Transnational Geek

Author M. H. Boroson shares his geeky passions: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, spirit magic kung fu movies, the ethics of cultural appropriation, Chinese American literature and history, The Dresden Files, Daoist magic, strong female characters, Asian monsters, spirit world depictions, traditional Chinese foods, race, class, gender, and culture.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Why American Horror Story: Coven is THE AWESOME

American Horror Story: Coven is what would happen if Charmed and Sabrina the Teenage Witch dropped acid, took a road trip to hell, and came tearing back in a stolen hot rod fueled by burning angels. The angels may beg you to stop burning them alive, but hey, alternative fuels are too damn costly.

We've seen Tony Soprano and Walter White fight for every scrap of privilege they feel entitled to. The latest incarnation of the white-privileged antihero is an antiheroine.

Fiona Goode becomes more of a new archetype every second she spends onscreen: once you spend some time with her, you'll feel like you've known her forever. To get a picture of Fiona, start with Spike's iconoclasm: "From now on, we're going to have a little less ritual, and a little more FUN around here!" Then add Brigitte Lin at her most regal, in those achingly pure moments just before she dismembers everyone in the room. Finish it all off with the gleeful panache of Bugs Bunny when his foe plummets over the cliff's edge, and you'll have a sense of Fiona Goode's character.

Playing Fiona Goode, Jessica Lange is the sexiest, most dynamic older female character I have ever seen on the screen. And Fiona Goode isn't the only blazingly awesome female character on the show. It includes more than one three-dimensional woman of color, and a fully fleshed-out role for a woman with Down's syndrome.

This third season, Coven? It is THE AWESOME.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Chinese New Year, a Time for... Exorcism?

Today people are celebrating the end of a year and the start of another.  With fireworks they scare away the monster called Nian (year).  They eat mooncakes and perform lion dances, and in one part of China, it's time for an exorcism.

This exorcism takes the form of an opera.

In the region called Gui Zhou (贵州), people put on masks; they dance and perform a ritual to banish devils, illness, and poor luck.

The ritual is called Nuo Xi (儺戲).  It is performed in various regions at various times of year; now, at Gui Zhou, the performance takes place with the accompaniment of a single gong and a single drum.  It is performed upon a single tract of land.

Nuo masks are fascinating and famous.  Some are designed simply to scare away the devils, but others represent characters out of religious literature, like Sun Wukong (Monkey).  The perfomances can last ten or twelve days, and often incorporate stories from classical Chinese texts, like The Three Kingdoms and Journey to the West.

Some more photos of the Gui Zhou Nuo Xi:

And finally, a video: