Archive | January, 2020

Censorship and Prudishness, Part 2: When the Pendulum Swings the Other Way

30 Jan

Ever unintentionally teach a kid something and you didn’t pull the parallels together until they point-blank told you? Kids – especially tiny ones – don’t like being seen as little, but being seen as big. They want to do things they associate with kids and adults they admire.

One thing that stands out for me was my nephew Donny and apples. I could tell you stories about that kid, but if you know me I like my fruit, and apples are available year round so it’s an easy snack. But when he was little, I’d cut up an apple for him, and probably munch on a whole one myself, unless I was having it with some almond butter or cheese, or needed to share.

I don’t remember his age. The kid’s walking, talking, and probably barely potty trained, and he wants an apple. I wash it and go to cut it. “NOOOO!” “What’s your problem?” “I’m not a baby! Gimme the whole thing!” Me on the other hand, has just started an EMS career, and small kid choking calls are some of the scariest ones. You watch a kid you know like a hawk after you help a child in distress. I give him the apple, and… keep an eye on him. He’s never choked on my watch and, let’s say the days of him asking me for apples are over.

The days of me questioning whether or not he’s old enough for this and that ain’t.

I can’t protect kids from the world forever. I’m a believer of, age appropriate, pushing a kid into a pool and making sure they can bob to the surface, and I’m a huge proponent of letting minors drink in safe places so they aren’t getting pass-out drunk among predatory strangers and acquaintances.

I think it’s dangerous to keep people from the world, because it seems exotic and exciting, and really, do I want them to start hiding the fact that they’re accessing certain media from me? I’d rather they ask questions and I try to answer. Can’t say I know everything, or am even remotely aware in what happens in their tv shows, but I have to be logically consistent if I oppose something they’re watching.

The statistic that scares me is that porn use usually starts by the age of ten and, what popular media shows to get those hits.

One answer to not worrying about what songs and movies are going to offend is by going to religious or cultural stations or media providers. I have a Pureflix account, and I like to watch historical movies, especially ones based on real events because they help me think through how they adapted a narrative for the screen. The biblical film Esther was obviously shot on a budget, making the mighty Persian Empire seem like a tiny little place and, while obviously toning things down, it also catered to the audience, to the point in my opinion of hurting the film.

In accordance to the biblical narrative, Xerxes exiled his wife because she wouldn’t obey his command and dance before his guests at a gigantic feast. There’s some argument as to whether or not Vashdi had leprosy or was repulsed at being treated like a dancing girl, but basically it was a pretense of ‘if the queen can defy her king, all women will act the same in their own homes’ and Xerxes first order of business was replacing her. In choosing a new queen, he ordered the maidens from his empire brought to his palace, they went through an extensive beautification ritual, and once this was done they were called, one by one, to please the king for an evening. She could potentially get called again, but most women had one night to impress the king and, given the prize is a crown, I’m guessing the king wasn’t challenging them to a game of chess.

In this adaptation of the story, it’s implied that Queen Vashti disobeyed the order because of her arrogance and haughtiness, a reiteration of the theme that good people need to be humble and obey not only the Laws of God, but also the laws of the land. A more limited number of candidates were brought before the king, and he selected two to be put aside, Esther and the main villain’s daughter, and Xerxes overheard the pair talking and made the selection of Esther based on her character, although he was clearly smitten with her even while he was still married to Vashti.

They then had their first conversation of betrotheds in private where he asked her to be obedient and she asked him to be faithful. Xerxes suggested they could skip right to their honeymoon, and Esther puts him off, saying she’s all his once they’re legally wed. Reiteration of theme: Obedience to your morals before even the King himself, even if it costs you dearly, plus the folks with pureflix accounts are probably more comfortable with Esther ‘saving herself for marriage’ as opposed to the much more likely scenario. To me, this almost works against theme, because Xerxes explicitly stated he wanted was obedience in his bride, and she sort of words it that she is being obedient to their laws of marriage, ergo something higher than him. Pretty sure Xerxes didn’t have her worldview, but it’s a pureflix movie: try not to think about it too much.

Clearly, weddings were a little different back in the day. Heck, watch Last Kingdom in season one, and Uhtred doesn’t even get to see the face of the woman he’s agreed to marry until after the ceremony, and while I’ve only seen season one, there’s a show that doesn’t mind showing sex and violence.

I get it when you’re adapting a story, and you don’t necessarily want to get down to the gross. Having highland adventures with your 13th century kilted fantasy hero sounds a lot better when you assume he’s got full access to modern plumbing and dentistry.

Back to my dad, he would always put a damper on the ‘adventure’ when I was writing my silly shorts and he tried to explain the messiness of war, the realities of being on the road on a quest, etc. It’s a bit of a downer, and as a kid, you want the Narnia or Star Wars version of events: Idealistic, like a version of your imagination you know can’t exist but would visit in a heartbeat. Maybe that’s why so many people were repulsed by The Last Jedi, with it’s Roshoman and ‘Don’t meet your Heroes’ tone. We want our mythos to go a certain way, and I’m not the only one who thinks Star Wars has filled a void left by religion, at least on a cultural level.

When you’re entering into adolescence, I think it’s normal to starting to distance yourself from your childish stories, you start to see idealistic stories as dumb. You think you’re a grown up because you think you see the world for what it is: you want the gritty; you want the whole apple as opposed to someone cutting it into just the good parts. You think you’re a real adult because the movie’s in the adult section.

I think back to this quote by C.S. Lewis:

Lewis

 

When you really grow up, you see the meaning behind the story. Not in a Book Report Theme, what it means on a visceral level. You realize it’s not about how hard core you are – that you can do more push ups than the guy beside you, but the moral code and character of the story, the world view it espouses. We’re a story telling species, and we need – not want, need – stories to fulfill truth. In our post modern world view, that can be a scary place with multiple truths, but I’m reminded of the moral argument; those who espouse beyond good and evil need only have injustice brought upon them for them to quickly reneg on the subjective morality world view. But I’m getting off topic.

Ultimately, censorship’s not about the nudity per say, but: how is it presented? Django Unchained showed attractive people with fan disservice – in other words, made you repulsed to see attractive people being mistreated, and you’re repulsed. I can take the beautiful and make it grotesque, but that’s another topic for another day.

And to repeat what I said in Part One: I don’t think the answer is cutting ourselves off from media, but talking about it critically, and voting with our wallets where moral lines have been crossed. I think too often we become complacent and consumers in media. Blogging, reviewing, writing our own stories in response to that which comes before us, is healthy. Maybe I’m wrong and it’s shouting into a storm but, fanfiction and fanworks have their place in the science fiction and fantasy community. We don’t have to agree, but we do need to have conversations that might make us reflect not only on what we say, but how what we said is seen and interpreted.

We’re a story telling species. My words might be written down and published, but if there’s something that reflects any higher, people will reiterate elements at the pub, around the campfire, when they create new media and, if they’ve any sense, will tell the story appropriately for their audience.

Reconciling Freedom of Speech/Vision with Values

29 Jan

So I’ve seen the first episode of The Witcher with my dad. I could have watched it at work before I went on vacation, but without knowing much about the source material, and everyone saying it’s Netflix’s answer to Game of Thrones, my dad likes those sorts of things but he won’t watch Game of Thrones for a different reason than I did – I put it off because I wanted to read the books first.

Sex scenes.

Neither me or my dad are prudes. I’ve had the guy not… upset but cross that I was watching the extended edition of The Return of the King without him. Now, before he puts on any movie, he quickly googles whether or not the content is questionable pertaining to watching it with his daughters. He still has a VHS copy of Heavy Metal and, one of our favourite animated films, Fire and Ice, is basically an animator’s guide to human anatomy (set in basically Pellucidar, but it’s probably the best of Bakshi’s work but unabashedly our favourite) he won’t watch certain things with me because of the sex scenes. I watched the first and third season of Spartacus: Blood and Sand, and he won’t, because it skips right into soft core pornography right into adult material.

And to be fair, I call what I’ve seen of Spartacus Lady Porn.

Anyway – can’t say I’m a huge fan of stuff that pretends to be historically accurate but is really there to draw in the audience for the T&A. I’m not the only one to criticize this, as I think one of the criticisms of Game of Thrones: Season One is Littlefinger giving his sexposition while two of his brothel workers are going at it. Thing is, in certain movie cuts and edits, you can avoid what I would even call exploitation of actors and actresses. In Game of Thrones, it’s not even shot in a way where you could edit it out, get the idea. My parents wouldn’t let me watch the last few minutes of William Wallace getting tortured in Braveheart growing up.

I think part of me has always kind of tolerated it because a lot of what was assumed fantasy and science fiction was a male audience. That wasn’t to say I didn’t know girls who didn’t like video games and the same media in Junior High and High School as I did, but you kind of knew you were in a minority, and a lot of stuff is in there for the guys.

Well, I’ve been out of High School for a while now, and the internet’s proved that lots of the ‘male gaze’ argument doesn’t work anymore. Don’t get me wrong, if you want to write a book heavy on the sex and the violence, just be honest about what it is on the label. My problem is that the nudity is not only there for the wrong reasons, but it’s detracting from the story.

So back to The Witcher – the sex scene was tame, with it being shown Geralt and Renfry at least kissed, probably did more, but there was a scene earlier when he got to the Wizard’s Tower and there were half-naked women frolicking in his garden. Was it to imply the sorcerer’s a creeper? It’s really never touched on, and as fantasy scenes go, it’s actually markedly tame.

But it still kind of bugged me because it felt like a sense of voyeurism. Like that scene where we get to see an actress either topless or in her bra and undies in Riddick and Star Trek: Into Darkness, respectively.

Then I got to thinking when the action stated, the South Park espisode “Fun With Weapons” where they made the comment most people are more comfortable with violence than sex. In my defense, I think sometimes you need both sex and violence to tell a story, and I’ve definitely turned things off when they are veering into the nature of torture porn. I like adventure stories, and have zero problem showing the outcomes of fights and violence.

So how can I reconcile allowing people to make the art they want to make, how they want to make it, with an industry that is notorious for abusing people?

I’m not sure how I can answer this question in one single blog post, because I’m a firm believer if I don’t like something I get to decide whether or not to turn it off. I’ve heard the argument that a little bit of bad in a work of good can spoil the entire thing – and unless I want to resign myself to watching low budget Pureflix films, I’m torn. I mean, I’ve also been a believer of writing my own media to address what I consider to be things that are lacking in today’s media, but ultimately, I’m a drop in the bucket.

I’ll address the Pureflix issue in the next post.

Thoughts? I do know I’ve gotten more sensitive to this since I’ve started sharing media with my nieces and nephews as they’re starting to enjoy Lord of the Rings and other media. Don’t get me wrong: I noticed before, and I believe I posted a year ago about my niece getting interested in me reading Game of Thrones.

There’s gotta be a better way to handle this media.

In other news, on the back end of my vacation. Didn’t travel – planning on travel in April, but I’ve been writing and drawing quite a bit every day. My house looks great and I’ve been goofing around with oil paints. All in all, a good vacation.

And as far as I know, Dreams of Mariposa is Ebook Launching February 3, or this coming Monday. There’s going to be a book launch party starting March 2, I’ll post links when I get them. Hope you’ve had a good January, and I’ll post part two of my thoughts, or, when Purity Culture takes the lead.

Review: The Rise of Skywalker

12 Jan

So late to the game, and I don’t care much.

I remember driving around the University of Manitoba when it was announced on the radio that Disney had acquired the rights to Star Wars for a Billion Dollars, and were interested in making more movies. I had already graduated by this time from the University of Winnipeg, and I can’t remember why I was there, and now checking the timeline, I was working in EMS.

So the Force Awakens came out. Everyone generally liked it, even if we thought it was A New Hope redone. Then came The Last Jedi, which was extremely divisive – I reviewed it, but I’ll be really honest, I’m in the camp who doesn’t care for it but only watched it once in theatre (and as per my review, I missed parts shuttling kids to the bathroom).

Rise of Skywalker seems like a retcon of The Last Jedi as much as possible, and once again people are divided – those who liked The Last Jedi despise it, some people see RoS as both an apology and return to form.

I think the problem is that the focus wasn’t on story and, the vision was inconsistent throughout. The writers in this series didn’t have a cohesive plan and, the vision and tone was all over the place.

It’s okay for Abrams or Johnson or whoever to get ahold of the franchise and make it their own in their own way, but they can’t take what’s established and throw it to the wind, and pretend we’re not smart if we don’t agree its’ subversive or whatever. I rather enjoy the Riddick movies, and the first one was a low budget sci-fi horror survival movie. Everything else has been Conan in Space, but you don’t care because a survival story with Conan in the background as opposed to the foreground works. Breakout characters happen and, movies are their own thing but with tv shows it can take a few episodes for it to get ‘good’.

An example of this that works is The Mandelorian – a tv show I haven’t seen but generally, everyone seems to like it. Rogue One, which answers the plot hole I didn’t think was a big deal in A New Hope, felt like a war movie as opposed to a Star Wars movie. Lots of people said Solo got it right. And, I haven’t really seen Rebels or The Clone Wars, but I’ve heard people who are fans who say that the tv shows have gotten things right.

I think, ultimately the franchise is fine, but this sequel trilogy needed consistency from the get go. I haven’t talked about it on its own much, but here goes. The plot isn’t set up properly and feels like a last ditch attempt to solve loose ends so the franchise can go in a different direction with other projects. Palpatine is back – the original or a clone, who knows – and has secretly been building an armada with planet-killing weapons. Kylo Ren finds him and is charged with killing Rey, and then they’ll take the galaxy by force.

You know, Supreme Leader Kylo Ren, who effectively won in the previous movies as the resistance was crushed to what could escape on the Millenium Falcon.

Ren doesn’t want to kill Rey but turn her to the dark side. Their interactions were some of the best parts of the movies, and, spoilers, as well as Rey confronted with the idea that she could go to the dark side and having to confront herself. Ultimately this ends with Kylo’s redemption and returning to Ben Solo and him and Rey defeating Palpatine and the armada once and for all. Other characters are along for the ride as well, but it’s basically those characters with hints of interesting people along the way – Finn meets other Stormtrooper deserters and is shown to be Force Sensitive – but they really don’t do much with him over the course of this franchise, and I thought he was the most interesting character after TFA. Overall, I’d say the most interesting character was Kylo Ren/Ben Solo, but his redemption was more thematic as opposed to earned on his part.

The Knights of Ren finally made an appearance, yay.

So all in all, I think it’s not a terrible franchise, but the usual Disney writing flaws are front and center and it doesn’t matter how beautifully shot it is, these films are going to be seen as a cash grab as opposed to the original trilogy. Disney can get away with them in their animated features because we can ultimately say, “Well, we plop kids in front of them, who cares if Ice isn’t really an element (Frozen 2, which I haven’t seen)…” I think it’s a disservice to children and adult fans alike. Yes, most animated features are based on fairy tales, but Star Wars is based on myth, and if you can’t see the difference between the two you need to take a step back and let in writers who do. Get your writing concise and on theme. And try not to pretend you’re edgy by making a drastic change in tone. You’re making the source material, not the parody.

I’m being wholly negative. One thing I did really like was the scenes on the sea of Endor. I thought finding the talisman was silly, but I have to admit those scenes were shot excellently and felt real to me. There’s something about me and water scenes, I don’t know what it is.

2019 Round Up, 2020 Goals and All That

6 Jan

Wow, totally much, much later than anticipated. The short of it is, besides work, just before Christmas a family member hurt herself and I’ve kind of been available, but mostly I will be more available for that during my January vacation. Not going to say what or who, only that it’s not serious, they just need a bit of help and they’ll be right as rain in a few weeks.

Looking back at my goals at the beginning of last year was to have the sequel to Witchslayer’s Scion, Magus’ Gambit, off to the editor by the end of that vacation. Yeah, so totally didn’t happen and not even the ‘next’ round of vacations (going to Clear Lake for a few days during my birthday week, and I had a tour off in July. I think I sent it off in September. Go figure) . Also the plan was to finish the rough of Chimera, also not accomplished a year later.

I don’t care so much because 2019 was a good and busy year all around. I snuck away to Hawaii for a week for a steal of a deal, and then didn’t get as much writing/editing because I had to hang out at my parent’s house due to a car issue and, quite frankly, I know more people in Winnipeg than Southport but the weather was cold so I wasn’t going out too far.

Personal goals in the last month was to put out a few shorts via ebooks. Let’s say I think I’m good, but I’m still learning how to deal with the bunk code. Feeling confident I can probably figure this out in the next few weeks, but we’ll see what transpires over the January break.

We could have launched my next novel, Dreams of Mariposa, in December but I said let’s get a book blog tour orchestrated and not to rush a good thing. You’ll hear more about that from me in another post.

So right now writing wise, I have goals that include getting the code for ebooks right, as well as finishing Chimera and trying to get most of a rewrite on an earlier book done, as well get Rogue Healer 3 mostly drafted. Also, now that I have this beautiful house I’ve dedicated a room as an art studio, so while I’ve barely touched my oil paints but I’m gonna be on it. I know, it’s a lot of different creative stuff in different areas, but I don’t care much. I used to be a decent painter, but don’t expect much from me at the time. Painting in the winter makes your house kinda smelly, so while I might play around with inking and water colors, oils are my jam and I’ll probably get back into it serious when I can do it outside.

Aside from that, my goals are financial and fitness. I’ve been pretty good at sticking to my fitness routines but this reoccurring inflammation and injury has gotten me down for longer than I’d like. I know everyone and their dog go to the gym for January, but the difference between me and them is now I’m not as far and don’t have the albatross of student debt around my neck and have the house, so now I can work out and do on call from home. The financial goals mostly are longer term, I won’t bore you but things are finally looking up.

Honestly, it’s been a long haul, and I keep seeing posts of locals who are off to Australia to fight bush fires. I keep getting tempted, but I have zero bush fire fighting experience and never get picked for it anyway. Harsh learning curve when there’s a disaster of epic proportions that always seem to happen. Should probably commit to volunteer local before I fly half ways around the world, eep.