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tigtog blogs a lot elsewhere, but here on Feministe she mostly does the tech support and feeds the giraffe. tigtog tweets in flurries @vivsmythe.
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127 Responses

  1. Barnacle Strumpet
    Barnacle Strumpet August 22, 2013 at 7:34 pm |

    The comparisons don’t seem apt. Comparing Sherlock (BBC’s version?) to a heroine from a kids’ movie (Shrek) to a character from a Shakespeare play (Hamlet)… doesn’t really add up to me.

    Compare Shrek Princess to the Once-ler and Spiderman, or contrast Hamlet to Rosalind (As You Like It) and Juliet. Only you can’t actually do that because Strong Female Character didn’t yet exist when ole Hammy was created. So it’s a bit false to use him as a comparison.

    Couldn’t the Red Skull have recruited a few evil women for Hydra, too?

    Well, if Madame Hydra was around, shooting bullets at a guy for any reason wouldn’t seem OTT, so…point made?

    Between this and the other linked thread, I’m starting to think there’s good internet cred to be gained by writing long, tedious articles stating the obvious. Women get shut out of varied roles in media, news at 11.

    Eh, there’s not much to say. On the winning front, Caska from Berserk is a WoC and a female knight, and I was impressed that the series actually addressed a woman knight menstruating. That’s hardly “pop” culture I guess, but I’m assuming we’re not limited to Anglo series, despite the author limiting herself to them.

    I’m also assuming the author is limiting herself to television and movie mediums as well, since she references movie!Arwin as an example of SFC-syndrome at play while ignoring original!book!Arwen for her comparisons, although somehow 500 bajillion year old Hamlet is still relevant?

    Weak article, all said…

    1. Librarygoose
      Librarygoose August 22, 2013 at 8:00 pm |

      Or compare BBC Sherlock to other characters portrayed on the series, like Molly or Irene. Hell, even Donovan. If we’re talking US version of Homes, how ’bout lady Watson versus lad Watson? While I like Lucy Liu’s Watson, I’m still upset they took away her being a soldier.

      1. William
        William August 22, 2013 at 10:55 pm |

        Taking away Liu’s Watson’s soldier history was a missed opportunity but…Irene Adler!!!!

        1. Bagelsan
          Bagelsan August 22, 2013 at 11:20 pm |

          BBC Adler? Gag.

        2. Debbi
          Debbi August 23, 2013 at 2:42 am |

          No, Elementary!Adler was seriously awesome. Because she was also Moriarty. And played by Natalie Dormer. “As if men had a monopoly on murder…”

        3. Librarygoose
          Librarygoose August 23, 2013 at 3:54 am |

          Maybe he meant the whole twist with the Irene from Elementry ?

        4. Librarygoose
          Librarygoose August 23, 2013 at 3:55 am |

          Gah, annoying computer making me look late and unable to spell.

        5. William
          William August 23, 2013 at 10:51 am |

          I’m talking about the Elementary Adler, not the BBC Adler. Trying to avoid spoilers for anyone who hasn’t seen the show…

        6. Brames
          Brames August 24, 2013 at 7:56 pm |

          I’m talking about the Elementary Adler, not the BBC Adler. Trying to avoid spoilers for anyone who hasn’t seen the show…

          Tip for anyone who hasn’t seen the show: don’t Google “Elementary” and “Adler” at the same time. Search engines, unlike William, apparently have zero fucks to give about spoilers.

      2. Ledasmom
        Ledasmom August 23, 2013 at 7:11 am |

        I sort of wish the BBC Sherlock had a sister instead of Mycroft. I’m particularly thinking of the scene where John goes to Mycroft’s club, and how awesome if it had been all or mostly powerful women, who needed the club for some quiet time. Now I’m disappointed they didn’t do that.
        My major peeve with the BBC Adler is that she has to be rescued by Sherlock. Ridiculous.

    2. thinksnake
      thinksnake August 22, 2013 at 11:24 pm |

      Well, book Arwen doesn’t really get enough characterisation to even be called ‘strong’.

      1. Debbi
        Debbi August 23, 2013 at 2:48 am |

        To be fair, no one in those books gets a whole lot of actual characterization. Tolkien wasn’t huge on it in general, and most of the characters, males included, are vague archetypes acting out studied plots. But that’s not really a point in its negative. That’s what the story is supposed to be.

        As for Arwen as strong female character in the books, it depends how you define strength. Because while she is not a fighter, she does have skills that greatly benefit the story. She is incredibly politically savvy, and creates a banner for Aragorn to use in his campaign – this banner will unite the forces of men together under one king, and allow them to fight Sauron. In fact, throughout the books, though she appears little, she has a great hand in the political underpinnings of Aragorn’s actions.

        Is this weak? Are her machinations and use of “womanly wiles” and cunning worth less than Eowyn’s swordplay?

        Personally, I don’t think so.

        1. Natalia Antonova
          Natalia Antonova August 23, 2013 at 5:49 am | *

          Agreed on Arwen.

        2. Miranda
          Miranda August 23, 2013 at 11:04 am |

          The mere fact that she appeared so little in the books, though, is highly significant, and the fact that she wasn’t a wall flower shouldn’t off set or absolute Tolkien’s LITERAL marginalization of her–confining most of her story to an appendix.

          Women appear incredibly infrequently in (the written) Lord of the Rings, almost to the extent that I sometimes found myself wondering what the actual gender ratio in Middle Earth was. People seem to accept this because “he was using Old English and Old Norse sources as background” (even if they don’t know it’s OE and ON, they are aware it’s some kind of northern early medieval texts). This really bothers me, as the OE and ON corpora both boast a strong and astoundingly colorful cast of female characters–the ON sagas, for example, written in the fucking 1200s, do a better job with women than Tolkien does. As Tolkien’s ACTUAL SCHOLARLY WORK is in these fields and so he was ACTUALLY READING work with awesome and colorful female characters, I don’t what exactly his excuse was. He can’t claim “that’s just the way the industry works” for this one!

        3. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 23, 2013 at 11:16 am |

          the ON sagas, for example, written in the fucking 1200s, do a better job with women than Tolkien does

          Yeah, when you literally don’t know what a female Dwarf looks like, or whether there are female Orcs, and the Entwives are handwaved away, and we see one (1) Elvish woman and one (1) human woman in the entire series. (Named characters with more than three lines of dialogue only; I think that’s fair hm?) I start to wonder what the hell Tolkien was thinking, because even in the Greek epics (which are the most testicular of the ancient works afaict) there’s more women than that. For fuck’s sake.

          …it particularly, as a result, amuses me when LOTR fans get angry that people slash the characters. Hey, don’t blame slash fans, blame the guy who created the most objectively sausagetastic, wieneriffic, dickalicious sausage fest series in the history of fantasy!

        4. Miranda
          Miranda August 23, 2013 at 11:33 am |

          the most objectively sausagetastic, wieneriffic, dickalicious sausage fest series in the history of fantasy!

          dude couldn’t even be bothered to stick in an evil, grotesque female monster in LOTR, DESPITE THE FACT that he wrote a paper on grendel’s evil, grotesque female mother–who, go figure, is more evil and horrible than her son. it’s not like men don’t know what interesting female characters look like. they’re out there, men just ignore them.

          and don’t even get me started on Eowyn and Arwen. Arwen epitomizes Tolkien’s whole “let’s make the elves this Aryan ideal,” which the elves never were. And Eowyn, though she is called a “shield maiden” in the book, is a flattened out and de-lifed version of the actual heroic “shield maidens,” who while still sexist stereotypes in a way, were capable of feeling great, sweeping, and very human emotions, well beyond “Will this guy like me or not?” and “Should I rebel against daddy and ride a horse?” Also, for what it’s worth, Medieval Icelanders seemed to have significantly less problem with women going to battle than Tolkien’s characters do.

          It’s not that I want to spit on Eowyn and Arwen…it’s just that…when you see what their proto-types were…you wonder what the hell went wrong. (Modern sexism, wheee!)

        5. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia August 23, 2013 at 11:39 am |

          the most objectively sausagetastic, wieneriffic, dickalicious sausage fest series in the history of fantasy!

          I was previously unaware of the existence of several of these words. I must now find a way to use them in everyday conversation. (translation: Mac, I can always count on you to make me smile)

        6. Brennan
          Brennan August 23, 2013 at 11:49 am |

          dude couldn’t even be bothered to stick in an evil, grotesque female monster in LOTR

          Well, there was Shelob, but she was a spider and apparently incapable of human speech and I honestly have no idea how Gollum knew she was female. (See also: Ungoliat in The Silmarillion.)

        7. GallingGalla
          GallingGalla August 23, 2013 at 11:49 am |

          dude couldn’t even be bothered to stick in an evil, grotesque female monster in LOTR

          Well, there was Shelob. But she was a giant spider, and rather a bit part.

        8. GallingGalla
          GallingGalla August 23, 2013 at 11:52 am |

          …I *swear*, I didn’t see Brennan’s comment before posting mine!

        9. Miranda
          Miranda August 23, 2013 at 11:54 am |

          Well, there was Shelob

          Damn, I knew I should have drunk that coffee!

          Meh, but she’s still just a creepy ass spider who, according to wikipedia, doesn’t have much mythic or historical import.

    3. Kathy
      Kathy August 23, 2013 at 10:20 am |

      Between this and the other linked thread, I’m starting to think there’s good internet cred to be gained by writing long, tedious articles stating the obvious. Women get shut out of varied roles in media, news at 11.

      A few years ago, I was writing about pop culture for a fairly well-known women’s site, and this was pretty much my beat.

    4. Bunzor
      Bunzor August 24, 2013 at 12:13 pm |

      Casca is a good example until the series reaches that point where she’s just being almost-raped every other volume. I realize that may have been reality “back then” (or “in this universe”) but after she loses her mind it’s like she just became rape bait.

      Also, the series gets boring and repetitive.

  2. Brennan
    Brennan August 22, 2013 at 10:03 pm |

    I’m conflicted about the article. It spends a lot of time drooling over iconic male characters and insisting that SFC are Not Like That, but very little time actually discussing female characters. Pepper Potts is name dropped but never expanded upon. I . . . don’t agree with the author’s take on Arwen, but I’ve accepted that my love of movie-verse Arwen puts me in the minority, as Tolkien fans go. Only Peggy gets any real discussion, and she’s from a movie where most of the characters were pretty two-dimensional. I actually love the Captain America movie, but it does nostalgia better than nuance. We could gender-bend Cap, and it would just go from being a movie about a plucky underdog to being a movie about a spunky action-girl. And then Stephanie Rogers would get lambasted for being a heavy-handed attempt to create an SFC.

    I feel like people, the author of this article included, are too quick to minimize any actual development female characters get. Instead, we rank them on a spectrum of “weak” to “strong,” whether they’re written that way or not. Take this section from the end of the article:

    “I want her to be free to express herself

    I want her to have meaningful, emotional relationships with other women

    I want her to be weak sometimes

    I want her to be strong in a way that isn’t about physical dominance or power

    I want her to cry if she feels like crying

    I want her to ask for help

    I want her to be who she is”

    Buffy Summers, the exemplar of the strong female character who *illustrates the article* displays all these traits at one time or another. And yet in the public perception, she’s been reduced to the wise-cracking chick who can roundhouse you in the face. Why is she perceived as having less character development or being less interesting than James freakin’ Bond?

    Let’s try this experiment:

    “Of course I’m strong. I’m an idealized power fantasy, but the most interesting thing about me is that on the inside I’m a lonely ex-prom queen,” says Buffy sadly, checking her hair.

    “Does it still count as strength given that I used to be a psychopath?” inquires Natasha Romanov idly as she puts her boots on the table.

    Eowyn’s insistence that she can, must, will get into the Strong Female Character box comes close to hysteria, but there’s no room for her armor and warhorse, and she won’t leave them behind.

    Jane Foster pokes her head in the box, spots some Nordic-looking symbols on the inside, and runs away, babbling something about extraterrestrials and possibly quantum physics.

    Obviously, there are problems. I shouldn’t have to think so hard to make that list, for one. Buffy was the only one of the who was *the* main character, and she’s been off the air for about a decade now. The author raises valid issues–yes, there aren’t enough women, their roles aren’t varied enough, and they often fail to interact with each other in meaningful ways. But, I feel like best response is to highlight the characters who work well rather than just attacking a long-standing trend. Who knows, we might still get a Black Widow movie out of it.

    1. pheenobarbidoll
      pheenobarbidoll August 23, 2013 at 2:11 am |

      Gawd. Captain America sucked so bad I’d be embarrassed if he was a female character. Given that it was a set up for The Avengers movie, it didn’t have to be good though.

      1. Willemina
        Willemina August 23, 2013 at 3:17 am |

        “Steve, just point the nose down and bail out! I love you or something!”

        “No Peggy darling, I need to get frozed so Samuel L Badass can thaw me out in a couple decades. I’m drivin’ ‘er straight into the ground!”

        Ghost of the Red Skull: “Ve really built a movie around zis guy? Really?”

        1. Brennan
          Brennan August 23, 2013 at 11:42 am |

          LOL, pretty much.

        2. pheenobarbidoll
          pheenobarbidoll August 23, 2013 at 11:44 am |

          -Snerks-

    2. Lynn
      Lynn August 23, 2013 at 10:24 am |

      But, I feel like best response is to highlight the characters who work well rather than just attacking a long-standing trend.

      I really want to see more of that too. For no other reason that I’ve sort of reached a point with this conversation where I have no idea what people are looking for. Nothing ever seems good enough.

      1. tinfoil hattie
        tinfoil hattie August 23, 2013 at 10:50 am |

        More than one woman per movie would be a good start.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 23, 2013 at 11:06 am |

          Ooh, maybe those women could talk to each other.

        2. Brennan
          Brennan August 23, 2013 at 11:36 am |

          About something other than a man!

        3. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie August 23, 2013 at 3:50 pm |

          Regrettably, I watched Elysium, which passes the Bechdel Test by the skin of its teeth. The movie itself was boring, stupid, heavy-handed, and convoluted. At any rate, the two female characters, who do have names, are a mother and young daughter who speak briefly abput the girl’s serious illness.

          Next time the girl says something, though, it’s “I want to see the man.”

          Ha ha ha ha ha – the dialogue just writes itself!

      2. Brennan
        Brennan August 23, 2013 at 11:44 am |

        I’ve sort of reached a point with this conversation where I have no idea what people are looking for. Nothing ever seems good enough.

        This. Every female character gets attacked for something. If they’re not “stereotypical,” they’re “unrealistic.”

    3. roro80
      roro80 August 23, 2013 at 6:06 pm |

      Buffy Summers, the exemplar of the strong female character who *illustrates the article* displays all these traits at one time or another. And yet in the public perception, she’s been reduced to the wise-cracking chick who can roundhouse you in the face.

      So I agree that the public perception (as defined primarily by men, because default human in our culture is male) of Buffy is this. I’m not sure if I’m reading you incorrectly or the author of the article, but it was my reading that she is explicitly setting Buffy up as a character that she loved, not one of the typical SFCs that she hates. The entire paragraph in which Buffy appears was to show that she’s not explicitly against female characters kicking ass, as long as, like Buffy, they’ve got some there there.

  3. SaraC
    SaraC August 22, 2013 at 10:33 pm |

    I read this article a few days ago and loved it. Glad to see it featured here!

    The article made me reflect a little on Game of Thrones (book and TV versions), which (despite it’s many faults and triggering portrayals) does do an excellent job of developing very different female characters. There are more traditionally “strong” female characters like Arya and Brienne, who are still given the space to be complicated, alongside all sorts of different women. You can’t really sum up characters like Sansa, Cersei, Shae, and Catelyn (or even Arya and Brienne) with one word… well, you could try, but you’d miss so much of what makes those characters tick!

  4. Brennan
    Brennan August 22, 2013 at 11:28 pm |

    Concerning Arwen (because how many other chances will I get to geek out about Tolkien on Feministe and have it be on topic?):

    “Clumsy” is often used to describe her portrayal in the movies, which creates the false impression that her character was some sort of subtle masterpiece of strong character development in the books. This is not the case. In the books, Arwen was literally an afterthought. Her character development occurs in the appendices and she barely appears in the main text because she was a late addition to the cast. Aragorn was originally supposed to fall for Eowyn. Eowyn’s character was probably much improved when she was freed from the “princess who marries the hero” role, but Arwen never gets much development. We know that she “watched over Aragorn from afar” (for 39 years–the lady was dedicated) and that she embroidered a standard for him. That’s it–pining and needlework. Oh, and she gives Frodo her spot on the ships to M-e heaven ’cause, hey, she’s not using it anyway.

    Given what Jackson and company had to work with, I was impressed that they managed to expand her role in FotR while still keeping the plot line relatively close to canon. If you’re not familiar with the books, it seems like she came out of nowhere for the sole purpose of looking awesome, but all they did was gender-bend an existing role. An Elf really does ride up out of nowhere and spirit Frodo away in the nick of time; the movie just added some cool horseback chase scenes. Yeah, they made her look “strong” by swinging a sword, but consider the genre. Practically every character in the story proves themselves by stabbing something at one point or another, including the ones who are three feet tall.

    I think the film-makers would have taken flak whatever direction they went in with her. All I know is that I was twelve years old when I met Arwen as a badass elleth on the big screen, and I was smitten immediately.

    /geekery

    1. Tony
      Tony August 22, 2013 at 11:41 pm |

      My main problem with the Arwen character was that she disappeared after the first or second movie. Yeah, I get that it’s still a larger role than in the books, but still. If you were a fan if her character you were basically left with nothing by ROTK as the token female character role was passed into Eowyn.

      1. Tony
        Tony August 22, 2013 at 11:45 pm |

        Ah nvm, apparently she is in the last film. I must have forgotten as its been over 5 years.

        1. Brennan
          Brennan August 22, 2013 at 11:56 pm |

          Yeah, she’s still around, but her character is not nearly as active. She was originally supposed to be in the major battle of the second movie, but the creators got push-back, and that was eventually cut. We still get a few scenes, mostly of her and Aragorn pining after each other, but it’s not enough.

      2. Alexandra
        Alexandra August 28, 2013 at 1:14 am |

        I had a long conversation with another Tolkien nerd about this this summer after binging on the movies. Apparently there’s only room for one “action girl” character in the LotR films. Eowyn doesn’t show up in FotR, so they gave that role to Arwen. But Eowyn is so much more interesting in TT and RotK especially that what role is there for Arwen any longer? As a deposed action girl, she mostly just floats around in see-through dresses and pines.

        I think Liv Tyler did not do a very good job with the role, and I think she wasn’t given much to work with. What I wish they’d done with Arwen – given that she is Galadriel’s granddaughter – is give her depths outside of “hitting things with swords” and “riding well”. For instance, she could be a loremaster, like her father and like Galadriel. She could give wise advice from the elven world. Ooh! Or she could be a healer. Or maybe a diplomat, smoothing things over at the Council of Elrond.

        My point is, it seems odd that they gave her the Eowyn role in the first movie, when Eowyn already exists as a fully-fleshed out, interesting character with some of the most badass lines ever given to a woman in fantasy literature.

        (seriously. She kills the Witch King of Angmar after killing its winged beast, while saying I AM NO MAN???? Major levels in badassery).

  5. Tony
    Tony August 22, 2013 at 11:53 pm |

    In any case, I think the grain of truth in this article is that we want interesting characters centered in interesting stories. Sometimes that requires a less self conscious attempt to integrate diversity but rather to just have it flow.

    However, it’s a bit undermined by the fact that it seems even the male characters have taken on more action hero superficiality of late. In the last Sherlock Holmes movie it seemed suspiciously like he was just another martial arts wielding action hero. James Bond… Batman… Superman… have all become more brutal, darker. The formerly campy but endearing aspects of their personalities seem to be deemphasized of late.

  6. zaebos
    zaebos August 23, 2013 at 2:48 am |

    Since I take a liking to writing myself, I’d like to chime in for once.

    I have no interest in writing strong-female-characters, because I can’t stand a Mary Sue. “I’m a half-unicorn-vampire-human that can fly! I don’t take shit, but I’m very sensitive! I’m witty but understanding! etc. etc.”

    I’m more interested in good female characters. Say, a woman who is completely creamed and then (after great struggle and losses) finds a resolution and picks herself up.

    I agree so much with the last block quote. I’m juggling/tossing around/sorta writing a cast composed of almost entirely women.

    I just find good characters to be more interesting than strong ones. (There are such things as good-strong characters too!)

    I dunno, just seems like when women are portrayed in media, it feels forced. I like women who just come naturally without all, or any, of the answers.

    1. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune August 23, 2013 at 2:56 am |

      I dunno, just seems like when women are portrayed in media, it feels forced. I like women who just come naturally without all, or any, of the answers.

      Maybe if the media wrote women as women instead of essentially going “well, she’s exactly like a guy, but with, uh, rapeandpregnancyandhormonalcrazylolamirite?” women would be portrayed as women, not as “rapeandpregnancyandhormonalcrazylolamirite”, and that would feel a lot less like women’s lives and arcs revolve exclusively around what men do to them, and that women are “better” the more men-like they are.

      *Gender usage reflects media binarism and stereotypes.

      1. seisy
        seisy August 23, 2013 at 3:25 am |

        I need a better way to say it, but I think that the problem in media is that female characters are usually written from the outside, not the inside. Their actions (such as they are, for women in television and movies frequently have distressingly small amounts of agency) and reactions are like the weather: they’re treated as just something that happens, with no particular sense that the why or how of their actions is comprehensible let alone considered. Motivations are treated as inexplicable at best and not worth knowing at worst.

      2. Brennan
        Brennan August 23, 2013 at 12:00 pm |

        Maybe if the media wrote women as women instead of essentially going “well, she’s exactly like a guy, but with, uh, rapeandpregnancyandhormonalcrazylolamirite?”

        Or better yet, as people who happen to be women.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 23, 2013 at 12:06 pm |

          …nah, that’s too much to hope for.

        2. EG
          EG August 23, 2013 at 1:05 pm |

          Actually, I’m not a fan of this. I don’t “just happen” to be a woman. I don’t “just happen” to be Jewish. I don’t “just happen” to be cis. Those things inform the essence of who I am and how I experience the world. In a very real way, they are a significant part of what determines who I am. I couldn’t not be those things and still be the person I am.

          When I write a character, she may just happen to be wearing a necklace instead of a ring, but she doesn’t just happen to be a woman. Her being a woman is essential to who she is.

        3. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 23, 2013 at 2:08 pm |

          Actually, I’m not a fan of this. I don’t “just happen” to be a woman. I don’t “just happen” to be Jewish. I don’t “just happen” to be cis. Those things inform the essence of who I am and how I experience the world.

          Hmm. I didn’t read Brennan’s comment as meaning “write everyone the same” but “write them as fully-realised beings instead of the caricatures of masculinity/femininity that women get pigeonholed into”, but your interpretation is valid, too. FTR my feelings on it come closer to “all things in my identity inform my life/feelings/motivations/experiences”.

        4. Brennan
          Brennan August 23, 2013 at 2:43 pm |

          Actually, I’m not a fan of this. I don’t “just happen” to be a woman. I don’t “just happen” to be Jewish. I don’t “just happen” to be cis. Those things inform the essence of who I am and how I experience the world. In a very real way, they are a significant part of what determines who I am. I couldn’t not be those things and still be the person I am.

          Yeah, that was a clumsy way for me to put it. I definitely think that being a woman should inform who the characters are. I’m pushing back more against the trend to make being a woman the only thing that drives their character development rather than having them be fully-realized human beings. I once wrote for a fanfic challenge where the only rules were that your story had to (1) have a woman as the main character and (2) not focus on her romantic relationships or her children. It was weird how different (and refreshing) the resulting fics were from what you usually see in fanfic. It’s not that people weren’t writing adventure/mystery/crime drama stories in fanfic, it’s just that they almost never center women. It’s not that women are never centered in fanfic, it’s just that when they are, the plot almost always revolves around romance/childbearing/domesticity. Authors cast women for the “female” roles and men for any roles that are simply “human” (or simply Romulan, Mimbari, Elf, Sprite, or half-orcling). So, I get a little nervous about “just write women as women” because we need better models for what being a woman in fiction actually means.

    2. Schmorgluck
      Schmorgluck August 23, 2013 at 5:11 am |

      I have no interest in writing strong-female-characters, because I can’t stand a Mary Sue. “I’m a half-unicorn-vampire-human that can fly! I don’t take shit, but I’m very sensitive! I’m witty but understanding! etc. etc.”

      That’s why I’ll never watch the movie version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. They made a vampire of Wilhelmina Murray, and removed her from her leading position (and oh, gave her back her married name, *sigh*)…

      In the comic, she’s a complex character whose leading role makes perfect sense. Alan Moore tends to do better than most with female characters.

      1. William
        William August 23, 2013 at 10:56 am |

        Alan Moore tends to do better than most with female characters.

        So long as you ignore that he stuffed Barbara Gordon into a refrigerator.

        1. Schmorgluck
          Schmorgluck August 23, 2013 at 4:35 pm |

          Err, I was speaking of characterization. Like in, who are the characters, not what happens to them. And he didn’t have her die so the “stuffed into the fridge” thing isn’t quite there, even though the Joker’s motivation… err, pattern of action (somehow “The Joker” and “Motivation” are hard to put into the same sentence) was definitely somewhere along this line. I see your point, but to me it made sense in the context of that story.

          Interestingly, later writers made her an even more complex and compelling character after those events.

        2. amblingalong
          amblingalong August 23, 2013 at 7:43 pm |

          Really just super offensive that you equate being disabled and being dead.

        3. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 23, 2013 at 7:49 pm |

          Really just super offensive that you equate being disabled and being dead.

          Context? I don’t follow comics…

        4. amblingalong
          amblingalong August 23, 2013 at 7:59 pm |

          Me neither, but I do read TV tropes somewhat obsessively.

          The character in question was paralyzed from the legs down after being shot by the Joker (a supervillain). She is one of the only disabled characters in modern superhero comics (especially when you consider her powers don’t come from her disability- she’s occasionally inconvenienced by using a wheelchair in a realistic manner), and remains a hero.

          Stuffed in a refrigerator is a term for when writers kill off a female relative/friend/girlfriend of a male main character, to provide ‘motivation’ for him to go get revenge or some other plot point.

          So to compare a character being partially paralyzed, and then going on to become a superhero who lives with a disability, and a character being killed, seems really offensive. Disability != death.

        5. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 23, 2013 at 8:21 pm |

          Yeah, I know about fridging (I follow tvtropes too, lol) but I wasn’t sure what Moore had done with the arc, so I couldn’t tell what your point was.

          And no, if she’s alive, it’s really pretty offensive to say that she’s been fridged. WTF.

        6. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia August 23, 2013 at 8:52 pm |

          Tigtog,

          This exactly!

        7. shfree
          shfree August 23, 2013 at 8:57 pm |

          I thought the main point behind the trope of the “woman in the refrigerator” was that by brutalizing a female character close to the male protagonist, it worked to advance his character growth at the expense of hers. It was like the refrigerating was done AT him, not TO her. And that is what makes it even worse, in my mind.

        8. William
          William August 24, 2013 at 4:33 pm |

          First, as Tigtog said, Barbara Gordon in The Killing Joke was one of the specific incidents Simone uses when she explains the term.

          Moore took an interesting, well-loved, female character and paralyzed her for little purpose other than to provide a bit of emotional oopmh for the dudes in his story. He brought Barbara in specifically to disable her with no greater goal or characterization than “isn’t it awful that Batgirl can’t be Batgirl anymore.”

          The point wasn’t that being in a wheelchair is as good as being dead because, you know, we’re not talking about real people here. Especially when you’re talking about comics, where death is a matter of waiting for a writer to get bored, there isn’t a whole lot of difference between death and paralysis when you’re looking at how a narrative is organized. The point is that Moore fell into the exact same pattern of using the abuse/death/suffering of a female character as a mere motivation for the male characters in a story. There wasn’t a long arc planned on examining how Barbara dealt with being paralyzed, he wasn’t planning on bringing her back into the story in a different capacity, no, Moore just thought that Barbara getting paralyzed would be a good way to get Commissioner Gordon and Bats good and riled. In that moment she existed purely to shock and create some artificial drama.

          Worse, a big part of the drama was that Moore knew, in the context of comics, that what he had done was take a popular female character and ruined here by making her disabled. He had taken away her ability to be a hero. He had given her a disability to make her pathetic. This happened in 1988. Moore knew damned well that comics weren’t a socially conscious media and that the consequences of his arc meant that Barbara was going to be relegated to a sad background note. From an author who I know can do better, its especially galling.

          More than that, being an eight year old kid with CP and seeing someone’s loss of physical ability being used as shorthand for them becoming worthless wasn’t something that escaped my notice even though I didn’t have the language to explain why Barbara not being able to walk made me feel like a piece of shit. Yeah, later on she became Oracle and that was awesome, but even when Simone was writing her in Birds of Prey I never could see Barbara Gordon and not remember being a kid who’d gotten home from the comic store only to read a Batman story that yanked him out of the escapism he was looking for and left him feeling completely worthless.

  7. dc
    dc August 23, 2013 at 3:44 pm |

    Pop culture added as a quick link

    Reviews of films and Tv shows for sexism and strong female character content

    (Ok there’s 2)

  8. BBBShrewHarpy
    BBBShrewHarpy August 23, 2013 at 4:01 pm |

    What do people think of Carrie on Homeland?

    1. Alexandra
      Alexandra August 28, 2013 at 1:20 am |

      I dislike that character, mostly because they’ve used the equation “bipolar + woman = irresponsible and untrustworthy”. But I haven’t kept up wtih the show thoroughly after I got turned off to it, so maybe I’m missing something.

  9. pheenobarbidoll
    pheenobarbidoll August 23, 2013 at 4:13 pm |

    I’m less interested in revamping existing characters than seeing new female characters. I dislike shipping, gender switching and fan fic mainly because you’re not the author/creator of those characters/world and it just bugs me. Come up with your own characters/world’s. If it’s good, I’ll read and enjoy it. If it’s not, hey at least you made something of your own. I can overlook book to movie translations- to an extent. It has to be seriously good though.

    1. pheenobarbidoll
      pheenobarbidoll August 23, 2013 at 4:18 pm |

      And maybe I’m odd, but I don’t identify with fictional characters. I’m reading about their story, not mine, so not seeing myself reflected doesn’t bother me all that much. But- it would be nice if the damn stereotypes could be dropped and having a wider option of characters to read/watch. I’d prefer more variety in authors culture/race/gender/orientation wise too.

      1. Kathy
        Kathy August 23, 2013 at 5:46 pm |

        I don’t either. I’d rather read something with well-written, nuanced characters even if those characters don’t at all mirror my own life.

        I’ve taken a couple writing workshops, and that note always comes up: “I just can’t relate.” Not only on my work, though I’ve gotten my share of it, but as a general criticism. I don’t know. I think of relatable as being interchangeable with likable, and surely there are great characters who are anything but. Off the top of my head (and bookshelf), Meg Wolitzer and Jennifer Egan are two pretty mainstream fiction writers who’ve created good, but not necessarily likable, female characters.

    2. Bagelsan
      Bagelsan August 23, 2013 at 11:29 pm |

      Gah, couldn’t disagree more! Shipping and gender-swapping and fanfic are creative endeavors, and tend to be quite subversive to boot. Not everyone has the resources to create something from scratch; at least with stuff like fanfic you get a lot of new people participating, not just the big white male privileged names.

      1. moviemaedchen
        moviemaedchen August 23, 2013 at 11:38 pm |

        THIS.

      2. Brennan
        Brennan August 24, 2013 at 12:07 am |

        Cosigned. I know fanfic isn’t for everybody, but it offers a lot of chances to play with characters and settings and themes, sometimes in ways that even original fic just can’t do.

        Also, it provides an audience for writers who otherwise would never find one. Now, maybe pheeno actually lurks around fictionpress to encourage aspiring original fic authors and subscribes to publishings for amateur writers and goes to writers workshops to help others improve, but in my experience, “write your own stories and if it’s good, I’ll read it” usually translates to “drop everything and devote your entire life to that novel, send it to a gazillion agents and publishing houses, risk financial ruin, and if you’re one of the lucky few who convinces the industry to take a chance on you, then maybe I’ll pick up a copy of the paperback if it’s at my local Barnes and Noble.”

      3. shfree
        shfree August 24, 2013 at 12:30 am |

        Yeah, there are whole communities in fanfic, sharing their works and offering criticism, and I think that is a good thing. If nothing else, it will certainly help a writer hone their skills.

        And from perspective of a long time RPG geek, I play in other peoples’ worlds all the time, both tabletop and virtual. And I have designed characters to play online that were riffs off characters I’ve encountered in other genres that I’ve loved and wanted to explore. I’ve also made original characters, and unique scenarios in tabletop games. All of it helps foster creativity, and when you are playing in other people’s playgrounds, it shows you how their minds tick, and it can give you jumping off points for your own. I think that so long as no one profits from the work of another without the original creator’s permission, we should be able to mine each others’ work silly.

        1. Radiant Sophia
          Radiant Sophia August 24, 2013 at 12:36 am |

          from perspective of a long time RPG geek

          +++

          If all fictions used original characters and worlds, RPGs simply wouldn’t exist.

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 24, 2013 at 12:45 am |

          I think that so long as no one profits from the work of another without the original creator’s permission, we should be able to mine each others’ work silly.

          Yep, my position exactly.

      4. Willemina
        Willemina August 24, 2013 at 1:33 am |

        The subversive aspect is very interesting to me. Works that expand on the original or provide an alternate point of view have fundamentally changed the way I view the “vanilla” version. Just off the cuff, Peter Watts’ The Things and Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead add so much to my experience that I get the excited giggles thinking about mixing them together. Wide Sargasso Sea flips Jane Eyre on its ass and the added context augments the original text in my view.

        I don’t like people pooping in other people’s sandboxes (looking at you children of authors that think you’ve got daddy’s talent) but playing is awesome.

        1. Anna in PDX
          Anna in PDX August 26, 2013 at 6:17 pm |

          Wow. Thank you for pointing out R&G are Dead and Wide Sargasso Sea in the context of fan fiction. I had never really put these things together. I am a lit snob who does not hang out in the fantasy/sci fi crowds so it just whooshed right over my head that I like fan fiction too. Thanks!

    3. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune August 24, 2013 at 12:26 am |

      I dislike shipping, gender switching and fan fic mainly because you’re not the author/creator of those characters/world and it just bugs me. Come up with your own characters/world’s. If it’s good, I’ll read and enjoy it. If it’s not, hey at least you made something of your own.

      Shakespeare, Chaucer, Milton, Dante, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, John Scalzi, Tolkien, Robert Ludlum, JJ Abrams and the countless swathes of other fanfiction writers, novelisers, rebooters and remixers in the history of the world would like to register their sadz that you think that just because someone made a thing once that influenced another thing, all the another things are useless. It is most especially orz-ful that these things bug you. Your opinion on their bugfulness and unoriginality probably gives them great wibbles. If only they had all known that pheeno would be bugged. I’m sure they’d all have decided to abandon some of their most successful and iconic works, because as we all know, what would literature be without pheenobarbidoll’s stamp o’ originality and usefulness? Nothing. Nothing at all. Just tumbleweed and echoes of dubstep.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune August 24, 2013 at 12:43 am |

        And on the subject of ‘if it’s fanwork it’s not your own thing’: Alternate universe fanfictions exist. Alternate headcanons exist. Hell, if you’re in anime/manga fandoms, there can be multiple canon continuities, which makes all those studios creators of fanwork. (I know it’s hard to believe that people can work in teams and make good product that you might – gasp! – buy in a bookstore(eleventy) and read/watch are still making fanworks, but take a deep breath, drink a cuppa tea and it’ll sink in soon, I promise.)

        Speaking of, do you believe that all Native artists who draw their inspiration from ancient history or folktales, and create illustrations that are intertextual with those oral traditions, are unoriginal? Do they “bug you”? What about European artists who mostly painted scenes from the Bible? What about Indians who create works based off Indian epics like the Ramayana, in the form of Bollywood movies? Are you turning your nose up at them as well? How about the entire musical canon of Carnatic music, which almost universally plays off the epics and folktales of Indian cultures?

        Your position’s pretty antithetical and offensive to a lot of cultural traditions I adhere to, as well as the current-cultures of fandoms to which I belong. You are accusing many literary, cultural, religious and artistic leaders of my country of being unoriginal, as well as calling my friends and my family, essentially, too lacking in thought or imagination to create a thing of their own. I can’t imagine being more completely pissed off on so many cultural levels by anything else you might say. Holy shit.

      2. pheenobarbidoll
        pheenobarbidoll August 24, 2013 at 12:47 pm |

        Too damn bad Mac. I don’t care who has a sad or doesn’t. It’s my goddamn opinion, I don’t like it and don’t read it. Unless and until I pass a law saying you can’t either, then too bad for you. I don’t like it. There. I said it again.

        1. pheenobarbidoll
          pheenobarbidoll August 24, 2013 at 12:55 pm |

          And p fucking s- the word like =s enjoy. Just like you, I am in fact allowed to enjoy something or not based on whatever the fuck I want. You’ll just have to live with that , because I’m not going to run out and read fanfic. The world will survive.

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 24, 2013 at 1:05 pm |

          Not telling you to read it, telling you not to shit all over a lot of my culture by calling it “not your own work” just because it’s based off/influenced by something. Jesus read before you post. And please by all means don’t read fanfic or consume anything classically Indian! Thanks.

        3. pheenobarbidoll
          pheenobarbidoll August 24, 2013 at 1:05 pm |

          Also- youre stretching pretty damn hard to connect my not enjoying thousands of stories on The Hound and Sansa running off together, or Shape having a fling with Hermione after Hogwarts turns into a college to well, just about every word you posted.

        4. Barnacle Strumpet
          Barnacle Strumpet August 24, 2013 at 2:44 pm |

          Cosigning everything Mac said.

          And no gives a flying fuck what you like or don’t like to read pheeno, until you come and take a crap all over other people’s hobbies. I don’t like mysteries but you don’t see me saying “Come up with some real writing, like fantasy. When you have a dragon and a mage I’ll read it. At least you’ll have made something.” I mean how entitled can you get?

          You are actively telling people what to write. That’s a little different “Oh I just don’t like this.”

          And FYI you can write original fic and fanfiction–I do. And I write blog articles and essays and even the occasional cringe-worthy poem.

          Your whole condescending attitude is shitty. But hey, maybe I’ll get laid as a result of this post!

        5. pheenobarbidoll
          pheenobarbidoll August 24, 2013 at 3:14 pm |

          Maybe you will barnacles, since you’re the one always bringing it into the conversation.

        6. Barnacle Strumpet
          Barnacle Strumpet August 24, 2013 at 4:29 pm |

          Maybe you will barnacles, since you’re the one always bringing it into the conversation.

          If by that you mean you’re wondering if I’m ever going to forget that you said that mine and A4′s posts are motivated by a desire to get laid, the answer is “No”.

          Nice attempt to deflect attention from the crappy things you’ve said about fanfiction writers tho.

        7. pheenobarbidoll
          pheenobarbidoll August 24, 2013 at 4:48 pm |

          Again- a subject YOU brought up. Getting your rocks off ring a bell? It should. You said it, sweetums. And you can bet I won’t forget that. At least A4 didn’t stalk me thread to thread whining about it. More than I can say for you. Have fun with that.

        8. Barnacle Strumpet
          Barnacle Strumpet August 24, 2013 at 5:27 pm |

          I’ll go to #spillover for any further discussion of this.

          But since I’ve been accused of stalking here, a serious charge that I’m sure pheeno isn’t making lightly or flippantly, I feel it should be addressed here (since people will read in this thread here that I am a stalker, but may not go to #spillover).

          I am not trying to be a stalker. *I* commented on this post, pheeno, so if anyone should be making accusations that someone is following them into posts, it’s me (not that I’d do any such stupid thing).

          And yes, I will continue to disclose to possible readers that my motives for posting have been called into question (i.e I feel obligated to warn people that my motives for posting, are apparently in an attempt to get laid) and I now feel obligated to warn people that charges of stalking have been levelled against me by pheeno.

          Both of these actions are serious things that people should be made aware of. A lot of people here could be triggered by talking to a stalker, or just plain don’t want to talk to them. So unless someone with an objective eye, like a mod, would like to weigh in on whether my activities here constitute stalking pheeno, then I am going to have to assume that I may be a stalker and continue to warn people here.

          After all, I’m sure most stalkers don’t think of themselves as such. I could be a stalker and be unaware of it, I guess. I have been a victim of stalking myself irl, so I am going to take pheeno’s accusation seriously, because stalking is no joking matter.

        9. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve August 28, 2013 at 1:31 am |

          Also- youre stretching pretty damn hard to connect my not enjoying thousands of stories on The Hound and Sansa running off together, or Shape having a fling with Hermione after Hogwarts turns into a college to well, just about every word you posted.

          While I disagree that using characters/worlds/tropes from other works makes a piece of art any less worthy, I do agree with the sentiment expressed here. Particularly the ‘thousands of stories’ on the same topic sentiment.

          For me it’s a question of quality control.There is probably an undiscovered fanfic writer out there who has amazing talent and creativity, but I can’t imagine wading through all the crap to find a gem. I turn 45 in December, my life is half over. I just don’t have the time.

        10. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 28, 2013 at 1:39 am |

          There is probably an undiscovered fanfic writer out there who has amazing talent and creativity, but I can’t imagine wading through all the crap to find a gem. I turn 45 in December, my life is half over. I just don’t have the time.

          So…don’t? I mean personally I don’t find fanfic to be any more susceptible to Sturgeon’s Law than published fiction. But if you’d rather buy books that have been quality-certified through the process of being published, like Twilight and Atlas Shrugged, you do you, buddy.

        11. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve August 28, 2013 at 10:29 am |

          So…don’t? I mean personally I don’t find fanfic to be any more susceptible to Sturgeon’s Law than published fiction. But if you’d rather buy books that have been quality-certified through the process of being published, like Twilight and Atlas Shrugged, you do you, buddy.

          But I wouldn’t read Twilight or Atlas Shrugged (made the mistake of picking it up in college, didn’t get far) for precisely the reason I wouldn’t read fanfic. I need to know a little something about an author and their work before I read something, so I can make an educated guess on whether or not it’s for me.

          Besides mac, I was kind of hoping you would prove me partially wrong by explaining methods of quality control in fanfic. You can kill more files with honey…

        12. Willemina
          Willemina August 28, 2013 at 11:25 am |

          Y’know people discuss and review fan fiction too. Almost like it was real literature. Some sites even have ratings, kind of like measuring the quality of a work based on people’s reactions as opposed to how many people bought it last week.

          If it’s not your thing, it’s not your thing, but seriously with the QQ excuse to write off the entire enterprise?

          I spell control with a Q btw, deal with it.

        13. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve August 28, 2013 at 11:50 am |

          Y’know people discuss and review fan fiction too. Almost like it was real literature. Some sites even have ratings, kind of like measuring the quality of a work based on people’s reactions as opposed to how many people bought it last week.

          If it’s not your thing, it’s not your thing, but seriously with the QQ excuse to write off the entire enterprise?

          That is why I suggested I wouldn’t mind being proved wrong with examples of quality control.

          I don’t know why you think I was ‘writing off the entire enterprise’ when I acknowledged that there is likely to be some brilliance that I’m missing. I was merely explaining why I’m unable (unwilling) to dive in and find that brilliance. I would have just as much difficulty finding a book to read on Amazon if I had no context.

        14. Willemina
          Willemina August 28, 2013 at 11:59 am |

          Sorry Steve, low blood sugar and Chelsea Manning theorycrafters made me snappy. There was maybe some conflation with pheno’s quote in there for good measure.

          It does take a little more work I’ll admit, but between peer review and friend recommendations I get by. It’s basically the same way I find books. Unless I find a good second hand store, then it’s safari time into the deep stacks.

        15. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 28, 2013 at 12:03 pm |

          Simplest ways to find good fanfic –

          1) Tvtropes’ fanfic recs page
          2) Go to archiveofourown, look up highest rated stories
          3) Google (fandom, pairing) “rec list”
          4) When you find an author you like, follow them back to their own website/ffnet account/what have you and search tags for other fanfics/fandoms you like.

    4. Radiant Sophia
      Radiant Sophia August 24, 2013 at 12:58 am |

      pheenobarbidoll, I’m wondering if what you said applies to graphic art as well. Most work is not based on original characters. It is based on characters created by others, and previously rendered by countless other artists.

    5. seisy
      seisy August 24, 2013 at 1:02 am |

      Fan works- fan fiction, fan art, vidding, everything- aren’t pale imitations of “original” creative endeavors. It isn’t – bowling with the bumpers up. It’s a completely different game.

      Fan works are commentary, they’re a cultural conversation, and they’re inherently communal. It’s all about participatory culture. The advent of mass media (and in that sense, we could even go all the way back to the printing press) has shaped how we think about culture to the point that think in terms of authentic and inauthentic, to think of objects of culture being subject to a hierarchy of authenticity.

      This is going to be a little long, and involve quotes, because it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about. The book I’ll quote, and the book to read is “Textual Poachers” by Henry Jenkins- it’s great.

      Under the usual model of culture, he writes, “the reader is supposed to serve as the more-or-less passive recipient of authorial meaning while any deviation from meanings clearly marked forth within the text is viewed negatively, as a failure to successfully understand what the author was trying to say. The teacher’s red pen rewards those who “correctly” decipher the text and penalizes those who “get it wrong,” while the student’s personal feelings and associations are rated “irrelevant” to the task of literary analysis [...] Such judgements, in turn, require proper respect for the expertise of specially trained and sanctioned interpreters over the street knowledge of the everyday reader; the teacher’s authority becomes vitally linked to the authority which readers grant to textual producers [...] Both social and legal practice preserves the privilege of “socially authorized professionals and intellectuals” over the interests of popular readers and textual consumers.”

      And the thing is, regardless of issues of intellectual property, culture has never been a one-way street. We use cultural references all the time in average conversations. We play off familiar tropes, familiar cultural ideas and stories and phrases even in the creation of new stories.

      Fanworks are just an extension of that. Jenkins again: “Fan reception cannot and does not exist in isolation, but is always shaped through input from other fans and motivated, at least partially, by a desire for further interaction with a larger social and cultural community…”

      Fannish activities are just another way of engaging with one’s culture, not too much different in purpose than this exact blog post, than is done on a zillion pop culture critic sites. To view them as illicit is to buy into the sense that there are active cultural producers and passive cultural receivers, and never the two shall meet. Again, I’m not talking about intellectual property, but what goes on in people’s heads. You tell a story, it may be your story, but you’re not just programming it into someone else’s brain. They’re taking that story, filtering it through their own lived experiences, and making it their own. And that’s participatory culture, too. Fan works aren’t illicit cultural activities (if such a thing can even exist), they’re just another type of them.

      1. Aydan
        Aydan August 24, 2013 at 11:30 pm |

        Fan works are commentary, they’re a cultural conversation, and they’re inherently communal. It’s all about participatory culture. The advent of mass media (and in that sense, we could even go all the way back to the printing press) has shaped how we think about culture to the point that think in terms of authentic and inauthentic, to think of objects of culture being subject to a hierarchy of authenticity.

        I agree.

        This work, for example, could not exist as an original story, and yet, in my opinion, it says just as much about a particular culture as it does about its source material.

      2. matlun
        matlun August 25, 2013 at 5:35 am |

        Fan works are commentary, they’re a cultural conversation, and they’re inherently communal.

        I think I disagree with this. It can often be no more communcal than other works. Ie a single author writes the work in isolation and then publishes it.

        It is IMO just the same thing as many works of “real” art (in the popular perception).

        We have reinterpretations of works of Shakespeare. We have stories based on the Grimm tales (Disney and many others). There are reintrepretations and spin-offs based on Dracula, Frankenstein, Jean Austen’s work. Etc, etc…

        I do not see any good argument for this being a problem. If the author can produce something greater by building on other work this is all good.

        But then again, I have never really believed in the moral value of much of intellectual property, nor in the concept of cultural appropriation. YMMV.

        1. seisy
          seisy August 25, 2013 at 7:25 pm |

          actually, they’re a lot more communal than a standard original work, because they approach media as a cultural commons, and they’re inherently self referential. Fan works tend to be a little difficult to penetrate unless one is very familiar with the fandom as well as the original source material. a fan creator will use juxtaposition , will invert things, will use references to make points and develop their stories that only make sense if you’be been participating in the “conversation”. Many fan creators will tell you that the point of fandom for them is the community, that they create fan works to participate in the community… and that such contributions (whatever form that takes) are necessary to actually be part of fandom.
          Fandom is big on gift culture.

          As to remixes in the “real” world , what makes you think they are so much different than what goes on in fandom? Because I would certainly not say the issue is creating something “greater”, which is inherently subjective and in that case few people would bother, but creating a response to the earlier text, to use an earlier text to comment on something else, to participate in the common culture. That’s pretty communal, and is only differentiated from “fan works” by the development of copyright law.

          I really do recommend Textual Poachers, it is a fascinating exploration of a not very well understood subculture worth a lot to say about how culture operates as a whole. I’m a classicist and I’ve been using it to understand the use of exempla in roman literature. Participatory culture is a much better model for examining pre-modern literary trends than that of the hierarchial legitimate/illegitimate one.

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 26, 2013 at 1:07 am |

          Participatory culture is a much better model for examining pre-modern literary trends than that of the hierarchial legitimate/illegitimate one.

          Yeah. The idea that a bunch of (overwhelmingly rich old straight (dominant race/class/caste)) men in suits are what determines whether a work is “real” or “just fanfic” skeeves me out. Like, sure, if you have a hundred million dollars and a fancy studio backing you, then your Romeo and Juliet remake is “high art… genius reinvention…legend of our times”, but if you’re doing it on a blog through podcasts, you’re a talentless hack with no enterprise, no matter how brave or inventive or technically perfect your work is.

          Uh-huh. Whatever. I hope that door slams those fucking elitists’ asses hard enough to leave doorknob-shaped tattoos to helpfully identify their stupidity forevermore.

        3. matlun
          matlun August 26, 2013 at 2:27 am |

          As to remixes in the “real” world , what makes you think they are so much different than what goes on in fandom?

          I don’t. My point was that it was fairly similar.

          Because I would certainly not say the issue is creating something “greater”, which is inherently subjective and in that case few people would bother, but creating a response to the earlier text, to use an earlier text to comment on something else, to participate in the common culture. That’s pretty communal, and is only differentiated from “fan works” by the development of copyright law.

          Ok. I think we seem to just have started from a somewhat different definition of “communal”.

          There are certainly common tropes and motifs that are reused within the community. But IMO if this is different from mainstream works, it is a difference of degree rather than kind. There are certainly common movements there as well.

          Again, the point I was trying to make was that fan-fic is really not that different from mainstream writing.

        4. seisy
          seisy August 26, 2013 at 5:13 pm |

          And my point is that it isn’t just tropes and themes- we’re talking about actual characters, actual plots- Romeo and Juliet, not just the generic, stripped down trope of star-crossed lovers.

          My point is that original writing vs fan fic vs remixes are made for different reasons, with different purposes, although like all human creative endeavors, there’s plenty of crossover and no hard lines, but we can differentiate.

          While there are exceptions, most fan fic writers- even the ones writing extraordinarily altered versions of the source text- would be nonplussed at the suggestion that their stories would be better if they filed off the serial numbers and tweaked the details a bit, to make them completely original works, because that completely contradicts the point of the fan creation.

          In fact, within fan communities, a fan text that deviates too much from the shared text will often be criticized as pointless, e.g. accusing someone of posting an original fiction story with the character names replaced. (And, likewise, a fan writer who takes a fan work, files off the serial numbers, and publishes it as original fiction will also be met with harsh criticism).

          Jenkins argues that the point at which most accounts of fan culture go off the rails is when they “focus on aspects of the primary text rather than on ways that common references facilitated social interaction among fans [...] Fan reception cannot and does not exist in isolation, but is always shaped through input from other fans and motivated, at least partially, by a desire for further interaction with a larger social and cultural community.”

        5. matlun
          matlun August 26, 2013 at 5:34 pm |

          @seisy: Fair enough. It is an interesting analysis somewhat different from how I have looked at it. I will take on that viewpoint and consider it (and perhaps learn something). I will leave this sub thread as is, though, since I am not even sure what my own position is at the moment…

          Perhaps my problem is that I come from an emotional position that seems to be similar to mac’s. Ie as a counter reaction to the attitude that fan fiction is less good than mainstream texts, perhaps I have emotionally refused to consider how fan fiction is qualitatively different?

          Anyway: Thank you for an interesting discussion :)

    6. Barnacle Strumpet
      Barnacle Strumpet August 24, 2013 at 2:34 pm |

      But what are your thoughts on yaoi, pheeno?

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune August 24, 2013 at 2:49 pm |

        BAHAHAHAHAHAHA ♥

      2. Bagelsan
        Bagelsan August 26, 2013 at 3:52 pm |

        I still like my dad’s reaction to the idea of slash: “So is two women ‘backslash’?”

        He is a giant computer dork. :D

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 26, 2013 at 4:23 pm |

          Depends where they’re putting it…

      3. Alexandra
        Alexandra August 28, 2013 at 1:25 am |

        ok, I just about died

  10. Datdamwuf
    Datdamwuf August 24, 2013 at 3:09 pm |

    I would think we were on track if the folks who created “Elementary” made Sherlock a woman and Watson a man and the characters were otherwise the same. In other words, if you are going to make a modern Sherlock series why not reflect modern society, oh wait…

    1. amblingalong
      amblingalong August 24, 2013 at 9:07 pm |

      Not sure if you saw the Season 1 finale, but it might make you reevaluate that analysis in a couple ways.

      1. Datdamwuf
        Datdamwuf August 25, 2013 at 8:31 pm |

        So, that finale created the dynamic I’m suggesting? I will re-watch it but I’m doubting that is possible. I am happy Watson is not one dimensional in the series but seriously, we don’t have too many series where a woman is the lead with a male secondary. Where the woman is amazing even though somewhat flawed. I know you got the sarcasm, if it was anyone else answering I’d not have been sure :)

        1. amblingalong
          amblingalong August 26, 2013 at 12:05 am |

          I just meant that they [MAJOR SPOILERS] not only made Moriarty into a woman, but had Sherlock incapable of beating her; it was Watson’s plan that finally won the day. So yeah, not a lead character, but in Elementary it’s increasingly seeming like Sherlock and Watson are legitimately co-leads, and a lot of effort has been put into well-written female characters. And primary antagonist is solid.

        2. Datdamwuf
          Datdamwuf September 1, 2013 at 3:00 pm |

          thanks amblingalong, I have not seen it and I don’t mind the spoilers :) That is very cool.

  11. eilish
    eilish August 24, 2013 at 7:58 pm |

    I read that op-ed. I don’t watch ‘Breaking Bad’ but I know that there are verily many men who get upset about ANY woman being on their TV challenging the notion women exist to serve mens’ purposes. Where are they coming from? How are we still getting men with views like this?

    Strong Female characters in gaming: Fem Shep in ‘Mass Effect.’ Jennifer Hale voiced her. Best character in a game, ever.
    Bioware did very good work on the female NPC’s in ‘DragonAge: Origins’, too. It’s possible to have a party of 4 women. It’s awesome.

    1. Willemina
      Willemina August 24, 2013 at 8:54 pm |

      Best character in a game, ever

      My posse of Jade and April Ryan might need to fight you on that one. Fem Shep is awesome though.

      1. eilish
        eilish August 26, 2013 at 3:56 am |

        More info needed! What game(s)?

        1. Willemina
          Willemina August 28, 2013 at 3:17 am |

          Jade is the protagonist of a great action adventure game called Beyond Good and Evil, and April Ryan is the lead character in Funcom’s epic point-and-click adventure game The Longest Journey. Pretty cheap on Steam since they’re old. BGE has held up okay graphics-wise, and The Longest Journey is point and click so its painted backdrops are still awesome.

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