Posts Tagged ‘rape culture’

Horns

June 17, 2011

Fuck this book. Ew. I was so stoked when I read Joe Hill’s other book, Heart-Shaped Box- a horror novel with women in it that had a sweet monster and ghost cars, that was pretty cool. But this thing? It’s like he’s got a list of devil cliches and is just putting them all into the book, one after another, once he’s worn out the novelty of having people say a bunch of racist, sexist, homophobic and otherwise hard-to-slog-through monologues. By page 300 the main character was blaspheming against the proscription in Deuteronomy against cross-dressing- a devil in a blue dress, ULTIMATE LULZ- and we’d spent forty or fifty pages listening to a different dude’s thought process as he sexualizes everything the woman he’s going to sexually assault and then murder does, for her whole life starting at age ten. I mean, that’s not fun, or edgy. I skimmed the last hundred pages I read before I gave up on this thing. I was like, ‘why the fuck would I read this?’ There are no female characters with any kind of interiority to offset the constant revisitation of the “sex murder,” all the male characters are jerks, and in order for this to be interesting at all, you have to at least give a shit about modern cultural Christian morality, which is something I can barely even suspend any disbelief about.

I mean Joe Hill can write and it’s sorta compelling and I was only skimming for that long because I wanted to know why the fuck the guy turned into a devil, but I’m sure that information is up on goodreads or an amazon review or something. (ETA: wikipedia) But yeah gross. Hey rape culture tag. Sucks that you’re back.

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A Visit From the Goon Squad

May 30, 2011

I WOULD LIKE TO READ ONE SINGLE BOOK THAT DOESN’T HAVE A SEXUAL ASSAULT IN IT

Full Dark No Stars

May 1, 2011

A used copy of Stephen King’s last collection, Full Dark No Stars, showed up at the book store a couple weeks ago, so I decided to read it. ‘Cause I like Stephen King! I think. I started reading him when I was little- I don’t think Needful Things was the first of his book that I read, but I distinctly remember asking for a big ol’ hardcover copy of it either for Christmas or my birthday when it was new, when I was twelve or thirteen. Which puts me in, what, sixth or seventh grade?

Not to digress, but since it’s totally my blog, I remember that by sixth grade I was already really into the Stand. I would draw pictures of the characters from that weighty tome instead of taking notes in math class; there were so many characters that I’d have to use more than one page. I remember feeling very sophisticated that I could keep track of so many characters in a novel that dealt with such weighty matters, especially since I was an enormous Dean Koontz fan- by this point I’d read every Dean Koontz book the Clinton Public Library had, at least once, mostly instead of paying attention to little league or community athletics basketball games my brother was playing (until my parents decided I was old enough to stay home by myself, when I could spend that time wearing my mom’s clothes instead of reading)- and Deaner seemed all straightforward and easy to follow in comparison. I was like, ‘this is grownup shit.’ I remembered this terrifying book cover bumping around my house when I was even littler and being all OMFG TERROR and knowing I wasn’t tough enough to open it up-YET- so when I got around to reading the Stand (which didn’t have monsters in it, except for people, who are the REAL monsters, just like in the most BORING horror movies), I was like, I am maturing to the point of reading the great books of western civilization, and it feels good.

This is the impulse that eight years later would culminate in a semester-long independent study on Ulysses.

Anyway yeah I was like “I’m smarter than all you other sixth grade idiots, and better at Mario 3, and the ‘French rolls’ on my jeans are tighter than yours, I have a pair of Z. Cavariccis and two pairs of Skidz, and a vague understanding about sex and relationships and mortality and gender and other grownup things that I learned from Stephen King which is going to take years to unravel unpack make sense of and replace with something that’s not a classic-rock listenin’ Mainer dad’s idea of plain-talkin’ about the world,” except I probably couldn’t have put it into words.

But so yeah basically I know that Stockholm syndrome has been my go-to metaphor lately- “we internalize busted beauty standards, sick relationship models and patriarchy,” I keep saying, “because we’ve been held prisoner by a totally gross culture for so long that it’s stopped seeming gross”- but I feel like I’ve had a little bit of Stockholm syndrome with Mr. King for a while now. Like, I think it’s unfair the way he gets dismissed for being a genre writer, ’cause obviously it’s snobby to dismiss somebody for writing about monsters. But I also feel like I’ve been giving him too much credit for too long. Like, in Duma Key, when his normal dude protagonist related the name of every song and every band that was playing on THE BONE, the classic rock station he listened to- or all the dad-rock allusions everywhere all over mid-world and end-world and in-world in the metaverse of the Dark Tower books- I keep being like, ‘haha, aw Steve, you doofy ol’ dude,’ and indulging him like he was my grandpa or something. When actually there’s a pretty evil underside to his het white dudeness. Not to get all intriguing jacket flap or anything.

But yeah okay so I read the first story in Full Dark No Stars and I was like, ‘okay, sure, that was good enough to read the whole thing, but if I am being honest with myself, what I like is monsters, and rats are kind of a boring monster, if they don’t even share a hive mind.’ I mean, I guess they kind of do in that story, but not really; it’s a story about its protagonist’s guilt and how it eats at him for a bunch of decades. BORING. (This was why I wasn’t super into Under The Dome, too: the monster was man’s inhumanity to man, who cares. That’s everywhere, and monsters aren’t, and monsters are what I like. But I know I don’t get to demand monsters in everything, and maybe ironically, I’m not even interested in monster lit like Pride & Prejudice & Zombies.) But not so boring I couldn’t read it, although I read it on a mountain trail near a river made up of melting snow just as it was getting warm enough to hang out outside, while my dog ran around, so I think I was probably in a “forgiving stuff for not having monsters in it” mood.

But the second story is like rape culture incarnate- and please, don’t read any further if you don’t want to read about rape culture, because it’s pretty intense.

So like, okay. It’s told from the perspective of a woman who lives alone except for her cat, who makes a living writing cozy mysteries, who at one point refers to her junk as her “snatch.” First of all, do you want to know who calls cunts “snatches?” Stephen King, ten year old boys and maybe drunk hicks? I don’t even know. I guess I don’t know any but I am assuming: not middle-aged cozy mystery writers. I mean, we can talk about Stephen King’s lack of a gift at writing female characters, but I don’t even care, really; he does other things well, right? Or something. Anyway she gets bad directions from a dykey librarian, gets redirected to a trap where an enormous idiot brown-skinned monster dude rapes her, and then she wanders around dazed and making dirty old man jokes about her “snatch,” past a bar where people are playing classic rock, reliving her sexual assault over and over for the reader… it’s pretty gross. I didn’t make it much further than that before I was like ‘I guess I am going to have to break out the rape culture tag again over at KYBB’ and wandered off to… I don’t even remember what I did. I think I was reading The Brain That Changes Itself, which doesn’t have much rape in it, if I recall correctly- I probably read that instead. (Unlike Love’s Executioner, MR YALOM)

My point is just that this story is basically Stephen King’s lowest point, as far as I’m concerned, and I’ve been reading the fucker for like twenty-five years. But the annoying, frustrating streak that’s always there in Mr. King’s writing- the thing where boring misogyny, privilege dressed up like tolerance, and stale dad-isms are all painted to look like common wisdom or telling it like it is- is pretty much all there was in this story. I mean, the female protagonist was a cardboard cutout without any internal consistency. The rapist was- ironically, considering- literally a monster (tall; stupid; and brown-skinned, although I guess here it’s important to distinguish between ‘monster’ and ‘other,’ not that I’d believe Steve is), meaning there didn’t have to be any kind of three-dimensionality to the character, or to the event; rape as something that happens to get the plot moving is a possible definition of rape culture.

So yeah I couldn’t read any more but I felt like I needed to know what happened so I knew how mad to be so I was gonna keep going but Alex pointed out that I could just ask wikipedia what happened so I did and the rest of the story is the cozy mystery writer getting revenge, killing the monster guy and then the dykey librarian. It’s basically I Spit On Your Grave, which I’ve never seen ’cause while I am tough I don’t think I’m that tough, and which also is a story that’s been told. And probably doesn’t need to be retold: a story in which rape is something that monsters do to women who are barely recognizable as women, in which it then becomes the women’s job to get revenge, in order to move past it.

So this story failed utterly for me. I couldn’t read the rest of the book and I’ve said it before, but I’m afraid to open up the Stand or even the first… I don’t know, six? Dark Tower books any more, just ’cause now that I’m old and bitter and jaded and I hate everything, looking all that stuff in the eye kinda feels like pushing my sixth grade self out a window.

Whatever. Zero stars. Or: five pairs of off-white y-fronts.

Angus, Thongs, And Full-Frontal Snogging

March 20, 2011

I know I told Smoot that I would read Trouble on Triton, but I hate that the words “rape culture” are sprawled glitter-spattered and blinking across the top of the tags cloud for this blog, so I think I’m going to read the entire Georgia Nicolson series by Louise Rennison. Remember? She was like baby Bridget Jones? I read the first few a while ago but fuck rape culture so.

Perdido Street Station

March 20, 2011

GOD DAMMIT should I just change the name of this blog to “the I Am Sick of Rape Culture Book Blog?” I just finished Perdido Street Station and it was chugging along so nicely, the whole way, I was so into it, like the monsters were cool and the people got so beat up, and the desperation in the hospital scene was absolutely phenomenal- and then in the last 20 pages, here’s the sexual assault! It’s like okay yes I get that this is a total bummer. The book club I started at my store to discuss it is called the Total Bummer Book Club. But… y’know it was the good kind of total bummer up until that last twenty pages- the heroes are a motley crew oppressed by the privileged who sort of triumph, against all odds, against a scary monster problem that’s one of the heroes’ fault. And like, the characters whose oppression is a metaphor for (primarily) racial or ethnic oppression, they have actual honest-to-god inner emotional lives! The scene where Lin is thinking about her relationship with her ethnic or racial or xenian community is another one that’ll stick with me; and I guess in retrospect what happens to Lin is representative of that fact that, when you get down to it, like a lot of manarchist/man…ialist, I guess, like dudebro radical socialists?, just doesn’t do a good job with women’s experiences of gender-based oppression (uh eg sexism I guess).

And here be spoilers:

Just, like, he does a good job with Lin. She is probably the most interesting character in the book. And I would even be okay with the fact that she gets it the worst in the end, if it weren’t for the fact that, y’know, as soon as we see deeply into her three dimensions, she becomes the kidnapped pawn girlfriend and disappears out of the story. Which again might even be fine if not for the fact that just before the end of the book we find out that one of the characters we’re been rooting for is in this whole mess in the first place because of something mysterious to do with rape.

And then the way Mieville deals with the rape just doesn’t work. It’s a kind of rape in another culture, that someone in our culture can’t understand or judge. Uh, okay, fine. Then we hear all about Yagharek’s pain and suffering and how much he feels bad because he committed this kind of sexual assault that we can’t understand. Like, okay, yes, and in the world of the book that makes sense, it’s not like it feels out of place- but just, like, in the world outside the book, I can’t think of a good reason for Mieville to go “now I’ll introduce sexual assault to this narrative.” Y’know? And in the last twenty pages there’s a lot of sexual assault. So why would he as the author decide to bring that in? I mean okay sure it’s a bummer and the whole point of the book is that it’s one long bummer but then why introduce the moral-ambiguity-around-this-kind-of-sexual-assault idea? It just completely took me out of the world of the book and made me question, I think for the first time in the now four books I’ve read by him, whether I trust him as an author completely. I mean, I’ll finish the Scar, and I’ll probably read King Rat and Un Lun Dun and whatever else he publishes, but… I don’t know, the theme of “the regretful rapist” that ends up being retroactively applied to the novel seems like an enormous misstep, especially in a book that metatextually addresses complex things like racism, fatphobia, classism, the prison-industrial complex, socialism, anti-governmental organizing, and unions so seemingly effortlessly. Y’know? Why then, at the end- just to punch me in the belly one last time really hard, I guess, but it is a shitty punch I wish hadn’t been there.

And I mean that makes me question: maybe it is as stressful to read the way he writes about cultural segregation if you don’t have all the racial/cultural privilege I have. I don’t know. It’s just, for me, y’know, he fucked it up at the end. Maybe, like in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, I can write “this book ends here” and draw a line right before Kar’uchai shows up, ’cause then this book would earn five skulls on fire with guts on ’em.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

March 20, 2011

Yeah pretty much this.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

March 20, 2011

Look I never read the Millenium Trilogy novels, just ’cause I never really had much interest, but I’m out of medication and feeling pretty messed up today so I just watched the first movie. And predictably I hated it! It was like Hostel- or, what I remember of Hostel- except instead of generalized misanthropy, the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was, like, laser-focused, sensationalized, sexualized violence against women. I mean, other things happened, but every few minutes you could count on a photograph of a dismembered dead woman to float across the screen, or someone to be raped, or someone to rape back, or for someone or something to take the heroine- who thinks she’s so tough- down a peg. Like, I get that the plot was something about how it’s bad when misogynists murder women, but if that’s the content, I sure didn’t get ‘violently murdered and dismembered or humiliated women are something we shouldn’t be excited about’ from the form. I don’t usually care at all about what our popular culture says about us as a society- I like some stupid, vapid pop culture- but jesus christ, everyone, I’m ashamed for you. UGH.

I’m going to make a frozen pizza and then watch the Girl who Played with Fire.

Room

March 20, 2011

OH MY FUCKING GOD I AM SO BORED. This was fine for about a hundred pages, then extremely compelling for about twenty pages, and now I’ve just been waiting for something to happen for the last hundred and forty, but it’s like the least tautly plotted thing I’ve ever read. It just keeps being the slightly out-of-touch five-year-old narrator saying things like

“‘Sit tight, enjoy the sunshine, I’ll be back before you know it.’

But I’m not sitting, I’m standing.”

FOR EVAAAAAR. I don’t want to spoiler it for you or anything but it’s just like… what is this story? Didn’t the story pretty much end a hundred pages ago? I’ve been making myself keep reading it just to see if something’s gonna happen, but like… Stuart really liked this, so I’m just gonna ask him what happens in the last sixty pages, ’cause I don’t think I can read it any more. I guess this is what I get for asking for less plot, talking about The Reapers are the Angels in my last post.

Oh also this is book two in a row where men sexually assaulting women just keeps happening. This is an inauspicious beginning, blog; maybe I’ll read Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret and tell you about it next. Two skulls with hearts and knives through the hearts!