The Bloody Chamber and the Bloody Ridiculousness of It All

So we discussed the Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber in a class I had. For those of you who don’t know the story, it’s basically a turn-of-the-century (from 19th to 20th in case that wasn’t clear) retelling of the Perrault’s Bluebeard fairy tale (Charles Perrault, 1697, the story itself is a lot older and the older versions have a lot more female agency) only from the perspective of the wife, who is a seventeen year old girl trying to escape the poverty she lives in with her widowed mother by marrying an insanely rich and perverted Marquis who plans to kill her like his other wives. Go look it up, but only read it if you have a strong stomach.

Anyway, I really just need to vent, because I also have to write a paper on this and I keep coming back to the class discussion. This is going to be about gender studies, so if you don’t like gender studies a) screw you, b) bye.

The discussion was interesting, albeit not from a literary point of view but from a psychological one. I mean… people were going on and on about how the seventeen year old working class narrator didn’t marry the Marquis for love and called her a gold-digger and an adulteress because the young piano tuner was nice to her and she noticed he was pretty. But no-one, absolutely nobody, lost a single word about how the middle-aged serial killer Marquis didn’t marry her for love either, but to make her his next murder victim. I mean, perspective, please! And that got me thinking. I mean, I get the criticism that this is a first person narrator and first person narration is always unreliable, even if nothing points to the narrator lying, but let me get this straight: A very young girl living in poverty, trying to earn a meagre living as a pianist, wants to escape poverty by way of marriage – not that she actively pursues that because she doesn’t, it just so happens – so she and her mother will be taken care of financially, and everyone calls her names and goes on about how “weeeeell she didn’t marry for luuurrrve”; but a guy about fifty who wants to marry a teenager so he can fuck her and then behead her, we go “Welp!”

I mean, come the hell on! Are we really this desensitised to male violence that we basically shrug and call it Tuesday? Is this just something we expect now? Are we really not going to talk about a guy who marries one woman after the other just so he can torture and kill them in horrible ways, and who sets his latest wife a trap just so he has a reason to kill her too because she ‘disobeyed’ him by discovering his murderous little secret? Are we just going to ignore all this in favour of calling a teenage girl a gold-digger and worse? Oh, we are? Well, fuck all y’all, that’s what’s wrong with the world!

And then there was that special case of a dude in the back who was like, well, if the Marquis had only found the perfect wife he would have stopped killing, basically he was torturing himself, to which, thankfully, the entire class decided this was taking things a step too far. I think sometimes the most scandalous thing a man today can do is to respect a woman’s choices. Like, seriously, no one cares if a man murders women, but I’m sure everyone would be writing paper upon paper about a male fictional character who is just a decent human being. But then they’d probably call him effeminate or emasculated (like the narrator’s second husband, the nice music-loving but blind piano tuner) or just plain boring.

It’s bad enough that in the story the entire castle staff and the village know what’s going on, because killing wives and women is sort of a family tradition apparently, and everyone’s just sort of okay with that. Takes the narrator’s mother to put a stop to this. And you know how? She got a phone call. One single phone call from her daughter that wasn’t even about “Hey, I just found hubby’s former wives”. Actually, that phone call was before all that. And mom rushes in like a maternal avenger and just shoots the bastard without a single word. One woman, one bullet, all it took to end a few centuries worth of murderous terror. I’d actually be interested in hearing the mother’s side of the story. Now that’s the kind of motherhood I could get behind.

Yeah, yeah, I know there are a lot of other different aspects to this story but I can’t be arsed to discuss them here, I already have a full formal analysis to write, so don’t come in here with “Oh, but you’re missing the point of the story”, because I’m not, I’m just standing on one of them and I’ll move on to the others when I’m good and ready. Just really, really needed to get that off my chest before I can go back to working. Peace.

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“I have a bad feeling about this”

Since you asked so nicely, this is basically my first thought, every day, and then all day long. Wake up: I have a bad feeling about this. Get up and faceplant into floor: I have a bad feeling about this. Look out window: I have a bad feeling about all this snow. Check on bikes on balcony: I have a bad feeling about thi…. oh, motherfucker, the covers have come off again?! Venture out into snow: I’d have a bad feeling about this if I could still feel my toes.

Hm? Oh, you wanna know what movie this is from? Um. It’s Mean Girls, duh! Get the hell out!

Seriously, though, it’s Star Wars. They say it in every Star Wars movie ever made and even in the Clone Wars series. It’s the running gag of the galaxy.

Anyway, can we talk about Star Wars? Not the fact that I keep misspelling these two simple words on a frequent basis (the dyslexia is strong with this one), but just how much I love the old trilogy (or rather, the old old trilogy, because we’ll be getting a new new one soon) even though I also kinda don’t?

I mean, Leia. Leia is just not getting the fanbase love she deserves. Look at this chick, twenty years old, member of the Galactic senate, diplomat, steals the Death Star blueprints, loads them onto R2D2, sends the little robot off in an escape pod just seconds after her ship gets taken over by – dun dun DUN – the bad guys, one of them being her dad. And she actually shoots at them. And then gets sassy with all of them. This princess doesn’t fuck around.

I also really like her relationship with Han. That’s the kind of romance I can watch, two people engaged in a snarky death match until the guy stops being a dick and the commencing make-out session gets interrupted by a clueless robot. And then the girl disguises herself as a bounty hunter and goes to rescue her boy. It’s just so sweet. And then in the end when he gets all jealous because he thinks she’s in love with Luke when really she just found out she’s his sister? Does he make a scene? Does he hint that he’ll drop the rebellion like a hot potato because he might not ‘get the girl’? Nope. He keeps right on, to the end. And only when things have calmed down does he talk to her about it, all calm-like, saying he won’t make a fuss or be in her way if she wants to be with Luke instead. And then the look of absolute relief when she tells him Luke’s her brother! Han’s cute (for a scruff-looking nerf-herder), can we get more Hans in here? I’m missing drama-free men in film.

Even though they’re very on-the-nose archetypes, all characters in the old movies are surprisingly well-rounded. Like, you look at our dynamic trio and you’re willing to believe that this is how people actually are. They’re more than just stock characters and the movies take some real time between all the fight scenes to develop them further. This is something I missed in the prequels, which was more on the CGI and merchandising side of things. Who are those people? What’s their motivation? Do we ever get to know them? Not really, they had to make an entire animated series to get to that, because weird CGI mounts, unbelievable and unbelievably clichéd Forbidden Love Romance sub-plot, and Commander Grievous grievances were apparently more important.

From a feminist perspective, Leia is a dream come true in 1977. She is the driving force behind the entire movie trilogy. Everything starts with her. She’s the spy, not one of the guys. She steals the plans, not one of the guys. She loads them into R2D2 and tells him (it? I feel weird about gendering robots, especially so clearly unsexed ones, am I the only one?) to go find Kenobi, a quest that gets Luke, our supposed Chosen One Hero, as well as Han The Love Interest And His Sidekick involved in the first place. In Return of the Jedi, Yoda even says that should Luke fail, there would be “another [hope]”, which, since both Skywalker children were considered a threat by the Emperor (as told by Obi Wan) is pretty clearly Leia. (Yes, I know there’s some geeks out there who think this is a set-up to Episode VII, but please, tell me how that’s possible if not even the prequels were in the works at that time.)

Also from a feminist perspective, Leia is a bit of a nightmare, too, at least in New Hope, because while she is a senator, a diplomat, a spy, determined in her mission, strong-willed enough not to rat out the rebels under mindprobe, and a bunch of other awesome stuff, she also lets the men in the movie do everything else. She can’t do much of anything about the Empire except gathering information, but the old crock Kenobi can for some reason. She can’t escape the Death Star, that’s what her half-wit brother (come on, he is acting a bit stupid all throughout A New Hope), the walking carpet and the loud-mouthed smuggler are for, and they only succeed because that was Tarkin’s evil plan all along. Granted, she does use a gun when you hand her one and tries to save her rescuers via garbage chute (where, interestingly, they then all have to be saved by cute comic relief robots).

And later in the movies she rescues Han, only to end up in that infamous outfit. I’m going to call it the Hutt killer outfit, just to remind people that Leia strangled Jabba with her own chain. Hutts are pretty hard to kill. Just a quick reminder.

Given the circumstances of the 1970s, the women’s movement, women characters in film of the time, and all that, she’s a great character. Forty years later though, you’d think they could have taken it farther. Her character develops splendidly in the Star Wars books and comics, at one point even she even learns how to use the force herself. And in light of this, it’s really such a disappointment to meet her mom in the prequels, because Amidala is not even really there. She’s basically a walking wardrobe and an incubator, with little to know discernible characteristics besides crying. Aright, there is one fight scene where all she does is get her shirt ripped to a crop top, aaaand that’s it, really, what else does she do in the three movies? She’s all right in the Clone Wars series, where she actually has some sort of personality. Then again, in the series even Anakin has suddenly developed into an actual character, not just the Fallen Chosen One stereotype, which has been overused since Paradise Lost.

All of this has me reeeeaally unenthusiastic for the upcoming trilogy. You might even say I have a bad feeling about it. If they’re following the Star Wars formula of “only one woman with a speaking role per movie” my only hope rests on whoever they have cooked up (my guess is it’s Han and Leia’s daughter). But let’s not get our hopes up. Okay, okay, I’ll shelve the puns for now, but I’ll have you know they usually bring all the nerds to the yard.

Here’s to hoping (Ha! Okay, that was the last one, I swear.) the movies won’t be as bad as that ridiculous trailer with the absolutely absurd lightsaber, but knowing George Who Sold His Soul To Mammon And The Mouse it will probably be the train wreck of the galaxy. Ah, well. Do we at least get spaceships and cute robots? Cute robots make everything better.

On Spoilers (contains spoilers for EVERYTHING)

And if I say everything, I mean everything, so if you are a sissy-panty sensitive soul and want to read or watch anything again ever, do not read this post.

Actually, make that a general rule about my posts, because I’m sick of being considerate of sissy-panty sensitive souls.

I’m probably painting a great big target on my chest with this post, but whatever. Go be sensitive somewhere else.

So I live with a man who’s allergic to spoilers. Like, having half a meltdown if he accidentally stumbles across something. Like, doing the Luke No when he saw the other players’ companions in SWTOR and he did not know that was going to happen and how was he going to play his class now that he knew what was going to happen, no, it’s not true, that’s impossible, nooooo! (Spoiler: Luke No is superior to Vader No. Oh yes, I went there, eat that, prequel lovers.)

So the moment he likes something, be it book, movie, or show, I immediately google EVERYTHING about it for future blackmailing reference while twirling my moustache like the evil supervillain that I am (spoiler: Bilbo survives. OMG, I know, right? (Head Dwarf In Charge does not, by the way. Nor do his nephews, and it was done in the most stupid and unnecessary way possible, I mean the book was just much better.)). It actually works. All I have to do to get my way is saying “Do [insert]/don’t do [insert], or I’ll tell you the end of [thing]”. I mean, it results in a wailing cry of “How can you do that, you’re so mean”, but it gets the job done.

Boyfriend is getting on my nerves something fierce about the whole Hobbit situation. He still hasn’t read the book and every little mention of it triggers an outcry of absolute whiny agony. I mean, it’s a 300 page children’s book from 1937 and I’ve read it a good five times since I was a kid. Like, what innovative never-before-seen thing do you think is going to happen in a 300 page children’s book? Spoiler: The Elven Mary Sue is not actually in it. Neither is the stupid albino orc who is not actually an orc. Bolg is in it, and he’s a goblin. And originally he does not get beaten by Head Dwarf but by Beorn who by the way does not get dropped by eagles like an aircraft bomb, and also he carries Thorin’s half-dead body and Fili and Kili’s full dead bodies from the battlefield. Also, they fucked up the message that the greed for riches will destroy you in the end. But no one here cares about the book but me, right? Typical.

Also also, if something has existed for longer than you have, spoilers do not apply. That’s like your parents making a “No, I am your father” joke and you’re all like “Oh my god, dad, spoilers!” Lame, dude. That joke was funnier before you existed anyway.

You could say, in the undying words of Spider Jerusalem, that I don’t give two tugs of a dead dog’s cock about “spoilers”. If I somehow stumble across a Random Plot Point before I know it there will be a one second of “OMG, really, that happens?” before a fifty second onslaught of “How? Why? By whom? With whom? What’s the reaction? What happens next? Must read! Must see! Must. Google!”

Because in my opinion, if you can no longer like a piece of media because you know Insert Random Plot Point, if you only enjoy X thing for that microscopically short burst of adrenaline which by this point is probably the only thing in your miserable existence that actually makes you feel alive… you don’t deserve it. You do not deserve it. Tell me, can you even watch a movie twice, read a book for the second time? There is more to stories than just the ending! There is so much more to every single item of media. There is so much to enjoy and you are missing all of it because you focus on irrelevant things.

It doesn’t even deserve the name. Something is not spoiled just because you know something about it.

Okay, maybe it’s because I’m poor and I research the entire plot of everything before I can decide if it is worth spending money on, but knowing the outline does not prevent me from enjoying the Random Media Thing. If I know the story that doesn’t mean I know all the details. I know the What, I don’t know the How, and let’s face it, the How is way more interesting. If I do know the details, I focus on something else, something I didn’t pay attention to the first time around, for example (with a movie) cinematography, directing, sets, horrible acting, play a round of can-I-make-out-the-green-screen. For books, I love to read through them again and again to see if the author was dropping hints that eventually led to Random Plot Point that I overlooked. To see if things happening in the beginning or the middle make more sense now that I know what’s happening. And I can do all that if I know from the very beginning what is going to happen!

And, okay, maybe it’s also because I’ve read too much in my life and watched way too much TV, or maybe everything today is so damned formulaic it makes me want to scream, or maybe I’m some kind of fucking wizard, but most of the time… I already know what’s happening. Sometimes I can tell you what’s going to happen in a film just by looking at the poster, or what a book is about by looking at the cover image (the old saying of not judging a book by its cover does not apply in the age of focus groups and market research). Few things surprise me. And if they do surprise me, that lasts for all of two seconds before I want details.

Maybe it’s because I busted my ass getting an English degree (and I’m still busting) and nobody,  absolutely no one was interested whether you finished your reading list or not; books were discussed in class whether you had read them or not. If you’d walked up to any prof with a complaint about “SPOILERS!!!” you’d be laughed out of the room. Or encouraged to change your major to something more appropriate for your sensitive needs, like, dunno, accounting. Business or economics, maybe (“X stock is on the rise!” – “OMG, boss, spoilers!” – “…the fuck?”)

And maaaaybeeee because of my degree I pay more attention to the HOW and WHY of a media than the WHAT. Because the WHAT is limited. Everything has been done to death already and twists can be seen coming a mile away. So you can only look at HOW and WHY things are done, how those tired old stories are told, how they are renewed and used in a different way, how tropes are used, how well-known points are twisted etc., etc. Fun enough for me!

Basically, I think people are being much too sensitive on the topic of spoilers. So you know who dies, who gives a fuck? So you know who is the bad guy, or makes out with whom, or who is related to whom. You don’t know how that happened, or what consequences there will be as result of that particular thing happening. You don’t know how other characters will react once they know what you know. You don’t know how, if at all, this will affect the plot. You know practically nothing, what are you so upset about?

I know it’s kind of a starving-children-in-Africa argument, but please, for the love of any deity you care for, get a real problem. And if one of you decides to get cute and try to spoiler stuff I like, well, to that I say, bring it on! Come at me, sibling thing!

And the spoilers-for-everything in the title? Yeah, spoiler: I lied. That’s the great thing about spoilers. You never know whether or not I’m telling you the truth until you read it the fuck yourself anyway. It’s like Russian roulette with facts. Doesn’t that tickle your sense of adventure?

No? Well, you’re one boring-ass hobbit!