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I wound up taking a long, unannounced hiatus, not writing much in general, and feeling really uncertain what I wanted to do with this blog specifically. I wish it had been a deliberate, planned, announced break, but nope! Just fell off for a while. I’m sorry.

Now that I’m back, I have some new ideas, new plans. I still plan to post effusive recommendations now and then – I have one planned for today – but I want to open things up a little bit. Sometimes I just enjoy something so much I think you should all watch it. Sometimes I have more to say about genre, character, or storytelling in general. Sometimes a piece of media is like a personal revelation. And sometimes, really, something just needs to be pulled apart to see why it failed.

Obviously your mileage may vary, but that’ s always been true. So, in the future, in addition to dividing posts by Books, Movies, etc, I will divide them into Recommendations, Writing, Criticism, and Personal subsections. Those are the working titles, anyway. As always this blog is a work in progress.

I’m also going to try to keep a bimonthly schedule of posts. Once a week was a bit too much for me, but I think I can have something to say once every two weeks. That should also allow time for me to work on other projects.

Anyway, that’s the state of the union. Stay tuned for ORPHAN BLACK.


Feminist Perspectives on Culture and Media

So yesterday was a travel day, and today is a wedding (not mine), so there’s no regular review for today. Instead, have some links to various feminist perspectives on popular culture that I’ve found helpful.

To start with, here’s how to be a fan of problematic things.

Feminist Frequency is a project by Anita Sarkeesian in which she analyzes the portrayal of women in movies and popular culture, which often employs sexist tropes and stereotypes, such as the Manic Pixie Dream Girl or The Mystical Pregnancy. Recently, she’s also embarked on an analysis of similar tropes in video games, which you might have heard about because the virulent wave of sexist attacks against her before the first video even went up.

Maureen Johnson challenged her Twitter followers to flip the gender of various books to illustrate how differently books are marketed based on the gender of their authors. Related: John Scalzi and Jim C. Hines have a pose off. See also: Escher Girls for the way women are portrayed in comics and illustration.

Miri at Freethought Blogs doesn’t focus on pop culture, but she does have a good article on the role of feminist criticism, and how to write a better love story.

N.K. Jemisin writes about how there’s no such thing as a good stereotype, with particular emphasis on Strong Female Characters.

Speaking of which, the Mary Sue has a great review of the new Tomb Raider game, and how it manages to portray a strong female character without her being a Strong Female Character.

Lastly, as a writer, I loved this article by Kameron Hurley about the pervasiveness of sexist portrayals of women, how they are based on false historical narratives that erase the stories of women who didn’t conform to patriarchal notions of what women could do or be, and how, as writers, we need to change that.

Roger Ebert (1942 – 2013)

Roger Ebert died on Thursday, April 4th. I don’t feel that I can adequately memorialize him better than others, who really knew him, have done. So today, instead of a review, have some links.

First, his obituary at the Sun-Times, where he reviewed movies for 46 years.

Outlaw Vern on Ebert’s love of movies – action, animation, horror – that other mainstream film critics often dismissed.

John Scalzi on Ebert as a writer, not just about movies but, especially later in his life, about everything else.

Roger Ebert at I do not fear death

My favorite review, about a movie that I loved as a teenager, is this review of Dead Poets Society.

And finally, Roger Ebert’s last review, at the Onion.

Sorry for not posting a review today. I’m going to put some extra spit and polish on the next one, and make sure it’s something worthwhile. I think what the loss of this great critic means to me is that I have to try that much harder to have thoughtful, worthwhile conversations about culture. We all have to try a little harder to fill the space he left behind, not just as a critic, but as a human being.

From the Salon article:

I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.


Why is this even a thing?

Well, I think the problem is that I can’t leave a thing alone. It’s not enough for me to just enjoy something and kill some time; if I read a book, watch a movie, or play a game, I have to think about it afterward, talk about it with friends, even write something about it. Otherwise, I feel like those hours were just lost. I feel guilty, in other words, if I’m not thoughtful about my interactions with culture and the media I consume.

When I was really small, single digits, my teacher assigned book reports. I’m not  sure how many book reports I actually had to do, because I started to write about every book, every last one I read. At that age, the “about” of a book was pretty much just a summary of the plot, but I was driven to acknowledge the accomplishment, to say, “I read this!” I want to do that again, although hopefully my thoughts and analysis are a little more mature and in depth than they were at 9 years old. No promises though.

Pop Culture Pillow Talk is about the conversation I have with culture, and with others, after I’ve immersed myself in it. Topics will include whatever I happen to read, watch, or play, from Skyfall to Hagakure, from the Pathfinder RPG to The Wire. My purpose is to think the thing through, explore not just how I’m feeling, but why I’m feeling it. Often when reading or watching something, I let myself get caught up in the world of the story. I get surprised by entirely predictable plot twists, let myself be caught up and sucker punched by funeral scenes, homecomings, and other easy emotional payoffs. Only afterward do I start to really think about what I’ve experienced. This blog will be about what happens after. It will, obviously, be highly subjective. If you have a different take on a thing, I encourage you to offer it in the comments. These posts aren’t intended to be the Final Thought on a subject, and I reserve the right to revisit my opinion of something later in a future post.

This is not about ratings, and I’m not going to give anything a thumbs up, thumbs down. I’m not doing this to shit on the things you like, or to tell you you’re wrong for not liking something. If those things do happen, you should feel free to call me out. This is about my enthusiasms, and I hope yours too.

The plan is to update once a week on Friday. We’ll see how that goes!

Update: the plan didn’t go very well, so we’re updating on Saturdays now. Hurray!