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May the Fourth Be With You

cropped-cropped-artboard-1.jpgThis is my fourth attempt at blogging, so I’m naming it Take4th. I want to take a more personal take on my geeky-culture obsessed life. I’m terrible at recaps and I was just writing when I was inspired, leading to overwrought rants on various topics. I was forcing myself to be witty, clever, or whatever and it wasn’t working for me. This time I’m going to be more chill and personal. I write stuff all the time at work and I can’t take my writing life outside of work so seriously. Or I won’t write. Period.

I’m also launching this thing on May the Fourth, also known as Star Wars Day. So I’m going to start this with a personal story about one of my early fandoms, Star Wars.
I’ve been a fan of Star Wars fan since I was a young lady.

My brother loved to watch the movies when he had a turn to pick what we watched. I started to get into it too, we would have lightsaber fights and collected action figures. That was our thing. We had both had inherited the collecting gene from our dad, who had a pretty epic comic book collection.

I kept my fandom hidden to some extent.

My brother had tons of action figures, like every random droid or creature that spent only a second on screen. I just had a few, just the main characters, Leia, Han, Luke, R2D2, C3PO, Chewbacca, Yoda, an Ekwok, and Darth Vader.

I’m a girly-girl and always wished that Leia would have had outfits that I could dress her in. I played Barbie with my friends, but never Star Wars. I don’t know why that is, why my friends and i never played in that world.

My brother had his action figures displayed on small shelves that stretched the length of his room. Mine, I kept in a small dresser drawer. They were pretty much the only things in there.

This makes me a little sad. Maybe I wasn’t into it has much as he was at the time, but I kept my fandom hidden and his was out there in a big way. I don’t know if it was due to gender or our personalities.

I’m glad that I’m out of the geek closet, or the drawer in my case.

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Nitpicking Storytellers to Death

Since 2007, I’ve attended academic conferences, mostly on popular culture and media communications.  At first I was a graduate student and then I became a part-time academic and then adjunct instructor.

I loved how these experiences fueled me intellectually and introduced me to a lot of like-minded people.  It opened me up to view things that I love from multiple perspectives and exciting new ways. I also gained awesome public speaking skills and confidence in the process.

Over time I have lost some of the thrill I once had going to these conferences.  Maybe it is the life cycle of an interest. You know you get hyped up on something and after a while, it isn’t as fun or exciting anymore.

02H90429Another factor that may be at work is the movement that has infiltrated academia, fandom, and these conferences within the last few years.  It is a thing where everything you like is a problematic fave, nearly everything needs a trigger warning, and all media should fall in line to a rigid set of social ideologies. At first, I enjoyed this speaking truth to power thing. And honestly, it’s not like any one presentation or topic is necessarily bad or turned me off, but collectively it gets overwhelming and repetitive.

I enjoy popular culture analysis, but at some point it becomes no longer productive as people are ranting from a soapbox against every little slight or perceived problem. This type of approach is not interesting, creative or new.  It often seems like a loud sermon of on how the critic knows better than you and the team that created the TV episode or movie.  This approach seems to shame people into thinking that a particular point of view is the ONLY and correct way to perceive it.  I personally like viewing things from multiple perspectives and points of view. Nothing should be viewed from just one lens.

The other day I heard something that totally expressed my feelings on this.  It was a celebration of Joss Whedon on WNPR Connecticut public radio Colin McEnroe show.  It was a conversation between the host, Joss Whedon himself, Jeanine Basinger (Chair of the Film Studies Department at Wesleyan University and Joss’ former professor), and David Lavery (author of Joss Whedon, A Creative Portrait: From Buffy the Vampire Slayer to The Avengers; Director of Graduate Studies in English at Middle Tennessee State University and Co-Founder of the Whedon Studies Association).

During this discussion (around the 46 minute mark) this topic comes around and I found that this so much expressed my issues with this type of analysis at conferences and popular internet criticism of creative works.

David Lavery: “It’s troubling in a way because I’m very bothered…how purest some of the academics get about this how much everything must tow the party line and be and I hate to use the term politically correct…but that gets us into all kinds of  issues about modern academia.”

Jeanine Basinger: “Storytellers can’t pay any attention to that. They’re the storytellers and they tell the stories.  Stories have to hurt us, make us angry, not satisfy our needs…directions, they don’t have to adjust the way we want them to be, we have to take them as they are and that’s the way we learn from them.”

We are nitpicking our art and entertainment to death. Great art and compelling stories shouldn’t have to fit into neat, little boxes of thought.  Interesting stories can’t be told when a writer and creator is hampered by potential social media outrage. At some point, will creative people just churn out blandness, because the boldness and brashness of truth hurts too many feelings? I fear that this inclination will water down our culture’s art and entertainment.  I’m old enough to remember a time when it was cool to be edgy, dark and fucked up.

We have a right to call out something as offensive and vulgar, but it shouldn’t stop someone from creating it. Writers should attempt to get things correct and do proper research when dealing with potentially sensitive issues and that shouldn’t get in the way of telling stories.  But some would argue that media shouldn’t ever show instances of sexism, racism, homophobia, etc…, but how can artist tell stories about the realities of these things, without fear of offending the easily offended.  How can a story show transformation and transcendence without illustrating bad or problematic stuff in an early part of the story or narrative arc?

Television, movies, and music shouldn’t lose the ability to be edgy. Brutal stories can enlighten us to harsh truths about our world and culture. Off-color jokes can make us think about ourselves and the world in different ways. Sometimes art needs to be offensive, violent, twisted, strange, evil, to make us think.

I hope that this movement in academia and fandom doesn’t suppress great and interesting ideas, media and art. I hope that artists listen to critics, but stay true to their creative visions in the end.  I want to live in a world where interesting and complex stories to be told without social or political pressure.

I’m less about critique these days as it sit back and enjoy the ride, even if it is outside of my comfortable or preferred worldview. That is where good storytelling happens.

Television

7 Shipping Safety Tips

I was at #TVDChicago this past weekend. I was in the room when this was said:

Ian: “Shipping is the most dangerous thing that I’ve ever seen.”

Paul: “More dangerous that guns or crack?”

Ian: “No shipping questions.”

This little exchange got many in The Vampire Diaries fandom all fired up. Many took it personally, because it hit too close to home. I am invested in the relationship between Damon and Elena and ship them as a couple. They are my OTP, but I hope that I do it in a thoughtful and respectful way. 

That being said, Ian has a point. Over time, this segment of the fandom has become more and more militant and mean spirited. I have felt that it has lost its sense of fun and is full of bad vibes. I’m often fearful of some fans jumping down my throat for making a simple tweet that isn’t inline with the mob mentality. I am past the point of caring and realize that I’m going to get hate for writing this. So here it goes. 

I’ve shipped television couples in the past, present and probably will in future. I even mention that as part of my Twitter profile, “shipping television couples since the 1900s.” Come to think of it, I may have been shipping TV couples, like Mulder/Scully and Spike/Buffy, before many of my friends and foes in the Delena fandom were even born.  
As someone who is a bit older and experienced, I’ve used this wisdom to come up with a list of shipping safety tips. If we are to believe Ian about the dangerous of this pursuit, we should use caution and do it safely and sanely. 

  1. Never ship real people. Just ship characters. Some Delena folks, are still obsessed with Nian. It’s fine to advocate for Damon and Elena, it is not fine to advocate for Ian and Nina. Let the actors live their own lives. Why should he or anyone care about what you think of his love life? You have no business to make comments in real life relationships, especially because you don’t know the whole story. Don’t be your elderly aunt that tries to push you towards your ex. Wouldn’t you hate it if people kept harping on you about a past relationship? Ian is married to someone else, so let’ shut up about it. It isn’t respectful to anyone. 
  2. Don’t let shipping get in the way of your enjoyment of the show. If you view everything with a shipping lens, especially on a show like TVD that is oriented toward romantic relationships, you’re going to have a bad time. To make things interesting people, and relationships must have ups and downs, obstacles and curve balls. Hate to break it to you, but narratively a functional, healthy relationship lacks conflict and drama. Happiness is a very boring story. I want a Delena endgame, but keeping them apart is good for the show. What made the relationship so awesome in seasons 1 through 3 is they were not together, although we desperately wanted them to be. That longing is what made the initial emotional connection. Once they got together, other tension was brought in with the sire bond, Damon’s bad behavior, and now the “sleeping beauty” curse. It keeps it dynamic and interesting. 
  3. Don’t sabotage a show because you are not getting your own way. I found it crazy that many are trying to sabotage the show after Nina left. You know, not watching live to bring the ratings down or watching pirated feeds. I’ve also known of people not using the hashtag during the show intentionally to keep it from trending. Don’t be a dumbass and ruin it for everyone else.  If you do this, you are a spoiled brat.
  4. Realize that people are much more than just a romantic partner. As a feminist, it is disturbing that so many people are obsessed with defining characters and people by his/her significant other. We are more than who we love. We are much more that who we go to bed with or want to go to bed with. There are so many aspects of a person than sex and love. People and characters, shouldn’t be reduced to that. It is a sad that some young women are so oriented in this direction. One of the “lemons out of lemonade” thing of Elena being in that coffin in we get to discover who Damon is without the interactions with her. Who he is as a friend to Bonnie, a drinking buddy to Alaric, a brother to Stefan and so on. 
  5. Be respectful of other people’s opinions. It is okay to disagree with people and let others know how you feel. Learn how to be articulate in expressing yourself and your arguments on social media. State your case, use supporting facts, and maybe you’ll find people that agree with you and others might think that you’re crazy, but that’s okay. Most people just spew hate with an entitled sense of their own opinions. It makes you look dumb, superficial and reduces Delena fans into the stereotype that Ian (and frankly I) don’t like and find destructive. 
  6. Don’t be a divider. Ship wars create factions. We all like the same show. Who cares if we like Delena or Bamon? We can watch it and love it for different reasons, but we are one group. Don’t hate on the actor if you don’t like the character. Don’t hate on the writers if you don’t get your way. It’s like Twitter is a junior high and some fandom groups are catty meangirl cliques. Let’s celebrate out similarities, not obsess about our differences. Don’t be a bitchy bully. 
  7. Be along for the ride. A long term television series is a journey. Rememberer that you as a fan or you as part of a collective fandom have little say on the content or direction on the show. You might have a delusion of power, because of this social media culture. If you think that your thoughts and storylines are better than a show, you can write fan-fiction or get into television writing and production and make your own damn show and make it the way that you want it to go. 

Keep your shipping safe, for mind, body and soul.

Television, Uncategorized

The Walking Dead and Binge Watching Brats

***SPOILERS BELOW***

I know some people are going to hate this, but it needs to be said.

A-veruca-saltSaying that the fan reaction to The Walking Dead Season Finale is mixed is generous. Some fans (like me) loved the tension of not knowing who Negan’s victim was. Others were so viscerally angry about it. The not knowing pissed them off to no end. There are threats not to watch the show. Online complaints and virtual temper tantrums. This shows me that many TV viewers have no tolerance for cliffhangers. Some members of the audience remind me of Verruca in Willy Wonka, demanding to be entertained on his/her terms and on his/her timeline.

That big backlash reaction is a bit puzzling to me. Maybe I’ve been around the block enough times to know that cliffhangers are a common practice on television, especially on season finales. News flash, but this is how it rolls. People seem to forget this because we live in an on-demand culture. We want it now. Instant gratification!

I’ve been binge watching The X-Files with my Mom who hadn’t watch the series before. On a few cliffhanger seasons finales, I said something like, “back in the day, I had to wait all summer to see what happens.” And at that moment, we just had to wait for the 30-seconds for Netflix to load the next episode. Has this binging culture has made people have less patience for cliffhangers?

I also understand that this moment on The Walking Dead was hyped up for awhile. For weeks, we knew that the season would lead up to this moment and I went in fully prepared to not find out who got his/her head smashed in. If you recall, we had to wait for weeks and weeks to know if Glenn had died or escaped under that dumpster. Or not knowing how the group was going to get Terminus box car all summer long? Why is not knowing who died here surprising to anyone who has watched multiple seasons of The Walking Dead or any sort of television?  This ending shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who has been paying attention.

If you don’t like the way this was handled, this may not be the show for you. Maybe you’re the type of person that should just stick to watching old TV shows. Or find entertainment that is less raw. Your behavior makes you seem like a big baby, Judith is way much more badass than you are.

screen_shot_2016-04-03_at_7.43.21_pmFrom a narrative perspective, it wasn’t stupid or gimmicky to leave it open ended.  What would knowing who died really prove? How would seeing someone’s bashed and bloody head bring you a sense of real closure? How would’ve made it better? What could we do with that information until next season? Would this give anyone time to be properly mourned or be fully eulogized? What comes next for our surviving characters is what season 7 will be about.

In this era of instant gratification, a big damn cliffhanger (for some) is maddening. People want easy answers and they want them now. There is something oddly brilliant of making people wait for answers and speculate.

Temper tantrums be damned.

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Dead Relationship? Better Show?

Spoilers for X-Files Revival Below…..

11855918_1669468169942528_4939424704745044495_nAs a woman who lies about her age, I reluctantly admit that I loved and watched The X-Files in it’s original run.  I just keep telling people that I was in elementary school when it was on television on the slight chance that they might believe me.  Needless to say, I’m trilled about the revival.

I loved the sexual tension between Mulder and Scully.  I shipped the couple that the term “shipping” was coined.  The whole “will they or won’t they” dynamic added to the aliens, monsters and conspiracy theories.

I can see traces of Mulder and Scully on current shows like Bones and Castle.  I was glad that they were “endgame” so to speak, but I’m glad that we didn’t have years of them investigating cases and being in love.  That is one reason why that later seasons of Bones and Castle haven’t been as good. There is little fun in a happy couples hunting for killers and paranormal monsters. There is no flirty chase left when you know they are together every night.

People are now upset they they will be uncoupled for the revival series.  I feel like it can bring a new excitement to their dynamic to their relationship and the show.  It wouldn’t be the show we know and fangirl over if they were in a married-couple-not getting any-groove or happy little love birds.

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Je suis Charlie Bradbury

Charlie B.Je suis Charlie Bradbury.  I am Charlie. Strong, quirky, geeky, smart…. Plus, she’s a redhead, so I relate.  And I love Felicia Day, too.

Charlie  is also another female character killed on Supernatural.  I didn’t want to believe It. I had a smidgen of hope, until the previews revealed that it as final and real. Although, I was shocked,  I should’ve seen it coming. Supernatural has a track record of killing really cool recurring characters.

There as been tons of critique about the show and if having  lady parts is equivalent to wearing a Star Trek red shirt uniform.   I’m not here to debate the representation of women on TV or the misogynistic aspects of Supernatural.  I do think that women have the short end of the stick in the ‘verse.

That is beside the point I want to make here, because people get a death sentence on SPN  for just  having an emotional tie to the Winchester brothers.  I love Sam and Dean and understand that they are the leads, the SPN world literally revolves around the brothers.

What bothers me about Charlie’s and other deaths on Supernatural, is that her death is not about  the completion of her story arc.  It didn’t seemed earned or compelling. Her death isn’t about HER at all. It is about Sam and Dean and how her loss effects THEM.  It gives the brothers motivation to kick ass and take names. It is a catalyst to move the plot along.

It gives such an empty feeling to the audience, because her life is portrayed as disposable. I bet that in the season finale, it will be a big deal, but it will only take a few episodes next season for her to be virtually forgotten.  She’ll be brought up from time to time, like John and Bobby, but such is life on Supernatural. She deserves better, but it’s the nature of the show and the reality of being a friend of the Winchesters.

Now that I think about it, I’m not Charlie. I’m luckier, because I don’t really know Sam and Dean and don’t live in the fictional world of Supernatural.

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A Nice Day for a Dull Wedding

Featured imageYou know what they say, “a Dothraki wedding without at least three deaths is considered a dull affair.” That quote could be said about all weddings in Westeros on Game of Thrones. So last night’s wedding between King Tomlin and Margaery Tyrell rates high on the boring scale. Even the honeymoon night was bland.

The Red Wedding was bloody, gory and tragic. The death at the Purple Wedding was something that made many fans rejoice. Maybe Sansa and Ramsey will have a tragic bloodbath at that big upcoming wedding?

I’m trying to wrap my head around why weddings and death are so symbolically connected in the Game of Thrones verse. The one thing that I see that it is a big lifestyle change. It’s the end of something, but also the start of something new. Just like death and the unknown afterlife.