Friday, December 6, 2013

Dad's Phases

"Dad, I’m a fairy princess and I’m off to slay the dragon!"

"That sounds exciting. How do you beat a dragon?"

"I don’t know. I think you need a wand. Can you make me a wand?"

"The library might have some books on it. Want to come read them with me?"

- - -

"Dad, I’m gay."


"Look, I know you’re upset about it."

"I'm not. How did you learn you were gay?"

"We were playing a game at a party. I know you’re upset."

"I’m really not, unless, wait, tell me more about this game."

- - -

"Dad, this is my boyfriend. His name is Vasily."

"So you're not gay anymore?"

"It’s called “bisexuality” Dad. God. Way to make a first impression."

"Pleased to meet you, Vasily. How did you meet my girl?"

- - -

"Dad, I’m not a girl."

"You’re not?"

"I never was, and I've known it since we started using lockers in Gym class. It’s why Mom and I don’t get along."

"Your mother thinks the world of you."

"You don’t notice anything, do you? You’re just in a little cis-cultured bubble."

"So you’re not a girl. What would you like to be called?"

"I don’t need your labels."

- - -

"Dad, I’m pregnant."


"I know. I’m not married, and I don’t want to be married. This is my choice."


"Dad? Are you mad?"

"No, I just forgot how to feel this way for a few years. It’s coming back to me."

"You’re so weird."

- - -

"Dad, I have cancer."

"…Okay. Okay, how do we beat it?"

"I don’t know."

"The library might have some books on it. Want to come read them with me?"

- - -

"Dad, I miss you."

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Kicking off #BestReads2013

You're cordially invited to share your favorite books of the year. Not what was published during the year, but you got to for the first time. The blog hop is a few weeks away, giving everyone time to check their lists twice.

Best Reads 2013 launches on Saturday, December 28th, the weekend after Christmas. Up until then, anyone on Twitter is invited to an open chat about their favorite books of the year using the hashtag #bestreads2013. If you’ve got a blog or Tumblr, you can post a list of your favorite books there, only make sure to come back and link it here by the 30th so I can include you in the master list. For those without Twitter or blogs, you're still welcome to discuss your favorites in the Comments section. Everyone is welcome, readers and authors alike.

So think on it. What are your favorite books that you read this year? Not what was written or published in 2012, but that you personally read and loved for the first time. Fiction, non-fiction, prose, poetry and sequential art are all welcome. I guarantee you at least one comic book will show up on my list. It's Middle Grade, too. My list will be between 5-15 books long, with 1-2 paragraphs for each entry on what I got out of them. You can handle the number and format as you like.

Feel free to launch questions below. We'll field them together.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Great Ways to Fail the Bechdel Test

Some comic by somebody talking about the Bechdel Test.
In the last year the Bechdel Test has received well-deserved scrutiny. The test is simple. Does your movie have:
a) two named female characters
b) who talk to each other
c) about something other than a man.

If the movie passes A, B, and C, it’s instantly a feminist and progressive. If it fails, it’s a piece of misogynist garbage.

Does that sound wrong? That’s because it is; I made up those consequences. Culturally, we’ve never decided what passing or failing the Bechdel Test means about an individual movie. The test has become dogma for some people, however, and once their numbers grew we got the reasonable pushback. Are Pacific Rim and Gravity truly faulty films? Are they anti-feminist? Are they the enemy for not being feminist enough?

Look: I like this test. It’s dumb, but it’s a tool that’s provoked me to check my own fiction. Novelists use this thing all the time, even if our industry has a slightly better batting record than Hollywood. Since taking it to heart I’ve written about the same number of women (they’ve always been big in my work), but I’ve been more conscious about having them interact with each other. My page count of my second novel is approximately one quarter women talking to each other, and having just admitted that, let me promise they’re mostly talking about flesh-eating robots and flying cities, so please don’t close this tab and run from your browser screaming.

Martin, Grossman, Butcher, Abercrombie: all the bravest female voices.

The Bechdel Test is fundamentally useful in at least one way. We’ll talk about that starting next paragraph, but living in the now, let’s confess that it’s unhelpful in at least one significant way: criticizing an individual film. Failing the Bechdel Test is never the reason a movie sucks. In most flawed movies, it’s one of a litany of shortcomings, and it’s usually not one of the integral shortcomings. And there are many good movies that shouldn’t have had anyone question whether the screenwriter should strive to pass the test. Milk is not an inferior film for lacking two women of significant agency talking about something other than the center of the bio-pic. Alien 3 is actually an interesting movie for featuring only one woman, and flawed as its execution is, in a series that puts so many angles on women, that film uses isolation among male convicts for provocation.

And yes, I realize Alien 3 is not a good movie, and this means there are flawed movies where screenwriters still shouldn’t have striven to pass the test, but alas we’re in the next paragraph and that means we need to talk about the fundamental value of the test. In-fighting about the Bechdel Test tends to derail from its helpful function: criticizing an endemic failure of entertainment industries.

Though I still think Daredevil was okay.
If you compare the number of conversations between men about anything in film to the number of conversations between women about anything in film, you immediately find a gross disparity. Shrink the field to conversations about something other than a man, and further by speakers who are important enough to be named characters, and the results are depressing. It’s not one movie’s fault. It’s systemic, and things like Bechdel’s criticism make us more aware. Rather than succumbing to rants, we need to act on our awareness to rectify this.

Before you tell me that you don’t want stories about anybody of any gender, and that you instead only want good stories, understand that I want good stories about everything. We only get good movies about women if we have lots of movies about women, because making good art is hard, and that means lots of people need chances to make it. Generations of girls deserve better than that. If we only get Elektra and Catwoman, then probably we’ll only get Elektra and Catwoman. Yeah, I’m nauseous too.

Ask me sometime about my major gripe with the Bechdel Test and I'll probably whine about the omission of women talking in groups. We all have our nits to pick. The test doesn’t tell you how many gay characters are in popular media, or how many women are writing and directing what you consume. That’s because it’s the test tests for one thing. That part of the Torah wouldn’t have been so useful as “The One Commandments”. It’s just a thing to have in mind as we consume and create art. And it’s only a good thing if we put it to good use.
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