Idle Thumbs 170: Esophagus Sarcophagus

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Regarding the subversion of the male gaze in Marvel movies, or should I say, regarding ~**HUNX**~.



This is actually what I found the most interesting about the first Thor movie. Marvel could easily have made our protagonist/cipher a young white male, or cast Natalie Portman but made her only a love interest for Thor, with sexy scenes where she seduces the naive new hero. 

Instead, she's a plucky astrophysicist with a love for science, that dresses like a normal woman, and seems like someone who probably spends sunday mornings in bed reblogging Doctor Who gifs on Tumblr. And then a shirtless hunk literally drops out of the sky for her.


Of course, I wish she had more agency later in the movie and in the second movie, but I at least found it as a positive step from an unexpected direction.

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During that entire segment of the podcast I just wanted to blurt out "WELCOME TO THE WAY WOMEN ARE CAST FOR EVERY ROLE. IN EVERYTHING. FOREVER."

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As you say I don't know how much farther we're going to get by going back and forth in this, but I'm not talking about the thousand-year long view of history and language. Also when I say "language" I don't mean "a language," e.g. The English Language, I mean "usage of language in particular cases." I'm talking about immediate usage. When people start applying the word "franchise" to everything, people start thinking of everything as "a franchise." This happens constantly now. Until relatively recently, that word was hardly ever used in the near-universal context it is used now, but now it's everywhere. Everything is a potential franchise. A lot of this has to do with business considerations that would be happening regardless of language, but I strongly believe that wholesale adoption of jargon helps to normalize the effect. When everyone is reporting on and talking about "franchises" it helps to create a self-fulfilling prophecy; of course entertainment "properties" naturally manifest as "franchises" that become "sequelized" "products" and are "extended" into wide-ranging "content" to "consume." It's just in the air, it's everywhere. I recognize that it would be naive to pin this all on words, but I think language is extremely powerful and can be used to flatten concepts, make them less specific. It can of course do the opposite as well.

Wanted to add my perspective on jargon and buzzwords, and specifically their difference (perhaps to illustrate this problem for those unaware). As someone who has spent time at a Fortune 500 I've become pretty familiar with such things, and it gets messy fast.


Jargon is, in most situations, very useful. It allows people in a specific field to discuss complex topics efficiently by creating terms that are commonly understood within that field. If I'm talking with fellow software engineers, I don't want to have to define what a tree data structure is, it's handy that I can just say something is a tree. Some confusion in the term "jargon" arises from when it is used colloquially as a term for "technical words I don't understand" or "gibberish". That's fine, and it makes sense as a colloquialism. If someone was listening to software engineers talk about balancing their splay treaps, it sounds like utter nonsense.


Buzzwords, on the other hand, is what Chris, you're talking about with "franchises" and other now meaningless terms. Buzzwords are words that used to be jargon, and well-defined, but have expanded upon their original use (usually by people outside of their related field) and become so muddy that they are now meaningless. This is a *huge* problem in many large organizations, because you can be in a room with 10 people all talking about (for example) making a "web portal" and come to an agreement that one should be created (or doing something with your "franchise" which actually isn't). The problem is that all 10 people can be envisioning a completely different thing, because "web portal" doesn't actually mean anything. It did at one time to a small group of people, but was reused a thousand times over without being fully explained, or was used to describe things similar but not exactly the same, which further dilutes its meaning each time.


"Synergy" once meant something precise to someone. Rather than explaining it in detail to everyone for the rest of time, they coined a term for it. That person was successful in "synergizing" their team A, so team B goes "We need more synergy too!" ("me too" attitude is the worst thing in the entire world, by the way, just think about it) without bothering to find out what that means. "Franchise" and "platform exclusive" are buzzwords now in the same way, and as you mention, completely flatten language into a muddy mess of nothing. At some point the syllables are just meaningless. That's one of the reasons why most corporate speak doesn't mean anything to anyone. If you aren't there for when the term is coined, good fucking luck figuring out what it actually means.


It sounds pedantic, but hey, that's language for you.

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