Saturday, January 11, 2014


1. Here's an article proclaiming that "The Bechdel Test needs an update: We've set the bar for female representation too low." I'm not sure if the author gets the point: setting the bar too low was the purpose of the Bechdel Test. The idea was to point out how awful things were: "Even with so simple and easy a requirement, most movies still can't pass it!" If now more of them can, as the article implies, then yes, the Bechdel Test has served its purpose and we need a new one.

2. Speaking of Bechdel testing, here's an article describing a book that explains why Meryl Streep is a great actress. Essentially it's that she "forced herself to intervene in order to give a sense of agency or even human complexity to characters she had agreed to play." Apparently the breakthrough for her was giving motivation and justification to Joanna Kramer.

3. This in turn leads us to Streep dissing Walt Disney. He was sexist and racist and didn't like cats. Well, long before I knew anything else, I knew that American animation as an industry hated cats. In old cartoons featuring them, it's almost always the good guy dogs and mice/birds teaming up against the evil cats. Once in a while there's a good cat, but not often. "We are Siamese, if you please ..."

But it wasn't Disney's sexism or racism that did the most harm, actually. It was something Streep doesn't mention: his ingrained anti-Communism. Nothing wrong with an American capitalist being suspicious of Communists, but Disney saw them under the bed. Why was there an animators' strike in 1941? Because Disney wouldn't accept the union; he thought it was Communist. Why did Disney strongly support Ronald Reagan's gubernatorial campaign? Because he thought the Democrats had been co-opted by Communists.

4. Going a little further down the Disney road, here's Mark Evanier on why he didn't like Saving Mr. Banks. Basically it was that Travers was depicted as too much of an unpleasant crank to be enjoyable to watch. Whether the real Travers was like that is beside Mark's point: he didn't like the movie. I agree about her character, but, not being involved in the movie business myself, I have a perspective that's hard for movie-making folk like Mark or Disney himself to see. What I see in Saving Mr. Banks is an author desperately trying to preserve her beloved creation from a man who, in all innocence, wants to pour smarm all over her, and that's exactly what he did. Travers is a crank, yes, but she's a right crank. I see her in this movie as being something like, oh, maybe Sam, the protagonist of Gilliam's Brazil, slowly driven mad by the surrounding society. And, like Sam, Saving's Travers is eventually, tragically, assimilated by the system.

5. And one more, a pouty interview with Alan Moore. I'm not familiar with the work being discussed in the key question, but the principle is clear enough. As I commented in the F770 post that led me to this, if Moore really can't tell the difference between being criticized for "two white men 'reclaim'[ing] or otherwise utilis[ing] a contentious black character" and a rule that "no author or artist should presume to use characters who are of a different race to themselves," then, well ... Some people are born willfully obtuse, some achieve willful obtuseness, and some have it thrust upon them.

6. All right, I'm going to Fogcon, even though part of the weekend is already occupied. I was seduced by a panel proposal, on "trilogy structure." The first sentences of the description read: "There is a canonical trilogy structure -- Tolkien uses it, Moorcock used it, and it's familiar to many readers. Other writers, such as William Gibson and Tim Powers, have constructed their trilogies rather differently." This is already so many kinds of wrong in its entire premise that I signed up in hopes that I can sputter about it on the panel, if they do it at all, which I actually rather hope they don't.

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