There is a saying among motorcyclists about riders who have been hit by cars:

“Saying ‘I didn’t see them’ is not a defense. It’s an admission of guilt.”

Motorcyclists hit by cars fare very badly. Cars hit by motorcycles generally come through just fine. Cars are deadly to other things on the roads, sometimes, in part because car drivers are unused to keeping an eye out for bicyclists, motorcyclists, and even pedestrians in some places. But not being used to looking out for something so different on the roads is not actually an excuse for running into it.

The driver is still making choices and cultivating awareness (or lack thereof) that led to someone else getting hurt.

The societal systems through which we interact are kind of like that, too. There are laws to try to ensure that we share the road, but conventions often leave a substantial sub-set of humanity out of the calculus of safety.

We can help to change that through the choices we make and the awareness that we cultivate. There has been a lot of talk lately about the importance of diversity for minority folks (particularly kids). To see oneself reflected in media is to feel that one can achieve things beyond one’s immediate context.

This reflection still, currently, reflects a lot more white, Western folks than other colors and cultures. It reflects more straight people than queer, more men than women, more cis people than trans folks, more able-bodied folks than disabled folks….

The environment where we still normalize and make default the cis, white, Western, able-bodied, straight man is an environment that doesn’t just cost people who don’t fit in that circle. It affects us all. We miss out when all people aren’t encouraged to reach their full potential. And we miss out personally when we can’t relate to folks who aren’t exactly like ourselves.

It is, for instance, just as important for any random boy to see that a black girl can be a superhero as it is for the black girl herself.

Stories are an important way that we learn to empathize with people who are not like ourselves. They can connect us to people who lived thousands of years ago or people who go to space or people who live on the other side of the planet. They can surely help to connect us to someone with a different skin color or background.

When you find internalized prejudice in yourself (as almost any of us who do any self-examination will), it’s your job to try to de-fang and unseat that prejudice. An easy and pleasant way to do that is to expose yourself to more stories about folks who aren’t just like you.

Prejudice is often defeated person-to-person as an acquaintance with someone in a group disproves what another person thinks they know about that group. But that is a heavy burden to place at the door of folks who already have systemic injustice and everyday life to deal with.

There are plenty of nice ally 101 articles around the web that give solid tips like “research before you ask your acquaintances questions” and “don’t let racist/sexist comments slide – use your privilege to speak up”. This is part of activism 301. Look inside yourself and see what assumptions you’re making. Figure out ways to crowbar those assumptions open and broaden your perspective.

Complex stories can help you to see folks who are different than you as real people with full lives. Stories with heroes that don’t look or love or worship like you can help you to open your mind about the heroic potential in everyone.

Stories can help you to be a better person and a better ally.

Some simple things you can do in this vein include following folks who are different to you on social media. Listen to what they have to say on a daily basis, not just about their identities but about everything.

If the only stories you watch about people of color or queer folks or anyone in any minority category are civil rights period pieces, consider broadening your outlook. Seek out stories that are not about the identity politics of a person but includes their identities as part of a full humanity.

This is not to say that a civil rights story can’t have full, true characters, but there are so many more aspects to minority lives than the struggle for justice.

Make sure your media diet includes stories by minority writers and directors, not just stories written about minorities by white dudes. It might take a little extra effort, but it’ll be richly rewarded. I think you’ll find truth in the words of Alan Yang, co-creator of Netflix’s Master of None, “Thank you to all the straight white guys who dominated movies and TV so hard, and for so long, that stories about anyone else seem kind of fresh and original.”

So let folks who aren’t like you into your imagination and your emotional world. It’s not the only way to unseat your internal prejudice, but it’s a relatively easy and frequently entertaining way to work on making yourself a better person. You choose what you’re exposed to (and what your kids are exposed to).

You choose what you see. Saying you lack exposure is not an excuse for ignorance or prejudice. It is an admission of guilt.

I have the day off from work, today and have gotten very little done.

I don’t have much in the way of either streaming recs or stuff I’m going to see. I’m seeing Thor for the second time this weekend, but there seems to be a kind of a lull before most of the Christmas movies and Oscar hopefuls hit.

I thought I’d take a bit of time to highlight some movies on streaming that I wasn’t particularly fond of, but which might tickle your fancy.

Chappie is a story about an AI’s awful childhood told by the director of District 9. It is extraordinarily gritty and violent and had a lot of elements that irritated me (particularly in conjunction with some other AI movies I saw around the same time, but that’s another post). It was interesting and well-done, with really well fleshed-out characters–just not at all my cup of tea.

If you’ve seen District 9, you’ll find it has some similar themes and flavors.

Chappie is streaming on Netflix.

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Bound is a 90s thriller containing lesbian themes that gave a bunch of wlw at my college the hots for Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly (especially Gershon). It is a difficult watch because (again) it’s full of violence, but it does have a hopeful ending for the lesbian couple.

Honestly, I haven’t watched it all the way through since it was in the theater, but I remember it being well done.

The film is much harsher than this trailer makes it look, as I recall. Bound is streaming on Hulu.

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What If is a movie about profoundly unhealthy relationships and profoundly bad boundaries. It has stupendous actors and great performances, but is billed as a romantic comedy. I think if I had gone into it expecting a movie about unhealthy relationships with bad boundaries and unlikeable characters, I would have enjoyed it a lot better. It was billed as a romcom. Viewed as a romcom, it is awful.

[CW for transphobic language towards the end of the trailer. As I said, unlikable characters.]

What If is streaming on Amazon Prime.

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And now, I am heading back to tempering some epic laziness with a tiny smattering of chores.

[This post contains spoilers for Mother! and for Pi.]

I have always thought Darren Aronofsky is a little bit up his own ass. By which I mean to say, his films are deliberately and self-consciously smart and grating before they are entertaining. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s resulted in a kind of modern theater-of-cruelty ethos that has the disadvantage of not punching up so much as punching out at everything and everyone.

Aronofsky’s films (the few I’ve seen) assault the senses, then the morals, then the marrow. He does what he does well, though it’s definitely not for everybody.

It is not, for instance, for me at all. I saw Pi back in the day when it first came out, and thought it was interesting, though a difficult watch. Definitely not the kind of movie I’d ever like to watch *again*. (Let’s just say that nothing that culminates in trepanning is ever likely to be something I watch twice. Let’s just agree to that and move on forever.)

Requiem for A Dream was the movie that brought me to a place where, if I ever met Aronofsky in person, I would have to rigorously restrain myself from punching him straight in the nuts. That movie is one of the few well-crafted films I’ve seen that I would almost certainly never recommend to anyone under any circumstances. It haunted my twilights for weeks after I saw it. I swore off the man’s films after that.

I swore off them, at least, till I was in the thick of my current movie project (or lifestyle, really).

When I saw the trailer for Mother! I was moderately interested. It wasn’t at the top of my list, but when you’re seeing a movie a week, sometimes the tides and fates combine to bring you to something you wouldn’t usually watch.

I know a lot has been said already about the film. I know critics liked it and audiences hated it, which seems to be exactly what Aronofsky is always looking for.

I watched the film rapt and horrified. I was swept along with the titular character’s helpless anxiety and eventual despair. We start on a closeup of the Mother’s face and are told the premise of the story by her actions and reactions to small things around her.

The movie *is* the Mother. She is the only character who doesn’t wind up seeming wooden and distant and callous. As her distant husband, the poet, ignored everything she was wishing and feeling, and as her world falls apart around her due to the selfishness and reckless actions of those around her, I felt every blow she took and I thought to myself, “this is the ultimate ‘the patriarchy is the villain’ horror story.”

I wasn’t surprised, when I looked it up the next day, to find out that Aronofsky was selling it as some elaborate metaphor about the way human beings treat the Earth. I can see where and eco-parable is the movie he was trying to make, but it’s not the movie he wound up making. When the only person that seems real is the one you’re trying to sell as the metaphor, I don’t buy it. It reminded me of nothing more than The Good Woman of Scezhuan written by someone with less political awareness than Brecht had.

The mother has worked meticulously and wants comfort and appreciation. She is given neither, not even from her husband. Even though the house she has lovingly restored theoretically belongs to him. Even though the hospitality he thoughtlessly offers in complete disregard of her comfort with the situation is only important to him. Even though she is living her whole life in the service of his comfort, his vision, his work, he gives her next to nothing. He takes and takes from her without a thought of what he’s taking and at the end of the movie, she dies in fire and he is the one who gets another chance (another wife, another regeneration of the house) to begin again.

We are not killing the earth. We are changing it and making it unliveable for many of the things on it, including ourselves. The Earth will remain. We are the ones who will not. Mother!’s metaphor reads more like the kind of horror woman experiences when she’s trying to fit into patriarchal notions of what a “good woman” is and does and finds out it’s really, really bad for her. That it strips her of energy, time, sympathy and health for the sake of someone else’s work. And how she’s not supposed to complain abougt it at all.

The only way one could miss that feeling utterly from the film is to lack awareness of who women are and what they’ve been asked to do.

Mother! was like a horror film version of The Giving Tree, written from the tree’s perspective. A argumentum ad absurdum of what many women go through every day as they give and they give for partners, for workplaces, for children and for everyone who passes through their lives. Women already do more work than men to keep society running and moving forward. That’s not opinion – studies have shown they do more cleaning, more emotional labor, more childcare, more teaching, more cooking… all these fundamental things without which the coders and hedge fund managers and, yes, poets would wither and die.

You can try to make that a metaphor for something, but really, it’s just life.