Raquel: Welcome to Rite Gud, the podcast that helps you write good. I’m Raquel s Benedict, the most dangerous woman in speculative fiction. Coziness. Comfort. Hygge. We all enjoy it. Maybe we have a favorite comfort food or a favorite piece of comfort media, or a favorite comfort character, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes you need a little [00:01:00] comfort. But when the pursuit of comfort takes over your entire life and your entire worldview, your art suffers. And maybe society does too. In this episode, we’re talking about why we shouldn’t get too comfortable. We are joined once again by Tai Black.
Tai: Thanks for having me on again, Raquel. I’m glad to be here.
Raquel: Thank you for coming back. We’re glad to have you back. Now, the reason we ended up doing this episode is because I think we were both inspired by a bewildering essay posted by Tor. Uh, on, on their blog. There was this Tor essay that… I think it’s interesting because it accidentally admits something without realizing what it’s admitting to. But this essay compares the popularity of cozy low stakes, so-called slice of life fantasy novels to [00:02:00] 1960s magical sitcoms like Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie and the Munsters, and I’m just gonna quote at length from this essay: ”
As the outside world has become more hectic and disruptive, the appeal of living happily contained domestic lives seems to become more and more appealing, at least for some of us. Who doesn’t want to spend more time at home with a warm drink of your choice and a hobby to keep you occupied?
A personal mantra of mine for 2023 is to say no and do less. I don’t want to girl boss my way through life, thank you very much. I want to do a manageable amount of work, get a reasonable amount of sleep, and talk to friends and family often enough. If I could blink and have my laundry done and dinner ready, I promise you I would. These goals, while they’re not the kind of things that never rate a mention in more epic fare are the kind of thing that cozy fantasy books understand and tend to revel in. During the pandemic, there was increased interest in crafting, home [00:03:00] improvement, and cooking. It is fair to say that aesthetics like cottage core, cottage gore, and goblin core, which all embrace the relaxing nature of homemaking, also experienced a bit of a boom. These trends support a reclaiming of home space activities as restorative and an extension of important self-care that anyone can engage with and enjoy. So perhaps it’s unsurprising that I’ve noticed similar kinds of narrative focus on magic as a tool for homemaking or family in the recent boom in cozy fantasy books.”
And I think this essay’s so interesting, cuz I do agree in part, I I definitely agree. Yeah. I think a lot of this is coming from this desire to drop out of the world because the world’s fucked up and it’s like, “I, I can’t deal, I need to, I, I gotta go.” But what this piece says is uncritically “and that’s good.” Or, or at least that’s not mixed. Like, no, this is fine. And the piece even goes [00:04:00] so far as to say that not only are these contemporary cozy novels, subversive and brave and blah, blah, blah. But actually those 1960s television sitcoms were actually very subversive and very feminist. And I’m sorry, it’s a sitcom from 60 years ago. It’s not, this is not a radical feminist– like I like Bewitched. It’s a fun show. It’s really charming. You know, I dream of Jeanie– well, I thought I Dream of Jeanie was kind of stupid, but like, they’re fine. They’re cute. The Munsters are cute, they’re fine. But if you examine the per premise of a lot of those 1960 sitcoms, like I Dream of Jeannie, like Bewitched or I Love Lucy, which isn’t magical, but kind of in there. There’s this current running through them of men trying to contain their wives’ crazy outsized energy. Like the whole thing was Bewitched. You know, Samantha’s a witch and, and Darren’s constantly annoyed [00:05:00] cuz she keeps doing witch things and he gets mad when she uses magic or something. Or I Dream of Jeannie. Jeannie’s magic.
It causes all this trouble. I Love Lucy. Lucy isn’t magic, but she wants to be in the show. And Ricky doesn’t want her to be in his show despite the fact that she obviously has a knack for physical comedy and is a good looking redhead because he wants her in the kitchen, right? Like, so there’s this
Raquel: context underneath. I think in, in the real world , I think people saw this sort of second wave of the feminist movement brewing. So in that context, these, this popularity of a bunch of sitcoms about men trying to contain their wives’ crazy energy, there’s a weird little political implication there. And, and I don’t think that you’re a bad person or you’re anti-feminist for liking these shows. I love these shows. I fucking love, I Love Lucy.
It’s, it’s really funny. Bewitched is really great. They’re charming. But to say that these are [00:06:00] progressive, radical subversive shows is pretty strange. They’re conservative, said,
Tai: you still had the Legion of Decency operating in Hollywood, dictating
what could and could not be shown on TV. And at least within, within horror, the reason we have Texas Chainsaw Massacre, one of the, the most influential films ever made is because it was in part a response to that image of cozy domesticity
that those sitcoms put forth and it was saying, “this is bullshit. This is a lie.”
Raquel: Yeah, and I think it’s worth noting that this notion of the family, really, the nuclear family, the suburban white nuclear family, held up as an ideal, was used to reinforce male domination of women. It was very anti-queer, it was very hierarchical. Dad is the head of the family. Mom is the right hand gal. The kids are almost like [00:07:00] property. And it it, and it’s a very white image. It’s a very suburban image. It’s very reactionary. When reactionary political movements want an excuse to attack outsiders want an excuse to attack minorities of any kind they’ve loved to say “they’re a threat to our family.” Right now, the anti-gay, anti-trans movement is saying, “my family, it’s a threat to my children.”
And there’s this unspoken idea that your children are your property. So anything that might destabilize that
Raquel: very specific sort of structure is bad and dangerous. “It’s a threat to my family. You’ll hurt my kids by making them gay.”
Tai: And that’s what’s so bizarre about this article is supposedly SF F is in the, uh, what does the blob
call it, uh, the Rainbow Platinum Age. Where it’s on this cutting edge of queerness and, uh, found family and [00:08:00] rethinking these conservative institutions. And, and yet this could have been written by Dr. James Dobson.
Raquel: It’s absolutely wild. And it’s weird to see that from a queer perspective too, because, I mean, while there are queer people who have awesome relationships with their families, there are queer people who get married and have kids and have the whole white picket fence thing. But for a lot of queer people, the family, this little nuclear family isn’t this unambiguous source of happiness and stability a lot of the time.
It’s can be a source of abuse, it can be a source of control and oppression. Sometimes it’s the thing you have to break away from in order to be yourself, and that’s really, really tragic. But that is a reality for many of us. That it’s not just this uncritical source of, “oh, this is good.” So it’s very, it’s very, very weird for me to see someone who’s ostensibly liberal talking about the perfection that [00:09:00] is family values. In fact, you highlighted a quote from it, I think. ” Because shows like Bewitched, I dream of Jeannie, the Adams family and the Munsters center family values and partnership, they can make jokes about stodgier aspects of American life while still embracing the familial stability at the center of it all in their own conventional ways.”
So it’s straight up saying we can give lip service to the the radical stuff that’s going on in the world, but that’s just lip service and we are centering family values, which is a very loaded phrase.
Tai: That’s extremely loaded. And it’s kind of like the, the word “degenerate.” As much as I love and adore that word, there’s no reclaiming it from the fascists. And with family values, it’s like conservatives have so, monopolized that, that word over the past 50, 60 years, but there’s no reclaiming it.
And so when you say [00:10:00] that you’re going to put, you’re basically, essentially saying the conservatives were right. And how many times a day does some, um, incel loser go online and say, ” well once, once these women get older, then they’ll want the house and the white picket fits and the kids and us,
the big strong men, will say ‘no.'”
Tai: And it’s like,
Raquel: He will not say no. He’ll say, “oh my God, yes, please.”
Raquel: “my God. A girl’s talking to me.”
Tai: Exactly. You’re, you’re playing right into ’em. And this is, and this has been a growing trend. Liberals sounding like evangelicals. And while I was doing research for this episode, I was reading up on various evangelical websites from the days of yore.
And, one, the sad thing is, is a few of the evangelicals are better critical thinkers than our, than our, our writer friends at Tor,
Tai: [00:11:00] which, which just broke my brain a little bit. But, uh, in, in one article I linked, they talk about Game of Thrones and how nihilistic and pessimistic it is and how that makes it a bad show.
And it’s like, well, how many times a day do we have the cozy fantasy people saying, “well, I don’t want that nihilism of George RR Martin.”
Tai: And it’s like you’re saying the exact same things. You’re both going toward this center point. That is not good.
Raquel: Yeah. The idea that “something that makes me feel uncomfortable is inherently harmful”
Raquel: is a very reactionary idea. Part of being a free person in a free society means you’re not gonna be comfortable all the time. You’re going to see shit that you think is weird and gross, and you have to sort of deal with that and get the fuck over it. Just recently, a man murdered [00:12:00] another person on the subway because the victim made him feel a bit uncomfortable because he got kind of loud and weird in public. So this addiction to , “we need to chase away anything that makes me feel weird. Anything uncomfortable, anything unpleasant.” It has at its extreme, it ends in, in violence.
It’s a not a good idea. It’s not a progressive idea, and it becomes this weird authoritarian idea. And there’s nothing wrong, I wanna say there’s nothing wrong with being comfortable sometimes. There’s nothing wrong with comfort food, but telling yourself it’s this radical thing? It’s dishonest. It’s like you’re eating french fries and telling yourself, “no, it’s a vegetable, it’s okay.
I, I put ketchup on it. So it’s a salad now.” Like, no motherfucker, you’re eating french fries.
Tai: E Exactly. And everybody needs that thing that emotionally recharges them.
For me it’s friendships, but it is part of being an adult [00:13:00] to give back
Tai: and what this, uh, desire for coziness strikes me is as a flight from reality. It is a, essentially a rejection of reality. And, uh,
Raquel: “Escape modernity, return to tradition.”
Tai: essentially yes. And for the liberal, they’ll
put it in terms that make it sound like they’ve been on the picket line all day long. When we all, we all know being incredibly online people, we’ve all been just reading the same posts.
Tai: We’re all being destroyed by the same algorithm that is there to crush us. And while they have that fig leaf, it is still of the same essence as the conservative flight from reality, which is ” my beliefs are under assault.
I have to find a rural farm to hide away at until [00:14:00] the the gay menace has passed.” Yeah,
Raquel: ” I need my bunker. I need my bug out bag. I need my suburban fortress of solitude. I need my sort of magic, happy space that nothing can threaten.” And by threaten, I mean just change, like change is a threat. When Stephen Crowder was talking about how the divorce threatened his family, it didn’t threaten his family.
It didn’t endanger them, it just changed it and I think changed it for the better because he’s a shitty husband and father, and I’m glad, I’m sure his wife is awful, but I’m glad she got the fuck away from him. And I hope she takes the kids with her.
Raquel: 100% I am on her side in this divorce. Good for her. It’s just “what will disrupt my control? What will take away my control of everything.” And, and, and while I do, I do like coming home from everything at the end of the day and putting on my lazy pants and cuddling up with some food and my cat and, and you know, being cozy. But that’s not a way [00:15:00] forward.
That’s, that’s not a way forward to change. And retreating from the world, I’m, I’m just seeing this as someone who, woman type of person, retreating from the world can take you to some kind of bad places. Cozy domesticity has a false promise when it’s your entire life. It’s not as fun when it’s something you have to do, not when it’s a side hobby, not when you’re making food for a blog that you’re monetizing and not when you’re wealthy enough to hire a housekeeper, which was quite typical of middle and upper middle class families in the 1950s and 1960s. But when it’s something you have to do day in and day out and you don’t really have other options, it’s not fun anymore. Housework is work and this is unpaid work, and often it’s very underappreciated.
Tai: Oh, absolutely.
Raquel: So here’s my own family history. My grandmother had to drop out of school really, really young cuz her mom died [00:16:00] and she, she was I think like 10 years old. She had to drop out of school. Cause this was Puerto Rico back in the olden times. So when she was just tall enough to reach the stove, cuz she was the oldest girl in the family, she became the cook. She became the cleaner, she became the domestic caregiver in the house for her father and her brothers. And she, that was her whole fucking life. And she hated it. My mother actually didn’t learn to cook until college. My abuela Lola refused to let her daughters cook. She refused to let them fucking cook at all. Just basically, she did not want them to have the life that she had.
Raquel: She wanted them to fucking go to school and get, get careers and not be dependent on anyone because she was not happy.
And she said, “I want better for you. I don’t want you to be like me.”
Tai: Oh, what a queen. What The absolute queen.
Raquel: Yeah, she was cool. The only way, cuz, cuz you know, housewife totally dependent on the husband for money and, and my grandfather was really like a total [00:17:00] skin flint. The only way she managed to get pocket money for herself was by selling loosies, like selling loose cigarettes to, to teenagers.
Tai: oh. She, she, she would’ve made absolute bank off me. My goodness.
Raquel: She fucking rocked.
Tai: I grew up in a larger than average family, and it was surrounded by families with 10, 12 kids. This image of cozy do domesticity is an absolutely false one. It’s an aesthetic and nothing more. And they’re, and they’re mistaking the aesthetic for the reality because
if you even the old, the old standup jokes is, “one day you wake up and you notice your partner’s really annoying.” oh, well your domestic coziness has been shattered there. And uh, and of course it’s outside of the, the mortgage and the, the yard keeping, it is really hard to keep a house [00:18:00] going.
And it’s only fun when you’re in that, that, that period right before you gain independence, but you’re still, maybe junior year of college, something like that. And that’s what this feels like here is children playing like adults
Tai: and being like, oh look, we’re adulting now.
selling a false image of what the, the family actually is.
Tai: On my way over here to, to record it, I had this nagging feeling all day. It’s like, “oh, this reminds me of somebody. This reminds me of somebody. Who the hell is it?” And it’s, it’s every HBO dad, every divorced HBO dad.
In particular Marty from a True Detective season one where he’s arguing with his wife and basically says, uh, “the family is supposed to be a place of peace and tranquility.” And his wife just lights him [00:19:00] up. It’s like, “who the hell told you that?”
Raquel: Yeah. And, and we’re not saying this to be disrespectful to people who are stay-at-home moms or homemakers
Raquel: that is, that is your life choice. And if you are having a good time, fucking rock on. It’s cool.
Tai: Part of the work of feminism is to make sure that you have that choice and to make sure that, uh, you know, if you decide to choose something else, you can do that as well.
Raquel: Yeah. But something that I think a lot of these little cozy things miss is that it’s work. Being a homemaker is a lot of fucking work, being like a supermom who, who takes care of everything. It’s a lot of work and a lot of, it’s kind of yucky work of, of dealing with like dirty diapers and, wiping noses and things like that.
And the aesthetic that we’re being sold. I, I feel like we have such this, disconnection from traditional lifestyles that people will watch family TikTok videos and family influencers, and that’s not what their lives are really like. It’s fake. Everything’s cleaned up for the [00:20:00] camera. And also they seem weirdly wealthy despite the fact that the husband is the only breadwinner and he does not have a super wealthy job.
What’s going on there? I don’t understand. The super wealthy lifestyle blogs, what’s going on behind the scenes that we don’t see is usually this person has a rich husband or inherited money or something. It’s not real. It’s not real. You know that the people that the sort of RETVRN trad, trad people who who fantasize about farming have not farmed because their notion of farming is they always post a picture of like a skinny blonde woman who’s pregnant, wearing a floor length white gown standing in a field, and there’s like, “that’s what farms look like.”
Whereas actual farmers, when they do post, will post things like, “well, cow got an abscess, had to drain it and got about a gallon of pus.” It’s like not, it is not romantic at all. They’re just like, “well, cow got stuck giving birth. [00:21:00] Had to, uh, get a chain to yank the calf out of its vagina.” That is how actual farmers post. That is what actual farming is.
It is not very glamorous. It’s super hard.
Tai: is extremely hard, especially if you’re a small, independent outfit. I, I live in an extremely rural area where we’ve had lots of independent farmers and, and most of the time
Raquel: a rough time
Tai: Most of the time by the, by the time they’re in their sixties, most of them look like boiled leather because when you’re operating on razor thin margins, guess what?
You can’t afford moisturizer.
Raquel: and it’s just the constant stress
Raquel: a, a friend and I took a trip to a, a little organic dairy farm in Vermont once because they ran like an Airbnb out of it. They had some yurts and stuff where you could go ca camping trips. And the dude, the farmer, like,
Raquel: He said that one day, the one day that they were there, he’s like, “this is actually the first day I haven’t had work of some form or another in about [00:22:00] six years.” And he was giddy and running around dizzy because he like, he didn’t know what to do anymore. It’s like, “I don’t,
Tai: I don’t,
Raquel: don’t remember how this feels, what is happening to me?” It is a hard time.
Tai: in, in some of those old timers, they don’t know how to relax cuz all they’ve never known is hard work and they will absolutely work you into the ground. Uh uh,
Raquel: not glamorous.
Tai: It is not glamorous and it is not cozy.
Raquel: The, the other side of that, the sort of modern liberal side is, you know, “I’d really love to run a small business.” No the fuck you wouldn’t.
Tai: No, no. God no.
Raquel: You know what would be fun? Owning an eatery that’s really
Tai: oh God, no
Raquel: Running a restaurant or a cafe is extremely fun and very reliable and not stressful. And you don’t have to deal with disgusting things or get yelled at by horrible Karens or burn [00:23:00] yourself on a, on a latte steamer or fucking deal with like nasty garbage or flies or, or mice or no. You, you can tell these things are always made by people who haven’t worked in food service because people who haven’t worked in food service have this very romantic idea of like, “I think I’d like to own a restaurant.”
Then you, if you’ve actually worked in a restaurant, you’ll know, well, uh, the owner is always drunk or on cocaine at every, any given point in time. The line cooks are usually on cocaine. The bus boy is on whip-its, so every can of whipped cream in the entire restaurant will be flat. Every single one of them all the time.
The servers do whatever they can get their hands on. Nobody’s sober. Nobody’s having fun. Everybody smells. The Bear. The Bear is pretty fucking accurate, honestly. That show The Bear.
Tai: and, and it is just like farming. It’s grueling work that we don’t, appreciate or compensate enough and there’s it, On [00:24:00] cooking shows, they can make that look good.
Tai: But in reality, you know, once again, people falling for the aesthetic.
Raquel: It is stressful. It is. There are a lot of injuries in kitchens cuz you’re using knives and heat sources really, really, really fucking fast.
Raquel: It is. It is a bad time. And I just kind of laugh because the no experience, “I think owning a restaurant would be a fun and profitable hobby” people like those are the people who end up on a Gordon Ramsey show getting yelled at.
Raquel: called a fucking donkey or something. That’s what happens when you actually try to live that fantasy because it’s, it’s really not fun and you’re probably not gonna make money. Most restaurants don’t make profit in at least like the first nine months. It’s bad.
Tai: it’s, uh, get at the products. Don’t get at into services. Get at the products.
Raquel: Don’t, don’t get into services, don’t get into restaurants. There’s so many restaurants.
Tai: And, the subset of, uh, the restaurant within the cozy universe is, the coffee house.[00:25:00]
Raquel: Yeah, it’s carried over from fan fiction. There’s the, the coffee house alternative universe where it’s like, okay, let’s say you like Batman, but instead of wanting to write a story about him doing cool Batman things like beating up his enemies. Or instead of just, you know, being a garden variety, normal pervert, and wanting to write a story about Batman sucking a dick.
For some reason you decide, “I want a story about Batman and Robin and maybe the Joker and Catwoman, just sipping lattes in a cozy coffee shop.” And that’s the coffee shop au. And they’re very popular for reasons I will never understand, and now we’re seeing that kind of ported over to traditionally published sci-fi fantasy. There’s always a, a wacky cast of characters, but the characters are sort of these stock characters, stock character types. Because if you learn to write from fan fiction, you never really learn how to do the hard work of actually developing characters on your own. So you just kind of pluck from [00:26:00] standard types and shove them in there.
Tai: Much like restaurants, it’s like, uh, coffee houses or restaurants, but even more so because the margins are even thinner.
Raquel: Oh, they’re thin and people are grumpy because like they haven’t had their coffee yet. In the morning you are dealing– all of your customers are people who haven’t had their coffee yet.
And they’re all ordering from the so-called secret menu of fucking bullshit drinks that are way too elaborate and I hate them. I feel like if you order like a, a secret Starbucks drink off the se secret menu, quote unquote, on TikTok, the barista has a right to punch you
Tai: Absolutely. It’d be
Tai: It’d be wonder Yes. I, I would be ho wholeheartedly in favor
Raquel: I would 100% give barista’s the power of vigilanteism.
Tai: and, and I don’t, I don’t really,
there’s an element here where it’s, it’s, they’ve people watched enough to where they’re just like, “oh, wouldn’t it be great if all [00:27:00] these people I see in here on a regular basis if we were friends” because, I don’t know of any coffee house, and I’ve been to many of them in big cities and small and in neighborhood ones and chain ones where there’s this friendly atmosphere where everybody’s getting to know each other and have at a grand old time,
Raquel: You know, you’re right. There will usually be small groups of people cuz they’ve come together with their friends. But it’s not like Cheers.
Tai: yeah, it’s the.
Raquel: not like you walk into the door of the coffee shop and it’s like ” Norm! Woo!” Where everyone knows your name. No, not, not really. It’s not exactly a community and you know, I love hanging out in coffee shops.
I fucking love coffee shops. But like, it’s not a substitute for friendship or community.
Tai: And that’s, that’s really where kind of what we’re talking around is, uh, this desire for cozy just shows how separated and atomized we are from [00:28:00] each other.
Raquel: Yeah, it is a little tragic and that, “oh, if only I could have this, if only I could have this togetherness.” And
Raquel: sympathize with that. And we all have our own little fantasies. And there are times when, when I’m at work and I’m like, “man, wouldn’t it be nice to just drop out of society and like, go live in a yurt.” Like, that’d be pretty great, but that’s not real, you know?
Raquel: A feature of a lot of good domestic art that focuses on this fantasy is this sense of the temporary and the sense of the bittersweet. I understand the impulse to fantasize about running away from everything. But deep down, you know it can’t last. Deep down, you know it’s not forever or it’s impossible.
And I think that’s what a lot of this media is missing. It’s missing that really powerful, really beautiful sense of the bittersweet because you know deep down you can’t really escape the world forever [00:29:00] by going to a coffee shop, or you can’t escape the problems of the world forever by hanging out with your partner at home, but, but– you can, you can do that, and it’s nice, but it is only temporary and that’s part of why it’s beautiful and why it’s powerful.
And, and I think what we’re getting at too is that we’re getting this very individualistic sense of self-care and consumerism often sold to us, marketed to us, especially marketed to women as a solution to the problems instead of any kind of activism, instead of community, instead of social change. We’re being told take these individual solutions that don’t really change things.
It’s, it’s a rejection of class action, solidarity. It’s a condemnation to isolation. I’m thinking of Jordan Peterson, the conservative philosopher, question mark, beef coma victim who says that you should clean your room before you [00:30:00] try to criticize the world. Now that’s not terrible advice. Like, yeah, get your shit together.
That’s very, very good advice. But what this can do is it can spin into this relentlessly trying to perfect yourself to the point where that’s all you’re doing and you’re avoiding the world’s problems. Cuz let’s be real. None of us is gonna be fucking perfect. No, no one ever is.
Tai: and you especially don’t become perfect in a vacuum.
Raquel: Yeah. Sitting by yourself. Like the, some of the things that have helped me come out of the pandemic and, and figure things out for myself has been taking part in mutual aid groups and doing good work with other people who are kind, interesting, driven people and, and getting something out of that.
Tai: exactly, because, this self-care cycle that it creates is just this relentless consumerism that is causing the problem and can never solve the [00:31:00] problem. And at the same time, it’s, it’s getting dumber and more insulting with each, you know, with each decade. I’m already annoyed the way I’m advertised to as a man.
I, I would go ballistic if I was a woman and being talked down to like that. It’s
Raquel: Oh God. The constant and infantilization of like, “oh, is your tummy empty? Have this yummy little treat. You were a good girl today. Are you sad? Are you sad?
Oh, sweetie, you’re so pretty. Have this beauty cream. Don’t you feel better?” It’s, oh, I’m, I’m not a, I don’t, I don’t enjoy it. It’s, it’s not good. I’m not a fan. I don’t know. The male side seems kind of funny, like “Crush it, Crush dandruff with this powerful shower weapon. Your shampoo is the same color as gun metal gray.”
Tai: Uh, shave your beard with this [00:32:00] hair bazooka that, uh,
Raquel: It’s so funny the, the self-care hygiene product aisle where that very direct line where the women’s stuff becomes the men’s stuff. Cuz we go from pastels to like gray, gray, black, gray. It’s like suddenly we’ve entered the Decepticon aisle.
Tai: I’ve been blessed to know many goth women over my life and, uh, I’m pretty sure they would like some big old black razors designed for them. Man,
that’s an untapped market
Raquel: it’s so goddamn funny. I can’t, yeah. But, but, and, and again, we wanna stress, there’s nothing wrong with self-care. It’s good and necessary. And, and especially if you are doing out activism type things, you gotta recharge, you gotta take some time off, you gotta touch some grass, take a shower, do a little yoga
sometimes. This is good, but it’s like, okay, this is you recharging so that you can take care of shit. Not like, “well, that’s enough. You used a moisturizer” because we’ve seen where that leads and [00:33:00] where that leads is people calling you ableist because you say, “Hey, maybe you shouldn’t buy so much clothing from Shein because they hurt the people who make it.” It, it, it’s people saying like, “actually you are a misogynist for telling me to buy my own groceries. Instead of getting a delivery guy and, and yelling at him for getting the wrong avocado.”
Tai: And then getting up and, uh, stalking him in the store
Raquel: Then stalking him at the store and getting really mad at an internet cat for some reason. I don’t fucking know. That was one of the strangest things. I don’t know, but, but it’s very like 1960s new left where instead of looking outward the left as– if you want to call it that, started to slowly look more inward.
And when that happened, you really saw this downhill slide of the leftist project. Previous generations of leftist activists had a much greater emphasis on mass movement, mass material action. There’s– And, and the sort of [00:34:00] like new left sixties onward was a lot more about individual, the inner self. And now what we’re seeing is this really fascinating overlap between like right wing, conservative, trad, reactionary stuff, and then crunchy kind of hippie dippy, birken Birkenstock food co-op stuff. Right now GOOP like Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP and Infowars actually sell a lot of the same products and supplements that are just labeled differently.
Tai: And the more you use the products and the more you don’t feel better and the harder you try to use them, you get locked into this incredibly destructive, cycle. That you can’t, that that’s a really hard, not, not just to break out of, but to see that the cycle is there and it’s in the case of conservatism, it generally leads to conspiracy theory and paranoid thinking and trying to find an answer for[00:35:00] why am I miserable?
Raquel: ” Why am I miserable? The conspiracy took my kid away. It’s the conspiracy’s fault my children don’t talk to me anymore.” Like, no, they went away cuz you’re horrible and they don’t wanna fucking talk to you anymore, grandma,
Tai: and, and with, uh,
Raquel: tired of hearing about QAnon. They just wanna have a normal Thanksgiving, god!
oh, am I.
I hate it when it happens. Like a disc fricking slipped.
Raquel: Woo Jesus.
Tai: No, just a, like a, like a CD from the nineties just skips. It’s like I was trying to hone in on this one thought
Raquel: you got a Well That’s What I Call Music slipping.
Tai: Yes, exactly.
Pure Moods slipping all over the place.
Tai: And the side effect of, of these doubling down on these individual consumerist choices is that we are further, further disempowered and the corporations get richer and richer
Tai: cuz [00:36:00] they. Do not give a single shit
Tai: about their customer’s wellbeing. They care about whether the customer is still buying their product.
And, and it’s, and it’s bizarre that– I’ll keep harping on this– but it’s bizarre that people are mistaking the aesthetic for the reality.
Raquel: Yeah. Yeah. And, and while I’m gonna say, I don’t think it’s, I don’t think that if you enjoy Legends and Lattes, you’re a Nazi. don’t think that’s the
Raquel: I don’t think, if you like old episode of of I Love Lucy, you’re like a trad wife or anything. But what I’m saying is that this trend, as a trend, it can be a little concerning and I feel like we’re reaching a point where it’s getting a little far, where I’m starting to worry, not like, “oh, you read Legends and Lattes?
Well, obviously you don’t support women’s rights.” Like, no, that’s a fucking ridiculous comment. But,
Tai: Absurd statement.
Raquel: [00:37:00] but I’m starting to see shit that’s getting a little weird. And, and when Tor, this major S F F publisher can publish an article basically saying ” yes, 1960s sitcoms are the ideal life.” I’m like, whoa. Because that is, that’s what conservatives believe. That’s what Newt Gingrich fucking believed.
Tai: Speaking very generally, historically, this is kind of the same split, or this, this feels like it rhymes with the mid to late seventies cultural split that happened where you had either a bunch of people get normal or they’re joining cults. In the case of the Christians, it was like, uh,
It occurs to me just now that this was very eugenicist. They were just like, okay, there’s no hope politically for conservatism, but we can outbreed the secularists, so we just need to have as many kids as possible.
Raquel: Yeah, that’s what the quiver full [00:38:00] movement
Raquel: Every baby you have is an arrow in the quiver. And, and because you’re declaring war against, you know, thing I don’t like, against whatever thing is not this extreme version of Christianity. So, so let’s talk a little bit about that trad at Homesteader Fantasy.
This is something that you are way more, uh, accustomed to. I had more of a hippie-dippy upbringing.
Tai: So yes, uh, a little bit of my background. I was raised in the Protestant cult, uh, I B L P, which stands for Institute and Basic Life Principles, which is the most benign sounding organization that just is immediately since chills down your spine. I grew up in the rural south.
Deep in evangelical and dominionist cult, uh, culture. My summers were spent at a, uh, dominionist political activist camp called, Teen Pact. [00:39:00] Yes, Teen Pact.
Raquel: So you went to Jesus camp, like in that documentary?
Tai: Oh, yeah. Oh yeah. And, and
Raquel: Oh, wow.
Tai: in case, we were much more political focused than spirituality focused, but there was a, a healthy blend of both and every bit is insane.
After a 10 year process and then a four to six year process of leaving, after that of leaving conservatism, here I am now. And it’s incredibly discouraging watching everything that was segregated to my corner of the world growing up has now become mainstream. Like, um, for those who remember Ray Comfort, the Banana man, I saw him speak every year at IBL P’s, uh, general conference in Knoxville.
And the person I always looked forward to, cause I was a political nerd as a kid who deserved to be thrown into the locker. My favorite speaker was David Barton, who [00:40:00] became Glenn Beck’s historian,
Raquel: Oh my God.
Tai: The person who’s always talking about the biblical foundation of the Constitution. That David Barton.
I, I saw him all the bloody time growing up
Raquel: God. That is wild.
Tai: and, and, and since my family did not consider it weird enough that we were all those things already, they were Pentecostal on top of it. So I have seen every bat batshit insane stripe of Christianity, you could
Raquel: people who like speak in tongues?
Raquel: Oh wow.
Tai: Yes, we were not snake handlers, but there were tongue speaking
I was a Unitarian, man.
Tai: Uh, I wish I had, I wish I, I wish I had been Unitarian.
Raquel: I don’t even know what it is. I still don’t.
Tai: A Unitarian friend of mine also says that,
Raquel: Yeah. What do Unitarians believe? I don’t know.
Tai: The first thing I heard in the mornings was [00:41:00] Focus on the Family’s, uh, flagship radio broadcast with Dr. James Dobson as one of the, the hosts on there. We listened to that while we ate breakfast and my dad went off to work, and then the afternoons was Rush Limbaugh.
And, uh, not really much at night cuz we didn’t have TV or anything like that. And with that came homeschooling curriculum. And there are advantages to homeschooling. Like, uh, I am severely dyslexic. And if left to the the wiles of our local, severely underfunded public school, I probably would’ve been put in special education and left to flounder while my mom took the time and, and much against my will at as a, as a, four and five year old forced me to read,
Raquel: Wow, she destroyed your love of reading. How dare
Tai: How dare she, you know, and [00:42:00] that, and that one act, saved my life multiple times.
And so there, there is advantages to that. If you wanna really challenge your kids, you can. And if you’re gonna be really lazy about it, there’s not much to stop you either. And in, and the homeschooling curriculum, which, through grade school was Mennonite and then junior high and high school was from Abeka, which is hyper fundamentalist, uh, from, uh, the Pensacola Bible School.
I believe the, I, I forget their name off the top of my head, but they’re. They are actually the crazier version of who produced the rest of my textbooks. Bob Jones University.
Raquel: The crazier version of Bob Jones University
Raquel: quite a thing to say.
Tai: I will give Bob Jones credit for this. Even if they hated an author[00:43:00] like DH Lawrence, they may not come out and say that he was gay, but they would have a whole unit on him and his work and show why it was considered a classic. And for reasons unknownst to me, they had a massive section on Nathaniel Hawthorne, which was my first contact with anti Puritanism.
And it was a revelation to me.
Raquel: Oh, that’s cool.
Tai: And with ATIA and they put the, they essentially took– A T I A and I B L P spent all that time and I’m still not entirely sure what the difference between those two organizations are cuz they’re so closely knit. They’re almost like a Scientology and Sea Org, uh, for example.
But they would essentially take all those 1950s and sixties attitudes and make them theology. And [00:44:00] so one of the things we had, and this could, could be ripped right out of these conservative sitcoms is we had the thing called the, uh, umbrella of authority where the father is under God, and then it’s the mother, and then it’s the children.
And if you disobey the mother or the father, you get out from underneath protection of that umbrella, meaning you could be punished by God.
Tai: Which set up this incredibly rigid hierarchy.
And that’s, and that’s essentially taking the attitudes that is being lionized here in this essay. So making them theology and then imposing that as reality on people fleeing from reality here. And while there are parts that I appreciate especially, about [00:45:00] the reading and stuff, it was mostly an extremely boring, extremely fearful, and extremely confusing
way to grow up.
And so, so much about, of this comes down to control.
Tai: And making sure,
because in their eyes, the trady eyes and what’s subtly hinted at, and the, then you have the, the liberals who kind of graffiti their spray paint over it and call it progressive. Essentially you have this whole system that is treating women and children as if they are property, but property that can revolt against you, property that can break away.
And so that’s essentially what this comes down to. Yeah.
Tai: [00:46:00] Is locking somebody away in their consumer box
and then either one wilting if you’re, if you’re, if someone’s a liberal wilting before the state of the world, or if you’re a conservative getting increasingly madder at the state of the world. There, there is nothing glamorous or, or, or wholesome about it.
Raquel: Well it’s not glamorous cuz I know because whenever these trad wives actually post a photograph of what they’ve cooked, it looks like fucking dog food. None of these bitches can cook.
Tai: this is true.
Raquel: funny to me. I love it. Every like, “here’s my homeschooling, blah, blah, blah. Here’s the food,” and it’s like, I, this is fucking trash.
What are– You can’t boil an egg? It looks like you put a packet of cream cheese and a bag of baby carrots into a crockpot and just turned it on. That’s your dinner.
Tai: dinner. It’s so funny you bring that up because
Raquel: They cannot cook!
Tai: It’s true, it’s true. Cause I would, I would read Red Wall and, and, and for some reason [00:47:00] I, I was able for somehow I was able to sneak George RR Martin into my house at one
point. And, uh, which I think I, I think I
Raquel: Oh, and those, those authors are both fat kids. They love food, they love. They will just stop in the middle of a chapter and describe somebody’s lunch in immense detail.
Tai: And, and I kept getting so baffled of why they were describing food. It’s just like, why are you doing this? What the hell? And it’s like, I was like 24 when it finally hit me. It’s like, oh, food’s supposed to be good.
Raquel: Oh my God, dude. no. no.
Tai: And while these seemed like, to touch back on that, while this shrinking away from reality seems like the only possible option the effect it has takes decades to work out of.
Tai: And that’s if you’re lucky or blessed enough to notice, oh, hey, this is fucked up.
What’s wrong with this?
Tai: And this is my big worry with the, these liberals is like, cause I saw it so many times with my friends from college, they would break free of fundamentalism. They’d have their wild years and then they would just go back to it.
Tai: It’s like, you were free.
Why the hell are you going back there? And, uh, that’s.
Raquel: that’s the pattern you know.
Tai: Yeah, exactly.
Raquel: That’s what you know how to do and you don’t know how to do anything else. So of course you go back to it. It, it’s really sad, but I get it.
Tai: And um,
and, and it’s that desire for the, the comfort and the knowable
Tai: that least of that. And, uh,
Raquel: knowability and safety
So So that’s the, the trad homesteader fantasy. We have something else. I think there’s a more liberal version of it, which is sort of the cozy semi-urban fantasy. So instead of being rural a lot more, it’s urban or suburban in a [00:49:00] nice little city that’s not really named. And instead of having a, a homestead on, on the prairie, the fantasy is to be a small business tyrant, which in another way is, is another kind of small petty tyrant running your small little mini kingdom. And I find it very interesting that this Tor piece uses the phrase “found family”
to describe a workplace.
If you’ve worked in the world, if you’ve lived and worked in a world, you know that if the hiring manager says to you, “oh yeah, this company, we’re like a family here,” you gotta fucking leave. Like, do not even finish that interview. Just le– just jump out a window. Fucking get out. Because every company or or business that describes itself as” we’re like a family here,” is going to be just a horrible place to work.
Where there’s zero sense of appropriate personal boundaries where you’re not respected, where you’re taken for granted, where the pay is probably gonna be shit. And when you stick up for yourself, it’s like, [00:50:00] “how dare you? You’re hurting my feelings” almost. Why would I care if the boss’s feelings are hurt?
Cause I wanna fucking raise, like, I don’t know. So referring to found family at a
workplace just gets my hackles up because no, your, your workplace isn’t your family. You might like your coworkers. I’ve worked in places where I really liked my coworkers and was friends with my coworkers, but like, they’re not your fucking family. The fantasy here is it’s still very isolated from the world in many ways. Or you have limited social interactions. All of your relationships are hi, are hierarchical like boss or employee and or transactional. Like you’re meeting your customers or your clients. They’re not your friends. Your customers are your customers.
They’re your clients. You’re there because you are exchanging goods and services for currency and that’s it. And that is okay. That is what a business is, but that’s not a community, that’s not a family. These things are very clearly written by people who [00:51:00] haven’t worked retail or food service.
So my question is, if this is your comfort, who are you comforting exactly. And it sounds kind of like we are comforting customers and not workers. If you see yourself as a customer first and foremost, I think there was a big shift in the American consciousness sometime around the 20th century where we stopped seeing ourselves as community members. We stopped seeing ourselves as citizens, and we started seeing ourselves as customers instead. And what this project has done has been to undermine our solidarity with other people, undermine our solidarity with our other workers, and have us identify primarily with the corporations, with the businesses that we do business with. We identify ourselves as fandoms, as consumers of particular media and not as people who are in, in a community.
Tai: And part of that is [00:52:00] it is easier to deal with a known quantity like Captain America than it is to deal with another human being and their wants and desires and needs and problems. Uh,
Tai: It is incredibly easy to, to want to retreat into the safety of fantasy, but that way lies misery, cuz Captain, captain America.
And its, uh, rights owner. Disney will never love you.
Raquel: I mean, we know that people who are into really big into fandom are by and large, not happy, well adjusted people. They’re not having a good time. They’re getting into fights about ships. Like that’s not a good way to live.
Tai: To go back to what you were talking about of the boss and the job as family, that is straight up business school propaganda, where they’ll tell you, they’ll paint this picture of [00:53:00] the business world as this great, innovative place of smart people doing smart things and all getting along.
And the reality is like, it’s just a way to make you work harder. It is a way to ma to, to put aside your actual responsibilities to your family. God, one of the most horrifying, um, experiences I had in, in business school was listening to a presentation, recruiting thing by pwc. And they had some sort of South African guy showing pictures of their team having mandatory fun.
Tai: the guy really fucking said with his whole chest, uh, “we work hard, but we play hard too.” And then he stopped himself. His face kind of turned red and he stepped away to let the next person speak.
Raquel: I see. I can’t hear that line without thinking of the
Simpsons, where they’re in the gay [00:54:00] steel mill.
Which, you know, I’d be cool with that, that I, I would be fine if that was my found family
Tai: uh, it was
Raquel: If it was me and a bunch of really, really hot steel mill
Tai: Yeah. And, uh, they’re probably union too. Yeah.
Raquel: Yeah, yeah. I’d be, I’d be in favor of that. Unfortunately, that’s not what we’re gonna get in cozy fantasy, which is
a real shame.
Tai: if, if, you do have a family at your job, it’s going to be your brothers and sisters in your union who have to deal with the same shit that you have to put up with day in and day out, and who are going to be by your side when it’s time to call the employer to task.
Tai: Every, every single time with these, with these business types, you know, and these “we’re a family business.” It’s like somebody hits 60, somebody hits 70, and they’re like, “well, uh, now it’s time to move on to the next phase of my [00:55:00] life and focus on, on my family.” You loser! The time to focus on your family was when they were young and when they were growing up and when they were teenagers and when they were going off to college and becoming a adult.
You’ve missed it. You fucking missed it. And that’s another really baffling part of the, of this essay is the, the author points out, ” well, people want this cozy domestic fantasy because as a, partially as a result of disappointment with corporate America,” and within the essay there’s a hyperlink there.
And I thought for sure, this will be about, accountants at PWC or Ernst and Young or Deloitte having to work 70 to 80 to 90 hours a week. And no, it was an article that went to layoffs.
Tai: It’s like, excuse me. [00:56:00] That’s what the business world does, is
Tai: the cheapest and quickest way to increase revenue, to increase net income. That is to get rid of the most expensive factor you have in there. And that’s employment. And it’s, it, it boggles my mind that someone would be so delusional as to think that businesses wouldn’t lay people off.
It’s like I, if I, the where you were employed is not your family and it will never be your family. Your family is your actual family. And, and, um, something I want to tackle here, but this whole notion of found family is usually, uh, I think it’s, our good buddy Kurt, from a Blood Knife magazine, who pointed out one day that most found families
within stories operate, like your coworkers at a job who you’re on good terms with. Yeah.[00:57:00]
Tai: And there’s usually
very little tension or drama between the members of this found family. And so for the billionth time, I want to show a counter example from Poppy Z Brite’s Exquisite Corpse within that. Which is about the AIDS– it’s the found family of two serial killers, uh, falling in love, and then committing various acts of mutilation and necrophilia.
But it takes place in the nineties, New Orleans, in the middle of the AIDS crisis. And the fear of a, of AIDS hang so sickly over that book, and not just the, the fear, but the, the, the death and the sadness and the, the, the, the ravaging and destruction of this community is as thick as the humidity within New Orleans.
And so you have all these queers who, some of ’em don’t like each other. Some of them will [00:58:00] tell you some incredibly repulsive stuff, and yet there is never a point within those books, within that book where you’re, where you don’t know that these queers are gonna have each other’s backs, that it goes beyond
their personal attitudes toward each other is that they’re in this together as queers. And in fact, they, they take in this, this kid who got kicked out of his own home for being gay. And,
and there are some genuinely gut-wrenching stuff that, some of the gay men reveal in that. And yet that is much more believable, that is much more powerful than all the, the, the coz cozy schmaltz cotton candy that you can pile on. Because what, when you intentionally set out
to make something [00:59:00] cozy
instead of trying to pursue the truth of a situation, uh, the truth of what found family looks like,
the struggles and the heartache and all that comes with it, then you really, you accidentally end up in really dark places because you have sacrificed truth and reality for this aesthetic, and that leads to shitty art. That’s how you get house in the, house by the, uh, the blue House, by the Caril and Sea or whatever it is.
That is accidental, accidental apology for residential schools.
And it is not writing good. Mm-hmm. It’s not.
Raquel: It is not, it’s not writing good.
so why don’t we wind it
down before we
go, Where can people
find or support your work or what, what would you like [01:00:00] to plug?
Tai: You can find me on Twitter at at feast last. I’m usually over there, shit posting about horror. But, that’s about it. Oh, if you want the exact opposite of a, cozy suburban novel or, or rather a novel that, takes to task the suburban ideal
I highly recommend a book coming out this fall from Andrew F. Sullivan and Nick Cutter. The Handyman Method is, uh, fantastic.
Raquel: Yes. That’s our friend, friend of the pod who was on a previous episode to talk about uh, the gentrification of horror.
Tai: Yes, he’s good.
Raquel: he’s good. Okay.
Tai: Thank you
Raquel: Well, thank you for
coming on and thank you all for listening.
If you like what you heard, head to patreon.com/ritegud and subscribe. Until next time, keep writing good.