Tag Archives: humanism

How to succeed without really trying

By M.P. circa 1789. If it’s not in the public domain after 200 years, that’s just not cool.  Much like this cast(e).

So it looks like legislation changing the British rules of succession is going to pass.  The new status quo would have a first-born daughter in direct line to succeed as monarch, ahead of any brothers born down the line.  All it needs is the approval of the queen herself.  On the one hand, this almost-legislation is certainly a tiny bit closer to fairness.  On the other hand, it’s a shining example of one step forward, two steps back.  ‘Cause fairness and any notion of inherent nobility  . . . yeah.    

Now, I know.  When I first heard the news, I was all, well, it’s not more bad news, too.  Time to do a celebratory lap outside!  Woo hoo!  But, for some strange reason, the high-fives did not come.  This was something that needed sorting out.  I mean, could another country’s royalty being a tad less exclusive really not affect people who’ve been generally disregarded elsewhere?  Maybe it’s just the folks around me.  Of course there’s some people in Britain who are over the moon about this.  But there’s also places where one of the few available sources of pride left is a colonial legacy, wherein I can imagine some women high-fiving in a properly restrained British style (um, the high-fives never make contact, you see).  Kind of high-fives, even though their daughters could never be queen.  I guess that’s living vicariously, for ya.           

It’s not like it doesn’t mean anything at all; it’s just that ‘a bit more fair’ in the context of royalty is a strange proposition.  If anything, the royal element of this takes away from what should be an obvious truth: that women are as up to the task of leading people as men are.  One of my favorite examples: Shirley Chisholm, the great congresswoman (and the first African-American one period) who sought the Democratic Party’s nomination for the 1972 presidential race.  She didn’t get it, but knew that was the likelihood.

According to her Wikipedia page : “Chisholm said she ran for the office ‘in spite of hopeless odds… to demonstrate the sheer will and refusal to accept the status quo.'”

The only reason I don’t include a picture of her in this post is because, with the way that WordPress’ reader works, “How to succeed without really trying” would appear with that picture sans context.  Chisholm was the antithesis of that idea–a real champion.

Oh.  If you were here because you really wanted to know how to succeed without really trying, it’s simple.  Be the descendant of people who obtained power an awfully long time ago — and it’ll probably trickle down.  Some wealth, other people looking at your with stars in their eyes, and all the bread you can eat at really fancy restaurants (I hear).     

Related post:

 Dames, Ladies, and Sirs


Meanwhile (sooner than usual)

From Britt Hayes’ Reel Women: On Inappropriate Reactions from the Audience and Where Responsibility Lies over at Screen Crush:

I don’t like to write in first person for this column (or any piece, really), unless I’m trying to convey a particular point about where/how I viewed a film. But I’m breaking the wall here because I’ve had some very strange experiences in movie theaters recently.


In “Are Dark-skinned Women Really Unattractive?,” Maurice of The Thinking Man’s Zone poses a question with an easy knee jerk reaction for some people (“Of course not!”).  But that answer is like putting paint over the way world often works, and, while I don’t agree with all of Maurice’s thoughts, I certainly agree with the gist.  Ideally, of course not, but we live on top of a lot of history in which one kind of beauty has been pushed for a long time.  This reminded me why I sometimes relate to characters like Hellboy more than anyone else who’s supposed to be noble in various forms of fiction.  In the most broadest sense, I suppose I’m someone formed in the western mold–just not someone whom entirely fits in with the physical western defaults for good and beauty.

A lot of my favorite characters do (fit that mold), and it’s always easy enough to chalk up my enjoyment of them to some default or universal experience.  Beyond that, movie- and film-wise, there are certainly a few actors and actresses outside of the classic hero or heroine archetype.  But they very rarely get to ruminate on the way their looks can put them at odds with the world, or if they do (and they’re not in a comedy), it’s the entirety of their existence.  They’re a bit like the moral in a story (and, on a practical level) just as dismissible.

A low-quality crop of character used to show character in critical commentary

Hellboy, via Wikipedia – © M. Mignolia

But when a character is only kind of human, like Dark Horse comics’ demon raised by a good-natured human, the “Who am I?” question gets a buffer zone from the reality of how the appearance of race can rank who we find particularly human or not.  Hellboy’s origin, in a strange way, parallels Superman (super-strong being found by surrogate parent), only Hellboy doesn’t look like the all-American hero.  He literally looks like the ultimate villain.  In the movie version of the character’s continuity, he’s fated to be.  But, ultimately, he’s a character who is defined by his being human–just a moody one for whom a sense of humor is pretty important.  He’d love nothing more than to not know anything about where he comes from (very non-ideal-molded human), but it’s also something he has to come to terms with.

I occasionally watch Parks and Rec, a great show on NBC that probably doesn’t need much of an introduction.  It centers on Leslie Knope, an upbeat small town politician, and the people who work or live around her in fictional Pawnee, Indiana.  I’ve often found it how ironic it is–that a character as meta politically correct as Leslie is unaware of the tropes given to Donna Meagle, the least fleshed out character on the show.  She likes to party;  and she’s a bit of a ‘diva,’ according to the character’s Wikipedia listing as of when this was posted.  And she’s played by someone who I know can be every bit as funny and human as the all the other characters on the show.  But she doesn’t look like Rashida Jones.

(Oh.  According to Wikipedia, Hellboy was in a featured ad of a Celebrate Diversity comic catalog.  Reading that made me shake my head and laugh a little.)