Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - The Boy Scouts and Game of Thrones edition

How's that for a bizarre pairing?

Welcome to my brain, you guys. Like last week, I'm just writing on two topics even though there are a million other things going on in the universe that I could include, and I'm doing it because I know that I'm going to have a lot to say about the two that I am covering.

Besides, I wrote about all the people asking the moronic question of whether Hillary Clinton could be a grandmother and the President at the same time over at Lefty Pop yesterday. That chapped my ass too.

Anyhow, off we go. I'm probably going to use the swears. Just warning you.


The Boy Scouts are "Saddened" by the gays
Just when you start to think that antiquated institutions might be capable of real change, just when there is a glimmer of hope that thinking can evolve, something like this goes and happens.

The Boy Scouts of America has revoked the charter of a Methodist church in Seattle, shutting down the Scout Troop and Cub Scout Pack they sponsor after a gay Scoutmaster came out publicly.

He was ousted by BSA in March, but the church refused to remove him from his position. The church explained that they stood by the Scoutmaster because they have a policy of non-discrimination. So, BSA did what it logically thought it had to do...revoke the charter entirely.

In a public statement, BSA has said that they are, "saddened by this development, but remain committed to providing all youth with the best possible scouting experience where the scouting program is the main focus. We are contacting the parents and leaders of the units to inform them of the chartered-organization change."

Right. Because the best way to provide all youth with the best scouting experience is to dissolve the Troop and Pack. And this made BSA "sad".

Bullshit. They painted themselves into a corner and are content to keep painting as their tiny space gets smaller and smaller. They created this problem when they made formal rules banning gay adults from leadership. They could make it all go away.

Bangs head on wall.

Seriously, you guys. I was SO pissed when I saw this last night. The fact that my oldest son had just come home from his troop meeting makes it even worse...because as much as I loathe the BSA right now, I'm stubbornly digging in my heels as a vocal advocate for change. Boy Scouts is a hugely valuable organization. It has been a part of my husband's life for almost his entire life. It has taught my son so much, given him so many opportunities, pushed him to try new things, gain new skills.

If what is going down in Seattle comes anywhere near his troop, though, I will pull him so fast that heads will spin.

The BSA is digging their own grave, again. Membership is way down, in large part because of their homophobic stance. I can think of at least ten families I know personally who have pulled their boys or refused to join at all because of the anti-gay position of the scouts. I know leaders who've quit over it, good leaders with so much to offer the organization.

People are fed up.

The church that sponsors my son's troop is an inclusive, non-discriminatory church. I know people in scouting who fit into every single banned criteria. Good people. Good leaders.

One day, not too long from now, either the BSA will have run itself into the ground through no one's fault but their own, or they'll have realized how wrong they were and done everything they possibly could to try and repair the damage they've already done.

Personally, I hope they figure this shit out in a hurry and do the right thing. I'd really hate to leave scouts over this, but I'll do it in a heartbeat.

Game of Thrones, Revisions and Rape
Two things. One, I am basically a superfan of the series, more of the books than the show. Two, what follows will contain specific information about scenes that have played out in both the books and shows, so if you are going to yell at me about writing spoilers, stop reading now.

Anyway.

I've written before about the books, and how I began reading them some time last year. We tried to watch the show at first, but were a little taken aback by the violence and couldn't get into it immediately. Instead, at the urging of a few devoted fans, we decided to read the books first and take it from there.

Though most of the books come in somewhere around a thousand pages, we found ourselves tearing through them. Then we started watching the show.

Initially, my reaction to the show was (and for the most part remains) good. The casting is spot on. The sets are unbelievable. The costuming is easily the most impressive I've ever seen for a television show. And, almost always, the creators of the show have done a good job translating the books for the screen.

Necessarily, they have to change pieces of the stories. It would be impossible to make a 10 episode season based on a 1,000 page book and not take some things out. I don't think that anyone out there is annoyed that all the little nuances and all the little back stories aren't included. Plus, in this particular series, the imagery in the setting is easier shown in pictures than it is described in the books. What can take ten pages of detailed writing can be shown far easier if it is done well, and it usually is.

Where I struggle, though, is where the fundamental pieces of the stories of major characters are changed.

In the first season, Daenerys, the child bride, is raped by Khal Drogo on their wedding night for no particular reason. In the book, he works to gain her consent (well, assuming that a 14 year old girl sold by her brother in marriage to a man twice her age could really consent anyhow) prior to consummating the marriage. She is reluctant to enter the marriage, yes, but she accepts her husband and she initiates their first sexual encounter. She ultimately falls deeply in love with Drogo and he becomes her sun and stars, a story that seems far less plausible if he rapes her violently the first night they are wed.

The rape of Daenerys is glossed over in the show, just merely a piece of that episode, and does nothing to alter the rest of their storyline as a couple or hers as an individual. So, then, why change it? It's a legitimate question to ask, even in the fictional world of Westeros.

Westeros isn't a calm and peaceful place. It is filled with violence, particularly sexual violence and objectification of women, as it is. So, then why do the show creators feel compelled to make it even more so on screen? Why?

It's a question that needs to be asked, and it is being asked again because it has happened again. Another storyline containing major characters has been altered.

This time, it's Jaime and Cersei. Twins and incestuous lovers, he is the father of her children, though they are held out to be fathered by the now dead King Robert. Cersei is, all the way through to her core, an evil character in the books. She is manipulative, she is vindictive, she is selfish, she is cruel. For whatever reason, one that escapes me, the creators of the show have tried to humanize her on a few occasions. The first occurred when she was consoling Catelyn at Bran's bedside in season one. We're all supposed to ignore that she played an active role in the child's injury, and that the story she tells about losing her own child doesn't even exist in the books.

I was a bit mystified when that scene played out.

I was even more upset when this week's episode aired. In it, Cersei finds herself alone in the sept with Jaime, alongside the body of their dead child, Joffrey. He has been back for weeks in the show (though in the books he had just now returned), and she had refused his attempts at showing her affection as she is now disgusted by the fact that he lost his hand.

In the book and in the show, they engage in intercourse right there alongside their son's dead body...but in the book she resists him only initially, and only because it's "not right" (whether she's referring to it happening next to a dead body or the incest in general...who knows?). In the show, however, she resisted far more vocally, never went along with it and screamed no throughout the scene.

It was filmed as a rape, not the sudden emotionally driven act that happens in the book.

I am greatly troubled by this for a few reasons. First, it again makes her the sympathetic character here, when the books by this point in the story have painted a very different picture. Second, Jaime has evolved greatly by this point in the story and the reader relates to him more, wants to understand him, even root for him by this time. His chapters are written from his perspective, and we have tremendous insight into what he is thinking.

Clearly, it is impossible to film a show from the perspective of a character, but what happened in this episode doesn't just fall short of showing his perspective, but it perverts it entirely and alters the viewers perception not just of her, but of him as well.

There is also the looming elephant in the room of why the creators of the show seem insistent on changing these particular story lines. These are not small and inconsequential changes done for time and story compression reasons, these go all the way to the core of these main characters.

It also appears that Martin wasn't consulted on this change, a very significant one. He certainly never intended the scene to play out as a rape.

For those who didn't read the books, I can see how the show would paint an entirely different picture of them both. For those who have read the books, we are mostly just disappointed. We are seeing things in the scene that weren't there because we know how it should have happened. We are reading things into it that aren't present on the screen at all.

And why?

Why did Daenerys need to be raped on her wedding night? Why did Cersei have to be raped in the sept? Why are Daenerys and Cersei, arguably the two strongest women in the show, both now victimized on screen in scenes that either didn't happen at all or played out very differently in the books?

Why?

Sadly, my answer makes me even more uncomfortable, and I truly think that it is because of the sensationalism in the objectification of women, of the screen appeal (if one wants to call it that) of sexual violence against women.

Rape in this world is fine because she falls in love with him eventually. Rape in this world is fine because they've had children together. Rape is fine because they've already had sex. Rape in this world is just part of this world.

Rape is part of this world because it is part of our world, because we live in a world where we disbelieve women who have been assaulted, we let rapists off if they can throw a football, we worry more about their futures than the women they harm.

This is rape culture, and it's playing out on screen here now.

I'm disappointed, HBO. Very disappointed.

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