Episode Number: 83
Episode Title: BANANAS (listen to this episode)
Transcript by: Susan the Great
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Renay: Hello friends! I’m Renay.
Jenny: And I’m Jenny.
Renay: And you’re listening to Fangirl Happy Hour.
[Music: B-3 by BoxCat Games]
Renay: Yes, you heard it: Jenny is here covering for Ana as she’s on adventures in Brazil. Hey, Jenny!
Jenny: Hi, Renay! Thank you for having me on again.
Renay: You’re welcome! I’m so excited!
Jenny: I’m very excited.
Renay: Today we’re going to play a game where I put Jenny on the spot which is something I love to do.
Jenny: [gasp] [laughter]
Renay: And then we’re going to discuss a book called White Tears by Hari Kunzru, and the epic Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within movie from 2001, and then do some recommendations.
Jenny: Sounds great.
Renay: I’m super excited.
Jenny: I’m very excited.
[Music: B-3 by BoxCat Games]
Renay: Jenny, you read a ton of non-fiction.
Jenny: I do my best.
Renay: No, I mean really. You read a lot of non-fiction.
Jenny: All right yes, I read a lot of non-fiction. It’s true.
Renay: Exactly. So I made up a game—I created it all on my own, which means it’s gonna be a little weird so, because it’s me.
Jenny: You mean brilliant?
Renay: Well, weird and brilliant.
Renay: So I’m going to give you three prompts. Surprise prompts.
Jenny: Yes, I haven’t heard these before. I’m so nervous.
Renay: And for each prompt you’re going to think back to your long history of non-fiction reading, and interpret the prompt, and give me three non-fiction recs for each prompt.
Jenny: Oh, this game is sounding a little more abstract than I expected. All right, well it’s even more intimidating than before now.
Renay: It’s gonna be fine, because you’re extremely intelligent and I believe in you.
Jenny: We’ll see. We’ll see.
Renay: So your first recommendation prompt is: “with friends like these.”
Jenny: Ooh, with friends like these… With friends like these…
Okay, my first one is I have this amazing book of letters between George Bernard Shaw, who wrote Pygmalion, and Alfred Douglas, who’s Oscar Wilde’s terrible boyfriend. And my friend found this book of letters when we were in a used bookstore in the French Quarter, and I begged her to let me buy it instead of her keeping and she kindly let me do it. And it’s great, because they write all these letters to each other where they’re just basically insulting each other and everything each other stands for and everything they believe in and then there’s like a whole book of letters of them doing that.
Renay: This is already the best idea I’ve ever had.
Jenny: [laughter] That’s impossible. You’ve had millions of brilliant ideas.
Renay: In what other context would have gotten that specific recommendation? Anywhere?
Jenny: [laughter] Yes, I think that’s a good point, I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that one. Okay, so that’s one. Oh gosh, with friends like these, with friends like these… Another one that I’m choosing and hopefully this isn’t too much of a stretch, but it’s about dogs and dogs are man’s best friend. It’s this book, Pitbull by Bronwen Dickey, and it’s about pit bulls, and why all the things that we think we know about them are totally false and breed bans are stupid. And I learned so much from this book, I already thought pitbulls got a bum rap, but I did not realize how totally unfair it all was until I read this book.
Renay: That totally counts cause it’s about dogs.
Jenny: It’s about dogs! The goodest of friends.
Renay: They’re good dogs, Jenny.
Jenny: I have a shirt that says, “They’re good dogs, Brent.” Whiskey Jenny got it for me.
Renay: That’s amazing. I want a shirt like that.
Jenny: It’s such a good shirt. Okay, and then my last one is Committed: The Battle Over Involuntary Psychiatric Care, which is by Dinah Miller and Annette Hanson, and it’s about people who are doing their best to help people with severe mental illnesses get treatment, but often doing a super bad job of it. Anyway, they’re trying to help but often failing.
Renay: So these are three very excellent recommendations.
Jenny: Oh good, I’m glad you like them. Okay. Fwoof. All right, one down! [laughter]
Renay: One down, two to go, but I have confidence in you!
Jenny: Thank you.
Renay: The second prompt is: “the past is another county.”
Jenny: Now—now my problem is how to choose between all my many many possibilities. Okay, so one that I’m gonna say is Unspeakable Truths by Priscilla Hayner, which is about a somber topic. Um, it’s about truth commissions, the history of truth commissions and how they functioned in all different countries. And they’re about getting to the bottom of what happened in the past so that people can heal and move on in the present. So that’s my first one.
Renay: That’s heavy.
Jenny: I know, I know, I started with the heavy one because then hopefully the other ones I can choose will be a little less grim?
So my second one is 1177BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric Cline, which is short book. It’s pretty easy to get through. But basically in the twelfth century BCE a whole bunch of ancient civilizations experienced attack from without, by a group that we nowadays call The Sea People, and we don’t really know that much about The Sea People, we just know that they conquered a lot – a LOT – of places at this period of time. And it’s all super mysterious. So Eric Cline writes about what civilizations were around at this time and what records we have from then and what we can learn from them about The Sea People.
Renay: Wow, that would have actually have worked for your next category.
Jenny: Oh no, is it about—oh, I hate myself! [laughter]
Renay: I mean, you’ll see what I mean when we get there, but that could cross over.
Jenny: Oh, I’m so angry at myself already, ugh, dammit Jenny.
Um, okay, and then, um, so I’m gonna say Spectacle by Pamela Newkirk which is a book about this guy called Ota Benga who I think was Congolese. And some explorers found him in Africa, basically kidnapped him and took him back to New York and displayed him in a zoo. So it’s the story of his life and what happened to him after there was a public uproar over there being a human being in the Bronx zoo for god’s sake. So it’s sad, but it’s a really interesting book and I was, you know. I was depressed but glad I had read it.
Renay: This got deep.
Jenny: This is the thing about non-fiction, a lot of it is kinda grim.
Renay: Yeah, that’s true.
Jenny: So those are my three.
Renay: All right, very last category. When I was a kid, my grandmother used this phrase, that was so scary to me that I wouldn’t let her say it?
Jenny: Aw, little baby Renay!
Renay: And I made her start saying “scary” instead.
Renay: And the phrase that I’m going to prompt you to give me recommendations on is called, “it gives a body the flesh-creep.”
Jenny: Ooh, that is scary. It gives the body a flesh-creep, ugh. Okay.
Renay: You see why baby Renay was like ,”Please don’t say that, Grandma.”
Jenny: [laughter] Yeah. Yeah, definitely.
Renay: You see why I said that that other book would have fit here, right? Sea People, oh my god.
Jenny: [laughter] It’s real. The Sea People were very real. So I’m going to say Judas by Susan Gubar, which is about all the different ways throughout history that literature and art have portrayed Judas as a you know, horrible traitor, and it has—I bought it because it was on sale for like seven dollars at an independent bookstore and it has all this beautiful but terrifying art of Judas in hell and stuff. [laughter]
Renay: Oh my god.
Jenny: I know, it’s creepy and great. So that’s one.
Two, I think Alison Bechdel’s comics-memoir Fun Home, which is about growing up as a queer girl in a funeral home and it is pleasantly creepy as well.
And my last one is Death: An Oral History by Casey Jarman, which is a really cute little book. I mean cute in it’s design and trim size, where the compiler, I guess, discovered that he was very frightened of death and he had never experienced a major death in the family or among his close friends. So he set about interviewing all these people who work in various ways, or have close contact with death. So he spoke to like funeral home people, and grief-counsellors, and all these other people and then he published – he compiled all the interviews together and published them in this book. And some of them are really – just get into the nitty-gritty details of death and what happens after death. So some of it’s really creepy and some of it’s very like sort of about redemption. It was a really interesting book. I was glad I read it.
Renay: I’m so impressed that you were able to pull it off.
Jenny: Thank you for giving me time to look through all my [laughter] all my non-fiction shelves.
Renay: Thank you for reccing us some really great non-fiction and playing my game, which was totally made up.
Jenny: I loved it. Thank you for making up the game, I hope I didn’t do too disgracefully.
Renay: No, you did well, you get —
Jenny: Oh, thank you.
Renay: — ten space bees.
Jenny: Ten space bees!
[Music: Fall by Chuki Beats]
Renay: White Tears is a 2017 novel that just came out from Hari Kunzru and I cannot summarize this book at all, so I’m gonna make Jenny do it.
Jenny: [laughter] Right, I’ll do my best. So White Tears is about two white boys, Carter, who is rich, and Seth, who is kind of his hanger-on. And Seth, by chance, records a black man singing a blues song in Union Square in modern day New York and Carter gets some guitar music that fits with it, and Seth kinda muddies up the audio track to make it sound really old, and they release it on the internet, kind of as a joke. And they’re like, “This is an old-time blues song by old-time blues man Charlie Shaw.” So the next thing you know, a weird guy, like a weird old guy has gotten in touch with them to be like, “Where did you find this album?” and he doesn’t believe Seth when Seth tells him they faked it and after that, shit starts to get very weird. And I think this is the point at which Renay and I are gonna start saying bananas a lot.
Renay: This novel is bananas.
Jenny: It is SO MOTHERFUCKING BANANAS. For real, it’s so crazy!
Renay: I saw this recommended on some list and this book was the first book on the list, and it was sold to me by the blurb written by the blog’s author saying these two kids find this song and they release it as a joke, and then a bunch of weird stuff starts happening. Just from that I was like ,”Yeah, yeah, I wanna read that, weird stuff, I like weird stuff.” Little did I know what kind of weird stuff I was getting into.
Jenny: [laughter] Yeah. So I knew even less about this book. I think that I encountered it, I believe in the publisher’s catalogue, and I thought it was gonna be – I’ve said this to Renay like twelve times because I’m still not over it – I thought it was gonna be kind of social satire. Like light-hearted social satire about cultural appropriation. And what it actually is is really frightening ghost story. So as I got deeper and deeper into the book, I was more and more just completely dumbfounded and at sea and terrified.
Renay: I was reading the end of this book at night when everybody else had gone to bed.
Jenny: Oh no!
Renay: And I got up and turned on every light in my living room.
Jenny: [laughter] It’s scary, right?!
Renay: Yes, it is very scary. Especially if you’re a white person!
Jenny: [laughter] Well I was gonna say I think that the author does a great of writing a ghost story where you’re basically rooting for the ghost, right? I was rooting for the ghost.
Renay: I really was. And the way he manages to make these characters so unlikeable but you need to know what happens?
Jenny: What terrible things happen to them.
Renay: Because I don’t think these characters were likeable at all and I loved it. I was like, “Yeah!”
Jenny: The funny thing is, I also recommended this book to our friend, Ira, and they were talking about it, describing it to someone else and they were trying to explain a little bit about the book. And they were saying, “Okay, it’s unlikeable narrator,” they were saying it kind of has an incoherent plot, which is sort of true, and it has magical realism. And I hate all of those things; there is no reason I should have liked this book, but I liked it so much.
Renay: I was trying to think of another word to describe it besides magical realism…
Jenny: Any luck?
Renay: Is slipstream a genre? Or is that just referring to planes?
Jenny: [laughter] Timeslip is a genre, and this—I think sort of qualifies for that, because there’s sections as you get farther into the book, there’s sections where Seth’s time and Charlie Shaw’s time start bleeding into each other.
Renay: Yes, I do think that people who are like into time travel should read this book.
Jenny: And if people are into ghosts, also.
Renay: Okay, the hard question: did you like the book.
Jenny: I did, yes. Definitely. I think it’s gonna be one of my best books of the year.
Renay: I agree.
Jenny: Yeah, okay good.
Renay: I did not expect that to happen.
Jenny: Me either!
Renay: Because I don’t normally read quote-unquote literary fiction, cause they would not shelve this in science fiction and fantasy, even though it’s a ghost story. It would not be there.
Jenny: I was actually gonna say something about this, because I feel like this is a piece of genre fiction masquerading as literary fiction.
Renay: I would agree with that, yes.
Jenny: Which is neat! That is one of the things that, I always enjoy when that happens, because as you know I enjoy genre fiction so it’s neat when it gets into my literary fiction reading. By total accident!
Renay: I literally went out to read more literary fiction. I did not mean to read anything that had any sort of genre element at all. I was trying to get out of my comfort zone.
Jenny: Well, and you did.
Renay: I did, yes. It’s true. [laughter] This book is so bananas!
Jenny: I would like to say I think this book is out of everyone’s comfort zone. [laughter]
Renay: I would like to meet the reader who could say, “Yes, this is in my comfort zone.”
Jenny: Me too, because then I would like to know everything else that they’re reading.
Renay: Go and rifle through their library request list.
Renay: The author does this really neat thing where he drops in critiques of appropriation throughout the book, it’s not necessarily a novel solely about appropriation, although I think that’s a huge part of it. But he does this like really light-handed critique, like he talks about Carter having dreads at one time.
Jenny: Oh my god. Carter is the worst.
Renay: Yeah, and the narrative is just very judgemental to both of these people.
Jenny: Yeah, I agree very much. I liked i that you find out, I guess this is well – what’s y’all’s spoilers policy?
Renay: Do we have a spoilers policy? We’re gonna spoil this book.
Jenny: So you find out towards the end of the book that Charlie Shaw used to—you find out that Carter’s family, in the early twentieth century, profited from black labor in the sense that they participated in convict leasing and then developed into for-profit prisons. And I really liked it that the book draws a line from that kind of exploitation to the kind of exploitation of black creativity and work that Carter and Seth are doing with their music situation. And I thought the book did a great job of showing how it’s all part of one system, of racism, where white people assume ownership over black work.
Renay: I’ve read some reviews of this book and some of them have complained about the only woman in the narrative dying.
Renay: And how that is not like, the greatest thing? Did Seth actually do that, or was he possessed?
Jenny: I honestly couldn’t decide. I tend to think that Seth did have sex with her, but Charlie Shaw killed her.
Renay: I could not decide. Also that’s when the timeslips started getting read weird.
Renay: From that point on in the novel it just went off the rails.
Jenny: [laughter] It did, and in a way that I unexpectedly enjoyed because I usually don’t like kind of descent into madness books? And Seth’s narrative really fragments towards the end of the book because he starts being a little—or a lot—possessed by Charlie Shaw, and you don’t really know what’s happening to him versus what’s happening, or what did happen, to Charlie Shaw. And I wondered if that was a problem in the book for you, because I usually don’t like that kind of narrative, but in this case it just added to the creepiness that I was already experiencing.
Renay: I think I kept a better grip on what time he was in by the language that the characters around him were using.
Jenny: Oh yeah, yeah. That’s a good point.
Renay: And I used the language to anchor myself in a specific time, whether it was Charlie’s time or Seth’s time. And that helped me because if I hadn’t been able to do that I would have been super confused because there’s a point in the book where he is possessed but he’s no longer in the past.
Renay: Because he’s going on a murdering spree.
Jenny: [laughter] I was so excited for the murdering spree. I know that’s terrible. [laughter]
Renay: I was too, I was like “Yes! Stab all these white people!”
Jenny: Well, that was the other thing about the only female character dying. Like I didn’t like it that there was only one woman in the book, basically, however pretty much everyone dies. So as the book goes on you begin to realize that this isn’t random, that Charlie Shaw’s ghost is targeting Carter’s family because of their history with convict leasing and how they got all their money through for-profit prisons, and I almost would have liked it better if the ghost didn’t have any connection with Carter’s family. I almost would’ve liked it better if it was just all of white America kind of has culpability for what was done by our people and in our name, for all these years, and that randomness in a way would’ve been more satisfying to me. And I wondered how you felt about that.
Renay: I’d agree, although I think Seth filled that role for me.
Jenny: Yeah, okay.
Renay: Because he was just incidental to Carter. The only reason that he got caught up in it was because Carter was so obsessed with appropriation.
Renay: So he’s like a stand-in for like generic white culture, because he’s so empty as a character.
Renay: Like even the characters we meet get rounded backstories, but what we get from Seth is, “Oh, he had a troubled childhood, and then he met Carter.” And so he’s sort of empty, so that the reader can just step into him. Which is not great if you’re a white person. [laughter]
Jenny: [laughter] Okay, what was the scariest part for you?
Renay: When Seth slips back in time and he’s in the past of the recording studio.
Jenny: Oh yeah.
Renay: It was just so eerie and hard to read as well.
Renay: Secondarily to that would probably be the moment where—how do I wanna say this? Because it’s hard to explain things that happen in this book.
Jenny: I know, this book is so bananas!
Renay: Where you slip to the past because Jump Jim is telling a story about when he took his also obsessed with black culture white pal down to the South and tried to buy a record off a lady. And basically from what I understand, stole it? And that scene in that house and how it later echoes because Seth goes back with Leonie to that area and timeslips again, right?
Renay: It just all hangs together in a really really creepy way.
Jenny: [laughter] It is so scary!
Renay: This book is basically a lesson on don’t steal other people’s culture. Don’t do it.
Jenny: Yeah, don’t do it. Just make your own or pay them for it.
Renay: And I liked the other creepy thing that the author managed to do, because records, because this book is about, specifically, the records that you put on turntables. That Charlie Shaw’s song that Seth records and then Seth and Carter put on the internet, Jump Jim’s like, “What’s on the other side?” because in the past, we learn from Jump Jim, he never learned what was on the other side of the record by Charlie Shaw.
Jenny: He only heard one track.
Renay: The book, however.
Renay: Lets you know what was on the other side!
Jenny: It’s so scary! [laughter] When I got to that part in that book my mom came up behind me and was reading over my shoulder a little bit and she was like, “What is that? What are these pages?” and I was like, “The scariest pages in the whole world, Mommy!”
Renay: Yes, exactly, I’m so glad – I was like “Oh my god!”
Renay: I haven’t been this scared by a book since House of Leaves.
Jenny: Oh my gosh, what was the last book that I — because I feel like — oh I know, I read this book, oh what was it called, it was so scary! It was Dutch, it was a Dutch book, and it scared the hell out of me. I couldn’t—I had to check all my closets after I read it.
Oh yeah, Hex, by Thomas Heuvelt. It was really scary, it’s about a haunted town, and it was very frightening, but I think White Tears was scarier.
Renay: I think it’s because this book hit closer to home.
Jenny: For sure.
Renay: I wonder if it’s just because I’m from the South, so, so much of this is familiar, in like a really scary way, because convict-leasing and private prisons – it’s a big thing here. Like sometimes a private prison can open up in the South and it’s gonna help our economy a whole lot.
Renay: Even if it’s super abusive. And so probably because of where I’m from, this book kind of maybe affected me more somebody who’s not so familiar with Southern culture and how much Southern culture after Reconstruction failed just started silencing and stealing everything from black people. Everything.
Jenny: Which to that point, I was so impressed that this author who is British – I just thought that he did such a good job of capturing that southern gothic feel.
Renay: I did not realize he was British.
Jenny: Yeah, he’s British. I think he’s from London.
Renay: I thought he was Southern!
Renay: I know! And I looked it up and I’m like, “How did you do this?!”
Jenny: I thought he did so well!
Renay: There are southern writers who can’t even get it right.
Jenny: Yes! I should look up some interviews. I would like to know what kind of research he did for this book, cause I just thought it did an amazing job.
Renay: I’m so glad that you loved this book with me.
Jenny: Yes, I’m really glad you liked it, too. I um, listeners: after I read it, I kept going to everyone I knew including Renay and being, “Read White Tears immediately!” because I needed somebody to talk about it with. It was so crazy.
Renay: It’s really hard to sell this book. Yeah, read this book about these unlikeable white guys!
Jenny: Right, it is so difficult to sell and I feel like I wouldn’t have read if someone had actually described the actual content of the book. Because I don’t like descent into madness stuff, I’m not that interested in the adventures of white boys, and I don’t like unlikeable protagonists.
Renay: I would actually sell this now as, “black person gets revenge.”
Jenny: [laughter] Black ghost gets gory revenge. Which in that way was so, so satisfying.
Renay: Listen, I don’t care that much about violence, but I was rooting for it.
Jenny: I really was, too. [laughter]
Renay: I needed it to happen. I was so happy.
Jenny: I was especially happy when Carter’s terrible older brother gets killed.
Renay: Yeah, I really didn’t like him.
Jenny: That guy was the worst.
Renay: He was worse than Seth and I really didn’t like Seth.
Renay: Okay, so how many space bees are you giving this book?
Jenny: I’m gonna give it four and a half space bees.
Renay: Okay, so you’re giving it four space bees and a jar of honey. Please don’t split a space bee or else people will come after us.
Jenny: [laughter] Okay, four space bees and a jar of honey, yes. How many space bees are you giving it.
Renay: Five. Mostly because I was scared shitless by this book.
Renay: I don’t wanna go back to reassess!
Jenny: [laughter] Five space bees from pure raw terror.
Renay: Everybody, if you want to read a completely bananas book I highly suggest you go and check out White Tears by Hari Kunzru.
Jenny: Yep. It’s bananas.
[Music: Rolling by BoxCat Games]
Renay: Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is a 2001 film. It did so poorly here that it killed the studio who made it.
Renay: And I really don’t know how to summarize The Spirits Within, because as I watched it, I realized that so much of the movie itself is coded to where only Final Fantasy fans who have played the games are gonna follow along with the breadcrumbs.
Jenny: That is such a relief to hear! [laughter]
Renay: The movie is about a doctor who is looking for spirits to complete a waveform so they can fight an invading alien species on Earth that has completely decimated the Earth’s population. If you’re like, “What the hell do you mean? That makes no sense!” you are not alone.
Jenny: Yeah, nothing makes sense. But I understand the plot, and I like, I can explain it because I understand it now. I thought about it a lot.
Renay: Can you?
Renay: Okay, pop quiz! Explain the plot.
Jenny: [laughter] Okay. I will. Planet Earth is under attack by these tentacle alien dementors called Phantoms, and our hero — the only person whose name I bothered to learn, Aki ‚ is trying to find a plant in New York city and while she’s trying to find the plant, a crew of dementor-fighters has to come rescue her, and her ex-boyfriend is the boss of them. And she’s like, “Oh, I need this plant! For reasons!” that will become clear to nobody later! This movie is very confusing.
And there’s the bad guy whose name I didn’t learn and he is at the Imperial Senate being like, “We have to use a special dementor-canon and Aki is like, “No, we should a more eco-friendly thing!” And she reveals that she’s infected with dementor-scriggles and so — and she has to collect eight Mcguffins to defeat the dementors forever in an eco-friendly manner.
And she realizes that the dementor aliens are actually ghosts! They’re actually ghost aliens! They’re Thatons just like in scientology and she has to collect one more Mcguffin and everyone dies when she’s trying to collect the Mcguffin. And then the ex-boyfriend sacrifices himself for some reason and the Thatons are like, “Okay, cool, we’re at peace now!” and they float away and the Earth is gonna be okay because all the dementors leave. The end.
Renay: That’s the greatest summary of this movie I’ve ever heard.
Jenny: I know because I understood it perfectly. aren’t you impressed?
Renay: I am very impressed, yes.
Jenny: I didn’t understand this movie at all! [laughter]
Renay: It does not make itself accessible to people who are not familiar with Final Fantasy tropes.
Jenny: Yes, I’ve never consumed a Final Fantasy before, so this is my first experience in the Final Fantasy multiverse.
Renay: You cannot judge this franchise by this movie.
Renay: It is terrible.
Jenny: It’s terrible! What, but you love it!
Renay: I love it but it’s terrible, it’s too far out to be accessible to like a wider viewership.
Jenny: It is extremely confusing. And I never understood even what was she was doing. I didn’t understand how she was collecting all the Mcguffins.
Renay: With science fictional toys?
Jenny: I was drinking some wine and I couldn’t figure out if I was too drunk to follow it, which I didn’t think I was that tipsy.
Renay: No, you were not too drunk to follow it.
Jenny: [laughter] Or if it was because I hadn’t consumed any Final Fantasy stuff before. Or if the movie was just being really confusing about the plot elements.
Renay: The movie was being very confusing about the plot elements.
Renay: The game this movie reminded me of the most was Final Fantasy VII, cause in Final Fantasy VII the Earth is sort of powered by this thing called the Lifestream, which is this spiritual river of energy.
Renay: In a city called Midgar, the government is syphoning off this power to use as electricity.
Renay: And our heroes of that game are a group of eco-terrorists.
Jenny: Oh, that’s fun!
Renay: There’s a lot of other stuff, like there’s a mad alien being that fell to Earth and they use her to create a kid or — I don’t — listen, it’s been a while.
Jenny: [laughter] So do these characters appear in other Final Fantasy…?
Renay: No, every single Final Fantasy entry has its own characters unless it’s a sequel or a companion.
Renay: Like Final Fantasy VI is its own thing. Final Fantasy VII is its own thing. However, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children is a movie sequel to Final Fantasy VII.
Jenny: How does that compare to this movie?
Renay: I think they’re probably equally confusing.
Renay: But in Final Fantasy VII, the game is more, like, upfront about the Earth is powered by this mystical force. And some humans have the power to engage with it, except most of them have gone extinct or been killed off by the government that’s evil.
Jenny: Oh no!
Renay: Except for one person! Who can engage with the thing they call the Lifestream. I really feel like people who worked on Final Fantasy VII basically just wanted to write some Final Fantasy VII fanfic in the future or something.
Jenny: Well more power to them.
Renay: So Aki is looking for waveforms, which are a type bit of biometric.
Jenny: A dementor-scriggle, yes.
Renay: That’s also accurate.
Renay: She has to have eight to complete the waveform to both cure her and also to get rid of the alien ghosts. And the whole movie is set around her getting these waveforms. And the evil general, General Hyne, lost his wife and daughter.
Jenny: Oh, that’s right! I forgot about that!
Renay: Because all humans live in barrier cities that have this like —
Jenny: Shield situation.
Renay: —around them so the Phantoms can’t get in. And his wife and daughter, they were in a city where the barrier fell so all the Phantoms came in and killed everybody. And the Phantoms are transparent. They slide right through you and they take your life force with them.
Jenny: Bleh. I forgot about that, that makes it even more terrible that the Zeus-cannon guy lets a bunch of dementors into the city! To make the Imperial Senate get scared and let him use his Zeus cannon! And that’s even worse now that I remember that that’s how his wife and kid died!
Renay: So he was on like a revenge quest. He just wanted to fire this cannon real bad so he’s like, “Yeah, I’ll let a few Phantoms in and then I’ll close it.” Except of course it does not go that way.
Jenny: It never goes that way!
Renay: No, never, evil dude, it never works out. And so he kills the remainder of New York City and has to flee to space to the Zeus cannon where the Senate decides, “Okay, well, after we almost died, I guess we can find the cannon now.”
Jenny: They should have decommissioned him and then like made a secondary decision about the Zeus cannon. He clearly cannot be trusted with a Zeus cannon.
Renay: So I also felt like this movie is commentary on…
Jenny: Donald Trump. [laughter]
Renay: Not everything can be a metaphor!
Jenny: It was so ahead of its time.
Renay: But it is definitely about how we treat the planet with drilling.
Renay: I thought the metaphor was pretty obvious. I mean, it was right there in your face. [laughter]
Renay: The Zeus cannon looks like a giant drill.
Jenny: Yep, it does.
Renay: I mean the optics aren’t great. They call in the movie, the life force, Gaia. So you have a giant drill slash dick-looking thing up in space and then you have a giant hole in the ground where the Phantom’s meteor hit the earth. I’m like, movie.
Jenny: [laughter] It’s cool movie. I get what you’re doing.
Renay: I love that you don’t remember any of the character’s names, though.
Jenny: Y’know what, I remember her boyfriend’s name, it was Grey, I just realized that, but that was it. I didn’t learn anybody else’s name because I thought they were all gonna die, and I wasn’t super wrong.
Renay: Yeah, everybody but Doctor Cid dies. But the plot of this movie doesn’t make sense at all.
Jenny: I’m relieved to learn that other people also do not understand it.
Renay: Like there’s a reason that this movie did so badly, it’s because like, you can not fund a film that costs this much money to make, I think it was three hundred million or something…?
Renay: In 2001 dollars, who knows how much that is now.
Jenny: Oh god.
Renay: And make it inaccessible to non-Final Fantasy fans.
Jenny: Yeah, you’re not wrong.
Renay: And I was watching it I was like, “Oh, Ming-Na Wen did the voice of Aki!”
Jenny: Oh I know. I was so excited about that, I love her!
Renay: I was like you know what I want? I would want this done but live action.
Renay: And with more sense.
Jenny: [laughter] Yeah, a working plot and live action.
Renay: Yeah, because it was kind of uncanny valley. I know like at the time this movie was made, these graphics were like THE BEST that computers could do, but oh my god, it was awkward.
Jenny: Yeah, I couldn’t look too closely at their faces.
Renay: I went and saw this movie in the theater with my mother. In rural Arkansas. When we had to drive thirty minutes to go to a theater.
Renay: That’s how excited I was for this film.
Jenny: And at that time did it live up to your expectations? Or were you like, “What the fuck?”
Renay: Yes, I was definitely like, “What the fuck?” At the end I was like “That’s it?”
Renay: “Everybody dies?”
Jenny: Everybody dies!
Renay: This was when I realized I did not like narratives where everybody dies.
Renay: I still like this movie though, because, I mean, I can do whatever I want in fanfic. Everybody lives! After the movie finished, Mom was like, “Well, it was okay, except they can’t really cry, can they?” [laughter] That was her contribution.
Renay: Criticism of the computer animation.
Jenny: She’s not wrong. They can’t really cry and they can’t really run.
Renay: No. But this would have been at least more entertaining with live action applied to it because then you could have gotten some emotion from the characters. [laughter]
Renay: Because right now, I mean, yeah they look sort of okay, but they also look like a skin stretched over a robot who can’t emote.
Jenny: There’s the touching — allegedly — moment where Aki is talking about one of the Mcguffins she collected and it was living inside a dying child. And it’s a good kind of story, apart from that I didn’t understand what the spirit waves were, but her face just doesn’t register emotion. I guess the animation wasn’t there yet.
Renay: No, it was not.
Jenny: I mean, a hell of a voice acting job, but the animation wasn’t there to back it up.
Renay: I mean, I still like it, because I mean like I’m in fandom and I can go and write all the fic where everybody survives.
Renay: Where they figure out how to reclaim spirits from the lifestream, which is what it is. Like, they just ripped off Final Fantasy VII.
Jenny: Well they’re allowed to rip it off, it’s their property.
Renay: I mean, I guess it’s true. I’m trying to think of what — where would I start you if I was gonna have you start a Final Fantasy game?
Jenny: No, I’m not gonna do games. I’ve told you!
Renay: I know, but if you said yes, and you asked me for a recommendation for a Final Fantasy game in this hypothetical world where you’re into games—
Jenny: But only — I’m into games, but I’m only willing to play Final Fantasy in this hypothetical scenario. Because I’m pretty sure if I just told you, “Okay Renay I’m gonna start gaming,” you wouldn’t start me at Final Fantasy, would you?
Renay: No, no I wouldn’t.
Jenny: Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Renay: Yeah I would start you on Phoenix Wright.
Jenny: Not gonna do it, it would take over my life. I would have nothing else.
Renay: It’d be fine. You can put it down. It’s easy.
Jenny: No, I wouldn’t be able to put it down.
Renay: Phoenix Wright is like a book though, it’s not really like a game.
Jenny: Hmmm. I don’t believe you. [laughter]
Renay: [laughter] I started with Final Fantasy VII. Well, sort of Final Fantasy VI, I watched my babysitter play it and played some of the parts, so I sort of started with VI. VII was the first that I bought and played, but VIII was the one where I got like hooked.
Renay: I loved the fighting system in Final Fantasy VIII, but everybody else hates it. [laughter] It’s like one of the most hated fighting systems ever. And I would try to explain it to you, but it’s too complicated.
Jenny: You don’t say! [laughter]
Renay: I would actually probably start you with Final Fantasy IX because it’s self-contained and it’s very like, standard secondary world, monarchy, very distinct character class, pretty straightforward turn-based system. So yeah that’s probably where I’d start you. And I think you would like the story in Final Fantasy IX because it has some really great female characters.
Jenny: That does indeed sound wonderful.
Renay: Well you’re never gonna play it. I just live in my fantasy world where you actually play the game.
Jenny: [laughter] Yeah. That’s true.
Renay: All right, here is moment of truth: how many space bees are you gonna give Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within?
Jenny: This is gonna sound more negative than I actually felt while watching the movie, because it was an enjoyable movie-watching experience. I just didn’t have any fucking clue what was happening. I have to say two space bees.
Renay: Oh wow, that’s real negative. [laughter]
Jenny: It’s not meant to be! I just – okay – okay, three, let’s say three, cause I enjoyed watching it. I just didn’t understand anything that was happening. [laughter]
Renay: You got the broad strokes.
Jenny: Well now I have, now that I’ve had several days to think about it. [laughter]
Renay: Yeah, you really don’t want your, like, computer animated action movie to take you two days to figure out.
Renay: That’s not good.
Jenny: And I had to have Ira explain a bunch of things to me.
Renay: There’s a reason that this studio went under.
Renay: Great at computer animation! Maybe not so great at making movies…?
Jenny: [laughter] How many space bees from you?
Renay: I’m giving it three as well. Movie, you are not accessible to anybody.
Renay: Except for Final Fantasy fans, like, that’s it. That’s the limit of your reach. And even then it’s gonna be a little dubious.
Renay: Especially if they haven’t played Final Fantasy VII. Well, this was an experiment. [laughter]
Renay: I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you had a great time.
Jenny: I did. I definitely did.
[Music: #12 by Chuki Beats]
Renay: Okay, it’s time for recommendations. Jenny! What are you gonna rec today?
Jenny: I am reccing the long-dead television Wonderfalls. I fucking love this show and I’ve been rewatching it. It is about a disaffected twenty-something who works in a gift-shop in Niagara Falls, and stuffed animals start talking to her and giving her instructions. It is a Brian Fuller show, the guy who did Pushing Daisies and Hannibal, and it has this really excellent mix of sweetness and cynicism, and as well it has my — maybe my favorite ensemble cast of all time.
Renay: Oh wow. I’ve never heard of this.
Jenny: [gasp] Renay, you have to watch it, it’s so good, it’s so loveable! It only has one season so you can tear right through it.
Renay: Where is it at?
Jenny: It’s nowhere. Okay, so you would have to get it at the library or through methods, but it’s the greatest show. You know I think it might be on Youtube actually. It’s such a good show, it’s so sweet, I love it so much. I haven’t watched it in a while and it’s just the loveliest and sweetest and [sigh] it’s a great great show. And what is your rec?
Renay: I am doing my space opera challenge, so I read Warchild by Karin Lowachee, and I cannot believe I slept on this book for so long because it was amazing. It is about a kid whose parents are killed in a pirate attack. The pirate kidnaps him, and keeps him for like a year, and then he tries to run away and gets taken by this other group of human sympathizers to the alien species in the world? And he gets tossed into this really complicated war between Earth-Hub and the human sympathizers and the aliens, and becomes a spy!
Renay: And then there are forced team-ups.
Jenny: [laughter] Uh-huh?
Renay: It is a team-up under dubious pretenses, but it’s still team-up, and it ends really well.
Jenny: Well that sounds great. I started reading Warchild a while ago, but it was so grim that I had to put it down. But I do plan to go back to it because I’ve heard such great things about it.
Renay: I think it stays kinda grim, but the parts after the second person ends? Get better.
Jenny: Okay, good.
Renay: That second person section is rough.
Jenny: It is, it’s really — it was hard to read.
Renay: It just sets up stuff that happens later. Where it gets grim again.
Renay: It’s a military science fiction book, so, there’s war. But I think it has a good ending.
Jenny: Are you gonna read the… I wanna say sequel? Companion novels?
Renay: They’re companions, and yes. I already have the second one.
Jenny: Oh, awesome.
Renay: There’s a third one, and then apparently the author’s working on a fourth?
Jenny: Oh, great.
Renay: So I’m excited. I am so sad that I did not read this series sooner cause it’s totally my thing, it’s got lots of queer characters and complicated things about relationships and friendship and ugh! It’s so good!
Jenny: Aw, it sounds wonderful. Well, and I also have a small piece of news for you.
Jenny: Whiskey Jenny is reading Mars Evacuees as we speak.
Renay: I’m super excited.
Jenny: I thought you would be.
Renay: How long was um Reading The End and I recced you these books?
Jenny: Oh my gosh, so long ago, like six months ago. It was a long time ago.
Renay: It’s been a long time, but now you’re reading the books! I’m so excited.
Jenny: Yeah, I own two of them, I bought them at a book fair recently because I was like, “Oh, these are the ones that Renay recommends, I’ve got to get them.” So I got Old Man’s War and Spin.
Renay: Good choices. I mean obviously, I chose them, so.
Renay: Of course they’re good choices. I am reading a book that you recommended me, we were gonna discuss it for the show, but unfortunately my life had other plans.
Jenny: It happens.
Renay: But I am halfway through White Is For Witching.
Jenny: Do you like it so far?
Renay: I do, it’s really good.
Renay: Poor Susan read it because it was gonna be one of our topics but then my life went spiralling out of control. And then she does our transcripts, so she didn’t wanna get spoiled so she read it, and I felt really bad because she was like, “What is this?” [laughter]
Renay: It’s just not a Susan book. I just would not have ever recommended her that book, I’m so sorry Susan when you hear this.
Jenny: Yeah, sorry Susan.
Renay: But it is a me book. I am excited about it.
Jenny: Yeah, I love it.
Renay: Part of maybe my subconcious plan was to not finish it so you could come back in the future.
Jenny: Aha, nice! Very good!
Renay: We did it!
Jenny: We did it! It’s been an honor.
Renay: It’s been an honor to have you here.
[Music: Happy Summer Love by Chuki Beats]
Renay: Thanks to Jenny for being awesome and for coming on the show. We really appreciate you, Jenny! Our music this week is by Boxcat Games and Chuki Beats. Our show art is by Ira. Our transcripts are by Susan, who is a superstar. You can find links to all their work in our show notes, plus info about the media Jenny and I discussed today. You can catch us on twitter at @fangirlpodcast, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or even support us on Patreon. Thanks to everyone who boosts the show; we appreciate your support.
That’s it for this episode, remember to drink some water and contact your reps. See you next time, space bees.
[Music: Happy Summer Love by Chuki Beats]
Jenny: Dooooo-doo-doo-dee-doo… Deedle-doo…
Renay: I guess you like our music!
Renay: Is that a yes?
Jenny: You do, it’s pretty! You always have such pleasant interstitials.
Renay: Is that what that word is?
Renay: I learned a new word today!
Renay: Wow, this podcast is already going great!
Renay: If you wanna know what just happened to me right now. I felt something on my leg.
Renay: And it was a cat tail!
Jenny: Oh thank god! [laughter]
Renay: So that’s why I just messed up and almost had a heart attack!
Renay: [deep breath] Okay no, we’re back, the cat’s no longer there.
Renay: Pshow, I thought it was a spider.
Jenny: Una araña, boom! Nailed it!
Renay: I lost my phone! Where did it go?
Jenny: And with friends like these, who needs anemones?
Renay: I thought you were just making a Finding Nemo joke!
Jenny: No, although I made it—as I was going upstairs to take a picture of my non-fiction bookshelf I kept repeating that punchline over and over to myself so that’s why I think I messed up the word just now.
Renay: [laughter] I love that joke, it’s so good!
Jenny: It’s so cute!
Jenny: Do I wanna say Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil? … I sure love Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
Renay: How many times will I say the word “bananas” I guess we’re gonna find out.
Renay: We’re both just trying to one-up each other on smartness.