Monthly Archives: July 2012

Reflections

A queen stands in front of a mirror, asking a question. A princess has her life upended because the mirror answers with the truth. You know this tale. The iconic image associated with Snow White tends to be the apple, but we wouldn’t have a story without that mirror. Just for fun, I started reflecting on the role of mirrors in a more modern story—Harry Potter, of course.

The most famous example in the series is the Mirror of Erised, which Harry stumbles across in his first year. The mirror in Snow White must reply with the truth, no matter what the queen desires. This mirror shows the truth of what the person in front of it desires. As a friend of mine once pointed out, it’s a clever device to develop characterization. Later on in the book it also serves as a plot device to allow Harry to get the Philosopher’s Stone instead of Voldemort. Actually, here it serves as an indication of character once again. The Mirror of Erised was enchanted to only allow a person who didn’t want to use the stone to get the stone. When Harry gets the stone from the mirror, his status as a hero is reinforced by showing his selfless motives.

Moving beyond Erised, however, we can find that J.K. Rowling continues to use mirrors as important plot devices. Think of The Chamber of Secrets, where Hermione is found with a hand mirror when she gets petrified. It’s one of hints that Ron and Harry use to figure out that there is a basilisk running around the school. Once again a mirror is used as part of a revelation, though this one is more relevant to plot rather than characterization.

In The Goblet of Fire, a mirror plays a minor role through the Foe Glass in Crouch Jr.’s office. We see Dumbledore, Snape, and McGonagall appear in the glass as the enemies of the owner, emphasizing the fact that Moody has been an imposter the entire time. It builds up the tension in the scene, acting as a character reveal for the fake Moody and helps lead up to the second climax of the book.

The mirror that remains prominent in my mind, however, is in the fifth book. While watching Sirius fall into the veil was heart breaking, the moment that really hit me was when Harry finds the gift, and realizes he had a way to contact his godfather all along. This scene really plays into the devastating what-if scenarios people run through after a loved one has died, wondering if they could have done something to prevent that death.

What’s interesting about this particular mirror, however, is the way it is used in the last book of the series. The death of Sirius, and later Dumbledore, are done purposefully in the series so that there is no father figure left to protect Harry. But when Harry’s life is in danger in Malfoy Manor, Dumbledore’s brother Aberforth finds out he is in trouble via that same mirror and sends help. In a way, Harry is saved by his bonds to Sirius and Dumbledore even after they have passed on. In a book series where a mother’s love protects her son even after death, it seems fitting that our other loved ones can leave behind protection as well.

Thoughts on Reactions: “The Legend of Korra”

Hey. Morike here. I’m the one that started our Gmail account, but you probably didn’t know that already. I should probably tell you about that. Anyway, if you want to send us fan mail, you can do so at pottedlid@gmail.com. But, we’re on G+ too. So add us to your circles. We’re awesome like that.

In addition, I’m not going to ramble on about geek culture. Instead, I’m going to dive right into talking about something geeky. If you see the image below in your peripheral vision, you know where this is going.

Caution! Spoilers ahead

The Legend of Korra season 1 finale teaser poster. Let’s all speculate how Bolin got so angry.

<– So this awesome piece of storytelling ended on Nickelodeon a few weeks back, and apparently a portion of Tumblr was not pleased with it. I admit, I thought the ending was kind of streamlined, but then I did some rethinking about some of the reading about the production of this show. And it kind of makes me want to beat down the nay-sayers. So here I am. Beating y’all up. Unless you’re not nay-saying the show. Then you’re alright . . . for now.

I should note that most of my information is coming from the discussions between the good men at Republic City Dispatch (link to Tumblr). Just in case you were questioning the validity of my statements, you can go listen to their podcasts. They’re quite entertaining and thoughtful.

Streamlined
The first thing I’d like to point out is my biggest issue with the finale, in that it was kind of streamlined and everything has a happy ending. I mean, POOF, spiritual connection made and everyone’s got their bending back! My initial thoughts were “that was way too fast.” But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it had to have been done that way. You see, when the creators Brian K. and Mike D. thought up the show, they wanted it to be quite opposite from the original Avatar: The Last Airbender. The Avatar is female (1) in a more character-based plot (2) with a stationery location (3) and closed-narrative seasons (4). So it doesn’t surprise me that they wrapped up the season as they did. If they didn’t, the season would end on a cliff-hanger and you can’t really have that in a closed season. And so I forgive the show for its streamlined ending. I would have liked to have seen more Korra-angst over missing bending, but even I will admit that I’m easily bored with angst.

(Unless you’re Batman. Batman angst gives me all the feels.)

In addition, this was originally conceived as a mini-series. A mini-series! There were plenty of things I thought needed more time, like Pabu/Naga interactions. And more Naga in general. And some more snooping around Tarlok before his kerfuffle would have been nice as well. But regardless, we’re already getting more than originally planned, so I suppose we should be happy with what we got, right?

Ye Olde Gaang
This next point doesn’t come from Republic City Dispatch — it comes from a friend of mine who posted something on Tumblr. Her main complaint was that The Legend of Korra was nothing like Avatar: The Last Airbender and you rarely saw any of the old “Gaang”. It kind of made me want to flick her ear. Like I just said, The Legend of Korra is supposed to be the opposite of Avatar: The Last Airbender. In addition, it’s 70 years after the end of the 100 Year War. As precious as the Gaang is, I really like all the new characters. (My favorite is Meelo because he’s a fartbending heartbreaker). The adults are awesome, the children are teenagers, and there are really creative ways to use bending. Also, Pabu and Naga. Because Pabu and Naga.

Additionally, anyone in this universe named Iroh is, by default, a badass.

Congratulations on your face? Congratulations on your HAIR, sir!

Ze Romance
On a romantic level, I’m pleased with how things ended up. Mako and Korra were going to happen the moment they met. And I’m quite glad it didn’t take off right away. I realize there are fans out there displeased with Mako’s treatment of Asami, and I am with you. But I am willing to forgive him because he’s an orphaned teenager and, as an orphaned teenager, very unfamiliar with this Love Thing. Teenagers by definition make some stupid choices (no offense — adults make stupid choices too). And sometimes you’re so overwhelmed with the feels that you don’t know what to do with yourself. Mako had to deal with his feelings for two young women (TWO, as in, two lonely numbers TOGETHER), and I don’t think even an adult could handle that smoothly. So while I really think Asami deserves more of an apology, I forgive Mako for his behavior.

On a side note, was anyone’s image of Pema turned on its head when you discovered she was a homewrecker? Yeah, I liked it too.

Interpreted Suicide
According to Republic City Dispatch, some Tumblr fans believe Korra was contemplating suicide when she goes to the end of the ice cliffs and her tear falls and the music is all amazing and stuff. The good men at RCD like to try to disprove this by saying it is a children’s show (but it tackles mature themes) and you really shouldn’t project your own feelings into the show and it’s too soon for Korra to consider suicide and blah blah-blah blah-blah. I say (because apparently my opinion carries some weight): unless something is specifically stated within the text, you are free to interpret that scene however the hell you want.

Badgermole don’t care her image don’t fit the text. Badgermole just ate your hard drive.

Interpretations, however deep or shallow, add an enormous amount of color to both the source text and the world around us. I learned a lot as an undergrad, but one of the biggest things I’ve learned is to make connections in the things you engage in be it All’s Well That Ends Well, The Legend of Korra, or Treasure Planet. What you read into a text is yours. Just like your English professor, all I ask is you find evidence to back up your claim. As long as you can do that, you can discuss your ideas until the cows come home. You guys are free to interpret Korra’s thoughts in that penultimate scene in the season 1 finale however the hell you want. Just back up your claim with hard evidence.

And don’t preach. For the love of all that is good, do not attempt to convert me to your argument. The moment you cross that line is the moment you become that sketchy Jesus-freak on the street with a megaphone. Be default, I do not listen to those people, and I think the rest of the world is with me.

Side note: I don’t listen to preachy Jesus-freaks on the street because I believe that anything sold on the street is dodgy. Someone claiming to be homeless attempted to ask for change from my old roommate, and she pointed out that he had an iPhone in his hand. Another someone claiming to be homeless tried asking for change from another friend of mine with one story, and fifteen minutes later asked for change again with a different story. A third someone on the street tried to get me to submit a short story to a publishing scam. Dodgy things happen on streets. I don’t trust Jesus-freaks on the street—I trust a priest/rabbi/imam in the designated place for worship. I am amused yet dislike how I felt the need to defend a single statement with a paragraph.

Anyway, thank you for listening to my thoughts on reactions to The Legend of Korra. I don’t really have a thesis to restate, or a main point I want you to walk away with (except The Legend of Korra is awesmer than Barney Stinson and you should watch it), so I’m going to awkwardly end with a pseudo-self-centered bio:

Morike is only this long-winded in text and geeky conversations. She can also be found at her personal blog, Overcrowded Bookshelves, and her Tumblr, Disorganized Papers, which are very accurate descriptions of her living room.

the weather is just a metaphor for my feelings

So for this introductory post to me, Lieutenant Basil Alpacattack Esq. (Basil for short), sometimes-coherent writer and mostly-incoherent ranter, I put a lot of serious thought into what I should spend my precious once-in-a-lifetime-intro post waxing on about. And by that I mean I panicked and dithered about for a good few hours trying to scrounge up a topic before finally settling on writing about:

the weather.

I mean, that’s what you do when you meet new people, right? Shuffle awkwardly from foot to foot as you try to think of something interesting to talk about before finally uttering some inane comment about the clouds. I feel as though this is a fairly good representation of me anyway. If you want to know about me, just think of me as the kind of girl who likes to talk about the weather.

But wait! Before you doze off in boredom and hit the back-button with your forehead, I’d like to mention that here the weather stuff is mostly just a way for me to try and talk about why conflict sometimes pops up among geeks, even when they’re geeking out over the same thing. …continue reading here for thoughts on weather, camping, things geekery, and a way longer post than I had originally intended writing

Geeky Stereotypes

Hello, everyone, and welcome to The Potted Lid’s first ever real post! Starting now, we will be updating every Thursday for the remainder of forever. I’m Uta, also known as Dame Uta, and I will be you blogger for today. Next up, you’ll get a lovely post by somebody else, which will be about things, because there is no Grand Dictator of Post Subjects. All five of us will be taking turns, so you will not hear from me for another five weeks. But when that comes, just wait. I have things planned. So many things.

Anyway, to the post.

Once upon a time, I found in my possession, a copy of Cosmo. For purely academic reasons, I found myself reading said Cosmo with Basil and Luna. It contained an article with the moral “if your boyfriend wants to do X and you don’t want to, you should tell him you don’t want to.” Which is a lovely moral. But their example of X was a “Big Bang Theory” marathon. At which point I though to myself “but why choose a geek-themed show? Clearly this isn’t the height of stereotypical masculinity?” But I realized it was. Because Cosmo doesn’t believe female geeks exist. Which upsets me, as a female geek. But I didn’t want to do a post about Cosmo and how it annoyed me. Because that would be ranty. Instead, I bring you a post about stereotypes of geeks in “The Big Bang Theory,” a show which I like, but I also like to whine about.

But before that, plot summary: TBBT is a sitcom about four geeky dude scientists and their hot neighbor Penny. The four guys engage in geeky things and attempts at romantic relationships and hilarity ensues, much like in other sitcoms, but with occasional references to Star Wars. The characters are as follows:

Leonard: the main main character. He’s an experimental physicist. He tries the hardest to be normal.

Sheldon: Leonard’s roommate. A theoretical physicist with an ego the size of Texas, the state from which he hails.. He’s the smartest of the group, so long as you don’t count social reasoning as a part of intelligence.

Howard: A friend of the first two who works as an engineer building things for the international space station. He was a womanizer until he started dating Bernadette (see below). He’s also Jewish, which tends to be significant primarily for comedic purposes.

Raj: The fourth friend and an astrophysicist. He immigrated to the U.S. from India several years prior to the show.

Penny: the aforementioned hot neighbor (to Leonard and Sheldon). Leonard’s on and off love interest and a waitress as she awaits her break into the acting business. She’s the not-genius one.

Bernadette: Howard’s girlfriend and later fiancee. She’s a microbiologist.

Amy: Sheldon’s kinda-girlfriend. She works in neurobiology. She doesn’t really get social convention, but she tries.

And now it’s stereotype time.

Geeks are Smart

“The Big Bang Theory” is a show about smart people. It’s only a minority of characters who are average or below average in intelligence. For the most part, these characters have no interest in stereotypically geeky things. The exception, however, is Penny’s sometimes-boyfriend Zach. While just straight-up dumb, Zach expresses an interest in both comic books and cosplaying in one episode. And from that, we learn that geeks range everywhere in the intelligence spectrum and we shouldn’t think less of those who weren’t on the honor roll in high school.

Just kidding. Zach reads “Jughead” and “Archie,” not “Batman.” Clearly, this is a mark of his failures as a geek and as a human being. Now, to be fair, the episode does address the fact that the main characters are all douches to Zach at first because he isn’t as smart as the rest of them (or a dolphin). But we’re still left with the fact that he’s really only a sometimes geek. I’m trying really hard not to make a “cookies are a sometimes food” joke. I failed apparently.

I’ve never really been sure of how true this stereotype is. My geeky friends are all smart, but then again, most of my friends are pretty smart. I feel like that’s just how things tend to shake out. You get to high school and start taking AP classes, so you interact more and more with your smarter friends. Then you go to college, where you assume everyone is reasonably intelligent, then you bond with people like yourself. Then you just live in your little world where you think “of course everyone is well-acquainted with Voltaire and understands why one would wish to punch him in the face a little.” Then again, I did know some people in anime club in high school who weren’t really academically oriented. We weren’t close, so they could secretly be geniuses and I’d never know. And yes, I did start three sentences in a row with “then.” Deal with it.

So, in conclusion, I really don’t know if geeks tend to be smart or not. I’d assume we run the full range, but I have little to go on. But I don’t think this stereotype is going anywhere. I get the feeling that most geeks enjoy it.

Geeks are Sciencey

Every main character on TBBT is a scientist, save for the lone completely “mainstream” woman. Leonard, Sheldon, and Raj are each some manner of physicist, Howard is an engineer, and Bernadette and Amy (neither of whom are really geeks, but more on this later) both work in biology. As those of you who have read our About page may have guessed, this has not been my experience with geekdom. Out of the people I know who are of a geeky persuasion, it’s a fairly even split between science majors and social science/humanities majors.

This stereotype, I think, goes hand-in-hand with our current academic elitism. It seems to be linked with an idea of inaccessibility. Just as subjects like particle physics are inaccessible to the “average” person, many believe geek culture is inaccessible except to those who are already in it. People tend to assume they understand humanities with no training, while saying you majored in physics generally gets a “ooh, you must be smart.” Not saying that scientists or geeks aren’t smart, but there are many smart people who aren’t scientists and many non-scientists, of a variety of intelligence levels, who are geeks. And of course, these sciencey geeks understand the humanities, they’ve read all the classics and pick up languages like nothing (how else would they know Klingon and Elvish?).

I find this stereotype to be annoying. Like I said, The Potted Lid itself is slanted towards the humanities. And one assumes that those who create geek-products probably didn’t all major in genetics. Someone has to write and draw the comic books, design the board games, and make up the languages. My main issue with it, though, is the academic elitism. And that’s not the point of this post. But I think it’s time us non-science geeks make ourselves known. I’m gonna go forge Anduril with medieval smithing techniques now. (That’s a lie. I’m far to lazy. And lack the necessary forge.)

Geeks Do All Geek-Things

“The Big Bang Theory” follows four actual geeks–Sheldon, Leonard, Howard, and Raj. They’re into superheroes. And figurines. And fantasy/sci-fi literature. And rpgs. And anime. And ren-fest. And computers. And video games. And kite fighting. Et cetera. Now, I personally enjoy many of these things. Not all of them. I’m not a big “Star Trek” fan. And I hate computers. I mean, I love mine so long as it obeys my every whim, but I know that it’s thinking about ways to overthrow me. I can sense it.

I think this stereotype comes from the fact that geek subculture is a subculture. There probably isn’t much of a need for non-geeks to learn the differences between the sub-subcultures. At the end of the day, an otaku and a brony (clearly better with y than with ie) are still adults watching cartoons. So long as, y’know, you and your friends don’t belong to one of these groups and not the other.

I’m of two minds about this stereotype. On the one hand, I don’t do all geeky things and the assumption I do (or assertion that I should do them) gets a little old. But I like having some semblance of unity with other geeks.  Even though I don’t care about the Doctor and Rose, I like things that are vaguely similar and perhaps me and my Dr. Who friends will discover something that combines both of our interests and it’ll be awesome. And I want computer geeks around for when my dear laptop finally rises up against me.

Geeks are White

Except for their South Asian friend. And maybe you could argue that having a Jewish character could give the show a  diversity point. Now, whether or not Potted Lid’s composition is eerily similar to this, the lack of non-white geeks in the show outside of Raj is a little off-putting. Even when they go to places where there are geeks, like a comic book store, most if not all of the extras are white. (Though, part of me wants to hedge on this assertion–I don’t have a super great recollection of every time there were in geek-public. But I’m pretty sure their version of geek-culture is almost all white.)

I also feel that this is a pretty pervasive stereotype in society. The stereotypical geek is white. Maybe he could be East Asian, assuming anime was somehow involved. Or math. We can’t forget that one. (Side note: I had never heard this stereotype until I was almost out of high school. Having a last name at the end of the alphabet and going to a school where Vang and Yang were really common last names, I commonly sat by my Asian classmates in math class. I was on math team. They weren’t. Someone had to explain the reference to me when it came up. Stereotypes really only work when you don’t know people.)

Now, I’ll admit right now that I don’t know what it is to deal with this. I’m about as white as you can get (no, I don’t know how you measure “whiteness” in this context and I’m not proposing a paradigm). But I can see where it would be very frustrating to have everyone assume that the media you’re consuming  or the games that you’re playing aren’t for you.

And the fact that people believe that geeks are white probably aids the fact that geek-media are geared towards a white audience. Just look at all the white-washing of casts, like in “The Last Airbender” or the proposed “Akira.” Or look at the fact that almost all fantasy worlds are medieval Europe, with no immigration. Or that the last two Huntress comics I read were about her fighting horrible, woman-hating Mediterranean men. Or everything about race in Conan the Barbarian works.

Overall, I feel that the geek community at large need to look at its media and really think about what it’s saying about race. And “everyone is pale” is, in fact, saying something. Going back to TBBT, would it really be that hard to throw in a geeky side character of color? Or at least mix up the extras a little?

Geeks are Male

This whole post started because of that article I read in Cosmo. The assumption was that men like geeky things. These things aren’t for women. And, as much as I enjoy “The Big Bang Theory,” I feel like this is the stereotype they almost explicitly perpetuate.

When the show started, Penny was the only female and the only non-geek. Then, there was a woman named Leslie that was in a number of episodes. She was a decent character and she was smart. She was a physicist along with the main male characters. But, because she was more of a minor character, we didn’t really get to see her interests outside of the viola (violin?) and sleeping with Leonard.

Then we eventually get Bernadette, followed by Amy. Now, I enjoy both of these characters. They’re fun. They’re just not geeks. And the show doesn’t know this. Bernadette and Amy and smart and nerdy. But that’s as far as it goes. They both explicitly don’t like comic books. Amy, at least, doesn’t understand the difference between “Star Wars” and “Star Trek.” And there’s a list of things that Bernadette is established as not liking in her intro episode, none of which are shown to change or are even addressed afterwards. And it would be fine to have a geek who didn’t like all geeky things, except in a universe where it’s been established that this doesn’t happen. And being smart and being a geek aren’t the same, despite what the creators when you to think. To be a geek, you need at least some geeky thing to do or like.

Moreover, the female characters seem to look down on the male characters’ geeky habits. They act as those these are interests that the guys just need to grow out of. It seems that geeky things are juvenile, and only men are allowed to do juvenile things. This is unfortunate, since TBBT did address this issue with a different conclusion back in season 1. At one point, Penny does convince Leonard that his stuff is for kids and he almost gets rid of it until Sheldon calls Penny out for being a Hello Kitty fan. I thought the message was that we all have things that may be seen as a little childish by some, but that shouldn’t diminish that fact that we like them. But maybe the moral was that there are childish things women are into and childish things men are into. Women like Hello Kitty, men like action figures. And we need to accept that about the opposite gender.

Except I like action figures. And comic books. And I’m really sick of the “no girls go willingly to a comic book store” joke.

This goes back into similar problems to thinking every geek is white. Because if we can pretend that women don’t do geeky things, you don’t need to make geek-media not offensive to women. I feel like this all plays into why comic book stores are rated for how woman-friendly they are and why women who play video games online often pretend to be men.

And again, would it be hard to throw in a few female extras at the next run to the comic book store? Or even have an established female character like one geeky thing. Make the renaissance festival Bernadette’s favorite time of year. Something. All geeks being male is an incredibly ingrained stereotype. But it’s also one that causes problems, as anyone familiar with the whole Anita Sarkeesian kickstarter campaign is aware.

But, at the end of the day, I still enjoy “The Big Bang Theory” and I’ll still watch it. It does perpetuate certain stereotypes of geeks. I can live with ignoring the fact that I never intend to be a scientist and the fact that my friends to be geeky in certain way and not others. What I do take issue with is the fact that geekdom is seen as the domain of predominantly white males. I like that they have one geeky non-white character, but why not a couple more? And while we’re at it, how about a couple female geeks? Even in the background, it would help  to see some generic geeks who weren’t white men.