Let's get real here, gang, the world looks like shit. Girl has runs in her stockings, her makeup's a hot mess and that hair is fried. Between the terrorist attacks around the world, Brexit, the American election, the tensions between police and citizens.... just what? What is there left? Celebrity gossip? I just don't think this Swift girl is good for my Thomas, and that's all I can stand.
You guys said that instead of Flash Friday, you wanted to see an essay on something near and dear to my heart. So here ya go, loves. Let me know what you want to see in 2 weeks: flash or an essay?? Think about the last thing you watched on television. Was it a football game? A sitcom? News? Maybe you don't take commercial tv, but prefer Netflix or a similar streaming service. Did you check out the new hotness? Or catch up on an old favorite? Are you thinking about it? That last thing you watched? Now, I have another question for you: did you see yourself there? Were you represented in the show? How about the commercials? Were you there?
Unless you're a cisgendered (your biological sex and your gender match) white hetero able-bodied human with a very specific BMI and body shape, probably not.
Now, there's a very public discussion at the moment about racial diversity in film, what with the Academy Awards nominations coming out with nary a minority to be found. We've talked for years about ethnic roles in adaptations being given to white people, or transgender characters being played by cis (typically white) males. Even in female-centric films, men still have more speaking time.
There's more to diversity than race and gender, to be sure, but right now these are the issues at the fore of the societal conversation. Media--books, television, films, advertisements, toys--all have a problem. The majority of these things do not represent most people.
"Why is it important?" I hear you asking.
Media is a mirror. It reflects our society's values, tells us what is "good", what is "bad". Media influences our thinking from what brand of cereal to buy this week at the story, to which political candidate we should vote for. Media tells us what is "normal", and what we should be in order to be a working cog in the societal machine.
When you don't see yourself reflected in that mirror, it can be damaging as fuck to a psyche. It makes you question your identity, can leave you feeling adrift and alone with no guidepost or role model. It can make you feel LESS THAN.
It's important to see a black super hero like Falcon, or a Muslim heroine like Kamala Khan, a wheel-chair bound Batgirl like Oracle, or a black Disney princess like Tiana. You want children to believe they can be more, be anything? They need to see that represented in print, on screen and in the toy aisle. They need to see themselves in positive places of power, roles with agency and control. You want a black woman to excel and become president? Show her that she can. You want oppressed people to rise up? Show them it's possible. Hell, Sesame Street understood that in the late '60s and still does!
I was excited as hell after watching one episode of Jessica Jones. Look, I'm 5'11'' and weigh over 250 pounds (thanks PCOS!). I watch an Avengers flick and I don't see myself there. I will never be the agile femme fatale like Black Widow. I'm not a soldier like Maria Hill. Though I adore her, I am too bohemian and coarse to be Peggy Carter. I have no interest in being a power CEO like Pepper Potts, nor can I personally identify with Scarlet Witch.
But Jessica Jones? While she is portrayed as skinnier and way more alcoholic than me, I see myself here. I see myself in her snark, her profanity, her "I don't give a shit if I wear the same pants for a week" mentality. I see myself in her struggle to survive the psychological abuse of Killgrave, her very real PTSD. I watch Jessica Jones and think for a moment, "yeah, I can be that heroine."
I cried when I saw The Force Awakens last month. My daughter and I were sitting beside one another while a woman took up a lightsaber in a franchise that is (historically) terrible for women. My daughter and I were there in that character. Finally. We could be Jedi. (Just for one day.)
Black roles are generally given to sidekicks. Largely they are a token role that could be played by someone white, as their race has little influence on their character. The exception being something that chooses a stereotypical portrayal of a black person, or a historical film that discusses slaves or Moors.
Asian characters are typically martial arts gurus, fetishized, or both. If neither of the above, you're a computer expert or really good at math.
Indian? Smart character. Socially awkward. Butt of jokes. Or you work in a 7-11. If you're female, you're "exotic".
Latino/Latina? We will not differentiate between Columbian vs Honduran vs Mexican vs Puerto Rican etc and so forth, because that would mean we'd have to learn something. You're the silly friend, the drug lord or John Leguizamo who is both.
Native/Indigenous people? If we mention your race at all (without mistaking you as Latino/Latina), you're sagelike and wise. Or drunk. Or in a historical film and will likely die of cholera, small pox, or an arrow wound.
Fat? You're the plucky, funny best friend with a heart of gold. You are probably Amy Schumer or Melissa McCarthy since Janeane Garafalo go out of the game. But, on the plus side, Mattel has released a series of new Barbies with different body types. Only took 57 years.
In a wheelchair, or otherwise disabled? Yeah, the movie isn't going to be about you, but instead about how brave you are to overcome all obstacles. You can't just be a person, we have to fetishize your disability. LEGO has decided to release mini-figs with wheelchairs, though.
Gay? You get characters now, but you're going to either share exposure with an ensemble cast, or be a supporting character. We won't focus on you, and if we do we will make it all about your gayness rather than your humanity. You will always be the snarky friend in a rom-com. Sorry.
Then there's erasure to deal with. So many parts of real people are swept under the rug or dismissed, assuming they make it on the screen or page at all.
Bisexuals? Sorry! We're either portrayed as capricious children who can't make up our minds, confused kids jumping on a bandwagon, greedy, or liars. And we'll never be the lead in a rom-com unless the plot is about how we are "forced to choose". We will only ever be object lessons.
Transgender? You're probably going to be a male-to-female character (because we can understand a woman wanting to become a man, but can't fathom a dude turning in his privilege of his own accord to be female). You may be degenerate, a villain or a laughable parody. Or you're a blatant Oscar grab for a cis male who will be seen as "so brave" for taking such a role.
Non-binary? Good luck. If you exist at all outside of niche media, you will only be background, or you'll be in an indie film starring Tilda Swinton (the goddess of androgyny) and featuring an all Bowie soundtrack.
Mental illness? No, we just need to pop a pill or try harder. Society doesn't talk about mental illness. (I was happy about Silver Linings Playbook being a bit new on this front, but we can do better.) The mentally ill characters in media are deviants, villains or object lessons.
Similarly, the Autistic Spectrum doesn't get much love. You're likely to find someone like Benedict Cumberbatch playing it off ambiguously as part of the ridiculously smart character. However, there is a character on the popular tween cartoon Monster High. Ghoulia Yelps is a "zombie", but she is a positive depiction of a girl on the Spectrum who is still valued by her friends and treated no differently than others.
Polyamory? HA! No. We get "Sister Wives" and "Big Love" bullshit on TLC that is all but mocking plural relationships. Or articles with pictures of people holding hands behind someone else's back, implying that polyamory is adultery by any other name.
Not only is the representation in film/books flawed, it also doesn't give an accurate depiction of the world. There are more minorities than the typical blockbuster would have you believe. The reality posited by even television and print media is flawed. Your common news anchors are less racially diverse than the communities they cover. That magazine was photoshopped and otherwise manipulated to the point that we aren't seeing any truth. Reality television isn't. Print ads are distorted.
Make It Your Own.
I know I've got it easier than some by sheer dint of being white and cisgendered. There are certainly more of us in the media than, say, a trans dude, or a black non-binary amputee. But frankly, I've come to a point in my life where I'm fucking exhausted by media telling me I'm not good enough. I'm not the "right" body type. I don't have the "right" kind of job. I'm the "wrong" sexuality. My gender is "less than". I'm tired of trying to find myself in a media that refuses to acknowledge my existence.
I'm a curvy, bisexual, polyamorous artist who uses the word "fuck" like it's punctuation. I'm not between sizes or trying to lose weight. I'm not lazy, nor am I unaware of my size and the potential repercussions on my health. (I have a disorder that causes problems with my reproductive and metabolic systems among other things.) I'm "fat", and that doesn't make me less beautiful.
I have one child and lack the desire (and now the ability) to have more. And I'm okay with this. That doesn't make me less of a woman.
I am bisexual and polyamorous. I am attracted to people. I am not capriciously sexual. I find a good, deep conversation more orgasmic than sex. I am not a liar, adulteress or in any way less than ethical.
I am an artist. I don't have a traditional day job. That doesn't mean I can't contribute to society, my family or the world. My joy in being an artist does not make me less worthy.
I'm tired of trying to find myself in the mirror of the media. So I've done a few things about this.
For starters, I write the media I want to see. I write diverse characters who are more than just a race or label. I write them with those things in mind, but the character is more than skin tone or sexual orientation.
Another part of that is being more authentic. Since I stared posting blogs in 2000, I made it a point to be myself. What you see is what you get. While things in my life have changed and I do keep many aspects of my life private, I prefer to be open about who I am. We need authenticity in the world. People need to see reflections of themselves, and know that there are places where their freak flags already fly. I want to be a safe place. I want to be an ally. I want to be real. To that end, I post things like this where you see me. (I mean seriously, how could I post an article about representation in media and not represent myself honestly in my own public space?)
And recently, I've started actively seeking me-friendly media. I know it's out there. I've found poly-friendly webcomics like Kimchi Cuddles, and Twitter accounts that promote bisexual inclusion. I've started collecting images on my Pinterest boards (non-binary thinking/bisexuality/polyamory here, and plus-size here - WARNING, both boards may be NSFW) that represent me, so that on days when I need a mirror, I can find one. On days when I feel "less than" I can remember that I am enough.
You are enough, too.
When popular media includes things like Donald Trump spewing rhetoric against Muslims, Mexicans, blacks, women and more; when echo chambers turn into houses of mirrors that stretch and twist reality, we need diverse media. We need representation. We all need to know that we are enough.
Again, today's post was picked by Patronuses and viewers like you. Like what you read? Want to suggest something for me to write, be it fiction or non? Want early and exclusive access to new work? Want to shower me with chai, chocolate and money? Consider becoming a Patronus!
No, I'm not going all Mufasa on you. Okay, actually, maybe I am. So some crazy shit went down in Paris, France this weekend. And in Beirut, Lebanon. Suicide bombings, senseless violence. Murder. Death. As we've seen when tragedy strikes--be it hurricanes, terrorists or other disasters--these things can bring out the best of us. People coming out of retirement to be volunteer first responders. Cab drivers giving Parisians a free ride home. Hashtags or social media sites that help victims. Tips on how to deal with tear gas shared to people in Ferguson from people in Egypt.
There's always someone diving into the writer pool. Some new, hopeful soul wanting to "make it", or "get published". Someone who decides they're going to be an Author-with-a-capital-A. All of us start off as rookies. And being the newb can be scary. I mean, traditional publishing already comes with this weird cloak of mystery. It can sometimes feel like you need to know the secret handshake just to follow someone on Twitter. So, here is some free Rookie Author 101 advice for those who are doing the writing thing and want to go pro. 1. Research.
Seriously, I can't stress this one enough. I know I've gone on and on about it at length before, but it's ridiculously important. If you're going to start submitting to magazines, agents, publishers, editors and such hoping for publication, your first job (other than writing a good piece) is to do your research. Follow publishing professionals on Twitter and other social media. Join up on the message boards on Absolute Write Water Cooler, QueryTracker, The Grinder, and Preditors and Editors. Whenever you're looking at potential submissions, check them out at the above places. Look up their submission guidelines and FOLLOW THEM. Find out how your favorite authors got where they are and learn from that. Above all else, you need to do this legwork.
2. Get serious about your social media.
If you're on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc, know that once you start submitting your work to agents, editors and publishers, other people are going to come looking for you. Those same people you've researched? When you submit work to them, they will probably check you out if they're interested in your work. They want to know that you're professional, that you can work well within certain confines of the job, and that you can also be discreet.
How can you appear more professional?
- Don't flame other authors, professionals. Don't like something someone said or did? Get a rejection letter from that agent? Don't go plastering it on your Twitter feed for the world to see.
- Did you get an offer of representation or publication five minutes ago? Sweet! Don't post about it on Facebook yet. In fact, many publishers and agents ask that you don't mention anything until after you've all signed the appropriate contracts. Hell, I've got amazing news that I'm still not at liberty to tell you guys. I've been holding on to it since before Christmas. Part of the publishing industry is keeping things close to the chest. It starts with your social media before you've even gotten your first contract.
- Do NOT post screengrabs of rejection or acceptance letters. Why? First of all, if it contains a professional's email address, that's highly unprofessional. Many agents' emails are public due to the nature of the submissions process, but some agencies rely on a generic slush email and distribute to specific agents after that first contact. Editors? They can be EXTREMELY secretive about their professional emails and with good cause. Can you imagine if your already burgeoning inbox suddenly got a glut of slush stories because some author posted your email address on Twitter? Furthermore, not every acceptance is identical. Your letter may offer something different than the next author, and those terms can be sensitive. And, again, posting these things shows a lack of discretion on your part. Authors who can't be discreet can be harder to work with. Authors who are hard to work with....? They get less work.
- Do NOT solicit advice from strangers on the Internet. You think you want your favorite author to read your story? Don't ask her. Did you get a contract and now you need another set of eyes on it? Do not go asking random authors/strangers on Twitter to do this for you. You're about to make a major business decision. Now, if you've met an editor/agent/author at a convention and they've offered to help you, or if a professional has a blog that is open to questions and such, by all means, use that resource. However, it is bad form to send a total stranger a message asking, "Could you please help me make a legal choice?"
3. Remember that people talk with one another.
That shit you talked online? Yeah, someone saw that. The comment you made at a convention? Someone heard you. The letter you sent to that agent who rejected you? She told her colleagues about it.
Publishing is a very tight community. We all talk to each other and word travels quickly. Remember that.
4. Talk to other people.
See that above comment? Make it work for you. Talk to other authors in the querying process. Get involved on forums, use private chats, and talk. Just as word about authors behaving badly will spread quickly, so will news of an agent being a dick. We authors talk. We know who to avoid, who is a total douche at conventions, who is an absolute dream to hang out with even though her Twitter is acerbic and vulgar....we know which editors get back to authors quickly and we know which agents take 6 months to request a partial. Make the community work in your favor by digging into it and being a part of it.
5. Remember Wheaton's Law.
Don't be a dick.
Seriously. Everyone has an off day. Everyone gets rejected, or pissed off, or confused, or scared. Writing can be lonely. Pursuing publication can be terrifying and isolating (because your friends and family don't always get it.) But remember that everyone you're dealing with is a person with their own story. That agent is just getting back from maternity leave. That editor who hasn't responded in the past two hours? Just had neck surgery. That author you're trying to talk with at a convention is on a deadline, stressed about family and really doesn't do well with crowds. One of the best lessons to learn early in your career is to treat people with respect and humanity. Be kind.
Not everyone has an Obi Wan Kenobi to show them the ropes of the publishing industry. A lot of people have learned by doing, making mistakes and getting back up. But a lot of resources exist to make your job a little easier. Blogs, message boards, books, social media feeds, websites... it's all there for you to use to your advantage. (You'll still make mistakes, but hopefully they'll be less painful than they otherwise might be if you go it alone.)
As most of you know, I despise the New England Patriots. Color me unsurprised that the Assholes of the league have been caught cheating. Again. I'm less than thrilled that my city will be hosting them for the Super Bowl. *Edit: For those of my readers who don't follow the Sports, the Patriots were found to have used balls inflated below the league regulation PSI. This would make the balls easier to throw and handle, therefore giving the team an unfair advantage over their opponents. The rile up has been called "DeflateGate" (because every scandal must end in "gate".)
I've been watching "deflategate" for some unknown reason. (It might be because I'm waiting to see Belichick and Brady--two men who embody my loathing for the New England Patriots--fall on their faces. Not sure.) So I watched Belichick's prepared speech Thursday morning and thought it was exactly what you'd expect to hear. A bunch of denial and passing the buck. What surprised me was that the coach flat out put the onus on his star quarterback.
No honor among thieves, sure, and these two seem thick as the aforementioned felons. I'm actually a little taken aback that Belichick didn't hoist blame onto one of the equipment managers or some lackey ball boy.
What pissed me off about Belichick's speech (other than the man himself), was his comment that in his 40+ years of NFL coaching experience, he has "never talked to any player, staff member about football air pressure. That's just not a subject that's brought up."
Okay, other than the fact that his own comments later kinda sound too specific for someone who hasn't discussed it before, I call horseshit on this one. You've been a coach in the NFL for longer than I've been alive and you're telling me that you have no clue about ball pressure? (I know about ball pressure--I've watched that episode on Mythbusters about the supposed helium-filled ball getting more hang time--and I'm not an NFL coach!) Also, dude, it's your fucking job to know this. So what you're saying is this: you're either ignorant about what your job entails, or you're lying. If the former, perhaps team owner Kraft should rethink his choice of a head coach. (If the latter, pack your bags, assface.)
But really, Belichick's prepared remarks were exactly what you'd expect of a known cheater trying to cover his ass and make the most of the asterisk that will permanently accompany his team's 2014 season record.
Tom Brady's press conference Thursday afternoon was far more interesting to me. Yes, I giggled like a 12 year old at the double entendres flying all over the place. What I really wanted to hear was the quarterback's reaction to Belichick's speech. Thankfully, a dauntless reporter got that one in early.
Brady shrugged it off, citing that everyone's just "trying to figure out what happened." While Tom's answer was calm and tactful, the expression on his face spoke volumes. (Admittedly, I couldn't gif it and show you the evolution of the sneer to smirk to calm face.)
And now, comes the part that surprises me most of all.
I'm about to defend Tom Brady. (I know, it tastes bitter, guys.)
So, the reporters kept harping on, "How could you not notice? Did you notice that the balls felt different? You handle the balls and like them a very specific way, couldn't you tell a difference?"
Look, here's the thing...he's not sitting on the sideline caressing his footballs while the other team has their go. No quarterback is doing anything other than his job--looking at game shots from upstairs, talking with his team/coaches, PLAYING THE GAME. And when they're on the field, the top notch stars like Manning, Luck and Brady? They are in contact with the ball for less than 3 seconds per play. Think about that. Most of these reporters probably can't adequately pick their noses in 3 seconds. And during that short period of time, quarterbacks of this caliber are doing their jobs as master strategists. After the snap they're assessing incoming threats, wind direction and speed, the positions of their receivers, coverage on said receivers, their own physical form, the position/handling of the ball itself, doing mental geometry and plotting trajectories for their upcoming pass. Add to this weather conditions like we saw during Sunday's game. And that's just what *I*, a woman who took a season off of her fantasy league, can think of off the top of my head. There are literally at least a dozen other things that a quarterback is thinking about in the 3 seconds he's in contact with the ball that are more important than the PSI of said ball.
So yeah, I'm going to step in front of Tom for just a moment and say, "Dude, I think you're expecting a little too much of someone who may have held a ball for a maximum of 5 seconds at a time, let alone 12 of them over the course of a whole game, when you ask him how he couldn't possibly tell the difference. If I licked your pen, you'd probably notice. But would you notice if I removed 15% of the ink?"
And now I turn to Tom and say, "Dude, your team is cheating. If you're not directly involved, I'd be pissed as hell at the person who a) didn't think my team could win without breaking the rules and b) is taking my time away from serious game planning to deal with this utter bullshit. Own up if it's you, and prepare for the worst. Also, Belichick's an asshole and I hate your face."
Well, maybe I'd omit that last part. About the face. But not the rest. Pretty sure right now Brady'd back me up on the fact his coach blows goats.
So how do I feel about Deflategate? (Other than the fact that the real winner is Gillette with their ill-timed hashtag #flexball appearing on the screen during both pressers?) I think it's ridiculous. It's the second time the New England Patriots have been caught cheating. There is now speculation that they also cheated during their play-off game versus the Baltimore Ravens. This whole thing has put an asterisk by their team record. Sure, they could win the Super Bowl, but who would believe it? There's always going to be this stain on their 2014 season reminding them and us that this team and its management cannot be trusted. Their wins always come with the caveat of, "assuming they weren't cheating".
Team owner Robert Kraft has a lot of thinking to do. His coaching staff has tarnished the legacy of his team multiple times. He needs to consider firing Belichick. (If this happens, it will be after the Super Bowl. This is assuming some poor hapless ball boy isn't set up as a patsy for this shit.) He has to do something to take back the integrity of his team.
Chairman Goddell and the NFL need to do something more than strip the Patriots of draft picks and levy fines that it's obvious their coffers can handle. That's not discipline. Also, being their second known offense and in such a high profile game, this seriously effects the integrity of the game. Goddell needs to consider long-term suspension (of Belichick AND Brady), and a post-season ban for the 2015 season.
As to the Super Bowl itself, well...The Ravens or the Colts can't replace them. Time and logistics negate the idea that anyone but the Patriots will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. Should Belichick be suspended? Absolutely. Regardless of his knowledge, it's his JOB to know about ball pressure and the process of what happens with balls prior to a game. He has failed and it caused a serious problem on his watch. Should Brady be suspended? I don't know. Part of me would love that, but then if the Seahawks win the Super Bowl everyone will say, "It's because Brady wasn't playing."
No, I want Seattle to have what Indy and Baltimore didn't: a chance to win the game fair and square.