Butts Wearing Glasses



What? I warned you!

Alien vs. Wizards, directed by my subconscious

I feel lucky that I frequently have very vivid, detailed dreams, sometimes to the point that I can lucid dream. The other night I had a particularly amazing one:

I was trying to survive an alien invasion, darting from place to place to find a safe spot to hunker down. During that process, I was somehow able to arm myself. In my left hand I wielded a plasma pistol from X-Com, and in the right I had a Harry Potter wand. As I shot aliens with my left, I cast spells with my right. And yes, I mean Dream Jen was actually casting legitimate Harry Potter spells. Most of the time I was screaming Protego to create a barrier to reflect incoming laser beams, and when I had a chance to go on the offense I used Incendio to set the aliens on fire. Mostly because Dream Jen couldn’t remember any other spells (in retrospect, it’s amazing I remembered any in a freaking dream). When I shouted to Dream Boyfriend (who was also shooting plasma at aliens) to help me remember other spell names, he reminded me he wasn’t a Harry Potter fanatic like me and how the hell should he know any names. When things started getting hairy, I Avada Kedavra’d as many aliens as I could, while explaining that in this case using the worst Unforgivable Curse was morally justifiable because COME ON ALIEN INVASION.

I then tweeted this dream. Someone chimed in that my brain was pitching an idea for a film. I dubbed it Alien vs. Wizards and declared it should be made.

Twitter delivered. My dream had been retroactively fulfilled: apparently the BBC already has a TV series called Wizards vs. Aliens.

Sometimes the world is a wonderful place. A wonderful place where we wonder what would happen if wizards had to fight off alien invasions.

I’ve figured out why the Vatican hoards its wealth!

St. Peter’s Basilica is not actually named that because of its architecture, but for the Basilisk living beneath it! Lore tells of Basilisks converting various substances into gold, which explains the Vatican’s enormous wealth!! It also explains why they’re so reluctant to give the wealth away, because the evil Basilisk will turn the Pope into stone as revenge!!!! Quick, we need to find a wizard and a goblin forged blade!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wait. I think I’m crossing my mythologies. Catholics don’t believe in silly things like Basilisks or goblins. They believe in crackers that magically turn into flesh and people rising from the dead. My bad, it’s all so confusing. I blame the NyQuil.

Feminism and Sansa Stark

Warning: This post contains Game of Thrones spoilers, especially for the first book/season. There are vague spoilers for books 2 and 3, but I haven’t read past that yet.

I recently read an interesting piece titled “In Defense of Sansa Stark” that viewed the character from a feminist perspective. The author argued that Sansa is so widely hated as a character because she’s a feminine pre-teen girl:

“As a massive fan of Sansa, even I must admit that she is difficult to like at first. She’s spoilt and a bit bratty. She fights with her fan-favorite sister and trusts characters who the reader knows are completely untrustworthy. She is hopelessly naive and lost in dreams of pretty princes and dashing knights. She acts, for all intents and purposes, like the eleven year old girl that she is. Most of us were pretty darn unbearable to older people at that age (and that’s fine, because they were also pretty unbearable to us). Robb and Jon, although older than Sansa, are similarly misguided and bratty, with Jon’s constant “poor me, I deserve so much more” attitude at the Wall, and Robb’s clumsy attempts at being the Lord of Winterfell. But these mistakes are only reprehensible to readers when they come from a girl, interested in girly things and making girly mistakes. Because viewers have been taught that “girly“ is automatically bad.”

You should read the whole post if you’re interested in the series. I think it could apply to some fans who hate Sansa – I haven’t exactly chatted with every A Song of Ice and Fire fan. But as someone who initially hated Sansa nearly as much as Joffrey, I have to say that’s not why I hated Sansa.

Sansa originally contains every quality I loathe. She’s incredibly spoiled and a giant brat. She’s gullible and demonstrates absolutely no ability to think for herself – she just parrots whatever she’s told and never applies any critical thinking. She’s naive to the point of delusion, where she refuses to admit that the world around her isn’t a perfect fairy tale, even when provided with ample evidence. And worst of all, she has no moral compass. Instead of standing by her sister Arya, she lies because marrying a prince is more important and leads to the death of an innocent child and her pet wolf. Instead of standing by her father Ned, she tattles on him and ultimately leads to his death. She has no loyalty or honor.

And frankly, I’m miffed that the author thinks this is all okay because that’s “the eleven year old girl that she is.” The assumption that all eleven year old girls are vain, gullible, boy-crazy brats with no shred of ethics is just as sexist as someone hating Sansa because she likes dresses and is good at needlework. I certainly wasn’t that way when I was an eleven year old girl!

I don’t hate Sansa anymore. She’s grown a lot as a character through books 2 and 3. She’s become kinder and stronger, and it’s impressive that she deals with the daily torture she receives. If I were in her shoes, I would have jumped off a high castle wall long ago, or tried to stab Joffrey with fork knowing I’d die trying. I still don’t like her, though. She’s still gullible and not the brightest tool in the shed. And she’s so passive – instead of actively trying to improve her situation, she basically sits around waiting to be rescued. Cersei, Daenerys, Margaery and Catelyn  are all feminine characters, but they’re proactive about their situations.

But while I no longer hate Sansa, I still dread reading her chapters. Is there a single Sansa chapter where something goes her way? It’s depressing to read about her getting screwed over for the umpteenth time. I feel like her only role in the story is to be a victim, which just depresses me.

This is post 39 of 49 of Blogathon. Donate to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Oh Harry Potter :

While looking at random Harry Potter merchandise at Universal Studios, I found a cart full of pins. They had a lot of neat ones, including house pins and prefect badges. Though the latter was only for Gryffindor and Slytherin, which is a constant source of annoyance for me. I want Ravenclaw stuff, dammit!

Then I spotted a Head Boy badge. I started searching for a Head Girl badge, but couldn’t find one. I asked the person working the cart, thinking they may just be out. Nope. She and her coworker said that they only make Head Boy badges, and they agreed that it didn’t make any sense. They wondered when they’ll eventually make a Head Girl badge too.

…Sigh. I know in the grand scheme of things it’s dumb and insignificant, but it’s the little things. How hard is it to include the ladies? It’s one thing to exclude houses that the majority of people (wrongly) think are stupid or boring or crappy or insignificant, but why exclude a gender that the majority of people… oh. :

This is what I’m doing today


That is all.

Feminist Fantasy

I’ve just finished reading Game of Thrones, the first book of George R. R. Martin’s fantasy series. I really enjoyed the HBO series, but I didn’t feel like waiting years to learn the rest of the plot. The same thing happened with Lord of the Rings – I saw the first movie, then quickly gobbled up the trilogy, the Hobbit, and even the Silmarillion. And I’m pretty sure I don’t have to point out that I’m a huge Harry Potter fan. I enjoy fantasy novels.

But it’s always a little weird reading fantasy as a feminist. I know other feminists lament the lack of strong female characters in traditional fantasy novels. I mean, does Arwen serve any purpose other than marrying Aragorn? Eowyn is badass as she slays the Lord of the Nazgul, but then she loses all her fighting spirit to marry Faramir and have babies.

Harry Potter left me similarly disappointed in the end. Hermione was such a strong female character throughout the series, but ultimately the end is all about getting married and having babies.  Rowling discusses her accomplishments in the Ministry in interviews, but in the book her future is represented only as a mother. And really, when you think about the series, it’s all about dudes. Harry, Voldemort, Dumbledore, Snape. I love Hermione, but sometimes I can’t help but see her as a useful plot device, the clever one who will serendipitously figure out all the puzzles and advances the plot.

So far, I’m enjoying Game of Thrones. There are many strong female characters. But more importantly to me, they’re not The Strong Female Character. I hate when a book or movie is so obviously trying to introduce a strong woman to the plot, that she ends up a flat caricature without flaws or weaknesses. It makes the viewer feel like there really are no such thing as strong women in the real world – otherwise why would they be so hard to write?

And that’s why I like this series (so far, at least). The strong women still aren’t perfect. Daenerys takes a terrible situation (which is an understatement) and uses it to grow into a powerful, confident woman. I think she’s one of the most compassionate characters in the series, yet that compassion is also her undoing. Cersei Lannister is powerful and recognizes how unfair it is that her power is curtailed by her bad luck of being born female – but she’s also tremendously evil. Catelyn Stark takes matters into her own hands when her family is threatened, but the same emotions that drive her also cause her to make mistakes. And do I even have to say anything about Arya? She’s stubborn and hot headed, but she’s as much as a feminist as I’ve ever seen.

But I also like the series because there are some terrible women. Lysa Arryn is… a little off her rocker. Sansa fills me with a rage that’s only surpassed by how much I hate Joffrey (or as I like to call him, Malfoy 2.0). If there are supremely flawed male characters, I want supremely flawed female ones. Women aren’t perfect.

I’ve heard some argue that the series isn’t feminist because the women, in their culture, are basically seen as second class citizens. But when you have a series that’s basically medieval Europe placed on an imaginary map, I’m not sure what you expect. It’s inspired by history, where woman were treated that poorly. I find it refreshing that the plot doesn’t accept that (like in Lord of the Rings), but rather multiple woman try to overcome it.

But I see the point. How many more fantasy novels do we need that perfectly mirror medieval Europe, with women having the roles of wives and nothing more? If it’s fiction, why not make them equal? Or why not make them the ones in charge? It would be refreshing to see that occasionally.

I’m sure it’s out there, but I’m not as prolific of a reader. What fantasy novels do you think have feminist ideals? Who are your favorite strong female characters? What do you think about the women of Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Game of Thrones? Does one do a better job than the others? Am I totally full of it with my opinions of these characters?

While we’re on the topic of homophobic Republicans

I had to share my favorite spoof of Rick Perry’s ad:

In other Harry Potter news…

My alma matre, Purdue University, won the Quidditch World Cup in their division!

Woooooooooooooooo, go Purdue! Boiler up!

What’s that? How’s our football team doing? What’s the upcoming basketball season looking like? Hell if I know.

I knew there was a reason I liked Harry Potter

I had no idea the Vatican had a chief exorcist. I’m not sure why I’m surprised – believing demons can possess people isn’t any wackier than believing in the resurrection. But I must say I’m disappointed. Apparently Father Gabriele Amorth is not a fan of Harry Potter:

Reading JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books is no less dangerous, said the 86-year-old priest, who is the honorary president for life of the International Association of Exorcists, which he founded in 1990, and whose favourite film is the 1973 horror classic, The Exorcist.

The Harry Potter books, which have sold millions of copies worldwide, “seem innocuous” but in fact encourage children to believe in black magic and wizardry, Father Amorth said.

“Practising yoga is Satanic, it leads to evil just like reading Harry Potter,” he told a film festival in Umbria this week, where he was invited to introduce The Rite, a film about exorcism starring Sir Anthony Hopkins as a Jesuit priest.

“In Harry Potter the Devil acts in a crafty and covert manner, under the guise of extraordinary powers, magic spells and curses,” said the priest, who in 1986 was appointed the chief exorcist for the Diocese of Rome.

Come on, you know he’s just worried about job security. Harry Potter provides an alternative hypothesis to demon possession – the Imperius curse. It has just as much evidence, so no wonder he’s worried.

What a Slytherin.


Skepticism in supernatural universes

Spoiler Alert: This post talks about last night’s episode of True Blood. Read at your own risk if you haven’t watched it yet.
For those of you who don’t know, I’m a bit of a True Blood fanatic. It’s a guilty pleasure. I love the campiness, the puns, the one liners, the cliff hangers, and all of gratuitous sex and beautiful people (Mmmm Eric, Alcide, and Jessica). All of this entertainment is enough to outweigh the sometimes frustratingly bad plot, Sookie’s dues ex machina lightning fingers, and, well, Sookie herself.

But sometimes I overanalyze things, because that’s what I do. Like when, in the last season, the hospital claimed Sookie didn’t have a blood type. …You can’t not have a blood type! Blood type is determined by antigens on the surface of red blood cells. If you lacked all antigens, you’d just be type O and negative for every other type, like Rh factor. Extremely rare, but not “no blood type.” Hell, even if Sookie didn’t have any red blood cells, she’d still come up negative on all of the tests.

The thing that stuck out for me during last night’s episode was something that I think of more and more when I watch the show. Andy Bellefleur, the town’s sheriff, was walking through the woods alone at night. He had been dumped there by his cousin and told to walk home alone because he was sobering up from V – vampire blood – which is a powerful drug in the series. In a poof of light, a beautiful fairy pops in front of him and seduces him in return for him pledging to protect her. And they do it right there in the woods. …Which thankfully we don’t see, because it’s Andy.

Me: Come on, would you have sex with some random hot person who just popped up in front of you in the woods?!
Male Friend #1:
Male Friend #2: …Probably
Me: This is so goddamn stereotypical.

That wasn’t really my issue, though. When Andy finally gets home, his cousin’s wife Arlene asks what took him so long. He recounts the story of how a beautiful woman appeared out of a ball of light and they had sex. Arlene thinks he must be hallucinating because he’s coming down from V.

This is the same Arlene who just saw a spirit exorcised from her possessed friend who stole her baby. The same Arlene who was possessed by a maenad into having crazy orgies. The same Arlene who went to a witch to abort her potentially evil baby. The same Arlene who knowingly serves vampires synthetic blood in the bar she works at. The same Arlene who knows her coworker Sookie can read minds.

How can you live in a universe where it’s common knowledge that vampires, werewolves, werepanthers, shape shifters, ghosts, telepaths, and witches exist, but a beautiful woman appearing out of a ball of light is obviously a hallucination? If someone recounted that story to me in that universe, my reaction would be “Holy shit! You obviously just banged some new supernatural being we personally don’t have any knowledge about, since we keep discovering new supernatural beings all the time! Let’s do some investigation on what it could possibly be!”

Because really, skepticism is based on the scientific method, rationality, and logic. If we lived in a universe where we know magic is real and that numerous types of supernatural beings roam the world…well, it wouldn’t be “super”natural anymore. It would be natural, and we’d need to figure out where we went wrong with the laws of physics. I’d love to research the biology behind vampires never dying by feeding on other’s blood!

But if we lived in such a universe, where would we draw the line? Was Arlene right to still be skeptical about the fairy, even though we, the viewers, know what it is? If we lived in a universe where physics and biology didn’t work as we expected, how would we establish between “real” supernatural things and “fake” ones? For example, many characters on the show are very skeptical about religion or God – but what makes angels and deities unbelievable when you have vampires and shifters running around?

…I guess you have physical evidence of the vampires and shifters.

Anyway, what do you think? Is Arlene being a good skeptic, or is she being a little dimwitted? If you lived in a supernatural universe, how would you react to a situation that described a new supernatural creature or event that you personally aren’t familiar with?

Harry Potter and Skeptical Thinking

I already talked a bit about why it’s okay to like fantasy stories like Harry Potter even when you’re a skeptic. But I’ll go one step further – Harry Potter has a lot of great skepticism in it.
Think about it. Even though their world is based on magic, they have their own version of supernatural, pseudoscience crap – basically everything that Luna Lovegood and her dad believe in. Most magical people easily accept unicorns and dragons and nifflers, but Crumple Horned Snorkaks? Ridiculous.

And Hermione is a wonderful skeptic. Just look at this quote from the 7th book about the Deathly Hallows:

“But that’s – I’m sorry but that’s completely ridiculous! How can I possibly prove it doesn’t exist? Do you expect me to get hold of – of all the pebbles in the world and test them? I mean you could claim that anything’s real if the only basis for believing in it is that nobody proved it
doesn’t exist!”

Hermione just destroyed all Christian apologetics. …Too bad the Deathly Hallows actually existed. *cough*

…I know I originally had more examples, but my memory is starting to go. If anyone has any other skeptical Harry Potter examples, feel free to leave them in the comments.

This is post 32 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.