Supernatural Re-watch, S1E2: Wendigo

Second episode of the show to be aired, September 20, 2005. 

Synopsis:

The teaser gives us a park in Colorado – the temperate rainforests of Colorado, of course – where a group of young men are camping backcountry, but not so far back that one of them can’t be sending his daily video home.  Others are playing with their handheld games.  Soon, scaryfast shadow-monster (mmm, cheap effects, chuckles the producer to himself, and fingers his BMW keys), and bye-bye, dude.  Brad, we hardly knew ya.

At least he got a name.

Cut to Palo Alto, and Sam in a nice suit approaching a gravestone marked for his fridged girlfriend (hey, hero’s gotta have a reason to hero, right?).  He’s got flowers.  While he woobies about the pain of surviving her untimely and Sam-related death, a dirty hand rises Carrie-like out of the ground, grabbing Sam by the wrist.

He jolts awake in the Impala.  The brothers bond a bit.  There’s some natter about an old fight that Dad couldn’t finish, and a bunch of young men missing in the back country.  CRASHY-SMASHY TITLES!

At the Ranger cabin, Sam barfs up some exposition for a while, then the Ranger comes in to tell them not to go out in the Very Dangerous Place.  Which, of course, we all know means they’re going to do exactly that.  The boys break it up a little by getting to the family’s place, where they discover it’s a set of orphans who are very close.

More exposition: 23 years ago, and 23 years before, and 23 years before, people went missing in this area.  But hey, there’s a survivor!  Isn’t there always?  You’d think apex predator monsters would be more efficient. It was a grizzly, right?  Right?  And now the survivor is grizzled, too.  Ooh, narrative symmetry.  Nah.

Anyway, That Was No Bear!  Dean’s happy because it’s a solid creature.  The next day, they meet up with the family and their Grizzled Hunter guide, claiming to be rangers in a pretty improbable set of gear.

Cutaway, now, and we find that Tommy is still alive.  He’s hanging from a hook of some sort, alongside one of his friends, when a long, skinny-looking monster comes along and noisily dismembers his friend.

Back to the rescue op, the Grizzled Hunter is being lectured by Dean on how skilled Dean is, and gives Dean a comeuppance with a barely-avoided leg trap.  Dean then has an uncomfortable conversation with the girl of the week, and makes the creepy confession that he’s never honest with women.  Ever.  Dude, that’s not cool, that’s rapey.

Coming on the campsite (damn, you guys are good – one teeny campsite, in many square miles of heavy forested mountains?), they find evidence that it wasn’t a skinwalker or a black dog.  A predator trick draws them from the camp, and takes away all their survival gear while they’re distracted.  Totting up the evidence, Sam realizes it’s a Wendigo – Dean rightly points out that wendigo is a concept/creature/diagnosis from First Nations cultures found in Michigan and Minnesota (as well as here in Ontario and Manitoba), Sam handwaves, blah blah Donner party blah.

Sam makes the “Shit is Getting Serious” speech, and is scoffed at by Grizzled Hunter.  Night falls.  Dean gives the speech we’re going to see for ages in the opener, about with great responsibility comes great privilege, and duty is a feather heavier than a mountain, and all kinds of guff.  Basically: “We’re gonna do monster of the week, and finding dad is the big arc.  Also, there’s a book by MacGuffin, full of Useful Information.”

Once again, the monster gives with the distraction noises, sounding (for me) distractingly like Surak’s voice in the dreadful Star Trek: TOS episode.  “Help me, Spooock, help meee!”  Grizzled Hunter falls for it, and gets himself et.  Oops.

More exposition, gotta torch it.  Monster attacks, scattering the party, and Dean and Haley disappear.  Dean starts dropping M&M’s to leave a trail, and Sam and Ben track them to the entrance to an abandoned mine.  With a bit of good luck, they tumble through a shaft to the pantry, where Dean and Haley are hanging to cure.  They discover ample evidence that plenty of people here have been eaten already, and then – Tommy!  Tommy!  He’s alive!

The way out is a bit more character development: Sam’s the carer, Dean’s the stupidly brave Han Solo-type.  To distract the creatures, he runs off yelling and offering “white meat”, while Sam escorts the wounded out.  The flare guns they find are one-shot, and Sam misses his!  Ack!  They hobble for the exit, chased by the monster, only to have Dean show up just in time to save them, using his flare gun to give us the episode’s only big effect: the wendigo going up in flame.

They fashion a story for the police, and the family goes to the hospital.  Dean gets shot down (not literally) by the expected Girl of the Week – a nice aversion of the trope.

And the hunt for Dad goes on, sorta, in that they’re really kinda just going where he tells them, not so much where he might be.  Guitars and credits.

Analysis:

Dunno about anyone else, but as soon as I saw one of the teaser campers was Black, I was worried, I’ll admit.  There’s a reason it’s a trope.  It would have been so, so easy to avert it, too.  I find it hard to believe that horror-movie veterans would be unaware of this one, so it’s really hard to excuse.

And then, the giant creature in the room: the appropriation.  Oh. My. $DEITY. the appropriation.  As they point out, wendigo (or, more properly, WIIN’digo) is a concept from Ojibwe culture – which makes the Anasazi protective symbols an odd choice, let’s say mildly.  But hey, they’re all one kinda people, amirite? (hint: I am not right).  It’s just a whole big bucket of fail, splashed all over the episode.  The show would have done well to stay away from First Nations material entirely, rather than give it the disservice and disrespect shown here.  It’s not the last time, either.  We’ll have S1E8 coming up soon, Bugs, when they’ll do it again.  At least in that episode an actual First Nations actor got a few lines, and some nice snarky shots at Dean while he was at it.

Honestly, the show tries to include some diversity in the first season in ways that just totally fail, and this is one of them.  The racist truck in S1E13 Route 666 – hello Mighty Whiteys, Sneering Racists, and Noble Lib’ruls! – is another real failcontainership of an episode.  They get somewhat better at this in later seasons, but even to my white-privileged eyes, they get it wrong a whole bunch as well.

Gender-wise, it’s actually not quite as completely awful as some episodes.  Wow, that’s a lot of qualifiers.  But it’s true: the one woman who has a speaking role (Haley; the only other women are unnamed and unspeaking extras in a bar scene) not only gets out alive, but is brave, determined, and not ridiculously useless.  She’s not a backcountry camper, but then not many people are, and she’s not without skills: she can see through the boys’ claim to be rangers pretty soon after they get into the woods, and is clearly a responsible head-of-family person, even as a teenager.  Her younger brother gets the scream-queen role, really, being more frightened, and Sam actually having to restrain him from crying out just from seeing a blurry distant slow-moving silhouette of the monster.  Nice aversion, I’d say.  She’s also dressed reasonably appropriately, if a little lightly, though I wonder at the wisdom of shorts: do they not have deer flies in Colorado?  I know I wouldn’t go hiking in northern Ontario in shorts, let alone in the mountains.

Anyway, since they spend the whole episode out in the woods with the small cast, there’s not a lot of interaction to provide a lot of analysis here.

Conclusion:

Next episode we have Dead in the Water, the third of the show and season.  It’s another MotW episode, and it’s a reasonably good one – save for being the usual Hollywood White town, somewhere in the temperate rainforests of Wisconsin.

S1E2: Wendigo: 2 Pentacles

2/5 for this one.  I think if I were more of a horror-film fan (I’m really, really not), I’d have liked this one better, but this one felt a whole lot like an X-Files episode to me – the one where Mulder and Scully are going to the team-building thing, and stop in the woods to help find a missing person.  And frankly, I think the X-Files did it better.  They just haven’t hit their stride yet, the boys’ personalities are rough and wobbly, the acting is uneven, and the cinematography way too X-Files.  Growing pains, yes, but in the context of the show?  This isn’t a great ep.

Trivia:

Running total of innocents killed by the Boys: 0 (you wait, this’ll go up)

Named women and/or POC (not already dead) who end up dead before the episode’s out: 1 (Brad, the Black man in the teaser)

Marginalized (named) body survival rate: 50%, ½ (Brad dies; Haley lives)

Objectification by Dean: Pretty much the whole catalogue of his interactions with Haley. He even admits it when she calls him on it.

Misogynist slurs:  Dean, 1 (bitch, to the monster)

Aliases used by the boys:  Samuel Cole (Dean, maybe a Colt reference?)

Hint o’ maple:  Veteran Canadian character actor Timothy Webber (Cold Squad, X-Files, Lone Gunmen, about a hundred other things) plays Ranger Wilkinson, around and aboot the ranger shack.  Yes, I know, fellow Canadians, we don’t really say “aboot”, but that’s what they hear it as.  Trust me, I’m a linguist.  A most cunning one.  With a degree and everything.

Anyway, he’s joined by Donnelly Rhodes, another veteran of just about everything, but who does a much better job of hiding his accent.  And I don’t think Callum Keith Rennie needs any introduction: Da Vinci’s Inquest, BSG, Due South, and a host of other appearances on a range of geek favourites.

Supernatural Re-watch, S1E1: Pilot

The unimaginatively-named “Pilot” was the first episode of Supernatural, premiering on the WB network (since subsumed into the CW network, where SPN now lives) on September 13, 2005.

Synopsis:

Starting with a flashback to 1983, we get the backstory for Sam and Dean.  Sam’s six months old, and Dean’s not yet five, living in Lawrence, KS.  Up in the middle of the night, Mary (their mother) screams from Sam’s room, bringing John (dad) at the run.  Coming into the room, he finds nothing apparently wrong – until he notices Mary flat against the ceiling, gut-knifed and bleeding.  As he watches, she catches fire.  Dad hands the baby to Dean, telling him to run, but is unable to save Mary, driven back by the fire.

Back in 2005, we catch up with Sam, now in pre-law at Stanford, with a live-in girlfriend called Jess.  In what will be an ongoing theme of love interests for the boys, Jess looks remarkably like the boys’ mother (yes, I do mean that very implication).   We find out Sam is a top student.

Dean shows up, and we get to find out that both brothers can fight.  Dad’s overdue from a “hunting trip”, a phrase that means something deep to Sam.  Dean needs help to look for him; Sam says he swore off hunting for good.  Some discussion of how appalling a father Dad is:

Sam: When I told Dad I was scared of the thing in my closet, he gave me a .45.

Dean: Well, come on, what was he supposed to do?

Sam: I was nine years old.  He was supposed to say “don’t be afraid of the dark!”

Much infodump about what Dad’s been doing, how obsessive and dangerous hunting has been, how they’ve been superheroes for years, and blah blah blah.

Setup for our first MOTW: Dean lays out a list of men killed in unusual ways on a particular stretch of road in California.  Sam insists that if he goes to help, he HAS to be back by Monday for his interview for law school.

Cut to California, where a young man is driving along a road, and spots a barefoot woman in white at the roadside.  He offers her a ride when she asks him to take her home.  Luring him back to her haunting place with the implication of sex, he peels rubber to do so.   Arriving at her home, though, it’s a desolate old building, and she soon starts behaving more ghostly – disappearing and such.  She kills him in his car on a broken-down old bridge.

Back to Sam and Dean, discussing their habit of supporting their hunting life through credit fraud, and we get to meet the Impala: Dean’s car, formerly Dad’s car, full of cassette tapes of metal and classic rock bands.  Yes, cassette tapes.  Coming on the murder scene, Dean grabs a fake ID and identifies the boys to the local fuzz as US Marshals.

They start investigating, discovering that there’s a local legend about a woman who was murdered many years ago, and has been killing men ever since.  Looking closer, Constance Welch is found to have committed suicide off that same bridge after having killed her children (to make her husband like her better – check out the La Llorona link about the Woman in White legend).

Dean gets arrested for the credit fraud and impersonating a marshal, and suspected of being the serial murderer; Dad’s journal makes its first appearance, including a “set of coordinates” with Dean’s name (which don’t correspond to any system of which I’m aware; they look like lat and long, but they’re nowhere near specific enough to give them the leads they seem to get from them, which is probably why that was dropped as a plot device fairly early).  Sam moves on to investigating by himself.  He confronts the widower, and discovers that the man had been unfaithful.

Sam helps Dean escape from police custody, and then encounters the ghost himself  – despite having never been unfaithful!  She makes it technically correct that he has, and attacks, with Dean providing a distraction to save Sam.  Sam drives the Impala into her former home, taking the ghost inside with him, for the first time since she died.  In the house, she encounters the children she’d killed: their embrace causes her to de-rez, with a lovely toilet-flushing sound effect.

Despite Dean’s hopes, Sam insists on going home to Stanford.  He finds some cookies with a  note saying he’s loved, and relaxes onto his bed when he hears the shower running, looking happy.  Then, in what will become an ongoing theme (narrative symmetry), Sam looks up to find the woman he loves dying in exactly the same way his mother did: gut-knifed, plastered to the ceiling, and burning.

The episode finishes with Sam fiddling with weaponry in the Impala’s trunk/arsenal, showing his newfound willingness to go hunting.

Analysis:

Wow, there’s a good start to the show here, in terms of stuff to look at.

First, a couple of small things: I’ve noticed regularly throughout the series that, for a show so full of Whiteness, the local fuzz are often played – or at least commanded – by POC or women (but not anyone who’s both – don’t be silly!).  Stealth progressivism, sorta!  Hey, we gotta take the good where we can find it.

Second small thing, appropriation: the story of La Llorona (the Woman in White) is one of Mexican and Central American origin.  Also, the day on which both Mary and Jess died was November 2, 1983 & 2005; November 2 is the Dia de los Muertes in Mexico.  None of the people involved in the murder/suicide, nor in the later killings, is Latino/a.  This theme of appropriation will definitely continue.

I mentioned above “narrative symmetry”: this is going to be a really important recurring theme, and I’m going to try and point it out wherever I see it, in things like the boys’ relationship mirroring that of certain supernatural beings they will later encounter, or Sam’s face and bed being the place on which the blood of both the women he loves is spilt during their murders, and so on.  In this episode, of course, we have that first example (Sam’s bed).

Among other recurring themes/leitmotifs in the show are the Woman Scorned (almost always leading to a vengeful spirit of some sort), probably most hideously and frequently the Women in Refrigerators, and the Cartwright Curse (i.e., do not sleep with Sam or Dean, because they have an STI called DEATH, and very few women seem to be immune).  There are more (Black Dude Dies First, for instance), but these three are pretty much constants throughout.

And let’s talk about one of those right now.  Because yeah, as Gail Simone said, it’s not a good idea to be a woman around superheroes.  I would definitely argue that, despite the lack of brightly-coloured spandex, Dean and Sam are clearly superheroes.  They regularly show skills and abilities that are of inhumanly high quality: the ability to pick pretty much any lock that isn’t a plot device, the ability to regularly shrug off gunshots and other serious damage, Dean’s ability to completely and perfectly rebuild a totalled car, and that leaves aside the really spoilery stuff that we’ll come to later, but which only makes my case more solid.  Suffice to say, I think it’s fairly clear that Sam and Dean are as superheroic as Supes and Bats.  In fact, it’s not out of the question to characterize them that way, as Supes and Bats: Sam the wholesome kid, and Dean the grimdark avenger.  To be fair, that will develop more interestingly as their characters are built.

We have a huge amount of media in our culture in which women exist as plot devices, the destruction of which is meant to give the protagonist a reason to be any kind of –agonist: “I’ll get you for what you did to/said about my mom/girlfriend/wife/daughter/sister/workmate/neighbour/one-night fling partner, you fiend!”  Like child heroes almost always being orphans (else, why are their parents letting them do such stupidly dangerous things?): the boys are not only functionally orphans (since Dad has disappeared), but regularly need a fresh infusion of ladyblood to keep their fires stoked (see: Jo & Ellen, Madison, Ruby, and many, many more!).  This is, for me personally, one of the greatest failings of the show, that it uses Mel Gibson’s Favourite Plot Device as a regular story generator.

It probably doesn’t need to be said that SPN rarely, if ever, has an episode which would pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test (aka the Dykes to Watch Out For/Bechdel test, which Bechtel attributes to Liz Wallace: that two named women characters speak to each other about something other than a man), but I would contend we need a different level of test for this kind of show.  Let’s call it the Mary Winchester test: do any two fully-named women live through an entire episode?  In this episode, sadly, no.  Jess doesn’t even get a last name (we find out it’s Moore later), and both she and Mary, along with the ghostly Mrs. Welch, end up deader than dead by the time we get the chords and credits.

The other great theme of dubious progressivism in this series is that of motherly sacrifice and motherly love.  Mary Winchester will return again and again in various ways, giving her boys the Lily Potter-approved Seal of Motherly Protection.

Beyond the appropriation issues, and that it is HollywoodWhite (if people aren’t white, there’s often a reason, or they’re just unnamed b/g characters), there isn’t a lot of racefail that I notice in this episode.  I’m sure someone will let me know what I missed – no question that my own racial privilege makes it harder for me to notice the ways they fuck up in this area.  Both Black characters who have speaking roles in this episode (Sam and Jess’ friend at the bar, and the police officer that Dean talks to) have to make do without names, but hey – at least they don’t die!  /eyeroll

Probably because it’s a pilot, this episode was fairly low on the “Innocents Killed”, “Misogynist Slurs”, and “Objectification by Dean” counts.  No worries, though, the boys will get started soon on leaving their trail of innocent blood across the US.

Dean’s character is clearly meant to be the anti-Nice Guy: he’s the Bad Boy that All Girls Want.  He’s the guy the Nice Guy thinks always gets the girl (I would argue that this is generally not so, outside of Hollywood properties; most hetero men who are truly assholes get a lot less “action” than they’re reputed to, as, duh, most women don’t want to date assholes).  He’s the classically beautiful “male model” type (his first major gig was on a soap opera).

Sam, on the other hand, we establish fairly early as the “sensitive one”: Padalecki has a tic of using a soft, high-pitched voice (by the end of the first season, he and Dean both usually speak like they’ve a mouthful of gravel, ramping up the Manly-Man-ness) and lovely worry-brows to engage with people who need to be treated gently.  Dean, of course, always derides this behaviour as completely unmanly, in as explicit a manner as possible – calling Sam by a girl’s name, or otherwise imputing that being nice and empathetic to people is damaging to Sam’s already minuscule manhood (no, I mean his state-of-being-a-man, not his Pocket Saltgun).

It may become rather apparent that I’m more of a Sam fan than a Dean fan, though I appreciate both actors’ physical beauty and acting ability relatively equally.  To give the show credit on the equal-opportunity objectification front, both Ackles and Padalecki are frequently given a good beefcake showing – there’s one scene in the series where Padalecki, leaving a bathroom, walks covered only in a towel to his bed, and oh ME oh MY is that boy ripped (fans self).  And Ackles is, genuinely, a male-model type, with almost femininely beautiful features (though I quickly grew bored with Ackles’ #1 knee-trembler look, three-quarter profile over his left shoulder – wish they’d give him more variety in it).

That’s about it for the first episode from me; next episode picks up from those coordinates we saw in Dad’s journal, “35-111” – which apparently means a place in Colorado where they think Dad went next.  The hunt for Dad continues in S1E2, Wendigo. Appropriation ahoy!

(cue guitars and credits)

S1E1: Pilot: 3 Pentacles

3/5 for me, because I find the (necessary, but still) infodumpiness of the early dialogue really painful and awkward – a little too often we get the “As you know, Bob” speech, and as is often the case with pilots, bits and bobs were changed before the show really got rolling.  Still, the MOTW is interesting, and the method of dealing with her is quite unusual in the show’s mythology, and it’s hard to be too hard on clumsy exposition in a pilot: they’ve got to sell the idea to a group of people, after all, with distinctly stunted imaginations and clearly not-up-to-snuff intellectual capacities (i.e., studio execs).

Trivia:

Running total of innocents killed by the Boys: 0 (none yet, lads, let’s see how long we can keep that going!)

Named women and/or POC (not already dead) who end up dead before the episode’s out: 2 (Mary Winchester, Jessica Moore)

Marginalized (named) body survival rate: 33% (Jess and Mary die; Amy, the dead boy’s girlfriend, lives, and no other characters who are not White hetero cis men get names)

Objectification by Dean: 1 (Jess – his brother’s girlfriend! creepy!)

Misogynist slurs: Bitch (2 – both Dean)

Aliases used by the boys: American rocker Ted Nugent; Hector Aframian, both Dean.

Hint o’ maple:  Not much I noticed, though I’m fairly sure I heard a couple of Canadian Raising pronunciations in the show.  The show being filmed in Vancouver, BC (Canada), there are frequently recognizably Canadian people and places in the show’s backgrounds, like Canada Post vans and boxes, Canadian accents, Tim Horton’s outlets, and a few overt references in the later seasons.  The hint o’maple section will outline any I happen to catch.  I may also make occasional reference here to the “temperate rainforest of $AMERICAN_PLACE”, because like the X-Files, being shot in and around Vancouver means a LOT of places have a somewhat similar look.

Supernatural: a Progressivist Re-watch

So, recently I decided I’d like to get some regular writing, and having enjoyed a bunch of really good re-watch/re-read threads at various places (Tor.com got me started, but the one I’ve loved best was The Viewscreen’s Star Trek: TOS series, followed by their work on the animated series, and other works on the astrogator for later), thought it might be time to start my own.  To some extent, then, Torie and Eugene, this one’s for you.

You’re probably thinking: OMG, Caitie, why the fuck would you want to subject yourself to a show that is SO not feminist?  And yeah, I’ve asked myself a few times.  But I’m a fan, what can I say: I love the show.

Oddly enough, I don’t like horror movies (I’m a big fan of being scared, but I tend to believe suspense + surprise = pleasant scare, and suspense + gorefest = unpleasant scare), so being a fan of SPN (as we call it in the fandom) is a real surprise: not really progressivist at all, very man-centred, horror-lite series.

But one can’t always choose what one will fall in love with, can one?

Who am I?

I’m a queer polyamourous working-class trans white woman gamer geek with mental and physical disabilities, and an immigrant from the UK to Canada (but you can just call me Cait – short for Caitlin, pronounced, in NorthAmEnglish anyway, as “Kate”).  I wrote for a couple of years at Shakesville as a contributor and moderator (CaitieCat), and have been published in a couple of anthologies (one of queer pastiche, one of trans erotica).

I’ve been a fan since I was old enough to watch ST: TOS on my own.  That’s…ooh, probably forty years now.  I use fan as a shorthand for someone who is a general sf/fantasy geek, and who has a (possibly unhealthy ;o) devotion to one or more media properties in that pursuit.

What is Supernatural, anyway?

Supernatural is the tale of two brothers (Dean Winchester, played by Jensen Ackles, and Sam Winchester, played by Gilmour Girls alum Jared Padalecki) in a world where monsters, demons, and angels are all real, though most people don’t know about them.  Circumstance reveals the truth of that world to their father when their mother is killed by a demon when the two are very small (Sam an infant, Dean four and a half).

Created by Eric Kripke, the show has recently finished its eighth season as I write this, and has shifted from a Monster-of-the-Week horror-lite show with a background story arc, to a show more or less defined by each season’s story arc, with some MOTW action thrown in to break up the big story.  Think of it sorta like the X-Files, except that instead of the mind-numbing and eventually show-killing takeover of the conspiracy episodes, we have a set of story arcs that work with and among the MOTW stories.

What Can We Expect from this Re-Watch?

Ahh, good question.  I’m glad I asked.

My concept here is to watch each episode, lay out a synopsis, and then look at the things they do that are or are not progressivist, before closing with a bit of trivia about the ep in question and the show in general.  Among those latter trivia will be, for instance:

  • a running count of the “innocent*” people slain by the two heroes;
  • a percentage rating, for how many named characters who are POC and/or women end up dead by episode’s end;
  • favourite lines;
  • good bits: stuff that is stealthily/surprisingly progressivist!;
  • and a misogynist slur watch (how many times a show is someone called a “bitch” or a “whore”, et c.).

Closed out with a rating of how much I, personally, enjoyed the show.

So that’s the premise.  I hope you’ll enjoy watching along with me, twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays. I’ve already set up the first four episodes to roll out on schedule.

A Note About Spoilers

There will be some.  I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect to do a re-watch without them.  What I’d like to see is people trying to avoid giving spoilers about shows we haven’t done yet, but the episode we’re looking at will, obviously, be chock-a-block with spoilers.  Until we get caught up**, anyway.

* For instance, if the boys kill a demon with the, well, y’know, (SPOILER!) that thing they can kill demons with, and the human doesn’t survive?  That’s one for the boys’ total.  People who die because Our Lads haven’t figured out the MOTW yet, they don’t go on the total.

** If we ever get caught up – at eight seasons, the show has something like 170+ episodes, which at two a week means this is a two-year project, by which time there will be (supposing no cancellation) another 20+ episodes, and so on.

Some blogs I like

Well, it won’t be surprising if the first I mention is Shakesville, Liss McEwan’s fantastic site of feminism. Besides being a friend whom I value highly, Liss is one of the most cogent, incisive, and downright readable feminists I’ve ever read. I cannot number the things I have learned from her, from the other contributors, from the fabulous Shaker commentariat, or from the hundreds of links to excellent writing and writers I’ve found there: about rape culture, and fat hatred, and eliminationist behaviours, and the ongoing process of being a good ally. There is also an amazingly useful Feminism 101 section, with pointers to a wide range of topics, and lots of strong, insightful writing in it.

On the topic of racism and the fighting thereof, there are a myriad of good sites. Some of my favourites include The Gradient Lair, Racialicious, We Are Respectable Negroes, Angry Asian Man, and Colorlines.

For chronic pain and disability, there’s my fellow Ontarian Ania at Scribbles and Rants, Mitchell at Research to be Done, and Erin at geeky gimp. Definitely interested in more good writing here, if anyone’s got any good links.

I don’t have much in the way of good links about depression, particularly, largely because people who are in it tend not to be prolific writers, for self-evident reasons. Miri’s Brute Reason and Jen’s Blag Hag are both somewhat focused on depression, and both can be quite useful in terms of resources as well as good writing. 

Shining Artifact of the Past writes about the plight of asylum-seekers, particularly in the UK but also covering other countries and situations as they come up. 

I’m interested in any links you might have, particularly if they’re in not-English, even better if they’re in one of {French, German, Japanese, Russian, or Spanish}. Good writing that also lets me exercise my language skills will always have my interest.

State of the Cait, and a Tip About Self-Assessment of Disability

I’m definitely doing better with the depression. The pain’s been worse, but I’ve been fighting through to keep working when it comes in, and accomplishing more of the bureaucracy stuff I have to do in applying for disability.

The tip about assessment of disability is this: A really useful thing I did when going to my doctor for the forms was to bring along one of my partners, a woman who helps me out a great deal in terms of how I live; she does the laundry, for instance, and prefers to do most of the cooking (for her reasons, which I’ll respect her privacy on). So she has a great position from which to be able to assess the ways in which my life is deflected from its path by my disabilities.

I tend to minimize the impact of my disabilities on my life, for several reasons. I was raised to not complain, to not whinge about things that made me unhappy. I also have lived with them for so long, it’s very hard for me to imagine how my life would be different if I didn’t. How do I assess how much more I would go out and spend time with people, or how much more I might work, or how much farther I could walk without stopping, when those activities have all been circumscribed with pain for as long as I’ve been considered an adult? 

So when they ask me to explain how my disabilities are having an impact on my life, I’m at a loss, somewhat. Humans can normalize almost anything, we’ve seen this in all sorts of situations when people have done amazing or appalling things at the edges of human endurance. How far could I walk without a cane? If well-prepared with sufficient meds (more than my usual amount; I reserve 25% of my meds in a given month to allow me functionality on occasions which require the extra help to be accomplished), I could probably walk a kilometre; without the extra meds, I’d be lucky to make it 100m without my stick. I don’t take stairs unless there’s no option. I don’t have a car anymore, partly because I can’t afford it, and partly because I don’t feel safe driving with the huge load of meds I now have to take to be able to go out in the world*. 

I don’t see these as impairments, anymore, they’re just the limits of my life. 

Any road, that’s my tip of the day for how to get a more accurate picture of your own impairments: ask someone who knows you well, and doesn’t share your impairments, what they view as the ways in which your life is different from what might be expected.

* Before you ask, no, I never use my herbal remedy and drive (minimum two hours, prefer three, after last use before I’ll drive, and remember, I use it constantly, so my intoxication from it is pretty minimal – even so, three hours if I can get them). My physical crippledness comes from an encounter with an intoxicated driver. The last thing I ever want to do is put someone else in a casket, or in this same state, because I thought I was too important to pay attention to research showing how bad it is to drive intoxicated. 

Some links I nicked from Miri and some of my own

In a way, it’s Miri (the Professional Fun-Ruiner!) who has prodded me back to blogging, for which I’m endlessly grateful. But beyond that wonderful act, she also does these occasional link round-ups which are generally chock-full of more than your Recommended Daily Allowance of Vitamin GR (Good Reading).

Viz., these ones which I am blatantly stealing from her (but she has more than these, so read hers too!):

Male Atheists and White Knight Sexism from Libby Anne’s Love Joy Feminism (content note: sexism, misogyny, anti-religious bigotry);

Men Need Clothes, Women Need to Look Sexy in Clothes from Lisa Wade, PhD, at Sociological Images (content note: sexist imagery);

So You Think You May Have Been Blocked on Twitter from Mitchell Greenbaum at Research to be Done (content note: MRA talking points, amid a veritable lake of snarktacular sarcasm well-aimed at harassers);

Why You Need to Quit Calling Homophobes Closet Cases from Aoife at Consider the Tea Cosy (content note: homophobia, trans* gatekeeping);

1983 The Year That Almost Didn’t End from Marc Ambinder of The Compass (content note: nuclear war)

Saudi Arabia’s War on Witchcraft from Ryan Jacobs of The Atlantic magazine (content note: racism, misogyny, cruel legal punishment, capital punishment);

and last, but a long way from least,

A Little More on Diversity, Body Size & Lingerie by yogi (and friend) Torie from Anytime Yoga.

Some really good, interesting reading in there if you’ve got some time. Anyone got anything you think I should read? Drop a comment, I’m always up for more brainfood.

The Doctor’s Doctor!

Today’s my “birthday”, or at least the one I celebrate publicly; the day I had my surgery some years ago. I call it “Muffing Day”.

So, my partner (who arrived today) got me a Muffing Day present, and I love it SO MUCH. We both really love work by Megan Lara, who does a whole bunch of fan art stuff that’s top-notch, as well as her own art (she’s talented and sells relatively inexpensively! buy lots!). Today’s gift was of my favourite of the New Who companions, Martha: The Doctor’s Doctor. She’s brilliant, gorgeous, leaves on her own terms, doesn’t pine after him when he’s gone from her life, and she’s a real DOCTOR. How bad-ass is that? The references in the background are of various shows: Smith & Jones with hospital on the moon/Judoon platoon, Cybermen from when Freema played Martha’s “cousin” in S2’s Rise of the Cybermen / Age of Steel season-ender, the pocketwatch from Human Nature / Family of Blood with Ten’s distinctive sonic behind it and, in her hand, the Osterhagen Key from S4’s The Stolen Planet / Journey’s End.

I has squeeful on my shirt. Yay! Happy Muffing Day!