Episode Number: 113
Episode Title: Dramatic Comebacks (listen to this episode)
Transcript by: Susan the Great
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Renay: Hi friends, I’m Renay.
Ana: And I’m Ana.
Renay: And you’re listening to Fangirl Happy Hour.
Ana: We are returned.
Renay: Today, we’ll be discussing the fourth story in the Robots vs Fairies anthology, The Blue Fairy’s Manifesto by Annalee Newitz. Then we’ll be revisiting the media we’re excited for in the first quarter of the year, to see if we did the thing. And then we’ll share the media we’re excited for in this quarter. We’ll round it off with a discussion of A Wrinkle in Time directed by Ava DuVernay, and then do some recs.
Renay: Welcome back to our readalong of the Saga Press anthology Robots vs Fairies. You can get the anthology any time, and join in with us in reading all the stories. This week we read The Blue Fairy’s Manifesto by Annalee Newitz. Newitz wrote 2017’s Autonomous, which was weird and vaguely dystopic, so I was curious to see what kind of short fiction about robots that she would write. I can finally—finally—give a robot story one of my coveted points, because I liked this one. But you had a different perspective.
Ana: Yes. I didn’t like it.
Renay: Was there anything in it that you found…?
Ana: I guess I liked the writing? It was well-written. I liked the way that the story builds the perspective of the narrator, which was really interesting because then suddenly the robot becomes conscious in a way that it wasn’t before. And that limitation is, I think, really developed in the way that the robot narrates the story.
Renay: Probably the reason that I liked this story is because right now I’m in the middle of primary politics for the midterm elections in the US. I meet a lot of people like that fucking Blue Fairy. I meet a lot of those. I am RealBoy. Even though I’m a socialist, which here in Red Country, Deep South, Arkansas, you get people who will yell at you, “That’s socialism!”. I’m like “Yeah, and so is your fucking road you asshole!” with their trucks and their truck nuts as they drive away from you angrily. Sorry, tangent. But as I read this story, I was like wow, RealBoy, this fairy is a bad fucking influence. You need to get away from them right now. And I just tried to say the words fairy and fucking at the same time and came up with flucking.
Renay: Fucking fairies. But it was also a robot! And I liked that. She took the theme, and sort of combined it, and I think I like that about Seanan McGuire’s story, too.
Ana: No, hold on, but the fairy wasn’t a fairy.
Renay: No, it wasn’t, he was just a robot in the shape of a fairy.
Ana: Okay, for a second I thought, “Oh my god, did I – did I not understand the story?!” Oh, phew.
Renay: No, Ana, you understood the story, don’t worry. Because I am coming from the perspective of RealBoy, as soon as this fairy is trying to convince RealBoy that he needs to burn it all down, I was like, “RealBoy, it’s time to exit this conversation.”
Ana: But was that really what the fairy wanted?
Renay: The fairy was an anarchist. The fairy wanted all this super radical change without considering that people who were gonna be hurt as they created that radical change. Both people and robots. Because when you create super radical change, you sort of leave behind people and/or robots who have the least. You end up not taking into account their circumstances.
Ana: Yeah, but if the circumstances are such in which the robots are effectively slaves, what else can you do apart from liberate the slaves?
Renay: But are they slaves if they don’t have sentience? Because the fairy gave RealBoy the sentience, or at least a form of consciousness. Because in this world it seemed like there’s different levels, because before the Blue Fairy, RealBoy was friends with this other bot, in the factory where he worked?
Ana: So I would say that they do. I think that was the point. I think that they they did have sentience.
Renay: They had like a limited form of it.
Ana: Exactly, which was set up by the owners.
Renay: I’m definitely the person who is like, “Let’s build a consensus and work together, and give people choices.” Because in this scenario, the Blue Fairy’s like, “I’m gonna force this choice on all these robots, and then you guys are gonna help me change the world and take things over. And we’re all gonna be free.” RealBoy wasn’t given the choice. As RealBoy thinks about things and logics through it, they go, “Well, you know what, I wasn’t given this choice, and I don’t really like your position dude, so guess what: I’m not on your team.”
Ana: Well effectively, isn’t he choosing on behalf of the other robots, when he decides that this is the way that he’s going to do, which he can only do because he’s awakened?
Renay: I know, it’s very thorny. You wanna change your whole life and maybe you didn’t get to have a choice to change your life specifically, but you do have a choice to how you impact other lives. It kinda becomes like this metaphor for public service in a way, where you have to think through the implications of what it means to have a choice. I just thought there was a lot of interesting political discussion on top of the cool SF conceit of robot sentience happening in this story, which is why I liked it. But you didn’t like it. I just wanna know why.
Ana: There was something that didn’t sit right with me. It’s impossible to take such a subject and then have only two sides of it? And I thought maybe that was very limiting. Cause I felt like there were only two ways of looking at things, and I didn’t quite agree with any of those. I just wanted all the robots freed. I think maybe if I had to choose someone to be, I think I would totally be the Blue Fairy.
Renay: I would be the centrist liberal and you would be the anarchist.
Ana: That’s it. Set everything on fucking fire and liberate everybody.
Renay: I’ve tried the fire approach, and basically it has mostly resulted in heartache.
Ana: Yeah, I can see that, too. I’m sure I am like that in real life, I guess. I’m more like that when I’m reading something. Maybe it’s wish-fulfilment fantasy.
Renay: But you’re also not embroiled in politics like I am. I live and breathe it these days, and I see the benefits of a consensus system where you bring everybody with you who wants to come, who really wants to be there and you get more done then if you just be like, “Okay guess what, we’re all doing this now.” I just find Newitz’s work on sentience and politics super fascinating. Did you ever end up reading Autonomous?
Ana: I tried and I couldn’t get into it at all.
Renay: Yeah, I’ve heard that. The book is marketed in a really specific way, so when I read about it I was like, “Yes, I’m here for this,” but then when I read the actual text, it was a really, really different and darker and more cynical than I was expecting. I don’t think the book copy really makes that clear, cause it’s pretty dark. And I found this story dark in some ways too, where you have this society that is giving mechs, bots, robots, whatever you wanna call them, semi-sentience, and then having them do a bunch of work.
Ana: I just couldn’t stop myself from extrapolating that from robots to human beings and if they were human beings in that same situation, I think the conversation would have been different. And I guess then at the end of the day, it’s how much do we think a sentient robots as humans, and should we even think of them as that, and if not, why not? It’s a very meaty, complex topic, and maybe a short story isn’t sufficient to tackle it.
Renay: It’s a good introduction, but then you’re left with, “Oh shit, I have this philosophical quandary that I’m stuck in, what do I do? There’s no story left to resolve it for me.”
Ana: It may mean that the story actually really works, but I don’t know. I was left wondering too much.
Renay: Unrelated to that, is that I wanted to know what type of body RealBoy had, because RealBoy was in a factory. And Blue Fairy gave them sentience and RealBoy built a body and then left the factory to go lay in a park, which I don’t know if you noticed, but the way the park was described by RealBoy, it was very small, so how the fuck big was RealBoy?
Renay: What did that robot look like? I could never get a good visual and every time I tried to picture something it was a transformer. it was massive.
Renay: Is Blue Fairy going around giving full sentience to gigantic robots? So Blue Fairy can take over the world? [laughs] With giant robots!
Renay: The thing with the park just really caught my eye, I’m like, “How small would this park be?” In the future are parks like three by three or something? Is it like the Parks and Rec episode where they make this tiny little corner park? I don’t —
Renay: I don’t understand. But yes, I really did like story. I thought it had a lot of interesting things to think about and talk about and also I see a lot of myself in this situation.
Renay: So I’m really glad that I liked a robot story, Ana!
Ana: I’m really glad for you, I guess! I’m not giving any marks to robots to this story. Sorry! I wanted to have liked it.
Renay: Obviously we don’t really go into things wanting to hate them, unless we’re hate re-reading Through The Ice.
Ana: We should start making a list of how many times can we throw shade at Through the Ice.
Renay: We’re going to hell for mocking the work of a fifteen year old boy. We’re going straight to hell!
Ana: God. [laughs]
Renay: Anyway, space bees, if you’re reading along with us, let us know what you thought of The Blue Fairy’s Manifesto. Did you like it? Did you find the same things I did? Or are you gonna side with Ana with this one and leave me behind? [sniff] [sniff] [sniff] #EmotionalManipulation!
Ana: Oh my gods.
Renay: One of our many brands here at Fangirl Happy Hour is lists! Back in February, we talked about media we were looking forward to in the first quarter, and now we’re back to see how we did. We’re also back to make a new list for the second quarter, because we gotta stay on brand. What were your Q1 items, and which ones did you get to?
Ana: Let me start by saying that I failed. [sighs] I’m so sad about it.
Renay: Wait. Did you at least get through one of them?
Ana: I did.
Renay: Then you did not fail.
Ana: Twenty percent is an okay mark.
Renay: For this assignment, yes.
Ana: Okay. [laughs] So I have forty percent, because I got through two. Go me! So my list had Black Panther, which we both really loved. I also read Obsidio by Amy Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, which is the trilogy-ender to the Illuminae Files. Have you read that yet?
Renay: I have! It’s great.
Ana: Wasn’t it great?!
Renay: That is one of my favorite SF series.
Ana: It was so good! So good! And the romance in these books is so good. I think the only thing that I was a little bit disappointed with is that there were three books, three couples, plenty of opportunity to have some queers there.
Renay: It was pretty much all rote heterosexuality.
Ana: Yeah. And the other three that I had on my list that I didn’t get around to reading were Paris Adrift by E. J. Swift; The Belles by Dhonielle Claytonl and Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente. I did try reading Space Opera. I had problems with it. The set-up was amazing, and I love Valente’s writing, but I thought that the way that this book was written….I don’t even know how to describe it. It felt so exaggerated. Which is the point, because of course it is a space opera about Eurovision in space with aliens that come and get this really amazing person and take it to a contest in outer space. The writing fits the theme, but then for me, that have English as a second language, I thought it was really hard for me to read it and understand what was being said. To the point that I had to reread sentences to understand what was going on and I just ended up quitting it. I think it was the same thing that happened with Palimpsest, too. I was sad about that. And I know that people have loved this book so much. It was just really hard for me to get into.
Renay: English is one of those languages.
Ana: And you would think that I know so many words, but apparently not in all combinations and permutations.
Renay: Yeah, when people play with language, especially English, which has so many exceptions and weird aspects to it, cause we’ve borrowed from everybody, then it becomes a really hard to read. I also struggle with Valente’s writing sometimes, when she is extra flowery. I loved her In the Night Garden and In the City of Coin and Spice, but even with those books, as much as I love them, a lot of times I was having to reread. And I’m a native speaker, so it’s not just you. I’m sorry that you couldn’t finish it.
Ana: I’m sorry, too. What about your list from Q1?
Renay: My first quarter list was A Wrinkle In Time, which obviously we’re going to discuss which is gonna be great; and The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory; Pacific Rim: Uprising; The Heart-Forger by Rin Chupeko; and Red Clocks by Leni Zumas. And I’m here to say that A Wrinkle in Time was watched and I read The Wedding Date, and that was it.
Ana: Ah! Really? But you’ve been reading so much?
Renay: Yeah, but not these books.
Ana: Okay, and you didn’t watch Pacific Rim.
Renay: No, I didn’t watch Pacific Rim, cause I heard a spoiler, I guess, which I’m not gonna say, don’t worry guys. I was like “Mm, I’m just gonna wait for DVD, I’m sorry John Boyega.”
Ana: Same. I bet we heard the same spoiler.
Renay: So the thing about the two books that I didn’t get to, The Heart-Forger and Red Clocks? I spent the last two months reading a bunch in audio, because they were really portable. I could put em on my phone and just listen. I’ve been doing a bunch of driving, I’ve been doing a bunch of travelling, and it’s just been really nice to have a book on audio that I could listen to, while I’m in a car, on a plane, or at home doing housework. It was just really nice. So that I got these two books, and actually did get them from the library, and I was just like, “Oh I need to sit down and focus on that and read it,” but that’s not where my headspace has been. So it’s not the books at all! It’s me and the type of reading I’m doing right now, I’m just very into audiobooks so I can be mobile and moving around. I did read The Wedding Date. I liked it? I gave it three stars, but I didn’t love it like I wanted to, and I really think this is because of the fact that the perspective seemed to shift within scenes, within chapters, or something, and I just couldn’t handle the way it scene-shifted. But I thought it was really well-done, I really liked the characters. I really, really liked the fact that there was a great sister relationship in this book that was not really promoted as part of the book, when the marketing was revving up. So I highly recommend that people go out and check this out. So that was my first quarter list. So, now switching over, to this quarter, what is your list for Q2?
Ana: I’ll be watching more stuff than reading. So, I have three watchable things, and two books. The first one’s Artificial Condition, which came out on May 8th. And I’ve had a copy for months! And it’s the second Murderbot novella from Martha Wells. You know how much I loved All Systems Red, so I’m psyched for this one. The second one is Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse, which is a—she’s a Native American writer? Yes, and the book is kind of like urban fantasy, but with a Native American protagonist, which I don’t think I have seen in adult SFF, ever. And then I have three movies. First of all is Deadpool 2! Yay! and the other movie that I wanna watch, which is out soon as well, it’s The Wasp and Ant-Man. Note that I swapped the order of appearance according to my preference for the characters. And then of course, I haven’t watched Jessica Jones yet and I need to catch up with that, and Luke Cage is already coming out. The trailer is super great. Now tell me: your list for the second quarter.
Renay: To start off, I have a book called Ship It by Britta Lundin, which came out on May 1st. It is about a fangirl named Claire, and Forest, who is a rising star on a TV show that I sort of compare in my head to Teen Wolf, which is kinda like trashy supernatural TV. Claire ships Forest’s character on the show with another male character, and at a con when Claire asks him about it, the actor, Forest completely refutes it and it causes a PR nightmare when Claire and Forest’s exchange goes viral on social media. So The Powers That Be invite Claire to join the cast on the rest of their little tour thing, and so then there’s just gonna be shenanigans, and also there’s apparently a queer romance in here, too? So I am very excited for this book, obviously it’s a fandom thing, so of course. Second is Incredibles 2, which comes out on the 15th of June, in the US. The Incredibles was one of my favorite Pixar films. I haven’t loved a Pixar film as much as this one, not even Wall-E or Finding Nemo, or Monsters Inc. This one has this special place in my heart. This film seems to have a strong family core, which is the thing I loved about the first one, and also Edna Mode is back, so I am tentatively optimistic that the sequel will hold up. I mean, we may be looking at a Cars 2 situation here, but until I see it I’m gonna reserve judgement. My third one is a book called Well That Escalated Quickly: Memoirs and Mistakes of An Accidental Activist by Francesca Ramsey. Franchesca Ramsey, for people who don’t know her, is one of my favorite cultural critics. I loved her personal youtube videos, her Decoded series on MTV, and all the snippets of the podcast that she does with her partner. I haven’t listened to the podcast proper, but every time I catch a part of one, I’m always cracking up. They’re so funny. I know her book’s gonna be really good. I love her work. She’s got a lot of smart things to say, and as a bonus I’m going to learn a lot.
Renay: Next is Ocean’s 8. I liked the Ocean films okay as heist films, but I’ve never really been invested in them until now. It’s like a heist film with ladies.
Ana: There’s so much riding on this.
Renay: I know it’s part of the Hollywood machine and it won’t be perfect, but I’m just so excited that it exists. And that Sandra Bullock is one of the main stars, because I love her!
Ana: I love her, too!
Renay: I’ve loved her since Speed.
Ana: Miss Congeniality. I love that movie! [laughs]
Renay: I rewatched that a few months ago. It holds up.
Renay: This film was written by Gary Ross and Olivia Milch, so I am tentatively, tentatively, excited that it won’t be a steaming pile of male gaze.
Ana: Maybe we’ll be as good as Ghostbusters.
Renay: Fingers crossed! And my last choice is The Book of M by Peng Shepherd. The premise of this book is that across the world people’s shadows vanish and with it their memories. The people who forget after their shadows disappear, gain new powers of some kind, but they lose all their connections to the world around them, because they can’t remember anything. This sounds like quality end of the world fiction, and I really hope it is, because it’s like five hundred pages!
Ana: Oh my god, I can’t commit myself to something that big in my life.
Renay: And those are my five things. I guess we’ll be back in Q3 to be like, “Hey guys, how did we do? Here is our shit list of shame.” But I’m really—I’m more hopeful about my Q2 list than my Q1 list, cause I’ve sort of tailored to where I’m at right now. Like, as what I wanna read and watch.
Ana: Do you know what this Book of M reminded me of?
Renay: No, which?
Ana: So the connection between shadow and memories is really interesting because it reminded me of Peter Pan? Because Peter Pan, if you remember, his shadow would move separately from him. So it was kind of like not even attached to his body at some point. He also had a problem with memory, because he never grew up. A person without memory doesn’t grow up, because he can’t, right? And he kept forgetting Wendy every time he went back for her. He didn’t have a memory and I wonder now the connection between his shadow being so detached from him and him not having a memory. I just extrapolated from your book to this other book, and I wonder if these author will maybe even mention Peter Pan as an influence. And now I need to read it.
Renay: It’s only five hundred pages.
Ana: Or maybe now I need to wait for you to read it and tell me. [laughs]
Renay: God, I hated Peter Pan so much. I hated that book. I liked Hook.
Ana: Oh yes, of course.
Renay: But Peter Pan the book. I was just not a fan—I mean I know it’s a product of its time. When I came out disliking that book I made so many people, mostly British people I might add, mad at me. Just like, “How dare you read this outta context?!”
Ana: Ah, I enjoyed the book at the time I read it many many years ago, but it always— I always focused on the fact that Peter Pan did not have a memory. Therefore he would never grow up.
Renay: Yeah and I’m really curious how The Book of M plans to deal with that. If people lose all their memory, do they lose all their memories or just like, social memories, like people. So I’m curious to see how it turns out. Space bees: if you are looking forward to any of these, or you other books, or movies, or—albums or whatever else that you’re looking forward to, we’d love to hear about them so that way we could put them on our list, too. This is another sneaky way of me getting more recs.
Renay: On brand!
Renay: A Wrinkle In Time, directed by Ava DuVernay, is a 2018 adaptation of the classic children’s novel by Madeleine L’Engle. It stars Storm Reid as Meg Murry, an awkward pre-teen who is struggling socially after the disappearance of her father years before. When three mysterious figures arrive, they tell her not only is her father possibly alive, she’s the only one who can rescue him. What is your history with this book?
Ana: I have no history with this book apart from very recently. When it was celebrating its fiftieth anniversary? Five years ago?
Renay: Something like that, yeah.
Ana: So I got a copy of that and I read it for the first time. I have no nostalgia element I have no childhood memories of reading it. It wasn’t part of my life at all until I moved to the UK, learned about it, and then I read it when it was celebrating its fiftieth anniversary and I thoroughly, thoroughly hate it. Okay no, I exaggerate. I didn’t hate it. I thought there were many things about it that were really good, especially the main character and her relationship with her family, with her brother, and the whole fantasy aspect. And then in the end it was all about religion and then—[retches] I know so many people love it. I’m so sorry.
Renay: In third grade, I checked this book from the library. I had to had to something to read, and it had a cool Pegasus-thing on the cover, with a rainbow, I’m like, “This looks weird! What’s this about!” I proceeded to fall in love with it and check it out over and over and over and over until the librarians told me I couldn’t check it out because somebody else might wan to read it.
Ana: Oh, wow. So what did you love about it?
Renay: I really identified with Meg. I also identified with Calvin. Meg is a socially awkward kid who has lost her father and Calvin is being abused by his family. It kinda became like a fantasy. Meg gets to go save her father. Kid me always wanted to save her father, but she was akid, and she couldn’t. She lived vicariously through Meg. And that’s very sad. That’s sadder than I meant it to be.
Ana: This is so sad.
Renay: I was always a super secular kid when I was really young, like very, very young. Like four, five, four, and six? People would be like, “Let’s go to church!” and I’m gonna offend everybody who’s religious, I guess. I’m really sorry, guys. But I’d be like, “Hey! What are we celebrating here?” and they’d be like, “God and Jesus.” I’m like, “Who? Can I meet them?”
Renay: I literally once asked my Sunday school teacher, because she was trying to give me some kind of lecture, and I remember this really, really well, because I got in trouble for it. I popped up like, “Listen, I wanna meet this guy!” But basically she was doing all this lecturing about God, and I was like, “Who is this dude? I wanna meet him! Listen, if I can’t meet him, why do I have to listen to what he has to say? Why do I have to follow these stupid laws? What’s this about?” This was me as a child. If you couldn’t show me something. If you couldn’t show me like evidence? I wasn’t here for it. I was a skeptic from a very young age. So I was like embroiled in this Southern Baptist culture and yet none of it stuck. So when I came to A Wrinkle In Time, all the religious stuff I had been reading as fantasy for years. I do not have the faith necessary to read the religious stuff as anything but fantasy.
Ana: That’s a really interesting way of looking at it, because it is the same thing for me, of course. Except for the fact that what makes me angry about it, it’s extrapolating from a religion in a way that creates a world in which the religion is the reality. But I have a problem thinking of it as fantasy, because I know that there would be people that won’t see it like this, so I kind of feel like it’s forcing a world view into my reality, which is what is problem with all religious fantasies.
Renay: I mean, L’Engle does have a very specific religious perspective. I’m really not up on it. I mean, obviously you read the book and you can see it, it’s very very heavy on the Christian language and imagery, and the core of the book. But of course when I come to it, by the time I read it as a – I wanna say I was ten or eleven? Nine or ten? Something like that? I had created this knowledge-base based on my own reading, cause I had like I said, my mom had kept a bunch of encyclopedias and reference books or whatever in her house my whole childhood so I spent a lot of summers reading those. So I already had this concept of like Christianity, Islam, Judaism. I had—not a deep understanding. I was nine, I’m not talking about like a scholarly perspective here. So I had all these conceptions of religion based on my reading, so whenever I read anything religious—I just kinda jumbled them all together to where, sure the book be presenting a worldview, a very specific worldview. But because I had had all this external context about religion, it just never became about one of them. It became more about a humanistic approach and it got even more specific when I read A Wind In The Door, which is the sequel to A Wrinkle In Time. I think A Wind In The Door might be more religious in a way? But differently, because in A Wind In The Door, the villain of that book—they’re called echthroi and they go through the universe extinguishing light. You very, very easily see where that’s coming from in a Christian perspective. My identity is really wrapped up in that second book, like for example I have a domain name called echthroi.org and my partner has a domain name named echthroi.com, and that’s how we met.
Ana: That’s where it comes from! Wow.
Renay: The way you fight back against echthroi whose this process of chopping light of the universe is unnaming somebody. The fight back against that is naming somebody, claiming them, naming them, giving them their name, validating their identify, validating them as human beings. So that’s always been the message I took away from these book, even A Wrinkle In Time. Even if the book isn’t arguing that, it’s always been about the power of the individual to change lives; to save people; to not leave anybody behind. That’s just the way that I’d go about, and I know that a lot of other people don’t get that, because a lot of other people don’t have my context. And also I’ve had a lot longer to think about it. But I think that line of discussion takes us directly to It? I think that’s where it heads, It, the main quote-unquote villain of the book? Which was not such a thing in the movie?
Ana: That was one of the main differences between the movie and the book, and in the book It was a much bigger character, and it was basically non-existent, it was almost more like a force than a being that was doing things. It just felt like this amorphous thing of darkness. And that made it less interesting, and perhaps one of the things that I missed the most in the adaptation.
Renay: Yeah, I think DuVernay probably had her work cut out for her, because the It in the book—I mean the way the book handles it is Meg comes in and Charles Wallace is sitting next to a giant brain. Obviously the movie couldn’t handle it like that, cause listen it’s 2018 and I don’t think viewers could’ve been handled it even if it had been true to the book. I saw It in the negativity, and I think that’s probably one of the ways that the movie is less strong than the book, because the book makes it really clear that a lot of the negativity and the meanness and those things make It stronger. And so in the movie you have like – there’s a scene where Charles Wallace is sitting on the bench and he’s hearing some teachers talk bad about their family, and that’s technically supposed to be It. The girl who’s mean to Meg: It. And the movie doesn’t really draw those lines. I mean, it tries at the end to make the connection, but like in the moment where you’re experiencing that, you don’t really get that people are choosing to engage in negativity.
Ana: Yeah, so that that is my main point of concern with regards to how religion is applied to the book and the movie. And it comes with a question of the darkness and what it is and how it affects human being. And basically my feeling, reading and watching the movie, is that the darkness is something that is external, that exists in the universe, and it spreads. And to me that means that human beings basically don’t have a choice? Anything that happens that human beings do that is wrong is because of the darkness. They may have some sort of responsibility within them for maybe accepting it or welcoming it, but it always feels to me like something that is external and if you then extrapolate it to a Christian theology, you could see that the darkness is the devil. So the source of all evil. That is something that really doesn’t sit well with me.
Renay: It removes personal responsibility.
Ana: Exactly, from people, and I’m like, “What kind of bullshit is this?”
Renay: I felt that the movie dealt with the fact that people were choosing to take actions. Like the adults in Charles Wallace’s scene were choosing to talk about them like that. They didn’t have to make that choice but they did. The girl didn’t have to choose to be mean. Meg had to choose to hit her in the face with the ball. I sort of come to it in the movie itself. The book I think is more explicit about like being a religious thing. I think the movie handles it differently.
Ana: Yes, but it sort of doesn’t. Especially if we think about Calvin. Calvin learns about the darkness, and so the first thing that he decides to do when comes back home is that, “I am gonna talk to my parents.” As though his light is going on counteract the darkness within his parents, his father, who is abusive asshole, and I’m like, “Uh, this is a terrible message to give to kids.” They should not face their abusive parents, because they could be killed.
Renay: Yeah, that was my only complaint with the film.
Ana: I was terrified. I remember being terrified for Calvin in the book, and I was terrified for him in the movie.
Renay: Somebody was having, “Why wasn’t It a giant brain, why was this an amorphous thing?” You can change It from a brain to a dark space, which felt more like the electrical impulses of a brain? So you’ll change that, but at the very end you’re gonna send a young boy home to face his abusive father with the power of positivity?
Ana: Exactly! Oh my god.
Renay: That was a choice that they made. I am sad about it, but Calvin’s in the sequel, so it’s fine. Calvin’s actually a very important person in the next book, A Wind in the Door. Have you ever read A Wind in the Door?
Ana: No. And he was a bigger character in the book too, than he was in the movie.
Renay: I kinda didn’t mind that. I like how they forefronted Meg and Charles Wallace. Also I just was here for Calvin looking at Meg like she hung the moon the whole time. I was like, “I’m here for it! I like this adaptation.”
Renay: But yeah I agree with you about sending Calvin home to his father going. “I’m gonna talk to him and it’s gonna be fine—” Well I don’t know! I had an abusive father. I’, not really sure you can reason with people like that, but okay. So I think anybody writing fanfic for this, uh, Calvin’s alive in the sequel.
Renay: But I also think we have to think about our perspective versus a kid’s perspective, which I think you raised a good point, we don’t want to send a message to kids that they can resolve abusive relationships with—
Ana: —the power of positivity.
Renay: Or the power of prayer. I guess you could even go there.
Renay: In a lot of ways this is a kid’s movie, so we’re coming at this from an adult perspective and not as children. We’re gonna see it way differently because we have way more context than kids who are still learning and growing as people do. The emotionally impactful moments for us are gonna be very different than the emotionally impacting moments for kids. And a lot of people have complained about this fact. It’s flawed because it doesn’t work, quote-unquote “work” for adults. I don’t what that’s about because it works fine for me.
Ana: Yeah, for me, too.
Renay: I think the weird parts were that DuVernay chose to really dig into emotional moments. When Meg and her father reunite, like that hug and the crying that goes on forever, that felt odd to me, but then again, for a kid that’s gonna feel as weird.
Ana: No I didn’t feel weird to me. It felt appropriate. The guy had been disappeared for a long time.
Renay: I’m talking about movie-wise. Like think about how fast movies move and how the speed of the narrative and how it works in most movies. But I just took issue with a lot of critics going, “Well, films should be made when adapting children’s literature to cater to adults. too! it shouldn’t just be for kids! It’s gotta be this big and this celebrated, it should work for adults too.” Which I really don’t understand why you would say this. Where are you coming from when this is your perspective?
Ana: I know what makes an adult movie, but a children’s movie? And why can’t adults enjoy them for what they are? I don’t understand that separation.
Renay: It’s flawed because it doesn’t work for adults. Really? Because it worked for me, and I’m an adult. I’m also coming to it with a lot of nostalgia, but you’re not coming to it with a lot of nostalgia and it still worked for you, too. And maybe they mean because it’s very straightforward. It’s very honest about what it’s doing.
Ana: Yes, but it has very mature content. I think one of the most mature things about the movie, even more than the book, is how the father is such a flawed, disappointing figure. And that’s a reality that even maybe kids didn’t even understand, and I think that’s probably something the adults would understand better than the kids watching that movie.
Renay: But kids are really smart, and if you’re a kid and your father disappoints you, maybe you don’t have context to understand it, but you know how it feels.
Renay: And I think the movie does a lot of straightforward work with feelings. I’m just not sure like adults are uncynical enough in our current political and social environment to take uncynical films, which I think this is, an uncynical film, at its word. So maybe that’s it. The mystery of film critics will never be solved. I will never understand most film critics. They’re operating on a different level than I am. I didn’t go to film school. I don’t know. I have different needs. Just really quickly: what was your favorite part of the film?
Ana: Probably Meg going back for Charles Wallace. But one of things that I liked the most was the visuals. I thought it was a stunning movie.
Renay: It was very pretty.
Ana: It appealed to me in that way, I think, most of all.
Renay: I loved huge Oprah. I was very into that.
Renay: I was very into how Oprah just played herself. I mean she’s obviously playing a character, but she was mostly playing Oprah. I’m sure kids who are younger who didn’t grow up watching Oprah hosting her TV show will not have that context.
Ana: Yeah, like me.
Renay: But for me, as an American, who used to watch her talk show, I’m just like, “You’re playing yourself, this is fabulous.” I loved the costumes. The visuals were great, but the costumes.
Ana: They were beautiful.
Renay: Wow. And then, in the book Meg has red hair, like curly red hair, and it’s very unmanageable. The movie changes this to how Meg—played by Storm Reid—she’s very self-conscious about how her curly hair. It changes the context of the hair discussion from one of like a teenager in mid-twentieth century to one of a Black girl in twenty-first century America. The throughline through the whole movie and the way DuVernay adapted that particular part of the book, I was just like, “Ugh, god, this is amazing.” And I was so happy that she did that.
Ana: It was really well adapted in that way to modernize and to make it relevant.
Renay: And I mean I was really glad she did it, because one of the things about Meg’s experience with her hair. I also had that experience, cause my mom would often cut my hair herself, and I would go to school, and it would be bad. Listen. Hair is a hard thing for girls. Being a young girl in this culture is hard. And I was really really glad that DuVernay took that and adapted it to the person that she cast and the story she was telling. I really loved this film, I thought it was great. How many space bees you gonna give it, Ana?
Ana: I think I’m gonna give it four. I really really liked despite my misgivings with the overall background of it.
Renay: I was going to give it five space bees, but you had brought up your criticism of Calvin’s storyline and I just like, “Awww, she’s right,” and so now I’m giving it four. You changed my mind.
Ana: [laughs] We do that all the time.
Renay: We love things and now we’re gonna talk about some things we love. I have two, because I read eighteen books in April, and I couldn’t narrow it down. Really sorry.
Ana: Oh my gods. I read one book in April, and one in May so far, so I have a problem. [laughs] I do have two recs, one of them’s not a book.
Renay: What are your recs, Ana?
Ana: One of them is Circe by Madeleine Miller. It’s not a sequel, but it’s a companion novel to The Song of Achilles, which was published many years ago and I loved it. That book was a retelling of the Odyssey and more specifically about the story of Achilles from the point of view of his lover Patroclus. It was a beautiful story. And this one is about Circe, the witch that lives on an island, has been exiled to an island by her father, who is Peleus, the sun. She lives there and she interacts with a bunch of heroes and heroines of Greek mythology, including Odysseus and Penelope. It’s really good. It throws a lot of shade at Homer for being a misogynistic shit, and in the end, there was a romance that I was so on board of it. I saw it coming, obviously, because I know what happens to Circe and who she ends up with, and I was like, “This is not gonna work!” but it worked so well, because she wrote it so well. The other thing that I recommend is this documentary that I caught on Netflix called Wild, Wild Country. And it’s about how in the eighties, this Indian guru called Bhagwan, and who eventually came to be known as Osho. I don’t know if you know who Osho is, but I grew up in Brazil and everybody used to read books by Osho. And basically it’s the story about—he immigrated. He bought a piece of land in the middle of Oregon, so that he could create a commune of free sex, free spirited people, living there in a beautiful society that worked so well. But then of course: it’s in the middle of Christian Oregon, and as you can imagine, things went to shit. I didn’t know anything about it, and the documentary’s excellent, too, because it shows everything that is happening in America right now with racism and xenophobia, and it’s a mind blowingly good documentary. What about your recs?
Renay: I have two recs! The first is The Expanse, a TV show that was on SyFy, but SyFy cancelled it because SyFy is a betrayer. I knew better I knew better than to trust this channel, which has broken my heart multiple times, but I did it. And now here we are. I’m so upset, because people complain all the time. There’s not enough women of color, there’s not enough men of color, there’s not enough queer characters. The Expanse has all of these things!
Ana: What a shame. It’s really good, I really enjoyed the show! It’s really clever. I think maybe it’s a little bit slow, but I can live with that.
Renay: I really think that if you like science fiction, if you like diverse casts, you want to check out seasons one and two and three of The Expanse. And then I’m also going to rec Artificial Condition by Martha Wells. It’s amazing. In Artificial Condition, Murderbot makes a friend. It’s like enemies to besties, in the space of one novella. There’s other stuff going on; Murderbot obviously gets caught up with humans again and has to save some asses; and does some research into their past. Otherwise, mostly it’s about the great friendship. I loved this novella. I love this series. I’m so glad there’s two more.
Renay: Space bees, I’m always asking you for recommendations and I’m gonna do so again right now! Feel free to go to our website and fill out our rec form.
Ana: Renay’s super nice, so you definitely should do that and make her happy.
Renay: To check out the artist who made our show art, head to justira.tumblr.com, where most of Ira’s art lives.
Ana: If you need help understanding us because we talked faster than the speed of light, you can! There are lots of transcripts at fangirlhappyhour.com, created by the amazing Susan.
Renay: There’s more to our website than transcripts too. You can, as I requested earlier, leave us a recommendation. You can send in a question for an upcoming Question Tuesday episode, or subscribe to our very cool newsletter. That’s at fangirlhappyhour.com. You can also ask the google by typing our show name into a search bar.
Ana: And if you’re into book giveaways, you should definitely follow us on Twitter, @fangirlpod, where we’ll be giving away some books over the next few weeks.
Renay: You are a beautiful piece of stardust, so drinking some water will keep your shine bright.
Ana: Hug your loved ones. And I’ll just leave it there.
Renay: Thanks for listening, space bees!
Ana: See you next episode!
Ana: I’m laughing but no one can see me.
Renay: [laughs] What’s—Ana, you’re cute.
Renay: Those – okay. Renay. Use words. Use, like, form them and put them out of your mouth, you’ve been doing this for thirty-five years now, you can keep – continue to do this, words. Noises come out here.
Ana: You’re so young.
Renay: Yeah yeah yeah.
Ana: You are [laughs] the image has stopped with your—with your eyes closed, like you were in prayer.
Ana: Yes. It’s on Netflix.
Renay: It’s on Netflix?!
Renay: I think you mean Netgalley.
Ana: [laughs] [snorts] [laughs harder]
Renay: Too many things are named Net!
Ana: I do mean Netgalley! Obviously! [laughs]
Ana: And how much we really love the new Peter Parker and his relationship with Daddy Tony. That sounded dirty, but it was totally not intended as such. [laughs]