Friday, April 04, 2014

Wondercon: The Gendering

No bullshit, I sincerely haven't had time to complain or praise lately. But hopefully there will be some praise coming soon. So WonderCon is upon us, and it's always a good time to down a carafe of wine and break down the panel numbers. How many WonderCon panels follow the Paul Cornell Panel Parity rule? How many panels don't? Let's take a look!

I went by what is on the schedule, so I would expect that some of the panelists will change, panels that don't list panels will eventually have them, etc. But there's something to be said for the schedule, because that's how the convention markets itself. So it's fair to say that we can go by the schedule. I did not include panels that didn't list any panelists, or panels that were spotlights or only listed one name. But I did break down those numbers:

There were 25 panels of only one panelist. Of those 25, 9 were ladies. That is 36%.

So. On Friday, I counted 62 panels. Of those panels, 3 are moderated by women (5%), 4 have a majority of women (6%), 8 have more than one female panelist (13%), 13 have one female panelist (21%), and 19 have zero ladies (31%). That, sadly, is not the number we would like to be the highest. Most ironically, the "Strong Women and the Creators Who Empower Them" panel is made up of three men, two women and is moderated by a dude. That's pretty fantastic, WonderCon. Well fucking done.

There are 74 panels on Saturday. Five are moderated by a woman (7%! Yay!), 5 have a female majority (7%! Wow!), 6 panels feature more than one lady (8%, sigh), 13 have one female panelist (18%, boo), and 21 have zero ladies (28%).

Sunday has 34 panels. There are three female moderators (9%, my God, we may just win this thing), 4 have a female majority (12%, the smaller numbers are helping!), 5 have more than one woman (15%, check us out), 6 panels have one lone lady (18%, yay vaginas), and 8 panels have zero (24%). The "Greatest Television Writers in History" or whatever the fuck it's called panel has one lady on it. Spectacular representation, people.

I have to say, too, that there's a pretty high instance of that one woman on a panel being an actress. Because that's tolerable, apparently. We like our celebrities. But being the Token is sometimes worse than not being there at all. And I'll bet that minorities are even more absent.

Altogether, the numbers look like this:

Number of panels: 170
Panels with zero women: 48 (28%, which is nearly a third, which NO WONDER THE WORLD)
Panels with one woman: 32 (19%)
Panels with more than one woman: 19 (11%)
Panels with a majority of women: 13 (8%)
Panels with female moderators: 11 (6%)

What else can you say? The numbers speak for themselves.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Pilot Season: The Rage-ining

If you follow TeeVee then you know that at this moment, TeeVee pilots have been ordered to pilot and they are currently being cast and attaching directors. It's an exciting time for people who get to make their pilots. And in a few months, people will start seeing them and then the speculation will -- oh, hang on. The speculation begins NOW, at least if you are Rob Bricken, the uberdemon of io9.

Let me just explain a thing here. If you are a TeeVee writer, then you have gotten the pilot scripts from your agent. Writers who are going to meet on these new pilots have to read them now because the meetings have started.

(so people tell me anyway)

So that means most of the scripts are out in the wild. I say MOST, because some of the super-secret pilots haven't been released yet. Some are being kept under wraps for Reasons that, frankly, shouldn't concern anyone. Because it's nobody's business. If the pilot is particularly high profile, then this makes sense. The last thing you want is some ass goblin spreading bad word-of-mouth about your pilot. I don't know if you've noticed this, gentle readers, but it's not an easy thing to overcome negative feedback, especially if it's just some stupid rumor from an idiot who constantly jumps the gun. Rob Bricken is the guy who said that Beware the Batman was going to suck even though he had just seen the poster. And then, of course, all of his eager little evil minions spread his completely uninformed opinion like it was a fat-free yet still delicious chocolate hazelnut spread.

Where am I going with this? Well, Rob Bricken has opened his fat keyboard again, this time for the Gotham pilot. Along with The Flash, this is probably the most high-profile of all of the pilots. Gotham is for Fox, and what we ACTUALLY KNOW is that it features a young Jim Gordon and assorted Gotham City villains. There is potentially, probably, rumored to be a very young Bruce Wayne, too. And the rampant speculation about this show has involved the squeals of the Internet going, "NO CHILD BRUCE WAYNE! DEAR GOD PLEASE NO NOT THAT!" Or words to that effect, because Batman fans are nothing if not completely bugfuck insane. So vicious Rob knows that all he has to do is light one match and the fans are flamed.

So Rob Bricken got his tentacles on a "draft" of the Gotham pilot. In his own oily words:

We obtained what appears to be a draft of the first episode, although it could be fake or a very early draft. If the script is for real, then Gotham has some potential — but it also may have much bigger issues than Batman being 12 years old.

(In this "article," he quotes dialogue and gets very specific with characters and plot, so don't read it if you don't want to be spoiled. Actually, don't read it at all. He doesn't deserve the hits)

Setting aside the fact that they illegally "obtained" some "draft" of a pilot that even the agencies don't have, this jackass doesn't even know what draft he has, which must absolutely THRILL writer Bruno Heller, the studio and the network! How fun, to have some guy already saying your show is going to suck WHEN HE DOESN'T EVEN KNOW WHAT DRAFT HE'S READING. But hey, that's how this dude operates. He couldn't care less about journalistic integrity. He doesn't know from checking sources. I mean, all he does is RUMOR-MONGER EVERY GODDAM DAY. He makes a LIVING, I'm assuming, by doing this, by being the first guy to call bullshit on something before he's seen a frame of it, or before he's even read the right draft.

He DOES throw Heller a bone:
The script was written by Bruno Heller, co-creator of The Mentalist and writer of many episodes of HBO's Rome series, so he has some chops.

So there you go, Bruno Heller. One of the most loathsome creatures on the Internet approves of your prior work. How that must make your heart sing.

Reading pilot scripts is indicative of only one thing -- THE PILOT SCRIPT. Unless you've been involved in this process at least to a small degree, you really cannot comprehend anything about how it works. You don't know the outline process. The writing process. THE FUCKING NOTES PROCESS, which is the biggest part of it all.

But then how can you be outraged if you understand how something works? This guy doesn't care. He just wants his followers to gleefully shit on something along with him. Does he think this is actually NEWSWORTHY? I mean, does he? I don't know. Is he that guy who knows that he's loathed but doesn't care? If so, he's truly, truly dangerous. Because there is nothing more damaging to this delicate process than a troll with a paycheck. I like a lot of the columnists at io9. I think several of them ARE careful and aware of the fact that they are writing something that appears in public, FOR ANYONE TO SEE. The science writers do a terrific job. But then there's THIS guy. I mean, what the fuck, io9? Do you just not even CARE? Is your goal to piss off the studios and networks and creative people, or do you want a dialogue with them?

I have never wanted to burn a guy in a Wicker Man more than this dude. Seriously. Someone please stop him.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Diversity: A Love Story

If you do a Google search for "Girls HBO diversity," you get pages of articles about how the lack of diversity on the show is a huge rage-issue. Now, what the articles MEAN, of course, is that there's a lack of color. Not diversity. Because on television and in movies, "diversity" also applies to women. Women make up more than 50% of the population, yet only about 37% of the characters on television. See this site for more horrifying numbers.

But when people took Girls to task over a perceived lack of diversity, they skated right over the fact that the show is created and written by women and features women (more than one, and no cop sidekicks) in lead roles. That was not championed. At all.

Likewise, if you Google "Agents of Shield diversity," you get pages of blog posts and articles about the lack of diversity on the show. In a main cast of six, three are women, one of whom is Asian. That is not mentioned. So according to, well, EVERYBODY, only race counts as diversity.

There was a very vocal group of people who lost their shit over Gravity, too, complaining about how Sandra Bullock was white. Now, Sandra Bullock is basically onscreen, by herself, for the majority of the movie. This studio motion picture that made a lot of money and got a lot of attention primarily features a woman who, by the way, isn't 22. The fact that she also wasn't a minority is apparently a problem.

Look, it's ALL important. If a show like Sleepy Hollow can cast an African-American woman as its lead, and an African-American man as an important supporting character, then so can everyone else. There's no excuse. Just like having diversity in a writer's room isn't impossible (or at all detrimental), nor is having a diverse cast. But diversity isn't just about adding in racial or gender widgets. It's making sure everybody is represented. Not just by being there, but by having a VOICE. By being relevant. By being human and real. As virtuous, complex or fucked up as any white male character. But it also means that we shouldn't be slapping shows that are at least making an effort. Even if you think the effort is minimal, it's SOMETHING. Girls is a show about a specific group of people who don't behave like young ladies and don't get punished for it. People have idealized versions of anyone who doesn't represent THEM. Telling Lena Dunham that she should stop taking her clothes off because she's not an underwear model is YOUR problem. NOT hers.

Speaking of shows that totally lack diversity, do a Google search for "True Detective diversity." Look at all of those articles and blog posts about -- oh wait. THERE AREN'T ANY. When I watched the first episode of the show, I was struck by the staggering lack of diversity, which is illustrated in this photo:


The cops and detectives are white men. ALL white men, unless they're questioning the white characters, in which case they are black men. There's a scene in the first episode in the squad room and I had to pause it and go, "Wow. That's a lotta white guys." And the women? Since this is a serial killer show, it's understood that women are going to be the victims. But here's what we have, lady-wise, on the show: Drug-addled dead hooker. Victim's drug-addicted mother. Hookers who knew the victim. Victim's friend (also, bear in mind that the women are just there to be questioned about the victim, which is a common practice in a cop show). Wife (Michelle Monaghan, who we first see in her underwear and who's way too talented and interesting an actress to be playing someone's wife). Cop's daughters. Cop's mistress (watch me turn off the show). Mentioned: Ex-wife, dead daughter. There are no women in any professional capacity. The women just exist to support and define the male characters, which is essentially what Woody Harrelson's character says in the second episode.

That's it, folks. There's your HBO show that doesn't get any shit for its rather shocking lack of diversity. I guess this is how "quality" TV is supposed to present itself: With complex white men doing important things while women support them.

But maybe there's a different set of rules for this kind of testosterone show. It might help explain the rage directed towards Skyler White. On its surface, Breaking Bad is a testosterone show although at its core, it isn't. I know this because I don't respond to ANY of these types of shows, which is something I realized lately. So if I like it, it's not that show. Anyway. The attitude with Skyler was, how DARE some WOMAN interfere, stepping out of her Supporting Place and calling the hero on his shit! I MEAN HOW DARE SHE. In a testosterone show, she's there to define the hero. Not to speak her own mind or have her own opinion.


But we are so conditioned to "pair up" women with men (all of the men don't need to be paired up, obvs) that maybe we just can't help ourselves. Maybe deep down, we all have gender issues and that's just how things are going to be. Look at Black Widow, who was misunderstood by a hella lot of men in The Avengers. In Captain America: Winter Soldier, the only discussion about her is whether she's in love with Steve Rogers or Clint Barton. I shit you not, this is literally the ONLY conversation anyone is having about the ONLY female character currently existing in that franchise. I suppose she confuses people because she's an action lady and she just won't ever be a real Lady unless she pines for someone. A lot of people are uncomfortable with a female character when she doesn't stay in her box. And that box, BTW, is a married lady box. Get in there, Natasha Romanov! You're confusing me!

If the lack of diversity really and truly bothers you, then you HAVE to be consistent about it and that includes gender. Otherwise you're just being a diversity concern-troll. You don't really mean it.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Through the Looking-Glass

Gentle readers, I was REALLY delighted to see how many of you liked the post on reboots. It's easy to let conventional wisdom seep in and take over. Generalizations are not only simple, but they also work better in social media. Complex thought, which is what "see a thing and see if you like it" has become, doesn't play well anymore. But it's nice to know that there are other people who feel the same way.

I also wanted to say that everything on this blog is my opinion. I'm not trying to change anyone's mind or tell people that this is how they should think. I have no ulterior motive. I'm not even trying to get hired for something.

(Not with this blog, at least. I WOULD like to get hired for something.)

I read too much out there that's driven by marketing, metrics and analytics. And while that's necessary in today's world, it all rings too false to me. Especially when we're talking about creative endeavors. While I'll never be able to be as honest here as I am in real life, I do mean what I say here. I just wanted to say that.

Onto the roast.

I don't want to harsh too much on this guy, who does seem like a rather atypical science fiction fan in that he actually loves things. But there is an interesting discussion to be had that ties into the fact that fans have been feeling more and more entitled with each passing day. This guy's bemoaning the state of science fiction because he thinks that the genre (Hollywood, basically) is failing its fans. It's time, he believes, for the fans to "take back" science fiction:

It’s no secret that geeks, nerds and sci-fi fans form a powerful community.  After all, we’re courted by Hollywood for our eyes and our dollars every time a new ‘blockbuster’ comes out … look how much money they spend getting our attention at SDCC.  It’s time to recognize that our power exists and that we have a responsibility to use that power in positive ways.  Our mistake, up to this point, is waiting for others to give us that power.  Power and control don’t work that way.  As Gloria Steinem said, “Power can be taken, but not given.”

Yes, because being a science fiction fan is the same as fighting for equal rights. Amirite?? I'd like to know, when exactly did fans own science fiction? When have fans owned anything that they didn't create? Fans are consumers, and it's up to the individual to decide to what degree they want to participate in fandom. Which, of course, leads to the in-fighting about what makes a real fan. Which is a terrible way to foster a sense of community. Some of us (a number that sadly diminishes by the day) understand that there's a line between fan and thing. The thing has already been thought up, produced and released into the wild. By the time the fans get it, IT'S ALREADY DONE. Interpreting a thing that's already done doesn't mean you own the thing. It means you own your interpretation of it. Why on Earth would anyone seriously think that watching something means they own it, or have any say at all in how it proceeds or moves forward?

You don't get to dictate how a storyline goes, or how long an actor stays on a show. You don't get to dictate ANYTHING, and the fallacy that you DO leads to a false sense of entitlement, which leads to anger, which leads to hate, which leads to fans cyber-fist-bumping when they drive a creative person off the Internet.

If King of Comedy taught us anything, it's that there is a fine line between adoration and the desire to cut someone up in tiny pieces. Fans turn on EVERYTHING, especially if they don't get the right answer, or the creative person they're interacting with doesn't act the way the fan envisions they should. It's a weird and fascinating thing to watch a fandom turn, and I've seen them do it over and over again.

Fandom has become a war. Many's the time I've seen the comment, "They're just doing this to fuck with the fans." Now maybe there's some vicious Colonel Kurtz creative type out there who's done something to fuck with the fans, but this isn't actually a thing. It's hard enough to get something made while also having the goal of pissing off the fans. How would that notes session go, anyway? "I know it doesn't work, but the fans will hate it." Advocating that all of these little warriors try to "take back" something they don't own is only going to wind up making more people miserable.

Now here’s the tricky part: we as sci-fi fans straddle the line between art and commerce. 

Well, no. It's the people who make the thing you love who straddle that particular line.

To put it in other artistic terms, we have to recognize that while not everything can be a masterpiece by Michaelangelo, we can’t let people be satisfied with Thomas Kinkade.

I'm as inclined as anyone to appreciate a good Kinkade takedown, but you don't actually get to decide what other people like. This is why there's so much dissent going on in fandoms. Because certain people have appointed themselves the arbiter of quality. I've written about this a lot, because it's just getting worse. There's a growing legion of people who seem to feel threatened when someone likes something they don't. When they like something "unacceptable." You've all been there. It goes like this: "How could you LIKE that? It was a piece of shit!" Then you're forced to defend your passion. But really, you aren't. Just tell them to fuck off. NOBODY SHOULD FEEL FORCED TO DEFEND SOMETHING THEY LIKE.

The only thing some of these fandoms seem to share is hate. Negativity. I thought a fandom was about finding a group of people who all loved something. Sure, you're not always going to agree on what you love about it, but how about remembering what brought you to the fandom, instead of getting into petty little skirmishes where battle lines are eventually drawn? What exactly do you gain by demeaning someone else's enjoyment? A question to which, BTW, nobody has ever given me a straight answer.

Once he gets past all of this stuff and starts talking about the science fiction community, there's more value in the post. Because that's where the fans can actually have an effect. This won't steer Hollywood towards making the kinds of movies you apparently think you get to choose, but at least the people who make the content won't be scared shitless of engaging with you. Because we all know that fandoms are all on the same hair trigger. They can blow at any moment.

And aside from just being nice to each other within the community, how about not being dicks to the people who create the content that you claim to love? Trust me, those people get enough grief just trying to get something made. Having to explain to incensed fans how production works, or how they have to take notes, doesn't work. And it primarily doesn't work because fans feel entitled. They think that because they see a casting breakdown every now and then, or listen to podcasts, or watch panels, they know how production works. And they will not be told otherwise. How about letting that one go? If someone who made a thing tells you how that thing was made, even if it conflicts ith your idea of how it was made, JUST LET IT GO. But there's a sense of pride at work. A "big fish, small pond" mentality where someone has installed him or herself as the Supreme, and anyone who comes in to correct them gets the axe.

The fans are always going to complain about things, because that's what people do. We all have things we don't like. Some people like to gather together in a forum to talk about it. The forums are YOURS. You create them. You monitor them. You should be protecting them, too. There's a reason a lot of people don't want to engage with the fan communities. The power that you have has nothing to do with getting the movies you want, but you DO have power within your own community. Think beyond how you treat each other, and about how you treat the people whose creations elicit such passion from you.

Innovation comes from the weirdest places and it frequently costs you nothing to allow it to happen.  Oddly enough, most science fiction universes do not handle it well.  Star Wars, for example, has been selling expanded universe books for 30 years but when it comes time to make Star Wars VII, they’re ignoring them.  I think that’s wrong.  Other genres are eating our lunch when it comes to working with the fans.

Working with the fans? To create stuff? No. It's clear that the majority of fans have NO idea how this business works, even if they think they do. Explain to me why ANYBODY should accept the input of a thousand people (if I'm being generous on the numbers) to tell the CREATIVE PEOPLE how to make something. Do you guys have ANY idea how insulting it is to suggest this? Hey, what do YOU do for a living? Is it okay if I tell you how to do it, even though I have never done it and have no knowledge of how it's done? If you really and truly love science fiction, then let the people who make it DO THEIR JOBS. For the people who make it, this is their JOB. For you, it's a diversion. It's fun. A past-time. IT'S NOT YOUR JOB. So no, you do NOT get to have input on how to make the next Star Wars movie, THANK GOD. Seriously, how unbelievably insulting. How dare you.

If you want to make something, then make something. Not every fan wants to be a writer, or an actor, or an artist. But the ones who do? My God, people, take your love for whatever your thing is and use it as inspiration for your own thing. It doesn't have to be an original thing, either. Write fanfic. Make costumes. Whatever is inspirational to you. But don't think that just because you do these things, you have been given a Golden Ticket to cross the line between fan and thing. You haven't. Doing something with an expectation beyond it satisfying you creatively is a road to ruin.

That's enough of THAT.

I did want to say something about the expanded universe and why it's impossible to cram all of that into a new Star Wars film. Star Trek premiered almost fifty years ago. The series lay fallow until the Motion Picture. Then suddenly it was Star Trek everywhere: More movies, four new series (20 years cumulative), all of the books. Star Trek burned itself out. It crashed under the weight of its own history.

While Star Wars hasn't been around quite as long, the expanded universe is probably as vast and complex as the Star Trek universe. So when you're annoyed that the new film isn't going to draw from the expanded universe, think for a moment about the weight of all of that storytelling. That complexity. How do you tell a story when you're juggling a whole universe that isn't necessarily considered canon? I realize I'm alone here, but when JJ Abrams went back to the beginning with Star Trek, he was able to jump-start a familiar story with a new twist. It felt fresh again. If he'd been forced to use everything that had come before, he would have been stuck in a box that was just too small. Of course, you wouldn't know this if you had ever created anything, or been asked to take someone else's creation and make something in that universe. That's why JJ Abrams was hired, and you weren't. No matter how much you love a thing, that doesn't mean you have earned the right to make it. This is about merit. Not about love.

We want to feel good about sci-fi, we want to open up Reddit and not read another facepalm-inducing story about nerds behaving badly.  We want to celebrate SF and other geeky topics without shame.   We want to feel like participants in the community, instead of a demographic to be exploited.  

I hear you, pal. But the irony is, you're not actually important to them. You don't keep these films and television shows afloat. You know what's important? China. Europe. That's what keeps these properties going. But you're confusing your community with the creative community. They're separate. You're not going to get invited to a round table with your favorite filmmakers as they ask you what you think they should do. If the fans would stop imagining that they were a part of the creative process, they would have a lot more fun.

I realize that part of this is a false sense of intimacy. There are podcasts and blogs and Twitter shit and special features and screenings and Q&As and panels and Comic Con and blah blah blah. You feel closer to it, but that doesn't mean you actually ARE closer. You're not. You are participants in YOUR COMMUNITY, the one that you're neglecting because you are hoping that you'll be invited to what you perceive as the big table.

Here's another article about fandom, and this one is pretty on the button. Anything called 4 Awful Things We're Now Considering Nerd Behavior is going to be required reading. It's nice to see SOMEONE call fans on this, instead of just writing post after post fanning those flames and encouraging enragement.

We have a unique opportunity in this time to become members of fan communities. Even if we never meet, we can have relationships that are just as close and just as special. That's pretty remarkable. It'd be nice if fans could learn to appreciate that instead of constantly shutting the door. The number of people I know who've dropped out of fandoms is pretty high, and most of them have dropped out because the fandoms have become toxic. That's really sad.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Creativity: The Reboot

Happy New Year! Same old stuff with a different date stamp, amirite? The big question is, Will I keep picking on io9 in 2014? And so far, the answer is... sorta. Apparently, the statute of limitations for being outraged with last year's entertainment is nonexistent, at least as far as io9 is concerned. That being said, this post actually created some interesting discussion in the comments section.

THE COMMENTS SECTION!

The vapid, obvious snark aside, it's worth drilling down into these particular comments to see how most of these people rejected the premise of the piece, which isn't at all well thought out. If you don't want to click on it (can't blame you), the post is called "Is our love of character reboots killing our creativity?" Now, the first thing that jumps out at me is the notion that "we" are somehow creative. Ironic, coming from a blog that exists primarily to condemn and wrongly interpret rumors about other peoples' creative endeavors. If there's someone over there who thinks that writing this stuff, or being the person who loudly wails "THIS WILL SUCK" at least once a day is being creative, then we have a much bigger problem here. Anyway, the article quoted is a New York Times, um, article? Blog post? It's hard to tell anymore:

"The originators, the exuberant men, are extinct," Evelyn Waugh wrote in 1957, "and in their place subsists and modestly flourishes a generation notable for elegance and variety of contrivance." We do not have Tolkien, in other words: We have J. J. Abrams. Or Steven Moffat, lead writer of "Doctor Who" since 2009 and co-creator (if that's the right word) of the new BBC/Benedict Cumberbatch version of Sherlock Holmes. Nothing against Abrams and Moffat; they're both clearly brilliant — zanily gifted reorganizers and rewirers of material. "Elegance and variety of contrivance," yes indeed, by the bucketload. My point is that the material, for the most part, is not theirs. They work in tropes, memes, brands, jingles, known quantities, canned reactions, market-tested flavors, whatever you want to call them. The cultural critic Simon Reynolds has named this phenomenon "retromania": He published a fascinating book about it in 2011. Tolkien, too, was of course drawing on his sources, his own scholarly vaults of inspiration, his Kalevalas and Nibelungenlieds and all that. But he was closer to the root, to the first fictive impulse. Which makes "The Lord of the Rings" a rather juicier and more self-sustaining "subcreation" — to use Tolkien's terminology — than, say, "Star Trek Into Darkness."

Aside from the wearying fact that a year later, we're still going to lazily use Star Trek as a whipping boy-slash-stalking horse for everything that's wrong with everything (apparently), there's one big omission from this blog post -- it's not the choice of people making movies to remake ANYTHING. If anyone out there thinks that ANY of these guys has the power to make whatever he wants, then they really shouldn't be writing about media. I mean, my MOM knows this stuff.

And just because somebody hasn't created a property, that doesn't mean they haven't made it theirs. I'll slap the person who doesn't think Ron Moore made Battlestar Galactica his.

Maybe there's the outlier who just wants to remake his favorite television show or movie or toy and has no interest in generating original material, but this is not generally a rule. EVERYBODY wants to tell their own stories. But if the studios and networks want what they see as proven commodities (they aren't, not really, but that's a different argument), then since they have the money, that's what will get made. Even Christopher Nolan exchanged Batmans for his own original movies. IS there a filmmaker who can just make the big-budget movies he wants to make? If so, I can't think of who. Even the Wachowskis, two filmmakers of astonishing scope and vision, make movies based on other properties.

The second problem here is the inherent idea that a remake, or a sequel, isn't creative. Maybe you can't really understand this unless you've done it. Unless it's your job. You can make yourself sound smarter with a Waugh quote, and you can dismiss Tolkien's inspirations because: He was only one generation removed, the fact that he was writing a book that hadn't been commissioned by a big movie studio, the time in which he was writing, the lack of technology... but that doesn't mean you're making a cogent point.

The material may not be theirs, but the way they dissect it and hook into it most definitely is. And it IS creative. It's NOT lazy. What really destroys creativity is people who draw lines in the sand about what defines creativity. You know who gets to define creativity? The people who are DOING it. I suppose I understand, a little bit, why people who aren't creative think remakes and sequels are not creative. Because it must be MUCH harder to just sit your ass in a chair and create Middle-Earth, right? It must be harder to create something without limitation.

But the thing is, it isn't. Visual mediums are about limitation. Whatever comes out of your head has to be able to be made. It takes a special kind of creative person to be able to not only work within limitations, but thrive within them. Creativity isn't just a well-turned phrase. It's the ability to give that phrase a visual language within the budget, time and technology allotted. Studios own rights to things. All kinds of things. Not all of these things are viable storytelling vehicles. But still, the people who make things have to find a way to take these properties and make them work. This is what is called a "challenge," and it's a challenge that anyone who works in television especially accepts. In fact, sometimes you get really fucking mad at your ability to crack a seemingly unsolvable problem. But see, the studios know how good we are. They know what we're capable of.

These big-time filmmakers, the ones who seemingly only deal in pastiches and memes, WANT the easier job -- getting their own original visions onscreen. But to get there, they have to do the harder jobs -- reviving the studios' properties and making them hits. It's HARD to find a way into these things, you guys. It IS about making it your own. If you can find the hook, that emotional life that excites you, then you're on your way to a successful creative endeavor.

The people who write blog posts like the NY Times piece and almost anything on io9 do not understand this. They have this Platonic ideal of how creativity works, of what defines it. It's easy to see where this comes from, when all you do is sit in your big chair and point your finger at things that just spring into life in front of you. Yeah, it looks easy when it's all done. A triple Axel looks easy, too, if it's done correctly. Instead of looking at remakes and reboots and seeing the life within them, they just dismiss everything because it's somehow tainted by previously existing. If you work in a creative field, you know that negativity like this is the death-knell of creativity.

Along with three other insane people, I just participated in a pilot reboot project: To take a show that has been the butt of jokes since it aired and try to make it a viable project in today's marketplace. That show? Manimal. Yes, we rebooted MANIMAL. Ridiculous? Absolutely. Pointless? Not at all. As an exercise in working within limitations, it was a rousing success and we're talking about doing more. Unless you've done something like this, you just can't understand the work involved in taking a ludicrous premise and trying to make it something that you're enthusiastic about. That feels fresh. So maybe that's a good writing exercise, if you're an aspiring TV writer. Take something completely stupid and seemingly unworkable and make it work. Along with character, structure, dialogue and all the other moving parts of a story that you need to make that story work, being able to find passion amongst the ruins is just as important a tool. That's what will enable you to do good work on someone else's television show. So don't just write what you're passionate about. Make yourself passionate about something else.
Even a marmoset knows that creativity needs to be fostered. And even the most hardened TV staff writer will wilt when they're being savaged. Because every time we turn in a script, we're sure that we're finally going to be found out to be the frauds we're convinced we must be. That uncertainty is a hallmark of the creative enterprise, and it happens to everyone. If someone says it doesn't happen to them, then they're lying. Hopefully just to you, and not to themselves. So when some dumbass writes an article about how, across the board, reboots and remakes and sequels and whatever we'll be calling them next year are killing creativity, then it's incumbent upon all the people who ARE creative to tell them to just cram it.

So if you're wondering if we've lost "our" creativity, then no. "We" haven't. But Some of you are doing everything in your Internet power to kill it. If you really and truly love entertainment, stop hating it. Someone posted this Salman Rushdie quote on Facebook today:

"Classically, we have defined ourselves by the things we love. By the place which is our home, by our family, by our friends. But in this age we're asked to define ourselves by hate. That what defines you is what pisses you off. And if nothing pisses you off, who are you?"

Q.E.D., Sir. Let's start defining ourselves by what we love, and hang the detractors. I mean literally. With a rope.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Everything on MovieWeb will suck

2013 was the year when I started dreading liking and disliking movies. Inevitably, the response to my opinion is, "How could you like (or not like) that?" This is said with astonishment, disbelief, shock and sometimes a little bit of anger. So now my dread extends to seeing movies. I literally don't want to see certain movies, for fear that I'll like them. Because if you hate something, you don't get challenged. Fun, right? Soon, I'm going to do a post about movies I love that I usually don't admit to loving. And if people want to ridicule it, I'd like to see THEIR lists.

It's time for the Worst Of lists, which is just an excuse to haul out whatever dead horse these people have been beating all year and give it one more good whack. Worst Of lists are so fun! For some reason that I haven't figured out yet. If you have compiled a Worst Of list on your media blog, you are an asshole and you are a large part of the problem. I also hope that none of you have any dreams of working in the entertainment industry. While not everyone will hold you accountable for your words, there are people who will. And your goodwill only extends so far.

Here's a thought experiment. Think about something that you just adore. Something you'd defend to the death. Something that speaks to you personally, or just makes you happy. Now think about anything you've said online (it's almost always online, behind that screen) about something you hate. That's something that someone else loves. Use those same words and apply them to your chosen favorite thing. It sucks, right? I know we all have this sudden sense of entitlement and when something isn't in our wheelhouse, we feel betrayed. Speaking of betrayal, by the way, io9 is SO WORRIED that the pilot Alfonso Cuaron directed, Believe, is going to "let them down." This brutal sense of entitlement is a problem. Everything isn't for everyone. If something isn't for me, I'm not disappointed by it, see? If people could at least start realizing that, maybe some of the fury would die down. 

Anyway, luckily for this blog, some people were dumb on the Internet. Here's a Vanity Fair article (remember when Vanity Fair used to be good?) about how 2013 might be the best year for movies since 1939. And 1939 was a bang-up year for movies, to be sure. Quantifiably the best? No, because you can't quantify something like that. Anyway, there's nothing wrong with an article like this, but if the person writing it hasn't actually SEEN the movies, then there's a bit of a problem:

I haven’t seen any of the following year-end releases but have heard or read excellent accounts from people who have: 12 Years a Slave, Dallas Buyers Club, The Fifth Estate, Philomena, Saving Mr. Banks, All Is Lost, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and August: Osage County. As far as I know, Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street and David O. Russell’s American Hustle are still under wraps, but judging from the trailer, The Wolf of Wall Street will, at worst, be fun and jazzy in the coked-up way of the last third of GoodFellas. American Hustle re-teams Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, and just yesterday I saw a still from the picture that showed Cooper wearing pink hair rollers, so you have to have high hopes.

Kind of speaks for itself, doesn't it? Odd that it's in Vanity Fair, especially since this is the kind of shit media blogs have been doing since they began: Judging movies based on pictures or hearsay or the psychic ability to see into the future. Being stupid in a positive sense is just as dumb as being stupid in a negative sense. Although if given a choice, I guess I'd take this dimwitted, amateurish article over this MovieWeb list, which is already gleefully shitting on next year's movies. Also, for your reading pleasure, they incorporate into the article snarky crap from their readership. The height of laziness, folks! Articles constructed from YOUR COMMENTS! So basically, it's a scrum of indignant jerks already not being entertained by something they WILL pay for several times so they can rip it a new asshole.

Beyond the obvious problems, they play fast and loose with their premise. When it suits them, the movie in question will bomb at the box office for Reasons. But other times, the movie will just suck. It's irritatingly capricious, but what do you expect from people like this?

What about a post picking movies you're excited about? Oh, I know, that won't get you many hits. And all you care about is blog traffic. Bashing things before you see them accomplishes only one thing: Creating a snark echo chamber, a morass of negativity that frankly, we don't need anymore. Enough. So to combat your bullshit, here's a few movies I'm looking forward to seeing:

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit -- MovieWeb moans that it's for old people, because of course EVERY MOVIE should be made for people like them, people who already hate movies that they haven't seen. I say well then, I must be old because I love me some Jack Ryan. I don't care who plays him. I've seen them all. MovieWeb also said Kenneth Branagh was a liability and I said uh, what? KENNETH BRANAGH is a liability? Somehow, for some reason, he was the disaster behind Thor. Thor was a disaster? In which universe? Do people really think this? If you guys thought Thor was a disaster, then no wonder this movie doesn't excite you. But look. Not every movie is FOR you. The majority of the movies on your "list" target a specific audience. You don't know what the studio expects. You don't know the marketing budget. You don't know ANYTHING. Also, saying that a movie looks "totally gay" makes you even more of an asshole.

The Monuments Men - holy shit, gentle readers, George Clooney made a movie about the men who tried to save masterpieces during WWII. The cast is unreal, and in the trailer, GEORGE EFFING CLOONEY is standing next to the Ghent Altarpiece, a sight so beautiful that I may die, and proof that George made the movie for me.

Non-Stop -- Liam Neeson is an Air Marshal in a film from the director of Taken. That should be all any of us require.

The Grand Budapest Hotel -- Wes Anderson. A color palette that is positively orgasmic. A weird, funny Ralph Fiennes. Bellboys. Can't wait.

Noah -- I'm not much for Biblical epics but Darren Aronofsky doing one? Yes please.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier -- oh, fuck off. I am capable of seeing superhero movies without my brain melting into goo. Calm down, hysterical people who are trying to save us all by feeding us shakes made out of pages from Ulysses.

Dom Hemingway -- Written and directed by Richard Shepard, who made The Matador, which is one of my favorite buddy movies ever. The buddies in this film are Jude Law and Richard E. Grant. 

Transcendence -- the directorial debut of cinematographer Wally Pfister, it's a science fiction movie about the singularity and transhumanism. I mean, that's pretty much all I need to know. Interesting that these dorks didn't mention this movie, since they went all "NOBODY CAN MAKE ORIGINAL SCIENCE FICTION MOVIES THAT PEOPLE SEE" over every other movie.

X-Men: Days of Future Past -- yeah. Bite me, haters.

Tammy -- Melissa McCarthy and Susan Sarandon take a road trip. TWO LADIES ARE IN A MOVIE!

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes -- because I loved the first one.

Jupiter Ascending -- the latest from the Wachowskis, who are unabashedly great at making giant scope science fiction films. MovieWeb said some nonsense about how the Wachowskis failed with Speed Racer and Cloud Atlas. Apparently my definition of failure is the polar opposite. I'm not a studio head. I don't have to give a shit about how much a movie made, and whether or not a whole bunch of asshole critics decided to sink a film. All I have to care about is quality. If you're just a moviegoer and you think a film is bad because it didn't make enough money, then you have a mean, sad little heart and your purgatory is to never ever love anything. Both Speed Racer and Cloud Atlas were artistic triumphs from two filmmakers who blessedly get to keep making these movies. The fact that they keep making these gigantic movies in the midst of such a rude piling-on is a testament to creativity. I find it ironic that so many of these people who claim to love movies and TV spend so much time trying to destroy the creative soul. Luckily, many of the targets aren't paying attention to you. That must really hurt.

Here's a sample:
We'll have to wait and see a trailer before we even begin to pretend this might be any good, but just going in on what we know, this is destined to stink up the joint.

This was before the trailer was released, so "what they knew" when the article was written is the fucking TITLE.

Also:
Terrible cast, terrible writers/directors, and a beyond terrible plot.

It's actually a premise, genius. A plot is that thing you nitpick for two hours.

Guardians of the Galaxy -- and again, fuck you. Here's some more genius:
Also, we have to look at the fact that Thor and Captain America are two of their most well-known and beloved characters. The numbers for those two inaugural releases weren't huge. Some could even call them disappointing.

Some COULD, although some MIGHT want to consider that America is no longer the center of the movie-going universe, and also that studios rarely make sequels to movies that were "disappointing."

Lucy -- Luc Besson making a science fiction film with Scarlett Johansson. Yep!

Interstellar -- the new Christopher Nolan film, but apparently we are all supposed to hate him now? Sorry. Didn't get the memo. Aside from it maybe involving wormholes and alternate universes, nobody knows what it's about. I'm sure that infuriates the fanbase who thinks they deserve to know every single plot point of a film before it starts filming.

Some of you hold director Christopher Nolan in high esteem, mostly because of his Batman movies. He can do no wrong, which only means it's a matter of time before he crashes and burns. Will this be it? His big failure?

Okay, let me see if I've got this straight. Due to the law of averages that you are making up on your website, Christopher Nolan is due for a movie to fail? Actually, that's not how it works. That's why Rosencrantz keeps getting tails. And it's convenient that you don't go back to your previous premise that nobody will go see original movies when talking about the filmmaker behind Inception.

We also feel the secrecy surrounding the project will help do it in.

So you're just pissed off that Nolan didn't give you the script, then. Honey, you don't need to know anything. You really don't. This notion of needing all the information is ruining discourse. It's ruining entertainment. And it's ruining my patience. You can go get spoiled all you want. I know it makes you feel Big and Important, which you apparently crave. But let me have my Mystery Box, or I'll pull a gun out of it and shoot you. Actually, the amount of Mystery Box employed by a filmmaker may be proportional to how much they are loathed by the gimme fans who think they're owed everything, always want some kind of story twist, and then get pissed off because they think everything is a trick.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- the first part of the last book. The movie can't be as internal and Katniss can't be as passive as she is in the book. Interested to see how this one works.

McFarland -- no way I'm not seeing this. First, it's a Disney sports movie. Second, it's set in the 80s. And third, IT'S SET IN GODDAM MCFARLAND, which is near where I grew up. 

Unbroken -- Angelina Jolie directing a Coen Brothers script starring Jack O'Connell? All the way, bitches.

What they said about Maleficent:
But Disney has a pretty spotty track record as of late, and Jesus Christ was Alice In Wonderland hard to sit through. What a bore.

Disney wouldn't make the movie if they thought that. Also, they're making an Alice sequel. And there's precedent for what Disney thinks is a disaster. One reason John Carter had the Mars taken away was because Mars Needs Moms didn't make money, and Disney decided that women wouldn't go see a movie with Mars in the title. But go ahead and ignore how that sank a terrific film. There's no story in THAT. Just keep bitching ludicrously.

Suck it, MovieWeb. You don't love movies. You hate them.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

An Open Letter: You Suck

So a guy who writes a blog on a site called The Wire was apparently quite furious that Jena Malone was cast in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. He was so upset, in fact, that he tweeted a bunch of stuff about how awful she is. That was beyond the problem he had with her being cast in the part. She is simply awful on every level of awfulness. I know the world is a big place and you can find someone who hates a featured extra in a fifth-season Friends episode, but that's because the world is a big place. This dude is apparently the "entertainment editor" of this website. Probably similar to me being the entertainment editor of my blog. I am also the reporter-at-large and Queen of Hearts, by the way. The cool thing about the Internet is that it's a lot like calling yourself a writer when you haven't been paid to write yet. You can say anything you want.

So this "entertainment editor" gleefully collected his preposterous tweets into a post entitled "An Open Letter to Jena Malone."

Let's see if I have the psychology right here. Guy who's given himself/been given a title on a blog that isn't even up to the standard of io9 or Tor.com tweets for awhile about how much this actress sucks. 

(And frankly, if this is any kind of a professional website, they really need to take a look at how this guy is representing them in public)

Then he sees the movie and realizes that she's perfectly cast and oh yeah, she's actually a good actress! Aside from the obvious fact that Jena Malone has been a good actress since the beginning of her career, this dude doesn't see how wrong-headed all of this is. If there's any justice, Ms. Malone has no clue this dude exists. But what the fuck, man? If you repeatedly told her to her face how horrible she is and that she has no business being in Catching Fire, and then after seeing Catching Fire you tell her that you were wrong, she would sock you in the nose. Seriously, what is the point here? You would never do that to anyone in person. Are you just trying to claim some kind of importance? A position as Jena Malone's confidante? What? Because this is what stalkers do. They create a fantasy relationship, which is what you have done with this regrettable nonsense.

Just because you can write words on the Internet doesn't mean you know the inner workings of filmdom. The casting breakdowns for Star Wars prove this. And this past week, Warner Bros and DC announced the casting of Wonder Woman, who will be appearing in the Batman vs. Superman movie. Or is it Superman vs. Batman? Who gets top billing? I can't remember. Anyway, here's the breakdown:

1. Angry nerds see Man of Steel. Hate it with tears of fury.
2. Angry nerds want to murder Ben Affleck for taking the role of Batman in the sequel to the movie they hated with tears of fury.
3. Angry nerds cry tears of fury when Wonder Woman is included in Batman vs. Superman vs. Batman, because the casting isn't right and Wonder Woman doesn't get her own movie. Ergo, disaster.
4. A reminder: Angry nerds HATED Man of Steel.
5. Why would you see a sequel to a movie you hated? 
6. I cannot even.

So look. In an ideal world, there would have already been a Wonder Woman movie. But we do not live in an ideal world. We live in THIS world, where Black Widow was introduced in The Avengers and makes her second appearance in Captain America's sequel. We live in a world where Anne Hathaway's spectacular Catwoman doesn't get her own movie, or even an appearance in another one. Rejecting situations that are less than perfect doesn't make those perfect situations suddenly appear. I'm sorry, trust me, but making a Wonder Woman movie on its own at this point doesn't make sense if they can introduce her in the next movie. Making a Wonder Woman movie is a risk. Launching the character in the sequel to a movie that people saw isn't as big of a risk. Sure, who doesn't want a Wonder Woman movie? But if she works in the next film, then it's time to lobby for a Wonder Woman movie. The character's life in comics, her legacy, doesn't matter. This is a different business. You guys, this is a step forward. Don't be a typical asshole nerd and shut that whole thing down because it's not exactly what everyone wanted.

Maybe Gal Godot will be awful. Maybe Zack Snyder will fuck it up, given his track record with female characters. Maybe you will all be right and your tears of fury will be warranted. But you know what? Maybe not. I'd rather spend the next few years anticipating the movie than being pissed off about a possibly negative outcome. I hope this actress has the good sense to stay off the fucking Internet.