Bitterblue: Dealing With Real Life Issues in a Fantasy Setting

(via Goodreads)

The major point of fantasy novels is, of course, showing a world that is different from ours, where magic is alive and where people have amazing powers. Despite the fact that I read them to escape my mundane life, I’m often annoyed when fantasy books include people experiencing real-life issues, such as trauma, and then gloss over said issues instead of addressing and dealing with them. Other big offenders are the lack of inclusion of LGBTQ+ people and examination of mental illness. Authors and readers seem to think that you cannot address such topics because you cannot use modern-day vocabulary in a fantasy setting. However, once in a while I find a fantasy series which doesn’t shy away from using its medium to examine issues we deal with in real life. As such, today I want to talk about the Graceling trilogy by Kristin Cashore, and in particular its final book—Bitterblue.

Spoilers for the Graceling trilogy below. Also, content warnings for abuse, mental illness, PTSD, and rape.

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Sexualized Saturdays: Who Run the World? Girls… Er, Witches… Er, Girl Witches—Charmed’s Final Season

I’ve talked a little before about how Charmed, with three women characters being the most powerful magical forces for Good, could have been a truly feminist and women-powered show. While it did well on some parts, like showing a diversity of life choices for women when it comes to balancing careers, love lives, and battling the forces of darkness, there was often an overarching male-dominated power structure, known as the Elders, pulling the strings in the sisters’ lives. You want so badly to root for the Charmed Ones as icons of female power, not as examples of female pawns in male power games. So, finally, I have finished watching the last season. Is there redemption? Yes, I believe there is. Follow me as we explore gender in the eighth and final season of Charmed. Spoilers for Season 8.

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Sexualized Saturdays: Charmed and the Decline of Female Agency

Three sisters born from a long female dynasty of powerful witches to be the greatest force to fight the demons and powers of darkness that threaten our world: seems like a feminist fantasy geek’s dream come true. What more could one ask for—magic powers, strong female bonds, and the fact that passing the Bechdel test is an actual likely possibility! Add in gorgeous and (in my opinion) talented actresses and the inimitable fashions of the late 90s/early 2000s, and Charmed goes down in history as one of the most memorable supernatural dramas to grace our small screens. But was it really the feminist dream-come-true it had potential to be? Let’s take a look.

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Noodle’s Killjoys Season 1 Review: Bounty Hunters in Space!

killjoys-teamThese days I try to limit the number of shows I watch, but it’s summer, most of the shows I watch are on hiatus, and a friend was gushing over this new show about bounty hunters in space called Killjoys. So, I decided to give it a shot. The pilot got me hooked. The first season just concluded and it was a fun and feels-inducing romp, introducing characters with mysterious pasts and setting up conspiracies.

Spoilers for the first season of Killjoys below.

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Sexualized Saturdays: Man Tears, Female Desires, and Supernatural’s 200th Episode

supernatural sam and deanSupernatural hasn’t always had the best track record with its fandom. The show is about two cishet, white male brothers and their white-male-bodied, written-as-cishet angel friend, but its enthusiastic, mostly-female fandom has constantly reinterpreted the show as either a forbidden love story between two brothers (Wincest) or a star-crossed romance between an angel and a hunter (Destiel). This isn’t a unique problem—many shows with a primarily male ensemble cast have fans who ship one or more of the male characters together. However, the reaction to such shipping has been almost exactly the same across the board: discomfort verging on disgust. As New Statesmen writer Laurie Penny says of the BBC’s Sherlock, a show which is also about two white men:

The discomfort seems to be not that the shows are being reinterpreted by fans, but that they are being reinterpreted by the wrong sorts of fans – women, people of colour, queer kids, horny teenagers, people who are not professional writers, people who actually care about continuity (sorry). The proper way for cultural mythmaking to progress, it is implied, is for privileged men to recreate the works of privileged men from previous generations whilst everyone else listens quietly.

In short, it doesn’t seem to be fandom that these producers are uncomfortable with—it’s female fandom. Men can loudly proclaim themselves to be fans, geeks, and nerds in real life (J. J. Abrams, Mark Gatiss, Peter Jackson), and they can seek to recreate the stories they loved as children (Star Trek, Sherlock, Lord of the Rings). But when women want to recreate their own stories, they’re uniformly shamed for it.

Supernatural takes this general disregard for women even further—there’s hardly an episode where a (conventionally attractive) woman doesn’t die, and the main characters are misogynistic in both their dialogue and their actions. With this sort of background, it’s hard to believe that the 200th episode, meant to be an homage to the show’s fans, would be any good. Dean’s actor, Jensen Ackles, even gave an interview where he said “[The episode is a] bit of a throwback to the fans… some fans who may have had some interesting, objectionable ideas about the show, or maybe some complaints about the show, or whatever, might want to pay attention, ‘cause we might be calling you out on it.”

“Objectionable ideas” about the show? Given all of Supernatural’s history, it didn’t sound promising. Yet Supernatural’s 200th episode, “Fan Fiction”, succeeded in being an homage to its fans—and it also succeeded at legitimizing and celebrating female desires, something it has never done nor even shown the slightest desire to do in the past.

Spoilers for all of “Fan Fiction” below.

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