opressive blanket of normality
February 18, 2024 1:55 PM   Subscribe

Mute the tab before beginning if simulated, loud clickety-clack keyboard noises are not your jam.

But the point being made is a good one. Stuff that leans very heavily into being interested in something, sexual or otherwise, is always going to be more interesting than something that toes the safe middle ground.
posted by axiom at 2:08 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]

[please imagine each numbered line takes 30 seconds or so to appear with some cutesy animation and sound effects, thank you]

1- this author's fetish is clearly painfully-slow-to-read interfaces. I don't know how far I got through it before giving up.
2- the viewpoint, examples, language, references, etc., are VERY cis white straight male. If the author is not these things, kudos for what I suppose is a parody?
3- the kind of art he (I suppose?) likes seem very different from the kind of art I like.
4- this probably isn't for me.
posted by signal at 2:22 PM on February 18 [4 favorites]

what if your fetish is toeing the middle ground, so to speak?
posted by chavenet at 2:38 PM on February 18 [3 favorites]

the viewpoint, examples, language, references, etc., are VERY cis white straight male. If the author is not these things, kudos for what I suppose is a parody?

The author is Freya Campbell.
posted by simmering octagon at 2:39 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry, but anything that starts with framing Quentin Tarantino's foot fetish as a good thing has already lost me.

A massive chunk of fiction is fetish. It's not that it bad, though often it is, it's just that it's way over-represented in what gets support and subsequently momentum. Fetish fiction is cheap; the author often just makes up whatever shit they want to and strings it together in a way that stumbles from scene to scene -- obsession doesn't automatically turn into a cohesive work. Titillate the right producer and you're in. Turning it into a film or TV show can often be little more than a one-room porn shoot. Actors get railroaded into being part of films like this in a way that can get into very grey areas of consent, since there's so much of it. Want to pay your rent? I guess Quentin gets to suck some more toes.

There are other kinds of fiction than fetish. Fiction that explores (or explains) issues affecting our lives is seriously under-represented. Sci-fi that makes us hope and dream for a future worth working towards is immensely valuable. These fictions are more work, may need research, and will typically get more push back from audiences. They're the stories that need support.
"Turning financial scams into entertainment is important work. Finance's most devastating defense is the Shield Of Boringness (h/t Dana Clare) – tactically deployed complexity designed to induce the state that finance bros call "MEGO" ("my eyes glaze over"). By combining jargon and obfuscation, the most monstrous criminals of our age have been able to repeatedly bring our civilization to the brink of collapse (remember 2008?) and then spin their way out of it.

Turning these schemes into entertainment is hard, necessary work, because it incinerates the respectable suit and tie and leaves the naked dishonesty of the finance sector on display for all to see. In The Big Short, they recruited Margot Robbie to explain synthetic CDOs from a bubble-bath. And John Oliver does this every week on Last Week Tonight, coming up with endlessly imaginative stunts and gags to flense the bullshit, laying the scam economy open to the bone."
-- Pluralistic: An excerpt from The Bezzle (17 Feb 2024), Cory Doctorow
Have a look at Hollywood's back catalogue, a really good look, with an eye to what's likely fetish work, and then explain why you feel the need to boost the majority of works out there that seem to be getting made just fine.

If your fetish work is being criticized, maybe it's just really, really bad.
posted by krisjohn at 3:25 PM on February 18 [6 favorites]

The author is Freya Campbell.
posted by simmering octagon

So, parody it is.
posted by signal at 4:09 PM on February 18

So, parody it is.

What makes you so sure to qualify the work of a trans woman as parody?
posted by simmering octagon at 4:12 PM on February 18 [2 favorites]

(disclaimer, Freya & I once shared an employer, are twitter mutuals, & I think she's neat)

I think the format is lowering the odds of people R-ing TFA so I'm gonna attempt a tl;dr:, I might horse it up but I'll give it a shot; this is all paraphrased

- this point comes very late in the OG manifesto but we're mostly talking about video games here, especially indie video games made by a small team or solo dev

- art is better when it's obvious the person making it cares a little too much about the subject matter

- even realistic "non-fetishy" fiction is deliberately shaped to highlight the bits people find enjoyable

- the act of creation is self-gratification

- if the creator isn't true to themselves while making art, if they pull punches or affect an ironic detachment to what they're passionate about, the resulting art sucks

- the raw honesty that makes media feel viscerally powerful is the same raw honesty that leads, say, Tarantino to be like, "Yeah I'm into feet, look how into feet I am, feet fuckin rule"

(or as the tweet from @GlassFembot the piece quotes says, "showing hog in a film doesn't make it good, it's just that the same passions that drive the showing of hog are also the same passions that produce good cinema")

- direct quote: "i think when writers are afraid to be perverts that they make bad work. they make the work that can't stand by itself, collapsing on interrogation or challenge; or too many contrasting and unconfident voices have averaged out to a sort of perversion of the commons, indulging only the safest and most unoffensive fetishes to render on the screen."

- when you're afraid to pander to a "weird" fetish, you wind up pandering to only the most mainstream fetishes like vanilla cishet romance and car-and-gun-based masculinity, and this is bad for the state of art in general

- we all lived through it being uncool to like things but you cannot make good art if you are afraid to express that you like things, that's actually a recipe for making bad art

- she the author personally fuckin loves it when creators honestly make games about things they are a little too passionate about whether that's sexual or not, and the purpose of this manifesto is to affirm her commitment to being a "writer pervert" and "gamedev sicko"
posted by taquito sunrise at 5:15 PM on February 18 [18 favorites]

insufferable sounds: you know how insufferable people like disco elysium?
usual text and pretty background: because of the beautiful voice work or the evocative writing?
remember late 90s hypertext literature?::nonononononononononononon....
posted by es_de_bah at 5:31 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]

simmering octagon: "What makes you so sure to qualify the work of a trans woman as parody?"

You're right, I shouldn't have made assumptions or comments about the author's gender.
posted by signal at 7:13 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]

I liked this and also agree with it in both content and spirit.
posted by StopMakingSense at 11:21 PM on February 18 [2 favorites]

I'm on mobile, will check out TFA on desktop later, thanks taquito sunrise for the summary.

I like art that stretches me and makes me think about my place in the world, so that has to come from outside of -- or at least following and breaking rules of -- the normal experience. (I also like art that helps me practise everyday situations and think about nearby-but-not-my-experience scenarios.) Making that? Be scared and do it anyway, my flash cards remind me. You have to be a bit odd, and thank you for sharing that with me.
posted by k3ninho at 11:43 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]

I think this essay is (a) correct and (b) surprisingly uncontroversial, although most people would probably choose some other word than "fetish"--the term I hear most often is "id." Putting it into the realm of sexuality is challenging and provocative but not--at least, I don't think--entirely necessary, because it's more about the individual energy and desire than the particular brain-bits that get lit up by whatever it is you're writing about. (Unfortunately I can't seem to scroll in the essay, but the line about "perversion of the commons" or "fetish of the commons" was pretty great, and I'm always up for fretting over "prioritizing of soft uwu safety"--the intrusion of "cozy" into every corner of fiction has the effect of draining out all the essential vitamins. There's a place for "cozy," it's just that that place is not "everywhere.")
posted by mittens at 6:23 AM on February 19 [3 favorites]

It is undeniable that a lot of creators put their sexual desires into their work.

The whole of Robert Heinlein's work that wasn't explicitly aimed at children is more or less a parade of his kinks, fetishes, and sexual desires.

I'm not sure I'd say that's a good thing. It may be somewhat inevitable, when someone is creating a fictional universe it includes what they think might be cool, both good and bad, and for people who aren't asexual their own sexual thinking is going to be in there too. Maybe not as blatantly as Heinlein inserted his sexual fantasies, but it's going to be there.

We notice, for example, when an author is seriously into food. Or fashion. Robert B Parker's books are filled with descriptions of both, SM Stirling loves food almost as much as he does airships and badass lesbian ship captains, Brian Jacques is clearly a man who loves to eat, George Martin is almost as famous for his food porn as his actual sex scenes, Ian Fleming had loving descriptions of food in all the Bond books, and so on. We notice it, but since it's not sex we tend to appreciate it a bit more maybe? Or to see it as non-prurient?

I'm not really a fan of sex scenes in regular fiction, IMO it tends to detract from the story and if you want porn there's plenty of it available. So I'm sort of on board with the idea that it's not so great for creators to put their sex fantasies into their work. But, sex is also a pretty important part of regular life. Even if it isn't going to be pornographic the inclusion of sex, which inevitably means what the creator finds interesting about sex, is more or less inevitable.

I think there's a lot of middle ground between "it's good that Tarantino puts in his foot fetish" and saying "ick no sex ever in fiction".
posted by sotonohito at 6:57 AM on February 19 [4 favorites]

The whole of Robert Heinlein's work that wasn't explicitly aimed at children is more or less a parade of his kinks, fetishes, and sexual desires.

One time in high school, I had to pick out a book for English class for a book report, and I emerged from my local library with The Number of the Beast.

That was a Bad Decision[tm].
posted by delfin at 7:08 AM on February 19 [4 favorites]

>I'm sorry, but anything that starts with framing Quentin Tarantino's foot fetish as a good thing has already lost me.

Well for teenage me, growing up being told feet are disgusting and people who like them are disgusting, having that kind of representation was incredibly helpful.
posted by Easy problem of consciousness at 3:39 AM on February 20 [1 favorite]

I think that the actual problem here is about power - who gets to make art, whose art is widely distributed, whose visions go substantially unquestioned. The more equal the milieu, the less it matters that this one guy has a game that's about feet.

All my life, the vast majority of cultural production has always had little reminders for all women that they are only interesting if they are sexually available and fetishizable - no woman's story is worthwhile if she doesn't have sexual "value". Women who don't have sexual value are risible, disgusting or, at best, forgettable, and women who do have sexual value need to have a little bit of the feet thing or whatever in their fight scenes or their courtroom scenes. Women need to be reminded that no matter what they think about their lives, they are first and foremost sexual objects for men - never first and foremost researchers or fighters or artists or bus drivers or veterinarians, etc.

Similarly, the vast majority of cultural production has these little reminders for people of color that they're outsiders or criminals or exotic, and that men and especially but not exclusively women of color are only interesting if they are sexually available and fit into a racial fetish narrative. Just little reminders, here and there, that no one will bother to tell a story about you unless they can also tell a story about your sexy, sexy body part.

Since most people most of the time don't want to think of themselves as worthwhile only to the degree that they have sexy feet, this is IMO kind of bad.

And of course, while there are certain fetish cultural productions about cis straight white men, there are lots and lots and lots of cultural productions where cis straight white men are deemed interesting and worthwhile regardless of whether they are the subject of an obsession, sexual or otherwise. Cis straight white men are deemed worthy of narrative just because they exist, not because the exist and also have sufficiently sexy fingernails. Someone who is passionately interested in, say, the work of W G Sebald [I look around at my bookshelf to try to find books by cis straight white men] might take a "I'm nerding out, I'm obsessed with Sebald, I'm passionate about every aspect" approach, but might easily also take a cooler and more distant tone, or might use their nerdy obsession to create a tonally cool production.

People are capable of making documentaries, writing journal articles, etc with passion and commitment and interest where whatever obsession drives them - sexual or otherwise - is sublimated into the conventions of the work. People are capable of writing passionate papers about physics and while their individual "fetishes"/obsessions may give them the energy that makes the work unique and interesting, those papers are generally no longer expected to be full of little comic anecdotes about the physics of women's breasts or whatever was okay in random past writing. Yet the papers persist.

Really the issue is about whether everyone is able to contribute equally to the discourse. If everyone has a voice, then there's always going to be both creator and audience for, eg, a specific kind of sexual fetish or specific non-sexual passion, but there will also be milieux where those things are absent.

As ever, the problem is that we live in white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.
posted by Frowner at 7:29 AM on February 20 [2 favorites]

Make it more equal by all means. But when we live in a white supremacists Capitalist patriarchy and half the movies out there sexualize women with a male gaze, well maybe let's call out the people making films that fetishize thin young women with large breasts. Maybe give the people doing something a *little* different - Tarantino and Sir Mix a Lot - a pass. When they're the ones getting raked across the coals while the more interchangeable artists don't get named or shamed... that creates less space for others to contribute not more.
posted by Easy problem of consciousness at 12:45 PM on February 20

Well for teenage me, growing up being told feet are disgusting and people who like them are disgusting, having that kind of representation was incredibly helpful.
There's nothing wrong with liking feet, but there's an awful lot wrong with being Quentin Tarantino. He's hideous representation for anything.
posted by zymil at 10:38 PM on February 23 [1 favorite]

« Older It’s a love story, Blobby just say yes   |   The most mesmerizing, creative, shocking, sweet... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments