Thursday, August 2, 2018

Disability & Working: Messy Feelings

Warning: This blog post contains personal introspection of mental health, mentions of ableism, internalized ableism, emotional abuse, and suicidal ideation. Oh, also rambling.

Hey folks, I haven’t been super active on here lately & that is because I have been super busy. Like busier than I have in a long time, I have a job again, and many other adult things I've set in motion. Something I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to have for the last year. This development has been...interesting...

For the first time in years I am able to do this, have a job I mean. This is largely due to finally being on anti-depressants that:
1. Don’t give me debilitating headaches/migraines.

2. Have actually greatly lessened the weight of my depression & anxiety.

For those who follow me on twitter for the past year may remember my various tweets talking about the awful pain I was in. And before the migraines and twitter, going to work induced a lot of panic attacks & just downward spiraling of my mental health. There were other circumstances that made having a job impossible, one being I burnt myself out during my last job (which was 2 years ago). I really should not have been working especially not at that particular place, but was forced to by an emotional abuser who decided that working was better than prioritizing my own health.
Capitalism + Ableism convinces people of that all the time.

By the time I left I was suffering from suicidal ideation, though was fortunate to realize I needed help, which I sought. I'll save the memories of getting that help another day.
Anyway, here I am again doing what I’m..."suppose" to do. Not only do I have a job, but I'm also starting classes in the fall, only a month from now. I've been doing a lot of adult things in the last couple months, and mostly on my own. I applied for medicaid, choose and met my new doctor, registered and paid for classes, dating, and got this new job. I've been able to remember to get refills for my medication on time. All of these things have been tasks I've greatly struggled to accomplish, or stick to on a regular basis, not just when I had migraines but since before I was a legal adult.

I've gotten some mixed responses to doing all of this, and plenty of my own mixed feelings on it. There are people I wish were proud of me, and some I feel are a little too proud. Both are for the same reason, the deeply ingrained sentiment that being disabled and unable to work is a horrible moral failure. Although I know it's a damaging belief, and have come to learn through years of my own experience and from the voices of disabled activists...the feelings of shame still weigh on me at the same time I berate myself for those feelings.

Especially since I'm surrounded everyday by ableism everyday. Social media has been one of the few ways to connect with people that relate to me and provide counter thoughts to the ableism I've been raised in. I'm not sure if I'd still be here without it.

I have other feelings about working again, I'm excited to have a regular income rather than cleaning family member's homes, or occasional dogsitting for a little bit of spending money. 

You know what I'm really looking forward to? Once those people calm down about how happy they are about me working again, I WON'T HAVE TO GET PROBING QUESTIONS ABOUT IF I'M WORKING OR WHY I'M NOT WORKING!...But then I feel sad about that too mixed with the relief. It's frustrating to do even just partly do a thing not because it's good for me, or something I genuinely want to do...but in the hopes I will be less judged. My worth as a person is more than on whether or not I can work, and I wish a lot of people in my life realized that. They don't even realize they're doing it.  

Then there is the anxiety regarding my limitations and needs as an Autistic adult trying to keep the job I've earned. I choose not to disclose being Autistic or mention. accommodations I may need during the interview or the first few days of work. I want to be more open about my truth, but I have to be careful about when and how I do that. I once made the mistake of asking about accommodations for exams in a full classroom with my professor and I instantly heard scoffing from classmates and was given dirty looks.

Still I try to live my truth if I can, it's not always safe, but I hope when it is safe I can help destigmatize autism and the misconceptions around it. Though I'm not always a good judge, and yes I'm aware possibly being harassed online or maybe even stalked are a possibility when having a platform online.

I already made the mistake of mentioning my blog and twitter to a coworker after they told me they were a youtuber. Now I'm paranoid about them reading this and potentially telling other coworkers or our bosses. Not because I assume they'd maliciously do that, but fear the possibility of so or even just out me by mistake. Hi coworker if you're reading this! 😰

Look I'm putting myself at risk of shit right now, but I can't help myself cause I want to share myself! I just want the world to see me for who I really am and accept me! Spilling my guts out is something I've done since early childhood, like a pathological need to reject the masks people wanted me to wear.

I have been able to talk to one of my managers about being Autistic since I started, as I privately asked if I could wear my ear protection when working in the back as some of the noise back there can be overstimulating.

Here is a picture of the kind of ear protection I wear sometimes.

I was allowed to use them, the manager said she'd let the other managers know I'd be wearing them when back there, and this gave me some hope. But yesterday...I was being trained for a different task, and I nearly had an Autistic meltdown from both lots of noise and interacting with lots of people at once. I tried to help myself, I went to another manager, and asked if I there was something else they could have me do. Their response...was not helpful.

"Well...I guess I could but you only have a couple more hours here and you have someone helping you. And it'll go by really fast."

Their tone wasn't harsh, it was mostly encouraging however still clear that if I insisted it would not look good on me.

We were not in a private place for me to really get into why I needed to be moved and my anxiety already fairly high, so having that conversation was just not possible in that state. I was on the verge of tears and terrified that maybe they didn't know and might react badly to my explanation. Reluctantly I said sure, and walked back to my station to continue working, which did not go by fast.

Honestly I'm not sure if I should try another time to explain what was going on with me, they could be understanding like the other manager, or be misinformed. Worst case scenario I could very well be fired, like many of my fellow Autistic people have been fired after disclosing being Autistic. All they'd have to do to justify doing so would claim some other reason for doing so outside of being Autistic. There is a reason why unemployment rates for Autistic adults are very low.  

So anyhow, up until yesterday work was going pretty smoothly for me, hopefully the managers will see that I wasn't a good fit for that
particular task and keep to work where more in where my strengths lie. But...if they don't I'm not sure what I'll do. I know putting me in a situation where my mask has to be firmly placed on during high stress is detrimental for my mental health. Especially for long periods of time at a regular basis. Yes in theory I can simply put in a two week notice, but past experience taught me that comes with a lot of people being disappointed, frustrated, and angry with me. Sometimes abusive.

Yes, even with people who know I'm Autistic, have chronic depression, and are very familiar with these pieces of me, they're convinced I couldn't or shouldn't be like those "other" ones. Hoping for the possibility I'll grow out of it, or just be not be so Autistic or depressed it actually effects my everyday life and instead just be kind of "quirky," or "blue." 

I hope that this post helps give anyone going through something similar, some validation in knowing they're not alone. Your disability accommodations deserve to be met. But you are also enough just as you are, and are deserving of love. Even though your family and friends say or imply otherwise. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Thoughts on Jessica Jones Season 2

Hello everyone! So sorry I haven't posted here in so long. Been having a lot of issues with my mental health that are finally becoming manageable enough that I can write again! Onward to my thoughts on Jessica Jones! Gonna refer to it as J.J. from here on! Many spoilers ahead!

When the first season of J.J. premiered, I liked it a lot on my initial first viewing and still have been able to for the most part some several rewatches later. I greatly appreciated it's depiction of abusive relationships and the different lasting effects it can have on victims/survivors. Unfortunately this depiction was very white feminist, by centering overwhelmingly around it's white female characters and often at the expense of it's few characters of color. 

For a better summation and review of the first season I highly recommend watching Marina Watanabe's video on it, before further reading my thoughts on the second season. You should also totally subscribe to her channel, and follow her on twitter if you don't already.  

As I was saying, I did like the first season in spite of the white feminism. I was hoping that by the second season the people behind the show would've considered audience feedback and made improvements...that's not what happened here. In fact trying to rewatch the second season for writing this post actually pissed me off while watching, and I had to take breaks to cool down. Not only does the show double down on it's white feminism, it added a whole lot of other harmful bullshit to perpetuate. Which I will now list. 

Continued abuse of characters of color.

This is where the doubling down happens, as several black characters in the first season were either abused or killed off by white characters. Last season ALL of the notable black characters including Luke Cage, Malcolm Ducasse, Reva Connors, and Detective Oscar Clemons. The only person of color to survive unscathed is Claire Temple played by Rosario Dawson. 

This season...oh boy...

Malcolm Ducasse...again, this poor guy just can't get a break. He coops with his trauma and drug addiction from the first season via throwing himself into working for Jessica and having lots of no strings attached sex. The hell he goes through this time is primarily through the character Trish Walker, who is Jessica's BF and foster sister. It starts with Malcolm discovering that Trish has become addicted to a drug that temporarily gives her enhanced strength, and in order to placate him she sleeps with him. Then further down the road she nearly causes him to relapse by coercing him into taking the drug himself. She claims it's to help him recover from injuries, but really she wants him hooked so he won't reveal her addiction to Jessica or anyone else that could intervene. Luckily after initially taking the drug, he doesn't fall down that path with her. But being manipulated by her does continue, and she even assaults him! Jessica doesn't even extend compassion for him when she figures out whats going on, rather she chastises him! Wtf?!

Pryce Cheung, is a new character that serves as an antagonist (although not the main one), by first wanting to buy out Jessica's PI business and later outright steal her clients. All of which I believe is legal albeit not ethical in the least (correct me if I'm wrong). Now Jessica has never been one to try and solve her problems in a reasonable she beats the shit out of him within the first episode. 0_0 Show even implies she was seriously considering killing him, but backs out at the last minute. Yes Pryce is a bad guy here, but that doesn't absolve Jessica of her actions. Hell it makes his later actions understandable! What's worse is the assault is served to give Jessica inner I need to explain why its fucked up to use the body of a character of color as a literal punching bag to further "develop" a white character?         

Detective Ruth Sunday...this show likes to abuse men of color, but black women? They're not even allowed to live. Last season it was Reva Connor (Luke Cage's wife) and this time it's Ruth. Up until she is dramatically killed by the main antagonist the only character we learn about her is her distrust in Jessica. Which frankly, is proven rightfully so over and over.  

On to my next problem with this season...


So remember how I mentioned Jessica assaulted a POC cause he threatened her business in the very first episode? Well in the second episode she assaults a wheelchair user, and even throws him out of his wheelchair. But Julia, he did hit her with a baton and grab her in a choke hold? He got out his baton cause Jessica crashed his friend's funeral under false pretenses, and was snooping around his home, plus the dude died under suspicious circumstances. So not only does she have the strength to simply disarm the guy without literally throwing him, she could've easily avoided the confrontation altogether by gee I don't know offer her services as a PI and get answers that way? 

Before I go further into the ableism of the show, I'd like to say that there is some disability representation that's not complete garbage, and you should check out Imani Barbarin's compelling take on it. You should also follow her on twitter!    

Previously J.J. has depicted mental illness particularly PTSD in a nuanced and sensitive way that resonated with a lot of viewers, especially victims/survivors of abuse. This time around...ok so this season Jessica has inner turmoil as mentioned before, she's grappling with her actions in the previous season when she had to execute Killgrave. Then you know...she beat the shit out of Pryce Cheung for interfering with her business. So Jessica is starting to believe she is a monster for these actions, and I do absolutely believe Killgrave needed to die. There was no other way of stopping him. Her assault of Cheung? Pretty indefensible. Anyway, this theme is a thread brought up over and over again in the plot. 

Most notably when Jessica discovers that her mother Alisa Jones is alive, has the same powers as her, literal brain damage, and similar PTSD due to the car crash that killed the rest of the Jones family. She also makes Jessica's anger issues look minuscule by comparison. Alisa can't even handle a baby crying without destroying a piano. 

This character murders several people, and so serves as a mirror to Jessica as what she could possibly become. The show wants the audience to feel Alisa doesn't have control of her actions due to everything she'd been through and the damage done to her brain. So this would make her a disabled character, and...she is inarguabley dangerous to everyone around her. An incredibly harmful stereotype that mentally ill people have been fighting against for a very long time. 


It's not even believable that Alisa has "no control" of her actions! With the exception of a few instances where her aggression is done on impulse, most of her murdering is very carefully calculated and planned so she won't be caught. In the very, very, VERY rare cases when mentally ill (or mentally disabled in some other way) people have hurt others because of their illness they didn't have the mental faculties to thoroughly plan out their actions beforehand.  

Worst the end she is killed in order to stop her. Ending the season with the implication that disabled people should be euthanized. Oh hi eugenics! Not unlike the harmful and reckless conclusion to other works such as Of Mice and Men. 

Moving on...

Repeated Plot 

Once Alisa Jones shows up in the story, the plot becomes strikingly similar to the same beats as the first season. Like she did with Killgrave, Jessica tries to capture her mother and turn her in to the authorities. But then grapples with the possibility that Alisa could be rehabilitated, and so use her powers for good! Another recycled characterization from is the revelation that Alisa got her powers due to non-consensual experimentation on her, and was done so in order to save her life.  

By the gods, Trish does some reprehensible shit! Jessica did too obviously as I've just touched on them paragraphs before, but by comparison I'd rather take my chances with her than Trish. Now...I don't completely hate this idea, I know she's suppose to become the anti-hero Hell Cat, and so this is her fall from grace leading to that persona. I like a good fallen hero! 

But...uh never do I believe Trish does the abusive shit she pulls for altruistic reasons. Rather they're for her own ambitions, and helping others is a convenient excuse for her actions. Now all said actions do fit in with her established character; she feels powerless to resist victimization and therefore seeks empowerment even at the expense of people she claims to love. Her history of being abused by her mother, and victimized by Killgrave gives a believable context to her actions. She even says towards the end, "have you ever felt powerless" when asked why she wants super powers. 

I myself, and many other abuse victims/survivors can relate to feeling powerless. Many of us post being abused or assaulted, seek out way to regain control over our lives the way Trish herself did in the first season. Learning self defense tactics, carrying mace, and even sets up her home with hyper security tech. But despite all that, she still was nearly killed by a someone being mind-controlled by Killgrave. It's a scary reality that even when we do everything "right" or "supposed" to do, we're still vulnerable to abuse. You would think that Trish learned that after everything that happened to her and Jessica.

Trish's pursuit is not only misguided, it's just plain wrong! The very person she resents for having power, that being Jessica, doesn't have immunity from abuse anymore than she does! But she's too caught up in her own feelings, to consider this very visible reality for Jessica. 

Trish isn't a fallen hero, she is much like Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequels in that she's fitting into her inevitable proper place. Many others have also commented that she seems to be an embodiment of a white feminist, rather than seek to dismantle the systems that caused her oppression she'd rather seek to become equal to the oppressors. And further oppress other marginalized people in the pursuit of that equality.    

So those are my thoughts on the show's second season, and I'm honestly done with the show altogether. What did you think of it? Do you agree with my take? Are your feelings different from mine? Did you see something harmful I missed?  

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Loss & Grief : Animals

The year 2017 has truly proven to be possibly even worse than it's predecessor 2016, both on a political and personal level for myself. I'll save the gorey details of 2016 in terms of my personal life for a later blog post, when I'm ready to share. Right now, I just want to process some very real grief I'm going through. Maybe it'll serve a similar catharsis for people who've experienced similar loss. 

Four nights eldest of three kitties Daisy passed away rather suddenly...and she was not the only loss of a beloved animal in my life. I'm genuinely feeling rather numb to it at this point. I'm hoping talking about these sweet creatures will help me get out of the shock and kind of denial phase of grief. So I'm going to share pictures and memories of all four of these animals, saving Daisy for last.

The first passing was of a kitty named Kitty-well her original name I'm told was Butterscotch, but it didn't stick- and I had known her since I was a little girl. The exact age I cannot recall, I do remember she was just a kitten. 

This picture is of her from the last time we met in I think October, I was looking after her while my Aunty and cousins (Kitty's humans) were on vacation. You can see by her coloring why she was originally named Butterscotch. Very pretty.

We did not really get along until my teens, when I was little she was rightfully afraid of young and overexcited me. Plus I did not respect nor fully grasp personal boundaries like many children at the time. Kitty didn't get along well with any children actually, cause 

She did not like to be touched on her back or bum, all affection had to be restricted to the top of her head and ears. Also never try to hold her, never. When I eventually learned and respected this, Kitty was very sweet and communicated pretty well when she'd had enough without biting or scratching. Believe me you did not want to feel her bite. Ow!

Kitty was semi-feral as her mother was a wild cat, and she was adopted by humans when still a kitten. Being an indoor pet was not a real option for her, she was determined to room and hunt outside. 

When I still lived next door to my Aunt and cousins, she actually would come over of her own accord to visit me on my porch a couple years before I moved. Mind that I lived next door for about five years before she did this. 

In her last days her joints were in a great deal of pain, and she became incontinent. So her suffering was relieved and she left this plain. 

Kitty taught me that love can grow between those who didn't start off exactly loving each other, with patience, and growth it can still blossom in time. Now if only I could do that with my human relationships.  

Thank you Kitty. I love you. Farwell. 

The next critter that left this world fairly recently was another cat, his name was Jack, and he was a purebred Siamese belonging to my step-maternal grandparents who I call Bigmama and Bigpapa. I often called him Jack-Jack, like the baby from The Incredibles.

Jack was a very loud cat, whenever he entered a room he let everyone know of his arrival with the loudest meows. 

Like Kitty, he too did not care for children though so long as they remained calm and gentle he tolerated them. I was a little older when he entered my life, so we got on pretty well from the start. 

He was a fairly muscular feline, close to I'd guess twenty pounds when I held him. 

My Bigmama is a wheelchair user, and has her own elevator she uses in her home. Jack LOVED the elevator almost as much as she does, the door opened and he joined whoever went in. He'd rub up against your leg as he watched the clear doorway going up or down. 

He also loved to be brushed, lay on Bigmama's lap, or sunbath on the sheep skin rug upstairs. Also enjoyed a good belly rub, but he'd get overly excited from stimulation and want to rough house from too much belly rubbing. 

Old age, and illness were deteriorating his quality of life and so his pain also had to be ended. I nearly started instant sobbing when Bigpapa told me casually so during a family gathering, but I held it together till I was driving home sometime later. 

                                                        Such pretty baby blues right?

I love you Jack-Jack. Sleep well.

This next fur baby is difficult to write about, because she past just a week before Daisy's death, so my emotions over it are much more raw than the previous two. So shit, I'm probably going to start blubbering as I digress into the pureness that was my niece Tootse. Toots. Tootsebelle. Tootsier.  

Tootse was another pet of my Aunt and cousins, the same who owned Kitty.

She was a cheagle, a mix breed of beagle and chihuahua. The beagle genes showed most in her coloring, size, hound smell, and soft floppy ears. If you howled, she'd howled along with you. Her chihuahua side expressed more in her excitement, and nervous nature. 

Whenever a I approach her home she barked, or perhaps more accurate she yipped with excitement until they finally entered the door. Then she'd skitter to them, jump onto her hind legs and scratch me for affection. She did this with all visitors, as she was pretty much always happy and excited to see everyone so long as she already knew them. 

 Introducing Tootse to new people required some care, she often peed from a combo of fear and excitement. She was calmer if I held her like a human baby in my arms, and of course advising the person I'd introduce her to, to be calm themselves. 

She also was a super cuddle bug, like me so we got along from the very beginning. A kisser too, loved to lick faces and I loved to oblige her. 

Tootsebelle was a master of getting what she wanted, she was very self aware of her own adorableness. She knew how to get her belly rubs, see this pic below of her spreading her soft belly out for me. 

No one could resist this! No one!

One of her favorite treats was hot Cheetos, yes I just said this dog liked to eat hot Cheetos. She also enjoyed fast food, the last couple times I dogsat her I got her a McChicken or Mcdouble. I also let her clean my dinner plate clean when I was finished. 
This pick is of Tootse licking what was left of potatoes, cheddar, and smoky links. She enjoyed it very much.

She also got along well with another pet of mine now gone for a couple years, my Greyhound Rock a By Tunes, Tunes for short. Tootse and Tunes, even flows well and sounds adorable together. I sadly have no pictures of them together, so trust me when I say they were a cute pair. They would snuggle together, and outside they'd take turns chasing each other around the pool. I'll talk about Tunes more in depth in a different post someday.

Tootse also enjoyed being cradled, great position for belly rubs.

Ok, I feel the waterworks wanting to break free, but yet they won't. I hate this inbetween of stoic numbness yet feeling tears that won't quit form. PICK AN EMOTION BRAIN! Am I numb, or am I falling apart!? This strange feeling of both is very frustrating!

Anyway, Tootse had for some few years developed these little fatty benign tumors on her body, until one of them was no longer benign. She had surgery to get rid of it, but sadly it came back within a short couple months after. Everyone was hoping she'd last till after Christmas, however the tumor suddenly decided to grow faster than it originally was...and Tootse's quality of life rapidly deteriorated within a few days. So her loving human family took her together to the vet, and ended her pain.

This photo is the last time I saw Tootsiers, I fed her a many burgers, smoky links, cheese, and whatever else she wanted knowing she wasn't going to be on this plain much longer.

I love you Tootse, sleep well.

Ok...the last Mom and I's beloved Daisy, our calico green eyed beauty.

Oh what would you do with a dollar? A dollar? A Daisy! Remember that commercial for Daisy brand sour cream, we often sang that to her.

We met Daisy when I was roughly ten years old, at a Pet's Mart store in Illinois with my Mom. We originally went there looking to adopt a kitten, and we did find one, while Daisy was in the cage beside the litter. Mom was taken by those big green eyes, and loving personality almost instantly. So we took the kitten Jan, and Daisy out of their cages and let them sniff each other to see if they'd get along.

Daisy instantly snatched Jan's face, we all gasped thinking she was being aggressively but then sighed with relief and joy to see that she was grooming the baby like it was her own. That was that, we had to have them both! A couple days later we took them home. 
It took some time for them to get used to their new home, as we already had a cat, and a big dog. We kept them in Mom's office for...I don't remember how long? Allowing them to get used to each other's smells before meeting face to face, as one is supposed to when introducing pets to new pets.

One day going into the office to give them some affection, I found Jan suckling on Daisy. Of course Daisy had no milk, but she purred happy to be Jan's pacifier. When I told my Mom and nanny they didn't believe me at first, till I brought them into the room to see for themselves. Somewhere I have pictures of Jan trying to nurse on Daisy, but they're packed away in boxes somewhere and I don't know where they are.

Though I do have a few more recent pictures of them together on hand. Here's one! ^

Daisy and Jan were truly inseparable, they loved each other very, very much. It's funny because Daisy never bonded with another cat, we've had other cats since and she never gave them anything more or less than a hostile hiss to them. Mom and I agree that they were meant for each other.

Mom believes Jan had already made peace with Daisy's passing before it ever happened, as her surrogate mama had been ill for some time.

As for my other fur baby Kindle, eh, they tolerated each other at the best of times. Daisy never let Kindle bully her and was quick to swipe back whenever they clashed. Though I do think there was some mutual if not begrudging respect between them too.

Daisy loved people, every visitor whether they be friend, family, or even foe she greeted with sweet meows and rubbed against their legs. She enjoyed be held too, either cradled like a baby, or positioned so she could squeeze her paws over shoulders to hug back. Like in this next picture!

Daisy was often noted for her beauty, her calico coloring with green eyes really popped out to people. An artist friend of ours was once so inspired by her they did a pastel drawing of her once.

In the last year I noticed Daisy was becoming thinner, and thinner until I finally took her to the vet some time in late September. The vet was kind and patient with me, and had my kitty go throw a series of quick tests; blood, urine, x-ray, and ultrasound. Eventually she and the techs discovered she had a few things going on with her, she had some mild kidney disease, a gallbladder infection, and a mass growing on her liver (may/may not have been cancer).

The first attempts at treatment for all these alignments was through pills, which worked for awhile via crushing and then mixing them in her wet food. Until she decided she wouldn't eat her wet food anymore, even when we stopped putting the medicine in it. She also became very lethargic, which scared Mom and I.

So back to the vet for a follow up and of course her test results come out even worse. This time the vet prescribes steroids shots and liquid antibiotics for Daisy, and we have much more success with them. 

She was doing better there for about a month and a half, personality came back and she ate a ton. We let her eat everything to fatter her up, she was barely over five pounds and the vet wanted her to gain at least one pound by the next follow up appointment. Sausage. Chicken. Fish. Ham. She even ate chicken nuggets! 

But then those four nights ago happened...she kept hiding, and wouldn't eat or drink. Which was more than concerning as she loved to drink whatever fresh water was about the house, usually not hers. Mom and I fishes her out from behind the couch at one point, though it didn't occur to me she was going to leave us that very night.

Mom set her up in her little hut next to her on the couch, throughout the evening Daisy made soft yet sad tiny meows that frightened us. Yet the thought of her death was not on my mind, I only considered she'd need to go to the vet again the next day. Total denial.

At about eleven my Mom felt the need to hold Daisy close just as I was going to bed, and I gave them both a kiss before heading upstairs. About 20 minutes later, Mom called me downstairs and told me our Sweet Daisy was dying.

Fortunately it happened quickly, a couple of seizures and wheezing for about a minute then gone. I am so thankful her suffering was minimal, and she was in Mom's loving arms when it happened. She went knowing she was deeply loved, after a long comfortable and happy life.

The last few days without her here have been easier than I thought they'd be, as I'd been dreading her death since her initial diagnosis. The house feels empty without her though. I miss her.

Goodbye Sweet Daisy. I love you so, so very much. 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

A Look at the film Penelope (Part 1)

I want to talk about a film that in the past I absolutely loved, but now have more mixed feelings about after rewatching it a couple days ago. Penelope, starring the amazing Christina Ricci, directed by Mark Palansky, and currently holds a 53% on Rotten Tomatoes. 
I remember when this film came out in 2006, and wanting to see it very much due to my adoration of Ricci. But also because it was clearly a modern fairy tale, and I have an affinity for fairy tales. They are my bread and butter! 


Being a modern fairy tale it attempts to have modern sensibilities regarding conventional beauty, notions of love, & coming of age. In some regards I think it succeeds, and it's left wanting. 

But before I get into that, let me fill you in on the story. 

Spoilers ahead! Also, TRIGGER WARNING! References to suicide and abusive parenting ahead!

The film opens fittingly with "Once upon a time..."

Protagonist Penelope Wilhern and her adult self is narrating as this happens:

My parents were born into the good life. Old money, blue-blooded, society sweethearts. Having played host to kings and queens and other powers that be, they were used to gracing the pages of society columns. So they welcomed attention on what they supposed would be the happiest days of their lives.

This is important framing, because it helps inform the audience why in fact this day will in fact be far from the happiest day of their lives. Particularly for Penelope's mother Jessica, who I hate.

Then she gives us the backstory of the proverbial shoe that's about to drop:

But local legend had it that a curse was put on the Wilhern family, when my great-great-great-grandfather Ralph, had a fling with Clara, a lowly servant girl. When he told his family of his plans to marry Clara, he realized how silly he'd been. Clara was after all, just a servant girl. So Ralph married someone more suitable, and Clara fell off a cliff.

Those last few words contradict what is actually shown on screen, Clara did not fall like it was an accident. She committed suicide. I'm literally only 2:16 minutes into the film and I've watched an impoverished woman take her own life. Which don't worry I'm not gonna show.

Penelope's obviously regurgitating the story given to her by her parents, who are more concerned with how this backstory affected them than the woman that you know....died. So they neglected the details of history that painted the Wilhern ancestors in a harsher light.

Like how the ruling class in our real world likes to rewrite history to paint themselves. I'm looking at you Thanksgiving!

This is Clara btw, who never speaks:
Oh, and she is also very, very pregnant. So she didn't just take her own life due to heartbreak, she's been abandoned to not only further poverty but also raising a child on her own that her society will most definitely shun her for. -_- Note I'm making assumptions on this that are implied visually by the film but it's never said outright.

Had to take pictures with my phone, cause there aren't many to come by via google. Which shows how little this film is remembered or talked about since it's initial release. Though I feel that is a shame, despite it's flaw I see a lot of potential.

Clara is never mentioned again after the backstory is explained.
Anyway, we haven't finished the backstory yet:

That night, Clara's mother, the town witch, came to the Wilhern house seeking revenge. She wanted these blue-bloods to feel the pain of rejection her daughter felt and commanded that the next Wilhern daughter be born with the face of a pig.

Picture of the witch above and below her exact words:

And only when one of her own kind claims this daughter as their own, till death do they part, will the curse be broken!

So we have here the setting up of a modernized Beauty & the Beast, but with gender roles reversed. This is not the first time we've seen this spin on the classic, Shrek did this with Princess Fiona. That said, there is another subtle reference (maybe unintentional) to a different fairy tale. I'll get to that later. 

I'm questioning the motives of the witch here, I mean she's understandably pissed however I'm concerned about her methods of revenge. 

The Wilherns are responsible for Clara's demise because Ralph abused his power and privilege over her. I'll be charitable and assume he initially promised to take responsibility for the pregnancy by marrying her. Which would have given her financial security to raise their child, and saved her reputation. After all unwed mothers, especially impoverished ones (be even worse for Clara if she wasn't white) have and still are not treated kindly by our culture. Because a woman's sexuality is often policed by the patriarchy. When Ralph told his family, they pressured him to abandon her and he gave in thus dooming Clara. He would've gone on with his privilege as a wealthy man without consequence for his actions. 

Where in all that did that have anything to do with Clara's perceived beauty? Seems more of a class issue than about conventional beauty standards? Do you see what I'm getting at?THE THEMES THIS FILM WANTS TO PUSH DON'T MATCH THE SET UP OF THE STORY!

I'm all for the witch doing some chaotic good! But...why not just punish Ralph the sleazebag and his shit family more immediately? Like take the Wilhern's privilege and power away some how? Or! Curse them in a way that would teach them a lesson about not abusing others? Teach them how to use their privilege for the good of people less privileged? We'll actually see at the end of the film that her own powers exceed outside of cursing people, so she could perhaps had the ability to do one of those suggestions.

This curse doesn't serve to teach a real lesson to the shit family as a whole. Only will directly affect and teach one person, as well as a handful of people indirectly. None of which will relate to the circumstances that led Clara to her death, and the witch's grief.

Moving on I'm not going to quote every single bit of narration, or this post will take waaay too long to write. So I'm going to quickly summarize that the next five generations of Wilherns were all sons because plot convenience. With one daughter which uh-oh is not actually a Wilhern, she's a Jones! Cause the wife was cheating! Haha isn't it funny!? I mean we just skimmed over a woman killing herself less than a minute ago!

I think the filmmakers realized how dark the opening was, so they tried to fly through it as quickly as possible hoping no one would notice? They wanted this to be a romantic comedy, but also kept the traditional dark elements fairy tales are associated with. This is a tone problem that is present throughout the narrative. 

Warning, there will be yet another reference to suicide in the film.

So Penelope is born as the first Wilhern girl since the curse was cast, and thus she was born with the face of a pig. Or more Penelope is assigned female at birth, and turns out to be cis. Because the filmmakers neglected to acknowledge that trans people exist. It's both a very hetero and cis normative film, as well as white.


First shot of Penelope, we get a glimpse at her pig like floppy ears.
Here mother Jessica is more than a touch disappointed of her baby's appearance:

This face is the beginning of a theme that I actually like about this film! One of which I agree with due to my life experience as an Autistic person! That Penelope herself isn't the problem, it's how the world reacts to and treats her! Yet she is expected to adhere to the world's rules in order to survive. Starting with her own mother! Too bad it fucks it all up! 

The title of the film appears in the next shot, and I like it as plant life grows out of the letters. It's a nice reference to that Penelope's interests lies in plants, which is visually present in the film through out it. Penelope herself the character is a saving grace of this messy story, I relate to her on so much. I wish she'd been given a better tale to fit into!

The next scene is a fast forward to Penelope as a young adult, she is talking a guy named Edward but they are separated by a one way mirror so he can't see her. This is a great visual, and again I can relate often I feel I see other people rather clearly but they don't see me. 

In this shot we see Edward on his side of the mirror, the colors are very muted almost sterile.

Here we see Penelope's side, the colors surrounding her are vibrant earthy tones. A good clue to her inner world that's sadly locked away. :(  I want to hug her. I want to tell her that she isn't alone.

Edward is trying to get her into opening up to him, letting us know they've been courting or dating in a way. He says, "you see, like you I felt imprisoned most of my life." 

She turns to the mirror, up until this point she's been fiddling with a toy not really paying attention to him. She says:

Really? By what?Your good looks and your good name? No one seems to ever see past that.

She has clearly heard something like that before, and he falls for the bait. 

Surely if I am more than my face and name, than surely you are more than yours.

Then we see Mom, sitting in a different room with two other people watching the couple through a TV. Creepy! They comment that Edward might be the one.

He pleads with Penelope to let him in, and so she suddenly walks into the room through a hidden door. He responds to the sight of her with these faces:

In horror he runs, screaming:


Mom is none too happy with her daughter for daring to show her date her very face! 

Penelope: I'm not the one who ran mother.
Mom: Well, of course they run, dear, when you SPRING YOURSELF AT THEM LIKE THAT!

What a lovely example of good parenting, isn't she? They argue some more, and then finally we get a good look at Penelope's appearance...and it's also one of the biggest problems with the film!

This is not the first film to screw this kind of thing up, Phantom of the Opera starring Gerald Butler also did this. I mean really, does this look at all like what the world would consider ugly? Enough to run away, screaming that the person is a "killer pig"? I find her positively adorable and would date her in a heartbeat! Plus it's Christina Ricci!

The phantom of said Phantom of the Opera, lazy make up. By the Gods, Disney has done better than either of these two films! 

I feel the same way Quasi! 

Mom begins to cry, which Penelope rightfully rolls her eyes at but relents to comfort her. They have a conversation where Mom insists Edward "really liked" her, but her daughter luckily recognizes he didn't. 
No he didn't like your nose! That's what he didn't like! You're not your nose!
I want to punch this excuse for a parent in the face, and will continue to desire this as I watch! She also says:

It's your great-great-great grandfather's nose! On your father's side! He did this to you! To us! But you are not your nose, you are not you! You're somebody else inside just waiting to come outside!

This is why I mention the trigger warning was for not just references to suicide but also abusive parenting. I've been told these kind of words myself by people who should have loved me unconditionally. Jessica here, like those in my life, does not truly love her daughter, she loves the image she has of her daughter that doesn't exist. 

I had been reminded over the years that I was not the only victim of the curse. No one suffered more than my mother. 

There is then a scene of the past, shortly after Penelope's birth of her parents visiting a plastic surgeon. A PLASTIC SURGEON TO HAVE AN INFANT CHILD'S FACE ALTERED WITH INVASIVE SURGERY!

*Deep breath*...It's ok, I'm calm now! 

Plastic surgeon tells them the baby's coratid artery travels through her snout so surgery isn't an option. Thank Hecate!

Now, to be fair here the filmmakers did frame the mother as bad and there are long term consequences for her later. The actress Catherine O'Hara plays the Mom very over the top, I believe to lighten up the tone by making her repugnant behavior unbelievable. She faints a lot in this film too. This over the topness is also there with the character Edward, and we also see a montage of past suitors. They were so repulsed by Penelope to the point they run through closed glass windows!'s the thing, abusers often sound unbelievable to people unless they've experienced it themselves (provided they haven't internalized it to normalcy). Many victims, when they try to tell someone what's being done to them are not believed. Marked as seekers of attention. In my case, many people did believe me but they thought I was exaggerating or was "mis-remembering" the abuse properly. This is because most Allistics  believe Autistics don't believe we're capable of knowing our own minds or behavior let alone other peoples. Plus abusive behavior is extremely normalized, so I think many also thought I deserved to be treated that way. Especially by older generations.   

Let me be clear here, I don't have a problem with abuse being depicted in stories I have a problem with the way it is often framed as "normal" and acceptable behavior. 

The film continues with further details to the abuse Penelope's mother has done to her for her entire life. When Penelope was still a baby a journalist (played by the awesome Peter Dinklage) broke into their home to take a photo of her, and her mother gauged one of his eyes out with a meat hammer. But she will get no mommy points from me for this one good act of hers. Again, this isn't really about protecting Penelope it's about protecting her own reputation. Elitist socialite remember!

Mom also responds this incident by faking Penelope's death, and in a genuinely funny moment Peter Dinklage is seen in the distance with a shovel plotting his revenge. He's even wearing an eye patch!

Though him losing his eye really was his own fault, I'd have probably gauged it out to in order to protect my own child if I had one. Violating the privacy of a baby is pretty low. 

After faking Penelope's death her Mom had locked her away in their house ever since. Remember I mentioned earlier that there was a subtle reference to another fairy tale beside Beauty & the Beast? A mom keeping her daughter locked up from the world is also the plot of Rapunzel, or it's most recent mainstream adaptation Tangled by Disney. 
Another similar premise was in Disney's adaptation of Hunchback of Notre Dame, with the relationship between Quasimodo and Frollo. 

Ummm...I just looked at the clock and saw it's almost 1am and I've been sitting here typing since 4pm....Sooo...this is awkward. I didn't realize I how long this would take and I'm still only at the beginning of deconstructing this film. My eyes and fingers ache, I'll do part two within the next couple of days. 

You can watched Penelope right now on Netflix, if you'd like to add anything to what I've said about it so far! Really participate! I would love that!