Since the cancellation of Hannibal, Penny Dreadful has been my favourite show. Now it’s ended, too, and I am living in a universe made out of sad.
What’s it about? A group of characters in the 1890s — some are recognizable characters
from Victorian (and pre-Victorian) fiction, including Dr. Frankenstein and Dorian Gray,
and others are unique creations, such as Vanessa Ives and Mr. Lyle — have bonded together to fight monsters. Not post-modern, broody monsters, but classic Victorian “separated from God”-style evil monsters. The first season is about vampires, and the second season is about witches, and then the third season returns to vampires. But there are some devils and werewolves and reanimated creatures thrown in along the way. There’s rather a lot of blood and rather a lot of sex, but I’m okay with that.
The show has a number of qualities that appeal to me. It’s dark, and intense. It has a writing style that I just find to be sublime. At times, I think I love it just because I enjoy watching
Vanessa Ives’ intense expressions. One of the things I particularly love is the show’s
willingness to take extended amounts of time just building a particular feel.
There’s a sequence at the end of the first episode of the second season that illustrates
this well. Vanessa, who is essentially the show’s long-suffering hero, is praying. The show
touches on religion frequently, and Vanessa’s faith is an important element of her
character: it’s really the only thing that gives her succour. But the scene cross-cuts
between Vanessa, and the second season’s primary villain, a satanic witch who is similarly
engaged in incantations. The two scenes cut back and forth, rising in intensity. It goes
on for minutes, an amazingly long time to take for a story beat that does absolutely
nothing to advance the plot. But it sets the mood. It’s just about setting the mood.
In one of the early years that I attended WisCon — I want to say that this is something like 2003 — I proposed a panel: Trans Feminism. Aaron L. had volunteered to moderate, but the panel almost didn’t make it through the panel vetting process. Basically, not enough WisCon attendees expressed interest in the panel. I think the panel was saved fairly late in the process by Debbie, who agreed to be a panelist.
For a few years after that, I kind of thought to myself: “okay, there’s room for exactly this much transness at WisCon.” I thought, y’know, maybe a trans panel every few years. Maybe panels about speculative treatments of gender could include a token trans person. This much, I thought, but it’s unreasonable to expect more.
This past WisCon, I was thinking about the trans and genderqueer contingent. I was picking and choosing which of the several T/GQ panels I was gonna attend. And at times, I hung out in the trans and genderqueer safer space, now in its second year. And I think, “huh. I had such a meagre vision about what trans inclusiveness could look like at a place like WisCon.” I remember, for example, having thinky thoughts about a Fat is not the Enemy panel at WisCon in 2008: the thing I thought, then, was maybe the message of “love your body the way it is” sounds a bit suspect to my trans ears, but that thought was immediately followed with, “it’s a derailment (or at the very least, uninteresting to most attendees) to throw transness into this unrelated panel…”
Part of the way WisCon has changed over the years is that there’s just more trans folk at the con. There’s a trans/genderqueer posse. And more folk means that more trans/genderqueer content gets on the programming schedule. More consideration goes in to making the space welcoming. When the trans/genderqueer safer space was proposed, the con ran with it in a way that was amazing.
These changes are good. I like them; I support them; I’m glad for them. But a remaining problem is me. I think that I really need to own the idea of raising my expectations.
I’m continuing to pour a lot of my creative energy into comics. I’ve had a few things going on in that world.
First up, I’ve taken part in the third volume of Toronto Comics (the book seems to have dropped the “Anthology” part of the name). I wrote a story this year — “Lofty Aspirations” — but didn’t draw it. Instead, it was illustrated by Xan Grey, an amazingly talented artist, who’s been in the last two anthologies.
Today, the CBC called [Rob Ford] a “millionaire with a working-class attitude.” No. He was a millionaire who hated the poor. Like many other millionaires. If anything, Ford was a kind of Trump-lite, somehow seen as an “everyman” because he is so brave as to admit his bigotry publicly and proudly.
Certainly he did not support struggle of the working class, anti-union as he was. The CBC is correct that he became an “international celebrity for his drug and alcohol use while in office,” but he shouldn’t have been infamous for that reason. Rather, it should have been his treatment of women, people of colour, and the poor that brought him infamy.
He outright rejected the existence of homeless shelters, was overtly homophobic and racist, suggesting, in 2003, that Toronto be declared a “refugee-free zone.” Ford was charged with assaulting and threatening to kill his wife, Renata, in 2008 (though the charges were dropped), and in 2011 she reportedly placed a call to 911, with regard to a “verbal altercation” between herself and her husband.
[Jessica Jones] was open and unapologetic about its character’s sexual encounters; Daredevil is painfully chaste—a kiss in a rainstorm is visualized as an adolescent, hearts-and-flowers fantasy, while a flashback scene of Matt making love to his college girlfriend, Elektra (Elodie Yung) consists almost entirely of shots of Elektra shaking her hair in circles. (This isn’t sex so much as a shampoo ad.)
Every year, I make a post about films I particularly enjoyed that year. This year seemed harder than most. Not a tonne of films particularly stand out, and I especially feel like I’m deriving much more enjoyment out of some of the really well-made TV shows lately. I was also really busy in September of this year, and didn’t manage to make it to the film festival, which is where I usually find one or two of my favourite films of the year.