( Spoilers have to do with moving in many ways )
December Talking Meme: The Other Days
From commodorified: 'your thoughts on legal and social perceptions of sexuality as affected by war'.
I am sure that this is a topic for which the temptation to start 'throughout the whole of history' should be fiercely resisted (I came across a version of this quite recently in an article about the importance of medical history for medical professionals, claiming that this was a case which had been being made 'for centuries'. I think not, really.)
What 'war' even meant has varied widely over time and cultures.
Claims can certainly be made for, well, maybe, Europe since the Renaissance/Reformation with the rise of professional national armies for the perception of the soldier as brutal and licentious (though am pretty sure have come across mentions of historical warrior cultures for which celibacy was the rule?). But that idea that these men Need Sex/Have Imperative Drives seems to be pretty pervasive (and not just in Europe, cf apologias over the 'comfort women' for Japanese troops) and that these needed to be catered for and contained in the interests of preventing the disruption of society at large.
As historian of STIs, have noted that:
a) The state of war and general socio-political upheaval in Europe at the end of C15th was the perfect storm for something like syphilis to become epidemic, whether it was a local disease that had changed virulence or something from somewhere else
b) It was in the military context that STIs were initially perceived as a problem sufficiently impinging about fitness for purpose that they had to be taken official cognisance of and strategies (not, we may add, necessarily very adequate strategies) of prevention put in place.
c) After WWII (or possibly slightly earlier) it became accepted belief that high STI rate was positively correlated with poor morale (once had Brit military gent, not in medical services, expatiate to me snarking on the significance of the enormously high rate in US troops in Vietnam, and what this meant that they were doing wrong). Not so much however that the ones who didn't get them weren't Doing It, more that they were taking the necessary precautions.
There's a trope about the two World Wars as bringing about Decay of Morals which has been problematised by historians - rises in illegitimacy rates were more about war preventing marriages that would otherwise have taken place, probably, though, yes, there was a certain amount of casual sex going on given that people were away from home and their lives were disrupted and so on.
But almost certainly rather less than moral panics at the time claimed. There was huge furore about the ATS in WWII being 'officers' groundsheets' and fathers refusing to have their daughters directed into it, but the investigations undertaken as a result found that if anything, there was less 'immorality' happening than in the other women's services.
There was also a pervasive urban myth that prostitutes were exempt from call-up (this was a bit IAMC, but essentially, a lot of the population in question were not eligible on other grounds, such as criminal convictions, nationality, etc etc, and it was Not A Problem).
All wars are different. Different kinds of war affect different groups of the population.
A lot of the scholarship focuses on quite specific situations and really, no, you cannot generalise on the basis of WWI or WWII, which I suspect lie at the base of a lot of people's thoughts on the subject, probably because they affected large swathes of the population who would not normally have been involved in any kind of military or war-related activity and have continuing resonance for a lot of reasons.
Any particular war situations you would like me to comment on further? (if I can.)
Also, post Battle of the Five Armies hurt/comfort fics, because of course yours truly is in the market for them. Just to be on the very safe side, I shall employ a spoiler cut, decades old book or not.
( Spoilery recs await )
With that in mind, let's see. In no particular order:
- obviously, Clint needs some fleshing out beyond his relationship with Natasha (which I enjoy!), due to spending most of the last film possessed. Bonus point if this includes at least one chat with Thor, not least because they're bound to have different takes on Loki, given events in Thor: The Dark World and yet Thor knows very well Clint is one of Loki's victims.
- continuation of Natasha's old and new friendships (Clint, Steve) and of the what-do-we-call-it relationship with Bruce; given that Natasha has just outed herself (and everyone else) to the world, which is a completely new state for her, I'm curious to learn how it affects her, and whether some of her own debts in that ledger have come to haunt her; scenes with Maria Hill and Wanda would be lovely.
- Tony exited Iron Man III in a very good state, as well adjusted as we've ever seen him. Since well adjusted Tony Stark does not provide drama (or snark), I don't expect it to last, but I hope whatever happens will come across as emotionally logical, and also that it won't negate the things he did learn over the course of four films.
- speaking of Tony, more Science Bros. That was a lovely and unexpected Whedonian invention in the last Avengers, and no matter whether it comes across as Bruce & Tony or Bruce/Tony, I want more of it. Incidentally, this can by all means include arguments on the ethics of inventions. lettered wrote some fantastic stories in which they have very different takes, which makes sense.
- Thor as of The Dark World has decided he never wants to be king, full stop, and has just started a new life on Midgard. Maybe he finds the every day reality not as easy a change from Asgard and being a prince as he thought? (Yes, he had a depowered taste of that in Thor I, but that was only a short while and very different circumstances.) Also, he doesn't really know any of the other Avengers yet, so I'd like some relationships to form.
- The twins: as we don't know yet what Joss' take on Wanda and Pietro will be like, beyond some educated guesses based on favourite Whedonian tropes, I can't wish for specifics there, or which Avengers they'll interact with most. I'm curious to find out, though!
- we need a logical explanation why Steve is interrupting his Quest For Bucky, but actually I don't think that will be too hard to come by; saving the world always comes first with him. As I mentioned with Natasha, I'd like more of their friendship. Also, a scene with Rhodey would be great, since movieverse Rhodey is among other things quite what Steve Rogers, born in another time and without the serum, would be like, and I don't think Tony is aware of the irony.
- please, please, please no dead Maria Hill; the trailer with the scene where she's hanging out with the Avengers was lovely until I remembered Coulson got fleshed out in The Avengers from cypher to person, and look what happened next.
Other than that, I got nothing. Except that I'm very much looking forward to this movie.
December Talking Meme: The Other Days
Still very immersed in Sekkrit Projekt #ifitoldyouidhavetokillyou reading, but I did read two mentionable works.
Of course, some people may consider Laurell K Hamilton's Anita Blake series not entirely mentionable, and this one - Jason (2014) - is one of those shorter, inter-big-adventure works that focuses on character relationships. (Mostly while they are in bed and, er, quite active.) But there are times when I enjoy these. Also, could possibly make a case that there are many, many action heroes of lengthy series out there with a pretty terrible record of collateral damage, often terminal, to women they encounter, sidekicks, and others. Whereas it should be quite a nice touch for an action heroine just to add them into their shagging spreadsheet and introduce them to the rest of the polyamorous constellation. Instead of having a brief moment of manpain and an accumulation of angsty backstory before it's on to the next.
That said, just possibly I was hoping for somebody to do a Raymond Chandler ('have some guy come through the door with a gun') during the prolonged orgy and relationship geeking.
And for the intermittently scheduled reading whiplash, the other thing I read was Angela Thirkell's Cheerfulness Breaks In (1940), which was delightful. It's set during the Phony War (evacuees, rationing, gasmasks, nurses in the local hospital waiting rather ghoulishly for the war casualties the place has been emptied for, general sense of people hanging around waiting for things to happen) and has a pleasing sense of 'we're all in this together' rather than the slightly later 'Barsetshire groans under the Iron Heel' whingeing. The leftish headmaster of an evacuated City school and his former-teacher wife are deemed to be good eggs (even if NQOSD generally) and even some of their pupils come off well.
I can't remember: have we had the collar-and-tie couple (with dog), one half of which writes sensational books that get banned and condemned from pulpits and are v profitable, before? They feature quite strongly and are molto sympatico comic figures. Interestingly, however, there is an effete young man of Germanic origin who is a film director and heavily coded gay and who is a Bad Egg with equally horrendous parents.
One cavil I did have was about the ending, which strongly implies that an important character is Missing In Action (which later books indicate to not have been the case). I can see that this does sort of indicate that The War is no longer Phony and Shit Gets Real, but it struck a sour note after what had just gone before.
Up next: I have just received, in connection with SP, a book I'd been holding off on buying in case it did thus turn up. Yay.
...yes, absolutely, of course it has weaknesses. Tiny ones and big ones. One of them is also one of its strengths: JMS deciding to write all the episodes from mid season 2 onwards. On the plus side, this makes for a consistent vision and even more consistent character voices. If you look at some of the s1 episodes, say, D.C. Fontana's, they're perfectly satifactorly sci fi tv by themselves, but they could take place in any 'verse, the aliens are, that one scene between Londo and Vir in the garden (which was inserted by JMS) aside, pretty generic. Whereas even a weak episode in later seasons couldn't take place anywhere else but B5. However, if you have solely one scriptwriter for three and a half full tv scenes, not only does this cause stuff like Grey 17 is missing, which he later admitted he doesn't even have clear memories of writing in sickness and exhaustion, but, more seriously (because every show, no many how writers are employed, has the occasional weak episode), it means that there are no other "voices", so to speak, to balance issues the main writer has which are not beneficial to the story he's trying to tell.
(Sidenote: it also means JMS' flair for metaphorical speechifying is given full reign, which also can be a virtue and a flaw at the same time. At its best, you get G'Kar. At its worst, you get Byron.)
In Babylon 5's case: JMS' fondness of the Great Man view of history. Which definitely isn't solely to be found in the season 4 finale, though it's spelled out most clearly and textually there. Now from a storytelling pov, I favour extraordinary individuals as well, and remember some history lessons made very dull indeed for teenagers with all the insistence on market forces. (Sorry, Marx.) But it's more than that in the JMS case, and the reason why this becomes increasingly a problem with the human and Minbari storylines is that he's simultanously trying to tell a modern story and a Tolkien-esque epic. If he'd gone for the purely Tolkien approach, it wouldn't be a problem. It would be a very conservative story, but that doesn't say anything about strength or weakness. When Aragon becomes King in Return of the King, the novel, this is not a problem for anyone (except Denethor, and Denethor is about to go mad anyway and certainly not representative of the people). There is never any question will be Aragon would be a good king, a mediocre king or a bad king, whether the people of Gondor would agree with his decisions - he's the heir of Isildur who has proven himself in hardship, exile and battle, he's restoring the realm, it's a happy ending for both Aragon and Gondor. Which fits the type of novel we're in. (For the film versions, Jackson, Boyens and Walsh changed this somewhat because their Aragon has an ongoing learning process about kingship, whether he wants it, whether he'll be worthy of it, what the long term consequences are as demonstrated by the rulers he meets like Theoden, etc, which is a reflection of a different narrative approach in a different time.) But Babylon 5 can't simply let Sheridan become king and Delenn queen. Not a story which in its first three seasons shows a democratic human society turning fascist and positions its heroes against this development, which is a story very much born out of the experience of the 20th century. Sheridan isn't anyone's heir. He's a military officer who at some point decides he can't in good conscience continue to serve an increasingly unjust regime, and also can't simply stay apart, but has to act actively against it. Which is a good story to tell. But unfortunately, it doesn't demand Sheridan-as-ruler-of-the-realm at the end of it. This is still where JMS wants to go, though, so Sheridan becomes President, only without the messy bother of campaigns, debates, compromises and elections that go with the democratic process; he becomes President with an offstage sleight of hand.
Then, because season 4 and season 5 have the problem of being written first with the fear there would not be a fifth season in the case of the former and then with the need to produce fillers to stretch out what was originally planend to fill only half a season in the case of the later, we actually get to see him being President. And he's not a good one, which would be less of a problem if the narrative didn't claim he was. Now, rebels are always easier to write as sympathetic than people in power, which probably is why Sheridan wasn't originally planned to get the presidential job until mid season 5. But leaving the s4/s5 network caused writing problem aside, he was always supposed to be President, and a good one; the closest thing to the fantasy ending of the hero becoming king and restoring the realm. Except any head of a democratic government has to put up with opposition, arguing and the need for compromises. And this is where JMS' fondness for the great man theory of history becomes problematic. Anyone criticial to Sheridan-as-President is written as just plain wrong, egotastic or unworthy, like the historians in The Deconstruction of Falling Stars. Why? Because "John Sheridan was a good man" and a great one, as an aged Delenn says. Yes, but what has that to do with him being a good President, or not? Sorry, but history is full of people with personal virtues who really sucked at governning. And the thing is, Sheridan doesn't come across as an effective politician at all during the year the show has where it has to show him in office. His decision to offer Byron's telepaths sanctuary backfires badly, and he's telling Lochley to fix it without offering any solutions himself. He's unable to keep the Alliance from going after the Centauri after the succesful Drakh framing. (He's also mysteriously unable what he learned from his trip into the future re: Londo and Centauri Prime, but that's a plot hole which has nothing to do with him as President.) The rueful observation he makes about war and peace in late s5 lampshades this a bit ("fight evil space dictators" simply is a far easier narrative to sell than "attempt to keep the peace"), but that doesn't help the basic problem of Sheridan being an uneffective leader while the narrative insists he's a great one, and has him being fanboyed in the worst tell not show way.
This, mind you, did not come out of nowhere. It's simply more glaringly obvious because Sheridan can no longer claim underdog/rebel status. The s2 episode where ISN (still the democratic ISN, not the Clark controlled one of later season 3) does a special on Babylon 5 is a case in point, because we're clearly meant to sympathize with Delenn crying and not with the reporter making her cry who dares to ask whether Delenn had considered that her turning half human could be perceived as an insult by a humanity who very nearly got wiped out in the Earth/Minbari war. Why? Because Delenn is a Great Woman Of History, the way Sheridan is a Great Man. We the audience know Delenn meant her physical alteration to act as a bridge between two enemies (and we later learn also about the atonment aspect there, given her culpability in the war), we know she keeps working for peace because we've seen her do it. But the reporter hasn't, and her question is absolutely valid. If you were a human and had lost people in the war, why would you perceive one of your former enemies becoming physically like you as something that "acts as a bridge"? Wouldn't it look rather patronizing at best? (As it implies becoming human is a sacrifice.) Insulting at worst? (As a perpetrator, claiming belonging to who you very nearly genocided is... leaving real life examples aside because I so do not want to go there, well, just imagine how G'Kar would have taken it with Londo for some reason had decided to dress up as a Narn.) And yet the reporter is positioned as ignorant and insulting here, while Delenn is the Wronged Heroine.
Now, there are several narrative alternatives I could think of to fix this, but they all involve ditching the idea of Sheridan as a peacetime leader altogether, and definitely ditching the idea of him and Delenn alternating as Presidents and leader of the Rangers in the twenty years following Objects at Rest and before Sleeping in Light. (This works in dressed up current day dictatorships, not democracies.) . The most radical would be to leave him dead after Z'ha'dum - as I've mentioned before, this is where his personal development stops anyway, and Delenn and Ivanova could have divided his narrative functions between them for the reminder of the show. But alternate suggestions isn't what the prompt is really about.
Because Babylon 5 is an ensemble story, a rich tapestry woven of several storylines, it doesn't stand or fall on the success of the Sheridan tale. (As mentioned many a time before, I'm a Centauri and Narn fangirl here, though I do like most of the other storylines as well.) But it is telling that while a part of B5 online fandom made Bush/President Clark comparisons during the Dubya years, JMS was stunned to learn that Bush himself was supposedly a Babylon 5 fan. Identifying himself with of course not with Clark, but with Sheridan. A great man's gotta do what a great man's gotta do, and if some idiots can't see it... Well.
December Talking Meme: The Other Days
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This week seems to be a tense Tetris game of assorted tasks most of which are seasonally-related* and therefore time-dependent. (Teeth, eyes and hair are all being deferred until the New Year.)
I did not get round to these before my week away because PRESSURES.
My week away was a week away chillin', right?
Last week I did not get round to these because PRESSURES:AKADEMYK as previously whinged about.
Anyway, am now up against hard limits of last posting dates/delivery dates among other things.
This means, to my annoyance and shame, that I have had to resort to Evil Online Retail Operation, which I had hoped to be able to eschew, but sadly, other operations don't seem to be prepared to offer expeditious delivery, if they even have the items in stock.
It was therefore modestly pleasing, or at least, not an additional cause of frazzle, to succeed today in buying stamps, purchasing presents for the youngest generation, posting cards, and picking up outstanding part of a prescription from the chemists, without having to make major detours en route or entirely separate trips.
On to the next things, wassailing and decking myself with boughs of holly: the effect is probably something like Poor Tom.
*Or if not obviously seasonally-related, nonetheless have to take into account the closures, limited services, etc etc expected over the festive period.
Mind you: the cliché that TNG was the fluffy reset button show to DS9's serialized and serious storytelling is as wrong as claiming Angel was darker than Buffy in general. Point in question: AtS' third season ran in tandem to Buffy's sixth. If you watched both, you know what I'm getting at here. AtS at least until Wesley got his throat cut looked downright frivolous by comparison to season 6 of BtVS. And TNG started to ongoing relationships and actual consequences in a Trek show thing; they didn't do it as consequently as DS9 was to do later, but pioneers rarely do. Still, as with every cliché that in its exaggaration is wrong, there's also a part that's true.
DS9, even in its early seasons where there were far more one shot episodes than later, was by the very nature of its set up different and darker. The Enterprise could come and go and was elsewhere the next week. DS9 was a space station next to a planet which had been suffering through a brutal occupation for 60 years, which was a forming influence to one of the regulars - who'd turn out to be in many way the key regular of the show, Kira Nerys -, which meant an ongoing situation even before new problems showed up. Its leading character, Benjamin Sisko, started out as a grieving widower and as a father with his son. (Picard had had tragedies in his life pre show, like the loss of the Stargazer and Jack Crusher's death, but they weren't something as defining the character from the get go as Sisko's losses and his relationship to his son were.) Kira's struggle to reconcile her freedom fighter/terrorist (this pre 9/11 show used both terms) past with her present were as ongoing as her relationships with various Cardassians, her former mortal enemies. Dax was a centuries old symbiotic being. O'Brien's past with Cardassians influences him in the present, even Bashir, the archetypical young freshman type among the regulars, turns out to have had a past and a secret. Among the recurring characeters, there's notably Garak, and Garak's gradually revealed past, the reasons for his exile on DS9 and the ways in which he did and didn't try to end it - you could say DS9, from the outset, had among other themes the way its characters past formed, burdened and even partially broke them in varying degrees, and how this influenced their present.
Angel from the beginning wanted to be something other than BTVS, version II, and succeeded (in season 1 there is still a sense of the writers trying to find their feet, but from the get go, the show does have its own voice), and one of the ways in which it did this was by a similar past/present situation. Of course, it had at its main character a centuries old vampire with an extremely bloody past and not a teenager trying to have a future, but this thematic treatment was true not just for Angel himself. "The past, she doesn't let go, does she?"' asks the short lived Doyle in the first half of the first season, and no, it doesn't. Doyle has something to atone for and does so promptly since he's quickly written out for, forgive the pun, Doylist reasons. But so does his successor, Wesley, who becomes as key to what AtS became as Kira does on DS9. Wesley on BTVS had been primarily used as a comic relief character in season 3 where he was introduced, but what happened to him then - failing his first assignment as a Watcher, falling out with the Council - is what he carries with him into AtS where it has far more long term results. When Wesley first shows up mid s1 he's still prone to comic relief scenes. But before the season is over, he'll have been tortured by Faith and then offered the choice of handing her over and getting his Watcher status back, which he refuses. Which is still but a prologue given that the show overall has in store for Wesley. Even Cordelia, the youngest of the original regulars, has her past as a reigning and very skillfully cruel high school queen as something to make up for. Of the later regular additions, Gunn is forced to stake his sister who has been turned in to a vampire in his introduction, and Fred has spent years in an alternate dimension that caused her to go ever so slightly mad. Again, as with DS9, the very nature of the set up means that dealing with your past (or running away from it, but even then it usually shows up to haunt you) is something ingrained in the regulars.
Another shared trait: while the "mother shows" , TNG and BTVS, do keep their basic set up formula, the spin-offs don't as a shift happens. By which I mean: yes, Buffy & Co. leave high school after season 3, and, say, season 1 and season 6 are very, very different. But Buffy being the Slayer, needing the save the world, struggling to unite this with living in it as a teenager and then young woman, that stays. TNG at the end has put its regulars through some significant changes - Picard and his Borg experience, also Picard's changing relationship to his crew, Worf and fatherhood, plus he's in a new relationship with Deanna Troi as the show ends, the difference between Data in the pilot and Data at the end is highlighted by the three eras nature of the show finale - but the "Enterprise encounters problem, solves problem, moves on" set up did not change. Meanwhile, DS9's last three seasons are about the building and then erupting Dominion War (while there had been wars in the backstory of TOS and TNG characters, present day war for longer than an episode, at the end of which it was successfully stopped, was unheard of and hugely controversial at the time because it touched on a core ST premise, that the Federation Utopia was strong enough to prevent things from escalating this far). As for the original stated goal, Sisko, who in the pilot was charged with bringing Bajor into the Federation, not only ended up outright rejecting this (for prophecy reasons) but ended the dilemma betwen being the Emissary and a Starfleet officer by ending to be the later and becoming a sort of divine entity. (This wasn't Sisko's idea, I hasten to add, there were plot reasons, I know. Still: miles away from what he started out to do.) With AtS, the "redemption through saving people" premise from the start gradually drew in the background; not that the character stopped helping people, but season 4, the most serialized of the AtS seasons where one episode was directly followed by the next, had at its core a father/son tragedy where saving ended up only possible through a massive deception/selling out, while season 5 had altered the original format so radically that the characters started by running the chief antagonist's business and ended up triggering another apocalypse.
Now, none of this means that the spin-offs were Frank Miller style grimdark. They had comedy epsiodes, they had their regulars fond of banter and bickering throughout. (AtS wasn't afraid to put something like The Girl in Question, which made relentless fun of two of its male regulars, Angel and Spike, and included an affectionate dig at one of the mother show's most famous tragic scenes beside, only three episodes before the apocalyptic finale and after one of the regulars had already died.) (Meanwhile, the less said about DS9's THe Emperor's New Cloak in season 7, the better. Love s7, but not that episode.) But there was certainly a general darker streak and pessimisim about happy endings at work than the mother shows, by and large, subscribed to. None of this makes one better than the other. That was just the glory of them: that they could coexist in their fictional verses, offering the viewers not an either/or, but a both/and to watch.
December Talking Meme: The Other Days