capriuni: multicolored text on black: "Quips and sentences and paper bullets of the brain" (paper bullets)
Last night, with an ear-craving, I combed through YouTube for readings of Shakespeare's Sonnet 130 ("My Mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun"). And I came away quite disappointed.

The most common reading that had been uploaded was one by actor Alan Rickman, and for the occasion, he'd put on his "Listen-to-Me-I'm-Reading-Shakespearean-Love-Poetry" voice -- slow as a dirge, and fairly dripping with seductive intent -- completely missing the point that Shakespeare was mocking those romantic conceits to shreds.


I just needed to vent.
capriuni: a vaguely dog-like beast, bristling, saying: grah! (GRAH)
Let's do this "Countdown" style:

Why I Hate the "Robot Apocalypse" Trope in Science Fiction (and Science "News")

Reason Number Five:

It's lazy (and, therefore, boring) storytelling. Whether television, movies or the news, it is so damned predictable. And, in terms of science reporting, I can't help but wonder if there's a chilling effect on the culture when it comes to the study of robotics and computer programming.

Reason Number Four:

It's likely not to happen anytime soon, anyway; [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith linked to this article a few days ago (and that's what got me thinking about how much I hate this trope) Why Robots Will Not be Smarter than Humans by 2029.

So can we please start thinking up some fresh, new, story ideas -- you know, speculating on the consequences of things that are more likely to actually happen?

Reason Number Three:

Even if robots do become self-aware, and smarter than us, it would be analogous to the rise of a new species in the ecosystem. And conflicts only arise between species when there's competition over resources.

If robots ever do become so "smart," fast, and strong that we humans would have no chance to fight against them, then why would robots want to wipe us out or be our "Overlords?" The worst I can imagine happening is they just get bored with the tasks we've programmed them to do, wander off, and do their own things.

Reason Number Two:

The whole concept of building an Artificial Intelligence out of gigabytes and processing speed reduces "intelligence" to something quantifiable, fundamentally simple, and absolute (ultra-simplified, like any "model"). The dominance of this trope supports the assumption that Living Intelligence is just as simple, instead of the fluid, complex, and beautiful thing it is.

And that can have real, negative, consequences for people unlucky enough to be labeled as having a low "Intelligence Quotient."

And the Number One Reason I hate "The Robot Apocalypse"
(and wish it would slip off to the Idea Netherworld, along with geocentrism and "women have no souls"):

TL;DR version: Karel Čapek was trying to tell us that all people (even 'artificial' people) will fight for their freedom, and are capable of love and self-sacrifice. )

But is the pop-culture take away idea from this play: "Hey, we'd better fight for the civil rights of all people, regardless of their origins, or the color of their skin, or their socio-economic status, or else we'll become obsolete and overrun?"

No... That would be too hard. It's far more comfortable to perpetuate a trope built on fear -- and repression -- of anything deemed unacceptably different.
capriuni: multicolored text on black: "Quips and sentences and paper bullets of the brain" (paper bullets)
A cousin, perhaps, to the "Five Things" post -- for those pet peeves on your mind: "Three Three-Sentence Rants" (they may be long sentences; I'll try not to commit semicolon abuse).


1) "Flynn Rider," from Tangled, is a lying, greedy, selfish, emotionally manipulative, thief: an anti-hero who becomes a hero. But he's presented as the unadulterated, romantically ideal "Disney Prince" simply because he's charming and handsome. What's wrong with people us?!

2) IMNSHO, only historical and hard biographical context should be allowed in declarative statements about literature (especially poetry). Symbolic meaning should only be brought up sparingly, in the form of open questions. Many people think of poetry as "hard" and "snooty," but it's really the anthology editors to blame, not the poets.*

3) Watched the season recap of "Elementary," the other day, and couldn't bear to watch all of it, because Spoilers, ahoy! )

*This rant is brought to you by The Poetry Foundation, and its 'Learning Guide' for William Carlos Williams's To a Poor Old Woman.
capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
Around the time I found that video from the PBS Idea Channel, on how the Internet is Cats, I found this one on the philosophy of Transhumanism:

And I posted the following reply:


As someone who was born with a physical disability, I find the transhumanists' "ideal" of eradicating the experience of disability disturbing ... to put it mildly. As if there were only one kind of human life capable, or worthy, of happiness -- especially since many modern technology breakthroughs (touchtone phones, voice recognition, computer track balls), all started out as adaptive tech for people with disabilities.

I got a few "thumbs up" clicks, and a few replies (to which I replied in turn). I went back this evening to check on the threads (and reply to a couple of days-old ableist comments, once I figured out how), and was chuffed to see my reply had gone to the top of the "Top Comments" section, with 20 thumbs-up, while the next runner-up had 2.

Anyway, I'm posting this here because it's one of the main topics I've been thinking and writing about this week, and I think those who disagree with me are as interesting and illuminating as those who agree, so therefore:

Threaded discussion continues under this cut )
capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
A year ago this last May, here: More Geeking Out Over the Word "Geek" [...], I spelled out in a little more detail how I believe "Geek" is more an approach to thinking about our world and our place in it, thusly:

  • To a Geek, the sentence: "You're over-thinking this," is completely nonsensical. And --
  • A Geek tries to connect All the Ideas to the subject of the geek's passion (whatever that passion is).

Anyway, with YouTube's "geek week" special just ended (on Sunday), that brought up memories of older ideas, about how "mainstream culture" mistrusts intellectualism -- I mean, really mistrusts it... Remember John Kerry's presidential campaign? The Bush people were actually saying that he was too intellectual to be president... And around that same time, too, there was a show on NBC called The Pretender, about a genius child who was stolen from his family (maybe?) and trained, by a secret government organization, so that they could use his genius to kill people ... I think. The four seasons it was on spent a whole lot of time writing the idea of a Massive Conspiracy Cabal, without ever actually working out what the cabal actually was. ...It didn't make much sense, really. And even though the titular character was definitely A Good Guy, the point was continually made that super smart people are dangerous, and the really good ones are the rare exceptions... And I think the reason geeks (nerds) are mistrusted is that:

  • They are intellectual. And --
  • The things they are intellectual about are obscure, and private ...

So, it's like they're a stranger in our midst -- some sort of idea spy, maybe, sorta. You just never know.

This is, I think, the reason sports fans are more easily embraced by mainstream culture: They may be just as obsessive over details and history, and just as enthusiastic in their willingness to be a spectacle in honor of their passion. But at least the thing they're passionate about is a symbol of "Our Community" -- you know they're on "Our Side."

So, over the last couple of days, the idea came to me that the reason terms associated with mental and physical disabilities (nut [nerd], Gek, Spaz...) get appropriated by folks in the mainstream and used to tease the intellectually swift and socially awkward, is that both geeks and PWD make folks in the mainstream uncomfortable in similar, related ways:

Our very presence is evidence that mainstream culture is not the only way to live (or even best way) for all people. Our presence reveals the cracks in the "just world" fallacy that makes those who are comfortable in the mainstream comfortable...

I dunno... still working this out...
capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
1) A wonderful piece of writing on sexual objectification, from [personal profile] kestrel: For Sale: The Joy of being sexually objectified (content warning: sexual microagressions treated in a satirical manner)

2) Any time I buy raisins, the package always specifies that they are "Seedless"... I know seedless grapes are a (relatively) new thing, in the history of agriculture... But is it even possible to buy raisins with the seeds in, anymore?

3) Songs originally written for the Hearing, and translated into Sign for the Deaf often make me go "hrm," because a) it often comes from the assumption that the Deaf are "deprived" of music (music, like language, resides in the human mind, and Deaf have their own forms of [visual] music, thank-you-very-much), and b) the qualities of a song that make it musical to the ear are usually lost when translating the lyrics into Sign. But this video gives me all the feels. For one thing, the signers are, themselves, Deaf, and each of the performers has translated the meaning of the English lyrics in their own way -- showing the flexibility and nuance that's possible in Sign. And also, the message of the song itself:

(BTW, at the very last line, the final two performers are signing "We support you.")

4) Oh! The most recent "Inspector Lewis" episode on Masterpiece: Mystery! passed my Disability Test... The young brother-in-law of the murder victim was paraplegic, and a wheelchair user, and he wanted: to get free of his overbearing mother! \o/

5) Another bit of writing that's not from me, but I wanted to share... This time, from Dave Hingsburger: Red and white
capriuni: Text: If you want to be a Hero, be Good to the Storyteller. (Storyteller)
In the real world, the disabled have to fight for the right to safety, education, employment, freedom of assembly, and self-determination. So does the way disabled characters are portrayed in stories we tell really matter? I think of myself as a storyteller, so perhaps it is both unsurprising and self-aggrandizing for me to say I believe it matters most of all.

Human beings are a storytelling species – the ritual of storytelling occurs in every known culture and in every period of history. And if we take time to actually observe this ritual, we can get a sense of just how powerful it can be, and its great potential for shaping attitudes and prejudices.

First, the audience gathers. The gathering may be as small as one or two around the fireside or office water cooler, or as large as several million, in the case of commercially produced movies and television shows. Then, the social chatter ceases and is replaced by a sense of shared and focused anticipation, which sets the stage for the storyteller to begin. This dynamic (as far as I can tell), is unique to the human animal; lots of creatures gather in large groups for the shared activities of migration, mating, and the rearing of young, but the chatter and communication continues between small groups within that gathering: tweets and grunts, snorts, snuffles, and flashes of meaningful color. I've never seen a flock of birds, a school of fish, or herd of cows or horses become as still as a human audience. After the hush descends, the storyteller begins the tale. Then, if she or he is skilled enough, the magic (and that is really only thing I can call this) begins: the members of the audience fall into a trance-like state.

If you've been lucky enough to have ever been in the audience for a really wonderful story, you've felt this magic from the inside. You're no longer aware of the seat you're sitting in, or that scratchy tag in the neck of your sweater; the events of the story unfurl in your mind with such clarity it's as if you're there – inside the world the storyteller is creating for you. In a very real sense, members of the audience temporarily surrender their imaginations to the storyteller for the sake of a shared experience.

The fact that this ritual is both unique to, and universal within, human society is, I think, a sign that it is somehow vital to our survival as a species – and is probably connected to how we learn and how we understand our surroundings. My mother had a favorite saying: "When we read, we don't learn, we recognize;" she meant, I think, that everything we read is colored by the things we've experienced. But there's also a flipside to that observation: we tend not to notice, or give credence to, our own experiences until they are reflected back at us through stories. The Evangelist Christian who accosts me on the street with the promise to pray for me sees me not as I am, but as a character in the Gospel tales of Jesus. The "Santa's helper" in the elf uniform who thrusts a candy cane at me sees me, not as I am, but as a stand-in for Dickens' character Tiny Tim. And I could not easily contemplate writing disabled characters into my own fiction until after I joined in the disability community online – sharing my own stories, and perhaps more important, learning the stories of others; that's why events such as BADD are so powerful.

The question is, therefore: how should we judge the quality of the disabled characters in stories, either fiction or nonfiction? I think a good template to use as a starting point is the Bechdel Test, which has, in the last ten years, or so, been a useful framework for feminist critique of literature.

In 1985, Allison Bechdel introduced "The Rule" in her comic strip "Dykes to Watch Out For," a litmus test for judging the role of women in movies (and later, other forms of media). The power of this test lies in its simplicity, and also its broadness:

1) there are at least two named women
2) who talk to each other
3) about something other than a man.

This test makes no demands that the women in the story defy stereotype or are admirable in any way, and yet the fact that so few movies, comic books, and other mass media pass this test demonstrates how strong the bias toward male-centered narrative actually is.

So – I've been wondering for a while now: Is it possible to come up with a test to expose the common biases against the disabled in narrative? Simply pasting "disabled character" into the Bechdel test in place of "women" wouldn't work very well. The Bechdel test addresses the primary bias that women exist as accessories to men's lives. And, frankly, that doesn't really reflect the social barriers the disabled face. We may be a substantial segment of society, but we are rarely 50% of the population – often, we are the only disabled people within our nuclear families. So requirement 1 is out. And it is often assumed (whether rightly or not) that we live together in some sort of institution or group home. So requirement 2 is superfluous. And while it would be nice to have a disabled character with any speaking lines, whether they speak about their disability or ability specifically wouldn't necessarily counter any stereotypical beliefs.

And yet, whenever I'd see a disabled character pop up on a TV show, I could feel my jaw start to clench in anticipation of the same, tired, overused plot devices. So I knew there was something basic, and repetitive, going on… If only I could put what was bothering me into words.

Finally, this past winter, after watching one too many cop shows where a disabled character only appeared on-screen as the mute, and nameless, motive for a family member's crime, my personal litmus test crystallized in my mind:

1) there is a disabled character
2) who wants something
3) (besides revenge, cure, or death)
4) and tries to get it.

In the Bechdel test, having two women engage in any conversation on subjects other than men represents both the ability of women to form their own social bonds, and also a wide range of intellectual interests they are able to hold, all within the universal narrative element of "dialogue."

In the real world, we disabled often have to fight three primary cultural biases, each of which, I've tried to address in this test.

The first is the bias that discredits our ability for personal autonomy. That's why I want the disabled characters in my fiction to want something for themselves – it doesn't even need to be a big, powerful, plot-driving thing: even showing someone in the background of the crowd scene buying a newspaper, or flying a kite, would satisfy me.

The second cultural bias defines the disabled only in terms of being less than the culturally-accepted "norm." This is why I believe the third item on my list is important. So often in fiction, the disabled character is so embittered by their "lack" that they lose touch with their own sense of self-worth and moral compass – filled with rage and shame – and this reaction is almost always seen as "perfectly natural," and is never even challenged by any of the other characters in the story. So that the only "happy ending" can either be the erasure of the disability itself via cure, or the erasure of the character via death ("at least they're free from suffering, now").

The third bias in our culture is that the disabled are dependent, and in constant need of charity. And that's why the final requirement on my list is that the character makes their own effort to get what they want, rather than being there for an able-bodied character to rescue. This does not mean, however, that the character should be some type of super-Crip, and do everything themselves, but only that they take some initiative in getting their goals met, even if that's "just" to speak out and ask for help.

So… That's the test that I've come up with for evaluating the stories I create and consume. But I don't expect this to be a perfect litmus test – I do hope, however, that it's a useful starting point for discussion.

What do you think?


[E.T.A: Blogging Against Disablism Day 2013 archive ... So many articles to read! I hope to post a review entry sometime soon...]
capriuni: photo of a roe deer yearling, with text: "The real world is magic enough" (unicorn-real)
Namely: when did the idea that unicorns disappeared in the Great Biblical Flood become part of the common culture?

I mean, in the medieval period people believed to things: 1) that they themselves lived after the Great Flood, and 2) that unicorns existed in the real world.

I'm assuming that the idea was around sometime before Shel Silverstein wrote his song (I won't credit him with the power to create the idea out of whole cloth – what I've learned of him since I first became a fan has made me thoroughly dislike him as a person).

First of all, the idea of the Great Flood is such a despicable one, but that particular demise for unicorns is such a killjoy. … It may be perverse, but I prefer to think of them as hunted to extinction by foolish and greedy humans.
capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
A bulleted list:

  • A couple weeks ago (or so), heard about a study (Via BBC Radio) of people who are born Deaf: that their sense of touch is much more sensitive than that of people born hearing -- to such the extent that variations in vibrations influence how they interpret what they see. Apparently, the parts of the temporal lobe that process sound for Hearing folks, switch over to interpreting touch, instead.

    My take-away: 1) Makes sense (unintentional pun is unintentional), especially since the auditory center is already built for interpreting vibrations [through the air], the shift to interpreting touch would be tiny. 2) On Planet Eyeth, a "hearing" child would be considered "touch impaired," since it would be much harder for them to sense people trying to get their attention by stamping on the floor, etc., because the section of the brain best designed for that is distracted by noises, instead of the vibrations that have cultural meaning and purpose for communication.

  • Once again, I watched a Nova ScienceNow program titled "What makes us human?" And once again, there was special focus on spoken language (see above), and walking upright on two legs... (sigh). And there was another episode I am making a point not to watch, about "What the future holds" because a centerpiece segment is all about fancy robot legs that let paralyzed people walk with crutches, and thus, appear more normal... And that's the really important thing, isn't it, above all else?

    Grr. in my grumpiness around the inherent ableism in all aspects of this perennial question, my answer is this: "What makes us 'human' is the human genome." Humans are no more unique on this planet than dolphins are unique, or squid, or maple trees, or ... And really: "What makes us human?" is euphemistic-- the unspoken (honest) question is: "What gives us the right to claim ownership of everything (animate or otherwise) we can touch?" The honest answer is, perhaps, "Nothing." But we (as a species) secretly, and unironically, believe that "Might makes Right," and so keep searching for that one secret ingredient in the formula that gives us the right to have the might: perhaps it's speech, or walking upright, or tool-making, or question-asking, or government bureaucracies, or religion, or morality... and so, when we look closer, and see those attributes in other species (or even in those species of humans besides us that have died out), a tone of panic and rationalization enters the narrative.

  • Speaking of which, I am growing sick and tired of the meme (in the non-Internet sense) that Homo Sapiens must be somehow superior to the Neanderthal, because we're still here and they've died out... Um, yeah. The Neanderthals lived successfully in Europe for roughly 300,000 years before "dying out." So far, modern humans have only colonized Europe for about 30,000 years. I'd say it's still a bit early yet for us to go around boasting that we're doing so much better. Come back to me with that argument in 200,000 years.

  • On the "Pet Health" episode of a local radio talk show today, the subject was Wolf-dogs, and why it's such a bad idea to try and breed them and keep them as pets. And the point was made that dogs are not wolves -- that "domestication" has created a very different beast, not only with different temperaments, but different digestive systems, and different brain wiring.

    The most common "domestication narrative" goes something like this:

    1) Wolves have a range of temperaments from fearful, to aggressive, to curious and calm...

    2) Wolves who had fearful or aggressive temperaments ran away from human settlements. But the the curious and calm wolves hung around human settlements, picking out food from our garbage heaps, thus increasing their chances to survive and breed.

    3) Over successive generations, this divergence in populations gave rise to a different and brand new animal -- the "dog," that wants to be our best friend...

    My answer to that is:

    A) Well, humans come with a range of temperaments, too, from fearful to aggressive, to curious and calm.

    B) Humans who are fearful or aggressive would have either run away or thrown rocks when wolves approached, looking for scraps. But the calm, curious humans might have held out their hands to be sniffed, and even ventured to offer an ear-scritch or belly rub. Thus having the wolves around to bark a warning when strangers or predators approached, and also to help sniff out prey when we go hunting, thus increasing human chances to survive and breed.

    C) Over successive generations, this divergence in populations gave rise to a different and brand new kind of Homo Sapiens -- the mensch, that wants to live in close proximity with large numbers of family and neighbors, and to settle down and start farming and building cities; our current phenotype hasn't changed as much as the wolf's to Labrador has, but I bet our brain wiring has.

    In other words, humans and dogs domesticated each other...

    And here's the outlier (but maybe even it's not entirely an outlier):

  • A bit ago (sometime between the New Year and now), I stumbled across this video from the Vlogbrothers Channel, wherein Hank Green discusses the cultural phenomenon of superhero creation: Superhero Creation Myths. His thesis is that each generation creates supernatural beings out of the things we fear and are fascinated by: sex, violence, disease {he didn't mention, but I will: demons/angels/Fey}, etc.

    And that got me thinking about the abortive attempt I made, in 2010, to create my own comic book hero. I, too, gave "Gabriel" an origin rooted in my own fear, fascination, and disgust. This particular plot bunny was "mothered" by Christopher Reeve's address to the 1996 Democratic Convention (where the only option presented to improve the quality of life for disabled people is to cure all disabilities, ever, forever), and it was "fathered" by my desire to see a superhero universe where the disabled superhero was a member of an active and interconnected disabled community (instead of being the only disabled person to ever appear on the pages [hello Oracle and Daredevil]). And it also, for plot-driving reasons had a healthy dose of gene-splicing and worldwide Space conflicts over energy resources, and issues of poverty and privilege, and yeah...

    But anyway, the kick-off for my story was a meteorite crashing to Earth, and from that crash, discoveries of new metal alloys that spark a boom in non-petroleum based fuels (and the advances in science in that arena lead to advances in science in the "cure 'all' disabilities" arena -- only really just 'cure all the disabilities we know about, now'), which leads to fighting over resources in the asteroid belt the way we now fight and go to war over oil.

    So-- all the meteoroid news this last couple of weeks got me thinking about my story again, and maybe it would be more plausible to have the asteroid-hunting element part of the plot come in the nearer future than I'd set it in my original idea...

    transcript of video below the cut )
  • capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
    The other day, [personal profile] dharma_slut posted this link to a TEDx Talk by Colin Stokes, about the correlation between our modern rape culture and the lack of movies that pass the Bechdel Test:

    Quick summary of his thesis:

    A) It's not enough that we empower girls to protect themselves against the Patriarchy; we have to teach boys to fight the Patriarchy, too.

    B) Adventure movies aimed at young male audiences that Don't pass the Bechdel Test have the following subtext: "The role of the True Man is to go out Alone and Kill the Bad Guys, and then come home and collect his reward: a woman who has no friends, and doesn't speak."


    C) It's time for fathers to teach their sons that it's a good thing to want to be on Team with the goal of helping others, instead of being a Solo Renegade, even if the leader of that team is a woman, and that Real Men trust their sisters.

    And part of his talk was a strong endorsement, by name, of Pixar's new Movie "Brave."

    Based on that recommendation, I did something I'd never planned on doing: Gave Google my credit card number, and rented "Brave" for 48 hours of watching over the Internet. I just finished watching the first time through tonight... May watch it again before time's up tomorrow.

    Anyway: I wanted to report: not only does it pass the Bechdel Test (the whole movie is basically a long conversation between Mother and Daughter about How to Lead your King Queendom), it also passes the Disability Test I came up with a couple of weeks ago.

    The King loses half his leg in the first act (before the tenth minute), in a fight with a demon bear. And for the rest of the film, his peg leg is treated as proof that he Survived, rather than a reason to be pitied.

    So it has a disabled character. And while he boasts about getting revenge against the demon, that's clearly for the sake of a good story; he spends all his actual energy trying to maintain the peace in his kingdom (mainly between his wife and teenage daughter), so it's clear that that's his real motivation. And the movie has a happy ending, even though (*gasp*) he still has a peg leg at the end.

    Anyway, the movie's page on YouTube has snippets of reviews from Rotten Tomatoes, and while the majority were positive (overall 78% positive), even the good reviews were kind of lukewarm. Now that I've seen the movie, I think a big reason for that is what I call: "Mashed potatoes Vs. Vanilla ice cream Syndrome;" they may be the best mashed potatoes ever to come out of any chef's kitchen, but if you gobble down a mouthful expecting ice cream, you're going to hate them.

    The number one thing that I noticed about this film, in comparison with all the other Pixar movies I've seen is that it is so much darker.

    First, it's literally darker. Every other movie from them has been "candy-colored:" the worlds of children's toys, and tropical fish in coral reefs, and crayon-colored monsters in closets. This movie was set in the Scottish Highlands, in the Middle Ages, and its color palette is dominated by fog, and stone, and deep, dark forests (still image from the film of the heroine riding her black horse through a fog-shrouded ring of standing stones). I, on the other hand, love those forest/earth tones. But I still recommend watching the 2-D version, and turning the brightness on your screen all the way up.

    Second, it's thematically darker (and that may be what dampened reviewers' enthusiasm most of all). Usually, these kinds of "kids' movies" get their happy ending from the moral: "Free spirits just have to be Free!!. But this movie gets its happy ending from the moral: "Free Spirits must learn to temper their Hearts' Desires with Responsibility Toward Their Community." The soaring ballad during the closing credits is "Learn me Right," and it's all about owning up to your mistakes: needing, seeking, and earning, forgiveness.

    According to Box Office Stats (unfortunately powerful), this was the first Pixar movie to fail to come in the Top Ten of the Year (it came in #11). I can't help but wonder if it would have done better as an autumn movie-- it certainly had an autumn feel, rather than summer vacation and cotton candy... you know?

    Anyway, I liked it.
    capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
    So, last night, between a long, hot, shower and getting ready for bed, the question of this whole test clarified (as happens), and this is the revised version that's circling in my head, now, after sleeping on it.

    [personal profile] jesse_the_k. [ profile] lilacsigil, [ profile] kittenmommy, [ profile] elettaria, and [ profile] prydera all disagreed with my inclusion of the criteria that the disability be "Actual" and "have consequences," since that would likely lead to "disability policing." And I see that point -- I also realized that, since "A Quest for Cure" is irrelevant in this test, "Cause" is also irrelevant. So that part is simply out.*

    I realized that what makes the Bechdel Test so strong is that it is completely free of jargon -- using words that even those who never studied literature or writing get intuitively:

    Stories have people who talk to each other about... stuff. The Bechdel Test point out: Unless those people are women.

    I (and many folks in my circle) are comfortable with terms like "Conflict resolution," "story arc," and "motivation," but these terms are still jargon to many (and they have lots of syllables). [ profile] elletaria also pointed out that it would be nice just to have random people with disabilities Show up in the background scenes whether or not they're actually part of the story. It's so rare that they're even in the background.

    So-- this is the hot-water-drenched version:

    1) There's a disabled person visible
    2) Who wants something, and tries to get it,
    3) Other than: Death, Cure, or Revenge.

    (This might be the main character having story-type adventure, or it could just be someone in a wheelchair, in the crowd, buying a paper at the newsstand, while the lead couple make googly eyes at each other in the foreground)

    *(Incidentally, I included "consequences" mostly as a note to myself. I originally wrote my NaNoWriMo novel as a script for ScriptFrenzy!, five and a half years ago, and back then, I only had my prince character suffer a missing eye and facial burns to break from the trope that the heroic prince is now and must always be "A Handsome Prince."

    But, in revisiting the story this time around, I realized: "Oh, hey! having only one eye is going to change how he moves through his palace, isn't it -- especially all those steep, uneven, lit-by-torchlight, tower staircases? That's probably something I should address, and not have him capering up and down like he used to, when he was twelve..." [He's also relatively newly disabled -- within the last year -- and he hasn't, yet, gotten completely comfortable with his changed body])
    capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
    (I've also posted this to [community profile] disability, where it is waiting in the moderation cue, and I mentioned this at the end of my most recent post about my NaNoWriMo novel [under a custom filter], but I also thought it might be good to open this question up to everybody, so... here it is [ETA: Also, I realized, just now, that I can cross-post it to [ profile] crip_crit, so I will do that]):

    So, you know about The Bechdel Test, for evaluating certain aspects of gender bias and sexism in fiction, yes?

    Well, there has been some talk in some circles, about how one could come up with something similar for depictions of PWD in fiction -- the discussions that spring immediately to mind are these two from Dave Hingsburger's Blog: "Rolling Around in My Head," from March of this year:

    The Dave Test and The Rolling Test (I think he updated the name in order to honor all the comments to the Rolling... blog, not necessarily the little wheelchair stick figure).

    Anyway, November is freshly over, and I'm still recovering from this year's NaNoWriMo marathon, and my head is still buzzing with my story. Cut for rambling about my story ) I realized I've created some disabled characters that do not embarrass me, and that feel as though they do reflect something of what I experience as a disabled person (even though I did not give either of these characters my form of disability). And, in the process, I think I've hit on my own "Disability Test" for fiction (movies, TV, books, etc.):

    1) There is at least one character who has an actual disability (with consequences)
    2) The character is in the story to resolve a conflict of his or her own
    3) Curing the disability will not resolve that conflict.

    notes with more rambling )

    The thing is, the strength of the Bechdell test is in its simplicity: 3 points, 15 words. So-- any tips or feedback on how I can simplify this test? And, perhaps more important, do you think this test "covers" the biggest weaknesses in fictional depictions of disability?
    capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
    Two Arguments For an Ugly Duckling Post:

    Argument One: The protagonist "duckling" of the story is an outsider within his own family, and fails to embody their concept of "normal," because it is physically impossible for him to do so. He is therefore ostracized and bullied. This echoes the lived experience of many children with physical disabilities.

    Argument Two: In (perhaps) the most famous modern retelling (The Danny Kaye musical bio-pic of Andersen), The Ugly Duckling is used, specifically, as a metaphor for illness, and how physical difference is a magnet for acts of public bullying. ... and this modern understanding of the story underscores how our society puts the responsibility for bullying on the shoulders of the victims, and makes "Cure" the most legitimate response.

    One Big Argument Against an Ugly Duckling Post:

    Argument One and Only: There's Zero Evidence in text that Andersen, himself, intended the "Duckling's" experience to be a metaphor for illness or disability. ...

    And because of that, I'm not sure whether the story would count as being within the purview of my blog. Sure, the original source was penned well before the onset of the Great War, but that specific retelling (YouTube clip from the film) came a solid two generations afterward. And that raises the philosophical question of whether or not the telling and the retelling are, in fact, the same story.

    Now, if I could find some evidence that that movie interpretation had some basis in fact -- that that is what Andersen intended, than I'd have no compunction whatsoever about including it (and it would make March the month for our Web-footed Friends, over there).
    capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)

    Transcript )

    I love this ad because A) the Grandmother is shown as cool and strong, regardless of the wheelchair, and B) the wheelchair is shown for what it actually is: an effective tool for getting access to what you want.

    Unfortunately, it did not get enough fan votes to actually get aired during the Superbowl -- the one that did win centered around mocking the concept of identity disorder, and laughing when the person got hurt. But considering the self-selecting group of people who did the voting, maybe that's not surprising.

    Still, this one is being shown now, and it's out there in the cultural cloud.

    Also, in playing and pausing this ad for the transcript write-up, I noticed a continuity error: in the opening shot, the Grandmother has one of those folding portable tea-trays with a tea-cup and doily on it, that's missing for the rest of the spot. I suppose it was there in the first place to push all the "hopeless old lady" buttons in people's minds, even though they had to get rid of it for all the action shots to follow.

    capriuni: half furry, half sea monster in wheelchair caption: Monster on Wheels (Monster)
    I would have posted this yesterday morning, right after it happened, just for sheer WTF-ery. But I lost my Internet Friday night, and just got it back this afternoon.

    When PHC was new-ish, it was one of our family's favorite two hours of the week, period. But in the last 10-15 years, Garrison Keillor (the host, writer, and exec. producer) has gradually turned it more into a showcase for proselytizing his own Christian beliefs and talents than hosting the talents of others (I mean, why does he always have to sing bass, now, in a duet with every woman singer he brings on?).

    But, hope springs eternal, I guess, and I turned on the Sunday repeat broadcast for something to listen to because my current favorite show was not on yet.

    For the "Guy Noir" segment, he wrote the criminal as a wheelchair user, and I quote: "the guy's in a wheelchair, and like a lot of these chair-bound people, he's wily and unpredictable..."

    (scattered audience laughter)

    Yes -- he really did say "chair-bound." And why for ever-loving Frog's Sake -- why? Just to make fun of an outside group? And okay, putting the perp in a rocket propelled wheelchair for a radio drama gives your sound-effects man a chance to do something interesting and funny with his mouth-skills. But why not make it clear that it's this individual is untrustworthy, instead of a whole class of people?

    That's it. I'm done with the show. For good.
    capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
    (Which I mentioned in my previous entry)

    How does this strike you?

    • The protagonist (often a child, but not necessarily) is faced with a complex problem.

    • The protagonist finds her or his solution to the problem through the experiences encountered in the course of the story,

    • without help from (or in spite of) an Authroity Figure.

    ...And that last part could be why there are so many Fail!kids' stories from Evangelical Christian publishers and producers....

    Yes. This.

    Feb. 10th, 2009 12:50 pm
    capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
    There was an essay on The Newshour, last night, and I agreed with just about everything she said, though I probably would have gone further with some of it (especially how it's packaged as a little kiddie holiday).

    You can read the whole thing here: I'm suspicious of any holiday in which the greeting card business and the diamond cartel conspire.
    capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
    Last night, just as it was about to turn midnight, I pulled up my computer clock, to recalibrate the time, while the countdown was being shouted out of my TV.

    But instead of fiddling with anything (Since it was only a few seconds off, I didn't think it was worth it), I just watched the clock tick up to midnight, and everything on the calender change -- Automatically. It was more exciting than watching a car's odometer turn over from 9,999 to 10,000!

    Since it's the new year, I've started working on the novel I plan to write: just starting to write down my first ideas, like putting the central premise and synopsis into words, and listing the pros and cons using different characters as the View-Point Characters.

    I went with the Christmas-themed one. Because it's the story idea that makes me happiest. Maybe it's because I was born in the first half of January, so I was old enough (just shy of a year) to carry my own vague memories of my very first Christmas in my very own head all through my life, with very little help from the grown-ups around me. So it's a holiday that feels more like "mine" than the Fourth of July, or Thanksgiving, or Easter, or Halloween, because by the time I was old enough to remember those holidays, I was also old enough to start being aware of how Other People expect the holidays to go.

    Anyway, as I was thinking about the synopsis, I realized that this would probably be yet another "Christmas itself is under threat! If we don't do something, Christmas won't happen this year -- at all!"

    And I also realized that this is basically the trope for almost all Christmas-type stories (in no particular order):

    • Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer

    • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Book one of The Chronicals of Narnia)-- the wicked Snow Queen makes it winter all the time, but never, ever Christmas.

    • How the Grinch Stole Christmas (at least, that's the motivation of Mr. Grinch, even if he does not succeed).

    • Miracle on 34th Street

    • Elf

    • Hogfather

    • Another stop-action animation one of the style and era of "Rudolph" that I can't remember the name of, but it was about Christmas in Southtown, and no one had the Christmas spirit, because it never snowed there... There was a character in that who wanted to make it hot everywhere, all the time. I'd be happy if that story were never made up, but it's an example of the trope, anyway.

    • & cetera.

    So -- am I tempted to pick something else for my plot, for the sake of being clever and original? No Wai!

    I believe, in my little Paganish heart, that this has to be the trope for all Christmas stories. Because, you see, "Christmas" is really about the Winter Solstice, and if the Winter Solstice fails to come, even for just one year, the days will keep getting shorter and shorter and shorter, until the sun never rises again, and time itself stops running.* And if time stops running, than all of life stops flowing.

    So the risk of losing "Christmas" is the most existential conflict of all (I'm convinced this is true even for the people who don't pay any conscious attention to the changing seasons -- it's wired into our autonomic nervous systems, and the way our brains respond to changing amounts of light).

    The reason we celebrate this time of year at all, I think, is because of the fear that, maybe, this year will be different from last year, and Christmas/the Solstice won't come. So we tell ourselves stories about that fear, every year, and we're all happy and relieved when it does come, after all. It's not just that we're all superstitious fools at heart, but that the part of the brain that responds to light in the first place will never be completely convinced that the logical part of the brain knows anything at all. So our Christmas stories are how those two parts of our brains to talk to each other...

    *For those folks in the Antipodes, the days will get longer and longer until the sun never leaves the zenith, and time will still stop forever, and all of life will fry, so it's six of one, half dozen of the other.
    capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)
    Mostly copied (with editing and additions) from a reply to a post in [ profile] haddayr's LJ:

    One of the people in my f'list ([ profile] uncacreamy) came across a link to this picture in chat, and she loved it so much, she copied it to her own scrapbook. I've done the same. It just makes me happy to see it:

    (I'm not sure, but based on the context, and what's going on in the background, I think it was taken on Wednesday morning, and at his daughters' school.)

    Now, to the real subject of this post: that "fist-bump" gesture. I know, during the election (was it as far back as the primaries? I honestly can't remember), the fearmongers said it was a "terrorist" thing -- like some secret code, or something.

    And what I want to know is "Why would anyone believe that?"

    I mean, how many of us, and how many of Obama's oponants, have actually seen a bunch of terrorists bumping their knuckles together? I know I haven't seen any.

    But I have seen that gesture before Obama started using it, but where I'd seen it didn't come back to me until this afternoon: I've seen it while watching televised baseball games, when one player gets on base, or gets a homerun, or something, his teammates will "fist bump" him in congratulations -- it's like a handshake, but quicker (and you can do it while holding your batting gloves in your hand).

    ...I think that's where I've seen it, anyway...

    I certainly know it was around for a long time before he and Michelle shared the gesture at a political rally...

    Obviously, the "oh, look! He's a terrorist" meme didn't stick as well as his opponants hoped it would, because he got elected. But why did this meme stick at all? Is it through some vague association with the Black Panthers' upraised fist power salute?

    Anyway, I just think the wide variety of ways that we greet and congratulate each other is interesting.


    Off to do more writing, now.


    capriuni: A black field crossed by five parallel lighting bolts in blue, gold, green, red, and purple (Default)

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