Cold Wind April 16, 2014 Cold Wind Nicola Griffith Old ways can outlast their usefulness. What Mario Scietto Says April 15, 2014 What Mario Scietto Says Emmy Laybourne An original Monument 14 story. Something Going Around April 9, 2014 Something Going Around Harry Turtledove A tale of love and parasites. The Devil in America April 2, 2014 The Devil in America Kai Ashante Wilson The gold in her pockets is burning a hole.
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April 13, 2014
Game of Thrones, Season 4, Episode 2: “The Lion and the Rose”
Theresa DeLucci
April 11, 2014
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Let’s Completely Reimagine Battlestar Galactica! Again. This Time as A Movie!
Emily Asher-Perrin
April 4, 2014
The Age of Heroes is Here. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
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A Spoonful of Music Makes the Nanny: Disney’s Mary Poppins
Mari Ness
Showing posts tagged: Culture click to see more stuff tagged with Culture
Nov 11 2013 11:30am

Joss Whedon, Equality Now

Writer/director/television-and-movie-maker Joss Whedon has spoken before at Equality Now functions, an organization dedicated to ending violence and discrimination against women. You have likely have heard his “Why do you create such strong women characters?” rant somewhere on the internet, and more elsewhere about his choices in developing complicated female protagonists in popular media.

Whedon spoke again at an Equality Now benefit dinner just days ago, and he has a new beef with a certain word. That word is “feminist.”

So let’s talk about that.

[What words become...]

Nov 8 2013 10:00am

Lady villains, Regina Mills, Lana Parilla, Once Upon A Time

When highlighting roles that women are historically allowed to occupy in fiction, most will break it down into the trinity—mother, maiden, crone. Have we gained ground recently? The characters on offer for actresses keep improving, but it’s telling that so many them still fall into one of those three categories. Male characters get a more diverse set of labels—rogue, villain, lover, fool, antihero—and even though women occasionally nab parts that fall under those banners, these types remain elusive to them.

Especially when it comes to bad guys.

[They weren’t kidding when they called me, well, a witch...]

Nov 5 2013 3:00pm


The imagination is not context-less.

The words and conceptual markers a writer puts on the page arise from thoughts and perceptions and interpretations rooted in our experiences and knowledge and assumptions. Writers write what they know, what they think is important, what they think is entertaining, what they are aware or take notice of. They structure stories in patterns that make sense to them. A writer’s way of thinking, and the forms and content of what and how they imagine story, will be rooted in their existing cultural and social world.

[Who chooses what amount of world building is acceptable in fantasy literature? ]

Oct 25 2013 12:00pm

Princess Leia, Rolling Stone magazine 1983Everyone loves this ridiculous spread on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, the 1983 Return of the Jedi ready issue that interviewed Carrie Fisher in all her bikini-ed glory. But more interesting than her space-faring beach party were the answers about Leia, and about the Star Wars films at large, that she gave to her interviewer, Carol Caldwell. Our Lady Organa had absolutely no illusions about why she was in a metal bikini, or why that galaxy far, far away rang true for the general population.

Basically, Carrie Fisher rocks, and was smarter about mythology and feminism thirty years ago than most people are now.

[Did you know that lots of fans didn’t like Leia very much?]

Sep 26 2013 1:30pm

Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter, Banned Books Week, gay icons

The Harry Potter series has been banned for many reasons in its still-very-young life, most of them having to do with—gasp—witchcraft! And most of us rightly understand how silly that is. (Although, acknowledging this upcoming BBC reality show about teenaged exorcists, it looks as though a few people still haven’t cottoned on.) I remember the books published in its wake, though, for all the fretting parents. Not the unofficial guides or theory books, but the ones with titles something like “How to Teach the Christian Lessons in Harry Potter to Your Children.”

I always figured, hey—whatever gets those kids reading about wizardry is fine by me.

[They celebrate Christmas at Hogwarts—Satanists!]

Sep 18 2013 9:30am

Capitol Couture

It has been reported that as part of the viral marketing campaign surrounding the Hunger Games film sequel Catching Fire, a “luxury clothing line” called Capitol Couture will be released this fall. The line will feature 16 pieces from high-end designer Trish Summerville, all of them meant to reflect the outrageous fashion trends of Panem’s rich and privileged.

A luxury clothing line. I’m sorry, what is the Capitol meant to stand for in Suzanne Collins’ trilogy again? Hang on, it’s coming back to me…

[The girl on fire!]

Jul 29 2013 9:00am

Andy Warhol Self Portrait Polaroid

We don’t do it a lot these days, but I remember when Instagram started being a thing, there was a lot of back-and-forth having to do with the use of filters, the accusations of hipsterism that came along with them. To some observers, the manufactured nostalgia of a pre-degraded image that gives the illusion of a history or Polaroid or Viewmaster cartridge seems to be emotional cheating. But to the person doing it, it’s a bit more involved and personal. That’s the part that interests me.

Digital images do not—and will not—ever degrade, and so the idea of putting forth an image as a thing-in-itself violates the most confusing, and omnipresent, rule of online life: Every statement made online contains within itself two completely separate levels of meaning. The first is the statement’s object, the thing we are talking about, and the second level is what it says about us. There’s a lot of confusion online about what’s a fact and what’s an opinion, and the reason for that is simple: All online statements are automatically both.

You are talking about a TV show, but you are also talking about yourself. You are making statements that are durable and global, and refer always back to you, and forth to the opinion you are presenting.

[Read more.]

Jul 16 2013 9:00am

Harry Potter Hufflepuff Tonks

In a rare annotated copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling commented that she wondered if people would have thought differently of Hufflepuff House had she gone with her original instinct and made their mascot a bear rather than a badger. It’s an interesting thought, sure, but probably would have only led to droves of Winnie the Pooh comparisons, with pictures of Hufflepuffs holding their hands to their heads and shouting “Think!” over and over.

While Slytherin and Hufflepuff both have their share of intensely dedicated fans, it’s no secret that among the general Potter-reading population, most would prefer to be a Gryffindor or a Ravenclaw. Why? Do people prefer lions and ravens? Red and blue? Or is it something a little less obvious… perhaps something to do with the attributes awarded to each house, and the values we place on them as a culture?

[“There lived four wizards of renown, whose names are still well-known...”]

Jun 10 2013 9:00am

designed by Jenny SlifeLast Monday the genre internet—which is to say, basically, “the internet”—seemed starkly divided into two camps: Those who’d been holding their breaths for up to twelve and a half years, and those who were still recovering. I don’t like the physical act of reading high fantasy, so I haven’t read the books. I do have a habit of devouring wikis having to do with these long epics I’ll never actually read, or the rules of roleplaying games I’ll never play, and I’d been following the story for at least ten years, but that doesn’t seem like a normal behavior.

Plenty of people have, of course, read the Song Of Ice & Fire series since A Storm Of Swords was published, and we all have geek friends that love nothing better than to either coyly tease with non-spoiler spoilers, or answer direct questions: I bet most of us probably do fall somewhere between those camps in one way or another. Either way—unspoiled, by the way, herein—it was an explosion.

[Read more.]

May 28 2013 12:00pm

Cultural Strip Mining vs Good Manners

Recently I attended my first neoPagan gathering in over a decade; while there, I picked up Staubs and Ditchwater by H. Byron Ballard (Silver Rings Press, 2012), a book on Appalachian folk magic. As I read, I ran across a statement that brought up an important issue: cultural appropriation, or as Ballard puts it, cultural strip-mining.

Ballard writes, “We tribeless white people learn dances and songs from other cultures that seem deeply spiritual to us, though we don’t know their context or deeper meanings, we just like the way they look or sound or make us feel. We think they’re cool.” (p. 12)

[Read more]

May 28 2013 10:00am

Geek Love My Big Gay Skyrim WeddingMy name is Jacob Clifton, and I am a bad gamer.

...Well, a bad role-player. Part of it is, I think, that coming into gaming in my mid-thirties means role-play has lost a lot of its appeal, since real life provides far too many opportunities for that as it is, but honestly I just can’t understand the appeal of being anyone other than myself.

What that means is that when I play a game—beyond Mass Effect, the games I’ve learned I love most are the Bethsda open-sandbox franchises, Fallout and Elder Scrolls—I play as myself. I suppose I’m missing out on part of the adventure, but I’m more interested in exploring other people’s stories than my own.

Minor spoilers, as usual—and plenty of nitpicking to be done—but not really the point.

[Read more]

May 15 2013 5:00pm

Scientific American Armor against Prejudice

A common defense made by anyone who is called out for advancing a stereotype is, “Stereotypes exist for a reason,” the implied message being that they are most often true. But what if by simply saying that, you were putting someone at a disadvantage? What if insisting on the accuracy of a stereotype was one of the very factors that perpetuated it? Scientific American’s June issue has some intriguing information in the article “Armor against Prejudice” by Ed Yong, on the perils of “stereotype threat” and the fascinating ways we can combat it to give future generations a better chance of success.

[Read more]

May 13 2013 2:00pm

Geek Love: Mass Effect

I’ve only been playing video games for about a year, because I only recently got the memo that videogames had turned into something I would enjoy. I don’t like being told what to do and I don’t see the value in things like fan fiction, usually, because I don’t get off on playing with other people’s toys. But people I trust kept telling me videogames weren’t like that anymore, so I gave it a shot, and I haven’t looked back since.

The first thing I got really obsessed with was the Mass Effect trilogy, which is basically a story about the diplomatic moves necessary to create a community in the face of Apocalypse. Over three games—hundreds of hours of playtime—you build an army, out of a complex variety of factions, races, interests and centuries of nasty political history.

The big selling point of the game—some would say, dubiously fulfilled—is that every choice you make carries weight. People you mess with in the first game might still resent you two games later. Valued allies you allow to die won’t be around when you need them, and so on. But there’s one choice, early in the game, that has led to more fights around the story than any other.

Minor spoilers to follow—and plenty of opportunities to nitpick, I’m sure—but they’re not really the point.

[Read more]

Apr 15 2013 9:00am

Geek Love: Pictures of the Floating World

“And I had to wonder... Are we controlling the cell phones, or are the cell phones controlling us?”

After Gossip Girl was over—I recapped and analyzed every episode of the show, for all six seasons—my beloved Editorial team at TWoP suggested it might be a good idea to take on the new show from that production team, The Carrie Diaries. I didn’t need to think too hard before I said no.

Part of it is that I have beef with Sex & The City—for giving scores of bright young girls the idea that my life is an audition to be someone’s Pet Gay—but honestly, the majority of it is that I don’t have a lot of patience for period pieces.

And the reason for that has to do with futurism, basically, which is what I really want to talk to you about.

[Read more]

Apr 8 2013 9:00am

Geek Love Gargoyles and Geek GirlsIn Neal Stephenson’s rightly-beloved masterpiece Snow Crash, there are a few memorable moments of scorn in the story—which I’ve always thought, sidebar, to be slyly narrated by one of the characters, in an unbreaking deadpan manipulation of the fourth wall—for what their near-future society terms “gargoyles.”

These are people who, unsatisfied with the seamlessness of human-use technology, strap video cameras and tape recorders to their bodies, in order to more fully embody surveillance culture (couture, if you like). Of all the mystifyingly accurate parts of the satire/prophecy the book contains, that one always stuck with me. I liked to imagine them, steampunky almost, uploading their experiences at baud rates, one photo and soundbite at a time.

Of course the real future—us—is a much different situation, and we’re engaged right now in a cluster storm of debates about privacy, technology, even the very basics of how to accomplish capitalism in a world where information is literally free, because the real future takes its form from continuity. It’s a rare technology that survives without fitting seamlessly into daily life, which is why the few evolutionary jumps that actually change the way we operate ourselves—the PC, the Smartphone—do such big things to our economy.

Generally, when we say “early adopter” we mean physical technology, hardware. But there’s a rumbling undercurrent over the past few years that I think applies a new meaning to the word, and it has to do with the acquisition of IP. And it has to do also with being a dick.

[Read more]

Apr 8 2013 9:00am

Geek Love nerd culture column by Jacob Clifton

I’ve been writing about television for the site Television Without Pity for about ten years now, and while I love having the opportunity to think more intensely and talk things out when it comes to the shows and stories I love most, that part of the job pales in comparison to interacting with the fans of the shows and seeing the communities they build around those shared interests.

It’s practically impossible—for me, at least—to think about shows (especially in the genre) without immediately attaching a kind of parallel narrative about the fandom of the show, its connections with other fandoms and geek interests, and what the things we love say about us as people. Not really in the same way as scholarly “media studies” work, or even the snarky metacommentary and inter-fandom sniping that goes on (no matter how often it’s hilariously true), but in the very personal and heartfelt ways fandom appreciation creatively expresses itself.

Being a TV recapper for so long, I’ve sometimes felt stuck in that blurry area between “consumer” and “producer” of content. I mean, I write stuff that people find enjoyable for some reason, but in my role as recapper it’s not really my toys I’m playing with.

[I don’t think I’m alone in that blurry place.]

Jan 29 2013 1:00pm

Fiction Into Reality: Why Nerds Borrow From What We Love

Geeks of all stripes are in on a secret: being a fan is fun. And no matter where your obsessions lie, we share a whole lot in common; we read, we watch, we talk online, we theorize during downtime, we cosplay and meet at conventions. We can quote entire films back and forth, we read each other’s fanfics, we collect prop replicas... (Or is that last one just a me thing?)

And we also assimilate. Not in a creepy Borg kind of way, but it’s an interesting phenomenon all the same.

[Why, exactly, did you start wearing bow ties?]

Dec 10 2012 11:00am

Your favorite place is in ruins, and a really mean guy is behind it all. He’s so bad, he’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before. He’s the definition of fear, and other things which are very…unpleasant. Nothing will be the same ever again after this. Your favorite person or persons in the world will be pushed to the limit in a new adventure that will shatter their world, and yours. If you thought things couldn’t get harder, grittier, or contain more monotone music, you’d be wrong. The next installment in your favorite movie series is here, and it’s similarity to other movies is striking, but not unsurprising.

Sound familiar? Have you seen twenty versions of this trailer?

Calling the majority of big franchise movies formulaic would be almost a compliment at this point, because it would denote some sort of basic originality. But with the release of the Star Trek Into Darkness trailer, I’m worried that all of these popular franchise films have become not just formulaic, but straight-up copycats of one another.

[Read more]

Oct 24 2012 11:00am

You Are Not Anonymous: On Internet Privacy and the War On Trolls

The web has been buzzing over the past several months due to the unmasking of some well-known internet trolls. A large portion of the online community has thrown up their hands in a collective sigh of relief, but a sizable number are enraged – by bringing the names of these people to light, real life identities have been comprised and people’s lives have been altered for the worse. And in the name of privacy, people have picked up their virtual boxing gloves and started winding up the good old one-two punch.

Yet it seems that this anger stems from the internet’s greatest fallacy, one the internet itself has long encouraged: the notion that the world wide web is somehow private in the first place.

[Keep away from those chat rooms…]

Oct 8 2012 3:00pm

Babylon 5 and the beginning of 21st century fandom

Fan chatter about TV shows like Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, and Mad Men often revolves around the various spoiler-filled turns in long-game plot arcs. But the word “spoiler”—at least in the way we use it in relation to television—is relatively new. Though it’s possible fans of a bygone era of soap operas were afraid of other fans ruining the outcome of the previous day’s episode, the vehemence of these protests were probably not as serious as they are now. Notably, fans of 20th century soap operas didn’t have the internet.

But way back at the end of the last century, one of the first sci-fi fandoms did have the internet, complete with online spoilers! That fandom was centered around Babylon 5, and though we don’t talk much about Babylon 5 now, the narrative structure of the show, in tandem with internet discussion, essentially created the model for TV fandom today.

[Read more]