Thursday, May 28, 2020

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Rewatch 4.12, "Destiny, Part 1"

Read the previous entry here!
Read the next entry soon!

Near-misses punctuate the penultimate episode of the season.

4.12, "Destiny, Part 1"

Written by Noelle Stevenson, Katherine Nolfi, Laura Sreebny, Josie Campbell, and M. Willis
Directed by Jen Bennett

Synopsis

It's shocking, truly.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
The robot Emily cavorts in Bright Moon's gardens while Scorpia looks on and Shadow Weaver disapproves. Scorpia asks Shadow Weaver about her situation, meeting with annoyance before Glimmer returns, averring her need for Scorpia's aid, asking her to connect to the Black Garnet. The request startles, but Glimmer presses ahead with her plan amid news of Double Trouble's escape.

On Beast Island, Entrapta conducts Adora, Bow, Swift Wind, and Micah to the center of the island. She notes Glimmer's absence, and she exults in the nature of Beast Island. Bow tries to persuade Entrapta to return to Bright Moon with them; Entrapta indicates her knowledge of the Heart of Etheria and rushes off to demonstrate it.

In the Fright Zone, Catra attends to her morning toilet. She is interrupted by Lonnie, Rogelio, and Kyle; she receives their report well, and their comments about Scorpia's abandonment less so. Catra rages against Lonnie, Kyle interceding, and the three being dismissed. Double Trouble makes an appearance, reporting on the princess's movements and the vulnerability of Bright Moon.

That does look about like it.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
In Bright Moon, Shadow Weaver argues against Glimmer's plan with Scorpia. She presses too far, though, and Glimmer moves her aside in high dudgeon.

Catra watches Horde troops strike out, and Hordak confronts her. He sees the value of her plan, however, and delights in it, commending her for her efforts.

On Beast Island, Entrapta shows off her findings in the central facility, whence the signal proceeds. The facility contains substantial information, including about the Heart of Etheria weapon project and the princesses' entanglement in it. Too, She-Ra's sword is not a control mechanism for the weapon, but for the wielder. Adora panics at the revelation, and Bow points to some small hope.

Glimmer and Scorpia confer about their respective situations. Entrapta has reservations about the plan, but Glimmer is able to connect with her and persuade her to assist.

Adora's group makes to return to Bright Moon. There is difficulty in their egress; they are attacked, and Entrapta resists departing in favor of staying with the machines she loves, but is persuaded at length by the prospect of inspecting Mara's ship.

Oh, this bodes ill.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.

Double Trouble infiltrates Hordak's sanctum, leading him to the idea that Catra has betrayed him, rather than Entrapta. Hordak moves in wrath against Catra.

Adora and her group arrive at Mara's ship, with Entrapta and Micah both disbelieving. Double Trouble signals Glimmer, and she and Scorpia leave for the Fright Zone as it empties of troops--and even in the moment that Adora and her group return home. Shadow Weaver tells them of her departure, and Hordak attacks Catra for her perfidy.

Discussion

With matters hastening towards completion in the present episode, little if anything new comes to attention in terms of how the series integrates medieval/ist tropes into itself. Interestingly, however, it makes pointed comments about inevitability and destiny; namely, She-Ra is intended to serve as the focus of a weapon she is used to control, rather than over which she has control. It is possible to read into the comments some reflection on militarized cultures such as the traditional concept of the medieval European, with its focus on chivalric deeds of martial prowess, as well as on the military-fetishizing culture contemporary to the series's development and release, with its increasingly militarized police forces and excessive valorization of those who are or have been in uniform. In both cases, fighting seems not to be a choice but an expectation, one imposed upon people; in both cases, fighting is presented as a primary good, if not the only good, with an avoidance of conflict seen as undesirable. And while it is the case that some fights need to be fought because some adversaries or antagonists will not listen to sweet reason, making violence the first recourse has detrimental effects on which the present series, in its present season, and a bit in its present episode, only lightly touches.

Unlike many, it questions the value of fighting, even though it hinges on a violence that seems entirely appropriate and necessary. And how much of it, ultimately, stems from one person, insecure in himself and his masculinity, trying to impress another who is not?

Thursday, May 21, 2020

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Rewatch 4.11, "Beast Island"

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Read the next entry here!

Things thought lost are found, and not all to the good, as the fourth season moves towards its end.

4.11, "Beast Island"

Written by Noelle Stevenson, M. Willis, Josie Campbell, Katherine Nolfi, and Laura Sreebny
Directed by Mandy Clotworthy

Synopsis

One can almost hear the doom.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Adora, Swift Wind, and Bow continue towards Beast Island in Mara's ship. They discuss the wisdom of their choices as they go, and Bow frets about the consequences of their disobedience. Swift Wind voices apprehension just before the ship loses control and begins to fall to the ground. They touch down just offshore of the foreboding Beast Island.

The three proceed to the island, Adora relating the horror stories told of the place by the Horde. They find evidence of Entrapta's arrival, and Swift Wind complains of a strange noise that the other two do not hear. Bow realizes that Beast Island is a dumping ground, and Adora grows concerned regarding her sword--but they proceed, even so.

He has looked better, admittedly.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Strange beasts begin to stalk them as they proceed, and others proceed to attack. Adora finds herself unable to transform into She-Ra, and the trio flees with difficulty. Swift Wind hears the strange sound again as the attack continues. They are saved by the sudden emergence of Micah, Glimmer's father, who had been believed dead.

Meanwhile, Glimmer searches for Light Hope in the Crystal Castle. She initially has some difficulty, but manages to secure an audience with the hologram.

Micah rejects the obeisances of the trio before checking to see if they are real. Introductions are interrupted by more interference from the local fauna; they explain their search for Entrapta once circumstances allow, and Micah notes knowing her. He also warns them against following her, noting that a signal from the center of the island--her seeming destination--has a suppressing effect on the mind. Further conversation is interrupted by more sign of local fauna; they proceed while conferring, soon coming into peril from said fauna and the pervasive signal.

She does know how to make an entrance.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Amid the attack, the group begins to succumb to the signal. Adora returns to confidence and determination, and she is able to transform into She-Ra, rescuing the others from the pernicious transmission. The fauna, however, continues to be problematic--until Entrapta arrives.

In the Crystal Castle, Glimmer manages to get information from Light Hope that she can use to activate the Heart of Etheria. Scorpia is the key.

Discussion

There seems something of Tolkien's Mirkwood and Radagast the Brown in the present episode's Beast Island and Micah. A darkened region fraught with peril on all sides and a somewhat...differently thinking magician are parallel tracks between the two, and it is not to be wondered at that a series would make use of such prevalent pop-culture images--especially given its already-established recourse to the medieval and medievalist. (Nor is it unexpected that a member of the Tales after Tolkien Society would find a way to make a series a tale after Tolkien, really.) And while the parallels perhaps follow Jackson's reinterpretation of Tolkien more than Tolkien, himself, the chain of transmission seems clear enough to point at, or at least to suggest.

Related to Micah's appearance in the same vein as Tolkien's Radagast is the often-medieval association of mental illness and life in the woods. It is to the woods, for example, that Lancelot flees after his violation by Elaine and rejection by Guinevere; it is to the woods that Yvain takes in his great sorrow. (It might also be noted that both do so after breaking agreements with important women in their lives, not unlike Adora and Bow entering the woods with some mental and emotional difficulty after disobeying Glimmer.) While Beast Island is not precisely a forest, it partakes of many of the same tropes associated with "the deep, dark woods," and many of the technological constructs resemble trees in outward form. And it is to such a forest-like place that Micah and Entrapta are exiled by the Horde, the former becoming, and the latter becoming more divergent from typical standards of behavior and understanding. It is a bit of a modification of the trope, but it is still one that resonates, helping the series continue to partake of the medieval it often employs.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Getting Started for #Kzoo2021

𝔄s a follow-up to "Notes from the 2020 Society Annual General Meeting," CFPs have been submitted to the International Congress on Medieval Studies and the UPenn CFP list. Details are below:

Legacies of Tolkien's Whiteness in Contemporary Medievalisms

A roundtable session at the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University (www.wmich.edu/medievalcongress) examining the continuing effects of Tolkien's depictions of race in medievalist works.

Much criticism directs itself towards racial studies and postcolonial readings of the works of JRR Tolkien, arguing whether his works should be regarded as racist and what attitudes contemporary readers would be well served to adopt in response to them. Much attention in popular media has directed itself towards the use of medieval and medievalist works such as Tolkien's by white supremacist groups to offer themselves pseudo-intellectual and pseudo-historical support for their execrable agendas. The session looks for ways in which contemporary medievalist work (hopefully) unintentionally supports such efforts and what can be done to oppose them as things deserving all opposition.

Deadscapes: Wastelands, Necropoli, and Other Tolkien-Inspired Places of Death, Decay, and Corruption

A paper session at the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University (www.wmich.edu/medievalcongress) examining depictions of what comes in the wake of war and death in works in the Tolkienian tradition.

Many of the "standard" fantasy works, ranging from the epics through Arthuriana into Tolkien and beyond, make much of grand wars fought on massive scales. They also, at times, look at what is left behind when the war is done, the graveyards filled and memorials erected. The session looks at how such things are constructed in works in the Tolkienian fantasy tradition and what functions they serve for readers in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.
For both, short proposals are welcome; please send to talesaftertolkien@gmail.com on or before 15 September 2020. Proposals from graduate students, those outside traditional academe, and traditionally underrepresented groups are especially welcome; please let people in your circles know who might be interested!
We hope to see you at the 'zoo!

Thursday, May 14, 2020

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Rewatch 4.10, "Fractures"

Read the previous entry here!
Read the next entry here!

Characters' tragic flaws are laid bare as the fourth season moves toward an end..

4.10, "Fractures"

Written by Noelle Stevenson, Katherine Nolfi, Josie Campbell, Laura Sreebny, and M. Willis
Directed by Jen Bennett

Synopsis

It's the kind of face I've seen too many times...
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary
Glimmer, working with Shadow Weaver, attempts to interrogate the imprisoned Double Trouble. It does not go well for the queen. Nor is it pleasing to her that Adora returns and summons the princesses to a meeting.

At the meeting, Adora and Bow relate what they have learned from Razz and Mara--namely, that the Heart of Etheria will destroy the planet if it is used. Shadow Weaver argues in favor of using the weapon anyway, with Glimmer convinced that she and the others can harness the power the Heart has collected. It seems to her the only option for fighting the Horde. An argument ensues.

The color evokes pus, thus infection, implying Catra's sickness.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary
At a Horde base, Catra monitors events. The Horde has been advancing well, though soldiers are weary. Catra seeks Scorpia, to no avail, and she abuses her soldiers in the continued effort to conquer Etheria.

Perfuma seems to have taken the point.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary
In Bright Moon, simulation after simulation indicates that the Heart of Etheria cannot be used. Bow tries to comfort an upset Glimmer, to no avail. Continued discussion is interrupted by the sudden appearance in the chamber of Scorpia. Melee ensues as the rebel leaders try to apprehend her, and Scorpia tries not to fight back but not to be captured. At length and with difficulty, she is restrained, even as she claims to be in search of aid for Entrapta.

Catra continues her survey of Horde forces, hoping to find Scorpia and growing increasinly certain that she is being mocked by those under her command. She confronts Lonnie over the issue, becoming increasingly erratic as she fails to make contact with Double Trouble.

Seems to be a fair bit of her mother in her.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary
Scorpia is taken into captivity and questioned. She speaks about Catra before expanding on her desire to retrieve Entrapta from Beast Island. Shadow Weaver affirms the terrible reality of Beast Island, and Adora, Bow, and Swift Wind purpose to retrieve Entrapta so as to shut down the Heart of Etheria--above Glimmer's objections. After an argument, Glimmer commands them to remain on site, despite their own objections, insisting on her prerogative as Queen.

Scorpia is escorted to confinement, marveling at the beauty of Bright Moon. The unfamiliar gentleness of the surroundings confuses her, but she begins to form connections with both Perfuma and Frosta. Meanwhile, Catra briefs Hordak on her subordinates' progress. He is pleased by the report, made amid a ruined post; Catra breaks down in tears after.

Deserted and betrayed?
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary
Adora, Bow, and Swift Wind sneak out of Bright Moon, aided by Frosta. Their departure is marked by an unhappy Glimmer, who has learned of the Horde's plan and hardens her heart against them as they make halting progress in Mara's ship. She purposes to access the Heart of Etheria herself.

Discussion

If I look at the episode as continuing the Arthurian pastiche that I have seen in so much of the rest of the series, I have to think that the present episode partakes of Malory's depiction of the falling-out between Arthur and Lancelot, with Glimmer in the former role and Adora in the latter. (I have spoken to both at various points in the rewatch, with Glimmer's connection to Arthur in 4.1, 4.2, and 4.3; Adora's partial correspondence to Lancelot is mentioned in 1.11, 1.13, and 3.1.) Despite Glimmer's desires and status as monarch, her closest companion, Bow, departs with her mightiest warrior, Adora, just as Arthur is left by Guinevere and Lancelot. The suggestion of romantic tension between Glimmer and Bow--she holds his hand in both of hers, stroking it with a thumb; the gesture bespeaks a different intimacy than simple friendship--reinforces the parallel. And Glimmer is led into a rash decision as a result of what seems to her to be a betrayal, purposing to call upon overwhelming, overwhelmingly dangerous, power held by what can only be considered an untrustworthy guardian--not dissimilar to Arthur being roped into besieging Lancelot late in Malory. So there is that to consider.

It may perhaps be more apt to analyze the present episode as the exposure of the protagonists' tragic flaws. Both Glimmer and Adora are convinced of their rightness, and they are acting towards ends that can be viewed as good ones; saving a friend and saving a kingdom both count. But both pursue their agendas through less than upright means; disobedience and betrayal are not good, but neither is recklessness. Did either listen to the other, matters might well have been different, but both are too proud, it seems, to bend when they need to. Whether they will break...

Thursday, May 7, 2020

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Rewatch 4.9, "Hero"

Read the previous entry here!
Read the next entry here!

Time shifts and warnings are issued as the fourth season begins what appears to be its third act.

4.9, "Hero"

Written by Noelle Stevenson, Josie Campbell, Katherine Nolfi, Laura Sreebny, and M. Willis
Directed by Mandy Clotworthy

Synopsis

"It's Mara."
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary
Madam Razz fusses about to make her home ready for company. She had expected Adora, but Mara arrives at her home. Razz welcomes her warmly and invites her to bake a pie with her.

A sudden shift sees Razz alone in her home just before Adora comes to call. After a bit of confusion as Adora rattles off her present problems, Razz recalls a weapon associated with Mara and resumes making pie as Swift Wind arrives; he evidently makes a habit of checking up on Razz. The horse is not helpful initially, and Razz calls them along as she goes about her pie-making.

It looked a little different, then.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary
Razz takes off through the forest, Adora and Swift Wind following in hope. They lose track of her, and she shifts back to her experience with Mara. Their initial meeting is tense, though Razz quickly defuses the situation and piques Mara's interest. Light Hope takes a harsher view, though Mara convinces her to withhold sanction.

Quite different, indeed.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary
Razz shifts back to her time with Adora, who catches up to her. The later She-Ra investigates the area, finding the marks of Mara's presence and anger--and a peculiar crystal, about which she asks; Razz reports that the crystal was left by Mara for Adora. Adora continues to ask questions, not all of which Razz can answer as she shifts through time once again.

This time, a rampaging beast assails her, and Mara, arriving, transforms into She-Ra to save her. The efforts are unsuccessful, but Razz calms the attacking animal, to Mara's amazement. Razz begins to acquaint Mara with the local fauna, establishing the connection between her and Etheria that begins to work wonders in the world. Mara questions her mission and the Heart of Etheria Project to which she is assigned.

This is not a victory.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary
Razz returns to Adora's present and Adora's questions about events. Adora begins to puzzle out the time-shifts as Razz continues to talk through her disjointed wisdom. Razz takes Adora back to her home as the latter continues to press for information. She shifts again to a time when the wounded Mara arrives at her home as strange magical exhalations spread with the activation of the Heart of Etheria. Mara resists the Project with little success.

Razz shifts back to Adora's present once again and rushes towards Mara's ship, shifting back into and out of a chaotic past as she does so. Bow, working in the ship, is startled by Razz's arrival; Razz reemphasizes the need to talk to Mara, and Adora realizes the crystal is the container of Mara's message. She plays it, and images from the past proceed with Mara's rejection of her "destiny" as She-Ra and the seemingly corrupted Light Hope. The terrible promise of the Heart of Etheria begins to become clear, and Mara takes Etheria into another dimension to prevent great harm from befalling. And in her message to Adora, Mara makes clear all that she can of events in her time and the lingering peril--and she comes to her sudden end.

Discussion

Madam Razz features heavily in earlier episodes in the series, notably 1.3 and 3.5. Of the first appearance, I comment that
the Razz of the title is an interesting figure. She is evidently not in the best presence of mind, but she is also evidently possessed of some power. In the episode, she easily scales the First-Ones ruin, for example, and calls her broom to her hand through an unseen force. She also effects escape from the Horde. As with the mirroring between Adora and Catra, there is ample antecedent for the device of the kooky mentor-figure, but I cannot help but thinking of the many hermits that appear in such chivalric works as Malory's, or even of the (predominantly female) anchorites of the Middle Ages. Such facets of medieval life are perhaps not as familiar as the knights Adora evokes or even of the triumphant archers that Bow re-presents, but that lesser familiarity does not make them any less "true" medievalisms than the other parallels.
I find, after rewatching the present episode, that there is a more direct parallel to Razz in medieval and medievalist work, one that follows the generally Arthurian pastiche at work in the series--Merlin. Razz's magical abilities are more notable in the present episode than previously. In addition to the broom-work and uncanny mobility seen before, she is able to calm a rampaging beast, explicate the nature of magic on Etheria, and light fires with a gesture; the more overt workings mark her more firmly not only as a hermit-mentor, but as one with otherworldy powers even by the standards of the setting.

Too, the present episode makes clear that the aforementioned mental difficulties are the results of Razz's perception shifting between timeframes--if it is not she, herself, who does so, experiencing the disparate times simultaneously, relative to herself. What comes to mind is the description of Merlin living backwards that appears in White's The Once and Future King and the Disney animated movie that derives from it--not medieval works themselves, clearly, but just as clearly trying to borrow from the medieval to inform and contextualize their storytelling. Indeed, the temporal displacement / blending allows Razz to inform Mara of what she needs to do with regards to Adora, the "future" existence allowing for some control in the "past," even as it points out once again the problems of time-travel.

What I said some months ago still applies, as well:
That such a one--refigured, yes, but so are the knights and nobles--appears in the episode can be taken as a suggestion that a more nuanced, detailed, and accurate idea of the medieval can be used well as an underpinning for the works of popular culture. Given the struggles against misuse and misappropriation of the medieval that pervade popular culture and academe, any such efforts have to be welcome.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Rewatch 4.8, "Boys' Night Out"

Read the previous entry here!
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Shenanigans ensue as the men of She-Ra take center stage. Because of course they do.

4.8, "Boys' Night Out"

Written by Noelle Stevenson, Shane Lynch, Josie Campbell, Katherine Nolfi, Laura Sreebny, and M. Willis
Directed by Christina "Kiki" Manrique

Synopsis

Such cannon. Much blast. Wow.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary
The Horde presses its wave of assault, Hordak leading the way. Ruin and destruction follow, with the rebellion doing what it can to hinder the advance and evacuate the locals. Conditions are not favorable for them as they are for Hordak.

Their excursion promises to be glorious. Or a travesty. One of those.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary
After, the rebel leaders confer about their current circumstances. Matters are grim, and Glimmer continues to rush out as Mermista mourns her fallen kingdom. The conference concludes sharply, leaving Bow, Swift Wind, and Sea Hawk alone. The last purposes to take the three of them out together, and the proceed thus.

Hordak surveys the results of his work, and Catra confers with him regarding their progress. She tries to have him return to the Fright Zone; he sends her home, instead. She reluctantly agrees, complaining after he leaves.

Bow, Swift Wind, and Sea Hawk find themselves in a tavern. Bow finds himself distracted, and Sea Hawk tries to enliven things through an impromptu musical number. The three are taken from the tavern at sword-point, ostensibly as part of Sea Hawk's plan to reunite the rancorous princesses. The kidnappers, though, are not the ones on whom Sea Hawk planned.

The three find themselves restrained aboard ship our of sight of shore. They try to make contact with the princesses, who find themselves distracted by their own concerns. Glimmer and Adora argue, hindering contact, and their captors reveal themselves as Sea Hawk's former crewmates, who seek vengeance on him, as well as bounties on their heads.

Catra considers her situation and tries to make contact with Scorpia, to no avail.

That doesn't look like a pleasure yacht.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Bow, Swift Wind, and Sea Hawk are told they are bound for the Horde. They are transferred thence, but Mermista finally receives word of their disappearance. She marshals Glimmer and Adora to assist in their recovery, and they effect it after a brief melee and another musical number.

In the Fright Zone, Catra realizes Scorpia's defection. Nor are matters easy among Glimmer, Adora, and Bow, and Adora purposes to find Mara's weapon.

Discussion

Much is made in the episode of friendship, possibly speaking to another cartoon directed towards girls and young women that has enjoyed renewed interests after an initial appearance in the 1980s. Intentionally or not, it also evokes the fellowship--felaweshipe or felawscipe or other spellings, and, generously, the comitatus--that appears in so much medieval English literature. In both Chaucer and Malory, much is made of the increasingly close companionship, not without internal strife and struggles, that emerges among those who journey and fight together--and, yes, with sexual overtones available if not always sounded, as is true of most things. It is in some respects the driving force of the larger narratives in some of the more notable medieval English works, receiving attention from far more erudite scholars than I. As with many things, of course, there are other depictions of it than the medieval, but there are many medieval, and the emphasis of the present episode on friendship and its failures seems to help tie it to the medieval/ist.

This is more so in the relationship between Glimmer and Adora. As I've asserted repeatedly in this rewatch series, something of an Arthurian pastiche is in play, particularly with Adora; Glimmer seems more and more solidly a parallel to Arthur as the series continues. Adora partakes of both Lancelot and Gawain, with more of the former emerging in the present episode; she is clearly the mightiest of the warriors in service to Glimmer, and a rift is growing between her and the monarch she is pledged to serve. More, it is growing in part because Adora transgresses some of the distancing that has to take place between a leader and followers in situations where the leader must send others to die, much as Lancelot's violation of social norms occasions the separation between him and Arthur that emerges. Matters between Glimmer and Adora are not as overtly sexually charged--despite Malory's protestations about love not being then as when he wrote, relationships around Lancelot grow fraught because of sex--but that does not make them any less intense, especially when it is considered, as it must be, that the two of them are adolescents despite their offices and achievements.

Being a young adult is not easy for many.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Rewatch 4.7, "Mer-Mysteries"

Read the previous entry here!
Read the next entry here!

Tensions rise and the stakes elevate as the fourth season continues.

4.7, "Mer-Mysteries"

Written by Noelle Stevenson, M. Willis, Josie Campbell, Katherine Nolfi, and Laura Sreebny
Directed by Jen Bennett

Synopsis

Something of a cliché, admittedly
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary
On a dark and stormy night in Bright Moon, Queen Glimmer, the princesses, Bow, Sea Hawk, and Flutterina confer regarding a failed mission. They debrief, and the idea is arrived at that there is a Horde spy among them. Mermista purposes to uncover the spy's identity.

There is some confusion about the idea as Mermista begins to take charge of the investigation. Adora lends her voice to the idea, however, and investigation proceeds. Shadow Weaver is swiftly set aside as a suspect while others are interrogated in turn.

They're a sneaky one.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary
"Flutterina" makes a report to Catra about current circumstances. Catra expresses concern that Double Trouble will be exposed; Double Trouble sets aside the concern against shapeshifting.

Questioning proceeds, if somewhat ineptly. Accounts of events are reported in turn, with the problems in the mission put on display. Early clues had been discounted as equipment problems. Shadow Weaver does make a helpful suggestion, however, on which Glimmer and Adora follow up after a time and some strife between them.

Wasn't there just somebody on the stool?
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary
Questioning continues, running into a large gathering from which Glimmer absents herself. Adora moves to talk with her as Glimmer purposes to address the issue directly. Adora confronts Glimmer about trust. And news arrives that communications have been cut, renewing suspicions of an infiltrator. With the principals gathered together, Glimmer notes that a backup device is available, and Mermista pursues the traditional mystery method. Accusations follow, and "Flutterina" slips away amid the distraction.

Ew. Just, ew.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary
She moves against the noted backup device and is caught amid her endeavor. Her spycraft is uncovered, as is Double Trouble's identity. And Double Trouble reveals much of the Horde's ongoing machinations--which range to a substantial, succesful assault on Mermista's home that has already happened. It has been laid waste by Hordak's own hand.

And, elsewhere, another threat begins to direct itself towards Etheria.


Discussion

One element of the episode that presents itself early, working from the cliché of the murder mystery, is an excess of drama. Movies and television now commonly regarded as badly written and worse acted tended towards the kind of scenery-chewing and bathetic fallacy being sent up in the present episode. (Even were it in earnest, it can be forgiven in a children's show; kids have not yet learned the cliché to know it needs to be avoided or how it can serve as a common touchstone. I seem to recall that Catherine Molloy's 2010 College English piece, "The Malcliche: An Argument for an Unlikely Episteme," having something useful to say on the topic. And I do note how it dates my scholarship that I refer to such an article.) But there is medieval antecedent for the practice; such pieces as Malory's and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight make much use of such, with knights weeping abundantly and Arthur acting extravagantly, and such pieces are hardly excoriated for it.

Aside from that, the issue of isolation queenship emerges in the episode again in the evident strife between Glimmer and Adora. It continues the concerns noted in several earlier episodes of the present season, deepening the connections between Glimmer and her medieval antecedents and thus the medievalism of the series as a whole.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Notes from the 2020 Society Annual General Meeting

𝔓er §5 of the Tales after Tolkien Society Constitution, and in response to the cancellation of the 2020 International Congress on Medieval Studies, the Annual General Meeting of the Society was held online at 5:30pm, US Central Time, on Monday, 20 April 2020. In attendance were Molly Brown; Shiloh Carroll; Rachel Cooper, Society Secretary and Social Media Officer; Xenia Moos; Gillian Polack; Luke Shelton, Society Vice-president (US); and Kristine Swank. Presiding over the meeting was Geoffrey B. Elliott, Society President.
Announced agenda items for the meeting were panels to propose to the 2021 International Congress on Medieval Studies and the election of the Secretary and the Vice-president (At-large) for their 2020-2023 terms. Following announcements from the Congress, the Society determined to re-submit the panels that had been proposed for the 2020 Congress: Legacies of Tolkien's Whiteness in Contemporary Medievalisms and Deadscapes: Wastelands, Necropoli, and Other Tolkien-Inspired Places of Death, Decay, and Corruption. Panelists who had been previously invited will be re-invited with the caveat that they are not obliged to present for the Society, and submissions will be re-opened. (Prior discussion of the panels is here; more information will be forthcoming once submissions are made to the Congress.)
Elections followed. Incumbent Secretary Rachel Cooper allowed her name to stand for reelection; with no other candidates proposed, Secretary Cooper was acclaimed to the position. After clarification of the office's role in representing the Society to conferences outside North America and coordinating Society activities, incumbent Vice-president Andrew Higgins was nominated to the role. The Society determined to ask him to retain the role, with elections to follow if he did not accept; later communication from the Society President confirmed that Vice-president Higgins accepted the request of the Society to remain in office.
After elections were concluded, the meeting turned to new business:
  • Gillian Polack discussed a submission to the Science Fiction World Con, which will be held online at the end of July 2020. A fee for participation was noted, as was the less-academic nature of the panel to be proposed. Arrangements were made to assemble and propose a panel; as of this writing, the proposal has been made by Vice-president Shelton, with additional news forthcoming.
  • Following a request for information from member Carol Robinson, the Society determined to let the WordPress website it had been using lapse, but to retain the domain name talesaftertolkien.org. Secretary Cooper agreed to lead the work of setting the domain to forward to the Society blog.
  • The matter of proposing a panel to Southwest PCA was discussed. Per Kristine Swank, the Society is not a good fit for the conference. The matter was set aside.
  • The matter of contributions to the Society blog was discussed. President Elliott called for contributions from members and from those outside traditional academic structures. Vice-president Shelton and Kris Swank both reported having leads on discussion of The Witcher, with Swank having later established a connection around which work is ongoing as of this writing. Reblogging of members' other efforts was endorsed, and news from members called for.
  • Gillian Polack noted being in contact with a number of authors who may be interested. Responding authors will be directed to contact via the Society email, talesaftertolkien@gmail.com; the Society will draft a set of questions to pose, focusing on authors' engagement with / response to Tolkien.
  • From discussion, it was determined that the Society will work to expand its online / virtual offerings, including incorporating teleconferencing into future meetings as is practicable and motion toward setting up an online presentation archive, to which members can submit. Vice-president Shelton noted the Tolkienists.org discussion forum as a model and resource for the same.
At 6:15pm, US Central Time, Kris Swank moved to adjourn. The motion was seconded by Vice-president Shelton and Gillian Polack; no opposition being heard, the motion carried.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Rewatch 4.6, "Princess Scorpia"

Read the previous entry here!
Read the next entry here!

Fallings-out beset both sides of the series conflict, and both due to Catra.

4.6, "Princess Scorpia"

Written by Noelle Stevenson, Laura Sreebny, Josie Campbell, Katherine Nolfi, and M. Willis
Directed by Kiki Manrique

Synopsis

That, there, is a happy camper.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Scorpia wakes happily in the Fright Zone. She is almost disturbingly chipper as she goes through what seems a morning routine. She reaffirms her devotion to Catra as she does, and she emerges into a chaotic scene.

Glimmer, Adora, and Bow fight Horde forces to free up a supply line. Flutterina assists, and Glimmer proves to be somewhat bloodthirsty in her work and desire to test her increasing magical knowledge. There is some concern about the dearth of Horde resistance, and Flutterina remarks on Glimmer's suboptimal combat performance.

That doesn't seem...friendly.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Hordak stalks through the Fright Zone, ranting at Catra for her seeming surrender of territory. She laughs off his concerns, explaining her strategy. Hordak notes having stalled in his research, needing Entrapta's notes to effect his return to his brother's good graces. Catra tasks Scorpia with retrieving the notes.

Scorpia goes off to find the notes and encounters a sour Lonnie, Rogelio, and Kyle. Lonnie voices her disagreements and dissatisfaction with Catra's leadership; Scorpia defends her, earning rebuke from Lonnie.

That also doesn't seem friendly.
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Glimmer, Adora, Bow, and Flutterina approach another Horde outpost. Glimmer reconnoiters, earning rebuke from Adora for her recklessness. An argument ensues amid the melee, in which the covert Double Trouble takes delight and which Bow attempts to interrupt. Concerns are voiced, and some progress is made, which Double Trouble feels compelled to interfere with.

So close...
Image taken from the episode, used for commentary.
Scorpia searches through Entrapta's belongings for her notes. There are some distractions, which she reluctantly puts aside, and Scorpia finds herself drawn to her own runestone. It calls to her, strangely, and she rehearses the displacement of her own family from power. The recordings reveal themselves in the robot Scorpia has effectively inherited, and Scorpia is reminded of friendship, sadly. And she realizes that Catra is a threat to continued friendship, taking the robot off.

Double Trouble's machinations have some effect, and Glimmer is able to extract information from one of the Horde soldiers noting Catra's withdrawal of forces. And interpersonal tensions rise further.

Scorpia takes the robot to her family's ancestral hall, pointing out images of her forebears and expounding on her circumstances. And she accepts Catra's perfidy, reporting to Catra and finding rebuke. She departs, leaving Catra to make her own report. Hordak does not take it well, and Catra presses Hordak to proceed anyway. And he is able to do so, though it will be without Scorpia, who departs with the robot.

Discussion

The present episode appears to mark the end of a tendency on which I have commented once or twice before: Scorpia's infatuation with Catra that verges towards courtly love. There are foreshadowings of that end in earlier episodes, of course, small motions Scorpia makes away from Catra when the latter is more openly abusive, but it is not until the present episode that the illusion Scorpia has built up in her mind of her devotion to Catra and its coming reward is swept aside--and the loss of that vision of love is enough to send Scorpia out from the only home she has known into an uncertain world.

Admittedly, this does appear to be an inversion of the usual trope. In the main, it is love that drives errantry, the desire to be desired that spurs a young warrior to go out and do deeds of renown. Here, it is the recognition of the love's falsity that drives the out-going; it is Catra's dropping of even the pretense of concern for someone who is besotted with her that impels the latter to depart. And that perhaps seems more like the early modern sonnet sequence enacted than a chivalric romance, being less overtly medievalist in being so--but still, in being what seems a culmination of a medieval/ist trope in the series, it would still seem to "count."

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

An Online Meeting

𝔄s a follow-up to "Another Update on #Kzoo2020," the Society will be holding an online business meeting at 1730 US Central Time on 20 April 2020. Agenda items are the elections of a new Vice-President (at-large) and Secretary and the selection of additional panel/s to propose for the hoped-for 2021 Congress and to other conferences of interest. Nominations and additional agenda items can be emailed to the Society at talesaftertolkien@gmail.com.
As ever, thank you for your engagement with the Tales after Tolkien Society. Be safe and well, and be in touch!