On Captive Protagonists, Slash Fiction, and the Fantasy of Gender Equality

Kirk and Spock

There was an unsuspecting evolution that led to me reading a work of male/male original slash fiction.

It started when an online friend of mine recommended a book to me through Goodreads: Uprooted – a beautifully written, dark fantasy fairytale by Naomi Novik.

My friend I discussed this book extensively via Goodreads as I read it, and when I finished, I suggested we next read the same book simultaneously so we could discuss our reactions to it in real time.

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Motivation Doesn’t Matter: On Instrumental Valuation, Diversity, and Barbie’s New Curves

Mattel's new "Fashionista" line of Barbies

Mattel’s new “Fashionista” line of Barbies

People are often surprised to learn that I have fond memories of playing with Barbie dolls as a child.

This disbelief could be interpreted in a number of different ways, each a bit more biting and backhanded than the last (you don’t seem feminine enough to have been interested in dolls; to look at you, I’d never guess you played with a doll that was so connected with fashion).

Most likely, though, it’s a puzzling discrepancy that draws folks up short: I care a great deal about diversity and representation in popular culture, yet in that regard, Barbie has often earned a failing grade.

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Watching My Language (or, On the Quest to Gender-Neutralize My Speech)

Eowyn - I'm no man 2

It’s a tiny, seemingly throwaway phrase I hear uttered every day – from my own lips included – and it drives me just this side of batty.

As a writer, I’m very concerned and interested in the language I use, both on paper and verbally.

Part of the reason I’m such a slow writer is because, for me, every sentence is a search not just a word, but the exact word – the word that conveys the precise sentiment of what I’m trying to express.

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Everything Already Troubling About Fifty Shades of Grey, and Then Some

Fifty Shades of Grey coverI really did try.

After years of hearing and reading complaints about E.L. James’s BDSM-erotica bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey – after having previously convinced myself I’d never read it – that the kinky subject matter didn’t interest me; that I didn’t want to join the global sales bandwagon; that I was too good for so-called “mommy porn” – I came to have a change of heart.

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Should Writers Abbreviate Their Names?

J.K. Rowling

This post is more accurately titled “Should Female Writers Abbreviate Their Names?”, since they are, it seems, the writers who most commonly do so.

The short and simply answer to the question is, of course, “They should do whatever they want.”  For I’m not here to dictate otherwise, especially given the numerous different reasons a female writer would choose to use her initials instead of her full name:

  • She had a given name that’s difficult to pronounce or spell
  • To create a new identify for writing in a different genre
  • To maintain a measure of distance from her non-writing life
  • Because another author has her exact same name
  • Because she dislikes for her given name
  • To emulate classical male writers who used abbreviations, such as C.S. Forrester, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and J.D. Salinger

Just to name a few.

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On Female Ghostbusters, Gimmicks, and the Nature of Storytelling

Ghostbusters original cast(1984).

Ghostbusters original cast (1984).

By now, most people have heard about the plan to reboot the movie Ghostbusters with an all-female cast.

Some people are really excited about it.

Others are really upset.

Like really upset, to the point of borderline self-righteousness, with words like “gimmick” and “pandering” receiving a thorough workout.

Maybe I’m just splitting hairs over semantics, but in and of itself, I don’t consider a gimmick to be a negative thing.

All marketing and media uses gimmicks or “hooks” to attract a target audience, in this case the hook being the casting women where previously there’d only been men, ostensibly to attract – at least in part – a target audience of female viewers.

Which right there may well be the real issue.

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Not the Girls We Think They Are: On unattractive female characters in fiction

Jane Eyre (2011)

Jane Eyre (2011)

“She isn’t ugly enough.”

This was my friend’s comment on the actress playing Tris Prior in the movie Divergent as we stood in line to buy tickets.

“She wouldn’t be my type if I were into girls,” I replied, thinking I’d missed the punch line of a joke and trying to compensate with humour of my own.

“No,” my friend insisted.  “People are complaining about the actress being too pretty because in the book Tris is supposed to be ugly.  Remember?”

We’d both read the book.  My friend enjoyed it more than I did, and as a result seemed to remember certain details better than me as well.

But now that she mentioned it, I did recall something about Tris considering herself unattractive, or in the very least, plain, and that she was sure her male crush would dislike her because of it.

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