Let me walk you through the basics, because there is, in fact, room for grey in this very grey series. Here are some things a person who hated Cersei could say in my vicinity that wouldn’t make me want to eat a person’s head:
She has no regard for human life outside of herself!
She’s really shortsighted in the political game!
Queenship narratives are just not my thing, man.
These are okay because they’re, well, true. If you can’t stomach her, like—whatever. She is a vicious, nasty piece of work, she is not asking for your apology, and if you can’t take her, she doesn’t need you. Also she’s a narrative creature playing in a web preexisting tropes that I personally find wonderful forever but if you don’t, whatever, there are enough tropes in this series for everyone to pick a favorite. If Cersei is not For You, I am not going to force her on you. The shittier side of fandom has this straw man about how YOU HAVE TO LOVE CERSEI OR YOU ARE A PARIAH, I AM SO OPPRESSED WHEN I DO NOT LOVE CERSEI, and: please. Loving Cersei is a self-selecting game, and if you don’t invite yourself in by choice, you are not asked in. Talk about the ones you love enough to be enthusiastic about and shut up about how people are oppressing you for not loving evil queens.
And don’t cry when someone DOES eat your head for the following:
She is a worthless cunt and I wish she was dead.
She is the evilest Lannister of all the Lannisters and she is profaning the family with her evil vagina ways.
How could she be so mean to Jaime?!?! She does not DESERVE a man like her sexy murderguard brother, I wish he loved a woman who appreciated him and not a fucking bitch like that.
Like, what a slut! If she would just staple her thighs shut WESTEROS WOULD HAVE BEEN TOTALLY OKAY.
It is not that hard to rationally discuss not being into a character without going into gendered slurs. It is Not Hard, and somehow the people who are most indignant about Hating Cersei Is Not Sexist! are the quickest on the cunt-slut verbal trigger.
It is not that hard to rationally discuss the rest of the Lannisters without dragging Cersei down to prop them up (it is kind of an extra fucking effort, IDK if you have tried), and if you are exclusively into one of the dude Lannisters because of his moral superiority to his sister, I am seriously questioning what exactly of value you are bringing to this party. It is not hard to love Jaime Lannister, as he is a wonderfully constructed morally apathetic fuckup with a singularly charming inner voice, but it is real hard to love him and hate Cersei, given how much space she takes up in his head, and without fail people who do that use her as a sort of flat demonshadow to excuse all his ills. Which: putting all your work into writing a morally complicated woman out of the narrative to make room to force in a dude’s narrative grace is sexist, yeah. Defaulting to his good at her expense is a narrative lie that is, whoops, sexist. ”Jaime would be a good man if he didn’t have Cersei” is sexist, but it’s not as sexist as it is stupid. He is a grown-ass man and is more than capable of fucking up without her help xoxo talk to Edmure Tully about a baby and a trebuchet some time if you want a testimony. ”He deserves better”—like the fuck what, exactly? Cersei deserves a cliff and Jaime deserves the healing vagina of a good woman: sexist.
Speaking of Good Women: that shit does not exist. This series is full of women. Some of them are more morally upright than others, some will ask you to murder a baby. Cersei Lannister is the latter. This does not make her a bad woman, it makes her a bad person. (Key difference, and easy to spot, because somehow, shockingly, people who talk about what a bad Woman Cersei is always talk about the sex thing. There are two problems with this: one, Cersei’s sexuality is a horror story about male-codified power, and that goes right out the window when people talk about what a slut she is (like, if you did not feel sick to your stomach reading the Kettleblack ‘keep the crown on’ moment, I do not want to talk to you about it, let’s do us both the courtesy), and two, it goes into Good Women Don’t Fuck. And I do not have time for that.) This approach is prescriptivist and (hey!) sexist. Defining female characters’ morality solely on the basis of how good they are at embodying their gender is a disingenuous shitbag’s game that unfailingly makes for a boring story. A female villain is vilified through her actions, not through letting down the sex.
So: I am sorry that Cersei Lannister was probably mean to all of your faves. I am not going to put myself out if you hold that against her. But if you use her as a means of proving how super awesome morally sound your favorites are, whether those favorites are Badass Men or Good Women, I don’t trust your narrative input as far as I can throw you, and I can’t throw you at all because it’s the internet and not a physical space.
“Women invented all the core technologies that made civilization possible. This isn’t some feminist myth; it’s what modern anthropologists believe. Women are thought to have invented pottery, basketmaking, weaving, textiles, horticulture, and agriculture. That’s right: without women’s inventions, we wouldn’t be able to carry things or store things or tie things up or go fishing or hunt with nets or haft a blade or wear clothes or grow our food or live in permanent settlements. Suck on that.
Women have continued to be involved in the creation and advancement of civilization throughout history, whether you know it or not. Pick anything—a technology, a science, an art form, a school of thought—and start digging into the background. You’ll find women there, I guarantee, making critical contributions and often inventing the damn shit in the first place.
Women have made those contributions in spite of astonishing hurdles. Hurdles like not being allowed to go to school. Hurdles like not being allowed to work in an office with men, or join a professional society, or walk on the street, or own property. Example: look up Lise Meitner some time. When she was born in 1878 it was illegal in Austria for girls to attend school past the age of 13. Once the laws finally eased up and she could go to university, she wasn’t allowed to study with the men. Then she got a research post but wasn’t allowed to use the lab on account of girl cooties. Her whole life was like this, but she still managed to discover nuclear fucking fission. Then the Nobel committee gave the prize to her junior male colleague and ignored her existence completely.
Men in all patriarchal civilizations, including ours, have worked to downplay or deny women’s creative contributions. That’s because patriarchy is founded on the belief that women are breeding stock and men are the only people who can think. The easiest way for men to erase women’s contributions is to simply ignore that they happened. Because when you ignore something, it gets forgotten. People in the next generation don’t hear about it, and so they grow up thinking that no women have ever done anything. And then when women in their generation do stuff, they think ‘it’s a fluke, never happened before in the history of the world, ignore it.’ And so they ignore it, and it gets forgotten. And on and on and on. The New York Times article is a perfect illustration of this principle in action.
Finally, and this is important: even those women who weren’t inventors and intellectuals, even those women who really did spend all their lives doing stereotypical “women’s work”—they also built this world. The mundane labor of life is what makes everything else possible. Before you can have scientists and engineers and artists, you have to have a whole bunch of people (and it’s usually women) to hold down the basics: to grow and harvest and cook the food, to provide clothes and shelter, to fetch the firewood and the water, to nurture and nurse, to tend and teach. Every single scrap of civilized inventing and dreaming and thinking rides on top of that foundation. Never forget that.”—
Violet Socks, Patriarchy in Action: The New York Times Rewrites History (via o1sv)
Reblogging again for that paragraph because that is the part we forget the most.
Hello Ellis, I have an odd question for you. I love the book To Kill a Mockingbird, although I see that it's problematic in execution, I think it not only reminds us of history of racism (and it's really sad that actually not as much of society has changed). My question for you, since you seem to have both sense and perspective, what are your thoughts? Do you think it's overtly racist even in spite attempts to show racism as evil, or do think that it's just indicative of its time and (continued)
"an important piece of American literature. it’s hard to argue that it didn’t help the Civil Rights movement (most civil rights leaders even commented on its importance). At the same time, it’s so heavily white. I’m trying to consider all sides of it, but I’ve always really liked the book, I would love your educated opinion."
I’ve never read it.
I recommend you read “How to Be a Fan of Problematic Things” over at Social Justice League Net.
I am a fan of many, many problematic things. When someone says to me, “I can’t stand that thing, it’s so racist/misogynist/homophobic/ablist” I listen, and usually nod immediately. The problematic nature of our culture doesn’t stop me from enjoying things.
But I don’t defend them, either.
F’r instance, I LOVE Pacific Rim with a mighty passion. But it doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test! I MEAN REALLY PEOPLE, IS IT THAT HARD? But I still love it. I just acknowledge that it’s a problem
Drabble/Fic Prompt: Susan Pevensie and Peggy Carter having tea. :)
(you are a wondrous being, dear nonny)
It was the accent that first caught Peggy’s attention. Adrift in the halls of the newly-built, not-yet-named agency— no, wait, that’s not right. Not adrift.
Even stuck amidst all these boys, with their posturing, and flirting, and dismissive stares, Agent Carter had both feet firmly on the ground. She clacked down the halls, chin high.
But the accent caught her attention— a London lilt, not too posh, rounded a bit by some time in the country. And, more than that: a woman’s voice.
Peggy was not adrift in this old boy’s club full of young soldiers, not lost, not intimidated— but she was lonely.
"Excuse me, ma’am," she called and the woman turned around. She had a single run in her nylons and a smirk of perfect lipstick. Her badge read "Pevensie."
"I have a spare pair if you want to change," said Peggy.
"Does this place even have bathrooms for women?" A curved eyebrow rose as Pevensie asked. Peggy liked her immediately.
"Not in this wing," said Peggy. "Come on, we’ll kick the boys out of theirs."
The woman was Agent Pevensie, but “call me Susan.” She worked steadily and hard. They had tea in each other’s apartments, good, proper, correctly brewed tea, and talked about leadership and comfortable heels and combat with a lower center of gravity.
Susan’s clearance was so high that Peggy had to wonder what exactly she had done in the war. She couldn’t’ve been much out of her teens then, if that. Susan wasn’t much out of her teens now, honestly, but Peggy kept forgetting. They’d shared too many exasperated “these young bucks” glances at each other over conference tables at this point.
Susan flirted with the Howling Commandos and she and Peggy tormented Howard together. The poor inventor needed it, honestly. Peggy found herself telling Susan about the war, including more and more of the more absurd bits as she went on and Su continued not to bat an eyelash.
"What were you up to in the war?" asked Peggy. "That this doesn’t startle you. Mad experiments gone wrong. Most people gawk a little."
Su laughed. “Oh, I lost my ability to startle long before the war.”
Peggy shook her head and topped off each of their tea cups.
"There was this blue energy cube," Peggy went on. "I’m not sure what it quite did, but Howard mutters now and then about interdimensional travel, wormholes, other universes…"
Her guest had gone very precisely still. Peggy wondered again what sort of combat experience this woman had. “Do you have access to it?” Susan said. Her mouth shaped the words oddly, as though she was considering taking them back even as she said them.
"It went down with St— Captain Rogers."
Peggy could see Susan abruptly switch gears from whatever that hungry light had been in her eyes to comforting a friend in need. In a snap Susan went from looking like her own heart was breaking to reaching out to comfort Peggy’s.
It looked so instinctive that Peggy wondered if Susan was used to being the one who did the comforting, and if she was, what was she doing here in this empty apartment? It looked so instinctive, that warmth, that hand reaching out to comfort, that Peggy wondered if Su had a little sister somewhere.
I’ve mentioned before that I am a reformed procrastinator and slacker. I spent a great deal of my young adulthood not participating, not committing, not getting involved. “I’m not good at projects,” I would say, and avoid starting any. This was completely true; I was terrible at finishing things.
Much later in life I read something that resonated for me. Namely, that nothing is ever “done,” it’s…
Jetstream days. Packing and re-packing. Emails about strange scientific experiments, conversations about hackable implants, being poisoned in China, cyborg lawsuits and the alternation of power. Drinking an energy shot designed and tested by US special operations forces. Documents raining in to be read, rewritten, signed and sent. On a plane tomorrow, for two weeks of beige supermodern…
I have two essential reactions to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
First is that I have lost the ability to not-see issues of representation in my fiction. I spent a great deal of time wondering why on Earth the human lead, Malcom, could not have been a woman of color. I couldn’t think of a single story-related reason for it.
I also noted, with tired resignation, that for a story set in…
Everybody gets the “crap I wish I’d thought of that!” thing if you’re in a creative field, I imagine, it’s one of those buttons wired into our brains, but Mieville’s writing doesn’t so much push that button for me as take a sledgehammer to it until the plastic shatters. I think it’s because he has the absolute disregard for conventional plausibility that I strive for, and he does it without ever once blinking, which I think is the trick. People will accept almost any weird thing, as long as its A) kinda neat and B) you never admit for a minute that it’s completely absurd. You start “Perdido Street Station” with a beetle-headed woman, and you immediately think “I dunno, I’m not gonna suspend my disbelief for THAT, and by about twenty pages in, you realized that the author doesn’t apparently care if you do or not. There is no effort spent to tease you into letting down your guard with careful rationalizations of the history of the noble talking whatsits, all the standard fantasy stuff to make sure that you’re not rolling your eyes or weirded out or troubled by the strangeness of it. Be troubled! This is troubling shit. You’re either seduced by the fabulous weirdness of it all, or you can get bent. It’s fantasy that’s actually fantastical—not in the sense that anything gets used as a deus ex machina, (terribly far from it!) but in the sense that the world is just full of weird stuff. It’s Alice in Wonderland meets Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” meets hell. And it doesn’t blink.
And now, to trot out a variant one of my favorite rants, god, I wish more people would do that. God, I wish *I* would do that. All the infinite possibilities of fantasy, and instead we get ten thousand rehashes of a quasi-Western European culture with elves, fairies and telepathic wolves, and magic systems so stratified and carefully explained, so that nobody ever gets the idea that the author is using magic as an excuse for stuff, that they have all the exuberant joy of a rectal exam. Given an infinite canvas of potential oddity, we spend our time recreating Pern, Valdemar, and Middle-Earth with different hats. Strange is like a lost art. Trying to think of books that are genuinely bizarre and fantastical gets me the aforementioned Mieville, Clive Barker’s Abarat, King and Straub’s “The Talisman,” maybe Gormenghast, to a lesser extent Gaiman’s “Neverwhere”…and…um…some of the fantasy bits in Tad William’s “Otherland” which was science fiction anyway. Stories where the laws of physics were different, where the world is a gigantic house, or where an archipelago was made of islands of different times of day. Whereas if I made a stack in my living room of books where a young girl bonds telepathically to a horse/dragon/wolf/tiger in a quasi-European society, the fall from the top would probably break my neck.
So, without further ado—many of my readers doubt know these already, having teased them out for themselves, but for anybody starting out, Things I Have Learned About Art, mostly composition and color.
- Don’t have a line going off the exact corner of the page. This activates the corner visually—it hauls the eye down and right off the page, and they may never come back. Doesn’t have to be a straight line, either. Likewise, if you’ve got a large shape going off the corner, handle it carefully—if it’s perfectly balanced in the corner, the center axis will sometimes act like a line, even if it’s not drawn in.
- If something is nearly touching something else, but not quite, it activates the space between them. If you have a tree branch that’s almost—but not quite—touching the line of the mountains, people are going to be staring at that little gap. Since there is probably nothing to see in that little gap, you probably don’t want that.
Corollary 1: The eye goes to stuff that’s crossing. If you have stuff crossing other stuff, the eye will get dragged to where they cross. This can be used to your advantage.
Corollary 2: X marks the spot. If you have stuff—tree branches, arms, mountains, whatever, form an exact right angle cross, the eye goes there and STOPS. For whatever reason, a right-angle X is like a brake. People will stare at it. Can be great if it’s on your main figure! Not so great if it’s a couple of blades of grass in the foreground. X’s, for whatever reason, will haul in the eye.
- Don’t block movement. I think it was John Seery-Lester who wrote this one, and I’ve found him to often be correct. If you have a figure moving, don’t put stuff in their way. ANY stuff. A wolf running across the painting is halted just as easily by a bright blade of grass from the foreground extending into his path as by a brick wall. Obviously you have to make some judgement calls on this one, but if you’re going for a sense of motion, don’t put in a visual obstacle course.
- People look at faces. In most paintings, all else being equal, the eye is drawn immediately to faces. This is good! You want people to look at your figure! Also, according to Michael Whelan anyway, again, all else being equal, a book cover with a large face does better on the newsstand. Couldn’t speak to that one myself.
Corollary: They look at boobs, too.
- The eye goes to contrast. The point where the darkest darks cross the lightest lights is seriously intense, and the eye will go there. This can be used to your advantage, but if you have three or four evenly spaced areas of high contrast, the eye will wander around, get confused, miss your main figure, and the viewer will get bored and get a headache. (This one’s hard to spot in practice, so don’t sweat too much. If you’ve got a piece that isn’t working, though, consider whether this may be the problem, and punch up the contrast on your main point of interest.)
- Figure out what color your light source is, and dump the complimentary color in the shadows. This depends on your color scheme, but seriously, a little purple in the shadows cast by the yellow sun of the the earth can really jazz up a piece.
Corollary: Gray looks purple if you stick it next to yellow, etc. This isn’t either good or bad, just something to be aware of.
- The eye follows lines. If you have a strong line running most of the length of the painting, have it go somewhere interesting. If it winds up nowhere in particular—if you’ve got a dais or platform with a strong line at the top, say, and there’s nothing interesting to either side—then break it up—a leg, a fold of cloth, a torch, whatever—so that the eye can get off that hard line. It’s like a monorail. You gotta give ‘em a station to get off, or they’ll just go back and forth and eventually jump, and god knows where they’ll wind up.
Corollary 1: The eye will follow lines TO stuff, too. Have your hard line lead to somebody’s face, and wham, you know the viewer’s gonna see that face. Have the line of a mountain lead to your mountain lion, or whatever.
Corollary 2: Hard lines that divide your painting in half (or a third, or whatever) are tricky. See, they split the painting HARD, and there’s a good chance the viewer will not actually register half the painting. It isolates each half of the painting. Great if you’re doing a light-and-dark shot of the same area or something—the visual similiarities will tie them together. Not so great if you just wanted to put a table there. The hard line acts as a wall. You gotta give ‘em some kind of break to get through the wall. A mountain or a tree breaking up the horizon line might be all you need.
- Bright colors come forward, dark colors recede. But you can fake ‘em out with contrast and saturation.
- Certain color combos have associations that trump your painting every time. Okay, this is totally subjective, but bear in mind that if you use dark green and saturated red together, it’s Christmas, and red, white, and navy blue are more trouble than they’re worth. You may be able to make ‘em work, people certainly do, but you’re working against an entire culture’s programming on this one.
Corollary 1: Red, blue, and yellow in equal amounts gets really cluttered. Again, it can be made to work—my icon, for example, is from a painting where I used all three—but all those primaries can be awfully busy if you’re not careful. The platypus painting was seriously minimalist and stylized, which I think is why it worked, assuming it did and I’m not delusional.
Corollary 2: Fear the rainbow. Don’t ask me why, but if you have a complete rainbow spectrum, it just takes over the image. Not neccessarily bad, but approach with caution.
Corollary 3: Warning colors draw the eye. Since we evolved to associate bright colored animals with danger, like bees and poison frogs and whatnot, the specific combinations of black and red and especially black and yellow haul the eye in like no other. Black and yellow is much more powerful than black and white.
- Symmetry is powerful, or powerfully boring. Strict, formal symmetry can make for a very imposing, dramatic painting, or it can send you to sleep. There’s a trick to it. If I ever figure out what it is, you’ll be the first to know.
Corollary: Odd numbers are good. I am told this works in landscaping, too—two of anything cancel each other out. One is an interesting specimen, three is a good dynamic grouping. It works with higher numbers too. Odd numbers add drama, even numbers balance one another. Once you get to the point where you can’t count the things, don’t worry about it.
- Any collection of three dark roundish bits is a face. Learn to live with it. If you have a face take over a painting, however, you can usually fix it by taking out one of the “eyes.”
- Same value, different hue, vibrates like hell. Okay, this is hard to explain, but if you have two colors that are the same brightness, even if it’s a red and a green or something, and you stick them together, the fact that they’re the same light/dark value gives them this freaky visual wiggle, as they both fight for dominance. You can use this to your advantage, but more likely, it’ll give your viewer a migraine. Decide which color you want to win and punch it up a few notches.
- Anything can be any color, as long as you get the shape right. Especially true of skin tones, as long as it’s internally consistent, people will assume that it’s due to weird lighting, or they won’t even notice. Jerry Rudquist, my painting teacher, art rest his soul, told me this, and I have been proving him right for the rest of my life.
Corollary: Bright yellow is brighter than white. Heh, go figure. White is usually the brightest part of a painting, but occasionally you find a painting where yellow trumps it. I don’t know what causes that to happen, but it’s interesting.