SANSA, DANY, ​AND THE FEMINIST AGENDA

(Image: HBO)

Spoilers for S8, Ep.1 ‘Winterfell’ are coming.

You have been warned.

Game of Thrones has long been praised for its portrayal of complex, multi-faceted female characters, who are every bit as honourable or conniving as the men they scheme and fight alongside. The show, however, has not been without its critics, nor has it been spared from criticism, including of a sex scene that was seen to normalise rape during its fourth season.

When the long-awaited first episode of the eighth season aired on Monday morning (or Sunday evening, for those in the northern hemisphere), reactions to what unfolded filtered onto the internet in a near-endless stream of memes, GIFS and play-by-play social media posts. Many of these centered around the first meeting of Daenerys Targaryen (and her impressive slew of titles) and Sansa Stark. In line with the Game of Thrones tradition, it did not go well. In fact, Sansa’s side-eye had never been fiercer, and Dany’s inherent self-righteousness remained strong as ever.

She [Sansa] doesn’t need to be my friend,’ Dany says to Jon. ‘But I am her Queen. If she can’t respect me…’ and then Dany trails off ominously. But Sansa’s frosty reception was an issue for more than just the Mother of Dragons. Many people online are dissatisfied that the two characters, who have both survived and overcome the challenges that have faced them, particularly as women, were instantly pitted against one another.

This Sansa/Daenerys shit is so unimaginative and dull and so clearly the idea of men,’ said @annehelen on Twitter.

STOP PITTING WOMEN AGAINST EACH OTHER.’ @juliekosin agreed.

This discussion falls into the larger context of the long-standing tradition of television and movie screenplays, where two women on screen together are often engaged in conflict, or are at the very least failing the Bechdel test. With this in mind, having two well-developed female characters with their own motivations and flaws at odds with one another might be interpreted as a step back from the strides forward Game of Thrones has made.

But I have to disagree.

Though their meeting crackled with all the tension that Dany’s uncompromising will and Sansa’s hard-earned abrasiveness had to offer, I think this is a good thing. In order to stay true to their character development, having the two in conflict with one another is in line with what we know of them.

Dany, after all, was set to invade Sansa’s home, and all of the Seven Kingdoms. We witness her smirk as her dragons frighten the silent Northerners who regard her suspiciously. We are reminded in the same episode of Dany’s inflexibility with Sam’s realisation that she has killed his father and brother for being unwilling to bend the knee.

Sansa, for her part, has long since learned to keep her guard up. Winterfell, and her family, have only just become a part of her life again after so many years of being alone. And, as Sir Davos reminds us, ‘If you want their [the Northerners] loyalty, you have to earn it.’

In light of this, Game of Thrones has done a service to both Sansa and Dany’s characters by putting them in conflict with one another, rather than forcing them into an instant camaraderie just because they are both women.

There is also the further context of Dany’s positive relationship with Missandei, and Sansa’s with Arya, which is reinforced during the course of the episode.

Where were you before?’ Jon asks Arya after they’re reunited. ‘I could have used your help with Sansa.’

But far from siding with her favourite brother, Arya reinforces Sansa’s position of defending their family. To me, this serves as a reminder that Sansa and Dany’s actions are not born out of girl on girl hate, nor from some misguided sense of jealousy, but rather from an incompatibility of experience.

After all, two women in power need not like or even respect each other, but it becomes a problem when such a pairing is seen as the norm. In this case, I do not think that Sansa’s distrust of Dany is a continuation of an outdated mentality that sees women on screen deferring to the more complicated storylines of men. Rather, I think it is a continuation of Game of Thrones’ commitment to Sansa and Dany’s characters, whose motivations and actions are both real and flawed.


Words by Rachael Stapleton

Header image: HBO

Rachael is a fantasy writer, an arts student, and a professional procrastinator. She spends most of her time watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine, teaching her cat to play fetch and thinking about writing. You can find her on instagram at @rachaelstaple

STEAMing Ahead

South Australia is quickly becoming the prime location for those looking for employment in the STEM fields. For those who are uncertain, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths. These fields currently offer diverse career opportunities, from medical advancements to the Australian Space Agency. However, there is one a vital component to STEM fields: Arts.

Arts and STEM have been inspiring each other for years, from Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics to the hard-scientific facts which make Andy Weir’s The Martian more realistic. This combination of STEM and the Arts is better known by professionals as STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics). STEAM has already been making itself known in South Australia, appearing at arts festivals and used to show off new locally developed technology.

In the 2017/2018 budget, the state government invested $250 million into Education to deliver more STEM topics to primary and secondary schools. Flinders University’s Tonsley Campus and its Innovation Hub, alongside the Medical Research and Science Centre (the cheese grater on North Terrace) are some STEM-focused buildings which now make up part of the Adelaide skyline.

It is expected STEM funding will increase with the new budget due in September. In 2018 the Adelaide Fringe generated $16.6 million at the box office and added $29.5 million to the state economy, as set out in their annual report. It is also the highest earning arts festival in Australia, generating a total of 39% of all multi-category ticket sales in the country. These figures show there is money in both STEM and the Arts in South Australia. Combined, they will make a far bigger impact on the local culture and economy than they do separately. Including Arts in STEM education will learning more interactive and fun while STEM in festivals like the Fringe more engaging and interactive.

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Modern technology has been heavily influenced by the arts. Many hardware and software engineers/programmers have long been inspired by technology in science fiction. One example of this is the Adelaide based company Voxon Photonics. Their technology, the Voxon VX1, is a 3D volumetric engine that was inspired by science fiction, more specifically Dejarik in Star Wars: A New Hope. For it to work, they required the aid of the STEM fields, especially engineering and mathematics (key components in hardware and software design). They create games to demonstrate their technology’s power. The VX1 was showcased in the Indie Games Room at AVCon 2018, allowing the public to interact with their exciting new technology. While the VX1 can do other things like medical imaging, art shows its power off in a more engaging way. Voxon Photonics has advertised pushing to get more local games developed for the VX1, showing it off at Game Plus (a co-working digital games space on Pirie Street) in June 2018.

Recent advances in science and technology have influenced the Adelaide arts scene. One example is the University of South Australia’s Museum of Discovery (MOD). Opened in 2018, MOD on North Terrace is where visitors can engage with science and technology through art (STEAM). Their current displays are a showcase on the future STEAM can bring. One example being the genetic modification of children, if they’re to survive on Earth from choices made today. This allows visitors to witness these changes first hand. For more on MOD, check out our review here.

In terms of festivals, 2017’s OzAsia Festival saw an international example of STEAM. This was Keiichiro Shibuya’s The End, starring Japanese vocaloid Hatsune Miku. Unlike a traditional opera, The End is entirely virtual, containing only Miku and showcases the relationship between art and technology. This also is a reflection on the term vocaloid itself, as Miku is actually nothing more than computer software herself. Another example of STEAM is coming to 2018’s OzAsia. Called War Sum Up, it is a 21st-century electronic opera that is summed up in three words “Music. Manga. Machines.” This unique blend will be showcasing technology working alongside Japanese Noh theatre.

The South Australian Government should be pushing STEAM rather than just STEM. It is already happening around Adelaide, and if given that extra boost, can help make Adelaide stand out against other Australian cities. STEAM can help bring more young people to Adelaide and benefit other fields like tourism and education. A STEAM revolution has the potential to completely reinvent Adelaide, making it a younger, more vibrant city.

What are your thoughts? Should South Australia be aiming towards a STEAM future rather than a STEM one? Leave your comments below.


Words by Cameron Lowe

Meet-the-Team-Cameron2Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash.

Israel’s Eurovision Win is Problematic But So is Attacking a Musician

There’s no denying that this year’s Eurovision winner is a controversial one. While some fans argue that politics have no place in the annual song contest, others have voiced their outrage that a nation currently committing human rights atrocities is now slated to host the competition in 2019. The conflict between the Israeli government and the State of Palestine is an important international issue and one that should not be brushed over, even when it comes to something like a glitzy, light-hearted song contest.

Eurovision is definitely not free from politics. Examples like Finnish singer Kristia Siegfrid kissing one of her female dancers in 2013 to protest a lack of same-sex marriage legislation, to Armenian group Genealogy calling for international recognition of the Armenian genocide in their song entry in 2015, show that Eurovision is no stranger to political performance.This year was no exception when it came to politically themed songs. French entrant Madame Monsieur’s song ‘Mercy’ told the story of a refugee child born on a humanitarian ship. Italian duo Ermal Meta and Fabrizio Moro sang an anti-war song about international wars and terrorism. And Danish viking acapella group Rasmussen sang about non-violence and Magnus Erlendsson, a viking who refused to fight in battle. Other politically charged moments included the depiction of a gay couple dancing in Ryan O’Shaughnessy’s song ‘Together’ (Ireland), and Lea Sirk’s empowering song ‘Hvala, ne!’ (Slovenia). Even the winning song ‘Toy’ advocated to stop bullying. Oh, and let’s not forget the protestor who got up on stage during the final and snatched the microphone from UK singer SuRie.

Political and social issues are the bread and butter of arts and culture. We create art that reflects our beliefs and concerns about the world around us. We cannot separate music, or any art form, from world politics or social issues. So what does this mean for this year’s winning contestant and, more importantly, what should we – the viewers – think about this?

I’m going to take a page out of fellow Adelaide writer Taeghan Buggy’s book and say that we, as consumers of art and media, have an ethical responsibility. In the same way that we should call out sexual abuse in media, we should also voice our concerns about the social and political implications of Eurovision. Already there is a fair amount of debate about who should be allowed, and who should be disqualified, from participating in the contest. Russia was banned from Eurovision in 2017 and many people have a lot to say about letting Australia and Israel compete despite not being part of Europe.

Israel’s participation is problematic on two levels. The lesser is that Israel is not a part of Europe, but we can easily overlook this. But the second, harder to swallow issue, is that Israel is a nation with terms like ‘apartheid’, ‘militancy’ and even ‘genocide’ attached to its reputation. And not without due cause. If Eurovision was willing to bar Russia from entering the competition last year because of its problematic relationship with the then host nation, Ukraine, wouldn’t it be equally appropriate to bar Israel from competing at all considering its own issues?

Where do we draw the line for who can and cannot compete? Should nations engaged in conflicts either on an international or internal level be barred from the competition? Or should we, as many fans argue, leave politics at the door and just enjoy some good music?

There is no easy answer to this and in many ways I am something of a fence-sitter. On the one hand, I do believe that nations that are perpetrating acts of violence and persecution should be held accountable by the media, including popular media like Eurovision. But on the other hand I don’t think that we should judge artists by the actions of their government. Eurovision holds an important place in the European arts world and all musicians should have the right to perform. I also think that our feelings about certain nations should not be used as fuel for abuse towards artists from that country.

Israel’s contestant Netta has had a lot of abuse thrown at her through social media since the very moment she was named the winner of Eurovision 2018. Following the #Eurovision tag on Twitter this morning it was clear that three main types of insult were made against Netta. The first, and most prevalent, was that she represented a nation with a deplorable human rights record and was, therefore, unworthy of winning Eurovision.

The second, and also predictable, response was calling Netta out for her appearance. A great deal of hostility surrounded Netta’s weight and general appearance, which was at odds with most of the other female contestants. She’s a bigger woman and at the very end of the voting she was neck and neck for the title with the ‘conventionally’ attractive Eleni Foureira from Cyprus. Naturally, plenty of Eurovision fans started calling Netta every fat-shaming term in the book, from ‘cow’ to ‘fat bitch’ and all the variations in-between. The last form of insult was calling her ‘chicken girl’ or posting pictures of plump chickens to represent her – a jab at her clucking sounds throughout her song.

While I personally find Israel’s win problematic because of the atrocities taking place against the State of Palestine I am never for attacking Netta as an artist and a human being. There is no moment in any circumstance where fat-shaming should be considered acceptable. Personal attacks on any artist, any human being, is incredibly distasteful. Not only that, but it does nothing to bolster an argument. If anything, it does the opposite. So, by all means get riled up about Israel hosting next year, start a discussion on whether or not Eurovision should allow a problematic country to not only compete but host, but don’t degrade your legitimate arguments with juvenile attacks on Netta’s appearance.

In many ways I can see the appeal of having Netta as the winner of Eurovision because she doesn’t fit into the traditional mould of a female Eurovision performer. She stands out not only because she isn’t conventionally attractive (read– thin), but because she has a strong stage presence that relies on her strength of character, her no-bullshit attitude and a playful demeanour rather than cheap stock-and-standard sex appeal.

I won’t say that Netta herself isn’t problematic– the arguments about appropriating Japanese culture are definitely worth voicing – but on the whole I think we can safely say that she does not warrant the slew of venom aimed at her by the media.

She represented Israel – doesn’t that make her complicit to the country’s current problems? If she was opposed to Israel’s current social and political stance towards the State of Palestine wouldn’t she refuse to compete under Israel’s banner? I won’t purport to know enough about Netta to know the ins and outs of her political leanings. For all I know she might be a supporter of Israel’s militant behaviour. But whether she is or not has no bearing in my feelings about Israel’s win.

A musician is not a government body. Musicians and artists are not the ones on the forefront of violent or military action. We should not direct our anger at a singular musician, regardless of whatever her views might be. We should be angry about the lawmakers who make apartheid and militancy possible.

We can celebrate Netta’s win because she has earned her trophy. She gave a strong performance (though clucking is perhaps not to my taste) and won the popular vote. There’s no use squabbling about how the whole thing might be rigged, or how the voting system is a mess. At the end of the day Netta has won Eurovision and there’s nothing we fans can do about it.

Does that mean we should just be happy about Eurovision going to Israel next year? Of course not. The host country has a lot to answer for and we have every right to boycott the competition if we wish. But let Netta have her victory, not as a representative of Israel but as a musician who has worked hard to perform on the stage of Europe’s biggest music competition. As human beings we owe her that much at least.


Photo: Andres Putting via Eurovision.tv

Words by Lisandra Linde

Lisandra Linde is an Adelaide-based writer of fantasy and creative nonfiction. She tweets at @KrestianLullaby

Simone Corletto: Editor/Contributor (Nonfiction)

meet the team.-15

How did you get involved with Tulpa Magazine?

I worked with Liam during my stint editing Empire Times in 2016 and really enjoyed working with him, and with Lisandra as part of Speakeasy Flinders, where I am vice-president. When they asked me to be a part of their new magazine I jumped at the chance to work once again with such brilliant creative minds. There’s nothing cooler than working with your friends, especially when your friends are actually talented and motivated enough to start their own publication.

20170920_080752What do you do?

I write articles on politics, social issues, pop culture and the arts, as well as occasionally edit fiction pieces. My specialty topics are advice on how to make it in the arts industry and sexism in the publishing industry.

What’s your life like outside of Tulpa Magazine?

I’m a writer working on polishing up my first novel, a YA Sci Fi Romance about teenage superheros, whilst also picking up gigs in the festival scene. I recently started at Adelaide Festival where I will be assisting all our visiting and local authors for Adelaide Writers Week.

What has been the most rewarding part of working for Tulpa Magazine?

The most rewarding part of working with Tulpa is seeing my work publishing in such a clean and striking website. Everyone here is so committed to good journalism and great design that it’s a pleasure to share my work with them with the wider world.

What do you see yourself doing in the future? Where are you headed after Tulpa?

I’d love to kick off my career working full time in writers and arts festivals and conferences, helping to illuminate authors to a wider audience and really champion the arts as a worthy pillar of our society.

I’m also working on establishing my own writing career, creating novels that will speak to young (and the not so young) people and bring them characters that will stay with them throughout their lives.

––

You can find Simone on Twitter and Instagram.

Our Giddy Aunts: Queer Readings of Mentors in Children’s Fantasy Fiction

With the recent revelation that Dumbledore, our favourite gay wizard, won’t be all that gay in the next Fantastic Beasts movie, I think it’s fair to say that the tide has finally turned; J. K. Rowling’s table-scrap representation is no longer enough. Readers are no longer satisfied with post publication declarations that an unaddressed, unimportant character might have been Jewish or something. This is not effective or accurate representation.

The thing we should keep in mind, however, is that J. K. Rowling wasn’t brave or unique in codifying Dumbledore’s queerness. She was just tapping into an unconscious trope that has been in children’s fantasy fiction since the very beginning.

Explicit queerness in children’s fiction is relatively new. The conscious and unconscious link of homosexuality and sex is an old and tough link to break, and is even tougher to get past a gatekeeping adult public. Children are not in charge of what gets published; adults are. It is these gatekeepers that are as capable as being whipped into a panic – like the one that saw the demise of the Safe Schools program – that decide whether or not queer characters see any representation in children’s fiction. Forgetting, of course, that children’s fiction is all about characters just like the bullied queer kids of real life. Children’s fiction is all about the ‘other’.

Children’s fantasy is filled with ‘others’, like Ged from Earthsea, Morrigan Crow from the Nevermoor series, or the inescapable example Harry Potter. Then there are those who might be completely of the ‘normal’, but find themselves feeling like ‘others’ because they’re in an entirely new world, such as the queer icon Dorothy in Oz, the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve from The Chronicles of Narnia, and the Alice of Alice in Wonderland.

It’s not uncommon for children to feel this way about themselves – approximately 1 in 4 children reported being bullied at school in 2009. This is particularly key for children who may be struggling with sexuality or gender, feeling different for a reason poorly explored in the fiction around them.

Even without bullying, growing up is difficult, and the process of changing from child into adult is a metamorphosis that overwhelms even the best of us. It is here that books become a key in figuring ourselves out through sympathy and empathy, relating our feelings of ‘otherness’ with those on the page.

These ‘others’ find themselves in places and situations that are impossible to the uninitiated. They require guidance and teaching to understand their otherness. In real life we have our parents to fulfil these roles. But it’s usually the case in fiction that these characters that give guidance don’t have the familial attachment of ‘parent’. They are the tertiary adults, who fulfil the role of parent without the prejudice and judgement that entails.

Perhaps it’s just that writers have bad relationships with their parents, but rarely – if ever – does the most important guidance required to see these characters through to the end of the narrative come from parents. It might be because the characters are orphans, or the parents are absent – both of these tropes are mainstays of the genre. Fiction for children lends itself well to wise older characters, because children’s fiction is filled with outsiders needing guidance, yet it seems that when parents are present, children don’t go on adventures.

Who does this leave? Teachers. Old women. Grandparents. Distant relatives. In many cultures, they all fall under the same word. It may have fallen out of fashion now, but that categorisation applies in English too – in short, we’re talking about aunts and uncles, informal or otherwise.

What better word is there for the adults that assume the role of parent in the absence of parent? There are honorary aunts and uncles abound in the real world. Why not in imagined worlds?

The word ‘aunt’ or ‘uncle’ does not denote responsibility per se, but it does open the possibility of care. An aunt or an uncle is usually a temporary presence, but with opinions and power the same as any parent. In real life, as in fiction, an orphaned child might find themselves with an aunt or uncle.

The concept of gay aunts and uncles is not a particular new or interesting idea. It is a prevailing theory as to why homosexuality hasn’t been bred out of any population. In fiction, their presence mirrors the real world. If queer people exist to support the lives of children, then more than a few of the children supported in fiction get a little help from their queer aunts and uncles.

Children’s fiction is – for obvious reasons – devoid of sex. The only evidence that anyone has sex in the sanitised world of children’s fiction is the children themselves. This is not to say that the world of children’s fiction is devoid of sexuality – adults may be partnered, children may (and often do) have love interests, and male/female pairings are often implied by proximity.

If there’s any more egregious display of enforced sexuality, it’s in old fashioned children’s fiction. It creates love interests by convenience and proximity by pairing the nearest boy (of similar age) to the nearest girl. It’s not just something applied to the children in children’s fiction, either, but adult framed love isn’t integral to children’s fiction. Indeed, love interests aren’t key to children’s fiction at all. Alice, for example, had no need for love interests.

However, in a world where characters have enforced romantic inclinations, what happens where there is an absence of romance? What happens when a character that could easily have a heterosexual partnering – and has a convenient and proximate heterosexual partner – has none? Why are perfectly loveable characters single?

This happens frequently in children’s fiction because it’s not necessary to explore adult feelings. But adults reading children’s fiction can’t help but wonder about the inner lives of characters. Who does Dumbledore love?

The absence of relationships is as questionable as the presence of them, because for a long time, representation of any queer characters – happy ones, anyway – was illegal.

The absence of relationships isn’t the only evidence, of possible queerness. The circumstantial evidence is as varied as it is flimsy, but it’s no less flimsy than a knowing glance between two Valkyries in 2017’s Thor Ragnarok. Queer people have been forced to see representation where there’s questionable evidence and word of God for decades. Who would have known that Mrs. Danvers was apparently a lesbian without this handy Wikipedia article?

Fiction is filled with flamboyant bachelor uncles, and interesting albeit reserved bachelorette aunts. Flamboyance and extravagance are stereotypes now, but in previous years they could be seen as cultural markers. Dumbledore was extravagant and weird. What is flamboyant if not a bird that catches fire? Diana Wynne Jones’ Chrestomanci and Howl, though both textually heterosexual, were both flamboyant and extravagant in an era when the term metrosexual was uninvented. In the Nevermoor series from Jessica Townsend, we have the extravagant flouter of rules, Jupiter North. These are, of course, male stereotypes. The female stereotypes are little murkier.

The maiden aunt trope is one based in reality, and one that is replicated in many children’s narratives. When healthcare for women started becoming a Thing, so was Incredibly Deadly War, leaving many women widowed or without husband. How many of these women were happy to do without we will never know, but their presence has endured in fiction, even outside of the realm of children’s fiction. The Austen novels are nothing without their maiden aunts.

Of course, many of these women – in real life at least – lead unpartnered lives as wholesome heterosexuals. But there are innumerable queer women who would have found this arrangement invigorating, either because they preferred the same sex or preferred no partnership whatsoever. The maiden aunt could be seen as a miserable character, or they could just as easily be fulfilled and happy without a man.

Outsiders in their own worlds, they provide an anchor for ‘others’. These flamboyant uncles or interesting aunts provide a glimpse into the future for characters that are otherwise incapable of imagining a future as an ‘other’.

In real life, the adults we see as children are the adults we believe we can become. The most normal of which are usually our parents, and possibly our grandparents. If our families are large, we might see a deviation from the parental norm through our extended relatives – our aunts and uncle, our cousins and niblings, adults that don’t need to exist in a nuclear family unit to be happy and healthy adults.

When J. K. Rowling revealed that Dumbledore was gay in 2007, there was a short silence and then burst of applause at Carnegie Hall. Applause for representation? Or an acknowledgement of something that has always been there?


Words by Mark Tripodi

Mark is a writer and comedian. He is a host on Radio Adelaide’s Pride and Prejudice and The Range. He also hosts The Piecast.