Jordan Peterson and Frozen

Sometimes you get presented things on a platter.

I haven’t talked much about the Canadian psychology professor who has been recently embraced by alt-right as a champion against the forces of college liberalism. I ignored the initial fuss because it was mainly framed in terms of an academic being a bit of a dick around the same time he has a book being released. That story is essentially the scrappy-doo marketing technique writ large.

However, my interest was renewed when I learnt that Peterson’s book was a pop-psychology ‘ self-help’ book. Oh! There’s a thing there – a big thing, like a marker or a flag or a big sign with a hand on it saying ‘This way to pseudoscientific claptrap as a precursor to modern political pathology.”

Also, he doesn’t like Frozen. Now, I know, we pretty much established yesterday LOTS of people don’t like Frozen but have a look at this post at John C Wright’s blog:

Jordan Peterson on Art

The video is an interview with Peterson about stories, archetypes. Peterson claims to be influenced by Jung but basically, his arguments are almost classic John C Wright style ones that confuse tropes with archetypes and confuse archetypes with cast iron laws and judge art by the extent to which they do or don’t follow an ‘analysis’. I can see why Wright likes Peterson but Peterson’s analysis is no stronger than Wrights.

Peterson is discussing some Disney movies (don’t roll your eyes too much at the praise for Beauty and the Beast and what that means for relationships) and he gets to the Lion King:

“some of the archetypal themes in it were put in consciously and so they are not as…they’e not…they’re more propagandistic in some sense.”

He continues with this theme with the prompting of the interviewer. Essentially he is trying to cobble together the ‘message fiction’ argument of the Sad Puppies but less coherently. He wants stories to have arcs and internal logic but not want them to be contrived. The Sad Pups wouldn’t put their argument that badly as they genuinely are writers who know that they have to actually use some craft to get a story to function.

He goes on:

“Frozen was a good example. Propagandistic right from the beginning. It was the right propaganda for the time but, but [interviewer interrupts – I know my niece loves it] No one will watch it in twenty years time.Whereas they’ll be watching Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast forever.”

I don’t have a conclusion here, I’m just gathering stuff here Lemony Snicket like in a giant bundle of a shape of something and calling it evidence.

 

Why (some of the)* Right Hates Elsa

I’ll start with the only place this post can start – which is where it needs to finish also:

How much does the right of Science Fiction & Fantasy hate this movie and this song in particular? A *lot*, more than perhaps you may have noticed. Sure, the new Star Wars movies have received more high profile attacks, and modern superhero comics have had there own troll-fest ‘gate’ but ‘Frozen’? Frozen has worked its way like a tiny shard of ice under the skin.

To wit:

“As I’ve told my children, Let It Go is an expression of pure Crowleyian evil “http://voxday.blogspot.com.au/2017/11/let-it-go-to-hell.html

“Do you remember hearing how Disney loved the song “Let It Go” so much that they created an entire movie to go around it? Did you ever ask yourself what it was they loved so much about it?…Disney is run by literal satanists preaching Alastair Crowley’s “do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” to children.”  http://voxday.blogspot.com.au/2017/10/the-devil-that-is-disney.html

” Women and girls learning how to throw off all rules and inhibition is core to our new morality.  The song isn’t loved as a guilty pleasure;  it is loved as a bold moral declaration.  Stop trying to be a good girl and learn to worship yourself is a moral exhortation. ” https://dalrock.wordpress.com/2017/11/13/children-understand/

“The gay agenda to normalize homosexuality is woven into Disney’s movie Frozen not just as an underlying message – it is the movie.” http://wellbehavedmormonwoman.blogspot.com.au/2014/02/movie-frozen-gay-homosexual-agenda.html

“So when it comes to Frozen: Elsa telling Anna that she couldn’t marry a man she just met is a funny observation of a trope that is kind of silly if you think about it.Having that man turn out to be a sociopath that tries to kill Elsa and steal the throne, because that trope was always secretly ‘problematic,’ is subversion and spits on Disney.” http://www.superversivesf.com/2018/02/15/enchanted-parody-frozen-subversion/

“I am puzzled why the writers of Frozen wanted Hans to be the villain, for as best I can tell, they already had someone who would make the perfect villain… Elsa.” http://www.superversivesf.com/2018/01/22/frozens-fatal-flaw-or-the-unplotted-plot-twist/

“So how are things fixed? Does Elsa admit he’s right and strive to do better in the future? Does she vow never to cut loose like that again and learn to control herself?

No. She Loves Her Sister. And that’s it. Now she can control her powers. She never says that letting it go was a mistake.” http://www.superversivesf.com/2018/01/26/no-elsa-not-learn-lesson/

Note that THREE of that sample were from 2018 – this isn’t a short-lived attempt to gain attention by a cynical attack on something popular. No, indeed the Superversive articles, in particular, are by people heavily engaged with the plot of the film who seem to be trying to wrestle with what is wrong with it.

Crowley? Normalizing homosexuality? Wrong villains? Fatal plot flaws? This all from people who often claim that popularity and commercial success are the true marks of artistic quality. By that measure Frozen is high art – a Disney musical powerhouse at a time when Disney musicals were long past their peak. A film that launched a thousand lunch boxes.

The issue is not hard to diagnose. Frozen is mainly conventional Disney – in some ways even less than that. The plot is slight compared to other classic Disney films (e.g. the Lion King) and the songs (bar one) are unmemorable. Yet it does a few things and those things are interesting:

  • ‘Let It Go’ is a genuinely really good song, but it is also really well integrated into the story both emotionally, in its lyrics and in the character development of Elsa.
  • The story rejects romantic love as its central message and instead centres on the familial love of two sisters.

This being Disney, there really is zero implications about Elsa’s sexuality EXCEPT that at no point does she act out of desire for a romantic relationship with anybody of any gender. And with that we get to part of the multiple issues the right continue to have with the film.

  • Both Elsa and Anna reject a story line (and hence a role) of a princess finding the love of a prince. This element is strongest with Anna rather than Elsa. Anna does fall in love with a prince and while that helps drive the plot, this does not lead to the normal resolution because…
  • ..the prince is actually a shit bag. I’m surprised there are fewer rightwingers complaining that the film is ‘anti-man’. I guess because it is a reasonable point that at least some men are shitbags and it is a sibling’s duty to point that out.
  • Elsa overtly and very musically rejects not so much romantic love etc but ALL societal expectations of her and goes off and does her own thing. Now, the film’s ‘message’ is really quite reactionary in so far as it shows the CONSEQUENCE of this as throwing the whole kingdom into eternal winter but…
  • …instead of rejecting her descion to be independent, Elsa treats the whole eternal winter more as a technical problem to be solved.

Are the lyrics to ‘Let It Go’ amoral? Sure – the right ALMOST has a point there. Elsa, in frustration, rejects all of society so that she can act in anyway she likes. I mean, that does sound familiar – not so much ‘Crowley’ but the whole strain of ‘positive thinking’ self-help radical individualism that is peddled by multiple strands of the Alt-Right. The lyrics could *almost* be an anthem for some sections of the Alt-Right, except…

…except that it is a woman singing them and a woman rejecting not people expecting a basic level of decency & compassion but rather a mass of expectations that are literally crushing her ability to do what she is good at. And Elsa does ‘learn her lesson’ in this regard by realising that she SHOULD be allowed to be herself and make bridges and mountain top ice palaces but not at the expense of cutting herself off from her society and family.

Put another way – I think maybe ‘Let It Go’ struck a chord with these guys a bit. It caused a tiny twinge of recognition of their own feelings in a quite different character, to the extent that years later they still can’t (ahem) let it go. Yet, at the same time, the SAME message expressed their deepest fear – women following their own dreams for their own motives independent of societal expectations for the role of women.

To finish, here’s that song again but a version where Disney cut together all the multiple language versions:

*[I’ve had some concerned people on the right express concern for the sweeping headline. Not All Rightists hate Elsa and some find her quite charming 🙂 ]

Where Did Superversive’s Cloverfield Paradox Review Go?

I really, really, hope this a clever meta review of the film which features a space-station vanishing into a parallel universe… because the review of the film at Superversive is just a 404 page: http://www.superversivesf.com/2018/02/08/movie-review-the-cloverfield-paradox/

If that was intentional then I think they deserve a round of applause – even better if the review is actually appearing on some unrelated blog somewhere else.

A check of Google cache shows the review was there – it starts like this:

“Orbiting a planet on the brink of war, scientists test a device to solve an energy crisis, and end up face-to-face with a dark alternate reality.
The Cloverfield Paradox is a great science-fiction romp. I highly recommend it.
The critics’ response to The Cloverfield Paradox once again proves that ‘Critics Don’t Know Science Fiction’ or what’s good. The special effects are awesome. The suspense is great. The science referenced is deep (but don’t over-think it). The actors, although completely unknown to me, are terrific.

This third installment of the Cloverfield franchise is much more on par with the first.
The original Cloverfield was a great movie. The style (jerky camera footage) made me a bit nauseous when I watched it at first, but it made for a sense of realism that pulled me in as a participant rather than just a viewer. That feeling of not knowing what would happen next (or what the heck was really going on, for that matter) was what made it a great movie to me. Well, The Cloverfield Paradox does that again, only this time it’s in space! Spaaaaaaaace!

Now, I won’t compare it to the fail that was 10 Cloverfield Lane. That was just psycho-thriller garbage with aliens thrown into the mix. It was like Signs, but with John Goodman manifesting the crazy of the entire cast himself right after a screeching fight with Rosanne Barr. Swing away Dan!”

Which is fair enough. The effects were good and if you can avoid getting tangled in the ‘why?’ of it all, I can see how the film could be likable.

I did ask the Superversive twitter account why the review had vanished but they weren’t very communicative.

Review: Borne by Jeff Vandermeer

Rachael and Wix survive in the ruins of a city via scavenging and trading in biotech and drugs. Dominating the city is the ruins of the Company building – a source of horror and marvels and which hides secrets to Wix’s past. Nesting in that building is the former guard of the Company and now monstrous eminence – Mord a giant biotech bear with the capacity to levitate. Welcome to the very odd world of Borne.

The easiest point of comparison is with Margaret Atwood’s MaddAdam trilogy in that it bridges a surreal bio-engineered post-apocalyptic world with a more recognisable modern one. However, that is misleading. The bridge to the past is limited and mainly via Rachael’s unreliable memories of her former life. In some ways, this is more like a portal fantasy in which the biotechnology is the Clarkian sufficiently-advanced-technology indistinguishable from magic. That Rachael can remember a world more like ours gives a reason for her explanations of her universe – which has become purely the city.

That this is a nightmarishly surreal world in which life is magical in the bad sense of the word is underlined by the absurdity of Mord’s capacity for flight, Wix’s alcoholic fish and Wix’s territorial rival, the woman known only as ‘The Magician’.

Into this unstable wasteland of horrors comes Borne. Found as a kind of polyp stuck to the ragged hairs of Mord’s hide, Borne begins as a plant-like creature tended to by Rachael. Borne’s mysterious growth (things go in but nothing comes out) soon leads to sentience and communication.

The story takes us through Rachael and Borne’s relationship amid a growing territorial crisis in the city. With toxic bears (‘Mord proxies’) and bio-engineered feral children vying for territory and control and the Magician plotting against the bestial dominance of Mord, the story rolls forward with the sense of an unbalanced object on an unstable surface. Yet this is mixed with humour and charm as the innocent but dangerously powerful Borne learns more about his abilities and the world around him.

Borne (the book rather than the character) maintains that unsettling environment and paranoia about physical space that Vandermeer deployed so well in the Area X/Southern Reach trilogy. Yet this is a more accessible plot, with stronger closure and more things explained (not everything – the foxes for example or the place behind the silver wall). Also there is a weird reversal of likability compared with the Area X novels – even the horrific bear-monster Mord has a weird charm – the characters are all flawed and each in their own way murderous and manipulative but at the same time shown sympathetically as people just trying to get along in a world that is unfriendly, cruel and prone to senseless death.

Moving and clever and surreal in the core sense of the term, the novel manages to be many things at once while feeling like a consistent whole. Borne, as a character feels like a juvenile version of Philip K Dick’s Glimmung – an extraordinarily powerful being that can reshape itself almost infinitely and yet prone to childishness and petty behaviour. The power over life and death held by the now defunct Company, Wix’s & the Magician’s biotech manipulations, Borne’s growing powers or Mord’s apex predator death-from-the-sky suffuses the novel with a theological air. The ruined city is a training ground for flawed, inadequate gods.

Very readable and at turns both charming and horrific and meditative. Better, I think, than Area X/Southern Reach in that Vandermeer finds a better balance between resolution and what should remain unexplained. I really liked this and it deserves awards.

 

 

A Note for Chris Chupik

Dear Chris,

Absolutely you can quote what is said here over at Mad Genius – indeed I’d encourage it. However, you have a rather poor habit of misquoting people. For example, you quoted Aaron Pound as talking about Sad Puppies IN GENERAL:

Chris Chupik: “Speaking of Puppies, I saw over the comments at Cammy’s blog* Aaron Pound saying we Puppies lack “any real knowledge concerning the history of science fiction fandom in general and the Hugo Award specifically, and seems to have had an educational background that focused heavily on getting professional credentials rather than getting immersed in literature and history.” https://madgeniusclub.com/2018/02/12/can-i-talk-you-about-our-lord-chthulhu/#more-22262

Whereas what Aaron had actual said was:

BT was a bad choice to lead the Puppy campaign, in large part because he is apparently rather poorly read in genre fiction. or more accurately, his reading has been drawn from a fairly narrow range. He also lacked any real knowledge concerning the history of science fiction fandom in general and the Hugo Award specifically, and seems to have had an educational background that focused heavily on getting professional credentials rather than getting immersed in literature and history.

It was a comment specifically about Brad Torgersen not knowing what he was talking about.

Anyway, carry on the good work.

Love and kisses,

Camestros Still-Never-Been-to-Aberdeen Felapton 🙂

Star Trek Discovery: Finale!

What an odd episode. What an odd show.

This episode had one core theme that slowly overwhelmed the story and was then repeatedly underlined. The penultimate point being a fun cameo as the surprise twist ending and capped off with the credit music being the original Star Trek music.

The episode was a repudiation of Season 1 of the show with an affirmation (at times overt) of the values that people project onto Star Trek. The climax being a quasi-mutiny of the crew and a refusal to commit a war crime. Instead, the bridge crew assert that who they are is Star Fleet, as if the previous fourteen episodes was them working this out – via Michael’s original mutiny, their time under actually evil Captain Lorca, Saru’s own dalliance with mutiny, human experimentation, a trip to an evil universe, and finally being captained by yet another refugee from the Terran Empire.

I liked that Michael et al decided that mass murder, even to save the Earth, was a bad idea. I liked that the show rejected the plot device of being forced into an extreme act by a desperate situation but it did kind of feel like this final episode was rejecting in big bold letters (with triple underlining) the whole season of Star Trek Discovery. By saying that Star Fleet isn’t like this, the episode was saying Star Trek shouldn’t be like how Discovery has been. Well, lots of people have said that already but I can’t think of a show that used its season final too so boldy agree with its critics.

Rankings

  1. Episode 9: Into the Forest I Go
  2. Episode 13: What’s Past is Prologue
  3. Episode 14: The War Without, The War Within
  4. Episode 12: Vaulting Ambition
  5. Episode 3: Context is for Kings
  6. Episode 10: Despite Yourself
  7. Episode 4: Seriously stupidly long episode name
  8. Episode 2: Battle at the Binary Stars
  9. Episode 6: Lethe
  10. Episode 11: The Wolf inside
  11. Episode 15: Will You Take My Hand
  12. Episode 8: Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum
  13. Episode 5: Choose Your Pain
  14. Episode 1: The Vulcan Hello
  15. Episode 7: Seriously WTF Discovery Scriptwriters? [revised title]

Bits and Pieces

  • Plot twists I didn’t expect: hey, let’s visit an Orion/Klingon strip club!
  • Tilly’s Terran Empire salute out of pure social awkwardness was comedy gold.
  • Tilly gets high in a strip club and tries to foil a genocide.
  • Georgiou explaining it isn’t technically genocide if some Klingon’s survive was a clever way of anticipating fans who were maybe thinking the plan was a good idea.
  • Quite how L’Rell uses the doomsday device to unite everybody is kept vague but I’m OK with that.
  • A sad ending for Ash Tyler but he might be back.
  • The Klingon’s don’t all magically update to TNG style Klingons 😦
  • No tardigrade cameo 😦
  • Suprisingly, the season ends with the spore drive still operational if currently not in use.
  • Captain Pike is in trouble!
  • Also, who is the new captain going to be and why are they going to Vulcan to get him?
  • Note: it was Sarek who essentially persuaded Michael that the Federation needed to launch a first strike against the Klingons in Episode 1. It was Sarek who persuaded Star Fleet to put evil-Georgiou in charge of the blow-up Qo’nos plan. The mirror universe Sarek is much nicer than the regular universe one.
  • I’ve no idea what Season 2 will be like.

Tomorrow’s News Today

Paul Ryan has hit out at critics saying that the GOP has become the “pro-flu” party. “My comments about thinning out the weak from the herd were taken out of context,” said Ryan although he refused to answer questions regarding President Trump’s late night Tweet in the subject.

Trump had declared that “there are good microscopic entities on both sides” but had stopped short of out right endorsement of the flu virus. Some commentators were surprised by Trump’s equivocation, believing that white blood cells were his natural constituency.

However, others have pointed to an uptick in pro-flu social media accounts which may have influenced the President. Cybercrime experts are claiming some of the accounts show a similar level of base complexity as a virus. One account identified as a ‘pro-flu bot’ denies these claims.

“I’m just a regular guy,” says Mr H3N2, “just making my way in the world, finding ways to mutate & cross the chicken/human species barrier.”

Meanwhile, one local Republican politician has introduced “Freedom to cough” legislation in his state legislature.

“I’m not in anyway ‘pro-flu’ but I don’t think do-gooders and social justice types should be telling free American men when or where they can cough and who they can cough on. Liberty has to come first.”

The Opposition to Paid Sick Leave

Paid sick leave is a smart idea. It is smart because it encourages sick people to stay home when they are sick. That does two things – it speeds recovery and it reduces the spread of infectious diseases. So if it is smart for the broader interests of modern industrial capitalism, we should see those motivated by capitalism supporting it…

Meanwhile in reality: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/feb/11/paid-sick-leave-koch-brothers-nfib

A group called the National Federation of Independent Business, funded by the pseudo-libertarian Kock brothers has been campaigning against local laws for paid sick leave. The campaign follows an NRA-style model of demanding vaguely for ‘reasonable’ laws whilst attacking any positive proposals using generic arguments without regard to the specifics of the proposal.

Compared with the scale of other issues in the USA right now or internationally, this may seem a relatively minor fight. However, consider it in terms of what kinds of political consensus there can be. Paid sick leave, depending on the actual scheme, is probably of net economic benefit under modern capitalism. The gains may be vague for a specific business but the potential benefits are not difficult to work out in terms of improved productivity. The opposition arises because of something deeper than ideology. Instead, it is a deep-seated fear that somebody, somewhere who is ‘undeserving’ might get something for nothing.

So much of modern rightwing thought can be traced back to this pathology – a deep-seated fear that somehow ‘lesser’ people are taking the ‘deserving’ people for a ride. ‘Lesser’ need not be defined in terms of race, or social class or ethnicity or nationality or gender or disability but each of those plays a role. As an idea, it is poison – undermining simple schemes to alleviate poverty and disadvantage by requiring less efficient and more costly baroque approaches designed to combat possible ‘fraud’ i.e. to make it as hard as possible for those in need to get something that will help them.