Sexualized Saturdays: The Life-Changing Magic of Being Not Like Other Girls

As I recently read S. Jae-Jones’s YA novel Wintersong, I noticed something troubling. The book seemed designed to appeal to me: it was a fantasy romance with strong (really strong) inspiration from both the movie Labyrinth and my favorite poem, Christina Rosetti’s Goblin Market. However, something about Liesl, the main character, bugged me, and it took me a while to figure it out. Not because it wasn’t obvious, but because I thought that, in this, the Year of Our Lord 2017, we had done away with the “not like other girls” trope.

It’s a tale as old as time: a girl who’s just ~not like~ the other girls around her, against all odds, wins the day. These stories are appealing to us because these girls are framed as the outcasts; we can relate to their being bookish or plain or unpopular. But a problem that uniquely affects the female characters who fit these roles is that they often succeed or achieve victory at the expense of other women and girls, or by denigrating traditional femininity (or both). Liesl is an on-the-nose example of this trope: she is terribly jealous of her sister’s physical beauty, a trait Liesl lacks and constantly laments. Liesl is a genius composer, but her skills are downplayed or overlooked because of her gender. Meanwhile, it feels like her gorgeous sister is set up to be resented, as she at least can win men’s attention with her looks.

The cup of a carpenter is not like those frilly other cups. (via indygear)

However, when offered a beautiful fae gown by the servants of the Goblin King, Liesl instead chooses a plain dress, and this is played like Indiana Jones correctly picking the right Holy Grail. But instead of just rejecting the wealth and majesty of the other dresses, it reads as though Liesl is casting a value judgment on the majority of the other women in the book, who did choose to wear frills and finery.

This is just the latest example of this issue, rather than the only one. Pop culture has a long and varied history of celebrating these not-like-other-girls, from formative Disney flicks all the way up to watch-at-your-own-risk premium television like Game of Thrones. These portrayals enforce a terrible message: that there’s only one right way to be a girl, and that it’s totally acceptable to tear down other girls who don’t meet those standards. Continue reading

A Noble Obsession

Sometime as I was reading the Song of Ice and Fire books a few years ago, just when Game of Thrones was getting popular and more and more fans were starting to fight over who they thought would be the best person to end up on the Iron Throne, I started wondering, “Wait a minute. We live in a supposedly democratic, meritocratic society these days that (at least nominally) no longer believes in hereditary rule. Why are we so invested in seeing an autocratic, hereditary tyrant installed on a throne, to lord it over our favorite fictional continent? Shouldn’t we be rooting for the Seven Kingdoms to become a democracy instead?” (I’m on Team Dany, by the way!)

And have you ever thought about how weird it is that, in Sailor Moon, we’re supposed to be happy that Usagi and Mamoru end up as Neo-Queen Serenity and King Endymion, absolute rulers of the entire freaking Earth for over a thousand years? The narrative presents this as a positive thing because they’re such just and peaceful rulers, and those who question Neo-Queen Serenity’s rule are presented as the villains.

This should be absolutely terrifying. Just sayin'.

This should be absolutely terrifying. Just sayin’.

As I began thinking about this further, I realized that a lot of our modern media is still in the habit of over-valuing noble blood. It makes sense that old fairy tales feature lots of royalty, secret royalty, and marrying into royalty, because back then, that was the best possible situation people could imagine for themselves. But why does this obsession still exist today when kings and queens with real power (for the most part) are not prominent anymore? You also may be wondering, what’s the harm of featuring noble-born characters? I would argue that they reinforce the false idea of privileged birth translating to inherent “special-ness,” as well as ignore the stories of those born into less privilege.

Let’s examine this in several examples below the jump!

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Return to Westeros: “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” Review

If last week Game of Thrones was “heading into darker territory”, this week the show did a kick flip off the deep end into some terrible shit. Admittedly, I spent the first ten minutes trying to remember which house’s motto used the episode title “Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken” (it’s the Martells, by the way), and in all honestly I wish I could have spent the entire hour pondering that rather than actually watching the episode. I was tricked by some interesting aspects of the Arya storyline into paying attention, and all I got for it was me seriously debating whether or not to drop the series entirely.

Me after watching this episode. (via

Me after watching this episode.

Spoilers and a content warning for rape under the cut.

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Return to Westeros: “The House of Black and White” Review

When I was first asked to come along on the review crew for Season 5 of Game of Thrones—and agreed to do so, mind you—I was intrigued to see what audiences would be in for this time around. It wasn’t until I sat down earlier to watch the most recent episode that my largest fear struck my gut like a failing test grade: I was going to get stuck with the Jon Snow episodes. Some cosmic piece of anxiety was preparing me to resign myself to this fate. Luckily, with “The House of Black and White,” I still remain at a cool zero for Jon Snow-centric episodes. Phew!

What am I supposed to do when the best part of me was always you.

What am I supposed to do when the best part of me was always you?
(via youknownothingjonsnow-daily @ Tumblr)

Unlike the other two reviewers this season, I haven’t actually read the books. As such, if events are diverging from Martin’s novels, I wouldn’t be able to point them out. While losing the ability to compare and contrast is somewhat aggravating, being able to experience everything for the first time offers an interesting perspective. And as this episode continues with the themes of shifting power dynamics, these perspectives are going to get a work out.

As usual, spoilers beneath the cut.

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Sexualized Saturdays: Don’t hate on pink!

How many times have you read a story or fanfic or watched a movie and you knew the lady was going to be badass because she ordered a beer/hard liquor and not a Cosmo and because she doesn’t give a shit about her hair or makeup or clothes? Introductions like this make for an easy shorthand that ‘this character is a hardass and worthy of your respect’ but they also reinforce the stereotype that for a woman to be respected, she has to perform stereotypically masculine gender roles. Continue reading