Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Male Hierarchies in My School President

I've mentioned elsewhere that I consider My School President one of the best BL series on record. 

One reason is the way in which male behavior is conveyed. 

Gun, leader of an amateur band club, is attempting to keep his compatriots together. Of the group, he is the most devoted to music and would like to follow that path in the future. The rest are somewhat less committed but they enjoy hanging out together (and eating barbecue pork). 

Then a young man arrives at the high school who has actual professional experience: Sound, a solo guitarist. Sounds joins the group, then instantly makes a bid for leadership, not because he really wants to be a leader but because he is the most skilled and is annoyed at the wishy-washy attitude of the others. 

Gun who is mostly operating by instinct and love of the art concedes to Sound's experience. He knows Sound is better and he suspects that Sound is right about his criticisms.

However, the other band members don't want to be bossed around by Sound, who though professional with knowledge of the business, has a tendency to alienate others. They track down Gun, who is now hanging out with Tinn in the student council office, and beg him to come back. 

Gun returns. Although he is a little tougher when he comes back, his fundamental approach doesn't change: his strength has always been that he cares about the band for its own sake. He energizes the members and looks out for them. And he wants what is best--as when he invites Sound to stay. 

Sound stays. Of course, he does! His bid for leadership was the ordinary king-of-the-mountain wrangling that a pack goes through when a new member arrives. And he doesn't have anywhere else to go--he can't exactly join the orchestra. Moreover, Gun is entirely genuine in his olive branch, which makes it easy for Sound to remain. 

What is even smarter is that from that point on, Gun and Sound operate as leader and co-leader. Gun sits with Sound in classes. They discuss songwriting and other issues, including confidential ones. Sound is not technically in charge (and doubtfully ever wanted to be) but he is the most skilled musician and as dedicated to music as Gun. He and Gun operate nearly as joint leaders. 

The brilliance is that this leadership hierarchy is never discussed. The lack of discussion is not due to bad writing. It isn't discussed because it doesn't have to be. All of the young men accept the fall-out of the upheaval as natural and inevitable. 

Very smart writing.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Fan Fiction Solution to Frederica: Alverstoke & Jessamy

Alverstoke's sense of humor!

In a prior post, I debate whether Alverstoke and Frederica would really make a believable couple. 

In my fan fiction, I get Alverstoke and Jessamy together. 

I increased Jessamy's age (from 16 to 19) but kept his essential personality. I thought Jessamy's gravity made a nice "complement" to Alverstoke's somewhat quizzical above-it-all view of the universe.

I used my Regency fan-fiction world's "marriage mart lad" background to emphasize that Frederica has misread the situation with Jessamy as she did with Charis: due to their father's misuse of money, Jessamy has passed the point where he can be a marriage-mart-lad. To be presented so "late" would imply that he was looking for a lover, not a husband, and Jessamy is conservative enough to want a husband (a realistic character trait that many M/M writers utterly miss, assuming that "gay"="clubbing"). He is also deeply rational and realizes that he has more opportunities than Charis re: getting on with life, so he sets out to become a parson, a job with which he has a true interest. 

Alverstoke has numerous encounters with Jessamy in the original book. He takes Jessamy driving and lets Jessamy handle his horses. At one point, Alverstoke is forced to deal with damages caused by Jessamy's huge dog, Lufra. Jessamy goes to him for help when Jessamy inadvertently destroys a Pedestrian Curricle. He and Frederica both encourage Alverstoke to follow Felix when non-stop Felix ends up in a hot air balloon. Jessamy turns to Alverstoke for help with his studies. And he ends up moving with Alverstoke, Felix, and Frederica to Alverstoke's estate. 


As mentioned, I increased Jessamy's age. I additionally allow for a longer time span while Alverstoke and Jessamy sort out their feelings. I do have Frederica marry (not the lecturing Buxted!) and become Alverstoke-Jessamy's "doyenne"--that is, she will supply them with a heir since Endymion and Charis's offspring would not be the best choice to manage a huge estate, unless that offspring is completely unlike his parents. 

In sum, I frankly thought Jessamy and Alverstoke had more in common than Alverstoke and Frederica, especially since Alverstoke doesn't impose his version of Jessamy's life all over Jessamy's experiences. In fact, Alverstoke and Jessamy at one point in the original text discuss how making mistakes as a youth makes one a better parson in the future. Alverstoke has no more interest in religion than Frederica but he does have the capacity to see the world in more than one way. 

But then, as mentioned in numerous previous posts, I prefer Beauty and the Beast to Cinderella. Show me a couple operating together rather than a couple coming together after many, many hardships and misunderstandings.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Will They Last? Would They Even Get Together? Alverstoke and Frederica

Frederica by Georgette Heyer is an odd book.

In some ways, it is one of her funniest books. She captures young male exuberance like nobody else on record. 

So much so, I ponder if THAT is the book she wanted to write, not a romance (whatever the assigned genre).

The reason? 

Lord Alverstoke ends up with a young woman who is remarkably similar to his sisters whom Alverstoke supposedly doesn't like too much. 

The story opens with Lord Alverstoke turning down his sisters' demands that he present their daughters. However, when Frederica--a very distant relation--shows up to ask the same thing for her sister, he agrees, in part to annoy his sisters, who are forced to acquiesce to the scheme to get what they want. 

Granted, the sisters have plenty of money and are well-able to usher their daughters into society on their own. And Frederica doesn't. Granted, too, it is quite normal for a man to marry a woman who resembles his sisters or his mother. Moreover, Frederica is honest, good-tempered, and rational as well as a good manager. She is quite likable as a character!

Frederica wants a manor house for her sister,
not city suburbia.
But, like Alverstoke's sisters, she pursues goals based on a story/long-term solution she has created in her head and she has a tendency to misread her siblings. 

She wants her sister, Charis, settled "comfortably" yet ignores her brother Jessamy's point that Charis is perfectly willing to marry the middle class guy next door. Charis is somewhat lacking intellectually but is quite a good house manager herself and enjoys the attendant jobs. She doesn't want a society match (and ends up falling for a member of high society for reasons entirely disconnected from his status--a man, unfortunately, who will encourage Charis's silly side).

Pastors were seen as cute--but clueless.
Frederica also treats Jessamy's desire to become a pastor with borderline contempt.

At this point, the text betrays the author's perspective. Like Austen, Heyer rarely discusses religion. Unlike Austen, she doesn't seem to have understood it, including why anybody would be interested in it. 

This blind-spot aids in the earlier books since the upper-class blithe indifference to bourgeois, plebeian, religious concerns was a part of the aristocratic personality. But as Heyer's books near the Victorian era, the blind-spot becomes somewhat disconcerting. 

In fairness, Heyer does a fine job with Jessamy's sixteen-year-old seesawing from moralistic yearnings/worries to "fit to burst" activities (all that energy cooped up in a study!). 

Still, Frederica's dismissal seems a trifle shallow. 

In the end, Alverstoke falling for Frederica comes off as a bit forced--and I can't escape the impression that Heyer felt the same. She resorts to far more "telling" (from Alverstoke's point of view) than in her other books. Readers are told that Alverstoke is surprised by how taken he is with Frederica, how he wishes to keep her from any kind of suffering. Readers are told that Alverstoke is in love. 


I think that Heyer was truly telling a story about a man who becomes a guardian to two ADHD young men--and the romance got thrown in to make the book a romance. 

My fan fiction solution to follow. 

Monday, November 20, 2023

Better in Fiction Than In Real Life: The Hopeless Romantic

Kurosawa to the right--look at that happy face!
It's hard to see the downside to the archetype of the hopeless romantic (but see below), especially since it is so entirely cute. 

Kurosawa from Cherry Magic is a hopeless romantic. He has spent most of his life being approached by women because of his looks. While he hasn't become cynical (he is far too well-balanced mentally to complain about being handsome), he is bowled over when Adachi (before Adachi can read minds) helps him out after a company dinner. 

Kurosawa is invited to the dinner for his looks, Adachi for his youth. Kurosawa prepares to meet the company head by looking up background information and memorizing products. Turns out, she just wants to chat and flirt and tease the eye-candy. Kurosawa gets drunk--after finishing off Adachi's alcoholic beverage--and is mocked by his seniors: "He had one job to do--to look handsome--and he couldn't even do that."

Adachi trails after Kurosawa to make sure that he doesn't fall into a fountain or something. Adachi then delivers one of Adachi's low-key speeches that makes clear that Adachi (1) noticed what Kurosawa DID rather than how he appears; (2) finds Kurosawa's imperfect side "refreshing" and quite amusing.

Kurosawa falls for him to the nth degree. 100%. No doubts. No take-backs. Over the moon.

Whether anything would have happened between them if Adachi hadn't gained the ability to read minds is anyone's guess. 

In any case, Adachi's mind-reading confronts him with Kurosawa's hopeless romantic side--that is attracted to Adachi's "bed head," that imagines over-the-top dating scenarios, that takes way too many pictures and videos of Adachi, that buys him stuff and bought him stuff even before he and Adachi started dating. 

Adachi is daunted, amused at the "mushiness," and touched. 

Earlier scene that shows Kurosawa's
Adachi also becomes aware of the pain felt by a hopeless romantic and moves to (try to) meet Kurosawa half-way. One of the most heart-breaking moments in the series is when Kurosawa confesses and then tries to reassure a flummoxed Adachi that everything will go back to normal. Adachi has (over) heard enough of Kurosawa's thoughts by this point to know that Kurosawa is bluffing and forces himself to make a concrete decision.

Cherry Magic handles the hopeless romantic with gentle insight. Frasier shows us what happens when the hopeless romantic goes WAY too far. Frasier feels left out when Niles and Daphne begin to date. He tries to match them by fast-forwarding a relationship with the next woman he asks out: we met...now, here are five bouquets of roses, a string orchestra under your window, video chats every day, a personal song tribute...

And it backfires. She dumps him. 

In comparison, it helps that Kurosawa not only restrains himself but has an objective side. 

Hopeless romanticism is enchanting to watch but the truth is, I kind of understand Larry from Numb3rs a tad better: Every Wednesday is lunch...every alternate Thursday is...you get one wild card...notice must be provided...

Kurosawa is thrilled to get a present on Valentine's Day
from Adachi--and he eats the chocolates even though
they are too spicy and Adachi tries to stop him.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Interview with the Translator: Asian Drinking Culture

"but I don't want to," Sang Woo states in Semantic Error.
Jae Young helps when the confrontation gets physical.

Kate: Many of the Asian dramas I watch--mostly Korean and Japanese--include scenes that involve drinks after work or drinks within a college department. A common scene in a romance goes as follows:
  • A senior/boss pours a drink and expects one of the protagonists to drink.
  • The senior/boss gets increasingly querulous when the protagonist doesn't drink. 
  • The other protagonist drinks on behalf of the first.
The first few times, I shrugged off the scene as dramatic, nothing more.
But it is very common. Even when it isn't being used for dramatic purposes, the possibility that the "game" will become a power play is implied. In Cherry Magic, the younger employees make passing remarks that indicate their disdain for the drinking and related games; the implication is that the expectations are "old-fashioned" but culturally common enough to merit a remark.
Are drinking expectations really that pervasive? What do non-drinkers do? Not just Protestant types but alcoholics and abstemious Buddhists?
Or are members of the "salaryman" culture simply expected to bear up?
Eugene: This drinking culture is very real. Along with the usual "drinks after work," there is also the more formal nomikai. But the rules are similar and the objective is the same: "to encourage more open communication between people through the world’s favorite social lubricant." 
The portmanteau nominication (飲みニケーション) derives from nomu (to drink) and communication. Basically, it's an excuse for a nation of introverts to behave like extraverts. Alcohol covers a multitude of sins. If you want to vent at your boss, getting drunk gives you a pass.
NHK World does a surprising number of stories about sake breweries. NHK ran a whole Asadora series about the guy who built one of Japan's first whisky distilleries.It is a totally legit business, as are bars and liquor stores. You can even buy alcohol from vending machines. A summary of corporate drinking culture in Japan states the following: 

For such a buttoned-up country, Japan's drinking tradition is really something to behold. Drinking is something almost every adult does (when appropriate), but the biggest drinkers by far are the salarymen. In virtually every company, being invited out with the team or the boss for after-work drinks is an important bonding ritual. Since so much of office life is about being polite and not saying what you really think, getting drunk together is an essential tool for venting frustrations and letting it all hang out, as they say. Attendance is not literally mandatory, but not joining in can be a surefire way to torpedo your career because nobody will like you after that. Especially not your boss. The same goes for showing up and not drinking alcohol.
So, yes, it's a real pain for people who don't think that boozing it up is the definition of a fun night out. But that attitude too is slowly changing with the times.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Notes from the Past: Rank in Persuasion & Mr. Elliot's Motivations

Sir Walter is "only" a baronet.

In Persuasion, Will Elliot desires to marry "up." Austen gives us little other information about Will Elliot's motivations for suddenly reconnecting with the Elliot family. Although movie versions often like to make him poor--he wants to preserve his inheritance for its monetary value--this is not accurate and does not make much sense.

Mr. Elliot is well-off. But even if he needed to marry for money (just money), the Elliot sisters are not his best choice. Although the Kellynch property is better than nothing, it is heavily encumbered. And neither Anne nor Elizabeth can bring him a substantial dowry--more than the Bennet sisters, of course, but not enough to attract fortune hunters.

In other words, if Mr. Elliot's motivation was purely monetary, he could do better elsewhere. Austen seems to be completely aware of this; she heavily implies several things: (1) Mr. Elliot is honestly attracted to Anne; (2) Mr. Elliot is interested in the benefits that pure rank can bring him.

For what Sir Walter offers is a title. He is less well-bred than Darcy, far less wealthy, and lacking in any kind of commonsense. But he can lay claim to nobility (though he isn't really). As a baronet, he has a hereditary rank. 

Which brings me to the point that in Austen's England, rank still meant something. It still does now too, of course, but these days it is closer to the equivalent of Hollywood celebrity-dom than to anything with real teeth. But in Austen's day, although the middle-class was making astonishing inroads regarding its own sense of privilege, rank still ensured a strong degree of sycophancy (if not quite as much as Sir Walter imagines).

Consider that in Arthur Conan Doyle's Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, written almost 100 years later than Austen, Holmes is still a little out of his depth when dealing with royalty. Holmes is THE quintessential middle class hero, and Conan Doyle clearly saw him that way. And yet even Holmes kowtows a bit to a noble name. (The fact that he doesn't kowtow more indicates his egalitarian nature.) It would be another 100 years before a Holmes would casually and unrepentantly enter Buckingham Palace stark naked.

What is so extraordinary about Austen, again, is that she is completely aware of this issue; even while she drives home the non-rank (in terms of nobility) merits of deserving seamen, she recognizes that her world is dictated by expressions of rank. At no point does Austen try to sell the reader on everybody-is-just-the-same-how-dare-anybody-say-differently pretense. In her lifetime, power, rank, nepotism, and moving-up-the-ladder are practically one's purpose in life (a history of Austen's family reads rather like the history of a bunch of people constantly on the make).

Not for nothing was Austen's own brother adopted into the wealthy Knight family! Consequently, there isn't a lot of "they may be poor, but at least they luuuuv each other!" stuff in Austen's writing. Elizabeth Bennet not marrying Mr. Collins isn't simply romantic; it is adherence to a tough principle that may, in fact, leave Elizabeth wondering if her friend Charlotte made the better choice.

Mr. Elliot is not quite in the same position--he has more options. But the allure of marrying for rank would be as great for him as the allure--for the Bennet sisters--of marrying for comfort and security.

In Persuadable, I address why Mr. Elliot might change his mind about the benefits of Sir Walter's title--and company. 

Friday, November 10, 2023

Another Great Laid-Back Hero: Lieutenant Tao

Like Justin, Saitama, and Karasuma, Lieutenant Tao, played by Michael Paul Chan, is another great affable, seemingly easygoing hero.

He belongs on the Major Crimes team in The Closer and Major Crimes, working first for Brenda Leigh Johnson and then for Sharon Raydor. He is the tech guy, so much so that at one point he complains about a grifter being called "tech-y" because it is offensive to true tech geeks. (He later changes his mind when the grifter turns out to have invented a legitimate app.)

He can also be, to borrow a phrase, "a total badass." 
And he gets his own Atticus Finch shooting-the-rabid-dog moment in Season 7 of The Closer. In the episode "Under Control," Tao's son is in the squad room since the episode's victim, a young boy, belonged to the same summer camp, and Tao's son, Kevin, alerted his father to the problem of the missing youngster. The death came about due to the hatred between a man, his ex-wife, and her lover. During a confrontation between the man and her lover at the police station, Tao steps in and barks, "E-nough!"

He sees his son watching and tells him, "Go into the break room and watch some TV."
As Tao marches off with one of the combatants, his son gazes after him in awe. Turns out, his dad is not just a mild-mannered, overprotective Clark Kent who isn't letting him take his driver license exam, but a police officer with serious skills.
Yet Tao, like Atticus--and Dean Cain's Clark Kent--returns to his mild-mannered persona, which is one reason we love him. And he is willing to re-think his positions, as when he supports his son taking his driver license exam.
But the "badass" lurks...