Interpretation

One of my favourite pairs of earrings is “Deciphering As Art“, by Elise Matthesen (whose other jewelry you can currently find on Etsy). They’re pretty simple; tiny squares of striated grey stone, with a grey fiber-optic bead dangling under them. They’re a beautiful, simple reminder of the process of taking something you’re actually presented with that  has a quality or a tendency,

I have been thinking about this a bit lately. I had a very long discussion about reconciling  Deadpool’s Rule (thank you, Foz Meadows) with calling out queerbaiting recently. The two points which came out of it were:

  • It’s reasonable to look at a character’s actions and interactions and draw the conclusion that said character is not straight without them explicitly naming themselves as such. (Deadpool’s Rule)
  • It’s reasonable to look at a creator (or creative team) that consistently refuses to give non-straight characters or interactions commensurate page time, screen time, and/or validation, and get frustrated and angry.
    (You might feel like you want to throw something at the interrelated shows which have a couple hundred episodes between them and have had canonically gay characters for nearly three years and have two married gay couples and still haven’t ever managed to have two guys kissing onscreen. Just as a for-instance.)

I generally assume interpretation of a character is going to be done in good faith. I may not agree with it, and in certain extremely rare cases[1] I may conclude that you are bringing some very specific preconceptions to the text, but I will assume it is being done in good faith. But just because you read a character as having a marginalized identity, it doesn’t mean you can’t want the work in which you found them in to do better.

Seeing something in a work that resonates with you doesn’t mean that the creator stood behind what you’re seeing. (It can! It often does! But it can also mean you’ve picked up on something the creator didn’t intend or didn’t want to showcase.) It doesn’t mean you’re endorsing the creator. And it’s okay to call out shortcomings, and to expect better.
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[1] Like the time someone told me I should keep in mind that Gregor Clegane had been bullied as a child for being the biggest and the strongest.

“Loob”, by Bob Leman

The proof is this: they are here, the Goster County dogs.

This is one of those moments where you really need to read the story in order to appreciate the line, which on the one hand I kind of tend to avoid–but on the other hand after four years of wanting a copy of Bob Leman’s collection Feesters in the Lake, I am looking like I will actually get a copy of Feesters in the Lake, and I am celebrating.

I’ve spoken about Bob Leman before. His writing, from what I’ve seen, is elegant and restrained. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to call it understated, but his horror whispers, it does not shout.

You can read “Loob” in full at Weird Fiction Review.

Red and gold.

It astonishes me to realize that, for all that I adore the show The Flash, I’ve only mentioned it here a couple of times. So, in the name of breaking the week-long quiet streak that has resulted from travelling home, landing in a snowstorm, and shortly thereafter getting extremely sick, I am going to discuss the show that is currently my comfort watching.

When I started watching, I knew very little about the Flash. I knew that he was a speedster from DC comics; I knew that he worked with Superman sometimes; I knew that DC speedsters ran off something called the Speed Force, a kind of platonic ideal or Ur-speed that inhabits speedsters to a greater or lesser degree. And from cultural background radiation, I apparently knew that liquids floated as if they were in zero-G in the presence of the speed force, although I didn’t know I knew this until the light of my life showed me the promo trailer.

(Seriously. There’s more than a minute of this kid called Barry, and lines about being fast enough and having a good heart, and a man in a ball of lightning, and it’s all nagging faintly at me like I should recognize something, but what tips me off to it being a Flash trailer is the liquids in the lab getting all floaty.)

I also knew that I didn’t really like DC. I would take at least a look at any Vertigo comic, and I liked the Batman collection I had (which was actually a Joker collection), and I loved Kingdom Come. But overall the whole superheroes-as-gods thing didn’t hugely appeal.

But I watched the first episode of The Flash, and… okay, it had a bit of pilot-itis, and what looked like an extremely generic unrequited-love thing, but there was this kid. This really kind, hopeful kid. And as cool as his powers were he wasn’t in control of them so I wasn’t getting the “speed god will solve every problem” vibe. And… honestly, I came out of the first episode thinking “He’s like Peter Parker, except his job actually helps people.” And he didn’t have the ‘got powers, was painfully selfish until someone died’ thing going that Parker did, and…

He was hopeful. The whole show was hopeful, a four-colour major-key paen to saving people and supporting each other and powers as attribute embodiment and the ways tech is awesome and interesting and can be used to help people. He was… inspirational, I guess?

I gushed about this a little to the light of my life, and he pointed out to me that there was a reason Barry Allen had been chosen as an avatar of hope in DC comics. (Which was something else I didn’t know.)

This is, I think, discussed in greater detail with better construction and more coherence by Eric Burns-White (a guy who seems to have an excellent grasp of certain essentials of pulp-printed fiction, and is a hell of a lot more articulate than me), in his essay “My name is Eric Burns-White, and I have almost always hated Barry Allen.” Which I’m recommending as someone who adores the Barry Allen she’s seen to date, and can completely understand why the Barry Allen described would be an extremely annoying character.