Girl Fight! Maisie Williams

Greetings again!  Now, before I get into this post, I have an update.  I was able to get a compressed copy of the original Pigtails from a fan of the site, and so now I have everything I need to get back into the swing of things.  And now I will begin reposting much of the old stuff starting tomorrow night, since I don’t have to go through and reformat and touch up the images.  I will say that, although I would like to eventually get everything from the old site back up, since I made an executive decision to discontinue the Random Image of the Day series most of those posts are likely going to be submitted in larger artist-specific or theme-specific posts somewhere down the line.  The plan is to get the bigger articles up first, and then focus on sorting and reposting the single-image posts, most of which fell under the RIotD on the old site.  Okay, now on to the post . . .


As you may or may not know, the last overarching series I started before Pigtails was taken down dealt with girls and guns.  The purpose there was to address how images of girls with guns fit into the larger theme of this blog: covering artistic representations of girls in all of their well-rounded glory, including those who subvert the dominant cultural paradigm.  I had intended to return to that theme immediately after the blog was relaunched, but, in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, I felt it was inappropriate to launch into that territory at the time.

Nevertheless, I was thinking about it quite a bit last night, as I had recently watched again my copy of the film The Professional, in which one of the main characters, played by a 12-year-old Natalie Portman in her film debut, trains to be a “cleaner,” meaning a hit man (or rather, a hit woman), after the murder of her little brother.  And then, today I discovered an excellent article called We Have Always Fought: Challenging the ‘Women, Cattle and Slaves’ Narrative by sci-fi and fantasy fiction blogger Aidan Moher.  It’s a must-read for anyone interested in history, women’s issues and sociology.  Ostensibly the article covers the issue of women warriors throughout history, but at the heart of it is the larger issue of how human beings fall into the trap of cognitive distortions (cognitive dissonance, et al) in order to conform to the dominant cultural paradigm.  Moher presents this argument in the context of the long-standing patriarchal tradition of minimizing the contributions of women as soldiers, fighters and so on, so that society may continue to see females as weak and in need of (particularly male) protection.

And that, of course, ties in to the issue of girls posing nude for artists.  I have long been astounded by the postmodern feminist argument that women and children should be prevented from participating in such art–and, in the case of women, from participating in pornography–because these things are exploitative by design.  To me this is simply a rather obvious extension of the old patriarchal argument that females need special protection from males and therefore their behaviors must be tightly managed and controlled, by law if necessary.  Point blank, it is the same old patriarchal bullshit masquerading as female empowerment and quite contradictory to the goals of much the first wave of feminism.  I call these “feminists” FINOs–Feminists In Name Only.

In a broader sense, the most insidious aspect of this with regard to young children is that, by raising them as legally, ethically and intellectually of a lesser class (by maintaining their minority status as a given), we simply reinforce the cultural paradigm of their submission to patriarchal control, raising them to accept it as normal, and most of them do.  This is particularly problematic for girls, since they are up against a vast multidimensional paradigm of female oppression.  So, yes, as Moher suggests, females have always participated in the realms traditionally reserved for males, bucking not only traditions but sometimes even the laws of their land, and doing it well.  Men may allow this as long as it serves their ends, but if it becomes an inconvenience for them, they tend to crack down on such females . . . hard.  So, women who have fought as soldiers have often done so disguised as men.

The HBO series Game of Thrones presents one such girl: Arya Stark.  When we first meet Arya, she is being forced to learn how to sew and other “women’s work,” which she hates.  Later, the tomboyish Arya shows up her brothers by besting them at archery, much to their chagrin.  Later, when the House Stark falls and Arya’s father Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark is executed by the new king, the Stark children, who are now fugitives being hunted by the king’s forces, scatter and go into hiding.  Young Arya is left on her own, but she manages to take care of herself through her warrior training, her short sword Needle, and her sheer resourcefulness.  She disguises herself as a boy and travels with a band of rough-and-tumble Night’s Watch recruits.  In short, Arya kicks ass.

Photographer Unknown - Game of Thrones - Arya Stark (Maisie Williams)

Photographer Unknown – Game of Thrones – Arya Stark (Maisie Williams)


The Luna Lovegood Fashion Show, Pt. 3

The final episode, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—made into two films—is when Luna comes into her own. As a late arrival, there is the necessity of introducing the character and developing her so that readers and viewers care about what happens to her. There have also been enough clues strewn about regarding the nature of magic in this world and the Lovegoods’ place in the scheme of things that suggests their contribution to the future of wizardry.

We got our first hint of Luna’s family life when she had her first long talk with Harry about how her mother was killed during an experiment. To the average viewer this might come off as comical and emphasizes the quirkiness of the family, but it got me thinking that someone would only take these kinds of risks if she were doing something very important. The last episode does make clear that there was a loving family life demonstrated by Xenophilius’ public affection for his daughter. It also gives the audience the emotional context to understand his distress at Luna’s abduction.

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves & David Yates - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2010) (1)

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves & David Yates – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010) (1)

When Harry and the gang do see Luna again, it is in the dungeons of the Malfoy Estate. Still true to form, Luna is polite to Dobby and shows him the kind of respect rarely afforded an elf by establishment wizards and witches. An interesting clue is that elfin magic does not work in the same way as “classical” magic. It is as though they function on different frequencies and are not constrained by one another. Some efficient exposition ties up a few loose ends by reintroducing us to Ollivander who later reveals more about the nature of magic in this world. We learn about the composition of wands and how they reflect the character of the owner. I am particularly intrigued by the ambiguity of Draco’s role in the story as his wand’s core is a unicorn hair while the rest of his family’s is dragon’s heartstring and lamenting that his mother’s wand just doesn’t understand him.

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves & David Yates - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2010) (2)

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves & David Yates – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010) (2)

I wondered if the death of Dobby was a cheap way of reminding us of our main characters’ peril and illustrating the malice of Bellatrix. But given the way Dobby could easily penetrate magical defenses, he had to be disposed of so that Harry and company would need to cope with Gringotts and Bellatrix’ vault by some other device than elfin magic. Luna’s compassion is demonstrated once again as she helps Harry give Dobby a dignified passing.

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves & David Yates - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2010) (3)

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves & David Yates – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010) (3)

In the beginning of Part 2 there is a somewhat mundane scene that for some reason really sticks in my memory. While some exposition is shared about the good old days of the Weasley’s family life, Luna seems transfixed by a wind chime. She displays her scholarly upbringing and shows she is knowledgeable about the magic of other cultures including Muggle. This is yet another clue that there is this dimension of non-conventional magic that exists and that her family has made the effort to investigate it.

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves & David Yates - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2011) (1)

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves & David Yates – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) (1)

A nod to the human need for iconography and fetishes, the wizarding world has its holy relics as well. Here, Luna is displaying her extensive education by revealing the existence of the Rowena Ravenclaw tiara—likely the artifact Harry is looking for.

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves & David Yates - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2011) (2)

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves & David Yates – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) (2)

Up to this point, Luna has mainly facilitated the storyline—not being especially assertive about her own beliefs and wishes. Having knowledge and experience that others haven’t, she realizes that though she may seem crazy to others, there is a time when others need to listen. While everyone is frantically searching for the tiara, Luna gives Harry a wake up call and makes him stop and hear what she has to say. Consistent with mythic hero’s journeys, she cannot accompany him to meet the ghost of Helena (The Grey Lady), Harry must face this next task on his own.

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves & David Yates - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2011) (3)

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves & David Yates – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) (3)

I suppose it made some sense in the author’s mind that the two odd yet heroic characters should end up together, but I can’t help thinking what a treasure of experience Harry will be missing by not being with Luna. Having had his share of excitement, perhaps it is just that he be allowed to settle into a life of normality. Both Luna and Neville have suffered family tragedies and having prevailed in this latest crisis, can establish a basis for mutual healing.

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves & David Yates - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2011) (4)

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves & David Yates – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) (4)

I got the strong feeling watching the last three episodes that the Lovegoods represented more than just a counterculture, but opened the door to an era of humanistic magic. New magic is possible as demonstrated in Half-Blood Prince with the revelation of Severus Snape’s new spell—along with its countercurse. It was revealed that there may be many types of magic such as elfin and trollish which do not operate on the same basis as the classical magic (notice the use of Latin incantations) taught at Hogwarts. Apart from the Unforgivable Curses, there seem to be some very powerful spells or enchantments that can render witches and wizards helpless, for example the Thief’s Downfall—a bit of trollish magic that can wash away classical spells. What I see developing is a system of alternate magic that has a different character and can operate where classical magic fails and the Lovegoods were developing some of the technology that others could build upon.

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves & David Yates - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2010) (4)

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves & David Yates
– Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010) (4)

Busy, Busy, Busy

Greetings Pigtails fans and readers!  I’ve been away for some time (for which I wholeheartedly apologize), mostly owing to a graphic design stint for an important publication.  Ah, so you want to know what it is?  But then, how can I maintain my air of mystery? 😉  So let’s keep it a secret, shall we?  Now that it’s done, my time has been taken up by other projects, including a novel I am working on.  Beyond that, I’ve been having problems with my internet access lately, and I fear I may need to replace my Wi-Fi booster.  I had planned to make a post yesterday but my internet connection was down most of the day.  And to beat all, I seem to have misplaced the folder of the artist I wanted to feature (I may have accidentally deleted it) and cannot for the life of me remember who the artist is.  It was a German artist who began as a Symbolist and later moved towards more Expressionistic work.  Well, I’ll track him down again, the little bugger!

Anyway, Ron has done an exemplary job of piloting Pigtails in my absence, so a big hearty thank you to him.  Now that I’m back, you’ll see more posts from me, though mostly the old stuff from the original site going back up.  Providing, of course, that my internet continues to cooperate.

Meanwhile, the Graham Ovenden case continues to draw interest, and we are one of the few sites telling the other side of the story, a lone ship of reason and balance in a frantic sea of scapegoating, witch hunting and moral panic, so it is not surprising that we have attracted a lot of attention over our article.  Again, it’s Ron’s fearless and thorough research that is primarily responsible for our article on Ovenden, and through it we have won some grand allies in the art world . . . and probably a few enemies too.  But such is the nature of our mission.  Throughout all of this Pigtails has been an amazing learning experience for me, and the decision to bring Ron on as first mate of the S.S. Pigtails is one that continues to reward me, this site and its readers.  I’m still astonished that a blog I started basically as a hobby is quickly becoming one of the foremost authorities on the young girl in art on the web.  Don’t get me wrong: I suspect it has little to do with me and more to do with the fact that it is a fascinating subject to many, many people, and this blog is simply one whose time had come.

Anyway, Ron and I appreciate your praise, comments and suggestions, so keep them coming! – Pip