What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

Time for some links to the things I’m thinking about this week.  I’m also pretty active on Tumblr for the time being, and I’m linking to and reblogging other stuff there.

Expectations for Girls in YA Fiction, Misleading Reviews, and Female Sexuality (Stacked)

It’s unlikely that I’ll ever stop linking to posts by Kelly Jensen, because she’s kind of my librarian hero, but she’s also writing some pretty amazing things right now.  This post about girls in YA fiction is thought-provoking, important, and touches on a lot of the things I think about all the time when it comes to YA fiction (and, I would argue fictional stories in general, whether they’re in books or movies or TV).

At any rate, Jensen talks about some reviews she’s read about the upcoming book The F-it List by Julie Halpern, and how concerning some of the language within those reviews was.

Although I could dive into the notion that Alex performs the items on the f-it list out of guilt — an idea I disagree with entirely, as Alex begins to really embrace this as a commitment to her relationship with Becca — what I find fascinating is this line: “Both girls have casual, unprotected sex with all of their boyfriends without any thoughts of taking precautions.”

Like me, Jensen has some pretty clear thoughts about this:

This line presumes a few things in it.  The first is that it’s the responsibility of the girls to think about and carry out the actions necessary for protection during sex. While print space is limited and words have to be carefully selected in a trade review, the way this particular line is phrased, in conjunction with the line before it, casts a judgment upon the female characters in the story. They’re crass, with limited vocabulary, and they’re not taking responsibility for their own actions. These are the kinds of girls you don’t want to be role models for readers, since they’re not being “good girls.” They don’t arouse sympathy because what happens to them is all a matter of consequences and choices they make. They weren’t smart enough or thinking through things enough to protect themselves.

But what is worse in this line is that it’s factually incorrect.

I could probably quote her entire article, because it’s that good, but the quoted stuff here is what’s so important.  Jensen takes issue with the review she read not only because the language is loaded and shows the reader’s bias, but because the review got factual information about the book wrong.  What’s so alarming here is that in a review that’s only a paragraph long, the reviewer felt it was important to mention the stuff about sex and consequences but didn’t even bother to get it right.

Jensen ends her post with this thought:

I can’t help wonder, too, whether books that do similar things as Halpern’s but feature a male main character undergo the same scrutiny and character judgment.

I’m Not a Feminist, But… (Beth Revis)

I tweeted out a link to this post very late last week, but I wanted to post it here and talk about it a little, too, because I think what Beth Revis writes about in her post is super important.  Capitalizing on the commonly used, “I’m not a feminist, but…” statement that many women (and some men) make, Revis breaks down exactly what’s wrong with that statement and the thinking that goes along with it:

First, it’s wrong for me to couch my opinions with a disclaimer. Saying something like, “I’m not a feminist, but I feel like women deserve the same rights as men,” belittles not just the idea of feminism, but also the idea that what I’m saying matters. I’m dismissing my own words before I even speak them. I’m giving an excuse for why I should be allowed to say the words following the phrase, as if the only reason I would say those words is if I had such an excuse.

The second thing wrong about that phrase is the fact that it exists.

Revis’s whole post is great and won’t take you more than a few minutes to read, but the takeaway is that the more we recognize that feminism is wanting equal treatment and respect, pure and simple, the closer we’ll get to the day where that’s possible.

The Quiet Radicalism of All That (The Atlantic)

Pretty much the best thing I read all week, this article talks about how radical–and awesome–Nickelodeon’s All That was when it was on TV in the 90s.  Take this, for example:

The original cast included four girls (Denberg and Reyes, with Angelique Bates and Katrina Johnson) and three boys (Kenan Thompson, Kel Mitchell, and Josh Server); three white performers, and four performers of color. Compare that to the concurrently running Season 20 of Saturday Night Live (1994-95), which featured a cast of 17. Only four were women, and only two were of color….Furthermore, the kids of All That were refreshingly normal-looking. Some were traditionally attractive, sure. Others were still growing into their features. Absent were the hyperactive, over-costumed Disney Channel tweens (Lizzie Maguire, et al), or the pouty, brooding 26-year-olds playing 16 on The WB (like the weirdly grown-up high schoolers of Dawson’s Creek or Popular). The cast of All That reflected the nature of its audience: They were growing up—lanky limbs, zits, and all.

So, where is a show like that today?  Where?

So You’ve Decided to Go to Library School (The Toast)

This humorous and incredibly uncomfortably spot-on essay about what library school is like probably won’t work for you if you’re not connected to the field.  But it’s worth a look at, just because the site it’s on–The Toast–is pretty awesome, run by women (who don’t work for or answer to men), and is already profitable less than a year into its run.

At any rate, this hit close to home:

Librarians have to do something with their hands while they’re bingeing on pop culture, so you should probably develop a craft. Knitting and crochet are acceptable, but cross-stitch works too. But what do you eat while you’re watching all that tv? Hopefully you’ve baked some Sorting Hat cupcakes for your Harry Potter marathon. Baking is preferable, but home-brewing is an acceptable substitute. At the very least you should love to eat.

The absolute best thing about library school is your peers. You will all have a Leslie Knope-ian intensity about something. It may be Star Wars, hockey, astrophysics, or that damn rock wall, but everyone brings some kind of obsession to the table. There is sure to be someone who will be a little too into board games. People will regularly discuss Weasleycest and Tami Taylor’s hair at parties, because if there’s one thing librarians get, it’s an enthusiast. We are all punk-ass book jockeys, and we want you to read our favorite book. And then maybe we’ll break down the Library of Congress Subject Headings afterwards.

Yikes.

What got you reading and thinking this week?

 

Some Non-Fiction Titles I’ve Been Reading

I mostly stick to fiction on the blog, and lately it’s been mostly YA fiction at that, but I wanted to highlight some of the non-fiction titles I’ve been reading this year.  Every once in a while, I go through a phase where I read some non-fiction, and right now, that’s the case.  Here are a couple titles that I thought were pretty outstanding.

Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 by Elizabeth Winder

I’ve been a Sylvia Plath fan since my misanthropic teenage days, and this micro-biography (is that a thing?) is so accessible and so fascinating I had a hard time putting it down.  Winder chooses to focus on the summer Plath spent in New York as an intern for Mademoiselle, interweaving first-hand accounts from the other women who interned with her with historical details about the time period, as well as excerpts of Plath’s work and snippets of her journal entries.  The result is incredibly successful: the fashion, the glamour, and the things we’ll never know about Sylvia’s inner-thoughts make this a standout non-fiction title.

Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kokler

Probably one of my favorite reads of the year, Kokler’s impeccably written and obsessively researched look at the disappearances and murders of a slew of women working as escorts through Craigslist on the East Coast a few years ago is haunting, riveting, and something that I still cannot get out of my mind.  Kokler digs into the lives of the women who disappeared and humanizes them in a way that a lesser writer would not have been able to do.  It’s accessible, well-written, and completely worthy of your time.  I loved it, inasmuch as you can love something that’s about a horrible thing that’s happened.

Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales

In the interest of full disclosure, I picked this one up with the intent to just read the parts where Chevy Chase comes off as a complete sociopathic asshole (read: every single time he opens his mouth), because I pretty much think Chase is the worst, and after hearing the book mentioned on one of my favorite podcasts, I knew I had to check it out.  But I ended up reading the entire thing, because it totally hooked me.  I’m not a huge SNL fan in general–I can appreciate the significance of the show’s presence in the pop culture cannon, and I’ll watch an episode if I really like the host, but I haven’t considered it must-watch TV in years.  But this was a surprisingly great read.

God’s Harvard: A Christian College on a Mission to Save America by Hanna Rosin

Initially, I wanted to read this one because I have a love-hate thing going on with Rosin as a journalist in general.  I listen to the DoubleX podcast and am always rankled by how clueless, pompous, and generally nutso Rosin can be (not to mention her proclivity to cut people off when they are talking), but there’s no denying that she’s an intelligent person (and she would be the first to tell you so).  I knew about her book The End of Men, but I didn’t realize that she’d written this one until it was mentioned on the podcast when they were discussing sexual assault on Christian college campuses.  So I decided to check it out.

The result surprised me.  I really enjoyed reading it, but I’m not sure how much of that was Rosin (at least a little bit was, because her ability to balance snark and respectful reporting was quite good here) and how much was my complete horror that people like this exist in the world.  At any rate, I devoured this one.  And am still terrified of the fundamentalist Christian right.  Of all fundamentalists, actually.

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

I took an unintentional hiatus last week because I took a few days off work (and subsequently from blogging), but I’m back this week with the things I’ve read this week that made me think.

The F Word: Inside Amy Schumer, the Most Sneakily Feminist Show on TV (Slate)

I actually saw Amy Schumer last week when she was in the Twin Cities for her stand-up tour, and she was amazing.  She’s definitely got the gross-out humor thing going for her, but there’s also something really subversive about her comedy.  I loved every second she was on stage (although the gentleman behind us didn’t much care for her abortion jokes, which made me wonder why, exactly, he was at an Amy Schumer show), and I love her show.  I’m so glad that the show was renewed for a second season, which just started.  If you haven’t checked it out yet, I encourage you to do so (the show airs on Comedy Central, you can watch clips on their website or Youtube, and the first season is streaming on Amazon Prime).

This sums up Schumer’s subversion pretty well:

Schumer hides her intellect in artifice and lip gloss—that’s how she performs femininity. By wrapping her ideas in a ditzy, sexy, slutty, self-hating shtick, her message goes down easy—and only then, like the alien, sticks its opinionated teeth in you.

And this stuck out:

The best sketch of the new season has Schumer playing a video game not unlike Call of Duty with a male friend. Schumer picks a female avatar—the friend grimaces at this—who, in the game, is raped by her superior. The guy Schumer is playing with doesn’t believe that it happened. Schumer must have “done something wrong.” Meanwhile, the game starts bullying her—“You were just assaulted by a fellow solider. Do you wish to report?” “Yes.” “Are you sure? Did you know he has a family? Does that change your mind about reporting?”—before sending her to Level 25, which is all paperwork.

You can’t argue that what she’s doing isn’t important or smart, because it is.  I love her, unabashedly so.

A Censored History of Ladies in YA Fiction (Book Riot)

I’ve actually been sitting on this link for a while, but I had to include it because I think Kelly Jensen writes such smart, interesting stuff about YA and librarianship and gender politics.  Everything in this article is great–S.E. Hinton paving the way for YA literature but doing it with only her initials because she would be dismissed by male critics if they knew she was a woman, the fact that the books most challenged are written by women, etc.–and it’s well worth your time.

Jensen writes:

Call them by any name you want, but these challenges stem from fears about girls’ stories coming to the front and being told. Men have their novels challenged, too, but less frequently and, more likely than not, for reasons similar to why women’s novels are: the fear of something different (anything outside the “mainstream” white, straight male standard). Blume has more titles on the most-challenged list than any other author — even Robert Cormier could only muster three — because being female and writing about issues girls face are challenge- and ban- worthy actions indeed.

She also makes this point, which is something that’s been talked about a lot recently:

Men write universal stories. Women write stories for girls. Men write Literature. Women write chick lit. Even in a world where women do publish in heavier numbers than men do, they are underscored, underseen, and undervalued. Twilight is and will remain a crucial part of YA’s history — YA’s female-driven history — despite or in spite of the fact it doesn’t garner the same praises that those held up as idols within the community do. Men like John Green become symbols of YA’s forward progress and Seriousness as a category, whereas Stephenie Meyer gets to be a punchline.

Anyway, read it.  Be incensed.  Think about the larger issues at play.

5 Biblical Films That Sparked a Religious Backlash (Alternet)  

To be completely honest, I don’t have any interest in the Noah movie.  I’m not a religious person.  I think that biblical epics like this one, featuring a bunch of white people, are totally ridiculous.  The reviews on this one have been pretty mixed (with many critics coming down on the “It’s a trash heap” side of things), and I honestly thought that it was supposed to be a movie pandering to the fundies.  But apparently not? Because they’re actually sort of up in arms about it?  In a hilarious way?

This article talks a little bit about the Noah film, but it also lists a few other films that have been super controversial for the Christian right.  It’s worth a look, I guess.

 

March 2014 Recap

Another month gone.  This was an interesting month in that movie-watching was at an all-time low and I supplemented my voracious reading of Sweet Valley High with a slew of non-fiction.  So the result is a mixed bag.  Let’s get to it!

Reading:

Best Book of the Month: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Books Read: 30
Adult: 4
YA: 21
MG: 5
Children’s: 0
Fiction: 26
Non-fiction/Memoir: 4
Graphic Novel: 0
# of Pages Read: 6223

Thoughts on March’s Reading:

  • As far as non-fiction goals go, I read four non-fiction/memoirs (Soul Survivor, The Honest Life, Live From Saturday Night: The Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live, andGod’s Harvard: A Christian College on a Mission to Save America).
  • I didn’t read much in the way of YA fiction outside of SVH this month, but I did knock out Side Effects May Vary and And We Stay.
  • My numbers are insanely high because I read so many Sweet Valley High novels this month for my other blog.  These books are a breeze to get through (I can knock them out in about 30 minutes if I’m not distracted by other things), so they count–but just barely.  I’m on a roll with them right now, so who knows how long that will last.

Watching:

TV:

Much as I’d like to, I’m not obsessively tracking what TV show episodes I watch and when.  So this will be mostly bullet points.

  • I’ve completely slowed down on Breaking Bad.  I’d say I’m watching something like one episode a week?
  • For reasons completely unknown to me, I’m on a serious The Vampire Diaries kick.  I’ve blown through three seasons this month, and I can’t seem to stop watching, even though everyone is dumb and parts of the show really squick me out.  Expect a post on this at some point.  Probably.
  • J. and I tore through the first season of Orphan Black, which is great and you should watch immediately.  The second season premieres in mid-April, and I can hardly wait.
  • I’m also casually re-watching Daria, which HOLDS UP and is still really, really funny.
  • I’m still watching The Good Wife, am looking forward to the return of The Mindy Project, and can’t wait for the return ofGame of Thrones.

Movies:

vmarsBest Movie(s) of the Month: Veronica Mars

Movies Watched: 4
New: 2
Re-Watch: 2
Theater Trips: 1

Thoughts on Movies Watched in February:

  • Not a stellar month for movies, probably because I’ve been hardcore bingeing on TV.
  • Veronica Mars is the clear winner here.  I haven’t written a post on it, and I’m not sure I will, because it sort of feels done to death, but I did love it while also recognizing its flaws.

Goals for March:

  • Continue reading and watching diverse things.  Keep up with keeping track.

Happy reading and watching, readers!

Where Are They Now? Roswell (2014 Edition)

Blogger’s note: I originally published this post on May 1, 2010.  Since then, it’s consistently been one of my top posts on the blog.  Who would have thought, right? At any rate, I decided that it was time to update the information on here.  Without further ado, here’s the post with some updates from the past four years.

Roswell was a teen soap about alien hybrids living in Roswell, New Mexico that aired on the WB from 1999-2002.  I posted about the show and why it was awesome, and now I thought I’d follow that up with a post about where the cast is now, more than 10 years after it premiered.  Let’s get to it.

Shiri Appleby (Liz Parker)

Shiri Appleby was 21 when Roswell premiered.  The show certainly gained her more notoriety than she’d had before in her career, and during the course of Roswell, she made some movie called A Time for Dancing with Larissa Oleynik, as well as playing the girlfriend to Jesse Bradford in the teen-thriller Swimf@n (currently sitting on my DVD player at home).

After Roswell, she continued working pretty steadily with roles in a bunch of movies that I’ve never seen, including The Battle of Shaker Heights, Havoc, When Do We Eat?, and Charlie Wilson’s War (oooh.  I saw that one!)  She also had a multi-episode arc on E.R. Then, Shiri landed a starring role in the CW’s Life Unexpected.  The show aired for one season (and you should be able to stream it on Netflix) before getting the ax, but the critical reception was largely positive.  After that, Appleby had recurring guest appearances on Franklin & Bash and Chicago Fire, did a couple shows I’ve never heard of (Dating Rules from my Future Self), and most recently appeared in several memorable episodes of Girls and an episode of Elementary.  This is her official Twitter account, if you’re interested.

FUN FACT: Appleby auditioned for all three female leads in Roswell several times before being cast as Liz.

Jason Behr (Max Evans)
One of the older cast members, Jason Behr was already 26 when Roswell premiered.  Behr wasn’t a stranger to the WB network at the time, having had guest-starring roles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 7th Heaven, and Dawson’s Creek.  (The WB was known for recycling talent.)

After Roswell, Jason found work in movies, with roles in The Grudge, Skinwalkers, and D-War.  He continued to work in both television and movies, with one of his more recent projects being a TV movie called Company Man opposite Castle‘s Stana Katic.  His most recent credit is from 2012: a show called Breakout Kings, in which he appeared in 5 episodes.

Although my 15-year-old self loved Max, I always found the other characters more compelling.  I will give a shout-out to Behr because he’s from Minneapolis, which is totally awesome. (The picture on the right is Behr with his wife, actress KaDee Strickland.)

FUN FACT: He speaks Japanese.

Katherine Heigl (Isabelle Evans)
Katherine Heigl was 21 when the show started, and she was without a doubt the person whose beauty was supposed to be part of her character.  Isabelle often worried her parents by dating men who were considerably older, but she was so beautiful and looked so much older than a seventeen-year-old that it’s no wonder the writers played it up.

Before Roswell premiered, Heigl did several movies, including one of my all-time biggest guilty pleasures, My Father the Hero, as well as Bride of Chucky and the weird and yet somehow still enjoyable Disney movie Wish Upon a Star.

After Roswell, Heigl is the actress who has gone on to have the most mainstream professional success, landing a lead role as Izzie Stevens on Grey’s Anatomy, starring in Judd Apatow’s love-it-or-hate it Knocked Up, and finding  a niche in mediocre-t0-downright-awful romantic comedies, including 27 Dresses, The Ugly Truth, Life as We Know It, New Year’s Eve, The Big Wedding, and One for the Money. Heigl has several projects in the works, including the movies North of Hell and Jenny’s Wedding (both in post-production at the time of this writing).  Her official Twitter can be found here.

FUN FACT: She was engaged to co-star Jason Behr during while filming Roswell.

Majandra Delfino (Maria DeLuca)
Majandra Delfino was the youngest cast member, auditioning for the series when she was just 17.  Before Roswell, she landed a role in the movie Zeus and Roxanne, and was in several episodes of The Tony Danza Show.

During Roswell, she appeared in several movies, including Traffic and R.S.V.P. (as well as Shriek If You Know What You Did Last Friday the 13th, which I’ve seen).  In addition to singing on the show, she also released an album called “The Sicks.”

Post-Roswell, Majandra continued to work in TV and movies.  She starred in a TV-movie called Celeste in the City, released a second album in 2008 called “Tarte,” and was in several short-lived shows, including Quarterlife and State of Georgia (I might be the only person who watched this, and it was solely because of Delfino).  She had a small role in Life as We Know It (also starring Katherine Heigl), has appeared on a few episodes of Men of a Certain Age, an episode of The Office, and seems to be working on a TV show in pre-production (as of this posting) called Friends With Better Lives.  Her official Twitter account can be found here.

FUN FACT: She was briefly married to Devon Gummersall, who played Brian Krakow on My So-Called Life.  Also, she’s my secret favorite.

Brendan Fehr (Michael Guerin)
Brendan Fehr was 22 when Roswell premiered.  Before the show, he guest-starred in an episode of Breaker High (YES!), had a small role in Disturbing Behavior, and guest-starred in a number of other TV shows.  A transplant from Canada, his big break definitely came in the form of Roswell.

During the course of the show, Fehr also made several movies, including Final Destination and The Forsaken.Brendan_Fehr

His career after the show has included a bunch of movies and projects I’ve never heard of, as well as a stint as a series regular as Dan Cooper on CSI: Miami, several episodes of something called Samurai Girl, and a multi-episode arc as Booth’s brother on Bones.  He’s made some TV movies, including a sequel to The Cutting Edge. Guest spots on Nikita and Longmire seem to be it for recent TV appearances.  However, he seems to have a couple of movies (that look like straight to DVD/streaming releases to me) out this year, including Roswell FM and something called Zarra’s Law. Surprisingly, he has an official Twitter here, and based on his Twitter bio, is pretty into religion. Huh.

FUN FACT: He’s from Canada.  That’s all I got.

Nick Wechsler (Kyle Valenti)
Nick Wechsler’s Kyle Valenti started as a character that served mostly as a foil to Max and his romantic aspirations with Liz, but he evolved into an essential part of the group whose humor and warmth were undeniable.  When the show premiered, Wechsler was 21.  Before joining the cast, he was a regular on Team Knight Rider and played a “mugger” in TV movie called Full Circle.

After Roswell, Wechsler continues to work in both TV and film, landing guest spots on a variety of TV shows, including Tru Calling, North Shore, Cold CaseLie to Me, Without a Trace, and It’s Always Sunny….  The last time I posted this, I begged for someone to ‘give this man a show already,’ and I guess someone listened, because Wechsler is currently a series regular on Revenge.  Here’s his official Twitter.

Fun Fact: He auditioned for at least 4 different roles on Roswell before snagging the part of Kyle.

Colin Hanks (Alex Whitman)

hanks1Colin Hanks (yes, son of Tom Hanks) got his start in movies with a bit part in his father’s excellent That Thing You Do! but landed his first breakout role at the age of 23 with the start of Roswell.  Geeky friend to Liz and Maria, Alex was kept in the dark for a lot of the show before suffering aGeorge Pimentelterrible demise.

During the course of the show, Hanks starred in two pretty mediocre teen movies: Whatever it Takes and Get Over It.  After Roswell, Hanks starred in Orange County, had a pretty funny appearance on The O.C., and has appeared in a slew of movies, including The House Bunny, W., and The Guilt Trip.  He’s also been in a bunch of TV shows, including a recurring guest spot on Mad Men (as a priest), a pretty terrifying, rercurring turn on Dexter as a serial killer, some episodes of Burning Love, and a few episodes of NCIS. IMDB tells me that he’s got a TV series called Fargo in pre-production right now. Here’s his official Twitter.

Fun Fact: Both Hanks jr. and sr. have been contestants on Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me’s “Not My Job” segment, and both won their respective quizzes.

Emilie de Ravin (Tess Harding)

deravin1Emilie de Ravin wasn’t an original cast member but joined the show fairly early on.  She was 21 when the show premiered.  Easily the most divisive character on the show, Emilie de Ravin’s Tess mainly functioned as a way to separate Max and Liz from their true love.  It’s a thankless role, and de Ravin played it well, though her American accent (de Ravin is a native Australian) often distracted.  At any rate,

deravin2Tess was the fourth alien the original three didn’t know about, and she claimed that she and Max were destined to betogether on their home planet.  There’s also that part where she was a psycho killer, but whatever.

Before landing the Roswell gig, de Ravin had a recurring role on the awesomely named BeastMaster.  Post-Roswell, de Ravin has been able to find quite steady work, including series’ regular status on Lost and Once Upon a Time.  Perhaps best known now for her work on Lost, de Ravin has also had roles in some mainstream movies, including The Hills Have Eyes, Remember Me, and Brick

Her official twitter account can be found here.

Fun Fact: She’s allergic to peanuts. Eh?

So there you have it: the updated compendium of Where Are They Now? Roswell Edition.

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

After taking a hiatus last week (and generally feeling apathetic about the internet), these are the articles I’m reading and thinking about this week.  I don’t have a ton of stuff for you, but I do have a couple of links.

May the Box Office Be Ever in Your Favor: How Divergent and the Hunger Games Avoid Race and Gender Violence (Bitch Magazine)

Sarah McCarry wrote this guest piece for Bitch, and it’s well worth taking a look at.  In it, she gets at something occurring in all sorts of dystopian tales that is both really disturbing and really important to think about:

As violent and militarized as these books are, the violence in their worlds bears little to no resemblance to the violence of the real world we live in. In DivergentTris is, briefly, sexually assaulted (an experience that she later, somewhat disturbingly, describes as not “really” being sexual assault), but otherwise women, while they’re executed or beaten up on the regular, do not seem to experience gendered violence of any kind. There is no overtly racialized violence. As readers, we can be horrified by the bloodshed—nobody wants to see kids die—without being implicated in it.

The brilliance doesn’t stop there, though:

And, of course, our dystopian heroines are certainly not teenagers of color. While there are numerous great dystopian young adult books that center on characters of color, the ones that have so far caught Hollywood’s eye all center on white characters (or, in the case of “olive-skinned” Katniss, characters imagined by movie producers to be clearly white). These stories present whiteness as a default and a universal, their heroines accessorized enough with a few generic hopes and desires that we can see them as human, but never so marked by difference that we cannot see them in ourselves. The “we” in the audience is presumed to be white and straight or so trained by our own exclusion that we automatically read outside our own experience. 

It is difficult to read articles like these that criticize the books and movies that are widely beloved, but it is also incredibly important.  I very much loved The Hunger Games and I mostly liked Divergent, but that doesn’t mean that these things are without fault.  Reading articles like this makes me a better reader, it makes me a more critical thinker.  And McCarry’s article is excellent, and stirring, and upsetting:

People criticize dystopian YA for being too violent, but let’s face it, these books are not violent enough; these books cannot even begin to approximate the violence of a world in which a white man can shoot a black teenager in the face as she stands on his porch and asks him for help; in which a man can shoot a black teenager carrying a bag of Skittles and walk away free; in which a white man can open fire on a car full of black teenagers whose music he does not like; in which a man beats a young black woman to death solely because she is transgender and, again, walk away; and the list is so long. Every day, the list gets longer.

Look, there is going to be no perfect critique of society when it comes to dystopia, especially when it becomes a commercial Hollywood vehicle.  But this is important stuff to think and talk about.  I know I will be thinking about this one for a while.

I Can’t Deal with Sociopaths in Non-Fiction (Book Riot)

This is an interesting think-piece about how much crazy a person can deal with in their books, essentially.  Although Steinkellner focuses on non-fiction, she also mentions fictional sociopaths, too.  The entire thing raises some interesting questions about reading in general, though.  Do we have a harder time with a concept if we know it’s grounded in reality?  Is it easier to deal with hard stuff like sociopathic, destructive characters if we know it’s fiction and therefore not real?

I don’t have to like the characters to get through the book, but I definitely agree with parts of this article.  Like, I get this entire paragraph:

I hope I’m not coming across as too much of a corseted 19th century lady in desperate need of a reclining sofa and smelling salts. I want to read about complex people in complex situations- that’s one of my favorite things about reading! But I have very thin skin when it comes to consuming media. I gasp while watching movies. I get so angry at certain television characters I’ll wake up the next morning still upset about an injustice that happened on an episode the previous night (Good Wife, you are my favorite show and at the same time, you haunt my nights). I have returned more than one tearstained book to the library…and by more than one, I mean, like, maybe 8. Media affects me deeply. And when I read about a human that is unthinkably cruel to other humans, and I know that all those humans existed, that these events happened, it’s just a lot for me. Sometimes it’s almost too much, and sometimes it actually is too much.

My nickname around the house is “Waterworks” because I’m a crier.  I react to media in much the same way.  I cry at the drop of a hat when I watch movies and TV, and regularly cry when reading a book, if it’s done well.  It happened the other night when I forgot how one of the early Alice books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor ends, and that is a book meant for children.  So I understand this worry about how real life things can be too much, but I also worry about the implications of that.

Like, a lot of things in life upset me (see all the links to real-life murders in the article above this) a great deal, but I still need to know about them.  Not knowing about them doesn’t make them any less real, and it certainly doesn’t do me any good as a person.  I get there’s a line between making sure that you’re informed about the world and also allowing yourself to enjoy entertainment that won’t rock you to the core, but where is it?  I don’t know.  I’m rambling.

The Veronica Mars Movie is More of the Same, and That’s a Beautiful Thing (Slate)

I don’t have a lot to say about this review of the Veronica Mars movie except to say that it sounds pretty much like what I expect the movie to be.  Here’s a pretty telling snippet:

I don’t know how much money Veronica Mars will make, or how much money it has to make to be deemed a success, but as means of fan-satisfaction it is a needle to a major vein. Unlike the new, structurally complex Arrested DevelopmentVeronica Mars’ only ambition seems to be to deliver a product of the same quality as the incisive, quippy show—not at all a low bar. By unapologetically being an extended TV-episode in movie form, Veronica Mars keeps on keeping on with its major theme: taking things that are assumed to be adorable and unserious and safe and complicating the hell out of them.

I literally can’t wait to see the movie this weekend.

What things did you read this week that got you thinking?

February 2014 Recap

Somewhere over the course of last year, I lost the plot with regard to monthly recaps of what I’d be reading and watching, and that’s too bad.  I actually really like these posts to help me reflect on the past month, in terms of what kinds of media I’d been consuming.  So, with the start of a new year and a fresh resolve to track more thoroughly what I’m reading and watching, here’s my attempt at starting up these monthly recaps again.

Reading:

Best Book of the Month: Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern

Books Read: 25
Adult: 4
YA: 19
MG: 2
Children’s: 0
Fiction: 22
Non-fiction/Memoir: 3
Graphic Novel: 1
# of Pages Read: 5554

Thoughts on February’s Reading:

  • As far as non-fiction goals go, I read two memoirs (I Don’t Know Where You Know Me From and Never Have I Ever) and one biography (Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer, 1962).  I loved the Plath and was lukewarm on the other two.  I didn’t read anything I would qualify as “hard” non-fiction this month.
  • A lot of the YA I read this month was really, really disappointing: I kind of hated Asylum, thought Royally Lost was painfully silly, and didn’t connect with The Museum of Intangible Things the way I wanted to.  Even so, Cammie McGovern’s Say What You Will was my favorite read of the month, hands down.
  • My numbers are insanely high because I read so many Sweet Valley High novels this week for my other blog.  These books are a breeze to get through (I can knock them out in about 30 minutes if I’m not distracted by other things), so they count–but just barely.  I’m on a roll with them right now, so who knows how long that will last.

Watching:

TV:

Much as I’d like to, I’m not obsessively tracking what TV show episodes I watch and when.  So this will be mostly bullet points.

  • I’ve completely slowed down on Breaking Bad.  I think we’re still slogging through the third season.  I will finish it.  It’s just not something I ever look forward to sitting down to.
  • Instead, I hate-watched my way through four seasons of Glee, which I’m not proud of, but there it is.  I don’t know why I can’t look away from this show–it is literally the worst and represents everything I hate, but damn if I can’t stop binge-watching.
  • I also still watch New Girl and Switched at Birth.  Everything else seems to be on hiatus right now.
  • J. and I have started watching The X-Files as something to have on in the background sometimes.  It’s enjoyable but I don’t see us finishing it (as well we shouldn’t because it’s one of those shows that refused to die).

Movies:

12yearsBest Movie(s) of the Month: 12 Years a Slave

Movies Watched: 8
New: 5
Re-Watch: 3
Theater Trips: 0

Thoughts on Movies Watched in February:

  • Not a stellar month for movies, despite my best intentions to get ready for the Oscars.
  • Despite not liking animated movies, I watched Disney’s Frozen and found it adorable.  I mean, largely forgettable, but something I probably would have loved as a kid.  I also watched The Croods and didn’t hate it, so that’s something, I guess?

Goals for March:

  • Continue reading and watching diverse things.  Keep up with keeping track.

Happy reading and watching, readers!

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

These are the articles I’ve been reading and thinking about this week.  Let’s get to it.

The Gaslight District: The Dangerous Precedents Being Set By the Woody Allen Molestation Case (Pajiba)

Honestly, guys, I don’t care if you’re sick of hearing about it, because like this article states, you should be sick over this issue.  You should, because it’s disgusting what’s happening.  We need to be talking about this, because when we don’t talk about these things, we set the precedents talked about in this article, and we reinforce everything that we allow in a rape culture.

There’s a lot at play here, and there’s a lot to unpack.  Biological vs. adoptive parents, victim blaming, the concept of a vindictive mother, etc.  All of these things are worth talking about, but by wanting to quickly move on, we are doing a disservice to ourselves and the victims of sexual abuse.  This is an accessible article and it tackles all of those things.  Read it.

#SochiProblems is More of an Embarrassment for America Than For Russia (PolicyMic)

I’m not watching the Olympics because I literally don’t care and also because I don’t think we should be in Russia.  But my best friend sent me a link to a compilation of the best hashtags about the problems in Sochi, and my immediate response was, “This is fascinating because cultural privilege.”  And this article, whether you agree with it or not, is worth taking a look at.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that someone created a novelty Twitter account called @SochiProblems to document all the perceived mishaps that are happening in the city during the Olympics, but it is worth it to take a minute and think about the larger implications of that.  It’s malicious glee, and while I’m certainly guilty of feeling that way about certain pop culture events, it’s important to reflect on what that says about me (and the culture at large):

As faves and retweets on @SochiProblems explode, it’s clear that the meme is based on cultural misunderstandings borne out of sheltered ignorance: The posts reflect actual issues that directly impact the quality of life of Russia’s 143 million people…Most Russians don’t drink water from the sink due to fear of illness, and the ones who can’t afford bottled water just boil it and hope they don’t get sick. Only around half of Russians had access to drinking water that met reasonable health standards in 2002, according to Jean Lemierre, the president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. And the situation is still so bad that Putin himself admittedlast May that even he has dirty water running from his sink.

This article is definitely on the earnest side, but hopefully it also makes people stop and think for a second.  The #SochiProblems trend makes me super uncomfortable, and this helps me pinpoint why that is.

J.K. Rowling Did Make a Mistake, But it Wasn’t the Ron-Hermione Pairing (Book Riot)

Apart from sort of wishing that Rowling would stop talking about things that should have happened in her books that are already published in a series that is (probably) complete, I’ve stayed pretty far out of the latest reveal that Rowling thinks Harry and Hermione should have ended up together.  Mostly because I DO NOT CARE.  But this article is interesting, because it doesn’t really care about that, either.  Instead, it tackles one of the biggest issues that even hardcore fans have with Rowling’s books: that epilogue:

I still remember when I turned that final page and saw for the first time that Rowling had added an epilogue to Harry’s last book. It didn’t take more than few sentences for me to develop a sinking feeling in my stomach. What?, I thought, 7 books of plot twists and suddenly everyone marries their high school boyfriend and has adorable moppets who become friends with their high school friends’ similarly aged moppets!??! Even Draco Malfoy is there?

There’s also this:

It also feels like cheating. If you want to decide what happens to your characters, Rowling, you have to actually write it. It’s no fair summarizing all that time in the middle. You have to make it happen.

Whatever, this piece isn’t going to change the world or anything, but she definitely has a point.  It’s a fun diversion.

The 15 Most Hated Bands of the Last 30 Years (Salon)

I’m really good at hating things, so there’s no doubt that I’d love a list like this.  It’s totally silly and fun, but there’s also a kernel of truth to it.  Some highlights:

Nickelback, Creed (aka “Nickelback before there was Nickelback”), Lana Del Rey, etc. etc.

However, not including U2, my MOST HATED BAND PROBABLY EVER, feels like a great oversight.  You best believe they’re mentioned in the comments (and not by me, because they ARE THE WORST).

Does Length Matter? (Dear Author)

I include this not only because it’s a thoughtful, well-written piece, but because I think about this all the time.  One of J.s jokes about me is that my biggest and most frequent complaint about nearly every movie we watch together is that it’s “too long.” And in my defense, this is mostly true: movies are more bloated than ever before, and there are stats to back it up (you can Google this.  I’m too lazy).  I’m a firm believer in taking the amount of time you need to tell the story, but I often feel like movies, books, and even TV shows could be tighter in how they do this.  So yeah, I believe length matters.  Which is why this piece struck a chord with me.

Obviously, this is different for every reader, but there are some good reasons put forth here, and it’s worth a read if you like to read–no matter what the length of the book.

What did you read this week that got you thinking?

 

 

What I’m Reading and Thinking About this Week

Here’s what I’ve been reading and thinking about this week.  I don’t have a ton of stuff for you today, mostly because I’m lazy.  But here are a few things to read and think about this week.

Choosing Comfort Over Truth: What it Means to Defend Woody Allen (The Nation)

Look, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Woody Allen/Dylan Farrow sexual abuse allegations, and no matter what you think about the whole thing (and I hope you are thinking about it, and being critical about how the media portrays it and how people react to stories like this), you need to realize that despite what people say, we are not in the midst of an epidemic of false rape accusations.  We are in the middle of an epidemic of quiet sexual assault with a culture that condones rape.  We are.

This article is brief but thought-provoking.  Whether or not you agree with Jessica Valenti’s article (she’s a bit polarizing, I guess), you should take a minute to think about what all of this means–and how you feel about it.

Finally, a Bachelor Contestant Exposes the Show’s Weird Sex Issues (Slate)

Let’s start this by saying that I don’t watch The Bachelor.  I have seen the show, but not in years, and I don’t generally care about what happens on it, because it’s a step up from the worst kinds of reality TV, in my mind.  I think the show is icky and gimmicky and completely ridiculous.  But this article caught my eye because it touches on so much of what I find appalling about the show and its bizarre, backwards ideas about sex.  Take this quote:

The show assembles a harem of attractive women who attempt to woo one man not just with their charm, but their bodies, their insecurity, and their willingness to suppress any part of their personality that might make them seem difficult—in particular, their innate discomfort that this man is availing himself of numerous other women as he speaks to each of them about feeling a “real connection.” To distract from the ickiness of this setup, The Bachelor plays the prude, only ever speaking of sex in the most coded, vague terms, like a pimp who blushes at the word “vagina” and claims his clientele are just playing cards.

There’s not much else to say, but this Slate article tackles the issues head-on and provides some interesting things to think about, whether you watch the show or not.

Mean Girls Director Spills 10 Juicy Stories 10 Years Later (Vulture)

Can you believe it’s been 10 years since Mean Girls came out?  I’m feeling super old today.  At any rate, this is some fluffy entertainment reading to get you through your Friday.  I’ve always liked stories about what happens behind-the-scenes, and this is the perfect example of that.

What Happens When You Tell People You’re Reading Only Women (The Toast)

Some of the things you’d probably expect: people lauding the effort, people following suit. Others aimed accusations, calling the project sexist, reverse-sexist (uh, okay), misandrist, etc.  But that’s sort of missing the point, isn’t it?

But the point of the reading project was to raise awareness about the way that female writers are still seen as less important, less literary, and less canonical than male writers, and even some of the coverage about my work hasn’t changed that.

Case in point: when The Guardian launched its #readwomen2014 project, they interviewed one writer/critic who had vowed to read only female authors in 2014 …Even when it comes to promoting books by female authors, it’s evidently still more important to ask men what they think in order to legitimize something that might reek too strongly of feminism.

There’s some great stuff here, about reading and experience in general:

Reading is so much more than looking at words on a page. At least they’re reading, as if a grocery list and a poem could be the same, could each weigh as much as the other. I wanted my reading, a pastime I enjoyed for its quietness and solitude, to also be a declarative statement. Women have always understood that there is more than one path to revolution. Quite simply, I would not be the human I am without having read My Antonia when I was sixteen years old.

At any rate, there’s a lot to unpack and think about here.  I really liked this article.

What got you thinking this week?

January 2014 Recap

Somewhere over the course of last year, I lost the plot with regard to monthly recaps of what I’d be reading and watching, and that’s too bad.  I actually really like these posts to help me reflect on the past month, in terms of what kinds of media I’d been consuming.  So, with the start of a new year and a fresh resolve to track more thoroughly what I’m reading and watching, here’s my attempt at starting up these monthly recaps again.

Reading:

Best Book of the Month: Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker

Books Read: 18
Adult: 7
YA: 5
MG: 3
Children’s: 3
Fiction: 14
Non-fiction/Memoir: 4
Graphic Novel: 2
# of Pages Read: 4855

Thoughts on January’s Reading:

  • I’m trying to read more non-fiction this year without actually making it a hard-and-fast goal, and my default is memoir, of which I read several this month.  But I also read Robert Kolker’s true-crime non-fiction Lost Girls, and it was a standout.
  • A lot of the YA I read this month is scheduled to come out later this year.  E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars is sure to be a critical success (and maybe a little polarizing), while Ava Delaira’s Love Letters to the Dead was a total disappointment.
  • I started the month by reading a bunch of the Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, which is partly why my overall numbers are so high this month.  I fell away from them early on, though, and since I”d like to finish the series this year, I should probably try to tackle a few more of those soon.

Watching:

TV:

Much as I’d like to, I’m not obsessively tracking what TV show episodes I watch and when.  So this will be mostly bullet points.

  • J. is still supporting me as I slowly trudge through Breaking Bad.  We’re up to season 3 now, and while I can see how the show is quite masterful, I also don’t think it’s any fun to watch.  I’m determined to finish it, though.
  • I’ve become OBSESSED with The Good Wife, and whizzed my way through three seasons this month.  J. is on board now, too, which means that I’ve slowed down how many I’m getting through so I can wait to watch with him.
  • I also still watch American Horror Story: Coven, New Girl, The Mindy Project, Parenthood, Girls, and Switched at Birth.
  • I’m also doing a re-watch of Veronica Mars to gear up for the movie, and I’m participating in the beta-forums over at Previously.tv so I can talk about it with other Veronica Mars geeks.

Movies:

way way backBest Movie(s) of the Month: Enough Said, The Way Way Back

Movies Watched: 15
New: 11
Re-Watch: 4
Theater Trips: 1

Thoughts on Movies Watched in January:

  • We watched quite a bit of horror in January, including both Insidious movies and the Carrie remake.  All three were pretty terrible.  The Carrie remake was particularly egregious, because I just can’t figure out what the point was of remaking it (okay, I know, money, whatever)
  • I finally, finally got around to seeing Austenland, and it was TERRIBLE.  Just, like, the worst.  I texted my sister about it, and she agreed, adding that it seemed like the screenwriter just gave up halfway through.

Goals for February:

  • Continue reading and watching diverse things.  Keep up with keeping track.

Happy reading and watching, readers!