The Problem with Passengers is Everything, but Mostly its Lack of Lesbians

Yesterday I willingly yielded an hour of my life to watch everything I dreaded about the film Passengers come true; I wished desperately for these tropes and clichés to be put back to sleep in pods, and lie dormant for another 90 years. But alas, just like the perfect white people in the film, these tired narratives were doomed to live once again on the screen.

Thankfully, it at least proved a lens through which to tropes about male entitlement, hero narratives, feminine objectification, and the heterosexual nuclear family unit. Passengers is a story about a white man taking a woman’s future and bodily autonomy away because she’s pretty, and subsequently gaslighting her by traumatic circumstance into completely and unequivocally forgiving him and rewarding him for his violations.

Even though the movie allows her to get some shots in on him, her pain specifically gives him the opportunity to risk his life and act heroically. It’s disgusting: guilt-ridden lovesick Chris Pratt dramatically tells JLaw that he has to die in order to save the ship, thus presenting her with the possibility of ultimate hell – being non-consensually been woken up from hibernation only to have to spend the next 80 years in solitary confinement, waiting for death to alleviate her agony, never to hear another person’s voice or be touched by a living being again.

Through this device, JLaw is forced to consider living with him a viable alternative to going back to sleep. Their subsequent rekindled romance, and her rejection of his offer to put her back to sleep, amount to nothing less than Stockholm Syndrome. This, coupled with her repeated refrain of “took you long enough to ask”, form a sinister message: women are just waiting for you to ask! Just because she’s in cryogenic hibernation doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the plunge!

And it’s extremely salient that JLaw and Chris P are both white – they get to be “everman” and his beautiful prize, free from foolish concerns like the rendition of human difference. Chris Pratt becomes generalized masculine desire, and Jennifer Lawrence becomes the abstract “female” object of his consumption and gaze.

If you make Chris Pratt’s burly mechanic into a woman, change approximately 2 lines, and tell the actress to not repeatedly stand in front of her costar or make self-centred heroic faces into the distance to emphasize her moral virtue, the story becomes about actual people. Exploring the relationship between two women (or two men, or people of colour, or literally anything other than tropes personified) who come to love one another under conditions of extreme stress and loneliness, and of their brave forgiveness following deep betrayal, would be a story about actual people. Passengers certainly wasn’t.

If anything, Passengers highlights something very important about heterosexuality – that it takes an incredible amount of narrative contortion to make possible a relationship predicated on fantasies about objectification, gaslighting, and coercion. PUAs take note.

And the film only uses Laurence Fishburne as scaffolding to patch up the monstrous relationship between the two white characters. If that’s not criminal, I don’t know what is.

Switching to a Credit Union: Oh My God I Should Have Done This Years Ago. Seriously (#NoDAPL)

Trump will try to make the Dakota Access Pipeline a reality with his authoritarian machinations. This will put the Standing Rock Sioux and activists involved in incredible danger over the next few months, so it’s time to implement something I’ve been mulling over for months – closing my account with the Royal Bank of Canada, one of the banks responsible for financing the pipeline.

Take that, Capitalism! In around a month’s time, my measly income will no longer be yours to profit from.pennies

Actual photo of my net worth

I was really nervous, though, because I am both avoidant and finances-phobic. So I thought I would use this opportunity to try and get more acquainted with my own finances, and to learn more about banks and my role in larger financial institutions while I was at it.

The DeFund DAPL website lists banks that are funding the groups responsible for the pipeline. In their list of alternative banks I found a Credit Union that was walking distance from my home in Oakville, Meridian Credit Union. Cause, you know, I can’t drive and I live in my parents’ basement.

This article, “7 Easy Steps to Switch Banks without Worry”, led me through the rest of the process, without entirely delivering on its promise of “without worry”. I would have to set up my new bank account before closing the RBC one, and then switch over auto-payments (like my phone bill) to the new account somehow.

That stuff about switching automatic whatever sounded hard, so I ignored it and focused on the fun part: opening a new bank account!

What you need to open an account:

  • 2 pieces of ID (Drivers’ license, Passport, and Credit Card)
  • Social Insurance Number
  • A sense of adventure and/or urgency that will combat your intrinsic fear and apathy
  • The ability to not say yes, “you or any member of your family are working for a foreign government or military.” (But don’t worry: there are alternative ways for Russian spies to express solidarity with Standing Rock.)

Filled with righteous resolve and swaddled against the bitter cold, I marched up to the doors of Meridian Credit Union. Nicole, the banker, got me set up and brought me coffee, sealing the deal: as the age-old proverb says, give me caffeine, and I am yours.

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The blessed coffee feat. my notes

As I nursed my beverage, Nicole explained Credit Unions, my own accounts, and the process as a whole. She explained that rather than having (and being beholden to) shareholders, Meridian and other credit unions like it are owned by those who have member shares – in other words, anyone with an account. For $1, I can own a piece of Meridian, attend the Meridian AGM in April to have a say in the direction the bank takes, and help choose Meridian’s future leadership.

Hell yeah! This is exactly what I am looking for; the ability to not have what’s going on be shrouded in shell corporations and layers of secrecy, and to have the ability to impact the larger institution.

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Artists’ rendition of me attending the Meridian AGM

On another note, Meridian seems like a genuinely pleasant enterprise to be a part of. Nicole talked up the local events and charitable donations, adding that most Meridian investment is done at the branch level, meaning it’s logistically impossible for Meridian to invest in giant multi-national Evil Enterprises (my words, not hers).

Nicole and I chose a chequing account and a high-interest savings account, with no fees and a much higher interest rate than I had at RBC. Higher interest is good, for those with a similar level of financial literacy as me. In fact, credit unions typically offer interest rates higher than those at the “Big 5”. And despite being smaller than RBC, Meridian’s website is significantly nicer, with budget calculators and other handy things.

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A breath of fresh air after RBC’s Kafka-esque website, I s2g

As she was finalizing my accounts, Nicole offered me a chance to look at my credit score. Apparently this is something the Big 5 can’t do, but Nicole was able to show me what they saw when they looked me up. You can do it yourself through Equifax; Nicole recommended it be done once a year.

Now this has been a long-standing paranoia of mine – checking my credit rating only to discover that someone has taken out 15 credit cards under my name and that my credit score is in like, idek, the NEGATIVE numbers. This is a product of my past reaction to my finances: if I don’t look at them, they can’t be in bad shape. But I’m trying to not be avoidant, in my relationship to social justice as well as my finances.

So I put on my brave face and Nicole showed me my ‘Beacon’ and BNI, which are indicators of my credit health and likelihood to declare bankruptcy, respectively. And it turns out I actually have really healthy scores!

There are is no such thing as a negative credit rating, fyi. Just googled it.

So not only did my experience opening an account lead to increased peace of mind on my part and increased financial literacy, it was a straightforward and pleasantly caffeinated experience. I left feeling really confident that I don’t need to bank with RBC or any other the other big banks to have a good experience or healthy bank account – if anything, Meridian’s service was better and their products more appropriate for a student like me. I departed into the biting winter cold with a heart warmed by my own righteousness and newfound financial literacy.

Next up: Part 2, I roll up to the Royal Bank of Canada to close my accounts…

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Thanks Nicole 😇

5 Things to do if you’re dumped right after the election

1. Sigh constantly and have your coworkers guess the reason

“Okay, a hint: was I thinking of all the good times we shared, or of Mike Pence’s history of supporting discriminatory and dangerous anti-LGBT policies?”

2. Come up with creative locations to cry; after all, you’re crying several times per day!

In public, sneaking a quickie behind your parents’ backs, and turning to a customer eyes brimming with tears of sadness and regret are all valid options.

3. Think about objects in your home that are older or newer than your deceased relationship/new president-elect, and will never know the horrors of consciousness

“This stapler has outlived my romance. Our toilets were re-done before we even suspected Clinton would be beaten. Neither will ever know the pain of the prison-industrial complex under a Trump presidency or the horror of loss”

4. Cry harder from the guilt of not caring enough about your defunct relationship or the election outcome, alternately

3pm: “oh my god i’m obsessing about my ex-partner’s idiocy when there’s actual post-election violence going down i’m a terrible person”

4pm: “now i’m dishonouring the memory of our love by fixating on impending geopolitical crisis when i should be reliving all the good times”

5. Wallow in the fact that misery cannot be escaped and abandon all hope of self-care

Hey, subjecting yourself to endless self-hating media coverage of DJT takes your mind off wondering “where did we go wrong?”

Not So Fast, Canada

It’s the hangover after the night of blackout debaucheries that was the American election. And every Canadian on my newsfeed is, while resisting the urge to vomit, expressing relief that we live in Canada. The world is also remembering Canada and our peaceful legacy; The Canadian immigration website is reported to have crashed from overwhelming traffic, reinforcing a narrative that’s been passed around this election cycle–that Canada is better than America.

And it is! We have all the trappings of American culture with none of the shittiness. We’re America lite; America, but nicer. But it’s not particularly hard to be nicer than America right now.

Yes, we haven’t elected an incompetent man who calls Mexicans “rapists”. But that’s only because we have a couple of things Americans seem to be lacking; universal healthcare, a reasonable minimum wage, gun regulations, and more.

The fact is, it’s easy to vote for the status quo when the status quo is a little less shitty, and that’s exactly what we do here in Canada. We twiddled our thumbs for 9 years while Stephen Harper eroded much of our peacekeeping, environmentalist identity, all because he didn’t explicitly want to deport all Muslim people. And for all that we have over America, there are a number of ways in which we bear an uncomfortable resemblance to our southern neighbours.

Here’s an abbreviated list of some of the things we share with America:

Racist policing practices. Our own Toronto police are best known for their racist carding practices, and we’ve had our share of police shootings.

Our own, unique history of genocide against Indigenous people. Here’s a link to the atrocities committed in residential schools. And Indigenous people in Canada enjoy a lowered standard of living and disgustingly high suicide rates to this day.

Environmental destruction. The Harper years were hard for this one, with Canada sliding pretty far down the list of nations for protecting the environment. And we have the shame of the Alberta Tar Sands to live down, too.

And thanks to the election, we’re likely to enjoy some of the same violence against people of colour inspired by Donald Trump‘s rhetoric. There are Trump supporters here, too. Even if many of us reject his ideology of hatred and violence, nationalism won’t protect us or the most vulnerable members of our society.

We have some housework of our own to do here in Canada: cause if you’re thinking this whole thing wouldn’t have happened to us in America’s position, you’re not learning. Nobody expects the bloviating bigot, and we would do well to try and learn from what we’ve seen in the U.S. this election season.

But at least we have Trudeau.

The Walking Dead review you didn’t ask for (replete with spoilers)

There are so many problems with this idiot show. For the record, I don’t even watch the Walking Dead; I sat in on the occasional episode while my parents and sister binge-watched all the previous 6 seasons. And despite this, like the asshole I am, I obviously know everything I need to know about the show to write a pretentious and cynical review of Season 7 Episode 1.

I left to write this review after Negan lined everybody up with menacing intent for like the third time, partly because it was deeply affecting (and let’s not lie, it really was), but also because I was fed up. And the review I read ensured I didn’t miss anything that would contravene my hypothesis, and didn’t really need to see the end of the episode at all.

The elements of this episode lined up before the crosshairs of my article like the main characters stumbling into Negan’s mind-numbingly excessive, unrealistic and overpowered traps. What we consuming this week is the pure distilled misery of characters that we’ve grown connected to through the character-driven labour of seasons past, suffering utterly unmoored from trivialities like, you know, story. Because the character of Negan makes no fucking sense.

What the fuck kind of apocalypse-scarcity humanity-extinction operation is he running? The kind where you can afford to tire out your potential manpower on hysterically unnecessary metaphorical jaunts? The kind where killing people left right and centre in the most horrifying and brutal way possible not only convinces them to team up with you, but also leaves them even a tiny bit emotionally stable enough to effectively labour for you? Or like, doesn’t take 10 years off their lives with the stress you’re putting them through?

The kind of operation where the work environment isn’t so violent and toxic there would likely be daily violence amongst your own men? The kind where you would somehow have enough resources to waste fuel left right and centre, but also feed your whole crew while your haul is only half the resources from individuals who have the darndest time finding their own dwindling supplies in a world of constant scarcity? The kind where you, o uber-cruel evil leader, are so mary-sue that you cannot be hurt despite being moronically reckless on an hourly basis?

I could go on, but won’t. If this show was ever good, it is no longer. In a way it’s beautiful, the way what used to be a gritty and psychologically realistic drama became the purest form of metaphor. The cumulative 30+ minutes where everyone has to stare at traumatizing things being done to the body of another character they love is a microcosm for everything the show has become–a shambling, undead, grotesque version of its former self.

 

‘Beneficial Violation’: Professors on Education

Part 1/90000 of a series of frustrated aphorisms on free speech in academia, the rights and entitlement of students vs. professors, etc.

There’s a common theme to the opinions expressed by actual professors on the subject of trigger warnings. It’s the notion that job of education is to provide a kind of beneficial violation, one that will shake up the student from their old modes of thinking, break down their preconceptions, and reforge them into a smarter, more open individual.  The converse is that universities are failing in their duty if they protect students from this beneficial violation, and that students can’t learn properly without being forced into contact with viewpoints they disagree with–or literally any viewpoint, without exception.

There is a kind of violence inherent in presenting your views to students, of imposing your framework on others, that underlies all acts of education. But what I find most interesting about this view of education is that it seems to be predicated on traces of what American universities were like before the days of Black people, POCs and women being admitted to their ranks.

When a Yale administrator sent this email to students voicing her personal opinion about the inappropriateness of official guidelines for culturally appropriative/offensive halloween costumes, she said one thing I found extremely interesting:

Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious… a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive? American universities were once a safe space not only for maturation but also for a certain regressive, or even transgressive, experience…

Universities are and have been a site of both violation and safety, and are struggling with that double-edged legacy now. The assumption Christakis makes is that experimentations with transgression are a part of growth and learning, that they are harmless expressions of youthful defiance and experimentation.

Universities were like this in the past, places where students would do and say whatever they wanted about anybody. That’s why professors are so attached to the violation of teaching; it’s because, for the homogenous communities on campuses past, every campus was automatically one of the safe spaces they so deplore today, so safe and insulated that the professors had a moral imperative to expose their students to debate.

In the higher-ed institutions of history, entitled, rich, young white men were the ones in need of breaking down. After they indulged in the hideous free-play of racial, gender, and class stereotypes Christakis mourns, they would listen to professors’ maverick howling about how their generation was entitled garbage. Perhaps they would eventually go into the business of trying to break down and reforge subsequent generations of young, rich, white men. They did this because they knew first-hand that students needed reforging because they themselves are and had been rich, entitled, white men. And they knew this reforging would be beneficial because it took place in a space made for and conscious of the needs and experiences of upper-class white men.

“Experimentation” is harmless when it takes place in a homogenous environment, and so is the intellectual violation that professors so insist on, when your peers are all very similar to you. But it means something entirely different to continue to insist on the inherent violation of education, sans caveat, when universities today are a disgusting cesspool of racial stereotypes, sexism, classism, and other grossness–the difference being that higher-education institutions now contain the very students that are the butt of the “experimentation” upperclass white men are used to being entitled to.

Professors are upset because attempts are being made to modify the way and methods used in the reforging work of education. There is a violence inherent in any discourse, in presenting your views as fact in any discipline or situation; but when professors are proud of having the power to violate all students regardless of their situation or place in life, they give the lie to the very openness they claim to espouse.

Some musings on gun control

It’s been awhile since the last mass shooting in the U.S.–hey it’s actually been a month! neat–which means that the issue has faded from the forefront of a lot of minds. How sickening that a month free of mass shoo–

–oops, that’s the list of SCHOOL shootings. There have already been 5 mass-shootings in September, and we’re like one week in. (If you want to really hate the U.S. look at how fucking long it takes to scroll through the list of school shootings).

Anyhow, I chanced across this interview with the musician Kesha wherein she discusses her gun control activism, and this quote in particular stuck out to me:

“I understand that the right to own a gun is a constitutional issue, but our first right as humans is to live. By not putting some sort of boundaries on gun ownership, the right to simply live is taken away from some people for no reason.”

Examples abound of countries that have tightened their gun regulation and whose  incidences of mass-shootings have decreased as a result. So what might a proponent of gun rights say to these foreign case studies?

I think the likely response would be that we don’t want the safety those countries have because it would mean we can’t have something we want. And the subtext is, we prefer a place where we have the power to kill over a place where our children are demonstrably safer.

What does it mean to support the right to have or do whatever you want? It means that you’re deeply, unconscionably selfish.

And just for fun here’s a story about a gun rights activist shooting her own children in a fit of rage.