movies in melbourne (as if we don’t have enough of that)

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In blatant Melbourne bias, now that the Melbourne International Film Festival is over, here is a list of film festivals on over the next five to six weeks. You should go see some movies!

Arab Film Festival, currently running until Saturday.

Israeli Film Festival, currently running until 4 September. Also in Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Byron Bay.

Czech and Slovak Film Festival, 21 August – 10 September. A theme of resistance and a celebration of Czech and Slovak events. Also taking place in Sydney.

Bayside Film Festival, 27-31 August. I am particularly excited about their youth project where they work with Bayley House and Berendale.

Environmental Film Festival, 4-12 September. Advancing the knowledge and understanding of environmental issues.

Korean Film Festival in Australia, 9-16 September. Also taking place in Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide. With a welcome to Hallyuwood and some awesome Korean cinema.

Girls on Film Festival, 12-14 September. Movies by feminists, for feminists. Stories of women and strength.

Italian Film Festival, 17 September – 12 October. Also in Sydney, Canberra, Hobart, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Byron Bay.

Also the Melbourne Writer’s Festival starts tonight!

in your face

Hello! As ladies with opinions, Liz and Stephanie are here to bring you some opinions on books recently consumed.

These are not really SFF, but they are Australian, so if you like crime and mystery check out the books shortlisted for the Ned Kelly awards, noted here by friend of No Award Fi. The Ned Kellys are the annual crime awards for Australia. There are some excellent reads on that short list.

On Stephanie’s to be read list this week: The Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists, Jane Rawson.  Melbourne’s climate change dystopia. SUPER EXCITE.

Liz does not plan her reading in advance, as that’s a level of organisation that’s beyond her.  Her recent reading includes:

The Sleeping Partner by Madeleine E Robins, a mystery set in a very-slightly-alternate Regency England.  This series has been out of print and hard to find for a while, but has just recently become available in ebook form, with a brand new third novel.  I appreciate the way Robins mostly uses her alternate history to increase the presence of women — here, Queen Charlotte becomes George III’s regent, and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin survives the birth of her younger daughter, albeit with a disability.  The heroine is not quite Lizzie Bennet with a sword, but she’s delightful nonetheless.

For 88 cents, she bought Operation Mincement by Ben Macintyre.  This was picked up because Liz enjoys the interesting corners of history, but it’s also quite funny (if you enjoy shenanigans with corpses and wry observations about imperialism).

Stephanie is currently reading a book that will shortly be included in an article temporarily titled “doing it wrong”. It’s River of Gods by Ian McDonald, which is a gross example of entitlement and cultural appropriation in science fiction and fantasy; in this instance set in and stealing from India.

Liz recently finished Hild by Nicola Griffith, and found it disappointingly dudecentric. Though the heroine is very much bisexual, and has close sexual and platonic relationships with women, her primary attraction is to her illegitimate half-brother, a jerk who badly needs punching in the face.  Hild is interesting despite its flaws, but the reader’s hard work is rewarded with gross non-consensual incest (as Hild’s brother isn’t aware they’re related).

Please use the comments to rec and anti rec this week’s books.

 

53 important life lessons from Australian music of the ’90s

Ah, the ’90s.  Liz and Stephanie both came of age in that magical decade.  We have fond memories.  We both learned a lot from ’90s Australian music, and we thought it was time to share those lessons.

If this post has a theme song, it’s Kimbra’s “90’s Music”.  Obviously.

Gif from Kimbra's video for "90s Music": a child puts a video into a stickered machine and hits play.

For the purposes of this post, 2000 is absolutely part of the ’90s.  YES, WE ARE INTO THAT LEVEL OF PEDANTRY AROUND HERE.  Well, Liz is.

  1. At some point in its existence, every single share house in Australia will have “Accidentally Kelly Street” as its theme song. (“Accidentally Kelly Street”, Frente!)
  2. No matter how great your post-punk ’80s synthpop homage is, a deliberately incorrect apostrophe in your band name will ensure you’re a one hit wonder. (“Cry”, The Mavis’s)
  3. Thanks to that one montage in Heartbreak High, “Only When I’m Sleeping” will always seem melancholy and ultimately heartbreaking. (Stephanie note: THAT’S BECAUSE IT IS COME ON)  (“Only When I’m Sleeping”, Leonardo’s Bride)
  4. Australians invented girl power; the Spice Girls just had better marketing. (“Girl’s Life”, Girlfriend)
  5. Actually, you don’t need to wash your jeans that much. (“Dirty Jeans”, Magic Dirt)
  6. In every pop queen there is an alt-pop singer-songwriter yearning to be free. (Kylie Minogue, Impossible Princess)

    Album art for Impossible Princess: Kylie Minogue crouches, knees apart, in a prism of light.

    Kylie has yet to top “Did It Again” for quality and self-awareness.

  7. It’s possible to have an earworm in 2014 from a song you heard once in 1998 and never managed to track down a copy of, even though the internet assures you the lead singer in that obscure Melbourne group is still totes hot.  (“Delicious”, Moler)
  8. It’s wrong, but Liz liked that song about American hegemony and teen angst a bit more after it’s used in Buffy.  (“American Shoes”, Motor Ace)
  9. The nicest boys can write the stalkiest songs.  (“Everywhere You Go”, Taxiride)
  10. Don’t ask Dannii Minogue to look after your goldfish while you’re away.  (Cover art, “All I Wanna Do” single)

    Danni(i) Minogue, in her blond incarnation, is ... sexily licking goldfish water?

    Seriously, Dannii, what are you doing to that fish? And why do you change the spelling of your name every few years?

  11. Girls like that don’t go for guys like us (but your 32 year old self will realise that’s just a classic case of nice guy itis from the 90s) (“Girls Like That (Don’t Go For Guys Like Us)”, Custard).
  12. A mixed-race girl from the outer suburbs of Perth can be just as much of a pub bogan as anyone else, a realisation you’ll make the first time you ever hear “Holy Grail” and every time after. (“Holy Grail”, Hunters and Collectors)
  13. Every friend has their flaws, but they’re awesome regardless and you still love them. (“You Sound Like Louis Burdett”, The Whitlams)
  14. Flower hats will go out of style (non Australians may know them as Blossom hats), but you will always, in your heart, wish they come back (“Take It From Me,” Girlfriend)
  15. Brown Australian boys can be just as cool as white boys from anywhere (and this was important in Stephanie’s identity formation) (“Let’s Groove”, CDB)
  16. The rest of the world has other flavours of Coke! (“I Want You,” Savage Garden)
  17. Every breakup mixtape for the rest of your life will include the lines “I’m like a waterlogged ball / That noone wants to kick around anymore”. (“Heavy Heart,” You Am I)
  18. There are hipsters, and they come from Freo (“Sweater,” Eskimo Joe)
  19. Every Australian loves David and Margaret (the video clip for “Greg! The Stop Sign!” TISM)
  20. Liz’s home town was famous in the ’90s as the home to a whole lot of meth cooks.  (“Caboolture Speed Lab”, Custard)
  21. Stella One Eleven’s In Your Hands is a perfect work of feminist folk-rock, and absolutely worth spending a decade hunting down on CD after Liz’s Walkman ate the cassette.  (Stella One Eleven, In Your Hands)
  22. Even at the age of 13, you know that “When I kiss your mouth, I want to taste it” is a fairly sexual lyric, and no amount of disingenuous denials in radio interviews will change that.  (“Mouth”, Merril Bainbridge)
  23. No matter how floppy the hair or sincere the puppydog eyes, one great boyband cover of a disco track doesn’t equal a great album.  (CDB, Glide With Me)

    Album art from CDB's first album -- four gorgeous young men of Middle Eastern or Mediterranean descent stare broodingly at the camera. They are so sincere.

    Liz had the cassette.

  24. (For a boyband who had one hit and then vanished into obscurity, CDB were surprisingly important to No Award.  They are now the official boyband of No Award.)

    The same men, nearly two decades later. The facial hair is a bit more assured. The floppy haired one had it cut.  They've still got it.

    DON’T WORRY, THEY’RE STILL GORGEOUS.

  25. Paul McDermott and that blonde-haired Wiccan with the culturally appropriative Bindis should have collaborated more.  (Paul McDermott and Fiona Horne, “Shut Up/Kiss Me”)
  26. Can’t drink the water in Sydney. Can’t eat the food in Japan. Can’t breathe the air in Los Angeles but a million people think they can. (Frenzal Rhomb, “Never Had So Much Fun”)
  27. Bad boys are overrated.  (Girlfriend, “Bad Attitude”)
  28. Simplicity is timeless.  (“The Day You Went Away”, Wendy Matthews)
  29. Can’t dance?  At least try to vogue. (Video for “Human Race”, Margaret Urlich)
  30. No Award does not endorse age-related prescriptivism, but nevertheless, there may come a time when it seems a bit silly for a grown woman to sing about pashing.  (“Pash”, Kate Cebrano)
  31. Objectifying women isn’t cool, but CGI is pretty great.  (“Polyester Girl”, Regurgitator, and associated video)
  32. In some cases autotune and associated voice processors are good and necessary things.  (Diana Ahnaid/Ah Naid/Anaid, any of her live songs compared with a studio track)
  33. Why can’t everything be like before?  Time moves ever onwards, but fuzzy guitars are forever.  (“Pace It”, Magic Dirt)
  34. A song can be really beautiful and insightful and brilliant, and then descend into self-congratulatory grossness because white men think they’re hilarious.  (Last 30 seconds of “No Aphrodisiac”, The Whitlams.)
  35. Sisterhood is great…  (“Sister”, Sister2Sister)
  36. …especially if you’re fighting ninjas together.  (“Venus or Mars”, Jackson Mendoza)
  37. The 20th century sucked, but the year 2000 will bring a dramatic positive change.  (And just because it’s the ’90s doesn’t mean we should stop hating Thatcher.)  (“Anthem for the Year 2000″, silverchair)
  38. Don’t put up with people who don’t take you seriously.  Especially dudes.  (“Don’t Call Me Baby”, Madison Avenue)
  39. Falling in love is a lot like experiencing a traumatic injury.  (“Buses and Trains”, Bachelor Girl)
  40. Bass addiction is a serious problem in modern society.  (“Addicted to Bass”, Josh Abrahams & Amiel Daemion)
  41. From girlpop queen to goth-infused pop singer-songwriter via world music is a really great progression.  (“Sick With Love”, Robyn Loau, “Manu”, Siva Pacifica)
  42. In the wake of the Columbine massacre, nothing is more appropriate than a cheery alt-pop song about a public shooting.  (“Run Baby Run”, deadstar)
  43. Is there anything better than grunge?  Yes, grunge with a woman on guitars and vocals.  (“Down Again”, The Superjesus)
  44. Grunge pop with a woman on vocals and white-person dreads on everyone is less great, but still important in demonstrating that kids from tiny country towns can make a big noise.  (“Weir”, Killing Heidi)
  45. If you were an Australian Voyager fan in your teens, Powderfinger’s “My Happiness” may have been a really important song for you.  Also, Roma Street Station is no place for a tiny CGI slinky.  (“My Happiness”, Powderfinger)
  46. Being a teenager is really hard, but somewhere out there is an indie band who gets it.  (“Teenager of the Year”, Lo-Tel)
  47. If you’re 11 years old, the “when you make love to me” line in Danni(i?) Minogue’s “This Is It” is pretty racy.  I mean, if you’re quite a sheltered 11 year old.  (Julian McMahon’s chest hair is also troubling.)  (Dannii Minogue, “This Is It”)
  48. Ex-child star striving for credibility after an awkward “sexy” album?  Think sepia. Everyone takes beige seriously. (“Chains”, Tina Arena)

    Tina Arena (pouty white woman with shoulder-length brown hair) looks pensive in sepia tones.

    This is a serious business album cover.

  49. Bad break-ups come with surprisingly violent imagery, and maybe it’s safest to be single forever. (“Torn”, Natalie Imbruglia)
  50. If a New Zealander writes a really good theme song for all the wistful, dreamy girls who will in a decade worry if they’re secretly manic pixie dream girls, well, New Zealand is practically Australia, right? (“Sway”, Bic Runga)
  51. Australian musicians can do weird and emotional alt-rock just as well as Tori Amos or Fiona Apple, even if tedious Triple J dudes will laugh at her a few years later.  Because they’re JERKS.  (No Award does not endorse stalking even if the riffs make it sound totally empowered.)  (“Coma”, Max Sharam)
  52. The very first time you hear a pop song with an Australian accent, it will sound weird and affected.  (“Ordinary Angels”, Frente!)
  53. If a brown person writes sings a song about their home in the Torres Strait or just north of Arnhem Land, it will be co-opted by the mainland for generic Australian pride.  (Christine Anu, “My Island Home”)

How serious are we about this post?  It has its own playlist on Spotify.  Think of it as No Award Radio.  Or don’t.  We’re not the boss of you.  Sadly, because of the limitations of American music streaming services, it doesn’t have all the songs discussed here.  Yeah, we’re mad, too.

service: tell my jerkbrain that i can do this thing

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Dear all who were raised whilst being told they weren’t as good as white men, here is an article that tells you nothing new.

The Confidence Gap

A review of personnel records found that women working at HP applied for a promotion only when they believed they met 100 percent of the qualifications listed for the job. Men were happy to apply when they thought they could meet 60 percent of the job requirements. At HP, and in study after study, the data confirm what we instinctively know. Underqualified and underprepared men don’t think twice about leaning in. Overqualified and overprepared, too many women still hold back. Women feel confident only when they are perfect. Or practically perfect.

Australian ladies are in no way exempt from this terrible phenomenon, and although I’m struggling to find evidence, I suspect they are further constrained by the frustrating Tall Poppy Syndrome.

Photo: smiling quokka (Fin Popper/Creative Commons)

a quokka – secretly a killer (like all australians)

And non-ladies will also find this relevant; basically any member of any minority group who was told they weren’t as good as a conforming white man. Please ignore the USA tech industry biases in this article and apply its truths to your life as you see relevant. Note that what is considered self-confidence varies across cultures, traditions and upbringing, and can be exacerbated: when this article comments that assertive women are often considered bitches, it fails to note that black women (and men) in North America are considered uppity; that Asian women in Australia are considered dragons; that Aboriginal people are ignored as if they are not even there.

In light of this not new and completely unsurprising information about the role of misogyny in our established societal systems and jerkbrains, No Award and Penguin Productions are compelled to offer a new service: the I Can Burn It Down service.

Services provided in this program:

  • You ask: No Award, can I do this thing and crush this city to the ground? No Award replies: Indeed, you can do this thing, and lists you why so you can shut up your lying jerkbrain.
  • Positive reinforcement is aided by motivational sharks, an evil cat, and adorable penguins who will assess your abilities (all excellent) and experience (so great) and confirm for you that you can do this thing.
  • Reassessment of negative feedback from jerkface other parties, and confirmation that you can indeed burn it down.

This service was designed with Australians in mind, and please note that it is opt-in for all self identifying ladies, gender non-specifics, those who were forced to be ladies against their actual identity, and any others who were raised whilst being told they weren’t as good as gender-conforming white men and currently feel a need for this service.

The management recognises that sometimes it will not be available to provide this service, as all service operators are currently located in Melbourne, Australia. To that end, we also provide a handy toolbox below.

Techniques for those momentarily lacking the confidence to burn it down:

  • Armour yourself for battle. Stephanie likes to do this wearing wings and bright pink clothes, but this is not suitable for all world-destroying tasks.
  • Confirm it for yourself: Can I do 50% of this thing; if I were marked on my performance for this thing, would I earn a passing grade? If the answer is yes, then do the thing.
  • Is your jerk brain telling you no? Literally do the thing anyway.
  • Say this out loud: I contain multitudes. They will swarm out and subdue my enemies if I do not get my way.
  • Don’t take responsibility for things outside of your control. You are not a godling, despite your multitudes.
  • When someone tells you you can’t do the thing, put your feet firmly on the ground, cross your arms, and assert your dominance through an eyebrow raise.
  • Do not give ground.
  • On public transport, always establish your dominance, especially against those who consume more spaces than allotted. If you push back against their lavaballing, they will give way in surprise. Take advantage of this, and the endorphins of success it provides, to push harder. Hold onto this feeling when you disembark the tram.
  • Accept negative feedback, but only after running it through a trusted third party. You cannot have any of the best friends associated with No Award, but they are very good at their jobs and we recommend someone with similar skills.
  • ALWAYS ask someone society says is better than you to move their bag from the train seat. (Please don’t put your bag on the seat, anyone else, because I don’t want to have to consume you with my multitudes)
  • If you have something to say, say it.
  • Remember that your failures belong to society. Blame it accordingly.
  • Do not say sorry (except if you run over a cat. Then, maybe. MAYBE).
  • Always check the emails you write and remove excess apologies. Do not feel regret.
  • Do not run over a cat.
Creative Wombat - Common Wombat (Vombatus Ursinus) / https://www.flickr.com/photos/53368913@N05/6850727567/

wombat – definitely a killer

Leave a comment below to receive useful feedback from the No Award service. Others of the
No Award community are encouraged to aid this No Award service by also offering useful feedback. White cis men are allowed in the comments but will be gazed upon with non-yielding eyes.

 

snowpiercer: the revolution cannot be trusted if it’s white

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Here at No Award, there are two things we know for sure about our dystopic climate change future: It is brown; and we will be eating cockroaches.

In related news, you know that No Award went to the movies this week! I really, really liked Snowpiercer (Liz and I disagreed on how great Pacific Rim was, as well). But this is not that joyful shrieking as I clapped my hands. This is a look at the use of non-white bodies and Western imperialism and moral attitudes in our dystopic future. This analysis accepts the basic premise of Snowpiercer: that is, that all of humanity remaining exists on a high speed train that hasn’t stopped in 17 years. There are no questions about track repairs, wear and tear on the outside of the train, and the supply of animal carcasses. Maybe later.

The movie ends with two brown babies leaving to start the world again. Everyone else seems dead. This is correct. End of the world boils down to an Asian girl and a brown boy, protected at the end by an Asian father and a white man. I dig it.

Racially, there are few other things I dig.

This revolution is peppered with brown faces but ultimately led by white ones, from one end of the train to the other. It starts with the disobedience of a white dude, who is oppressed by a white lady (using her tools of white and not-white). It is controlled by two white men, paternalistic imperialists who do what they do for the good of everyone else, never mind what anyone else has to say. It’s led by the man-pain of a white man, and takes a long pause when we learn what we already knew (he knows what babies taste like, man, because being 17 when the world froze he was probably privileged and shielded).

As Liz mentioned, Curtis (the beautiful Chris Evans) turns his judgey face on those he is leading when he discovers that protein bars are made from cockroaches. He decides they don’t need to know. Never mind that people (not white people) willingly eat cockroaches now, before our dystopic future has arrived. Never mind that he makes the decision on their behalf, like a patronising jerk. Never mind that in 17 years on a train, they’ve probably already realised. But this is a story about a white man, at its core, and the decisions white men make on the behalf of everyone they think is less than them (every one).

It’s uncool that we had to watch brown bodies being used for everything; literally, brown bodies. Grey, played by Luke Pasqualino, had to use his shirtless brown body to communicate because he was unable to speak. I enjoy a brown man as much as the next person (probably more, being a brown bisexual, and I have loved Luke Pasqualino since he was in the Borgias and fully clothed), but this is hugely problematic. Brown bodies, especially male brown bodies, have long been used in Western media as either items of lust and hyper-sexuality or as items of abuse (including in slavery). The hairless, shirtless brown man who can’t speak in English has often been shorthand for the exotic, noble savage, and Grey, following Gillam’s instructions, does nothing but support that stereotype: the brown person here for the story of the white person.

Like Elysium, the white-skied brown-earthed saved by the localised/nativised white man story starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster and fewer brown people than I would have liked, the segregation of the brown tail end and the white-ish front end makes sense within the world. (I was, incidentally, so happy to see some brown children in the school car, though we really only saw that one smart-ass white girl). That the faces of control and violence are all white makes sense. That the faces of rigour and sticking to the rules are Asian are an uncomfortable stereotype of the model minority and super racist.

That the brown players are here for the consumption of the white person is confirmed by the costuming process, which you can read about in this interview. It is, at its essence, look at all the exotic clothes I put on all these white bodies. They’re so multi-ethnic! And they are. But, as always, with a white face, who takes what they can see and find but ultimately doesn’t understand what we’re here to do or what these stolen tools are for.

And in the end, Snowpiercer merely confirms everything we already knew. A cis white man cannot be trusted to smash the system; do not trust the white dudes with the revolution (cf Ms Hayley Inch in a text this morning). The system is always supported by brown bodies – literally, in the case of Grey’s very attractive yet constantly bare torso. And our climate dystopia is coming.

End note: I am interested in thoughts re: the ending, where Tanya, the African-American mother, has been replaced by Yona, holding Timmy’s hand as they walk (BARE-HANDED) into the snow. Whilst two brown babies is correct, there are thoughts around racial conceptions of motherhood that I don’t feel able to talk to but are worth discussing.

things your government has been doing

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UGH, AUSPOL. Why must you be the blurst? Anyway, to keep you up to date on reasons to hate our federal government, here’s a summary of some things over the last week. Don’t worry, there’s more.

Proposed Changes to the Dole

I HOPE YOU AREN’T ON THE DOLE, not because you’re lazy (you’re not) or undeserving (your government should support you), but because of the proposed job applying thingy. If you’re on Newstart or Work for the Dole, you might be applying for 40 jobs a month.  “What we want to do is to motivate job seekers to leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of a job,” Assistant Minister for Employment Luke Hartsuyker said, because people who are long term unemployed are definitely doing it on purpose.  Excitingly, Eric Abetz, actual Employment Minister, admits that this might mean employers are spammed with fake, insincere, inconvenient job applications. But I am sure he is just being over-cautious.

Excellently, Centrelink won’t help you do selection criteria for jobs because it takes too long! And someone has handily put together this guide for applying for 40 jobs as quickly as possible.

157 Tamil Asylum Seekers Not on a Boat

157 asylum seekers have been stuck on a boat for a month (thanks, Customs, for keeping us safe), but have finally been allowed to get off the bloody boat. Scott Morrison says this is only because India wants to interview them and take them back, not because he is stopping his very important task of turning back the boats. This might not actually be legal? Who knows anymore. Scott Morrison says the Tamil asylum seekers are ‘economic migrants’ from India which suggests he doesn’t really know a lot about Sri Lanka and India and Tamils, which doesn’t surprise me at all. Even the Indian High Commissioner to Australia, Biren Nanda, says Tamil people living in Indian refugee camps usually aren’t actually citizens of Indian, which demonstrates just how much Morrison listens to brown people (never).

Carbon Tax

Fulfilling a grand total of one actual election promise, the Carbon Tax has left us temporarily (give it time). Given Steph is a climate change campaigner, it will not surprise you to learn she disagrees with our PM’s assessment of it as ‘toxic’, and that its abolishment will boost confidence.

Privacy and Spy Stuff

Although it’s pretty traditional to make fun of ASIS and ASIO, there’s some new stuff being proposed about data retention (which nope. Nope. I can barely be trusted to keep my own records, I don’t want others keeping it), ASIS’ ability to spy on Australians overseas without Ministerial approval (which makes me feel super safe), and compelling use of third-party computers (ie, people who aren’t under investigation).

The Great Barrier Reef

I am super pleased to tell you, via information provided by Environment Minister Greg Hunt, that Australia’s largest coal mine, recently approved and between us and the GBR, will not impact the Great Barrier Reef! The extra 450 large ships that will have to sail through the GBR to get there every year are totally negligible, and the high water use of coal mines will absolutely not impact the local marine areas. Handily, if this seems confusing, yesterday saw the triumphant return of Ian the Climate Denialist Potato at FDotM to explain the impacts of the mine and how it’s all totally okay and Greg’s a great guy.

 

No Award goes to the movies: Snowpiercer

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Actually, half of No Award went to the pub, then we met up in a cocktail bar, then we went to the movies.  (Stephanie’s post is coming … soon.)

None of this pre-movie drinking was enough to make Snowpiercer live up to its hype.

The rest of this post contains spoilers, because it’s not so much a review as a reaction, and occasionally I just need to stand back and go, “Okay, really?  SERIOUSLY?”

Sometimes it seems like Tumblr fandom has very low standards.  Like thinking that Pacific Rim, a movie where a whole lot of people of colour die and a white dude has manpain, is a shining beacon of progressivism and representation.  See also: giving Team Welcome to Night Vale cookies for being nice to queer people.  Who hurt you, Tumblr?  Who let you think the bare minimum was good enough?

In this case, we know who taught that lesson: Hollywood.  But by accepting the framing of the original cut of Snowpiercer as original and inclusive and brilliant, we’re just continuing to let them write the narrative.

Snowpiercer is a movie about Chris Evans, white guy, leading a revolution inspired by his mentor, John Hurt, white guy, against Ed Harris, white guy.  Along the way, Octavia Spencer plays a Mother Who Loves Her Son and Kang-ho Song and Ah-sung Ko play Asian Supporting Characters With Useful Arbitrary Skills And A Subplot Of Their Own That Isn’t Really Explored In Depth.  And Tilda Swinton spends a third of the movie chewing the scenery, which is brilliant and delightful and kind of just highlights how by-the-numbers everything else is.  Except that it’s on a train, which is cool because trains are great.

This is a movie that pulls its punches.  The oppressed tail end passengers are fed on protein bars, black gelatinous strips that don’t remotely resemble the western food craved by Chris Evans and Jamie Bell.  When the revolutionaries reach the car where these protein bars are manufactured, we learn the HORRIFIC and TERRIBLE TRUTH about their origin:  they’re made from cockroaches.

Okay, that’s pretty gross, but between you and me, I was expecting to find out they were made from the children abducted from the tail section in the first act.  Given a choice between “starvation” and “cockroach jelly”, I’ll take the jelly any day.  Hell, cockroaches are a delicacy in some parts of the world.  So the montage of ignorant revolutionaries happily gorging themselves on protein bars while Chris Evans looks on in silent judgement is hardly warranted.  We don’t need you to be our food police, Scruffy Chris Evans Revolutionary Dude.

Now, try not to be too shocked when I tell you that the passengers in the forward section of the train aren’t eating cockroach jelly.  They’re eating sushi, fresh fruit and steak.  The train is a metaphor, you see, for class and oppression, which is why there are multiple speeches about people having pre-ordained places that they just have to accept.  If this is the cut that Harvey Weinstein thought too complex for the average American viewer, I’d hate to see the edited version.

As it happens, Chris Evans’s pre-ordained place is Revolutionary Leader and Future Train Leading Dude, as arranged between Ed Harris and John Hurt.  This is probably not intended as a metaphor for white patriarchy, but it works surprisingly well.  I can’t say I really cared, but that’s because Curtis the White Revolutionary Played By Chris Evans just isn’t very interesting.  And I can’t really blame Evans for that — he seems like a delightful human labrador, and very nice and all, but he’s not really a guy who can rise above a mediocre script.  And this script was thin as paper.

Not to mention lazy.  Security specialist/drug addict Namgoong Minsu is awoken from stasis to assist the revolution; a few scenes later, he tells his daughter, Yona, about a landmark he looks for “every year”.  Except the unstated number of years he was sleeping, I guess.  Yona, at 17, is too young to remember life before the train … except she can’t be exactly 17, because she too has been in stasis.  In a couple of scenes, Yona demonstrates clairvoyancy, which doesn’t seem to surprise or amaze anyone.  Later … nothing.  Towards the end, Ed Harris congratulates Curtis on being the first human being to travel from one end of the train to the other.  But earlier we saw his sidekick Claude, memorable for being a beautiful plump woman in a striking yellow coat, visit the tail end.  Now she’s there, in that very scene, at the front.  Are fat women not human beings?  No, it’s just this impossibly careless script.

The most shocking thing the movie does is kill off most of the characters and leave only Yona and Timmy, an adorable black child, alive.  Well done, I guess, but what is the point?  Yona has had no arc of her own; Timmy was barely in the movie.

I’m pretty bummed that I didn’t enjoy Snowpiercer more, because I was really looking forward to seeing it.  I’m tired of properties being hailed as incredibly original or progressive or even simply good, and then finding, no, they’re just mediocre.  I like big, dumb movies, and I enjoy finding the shreds of intelligence that exist within them — the opposite experience is just depressing.  Snowpiercer had some really great scenes, but I almost wish I’d walked out after Tilda Swinton died, so I could imagine a much better final third in place of what we actually got.

Tribe: One Heartbeat

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You can be forgiven for not knowing what that means. I’ve read the flyer and looked at the facebook page, and I still don’t know.

What I do know is that this is what the back of the flyer looks like:

tribe ugh

And that the front of the flyer says ‘connect feeling, share expression, awaken life.’ This event is apparently about community, but whose community? At between $55 to $80 for a ticket, with a WHITE AS clientele except for performers (and that one kissy face dude in the corner), I have my suspicions.

From the Trybooking page: WHO COMES: Everyone is invited! From children to grandparents! The main clientele is usually conscious people who want to celebrate their hearts openly in fun and play. And by defacing the heritages and cultures of other peoples, I guess. This event will apparently open with a sacred ceremony (sacred to whom? Cannot wait to see whose culture they indiscriminately mine to contribute to this feeling of transformation).

As always, thank you for including brown people in your event. By paying us to be performers and then abusing our cultures and heritages.

Power, abuse, fandom

Warning: Contains discussion of sexual abuse, including that of children, in a variety of contexts.

Marion Zimmer Bradley enabled her husband to sexually abuse children, and molested her daughter.  Though the business with her husband was apparently common knowledge in some circles, it has only been brought into the open in the last few weeks, and the allegations from her daughter are recent.  Natalie Lurhs at Radish Reviews provides links to discussions, including depositions.

As Natalie — along with others — is saying, fandom needs to take a long look at its history and start addressing these issues.  But it’s not just us:  the fashion industry is still dealing/failing to deal with Terry Richardson; the Australian military has a long history of bastardisation, sexual assault and ongoing abuse in a variety of contexts; the Catholic and Anglican churches, the Orthodox Jewish community of Melbourne, the Salvation Army — secular or religious, celibate or promiscuous, straight or gay, all the identities that don’t fit neat binaries, there’s potential for abuse.  Humans arrange themselves into hierarchies, and then we defend our new status quo, and in doing so, create a space where crimes can be concealed.

In my day job, I’m a court transcriber.  All too often, I deal with child sexual assault.  The other week, I had to listen and type as a defence barrister argued that the sexual penetration of a child under 12 was not rape, because the child might have been “promiscuous”.  (I tend to type this stuff with some nice animal pictures on my second screen, or while doing some mindless internet shopping.)  Sickening stuff.

I can’t do anything about the legal system except produce accurate transcript and hope that it comes to the attention of someone who’s in a position to do more.  And try to vote for candidates who are interested in reform.  What I can do, as a fan and a con runner (people who are chairing Continuum 11: me), is try to make fandom and convention spaces safer.  This isn’t always easy, especially as I’m a relatively young con runner who isn’t part of the whisper network.  I have pretty good instincts about people, and access to fans with longer memories, but I worry that isn’t sufficient.

Continuum has a code of conduct which includes a harassment policy.  It’s revised annually, along with internal procedures for dealing with complaints, and the committee is made aware of it.  This year, we had copies of the code of conduct posted in the foyer and published in the con book.  We also make it clear that children’s programming is not childcare, and children must be accompanied by an adult at all times.  (And, in the kids room, adults must be accompanied by children.)  We welcome having children in our community, and we want them to be safe.

I think it’s good that the convention community is doing some soul searching and working to improve the safety of children.  But cons aren’t the whole of fandom, and the con-going community is by far outnumbered by fandom online.

Is the internet safe for kids?  AHAHAHAHA NO.  And I’m not here to tell people with real, actual children how to supervise them online.  I just have a cat, and I can assure you that he’s not allowed on the internet without an adult human present.

But here’s the thing: fans create fan work, and some of these artefacts are problematic in terms of their sexualised portrayal of children.

Now, drawing [insert underaged characters here] porn is not the same as recording the abuse of an actual flesh and blood child.  But in Australia, and some other jurisdictions, the law doesn’t draw a distinction.  This has been the source of much amusement on the internet, not to mention inconvenience to, say, academics doing studies of manga.  But there’s a reason:  it is not uncommon for abusers to groom their victims by exposing them to illustrations depicting characters from children’s media in sexual situations.  Back in the day, these were pretty crude sketches.  These days, abusers just hit Tumblr.

In 2007, LiveJournal suspended a whole mass of accounts based on keywords in profiles and interests.  This was a heavy-handed and largely pointless exercise — among the deleted were survivor communities and Nabokov reading groups — and it turned out that LJ had been moved to act by a sketchy and homophobic group that claimed to be targeting paedophiles.  LJ failed to communicate with its userbase, and this was basically the beginning of the end of its use as a fandom base of operations.

Aside from LJ’s singularly poor handling of the matter, Strikethrough — so called because suspended accounts had strikes through their names — triggered debate in fandom about the place of fanworks that portrayed underage sex.  A lot of it has been lost to time and friends lock, but among the voices were survivors who found catharsis in fictionalising their experiences.  But there were also red flags, like people saying, “Well, my writing attracts real paedophiles, and I’m nothing like that!” and arguing that it’s a myth that children cannot consent to sex.

The general consensus, in the end, was that the portrayal of underage sexuality was a legitimate fannish expression, and anyone who felt otherwise was a kink-shaming, sex negative prude.  And this has been on my mind in the past few weeks, because I read the Breendoggle documents, and that attitude, couched in the language of the 1960s, is exactly how Walter Breen got away with child abuse.

And no, most people writing or drawing underage sex in fandom aren’t paedophiles.  But if their work is being posted in public, it’s out there to facilitate child abuse.  And it’s easy to find, whether you want to or not.  (There’s a reason I don’t search Avatar character tags on Tumblr.)  It’s a myth that you can wander around the internet and just stumble across photographic child porn by accident, but fan art?  It’s everywhere.

(Spoilers: “But I’m just appreciating the aesthetics of the child porn!” is basically a police interview cliché.  It has its own bingo square.  Or would, if my colleagues and I were tasteless enough to make a child abuse bingo game.  Which we’re not.  Obviously.)

It’s part of the nature of the internet that we can’t control what happens to something after it’s posted — especially with groups that are determined to be as antisocial as possible, and yes, I’m thinking of last week’s Legend of Korra “livestream” that had rape porn in the ad breaks.  But I think it’s worth coming back to this issue again and reconsidering it in light of recent revelations and current knowledge about the way child abusers operate.  We need to consider our current status quo and the opportunities it creates for abuse.  Otherwise, in another twenty years, we’re just going to have more of these terrible revelations.

the bata shoe museum and the centering of the western experience

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I’m in North America at the moment, having a grand old time, visiting museums and eating at vegan restaurants and buying more things than I should. Last week I visited the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, which has a lot of shoes, and some interesting curation notes, including the one notation about Australia, which I have in part transcribed for you. Only in part because my photo didn’t really turn out, but you get the gist:

Among the indigenous people of Central Australia a Kurdaicha is a respected elder … the spiritual power to execute a transgressor. With this ability, the Kurdaicha is able to … with a pointing stick and secretly send some of the energy to the transgressor that will kill. The shoes the Kurdaitcha wears are … constructed out of emu feathers and kangaroo hair.

The museum was fun, but it was all like this. A complete disrespect of indigenous people, and non-European histories.

Deerskin slippers made by Wendat women in Canada impressed visitors at the Universal Exhibition in 1855. These deerskin vamps are decorated with very fine moose hair in a floral pattern appealing to the Western market.

Some questions one might ask:

  • Central Australia is pretty big and filled with a number of peoples. Is there any one peoples in particular this tradition belongs to?
  • How did you get these shoes, museum? Did some coloniser steal them?
  • I’m so glad the slippers impressed visitors! WHY ARE WE CENTRING THE WESTERN EXPERIENCE?
  • How did you get these slippers?

I love museums so much. But other problems this museum had: outdated names for indigenous Canadian nations and peoples, and a general lack of specificity around a number of cultures and countries. This is hardly a unique problem; it’s just disappointing. The colonial gaze is prioritised, and the voices of those whose lands we’ve stolen are smushed together and silenced. Great. Good job.

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Other things at the museum: the family behind me who looked at the lotus flower shoes and said “Are these for a child? These must be for a child” despite the notes on bound feet right there; learning about crinoline fire death; the chestnut crushing clog; and the smuggler’s clog, that looks like it’s stepping in the reverse direction.

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