beccatoria: (nihilus vs atris)
[personal profile] beccatoria
SO.

Hello peoples. I fell off the internet for a while, mostly because I was vidding a lot and playing Mass Effect 2. And I realise I've got to this point where I keep having these things I want to post about here but they never seem significant enough/apropos of anything/like a significant portion of my flist would be interested, but now I have like four of them, so they are going together into a post, dagnabbit.

As always, you are encouraged to pick and choose cut-tags. ;)

1. Vidding

Yay! I have been doing some! I was really, REALLY hoping to have it done by the end of the year, but at this rate, I'm not sure that's going to happen. It's not a really complicated vid or anything. Actually it's a big, actiony, heart-on-sleeve vid to a kids' cartoon that belongs on tumblr or youtube so bad it'll probably push me over into actually getting an account if only to gently poke fun at myself. Sometimes you have to own that shit and revel in how dorktastic you're being. In case anyone is curious, it's a Young Justice vid. The name tells you pretty much everything you need to know about it. ;)

Actually it's kind of an interesting show in that I basically loathed the first episode, thought the next couple were pretty damn bland, and then it kept getting slowly better, until the last handful have been pretty awesome with like, character development in surprising directions and stuff. I mean, Robin breaking down and telling Black Canary that he's seen what he'll become if he tries to grow up and be Batman, and he doesn't want that anymore? Oh, formerly-crappy-and-still-slightly-crappy show, you know exactly how to win me over: talk smack about Batman. ♥

Finally, the reason it's taking me SO FREAKING LONG isn't effects or anything (though there's one section of technical fiddliness), it's because I got so fed up with the TV rips having so much crap all over the screen (seriously, sometimes you have the whole lower third taken up by the Cartoon Network logo and the whole upper right quarter has some kind of countdown to another TV show, it's just awful) that even though I'm really NOT usually a source queen, I decided to use clean .mkv files. Because .mkv files were the only clean ones I could find - no .avis. But Cinelerra doesn't read .mkv files. However it WILL read .mp4s, and you can strip out the audio and video from an .mkv and then re-mux it into an .mp4 without actually re-encoding it so you don't lose any quality. But on Linux I have to do that via the command line. And THEN I have to open it in avidemux and strip and/or re-encode just the audio because Cinelerra sometimes throws a fit on that point. So anyway, then I can edit it. But rendering out, to not lose quality, I have to use a different codec to usual which gives me a file only VLC can read and I can't convert down to a sane size because avdemux can't read it. SO. I then have to use a command line program (cus avidemux hates it) to re-encode it losslessly to an .mkv file, and then re-mux it as an .mp4 again.

AND BELIEVE ME, I ONLY BARELY KNOW WHAT ANY OF THAT MEANS AND I WISH I DIDN'T!

Um, and anyway, because I'm using super HQ footage (even though it's a cartoon and no one will be able to tell once it's encoded down to distribution size), Cinelerra gets all slow and crashy with shoddy playback so it's slow going to do the editing.

2. Mass Effect 2

I'm not a huge gamer. I'm not that great at it, so most of the games I actually enjoy are story-based, and even then I suffer frustrations. This is a prime example. I really enjoyed Mass Effect 1, and honestly I'm enjoying Mass Effect 2 about the same. But the problems I do have with it are largely narrative not mechanical. Cus I'm not much of a gamer so the mechanical stuff is all a bit "whatever" for me anyway. I'm equally crap at shooting shit!

I do think that there are some narrative improvements, mind. I like the way that it follows on from the way your companions would talk to each other in elevators and stuff - it's not at Dragon Age levels of entertaining interaction but I like that it seems a bit heavier on the fact that who you take on missions actually gets you slightly different perspectives and bits of dialogue from them in different situations. It makes me think about whose perspective I would be most entertained to hear from at different points.

I also love how it pays attention to choices you made in the first one in tiny ways, like as well as new missions, in you get email from people you saved or were an ass to in #1 saying, thanks or telling you what happened to them. It's a tiny thing, just a letter, no voice acting needed, etc., but it really helps with a feeling of verisimilitude. Like when you listen to the galactic news on the Citadel and it references stuff you did two years ago, or it talks about Sheppard's mom's command situation because I chose the background that gives Sheppard a mom in the military.

So given all that, I have two things to talk about that really bug me. One is an issue I had from the first one. It doesn't pay any attention to what class you chose as Sheppard. Like, if you're playing a Sheppard who has biotic abilities, biotic characters still talk to you like you won't know what they're talking about. Dragon Age took account of your class/race choices and people sometimes addressed you slightly differently because of them. If the game is able to make choices about what to put on the galactic news stream based on your game choices, why not some subtle dialogue distinctions. Like have Jack drop a, "however powerful you are, I'm way out of your league," or have Mordin make a comment about how you are a mechanical engineer - he just does the same for biologics or...something.

The second issue is specific to Mass Effect 2. I really think it cheaped out on the opening story and on why you should work for Cerberus. The opening where you die in space is pretty beautiful and epic. And then they bring you back, all good there. But...it seems anticlimactic, somehow, that it's "just" science. That all it takes is money. Were you really dead, dead? Aren't there philosophical considerations as a part of that? How did they restart your brain? Or were you simply very close to death? In which case, well, you didn't die, and therefore it's a very different piece of character development. I guess what I'm saying is, if the answer is, essentially, "melodramatic magic", I'm cool with that, but it would have tied into the first game and seemed much more mysterious and awesome if it had had something to do with that Prothean beacon in game 1 because it's already established that it had an effect on your grey matter.

It would also answer the problem I have that it all seems wonderfully contrived that the Illusive Man is such a total fucking control freak and yet is all, "but Sheppard must be totally autonomous because if we change anything about her, she might lose her magical Sheppardy Sheppardness and not be able to work protagonist magic!" Which totally screws with the fact that you wake up and HALF YOUR FUCKING FACE IS METAL and like, the whole thing about dying and coming back? MIGHT have an effect on your psychology? And it's not that I hate the trope of, "you're the only person with the skills to do it, so I have to abide by your methods and hope that this experience DIDN'T screw with those skills," except, I don't understand why the Illusive Man thinks that about Sheppard. It seems out of character for him since it's not like Sheppard actually did anything other than persevere and shoot a lot. The Prothean beacon seems the one key "special" thing about her, and even that seems informational rather than granting magic abilities. The Illusive Man might know different, but again, we're back to why don't we tie her resurrection more tightly to it?

I would have preferred for the Illusive Man to be cloning her for both skill and propaganda value and not to expect Prothean shenanigans to wake her up with her original mind intact and to be a bit thrown by it.

I also would have liked to more forcefully decline the offer to work with him. It could have been done by allowing Sheppard to leave to go to the Citadel and having the exact same conversation she has there eventually anyway where she finds out they won't fund her and won't believe her. They could also refuse to reinstate her as a Spectre. Then she has a more rational reason to accept the Illusive Man's offer of money because otherwise she can't do shit. But as it is, I was forced to work for, essentially, a human supremacist group I fucking HATE HATE HATE, and constantly telling everyone I don't work for them doesn't really soften the blow when the dialogue options are usually things like, "I don't work for them but our goals coincide for now". Bluntly I think the game relies too much on the fact that a lot of players will be like, "Kewl a reason it's okay to like playing for the bad dudes!" whereas I'm like, "Omgs if one more of these people tell me how "effective" they are without the red tape of a LEGALLY ELECTED GOVERNMENT, I will cut a bitch".

In short: Mass Effect 2: You are awesome, but y u no provide for dweebs like me who don't want to be badass rebelz because democracy is sexy?

3. Once Upon A Time

You know what, guys? I am really liking this show.

I still have some concerns about some of the implications around family and adoption - and I say this as someone who actually really likes the relationship that Emma and Henry are developing.

I think one of the reasons I'm not more put out by it, though, is that there's a real feeling of found family in unusual circumstances to Emma, Henry, Mary Margaret and David. I think the fact it's so unusual - so queer, in an academic sense - that I feel a little mollified about the way it could otherwise be interpreted as biological determinism.

I also appreciated that we saw a message against the importance of biological parents in the Huntsman who considered the wolves his family. I was nervous initially because I wondered if it would again be biological determinism that shifted his allegiance back to Snow White, a human, but rather, they played it far more that she gained entry to his pack of wolves because she demonstrated a self-sacrificial trait he respected and associated more with the animal kingdom than the world of people. I'm not sure if it was intentional and I hope that such messages continue to appear in the show, but for what it was, I appreciated that.

Speaking of, I think another reason why I'm reasonably excited about this show right now, is the decision to kill Graham. I mean, it's not like I wanted him to die, but I'm fascinated by the decision to off him in a narrative sense. It speaks to a confidence in Emma's character that I am relieved to see, but also slightly surprised by. She effectively has no love interest now, which means that her primary emotional relationships are almost certainly going to be with Henry, Regina and possibly her parents. That's pretty rare for the lead of a prime time network show, even though it shouldn't be. Of course they may well introduce another romantic interest soon enough, but I was still pleasantly surprised that this was the decision they came to, rather than killing off someone like Jiminy Cricket.

I was also quite impressed with the acting from the Mayor at the end when she crushed the Sheriff's heart. I'm not sure what exactly was going on there, but her face was fascinating. I'm still concerned about what, exactly, Snow White did to her, and how to balance the fact that her character demands that she be antagonistic and ruthless, but I still want to understand why she is the way she is - why she can't love. If there really is a reason that works - and it really is Snow White's fault, that's a potentially powerful reason to "allow" her to be pretty damn evil while still keeping complexity in her overall story. I guess we'll see, but for now I'm cautiously optimistic.

4. Wonder Woman

Yeah, so I haven't read the latest issue, cus I tend to get my comics a couple of days later. So I'm not talking about that, but I hope it kicked ass!

Nah, what I want to talk about is how the more I read fannish responses to Wonder Woman on the internet the more utterly convinced I am that the character is...not necessarily trapped, but made, more than any other character I know of, to stand for all things for all people.

So, just to get it out of the way, I love most of the new series, but I do mourn the loss of the queerness of her previous origin, even if I like some of the things the new one is bringing to the series. I completely understand why people might get angry about that - none of this is intended as a rallying cry against considering that as a valid issue to be angry about.

But I, perhaps unwisely, went to lurk on some forums and I was honestly surprised at the number of people whose issue seemed to stem not from the origin change exclusively, but rather from the more warlike aspects of this Wonder Woman and how they felt that she wasn't being visibly compassionate and loving enough and that that was a betrayal of the character.

Now, fair enough. My love for her comes of the fact she exists in a brilliant contradiction whereby she is capable of enormous violence and boundless love in the same brea(d)th (of a swung sword). I think that is still clear here, even if the lack of internal monologue makes her seem more distant and potentially dispassionate, I still see both sides to her. So I might have some issues (which I'll raise momentarily) with an overly passive Diana, but at least in principle, folks are allowed to have opinions other than mine. ;)

But what has me...slightly irked (and again, as always, personal irked opinion here), but more than that genuinely confused, is the number appeals to what Marston (her original creator) would have wanted, what he would have done, whether this is in keeping with his original vision. I honestly would not have expected that to be so much of a Thing. I'm not aware of anyone really talking much about what Bob Kane would have thought of Morrison's or Miller's Batman. And talk of Siegel and Schuster is usually sympathetic to their legal plight, but again, rarely about changes made to their character. But yeah, it irks me, cus:

You know what? Fuck Marston's original vision.

I don't need a dude from seventy years ago, who, frankly, had some pretty fucking weird ideas about feminism, to tell me what I need in a role model.

I totally appreciate that for the time, what he believed was revolutionary. I definitely appreciate his prescience in turning over the rights to the character in exchange for keeping her in print.

But I think part of why I get annoyed with the notion that Diana needs to be much more peaceable than she is now, when combined with a specific appeal to Marston's authority, is that, while progressive for the time, I find his original ideas about her to be totally gender essentialist in a pretty fetishised way.

As far as I understand it, a key part of his philosophy was that women are less violent and more able to broker peace, which is why they should be the warriors, etc., because then there'd be less war. And as I said, the idea of not being afraid of giving women power? Awesome. The rest of it? Little close to a lot of other gender-essentialist concepts I dislike.

So when people pull that, my internal, reflexive response is to go, "Oh, so you think Wonder Woman shouldn't be this violent because Marston wouldn't approve because Marston thought women were naturally sweet, gentle and loved kittens? FUCK YOU."

Which I am aware is unfair because it's more complicated than that, but I still maintain that Marston's Wonder Woman is rooted, at best, in some powerfully second wave feminism that I think isolates her as much as it gives her an identity.

I really think it's part of the root of her image problem. Some of the fear of her is definitely rooted in oldskool, if sometimes subconscious, sexism. "Whut? Second wave feminism? I can't even handle THAT! Women? Being friends with each other? In a situation that excludes men by design? DISCOMFORT!" Some of it's that. I get that.

But some of it's more from the other direction. I find a lot of the second-wave concepts in her origin to be ham-handed, or even embarrassingly awkward by modern standards. There's a reason stuff like, losing her strength when she allowed her wrists to be bound by a man got dropped, and, while I wouldn't for the world lose the Amazons (seriously, other than the origin, one of the few things that makes me sad about the current run is Azzarello's take on the Amazons as less snuggly), but I gotta be honest, if a contemporary character whose hook to the general public was feminism, had a backstory like she came from an isolationist group of women and had come to learn about "patriarch's world", I would cringe.

And it's a tricky call because there are people out there so icky they kind of need someone to shove second wave feminism in their face because third wave gives them the excuse to believe that it was never really a problem in the first place. And Wonder Woman's history is also one of her most amazing assets.

But unlike Batman and Superman, she was created in response to a specific social issue, and its one that's changed along with society, over the last 70 years.

And that's without going into the whole thing about Marston and bondage and how that's part of why he wanted women in control, which I have no personal judgements about, not even in terms of him putting it in his comics, but I also don't think it seamlessly blends with feminism just because he carried his desire to put women in charge beyond the bedroom. And his comics were about his ideas of "loving submission" in addition to simply being a feminist message for readers. Which again, I don't have any particular problem with as a message to put in a comic, but I do have a problem with if it's being conflated with feminism wholesale, rather than as an additional theme, because it strays into territory that can be empowering to women, but can also be problematically fetishistic.

And...that's all I really wanted to say.

Thanks for creating her, Marston, and thanks for making sure she got the chance to be here, 70 years later, so I could be glad that your vision was no longer prevalent.
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