December 17th, 2002


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My husband woke me up with this article which filled me to no end of glee, mostly because David Brin's writing always fills me with glee, and if you haven't read his annhilatingly cool article on Star Wars (which included the unbelievable 'fix' that actually cleared up almost every hole in the plot--pity they'll never use it) then you should do so, because it's a delight.

It's not a rant about the flaws of the movies over the books, because anyone who is willing to expend time and energy arguing that there SHOULD have been twenty minutes of Tom Bombadil singing "hey-nonny-nonny-whatever-the-hell" needs to get out and get some fresh air and maybe take the crayon out of their nose, nor does it get bogged down in the percieved racism of Tolkien, which, while YES, the orcs are always bad and YES, the elves are always good, is not something to alert the ACLU about because, fer cryin' out loud, it's a movie, not a blueprint for future society. They're slicing the genitals off three-year-old girls with dirty razors in Ghana, for Christ's sake--go deal with that before you ask people to boycott a bloody fantasy epic because the orcs are mean. Um. What was I saying? Oh, right. Even though the headline is rather sensationalistic, it's actually a fairly sympathetic handling of Tolkien, who was, after all, a product of his time and place, as are we all, and is more of analysis of the context in which the books were written. And his points about the Lord of the Rings being a Romantic epic are, I think, well-taken, and god knows, I agree that it's better to be a snide and disaffected net-weirdo in this day and age then to be a snide and disaffected serf farming dirt in ages past. And yet, I feel that the essential point is that wizards and warriors and Romantic heros and so forth are really cool and thus valuable as fantasy, so long as we don't get all weird about it.

Being that fantasy is pretty much my job--other than the occasional murder mystery cover, I essentially make money by illustrating other people's fantasy lives or selling 'em chunks of my own--the whole topic is one near and dear to my heart, and LOTR is sort've the foundation myth for what I do. And it's nice to hear it discussed without being taken TOO seriously, the way that too many such discussions inevitably go. Brin's down on the elves. I approve of that. Elves are fantastic if you want to bonsai the forest, but I imagine they'd get really really annoying really quick. (I gotta say, I thought they did a fantastic job on Elrond in the movie, just for that reason--the Matrix agent bit was icing on the cake. "The worst thing about the smell.") Right, I'll shut up now, I just wanted to share.
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Updated web page. Updated comic. Ranted for half an hour to a captive audience--namely my husband, who brought it up, the poor bastard--about how there's never been any proof of a truly matriarchal human society, no matter what sloppy scholarship feminists put out in the seventies, and how the belief that men and women should be equal is a perfectly legitimate one that does not need hideous travesties of anthropological invention to back it up, *insert obscenities here* Just because our ancestors never did it doesn't mean we shouldn't strive for it. Toilet paper is a good thing too, and it's goodness oughta be self-evident without theorizing, on the basis of insanely flimsy evidence, that tribes during the Ice Age must've invented Charmin first, but that it was supressed by chauvanistic anti-toilet paper forces.

Societies with matriarchal lines of descent are few and far between, but they do exist. Truly matriarchal societies, however, are incredibly rare to the point of nonexistance, and tend to occur only under insanely specialized conditions, if at all--even the few Native American societies held up as "matriarchal" usually have male chiefs and all-male religious traditions, which doesn't sound like a feminist dreamworld to me. There is absolutely no concrete evidence of a widespread prehistoric matriarchy that can't be explained in several dozen other, much more plausible ways. This is not to say that women are inherently subservient (and I will pummel anyone who says it is!) but one's desire to promote one's belief in sexual equality is absolutely, positively, under no circumstance, excuse for sloppy, romanticized science.

Really, I don't usually rant about such things with quite such frequency--most of my life is a relatively staid world of chunky tapirs and working out Art Deco cyberspace sigils. I think my moral and ethical buttons are just getting pushed repeatedly this week. I blame sunspots.
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