Racism, Sexism, and Hannibal: Eat The Rude

This was a fantastic response to the fan reaction of Beverly’s death. Wow.

Eat This

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I’m an American actress and I play Beverly Katz on NBC’s HANNIBAL created by Bryan Fuller. (Spoiler Alert coming right now!!!) And she dies in episode 4 of Season 2. That episode got a lot of positive reviews, but it also incited an on-line storm of vitriol directed to Fuller himself for killing off Katz, or more specifically, for being racist and sexist. I caught wind of this myself via Twitter from our beloved Fannibals. And I thought maybe it’d be productive to talk about rather than ignore it.

Fuller cast me in a role that I didn’t think I had a chance in hell of getting. I rarely if ever see minorities, women, minority women, let alone Asian women, get to play characters like Beverly Katz. I rarely if ever see characters like Beverly Katz period. And her last name is Katz for Christ’s sake. Pretty open-minded, non-racist, pro-feminine…

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Rape Culture Begins in Middle School

My old middle school has stirred up a fair bit of controversy this week due to its dress code. This article from the Chicago Tribune describes the precise nature of the controversy, and, although it irks me, my own intention here is not to address the evident inconsistencies of the dress code–the article acknowledges this fairly well. Rather, I feel the need to point out an issue to which one of those quoted in the article, Kevin Bond, briefly refers: “‘There are appropriate ways to behave and act, including in school, and it’s not about telling the girls what not to wear because the boys will get excited.'”

Bond hits the nail right on the head. At its very core, that’s what this aspect of the dress code is addressing: these girls are being instructed not to wear particular kinds of clothes specifically because, if they are wearing them, the boys will get excited. At both Haven Middle School and, later, at Evanston Township High School, I was witness to more than a few teachers dress coding students for shorts or skirts that were too short, or for wearing halter tops, shirts with spaghetti straps, or shirts with no straps at all. And on more than one occasion, I heard the teacher specifically saying that the girl shouldn’t be wearing such clothes to school because it was “a distraction”.

This is not what girls should be hearing in schools. This is not what boys should be hearing in schools, because by telling the girls to stop being a distraction, it is also giving the boys license to stare. To a lesser degree, this is the same message that is echoed throughout our society in regards to rape. When women come forward with allegations that a man sexually assaulted her, a disturbingly large number of people insist that the woman is in the wrong. That she was probably “asking for it“. She shouldn’t have worn such revealing clothes if she didn’t want someone to do this to her. In regards to the high-profile Steubenville rape case from 2012, people went so far as to accuse the girl in question of ruining their potential careers, rather than acknowledge the fact that maybe she wasn’t “asking for it”.

In comparison, dress coding an eighth grade girl for wearing short shorts might seem minor. But these students at Haven–at schools across the country–are getting the wrong message. Girls are being taught that they are at fault, when in reality these young boys should be learning that it’s not okay to blatantly stare at girls purely because they’re wearing short shorts or yoga pants. This minor issue of school dress codes is perpetuating a culture in which it is the norm for a grown man to blatantly stare at, and even cat call, teenage girls from his car; a culture in which men think that it’s okay to grope women and grind up against them in public places without the consent of the women in question; a culture where, if a woman has the courage to come forward and accuse a man of raping her, she is in turn rewarded with accusations that she was asking for it. All because, beginning in middle school, we were taught that by wearing short shorts, the girls were being a distraction.

A Fairly Sensitive Matter

I just spent the past three hours reading through the entirety of this masterpost. I’ve done my best to form my own objective opinion on the matter–although when it comes to matters of emotional abuse and sexual assault, it’s rather difficult to remain objective. 

However, my intention here is not to preach about my opinion. The masterpost has a link to a particularly insightful post by Hank Green, which addresses the important matter of one interpreting the evidence for one’s self, and I wholeheartedly believe that to be the case, so I am not going to champion any one perspective (although I’m sure it will be clear in this post how I feel). 

I simply feel the need to discuss how difficult this is for me to wrap my mind around. I had no relationship with any of those accused. I was a fan, I idolized them, and I met both Alex Carpenter and Luke Conard when they did shows in Chicago. But these interactions were brief. I certainly never had any reason to imagine that they were bad people. But my middle school and early high school years are, in my mind, very much defined by my attachment to these and other men; some of whom, it has now come out, did some very bad things. 

And for that reason, I am profoundly disappointed. I became a fan of Luke merely as an extension of his connection to Ministry of Magic, which was one of my absolute favorite wizard rock bands. I found them fairly early–I’d say I began to listen to them in 2007, around the time or shortly after I entered 7th grade. As soon as Luke started to become a YouTube personality, my admiration for the band extended to him. I thought he was cute and charming and, when he was dating Kristina, I thought they seemed so sweet together (I had also thought the same of Kristina and Alex Day). I fell for his facade entirely and, although my attachment to him was eventually replaced by others, Luke in particular held a soft spot in my heart and even in recent months, I have sometimes gone back and listened to All Caps and Ministry of Magic, and watched his older videos.

Unlike most of my Harry Potter fandom friends, I was never particularly infatuated with Alex Carpenter. Something about him rubbed me the wrong way. Don’t interpret that as me pretending that I somehow knew about these evident manipulative tendencies. Of course I didn’t. All I knew was that this guy was considered eye candy, and I never really got it. (I never thought his voice was that great, either.) The matter actually led to an argument between me and my best friend at the time.

During the period in question, the Harry Potter fandom was my life. All I ever listened to was wrock and MuggleCast, and nearly all of my friends were from an online MuggleCast fan forum. Without going into too much detail, I wasn’t particularly happy in middle school, although I didn’t realize it at the time. But this first foray into fandom was probably the main thing that kept me from feeling alone, and a lot of that is due to the people who I thought were admirable role models.

This information that has come to light is so very distressing to me because I feel that it has tainted some of the only fond memories that I have of that time in my life. I am immensely disappointed to learn that these men, whom I looked up to, have been consistently manipulative and hurtful. And I also feel wronged–nowhere near to the same extent, but Luke Conard and Alex Day fooled their viewership, of which I was a part. I ate up their respective romances with Kristina and I feel so naive because of it. It leaves me with a lingering feeling of mistrust towards… everyone. Because I invested my complete faith in these people and they betrayed it. Thankfully, not when it would have had its greatest impact; if this news had broken in 2009, when I was a freshman in high school, I would have been absolutely devastated. But learning of all of this, even now, hurts me and makes me second-guess essentially everyone.

And for that reason, I want to thank Maureen Johnson for what she says here. Specifically, “I love your enthusiasm and I love your fandoms and I love how you embrace all of these new, great things—these songs and stories and people. There is no reason to give up. None at all. NOT EVERYONE IS BAD.” I forget that sometimes, particularly after incidents like this.

When similar stories came out about Mike Lombardo in 2012, I was appalled, but it bore no effect on me, as I had never really been a fan. These men now… Some of them meant quite a lot to me, once upon a time, and I don’t think I will ever be able to look back on that time in my life the same way. And I am so deeply saddened by that.

The Upper Hand

In my creative writing class last year, we went through an exercise in which we had to describe an “indelible moment”, and explain the impact that this moment had on us. 

I understood the purpose of this exercise; what better to write about than a meaningful experience that had some lasting impact?

However, this thought raises a question, a question that strikes me on a semi-regular basis: why do I have to write about those indelible moments? Why can’t I write about something mundane?

The answer might seem pretty obvious, and is enough, most of the time, to divert my attention from the question almost immediately: there’s no point in writing about the mundane because it wouldn’t be considered mundane unless it was totally boring. 

I don’t know, though. There are some moments that I remember vividly, those indelible moments that are completely worth describing because they’ve had a strong impact on who I am today. But those are not the moments that I find intriguing. Rather, I often find that I focus on faded memories, on memories that I didn’t consider important enough, at the time, to file away properly. Memories that now mean so, so much more. 

Those moments were mundane, once upon a time. And in retrospect, I wish that I could say I described them in the same precise detail that I devoted to that indelible moment that I composed for my creative writing class. 

Who Do You Think You Are?

Who do you think you are?

Marching back into my life with a wink and a smile, as though you never left…

I mean, honestly, who do you think you are?

What a shameless pursuit. How bold you are. And maybe two years ago I would have been all about that but two years can change a lot about a person and now I look at you and I can’t believe how shameless you were. How shameless you are.

And it’s because you’re so shameless that I must ask: who do you think you are?

The rules don’t apply to you, I suppose. And wow, what a rule you had such disregard for. And two years ago I would have been all about that but two years can change a lot about a person and now I look at you and I can’t help but wonder what kind of person would show such blatant disregard for such a rule.

If you can have such disregard, who do you think you are?

And I can’t help but wonder if you’re blind because in case the words, ‘in a relationship,’ weren’t enough of a cue, this ain’t happening any time soon. And I am no less or no more about that now than I was two years ago because what the fuck kind of person can justify cheating on a person for a chance at a fling? In no world would I ever think that’s okay and the fact that you seem to think that I would be about that makes me wonder who you think I am. And it makes me wonder who you think you are, because even if I felt an inclination to cheat on my boyfriend I certainly wouldn’t do it with you.

I could say thanks, I guess. Thanks for boosting my ego a tad. Thanks for waiting around until I held a diploma in my hand. And I confess that two years ago I was all about that but two years can change a lot about a person and I certainly ain’t about that now. Because I’ve grown in these two years and honestly, who do you think you are to come back and make me question every choice I’ve made? Who do you think you are to come back and make me reminisce and make me miss you just when that hole had healed up?

This new life of mine has no room for the ghost of something that once was there, certainly not when I know there’s no way you actually care. So for fuck’s sake, find somewhere else to go looking. Because you won’t be getting shit from me.

And if you still think otherwise, if you still think there’s a chance, let me ask you: who the fuck do you think you are?

Remember When

I have to remind myself on a regular basis that I cannot romanticize my idea of you. When I allow myself a moment of nostalgia, I miss you. I shouldn’t, not now. So much has changed over the span of two years, and we are not who we once were. You are not worthy of my missing you, I think. I do it more out of habit now, I think, and because I crave some attention and if it’s you flinging it my way, I certainly will not complain. Because you are a guarantee of so many things–that I am not delusional; that I’m worth waiting for; that I’m actually genuinely not delusional (that part is pretty important, so I feel the need to stress it). 

But what I saw you as junior year is not what you are now. And I need to remember that. 

It’s hard. It’s hard because of the emotions attached to those memories, the emotions that they stir up even now. It’s hard because I want to believe that you are better than you undoubtedly are. It’s hard because I know that you will most certainly disappoint me if I let you get too close, but I have so many petty reasons to hold on to you that I almost don’t care. 

Idolatry

This may sound weird, coming from a narcissist, but my writing is shit.

Mind you, I’m still God’s gift to this earth, but yes, I assure you that my writing is shit.

My writing is the best of me, and I can bull shit an essay like there is no tomorrow and I can pretend to be capable of a higher form of expression but where it really matters, my writing is shit.

Because I hold it up beside my idols and the fact is that I can’t compare.

Vonnegut uses the sparsest language but each word delivers a blow all the harder for what he’s not saying, and I can’t compare.

Nabokov made me sympathize with a fucking pedophile and I can’t compare.

Melville drowned me in the most stunning, elaborate description I’ve ever seen and I can’t compare.

Tolstoy’s words sound better translated into English than mine do starting out there, and I simply can’t compare.

And you can say that I am young, that I can hone my words and get there.

But it seems to me, no matter what I do, when I put my writing next to theirs…

I still can’t compare.

So I mope and I pout and I count my blessings, thank the Lord that He gave me what little I have, that I have rare moments of brilliance where pen meets paper and I look down at the words and they’re…

Beautiful.

And I live for those moments because who knows when the next one will come along, the next shining moment where there’s an echo of an idol in a sentence if you squint your eyes hard enough.

But maybe with some practice that sentence will become a paragraph will become a chapter will become a book will become a reality…

Thank God, I will say, for giving me those idols to admire when my writing was shit.