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January 3rd, 2012

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01:23 am - Media Good and Bad
The good media was an excellent novel by SF author Scott Westerfeld – his 1998 novel Fine Prey. I've been reading his non-YA work for quite some time, but had never read this novel, since it's quite difficult to find. However, rialian recommended it in September, and so I started seriously looking for it and found a used copy for a reasonable price at Powells. It was a novel about language, colonialism, and transformation. I don't know much about the first, but my MA was largely focused on the anthropology of colonialism and I love novels about transformation, so I was very much in my comfort zone. It was also an interesting experience to read because the protagonist has a non-gendered name (Spider) and there are no clear clues as the protagonists sex for the first two thirds of the novel. Many of the characters are bi, no pronouns are used for the protagonist, and none of the physical details reveal that piece of information. I guessed and guessed correctly, but the few cues were quite subtle. In any case, it was as well written as Westerfeld's other non-YA SF and quite satisfying to read. Sadly, it was also likely the last book of his I will ever read. He's not an exceedingly successful YA author, but I've flipped through several of his YA works, and have not been remotely interested in them, in part because they are missing something that he non-YA work has and in part because I have found quite a bit of excellent YA fantasy that I enjoy, but I've yet to see any modern YA SF that I have any interest in reading.

If you are interested in Westerfeld's non-YA SF, my rating of them is:
  1. The Risen Empire (in a single volume, containing both The Risen Empire and The Killing of Worlds), one of the finest modern space operas I've read.
  2. Fine Prey
  3. Evolution's Darling (very good, interesting, and with quite a surprising amount of robot sex)
  4. Polymorph (his first novel, and not as polished as his later works)

Just as the good is quite good, the bad is very bad indeed. On Sunday, teaotter, xtricks, and made the mistake of going to see Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Don't make this mistake, the film is terrible on almost every level. I had heard that this film was good - a statement that was a base lie. It has lovely cinematography and music, and that's it. Only the last action sequence (in the parking garage) is the least bit exciting, the plot is dumb as a bag of hair, it was incredibly offensive, and it was also quite dull.

It had a level of sexism I have rarely seen on TV since the early 1990s, and is again proof that Hollywood movies are in generally vastly more regressive than TV. There was a female villain whose entire existence seemed to be an excuse to have a fight with the one female protagonist, since unlike Buffy, Xena, Fringe, Farscape, or many other TV shows, they clearly couldn't have men and women fighting hand to hand in this piece of trash. Also, when the credits rolled, I thought about how it compared to the series from the 60s and 70s – in that show there was a team of 5 people, including 1 woman, and one black man. In this movie, there was a team of 4 people, 3 men and 1 woman, all of them white. Throw in some offensive racial stereotypes, and it was doing vastly worse than a show made more than 40 years ago. The only positive portrayal of a person of color in the entire film was in a brief cameo at the end.

I then thought of one episode of the original show I saw as a child - "Hunted", made in 1970, where Barney, the black tech disguised himself as someone white to help rescue an anti-apartheid leader, in what was obviously but never called South Africa. I remember that episode, because I was maybe 11 when I saw it in reruns and it was first exposure to apartheid. If you want to see some Mission Impossible, rent that episode (which I still vividly remember, despite having only seen it once) – at least to someone 11, it was powerful and somewhat brutal. This movie was simply crap.

Every year I get closer to deciding never to see anymore Hollywood films, because every year since around 1999 they've been getting worse, while I'm now able to find TV that's consistently excellent – not much, but both Fringe and The Vampire Diaries are among the best shows I've ever seen, and while Leverage is complete trash, it at least manages to be fun and largely inoffensive trash.

(5 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:January 3rd, 2012 09:59 am (UTC)
Hollywood certainly has regressed in both sexism and racism.
[User Picture]
Date:January 3rd, 2012 12:35 pm (UTC)
Good points here. I think I found MI:GP decent because I dislike Tom Cruise so much that I was thrilled to find that he was less-annoying in this.

I did notice that, apparently, we're now back to having Russian villains....
[User Picture]
Date:January 3rd, 2012 05:25 pm (UTC)
Not to dispute the general intent of your comments about MI:GP, but Paula Patton, who played the female lead, is half African-American. I don't know what they intended for the character.
[User Picture]
Date:January 3rd, 2012 07:40 pm (UTC)
MA was largely focused on the anthropology of colonialism

Very interesting (I hadn't known this).


Thx for review of Fine Prey. I'll be passing the title along.

Re: the rest, I must confess to not caring for lotsa Sci/Fi myself. Post-apocalyptic scenarios do, however, usually appeal. And I liked Star Wars (movies - original).
[User Picture]
Date:January 4th, 2012 01:55 am (UTC)
If you want to see a good animal/war picture, I heartily recommend War Horse. It's heartbreaking, but it's not treacly or gory.

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