Saturday, August 29, 2009

Good luck sleeping tonight

Like an anxious cat, I've been fastidiously grooming myself in anticipation of Master's arrival. Trim and paint my nails, shower, shave, carefully lay out my outfit and my makeup, whiten my teeth, brush-floss-mouthwash.

Then double-check everything, just to make sure.

I have to make sure I'm my best for him.

By now he's already on the bus over here. I can't wait!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Nerd alert - a second look at Revolutionary Girl Utena

When I was in high school, I fell in love with a manga series called Revolutionary Girl Utena. The plot is rather complicated (and doesn't make a whole lot of sense, tbh), but the gist is something like this: Utena (the girl with pink hair) is saved as a little girl by a strange, noble man whom she considers her "prince." She decides that she must do everything she can to become a "prince" herself in honor of this man, and during her search for her childhood benefactor she winds up at a private boarding school.

At this school, the members of the student council participate in secret ritual duels over the hand of the "Rose Bride," Anthy (the girl with purple/black hair). Whoever consummates their marriage with the Rose Bride gains the godlike powers of a being alternatively referred to Dios and World's End. Utena, ignorant of the mystical stuff going on, is disgusted by some of the members' treatment of Anthy and takes it upon herself to become Anthy's "prince" - to protect her from mistreatment - and unknowingly/unwillingly gets drawn into the struggle to claim World's End.

When I first read the series, I enjoyed it because I identified strongly with Utena - playing with traditionally masculine ideas such as being a "prince" and athletic, but still with feminine touches, such as long pink hair and good fashion sense. I also liked that Utena and Anthy, at least superficially, resembled me and my then-girlfriend - though she was bi-racial Latina/Native American instead of Indian, as Anthy appears to be, and though my girlfriend was far from the feminine, passive person that Anthy was (and was, in fact, a better athlete than me). It was also one of the only lesbian manga series widely known at the time (to me, anyway) so there was a bit of a "beggars can't be choosers" thing going on.

Re-reading it several years later, I'm a little less enthusiastic about it. First, the lesbian themes in it aren't nearly as strong as they seemed at first. There's one side character who's explicit about her crush on Utena, but as far as a relationship between Utena and Anthy, it doesn't seem to progress a whole lot beyond friendship. Though the two are technically "engaged" for most of the series, Utena is actively fighting to dismantle that concept and is more concerned with helping Anthy grow into her own than forging a close relationship. They only share one little kiss during the "consummation ceremony" - and then (SPOILER ALERT), since the whole thing was just a charade to trap Utena, the actual "consummation" is Utena being symbolically penetrated by Anthy's brother. Kind of the opposite of lesbianism. Perhaps Utena and Anthy's relationship is more explicit in the anime or the OVA; I haven't seen either.

I also examined the idea of sexual servitude more closely this time around, for obvious reasons. Anthy, as the Rose Bride, is bound to be completely servile to whomever "wins" her in a duel. Though the sexual implications aren't brought up explicitly, it's not much of a stretch to figure them out. The concepts of sexual coercion and power in general are brought up multiple other times, mostly involving various men attempting to control Utena or Anthy. The way these themes are handled left me feeling... ambivalent?

For most of the series, Anthy is little more than a passive receptacle for the desires of others. Though she comes into her own at the end of the series (with Utena's help), I felt like the reasons why she was so submissive in the first place weren't adequately explored. Love for her "brother(s?)" played a strong part, but I felt that was kind of a cop-out. How was Anthy's love different from Utena's protective love? Was it different? Most of the time it was almost impossible to tell when Anthy was telling the truth, which, while it made her a more interesting character, makes it different to tease out the true nature of her submission.

Also, while power dynamics of many configurations play out between both men and women, it is only when men exert power over women that power takes on a sexual tone. At one point a character, describing another's manipulations, says that it's all the same - man or woman. But it's not, regardless of whether we want it to be; to ignore that fact passes up a great opportunity to explore.

There's also the problematic construct of "prince=protector/princess=protected." While Revolutionary Girl explicitly says that both men and women can be princes and princesses (and gives examples of female princes and male princesses), I'm not sure if it's really all that subversive or revolutionary. Princes have been rescuing princesses for centuries; isn't it just confirming old gender roles? *shrugs*

Sunday, August 9, 2009


I love Eddie Izzard. He's funny as hell and attractive to boot. (There's something alluring about a guy in heels and lipstick.) However, in terms of the concept of "performing gender," I'm a wee bit confused.

See, despite wearing traditionally feminine clothes, I'm not sure that Izzard is actually "performing femininity" when he cross-dresses. When I watch him perform while cross dressing it doesn't seem like he's trying to act feminine. He maintains his masculine voice and speech patterns and uses traditionally masculine gestures. He's not trying to hide the fact that he's a man, you know?

During one of his routines, Izzard talks about wearing false breasts. Occasionally he'll go to the store or wherever while wearing them, and he's invariably called, "sir," which he finds bemusing because guys usually don't have breasts. Of course, I haven't seen him during these trips, but I wonder if it isn't because, like during his stand-up, he isn't adopting any traditionally feminine behavior.

So is Izzard performing femininity? For me, I make the association of "performance" with "acting," but is that a valid connection in this case? Performing femininity seems to be two-part: one behavioral and one visual. Can/should we separate the two? It could be valid in some cases, perhaps.

I don't have an answer to any of these questions. I do know that Izzard is amazing, though.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Living in a conservative state is making me all jaded and cynical. :/ I wanna go hoooome!