Evangelion Manga Reviews: Apocalypse and Beaches

What are the spin-off mangas like?

evangelion_144Are you a fan of the popular anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion? Do you want to know what the spin-off mangas are like? Then this review is for you!

I’m a fan of the original series and most of its varing manifestations. I while back I was surprised to discover that there are two manga series. They are, for the most part, published fan fiction and not written by Hideaki Anno but that doesn’t mean they are bad.

I’ll be scrutinising use of plot, writing skill and characterisation. The two manga series in question are: The Shinji Ikari Rising Project and Campus Apocalypse

There are no spoilers in these reviews, but they are aimed at people who already know the characters and are aware of the original plot.

The Shinji Ikari Rising Project – Volume #1

NGE_ShinjiIkariV1This particular spin-off manga, by Osamu Takahashi, drags us into an altered universe with gorgeous artwork featuring our favourite leading characters – primarly, Asuka Langley Soryu.

It takes a while for any serious plot to kick in – chapter 6, to be precise. The lives of Asuka, Shinji, and Rei are completely mundane and revolve around sexual comedy and romantic angst. In a world where Shinji’s mother is still alive and living in a family unit with Gendo Ikari, the story tries to explore how the chosen three teenagers would compete and interact if dating was their only worry.

We’re led through this alternate universe by Asuka who has been friends with Shinji since the age of four. This childhood bond is threatened when the beautiful Rei Ayanami moves to town – capturing Shinji’s interest – and forces Asuka to consider if she wants to be more than Shinji’s friend.

It’s beautifully drawn but plot points concerning the EVA are jarring and feel out of place in an average world where no one even vaguely mentions the Angels. There is no tension or threat of an imminent attack, which makes the EVA project feel slightly superfluous, like an attempt to create danger where there is none.

The first volume is light hearted compared to the original anime series and takes a somewhat heart-warming look at the dynamics between Rei, Asuka, and Shinji. In fact, it acts like a harem in which Rei and Asuka fall over Shinji, and Shinji himself frequently catches glimpses of female underwear; torn between the attractions of two striking young women. So if you’re not a fan of series like Oh! My Goddess this might not be the adaptation for you.

Saying this, Takahashi has done a fantastic job of staying true to the original characters’ personalities and it might be worth giving it a go just to enjoy spending time with Asuka and company. They have been altered to better socialise with each other as there’s an uplifting sense of friendship and love beneath all their pranks and bickering. Even the adults, especially Misato Katsuragi and Gendo, have a cheerful disposition that seems unhampered by dark, NERV secrets.

For those of you hoping for shipping fanservice, Takahashi does a grand job of teasing you with hints at yaoi, yuri, and het pairings all around.

It’s a calm and casual approach to Evangelion. The plot is vague and distracted with summer festivals and beach trips, but the characterisation is gripping and makes it worth reading if you want a closer look at ‘what might have been’ had Shinji and Asuka come from a happier environment. Mechs are not promised!

I personally don’t enjoy this kind of manga, so I won’t be buying the rest of the series. For those of you who do like harem-esc manga, this seems like a good one.

  • Fantastic characterisation,
  • Beautiful artwork,
  • Superfluious plot.

Campus Apocalypse – Volume #1

campus-apocalypseCompared to The Shinji Ikari Raising Project, Ming Ming’s Campus Apocalypse is an original and thoughtful alternate-reality. Corporation NERV, Shinji’s high school, the Angels and the characters themselves have been shaken up and re-imagined. This one is my favourite of the two.

Mystery arises from the get-go when Shinji spots his classmate running around at night with a Giant Spear (a.k.a. the Lance of Longinus) and an unknown guy. He puts this out of his mind until the next day at school where he attends NERV Foundation, a Catholic high school.

His curiosity is peaked when ‘the unknown guy’ turns out to be a transfer student by the name of Kaworu Nagisa who has a particular interest in Shinji, and a suspicious attitude towards Rei. Little does Shinji know, his curiosity will plunge him into a world of Angels, EVAs, Cores, AT Fields and prophecies – but not as you’d expect.

Compared to the original series, the art style has a more modern, anime feel. Ming has poured his own touch onto the page rather than perfectly mimic Anno’s drawing, which is part of what makes this series stand out.

I wasn’t sure if Ming’s story would be particularly good, as the first “in-class-scene” has a forced tone of humour. It’s more a case of, ‘look, isn’t this FUNNY?‘ than it actually being humorous. I was thrilled to discover that the story takes a compelling turn and has an exciting take on all the tech/techno-babble from the series. The Angels are especially interesting in this adaptation. In fact, it was the appearance of the first ‘Angel’ that hooked my attention.

The mood of storytelling has kept with the original – dreamy, brutal, symbolic (to a sensible degree) – and promises to be an insightful interpretation. The characters are true to themselves, especially Rei, Shinji, and Asuka. Like the Shinji Ikari Raising Project, Shinji’s abandonment issues have been toned down but he is a lot truer to his original characterisation with unforgettable, well implemented mantras such as, “I mustn’t run away. I mustn’t run away. I mustn’t run away!

For those of you who ship Kaworu and Shinji, there are enough intense stares between the two boys to make fangirls die of giggles.

This is a compelling adaptation with narrative skill and unexpected re-imaginings of the original series. The artwork isn’t quite as mesmerising as Takahashi’s but the plot makes up for it by the book load. I’ll be buying the next volume.

  • Gripping story,
  • Unique alternate universe,
  • Well written.

Are you a big fan of the Evangelion series?

The Restaurant Owner Who Paid My Tube Fairs

If you follow me on Twitter then you’ll know that this weekend I was working as a journalist for MCM Buzz Press at London Comic Con. It was an absolute blast and I’ve never worked twelve hour shifts without realising it before!

But before any of that, I have another story.

On Saturday night, after the busiest day London Comic Con has ever had to date, we decided to eat dinner at the Italian restaurant next to our hotel. Absolutely beautiful food, portions larger than we could eat, and staff as friendly as sunshine.

The next morning, I realised my Oyster card was missing. If you’re not familiar with the London tube system, an Oyster card is like a ticket that you keep permanently. You top it up with money, swipe it at terminals, and travel around the underground at a much cheaper price. Mine was gone, and the tube is not cheap without one.

The last place my friend had seen me with it was at the restaurant, where I’d placed it on the table to get to something else in my pocket. Unfortunately, the card’s black wallet blended in with the tablecloth.

After work, we returned to the restaurant and asked the owner if anyone had handed in my card. Nope. Nothing. The owner suspected that a had guest taken it, or even one of his staff. I wasn’t too upset, I couldn’t blame him for my own negligence. I was just disheartened at the looming fee I’d have to pay to get to Poplar that evening and then Waterloo station the next day. I didn’t say anything though, I just told him not to worry and thanks for looking.

Without hesitation, however, as the owner poked around in the till draw, he said, “You can borrow mine.”

“Pardon?” I replied.

“How much was on your Oyster card?”

“Not much, only £7, so it’s not a huge loss, but it was enough to travel.” (Without an Oyster card the overall journey would come to £18, with an Oyster it would cost me £4 – keep in mind that paying for a hotel, tickets to London, and buying food had already cost me well over £200.)

“Then here,” the owner said, closing the till and instead reaching into his coat pocket hanging on the peg, “you can borrow my Oyster card. It has about £7 I think. You can post it back to me.”

I was so stunned I didn’t quite know what to say. “What? No! It’s okay.”

“You need to get home, don’t you?”

“Well, yes…”

“Then here. Just post it back to me.”

I’ve never encountered such spontaneous and trusting kindness from a total stranger before. I accepted his offer, thanking him profusely, and made it through London without having to pay a stupid amount. Now home, I’ve written him a little letter and sealed his card in an envelope, ready to post back to him tomorrow.

I’m just so touched by someone placing such trust in a stranger in need. These little kindnesses do happen, and they restore your faith in humanity.

If you’re ever in Canning Town, you should visit Pepenero restaurant; not just because the food is delicious and massive in size, but because the people who work there are friendly, have a good sense of humour, and its manager is one of a kind.

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Free stories and audio books; and season 2 of Bloodshot Buck

BWNlogo_blue (1)Fantastic news! Big World Network is now a FREE site with over 2,000 episodes and nearly 800 hours of audio from 70+ series.

What the friggity are you talking about?

If you’re new to this blog (hello!) you might not be totally familiar Big World Network (BWN), so let me push you down the rabbit hole and into an exciting new domain.

BWN is a literary network that features dozens of stories from a vast array of genres. Do you like Military Sci-Fi? Epic Fantasy? Historical Romance? Supernatural? Young Adult? Romance and Erotica? The list is extensive and, in fact, not all of their content is fiction!

The site works episodically, so each chapter is written as an ‘episode’ and there are twelve episodes in each season, per series. One episode is uploaded a week in both text and audio format, all of which is now free to enjoy.

Why not take a quick look at the website right now? [click, click, click!]

What’s the catch?

Zero. Zip-zada nada derpy dope none. Free stories. Free audio books. As many as you want.

Patreonage

BWN is changing because we want people to read the wonderful content that we work hard to provide. Right now, our authors, editors, and narrators are all doing this for free. The authors take home the largest percentage of royalties on book sales, but that doesn’t begin to cover all of the work that goes into each series and season.

Editors, narrators, authors—everyone who works for BWN (like myself) earns no money (I’m not crying there’s just student loans in my eye) but with your help, those of us working behind the scenes at BWN can finally get a little compensation for our time and effort, as well as provide readers and listeners with even more fantastic series.

By donating as little as $1 a month, patrons get exclusive perks. Check out the Patreon page for a snazzy video about why we’re super duper sexy.

BANNER

Bloodshot Buck, season 2

And last but not least, season 2 of Bloodshot Buck is now airing! Aaaaaah! Mitch and I have had such positive feedback about season 1’s cliffhanger ending, and we can’t thank our readers enough for their support. Get ready for Eva to start kicking some butt!

We also have a new Bloodshot Buck Facebook page and a tumblr blog now. The blog contains headcanons that…are probably canon but not in the story, pictures that inspire us, our notebook doodles, scenes that got cut, side-scripts and other helpful things.

Seriously, thank you so much for reading and listening. We couldn’t do what we love without your support.

Building strong narratives in the post-apocalyptic genre

 

I always appreciated—and what I appreciate even more now, in the wake of dozens of post-apocalyptic series that didn’t work nearly as well—was that the camera always kept its eye firmly turned toward the people, not the ruins.

–  Todd VanDerWerff

I read that quote a while back at the very bottom of an article about the modality of grief in Battlestar Galactica, which includes a variety of people expressing their opinion on “Unfinished Business”, an episode that split viewers two ways as either being pointless or profound because it focuses so entirely on character development that, technically, nothing happens plot wise.

That quote above, written by Todd VanDerWerff, hit me so much that I cut it from the text and emailed it to myself so I wouldn’t forget it. I’ve been thinking it over and over to the point that I thought I’d comment on it.

VanDerWerff’s main point about characters is clear: it should start and end with them. That is what makes post-apocalyptic stories work.

But, to be honest, this is true of any story, of any genre. “Character drives plot, not the other way around,” said some mysterious person who’s advice was swallowed into the writer’s guide from the void. But it’s the way VanDerWerff has worded his opinion of this universally acknowledged writing technique that really sticks with me, ‘the camera always kept its eye firmly turned toward the people, not the ruins.’ Earlier in his piece, he says,

What’s interesting to me about “Unfinished Business” is how many of the so-called “rules” of good TV that have come up in the last 10 years or so that this episode breaks. Apparently, the crew of the Galactica has this long-standing tradition of beating the shit out of each other when tensions run high, one that we’ve never heard of before. [...] In fact, it reminded me of showrunner Ron Moore’s Star Trek history. If we were randomly told that the crew of the Enterprise or Deep Space Nine had rankless boxing grudge matches every so often, no one would bat an eye. It feels different here, because everything is supposed to matter.

If we do not focus on the ruins or the futility of the character’s struggle in the grander scheme of things, does that mean the people themselves offer hope/intrigue simply through their experiences? To what extent must a story not focus on the ruins of civilisation for it to work? Why does VanDerWerff ‘appreciate’ an internalised story, like Battlestar Galactica’s, more so than one with a clearer focus point on the end game? These are questions I can’t answer but am happy to ponder.

Despite being a post-apocalyptic science-fiction story, I would actually call Battlestar Galactica a political drama. The world of the characters, though unbound by the vastness of space, is ironically limited to their spaceships. There are no alien worlds to visit. There are no planets they can stop off at and have a curious look around; stay aground a few days and test the rock density. And this spacial limitation is what forces the writers to focus on the characters and their desires – how these people fit into the greater scheme of society as a concept rather than as a ‘thing’ that must be saved. It must be reformed. The very set-up of Battlestar Galactica lends itself to the phrase ‘the camera always kept its eye firmly turned toward the people,’ because where else could it turn? Space, the final frontier, except not really?

Should we have entire episodes, or chapters, that focus totally on character development for a story to feel genuine? How do we balance plot and personal-social-politics? What does VanDerWerff mean?

Character, I guess, it’s all about character. But applied and implemented how in this particular instance? VanDerWerff doesn’t give any examples of stories he feels have failed, so it’s hard to dissect what exact technique is being praised.

Television and books have more freedom to explore character than, say, films. They also have less chance of doing it well (if we’re to focus on character and character alone in the wake of a larger plot) than, say, roleplaying video games, where it’s often expected that players get one-on-one time with characters and can take a break from the main story. The split in opinion over “Unfinished Business” shows that a large enough number of people watching television don’t think an episode about characters trying to resolve their wounds by boxing each other, currently an unexplored facet of the world, was necessary. Some, like Genevieve Koski, argue that it felt too out of place, too overdone, too much like a “patch-work-quilt”. While she enjoyed certain aspects of the episode, in her opinion piece, she says,

However—and here’s where I turn into the party-pooper—I find I have a much harder time connecting to the Starbuck-Lee-Anders relationship this time around, divorced from the rest of the series. Maybe it’s knowing where all those characters are heading after this cathartic boxing match—more anger, more betrayal, more all-consuming guilt—or maybe it’s just the lack of momentum inherent in viewing it out of context, but this time I found Lee and Starbuck’s midnight tryst a little eye-rolling, which somewhat tainted their final embrace for me.

Perhaps it was an oddly structured episode, perhaps it was out of place, and maybe the anger everyone in Battlestar feels does come across as too overdone (it’s important to note that Koski acknowledges watching episodes singularly rather than in order – and with hindsight – can affect its overall impact), but I personally still enjoyed the episode’s study of grief, like VanDerWerff, because it left a stronger impression of the characters’ bonds with each other.

What does that mean for those of us who are writers?

I suppose a question that often gets ignored by writers with massive worlds is this: how can I show the character has been impacted by current events? How can I show they are struggling without meandering away from the main plot and creating something hollow or cliche? Is it possible to do so without wandering away from the main plot?

When the main theme of our story is world destruction and it hinges upon an evil master plan, we can easily be swept away by the scale of our own ideas. There are so many explosions and betrayals and chase scenes that there’s little time left over to stop and hear the laughter. World destruction equals crying and gun-fights. It means grim-dark-grim-grumble-punches.

Perhaps, then, what VanDerWerff means is that it’s important that we take time to look away from the crying and the gun-fights. VanDerWerff appreciates it when the characters take a moment from grim-dark-fighting-and-futility to confront relationships, whether they are tangled love-hate affairs or simple friendships often overshadowed by war. These little moments are what make the bigger things feel important, because character gives meaning to conflict.

What do you think?

How do you feel about the post-apocalyptic genre? What do you think about episodes, regardless of series, that do nothing for the main story but show something sincere about the characters? Should the writers find better ways to incorporate characterisation? Or does it not matter, so long as the events of that episode still mean something in later episodes?

Bloody hell, writing is difficult.

The Most Common Mistakes Editors Fix In Manuscripts

Willow Wood:

I was intending to write a similar post this month, it’s in my draft folder right now, but I think James has covered so much more and in such a succinct way that there’s simply no point but to reblog his wonderful post. Give this a read if you’re looking for editorial advice on content writing.

Originally posted on Zen|Xen:

Nominative Case Explanation

You do not need this level of knowledge to write well

For those of you that don’t already know, Winter recently outed me as an underground editor. This means that my inbox is now swarmed with requests to look at your manuscript, which I’m all too happy to do, but I don’t always have time. Fortunately, your manuscript can be improved very easily.

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For writers and artists: prompts, resources, inspiration, motivation

 

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I have a tumblr blog that keeps track of all the things I find useful for writing or art-making. It’s gathering a fair chunk of content now and I figured other people might also find it useful.

It’s called: pensandpaintbrushes

Everything is tagged, so you can find subjects easily. Here are just a few examples of the content currently available:

  • Prompt
  • Writing
  • Characters (this refers to writing villains, heroes, anti-heroes etc.)
  • Drawing
  • Reference (this refers to body positions for drawing)
  • Art
  • Sci-fi
  • Folklore
  • Monsters

The writing tips range from writing for children to studying archetypes, as well as containing information on monsters, demons, folklore, science etc. It’s an organised mishmash of writerly/artistic resources.

Another useful blog is Agent and Editor Wish List. This is a regularly updated blog with requests from editors and agents about the sort of book they’re looking for next. It’s a gold mine. You may find the perfect person to submit your manuscript to.

For those who are self-publishing and in need of a cover, check out Book Cover Machine for unique jackets to compliment your novel. You can ask for a custom made product or choose from her selection of pre-made covers, then buy the rights for it at a reasonable price. There are some real gems hidden within her collection, so it’s worth browsing to see what you might find.

And last but not least, Winter Bayne posts great links to competitions, short stories, and new authors of whom she finds interesting. These often lead me to aspiring webzines and resources I probably never would have stumbled over on my own. She blogs about her own progress as a writer, too, and is generally very lovely.

I hope these blogs are useful to someone else as well!

6 things that happen when you write about feminism

Willow Wood:

Another reblog this morning. This time it’s a little bit of motivational talk to keep you writing where everyone else would tell you to stop.

Originally posted on Sarah Ditum:

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1. You will be accused of hating men

At first this will sound ridiculous. Then you’ll feel irritated. Then you might feel riled and want to say: “YES I HATE MEN AND THEY MUST ALL BECOME SOYLENT GREEN.”

But the truth is, I don’t hate men. I just think I am awesome – too awesome for my life to be decided along the lines of what someone else thinks is appropriate to my gender. Too awesome to go around cringing over the fact that I am woman-shaped and have woman interests and woman-y inside-bits.

The people who accuse feminism of hating men have a very fragile, narrow idea of being a man – they’re something like a fluorescent tube. They are worried that any change will shatter them. Feel sorry for them, but not too sorry: like the rest of us, they will probably be OK.

2. You will get…

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Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly: Call for Submissions, Issue 3

Willow Wood:

Space romance! Yes!

Originally posted on :

SFRQuarterly_issue1_cover Sci-Fi Romance short stories sought for publication in Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly . Must include SF and Romance elements with an upbeat ending. We prefer stronger heroines to passive ones.

Length: 1,000 to 7,500 words.

Payment: $25 (US) paid upon publication, promotional biography with two links, and a complimentary quarter-page advertisement.

Deadline: May 01, 2014.

Rights sought:  six-month exclusive world digital BhlxfbGCIAA5Nj5rights from date of publication; non-exclusive thereafter.

Other info:

One short story will be published per quarterly issue. Please send only edited and polished work, with the understanding that the majority will be rejected. Due to time constraints, we are unable to give personalized feedback on rejected stories.

Stories that tie-in to a previously established world will be considered, but story must stand alone.

All sub-genres of science fiction will be considered.

Any heat level, from sweet to erotic, will be considered. Be aware that the fiction…

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“There comes a point where you’re not really a woman.” Shut up.

This ranty article is a reaction to this Reddit comment, which I had the misfortune of reading. Who in turn, is reacting this post over here that talks about the erasure of women as active, fighting figures throughout real history. The argument being put forth by Reddit user Vashra Araeshkigal is that Starbuck, a character re-imagined for the new Battlestar Galactica series, is nothing more than ‘a vagina placed on the old Starbuck‘, who was originally a male character, and therefore she is not a decent female character at all, let alone a “decent woman” – whatever that is – because she is not “feminine” enough. I’m addressing this because I’ve stumbled across this view in real life, let alone on the internet. Here is the full quote surrounding that delightful excerpt (my emphasis in bold):

Rather than create a strong female military character (which is, to be fair, what I think the writers were *trying* to accomplish), they simply put a vagina on the old Starbuck and moved on. The result was a woman soldier (sort of) who never looked more uncomfortable and awkward than when she was in a beautiful evening gown at a political event. She struck one as one of ‘those girls’ who had a mouth like a sailor and the morals of an ally[sic] cat.

The point Araeshkigal is trying to make (to begin with) is that Starbuck’s feminine qualities have been trivialised just because she’s a soldier, and because the writers weren’t good enough at making a “strong female character”, her inherent femaleness has therefore been compromised. This point is not a bad one as feminine traits are often viewed as negative qualities and are frequently downplayed in the pursuit of “strong female characters”, which is frequently misinterpreted as “a physically strong woman who can punch things, hates flowers and doesn’t cry”, rather than a fully rounded human being who is capable of the same range of emotions as male characters and who isn’t driven purely by infatuation.

But before I get onto the real bullshit that comes out immediately after that quote, I want to dissect the idea that it’s wrong for a ‘woman soldier (sort of)‘ (why ‘sort of’? I don’t understand what this is referring to – that’s she’s ‘sort of a woman’ or ‘sort of a soldier’? Either meaning is utterly stupid.) ‘who [has] never looked more uncomfortable and awkward than when she was in a beautiful evening gown at a political event.

First of all: Starbuck is a soldier. She is, by all credentials and experience and literal screen time proof, a soldier. With this in mind, it is not surprising that she spends her life, day-in-day-out, wearing uniform that ranges from fatigues to “formal dress”, which is the Battlestar navy-blues with gold trim. She is accustomed to dressing in practical clothing. As a military personnel living in a time of war her profession is practically constant, and even before that, she presumably lived on military bases where we know she taught and examined new fighter-jet pilots.

Is it so hard to believe, then, that Starbuck might feel ‘uncomfortable and awkward’ wearing clothing that she rarely associates with herself? Even when we see her playing cards during downtime she is wearing slack uniform. Even when she is preparing for bed, she wears sweat pants and a thermal bra. Her attire is simple, bland, regimented and often unflattering, because looking beautiful is not high on her list of priorities. Of course she’s going to feel uncomfortable in a dress, and especially so if she’s wearing a ‘beautiful evening gown at a political event’ because she has been stripped of the “outer-skin” that is familiar to her – the clothing she usually wears in stressful situations, let alone casual ones. To dismiss the idea that clothing affects self-esteem, especially for women, is just ignorant.

Let’s move on to the statement ‘one of ‘those women’’. In four words Araeshkigal has managed to Other a range of women who are, apparently in her eyes, a sub-group who are worthy of being looked down upon, particularly as she further elaborates upon this point by saying ‘who had a mouth like a sailor and the morals of an ally[sic] cat.

The phrase “one of those women” is never used in a positive context because it is used to segregate women who behave in a particular way; women who do not fit with some binary the speaker feels is worthy of inclusion or their respect. But because Araeshkigal has chosen to point out that Starbuck has ‘a mouth like a sailor’, we can assume that Araeshkigal partly disapproves of Starbuck because she talks in a manner that Araeshkigal later defines as ‘uncultured’. I also get the impression Araeshkigal has never spent time with actual soldiers (she says she has a friend who is a veteran soldier but this is not the same as actually hanging out in a military environment), the majority of whom swear a lot regardless of their gender.

I can only guess what ‘the morals of an ally[sic] cat’ means, but given that Starbuck is prone to smoking, drinking and disrespecting officers, I can only assume this is what it’s refering to. Her loyalty to Adama, however, is very rarely in question and she’s not even that promiscuous, so again, which “morals” are being questioned here are rather vague. Regardless, I don’t see why her manner of speech or personal morals make her a lesser person, let alone a lesser woman.

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Araeshkigal goes on to say (my emphasis):

And if my husband winced because our daughter saw this brash and uncultured female as a role model, should I curse him for being misogynist or sexist…or admit that *he* was recognizing something also true which many “Feminists” ignore:

Every trait of the *feminine* (not feminist) seemed out of place on our not-quite-Lady Starbuck, which means the baby was neatly thrown out with the bath water. This was not a heroine. It was a hero with an inexplicable sex op!

Aside from this very narrow minded opinion on how a woman should and should not behave in order to be “cultured”, the idea that female soldiers must uphold their “femininity” rather than explore it is a bullshit ideal that can cripple the character’s developing personality. It is based on the idea that femininity is sacred and present in all women in exactly the same way. Araeshkigal’s opinion of a “real lady” – whatever one of those is – is that Starbuck must be comfortable with her feminine traits and especially comfortable with displaying them.

Going back to the point that Starbuck is not the sort of person who enjoys flaunting the traditional image of being a woman, why the hell is she less of a woman if she’s uncomfortable with being made to dress and act in a manner that is outside of her comfort zone? Her feminine traits were not ‘out of place’, you simply chose to ignore that they were displayed in a way that you are not familiar with, and apparently disapproving of.

Femininity does not lessen a character but nor does it necessarily make one “better”, and Starbuck’s femininity was dealt with according to her environment and job status. The idea that any woman who asserts her identity, let alone her authority, by “behaving like one of the boys” (which is moot in the Battlestar universe as no one believes in that kind of gender pigeon-holing or classification) therefore ultimately makes her ‘not a heroine … [but] a hero with an inexplicable sex op!‘ then you need to take into account either the sadly small sampling of women in your life, or perhaps apologies to the multiple transgender women or gender fluid people you have just insulted, like myself. Thanks. And that’s not to say that Starbuck identifies with either of those labels, but the insulting implication of this quote in general still stands.

I lived on a Royal Air Force (RAF) base until I was seven and joined the Army Cadet Force (ACF) when I was twelve until sixteen, the latter involved practical training and experience with real life soldiers – quite a significant number of whom, you may be surprised to hear, were women.

So many women feel they need to overcompensate for their gender when working in the army, myself included even as a cadet, since discrimination against their capabilities is still prevalent even with the Pentagon lifting the ban on women in Military Occupational Specialties in 2013. This is on top of the sexual assault and harassment a disproportionate amount of female soldiers face from their own comrades.

I was expected to teach basic training courses or command squadrons, and if you cannot learn to shout like a man or put a soldier in their place for talking over you, I can tell you now, it is very easy to have your authority undermined. Hints of femininity in the army will still be met with groans and sexist remarks, which is perhaps where Starbuck’s characterisation stems from – this observation that many female soldiers overcompensate for their gender. As I said earlier, her gender isn’t discriminated against in Battlestar, but how she perceives herself compared to other women is still relevant. Araeshkigal’s veteran friend may well seem like Mum to her children, baking sugar cookies in her wonderfully feminine way, but I’m willing to bet she has a whole different persona when actually doing her job.

To quote directly from Helen Benedict’s article The private war of women soldiers (2007), who interviewed twenty female veterans:

“There are only three kinds of female the men let you be in the military: a bitch, a ho or a dyke,” said Montoya, the soldier who carried a knife for protection [against the soldiers on her own side]. “This guy out there, he told me he thinks the military sends women over to give the guys eye candy to keep them sane. He said in Vietnam they had prostitutes to keep them from going crazy, but they don’t have those in Iraq. So they have women soldiers instead.”

Pickett heard the same attitude from her fellow soldiers. “My engineering company was in the first Gulf War, and back then it had only two females,” she said. “One was labeled a whore because she had a boyfriend, and the other one was a bitch because she wouldn’t sleep around. And that’s how they were still referred to all these years later.”

And just to elaborate the point further:

She said the men imported cases of porn, and talked such filth at the women all the time that she became worn down by it. “We shouldn’t have to think every day, ‘How am I going to go out there and deal with being harassed?’” she said. “We should just have to think about going out and doing our job.”

I cannot think of one military woman in my time on army bases who did not change her mannerisms when in a room full of male soldiers. This ranged from mimicking the male soldiers’ speech and behaviour, to keeping a firm and stoic indifference, to occasionally behaving in a softer manner when the atmosphere was calm and casual. The aim for many female soldiers is to make their male comrades forget that they’re speaking to a woman, as the stigma against their competence is still very real.

And although women in Battlestar are no longer perceived as hysterical or incapable of being soldiers, they are still sexually drooled over and harassed. Such as Caprica Six in Season 4 who is sexually abused, repeatedly, in her prison cell by Saul Tigh and in Season 2, a “Cylon interrogator” attempts to violate Sharon, but her husband Helo intervenes in the nick of time. To quote Juliet Laidos:

Naturally the show doesn’t condone rape, but it’s discomfiting that the writers drop sexual violence into the script so often without comment. If nothing else, this pervasive threat—directed only at women—negates the idea that Battlestar conjures a gender-blind universe.

But I’m not here to argue if Battlestar is a feminist show. It tries pretty hard and it does pass part of the Bechtel test, but it does fall down on a variety of things. So let’s get back to the point of focus: Starbuck’s gender, which has been insultingly dismissed on the grounds that she is an uncultured, manly woman.

So perhaps the problem is that we don’t see Starbuck in enough situations where she can show there’s a deeper level to her personality? Again, I don’t think so. She’s tricked into thinking she’s a mother, which leads her to subconsciously reassess the way she behaves, and a very tender display of loss when she learns she’s not a mother after all. We see hallucinations of her difficult and shunned relationship with her own mother, which tells us why she joined the military and why she hates herself. Starbuck makes a choice between the man who makes her feel comfortable with who she is and the one who actually satisfies her, bringing to light her sexual interests and respect for herself. In fact, if it’s “harmonised feminine” soldiers that you want, then look at Dee, look at Sharon, look at Caprica. Battlestar Galactica doesn’t lack effeminate female soldiers who are comfortable with their gender status, but I find it quite engaging that Starbuck is not comfortable with it, because this status is more frequent among real female soldiers than Araeshkigal seems to be aware.

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tumblr_lc5boyDJSV1qb1g04o1_500But this still doesn’t address the fact that Araeshkigal is basically saying “there comes a point where you’re no longer a ‘real woman’”. To quote (still my emphasis):

In trying to correct the scaly llama paradigm, too many works of fiction swing the pendulum so far away from all things feminine that one can barely call the heroine “female” before it’s all said and done.

What Areshkigal has done is confused the concept of poorly written female characters, often mistaken for “kickbutt woman with no onion layers”, with her perception of what is an acceptable woman in terms of behaviour and morals. To rephrase, if I want to sit with my legs open, swear like a sailor, call myself Bitch Please the Badass and behave like the most un-effeminate stereotypical man you can possibly think of most of the time, my gender is no less of a woman. I am simply not what you are comfortable with.

The fact that Araeshkigal feels there comes a point where you can no longer call yourself a woman is fucking absurd. I’m sorry, you’re too manly. Go away and learn to feminise yourself a bit, then come back and call yourself a female.

Now, these manly ladies in other works of fiction can be boring as a rock because they have been written by really shit writers. The fact that manly female heroes exist is not the problem. The problem is some writers are making that their entire gimmick and forgetting to give them character development (which, by the way, does not mean they have to become more effeminate). They’re forgetting to give them in-depth relationships and multiple personas: this is how she acts when she’s at work and this is how she acts when she’s with her sister, or her child.

They don’t break the character. She’s so ballbreakingly badass that they don’t totally destroy her world, or let her break down because something shit happened. She’s one constant persona who occasionally dips into feelings of loss or shock or ‘oh no, am I strong enough to beat my enemy?’

The Battlestar Galactica military is pretty good for having a decent number of women in combat and positions of power (one of my favourites is the understated Admiral Cain) without any of them ever being blamed for making mistakes “because you’re a girl”, so it can be argued that Starbuck doesn’t need to overcompensate for her gender by being “manly”. This is the future, the power structures between men and women have somewhat changed. There’s a female president. Starbuck should have been the perfect opportunity to create a fighting woman in touch with her “inherent femaleness”! The writers worked hard to create a gender-blind universe!

I think you just don’t like her inherent Shut Up I Don’t Have To Enjoy Dresses For You.

You know what’s still pissing me off, though? The earlier use of ‘uncultured’. People like Araeshkigal are living in a bubble and it’s important that they step outside their class divide and learn a little bit about those ‘uncultured’ people being referred to. Every avenue of society has a culture and flux of creative output outside of your current perceptions.

To end on a positive note, Araeshkigal concludes her vague statement by saying:

It’s as though we cannot work through our cognitive dissonance to have a woman who is BOTH a solider[sic] and a wife or mother or daughter or whatever. And that is very sad…because THAT is the truth that is still being missed.

Yes, this is a problem, making females soldiers sacrifice their ability to engage in relationships that affect their development – such as the bond between mother and daughter – never letting them show different sides to their personality, and many are still driven by: The Power Of Love Negates My Need To Have A Life Beyond The Man And His Need Of My Protection. There are aspects of Starbuck that could have been further explored, like her existential crises and her relationships to other women, but she is no less of a woman simply because she does not behave like a “cultured lady” by today’s stereotypes and your expectations. She still feels a range of emotions, she still reacts to things. She is the agent of her own destiny.

She is a really awesome character who feels most comfortable when she’s not pressured into acting as if she has inherent female conditions to fulfill. She’s a person. And a complex one at that.

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Ironic Sexism Is Still Sexism

Willow Wood:

There is so much about Foz Meadows’s blog that I love and find comforting to see addressed. Her entire blog is a big stress relief for me, but I’m reblogging this particular post because it is something I struggle with constantly when around my family.

Explaining that sexist/racist jokes are STILL sexist never sits well with them. They will always tell me, in a derisive and offended tone, that I need to ‘lighten up’ or, my favourite (not), ‘get off my high horse’ and learn to ‘take a joke’ or explain to me that they’re being ‘ironic’.

I suppose they dislike it that I scowl at belittling and sexist/racist jokes because, for them, they would have to completely alter their way of thinking about humour. They would have to address that they’ve just said something that either reveals a little bit of their internalised misogyny, or that they are bigoted and not aware of it.

Changing how one thinks about humour does require effort, but only in the beginning, like all things. If they TRIED to be conscious of the ‘ironic sexism’ that they’re perpetuating, they might find it easier not to give into the mindless rhetoric that bigotry is funny. It’s easy to just laugh rather than to think, but the effect this keeps having on the way we subconsciously treat people continues to have negative results.

To quote Meadows’s opening paragraph: ‘All too often, gross remarks – be they racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise abusive and vile – are excused or condoned on the grounds of irony; that because they were meant to be humorous, they can’t possibly be offensive. And if somebody is offended, then they’re either oversensitive or incapable of laughter – either way, though, the problem is with them, not the joke-teller.

Except that, no: it’s not.’

Originally posted on shattersnipe: malcontent & rainbows:

All too often, gross remarks – be they racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise abusive and vile – are excused or condoned on the grounds of irony; that because they were meant to be humorous, they can’t possibly be offensive. And if somebody is offended, then they’re either oversensitive or incapable of laughter – either way, though, the problem is with them, not the joke-teller.

Except that, no: it’s not.

Generally speaking, there are two reasons why people make ironically offensive jokes: either they think we live in such a post-racist, post-sexist, post-discriminatory world that the act of mimicking historical abuses cannot possibly reinforce those abuses, on account of how they no longer really exist; or they secretly think the stereotypes which underlie offensive jokes have some basis in reality, and are therefore funny because they’re true. The former person can be anything from genuinely well-intentioned but oblivious to belligerently convinced…

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