Sirens and Asexuality

            Sirens is a short lived comedy from USA about Chicago paramedics. It’s a fun, competent show that in the end is somewhat forgettable. It had its moments but it needed time to grow into its own. Time it didn’t get. So why am I talking about this show? It has the distinction of being the only show with an openly asexual, ace, character on it. Granted, a recurring character, but still openly ace all the same. No headcanons or fandom or inferences, canonically ace. While headcanon and fandom can be invaluable subversive tools, there is something to be said for the vindication of on screen representation. While representation is just representation, the quality of that representation matters. Let’s just jump into it.

BEWARE OF SPOILERS YE WHO ENTER

We learn that one of the paramedics, Voodoo, is ace because Brian is interested in her. While there is a lot of acephobia, from characters being sex-obsessed and not being able to comprehend life without sex to the microaggression of “maybe it’s a phase”. It’s grating but the sequence works well enough to cement that the show treats asexuality as a real thing, culminating in this little speech:

You don’t want to have sex, and that’s fine with me ’cause I’m not having sex right now either. You don’t like sex, I happen to love it. From what I remember, it was pretty awesome…for me. I can’t really speak for everyone else involved. So forget sex. I like you. I think you’re funny and different and I never know what you’re going say. And obviously I think you’re beautiful. And if we never have sex, that’s ok ’cause I’m just happy being around you.

The episode then ends with Voodoo and Brian starting some kind of relationship.

This is all fine and good except the lack of focus and terminology means that the show runs afoul a misconception that it doesn’t address. Romantic and Sexual Orientation is not the same thing. Just because Voodoo is ace doesn’t mean she’s aromantic, or aro, The fact that one is left to extrapolate that Voodoo is aro isn’t good representation and how aces and aros function in a heteronormative society is a deep question that actual aces and aros have no good answer to, but the show never really addresses it. While the proper term for what they have is a queer platonic relationship there are specific problems.

We don’t see much of Voodo and Brian in the rest of the season one, so we only have a few things to work off of. The main one being that they are in some sort of relationship that is deeper than a platonic friendship. That’s the most we get in season one. Season two picks up a year later and that’s still the implied relationship. While they “break up” and I use quotes here to emphasize the vagueness, and have some remorse over it. But it’s hard to contextualize where these characters are coming from because they never define their relationship to us. We’re just left to fill in the blanks from a presumed heteronormative perspective. This is weak storytelling and offensive. The whole reason that aces and aros feel alienation is because of heteronormativity but if we are expected to understand their relationship through such a context then the value of representation is put into question.

Sirens gets credit for having an openly ace character, but it loses that credit as the show goes on and the shortcomings become apparent. It is a good first step, but more is needed. Till next time.

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Legends EU and The Force Awakens

Last week I wrote about my emotional response to The Force Awakens and commented on its quality. This week, I get to nerd out over the film in relation to the Legends EU. So what does that mean? When Disney bought the franchise they declared almost all of the EU, Expanded Universe, all the books and videogames and comics, got relegated to the Legends imprint so Disney could have a completely clean slate. This wasn’t surprising, as the EU had its fair amount of duds in it and had become so convoluted that a book was written to establish who in fact had gotten the plans to the first Death Star to the Rebel Alliance. A common expectation was that the new movies would be like the MCU, distilling the good ideas into a new form. Did that happen? Kinda sorta. Let’s jump into it.

BEWARE OF SPOILERS FOR EVERYTHING STAR WARS YE WHO ENTER

 

 

First, a quick note on background. I stopped reading the EU after the Dark Nest Trilogy but have some idea about both the Legacy era and the Second Galactic Civil War. As such, this shouldn’t be taken as any sort of exhaustive or definitive look. If you’re interested in going down the rabbithole in anyway, you can follow along here.

The world of TFA resembles little of the world of the EU at the same point in time. By 30 ABY(After Battle of Yavin) The EU had just survived an invasion by an extragalactic species of aliens who use biotech and are invisible in the Force. The New Republic and the Imperial Remnant are at peace and Chewie is the only main character from the films that’s dead. Further to the point the timelines don’t even match up a few years after RotJ(Courtship of Princess Leia is the last book that isn’t explicitly discounted) So suffice to say there’s a world of difference, but what got carried over?

Kylo Ren seems like a good starting point as he’s a sort of composite character. On one hand, he resembles Jacen Solo, one of Solo kids who turned to the dark side. On the other hand, he resembles Kyp Durron, one of Luke’s first students who fell to the Dark Side and was redeemed. There isn’t much to say about the Jacen part, while Kylo feels like Jacen, he doesn’t really have much else beyond surface similarities. So that leaves Kyp Durron, and the Jedi Academy Trilogy, and Kevin J. Anderson, three things that aren’t particularly liked.

Kyp Durron was one of Luke’s first students, and like Ren, he fell to the Dark Side. Unlike Ren, he did so because of a holocron containing a Sith Lord, blew up a solar system, was redeemed by Han. The key difference being that Kyp was a bit of an asshole, and never actually paid for his crimes, leaving a bad taste in the mouth of many fans. Kylo on the other hand, is a far more interesting and understandable character.

That part about blowing up a solar system? Yeah, the Empire was really big on superweapons such as the Sun Crusher. It was almost comical. Starkiller Base didn’t read to me as a retread of the original Death Star, it was just something one should expect from the Empire, cause the Empire loves superweapons.

Yes, I know it’s called the First Order, which actually brings us to my next point. In Legends, the Empire never really stopped being the Empire. While it was a part of the Galactic Federation of Free Alliances, it spent more time as either the Imperial Remnant or the new Empire. Instead it devolved into warlords and eventually settled into some sort of authoritarian regime as the Imperial Remnant. Also the Empire by and large doesn’t have anything to do with the Jedi or the Force as impacting their heads of state (save Joorus C’Boath) bringing us to the next point.

The Sith are still around in Legends…somehow. I never really understood how that worked but whatever. Going off of Maz’s comment in the basement of the cantina, the Sith ended at Endor, whatever Snoke and Ren are, is something else.

Going back to our protagonists. Fin doesn’t really map to anyone. One of the problems that the EU had, and this became more pronounced as the years went on, was that they stayed focused on Luke, Leia and Han. Their attempts at cultivating a new generation weren’t the best or most sustained. This was one of the reasons there was the timeskip to the Legacy era in the comics, a surefire way to say everyone died of old age. This is as good a time as any to discuss the differences of the prime three. Luke was by and large a successful Jedi Master, Leia and Han stayed married and remained important figures in the New Republic. Rey, on the other hand, carries over the tradition from Legends of strong women, and Rey has a fair amount in common with Jaina. They’re both Jedis, pilots, have a positive relationship with Han, and are strong yet human.

The Force Awakens also relates to a somewhat unexpected source, Knights of the Old Republic. These are just surface level similarities, but it’s still an interesting thing. Kylo’s mask is very close to Darth Revan’s. The game’s plot revolves around collecting maps. The sense of mystery we have with Rey’s backstory as we did with the main character of KOTOR.

And that is everything that I can think of, which again doesn’t mean it’s everything that was included or referenced. It’s also not an exhaustive comparative analysis. It does illustrate that the film has some strong ties, but by and large it’s doing its own thing. A move that I’m generally happy with, I’d rather get new stories with influences from the old ones rather than streamlined versions of the old ones. Next week, I don’t know what I’ll be writing about, but it won’t be about The Force Awakens. Till then

 

 

You Can’t Go Home Again: The Force Awakens and Nostalgia

Beware of spoilers ye who enter

Long time readers will know that I am a huge Star Wars nerd, but I wasn’t exactly excited about The Force Awakens. I avoided the trailers because it seemed like the thing to do, not out of any earnest spoilerphobia. Part of me wanted the film to be good; another part of me wanted it to be bad so I wouldn’t feel compelled to watch it. There was a general sense of burn out and as Brianna Wu put it on Twitter, Star Wars is a brand and what we feel is brand loyalty to average products. But enough people on Twitter, people whose opinions I trusted said it was good and I ended up buying a ticket. And it turns out the film is entertaining at the very least. One of the more interesting things with a commercial film, produced by Disney’s mass media empire and curated for maximum public appeal made me feel something. That and the reasons why make the film worth discussing. Let’s not waste any time and jump right in.

The emotional crux of the film isn’t Rey’s visions or Fin’s defection or Han’s death. It’s Han saying, “Chewie, we’re home.” That moment brings all the fanservice, all the nostalgia and all the copied story beats from ANH more than their individual parts. Star Wars is a galaxy that was empty and filled with wonder, populated and now depopulated for new wonders. That’s the home the viewer is promised, through the focus of Han Solo and the Millennium Falcon. There’s just one problem though: You can’t go home again.

While the film plays on nostalgia it’s also setting up a new generation of heroes (a generation of heroes that rebuke the monochromatic masculine view presented in ANH). But this also comes with an epilogue of futility to RoTJ, the Empire has remade itself, the Dark Side of the Force is again on the rise, the sorrow that Han, Leia and Luke all feel and express, the galaxy is a different place. The galaxy is a graveyard and whatever sense of home it engendered is an echo.

It seems fitting that the strong invocation of nostalgia would make me think back to Don Draper’s sales pitch in the season one finale of Mad Men, that “nostalgia literally in Greek, means the pain from an old wound…takes us to a place where we ache to go again.” This so conveniently explains why the film appeals to so many people. If this new trilogy is to succeed though, to have any sort of cultural impact instead of being a monument to box office hits with no cultural footprint like the recently dethroned Avatar, its creators have to realize that they can’t go home again, but maybe they can build a new home out of the ruins. The next generation can’t just retread the steps of the old.

Next week, I’ll be talking about The Force Awakens in relation to the Legends EU. Till next time.

 

 

Best of 2015

Well it’s a new year, so that means it’s time to look back on the Best of 2015. I’ll be looking at a number of categories where there were at least 2 competitors and talk about it for a bit. Also as a general rule this is will be stuff that came out in 2015, not what I discovered in 2015. You know, what one would expect from a ‘best of’ post. Let’s not waste any time and jump right in.

Best Album: All Hands by Doomtree-Ever since I was introduced to Doomtree via their appearance on Welcome to Night Vale, I’ve been a huge fan. Everything that I enjoyed about their previous album, No Kings, is here: crafty, politically aware wordplay set to an energetic beat/rhyme that’s different.

Runner Up: Positive Songs for Negative People by Frank Turner. I just like more songs on All Hands.

Best new TV show: Sense8-Whille Sense8 is a very mixed show. On one hand, it does a lot of things right. On the other hand, its diversity and presentation leaves much to be desired. That being said, the show is interesting (both in narrative and cinematography) and is the show I’m most looking forward to in 2016.

Runner ups: Master of None, Marvel’s Jessica Jones, the Expanse. All of these either had more elements that grated on me while I watched the show or they’re too new.

Best continuing TV show: Parks and Recreation- The final season was an unabashed victory lap for characters that we had come to know over the past seven years. While the rough parts of the season really showcased that the show needed to end, those parts could be overlooked for what amounts to uplifting, optimistic fanservice.

Runner Up: The 100. The only other show that fits the category.

Best Movie: Mad Max: Fury Road-No one expected Fury Road to gain the critical acclaim that it did, but it did and for good reason. At the film’s core is a very well done action movie. But more importantly than that, it’s smart. The worldbuilding, characterization and the way in which the film addresses issues such as disability and feminism are engaging.

Runner Up: Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This just barely lost out as I felt the action scenes were tighter in Mad Max.

Best Podcast: Girlfriend Bracket-Four women talk about competitive Magic: the Gathering and other related topics. It’s a hang out style podcast with cool people.

Runner Up: Qwerpline, Fight the Future. The former is LoadingReadyRun doing Welcome to Night Vale, except more over the top and no weather. The latter is a review of YA dystopia.

No games or books since I’m currently working through my backlog. Next week I’ll be talking about/reviewing Star Wars: the Force Awakens. Till then.