Monday, February 25, 2013

Accidental and then Unaware

Now playing:
  • Massive Attack - Angel.
  • Groove Armada - Inside My Mind (Blue Skies)
I actually got to stay up last night to see the Oscars, and spent a good chunk of the night being really happy or nodding in my head in approval. I squealed and leaped around when Tarantino won for best original screenplay, which was apparently pretty predictable of me as my friends told me today that, whilst watching it, thought, "Man, Becky must be really happy right now."

(They also joked around this morning about what would happen if I ever won an Oscar and if I'd probably go "fuck yeah, writers! D<" as Tarantino did on his speech).

I actually managed to predict a good chunk of the wins, and I was really surprised when Jennifer Lawrence and Argo won Oscars. Not because I didn't think they deserved it, but because I honestly thought they were going to be snubbed. I didn't know who would win for Best Picture, but I am happy and glad that Ben Affleck got to take home his own personal Oscar.

Anyways, that being said, I was worried about something. I don't know how I avoided the news that Seth MacFarlane was hosting, but my father told me about an hour before the show began and we both started freaking out. When he actually got on stage, though, I thought he was doing a fine job. I've apparently gotten better at catching misogynous jokes because I did make a face at his reference to anorexia and the joke he made about the lead character of Zero Dark Thirty, but aside from that I thought he was very self aware and perfectly in balance. And I did laugh at some of his more "controversial" jokes, since I am not thoroughly offended unless I have reason to believe the person truly does have sexist opinions. That sounds idiotic because I realize even if the person saying those things doesn't believe in them, it can still cause trouble because it reinforces a certain harmful stereotype, but I can see jokes as just being jokes.

 Like, and I know this is pretty controversial, I don't even find rape jokes offensive, despite being a sex plus feminist who tries to understand that sexist views of women can perpetuate rape culture. They're jokes and I take them as jokes, and sometimes I laugh and sometimes I roll my eyes, but as long as I'm sure the presenter understands the difference between that joke and between real life, then I am okay with it.

But is that right? I take offense at the idiocy of film makers like Micheal Bay or the way women are written in YA fiction, yet Seth MacFarlane at the Oscars didn't bother me one bit. And I don't even like Family Guy, so it's not like I'm the biggest fan of that guy. I was genuinely surprised and pleasantly entertained.

I am the type of person who, since she was little, has constantly been critical of female portrayal in the media. I used to roll my eyes at overtly sexy, boring, female characters who did nothing but pretend to be tough as nails yet were just eye candy for the men, and I've been critical of that kind of thing since I was six. More so now that I'm more aware at how women are shown in books, movies, tv series, comics, and video games, and I really, really hope that if I ever manage to become prominent in the media, I'll be able to introduce strong female characters and help make that the norm.

I am not touching the new Tomb Rider game with a ten foot pole because I hate that the creators obviously do not believe a female character can be identifiable with a male audience. It's like they think Lara can only be there to be admired sexually or to be protected, giving a sense of empowerment to the male gamers. (YEAR LATER EDIT: loljk. My anger at the atempted rape scene sort of went down after I actually played the game. It's actually got one of the best written Lara Crofts to date. SO clearly, I musn't judge so quickly).

And I've tried to deviate from this idea that fiction needs to be male centered with a few token female characters. I no longer care if my ratio of female characters outweigh the number of males I have in my novels.

Up to date, Prince Jacob and Caesar are my only male main characters, with Caesar being one of two protagonists since a lot of the action in the second half of Ataraxia follows Sonya. After all, she is older, more powerful, and much more aware of the situation.

But what if I'm being unintentionally misogynistic?

Here are the characters, so far:
  • Caesar - thirteen years old, gullible, curious, brave, but at that awkward stage of confusion and doubt. He's a prodigy, though, and he will become more powerful than the twin sisters in the imminent future. Right now, the story has been told through his eyes, although it'll start to deviate into Sonya's perspective more.
    • "Good guy"
  • Sonya - thirty-five years old, always has a smile on her face, is confident, strong, bit of a jokester around Caesar and an admirer of her sister. That said, she's plagued with guilt for what she did to the boy and goes through some major internal struggle in trying to right her wrongs. That means turning against Katya, her only family and the one person she cares most about. I don't think I've done a terrible job with either Sonya or Caesar--I think I represent them in relation to their ages and situations pretty well, so I'm not too worried about these two.
    • "Good guy"
    • (I just realized there's hints of Hitomi in Sonya with that whole...redemption arc thing. Sonya's more pleasant to have around...Hitomi was just kind of a mean lady)
  • Katya - same age as Sonya, intimidating, with hints of dark humor, strong, and a leader to pretty much all of Irkalla. She single-handedly turned around the planet's condition and kept the population from destroying themselves. Her goals are clear and she cares for her sister a lot, but she's not exactly...right in the head. Sonya took the imprisonment as rightful punishment for the life they led before they were captured and all the people they killed. Katya, not so much. She hates what was done to her and her sister, and she'll go to the extremes to take down the people responsible for Irkalla and their imprisonment. I was originally sort of glad that my antagonist was a strong, complex woman, and that there were external and internal struggles between the two leads. But now..."mad" woman in power cliche? Goddammit.
    • "Bad guy"
    • ....hmm. Just realized something. In this first draft, Katya and Sonya's powers were not known by the government and they never told anyone in fear of what the people's reactions would be. Maybe Katya would be more justified if Sonya and her were actually subjected to horrors and then the imprisonment because of their powers, as well as their crimes? (For the rewrite)
  • Maria - thirty-eight years old, also intimidating but in a colder way. She's ice, Katya's fire, and so they complement one another in a way. Maria is clearly Katya's closest companion and has an undying loyalty to her. But there's a cliche of cold hearted bitches in positions of power and I worry that's what Katya and Maria are. After all, Maria is by far, the coldest one to Caesar. She barely addresses him directly, treats him like a piece of machinery rather than a human child, and does not show guilt in harming him in any way. (She injects him daily with drugs that enhance his telekinetic and telepathic abilities, but deteriorate the state of his body, plus she punches him once when testing out a hypothesis of hers). 
    • Technically more in the middle than the others, but she leans more toward "bad guy"
  • Charlotte - haven't really thought of her age, she may be a bit older, maybe in her forties. She doesn't have great many scenes, but it's pretty clear she's a leader of small gang who's been at Katya's whim these past few years and wishes to usurp her. In the one scene we see her, Charlie's shown to be impulsive, aggressive, snarky, and not the least bit easy to frighten.
    • "Bad guy" but she's more of a mini-boss.
  • Haider - Twenty-seven years old, Rookie guard/soldier of Earth's military forces, and pretty much one of the few characters who is not a prisoner. He is kind, generous, strong in a Gentle Giant sort of way, not the greatest fighter but still quick on his feet. He, like Maria, is devoutly loyal, but is at first loyal to the sisters equally. Over time he inclines more to helping and aiding Sonya and turning against Katya, while Maria begins with total devotion to Katya and then, near the climax, slowly lends a hand to her sister.
    • "Good guy:"
  • Xuan - around Charlotte's age. I haven't really planned out much of his personality, but (and fuck, this is bad) he's said to be a lot more technical and practical than Charlotte. While his wife relied a lot in brute strength and pure instinct, Xuan was not a fond of improvisation or charging head first into a fight. At first, when I thought over it, I thought I was doing better. The man is not an idiotic brute and the woman is not kept away from the action as the (subjectively) more gentle type. That's not to say Charlie's an idiot or Xuan's weak, it's just that their strengths are different. At around that point, I realized I was still on some really troubling portrayal of genders. The man is more intellectual while the woman is erratic and slightly impulsive. CRAP.
    • Because of what happens with Charlie, Sonya manages to enlist his help against Katya, so he's technically "good" but he's not exactly helping because he agrees with Sonya's ideologies and missions. He's in it for revenge, and that might turn the tables later on.
And here's the other problem: The main bad guys are women, the main good guys are men. Granted, both groups are led by the sisters, and Xuan and Maria keep things balanced a bit later on, but this is still worrying. 

The other thing to notice is that a good chunk of these characters are not white or at least not from the United States. Caesar is Native American, Maria is Hispanic and black, either from Venezuela or Cuba, Xuan is Asian and from Vietnam (but he also has albinism...and I don't want pull the stupid Evil Albino cliche), and Haider is Middle Eastern and from Pakistan. Katya and Sonya are white, but they're Russian, and while I'm not specific about Charlotte, I always pictured her as Australian and of mixed race. I didn't make them this way as some kind of political commentary, it is just how I see the characters. Their genders and races are not planned out, they just come to me. But is that an excuse for the way I write them? Since Maria was the one who created the drug they're using on Caesar, I figured she'd been sent to Irkalla for some drug lord related problems, but holy shit, how stereotypical that the one Hispanic I shove in there is part of the drug trafficking world.

Not to mention I've probably got a couple problematic things floating around. Like how Charlotte's nickname is Charlie--masculine rather than feminine. Or how at one point Caesar points out that there are no children in Irkalla, yet it's pretty clear people like Charlie and Xuan were married and could have had a family. Haider tells him they sterilized all the prisoners, among other medical procedures. Granted, when he asks Sonya about it, she explains that she's not exactly the type of person who would want kids, and neither is Katya. It's just another thing they took from them, and the anger Katya feels is not at the fact that she can't have kids, it's that the medical procedures are part of a long list of shit they were subjected to as prisoners.

I try to make that distinction there. But I'm not sure if that conversation existing adds more harm than good.

It's like everywhere I look there's a stereotype I missed and wrote my characters into. I think to fix this I could change around a lot of these qualities, swap some genders, and tweak some back-stories and conversations. But that also means butchering up parts of these people and starting with new ones. Maybe that's not bad. Main rules are 1) kill your darlings and 2) all writing is rewriting. I mean, do I really want to have to make cheap excuses just because I didn't fix the stereotypes or problems I caught early on?

But if I am aware of this, why can't I just do it?

P.S: By the way, in my creative writing class, we ended up reading that terrible poem I posted last time--the Puppeteer--and while they did criticize my structured, mechanical rhythm and heavy rhyme, my classmates went crazy with interpretations about what it all "meant". Was it about god? Was it about a child--and a Hispanic one at that (seriously) who was slowly becoming like his/her parents? They would say a reason or a claim, and then interrupt themselves with, "but I don't know if she was going for that."

Shit, man, I wasn't going for anything. I wrote about a literal puppet becoming a puppeteer.

Plus at one point my professor was all, "I find it really surprising there is almost no punctuation. You pulled it off really well."
Pulled it off? IT WAS ACCIDENTAL. (We use periods in poems?!?!)

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:16 PM

    I think a masculine nickname for a feminine name is a rather minor quibble. I don't really think that that particular case has much in terms of misogynistic overtones.


"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
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