Pandemic Diary—Shame (update)

ADDENDUM—Here (below) is my short review of Bridgerton Season two (longer review here):

The Ezra Klein podcast has several great shows on Ukraine, Russia, and Putin that are a wealth of information—Fareed Zakaria, Fiona Hill, Masha Gessen, Timothy Snyder, Emma Ashford, and the latest one is Daniel Yergen, which I haven’t made my way through yet. I would urge you to listen to them. Very informative. The podcast is on Apple and Spotify. I’m not sure if it’s on Amazon as I don’t get my podcasts from there. Probably Audible? 

As I was reading Mary Balogh’s Westcott series books numbers 7 & 8, this editorial was posted from The New York Time Editorial Board—America Has a Free Speech Problem. Someone To Romance and Jessica’s story is my absolute favorite of the series, but back to that editorial. There were lots of tweets that responded that were far more smartly articulated than I could ever be on that subject and I urge you to look for those. I retweeted lots of them. Here is one

To sum up the editorial, the conservative right is decrying cancel culture and the editorial board of The NY Times has joined in the fray. They are basically advocating for speech without criticism. Yes, I know. In other words, advocating for the actions without consequences entitlement culture otherwise known as straight white Christian males; they are free to speak their minds but we cannot criticize or shame them for or their actions or speech because that is censorship. Ironically they are using this as another form of literal censorship. Yes, I know. It gives me a headache.

I’ve always believed that shame keeps us human. Have you never felt shame? If not, are you sociopathic? I’m not being glib; I’m asking honestly because I was baffled by a response that said if you feel shame then you are a bad person, you have issues, and you should go to a therapist. LOL, well, there is no mistaking I have issues and I should go to a therapist—I totally own that; I am not infallible; I am very human; unbearably so all too often so much it hurts. It is often reductive to say don’t we all when referring to issues, but I’m gonna say it anyway—don’t we all? I feel shame when my avocado goes bad before I eat it thinking someone with less would’ve likely enjoyed it but I allowed it to go to waste. Am I being ridiculous? Does my shame make me a bad person? Or is shame just another emotion one feels?

That the person that wrote that was a rabbi was even more interesting, and this could very well be lost on me because of the religion, sin, and burden theme that the Abrahamic religious people seem to thrive on. I’m a Secular Humanist Atheist and don’t subscribe to those myths and the overall weight they carry, but nevertheless we, as a society, do get that unhealthy social and political burden that religions place on the rest of us, unfortunately. I find it tedious and unnecessary and oppressive and oftentimes misogynistic and bigoted. That is another essay entirely—though not really given where this one is heading.  

So I was pondering my shame and shame in general when I started reading Mary Balogh’s Someone To Cherish—Harry’s story. I don’t wanna give away any spoilers but shame and independence and religion are a big part of this book and I was absolutely triggered. It’s been on my mind since I finished it a few days ago and because of what the rabbi wrote—all this being relative to my rights and women’s rights in general, specifically women’s independence and sexual independence, needs and desires, and lack thereof.

Have you ever been shamed for being sexually independent or exercising your sexual independence or having sexual needs and desires? Well, congratulations if you have not and you’re welcome; you stand on the backs of those of us who have been shamed for such and have fought like hell so you wouldn’t have to be, as a woman—a marginalized woman (white, black brown, indigenous or women of color), or as a member of LGBTQ+, perhaps both as all too often happens and indeed some exceedingly more than others as racialized tropes regularly occur. Sexual liberation in historical romance novels, or any art form, is why that sex is important, especially when it is subverting the white straight Christian male gaze and highlighting a woman’s sexual independence and desires. Even more so in today’s political climate where men are once again attempting to exert their power and regress marginalized rights.  

I’ve been writing on this blog about the censorship of the four joys (nudity, sex, profanity, and kissing) and how I was concerned that it was happening more and more with the fascist right; how we are regressing into a scary perilous time for all marginalized as the censorship examples are littered in the news every single day about books and education and CRT; about Roe and birth control; about LGBTQ+; et cetera. If you think this hasn’t seeped over into Hollywood, you are being naive.

Today I find out that Bridgerton (season 1 review here) “reduced the sexual content” of their second season. Well, dear reader, I was not happy at all and am still disappointed and wondering why? Why in the world did they do such a thing now of all times??

You can read my rambling thread on it here

Was there admonition from that crowd? It was a popular show and everyone was talking about it and the sex so one wonders—was that it? I cannot imagine Shonda Rhimes ever giving those people the time of day, but if her capital was involved then who knows. Did Netflix succumb to the cancel culture critics? Does the ethnicity of the female lead have anything to do with this reduction? Is Netflix trying to get the South Asian market and they had to censor? I’m completely and totally ignorant about that market so I have no clue.

I have lots of questions and complaints. Why now? I’ve read that the reason was because season two was a different story, but then they indicated that “the minimal sex scenes would carry on for the next seasons”—oh really? Even When He Was Wicked?? Why? Why now? No one wants pandemic cooties? Is that it? Why, why, why?

I made my case in the thread and here about why I’m afraid of that reduction. I’m gonna hold my opinion on season two till I watch the show, and I will watch and wait and listen and read the evolution of discussion as it happens, especially by feminists and romance authors. Maybe I’ll review it—maybe not; maybe I’ll stay in my little corner and pout, who knows. The fandom will do what they do; they usually do. I’ll likely be shamed and shunned for my opinion, questions, and criticisms—I’m a big girl and am open to different interpretations, criticisms, and challenges. That is the nature of writing and learning and I’m okay with the consequences of speaking out about something that I find very important and necessary. That is the nature of being a feminist and an activist.

I am so excited about seeing that lovely cast again, especially Simone Ashley and Charithra Chandran, and was really looking forward to the romance and angst between Kate and Anthony. Who knows—it could be a fantastic sizzling slow-burn brilliance that even I cannot deny—still. I feel like we had something groundbreaking and liberating and glorious finally and it has now been ripped away in an exacting stealthy censorious act of sociopolitical and artistic suppression of the same reduction of rights we’ve been getting since HRC lost and Metoo happened and every vile and cruel legislative act since—and being gaslit about it too. It is just de-pressing. And I’m afraid it is the continuance of an oppressive spiral of more bad things to come.

But then again, perhaps I’m just overreacting, eh? I sure as hell hope so. Stay healthy, y’all. 😘

© 2022 Matilda London/Pamela Gay Mullins

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