laura rivers

rivers ‘til i reach you || a playlist for early morning breeze and long drives through the woods.

so may the sunrise bring hope where it once was forgotten (l i s t e n)

i. holland road - mumford & sons  ii. animal tracks - mountain man iii. the girl - city and colour iv. goodbye england (covered in snow) - laura marling v. rivers and roads - the head and the heart vi. flowers in your hair - the lumineers vii. marshmallow unicorn - rachel sermanni viii. lonely handed - emily and the woods ix. kathy’s song - simon & garfunkel x. dirty paws - of monsters and men xi. gypsy - suzanne vega xii. upward over the mountain - iron and wine xiii. fire - jesse thomas xiv. an interlude - the decemberists xv. gale song - the lumineers xvi. dancing barefoot - first aid kit xvii. king of spain - the tallest man on earth xviii. road - nick drake xix. part one - band of horses xx. wishing well - the oh hellos xxi. our own pretty ways - first aid kit xxii. down in the valley - the head and the heart xxiii. halcyon - the paper kites xxiv. digging shelters - neil halstead xxv. woman king - iron and wine


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And now Laura Benanti having a love duet with a Trombone…

Laura Benanti’s first job on Broadway after her stint in “The Sound of Music” was a 1999 revue called Swing! Here are Benanti and Steve Armour in Cry Me a River. “Swing!” was the last musical to open on Broadway in the ‘90s.

Is there any good analysis about the trope where a young girl is forced to grow up as an ultra-amazing assassin, without humanity or agency, escapes/is rescued and must then deal with the fallout?

I’m talking about characters like Black Widow (and her Star Wars EU clone Mara Jade) and Illyana Rasputin, and especially about the examples around the year 2000 (very roughly speaking): Seven of Nine, Cassandra Cain, Laura Kinney, River Tam, Echo from Dollhouse, Cameron from Terminator SCC and others.

There’s definitely a lot to unpack and talk about there, and I’ve realized pretty quickly that I’m not smart enough to do it. Some points I’ve found interesting:

  • First of all, in capable hands, these can be really great stories. This kind of backstory produces characters who start out with a lot of internal conflict and with character development as a specific goal. Give that to someone who can act out all the subtleties - for TV a good actress, for comics a great writer and artist - and you have a lot of the elements you need for a good story.
  • There’s always an element of power fantasy; these women are more capable than most people around them.
  • To some degree, the character growth always happens through family, and speed of character development often matches how well the person’s peers work as a family. For example: Crew of the Firefly - excellen family, so River Tam is getting closer to okay pretty quickly. New Mutants - good family. Not without issues, so it takes some time for Illyana to open up. Her real family (her brother) is great but often absent. Batfamily: Okay family. It does take Cass quite some time to warm up with them. Logan and/or New X-Men: Pretty bad at being a family; Gambit and Jubilee have to be drafted as a replacement family before Laura’s character development goes anywhere. Crew of the Voyager: Almost no family at all, and a very slow growth arc for Seven of Nine as a result.
  • These women fight pretty explicitly against objectification. Their goal is to overcome their social limitations and reassert their agency. And that is constantly undercut by art and narrative that sexualizes and/or otherwise objectifies them, a contradiction that never seems to occur to anyone. There’s Seven of Nine’s skin-tight suit; there’s Black Widow using seduction to get what she needs; there’s Laura’s badly-written time as a teenage prostutitue, as we well as highly seuxalized art; there’s DC comics putting Cassandra Cain into a gimp mask.
  • Does the movie Sucker Punch count as an explicit deconstruction of this trope? It’s certainly not a flawless one, but it’s arguable that this is part of what’s going on there. Think about it: Ostensibly we’re watching hot young women fight for their freedom and agency. Except the amazing fight sequences are not actually expressions of their agency; they’re using this to distract the pervy audience that’s all too happy with the fundamental conflict above.
  • These stories come with a built-in moral absolution. The characters are all really, really sad about the evil they did and the murders they committed… but it wasn’t them, it was the programming by the evil men/Borg collective. As complexity goes… there could actually be more.
  • How much is this a thing that’s unique to female characters? There’s certainly an element of “Innocence Lost” that you don’t see as often in similar stories with boys. Basically, I am fairly certain this trope is sexist somehow - even beyond the objectification - but I can’t put my finger on the details.
  • What’s the overlap with the recent trend of gruff older men and their young daughters (Bioshock Infinite, The Last of Us, Dishonored)? There’s certainly some. The “Logan” movie shifts Laura right into that daughter role, but she’s been that (for Gambit) before, while Cass has the god-damned Batman as this (and he sucks at it). River Tam gets Malcolm Reynolds. This isn’t a necessary part of the trope, but it’s a frequent one.
  • Why did Seven of Nine never get her birth name back? For many others on the list, name as a part of individual identity is quite an important step. For that matter, why are there still people who insist on calling Laura Kinney “X-23”, aka the inventory number her tormentors used for her?

The best I can offer as a conclusion right now is that this is a weird little trope, with underpinnings that are most likely Problematic™, but that also provides a basis for some really interesting and compelling stories in the right hands. But I’d really like to see some more opinions and analysis of this.