April 20th, 2009

Who watches the watcher? or, oh, boy, take out your waders, she's going to talk about Watchmen. :/

Books what I read this weekend.

here is my to-read pile. The books on the far left are books I'm currently reading off and on; the books in the stack next to it are books I've read (that for whatever reason I've not yet found a permanent home for; actually I might be giving most of them away here in the future); and the books on the right two stacks are books I've still to-read.

  • I was going to ask what to read next, but that question has basically turned into "what should I read once I've finished with Gossip Girls?" Face, meet palm, meet utter embarrassment.
    I've read 3 volumes in a day. If Blair and Serena don't actually start making out in book 4 I may die. No, seriously, there is actual lesbian subtext on p. 126 of book 1, Blair comes right out and says that kissing Serena makes her feel things she doesn't like to think about, and I'm like, *floored.* And, Jesus Christ, book! am I supposed to be treating Blair's journey to self-awareness as, like, serious actual repression, or is this just another example of how these people are so shallow that this is one more tiny thing they'll never be able to know or come to terms with about themselves, and we're just supposed to take it like candy and roll our eyes? Of all things that convinces me I don't actually know how to read, you would not think it would be book 1 of Gossip Girls. And yet here I am, lost and confused by book 4. And I need book-based fanfic and can't find any, HELP.

  • Kira-Kira By Cynthia Kadohata is a Newberry Award-winning children's book about a Japanese-American family struggling to make a home for themselves in rural and small-town America in the 50's and 60's. We follow Katie's story as she grows up, first in Iowa and then in Georgia, and we learn about her family and the ways they struggle to make a life amid subtle but constant prejudice, economic and social disadvantage, and the hardships of supporting a family on blue-collar pay. This is a lovely, gentle tearjerker of a story. It was beautifully written, and I loved how tenderly and warmly the author portrayed the main relationship in this story, that of Katie and Lynn, her older sister. Kira-Kira means "glittering" in Japanese. This story definitely is, and I'd definitely recommend it to anyone.
    Okay. Okay. I read it. And I need to apologize to the many friends who urged me to read it, because I know that saying this might upset some of you, and I'm sorry. I don't regret listening to any of the many friends who told me to read Watchmen. And I don't at all want this to come across as a criticism of your taste or your level of ethics or responsibility to yourselves as readers, or anything that you might take away from this that reflects on you, because none of this is in any way a reflection on other female readers, of this graphic novel or any graphic novel.

    But I need to say this, for myself. And I say it with as much belief and force and vehemence as I have ever said anything in my life.

    Watchman is the most appallingly misogynist book I have ever read.

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    I did have a reaction, a very strong, still-abiding, and gutwrenching reaction of horror, to Watchmen. But it wasn't a reaction to the thing you wanted me to react to.

    And right now, I feel, very strongly, that the glorification of this story hurts women. And I'm not saying that everyone should agree with me; but I would ask, very earnestly, as someone who is still hurting, that when you talk about Watchmen, you also acknowledge the misogyny. That it's there, and that it's a mine field, and it's potentially hurtful, potentially regressive - because it is. (And let's not get into the fact that this is a book written by men for men, and who picks and chooses what is considered excellent among the comic genre? certainly not women.) I realize that there's probably been 20 years of critical analysis of the misogyny in Watchmen that I've missed before this, and this may be old news to most people. But that doesn't mean that the importance of talking about it, given what is essentially an entirely new audience for the book, goes away: and I know that I'm not the only one who has read this novel and felt this level of deep repulsion and hurt.

    So please, please, while we're talking about how great it is, can we also talk about the women?

    I welcome discussion about this; I welcome everyone, especially women, to respond and tell me why they love Watchmen. But I retain the right to disagree, because this one, for me, was not about disagreeing with the technical brilliance or the structure or the coolness or the multi-media aspect or the wry humor or the badassness of Rorschach (loved and rooted for him the way I was supposed to, pretty much, and somewhere inside me there's a whole essay comparing him to L and comparing Watchmen to Death Note), the three-dimensional characterization (although, actually, there's a whole other watchmen rant somewhere inside me about how "three-dimensional characterization" necessarily equates to "this character is unexpectedly violent and willing to kill people," because isn't that just such a cheap male-dominated way of pasting characterization onto a plot in the name of building a dystopia, at the expense of allowing other alternative narratives, maybe female-proposed alternatives, to live in their place).

    But please don't tell me that I'm wrong. You are free to tell me that there's more to Watchmen than this, that I'm missing other extenuating pieces of the narrative, and I will listen. But there are a hundred ways Alan Moore could have told this story without enacting this much violence and loss of status upon every female character in sight. I am not okay with that, and I shouldn't have to be.