Is Female Villainy All That Bad? Or, the Disappointing Heroines of the Fairy Tales Grimm

Written by Carolina Eleni Theodoropoulos

Stories are made by their heroes and heroines. Children are inspired by these characters, they want to be like them, with all their freedom and bravery and wit and resilience. But for anyone looking for heroines in the fairy tales Grimm, I would warn: it can get very discouraging.

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Problematic Literary Fave: Sherman Alexie and the #MeToo Movement in Literature

Written by Kiran Gokal

If you googled Native American poet and author Sherman Alexie a month ago, you would have seen the abundance of praised novels, short stories and poems that draw on his experiences as a Spokane Native American growing up on a reservation.  If you looked today, you would encounter the flurry of articles dissecting numerous sexual misconduct allegations against Alexie by multiple women, including fellow Native American women authors.

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Shakespeare and the Problem with Proto-Feminism

Written Emily Ogden

Earlier this month, one of our contributing general staff members, Eleni Theodoropoulos, wrote an inaugural post for our “The Female Odyssey” column, about women and magic in fairy tales. Today, Emily Ogden contributes to that column as she talks about women in Shakespeare.

If you are a fan of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare, then I apologize in advance for this installment of our “Female Odyssey” column, in which I may just ruin this play for you. Shakespeare is widely regarded as a “proto-feminist,” one ahead of his time due to the strong female characters that often appear in his Renaissance plays. While I agree that he writes women who “talk the talk”—there are plenty of sassy, brilliant ladies that outwit their male counterparts—as far as being allowed to :walk the walk,” these same women are often completely robbed of agency in his stories.

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How Call Me By Your Name Needs to be Called by its True Name: Problematic

Written by Jeff Rose

With the recent success from the movie Call Me by Your Name, the book by Andre Aciman has surged in popularity. However, the film and book has been critiqued for several reasons, most notably the seven-year age gap of the two main characters and the fact it’s not breaking new ground in LGBTQ+ storytelling. The film/novel features a romantic relationship between Elio, a seventeen-year-old teenager, and Oliver, a twenty-four-year-old graduate student in Italy.

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Problematic Faves: Grinding Nemo Addition

Written by Annie Diamond

H.P Lovecraft is best known for his contribution to horror fiction, especially with his creation of an eldritch mythos which is the origination of Cthulhu. His writing delved deep into the aesthetics of the alien (featuring non-Euclidean geometry) as well as themes of unknowable knowledge and the inevitable decline of man. Lovecraft’s legacy is vast—influencing everything from the literary (Joyce Carol Oates mentions him as an influence in the horror short story and Borges dedicated a story to him) to the more pop-culture-y (Batman’s Arkham Asylum is a Lovecraft reference; there’s a Lovecraft tabletop roleplaying game; and the Mountain Goats wrote a song about him.) His works might soon reach an even bigger audience as Academy Award-winning director Guillermo del Torro cites Lovecraft as a huge influence, and has been trying to make an At the Mountains of Madness movie for years.

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Tracking Witches from the Forest to the Home: Bewitched and the Fairy Tales Grimm

Written by Carolina Eleni Theodoropoulos

The realm of magic was always governed by women. Women are nymphs, they are jealous goddesses; they are lustful and vengeful monsters like Medusa, and dangerous women yielding destructive power like Pandora. In fairy tales they are witches, they are crones, they are evil stepmothers and hags. The norm in history and in the literature seems to be that magical women are to be burned, contained—but what happens when they resist?

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The Problem with Antigone: A Martyr’s Motivations

Written by Emily Ogden

For fairly obvious reasons (he committed both patricide and incest), I could have written this segment of our Problematic Literary Faves column on Oedipus. But instead I decided to focus on his kids, who have just as many problems. Oedipus and his mother bore two sons and two daughters: Polyneices, Eteocles, Antigone, and Ismene. In the beginning of Sophocles’ Antigone, both brothers have died on opposing sides of a civil war. Creon, Antigone’s uncle and the king since Oedipus gouged out his eyes and exiled himself (see reasons above), has decided to deny his nephew Polyneices’ body proper burial rights as punishment for the side he chose. (This is actually quite a big deal, because it means Polyneices will not proceed into the afterlife.) Antigone defies Creon and buries her brother. Tragically, she is caught and left to die in a cave, where she hangs herself before poor Haemon, her fiancé and Creon’s son, finds her. He also commits suicide, which finally makes Creon wish he had handled this a bit differently, but of course this all came just a little too late.

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Laying All the Cards on the Table: Orson Scott Card’s Homophobia

Written by Jeff Rose

In this installment of our Problematic Literary Faves column, I’d like to discuss Orson Scott Card, an author most famous for a little novel called Ender’s Game. He also happens to be very outspoken about his opposition to homosexuality and same-sex marriage. From 2009 to 2013, Card was a board director of the National Organization for Marriage, a group that campaigns against same-sex marriage, along with other LGBTQ rights.

As someone who read his iconic science-fiction novel in middle school, I tremendously enjoyed Ender’s story. The ideas Card presented over a fictional war that ranges in space through games seemed so wild, yet possible. As I was Ender’s age (ten) at the time, I really connected to his character even more so. Yet it was a shocking revelation to find out years later—after I solidified my identity as a member of the LGBTQ community—that Card vehemently protests against same-sex marriage.

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Problematic Heroes: Howard Roark

Written by Guadalupe Rodriguez

Note: this post contains spoilers from Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead.

In the midst of the #MeToo era, I’d like to re-examine one of my old time literary heroes, Howard Roark. Roark is a character in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead that champions individualism as well as criticizes collectivist values, because he deems them the murder of individual achievement. Throughout the novel, Roark faces notable adversity brought on by a collectivist group that is set to bring him down. His unique and innovative architecture style is rejected not only by firms, but even by large building firms who refuse to build his work. The novel focuses on the fact that Roark gets most of his work done by small construction firms and singular buyers, who are not afraid of public backlash, and buy Roark’s work because they believe in it. The novel champions individualism by ending with Roark’s triumph. However, despite this seemingly happy ending, there are dark moments in Roark’s character. Roark’s individualism and innovation represent the best of humanity, but how can the best face of humanity be a rapist?

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Roy Moore meets Philip Zimbardo: the William Golding Story

Written by Abby Adamo

A few weeks ago, we opened up a discussion about renowned authors with questionable pasts, who all survived the celebrity downfall of others like Harvey Weinstein in the wake of sexual misconduct claims. Hothouse will continue to discuss contentious reverence for canonical authors in spite of their disgusting pasts. This week in our inaugural post for our new column, Problematic Literary Faves, we discuss a favorite of high school English classes and one man you would never ask to babysit: William Golding. The allegations against Golding are particularly nasty because they revolve around the mistreatment of minors, all while his most famous book, The Lord of the Flies, remains a staple of freshman English classes everywhere.

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