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Lack of Intelligence (and Diversity)

Be Ye Warned, There are Spoilers Ahead

Most of you know that I’m a rabid consumer of television. Like a lot of kids my age, I was mostly raised by TV. I don’t say that as a bad thing, just a truth. I don’t watch as much as the “average American” whoever that represents, but I watch quite a bit. In particular I always give fantasy and science fiction shows a chance, in solidarity for my genre of choice.

I was pretty excited when I saw the previews for Intelligence start a couple of months ago. I find current-tech and near-future SciFi particularly exciting because I feel like it’s where science news and entertainment collide. I was pretty happy that Sawyer from Lost would be in something else again, and very excited that it looked like the main female character would get to have the protector role for a change. It seemed like a fun show all around.

I still think the base idea is a good one, but I have a HUGE problem with the execution of this show so far. There is a not a single person of color in the main cast. NOT. ONE. I had hopes Gabriel’s wife might become a recurring character (she was played by the amazing Zuleikha Robinson who I may or may not have crowed about on here already) but it appears now that won’t happen. Most likely because they are making room for a romantic subplot–UGH. In fact, it’s worse than that. Every single non-white character with lines so far has been a bad guy. Even the Chinese diplomat who helps them out comes off as shady.

Really, is this where we are now? I’m deeply disappointed. I know no one does these things on purpose. I’m not trying to lay blame, or claim they are overtly racist. Just put a TINY bit of thought of into your casting. That’s all I ask. Listen, I’m super pleased Intelligence has a woman kicking ass and a woman in charge, really I am. But we can do so much better. We HAVE to do better.

What got me ticked off enough today to write a ranty blog post about this was a few clips from a very cool documentary on black voices in Science Fiction from the 90s. If you don’t want to watch all three videos (though I highly recommend all of them, especially the one with Nichelle Nichols) here’s the salient point queued up for you: Mike Sargeant on black characters in science fiction. As a society, we need solid, meaty non-white characters. It’s important for all of us because diversity exists, and it needs to be celebrated.

I’m making it a personal goal of mine to have at least half of all characters in my stories from this point on be non-white. I’m going to try for not only racial diversity, but ethnic diversity as well. That takes a little more effort, and a little more research, but I think the process and results will be worthwhile.

Rants and ranties,

-C

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Smurfette, You’re Fired

The lovely Seanan McGuire made several tweets today about something I honestly had never even considered as a problem, but has been twisting my brain around all day since she mentioned it. Basically, her point was that as women we are our own worst enemies, not through any fault of our own, but because of the way our culture raises us. She specifically mentioned something called “Smurfette Syndrome,” the idea that if you’re the only woman in a group, you are automatically the most beautiful and desirable, that really got the old gray matter churning.

If I think back on most of the cartoons and movies of my childhood aimed at girls, there is a recurring of jealousy to many, if not all of the female dominated story lines. Snow White is hunted by her wicked stepmother who wants to be the “fairest of them all,” and can only achieve that goal by killing Snow. Cinderella’s step sisters can’t stand her because she’s so pretty and they’re so plain. There is not a single male-led story I can think of that uses so plainly vain a motivation as a plot device. Boys are out for adventure or treasure, it doesn’t matter what they look like, but for girls the MAIN PLOT has to do with their level of attractiveness and how they are either lauded or maligned for how they look. Antagonists of girl shows and movies are almost always other women who dislike the main character because she’s beautiful.

Holy shit. That’s crazy, right? I mean bat-shit bonkers. We’re being taught we can’t trust each other and it’s so nefarious that I never even noticed it.

Back to “Smurfette Syndrome” for a moment. Why is it that the heroine so rarely has female friends she can depend on? If she does have a bestie who is a woman who she can rely on, it’s almost always someone who is geeky or frumpy—Velma, Willow (in the early Buffy years), etc. Seriously, every “attractive” woman who isn’t the main character in girl-led shows almost immediately hates the main character, usually because she’s afraid the protagonist is after her boyfriend. It’s an instinctive reaction and we all buy into it. The more I think about it, the more I’m weirded out by why this is at all okay.

I’ve never understood slut shaming, or how women can be so cruel to each other for no real reason, but now I have an inkling. I make a solemn pledge, here before the interwebs, that I will call this behavior out when I see it, and that I will not allow women to treat each other like crap on the basis of appearance or what they’re wearing. Slut shaming or calling other women names based on superficial bullshit will be an automatic unfollow on my social media feeds.

Smurfette, you’re fired as a female role model.

Rants and ranties,

-C

PS - I apologize if this post sounds a bit too “conspiracy theory” for some. I know I’m treading close to that line, but I welcome discussion about shows or books that buck this trope and how crazy I sound. Please, change my mind.

 

 

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When Is It Okay to Kidnap Someone?

I’ll give a hint for those who want to skip to the end: NEVUnder_the_Dome_intertitleER.

Before I start this rant in earnest, let me state that this doesn’t apply to consensual acts between adults where a person might enjoy being imprisoned. People like different stuff. Some of them like to role play. That is not what I’m here to rant about.

What we’re here to talk about today is why on Earth an otherwise-not-bad show like Under the Dome thinks kidnapping someone is ever okay. I suppose I should offer a ***SPOILER ALERT*** even though what I’m going to discuss plot-wise happens mostly in the first couple of episodes. I’ll even put in a jump to shield unwary eyes just in case… (more…)

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Description Rant

I’m not sure I’ve ever done a rant prompted by a book before, but I’ve been simmering about this topic since yesterday and I just need to share my anger with someone. So, I’ve been excited to read this one particular book for quite a few months. I’m not going to divulge what the title is, because I don’t want anyone to think I’m picking on this one author. I’ve actually encounter this same issue in books by two other authors, so it’s not as if it’s only something this one author does.

I pull up the book on my kindle with a sense of excitement because, as I said already, I’ve been looking forward to this. I’ve heard wonderful things about this book. The prologue is intriguing, with an interesting overview of a sort of alternate reality earth. I flip eagerly to the first chapter, where I am promptly assaulted by a first person account of sunbathing with a four page description of not only the main character’s outfit, but her hair and her figure. I close the book. I probably sat there dazed for a few seconds. There is nothing–nothing–I want to read less than a self-absorbed character which is exactly how that woman comes off after spending five hundred words describing herself. The rest of the book might be marvelous, but I’m not sure I can wrangle myself into caring at this point. I would much, much rather have no description at all than be handed that so early in the book.

I don’t spend that much time thinking about how I look, ever. I just don’t. If I think about my appearance at all I’m more likely to complain about how unruly my hair is behaving that day, or how the bags under my eyes seem to be growing by the hour. This is exactly why I avoid giving descriptions of my characters in scenes from their PoV. It’s so difficult to make the character seem anything other than self-absorbed and disgustingly vain. I wouldn’t even want to have a conversation with a person who spends pages describing herself, never mind read a couple of hundred pages about her life. Ugh.

Now that I’ve rambled for entirely too long about this. Do you have any fiction pet peeves you’d like to share?

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Cold and Dark

Those of you are aren’t fond of my rants should probably tune out now, because this one is going to be a doozy. Still here? Okay, here we go.

We just got our power back at around seven last night, after being out for six full days. There was an early snowstorm last Saturday, that dropped about ten inches of wet, heavy snow on our area. Since many of the trees hadn’t even lost their leaves yet, the additional weight of the snow brought down branches and even whole trees. Many neighborhoods looked like war zones afterwards, with trees and power lines all over roads and on people’s houses. Over 1 million people were out of power by the end of the storm, I think 700,000 were in my state. Today, a full week later, there are still 150,000 out of power.

I’m sure you’ll all join me in a hardy round of:What. The. Fuck.

Here in the grand state of Connecticut we have the fourth highest power generation rate in the country. We have literally twice the kilowatt hour rate of our neighbor to the north, Massachusetts. I’m not sure what all that extra money pays for, because it’s certainly not infrastructure. Here in my town, we were 100% out of power until late Tuesday. On Tuesday night, the company I work for had power restored, after saying for two days they were “working on it.” That’s right, they spent two days getting the power on for a large industrial campus while people were freezing in their houses. I wonder how many houses they could have powered with that effort? That’s what really pisses me off about the whole thing. Before anything else they power a manufacturing building. Never mind the grocery store or anywhere else I could possibly get food in a fifteen mile radius. How about a fucking gas station? No, of course not.

I’m lucky, I have a smallish house that holds heat well. Throughout the ordeal we never dropped below 50 degrees inside, though the temps outside dropped below thirty a few times. Even that felt like a deep freeze. The first few days were okay, it felt a little like an adventure. By yesterday though, I was a mess. I hadn’t really been sleeping well because it was so cold in the house. I’d been eating nothing but junk food and things that came out of cans–luckily my husband found a place to refill our propane tanks for our grill so at least it was warm junk and we had plenty of hot cocoa and tea. I also hadn’t exercised in over a week. I felt like hell and spent half the day crying. Thankfully, we got our power back last night, or I don’t know what I would have done. I don’t think I could have spent another dark, cold night here.

Let me share with you, dear readers, that nothing makes you feel like you’re living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland more than looking out your window and seeing nothing but darkness in any direction. So I have a few new story ideas out of the ordeal, which is the only bright side in my estimation.

Anyway, if you’ve made it this far in my rant, thank you for reading along while I vent my frustration. Here’s one final thought on the matter: Fuck you Connecticut Light & Power. For not having a truck on the streets of my town until FIVE DAYS AFTER and for getting the power on in the various industrial complexes around us and letting the residents freeze in their houses. I only wish that I could display my complete and total disgust with your company by choosing not to give you any more money, but alas, you are the only choice in my state. Well played, assholes. I feel for all those who still have yet to see a repair truck and hope they get their power back on soon.

-C

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