beccatoria: (elisa maza + her leather jacket)
[personal profile] beccatoria
Wow, so VidUKon happened (HI EVERYONE!) and then I was like, wow, I can take a week off, sleep, chill and then get on with my fabulous life of leisure. Except then I got some more freelance work and an offer to temporarily go full-time at my regular job in a different department and Kev started reducing his medication which meant he was in a kinda fragile state and tl;dr OMFG you guys, it's tiring! Actually the first few weeks I think I got through on adrenaline. It's just been the last few where I've felt like a brick wall hit me. I'm pretty sure I'm just adjusting. Still, props to all you regular working people. Soon I shall be just like you: more tired and slightly less poor. (Oh god, the extravagant things I'm going to buy with the money! New glasses! House insurance! Such things, my friends, such things...)

Anyway, that's why I've been so horribly absent except for intermittent political rants on twitter. I haven't been on tumblr at all for months.

Point is - I'm really out of touch with what's up with you guys so HI, and HOW ARE YOU, and if you posted anything really important in the last month, I probably didn't see it and I'm sorry, but LET ME KNOW about it?

In exchange, here are some things I have been thinking about recently:

OH MAN you guys, this show. It's amazing and I meant to write a bit journal entry about why, but by now I think most of you are watching it if you're interested and who're we kidding, when would I get around to it.


I don't know where to start. I guess what I'll say is that it was exemplary of the show's ability to pull off moments that would be cheesy or leave you feeling like you'd been hit over the head with the message, that instead feel really earned and okay because you took a long time to get here and because this show is made of sincerity. Things like when - during Historical Friction - Steven explains to Pearl why he's not mad at her by talking about the play. By rights it should be a really unsubtle and hamfisted moment but it's just...not. Instead that episode in its entirety was an oasis of relief because it reaffirmed Pearl's humanity (and her love for Steven - the moment where she is inappropriately acting like a proud mother by shouting her encouragement at the stage was such an important couple of seconds) at a time when she is, essentially, the fuck-up.

Which brings me to my next point. It manages to tell stories that are really upsetting in a way that is safe and considered and has real delicacy, without making things less sad. I figure that's probably really important in children's media. It reminds me of Mister Rogers during those times he spoke about things like divorce.

At the same time, I'm really worried about Pearl. Pearl getting carried away and (almost) causing real damage due to her neuroses and an attachment to Rose which is increasingly being portrayed as unhealthy, is becoming a theme. Her ability to catch herself and slow down is also deteriorating, I think. I can't imagine Pearl from Space Race behaving in the same way as Pearl from Cry for Help. The balance of Pearl making what's quite obviously a cry for help, but again putting her firmly in the wrong... I don't know. Honestly? I would have felt safer with the story going in this direction if it weren't hot on the heels of Sworn to the Sword and We Need to Talk. Which I suppose is the point. It comes back to that point that the show is going to a legitimately uncomfortable place, just...not necessarily an unjustified one.

I still feel that Pearl's deep-seated psychological issues will need to be addressed eventually in a way that involves providing her with love and support and trust, not just motivating her to improve by showing her the negative results of her behaviour (which worked in Sworn to the Sword, for instance - her resolve to be a better, more loving mentor was genuine and I think it was the right way to resolve that particular conflict).

Still, I suspect that's coming, and I think it was part of what Garnet was trying to offer her, as much as she could, when she offered that trust at the end.

I also think that this might be us seeing the beginning of Garnet's wider issues. Again, a strength of the show is that it can legitimately portray Garnet as the wounded party, and her reaction as emotionally and morally understandable, while still leaving space for us to understand that it's rooted in her own issues. Just as Jasper's comment - "a defective Pearl" - seems to indicate Pearls were a specific and negative class in Gem society and that's an issue that underpins Pearl's psychological issues, Jasper refers to Garnet as an "embarrassing display" - presumably referencing fusion. Presumably foreshadowing Garnet's emotional vulnerability around the topic.

Garnet is furious with Pearl to the point she doesn't care about understanding her feelings or why she did what she did. In part this is because it has breached an emotional area where she does not have the space or capacity to be the counselor rather than the client. We all have those areas - areas where we need people to be gentle with us. In part though, I think it's also because she genuinely doesn't understand them. Not on a deep-seated emotional level. She can't. I saw a comment on the wilds of the internet that shook me with how true it was. "Garnet doesn't understand Pearl because she doesn't know what it's like to hate herself." She literally can't. When she does, she splits in half, and she's not Garnet anymore. (She's Ruby and Sapphire and we get Keystone Motel and my heart is breaking.)

And I just... Man, it's so complicated. And in the middle of it there's Amethyst, very quietly growing up. I think she's the other half of this for Pearl. Garnet can inspire her to be a better Gem, but we saw how that worked with Rose Quartz, and I think Amethyst is the one who will be able to offer her empathy about where she is right now.

ARGH YOU GUYS THIS SHOW. When is it coming back?!

So then, I went to see Ant-Man. I was underwhelmed by the trailer. But I wasn't impressed with the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer and I ended up really enjoying that. But no. I hated that movie. I hated that movie.

I mean, to start with, it was just boring. I found myself actively bored at many points. Most of the jokes fell flat. The ones that didn't? Like the stuff with Scott Lang's criminal buddies? It almost felt like it was out of a different movie - I presume the one that Edgar Wright wrote before he walked. But it's barely fifteen minutes of the film and not enough to save it. The rest? It's full of moments you can tell ought to be surreal and hilarious but just do not work because the context and framing isn't there. You can't throw a surrealistic "lol and then we made a Thomas the Tank Engine giant!" moment in there if it's not grounded in the kind of light, amusing, subversive humour of Lang's buddy and his cousin picking up crime tips while appreciating abstract expressionism. Or like, you can, and you get a few laughs, but it's a hollower exercise. You're not with the moment. It's just a movie patting itself on the back going, Look! Look how funny I am!

Beyond that? Okay. It was just so fucking sexist. And incredibly, I have seen people suggesting it was one of the least sexist because it acknowledges its prejudice. But it doesn't actually challenge it. So yeah, of course I'm glad that Hope wasn't sexualised and that they didn't imply any improper relationship between her and Cross. Of COURSE I am. But it is just virulently misogynistic in a way that's really hard to talk about because it's hidden behind layers of...fucking banality and expectation.

Bluntly: Hank Pym is a sexist asshole who treats his daughter like crap. The most obvious aspects of this double-standard and unfair treatment IS acknowledged by the film. The film then treats that as free license to make it the story of how Hank Pym is a damaged man who just mistreats his daughter because he's in ~pain~. It's the story of Hank Pym finally deciding to treat his kid slightly less like dirt. We are supposed to find this moving and heroic, or, worse, like actual engagement with systemic sexism.

Which I suppose it is. It absolutely engages with the concepts of sexism. It legitimises it by making it about some dude's learning experience. It does that gross thing where a powerful group are totally willing to admit that in theory this is wrong, but then always demand the feelings of the powerful aren't hurt when dealing with it. And how do you manage that? By turning it into a moving, learning experience so the person in the privileged position still gets to be the focus and to be lauded as heroic for their small shifts along the scale of asshattery, while the person in the oppressed group gets a consolation prize at the end for "being patient" and understanding.

If this film had any interest in engaging with Hope's very valid, and very painful experience of her father repeatedly dismissing her contributions, lying to her for her entire life, risking her entire plan on some guy she neither knew nor liked (and whom she correctly assessed would jeopardise the entire plan - like all her concerns turn out to be accurate), and justifying it all as "protecting" her when it's protection she does not need and has specifically attempted to reject? Then her "turn" at finally getting a suit wouldn't have been relegated to a post-credits sequence that was still all about what her father was willing to "let" her have.

Fuck this movie, to be honest.

I think the Labour party may actually be imploding. It's a mix of fascinating and painful to watch, and I honestly have no idea what will come of it.

Given the spectacular failure of the polls before the general election, I'm not about to put any stock in the suggestion that Jeremy Corbyn will win the Labour leadership. I still think this may be a groundswell of vocal support from a minority. I'm...being skeptical for defensive reasons I suppose. Hope is a painful commodity to wager.

I'm also aware that if he does win, the doomsaying of his opponents may well come to pass. As much as we can point to Foot's defeat being related to Thatcher's sudden popularity on the back of the Falklands War (which one would hope will not be repeated) and the loss of vote-share caused by the SDP split (which if Corbyn wins may be repeated), we can also point out that even in the face of a tremendously unpopular government, that Labour repeatedly outpolled a year or so before the election by up to 20 points, Labour still lost in 92. While a banana in a top-hat could probably have won the 97 election, let's be honest, it wouldn't have won a landslide majority and some of that was down to Blair's personal charisma and centrist branding.

But that's the thing, right? The branding? The Tories have successfully branded themselves as centrist and the party for working people (as opposed to those scroungers). Whether they actually are is immaterial. As long as Osbourne keeps stealing Labour manifesto pledges like increasing the minimum wage, the fact he's offsetting them against in-work benefits won't matter because it seems a provable commitment to the "deserving" working poor.

I honestly believe that this is a game Labour cannot win. They've lost the war about fiscal responsibility. They didn't challenge their collective responsibility for the global financial crash and now it's too late. If they refuse to admit they were responsible, that's evidence of their inability to see their own errors, and they aren't fit to govern. If they do admit it, well, why great, you just admitted you fucked up on money, why should we trust you again?

The Tories have successfully convinced everyone they are occupying the rational, sensible middle ground. Their play is to convince us that it wasn't the Lib Dems holding them in check. By attempting to appear centrist, Labour inherently blur the perception of the differences between them and the their opponents, at which point, why not vote for the real thing, who at least didn't fuck up with the money?

I suppose that's the bottom line. I don't think Cooper, Burnham or Kendall have much chance of winning in 2020 either. Kendall may be right in her assessment that her quest for Tory voters won't lose her enough hardcore left votes to the Greens or Plaid Cymru to make a difference, but will it win her a hundred seats? Because to win the general based on gains in England, that's what we're talking about. But they'll never win back Scotland with watered-down centrism because the SNP's appeal is ideological purity, maverick power and running like the opposition even when they're not because there'll always be a government in Westminster against which they can define themselves.

Labour are fucked.

Not because the Tories are doing particularly well - their majority is pretty tiny and actually due, in large part, to the Lib Dem collapse in the South West - but because they have no easy path to increasing their overall number of seats.

Which brings us to the calculation we're being asked to make - electability vs ideological purity.

I'm not unsympathetic to the idea that it's better to compromise and be in a position to make changes than hold firm and be consigned to protest. But everyone has a line where that compromise comes at too high a price. Right now, not only do I feel an electoral drift towards the right involves compromises I'm not comfortable making, I also remain totally unconvinced that they'll succeed in their purpose: returning Labour to power.

And if winning in 2020 is something that, you know, we can hope for, we can hope the Tories will lose 20-odd seats and a coalition moves in, hell, we can hope the country rallies around the new Labour leader and we have a repeat of 1997, but if election in 2020 is no longer the main motivating factor, then oh god yes, I'd rather have someone who actually appears to bring some enthusiasm and debate and honesty to the table. It helps that - while I think he's further left than I am - Corbyn's policies are, in broad terms, things I approve of. But if, say, Kendall's campaign was vibrant, exciting, getting attention and buzz and a base rallying around her? I wouldn't vote her into position, no, but I would at least not feel hopeless. I might think we were sacrificing too much and be sad, or even angry, but I would at least understand the arithmetic in play.

What's considered the political centre shifts. The only way you change that is by getting out and pulling. Being vocal in your opposition, making it normal to have people on television making loud, political arguments that Tax Credits aren't charity or undeserved so that even if people disagree, they don't think such positions are outlandish.

The very fact that Tories are making gestures such as committing extra funding to the NHS and improving the minimum wage, instead of dropping tax rates for corporations and then claiming that'll lead to a rise in the minimum wage, instead of selling off (even more of) the NHS and claiming that'll lead to greater investment, is because they fear looking too far to one end of the political spectrum.

A radical left-wing Opposition might not result in a radical left-wing Government in 2020, but I'm not convinced that even 5 years of Murdoch-sponsored mockery would leave the political sphere completely unshifted.

Or, you know, Cameron could use it as an excuse to paint us all as insane and swing even further right. None of us know what will happen.

But when the majority of the Labour establishment are berating the very people who voted for them two months ago for not being willing to compromise on painful, key issues in order to please a bunch of Tory swing voters in middle England? When they are reduced to ad hominem attacks and an attack on their own base as irresponsible? It's very hard to feel respected by or supportive of that same establishment.

All parties need to attract centrist voters to win power, this is true. Party members tend to be more committed to an ideology than the wider voting population. But when the difference is this stark, when the party base is apparently this out of step with the leadership, good lord, what the hell does anyone expect? This isn't a tenable situation whatever side you come down on. And you absolutely cannot compare enthusiastic young people joining as registered supporters to Militant Entryists. Which, at the moment, is basically what's happening.

"You can't just tell the public they're wrong!" they yell. "We have to listen to the views of the majority and not insult them!" they shriek. While doing just those things to their own core voting base.

I don't even know what to make of it, but almost everyone is coming out of this looking terrible.

Date: 2015-07-25 08:40 pm (UTC)
frayadjacent: Connie Maheswaran in cosplay with a black cape. Text says, "fangirl". (!fangirl)
From: [personal profile] frayadjacent
Gah, Stevenbomb 3 was wonderful. And heartbreaking, but mostly wonderful.

I think/hope it will be Amethyst, and also probably Steven (even though he is still too young to really get what's going on with Pearl) who give Pearl the support she needs. And I have reasonably high hopes that that's coming. Amethysts quiet arc last week was lovely, and she's in a much better place to do that emotional work than she was even a little while ago, or, like you said, than Garnet is. (That thing about Garnet not understanding self-hate? YES.)

Oh, this show. It's working so we'll for me.

Date: 2015-07-30 06:55 am (UTC)
frayadjacent: Buffy smirking over Giles with quarterstaff (BtVS: up to no good)
From: [personal profile] frayadjacent

Also, I really need to get some SU icons.

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