31 October 2008

Venturing into unsettling territory

So upon the recommendation of hubby, I watched an episode of The Venture Bros. called "Dr. Quymn, Medicine Woman." He thought I would enjoy the off-kilter, hodgepodge humor of the show, based on my non-defensible appreciation for other hinky shows like Aqua Teen Hunger Force (for whom I do applaud opening their movie with a heavy metal song by pierced, tatooed, and mean looking nachos and other snacks who, instead of inviting people to the concession stand, threatened parents with screaming babies and badly behaved children, and those whose cell phones ring during the film). But on to the point!

In brief, Dr. Venture meets up with a childhood friend, Dr. Quymn, in the rainforest. He is trying to steal artifacts from the natives and is caught, but she rescues him. The rest of the episode passes with Dr. Venture trying to get into Dr. Quymn's pants and, by the end, he succeeds. Then, low and behold, her jealous lesbian bodyguard storms into the room and starts beating on Dr. Venture, so he -- being a puny little stick of a man -- calls for his bodyguard. The two bodyguards end up in leaping about, machetes in hand, and a lantern gets knocked over which sets the tent on fire. The ruckus causes Dr. Venture's tween sons to run in, and Dr. Quymn to fall to the floor twitching, at which time one of Dr. Venture's sons begins BEATING HER WITH A CHAIR and shouting that she must be the monster they have been looking for. Dr. Quymn's bodyguard breaks off from the fight, picks Dr. Quymn up in her arms, and announces that Dr. Quymn has epilepsy. Dr. Venture then says something along the line of "Ewwww, I almost had sex with that."

Admittedly, Dr. Venture is not presented as a particularly admirable figure or a role model, but that isn't really the point. I was diagnosed with epilepsy almost two years ago, and I'm still terrified of how my friends, employers, co-workers, and acquaintances may think differently of me if they know that I have epilepsy (because no, I have not told them all), or if they see me have a seizure. Having a seizure in front of someone also makes me vulnerable in ways that I am not comfortable, as my consciousness is impaired and I won't remember the event. I'm sure that I will be posting a lot of blogs about epilepsy on here, but my two primary points of contention for this specific episode are (a) watching someone smash an epileptic with a chair while they seize makes me even more terrified of what might happen to me if I have a seizure and am not in secure company, and (b) hearing someone change from lust to disgust the moment they find out the object of their infatuation has epilepsy, nay, the utter depersonification of an epileptic to something below contempt (i.e., not "her," but "that"), is horrifying. The only punishment that Dr. Venture receives for his heartless behavior is that he doesn't get laid. Which hardly seems sufficient, seeing as the robots in his lair can apparently be shagged.

Was it really wrong for Venture Bros. to demean an epileptic in the guise of comedy or am I being overly sensitive? Would it have been ok if she fell over and her bodyguard said "Oh, she has diabetes, her blood sugar is off," or used some other illness-related reason? Honestly, I think that the writers chose epilepsy specifically because many people do find watching an epileptic fit to be mysterious and violent, and it was a convenient excuse for Dr. Venture's naive son to mistake her for the monster for which they were hunting. Of course, exploiting an illness' stigma makes it all the more painful to see.

The moment that Dr. Venture uttered the words, "Ewwww, I almost had sex with that,"(1) hubby gave me a hug and realized that I would no longer be watching this show.

(1) I realize that this is probably not an exact quote, but it is close and conveys the disgust and contempt that Dr. Venture had for Dr. Quymn at that exact moment.

25 October 2008

Mirror neurons vs. holiday shopping

Hubby is full of fascinating facts. Yesterday he was telling me about mirror neurons. Turns out that some blokes discovered clusters of neurons which activate not only when monkeys perform certain tasks, but when monkeys see other monkeys perform the same task. For example, if a monkey ate a banana, the neurons would fire. Then, if another monkey ate a banana, the same neurons would fire. When scientists started adding things together, they deduced that these special neurons play an important role in imitation.

So, more scientists got together and decided to conduct some tests on people, and found a similar response for empathy. For example, if you watch a team play sports and a cheating player gets hit in the crotch, your mirror neurons ultimately end up dancing with joy.(1)

So, how does this affect holiday shopping, you might ask? Flashback to last holiday season, when the part of my brain that refuses to learn from past mistakes -- or the part that steadfastly blocks out horrible past experiences -- decided to go to Mondo Buy instead of just ordering everything online. There is one other person on the aisle. I settle at a comfortable distance and reach for something and boom, the guy comes right over to look at the exact game I'm looking at. Personal space invasion! I drop it and move over, and as soon as I'm gone, he puts it back and looks elsewhere. I figure he is done, go back and pick it up my item of interest again, and smackadoo, dude comes right back over. In other words, the mirror neurons in this guy's brain made whatever I was looking at irresistible. If I looked at it, he had to look at it. If I had to pick it up, he had to pick it up. And this is how mirror neurons make holiday shopping abysmal. At least, for those of us who can't stand being pressed up against strangers who are savagely and pointlessly competing with me for goods that they only want because my eyeballs at pointed at them or my hands are in contact with them. And seriously... my eyeballs are not projecting glowing spotlights, and my hands don't drop sweat in the shape of discount barcodes!

This year, mirror neurons be damned!! I'm going to bask in the glow of my laptop and let only my cat hover whilst I shop online, as her fluffy belly creates an atmosphere that puts the panic-instilling shove-hover-and-grab mirror-neuron shopping spree to shame.

(1) To my sister's gigantic scientific noggin. Yes, yes, I know that this is an oversimplification but it conveys the general point to no ill effect and if anyone finds the topic of mirror neurons interesting, they're just gonna google it anyway.