Sunday, February 26, 2012

Scott Pilgrim vs Female Agency

Or: what do Bryan Lee O'Malley and a thirteenth century Languedoc troubadour have in common?

I finally watched Scott Pilgrim vs The World this month. While it has lots of nice touches - the chiptune intro, the Bollywood dance-fight breakdown, the snarky drummer - it felt like cramming all the books into a single film was over-ambitious.

Also - casting the inert element that is Michael Cera in such a dynamic, kinetic film was a stroke of counter-intuition which didn't work for me.

My real concern with SPVTW though, is it's central device of Scott having to defeat his lady love Ramona's evil exes before being 'allowed' to date her. While it's a cute video-game reference, can you imagine a gender-reversal of this scenario?

Granted, Ramona is as bad-ass a fighter as Scott and clearly much more together than he is. But it's not her who is having to fight her own past lovers, never mind Scott's exes. The film speaks to a discourse of (heterosexual) love as a game which men play and win, where women either have no choice, or their choice is contested by the men in their lives.

The combination of rock and denial of female agency in
SPVTW ultimately reminded me of courtly love. A load of guys bashing seven shades out of each other to win the love of a fair maiden, backed by guitars lutes? Is it Scott Pilgrim or the Late Middle Ages?

Either way, I'll sign off with this previously unseen drawing of an early (thirteenth century) Sexbobbomb line-up. I'm loving the intensity of the triangle player.

Rest in peace, Eastside Cafe

Digbeth lost one of the jewels in its tarnished tiara earlier this month, when the Eastside Cafe shut its doors after six years of trading.

Fantastic locally-sourced food, friendly staff, proper coffee, it was a great place to meet, write and plot world domination. It was part of what made Digbeth a treasure-trove of independent life in Birmingham.

At a time when residents and others with a stake in the area are asking, how can we keep Digbeth different, the loss of the Eastside Cafe is keenly felt.

Strange fascination with David Eddings continues

Yes, reader, I did what I said I wouldn't, and read volume two of the Belgariad, Queen of Sorcery. I felt furtive and slightly ashamed, but still, I checked it out of the library.

Other than admiring Eddings' chutzpah in using the same 'plot to overthrow the king' plot three times in two books, QoS reminded me of another one of the key ingredients of his success - introducing new stock characters to the party in each book. So we meet the archer, the knight champion, all sketched out with customary Eddingsian aplomb.

The book does depart from the cosy template pretty disastrously towards the end in (ahem) Sthiss Tor, city of the serpent people: a race of decadent, drug-happy slavers with pretty much no redeeming features, led by an eternal queen moonlighting from L Rider Haggard.

In Eddingsworld, it does sometimes seem that the less Northern European you are, the less moral you are - which is a deeply troubling thought. And the overall effect on QoS of the Snake People episode is equivalent to Conan farting in a lift.

I love the way Finny is looking at QoS as if she's thinking "What is this?!? Bring me some Ursula Le Guin forthwith!'

It's cat-dead-rat syndrome in reverse. :-)


February blogging intermission ends

Zounds! I managed to get almost to the end of February without blogging at all. This can be laid at the door of two factors.

1. Escape The Cheese taking up a lot of time and head-space up till the 14th.

2. House-share imploding into a screw-up of white dwarfish density - as a result of which I'm now looking for a new place to live.

Things are beginning to settle down again and [fingers crossed] I'll have sorted out a new place to live by Monday. All of which means I've got time to type up a few things that I have been working on.

So, brace yourself for a bumper packet of blogging this morning. Or not.