Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘Tina Fey

Tuesday Links!

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* In case you missed it, I put up a short thing about The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt yesterday. It was an odd and sad day to have done so, in retrospect.

* And here’s everything we know about season 2 of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

* Some (more) thoughts on the Hugos. And some more.

* Science Fiction Film and Television 8.1 is now available. And don’t forget our call for papers on Star Trek at 50!

* If you want a vision of the future: University of Florida admits 3,000 students — then tells them it is only for online program.

Visiting Africa: A Short Guide for Researchers.

* Rolling Stone has retracted their UVA story, as well as a Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism detailing what went wrong. Reaction online has generally been that the Columbia report doesn’t go nearly far enough, and that RS is in total denial about the seriousness of what they did — though there’s speculation that RS‘s non-response is at least partially driven by the fact that the fraternity plans to sue.

* What happens when you build a town around a prison?

* What percentage of national Democrats have been placed there as sleeper agents specifically to disrupt literally any attempt at improvement, do you think? 90, 95%?

* The American West dries up. In a development that will surprise no one, California’s wealthy aren’t doing their part to save water. Water-rationing plan leaves corporate interests untouched. Nestlé called out for bottling, selling California water during drought. And the state has been fracking into their aquifers this whole time. We know what our problems are and we do nothing or make them worse.

Report: Majority Of Earth’s Potable Water Trapped In Coca-Cola Products.

Melting Ice Caps Expose Hundreds Of Secret Arctic Lairs.

* Man-made earthquakes in Oklahoma. Bonus points for a truly good headline pun: “Weather Underground.”

First Gorgeous Look At Mark Z. Danielewski’s New Series, The Familiar!

* Finally, someone is responding to voter ID panic in the proper way.

* Can Marxist theory predict the end of Game of Thrones?

A former Harvard associate professor is pursuing a federal Title IX lawsuit against the university, alleging she was discriminated against while trying to secure tenure there in 2013.

NYC officials remove Edward Snowden statue secretly installed in Brooklyn park.

“Recognizing that Native American art was made by individuals, not tribes, and labeling it accordingly, is a practice that is long overdue,” said Dan L. Monroe, executive director of the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass., which has a large Indian collection and has made some attempts to identify individual artists since the mid-1990s.

In short, ruin porn hides more than it shows. It creates the hyper-visibility of some elements of crisis, usually infrastructural damage and death, while simultaneously making others invisible, namely the social and political forces that engender uneven patterns–and origins–of damage and recovery.

* Helen Keller, socialist.

I was arrested 75 times: how violent policing destroys mental health.

* Strange fashion choices of the 24th century.

* Inside Brown’s plan to make its faculty more diverse. I don’t see how “postdoctoral fellowships” is even part of this conversation. Postdocs aren’t faculty.

* Paul “Freaks & Geeks” Feig has a new show, outer space comedy Other Space.

* Lucille Ball statue terrorizes small town.

* And I’ll see you again in twenty-five years: The Twin Peaks revival is apparently going to happen without David Lynch.

Notes Towards a Miss Reading of Kimmy Schmidt

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Seeing this review of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt at the Los Angeles Review of Books has inspired me to finally write up some somewhat idiosyncratic thoughts I’ve had about the series that I haven’t seen reflected anywhere else. (And thanks to the people who have indulged me about this on Twitter, especially @millicentsomer and @evankindley.) I definitely agree with the reviewer that Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a “woman out of time” story, but I really think the interpretive emphasis on “Unfrozen Middle Schooler from the 1990s” should be on “middle schooler” rather than “from the 1990s.” My take is that the 1990s nostalgia is largely driven by the Millennial audience the show is pitching itself at — it’s an engine for jokes but not really the center of the project. “Unfrozen Middle Schooler,” in contrast, is the actual heart of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, at least the way I want to read it as a feminist work.

One of the things I talked about with Lili and Evan on Twitter was whether Kimmy’s abduction is taken seriously as an event or if the bunker is taken seriously as an actual lived environment. Having completed the series now, I still don’t think so: I think “the bunker” essentially functions in the series like being in a coma, or being shot with a Grow-Up Beam, or making a wish to be Big. It’s a magic spell to get Kimmy from middle school to adulthood without having to go through high school and college, which is the source of her power in the series, from her refusal of the usual rules of society to her love of backpacks and bright, mismatched clothing. You can see this utopian imaginary working really clearly in the incredibly infectious theme song, where the removal of the girls from the bunker and a closeup on Kimmy’s ecstatic childlike grin over the lyrics “Unbreakable! They alive, damnit! It’s a miracle!” quickly gives way to a montage of nostalgic, home-video-style images of childhood (and specifically girlhood), which express the same unvarnished joy but also absolute self-confidence (thumb’s up), total mastery of their environment (the dancing, the hula hooping, the monkey bars), and maximum resilience in the face of adversity (the baby plopping down face first).

We return to the in-universe “autotune the news” frame only once during this thirty-second sequence, to be told that “females are strong as hell” — the clear implication to me being that we ought to draw an interpretive connection between the claim of female power and childhood, specifically, girlhood: before sex, before even puberty, before the male gaze, before pervert teachers and abusive boyfriends and quasi-consensual sexual encounters and ubiquitous street harassment and the too-familiar host of other abuses inflicted upon women from the moment they enter young adulthood. What the magic spell of the bunker allows Kimmy to do is pass over the moment in which girls are forcibly conscripted into becoming “women” (somewhat or entirely against their will) and emerge instead as an adult who has not internalized our society’s misogyny or its mean, psychosexual aggressivity. So much of what is delightful about Kimmy is precisely the fact that she has retained the aspirations, expectations, confidence, and general affect of a precocious middle-schooler without having had to temper or diminish herself through unhappy experiences with patriarchy. If the show has a moral or utopian message for women, it’s Let’s all go back to thinking about ourselves the way we did before society told us we were worthless, and it’s a pretty damn good one.

We’ve been working with children’s stories a lot in my “magic as literature” course this semester, and one of the oppositions we’ve really been focusing on (especially as we’ve studied Disney, and Frozen, recently) is the opposition between what mythographers call “the girl’s tragedy” and what we’ve been calling instead the utopia of childhood or (here more directly) the utopia of girlhood. The girl’s tragedy is the female answer to “the hero’s journey,” but the narrative doesn’t work the same way: instead of the boy hero who sets out from home, masters the outside world, slays the dragon, and then returns home to become king, the girl’s tragedy is a story about being ripped from safety and forced to accommodate oneself to the whims of adult men, particularly their sexual urges. The happy ending for the girl’s tragedy — the happiest one available — is that she accepts her role as wife and mother and gives birth to a male son who will then inaugurate the next cycle of heroism; girls and women who refuse to play the proper role are typically cast out of the realm of the human altogether, turned into animals or plants or stars or foam. The utopia of childhood describes those comparatively rare stories that are exceptions, where the girls are neither forced to become mothers nor punished, but allowed to remain what they were without transformation by instead bending the adult world to their will (as in Brave, or Moonrise Kingdom, or arguably Frozen, though in most of these the girl-heroes seem only to buying themselves time rather than enacting a full and permanent transformation of their circumstances).

Of course the utopia of childhood can itself be deeply retrograde, and is frequently misogynistic in its way — we spent a lot of time on “The Problem of Susan” in the Narnia books precisely so we didn’t fall too in love with the impossible fantasy of never growing up (when in the end we all have to). Nor can we safely imagine childhood in such uncomplicatedly rosy terms, both because childhood can also be a time of fierce frustration, competition, and intense pain even when it is not actively shattered through the cruelty and abuse of adults. But all the same there is something undeniably appealing about the idea of returning to a childhood that is both happy and which never gives way to something else, a desire that structures so much of our culture (particularly the middle-class culture of “good parenting”) that it really almost goes without saying. And in the case of Kimmy Schmidt‘s feminist politics of course the idea is not that women find some fantastical way to literally de-age themselves so much as they look to their younger, effortlessly capable and supremely confident selves as inspiration in the present.

There’s one more thing to say about Kimmy Schmidt, which is again about the abduction and the bunker, which would seem to be a rather large problem for my reading of the series. Isn’t Kimmy’s entire situation itself a literalized girl’s tragedy, insofar as she is abducted as a child and put into radical seclusion, all the while being fed obscenely misogynistic lies by a woman-hating male adult? Well, yes! The question of Kimmy’s abduction, and the horrific sexual violence it inevitably implies if thought about too much, is a pretty thorny one for the series: fixated on too much, it threatens to derail any potential for comedy in the show at all. (UPDATE: Someone just sent me Emily Nussbaum’s review, which talks a lot about this issue.) The series cleverly solves the problem by opening the door just a crack — “yes, there was weird sex stuff in the bunker” — and then simply leaving it there. Something happened — perhaps, as Evan suggested in what has become my headcanon, it was all between the girls and not involving the preacher at all — but it hasn’t changed Kimmy, or defeated her. And she emerges from Hell neither pregnant with the monster’s baby, nor transformed into a weeping plant or into sea-foam, but just as unflappable and unbreakable as she was when she went in.

And in any event the treatment of the bunker doesn’t really work the way the ten-second summary of the setup would suggest. The presence of the preacher is actually a further occasion for Kimmy to refuse to internalize her sexist training, precisely because it is now located within a single, odious man against whom she can fight. The button at the end of the first episode demonstrates precisely this: Kimmy proves he is lying to them, he says he’s going to break her someday, and she replies no, he never will. It’s easy to see why, in contrast to the microaggressions and little indignities — alongside the very big ones — that make up girls’ training to be women in our society, which is constantly delivered by parents and siblings and friends and trusted authority figures and widely celebrated mass culture texts, Kimmy’s more direct training in misogyny at the hands of the Reverend never really takes. In the bunker she had an obvious enemy, someone she could tell she was feeding her poison, and so she could reject it. It’s actually outside the bunker where the true brainwashing takes place, which is all the more insidious because it seems like education, like help, like love.

Thursday Night Links

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* Florida task force proposes soaking English and arts majors for extra tuition.

“The purpose would not be to exterminate programs or keep students from pursuing them. There will always be a need for them,” said Dale Brill, who chairs the task force. “But you better really want to do it, because you may have to pay more.”

* But wait, there’s more! As unmanned aerial vehicles start crossing over from military to civilian use, Hinds Community College is starting Mississippi’s first program to train drone pilots and technicians.

If you studied the liberal arts in an American college anytime after 1980, you were likely exposed to what is universally called Theory. Perhaps you still possess some recognizable talismans: that copy of The Foucault Reader, with the master’s bald head and piercing eyes emblematic of pure intellection; A Thousand Plateaus with its Escher-lite line-drawing promising the thrills of disorientation; the stark, sickly-gray spine of Adorno’s Negative Dialectics; a stack of little Semiotext(e) volumes bought over time from the now-defunct video rental place. Maybe they still carry a faint whiff of rebellion or awakening, or (at least) late-adolescent disaffection. Maybe they evoke shame (for having lost touch with them, or having never really read them); maybe they evoke disdain (for their preciousness, or their inability to solve tedious adult dilemmas); maybe they’re mute. But chances are that, of those studies, they are what remain. And you can walk into the homes of friends and experience the recognition, wanly amusing or embarrassing, of finding the very same books.

* Look, guys, I grew up in New Jersey. It always snow-hurricanes on Halloween there. Climate change is a myth.

* Rick Moody reviews Building Stories.

This book is a masterpiece. What would it mean for this book to be a masterpiece? First we would have to address on what basis, in a review of Building Stories, we would be able to use the word “book.” Chris Ware, as an artist of “comics” is not initially a maker of “books.” Not at first. In fact, Building Stories, having been assembled (or amassed, or compiled) from pieces made for Nest, The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, and elsewhere, would itself appear to be something quite different from a book. It would look, in fact, like something more ephemeral, more contemporary, perhaps like something closer to a “magazine” or a “comic strip” than to a book.

Why Democrats probably won’t take back the House. Obama: The Rolling Stone Interview. Tina Fey Says She’s on the Verge of Losing Her Mind Over Ridiculous GOP Rape Remarks. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to End Political Endorsements.

Lana Wachowski on growing up transgender.

The Island Where People Forget to Die.

* Science proves men and women can’t just be friends. Sorry, all my female friends! But science.

* Ladies and gentlemen, your headline of the year: Feds Charge NYPD Cop with Cannibal Conspiracy.

Friday Linkfest

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* The Portal 2s that could have been. I do, I happily admit, want to play all of these.

* Drop everything! My brilliant friend and colleague Melody Jue is now blogging at Philosophy of Water.

* At right is your photo of the day: An aurora over Faskrudsfjordur, Iceland.

* Joss Whedon explains how to write a sequel.

* Steal $80 million in a Ponzi scheme, get 18 months. Steal $4,367 in food stamps, get 3 years.

* “A dozen earthquakes in northeastern Ohio were almost certainly induced by injection of gas-drilling wastewater into the earth,” Ohio oil and gas regulators said today.

* The year without a winter. Things are going to get weirder. But don’t worry: God told James Inhofe global warming is a hoax.

* “I have not heard of another hug”: Janet Bell, Derrick Bell’s widow, speaks out.

* Pat Robertson gets one right: he says we ought to legalize it.

* The Seuss book no one’s bought us (yet): The Seven Lady Godivas: The True Facts Concerning History’s Barest Family.

* Jacob Burak crunches the odds on Russian Roulette. But he’s completely failed to account for the quantum immortality factor.

* Science quantifies the Tina Fey effect.

“When all other variables in the model are held at their mean, those who watched the SNL clip had a 45.4 percent probability of saying that Palin’s nomination made them less likely to vote for McCain,” they write. “This same probability drops to 34 percent among those who saw coverage of the debate through other media. Exposure to the clip had no significant effect on the likelihood of voting for Obama.”

* When Terry Kneiss wins a Showcase Showdown, son, he wins it.

* On chess, gender, and Laszlo Polgar’s Grandmaster Experiment.

* For more than two years, Adrian Schoolcraft secretly recorded every roll call at the 81st Precinct in Brooklyn and captured his superiors urging police officers to do two things in order to manipulate the “stats” that the department is under pressure to produce: Officers were told to arrest people who were doing little more than standing on the street, but they were also encouraged to disregard actual victims of serious crimes who wanted to file reports. I’m shocked, shocked! Followup to this This American Life story.

* The headline reads, “Breakthrough Alzheimer’s treatment stops brain damage in mice.”

* And TPM has today’s sci-fi architecture porn.

The Tina Fey Backlash

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Salon investigates the Tina Fey backlash. Via @drbluman.

Written by gerrycanavan

April 14, 2010 at 9:57 am

Tina Fey Is Your President Now, Again

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Written by gerrycanavan

April 11, 2010 at 2:59 pm

The Tina Fey Hegemony

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The verdict is in: another Republican political career has been destroyed by contact with the mind of Tina Fey. This time it’s Bobby Jindal, who I don’t think will ever recover from this Kenneth the Page thing. (Not that he did so well on the merits, either, as Steve Benen handily demonstrates in a series of posts. “Volcano monitoring”? What, pray tell, is a “volcano”? Even Fox News lays the smack down.)

Meanwhile, in other political news, Ezra Klein looks back on the eventful first month of the Obama administration. That pseduo-State of the Union sounded pretty ambitious; let’s go change the world.

Written by gerrycanavan

February 25, 2009 at 3:59 pm