jmtorres: From Lady Gaga's Bad Romance music video; the peach-haired, wide-eyed iteration (Default)
jmtorres ([personal profile] jmtorres) wrote2016-08-28 09:33 pm

media consumption

I watched Limitless (tv series, and partway through, the movie to which the tv series is sequel--well, it's a sequel to the alternate ending, heh) this past week while recovering from concrud. I figured the wacky partners fight crime! genre was decent for sick brain capacity, and honestly if I hadn't been looking for lighthearted cheese I probably wouldn't have stopped skimming Netflix on a show starring a white dude. I enjoyed it fairly well for the purpose I chose it, but after, I am thinking about the genre, the mismatched partners, one of whom is responsible/uptight, one of whom is wacky and fun! and how often that division lands on a gender lines in a way that it comes out as a professional woman having to add to her job the responsibility of babysitting a misbehaving manchild. In Limitless, definitely; Castle's another example; Chuck (to which Limitless has a lot of parallels: NZT and the Intersect have the same plot function); Psych, in some ways, although it's mitigated by Juliette not being the sole (or arguably even main) straight man to Shawn's comic act (I think Gus is up ahead of her, and Lassiter is definitely in the running for most uptight). I'm tracing this back in my head through to shows I watched growing up and I think even X-Files has a seed of it; Mulder is at least trained law enforcement, not some civilian tagging along for lulz, but arguably Scully was the responsible, sensible one who was supposed to reign in his wild conspiracy theories. Comparable dynamic. I'm skimming through the TV Tropes "they fight crime!" page and oh look, yeah, Sleepy Hollow also qualifies.

So, that's a thing.

Reading stuff lately--from the library, checked out some Nicola Griffith, Ammonite, about a planet cut of from the rest of humanity for a few centuries, and with a plague that kills off dudes. So everyone on the planet is female, it's under quarantine, and our intrepid galactic anthropologist is trying to solve, among other questions, how do make babies? This book was listed among various other important feminist scifi in reviews, and I got to the end of it going "what was so special about that?" then I read the author's notes and she was trying to fight the idea of a feminist utopia by having every kind of person, good and bad, kind and cruel, etc etc, represented but all women. I was like "that's the groundbreaking thing? --that's the groundbreaking thing." and just, facepalm.

Read another Nicola Griffith, Slow River. The most interesting bits of this (also the grossest? maybe?) are the technical exploration of near-future designer microbes to process sewage and industrial waste water. The main character is the youngest child off a family who has gotten very rich off their genetic patents for that technology; she is kidnapped, tortured for the ransom demands, all on mass media, and then after being dumped, the ransom never paid, she tries to completely change her identity to never go back to her family. She falls in with a scurrilous rogue, a thief and sex worker who pretty quickly tips into "consent? what is consent?" with the use of sex pollen drugs. All of the drama about the main character's family (there's sexual abuse, and disgusting capitalist spy games) and all of the, honestly I'd call it whumping, of life in the *gritty underbelly*, was gross and kind of boring? There was one line that stuck out to me, at the end, when the main character has been outed as the rich kidnapping victim and reunited with (the acceptable) parts of her family. She tells her shady ex that there's always a choice, you didn't have to do all those horrible things to everyone we know; and shady ex is like jfc you're going back to your fortune you want to talk to me about CHOICES? some of us DON'T have them. I was thinking about that, and the thing about shady ex was, all of choices were bad, but so were all of her options. Like Ammonite, this book had a ton of F/F relationships with no like, commentary or justification or even discussion of queer identities; it was unremarkable. Unfortunate byproduct of this was that it was also the main character's mother who abused her daughters. I don't, I don't even. Ultimately noped out of the rest of Griffith's stuff. The ratio of interesting to uncomfortable was not working for me.

Audiobooks I've listened to lately--The Curse of Jacob Tracy by Holly Messinger, about a couple of trail guide pardners in Reconstruction era America (so one white, one black, of course) with the complication of one can see ghosts and gets sucked into some spiritualist conspiracy. Liked it, not 100% sure what I thought about the race dynamic, and I don't really feel qualified to judge the subject. White dude was the one who could see supernatural shit, so we avoided magical negro I guess? There were several instances of white dude trying to stand up for his buddy and tell people to fuck off for trying to be racist at black dude, and black dude being like ffs chill I don't want to fight about this stop making my life harder??? so, I don't know, maybe aware of layers? not treating racism as a simple issue?

Updraft, by Fran Wilde, this reminded me of Pern not so much in particulars as in broad strokes. An invisible enemy in the skies, fought by an elite and insular ruling group, who might take common people with ~special talents~ into their number, but would completely divorce them from their previous lives in so doing. Flight, though it's a lot more visceral here, and not made possible by dragons. A lot of it seems pretty unbelievable to me: humans learning to echo-locate, for one. Haven't really decided what I think of this one, or if I'll go for sequels.

Steal Across the Sky, by Nancy Kress, in which an alien race known only as the Atoners recruits (via internet ads) a bunch of people to Witness the crimes they committed against humanity: humans once had a genetic trait which allowed them to see spirits of the dead before they moved on. The Atoners took a whole bunch of humans to experiment with 10K yrs ago, and set up a whole bunch of systems with two habitable planets, where one population got to keep the gene (and generally seemed like... more peaceful? I mean, I guess it's harder to use death as a threat, weapon, motivator, if you know people keep on existing after their bodies stop. But this particular sociological phenomenon is not explored) and the other planet with the other population got no spirit sense and was full of war-making people like Earth. Also the Atoners totally took the spirit sense away from all specimens they left on Earth. Halfway through the book we switch from one team of three Witnesses figuring out what is the difference between the two planets at the system they've been sent to (the Atoners didn't TELL them about the spirit sense gene, they had to figure it out, and some of them were pretty skeptical) to the lives of the Witnesses on Earth after returning, either full of media or attempting to avoid media and live normal lives, however unlikely. There's... we pick up several new Witnesses during this switch, and the time jump disconnect combined with the main character merry-go-round combined with no one knows what the Atoners are actually DOING to Atone, makes things very weird? (It turns out the Atoners have brought pregnant women from some or all of the worlds were the spirit sense gene was still present, to have kids on Earth. But they stop a couple of the Witnesses from trying to bring back a DNA sample to analyze and add back in themselves. Basically they're just still high-handedly doing whatever without asking humanity's permission for anything. I was also left wondering if they planned to Atone to any of the populations they seeded and manipulated for their experiments, a question no one in the book thought to ask.) Sooo. *seesaw hand* Interesting, but kind of a hot mess.
niqaeli: cat with arizona flag in the background (Default)

[personal profile] niqaeli 2016-08-29 07:38 am (UTC)(link)
I mean, the fact that Gus was the responsible/uptight one was... still pretty problematic, along race lines. Like, black people looking after/cleaning up after white people's dumb asses is, uh. Yeah. I mean, granted Gus also was pretty nerdy afaik, so it wasn't totally uncomplicated but. Thing. *waves hands* I'm also pretty tired of people of colour being the ones to emotionally look after white people in media. (Or better yet, as is not at all rare: women of colour! Twofer!)

Some day I AM going to make that dang California vid. I just have to figure out how to do it in a way that doesn't piss me off.