Monday, November 30, 2009

I Watch TV

So in stunning news, I watch TV! This TV-watching doesn't just include educational things like MSNBC, the History Channel (a favorite of Ferret, actually), or the Bran Network. I watch cartoons, oh yes I do. Among others, I watch Chowder, and Spongebob, and Phineas and Ferb. Now what do these shows have in common? Well, the first two were both worked on by the same guy, C. H. Greenblatt. (Yes, that's his real name. He also worked on The Grim Adventured of Billy and Mandy, which I also LOVE.)
Anyway, that AND! They are some of my favorties to watch. They are all lots of fun and not too think-require-y and generally not problematic in terms of the messages or ideas behind the storylines. They usually have good messages or (in the case of Chowder) are so cool to look at that I don't care that the message is something like "Don't fill up your boss's kitchen with a family of fart-clouds". Don't ask.

The not-silver lining here, the problem that I have with these 3 particular cartoons- but not JUST these 3- is the female characters. All 3 shows are centered loosely around a pair of male characters. When they have ladiez onscreen, it's to be a romantic interest or a punchline. The female characters are usually more 2-dimensional and less sympathetic than the guys. And that makes me sad, because I wish there was something I could watch on TV for pleasure that didn't make me wince at every girly giggle or shrieking harpy caricature.
But alas, guess not.

Let's get started, shall we? I'll be listing the main characters in each show, a couple supporting characters, and some traits, as well as whether or not we are meant to like each character. Me snarking about gendered behavior will be in italics.

SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS: Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? This show is about a sponge who's a fry cook being happy and well-dressed at the bottom of the ocean. Has been applauded for lack of sex and violence. Most of the characters don't exhibit stereotypical gendered behavior, which is refreshing. However, there're a few, and my main problem is that the female characters get way less screen time and are more often the butt of the joke than the male characters. Another case of male-as-default.

-Spongebob: Likable. Happy. Naive. The star of the show. Loves being a fry-cook, weirdly.
-Patrick: Likable, sort of. Very, very stupid. The literal star(fish).
-Mr Krabs: Crusty and really stingy, but sometimes sympathetic.
-Squidward: A squid, Spongebob's neighbor. Not likable. At all.
-Sandy Cheeks: Her name is a pun. Ha, ha. She's a literal outsider (a squirrel, underwater). She is shown as being smart, usually. Also a tough, athletic karate expert, which is refreshing. Unfortunately, she is in less episodes than, say, Squidward.
-Mrs. Puff: Spongebob's long-suffering driving instructor. A widow. Not a main character, but the only other regular lady in the series, besides
-Pearl: Mr Krabs's incongruous whale daughter. Spoiled girly teenager <-- Gasp! I've never seen a teenage girl depicted as bratty and spoiled before!
-Plankton: The bad guy on the show. Shouts a lot, and is really small. Has some issues, and I think this because of
-Karin: Plankton's wife, whom he made. Because she's a COMPUTER. Yeah. And every once in awhile he threatens to "unplug her" or "take her apart and build a new model" cause that's not creepy at all. <-- Wife as nagging and unsupportive.

CHOWDER: Fairly new to the scene. Features cool animation and visuals, as well as several different media like puppets or claymation. It's about an apprentice chef in a fantastic city where everyone has the name of a food. A lot of the humor is crude or absurdist. We are meant to understand that there are flaws in all these characters. Strangely enough, we don't often see anyone else cooking besides Mung and Chowder. Not sure why.

-Chowder: Happy. Gluttonous. Inept and scatterbrained. Seriously, would rather eat than cook, and in later episodes, endangers everybody with stupidity.
-Mung Daal: Head chef. Not a bad cook, I think? Patient with Chowder. Married, but still loves "the ladies", who don't generally love him back, as he is not quite as irresistible as he thinks. <--Oh look! Gendered behavior!
-Truffles: Mung's wife. Small and irascible. Everyone in the kitchen is afraid of her. Often yells, especially at her husband. She's the receptionist; we don't see her cook. <-- This would be nice, except it's a catering company. So, yup, lady-as-secretary. Also, lady-as-bitch.
-Schnitzel: Rock monster, sous chef. Really strong, serious, and often aggravated by Chowder. Responsible and long-suffering. Only says "radda".
-Panini: Ms. Endive's apprentice. Competent cook (we assume), feminine and very aggressive. Better cook than Chowder (not that that's hard), but we rarely see her cook. Freakily obsessed with being Chowder's girlfriend. Chowder isn't interested, so of course she stalks him compulsively and calls him "Num-nums". She gets pretty scary. <-- Do I even need to go into detail?
-Ms. Endive: Not likable. Image-conscious. Probably a better chef than Mung, her rival, but we don't get to see her cook often. She's huge, and her size is often a joke. Kind of deranged. Lonely, but treats everyone so badly we see why she's so unpopular. Simultaneously hates men and longs for a relationship. <--Really?? Come on. It's been done, people!
-Gazpacho: Runs the fruit stand. Mung and Chowder are customers, friends, and apparently neighbors. Neurotic and socially awkward. Lives with his mother, who is implied in one episode to be a split personality of him, a la 'Psycho'. Not sure if this is canon, but we never see her. He talks a lot about 'Mother' and describes some pretty creepy things. <--Another dude henpecked by a lady, even if she is... him. Maybe.

Mostly the gender jokes in this show are "Aren't women crazy/demanding/irrational/heartless/really crazy?" There's at least one or two per episode.

PHINEAS AND FERB- This is an awesome show about 2 stepbrothers who spend every day of their summer vacation inventing crazy things and having wild adventures. Lots of running gags and at least one catchy song per episode. Very little meanness and lots of creativity and friendship. They also have several female characters, it's just... you'll see.

-Phineas: Genius kid who has awesome ideas.
-Ferb: Genius kid who's quiet and knows how to build incredible things. The series revolves primarily around the crazy things these two build in their backyard every day of summer, despite the efforts of
-Candace: Their sister who's obsessed with 1)Getting them in trouble for their wacky inventions- meaning first getting their mother to believe her and 2)Her love-interest, Jeremy. <--Lady as spoilsport? Also, does crazy things for a man. Sigh.
-Stacy: Best friend to Candace. Kind of ditzy. Gives advice on shopping and boys. That's about all we see. <--Cause girls don't think about anything else! Unless of course they're
-Isabella: Smart, intrepid, goes on lots of adventures with Phineas and Ferb. Also adorably cute and infatuated with Phineas <--Aww, we were doing so well til that sentence! She's also the leader of
-The Fireside Girls: Mostly-unnamed (they're usually just shown as a group) and ethnically diverse troop of Girl-Scout types who are adventurous, smart and resourceful. Yay!
-Linda: Phineas and Candace's mom, who hides a past as a pop-star and goes around all day doing "mom" stuff. Doesn't seem to have a job. Never believes Candace and in fact, usually suggests she's crazy and mocks her behind her back. <--She's a mom, and that's about all we get.
-Laurence: Ferb's dad. British. Easygoing and a little loopy.
-Dr. Doofenshmirtz: Inept bad guy inventor out to take over the world, starting with "The Tri-State Area!" Played for laughs, definitely. Constantly thwarted by his battles with
-Perry the Platypus: Phineas and Ferb's pet platypus, who's actually a secret agent. Yeah, don't ask. It's funny though.

So essentially, this show is one of the better ones, it's just they have a lot of problematic issues with their treatment of girls. Candace is never believed and told she's crazy, Stacy's a ditz, and their Mom is apparently a SAHM who's utterly clueless. Other than that, though...

So you see? I feel like, even in cartoons we're not safe from gendered stereotypes. These shows are fun shows! Cool to look at, they make me laugh, and they usually aren't so stupid I want to cry (see the later episodes of Fairly OddParents for that). Are there any cartoons out there that're free from the bullshit?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Facebook Is Insensitive.

In other news, water- still wet. So I was bored and taking quizzes on Facebook, and one of them was "What's your mental disorder?" My result was OCD. This was the quiz result text:
"You are an extreme stickler for things. Things have to be just the way you want them to be, but you can’t help it, it is just your crazy coming through. You may be some neat freak, very repetitive, or maybe you just can’t help but pull out 12 hairs every time you hear a train. Whatever it is, people tend to mistake you for being crazy, but guess what, you kinda are. And another thing, the world is not gonna end if you lighten up a bit."

My thoughts? Okay... I'm pretty sure I'm not actually OCD. Just a tightly-wound control freak. (But hey, who isn't?) Also, from what I know of this disorder, OCD'ers do literally feel like "the world will end" or "something horrible will happen" if they don't follow through on their rituals. So, it's kinda flippant to say "lighten up, the world won't end". I'm sure they would if they could. And what's with the 'crazy'? That's not very nice.

Also, just because someone is a 'stickler' (who even says that anymore?), doesn't make them OCD.
So... how do real people with actual Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder feel about this quiz? I hear people making references to being "OCD" all the time, and it kinda bugs me. I feel like, for people who really have this disorder, that probably gets really old, really fast.
I hear "Oh, I'm just OCD!" by someone doing some random, overly neat or important-to-them little thing. I sometimes want to say, "No. You're not. You're neurotic, or perfectionist, or just plain weird. But arranging your hairclips by size doesn't mean you have a mental disorder. Shut up, already". I feel like it's up there with "That's so gay" as an annoying and inaccurate description of a vague negative that erases the people to whom it would actually apply. (Whew! That was a hell of a sentence!)

Of course, I'm talking out my ass here, so I'd welcome the thoughts or opinions of anyone out there who does actually have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Four-Hours-O'Sleep Post- with PSA!

So I went to the Shakesville meet-up in Chicago yesterday. And do you know, it was a very long drive. I had such a good time, though; it was totally worth it. But Ferret had work this morning, so we had to drive back later that night. It was Not Fun. I don't recommend it.
But we had such a great time- putting faces to names, having good food and conversation, watching Giant Shark vs. Mega Octopus (no, really, I swear), and laughing so hard I almost fell over. Ferret wasn't really expecting to enjoy herself- she was all grouchy and sick and like "but I don't know anyone!" That all changed when some lurkers at our table broke out the Settlers of Catan game. She was all over that. Which made me happy that she was happy. So cute.

I also got to meet Melissa McEwan, who is possibly the coolest person in the universe. Srsly, you guys, I was having a ~gasp**squee!**~ moment. I won't say Shakesville "changed my life", because that reminds me of a commercial for a weight-loss product- don't ask me, I don't know. I will say it changed the way I thought and felt and articulated about so many things.
So many, people. And I am profoundly grateful to her for creating that place.

I talked to so many great people- everyone was so awesome. I yammered on for 6. Solid. Hours. I have spent so long here in the house alone, talking to no one but the cats, mostly, til Ferret gets home. And she's really not a chatty person. So I felt like a sponge, soaking in all this conversation. And I felt like a floodgate, letting out SO MANY thoughts and feelings and opinions and "Oh my Ceiling Cat this shit I read yesterday is so funny I jizzed. in. my pants" type moments. I just wish that I could have it more often without having to drive for several hours. But I am very grateful for yesterday. And I am so, so glad we did go. We almost didn't, but then we did. Yay!
And I am so, so very out of it right now. Exhaustion blogging, wooooo!

I also wanted to add a PSA:
For those people who are dating Twilight fans- If she tells you she wishes you were more like Edward Cullen, this does NOT mean you should stalk her or attempt to control her life. (Unless she specifically asks you to do those things. Then yeah, get freaky.) What she probably means by this request is that she wants you to adopt a stupid hairstyle and frequently spout cheesy lines about how she's the center of your universe and how life is meaningless without her. You may also need to get some body glitter. (Disclaimer: Even if you do these things, she's probably not going to jump off a cliff if you dump her.)
If she says she's a Jacob fan, this is NOT an invitation to sexually assault her. Even if she doesn't punch you for it, her dad will probably not congratulate you when she tells him about it. She may mean she wants you to turn into a giant wolf, which means you will need to have A Serious Talk about either her preferences or her connection to reality. Good luck with that.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Movie Review (with extra parentheses)!

So my Ferret and I were browsing the secondhand stores for movies (since The Fantastic Mr. Fox isn't out in our town yet), and we found a Stan Lee cartoon in the Anime section called Mosaic. I don't expect much out of Stan, but this was... ugh. Ferret perhaps has lower expectations than mine, because she liked it.

It's about a girl who wants to be an actress (of course) who lives with her obsessive Interpol agent dad (of course) in a New York townhouse (of course). She's blond (of course) and cute and perky (of course) and likes to inexplicably dance around in her skimpy pajamas before bed (of course) and gets her powers in a freak accident (this is Stan Lee, so of course).
I'ma make like the Count from Sesame Street here: "Seven! Seven trite tropes! Ah-ah-ah!" And that's just so far.
I won't even go into the inherent sexism, truly awful dialogue (maybe it works better on a comic book page), made-for-tv animation, and 1-dimensional characters.
Hell, I won't touch the 'heroine foils would-be rapists' scene that all superheroine movies apparently must include by law.

Ferret pointed out that I had chosen the movie in the first place. I replied that the basic premise- chameleon girl kicks ass- was kinda cool, but to win my praise requires at least some originality and technique. They put more effort into the box design than the damn movie.

I mean, good start. Girl superhero, great. So... couldn't they make her plain, an aspiring doctor, or at least brunette? Could they give Storm some company and make her a POC? Could they at least make the animation and voice work good enough (Fail, Anna Paquin) to make her a good actress? Painful. And hearing Stan yammer on about how girls can relate to this girl- cause she's pretty and fun!- made me less disposed to be impressed by it from the beginning. Having a vagina does not automatically mean you relate. You could have given her some kind of depth.

Afterward, we watched Aeon Flux. It may make an apt comparison to say that I found it to be intelligent, subversive, refreshing movie-manna for my cerebellum after the previous brain-numbing animated excretion.

So, uh, listen Stan. Dude, you're not even trying. Please to retire with your pile of money and just go sign autographs at ComicCons from now on, okay?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

And Stay Out!

So I am feeling cranky today. Having had a week of period-induced mood swings and being banned from the computer after I read the news on Shakesville and broke down sobbing, I was looking forward to some Halloween fun. And there was some fun- I got to tie-dye my underwear, and be a really cute Velma! (These two facts really aren't related.)
Ferret and I were looking forward to going to the Halloween party at Local Gay Bar, checking out costumes, having a drink, and watching the drag show. One of the performers is a friend of ours, and we always like seeing her work. Unfortunately, it turned out to be not so fun. It was so crowded the Fire Marshal would have fainted, and so full of cigarette smoke our eyes started to water as soon as we stepped in. But we were determined to have a good time. There were some great costumes, good performance, plus we paid the cover charge, dammit! I was hoping to stick it out to see the costume contest, but we finally gave up and headed out. As we fought our way out, we heard the emcee say, "How many lesbians we got up in here?" [cheer] "Now how many gay boys?" [cheer] "And where are the straight people?" [really loud cheer].

Yup. The straight people outnumbered the queers in the one gay bar in town. And maybe it's my hormones, but that really bugged me. I try, I really do, to be inclusive. And I want everyone to get along. And I feel kind of... mean saying this, but:

Dear Straight People: EVERY OTHER BAR IN TOWN is for you. But hey, thanks a bunch for crowding me and my partner out of the one club we feel comfortable in because you want a cheap thrill on Halloween. Hey, you know what? The drag performers don't just do this on Halloween. They do it all the time. It's their thing. You can come see it even when you aren't in a costume. You can come see it even if you're sober. Yeah. But you'd know that, if you weren't all jerks. By the way, fuck you.

See? That's mean, right? But it's how I feel. There're never that many straight people there on a regular night, and there definitely isn't that level of binge-drunk stupidity.
Maybe if it hadn't been so crowded as to be the opposite of fun I wouldn't be bitching so much. Maybe. Maybe if there was that kind of crowd, with that percentage of non-queers, all the time, it would be different. Maybe I wouldn't feel like my community was made into a tourist attraction for one night. Maybe I wouldn't feel like my space had been taken over and appropriated. Maybe if there was more of a visible gay community, I wouldn't feel like this place is really all we have. Maybe if, I reiterate, every other bar in town wasn't a "regular" (meaning "for straight people" bar), this wouldn't be a big deal for me. Maybe.

Great. I feel angry, and I feel like an exclusionary bigot at the same time.

Oh well, next weekend it'll be back to normal.

Happy Halloween.
(By the way, if I go into the grocery store tonight and hear a bunch of cross-wearing preppies talking excitedly about their "Sam-hane night ritual", you'll see me on the news. I'll be the one in handcuffs.)

I really have no patience with anyone, do I?