The Orange Feather

220,275 notes

WHY DO THEY ALWAYS SLICE THEIR PALM TO GET BLOOD. do you know how many nerve endings are in your hand?!?! why don’t they ever cut the back of their arm or their leg or something omfg

me everytime a character in a movie has to get a few drops of their blood for some ritual bullshit  (via jtoday)

WHILE WE’RE AT IT, why do people try to cross those skinny bridges over lava/chasms/whatever by walking upright. IT’S CALLED CENTER OF GRAVITY. get on your hands and knees and crawl across that thing. HUG IT. SCOOT YOUR BUTT ACROSS. “but i look stupid!” lalalala but we’ll avoid that ~dramatic moment~ where you almost fall over and die because your damn fucking self wanted to look COOL

(via jtoday)

and stop yanking IV lines out of your arms the minute you wake up in the hospital 

(via panconkiwi)

That is a broadsword, why are you fencing with it

(via gallifrey-feels)

There is a freaking door right there. Stop smashing through windows, damn it.

(via intheforestofthenight)

yes, mr. action hero, I am aware that running dramatically from the baddies at breakneck speed is important, but know what else is important? NOT GETTING SHOT. RUN IN A FUCKING ZIGZAG PATTERN ON THE OFF CHANCE THAT THE MOOKS WERE NOT COACHED IN MARKSMANSHIP BY THE IMPERIAL STORMTROOPERS.

(via pterriblepterodactyls)

Oh, hey, you there, sneaky hero-type breaking into any place for any reason? WEAR SOME FUCKING GLOVES. They’re called fingerprints, dumbass. You have them and you’re putting them all over the fucking place.

(via dawnpuppet)

If something really fucking huge is falling on you, don’t FUCKING RUN ALONG THE LENGTH JUST TAKE LIKE TWO FUCKING STEPS TO THE SIDE

(via takshammy)

wEAR A FUCKING HELMET OBERYN YOU LITTLE SHIT

(via brigwife)

(via gingerychef)

36,515 notes

cognitivedissonance:

elwynbrooks:

betterbemeta:

the-exercist:

lindsaylohansmugshot:

the-exercist:

fitblrholics:

If you look at the ingredients list and it’s a bunch of words you don’t even know… neither does your body (x)

Just like if you break apples and grapefruit down into their chemical components, I’m willing to bet that most people wouldn’t recognize the “ingredients” either. It’s a bunch of words you don’t even know:

Don’t use these scare tactics - Chemicals aren’t inherently bad. Literally everything is made up chemicals. Trust me, your body knows what niacin is. It knows how to digest fructose and calcium sulfate. Even if you only consume the most basic and “real” foods that are pulled directly off the vine, you’re still ingesting a series of chemical compounds that you probably can’t pronounce. That’s okay. 

Despite that, there’s a difference between eating natural chemicals and artificially produced chemicals and you can’t really dispute that natural ingredients are better for you

Yes I can.
Arsenic is a naturally occurring element that is present within many whole foods, yet it can kill you if ingested in significant doses. Poison ivy is natural, but it sure gives people a nasty rash. Peanuts are natural, but a solid percentage of the population is deathly allergic to them. Asparagus berries can make you incredibly sick. Even just looking at the example given in the first post, we have to consider apple seeds - They contain a small amount of amygdalin, which is a cyanogenic glycoside. It is very possible to eat enough seeds to cause a fatal overdose.
Compare it to artificial chemicals like the fluoride complex that is added into many water systems in order to prevent tooth decay. When we drink water, it’s presence is a huge benefit to the population. By the time you drink enough for the dose to hurt you, you’d already have experienced water poisoning. There’s also d-ascorbic acid, a synthetic version of vitamin C that works as an antioxidant. Don’t forget about iodized salt, which works to prevent iodine deficiencies (which effects roughly two billion people around the world and is currently the leading preventable cause of intellectual and developmental disabilities). From the first post’s example, enriched flour is the first cereal ingredient listed: This allows the consumer to get a serving of niacin, iron, folic acid and thiamin. These vitamins are a necessary part of a daily balanced diet, but if we only stuck with naturally produced foods, the average consumer would miss out on the full amount needed. This is called food fortification and it allows many people (especially those under the poverty line) to consume all their daily vitamins and minerals without overextending themselves and their budget. 
At the end of the day:
——-> “Natural” does not inherently mean “healthy” or “good.”
——-> “Artificial” does not inherently mean “bad.”
No one here is arguing that the above posted breakfast cereal is inherently and always going to be “better” for you than an apple. That would be ridiculous. But it’s also silly to say that an apple is automatically better just because it isn’t man made (which most sort of are, considering the history of orchard cultivation and grafting, but that’s for another post). What I’m saying here is that this “Chemicals are bad! Natural is good!” method of thinking is such a simplistic and dumbed-down way of looking at food. Don’t label foods as good or bad for everyone just because your eyes glaze over at any ingredient list longer than two syllables. 
Use technology and medical advances to your advantage! You don’t have to blindly eat what you find in nature anymore. We’re beyond that stage of civilization - Don’t let science frighten you. 

And to go even further with the “some people are inherently allergic to peanuts” stuff, by erasing everything we have learned about foods like their chemical composition, people are at risk. Not just for death, but for quality of life— My girlfriend has a fructose malabsorbtion problem and some fruits and vegetables make her ill. However, she CAN eat these foods to some capacity: in some cases, cooking can break down the fructose into glucose enough to tip the threshold for where she gets sick. In other cases, she can eat them if she eats an equal amount of other food. 
But if she doesn’t know what’s in each food she eats, she is at risk of getting sick— even for days afterward. What are the most common culprits? Not high-fructose corn syrup, which is almost always clearly marked on our handy Nutrition Facts.
It’s unmarked fruit juice, sometimes listed under “natural flavors” or “fruit sugar” or “natural sweetening” as a sweetener in items that proudly proclaim “All-natural!” or “Chemical-free!”
Another culprit is sometimes honey, which actually has nearly the same composition as high-fructose corn syrup. Maple sugar can be risky as well.
By not identifying that these things are in fact made of molecules, which have effects on the human body, harm is done to real people. All for the fantasy that things produced by a plant or a bee are magically better or aren’t made of matter or something else inane.


Chemical =/= carcinogen
Please recognise chemophobia and destroy it

I love everything about this.

cognitivedissonance:

elwynbrooks:

betterbemeta:

the-exercist:

lindsaylohansmugshot:

the-exercist:

fitblrholics:

If you look at the ingredients list and it’s a bunch of words you don’t even know… neither does your body (x)

Just like if you break apples and grapefruit down into their chemical components, I’m willing to bet that most people wouldn’t recognize the “ingredients” either. It’s a bunch of words you don’t even know:

image

Don’t use these scare tactics - Chemicals aren’t inherently bad. Literally everything is made up chemicals. Trust me, your body knows what niacin is. It knows how to digest fructose and calcium sulfate. Even if you only consume the most basic and “real” foods that are pulled directly off the vine, you’re still ingesting a series of chemical compounds that you probably can’t pronounce. That’s okay. 

Despite that, there’s a difference between eating natural chemicals and artificially produced chemicals and you can’t really dispute that natural ingredients are better for you

Yes I can.

Arsenic is a naturally occurring element that is present within many whole foods, yet it can kill you if ingested in significant doses. Poison ivy is natural, but it sure gives people a nasty rash. Peanuts are natural, but a solid percentage of the population is deathly allergic to them. Asparagus berries can make you incredibly sick. Even just looking at the example given in the first post, we have to consider apple seeds - They contain a small amount of amygdalin, which is a cyanogenic glycoside. It is very possible to eat enough seeds to cause a fatal overdose.

Compare it to artificial chemicals like the fluoride complex that is added into many water systems in order to prevent tooth decay. When we drink water, it’s presence is a huge benefit to the population. By the time you drink enough for the dose to hurt you, you’d already have experienced water poisoning. There’s also d-ascorbic acid, a synthetic version of vitamin C that works as an antioxidant. Don’t forget about iodized salt, which works to prevent iodine deficiencies (which effects roughly two billion people around the world and is currently the leading preventable cause of intellectual and developmental disabilities). From the first post’s example, enriched flour is the first cereal ingredient listed: This allows the consumer to get a serving of niacin, iron, folic acid and thiamin. These vitamins are a necessary part of a daily balanced diet, but if we only stuck with naturally produced foods, the average consumer would miss out on the full amount needed. This is called food fortification and it allows many people (especially those under the poverty line) to consume all their daily vitamins and minerals without overextending themselves and their budget. 

At the end of the day:

——-> “Natural” does not inherently mean “healthy” or “good.”

——-> “Artificial” does not inherently mean “bad.”

No one here is arguing that the above posted breakfast cereal is inherently and always going to be “better” for you than an apple. That would be ridiculous. But it’s also silly to say that an apple is automatically better just because it isn’t man made (which most sort of are, considering the history of orchard cultivation and grafting, but that’s for another post). What I’m saying here is that this “Chemicals are bad! Natural is good!” method of thinking is such a simplistic and dumbed-down way of looking at food. Don’t label foods as good or bad for everyone just because your eyes glaze over at any ingredient list longer than two syllables. 

Use technology and medical advances to your advantage! You don’t have to blindly eat what you find in nature anymore. We’re beyond that stage of civilization - Don’t let science frighten you. 

And to go even further with the “some people are inherently allergic to peanuts” stuff, by erasing everything we have learned about foods like their chemical composition, people are at risk. Not just for death, but for quality of life— My girlfriend has a fructose malabsorbtion problem and some fruits and vegetables make her ill. However, she CAN eat these foods to some capacity: in some cases, cooking can break down the fructose into glucose enough to tip the threshold for where she gets sick. In other cases, she can eat them if she eats an equal amount of other food. 

But if she doesn’t know what’s in each food she eats, she is at risk of getting sick— even for days afterward. What are the most common culprits? Not high-fructose corn syrup, which is almost always clearly marked on our handy Nutrition Facts.

It’s unmarked fruit juice, sometimes listed under “natural flavors” or “fruit sugar” or “natural sweetening” as a sweetener in items that proudly proclaim “All-natural!” or “Chemical-free!”

Another culprit is sometimes honey, which actually has nearly the same composition as high-fructose corn syrup. Maple sugar can be risky as well.

By not identifying that these things are in fact made of molecules, which have effects on the human body, harm is done to real people. All for the fantasy that things produced by a plant or a bee are magically better or aren’t made of matter or something else inane.

Chemical =/= carcinogen

Please recognise chemophobia and destroy it

I love everything about this.

(via galacticdrift)

Filed under science!

30,649 notes

the-seed-of-europe:

Two sailors ca. 1940-1945. An image featured in the “Love and War” exhibit at the Kinsey Institute Gallery. More info on the exhibit can be found here.
“The photo is usually seen cropped from the waist up, as it was in the 1980s when the activist organization ACT-UP used in it on a T-shirt in their Read My Lips campaign. But the print hanging in the Kinsey gallery is the original version. Below decks, the sailors’ flies are open, and they are, so to speak, crossing swords.”

the-seed-of-europe:

Two sailors ca. 1940-1945. An image featured in the “Love and War” exhibit at the Kinsey Institute Gallery. More info on the exhibit can be found here.

The photo is usually seen cropped from the waist up, as it was in the 1980s when the activist organization ACT-UP used in it on a T-shirt in their Read My Lips campaign. But the print hanging in the Kinsey gallery is the original version. Below decks, the sailors’ flies are open, and they are, so to speak, crossing swords.”

(Source: imjustwatchingyou, via carriecutforth)

60 notes

braincoins:

So the Amazing bookshop introduced me to this just now: the Vito Russo Test.

It’s like the Bechdel Test for queer representation:

  • The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender.
  • That character must not be solely or predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity. I.E. they are made up of the same sort of unique character traits commonly used to differentiate straight characters from one another.
  • The LGBT character must be tied into the plot in such a way that their removal would have a significant effect. Meaning they are not there to simply provide colorful commentary, paint urban authenticity, or (perhaps most commonly) set up a punchline. The character should “matter.

And, for some odd reason, the first thing I thought of was Fred Luo from “Outlaw Star”.

image

That’s Fred on the left there ^.

Fred Luo is a flamingly gay weapons merchant. The Luo family have been merchants for forever, and while Fred does sell legit merchandise, his most lucrative stock in trade is weaponry of all kinds, including some of the rarer and harder-to-come-by things that Gene needs.

While Fred is often used as comedy (to inspire Gene’s over-the-top reactions to being hit on by him), he is also who Gene turns to for help (usually financial) on a regular basis. And despite his obvious…*ahem* affection for Gene, Fred is a businessman first and foremost: Gene always has to promise him something worth his investment (and no, it’s never “a kiss” or anything like that - business is business). Gene can get away with a little more for the bargain because of their friendship, but there still has to be something in it for Fred.

And the only reason I bring this up at all is because Fred is obviously gay, is predominantly defined by his role as a weapons merchant, and is very significant to the plot, as a great deal of the ongoing story is the result of his either providing Gene the weaponry he needs to fight or else sending Gene & the crew on errands in order to help him pay off the debt he owes. He does get the occasional comedy relief moment (but so do a lot of characters), but my point is this is an anime from 1998 and it scores better than most TV shows and movies in 2014. And that’s just not right.

(via thegayya)

Filed under diversity media lgbt

29,416 notes

As if anyone could really forget the most quoted line in “The Avengers” — “I’ve got red in my ledger; I’d like to wipe it out” — it helps to have that line fresh in your mind when deconstructing what Widow does in the final act of what’s billed as a Captain America movie. Black Widow doesn’t wipe out the red in her ledger. No, she blasts her ledger out to the world, like it was the grisliest email forward of all time. We know from her heart to heart with Hawkeye that the shame she feels about what she’s done is real, and she hesitates when she realizes that taking down the bad guys means revealing her secrets. But she does it anyway, because she’s not just a spy anymore; she’s a super hero, and she makes a super hero’s sacrifice. (x)

(Source: wintersoldeirs, via liamdryden)

Filed under black widow

4,699 notes

Anonymous asked: why do people make up words like cisnormativity?

killbenedictcumberbatch:

why do people make up words at all? why do we have a structured language to convey concepts and meaning? why not just grunt and clap and fling our shit on the walls like chimpanzees

100,539 notes

Anonymous asked: What is 50 shades of grey about? And what's so bad about it?

buckysexual:

aconissa:

50 Shades of Grey was originally fanfiction based on the Twilight series, which was then published as a novel (along with 2 subsequent books). It sold over 100 million copies around the world and topped best-seller lists everywhere. It’s about to be adapted into a film, set to come out early next year.

It follows a college student named Ana Steele, who enters a relationship with a man named Christian Grey and is then introduced to a bastardised and abusive parody of BDSM culture.

While the book is paraded as erotica, the relationship between Ana and Christian is far from healthy. The core mantra of the BDSM community is “safe, sane and consensual”, and 50 Shades is anything but. None of the rules of BDSM practices (which are put in place to protect those involved) are actually upheld. Christian is controlling, manipulative, abusive, takes complete advantage of Ana, ignores safe-words, ignores consent, keeps her uneducated about the sexual practices they’re taking part in, and a multitude of other terrible things. Their relationship is completely sickening and unhealthy.

Basically, “the book is a glaring glamorisation of violence against women,” as Amy Bonomi so perfectly put it. 

It’s terrible enough that a book like this has been absorbed by people worldwide. Now, we have a film that is expected to be a huge box-office success, and will likely convince countless more young women that it’s okay not to have any autonomy in a relationship, that a man is allowed to control them entirely. It will also show many young men that women are theirs to play with and dominate, thus contributing to antiquated patriarchal values and rape culture.

To top it all off, they’re releasing the movie on Valentine’s Day, so countless couples will be consuming this abusive garbage.

438 notes

jessicalprice:

worriedaboutmyfern:

postcardsfromspace:

camharr:

jessicalprice:

The brilliant camharr and I were having a conversation about Lois McMaster Bujold’s work, and she said something so resonant and on-point I had to share it (hopefully she’ll find time to blog her own thoughts about it at some point). In an interview, Bujold makes a great point about how non-universal Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” actually is (Campbell apparently knew squat about women’s lives and made the typical male academic mistake of assuming that men’s experience is human experience full stop; we’ll leave aside for now all the other reasons the monomyth is crap). In the hero’s journey, the hero goes out into the world, does some stuff, and comes back home. But Bujold points out that given the exogamous nature of most cultures, the heroine goes out into the world, and keeps going. 
And then Cameron gave the most succinct and lovely summation of a heroine’s journey archetype I’ve heard yet:
“Woman loses everything she thinks she needs, discovers her own power, and builds a family who will fight with her to the bitter end.”
Reminds me of a great article I read once about Buffy (and yes, Buffy had its problems, and yes, there are a lot of issues with Joss Whedon’s takes on female heroes, BUT). It pointed out the whole archetype of the hero as lone gunslinger, who protects the community but cannot be part of it, and who must ultimately go it alone to retain his heroic status, and described how Buffy subverts this. Spike articulates it when he notes that Buffy is different — stronger and more resilient — than other Slayers because she has a team around her, and it’s when she tries to go it alone that she (and, I think, the show) falls short. Buffy ultimately embodies a different sort of heroic archetype, one that certainly isn’t exclusively feminine, but I think speaks to more women’s experiences:
The hero is someone who builds and is the center of the heroic family. 
The family may be blood relatives, it may be teammates or coworkers, it may be a group of friends or a biker gang. But it’s a collection of people that together function in the hero role. 
Art by Howard David Johnson.

Here is the interview Jessica refers to. Spoilers only start in the Q&A portion, halfway down the page.
And I would like to write about the heroine’s journey at some point. Just muddling through my thoughts (and other commitments!) first.

Yes. So much, yes.

I’m always wary of reductivism when discussing myth and literature (I don’t like Campbell, and I tend to roll my eyes at those “there are only fourteen stories in the world!!!” thingies). My dad is a folklorist and one time when we were talking about this he said “The specific does not yield to the general without loss.” (Yes, my dad talks this way.) Meaning that, sure, you can try and lump Apollo and Horus and Nanahuatl all together under the category of “sun gods,” or you can say that The Odyssey is the same story as the Epic of Gilgamesh because both feature a hero who journeys far and goes through the underworld and finally comes home, but to do that you have to lose sight of a million ways in which they are *not* the same—a million specific details that are actually crucial to really understanding these stories. Cultural context is vital; you can handwave it away but you lose something—you lose a ton—when you do that. And the bland, generic thing you end up with—“The Sun God,” “The Hero’s Journey,”—is vastly less interesting than the deep, real, living complexity of Horus or Gilgamesh. The specific does not yield to the general without loss.

Please high-five your dad for me; he sounds amazing, and that’s the problem I’ve had ever since I read The Hero With A Thousand Faces (I’m not a trained folklorist outside of a few college classes, but it’s been a passion of mine since I was given a Jane Yolen collection of folktales for, IIRC, my sixth birthday). Sure, there are some universal elements, but they’re the least interesting thing about most stories.

But…I absolutely believe in recurring patterns in myth and story. And those can be interesting to examine—with the caveat that often the most interesting thing about them are the points where individual stories deviate from the general pattern.

Yes!
Robert Alter has some great things to say about why genre templates are important in The Art of Biblical Narrative. Forgive me, because I’m going to quote a bunch of text, but there’s so much good stuff about story archetypes packed into Alter’s writing that I really want to share it.
He talks about the frequency of the type-scene in biblical texts (and compares it to the basic plot of many Westerns, which center around a “fastest gun in the West” sheriff), and how the seeming repetition of the same story (the angel announcing the birth of a child, the couple meeting at a well, etc.) has confounded biblical scholars. Did it happen because there were multiple versions of the same story and for some reason the people compiling the text couldn’t pick one or thought it was important to keep them all? Were they confused about whether or not they were the same story? Was it just carelessness or remnants of a messy oral tradition or a completionist obsession?
Alter’s got a different theory:

The variations in the parallel episodes are not at all random, as a scrambling by oral transmission would imply, and the repetitions themselves are no more “duplications” of a single ur-story than our eleven films about a fast-shooting sheriff were duplications of a single film. […]

When I was first reading Campbell and being frustrated at how the most interesting parts of the story kept getting lost in trying to make it some sort of ur-story, I hadn’t thought to relate it to our enjoyment of genre tropes, but I think there’s something really cool there. We like genre tropes because they dispense with a lot of the work for both the storyteller and the audience, functioning as a sort of mutually-understood shorthand. This lets the storyteller put most of her effort into what she considers important, which is usually going to be the ways that her story differs from the standard, and lets the audience know where to focus its attention. It helps distinguish the signal from the noise. Or, as Alter puts it:

And, in any case, as is true of all original art, what is really interesting is not the schema of convention but what is done in each individual application of the schema to give it a sudden tilt of innovation or even to refashion it radically for the imaginative purposes at hand. […]

It also can, in some cases, function as literal shorthand, allowing storytellers to allude to something briefly and evoke the richness of that archetype without having to spend too much time reiterating it:

What I am suggesting is that the contemporary audiences of these tales, being perfectly familiar with the convention, took particular pleasure in seeing how in each instance the convention could be, through the narrator’s art, both faithfully followed and renewed for the specific needs of the hero under consideration. In some cases, moreover, the biblical authors, counting on their audience’s familiarity with the features and function of the type-scene, could merely allude to the type-scene or present a transfigured version of it.

I also really like how Alter talks about the enjoyment that comes purely from manipulating the convention, aside from any deeper meaning, but then gets to exactly why the convention itself is important as more than just a foundation to build variations on — the convention draws connections between a storyteller’s version of a story and other versions. It lends a sense of profundity to it, a sense of having a place in a larger pattern. And while that’s similar to Campbell’s idea of a universal, Jungian ur-story that’s floating around in everyone’s brain, I think it’s a lot more interesting because it gets at the intentionality of making that sort of claims to universality that repeating heroic archetypes suggests.

In all this, of course, we must keep in mind that what we are witnessing is not merely the technical manipulation of a literary convention for the sheer pleasure of play with the convention, though, as I argued at the end of the previous chapter, significant playful activity on the part of the Hebrew writers should by no means be discounted, even in these sacred texts. The type-scene is not merely a way of formally recognizing a particular kind of narrative moment; it is also a means of attaching that moment to a larger pattern of historical and theological meaning.

And here at last we get to what I really love about his analysis (emphasis mine):

Instead of relegating every perceived recurrence in the text to the limbo of duplicated sources or fixed folkloric archetypes, we may begin to see that the resurgence of certain pronounced patterns at certain narrative junctures was conventionally anticipated, even counted on, and that against that ground of anticipation the biblical authors set words, motifs, themes, personages, and actions into an elaborate dance of significant innovation. For much of art lies in the shifting aperture between the shadowy foreimage in the anticipating mind of the observer and the realized revelatory image in the work itself, and that is what we must learn to perceive more finely in the Bible.
The most plausible hypothesis, then, is that these intriguing instances of recurrent sequences of narrative motif reflect a literary convention that, like other narrative conventions, enabled the teller of the tale to orient his listeners, to give them intricate clues as to where the tale was going, how it differed delightfully or ingeniously or profoundly from other similar tales.

I love it because THIS is what’s lost in Campbell’s attempts to reduce everything to one story:
There is so much pleasure, as an audience, in having the storyteller violate our expectations of where the story is going to go instead of confirming them.
The structure, the repetition, the genre tropes — they’re what make that pleasure possible. As my former boss and mentor, Jordan Weisman, used to put it when talking about creating good speculative fiction: “Emphasize the familiar so the audience can appreciate the exotic.”
So much of the enjoyment of genre fiction comes from the departure of what we expect, just as dissonance, not consonance, is what creates the sense of movement in a piece of music. But just as dissonance is meaningless noise outside of the context of tonality, those departures don’t mean anything unless we’re familiar with the archetype. 

So, I do love this line—“The hero is someone who builds and is the center of the heroic family”—because it is a particularly feminine pattern. I don’t think it’s the only feminine mode of heroism, but it’s a really nice trope to put alongside the Campbell-esque Hero’s Journey.

Yeah, I don’t believe there’s a single mode of heroism, but I do think that there are patterns, and it’s important to ask why those patterns get repeated over other ways stories could go. 

I will add that I spent some time trying to think of classical or ancient myths that fit this pattern—a woman gathering together a heroic family—and almost all of them either end tragically (Deirdre of the Sorrows, most of the Amazon stories), cast the woman in an adversarial role (Calypso, Ishtar, Queen Medb, Louhi), or both (Helen of Troy, Medea).

I don’t think you can separate stories of female heroism from the patriarchal context a lot of them come from, a context that was generally suspicious of female heroism or leadership (I mean, consider the Greeks insisting that the only female form of arete was beauty). The idea of a woman being the star of her own story, rather than a figure in a man’s story, was already potentially problematic (and, unfortunately, still gets treated as a problem today, but we’re making progress at least). 
So I think it’s telling that the sort of feminine leadership that is clearly positioned as heroic today was more commonly a characteristic of female villains — women that needed to be stopped! — for a lot of human history. I mean, if you’re part of a patriarchal society in which women and children are essentially men’s property, the idea of a woman being the one to choose and build a family (rather than merely being the vessel through which a man does it) is a pretty blatant power-grab.

The examples where the woman pulling together a chosen family is treated within the story as a heroic figure, and triumphs, are pretty rare: Isis, Penelope, Ariadne are the ones I came up with off the top of my head. But it’s interesting many of the classical “hero’s journeys” can be looked at as a thwarted or tragic “heroine’s chosen family,” if you come at it from a different angle.

Ooh, that last is a brilliant point!
CAMERON, DID YOU SEE THIS LAST SENTENCE? NEW VISTAS JUST OPENED UP IN MY BRAIN. :D

jessicalprice:

worriedaboutmyfern:

postcardsfromspace:

camharr:

jessicalprice:

The brilliant camharr and I were having a conversation about Lois McMaster Bujold’s work, and she said something so resonant and on-point I had to share it (hopefully she’ll find time to blog her own thoughts about it at some point). In an interview, Bujold makes a great point about how non-universal Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” actually is (Campbell apparently knew squat about women’s lives and made the typical male academic mistake of assuming that men’s experience is human experience full stop; we’ll leave aside for now all the other reasons the monomyth is crap). In the hero’s journey, the hero goes out into the world, does some stuff, and comes back home. But Bujold points out that given the exogamous nature of most cultures, the heroine goes out into the world, and keeps going. 

And then Cameron gave the most succinct and lovely summation of a heroine’s journey archetype I’ve heard yet:

Woman loses everything she thinks she needs, discovers her own power, and builds a family who will fight with her to the bitter end.”

Reminds me of a great article I read once about Buffy (and yes, Buffy had its problems, and yes, there are a lot of issues with Joss Whedon’s takes on female heroes, BUT). It pointed out the whole archetype of the hero as lone gunslinger, who protects the community but cannot be part of it, and who must ultimately go it alone to retain his heroic status, and described how Buffy subverts this. Spike articulates it when he notes that Buffy is different — stronger and more resilient — than other Slayers because she has a team around her, and it’s when she tries to go it alone that she (and, I think, the show) falls short. Buffy ultimately embodies a different sort of heroic archetype, one that certainly isn’t exclusively feminine, but I think speaks to more women’s experiences:

The hero is someone who builds and is the center of the heroic family. 

The family may be blood relatives, it may be teammates or coworkers, it may be a group of friends or a biker gang. But it’s a collection of people that together function in the hero role. 

Art by Howard David Johnson.

Here is the interview Jessica refers to. Spoilers only start in the Q&A portion, halfway down the page.

And I would like to write about the heroine’s journey at some point. Just muddling through my thoughts (and other commitments!) first.

Yes. So much, yes.

I’m always wary of reductivism when discussing myth and literature (I don’t like Campbell, and I tend to roll my eyes at those “there are only fourteen stories in the world!!!” thingies). My dad is a folklorist and one time when we were talking about this he said “The specific does not yield to the general without loss.” (Yes, my dad talks this way.) Meaning that, sure, you can try and lump Apollo and Horus and Nanahuatl all together under the category of “sun gods,” or you can say that The Odyssey is the same story as the Epic of Gilgamesh because both feature a hero who journeys far and goes through the underworld and finally comes home, but to do that you have to lose sight of a million ways in which they are *not* the same—a million specific details that are actually crucial to really understanding these stories. Cultural context is vital; you can handwave it away but you lose something—you lose a ton—when you do that. And the bland, generic thing you end up with—“The Sun God,” “The Hero’s Journey,”—is vastly less interesting than the deep, real, living complexity of Horus or Gilgamesh. The specific does not yield to the general without loss.

Please high-five your dad for me; he sounds amazing, and that’s the problem I’ve had ever since I read The Hero With A Thousand Faces (I’m not a trained folklorist outside of a few college classes, but it’s been a passion of mine since I was given a Jane Yolen collection of folktales for, IIRC, my sixth birthday). Sure, there are some universal elements, but they’re the least interesting thing about most stories.

But…I absolutely believe in recurring patterns in myth and story. And those can be interesting to examine—with the caveat that often the most interesting thing about them are the points where individual stories deviate from the general pattern.

Yes!

Robert Alter has some great things to say about why genre templates are important in The Art of Biblical Narrative. Forgive me, because I’m going to quote a bunch of text, but there’s so much good stuff about story archetypes packed into Alter’s writing that I really want to share it.

He talks about the frequency of the type-scene in biblical texts (and compares it to the basic plot of many Westerns, which center around a “fastest gun in the West” sheriff), and how the seeming repetition of the same story (the angel announcing the birth of a child, the couple meeting at a well, etc.) has confounded biblical scholars. Did it happen because there were multiple versions of the same story and for some reason the people compiling the text couldn’t pick one or thought it was important to keep them all? Were they confused about whether or not they were the same story? Was it just carelessness or remnants of a messy oral tradition or a completionist obsession?

Alter’s got a different theory:

The variations in the parallel episodes are not at all random, as a scrambling by oral transmission would imply, and the repetitions themselves are no more “duplications” of a single ur-story than our eleven films about a fast-shooting sheriff were duplications of a single film. […]

When I was first reading Campbell and being frustrated at how the most interesting parts of the story kept getting lost in trying to make it some sort of ur-story, I hadn’t thought to relate it to our enjoyment of genre tropes, but I think there’s something really cool there. We like genre tropes because they dispense with a lot of the work for both the storyteller and the audience, functioning as a sort of mutually-understood shorthand. This lets the storyteller put most of her effort into what she considers important, which is usually going to be the ways that her story differs from the standard, and lets the audience know where to focus its attention. It helps distinguish the signal from the noise. Or, as Alter puts it:

And, in any case, as is true of all original art, what is really interesting is not the schema of convention but what is done in each individual application of the schema to give it a sudden tilt of innovation or even to refashion it radically for the imaginative purposes at hand. […]

It also can, in some cases, function as literal shorthand, allowing storytellers to allude to something briefly and evoke the richness of that archetype without having to spend too much time reiterating it:

What I am suggesting is that the contemporary audiences of these tales, being perfectly familiar with the convention, took particular pleasure in seeing how in each instance the convention could be, through the narrator’s art, both faithfully followed and renewed for the specific needs of the hero under consideration. In some cases, moreover, the biblical authors, counting on their audience’s familiarity with the features and function of the type-scene, could merely allude to the type-scene or present a transfigured version of it.

I also really like how Alter talks about the enjoyment that comes purely from manipulating the convention, aside from any deeper meaning, but then gets to exactly why the convention itself is important as more than just a foundation to build variations on — the convention draws connections between a storyteller’s version of a story and other versions. It lends a sense of profundity to it, a sense of having a place in a larger pattern. And while that’s similar to Campbell’s idea of a universal, Jungian ur-story that’s floating around in everyone’s brain, I think it’s a lot more interesting because it gets at the intentionality of making that sort of claims to universality that repeating heroic archetypes suggests.

In all this, of course, we must keep in mind that what we are witnessing is not merely the technical manipulation of a literary convention for the sheer pleasure of play with the convention, though, as I argued at the end of the previous chapter, significant playful activity on the part of the Hebrew writers should by no means be discounted, even in these sacred texts. The type-scene is not merely a way of formally recognizing a particular kind of narrative moment; it is also a means of attaching that moment to a larger pattern of historical and theological meaning.

And here at last we get to what I really love about his analysis (emphasis mine):

Instead of relegating every perceived recurrence in the text to the limbo of duplicated sources or fixed folkloric archetypes, we may begin to see that the resurgence of certain pronounced patterns at certain narrative junctures was conventionally anticipated, even counted on, and that against that ground of anticipation the biblical authors set words, motifs, themes, personages, and actions into an elaborate dance of significant innovation. For much of art lies in the shifting aperture between the shadowy foreimage in the anticipating mind of the observer and the realized revelatory image in the work itself, and that is what we must learn to perceive more finely in the Bible.

The most plausible hypothesis, then, is that these intriguing instances of recurrent sequences of narrative motif reflect a literary convention that, like other narrative conventions, enabled the teller of the tale to orient his listeners, to give them intricate clues as to where the tale was going, how it differed delightfully or ingeniously or profoundly from other similar tales.

I love it because THIS is what’s lost in Campbell’s attempts to reduce everything to one story:

There is so much pleasure, as an audience, in having the storyteller violate our expectations of where the story is going to go instead of confirming them.

The structure, the repetition, the genre tropes — they’re what make that pleasure possible. As my former boss and mentor, Jordan Weisman, used to put it when talking about creating good speculative fiction: “Emphasize the familiar so the audience can appreciate the exotic.”

So much of the enjoyment of genre fiction comes from the departure of what we expect, just as dissonance, not consonance, is what creates the sense of movement in a piece of music. But just as dissonance is meaningless noise outside of the context of tonality, those departures don’t mean anything unless we’re familiar with the archetype. 

So, I do love this line—“The hero is someone who builds and is the center of the heroic family”—because it is a particularly feminine pattern. I don’t think it’s the only feminine mode of heroism, but it’s a really nice trope to put alongside the Campbell-esque Hero’s Journey.

Yeah, I don’t believe there’s a single mode of heroism, but I do think that there are patterns, and it’s important to ask why those patterns get repeated over other ways stories could go. 

I will add that I spent some time trying to think of classical or ancient myths that fit this pattern—a woman gathering together a heroic family—and almost all of them either end tragically (Deirdre of the Sorrows, most of the Amazon stories), cast the woman in an adversarial role (Calypso, Ishtar, Queen Medb, Louhi), or both (Helen of Troy, Medea).

I don’t think you can separate stories of female heroism from the patriarchal context a lot of them come from, a context that was generally suspicious of female heroism or leadership (I mean, consider the Greeks insisting that the only female form of arete was beauty). The idea of a woman being the star of her own story, rather than a figure in a man’s story, was already potentially problematic (and, unfortunately, still gets treated as a problem today, but we’re making progress at least). 

So I think it’s telling that the sort of feminine leadership that is clearly positioned as heroic today was more commonly a characteristic of female villains — women that needed to be stopped! — for a lot of human history. I mean, if you’re part of a patriarchal society in which women and children are essentially men’s property, the idea of a woman being the one to choose and build a family (rather than merely being the vessel through which a man does it) is a pretty blatant power-grab.

The examples where the woman pulling together a chosen family is treated within the story as a heroic figure, and triumphs, are pretty rare: Isis, Penelope, Ariadne are the ones I came up with off the top of my head. But it’s interesting many of the classical “hero’s journeys” can be looked at as a thwarted or tragic “heroine’s chosen family,” if you come at it from a different angle.

Ooh, that last is a brilliant point!

CAMERON, DID YOU SEE THIS LAST SENTENCE? NEW VISTAS JUST OPENED UP IN MY BRAIN. :D

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jessicalprice:

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The brilliant camharr and I were having a conversation about Lois McMaster Bujold’s work, and she said something so resonant and on-point I had to share it (hopefully she’ll find time to blog her own thoughts about it at some point). In an interview, Bujold makes a great point about how non-universal Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” actually is (Campbell apparently knew squat about women’s lives and made the typical male academic mistake of assuming that men’s experience is human experience full stop; we’ll leave aside for now all the other reasons the monomyth is crap). In the hero’s journey, the hero goes out into the world, does some stuff, and comes back home. But Bujold points out that given the exogamous nature of most cultures, the heroine goes out into the world, and keeps going. 
And then Cameron gave the most succinct and lovely summation of a heroine’s journey archetype I’ve heard yet:
“Woman loses everything she thinks she needs, discovers her own power, and builds a family who will fight with her to the bitter end.”
Reminds me of a great article I read once about Buffy (and yes, Buffy had its problems, and yes, there are a lot of issues with Joss Whedon’s takes on female heroes, BUT). It pointed out the whole archetype of the hero as lone gunslinger, who protects the community but cannot be part of it, and who must ultimately go it alone to retain his heroic status, and described how Buffy subverts this. Spike articulates it when he notes that Buffy is different — stronger and more resilient — than other Slayers because she has a team around her, and it’s when she tries to go it alone that she (and, I think, the show) falls short. Buffy ultimately embodies a different sort of heroic archetype, one that certainly isn’t exclusively feminine, but I think speaks to more women’s experiences:
The hero is someone who builds and is the center of the heroic family. 
The family may be blood relatives, it may be teammates or coworkers, it may be a group of friends or a biker gang. But it’s a collection of people that together function in the hero role. 
Art by Howard David Johnson.

Here is the interview Jessica refers to. Spoilers only start in the Q&A portion, halfway down the page.
And I would like to write about the heroine’s journey at some point. Just muddling through my thoughts (and other commitments!) first.

Reblogging for that interview (now I’m super curious about Bujold’s work!).
As far as I understand it, though, doesn’t the Heroine’s Journey “end” by the Heroine returning to their starting point (which is like the Hero in a Hero’s Journey) and inspiring those around her to take their own journeys of self-discovery (which is unlike the Hero in a Hero’s Journey)?
I mean, in a sense I guess that’s the same thing as saying a Heroine’s Journey “keeps going”, since it’s cyclical and all that, But historically a large part of the feminine experience has been the sharing of knowledge within family groups, and IIRC that’s supposed to be reflected in this idea of the Heroine coming home again as the Mother/Goddess Ascendent and sharing her enlightenment with others.
For example, take DA2 (once, a longtime ago, I went into detail about how DA2 matches the steps of a Heroine’s Journey narrative). At the end of DA2, Hawke immediately either ascends to the Viscountry or leads the Mage Rebellion — but either way, he or she will eventually disappear into ether, once again becoming the faceless and anonymous nobody that they were when their story began (the Heroine returns to the starting point). And yet, according to Varric, mages across Thedas are inspired by the Champion’s example to incite further revolution (the Heroine inspires others to take their own journeys).
Anyway, sorry for butting in, but I think the Heroine’s Journey is just the coolest thing since jars of bees and I geek out whenever I see it on my dash, so I hope you don’t mind :)

Don’t be sorry! Thanks for joining the conversation! :-)
I can’t speak for Cameron, here, but part of what I liked about Bujold’s comments on the Heroine’s Journey, and about Cameron’s formulation of an archetype (and note, it’s an, not the, since I disagree with the whole premise of the Hero’s Journey idea, that there’s one archetype that applies to everyone), is that it’s different from the classic “Heroine’s Journey” formulation. The classic “Heroine’s Journey” is an acknowledgement that Male != Universal Human, and that women’s experiences—both in literature and in real life—differ from men’s.
However, where it falls apart for me is that the classic formulation still feels like an attempt to shoehorn women’s experiences into a male template with a few changes, which is pretty symptomatic of still viewing the male experience as normal and the female experience as an exception to the human rule.
Bujold’s whole point, I think, is that the assumption that the Hero ends his/her journey back home where s/he started is a very male-centric one. While a boy may leave home, become a man, and come back to take over leadership in place of his father, throughout most of history, women didn’t get to come home. Most cultures are exogamous, they’re patrilocal. A woman’s journey involves, generally, getting married and relocating. She becomes part of her husband’s family. When she goes home again, it’s only to visit, and her identity as a member of her birth family becomes secondary to her identity as a wife and member of her husband’s family.
The classic Heroine’s Journey archetype doesn’t really deal well with that reality. I’m not saying that it’s not a good story template, or even that it doesn’t work for some stories about heroines. But it’s not universal, and it doesn’t resonate with me at all. (There are similar problems with the Hero’s Journey — David Brin has some interesting stuff to say about how it describes the experience of the social elite, not men in general.)
What I liked about Bujold’s point is that I think it acknowledges that throughout most of history, for women in most cultures, part of the female experience is that you can’t go home again. And it speaks to me, as a member of a generation for which it’s not uncommon to move fairly far from home as a young adult. I have a very loving and wonderful birth family, but I live half a continent away from them, and have had to make new family out here, to a certain extent. 
So again, it’s not to say that Bujold’s formulation of the Heroine’s Journey as one that keeps going, in the sense of not taking her back home, is universal. It’s that the formulation that does take her back home isn’t either, and there needs to be more than one archetype for women’s heroic stories. 


I never really thought about that before, but wow, yes, you (and Bujold) are absolutely right: For so much of human history, the feminine experience HAS inherently involved that element of “you can’t go home again”.
I mean, like you said there’s the whole social aspect of it, where women used to get married and join their husband’s families, but if you want to get metaphorical about it, the feminine life cycle also has this physical element of “can’t go home again”, right? I mean, once men physically mature, their bodies pretty much stay in a stasis state (albeit one that slowly decays over time). But women? Our bodies continue to evolve ‘til the day we die.
Specifically, I’m thinking of how childbirth changes us: Pregnancy hormones rearrange your anatomy, stretching your ligaments and reconstructing parts of your skeleton and doing all sorts of other lovely things, such that your body post-pregnancy is never the same as it was pre-pregnancy. And the process repeats, with variations, for each subsequent pregnancy; meaning a child-bearing person’s body is always in flux; and of course eventually we all hit menopause, and then you really can’t go home again, can you? So, physically speaking at least, the feminine experience is basically one long journey that just keeps on going.
So yeah, now that I’m noodling over it, that traditional model of the Heroine’s Journey really DOES feel in some ways like shoehorning a female experience into a default male template, once again positioning our experience as that of the Other, even while trying to acknowledge that it exists. And the model’s flaws stand out even more than they once might have, since like you said, leaving our birthplaces and not going back has become a more and more universal experience.
In fact, now I’m wondering if, in a digitally connected and globalized world, the Heroine’s Journey is even MORE universal than the Hero’s Journey, or maybe at least more intuitive in some ways, given how many of us have never gone back home and forged new “found families” instead.
So much good stuff to think about. :)

Oooh, there’s something super-cool here, I think, about the idea that the Heroine’s Journey has to do with the eternal mutability of the feminine, and in what you said about the continually-changing nature of women’s bodies.
Okay, before I get into this, I want to apologize in advance for being rambly and inarticulate — I’m recovering from a migraine and sort of woozy and scattered. 
Anyway. Women. Mutable.
(I mean, we know now that men have hormonal cycles as well, and that it’s not a simple binary of women=cyclical and men=static, but when we’re talking about story archetypes, we’re not talking about science, we’re talking about perception. And regardless of the objective truth of what constitutes “female” versus “male” bodies, in a lot of cultures, masculinity has been perceived as intellectual, spiritual, fixed, in contrast to femininity, which couldn’t be divorced, in their minds, from the physical realities of menstruation and birth—and by extension, death. The Greeks cut off men’s heads, in that sense, separating the physical and the spiritual/intellectual and setting them at odds, and fixing masculinity as something pure, immobile, impenetrable, eternal, unchanging. Male Hades is the god of being dead; Persephone is the deity of dying.)
So, there’s an interesting quirk in the biblical idea of ritual purity, which we talk about in English in terms of impurity or uncleanliness because those are the closest words we have. You become ritually impure when you touch a dead body, when you menstruate or give birth to a child, when you have sex, in certain forms of illness, etc. But according to the Mishnah (the written-down version of the Jewish oral tradition around the Bible), touching any sacred scripture makes your hands unclean. (Think also of the idea that touching the Ark of the Covenant can kill, of Moses having to veil his face after coming down from Sinai.)
It’s not that ritual impurity comes from actual dirt or uncleanliness — it comes from spaces between. Biblical law — heck, Biblical theology — is big on separating things. That’s how the world gets created, separating day from night, water from sky, and, of course, woman from man. So why would touching the holiest objects make you ritually impure? Because they are transitional, just like the other things that confer impurity. Birth and death are transitions (menstruation touches on them both). Illness, perhaps, threatens to pull you into the realm of death. If you exist before birth or after death, it’s in the realm of the divine, not the mortal, and birth and death involve crossing that divide. And the Ark? The holy books? Represent the transmission and translation of divine knowledge and understanding into a form comprehensible by mortals. Moses himself is a vessel of that transition. These things all involve power outside of human experience touching the human world, and to be touched by it pulls you outside the mortal, human community. If you temporarily take on a bit of the divine (which is also the dead and the unborn), you can’t participate in religious ritual designed for mortals until you’ve regained that purely mortal state. 
The Hero’s Journey involves venturing into that realm (the underworld, the realm of the gods, the realm of monsters) and leaving it again, returning to humanity, returning to mortality, returning to stasis, to equilibrium, to a life at rest. To become fully a man (in the Hero’s Journey archetype) is to see the Other, to venture outside human experience, and to choose to return, to choose civilization, to choose to accept mortality, to choose A Thing To Be (a leader, a father, a king, a builder). 
The Heroine keeps going, because (archetypally) the full realization of womanhood is learning to occupy the liminal spaces, learning to have one foot in the realm we come from and we ultimately go to, learning to live amongst constant change, learning to be both an individual and part of a group, balancing selfhood and interdependence, learning to blur the distinction between self and Other, between divine and human. 
And that embrace (rather than defeat) of the Other is what enables the Heroine to create her family, to blur the distinction between the heroism of the individual and the heroism of the group.  

jessicalprice:

flutiebear:

jessicalprice:

flutiebear:

camharr:

jessicalprice:

The brilliant camharr and I were having a conversation about Lois McMaster Bujold’s work, and she said something so resonant and on-point I had to share it (hopefully she’ll find time to blog her own thoughts about it at some point). In an interview, Bujold makes a great point about how non-universal Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” actually is (Campbell apparently knew squat about women’s lives and made the typical male academic mistake of assuming that men’s experience is human experience full stop; we’ll leave aside for now all the other reasons the monomyth is crap). In the hero’s journey, the hero goes out into the world, does some stuff, and comes back home. But Bujold points out that given the exogamous nature of most cultures, the heroine goes out into the world, and keeps going. 

And then Cameron gave the most succinct and lovely summation of a heroine’s journey archetype I’ve heard yet:

Woman loses everything she thinks she needs, discovers her own power, and builds a family who will fight with her to the bitter end.”

Reminds me of a great article I read once about Buffy (and yes, Buffy had its problems, and yes, there are a lot of issues with Joss Whedon’s takes on female heroes, BUT). It pointed out the whole archetype of the hero as lone gunslinger, who protects the community but cannot be part of it, and who must ultimately go it alone to retain his heroic status, and described how Buffy subverts this. Spike articulates it when he notes that Buffy is different — stronger and more resilient — than other Slayers because she has a team around her, and it’s when she tries to go it alone that she (and, I think, the show) falls short. Buffy ultimately embodies a different sort of heroic archetype, one that certainly isn’t exclusively feminine, but I think speaks to more women’s experiences:

The hero is someone who builds and is the center of the heroic family. 

The family may be blood relatives, it may be teammates or coworkers, it may be a group of friends or a biker gang. But it’s a collection of people that together function in the hero role. 

Art by Howard David Johnson.

Here is the interview Jessica refers to. Spoilers only start in the Q&A portion, halfway down the page.

And I would like to write about the heroine’s journey at some point. Just muddling through my thoughts (and other commitments!) first.

Reblogging for that interview (now I’m super curious about Bujold’s work!).

As far as I understand it, though, doesn’t the Heroine’s Journey “end” by the Heroine returning to their starting point (which is like the Hero in a Hero’s Journey) and inspiring those around her to take their own journeys of self-discovery (which is unlike the Hero in a Hero’s Journey)?

I mean, in a sense I guess that’s the same thing as saying a Heroine’s Journey “keeps going”, since it’s cyclical and all that, But historically a large part of the feminine experience has been the sharing of knowledge within family groups, and IIRC that’s supposed to be reflected in this idea of the Heroine coming home again as the Mother/Goddess Ascendent and sharing her enlightenment with others.

For example, take DA2 (once, a longtime ago, I went into detail about how DA2 matches the steps of a Heroine’s Journey narrative). At the end of DA2, Hawke immediately either ascends to the Viscountry or leads the Mage Rebellion — but either way, he or she will eventually disappear into ether, once again becoming the faceless and anonymous nobody that they were when their story began (the Heroine returns to the starting point). And yet, according to Varric, mages across Thedas are inspired by the Champion’s example to incite further revolution (the Heroine inspires others to take their own journeys).

Anyway, sorry for butting in, but I think the Heroine’s Journey is just the coolest thing since jars of bees and I geek out whenever I see it on my dash, so I hope you don’t mind :)

Don’t be sorry! Thanks for joining the conversation! :-)

I can’t speak for Cameron, here, but part of what I liked about Bujold’s comments on the Heroine’s Journey, and about Cameron’s formulation of an archetype (and note, it’s an, not the, since I disagree with the whole premise of the Hero’s Journey idea, that there’s one archetype that applies to everyone), is that it’s different from the classic “Heroine’s Journey” formulation. The classic “Heroine’s Journey” is an acknowledgement that Male != Universal Human, and that women’s experiences—both in literature and in real life—differ from men’s.

However, where it falls apart for me is that the classic formulation still feels like an attempt to shoehorn women’s experiences into a male template with a few changes, which is pretty symptomatic of still viewing the male experience as normal and the female experience as an exception to the human rule.

Bujold’s whole point, I think, is that the assumption that the Hero ends his/her journey back home where s/he started is a very male-centric one. While a boy may leave home, become a man, and come back to take over leadership in place of his father, throughout most of history, women didn’t get to come home. Most cultures are exogamous, they’re patrilocal. A woman’s journey involves, generally, getting married and relocating. She becomes part of her husband’s family. When she goes home again, it’s only to visit, and her identity as a member of her birth family becomes secondary to her identity as a wife and member of her husband’s family.

The classic Heroine’s Journey archetype doesn’t really deal well with that reality. I’m not saying that it’s not a good story template, or even that it doesn’t work for some stories about heroines. But it’s not universal, and it doesn’t resonate with me at all. (There are similar problems with the Hero’s Journey — David Brin has some interesting stuff to say about how it describes the experience of the social elite, not men in general.)

What I liked about Bujold’s point is that I think it acknowledges that throughout most of history, for women in most cultures, part of the female experience is that you can’t go home again. And it speaks to me, as a member of a generation for which it’s not uncommon to move fairly far from home as a young adult. I have a very loving and wonderful birth family, but I live half a continent away from them, and have had to make new family out here, to a certain extent. 

So again, it’s not to say that Bujold’s formulation of the Heroine’s Journey as one that keeps going, in the sense of not taking her back home, is universal. It’s that the formulation that does take her back home isn’t either, and there needs to be more than one archetype for women’s heroic stories. 

I never really thought about that before, but wow, yes, you (and Bujold) are absolutely right: For so much of human history, the feminine experience HAS inherently involved that element of “you can’t go home again”.

I mean, like you said there’s the whole social aspect of it, where women used to get married and join their husband’s families, but if you want to get metaphorical about it, the feminine life cycle also has this physical element of “can’t go home again”, right? I mean, once men physically mature, their bodies pretty much stay in a stasis state (albeit one that slowly decays over time). But women? Our bodies continue to evolve ‘til the day we die.

Specifically, I’m thinking of how childbirth changes us: Pregnancy hormones rearrange your anatomy, stretching your ligaments and reconstructing parts of your skeleton and doing all sorts of other lovely things, such that your body post-pregnancy is never the same as it was pre-pregnancy. And the process repeats, with variations, for each subsequent pregnancy; meaning a child-bearing person’s body is always in flux; and of course eventually we all hit menopause, and then you really can’t go home again, can you? So, physically speaking at least, the feminine experience is basically one long journey that just keeps on going.

So yeah, now that I’m noodling over it, that traditional model of the Heroine’s Journey really DOES feel in some ways like shoehorning a female experience into a default male template, once again positioning our experience as that of the Other, even while trying to acknowledge that it exists. And the model’s flaws stand out even more than they once might have, since like you said, leaving our birthplaces and not going back has become a more and more universal experience.

In fact, now I’m wondering if, in a digitally connected and globalized world, the Heroine’s Journey is even MORE universal than the Hero’s Journey, or maybe at least more intuitive in some ways, given how many of us have never gone back home and forged new “found families” instead.

So much good stuff to think about. :)

Oooh, there’s something super-cool here, I think, about the idea that the Heroine’s Journey has to do with the eternal mutability of the feminine, and in what you said about the continually-changing nature of women’s bodies.

Okay, before I get into this, I want to apologize in advance for being rambly and inarticulate — I’m recovering from a migraine and sort of woozy and scattered. 

Anyway. Women. Mutable.

(I mean, we know now that men have hormonal cycles as well, and that it’s not a simple binary of women=cyclical and men=static, but when we’re talking about story archetypes, we’re not talking about science, we’re talking about perception. And regardless of the objective truth of what constitutes “female” versus “male” bodies, in a lot of cultures, masculinity has been perceived as intellectual, spiritual, fixed, in contrast to femininity, which couldn’t be divorced, in their minds, from the physical realities of menstruation and birth—and by extension, death. The Greeks cut off men’s heads, in that sense, separating the physical and the spiritual/intellectual and setting them at odds, and fixing masculinity as something pure, immobile, impenetrable, eternal, unchanging. Male Hades is the god of being dead; Persephone is the deity of dying.)

So, there’s an interesting quirk in the biblical idea of ritual purity, which we talk about in English in terms of impurity or uncleanliness because those are the closest words we have. You become ritually impure when you touch a dead body, when you menstruate or give birth to a child, when you have sex, in certain forms of illness, etc. But according to the Mishnah (the written-down version of the Jewish oral tradition around the Bible), touching any sacred scripture makes your hands unclean. (Think also of the idea that touching the Ark of the Covenant can kill, of Moses having to veil his face after coming down from Sinai.)

It’s not that ritual impurity comes from actual dirt or uncleanliness — it comes from spaces between. Biblical law — heck, Biblical theology — is big on separating things. That’s how the world gets created, separating day from night, water from sky, and, of course, woman from man. So why would touching the holiest objects make you ritually impure? Because they are transitional, just like the other things that confer impurity. Birth and death are transitions (menstruation touches on them both). Illness, perhaps, threatens to pull you into the realm of death. If you exist before birth or after death, it’s in the realm of the divine, not the mortal, and birth and death involve crossing that divide. And the Ark? The holy books? Represent the transmission and translation of divine knowledge and understanding into a form comprehensible by mortals. Moses himself is a vessel of that transition. These things all involve power outside of human experience touching the human world, and to be touched by it pulls you outside the mortal, human community. If you temporarily take on a bit of the divine (which is also the dead and the unborn), you can’t participate in religious ritual designed for mortals until you’ve regained that purely mortal state. 

The Hero’s Journey involves venturing into that realm (the underworld, the realm of the gods, the realm of monsters) and leaving it again, returning to humanity, returning to mortality, returning to stasis, to equilibrium, to a life at rest. To become fully a man (in the Hero’s Journey archetype) is to see the Other, to venture outside human experience, and to choose to return, to choose civilization, to choose to accept mortality, to choose A Thing To Be (a leader, a father, a king, a builder). 

The Heroine keeps going, because (archetypally) the full realization of womanhood is learning to occupy the liminal spaces, learning to have one foot in the realm we come from and we ultimately go to, learning to live amongst constant change, learning to be both an individual and part of a group, balancing selfhood and interdependence, learning to blur the distinction between self and Other, between divine and human. 

And that embrace (rather than defeat) of the Other is what enables the Heroine to create her family, to blur the distinction between the heroism of the individual and the heroism of the group.  

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wildebeast-gang asked: Hey, Wes! I have a question. I recently started writing out the storyline for a game I'm DM'ing for a few friends starting next month. I created a NPC that I have taken a liking to (mostly because I made him as if I was going to play him.) and he's a half-fetchling NG Inquisitor. My question is this; How do you feel about DMs using NPCs as guides for their parties and how would you personally go about doing so without making it seem as if you're being bias with the character?

wesschneider:

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You’re not going to like this answer, but I’d save him.

You’ve obviously put time and work into this character and he sounds awesome. Maybe… too awesome.

If you’re the GM your #1 goal is to make sure your players are having a great time. Your #2 goal is to tell a great story. Several goals after that involve making sure you’ve got the rules handled and game elements prepared. So, like, goal #37 would be “play my awesome inquisitor.” But there’s going to be temptation to maybe kick that goal into the teens, maybe higher.

The appearance of impropriety is often the same as actual impropriety. Even if you’ve got your game together solidly, even if you introduce your character and things go smoothly, there are still likely players around your table who know this is your Mary Sue. They know he’s not going to fall to a stray kobold’s crit and they’re going to wonder at his every success—and rightly so, he’s the character of the game’s god. They’ll have a right to be critical, and that’s even if you’re doing everything by the books. It’s a tricky situation and you really don’t want even the potential for that rivalry in your game.

My suggestion would be to put your fetchling on the shelf and introduce a cool, but more mundane character who can point when the PCs need someone to point, but who can otherwise fade into the background. And if that character falls down the black pudding well, then so be it.

Alternately, if you want to split the difference—and understand that this is still tricky and still puts its foot into Mary Sue territory (we all know what a Mary Sue is, right?)—you could make your character a villain. That will mean that his role is ultimately to be defeated by the PCs (and then maybe comeback as a graveknight and be defeated again), but at least it gets him in the game. At the same time, though, there’s nothing more GMs are accused of more than having a Mary Sue villain, so, careful.

The best solution I can think of is to get one of your layabout players to run a game as well and get your character in that game. That will scratch your inquisitor itch and assure that his adventures are won 100% by his own awesomeness.

Best of luck!

~W

This is mostly definitely true, but I think I’d add a couple other possibilities. For instance, if the NPC only shows up every once in a while to help guide the party, rather than be constantly present, that has a better chance of working — though the players will likely wonder who this guy is and why he seems to have all the answers. (Maybe that can be part of the story though! Do they trust him? Who is he serving?)

But I’ve also been running a game recently (Serenity RPG) in which the players are the crew of a ship, and I played the captain. It was partly an experiment but I think it worked for a couple reasons: I set up the expectation right from the start, I told them when they were making characters that an NPC would be their captain at least to start with, so they could make characters around that expectation. It was nice because then at the start of the campaign, I could help guide them well from adventure to adventure — “We’re going to do this, now” — and while they could disagree and debate, it helped structure the first part of the campaign. But I also made sure she took a back seat to the player’s choices — I even said, “It would make more in-story sense for Lia to make this decision, but I don’t want to take agency away from you here, so you guys make the plan.” I did not want to play Lia as a main character; rather, she was there to support the players and the story. And finally, I knew that she was ultimately going to get killed — which just happened, at the “mid-season” climax. Now they’re captaining themselves, but they have a direction for the story thanks to Lia. (Also they had a very touching funeral service. One of my players almost cried.)

So I guess that’s to say it can be done if done carefully and with very particular goals in mind? But if you just want to play that character, then just play them in someone else’s campaign.

Filed under tabletop rpg NPC mary sue serenity

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dawrik:

Huge stone mesas rolled past the cart, the smell of chocobo wafting back on the desert breeze. Sun blazed across the sand, and Dawrik’s pupils narrowed to slits in the back of the cart as he watched the landscape roll by. He’d been on the road a week since leaving his tribe in the Sagolii dunes to seek out the great citystate of Ul’Dah.

“By your outfit, I’m guessing you’re an adventurer,” a merchant sitting across from him said.

Dawrik glanced at the shirt and vest that lay crumpled on the wooden floor. He’d shed them long ago, hating the feeling of restriction he had in them. He shrugged. “Seems like the thing to do.”

“What are you looking for out here?” the man asked. He seemed affable enough.

The expected answered floated through Dawrik’s mind: glory, power, wealth. He shrugged again. “Just seems like fun! Looking for something to do. See the world. There’s only so much sand a cat can take.” He grinned.

The merchant laughed. “Ul’Dah’s not exactly free from sand,” he said, and scratched at himself. “Tends to get everywhere.”

“Tell me about it. At least it’s something new.”

He’d run out of things to do, back home at the Forgotten Springs. He’d been a decent hunter, that kept things a little interesting, but they never strayed too far into the dunes, what with the beastmen about. He’d talk to any traders that came through, but they were getting fewer. He’d conquered all the men in the tribe that he could, even that one with the scar on his thigh that had lost his wife in the Calamity. Dawrik had been a comforting presence to the older soldier, a reminder of what it was to be alive. But that only lasted so long before he grew bored again.

And he hated the feeling of being cooped up. Hiding in their homes by the oasis, the fur of his tail standing on end as fire rained from the heavens. Powerless to protect himself, watching those who were supposed to protect him hiding right along with him. He’d been only thirteen then, when the war came and the Calamity struck.

He’d needed to get out of there. He needed to see the world. He needed to do something — anything, really. Why not adventuring?

“Anyway, gotta see the world before it gets destroyed!” he said.

The merchant laughed again.

The first entry in the ongoing adventures of my Final Fantasy XIV character-slash-adorable-catboy Dawrik Longrunner that I’m writing. Will post updates regularly, including gorgeous screenshots because it’s such a pretty game. Follow dawrik!

Filed under ffxiv fanfic fiction writing final fantasy catboy