Poetry is perhaps the ideal artistic medium for processing an abusive relationship. One of the hallmarks of an abusive relationship, what distinguishes it from merely being assaulted, is that the attacker must convince their victim to linger, and abusers the world over share one key tactic: damage their victim’s senses of reality and self-worth. When reality breaks down, emotional impressions remain, tethered to the moments that made them and providing a path toward making sense of life once more. This is the place where Pet: the Journey from Abuse to Recovery, by Kella Hanna-Wayne, lives, and in that noisome soil this poetry collection has grown into something beautiful.
I wouldn’t tell her, “you think you’re a boy, but you grow up to be a woman.”
It was ordinary people who told me my soul would burn when I told them I am an atheist.
It was ordinary people who kept me from recognizing my gender until my 20s.
It was ordinary people who promoted a level of homework that devoured my free time for most of high school.
It was ordinary people who saw everything about me that was not useful to them and demanded that it change.
It was ordinary people who kept me feeling excluded, misunderstood, and feared until I was an adult, and sometimes still.
It was ordinary people who lied to me for fun and jeered at me for believing them.
It was ordinary people who made the world too bright, too loud, too messy, too much, and told me I was wrong for noticing.
It was ordinary people who made it so that, when I am frustrated or scared enough, I stop feeling my hands.
If there is one accusation that the allistic world likes to inflict on people like me, it is the idea that we do not care. Our norms flout theirs, our preferences are alien to them, our interests do not align with theirs, our emotions do not work like theirs, and to each of these, they levy their curse: you don’t care. They fling a tiresome welter of robot and reptile and cold and computer and alien at our feet, each a stiletto aimed at the part of us that is willing to believe them. Their only idea for who and what we are denies our humanity.
When I see the same accusation leveled at one of the most impressively competent and compassionate portrayals of our neurology in popular media, Princess Entrapta from She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, my irritation turns to icy resolve.
Redemption through sacrifice is an old motif that has gotten more attention in recent popular media. Redemption arcs are powerful when done correctly, but they are also difficult to execute and require specific story structures to support them. Writers who want the powerful singular moment of redemption with less of the work required to earn it often use sacrifice as a shortcut. When a character’s life ends in the service of the people they have wronged, it can seem like the ultimate return payment for the harm they have caused, but can also be emotionally cheap. Without an effort to actually make right the wrongs of one’s past, a redemptive sacrifice can seem like an effort to suffer enough that some cosmic scale is balanced, a retributive impulse turned inward rather than a restorative one aimed outward. Worse, destroying oneself in a sacrificial blaze can also seem like an effort to escape accountability and prevent an honest reckoning with one’s legacy. For these reasons, I have grown to resent the idea of characters experiencing redemption through destroying themselves.
But one piece of media managed this difficult task with impossible grace, and that is She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. The story of Shadow Weaver might be the only time in my conscious memory that I have seen a redemptive sacrifice work. And to understand why, we have to go through Shadow Weaver’s story.
Do not make yourself smaller for a partner.
Do not shrink the effusiveness or radius of your affections.
Do not restrain the exuberance of your passions.
CN spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and Avengers: Infinity War
“Families can be tough.”
In Avengers: Infinity War, Thor offers this wisdom to Gamora after learning that her adoptive father is the omnicidal titan Thanos. The horrors of familial strife are a recurring theme in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, being a fixture of the Thor, Black Panther, and Guardians of the Galaxy sub-franchises, but in Infinity War that theme reaches its darkest crescendo. Thanos is the compelling antagonist he is in no small part because of his children, and how his relationship with them is a pitch-perfect recreation of real-world narcissistic abuse.
He wasn’t odd.
You’re attending a quinceañera. You’ve never seen the birthday girl before. Everyone else in attendance knows you, but if you ask them how, they change the subject. The caterers kiss you on the cheek and ask you when you’ll give them grandkids. You’ve never seen them before, either.
There are two comments that are rarely far off when self-proclaimed allies encounter anti-queer politicians.
“I bet he’s secretly queer.”
“I hope he ends up with a queer kid.”
Naïve, ironic, and insensitive in the trademark way of ignorant would-be allies, these comments rankle deeply. Much has been written about how the first of the two effectively assigns all responsibility for society-wide anti-queerness on queer people and absolves from same the straight people who invented and perpetrate it, so today’s topic is the other one.