Category Archives: media

Big Bang Theory: The Detrimental Effects of “I’m not crazy, my mother had me tested.”

Some of you may know that I’ve done posts on the Big Bang Theory before, one where I used Sheldon and Amy as examples of asexual characters and another where I point out how poorly the writers dealt with Lucy’s social anxiety. This time, I’m discussing how the reoccurring punch line “I’m not crazy, my mother had me tested” fails as a joke and actually has a detrimental effect on some viewers.

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The joke started as a result of the other characters judging Sheldons’ quirks and coming to the conclusion that Sheldon must have some form of autism (although they never call it that on the show). I’m guessing that this came from a lot of fan theorizing at the time and a lot of fans seeing these traits and diagnosing Sheldon as being on the autistic spectrum. The writers were quick to deny this, using the line “I’m not crazy, my mother had me tested” to establish that Sheldon has no such condition.

What bothers me so much about this is that I know young kids with mild autism who identify with Sheldon and love the character because of these traits. These people are desperate for representation and an autistic character who leads a happy, successful life would be a godsend.
The line “I’m not crazy, my mother had me tested” absolutely destroys this perfect representation. Sheldon is not only flat out denying that he has this condition but he also refers as those who do as being “crazy” (or “insane” depending on the episode) which is horrendously offensive.

Sheldon had such great potential to be a well-rounded, representational character. At its creation, the show was designed to take what was a neglected subsection of people and portray them as successful academics. The character of Sheldon embodied this the most. His repulsion of any sexual contact but still being in a happy relationship would have been fantastic representation for asexuals, but as I’ve mentioned previously this was ruined by the sudden switch of Amy’s personality and the constant hints that the couple might one day have sex. Similarly, Sheldon could have been a fantastic role model for children; a child prodigy who became a respected scientist whilst being on the autistic spectrum. But the writers go out of the way to stress that Sheldon isn’t like them. Sheldon is normal, whilst the members of their audience who also display these traits as “crazy.”

Gender Equality in FMA: Military Women

It’s very rare to see solid, well developed female characters in any form of media, and this is something that I’ve always admired Fullmetal Alchemist for. Even though the protagonists of the series are male, the supporting ladies are incredibly well developed and not just used as love interests for the men.

Regarding why she writes strong working women, Hirmou Arakwa states: “Our family motto is, ‘those who dont work don’t deserve to eat’. Many people think that farmers in Hokkaido live a laid back life, but everyone has to work hard to make ends meet – even the women and kids. That’s the reason there are so many working women in ‘Fullmetal.’”

This philosophy is something that is apparent throughout the series and fully visible in every female character Hirmou writes. This is particularly true of the military (a stereotypically a male dominated area) where we have: First Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye, Major General Olivier Mira Armstrong, Second Lieutenant Maria Ross, Second Lieutenant Rebecca Catalina and Second Class Private Sheska.

First Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye:

Riza is a member of team Mustang and is clearly represented as being the most valuable member of the team. In his chess analogy, Roy refers to her as the Queen, which if you’re familiar with the rules of chess makes her the strongest piece. Riza is a firearms specialist and proves herself invaluable in any adaption of Fullmetal Alchemist and constantly saves Roy from harm.

Interestingly, the devotion shared between her and Roy isn’t given a romantic focus. Both Riza and Winrys’ aspects of the story could easily be adapted to make them just the love interests, but instead Hiromu gives them their own personality and storylines. Instead of being romantically involved, Riza is simply incredibly loyal to Roy which is portrayed as being one of her greatest strengths.

Overall, I definitely agree with Roy’s description of Riza. She is a queen and should always be treated as such.

Major General Olivier Mira Armstrong

I’m always upset that Olivier was missed out of the original 2003 anime. In the original, we were introduced to the rest of the Armstrong family but the eldest sister Olivier was entirely missed out of the storyline. Thankfully she shows up in Brotherhood and is just as incredibly as she was in the manga. Olivier is known as the Ice Queen as she is the commanding officer at Amestris’ northern border; Fort Briggs.

Olivier is an incredible commander and leads her soldiers with a fierce and unwavering commitment to her duty. There are issues with her personality however, particularly how abusively she treats her younger brother Alex, seeing him as a coward due to his refusal to take part in the Ishvalan war. Thankfully the pair appear to reunite in the finale of Brotherhood, where they fight together to defeat their enemies.

Second Lieutenant Maria Ross

Maria Ross is the single most underrated character in the Fullmetal Alchemist series.

After Ed and Al escape to tackle the Fifth Laboratory, Maria and her partner race after the pair to protect them. After ensuring Ed is safe in the hospital, Maria slaps Edward, berating him for ignoring Armstrongs orders about staying away from the laboratory. Maria is visibly terrified immediately after doing this, as Ed is a much higher rank than her. But Ed admits that he deserved it, and thanks her for doing so.

In the 2003 adaptation, Maria is part of the rescue force to save Ed and Al from Laboratory 5.When they finally find the boys, they find that Edward has triggered an extremely powerful transmutation which makes him a hazard to approach. Unlike the other soldiers, Ross walks through the incredibly dangerous array in order to hug Ed, causing him to relax and thus saving everyone.

Our protagonists are constantly forced to act like adults and Maria is one of the few characters who acknowledges that they are still children and treats them as such. Another more subtle instance of this is when Ed struggles to salute as he is still adjusting to military life. Instead of forcing him to continue the salute, Ross offers her hand to shake.

Later in the storyline, Maria is framed for the murder of Hughes and has to pretend to have been killed by Roy in order to escape execution for a crime she would never commit. She takes this in her stride and despite having to abandon her family and friends, Maria agrees to escape to Xing for her own safety. She is later shown during The Promised Day, helping with Mustangs resistance, despite the danger she faces by returning.

All in all, Maria is an incredibly caring person and deserves a lot more recognition for her actions throughout both series.

Second Lieutenant Rebecca Catalina

Rebecca shows up late in the manga, and as a result wasn’t featured in the 2003 anime. Her first appearance shows her and Riza talking about how Rebecca wants a husband (which is unusual for an anime which avoids romantic relationships when it can).

However, it transpires that during the meeting, Rebecca has slipped Riza an incredibly important message about the oncoming resistance. She is later shown during The Promised Day where she is represented as being just as talented in combat as Riza. Rebecca provides a good contrast to Riza showing that a woman can be tough whether or not she is interested in romantic relationships.

Second Class Private Sheska

Sheska received a job at the military after the military’s records were destroyed as her photographic memory allows her to provide perfect copies of the missing files.

In the 2003 adaption, Sheska was fired from the military shortly after Hughes death, but was rehired by Frank Archer in order to recreate some files. Sheska uses this opportunity to investigate Hughes murder and figures out that the Fuhrers secretary ‘Juliet Douglas’ was actually killed during the Ishvalan war. Sheska does initially believe to be the work of aliens, but the information that she and Winry discovers is instrumental in the Elrics figuring out the identity of Sloth.

I’ve always found Sheska to be the most relatable character in the military. But that may be because of her love of books. She is initially show buried in a pile of book in her home. Sheska is incredibly passionate about reading and manages to gain a job in the military because she excels at what she loves.

So those are our military ladies. I don’t think that I missed anyone out, but if I did, then feel free to let me know. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for an analysis of the other brilliant women in Fullmetal Alchemist

The Mindy Project: Prude/Slut Shaming

Last night I watched the most recent episode of the Mindy Project to air in England entitled “Indian BBW”. Now, normally I love this show. It’s about a lovable female doctor who tries to apply the principles of romantic comedies to her everyday life. The episode however was a total departure from the normal formula and managed to simultaneously slut-shame and prude-shame our protagonist in a single episode, which is both impressive and incredibly offensive. Now this episode annoyed me so much that I’m going to do a scene by scene explanation of where the men in her life are going wrong. So without further ado:

The episode opens with Mindy and Danny (her co-worker and latest boyfriend) in bed kissing. Mindy’s first lines in this episode are “Wait, Danny” and “I don’t want to have sex with you.” Danny thinks that this is a joke and responds “Yeah, you’re very classy” and leans in for another kiss despite the fact that Mindy says no about five times before their lips touch.

Mindy says that she doesn’t want to rush things and Danny responds. “We’ve been kissing for 20 minutes. That’s like a week in guy minutes. Don’t I get any credit for that?” Now see, I’m not an expert in romance and sex, but I don’t think that bargaining is the best way to go about it. Especially when you’re making up some dumbass time frame to justify yourself.

Mindy then states that she normally doesn’t sleep with guys until the fifth date and Danny again attempts to bargain saying that they’ve gone on hundreds of dates “doctors lounge dates, subway commute dates, medical conference dates”. And Mindy, the hopeless romantic, surprisingly agrees with him and Danny instantly goes in to kiss her again.

As she pushes Danny away he looks incredibly offended and states “Do you realize there are literally thousands of girls in New York City that would kill to have sex with me right now?” Mindy is dubious about his claim and challenges him to do so in front of her.

So in a bizarre turn of events, Mindy is now stood in her kitchen watching Danny go through his phone book, attempting to find a woman to sleep with. And when no girls take him up on his offer, Mindy actually consoles her boyfriend instead of kicking him out for being so offensive. This wouldn’t be quite so bad if they had an open relationship, but Mindy’s whole character is geared to her finding the special someone and having the story-book relationship, something that Danny should know given the amount of time that he’s spent with her over the years that they’ve worked together.

Danny is then admitted to hospital for viral meningitis and when Mindy goes to visit him he introduced her to his brother as his “co-worker”. When they’re alone, Danny justifies this by saying “You know, we’re not having sex, so technically we’re not dating.” In one single sentence, the show manages to insult an entire community of people who either chose not to have sex for personal/ religious reasons or people whose sexual identity means that they don’t have sex with their partners (eg asexual or demisexual). The implication is that for a relationship to be valid there needs to be a high level of physical connection, and this demeans any relationship which doesn’t fit this standard, and should be interpreted as being highly offensive. Danny then tries to get Mindy to give him a hand job. I will reiterate: Danny is in the hospital for viral meningitis. His sex life should not be his top priority. Mindy however uses it as a justification “It’s your brain fever making you a real pervert.” So this concludes the prude shaming portion of this episode. Onto the slut shaming.

While at the hospital, her co-worker Peter texts Mindy saying that he needs to see her urgently. When she arrives, Peter very excitedly takes her to his computer. He states that while at work her was looking at pornography and he shows her a video that he found on a porn site of her and her ex-boyfriend having sex.

Mindy is naturally horrified and Peter says “What on earth were you thinking? Making a sex tape? Don’t you know that means that creeps like me are going to watch it?” He shows absolutely no shame over having seen the video and even admits to “gratifying” himself while watching. He even commented on the video saying that he knows the ‘actress’. He labels her as a “pornography actress” and despite the fact that she is clearly incredibly upset, Peter very enthusiastically asks questions about the video, such as what the background music was.

Peter and Mindy go to her boyfriend and find out that he lent the sex tape to his brother who was depressed after a break up. The brother then released the film online. While Mindy is upset about the video, Peter is just “super psyched” to meet another porn actor. Despite this, Mindy still views Peter as a friend, albeit a “slimy friend”. The ex says that he’ll destroy the tape the minute he gets home, but Peter points out that when guys say this, they never really mean it. So they demand that he brings the tape to Mindy’s office so that she can dispose of it herself.

The pair then plan to take the video of the internet, but Mindy doesn’t want to visit the offices of the site. Peter replies “You’re being pretty close minded for someone who just got her start in porn.” As though Mindy made a conscious choice about the matter.

They visit the offices but the owners refuse to take the sex tape online because there was a growing market for “Indian BBW” (big beautiful women). Which is both an invasion of her privacy and possibly illegal due to issues surrounding consent. Peter then attempts a motivation speech about morals in an attempt to get them to take the video down. The speech revolves around the fact that he took hundreds of pictures of naked girls whilst he was in college. And did he put them online? “No, because I wouldn’t work it out.” He’s cut off before he reaches the end, but I have no idea how was that story going to end well. Eventually the video is taken down purely because Peter went to the same college as the men in charge of the porn site. But they then immediately offer her to star in another film, something that she actually considers due to the amount of money involved.

Meanwhile, Mindy’s ex leaves sex tape on her desk in plain sight of everyone. Another co-worker accidentally brings the disc to Danny who reads the message “For you Babe. In case you miss me” and assumes that the video must be for him. He plays the video and even though it is instantly clear that the tape isn’t for him, he doesn’t turn it off. Instead he covers his eyes and yells at the screen.

When Mindy enters the room, Danny immediately calls her a sicko and yells “Where you taking it slow when you made this with Tom?” He calls her disgusting even though she’s visibly upset and says that one of the main reasons he’s upset is that it would be bad for their medical practice.
Mindy then collapses as she’s caught Danny’s strain of meningitis. Peter instantly comments that her shirt is up, and Danny yells at him, telling him not to look. THEN they call for a nurse. While Mindy is hospitalised, Peter attempts to cheer her up by saying that tape had a lot going against it “bad lighting, female director.” Nice sexism asshole.

Mindys ex Tom shows up to apologise to Danny. He states that his girlfriend doesn’t know about the sex tape, and that she thinks that he is a virgin. As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post about Barney from How I Met Your Mother, lying to women in order to coerce them into having sex with you is a crime and makes the characters that do so rapists. During his apology, Tom explains that he and Mindy had sex so often because they didn’t like spending time with each other and that’s his justification for everything that’s happened. Danny realises that Mindy must be taking it slow with him because she unlike Tom, she likes spending time with him and he decides to forgive her despite the fact that she hasn’t done anything wrong. And the episode ends with a supposedly romantic reconciliation.

It seems that no matter what Mindy does, the men in her life are going to make her feel bad about her sex life. When she decides that it’s too soon for sex it’s met with a baffling attempt at bargaining and she’s labelled as a prude. When she has an active sex life, the men around her can’t be trusted. They share tapes of her having sex, post them online and will unashamedly watch them and tease her about it. In one episode, the Mindy Project manages to both prude shame and slut shame its protagonist.

So as you can probably tell, I was pretty upset about the latest episode. Did you have a similar reaction? Or did you think that it was purely comedy? Feel free to let me know in the comments.

The Power of Fanfiction

In the class ‘Harry Potter: The Age of Illusion’ at Durham University, I learnt a lot about the ‘potter-verse’ and all of the different aspects which go into creating the fictional universe, for example; the books, the films, interviews with JK Rowling etc. And the main thing that I took away from the class with this; fanction isn’t all that bad. In fact, our first piece of homework was to read one of our lecturers favourite fanfictions (which can be found here if anyone is interested: Hogwarts Houses Divided). We also looked at ‘drapple’ in class, but that’s another story…

There are a lot of arguments against fanfiction which largely really on the legal standpoint of copyright infringement. But on the whole fanfiction is a pretty great phenomenon because it expands the fictional universe. Let’s face it, we don’t really know a lot about the marauders school days because Rowling didn’t write a great deal about then. But through fanfictions, headcanons, fanart etc we all have a shared idea of what the era was like. (The only large disputes over the era which I’ve seen are about the characterisations of teenage Peter and Snape which, given their actions later in life, is understandable).

Fans are able to pick up a universe and expand it as a community, which is something that even Rowling advocates. And this is why I think that it’s a shame when authors expressly ban fanfiction of their work. Fanfiction.net gives a list of all of the authors who have banned fanfiction which includes;
• Anne Rice
• P. N. Elrod
• Archie Comics
• Dennis L. McKiernan
• Irene Radford
• J.R. Ward
• Laurell K. Hamilton
• Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb
• Raymond Feist
• Robin Hobb
• Robin McKinley
• Terry Goodkind

This is always disappointing because fictional worlds such as that created by Anne Rice through the Vampire Chronicles are perfect for fan expansion. I want to see more interview with the vampire head canons. I want more fan castings (we need them after the terrible castings of the movies of both Interview with the Vampire and Queen of the Damned). I want as many au’s as humanely possible. But alas, the restrictions mean that it isn’t likely to happen anytime soon.

Let me know what you think about fanfiction in the comments. Like me, do you get a bit disheartened when the author limits the potential for fan expansion of their universes or do you think that it’s their choice?