I am Leslie Knope. I am more than a city councilor; I am an unstoppable force of energy.
Recently, my husband and I burned through S1 of Orphan Black, which, as promised by virtually the entire internet, was awesome. But in all the praise I’d seen for it, a line from one review in particular stuck in my mind. The reviewer noted that, although the protagonist, Sarah, is an unlikeable character, her grifter skills make her perfectly suited to unravelling the mystery in which she finds herself. And as this was a positive review, I kept that quote in mind when we started watching, sort of by way of prewarning myself: you maybe won’t like Sarah, but that’s OK.
But here’s the thing: I fucking loved Sarah. I mean, I get what the reviewer was trying to say, in that she’s not always a sympathetic character, but that’s not the same as her actually being unlikeable. And the more I watched, the more I found myself thinking: why is this quality, the idea of likeability, considered so important for women, but so optional for men – not just in real life, but in narrative? Because when it comes to guys, we have whole fandoms bending over backwards to write soulful meta humanising male characters whose actions, regardless of their motives, are far less complex than monstrous. We take male villains and redeem them a hundred, a thousand times over – men who are murderers, stalkers, abusers, kinslayers, traitors, attempted or successful rapists; men with personal histories so bloody and tortured, it’s like looking at a battlefield. In doing this, we exhibit enormous compassion for and understanding of the nuances of human behaviour – sympathy for circumstance, for context, for motive and character and passion and rage, the heartache and, to steal a phrase, the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to; and as such, regardless of how I might feel about the practice as applied in specific instances, in general, it’s a praiseworthy endeavour. It helps us to see human beings, not as wholly black and white, but as flawed and complicated creatures, and we need to do that, because it’s what we are.
But when it comes to women, a single selfish or not-nice act – a stolen kiss, a lie, a brushoff – is somehow enough to see them condemned as whores and bitches forever. We readily excuse our favourite male characters of murder, but if a woman politely turns down a date with someone she has no interest in, she’s a timewasting user bimbo and god, what does he even see in her? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen some great online meta about, for instance, the soulfulness and moral ambiguity of Black Widow, but I’ve also seen a metric fucktonne more about what that particular jaw-spasm means in that one GIF of Cumberbatch/Ackles/Hiddleston/Smith alone, and that’s before you get into the pages-long pieces about why Rumplestiltskin or Hook or Spike or Bucky Barnes or whoever is really just a tortured woobie who needs a hug. Hell, I’m guilty of writing some of that stuff myself, because see above: plus, it’s meaty and fun and exactly the kind of analysis I like to write.
And yet, we tend overwhelmingly not to write it about ladies. It’s not just our cultural obsession with pushing increasingly specific variants of the Madonna/Whore complex onto women, such that audiences are disinclined to extend to female characters the same moral/emotional licenses they extend to men; it’s also a failure to create narratives where the women aren’t just flawed, but where the audience is still encouraged to like them when they are.
Returning to Orphan Black, for instance, if Sarah were male, he’d be unequivocally viewed as either a complex, sympathetic antihero or a loving battler with a heart of gold. I mean, the ex-con trying to go straight and get his daughter back while still battling the illegalities of his old life and punching bad guys? Let me introduce you to Swordfish, Death Race, and about a millionty other stories where a father’s separation from a beloved child, whether as a consequence of his actual criminal actions, shiftless neglect, sheer bad luck or a combination of all three, is never couched as a reason why he might not be a fit parent. We tend to accept, both culturally and narratively, that men who abandon their children aren’t automatically bad dads; they just have other, important things to be doing first, like coming to terms with parenthood, saving the world, escaping from prison or otherwise getting their shit together. But Sarah, who left her child in the care of someone she trusted absolutely, has to jump through hoops to prove her maternal readiness on returning; has to answer for her absence over and over again. And on one level, that’s fine; that’s as it should be, because Sarah’s life is dangerous. And yet, her situation stands in glaring contrast to every returning father who’s never been asked to do half so much, because women aren’t meant to struggle with motherhood, to have to try to succeed: we’re either maternal angels or selfish absentees, and the idea that we might sometimes be both or neither isn’t one you often see depicted with such nuance."
read this, read it right now it’s absolutely genius.
I think this is best piece on Orphan Black and Sarah that I have ever read. Seriously. I see them fandom going “Yeah, Sarah is cool, but that one time she lied/ran away/tricked people/shot someone” and I am like “shit are you even paying attention to this wonderful complex deep character?” And this just explained why that bothered me so much
I live in a world where “fucking nerd” is a term of endearment and I think that’s the greatest.
When Life gives you lemons, say “fuck that” and shoot a pencil into her eye. You don’t want her bitter ass lemons.
shakespeare’s characters are more or less equally divided between “DO IT FOR THE VINE” and “YOU HAD ONE JOB”
Gilmore Girls Rewatch: 1.04: The Deer Hunters (2/3)
Only around sharpened pencils.
Students registered in Statistics 361 this semester received a shocking blow to their futures when they discovered exactly how much the required course materials cost.
The required course pack, comprised of a single CD in a plain white sleeve, will literally cost students their firstborn child.
“Students complain so much about rising textbook costs,” said a representative from the bookstore. “So we decided to switch to less monetary terms of payment while still staying competitive in the market. Of course, there still is a processing fee of $37, in addition to legal transfer of any future children, but that is cheaper than any major textbook you’ll find. Really, students should be thanking us for saving them a fair amount of money.”
To pay for the course pack, the bookstore is administering legally binding contracts that promise university administration official custody of students’ first-born children. The university will take custody exactly two weeks following the child’s birth. In the case of twins or multiples, all children will be surrendered to administration. Should students violate the contract and attempt to flee administration with their offspring, the university has the right to mercilessly hunt them down and deal with them outside the reach of the Canadian courts."
This week I wrote an article about how crazy textbook prices are getting.
inspired by (x)
A pumpkin cream cheese muffin from Starbucks, but it got squished in my bag on my way to the office and ended up being a pile of pumpkin crumbly mush.
Still tasty though!
Oh, haha, you had me worried there. Evidently I need to get to be pretty quick here — I’m not catching those things.
And those are some really nice things to say friend, and they mean a lot.
First off, it seems like I don’t really like questions? My gosh I hope I don’t give that impression. It’s just making me squirm thinking about that. In fact it is the very opposite, I adore questions with all my heart and I wish I got more of them. Like, my face lights up every time I get a question, whether it’s about my day or analysis or Alison Hendrix or what you ate for breakfast. I love questions. If I haven’t answered a past question of yours anon, I assure you I saw it, smiled, thought of how I would answer, likely planned to answer it and then it got lost in the troves of my inbox. I am very sorry if that’s happened.
I love questions though.
I don’t want anyone to ever feel like they can’t talk to me. Like, the very thought of that makes me uncomfortable.
Please, I want you all to know you can talk to me about anything.
So yeah, with that rant out of your way —
— thank you for your kind words anon! Seriously, it means so much to me that you think I brighten your day. And I assure you I try to have self-confidence, though I am far from remarkable.