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December 22, 2008

Deep Thought
Posted by Patrick at 11:58 AM *

Choosing Frank Miller to adapt The Spirit into a big-budget movie makes about as much sense as having Jerry Bruckheimer produce The Man Who Was Thursday.

Comments on Deep Thought:
#1 ::: Madeline ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 12:29 PM:

Or like asking Keanu Reeves to adapt Cowboy Bebop.

Speaking of which, why couldn't The Spirit have been animated? It seems like the only way to preserve the uniqueness of the panels. Most of Miller's adaptation uses CGI and animation, anyway, so why not?


#2 ::: Abidemi ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 12:33 PM:

...am I the only one who really wants to see a Bruckheimer-produced The Man Who Was Thursday now?

#3 ::: steve muhlberger ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 12:36 PM:

I had a dog who was Thursday once.

#4 ::: Columbina ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 12:49 PM:

I've been saying this for ages. I cry for wasted potential every time I think about this project. Please, please, everyone, do me a favor and spend the same two hours tucked in a cosy chair reading Spirit reprints instead. It will be a more rewarding use of your time.

Alas, this will be the only version of The Spirit that some people know, and that's just horrible. It's bad enough as is - many of my peers (including some comic book fans!) have never heard of it. I explain to them that there has never been anything else like it before or since, and they don't believe me. Then I show them some of the collections. Then, a few hours later when they come up for air, they believe.

#5 ::: Spherical Time ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 12:51 PM:

For others not in the know, I'll spare you the difficulty of typing this into your Wiki search bar.

The Man Who Was Thursday.

#6 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 01:08 PM:

The Bruckheimer/Chesterton image made my brain seize. Warn a fella, wouldja?

#7 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 01:10 PM:

Scene 493. EXT- LONDON STREET.

SYME and the rest of the Committee are pursuing SUNDAY into London Zoo. SUNDAY mounts an elephant which EXPLODES. In SLOW MOTION.

SYME: NOOOOO!!

#8 ::: Michael Martin ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 01:28 PM:

Abidemi #2:

Not at all. I can't even call it morbid curiosity. I would be genuinely curious to see how it was handled.

#9 ::: Carrie V. ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 03:09 PM:

Columbina, I'm doing exactly that. It's at the top of my "to read" pile.

#10 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 03:51 PM:

Stuntmen can fly because they take themselves lightly.

#11 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 04:20 PM:

god, i know. i get grumpy & lash out at my husband every time i see the trailer. & i'm really afraid i'm going to see this anyhow, cause we see almost every "superhero" movie that comes out.

i'm glad someone (columbina) understands how much it hurts.

#12 ::: Flippanter ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 04:29 PM:

Frank Miller is going to pay for that summer he spent traveling the country with Joe Lieberman killing people's dogs.

#13 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 04:46 PM:

Oh, boy. I have been trying to avoid this for months, but I've got to vent somewhere and I guess that Making Light is as good a place as any. Let me say that the idea of making a movie out of The Spirit is one that I've welcomed ever since the days when Gary Kurtz (with the money he made as the producer of Star Wars) got the rights some years ago. (I would dearly love to see Harlan's script treatment since he had the good sense to go into his collection and photocopy and paste an appropriate Eisner shot whenever someone reached for a gun or a character from the comic was introduced.) When Kurtz let the rights go and it was made into a TV Movie I skipped watching it if for no other reason than Denny Colt was played by Sam J. Jones, who peaked early with the lead in Flash Gordon but I figured that no matter how awful it might be the odds are that it would drop into the normal TV Movie hell and never be seen after its initial airdate so I could safely ignore it.

Cut to my visit to San Diego ComicCon this year. Posters for a movie of The Spirit at a display with windblown synthetic snow. Could be good, says I: Eisner certainly did enough stories during wintertime that they've got good material to draw on. Then I see the director is Frank Miller. The person behind me was upset at me when I stopped dead in the crowded aisle. I have no idea what she said after my mental gearbox locked up and I found myself loudly quoting the line "F***! The F****** F******'s F*****!"

You see, while I have seen Sin City I have never read the comic and can't judge how well he did as a co-director. 300 doesn't count since he didn't direct it, I haven't seen or read it, and I don't know how loyal the script was to the source material. However, thanks to a little bit of detective work by Lea Hernandez, I knew it was safe to say that Mr. Miller is a grunting sexist ass at least as far as scriptwriting for comics goes. This is not good: if you've read Eisner's comic there are some extremely sexy women in it but they're also tough and resourceful. (P'Gell for one makes Shakespeare's version of Richard III look like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, but I digress.) Despite this I figured there was still some hope. Then I caught the first teaser trailer. My wife almost sent me out to the lobby until the feature was over.

Now we all know judging a film by a teaser trailer is a mug's game. (Ask anyone who ever saw the teaser for Fight Club.) Despite this, you can occasionally get an idea as to what the final project may be like--and what showed in the trailer is not a flying toy. First exhibit: there is an oft-quoted line about The Spirit (and, damn it but I can't find the article now so I can correctly attribute it) calling Denny Colt "a working-class hero." Batman catches criminals because he's a stone cold crazy, Spiderman does because he didn't when it counted and is haunted by guilt, but Denny Colt--well, Denny Colt lives off the reward money on the crooks he catches, and he's built a hideaway in his crypt because everyone thinks he's dead so who'd think to look for him there? (This is where some annoying compulsive is going to bring up Vampirella 50. With all due respect, bite me.) With this attitude there's no way in hell that he's going to come out with a line like "My City Screams."

The trailers and posters start to come out. Miller seems to have decided against using P'Gell: gutsy call, but not every Superman story uses Lex Luthor. Ellen Dolen: pretty much a given. (Does anyone else think of Ellen as being Betty in the Archie comics, but with a working brain?) Sand Sarif: there's enough backstory on her to easily justify the character's use. Lorelei Rox and Plaster of Paris? Well, each tried to kill The Spirit in separate adventures so if we need cannon fodder they'll do nicely. The Octopus? A character that's as close to Lex Luthor as you'll get in the comic--and one whose gloves are the only thing you see so if they want to cast Jackson there's no mental backlog to try to shift for the viewer.

Then we get to discussions of plot mechanics in the film. To avoid the whole spoiler debate again I'll draw a comparison that shouldn't give away anything, especially since I hate ROT-13. There's a joke among fans of Space Battleship/Cruiser Yamamoto about the invisible planetoid that follows it around the universe to supply replacement parts when it's shot to shit. Well, there's a similar joke among fans of The Spirit involving the reason everyone ends up thinking Denny Colt's dead, Wolverine from X-Men, and Super-Soldier Serum (and possibly the Crawford Chemical Works depending on how bent your sense of humor is). Well, Miller has decided to use that joke as a major plot point. Oh, my aching head...

Then there's the design of the thing and the acting in the trailer. I have a few laws of films which I can go into at another time: one dates from Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and says "Don't let Albert Speer design your spaceport." I may have to add "Don't let Frank Miller use digital sets to emulate Will Eisner cityscapes." Neither appears to end well. As far as the acting in the trailers goes, Samuel L. Jackson has clearly decided to burn off any good karma left over from the most recent Star Wars films and Snakes on a Plane and go for the scene chewing nomination of the year. And, if Trailer 2 is at all accurate, we should take away Mr. Miller's videotape of Modesty Blaise.

As some of you know I occasionally review movies at my LJ. This is done for free--mainly because I can't find a way to get someone to pay me to do so. For this one, however, I'd need to be paid--and well paid: parking, ticket, refreshments, the works. I'd probably ask for some unattainable goal as well. Hey, Teresa! Swap you for a compare and contrast between American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis and Chasing Hairy by Michael Fleisher? We'd both end up equally unhappy...

#14 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 05:00 PM:

I still sometimes like Frank Miller, including Sin City, but the second Dark Knight book was horrible, and anything he adapts is going to end up looking Milleresque even if he doesn't gunk up the storyline. Sigh.

#15 ::: Ted ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 05:09 PM:

Oh, please, please tell us you're hiding a Jerry Bruckheimer version of Chesterton under your Manhattan beds! It would be the best present.

#16 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 05:12 PM:

Bruckheimer? Feh. Everyone knows the only possible choice is Dick Wolf.

#17 ::: Lighthill ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 05:56 PM:

I hesitate to confess this, but...

I am currently Thursday. This comes as as much of a surprise to me as it does to you. Within me, I wish you (insasmuch as you partake of me and/or christmas) a Merry Christmas. Seriously, I don't know what's going on here.

#18 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 06:36 PM:

Ooh! New parlor game!

M. Night Shmalayan doing Good Omens.

#19 ::: Calluna V. ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 06:48 PM:

#18 - Okay, want.

#20 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 06:49 PM:

bruce, that rant was masterful. i don't think i could afford to pay you to see the movie (or that i would want to give the f***ers the money), but that warmed my cold little heart.

#21 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 06:53 PM:

Steven Spielberg doing Neuromancer. (Ends with Molly & Case looking up the stars...)

#22 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 07:30 PM:

Bruce #13: Put me down as one of those people that believed the Fight Club trailer.

Which meant that I watched it one evening when I was home alone to fill the 2 hours before I had to leave for my night job.

Nobody TOLD me this was a BAD IDEA!! I was certain it was a stupid action flick about dudes punching each other's teeth out!

I ended up, um, shall we say mentally altered, and had to sit down and watch thirty minutes of the commentary track to try to get myself back to some frame of mind that could handle commuting. :->

#23 ::: Mel ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 08:01 PM:

heresiarch @ 18 - Weeping tears of blood over here. That WOULD be a sign of the Apocalypse.

#24 ::: Evan ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 08:04 PM:

SCENE 522: A backyard garden at night, torches and tables.

SYME, SUNDAY and THE SECRETARY are surrounded by dancing figures dressed in carnival costumes.

SYME: You are the police! The great, fat smiling men in blue and buttons.

SUNDAY LAUGHS, pulls out a machine gun, and points it at SYME. The masked figures stop dancing and remove their masks, revealing themselves to be ninjas. SYME and THE SECRETARY smile and look at one another.

SYME: We are getting to old for this!!

Freeze frame on SYME and THE SECRETARY pulling out there own guns.

ROLL CREDITS. CLOSING MUSIC BY AEROSMITH.

#25 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 09:15 PM:

Oh god, they are "adapting" Neuromancer to film, at least if one can believed IMDB. It's scheduled for 2009, and from the looks of things, it's going to be pretty bad. The listed; director's most notable previous work is this Britney Spears music video. (Safe for MTV, but probably not for work.) And rumor has it they've cast Hayden Christenson as Case -- I guess he's going to make a career out of annoying fans of popular 80s sci-fi.

Does anyone hereabouts understand why Hollywood does such an abyssmal job adapting written science fiction and fantasy to the screen? What economic incentives impel movie producers to butcher already vetted stories? (e.g. The Golden Compass, The Dark is Rising,..) Are good screenwriters really in such short short supply that it's necessary to hide weak scripts behind millions of dollars of special effects?

#26 ::: Wrye ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 09:19 PM:

At the other extreme, some directors/writers do know their limitations. Kevin Smith, whatever his flaws, knows he's a dialogue-based director, and stays away from action flicks. (His explanation of why he backed out of The Green Hornet is on one of his "evening with" DVDs is a classic of the genre). My respect for Smith went up immensely when I saw him speak in Vancouver, and during the Q and A he was accosted by someone claiming to have the screenplay rights to Douglas Coupland's Generation X . Smith was polite, but blunt, and made it clear the answer was no. (And evidently not for the first time, either). It made me smile because Coupland's writing is almost entirely about visuals and imagery, while Smith is just not that kind of director. I'd like to think he actually knew enough about the source material to understand he'd be a terrible, terrible fit.

Probably not as bad as Frank Miller's Generation X would be, mind you, but at least Miller would be able to deal with the Nuclear imagery in an entertaining fashion.

#27 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 09:59 PM:

Heresiarch @ 18: Ooh! Can I play?

Quentin Tarantino's "Lady Windermere's Fan"

It should work. Aren't Wilde and Tarantino both best known for their witty dialogue?

#28 ::: mds ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 10:07 PM:

When Kurtz let the rights go and it was made into a TV Movie I skipped watching it if for no other reason than Denny Colt was played by Sam J. Jones

I had completely forgotten about that, until now. And now I've also got Queen stuck in my head. ("FLASH! AAA-aaaaaaah!") So thanks for the memories, I suppose.

Anyway, I should be able to drown any disappointment over The Spirit with an adaptation of another densely-worded Alan Moore graphic novel into a couple-hour movie by the guy who also directed 300. Because there's no way that could go wrong.

#29 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 10:32 PM:

The shame of it is, Frank Miller actually knows his way around a comics page. If you look at Ronin, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, and some of his early Daredevil work, he had some graphic chops. I think if you'd asked the Frank Miller of the 1980s to do a Spirit story, he could probably have come up with something pretty good.

Since then, he's largely descended into self-parody. What I've seen in commercials and trailers for The Spirit looked like recycled Daredevil and Batman material, with none of the distinctive characteristic's of Eisner's work or the Spirit character.

#30 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 11:14 PM:

Maybe the problem is that TCOBO -- There Can Only Be One. Hollywood can only think of one cool comics guy. Let's do another Dark 300 City, guys -- anyone got some source material that hasn't already been used? Let's ask The Comics Guy about it.

It's like asking Spielberg to adapt Schindler's List.

It's like asking Disney to adapt Winnie the Pooh.

Movie adaptations are abominations more often than not.

#31 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 11:21 PM:

It's like allowing Walt Disney to adopt your classic novel, Mary Poppins. At the end of the premiere, when the rest of the audience is cheering wildly, you, the author, will be sitting alone weeping.

#32 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 11:23 PM:

I have Very Mixed Feelings about Frank Miller.

First: Frank Miller, as a sequential artist, is a genius comparable with Will Eisner. Somebody's going to rip me apart from that - I really do love Eisner. And when you read THE SPIRIT you see panels and pages come alive, like they'd been nailed down before, you see an artist who can make the comic book format dance. And the same thing happens with SIN CITY. The sudden decompression of taking an entire page for an empty beat, the EEEEEE of police sirens following the cars down the page between panels... it's one of those artform-taking-a-leap-forward moments.

Second: Frank Miller is a vastly overrated writer. Sin City was a pastiche of noir pulp, which meant that by pastiche-magic it had protection from criticism. But he's always that purple, his characterisation is always that thin, and his plots always that textbook.

Third: Frank Miller is a misogynist. This point probably needs least defense around here; I'll just point to every female character in Sin City being a prostitute, the sexy rape in 300, and his directorial decision in The Spirit to downgrade Silken Floss from a PhD nuclearphysicist and brain surgeon to a sexy secretary.

So, while points 2 and 3 mean he pisses me off hugely, point 1 means I find it impossible to just dismiss him entirely. I'm not sending any money The Spirit's way, but I may give in and download it or something.

Unicorn chaser: for fans of the old Spirit comics, check out Darwyn Cooke's run on the new series, handily collected in a slim hardback or two. It's perfect.

#33 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 11:46 PM:

miriam beetle: Thank you! I have a friend who is a reviewer that greatly enjoyed my grab-the-meataxe-and-go-to-work on Underworld and the quick bludgeoning I gave Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow at my LJ (links available on request), but outside of him I've gotten almost no response on what I've posted about films...which is why it's been so long since I've touched the subject. (I worked out a nice comparison of the French spy spoof OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies and Get Smart! that never got posted because I finally decided the only person who'd ever seen both was me since my wife bailed on Get Smart! (Get Smart! is the better film since you don't end up feeling like you need a vigerous shower with a wire brush at the end. It's the last time I trust a Variety review of a foreign film, I tell you.) If I ever find a way to make money or LJ Egoboo from writing about film I'll make sure to let you know in case you want to read some more of my stuff.

Elliot Mason: Bruce #13: Put me down as one of those people that believed the Fight Club trailer.

Which meant that I watched it one evening when I was home alone to fill the 2 hours before I had to leave for my night job.

Nobody TOLD me this was a BAD IDEA!! I was certain it was a stupid action flick about dudes punching each other's teeth out!

Oooh, bad luck on that one--my condolences! I agreed to go to a midnight showing of it some years ago on the condition that the guy who was pushing it watched the trailer afterwards. He called me later and said "You were right. If I'd seen that trailer I'd have given it a pass." Sometimes I wish he had...

I ended up, um, shall we say mentally altered, and had to sit down and watch thirty minutes of the commentary track to try to get myself back to some frame of mind that could handle commuting. :->

Yep, that's Fight Club. Strangest film structure I've ever seen: the first third carefully sets up the situation, the second third is designed to repel as many people in the audience as possible by making them sick to their stomachs, and the final third kicks the whole thing into either SF or Fantasy depending on how you feel about it--or how you feel about L. Ron Hubbard's only good novel, Fear. My struggle to avoid my popcorn coming back up during the final fifteen minutes was epic: you know why, you lucky person you. Fortunately I'd arranged a ride home beforehand...

#34 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 11:50 PM:

Calluna V. @ 19: "#18 - Okay, want."

What, really? I mean, Shmalayan's a talented cinematographer, but that boy takes himself far too seriously. The irreverence would just pass him by.

Mel @ 23: "Weeping tears of blood over here. That WOULD be a sign of the Apocalypse."

You want pain, imagine Zach Braff directing (and starring in) a Sandman adaptation. EMO-ED!

Paul Duncanson @ 27:

"...and then after the samurai duel, the vampires attack."

#35 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 11:52 PM:

I remember being at some convention in Minneapolis -- might have been a World Fantasy Con -- and standing around chatting with a small group of people which included Mike Ford. The conversation drifted to movies, and to the films of Ken Russell.

I know squat about classic cinema. I should probably have just kept my mouth shut, perhaps even faded out of that group and found a different conversation. Instead, I said something like, "Sorry -- Ken Russell? The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, Escape From New York?"

I think Mike was boggled for a moment; his eyes widened. "No, that's Kurt Russell. That would be... interesting."

I'm not sure which side of the swap he was thinking of. Maybe both.

#36 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 12:01 AM:

There are so many ways in which this Spirit movie is likely to be bad, and so few ways in which it might be good. I can hope to be pleasantly surprised, but I don't go to movies all that often.

For sheer perversity, the concept of Jackie Chan doing Atlas Shrugged strikes me as an amusing concept....

#37 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 12:15 AM:

Huh, now I think about it I've actually never seen the Fight Club trailer. I've seen the movie so many times that I can fair recite it from memory, and have devoted far too much time to analysing and reinterpreting it, brainpower that probably could have been spent on something more productive.

heresiarch: I actually prefer to imagine M. Night Shyamalan never making anything ever again. It's a happy place, if you will. Especially after his decision that an adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender ought to have a cast whiter than that of Twilight.

#38 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 12:33 AM:

I've been planning not to see it since the first trailer appeared. But I'm waivering slightly after reading this review: the gist of which is that it's not as awful as you think it will be from watching the trailers. (The review doesn't touch upon the dreadful aftertaste of Frank Miller's recent comic book work.)

#39 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 12:38 AM:

wavering

#40 ::: Don Simpson ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 01:22 AM:

rm @ 31 -- What I most object to about the Disney Mary Poppins is that it is so mundane and prosaic compared to the books. Total failure of nerve and imagination. Feh.

#41 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 01:24 AM:

A.J. @ 25:
Does anyone hereabouts understand why Hollywood does such an abyssmal job adapting written science fiction and fantasy to the screen? What economic incentives impel movie producers to butcher already vetted stories? (e.g. The Golden Compass, The Dark is Rising,..) Are good screenwriters really in such short short supply that it's necessary to hide weak scripts behind millions of dollars of special effects?

It goes something like this:

Producer: This science fiction novel would make an amazing movie! Plus, it has a built in audience. We'll make millions!

Studio Exec: Great! But we'll have to dumb it down to try and draw in the majority of people who don't get science fiction.

Producer: Well, I guess we could trim the fat a bit...

Studio Exec: And we need a cute dog creature thingy. So we can sell a lot of plush toys.

Producer:...

Exec: Oh and Keanu Reeves will be our star! My kid loved him in that Idaho movie he did a while back.

Producer: so, can I make my movie?

Studio Exec: Sure. Call David Koepp and tell him I want the first draft by the end of the weekend.

#42 ::: Jim Flannery ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 01:42 AM:

Why settle for half measures ...

Eli Roth's Our Lady of Darkness
M. Night Shyamalan's Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch
Roger Michell's Little Big

#43 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 01:52 AM:

Heresiarch @ 34: Shmalayan's a talented cinematographer...
No, he just hires talented cinematographers.

#44 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 01:56 AM:

Columbina @ 4

Not to mention that Eisner single-handedly inventing many of the tricks of composition, view-point, and framing that got to be taken for granted in the sixties and beyond. And that he kept doing new and original stuff long after that (A Contract with God still blows me away).

heresiarch @ 18

OK, you want cognitive dissonance, do you?

John Ford's Anna and the King of Siam
George Cukor's The Bourne Imperative
Steven Spielberg's Memento

#45 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 02:14 AM:

AJ #25

Does anyone hereabouts understand why Hollywood does such an abyssmal job adapting written science fiction and fantasy to the screen? What economic incentives impel movie producers to butcher already vetted stories?

This was explained very well by Neil Gaiman and Joss Whedon a while back
  • JW: I find that when you read a script, or rewrite something, or look at something that's been gone over, you can tell, like rings on a tree, by how bad it is, how long it's been in development.
  • NG: Yes. It really is this thing of executives loving the smell of their own urine and urinating on things. And then more execs come in, and they urinate. And then the next round. By the end, they have this thing which just smells like pee, and nobody likes it.
  • JW: There's really no better way to put it.

#46 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 02:16 AM:

Bruce E. Durocher II @ 33: Review links, please! I'd especially like to see your take on the Sky Captain movie, since I have such very mixed feelings on that. I suspect I give it too much credit for thebetter movie that it kept hinting was just beneath the surface, scrabbling desperately to be let out.

#47 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 02:27 AM:

Lenny, #38 & 39, if you watch it, you may need waivering due to the affect.

#48 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 03:03 AM:

Walt Disney: A Feast Unknown
Peter Greenaway: Little Fuzzy
Ed Wood: Absalom, Absalom!

#49 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 03:44 AM:

Paul Duncanson @ 43: "No, he just hires talented cinematographers."

Really? I was under the impression that he did a lot of the cinemotography himself. Hmm. So you're saying that he really has nothing at all?

Bruce Cohen @ 44: "OK, you want cognitive dissonance, do you?"

Cognitive dissonance is one scoring metric, but I'm also giving points for plausibility (would the person be interested in making a movie from that story?) and corruption value (how profoundly would their remake ruin the original in your mind?) That's what makes a Zach Braff Sandman so terrifying: he could turn Morpheus into a mopey hipster in the eyes of an entire generation, and you know he'd love to do it.

#50 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 03:49 AM:

wrye,

My respect for Smith went up immensely when I saw him speak in Vancouver, and during the Q and A he was accosted by someone claiming to have the screenplay rights to Douglas Coupland's Generation X .

ha! i'm pretty sure i was at the same q&a. i was staggered by how many film pitches he got... i wonder if that happens at every single talk, or if vancouver was particularly bad, with the film school & whatnot.

i was also guilty of asking a question that was more of a grab for attention, when i went up & talked about my comic book (i had had a question about how he had done a blurb for a strangers in paradise collection, & i'd love to see his take on that as a movie... but after he'd already said how he didn't want to write adaptations, i couldn't really ask it).

#51 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 03:50 AM:

Coincidentally, someone over at Slacktivist recently pointed us thisaway.

For what it's worth, watching the trailer for Spirit convinced me that someone involved with the movie - not sure who - wants me to think "White guys good! Black guys and sexy women bad!" Which was disappointing, of course.

#52 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 05:31 AM:

Has anyone here read a book called The Medusa Touch? It deals, in a way, with a haunted, hunted, feeling I've long had. It's probably a common delusion:
When I talk about or acknowledge or bring to attention something good and worthwhile and useful that's happening, it usually gets removed, destroyed, or corrupted not long afterwards;
When I acknowledge a fear or disturbing imagining of something bad that could happen, it often seems to thereafter.
And people wonder why I'm don't talk much, or talk lots about nothing much important.

You see the reason I'm cringing over here in the corner, trying to only sob unobtrusively.

#53 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 06:02 AM:

David Lean's "Spiderman" (terribly witty and restrained script by Noel Coward, starring Tom Courtenay, John Gielgud and Julie Christie)

#54 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 07:28 AM:

Avram @ #29
Since then, [Frank Miller has] largely descended into self-parody.

It's worse than that.

Frank Miller has become a bad parody of Ben Edlund's parody of Frank Miller.

Ben Edlund, 1988:

The City calls to me...
It cries to me of its need...
I see the City for what it is...
I'm a superhero.
And the City needs me.

Frank Miller, 2008 (The Spirit teaser trailer):
My City.
I cannot deny her.
My City screams.
She is my mother.
She is my lover.
And I am her Spirit.

Edlund wrote that 20 years ago.

Come to think of it, I'd be much more interested in Ben Edlund's Spirit than Frank Miller's. At least it would be funny, rather than grim'n'gritty.

#55 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 07:47 AM:

When I want Hollywood cognitive dissonance, I play the German board game Fabrik der Träume. ("Dream Factory") It's an auction game where you collect stars and directors and assign them to movies..."Errol Flynn stars in Alfred Hitchcock's Harvey" -- that kind of thing.

#56 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 09:01 AM:

What about wishlist comic adaptations? I've always thought Bill Waterson could do a kick-ass adaptation of A Clockwork Orange.

#57 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 09:23 AM:

heresiarch @ 49

I hate to say it, because I really do like some of his movies very much, but that sounds like some of Ang Lee's films: The Hulk and Sense and Sensibility.

#58 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 09:42 AM:

Lenny Bailes:

But I'm waivering slightly after reading this review: the gist of which is that it's not as awful as you think it will be from watching the trailers.

I got curious after reading this and visited The Movie Review Query Engine. Hmmm, six reviews, one of which is 4 stars and the rest of which are one star. Variety's review has lines like "But all this incessant monochrome has its perils, too: When a man falls to the ground, his body covered with white bloodstains, it's unclear whether he's been felled by bullets or by incontinent birds." This is not a good sign. (I could also have gone without the news that there is a Sin City 2 on the way--but that's another matter to be dealt with at another time.) Another review has the vital info that Miller inserted a scene where Eva Mendes photocopies her behind. This does not bode well.

I start Googling. A generally unfavorable review at Newsarama has an idiot attach the comment "Sounds to me that Miller hit Eisner's style on the dot with the over the top villians and the window-dressing femme fetales." I am struck by the sheer ignorance of the source material and the inability to spell displayed, and resolve to buy Teresa a drink as soon as possible since she has to read this sort of inane and inept psudeo-snark for a living. A review at LatinoReview.com which starts with rage and then works its way towards implied threats to Miller. So far it's showing up as a film adored by those who accept press junkets and very few others...

Fade Manley: Underworld review, and quick mugging of Sky Captain. I admit that since then I've occasionally thought about the underwater shot near the end of SK which raises the question of how Albert Speer ended up on Skull Island...

I still want to see John Carpenter's dream project: he's spent thirty years trying to find someone to fund and distribute a version of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court that's loyal to the book. The universal reaction has been that it's too dark to film. I think he's finally given up on The Stars My Destination. I have mixed feelings about that one. It's sort of like the feeling I had when I heard that before Disney had the rights to LOTR (abandoned when they couldn't do a version that wasn't PG13, and I'd love to check the pre-production work in the vault for that one) it was held for a number of years by Apple Corps, i.e. The Beatles. Um...yeah.

#59 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 09:43 AM:

Heresiarch @49 Paul Duncanson @ 43: "No, he just hires talented cinematographers."

Really? I was under the impression that he did a lot of the cinemotography himself. Hmm. So you're saying that he really has nothing at all?

Being able to identify the right cinematographer for the job and hiring them isn't nothing, it's good management.

Having people think you're a good cinematographer when you aren't sounds like a useful talent to have as well.

Also: James Ivory's Modesty Blaise anyone?

#60 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 09:58 AM:
Third: Frank Miller is a misogynist. This point probably needs least defense around here; I'll just point to every female character in Sin City being a prostitute, the sexy rape in 300, and his directorial decision in The Spirit to downgrade Silken Floss from a PhD nuclearphysicist and brain surgeon to a sexy secretary.

1. Sin City makes complete sense if you know that Miller is piling on every violation of the Comics Code Authority. I don't know if Frank Miller is a misogynist, but I also don't consider working against the Comics Code Authority inherently misogynist.

It is Sin City, so including prostitutes in the story seems to make as much sense as Sendak's Max mixing it up with wild things. For the prostitutes in the story adapted in the movie, in both presentations he shows them taking control, and portrays them as Valkyries. Firemen take off their shirts for calendars too. Is it the idealized portrayal of prostitutes that's inherently misogynistic?

Also, it's literally wrong that every female in Sin City is a prostitute, and maybe obvious too.

2. Evil agendas maybe need to be allowed their representation in drama or your dramatic options are cut substantially. This includes making evil seductive.

If rapes scenes were divested of any sexiness, they would only be portrayed very rarely. Then we'd have a situation where our movies weren't admitting there was such a thing as rape when, going by justice dept reports, 11% of women are victims of rape in their lifetime as things are now. Rapes take place more in taboo-cultures than in open societies, and then the victims sometimes get stoned.

A lot of the changes to the Bond franchise in the current movie seemed to be based on presenting a Bond who actively demonstrated an intolerance to rape. Some of our most prominent film critics missed this and hated the presentation choices related to this. I'm willing to put more of the blame on the immaturity of the culture than on 300. (Although this isn't to say 300 should have been made into a movie.)

3. Eisner's Silken Floss was sexy, and she cried when the Spirit moved on. She wasn't a champion of women in comics. This doesn't seem to be Miller's fault either.

#61 ::: Jeff Hentosz ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 10:07 AM:

@49, point 2: You mean like the idea of a Wachowski Brothers' Foundation?

And I was going to suggest Kevin Smith tackle The Left Hand of Darkness, but while it would be dissonant, it wouldn't be plausible. So I'll go to the other brothers: Bobby and Peter Farrelly's Code of the Woosters.

#62 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 10:34 AM:

Mike @ 60

"3. Eisner's Silken Floss was sexy, and she cried when the Spirit moved on."

Oddly, you aren't required to get an emotionectomy when you get your PhD. Not even when you get your second PhD. You're even allowed to wear makeup and get your hair cut at a good salon.

In short, the reasons you cite are not good reasons for changing her profession.

" She wasn't a champion of women in comics. This doesn't seem to be Miller's fault either."

Taken together, these two sentences give new life to the term Freudian slip, I think.

#63 ::: Columbina ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 10:44 AM:

I often wish I could manage to check in on interesting Making Light threads more than once a day. All the fun happens when I'm not looking. But I needed to come in, however belatedly, to say: Bruce @13, that was a most excellent rant. I'm tempted to pay you the big bucks to see the film just so I can read the screed that will emerge.

On the other hand, I note that it is possible to like a film of something while recognizing - hell, stipulating! - that it doesn't bear any resemblance to the source material. Case in point: Mary Poppins, as mentioned above. I love the film dearly, but I agree it doesn't bear any resemblance to the books, which I also love. I can contain both. (Backup example: The Shining.)

It's possible that I'll see The Spirit and like it as something that bears no resemblance to Eisner's work whatsoever (I did enjoy Sin City). But at the moment I doubt it.

#65 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 11:10 AM:

Columbiana: Thank you!

I'm tempted to pay you the big bucks to see the film just so I can read the screed that will emerge.

My wife has suggested some sort of voting link hooked to Paypal: if the number of contributors covers my expenses for a first-run film then I'll be dispatched. Actually, if it's something like VanHelsing or Spawn I may be dispatched to another locale--either much hotter or much lighter--by the final credits.

On the other hand, I note that it is possible to like a film of something while recognizing - hell, stipulating! - that it doesn't bear any resemblance to the source material. Case in point: Mary Poppins, as mentioned above.

Want some cheap fun? Ask someone from London about Burt's accent in the film. Stand well back, in case of spittle.

The best adaptation I've ever seen (outside of the 1950 adaptation of The Rocking Horse Winner) was the adventure film Ffolkes. The author of the book did the screenplay adaptation by cutting every other chapter (basically how the villains set up the crisis). Did it match half the book? No! Did it work? YES!

#66 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 11:31 AM:
In short, the reasons you cite are not good reasons for changing her profession.

Oooh, she's literally been demoted. Well, I didn't present an argument for demoting her.

Ok, maybe Miller will make a strong feminist statement by including a doctor who won't cry when the Spirit moves on, but yeah, demoting Dr Floss is a bad indicator.

Taken together, these two sentences give new life to the term Freudian slip, I think.

I'm not sure what you're referring to, but I don't think I'm arguing something I'm unconsciously denying.

#67 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 11:34 AM:

I have a real problem with the idea that making rape out to be a sexy, sexy, seductive thing in movies is the only way to keep our culture from backsliding into the bad old days when rape wasn't mentioned and rape victims were stoned. As though there weren't this other option of portraying rape as an act of violence meant to appall rather than titillate the audience.

And Margaret has already pointed out the yuck inherent in the "she couldn't be feminist if she cried over a guy" reasoning.

#68 ::: Stevey-Boy ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 11:38 AM:

SeanH @37: OK I'm stunned. How do you make a movie based on a cartoon that brought together several Eastern philosophies, and had the message of "we're different, but can't we all get along" and only have white actors?

My boy got me addicted to this show a couple of years ago and he'll be very disappointed if the characters are butchered to meet some Hollywood eye-candy requirement. We'll be paying particular attention to how they cast Toph.

#69 ::: Don Simpson ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 12:26 PM:

I thought that Being There was pretty true to the book. It helped that it was a short book.

#70 ::: Columbina ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 12:34 PM:

Want some cheap fun? Ask someone from London about Burt's accent in the film. Stand well back, in case of spittle.

I don't have to. It's still pretty much all that ever comes up if you put "Dick van Dyke" accent into Google.

I gather they were considerably less enthralled with the film version of Mary Poppins over in the UK than here. Can't say I'm surprised. As an American I liked the fact that the title character was made rather more pleasant to be around in the film, but apparently her rather forbidding nature was an important part of the character to Brits.

As long as we are going there, I've heard that the main reason the Disney versions of "Winnie the Pooh" did not sell well in the UK is that the audiences there, to a man, thought Sterling Holloway's voice work was absolutely totally the wrong voice for the character. (I cannot, of course, definitively confirm this.)

#71 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 12:59 PM:

I had a dream one night I was in a theater watching Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Was Thursday. There's never been a dream I wanted to have again so badly.

#72 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 01:04 PM:

Mike:

2. Evil agendas maybe need to be allowed their representation in drama or your dramatic options are cut substantially. This includes making evil seductive.

If rapes scenes were divested of any sexiness, they would only be portrayed very rarely. Then we'd have a situation where our movies weren't admitting there was such a thing as rape when, going by justice dept reports, 11% of women are victims of rape in their lifetime as things are now. Rapes take place more in taboo-cultures than in open societies, and then the victims sometimes get stoned.

Having stood over an attempted rape victim with depressed skull fractures until the ambulance and the cops came (just what you want when coming back from study break with a cute friend--she put her coat over the victim until the emergency crew arrived) I have no problems with every goddamned portrayal of rape being so fucking disturbing the male portion of the audience pukes uncontrollably: maybe that will get all the "she wanted it/look how she's dressed/look where she was" assholes to give up on their creepy fantasies and get their heads on straight.

While I never intend to go see the old grindhouse favorite Ms. 45, I do salute the way that it was structured to short circuit the "get off on pretty woman in danger" grindhouse reaction. (This is gone over in detail in the book "Cult Movies" as I remember it.) Better ten The Accused than the rape-and-she's-just-fine flick of your choice. Your expressed ideas bring to mind Brimstone and Treacle, one of the most disturbing films I've ever seen and one I'd hoped never to think of again--a catatonic crippled girl being cured by repeated rapes by a dewinged angel not taking up a comfy space in my brain. Uck.

#73 ::: Mike Booth ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 01:23 PM:

Kevin at #45: Thanks for the Gaiman/Whedon link. In return, I offer Terry Rossio's "Building the Bomb": his explanation for the suckiness of the "Puppet Masters" movie from 1994.

Screenwriters have a tough deal. When the movie sucks everyone blames the writing. As if every movie project didn't involve dozens of other people, any one of whom might have the power to make the final result suck...

#74 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 01:33 PM:

Mike @ 60

First of all, the women in Sin City are not independent strong Valkyries. They're walking wank fantasies versions of the idea of a 'strong' woman who looks good with a gun while wearing hardly a thing but then when it comes down to it, needs a man to rescue her.

I have heard the, Frank Miller is being ironic, it's a post modern take on comics and a Film Noir pastiche etc. defense before. I couldn't dismiss that completely until I saw the script pages from Frank Miller's Batman.

Reading over that basically made me realise that, yes he is not doing multi-layered self aware parodies of how a shallow objectifying narrative can work in a hyper real sort of way. He really is that immature and shallow. What you see is what you get.

An example, here's a part of an infamous script direction for a panel describing Vicki Vale.

Frank Miller: "OK, Jim, I'm shameless. Let's go with an ASS SHOT. Patnies detailed. Balloons from above. She's walking, restless as always. We can't take our eyes off her. Especially since she's got one fine ass."

So yeah, I think it's entirely warranted to be upset and get misogyny spider senses a-tingling when that man changes Silken Floss from a nuclear physicist and a brilliant surgeon into a sexy secretary.

#75 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 01:35 PM:

David, #55: Is that game available in English translation? I have some friends for whom it would be a perfect gift.

Nicole, #67 and Bruce, #72: Thank you.

#76 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 01:36 PM:
I have a real problem with the idea that making rape out to be a sexy, sexy, seductive thing in movies is the only way to keep our culture from backsliding into the bad old days when rape wasn't mentioned...

If someone had said that, I couldn't disagree with you.

With the sciences, athletics, and the arts, we train practitioners to make the most complex practices in these disciplines second-nature to their intuition. The difference with the arts is that the highest levels of exchange in the sciences and athletics are between masters. In the arts, mastery includes accessing the intuition of the non-artists.

1. If you keep a topic out of the arts, you are denying it access to the public consciousness. 2. You can't force someone to experience art against their will.

Observing this isn't the same as saying you have a choice between objectification and turning over our culture over to fundamentalists.

We allow some things a mid-life-crisis, but not others. Some of us allow our dads a mid-life crisis. We allow for the mid-life-crisis of the country's civil war by way of not packing up our bags and leaving it over it. Less of us allow for the mid-life-adjustments of civil rights. Even fewer of us allow for the mid-life-adjustments in comics that I think Frank Miller represents. I think the slack to allow for mid-life-adjustments should be given in equal application. That's my stake in commenting today.

...I have no problems with every goddamned portrayal of rape being so fucking disturbing the male portion of the audience pukes uncontrollably...

Me neither.

#77 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 01:37 PM:

A second thanks to Nicole at 67 and Bruce at 72. I had a big rant built up on that subject but you've put it better than I could have.

#78 ::: LadyVetinari ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 02:02 PM:
With the sciences, athletics, and the arts, we train practitioners to make the most complex practices in these disciplines second-nature to their intuition. The difference with the arts is that the highest levels of exchange in the sciences and athletics are between masters. In the arts, mastery includes accessing the intuition of the non-artists.

I don't understand this point. There's nothing very complex about what Frank Miller does with rape. It's quite simple.

1. If you keep a topic out of the arts, you are denying it access to the public consciousness. 2. You can't force someone to experience art against their will.

I think it depends on what "keeping it out" of the arts means. Obviously state censorship = bad, I think we can all agree on that. But not every topic deserves access to the public consciousness, and not every topic is going to get that access. I don't want "rape is SEXY" to have access to the public consciousness. People should be aware that some sick people think rape is sexy; they shouldn't be encouraged to agree with those people, and I don't buy that Frank Miller's films are doing anything but encouraging that tendency.

We allow some things a mid-life-crisis, but not others.

Which is as it should be. Not everything deserves an equal chance to have a "mid-life crisis." I'm not interested in humoring the "mid-life crisis" of the concept of basic rights for women.

#79 ::: Sajia Kabir ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 02:07 PM:

Thank you, LadyVetinari. You were infinitely more polite and coherent than I would have been.

#80 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 02:09 PM:

Kevin @ 45 & Keith @ 41:

I'm happy to blame the studio executives, but it's not an entirely satisfactory explanation. Reasonably well-done adaptations of f&sf material are among the most profitable movies ever made. There's a huge amount of money to be made, so you might expect that, even if the current crop of studio executives are a bunch of urine-sniffing morons -- the sort of idiots who'd not only cook the goose that lays golden eggs, but also let it burn in the oven -- someone would step in and attempt to profit by doing it right.

#81 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 02:24 PM:
People should be aware that some sick people think rape is sexy; they shouldn't be encouraged to agree with those people, and I don't buy that Frank Miller's films are doing anything but encouraging that tendency.

Well, what do you think of Martin Scorsese? Is he not guilty of making evil seductive also? If not, what is he doing that's good, that Frank Miller isn't doing, that makes him bad?

#82 ::: ginmar ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 02:43 PM:

Guess you can't be sexy if you're a female Ph.D, either. Good to know. Seriously, it's amazing when one trips over some of these revealing attitudes. It's not sexist to demote a woman from Ph.D to secretary? Why, because the male audience might be intimdated? Also, she can't be a feminist because she's sexy and she cries?!

Here's a website for that type of guy. Second one down, possibly not safe for work, no way of linking individual posts. Female Ph.D writes personal ad. Jerkoff writes in, patronizingly telling her mentioning her Ph.D will turn off guys. LIke him, one supposes. Darn, thinks the Ph.D. Who knew Frank Miller read the personals?

#83 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 02:55 PM:

Wesley @ 64

You owe me a new laptop. That cartoon needs a warning sticker.

#84 ::: Flippanter ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 03:20 PM:

I find myself in the small and, apparently, blushing minority who find Frank Miller's work the more affecting and memorable for the predilictions parodied in 64 above, the ones cutely captured in Frank the Tank's entry in Wired's Very Short Stories feature of a while ago:

"With bloody hands, I say good-bye."

The virtues of a great many of the genre books that I see on the shelves of my local Barnes & Noble -- thorough, thoughtful worldbuilding, plot novelties, wisecracking comic dialogue, characters with friends and families, mouthwatering meals, plausibility -- are acknowledgedly very much to be praised, but I admit shamefacedly that Miller's obsessions, tropes, tics and habits cut deeper than any of them.

I feel like I ought to go turn myself in for something.

#85 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 03:33 PM:

I checked with Ginmar: I think this is the link she wanted.

#86 ::: Betsy-the-muffin ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 03:49 PM:

Mike @60:

If rapes scenes were divested of any sexiness, they would only be portrayed very rarely. Then we'd have a situation where our movies weren't admitting there was such a thing as rape....

Nicole @67, in response:

I have a real problem with the idea that making rape out to be a sexy, sexy, seductive thing in movies is the only way to keep our culture from backsliding into the bad old days when rape wasn't mentioned...

Mike @68, in counter-response:

If someone had said that, I couldn't disagree with you.

Mike, I'm having a difficult time addressing the content of your arguments politely, so I'm going to stick pretty closely to their form here.

You expressed an idea with some pretty disturbing implications. You may not have realized these implications when you posted, but that doesn't change the words you wrote. Saying that you didn't say what you said is disingenuous. Arguing as if anything, even art—perhaps especially art—exists in a vacuum? Also disingenuous.

For that matter: equating the metaphorical seductiveness of evil in a Lookit! Moral Greys! film and the literal seductiveness of evil in a sexy rape scene? Disingenuous too.

#87 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 03:49 PM:

Don't be silly. You don't get Jerry Bruckheimer to direct The Man Who Was Thursday, you get Ron Howard.

#88 ::: ginmar ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 03:56 PM:

I suck at links, evidently. For bonus points, there's a guy whining in the comments about 'Boys are stupid. Throw rocks at them,' as if there's a wave of rock-throwing going in the world.

#89 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 04:26 PM:

Betsy #86, what you quote me saying seems to be a simple observation of the literal truth.

If rapes scenes were divested of any sexiness, they would only be portrayed very rarely. Then we'd have a situation where our movies weren't admitting there was such a thing as rape....

People don't pay tickets to see the kind of morally-engineered Afternoon Specials they used to air on weekdays on TV. Therefore, Hollywood doesn't make them and release them into theaters. Therefore, a substantial amount of cinematic portrayals of rape would disappear if filmmakers were to adopt the resolve to remove seductive portrayals of them.

What you quote from Nicole:

I have a real problem with the idea that making rape out to be a sexy, sexy, seductive thing in movies is the only way to keep our culture from backsliding into the bad old days when rape wasn't mentioned...

...isn't interchangeable with what I said. Otherwise she would have said something that was, like:

I have a real problem with the idea that the prevalence of rapes scenes in movies will diminish with Hollywood's resolve to not portray them seductively, and I object to the notion that there is any disadvantage to this diminishment.

Nicole is free to revise her objection to what I actually said. Maybe she also agrees with the relevant strawman I constructed, but that isn't for me to say. Until she says she something that has to do with what I said, the observation that you're entitled to your own opinion, but you aren't entitled to your own facts, seems to remain relevant to our interaction.

#90 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 04:33 PM:

Rape is only/mostly portrayed in a sexy way, but other violence can be either sexy or horrific. If a particular kind of violence can't be both, it is generally because it isn't allowed to be sexy. (Violence against children strikes me as a probable candidate for that one.)

My movie consumption is pretty low, and my consumption of movies portraying violence in general and rape in particular is extremely low, so I may be missing all kinds of exceptions to my observations. I'm sharing them mostly because they just occurred to me and I want to see what the thoughts on them are.

#91 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 04:37 PM:

#32 SeanH: Third: Frank Miller is a misogynist. This point probably needs least defense around here; I'll just point to...his directorial decision in The Spirit to downgrade Silken Floss from a PhD nuclearphysicist and brain surgeon to a sexy secretary.

On a similar note, I was pretty disappointed to see that Dr. Kavita Rao, the scientist who discovered the 'cure' for mutants in Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men, was downgraded to being the handmaiden to an older white guy in X-Men: The Last Stand. Disappointed but not, as you might imagine, in the least bit surprised.

#92 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 04:53 PM:

Oh, and further to the downgrading of female characters, such as from the scientist who actually holds the press conferences to the assistant, or from the nuclear physicist-slash-brain surgeon to the secretary: If it isn't symptomatic of misogyny in society, why does it only happens in one direction? That is, as the budget and the potential audience increases, the roles of women are downgraded? If the purpose of this is not to appeal to a wider (male) audience, why is it such a common pattern?

[I can think of one exception - Eowyn in Peter Jackson's LotR - but I'd be interested in hearing more examples of how the roles of women change between books or comics to movies or TV series.]

#93 ::: Sajia Kabir ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 04:59 PM:

(There's a reason why I don't comment on conservative/libertarian blogs. Let's see if spluttering fury doesn't get the better of me this time.)
Let me give an analogy. If there's a choice between racist acts being depicted as brave and righteous, and racist acts not being depicted at all, I'll go for the latter. The only reason I want rape to depicted at all in art is to make the audience sympathize with the victim. Eroticizing rape makes the audience sympathize with the rapist, not the victim. So I would not count it as a loss at all if depictions of rape were to disappear entirely.

#94 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 05:03 PM:

Can I just stick in a wee rant about the awful, wretched, ghastly, horrid, bad confusion of one Richard Wagner when he romanticized the devilment out of valkyries?

val is from IE ṷel die. It's got numerous cognates, OE wæl slaughter, carnage, ON valr, one who dies on the battlefield, Ukr valjava body-covered battlefield, etc; death, corpses, devils, and battlefields figure prominently.

And, yes, "chooser of the slain". Except that this is, like "the shield-roofed hall" where Odin's chosen go, kinda ambiguous in the original. Some other place, yah, could be, or it could be a description of the dead bodies lying under their shields in the rain. In the case of "chooser of the slain", coming to take you away from all this, possibly, but just as possibly "selecting who to devour".

The surviving (few!) heathen poetry fragments have them weaving human guts on a loom weighted with severed heads, or wandering the battle forking corpses into the mouth of the giant wolf they're riding. It's not a supportive female figure trope. It's certainly not a desirable female figure trope; if you see a valkyrie, you're going to die, generally in an unpleasant way. (If you're one of the hero-children of the northern world, you might not be going to die unpleasantly right this second, but, well, there are few of those living.)

#95 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 05:15 PM:
Sajia #93: Let me give an analogy. If there's a choice between racist acts being depicted as brave and righteous, and racist acts not being depicted at all, I'll go for the latter. The only reason I want rape to depicted at all in art is to make the audience sympathize with the victim. Eroticizing rape makes the audience sympathize with the rapist, not the victim. So I would not count it as a loss at all if depictions of rape were to disappear entirely.

You just described something like what took place in Crash, which won the Oscar.

#96 ::: Betsy-the-muffin ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 05:21 PM:

Mike @89:

a. "Portraying rape rarely" != "not admitting it exists"

b. You, paraphrased:

"portraying rape unsexily" -> "rarely portraying rape in movies"

(This is probably true, but I think it's a good thing.*)

"rarely portraying rape in movies" -> "movies not admitting rape exists" -> "our culture, as a whole, not admitting rape exists."

Nicole:

I have a real problem with the idea that ("portraying rape unsexily" -> "our culture, as a whole, not admitting rape exists").

Again: You may not have realized the full implications of what you were saying. Or you may have. Either way, you said it.

And I, like several others here, am rather disturbed by the way that you're casting rape-as-titillation as some bizarre kind of public service.

* Leaving aside the matter of "sexy rape," rape or the threat thereof is used as a plotpoint in an awful lot of movies. Generally it's lazy writing and/or gratuitous; I'd be perfectly content seeing this particular class of bad writing go away.

Not to mention the ways in which it would make moviegoing easier for rape victims.

#97 ::: Sajia Kabir ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 05:23 PM:

What makes you think I automatically admire anything that wins an Oscar?
Just to clarify matters, I'm not attacking Frank Miller in particular, I'm attacking popular culture in general.

#98 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 05:34 PM:

Bruce @13: There's a joke among fans of Space Battleship/Cruiser Yamamoto about the invisible planetoid that follows it around the universe to supply replacement parts when it's shot to shit.

Actually, it's "Yamato", though the slippage from WWII Japanese flagship to WWII Japanese admiral is somewhat less than the infamous attempted Americanization to Space Cruiser Arizona.

#99 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 05:49 PM:
Betsy making her own inference from what Nicole said #96: I have a real problem with the idea that ("portraying rape unsexily" -> "our culture, as a whole, not admitting rape exists").

Ok, that's an objection that relates to what I said. Thank you.

What, exactly, will ignorance of the existence of rape look like other than the absence of its mention?

If someone were to establish and enforce a taboo against discussion of rape, what would be the manifestation of that taboo other than again absence of its mention?

Sajia #97:What makes you think I automatically admire anything that wins an Oscar?

I don't think anything I've said depends on you holding any such admiration to be true.

#100 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 06:03 PM:

Do not forsake me O my darlin'
On this our wedding day.
Do not forsake me O my darlin'
Wait, wait along.
The noonday train will bring Frank Miller.

#101 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 06:03 PM:

Can I suggest that the anger that many of us feel around the subject of rape not be directed at the other people discussing it?

I haven't seen anyone in this conversation advocate rape, or call it a good thing. Different people have different opinions about how to address what we all agree is a problem. Some of the ideas may be more effective than others. Some may be better thought out.

But this is a difference in method, not in intent.

Do not confuse them. It does not further the conversation, convince anyone, or help anything.

#102 ::: triplep ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 06:46 PM:

Betsy-the-muffin @96: rape or the threat thereof is used as a plotpoint in an awful lot of movies.

R.M. Koske @90: Rape is only/mostly portrayed in a sexy way, but other violence can be either sexy or horrific.

First off, I agree that the idea of making rape into a kind of sexy fun time is an abhorrent one, but off the top of my head I can't think of a whole lot of movies that have tried to eroticize it. A History of Violence is the only one that comes to mind off the top of my head, and that was a horrible film in a lot of ways.

Popular films which portray rape include Thelma and Louise, A Clockwork Orange, Monster and, particularly, Irreversible (and, of course, Deliverance, though that's not necessarily pertinent to this discussion). None of them portray it in a positive light, in my view.

I'm not saying that the issue of sexy rape doesn't need to be discussed, because it does - especially with regard to Miller. But I think that negative portrayals of rape outnumber positive ones by a fair margin. And, similarly, I think that Hollywood would do just fine if it never eroticized rape ever again.

And if I'm missing some films from my memory, I'm sure the incredibly intelligent people on these boards will set me straight.

#103 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 07:00 PM:

Julie L.:

Actually, it's "Yamato"

You are of course correct. This is what happens when I type too quickly and don't wear my glasses when I proofread.

#104 ::: dakine ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 07:01 PM:

I worked for several years for the largest distributor of comics in the world - and we ran up against this time and again. Comic book movies are adapted so the general public will go, not so a bunch of fanboys will be pleased. It's the least common denominator factor.

I read a few issues of The Spirit back when I worked there - I was like, meh. But everyone has different tastes.

Miller as a misogynist? Check out the Martha Washington series and I think you'll find that's not true.

#105 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 07:04 PM:

Mike: I have a hard time equating the portrayal of something as "sexy" being condemnatory. I don't think Crash winning an oscar is all that strong a point either (Gigi winning one tells me that year must have stunk).

The Acadamy is a bunch of folks. A bunch of folks who make their living tapping into the zietgeist and exploiting it. The culture likes to think of rape as both rare, and done by violent strangers (prefereably members of an outgroup). Making it seem the only exceptions to this are somehow erotic (which is a re-inforcing behavior, making people want to see more of it... check the subthread on robot sex for a more detailed discussion of this plays out in the real world... it's not cut and dried), is counter-productive to making it seem horrid, and to be avoided.

Certainly there are ways to bring it up which don't romanticize it, and those are the ones to praise/accept/want to see normalised.

#106 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 08:03 PM:

People aren't resolved to look for movies with condemnatory messages. People aren't telling themselves they find condemnatory messages entertaining.

Is anyone referring to an example of Frank Miller portraying a rapist getting away with rape? My understanding is that he humiliates his rapists then later out-and-out kills them.

Between movies including the message in our drama "acting on your arousal may inspire someone competent to want to kill you" -- and keeping that message out of our art and instead relying on the first lady encouraging schoolchildren to just say no -- the advantages seem to outweigh the disadvantages of allowing the message the audience picks up without even realizing they're taking a message.

And if you kill the arousal-aspect in dramatizing the conflict "acting on your arousal may inspire someone competent to want to kill you" you may as well not include the message at all, and it still seems to be a useful and truthful message. How is any dramatic presentation where all the women in the audience are nodding in agreement really going to discourage a predatory urge? And if your response is that you don't care, then you don't care about rape-denial either.

Every guy understands the line from the U2 song "every time she passes by, wild thoughts escape." To choose how we condition ourselves has to start with what the hell we are, otherwise the conditioning choices we make will find no purchase anywhere in our inner-territory, because we will be navigating that inner-territory blind.

#107 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 08:03 PM:

I like Disney's Mary Poppins, while recognizing that it's not the same as the source material (which I never could get into). To me, it's actually a movie about Mr. Banks. But never mind that, or the general rule that if I see the Disney movie first, I usually like a movie better than if I've become attached to the book already. I won't let my daughter watch Disney the Pooh.

I wouldn't mind seeing John Lasseter take on The Spirit. Maybe with Ben Edlund on board.

Oh yeah: The Man Who Was Thursday. Would you settle for Orson Welles? (Here's more. My favorites are "The Count of Monte Cristo" and "Seventeen." Yes, that's Orson Welles as William Sylvanus Baxter.)

#108 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 08:39 PM:

Mike: I think part of the problem isn't how we see Frank Miller, it's how we are reacting to what it seems you are saying.

I've not read enough Miller to have an opinion on him.

#109 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 09:10 PM:

What does it seem I'm saying?

#110 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 09:48 PM:

Mike, #106: And if you kill the arousal-aspect in dramatizing the conflict "acting on your arousal may inspire someone competent to want to kill you" you may as well not include the message at all, and it still seems to be a useful and truthful message. How is any dramatic presentation where all the women in the audience are nodding in agreement really going to discourage a predatory urge? And if your response is that you don't care, then you don't care about rape-denial either.

Mike, I think you should SERIOUSLY re-think how you phrase your arguments. Because this one, whether you mean it so or not, sounds as though you're saying that women's responses to rape scenes -- or any other kind of dramatic presentation, but rape scenes are the ones we're talking about -- are not only worthless, but trivial.

You may be the nicest guy on the planet, but the more you say in this discussion, the more I want to strangle you, because if it's not active misogyny, then it's one of the worst cases of sheer cluelessness and foot-in-mouth disease I've ever had the misfortune to encounter.

I suggest a different frame: de-privileging the rapist. This means that rape scenes should be shown as arising from the kind of motives that no normal person wants to identify with, and where possible should be portrayed as sleazy and disgusting -- whether he gets away with it or not. IOW, stop making the rapist a sympathetic character. That, right there, will do a lot toward discouraging men from acting on their predatory impulses.

#111 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 10:43 PM:

Elie Wiesel said hate destroys the hater. You either agree that that theme can carry a story, or you don't.

I think self-destruction can carry a story and, as such, trivializing the object of the villain's hatred seems to be a perfectly valid option, dramatically.

Maybe you agree self-destruction as a theme can carry a story. Maybe you agree because an example of a great story of self-destruction comes to mind for you. If that is the case, please share it, so I can review how an engaging story of self-destruction can be built by withholding all sympathy of the self-destructive character from the audience. Maybe I know of it, have forgotten, and you will remind me.

What did you think of Downfall, where as much disregard to the reaction of Holocaust victims as you're apparently accusing me of was demonstrated?

#112 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 10:57 PM:

Mike, variously:

People don't pay tickets to see the kind of morally-engineered Afternoon Specials they used to air on weekdays on TV. Therefore, Hollywood doesn't make them and release them into theaters. Therefore, a substantial amount of cinematic portrayals of rape would disappear if filmmakers were to adopt the resolve to remove seductive portrayals of them.

1. Nobody saw Deliverance or A Clockwork Orange, then? Gosh.

2. An analogy already made is child murder. Child murder is rightly considered utterly abhorrent by society. As such it is very rarely used in film, and almost never treated as other than totally morally repellent (I can't think of any counterexamples, but I'm sure they exist). In the language TVTropes.org gives it, it's raping the dog, an act so unambiguously wrong that any character committing it is damned, with no hope of believable redemption. And I think most people would have difficulty watching a movie that took child murder lightly. Yet our culture has not been tricked into pretending that child murder does not happen.

I think, and I'm far from alone, that rape is similarly evil, and so should be treated similarly. What's the problem?

What, exactly, will ignorance of the existence of rape look like other than the absence of its mention?

If someone were to establish and enforce a taboo against discussion of rape, what would be the manifestation of that taboo other than again absence of its mention?

Who's strawmanning now? I haven't spotted anyone claiming that rape should absolutely never be shown in film, much less the wild allegation of wanting to "enforce a taboo". Let's kill this canard, please. We're objecting to rape being made sexy, because it's repellent and corrupting.

Oh, but while I'm being contrarian, Lee #110:
I suggest a different frame: de-privileging the rapist. This means that rape scenes should be shown as arising from the kind of motives that no normal person wants to identify with, and where possible should be portrayed as sleazy and disgusting -- whether he gets away with it or not. IOW, stop making the rapist a sympathetic character. That, right there, will do a lot toward discouraging men from acting on their predatory impulses.

There is a danger here, which is that of completely Othering the rapist. Studies have shown that almost nobody admits to having raped; change the question to "coerced somebody into sex" and suddenly far more people cop to it. If we show rape to be solely the province of slavering subhuman monsters, then nobody thinks that they might rape. Nice guys rape, people who consider themselves feminists rape, men like you and me rape, and fighting that requires an understanding of what rape is and why it happens.

#113 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 11:38 PM:

SeanH

  1. I haven't seen either, but Deliverance and A Clockwork Orange were released theatrically over 35 years ago. The rape scene in Deliverance is often referred to to make the punchline of a joke. And if the rapes in A Clockwork Orange were as joyful as they were in the book, and you feel free to use that as an example, I'm not sure what the urgency is in challenging what I say at all.
  2. No one declares war on the survivors of a child murder like they do the survivors of rape. I don't consider the analogy valid.
  3. My mention of strawmen referred to my own. The offense of strawmen is in self-servingly attributing an agenda no one claims to own to someone else. I don't think I've done that to anyone here, but instead referred to an undesirable outcome.
  4. Your own last paragraph seems to cover everything I'm saying. Does everyone understand what I'm trying to say as SeanH has said it in his last paragraph? It seems to work for me, and it seems to work for everything I'm saying about Frank Miller's work too.

#114 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 12:11 AM:

Mike, #111: If that's supposed to be a response to me, please try again; it's just short of incoherent and I cannot for the life of me figure out what your point is supposed to be.

SeanH, #112: Point taken -- but I'm not talking about "subhuman monsters," but about making men own up to the fact that the excuses they make to themselves for things they may have done are not Get Out Of Jail Free cards. Make the rapist an unpleasant character who uses the same excuses, and you undercut the validity of the excuses themselves.

(And FYI, I am female. I realize that admitting this puts me at a severe disadvantage in this discussion, but many people here already know, and it would be unfair to you not to point it out.)

#115 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 12:25 AM:

Mike at #60 writes:

> If rapes scenes were divested of any sexiness, they would only be portrayed very rarely. Then we'd have a situation where our movies weren't admitting there was such a thing as rape when, going by justice dept reports, 11% of women are victims of rape in their lifetime as things are now.

Well, yes. But on the plus side we wouldn't have movies holding up rape as something having a tantalisingly sexy edge to it.

#116 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 12:41 AM:

I watched Sin City (bought it on DVD actually) because I liked the other co-director - Robert Rodriguez. I'd become a fan of Rodriguez through watching his "Mexico" trilogy (El Mariachi, Desperado, Once Upon a Time in Mexico) and I enjoyed the way he'd managed to create three very watchable films (in my opinion, anyway) on what Hollywood thought of as an incredibly low budget each time. But then, Rodriguez is very much a DIY filmmaker (OUATIM has the credit line "Shot, Chopped and Scored by Robert Rodriguez" in there - and yes, he is his own cinematographer, editor and, for this film anyway, composer).

Unfortunately, while Rodriguez may be able to do great things with a low budget, and wonderful things for next to nothing, there's no real way of being able to distinguish directors once you get the greenscreen thing going. Sin City is all about the magic of computer enhanced graphics, and the ability of a few good artists in the makeup and production departments to make a whole heap of real people in three dimensions emulate a whole heap of two-dimensional comic book characters. But really, if you just want to make a moving version of a comic book, surely that's what animation is for?

To really see Rodriguez as a co-director with someone else, I'd point to From Dusk Til Dawn, which he co-wrote and co-directed with Quentin Tarantino. I love this particular film because you can tell when the two directors "changed shifts", so to speak - the film suddenly switches from being a gritty, nasty Tarantino flick with the "Tarantino preferred cast" (Juliette Lewis, Harvey Keitel, Quentin Tarantino) to being a Rodriguez flick with the "Rodriguez preferred cast" (Selma Hayek, Danny Trejo, Cheech Marin - I was honestly surprised to see Antonio Banderas wasn't included. Perhaps Antonio was busy that weekend?). And heck, it has a guest spot from Sam Raimi, so what's not to like for a b-movie horror geek?

(Oh, and the movie which ruined a book I love has already been made: Starship Troopers - which should have come with a disclaimer stating the only things borrowed from the book were the title and the character names).

#117 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 01:30 AM:

Here is a thread with Both the Shortpacked comics about Frank Miller. I find them INCREDIBLY apt.

Frank Miller lost my support when he made Catwoman into a whore. Come on... Catwoman? That bothers me particularly, because when I was 13 she was the coolest, strongest, smartest female character in all of American animation (her Batman: the Animated Series version). I know a lot of girl comics fans feel similarly about her. I think most writers acknowledge that doing this was pretty goddam messed up, because that part of Miller's story has been heartily decannonized. (Yes, I realize that his hooker version came before Dini's philanthropist version - but I found OUT about it later, so I'm still allowed to be mad).

Here's the thing - when I first read Sin City without any knowledge of the rest of Miller's work, I liked it quite a bit. It was weird and edgy and intense, and I devoured the books. I liked the male characters and some of the female ones, I thought the art and pacing were gorgeous, etc etc.

After learning more about his work, I have a lot of trouble rereading Sin City. What once seemed like a cool, subversive pastiche now seemed like asshole wish fulfillment. I'm sometimes able to put that aside and enjoy Sin City, but every time I encounter him doing anything with any character I already know... I get very, very afraid.

For another example, here is some quick commentary on What he did to Vicky Vale. A plucky photographer who has work as her priority is transformed into a man-crazy gossip columnist who struts around in her panties. It has a bit from a 40s story about her and then a bit from Frank's take. Check out Miller's original script as well.

Bear in mind again that I liked, and sometimes still like, Sin City. There's a time and a place for plucky whores and the chivalrous madmen who love them. But that time is not "always" and that place isn't "to replace strong independent women who are long established as such."

My little brother still wants to see the Spirit, and I'll probably go with him. But so far it looks like this will be another piece of evidence in favor of the theory that Frank Miller is a drooling sexist, rather than some kind of subversive mastermind.

#118 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 02:58 AM:

Mike @ 60: "If rapes scenes were divested of any sexiness, they would only be portrayed very rarely. Then we'd have a situation where our movies weren't admitting there was such a thing as rape when, going by justice dept reports, 11% of women are victims of rape in their lifetime as things are now."

The idea that America will simply forget what rape is if movies don't depict it is insane. People have always known what rape is, and the modern understanding of how arbitrary and hateful a crime it is isn't Hollywood's doing. What is in question is how the act will be viewed by the public: will it be seen as a horribly selfish and hateful act of betrayal, or will it be seen as a sexy little faux pas but oh she had it coming didn't you see that short skirt she was wearing you would have done the same thing in my shoes, and anyway she really enjoyed it?

Once that is understood to be the crux of the issue--not the mere existence of rape, but its moral nature--then the counter-productivity of portraying sexy rapes becomes blindingly obvious. Showing sexy rapes, showing how much fun it can be and how totally hot it is only feeds the rationalizations that potential rapists are already telling themselves. It's about as effective as showing black minstrelsy as much as possible to prevent racism from being forgotten. Given the choice between minstrelsy and nothing, nothing is the far better choice.

@ 106: "Between movies including the message in our drama "acting on your arousal may inspire someone competent to want to kill you" -- and keeping that message out of our art and instead relying on the first lady encouraging schoolchildren to just say no -- the advantages seem to outweigh the disadvantages of allowing the message the audience picks up without even realizing they're taking a message."

If the only reason you don't rape people is because someone might kill you, then there are plenty of ways around that: only raping people with no one to protect them, not getting caught, or even just being really powerful yourself.

This is, coincidentally, what makes Miller such a sexist: the only relationships he considers possible between men and women are predator/prey or protector/protected. Even those plucky whores with their sexy but deadly assassin Miko can't really defend themselves without a penis Clive Owens' help.

#119 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 03:07 AM:

Lee@75: It's not available in the original form because of legal problems surrounding the images of real people included. There is an English version called "Hollywood Blockbuster"; I gather that it has more modern actors, with names that are slightly changed from the real ones.

#120 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 07:30 AM:

Following up to Leah Miller #117, here's an overview of his recent take on Wonder Woman, turning her into a man-hating dominatrix.

#121 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 08:19 AM:

#113, Mike -

No one declares war on the survivors of a child murder like they do the survivors of rape. I don't consider the analogy valid.

I don't follow you. The analogy is not valid because rape victims' torments include not only the act of violence itself, but are also continued by some elements of society (including occasionally the system intended to help them) after the fact? What?

#122 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 08:21 AM:

Actually, you know, never mind. I'm not angry about this conversation, but I'm stressed about other things and I could go there. Continue on without me.

#123 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 10:01 AM:

Just as a nitpick, I can think of two parallel situations which have, if not less emotional baggage, at least different emotional baggage. (Disclaimer: I'm not nearly the consumer of either movies or comics that a lot of you are!)

a. The portrayal of torture as being something that the tough good guys do, and that works. IMO, this is propoganda for evil, but i definitely works well for selling books and movies. This shades over into that common notion of the corrupt good guy who crosses all kinds of ethical lines (beats confessions out of suspects, threatens or coerces people to get what he wants, beats or kills people he thinks have it coming), and still comes off as a net positive character.

b. The wonderful scene in _Do The Right Thing_ in which n enpr evbg ohvyqf hc, naq lbh'er tbvat evtug nybat jvgu gur varivgnovyvgl bs vg nyy, abg ernyyl trggvat jung'f unccravat hagvy vg uvgf lbh nyy ng bapr jura gung bar xvq trgf xvyyrq.

In the first case, there's a kind of glamorization of evil that leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and that is way, way too common. In the second, there's a portrayal of something bad happening in a way that makes sense to all involved, without softening the fact that, in the end, it's genuinely a bad thing that's just happened.

#124 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 10:09 AM:

Mike #113:

I haven't read the book, but the rape in the movie _A Clockwork Orange_ was pretty clearly simultaneously:

a. Great joyous fun for the thugs doing the rape.

b. Unspeakable horror for the victim and her husband.

My rather uninformed take is that this is probably a pretty accurate picture. (And I liked very much that the movie neither softened the thugs' behavior to make the main character more sympathetic, nor softened the awfulness of what happened to him later.)

Disclaimer: it has been more than 20 years since I've watched this movie, so maybe all I'm remembering is the Moonlight Sonata-derived movie opening song....

#125 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 12:18 PM:

albatross #124, now, does anything I've said depend on any of your points being untrue?

The reason my references to what's been said is so heavy is because keeping my post a single point of entry to what I say frames my field of vision of what I'm referring to. Not because I want to take anything anyone said out of context. If I've left something out that changes the meaning of what I'm responding to, I have no reservation against including it in this practice.

Me #106: And if you kill the arousal-aspect in dramatizing the conflict "acting on your arousal may inspire someone competent to want to kill you" you may as well not include the message at all, and it still seems to be a useful and truthful message. How is any dramatic presentation where all the women in the audience are nodding in agreement really going to discourage a predatory urge? And if your response is that you don't care, then you don't care about rape-denial either.

Lee #110: Mike, I think you should SERIOUSLY re-think how you phrase your arguments. Because this one, whether you mean it so or not, sounds as though you're saying that women's responses to rape scenes -- or any other kind of dramatic presentation, but rape scenes are the ones we're talking about -- are not only worthless, but trivial.

You may be the nicest guy on the planet, but the more you say in this discussion, the more I want to strangle you, because if it's not active misogyny, then it's one of the worst cases of sheer cluelessness and foot-in-mouth disease I've ever had the misfortune to encounter.

I suggest a different frame: de-privileging the rapist. This means that rape scenes should be shown as arising from the kind of motives that no normal person wants to identify with, and where possible should be portrayed as sleazy and disgusting -- whether he gets away with it or not. IOW, stop making the rapist a sympathetic character. That, right there, will do a lot toward discouraging men from acting on their predatory impulses.

Me #111: Elie Wiesel said hate destroys the hater. You either agree that that theme can carry a story, or you don't.

I think self-destruction can carry a story and, as such, trivializing the object of the villain's hatred seems to be a perfectly valid option, dramatically.

Maybe you agree self-destruction as a theme can carry a story. Maybe you agree because an example of a great story of self-destruction comes to mind for you. If that is the case, please share it, so I can review how an engaging story of self-destruction can be built by withholding all sympathy of the self-destructive character from the audience. Maybe I know of it, have forgotten, and you will remind me.

What did you think of Downfall, where as much disregard to the reaction of Holocaust victims as you're apparently accusing me of was demonstrated?

Lee #114: If that's supposed to be a response to me, please try again; it's just short of incoherent and I cannot for the life of me figure out what your point is supposed to be.

My understanding is that a hypocrisy takes place when you have a selective application of a principle.

There are tolerated hypocrisies, like parents drinking when their children aren't allowed to do so. When children say something like this is unfair, they aren't literally wrong, but the implementation of what constituted fairness would be a wrong that dwarfs the wrongness of the unfairness as to make everyone take the child's protests as evidence of something wrong with him or her.

And there are intolerated hypocrisies. Let me know if I need to provide an example.

So I have 2 examples of the selective application of principle in my mind. There's the intolerance to my indifference to the imposition made on women watching movies for scenes I have to later be reminded of because I still don't even remember them. And there's the apparent absence of any protest to the indifference to Holocaust survivors in the dramatic portrayal of the last week in the life of Hitler. A portrayal that included his doing things everyone everywhere does, like not sinking his teeth into everyone he passes by.

Now I'm challenging you to explain why I should embrace this hypocrisy.

Frank Miller lost my support when he made Catwoman into a whore. Come on... Catwoman? That bothers me particularly, because when I was 13 she was the coolest, strongest, smartest female character in all of American animation(her Batman: the Animated Series version).

I get busted because people infer I said doctors can't be sexy, but someone else feels free to say something from which it can be more reasonably inferred the sexiness of the character makes her stupid and weak. As I said to Lee, there are such things as tolerated hypocrisies. If someone can explain why I should embrace this hypocrisy, please do so.

Betsy #86: You expressed an idea with some pretty disturbing implications. You may not have realized these implications when you posted, but that doesn't change the words you wrote.

Steve #115: [referring to the quote Betsy referred to] Well, yes....

Thank you.

SeanH #112: There is a danger here, which is that of completely Othering the rapist. Studies have shown that almost nobody admits to having raped; change the question to "coerced somebody into sex" and suddenly far more people cop to it. If we show rape to be solely the province of slavering subhuman monsters, then nobody thinks that they might rape. Nice guys rape, people who consider themselves feminists rape, men like you and me rape, and fighting that requires an understanding of what rape is and why it happens.

heresiarch #118: The idea that America will simply forget what rape is if movies don't depict it is insane. People have always known what rape is...

You weren't responding to SeanH, but it seems it's his point you're going to have to invalidate for what you're saying to have any basis in reality.

Mike #113: No one declares war on the survivors of a child murder like they do the survivors of rape. I don't consider the analogy valid.

R.M. #121: I don't follow you. The analogy is not valid because rape victims' torments include not only the act of violence itself, but are also continued by some elements of society (including occasionally the system intended to help them) after the fact? What?

When a child is missing long enough, people will say for the good of the parents they think they should accept that their child is dead and they should move on. If a high school girl is raped, what often happens is most of her class stops talking to her, and those who think she's a slut, and therefore wasn't even raped at all, will take every opportunity to remind her.

Or maybe that isn't what takes place. But that outcome will be plausible to the victim. So the rape may put the victim in the position of protecting her exploiter. By contrast, imagine parents protecting the killer of their child. The rape victim may even go so far as to deny her own exploitation by bullying some other girl. Or frame a one-armed black handyman.

The analogy isn't the same because the conflicts aren't the same.

#126 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 03:45 PM:

Lis, #120: And as a bonus, his take on All-Star Batman and Robin.

Yeesh. Was this crap actually written by the same guy who did Dark Knight? Or did I miss something when I was reading that one? And if I didn't, then what the HELL has happened to Miller in the interim to drive him insane?

#127 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 06:04 PM:

I think the best movie take on rapists may have been in the Alien film series -- the things that come out of the eggs, looking like two hands and a snake-tail (with a penis-like organ where the "palms" and tail join), to leap on victims' faces and implant the next Alien generation down their throats.

The helpful thing about that is that men and women can equally picture being victims, with equal revulsion. 'Tain't sexy at all, just horrific -- which gives a point of reference for discussing feelings about real-life human rape.

#128 ::: triplep ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 06:08 PM:

Mike @125

I'm going to try to give you the benefit of the doubt here, because I think I'm half-agreeing with what you're saying (if not the way you're saying it, which is a whole other matter).

If your point is that the eroticization of rape is a good thing (for society, for art, etc.), then I can't agree. But if your point is that it's *not necessarily* a bad thing, then I probably would agree. I like Dexter as much as the next guy, and that show can personalize (and eroticize) murder to a creepy degree. But Dexter is a clever show that's trying to explore the issue of sympathetic evil. There could conceivably be a place for that kind of film/TV show on the subject of rape (though, again, I can't think of a popular film *or* TV show that's tried to make a rapist sympathetic).

The problem is that I don't think Frank Miller is trying to explore moral grays on the issue of rape (or, if he is, then he's not doing it nearly as intelligently as he should be when tackling the subject). And thus he comes across as a misogynistic asshole. And by defending him (as you seem to be doing)... so do you.

No offense intended.

#129 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 07:15 PM:

Publishers crowding the comic shelves with superhero titles has left them with a shrinking, aging readership. When publishers start releasing comics everyone else wants to read, we're going to set our clocks for when the last vestiges of this dinosaur-readership are going to finally die out so we can stop hearing them complain about wanting things to be the way they were 20 or 15 years ago.

Frank Miller has engineered a title that seems to be doing what no one else can do in the current environment, which is generate high sales for a title that releases a new issue something like 3 times a year. When people exclaim that Frank Miller hates his Batman readership, they never follow-up with an explanation why he shouldn't.

He left the major publishers 20 years ago because they stopped being the place he wanted to be. If anyone here would like to go on record as saying they wouldn't take an additional paycheck for having their name at the top of the credits of a comic book that sabotages the reputation of its superheroes, please let me know you're out there.

triplep #128: The problem is that I don't think Frank Miller is trying to explore moral grays on the issue of rape (or, if he is, then he's not doing it nearly as intelligently as he should be when tackling the subject). And thus he comes across as a misogynistic asshole. And by defending him (as you seem to be doing)... so do you.

No offense intended.

About 15 years ago, I gave up my freedom and enlisted in the air force. I was stationed in NE at USStratCom, which everyone there knew was the third-highest priority target for a nuclear strike against the US.

A Midwestern granny held a judo class at the base gym that I noticed with regularity and signed up for. I was the smallest adult in her class and a good size for her to throw, so she asked me to go with her to her YWCA self-defense class and play throwing-dummy for her.

For the classes held for school-aged girls, she would sometimes devote time in the class to having the students walk to her one at a time. After they did so, she would tell them that a predator will look for the easiest target, and that averting your gaze from people as they pass you lets them know that you're vulnerable.

On the drive back to base after the first time she did this, she made a casual mention of how the 3 girls who did this let her know which ones had been victims. I had been there, and heard the lesson, and it still never occurred to me to actually pay attention to see how the demonstration actually played out. In even in the last year, I told this story to a confident NYC librarian I know, and her response was that the Midwestern granny didn't know what she was talking about. I'm not going into details why I know the Midwestern granny knew what she was talking about.

That lovefraud blog talks about how sociopaths are sociopaths because they like to take control of others. I can think of only 2 dramatic presentations that refer to interacting with others in a manner that thwarts someone taking predatory control over you: Sendak's Where The Wild Things Are (inspired by his own distress as a child over the Lindberg kidnapping), and the storyline in Sin City, where the guy Bruce Willis plays in the movie and the stripper Jessica Alba plays in the movie are kidnapped, and he tells her the man who's about to drag her off to rape and kill her is motivated by his perverse need to see her become unglued, so don't lose your cool. I don't see anyone else presenting drama that refers to this.

That's why I think Frank Miller has spent more time thinking about what it takes to thwart a rape than all the people who've called him a misogynist put together. He's the only one I see giving young men a clue what drives to monitor while interacting with others.

#130 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 09:52 PM:

Mike, #129:

That's why I think Frank Miller has spent more time thinking about what it takes to thwart a rape than all the people who've called him a misogynist put together.

That may be true, but it doesn't necessarily mean that he's drawn the right conclusions.

Unless you are seriously saying that everyone who believes that Frank Miller is a misogynist should discount everything they've ever been taught about self-defense ('fight back as hard as you can'), all of their personal experiences, all of the experiences of the women they know who've been raped, and instead we should believe that Frank Miller knows how to thwart a would-be rapist? And that you do it by not losing your cool?

Incidentally, you might also want to consider that 'all the people who've called him a misogynist' is just a verbose version of 'you people'?

Boy, I'm glad I'm not standing next to you.

#131 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 09:57 PM:

Mike - your last post... I can't even.

The gap of opinion and outlook is so huge that just yeah. My mind, consider it boggled.

#132 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 10:20 PM:

Mike,

The Midwestern granny and the NYC librarian are living in two very different cultural worlds. In NYC, looking someone in the eyes can be construed as a challenge, and lead to an altercation.

As for the rest of your post at 129, I am just going to point to what Debcha and Sica have said above me.

#133 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 10:20 PM:

Mike: what it seems to me you are saying is that for rape to be useful in film, as either a dramatic element; or a disuasive one, it has to have an aspect of the sexy/arousing.

That's problematic to me. I agree with SeanH that making the rapist seem so alien as to be "not a man like me" is a problem (viz. my comment that rape as the act of a stranger is a bad trope as well).

I'm not in a position to know what you know about the judo sensei, but having taught a lot of people how to practice defensive situational awareness/body language I have a hard time accepting that the one's who were looking away were 1: all attacked at some point in the past, 2: none of those who didn't look away had not been attacked.

Having been a slight male, in the category of "other" (not merely white in an area with racial tensions, but a redhead) I know all about how to both look at, and away from, people in public. I can do it to be invisible, and I can do it to make guys more than twice my size back down.

I know this not because I am all that aware of doing it, but because people comment on how eerie it can be to watch me disappear, and to watch me clear a path on a bus, street, etc., and the stranger effect of seeing it happen as some sort of seamless whole; meters apart from each other.

Have I been attacked? Yes. I don't think that's why I look away at times. Why? Because I'm not afraid of being attacked again. I'm engaging in a set of active defensive behaviors (some of which are transparent to me) meant to reduce the need to engage in active conflict.

Since females are taught (by both society and family) to be more, "demure", and non-confrontational I don't find it odd that three of the young women in her class were possessed of such body language, but more that more weren't.

Honestly, I don't see the connection to the comment about Sin City. This wasn't a case of avoiding the guy grabbing her; if I understand you correctly, because they were already captive.

#134 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 11:43 PM:
debcha #130: Unless you are seriously saying that everyone who believes that Frank Miller is a misogynist should discount everything they've ever been taught about self-defense ('fight back as hard as you can'), all of their personal experiences, all of the experiences of the women they know who've been raped, and instead we should believe that Frank Miller knows how to thwart a would-be rapist? And that you do it by not losing your cool?

That's not what I said, but I can't agree that panic should be encouraged as an optimal reaction to an attack.

Have you ever been in a fight? "Fight back as hard as you can" isn't actionable advice for a fight. Actionable advice for a fight sounds more like, "make his joints bend in directions they aren't meant to bend" or "make him fall and the floor will beat him much harder than your fists ever will."

In the fairy tales and fables, like the one about the monkey's paw, the boobytrap in making wishes is that having the wish fulfilled gives you what you ask for, but not necessarily what you want.

Telling kids "don't rape" is only going to get you a generation trained to deny they're rapists -- whether they've committed rape or not. Telling kids "keep conventional sex an option" seems to be an actionable instruction that will get you something like what you want.

So when Frank Miller specifically refers to the perverse need of a rapist to see his victim become unglued, he's doing something I'm not seeing anyone else doing. He's implicitly telling his male audience to keep conventional sex an option, which is actionable advice incompatible with the practice of rape.

Incidentally, you might also want to consider that 'all the people who've called him a misogynist' is just a verbose version of 'you people'?

Your analogy isn't applicable because I only heard Sean call Frank Miller a misogynist, and I've based my rebuttals to his reasons for doing so on his own subsequent post. So 'all the people who've called him a misogynist' doesn't at all seem to apply as any representation of 'you people' or any of Teresa's examples you link to.

Nancy #132: The Midwestern granny and the NYC librarian are living in two very different cultural worlds. In NYC, looking someone in the eyes can be construed as a challenge, and lead to an altercation.

I'm 5'6" and have been asked by my brother's friends if I'm his son or something ridiculous like that. So when I'm on the subway, high school kids looking for trouble will try to stare me down. I make eye contact to let them know I can see them then look away. If I look back and they're still looking at me, I will stare back. Then they look away and never look at me again.

There was a deli clerk who did this, and because I wanted coldcuts, I didn't challenge him. By the third time, it just seemed stupid to tolerate this when he was surrounded by people who were also clocked-in and hustling to serve people. So I returned his stare and we did it for the time it took someone else to take my order, and that was the last time I ever saw him.

I think suggesting to someone that just because they can't outrun the bear that they shouldn't even bother to try outrunning someone else the bear could chase imposes a little bit too much on the person you're discouraging. I think you should always look long enough to know whether a potential rapist is staring at you. And if he is, let him see you look long enough to be able to ID him later. He will know what you're doing. Then he'll look for someone who doesn't know what they're doing.

Terry #133: what it seems to me you are saying is that for rape to be useful in film, as either a dramatic element; or a disuasive one, it has to have an aspect of the sexy/arousing.

That's problematic to me.

Is there a reason you can't quote what you're referring to?

Since females are taught (by both society and family) to be more, "demure", and non-confrontational I don't find it odd that three of the young women in her class were possessed of such body language, but more that more weren't.

Demure when a granny that has everyone laughing asks them to walk past her? All I know is most kids look for opportunities to shed demureness.

#135 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2008, 12:37 AM:

Mike: I can. Others have. You seem to not realise that many of us are all seeing the same thing in response to the same comment. To make you happy it was/is "If rapes scenes were divested of any sexiness, they would only be portrayed very rarely. Then we'd have a situation where our movies weren't admitting there was such a thing as rape when, going by justice dept reports, 11% of women are victims of rape in their lifetime as things are now."

Further, I don't know what "children (whom I assume from your general description to be teens) you are familiar with, but I've known a great number who are lacking in the "shed demureness" behavior you think so universal.

#136 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2008, 04:26 AM:

ike, #134: There was a deli clerk who did this, and because I wanted coldcuts, I didn't challenge him. By the third time, it just seemed stupid to tolerate this when he was surrounded by people who were also clocked-in and hustling to serve people. So I returned his stare and we did it for the time it took someone else to take my order, and that was the last time I ever saw him.

You went into threat response mode over a deli clerk?

#137 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2008, 04:29 AM:

Er, Mike. Don't know where that 'M' disappeared after I previewed.

#138 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2008, 08:33 AM:

Lee, #126: Yeesh. Was this crap actually written by the same guy who did Dark Knight?

Keep in mind, that in Batman Year One (written shortly after DKR), Miller retconned Catwoman to make her a dominatrix-prostitute.

#139 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2008, 12:48 PM:

Mike, #134:

"Fight back as hard as you can" does not mean "panic."

"All the people who've called him a misogynist" does not mean "All the people who've called him a misogynist on this thread," much less "SeanH."

By "Keeping conventional sex an option," I really hope you mean "keeping consensual sex an option." And by definition, that's not something that only one party gets to decide.


This is how I interpret your argument:

People who commit rape are driven by the urge for predatory control. This urge is psychological in nature, and centres around causing the victim to 'lose her cool.' Would-be victims should recognize this, and conduct themselves accordingly - by making eye contact, for example. For someone with the potential to commit a rape, understanding this urge will make it less likely to occur. [I think; I don't think you've been quite as clear on this point as you could be.] Frank Miller understands and expresses the psychological aspect of predatory control. Potential victims should therefore act in accordance with his psychological model.


This is the more conventional argument:

People who commit rape are indeed driven by the urge for predatory control. This is expressed by physically overpowering the victim, regardless of her emotional affect. The appropriate response by a would-be victim is therefore a physical response - to fight back and to make herself a difficult target. This response does not rely on the potential victim having any specific knowledge of the psychology of her attacker, which may vary widely (for example, a former lover compared to a random attacker on the street.)


You have failed to make a compelling argument that Miller has a unique psychological insight into would-be rapists or into men generally. Given the wide variety of human experience, it's difficult to believe that there is a single psychology of rape. The alternative explanation, that Miller created a psychological mise-en-scene for his own narrative purposes, is far more convincing. This is particularly true since it is consistent with his other work, and also explains the rarity of this particular portrayal, which you noted.

This is not to say that Miller's take on the psychology of rape is never applicable. For example, it clearly resonates deeply with you. However, it's not clear that it is widely applicable enough that insights and behaviours derived from his model should supplant those that are conventionally understood.

#140 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2008, 02:02 PM:

Back to the original subject: The Spirit.

Mike Russell, a Portland cartoonist and comic/graphic-fiction fan, has a truly savage review in the Oregonian today. Funny, too.

#141 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2008, 04:34 PM:

debcha @139 --

Given the wide variety of human experience, it's difficult to believe that there is a single psychology of rape.

There is by no means a single way of getting there, but there is a single core element about consent.

Someone who does not require consent (in whatever range from "isn't checking in case it isn't there" through "will do without" on to "avoids the activity if consent is involved") is necessary for rape.

Miller's work has serious, serious issues around the construction and relevance of consent to pretty much everything. This is in some way a function of the superhero genre, which exists as a radical oversimplification of power issues, but I don't believe it can be suggested that either Miller's thinking about consent is clear, even in his more artistically complex early work, or that he's ever got his head around the idea that consent is a function of choice, and not of type, in any of his work.

Why that might be the case, no idea. It's not like the issue hasn't been addressed in the comics medium with subtlety and success before.

The idea that if you don't actively require consent, that the thing keeping you from imposing your will on another by force is you, not fear of punishment, then you are a bad person, is not present in Miller's work. Even the really notable early work like "The Dark Knight Returns" makes, repeatedly, the point that Batman is in some sense heroic because he sorts consent issues by type; if you fall into type "criminal", Bats can do anything he likes to you and you agreed to it when you decided to become criminal. This rather radical simplification of human interaction is portrayed as absolutely necessary to being effective.

I haven't read enough of the Spirit to have an informed opinion, but I'll bet the source material isn't confused about consent-as-a-choice, and that this more or less guaranteed that Miller would do a horrible, horrible job of adapting it to film.

#142 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2008, 05:51 PM:

Quick* comments as I catch up on the thread:


Mike, I can find nothing to disagree with in Betsy-the-Muffin's recap of you responding to me responding to you. I'm not revising my argument for you, and I'm fairly pleased with seeing how others have taken it up. You may, if you like, tell yourself that my response has nothing to do with what you have said, but it sounds like quite a few people heard you the way I did. Communication being a two-way street, it's made of fail to pretend that being misunderstood has nothing to do with the words you chose to use.


Ginmar, thanks for the link to WWHM and the personal ads comedy. I've totally been where SC is; my ex-boyfriend was all that, and scolded me for "showing off" when I tried to engage him in college-level conversation. Bleah!

But your bonus "whining about 'boys are stupid/throw rocks at them'" comment? I'm afraid my sympathies are with Anonymous, not with you. I wouldn't characterize his argument as "whining" at all. He sounds like the kind of guy we women want on our side; you, in that argument, sound like you think he has no right to complain about anti-male genderized stereotypes because we women have had to put up with anti-female genderized stereotypes. But why should he accept the role of scapegoat for all we have suffered? Why should he have to bear the blame for what other men have done? I personally try to refrain from "men sucks" language precisely because I don't want to be guilty of the same bad behavior you describe in your "isn't he stupid? aren't women stupid?" comparison in that thread. Anonymous has a good point in what he says. In fact, he reminds me of me when I argue against the "boys will be boys" attitude so many still indulge; it not only lets men off the hook for behaving badly, but paints them all unfairly with the "too stupid to know better" brush. I guess, in the end, I do not believe that men behaving badly toward all women is a license for me to behave badly toward all men.

--
*Define "quick".

#143 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2008, 06:19 PM:

Have caught up.

Have only one thing to add.

And if you kill the arousal-aspect in dramatizing the conflict "acting on your arousal may inspire someone competent to want to kill you" you may as well not include the message at all...

I recognize that eventually the conversation did wend around toward Mike recognizing the non-sexual predatory nature of rape... but this one comment of his at 106 continues to disturb me.

"Rape" is not the same as "acting on your arousal".

Raping isn't about being aroused. It's about not taking no for an answer, for a variety of fucked-up reasons. "Acting on your arousal" doesn't make it rape; taking what you want without bothering about consent makes it rape.

I mean, hell, telling the other person "I am really attracted to you and want to have sex on you" is also a form of acting on your arousal. So is going home and masturbating. Arousal as a motivator isn't the problem here.

#144 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2008, 09:43 PM:

Lis Riba @ 138:

Keep in mind, that in Batman Year One (written shortly after DKR), Miller retconned Catwoman to make her a dominatrix-prostitute.

Given that she wears tight black leather (with a mask) and wields a whip, was this a huge leap of imagination?

#145 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2008, 11:19 PM:

Me #60: If rapes scenes were divested of any sexiness, they would only be portrayed very rarely. Then we'd have a situation where our movies weren't admitting there was such a thing as rape when, going by justice dept reports, 11% of women are victims of rape in their lifetime as things are now.

Terry #133: what it seems to me you are saying is that for rape to be useful in film, as either a dramatic element; or a disuasive one, it has to have an aspect of the sexy/arousing.

That's problematic to me.

I don't believe in presenting utilitarian art, and I don't think I've said anything that depends on that belief.

Me, #134: I'm 5'6" and have been asked by my brother's friends if I'm his son or something ridiculous like that. So when I'm on the subway, high school kids looking for trouble will try to stare me down. I make eye contact to let them know I can see them then look away. If I look back and they're still looking at me, I will stare back. Then they look away and never look at me again.

There was a deli clerk who did this, and because I wanted coldcuts, I didn't challenge him. By the third time, it just seemed stupid to tolerate this when he was surrounded by people who were also clocked-in and hustling to serve people. So I returned his stare and we did it for the time it took someone else to take my order, and that was the last time I ever saw him.

I think suggesting to someone that just because they can't outrun the bear that they shouldn't even bother to try outrunning someone else the bear could chase imposes a little bit too much on the person you're discouraging. I think you should always look long enough to know whether a potential rapist is staring at you. And if he is, let him see you look long enough to be able to ID him later. He will know what you're doing. Then he'll look for someone who doesn't know what they're doing.

debcha #136: You went into threat response mode over a deli clerk?

I reciprocated his behavior. He didn't have anything on me that he didn't start with me. All I did was make the threat-urgency his call.

By making it his call, his dysfunctional reasoning couldn't take him to a place where he's the cornered animal, and he needs to regain control by trying to control me.

It seemed irresponsible to make this reply about how I intuited this particular situation without including the fuller context of the thinking it's based on. Thus, the indulgent self-quoting of what debcha responded to.

"Fight back as hard as you can" does not mean "panic."

No, it doesn't mean panic, but "fight back as hard as you can," can still include. The inference is relevant.

debcha #130: Incidentally, you might also want to consider that 'all the people who've called him a misogynist' is just a verbose version of 'you people'?

Me, #134: Your analogy isn't applicable because I only heard Sean call Frank Miller a misogynist, and I've based my rebuttals to his reasons for doing so on his own subsequent post. So 'all the people who've called him a misogynist' doesn't at all seem to apply as any representation of 'you people' or any of Teresa's examples you link to.

debcha #139: "All the people who've called him a misogynist" does not mean "All the people who've called him a misogynist on this thread," much less "SeanH."

Thank you for validating my rebuttal.

Me, #134: So when Frank Miller specifically refers to the perverse need of a rapist to see his victim become unglued, he's doing something I'm not seeing anyone else doing. He's implicitly telling his male audience to keep conventional sex an option, which is actionable advice incompatible with the practice of rape.

debcha #139: By "Keeping conventional sex an option," I really hope you mean "keeping consensual sex an option." And by definition, that's not something that only one party gets to decide.

By definition of the words "incompatible with the practice of rape," yes, I referred to consensual sex as conventional sex.

SeanH #112: There is a danger here, which is that of completely Othering the rapist. Studies have shown that almost nobody admits to having raped; change the question to "coerced somebody into sex" and suddenly far more people cop to it. If we show rape to be solely the province of slavering subhuman monsters, then nobody thinks that they might rape. Nice guys rape, people who consider themselves feminists rape, men like you and me rape, and fighting that requires an understanding of what rape is and why it happens.

debcha #139: People who commit rape are indeed driven by the urge for predatory control. This is expressed by physically overpowering the victim, regardless of her emotional affect.

That seems awfully generous to supervisors who can take careers hostage for sexual favors without any physical struggle.

You weren't responding to SeanH, but it seems it's his point you're going to have to invalidate for what you're saying to have any basis in reality.

You have failed to make a compelling argument that Miller has a unique psychological insight into would-be rapists or into men generally.

That's because I don't believe that, and I haven't said so. I said he's the only one I know of who presents drama that frames these agendas in this manner. If you can name another dramatist I know of who renders Miller's work redundant in this regard, then you will have rendered my observation untrue.

Nicole #142: But your bonus "whining about 'boys are stupid/throw rocks at them'" comment?

You seem to need to hear that you introduced into the thread the quote you're attributing to me, which can be verified by a text-search of this page. That seems to literally qualify as a strawman argument.

Nicole #143: "Rape" is not the same as "acting on your arousal".

Raping isn't about being aroused. It's about not taking no for an answer, for a variety of fucked-up reasons. "Acting on your arousal" doesn't make it rape; taking what you want without bothering about consent makes it rape.

That seems awfully generous to supervisors who can take careers hostage for sexual favors before their victims say no.

Qualifying rape by intent also seems awfully generous to the accused in a legal system that already puts rape victims on trial. Unless you think proving rape should be made more difficult, it's becoming more and more of a mystery why you feel the need to challenge what I say.

#146 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2008, 11:22 PM:

That should have said: No, it doesn't mean panic, but "fight back as hard as you can" can still include panic. The inference is relevant.

#147 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 02:54 AM:

Mike, #145: First, a specific error callout.
Nicole #142: But your bonus "whining about 'boys are stupid/throw rocks at them'" comment?

You seem to need to hear that you introduced into the thread the quote you're attributing to me, which can be verified by a text-search of this page. That seems to literally qualify as a strawman argument.

The comment to which you are objecting there was addressed to Ginmar, not to you. If this was not careless reading, it's disingenuous.

Second... I am done with beating my head against this rock wall. For some reason, having sexy rape scenes in popular culture appears to be very important to you, and the point that it creates a vicious self-reinforcing cycle is bouncing no matter how many people make it in how many different ways. Fine, but don't expect me to want to hang around with you.

#148 ::: Joe McMahon ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 04:17 AM:

albatross@124 -Actually, it's a lovely rearrangement of the Funeral Music for Queen Mary by Henry Purcell. The triplet arpeggiated version is Wendy Carlos', and one of the loveliest pieces of music I know. The straight version with the pseudo brass and the wonderful falling phase shifted sound at the beginning (unmistakeable and unlike any I'd heard before when I first got the soundtrack) still brings up the little hairs on the back of my neck when I even remember it.

On the portrayal of rape oin the movies, etc.: I challenge anybody to be anything other than shocked, sorrowful, and stunned after seeing the murder of Maddy (Laura Palmer's "identical cousin") in Twin Peaks. It's implied that this is a sex crime in addition to murder ... and I don't think anyone could feel that this was anything other than horrifying and sad. Especially with the cuts from the murder which seems to go on for an inutterably long time to the police who have the evidence that could have saved the victim if only they'd understood it faster. The realness of the struggle between the victim and her attacker was the most harrowing part of it.

#149 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 08:19 AM:
Lee #147: The comment to which you are objecting there was addressed to Ginmar, not to you.

You're right. Sorry, Nicole.

SeanH #112: There is a danger here, which is that of completely Othering the rapist. Studies have shown that almost nobody admits to having raped; change the question to "coerced somebody into sex" and suddenly far more people cop to it. If we show rape to be solely the province of slavering subhuman monsters, then nobody thinks that they might rape. Nice guys rape, people who consider themselves feminists rape, men like you and me rape, and fighting that requires an understanding of what rape is and why it happens.

Lee #147: Second... I am done with beating my head against this rock wall. For some reason, having sexy rape scenes in popular culture appears to be very important to you, and the point that it creates a vicious self-reinforcing cycle is bouncing no matter how many people make it in how many different ways. Fine, but don't expect me to want to hang around with you.

Lee, you didn't have Sean in mind when you posted, but he refers to the need to keep the topic of rape alive in public discourse. I mentioned that if it drops out of popular drama, many people would start to believe rape would be something that only takes place in circumstances so ridiculously narrow, and it won't be much different than too many people believing such a thing as rape doesn't even exists in America. Perhaps most disturbingly, to the victims themselves.

Some people said I was implying something disturbing, like I was revealing a disturbing agenda on my part, while others subsequently said "well, yes..." with no disagreement to them. So this looks like a case of a handful of people feeling that attributing motives no one is claiming for themselves to the messenger represents some kind of strike against misogyny.

What it currently takes to keep the topic of rape alive in an acceptable public discourse, keeping it in drama that people want to see, is A solution. I'm not saying it should be the only solution. When making rape seductive becomes one of five solutions to this problem, or one of three, solutions, or one of two solutions, then we will stop being hostage to an unambiguous truth no one seems capable be denying. Discrediting the courier of a message no one can discredit never solved anything.

#150 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 09:08 AM:

that should be: ...an acceptable level of public discourse...

#151 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 11:41 AM:

Graydon, #141:

That's an excellent analysis of the idea of consent in Miller's work - thanks.

#152 ::: dakine ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 11:47 AM:

So are all Frank Miller fans knuckle dragging misogynists? Or can you like one facet of an artists' work but not another?

#153 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 12:14 PM:

Mike, your response @125 to Leah Miller @ 117 seems to take us back to the beginning of this argument.
In 117, Leah said: Frank Miller lost my support when he made Catwoman into a whore. Come on... Catwoman? That bothers me particularly, because when I was 13 she was the coolest, strongest, smartest female character in all of American animation (her Batman: the Animated Series version).

In 125, you responded, after citing that specific comment: I get busted because people infer I said doctors can't be sexy, but someone else feels free to say something from which it can be more reasonably inferred the sexiness of the character makes her stupid and weak. As I said to Lee, there are such things as tolerated hypocrisies. If someone can explain why I should embrace this hypocrisy, please do so.

I'm sorry, but Leah's comment doesn't look like hypocrisy to me. Leah said that Miller turned Catwoman into a whore, not that he made her sexy (and that, by inference, the sexiness required her to be stupid and weak). You might argue that Leah was saying that turning the character into a hooker makes her stupid and weak by inference, but wasn't the starting point of this initial argument that the "coolest, strongest, smartest" female around can also be sexy?

Prostitutes can be strong, smart, and powerful, I suppose . . . but if the character started out as strong, smart, powerful, and not-a-prostitute, why would stressing the fact that she's sexy too--in more adult versions--require her to be turned into a whore?

#154 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 12:28 PM:

debcha @151 --

Thank you!

That "choice, not a function of type" formulation is something I've had trouble getting into clear language; very glad it worked this time!

dakine @152 --

Of course one can like one facet of an artist's work but not another; Chesterton uses language in vivid, brilliant ways, sometimes to espouse ghastly racist and anti-Semitic ideas, and sometimes to espouse a laudable concern for the common good, for example.

Miller's issues around consent and definitions of masculinity (real men beat people to death...) seem to me to rise to the point where it is perhaps possible to produce extremely guarded praise for specific elements of his work; anything broader than that opens one to the risk of being regarded as agreeing with Mr. Miller's take on those category issues.

#155 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 12:54 PM:

Mary Frances #153, nothing I've said seems to depend on anything you've said to be wrong. I don't think Leah presented a hypocrisy, I didn't say so, and I don't think anything I've said depends on her having done so.

But just because it can't be attributed to anyone, that doesn't mean people still don't benefit from a hypocrisy. Their intent and action is irrelevant in making the observation.

You kind of see the same thing where people will continue to harvest the benefits of getting born on third base and build their whole political ideology on proving they earned a triple. That isn't racism, but it's still doing racism's work trying to present a fixed game as fair. Again, intent and action is irrelevant in the outcome, and who benefits from it.

Graydon #154: Miller's issues around consent and definitions of masculinity (real men beat people to death...)

I don't think he's said that any more than you've said a man who's killed is no longer a man.

#156 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 01:05 PM:

Mike @ 155: So . . . you are accusing the Making Light community--or a larger community?--of tolerating (or at least not commenting on) a type of hypocrisy for which you used Leah Miller's comment as an example, but Leah Miller's comment didn't present that hypocrisy for us to comment on. Huh?

I'm sorry, Mike, but I don't understand your logic, here. What exactly is the hypocrisy that you are refusing to embrace (or that you want someone to explain why you should embrace) in 125? And what does it have to do with Leah Miller's comment about Catwoman at 117?

#157 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 03:07 PM:

Is "Mike" sufficiently amusing to kick around for us to want to keep him longer? It's not his stupid arguments or his loathsome opinions that are getting to me; it's the vicarious embarrassment I feel at his enthusiasm for setting us all straight about how fiction works, and his perfect confidence that he looks intelligent while doing so.

#158 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 03:20 PM:

Mike's been posting here on a wide variety of subjects for a couple of years. I think there's quite a bit of talking-past going on, with mutual puzzlement thereby.

For myself, I feel that Frank Miller's work (particularly Sin City, but also 300) is SM porn.

#159 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 03:36 PM:

Mike: I think this is about where I give up. First you've got a whole lot of people, who otherwise seem to do a good job of seeing the meat of an argument; all taking similar reads on what you say. It's possible that's not what you meant, but it sure looks like it's what you said.

Second, you make a utilitarian argument If rapes scenes were divested of any sexiness, they would only be portrayed very rarely. Then we'd have a situation where our movies weren't admitting there was such a thing as rape and tell me in the next sentence that you don't believe in presenting utiliarian art.

I don't think I argued for utilitarian art (one of the Bruces did, when he said men should leave theaters in a state of mental/physical distress). I am arguing that rape isn't sexy, and hoping that when it's treated it's treated honestly.

What I really see here is your need to validate something (be it your wisdom in seeing an aspect of Miller's appreciation of male preying on female and, "one path of resistance," which no one els is addressing (which I find laughable. First Miller gets to set the scene, so the players get to follow his script. Second, he's not the only one saying one can't buckle under to control freak, Thomas Harris in Silence of the Lambs makes that point pretty well).

Everyone who disagrees with you is wrong. Everyone who addresses your agrguments misses some essential point. Everyone, in short, is clueless in the face of your greater appreciation (even to the idea that all children want to shed their demurity in front of their peers, and someone who doesn't know them can, correctly, infer all sorts of things from how they set the cast of their head. Me, what the cast of someone's head tells me is how they think/feel now, not who did this, or that, to them then).

I see a lot of twisting and turning to make the same arguments mean different things in response to similar critiques. In short, to respond to Teresa, I'm done with you.

#160 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 03:39 PM:

I'm sorry, I wasn't clear. I don't see a reason to sanction him. He's been about awhile, which is part of why I spent so much of my time/effort responding.

It's just that this topic seems to be pushing him in the same way he pushed the deli-clerk. He's made a stand, and can't back off of it.

#161 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 05:29 PM:

Graydon:

Just as a nitpick, I think it's almost always a bad idea to attribute to someone the ideas of artists whose work they like. And fearing to express real excitement about someone's work because you don't want to be tarred with their least appealing beliefs strikes me as pure lose.

FWIW, I like a lot of writing by people with whom I have deep, fundamental disagreements. I would not like to have someone decide I must be an atheist who finds religion childish and silly, because I've enjoyed the writings of Ian Banks. Similarly, though I've really enjoyed some of what Orson Scott Card has written, I'm neither LDS nor sympathetic to most of his more recent political stands. In both of these cases, the disagreement is fairly fundamental to the works and worldviews of the writers.

#162 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 05:58 PM:
Teresa #157: Is "Mike" sufficiently amusing to kick around for us to want to keep him longer? It's not his stupid arguments or his loathsome opinions that are getting to me; it's the vicarious embarrassment I feel at his enthusiasm for setting us all straight about how fiction works, and his perfect confidence that he looks intelligent while doing so.

People tend to favor being conscious of either what they think, or what they know. One is founded on their ability to reason, and the other is founded on their observations. When people argue on a reality-based level, they are arguing about what they know. When people argue about something they can't verify, like the status of Schroedinger's cat, they are arguing more about what they think.

The reality-based-nature of arguing what we know makes obvious the limitation of what we think. The inability of nurturing someone else with the food you eat reveals the limitation of arguing what you know. That limitation is more subtle, but people are clobbered for failing to observe it just as severely.

Intelligence measures how well our thinking reliably arrives at solutions, and wisdom measures how well our intuition reliably arrives at solutions. Stupidity refers to shortcomings in thinking, and foolishness refers to shortcomings in knowledge.

The implication of the proverb about the fool in his folly becoming wise is that wise people don't necessarily start out wise. I'm not going to insist anyone tolerate a fool. But how that proverb rings true for us seems to demonstrate how dumping my foolish thoughts someplace challenging in the hope of taking correction -- to seek wisdom -- isn't the evidence of damage Teresa has portrayed it as.

It's just that I can't, so to speak, receive nourishment from the food someone else has eaten. That's the only thing I can say I'm confident of.

#163 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 06:10 PM:

Mike, #149: Okay, one more response to you and then I'm really done -- because I think I may just have spotted the disconnection. You talk about the need to keep rape scenes in popular culture to keep the discourse about rape alive. The rest of us are specifically objecting, not to the mere fact of having rape scenes, but to having them be EROTICIZED. If you're missing that detail -- or if it's part of what you're disagreeing with -- then it's no wonder that we can't find any common ground. Rape scenes may very well be necessary. Sexy rape scenes are not only unnecessary, but counterproductive.

albatross, #161: I find that there are some forms of disagreement with an author's views that I can ignore, and others that I can't. And sometimes, but not always, a later disagreement serves to color my opinion of their earlier work as well. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what makes the difference, because there are so many different factors which enter into it. But I'm pretty sure at this point that I'll never read anything by Frank Miller again -- he's gone well past the line of being able to ignore my disagreements with him.

Tangentially, my first exposure to Vicki Vale was in the Batman comics of the early 1960s. By that time, she'd mutated considerably from the tough, independent newsperson of the 1940s; she was still a good reporter, but also a gold-digger who was absolutely determined to marry Bruce Wayne -- who couldn't stand her. Shifting stereotypes, of course; this was how many people thought of "career women" in general during that period. But it bounced me right out of the story in the first Batman movie when they brought her in as a love interest.

#164 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 06:54 PM:

From the King James Version:

Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him. Proverbs 26:4

Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit. Proverbs 26:5

Mike @ 162, I was going to ask you which proverb you meant, but I decided I was being silly. I'm still not sure what you are talking about in 125, or here, for that matter, but I've also decided that I really don't have any more to say on the subject. In addition, I suspect that I'm running awfully close to becoming an object lesson of 26:4. So I'm leaving. Sorry.

#165 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 08:45 PM:

albatross @161 --

I think there's a difference between disagreement on a subject where persons of countenance may differ (e.g., my views about the social utility of Abrahamic religions and those of Mr. David Weber are not meaningfully congruent) and those subjects where the opinion removes a person from social countenance. (Women not being people, lack of melanin necessary for full humanity, desirability of chattel slavery, profit as a sole sufficient justification for otherwise objectionable conduct...)

In the case of artists who express views that remove them from social countenance (and for me, Mr. Card's views on homosexuality do this quite entirely), I think it is appropriate for the discountenance to be commutative. This is more or less how a consensus is reached on what constitutes civilized conduct.

That is different from assuming that because you like Mr. Banks' fiction that you must be an atheist, or at least so I see it. It is also different from assuming that you hold the reprehensible belief, in the case of artists with reprehensible beliefs.

Mike @155 --

Consistent presentation in art counts, just like inference over a large set of data points counts.

#166 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 09:10 PM:

Graydon, #165:

In the case of artists who express views that remove [individuals] from social countenance (and for me, Mr. Card's views on homosexuality do this quite entirely), I think it is appropriate for the discountenance to be commutative. This is more or less how a consensus is reached on what constitutes civilized conduct.

I absolutely agree with you that discountenancing of individuals is in a category by itself.

And while I think that this is implicit in your specifying 'for me,' I just want to add that I think that the consensus arises from the full continuum of responses, not just from total discountenance. These could range from, "I agree fully with Orson Scott Card's views on homosexuality and I read all of his books," to just reading the books and not knowing or caring about his beliefs, to "Well, I like his books, but I find his views abhorrent," to "I refuse to read his work." While I think the number of people in the latter two categories are increasing, I'm sure that the first two categories are still well-represented, and that - sadly - defines the current social consensus.

#167 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 09:15 PM:

Neil Gaiman on The Spirit, Sin City, 300, and movie adaptations of comic books in general: Pondering Gaiman's Law of Superhero Films.

#168 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 09:43 PM:

Ok, it's more thoroughly sunk-in one of our hosts has either reviewed a few days of my posts, or has been following the thread all along and keeping quiet, and has more or less ambushed me (not speaking of intent, just my account of how I experienced the unfolding of events) with disgust... and now my head is exploding with ideas on what I want to say.

With everyone here portraying me as damaged, I can't tell while they're in my head if the ideas running through it are based on anything obviously unfaithful to reality, like pink elephants occurring in nature. If Teresa was sincere about her concern being my humiliation, I'd still like to run another observation by y'all, and see if anyone can spot anything unambiguously wrong, like my idea depending on bumblebees being unable to fly.

I feel like that "This America Life" story with the professional gambler who bought her $2m house with cash, and also said the night she lost $3,000 was the worst night of her life up until then, and then the night she lost $40k, then the night she lost $75k, etc. Teresa kinda calling me loathsome is kind of bad, so I figure I'll just go ahead and finish this poker-hand of crazy-ideas. Maybe this was the situation of the first guy to say, hey, what if our doctors washed their hands before touching people to examine them? I mean, the guy who suggested hand-washing was driven by the ridicule to be institutionalized, but we all benefit from it just the same. Perhaps this will lead me to fulfilling the trust of serving my people (in a way compatible with my cry-baby lifestyle). Maybe it'll lead to good karma.

re: Lee #163:

About 15 years after I read Catcher in the Rye in high school, I had to be told that it was plausible that Mr Antolini was actually trying to take advantage of Holden. Holden's own doubt as far as I was concerned had pretty much ruled-out as a possibility his concern over Mr Antolini's agenda. Being corrected of that perception was a way for me to experience (--> knowledge) Holden's vulnerability in a way I couldn't have been told (--> reason), since I took his doubts at face value.

We don't think our way into self-monitoring, but we learn to know our way. I think the observation that addicts can't think our way through addictions supports this.

The insistence here seems to have been that the eroticization of rape in drama is never justifiable. However, if the rape is eroticized in the drama, and then the rapist suffers obvious retribution for it, the rape is established for a mildly-foolish audience-member as an experience, to know, to self-monitor for, in a way he can't for the horror-only-depictions others are saying is enough to act as discouragement. Horror-only-depictions are useless as a self-monitoring guide, because the mildly-foolish audience-member is then self-monitoring for indicators that can still be absent from a rape (re: SeanH #112 was thining something like this too).

Again, I think the observation that we can't think our way through addictions supports this. The intolerance of the eroticization of rape seems analogous to intolerance of the portrayal of Holden's uncertainty over his vulnerability, which I haven't heard anyone call for.

If my imposition on our hosts is more severe than has been explicitly expressed, one of them giving their word it's so will be good enough for me, but I hope that isn't the case. The pay-off for me overwhelmingly-outweighs the humiliation that Teresa has expressed a concern for, especially since, as I've said, I've already paid for it by receiving the ridicule she referred to. There was just a little bit of inconsistency in her message to allow it to be pushed into the background of the field of vision of my consciousness, which has instead been dominated by the prospect my ideas won't be invalidated by something obvious, like the observation the sun rises in the east.

Thank you. Happy holidays.

#169 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 10:09 PM:

Graydon, Lee, debcha, and probably a couple other people:

This comment in Graydon's #154 is what triggered my comment:

Miller's issues around consent and definitions of masculinity (real men beat people to death...) seem to me to rise to the point where it is perhaps possible to produce extremely guarded praise for specific elements of his work; anything broader than that opens one to the risk of being regarded as agreeing with Mr. Miller's take on those category issues.

This seems to me to go far beyond deciding you don't want to read books written by a person with sufficiently evil beliefs. I read that as expressing concern that the evil beliefs of a writer you like will be ascribed to you, perhaps with the sense that this is a reasonable or good thing. That's what I'm disagreeing with.

Now, it's very possible that I'm just misreading Graydon's intent, here. But the notion of fearing to honestly discuss your literary interests/tastes for fear of being assumed to share the author's bad ideas seems all messed up to me. It's a recipe for trying to decide which authors are acceptable on ideological or religious grounds. Yuck.

It's one thing to decide you don't want to read the well-written books of a bad person. It's another to fear guilt-by-association from reading him or being enthusiastic about doing so. It's still another to apply that guilt-by-association.

#170 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 10:20 PM:

Top Eight Crazy Non Sequiturs by Mike in This Thread

1. "We allow some things a mid-life-crisis, but not others. Some of us allow our dads a mid-life crisis. We allow for the mid-life-crisis of the country's civil war by way of not packing up our bags and leaving it over it."

2. "There was a deli clerk who did this, and because I wanted coldcuts, I didn't challenge him."

3. "All I know is most kids look for opportunities to shed demureness."

4. "I think you should always look long enough to know whether a potential rapist is staring at you. And if he is, let him see you look long enough to be able to ID him later. He will know what you're doing."

5. "...keeping that message out of our art and instead relying on the first lady encouraging schoolchildren to just say no..."

6. "I don't think anything I've said depends on you holding any such admiration to be true." (or any of the numerous times where he denied the relevance of someone's objection without explaining why.)

7. "About 15 years ago, I gave up my freedom and enlisted in the air force. I was stationed in NE at USStratCom, which everyone there knew was the third-highest priority target for a nuclear strike against the US."

8. "People tend to favor being conscious of either what they think, or what they know. One is founded on their ability to reason, and the other is founded on their observations."

#171 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 10:25 PM:

It horrifies me that there exist men for whom an eroticized depiction of rape, followed by a depiction of punishment, would be the most effective teaching tool to discourage them from committing rape themselves. And I find it even more disturbing that Mike thinks that this target viewer merits the label "mildy foolish."

Suppose there were a film depiction of the sort of rape that happens all the time, but isn't generally acknowledged by the perpetrators as rape -- not the stranger-in-a-dark-alley scenario, but what gets called "date rape." They've both had a few drinks, the encounter starts with what seems to be mutual enthusiasm... but somewhere along the way, the girl raises objections, and the guy ignores them and proceeds anyway. If this film depiction managed to get across just how frightening, uncomfortable, and, yes, violating this was for the girl... wouldn't THAT be a better guide to self-monitoring for a man who's perhaps been brought up with messages of "girls say no when they mean yes?"

Also, in plenty of cases where this sort of thing happens, the woman involved will try to minimize it herself, and try to categorize it as "not really rape" -- much in the same way that Holden tried to talk himself out of his suspicions about Mr. Antolini. Even though she'll still be very uncomfortable with what happened, just as Holden was uncomfortable with what happened with Mr. Antolini.

Could the film scene be clear enough to show a viewer that what happened was rape, even if the character downplayed it after? Or would a naive viewer be misled as Mike was misled by Holden's downplaying his experience in the narrative?

I'd like to think that a man who'd been taught "no really means yes" and didn't think of his own behavior as rape would be more convinced to self-monitor by a scene that showed behaviors he would engage in but showed them as horrifying to the victim, rather than a film that showed the rape itself as a sexy encounter which was then followed by dramatic punishment. I'd like to think that most people have that capacity for empathy, even if they haven't been encouraged to exercise it in particular situations.

#172 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 10:28 PM:

Mike #168:

Just a meta-comment:

When you're in a disagreement with several people at once, it can seem like you're arguing with the whole community. But it's worth remembering that you're really having a disagreement with maybe a dozen people, and it's really a good thing (I speak from experience here) to keep the different people separate, not to get caught into a "me against the world" mentality.

Also, when I find myself in this kind of one-sided argument[1], I try to pay attention to my own feelings. When I start feeling beaten down or like everyone thinks ill of me, I usually decide to step out of the argument. You've been around long enough to see me do this from time to time--it's not a matter of coming to agree with the other side, or of feeling like I've demonstrated my case, just a point where I think I've said what I had to say and further discussion is pointless, or where the discussion is just not fun for me anymore. I have no idea if you're at that point in this discussion, but it's worth remembering that it's an option. You can say "I'm done with this for now," leave the discussion, and continue to participate at ML. The ability to do this (I saw others do it before I did) is probably a major reason why I'm able to be a regular participant here.


[1] Often. I get really bored in communities in which I have more-or-less the average set of beliefs.

#173 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 10:38 PM:

albatross, I think the difference is that while, say, one might not be able to deduce Orson Scott Card's religiously-motivated views on homosexuality from Ender's Game, and it's possible to discuss that work on its own merits for the ideas it DOES contain and the views it DOES put forward within the work (like, say, whether the only truly effective reaction to a bully is to respond with overwhelming force), Frank Miller's work itself puts forth some truly problematic ideas, and that expressing uncritical admiration for the work without addressing the problematic aspects might make people wonder if you agreed with the entire worldview.

#174 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 10:44 PM:

or, albatross, to clarify by example:

Frank Miller wouldn't be the only author whose works are sufficiently problematic to raise questions about his uncritical fans in the minds of people who don't subscribe to that worldview. Do I have to say anything more than "Ayn Rand?"

#175 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 10:46 PM:

Mike, I was unkind, and for that I'm sincerely sorry; but I honestly have to say that I've seen you make more sense than you're making now. Some of your connections feel like those famous drawings of impossible 3D objects

#176 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 10:58 PM:

albatros @169 --

This seems to me to go far beyond deciding you don't want to read books written by a person with sufficiently evil beliefs. I read that as expressing concern that the evil beliefs of a writer you like will be ascribed to you, perhaps with the sense that this is a reasonable or good thing. That's what I'm disagreeing with.
[...]
It's one thing to decide you don't want to read the well-written books of a bad person. It's another to fear guilt-by-association from reading him or being enthusiastic about doing so. It's still another to apply that guilt-by-association.

I don't subscribe to the notion of diseverability of artists. The artist is all of a piece; if I am going to valorize their work by advancing it as in some sense good or worthy or of artistic note, I can't point and say "only this specific bit"; I get all of it, or I get none of it.

So Chesterton, splendid poetry and art in service of laudable causes, comes with, inescapably, the anti-semitism and racism and woeful ignorance of science. Old Prof Tolkien comes with the beauty that is an enchantment, and the world of types[1], not populations; Ian M. Banks comes with many cool ideas, interesting writing, and some very large palmed cards about a hierarchy of value constructed on the basis of quantified intelligence and a society of nominal hedonists none of whom appear to know how to actually relax.

So, yes, I think that if you are going to hold up something as art and say "this is good", you are excusing in some degree the evil beliefs. You may not hold them yourself, but you're saying that they're not that bad. (This is the "pardons Kipling for his views" thing, whatever one might think of Kipling.)

This is not the same thing as reading (viewing, any process of artistic apprehension of a work) something to form your own opinions about it.

I also think evil beliefs and wrong beliefs are different things; someone from 1700 who constructs a universe of types is wrong, but not evil. (However much evil that wrongness may have done.) Someone from 1950 with a world of types, it's a much murkier question. By 2050 or so it's not going to be a question.

[1] Are things examples of fixed types ("a bird of the air") or individuals that may be grouped into populations and from which population some common characteristics might be determined. (The actual diversity of gulls; "We can't learn how much they interbreed until we can distinguish them, but we can't distinguish them because they appear to interbreed." [Steve N. G. Howell, writing about Thayer's and Iceland gulls])

#177 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 10:59 PM:

albatross, #169:

I'm not going to speak for Graydon, but I do think that we need to make a distinction here, between the beliefs of an author and the themes or motifs that run through his or her work. And my interpretation of Graydon's sentence is that he is referring specifically to the themes that are (to him) evident in Miller's work, not to Miller's beliefs per se.

I read that as expressing concern that the evil beliefs of a writer you like will be ascribed to you, perhaps with the sense that this is a reasonable or good thing.

I don't think that this has a black or white answer.

At one extreme, I don't think anyone is going to believe that I support colonialism because I read Kipling, anti-Semitism because I read Eliot, or, for that matter, Christianity because I enjoyed The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as a child, or think badly of me as a consequence of having read and enjoyed these authors.

On the other hand, if my bookshelf contained the complete works of Ann Coulter, you might be justified in drawing some conclusions about my beliefs.

Do I think you should be judged based on the beliefs of the author of works you like? Probably not, except in really egregious cases. Am I going to draw some conclusions about you based on books, authors or themes that you enjoy? Sure.

In High Fidelity, the protagonist says, "It's not what you are like, it's what you like. Books, records, films - these things matter." But like everything else, the degree to which I would draw inferences about someone based on a particular author or book that they like would depend sensitively on the person, my feelings about the work, the rest of the media he or she consumes, my relationship with the person - in other words, practically everything else. And, of course, I might still make an incorrect inference - people get other people wrong all the time.

Short version - YMMV.

#178 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 11:08 PM:

Now that I've read 168, I feel bad about 170. If you can forgive that, Mike, I'd like to respond to something you said in 168:

"Horror-only-depictions are useless as a self-monitoring guide, because the mildly-foolish audience-member is then self-monitoring for indicators that can still be absent from a rape (re: SeanH #112 was thining something like this too)."

Up at 141, Graydon says "The idea that if you don't actively require consent, that the thing keeping you from imposing your will on another by force is you, not fear of punishment, then you are a bad person, is not present in Miller's work."

This idea, that there's something inherently bad about rape above and beyond the possibility of punishment, is missing in your formulation as well. The problem with your sexy-rape-followed-by-brutal-punishment scenario is that a potential rapist might learn a very different lesson from the one you intend: they might come away thinking the act itself is unalloyed fun, and so all they need to do is avoid getting caught. It might even seem unfair to the potential rapist--why should someone else get to decide what sexual pleasures they enjoy?

But the reason you shouldn't rape people isn't because a masked vigilante might come and kill you. It's because the act itself is despicable and damaging. That is the best way to dissuade rape: to show the damage it causes, so that potential rapists don't just supress their desires out of fear, but empathize with the potential victim. The onus to prevent rape is not on law enforcement, but on the potential offender's own conscience.

If cinematic depictions of rape show the fear, the hurt that rape inflicts--and these are not the unreliable guides to rape you claim them to be, they are in fact the defining signifiers of rape--then that will do more to teach the "mildly-foolish audience-member" what to avoid in their own lives far better than any number of brutally-murdered rapists.

#179 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 11:26 PM:

Whoops, Graydon's post and mine overlapped. I do think that we should make a distinction between the beliefs of the author and the ideas presented in the work, as elegantly argued by Rikibeth (#173 and #174).

And Graydon, I do think we are responding to albatross's post by arguing different points, since mine focuses on how we judge people, and yours seems to include how we judge art.

#180 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 11:45 PM:

debcha, #177: I'm going to bring up my own favorite example of the artist with whom I have a love/hate relationship: Ogden Nash. I adore Nash's light poetry; he had a way with words which I think changed some aspects of the poetic and fictional discourse forever. For example, I see echoes of things I first noted from Nash in the works of Terry Pratchett -- although I wouldn't actually claim an influence, because I don't know for sure whether Pratchett has ever read Nash.

But tucked in among the lighthearted discussions of noisy upstairs neighbors and funny animals are also WWII-era poems which present vicious racism in the same lighthearted, silly style. I can't ignore them or forget them, and this means that in any discussion of Nash as a poet I feel compelled to say something about them just to show that I am neither ignorant of those poems nor inclined to brush them off. They don't invalidate the rest of Nash's work for me, but they do unavoidably mar it. I rather wish that someone would put together a collection of the non-racist Nash poetry, so that I could just buy that and put my older books in the archive box in the attic.

heresiarch, #178: What you're describing here is my least favorite part of the Culture of Rape -- the widespread lack of the meme that men should be taught to avoid the act of rape*. This is changing, but with glacial slowness; by far the most social and legal efforts are still put into teaching women "rape prevention" tactics, which is another aspect of the notion that women control the actions of men (even men they don't know), which is also the concept from which victim-blaming for rape arises.

* For the sake of a sub-discussion upthread, I'll say that "avoid coercing sex" would be equally satisfactory.

#181 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2008, 12:22 AM:

Lee, I hadn't thought of that in YEARS (my parents have the Ogden Nash collection and wouldn't let me make off with it), but now that you mention it, I can remember verses about the Japanese that were the verbal equivalent of the WWII-era Bugs Bunny cartoons that aren't broadcast any more for similar reasons.

I think the verses belong in the collection the same way that the Bugs Bunny cartoons merit preservation (although I'm okay with taking them off general broadcast), but I agree, they mar the work as a whole.

#182 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2008, 01:24 AM:

Lee #180:

I don't think you'll find anyone who doesn't agree that men should be taught not to rape (and rob, and kill, and....). But since some subset of men still do, it seems entirely reasonable to me to teach women techniques for minimizing their chances of being victims of rape, in exactly the same sense that it makes sense for law-abiding citizens more generally to learn how to minimize their vulnerability to crime.

My not-too-well-informed sense of this is that there's not much data saying whether these rape prevention classes (either directed at men or women) actually decrease the incidence of rape, and that the content of the classes seems to be driven largely by the starting beliefs and talents of the people offering them. Thus, karate experts, Womens' Studies professors, and NRA firearms instructors [1] are likely to have different proposed solutions, and it's not at all clear which of these is a better bet for avoiding rape.

Is there good data on this? I'm especially curious if there's any useful data on rape-prevention education directed at men. My intuition is that this would have little effect, but I probably don't know enough to be entitled to an opinion.

[1] Not mutually exclusive categories--one person might be all three.

#183 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2008, 01:56 AM:

debcha and Graydon and Lee and Rikibeth all responded in interesting ways. At the risk of "you-people"-ing, I think I can summarize the threads of discussion as:

a. Your artistic tastes say something important about you. Some of that is a reflection of the worldview of the books you like.

b. The artist's ideas, especially those which come through in the work, affect how you judge that work of art.

c. How you evaluate the artist as a person and as an artist is affected by their views, again, both those that appear in their work and those that don't.

I don't really disagree with any of those points stated broadly. But (a), in particular, seems to me to be easy to get carried away with. I enjoyed Atlas Shrugged, have reread it several times, and likely will again at some point. Yet I'm not even remotely an objectivist, and I disagree with many of the core ideas of both the book and Rand's individualists' club/cult thingy. Similarly, I really like Kipling's poetry but don't have any love of colonialism or the glory of empire, I enjoy Heinlein's books but don't want to f--k my mother or clone-sister[1] or gloriously sacrifice myself for my country, I read Spider Robinson's books despite my doubts that telepathy or really good music, whiskey, and weed will solve the world's problems, etc.

I would hate to live in an environment where telling people I'd liked those books would somehow cast some kind of doubt on my character, where I and everyone else had to hide our literary excitements in order not to be suspected of some kind of heresy or uncoolness or whatever.

As far as judging the work goes, sometimes I can swallow my disbelief or moral objections for the duration of the novel, sometimes I can't. I recall getting really upset at one of those endless Lethal Weapon sequels, where Mel Gibson's character pretty much went around bullying and terrorizing people with his badge and gun, to the point that I couldn't really enjoy the movie. On the other hand, all the bad stuff done by heroes in The Watchmen didn't ruin the story for me. Nor did the rather uncomfortable "utopia" created in Stirling's _Conquistador_.

As far as judging an author, that's another thing again. I have a book of Dr Seuss' wartime cartoons somewhere, which is pretty damned depressing to look at. It doesn't make his childrens' books, or his wonderful "My Many Colored Days" poem, any less valuable. But it definitely adds an unpleasant overtone to my thoughts about the guy.

[1] "Oh give me a clone, of my own flesh and bone, with the Y chromosome turned to X...."

#184 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2008, 02:01 AM:

albatross: I think the disconnect on who/what is trained about rape is that, by and large, the classes are all directed at the victims. Futher they aren't, generally presented in a positve (these are the things you can do which reduce someone choosing you as a target) but rather as negatives, the things one must refrain from doing so that one doesn't invite being raped.

Since the usual list of behaviors boils down to, "don't act like an autonomous being with the right to do whatever you like," it's pretty offensive.

Being told, "don't wear sexy clothes,"; as if there were some objective measure of sexy, "don't drink too much,"; when his being drunk can be used as a defense, etc. is horrid. None of the things being taught in the conventional wisdom addresses the agency of the rapist.

As to the question of defense: Classes like, "Model Mugging" do wonders. They have a track record, of sorts. Mind you they are based on the same basic principle as Jim's first aid posts; if you have some idea what you to expect you have a better chanve of avoiding panic.

Two stories, from two different sessions.

1: Young lady (about 16) has one of the muggers (all padded out, so as to let the students whale on them with everything they've got) walk up and start trying to get her to walk with him. She says, "No, that's ok, I see my uncle right over there." She does the body language, and points. The guy (knowing, he later said, that no one was there) turned to look. She had sold him on it. When he turned back she had skedaddled out of his reasonable range of pursuit.

2: A big guy (but not the fastest of thinkers) had one of the muggers jump onto his back. The instructor told him to, "use his strengths." You could see him thinking. There was a click, and he leaned a little forward and jumped straight up, arcing his back and landing on the poor mugger.

The mugger was clobbered (even with the suit on he was winded), and the student was fine... having landed on all the padding, and the mugger.

If either of them is attacked, the confidence they got from dealing with attacks will help them.

Me... when I'm teaching self-defense, I'm teaching the princibles of "pi-bu" which is an art about situational awareness (it's a home-grown art, the name is short for, "pitcher of Bud" and the, almost, ubiquitous use of plastic pitchers has made it harder to execute).

If you can spot the risks, then you can ameliorate them.

But the way to deal with it isn't to say, "I can't drink." It's not even to say, "I can't drink in this bar." It's to say, "drinking in this bar, with these people isn't the best idea, if I choose to do so, this is what I will do to reduce the odds of, "x".

No where is there a judgement about the merits of the drinking. No value judgement is made about what happens if one drinks, etc.

I've lost my initial point on Pi-bu. Forewarned is forearmed. If I can see the guy coming at me, and cope with him, I can wear the skimpiest of blouses, lowest-riding, highest cut skirts, etc.

If I can't see him coming I can be wearing the clunkiest of shoes, most drab and sexless of trousers and blouse, and still be blindsided.

So long as the lesson is, "don't wear the sexy clothes, the burden is still on the victim, and the men are being empowered. They don't have to rape to have control. The women who don't knuckle under and show they are in fear of being raped get told, again and again, they are just asking to be raped; and they bear some of the blame if it happens.

#185 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2008, 04:07 AM:

albatross @ 182: "I don't think you'll find anyone who doesn't agree that men should be taught not to rape (and rob, and kill, and....)."

True as far as it goes, but there is a distinct group of people who treat rape as something without moral agency, like the weather--if you go out when it's cloudy and get wet, it's your fault for wearing that skirt not wearing a raincoat. There is a difference of scale, but not of type, between this and the Saudi Arabian "any woman who leaves the house without a veil and a male escort has no legal defense against rape" attitude.

It's the classic "deal with the world as it is" or "try to fix the underlying problem" debate, and both sides have valid points. Yet my feeling is that the "deal with it" approach is much more widely accepted, almost to the exclusion of recognizing and trying to fix the underlying cause of rape: men who think they have the right to take sex from any woman they can get their hands on. The "rape as weather" approach absolves those men of responsibility.

#186 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2008, 10:18 AM:

Teresa, I know, so to speak, that you dine well. If you need to hear it, you can always settle things with me by saying you know I'm wrong, but can't say why. Otherwise, I may intuit logical passes that will deny you what you want, which doesn't interest me at all.

#187 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2008, 10:23 AM:

albatross: I think you've articulated it well -- and you're right, it's possible to get carried away with point a). I'd like to think that in most social circumstances, I'd approach someone professing enjoyment of a work I found problematic with "really? Even with the $Problematic_Thing?" and the discussion could continue as in your elaborating paragraph (hell, I enjoy Heinlein too, and even find some, although not all, of the implausible and offensive parts of Friday artistically consistent) -- but I do have to admit that I sometimes use my least-admired works as a sorting device. Someone who's read and enjoyed Ayn Rand may in fact be someone I can get along with, but someone who lists her as his favorite author on a dating-site profile is going to make me avoid him.

#188 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2008, 10:52 AM:

Terry, heresiarch: THANK YOU.

And, albatross, when you put it as "I don't think you'll find anyone who doesn't agree that men should be taught not to rape (and rob, and kill, and....)." you won't find many people to contradict you -- but when you get to the messages of popular culture, it's a different and far more muddled story. Look at the way the Kobe Bryant story was handled in the media. Or Mike Tyson.

Or look at song lyrics. Sure, the "Tell me more, tell me more, did she put up a fight?" lyrics from "Summer Lovin'" from Grease depict an imagined 1950s, not present culture. And the pushing-for-consent in "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" is, even if not depicting an imagined 1950s, still a 30-year-old song (although my middle-school-aged daughter and her friends all know it and sing it with the same gusto I did when I was a teen). But there's a country song by Holly Dunn called "Maybe I Mean Yes" with the lyrics (and the entire premise) "when I say no I mean maybe, or maybe I mean yes," and that was written in 1990; I wouldn't be surprised if there are more current examples of the meme, although I'd be delighted to hear that there weren't. The culture's definitely changing: I don't know anyone who can listen to the sixties girl-group songs "Johnny Get Angry" or "He Hit Me and it Felt Like a Kiss" and not be appalled by them, but I don't think the same thing has happened yet for songs about dubious consent. At least not universally. And until there's a universal "what were they THINKING?" reaction to songs like that, I'd say we've still got a ways to go on teaching boys that it's not okay to rape.

#189 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2008, 11:39 AM:

Rikibeth @188 -- there are definitely lyrics with mixed messages out there. One song that's gotten a lot of airplay over here recently (don't know about the States) is Kate Nash's "Foundations". I have extremely mixed feelings every time I hear it. There's an admission that the singer finds it exciting to push her possibly-prone-to-violence boyfriend's buttons, but on the other hand some self-awareness that the relationship is dysfunctional. What weighs more in the minds of listeners? I imagine previous experience colors one's interpretation, or even what one actually hears.

#190 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2008, 11:52 AM:

debcha @179 --

I'm arguing for judging people, in part, by how they judge art.

albatross @182 --

I think you're wrong about that. Lots of people are quite willing to make women solely responsible for sex; there's that really long (centuries) heap of justifications attached to the notion of the sin of Eve supporting this. There remains a whole lot of the "dressed like that" idea as a living thing, and the to-date pinnacle of widespread responsibility training for men has been "no means no", which is precisely backwards. (It should be something like "Only yes, and a specific, voiced, calm, sober yes, means "yes". Absolutely everything else means "no", the kind of no that involves being devoured alive by rats. Get this wrong and you will deserve the rats." This can be shortened as "Only yes means yes" but the long version is important.)

Attempts at advancing specific permission as a standard in some university environments were intensely and concertedly mocked, too. (Which is hardly to be remarked at; a specific and wholehearted yes is a more difficult thing to obtain than a fearful absence of screaming, and there's going to be quite a number of fellows out there in late middle age who are both well-provided with social power and who know just how guilty they'd be under a "wholehearted yes or nothing" standard. There's quite a number of women who think saying yes would make them morally depraved and objectionable persons, too.)

albatross @183 --

Try thinking of it as "your bright 14 year old neeve comes to you and asks for a book recommendation. What can you recommend wholeheartedly, and why?"

Art matters; what art is presented as exemplary really matters, in the way that all those semi-random sand grains become sedimentary rock.

---
Generally? If teens, of any conceivable gender, don't have an opportunity to do risky, scary things in a relatively controlled way, they'll create one. Bad things will happen. Sometimes those things will be relationship choices.

#191 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2008, 12:29 PM:

I think a lot of the mocking that happened around the university attempts to make specific consent a standard reflected that the common cultural narratives are still about being "swept away" by passion, "I just couldn't help myself," and that changing that narrative was so unaccustomed as to de-eroticize the situation for many people.

And while the "swept away" meme is seriously problematic in several ways -- it discourages people from thinking in advance about contraception or STD prevention, as well as muddying consent issues and contributing to the idea that a Good Girl wouldn't voice a clear yes -- it also has a certain emotional truth to it. But having "swept away" as the main form of erotic narrative leaves people without ways of seeking or articulating consent that still feel erotic.

There ARE ways to make consent-checks erotic. It would be wonderful if there were more narratives out there that modeled this and made it sexy, instead of the antithesis of sexy. Without the narratives to hang it on, I'm not sure how well the standards will change.

#192 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2008, 12:36 PM:

Graydon @ 191: Hm. Interesting point, re: university environments. What time frame are you talking about? I ask because there's a poster that's been showing up around the campus where I work that is basically a list of all the things that mean "no" (including things like "no answer means no," I believe). It's fairly eye-catching, and I don't think I've caught anyone mocking it (faculty, staff, or students). The message isn't quite explicitly "only yes means yes," but it's close, I'd say. I've been regarding the poster fairly positively as a public-service sort of message about attitudes. Maybe it represents a transitional stage? Some progress, if not all? I'll have to go back and look at it again.

#193 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2008, 12:52 PM:

Mary Frances, I can't remember which university (maybe Graydon does) -- but I think the time frame was late 1990s, and IIRC the standard advanced in the student handbook was for asking specific permission for each new act engaged in over the course of an encounter -- "May I kiss you?" "May I put my hand under your shirt?" and so on and so forth, and any lack of a specific request would be taken by the school's disciplinary system as evidence of lack of consent, even in the absence of any voiced objection from the other participant. This was, not unsurprisingly, derided as anti-erotic.

While I can imagine a narrative where this permission-sought-at-every-step is presented as erotic, it definitely isn't the usual script. I'm not surprised it was mocked.

And, to my eyes, permission-at-every-step is an even more stringent standard than the list-of-what-doesn't-mean-yes poster that you describe. I like the poster better, myself. I think if more people internalized a broad definition of what-doesn't-mean-yes, there'd be much less of a problem with asking for consent when it's appropriate without it being perceived as anti-erotic.

#194 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2008, 12:59 PM:

Rikibeth: It was the late '80s/early '90s (as I recall. My memory says it was being bruited about whilst I was in college and date rape was becoming a hot topic).

The college was Antioch.

#195 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2008, 01:07 PM:

Terry: you're right, I found it online, and it says it dates back to 1990.

#196 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2008, 02:06 PM:

Wow! Poking around the net led me to this article, "By the Semi-Mystical Appearance of a Condom": How Young Women and Men Communicate Sexual Consent in Heterosexual Situations - Statistical Data Included, which is the first time I've seen the phenomenon of consent signals studied and described in a scientific fashion, rather than discussed as proceeding from strict theory, or related purely as anecdote. The conclusions start around page 19 or 20 (of 26), but there's interesting stuff throughout.

#197 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2008, 02:22 PM:

heresiarch, #185: That is the best exposition I've seen of the issue, bar none. And while I have no problem theoretically with approaching the solution from both sides at once, in practice (as you note) rape is generally treated as being a problem that women can solve unilaterally. It's not, and it's beyond time that we started looking at fixing it from the men's side.

Rikibeth, #191: I think there's hope. As recently as 7 or 8 years ago, people were still saying very similar things about the depiction of safe sex in porn -- that it was impossible, unsexy, it would kill the mood, etc. And yet recently I've been seeing a lot of very hot erotica* in which either (1) the use of a condom is simply written in without making it a Big Deal, or (2) the absence (and procuring) of protection is made into a plot point, with the need to restrain desire until protection is available becoming part of the anticipation loop. Surely the same can be done with issues of consent.

* Including mainstream erotic romances.

#198 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2008, 02:48 PM:

Lee, I hope you're right. One of the examples I especially like is Kaylee from Firefly; if ever a character modeled "enthusiastic consent" while still coming across as a Nice Girl rather than a "slut," it's Kaylee.

Another thing I find encouraging is that fiction lags behind my own real-life experience, even going back to my teen years. However, having listened to the stories of my peers, it feels like I'm in a fortunate minority.

#199 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2008, 03:16 PM:

Terry and Rikibeth: Oh, the Antioch thing. Yeah, I remember that one--just wasn't making the connection. Thanks.

#200 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2008, 03:28 PM:

Rikibeth @ 196: That's a fascinating study. Thanks for the link!

#201 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2008, 04:04 PM:

I had to go away for a while, this was ruining my Holiday Spirit a bit. But I'm back now.

Mike said the following directly after quoting something of mine (which is one of the reasons I felt the need to leave). Even if he's since said that it wasn't directed at me... I think that's backpedaling, and I'm going to address it anyway. Because whatever imaginary straw man he's trying to conjure up just won't stand.

"I get busted because people infer I said doctors can't be sexy, but someone else feels free to say something from which it can be more reasonably inferred the sexiness of the character makes her stupid and weak"

Oh Puhlease. Catwoman is already widely regarded as one of the sexiest women in comics. If you make Catwoman into a hooker to try to "increase her appeal", you are essentially saying that no matter how sexy a woman is she is sexier if she is also a hooker. That it's sexier if a woman has sex with men for money than if she has sex with them for pleasure. And that is, frankly, the deepest and worst kind of bullshit. Are hookers sexy? They can be, sure. Do I think a hooker or stripper can be a good female character? Yes, and they sometimes are. Do I think putting whores in a book automatically makes you a misogynist? No. But I do think that taking a strong, independent lady who is already hot as fire and saying "you know what? She'd be hotter if she was selling herself," is a wretched way of running things. It squicks me completely.

Catwoman is one of the extremely rare comics women with something approaching a normal, healthy, entirely positive sexuality. She likes men, and if she likes a man she'll flirt with him. If he flirts back they might make our or have sex, but she's not going to change who she is or how she lives just because of some guy. There's no angst, no walls to overcome, no guilt before or after, etc. She's just a lady who likes sex with men she finds attractive, and for whom an active sex life isn't a problem. These things are also almost always incidental to the storyline, they're not what she's about. No one makes a big deal about them because they're normal. There are so many ways you could use that to make a sexy comic. There are a LOT of sexy Catwoman comics in which she likes men and flirts with or makes out with them (often with implied sex). If you see a character like that and think she'll be IMPROVED by making her a whore... then something is badly, deeply, possibly irrevocably messed up with your view of women.

So, to conclude: Don't necessarily have a problem with strippers and whores. Don't have a problem with sexiness. I start to have a problem when whores are seen as the be all, end all of sexiness. The real problem comes when existing sexy women have to be made into whores to "improve" them, or when good female characters are otherwise denigrated, trivialized, or sexually exploited.

For a sense of perspective, consider your favorite male character from childhood. Now imagine someone did the same thing, and wrote a story where he had been re-imagined as someone who had sex with people who he didn't necessarily find attractive for money. Contrast that with a story where the character had romantic entanglements with their preferred gender of their own free will. To me the second idea is pretty much always sexier, if the character in question has shown no tendency towards engaging in the oldest profession before.

The funny thing is that Mike is making me dislike Frank Miller a lot more than I did when this thread started, and more than any other commenter in this thread has. Because whereas before I saw the demotion of Catwoman and Silken Floss as clueless mis-steps, Mike's commentary here has made it seem as if they are obvious stylistic choices meant to appeal to people who believe that women stripped of prestige and made into whores are sexier than women who are in control of their own lives. After all... making someone a whore makes them sexy!

I can respect someone who says "Frank's got some messed up priorities, sure, but who doesn't? And he's entertaining!" But I can't cotton to someone representing a solid tendency to depower and exploit female characters as simple stylistic choices intended to promote a positive message, or harmless fun as part of a mid-life crisis.

Or to put it another way... if someone says "I like Sin City. Haha, sexy hookers and crime sindicates. It's messed up but great." Then I'm more inclined to believe that it's harmless fun, that no one is being actually influenced by it.

But if someone says "I think Sin City teaches women how to prevent rape and is a good healthy exploration of sexiness and sexuality." that makes me actually concerned. Because, before now, I had never actually imagined that anyone didn't find fault with the various portrayals of sexuality in Frank Miller's work. I always figured they were laughing it off because it was naughty (but still definitely incorrect) fun.

Now that I know there are people who see those portrayals as a valid and artistic commentary that is meant to send a positive message... I've gotta judge Frank Miller's work much more harshly.

#202 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2008, 06:00 PM:

Leah @ 201 - I've not been following this thread very closely, but I'm not entirely sure I agree with your statement that there are people who believe that Miller's work is meant to send a positive message.

Of course, given that I haven't really read all of this, maybe somebody made this statement. If so, I suspect that person is just plain wrong. Miller doesn't mean to send a positive message; he means to entertain. If he means to send positive messages, I'm pretty sure that the subject of those messages is something other than healthy sexuality, and more along the lines of personal self-actualization or something.

Also, I don't think this came up in this thread, but MeFi has had an interesting thread recently on the Not Rape Epidemic -- the idea being that the author's experiences with demeaning sexual encounters didn't fit her (and society's) definition of rape, thus leaving her entirely without the mental tools to think about them. (I'm probably oversimplifying.)

I'm usually pretty impatient and tend to tl;dr a little too much when things get more than superficial, but the post is well worth the read. The idea that "no means no" is too restrictive to encapsulate actual consent is pretty close to the idea that "rape is a forced sexual encounter" is too restrictive to encapsulate sexually demeaning interaction.

In the author's case, when she was 14, a young man found her alone at home, and forced his way through the door, saying, "I can do anything I want to you." He forced her to the floor and groped her -- then left. It wasn't rape, so ... there was no evidence, she couldn't tell her mother (without getting in trouble for letting the boy in), and so on. Later, the boy went to prison for his participation in a gang rape.

The entire article is full of fascinating insight. A good complement to this thread, I think.

#203 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2008, 07:56 PM:
#202: I've not been following this thread very closely, but I'm not entirely sure I agree with your statement that there are people who believe that Miller's work is meant to send a positive message.

Yeah, I know I didn't say that, and I don't think I've said anything that depends on Miller's intent to send any positive messages.

I think he constructed Sin City to include every violation of the Comics Code Authority, and I said so. He's got knives pointed at eyes, too.

#204 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2008, 08:32 PM:

Mary Frances @192 --

I last had anything directly to do with a university environment in 1997; the "overt consent being mocked" stuff I remember from the early 90s.

That poster sounds like an encouraging sign, but there's also a friend of mine, who teaches as a community college, who got a "I could just take you by force" response to a "no, not interested". (A response that was not acted upon, thankfully.)

This is in Toronto, where the subway ads include gay matchmakers, public service announcements for (quite good) government-supported sexuality information websites, and the board of education teen sexuality clinics with no-questions-asked free contraception and STD testing. There's always the wretched generational lag.

#205 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2008, 08:45 PM:

Mike @203, I think that what may lead people in this thread to construe what you've said as implying that Frank Miller's depictions of rape DO send positive messages and were so intended was this line, back at 129:

That's why I think Frank Miller has spent more time thinking about what it takes to thwart a rape than all the people who've called him a misogynist put together. He's the only one I see giving young men a clue what drives to monitor while interacting with others.

I think that, combined with your later elaborations characterizing rape as "acting on your arousal," and your contention that many if not most young men are in need of lessons in how to "self-monitor" against committing rape out of impulse, and further characterizing these men as "mildly-foolish," has led people to read your arguments with a less than charitable eye.

#206 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2008, 08:53 PM:

Graydon @ 204: Ouch. I wish I could say that your friend's experience surprises me, but I really can't. Signs of progress or no, we do have a long way to go. Both on campus and off.

#207 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2008, 11:37 PM:

Lee @ 197: "That is the best exposition I've seen of the issue, bar none."

Thanks (to Rikibeth too)! It's a tricky issue, and I'm glad I managed to make sense.

#208 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2008, 11:43 PM:

Rikibeth @188, k.d. lang did a wrenching version of ‘Johnny get Angry’ in her early, second-hand dresses, period. (In an outdoor concert on my ‘Harvest of Seven Years (Cropped And Chronicled)’ VHS tape – yup, that long ago.) It probably changed a few people's views on that type of song. Well, I hope it did.

#209 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 12:45 AM:

Epacris, I can't remember whether I'd known about the k.d. lang version before. I'd bet it would make an impression!

What I found encouraging, sometime in the past year or two, was hearing a local morning DJ, not exactly known for his feminist sensibilities -- you know the type, more interested in asking women callers the color of their underwear, Howard Stern lite -- talking about "Johnny Get Angry" and what a completely messed-up song it was, and how he couldn't believe it had once been in regular radio rotation. And he was old enough to remember when it had been.

Now THAT'S progress.

#210 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 08:30 AM:

Thankfully I've never heard the minor hit that revolted Dave Barry during his Bad Music Survey, "He Hit Me (and it felt like a kiss)." I suspect it's worse than "Johnny Get Angry" but I don't intend to find out. My nominee for worst top-ten record with a racial stereotype is still Pat Boone's last hit, "Speedy Gonzales." Let's put it this way: Speedy is thought well enough of amongst Latin Americans that he was used in ads for a sporty little car two years ago. The version in Boone's song, on the other hand, brings to mind a line by Owen Wister, namely "you would not merely be arrested, you would be hanged, and everybody would be glad, and the clergyman would not bury you."

I do admit curiosity about the regional hit Barry quotes where the singer announces "I'm everything a boy would ever want: 36, 24, 35!" Is that the worst part, or does it get even more sexist?

#211 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 11:45 AM:

Rikibeth #205: I don't consider Frank Miller creating for himself the slack to violate every rule of the Comics Code Authority, and the intent to send any positive messages, interchangeable agendas.

...your contention that many if not most young men are in need of lessons in how to "self-monitor" against committing rape out of impulse, and further characterizing these men as "mildly-foolish..."

I was referring the the foolishness of denying such a thing as rape takes place in the community centered, for example, around their local school. If it doesn't take much knowledge to reverse it, I have no reservation against referring it as mild. Mildly-foolish. I'm not sorry I called it mild, and I have been presented no reason to waive the privilege of saying so again.

I can't even tell from how people are reacting to what I say if the people criticizing me are doing so to nurture the denial such a thing as rape takes place takes place in the community centered, for example, around their local school. Whether they intend to or not, this criticism seems to be serving the very agenda of creating a taboo against discussing a topic, where such a taboo will serve to shelter deniability.

#212 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 12:04 PM:

But to piggyback again off of SeanH's #112 point that no one seems to disagree with:

There is a danger here, which is that of completely Othering the rapist. Studies have shown that almost nobody admits to having raped; change the question to "coerced somebody into sex" and suddenly far more people cop to it. If we show rape to be solely the province of slavering subhuman monsters, then nobody thinks that they might rape. Nice guys rape, people who consider themselves feminists rape, men like you and me rape, and fighting that requires an understanding of what rape is and why it happens.

...actually, yes, if such a little bit of awareness can prevent so much damage, no, no one has presented with any reason for me to waive the privilege of referring that kind of foolishness as mild, also.

Implicit in what we call the 80/20 rule is the notion that out of a suite of options, one option will produce an outcome 4 or 5 times better than the next best option. But we can't think through which option is the best, otherwise we could teach genius.

Well, in the disagreement here, there's me, who's talking about what may or may not be the best approach, and there are people who counter apparently by presenting burning the menu of options as the best option. Sean's observation seems to underscore why nurturing a taboo isn't the option that will give us what we want.

#213 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 12:37 PM:

Terry #184:

Are rape-prevention classes mainly focused on this sort of "don't draw attention to yourself" dynamic? I really don't know, but my sense was that they tended much more toward the sort of self-defense stuff you're talking about. To the extent that a lot of women have simply never learned much about fighting and escape skills, they can probably get a very big improvement in their ability to get out of a bad situation from a relatively small amount of study.

My impression is that the overwhelming majority of rape is done by at least somewhat-trusted acquaintances, and that a large fraction is date-rape. I always wonder how much of the sort of generic safety advice women get to avoid being raped is useful to prevent date- or acquaintance-rape. The sort of "stay out of dark shadows, call ahead" advice that might be useful to avoid the (much more rare) stranger rapes would be of very limited value in the date-rape situation. On the other hand, advice like "always have cabfare home" and "don't go out drinking alone, go with a trusted friend who will keep an eye on you" might be a lot more valuable.

As far as educating potential criminals not to be criminals, that's a valuable thing. I agree that much popular culture glorifies or at least condones a lot of bad behavior. I agree that it's important to raise your kids to understand what's right and what's wrong.

But I'm pretty skeptical of our ability to use some kind of college anti-rape training[1] on men to get them not to rape anyone. But this is based on a certain model of the world, which may very well be wrong. Specifically:

a. I assume that most cases of rape are, in fact, situations where the man knows he's doing something wrong. (This isn't the "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" kind of creepy pressing-for-consent, it's the decision to override the woman's refusal or assume the consent without giving her a chance to refuse.)

b. I assume that date-rape is hard to prevent, less because of ambiguous signals between the man and woman (though that clearly can happen) than because, as a crime, it's extremely hard to prosecute. The evidence in that crime consists of two people with conflicting claims about what happened, and perhaps some physical confirmation depending on how much actual violence (instead of threatened violence) took place. Crimes that are hard to prosecute get less deterrence.

c. I assume that willingness to rape your date, like the willingness to steal from your office or the willingness to beat up someone defenseless, is fundamentally about your values and beliefs. Peoples' values and beliefs can change, and trying to change them is worthwhile, but it's not easy--and it's damned near impossible to do in some kind of structured class where everyone is subjected to some kind of propoganda-style education[1].

Now, this doesn't cover everything. Some people may be convinced by even pretty minimal propoganda or mandatory college anti-rape training. And there seems to be a range of situations in which date-rape is at least partly the result of genuine mixed-signals. Clearing those up is worthwhile, if it can be done[3].

But my rebuttable model of the world is that, as in most things, educating potential victims about how to avoid being victims of a crime is much more efficient and effective than educating criminals into becoming decent people. It's good to convince Fred not to date-rape someone and Jane not to steal money from her senile grandfather, but if an entire upbringing didn't manage that, it's not so clear than an extra few days' exposure to more training/propoganda will do the trick.

All IMO.

[1] Think about abstinence education, anti-drug education, and diversity training[2]. What kind of training or education would convince you to think date-raping someone who "was askin' for it" or "said no but her eyes said yes" was okay?

[2] I've always suspected that a much more effective form of diversity training would stop trying to convince me that diversity was good, and would instead make clear that, say, refusing to hire the black guy or making racial jokes in the office was a Career Limiting Move. But mainly, that's a tone set by the staff and (to some extent) the management. Start ragging on how women can't be mathematicians in my office, and you'll get a very cold reception. This isn't because of diversity training, it's because most everyone will take a real dim view of your comments.

[3] But trying to redefine the whole of sexual communications between college-aged men and women along clear, contract-like language from the top down is pretty much doomed to fail. This drew ridicule, not because everyone liked date-rape, but because it was in fact ridiculous, IMO.

#214 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 02:37 PM:

Mike, I'm not even sure we're having the same argument here. You say "I never said Frank Miller was presenting a positive message about rape, I said he was subverting the Comics Code." And, while you did in fact say he was subverting the Comics Code, I also pulled a quote in which you said he was presenting a positive and helpful message about avoiding rape. And I don't see how your use of "mildly-foolish" in the first comment you use it in maps at ALL to how you use it in your most recent comments.

I've been having trouble getting stuff to post. I wrote a much longer rebuttal and have only managed to save half of it. I'm going to try to post it n a separate comment and I hope you'll look at it and see if you can tell me where we're disagreeing.

#215 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 02:40 PM:

Okay, Mike, here's what I managed to save:

I believe that men and women alike are aware of rape as a problem.

I believe that both men and women, but probably more men than women, tend to think of rape as "violent stranger assault" and discount acquaintance rape as "not really rape."

I believe that depictions of violent stranger rapes in film reinforce this tendency.

I believe that most young men don't need a great deal of outside reinforcement to avoid committing violent rapes against strangers.

I believe that film depictions of rape that are staged to encourage the viewer to identify with the rapist's arousal also have the effect of discouraging the viewer from considering the victim's reactions.

I believe that this may have a spillover effect discouraging young men from examining whether their own behavior towards women is coercive.

I believe that film depictions of rape that are staged to encourage the viewer to identify with the victim could have the opposite effect.

I believe that the way Frank Miller depicts rape encourages the viewer to focus on the perpetrator's arousal, regardless of whether he then shows retribution.

I do not share your conviction that Frank Miller's portrayals contain realistically useful advice on averting or surviving a rape (the "don't come unglued" you refer to in earlier comments).

Therefore, I do not believe that Frank Miller's portrayals of rape contribute to a useful discussion of the topic, nor do they serve to decrease the incidence of the crime.

I hold this evaluation of Frank Miller's work despite my admiration for the visual inventiveness and entertaining noir pastiche of "Sin City."

Could you explain to me where I've misunderstood you, or how your views differ?

#216 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 02:54 PM:

Mike, I think it's safe to say that people in this thread are not in denial about the risk of rape in many supposedly safe community venues, including not just schools but also churches, workplaces, and clubs. They are also not in denial about the value of attempting to teach potential rapists that committing such an act is very wrong, however difficult this may be.

From over here in the bleachers, it looks as if they've mostly been piling onto you because they think your defenses of Miller are weak arguments that have trapped you in a quagmire of recalibrated restatements that don't hold up any better than your original statement, back up there in #60.

I'm not going to say that (what I think your original point was) if rape presentations in film and television were entirely de-eroticized by convention, we'd rarely see them is wrong--the entertainment industry is, and always has been, capable of astounding levels of sleaze in pursuit of a profit. I will also agree that it would be a Good and Useful Thing to teach young men to learn how to deal effectively with sexual arousal without imprinting on the notion that if they want it, they can take it (whatever It may be--male, female, child, adult, human, animal.)

Where you are getting into trouble is in tying these arguments to the works of Frank Miller. Very few people here can be convinced that Miller is particularly concerned with, or that his works can be useful in, establishing a positive moral norm, where potential rapists reject rape as a choice. While his work may have been helpful to you in this regard, I think it's safe to say the consensus here is that Miller's work is, for many, part of the problem rather than the solution.

If your goal here has been to establish that people, especially men, would benefit from art reinforcing the notion that rape is bad, and that people who commit it are doing a bad thing, I think it's safe to say that few here would disagree. If you are trying to say that it's important to the welfare of our society that the problem of rape should not be ignored or buried away as simply too awful to discuss, I think everyone who has posted here in this thread would agree. If, as I noted above, you are concerned that there are people here who are in denial about the risk of rape even in circumstances and situations normally considered "safe", you can rest easy; there may be lurkers who are having their naivety (which is not the same as denial) shaken, but those posting seem to me to be pretty much on the ball.
You can rest now if these three things were the points you wanted to make. To a large extent you are preaching to the choir where these issues are concerned.

You can rest now as well in your defenses of the moral value of Frank Miller's work as far as I'm concerned, because these are much more problematical, and I don't think you have the rhetorical chops necessary to make a convincing case there. For most of us, Frank Miller appears primarily a sensationalist, with no greater goal than exciting a visceral reaction from his readers/viewers. It's possible for an artist to use sensationalist techniques to convey a moral and ethical agenda; I find it hard to believe that this matters much to Miller.

I feel compelled to add that your jab at Teresa in #186, implying that she was posting under the influence, was pretty tacky, IMO, especially since she had posted earlier to let people know she was sick with Holiday Crud.

#217 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 03:08 PM:

albatross @213: the study I found about consent signals backs up what you're proposing, the idea that date rapes don't generally occur because a man misunderstands a woman's signals of non-consent, but that he chooses to ignore such signals and counts on being able to claim ambiguity if it comes to a defense.

And thus, teaching men not to commit acquaintance rape, men who lack the ethical standards to DESIRE active enthusiastic consent ANYWAY, really means changing the culture so that a man would realistically believe that if it came down to a "her word against his" situation, the default would be to believe the woman when she said she did not provide or withdrew consent.

Clearly, this isn't going to happen in an American judicial setting, as it goes against the presumption of innocence. Rape shield laws are helpful, as they remove one avenue of attacking an accuser's credibility.

In a collegiate setting, the disciplinary procedures don't have to follow Constitutional guidelines. Possibly some sort of affirmative-action-like guideline, where, in the absence of evidence, the accuser's allegation is presumed true, would create this culture... but probably not, and probably it'd be a Giant Mess. I am not advocating it. A less-formal culture shift, where people didn't AUTOMATICALLY jump in and claim the accuser was lying, would be a great thing, but I don't know how to achieve that beyond criticizing the people who claim that women who press rape charges must be making false allegations.

And, of course, having popular-culture depictions of sexual activity that model consent-checks as erotic, and active and enthusiastic consent as the ideal, would contribute to changing the culture. As would depictions of dubious-consent situations that AREN'T eroticized, and show the creepiness.

Oh, and the "have cabfare, don't get so drunk you don't know what you're doing, don't leave your drink unattended, don't put yourself in a compromising situation" advice? Is all stuff that my mother taught me -- not presented as rape prevention, but as DATING advice. Complete with stories of how, at 1960s fraternity parties, rather than be seen to refuse drinks, she'd pour her booze into the potted PLANT. I considered my mother old-fashioned, and I know I modified her advice in my head to "don't put yourself in a compromising situation unless you already know you want to have sex," but I also understood what she was saying.

What does it say about the culture that I understood that her dating advice was built around rape-prevention strategies?

#218 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 03:12 PM:

Over in Peter David's thread on the movie, a commenter directed folks to read the last paragraph of this review, which seems relevant to this discussion, as well:

Instantly forgettable as the contemptible piece of garbage it is, The Spirit is an arrogant movie. It believes that it's better than its source, smarter than its audience, and clued in to some great secret about the mechanism of adaptation that no one else is. It fancies itself insightful when the only insight it offers is that Miller doesn't seem to know what it is about his work that resonates. The misogyny herein, for example, doesn't reveal greater truths about gender relationships in noir (as, arguably, Sin City does), nor does it understand machismo in a useful way; it doesn't treat its subject matter with any kind of respect whatsoever, which makes Miller a whole lot like Danny Boyle in that he appears to hate genre pictures but not enough that he's above making money off the people who don't. The Spirit is a giant dump that Miller has taken on the very thing responsible for his success, and it's not done with spite, I don't think, but rather with an almost complete ignorance. Strong to say feckless, closer to the bone to say clueless: Miller is an arrested adolescent, and I'm suspicious that his interpreters (including his fans--including me) have given the work a kind of insight into the human condition that Miller doesn't himself enjoy. Judging just by The Spirit, Miller's world is a gummy place of pages stuck together with spunk and pictures from GUNS & AMMO splitting time with old pulp-novel cover art. His genius might be that he never had the misfortune of outgrowing the pleasure of a moment when the Octopus assaults The Spirit with a toilet while proclaiming that he loves toilets, or when someone who looks like Mendes, oops, drops the towel she's wearing at the hero's command. But it never seemed pathetic until now.

#219 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 03:36 PM:

Epacris #208:

kd lang does Johnny Get Angry.

#220 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 04:33 PM:

#190 et seq. A flash video mocking the Antioch College consent standards.

#186 Mike: If you need to hear it, you can always settle things with me by saying you know I'm wrong, but can't say why.

Take grace where it is offered, my friend. I'm certain in my heart that Teresa can say why you're wrong, in great and painful (for you) detail. The fact that she's shown mercy should leave you feeling grateful rather than otherwise.

#221 ::: Fiendish Writer ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 05:02 PM:

#220: I am certain too that Teresa can explain in exquisite precision the wheres and whys of his wrongness.

#217: Yes and yes.

Too often, the rapist is excused and the victim blamed.

Rape is not sexy. It is violent and ugly. It will only stop if the rapists are taught and taught that it is wrong. That women are people too.

#222 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 05:20 PM:

I can't even tell from how people are reacting to what I say if the people criticizing me are doing so to nurture the denial such a thing as rape takes place takes place in the community centered, for example, around their local school. Whether they intend to or not, this criticism seems to be serving the very agenda of creating a taboo against discussing a topic, where such a taboo will serve to shelter deniability.

Bullshit. Ok, probably not. I suspect you are thinking this but the idea that peeople who are explaining just why they see what you are saying (with quotation: both indirect; which shows how it reads, and direct so as to point out exactly where, at great investment of time, energy, psychic ease and in detail) makes that feel more like self-justification of your entrenched position.

You seem to be claiming a piece of moral high-ground, and ascribing wilful blindness to those who disagree.

Since many of the people here (myself included) are discussing, "acquaintance rape/date rape, the idea we aren't considering rape in "safe communities" is strange.

Want to know the sort of scene which came to mind when you started discussing the need to keep rape sexy (I don't know what to call it, every characterization offered of how your comment reads has been met with, "That's not what I said/meant/inferred." Well, I am going to go with what I saw you implying. The meaning of the message is the message that's received)?

The scene in "The Big Easy" where she says no, and he keeps going. She keeps saying no, and he keeps going.

Turns out she meant yes (or perhaps just maybe). The message that sends out is, "keep going, she'll come round.

That's the message that leads to date rape.

#223 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 06:17 PM:

Terry: it's not just me, then? Because, truly, I am having a hard time making Mike's positions make SENSE, or even to read them as staying consistent from post to post. It seemed to me back in #168 that he was using the phrase "mildly-foolish" to characterize a young male viewer who experienced impulses to commit rape, and who needed to be shown rape in a way that was erotic enough to hold his attention, and then shown external retribution for that rape, in order to develop a capacity to "self-monitor" against his existing impulses.

Then in his response to me at #211, he said that he was using "mildly-foolish" to characterize viewers who did not believe that rape happened in their own communities. And then to the argument I *do* think I follow from him, which is that only eroticized rapes have sufficient entertainment value to be included in popular works, and that removing these depictions would result in a taboo silence around the topic instead, leading to more viewers who believed that rape didn't happen.

Can you get the reading of "mildly-foolish" he proposes in #211 out of #168? Because I can't, at all, and I wonder what the heck I'm missing.

#224 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 06:28 PM:

James D. Macdonald @ 219: Holy--

So I'm watching the kd lang clip you linked to, and wondering just how much of the tone/attitude would come across without the pictures . . . and then (bet you can guess at which point) I stopped wondering. Epacris @ 208: If that performance didn't change people's emotional response to "Johnny Get Angry," than I don't think anything could.

#225 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 06:59 PM:

Another performance of Johnny Get Angry by kd lang.

#226 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 07:05 PM:

Rikibeth: I don't think it's just you. See the comments about "utilitarian art" at 145 and 159.

#227 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 07:42 PM:

fidelio, #216: I feel compelled to add that your jab at Teresa in #186, implying that she was posting under the influence, was pretty tacky

Agreed. Also fairly ironic, as I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that Mike himself is posting from the middle of a nine-day bender. This would certainly explain the amount of what he's written that gets deep into what one of my freelance-editor friends calls "Yes, that's a sentence" territory -- apparently grammatically correct but otherwise completely opaque -- and the frequent bizarre non-sequiturs as noted by heresiarch upthread.

#228 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 08:01 PM:

Fiendish Writer @221 --

The women are people thing doesn't work; lots of folks with the head-dent that insists it doens't matter what happens to other people, or those not of the same tribe, or whichever, however that gets constructed. It will not necessarily mean anything that women are people; someone can decide that what they want is more important.

The appropriate cultural trope is "If you rape, you are not a man. If you rape, you are not worthy to live; the best use you can make of yourself is to cut your throat in silence." That has to be pounded in as an automatic axiom, one that holds when blind drunk, angry, and horny.

This takes defining rape as sexual contact under circumstances where you are not justly certain of prior consent, and hashing out and agreeing on and promulgating with the iron voices of the militant angels what "certain" and "prior" and "consent" mean.

It takes teaching children how to talk about desire; what constitutes consent, and the threshold of certainty appropriate to first sexual consent (sober, overt, etc.) with a specific partner, how that's different from subsequent instances of consent, and why specific enthusiasm one can take personally is the only kind of sexual encounter that's really worth anything.

It takes a real push in art to create a widespread narrative for consent that valorizes an explicit yes; it takes a real push to replace the "all effectiveness is autocratic violence" trope with something better. It takes making female sexual enthusiasm in specific chosen cases an unmarked state.

This is all generational-slog stuff; shoulder to the wheel and keep pushing.

In the meantime, there's good advice for maintaining personal security; Terry's been talking about some of it.

#229 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 08:12 PM:

Rikibeth @#217:

What does it say about the culture that I understood that her dating advice was built around rape-prevention strategies?

Very little, and the reason explains a lot of the conflicts and confusions about rape:

The hazard and consequent fear of rape is not part of our culture! It's far more basic than that, with roots reaching back to long before we were properly human, much less talking about the necessity for consent.

What was already apparent from psychology has only been reinforced by neurological and hormonal research: sex and aggression aren't just causally linked, but are structurally overlapped on multiple levels. Our courtship and mating behavior varies widely, but there's always been quite a lot of "pushiness" and outright force in the mix. (Not always from the participants -- consider the uglier side of arranged marriages.)

The ideas that forcing sex is always a crime in its own right, that explicit consent is always required, and that there are "unfair" ways to change No to Yes -- those are all essentially modern ideas, with minimal support in (what's left of) our instincts.

That doesn't mean these ideas (or rather goals) are wrong (or even hopeless), but it does mean these ideas don't "come naturally" -- they need to be explicitly taught to every generation, until the teaching itself becomes ingrained in the standards for parenthood. That applies to both issues of self-restraint, and pragmatic questions of self-defense.

#230 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 08:18 PM:

albatross: The lessons on rape are built around that. There are very few, "rape prevention classes" which aren't notional.

They will say things like, "Take a course in self-defense" (while not mentioning the great variation in such classes. Tae-kwon-do is great as means of fitness, self-confidence, sparring and the like. It is moderately useful when someone who isn't trained in anything (and/or isn't used to getting hit) attacks you. But as a martial art (esp. as generally taught outside of Korea) it's a little problematic. Kenpo is really good for street defense, but unless someone is told about the advantages/disadvantages of the arts available, it's sort of like telling someone to "get some personal transportation")

The rest of such classes tend to be in the vein of, "If you do these things you are inviting rape, so don't do these things." Those things basically add up to expecting that one can act as an autonomous individual.

Then there will be list of "active" defenses. Some of them are common sense in general (I don't want to be slipped a mickey, even though the odds of my being raped are much less than a woman's). Some of them are really offensive (I was listening to one which included, "When going out and drinking be sure to have at least one male member of the group).

re the bullet points:

a: I don't think most cases of rape are cases where a man "knows" he is doing something wrong. I suspect a large number are the result of him thinking what he is doing doesn't count as rape. Which leads to b: Date rape isn't hard to prevent; when the definitions are clear (lack of active consent = non=consent. Non-consent = rape.

c: Willingness to rape your date, when actively done (see above re b: and the lack of clear definitions) is about one's values and beliefs. For want of a better term, "rape by misadventure" is abpout society poorly training the males in the population about what constitutes rape.

When the public comment is, "well yes, she might have been raped, but she should have known better," the message is that pulling a train on a woman who has passed out isn't, "really" rape.

Which ties into the depiction of rape as a stranger attacking someone in a dark alley. "Nice boys" don't rape people, nasty strangers do. The kids who raped the 16 year old on the pool table were, "nice boys," ergo it must not have been rape, and besides, she drank so much that she passed out, what did she expect (and yes, I saw all of those things in the newspaper, both the Orange County Register, and the LA Times).

I'll wager, to drift afield; a bit, that had the Duke Boys been black, and the women white, the national dialogue would have been different.

For support of this I quote you, "But my rebuttable model of the world is that, as in most things, educating potential victims about how to avoid being victims of a crime is much more efficient and effective than educating criminals into becoming decent people. That presupposes some, "criminal" is the rapist. Most rapes aren't done by "sexual predators" (as the term is used). They are done by people who haven't been properly trained about what rape is.

They've been taught that "good girls" have to say no a few times, and bad girls put out anyway. Which means they don't realise that pressuring someone (or getting them drunk, buzzed, or stoned) moves from consent to rape.

Does that mean negotiation can't happen? No. But it does mean you'd better be really secure in your relationship with someone, or risk becoming a rapist.

#231 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 08:28 PM:

One thing I've noticed in the last few years is how few depictions of sex in films and TV show any sort of foreplay. More and more lovers just jump on each other and rip off each others' clothes, cutting immediately to shots of bodies pumping against each other. Yes, this is the notion of being "swept away" that was mentioned upthread, but it's also a way to avoid mentioning that not everyone is constantly ready for rough sex at the drop of a hat, or the notion that using protection requires you to stop for a second.

Now there's no reason that frex putting on a condom can't be incorporated into foreplay, so I don't accept the argument that protection is necessarily not sexy, or a "mood destroyer". Even more, foreplay can serve as an implied period of evaluating consent: "That feels nice, keep doing it", "Please don't do that, it turns me off", and sometimes "Your notion of foreplay is painful and unsexy; I'm no longer interested in having sex with you". This runs counter to the old myths that allowing access to some parts of the anatomy such as nipples or genitals means that consent has been given unconditionally, and can't be revoked.

This is my biggest objection to the way sex is often depicted in film: it shows only one way to initiate sex, and makes it seem as if there is only one kind of sex act, ignoring that not only do different people have different tastes, but also that people have different desires at different times. And the particular way that sex is depicted ignores the use of protection, the need for foreplay, and the fact that sex often is something that starts slowly and builds, not "wham, bam, thank you, ma'am".

I suspect that this particular depiction is used so much in films because it's expected that it will stimulate the most people in the audience with the least use of screen time, but it has the very undesirable effect of minimizing important aspects of sex. If most of your knowledge of sexual customs and possibilities comes from popular media, there's a lot about sex you won't know.

#232 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 08:31 PM:

David @229: Point taken, and for the most part I'm in agreement -- my response is more of an elaboration than a contradiction. I asked, "What does it say about our culture?" You said, "Nothing, it goes deeper than our culture and into our animal nature." My response is then "In that case, it says our culture hasn't progressed sufficiently away from nature-red-in-tooth-and-claw towards what I would desire from civilization." I think we're pretty much in agreement on there still being work to do, and the desirability of that work.

Graydon @228: It takes a real push in art to create a widespread narrative for consent that valorizes an explicit yes; it takes a real push to replace the "all effectiveness is autocratic violence" trope with something better. It takes making female sexual enthusiasm in specific chosen cases an unmarked state.

ELEGANTLY put. Hence my admiration for Kaylee. Hence the HEATED debate I've seen over Heinlein's female characters: while I admire their enthusiastic embrace of "Yes," others have pointed out that this quality may not be meaningful when none of them are depicted as offering a "No." (Actually, I've just thought of one counter-example, and may bring it up if I find myself in one of those discussions in future.)

What you wrote above makes me want to DANCE.

#233 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 09:00 PM:

Terry, I would have agreed with your assessment of albatross' bullet points until I looked at the study I linked to in #196.

Now I have to disagree -- again, only somewhat. The study suggested that while men are more prone to ascribe a greater degree of consent to certain signals than women appear to intend by them, they're both reasonably clear on what signals convey lack of consent and withdrawal of consent, and that perpetrators of acquaintance rape don't actually believe that they have consent, but choose to override the signals of nonconsent that they perceive.

So the important aspect isn't in teaching men to recognize the absence of consent, but in teaching them that proceeding in the absence of consent is Not Okay, rather than an acceptable or desirable sign of their masculinity. Or, What Graydon Said.

Your points about intoxication and about the coercive nature of pressuring are valuable too -- but I'd suggest that in an environment where active, enthusiastic consent was valorized and held as the erotic ideal, and where sex in the absence of enthusiasm was held in disdain, complete and total sobriety wouldn't be quite as vital, because there's a world of difference between a slightly tipsy "Hell yes!" and a tipsy lack-of-objection and *certainly* a too-drunk-or-stoned-to-know-what's-happening.

#234 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 09:14 PM:

Rikibeth: I'm glad the study shows that. I am a firm believer that the only real consent is "yes". I also know that until I had a better idea of my rational mind on various substances I made a personal rule that, absent a prior physical relationship that I considered myself unable to give consent.

I also made the same sort of rule for partners. If we'd not done something sober, we weren't going to do it for the first time when less than sober, no matter how good an idea it seemed at the time.

There were some caveats; all having to do with that, "enthusiatic, 'hell yes!'" you mentioned. If we'd decided we were of a mind, and then had drinks, and were still tolerably compos mentos, the consent carried over.

It saved me a lot of worry.

25 years down the road I am a little more liberal in what I consider sober, but I tend to figure I know my reactions to drink better, and make allowances for the idea my potential partners might too. Even so, more than a bit, and I'll suggest we see how we feel about it next time around.

It's what I recommend to people who ask me how to tell when someone is consenting.

#235 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 09:15 PM:

Rikibeth @232 --

Thank you!

If you can't say no, you can't say yes; certainly. That's another one for the preferred axiom set.

As is the bit about how carbonated hormones are neither proof of True Love nor The Enemy; they're carbonated hormones, and there are these pretty-decent sets of coping strategies for each of the three predominant cases, which you get taught and even get quizzed on. ("more hormones than brain cells"; "more brain cells than hormones"; "neither the brain cells nor the hormones have a reliable clear advantage".) Heck, one could even teach kids that the really carbonated hormones generally last about seven years, on average, and really long term relationships have to not count on being stupid in love.

Heinlein heroines seem to me to all suffer from being types, rather than individuals; it's writing from the elder world, before it was widely understood that individuals aren't examples of an abstraction.

#236 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 10:52 PM:

Mike #129: That's why I think Frank Miller has spent more time thinking about what it takes to thwart a rape than all the people who've called him a misogynist put together. He's the only one I see giving young men a clue what drives to monitor while interacting with others.

Mike #211: I don't consider Frank Miller creating for himself the slack to violate every rule of the Comics Code Authority, and the intent to send any positive messages, interchangeable agendas.

Rikibeth #214: I also pulled a quote in which you said he was presenting a positive and helpful message about avoiding rape.

Yes, you did. And I did say he presented a positive message.

But for Michael's inference about what others were saying about Miller's intentions, everything I've said still seems reconcilable.

Mike #168: However, if the rape is eroticized in the drama, and then the rapist suffers obvious retribution for it, the rape is established for a mildly-foolish audience-member as an experience, to know, to self-monitor for, in a way he can't for the horror-only-depictions others are saying is enough to act as discouragement. Horror-only-depictions are useless as a self-monitoring guide, because the mildly-foolish audience-member is then self-monitoring for indicators that can still be absent from a rape (re: SeanH #112 was [thinking] something like this too).

Mike #212: ...if such a little bit of awareness can prevent so much damage, no, no one has presented with any reason for me to waive the privilege of referring that kind of foolishness as mild, also.

Implicit in what we call the 80/20 rule is the notion that out of a suite of options, one option will produce an outcome 4 or 5 times better than the next best option. But we can't think through which option is the best, otherwise we could teach genius.

Well, in the disagreement here, there's me, who's talking about what may or may not be the best approach, and there are people who counter apparently by presenting burning the menu of options as the best option. Sean's observation seems to underscore why nurturing a taboo isn't the option that will give us what we want.

Rikibeth #214: And I don't see how your use of "mildly-foolish" in the first comment you use it in maps at ALL to how you use it in your most recent comments.

There's the wisdom, if the analogy isn't too outrageous, of spending 15¢ like it's a dollar. In this case, there's the 15¢ of Sean's point, when spent, that saves the outrageous damage of a rape in the circumstances he portrayed. I don't imagine that 15¢ spent requiring the display of a huge "mission accomplished" banner, however outrageous that damage. So I refer to the foolishness as mild. That is all.

fidelio #216: Mike, I think it's safe to say that people in this thread are not in denial about the risk of rape in many supposedly safe community venues, including not just schools but also churches, workplaces, and clubs.

I thought my posts subsequent to albatross's advice had avoided attributing the criticism I was receiving to the community.

Take grace where it is offered, my friend. I'm certain in my heart that Teresa can say why you're wrong, in great and painful (for you) detail. The fact that she's shown mercy should leave you feeling grateful rather than otherwise.

I only meant to say I want her to have what she wants. I didn't mean that to imply she was helpless.

An inequity can arise where people who are free to behave casually then turn around and challenge their victims to think through their behavior. People seek privileges so we can escape thinking. Thinking can feel like murder. People only think when we have to, therefore it's the people who have the least who never get a break from their thoughts. So we either take the prescription for anti-depressants, or we push through thinking -- I did some of the breakdown of this in my post were I say I had to be told that Mr Antolini was actually hitting on Holden in Catcher in the Rye. I just wanted to say I want Teresa to have what she wants, but framed it in terms of a notion on the tip of my tongue, which is the inherent cruelty in challenging others to think.

This kind of makes really obvious how I benefit from being here, doesn't it? I had no idea what I said could be taken as a jab.

I can't take the roles society has offered me as socially acceptable, so I have to build my own role. But I wouldn't have been given any glimpse of the offense y'all are taking if I just kept to myself. This is why if I'm given the choice of keeping my dignity and picking up any wisdom, I'm going to be quick to sacrifice my dignity.

Terry #222: Want to know the sort of scene which came to mind when you started discussing the need to keep rape sexy (I don't know what to call it, every characterization offered of how your comment reads has been met with, "That's not what I said/meant/inferred." Well, I am going to go with what I saw you implying. The meaning of the message is the message that's received)?

The scene in "The Big Easy" where she says no, and he keeps going. She keeps saying no, and he keeps going.

Turns out she meant yes (or perhaps just maybe). The message that sends out is, "keep going, she'll come round.

That's the message that leads to date rape.

That's a failure of the movie to not call rape rape. I haven't been arguing to not call rape what it is.

Have you seen that HBO show Rome? One episode devoted a few minutes to Octavius telling his fiance/new-bride Livia that when he hits her during sex, it doesn't mean he's displeased with her, but that that's part of how he harvests gratification from sex. Then in something like the next episode, they devote a few minutes to a sex-scene between them. Octavius starts to lose his drive, so Livia slaps him, and his drive returns with renewed vigor. The implication seemed to be that any gratification he could harvest from control is by his responsibilities ruling Rome. So sexually, he feels the need to be dominated.

I've heard couples engage in the practice you described. And I think rape should be called what it is. And I also think couples are each entitled to their accounts of their own experiences.

#237 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 10:56 PM:

That should be: ...is burned-out by his responsibilities ruling Rome.

#238 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 11:04 PM:

Graydon, #228:...why specific enthusiasm one can take personally is the only kind of sexual encounter that's really worth anything.

Rikibeth, #223: ...an environment where active, enthusiastic consent was valorized...

Can I just add a "Hells, yeah!"

Because seriously, if you are not getting specific, enthusiastic, active consent (regardless of the genders involved), why aren't you stopping what you're doing to ask, "Hey, are you sure you really want to do this...?"


#239 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 11:06 PM:

Mike @236 --

People only think when we have to

Do, please, speak for yourself, sir.

#240 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 11:09 PM:

David Harmon, #229: and Rikibeth, #232: Not sure if you've both noticed this quote on the front page of Making Light: “The whole point of society is to be less unforgiving than nature.” (Arthur D. Hlavaty)

#241 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 11:19 PM:

Okay, I think I'm done trying to continue the discussion directly with Mike, because the part of his latest post where he was apparently responding to stuff I'd asked him (he did, after all, quote my comments directed towards him) fell into what Lee described at #227 as "Yes, that's a sentence" territory. Other parts of #236 are more coherent, but I'm not quite sure how they're germane to the discussion.

However, I've had a hell of an interesting time discussing the things this subject has brought up with everyone ELSE participating in the thread. Thanks!

#242 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 11:31 PM:

Mike: Part of the problem with that scene is it subscribes to a number of memes: one is that rape is sexy.

Another is that rape can be justified later, if she ends up having a good time.

All of that means the use of erotic imagery was used to make rape look good.

It happens you sort of addressed this at 106 And if you kill the arousal-aspect in dramatizing the conflict "acting on your arousal may inspire someone competent to want to kill you" you may as well not include the message at all, and it still seems to be a useful and truthful message. How is any dramatic presentation where all the women in the audience are nodding in agreement really going to discourage a predatory urge? And if your response is that you don't care, then you don't care about rape-denial either.

Which was followed a bit later by Steve Taylor sayiing: Well, yes. But on the plus side we wouldn't have movies holding up rape as something having a tantalisingly sexy edge to it.

That scene is one where lots of guys in the audience are going to be nodding their heads in agreement. You can say it's terrible because it doesn't show the (hero) of the movie getting savagd later for his rape; but that might be seen as complaining the art wasn't utilitarian.

And, really, that scene (in various permutations) is a lot more common than the one where the casual (i.e. no use of the threat of violent force) rapist ends up beaten to a pulp/killed.

The overwhelming portrayal of such rapes are that it's just regular sex, and she had to be persuaded she wanted it.

As to the Rome example: So what? First, we are looking at an historical drama. That changes some of the rules.

Second, you introduce a strawman. I don't care what rules a couple sets up for themselves. Established relationships have different understandings. I've had partners tell me they don't care if I intiate sex with them while they are sleeping.

They made an informed decision to tell me that I could use my judgement in that circumstance to initiate sex without specific consent. If I did so, it wasn't rape.

Context is important; the context of rape as sexy is a problem, even if the rapist is late punished, because (and this is where the utilitarian [as opposed to practical] theory of art fails), the message is out of the hands of the artist. She can have a meaning she wants it to have, but the viewer will give it meaning.

And the meaning ascribed to erotic rape may be "that looks really hot, I have to make sure I don't get punished for it."

The practical argument for not making rape sexy is it avoids that sort of misreading of the message.

#243 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 12:03 AM:

albatross @ 213: "a. I assume that most cases of rape are, in fact, situations where the man knows he's doing something wrong."

To paraphrase Upton Sinclair: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his pleasure depends on not understanding it." No doubt the morning before, in the clear light of day, most date rapists would identify their actions as rape. Once committed to their error, however, I doubt they will ever admit it. If I'm right, then forcing men to clearly think out what is and is not rape in a rational moment could remove the plausible deniability to one's self that makes ignoring lack of consent seem okay.

"c. I assume that willingness to rape your date... is fundamentally about your values and beliefs. Peoples' values and beliefs can change, and trying to change them is worthwhile, but it's not easy[.]"

I disagree. To elaborate on what I said above, most people's moral values are pretty indistinct, absent a test, and pretty flexible, given the right incentive. It is only in the crux of decision that most people investigate their morals with any depth--there are few Kants, sitting at their desks pondering the nature of ethics.

This is especially important when you're talking about sex, because let's face it--everyone is stupid when they're horny. If people wait until they are in the grip of passion to make moral decisions, they're going to make really bad, selfish decisions. Forcing people think through their decisions while they are sober and clear-headed is, I think, going to make a real difference in how good those eventual decisions are.

"But my rebuttable model of the world is that, as in most things, educating potential victims about how to avoid being victims of a crime is much more efficient and effective than educating criminals into becoming decent people."

The effectiveness is an illusion, I think. It's much easier to find people interested in preventing crime against them, but ultimately there's very little they can do. It's much, much easier for someone to commit a murder than it is for anyone to prevent them: even the President of the United States has been killed by lone crazies. The same is true for robbery; it's easier to mug someone than it is to pay for bodyguards to prevent mugging. It's easier to rob a house than to train guard dogs and buy a security system. There's a fundamental asymmetry to crime: it's always easier to commit the crime than to prevent it. Thus, the only true protection from crime is to minimize the number of people who wish to commit them.

#244 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 01:30 AM:

heresiarch @ 243

There's a fundamental asymmetry to crime: it's always easier to commit the crime than to prevent it.

There's also a fundamental asymmetry between crime prevention and law enforcement: it's almost always cheaper and easier to prevent a crime than to catch and deal with the offender after a crime is committed. Not to mention that prevention entails there not being a victim.

All these actions fall on a cost scale that's similar to the one cited for finding bugs in programs: the earlier you find them in the development cycle, the cheaper they are to find and fix. Just so with crime: prevention is cheaper* than enforcement, and preventing the potential criminal from seriously considering the commission of the crime is cheaper than having the victim avoid the crime.

I think this has been said several times in this thread, but it bears repeating because it's fundamental to the discussion of how sex in general and rape in particular is depicted: changing the default societal view of the act has a lot more leverage than changing the minds of a few men. Our society's ambivalence towards female sexuality and towards coercive sex is a primary reason why coercion is so common.

* And here I'm using 'cost' to mean all kinds of cost: in terms of money, health, emotional distress, public health, etc.

#245 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 09:15 AM:

Mike #236: An inequity can arise where people who are free to behave casually then turn around and challenge their victims to think through their behavior. People seek privileges so we can escape thinking. Thinking can feel like murder. People only think when we have to, therefore it's the people who have the least who never get a break from their thoughts. [Cited-text bolded]

Graydon #239: Do, please, speak for yourself, sir.

What I referred to includes what chess-masters do when they play rapid-fire.

What I referred to isn't what I'm experiencing here, but it also isn't as condemnatory as you seem to be inferring. If it were, we wouldn't have fire drills. There are no drills for new arguments.

Terry #242: Part of the problem with that [Big Easy] scene is it subscribes to a number of memes....

Terry, I'm not defending the Big Easy scene. I called it a failure. From what you've told me, your example might have worked if the encounter had been referred to as a rape, which it was.

As to the Rome example: So what?

The Rome scenes were an example of how someone can plausibly receive gratification from being dominated. My understanding is that people actually take gratification that way.

Second, you introduce a strawman. I don't care what rules a couple sets up for themselves.

As strawman is, by definition, an agenda no one claims. A strawman is attributing to me a stake in defending your example from the Big Easy, when I've called it a failure.

My example isn't a strawman if I consider what people actually do relevant. My understanding is that it does, and the example demonstrates why.

#246 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 09:33 AM:

Sorry. That should be: My understanding is that people actually do take gratification from being dominated, and the example from Rome demonstrates why.

#247 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 10:22 AM:

Mike @245 --

I think you would benefit greatly from acknowledging you're wrong on those occasions when you are, in sober truth of fact, wrong.

I myself, and numerous persons of my various acquaintance, think for fun and more or less all the time. It doesn't involve pain or cruelty, though it sometimes involves effort.

There's a plausible analogy between those folks who find going for a ruck run to be inherently grim, irrespective of what kind of shape they are in, and those folks who consider hard exercise a necessary recreation for the full enjoyment of their lives.

#248 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 01:29 PM:

Bruce #244:

Yep. Also, fixing society (whether that's changing the culture so that fewer men are willing to commit rape, or so that fewer men[1] are willing to commit murder, robbery, or assault) is a very big job, not something we're going to accomplish anytime soon. It's worthwhile to see if we can push society in that direction, though nobody can really direct social changes of that magnitude.

In the meantime, as individuals, we are wise to take the "crime as weather" view of things. And I'm very sure that heresiarch does not, in fact, ignore the risks of crime in his daily life, on the theory that there's no absolute safety this side of the grave. (But correct me if I'm wrong.) Locking the door, not flashing lots of cash, being careful what neighborhoods and bars you're in late at night, those are all sensible things to do if (as I suspect) they decrease your probability of being a crime victim, despite the imperfect protection they offer. (On similar grounds, I strongly recommend condoms for casual sex with strangers, and flu vaccines for most everyone. The imperfect protection available isn't as good as curing HIV or influenza, but it's still a lot better than nothing.)

One thing I keep noticing in discussions of rape prevention is that there seem to be ideological or moral arguments about what advice should be given--as with outrage that someone tells women to avoid dressing in skimpy outfits to avoid rape. ISTM that the relevant question here is whether that's effective--does it actually decrease your risk, and by how much[2]? To the extent that ideological objections to the advice go against empirical evidence, that's a very bad thing.

[1] To a first approximation, these are done by relatively young men. The fraction of your population that is men from about 15-25 has a huge impact on your crime rate, because that's more-or-less the group of people who do most of the crime.

[2] I don't know the answer, and I have my doubts that a skimpy outfit has much effect. But I'm sure the answer is not to be found in my or anyone else's feelings about the unjustness of women being told not to dress in skimpy outfits for fear of being raped. Similarly, there are neighborhoods in which it is seriously unwise to be wandering at night. That's not right--there shouldn't be places where people have to be afraid of becoming crime victims all the time. But refusing to tell people to avoid those neighborhoods at night because such things shouldn't exist is doing harm instead of good!

#249 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 01:48 PM:

albatross, #248: There is one very significant difference between telling a man not to flash a roll in a skeevy bar, and telling a woman not to wear a short skirt. If the man does it and gets mugged, this will not be assumed to absolve his assailant(s) of any responsibility for the crime. Until rape is no longer widely regarded as "just something that happens" to "women who ask for it", there's a reason to push back against the attitude of "if you do everything right, then you won't get raped -- and if you don't do everything exactly right, then it's your own fault if it happens."

#250 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 02:25 PM:

Amplification on the above, from a comment left in my LJ a while back:

Years ago, I was on a traveling panel of survivors. We told our stories on campuses, in prisons, police barracks, rehab centers. I knew my colleagues' stories by heart and every place we went, we heard new stories. From these, let me list for you the things that are considered evidence of consent:

- getting into a car
- getting into an elevator
- going to someone's home
- camping with your friends in a paddock at the state fair
- going to the prom
- staying late at work
- leaving a window unlocked
- sleeping
- going to a party
- staying in a hotel
- not wearing pantyhose with a skirt
- wearing pantyhose with a skirt
- watching tv with your stepfather
- going to a bar
- going to a restaurant with a book instead of a companion

The list goes on.

As has been stated before, the list of things that women are advised to do "to avoid rape" ends up being a list of anything most people would consider that they have every right to do as part of living a normal life!

Don't go anywhere alone. Don't leave your house after dark. Don't ever wear any kind of clothing that any member of the opposite sex might consider attractive. Don't ever be anywhere private with a member of the opposite sex. Never, ever leave a door unlocked or a window open in your own home. Don't ever go to bars or clubs or parties at a friend's house. Don't ever take a drink.

Gee, sounds a lot like sharia, doesn't it? Would you be willing to do all of this, all the time, in order to minimize -- not the possibility of being attacked, because that can still happen to someone who does all those things -- but the number of ways that YOU COULD BE ACCUSED OF "ASKING FOR IT"?

Also, I suggest that you go read this post I made about if mugging were treated like rape. (It's too long to quote here in its entirety.)

#251 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 02:30 PM:

Albatross @248 --

The "crime as weather" idea is fundamentally fucked up.

Weather is an entire planetary atmosphere and hydrosphere and the output of a gods-be-feathered star; crime is specific human choices, often those of individuals rather than organizations. Equating the two is an attitude for peons.

No one

Fear makes people stupid—tends to collapse their perception of their actual choice space—and makes approaching sex with something approaching joyful consent more or less impossible.

This "they might all be rapists" outlook is not any kind of win, not even a short term palliative tactical necessity. Just like "they might all be thieves"; it sells a lot of locks and alarms but doesn't ever make anything better.

#252 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 03:09 PM:

If the law made the use of the phrase "asking for it" or variations thereof by the defendant during an investigation or trial for rape an admission of guilt, or made it grounds for extended sentence upon conviction... sigh. It probably wouldn't help.

Tempting notion, though.

#253 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 03:17 PM:

Graydon #251 The "crime as weather" idea is fundamentally fucked up.

Maybe. But for a farmer it is absolutely the best plan to treat the weather as an active and intelligent opponent.

Also: "Don't go anywhere alone" is totally good advice for everyone, always, in all circumstances.

#254 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 03:35 PM:

Jim, let me ask if I'm reading you right. Are you saying that no one should ever go to the mall, to the grocery store, to the gas station by themselves? Because that's what it means when women are told that. Not "Don't go anywhere that you're going to be the only person for miles around," but "Don't go anywhere at all unaccompanied." And by "accompanied", they mean having a man along with you, so that other men can see you're someone else's property. As I said, very like sharia.


#255 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 03:59 PM:

Lee @ 254
I don't think Jim means 'unaccompanied except by a man'; he means 'unaccompanied' period.

(I go out alone because I'm going out during the daytime to fairly well-populated places - not because I'm afraid, but because that's when I'm out doing things. And I'm not going to unfamiliar places, or even to some familiar ones, without someone else along - I won't go birdwatching by myself, for example. I also have a whistle and a fairly heavy, solid keyfob in my purse.)

#256 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 04:16 PM:

Lee @ 250: As has been stated before, the list of things that women are advised to do "to avoid rape" ends up being a list of anything most people would consider that they have every right to do as part of living a normal life!

This reminds me of a Golda Meir quote:

Once in the Cabinet we had to deal with the fact that there had been an outbreak of assaults on women at night. One minister suggested a curfew. Women should stay at home after dark.

I said: "But it's the men who are attacking the women. If there's to be a curfew, let the men stay home, not the women."
No curfew was imposed.

#257 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 04:38 PM:

Graydon #251:

I think there are two equally-sensible ways to look at stuff like war, crime, and terrorism--that is, bad stuff that's the result of conscious choice of other humans.

a. As the subject of explicit government (and other institutions') policy, which we may hope to influence.

b. As something rather like the weather--bigger than you, broadly not affected by your arguments or preferences or desires.

Now, we do a hell of a lot of (a). Cops, courts, jails, parole officers, the juvenile justice system, social workers, even executions. We try to deter or capture criminals, we try to convince them to change their ways before or after they get involved in serious crime[1]. That's all important, and I'd never suggest that we stop--that way lies Somalia.

But as individuals, living our daily lives, we have little power to cause criminals to change their ways. If there's a mugger hanging around the mall, I don't know how to convince him to stop being a mugger and make his food-and-meth money in some other way. All I can do is take steps to avoid him, or to make myself a harder target. It's a good idea to take those steps.

I don't see this as somehow taking all the joy out of life. I lock my door the way I buckle my seatbelt or shred my financial documents before throwing them away--it's adapting to a risk, but it's not like this dominates my life or ruins it. I think this is probably true for most other people too, but I could be wrong.

Bottom Line: Adapting to risks as they exist makes sense, even when the risks are the result of other peoples' evil or stupid choices. That doesn't preclude voting or arguing for policies to encourage better choices, but you still have to take into account the risks that exist as best you can.

[1] A lot of this system is surely suboptimal, and some is downright awful. But it's not like we're just treating crime as some kind of inherent given that can't be affected by our policies.

#258 ::: Fiendish Writer ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 05:01 PM:

Using common sense is good.

Taking precautions is good.

But with rape, these only help avoid the stranger who attacks. (And not always.) And most victims know their attackers. Those attackers are husbands, friends, relatives, neighbors, teachers, doctors.

So be careful and use common sense, yes, but we need so much more.

#259 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 05:18 PM:

Lee #249, #250:

In case I wasn't clear before, I agree with you that:

a. Nothing a woman does excuses a man raping her[1], in the same way that nothing anyone does excuses mugging them.

b. Some things a woman does may increase her risk of being raped, as some things anyone does may increase their risk of being mugged. It's a good thing to help everyone understand what those things are--what are the risks of various somewhat-risky behaviors, and how might those risks be mitigated?

c. Some rapes and other crimes happen to people who weren't taking any obvious risks at all. And accepting some risks is part of life, and it doesn't mean you deserve to have something bad happen to you[2].

My big point is that we need to differentiate between the "she was askin' for it" kind of defense to rape (which is pure evil) and the use of evidence-based advice to offer women (and men, for that matter) as much control as they can have over the tradeoffs they make between risk and benefits.

That advice isn't about what the world should look like, it's about adapting to what it does look like.

[1] Rape isn't always between a man and a woman, but using them as an example simplifies the description. I imagine that gay date rape is probably close to impossible to prosecute in most places, but this is speculation.

[2] This is just what real-world living with risk looks like. You can go to the gym every day, eat the healthiest food imaginable, take a statin and fish oil and vitamins every day, and still keel over from a heart attack at 40. This sucks, but it's the universe we live in.

#260 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 05:46 PM:

albatross: You've convinced me of your general good intentions on the subject, so I'm not going to turn this into a lecture or a rant. I'll just say that in terms of avoiding rape, you again have to break it down into two categories -- the violent stranger rape and the acquaintance rape. The useful advice for avoiding stranger rape is pretty much like the advice for avoiding a mugging. The useful advice for avoiding acquaintance rape boils down to the "dating" advice my mom gave -- and even that advice doesn't acknowledge that a person might want to engage in some forms of sexual activity but not necessarily EVERYTHING.

The stories of women who HAVE been raped demonstrate pretty clearly that short skirts and other revealing clothing aren't a determining factor.

#261 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 06:29 PM:

Rikibeth #260:

Fair enough. I wonder what kind of evidence there is to suggest behavior that avoids date rape. I mean, there's the folklore-ish stuff like your mom gave you, and like I have heard from years from female friends. But it would be nice to have some harder evidence--maybe from the paper you cited earlier, maybe from some kind of random assignment of women to different rape-prevention classes, maybe from some other source. It seems almost certain that there are useful things women can do to decrease their risk of being date-raped, say, though without some kind of data to draw from, I'm very skeptical of my own ability to work out what those things are. (And let me be clear: we all take risks. There's nothing wrong or evil about taking risks that are worthwhile to you, and when you take risks and get clobbered, it doesn't mean you deserved it.)

It would also be interesting to see if there's evidence for the kind of rape-prevention classes some universities have for men having an effect. I'm skeptical, but the view from my armchair is pretty limited.

And finally, I know this is a really hard topic for a lot of people. I don't mean to step on toes, but for those whose toes I've stomped on in passing, I'm sorry I've done that. Both the victims of rape, and the people who've had their lives constrained by the fear of it, deserve a hell of a lot better than they got. I wish I knew how to make that happen a lot less in the future, and also how to heal the damage that's been done already. Maybe this kind of discussion can help enough to make up for the fact that it also is inevitably painful for a lot of the participants. (Not talking about the problem doesn't seem to have much of a track record of success, FWIW.)

#262 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 06:51 PM:

albatross: I haven't come across any studies specifically on what strategies work best to avoid date rape... and, phrasing it like that, there'd be a hell of a time setting it up. I guess it'd be more informative to study what factors were present when the rapes happened, and derive the risk-abatement strategies from there. Which is where the "folklore" advice comes in -- ANY situation that puts a woman and a man alone together in private puts the woman at risk, because so many acquaintance rapes are perpetrated by men that women have trusted. Look at Lee's #250 again.

Apart from maintaining a clear head, enough self-confidence to deliver clear signals, and enough physical autonomy to leave a bad situation -- and that last one especially is often problematic far beyond "cabfare" -- you just have to hope that your instincts on who to trust are correct.

#263 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 07:12 PM:

Rikibeth #262:

I think you've hit the nail on the head - grim as it is, women are at more risk from the guy who walks them home than any random stranger they might meet en route. And how do you decide who to trust, ever?

...enough physical autonomy to leave a bad situation -- and that last one especially is often problematic far beyond "cabfare"

This does circle back to the idea of 'fight back as hard as you can,' as universal rape-prevention advice. While "no means no" might not be universally understood, "a punch in the nose means no" is.

At the very least, physical evidence of a struggle would make it far easier to prosecute rape, afterwards.

This is, of course, assuming you were willing to hit the person you were with (who is probably not a random stranger), to take the risk that you would get the worse of it, and then to go to court.

Sigh.

#264 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 07:17 PM:

Jim @253 --

The farmer is dealing with the weather. The weather is the weather; it has no agency.

If the weather had agency, it would be like annoying Maggie-Sue from Bad Magic; tornadoes would tear the roof off to give the lightning a clear shot.

Albatros @257 --

I think there is a c.

Everybody lives in the world they construct in their own head; it's what having a people-type brain does, model the world.

The modeling process has horrible limitations; people are more afraid of bears than dogs, though this is (statistically) precisely backward, we've only got two and a half dimensions to model with, and so on, but there's an element of choice.

Modeling one's surroundings as a construct of threats and risks greatly limits one's opportunities for joy and co-operation, and to a large extent opportunities for joy and co-operation at the point to being alive.

Put slightly differently, a message that says "you are vulnerable; be constantly aware of this; these people may hurt you" isn't statistically accurate, and greatly limits the possibility of good things in life, and life is short.

So there's a built in tradeoff, and I think the flat assertion of habitual high caution isn't justified without at least addressing the tradeoff. (There's also the problem of figuring out which bits of common sense are actually factually accurate, which is hard work and rarely done in the case of social risks; too much pre-existing narrative.)

I also think it's both possible and practical to do risk management on a response basis, rather than a scenario basis, which uses fewer brain cells and leads to a lot less fearful narrative. Some of what Terry was talking about way up there in terms of "think about the situation" would fit into response, rather than the usual "you're increasing your risk!" scenario spinning.

#265 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 07:36 PM:

#257 albatross: I think there are two equally-sensible ways to look at stuff like war, crime, and terrorism--that is, bad stuff that's the result of conscious choice of other humans. ... a. As the subject of explicit government (and other institutions') policy, which we may hope to influence. ... b. As something rather like the weather--bigger than you, broadly not affected by your arguments or preferences or desires.

This isn't correct. a and b are not exclusive, but more importantly, they aren't the whole story. What you're missing is that social mores are something we create with our expressed opinions.

Why is it ok today (as I read a couple days ago in an article on the Emily Post Institute) to congratulate a woman on getting engaged, while in the 20s it was gauche because it suggested she viewed marriage as a meal ticket? Because the opinions of the populace have changed, one by one.

If someone I thought was really cool was terribly anti-music-piracy, I might rethink my position on it. If there was a whole crowd of smart decent people who thought pirating songs was utterly appalling, it would certainly affect my opinion.

Same with what other crimes are considered appallingly bad.

#266 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 07:49 PM:

Also: "Don't go anywhere alone" is totally good advice for everyone, always, in all circumstances.

--Everyone should go everywhere accompanied at all times? Even men? Really?

Even if that were a possibility for all of us - which it isn't - it's hardly necessary. I can't afford a 24/7 bodyguard, myself, but I refuse to be a housebound prisoner in my hometown, and in 14 years of living alone (and traveling all across the Northeast and parts of the West Coast and Europe) I have never been offered violence, day or night, city or country, though I am a small woman usually without visible armament.

All of the "Be totally and unremittingly afraid of potential rapists at all times" advice is like advising people never to step outside unless they're wearing hip-waders over ski pants under a down-filled parka, a mackintosh over the parka, lined gloves, earmuffs, a fisherman's hat, and a balaclava - whether or not it's midsummer with nary a cloud in the sky. Not just foolish, but a good way to die of heat-stroke, just as lethal as hypothermia - assuming you could actually move enough under all that to stir outside the house.

If men wouldn't accept living under such strictures themselves, they shouldn't try to impose them on the rest of us in the name of Protection (which goes with "Racket"...) It's a Golden Rule kind of thing. What's needed is a realistic threat assessment process, not a mandatory omniphobia - which tends to make a person blind to real dangers, not just rape either. Gavin de Becker's The Gift of Fear actually does offer realistic and useful advice dealing with potential rapists and other dangerous sorts - chief among his recommendations being, in a word, Trust your instincts, and don't talk yourself out of them or let social pressure convince you that you're being paranoid if you're getting weirded out by a person or situation. (When he was a child his mother shot his stepfather, so he had a certain vested interest in trying to figure this stuff out.)
----
From a 2000 interview with Guns Magazine:

GdeB: [...] but it is very important to remember that kids have a fear system of their own in any event. They're afraid of a wide variety of things. And generally speaking, in life, the way to reduce fear is to learn about the topic.

GUNS: Fear is a product of the unknown?

GdeB: The more you can enhance their ability to understand human behavior, the better. With regard to a 14-year-old girl, I believe at 14 there is no information whatsoever that a girl need be protected from. Because information is her armor. At this point, she's already a sexual object. She's already in the category of the most victimized group in the American culture: teenage girls. Potential outcomes of violence are what frighten people. You do not need to say to a child. "You could be killed if you don't do such and such." That's not instructive. What they need to learn about is the process of victimization, not the outcome.
----

I chanced across The Gift of Fear in a bargain bin at Borders many years ago and began flipping through it. It was, as the Buddhists say, a thunderbolt moment: one of those sudden clarifying events which put into perspective what had seemed irrational and random before, but now makes sense - in this case, why I [perfectly rationally] had felt more afraid as a child in my parents' house all those years (it was a nearer thing than I even realized at the time, even though every day I expected to come home from school to flashing lights and yellow tape in the driveway for most of junior high and high school) than I ever did in Boston, or Rome, or London, or LA, or any large city where I was alone, and often a minority of one or more sorts. Home was a violent, dangerous place where people were out to get me, and even moreso, each other, and being a bystander wasn't safe; on the train platform or in the bus station, even in a metropolis, nobody cared who I was, and the odds of being targeted by a social predator were only slightly higher than being hit by lightning, especially since I wasn't looking for a fight. I'm safer living alone than many women living with male protectors: it just took me a while - and reading national rape/DV statistics from the DOJ and elsewhere - to realize it.

#267 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 09:01 PM:

Graydon #264 The farmer is dealing with the weather. The weather is the weather; it has no agency.

Oh, I know that the weather is a system bound by physical laws and incapable of agency. Nevertheless, from a games-theory point of view, the farmer must act as if weather does have agency, is intelligent, and is out to get him. Acting thus produces the best results for the farmer.

bellatrys #266 --Everyone should go everywhere accompanied at all times? Even men? Really?

Yes, even men, really. Was I, perhaps, unclear? Did I mumble? What part of "'Don't go anywhere alone' is totally good advice for everyone, always, in all circumstances" do I need to put in simpler words?

#268 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 09:15 PM:

Jim @267 --

I spent from 7 to 13 on a farm; went to a lot of 4H clubs. Heard much discussion of weather. My kid brother had a good honest run at dairy farming before the capital requirements managed to change his mind. Don't recall a one of them regarding the weather as hostile; something to plan pessimistically about, sure, but there seemed to be a general attitude that if you started taking things like that personally you were going to have a heart attack at 40.

#269 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 09:34 PM:

Madeline F @ 265: Why is it ok today (as I read a couple days ago in an article on the Emily Post Institute) to congratulate a woman on getting engaged, while in the 20s it was gauche because it suggested she viewed marriage as a meal ticket?

What I remember is that one doesn't congratulate a bride. One congratulates the groom. For the bride you wish luck, or happiness.

It's not that long ago that a woman getting married legally signed over her adult status, her autonomy, in the form of her tangible possessions and ability to enter into a contract, when she married. Someone doing that needed all the luck she could get.

#270 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 09:45 PM:

James D. Macdonald, #253:"Don't go anywhere alone" is totally good advice for everyone, always, in all circumstances.

That is excellent advice if your primary goal is to mitigate your risk.

If your primary goal is to get the most out of your life, however, it's somewhat lacking for those of us who aren't interested in, as bellatrys says in 266, a 24/7 bodyguard. Like her, I live by myself, I travel by myself, and arranging to be accompanied at all times would severely curtail my life and opportunities. As Graydon points out in 264: Modeling one's surroundings as a construct of threats and risks greatly limits one's opportunities for joy and co-operation, and to a large extent opportunities for joy and co-operation at the point to being alive. On top of that, I like being alone - I like company too, don't get me wrong, but I like being by myself a lot.

I think that you should give people some credit in evaluating the risks and benefits they face by traveling unaccompanied, and that they understand that there is a big difference between say, walking to work at nine am, walking home from a bar at 2 am, driving across the country by yourself, going hiking in the winter, or any of the countless other possible circumstances. A blanket statement such as the one that you made focuses entirely on risks and not at all on the rewards.

Put another way, you can advise me to not go anywhere alone. You said it clearly, and you can even put it in simpler words if you like. But I'm still going to decide for myself when I'm going to take it.

#271 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 10:15 PM:

Mike: Sigh.... The strawman is that I (or anyone else here) thinks that dominance games aren't allowed. Introducing consensual dominance games in a discussion of rape is, at best, a red herring; or a strawman.

albatross: The problem with the, "women ought not do this" is the things they are told to do are all based on the implicit assumption that instigating rape is to be avoided, when the thing to be avoided is committing rape.

I can carry a thick wallet. No one will say, "Oh, well it's to be undestood that you were attacked." They might say I exercised bad judgement, but no one will absolve the person who mugs me.

Want to know how women can avoid rape? They can never leave the house, and shoot anyone who makes an unwanted advance.

On the flip side, that's not a workable model for society.

One of the more interesting things about the Antioch flap (and the rise of date rape in the public awareness) was how all of a sudden the men felt threatened; and how much they resented (of with anger bordering on violence) the idea they might have to change their behavior to avoid being accused of rape, compared to how blithely they handed out the sort of advice Lee compliled; and used those bits of, "consent" to justify rape.

What I got out of it (apart from some unease about what constituted a fair amount of testing her interest) was that active consent is to be sought, and any signs of reluctance needed to be addressed (which is the functional application of the Antioch rules).

What I saw was a lot of men who felt they were entitled to sex, unless she actually fought them off.

debcha: And I don't think Jim will say you deserve what you get if you make reasoned decisions in that vein. I think (and it's just my thinking) part of Jim's point is the advice is poorly applied; because those who give it to women think they ought to actually find a way to make it happen; else they deserve what happens to them.

#272 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 10:55 PM:

Terry #271:

You said:

The problem with the, "women ought not do this" is the things they are told to do are all based on the implicit assumption that instigating rape is to be avoided, when the thing to be avoided is committing rape.

You're begging the question with your choice of the word "instigating"--I think you want to argue that by offering women this kind of advice (to decrease the risk of being raped), we are somehow accepting the idea that when a woman is raped, it's her fault[1]. But by making the advice into how to avoid instigating rape, you've already assumed your conclusion.

Let's do a simple hypothetical. You are in possession of a set of solid, well-done research reports into successful date-rape prevention programs, involving giving particular advice to new college freshmen, and checking back a year or two later to see what fraction of women who got each advice report having been date-raped. (I hope such research exists somewhere, but I'm not sure that you could get it past a human subjects review board.) Let's assume (I don't know if such research would produce such a result) that you have a list of, say, 20 suggestions, each of which has been reliably shown to decrease date-rape risk in some substantial way.

You now have the 17-year-old daughter of a close friend talking with you. She asks you, as a guy who's been around and is known to read oddball research reports, how she can avoid being date-raped when she goes off to UCLA next year.

Do you give her the list of 20 suggestions? After all, that might somehow re-enforce the idea that women are responsible for not instigating date-rape, and it is the job of the rapists to make less evil choices, not their victims. Would it be better to tell her that it's not her problem? Or that you don't know?

Now, I've also assumed my conclusion here, in that I've assumed (explicitly) that there is useful advice to be given. It's possible that most of the advice that really helps is of the form "wear a burka and surround yourself with male relatives at all times," in which case it's not a very useful set of advice. (You might still give it to the woman, though, so she knows what you know in that case--that preventing date rape is hard.) But assuming there is some useful advice (always have cabfare home and bail out if your date starts creeping you out, carry a cellphone and visibly stay in touch with friends during the date so the guy knows you're not alone or without people who know where you are, have a roommate or neighbor around if you invite a guy back to your place so you can get help in an emergency), I can't imagine not giving it to the woman.

[1] I simply don't know how to be more clear than I have been that this idea is both wrong and poisonous. Blaming crime victims for being victimized is nuts. The fact that many people still do it doesn't change that.

#273 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 11:06 PM:

I am not begging the question, the classes which teach that are. I am merely repeating the language.

You may be perfectly free of such intent; or understanding, but the general message is that women need to avoid doing things which make them objects of interest to rapists.

The real problem with your hypothetical is the forced response. If the reactions work, then to refuse to give them would be irresponsible.

But the thing is, the teachings (again, see the list Lee posted), don't deter rape, and they imply the burden is on the woman, and failure to adhere is to invite rape.

#274 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 11:09 PM:

bellatrys makes an excellent point in that home is where the threat is. I've done a fair amount of travelling alone, and have met with, on the whole, an extraordinary level of kindness and good will from strangers. It's not hard to put yourself out for someone who only needs this one push out of the ditch, or a spare spark plug, or a single night of shelter and gone by dawn, than it is to take care of someone, on an equal basis, over months or years. The latter requires so much more give and take, so much more thought and time and energy, and engenders so much more "you owe me".

The guy that tightens my drivechain is happy to get a hearty and truly heartfelt 'thank you'. The guy who shares your efficiency apartment, who pools tips with you for grocery money, that guy is the one who you need to keep an eye on.

#275 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 11:25 PM:

Part of the problem with the various bits of advice (and the idea that, until things change one has to shift and make do to cope) is they perpetuate the present system.

Making the rapist some stranger encourages the idea that acquaintance rape is the oddity. Making the burden of modifying behavior the responsibility of the victim serves to absolve (even if only a little) the attacker.

The sense that a woman has to prove not only that she was raped, but that she didn't invite it (which isn't the case with other crimes. We may say, "Damn he was stupid to wear the wrong color of clothes in that neighborhood/What was he thinking flashing a wad of $100 bills in front of those bikers?", but we don't let the off the hook for the crime), encourages it.

The argument about changing minds has to be first, changing the mind of the society in response to rape (as we have been doing with racism... even the racists are loathe to admit to it in public, this isn't true with rape apologists).

After that we worry about the minds of the potential rapist.

The rest, how to be aware, having carfare, keeping people informed of where you are; and whom you are with, etc. can't be in the context of rape. As Jim says, those are rules for everyday life, for everyone.

On that basis I can support them (and on that basis I have given it to my sisters, my brother, my friends [and their kids], and random people on the internet).

Rape is done by rapists, and they bear all the blame, and stopping it is about making them not do it.

#276 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 11:26 PM:

Terry #271 and albatross #272:

I might be wrong, but I think you're talking past each other on at least one important point.

It seems to me that both of you agree on this: that nothing a woman does or doesn't do should, in any way, be construed as enabling the rape in any way. The decision to commit rape is solely that of the attacker ("the thing to be avoided is committing rape").

[The hard part, of course, is convincing the rest of society that this is the case.]

#277 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2008, 11:29 PM:

Do keep in mind that Jim's advice works for, say, bus travel; that there's a nigh-equivalent case for never leaving the house without a charged cell phone if you live in an urban area, and so on.

The core point is that the speed at which you get help is the most important thing about recovery from disaster, and that having someone else there is the best way to get help quickly, since they can either provide or summon it.

Having someone else there will often help with staying out of trouble, too, but it's not often logistically practical to go grocery shopping in pairs if one lives alone. I sincerely hope I never live under circumstances where it's in any way necessary to adopt a buddy system for buying rice.

#278 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 12:29 AM:

#270 debcha: Put another way, you can advise me to not go anywhere alone.

You not only minimize risk by hanging with people, you maximize fun.

Why you want to make sure you don't have anyone along to share the laughs and share the memories I don't know. But if you want a gray life, have at it.

It's still a choice that I advise strongly against.

#279 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 12:29 AM:

Pericat #274:

Thinking that the threat comes from outside (from strangers or outsiders rather than insiders) is very, very common in all areas of security. I think people are wired to think tribally, to think us and them, and to fear the outsider. (For most of human history, that was probably sensible, as there generally weren't police to call upon if things went bad.) I'll bet if we had a blitz of TV news coverage involving disgruntled employees shooting up their offices and mentally ill people shooting their kids and spouses, the sales of door locks and alarm systems would go up. It's just the way we're wired.

My impression is that most kinds of crime (theft, abuse of children, rape, murder, election fraud, bank fraud, theft of sensitive data) is done by insiders. This is sort-of intuitive, because insiders are the people who have the kind of access necessary to commit most crimes. A stranger who wants to steal stuff from your house has to worry about locks, alarms, dogs, and nosy neighbors calling the cops on him; if your cleaning lady wants to steal stuff from your house, she's already past all those defenses. The same applies in nearly all cases. I worked with a bunch of election officials for several years on security issues, and despite the long history of insider-fraud in elections, it was like pulling teeth to get them to recognize that they needed to worry more about the insider attacks than the outsider ones. Similarly, there's a pervasive fear of child sexual abuse by strangers, even though:

a. The overwhelming majority of cases are by trusted adults or by older kids.

b. That probably overstates the number of strangers, given both the unwillingness of some people to have a friend or relative sent to prison, and the fact that accusing a highly-trusted person must look pretty hopeless to a lot of abuse victims.

It's how we're wired. It takes an active recognition of that built-in bias to keep yourself thinking clearly about what the real threats are likely to be.

#280 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 12:39 AM:

Jim @278 --

Why you want to make sure you don't have anyone along to share the laughs and share the memories I don't know.

Kinda not much in the way of optional?

Not married, and few friends, all of whom have lives and are busy. If I want to get much done, I'm going to be doing it myself.

Also, introvert; groups of people are exhausting. It's a real shock when someone's protracted company isn't tiring. I'm not sure that's happened with above five people in my adult life.

#281 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 12:46 AM:

albatross #272: Do you give her the list of 20 suggestions?

I do. And do you know something? They'd be exactly the same suggestions I'd give to a male friend who planned to hike the Appalachian Trail.

#282 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 12:48 AM:

albatross @ 248: "In the meantime, as individuals, we are wise to take the "crime as weather" view of things."

I disagree. While acting as though one believes that an individual's actions can prevent crime is sometimes wise, internalizing that view of things is quite literally insane--it is not an accurate model of the universe. It isn't even useful: believing that crime is inevitable and all you can do is carry an umbrella prevents you from doing any of the non-obvious, long-term things that actually do have an effect, but aren't immediately useful for preventing crime against you personally. Take for example your meth addict mugger. If crime just happens, then you never even think about drug treatment and poverty reduction programs as being solutions.

@ 272: "Do you give her the list of 20 suggestions? After all, that might somehow re-enforce the idea that women are responsible for not instigating date-rape, and it is the job of the rapists to make less evil choices, not their victims. Would it be better to tell her that it's not her problem? Or that you don't know?"

This is a strawman choice that I dealt with way back @ 185. Of course you give her the suggestions. Of course you do. And then you hie yourself over to the house of the 17 year-old son of a close friend about to go off to UCLA, and sit him down and communicate on no uncertain terms that it is his responsibility to ensure that his sex partners are willing and enthusiastic. You don't have to choose one or the other. You do both.

What people are protesting here is not the idea that we should make potential victims more aware of how to avoid rape. What we are protesting*, over and over, is the way you've consistently defended educating potential victims as better, more effective, and wiser than trying to education potential rapists about how to avoid raping someone.

*Mostly. There's also been some debate on whether such a thing as an effective rape prevention strategy even exists.

James D. Macdonald @ 278: "Why you want to make sure you don't have anyone along to share the laughs and share the memories I don't know. But if you want a gray life, have at it."

I envy you the life you've had, that allows to you think that being alone only happens when people choose it.

#283 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 12:52 AM:

James D. MacDonald (#278):

You can tell me that it's safer for me to never leave the house alone, but please don't presume to tell me that it's better for me. Particularly since a large fraction of the time I spend violating your 'universal' advice brackets hanging out with friends.

I'm not six years old; I don't need to be holding someone's hand at every moment in the day. You've never met me, but I can tell you that your presumption that I shun human company, much less that I have a 'gray life,' is simply risible.

#284 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 12:55 AM:

debcha #276:

Yes, that's exactly right. I don't think anyone on this thread thinks rape victims have somehow brought it on themselves. I recognize that many people in the big wide world do believe that, though it seems so obviously wrong that it's kind of amazing that it can remain a widespread belief.

Terry #275:

I'll admit that I'm not quite sure where the disagreement is between us. I feel like a lot of what you're saying is more of a philosophical statement about your dissatisfaction with the way the world currently is, than one about specific actions that make sense.

I think I understood from your first response to me that you would share any useful date-rape-avoidance information with someone who asked you for it. From the rest of your first response and all of your second response, I take that you're very uncomfortable with the way offering that advice supports the existing widespread-but-wrong idea that rape victims are somehow partly to blame for somehow offering irresistible temptation to rapists, and that you would like to find some way to make the whole "she was askin' for it" defense to rape so absolutely and obviously wrong that it would disappear entirely, becoming the equivalent of "well, yes, I did kill him and bury him in the woods, but hey, it was the only way to get my inheritance early."

But I may just be misunderstanding you, or we may be starting with sufficiently different assumptions about the world that we won't come to agree on this issue.

#285 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 01:00 AM:

Further to my previous post, and to heresiarch, #282: I envy you the life you've had, that allows to you think that being alone only happens when people choose it.

heresiarch, I'm humbled. Believe me, I'm aware of how privileged I am that never have to be alone and also that I can choose to be alone (since I can afford to live by myself). It would be extremely painful for me to give either up.

#286 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 01:05 AM:

heresiarch@282:I envy you the life you've had, that allows to you think that being alone only happens when people choose it.

Given that the subject under discussion was actions that either should or should not be taken as a matter of choice and volition, I'm not certain that particular remark was entirely called for under the circumstances.

#287 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 01:06 AM:

albatross: It's a combination of things, having to do with, as heresiarch says, how you are casting the choices. Does one do what one can to prevent untoward results? Yes.

Does one just accept that, like the weather, there isn't really anything one can do, and rolling with the blows is the way to go (yes, I am being a trifle simplistic)? No. Unlike the weather how society views things chanes them.

If the first line of argument was, "Men need to be told what rape is, and taught it's unacceptable" then I'd be a lot happier. What your combined comments lead me to feel is you are saying (as with the rest of society) the women have to accept the rape culture and accomodate it.

That isn't something I can just accept. Rape isn't a tornado. When we say we want to stop robbery we don't have robbery prevention advice from the police saying, "don't carry lots of money, don't walk in places where there are shadows, always have someone bigger and stronger than yourself to walk you to the car you parked in a well lit place close to the door."

No, we tell the muggers that they will be arrested, and sent to jail.

As I said to someone else, we seem to be in agreement at right angles. We both think rape is bad. We both think it's done by rapists. We have a fundamental difference of opinion in what can/will be don to stop it.

#288 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 01:37 AM:

albatross, #261: Something just clarified in my head, and I'd like to run it past you. Advice such as "don't leave your drink unattended" is qualitatively different from advice such as "don't wear sexy clothes". The former addresses a specific, known problem, and one that your actions can have a direct bearing on. The latter assumes that women are capable of controlling men's thoughts, because there's NOTHING a woman can wear that some man isn't going to think of as sexy. I'm sure that there are men who get turned on by the idea of a woman in a burqa -- I've known guys who liked long skirts because of the "hidden sexiness" factor, and a burqa fetish would only be an extreme case of that. Not to mention that if you're out on a date, of course you want to wear clothes that make you look and feel good about yourself... and for women, that pretty much translates to "clothing that a lot of men are going to think of as sexy". So you've got the woman in a double bind here; she's damned if she does and damned if she doesn't.

There's another point that seems to keep sliding past you repeatedly: the female-centered model of rape prevention has at its root the assumption that women have control over whether or not they are raped. Actually, there's an even uglier assumption under that one -- that men are angels who would NEVER think of such a thing as rape unless they were just tempted beyond control by that little slut. This is further supported by the hostility to the mere suggestion that men should be required to change their behavior, as noted by Lis @256 and by Terry @271.

This is why all your "common-sense advice to women" will never solve the problem -- because it doesn't even address the problem! (Which is not to say that it's useless, but that it is at best of limited utility.) Female-oriented rape prevention is like abstinence-oriented sex education; it's an ideologically-correct approach for current American culture that just flat doesn't work in practice. We desperately need to change the focus of rape prevention from women to men, and it's going to be a long, tough slog... not least because of all the people who are like fish, never seeing the water they swim in. Take another look at Terry's post @271; this is a guy who Gets It.

The single most effective thing that women can do to prevent date/acquaintance rape is probably to pay attention to that little voice in the back of her head saying, "Something isn't right here." This won't be effective in all cases either, but you'd be amazed how many times a woman who is raped under those circumstances will "confess" that she was feeling uneasy and ignored the feeling; note that this is another lever by which women are made to feel that it's their own fault. Never mind that women are also very heavily socialized to do exactly that -- to ignore their own feelings in favor of being "ladylike" or "polite". He might get upset if he realizes that she's feeling uneasy about him, or she's known him so long that she can't believe it, so she smiles and pretends nothing is wrong, even when she has a chance to get out of the situation. When I talk to other women about this sort of thing, I frame it as a relative-risk analysis. If she feels uneasy and leaves, and she's wrong, what's the worst thing that can happen? The guy may be hurt or angry; in extreme cases, he might decide not to see her again. If she decides that her uneasiness is unwarranted, and she's wrong, what's the worst thing that can happen? She ends up raped. It's a sad commentary on our society that the fear of the former is seen, by so many women, as worse than the risk of the latter.

Terry, #271. THANK YOU. Men like you are worth their weight in diamond-studded platinum.

Somewhere a few years back, I saw a list of "things which do not constitute consent," which would be valuable to have here. Unfortunately, I seem not to have bookmarked it. Does this ring a bell for anyone? One of the things specifically mentioned was "being drunk is not the same thing as saying yes".

#289 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 02:41 AM:

heresiarch @ 282

If crime just happens, then you never even think about drug treatment and poverty reduction programs as being solutions.

And, as I pointed out above, earlier prevention is cheaper in all senses, per prevented crime, than a crime averted just before commission, and one hell of a lot cheaper than the cost of cleaning up after the commission of a crime. And it may be the only way to prevent a meth addict's crimes is to prevent or treat the addiction as early as possible. Similarly, it may be that the only way to prevent rape in general is to make the commission of a rape much less of an option for the potential rapist in as many ways as possible.

Terry Karney @ 287

What your combined comments lead me to feel is you are saying (as with the rest of society) the women have to accept the rape culture and accomodate it.

I believe that albatross is trying to say that in the short term it's necessary for individuals to consider whatever actions are necessary to avoid or ameliorate risk. Where I disagree is that there's not much evidence that the avoidance strategies he's talking about can do any good in general, let alone be relied on in any given case.

Part of the problem in discussing rape is that there's a real disconnect in the understanding of the level of risk by different discussers. And that's not just a gender-related difference; there are men who understand that the risk is high in this society, and women who do not; but in general, I believe, men see a lower risk than women, because in fact the risk to men is lower. Past experience is often the controller of such perceptions: people who have never seen combat of any sort, whether a battlefield firefight or a serious street brawl, tend to think of the world as much less a risky place than those who've been at the sharp end. This is not a question of value or of depth of understanding; just a question of experience providing the gut-level reaction that tells you what you believe your odds of getting hurt might be.

#290 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 03:02 AM:

debcha #283 You've never met me, but I can tell you that your presumption that I shun human company, much less that I have a 'gray life,' is simply risible.

You're right, I've never met you, and I think that I'm the happier for it.

#291 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 03:59 AM:

James D. Macdonald @ 278: Why you want to make sure you don't have anyone along to share the laughs and share the memories I don't know. But if you want a gray life, have at it.

@ 290: You're right, I've never met you, and I think that I'm the happier for it.

Count me in as another person who likes being alone fairly often. If that makes my life gray, and my company unwelcome, so be it.

#292 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 04:10 AM:

debcha @ 285: "Believe me, I'm aware of how privileged I am that never have to be alone and also that I can choose to be alone (since I can afford to live by myself). It would be extremely painful for me to give either up."

I also value my solitude and my friendships, and I'm glad to have both. But I haven't forgotten the times when I only had the one.

Debra Doyle @ 286: "Given that the subject under discussion was actions that either should or should not be taken as a matter of choice and volition, I'm not certain that particular remark was entirely called for under the circumstances."

When you give advice, there's an implied analysis of the trade-offs involved: otherwise the most popular rape prevention advice would be "get a sex change." The conviction that "don't go anywhere alone, ever" is advice that could be put into practice without causing massive and damaging alterations to one's life far outweighing any benefit is incomprehensible to me. I can only imagine it seeming reasonable to someone for whom companionship has always been plentiful and uncomplicated--it's a life that sounds nice, but I cannot identify with it.

#293 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 06:17 AM:

Tim Walters @ 291... I for one would have very much welcome your company when we made light by the Bay on Dec 20.

#294 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 09:02 AM:

Mike #246/#247: [A] strawman is, by definition, an agenda no one claims....

My example isn't a strawman if I consider what people actually do relevant.... My understanding is that people actually do take gratification from being dominated, and the example from Rome demonstrates why.

Terry #271: Mike: Sigh.... The strawman is that I (or anyone else here) thinks that dominance games aren't allowed. Introducing consensual dominance games in a discussion of rape is, at best, a red herring; or a strawman.

Terry, your post doesn't seem to be a 1:1 response to what you seem to be responding to. For all of my comments, there's a link to a site with email contact for me. If you want to specify what I've said your post is responding to, we can take it offline, and I'll leave it to you to decide if anything we say may benefit the thread.

#295 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 09:38 AM:

debcha, heresiarch, Tim: Count me as another person who likes having alone time as well as companion time, and who would find it difficult from a practical standpoint to be accompanied everywhere I go -- not to mention extremely inconsiderate of my friends and partner to demand it. I don't know how we got from the original discussion to the point of assuming that not wanting to be around other people 24/7 makes one an unpleasant person, but it's definitely making me re-think my opinions of the people making that argument.

#296 ::: Rosa ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 09:43 AM:

One thing about the "random violence is like rain" thing, though, is that it puts the focus back on those insiders who are the real danger to most of us.

I live in one of those "inner city neighborhoods". It's a really nice neighborhood, actually, but we have crime the way exurban people have car accidents. That means we take basic precautions - paying attention, locking doors, not flashing cash, etc. Just like we close our windows against rain and wear snow boots in the winter.

Other than those precautions, though, more worry won't make me safer. And excessive fear of the outside keeps a lot of women in harm's way, when harm is at home. Women don't need more knowledge on how to be safe from strangers, we get that our whole lives - we need to have resources to get away from domestic violence, and to feel that we have the right to our own autonomy and sexuality, in every circumstance.

Of course, what everyone is saying about cultural change is the real answer - I feel like every time I say "No, that's my body, you can't put your hand there if I say no," I'm doing good for the future.

#297 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 09:49 AM:

heresiarch@238: Tone matters, in discourse. If I read, in yours most recently, an indirect aspersion cast upon a person of my close acquaintance who did not deserve it, perhaps I was wrong. You would, of course, know better than I.

#298 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 09:56 AM:

Oh, to add to what I said about managing eye-contact to encourage a predator to look for someone easier, if you need to hear it: Always keep on the tip of your tongue, "I don't know you. Don't talk to me." It's one of those options that are 4 times better than the next best option you should know of ahead of time.

Also, once I was mugged (I got off at the wrong stop of a regular commute), and I took Oprah's advice and started hollering fire. That seemed to surprise him, and force him to think. His apparent attempt to drag me into an alleyway (on the top of Oprah's list of very bad -- run even at the risk of gunfire) inspired me to slip out of my sweatshirt. When a cop took me back to the scene, my torn sweatshirt was folded, with the glasses I would wear for another 9 years placed neatly on top.

Holiday free, y'all.

#299 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 09:58 AM:

My apologies. That should have been @292 in my post above. (One should, in these matters, strive to keep one's attributions clear, or at least typo-free. One sometimes, in the heat of the moment, fails.)

#300 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 10:54 AM:

#278, Jim -

I'm very confused right now.

I got in my car alone this morning and drove to work. Now, I can see that if I were after Ultimate Safety,* this was a bad idea. I could have been carjacked, involved in an accident, or suddenly fallen unconscious, and I would be alone and at the mercy of strangers.

But I'm not after Ultimate Safety, I'm after reasonable safety. Adults go places alone. It is one of the things that defines a functional adult. I wouldn't be surprised if having a fear of being among strangers were a marker for mental illness. Are you really saying that it is reasonable for an adult of any persuasion to not drive themselves to work alone? If that's not what you mean, or if you're making a subtle statement about fear and reasonable precaution, I'm afraid you're being too oblique for me to see your point, and I need you to unpack it some more.

*Ultimate Safety in this case being a lot like the "safe from malware" computer that was mentioned in the "Social Disease" thread by Scott Taylor: "a computer that is shut off, all cables unplugged, and then locked in a safe that is then buried in concrete." And as some of the posters have pointed out, for women having someone you know nearby is not automatically Ultimate Safety.

#301 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 10:58 AM:

#227, Lee -

Thank you for sharing your editor friends' name for that. I love it and will find it useful in the future.

Everyone - I'm seeing something that I suspect might be a rhetorical tactic with a name - is there a name for the tactic of narrowing down a general case to a specific one you can support or that supports your point? I know this can and should be done at times, but it looks like it is being used every time someone gets backed into a corner, not merely as a way to get a handle on a difficult topic.

I can provide examples, but it seems unnecessarily argumentative to do so. I really don't want to argue them, and while I would rather not provide the examples if I can avoid it, I will if what I'm seeing is unclear to others.

#302 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 11:04 AM:

Ugh, I said something very clumsily in #300, and I want to clarify/apologize.

I said,

I wouldn't be surprised if having a fear of being among strangers were a marker for mental illness.

What I mean is that I suspect that this is something that can be classified as a phobia or a problem that needs treatment. I imagine a slight fear or nervousness happens to everyone occasionally, but real fear, like you'd have of a snarling dog, is probably something that verges on an illness, and if I had such a thing develop or saw it develop in a loved one, I'd definitely seek treatment for it.

#303 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 12:06 PM:

Heresiarch, Debcha, and others: This conversation keeps reminding me of Adrienne Rich's "Yom Kippur 1984," a poem about (I think) the difference between solitude and isolation and the conflict between the desire for solitude and the desire for community and safety. I don't know if anyone is interested, but since you've all given me the poetic equivalent of an ear-worm, here's a link: Yom Kippur 1984.

The whole thread has been an interesting discussion, on several levels. Thank you.

#304 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 12:30 PM:

Mary Frances -

What a wonderful poem. Thank you for sharing your earworm with us.

#305 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 01:04 PM:

Lee #250: It sounds as if the basic evidence of consent consists of being female and breathing.

#306 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 01:18 PM:

Mary Frances @ 303

That is a lovely and very powerful poem. Thank you for the link.

The poem reminds me that we are apes trapped in the web of tension between the need to protect kin and the need to mate and contact outside the kin group. Both needs are built into our genes; we ignore either at the peril of extinction.

#307 ::: Wrye ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 01:38 PM:

miriam@50,

You have a comic book? Ah, I see you have a website. I shall have to peruse.

yes, in terms of the pitches, I think it was just unusually high with the presence of the film School. I think he always gets the contingent of stoner questions who think they're the next Jason Mewes. I threw him the question on Japan, which got a laugh. It's an odd dynamic, for sure. Collaborative, but it's his show in the end.

#308 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 01:38 PM:

Who among us hasn't made a ridiculous exaggeration in a difficult discussion and then felt trapped into defending it?

#309 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 01:51 PM:

Me: 'Always cut the cards' is good advice for everyone, always.

Various: What terrible advice! You don't know what you're talking about. I haven't cut the cards in fourteen years and I like it that way!

Me: Half-a-tank is empty. Refuel.

Various: Don't you realize that's impossible? Sometimes you may not have the money, other times there may not be a gas station handy, and still other times you may be trying to make a train and don't have the time. I've let the needle get to E for fourteen years and never had a problem. Why are you asking me to only drive if I have a tank truck following me?

Me: If you don't smoke, don't start. If you do smoke, quit. It's the single best health step you can take.

Various: Thank you very much for your unwanted and foolish advice, but I've smoked for fourteen years without a problem, and I like it. My grandfather smoked five packs a day for sixty years and he's still going strong. Besides, I'm a diabetic so the very best health step for me is to take my insulin.

-----

Nevertheless, using the buddy system, always, is good advice for everyone, in all circumstances.

#310 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 01:55 PM:

#308, Madeline -

I certainly have. The biggest argument I ever had with my husband included a moment where I said, "If you'd go away and let me THINK a minute, I might agree with you, but I can't and won't unless you do that, because right now I'm mad at you." After another ten minutes of going round-and-round, he had to excuse himself for a call of nature. When he got back, I was no longer angry and said, "You were right, I was wrong." I still haven't convinced him that hammering me on a subject isn't the way to get me to agree with him. Luckily for me, we don't argue often.

(But if you're responding to my question at #301, I don't think that's what I'm seeing here.)

#311 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 02:39 PM:

James D. Macdonald @ 309: Me: 'Always cut the cards' is good advice for everyone, always.

No, you: Why you want to make sure you don't have anyone along to share the laughs and share the memories I don't know. But if you want a gray life, have at it.

and You're right, I've never met you, and I think that I'm the happier for it.

You know perfectly well that these, not your original advice, are the statements that have offended people, and that they are in fact offensive. Someone with moderator power, perhaps you, even felt strongly enough about the latter statement to delete it, only bringing it back after I quoted it.

Your statements at 309 aren't even good analogies to your advice to buddy up, since they don't have significant costs.

#312 ::: Betsy-the-muffin ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 02:46 PM:

I think the running thread about the conflict between introversion and the buddy system is, strangely enough, echoing the thread about whether we should teach rape prevention strategies to girls.

As a woman, I have to deal with a lot of societal messages about safety: no short skirts in that neighborhood or you deserve it you whore, etc. (I don't really feel the need to elaborate here, given the far-more-articulate-than-I discussion of same upthread.) While I'm hardly going to disregard this advice, it's hard not to resent people who spit it at me again and claim it to be the panacea it's not.

As an introvert, I have to deal with two prevailing assumptions, and these assumptions turn into messages because of the attitudes they almost always inspire. One is the patronizing belief that because I choose not to socialize incessantly, I must be some poorly-socialized naif. The other is, yes, that I "shun" human company and have a "gray life."

It's really hard not to reflexively respond to either implication in anger, partly because it's insulting but mostly because it's old.

In each case, rape prevention or general safety, people forget that telling someone a thing they've heard a dozen times is likely to blind that someone to their true point.

#313 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 02:48 PM:

Fragano @305: BINGO. And you'll find that attitude going back to biblical times -- IIRC there's a body of legal argument that says if a woman in a city claims she was raped, but there are no witnesses who heard her cry out, then she wasn't raped. If I could cite chapter and verse, or Talmudic passage or what have you, I would, but right now for me it's on the "I read somewhere" level of recall. But this attitude has carried over as far as the present day -- adult women are presumed to exist in a state of consent, and without evidence of a refusal of consent, whether it be fighting back, verbally protesting, or whatever, it's a hell of a job making a charge stick. If women were presumed to exist in a default state of non-consent, and their active consent was required to prove that no rape occurred -- not just the lack of a "no" -- things would be very different.

#314 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 02:52 PM:

Mez @ 52 ...
Has anyone here read a book called The Medusa Touch? It deals, in a way, with a haunted, hunted, feeling I've long had. It's probably a common delusion:

It is :(

When I talk about or acknowledge or bring to attention something good and worthwhile and useful that's happening, it usually gets removed, destroyed, or corrupted not long afterwards;
When I acknowledge a fear or disturbing imagining of something bad that could happen, it often seems to thereafter.
And people wonder why I'm don't talk much, or talk lots about nothing much important.

Mez - This article about "lucky" people might be an interesting read for you.

#315 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 03:12 PM:

On farmers dealing with the weather I am reminded of a Bankruptcy Court order: Your plan assumes three years of good weather. If you'd ever had three straight years of good weather you wouldn't be in this Court. I can't confirm this plan. Denied.(Bud Hagen, Boise Idaho)

On eye contact an individual who is high will often respond to eye contact with a what are you staring at demand - it's happened to me though once it worked out better for me than the pair of them for other reasons.

I've wondered for years why some folks would choose the feeling of power that they as victim caused the crime rather than the feeling of powerless associated with ..it happens.

There is a strong generational difference - I know a woman in her mid eighties who grew up on the plains and who today blames the female victim because her own early life was virgin with a bag of gold safe. Much the same generational change followed the pill in other ways. Before the assumption of the pill I think consent in a social setting tended to be much more obvious and unambiguous (I have a diaphragm worked every time) - autres temps autre moeurs.

Myself I figure any woman I'm likely to meet who is mid sixties or younger has at best been molested in some fashion and often enough legally raped.

And yet there is still a blame the victim mentality even among some victims - anybody know why?

#316 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 03:55 PM:

Announcement:

Mike, starting now, you're to take a vacation from posting on Making Light until noon on January 6th. That's not a punishment; it's engineering. I regret the necessity.

Everyone else: Disarm. Take a deep breath. Make yourself a cup of tea, or whatever you drink at these moments.

(Yes, you too. I know that you were about to say something, and that stopping now is unfair to you. I understand. I apologize. I'm invoking the greater good.)

This argument has gotten badly tangled. We all have to stop pulling on the threads for a while so we can figure out where it's gone wrong.

#317 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 04:04 PM:

Clark, I think the reasoning behind even victims blaming the victim is largely a matter of internalizing societal messages -- but, with non-victims, there's definitely another factor at work: if it was something the victim did, then the non-victim can simply avoid that behavior, whatever it is, and she'll be safe.

A lot of my mother's "dating advice" involved strategies for getting around what Lee describes in #288:

The single most effective thing that women can do to prevent date/acquaintance rape is probably to pay attention to that little voice in the back of her head saying, "Something isn't right here." This won't be effective in all cases either, but you'd be amazed how many times a woman who is raped under those circumstances will "confess" that she was feeling uneasy and ignored the feeling; note that this is another lever by which women are made to feel that it's their own fault. Never mind that women are also very heavily socialized to do exactly that -- to ignore their own feelings in favor of being "ladylike" or "polite". He might get upset if he realizes that she's feeling uneasy about him, or she's known him so long that she can't believe it, so she smiles and pretends nothing is wrong, even when she has a chance to get out of the situation. When I talk to other women about this sort of thing, I frame it as a relative-risk analysis. If she feels uneasy and leaves, and she's wrong, what's the worst thing that can happen? The guy may be hurt or angry; in extreme cases, he might decide not to see her again. If she decides that her uneasiness is unwarranted, and she's wrong, what's the worst thing that can happen? She ends up raped. It's a sad commentary on our society that the fear of the former is seen, by so many women, as worse than the risk of the latter.

So, if it doesn't seem polite to refuse all those drinks the fraternity brothers are so solicitously offering to you, accept them, but pour them into the plant. Social standards had changed enough by the time I hit college that I never felt impolite saying "no, thank you," or nursing my existing drink and saying I was still working on my current one, but it was still a lesson in socially-acceptable self-preservation. If you're at a restaurant or out somewhere and you start to feel uneasy around the guy, you claim a headache or a stomach upset and excuse yourself -- and this is why you don't rely on him for transportation, but have cabfare home. Even if you have to say "no, really, you don't want me tossing my cookies all over your car," and get stubborn about it.

The old social rules that assumed that a man and a woman would never be alone in a private place unless they intended to have sex were restrictive and prudish and didn't allow for the idea that women and men could be friends without attraction, or that men could control themselves until they heard a "yes." Discarding that social rule was a great step towards a more egalitarian world. Unfortunately, while men and women have both accepted the idea that it's not shocking or scandalous for a man and a woman to be alone together in a room, there appears to have been a cultural lag in getting across the idea that just because you're somewhere that you COULD have sex, doesn't mean you've already agreed that you WILL have sex.

Correcting that cultural lag is the sort of thing I mean when I talk about "teaching men not to rape."

#318 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 04:05 PM:

Whoops, sorry, Teresa, I posted before I saw your announcement, I hope I haven't offended.

#319 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 04:15 PM:

Rikkibeth, someone always gets caught without a chair when the music stops. IMO, the appropriate action is to make your apologies to Clark, not me. He's the one who's stuck being unable to reply.

#320 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 04:23 PM:

Point taken, Teresa. Clark, I'm enjoying the discussion and not upset at you, and if you want to carry on via email until Teresa says it's okay to post again, I'd be happy to hear from you. Or anyone on the thread, really.

If not, I apologize for inadvertently getting in a "last word," and look forward to the continuation, if there is one.

#321 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 06:39 PM:

Teresa -- Thank you. I was on the verge of saying something which I would probably not have regretted nearly as much as I should have.

#322 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 07:19 PM:

Rikibeth #313: There seems to be a view held my many men (and women) in a number of cultures that there is something wrong with being a woman. This is one aspect of culture that needs to be expunged wherever it is found.

I just finished reading an article on sexuality in a country which shall be nameless which argued, very cogently, that the hostility displayed towards homosexuality in certain cultural productions was really a hostility towards the feminization of men. Another article in the same collection, on an unrelated subject, reinforced that argument. I wonder if there's a strain of fear, running through Western civilisation as a whole, that masculinity can exist only if the female is completely subjugated. If so, changing that in the minds of men and women is an urgent task.

#323 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 07:42 PM:

Theresa: Thank you. I've been biting my tongue fairly hard about a couple of things, and am relieved to be able to let go of it.

#324 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 10:07 PM:

How about William Shatner directing The Grapes Of Wrath?

And just to further disrupt the badness:

Basset puppies!.


#325 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 10:15 PM:

David, I got as far as "William Shatner directing" and began gibbering in horror. (Yes, I know he did direct some shit things...gods preserve me from ever watching any of them.)

#326 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2008, 10:34 PM:

Xopher! Happy New Year! Here's to your dad, and may the travails lighten for you and for him.

(oops, not an open thread? my bad. This is what happens when I google "frank miller" and "kittens" and follow a link or two. I swear, I had no idea.)

#327 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2008, 07:20 AM:

I was of an age to have read the Pooh books and seen the first two shorts about the same time, and I don't think Disney did a particularly bad job. I understand that Milne didn't like Holloway's voice, but Milne was such a prickly bastard about his art that I'm not inclined to care too much about his opinion. I get the impression that Mary Poppins suffered some of the same.

But then there's Chitty and Willy Wonka. Both of them suffer the same problem: there's not enough material in the original, especially in Fleming's book. It's perhaps more than a little ironic that Dahl's expansion of Chitty is what really makes it go; but it's also striking that both Wonka films seemed to on the one hand keep almost everything about the book except Wonka himself,and on the other hand feel this need to add a framing story around Wonka that transforms the character completely. Personally I think the first did this better, and did so because they let Gene Wilder (and "Slugworth") handle all the menace ad lib and kept it away from the rest of the movie, resulting in something that was more fun.

And be glad of one thing: Chris Columbus wasn't around to do any of these.

#328 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2008, 10:36 AM:

David@324, I think for high badness of the Shatnerian sort, you'd have to reach into the bag and pull out that script for Transmetropolitan that was reported to be kicking around Hollywood for a while there.

#329 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2008, 01:12 PM:

j h woodyatt @#328: I'm sure, but I thought the whole point was cognitive dissonance? I was thinking of the mess he'd make of a classic that needs expressiveness and subtle overtones.

Ooh, I just thought of an even weirder one: The Wachowski brothers doing Little Women!

#330 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2008, 03:14 PM:

"but I thought the whole point was cognitive dissonance?"

I must have missed the point then. I thought the point was to imagine who you might hire to produce a film adaptation of a novel in order to maximize the opportunity for pissing off the fans of the novel.

Another example comes, once again, to mind: Paul Verhoeven and Starship Troopers.

And yet another: Mel Gibson -> The Satanic Verses (though, I suspect this one is more in the cognitive dissonance category).

#331 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2008, 03:26 PM:

j h 330: (though, I suspect this one is more in the cognitive dissonance category)

...since, after all, The Satanic Verses has no fans. I do know someone who bought it after the fatwa sentencing the author to death, but even she said she had no plans to read it. "I don't read this kind of trash," she said, choosing her words carefully, as she knew I was aware of her addiction to certain other kinds of trash (cheesy romance novels).

#332 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2008, 04:59 PM:

xopher,

...since, after all, The Satanic Verses has no fans.

i thought it was pretty good. i went through a real salman rushdie phase when i was eighteen, but he is kind of too in love with his own cleverness.

#333 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2008, 05:49 PM:

I suppose I should pick for my examples a novel that I've actually read all the way through*...

Here's one that ought to bring TheBrainPain™: George Lucas and Steven Spielberg -> Foucault's Pendulum

* at least, in English translation anyway.

#334 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2008, 11:30 PM:

Wrye, #307, Wesley has an online comic, too.

#335 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2009, 01:10 PM:

j h woodyatt @ 333

That's a good one, but thinking about the subject matter of Foucault's Pendulum, namely conspiracy theories, it seemed to me that the director most likely to want to make the movie, and least likely to be able to do a good job, while simultaneously pissing off all fans of the book (most especially me) would be Oliver Stone.

#336 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2009, 02:05 PM:

Bruce, you're absolutely right. That'd piss me off pretty righteously too.

Now, I'm trying to play this game for Illuminatus!, and I'm coming up blank. I'm tempted to say that's a book that can't possibly be made into a film. Not at all. Makes the problem of adapting Watchmen to film seem like child's play. Just about anybody one might imagine would make an unholy catastrophe out of it. Picking out the absolute worst candidate from the field of available names just seems pointless.

#337 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 01:19 AM:

j h woodyatt @ 336

Maybe they could get a whole bunch of directors together to really screw up the movie, like the 1967 version of Casino Royale, which had 6 directors and a gaggle of writers that included Terry Southern, Peter Sellers, Woody Allen, and Ben Hecht (who was dead at the time). Oh, and I almost forgot, Joseph Heller.

Should have called it Mutiny on the Magic Purple Rose of the Catch 22.

#338 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 05:20 AM:

j h, #336, to make Illuminatus!, you give all the viewers a bit of mescal and then let them discuss.

#339 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 07:15 AM:

Part of what makes me wish that nobody ever does Rendezvous with Rama is the inevitability of a sequel, though I have come across this lovely snippet.

#340 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 07:33 AM:

If you want a book that Hollywood couldn't film, try Til We Have Faces. Who is going to sign off for a film whose central premise is a girl/woman who is simply unattractive? And the pity is that there are probably a million actresses who would die to get the part, and a quarter of them would set the screen aflame doing so. It's not really a difficult film to do, but it won't ever get done.

(And only think what Andrew Lloyd Webber could do to, er, with it.)

#341 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 09:58 AM:

I agree, fnord!Illuminatus! would be tough, but I don't think it's completely undoable. Maybe have Garth Jennings (Hitchhikers, Shaun of The Dead) slip a tab to Oliver Stone... ;-)

#342 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 10:24 AM:

Garth Jennings (Hitchhikers, Shaun of The Dead)

Edgar Wright directed Shaun of the Dead.

#343 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 10:58 AM:

Paul @#342: Um... Whoops! I got to Garth via HGttG, then got confused by his acting credit in Shaun. Sorry.

But anyway, my point is that wacky, hallucinatory directors can be found. But this really does want some tincture of Oliver Stone, even if by way of satire.

#344 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 11:15 AM:

Bruce writes: Maybe they could get a whole bunch of directors together to really screw up the movie, like the 1967 version of Casino Royale...

You don't have any reason to believe me, of course, but this is exactly the idea that occurred to me after I posted. I'm nearly convinced that's the only way it could be done. Other examples of that model of filmmaking spring to mind: Heavy Metal, Animatrix.

Now, who would be crazy enough to attempt a stunt like that? (I suppose I should be asking: who would be crazy enough to try to line up the rights to attempt a stunt like that?)

#345 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 02:08 PM:

C. Wingate @ 340: Who is going to sign off for a film whose central premise is a girl/woman who is simply unattractive?

It's been known to happen:

The Truth About Cats And Dogs
Shallow Hal

#346 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 02:19 PM:

Direction en masse, hmm... maybe separate directors for each major character? Including the biggest prankster they can find, to back Eris?

#347 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 02:50 PM:

Speaking of unusual movies...

The movie "9" may turn out to be the thing that'll finally make me forgive Tim Burton for Planet of the Apes, and not because its release date of 9/9/9 is also my birthday.

My thanks to AJ Reardon for telling me about this.

#348 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 03:11 PM:

+1 on 9... if they bring in Danny Elfman to write the score— and, really, if you're the producer on a Tim Burton/Timur Bekmambetov joint, how could you possibly not do that?— then this is my #1 most hotly anticipated genre film of 2009. Otherwise, it's probably tied for #1 with something else that I don't know about yet. Can't imagine what that might be at this point.

#349 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 03:31 PM:

tim,

It's been known to happen:

so you'll saying they'd do it, but undercut the whole premise by casting someone extremely attractive?

yeah, i'd believe it. & that would definitely qualify as a hypothetical movie to make any fan of the book feel violent.

#350 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 03:40 PM:

so you'll saying they'd do it, but undercut the whole premise by casting someone extremely attractive?

Exactly.

#351 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 03:55 PM:

They did it in I, Robot, though the degree to which they raped that whole book dwarfs the mere casting of an attractive actress as Susan Calvin.

#352 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 05:37 PM:

351: Susan Calvin wasn't (necessarily) unattractive - she just wasn't interested. At least, not in any of her colleagues at US Robots...

#353 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 06:18 PM:

Read the book again. She was interested, but she wasn't good at interacting with other humans. Also, in "Liar!" she's made to think one of the guys is interested in her, and starts to wear makeup and act flirty.

I don't think she would be considered unattractive in today's fandom, where geeks rule. But when Asimov was writing, her unmitigated geekiness qualified her for being very unattractive indeed.

#354 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 06:23 PM:

Ajay:

351: Susan Calvin wasn't (necessarily) unattractive - she just wasn't interested. At least, not in any of her colleagues at US Robots...

Go reread "Liar" in I Robot again. You're wrong about her not being interested. Now, the question of whether her actions in that story when she works out what's been going are fully justified--well, that's open to debate...

#355 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 06:55 PM:

Because it rhymes and is probably unfilmable, I'd suggest Oliver Stone to make Titus Alone.

(Obviously this would have to follow adaptions of Titus Groan and Gormenghast that were either surprisingly good or terrible but commercially succesful)

#356 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 06:58 PM:

Bruce E. Durocher II @ 354...
Go reread "Liar" in I Robot again. You're wrong about her not being interested. Now, the question of whether her actions in that story when she works out what's been going are fully justified--well, that's open to debate...

Hell hath no fury...

#357 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 07:19 PM:

xeger @ 356... ...like a misfit ridiculed?

#358 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 07:50 PM:

Serge @ 357 ...

Just you wait... I'll show you... I'll show you all!!!

(for science, of course!)

#359 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 10:10 PM:

xeger, #356: But she wasn't scorned -- the guy in question never even noticed her flaming crush. She was lied to and betrayed by someone she trusted, and her rage is entirely directed against the betrayer.

And for the period and culture in which the stories were written (as opposed to the one in which they are set), Susan Calvin is indeed very unattractive. Remember, this is around the same time period in which Kirk and Spock react to the idea of a female doctor with a long, disbelieving stare, and when it was official Starfleet policy that women were not permitted command of a starship. Even those who write about the future are often trapped by their own inbuilt cultural prejudices.

#360 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 10:34 PM:

Xopher @351: they raped that whole book

Any chance we could pack that metaphor's bags and send it off to the old metaphor home? A recent South Park ep exhausted my tolerance for it.

#361 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2009, 11:30 PM:

avram: I'm mostly with you. I made a comment that an art council had an annual charity show which raped the contributing artists and my companion complained.

But I'd used the word judiciously. They have a juried show, with a three piece limit. A $15 per piece jury fee, and a 60 percent rake of the sale price (from accepted pieces). I know they get not less than 1,000 submissions every year. I find it hard to believe they are spending 15,000 on payments to the jurors; so they are asking the artists to subsidise them, even if they are rejected.

Then the prices have to be inflated to keep from losing money at the back end. Since it gets a lot of people who aren't actually trying to make a living at art, I suspect a lot of them are afraid to ask what they need to ask to do better than break even.

But by and large, it's a terrible metaphor.

#362 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2009, 12:56 AM:

xeger @ 358... Let me guess. They laughed at you at the University?

#363 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2009, 01:03 AM:

Avram,

Perhaps a gentle reminder from a moderator that this thread remains a demilitarized zone until Monday would be in order.

(I was trying to bring this thread back somewhere near the original topic, which is interesting to me, but then somebody deployed That Damned Metaphor again.)

#364 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2009, 02:21 AM:

Serge @ 362 ...
xeger @ 358... Let me guess. They laughed at you at the University?

How did you know?!?!!!!

#365 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2009, 02:39 AM:

Lee @ 359 ...
xeger, #356: But she wasn't scorned -- the guy in question never even noticed her flaming crush. She was lied to and betrayed by someone she trusted, and her rage is entirely directed against the betrayer.

"The guy in question never even noticed her flaming crush."

It's been a number of years since I read the story (and the ether appears to have eaten my copy sometime in the last several moves) but my recollection is that Susan Calvin's anger was directed as much at herself as at Herbie.

A potent mix of rejection, embarrassment and betrayal. If that's not scorned, I don't know what is.

#366 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2009, 03:22 AM:

xeger, #365: Okay, we're using different definitions here. To me, it would only have counted as "scorned" if the guy had actively rejected her. She felt like a fool because, deep down inside, she really had known it was hopeless, and she felt betrayed because she'd let the robot tell her what she wanted to hear. But unless I'm remembering it wrong, she was never angry with the object of her unrequited affections because she knew he wasn't even aware of her interest.

#367 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2009, 03:34 AM:

Lee@359:

... it was official Starfleet policy that women were not permitted command of a starship
Do we know that? I guess it comes from the episode Turnabout Intruder; but it's at least plausible that Starfleet rejected Janice Lester because she was psychologically unstable rather than because of her sex, whereupon she became delusional. Is there other evidence I'm forgetting?

We do have some evidence to the contrary: in The Cage (which is canonical because of its recycling into The Menagerie) we have a female First Officer. Of course one of the primary duties of the First Officer is to assume command when the captain is unavailable. If women aren't permitted to command a starship, how can one be second-in-command?

#368 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2009, 04:04 AM:

David @367, Janice Lester's exact words in "Turnabout Intruder" (according to Memory-Alpha) were "Your world of starship captains doesn't admit women." That can be read as an official Starfleet no-women-captains rule, or it can be read as hyperbole on Lester's part. Or it could be Lester's description of an unofficial sexist culture at Starfleet -- which is, after all, the sort of organization that makes all the women wear miniskirts.

Kirk says in "Tomorrow is Yesterday" that there are only about a dozen ships like the Enterprise, so the captains of those ships would probably the dozen or so most highly-regarded captains in Starfleet. If there is a sexist culture, there might well be a glass ceiling keeping women below captain level.

You mentioned the female first officer in "The Cage", but note that the female crew in that episode get to wear pants. Starfleet seems to have grown more sexist between Pike's and Kirk's days as captain.

#369 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2009, 08:15 AM:

xeger @ 365... my recollection is that Susan Calvin's anger was directed as much at herself as at Herbie

Not at Walt Disney himself?

#370 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2009, 08:40 AM:

David, #367: Yes, Roddenberry originally intended for the first officer to be female, but that idea was dropped when test audiences reacted very negatively to the idea of a woman in position to assume command. There's a short story called "The Procrustean Petard" in Star Trek: The New Voyages which makes the policy explicit -- Kirk and most of his crew have been caught in an alien trap that does a Betan gender-reversal on them, and female!Kirk is worrying about being demoted -- but I don't know how canon that book is considered to be.

I could swear that I've seen something in an official publication to the effect that there was a change in Starfleet policy between the time of ClassicTrek and the time of NextGen; it might be in The Next Generation Companion, but I'm feeling too lazy to look for it at the moment.

#371 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2009, 10:22 AM:

Years ago, I read Herb Solow's book about the birth of Star Trek a decade ago. (Who is Solow? He was the show's producer, which is why his name on the ending credits were juxtaposed over Balok's photo. Oh, and he produced Mission: Impossible literally next door.) If I remember correctly, it was Roddenberry's idea to have the women in miniskirts. That explains why there weren't any women in Engineering. So much for Gene's forward thinking. It's interesting to compare ST's women to Outer Limits's.

#372 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2009, 11:14 AM:

WRT original Trek: that was at a time when women were still expected to stay in traditional roles when working outside the home: secretary, teacher, nurse, or something more interesting but out of sight in the back room. Women engineers - in the mid-70s, that idea was still new to many people.

#373 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2009, 11:36 AM:

IIRC, by the time of the original series, Starfleet itself is only a couple of hundred years old, and apparently was formed rather abruptly in the wake of alien contact (I haven't gotten around to reading Strangers From The Sky yet).

It seems entirely reasonable to me that, over that time, there would be various changes and even temporary reversals in Starfleet's attitudes and policies towards women.

#374 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2009, 12:57 PM:

j h woodyatt @ 344

You don't have any reason to believe me

Why not? Great minds think alike :)

Avram @ 368

Starfleet seems to have grown more sexist between Pike's and Kirk's days as captain.

Ah yes, the Paramount Directive.

Serge @ 371

That explains why there weren't any women in Engineering.

Not very many years after TOS was on the air, I interviewed for a job as a hardware technician at a Bay Area startup. Part of the process was for me to assemble and solder a circuit board, and I managed to drip molten solder on a brand-new pair of pants (but I got the job). That would have been a really painful moment if I'd been wearing a miniskirt (but then I might not have had to build the circuit board if I had just showed off my thighs in that company).

#375 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2009, 01:18 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 374... Of course, by the 23th Century, maybe they'll have invented pantyhose that don't get runs in them and which can protect from molten metal too.

#376 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2009, 02:02 PM:

Serge @ 375: Pantyhose woven from low-refractive-index transparent aluminum? Could be useful.

#377 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2009, 02:19 PM:

PJ Evans @ 372... that was at a time when women were still expected to stay in traditional roles when working outside the home

Oh, agreed. And in spite of what I said earlier, I do recognize that Roddenberry, while he had his blind spots, did do stuff that was daring.

#378 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2009, 02:21 PM:

Joel Polowin @ 376... Pantyhose woven from low-refractive-index transparent aluminum?

I wonder if those make much noise as one walks around in them.

#379 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2009, 03:35 PM:

Well, as I've said before, those original-Trek uniforms for women, as sexist as they are, are also comfortable to wear (I recommend a two-way stretch fabric) and the tunic could be worn over pants, without, I think, much changing the look. (However, you still have to avoid gaining weight.)

#380 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2009, 03:40 PM:

P J Evans @ 379

Hmmm ... there's a wedding in one episode of TOS, but I don't think they ever showed a pregnant crewperson. Oh, right, high-tech contraception.

Serge, Joel

Stealth pantyhose? Now that's really going to confuse teenage boys.

#381 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2009, 03:52 PM:

@ 374... Of course, by the 23th Century, maybe they'll have invented pantyhose that don't get runs in them and which can protect from molten metal too.

Superman's already do that. And more!

Love, C.

#382 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2009, 03:55 PM:

Bruce Cohen (#374): ...but then I might not have had to build the circuit board if I had just showed off my thighs in that company.

Wow, I know the Bay Area is really gay-friendly, but I'm impressed that you think that you would have gotten the job more easily had you worn a skirt and shown off your thighs.

Seriously, though - I'm trusting that you meant this as a commentary on the people doing the hiring, and not the applicants, but the implications here (that wearing a miniskirt would get you the job, even if you're not qualified, or that you would get the benefit of the doubt as to your qualifications) are at odds with the experience of women in engineering, who have a hard enough time being taken seriously no matter what they are wearing.

#383 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2009, 04:02 PM:

Avram 360: Any chance we could pack that metaphor's bags and send it off to the old metaphor home? A recent South Park ep exhausted my tolerance for it.

Oops. Sorry. Well, that would be why I don't watch South Park.

Please take my comment at 351 as reading "the way they skinned, boned, and eviscerated that book, stitching the skin (consisting of the title and some of the characters' names) together with half-assed characterization and stuffing it with the rotting filth of a typical Hollywood screenplay, leaving it with neither soul nor substance, and indeed forcing the story of the movie to support an ideology which the book opposed on every page..."

I thought the metaphor was apt; I didn't read this thread after it got nasty and before it was demilitarized. My apologies.

#384 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2009, 04:52 PM:

Re Disney Pooh: The reason I so dislike their version is that it lacks all the beauty and charm of the original Shepherd drawings, but, like the Heart of Gold's drinks dispenser, has enough of the original to be profoundly uncanny.

#385 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2009, 05:06 PM:

Constance @ 381... This reminds me of when the Flash TV series came out in 1991. When he wasn't running around, Barry would keep his suit in an attaché case in his car's trunk. I remember a fan wishing they'd done it like in the comics, with Barry stashing his suit in a ring. Now for a suit to fit in that, it'd have had to be as flimsy as pantyhose material. No wonder they called him the Flash.

#386 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2009, 06:21 PM:

Have just seen an advert for The Spirit.

It contained this quote: "One of the best films of the year".

It finished with "In cinemas from 1 January".

That's a recommendation any critic can support.

#387 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2009, 06:44 PM:

Xopher, I applaud your replacement metaphor. Aside from any concerns about sensibilities, it has MUCH more style.

#388 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2009, 06:55 PM:

Xopher @#386: Is that anything like the Spineless Wunder Boner?

#389 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2009, 06:58 PM:

re 376: I'm thinking Nomex pantyhose.

#390 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2009, 01:11 AM:

P J, #372, Women engineers - in the mid-70s, that idea was still new to many people. And don't I remember that.

P J, #379, in the special singing group my junior and senior year of high school, the girls' wardrobes were dark blue pants, red hotpants, white turtleneck sweaters that fastened under the crotch (there's probably a name for those I can't remember), and a red/white/blue very short dress. Some places we wore the short dress; some places we wore the blue pants underneath. Now, the places we wore the skin-tight white sweaters with the red hotpants....

#391 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2009, 02:24 AM:

debcha @ 382

That was indeed a comment on the company; there were at least 2 women in the company who were hired because the hiring manager wanted to sleep with them. In one case, he did. In the other case, not so much (I think she made it clear that she had no intention of wasting herself on him), which was probably why the other one was hired. I didn't have any visibility into the gay sexual politics at that company, in part because the place was such a zoo that I didn't want to dig any deeper than absolutely necessary*.

Certainly at that time (mid '70s) a woman could improve her chances of getting a job by playing to the sexism of a hiring male, although it was not a guarantee that he'd hire someone who did, and it was certainly a guarantee of a bad work environment if he did. I have to say that I don't know any female engineers who did that, though, and I've worked with a lot of women. I do know several who missed out on jobs because they wouldn't play that game, and a number whose careers did not go as far as their abilities would indicate because they weren't "old boys".

* I knew about the one case because the first women became a friend of Eva's and mine, and she and I used to tell war stories to Eva. If you're curious, google for "IMSAI computer" and then "EST Werner Erhard", and send me email if you want the really gory details.

#392 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2009, 02:41 AM:

David Harmon @ 388

WTF? "My wife would like that!"???

#393 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2009, 07:12 AM:

Lee@370: If memory serves me right, the stories in the Star Trek: the New Voyages books were reprinted fanfic, and about as canonical as any other fanfic.

#394 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2009, 07:51 AM:

Marilee @ 390... Now, the places we wore the skin-tight white sweaters with the red hotpants....

That was a girl's outfit in some high-schools? Jeez. As for the mid-1970s and women... That's when I graduated from college as a computer programmer. Half the students in the dept were female, and so was the work force when I finally got a job. I'm glad for everybody that the bad old days were on their way out.

(This reminds me of something that I was told the other day, when someone sent me a link to Wikipedia's entry about "red serge". It shows two Mounties, one male, one female, both wearing the same ceremonial uniform. When I flew to a friend's graduation at the Mounties's training grounds in 1977, my friend would have laughed at the idea that, 30 years later, some of the graduates would be women. Things DO change for the better.)

#395 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2009, 11:32 AM:

Bruce Cohen @#391: Ack, I'd forgotten about "est"... according to one of the more plausible results, there were financial hijinks I hadn't heard about, too. In any case, they still give me the creeps, by combining the worst aspects of magic(k)al thinking, Zen abuse, and trance addiction. The Werner page at "working-minds" (notice, no link-love for them!) is particularly disturbing if you know some of the codewords.

The IMSAI folks look more interesting, though they seem to been taken for chumps a few times, in their quest for publicity. It has been a long time since I saw a computer with bit switches on the front panel....

#396 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2009, 11:41 AM:

Bruce Cohen @#392: To be translated as: "Hey, I just catch them... cleaning them is women's work".


#397 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2009, 12:33 PM:

Random: one of the young women I went to high school with wore a heavy dark-brown suede "Buffalo Bill" jacket with fringe that extended to her mid thighs, and a slightly-shorter brown leather miniskirt. Every day. For four years.

Also: I miss the old Danskin's professional dance tights, which for decades were the only opaque tights one could buy and are now impossible to find. Now every year's tights have a different fatal flaw; last year it was a weak place in the knitting of the right leg that ran from foot to thigh the first or second time they were put on, this year it's inadequate seam margins which blow out almost immediately unless one is very careful in sitting down. The year it was foot-seams, I could at least sew the damned things up. The consistency and ubiquity of the flaws across a range of labels gives me visions of one huge tight-knitting machine somewhere in south central China, into which kilometer-wide balls of yarn are fed, which is serviced and recalibrated once a year.

#398 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2009, 12:55 PM:

JESR @#397

One day all the professional dance apparal stores here in Manhattan seemed to disappear, Danskin, Capezio, etc. They appear to have retreated back to midtown only, their original locations because that's where the schools and theaters are. Dayem!

Have you checked online?

Here for Danskin.

Here for Capezio.

Love, C.

#399 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2009, 04:31 PM:

JESR @ 397

huge tight-knitting machine somewhere in south central China, into which kilometer-wide balls of yarn are fed,

Now there's a candidate for manufacturing in orbit. I can see little robotic tugs with small rockets pushing huge yarn balls into place and starting them spinning. Hmm ... maybe if we we grab rocks with high silicate content from the Asteroid Belt, move them into earth orbit, and use solar mirrors to melt them while spinning them into glass fibers, we wouldn't have to grow or synthesize fabrics on Earth.

#400 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2009, 04:48 PM:

David Harmon @ 395

there were financial hijinks I hadn't heard about

Oh, you bet there were.

though they seem to been taken for chumps a few times,

Not their founder and president, Bill Millard, oh, no. No chump he, and no holder of chump change either, and he was a personal friend of Werner Erhard. He later founded ComputerLand, and was reputedly worth over half a billion dollars (and in hiding in the Caymans from the US Government, who were investigating him for fraud and stock manipulation). About then his old friends from IMSAI sued him for $40 million, claiming he'd given them stock in IMSAI and then milked all the cash out to build ComputerLand, which they didn't have stock in.

they still give me the creeps

Likewise. The average dwell time of an engineer or technician in the company was 3-4 months; I only stayed 6 because I'd just moved to the Bay from Davis, and for a little there it looked like I might have an opportunity with a startup formed by people from all the microcomputer companies in the Bay: IMSAI, Processor Technology, Northstar, Cromemco, etc. If it had gotten off the ground, the Chief Engineer would have been Lee Felsenstein, and I figured a shot at working with Lee was worth a couple of extra months in the Est-hole. Too bad it never worked out.

In many ways IMSAI was ahead of its time. They were a startup with the kind of cultural and financial excesses that were common in the late days of the dotcom boom, only they committed them in the '70s.

#401 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2009, 07:18 PM:

JESR: Have you looked at Bal-Togs? I get them in black, and they are really good. For one thing they bear repair sewing, so when I blow out a heel I can sticth them up, and none the wiser.

#402 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2009, 11:41 PM:

Serge, #394, it was one of the performance outfits of the female part of a special group of singers (who did choreography, too, the girls in red high heels). We couldn't wear the hotpants in school and if we'd been out performing and came back to school, we had to slink into one of the practice rooms through the band entrance and change. They're very practical for high kicks.

#403 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2009, 12:00 AM:

Marilee, I think the term you want for those snap-crotch turtlenecks is "bodysuits."

#404 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2009, 02:20 PM:

And I belatedly note that BoingBoing had the Wunder Boner up 3 days before I saw it at Neddie Jingo's...

#405 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2009, 04:36 PM:

I had a couple of those snap-crotch things when I was a kid. They were popular about the same time as stirrup pants and had the same basic goal: a clean-lined silhouette, just like on Star Trek, with no bunching up when one garment tucks into another, and nothing slipping out of place.

The future will be wrinkle-free!

#406 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2009, 05:55 PM:

pericat, #405: That's funny. I remember bodysuits as being popular in the 70s, when I was in junior high and high school; stirrup pants were a good 20 years later, just after the legging craze of the early 90s.

#407 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2009, 06:12 PM:

Lee @ 406
That's the second coming of stirrup pants, or 'everything that was old is new again'

#408 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2009, 06:22 PM:

pericat @ 405... The future will be wrinkle-free

...and without pant pockets.

"Say, is that a phaser, or are you just glad to see me?"

#409 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2009, 06:47 PM:

Serge 408: "Say, is that a phaser, or are you just glad to see me?"

A yes, those pants. I remember a scene in STTOS (can't remember the ep) when some very strong being is throttling (or something) a very muscular redshirt; it has him pushed backwards over one of those very clunky-looking TOS consoles, and the redshirt's...um...generous masculine endowment is clearly visible for several seconds.

He may have gotten killed in the ep, but I bet he wasn't hurting for dates after it was broadcast.

#410 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2009, 06:58 PM:

Ah yes, that was meant to be.

And as we were taking Alex, in West Point Cadet uniform, to the airport, my friend Laura remarked that there was something "Star Trekky" about the uniform. Actually, of course, there was something occidentipuntal about the uniforms on Star Trek.

Not, I hasten to add, the characteristic described in my previous post, not that I looked.

#411 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2009, 09:24 PM:

Lee @ 406, definitely second coming with the stirrup pants. Late sixties, early seventies was my kidtime, and all the moms on base had them. Dunno if the snap-shirts were a fashion craze, actually. I had a couple, though.

Serge @ 408: pants without pocketses is just wrong. I need pockets. Someday I might find a One Ring.

#412 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2009, 09:59 PM:

pericat @ 411 ...
pants without pocketses is just wrong

... and I've been irritably thinking something along those lines all day...

#413 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2009, 10:11 PM:

I like at least one pocket on a shirt. It gives me someplace to put my cardkey-badge. (And pantses without pocketses are less useful than they could be.)

#414 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2009, 10:45 PM:

pericat @ 411... I need pockets. Someday I might find a One Ring.

Besides, in the 23rd Century, people will still need to blow their noses - presumably with hankies.

#415 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2009, 10:48 PM:

Xopher @ 409... Maybe StarFleet used that guy as the... ah... poster boy to entice others to join the ranks of the redshirts.

#416 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 12:38 AM:

Rikibeth, #403, yes, you're right!

Serge, #408, I won't buy pants that don't have pockets. I have stuff to put in them.

#417 ::: Rozasharn ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 12:47 AM:

JESR @ 397: Have you tried Foottraffic? They sell opaque tights. Not marketed for dance use, though, and I don't know if they have crotch gussets.

#418 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 06:03 AM:

Marilee @ 416... Same for me. Every day, I have to carry my wallet, a key ring, and a wallet. I expect the 23rd Century would have an equivalent to those things. Also, how else would Mister Scott carry around the doohickeys he needs to keep the Enterprise running?

#419 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 07:28 AM:

Serge @ 418

23rd Century purses, complete with spacewarp interior for extra room. How else could you fit in your isolinear degrommetizer?

pericat @ 411


obSF: Somewhere in Delany's Fall of the Towers trilogy there's a discussion of clothes without pockets, in which it is revealed that (*gasp*) the aristocrats cheat: their clothes all have concealed pockets, and the knockoffs the middle class buy, don't.

#420 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 09:42 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 419... Are you suggesting that StarFleet has access to Time Lord technology? At least, the Doctor still uses pockets, even though they're bigger from the inside than from the outside.

#421 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 10:12 AM:

Serge @ 420: Are you suggesting that StarFleet has access to Time Lord technology?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JhAPkkLgtI

(h/t Olliver Willis and the various people in the line between him and whoever first posted this somewhere.)

#422 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 11:16 AM:

Bruce @419: No! Really? Okay, first up against the wall, when the Revolution comes, will be the bastards who've stolen my pockets. I may not be carrying my Jackknife of the Masses, due to the pocket thing, but I can still sneeze on them, by gum. Probably will, too. Then I'll steal their hankie.

#423 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 11:25 AM:

Serge #418: Every day, I have to carry my wallet, a key ring, and a wallet.

Serge "Two Wallets" Qu'est-cequeNom?


(Er, what's the French for "Wossname"?)

#424 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 11:31 AM:

joann @ 423... Argh. The second 'wallet' really is a cell phone. In the 23rd Century, the latter would be known as an Agonizer.

#425 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 11:35 AM:

Serge #424:

By the 23rd century, the descendents of my iPhone will have eaten my wallet ... in more ways than one.

#426 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 11:51 AM:

I like future fashion trends wherein everyone carries or wears a bunch of seal-able pouches and holsters. I sit and move somewhat oddly sometimes, and I've lost (or nearly lost) a few important things by having them tumble from my pockets at inopportune times. Part of that may be the horrible pocket designs in women's clothing, but still.

This Gadget Shoulder Holster intrigues me a great deal. You could probably climb a tree with that thing and not risk losing your keys. They have a thigh holster as well. Someday...

#427 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 08:23 PM:

Raphael @ 421... THeheheh... I especially liked the last scene.

#428 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 08:52 PM:

Serge #415:

Perhaps Starfleet Medical has worked out some really good, er, "enhancement" technology.

("Damnit Jim, I'm a doctor, not a structural engineer! Besides, you've already had the Mudd Tractor Beam Enhancer[1] treatment twice.")

[1] This has to be how he made his original fortune.

#429 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 08:53 PM:

Leah #426:

I seem to recall that Niven's Protectors liked to wear vests which existed only for their enormous numbers of pockets.

#430 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 08:57 PM:

joann @ 423: Since the French for "What is his name" turns out to be "Quel est son nom", I would propose the equivalent of "Wossname" to be "Quessnom".

#431 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 09:00 PM:

albatross: Speaking as one who has several such vests (combat, and photography) they only really work if they are very well fitted. If they have much slack any weight makes them rattle about and sag, affecting one's balance.

This is not what one wants in a combat zone, or when several hundreds/a few thousands, of dollars of camera equipment is in said vest.

#432 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 09:07 PM:

In Charlie Stross' Glasshouse there's a vest consisting of pockets whose mouths are spacewarps to places containing more pockets whose mouths are spacewarps to places containing ... resulting in a (probably variadic) tree of pockets.

When I first read the book, I wondered how you managed to find anything you put into any pocket beyond about layer 4.

#433 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 09:36 PM:

Ginger @ 430... One colloquial translation would be "C'est quoi, son nom?"

#434 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 11:39 PM:

Serge, #418, I have the cellphone all the time, but when I go out I also put my wallet and my keys in my pockets.

#435 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2009, 11:55 PM:

joann @ 425... the descendents of my iPhone will have eaten my wallet

Resistance is futile, as the billboard for a local burger joint advertised. Oh, wait, that's for the 23rd Century's descendant of Windows.

#436 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 12:02 AM:

Marilee @ 434... In teh 23rd Century, you'll have your phone, your keys and your wallet all in one device that'll also contain your whole library, precious photos, health records, etc. That way, you'll be able to lose everything in one fell swoop.

#437 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 01:45 AM:

Resistance is character-building? No, that's a Nautilus ad.

#438 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 07:08 AM:

431: a decent chest webbing rig should be adjustable, though. (Friend of mine wants to adapt his for parental duties - small DPM pouches in front to hold bottles, tissues, and other baby ancillaries, and a large one on the back to hold the baby.)

#439 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 09:51 AM:

Bruce Cohen @419 - that was pockets in skirts and/or dresses wasn't it? (I could be wrong as I mixed up Zelazny and Delany when trying to look for it).

#440 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 10:27 AM:

My husband owns a Scottevest jacket with something like fifty pockets (some nested with others) and he frequently loses things and occasionally finds things. My favorite was the day he found a canned soda he'd tucked in and forgotten (probably only for a day or two, but still!)

Sometimes I think I want one, and sometimes I watch him struggle to remember where he tucked something and decide against it.

I am strongly tempted to build some kind of leather steampunk-styled tool belt to hold my necessaries for Dragoncon, but I'm not sure I want to make the investment in learning to work leather right now.

#441 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 11:08 AM:

Serge #436:

Or perhaps your glasses, as with the main character in Acelerando.

Bruce #437:

I thought it was character-forming. (And demilitarized to a Very Fast Picket.)

#442 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 11:16 AM:

Serge @408 "Say, is that a phaser, or are you just glad to see me?" and @ 436: In teh 23rd Century, you'll have your phone, your keys and your wallet all in one device that'll also contain your whole library, precious photos, health records, etc. That way, you'll be able to lose everything in one fell swoop.

Those two combined made me think of the point in Justin B Rye's long Star Trek dissing where he comments on phasers "As Roddenberry said at every opportunity, a TV cop doesn't pause in a chase scene to explain how his gun works. But then, nor does he use it to phone home; it has reasonable limitations." You can kind of see that Rye wrote this before cellphones had gotten as widespread and multifunctional as they are now.

#443 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 12:31 PM:

Serge @ 433: "C'est quoi, son nom?"

Well, then, "C'est 'Quossnom?', n'est-ce pas?"

#444 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 12:47 PM:

Neil Wilcox @ 439

IIRC the discussion was about formal clothes, and the specific examples were given by a female character for dresses. But it's been 35 years since I read it, so I could be completely wrong.

albatross @ 441

You're correct; I took some poetic license.

Raphael @ 442

But I wouldn't be surprised to see a cellphone / stungun combo on the market. Makes it more likely you can find your stungun in a purse or pocket when you need it. And you can call 911 while toasting your assailant.

#445 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 12:56 PM:

But I wouldn't be surprised to see a cellphone / stungun combo on the market.

A bit risky for those of us with broad fingers, who are already prone to pressing the wrong button from time to time...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/hi/technology/newsid_7750000/7750010.stm

#446 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 01:10 PM:

Ginger @ 443... Oui, mon amie.

#447 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 01:17 PM:

Considering how many times I've held my cell phone between my ear and shoulder while digging for something in my pockets, thus causing some other button to go "Beep!", I'd be nervous, doing this with a phone/phaser. Of course, since I won't have pockets in the 23rd Century, this is an unnecessary fear.

#448 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 02:07 PM:

Open-threadiness: If one is a) a mystery/crime fiction fan and b) has available funds for con-going, then LeftCoastCrime2009 out here on the Big Island looks like fun.

Bring pockets.

#449 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2009, 02:09 PM:

Bah. Deep Thoughtiness rather than Open Threadiness, I guess.

#450 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2009, 10:00 PM:
In Charlie Stross' Glasshouse there's a vest consisting of pockets whose mouths are spacewarps to places containing more pockets whose mouths are spacewarps to places containing ... resulting in a (probably variadic) tree of pockets. (Bruce Cohen (StM) 432, and others)
I wonder whether the similar object in Terry Pratchett's Making Money is a nod to that? (The sudden rush of Fluorospheric PTerry references is making me wonder if XKCD has another of these objects <glances nervously over shoulder>)

Pockets? Pockets! Ooooh, as I said in the last Open threat (heh, leaving that typo), their lack is something of a hobgoblin of mine (not as much as pedestrian-enemy traffic lights). One of the rants I should put in my blog(s) before I go.

#451 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2009, 01:53 AM:

Mez, what's going to happen to your blog? I know the LJ version can be archived and made available to folks if you want, but I don't know about the other.

#452 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2009, 10:25 AM:

Bruce Cohen @#444, et seq.:

Here's some examples of stun guns that look like cellphones... at first glance, none of them seem to be functional as phones. I'd guess that's because the high voltage would be pretty rough on real cell-phone circuitry, not to mention draining the battery.

#453 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2009, 02:00 PM:

If I were designing a police taser (as opposed to a non-police self-defense weapon), it would require two hands to initiate, be shaped nothing like a pistols, and have a counter; so every discharge was recorded.

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