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Topics - Laughin Jude

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1
I've been called on this a few times by religious types who think I'm either blaspheming or trying to show off my smarty-pants by referring to the Judeo-Christian god by its proper name, but there's a strategy to my usage, and I'd like to spell it out.

When we're talking about any other cultures' gods, we refer to them by their proper names--for example: Zeus, Shiva, Ganesh, Quetzacoatl, Eris. The same isn't generally true about the "default" god of American culture, Yahweh, who is usually referred to as "God" with a capital G. As someone who was once substantially brainwashed into a Christian mode of thinking and has since recovered, this strikes me as a nefarious, though likely mostly subconscious, way for evangelists to pull an end-run around the argument of which deity, if any, is the "correct" one to worship, and it represents a massive, mostly unchallenged bias in the American mind.

For example, take the question "Do you believe in God?" The capital letter there is important; it signifies that we're talking about a specific god, and that god is Yahweh (though many of those who worship him probably don't know that name; they may be more familiar with the old mistranslation "Jehovah"). The assumption inherent within that question becomes more apparent when one answers "no," for then the believer will often ask questions such as "Who do you think created the Universe?" The assumption (beyond "someone or something had to create the Universe," which is asinine for reasons I won't get into here) is that Yahweh, specifically, is the only possible supernatural cause for existence to, well, exist.

See the illogical shortcut we're taking here? It would be one thing to assume that a god created the Universe, but no, by referring specifically to "God," which is understood to be the biblical deity, we're skipping a few steps and positing that it was Yahweh who made the Universe--not Ame-no-Minaka-Nushi-no-Mikoto, not Apsu and Tiamat, not a cosmic turtle with a stomach flu--except we're still referring to Yahweh by the seemingly neutral term "God" to disguise the fact and avoid disputes over which deity gets the credit for creation. Americans seem receptive to the idea that a deity created existence; that's a matter to be addressed elsewhere, though I suspect it may be related to a problem with human thinking I mentioned in This Won't End Well:

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“If you don’t have any prior opinion or belief regarding a subject, you’re likely to adopt the first one presented to you—do I have it right?”

“Well, I never thought about it,” Sindy says, “but I guess so.”

Using the name Yahweh when referring to the Judeo-Christian god is a way to prevent giving worshippers of that deity a default victory. It forces the conversation to return to a point where Yahweh can be examined on the same level as deities Americans are more comfortable admitting are fake, and it forces believers to make the arguments for why Yahweh, specifically, should be credited as the one true god instead of skipping over the issue and pretending he's the only option when it comes to godhood. In short, it exposes the false dilemma fallacy inherent in the way the Judeo-Christian mythos is presented in America.

2
Bring and Brag / The Edward System - a short story in six parts
« on: April 03, 2011, 09:31:03 am »
I wasn't originally planning on posting this here, but I mentioned it another thread and there seemed to be interest, so what the hell. If you want prettier text and formatting, everything's also up on my blog here and here and here.

I'll just rip the description of this bit from my blog as well since it's late, I've just now finished editing the third part (of probably five) of this piece and I'm being lazy:

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This is a short story about a vampire who feeds off teenage Twilight fans and gets in over his head when he picks a real nutbar of a girl for his latest victim. I suppose you could say this is my official reaction to the Twilight series.

Have you ever heard the saying “Reading one bad book does more for you as a writer than reading ten good books,” or something to that effect? Well, I read all four of those godawful books, and it’s past time I said something about the experience. But instead of posting another anti-Meyer blog post on the web, I think I’ll let the story of a vampire named Trent spell out my thoughts on the matter.

So here we go:

The Edward System

I

Today was Trent’s first day of school at Union Falls High, which makes this his ninth first day of school this calendar year and brings his running total of first days at new schools up to something like ninety. He has a tally going in a notepad that occupies the pocket of his trademark and oh-so-cliché black leather jacket, and he harbors vague plans to celebrate the hundredth first day by doing something nice for himself, maybe knocking off a blood bank or taking a trip down to Cancun during spring break and enjoying the buffet. Granted, it’s not like feeding off of high school girls is the kind of work he feels the need to bribe himself into doing; the taste of their sweet, energetic blood is reward enough. Really, the worst part of the process has to be reading their blogs.

Some vampires get off on knowing their victims before the inevitable throat-puncturing finale of the relationship. Trent prefers to spend as little time as possible getting to the good part. It’s not that Trent has problems with intimacy. Back when Trent was new to this current shtick, he used to get a kick out of the way these girls would latch onto him like he was their personal savior, some Emo Jesus of a boyfriend on which to hang all their nascent daddy issues. That was before they all began blurring into one metavictim, a high school girl of sixteen or seventeen (like it matters), five foot whatever, blonde or brunette or maybe red on an odd day, brownbluegreen eyes, wearing clothes from Hot Topic and crazy about Johnny Depp. Trent remembers the first girl he took under his Edward System, a junior named Katy from Hackberry, Texas, and he remembers Shawna, Rebecca, Lori and a few others who came later in that first year while he was still ironing out the kinks in the process. After that they all blend together into a mass of bubblegum and cigarettes and sweet pea lotion from Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Maybe it’s time that Trent moved on to a new section of the buffet, but while he’s strayed from the Edward System a few times since its development to eat the occasional hitchhiker or lone couple camping in the woods for the weekend, nothing beats being able to pluck a fresh (and often willing) victim right out of gym class, and Trent can’t help but keep returning to the modus operandi that’s kept him drinking fresh teenage blood a couple times a month for the past six years. He really should write Stephanie Meyer a thank you letter.

This week/small town’s victim is looking to be Noelle Worthingson, a.k.a. *~KawaiiKuriFan29~* on Deviantart.com. Trent has no idea who Kuri is or what makes him/her/it so “kawaii,” but the drawings Noelle has posted under that moniker mark her as a perfect target. Most of the drawings fall into one of two categories. The first is that of fan art of characters from Avatar: The Land Airbender being “shipped” together. “Shipping” is one of those terms with which Trent has become familiar as part of the Edward System, to his great annoyance, and involves teenage girls arguing on messageboards about which characters are destined to be together; the whole process generally devolves into melodramatic flamewars that Trent’s victims/dates occasionally feel the need to recount for him in epic detail before he has the opportunity to murder them. The second category features pictures of Edward and Jacob from Twilight (and occasionally Captain Jack Sparrow) fighting to be the object of Noelle’s affections in the same faux-anime style as the Avatar shipping. The attendant blog posts detail why Noelle thinks either supernatural suitor would make the ideal boyfriend, which as far as Trent (who’s admittedly a bit jaded) can tell comes down to “pays attention to me” and “is pretty.” Vague sexual euphemisms surrounded by Japanese emoticons seem common throughout Noelle’s writings. Did Trent think his victims were all melting into each other? Here’s a girl who represents the Platonic form of an Edward System mark.

There are a few other drawings, most of them concerning a boy in a Union Falls letterman jacket. Trent doesn’t recognize the boy, and there’s no name given on the drawings or in the attendant blog posts, but if Noelle has a crush on some local boy, all the better. Hacking school records to add and remove himself from class lists is one of the skills that makes the Edward System possible, but Trent can’t erase the memories of those he interacts with while he’s scoping out his meals, so it’s nice to have a scapegoat lined up on the soon-to-be-dead girl’s website for the locals to focus on instead of the transfer student who disappeared after a few days of school.

Despite recent depictions of vampire-kind to the contrary, Trent needs to sleep just like the humans he feeds on, and he finds himself yawning as the hour drags past midnight. It could be that he’s feeling low on energy because he hasn’t eaten anything bigger than a stray cat in four days, or maybe his eyes are just heavy from reading all the blog posts about Nickelodeon characters and My Chemical Romance. Either way, he crawls under the covers of his motel room bed (even these spring nights can be chilly when you don’t produce a lot of body heat) and sleeps until about seven, when it’s time to get up and shower in the neon-walled bathroom with its cheap complimentary shampoo and finger-width bar of soap.

After that it’s time for the walk to school. Trent has a black 1978 Ford Maverick, polished enough to reflect the clouds as they pass overhead, that he leaves parked at the motel. Experience has taught him not to drive to school. For one thing, his taste in cars tends to draw attention, and attention is the last thing he wants from anyone but whatever lucky girl he’s picked out as that week’s recipient of the world’s messiest hickey. It’s no good trying to slip out of town after a gruesome murder in a car that everyone remembers. That’s what made Trent abandon his Continental Coupe in Michigan, and every now and then he still wakes up sweating from the odd dream that he’s driving the Coupe down the freeway again, the familiar feel of its rod-thin steering wheel against his palm, the way the passenger side window rattled when he pushed the engine over sixty. The Coupe’s loss is one of the few regrets that Trent’s allowed himself in all his years of undeath. Now he knows better, and the car is reserved for dates and getaways.

It needs to be mentioned that Twilight did get one thing half-right about vampires: the sun isn’t lethal to Trent’s sub-species. What sort of sense would it make if it was? After all, the light of Sol may reach Earth in greater intensity than that of other stars, but it’s of no different quality than the rest of the light that comes to this planet.  Trent finds the sun pleasant. The sun’s rays offer his body an inner-warmth that his undead organs and slurried bodily fluids can no longer provide. Of course, all of that crap about vampires glittering in the sun is just that. Still, walking beneath the morning sun gives Trent a boost of energy like that a cold-blooded reptile gets from laying on a warm rock, and he spends the hour it takes to saunter from the motel to the high school repeating in his head what he learned of Noelle by studying her online footprint the night before, already half-tasting her blood in his mouth.

As the school comes into view, Trent wonders if Noelle is a regular soda drinker or a diet girl. That’s a distinction he’s learned to make from the taste of his victims’ blood. The girls who drink regular soda have sweeter blood; Trent thinks it’s probably all the high fructose corn syrup. It’s funny the sorts of things you figure out when you feed almost exclusively on the same age bracket for long enough. Diabetics have their own taste too, though it’s not one Trent’s fond of and he tries to avoid them, though sometimes he doesn’t find out until he’s already put the System into high gear. Noelle was eating a bag of Skittles at lunch yesterday, so Trent thinks he’s safe on that front this time around.

Trent gets to third period early enough to snag the desk next to where Noelle was sitting yesterday, which puts him at the back of the class in the second row from the windows. Part of what caught his eye about Noelle yesterday was her penchant for staring out the window while drawing in her notepad yet still answering the teacher’s questions like she’d done the reading. The Edward System is tuned to the dreamy yet studious types. Sure enough, Noelle sits in the same spot again, and Trent has a polite-but-distant look ready for her when she makes brief eye contact. Noelle looks away in a hurry, just like she’s supposed to. Trent’s mouth waters a little.

Most of the class passes as the teacher yammers about the scene in The Sea Wolf where Hump sees red, and the teacher asks the class how it relates to Nietzsche’s ideas about the ubermensch and whether Hump or Wolf is really the “higher” man. Trent was never much of a reader when he was alive, and of the nine books he’s read since he died, four of them were about glittery vampires. That was enough to put him off reading for the rest of his supernatural existence. With fifteen minutes of class to go, the students finally get the go-ahead to split into groups, and Trent scoots his chair just an inch closer to Noelle.

“Hey. Did you do the reading?” he says to her, knowing she did. Her type always does the reading.

Noelle looks up at him, shocked that someone’s talking to her, and she shuts the cover of her notebook to hide her half-finished doodle of what looks like a werewolf in a pirate costume. “I read it last year. It was one of my dad’s favorite books.” She brushes her hair back behind her ear and gives Trent a once-over look before she says, “Did you read it?”

One of her dad’s favorites, eh? Sounds like he picked the right girl. “I haven’t caught up yet. I only started here yesterday. Is the movie any good?”

“There’s a movie?”

“With these old books, there’s always a movie.” Trent scoots his chair the rest of the way over to her desk. It doesn’t look like anyone else is going to intrude on their little study group, which suits Trent just fine. “I’m Trent.”

“Noelle. Did you say you just moved here?”

And so the Edward System is a go. They do little talking about Jack London and his sociopathic seal hunter. Instead, Trent steers the conversation to Noelle’s perceptions of life in Union Falls, the cliques, the best and worst of the teachers, what little there is do that’s entertaining to people in their age and income bracket. Getting a teenage girl who feels like a misfit to talk about what’s wrong with her surroundings isn’t the most difficult step in the System, and Trent’s learned to mostly tune out the details and grunt and nod at the right bits, but the process is vital to the System’s success all the same. The Edward System works best when the victim sees Trent as someone who can be confided in, someone who sees the world in much the way she does, a fellow rogue soul searching for a mate. He gives terse responses when she’s looking for affirmation and agreement, enough to keep her on the hook without ruining the mystery; the quickest path to success, Trent finds, is to portray a vague outline of a personality and let his victims fill in the blanks with their own projections of who and what they want him to be.

“Where’d you move here from?”

Trent glances over his shoulder like he’s afraid someone else might be listening in, then he leans a half-inch closer, just enough to give Noelle the impression of added intimacy. “Promise you won’t freak out?”

“Why would I freak out?”

“Just promise me.”

She laughs. “Okay, fine, I promise I won’t freak out. Where did you live before you came here?”

He sighs and says in a low voice, “Forks, Washington.”

“Oh! Squee!” Noelle bounces in her seat with a frightening energy like she just mainlined three hundred milligrams of sugar. “Okay, not freaking,” she says, and she pushes her hair behind her ear again. “I so want to go to Forks, though. Are the burgers at Sully’s any good? Oh my god, did you ever go on one of their Twilight tours just for fun?”

As you may have already guessed, Trent has never been near Forks. Everything he knows about Forks is gleaned from the Twilight books, the town’s chamber of commerce website and Wikipedia. Regardless of the location of his last murderous dining experience, he always tells his victims he’s fresh out of Forks. That claim alone is usually enough to get him a first date, and the way the Edward System works, the first date is all he needs.

Sure enough, by the time class is over, Trent has Noelle’s number and vague plans to do something Friday night. Trent is an old pro at getting teenage girls’ phone numbers, which raises all kinds of issues when you consider that, while he’s technically seventeen, he’s been seventeen for thirty-four years now. Having to wait until Friday is a bummer, but there’s something about the coppery scent hanging around Noelle that makes his stomach churn. He was hoping to drink her by tomorrow night and be on the road again by Thursday morning, but he supposes he can probably find some vermin at the motel to get him by until the weekend.

3


Okay, fuck, let's do this.

(Pre-emptive tl;dr.)

The Plain and Honest Truth is a serial novel I've been plugging away at for a couple years now. My goal is to have it done in time for the tenth anniversary of 9/11, seeing as how 9/11 was the thematic inspiration for the whole project to begin with. Given it has Discordian tendencies (especially in the brain-washing video that the Earthbound Region-Independent Society shows heroine Sindy in the first chapter), this seems as good a place as any to stick up a link to it. My apologies in advance.

So far Part One is complete. It weighs in around 100-120 pages depending on the format it's in. A PDF version (black and white pics) can be found here. There's a full color version on my site here. I'm not really sure if the absence or presence of color adds or subtracts from my art, but hey, luckily there's not a lot of it.



As far as the Discordian influences go, they're more thematic than plot-oriented. There is reference to the Illuminati early on, though there's actually no Illuminati in the book (though there is a Council of Overseers running the US government, not to mention the Rosicrucians, a.k.a. the Catholic Church, Westboro Baptist Church, the Scientologists, Al-Qaeda, the Disciples of the Smiling Jackalope, and of course the Earthbound Region-Independent Society... so there's no shortage of conspiracies). There's not a lot of quoting the PD (actually, only one vague exchange that I'm aware of). My goal has been to create something that nods to the old Discordianism while also looking at the post-9/11 world from a Discordian POV, creating its own memes and presenting its own vision of the philosophy. Whether the book fits into PD's version of Discordianism, I couldn't say.

Instead of trying to explain what it's about or post a full chapter, I'll just toss out a few excerpts.

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Is that the truth? The Conspiracy is always working to undermine Todd, and he never knows which direction they’ll strike from next. They got to his family early through one of their field operatives, a vile man posing as a youth psychiatrist who slandered Todd’s name. They followed him to college, where they spread rumors concerning his sexual proclivities and a Rainbow Brite xylophone. The bastards would even remotely access his computer to insert typos into his term papers after he’d run the spell check just to ding his GPA and keep him out of the Academy.

But Todd Moody persevered, and he’s been chasing the Conspiracy since he started at the FBI. He thought he had them in 1996 during the Atlanta Olympics. The mascot of the games, Izzy, was obviously patterned after an alien species called the Lindolears. It’s sick: the Conspiracy and their alien allies are so sure of victory that they broadcast their intentions to those who know what to look for. The Lindolears used the games to scout the fittest humans for their beryllium mines and pay-per-view documentaries/live dissections. Todd did his best to protect the gold medalists but was expelled from the grounds by Conspiracy agents when he tried to warn Lisa Fernandez of her coming abduction. Since then he’s been reassigned to DHS, and the Conspiracy’s attempts to discredit him have only increased in number and severity.

Todd doesn’t know who the Conspirators are, only that they exist and control the world’s governments through use of alien technology recovered from crash sites. He can’t exactly prove it—yet—because the Conspiracy’s total control of all media and law enforcement makes it so easy to cover their tracks. The Rants & Raves section on Craigslist has been a reliable source of anti-Conspiracy intelligence, though lately Todd suspects psi-operatives have been infiltrating the board.

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Jay Leno (a misshapen ogre whom no one under age 65 finds amusing) is interviewing a skinny black man in his early thirties who calls himself Ronnie the World’s Most Honest Faith Healer. Ronnie was hit by a bus six months ago and was clinically dead for two and a half minutes.

“And you say god talked to you?”

“Yeah,” says Ronnie, “that’s when I knew what I had to do. So I traveled around the country faith-healing the sick and wounded.”

“Wow.” Leno shuffles his cards and looks at the camera. “So, ah, how many people got better?”

“Oh, none of them.”

“Eh?”

“Yeah, didn’t do any good at all. Made absolutely no difference.”

“Uh, but didn’t they pay you—?”

“Hell no, that would’ve been dishonest.”

Leno scratches his head. “Uh, so, I’m curious. What exactly did god tell you?”

There’s hesitant laughter from the audience.

“Exactly?” says Ronnie. “He said: ‘It’s just not working out between us. Stop calling me.’”

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“Tasty rice,” says the old man, and he helps himself to a bite. Jack picks up his chopsticks and takes a moment to fix their position in his hand. He dips his sticks into the bowl and pinches a sticky clump of rice. The old man’s sticks shoot into the bowl, and he steals the clump of rice from Jack before Jack can draw his sticks back out. “Oh, my apologies,” says the old man, and he eats Jack’s clump of rice.

Megan’s eyebrow climbs, and she scoops up her sticks as well. She doesn’t have to spend any time repositioning them; she’s spent plenty of Christmas dinners eating at Chinese restaurants and perfected the art of chop-fu by fifteen. Her sticks go in; she grabs a clump of rice and snaps her wrist back so the sticks are in her mouth before the old man can pounce.

The old man makes a “Hmm” in his throat. Jack tries for the rice again; the old man’s sticks knock Jack’s aside. “Rice is very good,” the old man says and stuffs his mouth.

“Well shit,” says Megan, and she goes for the rice again. This time the old man’s ready for her; he knocks her sticks aside and pinches a clump of rice; Megan counters by stripping the rice from his sticks; it falls back in the bowl. She pulls up another clump of rice and has it almost to her lips when the damned old man’s sticks rattle hers in mid-air. Megan rolls her wrist and traps the old man’s sticks in a wooden submission hold, but the old man manages to pull his utensils free.

“Honey,” Jack says, but Megan ignores him.

“What is this man?” says the goateed monk. “Is he a disciple of the Smiling Jackalope? Is he a noble teacher? Is he a great master?”

The chopsticks clash in mid-air again, clacking together with a sound like tiny bamboo staves. Megan scores a blow on the old man’s ring finger, and she uses his moment of hesitation to grab a bite of rice. She’s not really too fond of white rice, but now it’s come down to principle, dammit.

“Is he a rich man? Is he a poor man? Is he a holy man? Is he a criminal?”

Another mid-air clash, and the old man’s stick pinches Megan’s thumb. She hisses and jabs him in the soft spot between his thumb and index finger.

“Perhaps he is a hungry traveler. Or is he a great chef?”

The old man drops his chopsticks and gives Megan a slight bow of his head. Then he smiles and reaches his other hand into the bowl and scoops up a palmful of rice with fingers that look fresh from digging in the garden.

“Who is this man?”

“He’s an asshole!” Megan says and stabs her chopsticks through the old man’s hand, pinning his palm to the table.



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You’ve probably never heard of Ayn Sedai in our Universe. In our Universe, the Nathaniel Branden Institute fell apart when Ayn Rand discovered her apostle Nathaniel Branden was having an affair with a younger woman, which Rand apparently felt was an intrusion upon her own past extramarital affair with Branden. In the Universe we’re concerned with now, Rand never found out Branden was not-cheating on her, and the NBI eventually morphed into the First Holy Communion of the Randites, who believed Rand to be the physical manifestation of Ma’at, goddess of truth, balance, order and laissez-faire capitalism. In the final months of Rand’s life, secluded within the Randite compound, where she was surrounded by and endlessly waited on by her oath-sworn followers, the self-styled Ayn Sedai claimed she could “channel the currents of space-time in the Universe” and gave a secret code whereby one could find prophecies of the future in her writings and the writings of those she had inspired.

Ron Paul is a seventh-degree Randite Master; thus, he knows the code forward and backward, along with the story it tells in Rand’s own writings. Take this decoded bit from The Fountainhead, which to the untrained eye seems merely several paragraphs about a villainous newspaper editorialist:

It shall come to pass that what America made will be ruined
And the parasites shall once more lay across the electoral map.
Soldiers shall make war across the world for no good reason
And workers of the nation will lose consumer confidence.
Neither shall Wall Street abide…

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All that said, it wasn’t McCain’s Soviet indoctrination that set his life on its current path. That honor goes to his introduction to Ahmatohtal Wahkjhab, a Sunni cleric who spoke to the young radical of a sacred truth, a holy mission and a deep and abiding hatred for the Great Satan America, a country where women wore pants and everyone smelled of cheese. John McCain’s conversion was sudden and absolute, and he returned to the United States to pursue not his original political agenda, but his newfound religious destiny—he would stab the Great Satan’s heart from the Oval Office, and none of the pig-fucking infidels would ever suspect John McCain was a secret Muslim until the United States was burning to the ground.

4
Sucker Punch: One of the most woman-positive, she-mpowering portrayals of femininity to ever hit the silver screen

by Cadence Ohana

I have to admit that I didn’t have much hope for Sucker Punch when I first saw the previews. For starters, I heard that it was directed by Zack Snyder, who made those goddessawful movies 300 and Watchmen (considering Malin Akerman’s role in the latter, shouldn’t that be Watchpersons?). It’s fair to say I associated Snyder’s name with slow-motion violence and the kind of bare-chested testosterone-worship you usually have to tune into professional wrestling to see. But then I heard that this was the first movie he wrote from scratch instead of adapting from someone else’s misogynistic pre-existing property, so I was willing to give it a shot.

Am I ever glad I did. Sucker Punch is the breakout feminist action movie I’ve been waiting to see hit the theaters for years. It’s no wonder that so many other critics, sexist pigs all of them, have heaped such scorn on this wonderful film. This is a film that celebrates all that is woman, a story that not only takes an honest and unflinching look at gender relations in America but dares to suggest that the solution to the sexual imbalances in our society may just be castration by katana.

The story begins with the death and burial of Baby Doll’s mother, who is apparently rich and left everything to her daughters, a fact that drives her alcoholic, probably abusive husband wild (in fact I suspect that the husband is the one who killed her in the first place). This is immediately followed by an attempt of Baby Doll’s step-father to rape her, then failing in that, Baby Doll’s younger, prepubescent sister. Now if that isn’t gut-wrenchingly realistic filmmaking, I don’t know what is. I mean, I don’t know how many times I’ve thought that a man in my presence was, if not actively trying to rape me, at least obviously thinking about it really hard. Good on Zack Snyder for admitting to his gender’s obsession with forcing their disgusting attentions on women.

After this rare bit of honest storytelling to set the stage, Baby Doll’s step-father has her committed to an asylum for supposedly insane young women, with the understanding that a man will arrive in five days to give Baby Doll a lobotomy. Baby Doll overhears Madam Gorski, the resident psychiatrist, saying that one can always control one’s environment through the use of one’s imagination. From there, we enter a series of fantastic worlds full of vivid depictions of feminine empowerment and victory in the face of the brutal malecentric fascist agenda.

How do I love this movie? Let me count the ways.

1) The plot is straightforward and to the point without getting pretentious. At first I thought this movie was going to confuse me like Inception did with its bewildering layers of plots woven within plots, but I was quickly able to grasp the mechanism at work and the symbolism Snyder intended us to take away from the relationships between the different storytelling styles in each. The first storyline, which the film only touches on at the beginning and end, is of Baby Doll trapped in the asylum and trying to get out. In a brilliant stroke of filmmaking, Snyder has Baby Doll notice the objects she needs to escape—a map of the asylum, a lighter, a kitchen knife and the key hanging around the orderly Blue’s neck—as a bit of foreshadowing that ties into the other storylines.

The second storyline has Baby Doll imagining that the asylum is actually a brothel, and that the man coming in five days isn’t arriving to rob her of her frontal lobe’s functions but rather her virginity. You might argue this is demeaning to Baby Doll, but you have to look at the theme Snyder is working with to understand that it’s just the opposite: Baby Doll is taking a horrible situation (being locked away and counting down the hours until a man robs her of the ability to think for herself) and reimagining it as a barely less horrible situation (being locked away and counting down the hours until a man robs her of her virginity and the right to choose her own sexual destiny) so she can retain the ability to act in the face of creeping horror.

It’s true that Baby Doll and her allies are dressed in skimpy costumes and at first it seems that their captive sexuality is being fetishized in a lecherous fashion. That said, it’s obvious that Snyder chose this tact not to appeal to the audience through some misplaced sense that sex would sell the film but rather because he wanted us to feel disgust at the way women like Baby Doll are systematically reduced by a malecentric society into the marketable sum of their reproductive organs even within the confines of their own minds. In other words, when Baby Doll has the chance to escape the awfulness of the real world, the best she can do is imagine herself in a barely-better world where she is still reduced to the role of some anonymous man’s sexual fantasies, all because she’s a product of a society that teaches women they have no value outside their ability to titillate men. This theme is expertly subverted in Baby Doll’s ability to enrapture men with her dancing, which serves as the distraction that allows her compatriots to steal the items necessary for their escape and leads to the third storyline.

We never see Baby Doll’s hypnotic dancing on the screen. Instead, each time Baby Doll dances, we enter a world where the heroines are members of an elite squadron that fights steampunk zombie Nazis (I swear I didn’t make that up), dragons and robot samurai. I have to say that I consider these the weakest parts of the movie, though they’re full of excellent pro-feminist imagery, as I’ll touch on later.

So how hard was that? Pretty straight forward storytelling, right? Christopher Nolan could learn a thing or two.

2) Everything bad that happens is caused by a man. This is so wonderful and so true to life that I never would have thought I’d see it happen in an action movie starring young women, especially not one written and directed by a man. Baby Doll’s step-father is the one who puts her in the asylum. Blue Jones, the man in charge of both asylum and brothel, threatens Baby Doll and her allies with violence both traditional and sexual and summons a doctor (“the High Roller,” another man) from out of town to perform Baby Doll’s lobotomy. A male chef tries to rape Rocket and ends up killing her in another scene. Even the orcs, robots and Nazis in the fantasy scenes are all male, with the exception of a mother dragon, and to be fair, I’ve been told by the angels I contact during my séances that all dragons are technically hermaphrodites anyway.

There is one woman who’s technically on the wrong side of things, Madam Vera Gorski, who serves as the girls’ dancing instructor. I got the impression that she was probably a late addition to the script made at the insistence of the studio so the movie wouldn’t give men a complete monopoly on the villainy in this flick. That said, Gorski comes across as a sympathetic figure who’s doing her best to protect the girls from the men who run the facility. It would be unfair to label Gorski as a villain when she’s really as much a victim of circumstance as every other woman in the film.

Likewise, there’s a male figure called The Wiseman that appears only within Baby Doll’s mind, and while I might have found his role as her advisor and, later, her commanding officer to be insulting in what’s otherwise clearly a feminist movie, I came to understand as the story progressed that his presence, like Baby Doll’s psychic transformation of the asylum into an imaginary brothel, is supposed to be ironic; again, we’re being reminded that Baby Doll comes from a misogynistic culture, and so she identifies the part of her mind that makes concrete her escape plan and directs the actions of her supercharged, independent troupe of modern Angels sans Charlie with an older white man. This isn’t subversion of the film’s feminist message, but rather acknowledgement of the ways in which the minds of our culture’s young women have been poisoned and programmed to associate power and authority with phallocentrism.

3) All the protagonists are women. I get tired of seeing women reduced to supporting roles in action movies. Even worse is when a woman is the star of an action movie, but all her allies are men, making her exceptional because she is a woman and not because she’s an action star. Sucker Punch avoids that trap by giving us a group of strong sisters to identify with, and other than The Wiseman (who, as I’ve already explained, is a symbolic reflection of Baby Doll’s internalization of the patriarchal values that assault her sense of self-worth plastered over the independent feminine streak that makes her escape possible), there’s not a man among the “good gals.”

While I’m on the subject, I’d like to address a couple of complaints that I see getting tossed around in other reviews with regards to how the film portrays women. The first complaint I keep hearing has to do with the names of the main characters, especially with the protagonist being named Baby Doll. Of course, this is simply the affectionate name given to our heroine by Madam Gorski, and the efforts of our malecentric media to paint this innocent comment from one woman to another is just more proof that most of the drama that happens between women is actually instigated by men. Myself, I only have a problem with one of the names: Amber. All the other girls get exciting names—Sweet Pea, Rocket, a brunette named Blondie—so why doesn’t the Korean girl get a neat moniker? It’s too bad that a hint of racism slipped into an otherwise perfect movie.

Second, and while I already touched on this I want to expand my comments, the costumes the girls are wearing during the brothel and action sequences have drawn some ire, and that ire is completely unjustified. We have to remember that everything that happens in these sequences is happening within Baby Doll’s mind—as such, anything that Baby Doll and her compatriots are wearing is something that Baby Doll has chosen for the women to wear, not something a man has chosen them to wear. If the costumes the girls are wearing tend to be flesh-baring and tight, that’s because Baby Doll wants to express herself through that sort of fashion. It may even be liberating for her to imagine a world where she and her fellow sisters can bare a little skin in public without having some lecherous potential rapist violating them with his eyes. I can’t accept the idea that Snyder put the girls in these costumes to appeal to a male audience because the movie is so obviously marketed toward feminists. In fact, it’s so blatantly obvious that if you disagree, you’re obviously brainwashed by the maletocracy.

We really do need more media that just cuts men out of the picture almost entirely. If I could suggest one way to improve the movie, it would probably be to make all of the heroines lesbians and so ensure that the audience understood that none of these strong women would again fall under the dominion of a male. Now I understand that sexual preference isn’t something one can simply choose because I’ve tried doing just that a few different times. It’s really kind of unjust that one can’t choose one’s sexuality and more evidence that the many dimensions we live within are just as out of harmony as the eleventh dimensional angels tell me it is. I just want so badly to be attracted to other women, especially young women in skimpy outfits like the ones in this movie. Is that so much to ask? There has to be a spell for this somewhere in the world.

4) The women turn the power of the phallus against their male oppressors in several scenes. The most obvious phallic symbols in the film are the sword and gun that Baby Doll receives during the first fantasy sequence. The sword is of course a phallic symbol because it’s long and thin like a penis and it attacks by penetrating things. The gun is another classic phallic symbol, not just a penis but also a pair of testes filled with “sperm” (bullets) that rip out of the barrel and ruin women’s’ lives. Baby Doll takes these weapons from The Wiseman, which is again a matter of the film turning patriarchy on its head; though Baby Doll cannot escape the presence of a male authority figure within her imagination, she immediately takes away his power and uses it for her own purposes, effectively neutering the white male dominator.

The same theme carries through the rest of the action sequences, but I’ll limit myself to three examples off the top of my head so I’m not sitting here gushing over the pro-feminist symbolism of this movie all night. The first obvious example of women turning phallic power against their male oppressors comes just after Baby Doll takes her weapons from The Wiseman and finds herself up against a trio of robotic samurai. There’s a quick moment in the scene where Baby Doll races up the giant foe’s body, and with the way the samurai’s back arches it looks alarmingly close to an erect penis. Baby Doll fires into the samurai-penis’ “eyes,” effectively circumcising it. This ties into my own argument that we should legally enforce male circumcision in the United States. Men are so proud of their penises; it’s only right that they’re brought down to size by having those penises permanently altered when they’re too young to resist the change, then reminded time and again of that involuntary surgery later in their lives as a warning that they’d better respect women’s rights.

Later, when the girls are fighting steampunk German zombies, the sky is full of penis-shaped airships that Amber is able to punch through using her giant robot (a symbol of how easily feminist thought disarms patriarchal attitudes), and Baby Doll shoots down a particularly large phallic ship with another stolen, phallic gun. The theme even carries into the brothel storyline, where the cook uses a knife to murder Rocket (an obvious callback to the way he earlier tried to forcibly penetrate her with his penis); later, Baby Doll subverts this trope by using a similar knife to prevent an attempted rape by Blue and so begins her escape from the institution. The future seems to be one of women who have taken the penis’ symbolic power for themselves, and it’s a trend I can really get behind as a feminist.
 
5) This is a feel-good movie. Granted, some awful things happen to the girls over the course of the story, but strength grows in the face of adversity, and you know that their efforts are going to be rewarded at the end when they win their freedom. I had to use the restroom near the end of the movie, so I left around the time Baby Doll rescues Sweet Pea from the closet and didn’t get back to the theater until the credits were running. That said, I’ve seen enough action movies that I can imagine how it ended: the girls escape together and go get revenge on Baby Doll’s stepfather, using the strength and independence they’ve garnered in the past five days to finally take control of their own lives and embrace a new, free existence outside the asylum’s walls. Even if Baby Doll’s sister is dead, Baby Doll is still the heir to her mother’s fortune, and she has a new sister in Sweet Pea who will share the rest of her life with her. It must have been fun to watch. I guess I’ll have to go back again and see the ending in full next time.

Final score: 5 out of 5 pentagrams

Go see this movie now. It should be required watching in high school civics classes. I’ll go see it at least three or four more times in the theater before it comes out on DVD, and I hope it isn’t robbed at the Oscars like I expect it will be, though when you consider that the Academy is run by misogynists, that’s a given.

Cadence Ohana is the author of several self-help books, including The Power of the Anima and the Myth of the Animus and The Thinking Witch’s Meal Planner: 365 Days of Low-Carb Meals For the Blessed Be. She is currently in Japan, where she is protesting the release of the Nintendo 3DS on the grounds that its name is a veiled reference to unrealistic and sexist expectations regarded female anatomy. She does not have a website as she believes the internet is a patriarchal conspiracy.

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