The Perfect Match: Jane Austen Edition

 In my everlasting effort to capture the the magic of Jane Austen’s work, to understand and contain it and eventually to imitate and emulate it, I have drawn up profiles of some of her heroes and heroines that would fit nicely within any modern dating site.

I’ve done this because I often find Austen’s matches to be imperfect, even though they are described as heavenly. Obviously, logic does not apply to matters of the heart (Ron and Hermione, I’m looking at you!)  but still, it seems to me that the woman’s happiness in these matches is often inferior to the man’s. In vain I have struggled to come to terms with this. It will not do. So here, for all of the judgmental gentlemen of Austen’s world, I shall judge them just as harshly. The verdict is as follows.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Help, My Favorite TV Show Is Perpetuating Rape Culture!

“When a subject is highly controversial – and any question about sex is that – one cannot hope to tell the truth. One can only show how one came to hold whatever opinion one does hold.” Virginia WoolfA Room Of One’s Own

I watched Outlander today. Season two, episode seven: Faith. This post contains SPOILERS for Outlander up to that episode. It also contains my opinion on some controversial issues, so be warned. This post is not suitable for minors.

I fear my favorite TV show is perpetuating rape culture. Allow me to clarify. Outlander, its historical setting, its penchant for far-fetched dramatic plot twists and, above all, its swashbuckling hero Jamie Fraser, have conquered a place in my fangirling heart.

Every Tuesday, after the new episode of Outlander has appeared on HBO On Demand, I take an hour to watch it, and this hour is usually entertaining. I end up biting my nails, pulling my hair, and whispering “No, no no this can’t be happening!” each time. All in all, exactly what you want from a television show.

Outlander is notorious for its frank dealings with sexual scenes. To me, this seemed at first to be a selling point. A TV show from a female point of view that has sex scenes in it? A show that depicts women as hot-blooded creatures full of sexual desire? Hell yes. And with a leading man that handsome. HELL YEAH.

The first season of Outlander did not disappoint. There was sex. There was this adorable bit of pillow talk:

Jamie: “Did ye like it?”

Claire: “Yes, I did.”

Jamie: “Oh. I thought ye did, though Murtagh told me that women generally do not care for it, so I should finish as soon as I could.”

Claire: “What would Murtagh know about it?”

(Gasp) Is that…a woman admitting she enjoys sex? On a TV show? Round of applause, ladies and gentlemen.

But the last episode of season one, To Ransom A Man’s Soul, brought a whole new dimension to the dreamlike romantic drama of Outlander. In this episode, everyone’s favorite Scotsman Jamie is tortured both physically and psychologically, and raped by his worst enemy, Captain Randall. There had been the threat of rape before, when Claire was abducted by the Captain, but that time, Jamie had come to the rescue. Then there had been the almost-rape of Jamie’s sister Jenny, which she had averted by getting a fit of the giggles. The resulting scene had been unnerving, to say the least.

Now, in season 2’s seventh episode, Faith, there were two portrayals of rape. In the first, Captain Randall was the perpetrator once more, and the victim was a young boy. The second was when Claire, in exchange for Jamie’s release from prison, allowed the king of France to sleep with her. In a sense, she consented to it. However, she was clearly uncomfortable and dismayed by the act. She expressed later that she felt violated. In my opinion, this type of power play is just as much a rape scene as these other scenes I described above.

Now, you might say that a historical TV show of this caliber has a responsibility to portray history accurately. Denying, for example, the holocaust, or the ill treatment of African slaves, or the poor position of women in 18th century society, is a crime. If we gloss over the nastier parts of world history in this way, we might forget about the mistakes humanity has made, and make them again. I agree with this assessment, and to portray Claire Fraser as a character with the same amount of agency and power as her male counterparts on Outlander, would be a gross denial of the inequality women have faced and fought for centuries.

That said, let me tell you something about rape culture.

Wikipedia states: “Behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, sexual objectification, trivializing rape, denial of widespread rape, refusing to acknowledge the harm caused by some forms of sexual violence, or some combination of these.”

Read the full article here.

The most pervasive of these attitudes in Outlander, I think, is trivializing rape. Rape is just another one of the things considered normal in this brutish society of violence and power play. It is a way to assert dominance, on par with punching someone in the face. The psychological trauma inflicted by rape is often overlooked. For example, Jamie, in my opinion, took an unusually short amount of time to get over the fact that he was raped by Randall.

Jamie does, however, suffer from toxic masculinity, the exceptionally high social pressure put on men within rape culture. To be stronger than his wife, to physically protect her, to sexually satisfy her, to provide for her. His rape is even more shameful than Claire’s, because it makes him submissive in a culture that expects men to be dominant. Yet he allows Randall to rape him in exchange for Claire’s safety, due to the expectation that a husband protects his wife at any cost.

“But it’s a TV show!” you say. “It’s not real. Everybody watching it knows it is fictional, and most people also know that rape was a part of the culture portrayed on the show. We don’t take it all that seriously!”

I disagree. What we see on TV and what we consider normal in real life is closely related. We are, I hope, all aware that rape is not okay. But are we also aware that it isn’t okay for women to use sex as a bartering chip? Are we aware that women and men are equal, and that there is no gender naturally submissive to the other? I’m afraid some of the finer points of equality escape some of those watching Outlander. I am afraid that those of us sexually aroused by lack of consent in sex scenes are slowly starting to consider rape okay.

As long as rape culture is a serious problem in our actual society, any portrayal of behaviors that enforce rape culture in the media are harmful to us all.

21OUTLANDER-master768

From Miffy to Minou: Books From A Dutch Childhood

I am twenty years old, and until quite recently I’d never heard of The Cat In The Hat. I first discovered The Chronicles Of Narnia when it was made into a movie. Harry Potter, as an everlasting worldwide success, is a notable exception, but there’s lots of English children’s literature that I’ve never heard of, because I was raised in The Netherlands.

I’m Dutch. I grew up in Amsterdam. I grew up eating stroopwafels and lots of bright yellow cheese with holes in it and sitting in the front seat of bicycles. If, like me, you are a lover of children’s literature, of its imagination and its loveliness and of all the ways it makes you feel warm and safe inside, here is a list for you. It has all the books on it that I think of when I think of being a child. I have, at one point or another, read all of these in a tent made out of blankets illuminated only by a flashlight, when my dad had said twice already that it was really, really time to go to sleep. They have all been translated into English, so go ahead and read them. Read them to your children. Read them to your grandchildren and your nieces and nephews and the children you babysit.

The books are arranged by the age group I think they’re suitable for, starting with the books meant for the youngest of the young and building up to those timeless classics you’ll still want to read when you’re eighty.

Miffy – Nijntje, by Dick Brunadutch1

I could be wrong, but I think Miffy is internationally famous. On my bookshelf, I have an edition of Miffy translated into Latin, entitled Miffa Ad Mare, so I’m guessing it’s been translated into a bunch of other languages as well. Miffy books are all quite short, and illustrated by simple drawings in primary colors. They include such titles as Miffy Goes To The Beach and Miffy Goes To School. It’s not the originality of the stories so much as it is the style in which they are written, that makes Miffy worthwhile. I can’t judge the English translations as I’ve never read them, but in Dutch every Miffy-book is a delight of concise and clever rhymes.

The Cat Who Came In Off The Roof  – Minoes – Annie M.G Schmidtdutch 2

Annie M.G Schmidt is a household name in The Netherlands, and she should be in your household, too. Minoes is my favorite of her many novels, but perhaps you have heard of Pluk van de Petteflet, (Tow-Truck Pluck), Jip en Janneke (Two Kids from Holland) or her collection of poems, Een Vijver Vol Inkt (A Pond Full of Ink).

Minoes, or as the English translation says, “Minou,” is a cat. She roams deserted rooftops at night, hunts mice and birds, climbs trees to get away from dogs and washes herself with saliva. Until, quite suddenly, she is a lady. From one moment to the next, Minoes becomes a human being. This is great for struggling young newspaper writer Tibbe, “Tibble”, in English, because now Minoes can tell him the breaking news as she hears it from all of the cats in the neighborhood. Soon, the cats’ eavesdropping gets all of them into trouble. In short: this book features a cat turning into a person. What’s not to love?

How To Become King – Koning Van Katoren – Jan Terlouwdutch3

This is probably my favorite Dutch book of all time. I presented it in class when I was ten years old, complete with home-drawn illustrations and a fair amount of blushing and stuttering. This book taught me what a pomegranate was, so I took one to school to show it to my fellow pupils. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one who wouldn’t have recognized a pomegranate if it walked up to me and introduced itself.

The book is about a young guy named Stach. It’s not just you. Even in Dutch, Stach is a funny name, that reminds me both of spinach and of pistachios. Stach lives in Katoren, a country which has been ruled by six bitter secretaries ever since their king died seventeen years ago. Stach wants to end the cabinet’s reign of terror and claim the throne for himself. In order to do so, he has to complete seven difficult and dangerous tasks. With an enthralling combination of cunning and bravery, Stach figures out How To Become King.

The Letter For The King – De Brief Aan De Koning –  by Tonke Dragtdutch4

If you have a taste for adventure, this is the book for you. A sixteen year old boy named Tiuri has sworn to wake in silent contemplation on the night before he is to be knighted. His silence is disturbed by a sudden voice in the dark, a desperate plea for help. Tiuri must deliver a letter to the king, but the road that leads him there is not without peril. Tiuri can’t trust anyone he meets. He has to deliver the letter safely. Most importantly, he has to keep its message secret.

I love this book because it showed me that sometimes obedience isn’t the way to success. Sometimes, you have to break your vow of silence to save the kingdom. You have to disregard the rules in order to do what is right. Seems to me like a great lesson to teach children.

Crusade In Jeans – Kruistocht in Spijkerbroek – Thea Beckmandutch5

Rudolf Hefting takes part in a science experiment. There is a tiny computer error, and Rudolf ends up in the middle of a Children’s Crusade, rather than the tournament of Medieval Knights he was aiming for. Who doesn’t love a time travel story? So now Rudolf is in the Middle Ages, with thousands of children traveling to their Holy Land on foot. The children, of course, are plagued by hunger, exhaustion and illness, and Rudolf has to use his modern knowledge to help them survive.

My knowledge of children’s literature is limited. In the comments, tell me what books defined or brightened your childhood. There’s only one rule: they can’t originally have been English books. I want the books the Spanish were raised on, and the Germans, and the Japanese and the Argentinians and the youth of Zimbabwe.

Best Of Europe

 

Good day everyone,

I’m proud to present to you: my first ever playlist as Frenzied Fangirl.

Playlist? You ask. Yes, I just put together a playlist, especially for you. Some of my friends might remember me having a radio show during the time I spent in York. It was called Later With Jules From Holland, and the general idea was that I presented an hour’s worth of songs each week, all connected to a theme. Since I really enjoyed putting these lists together, here’s another one. This week’s theme is European Music.

I will try to release a new playlist every week. And yes, I am taking requests when it comes to themes. Just please don’t make your requested themes too specific, or limited to one genre or artist, as that would make it more difficult to make and less interesting to listen to.

Enjoy,

Julia

 

 

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother

A Review of Game Of Thrones season 6 episode 4, Book Of The Stranger

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

My interest in Game Of Thrones, I am ashamed to say, had been dwindling for some time. I couldn’t get excited about the plot twists I anticipated, and the ones I didn’t anticipate failed to properly surprise me. The show seemed to move towards resolution with a tedious slowness, and I was finding it harder and harder to pay attention. Until now. It seems Game Of Thrones, having separated book-plot and tv-plot, is picking up the pace. 

In this show as I have come to know and love it, there’s always something to strive for, something to root for. We want Brienne to kill Stannis and avenge Renley. We want Sansa to escape the terrible Lord Bolton. We want Jon to not be dead. We want all of the Stark siblings to reunite in a tearful but beautiful moment.

This Sunday, we got at least part of our wish. When Sansa reached Castle Black and saw her brother Jon for the first time in over five freakin’ seasons, I was filled with the kind of joy only well-written plots suffused with character development can bring you. Because Sansa was so glad. And she was so, so sorry for having been a brat. And then, to top it all off, she was a complete badass, making sure Jon would be motivated to take back Winterfell.

As a matter of fact, women being badass seemed to be something of a theme in this episode. There was Sansa, encouraging Jon to fight for Rickon and for Winterfell. There was Margaery, telling her seriously messed-up brother Loras not to give up, and there was Yara Greyjoy, who is going to be the first ever female ruler of The Iron Islands. That is, if her brother Theon has anything to say about it.

Of course the final scene of the episode was the best. One of the best, perhaps, that I have ever seen on this show. Daenerys killing her captors and would-be rapists by simply tipping over a few torches, all the while smiling like the cat who got the cream? Give me more scenes like that, please. Give me a full hour-long episode of Daenerys being a badass lady, and the occasional sibling dialogue where the sisters are telling the brothers to toughen up.

For the first time in quite a while, I was genuinely excited to see these plots unfold, because they were seducing all of my favorite characters with the things they so desperately want. Jon and Sansa need to take Winterfell back. Either the Tyrell siblings or the Lannister siblings need to take a stand against that awful High Sparrow, do us all a favour, and wring his neck. Brienne, it appears,  needs to get herself a boyfriend.

brienne tormund

It boils down to this: the writers have given us, and all of our favorite characters, a little bit of what we want in this episode, and like the true bingewatching junkies we are, it has only made us desperate for more. Way to go!

Why I Hated “Me Before You” And What You Should Read Instead

When I bought Me Before You at my local Waterstones, I was in a bad mood. I was sad and despondent and pessimistic about the world. Bombs were being thrown on the city of Brussels, which is not that far from where I live, in Amsterdam. So I went in and picked out a book that looked like it would cheer me up; the lettering was in bright pink and the book came highly recommended.

That was my first mistake. Never buy a book when you are looking for emotional support. For me, fictional friends and worlds are one of the most important sources of solace, but the familiar peaceful feeling of losing yourself in a book cannot be found in a bookshop. That feeling comes in little bursts of energy from books you read as a child, characters you have known for years and stories your mother used to read to you when you had the flu.Me Before You

Yet I brought my copy of Me Before You home, and eagerly started reading. Less than twenty-four hours later I was finished and just about ready to kill someone, or myself. Just in case I have not yet convinced you that this is a book best left to stay on the shelf forever, be warned that there are spoilers ahead.

If you haven’t read it and aren’t planning to, here’s what happens: A twenty-something named Louisa is hired to provide care for a thirty-two year old man who lost the use of his body from the neck down after a terrible traffic accident. Louisa soon finds out that this man, Will, is planning to have himself euthanized in six months unless someone manages to change his minds. So Lou conceives of ways to broaden his horizons, to convince him that life is meaningful and worthwhile, even when you can no longer use your legs to climb a mountain or skydive out of an airplane over the Grand Canyon. In spite of all of Louisa’s efforts and the fact that she and Will eventually fall in love, he still chooses to end his life.

Now is probably the time to mention that I, myself, have lived my whole life with a disability that limits me in small ways. I can walk, I can swim, I can cycle, I can even, when chased by hungry monsters, run a little, but I can do none of these things as well as the able-bodied can and I’m used to it. For me, it has always been this way. For Will Traynor, the rich, entitled over-achieving protagonist of Me Before You, disability is an unexpected hurdle he is not willing to jump. His problem is one of acceptance, rather than actual health. If Will had somehow come to terms with his limitations, if he had gotten his head out of his arse for long enough to take in what the whole world was telling him, he may well have chosen to live.

This is what the world, and Louisa, said: Will had not lost the ability to feel joy. Instead, he had allowed himself to feel bitter. He had not lost his capacity for empathy or affection. Instead, he decided to define romance by the mainstream rulebook of the able-bodied, and in doing so, declared himself incapable of love. He had not lost everything that made life worthwhile. Instead, he decided that the only worthwhile things were the ones he could no longer do. It was the state of his mind, not his body, that killed him.

I despise the idea of romantic love saving you from depression or hopelessness. I despise Bella Swan and her childish inability to be her own person, separate from Edward the sexy vampire, and to find happiness within herself. I despise the codependent stranglehold some stories call true love. But Louisa didn’t expect Will to live for her. She never asked him to. She wanted to show him that there were plenty of reasons he should live for himself. She gave him a computer to communicate with the outside world. She gave him music, which he could still listen to, and literature, which he could still enjoy, and conversation and laughter and a view of the sunset. She gave him the sand between his toes and the water of a swimming pool to float in. In return, he spat her in the face.

Since I don’t just want to tell you what not to read, here are some recommendations for great books that deal with the same themes as Me Before You, but handle these issues in a more sensitive way. If it is tear-jerking romance you’re after, take out your copy of The Fault In Our Stars. Try The Notebook. Actually, try any book by Nicholas Sparks. If you want something a bit more hefty, read Ian McEwan’s Atonement. I found Atonement to be so gripping and devastatingly tragic that I’ve never finished it. I was afraid I could not bear the ending.

If you want to read a lighthearted yet truthful book about disability, try Wonder, by R.J. Palacio. If you’re really desperate for ugly crying, read Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life. Never have I read a book that deals with disability in a more honest and respectful way. A Little Life never belittles the suffering of the disabled, or pities their shortcomings. In it, Yanagihara respects that disabled people are complex of mind and body, and that although their disability adds to this complexity, it never defines their character.

If, like I did, you just want an optimistic read to cheer you up, I’d recommend Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day, by Winifred Watson. Once the book has put a smile on your face, watch the equally uplifting movie adaptation. Miss Pettigrew and the unlikely shenanigans of her social circle are truly a delight.

Most importantly, whether you are living with an able or disabled body, choose not to be like Will Traynor. Choose to find joy and strength in the world around you, in the pleasures that are at your disposal. “You only get one life. It’s actually your duty to live it as fully as possible,” says Will to Louisa. Too bad he couldn’t live by this wisdom, but decided to die for it instead.