Dresden Files Storm Front Ch4

Last time, Harry plays with mobsters.

Today, “hoarse cheerleader voice” lady is already there and about to leave.

She was a good-looking woman, in her mid-thirty-somethings. Ash blond hair that I thought must be natural, after a morbid and involuntary memory of the dead woman’s dye job. Her makeup was tasteful and well applied, and her face was fair, friendly, with enough roundness of cheek to look fresh-faced and young, enough fullness of mouth to look very feminine. She was wearing a long, full skirt of palest yellow with brown riding boots, a crisp white blouse, and an expensive-looking green cardigan over it, to ward off the chill of early spring. She had to be in good shape to pull off a color combination like that, and she did it.

So we’re slowly narrowing down the specifics of the author’s kinks.

The one thing I’d like to draw attention to is that she’s a natural blonde unlike the prostitute. This is really subtle but just a thing to keep your eyes on. In work after work, you’ll find there’s an underlying ranking system for female characters that determines how worthy they are of living – doesn’t, mind you, necessarily corrolate with survival, because in plenty of works they just all die, but it matches up with how big a deal their death is.

For example, my father was watching that show that’s a buddy cop with but it’s the future and his cop buddy is a ridiculously human robot. In it, two women have gone missing. One is black and the other is white (and has a kid). It turns out they’ve being kidnapped to harvest their skin for use in sexbots, and there’s a bunch of already skinned women being kept in comas to keep regrowing their skins and harvesting them again. (And yes, there is no possible reason why you’d only be able to use female skin, but it’s not sexy if violence is happening to men as well). Naturally, the black woman has already been skinned, also all the older skinned and therefore no longer pretty victims die when the police raid it, but the white mom lives. Also, the (fully sapient) sexbots are murdered because it’s illegal to use human DNA with them and I guess just removing the skin would’ve been too much work, because the death of prostitutes is sad, but it’s satisfyingly sad unlike the white mom’s death would be.

While I do have many, many issues with TvTropes, they’ve got a decent table on the subject.

Point is, you’ll often see prostitute characters having their appearance be “fake” in some way, which seems fair enough given that of course a prostitute’s awesome breasts and beautiful hair color are more likely to be tailored to appeal to people than the average woman, only to follow by having a non-prostitute character with the same features but this time they’re real, and the second one will have far more narrative protection because they obviously have more worth as a person. It’s particularly suspect here when he’s also keeping us up to date on precisely how tasteful the makeup is, which is the biggest red flag on fake/real girl issue.

I know there’s a couple other women who’ll show up, so let’s see how those compare.

She took my hand after a tiny pause and kept her eyes firmly focused on my chest.
At this point, I was just as glad to be dealing with someone who was too nervous to risk looking at my eyes.

And here it’s confirmed that Harry flat-out refuses to avoid eye contact with anyone and expects the rest of the world to do it instead.

Harry then drops that by the way he was out looking at a terrible thing he can’t talk about for the police. This is what NDAs are for, people.

She explains that her husband has left. He packed, so she knows he wasn’t just kidnapped, but he’s been gone a while and he didn’t say where, so she’s nervous, and she wants him to find out because her husband was into magic.

He bought some of those tarot cards.” She pronounced it like carrot. Amateurs.

Harry: totally an asshole.

This is also missing what could be an interesting twist – someone who doesn’t know the pronunciation of things is someone who’s read the words rather than heard the spoken, and you’ve got figure that self-taught wizards are a big concern. Harry probably just thinks this guy doesn’t know what he’s doing, but given how much damage you can do with magic if you aren’t being careful not to blow yourself up in the process, that should be his concern, not how much better he is for pronouncing words right.

I mean, here’s what we know: a guy supposedly learning “real magic” on his own hasn’t come back home. Seems there’s a decent chance he died, possibly unleashing something unpleasant in the process.

If Harry explained that there’s basically no chance that anyone could learn magic on their own, his dismissal might make more sense, but even then, that’s so much more boring than the idea that every now and then someone stumbles on an errant magic book and ends up eaten by a kelpie.

(I guess you could argue it’s for suspense purposes, but anyone with any familiarity with stories will recognize Harry’s easy dismissal as a dramatic irony setup, plus it’s noir where the woman is always misleading and going to fuck the guy over somehow.)

Harry still isn’t clear on why she wants him and not an actual private detective, despite his skillset currently showing 100% overlap with private detectiving, and she repeats for a third goddamn time that she thinks whoever finds her husband should know about magic. Either Harry’s braincells all died from the strain of being in a car with a tiger-souled mobster or they’re busy staring at her tits, because he evidently is only making out one sentence in three here.

She then doesn’t want to give him her husband’s actual name, because names have power. She was nervous about her own earlier, and this seems more justified as an aspect of magic that’s relatively well known – it doesn’t require anywhere near the effort of constantly avoiding someone’s eyes, and you don’t have to know exactly how a wizard does anything bad with it because it could be anything, while it’s really hard to feel locking eyes could be that big of a deal. (It’s also not easy to falsify, which is an important component for superstitions being widespread. There must be fake wizards out there, and someone who tries the eye thing and finds out that nothing happens will go around saying it’s bullshit, while if you gave a fake wizard your name and nothing happens, that might just mean they didn’t do anything with it, or maybe your check engine light goes on and damn, the bastard cursed you!)

Harry tries to comfort her. His way of doing so is…interesting.

I am not out to hurt you or anyone else. What I do, I do to help people. It’s true that someone with the right skills could use your names against you, but I’m not like that.” I borrowed a line from Johnny Marcone. “It isn’t good business.”

It started so well, and then – well, he points out for me that the final line is something an evil person would say, and would make me assume “helping” meant anything more than that he believes his job means he should direct his horrible magic toward everyone who hadn’t hired him instead.

I mean, if he had to make some sort of reference, saying the reason he’s doing this and not getting rich by hexing racehorses is because he chooses to help people. There, alpha male better-than-you quota provided while putting the emphasis on how his current life proves he’s not in it for personal gain.

Speaking of, he then says to us he’ll start acting like a wizard to make her more at ease, because he’s late on rent and the police payments always take forever. (Which suggests they don’t call him much or else he should already have money in the pipeline. Or maybe we could say that the rent being late isn’t actually standard for all he tries to present himself as a beaten down noir guy and it’s just that last month they didn’t call him so he’s short.) He then follows this statement that he’s motivated by money with:

Besides. I could never resist going to the aid of a lady in distress.

This is the sort of cutesy chauvinism the author is presumably going for. The next line makes it clear that the author is a lot more sexist, and correspondingly the character is getting written as horribly sexist when we’re meant to take it as a cute thing.

Even if she wasn’t completely, one hundred percent sure that she wanted to be rescued by me.

See, there are two types of sexism. There’s the directly hateful sort (which incidentally, Harry does possess as well with his bit about witches being all around worse than wizards) and the well-meaning but oblivious.

The second part is where people start talking about unconscious privilege and such, and where you’ll end up with situations where women recoil in horror at something while men look confused.

Harry knows his intentions are good. He’s saying he’s going to help her out.

Unfortunately, what he’s also saying is he’ll do things against her will in the name of helping her. That’s not what he thinks he’s saying, but good intentions don’t prevent bad outcomes.

Harry has all the power in this situation.

He’s physically stronger than her, he’s magically stronger than her. He’d no doubt argue that neither of these factors matter because he wouldn’t harm her, but we’ll also see he loathes anyone with power over him regardless of what they’re doing with it or why, showing not only does he get why she’d be upset, but that he refuses to even consider women as having similar feelings as he does. It can be a bit unsettling knowing someone could harm you and there’s nothing you could do about it, and it gets downright unpleasant when the person is fine disregarding your opinion about what “harm” involves. When this person won’t even apply basic golden-rule level empathy to what’s best for you? You’re in danger.

Then there’s the fact that in addition, he’s male with all the power that gives him. One of the things that’s extremely hard to grasp is that even when sexism should provide benefits for women, it just somehow doesn’t. You may have heard that courts are more likely to side with the mother than the father, which seems sexist as hell based on our usual gender norms. Except that actually, no, fathers overwhelmingly win custody when they ask for it. The court’s bias is so extreme that if a woman finds out their husband is raping their children, the father will not only usually get full custody, but the woman is likely to be blamed for either lying or doing the child abuse herself instead. (Incidentally, 1% of claims of child abuse by women were found to be false upon investigation. One fourth of those claimed by men were found to be false.) Here’s a bunch more numbers. There’s similarly bizarre results with spousal abuse and murders. Treating women worse is so embedded into our society that when basic sexism would suggest treating them better, there’s promptly a backlash assuming women are cheating the system.

This is all particularly relevant here, because she’s going to turn out to be an abused wife (who also was abused as a child). Harry repeatedly comments on how nervous she is and will not once consider that maybe she has reason to be, because he’s such a great guy he chooses not to hurt women despite easily being able to.

It’s quite easy to understand why all this isn’t on the forefront of Harry’s mind. It’s the rest that adds up to trouble. Someone who’s got the advantage in a power imbalance and refuses to recognize it (in fact viewing themselves as the disadvantaged one) is dangerous, someone who has no ability to see other people’s lives are different and refuses to accept direct statements by those people to the contrary is dangerous, and someone who, despite both those things, believes he needs to decide what’s best for others? Really dangerous.

That’s why no, you should not say you’re always willing to rescue someone even if they didn’t want to be rescued. There are absolutely times when someone is in a bad situation and doesn’t realize it, but “when it strokes my boner” is never that time.

(And for the record? The fact that Harry apparently wouldn’t give a shit if it was a gay guy worried for his husband just highlights further how shitty it is to be making your decisions based on this.)

“Monica,” I told her. “There are powers in the universe that most people don’t even know about. Powers that we still don’t fully understand. The men and women who work with these powers see things in a different light than regular people. They come to understand things in a slightly different way. This sets them apart. Sometimes it breeds unwarranted suspicion and fear.

“We call them scientists.”

He then proceeds to namedrop the bible’s prohibition against witches and how he knows there’s a lot of fear. And by fear, what we actually mean is a lot of people (most of them women) were tortured and killed. So either they weren’t magic users (and magic users should feel guilt over that time uninvolved people were massacred out of fear of them) or they were magic users and it’s just that the fear he references only really applied to female ones. Regardless, he’s still casually referencing how lots of women died in various horrible ways throughout human history (all the way to the present day!) and making it about him and how sad it is people don’t trust him.

Guilt trip successful, he learns the man is Victor Sells and she has a good idea of where he might be.

“The lake house. We have a house down by …” She waved her hand.
“The lake?”
She beamed at me, and I reminded myself to be patient.

She’s probably just thrilled she didn’t have to repeat herself three times like she did for “I picked you because I wanted someone who knew about magic”.

Incidentally, Harry the great detective doesn’t think there’s anything weird about a worried wife being pretty certain where her husband is yet making no effort to check it out on her own first. She doesn’t even reference calling and getting no answer.

“We’ve got quite a bit of savings, Mr. Dresden,” she told me. “I’m not worried about the money.” That seemed an odd statement from her, at the time-out of tune with her generally nervous manner.

What seems far more odd is that she said repeatedly her husband lost his job and that things are bad enough that police would assume he’d just run out on the family. The rest makes perfect sense if you assume she’s nervous about the unfamiliar territory of asking a supposed wizard to find a missing husband but familiar with the concept of paying people money for services.

She hands over money, some magical artifacts, and a picture.

The phone number was written on a plain white index card that had been neatly trimmed down to fit inside the envelope. There was no name or area code, just a seven-digit number. I got out my crosslisting directory and looked it up.
I noted that down as well. I wondered what the woman had expected to accomplish by only giving out first names, when she had been going to hand me a dozen other ways of finding out in any case.

We know that the name magic specifically requires being told it aloud. It generally requires being heard from the person’s own mouth, but repeated the same way they say it will work too. In other words, Harry has nothing to wonder about when she made it clear she knew a little about magic but not precisely how everything worked, so the most likely explanation is she doesn’t want him to hear her say any names.

It only goes to show that people are funny when they’re nervous about something. They say screwy things, make odd choices which, in retrospect, they feel amazingly foolish for making. I would have to be careful not to say anything to rub that in when I spoke to her again.

But that would get in the way of Harry explaining how superior he is, so.

The magic item is a dried scorpion, because creepy.

A lot of petty, mean spells could be focused around a little talisman like that.

Somehow, Harry holds himself back from speculating about how womanly her husband is. The fact is, this just makes me dislike it more – it highlights that it’s not that Harry has some backwards ideas about masculine/feminine, it’s just a straight double standard. When men do hateful magic, that’s just part of the normal range of magic. When women do it, it’s proof they’re inherently meaner.

He then points out that if this guy actually knows about magic, the story she told is actually a really worrying one because magic can make someone obsess over it, especially dark magic, which he’d be extra susceptible to if he’s despairing over his job, and also a common pattern is to try to isolate yourself. All of that sure sounds like the magician equivalent of a sniper rifle and clock tower, but Harry continues to not worry about anything this guy might be planning.

Or maybe it wasn’t even a true talisman. Maybe it was just a curiosity, or a souvenir from some visit to the Southwest. There wasn’t any way for me to tell if it was indeed a device used to improve the focus and direction of magical energies, short of actually using it to attempt a spell-and I really didn’t want to be using such a dubious article, for a variety of good reasons.

This level of plotting is why I quit barely into the next book. My exact thoughts were something along the lines of, I’m slogging through misogyny for this?

It’s ridiculous that magicians apparently have no reliable way of telling the difference between a magical object and a random dead animal someone picked up. Then he rejects using the only method he does have of testing it, even though it shouldn’t be a big deal to try to use it for a harmless spell and just see if there’s any magic in the thing at all.

I mean, bear in mind at this point all he knows is that the non-wizard wife thinks her husband knew “real magic”. It should be a priority to confirm that, but no, he seems to barely register that this is an issue. If this is a fake, then he knows that entire line of thought isn’t a concern.

Once I thought I saw something out of the corner of my eye, a twitch of motion from the dried scorpion that sat on my desk. I blinked and stared at it. It didn’t move.
Cautiously, I extended my senses toward it like an invisible hand, feeling about for any traces of enchantment or magical energy.
Nothing. It was as dry of enchantment as it was of life.

I’m pretty sure this is a full-on plot hole, because at the end of the book (and without there being much point to it) he activates his wizardy sight and can see all sorts of shit – current magic, past/future, metaphorical associations, everything.

Instead of doing that, he just plunks Chekhov’s scorpion into his desk drawer and ends the chapter.

76 Comments

  1. Roarke says:
    “This is really subtle but just a thing to keep your eyes on. In work after work, you’ll find there’s an underlying ranking system for female characters that determines how worthy they are of living – doesn’t, mind you, necessarily corrolate with survival, because in plenty of works they just all die, but it matches up with how big a deal their death is.”

    This is one of the gender-charged versions of an entire family of tropes that I’ve become interested in lately. Another manifestation of it is more of a class thing; I read a detective novel once in which the detective often shakes people’s hands, and notes how hard/soft their skin is, if they have calluses, etc. Career politicians will always have baby-soft hands because they’re affluent white dudes who’ve never worked a day in their lives, and all that. It’s sort of like bodysnarking, except instead of Hazel and Gus being outright douches who interpret people’s nature by their weight, it’s the author making judgment calls about the actual, non-monetary value of people in society. Never worked a manual job? You’re secretly worthless, even harmful, to society and it won’t matter if you die. In fact, you’ll be the serial killer, and the fact that you’ve never had to do physical labor somehow led to you using murder as an outlet – something to do with your hands, you know?

    But to deal with the actual relevant part you’re mentioning, the hair thing at least seems like it’s already outdated today. It would be easier for me to count the friends I have who haven’t dyed their hair at one point or another. My frickin’ mother does it. And yeah, once again authors make judgment calls on the value of life based on such trivial, trivial things. It’s even worse for women in this case because we have as a society this purity fetish that’s like thousands of years old. Gives me the creeps.

    “When this person won’t even apply basic golden-rule level empathy to what’s best for you? You’re in danger.”

    Murphy was on the receiving end of this last chapter, with the door-opening thing. People already mentioned it so I have nothing to add.

    “I borrowed a line from Johnny Marcone. “It isn’t good business.””

    *ahem*. That soulfucking really rubbed off on him, then. He’s already taking on some of his lover’s mannerisms, isn’t that precious? I wonder if Marcone is out there somewhere quick-stepping to open doors for women without quite understanding why.




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    1. Ermine says:
      Yeah, but affluent white dudes /are/ harmful to society.



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      1. Farla says:
        They don’t have to be. In modern society, there definitely are ways to legitimately make money without much exercise. There’s just a very strong correlation between affluent white dude and being detrimental to larger society.



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    2. Farla says:
      Never worked a manual job? You’re secretly worthless, even harmful, to society and it won’t matter if you die.

      Ah, yes, the modern version of this is the HEARTLAND AMERICA business. I think it has some things to recommend it for. It’s a deliberate pushback against the idea that rich aristocracy are inherently better, which is something we need to guard against, but it is a really regressive idea that requires you to have little idea how society actually functions. (Plus, it generally involves evil intellectuals.)

      the hair thing at least seems like it’s already outdated today

      Well, two things. A) You consider females “friends” and recognize your mother as a person rather than a mobile food dispenser, which means your overlap with these guys is already minimal. B) He is a ninety-year-old man. A ninety-year-old man the other ninety-year-old men consider a bit stuck in his ways.




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      1. Roarke says:
        I’m going to ignore the thoughtful and valid responses that you’ve made and just say that I’m going to try to make a MarconexDresden joke every single post for as long as I can.
        edit: And I really do appreciate my mother’s cooking, like we’re talking top 3 things I missed at college.
        editedit: I hadn’t made a joke for Chapter 5. Consider that oversight rectified.



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  2. Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark says:
    Damn it, Dresden, objects frequently used as a focus for magic retain an aura. That’s a common rule in urban (and non-urban) fantasy, as it fits people’s experience (everybody’s got a friend who’s “intuitive” about places being creepy or happy or whatsit, and if magic is real, obvs a wizard’s intuition would be correct) and it moves plots along nicely because we get to “sense” enough to form a next goal.

    If it’s necessary to have a magic system that violates conventions familiar to the experienced reader of the genre, then:

    (1) Harry needs to STOP snarking about how stupid people are to not understand magic and START explaining to his Watson, so that we can adjust our expectations.

    (2) The differences need to help the plot move along. So if he needs to experiment with an artifact to see if it’s been used for magic, GET IN THERE AND EXPERIMENT. Show us how stuff works.

    Also, I am rooting for any and all female characters to screw Dresden over royally and leave him bleeding in a gutter.




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    1. antialiasis says:
      What? I really don’t think books need some special reason to not have their magic work exactly like some genre convention would have it. That kind of attitude seems to just encourage boring follow-the-leader stuff. When entering a new series I don’t expect its magic to be anything until it actually tells me about it, because it’s magic; it’s all made up, and I fully expect that what this author made up might be different from what other authors have made up. That’s how making stuff up works.

      (Also, I’m pretty sure snarking about how stupid people are for not understanding magic is how the author is trying to explain how it works to the reader, what with the book not actually having a Watson for him to explain it to for the most part. It’s pretty silly since there’s a masquerade going on and no good reason for any of these people to know any of these things, yeah, but the idea is clearly not “You stupid reader, you should magically know this already.”)




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      1. Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark says:
        Except that the snarking doesn’t explain it — it just tells us we’re stupid to not understand it and that he can’t or won’t explain it.

        This is like having a series based on an alternate set of laws of physics but not telling us what those laws are, just that we’re stupid to think that conventional physics apply — AND then there’s no plot reason for those laws because the protagonist doesn’t explore them for us.




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        1. antialiasis says:
          Interpreting the snark to be directed at the reader somehow is extremely unnecessarily uncharitable. This is a character in a book thinking other characters in the book are stupid for not knowing things about the world – it does not remotely imply the author thinks the reader should already know, which would be absurd. It’s there to indicate to the reader that whatever the character thinks the other character is stupid for not knowing is true in this world.

          I’m not saying it’s well done here, what with the masquerade that means even people within the world of the story can’t reasonably be expected to know these things, but it’s clearly an attempt to establish for the reader how magic works.

          And the laws of physics are real. I agree authors shouldn’t randomly change the laws of physics in their novels unless it’s particularly important to the plot, because it’s reasonable for readers to expect the basic laws of reality to hold in fiction. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect magic to work like it does in other unrelated works of fiction just because it’s a genre convention.




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          1. Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark says:
            Clearly, I did not initially express myself well, which isn’t surprising, given that Dresden really pisses me off.

            I’m really not trying to say that every book has to use the same magic system, as that would be silly.

            I’m saying that if you’re going to refuse to explain the magic system you’re using, you need to use one that’s conventional for your readers so that we don’t need explanations.

            All Dresden ever gives us so far is what’s wrong with characters’ expectations about magic. We’re not told what’s right, just that it’s stupid not to already know what’s right, though how would characters (or the reader) know when there’s a masquerade so nobody tells us because that’s how a masquerade works. Instead of letting us behind the masquerade (which I guess would be too follow-the-leader on urban fantasy conventions), we’re just mocked for not already seeing through it.

            Refusing to tell the reader really basic things about how the world works is often a precursor to the author relying on ass-pulls because the author hasn’t settled on rules, either, and I gather that’s going to be the case with this series.

            I don’t like sloppy world-building, and this is sloppiness compounded by sticking the protagonist’s tongue out and going “nyah nyah nyah.”




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            1. SoxyOutfoxing says:
              You get this icky “I’m better than you because my people have been lying to yours about how the world works for centuries” attitude in so much urban fantasy; I think I’ve already mentioned it’s why I don’t read it any more.

              The thing I don’t get is what the authors are thinking. Like, if you read the Your Vampires Suck page on TvTropes there’s so many examples of vampires sneering at the accepted pop culture vampire tropes and being portrayed as super-cool and wise, and it’s just like “Hello Author, why are you saying “My made-up lies are superior to the made-up lies of other people”?! Even the in-character psychology is bad writing. Why on earth would a real vampire read Dracula expecting accuracy? Maybe authors are going for a thing like say, native peoples objecting to the way they’re portrayed in settler narratives, but there’s a key difference there; I don’t know of any native peoples who go around actively pretending to be imaginary. Of course Bram Stoker got it wrong, you ridiculous vampire, he wasn’t trying to get it right!

              Can anyone explain why authors do this? Do they just somehow forget they aren’t writing the one holy truth about magic/vampires /werewolves?
              Maybe it would infuriate me less if I could understand it. :)




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              Reply
              1. illhousen says:
                In theory, it can appeal to people who like to immerse themselves in books they read.

                The trick is to present it as if you are sharing a secret: all those other people believe in garlic and crucifixes and what have you, but you know the hidden truth now.

                It doesn’t work on people who treat books as actual texts created by actual people living in our world, because indeed, it’s just one set of lies which isn’t really superior to any other set of lies. If, however, you lose yourself in the story and bring the characters and setting to life in your mind, it can be effective.

                I don’t mind the idea behind it, feeling like you are about to learn the secrets behind the society façade is exciting. But I do feel there is way too much contempt expressed in such scenes usually.




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              2. SoxyOutfoxing says:
                Well, I mentioned my reasons above for why characters doing this tends to shatter my suspension of disbelief and ruin my immersion, since if I was pretending to be imaginary I’d encourage people to believe I was fictional, and write about me accordingly. And as someone raised by a conspiracy theorist I’d never go for the “But I know what’s really going on” illusion myself, since I’ve seen it play out as tragic delusion, but I’ll accept it can be a fun toy for other people to play with in a nice imaginary context, so I guess this attitude makes slightly more sense to me now. :)



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              3. leectra says:
                A lot of times I’ve seen books use that sort of thing as an in to explain how their vampires do work, and referencing general vampire tropes as an easy way to do that? Though I’m not sure that high levels of contempt are needed for that to work. Maybe the authors are trying to show how they have original vampires and going “look, I didn’t use that cliche!”?
                In universe, I’ve occasionally seen it done as “ancient vampire is sick of being asked if they’re allergic to garlic so is irritable about being asked”.



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              4. illhousen says:
                Well, at least nobody nowdays asks if the old vampire would really obsess over a sock if you steal it, put a stone inside and throw into a river.

                Which is one of traditional ways to deal with vampires.




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              5. Farla says:
                The other problem is, vampires shouldn’t want their weaknesses to be known. Assuming vampires are real, the misinformation about them should be something the vampires are downright proud of.

                (You could do something weird about the vampires actually controlling the movie industry and everyone saying the Jews do just because everyone always blames the Jews. Also banking. Obviously the immortal bloodsuckers would better at international banking than any mortals.)




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      2. Farla says:
        Also, I’m pretty sure snarking about how stupid people are for not understanding magic is how the author is trying to explain how it works to the reader

        The problem is all he ever says is it’s so stupid people think this. If real magic is totally different from pop culture, then it’s not stupid to be misinformed, leaving him coming off as a complete asshole. (Also, he then doesn’t explain, so it’s also wasting time.)




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    2. Farla says:
      Also, I am rooting for any and all female characters to screw Dresden over royally and leave him bleeding in a gutter.

      I’m really sad we haven’t reached the beatings point. Couldn’t the thugs have at least tripped him? Maybe Marcone could have a sexy bodyguard, as is so custom, and Harry could’ve made eyes at her, and then when he tries to get out of the car, bam, nose goes right into the pavement. When tall people fall, they fall hard.




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      1. illhousen says:
        Marcone should have a male sexy bodyguard, but still abiding by the femme fatale dress code.



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        1. Farla says:
          Everybody should!



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  3. EdH says:
    Your posts on this series makes me feel a little smarter each time. With each chapter, I realize why I never got to book 2.

    Also, this is for my own future reference, but what should Harry have done if he was as decent of a guy as he thinks he is (that is, not sexist)?




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    1. Farla says:
      I’ll go into more detail on this later, but one basic point is he should only be aiming his chivalry at women who haven’t explicitly said to knock it off.

      Like, if he liked to shoot ahead of Murphy and open the door, she should either be okay with it or find it funny. If their relationship isn’t like that, then he should let her open the door herself while saying he likes to do stuff like that normally, but Murphy doesn’t like it because she’s spent her time on the force trying to get people to treat her exactly like they would a male cop, so he doesn’t because Rule 0 of caring about how you treat women is listening to how they want to be treated. Also, he absolutely should not sound so resentful when talking about something he supposedly wants to do. Men who like opening doors for people = men who like doing nice things for people, how great of them! Men who think opening doors for people means people owe them, how dare you not appreciate it enough = future rapist, wtf, stop opening doors for me, if you want to pay for sex find a prostitute (and give her actual money not door openings).




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      1. EdH says:
        Thanks for the reply! And wow I’m shocked. Some of these look really obvious. And now I wonder if the author ever bothered to just let anyone read it before sending to publishers (such as parents), because I’m sure some of the problems could be fixed right then.



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        1. Farla says:
          Surprisingly enough, I think his original creative writing teacher, who pushed for this to be published, was female.



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  4. illhousen says:
    “It’s ridiculous that magicians apparently have no reliable way of telling the difference between a magical object and a random dead animal someone picked up.”

    I don’t know, I actually like the idea that mundane stuff can be used in magic rituals, remaining mundane, and the only way to see a difference is to watch for patterns. Like, if someone collects dead scorpion, pins, statues with sharp angles and stuffed dolls, they are into dark magic because those are the common implements used in it.

    As an example, I liked how in A Madness Of Angels by Kate Griffin* a London Underground ticket can protect you from danger because the text on it promises safe journey.

    It brings magic closer to the world, turning it from some kind of external force into a part of natural life.

    The problem here is that Harry simply doesn’t do anything with the scorpion: he doesn’t ask questions about if that guy bought other things connected to the dark magic, he doesn’t test it, he doesn’t follow the sympathetic link or something, so it ends up just sitting there, not advancing the plot.

    *I recommend the book for world-building, though I warn you that the plot and characterization aren’t that good. It improves in later books, though.




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    1. Farla says:
      I don’t know, I actually like the idea that mundane stuff can be used in magic rituals, remaining mundane, and the only way to see a difference is to watch for patterns. Like, if someone collects dead scorpion, pins, statues with sharp angles and stuffed dolls, they are into dark magic because those are the common implements used in it.

      See, that would be great! And it’d even give some desperately needed connection between Harry’s wizard skills and detective skills if part of being a skilled/still alive wizard is being able to work out what other wizards are doing.

      But somehow regular scorpions are different from magic artifact scorpions, except not in a way Harry can tell without using them for a spell, so he’s left with no idea. I mean, aside from everything else, how do wizards even work if you can’t tell the quality of an artifact without using it but using a low quality one can blow up in your face?




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  5. GeniusLemur says:
    This is why I only got halfway through this one, and then halfway through Fool Moon, before giving up in disgust. (And I quit Fool Moon in the middle of an action scene.) Harry’s such an utterly insufferable, ego-crazed asshole, while also being a pathetic idiot who’s incapable of accomplishing anything and succeeds, on the few occasions he does, mostly by dumb luck (emphasis on dumb). And yet, even as the plot goes out of its way to show just how worthless Harry is, such as in Fool Moon when his subconscious manifests in his dream and does nothing but berate him for being a bungling idiot, the Mary-Sueing comes through loud and clear. I couldn’t stand to be in his company any longer, and I’m baffled by my friends who think this is a great series.



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    1. Betty Cross says:
      I’ve encountered some comments on the Web that defend Dresden by saying the series gets better after the first two books. Just saying. I’ve never read any of them.



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      1. GeniusLemur says:
        The only way I see that happening is if Harry turns into a completely different person, or we change protagonists.



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    2. Farla says:
      Well, the biggest sue aspect here is that he can just strongarm his way through everything. The fact he’s an idiot screwup just means it’s all the more obvious how overpowered he is to be able to power through regardless.



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      1. GeniusLemur says:
        There’s a lot of other stuff that’s more subtle, but no less Sue-y. I’d argue that the fact that he starts the first book alive and continues to stay alive can be nothing but the author cheating on behalf of his pet. He’s got a cool apartment that’s customized just for him, despite barely being able to pay his rent every month. And everybody unaccountably keeps treating him as a useful person to have around who knows what he’s doing, no matter how many times he proves otherwise. He’s got a tragic past that doesn’t impact him in any way, except to make the massive chip on his shoulder even bigger. In the next chapter, we’ll see his uber-cool hangout. There’s probably a lot more that I don’t remember.



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        1. illhousen says:
          He has a super-cat.

          I am not sure if it counts as the biggest Sue trait or his currently only redeeming quality.




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        2. Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark says:
          So basically, Mercedes Lackey urban fantasy wizard of the early 1990s, but total dick instead of angsty bishonen.



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          1. Farla says:
            He actually has the angst too, and he’s only not bishy by virtue of stubble, he claims to be a skinny guy and he’s attractive enough that a hot chick is not only happy to sleep with him for a story but happy to be seen with him in public at a nice restaurant beforehand.



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        3. Roarke says:
          There are some crazy, crazy similarities to Fate!Shirou going on here.



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  6. sliz225 says:
    In terms of ranking: men with scars are evil or anti-heroes, women with scars are unspeakably damaged. Overweight women are lazy and greedy, overweight men are this or jolly. Make-up is for tacky, fake people, unless it’s very discreet and tasteful. Good women look good even without make-up, and men deserve a gold star if they like women who don’t wear make-up. Plastic surgery automatically makes someone superficial and tasteless. Greasy hair or acne never happens to good people.



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    1. Farla says:
      Greasy hair or acne never happens to good people.

      Or if it does, a big point will be made about how hot they’ll be when they grow up. Don’t worry, pimple-covered thirteen year olds! You’ll be fuckable soon!




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  7. Tyler Preston says:
    Uhhmm aren’t you reading too much into this? I mean, it’s awsome someone like you do this, but I have this huge thing agaisnt critics feeling entitled to have writers/artists/authors being totally PC about everything. If so, then all our entertainment might as well come PBS.



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    1. actonthat says:
      I feel like you may not understand exactly what PBS is.

      (Yes, everyone else, that’s what stuck out to me, leave me alone.)




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      1. Tyler Preston says:
        actually the joke I was trying to tell was about how sesame street has children each from every race to tell people they’re not racist.



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        1. actonthat says:
          Or, alternatively, they want kids of all backgrounds to feel included when watching their show? Which is… bad, somehow?

          I am now convinced you don’t really know what PBS is.




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          1. Tyler Preston says:
            it’s not a bad thing, just unnescary. I’m just saying they’re too hard to tell us they’re multicultural.



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            1. Farla says:
              Okay, you know how you see people who look like you on TV all the time?

              “Multicultural” is not for you. It is not to look PC. It is so children can see people who look like them on TV.




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              Reply
              1. Tyler Preston says:
                how would I know, I’m one of the many who don’t TV anymore. It’s just stupid attempt at being funny, so can we all forget what I’ve written before and move on, please?



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              2. Ember says:
                If you apologized then I think we could. That’s the polite thing to do when you mess up, whether because of autism or some other reason. People who act like having autism means never having to take responsibility for their actions make things a lot harder for people like me who try their best to.



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              3. Tyler Preston says:
                I really do have autisim since I was about five years old when I was analysed by a docotor.



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          2. Tyler Preston says:
            you do even care about the show at all?



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              1. Tyler Preston says:
                I’m really am glad they did their homework and I would give them a award for being able to connect with children of all age, race, country, and gender. I was just making a friendly joke at it, that’s all.

                I’m just a idiot, that’s all people.




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              2. Kirk12 says:
                And yet, in the episodes I’ve seen, they have claimed that “arachnid” is a word for “spider”,
                introduced the First Lady without explaining what “the First Lady” actually means, and shown bees who are deliberately trying to pollinate flowers as opposed to doing it by accident.



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    2. illhousen says:
      Ah… “not being a dick” is generally a small thing to ask.

      It’s not like people there insist that every work must carry a message for tolerance. Writes totally can make gender, race, sexual orientation or what have you Not An Issue in their work.

      Harry could have strictly professional relationship with Murphy, he could agree to take the case because a potential dark wizard on the loose is a big deal and because he needs money.

      Instead, we have this.

      Plus sexism like this is actively harmful for the narrative since instead of potentially rich female characters you have stock archetypes walking around.




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      1. Tyler Preston says:
        well everyone have different taste in literature, right? Besides, I’m kinda like Harry in a way, mostly because I’m autistic and say things that makes people mistakenly think of me as a asshole.

        or maybe not and I’m reading too much into to it. I don’t know.

        I respect you opinions I just have a bad habit of saying something opposite than it originally means to me.




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        1. Farla says:
          mostly because I’m autistic and say things that makes people mistakenly think of me as a asshole.

          That’s not the problem here. An autistic person might have trouble realizing Murphy doesn’t like him holding the door for her. An asshole listens to her say explicitly she does not want him to do this then makes it a point to always do it.

          If you find yourself doing things with good intentions that turn out to be mistakes but learn from them and try to get it right the next time, you’re not behaving like Harry is. If, like Harry, you insist on doing it your way regardless, then you’re being an asshole.




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          1. Tyler Preston says:
            I’ve meet people like Murphy before, but still look like I’m a asshole for doing a gentlemenly thing like open a door for a person. I’ve tried understanding but I’ve stop bothering figuring out why.



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            1. Farla says:
              I’ve meet people like Murphy before, but still look like I’m a asshole for doing a gentlemenly thing like open a door for a person.

              Then why didn’t you stop?

              It’s not gentlemenly to do something you know is making people uncomfortable. If you think something is nice to do for people, and then they say that no, it is not, then don’t do it.

              Where I live, door-opening is usually gender-neutral. If you’re at the door and someone is right behind you, you hold it for the next person. If someone has a walker or other obvious problem with mobility, you make sure to let them inside without getting hit by the door.

              But if someone shoots past me to open the door with the flourish, I’m going to be a little weirded out. I didn’t need the other person to inconvenience themselves for something I was fine doing on my own. It’s a little like someone giving me a gift of a thing I didn’t want. I feel awkward, because I’ve taken something from them, and slightly nervous, because I worry what they’re expecting back.




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              Reply
              1. Tyler Preston says:
                Maybe I’m too nice to notice it? Anyway, I get what you’re getting at, I’m trying to stop doing that, but my social interraction with people is very low, so that’s probably it.



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        2. Ember says:
          FTR I’m autistic too and based on what you’ve been saying around here I don’t think that’s the main reason people think of you as an asshole.



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          1. Tyler Preston says:
            Actually I’ve been repeatly been told that I’m a good person, but my self-doubt tells that they’re lying to me. I try ignoring it and just believe what my friends (Who I think are my friends) says about me.



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            1. Farla says:
              People who hang out with you willingly and say you’re nice are probably not lying about friendship and liking you. You are probably decent when dealing with them.

              To go over the interaction here:

              When you first popped in, you used the term PC. PC is a really loaded and negative term. If you have trouble dealing with people, it’s a good idea to avoid buzzwords because their meaning can shift. PC police type complaints are aligned to a specific and nasty viewpoint, and if you don’t mean it to have that baggage, it’s best to use neutral language instead.

              It’s also good to avoid absolute statements, like in totally PC about everything. This is very all-or-nothing. The problem with this book, as I’ll continue to get into, isn’t that sexism exists at all but that Harry’s sexism is extreme but the book acts like it’s a minor and endearing trait. Like most people, I don’t want media have to shy away from negative or even controversial subjects. But while I’m okay with sexism being present in media, I want it handled much better than it is here.

              (Also, it’s best to avoid “entitled” entirely in internet discussion, because most of the time everyone involved has no actual power over the situation. It just raises hackles for no purpose.)

              Overall, you came off as if you didn’t really care about the issues I was raising and felt the PC police wanted to ruin your life, which is never going to go over well in a post about how media is impacting people’s lives currently.

              From all this, your comment wasn’t going to get a positive reception.

              So you try to joke to lighten things up and wait, more upset people. What happened is that if your comment suggests you don’t take ISSUE X seriously, making jokes just cements the view you don’t take ISSUE X seriously and people get more annoyed. You’d have been better off trying to comment neutrally by asking why the negative response or trying to reword what you said if you thought there was a miscommunication.

              Now, maybe ISSUE X is actually not something to take seriously and that’s why you’re here, but it’s important to think twice before deciding on popping in, and regardless, jokes won’t help. And think thrice before popping in on an issue that doesn’t directly impact you, because that makes it so much harder to tell.




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              Reply
              1. Tyler Preston says:
                I take them completely seriously to my heart. But to have been male and been told stories about women being constantly being victimized, mostly sexually, by men; commericals and advertisments saying how all men are potetional sexual abusers/molesters/rapist, etc.

                My brain kinda has a denfense-mechanisim that shuts out those messages because I don’t believe them. When I was about eight years old a older girl molested me by having me licking her crotch for months. So in other words, it is big issue for me because I’ve never told a soul about what that girl did to me.

                And the “PC police ruining my fun” I have depression everyday and have not told anyone, at times I did told someone nothing happens and my life goes back the way it always been.




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              2. Farla says:
                In that case, it really sounds like you need to talk to a therapist about all this.



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              3. Tyler Preston says:
                Please forgive my nonsense ramblings earlier because I am most a idiot who does thinks about what I’m about to say.

                I am indeed a nice person, I just have a terrible ability to interract to people, please forgive me.




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              4. Kirk12 says:
                Yes, that goes without saying. And it’s why you should appreciate having friends rather than claiming they aren’t real friends, because you know what? I know that people don’t want to hang out with me because they don’t, persistently when I give them every opportunity.
                Somehow everyone has something I don’t.



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              5. Tyler Preston says:
                It’s them I have a problem, it is mostly criticizing myself I’m being a good friend them. But thank you for telling that.



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    3. Roarke says:
      “but I have this huge thing agaisnt critics feeling entitled to have writers/artists/authors being totally PC about everything.”

      I have a pretty big thing about authors feeling entitled to be politically incorrect. I’m not saying they’re never, ever allowed to touch subjects like this, even tread the darker parts of them. I don’t think Farla is either. I’m saying they’re not entitled to be politically incorrect; they have to back it up with actual good writing and thoughtful exploration of the issue.

      Farla has been dissecting this book piecemeal and showing us that it’s not just bad about sexism; it’s bad across the board. She’s taken issue with Butcher’s historical research/worldbuilding, plotting, characterization, and more. Each post hasn’t just been “DOOD HARRY’S A SEXIST THIS BOOK SUCKS.” She’s been using all of this other proof to show that the book isn’t good enough to back up its “right” to have a sexist main character.




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      1. Tyler Preston says:
        I do understand what she’s doing because I watch video game reviews by Yahtzee on Zero Punctuation, so I understand the idea she’s doing. I just don’t about what I’m going to say, so yeah.



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        1. Roarke says:
          No worries, man. We’ve all been there.



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    4. Farla says:
      I have this huge thing agaisnt critics feeling entitled to have writers/artists/authors being totally PC about everything.

      What an amazing coincidence. I have this thing against people feeling they’re entitled to shit on everyone else all they want but throw a tantrum when anyone speaks against them.




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      1. Roarke says:
        Jinx (sorta). I wanted to say the same thing, kind of, but I guess if you put it like that I went overboard.



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      2. Tyler Preston says:
        That’s the same feeling about Moviebob form the Escapist when he reviewed the Amazing Spider Man movies and acted like a huge douche about it.

        I’m just speaking a thought in my mind that is not meant to be taken serious. I’m not saying anything bad about you directly, I was talking about those critics out there like I’ve mentioned one above. I’m sorry if you missunderstand me or that I’ve offended you unintentionally. I am really sorry




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        1. Farla says:
          What you need to understand is that this is a serious topic. It doesn’t hurt you, but it does hurt other people.

          I said in the first chapter that I first listened to this as an audiobook, and that this made it a lot worse.

          It was like I had met a friendly man and began talking to him. Then midway through the conversation, he began to say things that suggested he might hurt me. Imagine you’re talking to someone who says things that are the same things as you hear from people on the news who kill autistic people. A lot of people say them without actually hurting people like you, of course. Sometimes they just mean that they don’t think your life has as much value as a real person. Maybe that’s all the man I was listening to here meant, that I wasn’t a real person, but he at least didn’t mean me any harm right now. Still upsetting, though.

          Whenever the audiobook got to one of those parts, I’d actually freeze up in surprise and disbelief, because, how could this be in a modern-day book? How could someone be saying this? There’d be a jolt of adrenaline. It was wasn’t just not fun to read, it was actually unpleasant, like smacking into a wall.

          And then it would be over, and I’d keep listening thinking that maybe that was all, maybe the rest of the book would be fine. And then it would happen again.

          This isn’t the worst book I’ve encountered like this – another one that I was pushing through knowing it was horrible to find out exactly how bad it was upset me enough that I ended up with shaking hands and nausea. There’s one conversation I wasn’t able to listen to at all and had to skip – and that was after listening to the conversation about how abortion is wrong because the proper thing to do would be to kill the mother for having unprotected sex instead, to give you a ballpark for how bad it got.




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          1. Tyler Preston says:
            I’m really sorry that it made you feel that, I really am. please forgive me because I was born as a jackass.

            I do understand you’re feelings, I do. When you read the two books written by Kelly Armstrong, well I’ve watched her TV show called Bitten, based of the her first and adult novel of the Women of the Underworld series. And comparing the Dresden Files and Bitten on each’s sexism, it makes the Dresden Files sexism almost, and I mean ALMOST, to non-existince. It’s still there, but at least the female characters are willing to take care of themselves and call Harry out when he’s being an ass.

            But Bitten’s female characters, oh god! IT SO SQUICKY and RAPEY!!!!!




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            1. Ember says:
              Hey, thank you. I was writing that one comment just as you were doing this. Sorry for jumping the gun.

              Just to reiterate, I don’t think being “born an asshole” is an insurmountable problem. We’re never going to be the same as non-autistic people (nor should we be!), but that doesn’t mean we can’t be better than we are now. Hell, I’m way better than I was as a kid.




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              Reply
              1. Tyler Preston says:
                thank you!!!



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  8. Elisabeth says:
    What TV show is that? It’s really creepy, but not in the way the writer probably intended.



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    1. Farla says:
      Almost Human. It’s a great illustration of how modern television is remarkably regressive even when it’s not obviously conservative. Also a great illustration of how modern television is crap.



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