Monday, April 30, 2012

The Walking Women

If you haven't already seen series one and two of The Walking Dead and don't want it ruined for you then I suggest you skip this post. There's other ones there in the circles on the sidebar a bit further down that are about girls jumping out of cakes and Catwoman and fashion in Star Trek and all kinds of other stuff. Try some of those instead!

As you probably know by now, I quite enjoy a zombie tale or two, even though they scare the actual pants off me. I've been voraciously tearing my way through The Walking Dead comic series, whispering "Oh noooo!" to myself and quietly whimpering in fear as I turn the next page. If it was a pop-up book I'd probably have a heart attack. So naturally, the Bear and I watched the first two seasons of the TV show. Which I also enjoyed quite a lot, and yet there was something bothering me. Something other than Carl aka The Dumbest Child in the World aka "For Fuck's SAKE Carl!", who, incidentally is actually kind of cool and not the least bit annoying in the comic.

The something in question here is the bloody rampant sexism in the show. It's something that creeps into the comics too, which I have to say I didn't really notice while reading, but looking back on it there are quite a few instances of patriarchal bullshit. Such as Glenn remarking that there's "not that many women to go around". What the hell, Glenn? Women to go around? The women you speak of are participants in surviving the goddamn zombie apocalypse, just like you, not inanimate supplies or tins of beans to be distributed amongst the menfolk, you fuck. And I actually like Glenn. Most of the time. Although in the TV show, he did ask Dale if all the (understandably frazzled - what with the impending threat of zombies wanting to eat their faces) women were on their period at the same time, because, y'know, bitches be crazy and all.

Shut up Glenn.

Among those women survivors is Lori Grimes, wife of group leader Rick and mother to "For Fuck's SAKE Carl!". Comic book Lori undergoes something of a transformation, as at first she looks to be decidedly Native American but eventually morphs into a more Caucasian version of herself.

She's Rick's voice of reason and while she's not a particularly stand out character, she's not even half as awful as TV show Lori. TV show Lori is nagging, self righteous and generally an allstar pain in the hole. She gets up in everyone else's business and berates Andrea for having the cheek to not do all the washing up, childminding and laundry with all the other wimmin and wanting to guard the camp and shoot zombies in the face. Because it's not like EVERY DAMN PERSON in the camp should be learning to defend themselves and evenly dividing the group's duties between them. Oh no, according to Lori "the men can handle it anyway, they don’t need you". Go fuck yourself, Lori.

Andrea's a total badass in the comic books. She becomes the best shot in the group and keeps them all safe in her role as a superhero sniper. However, in the TV show, she has Dale confiscate her gun because he's decided she can't be trusted not to top herself, while For Fuck's Sake Carl!, a ten year old idiot, is allowed to carry a gun. She has angry sex with Shane, who is the kind of person who tried to rape Lori earlier on in the first series and then she shoots Darryl after mistaking him for a zombie. OH THAT SILLY WOMAN.

Further instances of the TV show females being lame include Carol clinging to her abusive husband and once he's killed off, clinging onto Darryl like a barnacle with very short grey hair and opts out of making any sort of decision when the group is trying to vote on what to do with their prisoner. Maggie entered the show swinging a baseball bat at the undead while galloping along on horseback, like a zombie-slaying superstar and now she's a hysterical mess, flinging Lori's morning after pills at her in in a rage shouting "Here's your abortion pills!" as part of a grim little pro-life slant. I mean, yes, she and Glenn got jumped by an undead bastard while on their run to the chemist, but that outburst and subsequent storyline (Rick being super angry at Lori for even considering the abortion attempt) rang pro-life to me. And if a zombie apocalypse isn't reason enough not to go through with a pregnancy then I'm fucked if I know what is.

There IS a ray of hope though. A katana-wielding, bandana-wearing, stone cold ass-kicking ray of hope. When Andrea was scrambling through the woods in the finale of the second series, she was saved from being an imminent zombie snack (zombie bag of Tayto, perhaps) by a mysterious hooded figure leading two armless, jawless walkers with chains around their necks. The hooded figure in question here is Michonne, and her entrance is super exciting, as she and Andrea are easily the strongest female characters in the comic series.

Danai Gurira has been cast in the role, so hopefully she'll be able to pull off Michonne's immesurably cool and devastating approach to zombie chopping and generally taking care of business.

Because this here on the left is how awesome Michonne is.

Somehow I don't see Lori lecturing Michonne on how she's supposed to be washing socks with her and Carol instead being amazing at decaptitating walkers. All that being said, I really do enjoy the show, the zombies are brilliantly done and spectacularly scary and I do like the fact that the storyline veers away from the comics from time to time, otherwise there'd be no surprises for the readers. I just wish the writers would cop the fuck on when it comes to the female characters and with Michonne and her giant can of whoop-ass, hopefully that's what will happen.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Wild Things

There was a time before celebrities had to give their babies mental-sounding names to show us how much better they are than us regular folk. A time before pesky possession of exotic animals laws were brought in. Which means a time when famous people could look cool as fuck parading their fancy wild animal pets around the place.


Audrey Hepburn and her pet deer, out doing the weekly shop.
  Beatrix Potter with her pet rabbit (well OBVIOUSLY), named Benjamin Bouncer.

Legendary dancer/singer/actress/badass Josephine Baker with her pet cheetah Chiquita.

John Barrymore (Drew's grandad) looking awfully dapper with his pet monkey.

Another pet cheetah here, with American actress Phyllis Gordon doing a spot of window shopping.

Frida Kahlo chilling out with her per deer, Granizo. Which, according to totally reliable online translators, means "hailstones". Cute!

Salvador Dali with his pet anteater. Of course. He'd hardly have a pet Jack Russell now, would he?

And finally, what has to be my absolute favourite of these photos...

Burlesque superstar Zorita, OUT WALKING her pet snake. That's right, she's taking a SNAKE for a WALK. Because Zorita doesn't give a FUCK.

Lots more brilliant ones over at Retronaut. I would now like a pet ocelot, please.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Sweet Valley High Revisited - Power Play

I realise that there have been more tumbleweeds than blog posts around here lately, which is due to real life work being so ridiculously busy for the last while and my getting home in the evenings and not having the energy or inclination to go near a screen, unless it's to play Draw Something. Things seem to have calmed down somewhat for the moment, so I've decided to do the next in my continuing series of posts wherein I'm appalled and fascinated by The Glorious Wakefields. Also because the last time I met my lovely friend Brenda for a pint, she shouted "READ FASTER!" at me.

Sweet Valley High #4: Power Play 

The twins look like they're about to shift the faces off each other. Also, nice eyebrows.

Right so, this book's main plot concerns one Robin Wilson, whose introduction in the last book served only to quickly establish the fact that she's REALLY FAT and wants to be friends with Jessica. Well it turns out that she also desperately wants to join the Pi Beta Alpha sorority that the twins are members of, even though they sound like a shower of self-important bitches who don't actually do anything. Even Elizabeth keeps harping on about how snobby they are so I don't know why she won't just fucking well leave. Anyway, Robin is under the illusion that Jessica is her friend and has promised to nominate her for membership at their next pointless meeting. Elizabeth knows full well that Jessica won't do anything of the sort and is just using Robin as some kind of errand-running lackey, so she decides to throw the poor girl a bone and nominate her herself.

Unsurprisingly, Jessica and the Pi Betas don't want Robin in their clique because a fat girl would be bad for their image and they're all terrible people. However, they go ahead and agree to nominate her, as that means they get to torment her via the ridiculous and totally stupid process of hazing, before having to vote on whether she can join or not. I've always thought the Greek system was a load of wank and it totally is. Jessica, Lila and Cara call to Robin's house to tell her the "good" news and for some reason are repulsed by her nervous and kind offers of milkshakes or sodas, because, again, they're TERRIBLE PEOPLE WITH NO SOULS. Who wouldn't gladly accept a milkshake when offered one? VAPID IDIOTS, that's who.

Lila, Jessica and Cara are like an Eighties version of this in my head.

If the last book was bad for constantly pointing out that Robin is overweight, this book is utterly relentless in reminding us. In the first chapter alone it mentions her hungrily munching two giant bars of chocolate while talking to Elizabeth and describes her getting up off the couch as "struggling to get out of the deep cushions". See, it's because she's SO FAT, YOU GUYS. She can't even SIT DOWN without ending up like a chubby turtle stuck on its back, HA HA HA. When Jessica and her cronies leave the house, Robin is so overwhelmed with happiness that she celebrates the only way a fat bird knows how, which - according to Francine and her cackling, body-shaming ghostwriter army - is by eating an entire cherry cheesecake.

The next day, Elizabeth is furious to discover that Jessica and her posse of bitches are making Robin run laps of the school's running track after school for a week, while they and a bunch of other horrible people mock her in a vicious and heartless display of bullying. Her next task is to go to the beach and play volleyball in a bikini, which Robin is dreading, because in case you've forgotten, SHE'S FAT. Anyway, Robin perseveres and gets through each challenge, much to evil Jessica's annoyance, so she cooks up an impossible one to stop Robin in her big fat tracks. She now has to get Bruce Patman to take her to the Disco-marathon that weekend. DUN DUN DUUUUN. And yes, so far we've had a dance PER BOOK since book one. The students of Sweet Valley High must be fucking exhausted. Elizabeth tries to console her and this actual conversation takes place:

"I might as well ask Elvis Presley!" "Robin," Elizabeth reminded her gently, "Elvis has been dead for-" "That's just my point. I'd have a better chance with a dead superstar than a live Bruce Patman!"

Oh my GOD, Elizabeth you PATRONISING GEEBAG. Did she ACTUALLY think that Robin didn't know that Elvis is dead? SERIOUSLY.

Anyway, Elizabeth persuades Bruce to take Robin to the dance in exchange for her writing a big feature about him in the school paper about him being brilliant at tennis. Which results in what must be the most hilarious line in the whole book, because Bruce has inexplicably turned into a 1930s cartoon gangster. "All right. I'll take her. But I want my picture in, see! A big one. And tell how I whipped that guy at Palisades." I swear I nearly fell out of bed laughing at that one.

So Bruce takes Robin to the dance but immediately ditches her in the middle of the dance floor, loudly asking if anyone wants to steer the Queen Mary around for the night, before walking off, like an utter dickhead. Robin runs off crying and Elizabeth tries to give her a pep talk in the bathroom, realises that Robin is actually really pretty and for some reason seems totally amazed that a heavy girl could be good looking. Robin has had enough of the Wakefield wenches at this stage so she runs off to the car park and ends up meeting the lanky school paper photographer, Allen Walters. He gets her to come back inside, they dance together and then he takes her home. Aw. In your face, Jesssica!

Meanwhile, Lila "Daddy Issues" Fowler has been shoplifting the shit out of Lisette's, a fancy new French boutique at the mall. Elizabeth sees her yoinking a bracelet and it turns out that she's doing it for attention because her dad is hardly ever home. She gets caught by mall security and calls Elizabeth to come help her, even though they hate each other and gets six months probation and a promise from her dad that he'll be less of an absent jerk.

The Pi Betas hold their vote on new members, but Robin gets blackballed (by Jessica, of course) and is distraught. She disappears for a bit and when she returns she stops talking to anyone at school and walks around like a "space cadet" according to Jessica, whom she totally blanks now. Go Robin! She also takes up pounding the running track every day after school, losing weight (a bit too) quickly and as a concession to the fact that anorexia is bad, m'kay, Elizabeth tells her she hopes she's doing it the right way, so Robin assures her that she's not starving herself to death. She tries out for the cheerleading squad and not only does she make the cut, she becomes co-captain and now that she's skinny and hot, everyone thinks she's brilliant so she's suddenly popular. This book sends out SUCH a horrendously bad message.

At this stage, even Bruce Patman has a raging hard-on for Robin and when she declares her candidacy for Miss Sweet Valley High (I don't know how these kids actually get an education at this school, when 90% of the curriculum is dances and pageants) the school splits into Team Jessica and Team Robin. The chemistry club name their newest formula "The Robin Reaction" (because all high school students INVENT FORMULAS, right?) and the football team's offensive and defensive lines carry banners around the school declaring their support for either Jessica or Robin. The one for Robin reads Robin Has Us Throbbin'. Seriously. FILTH! On the night of some big football game, Robin is announced as the winner and then publicly disses Bruce by asking him to drive her around the stadium in his Porsche for her victory lap, but choosing Allen to be her escort, reducing Bruce to lowly chauffeur status. HA! Good enough for him.

Notable outfit:
There was a serious lack of hilarious clothing this time around, but we DO get treated to the most Eighties sentence in the world:

"Jessica was wearing leotards and exercising with Jane Fonda via video cassette."

Leotards? Plural? How many did she have on?

Things I counted:
Number of pages: 150
References to the twins' blue-green eyes: 3
References to the fact that the twins are blonde: 4
Amount of times people blush: 9
References to Robin being fat: 30 (THIRTY! For realz.)