adventures with badass sistahs in outer space: olivia dunham

I love SF telly. I love it. I watch every SF program, just in case. I also like supernatural, fantasy and general make believe stuff.
But I tend to have less patience with programs that do not have good female characters. I make exceptions for programs like Supernatural which explore male characters and masculinity in new ways.
I love all trashy vampire telly. I can’t help it. It’s a sickness.
I did my honours thesis on female violence in action film, and I’m still interested in the way women and violence and, more importantly, women’s violence are depicted in mainstream film and television. While I was doing this honours project I came across an article which basically argued that straight-to-video releases (ie B films) were often more transgressive in terms of representations of gender than mainstream or A films. I am really interested in this idea. This is partly how I justify my passion for B telly. Partly. But I also think it’s true. Telly that doesn’t gain broadcast telly release, doesn’t make it to prime time, or even make it to Australian television tends to be where I find the most interesting gender stuff. It’s as though being B gives you a little freedom to explore different types of characters.
I gain access to these programs through the internet, and through video shops. Video shops are actually very important. DVD releases of even the most B programs has given me access to some of the most wonderfully un-top-shelf television. Accessing these programs this way (rather than via broadcast telly) means that I tend to watch them in a block, rather than one episode-per-week. I binge view. This changes the way that I read these programs. It makes me more likely to read the meta-arc, the larger story. I tend to regard individual episode stories as pieces of a whole, rather than as discrete texts. Even when the program is very ‘monster of the week’ (as most SF is, particularly in its first season).
I find out about these programs via websites like io9. I use wikipedia extensively to clear up plot points I haven’t understood or to follow up characters and add-on texts like comics. I also use imdb for details about directors, actors and so on. I like to talk about these programs with other people, but I don’t particularly want to sit down and dissect them for hours. This was something I used to do with Buffy when I was at school. These days I quite like to share programs and to mention them, or to share add-on texts, but I’m really only interested in watching them. I do talk about them with my partner when we’re watching. But only the programs he’s also interested in.
My PhD dissertation involved a lot of research into fan studies and methodologies and theories involved in researching fan cultures. I am self-reflexive about most of my talk about these SF telly shows. I am interested in issues of gender and class and sexuality and race and ethnicity…. and all that good identity stuff. But I am also interested in questions about technology and machinery, wider questions about humanity. But, really, gender is where it’s at; all that other shit is inflected by this. And, as somebody clever said once, I’ll be a post-feminist when we live in a post-patriarchy. Gender issues are so central to SF culture and texts, it’s ridiculously self-deceiving to try to ignore them.
This is just one post about one character (mostly) that I like. I’ll try to write other posts about other characters. And perhaps about this program in more detail. But don’t count on it; I’m slack.
Because I tend to watch a number of programs at one time, and am also reading SF all the time, I tend to read intertextually. Well, of course I do. We all do. But this is one of my particular pleasures; I like to imagine characters from different programs meeting. I like exploring the industrial connections between programs – how could the director of Veronica Mars move to Moonlight and what happens when Mark Mothersbaugh does the music for Big Love. Oh – I also read and watch across genres. I’m reading lots of dodgy supernatural romances most of the time, and always reading Tanya Huff; I’m watching programs like Vampire Diaries and, of course, Blood Ties.
So when I’m watching these programs I’m not only reading the text in front of me, I’m also thinking intertextually, I’m thinking about modes and industries of production, and I’m paying attention to audiences and modes of reception. And the communities which tie them all together.
And I re-watch and re-read on a massive scale.
I also do some sessional teaching at various universities. I exploit this role by pushing the television I love on young, vulnerable middle class kiddies. I do, unapologetically and with great verve, present these programs in a feminist light. I have no – as in zero – tolerance for anti-feminist arguments from my classes. I will listen to them and then dismiss them as they deserve. I aim to indoctrinate a generation of students. They will be feminist and they will value SF.
They can just suck it up or fail.
So here’s some stuff about Olivia Dunham. Main character of Fringe. All-round badass sistah. Mos def.
First, watch this:

That’s a Fringe promo. The blonde is Olivia Dunham.
I’m really liking the character Olivia Dunham in Fringe. I especially liked her in the first season of the program. Why?
She’s a crack shot. She is really, really good with a gun.
She’s a good fighter. She wins most fights, and when she doesn’t win, it’s only because her opponent is, I dunno – a car or something.
She’s super clever and figures things out. There are lots of things to figure out in Fringe.
She’s a good explainer. Because she’s a good figure-er-outer, she often has to explain things to other characters. Usually her male partner Charlie, but also quite often her boss.
She listens and thinks and listens again. She’s not always flapping her lips, yapping. She’s listening.
She’s a good runner and jumper.
She’s very gentle and patient with Walter, who’s not only a habitual drug user (and abuser) but a mentally unwell older man who’s been quite seriously damaged by his time in an institution. She listens to him and pays attention to him; she doesn’t patronise him. She protects him when he needs it (and when he asks), but she is also willing to let him take care of himself.
She used to be a prosecutor in the military. She investigated and then prosecuted a middle aged white man who later became her boss. He was charged with sexually assaulting a number of women. When he became her boss, he sought revenge on her through systematic harassment. She didn’t take that crap; she kept on being a badass agent. She didn’t martyr herself; she called him on his bullshit. Her usual boss was this bad boss’s friend. At first he didn’t want to like Olivia because of this. Eventually he figured out Olivia was a gun, and that his friend was crap. Then he became a better boss. Olivia kept on being a gun, regardless.
She’s willing to tell bosses off if they need it. She’s also prepared to listen and to admit she was wrong.
She really likes her sister and her little niece.
She had good, solid, platonic relationships with her male coworkers. There is never even the intimation of sexual tension between her and (the awesome) Charlie. They are partners in the truest sense. He has a wife he loves and Olivia is busy being… Olivia.
She operates in an all-male world – the FBI (or is it CIA? Whatevs – some institution) – but she is aware of gender issues and articulates them. Most especially in her dealings with the bad boss. But she also makes comments about men in positions of power who can’t handle assertive women. She has one great line in the first season about how the men around her (especially her male boss) aren’t listening to her because she’s ‘getting emotional, just like a woman’. And then she says something, very sternly, about how she is getting emotional, because this is emotional stuff, and that this emotion is making her a better agent. Olivia is not only calling the men around her on their mysogynist bullshit, she’s also reworking the role of ‘great agent’ to incorporate a range of characteristics not traditionally located in the male arse.
And she is a fully sick agent.

Throughout season one she is the main character. She is the centre of stories, and as the agent in charge, she is also boss of the cases they work. She’s the one to call the lab and tell them to get their gear and come investigate something gross. This changes a little in season two, and she is set up as something of a victim (recovering from a ‘car accident’), but this is changing. We are at about episode four, and she’s already back on her feet and kicking arse. Peter has taken on a more managerial role in the group, and the ‘Fringe division’ has officially been disbanded. Charlie has [SPOILER] died [/SPOILER], which sucks arse, but I’m dealing. So Olivia’s status has shifted. But this is ok, as Peter’s character has only slowly been working away from ‘carer’ for Walter and ‘general slacker’ towards some sort of three dimensional personhood. He’s also finally realising his abilities as an investigator type person. In other words, his character is gradually being fleshed out. I worry that he’ll become Olivia’s partner (in the sense of FBI ness and in the romantic sense), but I don’t see this happening any time soon.
I really like Olivia because I don’t worry about her. She’s kind of superhuman, but only in the way we expect our SF protagonists to be. She gets scraped and banged and shot occasionally, but it doesn’t stop her winning. Sure, she’s kind of a paragon of all things awesome, but this is as it should be in SF. She is, however, flawed. And [SPOILER] probably partly psychic and awesome because she was experimented on as a kid. But she has begun dealing with this history and is assimilating and coming to terms with its effects in a phenomenally healthy way. Which in itself is a bit worrying.
Olivia is an impossible woman. An impossible character. But this is as it should be in SF. This is how SF protagonists are: they are strong and brave and clever. Cleverness is important. She is conventionally attractive, but she doesn’t wear booby shirts or stupid shoes. She can run like a badass mofo and she likes suits. Just like the male agents around her. She wears her hair tied back in a piggy tail, or she wears a sensible black beanie. She doesn’t wear much make up. She is conventionally attractive. But so are most protagonists.
I <3 Olivia. frin.jpg
Olivia isn’t the only woman character in Fringe worth loving. I also love Astrid, who’s the agent assigned to working with Walter in his lab.
Astrid is also awesome.
She has a degree in cryptography, another in computer stuff (or is that a double major) and she’s got some sort of medical training (well, she does now). She loves cryptography. As in, she’s a nerd for it. And she loves computers.
She’s also an agent.
She calls Walter on his bullshit, including his inability to remember her name (which we suspect is a ploy on Walter’s part). She won’t let him (or anyone else) forget that she is actually a badass agent as well.
She deals with Walter’s gross dissections and experiments very matter of factly.
Review---Fringe---2x02---Astrid-and-the-frog.jpg
She runs errands and also has some badass ninja agent skills.
She veers into ‘servant territory’ every now and then, which is particularly worrying as she’s African American. But these little deviations are usually addressed: Astrid will call bullshit on Walter’s behaviour and regularly refuses tasks she feels cross the boundary from professional assistance to nurse maiding.
She is super smart.
She and Olivia talk regularly about things other than men. They often figure out puzzles together.
agents.jpg
She is fond of Walter and also deals with his mental illness and fragile personality gently, yet without patronising him. She does not take on a carer role; she is, if nothing else, Walter’s lab assistant.
Nina Sharp is another important female character in Fringe. She’s the CEO of Massive Dynamic, a sort of super-corporation specialising in technology. A bit like Skynet Cyberdyne Systems, but awesomer. She admires Olivia greatly and has tried to recruit her to Massive Dynamic a number of times. She and Olivia have a refreshingly realistic relationship; they deal with each other as professionals. They do not have the sort of antagonistic rivalry alpha women are usually given in SF… in telly.They talk to each other about plenty of things besides men. They often talk about technology together. And science.
Nina Sharp is middle aged.
Nina Sharp has a bionic arm and a clear glass ipod thingy. She is way cool with technology generally. This is one middle aged woman who is not relegated to earth mother status; she is technology, economic and industrial power and smarts.
I love Olivia the most, though. I love the way she stops and thinks about things. I love the way she can fighty fight. I love it that though she might, one day be interested in Peter romantically, that day is waaaaaay off in the future, and for now she’s busy being a badass. He thinks she’s neat. He might think she’s neat in a romantic way, but for now he just thinks she’s a badass and he wants to be her partner, I think.
So I love Olivia Dunham. And this is why I can watch Fringe.
PS: I’ll try to add some more pics to this later, when I can figure out how to do it in this new version of MT without opening a new stupid window every time.
EDIT: I had to add this link to a drawing Jasika Nicole (the actor who plays Astrid) drew of herself.

long overdue roundup

I’d really like:
Gordon Webster’s CD ‘Happy When I’m With You’;
Duke Heitger‘s CDs ‘Prince of Wails’, ‘Krazy Kapers’, ‘Duke Heitger’s New Orleans Wanderers;
Probably some other ones as well.
I’d also like to get over this cold I’ve had since Wednesday. I’ve been lying in bed napping and watching telly for days and it’s getting really old.
The Squeeze has installed the new version of Movable Type. It’s pretty fancy. I should probably have switched to a better blogging application, but that’s a lot of work. Meanwhile, MT and I are struggling on together.
Twitter has stolen my life. Mostly because I can use it on The Squeeze’s old ipod touch when I’m lying in bed being pathetic.
We have bought a flat and are moving in in three weeks. I haven’t booked a mover, bought paint for the painting we’ll do in two weeks, finished packing, given notice to our land lord or… done a bunch of other jobs. I’m not freaking. I have booked the lawn mower guy to come do the lawns the week we move out.
SLX was fun, but boy did I get a heavy dose of the exchange flu for my efforts. We have another exchange coming up in the near future (SSF) and I hope I’m together for that. We’ll see. Then it’s MLX in November in Melbourne, and I really hope I’m well by then – it’s the biggest social dancing event of the year for me. And DJing. I’d like to get a bit on top of my DJing for that.
PS I’ve just come across this great set of live toobs of Heigter playing in a restaurant, over on Jazz lives.

things i have done regularly lately

Cooked a large piece of meat in milk for a long period of time. Pork, chicken, whatever. I’ll cook it, you can eat it.
While searching blindly in my backpack, felt something soft and hanky-like, pulled it out and discovered it was a single maxi-sized pad*. This has happened: at the bi-lo checkout with a middle aged woman cashier, trying to pay for bread with a cocky indie boy salesman, rummaging for cables at the DJ booth while sitting next to a very-christian tech-dood (this happened twice in one weekend with two different christians), looking for a hanky, desperately, while trying to obscure a post-sneeze-excitement nose. The one time I actually _needed_ a maxi (as in badASS absorbency) pad I couldn’t find the fucker.
Played more than one song from The Spoon Concert album while DJing for a bunch of spazzed out lindy hoppers. It’s like a sickness. Not the lindy hop – my playing stuff from this album. I just can’t help it. I need to get some sort of clue.
Wandered why mormons bother with plural marriage** where the arrangement is one man + many women. While I know that many women is a fully sick option when you’re looking at running a conference or a university degree or planning a lindy exchange, I’d have thought the ideal solution is one woman + many men within a marriage. Because I sure as fuck know The Squeeze is run a little ragged riding back and forth between the couch and DVD shop and could do with a sub some time soon.
Thought I might like to re-watch Aliens, mostly for Bill Paxton.***

I like imagining him ranting “Game over, man, game over!” when the Law discovers he’s a polygamist.
Wandered why I didn’t believe people when they told me Veronica Mars was good. I used to enjoy that bit in Deadwood when Kristen Bell was eaten by Woo’s pigs. Now I can’t believe I wasn’t into this shit.
Wished we had broadcast TV. But only when people are tweeting like motherfuckers about freakin’ Masterchef. Whatever _that_ is.
*as in PERIODS.
**this is what happens when you re-watch Big Love.
*** Big Love, again.

telly and books

I thought I’d been on this researching kick for longer than I have. But it’s only been about a month and a half. I’ve read quite a bit, written quite a bit, but I have a pile of books I’ve had out for at least one renewal and won’t get through before they’re due. There are five I need to read. Thing is, I’m reading very, very slowly because I’m stopping to take notes all the time. And make blog posts. At some point I need to stop and take stock, write up some sort of conclusions or overall ideas from what I’ve read. Synthesise my reading and thinking so far. But it’s all a bit of a jumble right now – a big mash of ideas. Which is really where I’d expect to be at this point. But I like order. And the girl who pulled her phd out in three years didn’t get to that point with a disorganised research process. I call on: POWERS OF OB-CON TIDINESS!
Having spent the last couple of weeks wading through a massive pile of paperwork for a job application (don’t ask), I’m feeling a bit behind. Or, rather, as though I’ve dropped a few stitches and need to go back and check. Which brings me to my first segue.
I’ve been crocheting like a crazed fool. The weather is cool enough to bear a lapful of yarn, and I’ve made one afghan and one oversized afghan in the past few months. The oversized afghan isn’t all that pleasing, but the afghan is wonderful. I’m very happy with the tension, with the combination of stitches, and almost with the colours. I’m working on one right now that’s just perfect – a development of the pattern and colours of the afghan. It’s going to be bed-sized, though, as while afghans are nice, they’re not all that useful, size-wise. I have also done a few little ‘sampler’ type crocheting projects using nicely textured yarn to get my hand back in with the fancier stitches. I do like crocheting. It’s perfect for ob-conners like myself, and also practical. Plus, it gives me something to do while I watch TV.
And watch TV I do:
Veronica Mars, season 1 (season 2 begun)
Primeval (British dinosaur adventure show) – abandoned
Crambridge (or something – a BBC bonnets drama) – mid-process
Roswell – teen alien kissing fest. YES!
Moonlight – terrible vampire detective rubbish. Yet, also, wonderful.
Blood Price- adaptation of Tanya Huff novels. Terrible and C-grade, but also an accurate adaptation of the books. Finally, a decent female protagonist!
True Blood – rewatched in preparation for season 2!
Sanctuary – Bgrade again, but at least a decent female protagonist and gender politics. Also, good for watching before bed, as lots of long, slow shots with swirly dark backgrounds and very few short sharp cuts.
Dollhouse – infuriating, maddening, horrible. Not sure I can cope with season 2. Whedon – you suck arse, on all fronts.
BSG- returned to it, trying to get past the end of season 1. Not sure it’ll happen, as it makes me angry.
Dark Angel – surprisingly good gender/race politics. Not sure there’s a second season, but haven’t rushed to get it from the video shop.
Rescue Me. Has Denis Leary in it. I’m not interested in it, much, but The Squeeze likes it. I get a bit tired of all that blokes-in-groups ’emoting’ with bum humour stuff. Same old, same old. Bit too much gratuitous sex and fails gender/race/sexuality. As you’d expect. This is kind of the point with this show, but I really can’t be arsed.
Homicide, Life on the Streets. Years after Galaxy told me to watch it (literally years – as in more than ten), I finally watch it. It’s so great. If you like The Wire, you’ll like this earlier work by the same dood(s).
Lost In Austen. Fully freakin’ sick.
Party Animals – BBC drama about young people in political parties. Like ‘This Life’ (by same doods), but ultimately dull. But has new Dr Who guy in it.
Dr Who rebooted – yeah!
Farscape – lost me midway through season 2. Will get back to it. I guess.
There’s more, but I can’t remember it.
Why so much television? Well, we don’t have a telly aerial, so this is _all_ the television I watch. On DVD. Our local video shop is really quite good.
I also go through quite a bit of music, when I can fit it in. I can’t listen to music when I’m working, so I don’t listen to as much music as I’d like. My DJing is suffering.

ok ok

So I watched the end of the first season of Veronica Mars. Now I know. Not entirely happy.
Here’s my problem with it, and with Dollhouse:
Just tell me a freakin’ story where the sisters win. No one gets murdered or raped or enslaved. I just want the basic premise of the story to be ‘badass sister smites the patriarchy’ and then she just does it. With or without her team of trusty right-on male/female/trans buddies.
I just want a story where I can come out of each episode going YEAH! FREAKIN’ YEAH!!!
Also, HBO, I want to have a little talk to you about your ‘quality’ programs, each of which features an male ensemble cast and the odd chick who’s a sex worker/wife/slave. Sure, you gave us Sex and the City, but that was YEARS AGO and, also WHAT WAS ALL THAT SHIT ABOUT THE SHOES? I loved Big Love, but it still failed gender.
So come on, I dare you, Television: give me the sweet and lowdown. Give me a decent show with an arsekicking sister who doesn’t get raped/assaulted/fired/whatever. I want her to be the boss, to do the smiting, and, most importantly
I
WANT
KISSING.

domestic violence in Veronica Mars

I’m not sure about Veronica Mars. In the episode I’ve just watched, Logan’s movie star dad beats the shit out of his daughter’s boyfriend. The boyfriend had been beating up the daughter, quite badly. While the father beats up the boyfriend, the Dean Martin song ‘That’s Amore’ is playing and the father is telling the story of how his father beat his mother. Veronica and Logan arrive as the father beats the boyfriend with a belt. Veronica is shocked. The daughter/sister is crying, distraught, begging her father to stop.
The most disturbing part? In an earlier episode we see Logan’s father beating him with a belt.
And don’t forget – Veronica still isn’t sure who assaulted her at the party. It could have been Logan – who she’s beginning to have a bit of a thing for (I can see the appeal – he is a clever mouth; but he’s not the hawt deputy dawg boyfriend Veronica’s also been seeing).
It’s all a bit disturbing. And it’s kind of interesting to see how the program handles these issues – it’s not in your face, wrapped-up-in-an-episode melodrama. It’s sustained over the entire season (so far) and the morality isn’t cut and dried.

what happened to veronica?

So I’m watching Veronica Mars, right? I’m on about the third disc of the first season. I have some questions.
1. Where did the indy-kid Veronica go?
2. Where did the hardcore class commentary go?
3. What is the deal with her assault? This is the bit that worries me the most. In the first episode, some time is spent on the fact that she was assaulted at a party after her drink was spiked with some sort of drug. She makes it clear that she was raped, though I can’t remember the exact language. We don’t know who he was – it could have been any of the male characters at the party, including her ex-boyfriend, her boyfriends’s friends or her best friend’s boyfriend. This is an interesting narrative angle. Veronica is a clever, assertive, articulate, witty and sarcastic badass (though she’s mellowing as the season continues).
The implication is that she turned her back on vapid barbiedom after her best friend was killed, she was assaulted and the rest of the barbies demoted her from supercool to indy kid. Before the best friend (who was her boyfriend’s sister) was killed, Veronica was a renowned ‘virgin’. Her reputation is currently ‘bad’ – she is scored 14/100 for purity by her schoolmates.
She’s currently single and much is made of her celibacy. There are more and more comments about her being a virgin. Nothing has been said about her assault in quite a few episodes. Veronica didn’t tell anyone she was assaulted except the nasty sheriff, and he told her she was full of shit. I’m not sure if the current sheriff/deputy (I’m not sure who he is) – who replaced Veronica’s dad – is meant to be the same character who gave Veronica such a hard time. He’s mellowed quite a bit.
Here’s the general scene: the nasty characters have been mellowed. The badass, subversive characters have been mellowed. Veronica’s assault has disappeared.
What I want to know is: is all this talk about Veronica being a virgin a fairly progressive suggestion that her assault wasn’t sex, but was violence or an attack? I’m not sure this TV show is actually that progressive. I’m thinking they’ve simply made Veronica’s assault disappear. This worries me a bit. It’s dodgy to sweep past story elements under the rug. But it’s even more worrying to think that they’ve changed her character so abruptly.
WAIT! She’s just announced “Last time I crashed an 0-9’er party I got ridiculed, roofied and woke up missing my underwear.” But still… no talk about assault. Just implication.

video in the desert; youtube in the cities

As you probably know if you’ve read some of my earlier posts, I’m fascinated by indigenous media use as a model for community media practice. Whatever that means. So I was struck by this bit of a book I’m reading at the moment:

It was costly and difficult to bring hired videotapes almost 300 kilometres from Alice Springs to Yuendumu and to stop them from being scratched or damaged in the sandy desert camps and few commercial videos in the video shops in Alice Springs were attractive for the Warlpiri to hire. So the community came up with the idea of connecting all the video recorders in the camp a low-frequency, low-powered community television ‘station’ and using it to distribute a single videotape to all the sets in the community (Bell 80)

Firstly, I thought, ‘This is Youtube – this is what Youtube does for dancers.’ Before Youtube, dancers would distribute edited bits of archival film (featuring dance, of course) via video, and later as digital clips on CDs. Then Youtube happened, and suddenly all those locally distributed clips were online, available to everyone. Previous networks of exchange and the associated hierachies of knowledge and supply were dismantled. Everyone could watch archival clips, could see the original lindy hoppers (and balboa dancers and blues dancers and charlestoners and black bottomers and…) and experiment with the movements they saw. In my thesis I wrote about the way this upset hiearchies of knowledge in the local Melbourne scene, and how it had the potential to disrupt the commodification of dance (and knowledge) by dance schools and teachers.
Of course, the results weren’t quite so radical. Learning moves from grainy, downloaded Youtube clips is difficult, and many people would much rather just be taught the moves by some dood in a class. Many people don’t know where to begin when searching for archival clips online – you need to know terms (black bottom, lindy hop, charleston, Al Minns, Frankie Manning…) before you can search effectively. And of course, dance classes serve a range of functions beyond the transfer of dance knowledge – they socialise new dancers, they provide peer groups for the lonely, fellow addicts for the junkies and so on.
But Youtube is fascinating for the way it changed how dancers acquire and watch archival footage. Within a year, things I’d written about in my thesis were changed, utterly. And in the last year, Faceplant has changed things again. The most important part of faceplant for this particular community is the way it’s integrated and conglomerated a host of different media. Audio files, youtube clips, online discussion, blogs, newsletters, event notices, email: all of them centralised in one site. Facebook, though it is effectively a gated community* has also suddenly connected thousands and thousands of dancers all over the world. And in a very public, collaborative way. I’ve been fascinated by the way ‘being friends’ with a few key, well-traveled dancers can connect you up to a host of international scenes.
This was proved most clearly in the recent passing of Frankie Manning, just a few weeks before his 95th birthday. I’d like to write more about that, but I don’t feel up to it, really. And I think Frankie deserves more than one poorly written post on my blog; I’d like to write something properly. But this one event illustrated most clearly the connectedness and sheer speed of communications within the online swing dance community. It has also pointed out, thoroughly, that my ideas about localised communities are still very important: we might all be online, but we are still thoroughly grounded, embodied and localised by dance.
Of course, we can still make the point that this sort of media use – as with the Yuendumu example – is not like traditional broadcast media. The difference is not so much that we aren’t really working with the ‘few-to-many’ model of distribution, but that these are smaller groups taking up ‘new’ media and adapting them to their own particular circumstances. Wether those circumstances require dealing with dust or a way of seeing elders.**
*Thanks for that term, D4E.
**And of course, here is where parallels between Yuendumu and swing dancers arise again: the Warlpiri media collective has been very concerned with filming and then distributing the filmed image of elders. Just as swing dancers have been focussed on distributing filmed images of elders – swing era dancers. Both, of course, are managed by extensive social and pedagogic networks. And both rework ‘pedagogy’ for their particular contexts.
Bell, Wendy. A Remote Possibility: the Battle for Imparja Television IAD Press: Alice Springs, 2008.

television round up

dh.jpg
1. Dollhouse is crap.
Because:
– I’m pretty sure it fails the Bechdel test.
– the gender stuff sucks arse. A bunch of beautiful young women kept, powerless, by a business which rents out their bodies for vast sums of cash. It’d be horrifying if there was no chance of it ever coming … true… Wait. Ok. So this one sucks for even more reasons.
– the gender stuff sucks arse. One of these ‘actives’/slaves begins to remember who she is and destabilises the internal workings of the business. Or does she? Even Alias had better gender politics. The female protagonist at least knew who she was and made a series of choices. Echo is, really, just a vehicle for male fantasies. In this case, it’s Joss Whedon’s fantasies. And they scare me. Whedon: fail.
– the gender stuff sucks arse. I thought it was going to get clever and tip all this stuff sideways. I’m still waiting. Oh, gods, just watch an episode or two and you’ll see for yourself.
– the race stuff sucks arse. Whedon repeatedly fails ethnicity.
I’m beginning to think Buffy was a fluke. Joss Whedon sucks.
scc.jpg2. Sarah Connor Chronicles is awesome.
Because:
– it passes the Bechdel test. It even encourages us to think about different types of femininity and whether or not cyborgs can be female. And then it makes us think about masculinity in the same ways.
– it not only has a bunch of violence and shooting-up (as per most SF these days), it also deals with the effects of violence and living with violence and terror on the lives of people.
[SPOILER]
– the second season ends with the ‘nuclear’ family set up in season one (with Sarah as ‘mum’, John and Cameron as kids living in the middle class suburban family home) crumbling. The patriarch is done away with, the mother discovers she’s actually much happier when in control of the family, directing its motion when literally on the move, Cameron is rescued from adolescent oblivion and John learns that heterosexual romance isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. So the gang are back on the road, with Sarah as head of seriously badass single parent family.
[/SPOILER]
Phew.
– the program deals with the difficulties of adolescence in a complex way. John is continually reminded of his responsibilities as the future of humanity, but is still constrained by the middle class nuclear family. There’s tension between his eventual role as male hero and his relationship with his active, powerful, controlling mother. Not to mention his desire (and isn’t that a complicated mess) for the cyborg Cameron. His mother’s power is also complicated: it’s at once essential to the group’s survival (she is ruthless) and also highly problematic. I was most fascinated by the way she began to crumble in the suburbs: without purpose she began to suffer, quite horribly, from post traumatic stress disorder (as they all did, really).
– time travel is tricky. Unlike Dr Who, which does not in any way deal with paradox and time travel in a clever way, SCC makes it clear that time travel is complicated and that paradox is difficult to avoid. We’re left wondering if these time traveling heroes and villains are so effectively separated from their reality that their skills and missions and motivations have become meaningless. As each action changes the future, their original, independent missions seem less and less important or even logical. Which humans are good, which evil? What does it mean for humans to work with the machines, when Judgement Day is, essentially, marking the machines’ commitment to killing every single human? Even the terminators’ motivations seem skewed by changing context: is Weaver a baddy or a goody? Can John Henry be redeemed by his human/christian teacher and the friendship of a human child?
All the moving about through time (disassociating characters from their temporal and social contexts) and changing of futures means that missions in the ‘now’ are unanchored from their intended purposes. This flux is perhaps best illustrated by the terminators’ moving so far from Arnie’s original (and unimpedable) mission: to terminate Sarah Connor.
– Cameron is problematic.
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As that series of posters above makes clear.
Cameron’s obviously sexualised: she is presented as the object of John’s unrequited (and eminently problematic) sexual desire. She presents herself at various moments as a sexualised entity: in the final moments of season one she pleads with John not to kill her because she loves him. This is a transparent effort to delay termination by a cyborg temporarily ‘corrupted’ from her mission to protect John. It is, clearly a lie, a moment of deceit. But we have spent almost the entire season being carefully led to read her as a potential love interest for John – his desire for her suggests that she should, ‘naturally’ return his interest. But this isn’t your average heteronormative love story. It is made quite clear that Cameron has been ‘programmed’ to protect John so as to avert Judgement Day. She is clearly fixed on this male character, but her motivation is not heterosexual desire. Or is it? We are reminded by the character Jesse (another ‘love interest’ from the future) that John Connor has formed an intense and apparently unnatural attachment to Cameron in a future world. And that she reciprocates this.
The buffybot problem is quite clear here: is a machine-woman operating to protect a particular male character anti-feminist?
– I’m prepared to let SCC go a little further with this storyline – I like the way they’ve presented these female cyborgs (Cameron and Weaver the ‘mother’) as incomplete or otherwise troubling.
It’s difficult to just accept them as your stereotypical ‘buffybot’ fantasy model cyborgs. Both cyborgs have become characters in their own right, and both are clearly negotiating their way through some serious gender stereotypes: Weaver must ‘learn’ how to be a ‘mother’, and continually fails to perform ‘correct’ femininity (and not only as a mother – she is also a corporate chief). Jesse – Reece’s ‘lover’ from the future (though, it turns out, not from his particular future; she is a Jesse from another time line, a time line created by Reece during this ‘now’) also fails to adhere to familiar gender stereotypes. As does Riley, John’s girlfriend-from-the-future. Sarah Connor herself is challenging. Though she approaches the ‘mother lion protecting her cub’ caricature, her continual deviation from this role is enabled by her more complex relationship with John, Reece and Cameron. Sarah herself has problems with motherhood, or with her role as a mother. There are a series of incidents where it’s made clear that Sarah enjoys or at least finds great satisfaction in her ‘professional’ dealings with freedom fighters, underground characters and general sneaky/terrorist/badass types. She’s also mad-keen on making plans. Sarah seems to also find it difficult to occupy the conventional mothering role and these badass roles. But it’s actually quite nice to see a character exploring the fact that mothering isn’t simple or ‘natural’, and that it isn’t always a wonderful blessing.
lh.jpg – it keeps me thinking. Unlike Dollhouse, I’m not prepared to give up on SCC yet; it doesn’t make me so angry I want to scream. It keeps me wondering how it will resolve these tricky relationships.
It references Linda Hamilton (even if this Sarah Connor doesn’t have Hamilton’s fully ripped hardbody), and we’re continually reminded of her transition from Arnie’s innocent, almost-helpless victim to the hardbody badass of T2: gender is flexible, femininity and gender is flexible. I’m still not sure about Cameron: is she a buffybot? Or is she something more? If she’s something more, we have to allow for cyborgs having emotions, identities, personalities beyond her programming. And if this is the case, what does it mean for a woman to have been ‘made’ by other machines?
2. Fringe.
I like it. But I don’t have much to say about it right now.
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i like pie

Here’s a little round up:
Western Swing is ME.
I am currently in love with Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. This is in preparation for the Hot Club of Cowtown tour next month. I saw them in the UK (at the Marlborough Jazz Fest) in 2004, and they were freakin’ GREAT. The next week I saw Casey McGill’s band at a dance camp and they told me that their bass player had absconded for the HCCT. I’m not sure whether that’s a tragedy or an awesomey.
Bad foot is still ME.
My foot is still bung. I have been to see a podiatrist to strapped me up. That helped the first time, but not the second time. I am also doing exercises to strengthen the muscles in my calves/shin to help out my plantar fascia (ie so it’s not overloaded). I am down to get orthotics next week, but they mightn’t work. Basically, these fibroids in my foot are never going to go away and they can’t be cut out. So I’m looking at pain management and impact reduction. I danced two half dances on the last weekend and it HURT. The problem is not so much the impact (which hurts and hurts normally), but the fact that there’s pivoting and my foot actually twists when we do lots of turns and things. That’s where the pain is at. It sucked to find out how much it still hurt, but at least I know where I’m at. Though I think I’d have preferred to continue in blissful (and hopeful) ignorance. If I can’t dance again, I’m really not sure what I’m going to do. If it’s not lindy hop, it could have been something else – I come from a long line of dancing, lumbering folk, and I can’t fight my DNA. Perhaps I’ll learn an instrument. Any suggestions? Maybe the drums? Bass? I did a lot of singing at school, but that was a long time ago.
Allergies are GO.
I am having trouble breathing and my ear is all glued up. Again. Still, I’ve had much less trouble with my health since I moved to Sydney, so I’m certainly not complaining. It is melaluca flowering season, and there goddamn paper barks all over every street in every inner city suburb in Australia, so I need to deal. Won’t be long now, though, and I can come off the antihistamines.
Library is MINE.
I have been back to the Con’s library this week. It is a joyful place. Though it is full of students, now, and that sucks. They’re almost uniformly middle or upper class, supernerds and 70% male. Guess that’s what a career in hardcore arty music requires. The jazz section was all dusty when I first got in there. Now it has at least some use. The refec near the library is SHITHOUSE. The actual room is quite nice – it has a lovely little stage (with nice piano), and would be perfect for a dance gig. The acoustics are magical. But the food is inedible. I was reduced to pre-made sandwiches. Most of the students in this (actually quite nice) mini-refec were eating packed lunches. There you go.
emusic is not all mine. Yet.
I am blowing through my emusic downloads ridiculously quickly. Even when I ration them. There’re simply not enough.
Quickflix is suspended.
Since we moved to Sydney the DVDs have been slower to arrive, have almost always been terribly scratched, and we never get anything in the top 50 of our list. I have suspended our account until we’ve decided what to do. We’re still on one of their unlimited DVD accounts, but I’m not sure it’s worth it, as we only get about 3 a week, which isn’t much better than getting 12 a month max, is it? The video shop here is pretty good, so we might just go old school. Though using a video shop means I have no natural limit on my DVD viewing.
Dr Who and Farscape rule my world.
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Screw BSG with its upsetting gender politics and ridiculously FAILED science. I am all about rebooted Dr Who and Farscape. I didn’t dig either the first time I saw them, and never really got past the first couple of episodes. Now I love them. Farscape passes the Bechdel Test. Dr Who does not. Rose + her mum. Talking about the Doctor. Though every now and then Rose gets to discuss a drama with another female character, there’s not much woman-to-woman action. I think it’s partly to do with the newer format – story arcs only last an episode, rather than a week’s worth of episodes. There’s not as much character development. And a bit too much kissing. I like Eccleston, but I’m not struck on Tennant. His bottom jaw sticks out too far. I liked Eccleston’s big nose and ears a whole lot. And was the Doctor always this manic? I’ll have to rewatch some old ones (I liked brown, curly haired, long-scarf, jelly baby Doctor best).
I am a crocheting demon.
I should post some pictures to prove it. But I love complicated afghan patterns, and have been compulsively crocheting as I watch my way through the Commonwealth’s greatest contributions to popular culture. We went to Spotlight in Bondi Junction the other weekend so I could stock up on yarn. That joint was totally trashed on Saturday afternoon. I need another supplier; perhaps I could order online in bulk? The poor Squeeze is buried in gorgeously three dimensional flowers, in various combinations, so perhaps it’s time to stop.

No.
I am bike YAY!
Yesterday we rode down the Cook’s River after work for a quick ride. It was overcast, humid and coming up a storm. It was great. The sun set over the river, we saw wildlife, we dodged nonnas out walking and talking and planned a longer down-stream walk for a future date. This river goes to Botany Bay, you know.
I am still dealing with the fact that we live in Sydney.
I’m surprised by the historical weight I’m carrying in Sydney. It’s like all these suburbs and places are full of all the post-Invasion history of this country. Every bit of history I remember has something to do with Sydney. And most of it is narrated by songs from the Peter Coomb’s song book which delighted so many good little Australians in the 1980s.
Singing too-ra-li-oo-ra-li-attidy,
Singing too-ra-li-oo-ra-li-ay,
Singing too-ra-li-oo-ra-li-attidy,
And we’re bound for Botany Bay.
I’m sure that that song has celtic roots as well. One of the strangest moments of my post-MA European travel was being shut in at a Cornish pub where a heap of drunken … Corns? Cornishpeople? sang one of those sorts of ‘traditional Australian songs’. But with celtic names. My Irish grandfather used to sing The Wild Colonial Boy. So even though I’m caught up in all this Australian music, it’s just as Irish as the American folk music I dig.
I did arrive in Australia in 1982, straight into rural Wagga Wagga, so moving to New South Wales is far more familiar than moving to Melbourne did in 2001. The humidity is lovely. It’s not as heinous as Brisbane’s, but it’s nicer and wetter than Melbourne. And my skin loves it. The Squeeze declared last night, as we rode up the hill towards the lightning and iron-grey sky: “Moving here was the best thing we’ve done!” He’s delighted by the tropical storms. So am I – I’ve missed them. There’s something wonderful about a good, heavy-like-a-hot-shower rainstorm, complete with lighting and crashing thunder. Far, far better than drizzly, wingey bastard Melbourne weather. Even if it didn’t rain, it’d be cloudy and overcast forever. I don’t miss that shit. Though I’m thinking the Victorians are.
Dollhouse sucks arse, Pushing Daisies is delightful.
That’s it in a nutshell, really. I’m not impressed by DH.
1. The FBI/BSG guy is a crap actor. He’s so crap I can hardly watch him on screen. That scene in the last episode where he and the ‘dead wife’ DH client chatted in the kitchen? It was so, so, so bad. I groaned. I gnashed my teeth.
2. The opening credits are incredibly, crappily bullshit.
3. I’m still not entirely sure about the gender stuff. There’s an awful lot of talk about the women ‘dolls’ as sexualised bodies. And though there’re references to their missions which don’t involve sex, we spend a lot of time looking at them having sex or wearing very high heels or tight, booby shirts, or generally packing a whole lot of very conventional, bullshit femininity. It’s a bit too Alias for me, but with less self-determination on their part. I had hoped there’d be a clever twist to undo some of this, but I’m beginning to lose hope. Joss Whedon is hyped, but, really, Buffy was his pinacle. I didn’t mind Serenity (look, I’m losing the italics, ok?), but it wasn’t great. The film wasn’t great cinema. The series wasn’t that good – a little too heavy on the patriarchal family structure for my liking. Yes, I get the whole male captain/father parallel, and that Mal might perhaps have been overcompensating for his wartime mistakes with other people’s lives, but still… Actually, it takes Buffy an awful long time to lose her patriarch. I’ve rewatched a bit of season 5 lately, and she’s STILL got Giles there, Watchering. So perhaps Buffy isn’t so great either… God, if this is the best we can do, this string of compromises.
Anyways, I’m not impressed by DH
4. Did I mention the terrible acting by FBI guy?
Pushing Daisies, though, is wonderful.
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It’s charming. It’s clever. It’s lovely to look at. Its visual style has a lot in common with Tim Burton’s brighter, more colourful stuff. It’s a bit surreal and hyper-colour, but not dark like Burton. Well, except for the premise of the series: the pie maker protagonist can bring dead things back to life. For a minute. If he touches them within that minute, they go back to being dead. If he doesn’t, they stay alive and something has to replace them in the deadness. The point of the series: Emerson Cod (finally, a show with a not-white central character!), a private detective, works with the Pie Maker to solve murders. For profit. Pie Maker brings his childhood sweetheart, Chuck, back to life in one of the earliest eps, so they can’t touch. They love each other. The other main character is Olive, who, by the end of season two, is the very best character.
Why do I like this program?
1. The hyper-colour, phantastical mise en scene.
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2. Passes Bechdel Test.
3. Olive. With her pet pig Pigby.
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4. The male protagonist is a pie maker. There’s a lot of talk about food and baking pies and comfort food. It’s very lush. Here, have a look.
5. The singing scenes. Olive sings a couple of songs. One of which is ‘Eternal Flame’. Yes, a Bangles singing scene. The other is ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’. It’s wonderful.
Also, there’s singing.
6. Chuck’s spinster aunts (who raised her) are cheese fans and also used to be synchronised swimming super stars: Darling Mermaid Darlings. One has an eye patch.
7. Most of all, I love the dialogue. It’s very, very wordy. Lots of fast talking. But it’s all puns and onomatapeia (sp?) and all those other lovely wordnerd things. It looks good, it sounds good, and it’s funny. It makes me giggle.
8. It’s not horrid. There are some pretty gross deaths, but it’s not upsetting. Most of the programs I like these days are horribly dark. But Pushing Daisies is not. It’s lovely. The Pie Maker and Chuck love each other. Olive is tiny and super tough and awesome. She can bake pies or solve crimes. She’s great.
9. I watch it before bed, when I’m tired, and it helps me get to sleep. It’s nice.
The only thing I don’t like about it is that it was cancelled before the end of its second season. Apparently they’re screening the finale in the US in their summer, so at least we’ll get that degree of closure. But still. It’s really great telly. Here’s the first bit to prove it: