Current conflicts in the Faienza household:
1. Someone on the internet thought eggs were dairy and Ciro said they were emphatically not, and I said that although certainly the adjective “dairy” only applies to milk products perhaps one could use “dairy” as shorthand for “comes from a dairy,” the agricultural production center, given that many dairies deliver eggs, and in this sense eggs are dairy products.
Ciro had to lie down and is considering divorce.
2. We have been playing Star Wars: Battlefront, which features gender-diverse Stormtroopers. I find this troubling. Ciro thinks it’s a sign of progress, and says that the gender imbalance in the original films was a reflection of George Lucas.
I accept that argument about the Rebel forces, but historically fascism has been gender essentialist. I see no reason to expect otherwise of the Empire. Sure, you might have one or two token exceptions, like Gwendoline Christie, but realistically (haha) diehard female Imperials are back on their home planets extolling the virtue of raising fat human babies and snitching on their neighbors.
I mean, really? You don’t assume based on its otherwise reactionary politics that the Empire is misogynist? Are we fans of the Empire now? Do we think it’d be cool to fly TIE interceptors? Perhaps to the dairy?
Topics of agreement:
1. The Jim Jarmusch film Paterson is excellent.
Ciro says: Women can be excellent defenders of fascist principles if it can be presented as tradition. Mussolini’s beloved tricolor pasta was the invention of a woman.
Romie: Right, but that’s kind of why I feel it’s a failure of imagination to have female stormtroopers, because wouldn’t they instead be making deathstar cupcakes and posting them on instagram?
Ciro: Certain terrorist Islamic sects have enthusiastically supported female suicide bombers.
Romie: True again, but that’s not the same as integrated armed forces. I’m certainly not suggesting there can’t be women in reactionary movements doing horrifying things.
Ciro: Concentrations camps had some notorious female guards. This is an uplifting conversation.
Romie: Well, I liked the part that involved pasta, certainly.
Karen: Once I have some more free time I fully intend to make some Death Star cupcakes….
Romie: I think to be really fully evil, you’d take a single bite out of a whole bunch of different apples and then leave them around.
I remember back in the mid-90s sometime there was a Star Wars movie marathon on TV with Carrie Fisher doing the interstitials coming back from commercial breaks, and one of the things she said – which at the time I found disappointing – was that although a lot of people figured that Leia would eventually become a jedi and get a lightsaber, it was her hope that Leia would get to relax a little, maybe go to a shopping planet.
I still don’t think that’s a great path for Leia, but I think I understand her point now, which is that (based on who appears on screen) this is clearly a universe in which women have separate roles and expectations, and given how few of them are in the films, they must be off doing something that isn’t a duplication of what the guys are doing, and what is that thing and why can’t we see some of it?
I have a clear understanding of the difference between eggs and milk (and milk and snot, which seems to also confuse an alarming number of people), as mammals should. However, I can’t rule out the idea that since the adjective dairy and the noun dairy mean different things, the language could be flexible enough to allow the noun to take on an adjectivial form which would have a different meaning than the original adjective. Making matters more complicated, I looked up the etymology of dairy (trying to figure out whether it referred to the milk or the building first) and found that it comes from a root word that means dough, like bread dough? Maybe because of the kneading motion one makes while milking an udder? It’s like I don’t know anything anymore. It’s like being in John Malcovich’s head.
Edward says: Frankly, we are all taking it on faith that Phasma is a woman based only on her voice. Question, J.J.: why hire a prominent actress and then never let her remove her helmet? Was she even in that armor, or did she do an hour’s worth of voiceover recording to earn that billing?
Romie: I think she’s supposed to have a larger role in later films? But yes. Had I been the director, the entire script would have gone out the window and the full two hours of The Force Awakens would have been occupied by Gwendoline Christie walking around in a cape, looking at starfields and having complex silent internal reactions we could see on her un-helmeted face. Then at the end she puts her helmet on. Credits.
Ciro: I will add that gender parity in Western society generally increases with the proliferation of technology, so we might imagine that Empire tech acts as kind of an equalizer in a way not possible in other fascist regimes.
Rebecca: Improvement in genetic technology might also mean that stormtroopers are engineered hermaphrodites that posses the preferred traits of both sexes. But it seems like facism in our recent history is a result of patriarchal values, and part of that includes maintaining women as chattel since daddy knows best. That doesn’t preclude a future facism from being based on different values where women are equals and another class is subjugated.
Jenny: Uniformity is a tool of control. In developing stormtroopers, Empire used standardization of experience, training and ability to enforce two key concepts to fascist thought, belonging and interchangeability of individuals. If technology does the same, then yes I agree that gender would become moot.
Ciro: I love this analysis. I think probably tech contributes to this, but beyond that in military setting it renders a lot of purported sexual differences irrelevant–you can’t, for example, claim upper body strength is relevant to firing a blaster (hey there, Leia) or piloting a TIE fighter. This says nothing about how it tends to free up time for women in a lot of traditional labor roles (e.g. washing clothes, cooking, etc), and we know that in SW they have droids capable of virtually anything. The Empire draws forces from a lot of different cultures and races, whose ideas about gender must be radically different from each other, and therefore it doesn’t make much sense to apply a single gender template to recruitment. It makes most sense for them admit anyone who can hit the metrics.
Jenny: Well not to mention we assume this universe is populated by genetic humans as opposed to aliens with invisible differences (eg. ❤️❤️Gallifreyan)—I mean after all they are force wielders with midichlorians…
Ciro: Midichlorians sad face
Romie: In the original trilogy at least, I don’t think there are any examples of non-human Imperials, and it was my impression that this was deliberate. (My understanding here draws on expanded universe stuff – but expanded universe stuff that was intended to be canon at the time, like the serialized comic that ran between the first movie and Empire Strikes Back, to which Han alludes when he mentions “the bounty hunter we ran into on Ord Mantell.”) In the trilogy, you see non-human Rebels (like Nien Nunb, Ackbar) but every non-helmeted Imperial you see is a white human male. They do hire some non-human bounty hunters.
Han Solo’s original heart-of-gold backstory had him quitting the Imperial Navy because he became friends with Chewbacca and couldn’t handle all the racism against Wookies. You’re supposed to be able to infer that from the stripe on his pants. Which I’m sure is everybody’s understanding as they watch the movies.
John says: I watched Paterson and enjoyed it. However, I told my brother he would not like it, because he dislikes most Jarmusch films. I didn’t think this would be an exception. (Though I have been trying with Only Lovers Left Alive) I think I described Paterson as “You basically watch the Life of a bus driver poet for two hours” and he was like “Nope.” He prefers action or at least quick dialogue.
Romie: OLLA = so good keep trying