Categories
Media Consumption Whimsy Writing Life

It’s Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Season

The stop-motion animated Rudolph story I grew up watching debuted on 6 December, 1964, or so says the internet. That makes this a timely post.

Every year I’m reminded how much the internet loves to hate on poor Rudolph (the TV edition) for being a tacky tale with its roots in advertising and a plot packed with of cruel, psychologically damaging life lessons. I’ve seen essays criticizing the show for being:

  • capitalist propaganda promoting consumerism & conformity
  • socialist propaganda promoting social justice and the death of Traditional Values ™
  • sexist, ableist propaganda that insists the only human value is usefulness.
  • pro-queer propaganda encouraging people to tear down social and family norms.

Those are pretty heavy messages to pull from a half-hour story about flying reindeer who transport a magic sleigh everywhere in the world overnight once a year. They’re also wildly contradictory. The think pieces only seem to agree on one point: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer isn’t a story children should watch or hear or read because they will internalize horrible ideas.

I disagree with all the nay-sayers despite agreeing with many of their individual points.

Yes, Rudolph is problematic. There’s little pop culture from that era that isn’t uncomfortable on on axis or another. Star Trek TOS holds up better than I thought, better than ST:TNG tbh. Despite being radically progressive for its time it still contains plenty of cringeworthy moments. BUT I DIGRESS.

Most stories in the 60’s that received wide distribution, especially visual stories, were landmines jam-packed full of sexist, ableist, utilitarian, Puritan messaging. To expect a commerical kid’s show to be an exception is asking a bit much.

And it’s a bit much to insist it was deliberate. Some creators did have an agenda. People were rejecting the (bogus)”traditions” which had been taught as Forever History during the post WW2 years. The grip of Boomer Mythology–the deliberate social engineering & history erasure movement undertaken by Social Leaders terrified of various marginalized groups–was already slipping.The idea of combatting dissent by doubling down is not exactly new.

But a lot of the bad storytelling came from writers putting their mundane unexamined biases & prejudices front and center of their stories. Take another Rankin-Bass “classic,” The Little Drummer Boy. It’s another one I loved as a little kid. Outsider orphan finds a place to belong after suffering & adventures? Plus magic animal companions? Should be great to revisit, right?

Ugh, no. it is unwatchable as an adult. Every last element of it is offensive and cringeworthy in the extreme. The plot is saturated with exoticism, egregious bigotry, and the worst excesses of Christian preachiness. The characters are racist caricatures, the dialogue is unbearable.

Rudolph, in contrast, holds up. It hits some of the same beats as The Little Drummer Boy (and they’re story beats that show up in my own work often enough for me to recognize my affinity for them, by the way) but it dodges the worst cultural baggage.

Oh, there are problematic elements a-plenty, from blind promotion of social & sexual norms and assumptions of what people should want to make their lives fulfilling, to a villain whose fate is to become a literally toothless minion of another character. Just to name a few.

But the basic premise — a protagonist achieving self-acceptance & pride in what others insist is a flaw, a plot that ends with them with stepping up to make sure things are better for those who come after, including and uplifting differences instead of bullying & rejecting others in turn? That theme still shines through the clunky parts.

For me, anyway. Your mileage may vary.

(In case you’ve never watched it, here’s my details-omitted plot summary of Rudolph. Child gets mocked and rejected for being different, gets no support from the adults in his life & leaves home to make his own way. Finds out he isn’t alone in being misunderstood & unwanted and makes friends. He matures, forgives the people who drove him off (in the process finding out they regretted their cruelty) rescues them from peril, returns home, and finds he is needed for the very traits people once mocked — so he makes his help contingent on ALL the rejects being included & people being accepted as they are.)

And the one trope that will ALWAYS suck me into a story is “Misfit outsider collects a band of fellow rejects and eventually save their haters despite being mistrusted and undervalued”

Rudolph’s story just reaches right in and curls up in my heart. So imma keep watching & loving it every year. And maybe accidentally writing it over and over into my fiction.

Anyway, that’s it. That’s the post.

But for your entertainment, here be a sampling of the “Rudolph Is Awful” material. Some of it is published as “parody,” some is wholly serious, and this is only a SMALL smattering of the Deep Dive Overthinking Analysis availble for the low, low cost of a few searches & far too many hours spent slogging through the prose.

https://www.ajc.com/lifestyles/holiday/rudolph-the-red-nosed-reindeer-sparks-debate-over-bullying-bigotry/dn4rYh8ctjxqhl4PuhPv2I/

https://slate.com/human-interest/2017/12/rudolph-the-red-nosed-reindeer-is-your-latest-problematic-fave.html

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2019/12/19/christmas-shows-deep-questions-rudolph-charlie-brown-grinch-column/2688932001/

Categories
Writing Life

Inside my head

  • You know  what happens when I am a Good Homeowner and schedule regular maintenance? I discover our heater has a cracked heat exchanger, that’s what. The old one lasted 26 years, so I have no complaints. And it explains the weird behavior of the CO detector last winter. (A couple of times on super-cold days it would beep once, then stop.  Now I know it was catching the exhaust seeping back from the exchanger and saying, “HEY, I SMELL CARBON MONOXIDE…no, wait,  it’s gone now, never mind.”)
  • So, anyway, we’re getting a new heater soon. (Apparently some people wait for the crack to get big and immediately dangerous. Yikes. Nope. Not me. I like breathing.) The AC unit is just as old and didn’t do a good job this summer, so we’re budgeting to replace that too. We could plug in electric heaters and not freeze but Spouseman will melt in a Chicagoland summer without cooling. So that’s the latest big deal.
  •  Anyone analyzing cable television shows by their advertising would conclude that the main audience is, “people with diabetes and/or cancer, people who care passionately about condiments, and people who need cheap car insurance and expensive security systems.”
  • The latest in searches:
    • bubble wrap invention date
    • single item narcissism
    • pumpkin size varieties
  •  Media update!
    • Book: Kingdom of Ash by Sarah Maas. It’s the big sprawly, conclusion to the long, long, looooong classic fantasy saga. It would be easy to list out a dozen things about the series that rub me entirely the wrong way, and a half dozen more that make me wince…but…I liked it anyhow.
    • View: Jurassic World. Um. I enjoyed the dinosaurs, but ugh. It’s one excuse after another for major CGI battle & chase scenes, with gratuitous gore. (Keep in mind I don’t mind gore qua gore. In this movie it was jarring in the wrong way.) Oh! OH!  And  “diversity characters” who are walking weak stereotypes? Awful. Worse than the ridiculously thin villains.  Did I mention I enjoyed the dinosaurs?
    • ViewOcean’s 8. Fun, basic, heist movie. The callbacks to Ocean’s 11 and 13 were super too. I kept thinking Cate Blanchett and Sandra Bullock were the same person in different wigs, but that’s not a flaw in the movie, that’s my brain’s little issue with face recognition.
  •  Random cat pic:

    This is the earliest pic of Scooter I have in the blog archive. Enjoy.

  • No Context WIP snippet:

    The tenth time the dog sprang to his feet and alerted to a blank spot on the wall, Deena lost her patience. “Seriously, Bazel? What is your issue?”

    And someone answered in a deep, pleasant drawl, “He has good instincts. So do you, grand-daughter.”

And that’s all the all there is for this time.

Categories
Media Consumption Whimsy Writing Life

Inside My Head 30.9.2018

  • This week’s annoying lesson in medical stuff: elbow splints are all one size fits none. (I need night braces that keep me from tucking in my arms and making my sore elbows worse.) Never fear, crafting supplies & Amazon to the rescue! The DIY-adapted splints are already helping, and I now have stabilizing exercises to do too.

 

  • Nothing attracts a cat more than dirty laundry…except clean laundry.

 

  • Another component in my love of autumn: it’s the trickster season. Not only Halloween, but fall in general. Expected a nice day when you left for work on a sunny, sticky hot morning? HAHAHANOPE. Big, muscular clouds roll in like linebackers, and it’s hot cider weather by dinner hour. (YAY, CIDER!) Days of gloom and wet chill resign you to winter’s arrival, and then HAHAHA you wake to endless deep blue skies, trees dressed in party clothes, and air as warm and soft as a towel fresh from the dryer. I love me the antics of the trickster gods, so of course I adore fall.

 

  • I just realized I compulsively check the news every few hours to find out what fresh hellspawn has been hatched by my own government. In one of my writing worlds I’ve been looking forward in time toward a post-chaos future for 30 years now, and that makes reality a very weird place to be living in today.

 

  • What’s up with ridiculous corporate name changes? I haven’t seen this many questionable “re-branding” ideas since the heyday of the early 90’s. Weight Watchers, Papa John’s,  Dunkin Donuts…I swear, it seems like decisionmakers are being pranked bigtime by their marketing teams.

 

  • The latest in fun internet searches:
    • potato chip packaging
    • thermoplastic shaping elbow armor cosplay
    • lyrics purple people eater
    • octopus seal kayak video
    • marching band helmets
    • rank US cities metro population

 

  • An phrase I saw keeps popping into my brain: “TOXIC POSITIVITY.
    Yes, it’s toxic. It’s a villain’s most effective tool. Dolores Umbridge was all about positivity. ANYway. Turns out, “positive attitude” management is worse than ineffective. It damages morale (oh, the irony) stifles creativity & leads to rebellion and/or employee flight. Cites? Nope. This is my personal blog. The internet is right there. Search for yourself.

 

  • Because I was back on campus for an alumni event this weekends, I was thinking recently of all the creepy times in college when people told me in hushed, sentimental tones, “Your years here are the best in your life, and the memories will stay with you forever. Don’t waste a single minute.” I know it was meant as encouragement, but it always felt more like an threat. The idea of life being all downhill after college still appalls me. It hasn’t been true, either.  They were formative years, certainly, and I do remember them well, but  rosy nostalgia just isn’t my gig. And the most important year in my life is always next year.

 

  • It must be fall. I’m moving furniture. Carefully, because elbows, but I’m moving it. I didn’t move anything around last year, so this year the living room and my writing den are getting rearranged.  Maybe this year will be the one when I finally buy plant lights and a stand for my herbs & things. No promises.

 

  • This weekend marked a major life shift. When people ask what I do, I said, “I’m an author. I write science fiction and fantasy.” So, there’s that to celebrate. I even had a card in my wallet. Small steps, but BIG small steps, ya know?  I didn’t make much progress on the WIP while I was away, but I did keep my hand in, and I’m not going to kick myself for taking a rest day today. I needed the decompression after four days of Major Social time. I wish that wasn’t true, but it is. So I’m dealing.

 

  • And that’s a wrap.

 

Categories
3. Other Things Media Consumption Whimsy Writing Life

Summer Reading & viewing, etc. Lots of etc.

First, a list of non-media activities.

  • I’m collecting subscribers for my new-release emails. (you can be one, click on the big “click here” button somewhere on this post) and I wrote a whole new story about Jack Coby as a teenager to lure people in.
  • All my books are moving into wide distribution off Amazon-exclusivity, and if your your library gets ebooks through Cloudlibrary or Overdrive, you can ask them to get my books for you that way now.
  • I’ll have a boxset edition of the Restoration ebooks soon. Just needs a cover image.
  • Sharp Edge of Yesterday: A Rough Passages Novel should be back from the editor any day now, and its cover is almost done too.
  • My new ghost mystery work-in-progress is over a third of the way finished.
  • Went on a cherry-picking day trip to Michigan & had a blast. 22 lbs of tart cherries, 5 lbs of sweet. and a major tendonitis flare-up afterwards.
  • I survived being a featured reader at Gumbo Fiction Salon and have the mermaid necklace to prove it.
  • The yard is in happy jungle mode, and the first veggies have been harvested.
  • The butterfly-garden summer volunteer gig is in full swing, and  I can’t believe it’s year 7…wow.
  • I’m spending much less time online and getting more things done in real life.

…things like watching TV & reading. Books first, then TV, then movies.

All the Confederation Universe books, Tanya Huff. I was writing about Jack Coby and got a free Confederation book from the Nebulas conference, and that was justification enough to re-read all of Ms. Huff’s Condeferation books. I adore her writing, and this universe feeds my love of Space Marines and fabulous space opera world-building.

If you want to see the result of my writing efforts, sign up for the new-release emails. It’s an exclusive subscriber story.

The Werewolf of Marines trilogy, Jonathan P. Brazee: Rollicking good men-at-war military paranormal popcorn reading.  I’ll reward myself with the Space Marines series …after I finish Ghost Tome

Neogenesis & select re-reads of other Liaden Universe books by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller.
Because I finished TWO short stories and sent a book off to an editor, I rewarded myself by catching up on the  Liaden releases from the last little while. *HAPPY SIGH*

Instinct season 1: Basic buddy-cop drama, with the obligatory “not-a-cop sidekick” twist that allows for lots of rule-bending. BUT. The characters are complex, the plots are off-the-wall entertaining, and the acting is excellent. Bonus points for the character and his husband being portrayed as a couple with believable couples issues and dialogue.

Luke Cage Season 2: The plot took a turn to the grimdark side, which isn’t to my taste, but the situations supported that bleakness a LOT better than most lure-of-the-dark-side stories. And they didn’t trash the character’s development the way Certain Other Series did. (Looking at you, Jessica Jones, with your sexist WTFuckery) Hoping for some gritty, difficult redemption arcs next season.

Red Sparrow: IMHO this movie wanted to be Atomic Blonde crossed with Alias by way of La Femme Nikita. Spoiler alert: fail on all fronts. Some fine performances, but the slow pace, murky character motivations and reliance on absurd complications…big nope.

Wrinkle In Time: It could have been great. It was okay. I loved the lush visuals. I adored the Mrs. Which, Mrs. Whatsis & Mrs. Who. Great casting on the kids. Meg & Charles Wallace were very much how I pictured them in my head. Sadly, the directing just felt clunky and telegraphed, which did the dialogue no favors. I could also wish they’d stuck closer to the original plot–far too much screen time on fleshing out backstory that didn’t need fleshing &

Greatest Showman: Wellllllllll, I loved it, but hey, it’s Hugh Jackman singing and dancing, so cut me some slack. It’s a fantasy about a world that isn’t this one, about someone who isn’t the real P. T. Barnum–it’s about a charming and socially-conscious rebel, not a manipulative money-grubbing status-climber. Yeah. Singing. Dancing. Uplifting as fantasy.

Game Night: I can see why it was popular, but it was not my cup of whiskey. The plot is a mess of cliches and sends a slew of awful messages (not least of which is “lying to people and humiliating them is hilarious”)

I Kill Giants: It was…good, I guess? Gorgeous film, sweet and simple. I was not the target market. The general plot & likely resolution were obvs within 10 minutes.  The protagonist was about 5 years too old for the way she was handled by adults in the film. (Retreat into fantasy is natural for grieving kids. The protag is in her teens and no one even mentions

The Quiet Place: as long as the premise is accepted, it’s a decent post-apocalypse horror flick. (plot holes include farm fields somehow planted silently after civilization’s collapse  due to noise-targeting monster aliens and people who can’t manage non-baby sex iwhen obstetric care and/or A CRYING BABY will likely be fatal. Seriously? The sex menu is huge, people. Plenty of ways to have max fun without baby-making.)

Anyway. I can’t accept the premise because it’s so damned stupid. ANYTHING THAT HUNTS BY SOUND CAN BE BLINDED/CRIPPLED BY SOUND. The strategy isn’t complicated or secret. The organized military could’ve created safe zones inside noise-protected “blind spots” with layered perimeter defenses and created traps to eradicate the monsters the same way.

But then there wouldn’t be a movie about brave sacrifice blahblahblah….harumph.

Westworld Season 1: this series was disturbing for many reasons that I don’t think occurred to its writers. It’s brilliant in potential, and I will keep watching it because it’s kinda like watching a beautifully filmed car crash, but wow. It’s a pretentious mess of unexamined racism, misogyny & truly muddy pseudo-existentialist nonsense.  Conflict arises from some questionable philosophies, and the story spent a lot of time building to a “huge surprise reveal” that disappointed me in all possible ways.

The show is so, SO pretty, though.

Logan Lucky: total miss. Did not finish. (Do you know how boring+annoying something has to be for me to turn it off? I WATCHED ALL 4 SHARKNADO MOVIES ON PURPOSE.) I do not know how this got made. The script must have looked good to someone.

Victoria & Abdul: an unexpected delight based on a true story that turns out to be actually true or at least true-ish. Wow.

That’s a wrap. I’ll try not to keep updates closer together and shorter, but no promises.  I have Gen Con in two weeks (AAAAAHHHHHHHH KERMIT FLAILING AAAAAHHHHH) and a lot to do with edits and prep for Dragon Con after Gen COn, and writing and reading a bunch of books on my TBR list…and so on. Life is busy.

Until later!

Categories
Media Consumption Writing Life

A Host of Things Viewed

This post is made of movie & TV reviews. NO, NOT AVENGERS. all the same, ahoy, maties, SPOILERY WATER AHEAD.

Shape of Water: Yes, it won umpteen awards, and I can see why.  The movie is an phenomenally cohesive, polished work of cinematic craftsmanship from start to finish,  from the acting and directing right through soundtrack, cinematography and costuming.

It’s also still Creature from the Black Lagoon Falls In Love, so despite the amazing ambiance of the scenery, the moody music, and the adept acting of the cast, it…didn’t wow me.  I guess I like my creature love stories with a lot less messaging about Othernesss meaning people aren’t whole, a LOT fewer of the Obvious Evil style of baddies,  and happy endings that involve a inclusion WITHIN society rather heroes than having to flee into isolation to be their true selves.

I over-think things, perhaps. Doesn’t make me wrong.

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story. Yes, yes, I watched a documentary. GO, ME.  Depressing as hell, about a brilliant, beautiful woman whose brilliance was dismissed–even declared impossible–because she was also beautiful, a woman whose government and bosses cheated her, a woman whose reputation was blackened and misrepresented by a media machine more interested in headlines than truth. A woman who ended up broke and broken by the system.

Outrageous. Me being me, of course I went out and did a bunch of booky research to fact-check and bias-check the film’s claims. Result: turns out the movie bent over backwards to give the impression that no malice was ever meant when in reality, there is plenty of evidence to suggest jealousy, bigotry and misogyny played large roles in her defeats.

The careful approach the creators took makes sense. Any appearance of outrage would have gotten it ignored as weak girly shrieking about unfairness.

Because that tactic still works, doesn’t it? The events in the documentary took place decades before the long-running campaign to tarnish and diminish Hilary Rodham Clinton’s reputation ever began.  I wasn’t expecting to see resonances. But there they were, BIG AS LIFE.

Anyhow. That was my takeaway.

Darkest Hour. Ah. Hm. Maybe I was not in the right mood for Oscar-nominated/winning movies? Because this was 2+ hours of brilliant acting, fabulous costuming and cinematography, but at the end it left me wondering WHY WAS THIS MADE?  The plot covers a momentous month in Britain’s history, (NOT, its darkest hour by the way, only the time leading up to the “FINEST Hour” speech being given) but it wasn’t not exactly a month that lends itself to storytelling drama in London.  Dunkirk? That got its own movie. Ditto all the other places major action and sacrifice were taking place.

So despite a whole lot of fictional dialogue and dramatic elements being added, it felt like a long parade of “Golly, Churchill, wotta character, eh?” moments. To me.

The YMMV principle applies to all my reviews.

One more! The new Lost In Space. TV series, season 1. Did I gush about this one already? I don’t care. Among my social circle this show  seems to be a polarizing topic. People either love it or hate it.  I  love it with a passion equal or greater than my loathing for the 1990’s era movie, and I LOATHED that movie.

Why do I love this one?

Scientists winning with science instead of science being Dangerous and Not To Be Trusted. Characters who are true to the campy originals without being the campy originals (because traits that were acceptable in the mid-60s do not always translate well to today’s mores.)   A plot that keeps an optimistic, we-can-fix-it feel without falling into perky positivity.  Is it perfect? Oh, hell no. Plot devices and coincidences abound, the dialogue is sometimes painfully stilted and the surprises were, with one exception, telegraphed well ahead of their reveals. So there’s room for season 2 to get better or for the whole thing to crash and burn. I’ll watch it and see.

That’s it for now. I also watched Into The Borderlands and the latest Avengers movie, but I’ll hold off on reviewing either one until I’m done with them.

Which for the Avengers won’t be until next May.  Until then…

I write books.  They’re quite excellent, or so people tell me. You can buy them all. & judge for yourself on Amazon or anywhere books are sold. Choose from paperbacks, ebooks, and even audios.  Click the BOOKS link on this site to get a free peek.

Or, you know, not. Your choice. Until next blog.