Bad Blood is the best action movie of this year, fight me

Okay, I know we’re only at the beginning of the summer and I haven’t even seen Mad Max: Fury Road yet but I’m prepared to say that Taylor Swift’s music video for “Bad Blood” is the best action movie of this year.

Here is everything good about sci-fi action movies. All of these things are in her video:

  • Badass looking but actually incredibly impractical weapons and outfits
  • Ridiculous awesome futuristic makeup that will is already kinda ridiculous but will probably look super dated in like 2 years
  • That thing where someone’s awesome superhero name comes up on the screen after they do something cool
  • Three-point landings
  • Windows shattering in slow motion as people get thrown through them
  • Sci-fi looking lighting schemes that are in those computer-y motherboard-type patterns
  • Boots
  • Shaking hair out after taking off a motorcycle helmet
  • Tron bikes

Here is everything boring about sci-fi action movies. None of these things are in her video:

  • People getting their cool outfits all dirty in ways that doesn’t even look cool and then staying like that for the whole rest of the movie, just to show how “gritty” it is
  • Grittiness in general
  • The male protagonist’s female loved ones getting fridged so he can develop as a character
  • Male protagonists wincing a lot and looking angry/constipated
  • Male protagonist character arcs in general
  • Male protagonists
  • Men in general (Kendrick Lamar excepted)

I would stiletto-saunter over the corpses of a hundred Age of Ultrons for a feature film based on this music video. This is a post-Jupiter Ascending world, people. Give us what we want: 2 hours of Taylor Swift featuring 400 outfits and guest starring literally every woman in the music industry or Hollywood or whoever with each one getting a cool name and an original outfit and weapon.

Monday Rec: Daredevil

I went to see Age of Ultron and it had some really shitty parts and some good parts and I’m really excited about the new Avengers team and whatever, I’m not gonna tell you to go see it because if it’s your thing, you’re gonna see it, and if not, you’ll do fine to wait for the dollar theatre.

I’m gonna tell you to go on over to Netflix and watch Daredevil, because it is incredibly well put-together and because it is about emotional intimacy between men who cry sometimes and when they do, they really go full-out ugly crying, with their faces all scrunched up, and that’s refreshing as hell.

Okay, so I know that comparing any show to Teen Wolf and saying “this is better” is a pretty low bar, but there’s something that Teen Wolf did that I thought was total bullshit but Daredevil completely pulled off. In Teen Wolf, the werewolf characters are constantly using their superhuman hearing powers to listen to heartbeats and then tell people that they’re lying, and I 100% did not buy it when they did that. In Daredevil, they just let you listen to the heartbeats themselves and let you draw your own conclusion, and it feels totally different. The whole show is like that: they have to be showing what it is that the protagonist is focusing on, because he’s blind with enhanced other senses, and they do it really well. There are scenes where they slowly focus on a single object, or where they “zoom in” on a certain sound, pulling it out of a chaos of noise, and all of it manages to pull you into the character’s perspective really well.

It’s still a superhero show, but the simple “there are enhanced senses” thing is pretty much Daredevil’s entire gimmick; it’s frankly a lot more about organized crime and corruption than about anything related to superpowers; the main villain is just a regular human being who happens to run the mob. And while there are nods to the rest of the Marvelverse, this is as far from the crossover-heavy Agents of SHIELD as you can get while still being in that world; aside from the whole “New York City got pretty fucked up when shit went down in the first Avengers movie”, there’s not much difference between Matt Murdoch’s version of Hell’s Kitchen and ours.

Age of Ultron revealed some pretty exciting stuff that’s going to happen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the future, and I’m psyched as hell about the new Avengers lineup, but Daredevil is doing some really cool stuff right now. Plus, there’s not a lot of shows that feature one dude beating up lots of other dudes AND ugly-crying with his best friend, so that’s pretty good right there.

Monday Recs

  • My priestess gave me a baggie of lavender for my birthday to help me sleep, and I stuck it next to my CPAP’s intake filter. I highly recommend the “put something that smells good and calming next to your intake” method of making sleep better with a CPAP. I’m guessing the thing I did where I tape it on there might be a bad idea if you’re at one of the higher pressures, since it might make it unable to get enough air, but since I’m only at a 7, it works well for me.
  • Kiva Bay draws pictures of feminists and they are wonderful. She’s working on a feminist magic deck. Her work is really sweet and fun and it’s really nice to see someone making something lovely and encouraging and energizing while all the #GamerGate shit seems to show little sign of ever stopping. I follow her on Twitter and she brings me joy.
  • Spellcaster by Claudia Gray is a really fun little YA Urban Fantasy series. It focuses really heavily on friendship and family and one of the protagonists has two dads, which is a nice alternative to the standard Gay-Best-Friend-Who-Angsts trope that so many novels seem to have picked up recently. It’s got a nice small town feel, sort of Sunnydale meets Star’s Hollow. It’s not something I’d recommend to people who don’t devour lots of YA Urban Fantasy stuff anyway, but if that genre’s your cup of tea, it’s fun. Kristine Hvam, narrator of one of my all-time favorites (Daughter of Smoke and Bone), does this trilogy and her voice is beautiful, soothing, and engaging; she really pulls you into the world.
  • Claudia Gray’s dimension-hopping A Thousand Pieces Of You is also a fun read with some really rich and beautiful worldbuilding.
  • I’ve been using Scribd to listen to audiobooks and it’s pretty good. The app doesn’t always work well– it’s not nearly as good as Audible’s– but the selection for both audiobooks and book-books is pretty good; it’s far superior to Amazon Unlimited, where I went through pretty much everything I was interested in listening to in the free trial month. (I get free membership if you sign up using my link, but so do you, and it helps get me access to the giant pile of books I talk about here, so it’s a good deal on all sides.)

In my own news, I made a single-serve website to show what #GamerGate is ruining at any given moment. (If they’re ruining something new and I haven’t noticed, message me on Twitter so I can update it.) I also set up a Patreon in case any of you want to help me figure out how to get paid for this kind of writing, which would be aces; I also have a tip jar.


BIGOTRY UPDATE: noted racist Vox Day and some of his ilk have decided to attempt to ruin the Hugo Awards and harnessed themselves to GamerGate, and many of the genre’s noted shitheels (Will Shetterly, etc) have been jumping in to talk about how terrible “social justice warriors” are. I’m not gonna link to them all, because they are infuriating and because they’re exercising the same tactic that #GamerGate constantly uses where they flail around with terrible opinions and attempt to waste people’s time and act indignant when they are told that they are not entitled to anyone’s time and attention + sic their awful fans on them for more harassment/threats/etc.

Anyway, the good news is that this has led to hashtag fun over on Twitter. We’ve been coming up with ideas for new Hugo award categories. A bit of them are riffing on the current ridiculous awfulness, but mostly we’re just all making sci-fi jokes. Here are mine!

Chris Mancil compares using an anti-harassment blockbot to McCarthy-era blacklists, acts like a tool

Electronic Arts game dev Chris Mancil posted a disingenuous load of shit on his blog today, but it was sort of a platonic ideal of the kind of disengenuous shit written by boring cishet men who think their opinions matter, so I’m gonna take that shit apart, alright?

I’m just not a fan of collective punishment, or guilt by association.

It is not punishment for people to protect themselves from harassers. Collective blocking is an attempt to keep assholes out of our mentions, because no one is entitled to our time.

These two tactics in real life usually lead to terrible results by stripping individuals of their agency and humanity. In warfare, dehumanization and ‘othering’ allows more flexibility for the troops, and their administrators, to you know – temporarily abandon ethics and morality, for the greater good, and other such mindless rationalizations. A dangerous but all too familiar historical phenomena in war, but also with strong roots in our entertainment history – such as the Hollywood Blacklists for communist sympathizers.

This manages to combine the first geek social fallacy with a conflation of the actions of private individuals and government. It’s something you see a lot with people who think they are entitled to audience because they have freedom of speech or that they should be free of the consequences of speech, such as getting fired from your job for being racist on the internet, which isn’t how free speech works. This is the same kind of logic that leads people to those conclusions.

Milo Yiannopoulos is a misogynistic, transphobicopportunistic  douchebag with shady business dealings working for an extremely unethical “journalism” website. Deciding to follow this dude, retweet him, or take his work seriously is a pretty big sign that even if you aren’t an outright misogynist, you really don’t give a shit about women, because this guy is awful about us. But even if you don’t care about sexism for whatever reason, he’s an unethical, shitty dude with really bad opinions who hates gamers, and both his jokes and his rhetoric are pretty stale, so it’s kind of a sign that you have pretty bad taste and/or judgement, which is a good enough reason to unfollow/block you.

The idea that a piece of technology that allows individuals to not have to block every gamergate sea lion and his 100+ sockpuppet accounts is comparable to McCarthy-era blacklists is ridiculous.

In any event, good-bye 2,355 gaming twitter followers whom I shall miss.  I will happily be buddies with all of you again, but I won’t unfriend anyone, to be a friend of yours. And I would never ask you to do the same.

It is a perfectly reasonable request to ask that people stop being friends with your abuser and to choose not to keep people in your life if they will not do that. GamerGate is an abusive movement and Yiannopoulos is one of its ringleaders; he has helped create and foster that culture of abuse.

I skimmed a bit more of Mancil’s blog and Twitter: unsurprisingly, he identifies as a libertarian, loved American Sniper, and I think it’s possible that The Scarlet Letter is the only book he’s ever read. His ex-followers aren’t gonna be missing much.

“That’s my secret, Cap. I’m always angry.”

I’ve been invoking the iconic “I’m always angry” Hulk line from Avengers a lot lately.

Part of it is me being ironic, because of how bad Avengers was, feminism-wise, and how Joss Whedon is a shitty feminist; I have a lot of really complicated feelings about Marvel and the Marvel Cinematic Universe that currently are taking the form of several unreadable word garbage messes in my Drafts folder, but damn, that line.

I spend a lot of time angry because I live in a demonstratively shitty society that is set up to fuck over a lot of people. I’m relatively privileged; I only check a handful of the marginalization boxes, but it’s enough to have me pissed as hell, and I still want to bring attention to the stuff that isn’t in my marginalization bailiwick because I think that’s the decent thing to do.

I don’t have anyone guiding me on how to use it, so I’m figuring it out myself. A lot of people take issue with a woman speaking loudly and swearing a lot and being willing to call bullshit; tone policing is a classic misogynistic tactic, and attacking people who are angry is a pretty easy way to attempt to preserve the status quo, since it tends to be the people who are being fucked over who are interested in changing it. (I’m one of the fairly privileged ones on this issue: there are some really vicious, awful racial stereotypes regarding the anger of people of color, especially women, additionally, many women of many racial/ethnic backgrounds who are less gender conforming than me also face both invalidation of their anger and their identity is used as an attack against women who express anger, as in the case of the “feminists are all angry lesbians” trope.)

A lot of what living under patriarchy is, for me, is dealing with “I’m always angry”; it’s learning how and when to express that anger and how to deal with it being compounded by misogynists who can’t deal with how I express it. It’s dealing with being told I’m overly angry, harsh, or uncivil; it’s learning how to write productively when I’m seeing red.

It’s always a bit of a relief, for me, to see other women unapologetically displaying anger, especially feminist anger, because the constant invalidation of it that I get from society is really damaging. (Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk is actually way better about this than Bruce Banner is, though going into the details of why is another blog post.) It takes a lot of strength and energy to plow through the society-wide gaslighting that displays itself in ways that vary from the “crazy ex-girlfriend” to the “man-hating angry feminist”. I’m trying to do some of that work, display some of that, and use the energy that I’m getting from it to do something positive, or at least something that might make another pissed off woman somewhere feel less alone; a lot of my interaction online so far has been pointing at things and saying “this is bullshit, and you aren’t the only person who recognizes that it’s bullshit”.

So that’s one of the things I’m hoping to do on barrl, and on the other places you see me online: point out bullshit, laugh at it, rage at it, and avoid the abusive clichés about menstruation, hysteria and mental health. I get the reasons other women have tried to claim “bitch” as a positive thing, but that’s not something that feels right to me, personally. But “I’m always angry” comes a bit closer to expressing a part of my feminism that’s not always easy to explain and that I seem to take a lot of heat for.


Demoridroids: A cyberpunk/sci-fi mook concept

The Demoridroids are a concept for an army of mooks/minions; they would be used as a cheap alternative to human guards. They are, in most ways, indistinguishable from other battle robots or droids; the only difference is that they have an added function that attempts to demoralize their human targets.

The Demoridroid project started with the idea of scanning the huge volumes of existing data produced by humans in an attempt to find the most stressful phrases that can be uttered; they found data relating to human reactions to certain phrases and found the ones that caused the most fear and anxiety; they also measured stress-based psychosomatic functions, like nausea. They assumed that the bots would then end up finding the best battle cries, but they actually ended up with a very different phrase list, leading to the creation of a group of droids that went into battle blasting phrases such as:

  • We need to talk.
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • So, what do you do?
  • Your rent is due.
  • The results were inconclusive.
  • Your card was declined.

The Demoridroid 1.0 would occasionally combine phrases if they were damaged, leading to dying robots crying out phrases like “We need to five years mother declined,” and though this was not a common bug, some viral videos of the Demoridroid 1.0 caused a dramatic decline in sales of new units and they were discontinued.

The Demoridroid 2.0 had far more advanced software to find information about its targets; it was able to use a scan of their appearance to get demographic data in order to find phrases that will affect people like them specifically, and they could be paired with in-house security systems that scanned any identification chips, RFID tags, and visible products, creating either a working model of the target or accessing public information about them; because of the sheer amount of information available on social networking sites, the Demoridroids were now able to narrow down their demoralizing phrases much more specifically.

This instantly led to many corporations buying the Demoridroids for security, but video of them soon leaked that found that the phrases that they indicated as stressful for many demographics tended to be overwhelmingly racist, sexist and homophobic: the most stressful phrases for members of marginalized groups often were a mix of casual microaggressions, explicit use of slurs, and other forms of harassment. A particular video of a droid yelling “Hey, (sexist slur), turn around, I’m talkin’ to you!” followed by a series of sexually explicit and threatening statements ended up with millions of views and was shown on several national news broadcasts.

This led to a call for the total cessation of the use of Demoridroids, and while some celebrities have attached themselves to this cause and a couple of corporations attempting to keep a “clean public image” have removed them, the anti-Demoridroid factions have so far had little success.

(The Demoridroids concept is free to use non commercially as long as you let me know if you decide to post any variations on them. If you’re a game master and you use them in a game, I’d be interested to see how you stat them, too!)