Detroit: Battleground for Democracy

I just read “Detroit Will Be Democracy’s Decisive Battle”. You should read it too.

Last year, an ’emergency manager’ appointed by govern Rick Snyder was given total control over the government of Detroit, rendering all elected officials in Detroit powerless. In other words, they ended democracy in Detroit.

Kevin Orr, the ’emergency manager’, is widely hated by the people of Detroit, and would stand no chance in a fair election.

Kevin Orr is working to strip Detroit’s assets and hand them to wealthy (and thus powerful) people while driving the city into bankruptcy.

The citizens of Detroit will have no say in the bankuptcy proceedings, unless protests count.

If they can do it in Detroit, they can do it in any city in the United States. If you care about democracy in the United States, you should care about what is happening in Detroit now.

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Yang Guo As an Asexual and Disabled Character

Since I discussed Shēn Diāo Xiá Lǚ (神鵰俠侶) last week, and disability is still the theme of this month’s Carnival of Aces, it occurs to me … Yang Guo might is an example of a character who is both asexual and disabled.

I’ve already said a lot about why I read Yang Guo as being asexual, even though it is never explicitly said in canon. As far as disability … well, since I want to keep this post low-spoiler, I’ll just say that at the beginning of the novel Yang Guo is able-bodied, and at the end of the novel he’s not.

Encountering Prejudice

Yang Guo definitely encounters explicit ableism. Unfortunately, I cannot find any of Guo Fu’s ableist quotes, but I recall her saying something like ‘he must be a bad man because he is [diabled]’.

A young Chinese man is holding a sword.

This screenshot is from the 2005 TV series, starring Huang Xiaoming as Yang Guo. Here, Yang Guo is still able-bodied.

By contrast, Yang Guo does not encounter any anti-asexual prejudice which is anywhere close to being as clear-cut as Guo Fu’s commentary.

I think it is because the characters recognize that disability is a thing, and they can easily tell that Yang Guo has a disability, but I don’t think any of the characters (including Yang Guo himself) are aware that asexuality is a thing.

Of course, just because nobody makes pointed comments about Yang Guo’s asexuality does not mean there is not any predjudice directed towards asexuality. Some characters seem to have trouble wrapping their heads around the fact that Yang Guo is not having sex. This is one of the reasons people don’t understand him, and since they don’t understand him, they consider him to be dangerous.

How Yang Guo Breaks Asexual and Disability Sterotypes

Asexuals are sterotyped as being female, white, and middle class. Yang Guo is male, Chinese, and poor.

Disabled people are sterotyped as being bitter, wanting revenge on the world, or as being full of good cheer, or as objects of charitable pity. Well, Yang Guo sometimes does feel bitter, and he sometimes does want revenge, though he is much less motivated by vengence than Huang Rong assumes he is (and when he wants revenge, it has nothing to do with his disability). He is most definitely not constantly full of good cheer, and he wants opportunities, not pity. TvTropes claims that Yang Guo is an example of a ‘super crip’, but I disagree (I can’t explain why without spoilers).

Both asexual and disabled people are stereotyped as being not-so-social, introverted, aromantic, not physically attractive, etc. Well, Yang Guo is very social (when he can), is an extrovert, and is intensely romantic (though I would say he is demiromantic, not heteromantic). Oh, and he’s the most physically attractive male in the Jin Yong universe (though he might be tied with his father Yang Kang).

On the left, Yang Guo wears a metal mask, a big cape, and is holding a giant sword; on the right, there is an eagle that is even bigger than Yang Guo himself.

An illustration of the Giant Eagle with masked!Yang Guo by Tony Wong. My favorite Tony Wong illustration of Yang Guo makes his disability quite apparent, and I don’t want to spoil, so I picked this illustration, which conceals his disability, instead.

If anything, having a disability reinforces his image as a mysterious and dangerous ‘bad boy’, which some people say is why almost every maiden in the novel is strongly attracted to him. It’s worth noting that he starts wearing a mask to cover up his good looks (and thus stop having so maiden maidens feel attracted to him) *after* he becomes disabled. And the willingness of some of those maidens to get sexual makes it clear that his celibacy is entirely voluntary.

Speaking of stereotypes, one of those maidens is Lu Wushuang, who is also disabled. Apparently having a lame foot doesn’t stop her from experiencing romantic attraction [/snark].

And Lu Wushuang is the only person Yang Guo is depicted as feeling any sensual (and possibly sexual) attraction towards (I translated the relevant passage here). That’s another way he’s ‘doing it wrong’ – he should feel like kissing a ‘pretty’ girl like Guo Fu, not a disabled girl like Lu Wushuang [/snark].

Oh, and I should state the obvious – the fact that Yang Guo experiences a lack of sexual attraction, and is content with his celibacy, *before* he becomes disabled proves that that his asexuality is not caused by his disability.

Layers of Oppression

Though Yang Guo’s disability and asexuality (or more accurately, refusal to act like a heterosexual) play out in different ways, they both serve one common fuction – to make him an outcast.

They’re not the only reasons he’s a social outcast. Other reasons society pushes him to the margins at various points in the story include: he’s poor, his mother wasn’t married, he’s homeless, he’s an orphan, he refuses to conform to norms concerning romance, he cannot fight back. There’s also the fact that his father was a horrible person, and he looks just like his father, so his mere appearance stirs up certain characters’ bad memories.

The giant eagle, of course, does not care about any of this, so Yang Guo and the giant eagle become close friends. That’s why the official English title of the novel is The Giant Eagle and Its Companion.

On the left is an eagle who is bigger than a human being, in the center there is a beautiful woman with long hair wearing a white dress, and on the right is a man with both black and white hair.

This screenshot is from the 1995 TV series, starring Louis Koo as Yang Guo (right). His disability in not obvious in this screenshot.

The core conflict of the story is that Yang Guo craves to feel like he belongs to a group, yet society keeps on denying him for unfair reasons. This is an internal conflict – Yang Guo wants to be with people and help people and have people like him because it’s a need, but he also wants to avoid people and hurt people because he has a long history of people hurting him. It’s also an external conflict – when Yang Guo tries to meet his needs, others interfere.

As far as the maidens … well, they are one group who is interested in having close social contact with Yang Guo, and Yang Guo is also very interested in bringing (most of) them into his family. However, he wants to be their brother, and they want him in a romantic/sexual way … which is not a solid basis for mutually satisfying relationships.

Though introverts most certainly encounter loneliness and need companionship, the fact that Yang Guo is an extrovert makes these problems even more apparent.

In short, Yang Guo is the way he is because the story needs him to be that way.


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My Favorite Wedding Scene in All of Fiction

I bet that, when you think about ‘wedding scene’ and ‘fiction’, you assume that the wedding scene happens at the conclusion of the story. And indeed, a lot of wedding scenes do happen at the end of stories since so many stories follow the relationship escalator, as I discussed in “The Pirates at the Top of the Escalator”.

Of course, if you’ve read that post, you might have guessed that my favorite wedding scene is one of the rare fictional wedding scene which does *not* occur at the end of the story.

Indeed, my favorite wedding scene in all of fiction is the one in Shēn Diāo Xiá Lǚ, a novel I’ve written a lot about before.

I love the protagonists’ marriage partially because it is a very moving scene. It brought tears to my eyes.

I also love it because, for a change, the wedding is in the middle of the story, not at the end.

The very fact that the wedding is in the middle of the story demonstrates that getting married does not automatically create stability. Even after the protagonists get married, they still have to go through a lot of unstability before a new stasis is established.

Now, some people might say, since their marriage is not consummated (i.e. the protagonists don’t have sex with each other), the wedding does not really count, so of course there isn’t a new stasis. I would counter that by saying that it would be really easy to slip in a sex scene, and I’m sure some fanworks have already done that … and the sex would do absolutely nothing to stabilize the characters’ lives.

And if you suggest that their relationship wasn’t really ‘complete’ because they didn’t have a baby … well, they do have a baby, and the baby doesn’t do anything to make things more stable. Granted, the baby isn’t their biological child, but Yang Guo at least intends to raise the baby as his own child, and I don’t think the situation would be any more stable if the protagonists did have a biological child together.

The story only reaches a new stasis when the protagonists real problems reach a terminal point. Getting married is not a magic fix. Nor was it supposed to be. The protagonists understand quite well that getting married won’t make their lives any easier. That’s not why they get married.

They get married to express their love for each other.

It is because it’s clear that getting married won’t solve their problems, or make their lives any more stable, or confer any social status on them, yet they get married anyway, that the love feels so sincere and genuine.

And that is one of reasons why it is the most touching wedding scene I have ever found in fiction.


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Detecting Asexuality, “Diagnosing” Disability

There is a story I have alluded to in the posts “Memories of a Special Education”, “Clearing Up Doubts by Reading About Others’s Experiences” and :Commitment, Family, and Friendship”. Since the theme for this month’s Canival of Aces is Disability and Asexuality, it seems like a good time to connect the dots between these stories.

First of all, I have ‘expressive language disorder’ (ELD). That is why I was put in ‘special ed’ in the first place (and rightfully so). In my case, it meant that I literally learned how to read before I learned how to speak.

In my case, ELD is not a disability because I have learned how to use expressive language well enough that I can integrate with broader society. Per the social model of disability, I experience life as an abled person.

The person who tried to convince me that I ‘have Asperger’s syndrome’ in “Clearing up Doubts” and the relative I ‘broke up with’ in “Commitment, Family and Friendship” are the exact same person.

When she was trying to convince me that I ‘have Asperger’s syndrome’, she claimed that she was ‘fascinated’ by Asperger’s syndrome, and that she had done lots of research, and one of the bits of ‘evidence’ that I ‘have Asperger’s’ that she brought up was the fact that I had a speech delay as a child.

Now, if you know a bit about Asperger’s syndrome, you are probably thinking ‘but a diagnosis of speech delay and Asperger’s syndrome are mutually exclusive’. Well, *I* knew almost nothing about ‘Asperger’s syndrome’ at the time, so I had no way of detecting that red flag. In retrospect, this is evidence that my relative was trying to find anyway possible to connect me to ‘Asperger’s’ so that she could get me under her power.

One red flag I subconsciously noticed was that, before this ‘heart-to-heart’ talk where she told me ‘you have Asperger’s, let me fix your life’ is that we went to an expensive show beforehand. My mother said I should offer to pay for my ticket, and I agreed. But when I made the offer, my relative did not refuse by saying ‘oh, you don’t need to pay, it’s my treat’. She refused by saying ‘people with more money pay for expensive things on these outings, people with less money do not pay’. Of course, the whole point of offering to pay for my share was so that I could relate to her as an equal – this is the same principle in play when fathers admonish their daughters to always pay for half of a date with a man. She had no interest in relating to me as an equal, and I am pretty sure that the main reason she invited me to the outing was so she could ‘buy’ a meeting with me (i.e. the show was a bribe). Paying for my ticket would have denied her that power over me.

Not to mention that she was asserting that she knew about proper social protocol, I did not, and therefore I should accept her ‘teachings’.

At this point, you’re probably wondering ‘what does any of this have to do with asexuality?’

I’m glad you asked.

I described all of the above to show you the lengths to which my relative was going to so she could manipulate me into thinking that I ‘have Asperger’s syndrome’ and therefore I need to let her ‘help’ me.

At the time of this meeting, I was already identifying as asexual, though I had not told this relative about it (I still haven’t, since I refuse to communicate with her). She was drawing on every single detail she knew about my personal life and trying to twist it into evidence that I ‘have Asperger’s syndrome’. One of the things she mentioned is how I do not try to get boys’ sexual attention. Of course I don’t try to get boys’ sexual attention, I don’t want it! I even thought about this at the meeting, but I didn’t want to bring up my asexuality because I was already feeling overwhelmed. I have no doubt that, if I had brought it up, she would have immediately declared it another symptom of my ‘Asperger’s syndrome’.

Instead, she explained that normal people don’t act like me, that it is almost impossible for teenagers to resist the intense marketing which tells them to behave in a certain way, and the fact that I was apparently immune to the marketing meant that my brain must be wired differently. It couldn’t possibly be explained by, say, teenagers having critical thinking skills, and deciding they didn’t want to buy what the corporations were selling them (I myself knew a number of teenagers who didn’t act the way my relative seemed to think that marketing makes teenagers act, and I’m pretty sure at least some of them were neurotypical heterosexuals).

She also was probably aware of my lack of boyfriends (and girlfriends), and possibly concluded this was because I didn’t have the social skills to get one, rather than because I didn’t want one. Then again, if I did make it clear that I really didn’t want a boyfriend/girlfriend, she would see it as more ‘evidence’. She was twisting everything into ‘evidence’.

So, what is the link between disabiliy and asexuality here?

– I am almost certain she picked up on some signs of my asexuality, and mistook them for signs of a disability (in this case Asperger’s syndrome)
– The deeper current is that both asexuality and disability are not ‘normal’, and therefore when you don’t act like a ‘normal’ person, people assume that there is something ‘wrong’ with you. My relative was claiming to be very Disability Positive during this chat, and saying that There Was Nothing Wrong With ‘Having Asperger’s Syndrome’ … it just meant I had to accept her ‘guidance’. She was not precisely saying that Asperger’s Syndrome (or, indirectly, asexuality) were inherently wrong … but she was definitely claiming that I needed ‘help’ and to have my life ‘fixed’.
– If we lived in a society where most people accepted neurodiversity, or ever just a society where autism was more widely and better understood, my relative probably would not have tried to use a bogus diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome to try to manipulate me (of if she had, I would have shot her down much quicker and with much less distress). Likewise, if we lived in a society where most people accepted all intimate relationship choices (including the choice to not have romantic/sexual relationships), or even just a society where asexuality was more widely and better understood, my relative probably would not have pounced on my lack of a romance/sex life as evidence that I needed ‘help’.

In short, we need to increase and broaden support for neurodiversity,
the freedom to be non-sexual/romantic, and generally make society a better place for people who are not ‘normal’.


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How the Manhwa ‘Goong’ (Does Not) Fit the Relationship Escalator

Following last week’s post, The Pirates at the Top of the Escalator, I’d like to examine a specific example.

One of the most popular manhwa (Korean comics) of the last decade is Goong, a tale about an ordinary girl, Chae-Kyung who finds out that she is engaged to marry Lee Shin, the crown prince of Korea.

Now, right off the bat, it’s not following the modern relationship escalator, since in contemporary Korea most marriages aren’t arranged by parents. But the story seems to try to make the relationship between Chae-Kyung and Lee Shin work within the constraints of the ridiculous circumstances – for example, quite a bit of the story revolves around them trying (and failing) to ‘escalate’ up to sex.

(Note: I am about to drop a huge spoiler, but it’s a part of the story which has already been published in English)

Midway through the story, Chae-Kyung and Prince Shin get divorced. The fallout of the divorce is so terrible that it’s a long time before they even have another proper conversation. When they do start actually relating to each other again, they do so in steps … which bear a striking resemblance to the steps of the relationship escalator.

In other words, the divorce is a chance for them to start again with a proper escalator relationship, instead of a relationship which was messed up by putting the steps in the ‘wrong’ order (such as marriage before dating each other).

And since they love each other, and they get to properly go up the escalator the second time around, everything is going to work out, and the story is going to have a big happy ending in which Chae-Kyung and Prince Shin remarry, an epilogue showing their cute kid(s), and the conclusion that inimate relationships only work if they conform to the escalator. Right? Right?

Or do they get kidnapped by pirates?

(I am totally about to spoil the ending. If you are not OK with this, run now!)
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Prince Shin ends up becoming the King of Korea. The king has to live in the palace. Chae-Kyung knows that she never wants to live in the palace again. Therefore they break up.

THE END

At first the ending shocked me. I was expecting the ride up the relationship escalator to be completed.

But upon reflection … the story spends a lot of time showing why Prince Shin *has* to follow the ways of the palace, and why Chae-Kyung *cannot*. Therefore, breaking-up is the most logical ending. They love each other very much, but love cannot change reality.

Based on the commentary I’ve seen, most readers’ expectations are similar to mine. Even the TvTropes page claims that they get remarried (whoever wrote that clearly isn’t following the Korean or Chinese language editions).

It is a testament to how ingrained the relationship escalator is to our thinking that it causes so many people to fail to forsee what should be a very obvious, predictable ending.


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