Much Ado About Shakespeare

-by Gabrielle Friesen, student staff

Over the course of high school I had to read Romeo and Juliet three times. We watched two different movies, and from elementary school to freshman year of college, I interacted with at least ten of Shakespeare’s works during school. The Tempest once, Hamlet twice, Othello twice, as a book and a film. My general opinion on this trend falls basically between, fuck Shakespeare, or fuck the school system that decides what we should be taught.

I know, I know: Shakespeare is one of the greats, pivotal for modern literature, he made Great Art, etc. etc. etc. And this is not to knock people who like Shakespeare, love him with your entire heart if you want. I just personally have never gotten over the hurt of high school, part of which stemmed from what we read or didn’t read in class.

Continue reading

The Last of Us: Moral Grey Areas and Repetition of Narrative

by Gabrielle Friesen, student staff

-trigger warning for discussion of scenes of violence against women of color

The videogame the Last of Us has been out for a few months now (June 14th, 2013), and there’s been plenty of general and feminist discussion about it. The game is a zombie game, with the main character Joel attempting to guide Ellie, whose blood carries a potential cure, to the Fireflies, an organization who may be able to synthesize a cure from Ellie. The game does a lot of things well, and a lot of things just average. In July, Carolyn Petit wrote this great article discussing that while the game features women characters who are treated as human beings, and while this is sadly shocking, this standard should be the bare minimum narratively. Petit also points out that while game critics and reviewers have lauded The Last of Us for its women as people stance, the game nonetheless presents players with yet another “emotionally distant white male protagonist.” I too would have liked, as Petit presents in a hypothetical, for Joel’s partner Tess to have been the protagonist, with the game building up to a mother-daughter salvation narrative rather than yet another father-daughter one (which, as I will point out, there have been a lot of). But of course, Tess has to die, because, as Petit points out: “Far from subverting the typical game narrative about violent men, The Last of Us reinforces the notion that stories about men are more valuable and meaningful than stories about women, and that women are often important not so much for being fully-fledged people in their own right, but for what they–and often, what their deaths–mean to the men of the world. “

last of us

Petit’s points are all superb, but I would like to build on the article a bit, and discuss which women get to live through the narrative, as well as push Petit’s point about Joel as generic hero (so basically, if you’re reading on, you need to read that article first).

Continue reading

Monstrous Mondays – Erinyes, also called Eumenides

-by Gabrielle Friesen, student staff

The Furies were born of the blood of Ouranos, god of the sky, husband to the goddess Gaea. Gaea had borne multiple children, all monstrous – the twelve Titans, the three hundred armed giants the Hekatonkheires, and the Cyclopes. Ouranos hated his children, the Hekatonkheires, and had them imprisoned, in some versions, pushing the Hekatonkheires back into Gaea’s womb as they are born, to Gaea’s fury and despair. Gaea called upon her children to help her, but only Cronus, one of the Titans, answered her. He set a trap for his father, and castrated him, casting the severed testicles into the sea. The froth and foam caused by the testicles landing in the ocean gave birth to the goddess Aphrodite. From the specks of blood that fell upon the earth were born more monstrous children. The Giants, the ash-tree nymphs called the Meliae, and the avenging Furies called the Eryines were born from the spilt blood. Cronus then came to rule in his father’s place, until he too was deposed for his cruelty by his own son Zeus. During his rule, he re-imprisoned the Hekatonkheires and Cyclopes, but could not contain his new monstrous brethren. The Furies were left to walk upon the earth, punishing mortals who broke oaths and laws.

"Orestes wird von den Furien verfolgt" (Orestes Pursued by the Furies) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau)

“Orestes wird von den Furien verfolgt” (Orestes Pursued by the Furies) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau)

Continue reading

Monstrous Mondays – The Sirens

-by Gabrielle Friesen, student staff

(portions of this post were originally from a paper written for the class “Heroines and Heroic Traditions” in October, 2011)

The Sirens are some of the most famous monsters from Greek mythology, luring sailors to their death with song. Popularly depicted as beautiful women, sometimes mermaids, on an island, their original forms were slightly more monstrous. The sirens were among the hybrid monsters, crosses between animals and women, and were often depicted as either birds with the heads of women, or women with half-formed wings and bird feet. Their most famed appearance is in the Odyssey, attempting to lure Odysseus and his crew to their deaths with their song, crashing against the rocks of their island.

John William Waterhouse, Ulysses and the Sirens, 1891

John William Waterhouse, Ulysses and the Sirens, 1891

Continue reading

Dragons Are Fine; Queer People Cross the Line

-by Gabrielle Friesen

Skyrim sure is a game that I enjoy sometimes. The plot and setting are kind of derivative for the fantasy genre (dragons and forests and surface-level references to Norse mythology wow, amazing, never before seen), and its not particularly challenging, but I still enjoy wandering around the environment and clearing random dungeons for hours on end. I enjoy the character creation a lot – I have thirteen characters right now, it’s a bit of a problem. The game lacks character interaction and development, which are normally some of my main criteria for buying a game. Basically the game isn’t stellar, but I still enjoy it. I’m weirdly addicted to building houses and sending out my Dragonborn and their spouse to slay draugr. They have matching warhammers, it’s cute.

And, hey! That’s cool! A game with marriage as a mechanic that allows same-sex marriage too! Great? Sort of. Skyrim takes a stab at inclusivity with the ability to marry any of the available love interests, which is nice, that they added in marriage and didn’t just restrict it to straight marriage. But that’s as far as the game goes. It very much takes the real-world stance that marriage access equals equality, and promptly stops trying to integrate same-sex attraction on any further level, even though straightness is embedded far deeper in the game in places other than the marriage function.

Photo from elderscrolls.wikia.com

Marriage Ceremony at the Temple of Mara from elderscrolls.wikia.com
Text Reads: Maramal: We gather here today, under Mara’s loving gaze, to bear witness to the union of two souls in eternal companionship.

Continue reading

Pacific Rim Made Me Smile; The Movie Trailers Beforehand Made Me Seethe in Rage

-by Gabrielle Friesen, student staff

Edit additions added on 8/05/13

Pacific Rim is a really great movie about robots punching monsters, and you should really go see it. In the second scene of the movie, it looks like yet another generic Hollywood action film. One white guy growls to another white guy something about muscles while piloting a giant robot suit. This generic opening is brilliant though, in that it shows what the movie could have been: another dumb white-dude centric action movie. But the movie quickly moves away from that, not only injecting soul into what at first glance was a generic action archetype, but reversing almost every stupid Hollywood action movie trend throughout the rest of the film.

Spoilders

Continue reading

Monstrous Mondays – The Amphisbaena Serpent

by Gabrielle Friesen, student staff

A two-headed serpent, with one head at the end of it’s tail, born from the blood of Medusa after she was slain, part of the tradition of monster blood begetting more monsters. It was born in Libya (although ancient texts often used Libya to refer to all of Africa) as Perseus flew over it on Pegasus, and blood dripped from the head he was clutching. The Serpent is also called the Mother of Ants, although because she eats them, not gives birth to them. When Cato the Younger’s army marched through Libya, during the Roman civil war against Caesar they supposedly encountered the serpent, which fed on the corpses the army left behind.

“The Amphisbaina (Amphisbaena) is a snake with two head, one at the top and one in the direction of the tail. When it advances, as need for a forward movement impels it, it leaves one end behind to serve as tail, while the other it uses as a head. Then again if it wants to move backwards, it uses the two heads in exactly the opposite manner from what it did before.” (Aelian, On Animals 9. 23)

Amphisbaena

Continue reading