#queerpop: What Marriage Equality Means for Pop Culture

pa-equality-watch-rainbow-flagThe celebrations were long, enthusiastic, and well-deserved after Friday’s Supreme Court ruling making marriage equality mandatory. This was the defining legal battle for queer rights in the US, and it’s done!

Of course, even though it was the battle, it’s not the only battle. This doesn’t affect hate crimes legislation or employment discrimination, for instance… It’s still legal to fire someone for their sexuality or gender identity in many states. Gender identity itself is only somewhat related to same-sex marriage. Perhaps most importantly, this ruling doesn’t automatically affect public perceptions. That’s where pop culture comes in, good or bad — both reflecting and influencing the larger culture around it.

So, what changes might we see in pop culture and fiction? It’s an interesting situation, since we had marriage equality in some states but not in others. Because of that, changes will be minor, part of an overall transition rather than a sudden transformation. I see that as a good thing, because gradual changes are more lasting. Here are some possibilities:

  • Behind the scenes, but most important: Creatives’ morale. Actors and writers and designers will be able to get married when they couldn’t before!
  • In the same vein, I imagine some interesting life stories will make mention of last Friday.
  • We will now have historical fiction about the time before marriage equality, and the struggle to achieve it.
  • Buuut, maybe this will clear the way for fewer “issues” stories? More characters with lives beyond queerness?
  • And more queer characters in addition to gay and lesbian ones?
  • As a thematic motif, we’ll see more juxtaposition of legality with secrecy. Even though equal marriage is now legal, it won’t always be safe.
  • Of course, even if it’s not safe everywhere, we’ve still removed the most obvious plot obstacle in modern same-sex romance novels. The solution is simple: set it pre-equality or come up with a more interesting problem!
  • Will there be enough same-sex couples suddenly getting married to cause demographic effects? If so, these changes will be subtle and possibly go unremarked. We’ve only recently learned how drastically women outnumbered men in 1700s England, for instance, but that sheds a lot of light on upper-class “marriage market” novels into the 1800s.

Naturally, while writing this post I came up with several interesting story ideas set in and around last Friday, but that’s not really the effect I’m looking for!

What do you think… Will we see dramatic changes in pop culture, or subtle ones?

#queerpop (4)

Sunday Post on Monday – Satanic Adventures

I totally forgot to do a Sunday Post yesterday, because I was in bed reading Justice League comics until two in the afternoon, and I am not ashamed.

Then, when I finally emerged blinking into the sunlight from my lair, I had to run an errand in downtown Birmingham. I really hate summer. It is not my season. But I have to admit, a sunny summer day, driving with the windows down, cold drink in hand and classic rock on the radio… Those are good afternoons. I was already downtown, and I wasn’t ready to leave. The time had come for a little excursion into Birmingham’s local color.

That’s right… I decided to find the fountain. And I did find the fountain. And it was everything I wanted it to be and more.

Satanic Fountain Five Points Birmigham

Okay, okay, here’s the story. It’s an art installation in Five Points, and it’s called “The Storyteller.” The artist, Frank Fleming, is a native Southerner, and he wanted to do a piece sort of inspired by the whole Br’er Rabbit anthropomorphic-animal tradition, and Southern storytelling in general. He made this awesome scene of a ramheaded storyteller reading to a bunch of animals. One thing led to another — as one thing often does — and next thing you know, it’s a landmark called “the Satanic fountain”! Complete with urban legends about midnight animal sacrifices, although there’s absolutely no evidence of any such thing.

It was much easier to find than I thought it would be, it’s right on the Satanic Fountain Five Points Birminghamroad. 20th Street South, if you’re looking — Five Points is a historic area with a lot of cool buildings, if you’re ever hanging around Birmingham and want to see some sights. There’s a self-directed walking tour. And since I was there on a Sunday, finding a parking spot wasn’t hard because everyone else was in church. The irony is not lost on me.

But hey, the fountain is right on the doorstep of a United Methodist church, and judging by the enormous EVERYONE IS WELCOME sign, probably a queer-friendly one.

Speaking of which, MARRIAGE EQUALITY, CAN I GET A HECK YEAH?! The party started Friday, it has not stopped yet, and how perfect is it that June is already Pride Month! I think for Tuesday’s #queerpop we’re gonna talk about how this may or may not affect pop culture. The rest of the week will be taken up with a novel update and possibly an essay or review. Exciting things are percolating, just you wait!

What were your adventures this fine weekend? :)

#LazyLambs Book Club: A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

A Dirty Job coverThe #LazyLambs Book Club returns, as promised! This time around we read A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore, and again we’ve each posed a question. If you do your own post, answering these discussion questions or posing your own, drop your post in the linky below — or you can just chitchat in the comments section, of course!

Charlie Asher is a pretty normal guy with a normal life, married to a bright and pretty woman who actually loves him for his normalcy. They’re even about to have their first child. Yes, Charlie’s doing okay—until people start dropping dead around him, and everywhere he goes a dark presence whispers to him from under the streets. Charlie Asher, it seems, has been recruited for a new position: as Death.

It’s a dirty job. But, hey! Somebody’s gotta do it.

It’s a good book and I enjoyed it, although I found it a bit stranger somehow than the other two I’ve read. (The Stupidest Angel and then Lamb for book club).

My question was, What do you think of the Alpha Male/Beta Male construction in the book, and how it’s used?

The book is overtly held together by an “Alpha Male/Beta Male” construction. The Alphas run the world, but there are more Betas. The Alphas are assertive and confident and sexy, the Betas overthink and skulk around picking up leftovers. Charlie Asher, as we’re so often reminded, is a Beta.

I’m most familiar with this from the romance-genre world, where “alpha” is a subgenre, and not a small one. In fact the majority of romance heroes are probably alphas. And I hate it. I will dump a book for the slightest hint of it. I find it deeply heteronormative, but even same-sex romances have them: Male heroes who are basically enormous assholes. Most of the time they aren’t at all concerned about consent, and if they do nod to the concept, they’re still all about power. They consider their women to be their property, to be protected of course, and pleasured in the bedroom, but all in service of their own egos. There are romances advertising “Beta” heroes, but fewer, and that still reinforces the stereotype. (For more on the term, with a surprising and delightful Star Trek connection, see this post at Romance Novels for Feminists).

But enough of the romance rabbit-trail. There are plenty of people in the real world who think in Alpha/Beta terms, even if they don’t go so far as to USE the terms. “Jock” and “nerd” are another way of putting it, usually with the addition of “cheerleader” — the world is divided up into women, guys who get women, and nerds who wish they could get women. Ugh! NO. That is not the way the world works, people. So, I’m not sure exactly what Moore was trying to accomplish here. The way he writes, it’s almost like Beta Males are a fantasy species with special powers and weaknesses and identifying characteristics. Maybe that’s the point, that they’re an imaginary construction, because I really can’t tell any major differences between Charlie and any other everyman hero. I was hoping the end would display why Moore made the stylistic choice, but it doesn’t really seem significant.

Allison asked, What do you make of the fact that the more unique characters (such as the emperor) are able to see things that most people can’t?

Hm. Several thoughts here… On the one hand, this is somewhat normal in the fantasy/sci-fi genres. Often it’s mentally ill characters who can see “reality,” which I find problematic. That doesn’t seem to be the case here, though. I get almost a more Shakespearean vibe, where it’s the fools and jesters who really understand. Everyone else is locked in their own personal narrative, their own series of monologues, but the jesters see all and know all.

There’s also the idea that these unique people have already seen a lot, so they’re more willing to accept what they see instead of rationalizing it away. For instance, the detective is pretty normal. I wouldn’t really call him a “unique” character, although he’s one of my favorites… But over years of seeing strange things happen, he’s learned to accept them. I figure the marginalized characters have seen a lot more strange things.

Plus, Christopher Moore is an absurdist writer, so he may just choose things because they’re incongruous!

Finally, Diana asked, What do you think your soul object would be, and why would it be that particular object?

For me, it would be a toy I’ve had since I was a kid. A carousel with little animals that move up and down. It’s about the size of a Christmas ornament, and may have been one at some point… It’s got a metal loop at the top. It’s too heavy to effectively decorate a Christmas tree, but that hasn’t stopped ornament-makers before! I’m pretty sure somebody gave it to me when I was little, but I don’t know who or why or when. I was just really attached to that little carousel. I remember worrying robbers would come to my house and steal it, so I would hide it in the back of my closet and only take it out to play with it! I was a weird kid. But it could totally be my soul object. I only wish I had a picture of it to show you… It’s still a box from moving, and I’m not sure which one, and I’m about to move again so I can’t exactly unpack them all.

If your soul was stored in an object, what object would it be? Comments and linky are open until July 4th.

Review: “Loki: Agent of Asgard #10″

If you’re new to my Loki: Agent of Asgard reviews, I do them in the form of live reactions, paying particular attention to how Loki’s genderfluidity/assumed pansexuality is portrayed. I’m behind and trying to catch up.

Loki Agent of Asgard #10 cover

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In keeping with tradition: Yaay, Verity’s back! And it looks like she and Loki may be able to patch things up quicker than I thought.

Loki Agent of Asgard #10 Verity

And they’re going to save Sigurd and Lorelei, who were unfairly punished last issue!

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THIS IS WHY VERITY IS THE BEST OHMYGAWD

Loki Agent of Asgard #10 Verity

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Thor — now called Odinson since he no longer possesses the power of Thor — arrives at the apartment to talk with Loki. It’s a good conversation, serious. And Loki reveals he can’t lie anymore, as some kind of aftereffect of the Axis transformation. He can’t even let a lie stand, he has to correct it. So he tells Verity and Odinson the story of how he, a copy of the old Loki, killed Kid Loki and took his body, but is now trying to atone and change his fate.

That’s when things go horribly wrong, because Odinson still loves Loki and always has.

Loki Agent of Asgard #10 Thor

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He beats the crap out of Loki and takes him to Asgard to suffer Odin’s justice. The whole scene is a wrench, it’s awful.

Loki Agent of Asgard #10 Loki

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Final Thoughts

I want to believe this is all one of Loki’s schemes to get into Asgard and rescue Sigurd and Lorelei, like he said at the beginning. But I just don’t know. That last page… He’s in agony over Thor walking away. It’s terrible. And we already know from the last issue what kind of “justice” we can expect from Odin. (Just one more example of how effortlessly perfect the writing and planning are for this series…) I’m moving straight on to the next issue, so you can expect another review very soon!

#queerpop music review: The Original High by Adam Lambert

The Original High Adam LambertI’m an Adam Lambert junkie. I’ve heard everything, I’ve seen everything. He’s one of the VERY few artists I actually follow and buy from every time he releases new music. His latest album, The Original High, came out last week! In preparation for this review I listened to The Original High twice, relistened to his other albums in order, and then listened to The Original High again.

Adam Lambert is known for glam pop-rock. Lots of sound effects, and the kinds of songs you imagine him singing on stage, if that makes sense. You imagine the costumes and the lights and the star singing to thousands of ecstatic fans. He’s very present in his music that way. Still, his albums always include a few slower tracks where he leans on his voice more than the effects, like “Aftermath” from For Your Entertainment or “Nirvana” from Trespassing. 

The Original High does some experimenting with new flavors of sound, but it has a lot more of those slow songs. Honestly I usually prefer the more-complex pop songs, I often stop paying attention during the long ones, but he achieves a really cool dreamlike tone here with more evenness between the pieces, and that makes for a more cohesive album as a whole. They’re meditative like his previous slow songs, but they don’t quite dip that far on the spectrum.

“Ghost Town” and “The Original High” are the first two songs, the single and the album-namer. They’re fantastic, the best of the CD, so that’s appropriate. Also, “Things I Didn’t Say” is basically my life now. In addition to those new obsessions, there are a few standouts like “Evil in the Night” and “The Light” that I could just listen to forever, because you get sucked into the rhythm and never want it to end… Others, like “Underground” and “Heavy Fire,” are more forgettable on their own but contribute to the overall experience of the album. They’re not just filler.

I think I detect a slight 70s vibe, especially in the three bonus tracks. (I have the Deluxe). The lyrics are more repetitive, the tone more upbeat no matter what he’s singing about. Possibly influenced by all that touring with Queen. But thank you, Mr. Lambert, for the phrase “I feel thrown out the window” in “Shame,” because I will use that the rest of my life. Also I must mention the number of times the phrase “I’m a grown-ass man” appears in “There I Said It,” because I find that hilarious.

Joking aside, though… I love this album!

Sunday Post – 10 Uses for a Paperclip

Remember how much fun it was to do Summer Reading every year at the library? If you never got to play, wouldn’t it be fun to start? Nerd in the Brain’s summer reading program was loads of fun last summer, and is off to an even bigger start this year. Highly recommended. The theme is book dragons, but you can read anything you want and count it toward the different challenges. All ages — and there are prizes! She also includes some writing challenges and other stuff, including “list ten uses for a paper clip,” which I’ve thrown together and listed below. ;)

Tuesday’s #queerpop will be about either music or commercials, I haven’t decided… And there’ll be another post or two this week, but I haven’t decided on those either!

paper clips10 Uses for a Paperclip

  1. Jabbing pickpockets.
  2. I’ve used them to hang Christmas ornaments and decorations when I didn’t have hooks.
  3. I used to have a paper clip specifically designated for picking the lock on my diary, because I’d lost the key. I felt super glamorous being able to pick the lock, I can tell you.
  4. Pressing those tiny reset buttons on electronics.
  5. Fashionable repurposed jewelry.
  6. Pulling bra straps together so they don’t show under a racerback.
  7. Raft structures for small insects.
  8. Monuments to human ingenuity.
  9. Is there a museum of office supplies through the years? There should be.
  10. Being MacGyver.

Allergic to the Letter “E”

Good morning! M.B. Simpson said I had to do a big ol’ paragraph without using a particular thing that’s usually in a paragraph. Do you know which thing that is? It’s an important thing, and this is an unkind and atrocious thing to insist upon. Still, I’m accomplishing it right now. Is this what you had in mind, M? It’s what I’m doing. As Loki so famously said, I do what I want.

giphyYes, it’s a paragraph without the letter “E.” That’s it right up there. Ta-da!

Here are the rules to the “Allergic to the Letter E” challenge:

  1. Write a whole paragraph ( a paragraph sounds easy right?) without any word containing the letter “e” (still easy?)
  2. By reading this you are already signed up.
  3. Challenge at least five bloggers to do the challenge. They must do it within 24 hours or it is considered as failure.
  4. If you fail or pass, suffer in the Page of Lame.
  5. 5) If you win, wallow in the Page of Fame.

This is kind of an aggressive challenge, so I’m flaunting the rules and not challenging anybody, because I’m a rebel. If you wanna do it, you’re tagged. :D

Ms. Marvel #16 Review

Hannah G:

I told y’all I had good news about the Ms. Marvel reviews… They’re gonna be on Sourcerer for a while! And I’m super excited about today’s issue. :D

Originally posted on Sourcerer:

If you’re into comics at all, you may have heard of Kamala Khan by now. She’s the new Ms. Marvel who’s running around breaking sales records and embiggening her way into our hearts. Up until now I’ve reviewed every issue on Things Matter, but as of today, I’m pleased to bring Ms. Marvel reviews straight to you, Sourcerer readers!

Ms. Marvel #1 coverOf course, if you’re new to Ms. Marvel or comics in general, welcome! Kamala Khan is a Pakistani-American Muslim girl living in New Jersey, who receives shape- and size-changing powers in a Terrigen Mist incident. That means she’s an Inhuman, which is sort of like being an X-Man, but you’ll get all those details as you go. Her third collected volume was just released last week and goes all the way up to #15, so with those three volumes it’s super-duper easy to catch up to this point! The series…

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#queerpop review: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Last week, I shared the Non-Binary Book Club’s discussion of Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. This is a followup post with my own thoughts now that I’ve finished the book. Fair warning, this “review” is pretty much all about me. This book was difficult and challenging and very much worth all the time and effort I put into it, two weeks of time and effort if anyone’s counting, and I’m trying to describe that for you! It’s FOR YOU!

Here’s the description again:

Ancillary Justice coverOn a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest.

Breq is both more than she seems and less than she was. Years ago, she was Justice of Toren–a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of corpse soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy.

An act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with only one fragile human body. And only one purpose–to revenge herself on Anaander Mianaai, many-bodied, near-immortal Lord of the Radch.

It’s a mesmerizing book. One of the blurbs calls it “assured,” and I like that description. It’s relevant, but that doesn’t get in the way of it being a fantastic book… The worldbuilding is fascinating, a far-far-future humanity with a defined class system, a genderless society (in the dominant people group anyway), and starships with “ancillaries,” humans converted into extra bodies for the ship to use. Our main character, Breq/One Esk, is one of those bodies, separated from her ship and journeying back to the heart of the empire. This book is AWESOME, and the FEELS, the love and righteous indignation and horror at humanity. So, so good.

On that note, I would like to explain why I had such difficulty with this book: autism and gender.

The Culture

I am somewhat autistic, to the best of my knowledge. I have enough trouble trying to function acceptably in my own culture, so it was hard to read about not only One Esk’s culture, but especially her trying/failing to function in conversation with other cultures. Trying to pass as someone who emotes and expresses they way they do, trying to identify their genders and their politenesses. I was as far as the “feeling like I can’t breathe” stage of anxiety before I figured out it was happening. After that I started taking more breaks and putting in more intellectual effort instead of just letting the book carry me along. I mention that in case you have similar issues and are considering this book.

Connected, but an issue on its own, is that the first third is just confusing. There’s a layered flashback structure that cut away every time I started to get involved, and I felt like Leckie was cutting off her own momentum. Also because of that, all the characters are essentially introduced at once. I had a lot of trouble distinguishing between them, and trying to make everything make sense was just incredibly frustrating. All these difficulties ease as the book goes on, the flashbacks stop, and you start remembering the characters’ personalities and roles, but I still would’ve made a different narrative choice there and introduced characters more slowly.

This book is often noted for its use of “she” as a generic pronoun for everyone, which I pretty much hated. It added to the confusion because One Esk used it for everyone, but others would use “he” for some characters and I couldn’t tell who was being talked about. Why not use a gender-neutral term? If One Esk’s first language doesn’t use gender, why use the gendered pronoun “she” for everyone, instead of “they” or a gender-neutral term from One Esk’s original language? It still irritates me, but I just mentally edited “she” into a gender-neutral term and got used to it by the end. I assume it was used specifically to raise gender questions, so, let’s do that.

The Gender

I also found this book challenging (and ultimately rewarding) because it brought up a lot of gender issues that I’ve been wondering about for a while.

I can absolutely understand the appeal of a culture with no genders. At first the Raadchai just sounded dulled, less varied, but that went away after One Esk arrived in Raadchai space and we got to see them interact based on their positions and personalities rather than genders. Once it was modeled for me and not explained as an absence, it looked pretty good. In fact, the more I think about it, the better Raadchai non-gender looks. There’s no pressure, and everything is negotiated on a case-by-case basis. (Or in this particular culture, on a class basis. It’s no utopia, it’s just gender-free.)

I do wonder where this genderless ideal leaves those of us who do have a gender. Where does it leave cis or trans people, who feel that they are a certain gender and that it matters? Where does it leave straight and gay people, who are only attracted to one gender? Is it even possible to have genders without people being judged for those genders somehow? What if we had genders, but they were tied to kinds of expression, rather than biology? That might make it better, since we’d choose our own, but also might make it worse and more confining in the long run.

I am female. That matches the gender I was assigned. It matters because it affects how I’m treated in society, so it’s affected my socialization and my current situation. But what’s the point? Is there any intrinsic meaning to my gender? What happens if there’s not? It’s all well and good to say anyone can express however they want and there’s no gender valuation to it at all, but what’s the point of expressing anything in that case? (“Just do it however you want” does not help me at all when I’m trying to understand what’s happening. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve asked “How do you express ___” and been told “just do whatever you feel like doing.” That does not help me convey what I wish to convey. Communication is about making yourself understood.)

Of course, I do feel differently on different days. Sometimes I wanna wear a suit and tie, and it’s way too hot in Alabama to wear a suit but I do wear the tie if I want. Some days I want to wear a dress, and I do. I adore my long red hair and spend a lot of time on it, but I really feel I’d do the same if I were male just because I love my hair. I have more random impulses about that kind of thing than I originally thought a few weeks ago, but would I have an impulse to wear a tie if I didn’t specifically feel like channeling Neil Patrick Harris that day? He’s male, so who knows what he’d wear if he wasn’t. If I don’t care what “being female” is supposed to look like, psychologically or Neil Patrick Harrisphysically, then does it matter to me as more than a reflexive identification? It didn’t matter when I was a kid. I don’t have any idea what the heck my gender even is anymore after these two weeks… and I guess if, in the end, it doesn’t much matter to me, that’s an answer in itself.

Really, whatever change we have will be gradual, and I think we’ve got an okay start. It should be okay to express your gender however you want — and furthermore, it is okay to express your gender however you want. With that as a start, eventually we’ll get to a good place for everyone. I think probably when we get there, “expressing your gender” will just be “expressing your personality,” and that’s okay. It’s okay if we retain genders, as long as they’re equal. And it’s okay to have a gender now, while it matters, just like it’s okay to not have a gender at all.

All those questions are worth asking, and I appreciate this book for asking them and being awesome sci-fi at the same time. I warned you this whole review was about me, but if you’ve made it this far, I’d love to hear your thoughts about you, gender, or, y’know, the actual book!

Sunday Post – A Content Poll

Good morning! To make a boring story short, I’ve got a bit of free time and am working on blog scheduling. I’ve hit a point where I don’t have anything pre-scheduled, or even drafted. A huge file of ideas, just nothing really time-sensitive except for #queerpop and the usual monthly updates… So, I thought I’d run a little poll to see which kinds of posts are y’all’s favorites here.

  

This week we’ll have more on Ancillary Justice for #queerpop, some Ms. Marvel (and I think I’ve got an exciting announcement about that!) and something else later in the week. Poll results may or may not affect the something else. ;)

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