Thin Lines: One Blogger Takes on Claims of Privilege in True Detective

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True-Detective-031622037642 (1)Blogger Tristan2Z separates out the difference between portraying a bigoted world in fiction and endorsing one. This comes just in time because I won’t have to write much more than this and a link:

 

I love True Detective. I think it is as brilliant and unique a show as I have ever seen. Everything about it has been amazing, from the writing to the direction to the brilliant lead performances. But as pointed out by some commenters in the recap of Episode 5, the show is narrowly focused on the two white male leads leaving everyone else undefined and in the background. This got me thinking about my own experience as an African-American male experience media.

Growing up my main love was reading fantasy. Giant epic fantasy books that were part of 40 volume series(or something like that). So as a black teen and later man, I rarely if ever read about someone that looked like me. I coped in true sad sack fashion by imagining myself along for whatever adventure I was reading about. Its only over the last few years that I have become more active in seeking out more diversity in the things I love and doing what little I can to aid in the seemingly endless uphill climb to change that. In fact I was going to pass onTrue Detective for that reason, not wanting to support a show that seemed to be walking well worn paths, no matter the quality. But then I heard people talking about it and gave it a chance and I’m glad I did.

Still, watching True Detective I am acutely aware of how white and/or male it is at all times. I often think about the second season and imagine various female/POC leads that could take over the series going forward. But at the same time I’m also aware that I’m watching truly special television, something that blends the real with the surreal effortlessly and with amazing effect. Does one cancel out the other?

I still read fantasy series like A Song of Ice and Fire and Prince of Nothing/Aspect-Emperor that manage to be subversive while remaining in line with traditional works in terms of cast make-up and diversity. I love the ideas, the imagery, while still thinking this would be even more amazing if it did not follow the same path where anyone not fitting into the White Male “norm” is marginalized or presented as a hive-minded other.

With True Detective it is slightly different. I feel that the story they are telling has to be the way it is. That’s not an endorsement or me saying that I don’t want something more varied in cast. I think this story, set in the South in the 90s primarily, has to be told the way it is being told. This is about two men who believe they are masters of the universe, Cohle because he is smarter than everybody else and can see the why of almost anything, Hart because society has always told him that he is at the top of the pyramid.

The show is at least partially about life and the universe disabusing them of that belief. Cohle loses his daughter senselessly and becomes a rambling pseudo-nihilist because he can find the answer to everything except the one question he wants answered, while Hart loses everything because he believes that the world serves him and he does not have to work to keep the people in his life. It would be hard to tell this type of story involving power(the illusion of it and its corrupting nature) in this setting without it being about white men.

And something about changing the dynamics of what would have been a police department in the deep South in the 90s bothers me. It would ignore the good ol’ boy power structure that still clings to life in the South, and tells part of the story in a variety of cases ranging from Trayvon Martin to Jameis Winston to Jordan Davis and far too many more to list. Portraying a South that is not populated by Martin Harts is not a South that I’ve known and experienced.

Now if Cthulu appears in the season finale and steals all of Cohle’s beer, maybe my opinion on the reality it reflects will change. But for now I love the show, I don’t like the world it portrays and how too much of it still exists in the real world of today. Loving the show doesn’t mean I don’t want more diverse casting and writing across the board, and I’ll be eagerly awaiting the cast and direction of the next season.

I grew up in a media drenched society that tells me I barely exist and if I do so only on the fringes. No one like me gets to be the hero or save the world. Change is slow in coming and long overdue. Maybe I’m part of the problem, loving something that has no place for me or someone that looks like me to be in focus.

I don’t know, I believe that there should be a lengthy discussion about the needs of story versus the needs of a vocal audience demanding change. And a show like True Detective is a great subject for that discussion. Speaking for myself, my feeling remain complicated and contradictory on the matter, and for now I’m okay with that.

Television Tits: What Other Premium Channel Shows Can Learn From True Detective

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true-detective-headerBreasts aren’t a huge secret anymore. We’ve had celebrity sex tapes and leaked photos from stolen phones. If you just need to see a pair of breasts and any pair can do you can hop over to Google. Sometimes you’ll get breasts by searching for completely unrelated subjects.

 

It stands to reason that anyone who really wanted to see nude pictures would just save themselves the twenty a month and hit up Google. Premium movie channels don’t seem to see it the same way. Game of Thrones and True Blood are notorious for it, the latter starting it’s entire run off with a blow job scene. And a scene from Spartacus I caught once seemed to be a group of people being raped by another group of people in a room composed entirely of blood.

It’s nice to run across a show like True Detective that doesn’t use the paid channel label as an excuse to shove sex and rape into every episode and instead uses it to pepper little hints of realism throughout without having to shy away from topics and words.

There’s still nudity and sex, but so far most of the sex has come from actual characters in the show. Not just people taking trips to whore houses for the excuse to have someone be naked in the episode or, worse, people soliloquizing over girl-on-girl sex scenes that have no bearing on what’s happening and that they’re not a part of.

I wouldn’t call True Detective fun. It’s gritty and dark and even the humor is very grim, but the show seems to be more plot and character focused than it is on distracting its audience with steamy sex scenes that add nothing to the plot or characters. It gives me hope that if the American Gods show comes out it won’t just have these things forced into it and that network execs won’t be too keen to believe that this stuff is the only thing that makes a show the hot thing.

So, Kristen Dunst said something stupid…

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kirsten-dunst-may-cover-of-harpers-bazaarSo, Kristen Dunst set the internet on fire because she said something stupid (which isn’t some new trick for her). Now, I will stand by my previous sentiment that the best movie she ever did was Interview with a Vampire and that the entire production team and cast of Spiderman 3 should be in some kind of Guantanamo bay style prison camp. With that out of the way I will say that I believe the first part of her comment was right.

“I feel like the feminine has been a little undervalued. We all have to get our own jobs and make our own money, but staying at home, nurturing, being the mother, cooking– it’s a valuable thing my mom created.”

She said this in some UK magazine, search for it on Google if you want to know. I’m not writing a dissertation and I’m not going to run all over the net providing source links for stuff that’s easily accessible.

The first part of the quote is probably right. There’s a lot of undervaluing of women who choose to be stay at home moms and who choose to take time off from work to be a home maker. Or women who might not have to even work because their significant other pulls in enough cash. That having been said, there’s a lot of undervaluing of men who choose to do the same, probably more so actually. Being a stay at home dad is something seen as “unmanly” or “wrong” when the idea of what’s part of that person’s identity is totally up to that person as a choice and not society. Men aren’t required to be the bread winners and women aren’t required to home makers. In fact, a lot of times no one is the homemaker. The economy here won’t let them be, unless they’re doing it on top of other responsibilities.

Which brings us to the next part of her comment, which is the part I think many people took issue with:

“And sometimes, you need your knight in shining armor. I’m sorry. You need a man to be a man and a woman to be a woman. That’s how relationships work.”

No, you really don’t. The idea of knights in shining armor and men needing to be men and women needing to be women has probably done more harm than good for society as a whole. It’s the reason why men who are feminine, even when they’re not gay are seen as wrong and ridiculed. It’s the reason women are not found in STEM careers despite the fact that they are capable of doing them. Hell, it’s the reason why so many young women feel the need to dumb themselves down to fit into what society thinks they should be. And why many men think that they should be that.

I could write a ten page paper for how much I already dislike Dunst, but this issue goes deeper than that because it’s one of the issues that rest at the heart of our societal problems. Gender rights and equality are viewed mostly as a joke these days and seen as bitching.

The comments from various sites that carried this story included arguments and almost every time some guy broke down and just flat out called a woman a cunt. Now I’ll be the first to admit that as curse words go cunt is probably one of the coolest sounding ones, but it carries a sexual connotation and history that, coupled with the subject matter of the argument, makes it vastly misogynistic.

The real problem is that, just like the sub-set of feminists that think every woman should move as far away from traditional gender roles as possible, Kristen Dunst (and other celebrities) don’t speak for anyone but themselves. Regardless of what they think works for them, it doesn’t work for everyone and people had a right to get mad at what was said because it was stupid, a little insensitive and wrong.

Of course this comment came out of the mouth of the same woman who thought Peter Parker should die and there should be Mary-Jane-birthed-spider-babies running around, so when you consider the source stupid seems kind of par for the course.

Unforeseen Consequences

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Roasted_coffee_beansI got tired today earlier than normal and didn’t realize what the issue was until I thought back over the day. The problem was something I hadn’t done. Caffeine.  It’s usually a part of my diet, but not something that I think about having. I had some juice and some other stuff at the house, but I didn’t bother to drink anything with caffeine. By the end of the night I was exhausted.

That feeling for that time of day isn’t normal for me, but I need to think more about how the changes in diet effect me. This might be a bit of an odd post to see on a blog that doesn’t talk about food, but…

When you’re busy and writing or doing anything else for that matter it can be easy to get wrapped up and forget to eat. It’s good to remember that there are other things going on around us while we are writing and to think about the way what we’re doing affects our behavior.

On the Writing Excuses podcast recently there was some talk about the way that becoming professional writers had changed their lives. One of them commented on how they had to have surgery on their tail bone because of all the sitting and bad posture years of writing had caused them.

There are little things, things that the outsider might not consider, that we have to deal with when we go into any career or hobby or pastime.

Novella Preview Chapter

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quill_pen_ink_2This is a preview chapter from an unfinished work. The first draft is done, but this first bit is the most polished part of all of it.

The threadbare carpet bites my knees every time I move and the dress I’m wearing doesn’t reach far enough to cover them. Poor planning on my part. There’s no room beneath this desk, but if I slip out now I risk exposure. So, I keep my head hunched down and scroll through Twitter and Facebook to drown out Mom’s boyfriend, Tim, and the woman who is obviously-not-my-mother getting hot and heavy on the table across from me.

Continue reading

A Pirate’s Life For Me

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acIVSo, tonight I was supposed to run through some corrections in the first part of the novella. I wanted to post a preview chapter on Facebook for everyone to see.

Instead I sat here and listened to Montell Jordan’s 90’s hit “This is How We Do It” and did some pirating on Assassin’s Creed IV. I’d have to say that my pirate technique and nautical skill is top notch. All that’s missing is rum.

Procrastination seems to be part of writing. It gets worse when I’ve had a bad week or a bad day. There are still some days where I don’t want to do anything, even playing a video game or reading a book seems like an impossible task then. There are less of those now and I think that’s an improvement.

The editor I’ve found (and who is doing for free) is actually sending me back a ton of critique and comments. There’s so much that looking at the story can be a little dizzying. When you look down the margin in MS Word and there’s just red comment boxes everywhere it’s exciting and scary in a way I don’t think I can describe to someone who hasn’t had to take critiques before.

I will get some work done. And I will get this preview chapter up for public eyes. Even if I have to do tiny little bits everyday. Doing something is better than just whining about how I am so far behind and can’t do anything.

Worst Date

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bad-dateI went on what I’m certain was the worst date I’ve ever been on (and this is including the date where my car got towed during and argument) with a girl I think tried to run up a high bill at the restaurant for the sole purpose of punishing me for asking her out.

She didn’t state this outright, but immediately after ordering she went on a rant about how she wasn’t ready to date and how she didn’t think she needed to be in a relationship. I asked her why she showed up and she said “You wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

No. I asked you out once and you immediately said yes. Then you tried to claim we needed to talk more before you wanted to go out. I waited and we talked more and I asked you out again and you said yes. She used the word forced (as if someone can force you to do something online) and was generally argumentative the whole night. She went on a rant about single mothers. She went on another rant about how men carelessly sleep around and when she paused to ask why men don’t care as much and commented that there’s the same amount of risk for them I told her there really wasn’t. Men aren’t stuck with a kid and most of the STDs people think about have a higher transfer rate man to man or man to woman than woman to man or woman to woman.

She got angry and just said that I was wrong. Which is bullshit, it’s a fact for some STDs and men can’t have babies. I kept surprisingly calm, probably because I was sleepy and that’s what sleepy does to me. But pretty much went on like this with me trying to say something without stepping on an argument landmine and her doing her best to turn every discussion into me versus her.

So, she was right about one thing. She’s not in a place to be in a relationship. I did end up paying for her, but this will probably be the last time that happens unless it’s something like coffee. It’s 2014. There’s no reason women can’t pay for themselves. It’s not like there’s no benefit for them, if things go well they’re getting a boyfriend. If things go badly we’ve probably both had an awkward time where we wasted an hour or more with someone we probably won’t see again.

We Were All Buried At Sea, We Just Didn’t Know It

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Paris_ArtistPropsA little over a year ago Bioshock Infinite launched to near-universal praise. I remember when I first got the game it was around midnight after work and I had a day off. I want to say I played it until well into the next day. The game pretty much blew me off my feet and when I finally beat it about a week later I remember the ending kind of had me reeling. We don’t get many powerful story-driven games like that.

That year we luckily had one more, Last of Us, but I had more love for Bioshock and despite really enjoying both games I could pick a clear favorite.

So when they announced the DLCs (Downloadable Content) I couldn’t have been more excited. Even after playing the first one which people complained was too short I still was in love with where the story was going.

And then I beat this last DLC last night and it all came crashing down. I won’t go into spoiler territory, but I didn’t like the direction the game was taking. The creator of the game, Ken Levine, called what he was making with the second half of the DLC “a love letter to the fans.”

It felt suspiciously like trampling all over everything we loved about something.

You know that strange thing that some prequels do, especially the ones that are made years after the original, where they spend a lot of time trying to make connections to the other work and tie up loose ends that no one really asked to be tied up? There was a lot of that in Burial At Sea Part II (That’s the title of the DLC).

Imagine if Rowling were to go back to the Harry Potter series and fill in all of the little divots in the plot and connect every small minor action to some meaningful action that came before. Hermione’s bed had actually belong to Harry’s mom at Hogwarts. And a whole bunch of other little things until there were so many little things connected to other little things and big things connected to little things that it just seemed too contrived and silly?

That’s the kind of thing that I’m talking about here. I love the world of Bioshock and I was all for the story in Infinite and even the second DLC, but this one seemed contrived and over thought out all for a reason that we had explained to us in the first game.

Now the game play and the mechanics in the game are wonderful, pretty much everything about the game is perfect except for the story. Even some of the call back moments are really well done, there’s just too many of them and the ending is unfulfilling.

It’s sad that Levine is letting the games rest in this position, but he’s closed the studio down that makes Bioshock, so at there won’t be anymore games for the property made by him and his team. I wish the guy the best of luck and I hope that he does well in whatever comes from here on out. I just wish I could feel good about this ending and this game, because I really, really wanted to.

Social Conditioning

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A co-worker said something along the lines of “It’s a shame when I can’t say hi to a girl without them going on the defensive.”

iStock_000005012679XSmallI had told a story about the reason why I don’t take people’s numbers off Facebook without permission. Maybe some of them put it there as a friendly gesture and for you to just take it. But I had a bad experience where a girl cursed me out for doing just that after I had known her for years and after she had said she was giving me her number and that she forgot.

Our way of dealing with social situations is shaped by the interactions we’ve had in the past. It’s kind of funny that this post became more meaningful because of an interaction I had after I had written half of it.

So, I’ve tinkered with this and changed what I was saying now because I’m kind of stunned by how different people can view themselves and how they can view others. Not going to say any names or even give the situation context, despite the fact that they’ll never read this. I feel like there’s a certain level of caution that it’s best to err on the side of when dealing with others for the first time. Trust has to be earned and friendships built and sometimes tested. And relationships aren’t usually going to work if they go from zero to sixty right off the bat.

There are of course instances where people get lucky and make life long friends based on something simple and silly. Or where couples meet in the most dubious of circumstances and stay married for sixty years. But it’s not the norm.

All I’m trying to say is we need to find a happy medium for how we let the lessons we learn affect us.

The Perfect Moment

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perfect1I’m not going to really get very deep into this or make a super long post. But I did want to say that people have got to stop putting things off until the right time. There’s so much you can do right away if you really want something. There’s usually not a good reason to wait until New Year or a certain month or any of that to take steps to reach your goal.

If you’re always waiting for the perfect moment to do something I don’t really have sympathy for you when you look up and realize you missed thousands of opportunities. The perfect moment might never come, use what you have now. 

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