★ Who is your favourite villain?
THE SHADE OF IT ALL
My man John Cho called those fuckers out. You can see it in his eyes, he’s not here for that Bumblefuck Clangerass bullshit
★ Who is your favourite villain?
THE SHADE OF IT ALL
My man John Cho called those fuckers out. You can see it in his eyes, he’s not here for that Bumblefuck Clangerass bullshit
I’ll know we live in a “post-racial” society when everyone calls Coachella “White Freaknik.”
[Text: Hears phrase “Judeo-Christian values”/*eye-twitch*]
twitch so much
Judith Butler, Bodies That Matter (via thesisdistractions)
Everything is a fantasyyyyyyyyyyy
What is Redemptive Masculinity? It is a particular ideal often discussed as the reason men should embrace feminism. It is a way of pointing out how men suffer under patriarchy by being forced to stick to rigid ideas of masculinity that are violent, unemotional, and restrictive to a fully flourishing life. Redemptive Masculinity does not posit that men suffer equally from structural inequality or material harm under patriarchy, but that it is a valuable outcome for men to be able to embrace their “feminine” sides without fear of suffering violence. In short, masculinity can be “redeemed” from its distorted form under patriarchy by incorporating the “feminine,” constructed as emotional and nurturing. Now, to be clear I don’t think men can’t be feminists or work for women’s equity. I follow Donna Haraway in thinking that there is no totalizeable feminism, there is nothing “natural” about being a women, and there are multiple standpoints from which feminist politics can arise. However, I do think there are a couple insidious elements to Redemptive Masculinity that need to be questioned.
First, despite the forced stoicism of traditional masculinity, there is nothing “unemotional” about patriarchal masculinity; if anything it is driven by excessive emotions. Underneath the veneer of patriarchal masculinity lurks both fear and rage. Fear at the loss of control, at being unequal, at losing status, and most importantly fear of losing power - whether structurally or in the most microscopic of power relations. For power is indubitably linked to pleasure, to the experience of pleasure and the fear of its being diminished. Afraid of this loss of power/pleasure patriarchal masculinity reacts with rage and violence, expressing man’s desire to exercise his control, a control society has often promised him. Zizek’s idea that at the heart of racism is the thought that the Other has stolen my jouissance seems pertinent here. Under patriarchy men will fear that women have access to a pleasure that is denied to them, to their jouissance, and will lash out if they think that fear has been proven true. Kate Zambreno’s book Heroines is interesting in this regard, as she shows how the male modernists were as “hysterical” as the wives they claimed were crazy and abused. Their emotions, of paranoia and fear, were socially sanctioned and thus these men were not overly emotional but Great Artists. Patriarchal masculinity then does not suffer from being “unemotional” but from an excess of negative emotions that are socially sanctioned for the maintenance of women’s inequality.
This leads me to the other aspect of Redemptive Masculinity, that the emotions men need to incorporate from women are their “caring” ones. However, such thinking buys into one of the key myths of patriarchy concerning women. It confirms that women are the “emotional” ones in society, possessing something men need to possess as well. Structurally this is the inverse of the dominant logic of patriarchy, that women possess a jouissance men lack. Redemptive Masculinity then does nothing to breakdown societal stereotypes of sexual difference but only flips them. Men go from seeing being emotionless as a virtue to a lack, while women’s “emotional” nature goes from being denigrated to valued, something men require access to as well. Women are still seen as the possessors of all that is good (their jouissance, their virginity) and that men must acquire. Despite the best intentions of forming more tolerant, open men Redemptive Masculinity does not breakdown the essential connections between sexual difference, desire, and potential violence.
Recognizing this, what are the roots for a socially viable masculinity? I find the work of Leo Bersani useful here. In “Is the Rectum a Grave?” he argues that there is an essential link between misogyny and homophobia - a fear of the radical passivity of the woman/gay man. The way out of this fear is to embrace radical passivity itself, to be open to being “penetrated” by others and willing to form radical socialities with them. In his later work in Forms of Being and Intimacies Bersani has expanded this question into how to recognize correspondences between the self and the world. Moving away from the question of the difference of the Other Bersani asks how a person can recognize the sameness of their selves in the world. Radical passivity then gives way to forging non-violent correspondences in the world that will allow for both socially viable communities and sexual pleasure. I see this as a possible, though surely not the only, starting point for rethinking masculinities outside of patriarchal sexual difference, where it is not a question of the fear/desire of the Other’s jouissance but of a particular correspondence between “men,” however determined. This would by necessity be a masculinity aware of patriachal violence and histories of sexual control, while still allowing for particular pleasures of activity AND passivity for the subject. The other potential upside is that motivation for men to work alongside women for social justice is not predicated on the idea that this is the only way for men to gain something they lack, but instead they can be motivated by a correspondence they see between themselves and other women - a correspondence that springs from the mutual enmeshment of men, women, and others in communities that should be embraced instead of rejected.
Isn’t the paradoxical product of modern network systems that we recognize both that we are unique and that there is always someone somewhere doing exactly what we are doing now?
I am Frasier Crane
When an episode of Frasier echoes your own dismal existence.
There are several common themes among a certain variety of reality TV shows on stations like the Discovery Channel, History Channel, and A&E. These are shows like Gold Rush, Bering Sea Gold, Moonshiners, Ice Road Truckers, Deadliest Catch, Ax Men, etc. They are set in highly dangerous occupations, often associated with heavy industry or natural resource extraction. They are populated almost exclusively by working-class white men. They include a competitive aspect where men compete against each other for large monetary rewards, often on tight deadlines. They often highlight both the latent (sometimes overt) violence among men but also moments of homosociality and “brotherhood.” The shows are structured around a “do-or-die” mentality; the men involved are often highly indebted or unemployable in a service-oriented/post-industrial economy and thus are willing to bet their lives on the slim hope of riches. These shows, however, do not encourage any strong identification in the viewer with the men represented. The emotions most often felt are probably a mixture of incredulity, revulsion, and curiosity. How do such men still exist and why would they engage in such patently risky and foolish industries? These kinds of emotion, elicited from a mainly privileged middle-class audience, are reinforced by the shows’ emphasis on “authenticity,” high-stakes drama, and competition. This aura of “fake drama” covers up the material and economic realities featured in the shows.
The context of these shows are precarious labor, indebtedness, and in many cases the continued vitality of natural resource industries. The jobs highlighted on these shows are seasonal - fishermen, loggers, miners, moonshiners - and often require debt-financed preparations that will only pay off if the men can earn a lot during the season. These are not the only kinds of debts the men and their families face though. There are often mentions of medical debts, since it is unlikely that any of these industries provide health insurance, pledges of child support, and other accumulated debts of a failed middle class existence. In the absence of stable, industrial employment these men have to turn to precarious jobs for the hope of earning money to start fresh. In shows like Ax Men, Gold Miners, and Ice Road Truckers the only paying industries are in natural resource extraction, where the destruction of the environment becomes the only possible site of meaningful labor. Thus the creation of climate debt is meant to pay off financialized debt; the excesses of capitalism are pitted against each other. It is not odd then that the men involved are forced to compete against each other as well. There is little mention of solidarity and none of unionism, despite the fact the industrial sectors are the only remaining hold-outs of unions. Instead these shows run on a neoliberal logic where every man is his own entrepreneur and there is a finite amount of resources and wealth that he has to compete ruthlessly for if he is to have any hope of secure life.
The subjects of these shows would seem to perfectly exemplify Lauren Berlant’s concept of cruel optimism, the way attachment to affective fantasies of the “good life” can actually impede, harm, or block actual improvements in the subject’s life. The men in these shows are often attached to the promise of financial reward, no matter the objective risk involved or the low chances of success. The other fantasy these men seem attached to is a particular form of living, often tied to an idea of rugged American individualism. The men on Moonshiners talk about how making moonshine has run in their families for generation, and take a kind of pride in the financial precarity that both makes the production of moonshine a necessity and a marker of class pride. It could be said for a lot of these men that they are not so much attached to the fantasy of a stable, middle-class life, as Berlant focuses on, but a fantasy of masculine self-sufficiency that allows them to secure the good life without adjusting to the demands of a service-oriented economy that is often read as feminine.The real coup of these shows would seem to be that they not only sustain these affective fantasies for the men involved, but also sell that fantasy to middle-class audience who, in turn, repudiate for their own cruelly optimistic fantasies of the good life. For the context of these shows as I laid out - precarious labor, indebtedness, climate debt - are increasingly the markers of middle-class existence as well. Maybe we should not so much mock the men these shows highlight then, as try to figure out how meaningful, cross-class alliances could be forged with the millions of people who are probably in very similar straights as well.
I would like to pivot then, and focus on a critique that these shows highlight for Berlant’s book Cruel Optimism. Berlant does not focus on any media project even close to shows like Gold Diggers, Moonshiners, etc. The only visual products she analyzes are films from France and Switzerland that highlight those countries struggles under neoliberalism. Berlant produces fine readings of these works, but I can’t help but think that by focusing on them she misses something specific about American neoliberalism. I think what Berlant misses about contemporary America is the omnipresence of debt as both structuring and repudiating fantasies of the good life. Berlant seems to have fallen prey in this book to the cardinal sin of academic theorists, universalizing from very specific cultural texts to create general political concepts. This is not to say that I don’t find cruel optimism useful as an idea, but that Berlant’s methodology of close reading may have obscured her from other factors impacting people’s contemporary affective attachments. Understandably the partial situations of academics can overdetermine their methodologies - Berlant is an English professor trained in close reading and not an anthropologist for example - but today I do not think it is possible to fully understand the connections between neoliberalism and affect without including debt as a key contributing factor to people’s lived experiences of possibility and failure. Certainly these particularly shows, for all their connections to what Jack Halberstam calls low theory, highlight just how crucial debt is to today’s problems of precarious labor and affective fantasy.
In The Gift Mauss ultimately says that the reason for reciprocation is a special power inherent in the gift itself that binds it to its giver, and thus reciprocation is necessary to break that bind and return the power to the original giver. If this does not happen then the recipient is open to being cursed by the giver and other negative effects (this is probably one of the origins of the semantic dualism between gift/poison that occurs in many languages). Later scholars of the gift have often critiqued Mauss for this view, claiming that he naively assumed that what his native informants told him was true and that he didn’t take the proper objective view of gift exchange and its role in the social totality. This is basically Levi-Strauss’ critique of Mauss and his foundation for structural anthropology. While there are scholars sympathetic to Mauss a lot to seem to agree now that the most important part of gift exchange is the way it mediates social positions and hierarchies with the gift itself just being a medium of exchange.
I wonder what an object-oriented ontology or new materialist approach would say about this discounting of the gift itself. They would aim to show how even the gift has some agentic capacity, that it is not a totally neutral medium through which human social relations are mediated but potentially productive in its own right. Gifts of food or animals may backfire on the giver - the recipient could not like the food or the animals could be a nuisance - in ways that are totally outside of the giver’s control. Indeed it would seem that from the giver’s perspective the ideal would be to give a gift that is a pure extension of their will, with no room for the gift itself to interfere in this process of pure exchange. Of course, such one-to-one correspondence is impossible, so in a way every gift will introduce problems and wrinkles into the very relation it is meant to support and resolve. I suppose this would also expand the analysis to what kind of material relations the gift itself operates in - how do societies decide what does or does not count as a gift and how is this tied to the resources they have at hand?
One of Mauss’ case studies are Native American societies on the Pacific Northwest Coast in the mid-1800’s that often exchange copper sheets, or in the case of the potlatch would destroy dozens of copper sheets as a form of excessive giving. Mauss notes how these copper sheets are entangled with the histories of particular clans and individuals, from whom their power is said to derive. David Graeber, in his re-analysis of Mauss, shows though that the copper had only recently arrived in the region in the mid-1800’s with the expansion of Canadian colonization (though some copper may have been foraged before from wrecked ships). To focus on the copper gifts then reveals a gift system that was already interacting with and reacting to Western colonization, and thus not a “pure” example of the potlatch or gift exchange. This does not lead to a wholly radical claim; of course the forms of gift exchange vary according to time and place and interact with other social systems. Indeed one of the primary functions of gift exchanges is a way of relating with strangers and foreign cultures. Still I would like to keep in mind the materiality of the gift - that gifts must comefrom somewhere before they are given to others and always dosomething in excess to the giver’s intentions - as I delve further into this topic.
MARINA SIRTIS: Well, you have to remember that we were shooting a show about the 24th century in the 20th century, so you have to bear that in mind. My thing was because to be honest, I don’t know about Gates’ experience with the producers, but I never got an acting note—ever. I would get a call from the producer, “Did you change your lipstick? Did you do something different with your hair?” For “The Boys” in the office it was all about how I look, I knew that from the get-go. So being that as I am very “woman’s libby” as we used to call it in my day, I wanted to portray that you could be an attractive woman and still be a strong person. So for me it was really important that there was someone in the position of power and authority and obviously respect who also cared about her appearance. Because that is me—that’s me, I care about my appearance, but I also care more about society, politics and the world, so I don’t think the two are exclusive, and that’s what I wanted to show.
GATES McFADDEN: Um, I just basically wanted to look good… Actually, as most of you probably know I got let go because I was a feminist. So, second season I wasn’t there because I disagreed with the writer, I felt he was writing the character of Crusher—I had said to him, “I raised this kid on my own; he might be obnoxious about it, but he has saved the ship about 6 times. And there has to be some of those genes that are Beverly Crushers, so why is it every time anything with any wisdom is said it’s a male character who talks to him.” And it’s only me that is only about the mother, which believe me mothering is like that’s number one, just love him—no problem with that. Because I thought that had not been really portrayed on a TV show. I have a son and we have whole other disconnect sometimes where it’s just talking about things, and it’s not to do with, “oh you’re a mom, and you’re my son.” Basically we disagreed, I was asked to you know, go, I certainly did it, and I wasn’t trying to be strident. I was used to working in theatre departments where everybody respected everybody and you basically did talk about things. You can talk about script things that didn’t mean you were going to get your way. It’s like what happens right now in rehearsals, I could be directing something and I can have four actors saying completely different things, and really arguing about it. I don’t take it personally, it’s like they’re arguing for their character—that makes sense to me. Anyway, I did just really want to look good but it didn’t work out.Marina Sirtis & Gates McFadden, on doing a 24th Century show in the 20th Century, and the reason Gates was fired in the second season. (Spoiler Alert: the producer was then fired and Gates was asked to come back (fan letters et al.) [watch here]
I never knew exactly why Gates was fired. I just knew that the writer who fired her was a hack and a dick and he chased away at least one very good writer from the show.
Now that I know why she was fired, I want to get in the time machine and punch that guy in the back of the head.