Wake Up!

There have been a lot of talk about how Hollywood is going woke, which seems to mean to be aware of social issues. Nothing wrong with that. Climate change. Civil rights. Sexual equality. However, a lot of fandoms’ influencers are changing the word to mean something else, political agenda.

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I’m not sure if this is due to the #MeToo movement, where “I am woman hear me roar” is taking ground. Before you yell at me, I don’t have a problem with any story that has a strong female lead. My favorite is Ripley from Alien. Nothing about her character indicates that she’s a woman in a man’s role, despite the fact that it was originally written for a male actor. Alien, the movie, doesn’t have room for romance, however, Ripley doesn’t come charging out, kicking alien ass with her fists or her unearned skills with a weapon. What she uses to overcome the Xenomorph is her mind and her surroundings. In the end, human ingenuity overcame a formidable antagonist. She’s considered one of the best characters in film with good reason. The writing.

So, is fandom’s reaction to movies such as the 2016 Ghostbusters fitting?

The original is one of my favorite movies. As a kid, I watched it five times in the theater when tickets were $2.50 each. Yeah, I’ve been around. The comedy was situational, meaning the story created a lot of the humor. In the 2016 remake, the humor played to the audience, and when that happens, it isn’t funny.

One of the biggest mistakes was Chris Hemsworth’s role, Kevin. He’s the only male character in the Ghostbusters’ office, and to say that he’s an airhead would be putting it lightly. He’s outright stupid, but he’s hot. I mean, he’s Thor. I’m not sure what he added to the overall film, except to be eye candy for the four ladies. He doesn’t give them any revelations, doesn’t contribute to any plot point, doesn’t even contribute to what little humor there is in the remake. His purpose could be to contrast the intelligence of the women. So what does this say?

In order to highlight female strength and intelligence, men have to be put on a lower pedestal? If that were the case, then it’s utter crap. As human beings, we’re all equal. Some of us are taller. Some are more intelligent. Some guys have all the luck. That’s just how the dice rolls. 

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In Alien, there were men and women on the crew, and despite the hierarchy of command, everyone had an equal say in their survival. No one had to be illustratively stupid or weak, and everyone had an equal chance of dying. This made for compelling storytelling because plot armor wasn’t a thing with the first film.

With Disney taking over the reigns of Star Wars, they’ve created a character, Rei, who’s inexplicably skilled in everything that she does. She’s the definition of a Mary Sue. She can do no wrong, making all the right choices. This is also bad for womanhood because it suggests that to be a strong woman, you can’t make mistakes and must know everything. That’s impossible for any human.

Any good story will show that a character can overcome adversity, even one of their own making. Or that strength doesn’t have to come from having some sort of power be it physical or metaphysical. Cleverness is what peaks people’s interest. Again, I bring it back to Ripley. She doesn’t know how to kill the Xenomorph, but she knows she can’t physically take it on. No human can. By using her surroundings, namely the pressurized ship, she dips into a closet, puts on a space suit, sneaks over to a pilot seat, strapping herself in, and opens the airlock right before the Xenomorph can plunge its teeth in her. The monster is flushed out into space. Of course, the franchise used this method a lot, so...

Now we come to CW’s television series, Batwoman. They set Kate, the heroine, up as a lesbian street fighter. No issues here. And no, she doesn’t fight lesbians on the street. What the trailers show is how men have oppressed her throughout her life. Again no problems. Except that her reactions to those men seem heavy handed, meaning the audience can see the writers’ agenda. It’s one thing to have a message in your story. It’s quite another when people can feel the wokeness.

The first trailer makes obvious that Batwoman is about a strong woman in a male dominated world. That Kate will not take shit from any man. That this television show is about a strong woman. The trailer is dripping with this theme.

In the second trailer, Kate is shown giving money to a homeless woman. A man standing by the wall advises not to do that because it encourages them. Who’s them? The homeless? The homeless women? Not sure. But Kate smirks and gives the homeless woman her watch, then get’s on her motorcycle, smiling as if she showed him. Not sure what’s she’s smiling about because the man’s tone wasn’t derogatory. Her reaction didn’t match the motivation.

The fandom were roasting the two trailers. Men and women. Because the writing was manipulated into communicating an agenda. For me, women aren’t strong because men are idiots. Women are strong because they’re capable of amazing things. That’s it.

Now, Hollywood has turned up the heat, as seen at this year’s San Diego Comic Con. Strong female leads are flooding the market. There’s a female Bond. A female Thor. A female Spider-Man—Spider-Woman. A female Wonder Woman! Sorry. Again, I have no problems with this. What will be interesting to see is if the writing will be good or not. From the Batwoman trailers, the writing for the CW series may be shitty. I could be wrong.

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The other issue is the backlash the fandom is getting from the suits. One example of this—there are many—is from Tim Miller, director of the new Terminator film, Dark Fate. In a Variety interview, he mentioned that the Terminator movies have a trinity of main characters, one of which is the protector. In the original Terminator, Kyle Reese was sent back in time to protect Sara Connor. Dark Fate will have a female protector. The poster featuring the actress, Mackenzie Davis, had gotten a lot of hate speech. Tim’s response:

If you’re at all enlightened, she’ll play like gangbusters. If you’re a closet misogynist, she’ll scare the fuck out of you, because she’s tough and strong but very feminine. We did not trade certain gender traits for others; she’s just very strong, and that frightens some dudes. You can see online the responses to some of the early shit that’s out there, trolls on the internet. I don’t give a fuck.

It’s obvious he gives a fuck.

But not all of the backlash was hate. People seemed to be tired of the gender switching because they’re linking it to a woke Hollywood and bad writing.

There’s also another aspect. The entertainment industry is a business, and it’s a crapshoot one at that. Studios have invested hundreds of millions to see little to no returns, and often times losing out big time. But when they continually rehash a franchise, people get upset because they know it’s a cash grab. And the fans who see the film feel shitty for spending their hard earned money on a story that seemed to be pieced together by hacks.

To be fair, we shouldn’t judge Dark Fate until it’s released because we don’t if the story is good or not. But a combination of forcing an agenda into the writing, cash grabs and uncreativity have begun to piss off a lot of people. And the suits have taken notice because they’re responding much like Tim has.

One last thing...today, fans have a bigger voice than ever before. Due to YouTube and social media, their voices can be broadcasted cheaply and easily. Some are getting a big enough following that the suits have no choice but to listen. Personally, that’s a great thing. Hopefully, it’ll force the suits to just run the business and let the artists stretch their creative minds.

Resist!

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Resist! Ban! Boycott! This is crap! These were some of the words screamed from nerds far and wide when they saw The Last Jedi. I was definitely one of those nerds, prompting me to explore one of the reasons the film sucked. What I didn't think would happen were the fans' boycott of Solo: A Star Wars Story. Occasionally, I'll see YouTube recommendations on the subject of the fan backlash and news that Disney is pulling out before committing themselves to another evil stepchild of a Star Wars movie.

One vlog asked the question whether Rei is a Mary Sue, a character that can do no wrong and is good at everything. The vlogger did a much better job than I, proving why she is. And it's not about gender. For me, it's about the character set up.

This particular vlog had mentioned that Disney execs stated that the ensuing films would clear up why Rei is the way she is. This is bad storytelling.

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In fiction, be it book, film or TV, the suspension of disbelief is a willingness to suspend one's critical faculties and believe something surreal. The reader/viewer goes into fiction with this already built in. Meaning, when an audience goes to see a film, they know that everything on the screen is fake, but they've put that knowledge aside. They want to be taken on a rollercoaster ride. They want to feel the ups and downs of the characters without risking anything themselves. So it falls to the storyteller to maintain that suspension of disbelief. Otherwise, the audience will be taken out of the experience because they'll inherently question the logic of the story.

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't. —Mark Twain

In The Force Awakens (TWA), Rei as a character wasn't set up well. She's never been off planet, she's not part of any military, and her parents are unknown to her, and as a result, to the audience. She's great at taking things apart, but that doesn't make her a great pilot. So when she's able to fly the Millennium Falcon like a seasoned veteran, the audience will naturally wonder how and why.

Getting back to the Disney execs. The idea that the following film(s) will show why Rei is good at everything is bad storytelling. At this point, it's too late. This has to be done first in TWA in order to support the logic for the following events. Try going to a bank and have them give you a loan before you can prove that you can pay it back. Common. I dare ya.

Well, Jimmy, have you heard of subprime loans that caused the 2008 financial crisis?

Yeah, but we've learned our lesson and banks ain't gonna do that again.

Uh...not so fast my slanty-eyed friend. Subprimes are back!

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Still, the fan backlash is real. The low box office numbers for the following film, The Last Jedi, supports it. And, of course, Solo couldn't escape the bad storytelling decisions Disney had made. Solo flopped in the box office, despite it being a better film.

For me, each novel or film has to be contained in and of itself. They can have cliff hangers. But the arc of the character/story should be complete. And they can lead to another arc or be a part of a greater arc. I've been very conscious of that when writing my novels. This is the keystone to why I love story. And of course to get chics. That has not worked out well. They don't seem to care that I'm an artiste.

Great Expectations

 "Expectations. That's one of the reasons why they fail," I said. I was talking to a group about relationships.

"Women expect certain things from men. Like how men should remember the tiny details of their lady's lives. Because if they don't, then somehow the relationship isn't going well."

Some of the women thought about this, but I wasn't sure if they agreed.

So I continued, "Or if a couple is married, the wife is not obligated to have sex with her husband if she doesn't feel like it." He would expect it, of course. "But there's no law stating she has to. So if the husband forces himself on her, it's rape."

A woman then said, "But we have to deal with reality."

I wasn't sure what she meant by that as our conversation was interrupted. But she might have meant that if it had been the married couple's anniversary, then they should celebrate it. Or if they had kids, then both the mother and father would be expected to care for them equally.

Sometimes shit happens, life gets in the way, and things don't happen to plan.

I key in on the word 'reality' because it varies moment by moment. But how?

I met up with a friend I hadn't seen for a while, and he told me he had a hell of a year.

"2016 has been relentless."

Life had shit on him. Our friends had shit on him. None of them wanted to celebrate his birthday, so I offered, took him out to dinner at a sports bar.

"I'm thinking of moving to Seattle," he said.

"Why?" I asked.

"Have you noticed that white women don't want to be with Asian men here?"

"No. I've seen plenty of white women with Asian men."

He gave me a look like I was telling him a far-fetched lie.

I told him that our minds filter out a lot of stuff from the world.

"If I asked you to count all the blue things at the bar, you'd only look for blue things. Right?"

He nodded.

"How many red things would you have noticed?"

"I get your point."

Reality is determined by what we want to see and not necessarily what is in the world. Because everything is in the world. The good. The bad. And the ugly. But our conscious minds cannot handle everything. So it filters out almost all of it, giving us what we think is reality.

And moving to Seattle or any other place wouldn't have change my friend's reality because he'd take his filter, or prejudice, with him. But once he drops this filter, this mindset, then it doesn't matter where he is, he'll be able to change his reality on the go.

This applies to relationships too.

My first girlfriend had asked, "Do you remember the song that was playing on the radio when we first made out?"

I hesitated, scouring my mind for that song, a process made harder because I don't remember names to songs. This was during the age of cassette tapes. That's TAPES. iPods had yet to be invented where songs were displayed on a monochromatic display. Not only that, other processes in my body were taking place as my senses were filled with new experiences I had only imagined. So remembering a vague song wasn't on my list of priorities in that moment.

But she had wanted assurances that I loved her, that every minute we spent together was treasured by me. So if I remembered the name of that song, then in her mind, I loved her. And that was simply not true. Despite my inability to recall the name of the song, I did love her.

In contrast, she had glossed over me taking her to Disneyland for her first time. She loved all things Disney. Her room was full of memorabilia: stuffed animals, posters, movies. It was a Disney store.

For our first Christmas, I had bought some Disney dollars and gifted them to her as a hint to where I would be taking her that weekend. It took her a little bit, but she realized where we were going. She wasn't as excited as I thought she would be, and I was disappointed with that.

Now, a lot of women would say, "It's the little things that count."

Okay, gurlfriend. I had seen that she loved Disney. Heard her telling me she'd never been to The Happiest Place On Earth. Found a creative way to tell her. And scraped enough money to take her.

She saw this grand gesture, but she didn't see the little things that led up to it. I thought I had dun good. That's DUN. Past tense of...uh...

For me to have had expected her to jump for joy and run around and scream her head off with the prospect of going to Disneyland for her first time was wrong. Whether she was excited or not didn't say anything about me. She had been dealing with something difficult in her life, and I needed to understand that. That is how I should have shown love.

I'm not saying don't have expectations. Have them. But be aware that when they aren't met, other things could be going on that are outside of our sight and control. From this place, peace can be had because when our expectations aren't met, it's often out of our hands.