At the risk of being even more dramatic than usual, I’m experiencing an electronic epistolary crisis; emails from the contact form form on this website have been going straight to my Spam Folder! So, if you sent me something and I didn’t reply, I’m sorry.
I can't help but think that Amazons wouldn't bother shaving their underarms.
A lot has been said about the new Wonder Woman movie (which is great, BTW) so rather than just add my voice to the hubbub, allow me to share a collection of relevant anecdotes.
A Boy in Rural Ontario Sees a Woman Kick Butt Like many North American kids of the 1970’s, my young mind was fairly well-blown by Lynda Carter’s star turn in the campy Wonder Woman TV show of the era. This was partly due to the fact that I was obsessed with all things comic book-y and would watch anything with the barest whisper of superheroics, but the main draw was Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman. Not only was she gorgeous, statuesque, and outrageously dressed, she was also bold, intelligent, and physically adept. Wonder Woman could do anything and everything, all while wearing what amounts to a satin bathing suit. What style! What panache! Some kids wanted to be her. Others wanted to be with her. (Whatever that means when you’re seven). Others wanted both. Who can blame them?
Don’t get me wrong, the show was completely ridiculous, but Wonder Woman’s knowing smile let you know that she was in on the joke, and loving every minute.
Tears of Gratitude A female friend texted me after seeing the movie to tell me that she had started crying during the epic No-Man’s Land scene. Not just because it’s a powerful moment (it is) but rather because she had a vision of girls all over the world being empowered by this slice of the pop culture pie. Dang, just like the end of Buffy!
Knowing how important that corny old Wonder Woman TV show was to so many, imagine what Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman will do when millions (billions?) of girls AND boys see her kicking butt and fighting injustice on a major scale. What will they be inspired to do?
Now, not to focus on the negative but some people (let’s be polite and call them misogynistic idiots) see this as a fault. They think women and girls should NOT be encouraged and inspired. They think being inclusive is a joke, and that celebrating the accomplishments of this movie by, say, hosting women-only screenings is a terrible injustice. To them I say, I hope we have a million more movies just like this one, and you’re not invited.
A Teenage Boy Sees Things From the Other Side My spouse (an English teacher and Wonder Woman fan) was talking to a male high school student about the Wonder Woman film, and the student said that he didn’t like it because there weren’t any men in it for the first 20 minutes or so. Wow, talk about your teachable moment. This is how half the world feels ALL THE TIME. Most women in action movies are either arm candy, victims, or, on the odd occasion that they do get to kick some butt, often objects of pleasure for male viewers.
Never underestimate the effect of seeing yourself represented in a positive way. Girls watching this may have the ability to see their own capabilities expanded. (Similarly, one reason I wrote Switch was so that bi kids could feel validated and encouraged.) But the opposite is also true; a lack of representation can have a detrimental effect, feeding a sense of otherness, or unworthiness. Where that leads you can guess.
What Women Want (in action movies) Part of the success of the film comes from the inherently female perspective of the production team, including the director, Patty Jenkins, who made the excellent and disturbing film Monster. In making Wonder Woman, Ms. Jenkins made decisions that a male director might not have even considered, such as limiting the number of columns in the otherwise classically-inspired architecture of all-female Themyscira. (You don’t have to be Freud to figure out why.) And when asked about Wonder Woman’s costume she said, “as a woman, [I] want Wonder Woman to be hot as hell, fight badass, and look great at the same time—the same way men want Superman to have huge pecs and an impractically big body. That makes them feel like the hero they want to be. And my hero, in my head, has really long legs.” No apologies!
Wonder Woman Crosses Generational Lines Although unfortunately separated from my family in the theatre, I was seated with a friend, and had one of my favourite spots: back corner, top row. (Due to the gap between the arm of the chair and the wall, you have a place to store your crap. Plus, there’s no one in front of you, no one behind, and you have a clear path to the exit.) When the movie was over, I noticed a little girl of maybe six with an older woman of perhaps sixty. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that they were a granddaughter and grandmother. When the movie was over, the little girl stood and hugged her grandmother with such love and enthusiasm I couldn’t help but appreciate what this movie can do. I’m not going so far as to say that it’s breeding a new generation of righteous Amazonians, but one can dream.
P.S. I know that this film isn’t without its criticisms, some valid, others not. But it’s still an amazing achievement. No one work has to do everything. We can appreciate the bits that speak to us, and recognize what it took to get that far. As my friend from the second anecdote said, “You know, nothing about making this movie was easy.” I can only imagine the battles behind the scenes.
P.P.S I thought Gal Gadot was phenomenal, both as the defiant demigoddess Wonder Woman, and also as the sensitive, regal, and naive Diana. (It doesn’t hurt that she’s also incredibly beautiful.) I haven’t seen something like that in a superhero movie since a very young me fell in love with Christopher Reeve as Superman.
Unresponsive, injured (I just broke a tooth in half), in need of medication, lost. I sure feel like that cat right now.
2016 can basically go to hell. This hideous year not only brought the death of my mother, it also took away a huge influence on me personally, David Bowie. (Probably tied only with Lou Reed, who died in 2013.) Bowie was a bisexual weirdo who did everything on his own terms, and looked great doing it. (Lou, too.) What’s not to love? I made playlists derived from the music referenced in M in the Abstract and Switch, and of course David Bowie and Lou Reed are both mentioned. (Click the book titles for links) Another artist mentioned in M in the Abstract is Leonard Cohen, who just passed yesterday. I was never his biggest fan (this might be sacrilegious, but I always though that his later work sounded like someone had pressed the ‘demo’ button on a keyboard) but who can deny the power of his music, poetry, and presence? My spouse is a longtime fan. The loss of Cohen, following as it did so closely after the truly sad outcome of the US presidential election, has made for some depressing times around here. Leonard is mentioned in M in the Abstract as one of the 60’s folk artists from Mary’s LP collection. Just follow the same link above.
Other personally-important figures lost to the black hole of 2016 include the inimitable songster Prince, master thespian Alan Rickman, Alan Vega of the minimalist punk rock band Suicide, and comedic genius Gene Wilder. Blargh. I can’t take it. I keep thinking of that Nietzchean line from True Detective, “Death created time to grow the things that it would kill.”
What should we do in the face of all this loss? Love each other and make art, as always.
I have a complex relationship with Hallowe’en. I love the spookiness, but I hate the commercialization. I love the costumes, but I hate the way they often reinforce stereotypes. And whatever happened to the apostrophe? I still use it out of sheer determination.
Not that I’m recommending it, but as a kid growing up in a rural area, Hallowe’en meant pitch black dirt roads and indistinct costumes thrown together in the hour before trick or treating began. As I got older, it also meant late-night pranks and subsequent escapes through moonlit cornfields.
With that in mind, I decided to celebrate Hallowe’en by throwing a party with a Wes Anderson theme. If you haven’t seen his films, do so. (That’s an order.) While The Grand Budapest Hotel isn’t my favourite of his films, I certainly adored the character of Gustave. I could go into the many reasons why I feel such an affinity for him, but I’ll let his words speak for me: “There are still faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity.”
Eden Mills was great; I got to meet some fabulous authors and hear them read their own works, which is always a blast. The YA area was very well-attended and the Bookshelf sold out of my books- I even gave away my reading copy!
I’m working on a short story collection. One of the short stories is a loving satire of / homage to dystopian romances and the enthusiastic fanfic they inspire, a case where imitation truly is the most sincere form of flattery. I wasn’t sure how it would go over but my worries (and ego) were put to rest by the fantastic response the story received from the crowd. It’s called Heroth Nefer Die. It helps to stick your tongue out while you say it.
Thanks to Eden Mills and my presenter (far right in the group photo below).
So… way back when I used to volunteer as a ‘handler’ for children’s authors at the always-amazing Eden Mills Writers’ Festival. It was a fun gig and I got to meet lots of people and also help support kids and the kids’ lit community. Now, I’ll be one of the authors. It’s a real honour to be asked and I’m so looking forward to it. As you may now from my earlier postings, 2016 has been an annus horribilis for me. I relish any opportunity (such as EMWF) to help make it an annus mirabilis. Hope to see you there!
P.S. Kudos to the designer of the poster, it looks fab
I’m very happy to see that Switch has popped up in a bunch of places this Pride season. The Children’s Book Centre listed Switch as one of its books to read for Pride 2016.
My local bookstore, The Bookshelf, had it up for a pride display. The Bookshelf is where both M in the Abstract and Switch were launched there. Please pardon the crapulence of the picture, I was walking down the street late at night when I took it. I love the fact that I’m on the top shelf and below me is some nobody named Virginia Woolf.
In a related fab move, my publisher gave away copies of Switch to lucky readers for Pride! It’s too late to get in on it, but I wanted to thank them for doing it. 682 people entered, but only 20 lucky folks took home the prize.
UPDATE: A friend sent me this from Book City in Toronto:
My writing has had to take back seat lately, mostly due to the illness and death of my mother, Judy Mae Davey. (That’s her as a teenager up there, having just won the Strawberry Social.) In fact, this post is probably the longest piece of fresh writing I’ve done in months, barring the obituary. I admit, I feel a bit rusty. The weight of all the unwritten words is beginning to wear on me.
She’d already beaten cancer once, and was battling its return. I’m not going to drag you down with the excruciating details of her passing, but I will say that it was a profound event, even though (and possibly because) we all knew it was coming. I will also add that if I had any qualms about giving people the right to choose life and death on their own terms (which I didn’t) I certainly have none now. Right after it happened, I took to Facebook and wrote a post that was atypically serious and bold:
Dying with dignity legislation can’t come soon enough. Cowardice of one sort or another mustn’t prevent us from showing each other the same kind of mercy we’d show our pets, or the autonomy over ourselves we expect as human beings.
It was not lost on me, the cruel coincidence that my mother passed away whilst politicians were fumbling with the issue of physician-assisted death.
After it happened, I felt dazed. Not overcome by sadness, nor by relief, just a spacey fog that I couldn’t shake. That soon transitioned into a panicky feeling about my own mortality. I’ve always been an existentialist, but my mother’s death really lit a fire under me, cerebrally, anyway. You never know what form grief will take.
While I don’t remember it, I’m told I was a real ‘mama’s boy’ when I was little. I believe it; in the past, I’ve shown a *slight* tendency to get overly-attached to people. Later in life, my mother and I didn’t always agree or even understand each other, but those are just details. Love is love, your mother is your mother.
Now my family is trying to pick ourselves up and move on, even though there’s a void in all of our lives. It’s tough. My father has to forge a new path without someone that he spent every day with for most of his life. All of the grandkids no longer have a grandma. My sisters and I lost the person who made us.
We are human beings, and we carry on. We go to work or school or wherever, and we do the things we’ve always done, but it will be some time before this newly-empty world feels like home. Now go hug someone you love.
Today I participated in a massive mental health day at Georgetown District High School, in Georgetown, Ontario. Wow. An entire school (and its feeder schools) taken over to support mental health. The world sure has come a long way from the days when the school sick room was basically a mental health oubliette.
The room I was in was right beside the parking lot, and so my attendees were treated to the thumping beats of DeadMau5, who was there in person. The kids were excited to the point of distraction by his presence; I tried not to take it personally. Check out his Space Invaders-themed McLaren, he made a good show of revving it for the crowd.
As I walked away from the crowd of participants, I took this shot of of smouldering sky over the sports field. The iPhone camera can’t really capture the ominous detail, but you get the picture. Looks like an album cover.
On a final note, reviews were mixed on my stripes and checks combo. I thought it looked fine, but feel free to add in your own two cents.
Welcome to my renovated website! It looks pretty shnazzy, if I do say so. This main page is now a proper blog so I can fill it with ramblings.
Was it my mastery of tech design skills that made it happen? Not in the slightest. Have I mentioned that I love the website Fiverr? Because I do. Oh, what’s that you say? Why don’t I marry it? I would if I could.
So take a look around, snoop freely, and drop me a line if you’re looking for an author visit. – Douglas