Destructive Innocence of the White Knight: Magica Madoka’s Miki Sayaka vs Claymore’s Priscilla

13 Jun

Miki Sayaka really pisses me off. No, this is not the opening of a Kyoko x Sayaka fem-slash/yuri fic, this is just my general opinion of her. What I hated about her the most was not her brash personality which jumps to unflattering conclusions about everyone outside her small circle of friends. It was her naive and simplistic thinking about her wish and her personal brand name building strategies as a career Magical Girl. First of all,  has she read The Little Mermaid? Granted whenever I say this, people often think of the happy, sparkly, dreams come true Disney version. But I suspect that blaming Disney for the demise of Sayaka’s character will not really solve my fundamental issue with Sayaka’s character.

In other animes, there are characters like Sayaka who stand for justice, selfless duty and nobility. If the cape, the sword and her knight like witch didn’t clue you in, Sayaka is the an example of the White Knight whose desire to live by fundamental moral principles turn her into the zealous and self-destructive Knight Templar. This last bit is what really annoyed me. Sayaka has a very black and white morality. While her magical girl colleagues develop the maturity and understanding that the world does not work in absolutes, Sayaka tries very hard to cling on to absolute moral codes without taking a moment to really examine whether they are appropriate until it’s too late. Sayaka in this sense is innocent. She is innocent because she strongly believes that the world is black and white, the world revolves around good or evil and that there is no colours in between let alone any gray area. What a modernist character.

On an another note, another aspect of Sayaka that really bothers me is that she made a wish for a boy she loved without establishing whether the feelings were mutual. In a way, she is one freaky confession about why he can play his violin all of a sudden away from starting an abusive relationship in which he is going to need years of therapy for.  Kyoko eloquently summarizes the moral of the tale: don’t wish something for someone else without knowing what this other person truly wants. Also, could she have not made a more utilitarian wish like having the power of healing everyone she touches? That way, even if Kyousuke does not return her feelings, she can still live her life and move on to other things and not make Kyubey look like the girl-child human trafficker that he is.I am reminded of a very similar character from another manga/anime called Claymore. It’s premise is very similar to the magical girl genre but set in a  more mature and dark medieval fantasy world with female warriors wielding massive claymores, secret organizations, conspiracy theories, dubious use of biotechnology with illogical logistics and even more dubious ethical practices. To sum a long arc short, there once was an Ice Queen warrior who, at the time, was the best yoma (demon) hunter the organization had (an organization that for a fee sends women warriors modified with yoma flesh to hunt these human gut eating monsters so that people in villages and cities don’t turn into said monster’s lunch buffet). However, due to understandable circumstances, she ends up killing humans who threatened the life of someone who she really cared about. Subsequently, she was blacklisted from the yoma hunting organization (because you’re not supposed kill humans, no matter what) and said organization sends other top warriors to kill this black sheep (Teresa of Faint Smile). One of the warriors is a new and very young recruit who is determined to kill Teresa because she killed humans.  Her name is adorably Priscilla. She did not understand why anyone other than those gut eating horrible yoma would want to take a human’s life. Having just lost her family from a yoma attack and being thrown in into the Claymore business, without seeking therapy to resolve any of the issues, does explain her fervour to kill Teresa. However, she is a child and lacked the maturity to understand that Teresa’s reason’s for doing so are far more compassionate compared to a flesh-eating demon’s. Priscilla’s thinking was very black and white. Long story short, she was so enraged by Teresa’s action that in the process of trying to kill her, she turns into a witch like super monster called an Awakened Being. Essentially become a very powerful humanoid yoma herself, acquiring a life long appetite for human flesh. The irony.

Priscilla’s story of doggedly clinging on to moral principles is very childlike. In popular culture, the children are often praised for being innocent. They do not know the nuances of the world, they are thought to think (so that their tiny little minds don’t prematurely explode) in terms of rules and are in many ways told that these rules, under any circumstance cannot be broken. And if Kohlberg’s slightly (if not very) racist and sexist hierarchy of moral development is concerned, this is generally indicative of a child’s moral justification for most things. In the classic example, we have a man who has a sick wife who is in need of medicine only created by a pharmacist who sells it at a bankruptcy inducing price and then some as the man only has the money for half of the asking price. The man pleads and begs for the pharmacist to see his desperation, but the professional maintains that this was a very expensive medicine to make and tells him to either pay up or piss off. A simple message that the man, in his desperation does not heed. In the end, he breaks in and steals the medicine. The question then becomes, how do different people justify his action. If you’re in the preliminary step of obedience and punishment, which resembles the most childlike thinking, one might say that what this man did was very wrong and should be punished. The preliminary stages in this hierarchy more or less are about maintaining law and order or absolutes of the universe. There is hardly any room for contradiction. In comparison, in the final stage of this pyramid, called universal principles, individuals at this level of moral development argue that  as long as justice is held, EVEN if it BREAKS LAWS and CAUSES contradictions, the man’s actions are justifiable. Sayaka’s and Priscilla’s reasoning are in many ways appear to belong to the more developed side, until you start hearing them talking about how good should always trample evil. They in many ways are stuck in the preliminary and more childlike attachment to morality. This is what most people think of as being innocent. This is also what I like to call stupidity because ignorance is innocence.
In both of these character’s cases, their innocence is what ultimately lead to their destruction. I draw a from one of my favourite novels in the world, the 1922 Pulitzer Prize wining “The Age of Innocence” by Edith Wharton. One of the themes of this book is how innocence is not pure or ideal, it can be rather crippling and unsympathetic. And in the case of Sayaka and Priscilla, it’s easy to see why. Both of these characters had an ideal of the world which was shattered right before their eyes and yet, they refused to really change what they believed. The result is pure poetic irony: they become they very things that they were fighting against.After taking you on an intellectual journey that involves some of the things I picked up in my undergraduate education, I am not saying that these weak characters should not exist. I think they serve as very interesting foils to the more developed and complex characters. I was literally watching episode 8 again of Magica Madoka and I was like please kill her now, Homura. It would save Kyoko’s life and save you the trouble of having to fight the final battle along. It’s safe to say that Sayaka wasn’t one of my favourite characters in the series. Sometimes I really wanted to slap her across the face and talk some sense into her.  What are your thoughts?

Also, I’m thinking of moving or cross posting on a tumblr site. Tumblr is a lot more easier to use in my case and I’m on it more (for those of you who follow my personal tumblr know how crazy it can get). Here’s the link to the tumblr version of this article.

And also, long time no talk! I have been busy and writing is a good way to relax sometimes.

Good One-shot Royai fic recs

22 Nov

So since I’ve read a lifetime’s worth of royai fanfiction, mostly on fanfiction.net, I feel obliged to share with you some of my absolute favourites that have the most amazing quality. Then again, these are mostly on fanfiction.net. If you like a particular author, track them down on LiveJournal and you’ll get to see more of their work. Most of these fics are from two year ago  as that’s when my royai fanfiction craze was really high. The list might be outdated now. If anyone has any recommendations, please feel free to comment!

All of these are oneshots. In the royai fanfiction fandom, there is this trend of doing these drabble fics collections based on the 100 royai themes (google them). But those take a while to read. I’ll make a separate list for these as well someday (if I have time to remember which ones I enjoyed. There are A LOT of them). Instead, here are some one shots that moved my romantic soul:

2)http://www.fanfiction.net/s/6592407/1/Somewhere-I-Have-Never-Travelled

Written by one of my favourite royai writers. It is beautiful and subtly written like the pair themselves. It had me saying ‘oh my romantic heart!’ for months. This author has a livejournal by the way were you will find more royai fics.

3)http://www.fanfiction.net/s/6613143/1/Ockham-s-Razor

This is a hilarious fic by the same writer. It explains why Roy has the rat-tail mustache at the end of the anime with a surprising conclusion.

4)http://www.fanfiction.net/s/6449565/1/Anniversary

A conversation between Roy and Riza during an anniversary dinner celebrating their 20 years of friendship.

5)http://www.fanfiction.net/s/6219726/1/The-Convert

A romantic, fluffy yet well written proposal fic : D

6)http://www.fanfiction.net/s/6211862/1/On-the-Line

This fic is also one of my favourites (then again, everything on this list is). It shows various times during their long relationship that Roy drunk dialed her. Very well written.

7)http://www.fanfiction.net/s/5948377/1/Take-Aim

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this fic. It goes through Riza’s childhood to the point where she decides to join the military. I spent a summer re-reading this fic so many times -_-. The writing is amazing! (and of course it has some sexytimes in this)

8)8)http://www.fanfiction.net/s/6845422/1/Act-Naturally

Not implicitly a royai fic, but its a bit like the characters watching a movie version of themselves A bit like the Ember Island Players episode in ATLA. It is funny and has biting social commentary about the film industry.

9)http://tomatocages.livejournal.com/4264.html

I’ve talked about this fic before in a previous post. I like it because it explore how history would think of royai in the long run and how much it would forget about their bond. Amazing writing!

——

There’s definitely more out there. You have to understand that it’s like trying to resurrect my memory of a time where I consumed royai fanfiction like a combine harvester. These are the ones I remember reading over and over again because they moved my soul. I mean they still do but I’m like in a Kataang phase now.  Hopefully I should do fic recs for drabbles and multichaptered-fics. Going to have to rack through my fanfiction favourites. This might take a while….

oh and also check out the LiveJournal community:

http://royai.livejournal.com/

Nastuyuki no Rendez-vous review

22 Nov

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! THAT BASTARD’s WINNING!!!!!

You know when you’re getting old when you come to realize how much mellower your tastes in everything are. Especially in the things you watch. Five years ago, I would be head over heels reading shoujos such as Kaichou wa Maido-sama and Special A, despite the fact that I generally hated that all the problems in these teenage dramas could be solved by the mundane power of communication. These days, I still think this, but I can’t stand watching them without feeling the need to bang my head against a desk in a masochistic manner. My tastes have definitely matured towards more josei and seinen sensibilities and I’m glad that the world of anime has a particular label of anime to suit these tastes. The label, I recently discovered, is Noitamnia (animation spelled backwards). This anime time slot was created by Japanese broadcasters to appeal to more mature audiences which means no annoying love-triangles with obvious conclusions, no harmful depiction of female kinship, and especially no misunderstandings that are always solved through vengeful through means not proportional to the original problem sort of way. Luckily the anime gods have granted my silent prayers and recently bought me to see a new josei manga turned anime called Natsuyuki-Rendevous on crunchyroll several months ago.

Modified Wikipedia summary:

A young man named Hazuki decides to work at a flower shop after he falls for the owner, Rokka. Unfortunately, Hazuki can see the spirit of Rokka’s dead husband (who left her a widow several years ago), Atsushi, who has made a point of sticking around and interfering with any relationship Rokka may find herself in. What Atsushi didn’t count on was being visible to Hazuki.

The whole conflict of this anime is due to clashing interests of the two men and their affections for Rokka.  Hazuki wants her to move on from her past experience and start a relationship with her, while Atsushi (now referred by me as “ghost-san”) does not. The tension is further heightened by the fact that Rokka can’t see her dead husband, but only Hazuki can, leading to many snark fests, taunt battles and a variety of hilarious stand offs in general. This reluctant relationship between Hazuki and Ghost-san also provides the comedy as well as the drama for this 11 episode anime. The first few episodes of the series start of this hilarious premise but then in comes the character development. One of the turning points of the series is when Atsushi asks Hazuki whether he can borrow his body to tell Rokka to let him go and move on. This is where things really pick up because you aren’t so sure whether Atsushi is going to do the right thing and tell her to let go, or give into his selfish yet understandable feelings and keep Rokka to himself. In many ways, selfish Ghost-san  acts as an antagonist, especially when it seems that Rokka is warming up to Hazuki.

Of course the cornerstone in this anime love triangle is Rokka. Rokka interestingly enough goes through some major character development. I had somehow expected her to be more of a static character throughout all this, but we see that when Hazuki is trying to date her she is trying to overcome her own emotional walls. Rokka’s conflict in falling in love with Hazuki is mostly because of her memories of he first marriage and less so Hazuki’s age. I really like how Rokka goes through this transition of trying to let go of her past ever so slowly. But just when Rokka is learning to let go, Atsushi does something selfish which ironically was meant to be selfless but then causes conflict for Rokka as she figures out where exactly her dead husband had been this whole time.  The major theme of this anime is learning to let go and move on and it does so in a way that pulls at your heart-strings. You could easily cheer for both men at the same time and become just as conflicted with Rokka. the anime manages to keep your attention because it isn’t very clear what the fates these characters will resign themselves to. It’s not very clear-cut.

I love how well written the characters are, granted there are only really three main characters. I like the growth they go through, the confliction that builds up and finally the cathartic resolution that leads to each of the main characters accepting their new path (although for some a bit bitter-sweetly). This is not just a character-driven story, it is a great example of one. And since the characters are adults, you don’t feel the urge to bang your head on a desk as the drama is not so much produced by easily solvable misunderstandings but rather internal conflicts of the heart.   The character’s themselves really come to life with the amazing voice acting behind them. I don’t speak Japanese, but I have watched enough anime and drama to recognize the various intonations of it. This series, unusually so for an anime, had recorded the voices before animating and hence you get some beautifully subtle realistic acting, especially when paired with the equally  sensitive animation of the facial expressions. Because it is character driven, prepare yourself for some monologues.  Some of which are the quintessential nature-motif filled anime monologues  but all in all, they add complexity to the characters. They don’t come of as pretentious despite some being very poetic as they capture memories or create beautiful imagery.  Monologues also mean that you should have patience when watching this. The pacing is uniform but it is very subtle. On the visual side, I love how colourful this series look despite it’s slice-of-life roots. Then again, having a ghost as the main character isn’t exactly slice of life, but still. The character designs, despite it’s simplicity is quite eye memorable and a lot of that has to do with the series’ use of vibrant colours.  On the audio side of things, the music fits the mellow mood with its use of simple piano and strong compositions or waltzy piano reductions of the opening theme. I recall it being used well, especially during the final “door-opening” scene where a lovely piano tune plays.

Is this for everyone? Not really. Like I said, my tastes have been mellow. If you like to graduate from shoujo, then yes this is definitely for you. Itching for a slice-of-life with a slight element of fantasy, this is definitely for you. Want a good character-driven story? You know the answer. Even if this isn’t your cup of tea, I encourage you take a sip anyway.

Black Jack Anime in Review

7 Jun

I stumbled upon a wonderful website to watch obscure , never-going-to-be-licensed-across-seas-Osamu Tezuka-anime legally on a site called viki.com (it’s also a good place to watch Korean shows and contribute to fansubs). A particular one that caught my eye was the anime Black Jack, which theoretically is the perfect anime to watch in between MCAT study sessions as it will inspire me and give me that one track mentality of shounen manga protagonists and their life goal. Much like Adell’s goal in Disgaea 2 to defeat Overload Zenon and Ash Ketchum’ s ambition to the very best (that no one ever was) mine, I have determined, is to become a doctor. It’s a good thing then, that Black Jack  is a medical drama anime . It will be totally accurate to what being a doctor is like! I mean Osamu Tezuka was a licensed doctor.

Yeah….

In a nutshell, Black Jack is about the adventures of an unlicensed yet skilled doctor and his tiny companion as they travel the world and solve medical mysteries, one surgery at a time (with the assumption that the solution to all medical cures is always surgery), while charging ridiculously large fees that  make human organ traffickers  take the moral high ground  To really understand what Black Jack is about without watching it, try to imagine this mythical child in your head: what if FMA, Claymore, House M.D. and Disney…had a baby?

No seriously, Black Jack is an example of  what happens if you take the manga philosophy that “you can make a manga out of anything” to the extreme. Shounen manga tends to do this a lot more and my generation was spoon fed a lot them.  For example, Beyblade was an anime solely based on the fact that if you put two fancy spinning tops in the inside of inside-out mixing bowl, one of them will inevitably stop spinning first. Yu-Gi-Oh!, as LittleKuriboh elegantly put it, is a show about adults playing children’s card games. On the seinen side of things, Addicted to Curry is a manga about cooking a very specific South Asian dish. If this doesn’t convince you that you can quite literally create a drama or even a story over anything, then go read shoujo! On the same note, Black Jack is no different as the premise of the series is that people need doctors because we humans are mortal.  Furthermore, like shounen mangas, it also features the different character power specializations such as different alchemists in FMA being known for a particular type of alchemy or how Claymores have unique powerful attacks. In this case, the uniqueness of each doctor is given to a particular medical specialization. For example, there’s the Black Queen who specializes in amputation (again this is the assumption that amputation can solve all medical dilemmas). There’s a doctor who specializes in acupuncture, in euthanasia and so on and so forth. Dr. Black Jack’s ability is to do really tough surgery and like all manga heroes, perform miracles in the nick of time ( and to be constantly reminded that it is a miracle by the constant gasps and shocked expressions of his colleagues). The seemingly ordinary medical premise of the show is spiced up with high-octane chase scenes, cute comedy relief and really rare diseases that are supposedly impossible to cure. But of course, most of all, Black Jack is a maverick, a vigilante, breaking the rules to get things done and at the same time sticking a middle finger to the very institution of medical science by performing life saving surgeries that make no sense. In these episodes, he often does not just save a human life, but also teaches his patients to be better people, saves the environment, saves the world from corruption and generally being a kickass badass.

Although I’m being sarcastic about it, I really did enjoy the few episodes I’ve watched so far. The plot is engaging, especially in the Black Jack 21  series. At the same time, the characters are entertaining and just plain awesome. Although the episodes are  formulaic, it is by no means boring. The tense medical drama aspects also include humour and the too are balanced out quite well.  Highly recommend! (It was also nice to hear Jpop songs from five years ago again. I forgot Shimatani Hitomi existed!)

What I continually find fascinating and at the same time makes me crack up uncontrollably is how the series managed to shounenize the world of doctors to make it tens times more exciting than it really is. But regardless, I’ll probably actually get half way through the series. Which for me is an accomplishment!

“Women have to be funny. We pretend to like eachother every single day”

27 May

 

To the pessimist, the Internet is a savage , lawless desolate wasteland which is occasionally populated by metropolises such as YouTube and Facebook. On the whole, the overall sense of anarchy is just an excuse and opportunity for every single netizens and their sweet old grandma to have a go at offending at least fifty people per comment. YouTube in particular is the perfect Internet hub to do this at as you can hide behind a crappy unoriginal username with a number at the end of it as long as you are relatively unknown. Look beneath in the comment section of  a YouTube video and you’ll see why the pessimists refuse to see the Internet in a positive light no matter how many despots it overthrew, how much first hand journalism it did, or how many revolutions  it documented and inspired. Therefore, we should avoid the Internet as a plague and pledge to never use it again. Well, maybe after I check my Facebook page.

In all seriousness, although YouTube comment sections scare and scar ( especially the ones under Eurovision 2012 videos where, solved military and cultural wars are resurrected again after decades of peace. It could quite literally start World War III) the Internet does provide an outlet to share your creativity, especially with sites such as YouTube, deviantART , tumblr and wordpress. And for any funny woman out there, it provides the perfect outlet to share your funny in a world which thinks that women aren’t comedian material. What a heuristic error. A MASSIVE ONE.

Let’s face it. Although we claim to live in a just and egalitarian world, we cannot deny that in  de facto, we are nowhere near our goal. Comedy is no stranger to sexism. In Anglophone comedy, be it American, British, Canadian etc…I’m sure that there are many inappropriate jokes about gender violence (ie. rape, domestic abuse and so on and so forth), although on the bright side, for the most part racism is not tolerated.  There’s also a consensus (an incorrect one) that standups are not funny when they have a vagina.  And I know that, after consuming a bucket load of British comedy for the past year or so, that this assumption expands to all forms of British comedy entertainment. I love British comedy for its variety, its amazing diversity of stand up acts, its witty panel shows, its well crafted sitcoms and  its equally entertaining radio shows and the funny, intelligent, articulate comedians themselves. However, it is not hard to notice that there aren’t many female comics as there should be.  As my favourite female YouTube comedienne  communitychannel (also known as Natalie Tran) said at her talk at an IdeaCity conference (link to this later on in this article), “The world’s population is hilarious and women make a huge part of that population. And I’m glad I live in an age where we can share all of that.”  (The title of this article is also her quote : D).

Despite the optimism and the recent visibility of female comics in the UK, such as Miranda Hart and Sarah Millican, to really increase the number of female comics in the industry, we have to change a cultural attitude. I’ve had a first hand experience with this on YouTube under the generous uploads (one day I shall have money to buy a region 2 DVD player or move to the UK, whichever comes first) by YouTubers, shows such as Mock The Week (and yes, I too do miss Frankie Boyle). Although being quite a hilarious and witty panel game show, like many panel game shows, it has gone under criticism that its short on female comediennes. I’m glad that Mock The Week tries earnestly to get female comics on the show. Certain, misogynistic fans of the show (which includes women) express the opinion (yes in the comment section) that the women on the show are never funny. It’s rarely, I dare say never the reason that women are not funny; it’s because they are double standardized. Being a female panellist on the show is very visible and always is. As soon as we see boobs or a female name, the viewers watching have an extra set of expectations on her performance. What this is saying is that Mock The Week is male only territory and and for a woman to be there she has to be really  REALLY good. The result is that for a female comic, to be visible and recognized for her comedy, she has to work extra hard to be considered at the most average funny. Whereas her average male counterparts will ALWAYS get more recognized than her, despite being half as funny. This is double standardizing and  evidence of how institutionalized sexism is. An example of this is in comments under the quick fire round videos that the BBC uploads where everyone gathers around and spews out one liners (highly recommend by the bye).  The mental assessment starts like this:

Oh look David Mitchell is on the show! Yes! I love him.! He is going to be naturally awesome here. Let’s see there’s also….a woman? Err…I hope she’s really good. What am I kidding, the women on this show always make bad jokes.  Better not watch this. I feel bad already. Let’s see what the comments say. Oh no, the comment says she made a shit joke But it’s Gina Yashere!  She’s actually good on Mock The Week. Let’s see this joke…oh my that is average. Man, this is why women should not be comedians, they’re shit at being funny.  Although I would never generalize all male comedians in the same way, but I couldn’t care less.

The problem is that even if you support and love the female comics that appear on MTW, you adopt a skeptical viewpoint and a double standard  yourself and begin to doubt the comedienne’s ability, which you were confident of in the first place, because of popular sexist and generally arsehole like comments such as these:

“What are you watching me for. Look out the fucking window”
Best joke said by a woman on Mock the Week although to be fair she does sound like a man.
rohanyamid 3 months ago 152  likes

The woman comedian is hilarious in this one (This may seem like a compliment but it’s extremely sexist if not patronizing)
philliedit 1 month ago 13  likes

on a different note, that chick is hot

Serillian666 4 days ago

Gina: “Don’t worry, just pin it on the black guy” Me: (tumbleweed goes by) (this was an actually good joke. The audience even liked this. But no, just because it’s by a woman. It’s innately shit. And Hugh Dennis played of this joke as well.)

Ionlyfearphobophobia 3 months ago 133  likes

people who just slag off women on mock the week just can’t get any (Well said. Well said)

24SparrowJack 2 months ago

No really i’m a woman, they are bad.

JuliaEltved in reply to 24SparrowJack 1 month ago 16  likes


I’m starting to hate every black comedian that plays the race card. It happened so long ago, get the fuck over it, most people these days don’t care if you’re black (What and assholish comment. The joke was about the Nigerian Prince emails. And what if she adds race to it. White people aren’t the only people with a sense of humour you know. Moron. (that’s how angry I am. I’m name calling. I never name call!). This is probably why Gina Yashere moved to the US (and is successful : D ). Because you can make jokes about your own experience as a racial minority. We should not assume a whiteness as being the neutral. And no, I am not a racist just because I pointed out the inherent racism in the system. And also, the joke that she used, if said by any of the other comedians, would be considered hilarious.)
50centgotshot9times 3 weeks ago 3 likes

These comments are just plain sexist.  Ironically, when people are accused of it, they seem offended at the very suggestion that they are sexist. The only explanation I can come up with why women on the show are considered to be sub-par comedians is because they often aren’t heard when they are trying to speak, or that they don’t speak enough. It’s not because they are not funny or make bad jokes. Male comedians make bad jokes all the time, but they rarely get called out for it in the comment sections. Female comics are scapegoated. What these comments point out is that the commentators clearly do not understand what sexism is, or racism for that matter. The good news is that I’m not the only one who thinks this. In fact, my impetus for writing this article was when I  heard Kate Smurthwaite, a feminist British stand up who I now Internet stalk, on BBC Radio 4’s show Four Thought.

Here’s the talk. LISTEN TO IT!  I COMMAND YOU! Not really, but please do take the time to at least download ( it’s free!) it and here the opinion of a professional. It will disappear soon if  you come back in a few months or so.

.Four Thought-Kate Smurthwaite mp3

Kate Smurthwaite perfectly articulates all the things I had mentioned in my rant. I felt angry reading those comments, but I didn’t quite know how to describe it. Now I sincerely wished I continually punched all of these sexist ( which include women) comedy consumers about the idiocy and double standardizing of their practices. But I won’t ( because you only go so far virtually punching people on the Internet) and because I cannot solve this problem with violence. And I’m a pacifist….video games don’t count. After you’ve depressed yourself with such a harsh reality by listening to the lovely lecture, here’s the IdeaCity lecture to cheer you up:

I mentioned this before, but seeing YouTube comediennes like her makes me smile and quickly I forget the trolls, the offensive comments and the double standards and my pessimism and embrace optimism with a warm hug. We are nowhere near equality, but we’re slowly progressing. Ever so slowly. In the meantime watch communitychannel and wait for her to upload a video and when she finally does…be lied to about when she will upload her next video (seriously nat, if you happen to stumble upon this…you know what you must do.)

“Eat with your hands!” and other culinary revelations

26 May

A traditional Kerela lunch: eaten on plantain leaves with your right hand. And ONLY your right hand.

   Today I would like to talk about some recent revelations I have had on food after watching a lot of British shows concerning the history of cookery ( what a cool sounding word, It’’s rather proper!). It was by complete accident. I’m not sure how it happened, but somehow I ended clicking a specific youtube recommendation that made me fall in love with a series exploring the basis and history of British cuisine. But before I go on, I feel that I have a confession to make: I’ve turned into a bit an Anglophile.

   You see, this is not so much a new phase in my life. I’ve always had an appreciation of classic English literature (though sadly I rarely have the patience and the time to complete them. It’s been three years, and I’m still stuck at chapter 22 of Great Expectations…). What is new, is my love for the British sense of humour….and their awesome costume dramas.  Initially I consumed most of my British comedy via youtube uploads (luckily, I found alot of the stuff I wanted to watch on Netflix! Please bring more!). It went from Monty Python, to Armstrong and Miller to Mitchell and Webb to QI to Horrible Histories. Long story short, eventually I encountered the amazingness that is “The Supersizers”  by clicking one of the recommendation videos on the youtube sidebar. After sharing my fandom for it and celebrating its very existence with my fellow Canadian friend (who unlike me, actually lives in Canada), she informed me that because it is a British show about food, like many British lifestyle  shows, it actually aired on a mainstream Canadian network, which I would have actually got the chance to watch if I had not moved (This is just one thing I miss about Canada. I miss all the British shows even the mundane Location, Location, Location and not being able to watch Horrible Histories legally on TV. And watching Daily Planet…Not a British show, but I miss it nonetheless). But I digress. the main point is that  from watching the amazing duo that is Giles Coren and Sue Perkins, as they eat their way through centuries of British culinary history has made me see how different European cuisine is in general.

    This revelation is very similar to the one I had when I first realized that in most Western cultures, unlike most Eastern cultures, one does not take off her shoes before entering home ( in many ways, this is a sequel to that tale). This time the revelation takes the form of a creation of a mental  collection of different cultures’ perceptions to eating food, primarily of which concerned how to eat the food. I had always known that Western culture generally looks at the very practice of eating with hands as something rather barbaric, uncivilized and unsophisticated. It’s a very condescending, unjust, imperialist, racist and an uneducated assumption, but like stereotyping, it exists. At home, coming from a South Asian, more specifically a South Indian background, we always ate with our hands. Eating rice with various curries on a plate (or if a special occasion it’s disposable and environmentally safe plantain or banana leaves) does not require any fancy cutlery.  The general rule is that one must wash his or her hands before and after the meal (and you’re only allowed to eat with your right hand. The left hand is reserved for…other purposes). Being so used to this eating culture, I remember often forgetting which hand the fork and knife are supposed to go with when I bought lunches at university  ( for once in my life, I did not have to eat nutella sandwiches. Eating this for lunch for ten years can make someone actually hate nutella). It’s quite strange, because I would never eat anything with my hand in public even if I was in an Indian restaurant (unless it was filled with Indian people doing the same thing) or I brought Indian food to school. It’s just not normal and many diners would consider it a bit rude (of course , when eating Western food, we use cutlery). What’s even stranger is my parents observations that North Indians (whose culture, cuisine and language is what the majority of the world thinks is literally all of Indian culture because of Bollywood) think that eating with hands is rather unclean and unsophisticated. My parents’ retort is that the restaurant cutlery in your average restaurant in India isn’t always clean, even according to Indian food and safety standards. If anything “hand eating” is much safer as you won’t contract some disease you thought was eradicated decades ago and it’s better for the environment.  Northern India is not alone in this intranational snobbery. Nations such as the Philippines have this similar national discomfort with using hands. I remember taking a class about dictators and diaspora of the Philippines and the Dominican Republic. We read Jessica Hagedorn’s Dogeaters and hearing from my Filipino classmates’ experiences with their culture, I learned how the elite and more urban citizens believe the idea that the more whiter, the more European you are, the better.  And of course eating with hands was not for the better. It’s interesting to see the effects of colonialism on a population that is no longer colonized. And from my understanding, eating with hands was and still is practised in the country. Watching “The Supersizers..”, especially in some of the pre-fork and knife era episodes, really made me cognizant of the very ordinary fact that eating with just the hands is so unusual because of the simple fact that they mentioned the particular era did not use a fork and knife. What shocked me more in these episodes is that they just wiped their hands with white handkerchiefs and NOT wash their hands.

    Going back to dog eating for a moment, any culture that thinks cultures that  practice dog eating are cruel and wrong, should take a good look at their own meat-eating habits. (That’s right I’m talking to you, you hypocrite. Sure eating pork, chicken or beef is OK, but if the animal is cute than you are a horrible person for eating it. Whether you choose to eat it or not if entirely up to you but don’t go moralizing, you cultural supremacist!)

    Speaking of meat-eating, this was the topic of my second revelation about Western cuisine.  Not that I don’t eat meat, or that I find that it tastes horrible or anything. It fascinates me how meat is often the centrepiece, the very essence and the highlight of a meal. The main course has  to contain an animal in it. At my house, we might eat meat in our diet maybe once or twice a week, but the centerpiece of our dinner is usually rice or any other grain made “bread” such as roti (or chapatti). Western cuisine has a very different idea of what makes a good supper. The Wartime episode of the Supersizers really caught my attention to the fact that the low ration of meat made meals rather dull and empty. Were this two years ago when I watched this episode, I would have not understood the dependence or demand for meat in their diet. I do now because I experienced what the average non-Indian, white person eats for a home cooked like lunch while eating at college. From that experience, I can see why everyone craves meat. It’s not so much that the meat tastes good (it actually tastes rather plain to me), it’s more to do with the fact that the way vegetables are cooked is shockingly bland. Most of the times, the vegetables are steamed and that’s it. No wonder everyone looks so forward to the meat; it’s the most interesting part of the meal (besides the desserts of course). I’m reminded of an Old El Paso commercial I watched a lot in my childhood in which a teenager was stuck in this dull prison like environment, forced to eat a very bland dinner of rice and baked chicken until he couldn’t take it any more and face-planted into his food.  Of course, not all Western cuisine is boring and not innovative. If watching Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations has taught me something, it is that Western cuisine has a lot of beautiful things to offer and is always innovating. But I am often amazed at how no one is tempted to add chili powder or pepper to any of their bland tasting food. Then again, not everyone thinks that the minimum standard of what constitutes a food to have taste as being measured according to how runny your nose is….or how much water it takes to ease the burning tongue (though really you should have drank milk).

    While on the subject of meat, I think I understand why most people think vegetarian cuisine is bland and boring. The main problem is that people try to disguise and vehemently try to believe that vegetables can be meat products i.e. tofu “meat”. The main problem is that people need to recognize that meat and vegetables will and always will taste rather different. You cannot replace one with the other despite what chemical experimentations you try. Once you’ve accepted this, you can go on to enjoy a world of vegetarian cuisine and might even prefer it to its non-vegetarian counterpart. It really comes down to tastes, perceptions and what you grow up with. On another note, it’s quite fascinating that the average British person knows what a poppadom or chutney is. Of course I know that this is the result of an Imperial history, but I was very much surprised of its being in common parlance.

   Speaking of Indian food in Western countries, what I’m beginning to realize of late is that when North Indian cuisine (which again, is what people think is the ambassador of Indian cuisine) is packaged to a predominately white clientele, the food becomes a tad bit “white-washed”. Not that it tastes bad, but I often see dishes that most Indian people regardless of religion would not eat. For example, Bombay duck (duck is eaten, but it’s not really common. Also depends on which state you live in.) and the even more confusing Bombay venison…the fact that I didn’t know what venison was until a few years ago, is  good indicator that virtually no one eats that in India.  I suppose other ethnic (oh how I abhor this word, it assumes that white people have no ethnicity…which they do) restaurants in Western societies have this same issue of the need to cater to the public tastes.

Well, I think I’m babbled on enough about food long enough. I’m getting hungry just writing this. But sadly I just ate and I’m on a diet.

P.S.

Yes, for the three people who read my blog, which includes myself, might be surprised that I haven’t written something since January, early January. Under the assumption that you are willing to indulge me in my belief that I’m Internet famous,I will go on to explain. My excuses are legitimate, I have been swimming away from piles of studying and school work. But It’s semi-over now, well unless you count the MCAT studying I’m supposed to do. Well, the point is that I’m much more free now. In my spare time, I’ve watched a lot of Netflix shows that I really wanted to watch which included a lot of British comedy. Also, I’ve been listening to a lot of BBC radio and has got me inspired to want to produce a podcast thing(anyone have suggestions on how I can go about doing this?). And I plan on watching every episode of Avatar…because I cheated with the fandom.  Wish me luck. Hopefully I should end up getting studying done as well. All this is just to distract me that I can’t go to AN this weekend -_-

Of Course, the Pink One’s Always the Girl, (because girls only dream in pink apparently)

4 Jan

First of all happy new year! Here’s a post I’ve been trying tor write since July and finally decided to release it.

I got the chance to watch some action packed cartoons with my cousins recently. Not quite the ones from my youth, but fun to watch nevertheless. As I watched them I began to notice something that I often thought nothing of before. In the cartoons that I watched as a young girl, I remember how usually there would be a group of super heros (of course shows with only a female hero are an exception such as Atomic Betty or Powerpuff Girls ) which were for the most part boys and there was always one girl in the group. And I remember thinking when I first watched them, to be over joyed that there was a girl at all who could kick butt, because frankly I was beginning to hate the damsel in distress type role. However, the thing I rarely clued in on was the fact that when it was a girl, they made it really obvious that she was a girl.

It had been a revelation that was slowly developing inside my head for a few months now and it really only emerged as I watched this one show. I was watching “Super Robot Monkeyteam Hyperforce Go!” (which interestingly enough, the Japanese group polysics wrote the theme song to) and it came to my attention that there was only one girl on the team (or show for that matter). I was genuinely surprised that she wasn’t the pink one but the yellow one. This is an improvement, however, she had pink eyes. Of Course, she had to be obviously feminized.

Now this at first may not seem like a problem, and this whole article may sound like unnecessary bitching. However, many issues arise from this. One, it stereotypes all female characters to have to be obviously feminine or they are not women at all. It greatly misrepresents the variety of females there are. Not all girls like to wear pink (Ironically, baby boys were traditionally dressed in pink (thought of as a derivative of the “masculine” red) and baby girls were dressed in blue ( like the Virgin Mary). This practice was strong in 1927 and presumably many years afterwards. Oh, how the times have changed!)! Not all girls who wear hot  ( or in general ) pink are bimbos. Along with, not all girls have to be pretty. Just as there are a great variety of male characters in shows, so are there that many female characters. There are such things as fat chicks you know, and they can be hot as well.  I’m beginning to understand what the media was always getting criticized for. Women come in many shapes and sizes and personalities. To think that they have to fit a narrowly defined expectation is very insulting. I’m thinking of the recent movie Bridesmaids and its portrayal of woman. I haven’t watched it, but from the reviews on it, I can say that it does do some justice. The characters can’t be taken out and be placed as the heroine of some Hollywood blockbuster action movie. The female characters actually sound like real women reflecting on the fact that we come in many flavours (this problem of limited media portrayal can even be extended to race).

It bothers me to no end that if anything stars a male lead, is considered universal to all humans, but when it stars a female role, it is not. Similarly in action cartoons geared towards young boys, there will be one girl, and only one girl, while if it were for the most part an all women cast, the story would be thought to be exclusively or women. It’s a rather depressing double standard that creates many problems one of which is the labelling of stories that focus on women are often given a derogatory title such as chick flick. The narrow portrayal of female characters is mainly due to the fact that the creators of these characters are usually male. It’s changing now, but if you think about it, many things with a female-centric perspective is given the title of “chick flick” which to the masses, including myself, is a very derisive and inferior genre of entertainment. Many men dread it. I myself hate the modern-day romcom, unless it’s shoujo or historical or has a lead female characters that I don’t feel like hitting something on their head with.

And one more thing I have to add is that the girl in the group is usually the sensible one, always the rule follower and does not under any circumstances goof off. Male characters in this case have more flexibility and are not as admonished for their moronic tendencies . Females can’t be morons because girls are not only proper but they have to work as hard to be taken seriously at times. There is no question of “Why are you even here if you goof of so much?” for the village idiot like there is in the case of the female character. All in all, it bolsters the adage “boys will be boys” and creates and maintains the double standard that women should behave properly.

I’m also reminded of the Smurfs and how there is that one girl named Smurfette. While all the male counterparts have a variety of appearances, she has to be blond and beautiful. Just look at any mainstream movie/tv show and you’ll instantly see what I mean. Really analyze gender and perhaps take that further and analyze class, age, race and sexuality of the characters and critically think about what you are consuming.

And of course, on the simplest level, how differently women and men are portrayed can be applied to stick figures. Because let’s be honest, everyone thinks of the standard stick figure to be the male version. I drew a little to show how outdated this is (hopefully you can read it) :

Interestingly enough, I was told that reality tv shows and musicians like Lady Gaga really question this viewpoint. I am curious to know what people think of this as being an anime fangirl tends to allow me to exclude myself from mainstream media. From an anime perspective, I do find that shoujo manga in recent years have created more stronger female characters whose only goal in life in not necessarily to find the perfect boyfriend or when they do, they still have goals and ambitions of their own. The female leads of  Special A and Kaichou wa Maido-sama are independent, ambitious and set out to change the world. They aren’t the silly women of shoujo mangas of yore who somehow represent modern-day versions of Pride & Prejudice’s Lydia and Kitty whose only goal in life is having a boyfriend and getting married. This doesn’t necessarily mean I hate romance in shoujo manga (which would bring up the question to why I would read it in the first place if I did ^ ^;)!  In this modern age, women don’t have to make a choice between relationships and personal careers unless they want to. In Kaichou wa Maido-sama I like how it explores the Pres’s emotions of having a relationship while being a women in power. Usuchi (alien), however is also a realist but makes me angrily question what the hell he meant when he said in when he said “you’re a women!”. If he was trying to tell her she was trying to manage more than she can handle, do not imply that her weakness is in her gender rather than in the limit of her ability.

My hope is that if you are a young woman reading this, please go out and create things from you perspective so that one day, the predominate view-point isn’t from history, but from both herstory and history as well. It’s a bit like Jane Austen said of women in history in Persausion: “Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. …the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything”

P.S. traditionally pink was the colour baby boys while blue was the colour of baby girls about a century ago as I’ve stated before.  Do you know why the opposite is enforced and rarely questioned? It’s because of SOCIAL GENDER CONSTRUCTS!

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