Tag Archives: star trek

Geek & feminist thoughts on “In The Loop”

I saw the political satire In The Loop a few days back.  It passes the Bechdel test — how novel — and it struck me as a fairly geek-oriented film.

We geeks like our entertainment as plot/banter firehose with subtle, unspoken worldbuilding. That’s what In The Loop (and its predecessor TV show, The Thick of It) deliver — that and social engineering.  You get to watch people scheme, performing ad hoc systems analysis to solve the puzzle of their immediate predicament.  It’s like Leverage without the wish-fulfillment or Hardison, Elliot or Parker.  (In the geeky-banter category, In The Loop has characters mock Toby (Chris Addison) by calling him “Frodo,” “Ron Weasley,” and “baby from Eraserhead.”)

One of my geekeries is politics, specifically organizational behavior and the power of institutions. In The Loop argues that the media/governing apparatus functions as one homeostatic institution, where any demonstration of the pettier human weaknesses (e.g., status-seeking, frustration, lust, loathing) leads to an instant barrage of bad press and gives your enemies leverage. It’s a marvelous system, really, and ultra-efficient: if you think you’ve found some room to maneuver, some opportunity for arbitrage, you’re wrong and your audacity will be punished. It’s a power structure that guards itself against change, and will only ever pay lip service to feminism and anti-racism. A dark vision, but the film left me laughing.

Warning: Sexist and homophobic insults pervade the dialogue from start to finish.This would have bothered me more if I’d thought the insults were more substance than form; the viciousness was so over-the-top that I couldn’t take it seriously. But some people will find it distasteful or triggering.

Software geekery: Late in the film, two users across the Atlantic from each other open their laptops and work on the same document simultaneously, one telling the other via phone what to delete or rearrange. I immediately thought, If only they were using AbiWord’s document-sharing plugin, they could collaborate in realtime using Telepathy integration!

If The West Wing and Star Trek are idealistic, meritocratic wish fulfillment, and In The Loop is a cynical response to West Wing-style idealism, then what’s the bitter-laugh counterpart to Star Trek? Potential candidates:

When it changed (1998?)

Anthropologist Biella Coleman just posted “1998 and the Irish Accent is Why I Study F/OSS”. She quotes a rumination by Don Marti on 1998 as a crucial and strange year in tech:

…there was all this fascinating news and code for 
recruiting new hackers at the same time that there
 was a huge power grab intended to drive hackers out.

Biella tells her own 1998 story as well:

…that was the year I ditched my other project and decided to go with F/OSS for my dissertation….I let the idea go for a few weeks, possibly months until one Very Important Conversation over coffee transpired with an Irish classmate…

So I asked my co-bloggers to tell us whether 1998 was a pivotal year for them, too. For most of us, it was.

Continue reading

Link roundup, 13 August 2009

Fairly recent items from around the web:

Green, by Jay Lake

Green, by Jay Lake

  • The Hathor Legacy reviews and recommends “Green” by Jay Lake, a new fantasy novel about a young, bisexual woman of colour.
  • K. Tempest Bradford on Creating Better Magazines (and Anthologies): “The present and the future of the genre and the community is not just heterosexual, able-bodied, upper or middle-class American or British white males. The future of SF is made up of women and people of color, and people of various cultures and classes, and LGBT folks, and non-Americans and non-Western nationalities (China, India, the Philippines, to name just three).”
  • Editorial work is hard, asshole. “This response to Tempest’s post (above) reads like a list of things I wish had thought to put on the tips for finding women speakers.” – Skud
  • Trigger warning Harriet Jacobs of Fugitivus recounts in Two More Things how a fellow D&D roleplayer of allegedly liberal beliefs made constant misogynist jokes in character.
  • Socialogical Images: a collection of items related to gender and science/tech topics.
  • OTW: two early fan-written Star Trek novels by Jane Land are now available online through the Open Doors project. “Kista (1986), a novel about Christine Chapel, was described by the author as, ‘an attempt to rescue one of Star Trek’s female characters from an artificially-imposed case of foolishness.'”
  • The nonprofit scifi/fantasy magazine Strange Horizons needs to raise about $5500 more in its annual fund drive.  One of the most women-friendly pro markets in our genre: the editors publish more fiction by female than male authors, and have been considering gender issues in SF publishing for a while.
  • Girls have less free time to play video games than boys do.  ”Our findings suggest that one reason women play fewer games than men is because they are required to fulfill more obligatory activities, leaving them less available leisure time.”  Comments from Amanda Marcotte and Hugo Schwyzer.  How many girls get as much free, unstructured time to game and hack as their male counterparts?
  • Blogger rawles suggests that it’s more empowering to see Nyota Uhura get the guy in the new Trek movie than it was for her to be single in the original series.  In mainstream media, “[t]his near total invisibility [of black women] is perhaps the very first thing that I think needs to be understood in any feminist discourse about Uhura, but it seems to be the last thing most people talk about.”

Again, if you see something geek-feminist that we should link to in the next roundup, drop us a comment.