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Some thoughts on Twilight:

Twilight creeps me out. Like, seriously. I knew basically nothing about the phenomenon when I watched the first movie; I had seen the books in bookstores and thought they had very dramatic-looking covers, and I had seen posters for the movie all around London and thought the tagline was adorably ridiculous. I knew it had something to do with vampires and looked really cheesy, so I watched it with my mother when she came to visit me one day. We found it entertainingly silly - so much drama! - but I was entirely unaware of the whole romanticizing-abusive-stalkerish-behaviour theme or how it was so incredibly popular or anything about it, really. So you can imagine my shock when I'm expecting to see a silly teen romance and instead get a boy sneaking in to a girl's room and watching her sleep at night.

Since then, I have sought out all news articles, feminist/social-justice-oriented blog entries, academic works, and really any discourse I can find on Twilight - from both positive and negative perspectives - although I can't bring myself to actually read the books or watch any of the other movies. I've thought far more than is good for me about many Twilight-related issues: the often-crossed line between hating Twilight for its reactionary politics and hating Twilight because it's a series liked by young girls (and of course we couldn't possibly take girls' desires seriously), or about the way it is marketed as dark and edgy, or the way it comprises a transnational "media mix" text similar to the Japanese ones I am studying, or how anyone could possibly find Robert Pattinson attractive. But the issues that come up most frequently, and honestly are the most interesting, are discussions about the disturbing romance between Bella and Edward and the question of why Twilight is popular when it glorifies such a disturbing relationship. How can girls who have been brought up to value equality and anti-sexist ideals find a relationship like Bella and Edward's romantic? Is it a backlash against those ideals? Is it a loud wake-up call that we in fact never did bring up girls to value those ideals in the first place?

But then I remember what appealed to me as a girl in my early teens. Some of the things I loved I continue to think were awesome; Cynthia Voigt's book 'Elske' was maybe my favourite, and I still think it has one of the most sophisticated presentations of feminist thought of any fictional book I have come across. I loved Susan Cooper's 'The Dark is Rising' sequence, which I found rather dull upon a rereading a couple years ago, but was certainly well-written and had some awesome moments. I loved Robin McKinley's 'The Blue Sword', which I seem to remember was a fascinating book. I didn't really watch TV and I wasn't a huge movie person at that time, so it was mostly young adult fantasy books that had my attention.

Oh, and Phantom of the Opera.

I was completely, totally, over-the-top addicted to the musical of Phantom of the Opera. Like nothing you would believe (except those of you who knew me at the time). Back when I had a tape player, it was for quite awhile my only tape, and I would listen to the entire soundtrack all the way through at least three times a day. I thought the music was beautiful, and I thought it was the most romantic story I had ever heard.

Honestly, I still love Phantom. I'm listening to it now, and the music moves me in a way very few other albums can. I saw it in London last year with Jonathon, and I was completely blown away. The moment I have enough money, I intend to see it in London again. Nothing has quite the same romantic gothic drama as Phantom, and obviously nothing else has the same personal nostalgic value to me.

But in terms of creepy romance? Yeah. The Phantom has Edward Cullen beat by a long shot, I think. Maybe he's not secretly dying to eat Christine, but when we're talking creepy stalkerish abusive behaviour, there is no question that the Phantom qualifies. But my younger self did not really register the seriously problematic elements here; I saw the story as a deep, passionate romance between Christine and the Phantom, with that annoying Raoul always getting in the way of their true love. The fact that the Phantom kidnaps Christine and regularly threatens her so that she feels unsafe wherever she goes didn't really seem like much of a problem to me. That I saw it that way freaks me out immensely now that I look back on it, but it really just didn't even come to my mind at the time.

Comparing the two stories is kind of interesting to me; on one hand, Phantom seems a lot worse than Twilight, because Christine actually is *not* in love with the Phantom, making my whole 'oh but they should really be together!' sentiments doubly creepy because they are lacking that crucial element of consent. And the Phantom is genuinely unmistakably abusive and cruel, as opposed to bordering on being those things, as I understand Edward to be. On the other hand, you could interpret it the other way around; while Twilight is unquestionably portraying a romance between Edward and Bella, Phantom ultimately has Christine go off with a man who loves her and is not creepy and abusive, and the Phantom's behaviour is obviously wrong, if romantically tragic.

But I suppose what really gets me is the similarity between the two romances. And what disturbs me is not only that young girls today are considering unhealthy relationships to be romantic (too often a sentiment that falls into an overly paternalistic attitude towards fans), but that *I myself* felt the same way when I was in that age group. It's easy to accuse Stephanie Meyer of glorifying unhealthy relationships, and I think there is value in that; if people wouldn't write irresponsible shit, people wouldn't read it. But I also wonder why so many young girls turn to stories like these. I don't think Twilight really represents anything new (except perhaps in areas such as young female internet-based fandom); I think it is an exaggerated example of a current that has existed for awhile. And I wonder what young girls are going through that makes this resonate with them. I feel that there must be something in our society that drives us to this messed up sense of romance during our teenage years, but I don't know what it is, or how I got from thinking the Phantom and Christine had the most beautiful love story ever to thinking it's a story about a fucked up man and the person he stalks set to really, really pretty music.

I guess what I'm saying is, I would like to hear more talk about why this disturbing relationship model is popular, rather than why Twilight in particular is popular, or how Twilight portrays a disturbing relationship model. I don't have any answers, these are just some of my thoughts on this cold wintry day!

Bitching time!

I've started to feel so upset at everything, it is not healthy. I've been trying to keep myself "educated" by reading tons of news sites and blogs whenever I have free time (this also makes up for my total lack of anything resembling a social life), but it is SO FRUSTRATING. I already knew that one has no place in American political discourse if one is anything other than a crazy religious idiot or a secular/moderately religious humanist. Of course, I prefer the secular/moderately religious humanists, but at this point, I disagree so much with basic principles of humanism that reading progressive commentary makes me more angry than anything else.

It's like liberals are doing all the right things for all the wrong reasons (with the exception of health care reform, which is the right thing for the right reason). Yes, abortion is crucial - but NOT because it's an individual's choice to do what they want with their bodies. Yes, religious freedom is important, but NOT because religion is a personal choice that no one else has a right to disagree with. Yes, gay rights are important, but NOT because sexual orientation is some essential identity everyone is born with.

I just wish people would get away from these ideas of choice and identity entirely, but it seems so thoroughly ingrained in our political discourse that not only are we worlds away from getting away from it, people can't even imagine progressive politics without it.

Like queer identities. I can't tell you the number of times I've seen little definitions of the word 'queer' on various blogs where they include, amongst the many other meanings it has, the philosophical belief that sexual orientation is fluid. And this is presented and discussed as if it were just another identity, just like gay or straight - oh, you're queer, that means your identity is fluid (of course, usually with the implicit connotations that you are somehow less mature because you haven't settled on an identity yet). I'm sorry, but the idea that sexual orientation is fluid does not mean that my sexual orientation is fluid, it means your concept of identity is problematic. Don't you dare subsume it into your model of identity just because it messes with your mind or politics too much.

Also, the occasional moments where ideas like postmodernism or social constructionism are presented, they are so full of wrongness it is painful to read. I made the mistake of leafing through Riki Wilchin's 'Queer Theory, Gender Theory' the other day, and god, that book is AWFUL. Going on about how discourse leaves us in a world where 'resistance is futile', we are completely determined by our surroundings and have no hope of escape or change.

Really? 'Cause, ya know, I was pretty sure it did the exact opposite. Like, give us hope for change and allow us to truly shape our environment in a way that the concept of a solid, immutable self never could.

It's no wonder that people have such ridiculous ideas of these concepts when they only get interpretations that are so watered-down as to be completely wrong.

The underlying problem with all of this is a shallow multiculturalist worldview that can't handle any serious, difficult challenges. And that is scary in and of itself; if someone suggests something that is actually controversial, it is seen as too dangerous, too much moving towards that slppery slope. But we are always on dangerous ground, always moving towards that slippery slope, and we need to be asking ourselves difficult questions, painful questions that are just on that verge of what our minds and spirits can take. We can't get so stuck in one worldview that nothing else is even allowed to be considered.

Okay, that was a long rant, but I was in need of a good bitching session.

i'm back home with my skyscrapers and crowded subways! yay! and as i was coming out of the station, i met ben and jeff and anika so i had a nice dinner with them, also yay!

but, i returned to find that nice simple musashi-sakai station has been transformed into some ludicrous maze-like entity that involves many stairs. growl.

and, on top of that, next to icu's huge hideous glowing cross is now a huge hideous glowing christmas tree. it has disgusting colored lights and some star on the top and it's not even the right kind of tree! and to make it even worse, it's NOT SYMMETRICAL! the whole pathway up to icu is perfectly symmetrical, trees lining both sides and then a big circular path and the hideous cross right at the end. but now off to the left side is this enormous glowing tree, which not only looks awful but throws off the whole thing! aaggh! icu, you fail at having anything resembling taste.

and that is my thoroughly pointless rant for the evening.

for a change of pace, the final photos of my kyoto trip:
pictures of tofukujiCollapse )
today i went to fushimi-inari shrine with lorna! it couldn't have been better - awesome shrine, awesome weather, and awesome lorna. ^_^ lorna, i hope you come to tokyo sometime when i'm actually there!

it's always been my dream to go to fushimi-inari, i've seen it in movies and such, so it was so cool to actually get to go. and it lived up to all expectations! we had a nice stroll through the long lines of bright red torii, and then wandered off on a little path which took us through a gorgeous forest on the edge of the shrine. it was very peaceful-feeling.

only a few pictures this time, really!Collapse )

lorna directed me to a street called teramachi-dori, which is a big shopping street that very much reminded me of kichijouji's sun road. oh, what will i do without shopping streets when i go back to america? ;_; but, the best thing was finding kyoto metamorphose, which i just had to go in... and i'm very glad i did! the girl working there was so nice, she just came up and started giving me her sales pitch in japanese, no "nihongo ga dekimasu ka?" or trying to talk to me in english or simply ignoring me like most salespeople do, she just talked to me as if i would understand, and we ended up having a pretty fun conversation. she pushed me to try on this ADORABLE coat, which was too small, and a jumper skirt and a skirt in the same pattern, which were also too small... the bad thing was, i was almost considering actually buying one if it did fit, which would have been very bad of me. but it was so cute! ohhh, i wish i was as small as a japanese person!
i'm in kyoto and i feel fine!!!! and tomorrow i see lorna! (oh wow, it's been way too long!)

fifty billion pictures with ramblings about my vacation thus farCollapse )

Nov. 23rd, 2006

well, i was feeling kinda down today... there's something a little lonely about spending thanksgiving entirely on your own. i think in the future when i'm not with other people on holidays i need to go out somewhere... i was so exhausted from nikko yesterday that i didn't leave my room at all today, and i think that was a mistake. but, there seems to be plans for a late thanksgiving dinner for tomorrow, so yay!

but anyway, i had an awesome time yesterday! we went to nikko, which is quite a far ways away from tokyo, and is famous for its beautiful scenery and temples and shrines and whatnot. we were cheap and didn't take the fancy-dancy bus tour, so we didn't see a lot of the famous waterfalls or onsen, but we saw a lot of absolutely gorgeous scenery and we had lots of fun, so i don't feel like i missed anything.

i was peer-pressured into posting most of these pics on facebook, but for those of you who don't have facebook/want an explanation, here they are: nikko!Collapse )

i must say, though, as much as i enjoy visiting places like that, i am definitely a city girl. waiting for the train home it was only 7 and EVERYTHING was closed, not a conbini or a starbucks in sight, forget neon lights or designer clothing stores... ack! why would one ever want to commune with nature when you could buy things instead?! ^_^;

please help me!

i really need your help, people!

okay, so i'm trying to do this report on self-esteem in young people, and it occurred to me that it would be really really helpful if i had some sort of data of my own on it. but there's a bit of a problem with this: i'm presenting on tuesday so i really don't have time to draw up a real survey and put it in people's mailboxes or whatever. so, of course, i come to you all!

the comments are screened and of course you can post anonymously if you would feel more comfortable with that. also, please feel free to elaborate as much as you want on the answers! they can be answered with just a yes or a no, but more information is very welcome.

as you can tell by my very shallow, broad questions and the fact that i'm doing this mainly over lj, this isn't supposed to be some scientifically accurate survey or anything like that - it's just to get an idea of what some young people would say about their self-esteem.

please do this for me!

surveyCollapse )
so guess who spent the afternoon at the ghibli museum?!

*sings* tonari no totoro, totoro...Collapse )

now i think i'm gonna take it easy for a few days and stop running around everywhere. -_-


i can't decide if i love it here or hate it here. half of me wants to leave right now and never set foot in this country again, and the other half of me thinks this is the best time i've had in my life. yay for being confused?

in other news, new layout! lj doesn't seem to be letting me choose any of my own colors for things, so for now i'm stuck with the color schemes they have, but this is very pretty so it's all good.

today was shoko's birthday, so we took her out to eat at a yummy italian restaurant... i'm so glad i have such friendly roommates. but they're trying to convince me and sou-sou to try out the ofuro (public bath, which we have in global house), and i'm very nervous about this... i am not comfortable being naked in front of other people, period. not even people i'm screwing. so i'm definitely not comfortable being naked in front of my roommates in a tiny ofuro. but this is an important experience and very much a part of traditional japanese life (and not traditional as well, because shoko and yoko use it all the time) and i know i need to try it. meh.

anyway, i went to senso-ji in asakusa the other day! it was my first time out in tokyo by myself, which was a little nerve-wracking but overall very fun. senso-ji is essentially a big tourist attraction but is supposed to be a temple to kannon. i went for my philosophy and religion in japan midterm paper... we were told to go to some religious site and spend several hours there observing and/or participating in what goes on, and write a paper about what we observe. i thought this was a pretty awesome requirement for a midterm, because it's both very fun and very educational. so, i spent about 3 hours there (not very long, really) and took about 100 pictures and wrote 4 pages of notes, and i'm not sure i actually "learned" a lot, but i certainly became very curious about a lot of what i saw. i'm actually excited about doing more research to find out exactly what it was i saw!

senso-jiCollapse )

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