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This post contains spoilers for the first five episodes of Fox’s Last Man On Earth.

Phil Miller has spent much of his post-virus last man on earth time wallowing in his own filth, drunk, in droopy underpants. In the Before Times, the 41 year old man had a job- not a career- as a temp. Unless the Tuscan, AZ temp market is vastly different from the Chicago, IL temp market, he was making $8-11 an hour, or just enough to afford his shabby apartment, single lifestyle, and not much more.

When Phil, who has given up on personal hygiene, sobriety, and life, meets clean and well groomed (shaved legs, even!) Carol, he stumbles across her clean drying laundry (and bra) first, spinning a fantasy of the sexy young soulmate they belong to. Carol’s less than conventionally attractive appearance puts him off immediately. She doesn’t live up to his fantasy. She isn’t what he deserves. Phil, who has literally been living in a pile of garbage and shitting in a pool, is convinced that she isn’t good enough for him. This despite the fact that Carol, annoying quirks aside, has her life pretty together. She manages to bathe and wash her laundry, for instance. She has plans for the future that don’t involve soaking in an inflatable pool filled with alcohol. And unlike temp Phil she had an actual career as an office manager of a business, which meant she was making significantly more than Phil and also probably had PTO, health insurance, and a 401k. In the old world, there’s a good chance she would have been out of his league, and yet Phil considers himself comfortably superior to her because of her appearance and insistence on stopping at stop signs (which, by the way, ignoring stop signs lead to a car crash when Melissa shows up). But really, which is worse: being a stickler for grammar or shitting in a pool and living amidst literal piles of literal garbage with food crusted on your face and in your beard?

Likewise, when Melissa shows up– younger looking than Carol, more conventionally attractive, more stylish, more made-up, more blonde– Phil feels entitled to her sexually and emotionally. She is more attractive than him, and again, in the before times she had a career as a Real Estate Agent and made FAR more money than he did. She, again, would have been very out of his league and yet he feels entitled to her simply because he exists and he wants her. Melissa can barely tolerate his creepy and predatory company, desperate horniness aside. (And in a world where every single vibrator and battery is free and available, would she REALLY be that desperate for sex with a creepy married dude? That plotlette very much feels like something a group of dudes would come up with.) Phil has nothing to offer her besides sex, and yet he feels he deserves her and if given the chance (no Carol, no Todd) she would realize how great he is and return his interest and attention, even though he has an established history of lying to her and betraying her trust.

This is an example of the same male entitlement that gives rise to the Nice Guys who have nothing to offer save feigned respect and kindness with an ulterior motive, and who deride and berate the women (usually better looking, with better jobs and social skills) who don’t appreciate their greatness and refuse to fuck/date/marry them.

Phil’s attitude is toxic, and dangerous, and creates a hostile and threatening environment for Melissa and Carol to navigate. When Carol pulled a gun on drunk, urine-soaked Phil and demanded to know if he was a nice person or not he said he was. But as his interactions with his fellow survivors show, he isn’t very nice at all.

Will his brief moment of emotional vulnerability and truth with Melissa mark a change in his toxic personality, or will he continue being a barely likable (albeit wittily written) character? I have a sneaking suspicion that “Last Man On Earth” may reflect the reluctance of an increasing number of survivors to put with him and his manipulations.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

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So apparently at one point I commenced writing a Sherlock Holmes fan fiction. I found it in my google drive while looking for Secret Chicago stuff. I have no idea where I was going with this, but it’s a big of brotherly bickering between Sherlock Holmes and his eldest brother Sherringford. What was I leading up to? Why is Sherringford wearing dark glasses? What’s happening? What’s Mycroft doing? Is this before Watson (probably)? Was I… was I going to discuss their parents here? Is this even based on the BBC tv show? I can’t remember now.

“I’ve told you, SHIRLEY, don’t call me Sherry.”
“But your name’s so long and it saves so much time!”
“It’s disrespectful.”
“It’s a nickname. It’s done out of fondness and brotherly love. How can something so tender and respectful and loving be disrespectful?”
“Because I don’t like it and you know I don’t like it. I’ve asked you to stop calling me that and you are disregarding my wishes… disrespecting them, if you will. It’s disrespectful because you are purposely doing something I dislike. Ass.”
“But it’s respectful to call me an Ass?”
“I call them as I see them, Sherlock.”
Sherlock huffed and flopped onto Sherringford’s bed, sprawled on his back.
“If you dirty my coverlet with your muddy boots, I will flog you.”
“That is an empty threat.”
“Are you willing to test me?”
Sherlock sighed and inched downward a bit, resting his heels on the foot board of the bed. Sherringford shook his head and removed his dark glasses, polishing the lenses on his special glasses cleaning cloth.
“That isn’t much better. Where is Mycroft? I thought you were tagging about after him today.”
“He’s out. He wouldn’t say where he was going.”
“I imagine he’s with a girl, then.”

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One of the tropes Joss Whedon returns to over and over is The Exceptional Woman. In his narratives, this is a (generally very young, very physically small) woman who is the best ever at what she does without having to really work at it. It’s either a natural talent, or an unnatural one forced upon her against her will… sometimes painfully. On the one hand, you have your Willow Rosenbergs and Kaylee Fryes, and Skye (no last name)s who may work at something but don’t need to work THAT hard because they are NATURALLY GIFTED. Willow did a lot of research, but also had a vast well of world-ending power deep inside her. Kaylee could fix engines she’d never seen before, because OSMOSIS (her dad was a mechanic, it rubbed off on her). Skye does a lot of computer work, but has never had to seriously study anything seriously, or even finish high school. Naturally talented! Gifted! Effortlessly amazing! On the other hand you have your Buffy Summers and your River Tams, cruelly manipulated and forced into something they didn’t want to be, by the actions of old men. Unnaturally gifted, they don’t have to work for what they have either. Sure, early series Giles is always bugging Buffy to practice and study strategy and be serious, but over and over we were shown that she doesn’t need to.

Joss Whedon is often lauded as Feminist, and as good for women. His shows, especially “Buffy,” are considered girl-positive. And it’s honestly rare to see decently developed female characters on tv. But the way Whedon persists in displaying women and their abilities is harmful to women.

Why do I say this?

It’s rare for women to be recognized as experts in their field, even in women-centric discussions like Feminism or in traditionally women-centric fields of employment like teaching or nursing. As Ben Barres has famously pointed out, people react differently to scientific research, to facts and figures and provable results, based on the gender (or perceived gender) of the person publishing the work. It’s why Kim O’Grady only got callbacks on his resume after he added “Mr” to his name. It’s why a man who admitted to attempted murder and “accidental” rape was one of the paid spokespersons for Feminism for years. Patriarchal society accepts that men are superior to women, and that it’s rare for women to be in positions of power or authority, to be good at what they do, because they just are innately inferior. Patriarchal society accepts that men and women simply think differently and that the way women think (and speak and socialize and budget their time and spend their money etc) is inferior to the way men think (and all the rest). Patriarchal society accepts that a handful of women will be super exceptional and naturally gifted and will rise to the top, proving their natural worth, but the rest of women are just inferior or lazy or stupid or too busy shopping for shoes or whatever to do the same.

So when a Big Name in media, someone lauded as Feminist, routinely portrays only Exceptional Women Who Are Naturally Gifted, it buys into the established myth that most women are mundane but some select and glorious few are ~~SPECIAL~~ and ~~GIFTED~~ and ~~DESERVING~~. And it reinforces the narrative that while it’s accepted and normal for men to work hard and get ahead, to study martial arts or science or tactics or wood working or whatever to become successful, the same isn’t true for women. The only really acceptable way to be a stand out woman, a central character, is to have The Hand Of God marking you as innately special and gifted. And that means it’s ok and normal and routine for men to be experts and leaders 95% of the time, because most women just can’t cut it.

It’s a way of both putting women on a pedestal (so special! so exceptional! so naturally gifted!) while also putting limits on them (no need to try to work hard or study or practice, you’ve got it or you don’t). It’s a way of establishing unrealistic role models and goals. It’s a way of dismissing most women and their experiences.

It really sucks.

And it’s harmful.

(NB: I have not discussed “Dollhouse” at all because I found the show deeply, deeply creepy and did not watch it.)

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Niko’s gotten interested in “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic” or as he calls it, “I Love You Pony.” He’s very taken with the show and talks about how the ponies are his friends. He’s renamed various stuffed animals as Pinky Pie (his favorite), Rainbow Dash, Applejack, and Inky Dinky (his own made up pony character, who is a lizard) and sometimes we play Ponies. The show is ostensibly about friendship, and each show wraps up with an explicit discussion of the lesson learned in that show, usually one about friendship or respect or generally not being an asshole.

Sounds good, right?

But actually it’s not.

The show models a lot of negative behavior that’s only resolved at the very end. So there’s 5 minutes of positive verbal addressing of the negative behavior, and 16 minutes of demonstrating negative behavior before then. The main focus is on the negative behavior, that’s what’s given the most attention, that’s what’s modeled for the kids. Kids who watch shows that model negative behavior with a positive ending focus overwhelmingly on the negative behavior. They act on what’s modeled. As most parents and caregivers know, “do as I say and not as I do” doesn’t really work.

I’m not really loving “My Little Pony.” Too much negative behavior is displayed, and the ending lesson generally feels overly prescriptive and too sugary sweet. It’s a lesson, and we know it’s a lesson.

So what show does my judgmental ass approve of?

I really like “Dinosaur Train.” When we first started watching it, I made fun of the show’s premise. It feels like such a marketing thing, you know? Just shoving together two things kids like: dinosaurs, and trains. Woo, hop on that merchandizing bandwagon! But the show fundamentally works. It follows 4 siblings (one of whom is adopted) and their parents and friends as they travel around studying other dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures. The kids play together really well, address and solve interpersonal issues quickly and fairly, and demonstrate great interpersonal skills and problem solving… including shutting down bullying. The parents are involved in their lives, including the dad who is kind of goofy but not because he’s a guy, because he’s a goofy character. He’s really involved and competent as a parent. Social messages in the show are delivered subtly and consistently throughout an episode instead of broadcast at the end.

“Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” is another good one. The social skills messages are more overt, since that’s the purpose of the show and it’s aimed at younger kids. But the messages are integrated and positive behavior is modeled throughout the entire show instead of being spoken about briefly at the end. Again, there’s rich involvement from male parents and guardians.

“Sid the Science Kid” also integrates positive interpersonal skills. The kids might argue or disagree, but it’s done so in a positive and constructive manner and quickly resolved. Sid’s dad is active, involved, and competent at parenting and the show makes an effort at showing a wide range of ethnicities and cultures as a norm and also emphasizing women’s role in STEM fields. There’s a big focus on critical thinking and working together and that’s again woven through the entire show and not just tacked on at the end.

It’s not a coincidence that these shows are all 1) on PBS and 2) relatively recent shows. I think there’s going to be a bigger push, at least for little kids’ programming, to get child psychologists involved in designing and writing the shows. There’s growing awareness of how kids consume media, and what they do and do not pick up on. As parents and guardians we are gatekeepers for what our kids consume. I don’t think occasional episodes of MLP or Scooby Doo or whatever will ruin a kid forever. But I do think that part of my job as a parent is to discuss things Niko watches with him. So, for instance, the last time he watched a MLP episode, I had to discuss with him how most people are terrible at things when they try them the first time but that if you work hard you’ll get good at it… a direct contradiction to the episode’s focus on being naturally gifted at things and great the first time one turns one’s hand at something new.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

“Logo for Daniel Tigers Neighborhood”

I had no idea how much of an impact “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” had on me until “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” a spin off of the PBS classic, aired. The main character, Daniel Tiger, is the son of Daniel Striped Tiger and some other tiger woman. The other characters are the offspring of original Magical Land of Make Believe puppets, and the aged-up original cast. Instead of puppets, though, the characters are animated in a paper cutout/CGI style that I’m afraid is going to look very dated very soon. The transition from exterior to interior, and from one room to another, already look like cut scenes from older video and computer games.

The theme of the show is emotions. What do you do with negative emotions? What do you do when you’re disappointed or sad? Or scared? How do you handle new things? Daniel Tiger and his mother/other adults/friends travel to different new places (a bakery, a doctor, a school) and talk through what they can expect and what actually happens. It feels similar to Mr Roger’s original show, but kind of… reduced? Simplified?

Niko assured me several times while watching the show that he liked it. “Oh, I like this show,” he said. “Oh, this is a good show.” “Mama, this is the show that I like.” He especially likes when Daniel Tiger says “Ugga Mugga,” he thinks it’s hilarious.

Niko doesn’t usually respond when the tv asks him something. When Dora the Explora or the creepy floating kids on “Super Why” turn their blank, soulless eyes to the viewer and ask a question and then pause for an extended period of time, he says nothing. He just ignores it. When Daniel Tiger asks if anyone wants to “imagine with him” or “visit a bakery with him” or “decorate a cake with him” or etc, Niko answers. He says “No,” but he answers.

My one complaint about the show is that Lady Elaine Fairchilde is historically pretty ugly. She had a big nose and chin and terrible hair and a frumpy red dress. In the cartoon, she’s slender and attractive with a stylish hair cut. I loved ugly Lady Elaine Fairchilde and am disappointed she’s been given a make over. Less-than-beautiful people on tv make me feel better about my own less-than-beautiful bits. But maybe this isn’t the real Lady Elaine Fairchilde but a cousin or daughter or something? I’m not sure.

Her kid is cute as hell, though.

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Kind of an info dump here, a lot of unrelated things.

1) I “cut” my foot but really what probably happened is that my feet are really really dry and my foot cracked. It hurts and I’m trying not to walk on it too much because that stretches the crack/cut. It’s possible I stepped on a bit of broken glass or something and didn’t feel it when it happened, because my feet are really calloused up and I don’t always feel when they’re cut. So people ask me a lot if I have diabetes/neuropathy (because I am all OH GOD I CUT MY FOOT OH THE PAIN THE PAIN because I am a big whiny baby). I don’t. I used to dance competitively and my feet are coated in fleshy armor. Most likely my feet just cracked, but I’m embarrassed to say that for some reason, so I stick with the “cut it and didn’t realize it” story even though it leads to Diabetes questions. I have no idea why having dry cracked feet embarrasses me.

2) This should probably have been my lede as it will no doubt interest people a lot more than my stupid foot. I’ve been re-reading all the Amber books (yay!) which I haven’t read in, oh, ten years or so. This despite having been in an Amber game that lasted about a decade (literally). Anyway, I fell in love with the series all ver again, for all that much of the writing is very clunky and inconsistent and Oh, The Sexism (which does get better with time, but never gets, you know, great). I want to run an Amber game set in the version of Amber that’s grown up around Corwin’s Pattern. This world is essentially a Fantasy/Idealized 1920s France filled with Jules Verne shit, jazz music, and tasty food. It has its own version of the Courts of Chaos (which I am leaning towards making kind of Fairy Like complete with different Courts), and many of Corwin’s offspring don’t know about Amber. Or about his son Merlin. The hook of the game is that Shadows are disappearing/being destroyed and the players (the youngest adult children, all with Pattern) need to figure out why.

3) I have PCOS and lately I have been trying to limit my intake of refined carbohydrates (bread, all things that are good). So I wake up in the morning, declare to myself that I’m going to cut back, then eat nothing but toast all day. Today I woke up and had a bowl of oatmeal. I’m eating chili for lunch. We’ll see how the day plays out. I LOVE BREAD SO MUCH YOU GUYS.

4) I once again submitted an application for medical benefits/SNAP. This will be my fourth application in less than a year. We qualify like woah and since we are in a new fiscal year perhaps they won’t simply ignore the applications this time around. Wish me luck. It’s becoming really obvious that I need to get back on Welbutrin and that the generic stuff is not cutting it.

5) We finished watching “Life on Mars” which I really liked (the UK version) and now are working our way through “Ashes to Ashes” which I don’t like as much for a number of reasons including the main character (and I’m struggling to figure out of that is internalized misogyny on my part or not) and the many many times she’s reduced to a figure for The Male Gaze. Drake seems less of a main character than Tyler did, and Guv seems more of a presence, more of a character (as opposed to a Rival Force or whatever). I still like it a lot, though.

6) I also watched “Elviria: Mistress of the Dark.” My God I love that movie. I want to do a comic that combines the basic plot of Elvira (campy horror movie hostess inherits house and magic in conservative small town) and “Life on Mars” (she also is in the past).

7) If you’re on Dreamwidth, I’m “Brigid” on there.

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Despite what the commercials claim, dieting isn’t going to fix all your problems.

No, joining weight watchers isn’t going to prevent jerks from slamming into your desk and spilling coffee all over your shirt. Nor will joining weight watchers prevent rain from falling from the sky and getting you wet.

I just… what?

Dieting isn’t some magic fix that will repair everything that’s wrong with your life.

Also, if you are an adult, don’t be surprised if a child’s size chair is too small for you. No amount of Special K magical special diets will turn an adult’s butt into a child’s butt.

Adults and children are different sizes. Children are smaller than adults. Yes, there are especially large children and especially small adults, but in general, child-sized things are child-sized because children are smaller than adults.

As baffling as the weight watcher’s commercial was (seriously? coffee spills can be solved by losing weight? only fat people spill coffee when jerks bang into them? rain, which once fell on the just and unjust alike, now targets fatties?), the Special K commercial seems more harmful. There’s the push to shrink female bodies, to reduce them to non-adult sizes. There’s existing rhetoric about how dieting mentality infantalizes women by removing their ability to chose what to eat, that dieting mentality punishes women for defying the ideal feminine norm and growing hips and butts and breasts (you know, secondary sexual signs). But now the message is coming clear: adult women are fucking hose beast lard bags if they don’t fit neatly into furniture scaled for children. Women: they need to remain child like and child sized or they are useless and terrible and need to be fixed. Adult women: there is something wrong with them.

The hell?

Note also that both commercials show conventionally attractive women who do not appear fat, or even chubby, and who have children. Ahh, true womanhood. Hot and fertile.

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Since having a baby I’ve spent a LOT more time watching really damn boring and frequently offensive daytime tv. I was watching “The View” today while cuddling a very cranky post-vaccine baby when Justin Long came on as guest to promote his new movie “Drag me to Hell.” “Drag me to Hell” is a simply HILARIOUS movie about a woman who is cursed by a disgusting, toothless, greedy Gypsy. Oh ho ho! Those Gypsies! They are almost human! Look at how ugly and backwards they are, tossing about their magical demonic curses! In fact, they are so non-human that most reviews don’t even bother to capitalize the “G” in “Gypsy.” Well, you know. It’s not like gypsies can READ or anything. Well, anything other than chicken entrails. HAW HAW HAW it sure is fun to mock a frequently maligned minority and set them up as the constant villain! Then, of course, there’s also the question of why Long was featured as a guest since apparently he does next to nothing in the movie.

While interviewing him, someone (Whoopi?) asked if he believed in curses. He says that no, of course not, he doesn’t! But he was raised Catholic (lolcatholiclol) and they have ALL SORTS of curses! Uh… what? Seriously? What flavor of Catholicism would that be? Because I was raised Roman Catholic, went to religious schools and everything, and I don’t remember any mention of curses. I have to admit, that caught me by surprise; I was waiting for some cannibalism or vampire joke (loltransubstantiationlol) so the whole “hot bed of curses” allegation really came out of left field.

Of course none of this was questioned. Because Gypsies aren’t a real group of people; they are fantasy caricatures who toss off curses left and right and are non-Christian and animalistic and ugly and thus it’s totally valid to have them be the odious villain. And I’m not trying to claim that Catholics are sooooo discriminated against, OMG you guys, you just don’t UNDERSTAND what it’s like to be a persecuted religious minority! But seriously. Curses? I don’t really get people who mock Catholicism in that way (because dudes, there is so much that deserves deriding). I would never ever EVER make fun of Judaism or Islam or most sects of Christianity and claim they are all about the curses and crazy times. But then, maybe I’m just classier than a gaggle of douchebags on tv.

Oh, that’s scary.

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I was watching the Andy Griffith Show while trapped on the couch with a baby who can apparently only sleep when attached directly to me with both arms. Move one arm to eat or drink something and he wakes up. The sling? It is now hated. HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATED. The crib? Is obviously the devil. OBVIOUSLY. So I'm stuck with a 6 week old infant weighing me down except for when I try to grab a few scream-filled minutes to use the toilet. I'm just explaining why I didn't change the channel. I couldn't free up one hand to use the remote. It's also why I watched "Hackers," "Once Bitten," and part of "Mr Mom." It's also why I'm slightly more mush brained than I was when I woke up this morning.

Anyway, the plot of the Andy Griffith Show was that a woman had the damn silly idea that she, as a human being with the right to vote, also had the right to run for city council. Imagine that! A woman! Doing something outside the home! Griffith and the other men all roundly denounce this idea and plot how to foil her and the other women, who are rallying to her cause. Otis, the town drunk who is currently in jail for attempting to assault his wife and accidentally punching his mother in law in the mouth so hard she had to get dental care advocates punching the women concerned in the mouth. Ho ho ho! Domestic violence is fucking hilarious! Some of the other men have a different idea, however. That idea? To cut off the charge accounts at all the stores so that the women, who are dependent on men for money because they are full time housewives who don't work outside the home, cannot make purchases. The men use economic pressures to attempt to force their wives/daughters/etc, who have a legal right to vote, not to vote. Oh ho ho! Silly women! I can't for the life of me imagine why they'd want a position like city councilman!

In response the women stage a strike and refuse to... not with hold sex, but to with hold sewing and cooking and other such affairs of the home. The men are willing to put up with it, however! And fortunately Otis manages to keep from beating his wife. This time. The menfolk hold fast and continue verbally berating the women and their silly, silly ideas about independence and self worth and being full human beings who are equal to men. At least, until Opie repeats some anti-woman screed Andy had said earlier. I couldn't hear what it was because Nick chose that moment to howl, scream, and then fart loudly. If I weren't so classy, I'd have reacted to the show in the same way. Anyway, this inspires Andy to make a public speech about how it's ok if ladies run for a council seat and vote and stuff, because he realizes that his actions were making Opie "hate women" and he was afraid Opie would turn gay. Thus, he grants permission to the women to, like, take part in government and vote and stuff. Whew! Thank GOD a man was there to tell those silly women it was ok to run for a council seat, hold independent ideas, and attempt to be represented by those who make laws!

The whole time I was thinking about this episode of "Gomer Pyle USMC" I saw previously. In the episode, Sgt Carter and some of his knuckle dragging cronies decide it would be hi-larious to set Pyle up with a stripper and tell him that she was a school teacher from out of town. Pyle obviously falls for it and begins courting this woman, treating her with dignity and respect and showing off some of his interests (botany, history, looking at pretty pastoral scenes with a pretty lady) and all around being a cool guy. He never "gets fresh" or expects her to put out. It's pretty obvious he's falling for her, and she seems to like and respect him as well. Either Carter or his friends then invite Pyle to see her perform on stage. Pyle watches the show, she sees him and runs off, he goes after her. She asks if he hates her or something like that, he responds that what she does on stage is just her job and he still likes and respects her and has enjoyed the time he spent with her. He doesn't castigate her or run off in horror or judge her. He just keeps treating her with calm respect and consideration.

Imagine that. Pyle, who is usually portrayed as brain damaged, respects women and the choices they make; even ones that are usually considered loose or slutty. Meanwhile, fine and upstanding law man Griffith thinks that women shouldn't bother their pretty little heads with things like making laws or voting or, you know, thinking.