Friday, June 25, 2010

A World Without Feminism (Childhood's End)

Childhood’s End, by Arthur C. Clarke, was written in 1953 and it shows its age in more ways than its attitude toward racism. The book also displays a fair amount of sexism, not hatefully, but just in the way Clarke presents the role of women in his futuristic utopian society. For all his great speculation of the latter half of the twentieth century, Clarke was unable to predict the rise of feminism or even imagine a society that is not a patriarchy even when gender makes very little sense as in the case of the Overlords.

Flawed 1950s Anti-Racism (Childhood's End)

Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke is a science-fiction novel about aliens known as the Overlords taking over humanity to prepare us for the next stage of evolution. Prior to the book’s story, the author places the disclaimer “The opinions expressed in this book are not those of the author” to keep people from thinking that he had changed his mind about being optimistic about space travel, which readers might infer from the Overlords declaring that “the stars are not for Man”. Despite this, I believe the author’s own opinions snuck in there as pertains to how the Overlords saw fit to run Earth, such as condemning animal cruelty and racism. The attempt to challenge racism is an interesting part of the book, specifically how Clarke tries to do it as a white man writing a book in 1953. It is a hopeful, idealistic cry for a post-racial utopian society, and is in itself a message meant specifically for other white people.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

More Anti-BDSM Stuff on Bones

I’ve been continuing to watch the series Bones, and have come across more annoying anti-BDSM sentiment. The eighteenth episode of the first season, “The Man with the Bone”, is an entertaining take on an old Canadian folk legend about pirate treasure. Unfortunately, the episode also features a creepy and perverted coroner, Harry Tepper, who, it progressively becomes obvious, is a masochist and bisexual. This is problematic because it is implied that his sexual preferences are a part of what makes him perverted.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sexist Content in Timecrimes

Timecrimes (originally Los Cronocrímenes), written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo, is an intriguing time travel strange loop movie. In the style of a classic science-fiction short story, the protagonist Hector is an average guy (actually kind of a doofus) who winds up in strange circumstances, rather than a scientist or someone who knows what he’s doing. The film has some elements of sexism, though I’m not sure how much was unintentional. The two female characters, Hector’s wife Clara and The Girl in the Forest (La Chica en el Bosque), are disrespected by Hector within the story and are treated more like objects as he tries to manipulate the timeline.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Superwoman Is His Mom (Boy Meets World)

I love the sitcom Boy Meets World, its characters, jokes, and sometimes quite wacky storylines. I do have to note, however, that its moral messages can be a bit immoral by my standards. One example is the sexism in the first season episode “On the Fence”, about 11-year-old Cory coming to appreciate the work his father, Alan, does to take care of the family. While a nice sentiment, it blatantly ignores the equal work put in by his mother, Amy, whose contributions are accepted as the default of housewives and therefore not as special as the breadwinning father.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Poor BDSM Portrayal on Bones

So, I’ve started to watch the crime drama series Bones from the beginning via Netflix, and have been enjoying it so far. The protagonist Temperance Brennan is a strong female character who is both an atheist and has high-functioning autism. She’s great, I love her, and she makes a great role model. And then comes the inevitable episode featuring BDSM. Other crime dramas like CSI and Castle have flawed but reasonably positive portrayals of BDSM, but Bones’ episode “The Girl in the Fridge” goes the negative route with murderous practitioners whose lifestyles are evidence of a crumbling romance.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Breathe the Nish'ta (Stargate)

In the Stargate SG-1 season one episode “Hathor”, the titular character appears as a Goa’uld “goddess” who attacks the Cheyenne Mountain Complex. The one who formed the basis for the Egyptian goddess of “sex, drugs, and rock and roll”, to quote Jack O’Neill, Hathor is essentially a serial rapist who contributes to the System Lords by breeding Goa’uld through mating with humans. Hathor is an evil female presence capable of being defeated only by the women of SGC. While I suspect “Hathor” was written with the intention of being feminist, it flopped in its message and came out with a very poor portrayal of rape.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Examination of Female Characters - Part 4 (Halo)

(Crossposted from Halopedia)
And I’m back with part four in my series to judge whether or not Halo is sexist with its female characters, as well as to analyze gender roles in general. See also parts one, two, and three. Continuing the look at Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe started in part three, I will now cover everything from Palace Hotel to The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole. (Warning that discussion of Human Weakness describes themes of rape.)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Examination of Female Characters - Part 3 (Halo)

(Crossposted from Halopedia)
Continuing my examination of the female Halo characters (parts one and two can be found here and here), I will now focus on the short stories featured in Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe. I had intended for part three to focus on the original Halo novel, Halo: The Fall of Reach, but I just (finally) picked up Evolutions to read on my spring break vacation to Mexico. With the stories fresh in my brain, this seems the best piece of literature to use. Part three will cover stories from Pariah to The Mona Lisa. To reiterate, this article series is to answer whether or not Halo is sexist, and comments like “I think the female characters are hot!” are inappropriate.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

From Here to Misogyny (Angel)

There are very few episodes in Buffy and Angel that I find outright scary. One of the exceptions is “Billy” from season three of Angel. I used to actively avoid it, skipping around it when watching my DVDs, and only fairly recently have I felt comfortable watching it. Instead of a scaly demon or fanged vampire, the titular villain is very human in appearance, and his power evokes human evil. Joss’ thing is that he tries to promote feminism, and “Billy” might be his most overt attempt with a villain that exists as an embodiment of misogyny.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Doyle is Still a Rapist (Heroes)

So, on February 10th, David H. Lawrence XVII linked to my “Rapists of Heroes” post on his Twitter account. It seems his Facebook page also displays his Twitter feed in the wall section. I found the tweet there, and it has a few people commenting on liking the link. Thanks, folks. I do disagree with the opinion of DMaria Scaglione, who posts:
This opinion is just too dark for me.Everyone is has one (an opinion). I don't see Doyle as a rapist. To me the character is a man in pain and uses his powers to have people listen to him. Doyle reminds me of the dark side of the clown Emmett Kelly. The quiet clown who sadly no one would listen to. Yet, Doyle may be a face in the crowd, he uses his powers to be heard. Oh crap...I am tired. hopefully I made sense. Good night.
In none of that does she explain why Doyle isn’t a rapist. Rape: any act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person. Rapist: person who performs rape. It doesn’t matter what his motivation might be.
I suppose I might have been mistaken when I described Doyle as a sociopath, though. That was more speculation on my part. It could be that he’s not a sociopath, but surely the vast majority of rapists aren’t sociopaths. A quick Google search brings up these statistics about rape. I believe the number of sociopaths is 1 in 25?
Sociopaths aside, it just doesn’t matter that Doyle is a man in pain. I’ll agree that he is in pain. He wants romance, he’s attracted to Meredith, but he can’t get her unless he forces her. It’s okay to sympathize with the character; however, he is a rapist. That should be recognized.
Even if he doesn’t actually forcibly have sex with Meredith on the show, there is a very strong rapist vibe about him. He forces her to participate in a date against her will, which is at least sexual violence. He does rape a woman in the graphic novel Puppet with No Strings, in which he forces a couple to let him in their house, eats their food, and has the woman undress for him. There is the strong implication that he then has sex with her, which is rape.
As for Emmett Kelly, I hadn’t heard of him before this, but he seems nice from his Wikipedia article. I’m not sure how to really apply him to Eric Doyle.
So, yeah, Doyle’s still a rapist, or at the very least a sexual predator. There are shades of grey to many of the villains, but their crimes should never be overlooked because they may be sympathetic. Samuel was obviously in a lot of very understandable pain when his girlfriend dumped him, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a mass murderer because the act of destroying the town was brought forth from the place of pain.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Brief Abuse (Stargate)

As I’m rewatching Stargate SG-1, I just watched season one’s “Brief Candle” episode. This one, I remembered fairly well, and I remembered liking its quaintness. O’Neill teaches a bunch of Kool-Aid-drinking human slaves that their god lied to them, shows them to live life more fully, and he comes to appreciate life more himself. It’s that, true, but there’s also an incident of rape that is completely ignored because it’s a female doing it to a male. Not only is this presented as essentially okay, but it forms the basis of a romance portrayed as healthy. Stargate thus continues to perpetuate the sexist meme that men are unable to be raped by women.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Kyle Loh is not a Cannibal

So, Kyle Loh, who is a prominent user at Halopedia, put out some videos at Big Think about 10 months ago, in which he talks about being a stem cell researcher at Harvard. In the video Kyle Loh Introduces Embryonic Stem Cells, Kyle discusses the need for embryonic stem cells and how because extracting an embryonic stem cell from a human embryo causes the destruction of the embryo, and all the ethical issues there, his team is working on developing a way to chemically turn other cells into embryonic stem cells. It all makes sense to me, which shows how much he must have dumbed it down, and he gets his point across pretty clearly.
In the comments section, however, this guy Michael Roach posted the following:
Not only religious people, but most followers of Aristotle or other philosophical Realists and some Pragmatists would argue that since the soul is the form of the body (animating principle), the destruction of one individual, although less developed, for the sake of another, more developed is both a murder (the intentional killing of an innocent) and an act of cannibalism (the consumption of one individual of a species for the sustenance of another of the same species). This ethical burden deserves more attention than it got in your otherwise excellent presentation. I look forward to reading yours and other’s comments.
This completely misses Kyle’s point. He was specifically trying to avoid getting into the ethical concerns of abortion, instead promoting a way to get embryonic stem cells without abortion even coming into it. I suspect Michael Roach watched the video looking for an ethics discussion and was so disappointed by Kyle’s barely touching the subject that he didn’t bother to learn what the point of the video was really supposed to be.
That aside, I find Michael Roach’s reasoning poor. I’m not very knowledgeable about Aristotle, so I can’t comment on that directly, but I think ancient philosophers aren’t good representatives of biology in comparison to modern day biologists. While the ancient philosophers may have developed good ideas about insubstantial a priori concepts, anything scientific is sure to be obsolete. Modern day science shows us things that the ancient philosophers never had any clue about.
I don’t believe in a soul per se. There may be some metaphysical part of every human that represents their personhood, but there is no empirical evidence to suggest such. It is a purely faith-based concept.
“The brain controls every human action, voluntary or involuntary. Every breath, every heartbeat, every emotion. If the soul exists, scientifically speaking, it exists in the brain.”
–Chandra Suresh, Heroes
If we’re talking about the soul in a metaphorical way, in that a soul is simply a word to indicate personhood and identity, I would agree with Chandra Suresh from Heroes and say that the brain is the only part of the body that would be the soul or be host to it. The other parts of the body support the brain, support reproduction of genetic material, or serve no useful purpose.
On the subject of abortion, I take the controversial stance I usually take and say that there’s no personhood to embryos. They may be capable of developing personhood later, but in the fetal state there’s nothing but an empty vessel. Even if there is personhood, I think the woman has a right to abort given that it’s her body subjected to the parasitism with all its negative effects. I won’t go into that, as that could be an article in itself, but I’ll make it clear that I’m in favor of the women’s right to choose whether or not to terminate pregnancy.
It’s the claim about cannibalism that baffles me. How is this cannibalism? There’s no… consumption. The cells aren’t consumed. It’s a part of a human body that is more or less implanted in another body to support the latter’s life or life functions. Does Michael Roach think organ donations are cannibalized? Blood transfusions?
“Eating people alive? Where does that get fun?”
–Jayne, Serenity
Just by slapping the label of cannibalism on this, he thinks that it would automatically imbue it with immorality. I question that. Cannibalism brings to mind the image of the savage island peoples in the South American region, generally exaggerated by the European settlers. I’m not sure what’s real, but there at least were some peoples for whom the practice of cannibalism after military raids was an accepted cultural norm. This is often seen as horrific.
What’s really horrific is that people can war, often senselessly. I won’t get into an anti-war rant here, but the point is that the murder is the bad part. What’s done with the corpses afterward is largely irrelevant. Now, eating a dead enemy may be done in a way to hurt the enemy’s living family, but if there’s some accepted cultural practice or if the dead guy let it be known that he wants his corpse eaten or something, then cannibalism is not innately harmful.
In the case of organ donation, it’s entirely voluntary for the person from whose body the organs are taken. It’s after their death, so no harm there. They’re most likely not going to be killed by the government for use of their organs. And if a person can live longer because of this, that’s a good thing as far as I’m concerned. Is it cannibalism? No, in that there’s no literal consumption. Even if you were to stretch the meaning of cannibalism to have voluntary organ donation count, it wouldn’t be innately bad because cannibalism is not innately bad.
And now we come back to the stem cells. Let’s just skip over the whole abortion issue here, as Kyle wasn’t even advocating that, and talk about what he was talking about. To take a non-embryonic stem cell and turn it into an embryonic stem cell is not bringing forth an embryo, but rather giving the cell qualities of a cell that might otherwise be found in embryos. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe this does not even necessitate another human being donating such base cells, and that the same human with the injury could provide the cells from another organ. Even if that’s not true, I don’t think it matters ethically. Even if it is cannibalism, which it’s not, it’s not automatically immoral.
So, to sum up: Kyle rocks, and Michael Roach really missed the point. Harvesting stem cells is not cannibalism, and even if it were you have yet to explain why it may be bad.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Rapists of Heroes

Heroes is a dramatic show that has many common themes, such as sexuality and violence. A theme that runs between those two is that of rape and other sexual assault/violence elements. Some of Heroes’ sexual predators have been used to bring sex appeal to the show, engaging the viewers while simultaneously repelling them, while others are meant simply to disgust and terrify. Characters Brody, Doyle, Sylar, Flint, and even Elle to some extent have threatened our protagonists with sexual violence.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Viral Infection (ReBoot)

In the cartoon series ReBoot, there is a recurring theme of people being brainwashed (reprogrammed) to meet the needs of the person doing the brainwashing. This is most often seen in the viral antagonists: Megabyte, Daemon, and even Hexadecimal to some extent with her nulls. However, it’s also seen in protagonist Bob as a technique he wishes to bring into effect to force viruses to become benign. Because he is the central protagonist, this is for the most part portrayed as an honorable desire more merciful than straight out deleting them, but the ethical value of it is questioned by Megabyte, throwing it into the realm of dubious morality.
“I come from the net, infecting systems, peoples, and cities, to this place: Megaframe, my domain. My format: virus, to corrupt and conquer.”
–Megabyte, episode “To Mend and Defend”
Megabyte is a specific type of virus. While he, like all viruses, is concerned with causing death and suffering, for most of the series his primary goal is to take over the world and rule it with an iron fist. He is a figure comparable to Hitler, which is emphasized in the show when his German-accented minion responds to his command with a “Jawohl, mein führer!” In case that was too subtle, the same minion is later referred to as a Neo-Viral. His main means of acquiring troops is through viral infection, spreading his influence into the PID’s (identities, stored in the persons’ icons) of people at his mercy. This infection transforms the person’s body with a simple color-coding (green, black, and red) to denote viral takeover, and also affects their mind to become wholly devoted to their Lord Megabyte, while still essentially remaining the same person. Viral infection is consistently portrayed as horrifying to the people subjected to it, and most of those who are freed rejoice, the only exceptions being Megabyte’s most devoted minions, who are dubbed Neo-Virals.
“Mainframe Neo-Virals… I hate Mainframe Neo-Virals!”
–Blues Brother binome, episode “Crouching Binome, Hidden Virus”
While Megabtye’s modus operandi of seeking control to establish a dictatorship is fairly uncommon as viruses seem to go, he is certainly not the only virus to engage in mass infection. A particularly notable example is the virus Daemon, who appears as a beautiful woman in a messiah role. Her programming is to infect the entire net and then destroy it by causing everyone to commit suicide at the same time. She infects people in a process ranging from gradual to instantaneous depending on how strong their will is, and infected people can be detected by what appears to be a living parasitic growth on their skin. Wholly infected people literally worship Daemon as though she were a god, referring to her as The Word, and all feel great happiness and a sense of peace. They are less akin to Nazis, and more like the shiny happy people who worship Jasmine in Angel.
Hexadecimal is in many ways the antithesis of normal viruses. The self-described Queen of Chaos, she loathes being predictable, which makes her better than other viruses. Though she is sadistic, she is usually content to keep her rule to the twisted city she created in the destruction of Lost Angles, and even lends support to the good guys sometimes. So she is neither the type of virus to hunt and kill, nor the type to build an empire. She does, however, have her own subjects, including her robotic pet Scuzzy, the outcast and neutral figure Mike the TV, and the hoards of nulls. Nulls, the slug-like parasitic degraded results of people who were caught either in the explosion that created Hex or in lost Games, share a connection to the virus, and they do her bidding. Whether this is because Hex deliberately controls them with her viral power or because of some symbiotic relationship is left unclear.
Hex is also unique for being the first and only virus to willingly choose a benign existence. Her attraction to Bob leads her to help him attack Megabyte, and in return Bob saves her from the system crash by making her a permanent citizen with an icon. After the system reboots, Hex doesn’t attempt to hurt the system anymore out of her attraction to Bob, and eventually transforms into a sprite as a result. When Daemon forces her to become a virus once more, Hex is benign in nature and she martyrs herself to save the world. This is the only example of Bob’s hypothetical benign virus.
Bob cares a lot about helping people of all kinds. He adamantly opposes killing enemies, instead wanting to find a way to coexist. When an enemy won’t go along with this willingly, he tries to find a way to reprogram them to become benign. This is generally applied to the people who have been previously altered by viral infection, and his aim is to undo this and return the people to their original state. While stories like Total Recall and Dollhouse cast doubt on whether a body’s original personality has the right to a body currently occupied by another, I’m willing to accept the notion that people should be cured of viral infection. It is another matter to forcibly alter viruses.
Megabyte: “So, what now? Deletion?”
Bob: “No. Just a scan. I don’t believe in deletion.”
Megabyte: (patronizing) “You can’t go against your code.”
Bob: “And neither can you. That’s the problem. It’s not your fault. You’re programmed to be this way. We've just got to work out a way to reprogram you.”
Megabyte: “So… I won’t be a virus?”
Bob: “That’s the plan.”
Megabyte: “Ah. So… a fate worse than deletion. And they call
me a monster.”
Episode “Crouching Binome, Hidden Virus”
It is often said that when fighting a war, one should be careful they don’t become that which they fight against. Bob opposes the viruses because of their nature of causing suffering and destruction, whereas he believes in the Guardian code of mending and defending. He holds onto the belief that viruses can be benign, and after witnessing Hex’s transformation, he eventually decides to create a method to transform malignant viruses into benign sprites. In doing so, he adopts the characteristics of a virus himself. He’s not coded to corrupt and conquer, rather he acts from kindness, but the effect is very much the same as viral infection. To accept this method as an option is to in essence accept viral infection. Suddenly, the battle between Guardians and the viruses looks a lot less like a battle between good and evil.
In conclusion, ReBoot contains many instances of brainwashing. Though this is primarily on the part of major antagonists, the central protagonist does attempt this for his own purposes. I find it interesting that the morality of this is questioned. The show displays a few interesting philosophical quandaries, especially relating to the subject of identity. If it is immoral for viruses to brainwash innocents to become their servants, is it moral to brainwash viruses to become benign? Hex is a unique case, and perhaps the only way it could have turned out the way it did is because she changed herself out of her own will, out of love.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

GHB and a Keister Egg (Veronica Mars)

I love Veronica Mars. Veronica is my hero. The show is awesome. But I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it could do no wrong. There’s an element of the story that I’ve found a bit disturbing and objectionable, namely the double standard about rape. As Veronica Mars would have it, rape against female persons is a horrific violation that should never ever happen, but rape against male persons is a satisfactory punishment for all manner of crimes.