Monday, December 19, 2016

Dear Charlie:

Sorry. I've spent the past couple of weeks just trying to tread water, like everyone else. There's too much happening at the same time hitting us from all sides.

President Obama and the US Army Corps of Engineers denied Dakota Access's permits and refused to grant the easement for the pipeline. On the surface, that looks like an amazing development, and it is. That said, DA has already suggested they'll build there anyway and just pay the fines.

A few hundred miles away, a pipeline leak of unknown duration -- ie., they dunno how long it's been leaking -- has been dumping crude into people's drinking water. Which is why Standing Rock and all their allies were fighting. Because those happen. A LOT.

Flint, Michigan, finally has a glimmer of hope. $170 million has been approved to clean out and fix their water supply. I will refrain from shouting "it's about goddamn time" from the rooftops. Unfortunately, I don't see anything saying when that will start, and as of right now, they're still living out of plastic bottles and unable to so much as wash their hands with the local water supply. Who knows how much permanent damage was done to how many people?

Trumperdink has continued to appoint irredeemable assholes to his cabinet. I can't even begin to list the reasons they are all the worst people. The list grows every day.

People who really should know better are still denying climate change, leading to lots of talk about pulling out of the Paris agreement. The fossil fuel industry is trying to keep its filthy lucre rolling in while Elon Musk and Tesla and individual scientists and developers all over the world remind people that clean energy tech is right here waiting for everyone to get their heads out of their wallets.

Entire islands can be powered by the sun and wind. They can make solar panels clear now, so entire buildings can become giant batteries without either confusing the local birds (who sometimes think big panel displays are ponds or lakes) or blinding air traffic (because the dark solar panels are kinda like big mirrors from a certain angle).

But no. We totally shouldn't do that because climate change isn't a real thing, and there's money to be made in pollution and ever-increasing consumption of dwindling resources. And fracking! Because who cares if it pollutes ground water!

A conspiracy theorist's worst fever dream has happened, too: Russia deliberately and effectively swayed this travesty of an election, and Putin had a direct hand in it. Cries for the popular vote -- which HRC won by nearly three million votes and still counting, what with the recounts showing so many irregularities despite opposition to the recounts -- to be upheld increase and Trumperdink supporters are already whinging about buyer's remorse because he's happily crapping all over whatever bullshit campaign promise he made them and proving that, as we tried to tell them, he doesn't give a shit about anyone but himself.

I don't feel even a little sorry for them. They were warned.

I deeply pity and pray for the innocent people who are already suffering and who will continue to suffer. Who voted and were denied or who were unable to vote because of bullshit "voter fraud" restrictions designed to deny them their right to a political voice.

Aleppo. I just... how can we even hope to help them when the bastard ordering their cold-blooded murder just installed an easily-led, spoiled, tiny-fingered bully as our freakin president? They are dying, pleading for their lives, for help, for escape, and our wheezing, orange, sack-of-shit, would-be despot is too busy skipping intelligence briefings to have conflict-of-interest parties at his goddamn hotels to care.

And the electoral college votes today. Petitions to halt the final vote until the electors can be briefed on Russia's interference and all the count irregularities already discovered in the few states we could get to recount seem to have been useless. As was the popular vote. As, apparently, is any attempt to turn this particular blood tide.

So yeah. I've been treading water. Hoping for anything to stop this from happening. Hoping that each new travesty, each new miscarriage of the constitution, each new and obvious conflict of interest would be the thing to keep that buffoon out of office or, worse, installing him just to impeach him and leave his much-more-dangerous VP in charge. Because as bad as Trumperdink is, at least he's an easily-led idiot who's incapable of paying attention long enough to pick a method of destruction and stick with it.

Forget the Lady or the Tiger. If the electors vote as their bullshit, gerrymandered divisions say they have to, our choices are the belt-fed mini-gun with no safety and a hair trigger... or a volley of laser-targeted so-called Patriot missiles.

So, what'll it be, America?

Where do we even go from here?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Dear Charlie:

First and foremost, I'd just like to take a moment to thank Cary Elwes for tagging He Who Doesn't Deserve to Be Named with the absolute best nickname in history. 

Mr. Elwes, you might recall, is the gent who played Westley in The Princess Bride. His main adversary was Prince Humperdink, a "coward with a heart full of fear" and "the slimiest weakling ever to crawl the earth" who paid a group of thug assassins to kidnap his lovely never-really-meant-to-be-a-bride and kill her so he could start a war with a neighboring country.

Thus, it was perhaps fitting that thirty years later, it's Sweet Westley who just named the cowardly and foolish president elect... Trumperdink.

It so fits. And his running mate, Pimple, definitely gives off a Count Rugen vibe, what with that torture kink of his. 

Speaking of Trumperdink and his loyalish attack dog, everyone and their (racist, bigoted) grandma heard about the Hamilton kerfuffle this weekend. And everyone was supposed to hear about it. Trumperdink made sure of it. Though I refuse to link to his Twitter feed where he made a mockery of himself and his baby-thin skin yet again.

Why, do you ask? Why make such a big fuss about a tempest in a teapot at a play the average schmuck can't afford to attend and is sold out until 2018, anyway? And that I doubt Count Pimple cared even half a shit about because he doesn't strike me as man who minds being boo-ed, considering how much his own state hates him? 

Elementary, my dear Watson.

Subterfuge. Camouflage. A smoke screen.

It's a distraction from the fact that Trumperdink settled his bullshit university fraud case. The "I don't settle" guy settled yet another case, admitting to committing fraud to keep the case from going any further and having to answer any uncomfortable questions or produce any embarrassing documents.

So he sent his six-fingered wingman to a play about early American politics put on by an amazing and diverse cast and let the real play begin.

But here's the thing: if this wasn't just a "nothing wrong here; look over there!" diversionary tactic, it would actually be pretty important. Trumperdink is, of course, a moron for ever thinking theatre was a "safe place". Never mind that a politician could be so thin-skinned as to let a little crowd-booing destroy their fragile self esteem (please refer back to that "heart full of fear" and "slimiest weakling" commentary earlier).

Theatre has always been the place where humans can battle the gods and win, where a commoner can thumb his nose at a king. Theatre -- and the arts in general -- has always given powerful voice to the powerless.

That's why it's one of the first things would-be tyrants go after. They want to silence detractors, limit freedom of speech, limit the flow of ideas and knowledge to what they want you to know, and nothing else.

So yes, it's a smokescreen to cover up the fraud thing, but it's still pretty damn disturbing. As is the ridiculous "boycott Hamilton" nonsense of people arguing that they should be able to go see a play without being bothered by politics.

What the hell do they think Hamilton is about??

It's just an all-around fuckarow, and I could almost laugh at the ridiculousness if it didn't signal deeper problems. Like how willing everyone is to jump on something so stupid just to not have to face the fact that the president elect just admitted to fraud just to make the case go away before he's sworn in. Or that he still has 74 open cases against him, including sexual harassment. 

Or that he's so financially compromised in every direction that I can't even list/link them all because we may never know all of them because he still won't release his tax records.

Ugh. I just can't.

This is where we are right now, folks. Forget that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 1.7 million votes and counting. It's always been long odds for enough electorates to flip to elect her instead of Trumperdink.

All we can do is keep pointing out the utter unsuitability of this giant orange buffoon for anything resembling public service. Point it out to our senators and representatives and party leadership and even our state and local politicians and ask them to stand up for us against him and his parade of hate-mongers. Point it out loudly and often.

I honestly don't know what the procedure would be if we managed to get him ousted due to all his unconstitutional financial conflicts of interest. Would Congress have to accept Clinton by default, since she was the only other real candidate and did win the popular vote? Would they swear in Count Pimple instead, God help us please no?

Would there be some other option? I honestly don't know the constitutional provision for a somewhat elected candidate being proven unfit for office before the swearing in. If anyone knows, please please tell us.

We need some hope.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Dear Charlie:

"Now that Cheeto Voldemort is elected, we have to respect him and give him a chance."

No. No, we don't.

Why do people not remember that the president -- in fact, any elected official -- works for us, not the other way around? He should respect us.

But he doesn't. Why should he? He walked onto the national stage and put on a divisive, fear-mongering, racist, misogynist, bigoted, hate-fueled dog-and-pony show, and it worked. They elected him for it. Why should he respect the sheep he so easily led into his personal holding pen?

Well, I'm not in his holding pen. I didn't vote for him, and he hasn't overthrown the First Amendment quite yet.

The vast majority of his campaign promises were unconstitutional. The vast majority of his plan for the first hundred days is unconstitutional. His vow to "drain the swamp" of lobbyists and the like has led to him picking up staffers so foul the swamp kicked them out.

A vice president who jailed a woman for miscarrying and advocates for parents to be allowed to force conversion therapy on their LGBTQ children. Climate change deniers. An attorney general candidate who was denied federal judgeship for being a racistA blatant and unapologetic anti-Semite and white supremacist who, just to check off all the asshole boxes, is also anti-Muslim and anti-immigration (I refuse to link to any Breitbart article).

Lots of anti-immigration folk on the list, actually. This is not my shocked face.

And I'm not terribly surprised at the climate change deniers, considering the angry orange turnip thinks coal is a clean energy source. Because he's clearly never seen a picture of nineteenth century London.

Oh, and speaking of his complete lack of give-a-fuck for the environment, did I mention his significant monetary interest in the Dakota Access Pipeline? Because he totally has a vested interest in finishing that construction and damn the protests and the clear and present threat to the Native American way of life there and the likely environmental impact of an almost inevitable pipeline leak.

Here's the skinny there: Dakota Access is a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners. The CEO of ETP donated $103,000 to Turnip's campaign, which is already beyond questionable, but that's just the first layer of corruption. See, according to financial records, Ol' Turnip has invested between $500,000 and a million dollars in ETP.

And that's not all! He also invested another similar amount in Phillips 66, which... of course... holds a 25% share of a finished Dakota Access Pipeline.

Gee, is it any wonder that one of Troutface's first orders of business will be attempting to lift President Obama's ban on construction of the pipeline pending a more complete investigation of its ramifications? No. It isn't.

This is what we're dealing with, people. He isn't even in office yet, and we're already organizing calling campaigns just to effectively protest all of his shitty policies and appointments to our Congresspeople because there are so many that we might forget some of them otherwise.

As John Oliver says, this is not normal.

So no. Just because he backdoor won an election he had no intention of playing all the way through doesn't mean he gets automatic respect from the people he's fully intending to screw over. If he can pull off even half of his promises -- doubtful, which is the only bright spot on this abyssal trench of bullshit -- we will be decades, generations trying to right the damage.

So no. No unearned respect.

We're also not going to give him a chance. He's already throwing the safety and futures of the vast majority of Americans out the window in favor of pursuing his own monetary interests and bigoted ideologies. We cannot allow him to undo a hundred years of civil liberties progress and environmental protection or succumb to his xenophobic paranoia and hatred.

He went out and bought himself an election. What he is only starting to understand is that he lied and pontificated his way into a public service position, and he now serves us.

And we're gonna by God make him serve us. Whether he likes it or not.

Because that's the job he bought. The dumbass.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Dear Charlie:

Well, it's been a year since I posted here. The last post was something I felt very keenly -- my 12-year-old niece receiving a dick pic and a carnival of adults and loved ones (myself included) not being able to do a damn thing to stop or even call out the offender -- so I wanted to leave it up for a while to make sure the point carried.

Now, well... let's just say I feel a lot of things very keenly right now.

I'm tempted to delete all prior posts except the last one and start over. You can see that I've cleaned up my sidebar and cut down my profile to the bare minimum. No cutesy stuff. No tongue-in-cheek.

I don't feel very tongue-in-cheek lately. We have some real problems here in the States and around the world, and while I usually use humor and sarcasm to deflect argument and strong emotions so everyone around me has as good a time as possible, I don't think now is the time for silliness.

So, I think this blog will be, at least for now, repurposed. Instead of writing about random stuff happening in my life, I think I'll try to corral some of my thoughts on what's happening in the world and what I/we can do to protect the people who will be most negatively impacted by the ignorance and anger that allowed the current status quo.

Think of this reboot as part journal, part call to action (for me), and part meta on the real world. I doubt anyone will be reading this (except my beloved sister), and those who do probably won't take it seriously. And that's okay. It's for me, not the rest of this country and certainly not the rest of the world. Everyone will have their own strategy to get through.

I just... I'm a writer, okay? I think better in prose. So, I'm going to keep using this blog I've had since 2004, and I guess I won't delete all those prior posts just yet, but I've changed and grown a bit since then. I think we all have.

And I still hope we can all change for the better.

So, while I will indeed watch He Who Shan't Be Named Because His Hands Are Too Tiny crash and burn over and over and over for the next four years, I also want to do what I can to protect those far more vulnerable than I am. People of color. Immigrants. Other women. LGBTQ folk. People of other religions.

I mean, c'mon. This country was supposedly founded on religious freedom, right? Sheesh.

Anyway, once we've done everything we can to ensure our friends and allies are as safe as possible, we can all sit back with a bowl of popcorn and watch Cheeto Voldemort self-destruct in slow motion. It will be glorious.

But not at the expense of people's lives and safety.

Thus, I will be writing plenty of letters and making plenty of phone calls to my representatives. And while I am routinely broke, I will be donating when I can to such groups as the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, the TREVOR Project, etc., and when able, donating in the names of the various bigots Dingleberry Troutface keeps appointing.

They'll get thank you cards. From charities and organizations they hate.

It's win/win, really.

As a great man once said, "I aim to misbehave."

Let it begin.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Call to Action:

My niece is twelve years old, and she just got her first dick pic.

This experience has been a lot of firsts for her, actually. Her first realization that her cell phone can be a source of nasty surprises as well as nice ones. Her first realization that she has no control over what literally anyone can send her. Her first encounter with the "bros before hos" mentality when her friend, a boy, immediately turned on her when it briefly appeared the dick-piccer might get in trouble.

Her first realization that her school, where she previously felt safe, will not (or in this case, cannot) protect her from harassment.

Her first realization that almost no one in authority will believe her if she reports harassment. Her first understanding that "boys will be boys" is a rationalization she will have to live with the rest of her life.

Her first realization that a boy texting another boy that he wants to grab her by the ponytail and hump her doesn't count as a threat because it wasn't sent directly to her. That if the boy, whose locker is right above hers, has touched her inappropriately or straddled her as she crouched to get into her locker or grabbed her from behind and pressed against her as she stood up doesn't count if no witnesses will admit to seeing it.

That her locker will be moved when it's reported, as if she's the problem, instead of the boy having to move and thus be outed as the offender. As if she's a temptation, and scooting her ten feet down the row will temper his "natural" urges.

She's not a temptation. She's a twelve-year-old.

She now knows that if the boy sends the picture from a different Google group number than his usual one (do you see the budding sexual predator tendency here? because Google accounts can have several numbers to choose from, and Google will not release information on those other numbers without a subpoena) it obviously just appeared by magic in her phone and wasn't sent by anyone. That if it's snapchatted or otherwise non-text messaged to her and is already gone, she has no proof that it ever happened at all, no matter that it's seared into her brain. That without the picture, we can't get a subpoena for the sender's account details to prove who sent it.

She's twelve years old. I feel like that bears repeating. She deleted the picture so fast (once she realized what it was, because she didn't even know at first) that she has no idea how it was sent, which is making recovery of it complicated (even with police involvement). But how could she know? She just wanted it gone.

Well, I suppose school, where the most tangible incidences of physical harassment took place, is a place for learning, right? Because she's certainly getting a lesson right now. Unfortunately, the lesson is that no one can protect her. And some authority figures won't even try.

This is a lesson her older sister already learned. Starting in middle school, a boy in her band class started making inappropriate comments. Then he started sitting a little too close or standing right up against her. This continued for over a year. Finally, when she was fifteen, this fledgling sexual predator maneuvered her into an area of the school where the cameras don't reach and crowded up against her, making all sorts of inappropriate comments while pressing her into the wall.

She told her mother (my sister). Her mother called the school. The assistant principal -- male, of course -- said, and I quote, "Boys will be boys."

So my sister CC'd her reply to the band director and other school officials, including that laughably antiquated line, and said the next time he called her daughter in to be "apologized to" by the boy that cornered and borderline assaulted her, she demanded to be informed of the meeting so she could be present to hear exactly what he was telling her fifteen-year-old daughter about how boys should behave toward girls.

His response was to quickly backpedal and blame the situation on autism. The boy didn't understand her confusing social cues. Because "leave me alone" is confusing in any way.

I'm sorry, Mr. Assistant Principal, but that is not autistic behavior. Deliberately learning where the cameras don't reach and maneuvering a girl he's already been harassing for over a year into that area to molest her further is sexual predator behavior. That is not on the spectrum.

But no matter. The situation somehow magically disappeared before anything further could be done. Because that's what happens when girls are harassed. It just... goes away.

Because here we are again. This situation escalated much more quickly, but it still ended in the same place -- a young girl being violated by a boy at school, and the school ignoring it as "boys will be boys" until it escalated to the point of police involvement.

No.

Boys will not be boys. Boys will be human beings who respect other human beings. Boys will be people who don't violate other people. Boys will be held accountable for their actions toward others.

I'm speaking directly to you here, boys. Unless someone specifically says, "I would like to see a picture of your dick", DO NOT SEND A PICTURE OF YOUR DICK. It really is that simple. Anything else is, by definition, sexual harassment, and we have to stop tolerating it.

We have to stop ignoring the victim. We have to stop blaming the victim.

We have to stop protecting and excusing the offender.

That applies to the boy's parents as well as school officials. You're not doing him any favors, people. Will you be proud to have protected this kid fifteen or twenty years from now when he turns out to be Josh Duggar? Will you gladly display his picture and school honors when he's on trial for date-raping co-eds in college or roofie-ing women in clubs and bars?

By ignoring these early offenses and doing nothing "without evidence" because current social media technology has outpaced the ability to track and catch these budding predators, you are actively denying them an assessment by a professional who can determine if they need treatment. You're also potentially dooming his future victims.

But more broadly, by willingly shoving these incidents under the rug, you are telling boys that their behavior is acceptible. You are equipping them to be better predators -- because, hey, it worked this time, right? gonna get off free and clear, thanks to a Google account with multiple numbers -- and making them more confident in their methods. You are allowing them to go on to harass and violate countless other women in the future.

Worse, you're telling these girls that they are worthless. Their safety is unimportant. They can't trust anyone to help them when they're being terrorized, even if, by some miracle, someone believes them. You're teaching them that they are second-rate citizens who should be moved out of the way instead of dealing with the actual problem. That they're not safe in an environment they are forced to be in every weekday.

You, school officials and parents of offenders, have to stop it. You have to protect these girls. If it's happened to two girls in the same family, it has absolutely happened to others in the district.

How many more girls have been too ashamed or too scared of reprisal to complain? How many more girls have complained, only to have it swept under the rug because it'd be a real shame to ruin a boy's future when some girl didn't keep her mouth shut about a few compliments and a little extra squeeze? It was probably her fault anyway, right? Maybe she was showing her collarbones or her arms or her knees.

Do you believe a girl's safety is less important than a boy's education? Because right now, that's what my nieces are learning.

My niece is twelve years old, and she just received her first dick pic. Thanks to that, she also just learned the world's worst lesson.

She'll never feel safe again.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Dear Charlie:

Would it help to say I had a really long, really complicated summer?

*brushes off dust*

But seriously, back in April, we started rehearsals for a "no fear Shakespeare" version of Midsummer Night's Dream. Because the universe likes to laugh at me, I was cast as Titania, the fairy queen.

Because I like to laugh back, I performed the part with a heavy Southern accent. I mean, when I was myself, I was full-on Paula Dean. When I was enchanted, I was Scarlett O'Hara.

It was glorious.

But it did pretty much suck up the next four months of my life. We were supposed to do our performance in June, but we weren't ready yet. One of the benefits of not being part of a brick-and-mortar theatre is that we could just put the show off another month. No schedule to mess up.

Unfortunately, that put us into the ungodly 100+ degree humidity heat of a sweltering, miserable summer. And all our rehearsals were outside.

Please refer back to that "because the universe likes to laugh at me" bit.

Add in the fact that I have wicked awful summer allergies that are usually just plain bad but were exacerbated enormously from spending three and four evenings/mornings a week outside in the summer... yeah. It was a great show, but it damn near killed me.

Don't believe me? Too bad. I actually gave up and went to the doctor. The last time I went to the doctor, it was Urgent Care, and I had Type A flu and a 103 degree temperature. That was 4 years ago.

The time before that? I'm thinking around 2008. Maaaaaaybe early 2009. I couldn't make that up if I tried. I don't even have a prior medical record before that Urgent Care visit because the ones before that were destroyed. Too old.

They do have records of my free flu shots every October, though. I work for a not-for-profit that's affiliated with a local hospital, so we get those. Bonus!

Anyway, I'm still kinda on my ass with these allergies. I went from only taking a daily allergy OTC to taking four -- count 'em, FOUR -- medications, and I still feel like crap.

I hate summer. And it hates me. See how things balance?

But I've been on a writing jag pretty much since the play wrapped up -- it was AWESOME, I don't mind sayin -- but that has its drawbacks, too. Like a nearly-empty fridge because I don't want to waste writing time at the store. Like dust EVERYWHERE (which doesn't help my allergies) because I have no time for vacuuming and dusting when there are worlds to write and I have to take every second I can because that writing jag can up and disappear any ol' time.

At which point, it becomes very, very difficult to make words happen. Let alone magic.

Anyway, with the regular season coming up, I figure I'll probably be posting a bit more regularly for a while, thanks to wanting to blab about my Chiefs, and it wasn't until I went to put the season's schedule down in the sidebar there that I realized... oops.

Let us not count the months it's been since I posted last. Let us instead relish the fact that I'll be driving down to Dad's tomorrow for a weenie roast with my beloved sister, who I haven't seen since her birthday, and to spend a slightly less sweltery day in the green countryside instead of on all this freakin asphalt.

I swear. Just driving ten miles out of town drops the temperature ten degrees.

Oh! And we might get rain all week next week, which oughtta cool it off, too! And bring Fall that much closer. I can't wait!

Crocheting and baking and pumpkins and Halloween and weenie roasts and fingerless gloves and hot tea in warm mugs and changing leaves and ghost stories in the dark and horror movie marathons and playing with haunt make-up and more crocheting and baking!

Oh, my!

Friday, May 01, 2015

Dear Charlie:

Wow, I haven't done a movie review on here in a dog's years. Oh, well! Back with a bang, right?

Because I'm absolutely gonna gush about Avengers: Age of Ultron. Can't help it. I should probably let the adrenaline fade a bit more before spoilering, but no. Not gonna do it.

There will, however, be spoilers. Be warned! I can only be so vague when I'm enthusing.

Now, because the movie was released overseas before it was here in the States, it was hard to miss hints and spoilers while waiting for May 1 to roll around. I resisted my curiosity, for the most part, by not reading anything labelled SPOILERS, and only watching "officially released" extras and information.

However, being on any social media means it's hard to miss when people start ranting about things. Some fans were calling for Joss Whedon's head, and it's hard not to try to figure out why my fellow nerds would turn on one of our own like that. Especially one who's given us so much entertainment and has advanced so many of our favorite things for so long.

So I cautiously nosed around a bit to see if I could figure out what everyone was so undies-twisted about without spoilering myself. I was... mostly?... successful.

The spoilers start here, folks. Ye be warned!

A few people were cranky that Captain America is suddenly a prude. After watching, he let one little rebuke about bad language slip, and the rest of the Avengers spent the rest of the movie making fun of him about it. It was beautiful. I have no gripe here. Nick Fury really put the capper on it, too.

A few other people were fussy that Cap's vision of his greatest fear was selling him short AND basically ignored his search for Bucky Barnes/the Winter Soldier. After watching, I think they might have missed the point of it. Or I have a completely different interpretation.

The vocal detractors seem to think it was about regret over not being able to live his dream life with Peggy, but... those visions were supposed to be about fear, not regret. Bleeding soldiers laughing it up and trying to celebrate in that big ballroom? Peggy sneaking up behind him instead of coming to him with a smile and open arms? Him turning around to find the whole room empty?

To me, that doesn't smack of regret. To me, that smacks of the same fear that Dr. Zola spawned in him when he said that Steve's life came to the same as his death on the Valkyrie: a zero sum. I think that empty room symbolizes his fear that, even with his superhuman abilities and even with coming back from the dead in the future, he hasn't been able to change anything or save anyone, and at the end of it all, the whole world might as well be an empty room.

Tony Stark's vision was about failing so badly that everyone he cared about died while he lived to mourn them in guilt. Steve's vision was about failing so badly that everything and everyone he's ever known and loved is just... gone. As if they never existed. As if nothing matters.

Again, I have no gripe here.

However.

There seemed to be one overwhelmingly loud denouncement that apparently stole people's joy, and that warcry was how Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff was character-assassinated in the movie. From what I could tell (without delving too deeply), the hate started before the movie was even released because trailers indicated a relationship developing between Romanoff and Bruce Banner and/or the Hulk. Also, it seemed to be the Hawkeye/Black Widow 'shippers making the most noise.

They, of course, swear they're not mad because their 'ship isn't sailing. After all, that 'ship didn't sail in the comics, either. But no, they wouldn't be mad if Romanoff had ended up with, say, Steve Rogers. But the Hulk? Bruce Banner? Really? BLASPHEMY.

Honestly, before I watched the movie, I was perfectly willing to write it off as a nifty idea in the same vein as Uhura and Spock getting together in J.J. Abrams' Star Wars reboots. It's a genius move, and if the lone woman in the group has to be 'shipped with someone, it might as well be someone unexpected but understandable.

After watching the movie and listening to her explain how, unlike all the other boys she's playing with who want to fight because they don't like to lose, Bruce REFUSES to fight because he knows he'd win...? Yeah. I can definitely understand it. He is completely outside her experience of life, and for someone with Black Widow's history, I can definitely see her being drawn in by that. By how different he is from everything she's known.

But oh, no. It's her characterization that's horrific and wrong. And the scene everyone with a beef seems most up-in-arms about is Romanoff's vision and her reaction to it. How she explains it to Bruce.

She calls herself a monster. Well, she relates the vision and asks Bruce if he still thinks he's the only monster, anyway.

The vision, by the way, was of her time in the Red Room, where she was trained to be a remorseless killing machine. Specifically, the "graduation ceremony" wherein she was forcibly sterilized. The beef seems to be: "Joss Whedon is saying that sterilized women are monsters! And reducing Natasha Romanoff to hating herself because she can't have children is wrecking her character!"

Honestly, that's kinda bullshit. See, the way she relates that little piece of horror-istory isn't that being sterilized makes her a monster. She haltingly, painfully explains that the Red Room in-charges knew that all the training in the world might not stand against even an accidental pregnancy arousing potential maternal instincts, so they remove that potential for hesitation, for doubt. They remove every last chance at rogue emotion stopping a mission.

Natasha Romanoff isn't bewailing that she'll never be a mother or that she's a monster because she can't have children. She's hating herself for swallowing that lie and letting herself become a remorseless killing machine because of it. She's saying she's a monster because she believed them, and now all of the blood she shed because of that lie is on her hands.

It's the same red in her ledger that has always been, but now it's even more terrifying and unbearable because she did it on a lie.

And she's telling Bruce about it because he needs to hear that what he'd just done -- Hulking out, attacking a major city, and doing God only knows how much damage in human life and infrastructure damage, not to mention shitting all over the Avengers' already shaky world image -- didn't make him any more a monster than anyone else.

She's saying that they all have red in their ledger. All they can do is try to balance it out.

So... honestly? To me? It all comes back to coming up with reasons to be mad that aren't "But Bruce/Natasha?? Really??".

Fans can be weird like that. They get passionate about their 'ships, and even though they know they'll never be canon, they really really want them to be. And when there's only one woman to go around, there are a whole lot of 'shippers who are bound to be disappointed when said lone lady gets around to picking.

I'm tempted to be sad that the woman is always expected to pair off with someone at all, but hey. I've written plenty of romance, so that's a little too "glass houses" for me, and I'll let it go.

In all, I absolutely loved this movie. I have no gripes. I enjoyed every moment on the screen.

I was a little saddened by there not being much mention of the open-ended fate of the Winter Soldier, other than an oblique reference to Sam Wilson still looking while Steve's off Avengering, but I'm also well aware that integrating everyone's stories into a group film simply isn't possible, time-wise. Also, I'm sure they'll pin that down in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War, which they're filming now.

Other than that? Pure gold.

The fight scenes are spectacular. The banter is snicker-worthy. The overall continuity is so nerdtastically pleasing that I'm still grinning about chatting it up with complete strangers on the way out of the theater. Ragnarok this and Civil War that and Infinity Gauntlets and Thanos and two-more-infinity-stones-to-go, oh my!

I had so much fun watching this movie. And... really... that's what it's all about, right?

I enjoyed it. To me, that makes it a success.