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Trope Tuesday

Four Things That Creep Us Out About The Born Sexy Yesterday Trope

Welcome to our first ever Trope Tuesday! Trope Tuesday is a new blog series where we examine our culture through the various tropes and patterns of our stories – many of which we never even think about! Today we’re going to talk about the so called “Born Sexy Yesterday” trope and how it is weird, nonsensical, sexist, and not conducive to the best or most dramatic character development. And no, we’re not saying you were born sexy. Or yesterday. That was US – see!

Our Fearless Leader

I know beautiful, right? Ok, now that you’re done vomiting (sorry, but it was funny huh?!) What the heck is “Born Sexy Yesterday”? Well, it begins with the creation of an alien, android, or magicked up pool of slime having recently been formed into an full fledged adult – and an attractive one at that. By recent we mean VERY recent. You know, like, Yesterday perhaps? . According to the trope, said being is almost always female and then goes on to have a romantic relationship with the male lead – but given said female love interest was born practically yesterday it’s weird. Plus, that they would know anything about love and relationships (or be mature enough to enter into one) is kinda nonsensical. But, rather than just sitting there and calling “statutory rape” we’re going to get into the nitty gritty of what makes this trope so, well, creepy.

Your date was created 48 hours ago – that’s quite the age gap!

Yeah, we kinda said this in the intro but… ITS SO CREEPY!. Why? Well, first there is the problem of “how is this newborn, call it our ‘Lovely Toaster’, is going to make a long term commitment of potentially decades without having experienced even a singly year?” Lovely Toaster was made by the factory forty-eight hours ago, what concept does it really have concerning the kind of commitment you’re asking for? It seems somewhat exploitative to force that kind of relationship on someone who hasn’t experienced the fullness of life that a normal adult human would. Plus, since the Lovely Toaster is, despite being fully grown, essentially still a child (experientially speaking) the protagonist sleeping with the Lovely Toaster is essentially committing statutory rape.

2) The Sexism of it…

Ok, so this is where we bring up one of the dreaded -ists. In this case there’s a good reason. The character in a Born Sexy Yesterday is, usually, treating in an extremely sexist way. At least in Western media. For those who might be questioning why, we ask you to take a moment and ponder. The brand spanking new Lovely Toaster is almost always female. But this isn’t always the case you say! What about Manga and Anime like Absolute Boyfriend, A.I. Revolution, and Fate/Zero you ask? Well, sure, in manga and anime there are some male examples but I said WESTERN Media and, as awesome and popular as Anime is, it’s still origination in the East. Besides – those anime might not be misogynist but you could argue a certain level of misandry and that doesn’t mean that the issues of age and consent don’t still exist. But again, we’re talking about Western Media for the moment.

So, why is this problematic? Because it infantilizes women and promotes negative stereotypes. It takes the dangerous and chauvinistic perceptions of women being ignorant of the world and needing a big, strong, knowledgeable man to protect and make decisions for them and gives those sexist stereotypes a practical reason. But Mr. Blogger, you might say, these things are understandable if the woman was literally born yesterday, isn’t it? Perhaps, and we’re not saying that you can’t have characters that are new to the world and need guidance, even female ones. What it means is that it is highly inappropriate for the character functioning as a guide to have a sexual relationship with the Lovely Toaster. At least not until the character had grown and developed into a complete person. Nor is it acceptable for the character being guided to be disrespected or not to evolve in the story – but that’s the next section.

3) Not A Real Character

Even if the narrative isn’t sexist, that doesn’t mean that the Lovely Toaster isn’t still being disrespected. Regardless of gender, if the Lovely Toaster exists merely to aid the guide character become more developed and she doesn’t do any development of her own, than Lovely Toaster is still being completely disrespected. She becomes nothing more than a doll or object for the real people to use and abuse. Plus, if Lovely Toaster is female, you’re only making the sexism issue worse at this point. You might as well have the guide character say “shut up Ms., Men are talking.”
Not to mention, that if the Lovely Toaster doesn’t grow, you completely cheapen the dynamic between the two characters and limit it to nothing more than two people striving for whatever McGuffin they’re trying to accomplish. If both characters grow, you have so much more dynamism and conflict in the story which makes things so much more entertaining and meaningful.

4) How To Avoid The Negatives

As we said, that doesn’t mean you can’t use this trope. What it does mean is that you have to be careful about how you use it. There’s nothing wrong with having a new character that needs to be led by a world wise companion. Even one that was created yesterday. But don’t make it dependent on the gender. Have the Lovely Toaster be male or have the guide be female. A woman guide leading a female Lovely Toaster is just fine as is two males. Just as important, make sure your Lovely Toaster has a proper character arc and grows.
And for (Insert deity of choice) sake! If you’re going to have it turn romantic, do it when the character needing guidance has learned enough about the world to be able to do so responsibly without the guide effectively committing child abuse!

All that said, have at fellow writers! Have fun and create responsibly! Because, remember, narratives are the most powerful force in the universe!

Media Monday – Polls Edition

Three aspects of polling vulnerable to spread ‘post-truth’

Polls! You see them online all the time. Which character in some tv show is most popular? In politics, is issue x y z the most popular? Even in science, where they ask your body weight just after asking how many twinkies you ate last week (Editor’s note: WAY TOO MANY!). The problem is people with an axe to grind, that a certain ideological agenda they want to promote can lead to dishonest tactics that cause polling to artificially a the pollster’s viewpoint. making something else appear more popular or appropriate than it really is. Because hey, BANDWAGONS!!! You wouldn’t want to be the sole person not on them, right? Well, considering how people are out right LYING to get you to join these bandwagons, perhaps not being on them is the right idea? Especially when they’re carrying our society right over a CLIFF. So let’s explore three ‘post-truth’ techniques used in media,without naming names, (I’m looking at YOU Cable News) to trick you into believing lies. Who knows, perhaps with this knowledge protecting you, you can help lead society into a new golden age of truth! Or, more likely, yell at your friends on Facebook for sharing obviously fake news. (SHRUG) Either way works.

The deceptive use of graphs and charts with poorly defined axes to display polling data

Let’s imagine for a moment you see a poll. It can be about anything. Let’s say, liking candy. Because, everyone likes candy, right? Well, maybe not so much. Let’s say, 48% are against candy (terrorists! SACRILEGE!) and 51% are for candy. Not a big difference, right? The difference if shown in a graph th started from zero percent going upward would be pretty small. However, if instead of starting as zero we zoomed into the top of the graph so that the bottom of the graph (the X axis) started at 45%. All of a sudden the bar representing the 51% who are for candy is twice as large as the 48% against! Misleading you into believing there is a huge difference when, in actuality, there is not.
Another example I have seen are axes (those lines on the bottom and sides of graphs telling you what each side is meaning) which are unlabeled so you have no clue how much candy is being represented- or misleading axes where each vertical bar has a different value on the comparison. So to take the above example of 51% being candy lovers with 48% being evil candy haters. Imagine a graph where the X axis (the bottom one)represents support for candy and starts at 50% with 1% increments. So it would just be 1% above for the for the X axis. Opposing it would be an axis representing those against candy, starting at 45% as opposed to 50%. At which point, even though there’s more people for candy than against it, the graph would look like people who are against candy outnumber those who like candy 3 to one! And to top it all off certain people will go so far with these as to point out the against side has a higher value!
So read the axes carefully, and be on the watchout for this particular manipulation.

2) The use of loaded or misleading questions

Let’s switch metaphors now. Imagine just for a moment you get asked the question “Did you stop beating your dog today?”. Terrible question to be asked, and, well. IT’S A TRAP! It’s a loaded question because if you answer no or yes, it, in effect, admits to past terrible behavior. Hence the term loaded question fallacy. What does this have to do with polls? Well, what question is asked has a lot to do with how people answer (For that matter expected social attitudes have a lot to do with it as well, move random people to a library or a video store and all of a sudden they think more highly of respective types of entertainment).
Generally the polls never use an outright loaded question, but by altering the question just a little from “What is your opinion of dogs owners?” to say “There are many controversies about owners beating their dogs, what do you think about dogs owners?” you would likely get much more negative opinion of dogs owners. So when this poll about dog owners is released and reveals that the majority of people hate dog owners, is as unsurprising as it is misleading.. Making matters worse, the question asked may only be known if you were to read in depth, or look up the poll and its methodology. There are even times when the especially dishonest won’t release the question asked AT ALL.
So I highly recommend reading the question asked, and asking yourself if it is a neutral question, before accepting a poll at face value. Because, as you know now, the wording of a poll’s question can very much slant the answer given and thus the poll results.

3) Bad and or unrepresentative samples

The next question generally to consider with polling, “is the sample large enough or representative?”. This is important because if you’re sample size is too small, say less than a hundred, the results, due to a bunch of statistics mumbo jumbo, become unreliable.
However, even if you have a large enough sample it can be unrepresentative of the population as a whole. Obviously if you asked opinions about Star Trek v Star Wars at a Star Trek convention, it would lean closer to Star Trek (Or at least I would think so). Another example of not having a representative population would be a political poll only conducted via landlines. Since no one under the age of 100 use landlines anymore (okay, slight exaggeration there… slight), it will skew in whatever way the older population feels about the issue on account of more of them own landlines. In real life, the land line example really happened, by the way. It’s even affected the predictions surrounding Presidential elections (anyone remember how Dewey was supposed to defeat Truman in 1948? Yeah me neither but you get my point), so it’s important to bear in mind.
Hence my grand total recommendations when encountering polls purporting to show X point. Examine the axes if a graph is provided, examine the question asked to see if it is neutral, and look at the sampling. Even a cursory glance at these three aspects can prevent hucksters from making some issue or another seem far more popular than it is.

WhatifWednesday – Sine Tables

Welcome to our third #WhatIfWednesday, after the first two covering Steamships and Antibiotics respectively it’s time to turn this into a series. Thus this week’s what if concerning ‘power series’, or series approximations which in Europe were independently discovered around 1600 assisting in the development of calculus. Incidentally we’ll also cover why exactly learning calculus can be useful, so all those sleeping through math class have an extra reason to stay awake! Or rather we’ll also talk of the first to formulate the power series Madhava from what would today be India, credited with the discovery of the series for the trigonometric functions in particular the sine function.

Well, to start with why is calculus important? Its needed to find the areas under curves, or polynomial functions for integrands and derivatives it enables you to determine the slope of a curve or polynomial function at that specific instant. By itself just nerdy math talk right? But its real value is enabling more complicated physics which is largely based on calculus, and with it more advanced navigational techniques relating to the Earth being closely approximated by a sphere (In reality it’s a geoid). So if you were to say try and coordinate advanced financial instruments or perform certain types of navigation, or even describe some natural phenomena you kinda need calculus.

You also kind of need trigonometry, which enables you, with a knowledge of angles, to approximate lengths the rough distance between points. To even describe the relationship there’s important trigonometric ratios, sine, cosine, tangent which today describe for a inputted angle amount the ratio between different sides of a right angled triangle. However, except for certain special angles like 45 degrees or 30 or 60 calculating the sine or cosine is very hard to say the least. You could approximate it, but to get any real accuracy – vital for astral navigation on long ocean voyages, for instance, you need a pretty fine approximation that a mechanical model would be hard pressed to provide.

Out of all of this comes the power series, which is a repeatedly added and decreasing in value term which approximates the value given. The first one came from India in the 15th century under Madhava of Sanga whom created the sine tables for the sine function, made from his series which approximates the value of sine for a given angle. In a sense its two inventions in one, first you have the series so the approximations could be made, and next it’s all nicely input into large sine tables for easy looking up – as the calculator for instance had yet to be invented.

Unfortunately, little further work was done on the power series in India and further developments would of had to wait until the 1600’s. However, it is an interesting point of potential divergence – if the work continued or the knowledge spread of Madhava’s series might it of kicked off a scientific or mathematical revolution in India or spread to China before Europe? Perhaps lead to two competing industrial revolutions? Might we instead of celebrating Leibnitz and Newton be instead discussing others? Alternatively might Australia be colonized by Indians fleeing the Mughals? Just an interesting what if that might be grounds for exploration – and incidentally show case some of the unfortunately lesser known mathematical talent?