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Past Yuletide Letters: 2013, 2012
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My bad habit One of my bad habits Amongst my bad habits is that sometimes when I see my side of an argument so clearly I have a hard time understanding how anyone could disagree, and, instead of debating intellligently, dissolve into a fit of acoherent rage. Quite aside from the fact that I am not always right, this is a problem because it means that when I become emotionally invested in an argument, I have a hard time conveying my opinion in a convincing manner. This means that I am sure that the following could be explained by someone else much more eloquently, but please bear with me.
I was a fan of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality when I first heard of it. It has a clever premise, and is well written, both grammatically and stylistically. However, I have had some issues with the way the most recent story arc was written and handled, and these boiled to a head when I found the author's response to someone else's complaints regarding the same issues; that response can be found here; I will not be quoting it directly within this response, so please read it first before continuing.
First, right from the start, I take issue with the Mr. Yudkowsky's position in the opening sentence. I believe that feminism is and should be the concern of everyone, not just those who have heard of it, and that hiding the response away to complaints about being anti-feminist is not a good position to take.
Mr. Yudkowsky focuses on directly responding to the accusations from a particular tumblr comment (which he does not link to, so I'm not sure if his following assertion is true, since the text he quotes does not specify which female character, only makes general statements) that Professor McGonagall has significantly less agency than Professor Snape. And while I agree that that assertion is true, and I will return to it later, I feel that the anti-feminism present in the text is much more pervasive and insidious.
Mr. Yudkowsky states that he believes a text should stand on its own and that an author's opinion or notes regarding the text afterwards are a failure on the author's part. This is a perfectly valid viewpoint, and one that I personally agree with; it is one of the reasons that I have issues with the original Harry Potter novels in fact, since JK Rowling only ever revealed or discussed Dumbledore's sexuality in a memo after the final book had been published, and not within the text itself.
However, the text that Mr. Yudkowsky has written does not support his position that it is feminist (or even feminist - neutral as opposed to actively feminist or anti-feminist (okay, I'm going to stop using the term "anti-feminism" here, which Mr. Yudkowsky uses in his rant and refer to this as sexism, because let's face it, it is)). A central theme in MoR is the concept of "heroic responsibility" to which the readers are treated to multiple lectures. As part of this discussion, a quote that is attributed to Godric Gryffindor's autobiography is introduced:
No rescuer hath the rescuer,
No lord hath the champion,
no mother and no father,
only nothingness above.
(Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, chapter 75)
However, as the deuteragonist of the story, and ostensibly a heroine in her own right, Hermione Granger consistently fails to live up to this standard. In the course of the extracurricular battles that Professor Quirrell arranges, Hermione is repeatedly shown as an inferior participant to both Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy; for instance, in the battle that takes place in chapter 67, Harry is able to defeat Hermione with only two soldiers, and in the post battle discussion in chapter 68, Professor Quirrell specifically calls her out as not thinking of alternative strategies as Draco did, which is an example of lack of agency on her part. Other examples include her needing to be rescued from the Wizengamot after being accused of attempted murder, and the other battles that take place; in which Professor Quirrell secretly plots to assist her in the first battle, in the Christmas battle (in which of all the plots that take place, she does not create a single one and is merely a pawn in the ultimate outcome of the fight, which is orchestrated through the efforts of Harry, Draco, Blaise Zabini, Professor Quirrell and Headmaster Dumbledore), the battle in which her and Draco's armies combined are unable to defeat Harry, who provides the means for them to chase him onto the roof whereupon she falls off, leaving the final confrontation between Harry and Draco.
Indeed, throughout the story, Hermione is consistently shown to lack agency and need a rescuer of her own. The events of the Self-Actualization story arc revolve around her creation an organization called the Society for the Promotion of Heroic Equality for Witches, which as Mr. Yudkowsky specifically states in his rant referenced earlier was intended to be feminist.
However, Hermione and her heroic witches fail to prove themselves heroes and need rescue; first from Nymphadora Tonks, a seventh year student in disguise as one of their own, and then later by Harry, Professor Quirrell, and Professor Snape all.
Professor Quirrell/Voldemort is portrayed similarly to Ollivander's description of him in the original Philosopher’s Stone novel; a terrible person, lacking in empathy and understanding of humans, but capable of great actions, and a force to be reckoned with. Indeed, he is portrayed as a very rational individual, who is a great judge of character, yet he repeatedly shows a lack of respect for Hermione; while he believes that she is intelligent, he repeatedly calls her out on a lack of dedication and heroic qualities, the most notable of which I believe is during chapter 70, when he speaks at a protest she has organized and he states that heroes are not those of high position, but rather those who show great ability and power, and then refuses to support her, since he believes she lacks ambition.
Mr. Yudkowsky's defense for the lack of agency that Professor McGonagall shows throughout the story is that such examples were before her character development in the most recent arc, and that such development was planned all along. However, despite referencing "fridging" in the opening sentence to his rant, he never addresses the concept again.
If you are unfamiliar with the term, it stems from the trope of "women in refrigerators", which originated with Hal Jordan's wife being killed and placed in a refrigerator for him to later find in the Green Lantern comics. The trope references female characters who have been killed, seemingly for the sole purpose of angst or character development, and is about the objectification of women. Literally; stuffing a woman in the refrigerator states that she has less value to the story for the narrative that she can provide as a female character, a subject capable of action, than the emotional value of her death, an object which is acted upon and inspires others to action.
This is problematic for me, because the most blatant example of sexism is no the lack of agency on Professor McGonagall's part, but rather the action that causes her to undergo character development; the fridging of Hermione Granger (actually, painfully literally, since her body is later placed in a storeroom for chapters 90-93). Hermione is killed by the troll, which, in the original canon JK Rowling provides, was defeated in time by Harry and Ron. Although the story has not progressed far beyond her death, it certainly seems as if she was killed for the sole purpose of character development for others, and, even if not, that is not an essential aspect of the woman in refrigerators trope.
In fact, Mr. Yudkowsky's assertion in his original rant is even more troubling in light of this. Professor Snape's competency can be directly attributed to his grief over, and desire for revenge for, the death of Lily Potter at Voldemort's hands. Which, while only somewhat problematic in the original narrative, since James Potter died at the same time, now becomes part of a disturbing trend in which a female character needs to die for another main character to develop into competency.
Mr. Yudkowsky chooses to end his rant with the position that it is unfair to attack an author of an incomplete story, since the section that has not been completed could redeem the sections which have, that the future plot points could shed new light on those that have been revealed so far.
I disagree. I believe that Mr. Yudkowsky could have defended himself rather easily against my complaints by the simple expedient of not having Hermione stuffed into the refrigerator because Lily was lonely there. By having Professor McGongall develop competency without the death of the only other strong female character in the entire story. By allowing Hermione to be capable of rescuing herself at some point without needing Harry to be her savior.
I've got a hidden list of characters from various fandoms numbered 1-15, you give me scenarios/questions with combinations of characters (e.g. 1 and 5 walk into a bar, and get into a fight with 7. who wins?), hilarity ensues.
Title: Angst from the Id! Angst from the Subconscious!
Fandom: Ghost Soup Infidel Blue
Pairing(s): Angela/Angela's Clone/Luke
Word Count: 1215
Dear Yuletide Writer,
First, thank you so much for participating in Yuletide! I'm super excited about the holidays in general and the fic exchange in specific, so I'm really looking forward to what you have to write! In case you prefer more specific details, I included both some general likes/dislikes and some more specific information for the fandoms I requested below. Don't feel obligated to include any of this though, if you can't find a way to work it in or if it doesn't work for you. Though I hope that this information is useful in trying to figure out what sort of fic I would like, this is Yuletide! Anything you write for me I can already guarantee I will love.
While I love both angsty and happy fics generally, Yuletide is a really happy time (it's the most wonderful time of the year!) and because of that, I would prefer something that ends on a high note or is just generally upbeat. However, if you have an amazing idea that's angst, don't let that discourage you, I will still be totally happy with it!
Some generic plot ideas and storytelling cliches that I love are best friends as roommates, blackouts/stuck in a lift, families of choice, road trip, bodyswap, bodyshare/telepathy, genderswap, fuckbuddies, unexpected co-parenting, not realizing they're dating, running jokes that have been running for so long that people don't realize it's not reality, punchline callbacks and unrelated conversations that serendipitously end the same way, windows being used as doors and people being competent.
On the other hand, while I usually love crazy AUs, I would prefer fiction that is closer to the source material for Yuletide; I think the point of Yuletide is the rare fandoms, and getting too far away from that kind of defeats the purpose for me. Also, I do not mind sex or action scenes, but prefer fic that has plot or character development as well if you include them. One of the few triggers I do have is emotional blackmail/guilt trips.
The Saga of Tuck - Eugene 'Tuck' Tucker | Valerie Tucker, Deborah 'Debbie' Carstairs
I requested Tuck and Debbie for this, because I just love the dynamic between the two of them; I would totally be fine with them either as a couple or not, although I would definitely prefer them to be on the same side as opposed to in conflict. Beyond that, anything you want to write would be awesome; romance, pranking on the surreal level that makes other people doubt reality, crazy business opportunities, a trip/vacation that does not end in them wanting each other dead. Basically, throw the two of them into some wacky hijinks and show what happens and I will be in bliss.
This...is the fandom of my heart. I love everything about it; the unrepentant geekiness, the way everyone is insanely (appropriately) paranoid, the crazy shenanigans, the sheer competence of so many characters, the way that the entire series just tells gender to go and take a hike. There are scenes in here that can consistently make me cry every time I read them, which only a handful of other works can do. Really, this is the fandom where anything you can do with it will be amazing for me, because I just want to see more of this world.
Lowe's Phone Calls - Husband, Wife
I love the way this couple is so in love, and I really empathize with the whole becoming an adult and having NO CLUE what that involves. They're just so cute together, I want them to be great together and have a happy ending, but at the same time I want to inflict so much mayhem on their lives and see what happens. This canon is so tiny, you can really do anything with it; how they decided to buy a house (and that one), or exactly how "it was almost apocalyptic" and everything that breaks, or all the sleepless nights they had.
For the record, the commercial I'm talking about is this one:
This is the only commercial I ever liked to the point where I treated it like a show, and paid more attention when it was on and would stop flipping through channels when I saw it. I said it in the prompt, but I am totally right there with them with growing up and not having a clue what is involved in day to day life, because that was never something that I had to worry about or pay attention to until just recently. There's something about the way these two are making things work, despite not knowing what to do that I love; it reminds me of families of choice in that way. I know it says Husband and Wife in the character descriptions, and you can make out rings on their fingers if you squint, but feel free to give them any actual relationship you want; husband and wife, engaged couple, best friends, or even siblings if you want.
PS 238 - Tyler Marlocke
Tyler is such an amazing character because of how he gets put into all these ridiculous situations and just deals with it despite not having any superpowers (except common sense, of course). I especially like how Tyler seems to change to be whatever is needed of him at the time. I would be excited for any fic about him but if you're looking for specifics, I would especially be delighted by something about how he gets on in the future (either in high school or after he's an adult), or something about shop class with Angie (she's probably my favorite character to pair him with; I'm a sucker for super geniuses, especially females), or anything involving time travel shenanigans.
I love most of the characters in PS 238, even if it's just the characters that I love to hate. My favorites are Tyler, Angie, Prospero, Julie, Satori and Zodon and Victor. Tyler definitely has that sort of determination and resilience that I love in characters, where he refuses to surrender despite the increasingly impossible situations he is placed in. Also, I like Tyler because PS 238 is like Hogwarts in that it is the Land That Common Sense Forgot, and Tyler is one of the few people to retain it (he can see through masks!). I am aware that the print comic is ahead of the web version, but I'm only reading the web comic, so please don't add any spoilers beyond the point that the online version has reached.
The Middleman - Wendy Watson
I have a thing for competent female characters, and Wendy Watson definitely fits that profile. Middleman is such a great show because of the way it is aware of everything geeky and revels in it. Because the show is so diverse in what is available, there's so many possibilities for plots, so I am much more concerned with seeing Wendy portrayed as the strong individual she is. If you're looking for an exotic problem for the Middleman and/or Wendy to deal with, it would be awesome to see how they deal with a kaiju or having to work with time travel (maybe getting to see the Middleman from an earlier era?) or undead-demon-zombie-ghost pirates. And of course, nothing says Yuletide more than giant 80s lasers.
One of the great things about Middleman is the way that just about anything you can think of can fit in this world; every possible cliche and villain just works for this setting. Because of that, the relationships between the characters is probably more interesting than the specific crisis of the week, and the characters have such amazing relationships. Wendy is definitely my favorite character, but the rest of the characters are just as interesting, both on their own and in their relationships with her. I didn't include anyone else in the prompt not because I don't care for them, but because I didn't want to limit you in what you could write. And if all else fails, nothing says Yuletide like uncomfortable sweaters and giant lasers.
So, I've promised to talk about my ~feelings for Justin and Alex, and I HAVE ALL OF THEM, so this post
might will turn out really long.
I started watching Wizards because I had heard that Justin and Alex was an actual viable ship, and I just had to watch to see if it was true, and after watching a few episodes, I fell in love with the two of them. There is one icon that noor-us-sabah made that I think sums up their relationship so well:
If you're not familiar with The Thin Man, it's a mystery movie set in the mid thirties. The two main characters are a married couple named Nick and Nora Charles, who are extremely affectionate towards each other, but also banter incessantly. And if that doesn't describe Justin and Alex Russo, I don't know what does. There's a lot of reasons that I ship them so crazy, but I think that is the perfect way to describe them briefly.( cut for ALL THE FEELINGS )