Tuesday, October 25, 2016

That Michael Moore Movie

As fawningly described by Richard Brody in The New Yorker:
Moore’s prime argument for Hillary is an argument from character. The first good thing that he can say about Hillary Clinton is that she likes him. He refers to the chapter “My Forbidden Love for Hillary” from his 1996 book “Downsize This!” and describes the White House dinner to which he was invited as a result—in particular, dwelling on the frank and surprisingly specific enthusiasm that Bill Clinton expressed for Moore’s work and the even greater show of enthusiasm with which Hillary followed it. The apparent element of vanity actually plays exactly in the opposite direction—what Moore’s doing here, deftly, is endowing Hillary with longstanding progressive bona fides, bringing her alongside him to share in his fan base. (emphasis added)
Oh god.

Okay, three things:

1)  I likely will not watch the movie. Why? I don't seem to be its target audience. I already like Hillary. I already think she is progressive. Why? Because I've listened to her and am informed about her. And, more to the point, I don't need a man to vouch for her in order for me to trust her.

2) Note "the first good thing" Michael Moore can say about Hillary Clinton: She likes him.


And how does Richard Brody frame this "good thing" about Hillary Clinton? Well, I'll say this. Leave it to the male gaze to frame Michael Moore liking Hillary Clinton because she's ostensibly a Michael Moore fangirl as "deft" filmmaking rather than Trump-like narcissism.

3) But, if that wasn't clear enough for you, welcome to the *jazz hands* Michael Moore Show:

"Ur welcome."

Sure bro. If you say so.
In case there was any uncertainty as to why many feminists distrust leftier-than-thou "progressive" political figures in the US of the Sanders/Stein/brocialist vein, here is a clue. This attempted narrative that Michael Moore has uniquely "lit a fire" under people to take the US presidential election seriously erases the women, especially women of color, who comprise Hillary's base, who are and have been her most enthusiastic supporters, and who have trusted and backed her even when Moore was supporting Bernie Sanders over her. 

Many of us have always been taking this race seriously, viewing Trump not through the lens of abstraction or entertainment, but as a genuine threat to democracy, bodily autonomy, and human dignity.

This is not to say Moore has not had an impact, but man oh man. There is a saying women sometimes hear when people feel that we've gotten too uppity and it usually goes something like "get over yourself." I suggest that it might apply to Moore in this case, even though men are of course given far greater latitude than women to self-promote and exaggerate their influence, competence, and skills.

So, before we let him re-write history (before it's even been written I might add - are we all getting a leeeetle bit ahead of ourselves here with the Election 2016 post-mortems?), I'd like to give credit to some of the writers, public figures, and people in the TV/film industry who I think have been pretty darn impactful in terms of lighting fires under the populace (not a comprehensive list, so add to it if you will):

Shonda Rhimes, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders (...eventually, via his endorsement), Cecile Richards, Kerry Washington, Khizr Khan, Hillary Clinton's social media and Twitter team who have been on point all year, The Washington Post's Election 2016 Fact Checker, Melissa McEwan/Peter Daou and colleagues at Shareblue, the dozens of editors of major newspapers across the US who have officially endorsed Clinton, Lindy West, the Broad City gals, Ellen DeGeneres, Sarah Silverman, Kate McKinnon, and even whoever made that Shaquille O'Neal shimmy gif.

I mean how do you even end this list or sufficiently quantify it, really?

There are indeed so many people, too many people to name here, perhaps, but it's a start. The larger point is that I won't stand by while late-to-the-party Michael Moore writes his own Great Man Narrative about his own critical role in securing victory for our first female President.

Friday, October 21, 2016

WayHaught Open Thread Friday

In reading news, I've picked back up Stephen King's The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower, apparently just in time for (MAJOR SPOILER ALERT, highlight the following text if you dare) the death of Eddie Dean. Why????  It is true, sai readers, I am known to cry at movies, TV, and books. Don't let my harsh blogging persona fool you, but I was recently a person on a train crying at a book, say sorry.

What are people reading, writing, watching, playing, eating, and/or drinking? Palaver as you will.

And, speaking of gunslingers, who is watching Wynonna Earp?  It has an actual same-sex maintext relationship, if you can believe it, between (spoiler alert?) Waverly and Officer Haught (pronounced "hot" because of course). Speaking of which. Erma Gerd, do you want to watch the absolute cheesiest fan video ever in the history of fan videos? (I do). 

This is the stuff that makes Internet great, folks. 

And remember, in just three Fridays, Election 2016 will be history! Huzzah! Take care of yourselves. Say thankya and so say we all.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Internet Harassers Reduce Value of Twitter

Here's an interesting story via CNBC (note: video autoplays at link. Ugh, WHY?).

Software company Salesforce was apparently in talks to acquire Twitter. However, its stock fell during these talks as investors expressed concerns about the platform:
"Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff ruled out a bid for Twitter in part from concern about the social platform's reputation for handling online abuse and trolls, according to CNBC's Jim Cramer on Monday.
'What's happened is, a lot of the bidders are looking at people with lots of followers and seeing the hatred,' Cramer said on 'Squawk on the Street.'
He continued, 'Twitter says listen, we have a filter. I mean the filter filters out a very small amount of the haters, and I know that the haters reduce the value of the company.'

Last week, a Financial Times report said that Benioff had ruled out a bid for Twitter, after weeks of speculation that the company could indeed acquire the company.

Salesforce confirmed Benioff's comments to CNBC and declined to comment further. Twitter shares fell as much as 8 percent following the report."
We hear a lot from Internet harassers who believe they have a "free speech right" to harass with impunity on the tech and social media platforms they use. We don't hear as much about how their harassment leads to tangible financial loss for these platforms. I suspect that will change.

Sadly, financial loss is what will likely induce companies to better address harassment. The "mere" fact that people are being harassed isn't a compelling enough reason for many companies to develop more effective solutions for harassment.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Recap Wednesday: Supergirl 1.2 "Stronger Together"

(Did you notice the title of this episode? Did you? Did YOU? *koff* You did.)

This episode opens with the DEO running tests on Supergirl’s powers, mostly by shooting missiles at her while she flies. Confession: I will never not wish I could fly when watching a Superman or Supergirl show. That would be my superpower wish 100%. Also, This is not a drill: Alex is walking around in DEO agent gear looking like she owns the place, AND she is acting super proud of her sister, which is cute. I now realize how rare it is to see women acting proud of other women on TV. Which I guess is also sad. But, back to Alex:

Her sister just broke the sound barrier, sir
The point here is that Supergirl is impatient with all of this testing and is pretty confident that she’s ready for the field. She's a HERO dammit, just like Superman!

On cue, Winn calls Supergirl and lets her know that a big fire is happening at the harbor. When she gets there, one of the firefighters tells her that the fire is about to spread to a nearby ship, which is full of oil. He then rather snottily says, “What are you waiting for? Superman would have blown it out by now.” Oh man, fightin’ words.

She immediately begins using her ice breath on it, which is what she thinks Superman would have done, but that makes the fire worse (there is a lesson there, I think). Supergirl then decides to move the ship away from the fire. She does this by flying in front of the ship and ….pulling it away from the dock? (About fifty dudes watch her and you can tell they're thinking, "ACTUALLY, wouldn’t pushing it be easier?") Anyway, she succeeds in pulling the ship away from the dock, but in doing so, splits the ship apart, causing an oil spill. Whooops.

Supergirl (as Kara) then goes to work at CatCo, because all of those shenanigans apparently happened before 9 am. And, we know the exact time because Supergirl's super-hearing picks up Cat Grant muttering to herself in the elevator, "Drunk at 9 am. That's the last time I have breakfast with Ruth Bader Ginsburg." And now, I officially love Cat Grant.

I should also mention that when I say Supergirl goes to work as "as Kara," that means she's wearing her "Kara" disguise of glasses and a ponytail. Which, seems fine.

Anyway, some douchey-seeming guy named Maxwell Lord is on a TV screen saying National City doesn’t need this second-rate Supergirl. And then, Cat Grant says they should name her #TerribleGirl instead. Sick burn, Cat. Sick burn. So, it's like the whole city is turning against her already! Cat also demands to her staff that they get her an interview with Supergirl by the end of the week or else. 

A bit later, we’re introduced to this week’s villain. This one is hanging around some sort of chemical plant and he has a gaping Jurassic Park maw of a mouth. (*shrug* I'm here for the feminism, flying, and subtext. Wait what?) 

Back at the DEO, Alex treats Supergirl to an impromptu self-defense lesson in a special room that the DEO built. The room emits kryptonite, which weakens Supergirl, which means Alex is kicking her ass. The lesson is that Supergirl doesn’t have great fighting skills yet. She mostly relies on being stronger than other people, which Alex tells her won’t always work in a fight, because she may fight people stronger than her one day. Supergirl leaves the DEO in a huff. But, as Hank notes, it's a lesson that could save her life one day. (He's right, you know).

Kara then sees that Cat has written an article critical of Supergirl. She notes that Superman made mistakes before and people weren’t so hard on him. Cat tells her that Supergirl needs to learn that a woman has to work twice as hard to be seen as half as good as a man. (She's right, you know).

Cat's comments inspire Kara to ask Winn and James for help, which they both quite eagerly agree to do.

"I'm in! I said it first"
We later see a montage of James and Winn monitoring police scanners and telling Supergirl where different crimes in the city are happening. I guess they have all left CatCo in the middle of the day to do this. Which, seems fine. The point is that Supergirl is getting experience doing small-ish acts of heroism and repairing her reputation. And, it works. Her reputation in the city improves. Like.... just in one day... or?

In this episode, we also learn that Kara's aunt is General Astra, head of Team Alien, and is not happy that her niece is working for Team Human. Alex, Hank, and the DEO go after the gaping-maw alien and Alex ends up being captured by Astra. It's fine, though, because Supergirl saves her. What's truly important to note is that, during an Alex/Astra interaction, we see the briefest moment in which Astra runs her finger along Alex’s jawline. And, I am all on board that ship.

Stronger together?
Anyway, James and Kara also have a moment. Kara says she’ll give Cat the interview as Supergirl. She doesn't want James to get fired for not being able to secure the interview for Cat. Kara reveals to him that on Krypton, accepting help from people was seen as an honor. AND, the “S” on her shirt actually stands for her family motto “el marayah," which when translated from Kryptonian to English means "Stronger Together." (All of my likes are officially converging, really. Is this how some straight dudes feel like all the time when their identities and politics are infused in pop culture? In other news, I recently found out that a former verbally-abusive coach from 15 years ago is a Trump supporter. So dislikes too can converge, apparently!)

The big overarching lesson for Kara here is that she realizes that while Superman has his own way of doing the superhero thing alone, her way is going to be to accept help from her friends and family because ultimately that makes her a better hero. Just because Superman is a hero, he doesn't set the superhero standard. (That would be Xena, obvs).

Then, the episode ends with Cat Grant getting her interview with Supergirl. For reference, here is what Cat Grant looks like when she looks at Supergirl:

"Hello, fellow heterosexual!"

Deep Thought of the Week: Like Jessica Jones, Supergirl thus far lacks an obvious white alpha male protagonist type of character, which is rare for the genre. And, it's not a character I miss. I grew up on the Christopher Reeve Superman movies and loved them. It's more that, by now, I think that type of character has been done. And, I think the powers that be in the industry easily become overly-infatuated with white alpha male characters, even when they're just side characters, so much so that they let them dominate every scene they're in.

Also, in Season 1 of Jessica Jones, the aggressive white male character was the arch-villain.  I know some fans took issue with that, saying all the white male characters were either villains, sex objects, or otherwise flawed. Sort of like how female characters, and people of color, have been portrayed since forever, but nevermind that I suppose. Maxwell Lord, introduced this episode, is Supergirl's first alpha/aggressive white man and seems more of a villain/anti-hero character thus far.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Cheese Stands Alone?

Hillary Clinton is too distant, says conservative man using his New York Times platform to pen an intimate, humanizing portrayal of an authoritarian predator.

I've seen even liberals approvingly cite David Brooks' recent column on Trump, cited above, but my summary is really the big take-away I get from it.

Brooks asks us repeatedly to imagine that we are Trump and how pathetic and sad that must be, and that, if/when Trump loses he'll be all alone in his isolated misery.


Let's take a step back.

Shortly after California's anti-gay Proposition 8 passed in 2008, a professional class of "marriage defenders" started increasingly framing themselves as a "civil" voice of opposition to marriage equality, in contrast to, say, Fred Phelps and his more obviously hateful clan. The role of these groups, such as National Organization for Marriage, seemed to be, in part, to convince courts, legislatures, and the populace that opposition to marriage equality was not rooted in bigotry but, rather, in a mere nicey-nice belief that all children deserved a mother and a father.

An expression of this purportedly non-bigoted belief can be found in the book What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense, by Robert George, Sherif Girgis, and Ryan Anderson. Sample: "Marriage is a comprehensive union of two sexually complementary persons who seal (consummate or complete) their relationship by the generative act."

While perhaps sounding innocuous, it wasn't really one that most non-professional, non-paid, non-academic opponents of marriage equality would cite for opposing same-sex marriage. Rather, such "regular people" were more likely to express varying levels of disapproval of homosexuality or, what we often think of as, bigotry.  (Sample: Homosexuality is wrong and society shouldn't condone it by allowing gays to marry).

I have a long, 10+ year, history of engaging with anti-equality folks on Internet. And, it's my strong belief that the professional class of marriage defenders knew that their base was bigoted, leveraged this bigoted base in support of various anti-gay measures, and simultaneously acted outraged at all suggestions that their base was bigoted. (Sample: some writing I did at Family Scholars Blog awhile back on civility in the context of same-sex marriage debates).

With Supreme Court doctrine articulating that animus toward homosexuality could no longer be an acceptable basis for law, it was incumbent upon professional marriage defenders to gaslight LGB people about the very real bigotry we experience.  And, these marriage defense think-tankers often did so while pulling down six-figure salaries, book deals, and speaking gigs themselves.

You know what else they did? Convinced their poor- and middle-class bigots that same-sex marriage was going to doom the country.

Hmmm, we have marriage equality now so what happened to all that?

I think many people are realizing that same-sex marriage has had little, if any, tangible impact on the lives of most of its opponents, other than that people now live in a society that is more accepting of it. So what benefits, if any, did the marriage defense establishment tangibly provide for its base, in the long run?

So, coming back to the present.

In a similar vein, Republicans have long articulated deplorable beliefs in subtle, dog-whistle ways, knowing that their base has various bigotries. Racism. White supremacy. Anti-Muslim sentiment. Misogyny. Transphobia. The Republican establishment has leveraged these bigotries for their own benefit, giving cover to a base that holds more explicitly deplorable views, while also doing very little for this base. They've effectively stoked rage and, because they've done nothing to assuage it, have also created the conditions for anti-establishment sentiment. 

Republicans and conservatives now seek to distance themselves from Trump. As David Brooks does, they fantasize that Donald Trump is perhaps an uncommon, rogue, lone wolf not representative of the base they've long catered to.

Yet, he's exactly who Republicans have enabled to become the leader of their raging pack.

And, if/when he loses, the Republican establishment may abandon Trump to his incompetent, man-child misery.  It seems doubtful, however, that Trump's millions of supporters and fans will also do so.