Do This, Not That: Writing Women With Agency (Legally Blonde the Musical vs. Hannibal)

season 3

The question of “How Do I Feminism?” is something the media has grappled with for years. Too often the answer falls into the Strong Female Character, who can punch things really good and is an absolute asshole to everyone until the male Chosen One comes along to surpass her and also melt her stunted heart. While there’s nothing wrong with physical strength, the niggling problem of it all is, of course, diversity. Too often writers (mostly Straight White Men) mistake physical strength for depth and respectful treatment, creating a stopgap that lets themselves pat themselves on the back for their progress without having to actually examine their writing (see also the “writing the exact woman I, the writer, would like to sleep with over and over again” school that your Joss Whedons and Stephen Moffats tend to fall into).

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Why Hannigram is Not 50 Shades of Grey

blurring together

This week’s Hannibal has topped off a truly stellar season of arthouse cinematography and their usual fine tradition of lovingly shot “S&P was drinking and crying the day this passed through” gore effects with a revelation that surprised nobody but Will Graham: that fancy cannibal Hannibal Lector is in love with our tortured FBI profiler protagonist. How Will feels in return has been deferred for the series finale (because this series was too good for human eyes anyway, and if you excuse me I’ll be crying into this glass of chianti), but the final verbalization of a long history of astonishingly unsubtle subtext does seem like a good time to hash out a certain long discussion: is the relationship between Hannibal and Will unhealthy.

Ah ha, no. I’m kidding of course. Despite feints attempting to establish the contrary, the vast majority of Hannibal’s viewership, including those who found themselves in the romantic undertones, overtones, and tones between Hannibal Lector and Will Graham, were never under any kind of delusion that that bond was a healthy and ideal one. The question before us, instead, is where the progression of and response to that relationship belongs in the current framework of fictional relationships. More specifically, what sets it apart from the poster child for romanticized abuse, 50 Shades of Grey.

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A Word on Jon Stewart, and A Personal Era Ending

[No, this is not a get-out-of-recap post, but it is a “Vrai is emotionally exhausted from watching the last Daily Show episode, and they thought you might want some content while they recover enough to power through the recap for tomorrow” post. Thank, and it only seems fitting to have a companion to the essay I wrote when The Colbert Report ended]


I just watched Jon Stewart’s last episode of The Daily Show, readers. And I am…I am not okay.

I mean yeah, it’s an ending of an era and TDS was one of the most influential works of American satire in the 21st century to date, and I’m a critic who I like to think strings together amusing bits of words sometimes, so there’s that.

But that’s not it. I owe so much of who I am to that man, and that show. The very words in my fingertips owe a debt to him and Stephen Colbert (about whom I had a good long cry some eight months ago).

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The Simple Feeling and Beyond – Kirk and Spock’s Place in Queer History

oh you

The modern understanding of queerness and fandom, in all its myriad forms and complexities, owes the lion’s share of thanks to James T. Kirk and Spock. They were the genesis of the phrase “slash fiction” (that’s romantic fanfic between same gendered characters, for those of you who are very sheltered), were featured in zines that formed the basis of modern communal fanfiction and fanart sharing, and were some of the only intimately close male characters not to get paired off with paper-thin female love interests out of panic. Though of course, the last one might’ve been because Gene Roddenberry was fully on board with implying that they were queer.

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Five Forgotten Gems – Brilliant Lady Leads

Despite the fact that “post-apocalyptic feminist action flick” might as well have been shaped and addressed to my heart with a fetching bow on top, I did not get a chance to see Mad Max: Fury Road this past weekend. But in the spirit of the thing, I thought today might be a great opportunity to offer up some other stories about women: triumphant and struggling, witty and monstrous, mundane and adventurous. But most of all, something with a little variety for our heroines. Because hey, romance is all fine and well and often part of the human experience, but it’s agonizingly frustrating how often that type of story automatically defaults to the domain of the “token chick character.” Certainly it would be tragic if such a mindset were to hold true even to creators known for loudly and self satisfiedly declaring themselves exemplary models of feminist ideologies.

I think I blacked out there for a second, what was I saying?

Right, great stories starring women.

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