Tag Archives: domestic violence

Link Dump: #75

This week’s fluffy kitties are actually murder weapons from Dario Argento’s Inferno (1980). Because horror movies just aren’t about cats getting hurt! Sometimes, they’re about cats hurting people. And now, the links…

My favorite search term of the week was “меланхоличный эротизм,” which is Russian for “melancholy eroticism.” Also someone searched for “butt secks,” which is always funny.

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The Pataki Files: Helga and the Nanny

This is out MUCH later than I originally anticipated! No excuses, I just suck as a blogger! Hope you stuck around for more in-depth analysis of the Pataki family! If you need a reminder on what the hell this is you can read the introductory piece and the first post about Olga’s homecoming!

In “Helga and The Nanny,” we get to see how Helga reacts when a positive but unfamiliar force enters her household. When Miriam gets community service (drunk driving? In other episodes it’s mentioned that Miriam has also lost her license), Bob hires a live-in nanny to pick up the slack. Nanny Inga is the embodiment maternal nurturing, with just the right blend of firmness and encouragement. When Inga attempts to create structure for Helga (forcing her to eat a healthy breakfast, giving her afterschool schedules, etc.), it shows the viewer how thoroughly normalized neglect is in the Pataki household. Helga perceives the introduction of a positive authority figure as a threat because she’s spent most of her life cultivating fierce independence as a method for coping with her parents’ behavior.

Helga resists Nanny Inga to the point of actively sabotaging her: she frames Inga for the theft of Bob’s prized beeper belt, effectively destroying any chance she has at a future career in housekeeping or childcare. As in “Olga Comes Home,” Helga feels briefly victorious before her conscience gets the better of her, riddling her dreams (once again) with bizarre, guilt-fueled imagery. During their last meeting, Inga, who earlier in the episode pointed out that Helga was a “nervous child,” says bluntly that if Helga continues to shut out the good influences in her life, she’ll never be able to work through all of her anger and will ultimately suffer. Never before has someone seen through Helga so easily and the fact that all of her vulnerabilities are so transparent to Nanny Inga leaves Helga deeply shaken.

Nanny Inga’s spot-on assessment of Helga’s demeanor leads into one of the most profound scenes in all of children’s television: Helga has achieved her end, Nanny Inga is long gone, and things are back to normal in the Pataki house. Helga grabs the mail while Bob shouts at a despondent Miriam, who has a drink in hand; the yelling continues as she returns upstairs and can still be heard as she reads a postcard from Inga, who hopes her home life is back to normal. Helga looks up sadly as the screams from downstairs continue, and you can see that she’s wondering if just maybe, this isn’t really what she wants but merely what she’s used to. She then picks up the needlepoint that Inga recommended to soothe her nerves, and starts to sew.

In this scene we get a sense of how truly troubled Helga’s psyche is. She’s so caught up in protecting herself and maintaining the status quo (because change is scary, and how do you cope with change when you’ve been navigating an emotionally abusive  landscape your entire life?) that she doesn’t realize until it’s too late that things could have been different if she’d been able to let down her walls. Where is the line between self-preservation and accepting help when you’re a young child who has had to learn the arts of deflection, defensiveness and violence? How do you figure out how and when to cross it? “Helga and the Nanny” brings these questions to the forefront but offers no easy answers.

What do you think about Helga’s coping mechanism and how do you think Nanny Inga could have helped Helga if she hadn’t been pushed away? Comment to let me know and hopefully the next Pataki Files will be out in the coming weeks!

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The Pataki Files: An Intro to Family Dysfunction in Hey Arnold

Hey Arnold was one of—if not the—coolest animated kids’ show on TV during the mid-’90s. With a diverse cast of street smart kids and quirky adults in a thriving city that was just as much a character as its citizens, it was like the smooth jazz of animated children’s shows. It was a calmer show; no bright, flashy colors, frenetic soundtracks, or hyperactive main characters. It isn’t necessarily realistic, but it does feel more grounded in reality and down to earth than a lot of other children’s shows.

The show overall really started to grow when it left behind Arnold’s Cloud Cuckoo Lander personality and concentrated on seriously fleshing out the various characters in the city of Hillwood. Even adult characters like Grandpa, Oskar Kokoshka, and Mr. Hyunh got their time in the limelight and, especially in the case of the Mr. Hyunh-centered Christmas special, it led to some of the most poignant moments in the entire series (or really in animated kids’ television period). One of the characters who often had entire episodes and story arcs devoted to her was the resident bully and passionate secret admirer of Arnold, Helga Pataki.

Most people with even a cursory familiarity with the show can see that the behavior of Helga’s parents are G-rated codes for abuse and alcoholism. I had a vague awareness of this when I was younger; it was easy for me (with two alcoholic parents) to recognize that her mother Miriam’s slurred speech, proclivity for sleeping in random places, and Tabasco “smoothies” indicated more than just her being a wacky eccentric. And since I had a deep and abiding passion for consuming books about domestic violence from the time I was 10, I recognized the abuse in her dad, successful beeper salesman Big Bob, and his habit of yelling; he and Miriam’s constant favoritism towards perfect, repressed older sister Olga; and their neglect of Helga.

But watching as an adult, I’m able to really see just how profound some of these moments in the show were. It’s really important that this children’s show handled the subject of abusive parents—not horribly, call-child-protective-services abusive because that would be too much for a kids’ network—so well, especially because it was placed right along side more normal, non-abusive families like Arnold’s and Gerald’s.

Helga is one of the most interesting characters on the show: bright, insecure, passionately artistic, clever, cunning, equal-parts self-serving and selfless, fearful, apathetic at times, and violent, her character arc is one of the most impressive and nuanced developments in any animated children’s show. As we get to know Helga more, and become more familiar with not just her specific tics and personality traits but also her family life, we see that she is more than just a schoolyard bully with a crush. We see, bit by bit, how Helga struggles with simultaneously craving the love and acceptance of her peers and family while putting up the defensive walls that push everyone away.

In an effort to really understand and share the ins and outs of Helga’s progression to a fully fleshed out and richly idiosyncratic character, I’ve decided to start up a series, à la TTAACMATHPS, focusing on Pataki-centric episodes of Hey Arnold! So stay tuned for the first entry this Wednesday where I’ll start things off with “Olga Comes Home”!

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Rape-apology and fame privilege

You know what I’m sick of?

Rape apology.

Rape apology is everywhere, whether it’s judges deciding that sex workers cannot be raped (they’re just being robbed from, you know? ‘Cause they’re whores!), rape victims being blamed for their own assaults because they didn’t regulate their own behavior, to people just not caring enough about other human beings to give a shit about whether or not they’ve been violated in one of the worst ways possible.

That last one is something that I recently encountered at my job. I was on break with the other ladies (I’m the youngest person where I work; all the other women are from their mid-30s to mid-60s) and the conversation got around to football, not my favorite subject since I don’t follow sports. Two of the women are Steelers fans, and one of them remarked that their quarterback was ‘getting into some trouble’. This sparked something in my brain that I remembered hearing about so I said, “Didn’t he rape someone?” The response: a disheartening helping of rape-apology bullshit.

Both of the women, who are fine, lovely ladies that I enjoy working with, starting making excuses not only for his alleged behavior but for the behavior of all men anywhere who may possibly rape a woman. One immediately brushed it off by saying, quite dismissively that it was only alleged. To quote my other co-worker:

These women get around rich men for their money and you have to know that the one thing about a man is his sex drive. He’s only a human being.

So…if you’re a gold digging woman who is around a man for his money you HAVE to expect to get raped. Because that’s what men are: sex drives. So much so that they WILL rape you. I’m sorry, but aren’t men fucking tired of this shit just as much as women? Doesn’t it upset them that they’re basically equated to uncontrollable sex drives that will completely and totally violate another human being just for sex? Saying that it’s just normal human behavior to expect from a man is so insulting and places all of the blame squarely on the victim; it furthers the notion that it’s women who need to change their behavior and not that we need to teach people not to fucking rape other people.

But this reveals another kind of bullshit that we ALL see everywhere: fame privilege. Would these women be defending this man if he weren’t the quarterback of their favorite football team? We saw something similar back when Chris Brown beat the shit out of Rihanna. People (a huge number of them women, sadly) dismissing his behavior on the basis that he’s hot and singer that they love. We saw it when Roman Polanski, a man who after being accused of rape (the subsequent amount of bullshit that followed the accusation is all discussed a little more in depth here) fled the country and evaded prosecution (or indeed punishment of any kind) FOR THIRTY YEARS, was arrested; dozens of people and filmmakers cried out against it. I get so sick of hearing people defend heinous behavior just because someone is famous or talented. It’s difficult to accept that your favorite singer or sports player or what have you has done something that is so fucked up (as I’ve had to learn being a fan of Polanski’s films and also recently while coming to terms with the ableism in Evelyn Evelyn) but the victims of these crimes deserve to be acknowledged not judged. We as a society need to STOP placing blame on these people and further marginalizing them. Excusing famous people an a large scale makes it all the more acceptable to excuse it on a small, personal scale.

It makes it more acceptable to tell a girl she was asking for it by wearing a skirt and drinking a beer. It makes it more acceptable to judge a woman who hasn’t found the strength to leave a man who has systematically abused her to the point that her self-esteem is so low that she doesn’t believe that she deserves better and continues to stay with him. It makes it more acceptable to make light of and normalize rape, with horrible jokes like the one on Family Guy where Quagmire rapes Marge Simpson (who afterward claims to have enjoyed it; women love rape) and subsequently kills her (and her whole family). And all of it fosters a rape culture that glorifies and even fetishizes violence against women. A culture wherein high-end fashion uses gang rape imagery in their advertisement:

This is just one example of all the many, many, many, many examples of how normalized rape and violence against women is in our society.

I’m sick of it. I’m sick of rape-apology. I’m sick of being told that women need to regulate their behavior to avoid being raped. As if watching what you wear, how much you drink, this or that truly has any real factor in whether or not you are raped.

Let’s create a scenario. Let’s pretend that I’m in a room, a party maybe, with a rapist. How about instead of me watching what I drink or making sure my tits and legs are covered and I’m wearing appropriate clothing that will not incite this rapist’s desire for me, instead of me going to all these lengths to ensure that I’m not responsible for my own rape how about THAT FUCKING RAPIST JUST NOT FUCKING RAPE ME. How about having enough fucking respect for another human being to not sexually violate them? How about we start holding these fucking rapists accountable, completely fucking accountable, for their actions. No more of this roundabout language that misplaces the blame. No more victim blaming. To quote Melissa at Shakesville:

Quite literally, the only thing a person can do to avoid being raped is never be in the same room as a rapist. Since they don’t announce themselves or wear signs or glow purple, that’s not a very reasonable expectation, is it?

Enough victim blaming. Enough.

People get raped because rapists rape them. It is as simple as that. World, I have this to say to you: stop. Stop using rape as a way to control and regulate the way women live. As an excuse to try and force us back into traditional ideas about how women are “supposed to behave”.

I hate living in a world where I am always a potential rape victim simply because I have a vagina. I hate living in a world where rape has become expected and even, it would seem, acceptable male behavior. I hate that I know women who are afraid of speaking out for fear of being blamed for something that was done to them. I hate that there is a complete validity to that fear because we live in a victim-blaming society.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness month and I wanted to contribute to the fight against rape and rape culture. I have never been raped but I have experienced different forms of sexual assault, much of it a result of simply being a woman who talks openly about sex. I’ve been harassed to get on cam and flash my tits and, after repeatedly declining and giving my personal reasons why I’m declining, was told that I can retain my dignity ‘because no one else will know about it’. When I told him to go find porn to watch, of which there is a VAST amount of online, he said it’s different when it’s a girl you know. It’s more real. Apparently it’s better when you coerce a ‘real’ girl into doing something she doesn’t want to do. I’ve had people try to engage in cyber sex that I in no way invited (other than, again being a woman who talks openly about sexuality). I’ve been called a whore and a slut for my sexuality. I experience these things and so do countless other women. It is reality.

I won’t tolerate rape apology bullshit anymore. I’m sick of hearing it. I’ve made a decision that from now on, when I hear rape apology I will speak up against it. I hope that I can stick to this. In a world where women are routinely oppressed and shouted down when they try to counter fucked up shit, I know that it’ll be hard and I’m gonna be dismissed A LOT. But I can’t fucking handle hearing the shit anymore. The day my two co-workers started excusing the alleged rape by the Steeler’s quarterback I went on a tangent about rape and violence against women and the different ways women are conditioned to behave by our society. And while I know that neither of them really listened or believed what I said I still felt better than I would have if I had just sat there and said nothing. It’s hard. But speak up if you can. Fight the bullshit. And if you have a story, please tell it.

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