Structures of Slavery and The Handmaid’s Tale

(via culteress)

The Handmaid’s Tale is a modern classic story of one woman’s slavery in a dystopian post-America society. Recently adapted into a show on Hulu, its sixth episode (“A Woman’s Place”) is the first to seriously deviate from the plot of the original novel. Earlier I wondered how Hulu was going to further explore and expand the world of Gilead, and how that would impact the show’s feminist messages. With “A Woman’s Place”, Hulu has started to deliver. We see different women in different positions of power and oppression. Serena Joy takes center stage, but we also spend time with June/Offred (our titular Handmaid) as well as two other women. Each woman tells us something different about the way we respond to slavery.

Spoilers for Episode 6 of The Handmaid’s Tale and warnings for slavery and sex trafficking below.

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Throwback Thursdays: Cat-person Lesbians, Homicidal Robots, and Captain Janeway; Representation in KOTOR

I’ve played quite a few video games in my day, often coming back to the really good ones repeatedly over the years. But only a select few have crossed over into “I set my Steam profile to private so my friends don’t know how much I play this game” territory. Of all those titles, perhaps the most enduring are the Bioware Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic games from 2003/2004.

There’s something about KOTOR that gives it a staying power very few story-driven games, even the truly great ones, have ever achieved. The two games combine a massive narrative depth with a mature treatment of the Star Wars universe that sets a gold standard for the franchise, at least in the realm of gaming. They have proved so enduring in their popularity, in fact, that KOTOR was re-released for mobile and KOTOR II was recently patched (after over a decade) to support modern PCs, add Steam Workshop support, fix bugs, and officially support the Restored Content Mod. For those who are not familiar, KOTOR II was rushed to make a physical release date, and as a result, a great deal of content was cut. Rather than removing it, however, the devs left it there for modders to find. Over the years, that resulted in a near complete restoration of that content. The game has remained popular enough to justify a complex, years-long project involving dozens of coders and artists, and it has continued to sell well enough to justify an updated Steam release with official support for that mod.

KOTOR-Darth Traya

Back where it all began… Malachor. (Screenshot from KOTOR II)

Falling thousands of years before the events of the Star Wars prequels, KOTOR showed us a universe where the galaxy is plunged into massive and bloody conflict with the Mandalorian Wars and then almost immediately into the universally disastrous Jedi Civil War, in which Jedi are not trusted, are hated by many, and are ultimately hunted to near extinction. It’s dark and chock full of moral ambiguity and some of the best Star Wars content out there. While these games are technically no longer canon, the general framework and many of the characters from this period, KOTOR games included, did “make the cut.”

The KOTOR franchise also serves as a clear spiritual predecessor to the best of both the Mass Effect franchise and Fallout: New Vegas. Many of the same people worked on many of those titles, and there are themes that almost seemed to carry over directly. While far from perfect, these games dealt with complex racial, ethical, and sexuality/gender identity issues in ways that were often groundbreaking, if occasionally facepalm worthy.

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Assassin’s Creed III: A Good Game for Current Events

I really have just about given up on decent female representation in these games. It’s not even that women aren’t in Assassin’s Creed III—we do get a few characters, and they are anything but poorly written. They’re just not in it very much, and I know the story could do better. However, now that Trump has signed legislation allowing DAPL to proceed once more, showing how little both he and other Americans care about Native American lands and the rights of the people on those lands, Assassin’s Creed III was remarkably on point when it came to issues of race. Given the current political climate, it delves into a much-needed conversation about the oppression of minorities, white privilege, and the bad things that happened to make our country what it is today.

Spoilers up ahead.

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Star Wars Rebels, Hera Syndulla, and Twi’lek Slavery

Star Wars Rebels’s second season will be coming soon, but not soon enough. I’m still blown away by how great the story is—I honestly didn’t think I would enjoy it all that much considering that Ahsoka, my favorite character ever, is hardly in it, and Asajj has yet to make an appearance either. Rebels gives us an entirely unique cast, and I wasn’t sure how much I would love them since I’m so invested in other characters. I needn’t have worried, because Rebels does such a wonderful job: the story is interesting, and its main characters are all well written.

One of these characters is Hera Syndulla, a Twi’lek ship pilot with connections to the rebel movement against the Empire. Hera is the first Twi’lek character in either the movies or the televisions shows to have a huge role. We’ve seen other Twi’leks, such as Aayla Secura, in supporting roles, but Hera is a main character. I was both pleasantly surprised and super excited for Rebels when I first saw Hera, because Twi’leks have been a longtime favorite species of mine, and that love has only grown in recent years. Hera has solidified that love.

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 Movie Review

katniss-hunger-games-jennifer-lawrence-2014-billboard-650It has become clear to me that I will never have a normal theater experience. Seriously, theaters hate me. When I saw Godzilla, there was no sound. When I saw The Maze Runner, there was loud ass construction going on next door. And right before I saw Mockingjay, I got horrendously ill. This was all kinds of suck because not only was I sitting in the theater attempting to not breathe on anyone, Mockingjay was quite good and I really wanted to enjoy it to my full capacity.

Spoilers after the jump.

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Sleepy Hollow: “Sanctuary” Review

Sleepy-Hollow-LogoThis week’s episode features a missing billionaire, a haunted house, and a cameo by Amandla Stenberg. Spoilers after the jump!

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Sleepy Hollow: “The Midnight Ride” Review

The-Midnight-Ride-StillsThus far, Sleepy Hollow has been both a disappointment and a joy. I’m in love with the show, but half the time, I’m either unsure about what’s going on because the episode in question is more chaotic than ordered, as it were. Or I think the episode is complete filler and has nothing to do with the greater narrative. Thankfully, “The Midnight Ride” falls into the former category—it’s not filler, but it’s still really confusing. And hey, I might be a little unsure about what’s happening, but at least I can sit back and enjoy watching Ichabod attempt to use the internet for the first time.

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Web Crush Wednesdays: Ask A Slave


214px-30-Rock-TooferI want to let you in on a secret. I’m black. And not like Samuel L. Fury black, or Rick James black, or Dwayne Wade (as if anyone reading this knows who that is) black. I might even like to think of myself as a little bit Floyd Mayweather or Jay-Z kind of black, but the truth is I’m more of a Steve Erkel, Barack Obama, Toofer Spurlock (The Black Guy From 30 Rock Who Isn’t Tracy Jordan) kind of black. That’s okay, though. Makes me kind of a history nerd.

azie_dungey_ask_slaveI also like funny things. So you can imagine my joy when I discovered “Ask A Slave.” What is Ask A Slave, you ask? Well, it’s just about the funniest new thing on either side of the Mason-Dixon line. Here’s the rundown: Azie Dungey, NYU grad and DC-area native, translates her experiences as an actress to a hilarious series of videos by playing a plantation house-slave at an unnamed historical site. Her character is Lizzie Mae, 28 years old (116 in slave-years!), a fictional house slave at Mt. Vernon. They can all be found on the website, or on her YouTube Channel, which updates on Sundays.

While they are raucously funny, lampooning inane questions like “Why don’t you just go to Massachusetts?” and “Did you respond to an ad in the paper to get your job?”, they also address serious subjects like our inaccurate historical view of abolitionists and a genuine lack of knowledge about slavery on the part of people who live in the United States. By responding to “The Washingtons seem really nice. I bet they’re really nice to you, right?” with “Oh yes, they always give me a biscuit on my birthday!” and then looking meaningfully into the camera, Dungey is satirizing public ignorance and educating through humor. Here, check out the first installment:

As if you needed any help figuring out why this is fantastic, you could check out all the press they’ve been getting, from Gawker to NPR. Ask A Slave has achieved a meteoric rise to internet notoriety. This is a great example of “those who can, do.” Azie Dungey is using her theatre background and her experience in living history to do exactly what theatre is supposed to do: educate, challenge, and entertain.

It follows then, as hilarious as these videos are, that Dungey and her team see themselves as doing important work. To quote her:

Though this is a comedy, it is my hope to honor the memory of those people who struggled and survived through their uncanny intelligence, their strength, their love, and…laughter.

So, please, check this out. I guarantee you will laugh. A lot. You might just learn something. And remember, don’t let any abolitionists touch your hair: