Cultural Gentrification and You

There's no such thing as being too Southern. Lewis Grizzard.png

It started with a simple enough inquiry about mason jars. A coworker asked me where to get a few so of course, being the Southern belle that I am, I asked what the use of the jars would be for. Her answer was frank. She wanted to make parfaits. Parfaits of all things. Think of the history of the mason jar. Once a proud Southern staple that held everything from flowers to nuts and bolts to necessary canned goods that could sustain  a family through the unpredictable winters. Now, they’re the subject of many a Pinterest board about all the fun, crafty things you can do with the versatile glass vessel. So with all that in mind, let’s talk about cultural gentrification, fads and all the tools a Southern lady has in her handbook that are now for some reason very in-style.

We’ve discussed cultural appropriation, dual-consciousness and Southern heritage become codified and popular all before so if you haven’t read those posts, now’s a good time.

I’ll wait.

All done?

Awesome, let’s get started.

So, of course, I had to talk about this matter with fellow Southern black woman and cultural anthropologist, Amber. We had a lengthy talk about how mason jars became suddenly so chic. I remember growing up with mason jars. We received canned goods from family members. We treasured gifts of apple butter, lemon curd, chow chow and bread and butter pickles. My grandfather canned foods. His family canned foods. I learned how to make jams and jellies and curds as I got older and wanted to keep the produce I was getting from the farmer’s market a little longer despite the fickle seasons of South Texas. It was just something good Southern folk did. (Not to say that Yankees didn’t ever can, pickle or preserve.)

Now suddenly, something that was a utility and was therefore kept cheap and easy to access because people used them for everything suddenly became rather expensive. And while I do love all the colors mason jars come in now, they’re far more costly than they ever were and are harder to find as people use them for country weddings, vision boards and to literally hold just parfaits. And I still remember many a Yankee friend question why we kept our flowers in empty pickle jars during my youth despite now these same Yankee friends asking “Where do you get Ball Mason Jars?” like Google doesn’t exist.

This was a conversation had at one of the halcyon symbols of gentrification to us as Southern black people: an overpriced barbecue restaurant. Now the cultural and social conditions that made BBQ a Southern staple could be its own post but I want to talk about a restaurant Amber and I went to: The Granary. It’s a nice place. It’s in the new booming area that is the Pearl Brewery and it has some decent barbecue. But good Lord, it’s expensive. 20 or so dollars for a plate with portions that were small for what a Southern lady expects out of a BBQ place. The sides were decent, too. The pickles were sweet (I like sweet dills, Amber does not). The bread was delicious since it was made with buttermilk. The sausage was good, the brisket was fine but the hitch was the collard greens. Oh the collard greens. Amber ordered them and immediately turned up a frown. She begged me to taste them and I did. They were sweet. Very sweet. Greens aren’t meant to be sweet.

We deduced that there had to be sugar and the sweet dill pickle brine in the vat of greens. Now, sugar is an additive in some recipes for collard greens to cut some of the bitterness (Amber says this is a sin but I know at least one family recipe calls for some sugar to make green palatable). And again, the food history of collard greens and other foods brought out of the terrible burden that was slavery but I digress. We came to the idea that the sugar was added to the greens at The Granary as if someone saw a recipe in an old Southern cook book and didn’t make any changes at all. We all know many Southern recipes may say add ⅛ cup of sugar but that doesn’t always actually mean ⅛ cup of sugar. Feel free to ask my friend Taylor about the pain of Southern recipes. I could never give him a solid measurement of how sugar was in my famous lemon meringue pie recipe because I never had a solid measurement. It always changed based on taste, how I felt and what the pie needed. Another great culinary example of this is “bone broth”. My new-age auntie explained to me that bone broth is just a rich stock made by exploting the gelatin and collagen in the bones of many animals while making stock or broth. To which I then quickly corrected her: “Oh, so the way our ancestors have been making broth for generations.” and she could only simply nod. The “faces” of the bone broth movement have been mostly Paleo Diet white women which is quiet ironic. It was their desire for clearer broths and stocks that lead to bones not being used in the stock-making process. Additionally, there was this fun little add-on to Google Chrome that changed any instance of “bone broth” to “hot ham water” since that’s what it was essentially. There was nothing different about it and as a cultural artifact, despite it’s now apparently health “benefits” it isn’t new and to charge several dollars for a jar just because it’s being rediscovered is disrespectful to the many home cooks who had to keep the bones in broth because that may be the only piece of meat for their family for weeks or even months.

Let’s get back to gentrification. Gentrification is about taking something that was typically accessible to the poor or culturally disenfranchised and making them pop culture and thus driving up the price of them. Suddenly those old tennent homes in the Bronx are oh so chic which is driving out the old rent-controlled tenants who have called those home for decades. Like me with my mason jars, now because they’re en vogue, it’s difficult to find cheap mason jars anymore for the rose jam I make in the summer. My other main concern with cultural gentrification and appropriation is the separation from the roots of these cultural staples.

I’m a proud Southern lady but I am also critically aware that being proud of being Southern is a complex legacy. There are plenty of Southern artifacts that cannot be rehabilitation. A sprawling plantation home was still once a plantation. The food many Southerners hold near and dear came from, started with and were perpetuated by disenfranchised people at minimum and at max were created out of the necessities and horrors of chattel slavery. They are distinct, valid and belong to another culture and the only difference between homage and ripping off is respect. I’m not angry at The Granary for overcharging on small portions of fairly decent barbecue. I know it was from a place of respect. The recipes came from a place of trying to honor the memories of the South.

It’s difficult to take back parts of Southern culture and remove them from the fact that they were often done out of necessity. Black women learned to sew because they had to because clothing was difficult to afford. White women learned canning and pickling to keep crops safe for uncertain times. Poor black folks created barbecue to use up less than ideal parts of animals because that’s what they were given. Taking those cultural artifacts, jacking up the price and making them fancy is literally losing the point. And when an outsider removes the cultural heritage and point of an artifact like using mason jars for just overnight chia seed pudding while not acknowledging the history, trials and struggles that came with those artifacts: again, the point is being lost.

So by now I’m sure you’re asking a few questions. Am I just a bitter Southern princess lamenting over the increased price of a mason jar and the rise of basic bitch Pinterest boards that promote literally gluing cotton balls to pinecones to bring “The South indoors”? Probably. But is there a larger conservation to be had about changing trends, appropriation and being aware of the cultural roots of many common artifacts? Yes, for sure.

A Fan Need Not Always Be Positive

The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism. Norman Vincent Peale.png

We’ve talked about fandoms, criticism, cynicism and hype so today let’s wrap up the discussion with a little chat about forced positivity, totem culture and why criticism again does not negate enjoyment.

In all honesty, I thought I was finished with this topic. I got my feelings out of my system. I was done talking about how delicate modern fandom is. Oh, I was wrong. I was so so wrong. It started with a friendly little talk about Harry Potter. I was talking about the popular magical franchise with my coworkers. We’re all sorted into different houses. We have different opinions of the movies versus the books. And then I mentioned that I felt the series was still a bit tired. I brought up points that it despite what the novels do well still continue to perpetuate biblical-esque oversimplifications of good and evil. I said that it continues to shun a diverse cast to focus more on the homogenous main cast. I said that while I loved the movies and read most of the books that it still was like so many other young adults novels, slinging a storied narrative with unilaterally good and unilaterally evil characters except for Snape but we don’t talk about Snape. And after listing the valid complaints that I had, my coworker went on to say rather simply:

Well, I still like it. It sounds like you’re a hater.

Dear reader, how I clutched my pearls.

Me? A hater?

Now, I’ve always prided myself on being the type of fan that never hates something senselessly. I always give something at least 3 episodes (if it’s a tv show or anime), the first 3 chapters (in the case of manga and comic books or novels) and at least the first 30 minutes or so of a movie. I always give something a chance. I research voice actors, writers, directors, intention and all. If I’m going to comment on anything: positive or negative, I try my best to speak to the topic with some ethos.

A hater to me has always been someone who needlessly is critical to the point of being obtuse. And since I pride myself on being an informed fan hurt my ego to the core. And it brought up a more important question. Even though I said I liked this series, can I apparently have no negative opinions on it? When did liking a thing mean that is has to be perfect in every way?

In the last post I mentioned more than once that the shows I care about the most I am the most critical of. I can see the cracks in Fullmetal Alchemist even though that anime got me through one of the most difficult times in my life. I can admit that Axis Powers:Hetalia is a silly totem anime to had but it kept me and my friends close during a time when we were all so far away. I can admit that. But Harry Potter is one especially that seems almost too big to discuss. So many people have had their lives changed by a story about wizards, magic and a world that provided a home away from home for so many. Even in my darkest of hours, Hogwarts was a place that I could escape to when my own home was just as bad as the Dursleys. But just because I enjoy something, doesn’t mean that I can’t see its flaws. Unfortunately, this totem culture with Harry Potter and other media artifacts are frustrating. I love deep conversations and you can’t have a conversation when someone cannot or will not see their beloved body of work complexly. But because so many escaped with Harry Potter, coped with Harry Potter, made friends, families and memories with Harry Potter but that does not mean that it’s perfect: even if it was immensely important to you personally.

Now, here’s where I put some of my own personal flaws on the board. I admit that just because I find totem culture exhausting, that does not give me the right to be disrespectful and I’m willing to admit that if there’s a series I don’t like (looking at you, Yuri on Ice and Attack on Titan) that my opinions can be harsh, unyielding and overbearing. So, call a spade a spade, if I’m mean, I’m mean. However, if I have valid criticisms and present them well, it’s just as rude to be dismissive just because a piece of media means a lot to you.

Speaking of valid criticism, let’s talk about forced positivity. I’ve talked a few times about Internet critics and the juggernauts of fan culture and their either hyperbolic hatred of all things (Looking at you, CinemaSins and Nostalgia Chick) or their emphatic love of all things (Looking at you, Kevin Smith and Chris Hardwick). I take particular umbrage with Chris Hardwick. I’ve been a fan of his since he was the only true nerd on G4 and his particular brand of nerd comedy and at the time obscure references to Neon Genesis Evangelion and Doctor Who were welcomed to a nerd like me who ended up making similar references only to find them falling flat upon my usual familial audience. And then he became popular. Suddenly Nerdist wasn’t just a blog or a screenname: it was a brand. And now as he partners with The Walking Dead and other big studio productions, Chris Hardwick suddenly could not comment on anything negative about the shows he mentioned or reviewed for fear of alienating fans and advertisers. And while sure, plenty of things are better than ever before when it comes to movies, comics, books and games but certainly something can be not as good. Certainly, some of these properties have flaws. Nope, not if you watch The Talking Dead, a show Hardwick hosts with help from AMC. So of course, each episode of The Walking Dead is a monolithic wonder. Each one perfect, special and magical. Even the episode where it’s literally just an hour of walking in the woods. Or even a more recent movie like Suicide Squad. Anyone who loves comics, movies or comic book movies can admit that at best this movie had flaws and at worst was an acid-spitting neon death trap but if you hear from Kevin Smith (the unappointed patron saint of nerd culture) it was a damn masterpiece. I’d like to know which movie he saw. The film I saw was far from a masterpiece. I think the idea of forced positivity is actually quite interesting and many Youtubers have discussed it as well as more than one very well-written article on the subject. There is a feeling that you must if you are online, be positive. And for many of us that struggle with mental illness, faking happiness or joy for a property or product just doesn’t help. If you show me an anime while I’m not in a great head space, it’s unfair then to say that it’s my fault for just not enjoying it or not enjoying it to your level.

But I have some ideas of where totem culture and being too defensive came from. Fan culture has a history of being far from kind. While the outside world was mean to nerds, geeks and fans for years, we also became quite mean to each other. The early years of fan culture created strong ships and massive canons to guard those ships. I have lost plenty of ships, destroyed headcanons and even changed my opinions on shows by weathering the storm of early fan culture. But not every fan took that struggle as a positive. Some took those constant fan battles and bullying and it has made them defensive and afraid of criticism. I’ve heard this time and time again:

Don’t attack my ship.

It’s an admittance of weakness. It’s saying that you don’t want to engage in war. It’s saying you much rather sail the seas of fan culture without incident. You take down your canons, your masts and sail on.

But what so many of those who say “don’t attack my ship” miss out on is the ability to harden your fleet. Sure, sometimes a ship get destroyed. Canons are wrecked. Dreams are dashed upon the cold hard rocks of fandoms, true canon and battles over OTPs. I lost so many ships, Internet and forum battles and came out of that a hardened, knowledge and worldly fan. I resisted the urge to simply revel in echo chambers and I have surrounded myself with people that not only most of the time disagree with me but people who I actually share little in common with.

From that proving ground, I was able to discuss what I like effectively, criticize without cruelty and discuss without hurting others. And while I can respect that some saw a battleground of lost fan ships and decided it was best not to participate in the war, I encourage every fan to at least try and have a discussion about a series or property they like a lot. Some of the best conversations I’ve ever had have been effectively fruitless. I can’t always get someone to see my side and I can’t always get someone to change my mind. That however doesn’t mean I wasn’t thankful for the conversation.

Stay kind, fandom. Stay open. Have conversations. Embrace other opinions. And most importantly, have fun.

Thoughts from A-Kon 28

-This entire weekend has just been me complaining about Yuri on Ice, making pterodactyl noises and non-sexual grunts and running away from my problems.--Said in the Hotel during A-Kon 28.png

It’s always surprising how I feel leaving convention. Sometimes I’m excited to get back on the road and return home and sometimes I never want the weekend to end. Here are the thoughts and feelings I had before, during and after A-Kon 28.

  • I for sure don’t mind the 4 hour drive so much when I get to take breaks.
  • Sometimes hotel breakfast is a trap.
    • No, seriously. Carlos and I were both super sick after hotel breakfast and we didn’t eat it again. And we all know how seriously I take hotel free breakfast so this was very disappointing to me.
  • There’s nothing quite like seeing your ex check into the same hotel you’re staying in.
    • Especially if you didn’t break up with that person on good terms.
      • No seriously, it was a huge emotional burden dealing with those feelings and seeing this person over and over again after such a painful break up was difficult to say delicately.
  • Gen Korean BBQ is still an amazing place.
    • And I get all the banchan since Carlos doesn’t like it.
  • Daiso is still the most magical place I’ve ever been to and they have fantastic candy.
    • No, really. I got 5 bags of apple gummies. Please send more apple gummies.
  • 85C may replace Mozart Bakery as my go-to place for breads.
    • Please don’t tell Mozart. I can’t have them know I cheated on them.
  • Bringing in stuff for a care package reminds me of how extra of a friend I am.
    • I made the boys (Carlos and Ricky) a mix-tape and badges for their service.
      • That’s right, reader. I made a damn mix-tape.
  • After the last few hotels rooms that gave me my own bedroom and bathroom, I’ve grown spoiled to that.
    • I’ve also grown spoiled to having a kitchen.
      • I love Carlos to death as a friend but I need my own bedroom.
        • He snores.
  • I found out about Adam West’s death while at Kirin Court with Carlos and it really messed me up for days.
  • So real talk, I hated A-Kon’s new layout.
    • Ft.Worth is not Dallas. Parking was a nightmare. Finding food was  nightmare and walking even a half a mile in costume while bound, padded, in a wig and in a heavy layered costume is a miserable sort of hell. And spreading it around 3 hotels made the organic fun of “falling” into a place out of the question. We had to plan everything because everything was blocks away. Nothing could be spontaneous. And all the things Carlos and I do, our traditions,  were so far away we could barely enjoy them. Normally 10-20 minute drives because 45 minutes to 1 hour long slogs across I-20. That really ruined some of my fun during this convention.
  • Less jokey panels are fun but interesting.
    • Normally, I’d never try a new panel at such a big con but it was important to me. 150 people saw me over 2 days and I’m proud of them. I got many compliments and people seemed engaged. Now I can workshop them better and be a better panelist. That’s how I grow.
  • It’s difficult being surrounded by media pieces you don’t like.
    • I still dislike YoI and it was everywhere. Literally. And it did upset me once or twice. But the hatred did dull after day 2 of seeing poorly-dressed Victors running around.
      • Fun fact though: I feel really tsundere about YoI because I should love this series and I did finish it but the fandom..god, the fandom hurts me.
  • Really this whole con was just about things that were popular: it was Zeitgeist the Convention.
    • Maybe that isn’t all bad.
  • The 90s Dance Music channel on Amazon Prime music was fire!
    • Nothing like Carlos and I dancing and singing to Barbie Girl.
      • Don’t judge us.
  • I do love cosplayers of all kinds, shapes and sizes but I’ll always rail against shake and go cosplay. Details are wonderful and they make me so happy as a fangirl and cosplayer. I do sometimes wish people cared a little more about these details sometimes but I’m from a different era of cosplay
  • I’m really shaken by the lack of routine we were able to have at this con with it being in Ft. Worth.
    • I’m still disappointed in this days later.
  • I’m upset I didn’t get my tea and cake after a good panel.
    • I did get ice cream, though.
  • I realize now having lived in San Antonio for some years that I seriously miss Taco Bueno and Chicken Express.
  • I’m disappointed in myself that I let people take my joy away.
  • However, Carlos did learn that you can easily melt my heart with a Rowlet.
    • No seriously, I freaked out over my sweet birb son.
  • I worry a lot about Carlos and I as friends.
    • We’re very different in nearly every way and sometimes I wonder why we’re friends and what can come of it. And then he’ll say “Let’s play DDR. I know you like that.” and I’m less worried.
  • Apparently, every Free! cosplayer was at the literal pool at convention.
    • I regret not visiting that pool.
  • I’m realizing that I’m not a huge fan of official merch and I much rather spend my money on original art pieces.
  • RuPaul’s Drag Race is one of the few things Carlos and I can agree on so we literally watched that all weekend.
  • Sometimes, you wear so much highlighter that you get compliments about it.
    • No really, Carlos has never seen me with that much makeup on and I loved living my best Farrah Moan fantasy.
  • There’s nothing like meeting webcomic artists that you follow.
    • Special thank you to Rem of Devil’s Candy and Ru of Saint for Rent and letting me squee over them so much.
  • If a hand fetishist asks for your gloves, do not let him take them for free.
    • Try to auction them off for $50.
      • Then immediately take them off and feel dirty for the rest of the day.
  • Somehow, it’s impossible to run from the things you want to avoid. They will always find you.
  • Sometimes, being the bigger man isn’t rewarding but it’s necessary.
  • I do still love being able to come down from the stage and talk to people. Answering questions is amazing.

I have so many feelings about this A-Kon. I cried in the parking lot for several minutes before driving away and my music choices after driving away didn’t help (I got KanshaBrothers and Wind back to back and I couldn’t help but be emotional, don’t judge me.). Normally the last day of con is a ceremony. There’s cake, there’s tea, there’s time with a friend I only see a few times a year. This time, he had to go to work and I had to drive back home. We didn’t get to live our traditions. We didn’t get to claim the time we had. I let my emotions get to me and that I’m not proud of. But for every moment of being annoyed by poor cosplay choices there were four or five that I loved being able to spend time with friends, fans and idols. A-Kon and conventions are my bread and butter. They’re my life. And I’m glad I went even if it was less than perfect.

Thank you for all of those that saw my panels, asked me questions, asked me for photos, let me take photos of you and all the delicious food I ate and all the fun memories I did make.

See you next year.

An Open Letter to the Mouse That Has Hopefully Left My Apartment

Greetings, tiny rodent invader.

You probably have no concept of me though I am acutely aware of you. From what I’ve been able to gather, you’ve done most of your running around while I sleep or am away at work. You’ve had quite the little run, haven’t you? You’ve eaten the finest packages of egg noodles and forgotten bottom of the pantry Doritos. You have ruined a perfectly good stash of plastic bags. You’ve invaded my home. You have pricked up my anxiety. You have chewed through my property.

You, small field mouse, have been a real pain in my side.

But I pen this letter to you not to gloat. No no, for you see, I have won. All the traps I laid have been successful and the entryway you had to my tiny apartment has be sealed off.

You, dear mouse, are not welcome here.

However, I’ve done enough gloating, the battle is over but the war is far from done. I’m here to simply say thank you. I want to thank you for forcing me to cope with my anxiety rather than just run from it, though I have done plenty of that already. Thank you for reminding me how wonderful it is to have friends who will stay on the phone with you until you can sleep and will bravely go into battle with brooms and mops against your villainy. I want to thank you for reminding me to clean everything, not just the things I use the most. I want to thank you for making me uncomfortable but in that discomfort to find strength. Thank you for forcing me to feel once more at home while at home.

I want to thank you for reminding me that I am literally and figuratively bigger than a mouse.

I hope your stay in my apartment was at least comfortable, as I am a good Southern hostess. But I hope you and your kind never return to my small domicile.




Tonal Dissonance and You

“Don't look at me in that tone of voice.” Dorothy Parker.png

I’m of the very proud and polarizing Disney generation. The renaissance of Disney films were ones I saw in theaters, owned at home and could recite as a child (Hell, still can for most of them) and while many did not age well for me, I’ve found that several actually mean even more to me now as an adult than they ever did when I was a bright, strange child. A common complaint that film critics now have of those 90s era Disney movies is that they have a “tone” problem.

That’s a bit reductive, isn’t it?

Just blanketly saying something has a tone problem doesn’t explain why, how or what to do about it and makes the reviewer (often one of the Youtube variety) seem like an expert without necessarily being an expert. So let’s talk about tone, tonal dissonance, Disney movies and what it means to really have a tone problem.

I come at this from two angles: one of them being a comic book fan and the other being an anime fan. Tonal dissonance is abundant in both of those genres. FLCL naturally flows between nihilistic angst and bright rock music. Cowboy Bebop can in one scene talk about the existential misery of being alive and knowing you will one day die alone and pair it with a corgi high on mushrooms. Neither of those undercut the pathos or emotion of the prior scene but because of genre and style, we accept that the tone can abruptly change. Comic books also often change the tone on a dime from serious death scenes cut in between the normal pageantry of daily life for the rest of the citizens of a named non-descript city.

Now, I won’t defend all Disney movies of this era. Some do have a serious tone problem (Lookin’ at you, Hercules.). But many are firstly a product of their time (the 90s) and they were also fundamentally a children’s movie. Instead of simply writing some of these movies off as having tone problems, perhaps it’s better to admit some of the daring steps they made despite being a kid’s movie.

Let’s take my favorite Disney movie: The Hunchback of Notre Dame as an example.

This movie…it’s a doozy. It does have some serious tone issues in the form of three obnoxious dated no longer relevant celebrity voiced gargoyles. But the rest of the film, the rest of this wonderfully animated and voice acted and paced movie is just a brilliant example of what this movie could have been. Hunchback is a dark movie for a Disney film. The main character is deformed, the main antagonist is the literal embodiment of people’s fear of the Catholic church and Catholic guilt in general. It created in Esmeralda one of the most active agents of her own free will Disney will make until the post-renaissance and later characters like Elsa and Moana.  The music could easily be its own blog post featuring some of my favorite songs in all of Disney discography.  And the animation was some of the best of its era.

But that tone problem. Those gargoyles. The Goofy yell in the middle of a literal siege in the thrilling climax of the movie. All of it for some is just too much and it makes it difficult to see that underneath all of that is a movie that is fundamentally different from others of its kind. Think about it, it’s adapted from a novel that is by far not safe for children. And while the movie takes plenty of liberties from the novel, I think it actually does a few things better than the novel. The movie paints Frollo as almost a sympathetic man, truly just one haunted by his repressed sexuality and the immense pressure under him and the threat of eternal damnation. As someone who was raised Roman Catholic, I can vouch that the Hellfire sequence is the literal manifestation of Catholic guilt. Esmeralda’s scene in the cathedral to the tune of God Help the Outcast is one of the most famous Disney songs around. But for the chances the movie tried to take, some things had to remain the same. This is a Disney picture, after all. It has to have an animal sidekick of some kind. The good normal looking heteronormative person has to fall in love with the princess/gypsy dancer. It has to have an uncomplicated unilaterally happy ending. That’s how Disney’s made their money for decade and a story about a church official and his…wants aren’t gonna stop the Disney cash cow from doing what it does best.

Also, it’s important to keep in mind this was the 90s. It was a different time. Everything was strange when it came to tone. A normal 90s kid like me juggled between the dark oppression of Batman the Animated Series to the fun camp of Looney Toons. As children, we didn’t mind the tonal issues. We laughed at the fart jokes, singing animals and stupid side plots. They’re insufferable now that many of us are adults with educations and have now read more than one book. But if you held most things to that standard, they’d simply fall apart. Now, I’m one of the last to use “It’s a kid’s movie” as a blanket excuse. I’m an anime fan. Plenty of the anime and animated movies from Japan that I watched were meant for kids but had deeper plot points than some American serialized television shows. I don’t say that to excuse the faults of any movie, Disney or otherwise, just to help frame the issue a little more.

But being older really helps frame many of these movies better. Hunchback becomes less and less about the weird diegetic gargoyle singing and more about a struggle between the sacred and the profane. In Hunchback I see a man struggle between his faith, his desires and his position of power. I see a character with the purest of hearts but unfortunately cursed with a face that the rest of the world finds detestable. I find comfort in music that is wonderful and Latin verses that I had to sing and chant in mass with my family. I see Paris in a way that many young kids have never seen before. I see imagery that to anyone who has read another book would instantly be impressed with. I see so many other things than just a really strange joke that tried to insinuate a gargoyle is attracted to a goat.

Mulan has one of the best most jarring tonal shifts of all from the bright, very misogynistic A Girl Worth Fighting For to the literal scorched Earth and destruction left behind by the Huns. Pocahontas has plenty of strange tone shifts between loving the Earth and nature, respecting native cultures and the relative similarity and mirroring from each side of an argument or conflict to jokes about food and cute animal distractions.

So what is there to be done about tonal dissonance? I admit now, if I want to watch Hunchback I skip around a lot. I hit the list of things I want to see like the subtle tone and key shift from Heaven’s Light to Hellfire. The Court of Miracles scene is a must if I have a copy that kept that scene in. God Help the Outcast is beautifully animated and I mostly just ignore anything involving Captain Phoebus and his rushed romance with Esmeralda. If the tone problem bothers you, I can totally respect that. It irks the hell out of me, too. But I won’t deny what these movies did. I still sing these songs. My friends and I can still recite the movies. This was our childhood. This was my childhood and even if it was tonally off, that’s okay.

I’ll keep singing The Bells of Notre Dame.


Timing is Everything

Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new. Henry David ThoreauRead more at-

I’m always fascinated by the fact that I was born in 1990. Think of all the things I got to grow up with. Think of all the things I got to experience because I was born in such a fateful time for humanity. And that’s not me being my usual millennial self that likes to glorify the 90s as a halcyon era. Some of the best entertainment, media, music and novels came out during the 90s and early 2000s but because of that perspective, it’s actually created a rather interesting phenomena in me. I got some of the best of the best when it comes to depictions of some of my favorite franchises. But because of that, such timing has locked in several canonical depictions in my head. And with that, let’s talk about the burden of greatness, accepting crappy prequels and nerd rage.

Batman The Animated Series was one of the most important artifacts of my childhood. Really, most superhero animated shows were. Except for Static Shock but we’ve already talked about why. Batman The Animated Series could have its own blog post on how it impacted an entire generation of fans but it certainly meant the world to me. That was the best Joker, Robin, Batman, Alfred and really, just most of the cast. It was so influential that it even changes the canon of the comic book! What animated series gets to claim that it changed the lore of the comic it’s based off of?

So when The Dark Knight trilogy came out, imagine my surprise when the movies were a mix-matched chimeric creature of canon, lore and source material. To the point that it actually ruined The Dark Knight for me. Heath Ledger’s a damn talented actor but c’mon, guys. Mark Hamil’s Joker is phenomenal. And the points that irked me about the movie’s depiction were to someone who grew up with the animated show and Bruce Timm/ Alan Moore/Paul Dini-verse. I wasn’t used to a Joker who wore makeup or was that disorganized and chaotic. My Joker had always been sickeningly charming, a bit neurotic and was not painted like a clown: that was just his face. And my movie canon for Batman at the time included the Tim Burton sojourn through Gotham. Not that I have anything negative to say about the world Nolan created, just that version of the Joker really threw me for a loop.

Let’s take a more hot button issue. Star Wars. I love Star Wars. It’s one of those instances much like Harry Potter for me where I am way more interested with the lore and the world than I am with most of the main cast of characters. But I was not born in the 70s. I was born in the 90s. I grew up with the prequels. I actually still have my movie ticket to Revenge of the Sith. I saw that movie in theaters at the tender age of 16 and I loved it. I loved the action, fight scenes, music and set pieces. I thought it was great. In hindsight, I realize that it isn’t a great movie. None of the prequels are. Attack of the Clones is way worse, though. But when I went back to watch the original Star Wars trilogy, I had a difficult time with it as a teen. The effects were dated, the fight scenes were limited to the technology of the time and while the acting was good it wasn’t to me at the time on a much higher level than Natalie Portman giggling while pregnant in a silk nightgown.

Another great example is actually a topic close to my heart: Dr. Seuss movies. The first book I ever checked out from the library back home was The Lorax. It’s probably one of my favorite books and has such an important message that really should be read by everyone. Needless to say, I adore the work of Dr. Seuss and in fact one of my favorite Christmas movies is the Chuck Jones animated version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. My little cousin is a hilarious 12 years younger than me and when he saw me during the Christmas season watching the old animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas he had the audacity to say “I prefer the live action version better.” If only there was a sound to describe how my hair contorted and twisted to stare him down for his disrespect and ignorance. The live action version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas is an abomination. A sin. A miserable heartless cash grab. But because he was born when that version was “popular” and the 60s Chuck Jones version was nearly as old as his mother, that version is his version while the animated for me was a timeless classic even in the 90s.

This really can be said about anything generational. My views on RuPaul’s Drag Race are colored by the fact that my history with LGBT and Drag Culture are very 90s pageant and early 2000s club scene. So the idea of a drag queen that doesn’t pad or doesn’t know how to sew was damn near offensive but these are slowly becoming outdated ideas about what drag is. (That doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it. Lookin’ at you, Naomi Smalls. +_+).

But that’s just the thing when it comes to times and generations. I’m sure to my seniors the Batman and Superman I grew up with were nothing like the unilaterally good guys they were in the Golden and Silver Age. But really, timing is everything. When something hits you, it hits you. When it helps form and shape who you are, that’s all about being in the right time in the right place.