AEL: The Princess and Curdie, No.6 ep.2, OUaT fic, Revisionary, Wonder Woman (2009)

The Princess and Curdie — The moralizing in this book is ridiculously excessive and heavy-handed. That may be the actual reason, more than anything else, I’ve read this one so much less frequently than its predecessor.

However, I am continually intrigued by MacDonald’s treatment of female characters. I’m particularly interested in Lina (whoa, am I talking about another Li/ena in an AEL?).

She’s established as a woman that made herself into a beast by living a life of sin, but the nature of her sins is never specified. Given the time period, one tends to jump to certain conclusions — i.e. that it was sexual “sin,” because that’s what women were primarily guilty of in the Victorian era — but a confirmation of that guess is never so much as hinted at. What is pretty well confirmed, however, is that she has repented of whatever it was and recovered her humanity to the fullest possible extent.

The way Victorian society treated women that committed “sexual sin” (and I won’t touch on the way some women in some societies are still treated, because that’s far outside my point) is deeply disgusting to me, and those attitudes are, of course, reflected in the literature of the time. There are a lot of books I otherwise adore that actually makes me physically ill at times in their lack of empathy and forgiveness toward such women. I’m not even getting into whether or not I agree with their ideas of appropriate or inappropriate behavior — just their level of empathy and forgiveness toward the “fallen.”

Even the most empathetic and forgiving works have a tendency to hit a certain wall: that is, that even though a woman that has thus sinned may repent and find forgiveness in the eyes of God, she is still irrevocably lost to society. She cannot have stability, station, love, respect, or personal fulfillment; typically her only option is to live in seclusion or to die.

And, yeah, we see that same thing, pretty much, all over again with Lina in The Princess and Curdie. It’s clear she’s repented, and that during the time period spanned by the book she has become as innocent as a child. The characters whose opinion is of value to the reader consider her a worthy companion, and love and respect her. The events of the story allow her to be a badass with physical strength, moral fortitude, and intelligence, and she’s as well developed in personality as any one of the other rather flat characters.

And yet at the end of the book, the culmination of her story — presented as a happy ending, an ideal ending, and possibly the only appropriate ending — is for her to jump into and be consumed by a cleansing fire.

So what is this saying to women who have “sinned” — whether or not this “sin” is sexual in nature as I am assuming? What I read from it is, “You may repent, you may redeem yourself, you may be useful and even pretty worthy in some righteous endeavor, but when your usefulness is finished — when that endeavor is finished — there’s nothing left for you but to die. TO LITERALLY DIE.”

Now, it’s not impossible that this was the exact fate MacDonald envisioned for all the creatures that had lived lives of sin. Perhaps, because none of them could regain their physical humanity even after having repented and redeemed their spirits, death by purifying fire was the only fitting end for every one of them. But you’ll notice that that’s only a guess on my part, and that a woman that “was naughty” is singled out for this treatment within the book itself. To me it carries unpleasant and disturbing implications.

The elder Irene is an interesting character as well, and the part of the story that makes it the most difficult to take literally. Her actions and the attitudes of the other characters toward her make perfect sense in terms of the religious metaphor, but as literal people it’s all a little silly.

Still, it intrigues me that this Jesus-like figure is portrayed as female — and not the high priestess serving a higher power, but in fact the highest power mentioned in the books. The concept of virtue is separate, of course, but not personified, leaving the elder Irene as a truly godlike and unsurpassed character… and you don’t often see a woman in that position in this type of Christian work.

All of this leaves me with a great curiosity about MacDonald’s other works — fiction, that is; I’m really not interested in Getting to Know Jesus — since I’ve only ever read these two books and The Light Princess. So I’m throwing some stuff onto my Audible.com wishlist, and we’ll see what else I can make of this guy, and whether he writes with as much pronoun confusion in his other books as well :D

No.6 episode 2 — Futuristic societies presented in fiction tend, in my experience, to have overarching societal morals reflecting one of two things: the ideals the writer cherishes, or the evils the writer fears. There’s not often much of a medium between utopia and depravity, I find.

Admittedly it’s impossible to predict where real society will go in the future and how all its generalized attitudes and their nuances will change. I certainly don’t blame writers for not coming up with anything that seems particularly accurate. What I do blame them for is lazily falling back on extremes for no apparent reason, or for just not seeming to think about it at all.

The futuristic society of No.6 seems, thus far (and, yes, I know I’m only 18% of the way through this series), to fall into the “didn’t seem to think about it much” category.

Here we’ve got a society in which a pregnant woman without a man in the house is assumed to need a man to move in and help her, and where every female character we’ve seen except one is occupying a distinctly domestic role… and yet wherein a woman can openly and blatantly request that a man she hasn’t seen for years have sex with her in a non-romantic context, and he reacts only with the awkwardness of one that isn’t interested and not as if her request is anything unusual or shocking.

They went to a lot of trouble to set up an idyllic world with all this fantastic technology, and to hint that all is not right with it, without, apparently, thinking a lot about a lot of the little details of life in that world. I feel like the line that established the attitude about a pregnant woman without a man around was a throwaway — the conversation could have been about anything and served the scene just as well — and the writers didn’t really consider how it would play into the building of their world. But it does play in, whether careless or deliberate, and makes for an eclectic picture of this futuristic society.

Aaaaanyway. In this episode we also indulge in the time-honored tradition of having hair that’s already grown out turn grey/white to indicate aging. Hair has never worked that way, and yet we keep seeing this…

I’ve been getting a DoP vibe from this series from literally its first moments (when Nezumi is running from soldiers through what appears to be a sewer tunnel), and that certainly wasn’t lessened by his reappearance to rescue Shion and take him Downside to whatever crappy village exists outside of Paradise the numbered utopias, where presumably seduction and terrorism against the inhumanely imbalanced system will take place. And this got me thinking about nostalgia, and the important difference between art and art experience.

Everyone knows that art banking largely on nostalgia tends to suck. You get your reboot or decades-later sequel that has more rehashed lines from the original than fresh dialogue and more fanservice to old characters than flesh to new ones, and creators assuming the selling power of the old brand name will carry the “new” creation through a run that will return on their investment.

Or else you get a story set in a particular era or location that’s weak on plot and character but super effective in evocative, accurate imagery of that era or location, so it wins a Newberry on the strength of its nostalgia despite being entirely pointless and without impact in every other respect. Yeah, nostalgia and art don’t mix well.

Nostalgia and art experience, however, can be an extremely potent combination. An inferior or mediocre work of art can be transmuted by nostalgia into a thoroughly enjoyable experience, a superior work into a spectacular experience. A work of art that did have thought and love and talent put into it, regardless of just how effective the result would normally have been, can be bound to heart and memory, thanks to nostalgia, by ties stronger than the artist could ever have guessed or counted on.

This phenomenon obviously cannot, therefore, be a consideration in the creation of art (except perhaps as a sort of optimistic daydream promise that maybe someday, somewhere, completely by luck, your art is going to strike just that right chord in someone and they’re going to idolize it)… but it’s a very interesting consideration (at least to me) in the experience of art.

I would probably enjoy No.6 without any nostalgia involved (despite what complaints I may have made about it XD), but I doubt that, without The Downside of Paradise in my past, I would be so emotionally engaged so quickly in these poignantly familiar themes, nor so breathlessly interested in how they’ll be dealt with.

Temporary Distractions by amycareyOnce Upon a Time is a train-wreck of a TV show that started out mediocre-with-some-fun-ideas and turned abysmal-with-mostly-terrible-ideas. That doesn’t stop me from shipping the shit out of Emma and Regina, though, and honestly it was the queerbaiting that kept me watching for so long. (I stopped about halfway through 5b and just follow what’s going on through LilyRoRoSparks‘ hilarious summaries, though I did, of course, watch Ruby Slippers.)

Anyway, OUaT has joined the ranks of “fandoms that suck but I still kinda follow because the fanfiction is better than the canon,” and it’s funny what derivative mediocrity you’ll happily put up with when it’s still technically better than a terrible source with aspects you foolishly have some emotional investment in.

I mean, this fic wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. I enjoyed it, but there wasn’t anything about it I liked well and specifically enough about it to leave a review. So kudos it was, and, holy crap, mediocre author, way to make my oh-so-superior ass jealous! (Not that that isn’t constantly happening anyway with those shitty Saitou/Sano fics that update sporadically or never and get way more attention than anything I post.) 344 bookmarks, 590 comments, and 2,975 fucking kudos are enough to shut my mouth right up on this subject!

Revisionary — I am 66% through this book, and super eager to know how it’s going to turn out. After the end of the Princess series (*sob*), I’m well aware of certain lines Jim is more than willing to cross, and that actually kinda makes it more interesting.

Another thing that’s interested me has been the fact that we’ve kinda expanded in scope with each book — and not in a video game sort of “we’ve all leveled up together, so of course the enemies are more powerful” way, but a far more natural way that reflects well the expansion of magic (and the awareness thereof) in the world.

OK, that part where he pulled the winged shoes out of The Lightning Thief? I was sitting there the whole time like, THOSE SHOES WERE CURSED THIS IS A BAD IDEA OK AT LEAST PLEASE ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THEY WERE CURSED WHAT ARE YOU DOING. Cross-fandom freakout, yo.

Got no more to say about this one right now except that the autobody-shopping I anticipated did not take place YAY.

Wonder Woman (2009) — I’ve never been a follower of DC Comics, but, having heard a lot of good things about their recent animated movie lineup (including LESBIANS), when a friend recommended I start with this movie if I wanted to watch them, I figured I would.

Overall, I’m not sure how I felt about it. I thought the story was decent, but that it wasn’t very well executed from beginning to end. It almost seemed it was missing scenes that would have improved the flow and made it more logical/comprehensible, and the pacing wasn’t very good. Also, the feminism — which is something even a DC-ignoramus like me associates Wonder Woman with pretty strongly and appreciates her for even from afar — seemed fumbling and shallow and eventually kindof undermined by a relationship-payoff moment that hadn’t really been earned.

I did appreciate the variety of skin tones, though a lot of the Amazons still looked excessively white for a Greek-based society, and I liked Diana’s somewhat Greek nose. But I thought the awkward dialogue throughout, mostly delivered by awkward voice acting, was particularly jarring in the face of the fairly pleasant animation.

Though I’m not a fan of gore, I’m almost equally not a fan of bloodless battles; I find them very disconcerting. Weird as it sounds for me to say this, I actually enjoyed the level of violence in this movie, since it didn’t tiptoe around the level of violence involved in actual battle and war. But when someone gets stabbed right through the body with a sword that’s then extracted with not a single drop of blood to be seen? I think that lessens the impact of the scene and de-humanizes the characters. It certainly hits me right in the uncanny valley.

Though I’m tired to death (pun intended) of evil Hades, I found his visual presentation and his cleverness interesting enough to forgive that. Diana as a character seemed fairly flat, and I was far more interested in Artemis and Alexa as PEOPLE I WANT TO SHIP characters. Steve was a heel I could have done entirely without, especially his line about being a womanizer because he just doesn’t want to get hurt again, poor lamb.

So, yeah, overall… hmm. I did enjoy it to some extent, and I don’t feel like it’s a bad start to my watching of DC comics animated movies, assuming subsequent entries will be artistically superior.

There’s more stuff, but I’m never going to get caught up on it all in one post. Time to put this one up and start a new one.

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