{ thinking out loud about the things i care about }

Archive for October, 2010

Linkspam: Feminism & Pop Culture

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Remember that time long, long ago when I started posting weekly linkspams? Y’know, that time before my already busy schedule leapt to new heights of insanity?

It may not be weekly, but it is linkspam.

Feminism & Women
  • The good people at Overthinking It created this fantastic Female Character Flowchart that captures a whole lot of pop culture female character cliches in one fell swoop. It’s massive in both size and awesome.
  • For the two hundredth and forty-second time, females and males have equal math skills before stereotyping. I don’t know how many more ways scientists can come up with to tell the rest of the world it isn’t that girls are bad at math, it’s that we keep telling and treating them as if they are bad at math.
  • Do accusations of sexism spur greater awareness of sexist language? This study thinks so. I had a conversation with a couple of male friends about this not too long ago.
  • Nice write up about what we’re really talking about when we measure pop culture with the Bechdel Test. It’s not about that women shouldn’t talk to or about men, it’s about how women presented in pop culture regularly only talk to or about men when they’re even there at all. It’s about the absence of women in our stories as anything other than romantic partners or two-dimensional tokens.
  • Linked to from the above, Pixiepalace has won me over with her explanation of the Reverse Jane Austen Principle: “It is a truth universally acknowledged by the entertainment industry that a female character in possession of a name and a ringless left hand must be in want of a boyfriend.” I think this often comes from a belief by the entertainment industry that women won’t want to watch female characters that aren’t somehow involved/tangled in romance, as if it’s central to our enjoyment. This is one of several reasons I love Emily Prentiss and Elle Greenaway from Criminal Minds, two fine female characters without romantic subplots.


Pop Culture
  • Another great post from Overthinking It, this time about Fixing Season 5 of Doctor Who. It’s a long post that only the most dedicated meta readers are likely to finish, but it covers most of my problems with the plot and themes of the latest incarnation of Doctor Who. I’m not sure I necessarily agree with all the proposed fixes, but I do mostly agree with the general through-line here. Season Five of Who left me firmly in a “meh” space, and this post articulates some of the reasons why.
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A Lesson in Language from Stephen Fry

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

An essay on language from Stephen Fry has been turned into a completely lovely little Kinetic Typography video.

I love language. Most specifically I suppose I love English since it’s the only one I know how to use, but I do try to use it well. And when I say “well” what I mean isn’t always “correctly” or “properly”. Sometimes “well” means “creatively”. Or “uniquely”. Or even “colloquially”.

Not too long ago I inadvertently got into a bit of a Twitter argument with a surprisingly number of people on whether or not the Oxford comma was a necessity. Should it always be used? Is it necessary? And ultimately somewhere in that long, surprisingly passionate argument was a discussion about the merits of “proper” language as critical for the sake of communication. Stephen Fry’s comments on the nuance between “disinterested” and “uninterested” most perfectly embodies that argument: in particular my side of it.

The nuance of words is and can be important in the right context. In a political speech or poem the difference between disinterested and uninterested could be of great import. But that doesn’t mean it always has to be of great import. The great flexibility of language is that can stretch or shrink as we require it, and as the culture that uses it changes, so too can language.

I know some writers dislike the way texting, tweeting and online chatting has distorted language in ways that are leaking into the vernacular — both written and spoken — but I delight in it. I enjoy the eyerolling nuance writing “LOL” adds that the word “laugh” doesn’t in itself contain. I love how changing “the” to “teh” modifies the entire tone of a sentence, how emoticons clarify intent in two or three characters, and how Twitter hashtags can be functional, thematic and humorous all at the same time.

There is absolutely a place for proper language, just like there is a place for the Oxford comma. But the language we use today is as fluid as it has ever been, and in a world that changes as rapidly as ours I want a language free to adapt and change with it. Language can’t and shouldn’t remain static.

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