Strong Female Protagonist

According to the Legend of Joss Whedon, during an interview he was asked why he creates so many strong female characters. He responded, “Because you asked that question.” 

I write a lot of female characters—the main character in my six-and-growing unpublished book series is a woman. The villain in my fan fiction is a woman. But I’m not doing it to be political. I’m doing it because, “Why not?”  

My fanfic villain was conceived to be a man, but as I sat down to write, I scribbled an “S” in front of “he,” and now she is menacing the sweet holy hell out of Connor MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, but as a petite, frequently underestimated Native American woman as opposed to the imposing badass I’d first considered. Why did I add the “S” in the first place? Because part of the character’s origin is in their spouse getting murdered, and do we really need another dead wife? 

The thing is, it’s not that hard to write women. I don’t know why the entertainment world has such a problem with it. Yes, there are differences between the genders that, as a cis het-male I’ll never fully understand, but I can always ask. And even so, the real lesson here is that there are more similarities than differences between men and woman from a character-building standpoint. Men and women both want things, and as long as you understand that, for women, these wants don’t stop at pretty dresses and a man, you’re on the right track. 

So yeah, if somehow my books got out in the world and I was asked about my female protagonists, the first thing I’d say is, “You know who could write women better than me, even? A woman.” Then I’d say, “Women are people. Try writing people. I don’t see why this needs to be spelled out for you.” 

The “Why not” principal also works for races that aren’t yours, as well as sexualities. Just don’t make cartoons out of characters, and you’ll be fine. 


Surely You Jest

Don’t read the comments.  

I just perused a column where the writer posited the question, re: the new Joker movie, do we really, in this day and age, need a movie about an aggrieved white man who murders a bunch of people because of perceived injustices? The comments were instantly full of a bunch of oversensitive snowflakes (i.e. white men on the Internet) were upset because the writer pointed out that the Joker was a white man. But then there were a few comments that made me want to be the Picard WTF meme, the ones that said, “You haven’t even seen the movie! How do you know it’s about a white man murdering a bunch of people? That’s not what the previews say it is.” 

So let me get this straight. You think that a movie called Joker, about one of the most famous mass murderers in comic book and cinema history, rated R, produced by Martin Scorcese, starring Robert DeNiro, set in a New York analogue in the eighties, is not going to be about a man murdering people? What do you think it’s about? A man who is beaten down by society (this is in the previews, by the way), puts on clown makeup, and the world is a happy place?  

But that question is pointless because yours came from a place of intellectual dishonesty. You know the movie is about a white male killing spree, and you’re just being argumentative because your feelings, as a white man, are hurt, and you have no real counterpoint. 

I’m just not interested in Joker because it doesn’t look interesting to me. I’ve seen these rampage movies before, and grease paint isn’t a really novel way of telling the same old story. And the Joker is a character that, like Batman, I think we’ve seen enough of. Also, in Todd Phillips’ filmography, Old School was the only movie I really liked. I know that puts me in the minority. The Internet is really excited about this movie, and God bless them. I hope they love it. But don’t tell me that it’s not about a disenfranchised white man murdering a bunch of people, because that makes you full of shit. 

Phantom Vapors

I have been smelling a phantom, hallucinatory scent for about two years. It smells like someone mixed gas and barbecue sauce together and set it on fire. It’s pretty rare, maybe once or twice a month for an hour, so I didn’t think much of it, but I told my psychiatrist about it a few months ago. He did a ton of research and crossed the medications I’m taking off of the possible causes, and he has referred me to a neurologist, who I will be seeing next month.  

I’m not worried about having a tumor or anything. Like I said, it’s so infrequent that I barely even think it’s a thing. What I am worried about is cost. If I’m prescribed an MRI, how the hell am I supposed to afford that? I don’t have a steady job (but I still make too much for Medicaid), and my insurance is garbage.  

I allegedly live in the greatest country in the world with a health care system that I have been assured by those in power is also the best in the world, yet a procedure that would be a minor inconvenience to a Canadian or anyone from Europe is cost-prohibitive. If I do have a tumor, I’m screwed.  

My appointment is September 16. What happens after that is up in the air. God bless the USA. 

Fic Fic Hurray!

I’ve stated in the past that I would never write fan fiction before sitting down and writing fan fiction, but I want to clarify something. My own reticence about doing it doesn’t mean that I hate it. On the contrary, I think fan fiction is one of the best products of the Internet.  

In a time when pop culture looms large, fan fiction allows people to really dive into the characters who are such a big part of their lives. A lot of fan fiction is erotica or relationship porn because exploring that aspect of life with beloved characters is something that helps people understand that side of their own lives.  

It also teaches writers how to write—rather than making big, rookie mistakes on your own characters and plots, which you would be super invested in, you can use someone else’s and really learn. You get a lot of feedback for it too, and most of it is positive and constructive. It’s the educational aspect that is responsible for the quality complaints Internet denizens have, but honestly, Leonardo Da Vinci’s first drawings and sculptures probably looked like hammered shit. They’re getting better. 

And then there’s the political aspect of it. The main reasons trolls hate fan fiction so much is that it’s the domain of young women. Even though it’s the twenty-first century, girls don’t get a lot of encouragement to do what they want to do, and fan fiction boards are friendly places telling them that they can. Anything that helps young women and tells them that they’re good is healthy and important. 

I’m writing Highlander fan fiction because the Highlander was my favorite movie when I was a teenager. I love the characters, I love the world, and I love all the little rules, and I have questions that I feel like I should ask (even if I don’t answer them because part of the world-building of the franchise is that these questions have no answers). I wanted to write dialogue like this: “So you keep saying you can’t die, but that guy over there with his head missing is very dead. You, sir, are a big, fat liar.” 

Basically I’m a fan of fan fiction, and if you’re writing some, or you have kids who are writing some, you have me behind you, with pom-poms. 

Shooting off my Mouth

I’m a coward. I have got some solid, powerful opinions about the world right now, and I am afraid to share them. That’s mostly because I can’t argue for shit. That was a pretty frequent feature in my marriage, and it comes across on the Internet as well. I know that, if I express myself online with something I believe in strongly, one of my friends will disagree with me, and I won’t be able to adequately express why I believe they’re wrong (lack of evidence is my usual sin), and I’ll look stupid. I recently saw a friend post that she didn’t want anybody arguing with her as she expressed her perfectly rational fear given the frequency of gun massacres, and one of her friends posted, “I can think of several points where you’re dead wrong, but I won’t argue with you because you said not to.” That kind of thing would ruin my entire day. I don’t want to have my raw feelings that I’m expressing to my friends challenged by someone, and I don’t want to challenge anyone else’s either. 

I know that the likelihood of being killed in a shark attack is slim. It’s even slimmer because I never go more than shin-deep into the ocean whenever I’m there. I’m more likely to be hit by a bus, and I jaywalk all the time. And I know that I am statistically not likely to be killed in a mass shooting. But I do know that nowhere is safe. Shopping, movie theaters, church, school, none of these places are safe. Statistics would not save me if someone with a bump stock walked into The Container Store. I know that a lot of these massacres would not have been prevented with the gun laws that are being proposed and passed. I know that an AR-15, the Big Man Rifle of choice, isn’t technically an “assault weapon” so Sandy Hook wouldn’t have been prevented. Also, he stole the weapon from his law-abiding mother, so background checks wouldn’t have worked on him.  

But I’m a believer that a mother in Connecticut had zero reason to own a military-style rifle in the first place. See, you hear that knives kill people. Look at Charlottesville—a guy without a gun went on a killing rampage. But cars have a purpose outside of killing people, and they regulate the hell out of those. Fertilizer has a purpose outside of killing people, but after Tim McVeigh killed over a hundred people with it, they regulated that really quickly. Handguns and military-style and assault rifles are created for one purpose: to kill people. You can kill deer with them, I guess, but they already have rifles for those. You can go target shooting with them, which is a lot of fun, and I wonder if I’ll be able to do it again. 

A few years ago, after the Aurora, Colorado massacre, a friend on Livejournal complained about how gun laws hurt the wrong people, because her husband couldn’t make a working replica of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s shotgun in Terminator 2. In the interests of keeping the peace and because I’m a coward, I didn’t respond, but if I did, I would have said, “So what?” So what if you can’t have the replica of a gun from a science fiction movie that could literally blow someone’s skull off of their body. Why am I supposed to feel sorry about that? I can’t kill someone with marijuana, and that’s illegal. But I kept that to myself because I like these people. 

Another reason I don’t argue is because I probably don’t have anything productive to say. Every single time I see someone post that these massacres were only caused because they happened in gun-free zones, or if they were there with their concealed carry permit, everything would have been fine, I don’t want to debate with them. I don’t want to trade facts and statistics, I just want to call them a moron. I have a great imagination and fantasy life, and they’re imposing theirs on a situation where people pointlessly died. Do they believe this is an action movie? That more bullets flying around is going to keep people safe? That, if they miss, that bullet isn’t going to go somewhere else, possibly into a panicking, fleeing shopper? 

Seriously, what is the deal with this country and guns?