular would choose a Native American couple to display this kind of “accidental” event. It hurts me to my core to see it in Sam and Emily. Almost more so than an ancient duty that keeps the tribal youth from being properly educated and remaining high school dropouts, almost more so than it reducing them into barefoot savages who run around naked in the woods eating raw animal flesh and invading each others’ thoughts (and reducing the only woman wolf to a bitter and angry ex-girlfriend).

Almost.

But Sam and Emily are important, because they symbolize the way modern pop culture and media still see Native people in relationships. This is how a White woman novelist and White woman screenwriter see us.

Stephenie Meyer and Melissa Rosenberg might have done some research when doing their writing, but it doesn’t replace lived experience. It doesn’t erase the pain, the hurt, or the shame. Their intent might even have been to uplift and make Native culture beautiful, but intent doesn’t matter more than actions. What matters is what came out of this in the effort to chug movies and books out at the speed of Fast Food cups and ticket sales.

Eclipse: I Had To Blog It Sooner Or Later

I put it off as long as I could… and then I rolled up to Fast Food Establishment after a swim one day to get a veggie burger and LOW AND BEHOLD I had to drink my unsweetened effing tea with THIS FACE staring at me.

FOR SERIOUS YOU GUIZE!

He is all up on my cup!

For the number of times that we eat fast food (it is certainly Not Many), I don’t feel that I deserve this.

So, Eclipse has had it coming a long time now and I just needed a PRECIPITATING EVENT! Take THAT, Stuffy Neurologist!

*ahem*

So, Eclipse. I heard some rumor of a movie coming out or something?

When we last left our Hero and Heroine… (I CAN’T EVEN TYPE THAT WITH A STRAIGHT FACE!) Bella had just come back from almost Not Dying in a great big Not Conflict at the hands of the Pope Connection The Volturi or some shit. Bella must either be turned into a vampire or killed, so sayeth the Volturi. Alice, Edward and Bella were all allowed to walk away with little more than a promise to make that happen some time in the near future. I did that once, when I gave birth. They let me leave the hospital once I promised I would poop sometime the next day. I didn’t really know that was going to happen… In all fairness, Alice touched one of the Big Bads and allowed him to see all of her sooper seekrit thoughts (OK, I fucking love Alice, but her power is used all too conveniently, and then has these way too convenient blocks). She has shown him a future that she ain’t sharin’ with no one and I guess no one ever told Alice that Secrets Don’t Make Friends, which is a lesson we teach The Kid…

*heh-hem*

So they bounce. They get home. Charlie’s rightfully pissed off cuz his kid went skating around the globe and left her pup out in the rain all forlorn. But Jacob got the last laugh, you see. In a jealous fit he brought their secret motorcycles and plopped them down on Charlie’s lawn and got Bella good and grounded. More grounded. I’m not sure.

I told you Secrets Don’t Make Friends.

So Eclipse picks up right where New Moon left off… sort of.

Bella and Edward are back together and So! In! Love!, planning their future, only not planning the same future. They are filling out all the college applications, Bella planning on going as far away as possible, like, to Alaska to avoid the sun and make sure there is plenty of wildlife so she can soak in her new vampiness that she is planning on having and sticking to that vegetarian diet (there’s that word again!). Edward, however, keeps popping in with all of these great school applications for her, like Dartmouth, assuring her that she could easily get in (umm, my realism radar went off knowing the kind of portfolio you need for that kind of school, including attendance and extra curricular activities all of which Bella’s include 1) loving my Perfect White Marble Boyfriend 2) hallucinating about him when he is gone and 3) running off to another country to save his life when my death attempt didn’t work out. Not Ivy League last I checked.). He also seems to think that 1) Bella is going to easily give in to the idea of putting off aging past 18 for another year or two, since her priorities are so well on track as it is, and 2) that the Volturi are going to be reasoned with so easily for something like “Hey, Bella just needs to go to college as a human!”.

I am thinking it is No and No.

Also, if she agrees to marry him, he will make her a vampire, himself, at the moment of her choosing, no more fight (nooooo, that’s not manipulation!). Playing on Bella’s jumpiness about nuptials. Because he is still stringing this along, even though Bella has made her choice, even though the Volturi have said that it must be so or she must die, and even though Bella put it to Edward’s whole family for a vote, because it endangers their lives too. It was nigh unanimous, BTW, save Rosalie (who IS my favourite character, and will be discussed ad nauseam in a future post), and Rosalie has her reasons, and in the end, it isn’t really that she is against Bella at all, she is just all wistful and stuff b/c Bella has a functioning womb. Edward just doesn’t seem to give a flying fuck about what anyone except what Edward wants, despite who it is putting in danger. And this rightly pisses me off about Edward because we can clearly see that he is the only holdout here (except Jacob, but Jacob is also being selfish).

But, as it turns out, Charlie has granted Bella a great reprieve to this eternal grounding she received.

She has to spend more time with her friends, more specifically Jacob, because she is spending, in his opinion, too much time with Edward.

I need to take a pause here and describe this magical thing that happened between New Moon and Eclipse.

Jacob has taken a mystical transformation. Not just from boy to werewolf, but from Nice Guy ™ to Douche Bag®.

In New Moon, Jacob was a supportive friend, if not a little whiny like I expect boys of his age to be (and girls too, I am an equal opportunity former education major). He was there to be Bella’s friend when her world came crashing down, and sure, he had FEEEEEELIIINGS for her, and let that be slightly known, and we all saw that she exploited those feelings a little more than slightly to her own selfish ends. But they had a friendship nonetheless, and despite it seeming that Bella can’t go five days without her dude to lean on, Jacob was a good friend to her. But she was selfish about it, and used it to keep her thoughts away from Edward, and to fill the gap where he was gone.

In fact, just when Bella was about to “settle” and thought that life with Jacob was better than life with no boyfriend at all, that was when Alice came swooping in to knock the plot back to normal, AMIRITE?

Now, once Jacob starts speaking to her again, he mocks her friends, which, even if you hate vampires, you should have the decency to respect that the person you claim as your best friend considers some of them near family and not insult them every chance you get. He comes to her school to menace Edward (don’t worry, Eddiekins is not saved from my eyebrow arching), and it is almost as if it is more fun to taunt Edward than be a friend to Bella at this time.

The culmination of all of this douche-tasticness is when Jacob has Had Enough of Bella’s wishy-washiness (which isn’t even real, because at no point ever in the books could any critical reader ever think that Bella is going to really leave Edward and wind up with Jacob. Ever.) and FORCES HIMSELF ON HER. He kisses her even though she tells him no. Even though she tries to stop him, and then she just gives up and lets it happen, hoping it will be over soon because she knows she can not stop him.

Let me give you a lesson kids: This is sexual assault. Any time someone does anything of a sexual nature that you do not want, it is sexual assault. If you say no or do not consent to it, it is sexual assault. This scene in the book disturbed me to no end. And if you think for a moment that Bella’s giving up and allowing it to happen somehow implies consent, well, you are R-O-N-G. Many victims of assault and rape will tell you that they reached a point where they just stopped fighting and let it happen, knowing that their assailant HAD MORE POWER OVER THEM AND THEY COULD NOT STOP IT.

Then Bella punches him and pretty much breaks her wrist. This is all funny Ha Ha to Jacob, because he got his rocks.

Even better still, when they get to Bella’s house, and Charlie, and by Charlie I mean Chief of Police Swan hears the story, he pretty much congratulates Jacob on his accomplishment and they all have a hearty laugh at Bella’s expense.

Great writing there, Stephenie Meyer!

For anyone wondering why I waste my time reading and writing about this stuff, this is exactly why, because I need to be able to know that this is what is being passed off in YA Lit as romantic. This is what she has created as the basis for “Team Jacob”.

But before anyone thinks that I have given Edward a pass, his overprotective hovering is enough to make me choke. His pissing match over “If I ever get her back in any less condition than I left her in” blah blah blah… Bell is a thing… something that had best be pristine before he puts the sparklepeen in it.

He dismantles her truck to keep her from visiting her friends on the reservation. He persuades Charlie to allow he and Bella to fly to Florida to visit Renee (remember her? Bella has a mother!) instead of letting her know that Victoria (Ms. Not Appearing in the Last Novel) was sighted and that her life was potentially in danger (though Jacob would have told her this). Even when Bella convinces him that she should be safe on the reservation with her friends, she is handed over like a child in a custody drop off in a case of bad-boy ping-pong.

We always see this narrative of Bella being passes from one man’s arms to the other. Again, and again, and again.

It never seems to end even when the Epic Battle We Never See happens and the rest of the cast of the book is fighting for their lives. Now three books into the series, I wonder, why is this still exciting and romantic? Why do more people not see how sad and pathetic this is? I was ecstatic when another mom at swim lessons told me that she had discussed some of these same themes with her ten year-old, who is also a mature reader, because young girls should be thinking about how “Team Jacob” and “Team Edward” are not really healthy teams that have anyone’s best interest but their own in mind.

They see Bella as a porcelain doll to be kept neatly in a box and protected (and Edward actually kind of does that in the fourth book).

I have some more themes to discuss, but they need posts of their own, and this has gotten long. Consider this introductory.

I have discussed the racism in the series as a whole, but I need to discuss the racism in the relationship framing of Sam and Emily (and there is potential for a post on romantic relationships in YA Lit overall).

Also, I want to get a little more into the dynamics of Bella, the lack of “Team Bella“, and the place where the book actually passes the Bedchel test (I think, yes it does, briefly).

So, discuss. I will trash your favorite series more later. I may need to drag it off the shelf again, as apparently reading it three or so times eight months ago doesn’t have it fresh in my memory…

STOP STARING AT ME EDWARD!

Other “Twilight Saga” blogging…

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