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Happy Halloween!!! October 31, 2013

Filed under: Life,Television & Film — Televixen @ 6:06 pm
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1394399_10151752710167568_1031031790_nIt’s no secret that Halloween is my favorite holiday. So, I wanted to take a moment to wish you a happy one. To me, Halloween is an entire month spanning from late September, when I put up my decorations, until early November. While the amateurs spend one day getting their scare on, I hit the haunts all month long, some years even sporting more than one costume. As a kid, I always felt like an outcast. I never felt like I fully belonged at my Catholic school. Halloween was the one day out of the year to go a little crazy (or mad as Norman Bates puts it). It was the one day out of the year where you were encouraged to be someone else and go wild. You could escape your boring little reality. You could eat sweets, be evil and decadence was accepted. As a teenager, I got into The Cure and Nine Inch Nails and soon became obsessed with horror variety shows, anthology series and the TV hosts. I was a bit of a goth kid. The Crypt Keeper and Svengoolie (UPN fixture in Chicago) were the ones that dominated my parents’ TV screen. But, before they could do their thing, there was one woman who revolutionized local TV. Her name was Vampira.

Vampira (real name Maila Nurmi) is one of my favorite gothic icons. Hell, I even played her in a theatrical production. She had a dark sensibility long before there was an Elvira. (She even sued her for stealing the idea/look). While Elvira was cheeky, Vampira was seductively evil. She was a fixture in California for being a horror TV host in the 1950s, but didn’t really grab the nation’s attention until much later when Ed Wood’s “Plan 9 From Outer Space” became a cult hit. Even though she has no lines, she’s the one thing I always remembered.

This Russian site has some pretty awesome and rare Vampira photos. Check it out!

http://www.liveinternet.ru/users/irena_69/post244683517/

Happy Haunting!

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Trek panel at Geek Girl Con coverage October 30, 2013

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Tanya Feldman, Jamala Henderson, Me and Jarrah Hodge.

Our panel, “Is Star Trek a Feminist Utopia?” at Geek Girl Con in Seattle is getting a lot of mentions on websites and blogs all around the net. I thought I would post some of the coolest mentions here. Feel free to link me to others as you find them. The overwhelming feeling I’m getting is that people wished they could have discussed Star Trek with us for hours, but they think that we didn’t give enough attention to Enterprise. Very true. There were only 3 of us, plus one moderator. We each thought we would cover a series. I had TOS, Jamala took on TNG, Tanya and Jarrah tag-teamed Voyager and Deep Space Nine. I know we didn’t give enough coverage to the movies, but there was mention of them. I spoke about First Contact and I think there were other mentions too. The main thing we learned from this experience is that we could have a panel on any one of these areas and it would take up nearly an hour or more. We did our best, but the time ran out so quickly. We mostly wanted to make sure we had enough time to hear your thoughts. Sorry we rushed through our discussion of Into Darkness, but I’m not sorry we disliked it! Can’t wait until Star Trek Las Vegas where I will, hopefully, be moderating a similar discussion in August.

Some of our fabulous mentions: 

http://mythcreants.com/blog/the-best-quotes-from-geekgirlcon/

http://gothmaureen.tumblr.com/post/64743272814/geekgirlcon-2013

http://blogs.uoregon.edu/4dbio/2013/10/20/geek-girl-con-2013-day-1/

http://www.shybi.com/forums/index.php?app=blog&module=display&section=blog&blogid=1086&showentry=9315

http://majorspoilers.com/2013/10/24/conventions-day-geek-girl-con/

 

Your moment of TrekZen*. October 28, 2013

Filed under: Television & Film — Televixen @ 6:40 pm
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Your moment of TrekZen (from Dayton Ward who got this from The Daily Show)

Take your time.

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…And you better not say Uhura in the Captain’s Chair if you know what’s good for you! -MC ; )

 

Does shock value muddle a message?

I was watching a recent episode of American Horror Story Coven with my boyfriend when suddenly a scene got very uncomfortable. Had he been paying closer attention to a certain character’s dialogue he would have seen it coming. Alas, we multi-task and so occasionally certain bits get lost while we flip around on our iPhones. Now, you probably want to stop here if you’re not at least 3 episodes into the new season because it’s about to get spoilery. SPOILERS! DON’T READ BEYOND HERE. I WARNED YOU! If you’re caught up on the show, go ahead.

evan-peters-kyle-spencer-american-horror-story-coven-s03e03-the-replacements-tarThe “WTF scene” that made my boyfriend squirm was when the show’s Frankenstein’s monster, Kyle, gets touched inappropriately by his depressed and drug-addled mother (played by Mare Winningham). We had two very separate, but bold reactions to the scene. I stayed quiet and took in his shock and dismay. I’m probably paraphasing a bit, but it was something like, “oh, no…why?” He didn’t understand why they had to go there and lobbed it in with the second season’s incorrigible kitchen sink. I totally understand that AHS tends to throw reactionary scenes at the wall and sometimes they don’t stick. But, when they do, they really do. In this case, I felt an immediate sense of “yes!” Believe me, I am not excited to see a young man get molested by his mother on primetime TV. I was just proud that the show went there because for years Hollywood has all-but ignored female-on-male rape. Yet, it is a horrifying reality for many men, especially in the familial setting as shown on the series. With all this said, I don’t want you to think that my boyfriend lacks empathy for these characters and real-life situations. He absolutely does and this was really just a jumping off point for me to write a blog about this topic.

article-2476233-18F6899900000578-313_634x354The one thing AHS is good at is showcasing all sides of deviant behavior. Sometimes we don’t understand why they throw a certain twist in and others make perfect sense. What other shows do you know that are addressing mommy issues through oral fixation with breast milk, BDSM and women who will go to any length to get pregnant? While Kyle getting diddled by his mom may make us uncomfortable, I am so glad AHS took a stand and showed this. Like I’ve said before, through the guise of horror, they can get away with things television has shied away from for years. Incest being one of them. Not to sound like a broken record, but Gene Roddenberry did it with Star Trek through aliens and distant planets. AHS is doing it through broken people and messed up situations.

It’s easy for us to say, “ew” or “that’s gross,” but keep in mind whatever awful deviant behavior you see on-screen as horror could be someone’s reality. So, before you get up in arms over this moment, let’s look at the facts. According to RAINN.org, 2.78 million men in the U.S. have been victims of sexual assault or rape. In 2003, 1 in every ten rape victims were male. That’s just the ones reporting it. There’s a stigma in society about masculinity. Because men aren’t encouraged as much as women to talk about their feelings, I’m sure there are a lot of men who suffer silently. These men never get their stories of childhood sexual abuse heard. Film and television perpetuates these misconceptions. But, it also has the power to make us feel less alone. Some of my male friends have told me about their abuse stories and I’m always compassionate. Not everyone feels comfortable enough to talk about it to their friends and family. Television has a lot of power because it comes into our homes and invades our lives. It has the power to show situations that we envy, cars we want to drive and people we want to be. On the flip side, it can make people feel they are not alone. Let’s look at the movie, Bully and campaigns like “It Gets Better.” If those images and stories helped  just one person survive and overcome, then they were a success in my mind. Television doesn’t necessarily have to take on important issues, but good writing should. I knew when I saw the incest scene, it wasn’t just thrown in there for shock value. I knew the writers would make it pay off. On a side note, this is the second time in one week FX has shown motherly molestation on their network. Sons of Anarchy also featured a woman who came to a violent end for her actions in this area.

RAINN.org lists 80% of rape and sexual assault victims as being under 30 years of age. Under 30 is a huge section of AHS’ audience. I hope they are getting the messages across beyond the violent imagery. I know many of you were probably cheering zombie-Kyle on as he took a trophy to his mom’s face, but that’s the surface horror. Gore is not what makes something scary. The everyday-realities of our lives reflected back at us is the real horror. The real horror is that this happens all the time and no one is talking about it. I just have to wonder if the messages are getting across or do people just see this show as shock for shock’s sake? I really hope not because there is real potential here. a_560x0

While some of you are just grossed out, I am proud of the show’s writers for creating fully-realized characters with flaws. Even the mother is a role most women do not get to play often. They didn’t just show her as some trope of villany. She was complex, coping with the loss of men in her life, suicidal, down-trodden and probably suffered some form of sexual abuse in her past as well. She thought she was doing something to please her son. While we didn’t see what her relationship with Kyle was like when he was coherent, I get the feeling he went along with it for a while. His reaction to Madison getting gang-raped at the party takes on a whole new meaning once you consider that. Maybe I am reading too far into this, but I’ve heard rape survivors feel disconnected from their bodies. Many victims of childhood sexual abuse can become withdrawn. Perhaps the mute-monster version of Kyle is a metaphor for this. The silent, dissociative “Franken-Kyle” made up of other boys’ parts is a perfect parallel to how some victims of sexual abuse feel. If you were going for this, Tim Minear, then I applaud you! When Kyle screams, “NO!” right before he attacks his mother we know this was a breaking point. Who is the real monster in this scenario? Good writing should make you ask those questions.

As I’ve said before, TV is where writers are taking risks these days. There’s too much riding on movies and how do you market a downer? Television can show facets of life, no matter how ugly, and get away with it. Movies are so expensive to make and theater-going audiences are dwindling. I feel filmmakers (with some exceptions) are afraid to take risks because it’s so hard to get movies made and distributed these days. Shows like AHS, which feature ensemble casts, can focus on a few people per episode and highlight their dysfunction without the whole show being about that one issue.

AHS has not always done the best job treating these issues with respect and class, but I will argue for its place on my TV. So, next time the show makes you squirm, think about why the writers chose to go there. I guarantee there’s more to it than shock value.

***Male survivors and others affected by sexual violence can receive free, confidential, live help through RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline, 24/7. Call 1.800.656.HOPE to be connected to a local rape crisis center in your area, or visit the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline to get live help in an instant-messaging format.

 

Recovering from Geek Girl Con 2013 October 22, 2013

I had an absolute blast talking women in Trek at Geek Girl Con in Seattle. My lovely, “Is Star Trek a Feminist Utopia?” panel buddies did an awesome job keeping the conversation going. The audience was very engaged and I left with a sense of accomplishment. We’re already planning for next year! Thanks to Jarrah Hodge for the awesome pictures of my fellow panelists after our talk. It was great to share the stage with her again. I’m also so proud of Jamala Henderson and Tanya Feldman. Thank you to everyone who stayed afterwards to keep the conversation going in the halls. As one audience member said, “How cool is it to be in a room with this many other female Star Trek fans?”

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from left to right: Tanya Feldman, our moderator: Jamala Henderson, me and Jarrah Hodge.

 

The Borg Queen: super villainess or just another femme fatale? October 19, 2013

Filed under: Television & Film,Uncategorized — Televixen @ 8:22 pm
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BorgqueenI have always been a fan of horror. My love for scary movies pre-dates my interest in Star Trek by far. Perhaps this is why I love the Borg Queen and consider First Contact one of my favorite Trek films of all time. On our Trek panel at Geek Girl Con we are each taking a female villain from the franchise and discussing their characteristics and why we like them. I have such mixed feelings about the Borg Queen as a super villainess. At first glance, she is powerful, cunning and a strong mouthpiece for the collective. She is in many ways no different than the monsters of gothic movies such as Frankenstein or one of the evil queens from Disney films. She is the ultimate femme fatale. Perhaps this is why I don’t know how to feel about her from a feminist perspective. On one hand, I love the idea of a formidable female baddie. On the other, I take issue with how she uses her power. Why do all the female villains have all the fun in Trek? I wish other female characters had as much nuance and badassery as our evil counterparts.

320x240The one thing that made The Borg so frightening was their faceless, nameless, hive mentality to conquer and assimilate all who get in their way. They have no emotional response. Emotions are irrelevant. Yet, the Borg Queen is one who uses very human tactics to manipulate, seduce and control her male subjects in First Contact. I am torn because I love her as a character, but I don’t buy her as a Borg. The Borg do not flirt. The Borg do no use their feminine wiles. Yet, the queen is seductive and sly in a very femme fatale way. I am not ignoring the fact that Picard is mighty sexy as Locutus. I just think if the Borg baddie was a male character, the dynamic would have been way different.

Let’s look at the role of a queen in the insect world. The queen at first glance, might seem like the epicenter of the hive world of bees. Yet, what is really her role? Her job is to endlessly reproduce. She’s a baby machine. All the drones serve her and she doesn’t have to do anything for herself. The Borg Queen in Star Trek is more of a mouthpiece. She doesn’t control them as she says she is just one of them. She is the beginning and the end.  she is one who is many. She is The Borg. When she dies, the collective does not. As long as there is a piece of the collective still in tact, The Borg will continue to grow and assimilate. There’s also lots of evidence to suggest that multiple queens exist in Borg space. Yet, her role isn’t that different from an insect queen in that her main agenda is to multiply The Borg and colonize other parts of space. Their form of communication is a hive sound, similar to bees, an indistinct buzzing to which the Queen can intercept, translate and bring order to.

rn5233698eThe writer in me understands that the Queen serves as a mouthpiece for storytelling purposes. Otherwise, what do we have? We have people running from and killing zombies. We have The Walking Dead. Star Trek is not a show that engages in violence as a way to solve problems, so what you need is a character that helps reflect our humanity back at us. You need a threat that you can communicate with. Drones are not that.

The Queen is dynamic. She is intelligent. She is a real threat that you base storylines on. I would argue that TOS and TNG are about fraternal love and chemistry. There is a certain bro-mance at the core and The Borg Queen threatens the order of this fraternity. In First Contact, she is a establishes a bit of a love triangle between herself, Data and Picard (Locutus). She uses fear and sensuality to control her male subjects. Her feeling of intellectual superiority drives her need to conquer in search of perfection. A monster without a conscience or morality is perhaps of the most terrifying order. One of the most memorable scenes in First Contact is when she has Data strapped down and grafts some human skin and then blows on the inside of his wiring. To truly assimilate Data she must throw his desire for humanity back at him. He is after all a machine too. She hits him where it hurts and yet his reaction is one of fear and desire. This is the femme fatale trope working its way in. I want to love her, but because the writers make her so different than the rest of the Borg, it’s tought to. I dislike that she relies on her sexual prowess and manipulation tactics. Therefore, it’s hard for me to say she’s a feminist villain.

On the other hand, I like that for once technology and mechanism is associate with a female. Her yearning for perfection is one where the human body is not something to be desired. In fact, many times we see her disconnected from her feminine structure. We see her as a cybernetic serpentine head. The idea that the human body is imperfect and can fall apart, but the Borg structure can adapt and add on is an interesting notion. Moreover, the mechanical world renders emotion useless. It eradicates the need for a sense of morality, emotion and concern, which are usually linked with women. Not to mention, the drones are largely male in appearance and often appear genderless. The Queen is slimy and sensual, a matriarchal monster of epic proportions.

She falls into many traps though, she is in many ways like a Disney evil queen transforming all she touches. Had she been any other species she might be the perfect villain, but because she is Borg I can’t fully get behind her. The Borg are genderless, nameless and literally numbers. She is too individual for my taste. She is too much of a trope derived by male storytellers to pose a sexy threat to the male hierarchy of the crew (and later female as seen in Star Trek Voyager). What do you think? The jury is still out for me. Is she a good character for women or just another gothic stereotype? It’s interesting because when I originally watched her, I never thought of any of this.  As an older and now wiser viewer, I can see she’s just like The Borg. Her characteristics are not original or distinct.

 

Someone has the right idea October 14, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Televixen @ 12:23 am