Victor Nikiforov, Chechnya, and Protecting This World

Stop what you’re doing, because we need to talk about this man:

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Who is that beautiful, blushing, winking platinum-haired specimen of an animated man? That, my friends, is Victor Nikiforov (aka Viktor Nikiforov aka Victor Niliforv aka Vitya aka Ice Daddy). Victor Nikiforov is a Figure Skating Legend™, Extra as Fuck, Probably Depressed and Hella Gay. These are the foundational aspects of his character in the groundbreaking (heartbreaking) 2016 anime series Yuri!!! On Ice. Feast your eyes:

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S.1 Ep.2 Yuri’s Crush vs. Vitya’s Crush

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S.1 Ep.5 Actual Quote: “Seduce me with all you have.”

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S.1 Ep. 7, First on-screen kiss

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S.1 Ep.10, Proposal

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Victor Nikiforov is one half of one of the most important gay couples to ever grace my laptop screen, and probably yours too. You’re welcome. Ever since I saw the first episode of Yuri!!! On Ice, I immediately related to Victor’s other half, Katsuki Yuri. I have a lot more to say about Yuri, if I’m being honest. But I don’t want to talk about Yuri right now, I want to talk about Victor.

Those of us in the Yuri!!! On Ice fandom absolutely need to be talking about Victor.

Those of us who want to see equal protection and rights under the law for sexually/gendered non-normative people need to be talking about Victor.

We need to be talking about Victor Nikiforov, not because he is fly as fuck and could out-jump Patrick Chan, not because he is the kind of Extra where he would literally drop $50 on lip balm or $3,000 on a pair of shades just because he could, not because he is definitely shit at dealing with other peoples’ anxiety like most people without anxiety but tries anyway because he’s fucking in love. We need to talk about Victor Nikiforov because he is gay and he is Russian.

And right now, in Chechnya (which is part of Russia), that is a death sentence.

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Mitsuro Kubo and Sayo Yamamoto, the two beautiful geniuses behind Yuri!!! On Ice, made a conscientious decision to create a world in which homophobia doesn’t exist. Because of this, in this world, Victor is allowed to follow his crush halfway across the world, flirt with him so outlandishly that you will probably cry QUEERBAIT if you’ve never been spoiled on the series for the first half of season one, listen to his crush declare his love for him on live national television, kiss his crush-turned-boyfriend on live international television, get engaged at a cathedral in Barcelona with a choir singing in the background, and perform a similar pair ice dance with his fiancé in the exhibition skate at the Grand Prix Final.

The story of Yuri!!! On Ice would not, could not, exist in a world with homophobia. I read fanfiction sometimes (aka I read a lot of fanfiction for this series), and some of the best stories I’ve come across have been subtle retellings of the plot of Yuri!!! On Ice, only plus haters. When I started reading these stories back in December/January, I appreciated them and was thankful that YOI is how it is: joyous and full of life and love. These stories, where our characters that we know and love, who only want to be together and canonically can’t live without each other, ground the characters into our world, making the contrast between the two worlds even sharper.

Then the news about Chechnya broke, and the fandom has been almost silent.

It hasn’t been completely silent. I saw one story posted on AO3 that made reference to Chechnya. I saw one person share a link on a fan group to how to donate money to support gay men in Russia. But as the news gets worse and worse, the fandom is filling up with more and more fluff, more and more goofiness, more and more fanart and doujins and fics reveling in the physical intimacy of Victor and Yuri. I don’t have a problem with what’s there, but it’s what’s not there that speaks volumes.

If you love Yuri!!! On Ice like I do, you have got to be aware of what is going on in Chechnya, and you have got to be firmly against it. You have got to be a voice, however small it may seem, against the cruelty and violence being perpetrated against gay men in Chechnya all for the sake of being gay. If you’re a queer person who loves YOI for its representation, you need to be aware. If you’re a straight person who loves YOI for its plot and character development, you need to be aware. If you’re a mentally ill person who loves YOI for its accurate depiction of anxiety and depression (it me tho), you need to be aware. If you’re a straight-up fujoshi or fudanshi and you are only there for the ships and the doujins, you especially need to be aware, because you can’t consume gay media without supporting gay rights.

At least once a day, Adam’s captors attached metal clamps to his fingers and toes. One of the men then cranked a handle on a machine to which the clamps were linked with wires, and sent powerful electric shocks through his body. If he managed not to scream, others would join in, beating him with wooden sticks or metal rods.

As they tortured him, the men shouted verbal abuse at him for being gay, and demanded to know the names of other gay men he knew in Chechnya. “Sometimes they were trying to get information from me; other times they were just amusing themselves,” he said, speaking about the ordeal he underwent just a month ago with some difficulty.

(Link Here)

But you can’t just be aware, though that’s where we all need to start. Once you get aware, you have to act. You have to do something, anything, against this. Share this post, share the news articles linked throughout, and if you’re financially able to, consider donating to the Russian LGBT Network. Yesterday was the international day against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, and gay men are being tortured and killed right now in Russia, the home of your (and my) favorite gay anime characters.

The US is in a chaotic stretch politically right now, and a lot of that is related to Russia. Vladimir Putin is actively denying the gay pogrom in Chechnya, and the US is denying visas to gay Russians seeking to escape persecution. These men are fleeing for their lives, and they can’t come here. They can’t come to a country where a popular mall chain has literally a dozen tee shirts depicting a gay Russian man. Gay men are being killed in Chechnya right now.

People are being killed.

And I hate to remind you of the uncomfortable truth, but if our beloved Victor Nikiforov, King of Extra, were alive in our world instead of his, he would be in danger, too. Mitsuro Kubo has already sworn to us that she will protect Victor’s world. If we love Victor, and we all do, let’s be honest, we need to be the ones to protect this one. We need to protect gay men in Russia. We need to protect gay men in the United States. We need to protect queer people of all genders and all sexualities in both of these places and everywhere else.

We need to be Kubo-sensei for this world, because Kubo-sensei is only one woman in Japan with a pen and some paper, drawing out storyboards of a better, safer place than where we are now. We need to make her vision our reality.

And we need to remember that until we do, the longer it takes, people are being killed.

All the Things I’m Fucking Terrified Of (2014 Edition)

May 2017: I wanted to post something new on my blog, but I didn’t like what I was writing, so I deleted it from the drafts folder in WordPress. I realized that I had 16 posts in my drafts folder, dating back through the years. Some of them were only three lines long, while others were over a thousand words. This post, which I believe I wrote during my first year in my MFA at University of Tampa, was never published, and I honestly don’t know why, unless I decided it was too rambling back then? So here it is, a post from my drafts folder that never saw the light of day. Should be noted that I feel about 85% the exact same. The major difference is that I have undergone a desensitization process regarding buses and bus stations and can now function on city transit without major panic attacks. Sometimes I still deal with anxiety surrounding the bus system, and if men of a certain age/hair color approach me on a bus or at a bus stop, it’s a very quick ticket to PTSD hell, but overall this situation has improved a lot and improved my quality of life. I mentioned in this text below that I didn’t know whether I would end up pursuing a PhD, but I’m wrapping up my first year at UMass Dartmouth as a PhD student in the Portuguese department (where, *gasp* I taught Portuguese), so hopefully I will be able to continue on toward that degree and make it all the more attainable each year .

 

I am afraid of things that I think are weird to be afraid of, and I’m desperate to tell someone about these absolutely absurd fears.

I’m afraid of cancer.  It’s one of my biggest fears.  I don’t understand it, I can’t control it, and I can’t change it.  I’m afraid of developing some weird form of cancer and losing my hair to chemo and then dying.  I don’t have a family history of cancer, and the only person I’ve known who has died of cancer is my dog, so I shouldn’t, theoretically, be so afraid of cancer.  But I am.

I’m afraid of disappearing.  Kidnapping doesn’t happen like it does in the movie.  There’s no such thing as a ransom call.  I was extremely lucky that when I was abducted in 2008, I was able to escape.  But I didn’t escape completely unscathed; I’ve had to deal with extreme PTSD ever since.  And I mean I had three panic attacks two weeks ago because of triggers related to my abduction.

I’m afraid of ending up trapped in an abusive relationship.  I was in an abusive relationship before, and it was terrifying and exhilarating but mostly terrifying.  Mostly terrifying.  My second boyfriend was a beautiful human being for most of our relationship, but now that we’re not together, I am honestly terrified of ending up in another relationship like my first one.  I know so much more now about consent and control and the signs of an abuser, so chances are it wouldn’t happen like that, but I also know that it could.  And I’m afraid of dating anyone or seeking out a new boyfriend because I don’t trust any man to not sexually abuse me if given the chance except for people related to me and my second boyfriend.  If you’re a man and I know you, this probably extends to you, even if it’s just a pinch.

I’m afraid of bus stations.  Two of my three panic attacks mentioned above were directly the result of bus stations.  I mean, it’s fair:  I was kidnapped at a bus station.

I’m afraid of uncomfortable/awkward situations, like when the brother in Mrs. Doubtfire finds out that Mrs. Doubtfire is a man, and the awkwardness that immediately ensues, or the scene where Dobby uses a bunch of magic in the Dursley’s house and gets Harry in an incredible amount of trouble (dropping the cake, what?).  I can’t handle them.  I leave the room if one of these types of scenes comes up on TV.  I get embarrassed easily, and on behalf of other people, and I guess I’m afraid of things not being clearly explained, because it’s always just a miscommunication that’s the problem.  I think the root of this is that I’m afraid of miscommunication.

I’m afraid of never being published or never succeeding as a writer.  I don’t need to be a Pulitzer Prize winner or anything.  I’ve just come to the realization since I started grad school that this might be my only graduate degree, that I might not be after that elusive PhD after all.  Simultaneously, getting a teaching cert (a substitute teaching cert, but a teaching cert nonetheless) has made me realize that I do not want to be a teacher.  I love working with students.  I love teaching the middle school girls’ Sunday school at my church.  But I don’t love the idea of being a substitute teacher or a full time teacher or a college professor.  At all.  I don’t love it at all.  I don’t want it.  I don’t want to do anything but write.  I want to burrow away into a wood furnished office room with a bunch of windows and total privacy and write write write write write until there are no words left in my soul and I can die in peace.  I have absolutely no desire for any type of regularly paying job.  Thinking about getting one literally makes me feel queasy and sick.  There is nothing I would rather do than write novels and stories and the occasional poem or essay.  And so I’m afraid of never being published, because I literally cannot imaging having to do anything else for the rest of my life.  I will hate my life if I have to get a “real job” ever.  I will be miserable and I will hate it.

I am afraid of both never having children and of having children.  To clarify, I’ve realized over the past year that I adore small children and tweens.  But given my inherent fear/hatred of menfolk and paying jobs, having babies might never happen for me.  Simultaneously, the idea of having small children to take care of constantly (because parenthood) scares the shit out of me because all I want to do with my time is write, dammit!!!  And if I’m in some kind of committed relationship where I have the ability to be jobless so I can write, my significant other would need to be the one having a “real job” and making money and such and then TRADITIONAL GENDER ROLES AH FUCKIT.  I cannot win.  I literally cannot win unless I stay in my parents’ attic for the rest of my life and never leave the house ever again.

“You Don’t Want to Know”

Someone asked me today why I’m so behind and what is going on in my life that I’m failing so much, but they weren’t genuinely looking for the truth. That’s okay; I’m not close with this person, they aren’t really a friend so much as an acquaintance. The slightly biting, sarcastic edge to their tone also made it clear that a deep answer wasn’t necessary. But I don’t lie easily, and there’s only a deep answer here. So I answered as truthfully as I could that they didn’t want to know. Because how can you tell an acquaintance that you’re ill, that you’re struggling, that you can’t afford the treatment that you need, and it’s affecting every aspect of your life. You don’t. You blog about it instead, then leave it on the internet where it is incredibly google-able and open.

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Me, probably…

Because here’s the thing: I’m ill. I have severe anxiety, moderate depression and post-traumatic stress. I know this, and although I have years of therapy that have gotten me through the worst of my panic attacks and my inability deal with physical contact and social interactions, it’s not like the symptoms ever go away. Self-talk doesn’t solve everything, and while it can delay or prevent an anxiety attack sometimes, other times I’m standing outside my classroom door surrounded by the pulsing throng of students moving from one classroom to the next and my vision goes blurry and my breath becomes shallow and I still have to go in there and teach. I still have to go in there and pretend to be an expert when my mind is telling me all the while that you barely even speak Portuguese how dare you pretend how dare you have the audacity to want to study this literature how dare you think you deserve to be in grad school at all when you’re clearly not stable enough for it, when the only reason you survived your MFA was because it was low-residency and you could spend a solid month without leaving your house if you had to. How dare you pretend to be a scholarly person when you’re so clearly less than and unprepared. One day I may wake up and learn that the department has finally seen the light, and they will unceremoniously kick me to the curb and give the fellowships to people who deserve them more. I wouldn’t blame them at all.

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Yuri is nervous because he has an untreated anxiety disorder, duh.

I’m working on an essay right now called “I Left My Therapist in Pennsylvania,” and I promised myself that I would pursue proper publication this time instead of just ranting on my blog. I’m still working on it, but here’s the highlight: I worked with the same therapist for years in Huntingdon, I miss her terribly, and I still need therapy despite all the work we did. I’m not in a place where I can afford long-term counseling financially, and while there is a student counseling center at UMass Dartmouth, their website specifically says they are there for short-term needs. I’ve also had very mixed experiences with student counseling centers, and am naturally wary of them. The last thing I need is for the act of seeking treatment to make me worse.

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Me, all the time. I even have the same phone case.

It’s crushing and humbling to admit that I am not doing well on my own, but let’s be clear here: I’m not doing well on my own. I have spent days upon days too depressed to move, or too anxious to breathe, and I constantly feel as if my lungs are in a box at the bottom of the ocean. I can’t focus on anything for longer than about ten minutes at a time. I oversleep, I undersleep, I completely forget to eat meals. I wake up in the middle of the night with my heart beating in my temples, or I step out of class and check my pulse and count it at 140-170 bpm. I shiver. I forget. I get distracted. It’s not like I’m completely alone here in New Bedford; I have a roommate and classmates and students. But with maybe one exception, I don’t have anyone in my immediate vicinity with whom I am comfortable enough to genuinely talk about what’s going on in my life. I try. I’ve always been an open book whenever I can. I like to imagine that maybe my frankness about my mental illness and history of sexual violence could be helpful (dare I say inspiring) to someone else who might not be at a place where they’re able to talk about it yet. That’s why I put it all on my blog, where it’s easily viewed by anyone. So I do talk about my problems with a few different people here, but I never feel comfortable. It’s like I’m wearing a skin that’s not my own, but looks like me, and it’s made of a material that itches at the mind.

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Me, lying awake until four in the morning and then still waking up for no reason at seven.

I hate that my mental illness is officially getting out of control, that I need help but can’t afford it, that I feel so alone when my key contact people live in DC and PA. But more than anything, I hate that my mental illness impacts my academic life. I love academia, love taking classes and writing papers and learning new things. I love challenges and puzzles and critical theory. I love reading novels and watching films and then dissecting them with a critical lens. And while I don’t love teaching, I do appreciate the fact that I am in a position to maybe intrigue someone younger than me in an academic way and share with them what I know. I love academics and I love studying, and my illness makes these things that I love become miserable and detestable and nearly impossible to do.

Why am I so behind in life, so overwhelmed and so stressed and failing at my job, my classes, everything? While there are some external factors (a friend’s suicide attempt last year, a friend’s abusive boyfriend, the recent death of a loved relative), the main truth is that I am ill, and I can’t afford treatment. But that’s not something you want to know.

Dona Flor, her two husbands, and PTSD

In my beautiful Brazilian film adaptations class, we’re currently working on Dona Flor e Seus Dois Maridos, a 1966 novel by Jorge Amado and its 1976 film adaptation directed by Bruno Barreto. And I have been having a miserable time with it, even though the writing in the book is good and the movie is incredibly well-done.

I know that the violence against women is my huge hangup regarding Dona Flor. I didn’t read very far into the novel before we watched the film, but far enough to know that Vadinho, when alive, was an abusive shitbag of a husband to Flor. He stole her money, gambled away their savings and his own clothes, beat her, everything. Despite all that, he’s portrayed as being her one true love, and after he dies, she’s trapped in such a longing for him that eventually his spirit is forced from the grave and into her life once again. Every time I read anything about Vadinho, I just get sick to my stomach and can’t go on. In part, it’s me reliving my own experiences being with an abusive boyfriend several years ago, but it’s also got to do with one of my best friends who is in a relationship like Flor and Vadinho right now. Things between them are so volatile sometimes that I genuinely fear for her life, and the way Vadinho treats Flor is almost identical to the way my friend’s partner treats her. In this case, I can’t get past the abuse.

Watching the movie made it even harder. There’s this scene where Vadinho is after money from Flor, and she refuses him and refuses him, so he goes after a vase, and she grabs it, runs, tries to avoid him. He chases her and throws her and hits her, and eventually smashes the vase on the ground. Watching that scene play out was like a horror show. The fear, the panic, the danger. The longer Flor stayed with him, the greater her risk. It was a blessing in her life that he died during Carnaval.

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Coming back as Flor’s personal poltergeist, Vadinho gets even worse, in my opinion. Now that he’s no longer living and can only be seen by Flor, he focuses all of his attention on trying to get her to sleep with him. And while it’s true that her sexual relationship with her second husband Teodoro is obviously lackluster, one of the first things Flor tells the undead Vadinho is that she won’t cheat on Teodoro, not even with her deadbeat dead first husband. What follows is Vadinho employing manipulative tactics like gaslighting and peer pressure over an extended period of time to wear Flor down. He constantly presses her boundaries to the point of sexual harassment, grabbing at her body when she’s explicitly told him not to, wandering around naked in front of her, watching (and mocking) while she has sex with Teodoro. All so that he can get her to the point where she would willingly have sex with him again.

And she does. Not surprised at all, to be honest, but so disheartened. I’m also taking a class this semester called Mononormativity in Portuguese, and it’s been great to develop more insight into monogamous relationships, polyamory, affairs, and their place within the scope of a human society. Dona Flor is a novel that would fit right in within the syllabus of that class; it was even brought up last Wednesday. I feel like most people who have a problem with Flor keeping Vadinho’s spirit around do so because of the whole “love-triangle” “cheating/affair” angle, but not me. I have a problem with it because Vadinho is abusive, and the fact that Flor can’t let go of that abuse in her current and healthy relationship is far too real.

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It was that way for me, at least.

I haven’t dated much, but the first guy I dated after my abusive ex meant the world to me. It was the kind of relationship where you feel like the other person hung the stars in the sky, that time was irrelevant, that the universe existed solely for the purpose of bringing two souls together. Usually. Our relationship, especially in the stages where we were starting to become more intimate, was constantly marred by my baggage from not just the abusive ex but also the whole abduction thing that happened when I was 17. Some days would be fine. Other days, my decent ex would kiss me or touch me, and I would have flashbacks that led to panic attacks. Half the time, I bit the panic back and kept going, partially to prove I was beyond the fear and partially out of fear that if I didn’t, I would be left. I did plenty of things I didn’t actually want to do with my decent ex, without him ever knowing that I wasn’t feeling it, because of the baggage I carried from my abusive ex. (I’m certain my decent ex would feel like shit if he knew this, but we haven’t talked in years, so he probably won’t find out).

We see Flor react in a similar way before Vadinho comes back as a spirit, when Teodoro finds one of the places where she’d been hiding money. Flor reacts with panic and shame, and Teodoro comforts her (albeit a little patronizingly) and encourages her to open a separate bank account so that she doesn’t feel the need to squirrel her cash away in the sewing machine.

Teodoro gently begins to undo the damage done by Vadinho, but no person should bear that responsibility alone. If this story were set in a more contemporary setting, I would be hoping to see Flor seeking some kind of professional help to regain control of her life post-Vadinho, but the story is set in like the 40s, so oh well. (This, by the way, is rich coming from the girl who’s been out of therapy for less than a year and already almost as bad as before she started and still reluctant to go back, yeah).

To put it simply, there is no true liberation for Flor, and this is all too true of real women (and men) in in real circumstances with dangerous partners. Part of me wonders, can we really expect a man writing in the 1960s to seek liberation for Flor? But perhaps it’s even more important that instead Amado just tells it like it is, magical elements be damned. Flor will always carry Vadinho with her, just like I will always carry my abusive ex. When we see it laid out in another person, real or fictional, it can help us identify dangerous situations of our own before it gets worse. Could Flor’s curse to carry Vadinho become a real person’s liberation? That is the best we could hope for. That is the best I can hope for.

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I want to like this novel, I really do. Amado’s prose is so strong, his characters so developed, his world so well-crafted. But for me, I just find the whole story really fucking triggering.

 

If you are in an abusive relationship, you should know that you do not deserve to be treated that way, whether you’re a woman, a man, nonbinary, anywhere in between. Men can be victims of domestic violence as well, and women can be perpetrators. Your gender has nothing to do with your right to a safe, happy and loving relationship. If you are in an abusive relationship, there are places you can go, people you can call, who can help. You can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline in the US. In my hometown, you can get in touch with Huntingdon House, or in the central PA region you can contact The Abuse Network. In the Southeast Coast region, you can get in touch with The Women’s Center, which has offices in New Bedford and Fall River, or SFS Family Centers. Please remember that you are strong and you are brave, and you deserve so much better, so much more.

Literature Into Film, A Live Reaction

So, as some of you may know, I am a major film buff. I have been casually studying cinematography since middle school and have visited a couple film museums. I am taking a class for my PhD program right now where we’re studying film adaptations of Brazilian novels, which is already set to be one of the highlights of this semester. For this week, we’re talking about some basic film theory in class and the process of adapting (or “translating”) works of literature into film. As such, we were assigned to read Linda Costanzo Cahir’s book Literature into Film: Theory and Practical Approaches (2006). What follows is a live stream of my reactions to the book as I was reading it.

Is this book outdated due to the increase in digital technology since its release?

This book’s exacting detail into the physical process of making a film is delectable.

Parallels between film editing and literary editing; have not thought of this before.

I love this book. 10/10 would recommend.

Continuity editing vs. montage editing. Montage like stream of consciousness.

Omg I just said that and then there were tables

Took until 18% of the way through the book to mention Citizen Kane

I know a lot of this film terminology already

I want to go to another film museum

A CLOCKWORK ORANGE NOW I WILL HAVE NIGHTMARES

“Literature is the least expensive art form” no shit, she says and cries into her ramen.

Auto and Film industry same goal? New thoughts and vantages. I like.

hehehehe Duck Soup

I’m glad I’ve been casually studying film since middle school.

I would like to see a film version of O Verdadeiro Ator

MBFGW is a fabulous film and deserves all of its accolades

So glad I sat in all of Capouya’s lectures on film translation/adaptation

Auteur theory, Roland Barthes, the death of the author —  nothing new there

Was literally just talking about the death of the author with Kari

SIGNIFIEDS AND SIGNIFIERS I LOVE CRITICAL THEORY

Remember that time I wrote dating advice for different philosophies/critical theories in undergrad? I do.

Derrida is bae.

“The best boy is the primary assistant to the gaffer” Um, no sir, pretty sure Best Boy is Yuuri Katsuki. #ViktuuriTrash

My first research project on cinematography was in seventh grade in Kathy Rotruck’s class.

Fun fact, Jean Hagan was actually a decently talented singer. She coulda dubbed herself in the singing too. Lol Singing in the Rain is so freaking meta

The book is bringing up “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to talk about how closely the song is paired with the images in the film. I think that “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is like that as well, when you see Meet Me in St. Louis. I grew up with that song, but after seeing that film, I will never be able to separate it from the image of that little girl destroying those snowmen.

I’ve never seen Apocalypse Now.

Film is a visual medium, yes, and that is where it derives its power. But I wonder, what about audio captions for the blind? What is that experience like?

Hmm. Think of the novel and the film as a diptych. I like

OH OH OH MASTERPIECE THEATER GETS A SHOUTOUT

Rebecca!! I was waiting for that adaptation to be referenced in this book.

hehehe A Room with a View. Omg my mother. Will never forget.

And here’s some text on The Manchurian Candidate. Been expecting that, too.

I love this book it’s fabulous. My fangirling helps in academia once again.

Finally some more in-depth talk on Kurosawa. Did not know he did The Death of Ivan Ilych as Ikiru. ADDED TO THE LIST

Oooh a table of all of Kubrick’s films.

I like Winona Ryder, but I’ve never seen The Age of Innocence

Table 10 is called Novel-based Women’s Films of the 1930s and 1940s, and I just found my new watch list.

Ooh a Michael Ondaatje novel. The English Patient. Added to the list.

I mean, The Collected Works of Billy the Kid was marvelous, after all.

Oh, it’s got themes of post-colonialism. SOLD

Bringing up how novelizations of films are usually pretty sucky. Good point. People complain a lot about movies not being as good as the book, but have you ever tried to read a novelization? Ugh.

CHAPTER FIVE PLAYS INTO FILM I WANT THE BEGGAR’S OPERA IS THERE ONE PLEASE PLEASE

Reminded of the time I wrote three papers on Hamlet in college because I was emo and depressed and Ophelia spoke to my soul.

Ophelia still speaks to my soul.

The David Tennant/Patrick Stewart Hamlet is perfection.

Choosing to talk about Lady Windermere’s Fan is interesting. It’s not as well known.

BUT if they’re talking about a silent film adaptation, they’ve got to know what they’re talking about

SHAKESPEARE

I also feel like Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing deserves a serious shoutout here, while we’re on the subject of Shakespeare.

The Taming of the Shrew. Kiss Me, Kate. Ten Things I Hate About You. Love them all.

IS MAN NO MORE THAN THIS??????

Hedwig and the Angry Inch has a mention. Actually some real paragraphs to it.

STOP EVERYTHING I JUST CONNECTED THAT JOHN CAMERON MITCHELL WROTE HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH, WHICH I’VE ONLY EVER LISTENED TO THE SOUNDTRACK OF, AND HE IS ALSO THE PERSON THAT VIKTOR NIKIFOROV IS VISUALLY BASED ON WHAT IS MY LIFE I AM #ViktuuriTrash ALL THE TIME

KUBO-SENSEI NEVER FAILS TO SURPRISE ME

Chicagooooo

Short Stories into Film. Chapter six. Glad I won’t have to read about The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which I have yet to see but cannot expect to be decent.

Of course we start with Poe.

If I didn’t have an MFA and if I hadn’t spent years studying short fiction, this would probably make a lot less sense.

I can’t do that visual from The Pit and the Pendulum. Stop, please. No.

How tf do you get an 86 minute film out of “The Raven”??? Like, the short stories I can see, but “The Raven”????

Poe and Hitchcock in the same chapter, be still my heart

The Birds is a terrible film.

“The Birds” is a terrible short story.

Rebecca is good though.

NOTORIOUS IS MENTIONED HEAVY BREATHING COMMENCES NOW INGRID AND CARY AND BRAZIL I LOVE YOU

Hmm, some Berthold Brecht. Goodbye, fourth wall.

Rear Window is perfection, ngl

Why is Daphne du Maurier so good at being so creepy? I love it.

I’ve never read Dubliners…

I’ve only seen The Maltese Falcon once…

AKUTAGAWA!!!! (#learnedabouthimthroughanime #bungostraydogs #noshame #thecharacterssuperpowerisrashomon)

ARTHUR C. CLARKE I CAN DIE HAPPY

Am I power reading? Maybe. Do I know most of this information already? Yes.

I write film reviews on my blog sometimes. I could probably skip this chapter.

I don’t like writing screenplay though. I’ve tried, it’s not my jam

Ooh, a picture of a young ScarJo

Basically, yes. I am skimming this chapter and it is literally all about how to write a critique/review of a film. Which I have been doing for years for fun.

I guess I am a little more likely to review music or literature…

Currently I’m most likely to review anime, though…

And that’s it. I hit the appendix. Kindle bumped me out of the book.

  1. Finally found it. This book came out in 2006. NO WONDER

Bring Harps and Lutes, Kazoos, Trombones and Flutes

Or just your pots and pans, because this is a celebration! These past few days, Over the Garden Wall turned two years old! Happy birthday to one of the greatest shows to come out of the American animation industry in the past decade!!!

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Originally airing over the course of five days starting on November 3, 2014, Over the Garden Wall is a Cartoon Network miniseries following the lives of Wirt, Greg, and their frog as they journey through the Unknown. Along the way, they meet a woodsman with a lantern, a lovesick schoolteacher, a kleptomaniac horse, frog police, Auntie Whispers, and the Old North Wind. The two lost kids push their way through the woods, guided by bluebird Beatrice, hoping to find their way back home. Along the way, they’re pursued by the Beast, a Wendigo-esque creature that lurks in the trees waiting for them to lose hope so that he can consume their souls (albeit in a roundabout kind of way). This series is an Emmy award-winning modern masterpiece, and so much has been written about it and explored already, particularly on YouTube. Channel Frederator’s Cartoon Conspiracy series has tackled Over the Garden Wall three times, and they’ve also dedicated a 107 facts video to the show. (Spoilers, btw)

A couple days ago, I rewatched Over the Garden Wall in its entirety, which was a delight, but also got me thinking about what it is that makes this show so fabulous. I love animation, but I don’t actually go back and rewatch many things. But Over the Garden Wall is one of the few series that I could watch over and over again and never get bored. In fact, when the last episode ended, I almost immediately started the first again and had to remind myself that that was kind of crazy. Every time I watch this show, I become completely absorbed in it. And while I definitely wouldn’t want to make it any longer, I never want it to end.

A large part of what makes Over the Garden Wall so successful as a story is its terror. I say terror, not horror, because the majority of the scary situations are frightening because of their existential roots. The Beast isn’t out to eat the brothers’ flesh, but more complexly he watches and waits for them to lose heart so that he can claim their souls and turn them into edelwood trees. This creates a looking-over-your-shoulder kind of tension for Wirt, which leads him to lose hope all the more quickly. Turning into a tree is a horror, but the real fear is rooted in the terror of losing your soul to despair. Similarly, what is menacing about Adelaide isn’t so much her desire to turn Wirt and Greg into child servants as it is her declaration that she will stuff their heads with cotton so that they will obey her. She will destroy their minds. And again, with the demon possessing Lorna, it is horrifying that the demon eats people and leaves only their bones, but it is even more terrifying that such a demon possesses an obviously kind and gentle girl like Lorna.

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Choosing to value existential terror over the more physical horror elevates the fear moments from cheap jump scares to the deep questions of metaphysical dread that are always creeping at the edges of human consciousness. These moments are scary for children, yes, but they are also scary for adults. In this way, Over the Garden Wall shows a great amount of respect to the emotional intelligence and comprehension of its viewers, regardless of age.

It also keeps itself tied into the older traditions of children’s fairy tales. In several of the Brothers Grimm original fairy tales, a beautiful woman marries a king or a lord, and is given a specific command, like “Do not open this door and go into this room.” When she does, she encounters a room of blood (or something equally horrifying) and discovers the wickedness of the man. She may or may not be able to defeat him. However, if she had followed the rule, she would have been safe. Fairy land and magic have rules, those rules are arbitrary, and breaking them can result in chaos and peril (a theme well-explored in George MacDonald’s Phantastes). We see this time and again throughout Over the Garden Wall.

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Fairy tales have been famously sanitized in the late 20th century, so much so that if a child were to read the originating tale of any 90s Disney Princess film, they would not necessarily recognize what they were reading. Apart from removing a lot of death and body horror from these fairy tales, some of the sanitization comes in removing simple wickedness from the villains’ motivations (this is why Doctor Facilier is so much scarier than any other modern Disney villain; he has no reason and receives no benefit from messing with Naveen). Over the Garden Wall does not remove the wicked. True, the Beast must keep the lantern lit because that is where his soul resides, but he has no reason and gains no real benefit from tormenting the Woodsman. He does so to be wicked. Adelaide wants to kidnap children to be wicked. The demon eats people because it is wicked. The rules of the Unknown include real evil, real terror, real fear as consequences.

Over the Garden Wall manages to achieve its tone by  steeping itself in the traditions of fairyland terror while balancing them throughout with sugar cubes of humor. Just as memorable as Auntie Whispers ringing the bell is Miss Langtree singing her lament over Jimmy Brown. The Beast is an omnipresent threat, but the banter between Wirt and Beatrice is just as constant. And Greg, well, Greg is the eight-year-old we all wish we were, immune to a sense of danger and impervious to fear. He’s the best and most frustrating kind of Cloud Cukoolander, which might be why his dreamland travels take him to Cloud City. Ultimately, it’s Greg’s self-sacrifice that snap Wirt out of his stupor and get them both home, in true Cukoolander fashion.

On this most recent viewing of Over the Garden Wall, these are the artistic strokes that most left an impression on me as a repeat viewer and devout fan. As a fairy tale, as a folk tale, as a Halloween story, Over the Garden Wall works because it’s fear comes from a place of wickedness and internal terror. As a series, it works because it uses that fear softly, creeping around the edges of the mind, while simultaneously sweetening life like potatoes and molasses.

 

If you are now dying to watch Over the Garden Wall, it is available on Hulu.

I Am the Negative People

As a denizen of the internet, I tend to pick up on the trendy trends of typing hands millions of miles away around the interwebs. So do you. It’s normal. I’d be shocked if a kid from PA didn’t know whether they lived in Steeler country or Eagle country, even if said kid approached football with the complete blase attitude of someone who is too tired to deal with it. It’s culture. And since we live online (at least, I do), it’d be weird to not notice the trends of internet culture. Anyway, I say all of this as a preface to complaining about an internet thing, namely an internet self-help thing that has bothered me for like two years. And I’ve reached the last straw.

I’m tired of the internet telling me to cut out negative people from my life as if it is a magic cure-all to my social ills.

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If by peaceful, we mean devoid of deep emotional questions and problems, which are what distinguish humanity from other living things on earth.

I was reading a HuffPo article this morning on loneliness and ways to overcome it. The article poses loneliness not as the result of being alone but more as a compounding of mild depression and anxiety without ever actually saying that it is compounded mild depression and anxiety. Because the author uses the catchall term loneliness to describe actual mental health conditions with real names, he gets away with a condescending tone that might cause actual damage to people actually struggling. In one paragraph, he says that loneliness may have chronic routes in childhood abandonment or abuse and that therapy can help, but then he comes back around shortly to say that:

Life is too short to waste on suffering from core loneliness. Please heed to my suggestion: Open up, take a chance and access the hidden part of you that deserves true and loving companions. Heal your childhood wounds. Learn to love yourself and eliminate loneliness from your life!

This frustrates me to no end. If someone has diagnosable depression and/or anxiety, which is what he is noticeably really talking about throughout this entire article, they aren’t wasting time or life on suffering that can just be healed up if they talk about their feelings once. These are medical conditions that can require lifelong care and treatment from professionals, including talk therapy and medication. Learning to love yourself will not cure depression. I absolutely adore myself. I think I’m the bee’s knees. Yet I still suffer from social anxiety and occasional bouts of crippling depression. And these conditions make it difficult for me to function as a totality, not just in getting to know people. When I am depressed, I have to try to do things like shower and brush my teeth. That isn’t loneliness.

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Ignores the fact that cloud cover makes it easier to see.

But what it is, is negative. When you are struggling with a mental illness like depression or anxiety, everything is cast in grayscale and shadows. The dark and difficult questions of life are constantly bubbling to the surface of your conscience, whether you want them to or not. One of the symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which most people make fun of as a need to keep things orderly, is obsessively dwelling on graphic and horrific things like rape and death, imagining either yourself or loved ones in those scenarios, and being unable to think about anything else. It’s not like you want to spend three hours obsessively thinking about all of the ways your mother could die tomorrow; it just happens that way. And when that is what is on your mind, it can be difficult to maintain a facade of happiness around your more mentally-stable friends and family.

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I’d rather be hiding from zombies, but whatevs

So what does the author of this HuffPo article suggest to cure your loneliness (aka mental illness)? He’s got a list of eleven steps, hooray! The bottom of the list is even a suggestion to consider therapy. But way before that, making it into the top five at number four, he says:

Weed out the toxic relationships and create space in your life for relationships that fuel your spirit. You can’t grow lovely succulent vegetables with a large patchwork of weeds.

Because people are plants. Yeah, that makes sense.

Early in the article, he also said:

Paradoxically, lonely people believe they are essentially unworthy of healthy and mutually respectful relationships with loving, affirming and mutually giving individuals. They imagine that if they were to tell someone they are lonely, it would scare them away. Therefore, they are attracted to people who, like themselves, are similarly lonely, needy and insecure. As a result, the self-fulfilling prophecy is actualized. This sad but dysfunctional dynamic is the thesis of my book, The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us.

You guys, he wrote a book on this topic. He wrote a book on this topic. He is obviously a genius master when it comes to the art of understanding people.

EXCEPT, here is the problem with telling people to get rid of the “negative people” and “toxic relationships”, as this and so many other self-help posts on the internet want you to do. Are you ready for it? YOU ARE THE NEGATIVE PERSON!

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Too late, suckas

If everybody cut out the negative people from their lives, then everybody suffering from a mental illness would automatically be out in the cold. I have been accused of being a negative person in the past, and I have been dropped as a friend for this reason. I can guarantee that this is not how people should be treating their friends with mental health problems. If you are genuinely lonely, genuinely depressed, and you think that cutting the negative people from your life will solve your problems, you are wrong.

Also, I would like to draw a strong distinction here between “negative people” and “toxic relationships,” because this article and most others like it use the terms interchangeably, and they are not. “Negative people” is a (hilariously offensive) short hand for people whose negativity can be exhausting and incomprehensible for people who have never struggled with those things, and these people are more than likely to be dealing with a mental illness. Toxic relationships are ones that actually harm you. By equating the two, this author and others like him are saying that being mentally ill in the presence of your mentally healthy friends is tantamount to being a violent, abusive person. Toxic relationships are ones of abuse and power dynamics, and while I’m not saying that mentally ill people are immune from being the abuser in a toxic relationship, I am saying that they are not the same thing. Of course people should break free of their abusive relationships. I have been in abusive relationships, and you should definitely kick those people to the curb if you can.

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Because my friend who is constantly complaining about her abusive boyfriend and is too scared of his actions to break it off is as bad as her abusive boyfriend, right? 

I guess what it comes down to is this: Loneliness can be a symptom of depression and other mental illnesses, which can be treated medically by licensed psychologists and psychiatrists, and if you are struggling with that, this is what you should pursue. But you should never, ever cut someone out of your life because they too are struggling. Before you know it, you’ll be the most negative person in your group, and you’ll be the next to go.

Because there’s no such thing as a negative person. There are only people who are struggling and need compassion and love.